Lighting Makes A Difference: The 3 Primary Types of Light

Lighting can make a world of difference in terms of how well you can see, glare, and comfort. There are three primary sources of lighting: ambient (or general), task, and accent. Each type is necessary for different parts of your home. This blog will look at the difference between each lighting type. Information in this blog comes from Do It Yourself Network, Elle Decor, and Home Stratosphere.

Ambient (or General) Lighting

Ambient lighting, also known as general lighting, is a hidden source of light that washes a room with a glow. It flattens an interior and creates very little shadow.  Its purpose is to provide broad lighting for the entire space. It is generally the primary source of lighting in a room, but it also directly influences the overall ambiance and mood. If a room has an abundance of natural lighting, that can often be the source of general lighting during the daytime. Think: chandeliers, recessed lighting, or sconces. Use of a dimmer can also provide ambient light.

Task Lighting

Task lighting is just that; lighting that’s used to perform daily activities such as reading, cooking, shaving, putting on makeup, etc. It needs to be glare-free. Effective task lighting enhances visual clarity and keeps the eyes from getting tired. Task lighting is more localized than other types of lighting, and it can come from a variety of sources. The function of task lighting is to brighten a certain work area, providing just enough contrasting light to enhance your productivity.

As we get older, our vision worsens, which is why task lighting is so effective in reducing the glare of lights and preventing eye strain. The types of workspaces that task lighting typically centers around are cooking, reading, crafts, studying, and other kinds of hobbies that are stationary.

ILA has many types of lightbulbs and lamps that fit this category including a color changing desk lamp, a floor lamp with full page magnifier, and a Z-Line lamp by Enfren. Special chromalux bulbs are also available and are recommended by low vision specialists and the National Association for the Visually Handicapped. These bulbs filter out the yellow rays that are emitted by ordinary incandescent lamps which dull visual perception. Chromalux light enhances original colors and textures.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is more design and decorative focused than the other two types of lighting.  It is a type of directional lighting or lighting that adds interest or highlights a certain object or unusual architectural feature in a room. A bulb and some kind of shield to direct the light are all that’s needed for this type of lighting. Halogen spotlights and table lamps with opaque shades are good ways to achieve accent lighting. Accent lighting adds drama to the room it’s in. Its goal is to draw your eyes to the focal point it has created. A well-executed accent light will bring your attention to what is being lit, not how that object is being lit.

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Assistive Technology for the Visually Impaired

Assistive technology for the visually impaired are items designed specifically to help people with vision loss or blindness. These items can include everything from screen readers, screen magnifiers for computer users, video magnifiers and other devices for reading and writing with low vision. This blog will focus on wearable technology, products that combine smartphone apps and physical products, and those products that build on existing technology.

Wearable Technology

Just as it sounds wearable technology are items which attach to your body and can travel with you. These can include watches, glasses, smartphones, and magnifiers. ILA carries several options in this category to assist those with vision impairments. Two of our newer items in this category are the Patriot Viewpoint Wearable Technology and the Cyber Eyez Trifecta.

The Patriot Viewpoint Wearable Technology is a wearable electronic magnifier with OCR provides handsfree magnification up to 20X. It can be used for close up or distance viewing. The OCR can scan and speak any printed material with just a few easy steps. The unit has touch pad controls on the side of the glasses. Product comes with both a phone jack and ear buds. Item weighs 1.1 pounds and has a 4-hour battery life.

The Cyber Eyez Trifecta is an exciting new product in the world of wearable technology. The complete package includes a Samsung Gear virtual reality headset, custom built wearable smart glasses with remote control, and a Samsung smartphone with the Cyber Eyez app pre-downloaded. The headset, glasses and app all perform virtually the same functions, using the same gestures and finger swipes to control each of the 3 devices. The choice of three devices allows a user to select the best device for a particular situation. VR headset can be great for extended viewing of TV or sporting events or sitting in a classroom. Smart glasses, available in small, medium, and large sizes, offer a more discreet and lightweight way to scan an area and grab your visual information. Results are displayed on the phone app. Glasses can also be ordered with custom prescriptions and with clear or tinted lenses. The app is best for quick grab and go tasks and doesn’t require putting anything on your head.

Technology Pairing Smartphone Apps with Physical Products

New technology advances also come in the form of products which are a combination of a smartphone app and a physical product or tag of some sort.  ILA proudly carries merchandise in this category including the WayTag series, Orbit Tracker Cards, and the Dot Watch.

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. 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.

Orbit Tracker Cards are Bluetooth trackers that will help you locate your valuable items using a free iOS or Android app. From your phone, you can page that item when it goes missing. Orbit Card is a credit card sized card that can slide into a wallet. Stop losing your stuff!

