A hands-free challenge to a world in lockdown

31 March 2020

One of our members has a question and any ideas would be gratefully received. Please email any suggestions to ms@bmstc.org and we will pass them on! 

'I am a person with MS who is reliant on voice-activated systems to keep me in contact with the world.

I have been trying to find a genuinely hands-free, voice-activated mobile that does not require able-bodied people to be around to keep me connected, but without success to date.

I have a Samsung Android phone which is set to answer automatically when anyone calls me. This is paired with an Mpow M5 headset. Once the phone is switched on and the headset connected this works reliably.

If the person who has called ends the call or if I get an engaged number and the call is cut off automatically there is no problem. However, if I am in a queue or on hold I can't end the call myself, as I am unable to press the screen. Also if the screen has gone into screensaver mode I am unable to press the power button to reactivate the display.

Secondly, I am very limited in my ability to initiate a call by voice alone. I have Google Assistant installed. It is patchy in getting it to make calls, as it takes several attempts to stick to making calls from my Contacts. I have yet to succeed in getting it to ring a number I dictate. I can't reel off a number in a single breath, but when I pause it immediately goes off to look up the stub of the number I have dictated. This then leaves the phone stuck usually on a Google Search page.

Thirdly, I am unable to overcome the power saver mode. When this kicks in I have no way of reactivating the display as I am unable to press the power button. This makes Google Assistant inactive, so I have no way of making a call.

What I am looking for is a phone and software that can do the following:

1) Automatic answering of incoming calls when I have a Bluetooth headset on. Not every Android phone has this function installed, as I found out to my cost when I bought a Motorola G7 recently.

2) A voice-activated option that allows me to end a call without touching the screen.

3) A voice-activated option that allows me to dictate a full number even when I need to pause.

4) A set-up that allows Google Assistant to remain active when the phone is in power saver mode. I have read that the newer OLED displays may allow this. It would be great to find out whether this works reliably.

If anyone has an OLED phone, or is making a lot of use of voice activation on their Smart phone, I would be interested to hear which makes and models work most successfully.

Mobile phone technology should be an ideal platform for disabled people, but there appears to be very little thought given to the full range of abilities of consumers in its development. There must be a massive market out there that is not being served.'