Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mobile / Cell Phones for the blind in Japan - 盲人でも使える携帯電話

I have been a big fan of straight, candybar cell phones.
When I lost my vision, I panicked! - How I can get in touch with friends and families!?

There are three major mobile service careers in Japan, and all three offers a talking phone of sorts.

NTT docomo - It sells the series of phones that are called RAKURAKU phone by Fujitsu. Though the phone is originally designed for eldery people who look for a easy-to-use phone with large buttons and displays. In addition to these, it also includes screen reader functions that reads menus and things on screen, and the contents in compact internet browser as well!
I can make and receive calls, check and reply email, looking for buses and trains tametable with web browser, making a phone read out for me.

In addition to that, my RAKURAKU Phone Premium has Felica chip built into the phone, so it works like a nfc enabled phone! I can purchase sandwiches and drinks by waving my phone at a cash register, I can get on buses by touching my phone to a chip reader, I can go through train gates by touching it, and I can go to the airport and get on a plane with it!

So, I already registered with ANA (All Nippon Airways) as I am visually impaired and need help. If I want to fly with ANA, I go to the airport by waving my phone on a bus and subway stations. On transportation, I access to the airline website, purchase a ticket on the phone. No worry about downloading a bar code / QR code because the e-ticket is in a chip. Then I wave my phone over a chip reader at security check, and the airport staff come and help me take to the correct gate, and wave my phone at the gate for boarding. What a life!

Forgot to mention, my RAKURAKU Phone Premium is compatible with 3G as well as GSM, I can take it abroad! (minus nfc shopping, public transportation and check-in at airport outside Japan)

The other mobile service career, au, has a Kyocera phone. Though it does the basic things, I was not happy with the overall design in a way that buttons are flat and hard to distinguish which key is the numbers or function keys, and speech is not as precise. For visually impaired, it could be an option, but for the blind, NTT docomo phones have advantages.

On the other hands, SoftBank does not have any phones that has screen reader built-into the phone, but... wait! SoftBank sells iPhone!

Starting with iPhone 3GS, iPhone comes with a built-in screen reader called VoiceOver!
Though it takes time and concentration on finding out where to tap, I could use it... only if the language is set to English.
Yes, iPhone VoiceOver comes with Japanese Voice, but the sound is not impressive at all, but what is worse, the voice does not read when entering Japanese characters, making it almost impossible to enter Japanese words correctly!

Therefore, I ended up with having two phones: RAKU RAKU Phone Premium (Japanese) and iPhone 4(language set to English)

入院中、どんどん目が見えなくなっていくうちに心配したのは、携帯電話のことでした。その時まで、ストレート端末を好んでいた私は、auから出ていたinfobar 2を愛用していました。しかし、キーの文字や色が分からなくなったら、電話を掛けたり受けたり出来なくなりました。



では、ソフトバンクからは音声読み上げケータイは無いのかと言うと・・・ ありました。

iPhone 3GS以降のiPhoneであれば、VoiceOverという機能を有効にすれば、音声でしゃべってくれます。日本語も、ぎこちないですがOKです!


ということで、現在らくらくホンプレミアムとiPhone 4の2台持ちです。

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