Personal Hygiene: Tips, Tricks, and Advice for the Visually Impaired

Personal hygiene is well personal. It is also harder to accomplish when you have a disability. This blog will look at some tips and tricks to help learn, or relearn, how best to assure that you are doing the most that you can for your own personal hygienic needs when dealing with vision loss.

Bathing and Brushing Teeth

Alice Massa, an Occupational Therapist states, states that one of the challenging aspects of living with low vision can be our personal care. Issues like hygiene and grooming can undermine our sense of independence and confidence.  A few of her tips from the article 7 Low Vision Tips To Start Your Day include:

  • In the bathroom, items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush/comb, and toiletries should be kept in the same place, on a shelf or a rack in the shower.
  • It is helpful to buy shampoo, conditioner and body wash in containers differentiated by shape or color.
  • Getting toothpaste on the toothbrush can be a bit of a hassle. Some people find squeezing some toothpaste into a small container and dipping the brush into the paste is easier. Some people just prefer to squeeze a dab of paste onto their index finger and then transfer from finger to brush.

In addition to these suggestions, another product that could make bathing easier is a long-handled brush. This Bent 27” Ergo Round Sponge allows the user to more easily reach hard to reach spots on the body. The bent handle allows for even easier access to the back. Use for bathing, lotion, and cream application.

Shaving

NewzHook offers shaving advice for men but the same strategies are beneficial for women as well. This article provides information on personal grooming as an important skill that all must acquire at an early age. Learning to shave is a critical aspect of this. However, shaving on your own may seem potentially dangerous for those who are blind or have low vision.  Information within the parentheses were added for this blog. Here are some tips for the visually impaired who are starting to shave or want to improve upon their skills.

  • Keep your basic supplies – razor/electric razor, shaving cream/foam, after shave, and a towel handy.
  • Wash the area to be shaved with soap and water and pat dry. This will soften the area, making it easier to shave cleanly.
  • If you are new to this, take the time to feel and explore the part of the face (or other body part) that is to be shaved. You can practice with an empty razor or with the electric razor turned off.
  • Shave against the grain of the whiskers in places where your beard (or other body hair) is heavier. In places with sensitive skin like the cheeks and upper lip, use downward strokes and shave with the grain of the whiskers.
  • After you are done, use fingertips to check one more time if you have left out any spots.
  • For cutting stubble, use scissors, “This is the area on the upper cheekbone. With a comb straighten the hair and with your hand feel which bits of hair are extending downwards and cut them with a pair of scissors”.

If you are looking to try out an electric razor, ILA sells the Norelco Triple Head Electric Shaver. The 3 rotary heads with self-sharpening blades give you the smoothest shave with its CloseCut Blade System 4-direction Flex Heads.

Makeup

Elin Williams, author and creator of My Blind World, shares her tried and true makeup tips in her article “Beauty Without A Mirror.” Here are a few highlights from that article.

All about the numbers: From counting how many times I swirl my brush in a product to how many strokes it takes when applying the product to my face, to me, makeup is all about the numbers. This is especially true for things such as eyeshadow or blush. I know that if I’ve tapped my brush into the product a couple of times and then sweeped it onto my eyelids 3 times, I’ll have a similar amount of product on both eyes and they’ll hopefully look quite similar.

Labeling: I normally label products that are not as easy to indentify or things such as different shades of lipstick or foundation. I use an audio labeller by the RNIB which allows me to record as much information as I need, I then place the small sticker on any of my products and when I place the device over it again, my recording will start to play, clever eh? It is definitely one of the most useful things for me when trying to differentiate between products.

ILA sells the RINB if you too would like to see how labeling in this manner could help you. In addition, we also sell a pair of 3X Makeup Magnifying Glasses which allows you to flip the magnifying lens away from the eye you are putting eyeliner or mascara on and look through the 3X magnifying lens covering the other eye.

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Celebrating Independence Throughout the Year

Independence Day is upon us which usually means parades, festivals, and fireworks. This year, thanks to the coronavirus, festivities will be a bit more intimate around the nation. For persons with disabilities celebrating independence is something that is striven for, albeit with hurdles, throughout the year. This blog will look at a few ways in which persons with visual impairments can celebrate both on the 4th of July and the rest of the days too.

Home

Being able to maneuver and do things independently in and around your home is something most able-bodied people take for granted. Here are a few items that ILA offers that makes routine tasks a bit more worry-free for persons with visual impairments.

Moshi Voice Controlled Talking Alarm Clock: This is an amazing, modern styled talking clock that is totally voice controlled. Once set, through voice commands only, the current time, the alarm time and sound, the sleep sound, and even the date, can be retrieved by just asking for it. “MOSHI” is fully voice interactive and can be operated without ever seeing the clock.

WayAround Laundry Starter Pack: The Laundry Starter Pack contains WayTag 2-hole buttons plus a blind-friendly sewing kit–everything you need to get started tagging your clothing with WayAround. 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

Talking Microwave Oven *** Magic Chef ***: This Magic Chef Microwave Oven has been specially modified to talk, making it accessible and simplifying its use for those with low vision or no vision at all. It features an adjustable cook time, adjustable power level, a built-in kitchen timer, a clock, and an attend to food timer. Around each button of the keypad is a raised ring to make them easy to locate by touch. A momentary press of any button will tell you what the button does.

Travel or Errands

For many people doing errands is something that is second nature and traveling Is something done either for business or for fun. Both are things that negate much planning on the part of someone with no physical and/or mental limitations. For people with visual impairments much more thought and planning are needed from start to finish. Here are a few items that could make navigating these items a bit easier.

