Brief History of Telephone and Address Books: Plus Low Vision Address Book Suggestions

Address books have been around for many decades and help keep contact information organized and in one place. There are now many different ways to collect and disseminate this same information both electronically and through pen and paper. This blog will look briefly at the history of telephone/address books and offer a few links from ILA for those that prefer a larger more legible physical book to manually write down information.  Information came from the Wikipedia page entitled Address book, the Smithsonian article entitled The First Telephone Book Had Fifty Listings and No Numbers and product suggestions came from ILA.

First Telephone Book

First published on February 21, 1878, the telephone directory widely considered to be the absolute first phone book was nothing but a sheet of cardboard with the names of both private people and businesses who had a telephone.

The fact that there were 50 people to call in New Haven, Connecticut in 1878 definitely had something to do with the fact that the telephone was invented near there less than two years previously and was first demonstrated by inventor Alexander Graham Bell in New Haven.  

George Coy, who founded the New Haven telephone network, saw a Graham Bell demonstration in April 1877. Coy was employed by a local telegraph company and turned that demonstration into the world’s first telephone exchange. That number had ballooned by the time the directory came out. Coy’s network was made possible by the switchboard, which he invented to accommodate multiple call locations. Before that, Smith writes, the first telephones were privately used on direct lines.

Address and Little Black Books

An address book  is a book, or a database used for storing entries called contacts. Each contact entry usually consists of a few standard fields (for example: first name, last name, company name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, fax number, mobile phone number). Most such systems store the details in alphabetical order of people’s names, although in paper-based address books entries can easily end up out of order as the owner inserts details of more individuals or as people move. Many address books use small ring binders that allow adding, removing, and shuffling of pages to make room.

Address books are often referred to as “little black books” because of the switch to rotary dial telephone service. Early telephone service utilized operators to connect calls, however in the 1940s and 1950s the Bell Telephone Company introduced dial service where customers became responsible for directly entering destination phone numbers to place a call. To make it easier for customers to remember important phone numbers the phone company offered a free, small Black Book of Telephone Numbers for subscribers to write down important phone numbers. The 1953 film version of Kiss Me, Kate features a musical scene in which Howard Keel’s character laments the loss of the social life he enjoyed before marriage, naming numerous female romantic encounters while perusing a miniature black book, which has given rise to the trope of little black book referring to a list of past or potential sexual partners.

Low Vision Address Books

Many people prefer to still keep a paper version of handwritten contact information, even if they also have an electronic version as well. Here are a few address books perfect for those that either need or prefer to have more room to jot down the needed information.

Big Print Address Book: This spiral bound address book is printed in over 24-point type, making it very easy to see where to write your contact’s name, address and phone numbers. The large alphabet tabs guide you to the section you want. You can record 3 entries per page for a total of 550 contacts. Its laminated hard cover has inside pockets in which to keep stamps or return address labels.

Appointment & Reminder Book, Bold Lines: There are 185 double sided pages with bold lines spaced .56 inches apart and header lines at the top to write in the day, date, and month. If you would rather use the pages to write in recipes, poetry, or memories, you can insert headings that reflect your use of the book. Three pages at the end of the binder are for addresses and phone numbers.

Addresses On The Go: A small 6 x 4 inch spiral bound booklet with bold lines can carry 40 of your most important addresses in purse or pocket.  Large spaces make it easier to use and read.

Software Address Books

Address books can also appear as software designed for this purpose, such as the “Address Book” application included with Apple Inc.’s Mac OS X. Simple address books have been incorporated into e-mail software for many years, though more advanced versions have emerged in the 1990s and beyond; and also in mobile phones.

Entries can be imported and exported from the software in order to transfer them between programs or computers.

Online Address Book

An online address book typically enables users to create their own web page (or profile page) which is then indexed by search engines like Google and Yahoo. This in turn enables users to be found by other people via a search of their name and then contacted via their web page containing their personal information. Ability to find people registered with online address books via search engine searches usually varies according to the commonness of the name and the number of results for the name. Typically, users of such systems can synchronize their contact details with other users that they know to ensure that their contact information is kept up to date.

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Household Organization Ideas for the Visually Impaired

Everyone knows that a clean home (or other environment) is preferable over a not so clean home. For persons with visual impairments a well labeled and organized home could mean the difference between being able to live independently or not. Product information linked within each section of this blog comes from ILA with most all other information coming from The Council of Schools and Services for the Blind (COSB).

