By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY: An Australian designed universal TV remote control and hands free phone for vision impaired people, called the TeleMax III, is patented in Australia, Europe and USA and is now seeking manufacturers.

The product was the idea of Australian Catherine Crichton, a former advertising industry executive, who thought of the idea after failing to find a TV remote control that was easy for her vision impaired mother to use. Crichton thought of the product and then searched for a designer, eventually settling for Sydney-based industrial design company, Tiller + Tiller.

“I selected Tiller + Tiller after an exhaustive research process,” said Crichton. “The designers instantly saw the potential for the product and were extremely encouraging and enthusiastic about its market appeal.”

Tiller + Tiller worked with Crichton on her design for three years, refining the concept and taking it through to the current working prototype. Tiller + Tiller is now looking for a company to manufacture it.

Crichton’s invention combines a universal TV remote control and hands free phone in a unit shaped liked a small tray with handles either side to allow for easy grip. The button controls are large, and deliberately limited in number for example, normal keypad layout 1 to 9, a mute button, a large power button and sliding arrows for channels and volume control.

Buttons have raised black lettering, which stands out from a white illuminated background face, making them easy to see and use by those with visual and physical disability. The television automatically goes into mute mode when a call is received. Emergency numbers can be programmed for instant access.

The TeleMax comes in two other product ranges: TeleMax I, the simplest model works as a basic universally programmable TV remote, and TeleMax II, is the same as TeleMax I but with an added button to link to and access cable TV.

Crichton said that her research indicates a market for TeleMax in the over 180 million people worldwide that are diagnosed with vision impairments, the growing number of elderly over the age of 65 which stands at 483 million and the 700+ million worldwide suffering from combined diseases that create physical disability (ie arthritis, Parkinson’s Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy).

According to the media statement from Crichton and Tiller + Tiller, the TeleMax has been widely acclaimed by a number of key professional bodies in Australia including Vision Australia and the Macular Degeneration Foundation.