If you are looking for a holiday present for someone who is blind or who has low vision, this guide will give you some mainstream and specialty gift options for both children and adults, in price ranges to fit anyone's budget.
Before making a purchase, it's important to consider the person's age and visual acuity. For example, a watch with a large face will not work for someone with only light perception or no usable vision. At the end of this article is a list of companies that carry products specifically for people with visual impairments. Remember, no matter what retailer you buy from, always check the return policy before finalizing a purchase.
Phone: 800-My Apple or 800-692-7753
All Apple products, including iPods, iPhones, and MacBooks, have VoiceOver, an integrated screen reader that reads aloud whatever text is on the screen. VoiceOver makes it possible for people without vision to operate a device without sighted assistance.
If you're in the market for a relatively inexpensive electronic gift, consider the iPod Shuffle for under $50. For someone with a higher budget, the iPad or iPod touch cost several hundred dollars. If you don't want to buy a device, another option is an iTunes gift card. These can be used to purchase music, apps, and other content from the iTunes store. Many drug stores and major retailers carry them. It's possible for someone who is blind to redeem the gift card using their device's camera through the iTunes store. Another option is to let the recipient know the amount and code for the card.
Watches come in many shapes and sizes and at all prices.
Talking watches are convenient for someone with little or no vision. Some include a feature for setting alarms. The downside is that other people can hear it. Talking watches are available at some mainstream stores such as RadioShack, and they are relatively inexpensive. I found one on the Radio Shack website for $19.99. Companies that carry products for people who are visually impaired, such as Maxi-Aids, Blind Mice Mart, and Independent Living Aids, also have these products available.
Large face watches may be good gifts for people with some usable vision. Major retailers such as department stores might carry these. If you can't find the right watch, check the companies listed above. Braille watches tend to be more expensive than large face watches and usually cost over $100. The term "braille" is misleading, as most of these watches do not use actual braille numbers. Rather, the cover over the watch face flips open, allowing the wearer to feel the position of the hands. The hours are marked by raised dots.
Many of today's best sellers are available as audio books. You can purchase these from stores such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon. The price per audio book varies, but you can plan on spending around $25.
Another audio book option is a gift membership to Audible.com. If the receiver is already a member, the gift will be added to their credits. Prices start at $45 for a three-month subscription. There are over 150,000 book titles from which to choose. Books are available for all ages in innumerable subjects.
Many people who are blind or who have low vision are already members of Audible.com. Tech support staff can provide remote assistance by going into the user's computer to set up the program or help fix a problem. Audible recently created an uncluttered and easy-to-navigate website specially designed for people with visual impairments.
National Braille Press (NBP)
If you want to buy a book for a braille reader, consider National Braille Press. It has books for all ages, including preschoolers. There is a Children's Braille Book Club and a braille women's magazine, Our Special. The children's books have both print and braille on each page. Some NBP books are also available as digital downloads, which makes them accessible to screen reader users. Books are available on a wide range of topics, and prices are reasonable, some less than $10.
Toys and Games
This list is only a fraction of what's available, because it would be impossible to mention everything. Visit the Chicago Lighthouse Tools for Living Store, MaxiAids, and Independent Living Aids for their accessible games and toys for children and adults of all ages.
Some products, such as braille or large-print playing cards, cost only a few dollars, while others, especially adapted games, can be somewhat more costly.
Low vision large dice: For some people with low vision, these dice, which are black with white dots and larger than standard board game dice, can be easier to see.
Dominos with raised dots: Raised dots make it possible for people with no vision to independently participate in a dominos game.
Chess set: The black and white pieces are tactilely different, so the player knows which piece he is moving. Board squares are also tactile, so the player can feel where to move and where the opponent's pieces are located.
Checkers: The red and black pieces feel different and the board is tactile, so the player can know where the checkers are located.
Braille Scrabble: Braille letters are added to the Scrabble tiles so the blind person can play with their sighted peer.
Low vision scrabble: Stick-on large print overlays for Scrabble tiles make the printed letters larger and have more contrast.
Braille playing cards: These have braille at the corners indicating the suit and type of card.
Large print playing cards: These cards are marked with larger characters than the standard cards, making them easier to read for people with low vision.
Balls: There are balls of all shapes and sizes including basketballs, footballs, and soccer balls. Some have bells inside them, while others emit a beeping sound.
Large print crossword puzzles: These are easier to see for some people with low vision.
High contrast and tactile backgammon set: Higher contrast can make it easier for people with low vision. This tactile set also gives users without vision the ability to play without sighted assistance.
Braille and low vision Monopoly: The cards included are larger and have large print plus braille. The board is designed so the players can tell where their pieces are located.
Tactile ConnectFour: Pieces are tactilely distinct so the player knows which are theirs and where they are located. Two to four people can play.
Braille Boggle Junior: Braille letters let a child who reads braille play with sighted peers.
Bop-It: This is a mainstream toy that revolves around sound and actions. You hit, rotate, pull, or push parts of the Bop-It in response to sounds.
Sudoku puzzle with bold numbers and braille: This game is appropriate for everyone, no matter their visual acuity.
Large print Sudoku puzzle books: These books are appropriate for some people with low vision.
Hi Ho! Cherry-O counting game in braille: This is a popular game for children 3 years and up.
Talking books: These books have buttons that speak when pressed.
Accessible computer games: These games are specifically designed for people with visual impairments and can be used on mainstream computers.
If the gift recipient has some computer skills, consider a gift card to Amazon. Amazon has a separate accessible website that is easy for someone who is blind or who has low vision to use, even with only basic online shopping skills. Be sure to tell the recipient the amount on the card and the security code for the card.
The number of gift products for the visually impaired and blind has been increasing for the last few years and there are now many options available. Both specialized and mainstream retailers have appropriate gifts for people with vision loss.
Hopefully this article and the resources below will help make shopping for the person with vision loss a bit easier.
Take some time to check what's available from the retailers below. You might find that perfect gift.