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Client Reviews

Equipment, product and gadget reviews from our visually impaired and/or hearing impaired clients.


Photo of a tablet  

Name of product: Synapptic

Review by Danny. October 2021. 

After many attempts of trying to befriend technology and all its assistive capabilities, I never have yet managed to use a laptop, tablet or a touchscreen mobile phone successfully.  

During August this year Steve Hambleton suggested that I try Synapptic, and he explained to me how this was software which was loaded onto Samsung devices and designed for people with sight loss. 

He kindly offered the loan of one of these products for me to try and see if this software was of any help to me. I then visited SRSB for a demonstration from Jake and decided that the phone was the best option for me. 

I’ll come now straight to the point. It is the only software that can even make a luddite like me sit up and listen. By this I mean that from never in my life being able to read and send emails, I have not only achieved this in less than two weeks but I have found that I can use video calls on WhatsApp quite easily. 

The significance of this does not need much explaining, suffice to say, that my mother and sister live abroad. My mother is 92 and not well enough to travel to see me any more. Naturally Covid restrictions have prevented me from travelling and also my physical health has deteriorated to a level where I am unable to travel for some time yet. I have of course spoken to my mother and sister on several occasions by phone, but imagine what it meant not only to me but my mum to be able to speak and see me. The fact that I have no sight is irrelevant at this point. 

The Synapptic software has enabled me to make a call which facilitates someone like my elderly mum to be able to see me.  

The Synapptic feature is impressive and the support from the staff of Synapptic is equally so. By just making a phone call they are always helpful and able to assist with any problems and questions. 

There was one occasion when I rang them and a member of their team called Louis must have spent nearly half an hour on the phone with me and even sorted out my setting etc remotely. 

An equal level of support by other members of the team, such as Kieran and Bret, is also always on hand.  

The way Synapptic works in brief, is that it has made a device, such as a Samsung smartphone, much easier to operate for someone with no sight and who has no experience of using such technology. 

I can only recommend that a very good introduction for someone interested in Synapptic is to listen to the 52 minute demonstration video on Youtube by Adrian of Synapptic. There are other demo videos, but this particular one is the simplest and easiest to follow.  

I can not thank Steve enough for suggesting to me that I try Synapptic and for providing the loan of a Samsung phone with this software installed.  

There is much more for me to learn, but in professor Chris Whitty lingo “I’m not yet doing somersaults, but at least I’ve achieved a handstand”. 


Photo of Tony

Name of Product: Hearing Aids.

Review by Tony. June 2021.

Now you have your shiny new hearing aids there’s no denying you have a hearing problem, welcome to our world!

When you leave the audiology building wearing your hearing aids for the first time you will no doubt be assaulted by the most awfully loud noises you experienced in a long time. This is normal!

Arriving home after surviving a very noisy journey you take them out of your ears to give yourself a break and try again later. Trouble is later it’s still too noisy, this is the point a lot of people decide they’re not for them ‘They’re far too loud and need turning down’.

Unfortunately, not everyone can adjust to wearing hearing aids with ease, you put them back in the box the audiologist gave you and end up unused in a drawer somewhere.

I hear this story almost daily; it is exactly the same with privately dispensed hearing aids. The disappointment experienced is enough to put people off hearing aids for life.

Your audiologist will have chosen the most appropriate device for you, setup and programmed you hearing aid based on your hearing test results. However, sometimes there needs to be adjustments made that only suit the individual. Wearing your hearing aid, gaining experience of the sounds it delivers is the best way to make any adjustment choices for you.

This guide has been put together from my own experiences as someone who not only wears hearing aids but volunteers with deaf people in the community and in my working life.

The following will hopefully ease you into become a successful hearing aid user and getting the best from your device.

Take your time to adjust.

Adjustment to any change in your daily life takes time to get used to, hearing aids are no exception. Let you family know it is a journey of discovery for both you and them. Wearing spectacles assist your eyesight, hearing aids assist your ability to hear, neither cure the problem of impairment.

