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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Magnifying Lamps

Some people are born with limited vision while others develop lower vision over time. As we age, it is normal to need more light in order to see things that once could be seen in lower light. Things that were at one time legible now need magnification. This is where magnifying lamps come into play. This blog will look at the ins and outs of these type of lamps explaining some of the key areas in which they differ from one another.

Diopter and Magnification

The type lens needed can differ depending on its diopter/magnification strength and how it will be utilized. Understanding the numbers included with magnifiers can help you decide if a particular unit is strong enough for your needs.

Magnification and diopters are two different measurements. Magnification refers to how much bigger an object looks through an optical lens compared to the naked eye. Diopter refers to the curvature of the lens. As the diopter number increases the lens becomes thicker and curvature grater.  Since both diopter and magnification are relative to one another it is possible to figure out both when the number is only provided for one.  Using the most common formula, if you are given the diopter number you would divide it by 4 and add 1 to get the level of magnification. Meaning if your diopter number were 4d than your magnification level would be 2X. Conversely if you are given the magnification number you would subtract 1 and then multiple It by 4 where a 7X magnification would equal 24d. (7 minus 1 is 6. 6×4 is 24)

Therefore, looking at the LED Desk Lamp with 4.5X Magnifier we can deduce that it would have a diopter of 14d. If math is not your strong suit, you can use this diopter to magnification calculator to do the math for you.

Arrangement of Lights

Some lamps come with lighting built directly into or around the lens while others have separate arms so you can pivot between the light and/or lens depending if you need just one or both.  Here are a few illustrations of when you might need one over the other.

If the main thing you need a magnifying lamp for is to work on intricate details, crafting, or anything that you need both magnified AND brightly lit up then the magnifiers with the built in lights might be the best option.  The LED Floor Lamp with 2X Magnifier is a nice option for those that need this type of lighting and magnification situation. It comes with 60 bright LED bulbs circling the 2X magnifying lens. The two are built in together so wherever you aim one you will be aiming them both.

If you are in the market for both a lamp and a magnifier but not always both together than an option where they can used together or apart is your best bet. The LED Desk Lamp with 4.5X Magnifier (also mentioned above) is a good choice with two separate, flexible arms to position the light and magnifier either separately or together.

XR Technology and Electronic Ballast

When reading up on various types of lamps you may come across XR technology and/or electronic ballast. While it may be tempting to ignore something you do not readily understand, these two features could be just what you are looking for in a lamp.

XR technology, meaning extended realty, is a fairly broad term and can have many meanings and applications. In the case of  the Daylight XR Ultra-Slim 1.5X Clamp on Magnifying Lamp this technology makes the lens 50% lighter, extra resistant and easier to clean. It also comes with an electronic ballast.

A ballast regulates electrical currents to a lamp. Without a ballast to limit its current, a lamp connected directly to a high voltage power source would nearly immediately overheat and burn out. An electronic ballast uses solid state electronic circuitry to provide the proper starting and operating electrical conditions without altering the input voltage. This type ballast eliminates any flickering of buzzing.

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Label Your World: Practical Products for the Visually Impaired

Labels can be found everywhere. Sometimes they are useful and sometimes they are just in the way. Depending on the definition they can also be insulting or a way of division. Labels can also be a necessity in a well-organized home especially for person with visually impairments. This blog will look more in depth at three types of labeling systems highlighted with this week’s sales. They include the WayAround Starter Pack, HALOS Home Package, and the Talking Label Wand.

WayAround Starter Pack

How they work: 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. Download the free app for either iPhone or Android onto your own smartphone. Attach one of the different shaped tags to clothing, food products, files, medicines and more. Create a label for that tag on your phone by either typing or recording your message for that tag into the WayAround app. Add custom description for any item plus more details like washing instructions or purchase and expiration dates. To identify that item in the future, scan your smart phone over the item, and the item information is displayed on the phone. WayAround works with the accessibility settings on your phone. To hear your information spoken aloud, turn on VoiceOver or TalkBack to hear that information out loud.

The WayAround Starter Pack gives you a sampling of all of the different WayTags™, so you can try them out and decide which you like best. This Starter Pack contains 60 WayTags, including stickers, magnets, buttons, and clips. Square WayTag products work on metal objects.

