Enjoying the Arts from Home

Enjoying the arts has always been a way for people to escape their every day lives. During this time, where most people find themselves staying at home, it may be necessary to find more creative ways to escape into the world of the arts.  Below you will find just a few examples of some of the many free options to help pass the time more enjoyably.

Music and Dance

Andrew Lloyd Weber Free Online Musicals: Andrew Lloyd Webber is streaming a production of one of his musicals on YouTube every week while theatres are closed due to the coronavirus.  The first in the series will be the composer’s 2000 production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond, Joan Collins and Richard Attenborough. It will be available to watch on the YouTube channel The Show Must Go On for 48 hours, starting on Friday April 3rd at 7pm GMT. The series will continue every Friday for the next few weeks.

Online Dance Classes: Dancers, choreographers and studios are turning to online platforms including Instagram and Zoom to keep people moving through the coronavirus outbreak. Some of these options are free while others have a charge that’s listed in the info for that site.

Virtual ‘Love Sweet Love’ From Quarantined Berklee College of Music Students: This is a virtual performance of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love” by students from Boston Conservatory at Berklee and Berklee College of Music. Be sure to watch through the credits to enjoy videos of some of the students dancing. If there’s a sliver of a silver lining in these uncertain times, it’s music — from free virtual concerts to free streaming music.

Fine Arts and Museums

Free Online Art Classes: Illustrators have stepped up to create virtual resources and free classes for kids, parents, and anyone else who needs a creative break in the midst of the pandemic.

Free Online Nkion Photography Classes: Nikon is offering free online photography classes for all of April. Now through April 30th.  All 10 classes available at the Nikon School can be streamed for free. The classes are normally priced anywhere between $15 to $50 each.

Museum Virtual Tours: Experience the best museums from London to Seoul in the comfort of your own home. Google Arts & Culture’s collection includes the British Museum in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Guggenheim in New York City, and literally hundreds of more places where you can gain knowledge about art, history, and science. This collection is especially good for students who are looking for ways to stay on top of their studies while schools are closed.

Just for Fun

This section offers a few fun and silly options that can be found to help add joy to your life. These options range from recreating world renown art, having 3D animals appear in your home, and bedtime stories with Dolly Parton.

Recreating World Renown Art: Get creative and share your creations. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles tweeted a challenge to art fans to post photos of themselves recreating their favorite works of art from the safety of their homes. People responded with a lot of enthusiasm and flooded social media with their unique artistic interpretations. You can either view the first link to CNN with images of some of the artwork or view the second link to the museum’s Twitter page to see them all.

Smartphone fun: If you type an animal name into Google from an iPhone or Samsung phone and then press “view in 3D” it’ll bring up your phone’s camera and within 30 seconds an image of the animal in 3D.   Once it pulls up you can then take a photo of your family “interacting with” the animal anywhere from your residence. If you do not have one of those type smartphones, it’ll just bring up the animal image in 3D making its native sound and you can twirl the animal around from all sides to look at it. Some of the available animals are lion, tiger, cheetah, shark, hedgehog, duck, emperor penguin, wolf, angler fish, goat, rottweiler, snakes, eagle, brown bear, alligator, and horse. Other categories that can be seen in 3D include NASA/space and the human skeleton.

Bedtime Stories with Dolly Parton:  Calling herself “the book lady,” Dolly invited everyone to join her for “Goodnight with Dolly. ” She will start reading to kids every Thursday night at 7 p.m. beginning April 2nd and lasting for the next 10 weeks. The first book read was “The Little Engine That Could.” The books featured in the series include: “There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom of the Lake” by Loren Long; “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney; “I Am a Rainbow” by Parton; “Pass It On” by Sophy Henn; “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon” by Patty Lovell; “Violet the Pilot” by Steve Breen; “Max & The Tag-Along Moon” by Floyd Cooper; “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña; and “Coat of Many Colors” by Parton.

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Bite by Bite: Quarantine Edition -Trying to stay healthy while sheltering in place

National Nutrition Month 2020 is March and this year’s theme is “Eat Right, Bite by Bite” with the overall message being that quality nutrition isn’t restrictive, but that small changes to diet can have a cumulative effect on health over time. Every healthy nutritional choice is a choice in the right direction. But eating healthily, as well as getting enough exercise, can be challenging in the best of times but even more so when most of the country is currently sheltering in place within their homes.

Preparing Healthy Meals with Limited Ingredients

With many grocery stores having bare shelves and/or limiting how much can be purchased at a time it may seem an impossible fete to prepare healthy and nutritious meals.  Do you ever look through your pantry and fridge wondering what you could possibly make with what seems to be an impossible mystery basket off of “Chopped”?  The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts provides an article outlining the top apps/websites for inputting what you already have on hand to find that perfect meal. The top three choices are:

SuperCook: This website is simple and effective, and there’s no need to download or install anything to your phone. Start by selecting ingredients you already have on hand from several categories (such as meat, seasoning, and dairy). As you add available ingredients, SuperCook suggests recipes, updating results for each new item you include. From there you can narrow down your results by selecting type of meal you want to make, type of cuisine, and/or the star ingredient. If you want to save your ingredients and favorite recipes, you can make a profile.

