Games for Two

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

Two Person Games for All Ages

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

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

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

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

Tic-Tac-Toe: Game board is bright orange and measures 5.5″ x 5.5.” The pegs are black squares and white circles.

Games Geared Towards Kids

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

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

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

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

Helpful Information and Resources to Consider

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

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

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

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

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

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Games for the Visually Impaired

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

Traditional Home-Based Games for the Visually Impaired

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

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

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

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

Team Sports for the Visually Impaired

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

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

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

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

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

Virtual Online and Video Games for the Visually Impaired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Understanding Hearing Loss

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

Parts of the Ear

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

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

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

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

Types and Degrees of Hearing Loss

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

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

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

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

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

The degrees of hearing loss range from mild to profound.

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

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

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

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

Ways to Help Compensate for Hearing Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

Low Vision Reading Aids

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips and Tricks for Computer Screens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading Accessories

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

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

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

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

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Mother’s Day Around the World

Mother’s Day is upon us and there are many ways to celebrate the mothers in your life. Many attributes go into being a mother with commonalities across the span of time. There are many aspects about the holiday that you may not know such as from whence did it derive, the controversy that developed from it, and how do celebrations differ across the world.

History of Mother’s Day

Time and Date states that early Mother’s Day celebrations can be dated back to the spring celebrations to honor Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, in ancient Greek civilization. Later, Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom was traditionally a day for people to visit the church where they were baptized, although it now also celebrates motherhood in modern times.

The modern-day origins of Mother’s Day can be attributed to two women – Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis, who were important in establishing the tradition in the United States. Around 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for Mother’s Day to be celebrated each year. It continued to be held in Boston for about 10 years under her sponsorship but died out after that.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis held a private Mother’s Day celebration in memory of her mother, Ann Jarvis, in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1908, she played a key role in arranging a church service that attracted 407 children and their mothers. A Mother’s Day International Association was founded in 1912 to promote the holiday in other countries. Mother’s Day has grown increasingly popular since then.

Mother’s Day Controversy

It didn’t take long for Anna Jarvis’s Mother’s Day to get commercialized, with Jarvis fighting against what it became. Jarvis never profited from the day, despite ample opportunities afforded by her status as a minor celebrity.  (source: National Geographic)

Her efforts to hold on to the original meaning of the day led to her own economic hardship. While others profited from the day, Jarvis did not, and she spent the later years of her life with her sister Lillie. In 1943, she began organizing a petition to rescind Mother’s Day. However, these efforts were halted when she was placed in the Marshall Square Sanitarium in West Chester, Pennsylvania. People connected with the floral and greeting card industries paid the bills to keep her in the sanitarium. (source: Wikipedia)

Mother’s Day Around the World

Despite Anna Jarvis’ efforts to end the holiday she first created; Mother’s Day in the USA often includes showering mom with bouquets of flowers, cards, and other gifts.  While there are some similarities, Mother’s Day around the world is not a one size fits all holiday. This section will look at how a few countries around the world uniquely celebrate Mother’s Day.

 

France: Amidst alarm at the low birth rate, there were attempts in 1896 and 1904 to create a national celebration honoring the mothers of large families. In 1906 ten mothers who had nine children each were given an award recognizing “High Maternal Merit.” American World War I soldiers fighting in France popularized the US Mother’s Day holiday. They sent so much mail back to their country for Mother’s Day that the Union Franco-Américaine created a postal card for that purpose. In 1918, the town of Lyon wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day, but instead decided to celebrate a national day of mothers with large families. A 1950 law in France established Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday in May, except when it overlaps with Pentecost, in which case it’s pushed back a week. But beyond the date, Mother’s Day in France looks very similar to in the U.S.—cards and flowers are bestowed, and family dinners are had. (sources: Time and Wikipedia)

Japan: Japan initially aligned Haha no Hi with the birthday of Empress Koujun, whose tenure spanned most of the 20th century. But Mother’s Day has since been moved to the second Sunday in May. The holiday is often celebrated with children drawing pictures of their moms, either to give to them or enter into art competitions. Giving your mother red carnations is very common in Japan as it is in most countries. (sources: Martha Stewart and  Time)