The Dot Watch is the first tactile smartwatch, with a 4 cell Braille display. This tactile smartwatch connects to a user’s smartphone or operates as a standalone tactile Braille watch. The wristband is magnetic mesh, for easy on-and-off. And it has quite a few features including standard watch alarms as well as Bluetooth connected notifications from your phone.

New Products That Build on Existing Technology

Many new assistive technology products build on existing technology, allowing users to work with familiar platforms but gain lots more additional functionality.  Examples of this include the Mercury 8 Electronic Magnifier and the Scanmarker Air.

Built on a full Android tablet platform, the Mercury 8 Electronic Magnifier with Speech is a durable handheld 8″ tablet magnifier with accurate full page OCR. This allows a user to both read magnified material on a large screen and to scan (via snapshot) and listen to that same printed material. In reading/OCR mode, a user can start and pause the speech, as well as follow the reading progress on the screen, while manipulating the size and color of the material being read. Mercury 8 features a wide 8-inch screen with rubber grips and a polycarbonate case designed for rough handling. It can also be used as a regular Android tablet with the full Android eco-system of apps.

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.

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New Products Are Here!

At Independent Living Aids, LLC (ILA) we pride ourselves in always looking for new products to help our customers. Sometimes, these products are everyday products in which we find a real application for people with low vision. Products like an Air Fryer, Cobra Color Changing Light, and the ScanMarker Air, have not been developed for the low vision user, but these products have crossover appeal and functionality for these consumers. Instead of the usual blog, this week we will look at new products from our 2020 catalog in each of the six outlined categories.

Assistive Technology

We carry a wide range of assistive technology products for the visually impaired and blind, including assistive technology software, screen magnifiers, readers and scanners, and much more. New items in this category include:

TV and Audio Listener Amplifying Headphones (or page 91 in the catalog): TL200 TV Listener Amplifying Headphones pairs wirelessly with either your television or mobile phone to amplify TV shows, phone calls and music. This allows the user to amplify the television volume, while others in the room listen at their preferred level. Can also pair with a smartphone to receive and amplify cell phone calls as well as music played from the phone. Has a 30′ headset range.

Children’s Large Button Keyboard (or page 86 in the catalog): Compatible with either a Mac or PC. Has oversized buttons and color-based mnemonic system to reinforce reading skills.

Envoy Elite Digital Recorder (or page 90 in catalog): Rugged, water resistant, and solar powered recorder with tactile buttons. Includes a flashlight and FM radio with 5 preset stations. Built in MP3 player can play downloaded MP3, WAV, or WMA files. Unit has a built-in speaker and earphone jack. Has an 8 GB internal memory with a microSD card slot.

Healthcare

ILA sells a wide variety of healthcare products and aids, including talking scales, bathing and bathroom aids, glucose meters and diabetic aids, pill and medicine organizers, and much more. New items in this category include:

Talking Wrist Arm Blood Pressure Meter (or page 57 in catalog): One touch operation. Includes a 2-person memory storage with 90 measurements each. Averages the last 3 measurements. Has your choice of English or Spanish voice. LCD display with 3 color backlighting. Comes with WHO classification indicators. Talking Upper Arm Blood Pressure Meter is also available.

Talking Oral Medical Thermometer (or page 57 in catalog): Talking oral medical thermometer delivers spoken results in 8 seconds and can give results in Fahrenheit or Celsius. Speaks in 6 languages, including English and Spanish. Large digital display has .75″ high digits. Voice can toggle off.

Talking Scale- English, Spanish, German (or page 58 in catalog): Attractive tempered glass scale has a 440-pound capacity and can speak results in 5 languages, including English, Spanish, and German. Results can be reported in pounds or kilograms.

Hearing

We sell a wide variety of hearing products for the deaf and hard of hearing, including alerting systems, amplified phones and accessories, clocks and timers, TTY products and much more. New items in this category include:

Tactile Talking Clock with Bedshaker (or page 73 in catalog): This clock speaks the time and date in a male voice with adjustable volume. Clock face opens to reveal a tactile analog face. Time can also be spoken on demand. Includes a wired pillow shaker. Alarm combinations of vibration, audio, or both.

Vibrating Dual Alarm Clock (or page 75 in catalog): Place this vibrating dual alarm travel clock tableside or under your pillow to ensure that you awaken, on time, as needed. Set up to 2 alarms to buzz, vibrate, or both.

