I can't outline every tool available for the blind today. However, I promised I'd write about the tools that make my life easier, so here goes.
Low-Tech stuff: I try not to adapt more than necessary, but I do need some things accessible. I wrap a bread tie around the handle of the gallon jug of tea or fruit drink. Adhesive "bump dots" mark several things, not least of which are the "home row" on my ergonomic keyboard and my kitchen appliances. These dots are available in different sizes, colors and shapes, but I stick with one shape (round), one color (clear), and two sizes (large and small). I abide by the KISS - Keep It Simple, Silly - rule, lol!
My Tactile Marker: This marker is like a cross between good old Elmer's glue and puff paint for hard surfaces. That's what marks the controls for my oven touchpad, my multi-function printer and several other things. A sighted person has to do the initial work, of course. I'd smear it "looking" at freshly-made marks. We recently had a new furnace installed. When I politely explained I couldn't use a touchpad thermostat, the tech located a dial thermostat with large, tactile numbers and simple controls. Now I know exactly how my thermostat is set, yay!
My Telephone: You've probably never noticed, but all telephones now have a small bump built into the #5. That helps me orient my "dialing thumb" and press the right numbers. The one thing I did to adapt my cordless phones was to ask my younger daughter to mark the numbers 1 and 2 on the back. Now I know which one has been off the charger longer.
The Kitchen: I mostly use standard tools in the kitchen. I do, however, prefer my two-sided spatula over hubby's regular spatula. The one truly "blind-centric" tool I have is a set of "tactile and Braille" measuring cups. The "tactile" marks aren't very tactile, but I have learned the Braille for 1, 2 and C, lol! The rest I count - hubby read them to me once.
My Book Machines: I have two book machines, both on permanent loan from the Cleveland Talking Books library. My cassette machine plays regular and Talking Book (half-speed) tapes. It has built-in tactile controls and is about the size and weight of a small suitcase or briefcase. My Digital Talking Book Machine's (DTBM's) tactile controls are sleeker- not to mention quieter. I'm told my DTBM is a "beginner" but that's fine. It's half the size of the cassette machine, roughly the size and twice the weight of a standard paperback book. The biggest difference between my two machines is, obviously, sound quality - like between any cassette and digital player (think iPod). My DTBM also has a USB port on the side. I can download a book, copy it to my "flash drive," and plug it into my DTBM. Cool, huh?
My Talking Products: Since I'm Braille illiterate, several of my tools "talk" to me. My favorite is my Tell-timer brand talking watch. It has four buttons: time announcement, hourly "chime," announcement on and off, alarm choice/off toggle, and "set" mode. My Voxcom audio labeler is a little bigger than a deck of playing cards. It has reusable digital recording cards, each about the size of a standard playing card with an "eyehole" in one corner. I use rubber bands for attaching cards to objects (cans, etc.) Each card records about 10 seconds of information. When it isn't randomly erasing my labels, it's okay, but I'm open to ideas on other ways to label things.
My Land-Line telephone: My phone "speaks" the numbers I dial if the handset is on the hook. It also has a built-in "talking" caller ID feature. I enjoy freaking people out by addressing them by name when I answer, lol!
My Tadi brand "talking electronic organizer": My talking electronic organizer is designed for multiple functions, but mostly gets use as a portable talking phone book and digital note taker. I quickly learned the "alarm" isn't loud enough to be audible through the case and my purse. I simply never had time to learn the rest of the features, like the calculator. Besides, I have a separate "talking" calculator I like better.
My "Talking" Computer: My highest-tech tool is my computer. It's equipped with a program called JAWS (Job Access With Speech.) It's the best screen-reading software I know of, and I've used it for 5.5 years now. I have it set to "echo" my every keystroke, and with it, I can do a lot of things. For example, I'm typing this using MS Word. I'm also fairly functional in MS Excel, although MS Publisher is too graphically based now, and the rest of the Office programs were always beyond my abilities.
Obviously I can get online, lol! Website designers and other folks are being made more aware of blind folks who use programs like JAWS, so more websites these days are screen-reader accessible. Others have a simpler version originally designed for mobile devices. I use the mobile site for Facebook, for example, due to the graphics issue. JAWS can't translate graphics unless they're well-labeled. And I do a little online shopping, especially if I have a gift certificate. You might shop at walmart.com and sears.com, but MaxiAids.com and IndependentLivingAids.com are my "wish-book" sites these days. :D
These are only a few of the tools that make a blind person's life easier these days. I'd probably have a lot more gadgets if I had money, lol!
By JustPlainJo from Springfield, OH
You are simply amazing, its wonderful how when we have to do things different, we can adapt to most anything. You go girl, keep it up, there are amazing tools out there to use anymore, we can do anything we want to do in life, one way or another.
Jo, thanks for your latest info. I love learning about new tech.gadgets that make everyday life a bit more manageable for any of us.
You are so wonderful and generous to share all of your heartfelt and knowledgeable information about being blind with us all! Every single one of your posts regarding details and helpful hints are the best!
I have to tell you that I got lots of good giggles about your land-line 'talking caller ID' feature because a few years ago I had a hand held set (before the base croaked) that would even say the person's name if it were programmed for that number. I am not in your situation with sight impairment but it certainly was nice to even be able to decide, hearing from another room or while in the basement, whether I really needed to risk a run to try to catch the phone or return the call in just a bit. :-)
So glad you put that out there. Here in Maine they have lots of tools and ways to help most of them you mentioned. they came in & did my mothers washer, oven setting & etc. with the puff dots and she had talking books and a reader that magnified & so many things. Just want people to realize help is out there. Her Dr. put us in the right direction to find out about these things. Made it easier for her to be in her home for as long as she was able.
I'm so enjoying being able to educate my TF family about what a blind person goes through every day, as well as the tools that make it easier. Believe me, I'd have many more tools if I could afford them! As you may have discovered, any specialized or adaptive items can be pricey. :P
Ironically, the person who gave me the name and # to call for help and resources was a cashier at our local Save-a-Lot. She'd been there with a family member and was "paying it forward." That's what I'm doing. Glad you all appreciate it, keep the feedback coming!
By the way, Deeli, I keep my cordless phone in my pocket so I don't fall over the dogs running for the land line phone, lol!
Jo, your posts are always fascinating. I'm disabled in different ways, due to multiple health issues, so I'm always inspired by people who have been able to find ways to get around the day-to-day problems that able-bodied people don't have.
Like you, I have problems with Microsoft Office. My own problem is with programs that don't have keyboard shortcuts, because too much mouse clicking makes a program too painful for me to use. I find it very sad that it hasn't been adapted well for use by the blind or visually impaired.
You might be interested to know that the Opera has voice commands to help blind and visually impaired users. I don't know if this would be helpful to you, but I thought I'd post this information, just in case.
Thanks as always for your posts!
Thanks for all the information. We found out yesterday that my husband is legally blind. Our heads are still spinning.
Mulberry, I'm sorry to hear your husband's news has hit you so hard. You might do a search for services for the blind in your area, either via your favorite search engine or yellowbook.com. Information and Referral or your local Rehabilitative Services office might also help.
WildIrish, I'm just glad I found a way to help. Frankly, I think I was "hard-wired" to accept blindness from early childhood. So, I've always searched out alternate ways of doing things.
I really appreciate your votes and feedback, thanks, keep it coming!
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