Look Your Best

Looking your best not only applies to what you wear and the confidence you have about yourself but also in how you prepare yourself prior to getting dressed. Learning to navigate basic hygiene tasks while visually impaired or blind doesn’t have to be daunting if you learn and familiarize yourself with a few basic tips and techniques.

Hair

There are two very different basic hygiene tasks when it comes to hair. One is keeping it clean and the other is shaving it off. Both can be important when trying to look your best.

Knowing if you’re picking up a bottle of shampoo or conditioner has just gotten easier with one line of products. According to Allure, Herbal Essence has done a total redesign for the packaging of the brand’s Bio:Renew line of botanical shampoos and conditioners. The redesigned shampoo bottles will feature a row of raised lines on the bottom of the back of the bottle — “S” for shampoo — while the conditioner bottles will have two rows of raised dots in the same place with a “C” for reference.

Shaving doesn’t have to be any harder than shampooing. VisionAware states, “Many people consider shaving to be a personal grooming task that is potentially dangerous for someone who is blind or has low vision. In everyday practice, however, the skill is not dangerous at all. Many of the skills and techniques involved in shaving do not rely upon vision and may only require basic safety adaptations and closer attention to tactile feedback.”

Your basic shaving supplies should include a razor, shaving cream or lotion, after-shave, a washcloth, and a towel. Wash the area to be shaved with soap and water and pat dry. This will soften the hair making it easier to shave cleanly and safely.  Shaving cream will protect your skin and help you better locate the areas you’ve already shaved. A popular razor with our customers is the Norelco Triple Head Electric Shaver.  If you are partially sighted you might find it useful to utilize a magnified mirror such as the 10X LED Lighted Travel and Home Mirror.  Lightweight, foldable and just what you need at home and when you travel – a lighted, 10X distortion free glass mirror with bright lights surrounding it. Cover folds back and mirror becomes self-standing for hands-free viewing.

Skin

More and more companies are incorporating braille into their products’ packaging. One of the first to do so was L’Occitane. In the 1990s, founder Olivier Baussan noticed a blind customer in a store feeling the bottles to get familiar with the product. He started putting braille on the company’s packaging in 1997. About 70 per cent of L’Occitane products now come with braille labelling. An article by the Unseen Blogger looks at five L’Occitane products that she personally tried including; shea light comforting face cream, verbena foaming bath soak, lavender relaxing roll-on, shea butter hand cream, and almond shower oil. She provides the pros and cons, as well as, links to the aforementioned products.

Beauty is Within discusses a new makeup line by Visionary Cosmetics designed for the blind and visually impaired. Visionary Cosmetics offers a wide range of makeup and beauty products including eyeshadow, lipsticks and glosses, highlighters, makeup remover, and more. The website is fully accessible, so shopping is very easy for those without sight. In addition, the buyer has a choice of braille or large print on every product.

If your vision is limited, a useful tool when doing eye makeup is the 3X Makeup Magnifying Glasses.  Flip the magnifying lens away from the eye you are putting eyeliner or mascara on and look through the 3X magnifying lens covering the other eye.

Nails

Keeping your nails clean and fungus free is an essential part of good hygiene and a great finishing touch towards looking your best. You should clean your nails daily. Scrub your nails with a pumice stone or soft scrubbing brush, warm water, and soap.

Trimming your nails is also important to keep them in shape. If you have loss of vision and just need a little help in seeing where you’re clipping this 2X Magnifying Nail Clipper could be just what you need. For someone who is totally blind it is recommended to feel where the clippers are touching and to clip a little at a time in a slight upward angle.  Sam, from The Blind Life, both talks his way through and shows you a nail clipping technique in this video. Commenters were quick to note that there is really no necessity to go outside to do this if you’re able to sweep up behind yourself.  If you’re worried about cutting too much off, you can also use a nail file to both smooth any rough edges and to further trim the length down.

Want to add color to your nails? Cold nail polish or a nail polish pen are the best ways to apply color to your freshly cleaned nails.  It’s advisable to plan ahead and put the nail polish in the fridge for at least two hours prior to using it. Alternatively, you may find it easier just to keep the nail polish in the fridge at all times. The cold nail polish is easier to feel and makes it less likely to paint outside of the nail area. Nail polish remover on a cotton swap may be applied around the cuticles of each nail to remove any potential smudges.

Looking for other items to make your life easier and more carefree? Be sure to check out the other great products offered at independent living aids, LLC.

Mobility at Home

Whether you’re able bodied, dealing with a chronic illness or disease, have aged not quite as gracefully as you had hoped or through an unfortunate injury everyone wants to be able to have the freedom and mobility to get around their own homes.  This blog will focus on making the living room, bathroom, and bedroom safer, more mobility friendly, and help lessen the chances of accidents occurring.

