World Sight Day: Bringing the Focus on Visual Impairment

Have you ever heard of World Sight Day? This year, World Sight Day falls on Thursday, October 12th. This day of recognition is designed to bring the focus on visual impairment and get the numbers out about preventable blindness. According to the World Sight Day website, “80% of the world’s blind are avoidably so.”

History of World Sight Day

In 2000, The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) launched “World Sight Day,” a part of their Sight First campaign, with VISION 2020. VISION 2020: The Right to Sight is a Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness by the year 2020. It was formally launched from W.H.O. Headquarters in 1999.

In 2002, “The State of World Blindness” began being presented on World Sight Day. This report looks at issues surrounding blindness, the cost of global blindness, and highlights the achievements and future goals of VISION 2020.

On World Sight Day, 2003, Pope John Paul II officially recognized VISION 2020: The Right to Sight and blessed the fight against blindness around the world. Since then, participation in World Sight Day has grown. Every year hundreds of activities are planned. The IAPB provides downloadable materials and information packets that can be shared with the media or on your own social media to help pass along the key messages of the day.

World Sight Day 2017

Every year, World Sight Day has a slightly different objective. This year the call to action is “Make Vision Count,” and the theme is Universal Eye Health. Since World Sight Day is an international day of awareness, Universal Eye Health was chosen as a focus because it is in keeping with the WHO’s Action Plan 2014-2019.

This theme will be used for the next several years, but each year there will be a new call to action. For “Make Vision Count,” people were encouraged to take part in a photo contest to show the impact of eye health in people’s lives. They were also encouraged to share their photos on social media. Another activity that was promoted for World Sight Day 2017 was the blindfolding of statues. Celebrities and government officials were also asked to blindfold themselves to experience blindness, temporarily.

The goals of World Sight Day 2017 are to encourage people to:

  • Invest in eye health by increasing budget allocations to address need.
  • Address the human resources crisis in eye health by invest in training, innovation, and research
  • Integrate eye health at every level of the health system
  • Withdraw user fees to the poorest.

Preventable Blindness

According to the World Sight Day website, “In 2010, just over 28% of the world’s population were affected by Myopia (short-sightedness). This is predicted to rise to 34% by 2020 and nearly 50% by 2050. In 2014, approximately 422 million people – or 8.5% of adults worldwide – were living with diabetes, compared to 108 million in 1980. Low- and middle-income countries account for approximately 75% of the global diabetes burden. Approximately one in three people living with diabetes have some degree of Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) and one in 10 will develop a vision-threatening form of the disease.”

Children’s vision should be especially protected since their eyes are still developing. Children should be taken to regular eye doctor appointments, whether or not they seem to be having trouble seeing. Children with visual impairments are not always aware that what they are seeing is abnormal and may not be able to communicate visual problems to adults accurately.

In America, many people have access to eye care, but they sometimes neglect taking important steps in protecting their vision. Preventing blindness or visual impairment can sometimes be as simple as using protective eyewear when you are outside, using glare-reducing, blue-light blocking filters on your screens, or using proper lighting to prevent eye strain. Also, eating well and not smoking will help keep your eyes healthy.

This year, consider participating in World Sight Day. If you’ve missed the 2017 events, mark your calendar for 2018. The issue of preventable blindness is an important one. You can be part of a great initiative to help raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment as major international public health issues.




This Fire Safety Information Is a Must-Know For The Deaf and Hard of Hearing

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may be more at risk during a fire emergency. Quick action is required when responding to a fire, and being hard of hearing may delay how soon you receive an alert. You must rely on adaptive safety equipment, so the quality and functionality of your system is essential.

Fire Safety Statistics

According to the National Fire Protection Society, “Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.” Fatal fires typically occur when people are sleeping. That’s why it’s so important to have an alarm system that will wake you.

Cigarettes and other smoking paraphernalia are responsible for most home fire deaths. However, most fire injuries are caused by cooking equipment. About one out of every 338 homes report a fire each year. When smoke alarms are working, it cuts the chance of dying in a house fire in half.

Not very many Americans have practiced a fire escape plan. The majority have made a route, but only one-third have one planned and rehearsed. Since the time available to get out of your house in a fire emergency is often five minutes or less, practicing your plan to the point of muscle memory can be the difference between life and death.

Fire Safety Plans

Because timing can be everything in a fire emergency, it is essential to have a fire safety plan and to rehearse it. This issue is so critical that the U. S. Fire Administration has put out a Fact Sheet for the deaf and hard of hearing that has special recommendations.

