Blind and Visually Impaired Users Gain Independence with Georgie smartphone app

Georgie app offers up Android features and voice-guided menus for the blind: we go hands-on (video)

Georgie app offers up Android features and voiceguided menus for the blind video

Phone options for the blind previously been pricey hardware based solutions — or feature-light (physically-heavy) handsets. While the functional abilities of smartphones have expanded out wildly from the mobile devices we used to use, accessibility options have remained firmly in the past. Enter Georgie, an Android app that offers up a blind-friendly interface to open up the likes of maps, Twitter and email. It also includes an OCR function that can both re-display text in larger fonts and offer an audio version for listening. You can even store these photos for listening to later. Navigation through the app is steered by holding your finger to the screen, hearing the menu described and giving haptic feedback to confirm your choice. Keep reading to see how the app developed and our impressions on how it all works. You can also check out our hands-on video, which includes a glimpse at the app’s OCR read-out feature and a quick demonstration from its co-creator Roger.

The app was initiated by Roger and his wife Margaret, both from the North of England, who got in touch with an app maker to carefully develop the idea over the last 18 months, passing through several months of testing with other blind users. It’s being launched alongside retailer Sight and Sound Technology, which specializes in tech for the visually-impaired. It will offer Android phones preinstalled with the app, but one of the most important features is that it can be loaded onto any Android phone running version 2.2 or later. This means you’re free to buy any Google-powered device to run the UI, which runs as an app overlay, with support and setup help from Sight and Sound Technology. The retailer offers several smartphones, from the Samsung XCover to the Galaxy S III, focusing on large-screened devices with physical buttons for ease of use. We found the app a little temperamental during our hands-on time, often crashing back out to the standard Android Gingerbread homescreen. The makers told us that these were the developmental models, and admittedly, our second test device was far more stable. The talk back menus worked very well, once you get the hang of holding your finger over your selection and it makes a lot of sense to offer a software solution on existing hardware, rather than go the more difficult route of making dedicated (but niche) devices. It utilizes a phone’s digital compass, and read out the direction the user is facing, something that is apparently very important when navigating through public transport, while the audio component opens up Google Map features in a non-visual way.

Prices start at £300 (around $465), including a smartphone, while the standalone app can also be bought for £149 ($230) — which might sound pricey until you compare it to existing OCR-centric apps or hardware. Georgie is available to download now on Google Play, but you’ll still need to give the (UK-based) phone number a call to provision and pay for the service.


Georgie – your travel and lifestyle companion

Georgie is your Travel and Lifestyle companion.

Designed by Roger and Margaret Wilson-Hinds, who are themselves visually impaired and blind, of, built by Alan Dean Kemp and distributed by Sight and Sound Technology, the foremost supplier of blind and visually impaired technology in the UK/ROI, it is the first suite of smartphone apps specifically designed for the blind, visually impaired, disabled, elderly and simply technophobic folks.

Georgie, a smartphone app designed for blind people, by blind people, has recently launched to transform the lives of almost 2 million people in the UK living with sight loss.

Leading UK provider of hardware and software to the blind, visually impaired and those with learning and reading difficulties, Sight and Sound Technology will be officially launching the product at Sight Village Birmingham on 17th and 18th July.

Developed by not-for-profit social enterprise Screenreader and available exclusively through Sight and Sound Technology, the app is built specifically to help blind users navigate day-to-day obstacles like catching a bus, reading printed text and knowing their exact whereabouts in unfamiliar areas.

Tasks more commonly associated with smartphones like using Twitter, reading text messages and using a camera have also been updated to ensure ease of use and accessibility for visually impaired people for the first time. Georgie is available from £299 including the phone, or the unique app is available to download for anyone with an existing Android smartphone (Android v2.2 or above) from £149.

Georgie makes use of Google’s Android operating system and existing Samsung phones like the Samsung XCover or the Motorola Defy + JCB 2, picked specifically for their ease of use for blind individuals. The large buttons on an uncluttered screen, voice feedback whenever the screen’s touched and an innovative way to select the desired option also make the basic functions of the phone easier to use for visually impaired people, as well as those unfamiliar with modern technology.

Glenn Tookey, CEO of Sight and Sound Technology added: “Companies like Apple and Google have made a good job of adding accessibility tools to smartphones, but Georgie is the first smartphone solution developed with the visually impaired in mind. For that reason, Georgie offers relevant features which, coupled with our expertise in offering customer support to the blind community, makes for a really exciting, well supported product that we’re proud to exclusively distribute.”

As standard, Georgie comes with features to let users dial a number with the voice assisted touchscreen, manage contacts, use speech input to send text messages and tag previous routes or hazards (such as potholes or low hanging branches) using the navigation apps. A variety of additional apps are also available for purchase in three packages; Travel, Lifestyle or Communicate. These packages have been designed to increase functionality and support different aspects of daily life that blind people may currently find challenging. These bundles are available for £24.99 each and include a range of additional features.

“I was able to send my very first text just earlier this year thanks to Georgie,” said Screenreader co-founder Roger Wilson-Hinds. “It’s exactly that type of digital experience we want to make easily available to people with little or no sight. More than that though, it’s also going to help solve every day problems for blind people so they can be more confident about navigating the real world and become more independent.”

In the UK there are roughly 360,000 registered blind people. In addition, there are almost 2 million people in the UK living with sight loss, which equates to 1 in 30.

For more information please visit

About Sight and Sound Technology

Sight and Sound Technology is the UK’s leading provider of hardware and software to the blind, visually impaired and those with learning and reading difficulties. They work in unison with private individuals, charitable organisations, educational establishments and commercial enterprises to help users fully realise their potential. Their product solutions have been specifically designed to improve quality of life at work, at study or in the home

About Screenreader

Screenreader is a not-for-profit company helping make the digital world accessible to people with little or no sight. Husband and wife team Roger Wilson-Hinds founded Screenreader in 2006 to make Thunder, the world’s first free assistive software, available to help visually impaired people use a computer. With help from the Technology Strategy Board, Cable&Wireless Worldwide Foundation, The Rayne Foundation and Nominet Trust, Screenreader is now bringing 21st Century braille to the smartphone as well.

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