Georgie, a smartphone designed for blind people, by blind people, has been launched to transform the lives of the almost 2 million people in the UK living with sight loss.
Lady using the Georgie smartphone especially designed for blind and visually impaired people
Developed by not-for-profit social enterprise Screenreader and available through exclusive partners Sight and Sound Technology, the new smartphone includes apps built specifically to help blind users navigate day-to-day obstacles like catching a bus, reading printed text and knowing their exact whereabouts in unfamiliar areas.
Tasks more commonly associated with smartphones like using Twitter, reading text messages and shooting a camera have also been updated to be much easier to use and accessible to visually impaired people for the first time.
Georgie, named after Margaret’s first Golden Labrador guide dog, is the work of 18 months of development and testing, working closely with the blind community for their feedback.
Georgie makes use of Google’s Android operating system and existing Samsung phones like the Samsung XCover and Galaxy Ace 2, picked specifically to be easy to use for blind users. The large buttons on an uncluttered screen, voice feedback whenever the screen’s touched and an innovative way to select the desired option also make the basic functions of the phone easier to use for visually impaired people, as well as those unfamiliar with modern technology.
“I was able to send my very first text just earlier this year thanks to Georgie” said Screenreader co-founder Roger Wilson-Hinds. “It’s exactly that type of digital experience we want to make easily available to people with little or no sight. More than that though, it’s also going to help solve every day problems for blind people so they can be more confident about navigating the real world and become independent.”
Glenn Tookey, CEO of Sight and Sound Technology added “Companies like Apple and Google have done a good job of adding accessibility tools to smartphones, but Georgie is the first smartphone solution developed with the visually impaired in mind. For that reason Georgie offers relevant features which, coupled with our expertise in offering customer support to the blind community, makes for a really exciting, well supported product that we’re proud to exclusively distribute.”
Out of the box Georgie comes with features to let users dial a number with the voice assisted touchscreen, manage contacts, use speech input to send text messages and tag previous routes or hazards (like potholes or low hanging branches) using the navigation apps.
A variety of additional apps are also available for purchase and bundled into three different packages, Travel, Lifestyle or Communicate, to add more functions to support different aspects of daily life that blind people may currently find challenging. These bundles are available for £24.99 each and include the following extra features:
Near me – find places of interest – everything from bus stops and cafes to the local zoo.
Buses – know when the next bus is arriving and when to get off
Weather – forecasts for any area
Audio Player – listen to audio books, talking newspapers and podcasts
Voice Assistant – ask almost any question and an answer is returned in audio format
Colour – find the colour of an object or garment
Assistance – call a helper who can tell you exactly where you are
Audio Tagging – add a sound clip to images so they can easily be found later
OCR – turn a photo into a text document that can be listened to and saved
Camera Assistant – take a photo and be told what it is (rice pudding or a tin of beans)
Twitter – send and receive tweets
Blogs – record and broadcast audio blogs