The Living Room

Chances are the living room is one of the very first rooms upon entering a house.  Our living rooms are where we go to relax and unwind or socialize with family and friends. Carpet and rugs in this common area may be problematic if there are wheelchair, canes, or walker considerations. Consider changing to tiled, hardwood, or laminate flooring. Make sure there is some traction on the floor as surfaces can easily become slippery when using canes, crutches, or some shoes. Keeping clutter at a minimum in all walkways is another important step to take.

Next is the living room furniture. It should be welcoming and not overly jumbled together creating a risk of bumping into things or even falling. Replacing your furniture may be out of the question but there are things you can obtain and utilize to make your current furniture more user friendly. One option would be to buy a set of furniture risers if it is difficult to rise from a seated position. Another option, that can be transferred between rooms, is the SafetySure StandEase which looks a bit like a backwards walker. This lightweight device makes getting up or sitting down easier with the sturdy bars to grasp on to. Plus, it can easily go with you whenever you find yourself traveling or on the go.

The Bathroom

Bathrooms are hot spots for falls and injuries. Fortunately, many bathroom safety measures are simple and inexpensive. WebMD offers an article on home safety tips for persons with limited mobility. Most of these tips are taken from that article.

  • Don’t rush in the bathroom. Hurrying can make you less careful. It’s important not to wait too long before going to the bathroom.
  • Install skid-free mats. Low-pile, non-skid bathmats can prevent falls on wet and slippery floors. Non-slip mats or appliqués are also helpful in the tub or shower.
  • Put in extra seating. If your bathroom is big enough, put a sturdy chair by the sink so you can brush your teeth and groom yourself while seated. Shower chairs, such as the Deluxe Bath Bench with Back, are a great option whether you have a tub or an open shower to help keep you safe while keeping clean.
  • Don’t bend and stretch. Instead, put in a bath organizer, shelf, or wall-mounted dispenser for shampoo, conditioner, and liquid soap. A long-handled scrub brush makes it easier to wash feet, legs, and other hard-to-reach places. A standing toilet paper holder can help if it’s difficult to reach a wall-mounted holder.
  • Make it easy to get up. A toilet seat riser or toilet safety rails (with or without a toilet seat) are helpful if you have trouble getting up or down from the toilet. A grab bar or two next to the toilet is another option.

For more suggestions on mobility aids for the bathroom or to purchase check out ila’s bathroom aids.

The Bedroom

If possible, keep your bedroom on the main level of your living quarters. Climbing up and down stairs could pose an accident risk, especially if tired or having issues with your balance. Keep essentials next to your bed including any nighttime medications, drinking water, a flashlight, and a phone. If you frequently find yourself waking to use the bathroom at night a nightlight is an inexpensive aid to help you find your way.

One of the simplest ways to make a bedroom more comfortable is to look at choosing a bed that fits your needs. According to This Caring Home, Falls around the bed area are common. The bed may be too soft or not at a good transfer height. It could be that your mind wants to get in or out of bed but your body refuses or the other way around. One mobility aid that could assist in the case of balance issues or weak muscles is the SafetySure Bed Pull-Up. It easily attaches to the bottom of the bedframe and has eight, equally spaced, cushioned handles allowing you to rise at your own pace.

Finally, one last tip from the WebMD article.  When it comes to getting dressed, sitting in a sturdy armchair to dress and undress can be more stable than sitting on a bed or standing. And you can use the arms to steady yourself when you sit down, reach, or stand up. Use a long-handled shoehorn to put on shoes without bending over. A dressing stick – essentially a stick with a hook at the end – can help you pull on pants or skirts, take off socks, and reach clothes that are hung up high.  To purchase these type of mobility aids or to browse more options see dressing aids.

Medication Management

Whether it’s allergies, high blood pressure, thyroid issues, or for pain relief chances are that most people need to take medication daily. It’s not always easy to remember to take your medication or at times to know if you did or did not take it. Knowing why you’re taking it can be just as important as adhering to your doctor’s orders. What should you ask? What’s available to make sure you’re getting the right medication? What are some ways to better help you remember to take your medication daily? Let’s look at a few of these answers.  These tips and tricks are geared towards the visually impaired but can help nearly anyone who takes medication.

At the Doctor’s Office

When it comes to going to the doctor’s office and obtaining a new script make sure you understand how much you should take and when you should take it. You also need to understand how many doses are in each bottle, and when it needs to be refilled.

Speak up if you have any questions about your medication, including side effects. You also need to find out what to do if you miss a dose. With some medications, if you miss a dose you can take it immediately, or double-up the next day. For others, however, you just skip it and take your regular dose the next day.

Find out in advance what you should do if you accidentally take more than your dose of the medication. This can be very dangerous with some medications and you would need to seek medical help right away. With others, you simply don’t take your next scheduled dose.

This information and more can be found at WikiHow which has a great rundown on things to do concerning medication for the visually impaired including pictorial images to go along with each point.