BRAILLED Jumbo Portable Pill Box with Tactual Markings: Every detail has been included to make this the most useful pillbox for the visually impaired and individuals with limited dexterity. Seven removable pill holders come in a sturdy plastic frame. Each individual pill bar has four large compartments marked tactually and in Braille ‘MORN’, ‘NOON’, ‘EVE’ and ‘BED’. There is even an arrow pointing to the ridge for easy opening. Pills can be distributed to their compartments at the beginning of each week and the bar for each day removed and placed on the vanity or carried, whichever is most convenient.

Revolution 7 Section Folding ID Cane: Revolution Advantage 7 Section Graphite Folding Identification Cane is thin, light weight, and folds down for easy storage. It has a sturdy polymer pencil tip heat sealed onto the cane. It is quite useful for letting those around you know that you are Blind or visually impaired. Offered in 2-inch increments from 46 inches to 64 inches.

Sunu Mobility Device: The Sunu band is a wrist-worn smart watch which uses sonar technology (echolocation) to provide haptic (vibration) feedback regarding the user’s surroundings and other information. Used in conjunction with a guide dog or white cane, it can improve spatial awareness and provide information on obstacles in a user’s path that are above ground level up to 16 feet away. This smart-band augments your personal awareness, and reduces accidents to the body, chest, arms and head. It also has a Wayfinding tool to explore various categories of places which may be nearby including restaurants, shops, hospitals, banks, shops, metro stops, and more.

Just for Fun

Everyone enjoys having fun at least occasionally. There are so many advances in technology, thinking outside the box, and other sources of enjoyment available to most anyone of any ability. Here are just a few of the innovative and exciting things that ILA has to offer geared towards the visually impaired but able to be enjoyed by all.

Brailled Talking USA Jigsaw Puzzle: Begin rebuilding the USA map by finding the border states. When you place a State puzzle piece with the State’s initials, in Braille, into the correct puzzle place, a voice announces the state and its capital.

ISA Soccer Ball with Rattle Pods: With revolutionary rattling disks evenly distributed inside, the rattles continue to sound a few moments after motion has stopped. The rattling volume remains the same, unlike most other balls of its kind which contain bells that usually dissipate rapidly. Suitable for all ages; water and temperature resistant. Size 4 youth soccer ball, 23-24 inches in circumference. Whether fully blind or visually impaired, this ball encourages all to play the game. Please note this item is sold deflated.

Tactile Rubik’s Cube: This modified tactile Rubik’s Cube has different tactile markings for each color on the cube. This standard sized cube is a timeless and fun challenge.

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National Sunglasses Day: A Reminder to Protect Your Eyes from Harmful UV Light

National Sunglasses Day is held every year on June 27th and is sponsored by the Vision Council. While sunglasses can make you look cool, they are also beneficial to helping preserve your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.  Much of the population is still not aware that years of cumulative UV exposure can accelerate conditions like cataracts and age-regulated macular degeneration. If you want to actively participate in the event, post a selfie to your social media accounts, and use the hashtag #NationalSunglassesDay. This blog will look what UV light is and does plus several types of sunglasses and the benefits provided by each.

Ultraviolet (UV) Light

Stanford University states that UV (Ultraviolet) Light refers to the region of the electromagnetic spectrum between visible light and X-rays, with a wavelength falling between 400 and 10 nanometers. This electromagnetic radiation is not visible to the human eye, because it has a shorter wavelength and higher frequency than the light our brain perceives as images.

The article further discusses four basic subtypes of UV light. The first of the four is UV-A light (320-400nm). It is the UV light with the longest wavelength, and the least harmful. It is more commonly known as “black light”, and many use its ability to cause objects to emit fluorescence (a colored glowing effect) in artistic and celebratory designs. The next subtype is UV-B light (290-320nm) which causes sunburns with prolonged exposure along with increasing the risk of skin cancer and other cellular damage. Next comes subtype UV-C light (100-290nm) which is extremely harmful and is almost completely absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere. It is commonly used as a disinfectant in food, air, and water to kill microorganisms by destroying their cells’ nucleic acids. Finally, the last subtype is classified as Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) Light (10-100nm) which can only travel through a vacuum and is completely absorbed in Earth’s atmosphere.

Prolonged exposure to UV-A and UV-B waves without adequate protection can have dangerous health consequences. The eyes should always be protected from UV radiation when outside by wearing sunglasses designed to block out UV-A and UV-B rays. If one spends a large amount of time outside or in any environment with UV-A and UV-B radiation, they can develop short-term effects like Photokeratitis (known in some cases as arc-eye or snow blindness), or serious long-term conditions including cataracts which lead to blindness.

The information provided for the National Sunglasses Day event states, Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere at any time and place, but certain regions have heightened radiation levels. UV rays are particularly strong near the equator since they travel a shorter distance to reach the Earth’s surface. Cities at high altitudes also share higher UV levels because the sun’s rays can easily penetrate the thin atmosphere. If you would like to know the average monthly UV index for your state (or links to nearly anywhere in the world) see the EPA’ site for Sun Safety Monthly Average UV Index.

Cocoon Eyewear

These patented sunglasses are designed to fit over almost any prescription eyewear. With their extensive technology, they will provide a polarized view, while delivering optimum protection against harmful UV rays. These lightweight frames completely isolate the eyes from the elements, cutting glare, blocking harmful UV rays, and steadying fluctuation in light conditions. The elimination of glare provides a tranquil “cocoon” for your eyes, improving visual acuity and enhancing depth perception. These sunglasses are versatile and stylish, and ideal for those that don’t wear corrective eyewear too.

The Low Vision Cocoons offer a full spectrum of filters designed to enhance contrast and/or reduce glare for those with low vision impairments. The integrated side shields are precisely regulated to match the exact transmission rates and UV absorption curves of the front filters.