The starter pack includes: ~ 10 WayClips™ ~ 5 On-metal WayClips ~ 15 WayTag stickers ~ 5 On-metal WayTag stickers ~ 10 On-Metal WayTag magnets ~ 5 WayTag 2-hole buttons ~ 10 WayTag oval hole buttons

Nearly every item of your house can be labeled with an applicable WayAround product. Use the square on-metal tags to label any metal can in your pantry. (Metal interferes with NFC technology, so therefore special tags are required.) Use a clip tag with a rubber band or a hairband to attach a tag to all the bottles and vials in your bathrooms. The buttons (either with two holes or one long oval hole) can also withstand extreme temperatures and can be used on items in the freezer. Some people are also using the waterproof buttons to label plants and gardens, identifying each plant with information for species, fertilizer and watering information. How fun!

Below is a screenshot from a short YouTube Video showing how this system works. To purchase other WayAround items just click on WayAround. 

HALOS Home Package

HALOS stands for Home Appliance Labeling and Overlay System. The concept was created from a crowd-funded experiment to test tactile appliance overlays for the visually impaired. It was discovered that there is a need to standardize on tactile cues and provide helpful overlays for people to identify all the functions on their home appliances. ILA (and their sister store LS&S) is one of the only authorized sellers of this product.  For more information see Tangible Surface Research, LLC.

The HALOS tactile icon stickers are designed to represent common appliance features. The stickers are thick so you can feel the different shapes. For example, start button stickers are triangle shapes, stop button stickers are in the shape of an X, and timers are an hourglass shape.

The HALOS Home Package provides labels for nearly all the appliances in your home.  This package contains 60 tactile stickers to include start/stop stickers (which encompass stop/cancel, start, on, off, clock, and timer), cooking (bake/roast, broil, convention, warming, defrost, auto/smart, increase/decrease, power level, light), washing (heavy load, light load, temperature, hot, medium, cold, auto/smart, rinse, spin) and keypad 12 round flat stickers and 2 dome stickers (to help differentiate numbers on a keypad). Choose between black or orange stickers.

Below is a screenshot from a brief YouTube video showing how these stickers work.  To purchase other HALOS items that ILA sells just click on HALOS.

Talking Label Wand

The Talking Label Wand is a combination microphone and player of the specialized self-adhesive labels that are provided with this unit. Now you can label anything and everything by simply pressing a button while the tip is touching one of these labels. Press the play button while touching a recorded label and hear the wand play whatever has been recorded. Create memos, notes to self, appointments, phone numbers, addresses, medication instructions, CDs, virtually anything with this handy digital label recorder.

Highlights from Instructions: The Talking Label Wand comes with 160 round tactile labels and 72 rectangular washable labels. These labels can get wet and still work. While the unit is turned on, touch the wand tip to a label that you want to record. If it plays back an existing message, then the label has previously been used and is not blank. If the label is unused, you will hear “This is a new label.” Labels can be re-recorded and re-used multiple times. The Talking Label Wand comes with a 2 GB micro SD card already installed for up to 120 hours of recording. If more memory is needed, an additional SD card may be purchased separately.

Product features: ~ Allows you to record your own talking labels for items at home, school or work ~ Provided with self-adhesive tactile labels for recording on and then triggering the wand to play back the recordings ~ Record messages to identify specific items, special dates, and more ~ A terrific way for low vision and Blind users to identify their things with the greatest of ease ~ Record notes or memos to themselves or others ~ Provided with 232 mixed sized tactile labels that can be re-recorded over and over ~ 2GB of built-in memory for storage ~ Features five distinct volume settings, a 3.5mm headphone jack for utilizing your own ear buds or headphones ~ Convenient loop at the top of the wand for placing a string, chain or lanyard to hang this talking label wand ~ Operates on 2 AAA batteries (not included)

Image below is from the product page.  You may purchase additional labels from this link. 

