RAZ Mobility: Making Cell Phones Simple and Accessible

By Mark Ogilbee posted 05-04-2023 10:09 AM


RAZ Mobility, an AgeTech Collaborative™ startup participant, is on a mission to empower people through pioneering mobile assistive technology and services. Their flagship product is the RAZ Memory phone, an easy-to-use cell phone designed for people with dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s, low vision or general cognitive decline — or even for older adults who are simply uncomfortable with the complexity of modern mobile devices. 

To learn more about RAZ Mobility and its innovation in the mobile AgeTech space, we spoke with CEO Robert Felgar.  

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 


Please tell us about RAZ Mobility. 

In 2020, we launched the RAZ Memory cell phone, which we developed to be a phone for people with cognitive decline or dementia. Alzheimer’s, for example, is a progressive disease, so at some point in time, someone with Alzheimers will not have the cognitive ability to handle the complexity of an iPhone or an Android phone. There are about 6 million Americans with dementia, so we thought it was a great opportunity to offer something to those seniors to help keep them connected. 


What makes your phone accessible for someone with cognitive decline? 

There are two aspects to it. First is the user experience: The user interface is very simple for the senior to use. For example, many people who have Alzheimer’s eventually lose the ability to use a dial pad. With our phone, contacts appear on the screen as photos of family or loved ones, and when a senior wants to make a call, they just touch the picture and the phone will dial. 

The second aspect is from the caregiver’s point of view: The caregiver downloads our app onto their own phone, and that allows them to control all aspects of the RAZ Memory phone from anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. The senior can’t go into their phone’s settings to make changes, but the caregiver can. For instance, let’s say the older adult wants to add someone as a contact and upload a picture — they can’t do that, but their caretaker can do it from wherever they are. 


What’s the backstory for RAZ Mobility? 

Back when I was a lawyer at a small telecom company in the D.C. metro area, I started a service for people at the company who were blind. Because it wasn’t available in the U.S., we imported a phone from Switzerland for that service, which was really popular. That gave me a background in working with mobile devices for people with disabilities. 

After 20 years of practicing law, I decided to go off and start RAZ Mobility with my partner, Nermin Selimic, and the obvious direction for us was to focus on people with disabilities. At first, we did business with state government programs called equipment distribution programs. These programs differ from state to state, but they often provide devices to people who are hard of hearing or deaf. We bought mobile phones and tablets off the shelf and installed various apps meant specifically for people with disabilities. We then provided mobile device management (MDM) on behalf of the state to track the phone or tablet if it was lost, for example. So that’s how we started, before we developed our own RAZ Memory phone. 


What are some unexpected challenges you’ve had to navigate on this journey? 

One issue is this: Development is hard. It takes a lot for developers to get work done, and every time you have a deadline when you think something is going to be ready, it almost always takes longer. It takes patience. 


What’s next for RAZ Mobility? 

We actually have some very interesting developments veryt coming soon. We are going to be selling to Ultra Mobile, which was recently purchased by T-Mobile. That means we’ll be selling our phone in Walmart, so that’s an exciting opportunity for us.  

We’re also going to be working with another Collaborative portfolio company, Voiceitt. They’ve developed a technology that translates non-standard speech into standard speech. It’s a personalized speech model that can be trained to understand someone who’s had a stroke, for example. We’re about to introduce video calls, and we’re going to integrate Voiceitt’s technology so that non-standard speech will be turned into captions in standard speech on our video calls. It will make a big difference for a lot of people. 

You can learn more about RAZ Mobility at their website.