As far as escape plans, they recommend practicing your escape plan every month. The best escape plans include two ways to exit each room. And every room in the house should be evaluated. It’s important to check your windows to make sure screens can be removed quickly, and the windows don’t stick. Consider putting rope ladders in second story rooms.

If a fire does occur, you should implement your safety plan as quickly as possible. Don’t waste time trying to save property or trying to access other areas of the house. If the home is smokey, stay low. Crawl under the smoke and cover your mouth with your hand. If a door is hot to the touch, don’t open it or attempt to go through it.

Fire Safety Equipment for The Hearing Impaired

Before installing fire safety equipment, you may want to call your local fire department on their non-emergency number to get their advice on where to place your alarms. They will recommend that you install a flashing or vibrating smoke alarm on every level of your home. And once you have alarms installed, don’t forget to test them monthly and change the batteries once a year.

Smoke detectors with strobe lights are a common piece of fire safety equipment for the deaf or hearing impaired. Detectors like the Kidde Talking Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector with Strobe give a bright, flashing signal to warn of smoke, heat, or carbon monoxide. This detector also comes with an audible warning as well. This is important because you need to make sure your detector will alert everyone in the household.

Another excellent choice in fire safety equipment is the HomeAware alerting system . The base system  features a 110 dB alarm, bed shaker, and 2-inch scrolling notifications on a master unit display. Optional transmitters such as a smoke alarm transmitter can be added to the base system  to ensure you won’t miss any possible fire or carbon monoxide threats. Most importantly, it addresses the problem of house fires at night. While you may sleep through a hallway strobe light at 3:00 am, there’s no way you will be able to sleep through the HomeAware’s bed shaker. Whatever choice you make, ILA wants you to stay safe!

Arthritis: Top Three Ways To Make Getting Dressed Easier

When you have arthritis, what used to be the routine act of getting dressed in the morning can become a lot more time-consuming, difficult, and even painful. There are ways you can adjust your process to make things easier. This includes changing your routine, choosing different clothing, and using dressing aids to assist with the dressing process.

Change Your Routine

Are you more stiff in the mornings? Prepare for your dressing routine by taking clothes off of hangers, getting socks out of drawers, and laying items out the day before. If afternoons are best for you, take a few minutes during that time of day to stage your dressing area for the next morning.

If you know it takes a couple of hours of moving about for you to be ready to get dressed, consider getting up earlier in the day. You can spend the first couple of hours of your morning in a bathrobe or housecoat having a relaxed breakfast and some time to yourself. This gives you the chance to warm up and move about before having to tackle those frustrating fine motor dressing tasks.

Choose Different Clothing

Buttons and zippers can be tricky to hold, and grasping and manipulating the tiny pieces may cause pain. Tying bows and shoes also pose the same problems. One solution is to avoid clothing with these types of closures. Easier options for dressing include velcro and elastic bands.

The type of material and the size of the clothing also matters. Tighter shirts and blouses are harder to pull on. Clothes that have wider openings for your head, arms, and legs slip on with less effort. Lined dresses and coats also have a smoother surface and glide on rather than clinging.

Using Dressing Aids

If getting dressed is still giving you trouble, and you have clothing items that you don’t want to give up, you can try buying dressing aids to help you put your things on in the morning. Zipper Pulls and Button Loops are designed to grasp and hold those tiny pieces and help you pull them up or through.

Telescoping shoehorns serve two purposes. First, they help you get your foot into your shoe. Their length also keeps you from having to bend over to use them. This solves problems related to your grip, your balance, and your pain.

Have you ever dropped a sock on the floor and felt like it may as well be at the bottom of the Grand Canyon? Using reachers, like the PikStick, will help you reach and grasp objects that have fallen or are on counters or shelving, just out of reach. The PikStik can lift up to three pounds and is precise enough to pick up an earring!

Changing your routine, choosing different clothing, and using dressing aids should help you gain more control and become more independent in dressing than you were before. If you continue to have problems, you may want to speak to an occupational therapist about ways to improve or simplify your activities of daily living. If you decide you need more dressing or living aids, ILA is happy to talk to you about what products might fit your lifestyle and serve your purposes.


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

What’s Cookin’?: Kitchen Aids for the Visually Impaired

Some people find cooking intimidating. It requires culinary skills and knowledge of safe practices, topped with a bit of artistry. But we all have to eat to live. And since you have to eat every day, several times a day, it doesn’t hurt to improve your cooking ability or expand your repertoire of choices.

When you are visually impaired, you may have to find ways to do things in the kitchen that are different from the traditional method. While you do need to consider your safety a bit more, it’s not impossible to be a vibrant cook. You can find cooking information and inspiration online, buy gadgets that make life easier or make use of appliances that are compatible with the philosophy of universal design.

