Reading Resources and Technology for the Visually Impaired

This week is National Library Week, so what better time to take a look at the reading resources and technology for the visually impaired. Whether you prefer to buy the latest technology and create a personal collection of books, or you are looking for free resources to borrow, there are plenty of options to help you enjoy both educational and recreational literature.

The National Library Service

According to the Library of Congress website, the “National Library Service (NLS) is a free braille and talking book library service for people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that prevents them from reading or holding the printed page.”

The NLS offers books in braille and audio format. Libraries across the country cooperate to deliver free downloads or postage-paid hard copies of books and magazines. You have to register for this free library service, but once you do, you have access to all of their programs. For those who are unable to read large print or handle print materials, the library will also send loaner playback equipment for the audio materials.

Books For Digital Readers

Whether you borrow a digital reader from the library or decide to buy your own, you’ll find that this little piece of technology can open up a whole new world of recreational or educational reading.

Readers like the Milestone 212 Ace Book Reader can read aloud National Library Service (NLS), Audible.com, and DAISY downloaded books. It can also retain and play MP3, WAV WMA and iTunes AAC audio files.

Digital readers are convenient because they fit in the palm of your hand. If you enjoy using traditional “books-on-tape” you’ll love the convenience of a digital reader. You will no longer be confined to listening in your car or near a full-sized player or stereo. As the weather is changing, you’ll find digital readers are very convenient to take to the beach or on other outings.

To find out what new books are available for digital readers, you can check out Talking Book Topics. This resource lists the latest audio books and magazines that have been added to the library’s collection within the past two months.

Braille Copies

Braille copies of books, magazines, and even musical scores are also available. The Braille Book Review lists the newest titles and selections.

Certain books and magazines are deliverable in hard copy, while others are only available through ebraille.

The NLS explains ebraille like this, “On a computer, downloaded ebraille (electronic braille) materials can be embossed or read with a refreshable braille display. Users must have a braille display, braille-aware device, or braille embosser to read ebraille files. Ebraille materials are available in contracted and uncontracted format and can be downloaded by individual volume or in a ZIP file containing all volumes of the book (or parts of the magazine).”

If you are not sure how to access these services, here is the contact information from the NLS website: To get books if you live in the United States or its territories, contact your local braille and talking book library. Find a Library or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323) to be connected with the library serving your area. If you are unable to locate a library or wish additional assistance, please contact NLS via nls@loc.gov, call (202) 707-5100 or toll-free 1-800-424-8567, or request an application packet be mailed to you.

ILA has a large selection of NLS readers, recorders, and players. If you are looking for the latest technology in digital readers, check out what we have to offer!

Save Money!: Three Tips for Senior Adults

Many people eagerly look forward to retirement as a time to get to enjoy some of the activities they had to put off when they were working nine to five. But the majority also have some concerns about finances. Without that regular paycheck, the budget may get tighter.

Despite government benefits and 401(k)s, their new income may not feel completely comfortable. That’s why we’ve found three ways that senior adults can save money, both in the immediate and long-term.

Senior Discounts

As the baby boomers continue to age up into retirement, many companies have been reexamining and revamping their senior discount policy. Some are improving their programs while others are cutting their benefits.

Another thing that can be confusing from store to store is that while some stores have store-wide policies, others allow each location or franchise to make their own decisions. So while you may think a particular store doesn’t offer a discount, it never hurts to ask at each location. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Senior discounts typically range from 5% to 20% off, with most being around 10%. This amount may seem small, but it can add up across the board, especially on consistent purchases. A 10% discount on groceries each week may afford you a recreational trip out to eat by the end of the month.

To get started on your quest for the best senior discounts, you can start with this compilation of 100+ stores from Brad’s List.

Stay Healthy

The advice to stay healthy may not seem that it belongs in an article of money saving tips, but avoiding health problems can make a huge dent in your budget. Not all conditions are avoidable by lifestyle change, but many can at least be improved upon. Improving your health will cut back on expenses for prescriptions and doctors visits

One way to stay healthy is by eating healthy meals. Home cooked is usually best, unless you are only cooking by eating processed foods in the microwave. When you cook at home, you can better control what ingredients go into your meals as well as your portion size. Eating natural foods and cutting back on excess sugar and salt can help control blood pressure and diabetes. Portion control will also help you manage your weight.