At the Pharmacy

Most pharmacies in the United States have some sort of system for dispensing medication in a way to make it more easily understood by the visually impaired. En-Vision America offers a free downloadable brochure that helps educate consumers, doctors, pharmacists, and the community about products available free of charge.  Highlights from the brochure include pictorial images for large print labels, talking labels, and the ScriptTalk app. The ScripTalk station (which is a standalone device that reads RFID chips adhered to the bottom of medication bottles) is also free of charge to pharmacy customers.

Important information copied directly from the brochure reads: Sometimes stores are unaware of their corporate policy of offering accessible prescription labels. In other cases, you may be the first patient to request accessible labels at a particular store location. Call En-Vision America at 1-800-890-1180 if you run into issues getting accessible prescription labels. Pharmacies are required to accommodate requests for accessible prescription labels, and by law, cannot charge extra for this service.

For persons taking opioid medication there is also an option to have a Controlled Substance Safety Label (CSSL). A CSSL helps ensure safety for people who have difficulty understanding printed media, cannot read a printed label, or are simply overwhelmed by the amount of information that comes with a Schedule II controlled substance medication.

Even though the information can be found through some of the assistive labels or devices mentioned, it’s still important to make sure you know when your medication is set to expire before leaving the pharmacy. This is especially true for medications that are only taken on an as needed basis. Some pharmacies may have reminder programs that will call you when a medication is due to expire or about to run out.

At Home or on the Go

If your pharmacy doesn’t offer some of the options mentioned above, you can still label your medications at home in a way to ensure that you’re taking the right medication at the right time(s).

  • Mark lids and bottles: Most medication lids are interchangeable with other medication bottles therefore; however you decide to mark the lid you also need to mark the bottle to match. Braillable labels would also work for this option.
  • Puffy Markers or Puffy Paints: If you cannot make out a symbol even when using a thick marker, you may be able to distinguish the shapes of different symbols by touch. Puffy markers and paints allow you to create your symbols with raised surfaces so you can more easily differentiate between your medications.
  • Tactile objects adhered to the bottles: Objects such as buttons, dots, rubber bands, medicine rings or cotton balls also can help you differentiate between medications. These can be helpful if you’re having trouble coming up with symbols.
  • Use Audio Prescription Labels: This would include ScripTalk mentioned above.
  • Fillable Pill Boxes/Organizers: There are many options available including a Brailled Jumbo Portable Pill Box, Revolving Medicine Center, and MedCenter System Talking One Month Medication Organizer and Reminder.

Independent Living Aids, LLC has many of these items and more to help make living with visually impairments more manageable and carefree.

Kitchen Aids For the Visually Impaired

Cooking is more than just throwing a bunch of ingredients together in a pan and hoping for the best. To get the full experience out of the task you must first come to appreciate all that truly goes into it. From purchasing food, to setting up your kitchen for success, to preparing each ingredient, to ultimately a finished product the act of cooking uses all of one’s self and senses. For persons who are visually impaired cooking may seem more of a challenge than it truly has to be. Let’s look at some ideas to make each step more enjoyable.

Ready

Readiness is the biggest step towards being a successful cook. It’s important to ensure that you have all the needed supplies at hand before venturing to the next step. For this section it’s important to have the right ingredients and tools before any further prep is done.

Obtaining the proper ingredients has gotten much easier in today’s technologically advanced world. Some grocery stores allow you to both order online and have them deliver your groceries to you. Other grocery stores allow you to order online and pickup outside the store. There are still other services like Schwan’s, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, and many others that allow you to order either how to meals or complete meals delivered right to your door. Schwan’s is the oldest service of its kind available having been around for over 65 years. To learn more about the other two (plus eleven more) see The Best Meal Kit Delivery Services to Try in 2019. Of course, going to a store in person and picking out each individual item yourself is also still an option and is preferable for some. A few tips for shopping in person include asking in the butcher to precut any meat to fit your needs, smelling and feeling produce to test for freshness, and buying precut fruits and veggies were available to cut down on prep time.

Having the right set of tools in your kitchen is also an important first step in a successful outcome. A few useful tools to have on hand are a low vision black and white cutting board,  a talking kitchen scale, color coded measuring spoons, measuring cup set, low vision timer, flame retardant oven mitt, automatic jar opener, battery powered can opener, finger guard, and palm peeler.

Set

Once you have all of the needed tools on hand it’s important to ensure each item is labeled correctly and put away in an easy to locate spot. There are many ways to setup your kitchen area from using the WayAround Kitchen Starter Pack to using simple bump dots, dots of textured paint, glue, or any other material of your choosing.

The best way to know what to use (if not using a tried and true recipe of your own) is through the use of a cookbook or video explaining what is needed and how to use each item. For a paid subscription, Audible has over 1,000 cookbooks to chose from that can be read aloud to you. Food Network, All Recipes, Yummly (for mobile devices) and YouTube are also good options for recipes and video demonstrations. A good CCTV device, or other technology that translates written word into auditory means, opens up your world of recipes even further.

