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). 


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.


 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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Celebrate Labor Day

It will soon be the first Monday in September which means that it is also Labor Day. Generally, when you think about this holiday it comes with visions of family get-togethers, cooking out (or in), and for many a paid day off from work. This blog will look at a brief history about Labor Day followed by inside grilling tips for the visually impaired, as well as, some entertainment ideas to do this Labor Day (or any day).

A Brief History About Labor Day

According to History, in the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages.

People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

Labor Day, pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers and is traditionally observed on the first Monday in September. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day weekend also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans. 

Inside Grilling Tips for the Visually Impaired

Cooking while blind or visually impaired can be challenging but with the right tools can become both routine and rewarding. In addition to the tools listed in this section other sites to find ideas, tips and tricks include Perkins School for the Blind, VisionAware, and wikiHow.

George Foreman Grill: The George Foreman Grill features a non-stick surface for cooking burgers, pork chops, and virtually any food fast and evenly. The simplicity of the design makes it an excellent cooking aid for visually impaired users. Cooking for yourself is easy with few hassles and pans. Grease will cook off the food and drip into a tray below for a healthier meal.

Talking Digital Cooking & All-Purpose Thermometer: This is a serious measurement tool that reads temperature with extreme speed and speaks the reading at the touch of its single, large button. Suitable for the sight impaired with partial or full vision loss. Simply push the “Talk” button to tell the temperature. Press it again and again to update the status of changing temperatures. The ThermoWorks Talking Thermometer is a tremendous aid in food preparation and general household use with even scientific and industrial applications.

17″ Flame Retardant Oven Mitt: 17-inch elbow length fire retardant mitt offers maximum protection. Protect up to 425 degrees F. Can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.

Norpro GRIP-EZ 12 Inch Locking Spatula/Tongs Combo: Two tools in one, you can use the 12″ GRIP-EZ as tongs when you are gripping and lifting food and as a spatula when you are flipping and serving food. So convenient! The unit features a stainless steel frame with a nylon head that is heat resistant to 450°F/230°C. Simply push down to open and pull up to close. Dishwasher safe.

Entertainment Ideas

Labor Day is generally a fairly hot day temperature wise so persons who may be adversely affected by the heat will be wanting some fun activities to do inside. The following ideas are geared towards the blind or visually impaired but can be enjoyed by most anyone.

Board Games:  In addition to traditional card games, there are many different types of games that have been adapted or created solely for the visually impaired.  A few of these games include Tactile Connect Four, Rummikub the Original with Braille, and Jumbo Braille Dominoes.

Movies/TV Shows: The 2020 Guide to Watching TV and Movies with Vision Loss (beginning link) provides a detailed list of options currently available including links for audio descriptions provided by Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes.

Video Games: The National Library Service for the Blind (NLS) has put together a page of resources to assist the visually impaired gamer locate information needed to continue enjoying a plethora of video games. Resources include everything from Apple games, PC games all the way to game box controllers including PlayStation and Xbox games.

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Back to School Part 2: Assistive Technology

Last week our blog discussed back to school basics. In part two of our Back to School special we will be discussing assistive technology and how they are beneficial to visually impaired students. Truth be told though; assistive technology can be beneficial to everyone.

Reading and Writing

Most of us take our reading and writing abilities for granted. For persons with visual impairments (or many other disabilities) what we take for granted they must strive to achieve. Luckily, there are many tools, methods, and techniques available to help ensure their literacy independence is within arm’s reach.  Two assistive devices that may prove beneficial with reading and writing are the Orbit Reader 20 and the Scanmarker Air.

The Orbit Reader 20 is a unique 3-in-1 electronic braille device and serves as a self-contained book reader, a note-taker and braille display by connecting to a computer or smartphone via USB or Bluetooth. It provides the highest quality braille in the world at the lowest price. Simple but sturdy design features 20 eight dot braille cells, eight braille input keys, cursor and panning keys for easy navigation, a USB port for charging and communication, an SD card slot, and a high-capacity rechargeable battery. It supports all languages and screen reading programs and weighs less than one pound.

The ScanMarker Air allows you to scan a single line of text using the ScanMarker “pen” and send that text to either your smartphone or computer, using either Bluetooth or USB connectivity. You can scan either directly into the ScanMarker app or to an external application such as Word. Within the ScanMarker app, scanned text can be read back to you, without the need for a voiceover function. Scanned text can automatically be translated into one of 40+ languages.


