Vision Impaired People (VIPs) are keen to use smartphones because of the really useful apps that come with them: street directions, converting printed text into speech, reading barcodes and QR codes, checking the denomination of a bank note, as well as standard apps: browsing, internet, book readers, email, SMS and phone... However, the flat touch screen is a challenge for older and less dexterous users. It is estimated that 95% of the 2.5M VIPS in Europe are over 65.
Doro who have specialised in creating mobile phones for the older population recognised this requirement and have created the Doro 820 Mini Claria. It combines the power of the Doro 820 smartphone with a tactile interface for navigation and control.
The tactile interface is created by a plastic cover that overlays the touchscreen, and divides it up into a small screen at the top, six navigation buttons below that, followed by a T9 keyboard and finally the three standard buttons of a Doro phone (see image below).
Doro have partnered with Claria Vox to develop the software that sits on top of the Android operating system to create a fully touch and voice enabled interface.
The design point is that a VIP should be able to use the device out of the box with no assistance from a sighted person (non-VIP). The phone comes with an audio version of the manual on a CD as well as a PDF version. The initial feedback from early users is this is possible, although having a technician to unpack the device and instal the SIM card, just like many sighted users, is probably an easier starting point.
One nice detail of design is the charging plug that has been specially moulded to make it easy to put in the right way up.
Once set up navigation is easy and intuitive with menu structures and short cuts available.
All output appears on the screen and there are options to change colours and fonts, this means it can be used by the majority of VIPs because they have some residual vision. Everything is also spoken and can be heard clearly on the adequate speaker or through the headphones supplied. Voice output can be customised for speed and voice.
Input is through the navigation buttons and the T9 keyboard, or through integrated voice recognition, or using an optional external bluetooth keyboard.
The device comes with a range of useful apps pre-installed, the street navigation is particularly impressive.
It is built on a standard Android platform so any app from the store should work but the interface may limit how easily they can be used. It is possible to go back to the standard Android touch-screen interface and that may be the best solution for some more complex apps.
Given that it is a full function Android device and supports an external keyboard it is possible that it could supplant the home PC; for users who do not use the screen or a printer at home this could be a very attractive and cost effective replacement for the PC.
The Doro 820 Mini Claria will ship in July 2015 and should prove attractive to many older VIPs.