A Guide to Wireless Phones for Seniors.
Finding Phones and Service
When looking for a new wireless device, think about how you’ll use your phone. You may not need special applications like text, email or Internet access, but what about a phone with large buttons, bigger displays, oversized numbers, basic features or Hearing Aid Compatibility? An in-store customer service representative can show you devices that offer these capabilities and set them up for you.
Consider some services available specifically for seniors. Click on the links below:
Also, if you are a member, check out these resources for cellphone discounts:
Do you have a cellphone but need help using it? Take your phone to your wireless service provider, who can help you explore accessibility features and set a device up so it can work for your specific needs.
The OASIS Institute also offers classes to teach you how to make your cellphone work for you.
Listed below are accessibility features that may be built into a wireless device to make wireless products and services easier to use for seniors.
- Audio, Visual, and Vibrating Features – You can assign specific audible, visual, and vibrating alerts for functions like incoming calls or messages, calendar events, and keyboard input confirmation. You can also assign, create, purchase, and download distinctive ringtones at frequencies you can hear more easily.
- Volume Control – Most wireless devices allow you to adjust the loudness of a ringer or speaker when talking on the phone.
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) – WEA is an alerting network designed to disseminate emergency alerts to mobile devices to enhance public safety. WEAs must be available on both wireless handsets and in the wireless networks to function. Look for a special WEA symbol on the device packaging to determine whether a device supports WEA.
- Adjustable Fonts – This is the option to change the size of icons and text on the wireless device’s display to make it more readable. This feature varies by phone; some devices have a choice of several font sizes, and some have an adjustable slider to adjust for spacing of the text. The feature is built-in to most smartphones and some feature phones. Combined with the magnification feature on smartphones, a consumer has greater options.
- Tactile or Clearly Defined Keys – Tactile keys are physical keys for both functions and alphanumeric keys. The keys are designed for ease of feel and marking nibs are often used. Some keys are convex in shape and/or larger in size. Some feature phones include a QWERTY keyboard. Other phones with keys and controls have a high contrast color scheme and large print users, helpful for persons with low vision. Most smartphones use touch screen controls and keys which can be explored by touch and have speech to identify each key and control. It is also possible to download software with a larger touch screen key pad. Predictive text and word completion (AutoText) features also help to quickly enter text.
- Voice Output – This feature “reads” aloud function and feature information on a wireless device. This is also called text-to-speech (TTS). Examples of TTS include Apple’s VoiceOver and Google’s TalkBack. Voice output enables a person who is blind or visually impaired to use menus and sub-menus common on most wireless devices to access such features as entering contacts, using the phone book, setting alarms, talking to caller ID, and changing ringtones. The voice output function varies and should be checked out by consumers when selecting a device.
- Voice Recognition – This feature lets consumers interact with their phone with the power of their voice. Such tasks as dialing the phone, choosing a contact, entering calendar or contact information, surfing the web, and accessing applications are accomplished without lifting a finger. Voice Recognition is variously called Voice Control or Speech Commands. Common examples of voice recognition, include Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s “OK Google” services. Many of your smartphones settings can be paired with a smart speaker in your home that can also listen to spoken commands.