OwnFone: First ever Braille phone goes on sale in the UK

Smartphones are getting ever more advanced and impressive, but shiny new touch screens aren’t always so easy to use for people who are blind or partially sighted, which is an estimated 285 million people worldwide.

Now British inventor Tom Sunderland has designed the OwnFone to make things simpler. A Braille phone the size of a credit card featuring components made on a 3D printer, it has customisable keys that can be programmed to call friends, family, or emergency services. For people who struggle to read Braille, raised text or symbols can be added instead.

It costs £60 and if a user wants to change their contacts, a new version can be reprinted in a couple of days.

His company already makes 1st Fone, a basic mobile for children aged four to nine, which is pre-programmed with their parents’ or relatives’ numbers.

Of course, many tech-savvy blind and partially sighted people would probably prefer to use a more sophisticated device with voice over functionality. But for children, for older people, or as a second device for emergencies, this could be incredibly useful.

At the moment it’s only on sale in the UK, but the company is considering a crowd funding campaign to allow them to expand to other countries in future.

Diane Shipley