Ho, ho, ho! It’s your business desk team and we want to share something
with you. It’s the happy holiday time and here is something for you.
A Dan Thompson contribution
More Holiday Gift Ideas for People with Visual Impairments
Access World’s Reporter, Janet Ingber
found that special gift for someone with a visual impairment, whether blind
or low vision, here are some more options. I have used all of the products
listed below and recommend them. When ordering a product online, consider
expedited shipping if the gifting date is near. All prices in this article
are subject to change.
Gift cards have become very popular for the holidays. Make sure to give the
recipient the value, card number, and PIN if there is one. Popular cards
include iTunes, Amazon, and restaurants.
Audible Accessible Site
Audible offers thousands of audio books. They are available the same day the
print version is released. Books can be played on many devices including a
computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. Audible has several gift plans,
starting at $45. Members can also use their credits to gift books to other
If the gift recipient likes exercise or wants to get in shape, the Fitbit
Flex ($99.95) is a good option. The Flex tracks steps, active minutes,
calories burned, and distance walked. You can manually add calories
consumed, exercise, and weight.
The Flex is worn on the wrist and is roughly the size of a small rectangular
wristwatch. The actual electronic device (called a tracker) slides into the
flexible wristband and is lightweight. Two wristbands are included in black,
one small and one large. Additional wristbands are available at extra cost
in various fashion colors to match your outfit.
There is a free, accessible iOS app that syncs with the Fitbit. The user can
also sync their Fitbit with
For the music lover, consider one of the Jambox Wireless Bluetooth Speakers
from Jawbone (Big Jambox, $160; Mini Jambox, $86). They have very good
sound, especially for their size. All controls are tactile. It is easy to
pair any Bluetooth enabled device, such as an iPhone, with these speakers.
The top of the speaker has extremely tactile, differently shaped, raised
buttons. The side of the speaker has an On/Off button, a button for pairing
a device and ports for connecting the speaker to headphones, connecting the
speaker with a device using the device’s headphone jack, and USB. The
speaker has a built-in rechargeable battery that holds its charge for about
Voice Labeling System
The PenFriend2 ($139.95) provides a quick and easy way to identify items. It
uses a pen-like device to record a description and special small stick-on
labels. Many different sizes and shapes of labels are included and more can
be purchased. Simply attach a label to an item, touch the pen to the label,
press the record button, and record a description. Read a label by touching
the PenFriend to the label. These labels can be used on items that will be
stored in the refrigerator and freezer.
L’Occitane is a French company that offers skin care, bath and body, and
fragrance products for both men and women. They pay extra attention to
charitable causes and one of their goals is the “support of visually
impaired people worldwide.” Every L’Occitane product has a braille label,
even the little soaps. They recently donated $100,000 to the American
Foundation for the Blind. The company is environmentally friendly and does
additional charitable work.
L’Occitane has special holiday gifts including a list of gifts for under
$30. They also sell individual items and sets. Their products are available
and at L’Occitane boutiques (a boutique locator is available on their
*The Gift of Reading Printed Text
Reading printed materials is something that sighted people may take for
granted. For someone losing that ability or for someone who has never been
able to read print, that ability can be a tremendous help. There are two
optical character recognition (OCR) programs available that I especially
like for reading printed text.
These programs use an electronic device to take a picture of text and then
convert the photo into text that the device’s screen reader then reads
aloud. There are stands available, if needed, for holding a device steady
and properly aligned for scanning. Several AccessWorld articles compare
various OCR programs and stands. Not all devices are supported by a
particular OCR app or stand. Check the links below to determine whether a
specific device is supported.
All products in this section, with the exception of the KNFB Reader, are
mainstream products and are not specifically designed for people with visual
KNFB Reader ($99.99)
My favorite OCR program is the KNFB Reader. Although it is expensive, this
app does an excellent job of recognizing text; it is easy to use. This app
is specifically designed for people who are blind or visually impaired. In
the latest version, the device can be placed in a stand and documents can be
scanned automatically without having to press the “Take Picture” button
Abbyy TextGrabber + Translator ($4.95)
My second favorite OCR app is Abbyy TextGrabber + Translator. This
mainstream app is significantly less expensive than KNFB Reader but it does
a very good job. It supports many languages and does an excellent job of
The Giraffe Reader stand is used to hold a phone and works with iPhone 4,
4S, 5, 5C, 6, and 6 Plus. Android users should e-mail Giraffe Reader to
determine whether their particular device will work. The Giraffe reader is
very easy to assemble and folds up into a small size. Although a bit
expensive, it is an excellent product.
The StandScan Pro works with just about any device that has a back-facing
camera. It is held together by tiny magnets and is not difficult to
assemble. It folds down to fit into a computer bag. The StandScan Pro comes
equipped with LED lighting to insure a good scan. It is powered by battery
Even if you need a last-minute gift, there are still many options for a
person who is blind or visually impaired. When giving a gift, be give sure
to give the recipient information on how to use it. For example, if you’re
giving someone a Giraffe Reader, offer to help them put it together the
first time. Remember to get your gifts as early as possible. Happy Shopping
and Happy Holidays.