ILA offers 11 different types of these glasses including Polarized or Low Vision Wideline, Polarized or Low Vision Slimline, Polarized or Low Vision Pilot Large and Polarized Aviator XL.  See Cocoons Eyewear for the complete listing of available products.

NoIR Sunglasses

NoIR Low Vision Filters are the point where utility and comfort converge, providing essential light management, visibility, and protection with an eye on wear-ability. NoIR sunglasses are available in dozens of comfortable and fashionable styles, many with top and side-shield protection and designed to fit over prescription glasses. The NoIR Low Vision Filter System is made in the USA.

The NoIR Filter system employs the same technology used for laser protective eyewear, relieving glare by absorbing the short wavelengths of the visible spectrum that can scatter within the ocular media. All filters absorb ultraviolet radiation to 400nm, with many lenses also blocking blue light, protecting the retina from high-energy wavelengths which may contribute to the degenerative process culminating in macular degeneration.

ILA offers 50 different types of NoIR Sunglasses in many different lens colors and shades to suit most anyone’s preference To see the full listing see NoIR Sunglasses.

Eyesential DryEye Sunglasses

These sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun and the elements! Eyesential™ Dry Eye Sunglasses were designed specifically for patients with sensitive eyes, including those with dry eyes and allergies. They are also the ideal choice for anyone who is exposed to dust, wind, or extreme bright sun.

These glasses offer soft cushion frame liner provides 50% more protection from the sun and elements. They block 100% UVA and UVB light and come with an anti-fog coating. If interested in this comment visit Eyesential Dryeye Sunglasses.

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Bathroom Aids: Safety and support in the bathroom help maintain Independence

The CDC states that each year, one in four Americans 65 and older experiences a fall, the leading cause of injury among older adults, and impaired vision more than doubles this risk. Falls often result in serious injuries, decreased mobility, and loss of independence. According to Caregiver, the bathroom is routinely cited as the most dangerous room in the house for seniors. Countless slips and falls occur in the bathroom, causing a difficult (and sometimes embarrassing) situation for families. This blog will look at a few simple measures that can be taken to help ensure your bathroom keeps your loved ones from becoming another of these statistics.

Bathroom Aids for the Toilet and Bathtub or Shower

Feeling confident while using the toilet and/or bathing yourself goes a long way towards safety and independence. ILA offers several products to help make this a reality.

Stander Curve Grab Bar: The Curve Grab Bar is a space saving support rail that allows the user to easily rise from a sitting position by providing 4 hand grips at 4 different heights. This pivoting grab bar locks in place every 45 degrees and can also be locked flat against the wall when the bar is not in use. Made of rust resistant, zinc plated steel, it installs quickly into two wall studs.

Vertical Bath Bar: 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. Product fits tub walls up to 6″ wide and secures to tub in minutes.

CombiAttendant with Footrest: Standard Combi Shower, Commode, and Indoor Transit Chair. The mobile Combi commode/shower chair is an assistive device allowing the user to sit down safely and comfortably during toileting or showering. It is supplied complete with toilet rails and can be used freestanding, with an optional bucket, or positioned over a toilet. Easy to move and maneuver in different settings and locations.

Decluttering and Using and Labels

One way to lessen the risk of falling is to keep the bathroom as clutter free as possible. Using totes, cabinets, and shelving goes a long way towards keeping things up and away from being a hazard. Labeling items using high contrast lettering, braille labeling, and having products in easy to use pump bottles makes finding what you need both easy and convenient. ILA offers several products that can be beneficial with keeping things easily accessible.

Low Vision Pens Sampler: If you know that you need a pen that creates a black, bold, heavy line that is easy to see, but you can’t decide which one to buy, order this sampler. It lets you test 4 pens with different thicknesses and drying characteristics. Included are: CAN-DO Low Vision, Sharpie, Pilot Bravo, and Liquid Expresso.

Braillable Labels: These ingenious little transparent hard plastic labels have room to Braille three lines. Each non-adhesive label has a hole in each end for the black elastic band peg to push through so that the label can be stretched around whatever you are marking. 50 labels and 50 elastic bands in a pack. Each label measures 4.75 inches by 1.5 inches.

WayClip Plastic Clips with tag: Use a clip tag with a rubber band or a hairband to attach a tag to all the bottles and vials in your bathroom(s). 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. WayAround works with the accessibility settings on your phone. To hear your information spoken aloud, turn on VoiceOver or TalkBack.

Flooring, Lighting and Contrast

In addition to keeping the floor as clutter free as possible your choice of tile, rugs, and tub or shower liner are also key to preventing falls and accidents in the bathroom. Things to think about when choosing these type items are contrast in color with the things around it, nonskid bottom, and flooring or tile with texture. Smooth flooring is just asking for trouble when you add water into the mix.

Lighting is also an important safety feature to keep in mind. It may be necessary to have several different types of lights in various places in the bathroom. It might be beneficial to install extra lighting around the tub or shower. Having a light above the mirror also enables someone with vision issues to be better able to see things in and around the sink and counter. A lighted mirror by the sink could provide assistance with shaving or applying makeup. To learn more about lighting check out our previous previous blogs.

Contrast is something simple to consider but often times overlooked. The way colors and shapes work within the whole room can help deter potential fall risks. Examples of using contrast to your advantage is by having hand towels a different color from wash cloths or bath towels. In addition, the towels should contrast with both the wall and floor coloring to help with locating them when either hanging up or fallen on the floor.  Using a different colored toilet seat could help separate it from the colors around it. Using dark colored or striped toothpaste can help ensure you squeeze out just the right amount onto your toothbrush. If more than one person uses the bathroom you can also use different colored totes and/or different shaped containers to help keep personal items separated.

