Organizational Strategies for 2021

“New year, new you” is a slogan often touted this time of year. While change can be both scary and invigorating it does not necessarily have to be anything huge and totally life changing. A few simple strategies can keep you both on track and give you that needed something to help ensure this year is better than the last. Information in this blog came from How to Organize Your Life, Guide to Keeping Organized, 10 Things To Do on a Daily Basis To Be More Organized, 20 Ways To Organize Your Life Now, as well as, product suggestions from the ILA website.

Plan with Calendars and To Do Lists

Life has unpredictable twists and turns. That does not mean a little planning does not go a long way. A task manager, like Todoist, and a calendar are the tools you need to think and plan in advance and organize your life.

If you want to remember things outside of just what is in your calendar or a relevant to do list, put it in writing, or in a digital notebook like Evernote. Keeping your to-do lists and other information written somewhere allows you to look back at it anytime.

Make a new to-do list every day based on the previous day’s list and anything that came up since the last list was created. Even if you are not a big list maker and only jot down the big projects, look at it every day and cross off what you have completed (or what you have deemed no longer relevant). Not only will this help keep you on top of your tasks, but it will also make you feel productive when you cross off that item after it has been completed.

Suggested physical items to help you stay on track and on time include the Large Print Wall Calendar, Appointment & Reminder Book Bold Lines, and the Personal Life Organizer In Large Print.

Keep Things Where You Use Them

It is much easier to find things when you store them at their point of use, says Ann Bingley Gallops, president of the New York chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).

Leave your keys, wallet, cell phone, headphones, and other such accessories you carry day in and day out, in the same place every single time you walk through the door. Have a spot in your entryway (or entrance) for these items so you are never running around, late for work, wondering where your keys and phone are hiding.

This item is especially true for anyone who has a visual impairment. If things are kept where they are always used and in the same place, then it makes it that much easier for persons with visual impairments to be able to move around unencumbered.  Ideas to help keep and remember where things are stored can include raised bump dots, braille labels, or using the wayaround series.  

Here are a few other tips on how to keep things where you use them:

•             Go scissor happy. Keep a pair of scissors in every room to cut off tags, articles out of newspapers, etc. Other useful items to have multiples around the house are rulers, paper, tape, and tissues.

•             Every phone deserves its own notebook and pen. The notebook can stay open or closed but always at the ready to jot down anything that may need jotting down for later. It is also a good idea to include the date things were written down for future reference.

•             When a friend e-mails you directions to his or her house, print them out and keep them with your maps. Conversely you can save the directions in a file on your computer, email, or cloud. If using mobile devices for GPS you can also just ensure the address is included with that particular contact and if any added information, not provided by GPS, is needed make a special note with that entry. Be sure to back up your data occasionally as well.

Practice 5-Minute Organizing

Not everything needs tons of time for planning and executing. If you have a really long to do list but no set time to finish, then use this 5-minute organizing rule to help you chip away at them bit by bit. Other things just need to be glanced at from time to time but can also be incorporated into this strategy. Here are a few examples of things that can be gradually accomplished with just 5-minute bites of time.

Unsubscribe from unread email newsletters, magazines, and other subscriptions. If you subscribe to a number of newsletters, blogs and other online publications, but haven’t read a single email from them in 3 months, just unsubscribe. You probably will not read any of their content, anyway. While you are at it, unsubscribe from unread magazines, catalogues, and junk mail. It is just a waste of money and space, especially if you do not read them.

Spend 3 to 5 minutes on your meal plan. Daily meal planning to-dos include checking out any meals you know you will need to make and adding the items to your shopping list, then crossing items off your list you have already purchased. Finally, schedule time to grocery shop and cook.

Lay your clothes out for the next day. Laying things out beforehand makes you feel more orderly and efficient. There is no time that is more critical than in the morning when you are rushing to get yourself (and possibly others) ready for school or work. That is why we recommend laying your clothing out the night before. It saves you time in the morning from staring into your closet wondering what you should wear.

Check your bank balance online. Do a quick scan of your checking and savings accounts. Keeping an eye on your financial accounts allows you to see what you spent the previous day, so spending does not get out of control. It also allows you to notice fraudulent charges as soon as they happen.

A few other suggestions that can be tackled under this category are making your bed, sorting through your mail, straightening the entryway to your home, deleting 10 emails from your inbox, cleanout out your purse (or wallet), and filing 10 papers.

To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.

Welcome to 2021: Traditions from around the world, realistic resolutions, and strategies to stay on track

Another new year has started, and everyone is hoping it is much different, for the better, than the last. As we beacon in another trip around the sun, I thought it would be fun to look at traditions in other countries, realistic resolutions, and strategies to help make this year the best yet. Information in this blog came from 9 New Year’s Traditions From Cultures Around The World, 18 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep, and Top 10 Most Common New Year’s Resolutions (and How to Follow Through on Them).

New Year Traditions in Other Countries

Common traditions throughout the United States include singing “Auld Lang Syne” to greet the New Year and eating black-eyed peas for good luck. Around the world, cultures welcome the change of the calendar with unique New Year’s traditions of their own. Here are some of our favorite New Year’s traditions around the world.

Brazil: In Brazil, as well as other Central and South America countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, it is thought to be lucky to wear special underwear on New Year’s Eve. The most popular colors are red, thought to bring love in the New Year, and yellow, thought to bring money.

Colombia: In hopes of a travel-filled new year, residents of Colombia carry empty suitcases around the block.

Denmark: Residents of Denmark greet the New Year by throwing old plates and glasses against the doors of family and friends to banish bad spirits. They also stand on chairs and jump off them together at midnight to “leap” into January in hopes of good luck.

Finland: In Finland, people predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, then interpreting the shape the metal takes after hardening. A heart or ring means a wedding, while a ship predicts travel, and a pig declares there will be plenty of food.

Greece: An onion is traditionally hung on the front door of homes on New Year’s Even in Greece as a symbol of rebirth in the New Year. On New Year’s Day, parents wake their children by tapping them on the head with the onion.

Realistic Resolutions

It has been a hard year for all of us, so we get that you might be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions this year. We know you have seen all those resolution lists before, losing weight, working out every day, and other sincere intentions to do your best to make new healthy habits. Those tend to make you feel overwhelmed, and by January 20th, you are ready to get back to the same old, same old. But change does not have to come all at once. Why not subscribe to the motto, “Progress, not perfection” this year and pursue a few goals in small steps. What follows is a list of resolutions that are not rocket science, but can work within your busy lifestyle, create more freedom, stimulate creativity, and ultimately cultivate connection with those you love and the community around you.