Allrecipes Dinner Spinner: Allrecipes is available on multiple devices, including tablet and smartphone. You can find recipes by browsing through categories such as dietary restrictions, ingredients, cuisine type, meal type, season and cooking technique. Searching by ingredient allows you to set your parameters based on what you have available. The easiest search is with the “dinner spinner,” a tool that lets you quickly spin through a combination of options by dish type, ingredients on-hand, and how long before the meal is ready. You can save your recipes and ingredients by creating an account.

BigOven: This app lets you navigate and brainstorm in a number of ways. For instance, check out the Ideas section to browse through meal inspiration. There you’ll find categories like “Use Up Leftovers,” which curates recipes based on reusing ingredients. The Collections area includes recipe ideas for healthy breakfasts, healthy snacks, meat-free, soups, low-carb, and more. Most recipes come with nutritional facts that include the number of calories per serving. The Grocery List section allows you to sort by ingredient and keep tabs on what you’ll need to make a certain meal.

Indoor Exercises Geared Towards Seniors

According to Medicare  staying active – even if you’re exercising for only 15 minutes – can significantly improve senior health. For example, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that elderly adults who exercised spent 25% less time disabled or injured than those who did not. Physical activity can boost mood, add extra years to your life, help you maintain or lose weight, reduce the impact of illness and disease like Alzheimer’s, and enhance mobility, flexibility, and balance.

Exercise Videos: The National Institute on Aging at NIH has a great collection of free “Go4Life” exercise videos on YouTube.  Try these Go4Life workout videos to help you fit exercise and physical activity into your daily life.

Balance exercises – Balance training exercises strengthen the muscles that help keep you upright to improve stability and help prevent falls. Older adults at risk of falls should do balance training three or more days a week and do standardized exercises from a program demonstrated to reduce falls. These chair exercises, for example,  effectively assist elderly individuals to exercise and move without putting undo pressure or strain on their bodies.

SilverSneakers: Many Medicare Advantage recipients are eligible for a free gym membership through SilverSneakers. You can check your eligibility here. They are also currently offering free exercise videos geared towards seniors that can be done safely from inside your house on their Facebook page.

Need Cooking Supplies or Healthcare Equipment?

ILA offers many products that can be delivered right to your home to help stay healthy while obeying Social Distancing.

Kitchen and Cooking Aids: From slicing and dicing, measuring, cooking, to eating there is something for everyone. Most of these products are geared towards persons with visual impairments and therefore are also great for anyone safety conscious in the kitchen.

Healthcare: ILA sells a wide variety of healthcare products and aids, including talking scales, bathing and bathroom aids, glucose meters and diabetic aids, pill and medicine organizers, and much more.

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Coronavirus or Covid-19: A brief overview including information for the visually and/or hearing impaired

By now, everyone has heard of the coronavirus, otherwise referred to as covid-19. Affecting nearly every country worldwide, covid-19 has now reached pandemic status. ILA cares about the health and wellbeing of everyone whether a customer or not. This blog will look at a brief overview of how covid-19 came to be, where persons with vision or hearing issues can stay on top of the latest news during this pandemic, and lastly tips, assistance, and ideas on how to keep the boredom and doldrums away. Information contained in this blog is current as of March 21, 2020.

What is Covid-19?

The short answer, from the CDC factsheet, states: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

The FDA elaborates a little on this stating: A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. There are many types of human coronaviruses, including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Coronaviruses themselves are not new. According to the WHO: Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.  Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. It is believed that covid-19 originated in bats.

A different CDC article defines a pandemic as a global outbreak of disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people sustainably. Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide. Covid-19 cases have been detected in most countries worldwide and community spread is being detected in a growing number of countries. On March 11, 2020 the COVID-19 outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the WHO.

This is the first pandemic known to be caused by the emergence of a new coronavirus. In the past century, there have been four pandemics caused by the emergence of novel influenza viruses. As a result, most research and guidance around pandemics is specific to influenza, but the same premises can be applied to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Up to Date News Geared Towards the Visually and/or Hearing Impaired

Visually Impaired Resource: NFB-NEWSLINE is a free audio news service for anyone who is blind, low-vision, deafblind, or otherwise print-disabled that offers access to more than 500 publications, emergency weather alerts, job listings, and more. Anyone who cannot read printed publications due to vision loss, dyslexia, or a physical disability is eligible to receive NFB-NEWSLINE.  Please register by calling your state’s Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped or the National Federation of the Blind at 866-504-7300 to request an application. You may also download and mail an application or complete the online application. After your registration is processed, you will receive a message containing your activation codes and instructions.

In response to the current situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19), the National Federation of the Blind has decided to provide up-to-date information to all eligible subscribers of the service.

COVID-19 updates are available in the “Breaking News” category of NFB-NEWSLINE. This information is being obtained by the system searching the thirty-four publications in the Breaking News category for “coronavirus” and displaying the results. This information will also be available for those few states that are currently not sponsored for the next sixty days starting Monday, March 16.

Access the coronavirus COVID-19 information using the telephone by pressing 5 from the main menu, then press 1 for the Breaking News category, followed by pressing the 1 key which will bring you to the virus information. If you are using the NFB-NEWSLINE mobile IOS app, look for the virus information under the “All Publications” section. The content can be accessed with Braille devices such as notetakers and refreshable Braille displays.

