Magnifying Lamps

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

Diopter and Magnification

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

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

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

Arrangement of Lights

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

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

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

XR Technology and Electronic Ballast

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

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

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

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Label Your World: Practical Products for the Visually Impaired

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

WayAround Starter Pack

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

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

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

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

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

HALOS Home Package

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

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

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

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

Talking Label Wand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preparation/Prep Work

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

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

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

Safe Cooking Tips

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

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

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

Clean Up

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

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

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

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

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

Bathing and Brushing Teeth

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

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

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

Shaving

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

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

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

Makeup

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

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

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

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

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Celebrating Independence Throughout the Year

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

Home

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

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

WayAround Laundry Starter Pack: The Laundry Starter Pack contains WayTag 2-hole buttons plus a blind-friendly sewing kit–everything you need to get started tagging your clothing with WayAround. The WayAround product line is a combination of smartphone app and physical WayTags™ that allows you to tag and label nearly everything in your environment. Download the free app for either iPhone or Android onto your own smartphone

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

Travel or Errands

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

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

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

Sunu Mobility Device: The Sunu band is a wrist-worn smart watch which uses sonar technology (echolocation) to provide haptic (vibration) feedback regarding the user’s surroundings and other information. Used in conjunction with a guide dog or white cane, it can improve spatial awareness and provide information on obstacles in a user’s path that are above ground level up to 16 feet away. This smart-band augments your personal awareness, and reduces accidents to the body, chest, arms and head. It also has a Wayfinding tool to explore various categories of places which may be nearby including restaurants, shops, hospitals, banks, shops, metro stops, and more.

Just for Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultraviolet (UV) Light

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

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

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

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

Cocoon Eyewear

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

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

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

NoIR Sunglasses

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

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

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

Eyesential DryEye Sunglasses

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

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

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

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

Bathroom Aids for the Toilet and Bathtub or Shower

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

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

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

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

Decluttering and Using and Labels

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

Low Vision Pens Sampler: If you know that you need a pen that creates a black, bold, heavy line that is easy to see, but you can’t decide which one to buy, order this sampler. It lets you test 4 pens with different thicknesses and drying characteristics. Included are: CAN-DO Low Vision, Sharpie, Pilot Bravo, and Liquid Expresso.

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

WayClip Plastic Clips with tag: Use a clip tag with a rubber band or a hairband to attach a tag to all the bottles and vials in your bathroom(s). The WayAround product line is a combination of smartphone app and physical WayTags™ that allows you to tag and label nearly everything in your environment. Download the free app for either iPhone or Android onto your own smartphone. WayAround works with the accessibility settings on your phone. To hear your information spoken aloud, turn on VoiceOver or TalkBack.

Flooring, Lighting and Contrast

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

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

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

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

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

The Nostalgic Dad

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

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

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

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

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

The Handyman Dad

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

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

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

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

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

The Gadget-Obsessed Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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Computer Accessibility for the Visually Impaired

Technology keeps advancing in leaps and bounds and what once seemed merely a dream now can accomplish with ease. Thanks to computer accessibility persons who once felt left out our behind can now participate on the same levels as their peers. This blog will look at the hardware, software, and future of computer accessibility for the visually impaired.

Hardware

Computer hardware includes the physical parts of a computer, such as the central processing unit (CPU), monitor, mouse, keyboard, graphics card, sound card, and speakers. This section will look at some common hardware items that ILA sells to enhance computer accessibility for the visually impaired.

LogicKeys L. P. Slim Line PC Keyboard: Large Print Keyboards offered by LogicKeys is perfect for those individuals who are having a hard time seeing the existing commands on their keyboards. By offering a bigger and bolder typeface, the keys become easier to see. These keyboards are designed to assist any user but are especially helpful for those with low vision.

Big Track Mouse Ball: The BIGtrack is a valuable tool for users who lack fine motor skills which a regular mouse requires. For example, if you have arthritis an ordinary mouse can be difficult to hold and keep the cursor in position whilst you click. The BIGtrack allows you to settle the cursor in position and then click easily without moving the cursor inadvertently. The giant yellow ball makes it easy to get the cursor to precisely where you want it and you can even do this with your foot or elbow!