Write snail mail. Start this goal simply by sending a few letters over a couple of months.  If you are enjoying sending letters and postcards to people, think beyond family and friends, and rather than compliment your favorite company, author, magazine, actor, or local hero for the work they are doing, write a quick note to share your appreciation.

Try something new each month. Spice up your new year by setting a goal to try something new each month. If you are a foodie, it could be a new restaurant, recipe, or ingredient. If you tend to get stuck in a rut, maybe changing up your route to work or changing up your hairstyle could be one of the new things you try.

Support local restaurants. After an especially tough year for the restaurant industry, it is now more important than ever to support your favorite local spots. Try to purchase directly from the restaurant as much as possible, because a lot of second- and third-party delivery apps take a large cut of the profits that make a big dent for smaller family-owned restaurants.

Start meal planning with just one meal a week. It takes a while to get the hang of meal planning and find the right rhythm for you and your lifestyle. So, this year, rather than try to overhaul every meal, try to meal plan just one.

Stay in touch. If there is one thing 2020 has shown us, it is that there is no excuse not to stay in touch with those we love. With so many ways to connect, from text, to email, to Zoom and MarcoPolo, to a good old-fashioned phone call, there are so many ways to get in touch. Go into this with a goal of connecting with 1-3 people per week. Start small and be consistent. Try zeroing in on a different family member and friend each week and get creative with how you connect.

Strategies to Stay on Track

Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, hoping to spark positive change. The recurring themes each year include a more active approach to health and fitness, improved finances, and learning new things for personal and professional development. Despite the best of intentions, once the glow of a fresh new year wears off, many people struggle to make good on their plans. If you want to realize your New Year’s resolution this year, follow these 10 steps (briefly overviewed here but more in depth in the source article):

  1. Mentally prepare for change. Changing ingrained habits is no easy task, so before diving head-first into your New Year goals, it is important to take a step back and get ready for that impending change.
  2. Set a goal that motivates you. You would be surprised how often people set goals that are not for themselves. These goals could be dictated or coerced by a manager, spouse, or parental / peer pressure.
  3. Limit resolutions to a manageable amount. A common mistake in resolution setting is having too many and spreading yourself too thin. We all want to learn 25 different languages, 15 new job skills, and eliminate 5 bad habits, but we are not superheroes. We only have so much attention span we can dedicate to self-improvement, so having too many resolutions is a great way not to achieve the many goals you have set out for yourself.
  4. Be specific. When it comes to setting resolutions, it is easy to set bad goals that could lead to poor follow through. Fortunately, SMART goal setting framework can help you craft better goals. (SMART= Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.)
  5. Break up big goals into smaller goals. A lot of us tend to be over eager and grandiose when it comes to resolutions. We have the best of intentions and may accidentally take on a goal that is too big to achieve. Thus, it is helpful to divide a big goal into smaller goals that are more achievable.
  6. Write down your goals. While it is great to have goals, it is critical to document them in some way. The source article provides six reasons to write down your goals.
  7. Share your resolutions with others. It is great to make a resolution for yourself and maybe even write it down, but if no one else knows about it, it is easy to forget about or even ignore. And when you do not achieve it, no one will notice or care.
  8. Automate where possible. Nowadays there are a million different apps and services to help you follow through on your resolutions. Some of the free options include Google Calendar, Google Now, Reminders (on IOS), and Boomerang for Gmail.
  9. Review your resolutions regularly. Let us face it, if you are not thinking about your resolution regularly, you are not going to follow through. Thus, a crucial part of realizing your goal is a regular review.
  10. If you fall off track, get back on quick. Setbacks can happen, but so long as they are handled correctly, they will not impact the big goal. The key is to avoid a defeatist attitude at all costs, i.e. “Well, I screwed up once, why should I even try to do this anymore.”

To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.

History of the Christmas Stocking

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” This famous line from the 1823 poem. written by Clement Clarke Moore, entitled “A Visit from St. Nicholas” is widely known around the world. Therefore, we know that Christmas stockings were around since at least 1823 but when and where did they originate? This blog will look at Christmas stockings, possible origins, and modern-day usage.  Information in this blog comes from Christmas stocking, Then and Now: The Evolution of the Christmas Stocking, The tradition of hanging Christmas stockings was introduced by St. Nicholas, the patron of children, and Socks or Shoes? Why We Hang Christmas Stockings.

What is a Christmas Stocking?

A Christmas stocking is an empty sock or sock-shaped bag that is hung on Saint Nicholas Day or Christmas Eve so that Saint Nicholas (or the related figures of Santa Claus and Father Christmas) can fill it with small toys, candy, fruit, coins, or other small gifts when he arrives. These small items are often referred to as stocking stuffers or stocking fillers. In some Christmas stories, the contents of the Christmas stocking are the only toys the child receives at Christmas from Santa Claus; in other stories (and in tradition), some presents are also wrapped up in wrapping paper and placed under the Christmas tree. Tradition in Western culture threatens that a child who behaves badly during the year will receive only a piece or pile of coal. Some people even put their Christmas stocking by their bedposts so Santa Claus can fill it by the bed while they sleep.

Christmas stockings did not used to be fancy. Each year, children would simply hang long socks over the mantel to be filled with nuts, fruits, candies, and small toys.

Eventually, families began knitting their own Christmas stockings and customizing them with names or initials. Once that trend caught on, craft stores started selling materials and patterns for stockings, which gradually gave way to mass-produced stockings. The traditional red stocking came into play around 1960.

Today, Christmas stockings vary in style from family to family. Pet stockings are becoming more and more popular as well. Pet-loving families purchase fish-shaped stockings for cats and bone-shaped stockings for dogs and fill them with the animal’s favorite treats and toys!

Possible Origins of the Christmas Stocking

According to legend, the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings comes from the fourth century and involves the man Santa Claus is based off, St. Nicholas. While passing through a town, Nicholas heard of a man who was grieving the loss of his wife, as well as his poor fortune, unable to pay a dowry for his three daughters’ potential suitors. Upon hearing the news, legend states Nicholas sneaked into the man’s home — or climbed down the chimney — and dropped gold coins in the daughters’ stockings, which were hanging by the fireplace to dry. The poor man, too proud to accept donations, could pay dowries for his daughters. As the story spread, families began putting gifts in stockings to mimic receiving good gifts from Santa Claus.

