There are a wide range of phones available, from the simple to the more sophisticated.
At one end of the spectrum are simple handsets designed to offer a few functions with maximum accessibility. Typically these will allow you to make and receive phone calls and text messages using a tactile keypad. Screen contrast and text size can be easily adjusted. Examples include the Alto 2 and Doro PhoneEasy range.
At the other end of the scale are smartphones like the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy, which have many advanced accessibility features.
- Enlarged text and text-to-speech: Most smartphones have a large screen and the option to enlarge text, or read it out loud.
- Intelligent assistant: These built-in voice assistants, such as ‘Siri’ on the iPhone, work like a smart speaker. They allow you to dial contacts, dictate messages and emails, and search the internet. You can also ask it everyday questions such as ‘What’s the time?’ or ‘Will I need my umbrella today?’, and get a spoken reply.
- Camera functions: As well as taking photographs, a smartphone camera also enables you to ‘zoom in’ on objects, just like you would with a magnifier.
- Apps: A key feature of tablets and smartphones are apps - downloadable bits of software. For a list of useful apps for people with sight loss, click here.
There are many types of tablet, but the most familiar ones are the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Note and Kindle Fire.
Tablets are smaller alternatives to a portable computer, or larger alternatives to a smartphone. Their versatility and accessibility features mean you can easily browse the web, write large format notes or read an e-book. You can also increase text size and screen contrast, and they may include screenreading and magnification options.
Many publications, including newspapers, are now available in electronic format and tablets let you read these by changing the basic settings to make text or images larger. There will also be options to alter the background colours to improve contrast and readability.
The evolution of the touchscreen and inevitable disappearance of the physical keyboard pose a challenge for people with sight loss. But there are alternative keyboards you can download to make it easier for you:
- Big Keys Low Vision Keyboard: This has larger keys and several high-contrast colour options (£2.99 from the App Store).
- HuixiuWu's 'Highlighted Keyboard: As you begin to type a word, it highlights the next logical keystrokes and dims the others (99p from the App Store).
- Android high-contrast keyboard: Android users can change the keyboard without downloading additional apps. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Vision.
Our Tech Talk volunteers can help you with smartphones, tablets and computers through email or telephone support. Call the Advice and Information Service on 0300 3030 111