Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Accessible Cell Phones for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

It seems that cell phones keep getting more and more complicated. You can browse the internet, take pictures, chat and check your email with your cell phone. Unfortunately accessability hasn't improved with the phones.

Some companies have figured out that blind people do use cell phones and we want to use the same features as our sighted counterparts. Before I give you a list of some accessible cell phones, let me tell you about a very basic phone and phone service.

Originally designed for elderly parents or grandparents to use as an emergency phone, or for anyone who is technically challenged Jitterbug is a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) that uses the Sprint system and features easy-to-use phones with operator-assisted calling and speed dial set-up.

Jitterbug currently features two phones made by Samsung. Both have large, easy-to-read displays, loud and clear sound, and feature large, easy to dial buttons with clear markings (no confusing icons). They also "play" a familiar dial tone when the phone is opened to simulate a landline. One phone has a standard keypad, the other has three one-touch dial keys.

The ease of use makes these phones a great option for people who are blind or visually impaired. A perfect peace of mind without 37 ringer choices and streaming TV.

Accessible Cell Phone Suggestion from a Fred's Head Reader

I received this tip through email at and wanted to share it with all of our readers.

Dear Fred's Head Friends,

My husband, who is blind, did some serious looking at the different cell phones and their accessibility options. The BEST phone was offered by Verizon. He simply thinks the LGV8300 is the greatest as it has almost all audible features. Be sure to check this phone out. The following is some information on this great little phone:

Verizon Wireless offers the LG VX5300 and LG VX8300 with Voice Command and Text to Speech. These phones have features that make them more accessible to customers who are blind or visually impaired. The LG VX5300 and LG VX8300 are available at the Verizon Wireless Store.

Learn more about the LG VX5300 and the LG VX8300

Voice Commands
  • Digit dialing. You speak the digits; the phone dials them for you.
  • Dial by name. Speak a name that has been programmed in your LG VX5300 or LG VX8300 phone book and the phone will call that person.
  • Voicemail indicator with speech. If you miss a call and a voicemail has been left; the phone will tell you that you have a voice mail.
  • Caller ID with speech. You can hear either the name from your contact list or digits of the caller.
  • Status of the battery and signal strength.
Speech command list
  • Call (Name or Number)
  • Send Message
  • Go to menu
  • Check Item - Contains Phone Status, Voice Mail, Messages, Missed Calls, Time, Signal Strength, and Battery
  • Look up Name
  • My Account - Links to VZW My Account
  • Help
Helpful hints for using your phone
  • To access the Command List, you will need to use the Menu key, Scroll to Settings & Tools and the "to Tools", then "to Command List".
  • You can either request a command by speech or scroll down and listen to each option and then select
  • When selecting to Call Someone from the Command List, you can speak the name of the person that has been programmed into your LG VX5300 or LG VX8300 and the phone will dial their number.
  • When selecting the phone check, it will provide you with a voice readout of battery usage time remaining, signal strength, roaming status, service mode and GPS support information.
  • Please remember that background noise may affect voice recognition when requesting a selection of the command list.

Article Source:
Jack Middleton
Carson City NV

Accessible Cell Phones

I just stumbled onto the Fred's Head Companion page and listened to your very informative tutorial. I sincerely appreciated all the info you gave about what a Blog is and your discussion on RSS technology. :)

I am a business banking professional and have recently lost a majority of my vision. I have just received a promotion at work (I am so excited!), but it will require that I am available to clients by cell phone. After hearing your description of podcasting and knowing that iPods and MP3's really are the best and easiest way to access the web in an audio format, my question is do you know of a product that can work as a cell phone, PDA and MP3 player all in one?

I do have some resources for you to check out. HP may have a device for you. You use Mobile Speak Pocket for access to the menus and online services. Information is available at

There is an email list dealing with accessible phones. Go to for details.

Thanks to special software, the Vodafone Speaking Phone reads and describes the icons in the menu to the blind user. It is also capable of reading text messages and allows users to compose and send their own messages.