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Father’s Day is Coming: Gift Ideas for Three Different Types of Fathers

Father’s Day is coming on June 21st so now is the perfect time to be thinking about what to buy, create, or plan to celebrate the special father(s) in your life. This blog will look at three of the ten most common father types as described by The Star along with suggested ideas for that type. For a little added fun each section will also include some of tv’s most iconic dads that fit the type.

The Nostalgic Dad

“Back in my time” is the Nostalgic Dad’s favorite opening line. He likes dishing out advice and comparing how society and times have changed. Nostalgic Dads often have a well of amazing stories and lessons to share. He makes you appreciate how you now have a better life thanks to his perseverance and hard work.

Famous television fathers that fit this category include: Andy Taylor, a widower, father, and sheriff from “The Andy Griffith Show,” Howard Cunningham, business owner, lodge member, and family man from “Happy Days,” and John Walton Sr. a hard-working, industrious man who runs a small family sawmill on his property from “The Waltons.”

Gift ideas for the family man that falls into this category would be your more typical tried and true gifts. Some of these ideas include:

MedCenter System ™ Talking One Month Medication Organizer and Reminder: The MedCenter System was designed by two sons to ensure that their father took his medication regularly. He is doing so now and you will also when you use this system. 31 individual boxes, each with 4 pill compartments sit in a frame. The talking combination pill reminder timer with 4 alarms and talking clock, either beeps or speaks, “Please take your pills” when the alarm goes off.

TEK-PAL Simple TV Remote: The manufacturer states that the TEK-PAL is “designed to be the easiest to see and easiest to use TV remote control on the market”. This item is a universal remote, with only 6 large buttons with clear, black markings on them. The on/off is round, the mute is square and the volume up and volume down, channel up and channel down are triangles that point in the up or down direction, corresponding to their function.

The Handyman Dad

The Handyman Dad adopts a Do-It-Yourself approach and is able to fix everything. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in an era where making a phone call to the garage was harder without cellphones. These days you have someone for everything — plumber, electrician, technician — but old school dads will tell you that they were handyman extraordinaire in the house way before these jobs became mainstream.

Famous television fathers that fit this category include: Tim Taylor, the know-it-all father from “Home Improvement,” Dan Conner, the loving, drywall contractor from “Roseanne,” and Charles Ingalls, farmer, father, and fixer of problems both physical and emotional from “Little House on the Prairie.”

Gift ideas for the  handyman that falls into this category would be your more typical fixer upper type gifts. Some of these ideas include:

Talking Tape Measure:  A 16-foot standard metal tape measure that announces the measured length with an accuracy of .06 of an inch. Operates with memory mode, and can be used to measure consecutive distances that exceed its 16-foot length

Big Larry LED Flashlight: This BIG Larry™ LED Flashlight uses C.O.B. LED technology to produce 400 lumens of light or 160 lumens at a dimmed setting. It also has an intense emergency red flashing light mode which you can activate if ever needed. This red flashing light is ideal for roadside emergencies or distress signaling.

The Gadget-Obsessed Dad

He has the latest model and flashy upgrades to boot; putting your two-seasons-past phone to shame. The gadget-obsessed dad gets told off over dinner for always having his nose stuck in his tablet, even more frequently than the younger ones. They send dad-jokes, videos of cute animals and Internet memes. They are also known for their fondness of Candy Crush.

Famous iconic television fathers that fit this category include: Wayne Szalinski, the wacky inventor from “Honey I Shrunk the Kids,” Gomez Addams, a wealth retired lawyer of Castilian descent, who squanders money in a cavalier manner while remaining wealthy from “The Addams Family,” and Professor John Robinson, father and an astrophysicist who also specializes in applied planetary geology from “Lost in Space.”

Gift ideas for the father that falls into this category would be your more typical technological or “geeky” gifts. Some of these ideas include:

iPad Bluetooth Keypad – Yellow Keys Black Letters: The LogicKeyboard Bluetooth Mini Keyboard is the industry’s first large print Bluetooth keyboard designed for the Vision impaired and mature-aged Apple iPad and iPhone users. Now there is a way to type on a real keyboard with letters that are easy to see and locate. The mini keyboard is compact and light-to-carry with proven Bluetooth technology that can connect to any Bluetooth compatible device.

TV SoundBox Wireless TV Speaker: This portable and wireless SoundBox® speaker, produced by Serene Innovations, brings adjustable TV sound right in front of you or where ever you go within your home. Imagine taking your television sound with you to the kitchen when going for a snack or tending to your simmering dinner.

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Computer Accessibility for the Visually Impaired

Technology keeps advancing in leaps and bounds and what once seemed merely a dream now can accomplish with ease. Thanks to computer accessibility persons who once felt left out our behind can now participate on the same levels as their peers. This blog will look at the hardware, software, and future of computer accessibility for the visually impaired.

Hardware

Computer hardware includes the physical parts of a computer, such as the central processing unit (CPU), monitor, mouse, keyboard, graphics card, sound card, and speakers. This section will look at some common hardware items that ILA sells to enhance computer accessibility for the visually impaired.

LogicKeys L. P. Slim Line PC Keyboard: Large Print Keyboards offered by LogicKeys is perfect for those individuals who are having a hard time seeing the existing commands on their keyboards. By offering a bigger and bolder typeface, the keys become easier to see. These keyboards are designed to assist any user but are especially helpful for those with low vision.

