On The Go: Traveling With A Visual Impairment

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

The Basics

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

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

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

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

Using GPS Technology Geared Towards the Visually Impaired

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

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

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

Other Devices and Resources to Assist in Travel

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

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

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

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

Tools to Assist Students with Low Vision

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

Talking Calculator

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

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

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

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

 

Windows Tablet Magnifier with Optical Character Recognition

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

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

Digital Highlighter

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

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

To order this lightweight portable device click on Scanmarker Air.

Summer Picnics

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

Location

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

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

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

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

Food

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

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

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

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

Activities

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

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

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

CCTV Magnifiers

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

What are CCTV Magnifiers?

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

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

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

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

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

How do you use CCTV Magnifiers?

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

Benefits of using CCTV Magnifiers

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

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

 

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