Create an Organized Environment

If you keep your home organized, it will be easier to find things when you need them. It can also eliminate any tripping hazards and reduce frustration when doing everyday chores. Here are some tips to help you say organized:

  • Label, label, label. Label everything in your home, from reusable bottles to hangers for clothing to on/off switches. You can even label cabinets!
  • Use drawer dividers and closet organizers to separate clothing.
  • Label clothing with the letter of the clothing color on the tag.
  • Develop a system to keep food and toiletry items organized. Always keep these items in the same place and label them as necessary.
  • Always keep chairs and other easily movable furniture in the same place.
  • Use large numbered devices for telephones, timers, calculators or anything with numbers that need to be seen.
  • Train family members to respect the organizational system you’ve developed. Explain to them why and how it helps you.

Give Your Home a Tactile Effect

Adding tactile elements to your interior design can help you use your sense of touch to navigate your house with ease. There are several things you can keep in mind when designing your home or that you can easily modify after the fact. You should:

  • Buy furniture that has textured upholstery. This will allow you to recognize furniture in different rooms by their texture.
  • Use tactile markers/stickers in your kitchen and bathroom to let you know where things are located and when to use caution.
  • Use embossed letter stickers to help you distinguish between different things. For example, an “F” could let you know you are turning on the living room fan.
  • Mark toothbrushes or other important items with rubber bands or other tactile aids so that you can easily identify them.
  • Use braille labels for anything that needs special identification.

Label Foods

If there is some usable vision you can use a magnifying glass to identify the foods in your kitchen; however, if you can’t see that well then there are a few modifications you can implement:

  • Use braille labels to mark foods and medicines, especially if they can pose some kind of danger (like if you are allergic or need to take a specific dose).
  • Use rubber bands to identify certain food or medicine items. Place a different number of rubber bands on each different container.
  • Use brightly colored and labeled index cards to label items around the kitchen.
  • Use pipe cleaners, velcro, velour pads or foam alphabet letters to label different things (like canned goods).
  • Learn to identify kitchen items by their weight, location, sound, size, or shape.

Use Contrasting Colors

Keep the color principles top of mind as you prepare your home. Know that bright colors are often the easiest to see since they reflect light. Solid, brighter colors such as orange, red and yellow are more visible than their muted counterparts.

It’s important to keep in mind that dim light can wash out certain colors, while bright light can amplify them. Test what works best for you, and use contrasting colors to make the areas of your house easier to distinguish.

  • Use brightly colored vases, lamps or sculptures to help identify where key pieces of furniture are.
  • Avoid upholstery and rugs that are patterned. Stripes and checks can create confusion for some people who are visually impaired.
  • Use color to indicate changes in surface level (such as on the stairs).
  • Use contrasting colors to warn about places that may be hazardous or require extra attention (such as fluorescent tape on the inside of doors or cabinets that may be ajar).
  • Color-code household items you use often or bills and documents you may need to work with. (Brightly colored post-it notes or textured paint work great!)
  • Drape a brightly colored blanket or towel in a contrasting color on the back of your favorite chair or your spot on the couch.
  • Use dark, solid colors as borders around white or light objects (such as a light switch). This will help it to stand out.
  • Place dark objects (like chairs) in front of lighter colored walls which will also help these items to stand out.
  • Avoid using clear glass dishes and cups, as they are more difficult to see.
  • Paint door knobs and door frames a bright color so that they are easier to see.
  • Use a different color of paint on the ceiling than the walls.
  • Use solid (non-patterned) rugs to help you identify different areas of the home.

Adjust for Housekeeping and Laundry

Even simple chores like laundry can take longer than necessary if you don’t have some modifications in place. There are a few things you can do to make life easier:

  • Place tactile stickers on the dials and commonly used settings of your washing machine and dryer. If you share a household, you can use transparent stickers to make sure the rest of your family can see the dials as well.
  • Pin your socks together with sock locks before putting them away, and teach your family to do the same.
  • Load the dishwasher from back to front and remember to always load knives and forks point-side down.
  • Place safety pins in clothing of the same color or label clothing with a letter of clothing color on the tag.
  • Place dividers in drawers and closets to separate different kinds of clothing.
  • Label all cleaning supplies with braille or felt letters so that you know what you are cleaning with at all times. The WayAround labeling system is another great option to do this. (The WayAround product line is a combination of smartphone app and physical WayTags™ that allows you to tag and label nearly everything in your environment.)

