Home phone for disabled

Pensioner with robot phone friend c 1990
The Amstrad phone was playing up. Voice messages weren’t being recorded, the display screen was flashing without reason, and it hadn’t been used as an email station for years. It was time to find a replacement.
Priorities? To record voice messages again. Easy operation for the almost blind. And variable volume control for the hard of hearing.
Where to get advice? Which? This stalwart of consumer interest from a previous age still has some useful information, but actually their coverage is limited. Their most recent review in 2010 covered 11 phones and each ‘best buy’ is quite poor in some important respects.

How about RNIB ? They support the blind and partially sighted, and there is also a useful shop with suitable gadgets – sticks, watches, magnifiers … and phones! There’s a range of telephones with very large buttons and other features, but suprisingly most do not record messages. And once I started to check prices on Amazon I began to find contradictory reviews – ‘this sound is too quiet’, ‘this is too complicated’.

Discovering the best phone became a mini project – unearthing brands on sites supporting disabilities then verifying comments on Amazon – which eventually led to  the Geemarc CL455!


The great features of this phone are:-

  1. Most actions can be confirmed by voice – this includes the stored address book, incoming calls, missed calls, and pressing the number buttons
  2. The volume control covers a wide range – there’s an on-off control, then loud to VERY LOUD
  3. Messages can be played back at half speed
  4. Numbers can be assigned to 3 special colour-coded keys and 6 other keys for quick or emergency dialing
  5. Incoming calls are indicated by a large flashing light as well as a ring-tone or voice announcement
  6. Missed calls and messages are indicated by a light

The main difficulties for the visually impaired centre around the functions controlled through the display screen. It is necessary to be able to read the content of the display for set-up, and to take advantage of some of the functions such as caller dial-back.

Suprisingly the instructions make no concessions for the disabled. While reasonably comprehensive the booklet lists and describes the features one after another with no sense of priority. It was impossible for this user to begin to navigate his way to an understanding of the operation of any feature of the phone.

In response we prepared these notes with enlarged and adapted schematics tailored to the operations that seemed important. 

The most noticeable difference with this phone comes from the talking announcement when someone calls. If the number is in the stored address book a pre-recorded voice prompt is played alternating with the ring tone – …..brrrrring ‘Jo calling from his mobile’ …. brrrrrring ‘Jo calling from his mobile’…. Which means our elderly friend often knows who is there before picking up the phone.

2 thoughts on “Home phone for disabled”

  1. What an excellent piece.

    Such a common problem, and obviously not much help out there in finding the best solution.

    This needs to be spread far & wide

  2. Thanks for your comments Alan.

    Sometimes its not clear if the problem is to find the right information or if no information exists!

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