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Kitchen Safety: Tips, Tricks, and Products for the Visually Impaired

Cooking can be a fun pastime enjoyable by anyone regardless of ability if the proper equipment and precautions are utilized. This blog will look at some tips, tricks, and products to use before, during, and after making a meal to keep the kitchen safe and this age-old hobby enjoyable. These suggestions are geared towards the visually impaired but can be useful for anyone wishing to learn more about kitchen safety.

Preparation/Prep Work

The Perkins School for the Blind offers an 8-step cheat sheet for preparing your kitchen for safe cooking. These tips are helpful if you’re blind and preparing to tackle a culinary challenge, or if you’re helping someone who is visually impaired set up a cooking environment. Below are two of these tips.

Tip One: Be smart about labeling foods. You don’t need to label items that are in distinctive packaging, such as a can of shortening, baking powder or milk. (If you have similar milk and juice containers in your fridge, put a rubber band on one to tell them apart.) Label different containers that are similar in shape, like tuna and cat food, soups, breakfast cereal boxes and oils and vinegars. Use braille or large-print labels and rubber bands, tactile markers on rubber bands, or a Pen Friend.

Tip Two: Use a cafeteria tray at your prep area to organize materials and contain spills. Anticipate making somewhat of a mess (that’s part of the fun of cooking!). Locate and take out all ingredients and supplies before starting to cook so you won’t need to hunt for things later. A simple method of organizing is to place all your waiting-to-be-used ingredients and equipment on the left side of the tray. Do the actual prep work – slicing, mixing and so on – on the tray. After using an ingredient or piece of equipment, move it to the right side of the tray. When you’re finished cooking, all the items that need to be cleaned, put away or tossed into the trash will be in one place. If you’re looking for a safe way to chop your food check out this Zick-Zick Classic Food Chopper.

Safe Cooking Tips

VisionAware offers many tips for kitchen and cooking safety. They state that cooking in the face of vision loss can be extremely intimidating whether you are a beginner or a seasoned cook. One of the most important aspects of cooking safely is preparation before you cook.

Tip One: Know the dials on your stove. Make notches or use bump dots on dials (or oven stickers) to locate commonly used settings such as the broiling functions and oven temperatures 275, 350 and for low, medium, high for burners. Formulate a system that works best for you. Another option is to use an Induction Cooktop, only the vessel heating the food gets hot.

Tip Two: Purchase proper oven gloves. Look for ones that cover your forearms to avoid burns when removing items from the oven and handling pots and pans on a stove top. Remove protruding tags or pieces of material as these could come into contact with the element and ignite. Cool Touch Oven Racks are also an option as they protect your fingers and arms from inadvertent burns.

Clean Up

WikiHow offers an in depth look at cleaning advice for the visually impaired. Here are a few of those tips geared towards kitchen cleanup.

Tip One: Wipe down all food surfaces immediately. As soon as you are finished cooking, get out cleaning wipes and go over the entire area. Wipe down the stovetop, which will prevent grease from accumulating. Go over the countertops as well as any other preparation areas. If you used the microwave or another appliance, don’t forget to wipe them down as well.

Tip Two: Wash the dishes slowly. Take your time as you turn on the hot water to rinse everything, making sure to test the temperature. Wash the glasses to begin with and handle each piece of glass separately to avoid hitting them against one another. Finish the rinsing process with heavier items, such as pots or pans. For dishwashers use your free hand to feel for open spaces in the dishwasher. Follow a standard loading pattern and place the glasses, dishes, and pans in the same location every time. This will also make unloading easier.

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Personal Hygiene: Tips, Tricks, and Advice for the Visually Impaired

Personal hygiene is well personal. It is also harder to accomplish when you have a disability. This blog will look at some tips and tricks to help learn, or relearn, how best to assure that you are doing the most that you can for your own personal hygienic needs when dealing with vision loss.

Bathing and Brushing Teeth

Alice Massa, an Occupational Therapist states, states that one of the challenging aspects of living with low vision can be our personal care. Issues like hygiene and grooming can undermine our sense of independence and confidence.  A few of her tips from the article 7 Low Vision Tips To Start Your Day include:

  • In the bathroom, items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush/comb, and toiletries should be kept in the same place, on a shelf or a rack in the shower.
  • It is helpful to buy shampoo, conditioner and body wash in containers differentiated by shape or color.
  • Getting toothpaste on the toothbrush can be a bit of a hassle. Some people find squeezing some toothpaste into a small container and dipping the brush into the paste is easier. Some people just prefer to squeeze a dab of paste onto their index finger and then transfer from finger to brush.

