Celebrate Labor Day

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

A Brief History About Labor Day

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

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

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

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

Inside Grilling Tips for the Visually Impaired

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

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

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

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

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

Entertainment Ideas

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

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

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

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

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Back to School Part 2: Assistive Technology

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

Reading and Writing

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

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

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


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

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

Beyond Academics

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

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

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

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

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