Clarity Big Button Phone with 35dB Amplification (or page 82 in catalog): A terrific phone for both the hard of hearing and those with low vision. Moderate amplification combined with large, back lit high contrast buttons make it a great solution for many.

Household (or Daily Living Aids on website)

ILA sells a wide variety of daily living aids, including durable medical equipment, kitchen and cooking aids, safety and security products, reachers, and much more. New items in this category include:

George Foreman Grill (or page 47 in the catalog): 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.

Chefman 3.5L Air Fryer (or page 47 in catalog): Cooks food with a crispy fried texture, without deep frying. Cook, bake, roast and “fry” with an adjustable temperature range of 175°-400°F. Food cooks quickly and safely, self-contained in the cooking basket. Easy to use manual temperature dial and 60-minute timer. Can cook from frozen. Basket is dishwasher safe.

ScanMarker Air (or page 50 in the catalog): 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.

Mobility

We carry a wide selection of mobility products for independent living, including walking canes, rollators and walkers, and support and transfer aids. New items in this category include:

Offset Handle Cane (or page 63 in catalog): Handle is equipped with a soft foam grip. The offset handle centers user’s weight over the strongest part of the cane. Adjustable handle height from 30” to 39.” Cane has a 300-pound weight capacity.

Padded Bath Safety Seat with Backrest (or page 66 in catalog): Has an adjustable seat height from 14”-18.” The seat dimensions are 16” wide and 11.5” deep. Weight capacity is 300 pounds.

Vertical Bath Bar (or page 66 in catalog): 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. Fits tub walls up to 6” wide and secures to tub in minutes.

Vision

ILA sells a wide variety of low vision aids, including magnifiers, electronic magnifiers, sunglasses, magnifying lamps, talking products, reading glasses, and more. New items in this category include:

Travel Size Atomic Talking Alarm Clock (or page 6 in the catalog): Setting buttons “lock” after setting so they don’t get pushed during travel. Unit speaks the time, date, and day. Provides verbal feedback during setting.

Mercury 6 Electronic Magnifier with OCR (or page 19 in the catalog): You get 2 fabulous devices in one with the Mercury electronic magnifier and OCR (Optical Character Reading) reader. Use its touch-based 5.5″ HD screen to have magnification from 3X to 40X while in live mode. Use touch or voice commands to control magnification or color settings. Switch to OCR scanning with one touch.

OttLite Cobra Color Changing LED Lamp (or page 27 in the catalog): Color changing LED desk lamp offers 3 levels of lighting, from warm light to cool light to natural daylight (3,000K, 4,000K and 5,000K.). Select the color that is best suited for your needs. Dimming feature controls brightness, with a maximum of 500 lumens. Flexible arm and head adjust from 24″ to 9″ in height. Built in USB port on the base is great for charging personal devices like smartphones and tablets.

If you are unable to find a specific item or have a new idea for something we may not yet carry, please contact us. We are available by phone(1-800-537-2118) and through our contact us page from the main website.

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Gift Ideas For That Special Someone

Valentine’s Day is seen as a special day for expressing your love, often through gifts to another. Knowing your loved one’s “love language” can help ensure that any gift given, be it for Valentine’s Day or throughout the year, is better received, loved, and utilized. Basically, it means to pay closer attention to what makes your spouse, parent, child, friend, partner, etcetera tick. Knowing what it is important to them is the key. Traditionally, it is thought that there are five basic languages of love. This blog will look at each “language” and provide an example of a gift that might be best suited to those that seem to utilize that language most.  The brief definitions for each language is taken from excerpts from She Knows and Oprah Magazine.

Words of Affirmation

These are verbal (or written) expressions of care and affection. Think: “Thanks for putting the kids to bed” or “You looked really nice today.” Conversely, insults can be particularly upsetting to people who favor words of affirmation.

Presenting gifts that let the other person know you want to make them feel special would fit into this category. A gift could be as simple as a jumbo wall calendar that you write words of endearment or special reminders and dates that are meaningful to the person you’re giving it to. Verbally you can give a gift that keeps giving by presenting someone with a reader machine, such as the Milestone 212, where you can pre-record your voice expressing your love and gratitude for the recipient that can be played throughout the year.

Gifts

The person who loves this language thrives on the love, thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift. In short, actions speak louder than words. Think about finding a gift that your partner has been asking for or would enjoy receiving and plan for a special way of giving it; make it a surprise. The act of giving a gift tells your partner you cared enough to think about him or her in advance and go out of your way to get something to make your partner smile.