In another version of the story, gold balls were placed in the stockings. This turned into the tradition of putting oranges in stockings, which resemble gold but are much more affordable to the general public.

Another amusing legend that explains the tradition of Christmas stockings derives from the Dutch folklore. In the Netherlands, Santa Claus, called “Sinterklaas” in Dutch, and his fellow assistant Black Pete or “Zwarte Piet” annually dock in the harbor of a different city. When they disembark, Sinterklaas and his pal travel around upon a white steed and a mule. The children impatiently wait for their arrival and prepare special treats of hay and carrots which they place in their wooden clogs.

On the day of the arrival, the horse, the mule, and Sinterklaas would enjoy the children’s treats and then reward their devotion and care with small presents such as candies, ornaments, nuts in shells, miniature toys etc. When the Dutch settlers immigrated to America, they introduced Americans to many of their traditions. After a while, Sinterklaas became known as Santa Claus and, allegedly, the wooden clogs were replaced by stockings.

The tradition of putting coal in stockings comes from Italy, where La Befana, an elderly woman who is said to be searching for the three wise men and baby Jesus, left candy for the nice children and coal or dark candy for the naughty children on her travels.

Modern Day Stocking Traditions from Around the World

France: French children put their shoes by the fireplace with a carrot or treat in it for Père Noël‘s donkey. When they wake up, they find candy, money, or small toys in their place.

The United Kingdom: In the U.K., kids hang stockings from the fireplace mantle to catch the coins that Father Christmas drops down the chimney.

Ecuador: Ecuadorian children put their Christmas lists inside of their shoes. Those lists are replaced by Papa Noel with new shoes and presents.

Iceland: In Iceland, children leave their shoes on the windowsill. 13 mythical elves called Olasveiner visit one at a time over 13 days to leave gifts. Children that were bad over the year are given potatoes.

Hong Kong and China: Though Christmas is not traditionally celebrated in these countries, those that do celebrate hang muslin stockings up and wait for Dun Che Lao Ren (Christmas Old Man) to fill them.

Puerto Rico: In Puerto Rico, children put cut grass in shoeboxes underneath their beds on the night before Three Kings day (January 6th) for the three wise men’s camels. The next day, they find a small toy in the box instead.

To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.

Fun Facts, Statistics, and World Records Based on Gifting and the Holidays

This week’s blog is purely for fun. Hope it brings some smiles, happiness, and new trivia into your lives. Information from this blog was taken from 7 Fun Facts About Holiday Gift-Giving, Nine Gift-Related Facts You Didn’t Know, Holiday Spending Statistics That Paint a Clear Picture of Consumer Habits Holiday Spending Statistics for 2020, and Christmas World Records.

Fun Facts

The following are just a few fun facts when it comes to the holidays and gift giving. Some you may already know but hopefully others will be ones you had not heard of before.

The Midwest is where the most gifts are exchanged. People in the Midwest plan on buying gifts for an average of 9.04 recipients, which is by far the most of any region. Coming in second is the South, they average 8.50 recipients per person.

Baby boomers give gifts to the fewest recipients (of all currently adult generations). The most generous generation was the Silent Generation, which includes those born between 1928 and 1945. They averaged 8.73 recipients. Generation X was right behind them with 8.65 recipients, followed by millennials with 8.31.

Over half of Americans are last-minute shoppers.  Men more than women are likely to wait just before the special occasion to select a gift. It has also been proven that, overall, women are better at picking gifts than men are.

50% of recipients are not thrilled.  About 50% of recipients do not like the gifts they receive. Therefore, giving useful gifts is considered the best way of winning your recipient’s affection. This is especially true for men, who would rather receive a practical gift than something that simply looks nice.

Interesting Statistics

When it comes to shopping and gift giving some of these statistics may be quite eye opening and possibly even amusing.

Average Christmas Spending:

  • The average American planned to spend $942 on holiday gifts in 2019. (Gallup)
  • Last year, Americans spent $227.26 on non-holiday gift purchases such as decorations. (Alliant Credit Union)
  • Americans decide their holiday gift spending based on how close they are to the gift recipient (58 percent) and whether or not they’re family (28 percent). (Mint 2020 Holiday Survey)
  • Over 50 percent of holiday spending goes towards clothing and accessories. (Avant)
  • In 2019, holiday retail sales soared past $700 billion, making it the biggest holiday shopping season. (Statista)

Holiday Spending 2019 vs. 2020

  • Fifty-one percent of Americans plan to spend the same on holiday gifts in 2020 as they did in 2019. (Mint 2020 Holiday Survey)
  • Roughly 40 percent of holiday shoppers plan to spend less this year, and 8 percent plan to spend more. (Mint 2020 Holiday Survey)
  • Over half of consumers are opting out of retail shopping due to health risks. (Accenture)
  • Seventy-four percent of people agree that events will only include a small get-together. (Morning Consult)
  • In addition, 47 percent of adults agree that holiday events will be canceled. (Morning Consult)

Random Statistics:

  • Shopping for Christmas in the US starts on November 1 for 42% of consumers.
  • Consumers who begin their holiday spending before the end of October end up spending $1,761 on average – about 28% more than late shoppers.
  • Christmas is a time of giving to others: 70% of consumers report they will engage in some sort of charitable activity.
  • Holiday shoppers are very receptive to promotional offers – 82% of them are influenced by holiday discounts and other promotions.
  • Pet lovers are also big shoppers. In 2019, 77 percent of pet owners planned for their pets to be part of their holiday festivities. (The Dog People)

World Records

Finally, the last part of this blog will look at some incredibly unique and super specific world records concerning the holidays. These are but a few of the 65 records presented from the Christmas World Records which is part of Record Setters. Each record is complete with a short video depicting the feat at hand.

Most holiday songs sung by a duet in one minute was accomplished in Meso, Arizona on February 27, 2015. Paul Green and Mandy Nelson sang 18 holiday songs in one minute.

Most laps around a Christmas tree in one minute with a child on your shoulders was awarded to Pavol Durdik from Puchov, Slovakia. He circled the tree 23 times on January 02, 2017.

The fastest time to undecorate a tree goes to Chris Forsberg of Rosamond, California. He completed this task in 2.7 seconds using his car.