Vodafone's close collaboration with the Italian Association for the Blind on the Vodafone Speaking Phone project included a trial phase, and the subsequent distribution of the phones to as many blind people as possible.

Click here to visit the Vodafone web site:

"Nokia N91

The Nokia N91 phone will probably be the one most attractive to people who are blind or visually impaired, as it promises, when combined with the screen reader or screen magnification software, a fully accessible handheld mobile music experience. This device, combined with a screen reader or screen magnifier and the DAISY book reading software from Code Factory could serve many needs in one package. It could be a phone, notetaker, appointment calendar, book reader, web browser, e-mail tool and a music player all in one, eliminating the need to carry several devices at once.

The Nokia N91 features storage for up to 3000 songs, plus smartphone functionality in an ultra-portable package. It is a device optimized for mobile music consumption. With room for up to 3000 songs on the integrated 4-gigabyte hard disk, the Nokia N91 delivers a premier music experience. In addition, the industry standard 3.5mm stereo headset jack and easy transfer of music files from your PC help make the Nokia N91 a connected mobile jukebox.

Encased in stainless steel, the Nokia N91 has dedicated music keys on its face, which slide down to reveal the phone keypad. The Nokia N91 serves up to 12.5 hours of sound via the included stereo headset. It supports a wide range of digital music formats including MP3, M4A, AAC and WMA. The phone also contains a 2 megapixel camera for print-quality photos, email support, a full web browser and video sharing. The N91 is expected to become commercially available worldwide by the end of this year.

For more information on the Nokia N91, click this link to visit the Nokia home page:

Another choice for the PDA functions is the forthcoming E61 which is business oriented with Blackberry and Office applications. More important to blind users, it doesn't have a camera, which can lower the price. There are no multimedia keys like the N91, nor such an interesting storing capabilities, but you can use a 2GB MiniSD memory card.

BlindSea is a site containing, among other things, information about third-party programs for use on Series 60 cell phones. the programs, many of which have free demos or are free, have been found to mainly work with the Talks program, and many would presumably work with Mobile Speak.

Click this link to visit

Nuance TALKS

Nuance TALKS software converts the display text of a cellular handset into highly intelligible speech, making the device completely accessible for blind and visually impaired people. Nuance TALKS runs on Symbian-powered mobile phones to speech-enable contact names, callerID, text messages, help files and other screen content.

With Nuance TALKS you can:

  • Know that you have email ... and hear it!
  • Write and listen to text messages or instant messages
  • Hear caller id information
  • Know that email or text messages have arrived
  • Listen to your email
  • Add contacts and dial from your directory
  • Use the calculator, calendar and alarm clock
  • Know how much battery life remains and your phone's signal strength
  • Edit your phones profiles

Nuance TALKS runs in the background of a Symbian-powered mobile phone. The software currently works with the Nokia 3230, 3600, 3620, 3650, 3660, 6260, 6600, 6620, 6630, 6670, 6680, 6681, 6682, or the N-Gage phones as well as the Siemens SX1, and the Samsung SGH-D730. Click this link to visit Nuance's website for the complete list of compatible phones, this list is current as of April 2006. Click this link for more information about Nuance TALKS from the Nuance website. Nuance TALKS can be purchased from the Sendero Online Store.

An announce-only, low-traffic mailing list has been created to keep people informed about new developments regarding accessible cell phones. To join, send a blank message to

Mark Taylor's CandleShore Blog

As more and more of us use Mobile Technology, it helps to have someone who has tested the waters and knows what works, and what doesn't for those who are blind and visually impaired. On the CandleShore Blog, you can learn about a utility that converts standard web-pages into a navigable Mobile web surfing experience, count the calories of your favorite fast food items using your Mobile phone, search for an assortment of prescription and non-prescription medicines over your Mobile phone, access a free spellchecker on your Mobile phone, perform book-keeping applications using your Mobile phone, and so much more.

Click this link to visit Mark Taylor's CandleShore Blog:

1 comment:

Jonh Q said...

The Nokia 3230 is a great phone. My friend had the Nokia 3230 and he loved it!

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