Big Track Mouse Ball: The BIGtrack is a valuable tool for users who lack fine motor skills which a regular mouse requires. For example, if you have arthritis an ordinary mouse can be difficult to hold and keep the cursor in position whilst you click. The BIGtrack allows you to settle the cursor in position and then click easily without moving the cursor inadvertently. The giant yellow ball makes it easy to get the cursor to precisely where you want it and you can even do this with your foot or elbow!

LCD Magnifier & Filter For 19″ Screen: Hi-quality fresnel lenses that increase character size up to 2X. It is lightly tinged to enhance contrast. Easy to install by hanging the magnifier from the top of the monitor Dimensions are 19″ measures diagonally from top left corner to bottom right corner. Measurement across width of screen is 16″. The other two sizes available are for a 17” screen and a 15” screen.

Software

By contrast, software is the set of instructions that can be stored and run by hardware. Hardware is so termed because it is “hard” or rigid with respect to changes, whereas software is “soft” because it is easy to change. This section will highly various software that ILA sells to enhance ease of use for the blind or visually impaired consumer.

iZoom Magnifier/Reader on CD 6.0 Version: iZoom software enlarges images on your computer screen up to 36X.  You can also change screen and contrast colors, increase mouse size, realign web pages, and hear entire documents, emails and web pages spoken aloud.  Magnification features include font smoothing, locator enhancements, 8 different zooming modes, and floating windows to “lock” a portion of the screen.  Speech features include mouse echo, typing echo, narration, and speech controls. Speech can be in any of 17 languages, including Spanish.   IZoom is available in either a single install CD version, or a non-installing USB version which you can plug into any computer and use on the spot.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium Version 13.0: Just talk naturally to your computer, using the included microphone, and the words appear on the screen. Because it is fully integrated with WordPerfect and Word, the NaturallySpeaking commands are displayed right in the menu bar. Using voice only, the user can speak commands to proofread, revise and edit test or listen to and dictate e-mail. Switching between applications can be accomplished by telling the computer which program to open. The Spanish version is also available.

Typio Typing Tutor Software: Typio is an accessible typing tutor software program designed for teachers. For the student it has guided audio and large print instructions through the entire keyboard, with fun sound effects. For the teacher it has customizable practice lessons, individual student record keeping with detailed, printable reports, and the ability to review past lessons. Comes with 45 lessons which automatically save progress and advance only when the student meets their pre-set goals. Teachers can also create custom lessons.

The Future of Computer Accessibility

The future of technology uses the current knowledge base and expounds on it. Here are just two examples of things that are on the cutting edge to be the norm in the future.

3D Modeling: Stanford University is increasing access to 3D modeling through touch-based displays. With the goal of increasing access to making, engineers at Stanford University have collaborated with members of the blind and visually impaired community to develop a touch-based display that mimics the geometry of 3D objects designed on a computer. According to graduate student, Alexis Siu, “This project is about empowering a blind user to be able to design and create independently without relying on sighted mediators because that reduces creativity, agency and availability.”

The display is reminiscent of a pin art toy in that it forms shapes from a field of tall, rectangular pegs that move up and down. By inputting the specifications of their desired shape in the accompanying 3D modeling program, users can evaluate their creation via the touchable display. Whenever they alter the shape, they can command the display to render it anew. This tactile display is considered 2.5D rather than 3D because the bottom of the display does not change shape.

The researchers co-designed this system with people who are blind or visually impaired, a process that was integral to making it address the actual needs of its users. In the end, the team produced a system that can rotate a 3D model, zoom in and zoom out on an object, and show it in split sections – such as showing the top and bottom of a cup beside each other. Users can also feel the shape with multiple fingers or their whole hand, which enhances the information they can interpret from the display.

“The feedback we received showed that, even with this coarse display, we can still get meaningful interactions,” said Siu. “That suggests there’s a lot of potential in the future for this kind of system.”

HaptiRead: New Atlas reports on an ultrasound haptic system that projects readable Braille into thin air. For people who rely on Braille, reading displays and signs in public can be a challenge, but a new system could help make things easier. HaptiRead is a haptic feedback device that uses ultrasound pulses in precise patterns to reproduce Braille text in midair.

The HaptiRead system is a panel made up of 256 ultrasound transducers, emitting frequencies of up to 200 Hz – strong enough for a user to feel the pressure on their skin. This kind of technology has previously been put to work to create things like holograms you can touch.

But HaptiRead has an arguably more noble goal in mind. This device projects up to eight haptic points in the air as far as 70 cm (27.6 in) away, which can be arranged to represent different characters in the Braille alphabet.

A built-in Leap Motion depth-sensing camera figures out where a user’s hand is and directs the ultrasonic points towards it. That can help guide a user towards the device in the first place. Plus, there are no moving parts to clog up, and users do not need to actually touch a surface, removing hygiene issues. The system can also be set up to display more complex information, such as charts and graphics.

The team says there’s still much more testing and development to do, but this preliminary study shows that the HaptiRead technology has promise.

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Games for Two

Last week we looked at group activities and games specifically geared towards the visually impaired. For those that prefer smaller scale pastimes, that can be enjoyed with as few as two persons, this blog will look at those games created with the visually impaired person in mind.

Two Person Games for All Ages

This section will provide brief descriptions and links for games that can be played for persons of all ages.

Marinoff Low Vision Playing Cards: Designed by the ophthalmologist, Dr. Gerald Marinoff, to enable individuals with vision problems to more easily see the numbers on playing cards. They come with 1.25-inch-high numbers. The outstanding feature is the black outline that surrounds the large numbers to make them ‘stand out’.

Tactile Connect Four: This tactile Connect Four has holes in one color of the pieces so that those who are Blind or visually impaired can play tactually. The challenge is to get four chips in a row while blocking your opponent from doing the same.