Once you’ve found the desired recipe it’s time to put your at the ready tools to use. For those with low vision the high contrast cutting board helps you see the item that needs prepping more clearly. The palm peeler and finger guard are good ways to cut up fresh produce without fear of cutting yourself in the process. A talking scale ensures that you are using the correct amount for the recipe as do the color-coded measuring spoons and measuring cup set. The automatic jar opener and battery operated can opener makes sure that opening any jar or can is a breeze.

It’s also important to follow kitchen safety advice such as not wearing long sleeves when cooking, using proper oven mitts, temperature settings, and utilizing a timer. For more tips see Safe Cooking Techniques for Cooks Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision.

Cook

There are several different appliances and cooking vessels that can be used to prepare your end dish. The stainless-steel 7 piece pot and lid set is an affordable and handy option for stovetop cooking. Speaking of stovetop cooking this flameless induction cooktop is a great option if you don’t want to heat up the whole kitchen or are scared of burning yourself when cooking. Unlike traditional gas or electric cook-tops, the induction surface does not heat up. Only the vessel holding the food gets hot. If you prefer to mostly cook via microwave there are several options for the visually impaired here too including a stainless-steel microwave with tactile stickers and a Magic Chef talking microwave oven.

The last thing to do is cook. The ingredients are prepared, your timer is at the ready, the oven(s) or stovetop are the way they need to be used, tactile dots or some other indicator is in place to tell the correct temperature, and you have the proper safety equipment on. Happy cooking!

 

 

 

Dressing Aids: Tips and Tricks for the Visually Impaired

Doing laundry, putting clothes away, and get dressed can be mundane boring tasks for most but for persons with disabilities it can also be overwhelming and frustrating. Luckily there are many tips, tricks, and assistive devices that can make things more manageable and less nerve wracking. These tips are mostly for the visually impaired but can be used and/or adapted for most anyone with a disability looking for advice.

Laundry

Laundry no longer has to be the chore it once was with the use of assistive technology. There are several different gadgets that can be utilized to help ensure that each piece of clothing is being washed correctly and that your colors are not mixed in with your whites (unless you want them to be).

The WayAround Starter Pack is a great tool to help with most of your laundry needs. This product works in conjunction with a smartphone app available for both iPhone and Android. Each type of tag is good for different items around the house. To label your detergent bottles and dryer sheets you can either use the WayTag Stickers (permanent) or the WayTag Clips (reusable). The WayTag Clips can be used as is or with an elastic loop that can go around cylindrical and other shaped containers. The WayTag Buttons can be attached to clothing and both their care instructions and descriptions uploaded to your smartphone to retrieve as needed. There are two types of WayTag Buttons. The 2-Hole Button can be sewn into your garment and the Oval Button can be attached to your garments with a safety pin. It’s advisable to attach the buttons at the same relative position of each piece of clothing for further ease of use.

If you do not have access to a smartphone the RNIB PenFriend Laundry Labels are another option. These labels are 1-inch square and are self-adhered (preferably to the garment label). You can record the care instructions and garment description with your own voice. A couple of things to note with these are no ironing or stitching is required, suitable for both washing machines and tumble dryers for 50+ washes, once adhered wait 7 days before washing to ensure they adhere correctly, and all labels should be used within 6 months of opening.

Putting Clothes Away

Both items mentioned under the laundry section can also be used to label clothes to assist in putting them away where they belong. There are also a few low-tech options that can be utilized in putting clean laundry away.

The  Braillable Labels are little transparent hard plastic labels that have room to Braille three lines. Each non-adhesive label has a hole in each end for the black elastic band peg to push through so that the label can be stretched around whatever you are marking.

Using Thick Sock Locks you never have to worry about matching socks again. From wearing to washing, once you slip socks into the Sock Lock, they remain paired while in the washing machine, dryer and sock drawer.

These Closet Organizers fit around the hanger rods to organize your closet into any categories that make it easier and faster to find your clothes. You can use the 60 pre-indexed labels, with identifiers such as ‘sweaters’, ‘dress pants’, ‘dressy’, ‘jackets’ or write your own categories on the 3 extra labels. The dividers can also be identified using Brailled labeling tape. (To read about more tips and tricks for organizing your closet please see our blog Closet Organization Strategies for the Visually Impaired.)

Visionware offers many more tips and tricks including using an empty egg carton to organize jewelry, using Ziploc bags to organize socks and hosiery, using various things lying around the house such as shoe boxes, craft boxes, and baby food jars.

Getting Dressed

Everything mentioned thus far can also be used to help find matching and appropriate clothing to wear. If you don’t have the time, technology, or patience to use some of the ones mentioned above or need help in a different area here are a few more items that can be beneficial when it’s time to get dressed.

The Colorino Talking Color Identifier detects 150 nuances of color and distinguishes sources, intensities and locates light sources. It speaks clearly at 3 volumes and has an earphone jack. Using this tool will help ensure that you are color coordinated every time.