Mexico: “Día de las Madres” is an unofficial holiday in Mexico held each year on May 10th, the day on which it was first celebrated in Mexico. To show affection and appreciation to the mother, it is traditional to start the celebration with the famous song “Las Mañanitas”, either a cappella, with the help of a mariachi or a contracted trio. Mexican Mother’s Day history dictates a traditional breakfast of tamales and atole, which is a hot drink made from corn. Families usually gather to celebrate, trying to spend as much time as possible with mothers to honor them. They bring some dishes and eat together or visit a restaurant. (sources: The Bump and Wikipedia)

Poland: Called “Dzień Matki” in Poland, Polish Mother’s Day history dates back to 1923 in Krakow, though the celebration didn’t really take off until the years following World War II. It is now annually celebrated on May 26, with schools hosting special events where children present their moms with sheets of paper known as “laurki,” decorated with flowers and special messages of love. Mother’s Day is an official holiday in Poland, so shopping and eating out isn’t an option. When family members come to visit their mothers and grandmothers, the festivities are held at home and gifts given include flowers and cake. (source: The Bump)

United Kingdom: As early as the 16th century, the U.K. observed on the fourth Sunday of Lent a day called Mothering Sunday, when families came together to attend church. This holiday has its roots in the church and was originally unrelated to the American holiday. In the early 20th century, Mothering Sunday—which had evolved into a tradition of spending family time at home—was fused with the Hallmark-card-giving American holiday, but it has retained its traditional name and date. The traditions of the two holidays are now mixed together and celebrated on the same day, although many people are not aware that the festivities have quite separate origins. (sources: Time and Wikipedia)

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Distance Viewing

The first magnifier constructed for scientific purposes is believed to have been designed by the English philosopher Roger Bacon (circa 1220-1292) sometime during the thirteenth century. Most magnifying glasses are double-convex lenses and are used to make objects appear larger. Today our magnification options are vast in both types of magnifiers and the rate in which they can enlarge an object. This blog will look at three basic options to include the monocular, binocular, and electronic magnifier.

Monocular

Both binoculars and monoculars are intended for long-range observations. However, you will find a few differences while making use of each one. The biggest difference between a monocular and binoculars is how they look as well as how they are being used.

Two reasons you might choose a monocular over binoculars are cost and portability. When you compare a monocular with binoculars of the same specs, you will usually discover that monoculars are available at a generally lower price tag. Plus, since they are both lighter and smaller than binoculars, a monocular provides the benefit of being easier to carry around. While binoculars tend to come with a neck strap the monocular usually comes with a wrist strap. If you have arthritis or other conditions which hurt your hands or wrists, you may not want to wear a wrist strap. Even people with healthy wrists usually do not find a wrist strap as comfortable as a neck strap.

In terms of ease of use monoculars are straightforward. There are only one lens and one focus to adjust. That lets you work very quickly in most situations. Plus, since they do only have one lens, they are easier to maintain than binoculars.

Further information comparing monoculars and binoculars can be found at Optics Mag or this binoculars vs monocular article. ILA’s featured monocular is the 4X12 Monocular.

Binocular

Binocular Insight states that binoculars, also known as field glasses, are two telescopes which are usually mounted on a single frame aligned side-by-side. They provide magnification for distant objects. They are handheld devices with each telescope dedicated to one eye. Most binoculars come with a neck strap making them easier to carry around.

Focusing a pair of binoculars can take some practice but once figured out can be done quickly. The way binoculars are designed is so you can easily adjust the focus of the telescopes by using a one hand thumbwheel which is called the central focus adjustment. Once the central focus is adjusted, one of the two eyepieces can be further adjusted to compensate for differences between the viewer’s eyes. This is usually accomplished by rotating the eyepiece of each mount.

Unlike a monocular, binoculars can provide a three-dimensional image. Binoculars are designed to be used with or without glasses. Most manufacturers allow for corrective lens in their designs by adding extra focus ability or larger eye relief.

Nightskyinfo provides an in depth look at what the numbers on binoculars mean. All binoculars are described by using a pair of numbers, such as 7×50 or 8×30. The first number, including the x, represents magnification or “power”. This tells the degree to which the object observed is enlarged. For example, a 7x binocular makes an object appear seven times closer than when viewed by the naked eye.