If you know the person enjoys reading or doing crafts but lack the needed light to keep from tiring their eyes a color changing LED lamp might be a good choice to give. Something as simple as a pair of designer reading glasses could also be a good choice for the crafter or reader in your life that have a small amount of sight issues.  If your loved one has a hard time waking up when their alarm goes off in the morning and has stated that they wished they could find a better way to make sure they awake in time then this sonic boom sweetheart alarm clock might be an ideal choice. Basically, it’s any gift that shows you are paying them attention and know what they like, want, or need.

Acts of Service

Doing something helpful or kind for your partner. Think: Waking up with the baby in the middle of the night or doing the dishes so your partner can relax. For someone who favors acts of service, ambivalence or a lack of support are more damaging than anything else.

The WayAround starter pack or WayAround laundry starter pack are both excellent choices if the person you’re shopping for is visually impaired. These starter packs are a way to label the everyday things in our lives to make it easier to function. 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. Helping in the kitchen is another way to show someone you care.  There are plenty of kitchen and cooking aids to choose from depending on your special someone’s needs.

Quality Time

Engaging in an activity together, particularly one you both enjoy, like a walk after dinner or watching a movie with a bowl of popcorn. If this is your love language, having a distracted or distant partner that makes you feel unseen or unheard is the biggest pitfall.

Games such as Rummikub, chess, large print playing cards, or dominoes are all great suggestions for time you can actively spend together. If watching a movie is more your style ensuring that each person can do so comfortably will make the time spent together even more special. This wireless tv SoundBox brings adjustable TV sound right in front of you or where ever you go within your home. No longer will you (or your loved one) have to strain to hear your TV from across the room.

Physical Touch

People who speak this love language thrive on any type of physical touch: handholding, hugs and pats on the back. Physical touch is the most direct way to communicate love. As long as it’s done in an atmosphere which is loving and not oppressive, physical touch can be the most effective of the love languages. It calms, heals and reassures.

In addition to the touch between two people other ways to express this language is through gifts that promote a calming sensation of touch such as a massaging neck pillow or a heated foot massager. Another option more commonly given to a child, but to which many adults also enjoy, is a simple snuggle pillow or stuffed animal. Soft little mementos that when hugged will make you think of the person that gave it to you.

The bottom line is that not everyone loves in the same way, so being aware of the different love languages can not only help you understand the other person better but it can also help you be a better gift giver (or receiver if both parties are on the same page).

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Products That Make TV Viewing More Enjoyable With A Hearing Or Vision Impairment

Football day is coming on February 2nd and millions of people will be glued to their TV set to watch the big game. This isn’t the only day of the year that people watch television, of course, but it is the time of year where the most TV sets go on sale in anticipation of the game. For persons with hearing loss or vision impairments enjoying screen time might not be as enjoyable as one might hope. This blog will look at three different types of technology that helps bridge the gap so that everyone can watch their favorite TV program, big game or otherwise, more enjoyably.

TV Glasses

Television glasses enable persons with macular degeneration, or other vision loss, to be able to see the screen more clearly up to 10 feet away from the screen itself. Because no two eyes are exactly the same these glasses allow for vision adjustment in each eye independently allowing for more precise vision.  These glasses are intended for watching events, sports, or movies but are not for reading or close up work. These glasses also work well with the closed captioning feature enabling the viewer to be able to read them more clearly.

These  Eschenbach MaxTV Glasses provide 2.1X magnification through plastic Galilean lenses. The lenses measure 1.25” each and are connected to a black frame. Each pair comes with a sturdy protective zippered case.

Amplifying Headphones

When it comes to assisted listening devices for the television, Healthy Hearing states that there are several advantages over simply turning up the volume on the TV itself.

  • They send the signal directly to headphones or hearing aids, minimizing the interference of background noise in the room.
  • The direct delivery of the auditory signal improves the overall clarity of sound.
  • The person with hearing loss can operate their personal volume independently of the volume produced by the television’s speakers.
  • Loved ones with different degrees of hearing ability can enjoy television together.

The TV and Audio Listener Amplifying Headphones does all of these things and more. These headphones pair wirelessly with either your television or mobile phone to amplify TV shows, phone calls and music. This allows the user to amplify the television volume, while others in the room listen at their preferred level. This product has a 30′ headset range.

Wireless TV Speaker

Think of these speakers as kind of a portable “boom box” for your TV. Instead of it playing a cassette tape or the radio these speakers transmit the sound coming from the television. Many come with a convenient handle for carrying it from room to room. The sound and volume from the speaker are completely independent from that TV itself. In fact, you can turn the television sound off and just listen from the wireless speaker itself. Just like with the headphones in the last section, these speakers allow loved ones with varying degrees of hearing ability to enjoy television together again in addition to improving the overall clarity of sound.

