Tips and tricks that I have found useful

Lighting

When considering lights for the home, the difference between being able to see things clearly (such as when reading a book), or being able to see things in general in the house (such as navigating within the home), will depend on the lighting used, colour contrasts and your eyesight. This will also depend on where your lights are situated.

At present there are 2 main types of energy efficient bulbs you can buy on the market. These are CFL bulbs (which have the mercury in them and are known as compact fluorescent lights) and the newer ones called LED (light emitting diode) bulbs. They will come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and wattages for your needs. The main difference between the light they give out depends on which type of bulb you buy. If the bulbs are warm white, they will give out a yellowy light, which in most cases will make it harder for someone to say read a book with. If this same bulb was changed to a bright daylight bulb, it would be a much whiter light and make the text on the book easier to read.  The lighting achieved will also depend on the output of the bulb, where it is situated as well as your eye sight condition.

The best sort of bulbs to get for your house are called cool daylight (in the CFL bulbs) and cool white (in the LED bulbs). These type of bulbs will give out a whiter type of light and give more clarity to what you are seeing. It is more along the lines of a more natural type of light. For a test to see the difference between warm white and cool daylight (for CFL) or warm white and cool white (for LED) you could buy 2 bulbs of the same strength but in the 2 different types mentioned. Of course this will need to be compared in rooms of a similar size to be a fair comparison. You will see the difference between the two straight away, in terms of clarity in those rooms.

In terms of wattages, you may be able to put a lower wattage bulb in a smaller area such as a  toilet, and use brighter wattage bulbs in areas such as the kitchen or a reading area. Positioning of those lights or lamps also plays a part as does using clear shades (which let more light through) as opposed to shades which are not as transparent (which block out a lot more of the light). (For example instead of using a thicker coloured shade, you might try a clear glass shade instead).

In the Kitchen

Cold water from the tap

When you go to get a cold cup of water from the tap, put your glass under the tap nozzle, and turn on the water. With the hand that is holding the cup, put one finger inside of the cup to the level you want it, then when you feel it getting wet, turn off the tap.  Doing it that way every time, your cup will not get overfilled.  You can instead - just listen to the level of water. If it sounds like it's getting towards the top, in most cases it will be almost there. You can hear the sound of the water change as it rises.

Hot drink

If you are having a hot drink, it is just as easy to put your cup (or cups) on the left - near the sink edge, with the handles facing to the left.  When you get the jug, drop it down into the sink, and move it to where the cups are on the side of the sink.  Touch the nozzle of the jug lightly with your finger (so you don't get burnt), then touch the edge of the cup (so you can align the jug to the cup) and tip it (into the cup).  Repeat the process if more than one cup.  When going to tip it into the cup, you can either put your finger on the outside of the cup to the level you want it to go to, or in some cases people might do the same as they do with cold water on the inside.  Pour it in, and when your finger on the outside gets hot, you are there.  The same can be done for the milk as well. Alternatively you can microwave your water and add the sugar and milk to taste.

Some people also use liquid level indicators

They drop them onto the side of the cup with the prongs on the inside.  Once it gets to one level, (usually for hot water), it may make a beeping sound. When it gets to the next level, (usually for milk) it may make a longer beeping sound.  These will vary in sounds and may even vibrate as well.

Talking timer

While in the kitchen, using talking gadgets (such as a talking timer) may be handy. If a cake or meal is going to take a while to cook, you could set the talking part of a countdown timer to make sounds when the time is up. For example: when 40 minutes is up. It will usually count down until the alarm goes off.

Talking kitchen thermometer

Using a talking kitchen thermometer (for finding out if food is cooked at the right temperature) is great. When pushed into the cake or meat product you are cooking, within a few seconds it will give you the temperature of the food. Most foods will have a certain temperature they have to reach, so you know when they are cooked properly. For example 80'C + for meat. You can check to see if a cake is cooked by pressing gently on it, and if it springs back up then it is cooked. You can also tell by the smell of the cake or whatever food it is that you are cooking whether it is ready or not.

Easy to see or talking kitchen scales

Using either an easy to see kitchen scale (or talking kitchen scales) can greatly help when measuring out food. In the case of talking kitchen scales, most will weigh in 5 gram increments giving you feedback as you go.

Using Talking kitchen scales to measure liquid

Did you know that you can use your talking kitchen scales to measure liquid? If you have a plastic water jug, put it onto the talking kitchen scales. You will need to tare it (that is bring it back to zero) to take into account the weight of the container. Next, pour your liquid into the jug to the amount required (for example 300mls). 300 mls is equal to 300 grams and so on.
The scales will usually do either 1 gram or 5 gram increments up to about 5 kilograms.

Tactile timers

Some people have found tactile timers quite good. These are usually in increments of about two and a half minutes (although this may vary), and will just be turned around to the amount of time required. These will come in various sizes from a smaller unit to a large easy to see timer. Having black numbers on a white background will make these easier to see as well.

If you keep your things organised, it makes it a lot easier to find them

Some of these examples would be: having the pots say to the left of the cupboard, and your baking trays off to the right.  There may be many variations of organising stuff in your cupboards.  In your pull out drawers, have the most commonly used stuff at the top like knives and forks.  Underneath them could be your cooking utensils; the next drawer could be your foils, gladwraps and so on, and the last could be a junk drawer for different bits and pieces.