Longest time balancing a wreath on one thumb while dressed as Santa Claus goes to Mark Evans of Ruabon, Wales. He balanced the wreath for 18 minutes and 28.57 seconds on December 15, 2015.

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon takes the honor for having the most people sitting on Santa’s lap at one time simultaneously saying their wishes. This feat was accomplished on December 14, 2012 in NYC, NY.

The largest group to play “Joy to thee World” on kazoos goes to the Thirst Youth Convention in Erie, PA. On November 23, 2013 they had 588 participants all playing this song together.  

There are 59 more feats that can be discovered by visiting the linked site above.

To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.

The History, Psychology, and Traditions of Gift Giving

Gift giving is something one tends to think about during the holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. But did you know that gift giving is not just a human phenomenon? Keep reading if you would like to learn more about the history, psychology, and a few ways other countries participate with gift giving. Information in this blog comes from The Origins and History of Gift Giving and The History of Gift Giving.

History of Gift Giving

The tradition of gift giving is certainly not new to us. It goes back thousands and thousands of years – pretty much back to the beginning of human time. Gift giving has been a special part of all nations, cultures, and societies, making it something all humans throughout history have taken part in. In this sense, gift giving is a fundamental part of human behavior, emerging from a range of different cultural backgrounds.

Gift giving has also always been present in the animal kingdom. Our chimpanzee ancestors have been known to give food to females in exchange for potential mating or receiving favors from others. Another example is that cats will often bestow a gift on their human’s doorstep (occasionally pillow if inside cats) of their fresh “kill” whether it be an actual mouse or a toy.

The ancient tradition of gift giving can be traced as far back as cavemen. Typical gifts given among cavemen were teeth and stones, which were classed as keepsakes at the time. These gifts were widely appreciated since they could be carved into something special for the recipient, such as a necklace or other form of accessory, and could be displayed to everyone in the tribe with pride.

During the Middle Ages, valuable gifts were often food-based and were intended to be a symbol of power. If people wanted to get political or religious favors, or simply show their loyalty to the institutions, gift giving was certainly the way forward.

While gift giving among humans begun with cavemen offering simple items to prove his ability to provide for a family, the process has become an incredibly crucial and extravagant part of our lives. As we are sure you all know, gift giving is a traditional part of many occasions.

Psychology of Gift Giving

The psychology of why gift giving is so rewarding is simple; it allows people to connect. Making connections with people around us gives us a sense of purpose and feeling of satisfaction. There is an old saying “it is better to give than receive” and the psychology of gift giving backs this up.

There has been a considerable amount of research over the years into the feelings of wellbeing that occurs when we give gifts to those we care about. From as early as cavemen days gift giving has been rewarding which may be the reason it has stood the test of time. Here are some reasons as to why:

Makes You Feel Happy: Simply put, the giving of gifts can make a person feel happier about themselves as well as to the person that has received their gift.

Improves Your State of Mind: Research suggests that giving gifts may improve a person’s state of mind. If giving a gift makes you feel happier with a sense of purpose, then this may inevitably improve your state of mind.

Gives You a Greater Social Connection: By giving a gift, you are not only expressing your feelings but building a stronger connection to that person as well. Not only does the person receiving the gift feel closer to the giver, but also vice versa. This greater social connection also means an improvement in the state of being as well as overall happiness.

It is Contagious: When a person starts giving gifts, not only will the recipient become more likely to give, those around them who see this act will start giving as well. This is in part due to the release of the endorphins, which not only benefits the giver, but is also felt by those who receive and see the act of giving as well.

Gift Giving Traditions in Other Countries

Different countries and cultures have their own norms and expectations when it comes to gifts and gift giving. Here are a few examples from countries around the world.

China: There is an important gift giving tradition in China for their 2 week Chinese New Year Celebration – any gifts must be wrapped in red wrapping paper or envelopes, since the color red is known to represent wealth and prosperity. This shows that you wish good fortune to the loved ones you are giving gifts to and signifies a hopeful new year to all. In turn, the colors blue, black and white should be avoided, as they represent death and funerals. Interestingly, this is the same with the number 4. If, for example, someone was giving another money as a gift, they should not give them an amount with the number 4 in it!

Italy: Italy has a particularly unusual gift giving tradition for weddings. Wedding guests buy parts of the groom’s tie, which had been cut up into many different pieces, and the money goes to the bride and groom as a symbol of starting their new life together. It is almost like giving them a financial helping hand as they begin their life as a married couple. The guests would then keep the tie pieces as a souvenir of the special day, always helping them remember the occasion.

Japan: Children who are aged 3, 5 or 7 in Japan are especially lucky on their birthdays. Years ago, many children in Japan would pass away before reaching these ages, making it a tradition to doubly celebrate when children turn 3, 5 or 7. As well as celebrating their actual birthday, children of these ages would visit a shrine and receive sweets from a priest, meaning they get to commemorate their birthdays twice in one year.

To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.

History of Cyber Monday and Black Friday

Today is Cyber Monday but where did the terminology come from? This blog will look at the history of both Cyber Monday and Black Friday. Information used was obtained from What Is Cyber Monday – History of How the Shopping Holiday Started and What’s the Real History of Black Friday?

Cyber Monday

The Monday after Thanksgiving has been a popular online shopping day since the turn of the 21st century. Before the smartphone era, consumers used the first workday after the long Thanksgiving weekend to check their favorite retailers’ websites for deals they might have missed at in-person Black Friday sales or more leisurely weekend trips to the mall.

In 2005, the National Retail Federation (through its commercial portal, Shop.org) decided to give the day a name: Cyber Monday, coined (per Fast Company) by a young NRF public relations executive named Ellen Davis. NRF capitalized on Davis’s flash of marketing brilliance by launching the one-stop shopping site CyberMonday.com, a clearinghouse of sorts for post-Thanksgiving discounts and deals.

NRF could not keep Cyber Monday under wraps forever. Almost immediately, major online retailers (along with e-commerce platforms operated by brick-and-mortar retailers like Target and Walmart) began offering their own Cyber Monday deals unconnected to CyberMonday.com making the original website obsolete.

