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Low-Tech Devices for People with Visual Impairments

With all the attention being given to high-tech solutions these days, it is important not to neglect the low-tech items that can also benefit people who are blind or visually impaired. There are many important tasks that can best be done quickly and simply by using a low-tech device. In this document, "low-tech" refers to any device without a microprocessor.

Braille Hand Writing

Many low-tech and inexpensive devices are available to assist people with visual impairments in writing, either in print or Braille. Braille users can employ a stylus and a variety of Braille slates for writing on index cards, labeling cassettes, making marginal notes as well as for writing more formal documents. "Low-tech" hand writing aids include large print items and formats, such as large print check books and raised line notepaper, and writing templates which fit over standard documents, such as envelopes, checks, note paper and signature lines. These templates are made of metal, plastic or stiff cardboard, and provide spatial orientation for the user to handwrite critical information.

Magnifiers

People who have some usable vision have a choice of magnification aids to use in all manners of situations. These devices include pocket sized magnification glasses, as well as devices for enlarging a line of print, or even an entire page of print at one time. Monocular and binocular devices can be used for magnifying items at a distance, such as street signs and marquees. Many magnification devices include attached lighting for enhanced visibility.

Kitchen and Household Items

Many common kitchen and household devices are available with large print and/or Braille markings. These include measuring devices and replacement controls for appliances. Many gadgets have been designed or modified to produce audible cues or even limited speech. These include liquid level indicators, talking thermometers, and talking bathroom scales.

Labeling

Many existing products for home school or office can be easily modified to make them more usable for people who have visual impairments. Various Braille and tactile tags can be obtained to mark clothing and canned or frozen food items. Braille and large print dymo-tape labeling guns, are available to assist with labeling. In some cases, however, careful application of masking tape or spots of glue may provide the needed tactile markings.

Watches, Clocks and Timers

Time keeping devices have been designed in a variety of ways to make them more useful to people with visual impairments. Such devices typically involve large print displays, Braille markings, "speech" chips, or some combination. The range of such devices includes wristwatches, portable alarms, clock radios, kitchen and medication timers. Some of these devices, such as talking clocks, are readily available at retail stores such as Radio Shack and K-Mart.


Vendors:


American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206
502/895-2405

Ann Morris Enterprises
890 Fams Ct
East Meadows, NY 11554
516/292-9232
annmor@netcom.com
http://tribeca.ios.com/tildaannm2

Carolyn's
PO Box 14577
Bradenton, FL 34208
800/648-2266 Fax
813/761-8306

Independent Living Aids
27 East Mall
Plainview, NY 11803
516/752-8080
516-752-3135 Fax

LS&S Group
PO Box 673
Northbrook, IL 60065
847/498-9777
800/468-4789
847/498-1482 Fax
Isgrp@aol.co
http://www.lssgroup.com

Maxiaids
42 Executive Blvd
Farmingdale, NY 11735
516/752-0521
800/522-6294
516/752-0689
sales@maxiaids.com
http://www.maxiaids.com

NY Lighthouse for the Blind
36-02 Northern Blvd
Long Island City, NY 1101-1614
718/937-933
800/829-0500
jjenkins@lighthouse.org
http://www.lighthouse.org

YouCan TooCan
2223 S Monaco Prkwy
Denver, CO 80222
303/759-9525


Other Resources:


American Council of the Blind of Colo.
1201 E. Colfax Ave, #250
Denver, CO 80218
303/831-0117
888/775-2221

American Foundation for the Blind
11 Penn Plaza #300
New York, NY 10001
800/232-5463

Beyond Sigh
7431 S Lafayette Circle, W
Littleton, CO 80210
303/795-6455

Colorado Assistive Technology Project
1245 E. Colfax Ave., Suite 200
Denver, CO 80218
303/315-1280
303/837-8964 TTY
303/827-1208 Fax
800/255-3477 within Colorado

National Federation of the Blind
1830 S. Acoma St.
Denver, CO 80223
303/778-1130
800/401-463

Seedlings
PO Box 51924
Livonia, MI 48151-5924
800/777-8552
734/427-8552 Fax

The Large Print Book
PO Box 5375
Englewood, CO 80155
303/721-7511
303/721-7512 Fax
800/305-2743

**Radio Shack, Sharper Image or other stores that supply electronic devices may also carry low-tech devices for the visually impaired.