Why Using an OCR Machine Helps Reduce Eye Strain

In the past, we’ve talked about how screens can contribute to eye strain. So it may seem counter-intuitive to use a screen to reduce eye strain. But that’s just what an optical character recognition machine (OCR) is used for.

What is an OCR Machine?

An OCR machine is a machine that has software that can read printed text and turn it into something that can be processed on a computer. A simplified explanation is that an OCR machine can take a picture of a page of written or printed words and “read them.” That allows it to input the words into the computer and turn it into a text or document file. That file can then be used in other ways by the computer.

When using an OCR machine, it is helpful to get the best, clearest copy of your materials for the machine to scan. That will make it easier for the machine to read, giving you a more complete, accurate document. OCR machines read printed text character by character, word by word, and line by line. So while the speed has improved over the years, it’s still not an instantaneous read.

The basic OCR machine was invented in the 1920s. But it wasn’t until almost 1950 that the machine became fast enough to be practical. Still, it only read at a rate of about 60 words per minute. Not exactly the best listening experience. The technology continued to improve slowly, until 2000. That’s when advances in OCR technology sped up due to Carnegie Mellon University developing an OCR system that combined the reading with Artificial Intelligence that helped weed out errors and recognize more difficult text.

How Can an OCR Machine Help with Eye Strain?

People with low vision can experience eye strain when they are reading text that is too small, or that is not lit well enough. An OCR machine can take a page from a book and enlarge it on your computer screen. This allows you to have control over the text size. (Every book can be large print edition!)

The screen of the machine can also be adjusted for brightness and contrast. If you need more light, brightness can be turned up. If you need less light and less glare, you can turn it down. Depending on what type of software you are using, the text and background can be manipulated in a way that creates an optimal viewing situation for you.

Also, if you are blind, or if you have a day where reading is just too tedious, you can use an OCR machine to read the text aloud. While there are many books on tape already, you can’t find recordings of your personal documents, such as a letter from your friend or a bill from the doctor. With an OCR machine, anything that is good enough quality to scan can be read aloud.

Where Can You Find an OCR Machine?

OCR machines can be purchased online. ILA has several OCR machines, like the Patriot Voice Plus Scanner and Reader, the Issist ReadDesk-Lite, and the Mercury 12” Windows Magnifier.  Each of these products varies in size and function. Whatever your needs are, you should be able to find a machine that fits the bill. Because of the technology involved, OCR machines are more expensive than magnifiers or audio book readers. But they remove so many barriers that it’s worth the investment.

 

To see all of our readers and scanners, check out the Readers and Scanners product page.

 

How to Manage Your Personal Eye Care

Have you ever thought about eye health as something you can personally manage? While we often take ownership of things like weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure by changing our diet and activity level, eye health often gets left to chance. Going to your annual eye exam once a year is a step in the right direction, but there are things you can do at home to help manage your personal eye care and prevent problems.

Protect Your Eyes

Environmental contaminants can damage your eyesight. When working on projects or in the yard, sometimes you may need to wear protective glasses. If you are woodworking, doing projects with strong chemicals, or even mowing the yard, you are at risk for particles or chemicals getting your eye. It may be inconvenient and slightly uncomfortable to wear safety glasses, but it’s worth preventing damage that is possibly irreversible.

Smoking can also damage your eyesight. According to All About Vision, people who smoke are at greater risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, uveitis, and other eye problems.

Block Blue Light

Though the studies on blue light are still in their infancy, there is evidence to suggest that this particular type of light can be damaging to eyes. The University of Toledo did a preliminary study which seemed to indicate that blue light is a problem. Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, “Blue light appears to damage retinal cells. It is still unclear how much blue light and for how long it’s necessary to damage these sight-seeing cells. We do know the damage is irreversible.”

Some of the ways you can block blue light are by wearing special sunglasses and by using blue light filters on your phones and computers. The Reticare Eye Protector for iPhone is a product that both protects the screen of your phone as well as filters out the potentially toxic light that emanates from your screen. Blue-blocking sunglasses, such as the NoIR line, filter out harmful light while keeping visual contrast crisp and clear.

Improve Your Lighting

Good lighting can prevent eye strain and improve your ability to read and differentiate between small details and colors when doing project work. Whether you are inside your home or at the office, improving your lighting is a way of managing your eye care.

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve lighting is to make use of natural light. Open blinds, and position desks and chairs in a way that casts outside light on your work space. Brighten up your surrounding area by choosing a lighter paint color that will help reflect natural light. The only thing to guard against is glare. Surfaces that are too bright or too white can also hurt your vision.

