History of Cyber Monday and Black Friday

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

Cyber Monday

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

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

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

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

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

Black Friday

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

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

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

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

Black Friday VS Cyber Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cooking Gadgets to Help with Holiday Meals

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

Air Fryers

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

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

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

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

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

Talking Kitchen Scales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow Cookers

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

Benefits of Using a Slow Cooker:

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

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

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Amplified Telephones

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

What Are Amplified Telephones?

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

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

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

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

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

Types of Hearing-Impaired Phones

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

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

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

Questions to Determine if You might Benefit from an Amplified Phone

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

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

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

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month

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

What is Diabetes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Diabetes can Affect the Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ways to Control Diabetes

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

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

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

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

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

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Halloween Tips for the Visually Impaired

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

Costume Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

Safety Tips

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

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

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

Craft Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Portable Handheld Magnifiers/CCTVs

learning about portable handheld magnifiers, MANOtouch CCTVS

People with low vision have more choices than ever before when it comes to magnification. The more technology changes and advances the harder it might be to choose the right kind of device for your own personal use. This blog will look at a few features offered on portable handheld magnifiers, also known as CCTVs (or closed-circuit televisions). 

Magnification

MEyeSight states that bigger is not always better. A 6x magnifier is not always a better choice than a 3x magnifier. The higher the power, the smaller the area you see.  As a general rule, in order to maintain the largest area of view, choose a magnifier with the least power you can get away with.

Magnifiers are available in three different kind of strengths and some have the capability to transition between all three allowing you to pick and choose the strength depending on the task at hand.

Low Power Magnifiers: The lower the power the larger the diameter can be. For arts and crafts and viewing pictures a round magnifier may be preferred; for reading and writing a rectangular one can save some weight.

Medium Power Magnifiers: As the power increases, the depth of field decreases and the need for accurate focusing increases. This is where stand magnifiers have an advantage, especially for those with a tremor, with arthritis or with other problems that prevent them from holding and moving a magnifier for a prolonged period.

High Power Magnifiers: As the power increases, the field of view decreases. A stand is usually required. Most must be held close to the eye where the field of view is largest.

The MANOtouch 4 Touchscreen CCTV is equipped to go from a low 1X magnification all the way up to a 20X magnification.  It has a brilliant resolution camera with a 3.5″ touchscreen that delivers a superior viewing experience.

Portability and Functionality

Small portable CCTVs, tending to range between 3 to 5 inches in screen size, easily fit into a pocket or purse. Most are extremely lightweight coming in at under a pound.  Available only in the last 10 years, they have also improved steadily. They have the same options as a desktop CCTV, with white-on-black, color, freeze frame, and variable magnification levels. They are less expensive ($300 to $700) than a standard desk-top CCTV.

For people who are active, still working or traveling, portable CCTVs are especially useful. While there are some disadvantages, including small screen size, newer models have found ways to enable a work around. Devices with HDMI ports allow users to easily connect (with a HDMI cord) to larger screens such as monitors or TVs. This enables you to essentially have a desktop enabled device but at a handheld price.

Some devices also have built-in stands making it easier to use higher magnifications without the shakiness that could occur when held in your hand. The stand could also work as a tripod of sorts if you desire to take photos with devices with built-in camera ability.

The MANOtouch 5 Touchscreen CCTV offers everything mentioned in this section. It has a 5” touchscreen, weighs only 9.5 ounces, comes equipped with a built-in camera, and its built-in protective cover also serves as a stand. It also has an HDMI port allowing it to easily connect to larger screens.

Touchscreen Display

Touchscreen displays have opened the world up for on the go technology. No bulky keyboards need to be lugged around and everything can be done from one central screen. Different devices have varying degrees of added built-in additions to this display that might include haptic feedback (vibration) of a key being pressed or audible readback of either the text on the screen or functionality of the button. Most touchscreens tend to be highly customizable to each specific user’s need.

Some products include innovative camera technology which offers LVHD (Low Vision High Definition) technology to produce optimal image processing with flicker-free viewing. It also minimizes reflections from high gloss papers and removes all image distortions.

While many things can be intuitive with previous experience, it is often a good idea to consult with the user’s guide to learn all the different functions available on the touchscreen. You may be pleasantly surprised with everything your device can do.

The ManoTouch 5 Plus Touchscreen CCTV offers innovative touchscreen technology, combined with a fold out handle for optimal usability.  All operating controls are managed through a simple and intuitive touch screen display, with all the controls highly customizable according to a user’s specific needs.

