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Smartphone – Providing ease of use and accessibility for people with very poor eyesight

Smartphone – Ease of use and accessibility for people with very poor eyesight

By Richard Chan: A social entrepreneur


Professor Stephen Hawking was conferred the ‘Excellence in Accessibility Award’ at the Technology4Good awards September 2012. He said:

“Technology is a vital part of human existence. They show us that the right tools, in the right hands, can help everyone, regardless of our frailties, to achieve our true potential and advance as a civilisation.” 

EziCare Tech has developed a smartphone casing (Ezi-PAD) and an app (EziSmart App) to generally improve the ease of use and accessibility aspects of the smartphone. Universal design rules have been the basis of the design both for the physical keyboard and the app.


Figure 1 – EziSmart components

Figure 1 shows the main components of the system. For the sight impaired user the EziSmart is operated in conjunction with the standard voice assistant that comes with the smartphone. The casing not only provides large icons, big text and simplified buttons; the focus goes far beyond those standard remedies. Apart from addressing the practicalities the EziSmart endeavours to give you choices like those available to everyone else.

The keyboard

The EziSmart characteristics which make the assembly most suitable for the sight impaired users are:

  • A logical and large grid formatted screen layout with good contrasting colours and spacing
  • An integrated keyboard which supplements on-screen navigation and touch
  • Large easily accessible keys with concave design for easy location
  • Logically laid out keyboard modelled on the familiar T9 keypad and PC keyboard features
  • Dedicated keys for volume control that are easy to locate and operate
  • Dedicated keys for call answering and termination
  • Locating pimple on the numeric 5 key

Figure 2 – Ezi-PAD keyboard layout

The Ezi-PAD keyboard has many dedicated functions. However, not all users will use all the functions. The idea is to cover as large a spectrum of users as possible with multiple functionalities.

From our testing, the following are often credited with good operational benefits:

  • Navigation buttons
  • Call answer and call termination buttons
  • Large alphanumeric keys made for ease of location and activation
  • Dedicated easily accessible volume buttons
  • Phone book

Answering calls and ending a call can be done using buttons on the keyboard or when the cover is closed by using the buttons on the front cover of Ezi-PAD. No need to pin-point and locate then swipe. With the keyboard texting becomes easier.

Inter-working with Voice assistant (talk back)

The voice assistant (talk back or voice to speech) function is activated in the smartphone. Pop up notifications are automatically announced by the smartphone.

The user can move the cursor around the screen with the navigation keys and at each move the talkback will announce or read out the function, app, message or log details.

Each key pressed will be announced and the word formed will be spoken aloud. Deleted characters will be announced.

There is more to the EziSmart than described here.

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