The second number in the two-number code is aperture, the most important specification of binoculars if you plan to use them for astronomical observations. It represents the diameter of each of the objective lenses (the lenses furthest from your eye), given in millimeters. Therefore, 7×50 binoculars have objective lenses 50 mm in diameter. Aperture is so important because it determines the light gathering ability of your binoculars. Most celestial objects glow very dimly, so a large aperture becomes much more important in low light conditions. For example, 35 mm binoculars will do great when you watch a baseball game on a sunny day, but when used to observe the night sky you will find that they are pretty useless compared to typical 50 mm binoculars.

ILA’s featured binocular is the 2.8X Sports Spectacles.

Electronic Magnifiers

The American Foundation for the Blind has a three-part series discussing electronic magnifiers. People with low vision have more choices than ever when it comes to magnification. You can choose from full-sized desktop electronic magnifiers (once called CCTVs), portable units that are small enough to fit in a laptop bag, and handhelds you can tuck into a pocket or purse.

Part 1: Identify Your Priorities: This article looks at such things as portability, features, and cost. You will learn how to ask the right questions, not just about products you’re considering, but about how you will use a magnifier in your daily life, at work, at school, at home, or on the go. In this first article, the focus is on you, the potential magnifier buyer, and how understanding your priorities is key to making a good purchase decision.

Part 2: Larger Magnifier Systems, Specs, and Features: This second article will take a deeper dive into the world of desktop and transportable magnifiers, explaining how their components work together, and guiding you through the most important specs and features.

Part 3: Handheld Magnifiers: Finally in this third article, the focus is on electronic magnifier products with the goal of helping you identify the features you need, and answering the question: given so many options, who needs a standalone electronic magnifier, anyway? If you are in the market for a handheld magnifier, ILA is currently featuring the Explore 8 Handheld Electronic Magnifier.

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Spring is in the Air

Springtime usually means outings, concerts, picnics, and other assorted crowd gathering activities. This year, however, with the threat of covid-19 in the air spring will take on a different feel. It is still possible to enjoy the things you love albeit in a slightly different way. You may also find new things to love that you have never tried or thought of doing before. This blog will look at a sampling of the fun spring related ideas that you can still participate.

Home Gardening

According to an article from the Farmer’s Almanac, gardening for the first time can be daunting at first, but gardening is an incredibly rewarding hobby to get into.  If you have never tasted garden-fresh vegetables (lots of people haven’t!), you will be amazed by the sweet, juicy flavors and vibrant textures. There is absolutely nothing quite like fresh veggies, especially if you grow them yourself—which you can! The linked article provides a gardening for beginner’s guide to growing plants for the first time.

Live in an apartment? No worries there are still some gardening ideas available for you too. When it comes to having a garden, space is not an issue. You can grow plants just about anywhere. So even if you live in a tiny apartment, you can grow some green. Why stop with pretty flowers? Consider growing your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables and really indulge your gardening senses.  This article from the Spruce offers tips and tricks for growing plants from within an apartment or otherwise smaller dwelling.

Photography

Photography is a fun hobby that can be enjoyed year-round. You do not have to have a fancy camera or even a standalone camera, a smartphone will do too. This article from Digital Photography School explores ten benefits that can be gained from having photography as a hobby including recording events and capturing memories, being creative, having fun, and continued learning to help keep the brain strong.

If the only camera available to you is your smartphone, PC Magazine offers tips and trips to take more professional looking photographs including learning your camera’s features, purchasing add on lens, and editing your shots.

Chalk Art

Thousands of chalk drawings and signs have made people’s walks during coronavirus a little better. You can find articles, groups, and photos of all kinds where people have decorated their sidewalks, fences, and other stationary outdoor objects with their chalk art. Several hashtags have also come into being including #chalkyourwalk, #sidewakchalk and #chalkart.

Under stay-at-home orders, the outdoors is one of the few places people can go to get out of the house. Neighborhoods across the country have encouraged their residents to chalk their sidewalks and driveways to make the day a little brighter. Some people have said that seeing the drawings and messages on their walk reminds them that they are not going through the pandemic alone. The MIami Herald has a nicely written article with sample photos illustrating this movement.

