What to look for when buying a home phone

At Plusnet, we don't sell home phone handsets. However, we appreciate how important it is that you have equipment that suits your needs in order to get the most out of your Plusnet service.

This page describes some of the features on modern handsets that are designed to help people who might struggle to use a standard phone.

Some of these features will be available on most modern phones, but some are a bit more unusual and might require a specific make or model. If you're looking to purchase a new home phone, we recommend that you visit BT's Including You website, as BT has a whole range of phones designed especially with accessibility in mind.

If you struggle with your hearing, here are some phone features that may help you:

  • Hearing aid compatibility: You can buy phones that are specifically designed to be compatible with hearing aids, to prevent any buzzing or interference.
  • Hands-free options: Some phones have a hands-free option, such as a loudspeaker or separate headphones. This means that the sound can travel to both ears. It also allows for easy note taking.
  • Separate keypad: A lot of phones have the keypad built into the handset which sits by your ear. However, a phone with the keys on the base unit will allow you to keep the handset next to your ear if you need to press any buttons during the call.
  • Visual call indicators: You can get handsets with a visual call indicator, such as a flashing light, to let you know when someone is calling you.
  • Amplify button: Most phones should have a volume control which allows you to boost the sound of the ringtone and the incoming volume of the other caller. You can also get phones that make your own voice louder for the other person.
  • Two-way recording: Two-way recording allows you to record parts of a phone conversation and replay it later.
  • Slow playback: Some phones allow for slow playback of recorded messages, so that you can take down details more easily.

The term 'visual impairment' covers a wide range of types and degrees of sight loss, which can affect people in different ways. If you have a visual impairment, here are some features to consider when you're choosing a phone:

  • Large buttons: Some phones have specially designed, oversized keys with good contrast between the background colour and the number. This makes the buttons more prominent and easier to use.
  • Keypad with sounds: Many phones play an audible beep when a button is pressed. Some even have a different sound for each button, helping you dial more accurately.
  • Backlit keypad: You can get phones that have a light under each button to make the buttons more defined.
  • Button 5: Most home phones have a raised dot on button number 5 to help you navigate around the keypad.

Having difficulty moving around doesn't have to affect a person's independence. Here are some ideas to help make the phone work harder for you:

  • Cordless phones: Many modern phones are now cordless, meaning you can keep it with so you don't have to go to a fixed place to make or receive calls.
  • Answer machine: Many phones now have an inbuilt answering machine service so callers can leave a message if you can't get to the phone.

    Plusnet also offers a free '1571' Voicemail service, which acts like a built in answerphone to make sure you don't miss a call. Free Voicemail is included with all our phone packages. You can switch it on or off from within the Phone Control Panel within Member Centre.

    Plusnet also offers some additional features with Voicemail Extra, which currently costs £3 a month. With Voicemail Extra you can check your voicemail messages from a mobile phone and it also allows other options, like choosing the number of rings before the voicemail service kicks in. Find out more about Voicemail and Voicemail Extra.
  • Additional handsets: You can connect more than one handset to your line. This means you could have one upstairs and one downstairs, or in all the areas of your home you use the most, making it easier to reach the phone when you are called.

If you'd like phones in several different rooms, you might need extension cables or extra sockets. You can buy extension socket kits and cables from DIY and electrical shops.

If you find it hard to pick up a phone handset or hold it to your ear, look out for some of these features:

  • Easy grip handset: Some phones are specially designed so they are easier to handle, making them more comfortable and practical to use.
  • Hands free/headset option: Many phones have a hands free option, so you can set your phone down and hear what's being said without having to hold the handset to your ear. Additionally, some phones have a port to plug in a headset, so you can still have a private conversation without having to hold the handset.
  • Large buttons: You can buy a handset with particularly large and well-spaced buttons, making it easier to accurately press one button at a time.
  • Memory buttons: Some handsets have a memory feature, meaning you can store numbers you use regularly and call them by just pressing one or two buttons.
  • Pre-dial check: This feature shows the number entered, so you can check you're dialling the right one. Numbers can be dialled with no worries about being disconnected before the dialling has finished, and you can confirm the correct number has been dialled before it connects.
  • Fixed telephone: Some phones can be wall mounted for more stability when you're dialling.

Learning disabilities and mental health conditions can bring their own communication challenges. So can issues with memory or understanding resulting from, say, dementia, brain damage or the effects of a stroke. If you, or someone you know, struggles with issues like this, consider a phone with the following features:

  • Memory buttons: Easily accessible memory buttons, like speed dial (one touch) or quick dial (two touch) buttons. This means you can store the numbers you call most often and ring them by pressing one or two buttons, without the need to remember the whole number.
  • Pre-dial check: This feature allows you to read back the number entered, so you can double check you're dialling the right one.
  • Emergency button: Some phones have a built-in emergency button, which you can use to call for help in an emergency.
  • Keypad lock: This feature allows you to lock the phone (normally by pressing a certain key combination) to stop calls being made until you decide to unlock it.
  • Different ringtones: If you feel anxious about speaking to people you don't know, using different ringtones can help. With some phones, you can set different ringtones for each person you know. So when they call, you'll be able to tell who it is straight away.
  • Two-way recording: This feature lets you record your conversations. This can be useful as you can play the conversation back afterwards to make sure you didn't miss anything, and to remind you of what was said in the call.

For people who struggle to use the phone, one of the most helpful things can be to block or avoid unwanted calls. The following features may help with this:

  • Nuisance call blocking: You can now purchase phones with built-in technology that will identify and block unsolicited marketing calls. This means the phone won't even ring and you won't be bothered by the unwanted intrusion.
  • Caller display: Caller display is a feature where your phone will display the number of the person calling you, meaning you can choose not to answer if you don't recognise the number. To use caller display with Plusnet, you will need to activate the service and additional charges may apply. To find out more, see our article on How to get the most out of your call features.

Don't forget, Plusnet also offers a range of other services designed to help customers with disabilities. These include:

  • allowing a third party to manage your account;
  • access to your bill and other documents in large print, braille or audio formats;
  • free directory enquiries services;
  • free priority fault repair for phone lines; and
  • text relay services.

Find more information about these other features and services.

We hope you've found this page useful. If you want to buy a new handset for yourself or someone you know, we recommend you visit the online BT shop, where you can find a phone that's right for you.