ComScore began tracking Cyber Monday sales in 2006 when shoppers spent $608 million online. Since then, the holiday has seen double-digit sales increases almost every year. The sole exception was 2009, as recession-weary U.S. consumers tightened their belts. Cyber Monday 2009 sales grew a mere 5% over 2008. In 2014, ComScore reported that Cyber Monday desktop sales surpassed $2 billion for the first time ever. Total Cyber Monday sales, including mobile, were hundreds of millions of dollars higher. And sales jumped 12% in each of the two subsequent years. Considering the higher baseline, that is noteworthy; 12% of $2 billion is a lot more than 20% of $608 million.

The United States might be the only country in the world that celebrates Thanksgiving (or an equivalent giving-of-thanks holiday) on the fourth Thursday of November. But it is not the only country in the world to host a blowout online shopping sale around that time. Other countries that observe Cyber Monday are Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, India, Australia, and China.

Black Friday

The first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” was applied not to holiday shopping but to financial crisis: specifically, the crash of the U.S. gold market on September 24, 1869. Two notoriously ruthless Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, worked together to buy up as much as they could of the nation’s gold, hoping to drive the price sky-high and sell it for astonishing profits. On that Friday in September, the conspiracy finally unraveled, sending the stock market into free-fall and bankrupting everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers.

The second coming of sorts for the term was back in the 1950s. Police in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year. Not only would Philly cops not be able to take the day off, but they would have to work extra-long shifts dealing with the additional crowds and traffic. Shoplifters would also take advantage of the bedlam in stores to make off with merchandise, adding to the law enforcement headache.

By 1961, “Black Friday” had caught on in Philadelphia, to the extent that the city’s merchants and boosters tried unsuccessfully to change it to “Big Friday” in order to remove the negative connotations. The term did not spread to the rest of the country until much later, however, and as recently as 1985 it was not in common use nationwide. Sometime in the late 1980s, however, retailers found a way to reinvent Black Friday and turn it into something that reflected positively, rather than negatively, on them and their customers. The result was the “red to black” concept of the holiday mentioned earlier, and the notion that the day after Thanksgiving marked the occasion when America’s stores finally turned a profit.

Since then, the one-day sales bonanza has morphed into a four-day event and spawned other “retail holidays” such as Small Business Saturday/Sunday and Cyber Monday. Stores started opening earlier and earlier on that Friday, and now the most dedicated shoppers can head out right after their Thanksgiving meal (at least prior to 2020).

Black Friday VS Cyber Monday

According to Bloomberg, Cyber Monday’s dominance is in danger of eclipse by Black Friday, the original holiday shopping season blowout day. On Black Friday 2019, online sales topped $7.4 billion, according to TechCrunch, thanks to deep discounts from hundreds of major American retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy, Apple, and Target.

There are some notable difference between the two though as detailed below.

Cyber Monday Is Terrible for Productivity. Since the Monday after Thanksgiving is a workday for most 9-to-5ers, it is no surprise that tens of millions of Americans spend at least part of that day using their work computers to find the hottest deals. According to a 2019 survey by Robert Half (reported by CNBC), 52% of respondents said they would look for Cyber Monday deals while at work. The survey found that Cyber Monday was by the most popular day of the year for “workshopping,” followed by Amazon Prime Day.

Black Friday Is More Mobile. Black Friday is marginally more mobile-friendly than Cyber Monday. According to Marketing Land, 34% of total Black Friday purchases came from mobile traffic sources in 2018, compared to 28% of Cyber Monday purchases. Still, more than $2 billion in Cyber Monday sales occurred on smartphones, according to TechCrunch.

Black Friday Is Great for Electronics Deals. Virtually every major retailer participates in both events, but Black Friday and Cyber Monday have distinct focuses. Notably, Black Friday is a better day to stock up on heavily discounted electronics, including TVs, mobile devices, PCs and PC equivalents, AV devices, and home office equipment.

Cyber Monday Is Great for Home Goods and Soft Goods. Counterintuitively, Cyber Monday is a better fit for clothing and home goods, such as furnishings and fixtures. If you are buying clothing on Cyber Monday, make sure your retailer has a generous return policy.

Black Friday Is More Stressful. Though stress is subjective, veteran shoppers who have experienced Black Friday firsthand know how crazy the day can get. Long lines in the wee hours, thick crowds in stores, congested parking lots, heavy traffic on adjacent roads, arguments and fights over limited-quantity merchandise, door-buster stampedes – these perils, and many others, await brick-and-mortar Black Friday shoppers. By contrast, Cyber Monday is a breeze. The biggest inconveniences you are likely to face are an earlier-than-usual wake-up and a longer-than-usual load time at busy shopping sites.

Cyber Monday Is Prone to Scams. Only the biggest, flashiest, and most disruptive retail data security incidents make headlines. For every Target or Home Depot data breach that spews tens of millions of individuals’ personal and financial data out into the ether, there are hundreds or thousands of smaller-scale cyber-thefts. As the original online shopping holiday, Cyber Monday is particularly prone to e-commerce scams: phishing emails advertising too-good-to-be-true deals, fake sites that exist solely to steal credit card numbers, fly-by-night sellers that take your money and disappear, phony or counterfeit products sold under false pretenses, and more. Know how to protect yourself from these risks every day, not just Cyber Monday.

To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.

Cooking Gadgets to Help with Holiday Meals

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and ILA cares about both safety and delicious well-prepared food. This week’s sale items will focus on things to help around the kitchen. Product highlights will include the ways that these products are special and how they might benefit everyone from the novice cook to the well-seasoned chef. Keep reading if you want to learn more about the advantages of using an air fryer, talking kitchen scale, and a slow cooker.

Air Fryers

Air fryers have become one of the most popular kitchen appliances. You can cook nearly any food item in them, and they are great if you like fried food but do not want the high calories. Empish Thomas, a visually impaired person, wanted something to spice up her cooking routine during the pandemic and was no longer eating out. She was unsure of which one to purchase, but she knew two things: (1) she did not want a digital display because of inaccessibility (2) she did not want one she had to operate via smartphone with a Bluetooth connection. Advanced technology is not something she wants to deal with when she is cooking and has her hands deep in the ingredients.

She continued by stating one might ask, “So, what do you cook in an air fryer?” All kinds of interesting and delicious foods. She discovers something new all the time, but the basic things are traditional items like chicken, fish, or French fries. You can prepare meats in various ways depending on the recipe. I checked online and found too many to count. I have cooked salmon croquettes and hushpuppies. Next, she wants to try veggies like frozen cut okra, or fresh cut squash and zucchini. She is open to experimenting.