In addition to these suggestions, another product that could make bathing easier is a long-handled brush. This Bent 27” Ergo Round Sponge allows the user to more easily reach hard to reach spots on the body. The bent handle allows for even easier access to the back. Use for bathing, lotion, and cream application.

Shaving

NewzHook offers shaving advice for men but the same strategies are beneficial for women as well. This article provides information on personal grooming as an important skill that all must acquire at an early age. Learning to shave is a critical aspect of this. However, shaving on your own may seem potentially dangerous for those who are blind or have low vision.  Information within the parentheses were added for this blog. Here are some tips for the visually impaired who are starting to shave or want to improve upon their skills.

  • Keep your basic supplies – razor/electric razor, shaving cream/foam, after shave, and a towel handy.
  • Wash the area to be shaved with soap and water and pat dry. This will soften the area, making it easier to shave cleanly.
  • If you are new to this, take the time to feel and explore the part of the face (or other body part) that is to be shaved. You can practice with an empty razor or with the electric razor turned off.
  • Shave against the grain of the whiskers in places where your beard (or other body hair) is heavier. In places with sensitive skin like the cheeks and upper lip, use downward strokes and shave with the grain of the whiskers.
  • After you are done, use fingertips to check one more time if you have left out any spots.
  • For cutting stubble, use scissors, “This is the area on the upper cheekbone. With a comb straighten the hair and with your hand feel which bits of hair are extending downwards and cut them with a pair of scissors”.

If you are looking to try out an electric razor, ILA sells the Norelco Triple Head Electric Shaver. The 3 rotary heads with self-sharpening blades give you the smoothest shave with its CloseCut Blade System 4-direction Flex Heads.

Makeup

Elin Williams, author and creator of My Blind World, shares her tried and true makeup tips in her article “Beauty Without A Mirror.” Here are a few highlights from that article.

All about the numbers: From counting how many times I swirl my brush in a product to how many strokes it takes when applying the product to my face, to me, makeup is all about the numbers. This is especially true for things such as eyeshadow or blush. I know that if I’ve tapped my brush into the product a couple of times and then sweeped it onto my eyelids 3 times, I’ll have a similar amount of product on both eyes and they’ll hopefully look quite similar.

Labeling: I normally label products that are not as easy to indentify or things such as different shades of lipstick or foundation. I use an audio labeller by the RNIB which allows me to record as much information as I need, I then place the small sticker on any of my products and when I place the device over it again, my recording will start to play, clever eh? It is definitely one of the most useful things for me when trying to differentiate between products.

ILA sells the RINB if you too would like to see how labeling in this manner could help you. In addition, we also sell a pair of 3X Makeup Magnifying Glasses which allows you to flip the magnifying lens away from the eye you are putting eyeliner or mascara on and look through the 3X magnifying lens covering the other eye.

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Celebrating Independence Throughout the Year

Independence Day is upon us which usually means parades, festivals, and fireworks. This year, thanks to the coronavirus, festivities will be a bit more intimate around the nation. For persons with disabilities celebrating independence is something that is striven for, albeit with hurdles, throughout the year. This blog will look at a few ways in which persons with visual impairments can celebrate both on the 4th of July and the rest of the days too.

Home

Being able to maneuver and do things independently in and around your home is something most able-bodied people take for granted. Here are a few items that ILA offers that makes routine tasks a bit more worry-free for persons with visual impairments.

Moshi Voice Controlled Talking Alarm Clock: This is an amazing, modern styled talking clock that is totally voice controlled. Once set, through voice commands only, the current time, the alarm time and sound, the sleep sound, and even the date, can be retrieved by just asking for it. “MOSHI” is fully voice interactive and can be operated without ever seeing the clock.