Cooking Without Looking: Information and Inspiration

Take a trip to There you’ll find recipes, replays of shows, and excellent blog reviews of kitchen appliances. Cooking Without Looking is a show that used to be on PBS and now lives on through the internet.

According to the “about” page on their website, the show’s format is this, “Three hosts who are either Blind, Low Vision or Visually Impaired provide cooking tips, vision information, etc. along side our “guest chefs”…regular everyday people who are also blind, low vision or visually impaired as they prepare their special recipe, and provide cooking/vision-related tips.”

The website incorporates links to the show as well as some practical information. They have recipes that are low-vision preparation friendly, as well as a few reviews that discuss the positives and negatives of using different types of kitchen gadgets and appliances. They also include their phone number so you can contact them with any questions about the show.

Reading Labels and Directions

Trying to read the small print on consumer packages can be difficult, or even impossible. Fortunately, Directions for Me by Horizons for the Blind has been working to solve that problem. Directions For Me provides labeling information in a simplified format that is accessible online.

Their website says, “Directions For Me was designed to be completely accessible, with text-to-speech screen readers, magnifiers and braille displays as well as web-enabled cell phones. This information is presented in a uniform, easy-to-use format and eliminates features that hinder accessibility.”

One neat feature found on the website is the ability to connect it to a barcode scanner. This allows you to bypass searching for items in their “categories” section. With the scanner feature, you can plug in a scanner to your USB port and simply scan the barcode on the item to pull up its information.

Kitchen Gadgets

Kitchen gadgets usually focus on improving the safety or ease of cooking. There are plenty of items that were made for the general public, but that also improve kitchen accessibility for the visually impaired.

Sharp items, like knives, can be especially problematic. It’s important to keep your fingers and hands safe when slicing, so blades that come with guides are helpful. For example, the  Deli Pro Stainless Steel Knife comes with a slicing guide that is easily adjusted by turning a knob. The guide also stands out from the side of the knife and helps support the food as you’re cutting, which keeps your fingers away from the blade.

The Instant Pot, which is a very popular all-in-one pressure cooker and crockpot, now makes a model called Instant Pot Smart, which has a Bluetooth feature that allows you to program custom made recipes scripts which you can start wirelessly from an app. Instead of having to manually adjust the cooking function for each step of the recipe, the pot will do it automatically. This function also has the benefit of helping visually impaired users because they can set the pot using the app, which will work in conjunction with their phone’s Voice Over system.


One easy hack to modify your kitchen appliances is to buy or make braille stickers to place on microwave or oven buttons. Some people even use stickers to mark the food or containers in their pantry.

Touch-to-see stickers are reasonably priced. And the braille letters and numbers are easy to use because they are pre-printed. All you do is peel and stick. But if you need more customization, or plan on labeling many things throughout your kitchen or home, you may want to invest in an Electronic Braille Label Maker. The label maker allows you to make an unlimited amount of customized stick-on labels. All you have to do is stay stocked up on the vinyl tape.

Besides improving the labeling in your kitchen, you can also improve the general safety of your appliances. Induction stovetops are cooktops that do not heat up. They work by using electromagnetic technology to heat up the pot or pan. This means there is no flame or scalding-hot surface. And not only does it reduce injury, an induction stovetop also heats up more quickly than a standard stovetop, and it conserves energy. It’s a win-win situation.

Many of these kitchen aids not only help someone who is visually impaired to navigate the kitchen, they have elements of universal design that make preparing food safer and easier for all users. Whether you find inspiration online, buy extra gadgets, or modify the appliances in your home, you’ll find that cooking will become a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Photo by Naomi Hébert on Unsplash

Tools For Following Televised Sports When You Are Visually Impaired

Sports fans love to watch a good game. But if you are visually impaired, it is a lot harder to follow the action on the TV screen. As you prepare for that big college rivalry game, Monday night football, or maybe Super Bowl Sunday, there are a few tools you may want to consider adding to your TV-viewing toolbox.

TV Glasses and Monoculars

TV Glasses are specially made glasses that magnify objects from about 10 feet away, to infinity. They are designed to provide clarity for a large viewing area. The glasses give telescoping binocular vision. Models like the SeeTV allow you to individually adjust each eye, giving you the ability to adapt to any discrepancy in vision between the two eyes or any vision changes that may occur in the future. Another benefit to using TV Glasses is that they are hands-free. The only drawback is that the maximum magnification is a little over 2x. If you need something stronger than that, monoculars or telescopes may be a better choice.