When natural light isn’t easy to access, you can add lamps to your space. But not all lamps are created equal. Task lamps like the 24 Watt Better Vision Floor Lamp emit light that is more natural. They reduce glare and increase contrast. You also want to consider how adjustable your lamp it. Can it be positioned over projects and work areas, or are you limited by a rigid frame?

Protecting your eyes, blocking blue light, and improving your lighting are all ways to manage your eye care and preserve your vision between visits to your eye doctor. Don’t feel that you have to leave your visual health up to chance!

 

To explore different options for lighting, check out ILA’s Lamps and Lighting page here!

Top 3 At-Home Health Monitoring Systems to Have on Hand

One of the best ways to avoid serious health problems is to be proactive by using at-home monitoring systems. Monitoring systems can help you catch a trend in your numbers before something becomes dramatically out of balance.

Just like keeping certain tools in your toolbox can help you keep your house in good repair, keeping certain health “tools” on hand will allow you to keep your body in tip-top shape.

But how do you know which ones are the most useful? With all of the options out there, you’d hate to spend your money on something unnecessary. The best place to start is with the basics: scales, blood pressure monitor, and glucose meters.

Bathroom Scales

Let’s start with the tool that most people already have in their bathroom. The bathroom scale. Of course, you can keep your scale wherever you want. Some people choose to put it near their exercise equipment. The important thing is that you own one.

According to the National Institute of Health, more than 2 in 3 adults were considered to be overweight or have obesity. Being overweight can put you at risk for many other health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Having a scale in your home helps you keep an eye on your weight so you can catch any sudden trends upward.

If you start to become overweight, or you gain or lose a significant amount of weight suddenly, you should talk to your doctor. Other health conditions or medications could be causing your weight to shift. Or you may need to consider a new exercise and diet routine.

Scales can be as simple or high tech as you want them to be. Sometimes lower tech scales are less accurate, but they may still serve their purpose. One of our favorite scales is the Talking Personal Weight Scale. It has a sleek, modern look, but is rugged enough to hold up to 440 pounds. And if you are visually impaired, it helps to have the audible announcements.

Blood Pressure Meters

Monitoring your blood pressure is important to do whether you think you have problems or not. Sometimes your body can feel “normal” because it has become used to abnormal numbers. High blood pressure can stress your arteries and contribute to heart attack and stroke. Low blood pressure can cause dizziness and fainting.

Checking your blood pressure should be a scheduled activity, so you can make sure reading don’t vary more because of time of day. The first measurement should be taken in the morning. This lets you see your reading before it’s affected by any foods or medications. The second measurement should be taken in the evening.

And every time you measure, take several readings to make sure your results are accurate and that they all generally agree with each other. Each time you measure, take two or three readings to make sure your results are accurate.

Our Bilingual Talking Blood Pressure Meter is not only good for measuring blood pressure and heart rate, but it also will display a heart icon if an irregular heartbeat is detected.

Glucose Meters

Some people believe you should only use a glucose meter if you have been diagnosed as having diabetes. However, keep an eye on your sugar levels can help you catch diabetes or prediabetes before you feel any physical symptoms. So if you are at risk for developing the condition, it might be a good idea to ask your doctor if you should start monitoring now.

Before eating a meal, your ideal blood sugar levels should be between 70-130 mg/dL. One to two hours after beginning a meal they should be less than 180 mg/dL. If you have diabetes, you will likely need to check your blood sugar several times a day.

Today’s monitoring systems are faster and more accurate than they’ve ever been. Our Prodigy Voice Talking Glucose Meter has totally audible step-by-step instructions, accurate blood glucose test results and a memory that stores 450 test results and gives averages of 7, 14, 21, 28, 60 and 90 days. No coding is required. Simply insert the test strip into the easy to locate port, and the voice automatically turns on.

ILA has a variety of meters and devices to help you stay independent and healthy with at-home monitoring. Check out our Healthcare section for even more options!

 

School Tools: Low-tech Aids to Help You in the Classroom

Sometimes when we imagine aids for the classroom, we only think of high-tech solutions like special computer programs, high-definition magnifiers, or anything that requires electricity, batteries, or the internet. But there are many low-tech products that can make your life easier, too.  

Paper Products

Making some simple adjustments to the standard pencil and paper setup can go a long way. One of the easiest changes to make is to buy bold line writing paper. Typically the lines on this type of paper are thicker and darker than your standard paper.  They are also usually spaced farther apart. This notepad is an example of bold line paper that has lines spaced more than half an inch apart.