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2021 World Sight Day: How to Love Your Eyes

This World Sight Day, find out what you need to do to prevent sight loss, and to protect, preserve and prioritize vision. Information and graphics for this blog were taken directly from articles from The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness website discussing World Sight Day and more specifically these pages: HOW TO LOVE YOUR EYES – PREVENT, HOW TO LOVE YOUR EYES – PROTECT, HOW TO LOVE YOUR EYES – PRESERVE, MAKE A PLEDGE, and HOW TO LOVE YOUR EYES – PRIORITIZE.


Many eye diseases can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is all about eating healthy and adopting healthy habits.

Eating a healthy balanced diet is often the crucial step in maintaining a healthy weight, controlling obesity, and preventing diseases such as Diabetes, all of which can impact eye health.

What can help?

Leading a healthy lifestyle is as simple as

  • Cutting down on smoking, drinking
  • Maintaining healthy weight through healthy eating and exercising
  • Maintaining normal blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels


While leading a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent several eye diseases it is equally important to protect and take care of your eyes. The risk ranges from severe sunlight, workplace accidents to prolonged exposure to screens at homes. So, what can you do to protect your eyes?

1) Protective Eye Wear

It is important to protect our eyes from harmful radiations like the Ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun. Using good quality sunglasses is the simplest step we can take towards protecting our eyes from such harmful radiations when we step out of the house.

A healthy workplace is important for your eyes too. If you are among those where work exposes you to hazardous chemicals, radiations, flying particles, and excessive heat, you must use protective eyewear as recommended by occupational standards and guidelines.

2) Clean out your cosmetics

It is essential to maintain good care and cleaning regimen with the use of make-up and eye cosmetics as these can induce issues such as dryness of ocular surface to allergic reactions. We recommend fair use of cosmetics in consultation with your eye care professional.

3) Work in a body-friendly way

Now that the use of gadgets has become an integral part of all our lives, it is important to cut down on screen time and take regular breaks to avoid symptoms such as eye strain, headache, dryness of eyes, and musculoskeletal issues, all of which come under what is referred to as computer vision syndrome or Digital eye strain.

To minimize the symptoms, and to work efficiently, it is important to ensure conscious blinking, regular breaks (20-20-20 rule), good posture, optimum lighting to reduce glare on the monitor, and optimize the work environment to reduce musculoskeletal symptoms. The 20-20-20 rule is a good and efficient pattern to help your eyes from the strain of gazing at screens for a long time. For every 20 minutes spent using a screen, you should try to look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds.


Plan for—and get—a regular comprehensive eye examination. A comprehensive eye examination will ensure that your eyecare practitioner obtains a detailed medical history and family history to understand your risk factors, followed by checking your vision, eye power, and eye health by instilling dilating eye drops.

Get involved in World Sight Day by making a commitment to #LoveYourEyes. Pledge to have a sight test or care for your eyes and share on social media to encourage others to make the pledge too. When was the last time you got your eyesight checked? Make sure that EVERYONE COUNTS and pledge to #LoveYourEyes to help us towards our million target!


Ensure that eye examinations are a part of your routine medical examination. Prioritize your eye health and consider “Love your eyes” as a life’s mission and also educate your family, loved ones and community regarding the importance of eyes and vision.

When should you get an eye exam?

  • All of us should get our eyes examined once every two years
  • If you have an existing eye condition and have been advised of regular eye examinations by your eye care practitioner, it is important to keep up with the schedule
  • Do plan for an annual eye check-up if
    • You are aged-40 or above
    • Have a family history of Glaucoma (increased eye pressure or any sight threatening complications)
    • If you have Diabetes or Hypertension
    • History of chronic smoking
    • If you are already wearing spectacles and your eye power is high (High myopia)
    • Some red flags for an emergency eye examination would include (but not limited to) seeing flashes of lights, sudden blurring or loss of vision, redness, eye pain, seeing colored rings around light

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LED Lights: Learn More About the Highlighted Products

National LED Light Day is celebrated on October 7th each year. In celebration of this event ILA has several LED based lights currently on sale. This blog will look a little more in depth for each product. To further learn more about LED lights in general please see our previous blogs How to Optimize Your Light Source: Tips for the Visually Impaired, Do You Know The Difference Between Full Spectrum and “Daylight Bulbs”?, Light Bulbs Explained, LED Lighting, Lighting Makes A Difference: The 3 Primary Types of Light, or The Benefits of LED Lamps.

