That old smartphone in your drawer could help visually impaired people

'Phone it Forward' tackles the accessibility divide.
A new CNIB program called "Pay It Forward" allows people to donate their old smartphones so they can be used by visually impaired people. (CNIB)

A new initiative launched by the CNIB in Canada called Phone It Forward is tackling the digital and accessibility divide.

The program makes it possible for people to donate their old smartphones, which will be refurbished and loaded with accessibility apps. Then the phones are given to someone with sight loss who could really benefit from having their own smartphone. 

Smartphones are especially valuable for people who are blind or visually impaired, David Demers, Executive Director of the CNIB Quebec division, told Spark's Nora Young. "A smartphone is really a life-changing technology because it's really a portable all-in-one communications and accessibility tool."
David Demers (CNIB)

However, despite the benefits, many people with sight loss don't own a smartphone. Only 46 per cent of blind Canadians have one, Demers said.

"I think one of the reasons really is that employment rates for people with blindness or partial vision are quite low, and income levels are lower than the general population—and it's really an affordability issue," he added.

Smartphones given to Phone It Forward will be securely wiped to remove the previous user's data, and donors will be issued a tax receipt for the value of the phone.

Demers believes programs like Phone It Forward can help address inequality in access to technology. "The digital divide is really a critical issue that needs to be addressed for blind people, because it really will help increase equality. Technology can really give unprecedented levels of access to information and independence for blind people."


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