What types of mobile phones are available and how can they help?
The number of mobile phones designed for older people has increased. Because these use larger fonts and have increased volume they will also be easier to use.
Sound volume is useful if you have trouble hearing a conversation over a mobile phone, but the clarity, or quality, of the audio is often more important.
Some phones are designed to cut out background noise and give clearer sound and a small number are able to take advantage of High Definition (HD) audio. HD audio sends the audio between phones, improving the quality.
Users of induction loop-enabled hearing aids may find that a neck loop improves their hearing of a mobile phone. Neck loops send the audio directly to the hearing aid which means that local background noise is reduced.
A similar device is an ear hook which sits on top of the ear next to a hearing aid. This works in the same way as a neck loop, so suitability is a matter of choice.
Some phones can be connected to a braille keyboard to enable braille users to access their phone features, including internet and sending SMS messages.
A sighted person could communicate with a person that uses braille using a mobile phone and braille device. The Deafblind Communicator is a specific product designed to facilitate this type of communication. Similar functionality can be set up using many smartphones and compatible braille devices.
What should I look for when buying one?
If larger, high-contrast fonts are important to you then ensure that the menu systems are also readable. Sometimes individual functions are high contrast but the menu systems used to open these functions are not.
If loud audio is important then ensure that the ringer is loud enough to hear or that the phone has a strong vibrate function so that you know when the phone is ringing.
Phones that cut out background noise can only do that to the signal that they send. This means that if your phone cuts out background noise, it is the person you are ringing who will benefit.
If there is someone who you contact frequently, encouraging them to choose a phone that sends better quality audio may help. Similarly, HD audio requires that both phones are HD audio compatible for it to function.
For someone you speak with often, both of you using HD audio compatible phones will improve communication.
Neck loops can be connected to mobile phones in two ways. Some neck loops use a wireless signal called Bluetooth, and some plug-in to the headphone socket on the phone.
Not all phones support Bluetooth and because Bluetooth remains connected it will use more battery power to keep it running. Having no wires means it can be more discreet.
The ability to connect a braille keyboard to a phone is only available on some ‘smartphones’. This is because the braille keyboard requires a text-to-speech function to drive it. If you are looking at using braille with a mobile phone make sure that it gives access to all of the menu systems of the phone that you will need.
If the keyboard is connected by Bluetooth then ensure that the method for connecting the Bluetooth keyboard is accessible or that the keyboard will reconnect automatically.
On some phones the method of connecting a Bluetooth device, known as ‘pairing’, is not accessible without being able to see or hear the device. Bluetooth connections can disconnect for many reasons - so it is important that if this happens your phone does not suddenly become inaccessible.
GARI (Global Mobile Accessibility Initiative) has an excellent website which is a very useful resource of information on mobile, tablet and app accessibility.
Please note: the following list is not exhaustive. Sense is not responsible for the content of external sites nor do we endorse the products mentioned.
Other useful resources
First published: Wednesday 23 May 2012
Updated: Friday 23 January 2015