Monoculars are another option for magnification but are not usually the best choice when watching TV. Monoculars have a small range of vision. They are typically used for glancing at numbers or details signs in places like restaurants or grocery stores. They are also not intended to be used for sustained viewing because they are handheld, which eventually causes fatigue. All that said, monoculars do provide greater magnification than TV glasses. If your primary concern is reading the score on the screen or getting a close-up view of some stats, a quick glance with a monocular may be just what you need.

Remote Adaptations

“Honey, I can’t find the remote!” Have you ever said that before? Visual impairment isn’t the only reason for losing the clicker. But it doesn’t make it easier to find. Using a chunky, big button remote is one way to make sure you don’t spend too much time feeling around between the couch cushions. The TV Partner is an excellent choice for anyone who wants their remote to be ready at hand. This remote is one of the largest ones on the market. It’ 5.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches long and 2.5 inches high. The keys are  .75 inches tall. The size makes the numbers easy to read and the controller hard to misplace.

Bump dots are another tool that can be used to make your remote easier to navigate. If you don’t want to buy a whole new controller, you can purchase a sheet of Bump-on plastic adhesive dots to mark the most important buttons on your existing remote. This solution only costs a couple of dollars, and it’s simple to use. If you are familiar with your remote’s navigation but struggle to see which end is up, you can put a bump dot on the side that points toward the TV. You could also put a dot near the on/off button, or any other function you use frequently or struggle to find.

Audio Description and Apps

Depending on where you live, some TV stations are now providing video description for a certain number of viewing hours per week. According to the Federal Communications Commission, “FCC rules require local TV station affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC located in the top 60 TV markets to provide 50 hours per calendar quarter (about 4 hours per week) of video-described prime time and/or children’s programming. Local TV stations in markets smaller than the top 60 also may provide video description.”  Video description is a narrated description of important visual elements of the TV show.

Of course, if this service is not available for your favorite game, you can fall back on the original version, the traditional radio broadcast. People with visual impairment have been relying on radio broadcasts for years. Radio broadcasts have always included plenty of audio description and lively commentary. If you want, while listening to a radio broadcast, you can even play the game simultaneously on the TV screen, but you’ll want to turn off the volume.

Thanks to modern technology, being able to follow televised sports has also been made easier by apps. To cut to the chase and find game times and scores with no hassle, you might be interested in the app  Sports Scores and Alert. When there is new information on one of the teams you follow, the app can also alert you with a sound. And if you want to listen to that radio broadcast, instead of flipping around, hoping to find the right station, you can use Pro Radio, or College Football Radio Live, both of which allow you to search for radio broadcasts by your team’s name.

Whether you want to enhance your viewing experience through magnification, reduce navigation frustration with more accessible remotes, or just cut to the chase and get commentary and scores through audio descriptions or radio broadcasts, these tools will help you enjoy your televised sports. And if you don’t feel you are well equipped for this viewing season, ILA is happy to help.

Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

Knock, Knock. Who’s There?: Doorbell Modifications For The Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The old joke starts off, “Knock, knock.” “Who’s There?” But it’s no joke when someone is knocking at your door, and you can’t hear them. Fortunately, there are solutions. Several modifications can be used for the deaf or hard of hearing. Whether you want to replace your entire doorbell system, prefer an add-on device to magnify your current doorbell, or need something to signal manual knocking, there are plenty of options from which to choose.

Doorbell and Intercom Kits

The first consideration for those who need to adapt their door is to ask if you want to buy an entire system. If so, you may want to purchase a doorbell or intercom kit. If you already have a doorbell, this kit will replace your existing one. If you live in an apartment that has an intercom system, the kit will work with your current system.

A doorbell kit usually includes buttons, speakers, and sometimes a strobe light. Depending on the product, multiple speakers or buttons may be included. Multiple buttons allow you to wire more than one entrance. The extra speakers are for placing in other rooms in your house. Many kits have the option of choosing from different melodies or adjusting the volume.

Intercom kits are meant to be used with existing intercom systems. Typically, the system will be wired so that you receive a flashing light or some other visual indication that someone is pressing the intercom button. Some intercoms are equipped with cameras. If your intercom system does not, you might want to see if you can find an add-on that would allow you to activate a camera to see who is waiting.

Wireless Doorbell Systems

Not everyone wants to replace or modify their existing systems to that degree. If all you need is a little amplification, a wireless system is ideal. Wireless systems are usually installed near the existing doorbell chime. They are quick and easy to add to your home.

