A campaign to collect 1,000 used iPhones to help improve the mobility of the visually impaired is struggling to get off the ground, with just one collected so far. Organiser Edward Yip Bing-chiu, chairman of the Jabbok Charitable Foundation, said a lot of people were astonished that visually impaired people could use a smartphone. But smartphones can be navigational tools, with readback functions such as VoiceOver for the iPhone and TalkBack for Android devices encouraging the visually impaired to venture from the security of their homes. Smart Hong Kong call sees phones become eyes for the blind Yip recently started the project with the aim of splitting the donated iPhones 50/50 between Hong Kong and mainland China. He is being partnered in the venture by Barrier Free Access, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Society for the Blind. But only one person has donated a phone and Yip has had to pay for 50 iPhones out of his own pocket to continue his training programme on mainland China, where he teaches visually impaired young people how to make full use of smartphones. Navy Hui, manager at Barrier Free Access, admitted there had been a lacklustre response to the campaign, which he put down to iPhones still being seen as luxury commodities and having a high resale value. Matthew Ho Lok-hin is typical of the Hongkongers whose lives have been transformed by the technology. Before he had an iPhone, he had to rely on bus drivers to let him know when he had reached his stop. “There have been many times when the bus driver just forgot to tell me that it was my stop, and I completely missed it.” Visually impaired find little public help as they struggle to cope Now Ho, one of Hong Kong’s 174,800 visually impaired people, uses his iPhone to guide him home. In a survey of 126 visually impaired people, Jabbok found that 72 per cent used a smartphone and 60 per cent used voice readback functions. Yip, who is also visually impaired, demonstrated the ease with which he could use such apps at a press conference on Tuesday. Lin Wing-chee, whose vision is deteriorating, uses her iPhone for a wide range of activities. From using VoiceOver to read back recipes to mobility apps to guide her home, her iPhone has helped her immensely. “It’s very versatile. Even if I’m on the tram I can use my iPhone to do work,” she said. Those who wish to donate their iPhones can do so by contacting Matthew Ho at 3971 8100 or firstname.lastname@example.org .