Over time you have lost the ability to hear every day sounds and your brain has forgotten the normal world of sound is. Now using hearing aids, your brain needs time to re-adjust to these sounds being present again. The noise of a boiling kettle and stirring the pot can be an experience when heard again for the first time.

Build up slowly.

When first starting to use hearing aids you tend to focus on every sound you hear, under normal circumstances our brain filters out background noise as ‘not relevant’, letting your brain learn to do this work takes time.

If you are struggling to adjust to louder than normal sounds try using your hearing aids for short periods and build up to full time use.

Use your hearing aids for short periods in the home at first, outdoors the assault of noise can leave you nursing a headache. When you feel you can do more, you are on the right track, there is no hard and fast rule about how long it takes, everyone is different.

It is better to gain confidence in the home before embarking on the great outdoors. Once again building up time in noisy places is just as important as in the home. My first time in the pub was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry.

Learn to listen.

Sounds silly doesn’t it? But over time it becomes normal for a deaf person to forget the art of listening. As you can’t hear very well therefore you no longer listen in a group conversation, it has become normal to ‘zone out’ and just nod you head knowingly. Now you have the ability to hear more this is where you have to begin to learn to listen again to what is being said. The same goes for everyday sounds, hearing something different for the first time needs investigating, you then know next time. Learning to listen takes time and understanding for everyone. One comment often heard is ‘you’ve got hearing aids but you never listen’!

Make Adjustments or not.

After learning and adjusting to hearing aids the extra sounds not heard for a long time those that appeared to be extremely loud at first no longer are, you have now got used to them as the new normal. However, you may feel there needs to be some adjustments, either up or down in intensity, more balance, less tinny sounding by discussing with your audiologist as to what you require is the only way to improve what you are hearing.

T Link/ Telecoil.

T link or telecoil as it is known, is a setting that allow hearing aid users to take advantage of venues that have a ‘Hearing Loop’ fitted such as shops, banks, cinema and places of worship.  Loops allow hearing aid users to receive sound via radio waves, direct to the hearing at the volume set by the audiologist. Perfect sound to your hearing aids with now background noise or distraction is worth exploring. It is worth noting most if not all landline telephones are ‘hearing aid compatible’ and by moving the handset near your hearing aid will engage the telecoil automatically.

The audiologist may have discussed the use of T Link/Telecoil at your initial visit. If your hearing aid is not setup with the link switched on, now is the time to revisit the audiologist for T link enabling.

Other Help & Equipment

Local authorities can provide flashing door bells, room loops or personal listeners for the listening of TV in the home. Contact the sensory impairment team at your local council offices for more information.

As you most likely cannot hear a smoke alarm sounding whilst you sleep there are smoke alarms with a vibrating pad that goes under your mattress to shake you awake. These are fitted at no cost from your local Fire & Rescue services.

If you are in employment and need to use a telephone or attend meetings you may be entitled to assistive technology equipment through the ‘Access to Work’ from the Department of work and Pensions (DWP). Apply on line at


Photo of Carol

Name of Product: Braille Sense Polaris.

Review by Carol. June 2021.

The Polaris is a Braille tablet run on the android system. It is not running the latest version of android but you can download older versions of applications from a third-party website.

The Polaris has many functions. It can connect to a phone or tablet as a Braille display using the built-in terminal for screen reader.

The Polaris has a word processor function and a note pad function. You can create documents in print and Braille formats.

As a student you can use the math function and the calculator which is built in.

There is also a built-in compass and clock.

The Polaris also has buttons at the front which will control the built-in media player.

There is a file manager also built-in where you can do all the normal functions which you can do on a computer.

It has built-in space and also has an SD card slot.

There is a built-in quick start guide which will talk you through your settings options.

It has a screen reader voice function and a Braille display and both of these can be turned off separately but not all together. One of these functions has to always be on.

I have the Polaris Mini which is a nice small size to put in a hand bag but there is a normal version which is large enough to place on a desk and is better for staying in one place.

The Polaris has an eight dot style key board with an enter key and a back space, delete key with the space in the middle. The key board is quiet for typing and would work well in meetings.

The device also has a camera on the back of it so that you can use some apps that need the camera. The apps can be acquired from the built-in play store using your google account.