WayAround Laundry Starter Pack: The Laundry Starter Pack contains WayTag 2-hole buttons plus a blind-friendly sewing kit–everything you need to get started tagging your clothing with WayAround. 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. Download the free app for either iPhone or Android onto your own smartphone

Talking Microwave Oven *** Magic Chef ***: This Magic Chef Microwave Oven has been specially modified to talk, making it accessible and simplifying its use for those with low vision or no vision at all. It features an adjustable cook time, adjustable power level, a built-in kitchen timer, a clock, and an attend to food timer. Around each button of the keypad is a raised ring to make them easy to locate by touch. A momentary press of any button will tell you what the button does.

Travel or Errands

For many people doing errands is something that is second nature and traveling Is something done either for business or for fun. Both are things that negate much planning on the part of someone with no physical and/or mental limitations. For people with visual impairments much more thought and planning are needed from start to finish. Here are a few items that could make navigating these items a bit easier.

BRAILLED Jumbo Portable Pill Box with Tactual Markings: Every detail has been included to make this the most useful pillbox for the visually impaired and individuals with limited dexterity. Seven removable pill holders come in a sturdy plastic frame. Each individual pill bar has four large compartments marked tactually and in Braille ‘MORN’, ‘NOON’, ‘EVE’ and ‘BED’. There is even an arrow pointing to the ridge for easy opening. Pills can be distributed to their compartments at the beginning of each week and the bar for each day removed and placed on the vanity or carried, whichever is most convenient.

Revolution 7 Section Folding ID Cane: Revolution Advantage 7 Section Graphite Folding Identification Cane is thin, light weight, and folds down for easy storage. It has a sturdy polymer pencil tip heat sealed onto the cane. It is quite useful for letting those around you know that you are Blind or visually impaired. Offered in 2-inch increments from 46 inches to 64 inches.

Sunu Mobility Device: The Sunu band is a wrist-worn smart watch which uses sonar technology (echolocation) to provide haptic (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. It also has a Wayfinding tool to explore various categories of places which may be nearby including restaurants, shops, hospitals, banks, shops, metro stops, and more.

Just for Fun

Everyone enjoys having fun at least occasionally. There are so many advances in technology, thinking outside the box, and other sources of enjoyment available to most anyone of any ability. Here are just a few of the innovative and exciting things that ILA has to offer geared towards the visually impaired but able to be enjoyed by all.

Brailled Talking USA Jigsaw Puzzle: Begin rebuilding the USA map by finding the border states. When you place a State puzzle piece with the State’s initials, in Braille, into the correct puzzle place, a voice announces the state and its capital.

ISA Soccer Ball with Rattle Pods: With revolutionary rattling disks evenly distributed inside, the rattles continue to sound a few moments after motion has stopped. The rattling volume remains the same, unlike most other balls of its kind which contain bells that usually dissipate rapidly. Suitable for all ages; water and temperature resistant. Size 4 youth soccer ball, 23-24 inches in circumference. Whether fully blind or visually impaired, this ball encourages all to play the game. Please note this item is sold deflated.

Tactile Rubik’s Cube: This modified tactile Rubik’s Cube has different tactile markings for each color on the cube. This standard sized cube is a timeless and fun challenge.

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National Sunglasses Day: A Reminder to Protect Your Eyes from Harmful UV Light

National Sunglasses Day is held every year on June 27th and is sponsored by the Vision Council. While sunglasses can make you look cool, they are also beneficial to helping preserve your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.  Much of the population is still not aware that years of cumulative UV exposure can accelerate conditions like cataracts and age-regulated macular degeneration. If you want to actively participate in the event, post a selfie to your social media accounts, and use the hashtag #NationalSunglassesDay. This blog will look what UV light is and does plus several types of sunglasses and the benefits provided by each.

Ultraviolet (UV) Light

Stanford University states that UV (Ultraviolet) Light refers to the region of the electromagnetic spectrum between visible light and X-rays, with a wavelength falling between 400 and 10 nanometers. This electromagnetic radiation is not visible to the human eye, because it has a shorter wavelength and higher frequency than the light our brain perceives as images.