She has discovered that air frying is a way to take those old favorites of fried foods, which she had reduced but not completely stopped eating, and make them healthier. There is no oil or shortening. She just uses a little cooking spray and that is it. The food has the same consistency as if it were fried in oil in a skillet. Using an air fryer also keeps the level of heat down in her kitchen. Her gas stove creates a hot and uncomfortable environment but using an air fryer does not. Also, cooking time is reduced. For example, air frying meat takes about 20 minutes depending on if there are bones. While the meat is air frying, she can prepare her sides. Using an air fryer has become a great way to keep cooking simple, easy, and healthy during the pandemic.

Components of an air fryer includes: the base (houses the electronics and holds the air frying drawer, pan, or tray), the heating element/fan (creates the air frying environment), the basket (vessel with holes where one places whatever is going to be air fried), and; the pan, drawer, or tray (solid piece where the basket sets, catching crumbs, fat, oil, sauce, etc.).

ILA proudly offers the Chefman3.5L Air Fryer for purchase. Excerpts from this section were taken from a VisionAware article entitled, Air Fryers Prove to be a Simpler and Healthier Way to Cook.

Talking Kitchen Scales

Kitchen scales are no longer an essential kitchen tool for professional chefs and bakers but rather a must-have item in every household. In addition to the benefits below, a talking kitchen scale also helps take the guess work out of what the scale shows/reads. If you are visually impaired, hearing the weight spoken is especially important. Most talking scales can be programmed to weigh in either grams or ounces. In many cases, you are not limited to just one language if English is not your native language.

Meal Portions: Kitchen scales can help you weigh your food and help keep your meal portions in check. They can also help you tremendously if you are on a particular diet or cooking for a diabetic person.

Calorie Counting: Food scales can help you track your calories and give you the correct information as compared to what is written on the food packaging.

Encourages Mindful Eating: Practicing weighing your food and eating your meals at home can give you a great idea on what healthy portions are and what foods are low in calorie. It can help benefit you a lot when you eat outside or are on vacation and cannot carry your equipment along with you.

Helps in Cooking and Baking: Recipes from cookbooks or off the internet require you to measure your ingredients for best results which is why it is essential to stick to a scale. A small digital scale can truly become your best friend in the kitchen.

Compact Size and Affordable: These days kitchen scales are extremely compact and take up little space in your kitchen. Also, apart from being space friendly, they are super affordable and do not burn a hole in the pocket.

ILA proudly offers the VOX-2 Talking Kitchen for purchase. It can be programmed to speak in in English, Spanish, French and German. Information from this section came from the article, Find The Perfect Balance: Benefits Of A Kitchen Scale.

Slow Cookers

A slow cooker can come in handy with a delicious meal waiting for you and your family at the end of the day. Most slow cookers have two or three settings. When using the low setting, food will cook in six to 10 hours. Using the high setting allows food to cook in four to six hours. If possible, turn the slow cooker on the high setting for the first hour of cooking time and then use the setting that fits your needs. One hour on high is about equal to two hours on low. One hour in the oven at 350° F is equivalent to about 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low. Similarly, 3 hours in the oven is equivalent to 4-6 hours on high and 8-16 hours on low.

Benefits of Using a Slow Cooker:

  • Have a meal at home in the slow cooker eliminates the temptation to order take-out which is often less nutritious and more expensive.
  • Slow cookers usually allow one-step preparation. Placing all the ingredients in the slow cooker saves preparation time and cuts down on cleanup.
  • Slow cookers are useful throughout the year. Coming in from a cold winter day, the aroma of hot soup is welcoming. Slow cookers also work well for summertime use; they do not heat the kitchen the way an oven might.
  • As a result of the long, low-temperature cooking, slow cookers help tenderize less-expensive cuts of meat.
  • A slow cooker brings out the flavor in foods. A wide variety of foods can be cooked in a slow cooker, including one pot meals, soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • A slow cooker uses less electricity than an oven.

ILA proudly offers the Hamilton Beach 4 Quart Oval Slow Cooker for purchase. Information from this section came from the article The Benefits of Slow Cooker Meals.

To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.

Amplified Telephones

If you have noticed that either yourself or a loved one has begun having trouble hearing conversation at normal level and/or difficulty with being able to hear on the telephone due to white noise there’s a chance hearing loss could be the culprit. Hearing loss does not automatically mean you need hearing aids, but it does mean that you should start looking for things to help normalize your hearing as much as possible. One possible route to investigate is purchasing and utilizing amplified telephones. This blog will look at what amplified telephones are, types of hearing-impaired phones, and questions to help determine whether you might benefit from purchasing one.  Information in this blog came from Hearing Impaired Phone and Amplified Phones.

What Are Amplified Telephones?

A hearing-impaired phone opens a world of conversation for a person with hearing loss. When a person experiences hearing loss, phone conversations become more difficult. The lack of physical interaction during a phone call compounds the hearing difficulties. One cannot read the other person’s lips or facial expressions to try to understand the conversation. When the physical and visual elements are missing, it becomes even more important to have a clear auditory experience. Fortunately, there are phones for people with hearing loss which amplify sounds to make the person on the other end audible.

Amplified phones are specifically designed for people with hearing loss, allowing you to turn up the volume as necessary to hear speech clearly. Most people who use amplified phones do not use hearing aids yet, but people with hearing aids can certainly use them, as well. Amplified phones have features that make it easier to hear high-pitched noises, which many people with hearing loss find challenging.

They have a couple of key features to make speech audible for those with hearing loss. First, amplified phones have a built-in amplifier to increase the intensity of sounds. Secondly, amplified phones offer tone control to adjust the frequency of the caller’s voice. Amplified phones have several channels to personalize your frequency settings.

Hearing impaired phones come with other helpful features to consider. For instance, a hearing-impaired phone could come with extra-large number buttons to make it easier to see and press the buttons. There are also amplified phones made with speaker phones. Speaker phones are very convenient because you do not have to hold a receiver. You could sit peacefully on your sofa as you have a hands-free conversation. The Alto Plus Big Button CID Speakerphone is an example of a phone with a built-in speakerphone, as well as, large buttons, 100 decibel ring tone, and large LCD screen.

