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Cell Phone For the Blind?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the can-you-see-me-now? dept.

Cellphones 141

brigc writes "Here's one that's got me stumped. A friend of mine who is blind asked me for help tracking down a cell phone for him. He's interested in a flip phone with well-defined separations between the keys, and as much voice control as possible. Battery life is the only other thing he mentioned. Preferably something that would work on AT&T's network in the US. We spent part of the afternoon in a local AT&T store checking out all the flip phones they had and didn't find one he really loved. Anyone have any ideas?" There was a story some months back about a phone that would read to you by interpreting pictures from the built-in camera, but it doesn't have much information about usability. I'm sure it'd be handy to have some sort of text-to-speech option for common cell phone features like caller ID and text messaging, or even just reading menu names.

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141 comments

let him feel your dong (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910051)

and stroke it. blind people love a little cock.

EyePhone? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910059)

Sorry...

Re:EyePhone? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24912379)

Let the dog dial it........

Re:EyePhone? (2, Funny)

Helios1182 (629010) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913903)

On an Apple forum there was a guy who posted about how to best set up an iPhone for his blind wife.

Check web for partially-sighted people's orgs (5, Informative)

James Youngman (3732) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910077)

Why not just refer to information from some local organisation of blind people? There's this survey of accessible mobile phones in the UK [rnib.org.uk] , but surely there must be something similar for the USA.

Re:Check web for partially-sighted people's orgs (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910631)

Couldn't he just get one of those new EYE-phones?

Re:blind people need cancer too. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910795)

YES we need blind people to also have cancer in the head,..

Re:Check web for partially-sighted people's orgs (1)

kEnder242 (262421) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911623)

what? no pictures?

Why Not Jitterbug ??? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910107)

Why not Jitterbug. It doesn't work with AT&T but it does have large well separated buttons and is relatively easy for people to use. I don't think your friend wants a "complex" phone -- more buttons and more potential for error.

Here is the linky : http://www.jitterbug.com/phonesDial.aspx

Good luck....

Here's a possibility (5, Informative)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910131)

http://www.screenlessphone.com/ [screenlessphone.com]

Re:Here's a possibility (5, Informative)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910153)

And here's an article from the American Foundation for the Blind. It's from 2004 but it mentions the above phone as well as two others: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw050406 [afb.org]

Re:Here's a possibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24912007)

Or if you're in blighty or don't mind paying in quids you can get one from the RNIB:

http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_mobphonesfactsheet.hcsp

Re:Here's a possibility (2, Informative)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912403)

Along those lines, I had listened to an NPR snip about this very thing quite a while back. There isn't much more information than this but, well:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18504117 [npr.org]

Re:Here's a possibility (3, Insightful)

nategoose (1004564) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910351)

In addition to it's usability, the lack of a screen should also help out on power consumption.

Re:Here's a possibility (1)

LucidBeast (601749) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910651)

Backlight consumes about 40%, so just turning that off will make a big difference

Re:Here's a possibility (1)

rvw (755107) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911599)

Backlight consumes about 40%, so just turning that off will make a big difference

Backlight can be turned off on most phones, as it is useless anyway for blind people.

Re:Here's a possibility (1)

KingBenny (1301797) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910469)

Do you know of any alternative for this in Europe ? It looks like the ideal phone for blind people, but i don't know if it can be used on local networks here, if someone reads and knows, please reply, tyvm

Re:Here's a possibility (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912369)

According to the screenlessphone website it's a fairly standard GSM phone. If you already have GSM service just pop your SIM into this phone and it should work. There's a lot more information in the FAQ on their website.

Re:Here's a possibility (1)

KingBenny (1301797) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912615)

thanks, this might prove very useful for someone i know

Re:Here's a possibility (2, Interesting)

TechwoIf (1004763) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911451)

Does this phone reject SMS messages? I'me tired of getting charge $.50 per messages and like to block them sense they are nothing but spam.

Re:Here's a possibility (3, Insightful)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912465)

Effective January 2007 the retail price of the Owasys 22C in the United States is $549.95.

WHAT IN THE HELL?!

No. This is wrong. Subsidize this mother fucker.

SPECIAL PRICE OFFER! Receive your Owasys 22C at the special low price of just $249.95 (plus a $10 charge for your SIM card and a shipping and handling charge) when you order your ScreenlessPhone from Capital Accessibility with a TWO-YEAR T-Mobile service plan

Still wrong. Fail. Bad. NO.

These people are already blind. Do we really have to rape them?

