An Australian inventor has come up with a new universal TV remote control with its own phone built-in designed for those with declining eyesight or disabilities.

Ex-Advertising Executive Catherine Crichton decided to turn inventor when faced with the decline in her mother’s eyesight three years ago, and the inability to find a remote control that was easy for her mother to use.

Designed over three years in conjunction with Sydney-based industrial design company Tiller + Tiller, the new remote dubbed the TeleMax III combines an easy-to-use universal TV remote (i.e. a remote which works with any TV) and hands free phone.

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The design claims to be unbreakable and spillage proof. It is shaped like a small tray, with handles either side for easy grip. All features claim to conform to the latest ergonomic principles, while button controls are large, and deliberately limited in number for example, normal keypad layout 1-9, a mute button, a large power button and sliding arrows for channels and volume control.

Buttons have raised black lettering, to stand out from a white illuminated background face, so that they are easy to see 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.

TeleMax comes in two other product ranges, TeleMax I, the simplest model works as a basic universally programmable TV remote, and TeleMax II, the same as TeleMax I but with an added button to link to and access cable TV. Crichton has taken out  patents for the product in Australia, Europe and USA.

Crichton, who is the sole owner of the product said, “We soon expect to identify the appropriate global company to take it to manufacture and see it marketed globally within 18 months.” 

She also said 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 (i.e. arthritis, Parkinson’s Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy). Catherine said she also found that it’s not only those with disabilities who need help in this area of technology, but baby-boomers too are struggling with the myriad of buttons of this type of device.

Vision Australia’s National Program Manager – Equipment Solutions, Luisa Ferronato said, “…..It looks like a great product and we would be more than interested in promoting it through our various outlets and to our clients.  I know they would benefit greatly from this TV remote control”. 

CEO of the Macular Degeneration Foundation of Australia, Julie Heraghty said, “There is great benefit in technology which helps maintain independence and quality of life with low vision.”

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