Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
2015 Holiday Podcast product link (Episode 1)
Ruby XL HD Magnifier
Where to find it: www.freedomscientific.com
Silver Talking Clock Keychain
20/20 Low Vision Felt Tip Pen
Where to find it: http://www.lssproducts.com/product/20-20-felt-tip-pen/bestsellers
Low Vision Analog-LCD Wall Clock-Calendar-Thermometer
Cool Touch Microwave Bowl
Braille Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Tactile Tic Tac Toe
Where to find it: http://www.lssproducts.com/product/6532/games
Raised Line Coloring Book
Where to find it: http://www.lssproducts.com/product/4206/childrens-books
Pre-threaded Sewing Needles
Where to find it: http://www.lssproducts.com/product/8327/sewing-craft
Where to find it: http://www.lssproducts.com/product/3893/sewing-craft
Aukey Special Edition Handheld Video Magnifier
Talking Tins Recordable Labels
Where to find it: http://www.lssproducts.com/product/4057/cooking-helpers
Jan Brett’s The Night Before Christmas app
ION Clipster Ultra-Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Price: $14.99 and up
Where to find in: www.amazon.com
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Happy Holidays from the Assistive Technology Center at Easter Seals crossroads. This is your Assistive Technology Update.[Festive Music]
WADE WINGLER: Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
Welcome to episode number 183 of Assistive Technology Update. You probably hear that Christmas music in the background because this is a special episode. This episode is scheduled to be released on November 28 of 2014, which in the United States is Black Friday. So maybe you all are out shopping and enjoying this podcast and getting some holiday gift guide ideas, or you may be just a home and avoiding the crowds.
I am so excited today to have three good friends and colleagues in the studio with me today. We’re going to talk about assistive technology holiday gift ideas. So I’m going to go around the horn here. Nikol Prieto is our veteran and somewhat resident Scrooge. She has been with us every year. This is our fourth annual holiday podcast. Nikol, how are you?
NIKOL PRIETO: I’m great. How are you?
WADE WINGLER: I’m doing okay. Remind folks what you do for a living and then tell me, what are you going to be doing on Black Friday when the show comes out?
NIKOL PRIETO: I am the Community Outreach Coordinator, and a lot of my position is just getting out information about our program and all the great things to do here through the INDATA Project. On Black Friday, I do get out and do a little shopping, but I do that in Bloomington when all the students are gone and some of the independent local shops where it’s a crowded. I just spend the day with family there, and we have some festive Thanksgiving, after Thanksgiving cocktails and do a little shopping in the independent shops.
WADE WINGLER: That’s good. For folks who aren’t here in the room couldn’t see you roll your eyes at me when I called you out for being the resident Scrooge. Thank you for being here and recording this early, earlier than the holiday season really starts.
NIKOL PRIETO: Yeah, I think it’s much too soon. I like to start thinking about Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, and I’m actually wearing Halloween attire today. I’ve got my Christmas skulls on.
WADE WINGLER: Your Halloween spirit for the Christmas show. Seated next to Nikol is Patrick Sandy. We are excited. Patrick is the President and CEO of Easter Seals Crossroads. It’s his first time on the holiday show. Patrick, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you plan on doing on Black Friday.
PATRICK SANDY: Okay. A little bit about myself. I am the President and CEO of Easter Seals Crossroads, so I am the person that has the joy of coming in here every day and working with all the fine people that we have here at Easter Seals Crossroads and working with all the folks that come in to seek our assistance and support. It’s the best job in the world.
What I’m going to do on Black Friday is stay away from the mall or any place that you can do strapping. Generally speaking, that’s time that I spend with my partner and my two children. We just hang out, watch movies, and stay at home.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. Seated next to Patrick is Laura Medcalf who is our Social Media Content Specialist here at Easter Seals crossroads. If you have read our blog or seen our YouTube videos, you kind of already know Laura, at these behind the scenes. Laura, tell folks a little bit about what you do and what you plan on doing for Black Friday.
LAURA MEDCALF: As you said, I am the one responsible for getting the blog content out. Every week I put out a tech tip which is a video that goes out to YouTube every Monday. So I’ll film those, edit those, and publish those. I’ll write about 2 to 3 blog post each week.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. Today, if you haven’t been familiar with our show before, what we’re going to do today is spend a little bit of time talking about holiday plans and some holiday memories and things like that. There we’re going to get into assistive technology gift ideas for people with disabilities. We’re going to talk about all kinds of interesting stuff, some new stuff, some things you might have thought about some more. We hope to surprise you a timer to at least with some of these ideas. Standby for this quick musical interlude, and will be back with our holiday shopping episode.[Festive Music]
Just a quick word of disclaimer before we jump into some of these products, we want to make sure that everyone understands that we aren’t really recommending these things. These are things we become aware of and that we think are interesting, but these aren’t an endorsement, nor is anybody paying us to talk about these products. These are just kind of the things we think are interesting and good.
