Why I Don’t Use the iPhone by Empish Thomas, Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta

Empish Thomas holding her cell phone

Guest blogger Empish J. Thomas is the public educator for the Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) in Atlanta, where she organizes tours, exhibits, presentations and speaking engagements. She also posts on CVI’s SightSeeing Blog and the CVI community bulletin board. In addition, she talks with potential clients, medical professionals, social service representatives, family members and others about the services that CVI can offer. In her spare time, she is a career columnist for Dialogue Magazine and career mentor for CareerConnect® at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).

Do I Need To Use an iPhone?

Most of my blind and visually impaired friends tell me that I need to be using the iPhone. They constantly sing its praises, telling me it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They glow with pride and beam with enthusiasm about its many useful features.

They tell me about the numbers of accessible apps they can use to read money, get directions, read menus at restaurants or canned goods at grocery stores, and a host of other things. They tell me, “Empish, why don’t you have an iPhone?” “Empish, you need to get an iPhone.” “Empish, when are you going to purchase an iPhone?”

My Answer to My Friends

My answer to my iPhone-loving friends is this: An iPhone is not in my near future! I am one of those low-level blind people who need basic and simple technology. Not that I am still living in the Stone Age or anything, but simple is best for me.

I am one of those people still left on the Earth who wants to use a phone for what Alexander Graham Bell created it for – to make a phone call – and not to do Internet downloads, take pictures, read Google maps, listen to audio books, or play video games and music.

I am not interested in teaching my fingers tap-dance lessons with three finger taps and two finger swipes across a flat screen. I want to use the old-fashioned phone that actually has a keypad with a dot on the number five. Yes, those kinds of cell phones still exist!

My “Geriatric” Phone

My friends say I have been using a geriatric phone and need to put it in retirement. But I’ve always told them not until I have to; not until it dies and no longer works.

Well, my old Owasys 22C screenless phone just died and went to cell phone heaven two weeks ago. Do you remember the Owasys 22C? Maybe not. This phone was one of the first on the market that was totally accessible without having to install software or plug in extra devices. I had it for at least ten years, even after the company went out of business. I used masking tape to hold the battery in place after the door fell off. Although I am still in mourning, I had to get another phone right away.

The Search for a New Phone

I started searching for a new phone by asking friends who are like me. And yes, I do have friends who also want basic cell phones. There are still a few of us out there! Some suggested the Jitterbug, but that was more appropriate for a low vision user and I am totally blind.

The Solution: a Gusto 2

Finally, I read a recent article by a blind friend in Dialogue Magazine, sharing how Verizon’s Samsung Gusto 2 is a very blind-friendly cell phone – and I decided to check it out. The Gusto 2 is a small flip phone with a traditional keypad that has a raised dot on the number five. It has a voice command feature that allows a blind user to program contacts independently, along with calling up voice mail, battery level, and the time.

I went to the Verizon store and immediately told the sales representative what I wanted to purchase before he began his sales pitch. I told him I didn’t want a smart phone. No phone with bells or whistles. No phone that beeps and buzzes. No phone to go on the Internet, read my stock portfolio, or watch movies.

I want a simple phone that I can use to make a phone call, listen to my voice mail, and hang up.

After listening quietly and patiently to my diatribe, he led me over to a floor model of the phone and demonstrated its features. I was sold and gladly purchased the Gusto 2.

My Final Answer To My Friends

So to all my friends who are devoted iPhone users: I might not be able to do all the fancy things you can, but we can still do that one very important and basic thing – talk to each other on the phone!