Hearing Impaired Resources: Most televisions come equipped with a closed captioning option built in which allows for a transcription of what is being spoken to be shown at the bottom of the television screen in live time. YouTube also has the ability to do closed captioning by clicking on the small square that has “CC” in it towards the bottom right hand corner of every video.  Many news channels, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have YouTube channels.

If you prefer news updates done in American Sign Language (ASL) the Daily Moth is a good option. The Daily Moth delivers news in video using American Sign Language. The deaf host, Alex Abenchuchan, covers trending news stories and deaf topics on new shows Monday-Fridays.

Tips, Assistance, and Ideas to Stay Busy

Tips: There are five steps recommended to take in order to help keep yourself as healthy as possible.

  1. Hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. It’s also a good idea to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  2. Elbow: Cough or sneeze into your elbow to help keep any germs from spreading to those around you. Another option is to cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  3. Face: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  4. Space: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. It is recommended to keep 6 feet between you and others. The common term for this is practicing social distancing.
  5. Home: Whenever possible stay home, especially if you’re sick or experiencing symptoms.

Assistance: If you need assistance finding food, paying house bills, or other essential services, use the search bar at the top of the 211 website to find your local 211 or dial 211 to speak to someone that can help.  This website can also assist in finding answers about covid-19, locating your local United Way, information on unemployment benefits, and various other resources that can be useful during the pandemic.

To learn what the Federal Government is doing in response to covid-19 by department visit the USA Coronavirus page for complete details.

Ideas to stay busy:  What’s there to do while stuck indoors? USA Today has compiled 100 suggestions to help make your time quarantined as interesting – and perhaps even as productive – as possible. Some of the many listed ideas include playing games, completing a puzzle, playing an instrument, learn a new language, meditate, read a book, finally clear out that junk drawer and the last item on the list is sleep. Some of the suggestions are more or less serious than others but should provide at least some entertainment just reading through the list.

Small kids at home? What Moms Love offers 87 energy busting indoor games and activities for kids (because cabin fever is no joke).  Not only are these games fun and entertaining but they help encourage and define gross motor skills which helps kids be better able to function in the world around them.

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March is National Save Your Vision Month

March has been designated as “National Save Your Vision Month” to promote eye health. This year’s focus deals primarily with digital strain (blue light) and ensuring that you get a regular routine eye exam by a certified optometrist.  We’ll also look at a few tips that should help ensure you keep your vision for as long as possible.

Digital Eye Strain

According to the North Carolina Optometric Society, Digital Eye Strain describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. Many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods. The level of discomfort appears to increase with the amount of digital screen use.

The average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer either in the office or working from home. To help alleviate digital eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes of screen time take a 20 second break to look at something 20 feet away.

The most common symptoms associated with digital eye strain include eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and should pain. These symptoms may be caused by poor lighting, glare on digital screen, improper viewing distances, poor seating posture, uncorrected vision problems, or a combination therein.

ILA sells many Reticare screen protectors to help ease eye strain caused by blue light emitted from digital screens. These protectors not only safeguard the screen of your electronic device, it protects your eyes from glare and toxic light emanating from the display of your device.  No matter what type device you utilize there is a screen protector available.

In addition to screen protectors, ILA offers many types of lighting choices to help alleviate eye strain due to poor lighting. One option is the OttLite Cobra Color Changing LED Lamp.  This Ottlite is a color changing LED desk lamp that offers 3 levels of lighting, from warm light to cool light to natural daylight. This lamp is an excellent choice for people trying to avoid the higher blue light Kelvin temperatures often found in most LED lamps.  With a choice of 3,000, 4,000 or 5,000 Kelvin temperatures, the user can use the lower settings and avoid the higher blue light choices.

Routine Eye Exams

Getting an eye exam once every one or two years can help identify vision problems early on and improve vision quality if you need prescription changes. Factors such as age, health, and a family history of vision problems may determine how often you need an eye exam. Many vision plans cover you for an annual comprehensive eye exam. Be sure to talk to your eye doctor to figure out how often your eyes need to be checked. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, they may recommend more frequent exams.

At the beginning of an eye exam, your eye doctor will ask for your medical history and if you have been experiencing any vision problems. If you currently have glasses or contacts, be sure to bring them to the exam so your eye doctor can see if you need prescription changes.

A comprehensive eye exam can take an hour or more, depending on the doctor and the number and complexity of tests required to fully evaluate your vision and the health of your eyes. A few of the routine eye and vision tests you are likely to encounter are visual acuity tests, color blindness test, cover test (where one eye is covered at a time), ocular motility testing (eye movements), stereopsis test (depth perception), retinoscopy, refraction, and glaucoma testing.

Information in this section was taken from Cigna and All About Vision.

Tips for Protecting Your Eye Health

It’s important to take steps to protect your sight. For 2020: Year of the Eye, the American Academy of Ophthalmology presents 20 tips to keep your eyes in top shape no matter what turns life takes. A quick overview from this list include good nutrition, wearing sunglasses, and wearing safety glasses to do dangerous tasks.

When it comes to diet more is learned every day about nutrition and eye health. Dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach contain vitamins that nurture nerve tissue inside the eye. Orange vegetables such as carrots and squash also boost eye health. A diet rich in plant-based foods and low in saturated or animal fats is best. It’s also important to stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Nature is also good for our health, whether exercising or quietly taking in the beauty. Most risks to eyes come from sunlight and allergic reactions to pollen. Whenever you’re heading into the sun, wear sunglasses — even in the winter. There are many choices out there when it comes to sunglasses. For example, the NoIR SpectraShield medium amber sunglasses offer 100 percent ultraviolet protection and 15 percent light transmission. This general-purpose filter provides good glare protection.