Exercising goes along with diet to reduce weight and improve physical health and fitness. Even if your activity is limited for health reasons, there are gentle range-of-motion exercises you can do to help with flexibility, strength, and balance. Improving these areas will reduce your chances of having an injury related to falls.

Don’t Make Quick Decisions

Making quick decisions can be the downfall of your budget. Most people know the dangers of impulse shopping. We’ve all stopped by the store for one item and come out with a basketful instead. Those types of purchases can really add up. But it’s not just impulse buying that can run up the bills.

You also need to think carefully before saying yes to extracurricular activities, charities, or parties that may incur extra expense. While you will want to spend time out with friends and family, participate in the local church drive, or go to that 50th wedding anniversary, accepting these types of invitations may come with a price tag for presents, food and transportation, or donations.

Before making any decisions, consider the overall possible expense and see if it fits into your budget. If not, you may have to politely decline, or at the very least offer to participate in a different manner. For example, if you can’t make donations to the local can drive, maybe you can volunteer to help collect donations or arrange the shelves.

ILA carries several products to help you keep your finances organized. Our Personal Financial Management Kit is one of the most popular for those with low vision.

Transform Your Health With These Three Simple Sleep Routines

The benefits of sleep are often underrated. We think we can stay up late, have inconsistent routines, or get by on little sleep without too much harm done. But according to the CDC, “sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.”

There are many other benefits to good sleep as well. It lowers your risk of obesity, improves your immune system, helps balance your hormones, improves your mental abilities, and helps fight depression.

If you don’t regularly get a good night’s rest, it’s safe to say that getting better sleep could radically change how you feel. So let’s take a look at three simple sleep routines that can transform your health.

Don’t Lie Awake In Bed

Some people don’t sleep well because they can’t fall asleep in the first place. Insomnia is a common condition that may run in families. It can be caused by situational stress but doesn’t have to be. The feeling of being “wired but tired” is what often characterizes insomnia.

One of the worst things you can do when battling insomnia is to lie in bed awake for longer than 15 or 20 minutes. When you do this, you start to associate your bed with being awake, or maybe even the feelings of frustration about your insomnia. You begin to form an expectation that when you lie in bed, you are going to have trouble falling asleep.

To solve this problem, use your bed for sleeping only. If you are having a bout of insomnia, then get out of bed and sit in a chair in the dark. Stay sitting up until your mind starts to calm down a bit. Some people even like to read, but this could possibly keep you up even longer. The best thing to do is try to relax and let your thoughts run themselves out. Once you start to wind down, lay back down in bed to fall asleep there.

Unplug Before Bed

Computers and phones can be disrupting your sleep on multiple levels. One of the most obvious being that they can be a distraction that keeps you from going to sleep at your desired time. It may seem harmless to check your emails or messages one last time before bed, but five minutes can quickly turn into thirty as you respond to or look at “just one more thing.” And by keeping your mind alert and engaged, you are convincing your body that you need to stay awake.

Once you’ve finally put the devices down, don’t forget to turn off notifications for texts, calls, emails, or any other apps or reminders. Even if you think you’re a heavy sleeper, the constant dings, blips, or vibrations in the night can keep you from going into a deep, restful sleep. Put your phone as far away from you as you can at night, so when notifications are off, you won’t be tempted to pick it up and sneak a peek.

Another big problem with using screens before bed is that they emit blue light. Blue light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm. Melatonin is usually produced when it gets dark outside, triggering our bodies to go to sleep. Staying away from screens (and keeping lights in our homes dimmed) for about an hour before bed will allow these natural processes to occur.

Stick With A Consistent Sleep and Wake Time

According to sleep.org, erratic sleep patterns can make you feel bad. To solve this problem, they recommend for you to, “Pick a bedtime and a wake-up time—and stick to them as much as possible.”

