Our Favorite School Supplies for the Visually Impaired

It’s back-to-school time! Whether you’re excited about a new year in the classroom, or a little nervous, either way, the start of school marks a significant transition time. Having the right school supplies can make that transition go more smoothly by giving you a feeling of preparedness and making the completion of your assignments faster and easier.

ILA has a variety of supplies that can be used in the classroom and at home, as you work towards accomplishing your next learning milestone.


Calculators come in all kinds of models, from desktop to pocket sized. Math functions can vary from standard to scientific, and features range from high contrast, large buttons to the ability to talk and read aloud.

For someone who needs a basic, inexpensive calculator, the Desk Model Large Display is your best choice. This large calculator is 6×8 inches. The module that holds the numbers can fold up and down to position the .62 inch-high buttons at an angle that is optimal for visibility and use.

The best of both worlds is found in the SciPlus 2300. It’s the only large display, talking, scientific calculator that is designed specifically with low vision, visually impaired, and Blind users in mind. For privacy, both entries and results are spoken through earbuds, which are included. And despite being packed with so many features, the entire unit only weighs 20 ounces.

Scanning Pens, Magnifiers, and Readers

Text scanning pens, magnifiers, and screen readers help you read your assignments whether they are in print or on the computers.

The C-Pen scanning pen is designed to speak back any printed text that you trace. You just roll over a line of printed material and the pen will read it. Captured lines of text can be uploaded to your computer. And the pen works for both right and left-handed people.

As an inexpensive option, if you have low vision, you can use a simple page magnifier. The 2x Full Page Unframed Magnifier is a great low-cost choice. It’s 7”x10” and is best for viewing small print in books or on maps.

For work at the computer, an optical character recognition magnifier gives you the best results. The Mercury 12” Windows Magnifier with OCR is extensively enhanced with digital magnification and uses text-to-speech to convert printed documents to spoken documents. The magnifier is big enough to scan an entire page at a time, yet folds down flat for ease of portability.

Keyboards and Labels

High-contrast, large print keyboards like the VisionBoard is helpful for anyone with low vision or who is unfamiliar with the keyboard. The keys are also oversized, making them easier to see and giving ample spacing to minimize mistakes from missed keystrokes.

Braille Keytop Stick-Ons are an affordable way to adapt the keyboard you already have. The braille stickers fit on IBM-style keyboards and also display high-contrast numbers and letters that are double the size of the standard keytop display.

No matter what you need to adapt or improve to get your schoolwork done, ILA has products that keep you active and independent.

Top 3 Ways To Stay in Touch Using Assistive Devices

If you have developed a visual impairment or had hearing loss, the way you socialize and relate to your friends and family may have changed. You may find it harder to stay in touch as your ability to hear a conversation, see body language, or do things independently changes.

However, continuing to maintain and develop friendships isn’t just important socially, it’s good for your health. And there is plenty of adaptive technology that can help you do it.

Adaptive Phones

If you have hearing loss, an amplified phone is the perfect solution. Devices like our Amplified Phone with Answering Machine give you lots of options. Not only can you adjust and equalize the volume and tone, but it also comes with the ability to set three different user profiles so that it works for everyone in the household. The keypad and caller ID talk, and the answering machine holds up to 11 minutes of messages.

For the visually impaired, brailled phones with large, contrasting buttons give both a tactile and visual assist. And voice-activated phones eliminate the need to see the keypad or read phone numbers.

Voice Technology

Keeping up with your friends through email can be a challenge when it’s hard to see the screen. But voice technology is helpful. You can find software and devices that have voice-to-text and text-to-speech capabilities.

Voice-to-text programs will write your message for you. Phones and many computer programs have this as a native feature. They aren’t always 100% perfect in dictating your words, but they usually get the job done.

To read the messages sent to you, you can also use software or a separate device, like the  Mercury Electronic Magnifier and OC Reader. The reader is a 12″ Windows 10 tablet, extensively enhanced with digital magnification and Text-To-Speech capabilities. A lightweight stand holds the tablet and allows it to be comfortably positioned above any reading material.

Video Technology

Another great way to communicate is through video technology. This is convenient for people with driving restrictions, or who live far away from their friends and family. It’s also helpful for people who have hearing loss and need to see lips and hands to understand a conversation better.  

Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, and Zoom are all programs that have video call capabilities. All of them are available for free, and they have different features to suit different situations. For example, many families like to use Skype or FaceTime for calls, while Zoom is a great tool for scheduling business meetings.

Using Social Media to Be Social

While social media, adaptive devices, and digital technology shouldn’t completely replace your real-life interactions, it can certainly help you feel less alone and isolated. Technology is sometimes criticized for creating a barrier between people. However, when used in the right way, it can be a lifesaver instead.

No matter your disability, it’s likely there is a social media platform or piece of adaptive technology that works well for you. Examine your options and find the technologies you are most comfortable using. When checking out social media options, find out what platforms most of your contacts are on.

If everything feels too challenging, ask a friend or relative for help in getting you set up with your new equipment or registered with your new program. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll be glad you took the time to put down the foundations to better communication.


ILA has a variety of assistive devices that can help you read and communicate. Check out our selection of scanners, readers, and screen magnifiers here.


What’s New For 2018-2019: The Best Product Picks by ILA

It’s catalog time!

That means ILA has updated our selection for 2018-2019, and we’re always excited to share our best product picks of the year.

New Sale Items This Week

Our largest Low Vision Wrist Watch is back! We’re bringing back an old favorite with this extra large watch. It has a 1.6″ wide face within a 2″ case, providing extra large visibility and clarity. The white face contrasts with its bold black numbers and bold black hands. Read the time with ease!

