My Experiences Purchasing and Activating a New Cell Phone
For a person who is blind, the choices of fully accessible cell phones are far more limited than the choices for a sighted person. This article summarizes the experiences I had when I purchased and activated my first cell phone. I am sharing this information to help other people who are blind and to prevent you from experiencing the frustration and challenges that I encountered.
First, let me state that I am not a technophobe. I have been working with computers and various types of technology for many years. However, I found this to be of little benefit when I launched the acquisition of my first cell phone.
The Initial Plunge
After searching around, I found the best prices for cell phones and service from Let's Talk (phone: 877-825-5460; web site: <www.letstalk.com>). I went to a few brick-and-mortar Cingular (now AT&T) phone retailers, who could sell me all kinds of phones and set me up with the wireless service. But when I asked about accessible phones and programs like the TALKS software, they had no idea what I was talking about, or if they had heard of them, they knew nothing about them and referred me to Cingular's home office. In one case, a retailer gave me the contact number for the Cingular National Center for Customers with Disabilities (phone: 866-241-6568). When I called that number, the representative was friendly, but had limited knowledge. When I called the center the second time, I received different information. I discovered that what the first person told me was wrong and would have caused me to purchase the wrong phone. As it turned out, the only phone that the Cingular representatives offered me was the Nokia 6620, a phone that has been obsolete for several years. Although the 6620 is a good cell phone, and many people who are blind have used it successfully with the TALKS software, I preferred the Nokia 6682, a newer, more up-to-date, cell phone. The Cingular representative could not sell me a package with the Nokia 6682 phone that also included Cingular's special TALKS Software rebate program. I was told that if I wanted the Nokia 6682 phone, I would have to find another Nokia phone provider and purchase the TALKS software from another source.
Caption: The author at his desk making a call on his Nokia 6682 cell phone.
I searched around, mostly using Google, and found Let's Talk. After I looked over the web site, which is only marginally accessible, I called Let's Talk and spoke to a person who was knowledgeable. I told the Let's Talk representative that I wanted a package that included two phones and probably a family calling plan with Cingular. I specifically needed the Cingular Wireless phone service because it was the only reliable service in the rural areas of western Kentucky where I spend considerable time.
I ended up purchasing the Nokia 6682 cell phone for myself from Let's Talk and received a second phone, a Nokia 6126, for my wife, free with the package. The Nokia 6682 cost me only $79 as part of the total package. The phones were shipped to us, and we received them in just two or three days.
At this point, the only problem was installing the SIM cards and the little extra memory chip that came with the phones. If you are blind and have nobody around to assist you, it is a challenge to figure out how these items go into the phones. Even though my wife is sighted, it took us quite a bit of studying to figure out exactly how the SIM cards and the additional memory had to be installed. It would have saved us some time and anxiety if we had taken the phones to a Cingular dealer for assistance, but we finally got it all figured out, and the phones were fully operational. Well, not quite. They were fully operational for a sighted person, but certainly not for a person who is blind.
Making the Phone Talk
Next, I needed to purchase the TALKS software and get it installed on the Nokia 6682. After searching around and talking to a few blind friends, I decided to contact Beyond Sight (phone: 303-795-6455; web site: <www.beyondsight.com>) to order the TALKS Software program. I talked to Seth at Beyond Sight and found him to be pleasant and helpful. Seth sent me a trial version of the TALKS software and told me how to install it. A CD came with the Nokia 6682, which contained some software that I needed to install on my phone. Installation required me to put the CD into my computer and follow the installation process. While there were several programs on the CD, the only one I needed to install was the Nokia PC Suite. This program allows you to do several things (such as viewing photos that you take with your phone, transferring files between your phone and your computer, etc.). Next, I had to connect the special cable that came with my phone to the USB port of my computer and to my phone. It took me a few minutes to figure out exactly how the cable connected to the phone, but once I figured it out, it was simple and easy to do.