If you have a late night on the weekends, you can sleep in an extra hour or two, but try not to drastically change your schedule. This will mess up your overall sleep routine and may make you lose more rest over the course of the week. It’s better for your body to be tired and ready to sleep the next night than to get extra sleep in the morning and have trouble going to bed in the evening.

If you are a deep sleeper or are hard of hearing, getting up at a consistent time may be your biggest challenge. Alarms such as the Serene Bluetooth Bedshaker can ensure that you wake up when you want to. The Serene pairs with your smartphone alarm so that you can use it at home or while traveling. The vibrations start off gentle but gradually increase to extra strong ones that even the deepest sleepers can’t ignore.

Making a small effort to change these three parts of your sleep routine can yield big results.

 

ILA has a variety of alarm clocks and bedshakers to meet every need. Check out our inventory and find what might work best for you!

 

Closet Organization Strategies for The Visually Impaired

Closets seem to be the hardest part of the home to keep organized. Maybe it’s the lack of social pressure. We know most people won’t be looking inside our closets to evaluate our housekeeping skills. Maybe it’s the nature of the closet itself. Unless you have a large, well-lit walk-in, the closet tends to be a small, crowded, dark little area.  

But having an organized closet brings more than just aesthetic pleasure. A well-organized closet saves you time and stress by making it easy to find the outfits and items you need. When you are visually impaired, an organized closet can make the difference between needing someone to aid you and being independent in your clothing selection.

Lighting

If you have low vision, the first area to examine is lighting. Organization doesn’t help much if you can’t identify the sorting systems you’ve chosen. Bright, even lighting can help you tell if items match each other, or can help you find and read any labels you’ve applied.

Adding or modifying overhead lighting is ideal, if possible. Use bulbs that give off a natural light. These give a truer representation of colors. The positioning of the light also matters. You don’t want it to cast shadows on your clothing.

One easy solution for illuminating darker corners is to use stick-on lights. Stick-on lights can be placed anywhere you need them to be. They turn on and off with a tap. And if you need a bit more directed lighting for looking at labels, you can keep a small flashlight on one of your closet shelves.

Color Identifiers and Labels

For matching and labeling clothing, color identifiers are helpful. The Colorino Talking Color Identifier can recognize 100 different colors and differentiate between types of lighting. The Colorino can help you get an initial accurate inventory of your clothing.

For detailed recording, the Pen Friend makes laundry safe labels that withstand up to 50 or more washes. Pen Friend labels allow you to use your voice to record personalized information about the clothing item, including washing instructions or anything else you may find important. Those instructions are recorded onto self-adhesive labels, ready for playback.

Once you have an accurate idea of what you own, there are several ways to label or sort your clothing. You can put Braille clothing labels on each item to identify colors and patterns. Or sort your clothes into types or colors with closet dividers.  And if you’re not into mixing and matching, just go ahead and hang entire outfits together on hangers.

Keep Things Sorted and Within Reach

Shoeboxes, craft boxes, baby food jars, and egg cartons are all economical containers you can use for keeping closet items sorted. No need to spend a fortune on built-in drawers or cabinets and boxes.

Watches, jewelry, and even undergarments can be compartmentalized. Keep socks separated by color or type. Items you use frequently should be the easiest to reach. Not only is it faster to always have these items at hand, but it’s also safer than having to reach or stand on step stools.

But what if you drop something? The PikStik Reacher is a must-have tool for your closet. The PikStik can rotate 360 degrees to pick up items from any angle. It opens up to 5 ½” to pick up even large items.

Once your closet is organized, think about streamlining other aspects of your dressing routine. ILA has a variety of dressing aids that can make getting ready in the morning a faster, more independent experience.

 

Kitchen Organization Tips For the Visually Impaired

Visual impairment may make it more difficult to navigate your kitchen, but by putting a few strategies in place, you can get comfortable in that space once again. There are three main areas to consider when planning: safety, organization, and simplification.

Safety First!

Safety should always be your first priority. For example, keeping cabinet and cupboard doors closed when not in use makes everyone’s kitchen look neat and tidy, but staying vigilant about this habit has more importance than that. Open doors become a tripping hazard when you can’t see them in your way.

