O2 franchise partner Talk Direct is calling on smartphone manufacturers to back its iCare campaign which aims to help blind and visually impaired people benefit from using smartphones.
The campaign is being led by Talk Direct employee Mark Skelton (pictured) who was left with just 30% of his vision after contracting the eye condition Diabetic Retinopathy, whilst working for Talk Direct at its O2 store in Rotherham.
Talk Direct was keen to retain Skelton, a valued employee, who was struggling to carry out his role as deputy manager. Following discussions with Skelton and the charity Action for Blind People, the company decided to launch iCare, putting Skelton at the helm.
Skelton is currently rolling out the programme across Talk Direct’s 14 O2 stores, working with the stores’ O2 Gurus to develop their understanding of the degrees of sight impairment, helping them set up smartphones to the specific needs of each visually impaired customer and teaching them how to explain the benefits to blind and visually impaired customers.
Skelton is also set to roll out the campaign to schools and colleges for the visually impaired across the North of England and is hoping to eventually drive the campaign across O2’s entire retail portfolio of over 400 stores.
Skelton told Mobile: ‘Smartphones have made it so much easier for a blind person to use a mobile right now, so long as they know what to do. I had one customer who came in with a very basic, five button phone he had been given by the RNIB and to his shock within a few minutes I had him using Siri on the iPhone to call whoever he wanted and he was able to text his granddaughter for the first time. Then the next day his wife came in and bought herself a smartphone too.’
Skelton is now calling on handset manufacturers to get behind the campaign by donating smartphones to use as iCare demonstration devices.
‘I would like all manufacturers to get on board so that I can take as many different handsets as I can out to the colleges to help us show how smartphones can make a real difference to their lives,’ he said.
With RNIB research showing that over 2.25 million people will be visually impaired by 2020, Skelton said manufacturers cannot afford to ignore this market. He said: ‘I would also like to talk with manufacturers about what is coming down the line and to advise them on what they should be putting on their phones to help visually impaired people.’
He added: ‘From a purely commercial point of view this is a growing niche market that manufacturers really should not ignore.’