A wireless system must include a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is the part you hang near the doorbell chime. The receiver is usually portable. When someone rings the doorbell, the transmitter sends a radio signal to the receiver. The receiver then alerts you. Receivers usually have adjustable volume and frequency. Sometimes they have a choice of sounds or tunes or even a strobe light feature. Receivers should also be portable, so you can carry them from room to room and never miss a visitor.

Doorbell systems can either come in simple, stand alone packages with a bundled transmitter and receiver, or they can be part of a more comprehensive alerting system that has doorbells as one of several signaling or transmitting alerting triggers.

Door Knock Signalers

But what about people who don’t have doorbells? Door knock signalers are the solution. If you do not have a doorbell, and have no plans of getting one, a door knock signaler is a good choice. Door knock signalers hang over the top of your door. This feature makes them easy to install. It also makes them very portable. You can take them with you on trips to hotels, overnight visits with friends, or even to college. Door knock signalers aren’t made just for entrances or exits. They can be hung on bathroom and bedroom doors as well.

The door knock signaler is all one piece. It does not include a receiver or portable device to carry with you to alerts. The signaler works by lighting up when someone knocks on the door. So you have to be close enough to the door to see the light. Adjustable features may include the sensitivity, or how light of a knock it will detect, and possibly the brightness or flash pattern of the light.

One of these three options should work for most people. If answering the door continues to be a difficult task, you may want to consider getting a service dog to help with alerts, or a more comprehensive alerting system that could include a portable vibrating receiver, a super bright strobe light, or a flashing alarm clock. But in the meantime, trying a couple of different electronic products will give you an idea of what type of door alert system works best for you.

Photo by Brennan Ehrhardt on Unsplash

Four Outdoor Recreational Activities For The Blind Or Visually Impaired

Labor Day is many people’s last opportunity to have some outdoor fun. School is starting, summer vacation is over, and routines are switching back to what we consider our “regular schedule.” But the long weekend holiday provides a final chance for enjoying summer activities before the weather finally changes to fall.

If you are blind, or visually impaired, people may think that you don’t prefer to navigate activities that take place in the vast expanse of nature. Or even the smaller expanse of your yard. That’s why we’ve put together a list of four outdoor recreational activities for the blind or visually impaired. You can share it with your party-planning friends, or use it for your own reference.

Riding A Tandem Bike

“You’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two!”  Tandem bikes allow you to enjoy the recreational benefits of biking while having a navigational guide. Pedaling can provide exercise, but if you have physical limitations, you can also choose to allow the other biker to do most of the propulsion.

Tandem biking is also a good opportunity for socialization. You can enjoy the company of just the person you are riding with, or you can invite a group of friends to join you.

Tandem bikes are available online and at many bike shops and sporting goods stores. They can be as basic or as fancy as you like. If you don’t already own one, you may want to consider making the investment. Or, if you just want to enjoy an afternoon ride over a holiday, check with local stores to see if they have a bike rental program.


For a more solitary, peaceful outdoor activity, you may enjoy yoga. Yoga strengthens muscles, improves balance, and helps you practice concentration. Yoga can be done indoors or outdoors, but when the weather is nice, an outdoor session will allow you to experience the soothing sounds and feelings of nature.

And while yoga is often used as a solitary relaxation exercise, if you are in the mood, you could join a group for outdoor yoga, or invite friends to come over and have a yoga session in your yard or at a local park.

Some people are experienced at yoga and able to use a traditional yoga mat, but another good option for the blind or visually impaired is a braille and tactile yoga mat. The Yoga Mat for the Visually Impaired is three dimensional. It has raised and depressed features, called “stations,” that are strategically placed to indicate where the user’s hands, feet, or head should be placed. These stations cover positions for all 24 of the basic yoga poses.

Five-A-Side Soccer

When the weather is nice, a pick-up game of soccer in your yard or local park can be fun.  It’s a great activity to do while waiting for the food to grill during your long-weekend holiday get-together. While you could just kick the ball around, using the five-a-side model gives you a more organized way to play with a smaller group of friends.

In five-a-side, there are four outfield players and a goalkeeper. The rules are flexible because it’s often played informally, and you can adapt your rules to the environment and any special needs. Goals are smaller than in traditional soccer, and game duration is shorter, so you won’t miss dinner to finish out your match. When playing while visually impaired, blindfolds are used to make sure that no one of the players has a visual advantage over the others.

Industry-standard soccer balls with bells are available that allow everyone to know where the ball is whenever it’s in motion. Exactly the same size and weight as a pro ball, these regulation soccer balls provide a consistent soccer experience for everyone, no matter their soccer background or physical abilities.


