Written for Paths to Technology by Richard Chan
Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter says: “The mobile phone is the hyperlink of humanity.”
While the majority of people take the smart phone for granted, a significant number of people are excluded from this empowering hyperlink.
Exclusion maybe due to the following:
- Inability to use the touch screen and the on screen keypad
- Inability to navigate with multi-touch controls and gestures
- Cognitive issues
- Poor vision
- Fear of technology
EziSmart is made to address the above issues. In addition EziSmart sets out to bring inclusion by applying universal design principles.
EziSmart has been tested by users with:
- Severe vision impairment
- Early dementia
- Essential tremors
- Fear of technology & smartphone complexities
Whilst there are bespoke products dedicated to address specific handicaps the objective of EziSmart is to give the user a choice of commercial off the shelf products and to cover multiple impairments. The user can choose high performance smartphone models or opt for budget phones or even refurbished ones. The user can choose according to their budgets and life style.
Whilst bespoke products serve to address specific users, EziSmart comes into its own when the user has multiple issues. Example a person with poor vision may, unfortunately, also have fine motor control deficiency.
EziSmart is a system made up of 3 components:
- The android smartphone
- EziSmart App. An app with safety, security and care features
- Ezi-PAD. A full alphanumeric keyboard with additional dedicated function keys
The EziSmart app makes the operation of the smartphone easy and allows the user free choice of android phones with operating systems from version OS 4.3 and above. EziSmart helps the user in the use of the smartphone and it has additional built-in safety and security features working in the background.
The EziSmart app can be used as an app or it can be run overlaid above the phone’s native system. It has 7 functions as shown in Figure 1 and described in Table 1 below
Figure 1 – EziSmart Functions
The most important feature in the EziSmart app is the EziLaunch. EziLaunch is an all-in-one user interface as shown in Figure 2 below. It makes the smartphone extremely ease to use and has built-in safety and security functions; SOS (Ezi-SOS) and ICE (Ezi-ICE – In Case of Emergency).
*N.B: SOS and ICE functions allow the user to choose powerful simple or complex capabilities.
Figure 2 – EziLaunch, an all-in-one User Interface
Figure 2 shows that there are 3 formats that can be selected. The user can progress from a very simple usage to a more complex usage; all at the users own pace and within the users comfort zone. The EziSmart has a “learning tool” capability.
EziGPS can be activated by the user. This function allows selected person/s (e.g. carers, friends and relatives) to ask the phone for its location. Example, the user is severely late in to meet up at an appointed time and does not respond to calls or messages. This gives peace of mind.
The function can also be pre-programmed to periodically send the phones location to pre-selected parties. Example, the user is in unknown territory and has allowed the phone to regularly send location information to pre-selected contacts.
This function allows the user to easily send his/her current GPS location to a contact. For example, I am here please come fetch me.
The EziSmart app allows the user to be budget conscious, use budget phones, refurbished phones or hand-me downs.
Ease of use
Figure 3 below demonstrates the ease of use in calling, SMS messaging and email.
Figure 3 – Make a Call, Compose SMS and Compose email - made extremely easy
The Ezi-PAD is for users who have problems with using the on screen keyboard and finding their way around the screen. Some examples are people with large fingers, trembling hands, zombie fingers and people with problems with gestures and navigation around the screen.
When used together with the EziSmart app, further ease of use enhancements is provided.
Ezi-PAD comes with a charger stand for ease of charging. It charges the phone and the Ezi-PAD at the same time.
Ezi-PAD front cover
Figure 5 - Ezi-PAD front cover. The four rapid action buttons are: Answer call, turn on recording (only works with EziSmart App), Turn On/Off Flah light (long press. Only works with EziSmart app), End call. This key will also turn off the screen. The three LED lights indicate: LED 1 is blue (Blinking every two second means connected. Blinking every .5 seconds trying to connect with the smartphone), LED 2 is red (Blinking means low battery), and LED 3 is green (On means charging).
Figure 6 - Large erogonic keyboard
For the user with poor vision
Depending upon the degree of vision loss and the touch capability, just using EziSmart may be good enough as an assistive accessory with ease of use facilitated by the structured layout of the launcher. Distractions, confusing clutter and bloatware are relegated to the background and not visible.
For the user with severe vision loss or have problems with using the touch screen, the Ezi-PAD used together with the EziSmart app and Voice Assistant provide accessibility. The Ezi-PAD is ergonomically designed and it has a full alphanumeric keyboard with large keys and markings making it easy to use and see. When a key is pressed the voice assistant will announce the key pressed. When space is entered the word typed will be announced. When a character is deleted this will be announced.
Navigating around the screen can be done by using the up, down, left and right navigation buttons. At each position where there is an icon, the name of the icon will be announced by the voice assistant. Selection or activation is done with the Enter key on the keyboard.
The keyboard can be used simultaneously with the on screen keyboard. In fact, using the Ezi-PAD together with the on screen keyboard is the most efficient combination. Use touch/tap where the “touch area” is large and easy to tap on and use the keyboard for the places where “touch” accessibility is a problem.
For an incoming call, the identity of the caller will be announced by voice assistant and if the announcement by the voice assistant is insufficient (announces only once) another app called the “Caller Name announcer” can be used. The “Caller name announcer” can be setup to give up to 5 announcements for each incoming call. New incoming messages will also be announced.
The Ezi-PAD has 2 sets of dedicated call answering and call ending buttons. 1 set is on the front cover such that calls can be answered or terminated without opening the cover. Another set is provided on the keyboard for use when the keyboard is open.
On the front cover is an SOS button for rapid generation of an SOS alert. This avoids having to open the cover and find the SOS app/generator which is inconvenient.
The small micro charging connector is troublesome to use. The Ezi-PAD comes with a charging stand which charges the batteries in the phone and the Ezi-PAD.
In continuation, other phone models will be looked at for use with the Ezi-PAD.
Visit the EziCare website for more information.
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