Innovation That Matters

OwnFone launches world's first 3D-printed Braille phone


The Braille Phone is a credit-card sized device that can be customized and easily used by those without full vision.

While smartphones can do incredible things these days, they’re still too expensive or complicated for some consumers, such as the elderly, disabled or technophobic. We wrote about OwnFone back in 2012 when it began offering cheap and small customizable phones that only receive and make calls to pre-selected numbers. Now the company is back with the Braille Phone, a credit-card sized device that can be easily used by those without full vision.

Much like OwnFone’s standard model, the phone comes with a choice of two, four, eight or 12 buttons that can be assigned to pre-selected numbers. After choosing the Braille text to go onto each button, the company then 3D prints the case with raised buttons that blind users can simply feel to call the contact they need. For those who can’t read Braille, the buttons can instead be printed with raised text. The device enables those with blindness or partial vision to quickly phone their friends and relatives without having to deal with voice recognition or setting up accessibility options. Each Braille Phone comes in a color of the customer’s choice, so they know their phone looks good even if they can’t see it themselves.

According to OwnFone inventor Tom Sunderland, the device is the world’s first Braille phone to hit the market, and the company’s 3D printing technique enables customization as well as low manufacturing costs. The phone will be available to buy for GBP 60. Are there other new technologies that could be given a more accessible equivalent?



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