Another modification that can be made is to add color to your sheet. Yellow is one of the most common colors used, because it provides a lot of contrast.  Notepads like the Yellow Bold Line Writing Paper print their lines on yellow paper.

For tactile assistance, you can buy paper with raised lines. Raised line paper is similar to bold lined paper in that the lines are spaced far apart, and they are thicker and easier to see.  But the big difference is that the lines are also thick enough to feel. This helps you find your place with your fingers and can also keep your writing instrument from slipping above or below the lines.

Reading Options

Books on tape and e-readers are really handy, but sometimes it’s nice to just carry a physical copy of a text with you. Your level of visual impairment will determine what works best, but options range from large print books to braille.

The National Library Service makes large print books and magazines available through their loan program. Many local library branches also have large print texts on hand, or they can get them quickly through their local interlibrary loan.

The same goes for braille editions of books and magazines. The National Library Service will also deliver these books to your door, once you’ve registered for their service.

Sometimes reading difficulties can be addressed by changing the contrast on the page or reducing the glare from white paper. An easy way to fix this issue is to slip acetate transparent sheets over the page you are reading.  Yellow is the most preferred color, but our kit includes a variety of colors so you can try them out and see what works best for you.

Writing Utensils

Some of the same concepts that apply to your paper products also apply to your writing utensils. Pens that increase contrast or make thicker lines will be easier to see.  If you’re not quite sure which type of pen will work best for you, you can try our Low Vision Pens sampler pack. It comes with four different pens to try.

A bold line pencil is also an option. Pencils are economical and won’t smudge ink on your clothes or fingers. The Faber Castell #8B pencil is what we carry and recommend.

As always, you can see our full range of products on our website. If you are looking for something specific for the classroom, type your keywords in the search bar, and it will check our site for suggestions.

Fall Prevention Tips and Products From ILA

Falls happen for all kinds of reasons. Some people have balance or strength issues. For others, low vision may play a part. Or the environment may be more perilous than necessary. Because falls can cause complications beyond just a little bruising, it’s important to put policies and practices in place to prevent them.

Fall Prevention

Let’s start with some personal tips and suggestions.  Sometimes your health makes you a more of a fall risk than your environment.  Evaluate the medicines you are taking and notice if any of them make you at risk for dizziness, blurred vision, or sleepiness. All of these things can make you more likely to fall.

Being out of shape physically also makes you more likely to fall. Doing activities that promote strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance will make falling less of a risk.  Of course, moving carefully and deliberately is also important. If you are overly active and move quickly and carelessly, you will be more likely to get thrown off balance.

Environmental Changes

Look around your environment. Is it clear from clutter? Is everything easily accessible?  Remove the extra stuff from your floors and walkways. Put away boxes, cords, or rugs that could trip you. Make sure your furniture is stable and won’t tip or fall if you lean against it. Sharp corners should be covered or turned away from areas where you might fall into them.

Put stabilizing equipment in your bathroom. Install grab bars near the toilet and bath or shower.  Use non-slip rugs in areas where you will be standing while wet. Rails in the hallways or along stairs are also good for providing extra support. Making sure that all of these areas are well lit will also help you navigate your environment safely.

Wear clothing that fits well. Clothes that are too loose or too long can get caught on things or stepped on.  You don’t want to trip on a pair of pants just because you haven’t gotten around to having them hemmed. And socks can be slippery on hard floors. Choose to use socks with rubber grips on the bottom, or just get a pair of house slippers.

Equipment and Supports

If you need extra supports for walking or standing. then you can try a piece of equipment like the SafetySure Stand Ease. The Stand Ease’s adjustable arms give you extra stability when standing up or sitting down. It’s also mobile, so that you can use it anywhere in your home, or even at a friend’s house.

When the weather cold and your sidewalks get slick, add some extra tread to your shoes with something like our stainless steel Ice Treads.  Ice treads stretch to fit around almost any shoe, and they provide traction in the snow and ice.

And for more constant assistance, you may want to consider using a cane or walker. Our Easy Twin Grip Support Cane pulls double duty. It has two handles. One for when you have it folded out as a cane and another below that for you to use to push yourself up from a seated position.

 

ILA carries a variety of walkers and canes. Check out our selection here and take action to prevent falls.