This also has email functionality and has an alt and control key for android applications. Other early apps can be downloaded separately from a third-party site.

There are videos etc online to help with the Polaris and for more information.

I like the fact that I have a tablet which has a braille display and I do not have to use speech, but it is there if I need it.

I like the fact that it has routing keys which means you can point the routing keys to your mistake and correct it so quickly.

The new version of the Braille Sense will be coming out in June 2021 from Sight and Sound which is called the Braille Sense 6 and this will run the latest android version.

I like the lightness of the Polaris Mini and the leather case is so good at protecting and carrying it.

The Polaris is made by HIMS.

The Polaris is my best friend and I take it everywhere.

It has a microphone built in for recording but I would recommend a separate mic as even though it is in stereo, the built-in mic is extremely loud and distorted. That is the one thing that I would want to be different and better.

If you read Braille or like speech and can use a Braille key board, this is a fantastic Braille tablet and the new Braille Sense 6 should be even better.

I haven't looked back since I got my Polaris Mini and I wouldn't be without it now.

Photo of Sarah 

Name of Product: Writing Guides 

Review by Sarah. April 2021.

One of the things I really struggle with is writing in straight lines and reading and filling in forms. I discovered these little gems about 4 years ago and they are fabulous. The writing guides are available in A4, A5 and A6 sizes and some are card, some are plastic with strings. They are really helpful if you still want to write greetings cards and address envelopes. They help keep the writing in straight lines and give great contrast  to the paper so I can see what I have written (I use a felt type pen). The card ones are really cheap too. The A4 is easier for writing lists.

Negatives: The card ones are very rigid so can be difficult to form q, g, and y letters, so the plastic frame ones are better for that as they have elastic strings, they are a little more expensive though.

Really useful product to help keep a little more independence.

 Photo of some different types of writing guides  

Name of Product: Typoscopes

Reviewed by Sarah. April 2021.

These are plastic frames with letterbox style slots. They come in different sizes too. I find these really helpful to isolate words or sentences on letters. My son is often sent letters and forms home from school that need filling in. I use these to isolate the bit I need to read and can follow across to fill in any parts that need filling in.

The small signature is invaluable! I keep it in my purse for those moments when you are asked for your signature. I found the person who is asking you just points or puts an x where you need to sign. So I pass them the guide and they put it where it needs to be signed and it makes it so much easier! They are usually fascinated by it and realise what a great item they are!

With all these products I would highly recommend using a thicker felt type pen too.Not  a biro!

I rate these items 10 out of 10.

Great inexpensive products that can be used in so many differant ways to keep a little independence.

Picture shows some writing guides, typoscopes and a signature guide

Photo of Graham with his Penfriend

Name of product: PenFriend

Review by Graham. April 2021. 

Hi folks. I have been using ‘The Penfriend’ labelling system ever since it was launched way back. I am on my second, having worn the original one out.

The model I have is the original design which is noticeably more bulky than the current model for sale through Rob (SRSB's Equipment Advisor). Both models work roughly the same way and use the same sticky labels, the latest being a slimmer design..

Rob will be able to tell you how they work in general use, so you can decide if it’s for you. Meantime, here’s my own review of mine and how I get most use from it.

In the box you get the pen friend, a wriststrap, battery, a selection of labels and a lead for backing up on to a computer, along with instructions recorded onto stickers for you to listen to straight away.

As we know, people with sight impairment and their needs vary wildly. I have very poor central sight in both eyes but can generally get around OK with my side vision. I cannot read anything below about 2 inches, so an audio version of post-it notes is how I make use of the Penfriend and I use it to identify CDs, buttons on remote controls, labelling a wide range of chargers and cables, and I could use them to label tins and packets in the kitchen but here, I use a much more attractive device.... Marie (my wife).

Another thing I use it for is in order for me to carry on using a diary. Yes, an old fashioned paper diary. 