Re:Here's a possibility (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913427)

obviously more attention needs to be paid to this market segment. not only is this phone _way_ too expensive, it's also bulky and hideous (i know, i know. it's for the blind. but still...).

button placement aside, most of its accessibility features could be easily duplicated on much cheaper conventional phones. it doesn't take any special hardware to implement text-to-voice accessibility features. any phone above $50 these days includes enough processing power to handle that sort of stuff.

popular cellphone manufacturers like Nokia, Samsung, Sony-Ericsson, etc. need to include text-to-voice features in their phone interfaces, or at least allow customers to order standard models with these accessibility features added. the visually-impaired shouldn't have to fork out $500+ just to have a phone that they're capable of operating.

the way it is now it seems like the visually-impaired are having to pay more money for less phone.

Get a Mac! (-1, Troll)

CmdrPorno (115048) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910139)

Apple iPhone - best phone in the world!

Re:Get a Mac! (1)

ccguy (1116865) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910225)

If the blind guy had mod points he'd be looking for the braille key for -1 pathetic right now...

Re:Get a Mac! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910321)

Apple iPhone - best phone in the world!

Are you fucking stupid?
What a fucking imbecile you are.

Look asshole, my brother is blind, and what the fuck is he going to do with an iPhone?
There's no TACTILE feedback...
Which way is up?
Down?
Slide shit... where?
Pressed the button... how does he know?

As another poster mentioned, the www.ScreenlessPhone.com looks promising.
I'm checking them out right now.

As a side-note, I'd like to mention that simple things we take for granted are a hurdle for them.

For example, "looping menus"... where you get to the end of the 8-item list, then when you press down for the 9th time, it jumps to the 1st item.

That simple thing is disastrous for blind people.
They don't know where the menu is at! 5th position? 4th? 1st?

I always wonder why nobody has done a phone with a Braile output... something simple... I would reckon that the small mechanical dots (solenoids, hydrualics, or w/e) would consume less energy than a present-day color display.

My 2cents... I will log-in later and add what useful information I've found so far.

Thanks /., =) this really helps!

Re:Get a Mac! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910429)

I love the whooshing sound the joke makes when it flies over people's heads.

Cold but simple answer (1)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910443)

I always wonder why nobody has done a phone with a Braile output

Because there aren't enough blind people to make it profitable. There are 1.3 million legally blind people [afb.org] in the United States. That's less than one half of one percent of the current population [census.gov] .

Complex Problem + Increased R&D spending + Small Market = Few Products

Glad to see there are some players in this niche though.

Re:Cold but simple answer (1)

EvilIdler (21087) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910607)

There are countries with as few people, but they still sell mobile phones there. Add up all the blind people everywhere, go global and it's possible to make a profit.

So why don't you? (1)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912869)

There are countries with as few people, but they still sell mobile phones there

Do you think government subsidies have anything to do with that?

Add up all the blind people everywhere, go global and it's possible to make a profit.

Obviously, there are easier ways to make a profit or you or someone else would be doing it now.

Mod parent down! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910455)

Are you fucking stupid?
What a fucking imbecile you are.
Look asshole...

Who's the troll here?

Motorola F3 (4, Informative)

NemosomeN (670035) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910143)

Has voice commands (In that it will read the command name to you as you go over it), as well as well-defined separations between the keys. It, has good battery life, too. It's a candybar phone, however, and is very limited. I picked one up (with prepaid service) for about $12, but their full retail US is still only around $50. CDMA and 3G are both available.

Re:Motorola F3 (2, Interesting)

jeti (105266) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910313)

I think the Motofone is meant to work for illiterate people, but not for blind people. It can read out the menu options, but I think it can not read out phone book entries. However, the phone should work well for sight-impaired people as all text is large and easy to read.

Re:Motorola F3 (1)

NemosomeN (670035) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912003)

Yes, that is the intention. I think you're right about the phone book entries, I had forgotten about that, but I don't have it with me to confirm. In that case, one would have to rely on speed dial or memory, either of which would severely limit your phone book.

did you search? (2, Informative)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910145)

Google provides a lot of info [google.com] , I found some interesting information and most of it appears recent. The 22C [screenlessphone.com] is a screenless-specific GSM phone that appears to be a good match.

Check out http://www.codefactory.es/en/ (4, Informative)

skallen (25946) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910147)

Check out http://www.codefactory.es/en/

I have a blind daughter and she uses an Nokia N95 and it works verey good, i also know that there is some OCR software for Nokia N82 coming up soon which can read a photo, that could be an even better choice.

