Odin Mobile has broken new ground: it is the first wireless provider in the world whose primary mission is to provide cell phone service to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Not surprisingly, Odin Mobile made it a priority to form a partnership with the NFB, which is exciting on a number of levels, not the least of which is that NFB members receive a 5 percent discount on Odin Mobile plans, and a percentage of the revenue goes back to the NFB.
Odin Mobile’s first priority is accessible phones. The company offers some unique basic cell phones, as well as smartphones. Its primary basic mobile phone is the Odin VI. This basic mobile phone has become very popular with the blind community in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom, where it is sold by the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
The Odin VI is designed for people who want a phone with large buttons, who place a priority on ease of use, and who want to perform basic functions, such as making a call, entering and accessing contacts, sending and receiving text messages, having access to the call log, and being able to set and enable and disable alarms. The phone allows the blind user to perform every function that a sighted user can perform. For those of you who feel that a smartphone is more than you need or is too expensive, this phone is designed for you.
The phone speaks everything that is on the screen, speaks the keys that you press, and even prompts you to perform certain functions. You can choose between several voices, which are clear and whose volume can be adjusted. The phone is a “slider”, which means that you slide open the top portion of the phone in order to reveal the keypad. Whenever you slide open the phone, it automatically speaks the time. The phone speaks English, Spanish, and several European languages. The Odin VI also has speaking caller ID, and speaks the battery level and signal strength at the press of a button.
The user guide for the Odin VI is descriptive and accessible. It does not rely on images, as so many user guides do. It is made available on Odin Mobile’s website and is provided through email to customers who purchase the phone. The Odin VI costs $150 and must be used with Odin Mobile service, which operates on T-Mobile’s network. The Odin VI can be purchased directly from Odin Mobile, as well as from Perkins Products.
Odin Mobile’s primary smartphone is the Nexus 5 from Google, one of the best Android phones on the market. As we all know, the large majority of blind people currently use the iPhone. Odin Mobile, however, is focusing on Android because it believes that, as Android accessibility continues to improve, more and more people who are blind will start using Android devices. Odin Mobile intends to bring the best in Android to the blind community.
The advantage of a Nexus over a Samsung or other Android smartphone is that, as Google’s smartphone, it is typically the first device to receive Google’s updates to the Android operating system. In addition, it has the latest in Android accessibility.
Customers who purchase a Nexus 5 from Odin Mobile will be entitled to a unique instructional package. The package will include two one-on-one over-the-phone tutorials on how to use the accessibility features of an Android device, and customers will be able to call our experts to seek help and ask questions about Android accessibility for a period of one month after they purchase their phone. The tutorials and support are provided by an expert in Android accessibility who is also blind.
Individuals may purchase additional months of this special support for $9.95 per month. This additional support can be purchased by Odin Mobile customers, as well as non-customers. Thus, individuals who are blind who receive service from other wireless providers, such as AT&T or Verizon, can sign up for this support service as well.
Going forward, Odin Mobile intends to make its website, <www.Odinmobile.com>, a resource for blind users of Android. It will include a number of tools, such as podcasts, that will help its customers get the most out of their Android devices. These resources will be available to Odin Mobile customers only.
To further its objective of bringing the best in mobile communications to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, Odin Mobile is involved in a few advocacy projects--perhaps the most important of which is obtaining approval from the Federal Communications Commission to participate in the Lifeline program. Through this program consumers who have lower incomes can obtain subsidized cell phone service. Many wireless providers that participate in this program offer a free basic phone and 250 minutes per month. The phones, however, are not accessible! As a result, people who are blind or visually impaired cannot take full advantage of the program. In fact, in a survey performed by Odin Mobile, with the assistance of members of the Blinded Veterans Association, only one out of nineteen people who identified themselves as eligible actually participated in Lifeline. Odin Mobile is determined to provide the blind community the opportunity to benefit fully from this federal program.
Odin Mobile’s service is prepaid so that users are not locked into two-year contracts. The company has unlimited plans, as well as plans as low as $10 per month for those who make only occasional calls. And remember that NFB members receive a 5 percent discount! Also, Odin Mobile has a refer-a-friend program in which customers receive a free month for each person they refer to Odin Mobile, and the person they refer will receive a $10 discount on their phone! This is a nice opportunity for NFB members who may know other members who would benefit from this service.