Safety glasses or other protective eyewear can shield your eyes from many hazards at home, at work, or at play. In and around the house cooking, yard work or gardening, cleaning and home improvement projects top the list of potential eye hazards. Did you know oven sprays and bleach-based cleaners can permanently damage the surface of the eye?  In the garden, brimmed hats offer protection along with glasses to avoid getting poked in the eye by a twig or bush. Same goes for home improvement projects. Safety glasses can also be beneficial for people who work outdoors or with heavy equipment or chemicals which are all jobs that tend to get more injuries than office workers. Sports related injuries can also be curbed by utilizing this safety measure.

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Daylight Saving Time (DST) and Atomic Clock Accuracy

Daylight Saving Time brings with it the promise of upcoming spring and of longer days ahead. Typically, it begins the 2nd Sunday in March and ends the 1st Sunday in November. Its history is a bit convoluted and not everywhere in the world, or even in the United States, observe it.  This blog will discuss its history, where it is and isn’t observed, and conclude with how atomic clocks are able to stay accurate despite all of this.  Information included in this blog can be found at Time and Date, Web Exhibits, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

History of Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the USA

The United States first observed Daylight Saving Time in 1918. The US has observed DST for 103 years between 1918 and 2020. Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the USA starts on the 2nd Sunday in March and ends on the 1st Sunday in November. The current schedule was introduced in 2007 and follows the Energy Policy Act of 2005. According to section 110 of the act, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) governs the use of DST. The law does not affect the rights of the states and territories that choose not to observe DST.

Historically, there were no uniform rules for DST from 1945 to 1966. This caused widespread confusion, especially in transport and broadcasting. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 aligned the switch dates across the USA for the first time. Following the 1973 oil embargo, the US Congress extended the DST period to 10 months in 1974 and 8 months in 1975, in an effort to save energy. After the energy crisis was over in 1976, the DST schedule in the US was revised several times. From 1987 to 2006, the country observed DST for about 7 months each year.

Observance of DST

In the U.S., clocks change at 2:00 a.m. local time. In spring, clocks spring forward from 1:59 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.; in fall, clocks fall back from 1:59 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. In the EU, clocks change at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time.

For the U.S. and its territories, Daylight Saving Time is NOT observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Arizona. The Navajo Nation participates in the Daylight Saving Time policy, even in Arizona, due to its large size and location in three states.

A quick look at the history of observances in all 7 continents shows the following:

  • Africa: As of 2020 there are 2 countries in Africa that observe DST. There are 16 countries that no longer observe DST and 38 countries that have never observed DST.
  • Antarctica: There are no time zones or countries on this continent.
  • Asia: As of 2020 there are 7 countries that observe DST. There are 25 countries that no longer observe DST and 19 countries that have never observed DST.
  • Australia and Pacific: As of 2020 there are 5 countries in Australia and the Pacific that observe DST. There are 3 countries that no longer observe DST and 11 countries that have never observed DST.
  • Europe: As of 2020 there are 49 countries in Europe that observe DST. There are 5 countries that no longer observe DST and 1 country that never observed DST.
  • North America: As of 2020 there are 8 countries in North America that observe DST. There are 11 countries that no longer observe DST and 20 countries that have never observed DST.
  • South America: As of 2020 there are 2 countries in South America that observe DST. There are 7 countries that no longer observe DST and 5 countries that have never observed DST.

How do Atomic Clocks Stay Accurate During DST?

An atomic clock has an atomic oscillator inside (such as a cesium or rubidium oscillator). A radio-controlled clock has a radio inside, which receives a signal that comes from a place where an atomic clock is located.

In the United States, the signals received by radio-controlled clocks originate from NIST Radio Station WWVB, which is located near Fort Collins, Colorado. WWVB broadcasts on a frequency of 60 kHz. Your radio-controlled clock actually has a miniature radio receiver inside, which is permanently tuned to receive the 60 kHz signal.

At 60 kHz, there isn’t enough bandwidth to carry a voice or any type of audio information. Instead, all that is sent is a code, which consists of a series of binary digits, or bits, which have only two possible values (0 or 1). These bits are generated at WWVB by raising and lowering the power of the signal. They are sent at a very slow rate of 1 bit per second, and it takes a full minute to send a complete time code, or a message that tells the clock the current date and time. When you turn a radio-controlled clock on, it will probably miss the first-time code, so it usually takes more than one minute to set itself (sometimes 5 minutes or longer) depending on the signal quality and the receiver design.

Once your radio-controlled clock has decoded the signal from WWVB, it will synchronize its own clock to the message received by radio. Before it does so, it applies a time zone correction, based on the time zone setting that you supplied. After it has synchronized, it won’t decode the signal from WWVB again for a while. Most clocks only decode the signal once per day, but some do it more often (for example, every 6 hours). Those that decode the signal just once per day usually do it at midnight or in the very early hours of the morning, because the signal is easiest to receive when it is dark at both WWVB and at the site where the clock is located. In between synchronizations, the clocks keep time using their quartz crystal oscillators.

