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Best mobile phones for the visually impaired

Mobile phones are revolutionary in aiding us with the simple, and difficult, tasks of daily life. But for some people, a phone could be more of a hassle than a help. If you have difficulty with your eyes, you may find it hard to use a regular phone. 

Thankfully there are a number of specialised handsets out there, designed to make life easier for blind and visually impaired people. Discover below the best mobile phones for the visually impaired.

Specialised versus regular phones

If you have significant sight problems, or are blind, a ‘specialised’ phone could really help you out. They’re designed with accessibility in mind, and contain a number of features aimed at assisting people who can’t see as well.

Regular phones - that is, the standard range of smartphones available - can still be used by those with visual impairments, depending on how severe the condition. If you can still see relatively well, a regular phone may still suffice. They often come with built-in features to help with accessibility. 

Pros and cons of regular phones

  • You can switch the font sizes on your screen in settings, to amplify text on the internet and social media ✔
  • You can buy a smartphone or phablet with a large screen, like the GrandPad
  • Voice recognition is a common feature on regular phones ✔
  • AI assistants, like Siri and Google Assistant, can help users navigate their phones more easily, as well as directly answer queries ✔
  • Can be more complicated for someone with visual impairments than a specialised phone, due to the variety of features and hardware
  • Most modern smartphones use touchscreen keyboards, which are much harder to feel your way around than physical keypads ✘
  • Typically more expensive ✘

Pros and cons of specialised phones

  • Are designed for those visually impaired or blind ✔
  • Different design options to choose from, depending on what you’re comfortable with, including: flip phones, candy bar phones, and semi-smart phones ✔
  • Usually cheaper than smartphones due to the focus on sight assistance rather than impressive hardware ✔
  • Specialised phones have larger buttons, clearer screens, big text, audible options, and features like the SOS button to call for help ✔
  • Not as satisfying to use for tech-savvy people, due to the stripped down software ✘

If you’re still able to see a screen, you may be able to continue with a regular smartphone, taking advantage of its voice-activated features and the AI technology. But if you’re struggling with your sight, investing in a specialised phone will ensure you can keep your independence and stay in contact with friends and family.

What features to look out for

If you’re not entirely sure what you need to be looking out for when buying a phone, you should consider the following features:

  • Screen size: the larger the screen, the easier it will be to see. If it’s a touch phone, a larger screen will also mean a larger keyboard. 
  • Button size: if your eyesight is particularly bad, you might want to search for a phone that has physical buttons, rather than on-screen, which are raised and easy to find
  • Text size: check that you can adjust the text before making a purchase, and ideally try it out to check it’s suitable 
  • Speech recognition: all phones have a built-in microphone for making calls, but this can also be used for speaking texts and commands aloud. For example, if you can’t see the buttons very well, you have the option of speaking what you want to type. The better the speech recognition software, the easier this will be
  • AI assistance: likewise, Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant can send texts for you, as well as complete a host of other tasks on your phone. Find out more about AI technology
  • Battery life: you’re going to want to invest in a phone with a long battery life so you don’t have to keep putting it on charge unnecessarily. It would be easier to buy a phone with a big battery that lasts multiple days
  • Durability: phones can easily be dropped - maybe even more so if you struggle with poor vision. Purchasing a sturdy, durable phone with a strong screen and overall design will prevent these accidents from damaging your device too much
  • Ease of use: if you’re partially-sighted or blind, you’ll want your phone to be easy to use, without any complicated systems or software to manage
  • Helpful additions: you may want an SOS or panic button that will alert your chosen contacts if you need help, good speakers so you can hear things clearly, and Bluetooth compatibility for a hands-free experience 

Best regular smartphones for the visually impaired

Here’s a list of the best regular smartphones that still contain a multitude of helpful accessibility features.

For the tech-savvy users - Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G

If you suffer from visual impairments, but don’t want to sacrifice the satisfaction of using a new, advanced smartphone, then the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G is the one for you. 

How it helps:

  • Huge 6.9” Infinity Display screen that wraps edge-to-edge for optimal viewing
  • 5G compatible so you don’t have to worry about slow speeds and load times
  • Stylus (S Pen) included for helping to navigate the screen and use touch-to-type features
  • Handwritten notes to real text conversion
  • 50x Super Resolution Zoom for taking pictures
  • 4,500mAh battery will last all day
  • AI technology for vocalised commands and read-aloud text
  • Text adjustment to modify sizes and font

Cost: Between £700-£100, depending on the retailer and storage size.