Re:Check out http://www.codefactory.es/en/ (1)

osssmkatz (734824) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911045)

Nokia's are a good bet. I have a blind friend that uses a Nokia candybar phone, because the function hasn't changed in all its models, so you can learn it and stick with it. (Buttons are always in the same place.) Good luck. --Sam

Re:Check out http://www.codefactory.es/en/ (1)

fastfinge (823794) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912283)

I have a nokia N82, with the OCR software, and GPS too. See:
http://www.talknav.com/ [talknav.com]
for the GPS and talking software. The OCR software is called the KNFB, but I can't think of the website off the top of my head. Try google. With a bluetooth keyboard and a good 3G plan, I find it replaces my laptop for most mobile computing needs.

flip phone with large keys (2, Informative)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910167)

He might find this meets some of his needs:

Jitterbug [jitterbug.com]

However, it looks like you have to also buy service through them.

candy bar, not flip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910187)

1. Get a candy bar phone instead of a flip phone.

2. glue Braille onto keyboard

3. ??????

4. Profit!!!!!

iPhone (0, Troll)

SuperKendoll (1359065) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910195)

Clearly the iPhone is the best phone for the blind. Its' futuristic design and progressive feature set make it the optimal choice regardless of the situation. I'm quite sure that there are several applications on the app store that target blind users. Even if there isn't, there eventually will be, and those apps will be better than the apps offered by other, more primitive, phones. Combine these amazing applications with the iPhone's ergonomic keyboard and you have a match that almost looks like it was designed specifically for the blind.

Furthermore, the iPhone only works on AT&Ts network because Steve Jobs has rid us of the tremendous burden of choice.

Personal experience (5, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910197)

I volunteer in an NGO that helps blind people in various ways, and is also my passion, privately.

I am VERY happy this question appeared here on /. for once, because last time I mentioned MP3 players that would be just as functional for blind as for seeing people, I was derided. But the truth is, making MP3 players and mobile phones with a user interface that is usable for blind people does NOT detract anything from the usability for seeing people. In fact, I'd argue that it makes them more usable for the seeing people as well - allowing for a whole new area of use cases.

The trend is, however, unfavourable for the blind: touch screens and the related user interfaces make it impossible for blind people to operate such gadgets, unless they have a voice feedback.

And now, to the point of the question, and related to voice feedback: there are plenty of Nokia phones with software designed to make it possible to be operated by a blind person. Such software would announce who is calling or whose call you just missed, who is the sender of an SMS and read the SMS to you, or give feedback on your commands. Nokia phones in general (especially the slightly older ones, say, 2006, 2007 generation) have a user interface that is more suitable for blind people than most other. I am just now trying to teach my visually impaired mother how to use a certain Panasonic mobile phone (only one extra phone in the house at the moment), and I notice how the UI emphasizes using the same button for several functions. Like, locking the phone requires two pushes on the same button. Unlocking it requires three pushes on that same button, and the only feedback you have is visual. WTF? Total rubbish.

Re:Personal experience (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910527)

I volunteer in an NGO that helps blind people in various ways, and is also my passion, privately.

I am VERY happy this question appeared here on /. for once, because last time I mentioned MP3 players that would be just as functional for blind as for seeing people, I was derided. But the truth is, making MP3 players and mobile phones with a user interface that is usable for blind people does NOT detract anything from the usability for seeing people. In fact, I'd argue that it makes them more usable for the seeing people as well - allowing for a whole new area of use cases.

And now, to the point of the question, and related to voice feedback: there are plenty of Nokia phones with software designed to make it possible to be operated by a blind person. Such software would announce who is calling or whose call you just missed, who is the sender of an SMS and read the SMS to you, or give feedback on your commands. Nokia phones in general (especially the slightly older ones, say, 2006, 2007 generation) have a user interface that is more suitable for blind people than most other. I am just now trying to teach my visually impaired mother how to use a certain Panasonic mobile phone (only one extra phone in the house at the moment), and I notice how the UI emphasizes using the same button for several functions. Like, locking the phone requires two pushes on the same button. Unlocking it requires three pushes on that same button, and the only feedback you have is visual. WTF? Total rubbish.

You've made a good point - clean efficient interface design helps everyone. Unfortunately, it's not the norm amongst designers.

It's frustrating for a person to push 3 buttons whether or not they have 100% vision. Personally, I think UI designers should be forced to use their device for month while wearing gloves, eyeglasses with petroleum jelly smeared on them, and cotton balls in their ears.

I think you'll slowly see more devices designed with physical impairments in mind as the boomer generation ages while remaining an viable commercial market.

