Your old smartphone could help a blind person co-ordinate their clothes and shop for groceries.

Five libraries in New Brunswick are accepting old smartphones to be wiped and given to people who are blind or visually impaired to keep them connected to the world.

Technology is a “game changer” for blind people, but “it’s often not accessible because of the price,” said Denise Coward, the executive director of the New Brunswick branch of the CNIB.

The CNIB has partnered with the province and libraries in Saint John, Moncton, Campbellton and Edmundston to collect smartphones that are four or five years old. So far, they’ve collected 40 phones, but about 15 people are on the waiting list. 

We’d like to be a place where people just think of whenever they upgrade their phones–  Denise Coward, Canadian National Institute for the Blind Denise Coward

According to a government news release, 46 per cent of Canadians who are blind either don’t own a smartphone or don’t have one that’s advanced enough to help them with daily tasks.

Smartphones aren’t just for calling anymore, Coward said.

“Things like iPhones now come with built-in features that allow you to communicate by talking with your phone, as opposed to having to see what’s on your phone,” she said.

There are also applications that can assist someone who has a disability.

For example, someone with sight loss who wants to know what a product is can use an application that reads a barcode.

There are also applications that tell people what colour things are if they need to colour match their clothing.

Navigation can help people get walking directions.

The difference

Coward said the project, Phone It Forward, can help people find out if their phones fit the bill by inputting the specs into the website.

“We’d like to be a place where people just think of whenever they upgrade their phones,” she said.

There are more than 5,000 people registered with the CNIB in New Brunswick, Coward said.

A smartphone “really makes the difference between, you know, being isolated and being connected,” she said.

“It’s a difference between people living with sight loss in a way where they’re independent and contributing to society and doing things in their community, to somebody who might be, you know, [be feeling] isolated and feeling like they don’t have the same opportunities as everyone else.”


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