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The Benefits of LED Lamps

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have many advantages over incandescent light sources, including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved physical robustness, smaller size, and faster switching. LEDs are used in applications as diverse as aviation lighting all the way down to medical devices. This blog will look at three types/uses of LED lights to include color changing, floor lamps, and reading lamps.

LED Color and Temperature Color Changing Lights

‘Color’ refers to the color of light that the diode emits – this can be any color of the rainbow. Color temperature refers to the shade of white light emitted. White lights can produce warmer or cooler visual effects, and this is measured in degrees Kelvin.  Color changing LEDs can be used for purely decorative effect, for example by slowly cycling through different colors whereas color temperature changing lights can change the entire feeling of a room.

LEDs can generate up to 16 million colors, but an individual LED cannot change color by itself. Instead, a color-changing LED is made up of three separate LEDs in one casing, with a micro-controller operating them. Each of these diodes emits its own, specific color of red, green, or blue. These colors are used because our eyes see all colors as different combinations of red, green, and blue wavelengths. When all three diodes are switched on at full capacity, white light is produced. Adjusting the intensity of each diode allows a range of different colors and shades to be created.

Changing the temperature color is not quite as simple as that of changing the actual color when it comes to LED lighting. Luckily, manufacturers have come to appreciate this situation and have innovated LED fixtures with changing color temperatures. These fixtures combine two sets of LED chips, cool and warm temperatures, which users can alternate between.

Warm lights (starting at 1,000K) have a relaxing impact, and blue lights (going all the way up to 10,000K) help to keep us alert. Understanding the Kelvin numbers is key to understanding where on the spectrum the light is going to fall. To better understand what these temperature color looks like and where each fall on the Kelvin scale check out this YouTube video.

An example of a light that changes temperature colors this OttLite Cobra Color Changing LED Lamp. It offers 3 levels of lighting, from warm light to cool light to natural daylight (3,000K, 4,000K and 5,000K.)

For more information on these lights see Hunker or LED Lighting Info.

LED Floor Lamps

As the name suggests, a floor lamp is a tall-standing lighting device that is placed on the floor. They typically range between 4 feet to 6 feet tall based on its functionality. Since the light is elevated, it provides an illusion of vertical space, making it one of the best light decoration ideas for homes.  Finolex provides an in-depth article on some of their many benefits including:

Installation: Unlike other lighting solutions, floor lamps offer the unmatched advantage of no installation. All you need is a cozy corner for aesthetics and an electrical socket for power supply. You can entirely skip the process of reaching out for professional help, cleaning up after and, not to mention, paying for the services. Floor lamps are also much more affordable than a wall-mounted lighting solution installed in your home. Furthermore, they can be installed in literally every room of your home giving you the dual advantage of mobility and elegance.

Versatility: The best aspect of floor lamps is that all you need is a floor! Due to this, floor lights are extremely versatile in nature. Whether you are looking for a permanent reading solution for your study or a temporary lighting solution for an evening with friends in the backyard, they never disappoint. You can also work with colorful LED lighting to change the mood and ambience.

One of the floor lamps that ILA offers this Uno LED Flex Floor Lamp. Lamp stands 52” tall and has a flexible arm which allow for optimal positioning. To see all available floor lamp options please see floor lamps.

LED Reading Lamps

Whether reading a paperback, e-reader, or tablet, it’s important to understand why the right type of lighting is important for your reading environment. Some reading lamps are desk lamps, some are portable, some are floor lamps, and others still are a combination therein. No matter what type of lighting you choose it is important to ensure It is right for you.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists offers two main things to consider when deciding on the right light to read by which are mindfulness of lighting both on/off the page and utilizing task lighting.

Be mindful of the brightness of digital screen vs. your reading environment. As many books are now switching from paperback to digital – including student textbooks – it is important to remember that the lighting of the area you are reading in should be as bright or brighter than your digital device. Therefore, avoid reading in dark rooms. Reading from digital devices in a dark room can cause discomfort, leading to lower concentration and disorientation because your eyes are constantly adjusting between the brightness of a screen and your dimly lit surroundings. Additionally, dark rooms will not provide sufficient lighting if you are reading a paperback book.

Increase task lighting in your home. Task lighting refers to artificial light that increase illuminance for activities, such as reading. Most households are significantly under lit, says Graham Strong from the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry, which can cause your eyes to tire out much quicker. For tasks such as reading, light should be positioned to shine directly onto the page and not over your shoulder to avoid any glare.