Food

Your food should be organised as well, to make it easier to find. (Eg. all baked beans in one section, spaghetti next to that, and fruit salad off to the right again). It will depend on the person as to how they have it done. Some people also have their food labeled.  It could be a large sticker stuck onto a container, and written on in large text with a thick permanent marker. They might have a braille label that is stuck onto a lid, or the side of a container. That same brailled label could also be on a magnet, so that it sticks to the can (or metal object) that it is on. Also, being on a magnetic label, it could be used over and over again. You need to know at least grade 1 braille to read what has been brailled onto a tactile label. Large print labels are only good if you have some useful vision.

Stoves

For your stove, braille labels on a magnetic back, bumpons and long oven gloves.
If you have the brailled label above the knob (so you can run your finger across it), it helps you tell the difference between the front and back hot plates. (Use logical lettering for the hotplates Eg. LF for left front, LR for left rear, RR for right rear, and RF for right front). Bumpons can also be used for marking the most commonly used cooking functions and temperatures (Eg. put a bump on at "180'C", or on the "bake" setting etc). These come in different colours, shapes and sizes and can be used on a variety of things. They usually have a sticky back, so they can stick to the surface they're being applied to. When you are putting meat into the oven or even getting it out, it would be a good idea to wear oven gloves that go up to your elbows. This way if you have to reach right into the oven, there should be no chance of being burnt.

Velcro

Velcro is also great and comes in a variety of colours.  White and black are usually used for different things (Eg. use white on a white appliance such as a washing machine or heater, and use black on black appliances such as a black stereo).  Make sure you grab the velcro with the sticky back; that way it can stick onto different surfaces, and never seems to come off (providing that you keep that area clean). Its great as a tactile marker on things like stoves, gas heaters and so on.  The rough velcro is the best to use, and can also be cut to whatever size you need.

Nail polish (also known as nail varnish)

For the ladies, nail polish has been used as well for markers!

Bling (also known as rhinestones)

Have you heard of phone bling?  It can be bought at a variety of shops - in different colours, shapes and sizes - to be stuck onto your phones. They are a tactile bump with a sticky back. I have used these for tactile markers on my stove as well, and they seem to do the trick. They cost about $2 NZ, and the packs have quite a few in them. I have tended to stick with clear ones myself. Other names that "bling" come under are "rhinestones", "cellphone decor" and "phone jewellery". There may be many other names for the same thing.

PenFriend Audio Labeller

Not only for the kitchen, but anywhere in your house! At the moment, the best thing I have come across is the PenFriend.  It is an audio labeller for the blind. It is so much quicker to find stuff in your cupboard or freezer, once it has been labelled.  It is a matter of just running your PenFriend over the label you have done.  Please click on the following link for a demonstration of the product and how it is used.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePE0-U73Ajc
Even if your cupboard is not well organised, once you have labelled your items with the PenFriend, you can find what you are looking for very quickly. I will give some tips on another page on how to get the most out of your PenFriend audio labeller (from my own experiences).  Please click on the following link if you would like to find out more. http://accessibilitycentral.net/penfriend%20ideas.html

Pots and pans

When cooking in the kitchen with pots and pans, always make sure your elements are turned off when putting pots onto the elements.  This way you can make sure the pots and pans are lined up correctly on top of them. Having the handles put to either 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock on the stove helps you find them quickly again if needed. If you are left handed, having them face the 8 o'clock to 9 o'clock direction will help as well. Just make sure your handles are not over a heated element when doing this, as they may melt or you may end up burning your hand.

Flexible chopping boards

Using a flexible chopping board helps a lot as well.  These can come in different colours, so they can be easily found. The best sort to get are the ones where the two sides can fold inwards on the left and right hand side.  This will make it easier to tip whatever it may be into pots and bowls etcetera, without the food falling out the side.

Dropping items, and how to locate them again

When dropping items, it can sometimes be difficult to rely on eyesight to locate the item, so we need to rely on our other senses such as hearing and touch. Listen for the general direction that the item went in. Drop to your knees and move your hand in a sweeping motion towards you until you locate it. Be methodic in your sweeping (that is scan an area, then moving a handspan backwards, scan across again until you have checked the whole area) so that you cover a wider area rather than go over the same old ground each time. Sweeping the item towards you will mean that you are bringing it closer rather than pushing it further away. Doing it in sections will mean that you are not missing areas. This is a little harder on carpet, but the same principle applies. This process can be used anywhere, although outdoors on grass may be quite difficult depending on the size of the item, yet something dropped on a cement surface may be a little easier to locate.

Microwaves - flat panel, manual and talking

When buying a new (or second hand) microwave, look for good colour contrasts. (For example, black text on a white background). Look also to see that the text and numbers on the keys are either bold or easy to see). Most microwaves today are usually flat panel. This unfortunately means that there is no real way of telling which buttons they are without them being marked in some sort of way. Some type of marker will be required to mark commonly used buttons on the microwave. (For example, the power level button, the ten or one minute button, and most importantly the start button). What is marked on one of these will depend on the person you are doing it for.

There are still manual microwaves out there to be bought, making it a lot easier for the person to use. These microwaves will generally have two dials. The top one is usually for the different heating levels, and the bottom one is usually for the time required. Make sure you get one that you can hear click (or feel) when changing power levels, as free spinning ones may be harder to use. Both the different power levels dial and the time dial can be marked just above the dial itself. (You may choose to mark them using something such as bling or clear bumpons etcetera). Different size bling can help you determine between different power levels. (For example use bigger bling or markers for high, and make them get smaller as you go down through the levels). The time dial can be marked at different time intervals. (For example every 2 minutes).  The other option is buying a talking microwave. Each time you press a key, it will announce what key has been pressed. These are great to use, and having audible feedback spoken to you may even help the novice cooker.

