How to Buy Products for People with Vision Loss
People are always asking where they can purchase products used by the blind and visually impaired. They are especially interested in talking watches and clocks, magnifiers, kitchen aids, games, greeting cards, calendars, books, tape recorders etc.
Sometimes you can find talking products such as watches and clocks at local retailers such as Radio Shack or Wal-Mart. Just take care to be sure that these products are truly accessible. For example, if you are buying a talking clock, try to set the time and alarm with your eyes shut; if the hours and minutes are spoken as you cycle through the time, then it can probably be used by a person who cannot see the display. Make sure the voice is clear and easy to understand. If the intended recipient has some useful vision, be sure the numbers on the display are large and that the contrast against the background is high.
Because there are more and more people with low vision these days (one of every four people over 80 has a visual impairment), local retailers are carrying more and more large print products. You can buy large print books at your local bookstore; if they don't have what you want on the shelves, ask if they can special order for you. But don't expect every title to be available in large print, and be aware that most large print books cost more than the standard print editions.
You can order many products from a handful of companies throughout the United States that specialize in items for people with vision loss. Many local agencies, both private and public, also sell products for the blind. Items purchased locally are usually more expensive because these agencies buy their merchandise from the mail-order companies and must recover shipping, processing and administrative costs.
When shopping for products for the blind and visually impaired, remember to compare prices and quality, just as you would for any other purchase. If you aren't sure about the quality or usefulness of a product, ask. If you don't know anyone personally who can help, feel free to email me here at Bella Online and I will be happy to try to assist you.
Check out our new "Products" section here in the Vision Issues area at Bella Online. You will find links to companies that offer a variety of products for the blind and visually impaired. Visit their websites to request catalogs or to search for specific products.
You may also want to join our "Focus on Vision" newsletter. We'll be featuring a different resource each week where you can find interesting and useful products for people who are blind or visually impaired.
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