Found: Disablility Friendly Phone, Available to a Good Home
September 4, 2013 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me find a usuable phone for my disabled 72 year old mother?

Physical Limitations:

My mom had a stroke 23 years ago. She's in a wheelchair. She only has the use of the right side of her body i.e., right hand and right leg. In addition her vision is affected all around but especially in her left hand field of view. If you are on her left side you might as well not exist. If you are on her right side she knows you are there but has the normal corrected vision of a 72 year old, far-sighted person with tri-focals.

Mental Limitations:

My mom had her stroke in 1990. Even though she has used various technology on/off over the years she basically missed the boat on making interaction with computers and gadgets part of her normal way of thinking. Things have to be explained to her in great detail. She doesn't always grasp what is being discussed using the normal "growing up using computers" way that alot of people think so sometimes you have to come at things from a completely different direction. In addition her stroke has affected her brain which has affected her memory. She can't remember tons of different passwords and PINs and codes, and also complicated procedures for, oh, I don't know...answering the phone?

Ideal Phone Would Work Like This:

0) My mom wears the phone on a lanyard and she can grab it with her good hand.

1) Phone Rings on Incoming Call: My mom grabs the phone and looks at it. She can clearly see the name of the person who is calling. If it's an unknown name then the number is clearly visible. If my Mom wants to answer the phone she puts the phone in front of her mouth and says "Hello". The phone recognizes her voice and answers the phone and she starts talking to whoever is on the phone. (I don't want to her to draw a pattern to start talking. She can never remember and/or see the device to recreate these patterns.)

2) To Check Voicemail. My mom puts the phone to her mouth and says "Voice Mail". The phone dials right in to her voicemail and starts playing her voicemail messages. As she listens to the message she decides she wants to delete it. She says "Delete" and the phone deletes the message. She listens to the next message and wants to save it. She says "Save" and the phone saves it. (I don't want her to have to enter a PIN to access her voicemail and I don't want her to have to press buttons to access and manage her voicemail.)

3) She needs to make an outgoing call. She puts the phone to her mouth and says "Call Home". The phone recoginizes her voice and calls the number programmed into her phone as home. (Again without using a pattern to unlock the phone or her hand to bring up a teeny tiny list of contacts and scroll through them)

Right now it takes multiple minutes and/or people and/or supernormal incantations to make a phone call, take a phone call and check her voicemail. Whenever she goes to a phone store they sell her a bill of goods about the capabilities and/or ease of use and/or capabilities of their phones.

I want to help her find something that is a good fit for her limitations. The phone needs to be able to do the basics, really, really well, before I even concern myself with the realm of texting, picture taking etc.

Does anyone know of a phone that is a good for a person who is older, one-handed, vision-corrected, vision-limited, mentally-limited and unfamiliar with the PC and Personal Gadget paradigm? I realize that not everything as I describe it may be available in any solution. But even just a subset of it *or* a company that thinks of the needs of a disabled person, would be a good start.

P.S.: My mom is a very smart person, and is aware of her limitations. The things that she can remember, whether pre or post stroke, she remembers well. She volunteers. She has received her Master Gardener's certification. She stays very active. She's trying to meet the world half way. Now we need the world to do it's part.

posted by dgeiser13 to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: i googled "voice activated cell phone" and this list came up. you may be able to further research the phones on this list and see which would be best, or there were a lot of other options on the google search. another term that might work for you is "senior cell phone".
posted by koroshiya at 12:48 PM on September 4, 2013

Best answer: How about a Snapfon or similar "senior phone"? I got a Snapfon once in a fit of pique of being tired of smartphones (I really just wanted an old Nokia, but that's neither here nor there).

Snapfons don't make voice-activated calls, but if your mom can use a conventional landline, Snapfons are about that simple. The buttons are big, there is a lanyard, and there is an SOS button on the back of the phone. It works on GSM so you can use it with any SIM company (T-Mobile, AT and T, Simple Mobile, etc). When people call, their names show up big in the little screen, though not lit up. And I believe there is a Snapfon salesperson who will talk to you on the phone personally and answer every question you ever had (or didn't have) about them.

Other search terms: "big button cell phone."

Good luck!
posted by feets at 12:51 PM on September 4, 2013

p.s. If you do go the Snapfon route, I don't recommend using the phone service they try to bundle with the phone.
posted by feets at 12:54 PM on September 4, 2013

Best answer: The Alcatel A382G worked well for my mother. Not voice-activated but it has big backlit buttons and instead of a camera it has an AM/FM radio and a flashlight with a physical on/off switch that could be used one-handed, and it appears to have been designed with seniors in mind.

Also, the one we got came with a cradle so there's no need to have the dexterity to plug it into a charger. (But it charges off of a mini-USB port too if needed, so that part's standardized.) By default it auto-locks the buttons (with a physical switch to unlock that should be usable one-handed) but there appears to be an option in the menus to turn off auto-locking.
posted by XMLicious at 1:04 PM on September 4, 2013

Best answer: How is her right-handed dexterity? Would she be able to push a button to activate the voice-dialing?

My (not disabled) mother has a Motorola Razr (yes, the old one) and uses voice-dialling almost exclusively (you push a button on the side and say the person's name to call them). Its screen is too small to easily see the incoming caller's name, I think, though it does have answer-on-open (and hang-up-on-close). I mention this because you may not need a specialist phone--few people use voice dialing, but it seems to be a fairly standard feature.

I'm not familiar enough with accessibility considerations to know if you can delete voicemails by voice generally, but if you can't find anything on that front, you could get her a phone that satisfies all her other needs and redirect its voicemail to Google Voice, which only plays you the new messages when you call it (I believe you can set it up without a PIN). It prompts you to push 7 (or 9, whatever the number is) to archive, but I just hang up. (Though, writing this, I realise I forget whether you have to push a button to hear the next message.) Someone could go into Google Voice on the computer and delete the old messages if there was a need (though my 'inbox' has 90-odd messages in it at the moment).

I believe the iPhone is popular among people who are blind or have low vision, so if you have one already, you could test yours out with her before committing to the expense.
posted by hoyland at 2:01 PM on September 4, 2013

Best answer: 0) If she uses her chair often, you might consider looking into a wheelchair mount for the phone. I suspect that someone with dexterity issues might have a hard time grabbing a phone on a lanyard, turning it the right way, and reading the name on it before it stops ringing.

1) I think most phones these days can be configured to speak the name of the person calling, in addition to showing it on the screen. Depending on how bad her vision is, that might be easier for her to handle. Voice dialing is also pretty common.

2) Given her level of impairment, you may need to spend some time configuring the phone you find for her. You might find a specialty phone suited for her needs out of the box, but you would likely pay for it.

3) Most of the assistive technology specialists I've met (I work for one, so it's a weirdly large group) prefer Apple products to Androids. Apple's accessibility features are really well-developed at this point, and Google hasn't caught up. You may not need a lot of these features, so it may not be worth it to you, but they are there.
posted by catalytics at 8:43 PM on September 4, 2013

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