Using your other senses

Hearing

When a person starts losing their eyesight, that person becomes more aware of their other senses. You will find in most cases their hearing will improve unless they have some type of hearing difficulty. Because they are not using their eyes as much, they start to rely more on their hearing. For example, if you shut your eyes and walk down your hallway, after a while you should be able to pick up where doors are in your house especially when they are open. You will find that you will be able to hear the difference between the wall being there and when the wall isn't. It takes time to tune in your hearing. You will need to practise. You could try standing on a street corner and listen to see which way the traffic is flowing. After a while you will learn to recognise traffic sounds, which way the traffic is going and when it is safe to cross.

Smell

When cooking, where at one time you may have used your sight to see if meat etcetera was cooked, you will find you will develop a better sense of smell. For example, when meat is being cooked and you want it well done you will learn to differentiate between barely cooked and well cooked.This is the same for other things you may want to cook like cakes and cookies. You could also use a talking kitchen thermometer to be on the safe side. If you are a smoker (and have a diminished sense of smell) this may not be so.

Taste

You will find that your taste buds will get more of a working out as well. Unless you label your foods with either print, braille, or the new toy in town called the pen friend, you may easily mistake salt for sugar and so on. Something as simple as putting your finger into the container and tasting the contents can be the difference between a nice cuppa and one that is not. After a while (as mentioned above with the sense of smell), you will be able to pick up on the taste of the different products that you use.

Touch

You will become more aware by using the sense of touch if surfaces are clean, rough or smooth, and what they are made of instead of just looking at them. Something else that is simple to start picking up on as well, is the different surfaces you walk on (whether this be in bare feet or with shoes on). After a while you will be able to tell whether you are walking on grass, dirt, footpaths and so on.

Bathrooms and other wet areas

Washing machines

When looking at a new or second hand washing machine, most machines now are electronic. If you are buying the new ones with push buttons, most if not all, will beep when the buttons are pressed. This is usually no good if you are visually impaired and trying to find out what setting you are attempting to put it on. (For example, hot water with a full load). Again, the Penfriend can be used here. Regardless of the type of machine you are buying, please read on for some helpful ideas.

If you would like to use every function of the washing machine, ask a sighted person to read out the name of the button, as well as the function enabled each time it is pressed.  (That is, the name of the button for example water level, and what function each press enables for example low, medium or high) and record it with the Penfriend. This will need to be done when you first turn the machine on. Remember, also record what the machine defaults to as most machines will have a default setting. Record the information about each button and each press of it, from left to right on the washing machine. This will greatly assist you if you want to use all options. It is then simply a matter of listening to the setting you want as you hear it read out with your penfriend, and pushing the relevant buttons. Most new push button machines now also have a button on them called fuzzy logic. This means if used it may be a matter of just pushing a couple of buttons to do a load of washing. (For example 1 to turn the power on, and 2 to start whatever that default setting is). These machines are great if you use the same washing machine cycle all the time. They are usually preprogrammed as well for certain commonly used cycles.  Generally, when the washing machine is turned off and then turned back on it will go back to the default settings, where you can start all over again, depending on what you want to do.

The other sort are the manual washing machines.  These will usually have dials you can move around to certain settings. The best sort to get are the ones that click as you move them to each position. These can also be marked for the most commonly used settings.

The other things to consider when purchasing a machine are where you put your powder (or liquid) in, and how easy (or otherwise) it is to clean the filter. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions!

Identifying objects in your bathroom

Tie a bit of string/chain to your plug and make the loop big enough to fit over your tap (for easier location next time). This not only makes it easy to locate in the sink/bath, but also easier to locate the next time you need to use it - if returned to the same position each time (that is left over the tap when you are finished). If there are no soap holders, get yourself a bath mit (where the soap goes on the inside) and use the pull string to hang it from.  Use non slip mats in baths and showers to prevent falls. Use contrasting colours so that items are easier to locate (for example a cream hand towel on a darker background). When using shampoo and conditioner, identify one of the items by using a rubber band. (For example shampoo has a band on it and the conditioner doesn't etcetera). If you have a medicine cabinet in your bathroom, or take tablets, you could consider a large print, 7 day tablet box. These nowadays come with braille dots, large print and some even in highly visible colours. A PenFriend may be great for labelling your medicines and their boxes as well. In the shower itself, you could use a shower caddy. These are great for keeping shampoo and conditioner or soaps in the same place and at an easy to get to height. Only keep a couple of items in the caddy at any one time, and you can organise it in levels to suit yourself (example hubby's stuff on the first level and your stuff on the second level). Just mark things so you can easily tell the difference.

Large digit bathroom scales

If you are finding it hard to see your bathroom scales, you may be able to get easy to see large number display bathroom scales. These are usually the older type where the scale weigh spins around in the display. Having black numbers on a white background will help. For LCD bathroom scales, having large LCD numbers may help as well depending on your vision.

Talking bathroom scales

If you don't mind your weight being spoken out, talking bathroom scales are great too. These will usually weigh in 100 gram increments. Don't jump off in a hurry if it said you put on weight.  They don't lie.

General tips for around the house

While looking around the house for different things that we come across, it showed me just how much people actually rely on their sight. A lot of things are visual. There are however ways in which to identify things easily using tactile clues.