The Zipper Pull/ Button Loop is specifically designed to help you grab and hold those small little buttons and zipper pulls with the greatest of ease.

The Telescopic Shoe Horn can help you finish off your look by enabling you to put on your shoes easier. It gently guides your foot into your shoe from either a seated or standing position. Its compact telescopic design adjusts from 22” to 32.5”.

For more wardrobe time saving tips for the visually impaired see this article from Visionware.

Independent Living Aids, LLC has many other daily living aids, technologies, and gadgets available from their homepage at https://www.independentliving.com/

 

Working Around the House

Working around the house can be a tedious chore for anyone but can be even more so with persons having any sort of disability. There are certain home improvement strategies, including both assistive and adaptive technologies, that can make life easier in the long run. Here are some tips and tricks to making your living environment more user friendly with specific ideas for persons living with a vision impairment.

Using Color Contrast to Your Advantage

The Blind Guide states: Having colors that are starkly different from each other can help a person with low vision get around the home easier. It’s best to use contrasting but solid colors, as patterned upholstery and rugs can be confusing to the eyes.” Using complimentary colors on the color wheel is the best way to achieve ultimate contrast. The basic complimentary color combinations are red/green, yellow/purple, and blue/orange. To learn more about color theory or to use an interactive color wheel calculator to help figure this out see Canva Color Wheel.

There are many other ways in which you can use color to your advantage including using contrasting colors to indicate a change in surface level, using brightly colored post-it notes to arrange bills and other important documents, painting door knobs and door frames a bright color, and using dinnerware that contrasts with the color of your table or tablecloth.

With a littler work and a little practice utilizing this trick will ultimately save you from frustration down the road. A few examples of daily living aids that illustrates the concept of using high contrast are:

Low Vision Black and White Cutting Board: One side is black to contrast with light colored food you are cutting. The other side is white to define dark foods being cut on this full-sized plastic, washable board.

Color Coded Measuring Spoon Set: Bright colors help differentiate the 4 measuring spoons. Spoons are made of sturdy plastic that is dishwasher safe.

Rainbow Pill Holder: Each compact box is a different color, with the day of the week and the four compartments marked, ‘Morning, Noon, Evening and Bedtime’.

Housecleaning with Safety In Mind

Housecleaning is important for a happy and healthy life. Doing so with a disability can be tricky but not impossible and eventually not overly hard once practiced. Live Accessible offers this YouTube video outlining her top 5 cleaning tips for the blind and visually impaired. A more in depth look at cleaning with vision loss can be found on wikiHow.

Both assistive and adaptive aids can be beneficial in keeping a clean and organized home. A good first step before bringing any big items into your house is to ensure that it will fit in the space you intend for it.  Using a Talking Measuring Tape is a fast and easy way to ensure a proper fit.

Vantage Mobility provides a few examples of devices that can help you work smarter and not harder around the house:

Vacuum Robot: Most models work quite well on carpets and swerve their little dirt-munching bodies under every available surface. Newer models even have sensors that detect what area of the house the cleaning bot has visited, so it won’t get stuck cleaning just one area. Most modern models also let you set a cleaning schedule, and a few fancier options even let you program the robot to return to its dock after cleaning and stay there until its next scheduled session.

Floor Mopping Robot: These ferocious scrubbers are nearly identical in operation to the vacuum robot, but they have a water reservoir to scrub clean your hardwood, linoleum or tile floors.

In addition to color contrast and cleaning other ways to help ensure everyday items are clean and secure include keeping desk and table chairs pushed in, keeping pathways free of clutter, utilizing tactile assistance markers to help locate various areas in the house, using handle bars near the toilet and shower, using non-skid, non-glare cleaning products on any non-carpeted floors, taping down any area rugs, and making sure that all exits are marked.

These are just a few suggestions on how to make your home easily accessible and safe. To learn more about home safety and for further suggestions check out this Bright Focus Foundation article about living with low vision.

Lighting Is Important

An article on home modifications for the visually impaired found at Hire a Helper states, “You will want to provide plenty of light in the areas of the home that are used for recreation, reading and socializing. Light should always be aimed at the point of focus, i.e., where you will be doing work, not at the eyes.”

Things to remember when considering lighting include using floor and table lamps, using lighting that is between 60 and 100 watts, allowing for natural light using blinds and curtains, ensuring light is uniform, and keeping flashlights readily accessible.

An easily accessible small light flashlight that can carried around with you is the Lil Larry Light. At only 6.25″ high, it has a high power 250 lumen COB LED light, which can be changed between a high or low setting and a flashing emergency red light. it is water resistant, so you don’t have to worry about getting it wet.

It’s important to experiment with lighting to see what works best and where it works best. The lighting used in the kitchen may not be the best light for the bedroom. To learn more about lighting see our previous blog Light Bulbs Explained.

Once everything is in place and lighted correctly grab a book sit back and relax with this TheraBeads Neck Collar.  It is ideal for soothing the neck and upper shoulder area after a hard day’s work.