If relaxing and unwinding in your living room over a hot cup of coffee and an intriguing book is the best part of your day, opt for a functional floor reading lamp to complement your decor. ILA offers this Cordless LED Reading Lamp. No cord means there are fewer tripping opportunities.

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Healthy Aging Month

Drawing on the “back to school” urge embedded in everyone from childhood, September is a perfect time to celebrate Healthy Aging Month. Now more than 20 years since it began, it provides inspiration and practical ideas for adults, ages 45-plus, to improve their physical, mental, social, and financial well-being. This blog will focus on the physical elements which in turn will serve to improve upon your emotional wellbeing as well. To maintain as active a lifestyle as possible it is necessary to exercise, eat well, and monitor your health to help maintain your independence. A brief overview of each topic is discussed below followed by two product suggestions from ILA.

Exercise

 Some people love it, some people hate it, but regardless of your personal feelings, exercise and physical activity are good for you—period. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), exercise and physical activity are considered a cornerstone of almost every healthy aging program. Scientific evidence suggests that people who exercise regularly not only live longer, they live better. And, being physically active—doing everyday activities that keep your body moving, such as gardening, walking the dog, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator—can help you continue to do the things you enjoy and stay independent as you age.

Another page on the NIA website provides instructional articles on different types and benefits of exercise. These are just 3 of the  9 highlighted articles that offer advice on how to stay active anywhere and everywhere you go. Find tips on how to fit exercise into your daily life safely and get motivated to get moving!

How to Get Started with Exercise: Being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your health. Get started!

Exercising with Chronic Conditions: Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. Learn how.

Real-Life Benefits of Exercise: Staying active can help your physical and emotional health and mobility.

Highlighted products:

Pedal Exerciser: Enjoy bicycle-type exercise from your chair, or place the unit on a table to exercise your arms. Helps improve circulation and muscle strength. Made of heavy-duty steel with a large knob to adjust for variable resistance. Features comfortable pedal straps to help hold feet in place while in use. Assembles easily.

Tactile/Braille Yoga Mat w/2 Instructional CDs: This Braille and tactile Yoga Mat is designed to enable people who are blind, vision impaired, or who may face physical challenges due to age or disability, to practice yoga safely and confidently.

Eat Well

Consuming the right kind of nutrients is paramount for a healthy body. Nutrition, according to MedlinePlus, is about eating a healthy and balanced diet, so your body gets the nutrients that it needs. Good nutrition is important, no matter what your age. It gives you energy and can help you control your weight. It may also help prevent some diseases, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

But as you age, your body and life change, and so does what you need to stay healthy. For example, you may need fewer calories, but you still need to get enough nutrients. Also, some older adults need more protein.

Their top 5 suggestions for eating healthy include; eat foods that give a lot of nutrients with few calories, avoid consuming empty calories, pick foods that are low in cholesterol and fat, drink enough liquids, and they circle back around to staying active to help control your appetite.

Highlighted products:

Chefman 3.5L Air Fryer: This air fryer can cook food with a crispy texture, without deep frying. It can cook, bake, roast, and “fry” with an adjustable temperature range of 175° to 400°F. Food cooks quickly and safely in the self-contained cooking basket. It has an easy to use manual temperature control and a 60-minute timer. No worries if you forgot to thaw food out the night before as you can cook straight from frozen with this air fryer. The cooking basket is dishwasher safe.

Zick-Zick Classic Food Chopper: This dishwasher safe 1 cup capacity food chopper is a wonderful tool for chopping onions and other vegetables as needed. The stainless-steel blade rotates as you press down on the top of the chopper. This product is also dishwasher safe.

Monitor Your Health

Harvard Medical School states, even if you have a genetic propensity for heart disease that you have inherited from a parent, lifestyle changes to get your numbers under control can make you less likely to develop heart problems. Adopting lifestyle measures may also lower your odds of getting diabetes and reduce the excess weight that can lead to joint pain, allowing you to lead a more mobile, independent life. To keep your heart disease risks in check, stay on top of these key health indicators:

Waist circumference: Carrying too much extra weight around your middle puts you at increased risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  To be considered healthy your waist circumference needs to be 35 inches or less and your waist to hip ratio should be .8 or lower (to obtain this ratio divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference).