Quarantine Karaoke

If you love to sing, love to hear others sing, or just miss going to your favorite karaoke hot spot there is a group on Facebook to help you ease (or sing) the blues. Quarantine Karaoke is a group created by Joseph Meyers. In the group’s “about” section, Mr. Meyers says “You are encouraged to post videos of yourself singing your favorite songs to distract from the world pandemic and pull each other closer together. Positive vibes only and FUN is a requirement!” While it is a private group you are encouraged to join and invite your friends. As of the writing of this blog the group is currently up to 566,478 members from everywhere in the world. Please note that it is always important to review this, or any, group’s rules prior to joining. The number one rule for this group is to be nice. No bullying will be tolerated. Use the link above if you are interested in joining and to read the rest of the group rules.

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The Healing Power of Music

If you ask someone who is their favorite band or musician often, you’ll be met with there being far too many to name. When a favorite is proclaimed it’s likely that a few more will ultimately also be named if the conversation continues. Music is a universal language that makes the heart sing, the body heal, and the soul feel complete. The right kind of music can do all these things anyway. Music that works for one person may not work for another which is where music therapy comes into play. This blog will look at the origins of music therapy, how music can be medically beneficial, and resources to direct you to learn more.

Origins of Music Therapy

PSYCOM provides an in-depth slideshow looking at the origins and continued benefits of music as therapy. While modern music therapy may be a 20th-century “invention,” it is by no means a new concept. Ancient Greek philosophers used music therapeutically, playing tranquil flute melodies to manic patients, while people with depression were treated to the soothing sounds of a dulcimer (an instrument similar to a zither).

Physicians and musicians were housed in holy healing shrines—further cementing the intertwined relationship that music and healing had in Ancient Greece. Early Ancient Egyptian medical papyrus texts describe chant-like incantations for healing the sick. And within Chinese medicine, a tradition with an ancient lineage, music is seen to correspond to the five different organ and meridian systems, which can be used to promote healing.

It further illustrates that old is new again starting with the Tibetan singing bowl that originated in the 12th century oft performed by Buddhist monks. Today wellness centers offer sound baths where practitioners incorporate singing bowls into experiential musical therapy.

Modern music therapy originated during World War II. Many soldiers struggling with physical and emotional trauma (such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD) were institutionalized, unable to function in society. Volunteer musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, began playing for hospitalized veterans.

Noting the positive physical and emotional impact, doctors and nurses started requesting regular visits from musicians. It was thought that hearing familiar songs helped stabilize and calm the soldiers—bringing them back to a more peaceful time before the war. Overtime, standards and training programs began to emerge. In 1944, Michigan State University founded the first college music therapy program, a step toward codifying the approach as a therapeutic discipline.

Medical Benefits

The PSYCOM article referenced above, along with this article from Harvard Medical School look deeper into how music can be therapeutic for nearly all that ails you. Music as therapy has shown positive and beneficial effects in managing a host of medical conditions, like high blood pressure, as well as an effective treatment for some mental health conditions. Usually part of a multi-pronged approach to care, music therapists work with doctors, nurses, social workers, and other practitioners to alleviate depression, trauma, schizophrenia, and more

A growing body of research attests that music therapy is more than a nice perk. It can improve medical outcomes and quality of life in a variety of ways. Here’s a sampling:

Improves invasive procedures. In controlled clinical trials of people having colonoscopies, cardiac angiography, and knee surgery, those who listened to music before their procedure had reduced anxiety and a reduced need for sedatives. Those who listened to music in the operating room reported less discomfort during their procedure. Hearing music in the recovery room lowered the use of opioid painkillers.

Restores lost speech. Music therapy can help people who are recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech. Because singing ability originates in the right side of the brain, people can work around the injury to the left side of their brain by first singing their thoughts and then gradually dropping the melody.

Reduces side effects of cancer therapy. Listening to music reduces anxiety associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It can also quell nausea and vomiting for patients receiving chemotherapy.

Aids pain relief. Music therapy has been tested in patients ranging from those with intense acute pain to those with chronic pain from arthritis. Overall, music therapy decreases pain perception, reduces the amount of pain medication needed, helps relieve depression, and gives people a sense of better control over their pain.

Improves quality of life for dementia patients. Because the ability to engage with music remains intact late into the disease process, music therapy can help to recall memories, reduce agitation, assist communication, and improve physical coordination.

Resources

Want to learn more or find a therapist in your area or even learn strategies from the safety of your own home? These resources can be of assistance.

