There are many uses to which vision impaired people put their mobile phones. One of the most exciting of these is the ability to find their way around independently using GPS navigation. There are a number of apps that can help with this including Blind Square, RNIB Navigator, Google Maps and Apple Maps to name just a few. The subject of which GPS app is best definitely deserves to be discussed in a separate article.
Many visually impaired people do not have enough sight to use the IPhone comfortably for map reading so spoken announcements of current location and what is nearby as well as turn by turn directions can be extremely helpful.
One of the greatest difficulties visually impaired people experience when using a smart phone for navigation is being able to hear what the phone is speaking while still being able to hear sound of things going on around them. Most headphones are not ideal for this since they reduce the sound from outside sources which can make walking somewhat unsafe. There are headphones such as the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium which cost around £90 which conduct sound through the skull rather than covering the ears, but these are much more expensive than the Boom Bit.
The Polk Boom Bit is a very small wearable speaker with a metal spring clip that can attach to clothing such as a shirt collar, a coat or a t-shirt. It connects to your phone by Bluetooth so there are no trailing wires. The Boom Bit measures 7.5 x 3.5 x 2 centimetres and it weighs 36.3 grams. It is controlled using 2 small rubberised buttons which are easy to feel, though some may find it difficult to press both buttons at the same time. This is necessary to turn the speaker on and off.
Despite its small size and weight, the Boom Bit has surprisingly loud sound. It’s not great for music, but it’s fine for speech.
The Polk Boom Bit does have a speaker phone built in. This works okay when taking calls but it’s not really up to the job when it comes to working with Siri or dictating text, so if you need to do this you can easily turn off the speaker.
The Polk Boom Bit Bluetooth speaker costs around £25 on Amazon and it can be found for as little as £15 on eBay.
Here’s the Amazon link to the Polk Boom Bit Bluetooth speaker: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Polk-BOOM-Clip-Bluetooth-Speaker/dp/B01HIS5O7A
Written Graham Page, ELVis Assistive Technology Adviser