Our first category we are going to start with is a vision and blindness-related stuff. Nikol, I know you have a few things on your list that you found interesting related to vision impairment. What have you got?
NIKOL PRIETO: I do. When I think about Christmas, I think about going out and meeting people for holiday meals and getting Christmas cards and things like that. For people with low vision, having some difficulty seeing their Christmas cards or reading small print menus in lowlight restaurants, there is a handheld CCTV device called the Ruby XL HD Magnifier. This comes from Freedom Scientific. It’s really neat. It’s got continuous magnification and will magnify from 2 times to 14 times the font. It will change the contrast colors, multiple options of contrast changes. You can slide it right across your page without any blur. It also will take still photos so if there’s something up high, you can take a picture of that and you can save those images and transfer them into the PC with a USB cord.
You can zoom in and out. It’s got a reading stand on it that runs over the material really nicely.
WADE WINGLER: So when you’re on Christmas Eve putting together kids toys and you have to look at those instructions that are hard to read anyway, you can use this to make it bigger, right?
NIKOL PRIETO: Absolutely. It would be perfect for that. The price on that $895, and that came from Freedom Scientific. That’s a really neat one. There’s lots of handheld CCTV’s out there and that’s a really nice one.
I have a couple stocking stuffer ideas. One of them is a Silver Talking Clock Keychain. This little keychain is just ideal for someone with low vision if they are on the go and need to know their time. It talks in a really clear voice and also has an alarm. It kind of made me laugh. It says it either talks or crows. You have options — like a chicken. That’s really reasonable, $9.95. It goes on your keychain and any time you need a timer or have an alarm, it’s right there with you. That came from Learning Sight and Sound.
One other little item I had that would be a nice stocking stuffer is the 20/20 Low Vision Felt Tip Pen. This pen is just a regular marker, but it creates really bold, easy to read visible lines.
WADE WINGLER: And I know lots of folks who really rely on those all the time, and you can’t have enough of those around the house all around the office for taking notes on stuff. Good recommendations and some very affordable stuff to. That’s great.
Patrick, I know you have some things on your list related to vision. What’s on your list we
PATRICK SANDY: I sure do. One of the things I think all of us struggle with around holiday time is all the various appointments that we have, looking up with family and meeting people at restaurants and stuff. I kind of was looking at stuff related to help us keep our time and schedule, and I found this Low Vision Analog-LCD Wall. It’s a fairly large clock, but the really cool thing about it is that it has a large display on its. It not only tells the time, but also tells the date and the temperature. So that can be a really good thing too during the winter. It’s large, easy to read numbers or letters to depending on what you’re looking at. Whether you have low vision or just a hard time waking up, it’s a good thing for you to have. It’s by MaxiAids.com and is only $39.95. I thought it was a pretty good deal.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent.
PATRICK SANDY: In addition to that, I came up with some stuff for the kids that were stocking stuffer kinds of things. I think Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a book and also a movie, so this is the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs book. It’s $7.95 and is by LS&S. The nice thing about it is that it has the pictures, but also has braille format as well as regular printed format. It’s a great thing for someone with a vision issue as well as a person who doesn’t have want to be able to enjoy together. So a grandparent may be reading to their grandchild. I just thought is a really great idea.
Keeping with that, I found a tic-tac-toe game, also by LS&S. It’s a great stocking stuffer. That tics in the tacs are made of big zeros and squares so you can really tell what the difference is, and is just a great game for somebody with a low vision issue. I thought that was good. Very high contrast, black and white related to the different images.
The last thing was something I’m really not known for, and that’s coloring within the lines. But I know that really appeals to some people. It’s a Raised Line Coloring Book. It’s $15.95 by LS&S. So it has the picture with lines so that the child with low vision can really keep track of making sure they stay in the lines while they are working on this particular coloring book. I thought that was a really cool thing too.
WADE WINGLER: That’s cool. I love the idea that the braille book can be used by somebody who is sighted and somebody who is blind. The same with the coloring book too. Two kids can be coloring side-by-side, one relying on those raised lines and the other not. Those are some great gifts.
