Lucia - An Easy-to-Use Cell Phone for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Since the launch of VoiceOver and the iPhone 3GS, the accessibility of smartphones has improved in leaps and bounds. Accessibility of basic mobile phones, however, has lagged.  Indeed, in its 2018 report to Congress on accessibility, the Federal Communications Commission concluded that there has been “little, if any, progress” with respect to the “accessibility of non-smartphones.”  

Enter the Lucia cell phone.  Luca is designed to be an easy-to-use cell phone for people who are blind or visually impaired.  Accessibility of Lucia is achieved in two ways: (1) it’s physical features, and (2) its voice guide.        

Physical Features

Lucia has large buttons that are well spaced.  The buttons on the T9 keypad are concave, making them highly tactile, and there is a nice bump on the five.  The buttons that control the menu system and used to initiate and terminate calls, are different colors and shapes.  For example, the Call button is green and square, while the End Button is red and circular.  The different colors and shapes are a thoughtful feature for people with vision loss.    

The display is quite large, and the brightness is adjustable.  The display can be turned off for people who are blind in order to save battery power.      

Lucia has a USB Type-C port for charging.  The benefit of this is that it doesn’t matter how you insert the charging cable into Lucia.  There is no top or bottom.       

The Voice Guide 

Lucia has a voice guide that converts Lucia into a talking phone.  This capability allows someone with no vision to use all features of the phone.  There is nothing that a sighted user can do that someone who is blind cannot do.  The voice guide is the real “magic” of Lucia.  It speaks everything that is on the screen and all buttons that are pressed.  And it frequently does more than that.  For example, it asks for confirmation that the user wishes to take the selected action.  

To ensure that the user always knows where they are in the menu system, the Voice Guide says “Lucia is ready” when at the Home Screen, and always speaks the name of the menu when moving through the various menu items.  It also announces when the charger is connected or disconnected.  And it has a “Talking Watch” which speaks the time.   

The Voice Guide speaks different languages, including English and Spanish, and it can speak in different voices, both male and female.  The Voice Guide volume is adjustable and can be made quite loud.  The audio quality is very clear.

Lucia is a basic mobile phone.  It is focused on talk and text and does not support data. Its three primary functions include phone calls, text messaging and alarms.  Each of these will be reviewed.

Features Related to Phone Calls

Phone calls can be made in three primary ways: (1) entering the digits one-by-one from the home screen.  The Voice Guide speaks the digits as they are pressed, and the user can have the Voice Guide repeat the entered digits, if needed.  When a digit has been deleted, Lucia will announce that it has been deleted.  (2) The user can make a call from their contacts.  Contact names will be spoken as the user scrolls through their contacts. When the user hears the name of the person they wish to call, they can press the Call button.  (3) Calls can be placed directly from the Call Log, which provides an option to dial missed calls and previously dialed numbers.  

Lucia does not support voice dialing; this feature will be added in the future.  Having said that, calling with the help of the Voice Guide is extremely easy.       

Users can access missed call information.  Lucia speaks the name of the person who called (if the caller is in the contacts), as well as the time and date.   

Lucia provides notifications of missed calls with a chime and vibration, and an announcement of the number of missed calls.  Also, the LED light will flash blue, which is useful for people with low vision.  

The blind user can enter contacts independently. With the help of the Voice Guide, the process is intuitive and simple.    

Sending and Receiving Text Messages 

The Voice Guide allows users who are blind to send and receive text messages.  While typing a message with the old T9 keypad takes some time to master, the process of sending and receiving messages is very simple.  And text can be edited with ease.  

Lucia will notify users of incoming text messages with a chime and vibration.  As with missed calls, the LED light will flash blue when a text message is received. 

Setting Alarms 

Lucia has comprehensive alarm capabilities.  A user can set a one-time alarm or repeating alarms.  For example, a person can set an alarm to go off every morning at 8 AM, and the alarm can include a reminder message.  For example, the message could say “remember your doctor’s appointment.”  There is no limit of how many alarms can be saved.            

Other Capabilities

A phone is not truly accessible if the user cannot access basic status information, such as the battery level and signal strength.  Lucia can do both.  With the press of a button from the Home Screen, Lucia will speak the battery level, the signal strength, the time and date and the name of the wireless provider.  The user can customize the information that is spoken.  So, for example, if the user wants Lucia to speak only the battery level, it can be customized in that way.  

In the event of an emergency, Lucia has a physical SOS button at the back of the phone.  The button must be held for three seconds to activate.  When activated, the phone starts calling up to five emergency contacts stored in the phone.  The user must select those contacts.  If one of the called persons does not answer, Lucia will call the next person and so on, until someone answers the call.  If desired, 911 can be designated as one of the emergency contacts.  Many Lucia users will be seniors, so this feature should be a popular one.  It provides an additional layer of security at no additional cost.       

Like all of Lucia’s features, the SOS can be set up independently by someone who has no vision at all.   

Lucia also has some thoughtful features for people who are low vision.  As discussed above, the buttons are big, well-spaced and tactile.  The display has good contrast and supports seven different color schemes, such as white on black, back on white, yellow on black …etc.  The font size cannot be adjusted, but the default size is large, and the most recently typed character is always displayed in extra-large font size.  For example, when typing a phone number, the most recently typed digit is one inch high; other digits are almost half an inch high.   

Wireless Service 

Lucia is unlocked and can operate on AT&T, T-Mobile or other wireless providers that operate on one of those networks.  RAZ Mobility includes a free SIM card from Red Pocket Mobile in the Lucia box.  Red Pocket rate plans range from $10/month for 500 minutes and 500 text messages; $15/month for 1000 minutes and unlimited text messages; and $19/month for unlimited talk and text. 

Where to Purchase

Lucia is sold by RAZ Mobilityand can be purchased on their website.  Audio tutorials are also available.     

 

Read more about: Assistive Technology, Families