One example of this type assisted listening device is the TV SoundBox Wireless TV Speaker by Serene Innovations. It is simple to install, just plug the included transmitter to your TV’s audio output port with the provided cable. The transmitter will then wirelessly deliver your television’s audio to this portable speaker. This transmitter base also serves as a charging dock when the speaker (receiver) is not in use. Simply rest the speaker on the transmitter base charging dock. The built-in rechargeable battery delivers up to 8 hours of listening time between charging periods.

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Cell Phone Amplification Provided Through: Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) and Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT)

Cell phone amplification allows persons with hearing loss to be able to communicate more clearly with less noise or static distortion. In order to get the most bang for your buck, when looking into obtaining a phone and/or special equipment for this enhancement it helps to have a basic understanding of both hearing aid compatibility (HAC) and hearing assistive technology (HAT). This blog will look at a basic overview of both with a more elaborated explanation on Bluetooth and Telecoils following.

Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC)

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act and other federal laws ensure the availability of wireless telephones that are compatible with hearing aids and cochlear implants.  Wireless telephones that are certified as being hearing aid compatible should minimize unwanted noise and be compatible with the magnetic coils (telecoils or T-coils) in many hearing aids.

Healthy Hearing states that 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. Further, your telecoil may automatically switch on or it may require you to manually switch into the telecoil or “T” mode. Ask your hearing healthcare provider for more details. This is something you’ll want to test out when trying out different phones. 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.

Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT)

Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) can dramatically improve the lives of people with hearing loss. Assistive listening systems and devices bridge the gap between you and the sound source by eliminating the effects of distance, background noise, and reverberation. They can bypass challenging acoustics—sending sound directly to users’ ears. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is a great place to learn all about HATs and other things related to hearing loss.

Hearing aids with a telecoil can make a dramatic difference in the user’s ability to hear clearly on the telephone, in meetings, a noisy restaurant, at the theater, and while navigating buses, airports, train stations and other challenging environments.

All assistive listening systems are required to be accessible for people with hearing aids, people with hearing aids but no telecoil, and people without hearing aids.

There are three types of assistive listening systems that provide ADA mandated communication access in public places. First are hearing Loops, also known as Induction Loops or Audio Frequency Induction Loop Systems (AFILS), consist of a copper wire placed within a room, theater, or counter which is connected via a special loop “driver” to a public address or sound system. An electromagnetic field is created that connects to a telecoil in hearing aids, cochlear implants, or telecoil receivers. Loops are the most user-friendly of assistive listening options. Next, Infrared Systems (IR) work like TV remote controls. A transmitter sends speech or music from a public address or sound system to an IR receiver using invisible infrared light waves. This technology is line-of-sight and cannot be used outdoors during the daytime due to being affected by light. Thirdly, FM Systems, or Radio Frequency Assistive Listening Systems, transmit wireless, low power FM frequency radio transmission from a sound system to FM receivers. An advantage of this system over an infrared system: FM is not affected by direct sunlight.

Confused? HLAA has created a new service called HAT HELP which is staffed by volunteers. Supervised doctoral level audiology students from the University of Washington and Gallaudet University are now available to answer your technical assistance questions. Simply write to hat_help@hearingloss.org and they will provide an email response.

Bluetooth

Healthy Hearing states that Bluetooth technology is the latest innovation to take off among hearing aid users. Although Bluetooth hearing aids are not yet available, the technology allows two devices such as a cell phone or computer, for example, and a wireless hearing aid with a compatible streamer to talk to each other. The range is limited, somewhere around 20 feet, but the lack of interference and secure connection of this convenient hands-free technology outweighs any negatives. In addition, the use of one streamer can allow the user to switch back and forth among multiple devices, from cell phones to tablets to iPods.

Another page on their website dedicated to this topic further elaborates that Bluetooth is a wireless communication platform that allows for the transfer of data between two or more electronic devices. The technology uses radio waves set to a high frequency to transmit data without interference or security risks. If your hearing aid doesn’t include a feature for direct streaming from your smartphone to your hearing aids, don’t worry. Manufacturers of wireless hearing aids long ago created a clever solution for accessing this prevalent wireless standard. Wireless hearing aids can use compatible assistive listening devices, often called streamers, to provide a communication link between the wireless technology in the hearing aids and any Bluetooth-enabled device.

This type of technology allows users more options and opportunities including personalized listening experience, multiple connections, remote control of your hearing aids, and standard protocol (which means there is uniformity in the way that it works across all devices).

Telecoils

Based on just the above information it is apparent that telecoils (also called t-coils) are important and can enhance the usability of hearing assistive devices but what are they?