 

Microwave Ovens: A Low Vision Cooking Aid

There are lots of ways to stay independent in the kitchen when you have low vision.  Using safe cooking techniques and no mess, uncomplicated ways to cook, such as the microwave, gives you the freedom to prepare more meals than you might think possible.

Safe Cooking Techniques

Avoiding burns is a primary concern when working in a kitchen. If you have low vision, it’s important to reduce the chance accidentally of touching or coming in contact with hot surfaces by adjusting your environment. Roll up your sleeves to keep them from dangling over hot burners. Put pots and pans on the burner before turning it on and then wait until it is turned off before removing them. Pull oven racks out to help you get to your food. Reaching into the oven can be dangerous.

Cuts are another potential hazard. When possible, use vegetable peelers instead of knives.  If you have to cut or chop, use cutting boards that contrast with your foods. Light foods can go on dark boards and dark foods on light boards. This will help you be able to tell where the item is. Don’t touch your knife to find the cutting edge. Place it on the cutting board surface and try to rock it back and forth. The cutting edge should rock while the blunt edge should feel completely straight.

Using Tactile and Talking Microwaves

Eliminate most of your burn risk and much of your prep mess by using microwaves. There are a couple of different options for adapting this kitchen appliance.

Some microwaves come with tactile buttons already built in. Our stainless steel microwave with tactile buttons has buttons with their own distinct markings. These include Pizza, Potato, Frozen Dinner, and Reheat. Tactile symbols also mark buttons for Power Level, Timer, Cook, and Reset, among others.

If you already have a microwave you love, and you want to save a little money by doing your own modifications, you can buy tactile overlay stickers for just a few dollars. These stickers come in shapes that represent food types as well as common function symbols, such as a sideways triangle for the “start” button.

If you need even more support, a talking microwave might be exactly what you want. Our Magic Chef microwave has been designed to speak the function of each button when you give it a quick push. No more guessing or trying to identify shapes.

Adapting Recipes for The Microwave

If you are afraid that avoiding the stove or oven means you’ll miss out on some of your favorite dishes, you might be surprised to find out what you can make in a microwave.  A quick Google search of “microwave cooking recipes” will return a lot of results for tasty, elegant meals.

If you are looking for a specific adaptation, try searching the name of your favorite dish with “in the microwave” added as a search term.  Some reputable sites that have tried and tested recipes include:

 

ILA has a variety of aids to help you live an active, independent lifestyle. For more low vision cooking aids, check out our Cooking Items here.

Healthy Aging: Stay Strong Through Exercise, Attitude, Nutrition, and Health

Aging is an unstoppable force. No one can turn back time. But what we can do is soften the effects of aging by staying healthy through a combination of things. The collective process of focusing on exercise, attitude, nutrition, and general health should position you to enjoy your senior years through optimal health.

Exercise

The word “exercise” may conjure up images of TV aerobics classes or athletes sweating at the gym. However, exercise comes in many forms. But you don’t have to have a completely structured workout regimen to get your exercise.

For older adults, most exercise comes in the form of just staying active. Walking and stair climbing is a popular form of exercise that can be done with friends on a casual schedule. Gardening and doing yard work can also count as exercise.

According to the surgeon general, exercise helps older adults maintain their ability to live independently. It reduces fracture risk, as well as the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes. Another underappreciated benefit is that exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Attitude

Several psychological studies on aging and attitude have shown a strong correlation between positive attitudes toward aging and better health. Older adults that had positive attitudes were also less frail.

In case you might think that their attitudes were better because they were in better health, one of the studies made sure to follow the participants for a few years to see if there were any changes in health and attitude over time.

Even after medications and life circumstances were controlled for, the adults with negative attitudes had slower walking speed and worse cognitive abilities two years later than their positive-thinking counterparts.

Nutrition

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) agrees that one of the best things you can do to maintain your health as you age is to eat healthily. Eating healthily helps manage your weight and ensures that you get proper nutrition.

There are a number of things that can make it harder to get proper nutrition when you are older. Some people are worried about being on a fixed income and hesitate to spend their money on food. Others may have physical problems that make eating more difficult, such as dentures, acid reflux, or medications that suppress appetite.

Fortunately, the NIA has put together a page of blog posts to address some of the most common questions about eating healthy as a senior adult. Almost any barrier you might face should be addressed there.

General Health

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” There’s a lot of truth to this saying when it comes to preventative health care. Older adults sometimes resist going to the doctor unless they are sick or in crises. (Some younger adults do this, too.)

Their concerns may be financial, or maybe they have a lack of transportation. Others just grew up in a culture where you didn’t see a doctor for well checks.

