Blind World Magazine

South Africa.
Cellphones deliver Internet to the blind.

December 16, 2005.
ITWeb (South Africa).

Vodacom has unveiled Nokia speaking cellphones, designed specifically to help blind or visually impaired people communicate over the GSM network and which include Internet access, says a statement by Vodacom.

The phones will give visually impaired people full access to cellular communication services, including data services such as text messaging, network information such as signal strength and cellphone information such as battery power status.

Vodacom says it is working closely with blind customers and organisations such as the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB).

"These parties have played an invaluable role in guiding Vodacom to understand the communication requirements of customers who are blind or visually impaired," says Mthobi Tyamzashe, Vodacom executive director, corporate affairs.

In September 2004, Vodacom was the third cellphone operator in the world, after its UK-based shareholder Vodafone Group, to launch the speaking phone to customers, he says. Customers can choose between three Vodacom speaking phones: the Nokia 6670, the Nokia 3230 and the Nokia 6680.

Most of the inherent features of a cellphone becomes fully accessible to a blind customer, including "viewing", creating, and editing contacts, choosing a ringtone, activating and using Bluetooth, taking photos and creating and sending SMS and MMS messages. With the latest Talks software version (v2.0) loaded onto the speaking phones, access to the Internet is a new feature.

In September, Vodacom introduced the Vodacom Voice Bill service, which allows access to billing information with the use of reader software on PCs.

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