Laura, you’re sitting here smiling at me. I know that you have a couple of items in this category. What do you have?
LAURA MEDCALF: I do. I’m really excited to share with you. I personally am a very artsy crafty kind of person. So when I came across these two products, I was really excited. They are both by LS&S.
The first one is Pre-threaded Sewing Needles, which go for about $3.95, and are great for individuals with low vision and individuals with tremors who struggle threading a needle. The package includes 10 pre-threaded needles in different colors for different projects. It’s inexpensive enough to buy them as you need them.
WADE WINGLER: Four bucks for 10 of all different colors? That’s great. I may never have to thread a needle again.
PATRICK SANDY: I was going to say, who doesn’t have trouble threading a needle? It’s nearly impossible. I’ll be looking for that item.
LAURA MEDCALF: Next up I have the Stitch Witchery which is great for folks who need to fix a hem but don’t want to mess with sewing at all. In order to fix the hem without sewing, you just place the tape between two pieces of material that needs sown, and you iron them together and voilà, it’s fixed.
NIKOL PRIETO: Genius.
WADE WINGLER: That’s great. So I have two things in this category as well. Nikol, you mentioned the High Definition Ruby handheld magnifier. I found another one here called the Aukey Special Edition Handheld Video Magnifier. The thing that is interesting to me about this is it’s incredibly low-cost. I’m kind of casting a cautious eye on it a little bit because it’s really inexpensive compared to the other ones. It’s a handheld video magnifier. It’s colored in black and white and reverse images, runs on batteries, and is only $180 which is really low compared to the cost of the other ones that are out there. We’ll have a link to that in our show notes so that you can check it out, but I never seen a handheld video magnifier for less than $200. I think that was pretty impressive.
The other one is something that can be used around the kitchen. It’s Talking Tins Recordable Labels. These are things that you can pop on top of the soup or the cranberry sauce or whatever it is you’ve got for your occasion, and it allows you to record a message on the canned lid itself. It comes with three in the box and is $18.95. The thing I thought was interesting is you don’t have to say it’s cranberry sauce. A lot of folks with vision impairments are watching blood sugar levels, they are watching sodium levels, so you record was somebody there, oh, this is cranberry sauce and how many carbohydrates per serving and how many servings in a can or whether sodium level is our things like that. You can really record anything on those. Pretty cool kind of stuff.[Soft Music]
So this year, we are going to talk about the sights, the smells, the sounds, and the tastes of the holiday. I kind of think that the holidays are associated with those sorts of things. I want to start here with this group and talk about what are some of the sights that you think of when you think of the holidays, either something current or some memory.
One of the things that come to mind for me right away is on the local Santa Claus in the hometown where I live. I have to say that one of my favorite sights is seeing from behind the beard. When I’m wearing the suit, when these kids crawl up in my lab and tell me what they want for Christmas, there’s a certain claims in the eyes of these children that just melts my heart. Want to think about the sights of Christmas, that’s probably one of the ones that come to mind for me.
Laura, how about you? Are there any sights that you think about when you think about the holidays?
LAURA MEDCALF: There are several sights that I think about, of course the pine trees, Christmas trees. And one of my favorite sights, but only on Christmas, please forgive me for saying this, but the blanket of snow. When there’s a blanket of snow.
PATRICK SANDY: Yeah.
LAURA MEDCALF: I love that. But it can go away the rest of the year as far as I know. I have specific ornaments we get out every year, so those really represent the holiday for me.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. Patrick, how about you? What visually comes to mind?
PATRICK SANDY: Well, when I think just about the beginning of the holiday season, one of the things that comes to mind that a really enjoy is a sight that I appreciate every year is in my home we have two very large pots right by the front door, and we also have a very long window box, about 9 feet long they goes under all the kitchen windows. One thing I do with my partner is we do a Christmas display in those. We change it every year. So one year was boxwoods, pyramidal boxwoods in each of the pots, and we then stuck in dried hydrangea blossoms and cinnamon sticks and all that sort of stuff. And that we do something different in the window box too. So every year when the season starts to come around, we decorate that, come up with the ideas, and it’s just the beginning, the kickoff of the season and puts me in a good mood. It started for me.
WADE WINGLER: That’s a great tradition. Nikol, how about you?