Need some extra light? Our Rechargeable LED Lamp provides you with portable, wireless light for up to 10 hours on the low setting or 4 hours when set at its brightest illumination. Put this lightweight, foldable lamp in your bag, and you’ll have light at any restaurant, library, or game night.

Do you love the voice recognition of the Vocally 3 voice dialer? It’s been a long time favorite of many of our customer. Now ILA is happy to offer a high-quality Voice Activated Phone which incorporates this technology. Just pick up the phone and speak a name to dial.

Dot Watch

The Dot Watch is the first of its kind! Dot Watch is the first tactile smartwatch, with a 4 cell Braille display. This tactile smartwatch connects to a user’s smartphone or operates as a standalone tactile Braille watch.

The watch has an alarm, a calendar, a stopwatch, and a timer and connects to your phone via Bluetooth. It uses a rechargeable battery that lasts for 7 days without having to be recharged.

3.5” Portable CCTV Magnifier

Our easy to use, portable magnifier fits in your pocket or purse. This easy to use portable CCTV has a magnification range of 2X to 24X. You can even freeze frame an image and save it to zoom in on as needed.

The screen has 15 color options for easier viewing. Need a larger view? This magnifier can be attached with an AV cable to a television for an even better look at home.

Orbit Key Tracker

Always losing your keys? Orbit Keys is a small, round device that attaches to a key ring. Using Bluetooth technology, it helps you locate your keychain using a free iOS or Android app. Just use your phone to page the item whenever it goes missing.

The Key Tracker is part of an entire family of Bluetooth Orbit devices that help you stop losing your stuff.

Stainless Steel Microwave with Tactile Stickers

Time for a new microwave? This specially modified, stainless steel microwave has permanent tactile markers for different functions.  Buttons with their own distinct markings include those marked Pizza, Potato, Frozen Dinner, and Reheat. Tactile symbols also mark buttons for Power Level, Timer, Cook, and Reset, among others.

The microwave has a 0.7 cubic foot capacity and 700 watts of power.

Brailled Number Big Button Corded Telephone

This brailled number Big Button Telephone comes at a great price! It has all the features you need, including redial and speed dial for up to 10 numbers. It also has one-touch photo memory buttons that you can customize with your own photos.

Hard of hearing? You can turn the volume up on the handset when you talk and use the visual ring indicator to catch your calls. And the brailled numbers come on extra-large buttons.

TimeShaker Alarm Clock with Wireless Bedshaker

The TimeShaker BOOM alarm clock with bedshaker comes with a wireless bedshaker disc you can put either under your pillow or mattress. Perfect for the hard of hearing or deep sleepers, the TimeShaker has lots of features to help you wake up.

If the “normal” and “strong” vibration levels don’t get your attention, “earthquake” is sure to wake you up. For an added layer of assurance, you can also add the “panic” alarm sound, or even use just sound alone. The shaker battery works for 7 days before needing to recharge, and the time and alarm settings on the main unit are protected by backup AAA batteries.

Check out our New Products page to all of our top picks for 2018-2019!


Saving Energy Costs This Summer

Did you know that “the most expensive utility bill for homeowners is the electric bill, accounting for roughly 9% of expenditure on housing according to NAHB tabulations of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on consumer expenditures.”  

As I began to research this week’s topic, the one thing that came to mind when I thought about the heat of summer, is air conditioning and keeping myself cool. After that thought of course came the thought of the dreaded electric bill. So this week I wanted to share some ideas on energy conservation through the summer months.

Tips to Save Energy

If You Aren’t Using it, Unplug it!

One of the simplest ways to conserve energy around our homes is to make sure that we are turning off any light, TVs, radios or any other electronic devices that we are not using. This even includes cell phone chargers. Anytime that a cord is plugged into a wall, it is receiving electricity.

Air Circulation is Key

A great way to cut back on energy costs is to cool your home as much as you can in the morning before the sun heats things up. You will want to open up windows at the opposite ends of your home.

Turning on box fans and ceiling fans will help to circulate air and cool things down.  Once you notice it beginning to warm up, simply close your windows, pull down your shades, or close your curtains to keep the sun out.

Continue to run your ceiling fans and box fans to keep the air circulating. When you notice your home becoming warmer, consider turning on the air conditioner at that time.  Also, consider keeping windows open on cooler evenings to help cool things down.

Closing doors and vents to rooms not being used will help to push the cooler air to rooms that are being used. This is great for basements that are generally cooler anyway, storage rooms and garages.

Keep The AC Running and in Tip Top Shape

Having your HVAC system serviced regularly can save you on your electric bill. Licensed technicians know what to look for with your air conditioner and heating systems. They will be able to address any leaks, differential issues, make sure you are using a proper filter and can answer any questions you have about your heating and cooling system.

Avoid Using the Oven and Dryer During the Day

One of the quickest ways to heat up your home is to use the oven. To avoid having your air conditioner work over time, avoid baking in the afternoon and evening hours.

The optimal baking time during the summer is early in the morning while it’s cooler, or late at night once the temperature has lowered.

The dryer is a huge energy user in the home, right behind the refrigerator. If you’re able to, you may consider ditching the dryer during the summer months and drying your clothes outside.

Program Your Thermostat

Programming your thermostat can save you quite a bit of money over the year. Keep your home cooler when you are there and warmer when you are gone.

ILA has a great thermostat that you can use to begin saving money. It’s called the VIP3000. It operates on 3 levels of heating, 2 of cooling, and will verbally walk you through the setup process.  

We all love to save money, and by making a few small changes to our daily life and routines, we will begin to see the savings roll in. It may only be a few cents here and there, but over time, you will start to notice more money in your pocket.

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


This blog was written by contributing author Sarah Bowman, a stay-at-home mom turned business owner of Sarah Bowman Assisting.