Re:Personal experience (1)

sam0737 (648914) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911163)

Being a geek with 20/20 eyesight, I also hate the fact that I couldn't dial without looking at my Dopod phone. (I would pass about the voice feedback, I don't like the idea of announcing who I am dialing to to the people around me, and my low usage of phone don't warrant me to buy a bluetooth handfree)

Sometimes when I am going from indoor to outdoor and when it's sunny day, it's also a pity to have to turn the screen backlight to full before I could dial.

I hope someday programmable tactile feedback would come. Imagine a transparent layer of whatever laying on top of the touch surface, and dots can raise and flatten pro grammatically. We don't need 320*240 resolutions of raising dot, just a few handy dots at strategy place would boost the user experience to sky.

Re:Personal experience (1)

Snaller (147050) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911549)

Both apple and nokia have been doing research into touchscreens with tactile feedback.

Re:Personal experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24912045)

I, too, am glad that someone on Slashdot is suggesting that electronic devices be made accessible. I'm a bit deaf, and there are a lot of devices which, well, suck. Audio feedback for keys, how about just tactile feedback. Stupid musical ring tones, but how about one that's just loud, and has a broad range of frequencies, so I have a chance? At least this gives tactile feedback and a long battery life.

http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=287

It's stupid, but the old interface works just fine.

John

What about the Jitterbug (2, Informative)

dr_canak (593415) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910203)

I know nothing about this phone,

http://reviews.cnet.com/cell-phones/samsung-jitterbug-dial-sph/4505-6454_7-32115117.html [cnet.com]

but see it recommended often for older folks and those with poor eyesight. A real barebones phone, with limited features, big keys, and decent battery life.

hth,
jeff

HTC with Windows Mobile (5, Informative)

Auntie Virus (772950) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910219)

My blind friend uses an HTC Mogul, with a mobile version of JAWS. JAWS is probably the speech software for most blind computer users.

It's Not Jaws (1)

fastfinge (823794) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912351)

If he's using a Windows Mobile device, he's not using jaws. While Freedom Scientific does make a version of Jaws that works on Windows Mobile, they only offer it for use on hardware they've produced, no third party products. He's probably got either Mobile Speaks [codefactory.es] or Pocket Hal [yourdolphin.com] .

pointless (5, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910233)

Why does he want a cellphone if he's blind? I mean, he won't be able to use the camera. He can't send text messages. Can't use it for games or videos. I suppose he could listen to mp3s. What? He wants to make phone calls. Good luck finding a cell phone that's good at that....

Re:pointless (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910517)

Why are you on slashdot if you're dumb?
I can't believe that someone modded this insightful.

Re:pointless (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910677)

Wow, you completely missed that one, huh? Let me explain for the mentally retarded: he was making an insightful commentary on the fact that cell phones have improved in almost every area of functionality except the one that makes the most sense - making calls. Sad isn't it?

Re:pointless (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910803)

Actually I meant it as more of a sarcastic attempt at humor, with a touch of truth behind it. But your interpretation is okay by me.

Re:pointless (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911991)

Maybe Slashdot needs a screen reader that explains jokes for the humor-impaired. ;-)

Re:pointless (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24911647)

A co-worker of mine has a deaf wife and his sister is blind. Both happened late in life, over the age of 40 to both women, and finding a usable mobile phone for both of them is something he's spent a lot of time investigating.

Their lives have gone on - they're still trying to raise their kids, work and live in the world with everyone else. Without mobiles, both would be cut off from the world, as this is how most people communicate today.

The deaf woman has a mobile phone that works for her - a smart phone - but the blind woman has yet to find one that is completely satisfactory for her. One of her problems is that as you state, she just wants a phone to make calls, and the more sophisticated phones are a problem. Camera phones mean there are more buttons that can be accidentally pressed and not all mobile phones are hacker friendly - sometimes you can't change the function of buttons on the phone.

But please don't count these people out, just because they are blind, deaf or whatever.

Voice Dialing (2, Informative)

JPGumby (579758) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910245)

Some phones have voice recognition. I have an older LG VX5200 on Verison that has this feature, I press a button easily found on the side, and it asks for a command. The phone itself is otherwise not fat-thumb friendly. Lookup "Voice Dialing (Speaker-independent (automatic))" http://www.phonescoop.com/phones/ [phonescoop.com]

iPhone ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910263)

Yes, I am insensitive clod !

Have the blind person try the phone himself (2, Informative)

mrsam (12205) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910289)

A couple of weeks ago I helped a blind guy, with a service dog, board a commuter train. I watched as, later, he whipped out a phone and called his party to let them know that he's on the way.