To avoid bumping against sharp counters or fishing for light sockets, you can outline the edged with wide electrical tape in a contrasting color. And to find common settings on your oven or other appliance dials, use bright nail polish or sticky dots to identify where to stop.

Keeping your fingers away from knives and your hands away from flames should also be a priority. Cut resistant gloves and kitchen knives with slicing guides help avoid slip-ups. Installing appliances like the flameless induction cooktop eliminates the possibility of being seriously burned by stove surfaces. And using measuring guides can keep you safe from overfilling containers with hot liquids.

Kitchen Organization

Organization is the key to being able to quickly locate the things you need to whip together that perfect meal. Make use of anything you can find that helps you label, sort, or categorize the items in your kitchen.

A Talking Label Wand allows you to record your own talking labels for all of your pantry or kitchen cabinet items. It creates customized labels that play back to you at the touch of the wand. Barcode readers pull from a database of product information to give you an auditory overview of your grocery items.

Invent a way to sort and categorize items that is easy for you to be consistent about. Keep like items grouped together on shelves. Try using a tactile system, like bump dots, rubber bands, or braille tape for categorizing canned foods. Types of utensils can all go together in the same drawer based on their function.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

When you are visually impaired, the last thing you need to do is create extra steps for yourself in the kitchen. Purchasing appliances that make cooking and clean up quicker or easier is worth the investment.

Cut back on cleanup time by making more one-dish-wonders in the crockpot. Crockpot meals typically don’t dirty up too many other dishes. Just put everything in together, turn the knob, and walk away. Crockpots also eliminate the safety concerns you may have when operating an oven or stove.

Anything automatic is a plus. Automatic can openers keep you safe from sharp edges and help you line up the can and the blade without fishing around for the best angle. Electric kettles or appliances like the Hot Shot heat up water for hot drinks and soups. Using something like this is faster and safer than monitoring boiling water on the stove or in the microwave.

ILA likes to help keep you in your kitchen and with your shopping. Browse our selection of kitchen aids help you stay active and independent.

 

Save Some Green!: Ways To Save Money In the Spring

The warmer weather and greener hues of spring inspire us to work towards renewal in different areas of our life. Besides doing your physical spring cleaning, you may want to do some “cleaning” in other aspects of your life. Spring is a great time to overhaul your budget and spending. Saving money and creating new routines will leave you feeling financially refreshed.

Take Advantage of Sales

Most people know that spring is a good time to stock up on winter clothing essentials. Stores are tossing out the old season to make room for warmer-weather items. But it may not cross your mind that the same thing happens with winter sports gear. So if you love icy seasonal activities, now is the time to buy ahead for next year.

Frozen foods are also a good deal in March.  “March is National Frozen Foods month,” says n DealNews.com spokesman Mark LoCastro. “It probably is a marketing ploy to draw attention to that industry, but grocery stores offer discounts on certain frozen foods, so you can stock up and keep it as long as you possibly can.”

Another item you want to grab in March is luggage. Newer styles are often released in May, in anticipation of summer vacation. That’s why companies start marking down their older inventory in the spring.

Put Your Gym Membership on Hold

If you have a gym membership, spring is the perfect time to put it on hold. Winter’s cold weather makes exercising outdoors much more difficult. The heat of summer does the same. Spring and fall give you the chance switch up your exercise routine to include more outdoor activities.

Walking around the neighborhood or local parks can replace your laps around the indoor gym. And if you find yourself missing the weight room, you can still get similar activity at home. We’ve recently written about ways to exercise without special equipment.

Seasonal activities, such as gardening, may also take up more of your extra time. Freezing your gym membership may be a good financial decision if you think you won’t be spending enough time there to make it worth the investment.

Purge and Sell

If you are expanding the energy to do some spring cleaning, take that an extra step and make money off of some of the items you would typically throw away. You might be surprised how much mad money you can make while simultaneously improving the look and feel of your home.

First, you’ll have to do some sorting through your old stuff. If organizing seems overwhelming, Becoming Minimalist offers 10 Creative Ways to Declutter Your Home. These ideas were created for people who feel like they are “ready to declutter but some get quickly tripped up by the very next question… where in the world do I begin?”

