A quick word of thanks to my readers, friends, fans and followers

As the year 2010 winds down, I thought I’d take just a minute to express my gratitude to those of you who have been faithful readers of the Accessible Insights Blog, as well as to those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook.  Sometimes, a solo operation means that changes (improvements) occur slowly, and at times the desire to stay updated has brought my offerings to a standstill.  Thank you to all who have commented, liked, retweeted and otherwise supported my work over the past year.  You have been endlessly uplifting, and have given me much inspiration.  Your support has been so generous.


Next year I plan to publish some interviews I’ve conducted with a variety of accessibility experts; people who have devoted their livelihoods to making the world a more inclusive, accessible place.  If you’d like to be interviewed, fill out the contact form.  If you have any ideas for new topics not currently covered here, let me know what you’d like to see discussed.


Have a happy and healthy 2011, and I hope to see you here.  thanks for spending some of your time with me this year.  I appreciate and value you.



On giving gifts of assistive tech or adaptive aids: Take this poll

As a follow up to the previous post on what to consider when giving gifts of assistive technology or adaptive aids, take this quick poll. If you have any of your own suggestions as to how to help a senior or person with a disability to overcome barriers associated with AT devices, feel free to share your thoughts.

[poll id=”5″]

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Tips for giving assistive technology gifts

  • For any of my readers who are not visually impaired, you may be wondering if giving a  friend or loved  one who has vision loss a gift of low vision    equipment, (or "assistive technology" as it is called),  is an appropriate gift.  I can understand your concern.  On the one hand, some of the best gifts are those that make someone’s life better or easier, on the other hand, you may be afraid that this type of gift might be received in much the same way as a book  about dieting might be.  In other words, you don’t want to insult someone, especially if  the recipient is really struggling with the emotional aspects of their vision loss.  You might be worried that giving this sort of gift would be acknowledging circumstances that the individual him or herself may not yet be ready or willing to acknowledge. 

    While you may be thinking that buying a friend this type of gift is about as exciting as giving a housewife a vacuum cleaner, consider your intention along with the particular needs of the recipient to make it a gift that keeps on giving.  Here are a few tips that may help you to identify the right gift for your special recipient.

    Educate yourself.  When it comes to assistive products, there is no one size fits all solution.  You may not realize, for example, that different types of vision loss manifests differently in different people.  Someone who has retinopathy does not literally see the world in exactly the same way as does a person who has macular degeneration.  Therefore, it might be a good idea to take the time to identify the specific needs of your gift recipient.  Learning a bit about how their particular disability affects them in day-to-day, real-world ways can help you to choose the most practical solution that is most effective and beneficial for them, as opposed to the latest whiz-bang gadget or gizmo.


    examine the packaging.  If you are giving a gift to a senior or a person who has a physical disability which may make it difficult to manage the product packaging, the impact of     your gift may be lost if the recipient can’t get to it.  Look for "frustration free" packaging, or simply prepare the gift in advance if you will be unable to be present at the time it’s opened.  remove plastic ties or shrink wrap, slice open the bubble plastic so that the container is easy to handle  (you can secure it with easier to manage clear tape), and check out the included instructions.  If the gift recipient has low or no vision, and the instructions are printed on paper, your recipient  will not be able to enjoy the gift if they do not possess the technology to scan and read the directions.  Take the time to record the instructions on tape, or provide them in some alternative format so that it is accessible to the recipient.  This extra step is part of the gift, and will be most appreciated.   

    Add the value of you.  If your friend or loved one is having a hard time coping with their changing circumstances, make the discovery of assistive technology a shared experience.  Learn alongside your loved one.  this will not only reduce the intimidation factor of what they perceive to be a complicated process, but the shared experience will benefit you both.