Body mass index (BMI): BMI is a measure of your weight in proportion to your height. It can indicate how much body fat you have. Being overweight or obese puts strain on your heart and increases your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and other health conditions. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2. To calculate your BMI yourself you can use this calculator. Adobe Flash will need to be on for it to work.

Blood pressure: Having high blood pressure forces your heart to work harder. It increases your risks for heart disease and stroke, as well as for kidney disease and heart failure. You can have high blood pressure and never know it or feel it, so it is important to get tested routinely. A healthy reading is 120/80 mm Hg or less.

Cholesterol: Having high LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol may contribute to the formation of fatty plaques in your arteries, which can lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. A healthy total cholesterol number is less than 200 mg/dL, HDL cholesterol greater than 50 mg/DL, and LDL cholesterol less than 130 mg/dL.

Triglycerides: Triglycerides are a type of fat in the body. Having high triglycerides combined with high LDL cholesterol speeds up the buildup of plaque in the arteries. A healthy number is less than 150 mg/dL.

Blood sugar: High blood sugar is an indicator that your body does not make enough insulin or is not able to properly use insulin, a hormone that helps move glucose (sugar) from the blood into the cells. Having high blood sugar over time can damage the blood vessels, nerves, and organs such as the kidneys and eyes. Knowing that your blood sugar is high will let you take steps to lower it, and possibly delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.  What is considered healthy is a fasting blood glucose level of less than 100 mg/dL and an A1C of below 5.7%

Highlighted products:

Talking Bilingual Premium Digital Blood Pressure Arm Monitor: This Healthsmart upper arm bilingual talking blood pressure meter is lightweight and ideal for home and everyday use. The high contrast back lit LCD screen with date and time stamp, visual BP (Blood Pressure) guide, average of last 2 readings, and irregular heartbeat detection are great features on this blood pressure monitor. This meter offers memory for 2 users and it will store up to 120 readings in total. The audio readings can be announced in English or Spanish and it has a convenient volume control.

Talking Scale by Moshi: A scratch-resistant toughened and tempered glass platform is both safe and durable. Simply tap the platform of the scale to turn it on, it will calibrate and then a clear female voice will announce the scale is ready, step on the scale and it will then announce your weight. Once done, this scale will automatically shut off. Scale has a 440 lb. weight limit.

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Falls Prevention Awareness Week: Focus on Steps to Prevent Your Risk of Falling

falls, prevention, signs, focus, steps

Falls Prevention Awareness Week is September 21st through the 25th for 2020. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) states that 1 in 4 Americans age 65+ will fall every year. In fact, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falling is not an inevitable part of aging, however, and there are many things you can do to help prevent this common occurrence from happening to you. This blog will look at identifying your risk factors, lifestyle changes/tweaks that can be done, and a few assistive devices to better help keep you stable and on your feet.

Risk Factors/Twelve Questions

The NCOA provides a checklist that was developed by the Greater Los Angeles VA Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center and affiliates. It is a validated fall risk self-assessment tool. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition

  • Have you fallen in the past year? (People who have fallen once are likely to fall again.) 
  • Do you use or have been advised to use a cane or walker to get around safely? (People who have been advised to use a cane or walker may already be more likely to fall.)
  • Are you sometimes unsteady when walking? (Unsteadiness or needing support while walking are signs of poor balance.)
  • Do you steady yourself by holding onto furniture at home? (This is also a sign of poor balance.)
  • Are you worried about falling? (People who are worried about falling are more likely to fall.)
  • Do you need to push with your hands to stand up from a chair? (This is a sign of weak leg muscles, a major reason for falling.)
  • Do you have trouble stepping up onto a curb? (This is also a sign of weak leg muscles.)
  • Do you often have to rush to the bathroom? (Rushing to the bathroom, especially at night, increases your chance of falling.)
  • Have you lost any feeling in your feet? (Numbness in your feet can cause stumbles and lead to falls.)
  • Do you take medicine that sometimes makes you feel light-headed or more tired than usual? (Side effects from medicines can sometimes increase your chance of falling.)
  • Do you take medicine to help you sleep or improve your mood? (These medicines can sometimes increase your chance of falling.)
  • Do you often feel sad or depressed? (Symptoms of depression, such as not feeling well or feeling slowed down, are linked to falls.)