Some phones have outgoing speech amplification. If you speak softly or low, this feature helps the person on the other line hear you better. People who have hearing loss sometimes start speaking softly. Ask for feedback from your friends or family if you think you may be speaking too softly. Some phones offer hearing aid compatibility which is important if you have or are considering wearing a hearing aid.

Types of Hearing-Impaired Phones

There are many types of hearing-impaired or amplified phones. When choosing a hearing-impaired phone, it is important to determine how much amplification is necessary for you to hear well. Some phones will amplify sounds up to 50 decibels above normal sounds. Others will amplify sounds up to 90 decibels. Those with severe hearing loss might need amplification up to the 90 decibels. Hearing impaired phones also come with ringers up to 100 decibels and some even come with visuals ringers. The Serene Innovations HD-60 Amplified Phone is an example of a corded amplified phone that fits the criteria of this type phone complete with 2 bright visual ringers on the front and side.

Once you determine how much amplification you need, you can choose the design of the phone which best suits you. There are amplified phones with cords, corded phones with expansion headsets, amplified wireless phones, and amplified Bluetooth phones. When deciding between a corded phone and a cordless phone, you must think about your needs. Do you like to walk around a lot during conversations? Do you like to have a charged phone in a stationary place? If you like both, then choose the corded phones with extra handset. A simple, not too expensive, option for a corded amplified phone with two-way speakerphone is the Amplified Corded Telephone by Future Call.

Another type of hearing-impaired phone is the captioned telephone. This is a hearing-impaired phone which combines amplification with large screens to display the words of the caller. These types of phones for hearing impaired offer people a visual way to engage in conversation. A person listens to clear, amplified sounds while also reading the text.

Questions to Determine if You might Benefit from an Amplified Phone

People with hearing loss have many resources available to make it easier to understand others and communicate properly. If you are unsure if getting an amplified phone is the best option for you, here are some considerations:

  • How often do you ask family members and friends to repeat themselves while on the phone?
  • Are you constantly turning up the volume on the radio or television?
  • Is it difficult to understand conversations in loud restaurants or crowded rooms?
  • Do you avoid talking on the phone because it is hard to hear the person on the other end of the phone?
  • Do you find yourself avoiding social situations because you are hard of hearing?
  • Is hearing more difficult in open spaces than in a closed room?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you can greatly benefit from having an amplified phone.

To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

November is American Diabetes Awareness Month. World Diabetes Day (WDD) is celebrated globally on November 14 to raise awareness about both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The date of November 14 was chosen to honor Dr. Frederick Banting, co-discoverer of insulin back in 1921 along with Dr. Charles Best. This blog will look at defining what diabetes, how it can affect your eyes, and the best ways to control it once diagnosed.

What is Diabetes?

The information in this section is taken directly from two articles from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Article one discusses statistics of the disease and article two goes over defining what it means to have it.

Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Currently there are 34.2 million Americans (just over 1 in 10) have diabetes, and approximately 88 million (or just over a third) are prediabetic, meaning they are at a high risk of developing it.

Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.

If you have diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there is not enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

There are three main types of diabetes, Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational. Many people, however, will go through a prediabetes stage first.

Prediabetes raises your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops your body from making insulin. Approximately 5-10% of the people who have diabetes have type 1.

In type 2 your body does not use insulin well and cannot keep blood sugar at normal levels. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults (but more and more in children, teens, and young adults).

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. If you have gestational diabetes, your baby could be at higher risk for health problems. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after your baby is born but increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life.

How Diabetes can Affect the Eyes

Information from this section comes from the American Diabetes Association. People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at a heightened risk for eye complications and peripheral neuropathy. They also have a have a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes. But most people who have diabetes have nothing more than minor eye disorders over time.

With regular checkups, you can keep minor problems minor. And, if you do develop a major problem, there are treatments that often work well if you begin them right away. The three main categories of diabetic eye issues are glaucoma, cataracts, and retinopathy.

Glaucoma: Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye. The pressure pinches the blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve. Vision is gradually lost because the retina and nerve are damaged. There are several treatments for glaucoma. Some use drugs to reduce pressure in the eye, while others involve surgery.

Cataracts: Many people without diabetes get cataracts, but people with diabetes are more likely to develop this eye condition. People with diabetes also tend to get cataracts at a younger age and have them progress faster. With cataracts, the eye’s clear lens clouds, blocking sight. To help deal with mild cataracts, you may need to wear sunglasses more often and use glare-control lenses in your glasses. For cataracts that interfere greatly with vision, doctors usually remove the lens of the eye and replaces it with a new artificial lens. In people with diabetes, retinopathy can get worse after removal of the lens, and glaucoma may start to develop.

Retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is a general term for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes. There are two major types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.

  • Nonproliferative retinopathy: In nonproliferative retinopathy, the most common form of retinopathy, capillaries in the back of the eye balloon and form pouches. Nonproliferative retinopathy can move through three stages (mild, moderate, and severe), as more and more blood vessels become blocked.
  • Macular edema: Although retinopathy does not usually cause vision loss at this stage, the capillary walls may lose their ability to control the passage of substances between the blood and the retina. Fluid can leak into the part of the eye where focusing occurs, the macula. When the macula swells with fluid, a condition called macula edema, vision blurs and can be lost entirely. Although nonproliferative retinopathy usually does not require treatment, macular edema must be treated, but fortunately treatment is usually effective at stopping and sometimes reversing vision loss.
  • Proliferative retinopathy: In some people, retinopathy progresses after several years to a more serious form called proliferative retinopathy. In this form, the blood vessels are so damaged they close off. In response, new blood vessels start growing in the retina. These new vessels are weak and can leak blood, blocking vision. The new blood vessels can also cause scar tissue to grow. After the scar tissue shrinks, it can distort the retina or pull it out of place, a condition called retinal detachment.

Huge strides have been made in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. Treatments such as scatter photocoagulation, focal photocoagulation, and vitrectomy prevent blindness in most people. The sooner retinopathy is diagnosed, the more likely these treatments will be successful. The best results occur when sight is still normal. (See the linked article for a more in depth look at the treatment options available)

Ways to Control Diabetes

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) provides a four step plan on the best ways to control your diabetes.  

Step 1: Learn about diabetes.  Talk to your doctor about how you can best care for your diabetes to stay healthy. Also inquire about other specialists you should be seeing such as nutritionist, eye doctor, dentist, and podiatrist. It may also be beneficial to participate in a diabetes class to learn all the ins and outs of controlling your disease.