Chess Set: All wood tactile Chess board made entirely of authentic, genuine teak. Complete with plastic tactile playing pieces, specially designed to be identified by touch, this set is a must-have for any Blind Chess player. This is a one-of-a-kind, all-new presentation of tactile Chess that can be played by Blind, visually impaired, and sighted Chess players.

Oversized Wood Domino Set: Easy on the eyes, easy on the hands and fun to play. The 3.2″ x 1.75″ x .25″ wood pieces are painted black with large white circles, making them easy to see and very graspable. Adults with arthritis or low vision will enjoy playing dominoes with this set. They are also a good set for young children learning the game or learning to count. 28 pieces in set.

Games Geared Towards Kids

This section will focus on brief descriptions and links for games specifically geared to children.

SENSEsational Alphabet Flashcards: Learning the alphabet has never been more exciting and stimulating! This fun and engaging card set lets your child feel the different textures of animals, smell the distinctive aromas of things, and much more! Learn the entire alphabet and many beginning words in Sign Language and Braille. This set comes with a user manual and is designed with all young children in mind!

Braille Math Blocks: Quality craftsmanship you can feel, with imaginative design and Braille lettering. The companion set to our Braille Sign Language set, these 16 blocks are embossed with numbers and basic math symbols, along with the corresponding Braille cell.

Braille ABC Wooden Blocks: This 28-block set is made from sustainable Michigan basswood with Braille and embossed letters along with traditional letter forms on the block. The attractive European style font is easily traced by little fingers. These blocks are not only fun to stack and play with, but they also make an excellent learning tool.

Helpful Information and Resources to Consider

If you are looking for helpful advice or further game suggestions these links should help you start out on the right track.

The American Foundation for the Blind provides a list of suggestions for a variety of games, such as computer or electronic games, are accessible with a screen reader or are self-voicing, and board games or card games are available in large print or with braille or tactile marks.

Paths to Literacy is a website for students who are blind or visually Impaired. The linked article details advise and suggestions on how to adapt games for children with vision impairments written by a teacher with vision impairments herself. Specific games mentioned include Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Battleship.

Sightless Fun is a website dedicated to recommending tips, tricks, and modifications to allow visually impaired persons the ability to play nearly any game they can imagine. One link from this page also provides information on Alexa (Amazon’s Virtual Assistant) based games.  It covers everything from picking out a game, setup/tearing down, how to keep the game flowing, ways to assist a visually impaired person, and concludes with the author’s final thoughts on the subject.

VisionAware provides a section on types of already adapted games, as well as discusses ways in which you can adapt your own. ILA carries many of the recommended adaptative devices including a Braille Label Maker, a wide variety of bump dots, and textured paint.

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Games for the Visually Impaired

Games are a fun pastime no matter your age or ability. Finding a game that resonates with you and is truly enjoyable can at times be challenging, especially if you’re one of the millions currently living with some sort of accessibility issue. This blog will look at various types of gameplay for persons with visually impairments and/or blindness.

Traditional Home-Based Games for the Visually Impaired

Card and board games seem to be the most plentifully available when searching for games that have been adapted for users of all backgrounds and abilities. These games range from Monopoly, Uno, and Scrabble all the way down to your basic set of cards. This section will look at three different games Freeze Up!, low vision Scrabble tiles, and Rummikub for the visually impaired.

Freeze Up!: Two to eight players will have a hilarious time thinking of a name that belongs in the category they have chosen. For instance, if the category is “animals” and the first letter must be “s”, the player can say “snake” or “snail” or any other word beginning with “s”. Each player is given 60 seconds per game to think of names in the categories. The last player to use up his or her time is the winner. No vision is needed, just good recall and a sense of fun. Includes 170 categories, such as “capital cities” to “snack foods” and thousands of questions. Recommended for ages 8 years to mature adults who want to keep their minds nimble.

Low Vision Scrabble Pieces: Tile pieces measure 3/8” high with ½” high bold print letters. There are 100 plastic game pieces included. See Scrabble instructions if you’re unsure or have never played before.

Rummikub Original with Braille: The original version of this classic game includes the 106 tiles and 4 sturdy racks for holding them. The colors stand out boldly against the ivory tiles. See Rummikub Instructions or this YouTube Video on how to play if you’ve never played before.

Team Sports for the Visually Impaired

There are many different team sports that have been retrofitted for those who are visually impaired and/or totally blind. Three of these team sports are Bell Basketball, Goalball, and Beep Baseball.

Bell Basketball, also referred to as Audible or Can Do Basketball, incorporates the use of a regulation size and weight basketball with internal bells that ring whenever it is in motion. A buzzer (Goal Locator) in a pouch can be placed on the basket, and an extra bell to attach to the net so that it rings when the ball goes through it. ILA offers both the Can Do Basketball Kit with Buzzer and the Can Do Basketball with Bell by itself.

Goalball, according to the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), is the most popular team sport for the blind and visually impaired. The sport originated in 1946 when Austrian Hanz Lorrenzen and German Sett Reindle developed the game as a way to keep blinded WWII veterans physically active. Goalball has since become the premier team sport for blind athletes and is played competitively in 112 countries.

In goalball, two teams of three players each face each other across a court that is nine meters wide and 18 meters long. The object of the game is to roll a basketball size ball with bells inside over the opponent’s goal line. Your opponents listen for the oncoming ball and attempt to block it with their bodies. Once they are able to stop the ball and take control of it, they become the offensive team. You can purchase the Official Goalball from ILA.