Once you’ve determined what you want to get rid of, there are many options to choose from for selling. The warmer weather makes the traditional yard sale possible. But there are other, less labor-intensive ways to make a transaction. Furniture, clothes, electronics, and accessories can all be sold online. This article on 49 Ways to Turn Your Clutter Into the Most Cash gives an exhaustive list of the best online marketplaces and apps.

 

Another way to save money is by taking advantage of ILA’s weekly deals. Never miss a sale by signing up for our newsletter here.

 

Three Simple Ways to Eat Healthier

Most people have been told that eating healthier should be one of their goals. And skipping fast food by preparing meals at home is one of the easiest ways to do that. But unless cooking is your hobby, that just sounds like so much… work.

But since ILA wants to support you in your healthy habits, we’ve found some of the best tips on simplifying home-cooked meals. Check out these three suggestions to see what might work for you!

Pre-prepare Snacks, Meals, or Ingredients

Eat healthy snacks, they said. But when you are on the go, it’s a lot easier to grab a bag of chips than to cut and chop fruits and veggies. That’s why pre-preparing snacks is one of the best ways to stay healthy. When your groceries come in for the week, don’t just put away your whole produce. Plan to take the time to wash, cut and portion out servings you can grab on the go.

For example, make bags of carrots with a small sauce container of dressing. Or try sliced apples with nut butter. If you like granola or energy bites, make a batch at the beginning of the week, then divide it up into serving-size containers.

The same process can be applied to meal prep. If you work during the week and struggle to find time to put together a healthy dinner, then order groceries on the weekend and pre-prepare ingredients according to your meal plan. If you want to have salads for lunch, wash and chop your ingredients and put them in containers for the rest of the week. If you are going to use veggies as dinner ingredients, then clean them up and store them together by meal.

And you can’t beat the simplicity of batch-making freezer meals to pull out when you are short on time. On a day off, spend the afternoon creating multiples of the same main dish. There are many freezer meal recipes available online.

Don’t Buy Junk Food

Ouch. That sounds harsh. Or maybe overly simplistic. But the fact is, if you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. And I don’t mean “don’t buy junk food ever,” what I mean is “don’t buy junk food from the grocery store.”

Eating at home isn’t going to make you any healthier if the food you eat there is equivalent to what you would find at a fast food restaurant. Too many cookies, prepackaged snacks, frozen meals, or lunches of canned ravioli can be just as bad for you as a trip to McDonald’s.

Since most of us are going to eat out from time-to-time, and we are most likely going to be invited to parties and special events, try to save the junk food for special occasions. Instead of buying a cake from the grocery store and having a slice for dessert every night, find a healthier alternative for home and save the cake consumption for birthday parties.

If you go to an event or the movies, you’ll be a lot happier indulging in some concession counter snacks knowing that you don’t eat that way at home every day.

Keep Things Simple

A simple way to eat healthier is by keeping things…simple. I’m sure that sounds vague, so let me explain.

First, choose simple recipes. Unless you enjoy cooking like Martha Stewart, there’s no need to get elaborate. If you are short on time, you’re much more likely to be inspired to cook when the ingredient list and skill list required for a dish is short.

Homemade chili, baked chicken, and boiled eggs are all examples of simple recipes. If you can make a meal from five ingredients or less, then it’s considered pretty basic. You can actually google “five ingredient recipes.” There are a lot of other people out there sharing information on how to cook without spending all day on the preparation. Simple recipes save you time.

Simple ingredients also usually boost your nutrition value. If you’ve heard people talking about cooking with “whole foods,” they generally mean single ingredients that don’t have any additives. For example, onion powder would be a simple ingredient. A packet of flavor mix that has multiple unpronounceable ingredients and a few preservatives thrown in would not be a simple ingredient. Simple ingredients keep things healthier.

And one-pot-wonders are a way to simplify your preparation and clean up. One of the worst parts of cooking can be having to wash all of the dishes afterward. When you make slow cooker meals, besides the tools you may have used for preparing ingredients, all you have left to clean up is one dishwasher-safe crock. Once again, one-pot meals are easily searchable online if you need ideas. They range from crockpot to casserole dish.