Basketball is an almost seasonless sport. If you grew up with a goal in your driveway, or down the street from a local park, you know that kids will play it in the sweltering heat, or with snow banks piled ‘round. Basketball keeps you in almost constant motion and is one of the most popular Paralympic sports. And basketball has been adapted for the visually impaired through the use of buzzers and bells.

When playing an adapted game of bell basketball, it’s best to limit the court size. That makes bell basketball very suitable for driveway or cul-de-sac games. Ground passes work best for passing the ball, because it gives the passer more control over the ball, and the sound of the bounce gives an auditory clue to the receiver.

You can quickly turn any basketball hoop into and adapted one by using a bell basketball kit. The kit includes a regulation-sized basketball with internal bells. It also has a goal locator (buzzer) that can be placed on the basket, and an extra bell that can be positioned on the net to ring whenever the ball goes through it. You can use the kit on your own personal hoop, or pack it up to bring to your next get-together.

We hope you have the chance to spend time outdoors with your friends and family before that last bit of summer fades. If some of these ideas for recreation were new to you, and you didn’t have the specialized equipment necessary, don’t worry. Prepare ahead for next year and gather the supplies you need to make your next warm-weather holiday an even more enjoyable one.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Personal Amplifiers: A Good Alternative To Hearing Aids

Are you having trouble hearing nearby conversation? Maybe your family is telling you the TV volume needs to be turned down. Or maybe you’ve moved to the front row of your worship service because you seem to be missing a few words here and there when you sit in the back.

You think you’re not quite ready for a hearing aid, but you dislike straining to hear the important messages that are being spoken all around you. In this case, you may want to consider using a personal amplifier. But before making that decision, it’s important to understand the differences between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid.

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are classified as medical equipment. This means they can’t be purchased over the counter, or without a prescription. To get a prescription for a hearing aid, you must go through a hearing test, called an audiogram.

Hearing aids are fitted on or in your ear. They are specifically designed for people with hearing loss, and their manufacturing process is regulated by the FDA.

There are different types of hearing loss that range from mild to severe and that affect the detection of different frequencies. Hearing aids can be programmed for the user’s specific type of hearing loss, based on the results of their audiogram. Because a hearing aid is so specialized, the price is significantly more.

Personal Amplifiers

Personal amplifiers are sold over the counter. They are not classified as medical equipment, and are officially marketed to “hearing” users that just need a volume boost. No prescription or test is necessary to purchase a personal amplifier and since they are not regulated by the FDA, the quality can vary. A $10 personal amplifier purchased from your local drug store will not perform as well as a high-end amplifier purchased from a medical supply company.

Since personal amplifiers are ready to use straight out of the box, there is no fitting procedure. The amplifiers have a design that is appropriate for universal use by most adults. This is why personal sound amplifiers are not made to stay inside of your ear all day. In fact, most amplifiers have an over-the-ear design or make use of features such as handsets, earphones, or earbuds.  

Personal amplifiers are not programmed for the user’s specific type of hearing loss. However, a good quality personal amplifier will come pre-programmed from the manufacturer to block out environmental sounds, such as background noise at a restaurant. Inexpensive amplifiers don’t do this.

Which One Works Better?

You might assume that hearing aids always work better since they are more customized and they are regulated by the FDA. However, Chase Smith, Laura Ann Wilber, PhD, and Kim Cavitt, AuD published a research article in the July 2016 edition of Hearing Review that seemed to show that assumption is not always true.

The results of their research were that some high-end personal amplifiers had the ability to outperform low-end hearing aids. Specifically, “Some devices, like the MD Hearing Aid Pro, are subjected to full FDA regulations and are classified as a hearing aid, yet they are outperformed by a high-end PSAP. While FDA regulation is intended to ensure device quality and patient safety, that effect is not entirely evident in the results of this study.”

They also concluded, “High-end PSAPs provided appropriate levels of amplification and directional benefit for users with high-frequency hearing losses ranging from mild to moderate in severity.”

Personal Amplifiers: A Good Alternative

Based on this information, it is safe to say that for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, personal amplifiers might be a good alternative to hearing aids. And high-quality personal amplifiers will work much better than cheap ones purchased over-the-counter at your local drug store.

If you are not ready to commit to the time and expense associated with getting fitted for a hearing aid, or you don’t feel you need to have your hearing amplified in every situation, there are a variety of personal amplifiers available to choose from.

Are you looking for a device to help you understand nearby conversation? If so, the WEAR Personal Amplifier is a good choice. The WEAR uses ten directional microphones to pick up sounds less than six feet away. It doesn’t pick up on background noise. The WEAR uses earbuds to deliver the sound, and clips onto the user’s clothing with a magnet.