    Ask someone who would know.  Do you know someone else who has the same disability as your gift recipient?  If so, ask their opinion.  Is this the best version of this particular product?  Is it compatible with their current technology or equipment?  Is the product or gadget as effective as you believe it could be?  Will it do what the manufacturer says it will do?  Is there a more or less feature-rich version of this gift that would be more appropriate?  If you do not know someone who shares your loved one’s disability, go online and seek accessibility consultants or experts who will be glad to help.  there is far more information available than you may realize.  If you’ve come this far, it’s easy to continue to seek help.  Just type "assistive technology gifts" or "low vision aids" into your favorite search engine, and explore the results.  You’ll be amazed at the choices.  You might even discover that instead of buying an expensive gadget, there are innumerable ways to make existing items more accessible for people with disabilities.  Sometimes, keeping things simple can be the best solution of all.

    One word of caution.  When it comes to the notion of improving a person’s quality of life, ask yourself if you are really the best judge of what that is.  Sometimes, there can exist a very fine line between the desire to help and the desire to control.  Consider, for example how you might feel if someone concluded that your life was inadequate, and imposed all sorts of solutions that you did not want or need?  What if, say your real estate agent decided that you didn’t need such a big house, it is unnecessary, and therefore you will only be shown one bedroom houses?  Keep in mind that there are still people out there who fail to see the necessity of a computer or a cell phone.  As foreign an idea as that may be to you, they do not feel their life is any worse for the lack.


    On the other hand, a person who has a disability might really appreciate your contribution to what would otherwise be a purchase that is financially prohibitive.  The market for assistive tech gadgets is far smaller than that of the market for say, the latest hand-held device that has an "i" in front of the name.  Consequently, assistive products specifically for people with disabilities can be far more expensive than the mass-market counterparts.  If you are considering a gift certificate, check out the online retailers who specialize in these products.  Most offer gift certificates, and will even accept phone orders, which may be preferable for someone who does not yet have an accessible PC. 

    Good communication and a little extra investigation will yield the best gifts that your friend or loved one will use and enjoy, and you may give the best gift of all…the gift of love of learning, new experiences and fresh insights as to the exciting possibilities that await.  





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    How to bring home the season to seniors

    For many, the holiday season can be a difficult time under the best of circumstances.  Stress, brought on by increased demands on your time, errands to run, packages to mail and a long list of loved ones you hope to make happy, can rob you of your feelings of peace and harmony.  It’s easy to forget yourself, feel run down, catch that seasonal bug and feel frustrated that you cannot seem to get on top of your tasks.  Then, melancholy can set in.  Remembering those who should be with you but who are not, family traditions broken by distance or divorce can leave you feeling an inexplicable sense of emptiness or loss.  While the holidays are billed as the "most wonderful time of the year," you might find yourself asking, "What’s so wonderful about it?" 
    First, know that you are not alone.  If you look around, you’ll find company in many others who try to paste on a smile, grit their teeth and just hope to get through it.  If you look even closer, you’ll find that a large group of individuals who share your feelings are seniors and people with disabilities.
    Loneliness, borne out of isolation, can keep even the most optimistic among us from feeling as though we are connected to events and other people.  It’s hard to enjoy the holidays when we feel as though we have no one to enjoy them with.  Celebrating the holidays exclusively FOR the benefit of children, or solely to fulfill the expectations of others can be draining.  We all need to feel a sense of belonging, to have people in our lives with whom we feel connected and by whom we are acknowledged.  People with disabilities and the elderly are often marginalized in our culture, if not forgotten altogether.  Here are just a few ways you can bring some of the delights of the season to someone who is alone and isolated.  In doing so, you may discover that your own spirits lift; the gift you receive when you give of yourself.   
    Take a senior for a spin.  Bring a blanket, a thermos of hot chocolate, some snacks, a few holiday CD’s and pile into the car.  Go out for a while touring your community’s holiday light displays.  This will get that senior out of the house without subjecting them to any strenuous walking or uncomfortable visiting.  
    Savor the sounds of the season.  Whether you sing along or simply sit, bring a senior to a holiday concert.  Programs performed by children may be especially charming for an older person, although they may prefer music performed by a church choir or favorite musical group.
    Bring the holiday home.  Help a senior to decorate their home, even if it’s just to place a tabletop tree near the television or on a side table so that it’s easily seen.  Offer to help with tasks such as addressing and mailing holiday cards or gift wrapping.  If  an older person is too intimidated to work a stereo or CD player, or doesn’t own one,  bring yours over for an evening of hot cider and sweet treats and music.  Or, find their radio, set it to one of those radio stations  that play only holiday music all season, and mark the ‘on" button so a senior with failing eyesight can find it. 
    Take them in shopping.  Not OUT shopping, IN shopping.  If a senior or person with a disability cannot go out to shop, or they just don’t have the stamina to fight the crowds, bring over your laptop or phone and help them shop online.  Even if they cannot give gifts to their entire family, you can help them to purchase a gift basket or gourmet food item for a family gathering.  This way, they will know that they have made a contribution that will be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone. 
    Make a love connection.  Set up your webcam and Skype software so that they can visit "face to face" with loved ones across the country.  If a senior is unable to travel, connecting them to their children or granchildren in this way brings the magic of technology home in a way that is real and practical for them.  Fire up your laptop and let the love begin.