NIKOL PRIETO: What I was thinking about is there were two specific and very different images that came to mind spirit one is very loud and chaotic, but visually cool, and one is very peaceful. The chaos is my children when they get “the” gift, just the squeals and their face light up and every bit of that is really exciting. They are still at an age where the big-ticket item is so exciting to them. You can still afford to get the big-ticket item at that age that excites them. The other one is something I love to do, is have the Christmas tree up, have it complete dark, the lights going, and sit on the couch and just have something hot to drink. It’s really late at night, maybe there’s some snow on the ground. Just a little bit that holiday week is enough to go around all year.
WADE WINGLER: That’s great. It’s really nice think about those visual elements of the holidays.[Bright Music]
Each week, one of our partners talks to us about something happening in the ever-changing world of apps. This is our holiday installment of our App Worth Mentioning segment from our friends over at BridgingApps.
Amy Barry: Happy Holidays! This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps, and this is an app, and accessory, worth mentioning.
The holiday app that I’m sharing today is Jan Brett’s The Night Before Christmas, by Penguin Group, USA. Jan Brett’s The Night Before Christmas Is an interactive e-book for users of all ages and abilities to enjoy. Reading the night before Christmas is a tradition for many families during the holiday season. Jan Brett’s version of The Night Before Christmas is one of our favorites. Her exquisite interpretation of the book literally comes to life in this deluxe app that includes beautifully animated version of her classic arts, playful interactive elements on every spread, and an autoplay version with original music performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra, and text read by Audie and Grammy award-winning narrator of Harry Potter, Jim Dale.
Some of the activities to enjoy while reading the e-book include swinging Christmas stockings with a swipe, press the mischievous elves to hear them giggle, and create wintry sparkles with the touch of your finger. Explore the world of Jan Brett, including her studio, her home, and her inspiration in illustrating this classic Christmas poem.
Jan Brett’s famously detailed border illustrations contained hidden interactive surprises. Search for hidden snowflakes throughout the book by turning on the snowflake hunt. Also included is a lively revealing conversation with Jan Brett on the origin of her art and transpiration for illustrating this timeless poem.
There’s holiday cheer galore to be found here. Experienced this Jan Brett visual masterpiece like never before. Share the night before Christmas with your students, or grab a cup of hot cocoa and snuggle up with your loved one while reading this Christmas classic. Quality time with family and friends is really the best gift ever. This app is available on the iTunes store. It’s best used on the iPad, and the price is $4.99.
I’m also super excited to share another great gift idea. Paired with a mobile device, the ION Clipster Ultra-Portable Bluetooth Speaker with a built-in clip is a hip way to magnify sound. It’s easy to use, extremely portable, and loud. The Clipster is a must-have technology gadget for individuals who use their mobile device for speech communication and would like an excellent Christmas gift. We recently left 14-year-old Shuller, who uses her iPad Mini as an assistive speech technology device. It’s “cool factor” is one of her favorite features because it makes her feel like all the other teens on a tablet. The only drawback is that the iPad mini sound projection is often not sufficient in loud environments, so the Clipster is the perfect solution to that.
Designed to wirelessly stream sound, the Clipster works for the iPad, iPhone, iPod, android devices, Kindle Fire HD, and any other Bluetooth music player. Its large volume controls make it easy to adjust the volume at any time. The rechargeable battery gives hours of listening on a single charge. The device easily clips to your belt loop, backpack, or purse. The Clipster is available in a variety of trendy colors. The ION Clipster can be purchased from Amazon, and the price starts at $14.09. For more information on this app and others like it, visit BridgingApps.org.
WADE WINGLER: So this is an audio program, and I can’t help but think about the sounds of the holidays. For me, as soon as Bing Crosby or Perry Como or one of those classic Christmas critters gets on the radio, I can’t help but put myself in the holiday spirit. Laura, how about you? Are there specific sounds of the holiday that come to mind?
LAURA MEDCALF: Always holiday music reminds me of it. My favorite sound is the crackling of a fire roaring in a fireplace.
WADE WINGLER: That’s nice. Patrick? How about you?
PATRICK SANDY: I think all of us have probably had some period in our life where he got a toy from one of our kids that made a sound that was fun for the first five minutes and then became really annoying. By the end of the day, you are ready to hide it or break it spirit I had one of those expenses with a Rudolph that actually walked across the floor and its nose lit up and it’s saying Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. It was very annoying, but I tolerated it because my son really seems to like it. So this goes with sound and also just a great memory. As soon as I get the Christmas decorations out every year, I get that out and I think of my son and just how much he loved that thing. Now, it doesn’t do Rudolph anymore, mercifully. But it does still walk in the nose lights up. It’s a sound that always reminds me of my son and Christmas and excitement and everything from a child’s perspective.