LCD Magnifier & Filter For 19″ Screen: Hi-quality fresnel lenses that increase character size up to 2X. It is lightly tinged to enhance contrast. Easy to install by hanging the magnifier from the top of the monitor Dimensions are 19″ measures diagonally from top left corner to bottom right corner. Measurement across width of screen is 16″. The other two sizes available are for a 17” screen and a 15” screen.

Software

By contrast, software is the set of instructions that can be stored and run by hardware. Hardware is so termed because it is “hard” or rigid with respect to changes, whereas software is “soft” because it is easy to change. This section will highly various software that ILA sells to enhance ease of use for the blind or visually impaired consumer.

iZoom Magnifier/Reader on CD 6.0 Version: iZoom software enlarges images on your computer screen up to 36X.  You can also change screen and contrast colors, increase mouse size, realign web pages, and hear entire documents, emails and web pages spoken aloud.  Magnification features include font smoothing, locator enhancements, 8 different zooming modes, and floating windows to “lock” a portion of the screen.  Speech features include mouse echo, typing echo, narration, and speech controls. Speech can be in any of 17 languages, including Spanish.   IZoom is available in either a single install CD version, or a non-installing USB version which you can plug into any computer and use on the spot.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium Version 13.0: Just talk naturally to your computer, using the included microphone, and the words appear on the screen. Because it is fully integrated with WordPerfect and Word, the NaturallySpeaking commands are displayed right in the menu bar. Using voice only, the user can speak commands to proofread, revise and edit test or listen to and dictate e-mail. Switching between applications can be accomplished by telling the computer which program to open. The Spanish version is also available.

Typio Typing Tutor Software: Typio is an accessible typing tutor software program designed for teachers. For the student it has guided audio and large print instructions through the entire keyboard, with fun sound effects. For the teacher it has customizable practice lessons, individual student record keeping with detailed, printable reports, and the ability to review past lessons. Comes with 45 lessons which automatically save progress and advance only when the student meets their pre-set goals. Teachers can also create custom lessons.

The Future of Computer Accessibility

The future of technology uses the current knowledge base and expounds on it. Here are just two examples of things that are on the cutting edge to be the norm in the future.

3D Modeling: Stanford University is increasing access to 3D modeling through touch-based displays. With the goal of increasing access to making, engineers at Stanford University have collaborated with members of the blind and visually impaired community to develop a touch-based display that mimics the geometry of 3D objects designed on a computer. According to graduate student, Alexis Siu, “This project is about empowering a blind user to be able to design and create independently without relying on sighted mediators because that reduces creativity, agency and availability.”

The display is reminiscent of a pin art toy in that it forms shapes from a field of tall, rectangular pegs that move up and down. By inputting the specifications of their desired shape in the accompanying 3D modeling program, users can evaluate their creation via the touchable display. Whenever they alter the shape, they can command the display to render it anew. This tactile display is considered 2.5D rather than 3D because the bottom of the display does not change shape.

The researchers co-designed this system with people who are blind or visually impaired, a process that was integral to making it address the actual needs of its users. In the end, the team produced a system that can rotate a 3D model, zoom in and zoom out on an object, and show it in split sections – such as showing the top and bottom of a cup beside each other. Users can also feel the shape with multiple fingers or their whole hand, which enhances the information they can interpret from the display.

“The feedback we received showed that, even with this coarse display, we can still get meaningful interactions,” said Siu. “That suggests there’s a lot of potential in the future for this kind of system.”

HaptiRead: New Atlas reports on an ultrasound haptic system that projects readable Braille into thin air. For people who rely on Braille, reading displays and signs in public can be a challenge, but a new system could help make things easier. HaptiRead is a haptic feedback device that uses ultrasound pulses in precise patterns to reproduce Braille text in midair.

The HaptiRead system is a panel made up of 256 ultrasound transducers, emitting frequencies of up to 200 Hz – strong enough for a user to feel the pressure on their skin. This kind of technology has previously been put to work to create things like holograms you can touch.

