OwnFone launches ‘world's first braille mobile phone’ in Australia

Friday, 25 July 2014 10:42am

OwnFone has launched a braille-based mobile phone for blind and vision impaired users in Australia—a world-first, according to the mobile technology company.

By combining a three dimensional (3D) printing system and customisable, blank mobile devices, OwnFone allows customers to design a mobile phone with up to three contact names and numbers, which are automatically converted into braille buttons on the front of the device.

The phone features a single button dialling system, with pre-programmed options to call emergency services and contacts of the customer’s choice, including family, friends or carers.

Explaining the reason for the new device, OwnFone Australia’s Director, Brad Scoble, claimed that the phones currently available on the market were often not user-friendly for use by people with vision impairments.

“There are currently 35,000 people in Australia who are blind. Touchscreen technology is problematic for those Australians.” Scoble said in a statement.

Tom Sunderland, the UK-based inventor of OwnFone, added that advancements in 3D printing had made it cost-effective to now produce braille phones which were personalised for every user.

“In the past, the cost of developing a braille phone versus the market size has been a barrier to entry. 3D printing provides a fast and affordable way to overcome this barrier,” he said.

The OwnFone website provides more information on the product and how to customise and order one.

The announcement of the OwnFone comes at a time of rapid development of new devices and services for people with disabilities.

For example, earlier in July Media Access Australia spoke with Erin Walsh and Meaghan Arundell from the Australian National University about how text messaging services, or the short messaging service, (SMS), are being used as a research and communication tool for people who are Deaf or hearing impaired.

In June, Australian technology company Real Thing launched its RealSAM (Simple Accessible Media) device to help people with vision impairments access news and media services. Amazon also announced that accessibility had taken centre stage in its new Fire smartphone.

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