Using phones and other related components

The easiest way to use a home phone is to put your three middle fingers onto the 4, 5, and 6 keys. These are known as your home keys. The left finger will go onto the number 4. The middle finger will go onto the number 5 (which usually has a little dot on it) and the right finger will go onto the number six. This way is a lot quicker and easier to do, rather than using your sight. To make a call, move your left finger either up to the number one or down to the number seven. Where your finger is on the number five, this can be moved up to the number two or down to the number eight. The last finger on the right can be moved up to the number three or down to the number nine. Keeping your fingers on (or locating the home keys first - which are the four, five and six buttons) and leaving the other fingers on the home keys (while moving the fingers up and down to the required numbers) will make your life easier. Buying a phone with speed dials helps in the long run as well. Once the number has been programmed in, it is a matter of hitting that speed dial. Big button phones with speed dials (such as the Doro 311C) may help people with a little sight.

Storing information

Some people may use a large print address book to keep their phone numbers in. Others may choose to print phone numbers and other details out in large print from their computer. With computers now, people can save the details in text files and have them read out by a screen reader, or read out off their mobile phone if their phone has screen reader support (for example an Iphone).  Keeping a voice recorder next to your phone is good for taking messages quickly when you can't find a piece of paper to write the message down on. Keeping a wide marking pen in black is good for writing down messages in large print onto a piece of white paper.  This can make it easier to read back later on if you have some useful sight. 

Audible devices

Having an answering machine is great as well. This way, you don't have to run or move quickly to a phone (where accidents can happen along the way). If the call is important the person will leave a message, and if not they won't. On most answering machines you can listen to the person leaving a message. This will determine whether you pick up the call straight away or call them back later on. When buying an answering machine, look for what it can do. This may be printed on the outside of the box, however more detailed information can usually be gained from the user manual. Most answering machines will tell you how many messages there are. They may even give spoken date and time stamps, along with audible beeps for new messages. Here as well, check out the answering machine to see how easy it may be to use once setup. This may vary from machine to machine. Tactile buttons make it easier to locate different functions on the answering machine. You can mark the ones that you use the most (such as the play or delete button). Another useful item for phones is a talking caller ID. A caller ID service is required for this at a small cost.  The talking caller ID units may be already built into the phone (for example on the Uniden SSE25 and Uniden SSE27 models), or they can be purchased separately from your local Blind Foundation. They may read out the incoming number and / or name as long as it has not been blocked. Contact your phone provider for more information on this service. Sometimes, people may want to braille the numbers onto their phones to make it easier to use. There are also some phones which come with braille already on the buttons.

Door handles and light switches

In most cases, your door handles and light switches in modern homes are at a standard height. To locate a door handle, drop your arm down to your side, then bend it at about a 90 degree angle. In most cases, this will be about the right height for standard handles.  Light switches are generally about a hand span above this measurement. This may vary slightly dependent upon your height. In older homes, handles and switches can be lower or higher.

Clothing

Keeping your clothes organised into certain areas makes it a lot easier to find the bit of clothing you are looking for (Eg. jeans in one section, shorts in another). Some people may put them into certain categories such as colours, or clothes that match other clothing. If they have a little sight, they may take it to a well lit window, and hopefully be able to judge the colour of their clothing that they are going to wear.

Puff paint put onto a clothing tag can make it easier to work out what colour you are wearing.  If you know at least the basics of braille, you could also braille the colour of the item onto the tag. On a blue top, there could be a brailled B and E, or a green top could be the letter G and N. If it is a dark or light colour, you could have the letter D for dark, or L for light -following the first and last letters of the colour. (Eg. Light blue would be BE L, and dark green would be GN D).There may be plenty of variations that you could use. People will come up with their own way of labelling and may use whole words, abbreviations, numbers that are colour coded or even shapes. Tags are also available pre-printed in braille. Use whichever means of labelling you find easier to remember.

To tell which way your clothing goes on is quite easy, once you get used to it.  In most cases on jackets, shirts etc, the tags will usually be at the backButtons and zips on jackets and pants etc, will usually be at the front.  This will usually be the same for jeans. As with any piece of clothing, there might be exceptions.

To tell which way your clothing is, check your seams. If your clothing is on the right way, usually the seams will be on the inside of your garment.  If the seams are on the outside, and the tag is on the outside as well, it is generally inside out. Again, some clothing has small  labels on the outside deliberately.

Shoes and footwear

Storage

With shoes and footwear, you could leave them in the shoebox when you get them, and you could label the box either in braille or a permanent marker. You could also put them into a shoe rack, or some type of cubbyhole, to keep them paired up.  If they have shoe laces, tying them together helps as well.  If there are no shoelaces, try a bit of elastic around the shoes to keep them together.  Just make it so it's tight around the shoes, but still easy enough to get them out. It works quite well. Another more recent suggestion is to use spring loaded pegs to hold them together, as these are easy to put on and take off.

Telling the difference between your left and right shoe

Grab a pair of matching shoes. Pick up one and run your left hand down the left side of the shoe and sole. If it is straight it is your left. If not, it is your right. The other way is to put both shoes together, and if they are flat against each other, you have them around the wrong way. There should always be a small gap between the two of them. I have also heard of someone using a PenFriend audio labeller to identify shoes that are hard to tell apart - especially if you have two pairs the same but in different colours.

Sock tuckers

Sock tuckers (which have been made to keep socks in a pair) are great.  They may come in a variety of names (Eg. sock tuckers, sock pairers, duo socks, and sock sorters etc).  Their job is to keep your socks together as a pair. Once taken off and slipped through the hole, the sock tuckers keep the socks together - through the wash, on the line or in the dryer.
These are usually made from plastic in various designs, and will have two holes in them to put your socks through.
I have seen versions where there is only one hole in them.