I don't remember what model it was, but it looked like a fairly recent phone, with all the usual bells and whistles on it. So, even though I don't know the model, there are definitely some out there which blind people can easily use.

Blind people often have a heightened sense of touch. I'd say you're probably looking for a phone that's on the larger side, not a tiny crumb with teeny keys; but rather something substantial, with individual dial keys that are slightly raised, and can be easily felt, by touch.

The blind person might need some initial help to set up speed dial keys, but once that's done 99% of the time he'll need to press only a couple of keys to do the desired function.

If he didn't like any phones in one AT&T store, he should go to another. Different stores have different phones. Or, if living in a large city, try independent stores that sell unlocked GSM phones (that can be used with AT&T or T-Mobile, here in the US). That's going to be a slightly larger hit in the pocket, but you'll have a larger selection of phones to try out.

Great! I'll have an option when I go blind! (0, Offtopic)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910303)

I jerk off a lot to porn.

Windows Mobile and Voice Commander (4, Informative)

FonzCam (841867) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910365)

Hands down the best voice commands I've ever used in a phone is Voice Commander for Windows Mobile 5. (I believe it's now included with WM6 as standard.) Not only does it do voice dialling of your contacts and numbers by simply saying "Dial 555 1234" but it also gives you control over the launching apps, mp3 playback, reading SMS messages, signal status and time and appointments.
For a full list take a look at the Microsoft website. [microsoft.com]
It also doesn't need any training or any setup you just press and speak and it works surprisingly well.

As for hardware that'll depend on your budget and availability but there are lots of options for Windows Mobile powered phones including candy bars and and flip phones.

Re:Windows Mobile and Voice Commander (1)

WimBo (124634) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910571)

I was thinking something along the same lines, as I've been using a windows mobile phone for over a year now, and do most of my dialing with voice commands. The fact that it announces incoming calls as well is really nice.

Unfortunately, I think all of the setup is visual menu based, and I know that the phone I'm using has way too many buttons.

for Symbian Series 60 and Series 80: (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910381)

http://www.nuance.com/talks/premium.asp

RAZR2 (4, Informative)

whterbt (211035) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910471)

I have the RAZR2 (V8). You can operate the phone entirely through voice commands, including dialing people in the phonebook and just dialing phone numbers. You can set "Talking Phone" mode so that it reads each menu item as you go over it. The keys are not physically separated but there are ridges between the rows of keys, and the imprinting is raised so you can tell by feel when you're on a key. The phone has audible caller-ID, but for some stupid reason T-Mobile disables that on their phones. If you look into the RAZR2, be sure that features is enabled or get an unlocked phone.

Re:RAZR2 (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910647)

I'll second that, the keys aren't "well separated", but I don't think any are on mobile nowadays. They are raised lettering and raised bars between the number strips.

It also lets you manipulate texts using keys on the side, and it can be set to read them out to you, which I imagine would allow a blind person to use texting as well as talk. Battery life is ok, and I understand it will work on AT&T as its a GSM standard phone (obviously you may need an unlocked one)

Re:RAZR2 (1)

KylePflug (898555) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911309)

I also used the phone for a long time, and it would work for some basic features but I have some concerns. It's linux based, but the OS has some quirks and often has a lot of exploration through menus to get to things like bluetooth, ringtones, etc. The talking phone mode is very cool, but so much of the texting features rely on the exterior touch screen, which wouldn't be very useful to a blind person. Plus with the RAZR2 you're paying a couple hundred dollar premium for two big high-rez screens that the blind obviously won't use.

Re:RAZR2 (1)

KylePflug (898555) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911361)

Although it's worth noting that there are some very well thought out features such as vibration to confirm button presses and screen interactions, different sounds when you loop menus, etc. With some set-up help, this might not be a bad way to go.

Re:RAZR2 (2, Insightful)

CoffeeBeanBen (612612) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912361)

I have the RAZR2 (V8). You can operate the phone entirely through voice commands, including dialing people in the phonebook and just dialing phone numbers.

For a blind user, inputting data is not the hard part. The difficulty is getting feedback from the device. I'm curious if this "Talking Phone" mode had pre-recorded voice sounds for each menu item or if it's capable of, say, pronouncing the names in your contact list like "true" text-to-speech.

Also, what if the phone mis-recognized your voice and inputted the wrong command? How would the user know? I wonder how many times sighted users of this feature have seen the screen bounce to the wrong menu item and thought "That's not what I said, you stupid phone!"

