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Spencer's Spotlight

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Spencer's Spotlight published in 2016

January 2016

This month I am going to tell you about such a cool little gadget. I received it in the mail. It is a doorbell. Yes, I said doorbell. Well, I needed one, I have almost missed my bus to work because I could not hear the driver knocking on the door.

I opened the box and there were three pieces. The first one was the button which could be installed via screws or by the double-sided tape that was also provided. I cleaned the area by my front door, and applied the double-sided tape to the back of the transmitter. Then I stuck it to the wall, and twa-la!! The other two pieces were the receivers that plug into the wall. I put one in the foyer, and the other one in the kitchen.

There are many many tunes to choose from and volume can be adjusted from soft to ear jangling loud. Guess where I set mine? Yep, ear jangling, it is for me.

I found it so incredibly easy to install. I absolutely love it. I can't wait for someone to come over and actually ring my doorbell. I obtained my doorbell from the Harbolt Company and if you hurry, you may be able to get one before they are all gone. The price is $49.99.

Below is a description straight from their website; Harbolt Company
Tired of missing packages from UPS, Fed Ex, or the postal service? Tired of having to hover around the door waiting on that quiet knock only to get there too late and they are already driving off with your package? You need never to miss that elusive package deliverer again! Plug the included doorbells into any standard wall outlets in your house or apartment and attach the remote doorbell button with the two sided stickers, and you have yourself a wireless doorbell system.

Have doorbell will travel as you can move the plug in doorbell when you move rooms. Choose from over 50 different bell sounds so you'll never run out of annoying tones ever again!

February 2016

Well, I was going to shine my spotlight on the Talking Non Contact Infrared Digital Thermometer. However, the place I purchased it from no longer carries the item nor knows where to get it at this time. It's too bad too because I really think this is such a cool gadget. Before going to the real spotlight item, I want to tell you about this gadget anyway on the slim chance someone recognizes it and can write and tell me, hey I know where you can get it.

Taking your temperature was never so easy. Use this infrared talking dnon contact thermometer to get a temperature reading in seconds. And hear it audibly spoken to you. The easy to hold gun shape lets you pull the trigger and get a temperature reading faster than it would take to swab an old fashioned thermometer. Isn't technology great? Not to mention, a lot more comfortable than the old days.

A couple of weeks ago I went home from work sick and took to my bed moaning and groaning. I fell into a deep sleep and woke up sometime later really feeling puny. I thought it might be a good idea if I checked to see if I might have a fever. So I grabbed the gunlike thermometer, pointed it at my face and pulled the trigger. A voice said, "hello, your temperature is 103 degrees farenheight Warning high temperature." I panicked thinking, I'm dying, call 911! I calmed down a second and took my temperature a second time and it came back a soothing 98.4 degrees. "congratulations, normal temperature," the thermometer told me. I stumbled back to bed and stayed there for the next 3 days battling a very nasty bug.

One thing I would like to focus on for this month is protecting your identity. I hear about thieves running around with these little gismos capable of just zapping your credit card information right through the air as they pass by you. That's scary stuff! So one way to combat these techno theves is to guard your credit cards and any cards you may have that have a magnetic strip containing your personal information.

Two options to protect your self are:
1. Purchase a card blocker; this is a specially designed card that you place along the side of your card that has the magnetic strip
2. Purchase a wallet with a built in RFID blocker in it
These two items will block any signals, thus protecting your information from getting hijacked right out of your pocket.
Amazon, Harriet Carter, and Qvc are just a few places you can look to obtain either the wallet or card protection from those bums too lazy to work for their own money.

March 2016

I know I mentioned headsets in general in a past article, but wanted to tell you about this nifty headset I just got last week. It is the Plantronics m 70, featuring 11 hours of talk time.
Well, yeah, I am pretty chatty, but not all the battery I use is devoted to flapping my gums.
I use several aps on my iPhone and voice over works like a dream with this headset. I can read my books, play dice world, send messages, check facebook and on and on.
This Bluetooth headset is small and fits comfortably in the ear.
What is really cool about this headset is that it TALKS! Yes, it talks, tells you when you are in paring mode, tells you when the phone powers on and when your phone is connected. It tells you when you have an incoming call, and also lets you know when you press both the volume up and down keys at the same time that your headset is muted. When pressing these keys again, it says unmuted.
I have not been able to use a headset for years because of not knowing if it was on, or what. It is nice that Plantronics includes a voice feedback feature even though we know it was not for the blind in mind. It is just a convenience for our sighted counterparts. Whatever the reason, it works for us!
The headset can be found at such places as Amazon or Best Buy for around the 65-70 dollar price range. Well worth the money in my opinion.