To put a plug into a power point

Locate the power point. Make sure the power is off. Then, scan down (or across) the powerpoint with your fingers to locate the three holes for the plug to go into. If using a 2 pronged plug, with your pointer finger on your left hand, locate the left hole of the top two holes on the power point. With your other hand, put your right pointer on the right prong of the plug, then move it closer, and line it up with the other finger (from your left hand), then just plug it in. For a 3 pronged plug, repeat the process to locate the holes. This time, put your left pointer finger on the bottom hole, and the right middle finger on the bottom prong on the plug. Move it towards the other finger on the powerpoint until it touches / lines up, and plug it in.

Navigating a new house

Whether learning new features in your own home (eg. when a deck is put on), or learning the layout of a friend's home that you are visiting (or staying at), you will need to get someone to show you the layout so that you can picture it in your head. If you are visiting for a short while you may only need to locate certain rooms (eg. the toilet and the bathroom). You could however get the person to guide you through the whole house and show you where the different rooms are if you are staying overnight.

Large print, good colour contrast, lighting and magnification for reading

If you are starting to lose your sight, using a large print cook book may help you. The same can be said for easy to see calenders.  These are usually in large print and have good colour contrasts. In some cases, a magnifier may be able to help you read different things such as power bills, telephone books and so on. In most cases, two times magnification on a magnifier will greatly help.  These can be bought at stamp shops and other various places. The more you lose your vision, the more your magnification will need to increase. Some of these magnifiers will also have built in LED's to shine a light onto what you are looking at. The bigger the viewing area the more you will see. If you are registered as a blind member and still wish to read, you may also be able to hire a CCTV (personal video magnifier) which will both magnify the item and use lighting to enable you to see what you are reading. If you happen to live in (or are visiting) the Taranaki area, any member of the public is allowed to go into the public libraries in Eltham, Stratford, Inglewood and Waitara and use the video magnifier for free. Please ask a staff member for assistance if using this for the first time!

Things that sighted people can do to assist

If you notice your family member is losing their sight and finding it harder to work out where things are, be nice to them and don't move the furniture around on them (and not tell them) - as they may just walk straight into that bit of furniture. Be careful not to leave items on the ground that they can trip over. Lastly, don't move items from where they were put by the visually impaired or blind person.  This may take them a while to find what they are looking for if moved. For more ideas on how to best assist a blind or visually impaired person, please see my "ways you can help us" page by clicking on the following link. http://accessibilitycentral.net/ways%20you%20can%20help%20us.html

Locating keys

The most commonly lost items in the house are your keys. You put them down somewhere and at times you forget where they are. You could always use a key holder, where your keys can be kept when not in use. Just remember to put them back there (say after you come back from shopping or wherever it may be).  It will be easier to find the keys next time. Another option is to get a key finder. Don't get one that you whistle to, you will regret buying it. There are units out there which can hold from one to five finders on them. The base unit will stay on the key holder and the other receiver units will go onto your keys. It is a matter of pressing one of the buttons on the main unit to get them to locate your keys.  This will usually make a beeping sound so that you are then able to locate them.

Identifying keys

Once you have located your keys, you may also want to identify a specific key (such as your main door key). To do this,you can purchase a key identifier for less than $1 from your local Mitre 10 store. It goes around the head of the key that you want to make stand out from the rest. They are available in a variety of bright colours, although older people may need assistance to initially put them on the key. Alternatively, you may wish to mark your key with a sticker, or puff paint etcetera. So you may wish to have one dot for the front door key and two dots for your garden shed key etcetera.

Safely locating the hole on a nozzle for spraying

Sometimes when people go to use a spray of some kind (whether it be a perfume bottle or a can of fly spray), they do not automatically know which way the spray will come out. The easiest way to identify this is to locate the top of the nozzle, then run your finger around the side of the nozzle until you locate the hole. Once you have located the hole where the spray comes out, point it in the direction you want. I have seen people just press the nozzle and the spray has gone in a totally different direction to where they wanted it. It only takes a second to locate it, and it may avoid unnecessary mishaps.

Marking your dryer

If you are one of those who take the easy way out and take your clothes from the washing machine straight to the dryer, having the dryer marked is great. For the hottest setting you could mark it with bumpons or something similar. A big bumpon could be for hot, a medium sized one for warm and either a small one for cold or have none. Marking your timer in 30 minute segments, will give you an idea of how long you are putting the dryer on for.

Identifying a staircase inside a house

In some cases where people have a 2 storey house (with a staircase with a lot of steps), a lockable gate has been used on the top level at the upper entrance to the staircase. This alerts the person when he has reached the top of the staircase and also alerts him (and stops him from falling down them) when descending. If you have little children, it makes sense to have one there as well. You may also mark the bottom of the stairs by using a rubber mat.

Colour contrast

In some cases using high contrast colours will help (for example, on a computer white text on a black background or black text on a white background). Another example is a plate on a table. Don't put a white plate on a white table cloth as it will not be seen. Perhaps you could use a white plate with a burgundy background instead.



Tips for using technology (such as computers and so on)

Magnification software

Magnification software is available to enlarge what you see on the computer screen. Some operating systems (such as Windows 7) have magnification built in. You can also download a free or low cost magnification programme for your computer.

OCR Software

OCR software is available with most printer scanners. It stands for optical character recognition. In plain English, when you scan a document, then OCR it (using the software provided with the scanner), it recognises characters in that document and translates them into a text file.This text file can then be saved as a document for later retrieval. If using a screen reader, you can scan (for example a letter you received in the mail) then OCR it. Once scanned, OCR'd and saved, the screen reader should be able to read it back to you. You can choose to save it as a text file or perhaps even a PDF (if available).

