Compiled by Katie Frederick, VisionAware Digital Content Manager
Editor’s Note: For more ideas about gifting to your friends and family with vision loss, listen to our gift giving webinar in which VisionAware Peer Advisors and special guest presenters shared their favorite holiday gift giving ideas. Also read their suggested list of gifts.
The Holidays Are Fast Approaching
With supply chain issues impacting availability of items, now is the perfect time to start shopping. If an individual experiencing blindness or vision loss is on your gift giving list this year, the VisionAware Peer Advisors have put together some creative, fun, free, low-cost, and helpful gift ideas.
- Peer advisor Audrey Demmitt recommends gifting plants. “At the holidays, I like to give an amaryllis bulb-growing kit to friends and neighbors. They are fun to watch–because they grow so fast from day to day until they finally bloom. It is a sturdy plant with big showy flowers.” Audrey suggests Christmas Cactus and Narcissus (paperwhites-very fragrant) growing kits make nice gifts too. If purchasing plants, why not include gift colorful decorative containers for them?
- Peer advisor Deanna Quietwater Noriega recommends creating candy wreaths. Materials needed for creating a candy wreath include a pair of colorful plastic scissors, green curly ribbon, a macrame hoop, a wide piece of velvet or wire edged ribbon, and wrapped colorful candy like those red and white striped peppermints or fruit flavored candy with twist ends. To make the wreath, Deanna says, “Using the curly ribbon, tie candy on the hoop, finish the wreath formed with a bow and a pair of scissors hanging from another strip of curly ribbon…The wreaths are easy to make and fun to receive, especially when the recipient likes a variety of candy, such as taffy, Jolly Ranchers, etc.”
- Additional imaginative gift ideas the peer advisors suggest are baked goods, attending a play with a friend, taking a friend to dinner, or inviting someone to dinner in your home, and watching holiday movies that are audio-described.
- For the individual who enjoys playing games, Audrey suggests “Five Second Rule” and “What’s Yours Like?”. Both games require one player read a card, with the rest of the players providing oral responses. According to Audrey, “Both are super fun and easy to learn!”
- Other fun gift giving ideas include lotions and soaps, cozy fuzzy socks, large print or braille playing cards, and keychains that allow voice recordings for quick notes.
- If an individual on your list enjoys reading but has a disability that prevents them from physically accessing print material (reading the material, holding the material, turning pages, etc.), the Library of Congress provides the National Library Service talking book program. This free service provides access to a catalog of thousands of audio and braille titles. Upon completing the application and qualifying for the program, eligible patrons can access the material via smartphone and tablet apps, or via a free machine that plays the audio cartridges provided by the library.
- For individuals adjusting to vision loss or new to blindness, Hadley offers free peer groups and workshops. Material is also available on the Hadley website for families and professionals assisting those with blindness or vision loss.
- In 2020, Michael Feir released Personal Power, the iOS edition, a guide for those interested in using Apple devices with VoiceOver. The guide can be downloaded for free in various file formats. Learn more about the guide by visiting Michael Feir’s Blog.
- Speaking of smartphones, there are numerous apps that make life a little easier for individuals living with blindness or vision loss. Highlighting a few for this year’s gift giving guide, these free apps help individuals recognize text, product barcodes, and more. Developed by Microsoft, the Seeing AI app for iOS is a free application; Android phone users can benefit from using the Lookout by Google.
- Give VisionAware’s Getting Started Guide with great tips for living with vision loss. You can download or order a free large print copy in English or Spanish.
Whether individuals on your list enjoy cooking or are navigating the kitchen after adjusting to vision loss, the following gadgets may help:
- Opening cans with vision loss can be difficult. This can opener available at Amazon.com, provides a safe way to open cans, illuminating sharp edges on the can and lid.
- If new knives are needed, a complete set of knives with sheaths provides a safe way to look for that knife that’s just right for the task at hand.
- Cutting mats are available in various colors and sizes and provide a no-fuss method to transfer items from the mat into a dish. Based on customer feedback, these are the five best sets of cutting mats.
- While prepping food, these food safety gloves are thin enough to provide protection and allow the cook to feel the item.
- Peer advisor Dayle Kane suggests the PenFriend labeler for labeling kitchen items and other important stuff. She says, “ It has four buttons though “record” and “Play’ are about all one needs.”
Note to reader: Peer Jeannie Johnson covered some cool cooking devices in her presentation at the gift webinar on November 19.
Outside the Kitchen
- Some additional low-cost gifts include subscriptions to Audible.com, which provides monthly credits for purchasing audio books. Audible subscribers can also access some podcasts, magazines and national newspapers, and Audible-original and Audible Plus content.
- Spotify is a music and podcast streaming service that offers free and premium content. Individuals can listen via the Internet, smartphone app, or by asking their smart speaker, such as an Amazon Echo device (see below), to play music or podcasts on Spotify.
Steve Kelley, VisionAware Peer Advisor, Hadley Instructor, and Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist for People with Visual Impairments (CATIS) offers the following suggestions:
- Amazon Echo from Amazon.com. The Echo Dot starts at $24.99 and full-size Amazon Echo 4th generation starts at $54.99. Photo by Find Experts at Kilta.com on Unsplash Hadley offers a free tutorial on using Alexa. And VisionAware offers some tips on how to use the Echo Dot effectively.
- Micro-Speak digital recorder from AT Guys for $59.99. Phone: (269) 216-4798.
- Keys-U-See large print keyboard black letters on yellow keys or large print white letters on black keys for $35.
- Apple iPod Touch at $199 is the least expensive way to get a new Apple device with VoiceOver (text to speech screen reader). Remember the iPod Touch is not a cell phone. Tip: Apple sells certified Apple refurbished items at https://www.apple.com/shop/refurbished such as a refurbished iPhone 8 for $319 (at the time of this writing).
- Victor Reader Stream 2 media player and recorder from Humanware for $425. The Stream is Wi-Fi enabled and will play Talking Books and a wide variety of file types.
Note to reader: Steve shared his tech ideas at the gift webinar.
We hope this compilation has given you some ideas for individuals on your list who are blind or experiencing vision loss. If you want to hear more great gift ideas for colleagues, family or friends, don’t forget to listen to our gift giving webinar.
Additional Gifting Information
AccessWorld Gift Guide