Accessible Phones

This page covers a variety of phones and what to look for when choosing an accessible phone. It could be anything from a desk phone, cordless phone, to a mobile phone. As most phones have to be imported into New Zealand, models will be rapidly changing and becoming obsolete all the time. Check with your local seller to see which phones are currently in stock, as not all phones are available in New Zealand. Also, do your homework on the phone's features and asks lots of questions. If it is an older model you are looking for, don't forget to check out auction sites. Sometimes, it helps to look up a phone using google, and see what other people have said about it (checking out user reviews and phone specifications). Your local Blind Foundation may be able to point you in the right direction.

When it comes to a particular phone or software that you are researching, click on the relevant websites and go to their links for resellers within your country. This way, you will be able to locate information that is relevant to your country/area.

Accessible mobile phones

Times have changed in the last few years with features in mobile phones. At one time our phones were tactile and we had to pay extra to have a screen reader put onto our mobile phones. This was on top of the price of the phone and when you look back now seems fairly limited compared to what we have now. If you still remember them, they were certain Nokia phones that could run Talks or Mobile speak on it.

Nowadays, if you were to get another phone, a lot of them have touch screens.

Today we have more of a choice with mobile phones and they are getting smarter all the time. You can also add extra functionality to them (by installing apps onto the phone) that can help you in everyday life.

Apple I phone

The Apple I phone would be the most accessible mobile phone out there for the visually impaired or blind. It has an inbuilt screen reader called Voiceover and it just needs to be turned on. To turn on Voiceover you will need to go to the settings section of your phone then locate the accessibility section. Under that section will be where Voiceover can be turned on. Everything on an I phone is labelled, however this might not be the case for third party apps that you can download from I tunes. A good website to help you choose apps that might help you is

On Apple I phones (if the battery ever dies) you cannot replace the battery. You can also not add extra storage to your I phone either (like you can with Android phones).

Most things need to be done through the I tunes software (for example putting music onto the I phone).

Android phones

A cheaper alternative to the I phone/s are phones that are coming out with Android on them. They come out in all different sizes and pretty much all of them will let you expand storage to your phone with a micro SD card. Depending upon the models will depend if you can replace the battery or not. If you are going to get one of these phones try and get them with stock standard Android on them. Google has brought out their own phones called Google Pixle. The names might change but these are Google branded phones. The Nexus range also runs stock standard Android on them as well. There are other sellers out there that sell phones with Android on them and in most cases they will have TalkBack already installed onto the phone. It just needs to be turned on under the settings… then accessibility section. If there is no TalkBack screen reader installed it can be downloaded from the Google play website at

You can also install other screen readers that are available from the store.

As with most phones, Android phones are available in different screen sizes. These phones are a lot more affordable and if you buy one try and go for the latest operating system. Some third party apps may need labelling on the phone, however TalkBack has a graphics labeller and in most cases (if graphics are unlabelled) they can be labelled  withTalkBack.

Windows phones

A latecomer to the mobile phone market is the Windows phone. At present the only screen reader available on these type of phones is the Narrator screen reader. You cannot install any other screen readers onto these phones at present. There will be different phones brought out by other companies that run Windows. Microsoft has brought out their own range of phones (such as the Microsoft Lumia 950).

To turn on Narrator

Turn on Narrator by doing one of the following on your phone:

• In the App list, tap Settings… Settings Icon … Ease of access, and then turn on Narrator (Toggle On Icon).

• If Narrator quick launch is turned on, press and hold the Volume Up button, and then press the Start button. (If Narrator quick launch is turned off, this button combo won't turn on Narrator. This is to prevent Narrator from being turned on accidentally).

You will also need to check if the phone can be expanded with extra storage with an SD card and if the battery can be changed. This may vary from model to model. Your apps will be downloaded from the store. This will depend on which operating system you went with (for example an Apple phone will get them from the apple store, Android will get them from the Google play store and Windows from the Windows store).

Gestures for mobile phones

All of the above mentioned phones are touch screen phones; so depending upon which one you get, it would be a good idea to download a copy of the gestures for that operating system to practise with.  They will have a qwerty keyboard that you touch. You can also buy a bluetooth keyboard to pair with it if you want to.

Recommendations from others

It would be a good idea to ask other visually impaired or blind friends which phone they bought and why. This might help you to make up your mind on which direction you go when buying a phone. It might even be a good idea to go into a mobile phone retailer and ask them about the specs of the phone and if you are able to have a play with the phone with the screen reader or magnification turned on. Also, check out what other features might be under the accessibility section on those phones.

Please note

If you want to use the KNFB reader on your phone you will need an 8 megapixel camera. The KNFB reader (after you have taken a picture of the document or menu etcetera) will then read out the contents of the document. If you also decide to use a navigation app you will need GPS built into the phone. Apart from what is noted, the rest of your apps may not have any other special requirements to meet.


Links to popular mobile phone carriers in New Zealand:

Vodafone New Zealand
Compare which Vodafone plan may suit you best

Spark New Zealand
Compare which Spark plan may suit you best

2 Degrees Mobile New Zealand
Compare which 2 Degrees plan may suit you best

Remember, as with any phone (landline or mobile) you will need to see which plan best suits your needs. Take into account things such as calls, texts and what you want your phone to do!

Accessible mobile phones

Doro Easy Mobile Phone:
Large print on easy to see tactile buttons. Many features. Great for the elderly as well as those with some useful vision.

Please note: An idea might be to purchase a second hand compatible phone and test out a trial of the software first. There are good on-line auction sites selling mobiles - as people upgrade - that may suit you. This way, you can be sure that the phone is easy to use and that the software does all you need it to do. Also, don't be afraid to head into your local mobile phone shop and test out the physical features of each phone. This will allow you to find the phone that best suits your needs