Having information read out to you

In some cases, you may have saved information onto your computer, so that you can have it read back out to you later on. Once your computer has booted up, you can use your screen reader to read out that information. This may be phone numbers, addresses and so on. If you do not have a screen reader, you are welcome to download the free NVDA screen reader in order to be able to do this. It is available from: http://www.nvda-project.org Most people now, are starting to use netbooks or laptops for this, because of the portability they provide compared to a desktop computer which cannot provide the same portability.  In other cases, with the new digital talking book machines, they may have an SD card slot (or other ways) to access that same information.  You could type up a recipe in a word processing programme, save it as a doc file, then (once the SD card has been inserted into your computer's card reader) move the file onto it. Later on, you could put your SD card into the SD card slot on your digital talking book machine, and have your text to speech voice on it read the recipe back out to you.  Check with your player to see what formats are supported (such as in doc files, audio files and so on).

Voice recorders

Also known as notetakers, voice recorders can be used both inside and outside the home. Keeping one near a phone means that you can record information and details quickly - if a pen and paper are not handy. It is also useful for leaving a message for other people in your home or putting your shopping list onto and taking with you to the shop.

Word processors

When using a word processor, use a font that is clear and easy to read like Arial. Also, set your font to a larger font size like 16 or 18. This will make it easier to read when you print it out later on.

Colour contrast

Using good colour contrasts can make a difference as well. For example, using white text on a black background or vice versa.  On your computer, this can be done through the accessibility part of Windows, as well as under the Control panel...display settings...appearance section. Here, you can also enlarge the size of the icons, menus and so on.  Some other technologies (such as other types of phones and electronic devices), may also offer large print, colour contrast, magnification and or speech options. One example is the I-phone.

Paying bills

Paying bills is something we all have to do when we get older. Most of our bills are paper based bills. We could use either a video magnifier, or in other cases the bills could be scanned in by a scanner (with OCR software), and once converted to text, a screen reader could read out what has been written. The easiest way I have found now, is to get my bills sent to me via email. This is usually in a pdf format and can be read out by most screen readers. You can also use your screen reader to check bank balances and other information as well. Having your bills come out automatically - or by direct debit - is good too. The banks can help you set up these services if you desire. This can also cut down on trips to the post office etcetera for you to pay them (if set up this way). If you have internet banking, you can always check online to see if all of your bills have gone out. For those who prefer not to use technology or who simply like the over the counter service, just let the person serving you know that you may need assistance to pay your bills.

Magnification

Sighted assistance (when you do not have magnification available)

In places where you will be required to fill out some type of form, don't be afraid to ask the person to read out the form to you, so you know what needs to be filled in. Usually if asked, the person requiring you to fill in the form will fill it in for you with your answers. If you don't understand exactly what they are saying, say in a legal office, ask them to put it into plain English so you can understand things better.

When a form has to be signed don't be afraid again to ask them to put your pointer finger on the spot where they want you to sign. Make sure you don't have the form on an angle (as it may be when you sign it), as you may sign up or down the form on an angle (instead of it being as close as it can be to the line where the signature is required). If you use your pointer finger as a marker you can sign to the right of it as straight as you possibly can. Envelope guides and signature guides can also be used so that you can write in a straight line on the envelope or form.

Another thing you may ask a sighted person is to read you a price tag (if you have forgotten your portable magnifier and the text is too small to see clearly). Most shop assistants are more than happy to inform you of pricing on their range of products. In places such as some food shops, personal shoppers are even available for those who cannot see to shop on their own.

Handheld magnifiers

To help you read things more clearly (such as bills, clothing tags and so on) a portable magnifier may assist you. These come in different shapes, sizes and magnifications and now quite a few of them are coming out with LED lights built into them. These can be picked up quite cheaply from different locations (such as stamp dealers, variety shops - that sell just about anything and everything and your local Blind Foundation). In most cases, these types of magnifiers will be adequate to do common tasks. If a person needs a lot higher magnification, there may be other options available.

Portable electronic handheld magnifiers

If you need a magnifier that can go portable, with different colour combinations and magnifications built into it, the cost for these type of units will increase. They will let you have different colour combinations such as black text on a white background, white text on a black background, yellow text on a black background and so on; (along with different magnification levels) all in one hand held device. The batteries will vary from unit to unit as to how long they last. These again come in different sizes.

Desktop magnifiers (such as CCTV's)

For home use, a desktop magnifier may be suitable for an individuals magnification needs. These bigger units will allow a person to read a book with even higher magnification than a hand held magnifier may give them. They will also allow different colour combinations - depending on the unit the person has obtained. For example, the Aladdin Classic - which does only a couple of colour combinations - (such as black text on a white background, or the opposite - white text on a black background) compared to the Aladdin Genie Pro, (which will have a whole selection of different colour modes - for example yellow text on a black background, white text on a blue background and so on).
These are more expensive than the electronic hand held units and not as portable as the smaller units. They do take up a little bit of room,  so you will need to find a small table to put them on. Desktop magnifiers can be moved but are reasonably heavy compared to lighter weight magnifiers. However, an advantage is that they can be moved to another room if needed and they also allow for greater magnification for reading books, receipts and so on. Using a colour magnifier you can also enlarge coloured photographs with ease to see smaller details.

Software magnifiers

Software magnifiers can be found on a variety of devices. These may include a smart phone (such as the Apple I phone), touch devices (such as I Pads, tablets/slates and so on) or may come as a separate download for your device.

Some operating systems (such as Windows) will have a magnification programme built into them. For example, a full screen magnifier is available in Windows 7 and 8 and also on Apple devices. These magnifiers are usually found under the accessibility sections of those operating systems. If you don't choose to use the magnifiers that come with these operating systems, you can obtain other magnification programmes from other sources off the internet or through your provider of the software to that device. For example I tunes, Google play store and so on.

