VoiceOver on iOS and TalkBack on Android have definitely made it possible for blind users to use smartphones on a daily basis. As the user navigates around on the interface, the phone talks back to the user, letting them know the apps they have access to, and also helps them with menu options and actions that can be performed on the apps. However, for some users, utilities like VoiceOver or TalkBack may be a little overwhelming – their needs may be as simple as calling, texting or just reading a book. They may desire to have just the most basic actions at their fingertips, and having to train themselves to use native phone accessibility utilities like VoiceOver may be a little too much to handle.
That’s where Blindshell can be of help. Essentially an app, Blindshell replaces the regular interface on an Android phone with a minimal interface that brings basic and most essential functions like calling, texting, contacts, alarm, notes, calendar, color recognition, and money recognition to the user. There is also a voice recorder available, and any text uploaded to the phone is read back to the user. Thousands of books can also be downloaded and read back to the user by the Blindshell via Bookshare.
The interface of the phone is very minimal and simple. The phone works with six gestures which can be performed anywhere on the screen. The six gestures are used to navigate through menu options, confirm a choice, start/stop the screen reader, go back to the previous screen etc.
This video shows what using Blindshell is like.
Many blind users in the Czech Republic, where Blindshell is based, have found success with the app. Blind users, who damaged or lost their phones with physical buttons, had to get smartphones because of older phones’ apparent scarcity, and with minimal training, got used to the Blindshell interface. Some users also use the voice recorder in the phone for recreational purposes, like singing and recording their music on the phone!
Blindshell’s long term goal is to ultimately expand into India, China , and Brazil. Currently, the company focusses on finding professional partners all over the globe but would like to help thousands of blind users through their app.