April 2016

There are so many new and shiny gadgets for us to play with and make our lives so much easier these days, but let's not forget the tried and true work horses and yes, toys as well. I acquired this little gem back in the early 90's and still use it today.
What could this be? What could possibly be relevant today from so long ago. I am referring to the good old Franklin Language Master Dictionary.
When I bought it, the price for a talking dictionary was fairly hefty, 500.00. I was fortunate enough to find a vender that let me make monthly payments so I could have it. So, I know if a car is twenty years old it qualifies as an antique. If this applies for electronics, this would definitely be an antique. An oldie, but oh what a goody!
I have looked up countless definitions, learned about grammar, and played endlessly on the 10 games this unit has built in. Not only a learning tool, but it is also a toy. It was ahead of its time. It has stood the test of time and I find myself reaching for it time and time again.
I create password puzzles, and am also a clue giver for password games on the chat sites. I use my language Master to look up words and find correct spelling of words I may use. Yes, there is an ap for that and I have it on my phone, and yes, it works fairly well, but, sometimes, it is good to visit with an old technological friend.
I went searching for this item online and was not able to locate any new units on the market. However, I saw some listed on eBay.
I have so enjoyed my Franklin Language Master and I am amazed it has lasted more than 20 years, and like a good Timex, it takes a licking, and still keeps on ticking.

May 2016

Have you ever lived with someone and you were hot and they were cold or vice versa? The climate control being a constant source of disagreement in the home.
I have been in that situation. I never knew what the temperature of the thermostat was until this product came along to level yet another playing field for us.
I am talking about the Talking Thermostat. It gives us total control of the temperature in the household. It is such a wonderful feeling to push a button on this thermostat and hear what the temperature in the house is, and push another button and either raise or lower the temperature as desired.
My husband and I were constantly battling over the temperature, he was from the north so he was very warm natured. I on the other hand was and still am very cold natured, even though he always jokingly called me cold blooded.
When our air conditioner died, he had a talking thermostat installed with the new unit. It has been wonderful. It is completely accessible. My husband had always wanted me to be as independent as possible and for this I am extremely grateful. Since I lost him, I am able to maintain the household with the independence like anyone else. It is such a confidence builder to be self-sufficient. I highly recommend this product for anyone looking to take control.
So here's to always knowing what the temperature is in the house!
For more information on this incredible product, visit www.talkingthermostat.com

Below is a blurb from their web site:
Easily adjust the comfort level in your home, day and night, summer and winter without EVER having to hunt for the programming manual. Clear, concise voice instructions guide you through each step of the way. If you need your glasses to read your thermostat, just push a button and hear the actual and programmed air temperature. Handy in dark hallways, at night, and especially helpful for sight impaired folks.
Improper maintenance can rob you of valuable energy dollars, leave minor system problems undiagnosed, and lead to more serious conditions that could cost thousands in repair. Just like the service light in your car, the Talking Thermostat automatically displays a “CFS” signal when your heating and cooling operation reaches a required service level. Like the Filter Alert, the Call for Service is custom programmed into your thermostat.
A built-in time delay prevents “short cycling” damage to your most expensive system component … the compressor. This Time Guard system waits a few minutes before stopping and starting your air conditioning equipment or heat pump. It's that constant starting and stopping that causes most damage to expensive HVAC systems. Keep your investment protected and it will give you many years of reliable service.

June 2016

Have you ever felt like a pin ball in your own house, hitting one wall, and bouncing off another wall? Oh boy, there are walls in my house that I swear move just so I will run smack into them. A few months ago I heard of a really neat gadget, it is Sonor Glasses by G-Technology Group.
You know me by now and after hearing the pod cast on the Blindabilities app (a little plug for my friend, Pete Lane,) I got right on the phone and ordered a pair.
There are several choices, since I have zero light perception, I ordered the darth Vader version, my words not theirs. For those who have some vision, there are lightly tinted, or even clear options available. You can even get prescription lens. Depending on the lens you choose, prices will vary.
My friend told me they are very futuristic looking. Jordy, move over!
Below is some information I got from their web site:
* Recommended use: this device is not intended to replace the white cane but to be used in combination with the cane or guide dog
*Intended for: head and chest protection from overhanging obstacles such as tree branches and low ceilings
*Detection range: adjustable
*User feedback: subtle vibration near the right temple
*Lenses: available in clear, dark tint, photosensitive, and prescription
*Battery: one rechargeable lithium-ion
*Battery life per charge: 7-9 hours
*Accessories: rechargeable battery, battery charger, ear locks, head strap
*The glasses are made in the USA and are backed with an unconditional 1 year warranty and satisfaction guarantee