Let’s face it math can be hard for anyone. If you are unable to see a traditional calculator it can prove even more challenging. Thankfully, there is a talking graphics calculator that can take some of the pressure off persons with visual impairments.

The Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator consists of a compact accessory that is attached to the top of the TI-84 Plus and enables someone who is visually impaired to interact with the TI-84 Plus using speech, audio, and haptic (vibration) feedback. High-quality synthesized speech reads out all textual and symbolic information on the LCD screen, as well as each keypress. Graphs can be explored using either spoken announcements or the unique SonoGraph audio and haptic feedback which provides multi-modal feedback. The user can also review the contents of the screen at any time, including all text and graphical information, without affecting the calculation. The Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator is fully expandable with hardware accessories through a USB port and can also print or emboss graphs when connected to a printer or embosser. This product comes with high quality stereo earphones for private use, AC adapter/charger, and a user manual.

Beyond Academics

Utilizing these assistive technologies in school can not only help you obtain a quality education, but they can also allow you to go even further. Take these stories for example. The first one is about visually impaired choirs, the next about a new version of a “musical” through sign language and finally a story that depicts the life of a deafblind woman as she practices law and explores the world.

The Johnny Mercer Children’s Choir is the only program in Southern California specifically for blind and visually impaired children. Members learn vocal music and performance techniques, gain confidence and overcome isolation as they discover a community of peers who struggle with their same issues. The choirs travel throughout Southern California performing free concerts at senior centers, schools, and other community facilities, showing people that blindness or any disability doesn’t have to stand in the way of your dreams. One of the choirs’ signature songs is Johnny Mercer’s “Accentuate the Positive.”

Putting on a high school play comes with a host of difficulties, the wardrobe, the sets and of course remembering one’s lines. But for students at Belleville’s Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf, their lines weren’t spoken, they were signed. English lines were translated into American Sign Language (ASL). The students then had to memorize the ASL version not the English originally written down on paper. To do this the lines were videotaped, and the students would watch the videos and memorize their lines complete with facial expression and body language needed for the part. To complicate things even more the musical they chose to perform was Beauty and the Beast, so the students had to also learn how to sync their ASL to music they were unable to actually hear.

Lawyer, comedian, surfer, and public speaker are just a few things that Haben Girma has already accomplished in life. She has traveled the world with her dog, Mylo. She learned how to surf in the ocean, has gone rock climbing, and is taking improv classes at a community college. She has spoken at the White House and she has a law degree from Harvard. Graduating in 2013 she is the first ever deafblind person to attend the prestigious college. Professionally she is an attorney and disability advocate. She travels the world advising companies to invest in disabled employees. In her down time, there is no telling where in the world she might be next. The link embedded with her name, will take you to a video to allow a peak into her extraordinary life. The video includes descriptions for the visually impaired.

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Back to School Part 1: Basic Supplies

Back to School is a phrase revered by some and feared by many. This can especially be true in 2020 with so much being unknown and delving into new territory.  This blog is part one of a two-part blog on returning to school with a visual impairment. Today’s blog will look at the back to school basics. Next week’s blog will focus more on the technology side of learning.

Art and Color Supplies

Perkins School for the Blind provides a resource page to many different lessons, schools, and museums with ideas on how to incorporate art and creativity into a visually impaired person’s everyday world. Just because your vision may have changed does not mean that your creativity must as well.

Here are a few art related finds you can purchase from ILA:

Texture 3D Paint 6 Pack: Squeeze this paint onto any surface and it will puff up as it dries leaving a textured, tactile line or dot. It can be used to create a tactile mark on just about any surface you can imagine, and it can even be washed in the washing machine without coming off. These paints are also great for designing any project that you would like an extra bit of texture such as shirt designs, purses, belts, even posters! This non-toxic paint is safe and the bottles are easy to handle for all ages. This pack contains 6 colors: black, blue, orange, red, white, and yellow. You can also purchase individual colors.

Mr. Sketch Scented Magic Markers: These scented markers are fun for both kids and adults to use. The soft scent will also aid in helping to recognize the color.

