Image | OwnPhone
What for many may be a simple daily task, for those with impaired vision it can a complete challenge: from buying clothes (not knowing the color), to simply getting around cities that unfortunately, are often not sufficiently adapted. Fortunately, mobile telephones have converted into the perfect ally for the blind; there are many interesting projects that can help facilitate their daily life.
Telephones as a tool
While operating systems have accessibility improvements that allow any person with a little bit of practice to use it easily; there are phones that have various Braille buttons such as OwnPhone´s proposal, made with 3D printers. It is not a smartphone, but a very useful mobile for those who have vision problems and just want to call their contacts simply and easily.
Georgie is another similar initiative, although it does not incorporate Braille. It is a launcher for Android that increases operating system´s accessibility. Thus smartphone functionalities are not lost, while adding an extra layer of services and specific apps for those with vision impairment. The manufacturer offers packs with a telephone and the operating systems installed and also their own launcher independently for those who already have a mobile.
Regarding specific applications for blind people, the truth is that there are all kinds. There are some that use the camera´s terminal to upload photographs to the servers and identify what is in the user´s vicinity (such as TapTapSee for iOS). Others, designed for color blind people, indicate the color audibly if you aim the phone´s camera at an object: ColorID Free (Android) o Color Identifier (iOS).
If we want to take advantage of the GPS and the data connection to use your mobile as a guide when a blind person is lost, there are also options. The Autonomous University of Barcelona developed OnTheBus, a kind of guide that helps blind people to get around by the Barcelona public transport. Ariadne GPS offers a similar functionality: you can ask where you are or where you want to go and it will give you all the information.
Accessories that will greatly help
One of the advantages of the smartphones, as we have already seen in numerous occasions, is that there are many accessories designed to connect wirelessly to them. We don´t just speak of blood pressure monitors or glucose meters for diabetics, but there are also other devices designed for blind people that provide information to both the user and the mobile phone.
Image | Quality Objetcs
A clear example is the guide-glasses created by the Spanish company Quality Objects. These connect to a telephone and emit sounds that allow people to know where there are obstacles. In addition, they are capable of guiding the user through the city so that he arrives safely at his destination.
Another example is the Samsung Ultrasonic Cover that, as its name indicates, is a phone cover that emits ultrasound and allows the person carrying the phone in his hand to know if there is an obstacle in front of him. Also very useful is the Optical Scan Stand from Samsung, that reads aloud the text of any paper that is placed on the support.
Image | Ultrasonic Cover, Samsung
While some of these current solutions are for blind people, there are many more in development. Accessibility is becoming increasingly more important for manufacturers in the latest version of their operating systems, which already include numerous advances, such as voice assistants or screen readers, which can help users that are visually impaired to live more comfortably.