No matter what the reason, this is not the best approach to aging well. Being proactive about going to the doctor to get regular tests and monitorings can prevent you from developing a serious health condition. Whether it’s something like diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, many conditions can be managed better if they are caught early. Waiting until you are symptomatic can make your overall health or recovery process a lot worse.

ILA brings you products to help you maintain an active, independent, life. Check out our full selection here.

How to Walk with Someone Who is Blind: Helpful Tips

If you are blind, you are used to getting around on your own. You have your preferences and your strategies. You may have a service animal, cane, or other mobility devices that help you detect obstacles. Chances are, you’ve got the situation down pat.

But sometimes when you offer to take a walk with your friends or family, they may seem unsure of how to behave. Do they offer support? Do they not offer support? Are they supposed to walk behind or in front? This article will help you share some of the best things to do when walking with someone who is blind. You can tell them which of these tips work best for you.

Ok, friends and family. The rest of this article is for you.

Communication Tips

Ask before you assist. Not everyone who is blind needs help navigating their environment. That said, it’s possible that anyone could need help from time to time. If it appears someone who is blind is facing a bit of an obstacle, offering to help (in a respectful way) is fine. If the person declines your assistance, then just accept that with a pleasant “ok.”

If you think your walking companion might appreciate you describing the scenery, once again, ask before you jump right into a full narrative account. Some people find it interesting while others find it annoying. Just like some people prefer small talk while others don’t mind sitting in silence, people who are blind may find the extra conversation either enriching or distracting.

If you need to give verbal directions, keep in mind that the person you are speaking to is blind. Don’t say, “You’ll need to stop in just a little bit.” Or, “Our restaurant is over there.” Be specific and use exact descriptions. “The museum is three blocks up and on the left.”

Basic Guiding

Assuming your friend has indicated they need some help, what is the best way to guide them? Being overprotective and overly hands-on is annoying. Don’t grab a blind person’s arm. They will most likely want to be the one holding your arm, just above the elbow. Help them find you by touching their arm or hand and then allowing them to reach out to you.

Remember, you’re going to lead, but not by much. You should start the walk forward, but not too quickly. Your friend will want to stay about a half a step behind you and slightly to the right or left. Occasionally check to make sure you’re not walking to fast. And be aware of obstacles on the side that your friend is on.

If you need to switch sides or walk single file through a narrow space, first verbally alert the person who is blind, then stop walking. Take a moment to adjust your positioning. If you need to go through a narrow space, you can put your guiding elbow farther behind your back and walk directly in front of your friend. If you need to switch sides, first cross in front of your companion. Then assist them in finding your opposite elbow before beginning to walk again.

Obstacle Navigation

When navigating obstacles, use your words. Don’t snatch your friend out of harm’s way like you’re in a dramatic movie scene. Be alert enough to notice obstacles in advance and verbally warn them about what’s coming up. If there’s an emergency, like a speeding car, shouting “Stop!” should be sufficient for getting their attention.

Take extra precautions when going through doors, up and down curbs or stairs, or around rough terrain. A verbal description of the area is usually sufficient, but sometimes you may have to stop and allow them to reorient to the environment before moving forward again.

When helping a blind person get into an unfamiliar car, it can help to reach inside and put your arm on the roof. This gives them something to hold onto and feel so they can judge the size and avoid hitting their head. But you should let them close their own door.

These are just a few tips on how to walk with someone who is blind. Every person is going to have their personal preferences. What’s most important is that you communicate well and let your friend decide what kind of help is best for them.

If you use a cane or a guide dog and want a little more help with detecting obstacles, ILA has a variety of products, like the BuzzClip Mobility Guide, that can give you a better sense of the space you’re in.

Our Favorite School Supplies for the Visually Impaired

It’s back-to-school time! Whether you’re excited about a new year in the classroom, or a little nervous, either way, the start of school marks a significant transition time. Having the right school supplies can make that transition go more smoothly by giving you a feeling of preparedness and making the completion of your assignments faster and easier.

ILA has a variety of supplies that can be used in the classroom and at home, as you work towards accomplishing your next learning milestone.

Calculators

Calculators come in all kinds of models, from desktop to pocket sized. Math functions can vary from standard to scientific, and features range from high contrast, large buttons to the ability to talk and read aloud.

For someone who needs a basic, inexpensive calculator, the Desk Model Large Display is your best choice. This large calculator is 6×8 inches. The module that holds the numbers can fold up and down to position the .62 inch-high buttons at an angle that is optimal for visibility and use.