To discover everything that ila has to offer check out our homepage independent living aids, LLC.

On The Go: Traveling With A Visual Impairment

Traveling can be a daunting experience for anyone of any age or ability. If you are blind or have low vision travel can incur a different set of issues than for those who are sighted. Luckily, in today’s technological world it is now easier than ever for most everyone to travel more confidently.

The Basics

AARP shares a short overview of the basics needed when traveling with a visual impairment. The first thing mentioned is the possibility of needing documentation from an eye provider if your issue is not immediately noticeable. This will help ensure that you’re provided the assistance that you may need. It is also recommended to share your itinerary with someone you trust either a loved one back home and/or someone whom you’ll be traveling to see. If this is your first time traveling alone it may be useful to consult with an orientation mobility specialist to help you become a more confident less stressed traveler. It is also important to remain flexible in your plans which is true of anyone traveling.

If traveling by air it’s important to call ahead. All airports should have a meet-and-assist program to help travelers with anything from check-in to boarding and baggage claim. By law you need to give airports at least 48 hours’ notice for them to be able to guarantee the services you need. Tag your luggage in such a way that it helps differentiate it from all the others. Using brightly colored tape around the handle is one way to make it easier at baggage claim. Lastly don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for assistance as needed.

If traveling by bus, ask customer service for help navigating the station. Multi-level bus stations often have steep escalators or stairs. If you prefer using an elevator, make sure to point this out to whomever you have assisting you.  Talk to the driver as you load the bus to let him/her know that you’re visually impaired and will need to be told when you reach your stop. If you’re catching a transfer bus you will also need to be instructed where to find the connecting bus.

If traveling by train, ask customer service for help. Train stations can be chaotic, and tracks are often not announced until a few minutes before departure times. Choose a seat by a door so you won’t have to climb over people when you reach your stop. Familiarize yourself with the name of the stop before yours so that you will be ready to exit once you’ve reached your destination.

Using GPS Technology Geared Towards the Visually Impaired

A review for the Victor Reader Trek Talking GPS (currently on sale at ila at time of writing) provided by the American Foundation for the Blind explains what is capable with this technology. To get started with the GPS feature of the Victor Reader Trek, the unit needs to recognize where you are. When the online button is pressed, the Trek announces, “Searching for satellites.”

It begins operation in pedestrian mode. You can walk a route and have the Trek record it for later, identifying intersections, landmarks, and points of interest along the way. You can map a route from where you are standing to where you are going, and you can record in your own voice names for landmarks you wish to find again. You can switch to vehicle mode when you need information when traveling by car, bus, or train.

The review concludes with two pros of using the Trek over other GPS based devices. First, the Trek is dedicated to downloading, streaming, and playing information relevant to reading and wayfinding. You won’t get interrupted by phone call, text message, or social media alerts. Secondly, not all blind and visually impaired people have warmed to smartphone touchscreens. There is a definite comfort factor to tangible buttons you can press.

Other Devices and Resources to Assist in Travel

Two other devices, on sale this week, can also be utilized with helping visually impaired persons on the go. The Sunu Mobility Device is a wrist-worn smart watch which uses echolocation to provide vibration feedback regarding the user’s surroundings and other information. Used in conjunction with a guide dog or white cane, it can improve spatial awareness and provide information on obstacles in a user’s path that are above ground level up to 16 feet away. This smart band augments your personal awareness, and reduces accidents to the body, chest, arms and head.

The BuzzClip Mobility Guide – 2nd Generation is the third highlighted device on sale this week. It is a wonderfully small and helpful tool for assisting those who are Blind or have very low vision and utilize a mobility cane or a guide dog. Its hinged clip easily clips to the user’s clothing and vibrates with increasing intensity as an object appears within detection range of the BuzzClip.

Online resources are numerous and can be a tremendous help to anyone traveling. Upgraded Points provides links to organizations geared towards everything from guides and tips to understanding your rights as a traveler with a vision impairment.

To check out what else ila has to offer visit the website at individual living aids, LLC.

Tools to Assist Students with Low Vision

Students with low vision or who are visually impaired may find it harder to learn in a traditional classroom setting. Advances in technology helps close the gap between learners of all abilities. This week’s blog focuses on three different types of technology that students of all ages and limitations can incorporate into their daily lives to make learning more enjoyable.

Talking Calculator

The Orion TI-30X Talking Calculator is the world’s first fully accessible multi-line scientific calculator, created for students who are visually impaired. It represents a breakthrough in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education for students with vision impairment.  This calculator may be used on high-stakes exams as an approved accommodation for students who are visually impaired if it is specified in the student’s Individual Education Program/Plan (IEP).

Phys.org states, “The advanced, four-line scientific calculator, with higher-level math and science functionality, is ideal for middle school through college students. A clear, high-quality, recorded voice announces each key and the answer on the display, providing a choice of speech modes for quiet or verbose operation. Students will love the thin, lightweight design, and parents and teachers will love the familiar functionality that makes it easy to help with classwork and homework.”