There are a variety of magnification programmes available depending on the device you wish to put it onto. There are also professional adaptive technology companies that sell software independently for various devices.

Outside the house

Social/support groups

If you have just lost your sight (or are in the process of losing your sight), the best thing to do before you lose most of your vision is to join a social/support group. This way, you will meet other people who might be in the same boat as yourself. When we are new to blindness we often think that we are the only people who are in that boat with visual impairment or blindness. This is not the case. There are usually a variety of different groups you can join. Your local Blind Foundation should be able to point you in the right direction to join one of these groups. This could be a blind sports group (such as blind cricket) or simply a meet and eat group. This way you can meet other people who are visually impaired or blind and swap stories, tips and tricks and so on. This may also be good if you have a sighted partner for them to learn how to help someone in that situation as well (in whatever way they can). Joining a group is also great for sighted partners to be able to meet other partners and share ideas and stories etcetera. In most cases when first diagnosed, the sighted partner doesn't know what you are going through, what you can see or not see, and how they can help you in every day life. Some of the Blind Foundations will have simulation glasses that your sighted partner or friend may be able to look through to get a better idea of what your visually impaired partner or friend may see. While looking through these simulation glasses they might even (if allowed) pass you some items to look at. Trying on the simulation glasses and learning what it feels like to have things passed to you under those conditions, may give someone a basic insight into what may or may not be able to be seen and the best ways to offer assistance. (For example, it may give you a better idea about eyesight related equipment (for example talking clocks), or a better idea about alerting the person when you are approaching them, and describing what it is you are giving them).

Locating your dog

Whether you have a guide dog or a pet dog, the best way to keep track of them at home or in the yard is to put a bell on their collar. This way you can hear wherever they may go around your property. If you have both a guide dog and a pet dog of similar size and breed, to tell the difference either have 2 different types of collars, or one bell on one and two on the other. Also while out on walks with your guide dog or pet dog, buying a collapsible foldable bowl is very useful. This way, you have a food bowl for use at any time, not to mention a water bowl when you find a tap while on your journey. When it is not being used you can keep plastic bags inside of it for those unexpected surprises that may happen from time to time. These items can be brought from the 2 and 5 dollar shops, pets shops and so on.

Learning a new route

When you are learning a new route or a new shop to go to, having a sighted person go with you is of great help. Once you have been there a couple of times (especially to a new shop), taking some bribery with you doesn't hurt. This can be in the form of dog biscuits to help your new guide dog find the shop and remember it a lot quicker. Over time, you can drop back the dog biscuits and put praise and pats in its place.

Signing documents

When you have to sign your signature on a form, you could either use a signature guide to do this (so your name is signed in a straight line) or you could ask someone like a bank teller to place your finger on the spot where they would like you to sign. (For example, if you are right handed, ask the bank teller to place your left pointer finger on the spot to be signed, then using the other hand use it to sign the document).

Locating a door handle on a vehicle

Getting in and out of a car can be quite easy if you know how.   The easiest way to find out where a door handle is on a car, is if you are sitting (for example in the front passengers seat), before you go to find the handle, find out where the windscreen of the car is. Run your finger across it from left to right, then once it hits the metal frame, move it directly down, till the windows stops, and down a little bit more, it should line up with your door handle every time.  (This should work for the front and rear most times). The same can be done for the bottom of the window, just run your finger along the bottom of it till it stops, and in most cases the handle lines up underneath.  If you want the rear door just repeat the process.  We all may have different ways of finding it on a car. If it is an unfamiliar car that you do not normally travel in, you could simply ask where the handle is.

Getting in and out of the vehicle

When you go to hop into the car, (for example a door on the left hand side of the car), open the door, leaving your left hand on the top of the door (to keep it open and minimise any possible injury from wind gusts), and put your right hand on the door frame. Make sure that your thumb is on the underside of the door frame and your fingers are on the roof. Slide in your right foot and then move onto the seat. Carefully (while still holding the roof) slide your right hand onto the underside of the roof and keep it above your head as you enter so that it protects you from banging your head on the way in. When you go to sit on the seat and slide in, your right hand will protect you. It also lets you judge how much room you have to get into the car. Once your right foot is in and you are comfortably on the seat, move your left foot inside also. Then, once everything is clear of the door, just grab the handle and shut the door. Put your seat belt on as usual. In most cases, to get out of a car, where your arm rest is on the car door - the handle is usually near the front of it, and up a little. You will usually find the handle every time. If not, just scan with your fingers or run your fingers across the door (usually above the arm rest) to find it.

Steps

For steps outside, we painted a white line about 5cm thick, which ran the width of the step. It was also painted on the top lip (just as the step drops down), directly below where you painted the first part.  This way, if you were coming up the steps you could see where they were, and the same thing for going down. This is useful if you have a little sight.

Garden

When out in the garden, regardless of whether you have a vege garden or flower garden, having a raised garden can be quite good.  It lets you know how big your garden is, and where it ends.  Some people may paint the frame white, making it easier to find. Garden stakes can be painted white as well, to show the placement of plants. The same idea can also be used when planting a vege garden. Place one stake on each end, and a piece of string from one end to the other. This shows you where to plant, as well as where you've planted your veges when you need to find them again. If planted under the line of string, they will be easier to locate. It's a good idea to label your rows of veges as well, whether it be done in braille, puff paint, or large print.  That way, it makes it easier to find what you are looking for quickly. A label tied to a piece of twine, then tied to the stake, helps to keep your veges organised. Some large print plant labels may be able to be purchased from your local plant shop.