 

Apple iPhone SE

For the easiest use - iPhone SE (2020)

iPhones are known for their easy to understand and predictable software. Once you’ve owned anything running iOS, it becomes pretty simple to pick up another Apple device and start using it seamlessly. The 2nd generation SE is an updated version of the 2016 model of the same name.

How it helps:

  • 4.7” LCD display with 1334 x 750 pixel resolution for clear colours
  • 4G connectivity and A13 Bionic chip for fast use and processor
  • Up to 13 hours playback so you won’t need to worry about the phone suddenly dying
  • Fingerprint recognition (Touch ID) to unlock, so don’t need to be concerned about seeing the numbers to enter a pin
  • IP67 water resistant up to one metre of submersion for 30 minutes
  • Bluetooth 5.0, for hands-free experience calling and listening to music 
  • AI assistant Siri can help you complete tasks without touching the screen
  • Fast charge capability 

Cost: From £398.99 

For the budgeters - Alcatel 3C

This 2019 smartphone is a bargain for those looking for a new, but cheaper, smartphone. 

How it helps:

  • 6.7” HD display
  • Dual stereo speakers and audio amplifiers for louder, clearer sound
  • Google Assistant is there to help with all of your tasks, easily launchable by the tap of a button or by saying “Ok Google”
  • Magnifying Glass for easier visibility of text 
  • Simple interface to avoid visual overload 
  • Face Key lets you unlock your phone with facial recognition, rather than having to type in a pin
  • Textured backing for better grip
  • 3,000mAh battery for 18.5 hours talk time and 375 hours on standby 

Cost: Between £30 - £100 from various retailers 

Best Specialist smartphones for the visually impaired

Unlike the handsets above, the following models have been specifically designed for people with visual impairments. 

BlindShell 

BlindShell is one of the most popular companies for creating accessible specialist smartphones. Their phones were designed by blind people, so will provide users with the most understanding, sympathetic and inclusive mobile experience. You can choose from three of their models. 

BlindShell Classic - "the best"

  • Talking phone - the phone will speak aloud what you’re typing on the keyboard so you know you’re saying what you want to say
  • SOS button
  • Object Tagging application helps you distinguish between icons with similar shapes, so you find the right app
  • Voice control for commands 
  • Large, raised buttons

BlindShell Classic LITE - "the simplest"

  • Talking phone - keyboard is vocalised 
  • SOS button
  • Large, raised buttons
  • Quick dial - assign a contact to each number so you can call with one tap
  • Adjust speed and intonation of phone voice
  • Change colour scheme 

In Your Pocket

In Your Pocket is a company who work with the Royal National Institute for Blind People, and have developed a mobile phone designed to help people who are blind or suffer from sight loss. This easy-to-use phone is ideal for people who rely mostly on their hearing to navigate the technological world. 

Features:

  • Voice operated by commands e.g. “Read a book”, “Call Mom”
  • Simple interface and buttons
  • Headset and Bluetooth connectivity for a hands-free experience
  • Compatible with hearing aids
  • Comes with a bumper case and lanyard so you never lose your device 
  • Already set up and ready to use upon delivery

You’ll also benefit from ongoing assistance from their Customer Support team. 

Synapptic Smartphone

Do you want to blend the two? Have both a smartphone and a specialist phone? Synapptic has released their own software that can be downloaded onto almost any Android smartphone to make it more accessible for the visually impaired. You can use it with high-end smartphones, like the Samsung S10 Plus and Samsung A20e. 

Synapptic phones make text bigger, increase the options for colour and brightness contrast on screens, and simplify the screen reading technology. They include a host of other helpful features too, such as:

  • Photograph a document and have the contents read aloud to you
  • Touch & Release touchscreen control reads out all of your options
  • Customisable and simplified interface so you can learn how to use the phone more quickly and easily
  • Screen magnification up to 70x
  • Tab & Jump feature for easy navigation on the internet
  • Help icons on every screen 

Regardless of your eyesight, there’s a phone for everyone. We hope you’ve found our list useful. For some more options, check out the best phones for seniors.


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