The HAHA Communicator works like a phone handset, and is able to increase gain up to 45 dB. The user holds it to their ear, like a traditional phone, and the mic that is in the handset picks up the sounds around it. The charger base includes a sterilizer so that each listener can be assured they are using a clean device. The HAHA can be purchased by someone who needs assistance hearing, or it can be purchased by a business or individual who communicates with the public and wants to make themselves more accessible to their customers with hearing loss.

The Super Ear Plus picks up sound over 100 yards away and amplifies it over 50 dB. It uses both earbuds and walkman-style headsets. The Super Ear Plus has a high sensitivity, hand held microphone that can be swiveled and pointed in any direction to better focus in on the person you want to hear. Some places of worship or school lecture halls make amplifiers like the Super Ear Plus available to attendants. Owning your own Super Ear Plus would mean not having to worry if the venue you are at is prepared to offer these accommodations.

And finally, if earbuds and headphones aren’t your thing, you might want to try the Stealth Amplifier. The Stealth Amplifier is designed to be as inconspicuous as possible. This amplifier is designed to look like a cell phone ear piece. Although you don’t get the custom fit of a hearing aid, the Stealth comes with three different rubber ear tips so that you can create your own optimal fit. The Stealth also amplifies up to 50dB.

These personal amplifiers are all the type of good quality amplifier that the study concluded should provide appropriate amplification to users with mild to moderate hearing loss.

In a future posting, we will discuss Personal FM Systems and Group FM Systems. These systems both use separate transmitters and receivers. Personal FM systems are great for small groups or classrooms, when a specific user wants to better hear the teacher or speaker. Group FM systems are great to broadcast a speaker’s voice to multiple people in the congregation or classroom.

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Assistive Technology In School: Top Three Uses

Assistive Technology for the visually impaired isn’t just necessary for reading assignments. Assistive technology can be used throughout the school day to make most classes more accessible. You may be surprised at the variety of devices available, and for what subjects they can be used. Adapting reading assignments is one of the top uses of technology, but you can also find uses for math and writing.

Assistive Technology For Reading

Enlarged text is a good choice for people who have low vision. Sometimes acquiring large text is as easy as ordering the “large print” edition of a book or textbook. When that’s not an option, pages can be enlarged on a copying machine, or printouts can be adjusted through your computer’s word processing program. Enlarged text can be used efficiently up to about 24 point. After that, other magnification options should be explored.

Magnifiers are another thing to try. When you don’t have time to enlarge the text ahead of time, hand magnifiers are a quick way of making print bigger. Some magnifiers magnify sections of the page, while others magnify the full page.

Finding books written in braille is a modification for those who are blind. The National Library Service provides free braille books and will deliver them postage-free. If necessary, instruction sheets, class notes, and other customized information texts can be created on a Brailler. Bookshare, a Global Literacy initiative of the nonprofit technology company, Benetech, has the largest collection of accessible titles. Bookshare books can be read in a variety of different ways, and membership is free to United States students and schools. Other organizations can receive books for a minimal fee.

Audiobooks are also an option for many text books and classic literature. Audiobook delivery is another free program offered by the National Library Service. Audiobooks can be delivered in hard copy format or instantly downloaded. Audiobooks can be played on devices such as the Plextalk Digital Talking Book Player, which accepts books on CD as well as other digital formats.

Assistive Technology For Math

One of the first ways children with low vision can learn the concept of counting is by using an abacus. It’s a low-tech way to teach the concept of numbers and operations. The abacus eliminates the need for pencil and paper and stands in well for a calculator in the early grades.

Tactile manipulatives are good for any age. 3D shapes and unit cubes can be used to teach basic math concepts. Games, such as dominoes, bingo, cards, or Rummikub are fun ways to improve fluency and cement knowledge. These games can be found in brailled or large print versions. Older students may need more advanced math tools, like a Geometric Set, marked in braille.

Talking calculators have high contrast, tactile keys that assist with location of the numbers and operations. They speak both the entries and results and often include a plug-in for earbuds or headphones. This facilitates privacy in class or while doing homework at home. Talking calculators can range in function from basic calculators up to sophisticated graphing scientific calculators.

And braille writers aren’t just for writing and reading assignments. These braillers can be used to work out math problems. While that may seem time-consuming, it’s a good tool for helping students understand and express all the steps involved in their higher math computations.

Assistive Technology For Writing

The type of assistive technology you want to use for writing depends on the purpose of the writing. For taking personal notes, digital recorders are a great option. Their use is much quicker and easier than attempting to handwrite or type out notes during class.