Someone has already mentioned text-to-speech cell phone software put out by Nuance called Talks (http://www.nuance.com/talks/). I used to work at the Lighthouse for the Blind in New Orleans as their technology specialist. A number of my blind coworkers and clients used this software on a variety of phones and they've done nothing but sing its praises. IMHO, the best thing that could be done is to port this software to a wider variety of handsets.

Sighted users don't need to re-learn how to read in order to switch to a different phone model. Neither should blind users.

Re:RAZR2 (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913677)

My old phone with a talking phone feature would confirm everything you said.

"Call Mom"
"Call Jill?"
"Call Mom"
"Call Home?"
"Call Mom"
"Call Tom?"
"Call Mom"
"Call Jonathan?"
"Call Mom"
"Call Dad?"

That could go on for hours. But it did at least always repeated what it thought I said before doing it.

Use Talks screen reader on a Nokia S60 phone (5, Informative)

limitedmage (1037292) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910477)

Get a phone from this list: http://www.nuance.com/talks/phones.asp [nuance.com] Then buy this software: http://www.nuance.com/talks/ [nuance.com] It's a screen reader for Nokia S60 phones. It is perfect for blind and visually impaired persons. My dad is blind and he's used it for quite a few years now. The supported phones are top of the line. My dad has a Nokia N95, I think, and he really likes that the Talks screen reader is compatible with most of the phone, including email, web browsing, media player, calendar, address book, and the amazing voice commands, which provide a great shortcut for blind users. I highly recommend it. And Nokia phones are the best, IMO.

Suggestion (1)

mariushm (1022195) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910515)

I'm not sure what network AT&T is, CDMA or GSM, but if I were to select something for a blind person, I would get a simple cellphone with very few keys, for example something like this one:

http://www.gsmarena.com/lg_ku990_viewty-2070.php [gsmarena.com]

By the way, the site above has pictures for quite a lot of phones so you should be able to find several easy to use ones.

Re:Suggestion (1)

mariushm (1022195) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910537)

Sorry, not that one, I thought those were real keys. But others have well defined keys, like this one, nice big keys and screen that doesn't need much power:

http://www.gsmarena.com/motorola_motofone_f3-1794.php [gsmarena.com]

Motorola Razor (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910543)

I have a motorola razor, and although I'm not a huge fan of the address book functionality, the keys are an etced tin plate with a ruber ridge seperated them and the '5' key has a raise bump. The volume control is a large easy to find button on the side of the phone that can be pushed up or down to adjust the phone's volume. It can also take voice commands (voice button is also an easy to find button on the opposite side as the volume button). Battery life seems pretty solid on it. I toss it on the charger every couple of days and it holds up for hour long calls with out an issue.

Anyway, as a non-blind person, it's not my favorite phone. but if you don't have to look at the address book, it might be just fine :)

-Rick

Cell phone for the blind (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910557)

The last thing a blind person needs is a cell phone to distract them while they are driving...

Pantech Breeze (2, Informative)

Liet Hacksor (571538) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910593)

Just got my dad a Pantech Breeze from AT&T. It's quad-band GSM, nop gadgety features (like media/mp3/etc), does voice tags, has large buttons, has 3 dedicated speed-dial buttons (actual buttons, not softkeys), has good battery life, and does bluetooth.

It's designed for old people, not blind people, but it has everything you described.

I'm tagging this seeingeyemonkey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910727)

Do you really think the /. crowd is going to come up with anything better?

Blu-Tack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910733)

If you can't find a suitable phone, try getting the next-nearest phone and putting a dob of blu-tack on selected keys (5, soft-key, hash, up to you). If you heat blu-tack up a bit, it becomes very malleable (like gum - you can pull a strand of it apart for meters before it breaks). Just heat up about a size similar to match-head, heat it for about a second with a flame, then stick it on to the selected key (careful, it'll get everywhere). Then when it cools, squish it flat, and it'll provide a great tactile feedback pad (if you do it right, it won't come unstuck in your pocket or deform too much on the key).

K-NFB reader (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24910765)

You may be thinking of the K-NFB reader. This is a device developed by Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind.

http://www.knfbreader.com/

I have seen this work in a real world setting (reading a restaurant menu perfectly) and it was amazing.

Alas, like all accessible devices it is quite pricey 8-(

perfect sample of ideal open project (1)

uniquegeek (981813) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910835)

This would be an ideal problem to be solved by open source (other than physical issues like being able to easily mash the keys).

What we have now is lots of phones with little to no support that don't share their efforts.

Open source and open phones would allow users to benefit from a group effort/concern that is small locally but large online.

