Every morning it’s the same routine. You’re sound asleep, and then your iPhone/Droid/alarm clock/dog starts going off and announcing WAKE UP TIME! Basically, something blares in or around your head and you start moving. What if you were hearing impaired, though? How do you make sure the alarm wakes you up? That’s where the Amplicom alarm clock comes in.
Amplicom makes a number of accessibility devices, and they sent me the TCL200 to test. This is an alarm clock that offers a number of hearing and visually impaired aids, including a vibrating pad (for the hearing impaired), a speaker that announces the date and time (for the visually impaired), and even the ability to hook the clock up to your phone so it can alert you to an incoming call!
Let’s start with setting up the clock. Overall it wasn’t terribly difficult, but I did run into one issue that could be a problem for elderly or visually impaired users. The TCL200 comes with a battery door along the bottom, but it requires one very finicky screw to keep the door on correctly. It took me a few tries to get the screw to thread correctly, and that means someone with visual or dexterity issues might need assistance. However, beyond that setup was very simple. Holding down the time button set up the time, and the alarm button did the same. Pushing the plus/minus buttons also triggered an audio announcement of the time being set, so someone with low vision could set this easily.
Once the time is set, the numbers are nice and big and bright. And again, with a nod to people with low vision, tapping the snooze button on top makes the clock announced the day and time. Even at medium volume, the clock is LOUD, and the time/date announcement is clear and easy to understand. For everyday use it’s a nice little clock.
More important, though, is how it functions as an alarm. That’s where the clock really shines. It comes with a small “vibrating pad”, which looks a bit like a flying saucer. This little pad/saucer wirelessly connects to the alarm clock and vibrates when the alarm time hits. It’s a powerful vibration, designed to wake you even if it’s under a pillow, and it definitely succeeds. You can set the alarm to vibrate, vibrate AND beep, or just beep. Be warned, though, that the beeping gets louder the more you let the alarm run, and it WILL frighten the heck out of you if you aren’t prepared for it. I set the alarm on this clock and left it downstairs in our living room, and was awakened by the alarm the next morning…on the second floor! It’s LOUD.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a home phone, so I was unable to test the phone integration. However, purely based on the alarm capabilities, this is a fantastic device for someone with visual or aural impairments. You can fiddle with the pitch and acoustic signal to make it more accessible for someone with partial hearing, and the volume is easily adjusted if you need to boost it to better hear the time/date announcements. Having the large SNOOZE button trigger the audio announcements is also a nice touch since it makes it easy for someone to find it, rather than trying to hit one of the smaller buttons on the face of the clock.
One other way this clock might be useful: if you work odd hours from your spouse, or routinely drag yourself out of bed earlier, the vibrating pad might be what you need! Keep the pad under your pillow, set the alarm to vibrate only, and your spouse doesn’t get awakened by the blaring of an alarm clock. However, this is an expensive and specialized device, so this might be a solution of last resort!
Since describing the sound of the alarm talking and blaring only gives you a partial idea, I’ve taken two short videos demoing the time announcer voice and the alarm system:
The Amplicom TCL-200 can be purchased here.
What I Like: Loud voice makes it great for visually impaired users; vibration on the pad is strong; alarm is very, very loud.
What Needs Improvement: Battery door is fiddly and may pose a difficulty for a low-vision user.