The article further discusses four basic subtypes of UV light. The first of the four is UV-A light (320-400nm). It is the UV light with the longest wavelength, and the least harmful. It is more commonly known as “black light”, and many use its ability to cause objects to emit fluorescence (a colored glowing effect) in artistic and celebratory designs. The next subtype is UV-B light (290-320nm) which causes sunburns with prolonged exposure along with increasing the risk of skin cancer and other cellular damage. Next comes subtype UV-C light (100-290nm) which is extremely harmful and is almost completely absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere. It is commonly used as a disinfectant in food, air, and water to kill microorganisms by destroying their cells’ nucleic acids. Finally, the last subtype is classified as Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) Light (10-100nm) which can only travel through a vacuum and is completely absorbed in Earth’s atmosphere.

Prolonged exposure to UV-A and UV-B waves without adequate protection can have dangerous health consequences. The eyes should always be protected from UV radiation when outside by wearing sunglasses designed to block out UV-A and UV-B rays. If one spends a large amount of time outside or in any environment with UV-A and UV-B radiation, they can develop short-term effects like Photokeratitis (known in some cases as arc-eye or snow blindness), or serious long-term conditions including cataracts which lead to blindness.

The information provided for the National Sunglasses Day event states, Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere at any time and place, but certain regions have heightened radiation levels. UV rays are particularly strong near the equator since they travel a shorter distance to reach the Earth’s surface. Cities at high altitudes also share higher UV levels because the sun’s rays can easily penetrate the thin atmosphere. If you would like to know the average monthly UV index for your state (or links to nearly anywhere in the world) see the EPA’ site for Sun Safety Monthly Average UV Index.

Cocoon Eyewear

These patented sunglasses are designed to fit over almost any prescription eyewear. With their extensive technology, they will provide a polarized view, while delivering optimum protection against harmful UV rays. These lightweight frames completely isolate the eyes from the elements, cutting glare, blocking harmful UV rays, and steadying fluctuation in light conditions. The elimination of glare provides a tranquil “cocoon” for your eyes, improving visual acuity and enhancing depth perception. These sunglasses are versatile and stylish, and ideal for those that don’t wear corrective eyewear too.

The Low Vision Cocoons offer a full spectrum of filters designed to enhance contrast and/or reduce glare for those with low vision impairments. The integrated side shields are precisely regulated to match the exact transmission rates and UV absorption curves of the front filters.

ILA offers 11 different types of these glasses including Polarized or Low Vision Wideline, Polarized or Low Vision Slimline, Polarized or Low Vision Pilot Large and Polarized Aviator XL.  See Cocoons Eyewear for the complete listing of available products.

NoIR Sunglasses

NoIR Low Vision Filters are the point where utility and comfort converge, providing essential light management, visibility, and protection with an eye on wear-ability. NoIR sunglasses are available in dozens of comfortable and fashionable styles, many with top and side-shield protection and designed to fit over prescription glasses. The NoIR Low Vision Filter System is made in the USA.

The NoIR Filter system employs the same technology used for laser protective eyewear, relieving glare by absorbing the short wavelengths of the visible spectrum that can scatter within the ocular media. All filters absorb ultraviolet radiation to 400nm, with many lenses also blocking blue light, protecting the retina from high-energy wavelengths which may contribute to the degenerative process culminating in macular degeneration.

ILA offers 50 different types of NoIR Sunglasses in many different lens colors and shades to suit most anyone’s preference To see the full listing see NoIR Sunglasses.

Eyesential DryEye Sunglasses

These sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun and the elements! Eyesential™ Dry Eye Sunglasses were designed specifically for patients with sensitive eyes, including those with dry eyes and allergies. They are also the ideal choice for anyone who is exposed to dust, wind, or extreme bright sun.

These glasses offer soft cushion frame liner provides 50% more protection from the sun and elements. They block 100% UVA and UVB light and come with an anti-fog coating. If interested in this comment visit Eyesential Dryeye Sunglasses.

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Bathroom Aids: Safety and support in the bathroom help maintain Independence

The CDC states that each year, one in four Americans 65 and older experiences a fall, the leading cause of injury among older adults, and impaired vision more than doubles this risk. Falls often result in serious injuries, decreased mobility, and loss of independence. According to Caregiver, the bathroom is routinely cited as the most dangerous room in the house for seniors. Countless slips and falls occur in the bathroom, causing a difficult (and sometimes embarrassing) situation for families. This blog will look at a few simple measures that can be taken to help ensure your bathroom keeps your loved ones from becoming another of these statistics.