Everyday Hearing provides an excellent article concerning this very thing. The following are highlights from this article. A telecoil is a small copper wire coil located within some hearing aids and cochlear implants. It is designed to communicate with telephones and loop systems through an electromagnetic wireless signal. The goal of a telecoil is to enhance and “clean up” the speech signal coming through the audio system, whether it be a telephone or a microphone, such as in an auditorium or place or worship. Because it’s a direct wireless transmission, the telecoil signal volume can be adjusted by the listener.

Not all hearing devices have telecoils. The smaller the device is, the less likely it will contain a telecoil. This is because the telecoil takes up too much space for them to fit within the smallest devices, such as a completely in the canal (CIC) or micro behind the ear (BTE) hearing device. Most cochlear implants have telecoils built within them. In general, any hearing device equipped with a size 10 battery will not include a telecoil.

The worse your hearing is, the more difficulty you will have hearing on the telephone or in large rooms and public places. For this reason, a telecoil will become very useful for improving speech understanding in these situations.

Cell phone amplification devices currently highlighted for the week include the Bluetooth T-Coil Headset for Cell Phones, Blue Tooth Cell Phone Amplifier for Behind The Ear Hearing Aids, and HearAll Cellphone Amplifier.

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Smartphone Apps, Tools, and Tutorials for the Hearing Impaired

There are many apps, tools, and tutorials to help just about anyone leverage their smartphone for their own greater good. This blog will look at some of those options currently available to assist those living with a hearing impairment.

Apps

The Internet is a wonderful place to learn about the various apps currently available to assist persons living with hearing loss. Each section provides a brief overview of its contents. More info for each section is available from the linked site listed towards the beginning of each paragraph.

Apple products have an entire website dedicated to accessibility for their devices. This page of iaccessibility is dedicated to hard of hearing accessibility apps. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can communicate in a variety of ways with iOS features like FaceTime® video calling and unlimited texting. And assistive technologies such as closed captions and mono audio help you enjoy your content. As of this blog and in addition to the built-n programs mentioned, it provides links to 49 IOS compatible apps for the hearing impaired. These apps range from American Sign Language to Lyft and Uber.

Live Transcribe is an app available for Android smartphones from the Google Play Store. It is an accessibility app designed for the Deaf and hard of hearing and usable by anyone. Using Google’s state-of-the-art automatic speech recognition technology, Live Transcribe performs real-time transcription of speech and sound to text on your screen, so you can more easily participate in conversations going on in the world around you. You can also keep the conversation going by typing your response on the screen.

Sound Amplifier is another app available for Android smartphones from the Google Play Store. It enhances audio from your Android device using headphones to provide a more comfortable and natural listening experience. Use Sound Amplifier on your Android device to filter, augment, and amplify sound in the real world. Sound Amplifier makes audio clearer and easier to hear. It works by increasing quiet sounds while not over-boosting loud sounds. With 2 simple sliders, you can quickly customize sound enhancement and noise reduction to minimize distracting background noise.

The San Diego Hearing Center provide a few more options for both IOS and Android phones in the linked article. Some of these apps allow you to test a baseline of your hearing.

Tools

There are many tools and accessories that can be purchased to turn your smartphone into a magical bag of tricks to assist you in most areas of life.  These are but three of the many choices currently available.

The AlarmDock Smartphone Dock with Bedshaker is a docking station that pairs with a personal smartphone and uses a wireless bedshaker and 100dB alarm to wake a hard sleeper or someone who is hard of hearing. It uses a free iOS or Android app to manage alarms, timers, volume and tone control, flasher activation, and large clock read out. A wireless speaker can play music from the phone in clear, full sound.

The InstaLINK Smartphone Alert Watch is a wearable wristwatch that can be easily paired to your iPhone or Android smartphone to receive vibrating notifications while using the free iPhone and Android App. The strong, quiet, and non-intrusive vibrations will not disturb others while attending lectures, classes, business meetings, or out socializing. Use this wristwatch as a personal alarm clock and as a discreet way to keep you in touch with your smartphone.

The SmartShaker2 Bed Shaker for Smartphone is a Bluetooth pillow vibrating disk that is designed to operate with your smart phone as a vibrating alarm clock. Just download the user-friendly app, for free from the app store, and this SuperShaker2 can become your favorite alarm clock for home and whenever you are traveling. Place this disk under your pillow, beside you, or in your general vicinity while you sleep. When your alarm time has arrived, this disk will vibrate to alert you that it is time to get up.

Tutorials

If after looking at all this information and you’re still scratching your head at what to do and how to do it there are many built in phone features and outside tutorial sites that can be of assistance.

