Brief Overview of the Blindshell Family of Phones

The Blindshell line of phones were created with the visually impaired and blind person in mind. This blog will look at some of the key features of the Blindshell Classic Lite, Blindshell Classic, and Blindshell Classic 2 with product links provided from the ILA website. The phone style has been named “candy-bar” as they are approximately the same size as a standard candy bar. See below for more details.

Blindshell Classic Lite

BlindShell Lite is a fully vocalized phone for visually impaired and blind users. The main features of the phone are its simplicity and its physical keyboard, by which the phone can be fully controlled. The following information comes from the article The Smarter Phone: BlindShell Classic Lite.

Like its older sibling, the BlindShell Classic, the BlindShell Lite is a candy-bar style phone with the display and touchpad on one side of a straight, non-folding phone. The phone is about 5.5 inches long (nearly 3 inches of that dimension is display), 2.5 inches wide, and weighs about 4 ounces. The BlindShell Lite’s dimensions are very similar to the BlindShell Classic—it simply has fewer features.

While the BlindShell Lite is certainly not what you might consider a smartphone, it has one elegant feature that’s quite smart: spoken menus from the moment the phone is turned on. Power on the phone to a spoken status update, and navigate through the menu with a large, centrally located directional pad, with each menu item spoken. You can feel the navigational buttons with your fingertips, and you don’t need to turn on a screen reader.

In addition to the text-to-speech, the BlindShell Lite offers a large-print display with high contrast and a dialing pad with a well-spaced number pad and navigation keys. On the side opposite the keypad there is even an SOS button that can be preset to an emergency number of ‘your choice for one-touch speed dialing.

You can order the Blindshell Classic Lite from ILA by following the link provided.

Blindshell Classic

BlindShell Classic is a button phone for blind and visually impaired people. The phone is operated via the physical keypad or by voice commands. Feedback is provided by the built-in synthetic voice, vibrations and additional acoustic signals. The following information comes from the article The BlindShell Classic Accessible Feature Cell Phone, a Smart Alternative.

One of the things you’ll notice very quickly about this phone is that it functions like it was built from the ground up with user accessibility in mind, not as a feature that was bolted on as an afterthought. When you unbox the phone, install the battery, and long press the Back button, the phone starts with text-to-speech and an interactive tutorial. The tutorial is quick and gives new users the opportunity to learn what each button on the phone does. While exploring the phone, you’ll discover that out of the box, the BlindShell offers 4 female voices and 3 male voices in the Settings > Sounds > Voice Output menus. In addition to 10 voices, there are 4 levels of speech intonation and 5 levels of voice rates, to make speech output very customizable.

Each menu item is numbered, and when it is read, you hear both its number and the number of menu items in that level. So, for example, the second item in the main menu is Messages. When we get to the Messages menu item we hear, “Messages, two of nine.” As a shortcut, to jump to any menu item, simply press its number. So, pressing 2 when you’re on the main menu will open the Messages menu item.

For many users, having a tactile number pad and navigational buttons will make this phone easier to use than a conventional touchscreen smartphone, with perhaps one notable exception: the need to type in text using the number pad, a skill many of us have forgotten or never learned in the first place. This issue aside, BlindShell offers a great deal of functionality. In the More Applications menu, you’ll find a range of applications that make the BlindShell every bit as useful as a touchscreen smartphone. In addition to common applications like Email, Messaging, Calendar, Alarms, Timer, Stopwatch, Voice Recorder, Calculator, Weather, and Dictionary, there are several applications in the More Applications > Vision Aids menu that are worth mentioning. The Color Indicator is a handy color identifier. Hold the camera over an item and press the Confirm button to hear the color described. It seemed the accuracy of the Color Indicator was about 50%, probably due to the limitations of the 2-megapixel camera. For the casual user, having this application built into the phone is a convenient feature, but if you need more accurate results, a separate, stand-alone color identifier is a better choice.

You can order Blindshell Classic from ILA by following the link provided.

Blindshell Classic 2

BlindShell Classic 2 is a button phone for blind and visually impaired people. The phone is controlled via the physical keypad or by voice commands. Feedback is provided by the built-in synthetic voice, vibrations, and additional acoustic signals. The following information comes from the article BlindShell Classic 2: The Smarter Smart Phone.

This latest version of the BlindShell Classic introduces upgrades in both the hardware and design of the phone. Blindshell Classic 2 also includes new apps and software. The camera, for example, now boasts eight-megapixel images. The upgraded camera not only takes great pictures, but makes apps like Google Lookout, Be My Eyes, and Magnifying Glass, work as well as they do on those smartphones without buttons. Additionally, the speaker has been upgraded to offer greater volume and the navigation buttons redesigned to make the controls easier to use. The volume toggle is now on the side, as is the button used for dictation.

The overall design of the phone remains relatively unchanged. The top half of the phone is dedicated to the display, with the keypad and navigation buttons beneath it. A USB port for charging and file transfer and a headphone jack are located on the top and bottom edges.

Added Features

  • LED Flashlight. An LED flashlight is on the top edge of the phone. When the flashlight is enabled, the phone beeps regularly to remind you it is on.
  • Near Field Communication (NFC) scanning (a form of contactless communication between devices like smartphones or tablets). Several NFC labels (included with the phone), allow individuals to make audio recordings that play when the phone encounters one of the labels. Labels can be erased and rerecorded, as needed.
  • The BlindShell Beep labeling system. The BlindShell Beep is a thin, square electronic tag, about an inch wide, that is used with the Beepers App. Just attach the BlindShell Beep to a set of keys, purse, wallet, luggage—anything that has a tendency to get misplaced. When the Beepers App is enabled, the tag emits a continuous sound to help you locate it.

In addition to the new bells and whistles, the BlindShell Classic 2 keeps many of the features of the original BlindShell. Moving through the menu is straight forward, using an up and down key and the Confirm key or Back key. These last two keys are also used to answer or hang up a phone call.

You can order the Blindshell Classic 2 from ILA by following the link provided.

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