American Music Therapy Association: This site gives the basics of what music therapy is, where you can find a qualified therapist, and the prerequisites a therapist must have in order to be licensed.

Positive Psychology: This article provides 15 music therapy activities and tools that can be tailored to your own needs.

The Certification Board for Music Therapists:  CBMT promotes excellence by awarding board certification based on proven, up-to-date knowledge and competence in clinical practice. Their vision is to ensure access to safe, effective music therapy services for all.

World Federation of Music Therapy: An international nonprofit organization bringing together music therapy associations and individuals interested in developing and promoting music therapy globally through the exchange of information, collaboration among professionals, and actions.

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Enjoying the Arts from Home

Enjoying the arts has always been a way for people to escape their every day lives. During this time, where most people find themselves staying at home, it may be necessary to find more creative ways to escape into the world of the arts.  Below you will find just a few examples of some of the many free options to help pass the time more enjoyably.

Music and Dance

Andrew Lloyd Weber Free Online Musicals: Andrew Lloyd Webber is streaming a production of one of his musicals on YouTube every week while theatres are closed due to the coronavirus.  The first in the series will be the composer’s 2000 production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond, Joan Collins and Richard Attenborough. It will be available to watch on the YouTube channel The Show Must Go On for 48 hours, starting on Friday April 3rd at 7pm GMT. The series will continue every Friday for the next few weeks.

Online Dance Classes: Dancers, choreographers and studios are turning to online platforms including Instagram and Zoom to keep people moving through the coronavirus outbreak. Some of these options are free while others have a charge that’s listed in the info for that site.

Virtual ‘Love Sweet Love’ From Quarantined Berklee College of Music Students: This is a virtual performance of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love” by students from Boston Conservatory at Berklee and Berklee College of Music. Be sure to watch through the credits to enjoy videos of some of the students dancing. If there’s a sliver of a silver lining in these uncertain times, it’s music — from free virtual concerts to free streaming music.

Fine Arts and Museums

Free Online Art Classes: Illustrators have stepped up to create virtual resources and free classes for kids, parents, and anyone else who needs a creative break in the midst of the pandemic.

Free Online Nkion Photography Classes: Nikon is offering free online photography classes for all of April. Now through April 30th.  All 10 classes available at the Nikon School can be streamed for free. The classes are normally priced anywhere between $15 to $50 each.

Museum Virtual Tours: Experience the best museums from London to Seoul in the comfort of your own home. Google Arts & Culture’s collection includes the British Museum in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Guggenheim in New York City, and literally hundreds of more places where you can gain knowledge about art, history, and science. This collection is especially good for students who are looking for ways to stay on top of their studies while schools are closed.

Just for Fun

This section offers a few fun and silly options that can be found to help add joy to your life. These options range from recreating world renown art, having 3D animals appear in your home, and bedtime stories with Dolly Parton.

Recreating World Renown Art: Get creative and share your creations. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles tweeted a challenge to art fans to post photos of themselves recreating their favorite works of art from the safety of their homes. People responded with a lot of enthusiasm and flooded social media with their unique artistic interpretations. You can either view the first link to CNN with images of some of the artwork or view the second link to the museum’s Twitter page to see them all.

Smartphone fun: If you type an animal name into Google from an iPhone or Samsung phone and then press “view in 3D” it’ll bring up your phone’s camera and within 30 seconds an image of the animal in 3D.   Once it pulls up you can then take a photo of your family “interacting with” the animal anywhere from your residence. If you do not have one of those type smartphones, it’ll just bring up the animal image in 3D making its native sound and you can twirl the animal around from all sides to look at it. Some of the available animals are lion, tiger, cheetah, shark, hedgehog, duck, emperor penguin, wolf, angler fish, goat, rottweiler, snakes, eagle, brown bear, alligator, and horse. Other categories that can be seen in 3D include NASA/space and the human skeleton.

Bedtime Stories with Dolly Parton:  Calling herself “the book lady,” Dolly invited everyone to join her for “Goodnight with Dolly. ” She will start reading to kids every Thursday night at 7 p.m. beginning April 2nd and lasting for the next 10 weeks. The first book read was “The Little Engine That Could.” The books featured in the series include: “There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom of the Lake” by Loren Long; “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney; “I Am a Rainbow” by Parton; “Pass It On” by Sophy Henn; “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon” by Patty Lovell; “Violet the Pilot” by Steve Breen; “Max & The Tag-Along Moon” by Floyd Cooper; “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña; and “Coat of Many Colors” by Parton.