Clothesline

When it comes to a clothesline, make sure you have it resting (at least 20cm) above head height so that the visually impaired person does not walk into it.

Hanging washing out

When hanging out the washing, always hang your tops by the seams on the shoulders. This way you will not end up with peg marks in funny spots.

Getting washing in

When getting your washing back in, the easiest way to make sure you have gotten all of your clothes, is to stand in the one spot and work from the inside of the clothes line to the outside (or, you could do it in reverse). With one hand or two run your fingers along the wire as you spin the clothes line. You can do this quite quickly if two hands are used, to do the same thing - one for each line as you turn it. This way, you know you have gotten all of your clothes and not left any there.

Branches

If there are low hanging branches, cut them above head height so that they can not be walked into.

Finding a door handle and keyhole

Assuming a door is closed, to find out which side the handle is on, run your hands down the right and left side (on the inside) of the door frame, with your thumb and nearest finger spread apart, so as to cover the largest area possible. This should allow you to locate the door handle. If it is a door with a keyhole, move your left (or right) hand to where the handle is, scan for the hole with your thumb or finger, and with your thumb or finger - line it up with the keyhole.  With your other hand, once you have found the right key, line it up with your thumb or finger (which is now over the keyhole), then just push it in.  Doing it this way is quick and easy, once you get used to it. Of course, if the key doesn't turn, you may have the wrong key; so labelling your house key makes it easier to find as well.

Staying overnight in a different location

When staying in a hotel (or any other different location), it is important to find out where all the amenities are. If travelling on your own, you could ask the staff to show you the layout of the room and how to get back to the main meal area. Don't be scared to ask the staff as they are more than happy to help. It may also save on frustration later on.

Joining a blind / VIP social group

At the same time, (or maybe a later date) you may want to join a visually impaired or blind social group. Your local Blind Foundation should be able to put you in touch with one of these groups. This way, you can speak to other people who might be having the same problems as you at home. Just having someone to talk to in the same position can help out a lot. You may even be able to learn some tips and tricks here for around the home (to make your life easier) while losing your sight. This is especially helpful if you are new to sight loss. It also allows you to make new friends. Being a volunteer may also show you some of the things which you may come across in everyday life (whether this may be as a driver, or helping someone to shop for their food once a week and so on).

Returning outdoor equipment to its original location

If you live with a blind or vision impaired person, it is imperative that you return any outdoor equipment that you use to its original location. This may include items such a garden tools or outdoor bench seats. This allows the person to locate items quickly as well as prevents possible accidents from not knowing where items have been moved to. For general information on how you can best assist blind and vision impaired people please visit http://accessibilitycentral.net/ways%20you%20can%20help%20us.html

Identifying and marking your wheelie bin

One of the most common problems a visually impaired or blind person might have is figuring out which wheelie bin is theirs. A home situation is not too bad, but living in a flat complex might be more difficult when there are multiple wheelie bins. One way of identifying your wheelie bin, is to use electrical tape. Wrap it around one side of the handle - just wide enough so that you can feel the difference between the left and right sides of the handle. This may have to be done a few times so that you can feel the difference in thickness. Using a brightly coloured tape may help you locate it quicker (for example using a yellow or white tape). Another idea as well, is to put a number on the side of the wheelie bin. Just make it big enough to identify it from the rest of them. Electrical tape is also waterproof and should last a few years. To stop your bin from going walkabout, put the bin out on the day of the collection and bring it back in as soon as the bin truck has been. Putting your bin out the night before may leave it prone to going walkies, as well as being subject to wind which may see it blown all over the place. Leaving a bin outside for a couple of days also advertises that perhaps no-one is home and may potentially pose a security risk.

Outdoor navigation using fence standards and rope

Another idea for navigation outside your house on a big property (like a farmlet) is to use electric fence standards in conjunction with rope. The electric fence standards are placed into the ground in the positions needed to make the route you want the blind person to go. For example, from the house to the vegie garden, chook pen and so on. More electric fence standards and rope can be added at any time to make new routes to other things on the property as well. It is just a matter of the visually impaired/blind person following the rope to wherever he wants to go.

Eyecare

Fitover and wrap around sunglasses

The most common complaint (being visually impaired) is to do with glare. Each case is different and peoples symptoms may vary. In some cases a person's eyes may feel like they are getting burnt, for some their eyes start feeling sore, and so on. It affects each of us differently. Depending on whether you wear glasses or not, will affect the type of sunglasses you can wear. If you don't wear glasses, wrap around sunglasses might do the job for you. If you do however wear glasses, then fitovers may be more suitable.

Make sure when you try glasses on (whether they are wrap around or fitovers), that the glare is blocked out from the front and the sides. Some of the sunglasses even have protection from the top as well.

Fitovers should be used when a person wears a pair of glasses. They usually come in a variety of sizes. They will allow you to keep on wearing your glasses underneath, while you are wearing the fitover sunglasses. Make sure your glasses fit nicely into the fitover sunglasses, and are not tight near the ears when wearing them. These will have protection for your eyes from the top, the front and the sides as well.

Both wrap around and fitover glasses usually come with different colour lenses (for example amber lenses, yellow lenses, green lenses and so on). Various colours will help various eyesight conditions. Noir make glasses that offer both UV (ultra violet) and IR (InfraRed) protection. They are available in small, medium and large through your local Blind Foundation. http://blindfoundation.org.nz/products/sunglasses-with-both-uv-and-infrared-protection You may also find suitable glasses in other local shops selling sunglasses in a variety of styles and colours.


 


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