The smartphone has become an important part of our work and daily life. However, the flat screen of a smartphone is difficult for the blind and visually impaired to operate. Millions of people around the world feel less involved in society because of these kinds of inconveniences. Hable wants to change that with a device that enables blind and visually impaired people to use their smartphone completely independently.
“Many innovations in our market are still based on the braille type machine of yesteryear. We have changed that by focusing on the smartphone,” says Freek van Welsenis, co-founder of Hable. The founders work from their passion to make the blind and visually impaired more independent. When Ayushman Talwar, co-founder, created the first prototype of the Hable One to help his blind grandfather, he never expected it to grow into a full-fledged start-up. The team has one clear mission: to make the world digitally accessible for everyone.
The Hable is a separate device that is paired with the smartphone which allows the blind and visually impaired to type and navigate through it. With its six keys they can type all letters, numbers and punctuation based on braille. With the two function keys the phone can be controlled through voice-over and talkback software. This is located on every smartphone and ensures that every action is spoken to the user. The smartphone itself can stay in the user’s bag or pocket while they are calling or using an app.
Last summer Hable performed a test with 40 blind and visually impaired people. After two weeks, 85 percent of the participants said they would like to keep the product. Afterwards, half of the participants actually purchased it. “The test period went better than expected. Participants were immediately very enthusiastic,” says Welsenis. “This allowed us to enter the market more quickly.”
The initial ideas for the product came from the innovation community at Innovation Space at the Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands. Later, Hable became part of the accelerator Sparkplug. That’s where the team was able to take the final steps to the market. “Sparkplug has a lot of knowledge and experience in setting up and running a company. That’s why, for example, they help us create a strategy,” Welsenis explains.
The Hable One has only just arrived on the market, but the team is already thinking about other ways to make smartphones accessible to a larger audience. “Currently we are focusing mainly on people who are blind or very partially sighted. In the future, we also want to look at solutions for people with a milder visual impairment,” says Welsenis. “This is a completely different market where we can help many more people.”