VoIP vs Traditional Phones: Which Is More Accessible?

Communication has evolved dramatically over the past few decades, moving from traditional landline telephones to advanced internet-based systems. A significant part of this evolution is the rise of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

But as technology advances, questions about accessibility and usability for diverse populations arise.

Lauren Davies of VoIP company bOnline comments: “With the Landline Shutdown happening in the next few years whether we like it or not, VoIP technology will become an increasingly important part of our daily and work lives as we will all need to adapt to this technological shift. Although most businesses are used to having an old fashioned landline, things will change as VoIP is the viable and logical alternative.”


What Is VoIP Technology?


Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows people to make voice calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line. VoIP converts your voice into a digital signal that travels over the internet. If you are calling a regular phone number, the signal is converted to a regular telephone signal before it reaches the destination.

VoIP can be used anywhere there is a high-speed internet connection, making it a versatile option for modern communication.


What Are Traditional Phones?


Traditional phones, often referred to as landlines, use the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). This system relies on physical cables and switches to connect calls. Despite being considered old-fashioned in today’s digital age, traditional phones are still in use, particularly in areas with limited internet access or among populations less comfortable with new technologies.


Ease of Use


  • VoIP – VoIP services are typically easy to use, especially for those familiar with smartphones and computers. Setting up VoIP involves downloading an application, creating an account, and sometimes configuring settings on a router. Many VoIP services offer user-friendly interfaces and customer support to assist with setup and troubleshooting. However, for individuals who are not tech-savvy, the initial setup and occasional need for troubleshooting can be a barrier. VoIP requires a stable internet connection, and issues like bandwidth limitations or router configurations can complicate the user experience.
  • Traditional Phones – Traditional phones are generally easier to use for a broader range of people, particularly older adults and those not comfortable with digital technology. There is no need for setup beyond plugging the phone into a wall jack, and the interface is straightforward—dial a number and speak. The reliability and simplicity of traditional phones make them highly accessible for everyday use.




  • VoIP – VoIP services can be significantly cheaper than traditional phone services. Many VoIP providers offer free or low-cost calling plans, especially for long-distance and international calls, which are typically more expensive with traditional phone services. VoIP often comes with additional features like voicemail to email, call forwarding, and video conferencing at no extra cost. However, there are hidden costs to consider, such as the need for a high-speed internet connection and possibly higher electricity bills if you use a dedicated VoIP device that requires power.
  • Traditional Phones – The cost of traditional phone services varies, but they can be more expensive than VoIP, especially for long-distance and international calls. However, for local calls, the cost is often predictable and straightforward. Traditional phone bills usually come with fewer unexpected fees compared to VoIP. Additionally, the infrastructure for traditional phones is generally well-established, meaning there are fewer unexpected costs for setup and maintenance.




  • VoIP – One of the main concerns with VoIP is reliability. Since VoIP relies on an internet connection, any disruption to that connection can affect the quality of calls. This can include problems like dropped calls, lag, and poor audio quality during periods of high internet traffic. Power outages can also disable VoIP services unless you have a backup power supply for your internet router and VoIP device. On the other hand, VoIP systems are continuously improving. Many VoIP providers offer features like Quality of Service (QoS) settings to prioritise voice traffic, and the ability to seamlessly switch between networks (e.g., from Wi-Fi to cellular data) can enhance reliability.
  • Traditional Phones – Traditional phones are known for their reliability. They can function during power outages because they draw power directly from the telephone line. The PSTN infrastructure is robust and less prone to issues like internet outages or bandwidth limitations, providing consistent and reliable service.


Accessibility for People with Disabilities


  1. Hearing Impairments: VoIP services often include features such as video calls, which can be used for sign language communication. Many also support real-time text (RTT) and offer compatibility with hearing aids.
  2. Visual Impairments: Screen readers and voice command features can help visually impaired users navigate VoIP applications. Some VoIP services offer large print or braille-compatible devices.
  3. Mobility Impairments: VoIP applications on smartphones and computers can be used with a variety of assistive devices, such as adaptive keyboards and mouse alternatives.


Despite these advantages, the initial setup and need for a reliable internet connection can pose challenges for some users with disabilities.


  • Traditional Phones – Traditional phones have long been equipped with accessibility features designed to support individuals with various disabilities:
  1. Hearing Impairments: Traditional phones offer TTY (teletypewriter) services and are compatible with hearing aids. Volume control and amplified phones are also available.
  2. Visual Impairments: Phones with large buttons and braille markings can assist visually impaired users. 3.
  3. Mobility Impairments: Simple, single-purpose devices are often easier to use for those with limited dexterity.


While traditional phones may not offer as many high-tech accessibility features as VoIP, their simplicity and long-standing familiarity make them highly accessible to many users with disabilities.

Flexibility and Mobility


  • VoIP –  VoIP provides unmatched flexibility and mobility. Since VoIP relies on the internet, it allows users to make and receive calls from anywhere in the world with a stable internet connection. VoIP is particularly advantageous for businesses with remote workers, frequent travellers, or individuals who move frequently. VoIP services often come with mobile apps that let users turn their smartphones into portable office phones.
  • Traditional Phones – Traditional phones are limited in terms of mobility. They are tied to physical locations, which can be a disadvantage for individuals who travel frequently or need to move between locations. Cordless phones offer some degree of mobility within a home or office, but they are still confined by the range of their base station.


Integration with Other Technologies


  • VoIP – VoIP integrates seamlessly with other digital services and technologies. This includes customer relationship management (CRM) systems for businesses, smart home devices, and other communication tools like email and instant messaging. Such integration enhances the functionality and efficiency of communication, making VoIP an attractive option for tech-savvy users and organisations.
  • Traditional Phones – Traditional phones have limited integration capabilities. They can connect to answering machines and fax machines but do not offer the same level of integration with digital technologies as VoIP. For users who rely heavily on digital tools, this can be a significant limitation.


Environmental Impact


  • VoIP – VoIP systems can be more environmentally friendly compared to traditional phones. Since VoIP uses existing internet infrastructure, it reduces the need for additional physical wiring and hardware. Furthermore, VoIP services often lead to less paper waste due to digital billing and electronic communications.
  • Traditional Phones – Traditional phones require extensive physical infrastructure, including miles of copper wiring and regular maintenance, which can have a higher environmental impact. The production, installation, and upkeep of this infrastructure contribute to resource consumption and environmental degradation.


Emergency Services


  • VoIP – A critical area of concern for VoIP services is access to emergency services. While VoIP providers are required to offer Enhanced 999 (E999) services, which automatically provide the caller’s location to emergency responders, there can still be issues. These include problems with accurately pinpointing a caller’s location if they are using a mobile VoIP service or if they move without updating their address.
  • Traditional Phones – Traditional phones are directly linked to a physical address, ensuring that emergency services can quickly and accurately locate callers. This reliability is a significant advantage in emergencies where every second counts.


Conclusion: Which Is More Accessible?


The answer to whether VoIP or traditional phones are more accessible depends on various factors, including the user’s technical proficiency, specific needs, and living situation.


VoIP Accessibility


VoIP excels in flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and integration with modern technologies. It offers a range of features that can enhance accessibility for people with disabilities, provided they have a stable internet connection and the technical know-how to set up and maintain the service.


Traditional Phone Accessibility


Traditional phones offer unparalleled reliability, simplicity, and ease of use, making them highly accessible for individuals who prefer straightforward technology or live in areas with unreliable internet service. Their established infrastructure ensures consistent performance and accessibility, particularly in emergencies.