by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern
Using a modern smart phone as a person with visual impairments can be a mixed experience. While they can help to facilitate independence in one’s daily life, particularly in travel and communication, applications aren’t consistent in their degree of accessibility. The mobile phone company BlindShell USA seeks to close this gap with their BlindShell Classic 2 product. Lighthouse Guild in New York City recently held a workshop in their technology center with representatives from BlindShell USA to go over how to use the phone and to demonstrate its features. The phone is rectangular, with a 2.83-inch large-print display and a physical keyboard, which includes textured buttons to help distinguish one from another. Above the keyboard are physical buttons for menu navigation, as well as a confirm and cancel button, which allow the user to operate the device with text-to-speech feedback every step of the way. Alternatively, the user can operate the device through voice commands, doing everything from navigation, opening a particular application, or texting and calling a contact. Central to the phone is the BlindShell App Catalog, which offers popular applications that have been engineered with visual accessibility in mind, taking apps such as Spotify, WhatsApp and Zoom and making them fully accessible. More apps are constantly being released over-the-air by BlindShell USA, with some recent additions including BARD and Google Lookout, which allows the user to use the phone’s 13-megapixel camera to read text and identify objects. The phone is unlocked, and is currently compatible with any carrier that uses T-Mobile’s network, including Mint Mobile, Boost Mobile, and of course, T-Mobile themselves. It’s available for purchase on the BlindShell USA website for $489, or for a discounted $439 for those who qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program. To purchase the phone or learn more about its features, check out the listings above.