>Amigo is ready to have and use a cell phone. When La Petite and I got our first family plan, we had simple Panasonic phones with slightly raised buttons. Amigo learned to use mine, knowing which numbers in the phone book needed an up arrow and which needed down. Whenever we traveled, I put him in charge of answering and making calls while I drove.
Then phone technology got fancier, and the buttons became smoother, feeling like one with the phone. Cute, aren’t they? Not so much for Amigo, who is blind. He needs to be able to feel the buttons and find the right numbers to dial. He doesn’t need texting, games, or a camera in his phone. He would, however, enjoy a decent ring tone.
We looked into the Jitterbug. It has a nice handset, operator assistance, and other features that would be useful to him. No cool ring tones, though, a disadvantage for a teenager.
We took him to the AT&T store to check on adding him to our family plan. None of the phones were ideal, with an easy keypad for a tactile user. The clerks knew nothing about speech activation options, and they kept trying to point us toward phones with what they thought were “large” screens, even as we said, “He reads Braille. He can’t see this.”
This seemed to make our decision: the Jitterbug. Then we asked Amigo’s mobility teacher for his opinion, and things got much more complex. He sent us comments and suggestions from blind travelers. Consider the following:
- “Owasys 22C, a screenless phone with audible caller ID” (and more) which might work with our current provider
- A fairly ordinary Nokia with Mobile Speak screen reader from AT&T. Mobile Speak was $89 if ordered with the phone, a discount compared to buying the program on its own. The Nokia N75 is not difficult to use and it can be used with voice dial if you prefer.
- Another visually impaired traveler suggested that a standard cell phone “…can now be set up so that the person wanting to call can push one button and say for example “call Joe Grow” or Call “444-4444” and a digital voice will respond “Did you say Joe Grow” or “did you say 444-4444. When you answer yes, the digital voice responds “calling Joe Grow” or “calling 444-4444″ and the number is dialed. No need to voice train the thing at all.”
Now what? We’ve been sitting on this information since August, hoping something would jump out at us in suggesting “This! This is the phone for your blind teenager!” No such luck; we’re still dithering.
Ideas, people? Links for us? Amigo is very articulate, a good communicator. I know he’ll use the phone and use it well, and he won’t text while driving!