Speechmaster Talking Color Identifier: An affordable talking color identifier that identifies colors by naming the color and the intensity. For instance, it will say ‘dark blue’ or ‘light green’ when the detector nozzle is held against whatever surface is being examined.

Math Focused Supplies

Another page of resources from Perkins School for the Blind, features all things math related. These links offer tips, tricks, and lesson plans for all grade levels and include a link to videos to understand how a talking calculator works.

Here are a few math related finds you can purchase at ILA:

Big Button Talking Calculator with Function Replay: This new Big Button Talking Calculator allows you to go back and listen to the data which you have entered. With easy to use high contrast buttons, this calculator is easy to see and hear for both the hard of hearing and low vision users.

Geometric Set in Braille: This Geometric Kit is a great learning aid for anyone who is blind or has low vision and is learning geometry or pursuing a career in drafting or engineering. All of these tools have tactile marks in Braille. Colors may vary and are random. Set includes a sturdy rubber mat board, a spur wheel, a compass, a protractor with swing arm, 2 triangle rulers, and a ruler.

Wikki Stix Numbers & Counting Cards: Fun, colorful cards from 1 to 20 for learning number formation! Plus, early education activities including counting, math concepts and simple shapes. 27 individual cards plus 36 Wikki Stix. Sturdy cardstock for repeated use. Can be laminated for use in classroom centers as a teaching tool. Perfect for teachers, parents, grandparents — anyone who is searching for ways to enhance their children’s educational growth while having fun. Reusable and made in the USA.

Paper and Writing Supplies

Literacy at its simplest means the ability to read and write. Perkins School for the Blind offers a 7-page resource guide beginning with Braille and ending with Writing.

Hare are a few paper and writing based finds you can purchase at ILA:

Bold Line Writing Paper: Paper pads with bold black lines on both sides of the 8.5 x 11-inch sheets. Lines are .56 inches apart. Gummed pad of 100 sheets.  Also available in a yellow pad.

Writing Guide Value Kit: A sturdy storage envelope contains plastic guides for letter writing, signature, check writing, and envelope writing, plus a bold line writing pen and a free sample of Bold Line Writing Paper.

Low Vision Pens Sampler: If you know that you need a pen that creates a black, bold, heavy line that is easy to see, but you can’t decide which one to buy, order this sampler. It not only lets you test 4 pens with different thicknesses and drying characteristics, but it saves you nearly 15% off the price of buying the group separately. Included are: CAN-DO Low Vision, Sharpie, Pilot Bravo, and Liquid Expresso.

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Cell Phones for the Visually Impaired: New cell phones make it easier for a visually impaired person to stay in touch

White letters on a black background with hands holding a cell phone in the center.
New cell phones make it easier for a visually impaired person to stay in touch

Smartphones are everywhere and practically everyone uses them. In fact, according to Pew Research Center, the number of Americans owning smartphones is 81%. This is up from 35% from 2011. These phones can be a lifeline to persons of all abilities but especially to those living with visual impairments. This blog will look at built-in screen readers, two different phones designed for persons with visual impairments, and finally a brief look into the Life of a Blind Girl as she explains day to day uses of a smartphone.

Built-In Screen Readers

Apple’s Voiceover: VoiceOver is a gesture-based screen reader that lets you enjoy using iPhone even if you don’t see the screen. With VoiceOver enabled, just triple-click the Home button (or the side button on iPhone X or later) to access it wherever you are in iOS. Hear a description of everything happening on your screen, from battery level to who’s calling to which app your finger is on. You can also adjust the speaking rate and pitch to suit you.  Because VoiceOver is integrated in iOS, it works with all the built-in iPhone apps. You can create custom labels for buttons in any app — including third-party apps. And Apple works with the iOS developer community to make even more apps compatible with VoiceOver. Life After Sight Loss has a YouTube channel with a whole set of videos to help you understand VoiceOver 101.

Android’s (and Blackberry) TalkBack: To interact with your device using touch and spoken feedback, you can turn on the TalkBack screen reader. TalkBack describes your actions and tells you about alerts and notifications. You can use the TalkBack braille keyboard to enter 6-dot braille on your screen. Only Unified English Braille is currently supported. If you want spoken feedback only at certain times, you can turn on Select to Speak. Select items on your screen to hear them read or described aloud or point the camera at something in the real world. Live Accessible has a YouTube channel with a whole set of videos to help you understand TalkBack 101.