Then, I went to the TALKS program Zip file on my computer and opened it up. The Zip file is an executable file and opens right up to reveal several other folders and files, like Manual, Eloquence speech software, Install, and the TALKS software program. When you select the Manual, a folder opens that provides the manual in HTML, text, or Word format. When you select Eloquence, it automatically goes into the installation routine. After you install Eloquence, you do the same thing to install the TALKS software--just select it, and the installation process begins. Then, you follow the prompts.
The next part is what caused me tremendous frustration. After the TALKS software was installed, unless it is purchased and registered, it is, by default, in the trial or demonstration mode. You can use it for only 10 minutes, and then it times out; to get it back, you have to turn the phone off and turn it back on again. You can get a less limiting demonstration mode, but I could not seem to get it to work and became extremely frustrated trying to do so. I found out that the way I was doing it, following Seth's instructions, required me to have the text messaging-Internet access functions operational, which cost an additional $39.99 a month. If I had been told this in the beginning, it would have saved me considerable anxiety and frustration. However, the 10-minute demonstration mode allowed me to determine if I liked the TALKS program and if I found it worth the money it cost to purchase it.
I called Beyond Sight back and told the representative that I wanted to purchase the TALKS package and get the registration code I needed for the phone. The transaction was handled by phone, and since Beyond Sight takes credit cards, I was able to charge my purchase. Shortly after I completed the purchase, Beyond Sight e-mailed me the registration code that I needed for my specific phone. And here was another little hitch that I need to caution you about: To complete the purchase and register my TALKS software, I needed the serial number of my specific phone. The number is easy enough to access by just hitting *#06# on the phone's keypad. However, the string of numbers is long and was spoken too rapidly for me to be able to take the numbers down or memorize them. Once again, I sought sighted assistance to copy down the long string of numbers. So, it took me an additional call to Beyond Sight to complete the transaction.
Once I got the key code that I needed from Beyond Sight, I ran into another problem. There were no clearly written instructions for how to put the key code into the phone. This is usually a simple process for other types of computer software. I was told to go into the Registration menu of the phone by hitting the TALKS key, then press the Menu key and soft key 1 and arrow down to Register and press the Select button. This brings up several other menu choices: 10-day demo, SMS Registration, Restore Registration, and Manual Registration. Before I got my key code to unlock the software, I tried the 10-day demo choice several times and got nothing, but, as I said earlier, I later found out that one has to have the $39.99 a month text messaging-Internet access package for this option to work. After I got the key code from Beyond Sight, I tried to register my software by going to the SMS Registration option and entering the code letters and numbers into the phone exactly as they were given to me. Nothing happened! It actually took me several tries to enter the code because I did not know how to input uppercase letters or a dash. So, it was quite a learning process, evoking considerable frustration and requiring several attempts to enter the key code. However, it still did not work. I gave up until the next day, when I could call Beyond Sight back and ask what I was doing wrong. That is when I was finally told that I had to have the additional $39.99 text messaging-Internet access package from Cingular for this option to work. I was irritated that nobody had told me about this earlier. Then I was told that I could register the software key code easily by going to the Manual option and entering the code in that area. I was also told that I could ignore the capitalized letters and the dashes in the key code that I was sent. Now, why didn't someone tell me that before?
The bottom line is that if I had not had sighted help, it would have been impossible for me to get the phone fully operational. Furthermore, both the instructions that come with the phone and the instructions that come with the TALKS software are poor.
In conclusion, with the TALKS software installed and fully operational, I enjoy the Nokia 6682 phone, and I especially like the TALKS software. However, for some people, it would be worth purchasing a complete package, including the phone and TALKS software fully installed and operational. Otherwise, I suggest that you keep this article handy and learn from my experiences. It will save you lots of anxiety and frustration.
Talk Me Through It: A Review of Two Cell Phone-based Screen Readers by Darren Burton
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