Standard diaries are a no go, but the large print, high contrast ones sold at SRSB and RSS with the bright yellow covers are great for people with some useable vision like me. I originally used black felt tip pens with these, but I also now add a pen friend sticker and record the info. That way, Marie can also check my diary quickly and I can just click on the relevant penfriend sticker to hear my recording from when I did it. This can also contain as much info, or as little, as I want and I can listen to it multiple times if I need to.

I also use stickers on CD cases, and CDs, providing the CD isn’t an old thicker one, as this may just catch slightly during play and I don’t want to risk damage to the player so recently, I just ‘sticker’ the case and take care not to get the CDs mixed up.

Some people also sticker food tins and disposable items like these, but unless you remove the stickers from empty tins you will soon use up your sticker collection. To avoid this wasteful use, I have some small pieces of card on elastic bands each with a sticker on and they can be used again and again.


All the stickers are white and paper thin so as they come, they can be difficult to spot. To solve this easily and painlessly, I quickly colour all mine using 2 thick indelible marker pens, 1 Red 1 Blue. They still work fine and are much easier for me to spot. There are also ‘clothing stickers’ you can buy but I don’t need these and would worry about them coming off in the washing machine.

I also backup the recordings (which are actually all on the penfriend itself) using the supplied cable but have yet to test the system of recovery, so I can’t comment on this. This is one reason why for instance, I always write in the diary as well as using the stickers. Should my penfriend suddenly fail, Marie can still read my diary for me.

If you run out of stickers, more can be ordered from SRSB/RSS but you have to make sure you don’t buy duplicates. Say you have just used pack A, DO NOT buy another pack A. You need to buy Set B otherwise you will inadvertently gradually ‘overwrite’ the ones you have already used.   Not good if you use a new one on a tin of beans and then go to your CD collection and find your favourite Whitesnake album tells you it is now a tin of beans.

Overall, I have found the Penfriend the most useful gizmo I have used so far and highly recommend it.

Price wise, it may seem a bit steep because of its size and feel, but whenever I buy this sort of thing I just tell myself ‘Thats what PIP allowance is for.'

Hope this is of help and for more information, have a word with Rob, SRSB's Equipment Advisor at Mappin Street or Rotherham Sight and Sound if you use that facility.


 Photo of Barrie

Name of product: Talking News App 

Review by Barrie. February 2021. 

Available on both Apple and Android. 

To keep up to date with news locally for free, National charity British Wireless for the Blind Fund (BWBF) and The Talking News Federation (TNF) have joined forces to bring together local Talking Newspapers from across the UK.

Here is a link to more information on the Talking News Federation website.

You can download from both Apple and Android stores. 

Barrie says: 

Go to the Apple store or Android stores and download Talking news papers.

When you have downloaded the App, it brings you a big list of places in the country. You can listen to any Talking paper in the country, you can just tap on it.

For example, to get to Sheffield Talking News you just keep swiping right till you get to Yorkshire and the Humber, you tap on that, then you keep swiping right till you get to Sheffield and tap on it. Then you get the magazine, next swipe you get the news paper, swipe again and you get the previous.

Hope this helps


 Photo of Catherine

Name of product: Be My Eyes 

Review by Catherine. January 2021. 

Available on both Apple and Android. Catherine uses an iPhone.

Hi everyone, I would like to tell you about a product that I use! It is called Be My Eyes!

It is an App that I have on my phone and it is a group of volunteers that are available to help you if you need something found or with something you are looking for in your cupboards or some print you would like help with! It works similar to Skype or FaceTime! You just point your camera toward something you want them to see and they will tell you what it is or where it is located! My husband dropped a bottle of eye drops one day and I used this App to find it! 

When you sign up you should be advised not to use this for very personal information such as bank statements etc

When I got my new Hi-Fi I needed some one to tell me what all of the buttons were! So I got a hold of some one on Be My Eyes, and they looked and described the front of the machine to me! 

This is a free service for anyone that needs sighted help! It is also used if you are going shopping on your own and you can get someone to look at things in the aisles! If you are outside looking for a door or postbox you can get them to look for you. Just point your camera along the pavement and they will see it and let you know where it is. You can get this App from the App store! It is also available for the In Your Pocket device.

I give it a 10!



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