Re:perfect sample of ideal open project (1)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911253)

Unfortunately, the only serious open-source phone project out there right now is the OpenMoko. I say unfortunately because it's a touch screen.

Any Symbian Series 60 phone... (1)

accessbob (962147) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910911)

Any Symbian series 60 phone can, in principle, be adapted for blind/low vision users using an application called Talks. The website is http://www.nuance.com/talks/ [nuance.com] There is a free trial download you can try.

Re:Any Symbian Series 60 phone... (1)

Better.Safe.Than.Sor (836676) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912507)

Agreed. Works well.

Need better screenless operation (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910951)

The Samsung Jitterbug and the Owasys 22C (screenless) are useful for this.

Current phones tend to be terrible at screenless operation. For use while driving, it should be possible to do everything important with voice, through a wireless headset. But that's unnecessarily hard with many phones. Reviews don't address this issue well. Things like the speed of voice recognition are important. Samsung phones seem to have voice recognition that takes 5-8 seconds to load, then about as long to recognize a name on the speed dial list. Motorola was doing better than that five years ago, and Wildfire (a centralized service) did even better eight years ago.

Not the iphone (0, Redundant)

erpbridge (64037) | more than 5 years ago | (#24910963)

Sorry, but this is one situation where the iPhone CAN'T help... not only is keyboard all software based (no hard keys), but there is no voice dialing (yet).

Oblig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24911009)

Apple hates blind people.

What you need to do is... (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911013)

Buy a simlock-free phone. Huh, wat? Yes, you've read that correctly... it's cheaper. Do it online where the phone you desire is the cheapest. Then also order a 'subscription' (damn English is not my native language) that is not tied to the phone by default. Calculate how long and therefore how much money you have to cough up during lengths of the contracts. Now pick the AT&T one that is equal or less than the amount of money that you're phone costs without a subscription. Do $Price_of_phone - $Total_amount_of_money_that_your_contract_will_cost_over_time.

Why?:
1) You can pick any phone that you like, even if it's outside of AT&T's offering
2) If you pick a phone from a webshop it is cheaper than what everyone offers, inclusing AT&T
3) 'Free' phones are calculated like this:
$Overrated_pricetags_of_phones_that_are_even_simlocked_and_bricked - $Total_price_of_subscription_that_is_more_expensive_to_make_the_phone_'free'_instead_of_letting_you_pay-less_for_the_total_price_of_ownership/use_and_an_additional_30_dollars_or_so
4) ^You buy a phone and you get a subscription for free and the total cost of ownership is way less than avarage
5) If this is not enough reasons for you than you should also know that a 'free' phone that cost $20/month gets you less ''free' call minutes' than a standard, $20-without-a-phone-subscription.

AT&T's own page on the topic (2, Interesting)

lasarinas_raven (1261710) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911151)

http://www.wireless.att.com/about/disability-resources/mobile-speak-magnifier.jsp [att.com] "AT&T now offers the latest in screen reader and screen magnifier software from Code Factory. This software works to enhance the functionality of some of our most popular wireless devices for those who have low vision or are blind. The screen reader and screen magnifier software is available for both Symbian and Windows Mobile Smartphone devices."

Mobiles for the Blind (1)

Aerdan (988028) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911271)

Just buy some Braille dots or something. After that, any mobile with a broad set of voice commands [such as LG's VX5400, which unfortunately is Verizon and not AT&T] should do, especially if you get a bluetooth headset for it as well.

Hiptop, BlackJack (0)

SoopahMan (706062) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911299)

While I was using it a few years ago, I recall that the Hiptop (which T-Mobile rebrands as the Sidekick) was a cool way for younger blind users to get into using mobile phones. The interface is highly responsive and easy for a blind user to use. The keyboard was innovative when it was released and blind users loved it.

However that's exclusive to T-Mobile, and in most areas, T-Mobile coverage is abysmal (if this user is in Boston however, I can say it's excellent in that specific area).

An AT&T phone that might do well is the BlackJack II. It's a Windows Mobile phone with no touchscreen (good for blind users), and a full keyboard. Windows Mobile 6 comes with a long list of voice options - you can do the obvious like call people by saying a name, but you can also load up apps or even run custom commands by speaking into it. The list of apps available for it is quite long (for example, Google Maps which you could load, do a local search in, then press a button to call the first result).

My two reservations about this phone for the blind:

1) If you are unfortunate enough to get one with even one half-dead key (which is common), typing on it is going to frustrate a blind user endlessly since the only way of knowing the key signal didn't make it is going to be visual. A reliable keyboard is essential and this may end up taking a few return cycles to get.