Lifestyle/Household Changes

The Mayo Clinic and National Institute on Aging offer advice on helping to prevent falls. The following are lifestyle and/or household changes that can easily be made to decrease your chance of falling:

  • Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. With your doctor’s OK, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. There are numerous free exercise videos readily available online including the National Institute of Aging on YouTube, the Silver Sneakers Facebook page and  HASfit on YouTube (which caters to all physical abilities).
  • Have your eyes and hearing tested. Even small changes in sight and hearing may cause you to fall. When you get new eyeglasses or contact lenses, take time to get used to them. Always wear your glasses or contacts when you need them. If you have a hearing aid, be sure it fits well and wear it.
  • Find out about the side effects of any medicine you take. If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy, tell your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Get enough sleep. If you are sleepy, you are more likely to fall.
  • Wear sensible shoes. Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble, and fall. So can walking in your stocking feet. Instead, wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles. Sensible shoes may also reduce joint pain. (Great Senior Living provides a comprehensive article on finding the best shoes along with recommendations for brands and styles).
  • Remove hazards/clutter. Take a look around your home. Your living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways, and stairways may be filled with hazards. To make your home safer: remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkway, move coffee tables, magazine racks, and plant stands from high-traffic areas, secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing — or remove loose rugs from your home, repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting right away, store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach, immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food, and use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower. Use a bath seat, which allows you to sit while showering.
  • Light up your living space. Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. The following are just a few suggestions on how to accomplish this: Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, and hallways. Place a lamp within reach of your bed for middle-of-the-night needs. Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances. Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches. Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs. Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

Assistive Devices

If you feel unsteady or feel more confident holding onto something that supports part of your body weight, then it might be time to investigate an assistive device. Appropriate use of canes and walkers can prevent falls. If your doctor tells you to use a cane or walker, make sure it is the right size for you and the wheels roll smoothly. This is important when you are walking in areas you do not know well or where the walkways are uneven. A physical or occupational therapist can help you decide which devices might be helpful and teach you how to use them safely. ILA offers many different assistive devices that can help you or a loved one prevent falls. A few of these include:

HurryCane – Freedom Edition: The extremely popular HurryCane® has been redesigned to give you more support and confidence with every step you take. It is now 40% stronger and 20% lighter. This cane, with its comfort-fit handle, folds down for easy storage and folds out instantly when ready to use. The SteadiGrip™ base allows you further confidence and the smooth pivoting base enables even greater ease of movement and stability. The cane height is also easily adjusted from shorter to taller and back as needed. Now available in 4 different colors, pathfinder purple, roadrunner red, trailblazer blue, or original black. Please specify. (For more cane options see ILA-Canes)

Deluxe Folding Walker, Two Button with Wheels: Walk with confidence with this sturdy, deluxe folding walker that features 5″ wheels on the front supports and 1″ diameter anodized, extruded aluminum construction throughout. This ensures maximum strength while remaining lightweight. Fold the walker by pushing just two buttons. Buttons can be pushed with fingers, palms, or sides of hand. Regain your independence with this terrific walker. (For more walker options see ILA-Walkers)

The Bed Step: Constructed of durable, splinter-free plywood coated with lacquer. Designed to make getting in and out of bed easier. The two steps are 4″ and 8″ high, 12″ deep by 24″ wide. Steps are covered with foot-friendly carpet. The side panel can be placed on either side of the steps providing extra security. An additional optional side panel is available. This is ideal for those with mobility and/or balance problems. Weight capacity: 400 lbs. Some assembly required.

Ice Treads : Navigate the winter months with more confidence when wearing these ice treads which stretch easily over an existing pair of shoes. The lightweight and heavy-duty tread has five stainless steel spikes. The spikes make trudging through snow and navigating icy patches more secure during your travels. These treads fold compactly into a resealable vinyl bag so that you always have them at the ready. Women’s Treads fits sizes 5 to 10. Men’s Ice Treads fits sizes 6 to 11.

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Communicating More Clearly With Hearing Loss Through Amplified Phones, HAC Phones and Apps

Being able to hear on the phone can be challenging for anyone, especially if there is a lot of background noise interfering with the connection. For those living with a hearing loss, certain products, such as phone amplification devices and smartphone apps can enable clearer understanding even when faced with annoying background noise or static. This blog will look at amplified phones, hearing aid compatible phones, and smartphone apps to assist with hearing loss.

Amplified Phones

The website for Healthy Hearing states, amplified phones are specifically designed for people with hearing loss, allowing you to turn up the volume as necessary to hear speech clearly. Most people who use amplified phones don’t use hearing aids yet, but people with hearing aids can certainly use them, as well. These phones can be used to amplify both landline and cellphones depending on the model.

