When it comes to being impaired, there are many different things that we can talk about – there are some who are visually impaired while some others have hearing problems. In this article, we decided to look at the best devices for all categories, select the ones we considered to be the best and give you a few tips and tricks on how to choose such a device.
The general term for these ones is “assistive devices”, and this makes quite a bit of sense given that they’re meant to assist the impaired in doing their every-day work. Dealing with their daily lives and being able to fully participate in it is also very important. This is why such technology can either help one category only or be suitable for those with speech, voice, hearing, visual or language disorders.
Devices for Hearing Impaired
Attachments for Mobile Phones
While there have been developed many apps to help people with hearing issues, nothing can make it easier to use a mobile phone than a special attachment for it. Apple seems to be paying careful attention to this issue, as iOS 8 has been adapted so that it simplified the lives of hearing impaired people out there.
However, what we found to be really helpful is the T/Link device that can be placed over your ear in order to transmit a magnetic field. This one is detected by the Telecoil hearing aid which converts it to intelligible sound right away.
Depending on the mobile device you have, neck loops are also available. At the same time, you can use a similar technology to T/Link to listen to music – a special music link can be plugged into the iPod or mp3 player to provide you with a unique musical experience.
The latest trend in this matter is using Bluetooth technology in order to make communication over the phone a lot simpler.
Alerting Devices & Alarms
Such devices can be connected to the telephone, doorbell or an alarm clock in order to emit a much louder sound that can be detected by the hearing impaired. It can be useful for those with minor issues, as well as those with more complicated ones – the people who are already using a hearing aid on top of that.
Manufacturers like Ultrared, Sonic Alert, Krown and many more design anything from home alerting systems to bellman solutions, as well as phone and doorbell amplifiers. When choosing the right one for yourself, we recommend trying to get one that does various things at the same time – like the Bellman & Symfon Alerting System with Flash Receiver that is used for phone and door chime. The latter costs $270, but there are options out there varying between $20 and $400.
TV & General Amplifiers
Those who have mild or moderate hearing issues should definitely look at a different kind of device than the ones who are legally deaf. Therefore, an amplifier can often be required when using a telephone, but also when listening to the radio or watching TV.
Those who don’t need to use a hearing aid can rely on a personal amplifier like the one from Harriscomm – a simple-to-use device that costs between $100 and $150. It can be used when at home, but also when attending classes, going to church or any meeting with friends and relatives.
The same brand also designs TV amplifiers, as well as a few other assisting devices for those with hearing problems – you can see more of them here. Speaking of TV aids though, you can listen to and watch your favorite movies or shows late at night without bothering the others and perfectly understand what’s being said thanks to Unisar’s Listening System.
While the previously-mentioned one costs $100, you can get other options here, and even go for something as fancy as the $200 Sound Amplifier System. The latter includes 2 different headset receivers, as well as the necessary accessories that make it compatible with any hearing aid.
Using infrared in order to transmit sound signals to the receiver, these systems are able to transform sound to light. This way, they come in handy for those who are legally deaf, as well. Williams Sound designed a few systems and kits that cost somewhere between $150 and $200.
All of them can be used with stereo, as well as mono headphones, and most of them work with neck loops, as well. A good example that we personally liked is the WIR RX22-4N infrared receiver that uses 2 AA batteries and operates on a bandwidth of 2.3 – 3.8 Mbps.
Infrared technology can be used for basically anything – improving the sound coming from the TV, using it with hearing aids or even with the alarm systems we mentioned before. You can see more examples here before choosing the right one for your needs.
Gadgets for Visually Impaired
Talking & Vibrating Products
Those with visual impairments often require products that talk or vibrate in order to alert them about something they’re unable to see. No matter if the visual issues we’re talking about are mild or more serious, you can rely on a digital talking watch for $15 or a voice-controlled alarm clock for $100.
The most popular ones in this category are telephones or accessories that make normal phones easier to use. We’ll talk about this specific category in a moment, though. Before getting there, it’s important to take a look at vibrating products, too.
These ones can also be used for the phone and doorbell – a great alternative for both hearing and visually impaired people. Vibrating devices are perfect for alerting users when the battery of their phone is about to die, when they got a message or phone call, but also when something went wrong in the house – you can set some of the more complex ones to let you know when there is smoke, fire or anything similar in your home.
Telephones & Callers IDs
Since we mentioned this one before, it’s often difficult to know who’s calling if you’re not able to read the name properly. Some telephones can both show the name and say it out loud while there are also Caller ID boxes that cost around $25 and can be attached to any telephone.
This one from Emerson also comes with language alternatives for French and Spanish, and it’s easy to mount on a wall or desk. It requires 4 AAA batteries to work, and you can read more about it here. Apart from this device, there are special telephones designed by Clarity, Clear Sounds and Geemarc that also include a talking keyboard.
Most of them are around $100-$150, but you can get cheaper ones, too. I personally consider the ClearSounds CSC1000 one to be very useful for those with severe issues, as it comes with an extra loud ringer, talking caller ID and keyboard, as well as a flashing signaler – this way, it can often be suitable for those with visual, but also hearing problems.
Various Reading Machines
Reading machines are probably the oldest and most well-known types of devices that one can use for a better hearing experience. They vary from reading machines for low vision users to some for legally blind users, and you can find some of the best ones at Nanopac.
Most such devices cost between $300 and $400, and you can learn more about the options here. However, the same company also sells various types of software to help people with different kinds of impairments. Many of them can be used by those having multiples issues at the same time – like hearing and visual problems.
Cameras for the Visually Impaired
Moving on from the classical reading machines to something a lot more modern, it’s time to talk about cameras for the visually impaired people. They all work in a similar way – they use an intuitive device together with a smart camera, but on top of all that, they come with a pair of glasses.
These glasses are placed in front of the camera so that it can help those with visual problems to “see” the photos. It is said to mostly rely on the brain’s capacity more than anything. The system is able to detect anything from text to products and speak to the viewer using a bone-conduction earpiece.
Such examples are the Israeli company that created OrCam, but also EyeCamera and many similar brands. The price side of the story, though, is quite high – the OrCam costs $3,500 from the official website, and you can read more about the way it works on the same page.
Solutions for Language/Speech Impaired People
Last but not least, there are people out there who don’t have any hearing or visual problems. However, they might have speech or language issues that don’t allow them to communicate as easily as they should. It some cases, their speech is just very difficult to understand while in some other situations, we’re talking about a complete lack of talking ability.
Communication aids are designed by Nuvois, Servox and Truetone, and a good example is the Servox Digital Speech Aid. This works like an artificial larynx that comes with an oral connector and a CD with the necessary software. Allowing those who lost their voice to talk quite easily, this is a pretty expensive device – it costs close to $1,000.
Telephones for the Speech Impaired
Special telephones can be as helpful to the speech impaired as they are to those with visual impairments. The most common kind of phone for this purpose is the TTY – it has a keyboard attached to it, so that you can type instead of talking, and then have your speech turned into an audible result.
While the latter can only be used by those with speaking difficulties, you can get the Geemarc Ampli600 with a caller ID, speakerphone, as well as options for emergency calls. It costs $200 and provides up to 50dB boost in order for both participants to be able to hear each other.
Those who don’t have very serious problems, but simply can’t get heard or understood that easily can use a voice amplifier. The 100 Voice Speech Amplifier from Chattervox costs $250 and is a compact device providing up to 15dB in terms of voice boost.
It’s very easy to operate and allows the users to set up the volume of their speech. It also comes with a belt extender and can be used for up to 14 hours in a row without recharging it. Various other options are provided by companies like SolaTone, Servox, Serene and SoniVox.