In preparing this report, we found several cordless phones (with and without answering machines) with features such as amplified sound and/or large buttons to assist seniors or others with sight and hearing difficulties. However, user feedback indicates that the assist that most of these cordless phones provide is modest, especially when it comes to sound amplification. One exception is the Clarity XLC3.4 (Est. $100), which is made by Plantronics. While user feedback is a little more mixed than we'd normally like to see, mainly over durability concerns, happy owners are joyous that the XLC3.4 finally makes normal phone conversations possible for those with hearing limitations.
This Clarity phone has also undergone professional testing and comes out with near flying colors. It scores Very Good in both voice quality and ease of use at ConsumerReports.org, making it the top rated cordless phone without an answering machine there. One plus for seniors and others who might be more technologically challenged is that the Clarity is judged to be easier to get up and running, some more sophisticated cordless phones. Assistive features include ClarityLogic, on-demand customer service that can be reached with just a push of a button. Once connected, help center representatives can walk callers through issues and even remotely perform tasks such as loading numbers into the phone's phonebook memory.
The rest of the phone's features also focus squarely on things that improve accessibility. The Clarity XLC3.4 includes talking caller ID to identify who is calling, and it speaks aloud the digits you dial. The keypad is well-lit, large and easy to press, owners say. The backlit screen has high contrast, but one expert grouses that it's a little on the small side. The receiver can amplify incoming sound up to 50 decibels, and four tone settings can alter sound quality to fit user preferences. Outgoing sound is also amplified (up to 15 decibels), and the ringer is extra loud (95 decibels). The phone is compatible with hearing aids. The battery on the Clarity XLC3.4 Amplified Cordless Phone acts as a backup during a power outage, allowing users to continue to make and receive calls. One thing you won't find is an answering machine, but that doesn't pop up as a major concern in reviews.
The Clarity XLC3.4 is DECT 6.0 compliant. It includes only one handset, but can support up to four additional ones -- the Clarity XLC3.5HS (Est. $60).
If you're only interested in a single cordless phone and not a multi-handset system, the cheaper Clarity XLC2 (Est. $95) might also be a consideration. You can't add additional handsets -- the XLC2 will only support one -- and some features are missing -- for example, there's no display. However, most of the other features that can be a comfort to those with hearing or visual difficulties are identical -- including the same levels of amplification and helpful pluses such as ClarityLogic one-button customer service.
If an answering machine is a must, Clarity also offers a corded/cordless hybrid phone with that feature. The Clarity E814CC (Est. $80) isn't as full featured as the top rated hybrid corded/cordless phone with answering machine, the Panasonic KX-TGF382M (Est. $85). It also not as full featured (save for the answering machine) as some other Clarity phones. Amplification is a little lower (40 dB), and talking caller ID -- something that would be important to those with visual impairments -- is missing. It comes with the corded base and one cordless handset, and will support up to four cordless handsets -- available separately as the Clarity D703HS (Est. $40).
While feedback is limited for the E814CC, it generally follows that of other Clarity phones, earning 3.8 star score at Amazon.com based on just over 60 reviews. Some are not happy with durability or sound quality, but we also see lots of complaints about the user manual and a challenging set up process -- though those are tempered by those who say that the company's customer service will go above and beyond to help users overcome issues and challenges. Most owners say that the phone is a great help for those with hearing or vision loss (the phone also has extra-large buttons).