Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Choosing a phone that's so smart it can make itself simple

Try filling a bag with all the things we now use our trusty smartphones for:  digital camera, laptop, calculator, phone, sat nav, address book, mp3 player, notepad, credit card, books, video camera, calendar and photo albums. Then shake it up and try plucking out your phone.

This is the same sort of daunting prospect faced by people with cognitive impairments when they pick up a modern smartphone and attempt to sort through the many icons, apps and features to make a phone call or simply send a text.

The many advanced functions packed in to today’s mobile devices can be a major selling point for a lot of people looking for a new phone. But they can also present a major obstacle for people that need a phone that is simple and easy to use.

Now the latest breed of smartphones with all their wiz-bang apps and functions also come with the ability to simplify their user display – showing you only the functions of the phone you want to use, hiding the rest out of sight.

Almost 30 phones in the GARI database now have the ability to tailor the device’s display to make critical functions easy to access for those that have trouble with complex tasks.

The “simplify display” function is also useful for elderly users who might only want easy access to calling and their contacts list or text messaging without all the other apps in the way.

This new function can give those people that may have found it too difficult to use a smartphone before, access to the benefits of a mobile phone for the first time by allowing them to customize their phones display making it the easiest to use for them. 

To search for a phone that allows you to simplify the display check the ‘simplify display’ box under the cognition features section of our online search tool or by clicking on the 'find phones' link at the top of this page. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Closed captioning on smartphones

The subtitles you can turn on at the bottom of your TV screen for people with hearing trouble are becoming more widely available on videos published on the internet and mobile phone manufacturers are starting to make their devices compatible with this handy function.

Unlike subtitles for a foreign film, closed captions can be switched on and off by the viewer and describe all the audio from a video not just the spoken works. For example if a car horn went off in a video, closed captions would display “car horn” whereas subtitles would show nothing.

Closed captions have been standard on televisions in most countries since the 80s but as more and more users turn to the internet to watch their favourite show or download the latest movie the option to show closed captions for online videos is starting to pop up more often as well.

YouTube, by far the most popular online video website, has made closed captions available to video uploaders since 2006 and have recently updated the service with voice recognition technology that automatically generates closed captions in the language of your choice for most videos.

While YouTube now has over 135 million videos that support the new voice recognition captioning, the technology is not perfect and can often misquote speakers in a video.

To ensure people who rely on closed captions have access to quality dictation, US TV shows available to watch online must now include the same quality of closed captioning that accompany them on television, under new US regulations to be rolled out over the next three years.

The new legislation also requires manufacturers of set-top boxes, PCs, smartphones, DVD players, and tablets designed to receive or play back video to be compatible with closed captions streamed over the internet by January 2014.

Some mobile manufacturers have already made their devices compatible with closed captions streamed over the internet, with 19 phone models in the GARI database now available with this software.

However with so many different media players on the web now streaming video, it will take a concerted effort from hardware manufacturers to ensure their devices are compatible.

Keep an eye on the GARI list as more devices adopt this handy feature by clicking on the 'find phones' link above. Just check the “Supports Closed Captioning for Web Video or Streaming” box under the hearing features section.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

GARI - Assistance for older people

The numbers are quite incredible. Today almost one in ten people are over 60 years of age, and by 2050, the United Nations estimates there will be nearly 2 billion people over 60, with some suggesting that the number of people over 60 at that time will actually outnumber children under the age of fourteen. 

With numbers like these, there is a strong probability that at some point in life, virtually all of us will be helping or caring for at least one parent or other relative. It might be because of failing eyesight, diminishing hearing or physical limitations, but aging brings with it various challenges, which seem to increase in number and severity over time.

One thing though that isn’t lost is the desire to communicate – be it with family friends or just to retain some level of independence. Technology can be a great help in this regard – but the challenge can sometimes be in finding and identifying the right tools, including a mobile phone that best suits the person’s needs.

Visiting a mobile phone shop, for example, to check what’s available can be a hugely trying experience on both sides of the counter. The customer may not be entirely conversant with the digital age or physically capable of handling the operating software’s command structure without help. The shop assistant is probably many years younger and technically savvy, but not at all clued up in how to explain phone functionality to someone who is not as technically literate as themselves.

This then is where the GARI database might help out. With details on over 100 different features of phones and with 550 models currently in the database, there is a wealth of information available to help those looking for a new phone. With just a little thought and research on the GARI database, a trip to buy a new phone can be made much easier for all concerned. Is a flip-top phone or candy-bar easier for the person you are helping? Do they want a relatively simple device or one of the latest smartphones? What ailments do they have that might be helped by different features on the phone itself? Not all phones suit every need, so we don’t try to recommend a particular one – but it can help to identify those phones that might be a better match for the person you are helping or caring for.

Age is certainly no barrier to being able to communicate; it’s just a matter of how you go about it - and we hope that GARI can play a part in that.

If you have had experiences helping someone buy a new phone, we would love to hear about it. What features were you looking for in particular and was it easy to find the right one?