Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I seriously need a cell phone: Best bets for people who are blind

by Rachel Anderson, Program Coordinator

Rachel answers many calls from individuals who contact the AT Network with questions about assistive technology. Below is a Q&A based on a call she received from an individual who contacted the AT Network's toll-free phone line (800-390-2699).

Dear AT Network,

I have low vision and have recently started shopping around for a new cell phone. Many people are recommending the iPhone, but since it has a touch-screen that I can't see well, I am confused – how does this work? Are smart phones really better than the older mobile phones for people who are blind or have low vision?


iPhone iDon’t Know

Dear iPhone iDon’t Know,

This is a popular question here at the AT Network!

Many visually impaired individuals have found the iPhone to be a revolutionary device due to its built-in features of Zoom and VoiceOver as well as the hundreds of low-cost, useful compatible apps. In fact, once the phone is literally just out of the box and set up—by turning on the appropriate accessibility option—someone who is blind or has low vision can do all of the same things a sighted person can do using the iPhone – texting, sending and receiving email, surfing the internet, or, actually making a phone call, if you can believe that!

Whether the iPhone and related apps are worth the cost remains debatable among some folks, but it really comes down to one question: Are you going to use these added beneficial features? If you are thinking about getting a smart phone, I would encourage you to research more, read reviews and talk to the people who are using them. Also, there are many inexpensive and useful apps especially designed for people who are blind or have low vision.

For example, here are just a few apps that all cost $10 or less and perform valuable tasks. The LookTel Money Reader reads your bills out loud – even when they are folded! The LookTel Recognizer and VizWiz(free) can identify items for you, and the Ariadne GPS and Sendero GPS LookAround apps can provide information on where you are as well as how to travel to where you want to go with step-by-step detail.

I’m not trying to oversell the iPhone, but I wanted to share just a glimpse of what they are capable of doing so that you can decide for yourself if this device could be beneficial to your life and independence. The multitude of accessibility features on the iDevices is one of the reasons that they are gaining such favor and popularity among blind and low vision individuals.

However, some people really just want a basic, no frills mobile cell phone with large keys, and some voice command capability to call or text their loved ones. If you are one of those people, check out this Jitterbug J Cell Phone review. Or try the Samsung Haven which operates on Verizon’s network and offers voice output of all the basic features.

For more information and reviews on apps that identify items: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw130404

For more detailed information on Accessible Cell Phones in General: http://www.etoengineering.com/vision.htm#Voice%20controlled%20cell%20phones

For more information and a complete review of the Jitterbug phone: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw120508

Do you know of other useful and affordable apps or mobile phones to suggest for people who are blind? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below. 


  1. Definitely we are using different smart phone for our personal communication and many other purpose.So right now we have think about that new model,which is best suitable for blind person.Many thanks for sharing nice blog.

  2. Having that apps will help a lot of blind people to navigate and use mobile phone even if they can't see the keys.\

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  4. Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
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    Keep Posting:)