Beep Baseball has been around since 1976 according to the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA). They have been dedicated to ensuring folks with low or no vision can participate in America’s favorite pastime. Using a combination of a beeping ball and buzzing bases, they have created a baseball field setup that allows visually impaired athletes to play using their ears rather than eyes. Beep baseball is a challenging, physically demanding and enjoyable competitive sport for athletes who are blind or visually impaired. The teams are co-ed so that everyone can be included, and there are regular championships that bring extra competitive fun into the picture.

Virtual Online and Video Games for the Visually Impaired

Just because a person is unable to see or at least not as well as they once could does not mean they should not be able to enjoy gaming in a more traditional sense of the term. This section will focus on two articles that provide insight on what the gaming world is currently like for the visually impaired as well as what the future may hold.

Gaming Has Many Visually Impaired Fans. Why Not Serve Them Better?: As surprising as it may seem, given the visually intensive nature of most games today, there are visually impaired people all over the world playing games — whether they were designed with them in mind or not.  A few years ago, Madden NFL graphics developer Karen Stevens won a “game jam” — or hackathon — at the video game company Electronic Arts.

Her pitch: tweak the code to make it possible to adjust, brightness and contrast controls, opt for bigger menu icons and change the colors — you know, for people who are colorblind. “Turns out one out of 12 men are colorblind, and one out of 200 women,” Stevens says. “There are probably half a million color-blind Madden players, so it really makes an impact.”

She’s quoted as saying, “Just because a game isn’t designed to be accessible, doesn’t mean people can’t play it. Like, when I started my role, people were already playing EA games — blind. They just didn’t have any support, so they would struggle with things, but they would still play.”

Marco Salsiccia of San Francisco is the very kind of gamer likely to benefit from this kind of development. Salsiccia lost his left eye to retinal cancer as a baby, and related complications took his right eye about four years ago. “My vision just went dark one day, in a matter of 30 minutes, and it never came back.”

He plays online in game rooms with blind or otherwise visually impaired players from all over the world. He reels off the games he can play. “Monopoly. Uno. Blackjack. Yahtze. Battleship. Shut the box. Cards against humanity. I’m able to come into a game room, open up a little table. people can join me, or I can invite my friends and we can all play rummy together or any of the games here.

But there are also immersive games that put the audio front and center — like The Nightjar, a sci fi thriller set in outer space.

Salsiccia explains, “The whole experience is narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, so you have his voice in your ears, guiding you through the game, while your character’s trying to escape a space station that’s been overrun by aliens and is being sucked into the event horizon of a black hole.”

If you are interested in listening to or seeing how a person with limited vision can play online games, one gamer in England who goes by the moniker “SightlessKombat” has developed an international reputation playing first-person shooter games. You can watch him on his YouTube channel.

Lost and Hound: Video games for the visually impaired: The International Game Developers Association estimates 10 to 20% of people do not play video games because of a disability. The concept of creating a video game for blind people might seem unusual, but the idea is being embraced by game designers including West Aussie indie game developer Brian Fairbanks.

Brian’s rescue dog adventure game Lost and Hound is fully accessible for visually impaired people. Lost and Hound looks like a regular game, but if you play with headphones, you can complete the levels using audio alone.

Brian says vision impaired players are better at the game than sighted players. “[Sighted people] don’t use sound to inform their decisions, it’s more reactionary … but blind people do all the time so they’re much better at the game,” he says. “When you think about how much information can be transmitted through sound alone, the breadth of what you can do is incredible.”

Brian is also part of a tech startup game studio, Ebon Sky Studios, which is developing a custom game engine software that enables blind people to create their own video games. Vision impaired users will be able to create video games using voice control to select options from a series of audio menus (such as “brick house”) to create a game world. You can also find out information as it becomes available through their Facebook page.

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Understanding Hearing Loss

According to Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss often waiting, on average, 7 years before seeking help.  This blog will look at hearing loss basics including parts of the ear and suggestions on how to help compensate.

Parts of the Ear

A hearing loss can happen when any part of the ear or auditory (hearing) system is not working in the usual way. The following definitions and diagram come from The Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The Outer Ear: The outer ear consists of the part we see on the sides of our head, known as the pinna, the ear canal, and the ear drum. The ear drum is sometimes called the tympanic membrane, which separates the outer and middle ear

The Middle Ear: The middle ear is made up of the ear drum and three small bones called ossicles that send the movement of the eardrum to the inner ear.

The Inner Ear: The inner ear is made up of the snail shaped organ for hearing known as the cochlea, the semicircular canals that help with balance, and the nerves that go to the brain.

Types and Degrees of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has been shown to negatively impact nearly every dimension of the human experience including physical, emotional and mental health. According to the CDC, there are four basic types of hearing loss along with four degrees to which they can be described.

Conductive Hearing Loss: Hearing loss caused by something that stops sounds from getting through the outer or middle ear. This type of hearing loss can often be treated with medicine or surgery.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Hearing loss that occurs when there is a problem in the way the inner ear or hearing nerve works.

Mixed Hearing Loss: Hearing loss that includes both a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss.

Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: Hearing loss that occurs when sound enters the ear normally, but because of damage to the inner ear or the hearing nerve, sound isn’t organized in a way that the brain can understand.

The degrees of hearing loss range from mild to profound.

Mild Hearing Loss: A person with a mild hearing loss may hear some speech sounds but soft sounds are hard to hear.

Moderate Hearing Loss: A person with a moderate hearing loss may hear almost no speech when another person is talking at a normal level.

Severe Hearing Loss: A person with severe hearing loss will hear no speech when a person is talking at a normal level and only some loud sounds.

Profound Hearing Loss: A person with a profound hearing loss will not hear any speech and only very loud sounds.