Window’s Narrator: Narrator is a screen-reading app that’s built into Windows 10, so there’s nothing you need to download or install. This guide (also available in PDF) describes how to use Narrator with Windows so that you can start using apps, browsing the web, and more. There is also an option to download the guide in braille from the main website. This should work on any Windows based phone, tablet, or computer.

BlindShell Talking Phone and Ray Accessible Smartphone

BlindShell Talking Phone: This is a mobile phone designed specifically for the visually impaired and features a full physical keypad as well as a large digital display screen which can provide visual feedback in large, bold, customizable font. All features, keys, and commands on the phone are spoken. The phone can alternatively be controlled by voice commands. Voice can also be used for dictating text messages, emails, and notes.

Standard phone functions include calling and one touch speed dials, SMS texts, email, contact management, notes, and calendar. Other specialized functions include a camera, calculator, timer, alarm, color identifier, QR code object tagging, FM radio, audio player, book reader, Bluetooth connectivity, and a specially located one touch SOS button.

This is an unlocked GSM phone and works with all carriers on the GSM network, including AT&T and T-Mobile. It does not work with Verizon and Sprint.  If you need any help learning how to use this phone or want to check out everything it can do there is a 36 part BlindShell Classic Tutorial playlist on YouTube.

Ray Accessible Smartphone: RAY® accessible smartphone is built on a Samsung/Android platform using a proprietary software application to offer a fully accessible, vision-free cellphone. Touch and slide motion on the screen provide spoken access to all functions of the phone, including calling, contacts, settings, voice dialing, calendar, messages, location services, and easy access to your music library. If you would like to see how this phone works check out this Ray Vision – Quick User Guide.

Other functionalities included with this phone are:

  • Simple access to frequently used functions
  • Provides direct connection to online library services and audio book libraries
  • Has a built-in color identifier
  • Built in currency identifier for identifying bank notes
  • Responds to vocal commands with its speech recognition abilities
  • Works with nearly all standard GSM network cell phone plans. AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, and other GSM providers
  • Once set up with your GSM wireless network, Ray offers an optional monthly service which consists of complete daily assistance, 24/7, for approximately $10.00 per month.

Excerpts from Life of a Blind Girl

Holly, who is registered as blind due to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), writes a blog as a way of sharing her experiences of living with a visual impairment in a predominantly sighted world. Her life stories, tips, and advice can also help persons newly diagnosed with vision impairments or those that have been living with vision impairments for years. Here are a few excerpts from her blog, How do blind and visually impaired people use a mobile phone?

Having a visual impairment doesn’t mean that we can’t use a phone, it’s a lifeline for many blind and visually impaired people. We can use mobile phones just like sighted people, we just use accessibility features to enable us to do so…these features enable us to complete a range of tasks on our phones – keeping in contact with friends and family, reading and responding to emails, reading a good book, browsing the internet, online shopping, booking train tickets and checking bus and train times, online banking, using social media, getting to where we need to be, playing games, listening to music and so much more, the list goes on!

So, here’s a run-down of some of the accessibility features that blind and visually impaired people use.

  • Screen-reader: The screen-reader reads out loud everything that’s on the screen…The screen-readers also read out images (when they have descriptions).
  • Zoom: This is a magnifier that enables people with low vision to zoom or magnify the screen. It works with built-in apps and third-party apps, making phones fully accessible.
  • Magnifier: The camera on your phone can be used like a digital magnifying glass, to increase the size so you can see things more clearly. The flash can be used to light the object, filters can be used to differentiate between colours and photos can be taken and saved to get a close-up.
  • Speak screen: This does exactly what it says, it reads the screen out loud. This can be great for reading emails, reading a book or if you are struggling to read text. This is ideal for people who don’t need to use a screen-reader but could sometimes benefit from a speech functionality.
  • Display accommodations: Dictation is a speech-to-text functionality, it means that you don’t have to type, you can talk to your phone instead, this means that you can dictate messages, tweets, Facebook posts, emails and much more.

One thing I love is the fact that people with a visual impairment can use mobile phones straight out the box with their accessibility features. Mainstream devices are fully accessible with no extra costs added for blind and visually impaired people and that’s the way it should be…There is a wrongly perceived idea that if you are blind then you see nothing at all, but there is a spectrum of sight and 93 % of blind people have some useful vision. It may not be much, but it helps them navigate this predominantly sighted world.