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Bite by Bite: Quarantine Edition -Trying to stay healthy while sheltering in place

National Nutrition Month 2020 is March and this year’s theme is “Eat Right, Bite by Bite” with the overall message being that quality nutrition isn’t restrictive, but that small changes to diet can have a cumulative effect on health over time. Every healthy nutritional choice is a choice in the right direction. But eating healthily, as well as getting enough exercise, can be challenging in the best of times but even more so when most of the country is currently sheltering in place within their homes.

Preparing Healthy Meals with Limited Ingredients

With many grocery stores having bare shelves and/or limiting how much can be purchased at a time it may seem an impossible fete to prepare healthy and nutritious meals.  Do you ever look through your pantry and fridge wondering what you could possibly make with what seems to be an impossible mystery basket off of “Chopped”?  The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts provides an article outlining the top apps/websites for inputting what you already have on hand to find that perfect meal. The top three choices are:

SuperCook: This website is simple and effective, and there’s no need to download or install anything to your phone. Start by selecting ingredients you already have on hand from several categories (such as meat, seasoning, and dairy). As you add available ingredients, SuperCook suggests recipes, updating results for each new item you include. From there you can narrow down your results by selecting type of meal you want to make, type of cuisine, and/or the star ingredient. If you want to save your ingredients and favorite recipes, you can make a profile.

Allrecipes Dinner Spinner: Allrecipes is available on multiple devices, including tablet and smartphone. You can find recipes by browsing through categories such as dietary restrictions, ingredients, cuisine type, meal type, season and cooking technique. Searching by ingredient allows you to set your parameters based on what you have available. The easiest search is with the “dinner spinner,” a tool that lets you quickly spin through a combination of options by dish type, ingredients on-hand, and how long before the meal is ready. You can save your recipes and ingredients by creating an account.

BigOven: This app lets you navigate and brainstorm in a number of ways. For instance, check out the Ideas section to browse through meal inspiration. There you’ll find categories like “Use Up Leftovers,” which curates recipes based on reusing ingredients. The Collections area includes recipe ideas for healthy breakfasts, healthy snacks, meat-free, soups, low-carb, and more. Most recipes come with nutritional facts that include the number of calories per serving. The Grocery List section allows you to sort by ingredient and keep tabs on what you’ll need to make a certain meal.

Indoor Exercises Geared Towards Seniors

According to Medicare  staying active – even if you’re exercising for only 15 minutes – can significantly improve senior health. For example, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that elderly adults who exercised spent 25% less time disabled or injured than those who did not. Physical activity can boost mood, add extra years to your life, help you maintain or lose weight, reduce the impact of illness and disease like Alzheimer’s, and enhance mobility, flexibility, and balance.

Exercise Videos: The National Institute on Aging at NIH has a great collection of free “Go4Life” exercise videos on YouTube.  Try these Go4Life workout videos to help you fit exercise and physical activity into your daily life.

Balance exercises – Balance training exercises strengthen the muscles that help keep you upright to improve stability and help prevent falls. Older adults at risk of falls should do balance training three or more days a week and do standardized exercises from a program demonstrated to reduce falls. These chair exercises, for example,  effectively assist elderly individuals to exercise and move without putting undo pressure or strain on their bodies.

SilverSneakers: Many Medicare Advantage recipients are eligible for a free gym membership through SilverSneakers. You can check your eligibility here. They are also currently offering free exercise videos geared towards seniors that can be done safely from inside your house on their Facebook page.

Need Cooking Supplies or Healthcare Equipment?

ILA offers many products that can be delivered right to your home to help stay healthy while obeying Social Distancing.

Kitchen and Cooking Aids: From slicing and dicing, measuring, cooking, to eating there is something for everyone. Most of these products are geared towards persons with visual impairments and therefore are also great for anyone safety conscious in the kitchen.

Healthcare: ILA sells a wide variety of healthcare products and aids, including talking scales, bathing and bathroom aids, glucose meters and diabetic aids, pill and medicine organizers, and much more.

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