SONAR GLASSES, by G-Technology Group, are designed to increase mobility independence for the blind and visually impaired. They complement the white cane and guide dog by detecting obstacles above waist level (such as tree limbs, signs, walls, people, low ceilings, etc.).
SONAR GLASSES technology is based on echolocation, similar to the way bats navigate in the dark. The lasses emit sound waves and measure the time to receive sound reflected by nearby objects.
These glasses were designed for the blind in mind. When Arman Ghodousi observed a blind man walking down the street and the cane was not able to alert him to a low hanging branch, he started to wonder. Ghodousi was working for a private company using sonor technology to see through walls and he thought this technology would be a great way of alerting blind people to obstacles not detected by the cane and or dog guide.
Kudos to this group of individuals for creating something to help make our lives a little less stressful, bumpy, and bruisey; you know what I mean.

Below is the contact information:
For more information, or to place an order, please contact: Maggie McBride at 1-703-224-8985 mailto:mmcbride@g-technologygroup.com
Their web address is www.g-disabilityproducts.com

July 2016

This month I would like to shine a light on a very important subject and one that most of you deal with on a daily basis. I am referring to prescription medications.
Do you take more than one prescription? Do you have more than one prescription medication that looks the same, and if not careful, can mix them up? Do you have trouble reading your prescription labels? Are you worried that you don’t remember your prescription instructions correctly? Are you bothered that you have to rely upon other family or friends to read prescription information for you? Are you looking for a way to safely and independently manage your medications?
Thanks to Envision America, they are offering a solution to this very serious problem. ScripTalk is the name of this little gem. I attended a demonstration of the script talk and was pleased to see that this company has undertaken such an important task to keep us safe. The machine itself is free to the prescription customer. The participating pharmacy creates the labels and when the customer gets the medication, it can be placed on Script Talk. Then in a clear voice, it tells the name of the medication, the dosage, and how many times it should be taken. Also available, is the prescribing doctor, and more information can be obtained such as any side effects the medication may cause.
Yes, there are other people claiming to provide this service as well. However, what they neglect to tell you is that when you get the so called verbal feedback, it is on a recorded button. The recording is read to you within 30 seconds. And, you are expected to gather and understand all the information, in that short period of time. Let alone trying to decipher the pharmacist voice. Sometimes the pharmacist’s voice sound like the way doctors write, if you get my drift.
ScripTalk Station uses RFID and text-to-speech technology. A thin antennae and microchip embedded within the label are programmed with all the printed information. Because the data is stored in the label itself, it can be used on any size bottle, box, vial, tube or other prescription container.
Some participating pharmacies are, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, and Wright Aid.
A friend of mine was at the demonstration with me and she said that her Pharmacist did not know anything about the service. Yet, her pharmacy is one of the participating pharmacies in the program. What happens is the local pharmacist are not, or do not read the memos about providing ScripTalk to their clients.
Amanda, the ScripTalk representative, assured her that she would intercede for her and get her set up so she could get her medications. And true to her word, my friend had Script Talk and the pharmacy she uses is updated to her needs. She is now getting her medications in a most accessible format.
So, if you want to get set up with ScripTalk and you are not sure if your pharmacy participates, call Amanda at the below number, and she will make every attempt to get you set up with ScripTalk.
Kudos to Envision America for wanting to contribute in such an important and profound way. Thank you so much!
General Contact Information:
Phone: 309-452-3088
Toll Free: 800-890-1180
Fax: 309-452-3643
The web address to get more information about Script Talk and their other blindness products is:www.envisionamerica.com

August 2016

What is this? Hmm... Where is a pair of eyeballs when you need them? All alone and no eyes in sight or with sight. What ever can we do in a situation like this?
Well thanks to modern technology, there are choices. And, happily a few choices come to mind.
Here are a few of them. If you desire live feedback, Facetime can work for those of you who have the beloved iPhone. There are also apps that can possibly help to assist you. One such app is Be My eyes, where you can connect to a live person for assistance using your iPhone's camera. Then the person is able to peek through and tell you what they see. I have heard the wait time can be significant at times.
There are even more options available, believe it or not. There is a very handy and free app that is Called CamFind. With this app, you simply take a picture of any object and CamFind will tell you what it is. If this app doesn’t provide you the info you are hankering to hear, well, there is a new app just launched last month.
Fresh from the Apple App store, and it is gloriously free! It is called DeSpecular. It works similar to that of Tap Tap See, but with a very nice twist. Here is how it works. Once you have downloaded the app and registered, whenever you need a sighted boost, take a picture of the mystery object. Once the picture uploads to a sightling, you are given an option to either type a text message or record a message that lets them know what information you are requesting. Your requests is sent to multiple volunteers at once. You will be notified how many volunteers are currently responding to your request.
Once you listen, or read the first response, the app asks you if more responses are needed. The responses are either by audio or test. Once you hear them or read the text, you can then rate the person on how helpful they were to you; 1 is very poor to 5 which is excellent.
You can also take as many pictures of the item as necessary in order to get the feedback you are desiring. I have used this app a couple of times and have been most pleased with the result.
So, what do you say, let's all get bespecular!

