How to Choose the Right Cell Phone for a Person with a Disability

Having a disability requires that you have communication channels open to the people who can help you. Buying a cell phone offers communication with increased mobility. You may wonder what cell phone companies can offer people with limitations to their sight, hearing and mobility. The United States' Telecommunications Act of 1996 insists that telecom companies do what is readily achievable to cater to disabled customers. You must do a good amount of research to find the features that are right for you. Then, you should find the company that offers these features within your budget. This article will tell you how to choose the right cell phone for a person with a disability.


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    Assess the disability in question. Ask what the person is unable to do on a current cell phone. List these impairments, so that you can find a phone that fits your needs.
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    Decide what functions the person needs in their cell phone. These can include making calls, GPS, text messaging, voice mail, Internet browsing, an emergency service and more. Choose what is essential, because it is unlikely that you will find a cell phone that uses alternative methods for all cell phone functions that are available on the market.
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    Calculate your budget. Cell phones for the disabled are usually more expensive than regular call-only cell phones or low-range smart phones. Depending upon where you live, it may equal the price of a high-end smart phone, such as an iPhone.
    • If you have a very low budget, there may still be options available to you. Up until the beginning of 2012, the US started the Lifeline program to assist low-income and Social Security disability Americans with receiving cell phone service. Go to assurance wireless to learn more and see if you qualify.
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    Visit AccessWireless to research available cell phone features. The homepage of this non-profit allows you to peruse cell phone features appropriate to the following disabilities: vision, hearing, speech, cognition and mobility/manipulation.
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    Call or visit local cell phone providers to see what accessibility options they provide. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 ensures that cell phone companies make some provisions for people with disabilities. AT&T, Virgin Mobile and Sprint all have disability options among their cell phones.
    • Ask about the Jitterbug cell phone, if you are looking for a cell phone for a senior. These cell phones have large buttons, simple call functions and a 24-hour operator. They are available through many cell phone providers.
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    Research smart phone before ordering a specialized cell phone from a provider. High-end cell phones, such as the iPhone, now have the ability to deliver voice, text and other communication channels.
    • There are a number of downloadable applications (apps) that can be used on smart phones. These accessibility apps, such as those created by the IDEAL Group, include features like voice recognition, a magnifier, dictation, shake to dial, public transportation sites and many other useful features.
    • Visit AccessWireless Get the Most.. for a current list of sites that provide accessibility apps for specific phones. Having the right app might help decide between cell phone purchases. You can also use the site to find downloads.
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    Choose the cell phone company that offers the best accommodations for the disability of interest. Get the contact numbers for assistance with that phone. Also find out how services can be canceled should they not work well for a specific disability, before contracts are signed. There may be trial programs available.
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    Sign a contract. With most cell phone providers, cell phones are available at a lower cost if you buy a 1 to 2 year contract with the company. Make sure you know the fees associated with all the functions you plan to use, such as data, texting and call minutes.


  • if you cannot find any wireless options in your area (of the U.S.), contact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and ask how to file a complaint. You can write an informal complaint that refers to the cell phone companies in your area, service issues or lack of accessibility options. They should be able to give you all the information for filing the written complaint and a time frame for receiving an answer. If you do not receive a response to a written complaint, you can contact a lawyer to help you file a formal complaint. Use the FCC Disability website and their FCC Contact Us pages to help exercise your rights.

Things You'll Need

  • Budget
  • Smart phone
  • Accessibility applications
  • Contract
  • 24-hour operator
  • Lifeline cell phone program

Article Info

Categories: Cell Phones