    Party hearty.  Well, within reason.  Find out if a local senior center is hosting a holiday lunch or gift exchange, and bring a lonely senior to spend the afternoon among peers.  The festive atmosphere can help them to connect with others, make friends and could even motivate them to get out a little more. 
    Strengthen spirit.  Some municipalities do not offer public transportation services on weekends.  Offer to take a home-bound friend or neighbor to their spiritual services of choice.  Many religious organizations provide special events, meals and programs just for their elderly parishioners.
    These are just a few tips to get you started.  Keep in mind that for seniors living in a facility such as assisted living or a group home, the reason they are there may be because close relatives are unavailable.  If a senior is in a nursing home for the first time, the unfamiliar surroundings may contribute to increased feelings of loneliness or homesickness.  Perhaps they have lost siblings, friends of their own, or they have recently lost their spouse.  Even if a senior is living at home, those first holidays alone can be extremely difficult.  Consider how you can help a person who is disabled or elderly to connect with a shared event like a holiday.  By reaching out, you can inspire in others a renewed interest in life and an increased desire to be a part of it.  Bring home for a senior the sights, sounds and sentiments of the season and you’ll be giving a gift to yourself, too.

    Copyright 2009-2012 by Laura Legendary.

    Holiday tunes that will make you laugh. Let’s lighten up!

    The holiday season seems to require a great deal of us.  Sometimes it can be awfully hard to find the joy in any of it.  For reasons of our own, the holiday time can be everything from slightly stressful to deeply depressing.  Therefore, I say let’s enjoy a little levity.  If you refuse to laugh, can we at least share a smile?  A little irreverence  is the spice of life.


    This first Hanukkah tune is called “Candlelight,” performed by the Maccabeats.  Got to love the creativity in the group’s name.  this one was new to me, thanks to tweep Marcella (@Abadi_Access)..




    Here’s the classic Adam Sandler tune.  Still cracks me up.


    The Hanukkah Song


    Have you ever really listened to the lyrics in the song “Mr. Grinch,” from the Dr. Suess  TV special “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”?  Absolutely hilarious.  The vocal inflection is priceless.


    You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch


    This next one isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s the favorite of a friend of mine, who insisted it be included.  You won’t be able to help yourself.  You’ll laugh.


    The Twelve Days of Kwanza


    This last one is so vulgar, I have to flag it as a “for mature audiences only” entry.  Still, I can’t get through it without laughing so hard I miss some of it.  It’s the classic South Park video, “The Spirit of Christmas".”  Don’t turn up the volume if you’re at work.  Enjoy.


    The Spirit of Christmas


    Okay, now it’s time to take requests.  Either submit a link to your own holiday parody, or write a title or lyrics of your own.  I’ll start.  How about a song about the hassles of the holidays, and all the things you must remember to do?  I call it, “Oh, Holy Crap.”


    Your turn!



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