LED Screw In Bulb, Frosted 3000K

This patent holding LED bulb is designed to produce less flicker and lower damaging blue light than many standard LED bulbs.  With a Kelvin temperature of only 3,000K, these bulbs are in the warm light spectrum and emit a much lower level of blue light than the higher Kelvin “daylight” bulbs, making them safer for your eyes.  This frosted screw in bulb is compatible with 60-watt fixtures and has a 780-lumen output.  A frosted bulb reduces glare from the bulb and will last 25,000 – 100,000 hours, depending on usage. 

Why choose a LED bulb to replace your older bulbs? CNET provides an article outlining 5 interesting facts about LEDs that may make decision making easier. These facts include:

LEDs are cooler. When you’re running fans or an air conditioner on warmer days, having burning-hot incandescent bulbs just makes it harder to manage the heat. LEDs run much cooler than incandescent bulbs and significantly cooler than CFLs.

You get instant full light. You get the full brightness of an LED bulb when you turn it on, which is an advantage over CFLs.

LEDs don’t attract bugs. Pixi Lighting, which makes LEDs, lists “no bugs!” (that is, insects) as one of the reasons to use LEDs. This one is only true for those LED lights which give off no ultraviolet light.

This reason is more form than function, but LEDs come in funny shapes. While lighting manufacturers have tried to make LED bulbs as familiar-looking as possible, with most having a screw-in connector, there is also a wide gambit of available LED bulbs in many sizes, shapes, and colors.

You will need to learn some lighting lingo. We still talk about 60-watt and 75-watt equivalent bulbs because that’s what we’re accustomed to. This chart from Toolbox DIY gives a quick at a glance example of the watts to lumens conversion.

If you’d like to view and/or purchase this item, see LED Frosted Screw in Bulb.

Color Changing Desk Lamp

This sleek looking desk lamp offers three lighting tones ranging from warm light (3,000K) to natural (4,000K) to bright cool light (6,000K). It is useful in a variety of settings and for a variety of tasks. This lamp emits a lumens brightness of 400 which is equivalent to a 40-watt bulb. Its 11” inch long soft rubber goose neck makes it easy to position so you can direct the light wherever you need it most. This desk lamp is great for any desktop, side table, or anywhere you work on things requiring a little extra light.

If you’re unsure how to determine which light color to choose for a specific task, CNET offers the following information for the varying ranges of lighting tones.

Soft white (2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin) is warm and yellow, the typical color range you get from incandescent bulbs. This light gives a warm and cozy feeling and is often best for living rooms, dens and bedrooms.

Warm white (3,000 to 4,000 Kelvin) is more yellowish-white. These bulbs are best suited for kitchens and bathrooms.

Bright white (4,000 to 5,000 Kelvin) is between white and blue tones. With a less cozy and more energetic feel, bulbs with this color range are best for workspaces (such as a home office or garage) and kitchens with chrome fixtures.

Daylight (5,000 to 6,500 Kelvin) has a more bluish tone. This light color will maximize contrast for colors, making it ideal for working, reading, or applying makeup.

If you’d like to view and/or purchase this item, see Color Changing Desk Lamp.

Uno LED Flex Floor Lamp

Illuminate large areas and shine light exactly where you need it with this UnoLamp flexible arm. See every tone and shade as if you were in natural light, thanks to UnoLamp high quality, energy efficient LEDs. Great for tasks such as crafts as well as reading with low vision.

This lamp comes equipped with 28 high performance, energy efficient LED bulbs with 4 brightness settings up to a max of 400 lumens. It uses a 6,000K daylight color bulb and has a slim modern design for a sleek low-profile appearance. Its flexible arm allows for optimal positioning. The floor lamp stands 52” tall.

Why choose this type of lighting? Adjustable lighting usually comes with an arm or flexible head that allows you to direct light where you need it. This adjustable range of motion is key when looking for this type of lighting source. Light that comes over your shoulder is best for reading. If you are right-handed, position the light over your left shoulder. If you are left-handed, place the light over your right shoulder. This eliminates any shadowing from your hand as you hold the book.

To test out the potential glare on a book or project, set a small mirror on your workspace to see if any strong light reflects into your area of vision. If so, rearrange the space so that the light is bouncing away from your eyes. You don’t want your eyes to become injured or fatigued.

Effective adjustable, or task, lighting enhances visual clarity and keeps the eyes from getting tired. This lighting is more localized than other types of lighting, and it can come from a variety of sources. The function of task lighting is to brighten a certain work area, providing just enough contrasting light to enhance your productivity.

If you’d like to view and/or purchase this item, see Uno LED Flex Floor Lamp.

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