Bathroom Aids for the Toilet and Bathtub or Shower

Feeling confident while using the toilet and/or bathing yourself goes a long way towards safety and independence. ILA offers several products to help make this a reality.

Stander Curve Grab Bar: The Curve Grab Bar is a space saving support rail that allows the user to easily rise from a sitting position by providing 4 hand grips at 4 different heights. This pivoting grab bar locks in place every 45 degrees and can also be locked flat against the wall when the bar is not in use. Made of rust resistant, zinc plated steel, it installs quickly into two wall studs.

Vertical Bath Bar: Bar extends 14″ above tub edge to provide extra stability when getting in & out of tub. Made of steel construction with vinyl coating and protective rubber cushions. Product fits tub walls up to 6″ wide and secures to tub in minutes.

CombiAttendant with Footrest: Standard Combi Shower, Commode, and Indoor Transit Chair. The mobile Combi commode/shower chair is an assistive device allowing the user to sit down safely and comfortably during toileting or showering. It is supplied complete with toilet rails and can be used freestanding, with an optional bucket, or positioned over a toilet. Easy to move and maneuver in different settings and locations.

Decluttering and Using and Labels

One way to lessen the risk of falling is to keep the bathroom as clutter free as possible. Using totes, cabinets, and shelving goes a long way towards keeping things up and away from being a hazard. Labeling items using high contrast lettering, braille labeling, and having products in easy to use pump bottles makes finding what you need both easy and convenient. ILA offers several products that can be beneficial with keeping things easily accessible.

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 lets you test 4 pens with different thicknesses and drying characteristics. Included are: CAN-DO Low Vision, Sharpie, Pilot Bravo, and Liquid Expresso.

Braillable Labels: These ingenious little transparent hard plastic labels have room to Braille three lines. Each non-adhesive label has a hole in each end for the black elastic band peg to push through so that the label can be stretched around whatever you are marking. 50 labels and 50 elastic bands in a pack. Each label measures 4.75 inches by 1.5 inches.

WayClip Plastic Clips with tag: Use a clip tag with a rubber band or a hairband to attach a tag to all the bottles and vials in your bathroom(s). 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. Download the free app for either iPhone or Android onto your own smartphone. WayAround works with the accessibility settings on your phone. To hear your information spoken aloud, turn on VoiceOver or TalkBack.

Flooring, Lighting and Contrast

In addition to keeping the floor as clutter free as possible your choice of tile, rugs, and tub or shower liner are also key to preventing falls and accidents in the bathroom. Things to think about when choosing these type items are contrast in color with the things around it, nonskid bottom, and flooring or tile with texture. Smooth flooring is just asking for trouble when you add water into the mix.

Lighting is also an important safety feature to keep in mind. It may be necessary to have several different types of lights in various places in the bathroom. It might be beneficial to install extra lighting around the tub or shower. Having a light above the mirror also enables someone with vision issues to be better able to see things in and around the sink and counter. A lighted mirror by the sink could provide assistance with shaving or applying makeup. To learn more about lighting check out our previous previous blogs.

Contrast is something simple to consider but often times overlooked. The way colors and shapes work within the whole room can help deter potential fall risks. Examples of using contrast to your advantage is by having hand towels a different color from wash cloths or bath towels. In addition, the towels should contrast with both the wall and floor coloring to help with locating them when either hanging up or fallen on the floor.  Using a different colored toilet seat could help separate it from the colors around it. Using dark colored or striped toothpaste can help ensure you squeeze out just the right amount onto your toothbrush. If more than one person uses the bathroom you can also use different colored totes and/or different shaped containers to help keep personal items separated.

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Father’s Day is Coming: Gift Ideas for Three Different Types of Fathers

Father’s Day is coming on June 21st so now is the perfect time to be thinking about what to buy, create, or plan to celebrate the special father(s) in your life. This blog will look at three of the ten most common father types as described by The Star along with suggested ideas for that type. For a little added fun each section will also include some of tv’s most iconic dads that fit the type.