A few other great features of this calculator are its accompanying earphones, instructions in both print and braille formats, and can be operated via either battery or AC adaptor.

To order this innovative talking calculator please click on Orion TI-30X Talking Calculator.

 

Windows Tablet Magnifier with Optical Character Recognition

In a world better adapted to the sighted, Optical Character Recognition systems (OCRs) provide persons who are blind or visually impaired with the capacity to scan printed text and then have it spoken in synthetic speech or saved to a computer file.  The American Foundation for the Blind provides a basic understanding of standalone OCRs which will help you better understand how the technology works inside a Windows 10 tablet.

The Mercury 12” Windows Magnifier incorporates both scanning capability and a OCR system into a fully functioning tablet. Benefits of using this all-in-one system are vast. This video demonstration located on the product information page shows how versatile and easy this machine is to use. Place a document below the tablet on the included platform to bring the image up on the screen. If the image is too small you can enlarge it or change the contrast between the writing and the background if it’s too difficult to read. Easily capture a full-page scan, reorient it on the screen, and have it read the text aloud to you. Simple touch gestures allow you to do these things and more with relative ease. Once you’re ready to put the tablet away it folds up neatly to fit inside a standard laptop bag.

Digital Highlighter

Scouring the internet, you’ll soon find that digital highlighters are beneficial to everyone but especially to those with dyslexia or low vision. The Scanmarker Air is constantly reviewed as one of, if not the top digital highlighter currently available. Closing the Gap provides an excellent overview of this wonderous device. Here are just a few of the things that can be accomplished with this technology:

  • Saves time by scanning words directly into computer or mobile applications including Gmail, Word, Excel, Facebook
  • Can easily translate text into 40 different languages
  • Can double as a barcode scanner easily capturing both UPC and EAN codes
  • Able to read text aloud which can assist in memorization or helping level the playing field for those learners with disabilities

To order this lightweight portable device click on Scanmarker Air.

Summer Picnics

Summer is the time for vacations, outdoor sports, reunions, and of course picnics. Apart from holidays and birthdays, summertime is a prime time of year for family togetherness. Whether you celebrate with biological family and/or a family of friends is up to you. In addition to good people you also need a few other elements to throw a grand picnic. Here are a few quick suggestions on location, food, and activities to better include everyone in your party no matter their age or ability.

Location

No matter where you live or what you live near you can make nearly any location picnic friendly. Castello offers suggestions for picnics in nature, by the waterfront, or in urban settings.

A park or forest is the perfect spot for an outdoor picnic with plenty of room to invite all of your friends and family. Big shady spots under trees helps keep the summer heat from being a factor. Plus, many parks and forest settings have easy access to tables and benches, as well as, access to bathrooms. If the location is used often or is a tourist locale, chances are the facilities are handicap accessible as well.

Waterfront locations offer beautiful backdrops but not as much shade. It’s essential to remember to bring sunscreen when utilizing these locations. As with parks and forests if it’s a known tourist area, or often used, chances are there will be accessible bathrooms and places to dine off the ground.

If the beautiful green outdoors and waterfront areas are not an option than pack a small picnic basket and find the perfect setting near where you live. A rooftop with a view of the city skyline, town square, a public park, a bench or a quiet green space in an urban garden or even your own balcony are all perfect places for a picnic. Many urban areas are also accessible but when in doubt check in advance if such amenities are needed for your party.

Food

Just because it’s the summer and you’re at essentially an outdoor party it’s still possible to dine with your health in mind.  WebMD provides numerous suggestions on better choices and a list of easy to make recipes all on the same page (when you choose “see all” instead of using a slide show).

The main takeaways from this article is to avoid or limit the more fattening foods such as mayonnaise-based dishes, fried foods, hamburgers and hot dogs and to substitute more healthy alternatives. Summer is an excellent time of year for fresh fruits and vegetables and these make an easy substitute or add-in for everything from what you to drink to what you dessert on. Instead of the more fattening main courses they suggest using wrap-based entrees utilizing more lean meats, veggies, nuts, and low-calorie sauces.

As a reminder, just before the recipes, they include making sure your food arrives and stays safe and to be sure to include some type of exercise to your outing.

Ways to make food preparation easier can be found in this week’s newsletter or by choosing one of the following: 4 Piece Floral Knife Set, Talking Digital & All Purpose Thermometer, or Pot & Lid 7 Piece Set in Stainless Steel.

