What types of telephone are available and how can they help?
For people who have difficulty using a standard voice phone there are a range of features on offer that can help deafblind people.
Some phones have larger buttons with high-contrast writing on them, a raised dot on the number five, or buttons that are easy to navigate by touch. Buttons can be designed so that it can be clearly felt when they have been activated.
There are several phones on the market with amplified audio for people who have trouble hearing a conversation, as well as phones with loud ringers or flashing strobes to ensure calls are picked up.
Some handsets incorporate induction loops that can send the sound directly to induction loop-compatible hearing aids, while some handsets use bone conduction technology that benefits people with a specific type of hearing loss.
In-line amplifiers can be used, plugged in between the curly handset wire and base unit of a phone, to increase the volume of a standard phone. However, these may cause problems on phones that already have a built-in amplifier.
Voice over IP (VoIP) refers to phone systems that use the internet to transmit sound, rather than standard phone lines. These systems have increased in number in recent years.
Systems that send the audio over the internet can be optimised for a higher quality sound. But often companies choose lower quality sound so that they can support more customers. Because of this, VoIP systems may have poor quality audio and can cause problems for hearing-impaired people.
What should I look for when buying one?
If you require amplification in a phone, check that it is sufficiently loud enough before you buy. Also check the sound clarity. This is important, and can’t be established from the features list. Many local services offering support to those with hearing or sight impairments offer the ability to try out this sort of technology, alternatively the Disabled Living Foundation offer their National Loan Library of products, which includes a telephone option.
Phones used in businesses may be either analogue or digital, but most phones designed for accessibility are analogue.
Companies that provide digital phone systems may have accessible handsets. Alternatively, an in-line amplifier may help to increase the volume on a digital handset.
If this doesn’t help it is worth noting that digital phone systems usually have an option of supporting a limited number of analogue devices so that they can support fax machines.
However, functions such as call forwarding, conference calling or computer-based features may not be available on an analogue phone.
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.
First published: Wednesday 23 May 2012
Updated: Friday 20 March 2015