2) It doesn't have a screenreader, although I'm not aware of any cellphone with that technology.

Visioncue (1)

astro (20275) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911417)

www.visioncue.com

I know the owners of this business personally, and they're good people focused specifically on mobile devices for the blind / vision-impaired.

What's next? (1)

tulcod (1056476) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911561)

What's next? A phone for the deaf?

This phone would be perfect! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24911613)

http://www.dott-com.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/doro-handleeasy.jpg

DORO makes a phone for the elderly that is simplified and large, and even though that wouldnt help your friend see them any better, it makes for good spacing, simple layout, and not very much wasted space/energy on the screen. Its the "Handle Easy 328." Im not sure what network (GSM or CDMA) it uses, but its worth looking into. Remembered seeing it a while back and thought I would throw that at ya.

I work in this area (4, Interesting)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911775)

There are too many touch screen phones on the market these days.

If you're blind and looking for a good phone look at the Nokia 6810... it has a good screen reader and an open source GPS system for navigation called Loadstone (which I did some work on).

For a blind user, bluetooth is a must as it lets you keep a headset with a reader for interfacing. I walked around for a while with the phone talking to me and it freaked people out.

Good luck on the search and message me if you want some more info...

Motofone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24911805)

Not sure if it'll work on the AT&T network, I'm guessing so, but the Motorola motofone F3 is ultra cheep unlocked and has a lot of voice prompt menus. It's designed for the illiterate, but would work as well for the blind I think. Worth a shot at $40 USD or so. I think you can get them at Amazon and JR now.

Motofone (1)

smtrembl (1073492) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912093)

You want to check the Motofone F3 by Motorola. Then why not apply Braille to the keyboard? It's a simple mod. Any commercial options?

Why fucking bother with the God-Damned Blind? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24912477)

Why fucking bother with the God-Damned Blind? Why not let natural selection take its course instead?

GO AHEAD!
FUCKING FLAME AWAY OR
WASTE YOUR GODDAMNED MOD POINTS
FUCKTARDED SHITDOT SHEEPLE!

Guns, Lots of Guns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24912675)

There are surprising many options out there for the blind. They range from very basic functionality i.e. the LG 5100 (which is what I have right now) to a Sybian or Windows mobile based phones. I got the LG free with a 2 year service plan. Where as a Symbian phone with the proper software can cost at least a couple hundred bucks for the phone and the software.

Try looking through the AFB Product Database [afb.org] or Access World 208 [afb.org] (though not all the information in there is entirely accurate, i.e. AW08 claims Wayfinder Access only runs on Windows Mobile phone when it actually only runs on Sybian phones.)

Also, the "picture reading software" mentioned earlier is called KNFB Mobile Reader [knfbreader.com] (it costs $1600USD.) And for all the naysayers, *pointless*, This software would allow a blind person to read a menu at a restaurant, read labels at a super market, etc.

If you choose to go the Smart phone route be prepared to spend a lot of money. I'm looking at an N82 as my next phone, Phone is ~$550USD on ebay, ~$300USD for the text to speech software, $549 For Way Finder access [wayfinderaccess.com] , get the idea.

There is a Win Mobile version of JAWS the most common Windows PC screen reader. FYI, Just because it is the most popular does not mean it's the best. There is also TALKS which you can get free from AT&T AW08, has more info on that. There are also rumors that AT&T will soon be offering Mobile Speak (Win mobile & Symbian) by Code Factory, as well. As I understand all of these software packages will allow the user to interact will all of the features of the phone including sending and receiving text messages. Also, for those unfamiliar there is this term Legally Blind, and for these individuals there is also software to do screen magnification from Code Factory.

Finally what sound proof room did you use those voice commands in?

They make the Jitterbug in a couple different versions one for seniors, and another for the blind. though I think they are pretty interchangeable.

So the real question is what features does your friend "want" and how much are they willing to spend. Also, you may look into what government assistance they can receive in getting a new phone.

LG VX8300 (1)

Athaulf (997864) | more than 5 years ago | (#24912703)

I'm not sure about AT&T, but I've got a few blind friends that use the LG VX8300 on Verizon. It's got dedicated music controls on the front of the phone and 512 MB cards for it are fairly cheap.

Toshiba VM-4050 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24912881)

I had a Sprint Toshiba VM-4050 (CDMA) and it had mode that would read everything off the screen. I am not blind so I didn't use that mode but I was impressed that it came with this. It's manufactured by Audiovox as the Audiovox 9950.

Good luck.

bazile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913239)

check this startup out out http://www.bazile.fr, only available in France but intresting

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