WADE WINGLER: That’s cool. Nikol?
NIKOL PRIETO: My kids are now 10 and seven, so they lost those really cute voices, those sweet kid voices where they said “slip slops” for flip-flops. I bought those Christmas recorded books and let the record it in their voice use ago, so I love getting that out in hearing those sweet voices. Also just kind of a faint jingle Bell sound like the reindeer might be out there is really cool. I think those are my favorite.[Bright Music]
WADE WINGLER: Just a couple of weeks ago, my guest was Aaron Hoffman, the Manager of Industry Relations and Partnerships with the National Lekotek Center in Chicago. We spend the entire interview talking about toys and games for kids with disabilities. We only thought it appropriate to bring Erin back on for the holiday show and give us some very holiday specific resources to help when you think about toys and games and holiday gifts for kids with disabilities. Here’s Erin Hoffman with Lekotek.
ERIN HOFFMAN: Hi, this is Erin Hoffman, Manager of Industry Relations and Partnerships at the National Lekotek Center, located in the Windy City of Chicago, Illinois. I have a few holiday shopping tips and tools to share with you.
The main components to keep in mind when shopping our preferences and personalities. Honing the child’s preferences and personality will help guide your toy selection and find them a stellar toy this holiday. Think of these questions to help with preferences when shopping. What toys are successfully being played with now? What is the child working on in school? Is there a specific area of development that they excel, cognitively, physically, socially? Think of these questions to gauge personality. What is their favorite type of play? Are they active, independent, social? Do they have a favorite toy in general?
Where do you find these toys? Lekotek has some suggestions. Ableplay.org is a resource sponsored by the National Lekotek Center. This website provides comprehensive research, ratings, and reviews on toys and play products for children of all abilities. The Ableplay website is getting a complete overhaul and will be up and running by December. So please keep checking in. The old site is currently available to look at as well, but the new site is going to be new and improved and will encompass more information in a user friendly format. Ableplay and Lekotek are always available to help you with your toy search whether you are a caregiver or a professional looking for toys. Feel free to contact us anytime.
Toys “R” Us guide, toy guides for differently abled kids, is celebrating its 20th anniversary today. Lekotek has been a part of this toy selection and evaluation for the past 18 years. The guide hones in the giant Toys “R” Us store, providing ideas on toys and their skill development. This is a great tool to utilize for kids of all abilities and helps pare down the aisle to immeasurable approximately 100 toys or so the thousands you have to choose from in the giant Toys “R” Us stores.
NAPA, The National Parenting Publications Awards, is a go to source for parents and professionals seeking the best products for their kids and families. Lekotek is part of the judging team to help evaluate and select toys to receive awards. Check out the website at NapaAwards.com, and follow their social media pages for lots of fun giveaways and contests. The TOTY Awards, or Toy Of The Year, are sponsored by the Toy Industry Association to recognize the top toys available this holiday season. Toy finalists are nominated from within the industry and are not only voted on by the toy industry, manufactures, and retailers, but also consumers like you. So you can check out their list of winners at toyawards.org.
Our final recommendation is to go to your local specialty toy retailer this holiday season. Specialty toy retailers offer a warm and welcome shopping experience. The stores and staff are committed to fantastic customer service and most importantly product knowledge. A lot of specialty stores gift wrap at no additional charge which is a major plus for the holiday season.
So the formula is simple. Think about the child you are shopping for and their preferences and personalities, then take advantage of those expert resources that have already selected the best toys out there. Smart shopping for the season can be easy and fun for everyone. Thank you.
WADE WINGLER: So Nikol, today we’ve covered a lot of interesting technology and all kinds of holiday stuff. I’m going to guess that some people are going to listen and said I want to learn more about that particular technology or they get the deer. How can they find out about some of the things we talked about?
NIKOL PRIETO: We are going to compile the information. We’ll have the name of the product, the price, and a link to the site to find additional information on that’s. Will get the list together in will put it in the body of our show notes. So the podcast will come out on Black Friday, and also on December 5. That’ll be posted to the blog on that date. If you search back through the podcast and go to that, you’ll see that in all of the body of the notes of the podcast.
WADE WINGLER: We hope you’ve enjoyed part one of our fourth annual assistive technology update holiday shopping guide. Join us next week when we talk about all kinds of assistive technology, holiday ideas, in all kinds of great holiday memories. See you next week.
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124. Looking for show notes from today’s show? Head on over to EasterSealstech.com. Shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.