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Is it Hot Enough? Thermometer Basics and Options for the Visually Impaired

Thermometers are such a common object in today’s world that chances are you have given little thought as to the varieties of them or how they work.  If you are visually impaired or blind you might have even given up on most of them all together. This blog will look at three different types of thermometers marketed to the visually impaired to better help you keep track of outdoor (and possibly indoor) temperatures.

Classic Dial Thermometers

Classic dial thermometers have a metal pointer that moves up and down on a circular scale. If you were to open it up, you would see that the pointer is mounted on a bimetallic spring-like coil that is designed to expand and bend as it gets hotter. As temperature increases or decreases the bimetallic strip expands or contracts rotating the pointer around the fixed dial. The dial thermometer goes back to at least 1905 when Charles W. Putnam patented the device.

If this type of thermometer interests you check out this 18” Big and Bold Thermometer from ILA. This version mounts on a wall, can be used either indoors or outdoors, and has large digits to be more easily read.  Temperature readings are shown in both Fahrenheit and Celsius as outlined on the face.

Digital and Wireless Thermometers

Digital (or electronic) thermometers offer easy-to-read displays and tend to have affordable pricing. These type thermometers work in an entirely different way to mechanical ones that use lines of mercury or spinning pointers. They contain a small computing mechanism and a resistor based on the idea that the resistance of a piece of metal (the ease with which electricity flows through it) changes as the temperature changes. As metals get hotter, atoms vibrate more inside them, it is harder for electricity to flow, and the resistance increases. Similarly, as metals cool down, the electrons move more freely, and the resistance goes down. A change in temperature causes the sensor to notice a change in resistance. The computer will then calculate the difference of resistance into a temperature and produce a digital readout in degrees. (See Thermometers to learn more)

If you are looking for a thermometer of this kind, ILA offers the Talking Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer Dual Display. Conveniently sized, this thermometer can easily be used either on a desk or hung on the wall. It has a large dual display that shows both the indoor and outdoor temperatures and announces them verbally at the push of a button. It can be set to make announcements automatically every hour on the hour and can even be programmed to announce the temperatures at a pre-set time in order to act as a wake-up alarm. It will announce the temperatures in Fahrenheit or in Centigrade, at the flip of a switch. The indoor temperature probe is built into the unit. The out-door temperature probe (remote probe) is connected to the unit by a cable and should be placed outside the house. (See full instructions for more information)

Digital Clock/Thermometer Combos

In addition to having digital (or electronic) thermometers, these combos also have digital clocks, and in some cases atomic clocks as well.  In a nutshell, digital clocks work through use of a glass crystal oscillator. When an electric charge is sent through the crystal it changes shape very slightly and creates a very slight sound. The sound is at a regular frequency which is converted to an electronic signal. When a digital clock clicks over from 12:59 to 1:00 it must be reset to, in effect, start over. Most digital clocks will be equipped with a built-in processor looking for the number 13 in the hours column and when this occurs sets the hour counter back to 1. (See How Digital Clocks Work for a more detailed explanation.)

Atomic clocks, however, work in a different way. With an error of only 1 second in up to 100 million years, atomic clocks are among the most accurate timekeeping devices in history. In an atomic clock, the natural oscillations of atoms act like the pendulum in a grandfather clock. However, atomic clocks are far more precise than conventional clocks because atomic oscillations have a much higher frequency and are much more stable.  (See How Does an Atomic Clock Work by Time and Date for more details)

The first quality atomic clocks made in the 1950s were based on cesium, and such clocks honed to greater precisions over the decades remain the basis used to keep official time throughout the world. In the United States, the top clocks are maintained by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colo., and the United States Naval Observatory (USNO) in Washington, D.C. (See How Does an Atomic Clock Work by LiveScience for more details)

One of the digital clock/thermometer combos offered by ILA is this Atomic Talking Clock w/Alarm, Calendar and Wireless Outdoor Temperature Sensor.  This extraordinary talking atomic clock includes the most important features you need to keep you on track all day. It speaks all the functions to guide you through the settings and it will announce hourly either the time or the temperature. For those with some vision, the time is displayed with large numbers and the date, indoor and outdoor temperatures are shown as well. (See full instructions for more information)

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