September 2016

I attended the NFB convention for the Blind in Orlando, Florida in July. The main attraction for me was the exhibit hall, which focused on technology of all kinds from low to high. Even a month after the convention, my head is still buzzing about everything I was able to see. There are some very exciting and cutting edge technology on the horizon. One of which is my spotlight item for this month.
I stopped by the American Printing House for the Blind exhibit and they had a wide variety of items on display. I picked up as usual, my braille calendar and then spotted this unique looking device. It turned out to be the new lower cost braille display that is due to be available for sale later this year.
I spoke with Larry Skutchan of APh and he showed me the machine. It is lightweight, and easily transportable in a purse or backpack. It is call the Orbit Reader 20. A 20 cell bluetooth or USB braille display with notetaking ability. It can connect via bluetooth or USB to a smart phone, tablet, or computer. It is by far the most affordable braille display on the market today. The price point coming in at about 500.00. Most braille displays before the orbit Reader 20 are over a grand, and have less cells.
The unique feature that sets the orbit Reader 20 apart from other braille displays is its standalone ability. It has a built in text editor, perfect for those on the go for notes and phone numbers we need to keep track of when we are out and about. It also has an SD card slot that will enable text to be read in braille.
The battery in it was designed to last a day but according to Larry, they get more than that but then it does depend on how much it is used. I was impressed with how clearly defined the braille dots were and how firm the dots held up under the pressure of my fingers. They stayed strong so even someone with less feeling in their fingers would have no trouble feeling these dots. It measures 6 inches wide by 4 inches front to back by just a little over an inch tall. Weighs slightly under a pound.
Its functionality and affordability, will give braille literacy the shot in the arm it has needed. For more information on the Orbit Reader 20 read the thorough article written by Larry Skutchan at www.aph.org

October 2016

This month I would like to shine a spotlight on John Olson and his company 3d Photoworks. Mr. Olson is a photo journalist. For decades he has traveled the world capturing wars with his cameras, and has photographed presidents. There was a point in his career when he began thinking about how critical images were in his life. This caused him to wonder about what life was like for those who were blind and sight impaired.
In 2008 he developed a printing process that would enable the blind community to enjoy art and photography as he does. Using a 3 step process, he first turns a photograph from a 2 dimensional image to 3d data. The data is then sent to a machine that digitally sculpts it from a large block of high density urethane, and finally the image is printed.
3D Photoworks made their international debut at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in February of this year. The exhibit was called, "Sight Unseen" featuring the best work of 6 blind photographers. It was a huge success and since then, John has been contacted by several museums throughout the world.
I met Mr. Olson at the exhibit hall in Orlando. I “saw" the Mona Lisa, it was amazing! There are sensors located within these tactile works. Once a sensor is touch, it will activate an audio description of what was just touched. Therefore, blind people can interpret the artwork in their own way, as opposed to someone else describing the image as they see it.
I asked Mr. Olson if I could get a picture printed in a 3D image. He said it was very expensive. I can only imagine that it is a costly process. I will be calling him and inquiring about getting a picture of my late husband printed.
His goal is to change the world for the blind community by building a worldwide network of museums willing to serve the blind through this medium. For more information, visit his website at: www.3dphotoworks.com

November 2016

This month I am going to stray from the toys, as I like to call them, and get serious with an item you may not need. However, just the same, you should know about and share this item with your local learning institutions for the blind. I intend to do the same in my area.

Have I gotten your attention yet? Well, then, let's get on with it. Several months ago, a company called Logantech released the 6 Dot label maker of which I am a proud owner of. This leads me to the spotlight item of the month.

Introducing the BrailleCoach. Upon first glance of this device, I was confused and perplexed about how it worked. Most people that have purchased the device have seen it at a trade show, so because it requires almost no learning curve, it did not have any “getting started directions” in the box. I am told by the president, Glen Dobbs, this will soon be rectified.

So, what does the BrailleCoach do? It is an ingenious way of teaching braille to all ages and allowing them to learn independently.