Adaptive paper can be purchased or made depending on what your personal needs are. Lines can be raised or embossed to provide a tactile guide. They can also be darkened, thickened, or marked in different colors to enhance visibility for those with low vision. And to make your own writing easier to read on the paper, you can use a bold line pen or a bold line pencil.

Video magnification can be used to examine your own handwriting for proper technique or to just re-read handwritten notes at a later date. Video magnification provides high definition viewing which is free from distortion.

And if you want a quick way to compose a note, email, or paper to a sighted teacher or friend, voice-to-text software can make the process of writing longer pieces less laborious.

Applications For Other Classes

Since most classes incorporate some element of reading, writing, or math, all of these pieces of assistive technology can be used and applied outside of the subjects that were mentioned here. And there are non-academic items, such as padlocks for your school locker, that may be necessary to buy in an adaptive form. Whatever is on your class supply list, If you are getting ready to go back to school, Independent Living Aids has you covered.

Photo by JJ Thompson on Unsplash


Three Popular Types of Walker: How Are They Different?


While there is a variety of walker styles, three of them seem to be the most popular. There is the standard walker that has four rubber-tipped legs. Then you have the two-wheeled walker, which is similar to the standard walker, but it has two wheels on the front. Finally, a style that is coming into more frequent use is the four-wheeled walker.

Standard Walkers

The standard walker is what many people imagine when they think of a mobility aid. When someone has a health crisis and needs maximum stability, the standard walker is what is usually issued by a hospital or rehab facility.

Standard walkers have four rubber-tipped legs and rounded handles. The handles are usually covered in a foam or rubber grip. Because standard walkers have no wheels, they must be picked completely up and then placed back down to move. This may seem more labor intensive, but it does allow the user to receive constant weight-bearing assistance without fearing the walker is going to roll away from them.

Most standard walkers are height adjustable, and many are foldable. Aluminum is the material of choice because it is sturdy, lightweight, and affordable. Standard walkers are slim, to allow the user to fit through doorways easily. If you over 300lbs and need something more substantial, you can find standard walkers in bariatric sizes.

Two-Wheeled Walker

The two-wheeled walker comes in a couple of different styles. Sometimes they look like standard walkers with two wheels on the front. Other models look like four-wheeled, folding-seat walkers with the back wheels missing.

Either way, two-wheeled walkers will have two rubber tipped feet and two wheels. The two-wheeled walker provides less stability than the standard walker but makes it easier to be on the go. The wheels make it unnecessary to pick up the entire walker every time you take a step. They are the best choice for someone who needs some weight-bearing assistance but doesn’t require it all the time.

Depending on the style, two-wheeled walkers will fold in the same manner their standard or four-wheeled counterparts do. Height adjustment and handle type would also be the same. Flip-up seats are usually available for two-wheeled walkers made in the style of four-wheeled walkers. Standard two-wheel walkers can’t accommodate this in their design. Two-wheeled walkers may be made of aluminum or steel.

Four-Wheeled Walker

The four-wheeled walker has become a very popular choice, most likely because it bridges the gap for people who would be given more freedom by using a mobility aid, but they don’t quite need the support of a standard walker.

Four-wheeled walkers have two wheels in the front and two wheels in the back. They come in several different styles and almost always include features such as flip-up seats, back rests, and even pouches or baskets for personal items. Four-wheeled walkers are not for people who need to lean on their walker for maximum assistance. They provide a bit of balance for those who have an altered gait or may be more at risk of stumbling and falling. They also allow people who become easily fatigued to go out in the community, knowing they have something at hand that allows them to rest whenever need be.

Four-wheeled walkers usually have an adjustable handle height and sometimes have an adjustable seat height. Because the handles are not meant to lean on, like a standard walker, they tend to be less padded and more rubbery, like a bike handle. The handles also usually have hand-brakes attached. Their material may be aluminum or steel.

What Type Of Walker Should I Get?

First, you should talk to your doctor or physical therapist. Depending on the level of support you need, some styles may not be a good fit for you. Beyond that, you should consider things like:

  • Where will I be using this walker? Inside, outside, or both?
  • How important is the weight? Will I have to lift or store the walker independently?
  • Do I want accessories, such as bags or baskets?
  • Will the walker need to fold? If so, do I need easy-fold buttons?
  • Do I have a contact allergy to any type of metal or material I will need to avoid?

One of these three types of popular walkers will most likely fit all of your criteria. And if you have any questions about styles, features, or brands, Independent Living Aids is always happy to help!