When working properly, radio-controlled clocks always display the correct time, down to the exact second. This means that you should never have to adjust them. During the transition from standard time to daylight saving time (DST) they “spring forward” one hour, and when DST is finished, they “fall back” one hour. If you live in an area that does not observe DST there is likely a toggle switch on your clock to turn the DST option off. If no toggle switch exists, it may be necessary to change the time zone for which your clock sets itself to in order to allow the correct synchronization of time.

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All About Leap Day

Did you ever wonder why there is a Leap Day? What purpose does it serve? Does it really occur every 4 years? These questions along with several fun facts about Leap Day will be discussed in this blog. Articles from Time and Date, History, and Mother Nature Network were used to gather the information below. This week’s sale items can be found using the links at the end of this blog.

Why do Leap Days Exist?

Leap days keep our modern-day Gregorian calendar in alignment with Earth’s revolutions around the Sun. It takes Earth approximately 365.242189 days, or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds, to circle once around the Sun. This is called a tropical year, and it starts on the March equinox.

However, the Gregorian calendar has only 365 days in a year. If we didn’t add a leap day on February 29 almost every four years, each calendar year would begin about 6 hours before the Earth completes its revolution around the Sun. This would mean a difference of 24 days every 100 years. Allow this to happen for a while, and Northern Hemisphere dwellers will be celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer in a matter of a few centuries.

Leap days fix that error by giving Earth the additional time it needs to complete a full circle around the Sun.

Why Doesn’t Leap Day Occur Exactly Every 4 Years?

Many calendars, including the Hebrew, Chinese and Buddhist calendars, are lunisolar, meaning their dates indicate the position of the Moon as well as the position of Earth relative to the sun. Since there is a natural gap of roughly 11 days between a year as measured by lunar cycles and one measured by the Earth’s orbit, such calendars periodically require the addition of extra months, known as intercalary or interstitial months, to keep them on track. There did not seem to be any rhyme or reason to how this was calculated. This ill-defined system irked Julius Caesar and when he became emperor of Rome he re-ordered the Roman calendar.

By the 16th century, scholars had noticed that time was still slipping—Caesar’s calculation that a year lasted 365.25 days was close, but still overestimated the solar year by 11 minutes. This was a problem for the Catholic Church, as the date of Easter had drifted away from its traditional place, the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, by roughly ten days. Pope Gregory XIII commissioned a modified calendar, one which kept Leap Day but accounted for the inaccuracy by eliminating it on centurial years not divisible by 400 (1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but 2000 was). The introduction of the Gregorian Calendar marked the last change to the Western calendar as we know it today.

Fun Facts About Leap Day

Leap Day is often associated with marriage, proposals and flipping gender roles. Tradition holds that in 5th-century Ireland, St. Bridget lamented to St. Patrick that women were not allowed to propose marriage to men. So, legend has it that St. Patrick designated the only day that does not occur annually, February 29, as a day on which women would be allowed to propose to men. In some places, Leap Day thus became known as Bachelor’s Day.

People born on Leap Day are called ‘Leaplings.’ There are only about 5 million people in the whole world who were born on February 29, with the odds of being born on Leap Day standing at about 1-in-1,461. Several famous people—including actress and singer Dinah Shore (born 1916), motivational speaker Tony Robbins (born 1960) and hip-hop artist Ja Rule (born 1976)—are leaplings. Leaplings technically only get to celebrate their birthdays once every four years, but they do get to be part of an elite group.

There’s a Leap Year Capital. The twin cities of Anthony, Texas, and Anthony, New Mexico, are the self-proclaimed Leap Year Capital of the World. They hold a four-day leap year festival that includes a huge birthday party for all leap year babies. (ID required.)

There’s even a leap year club. The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies is a club for people born on Feb. 29. More than 11,000 people worldwide are members. The goal of the group is to promote leap day awareness and to help leap day babies get in touch.

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Lighting Makes A Difference: The 3 Primary Types of Light

Lighting can make a world of difference in terms of how well you can see, glare, and comfort. There are three primary sources of lighting: ambient (or general), task, and accent. Each type is necessary for different parts of your home. This blog will look at the difference between each lighting type. Information in this blog comes from Do It Yourself Network, Elle Decor, and Home Stratosphere.

Ambient (or General) Lighting

Ambient lighting, also known as general lighting, is a hidden source of light that washes a room with a glow. It flattens an interior and creates very little shadow.  Its purpose is to provide broad lighting for the entire space. It is generally the primary source of lighting in a room, but it also directly influences the overall ambiance and mood. If a room has an abundance of natural lighting, that can often be the source of general lighting during the daytime. Think: chandeliers, recessed lighting, or sconces. Use of a dimmer can also provide ambient light.

Task Lighting

Task lighting is just that; lighting that’s used to perform daily activities such as reading, cooking, shaving, putting on makeup, etc. It needs to be glare-free. Effective task lighting enhances visual clarity and keeps the eyes from getting tired. Task lighting is more localized than other types of lighting, and it can come from a variety of sources. The function of task lighting is to brighten a certain work area, providing just enough contrasting light to enhance your productivity.

As we get older, our vision worsens, which is why task lighting is so effective in reducing the glare of lights and preventing eye strain. The types of workspaces that task lighting typically centers around are cooking, reading, crafts, studying, and other kinds of hobbies that are stationary.