It consist of the BrailleCoach machine which is: light weight, and portable; runs on batteries; has a button on the top; and an ear phone jack on the front of the device for private listening and learning.

The machine houses a circuit board with an antenna that communicates with the prerecorded and recordable sound tags. A key ring holds the controls to the BrailleCoach. Each sound tag on the key ring is labeled in braille for the teacher, and/or the student to change the mode; erase, record, and increase or decrease the volume. When the sound tag marked “battery” is pressed, the button announces how much battery is left so you can be sure and have extra batteries on hand when needed. By the way, the machine ships from the company, batteries included and installed ready to use right out of the box.

The sound tags have the braille letter on top with the word equivalent below. Depending on the mode the machine is set to, the BrailleCoach says either the letter, dots, or the word equivalent when they are placed on, and then pressed onto the button located on the top of the machine.

More advanced braille sound tags can be recorded and created using the 6 Dot label maker, specifically to suit the student's needs. This is ideal for the classroom where there are several students learning at different levels, or just as well for a single student.

The BrailleCoach also comes with a custom zippered carrying bag specifically designed to make it more portable and convenient. Unzip the case, and it is designed to use without taking it out of its protective case which is held securely with hook and loop fasteners.

What you get:BrailleCoach device, 26 braille alphabet tags, 25 blank sound tags, programming tag set, Braille Label Maker device, power adapter for Braille Label Maker, 10 rolls of embossing tape, QWERTY keyboard for Braille Label Maker, USB adapter for keyboard and one year warranty for each device.

This is truly a well thought out teaching system. It is quite the incredible and functional device with its simplicity and ease of use.

Pair the BrailleCoach system with a braille writer or slate and stylist and you have learning braille made easier. Well done Mr. Dobbs and Logantech.

If you know of any institution or school that may benefit from the use of this unique and innovative BrailleCoach system, please contact Logantech at 203-721-6074. Read and learn more about the BrailleCoach and other devices that they offer at their website: www.LoganTech.com

December 2016

I thought I would begin this month’s spotlight article by sharing one of my most memorable Christmas's.
I had just celebrated my 18th birthday having had 4 eye surgeries in a 2 week span and was still recovering and sporting stitches in my eyelid when Christmas 1973 rolled around. I had become a huge fan of Tom Jones and had asked for some of his albums for Christmas.

We all sat around the living room awaiting our presents that were passed out from under the tree by the youngest member of the family. This year it was my 2 year old great nephew Little David, not to confuse him with Big David, his uncle. All the presents were passed out and I had just one gift to unwrap. I thought, but didn't say, what is this about?

My mom apologized to me and said she tried to order the Tom Jones records I wanted but they were not available. I was disappointed but I didn’t give it another thought. We were having fun watching the littlest one open his gifts. I opened mine, and it was small bottles of perfume from many different countries. Looking back now, I wish I had appreciated it more than I actually did. It was a pretty cool gift.

Then I noticed, I was the only one in the living room. I could not figure out what was going on. I could not see so I just sat there wondering. Then someone asked me to come back to my room for a minute. I went to the bedroom and my entire family was in my room. They showed me my real Christmas gift. It was a Stereo console with AM/FM radio, record changer, and an 8-track player. It was so beautiful. Someone had put a Tom Jones album on and it was playing when I walked into the room. Yep, it was a very emotional moment in my young life. I am choking up as I write this now. It was very special. Now, I hope this has sparked a memory in your past that stands out in your mind as being as special as that one was for me.

So, to the spotlight item of the month.
I enjoy playing games, and one of the things I enjoy most is being able to play cards with my family and friends. Sitting around the table and joining in the teasing and bosting is so much fun. I was fortunate to have learned braille at a young age and I always carry a deck of braille playing cards with me when I travel home for the holidays or for family visits. However, I have friends that do not know braille but, have it on their to do list. You know one of those, “I’ll get around to it”, but never quite find the time to actually get it done. Well, as the current common phrase states, “there is an app for that.”

Cards That Talk is a cool little app that when paired with a special coded deck of playing cards can enable a blind person to once again enjoy playing with their sighted or blind friends and family. Once you download the app and give the camera access, the setup is complete. There is even a light option for low light situations. The cards have a notch on the upper left hand side. When the cards are lying face down on the table, the camera lens of the iPhone will automatically read the cards in a clear voice. Plug in your headset, and no one but you will know what your cards are.

I have a few friends who are non-braille readers, who just may have a deck in their Christmas stocking this year.

I purchased the cards from Blind Mice Mega Mall for $16.00, and the app is a free download.

Rummy anyone?

THE END