Step 2: Know your diabetes ABC’s. A is for A1C. The A1C is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months. It is different from the blood sugar checks you do each day. B is for blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of your blood against the wall of your blood vessels. C is for cholesterol. There are two kinds of cholesterol in your blood: LDL and HDL. LDL or “bad” cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels. It can cause a heart attack or stroke. HDL or “good” cholesterol helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from your blood vessels.

Step 3: Learn how to live with diabetes. Cope with your diabetes not letting stress overwhelm you. Eat well making a diabetes meal plan with the help of your health care team. Be active setting a goal to be active most days of the week. Know what to do everyday including taking your medication and checking your glucose levels. Talk to your health care team with any questions or concerns.

Step 4: Get routine care to stay healthy. See your health care team at least twice a year to find and treat any problems early.

To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.

Halloween Tips for the Visually Impaired

Tomorrow is Halloween. Trick or Treating may look different this year thanks to the coronavirus but everyone can still celebrate the little ghoul in us all. Some places are having trunk or treats, drive thru trick or treating, and even zoom type Halloween costume contests. This blog will look at costume ideas, safety issues, and fun craft ideas for persons with visual impairments to ensure everyone can participate in the fun festivities.

Costume Ideas

No matter what your interests, creative skill, or ability there are costume options available for everyone. Ideas from this section came from Your Cane Can Dress Up for Halloween Too and Incorporating Blindness Canes into Halloween Costumes. If you, or your loved one, uses a wheelchair or are an amputee, Bored Panda offers a compilation of great costume ideas for you as well.

Witch: The basic witch’s outfit can be as simple as wearing all black with a pointed hat. You could also add a cape, striped stockings, a fake nose, and/or makeup. If you have use a cane it can become part of the costume as well. You can use many different materials to create broom bristles, construction paper, straw, or even dried corn husks. Bunch your preferred material around the last joint of your cane and fasten it together with a rubber band and there you have it—the perfect broomstick for the spookiest of witches!

Fairy Prince or Princess: The outfit can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish from wearing something you have on hand to purchasing a frilly pastel color dress or suit. If you would like to utilize your cane you can take a spool of ribbon in your favorite color and carefully wrap the ribbon around your cane, winding it up from the bottom to the top. Fasten each end with sturdy tape and you have just transformed a plain white cane into a magical wand, charming and elegant for any fairy. Attaching flowers, feathers, glitter, or jewels can add an extra polished finish to your wand.

Magician or Ringmaster: Abracadabra! A magician is a fun costume that can make a cane seem like a very long magic wand, and it can also be used as a ringmaster costume for a circus. Your outfit can be as simple as a black pants, white shirt, and a black or red jacket. A top hat and/or bowtie can complete the look.

Favorite Character: If you are dressing up as your favorite superhero or cartoon character a simple idea to add flare to your costume is a cardboard “speech balloon” using a favorite line from that character. Write your character’s most memorable phrase or a silly saying on the cardboard and use tape to attach the speech balloon to your cane. Pose with the speech balloon pointed towards you and you will capture the spirit of your character perfectly! If you have a Braille writing or embossing device in your possession, add Braille to the speech balloon and make your catchphrase accessible!

Safety Tips

For most of us, Halloween is a holiday filled with fantasy, fun and candy.  For children and adults with a disability there can be some unique challenges. The following tips come from 15 Halloween Safety Tips for Kids With Disabilities. Some of these tips are not as important if you will be participating in a drive thru trick or treating where everyone stays inside their respective vehicle. For those still participating in door to door trick or treating these safety tips are especially important.

  • Stay away from costumes that include elaborate masks, eye patches, long-haired wigs, or over-sized hats. They can become unwieldy and may frustrate children. Be prepared to wear them yourself if your child decides to discard it!
  • Grisly boots, princess slippers and any other shoes should fit snugly so they do not fall off in the fog on Halloween night.
  • Ensure all your child’s costume elements are fire resistant. You can do this by checking tags or the costume packaging. (Do not take a match or lighter to it like a mindless mummy would.)
  • If your child is uncomfortable in a traditional costume, let them pick out something they enjoy instead. Maybe they prefer a Halloween themed T-shirt or forgoing a costume altogether. Some children with cognitive differences are uncomfortable with trick-or-treating. That is okay! Let them hand out candy at home, with parental supervision of course.
  • After a night of fun, go through the candy haul and remove anything that looks like it may have been opened or tampered with. For those with food allergies, look for these teal pumpkins! The Teal Pumpkin Project is a movement to provide non-food treats, so children with food allergies or other conditions can still fill their bucket.
  • Children with visual disabilities who are not fully blind should use a flashlight to brighten walkways, sidewalks, and staircases. Parents: you can also utilize the flashlight function on your smartphone if you prefer not to lug around a flashlight all night.

A fun alternative to trick-or-treating is a trunk-or-treat, fall festival or local Halloween party! Many community centers, school and churches offer alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating. Your kids can still dress up, haul in the candy loot, but in an environment that is more controlled and often safer than navigating the streets.

Craft Ideas

 Halloween is one of the most exciting times of the year for children of all ages. Luckily, there are many different types of crafts that can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of ability or interest level.  Complete instructions can be found by clicking on the craft title. Ideas from this section came from 10 Halloween Craft Ideas for Blind and Visually Impaired Children and 10 Accessible and Sensory-Friendly Halloween Ideas.

Autumn Wreath Project: This is a fun, two-part tactile project for visually impaired children. Collecting the materials outdoors and using them to create a wreath is a fun way for your child to enjoy the scents and textures of fall.

Cotton Ball Ghosts: This is a fun project that can be adapted by using puff paint to draw the outline of a ghost out on construction paper.

Tactile Spider Web: This tactile project uses yarn, Styrofoam, pipe cleaners and pompoms to create a three-dimensional spider web that is fun to touch.

Spooky Sensory Experience: A fun way to get blind children involved in the spooky side of Halloween is by filling food storage containers with creepy objects for your child to feel. The link above provides ideas that are likely better suited for older children. For little ones, consider using funny objects such as slime, pumpkin guts, or faux spider webs.

Textured Pumpkin: This is a simple idea to make a textured drawing by placing mats or other bumpy surfaces under your paper while you color with crayons. If your child cannot see the outline of the pumpkin, you can always raise the lines with puffy paint too!

To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.