Deaf and hard of hearing videos and podcasts, available from iaccessibility, provides a page of linked devices and subject matter to choose from covering topics such as hearing devices, subtitles and captioning, and TTY software and includes how to videos/podcasts for many IOS compatible devices.

The Best New Accessibility Features in Android 10, from Lifehacker, provides the current accessibility features for Android 10 phones. Many of these features started with Android 9. Each of these features is found from the accessibility option under phone settings.  Please note that not all options are available on all Android phones at this time, but this article does list the current phone model compatibility.

Understanding Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT), from the Hearing Loss Association of America, provides a lot of information and resources about the various types of hearing assistive technology currently available.

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Smartphone Apps, Tools, and Tutorials For The Visually Impaired

There are many apps, tools, and tutorials to help just about anyone leverage their smartphone for their own greater good. This blog will look at some of those options currently available to assist those living with a visual impairment.

Apps

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is an excellent online source to visit if you or a loved one live with a visual impairment. Info for each app is taken directly from the linked site. See the AFB link at the beginning of this paragraph to learn more about built-in apps and other apps available.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call. Every day, sighted volunteers lend their eyes to solve tasks big and small to help blind and low-vision people lead more independent lives. The app is available for both IOS and Android based phones.

Microsoft’s Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you, now available in English, Dutch, German, French, Japanese and Spanish. You can complete multiple tasks with one app and switch between channels to tune the description of what’s in front of the camera. This app can help you with short texts, audio clues for focusing barcodes or documents within the screen, recognize friends/faces, identify currency when paying with cash and so much more. Currently, this app is only available for download on Apple based (IOS) devices.

BARD Mobile are free apps available for both IOS and Android phones provided by the National Library of Science for the blind and physically handicapped. The linked FAQ page should provide insight to questions about using the site and/or the mobile devices.  The site provides books, musical scores, magazines, and other materials that can be rented free of charge.

Tools

There are many tools and accessories that can be purchased to turn your smartphone into a magical bag of tricks to assist you in most areas of life.  These are but three of the many choices currently available.

The WayAround Starter Pack 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 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.

The Orbit Tracker Card is a credit card sized tracker that can slide into a wallet slot. The Orbit family of Bluetooth trackers will help you locate valuable items in seconds using a free iOS or Android app. The various shaped trackers physically attach to a wander-prone item. From your smartphone, use the app to page that item when it goes missing within a 100-foot range. The tracking device can also be used to page the smartphone in reverse, even when the phone is in silent mode! From your phone, you can page that item when it goes missing. Stop losing your stuff!

Tutorials

If after looking at all this information and you’re still scratching your head at what to do and how to do it there are many built in phone features and outside tutorial sites that can be of assistance.

Android TalkBack is the Google screen reader included on Android devices. TalkBack gives you spoken feedback so that you can use your device without looking at the screen. The linked help page gives tips to get started using your Android device with TalkBack.

Android Access provides honest reviews about online games and apps that visually impaired people can use easily.

IOS VoiceOver (or via an Apple Support YouTube video) is a gesture-based screen reader—you can use iPhone even if you don’t see the screen. VoiceOver gives audible descriptions of what’s 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 your needs.

AppleVis is a community-powered website for blind and low-vision users of Apple’s range of Mac computers, the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

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The Importance Of Calendars

If your life feels harried and out of control it may be time to take a closer look at how well you’re utilizing calendars. Sure, you might have your daily to do lists to help you with day to day chores, but a calendar can help you stay on track and help you plan for the long haul. Let’s look at three important ways that calendars can make your life more productive, simplified, and on track.

Accountability

An article from Successful Steps puts accountability as the number reason to regularly use a calendar. They state that “just the act of making an appointment helps set a date and time aside for a specific activity. Not only is setting aside a specific date and time helpful for meetings and doctor appointments, but you can also use this strategy to carve out time to spend with friends or to complete specific tasks on your to-do list. Now we don’t have to leave it up to chance that we’ll finish that lingering task because we already assigned a date and time for it.”

This means that through utilizing a calendar you can make yourself accountable to everything meaningful in your life from the small to the complex. If you’re worried about not having enough space to write in all of these activities the Jumbo Print Wall Calendar may be just the thing you need. There are 2 pages per month and each square is the size of your stand business card of 2.5” x 3.5”.

Health Benefits

Trying to remember everything that needs to be done and when it needs to be done by can be overwhelming if you’re not writing it down. Sometimes just the mere act of writing something down can take a weight off your shoulders. Not to mention you can then see everything at a glance which helps in scheduling future events as well. According to Psychology Today, using a calendar or daily planner can reduce stress and help keep you healthy by planning out things such as exercise, dietary planning and ensuring that you go to regular doctor or dentist appointments.

