Phones for every disability

Staying in touch with friends and relatives does a world of good for older adults. This is especially true for those who live alone.

The ability to easily reach out is important for well-being. And it can make a life or death difference in emergencies. Limitations of aging, however, can make standard telephones difficult to use. Fortunately, special features are available that compensate for disabilities. Check out

Hearing difficulties

  • Alerts for incoming calls. Displays flashing lights to indicate an incoming call. At nighttime, a vibrational device can be put under the pillow.
  • Amplified speec Many phones can boost the sound coming through the earpiece. Some can even send the audio directly to hearing aids.
  • Call captioning. This service types out the caller’s words on a small display screen. TTY service is similar, sending the text to a “real time” printer in the home. You may need a special (free) service to “translate” if one person on the call has a captioning device and the other does not.

Problems with vision

  • Large-button display. Big numbers are easier to see and accurately tap.
  • Programmable memory. Allows for preentering commonly dialed numbers.
  • Photo-dial. The buttons display images of people or places that are called frequently. The phone numbers must be preentered.
  • Talking keypad. Announces each numeral as it is dialed.
  • Voiceactivated dialing/answering. A hands-free, high-tech option. As more houses become “smart,” this may prove useful for many common disabilities.

Other medical or memory issues

Conditions that affect dexterity, such as arthritis or the aftereffects of a stroke, can make it difficult to operate a standard telephone. Alzheimer’s and other memory loss conditions can also make the process of dialing a challenge. Many of the options listed above—coupled with training until the skill is mastered—can be useful for people with these limitations.