The Nostalgic Dad

“Back in my time” is the Nostalgic Dad’s favorite opening line. He likes dishing out advice and comparing how society and times have changed. Nostalgic Dads often have a well of amazing stories and lessons to share. He makes you appreciate how you now have a better life thanks to his perseverance and hard work.

Famous television fathers that fit this category include: Andy Taylor, a widower, father, and sheriff from “The Andy Griffith Show,” Howard Cunningham, business owner, lodge member, and family man from “Happy Days,” and John Walton Sr. a hard-working, industrious man who runs a small family sawmill on his property from “The Waltons.”

Gift ideas for the family man that falls into this category would be your more typical tried and true gifts. Some of these ideas include:

MedCenter System ™ Talking One Month Medication Organizer and Reminder: The MedCenter System was designed by two sons to ensure that their father took his medication regularly. He is doing so now and you will also when you use this system. 31 individual boxes, each with 4 pill compartments sit in a frame. The talking combination pill reminder timer with 4 alarms and talking clock, either beeps or speaks, “Please take your pills” when the alarm goes off.

TEK-PAL Simple TV Remote: The manufacturer states that the TEK-PAL is “designed to be the easiest to see and easiest to use TV remote control on the market”. This item is a universal remote, with only 6 large buttons with clear, black markings on them. The on/off is round, the mute is square and the volume up and volume down, channel up and channel down are triangles that point in the up or down direction, corresponding to their function.

The Handyman Dad

The Handyman Dad adopts a Do-It-Yourself approach and is able to fix everything. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in an era where making a phone call to the garage was harder without cellphones. These days you have someone for everything — plumber, electrician, technician — but old school dads will tell you that they were handyman extraordinaire in the house way before these jobs became mainstream.

Famous television fathers that fit this category include: Tim Taylor, the know-it-all father from “Home Improvement,” Dan Conner, the loving, drywall contractor from “Roseanne,” and Charles Ingalls, farmer, father, and fixer of problems both physical and emotional from “Little House on the Prairie.”

Gift ideas for the  handyman that falls into this category would be your more typical fixer upper type gifts. Some of these ideas include:

Talking Tape Measure:  A 16-foot standard metal tape measure that announces the measured length with an accuracy of .06 of an inch. Operates with memory mode, and can be used to measure consecutive distances that exceed its 16-foot length

Big Larry LED Flashlight: This BIG Larry™ LED Flashlight uses C.O.B. LED technology to produce 400 lumens of light or 160 lumens at a dimmed setting. It also has an intense emergency red flashing light mode which you can activate if ever needed. This red flashing light is ideal for roadside emergencies or distress signaling.

The Gadget-Obsessed Dad

He has the latest model and flashy upgrades to boot; putting your two-seasons-past phone to shame. The gadget-obsessed dad gets told off over dinner for always having his nose stuck in his tablet, even more frequently than the younger ones. They send dad-jokes, videos of cute animals and Internet memes. They are also known for their fondness of Candy Crush.

Famous iconic television fathers that fit this category include: Wayne Szalinski, the wacky inventor from “Honey I Shrunk the Kids,” Gomez Addams, a wealth retired lawyer of Castilian descent, who squanders money in a cavalier manner while remaining wealthy from “The Addams Family,” and Professor John Robinson, father and an astrophysicist who also specializes in applied planetary geology from “Lost in Space.”

Gift ideas for the father that falls into this category would be your more typical technological or “geeky” gifts. Some of these ideas include:

iPad Bluetooth Keypad – Yellow Keys Black Letters: The LogicKeyboard Bluetooth Mini Keyboard is the industry’s first large print Bluetooth keyboard designed for the Vision impaired and mature-aged Apple iPad and iPhone users. Now there is a way to type on a real keyboard with letters that are easy to see and locate. The mini keyboard is compact and light-to-carry with proven Bluetooth technology that can connect to any Bluetooth compatible device.

TV SoundBox Wireless TV Speaker: This portable and wireless SoundBox® speaker, produced by Serene Innovations, brings adjustable TV sound right in front of you or where ever you go within your home. Imagine taking your television sound with you to the kitchen when going for a snack or tending to your simmering dinner.

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