31st January 2018
Roger is the founder of the non-for-profit organisation Screenreader. Educated to Masters level, Roger has had poor sight since birth. He feels privileged to have experienced professional and personal knowledge of sight loss and directs his experience into working with emerging tech that is enhancing the quality of life for him and others.
Over 2 million people in the UK live with sight loss – that’s one in 30 people. By 2020, it’s predicted that the number of people with sight loss in Britain will rise to more than 2.25 million. According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, almost 50% of blind and partially sighted people say they feel cut off from others and the things around them. For most visually impaired people, reading a newspaper or a book, travelling independently or finding their way in a new place, are small things that prevent them from living a full life.
The aim of the project
Roger Wilson-Hinds and his wife, Margaret, are the founders of not-for-profit organisation, Screenreader. For many years, they faced the same issues and barriers as other blind and visually impaired people. In 2011, they began to develop GeorgiePhone, the first smartphone designed for blind people, by blind people. Georgie, named after Margaret’s first guide dog, took 18 months to develop and test, working closely with the blind community to ensure it met real user needs.
GeorgiePhone works as a talking virtual personal assistant. By moving a finger on the screen, users can make calls, send text messages, know where you are, keep a diary and even hail a cab. The objective of GeorgiePhone was to give blind and partially sighted people the confidence to go about their lives safely and independently.
In 2017, Screenreader partnered with Real thing, an Australian start-up that developed In Your Pocket, a smartphone for blind people built around an Android system that delivers over 60,000 books, 70 magazines and 100 newspapers. GeorgiePhone is now being incorporated into this new Interactive Voice Response (IVR) smartphone. IVR uses advanced voice search and voice dialogue technology, enabling the user to simply speak and listen. In Your Pocket doesn’t need a computer or any set-up and requires very little training – it’s as easy as using Amazon Echo or a super Siri.
The package offers access to the latest tech for an affordable price of £20 per month and the first 300 devices were sold within the first two months, and another 1,000 are to follow.
One of In Your Pocket’s users said that before having the smartphone, simple things weren’t accessible to her, but now she enjoys reading the newspapers, getting out of the house, pursuing her hobbies and has reclaimed her social life.
By putting this tech in the hands of people with sight loss, it enables them to get out of their homes, travel independently and reconnect with friends and family, giving their confidence and self-esteem a massive boost.
Find out more about In Your Pocket here.