Handwriting your schedule out can further tap into health benefits which helps explain why paper calendars and planners are making a comeback in today’s technological word. An article on Rewire explains “there’s something about connecting your brain with your body through the physical action of thinking while writing that makes us focus more on our thoughts. Plus, with a paper planner, there’s no chance of getting interrupted by the parade of other notifications coming through at the top of the screen.” This Large Print Day Calendar  has its own tab with an introductory area showing the previous, current and future months with space for notes and appointments. On the following 2 pages is that month’s calendar with large numbers and ample space (2″ boxes) to write notes, reminders, appointments or shopping lists.

Record Keeping

Keeping an updated calendar can also be beneficial for locating information in the present for something that took place in the past. When determining when certain things need to be scheduled such as hair appointments, oil changes, or pet grooming it helps to know when it was last done. Depending on how detailed a calendar you keep it can also help you keep track of when you last saw friends or family or when exactly you saw a certain movie or play.

In fact, the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired compares a written calendar to a Rolodex of life’s memories, “all of the memories on that Rolodex are linked to other memories, and in relation to the sequence in which they happened… A calendar provides a static communication system that can be referred back to (or forward to) over and over.”

Another affordable calendar option is this Large Print Wall Calendar. It can be hung on the wall or used on a desk and is designed for you to see the entire month on one page with a large box for each date.

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Last Minute Gifts For All

We’ve all heard the sayings, “big things come in small packages” and “good things come to those who wait,” but how do these things measure up with last minute holiday shopping? Often the things that have the most value or quality are small; the size of something does not always properly indicate its value. This week’s blog will look at three highlighted sales items as individual categories time, travel, and record/note keeping.

Time

Amid the hustle and bustle of the season, it is essential to remember that the most important part of the holidays is spending quality time with those you love. The people (and animals) you care about the most are the ones you should try to spend the most time with especially during the holidays. Mental Floss shares 11 examples of ways families and loved ones can stay better connected. Some of these ideas include video chatting, playing board games together (in person or online), volunteering together, and cooking a shared meal together.

There is also the literal gift of time that you can give a loved with this Low Vision Watch. This gold tone black face low vision watch is a stylish and durable timepiece. With battery operated precision quartz accuracy and large numbers (1-12), the face measures 1 1/4 inches wide. Choose from an expansion band or black leather band.

Travel

You don’t have to have a National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to make lifetime memories. Looking for things to do and places to see that can be enjoyed by family members of all ages and abilities can seem a bit daunting but it doesn’t have to be. This article from Stanford University has a few suggestions including taking a cruise or renting a house. A cruise ship offers so many activities for all ages on and off the ship. The many options give you choices not only for what to do, but even how many hours you actually want to spend together. Another option is annually renting a house through websites such as vrbo or airbnb. The best thing about these sites is you can virtually check out the area and only look at those places that meet your needs (handicap accessible, pet-friendly, etc.).

If you’re more of a homebody spending time near and around your house or a loved one’s house is always an acceptable option as well. The article further states that “ as adults, we often try to think of something “new and different” for each year; however, children often prefer to revisit the same tradition and build enduring rituals that may be as simple as a game night or a favorite dessert. This notion is also valid with the “stay-cation” model.”

Don’t forget to pack your Travel Talking Clock no matter which option you choose. In addition to all the standard features, it offers a lively musical alarm or a cuckoo alarm, a snooze button, and an hourly chime that operates between 7 AM to 9 PM. A stand pops out when you slide the setting buttons cover off so you can rest it on your dresser.

Record/Note Keeping

Don’t forget to record events in your life as they are happening. It’s great to be in the moment with friends and family but taking a few photos or jotting down your thoughts just after can both be wonderful ways to preserve the memories you just made. If you’re not sure where to start or just enjoy hearing life stories of others the non-profit Story Corps is a great place to visit. Life stories can range from Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers to a 12-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. Their mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. You can even have stories emailed to you each week to help remind you to record your own.

After you check out the stories of others it may be less daunting to start the tradition with your own family. This 2014 New York Times article discusses one of the newer technologies available to keep a digital family history. Though the yearly subscription fee has gone up since the article was written the main takeaways is that Story Worth caters to both the technologically savvy and the technologically fearful alike.

As with anything else, note keeping doesn’t have to be done on a large scale. This 20 second recording memo can help you remember the day to day things such as phone numbers, names, or lists of things to do.

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