ILA has many types of lightbulbs and lamps that fit this category including a color changing desk lamp, a floor lamp with full page magnifier, and a Z-Line lamp by Enfren. Special chromalux bulbs are also available and are recommended by low vision specialists and the National Association for the Visually Handicapped. These bulbs filter out the yellow rays that are emitted by ordinary incandescent lamps which dull visual perception. Chromalux light enhances original colors and textures.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is more design and decorative focused than the other two types of lighting.  It is a type of directional lighting or lighting that adds interest or highlights a certain object or unusual architectural feature in a room. A bulb and some kind of shield to direct the light are all that’s needed for this type of lighting. Halogen spotlights and table lamps with opaque shades are good ways to achieve accent lighting. Accent lighting adds drama to the room it’s in. Its goal is to draw your eyes to the focal point it has created. A well-executed accent light will bring your attention to what is being lit, not how that object is being lit.

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Assistive Technology for the Visually Impaired

Assistive technology for the visually impaired are items designed specifically to help people with vision loss or blindness. These items can include everything from screen readers, screen magnifiers for computer users, video magnifiers and other devices for reading and writing with low vision. This blog will focus on wearable technology, products that combine smartphone apps and physical products, and those products that build on existing technology.

Wearable Technology

Just as it sounds wearable technology are items which attach to your body and can travel with you. These can include watches, glasses, smartphones, and magnifiers. ILA carries several options in this category to assist those with vision impairments. Two of our newer items in this category are the Patriot Viewpoint Wearable Technology and the Cyber Eyez Trifecta.

The Patriot Viewpoint Wearable Technology is a wearable electronic magnifier with OCR provides handsfree magnification up to 20X. It can be used for close up or distance viewing. The OCR can scan and speak any printed material with just a few easy steps. The unit has touch pad controls on the side of the glasses. Product comes with both a phone jack and ear buds. Item weighs 1.1 pounds and has a 4-hour battery life.

The Cyber Eyez Trifecta is an exciting new product in the world of wearable technology. The complete package includes a Samsung Gear virtual reality headset, custom built wearable smart glasses with remote control, and a Samsung smartphone with the Cyber Eyez app pre-downloaded. The headset, glasses and app all perform virtually the same functions, using the same gestures and finger swipes to control each of the 3 devices. The choice of three devices allows a user to select the best device for a particular situation. VR headset can be great for extended viewing of TV or sporting events or sitting in a classroom. Smart glasses, available in small, medium, and large sizes, offer a more discreet and lightweight way to scan an area and grab your visual information. Results are displayed on the phone app. Glasses can also be ordered with custom prescriptions and with clear or tinted lenses. The app is best for quick grab and go tasks and doesn’t require putting anything on your head.

Technology Pairing Smartphone Apps with Physical Products

New technology advances also come in the form of products which are a combination of a smartphone app and a physical product or tag of some sort.  ILA proudly carries merchandise in this category including the WayTag series, Orbit Tracker Cards, and the Dot Watch.

The WayAround Starter Pack gives you a sampling of all of the different WayTags™, so you can try them out and decide which you like best. This Starter Pack contains 60 WayTags, including stickers, magnets, buttons, and clips. The WayAround product line is a combination of smartphone app and physical WayTags™ that allows you to tag and label nearly everything in your environment. Download the free app for either iPhone or Android onto your own smartphone.

Orbit Tracker Cards are Bluetooth trackers that will help you locate your valuable items using a free iOS or Android app. From your phone, you can page that item when it goes missing. Orbit Card is a credit card sized card that can slide into a wallet. Stop losing your stuff!

The Dot Watch is the first tactile smartwatch, with a 4 cell Braille display. This tactile smartwatch connects to a user’s smartphone or operates as a standalone tactile Braille watch. The wristband is magnetic mesh, for easy on-and-off. And it has quite a few features including standard watch alarms as well as Bluetooth connected notifications from your phone.

New Products That Build on Existing Technology

Many new assistive technology products build on existing technology, allowing users to work with familiar platforms but gain lots more additional functionality.  Examples of this include the Mercury 8 Electronic Magnifier and the Scanmarker Air.

Built on a full Android tablet platform, the Mercury 8 Electronic Magnifier with Speech is a durable handheld 8″ tablet magnifier with accurate full page OCR. This allows a user to both read magnified material on a large screen and to scan (via snapshot) and listen to that same printed material. In reading/OCR mode, a user can start and pause the speech, as well as follow the reading progress on the screen, while manipulating the size and color of the material being read. Mercury 8 features a wide 8-inch screen with rubber grips and a polycarbonate case designed for rough handling. It can also be used as a regular Android tablet with the full Android eco-system of apps.

The Scanmarker Air allows you to scan a single line of text using the Scanmarker “pen” and send that text to either your smartphone or computer, using either Bluetooth or USB connectivity. You can scan either directly into the Scanmarker app or to an external application such as Word. Within the Scanmarker app, scanned text can be read back to you, without the need for a voiceover function. Scanned text can automatically be translated into one of 40+ languages.

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New Products Are Here!

At Independent Living Aids, LLC (ILA) we pride ourselves in always looking for new products to help our customers. Sometimes, these products are everyday products in which we find a real application for people with low vision. Products like an Air Fryer, Cobra Color Changing Light, and the ScanMarker Air, have not been developed for the low vision user, but these products have crossover appeal and functionality for these consumers. Instead of the usual blog, this week we will look at new products from our 2020 catalog in each of the six outlined categories.