Extra features on an amplified phone may include caller ID, large number keys, a speaker phone, capability to work with a headset, photo dialing, backlit keypads, answering machine or wall mounts, and some can even give you special alerts to let you know the phone was not hung up correctly.

Loud ringers are especially important for these type phones. Many amplified phones have settings that allow you to turn up the volume on the ringer so that you never miss an important call again. Some models will even have a visual indicator, like a flashing light, so you can see when you are receiving an incoming call. Some phones have the capability of ringing up to five times louder than a traditional telephone.

If you have a hearing aid with a telecoil there are also phones available that with just a flip of a switch allows the sound from the phone to be amplified within the hearing aid itself blocking out any unwanted background noise. For moderate to severe hearing loss look for a device that increases sound up to 40 decibels, such as this Clarity Bluetooth Enabled Amplified Cordless Phone. If you have mild to moderate hearing loss then devices that increase sound up to 30 decibels will suffice.

Finally, there is the option of having a portable phone amplifier that can travel with you. These phones can amplify calls from any landline (or compatible cellphone) no matter where you go allowing you to make any regular phone compatible for your personal hearing loss.

Hearing Aid Compatible Phones

Healthy Hearing also has an article concerning hearing aid compatible phones and states, a hearing aid compatible phone makes it easier to stay in touch with family and friends. But finding the best phone for you depends on several factors.

If you have mild or moderate hearing loss you probably don’t need to do anything special to use your hearing aids with a phone, thanks to technology known as “acoustic coupling.” In simple terms, this phrase means you use the phone as normal, and your hearing aid microphone will automatically pick up the sound coming from the phone.

When shopping for a phone, look for what’s known as the M rating for hearing aid compatibility. The M rating ranges from 1 to 4, with 4 being the best compatibility. A higher rating means less distracting noise and feedback coming in, but some unwanted noise is still possible. M3 is perhaps the most common rating–all iPhones currently on the market are rated this at this range, for example.

If you have more severe hearing loss (or want a really clear signal) you will want to make sure the “telecoil” in your hearing aid is turned on. Telecoils direct sound to the hearing aid’s processor without using the microphone. It can improve the signal-to-noise ratio while eliminating the potential for feedback. Your telecoil may automatically switch on or it may require you to manually switch into the telecoil or “T” mode. If you plan to use the telecoil feature, look for what’s known as the T rating for hearing aid compatibility. The T rating also ranges from 1 to 4, with 4 being the best. Many cell phones today are T4.

If you would like to use the Bluetooth feature on certain phones it is important to ensure your hearing aid is compatible with using it. (If you want to learn more about Bluetooth and hearing aids see this article.) The HearAll Cellphone Amplifier or the Bluetooth T-Coil Headset for Cell Phones are great options if you want to use Bluetooth technology with t-coil assistance.

Smartphone Apps to Assist with Hearing Loss

Smartphones are everywhere and new apps are being developed all the time. Here are a few examples of apps currently available to assist those persons with hearing loss be able to communicate more easily.

ClearCaptions:  U.S. residents with professionally certified hearing loss are qualified for ClearCaptions equipment, service and support at no cost to them. ClearCaptions works much like closed captions on your TV. You can hear AND read what’s being said, making it easy and frustration-free to use the phone. Once certified you’ll be given your own personal ClearCaptions phone number that you can then give out to friends and family of your choosing. There is no need to change your phone number, instead you can just forward the ClearCaptions number to your regular phone number. This service is available for both landlines and for mobile apple products with an IOS of 12.0 and up.

Rogervoice: Unlike ClearCaptions, this option is available on both Android and IOS based systems and you set the application up yourself. There are three pricing plans including a free base option between users. Rogervoice subtitles phone and video conversations in real time—in more than 100 languages. During a call, you can hold your phone in front of you to read the conversation’s transcribed text and can reply by talking or typing. The app also saves call transcriptions, a feature that’s particularly useful for business calls and notetaking.

Tunity: Tunity developed the first mobile application of its kind which allows users to hear live audio from muted televisions. Through a patented deep learning and computer vision technology, Tunity identifies a live video stream and its exact timing, syncing the audio with the user’s mobile device. Tunity is used by people at bars, restaurants, gyms, universities, doctor’s offices, airports and even at home to enjoy listening to TVs from their mobile devices.

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