Inspired to get busy in the kitchen? ILA has dozens of kitchen and cooking aids that you can check out here. There’s something to keep everyone active and independent.

Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

 

Three Easy Ways to Exercise Indoors That Don’t Require Special Equipment

When cold weather comes to town, our exercise routines often go out the door. Exercising outside in pleasant weather isn’t too hard to muster up the motivation to do. Walking, swimming, or playing badminton are all pastimes that seem more like fun than work.

But when the temperatures aren’t ideal for being out and about, our exercise routines have to move inside. And unless you have a nice home gym set, it can be easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do to keep up the same level of activity.

You may feel that you need to purchase specialized equipment to help you exercise inside, which would be an expense and a hassle. But there are plenty of things you can do indoors to keep yourself moving without having to purchase a thing.

Dancing

Dancing is one of the most enjoyable indoor exercise activities. The easiest thing to do is just to start playing music of your choice and moving around to it. I enjoy playing music while I clean the house or cook. It puts an extra spring in my step and makes me more likely to move briskly while working.

If you want more structure than impromptu activities provide, you can watch dance-based exercise videos. If you don’t own any, there’s no need to make a purchase. YouTube has plenty of free videos you can view, like this Free Easy Dance Exercises for Senior Adults that comes on Hawaii public television.

Lifting Milk Jugs

Feel like you need some strength training but don’t have a set of weights? Milk jug lifting is cheap and highly flexible. If you can find two empty milk jugs, then clean them out to use for lifting.

You control the weight of the jugs by filling them with water. This makes the poundage easily adjustable. All you have to do is put in more water to make them heavier or pour water out to make them lighter.

Water bottles can also be used as dumbbells. This article on Livestrong gives good tips on how to work out with both types of homemade weights.

Cleaning the House

Cleaning the house sounds like a chore and not an exercise plan. But if you set a routine and make some modifications to your movements, it can become a regular part of your exercise program.

First, set a routine, just as you would with any other exercise. Consider what types of chores use what types of muscles. Try to rotate the kinds of activities you are doing, giving the parts of your body you just used a rest day in between.

One day you might want to do chores like sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping, which use the big muscles in your arms, legs, and back. These activities also get your heart rate up if you are moving briskly. It would be like doing a strengthening and cardio exercise.

Another day you could do exercises that work on flexibility and balance. Use window and mirror washing to practice extending your reach. When folding laundry, put your clothes on one side and your folding surface on the other, so you have to twist back and forth (Let’s do the twist!) at the waist to bring the clothes from the basket to the table.  Just remember to use safe techniques when lifting heavy items such as laundry baskets.

If you do want to add an affordable, compact piece of exercise equipment to your routine, ILA has a Pedal Exerciser that mimics the movements of a bicycle while taking up less than half the space of a stationary bike.  

 

Photo by Martin Barák on Unsplash

Low-Cost Ways To Stay Warm When It’s Cold Outside

The bitter cold of winter can increase both your discomfort and your power bills. For people who have health problems such as arthritis, this can be a dilemma. Turning up the heat means losing money. Turning down the heat means losing comfort.

It seems like a no-win situation. But there are some low-cost ways you can help yourself stay warm when it’s cold outside. Optimizing the insulation of your home and your body will help you dial up the heat without moving the thermostat.

Layers

The first line of defense against the cold is layering. I remember a winter from my early 20s where a snowstorm knocked out the electricity for days. My cheap, ground-floor apartment was freezing. I wore several layers during the day, and at night, I slept in socks and a hat.

Even if you have functional heat, you may want to sleep with a hat and socks. I wear socks to bed every night just because I like to be warm. And during the winter I drink hot drinks several times a day. They not only help heat up your hands and face, but they keep you from getting dehydrated in the dry winter climate.

For underneath layers, choose materials that are thin, yet warm. You don’t want to restrict your movements with too much bulk. But having something close to your skin that will hold in your body heat is ideal. ILA carries angora warmers for your knees, lower back, and shoulder. These warmers are thin and light, but thermal, thanks to the hollow structure of their natural fibers.