Assistive Technology

We carry a wide range of assistive technology products for the visually impaired and blind, including assistive technology software, screen magnifiers, readers and scanners, and much more. New items in this category include:

TV and Audio Listener Amplifying Headphones (or page 91 in the catalog): TL200 TV Listener Amplifying Headphones pairs wirelessly with either your television or mobile phone to amplify TV shows, phone calls and music. This allows the user to amplify the television volume, while others in the room listen at their preferred level. Can also pair with a smartphone to receive and amplify cell phone calls as well as music played from the phone. Has a 30′ headset range.

Children’s Large Button Keyboard (or page 86 in the catalog): Compatible with either a Mac or PC. Has oversized buttons and color-based mnemonic system to reinforce reading skills.

Envoy Elite Digital Recorder (or page 90 in catalog): Rugged, water resistant, and solar powered recorder with tactile buttons. Includes a flashlight and FM radio with 5 preset stations. Built in MP3 player can play downloaded MP3, WAV, or WMA files. Unit has a built-in speaker and earphone jack. Has an 8 GB internal memory with a microSD card slot.


ILA sells a wide variety of healthcare products and aids, including talking scales, bathing and bathroom aids, glucose meters and diabetic aids, pill and medicine organizers, and much more. New items in this category include:

Talking Wrist Arm Blood Pressure Meter (or page 57 in catalog): One touch operation. Includes a 2-person memory storage with 90 measurements each. Averages the last 3 measurements. Has your choice of English or Spanish voice. LCD display with 3 color backlighting. Comes with WHO classification indicators. Talking Upper Arm Blood Pressure Meter is also available.

Talking Oral Medical Thermometer (or page 57 in catalog): Talking oral medical thermometer delivers spoken results in 8 seconds and can give results in Fahrenheit or Celsius. Speaks in 6 languages, including English and Spanish. Large digital display has .75″ high digits. Voice can toggle off.

Talking Scale- English, Spanish, German (or page 58 in catalog): Attractive tempered glass scale has a 440-pound capacity and can speak results in 5 languages, including English, Spanish, and German. Results can be reported in pounds or kilograms.


We sell a wide variety of hearing products for the deaf and hard of hearing, including alerting systems, amplified phones and accessories, clocks and timers, TTY products and much more. New items in this category include:

Tactile Talking Clock with Bedshaker (or page 73 in catalog): This clock speaks the time and date in a male voice with adjustable volume. Clock face opens to reveal a tactile analog face. Time can also be spoken on demand. Includes a wired pillow shaker. Alarm combinations of vibration, audio, or both.

Vibrating Dual Alarm Clock (or page 75 in catalog): Place this vibrating dual alarm travel clock tableside or under your pillow to ensure that you awaken, on time, as needed. Set up to 2 alarms to buzz, vibrate, or both.

Clarity Big Button Phone with 35dB Amplification (or page 82 in catalog): A terrific phone for both the hard of hearing and those with low vision. Moderate amplification combined with large, back lit high contrast buttons make it a great solution for many.

Household (or Daily Living Aids on website)

ILA sells a wide variety of daily living aids, including durable medical equipment, kitchen and cooking aids, safety and security products, reachers, and much more. New items in this category include:

George Foreman Grill (or page 47 in the catalog): The George Foreman Grill features a non-stick surface for cooking burgers, pork chops, and virtually any food fast and evenly. The simplicity of the design makes it an excellent cooking aid for visually impaired users. Cooking for yourself is easy with few hassles and pans. Grease will cook off the food and drip into a tray below for a healthier meal.

Chefman 3.5L Air Fryer (or page 47 in catalog): Cooks food with a crispy fried texture, without deep frying. Cook, bake, roast and “fry” with an adjustable temperature range of 175°-400°F. Food cooks quickly and safely, self-contained in the cooking basket. Easy to use manual temperature dial and 60-minute timer. Can cook from frozen. Basket is dishwasher safe.

ScanMarker Air (or page 50 in the catalog): The ScanMarker Air allows you to scan a single line of text using the ScanMarker “pen” and send that text to either your smartphone or computer, using either Bluetooth or USB connectivity. You can scan either directly into the ScanMarker app or to an external application such as Word. Within the ScanMarker app, scanned text can be read back to you, without the need for a voiceover function. Scanned text can automatically be translated into one of 40+ languages.


We carry a wide selection of mobility products for independent living, including walking canes, rollators and walkers, and support and transfer aids. New items in this category include:

Offset Handle Cane (or page 63 in catalog): Handle is equipped with a soft foam grip. The offset handle centers user’s weight over the strongest part of the cane. Adjustable handle height from 30” to 39.” Cane has a 300-pound weight capacity.

Padded Bath Safety Seat with Backrest (or page 66 in catalog): Has an adjustable seat height from 14”-18.” The seat dimensions are 16” wide and 11.5” deep. Weight capacity is 300 pounds.

Vertical Bath Bar (or page 66 in catalog): Bar extends 14” above tub edge to provide extra stability when getting in & out of tub. Made of steel construction with vinyl coating and protective rubber cushions. Fits tub walls up to 6” wide and secures to tub in minutes.


