Understanding and using technology

Technology can be confusing for all of us from time to time. With so many gadgets on offer it can be hard to understand how things work, especially if you're not used to using digital devices.

No one can be expected to know how everything works – so there's no harm in asking for a little extra help. Once you've mastered the basics, you'll find that modern technology can make staying in touch a lot easier.

When technology is hard to understand

As we get older, we naturally find it harder to learn new things. But it's really important to keep our minds active. Not least because technology – like phones, TV and the internet – can make our lives easier and more enjoyable. It can help us stay independent and make it easier to stay in touch and share moments with friends and family.

Learning disabilities and other conditions like dementia or a stroke can also bring their own communication challenges.

We've put some ideas together that can help with understanding technology, and point you in the right direction if you’d like more help.

Which phone features should I be looking for?

If you're finding it hard to use your phone, then it might be worth considering a different type. Here are some features to look for:

  • large, clear, well-spaced buttons
  • easily accessible memory buttons
  • stored numbers that you can dial with just one or two touches
  • large memory buttons with space for a picture of the person you're calling
  • pre-dialling – this displays the number as you enter it, so you can easily fix a mistake. It also means that you can enter numbers at your own pace with no worries about being disconnected before you've finished dialling. If you find holding a conversation difficult, look for a phone that lets you send and receive text messages.

Find out more about BT phones that can help people who have difficulty understanding and using technology.

Knowing when to help

People sometimes avoid new technology because they think it will be complicated. They don't want to feel embarrassed that they don't understand – or be made to feel 'old' or stupid. You may have a friend or relative who you think would benefit from digital technology, so here's few tips to help you help them:

  • go to one of our ‘Try Before You Buy’ centres where they can see a range of our products designed for people with impairments. It's sometimes easier to understand how things work when you can see and touch them
  • share information in a format they prefer or can understand. Some people are better reading printed material, while others find it easier to listen or read it on a screen
  • showing people how to use a device and letting them try it while being there to support them is another great way to become familiar with how technology works
  • check out our Getting Online section – it’s got lots of advice in readable and video format to help support someone get online, even if they've never used a computer before
  • don't understand something? Check out our Jargon Buster. It's a simple A-Z guide that explains in plain language a lot of the terms used around digital technology.

Helped someone get online or use a digital device?

Become a Digital Champion.

Where to get help and support

There are lots of ways you can get help if understanding or using technology is an issue.

Often talking to or meeting people dealing with the same issues as you can be an immense help. Charities like MenCap, AgeUK and Alzheimer's Society have local support groups, and their websites have a lot of useful information about help with technology.

Certain conditions (like dementia) might result in someone making repeated calls to numbers like:

  • 123 (The Speaking Clock), which could mean running up a large bill
  • a person they don’t know, which might be seen as nuisance calls. 

If someone you know is in this situation, we can help to cut down these kinds of calls. Our Network Controlled Calling service can restrict the numbers called from our landlines.







Try Before You Buy

We have Try Before You Buy' centres around the country, where you can see and handle all our phones to help you find one that's right for you.

BT Décor 2600

BT's first corded phone with call blocking. It's compatible with hearing aids, has a built-in answering machine and a keypad with clearly contrasting colours.

Documents & downloads

Including you: BT guide helping you communicate

In this guide, you'll find information about our standard and more specialised products and services. It's especially aimed at our customers who find communication more challenging.

We're here to help

Go to our Help and support section for tips and advice on making this site easier to use, using our services, understanding impairments, and contacting us. To get in touch right now, use the Email, Chat or BSL links.