The best of both worlds is found in the SciPlus 2300. It’s the only large display, talking, scientific calculator that is designed specifically with low vision, visually impaired, and Blind users in mind. For privacy, both entries and results are spoken through earbuds, which are included. And despite being packed with so many features, the entire unit only weighs 20 ounces.

Scanning Pens, Magnifiers, and Readers

Text scanning pens, magnifiers, and screen readers help you read your assignments whether they are in print or on the computers.

The C-Pen scanning pen is designed to speak back any printed text that you trace. You just roll over a line of printed material and the pen will read it. Captured lines of text can be uploaded to your computer. And the pen works for both right and left-handed people.

As an inexpensive option, if you have low vision, you can use a simple page magnifier. The 2x Full Page Unframed Magnifier is a great low-cost choice. It’s 7”x10” and is best for viewing small print in books or on maps.

For work at the computer, an optical character recognition magnifier gives you the best results. The Mercury 12” Windows Magnifier with OCR is extensively enhanced with digital magnification and uses text-to-speech to convert printed documents to spoken documents. The magnifier is big enough to scan an entire page at a time, yet folds down flat for ease of portability.

Keyboards and Labels

High-contrast, large print keyboards like the VisionBoard is helpful for anyone with low vision or who is unfamiliar with the keyboard. The keys are also oversized, making them easier to see and giving ample spacing to minimize mistakes from missed keystrokes.

Braille Keytop Stick-Ons are an affordable way to adapt the keyboard you already have. The braille stickers fit on IBM-style keyboards and also display high-contrast numbers and letters that are double the size of the standard keytop display.

No matter what you need to adapt or improve to get your schoolwork done, ILA has products that keep you active and independent.

Top 3 Ways To Stay in Touch Using Assistive Devices

If you have developed a visual impairment or had hearing loss, the way you socialize and relate to your friends and family may have changed. You may find it harder to stay in touch as your ability to hear a conversation, see body language, or do things independently changes.

However, continuing to maintain and develop friendships isn’t just important socially, it’s good for your health. And there is plenty of adaptive technology that can help you do it.

Adaptive Phones

If you have hearing loss, an amplified phone is the perfect solution. Devices like our Amplified Phone with Answering Machine give you lots of options. Not only can you adjust and equalize the volume and tone, but it also comes with the ability to set three different user profiles so that it works for everyone in the household. The keypad and caller ID talk, and the answering machine holds up to 11 minutes of messages.

For the visually impaired, brailled phones with large, contrasting buttons give both a tactile and visual assist. And voice-activated phones eliminate the need to see the keypad or read phone numbers.

Voice Technology

Keeping up with your friends through email can be a challenge when it’s hard to see the screen. But voice technology is helpful. You can find software and devices that have voice-to-text and text-to-speech capabilities.

Voice-to-text programs will write your message for you. Phones and many computer programs have this as a native feature. They aren’t always 100% perfect in dictating your words, but they usually get the job done.

To read the messages sent to you, you can also use software or a separate device, like the  Mercury Electronic Magnifier and OC Reader. The reader is a 12″ Windows 10 tablet, extensively enhanced with digital magnification and Text-To-Speech capabilities. A lightweight stand holds the tablet and allows it to be comfortably positioned above any reading material.

Video Technology

Another great way to communicate is through video technology. This is convenient for people with driving restrictions, or who live far away from their friends and family. It’s also helpful for people who have hearing loss and need to see lips and hands to understand a conversation better.  

Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, and Zoom are all programs that have video call capabilities. All of them are available for free, and they have different features to suit different situations. For example, many families like to use Skype or FaceTime for calls, while Zoom is a great tool for scheduling business meetings.

Using Social Media to Be Social

While social media, adaptive devices, and digital technology shouldn’t completely replace your real-life interactions, it can certainly help you feel less alone and isolated. Technology is sometimes criticized for creating a barrier between people. However, when used in the right way, it can be a lifesaver instead.

No matter your disability, it’s likely there is a social media platform or piece of adaptive technology that works well for you. Examine your options and find the technologies you are most comfortable using. When checking out social media options, find out what platforms most of your contacts are on.

If everything feels too challenging, ask a friend or relative for help in getting you set up with your new equipment or registered with your new program. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll be glad you took the time to put down the foundations to better communication.

 

ILA has a variety of assistive devices that can help you read and communicate. Check out our selection of scanners, readers, and screen magnifiers here.