Why didn't anyone think of this before? Vision impaired Australians now have an easier way of contacting family or friends, with tech company OwnFone launching the world's first-ever personalised braille mobile phone.
The OwnFone is a simplified mobile that features pre-programmed 3D braille buttons instead of the usual keypad or touchscreen. Users can dial important contacts or emergency services by pressing the corresponding button – there’s no need to remember numbers, or select any additional buttons to make a call.
The device can also receive calls, which are answerable by pressing either the Answer button or any of the name buttons. There’s no frills or extras, as the device doesn’t feature a touchscreen or even a display, but it’s an excellent way for vision impaired Australians to maintain independence and easily keep in touch with the most important people in their lives.
Although there are over 35,000 Australians living with a severe vision impairment, touchscreen technology is obviously unsuitable, and devices operating via voice commands aren't always reliable (not to mention, extremely expensive).
Disability advocates have already praised the OwnFone as a great alternative to basic phones, and the often difficult to use accessibility features found on modern handsets.
Not just for the blind
The braille OwnFone is priced at $89, and includes a lanyard and USB charger (wall chargers can be included in your order upon request). As well as offering phones for vision impaired customers, OwnFone also produces similar custom devices for children and elderly users.
These versions can be programmed with up to eleven names, as well as a 000 button. Users can opt to have either their contact’s names, or a small identifying image, printed on the corresponding buttons.
The OwnFone is credit-card sized and weighs only 40 grams, so it can easily be carried in a pocket or handbag or worn around the neck. Each device comes ready to use out of the box, with no setup required, so it’s a great option for seniors with little technological expertise.
Small children can also benefit from a personalised OwnFone as an easy way of staying in touch with parents, without the extra expense of a smartphone and plan.
OwnFone provides voice service via the Vodafone network, and customers can sign on for month-to-month plans, or recharge through pre-paid gift packs.
Monthly plans start at $20 per month for 45 minutes of voice calls, $30 for 100 minutes, and $40 for 200 minutes. If a user does go over their monthly allowance, excess calls will be charged at a flat rate of $0.55 per minute (plus GST).
OwnFone offers two rechargable gift pack options – the $30 pack comes with 80 minutes of talk time and a 90-day expiry, while the $40 pack includes 150 minutes and expires after 120 days. Customers can also buy longer term plans at discounted rates.
For more information or to order a device, head to OwnFone's Australian website.