ILA sells a wide variety of low vision aids, including magnifiers, electronic magnifiers, sunglasses, magnifying lamps, talking products, reading glasses, and more. New items in this category include:

Travel Size Atomic Talking Alarm Clock (or page 6 in the catalog): Setting buttons “lock” after setting so they don’t get pushed during travel. Unit speaks the time, date, and day. Provides verbal feedback during setting.

Mercury 6 Electronic Magnifier with OCR (or page 19 in the catalog): You get 2 fabulous devices in one with the Mercury electronic magnifier and OCR (Optical Character Reading) reader. Use its touch-based 5.5″ HD screen to have magnification from 3X to 40X while in live mode. Use touch or voice commands to control magnification or color settings. Switch to OCR scanning with one touch.

OttLite Cobra Color Changing LED Lamp (or page 27 in the catalog): Color changing LED desk lamp offers 3 levels of lighting, from warm light to cool light to natural daylight (3,000K, 4,000K and 5,000K.). Select the color that is best suited for your needs. Dimming feature controls brightness, with a maximum of 500 lumens. Flexible arm and head adjust from 24″ to 9″ in height. Built in USB port on the base is great for charging personal devices like smartphones and tablets.

If you are unable to find a specific item or have a new idea for something we may not yet carry, please contact us. We are available by phone(1-800-537-2118) and through our contact us page from the main website.

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Gift Ideas For That Special Someone

Valentine’s Day is seen as a special day for expressing your love, often through gifts to another. Knowing your loved one’s “love language” can help ensure that any gift given, be it for Valentine’s Day or throughout the year, is better received, loved, and utilized. Basically, it means to pay closer attention to what makes your spouse, parent, child, friend, partner, etcetera tick. Knowing what it is important to them is the key. Traditionally, it is thought that there are five basic languages of love. This blog will look at each “language” and provide an example of a gift that might be best suited to those that seem to utilize that language most.  The brief definitions for each language is taken from excerpts from She Knows and Oprah Magazine.

Words of Affirmation

These are verbal (or written) expressions of care and affection. Think: “Thanks for putting the kids to bed” or “You looked really nice today.” Conversely, insults can be particularly upsetting to people who favor words of affirmation.

Presenting gifts that let the other person know you want to make them feel special would fit into this category. A gift could be as simple as a jumbo wall calendar that you write words of endearment or special reminders and dates that are meaningful to the person you’re giving it to. Verbally you can give a gift that keeps giving by presenting someone with a reader machine, such as the Milestone 212, where you can pre-record your voice expressing your love and gratitude for the recipient that can be played throughout the year.


The person who loves this language thrives on the love, thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift. In short, actions speak louder than words. Think about finding a gift that your partner has been asking for or would enjoy receiving and plan for a special way of giving it; make it a surprise. The act of giving a gift tells your partner you cared enough to think about him or her in advance and go out of your way to get something to make your partner smile.

If you know the person enjoys reading or doing crafts but lack the needed light to keep from tiring their eyes a color changing LED lamp might be a good choice to give. Something as simple as a pair of designer reading glasses could also be a good choice for the crafter or reader in your life that have a small amount of sight issues.  If your loved one has a hard time waking up when their alarm goes off in the morning and has stated that they wished they could find a better way to make sure they awake in time then this sonic boom sweetheart alarm clock might be an ideal choice. Basically, it’s any gift that shows you are paying them attention and know what they like, want, or need.

Acts of Service

Doing something helpful or kind for your partner. Think: Waking up with the baby in the middle of the night or doing the dishes so your partner can relax. For someone who favors acts of service, ambivalence or a lack of support are more damaging than anything else.

The WayAround starter pack or WayAround laundry starter pack are both excellent choices if the person you’re shopping for is visually impaired. These starter packs are a way to label the everyday things in our lives to make it easier to function. The WayAround product line is a combination of smartphone app and physical WayTags™ that allows you to tag and label nearly everything in your environment. Helping in the kitchen is another way to show someone you care.  There are plenty of kitchen and cooking aids to choose from depending on your special someone’s needs.

Quality Time

Engaging in an activity together, particularly one you both enjoy, like a walk after dinner or watching a movie with a bowl of popcorn. If this is your love language, having a distracted or distant partner that makes you feel unseen or unheard is the biggest pitfall.

Games such as Rummikub, chess, large print playing cards, or dominoes are all great suggestions for time you can actively spend together. If watching a movie is more your style ensuring that each person can do so comfortably will make the time spent together even more special. This wireless tv SoundBox brings adjustable TV sound right in front of you or where ever you go within your home. No longer will you (or your loved one) have to strain to hear your TV from across the room.

Physical Touch

People who speak this love language thrive on any type of physical touch: handholding, hugs and pats on the back. Physical touch is the most direct way to communicate love. As long as it’s done in an atmosphere which is loving and not oppressive, physical touch can be the most effective of the love languages. It calms, heals and reassures.

In addition to the touch between two people other ways to express this language is through gifts that promote a calming sensation of touch such as a massaging neck pillow or a heated foot massager. Another option more commonly given to a child, but to which many adults also enjoy, is a simple snuggle pillow or stuffed animal. Soft little mementos that when hugged will make you think of the person that gave it to you.

The bottom line is that not everyone loves in the same way, so being aware of the different love languages can not only help you understand the other person better but it can also help you be a better gift giver (or receiver if both parties are on the same page).

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