Optimize The Use Of Your Windows

Having a lot of windows in the winter can be good or bad, depending on how you use them. Poorly insulated windows will allow your heat to seep out. Making sure they are weatherized and caulked can significantly reduce your power bill when it gets cold. (Or hot.)

If you aren’t able to do home renovations but know your windows need work, covering them in bubble wrap can help. Bubble wrap is a great insulator, and you can often collect it for free from people who get a lot of packages in the mail. Tape the bubble wrap over your entire window, especially paying attention to the seams. It may not look attractive, but it will make a difference.

Your windows can also be used to bring in heat. When it’s sunny outside, open your curtains and blinds. Sun streaming through a glass window can warm up the air quickly. Once the sun starts to set, you should close the blinds again. Collecting and trapping heat is a great way to give your thermostat a boost.

Draft Dodging

Eliminating drafts and reducing the size of the space you need heated are other ways to save money. Putting down rugs or carpet on hard floors will keep your feet and body warmer without having to change the temperature of the whole room.

Closing off unused rooms helps when you are running central heat or space heaters. No need to pay for heating areas of your home that no one is in. And when you close of empty spaces, put down door snakes to keep the cold air from seeping out of those drafty rooms into your toasty living area.

Does that hot drink sound good now? ILA has the Hot Shot Beverage Maker available online. The Hot Shot heats single servings of hot water to bring you drinks, soups, or hot cereals in 90 seconds.

 

Photo by YUNXI SHI on Unsplash

Three Great Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day With Someone Who Is Visually Impaired

Valentine’s Day is often associated with giving gifts, such as cards, candy, and flowers. If you have a special someone in your life who is visually impaired, you may be wondering how to create a traditional Valentine’s experience that makes more use of the other four senses.

Music to Set the Mood

Adults can do a little listening to some mood music. Find something romantic and pop it into your CD player. Or, if you like to move, create a dance floor set-up and make your own party at home. A good gift set would be a CD of your favorite music bundled with a large button CD player.

And kids love to play games to music. They can have a freestyle dance, or you can do something structured. One idea is to sit in a circle, with music playing, and pass around a heart. When the music stops, everyone must say something kind or complimentary about the child who is left holding the heart.

Are you musically talented? One of the best gifts you could give is a personalized song. Whether singing about the beauty of your true love, or the things you like about your five-year-old, custom made songs are always a hit. If you’re not up to composing your own tune, take a well-known song and just change the words.

Food Can Be Fun

Since most people enjoy going out to eat on Valentine’s Day, or receiving boxes of chocolates or candies, you can try to up the entertainment value.

Adults may want to turn mealtime into an activity. Choose a fancy recipe for the special occasion and learn some new culinary skills. Cooking together is good for bonding. Cooking Without Looking is one resource you can check for ideas on managing meal prep with low vision.

For kids or adults, add some tactile elements to your Valentine’s treats. Heart shaped cakes or candies would be fun to receive. Or serving your meal or treats on bright red plates might give some interesting contrast for people with low vision.  

Valentine’s Themed Presents

Valentine’s Day is not just for romance. You can show your love to friends and family as well. Some Valentine’s Day themed gifts you can give to everyone include Braille jewelry. ILA has necklaces that say Friend, Love, Best Friend, and I Heart You.

Want a card that makes an impression? Use a Raised-Line Drawing Board to create your own Valentine’s Day greeting. Just draw what you want with a standard pen, and whatever you write will be able to be felt.

For a kids’ craft try making hearts or raised messages out of Wikki Stix. Wikki Stix are easy to use, and the design possibilities are endless. Another idea is to take craft items such as buttons, fabric squares, and sequins and sort them into cupcake tins. Provide paper and glue for making cards, and have the kids create a scene.

There are a lot of ways to make your Valentine’s activities go beyond the traditional card on paper. Try some of these ideas to add excitement to the holiday, and then come back and let us know how it went in the comments.

ILA wishes you and your loved ones a Happy Valentine’s Day!