In partnership with Vodacom, the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB) officially launched a mobile service kiosk at their Pretoria offices yesterday (Wednesday 8 June), bringing mobile communication closer to visually impaired people.
These days, smartphones come with built-in accessibility features on both Android and iOS platforms enabling people with various disabilities to also have access to the amazing world of independence and the internet.
The kiosk will provide step-by-step guidance and serve as an information hub and one stop shop for blind and visually impaired people who are interested in accessible phones.
For more information, please contact the SANCB on 012-452-3811.
By Jacques Stassen CHOOSING AN ANDROID HANDSET, WHAT SHOULD I BE AWARE OF?
When deciding on which smartphone to purchase, it is always a good idea to do one’s homework prior to swiping your credit card. As visually impaired people we are fortunate enough to have a range of devices to choose from nowadays. When contemplating an Android handset, it is especially true that one should ensure that your new toy will ultimately live up to your expectations. What may perfectly fit the needs of one person, may not be suitable for someone else. It might be prudent to ask oneself the following questions prior to heading for the shops.
- What do you intend using the device for? If you are a very basic user, only needing a phone for things like SMS, making phone calls and perhaps using a Twitter account, a low budget handset may very well suffice. However, if you wish to make use of the multitude of handy apps available from the Google Play Store, make sure that your choice will have the necessary specs to handle these apps. For example, when wanting to use an OCR app to translate digital images to text, a handset with a low MP capacity may not crack it.
- A device with low memory specs is likely to leave you frustrated when having multiple apps opened simultaneously, as the phone may become unusably slow.
- Ask around if any other visually impaired people are using the handset you are considering. Very importantly, once again, make sure what they are using the phone for and what their experience is. If you can’t track down a person using the intended handset, ask our good friend Google for reviews to see what other visually impaired folks have to say.
- Determine which version of Android the handset is running. Some of the most useful accessibility features were only introduced in the later versions of Android.
- Some folks hack their devices in order to install a custom ROM on it, often to obtain a later version of Android if it’s not available through the normal channels. This procedure is called rooting. Be aware though that upgrading a handset in this way may lead to disappointment, as the phone may run noticeably slower on a newer version, and, even worse, may cause problems with sound output.
REVIEW OF THE VODAFONE SMART 4 MINI
When recently evaluating a low budget Android handset I experienced the following behavior, which will be disappointing to anyone using his / her handset for more than just the basics. The phone in question is the Vodafone Smart 4 Mini. Please note, this phone should not be confused with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, which has much better specs.
- The Vodafone Smart 4 Mini runs on Android 4.2. Although this is better than some other devices still running 4.1 or older, it does not offer the best user experience in terms of accessibility.
- General operation of the phone is disappointingly slow, especially after opening a few apps.
- The handset does not have a physical home key, which may pose a problem for some. Thus, the only physical buttons on the phone are the power and volume buttons.
- The handset has a 3.1 MP camera, which, at best, will give less than ideal results when using an OCR app.
- Many of the apps on the Play Store will not run on this device, due to its poor hardware specs, including a mere 512 MB RAM.
- The quality of the loud speaker is rather disappointing.
- Despite numerous attempts, removing and re-installing Brailleback, I simply could not get this accessibility tool to run on this device. This may have been specific to this phone, but it nonetheless left me disappointed, especially in view of the fact that Brailleback installed and worked first time, every time, on my Samsung Galaxy S4.
If you are a South African visually impaired or blind person interested in accessible phones in a local context, feel free to join the Accessible phones mailing list.
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