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​Braille phone offers easy mobile calls for blind Australians

Blind Australians no longer have to worry about touch screens thanks to the launch of a customisable mobile phone that features Braille buttons.

Blind people can now dial thanks to Braille. OwnFone

While millions of Australians take touchscreens for granted, they present a problem for blind people. Now visually-impaired Australians will be able to easily make mobile calls with the launch of a new mobile phone featuring customisable Braille buttons.

Developed by British company OwnFone and unveiled in the UK in May, the device features 3 different 3D-printed buttons that are customised with Braille for different contacts. The mobile phone features three of these buttons with the option for a Triple Zero emergency contact.

Users simply go to OwnFone's Australian website and provide up to three contact names which are automatically converted to Braille and 3D printed on to the front of the device in tactile form.

According to the director of OwnFone Australia Brad Scoble, the world-first device solves a very real problem for blind Australians.

"There are currently 35,000 people in Australia who are blind," he said. "Touchscreen technology is problematic for those Australians. OwnFone UK, in consultation with the blind and low vision community, developed a simple mobile phone without a touchscreen and one that users can personalise with Braille buttons.

"OwnFone meets the need for a basic mobile phone to keep in touch. There is simple one button dialling, and the Braille buttons are pre-programmed to call people of the user's choice, such as family, friends or carers."

The Braille phone joins other devices in OwnFone's range, designed for children and seniors, that feature simple names or images on the large buttons. While the cost of producing customisable tactile buttons may have been prohibitive in the past, the advent of 3D printing has now made the devices much cheaper to produce.

Prices for the Braille OwnFone start at AU$89, with the company also offering call plans starting from AU$2.35 a week.