Steven Morris, Digital Champions Coordinator, Online Today project
With so many mobile phones currently on the market, finding the right one can be a bit of a minefield! Selecting which model best meets your needs can be doubly difficult if you are deafblind.
For this month’s technology oldblog, we are going to hear about the experiences of Sheila Anderson who works for Sense. Sheila is partially sighted herself and has had a 5 year long struggle to find the mobile phone that is right for her.
Sheila remembers going to Carphone Warehouse with a friend of hers to try and find a mobile and being shown lots of the latest mobile phones. She found this to be quite a traumatic experience because she wasn’t able to see or use any of the mobiles that were demonstrated. Sheila and the same friend then visited the RNIB to look at the mobile phones they had. Unfortunately, none of these were suitable, which was disappointing. Both these experiences put her off trying to find a phone for sometime.
After a while though, she had a chat with Donna Corrigan, Sense’s Technology Co-ordinator about the issues she was facing, and Donna came up with the solution. Donna lent her a mobile phone she had as part of the Online Today project that Sense is part of. Online today aims to encourage people with duel sensory impairments to get online. Sheila takes up the story from here.
“Donna lent me a Samsung Galaxy phone with Synapptic software loaded on to it. I borrowed it for a month but within a few days I decided I wanted to buy one! I did try another mobile phone, which was a Telorion smartphone but the keyboard was multi tap so I didn’t get on with it at all.”
This software enables somebody with low vision to change the magnification and colours to suit their needs. It also has speech recognition and will read out the commands you choose on your phone.
Synapptic is a UK developer and their Synnaptic software has been designed to work on Android phones. This software enables somebody with low vision to change the magnification and colours to suit their needs. It also has speech recognition and will read out the commands you choose on your phone. All screens have the same look, so that once you have learnt how to use one screen, you can use them all. The software can be bought separately and loaded onto any Android mobile phone, or you can buy both as a package.
More information is available on the Synapptic website.
Now that Sheila had managed to find a suitable mobile phone, I was interested to know what made this phone so right for her.
“I can enlarge the keyboard and font so I can see what I am writing/reading. The mobile also has a touchscreen keyboard which is NOT a multi tap one i.e. you tap once for “a”, then a separate letter for “b”. I can also change the colour of the font making it easier for me to read and if I wanted, I could also get the mobile phone to read out everything on the screen. Not just messages I’ve received but which part of the menu I am in.”
This has really increased my independence – I can now text friends to let them know I am on the way or they can text me to let me know they are running late.
“At the moment, I mostly use my mobile phone for sending and receiving text messages. This has really increased my independence – I can now text friends to let them know I am on the way or they can text me to let me know they are running late. I haven’t used email or the internet on the mobile phone yet, but that is next on the list. I have also started to look at the camera features. It has opened up a whole new world that I didn’t know about before – Wi-Fi, texting etc. It has made a huge difference, it is invaluable. Now, if I want to contact a friend I can just send a quick text. In the past I would have had to email them, and then wait a day or two for a reply. My mobile makes it so much quicker.
When I first started using the mobile phone, I would get frustrated because I would make mistakes in typing the wrong letter etc. but I soon got to grips with this.”
Lastly, we talked about the support Sheila has had in mastering her new gadget from a colleague who works alongside her called Carolyn. Sheila and Carolyn have regular meetings to go over any problems Sheila is having and together they’ve begun discovering what the mobile phone can do!
I’d like to thank Sheila and Carolyn for giving up their time to talk to me; I found hearing about Sheila’s phone and the Synapptic software on it fascinating. Stories like this are a great example of why the Online Today project was established—demonstrating the importance of helping people find the technology which is right for them.