In 2011 there were approximately 360,000 people registered as blind or partially sighted in the UK, as stated by the charity Action For Blind People. Given the prolific number of people in Britain who are living with sight loss and the technological advances that are occurring by a seemingly daily rate, there are an increasing number of gadgets and tools designed to make life easier for the visually impaired arriving on the market.
We take a look at three of the latest “accessibility” gadgets.
Amplicomms PowerTel 710
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) have announced the world’s first talking handset. The Aplicomm PowerTel 710 literally talks back to users to help guide the blind and visually through answering the phone and making phone calls.
Each time a user presses a button on the PowerTel 710, the phone calls the number back to you. As well as voice prompts and keys that announce their function so that users always know what they are doing, the handset is made up of big keys to make the physicality of dialling numbers easier for those with sight problems.
This cordless home telephone also has an earpiece over 40 decibels and a ringer that is more than 90 decibels loud, as well as two user profiles, meaning that one family member can have the PowerTel 710 much louder than the rest of the family. Being “truly accessible to the blind”, Simon McLean, technology product manager at the RNIB spoke of being “bowled over” by Amplicomm’s “first of its kind” new cordless home phone.
The PowerTel 710 retails at £99.99 and is available to buy from www.rnib.org.uk/shop
The EyeMusic is a device that was developed this summer by a team of researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In converting images into music, the EyeMusic helps the blind and visually impaired locate items with greater ease.
The innovatory device employs pleasant musical tones and scales to help blind people “see” the music. It works by scanning an image and representing pixels at high vertical locations as low-pitched notes according to a musical scale that will sound pleasant in many possible combinations.
After a short training session, the researchers assert the EyeMusic can guide movements and improve the performance of daily tasks carried out by people living with no or little sight.
The Georgie app
This new app for Android devices allows people with visual difficulties to carry out daily tasks that are normally difficult for them. Users can navigate the app by moving their fingers over various options that are then read aloud. By hovering a finger above an option, a certain task is activated accompanied with a loud beep.
As well as making calls and sending messages, the Georgie app also provides location-based technologies, which alerts users to various location-based activities, such as when the next bus is arriving, when steps are approaching, or which way they are facing.
With approximately 39 million blind people around the world and 285 million people who are visually impaired, it is refreshing to see that there is a drive to create accessibility gadgets for those living with problems with their sight.