Activities

Who doesn’t enjoy good clean wholesome family fun? BuzzFeed provides a list of 27 fun outdoor games to play all summer long. Here are a few of the more accessible friendly activities with adaptability suggestions from Child Development Programs :

  • Bean Bag Ladder Toss: Easy to set up and easy to play. Grab a ladder from the garage and toss bean bags through the different rungs to earn points. Can be made adaptable for the visually impaired by including bells inside the bean bags and using brightly colored tape on the ladder rungs.
  • Glow in the Dark Bowling/Bowling: Add glow sticks into ten bottles of water to make bowling pins you can use at night. You can use the bottles during the day for bowling as well making them adaptable with stones, balls, high contrast safety tape, and brightly colored yarn.
  • Glow in the Dark Capture the Flag: A fun update of your favorite game from gym class using glow sticks instead of flags. The instruction page elaborates that this game is played in the dark with brightly glowing sticks and bracelets. This game seems ideal for the visually impaired to be on a fairly even playing ground with their peers.
  • Spaghetti Scavenger Hunt: This game allows you to have messy food fun *without* gorging. You hide small items (like gummy bears or peanut M&M’s) in giant plates of spaghetti, set the plates down on a tarp-covered picnic table, and have the contestants search for them–using their mouths! If you decide to go with this game, please be aware of potential allergies with all participants.

To check out everything that ila has to offer please see our website independent living aids, LLC.

CCTV Magnifiers

While the first Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) was created in 1942 it wasn’t until the 1980s that they grew in prominence.  Today there are over 25 million CCTV cameras set up worldwide and some pundits estimate that the average American can be seen on one up to 300 times daily. So how and why did these, for all intents and purposes, security cameras get scaled down to be used as magnifiers? How are they used and how are they more beneficial than other types of screen readers?

What are CCTV Magnifiers?

The Low Vision Center offers a concise article on CCTV Magnifiers and the different types available. It reads in part, “CCTV’s magnify reading material, medicine bottles, photos, etc. and display the image on a TV screen or monitor. CCTV’s can also be used for writing, filing fingernails, and other tasks. CCTV’s have a range of magnification and are made in either black and white, or in color.  Many can be switched to reverse the image colors when desired.  Some models require you to focus the camera; others do it automatically.”

The types of CCTV magnifiers mentioned are free standing units, units with text-to-speech, portable CCTVs, head-worn CCTVs, handheld video magnifiers, tablet-based system. Ila has several types of these on sale this week that we’ll take a closer look at.

Free Standing Unit: The Mezzo Focus 16″  at 11.5 pounds, it can be easily moved from room to room. Magnification can range from 1.6X to 32X, depending on selected settings. Other features include customizable color selections, windowing, line marking, simple 3 button operation. Battery operated unit separately available.

Handheld Video Magnifier: You get 2 fabulous devices in one with the Mercury 6 Electronic Magnifier and OCR (Optical Character Reading) Reader.  Use its touch-based 5.5″ HD screen to have magnification from 3X to 40X while in live mode. Use touch or voice commands to control magnification or color settings. Finger taps control other functions such as auto focus, flashlight access, and menu settings Switch to OCR scanning with one touch; scan (photograph) your reading material and have your scanned material read back to you. Scanned material appears on the touch screen where you can manipulate its magnification, colors, and reading position. Integrated foldable reading stand also provides room for writing.  Can also speak in Spanish.

Portable CCTV: Humanware has come out with the Explore 8 Handheld Electronic Magnifier which is a portable HD CCTV with a touchscreen. This handheld CCTV electronic magnifier is designed for active people who prefer a large screen but still want maximum portability as It is thinner, lighter, and more affordable than most 7-inch magnifiers on the market while providing a screen that is 8 inches which is 30% larger. The Explorē 8 features two 21-megapixel cameras—one for closeup viewing and the other for distance, with an automatic toggle to switch between the 2 modes. At closeup, it offers up to 30X magnification with stunning HD quality. Large physical buttons provide easy access to key functions; easy-to navigate touchscreen is available for all other settings.

How do you use CCTV Magnifiers?

CCTV Magnifiers are like microfilm readers on steroids. Instead of requiring, the now hard to find, microfiche these new readers can enlarge anything that can be put within the camera eye. The larger desktop-based units often have a sliding tray where you place the object you wish to enlarge. You can slide the material back and forth under the camera to show the desired output on the screen. The portable versions often have adjustable cameras so that you can enlarge objects both near and far from you which could be ideal in a classroom setting. The handheld models are smaller in size which allows for easy transport and can be used on the go to enlarge everything from ingredient lists to menu options at a restaurant. To read much more in depth on how CCTV magnifiers are used see Low Vision Aids.

Benefits of using CCTV Magnifiers

Whether you’re an older individual experiencing vision loss, a person who has developed macular degeneration, or simply a person whose eyesight goes beyond what standard eyeglasses or contacts can correct CCTV magnifiers could be beneficial to your everyday life. Pulling information from each link above this is a partial list of potential benefits of using CCTV magnifiers:

  • Reading the newspaper/magazine
  • Working on hobbies such as sewing or painting
  • Looking at photographs more closely
  • Reading a medicine bottle
  • Reading ingredient labels
  • Reading recipes
  • Writing checks
  • Trimming fingernails

 

To see what other CCTV devices ila has to offer please see CCTVs.