Ways to Help Compensate for Hearing Loss

There are many ways to help accommodate varying levels of hearing loss. These ways can be as simple as looking directly at the person speaking to you, turning on closed captioning, or as advance as getting a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Another option is procuring assistive listening devices or Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP). ILA sells many hearing related products to assist in being able to hear better. A few hearing related items currently on sale include:

Naphon A-580U Mini Voice Amplifier: The NAPHON Mini wired voice amplifier offers superior consistent performance due to an integrated sound box within the amplifier mechanism. Featuring excellent frequency response and audio effects, the NAPHON will easily help to project one’s voice in any situation. The Naphon A580U includes a headset microphone, is small, sleek and lightweight, therefore easy to carry and operate.

Dry & Store System: This extremely efficient dryer conveniently stores and rejuvenates hearing aids during the night. It combines heat, circulating dry air, and a specially designed desiccant to absorb moisture from your hearing aids and cochlear implants.

The Ha Ha Communicator (Personal Amplification): The Communicator is a subtle hearing assistive device that can help you hear friends, your doctor, the bank teller or anyone with whom you want to communicate. It looks like a phone handset, but this inconspicuous little gadget increases the volume of the person talking to you to the level that you can hear the instructions or information. Obviously, this cuts down on your frustration and improves your ability to understand the transaction or conversation.

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Reading Aids: Devices, Tricks, and Accessories to Make Reading More Enjoyable

Reading can be an enjoyable pastime transporting you from the possible mundane to a world full of excitement and intrigue. For some, what was once an enjoyable hobby has become difficult with age and vision loss. This blog will look at just a few of the options currently available to help bring the adventure of reading back to your life.

Low Vision Reading Aids

Many low vision devices can make reading easier and more rewarding for people with macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, tunnel vision and other low vision conditions. All About Vision provides the following snippets for some of these type aids.

Magnifiers: Hand-held magnifiers are among the most affordable low vision devices for reading, and some are illuminated to make print even more visible. Other magnifiers that are mounted on height-adjustable stands or supported by a band that hangs from your neck also are available. (To see what products ILA carries in this category please see magnifiers)

Reading Glasses: Special high-power reading glasses can help a person with low vision read small print. These are available in single vision designs or as bifocals. Though these stronger-than-normal reading glasses take some getting used to. A low vision specialist can demonstrate the best way to use them. (To see what products ILA carries in this category please see reading glasses)

Reading Telescopes: These low vision devices often are mounted on the lenses of eyeglasses and provide high magnification while allowing the wearer to view reading material from a normal distance. Again, some training is needed to use these devices properly, but reading telescopes often are very helpful. Hand-held versions also are available. This clip-on monocular is an example of this type product.

Video Magnifiers: These desktop devices include a camera lens that displays highly magnified images on a video monitor or computer screen. You can sit as close to the screen as necessary and adjust the magnification, brightness, contrast and color of the display to your liking. (To see what products ILA carries in this category please see video magnifiers)

Portable Electronic Magnifiers: Also available are portable electronic devices that resemble an iPad or other lightweight tablet computer. You can hold this device in front of reading material and a magnified view appears on the LED screen. (To see what products ILA carries in this category please see electronic magnification)

Tips and Tricks for Computer Screens

Most computer operating systems and Internet browsers allow you to increase the size of web pages and text on your computer screen to make them more visible to partially sighted users. All About Vision provides an in-depth article on some of these options. Here are a few highlights from the article.

Enlarging What is on the Screen: In most browsers on a PC you can enlarge a web page on your screen by holding down the Control (“Ctrl”) key on your keyboard and tapping the “+” key. (If you use a Mac, hold down the “Command” key while tapping the “+” key.)

Decreasing What is on the Screen: To zoom out, tap the “-” key while holding down the Control key (or Command key).

Returning to the Actual Screen Size: To return the view to actual size, tap the “0” (zero) key while holding down the Control or Command key.

Zoom Command: Some devices, browsers and applications also offer the ability to enlarge text and images with a “Zoom” command in the View menu at the top of the browser window.

Screen Reader Programs: Some screen reader options include: MAGic LVS; Serotek System Access To Go; SuperNova Screen Reader; and ZoomText Magnifier/Reader. These are stand alone software program that are available for purchase.  They are not incorporated into a computer’s operating system.  The only screen reader/magnifier that ILA carries is iZoom.

Built-in Screen Readers: Another option is a simple built-in screen reader called Narrator that is included with Microsoft applications. If you use Google’s operating system, it includes a screen reader called ChromeVox. If you are a Mac user, Apple includes a screen reader called VoiceOver.

Reading Accessories

Reading accessories can include anything from eyeglasses holders, neck pillows, book holders, clip-on lights, and so much more. For a complete listing of everything reading related that ILA carries please see reading or reading accessories. A few of these accessories currently on sale include the following:

Book Stand with 2X Magnifier: This combination bookstand with a 2X magnifier is composed of durable lightweight plastic. The 2X magnifier enlarges the text, while that text is supported at an angle that is best for your viewing position. The magnifier rests on a flexible arm that stays exactly where you place it. Good ergonomics make your reading more comfortable

Easy Reader Stand: Lightweight, folding reading stand has 10 adjustable reading positions. When closed and flat, use the clip to use like a clip board. When open and upright, it can support tablets, e-readers, heavy books, or single sheets of paper. Helps reduce neck tension and eye strain. Platform measures 14″ x 9″. Available in gray or white.

Tapestry Eyeglass Holder: Great for keeping your glasses from being misplaced, this eyeglass holder stands firmly on any table. The soft, plush lining holds your eyeglasses securely and protects them from getting scratched. Dimensions inside: 2.2 inches across, 0.8 inches deep.

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