With cell phone technology constantly evolving and more new models appearing every year, it can be hard to know which device is best for you. So how do you decide which phone to buy? The answer depends entirely on how you want to use it.
If all you want to do is make calls, there are some basic phones that will suit your needs. But if you would like a device that will let you browse the internet, check email and manage your calendar, a smart phone would be the best choice.
“Regardless of your need, look for a phone that has accessible features like large print buttons, a big screen with color contrast, or screen reading” says Council Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Brent Perzentka. “Voice control is a useful feature for people with vision impairment, as well as a talk-back function that enables a phone to talk to you.”
Our Vision Services team has compiled information on some of the phones rated best for people with impaired vision:
Basic Big Button Phones
BlindShell Classic LITE: Like the BlindShell Classic, the BlindShell Classic LITE is a candy bar style phone with the display and touch pad on one side of a straight, nonfolding phone. The keys and tactile dialing pad are large and well spaced, and the display has big, high-contrast print. All navigation is done through the keypad with all features and keys spoken. You don’t talk to the phone. It can send texts, but doesn’t have text dictation capability. Note that the speaker volume may be low for people with hearing loss. This phone costs about $249. It works only with GSM carriers. Visit the BlindShell website to learn more.
Jitterbug Flip2: Designed specifically for seniors, the new Jitterbug models come with the Amazon Alexa virtual voice assistant installed, so it will work well for people with low vision who already use Alexa at home. You can set up the Lively Skill feature on Alexa, which enables users to make calls and dictate texts by voice. The buttons are a good size, with contrasting white print on a black background with slightly embossed numbers. It has a louder speaker, and Jitterbug phones also offer safety features for seniors, such as fall detection. At a cost of about $100, this phone is an economical choice. Learn more about the Jitterbug Flip2 on the Lively website.
Kyocera DuraXV Extreme: This traditional flip phone offers the basics, but does them well. It has readout and short voice command features plus a weather function, flashlight, Wi-Fi, bluetooth and ear bud connection. Sending a voice text message is a three-step process, however, which is a drawback if you want to text. It is priced at about $240, but check with your preferred cell phone provider. Find out more about the DuraXV Extreme on the Kyocera website.
iPhone: Apple’s iPhone is the most popular smartphone with people who are visually impaired, and for good reason. Apple pioneered a built-in screen reader using VoiceOver technology, which gives users access to many of the phone’s functions that promote independence. You can listen to audio books, find out the color of an item, read print materials, identify household items, and even take pictures using your voice. Besides using your voice to make and receive calls, you can read and send text messages, play music, check social media sites, navigate the web, and more. Some braille display devices are compatible with iPhone screen reader technology, allowing users to read the text on the screen in braille. Other features like text enlargement and a built-in magnifier are available in the accessibility menu. Because there are several different iPhone models available, cost varies widely depending on which you choose. Check with your cell phone provider. Visit the Apple website to learn more about iPhones.
MiniVision2: This easy-to-learn smart phone has buttons you can feel and a spoken menu that activates the moment you turn it on. It includes handy applications like a voice recorder, sends texts with voice dictation, and can create a shopping list by voice command. Another candy bar type phone, it’s easy to use for simple voice calls and has good volume. Currently available on T-Mobile and AT&T, it won’t operate on AT&T after a 5G network update in February 2022. But it is also compatible with some smaller carriers, so check with your provider. This phone is only available from the Razmobility website, with a price of $309.
Brent says that an accessible cell phone can provide independence in many ways and give you peace of mind.
“It can be an added layer of safety in case there’s an emergency,” Brent says.
Whichever device is right for you, the Council can provide information to help you get the most out of your phone. Contact our Vision Services team to learn more by calling 800-783-5213 or 608-255-1166, or request an appointment on our website.