But HaptiRead has an arguably more noble goal in mind. This device projects up to eight haptic points in the air as far as 70 cm (27.6 in) away, which can be arranged to represent different characters in the Braille alphabet.

A built-in Leap Motion depth-sensing camera figures out where a user’s hand is and directs the ultrasonic points towards it. That can help guide a user towards the device in the first place. Plus, there are no moving parts to clog up, and users do not need to actually touch a surface, removing hygiene issues. The system can also be set up to display more complex information, such as charts and graphics.

The team says there’s still much more testing and development to do, but this preliminary study shows that the HaptiRead technology has promise.

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Games for Two

Last week we looked at group activities and games specifically geared towards the visually impaired. For those that prefer smaller scale pastimes, that can be enjoyed with as few as two persons, this blog will look at those games created with the visually impaired person in mind.

Two Person Games for All Ages

This section will provide brief descriptions and links for games that can be played for persons of all ages.

Marinoff Low Vision Playing Cards: Designed by the ophthalmologist, Dr. Gerald Marinoff, to enable individuals with vision problems to more easily see the numbers on playing cards. They come with 1.25-inch-high numbers. The outstanding feature is the black outline that surrounds the large numbers to make them ‘stand out’.

Tactile Connect Four: This tactile Connect Four has holes in one color of the pieces so that those who are Blind or visually impaired can play tactually. The challenge is to get four chips in a row while blocking your opponent from doing the same.

Chess Set: All wood tactile Chess board made entirely of authentic, genuine teak. Complete with plastic tactile playing pieces, specially designed to be identified by touch, this set is a must-have for any Blind Chess player. This is a one-of-a-kind, all-new presentation of tactile Chess that can be played by Blind, visually impaired, and sighted Chess players.

Oversized Wood Domino Set: Easy on the eyes, easy on the hands and fun to play. The 3.2″ x 1.75″ x .25″ wood pieces are painted black with large white circles, making them easy to see and very graspable. Adults with arthritis or low vision will enjoy playing dominoes with this set. They are also a good set for young children learning the game or learning to count. 28 pieces in set.

Games Geared Towards Kids

This section will focus on brief descriptions and links for games specifically geared to children.

SENSEsational Alphabet Flashcards: Learning the alphabet has never been more exciting and stimulating! This fun and engaging card set lets your child feel the different textures of animals, smell the distinctive aromas of things, and much more! Learn the entire alphabet and many beginning words in Sign Language and Braille. This set comes with a user manual and is designed with all young children in mind!

Braille Math Blocks: Quality craftsmanship you can feel, with imaginative design and Braille lettering. The companion set to our Braille Sign Language set, these 16 blocks are embossed with numbers and basic math symbols, along with the corresponding Braille cell.

Braille ABC Wooden Blocks: This 28-block set is made from sustainable Michigan basswood with Braille and embossed letters along with traditional letter forms on the block. The attractive European style font is easily traced by little fingers. These blocks are not only fun to stack and play with, but they also make an excellent learning tool.

Helpful Information and Resources to Consider

If you are looking for helpful advice or further game suggestions these links should help you start out on the right track.

The American Foundation for the Blind provides a list of suggestions for a variety of games, such as computer or electronic games, are accessible with a screen reader or are self-voicing, and board games or card games are available in large print or with braille or tactile marks.

Paths to Literacy is a website for students who are blind or visually Impaired. The linked article details advise and suggestions on how to adapt games for children with vision impairments written by a teacher with vision impairments herself. Specific games mentioned include Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Battleship.

Sightless Fun is a website dedicated to recommending tips, tricks, and modifications to allow visually impaired persons the ability to play nearly any game they can imagine. One link from this page also provides information on Alexa (Amazon’s Virtual Assistant) based games.  It covers everything from picking out a game, setup/tearing down, how to keep the game flowing, ways to assist a visually impaired person, and concludes with the author’s final thoughts on the subject.

VisionAware provides a section on types of already adapted games, as well as discusses ways in which you can adapt your own. ILA carries many of the recommended adaptative devices including a Braille Label Maker, a wide variety of bump dots, and textured paint.

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