It's that time of year again, the time when even though your friends and family might say that no gifts are necessary, you find you are just hard-wired to think about giving gifts to those closest to you—and sometimes even to yourself. My goal this year was to find unique gift ideas to share with AccessWorld readers, while also paying special attention to a few small business owners who are themselves blind or visually impaired. What follows is an eclectic mix of items and services offering something of interest to everyone on your list.
My Favorite Thing: SleepPhones
If I have one favorite item in this year's gift guide it would have to be the SleepPhones from AcousticSheep.
When you want to listen to your book, your music, your podcast or even a favorite movie or TV show while falling asleep and without disturbing anyone else, traditional earbuds and headphones aren't ideal. They dig into your ear or your head and fall far short of bringing you to dreamland. The latest iteration of SleepPhones from AcousticSheep, the Effortless, have flat Bluetooth speakers inside a soft headband that allows you to listen or sleep in comfort.
SleepPhones are available in a variety of colors in either lightweight "breeze" fabric or, for added warmth, fleece. They come housed in an attractive tin, along with easy to follow printed instructions and AC adapter. Inside the headband are the two flat speakers and the controller, also flat, with just three buttons: power,, volume up, and volume down. To charge the unit, simply place it on the provided charger with cords aligned.
In addition to a comfortable night's rest, SleepPhones will also be welcomed by those who meditate or travel.
The SleepPhones Effortless retails for $149.95 and can be purchased directly here. Until December 31, apply discount code ACCESSWORLD10 for a 10 percent discount on all SleepPhones products found here.
Flips Headphones and Speakers
Another set of headphones that will have special appeal for AccessWorld readers are the Flips Audio Bluetooth Headphones that transform into speakers. Worn on your head, these stereo headphones deliver superb sound to you and you alone. Flip the headphone cups up and rest them on your shoulders (or a nearby table) for an instant boombox delivering sound to everyone around you. $39.95 from Amazon at the time of writing.
Listening and Learning
The smart speaker craze has spread far and wide and continues to be a welcome gift. Buy a new Echo Dot for $50, an older version for $40, or taller, more resonant versions with or without video capabilities ranging from $129 to $249. With any of the Amazon Echo products, you can ask voice assistant Alexa for the weather, the TV schedule, the age of your favorite author, encyclopedic information on just about any given topic, and countless other bits of information. You can play music, listen to podcasts, or listen to thousands of radio stations. And those Alexa capabilities are available in other products as well. For example, the new Bose QC35 headset, $349, delivers that Bose quality sound with hands-free Alexa built in.
For those who love streaming TV shows and movies, the Fire Cube combines such Alexa skills as playing radio stations and podcasts along with shows through subscription-based streaming TV services, all with just your voice. Fire tablets, starting at $50, are also now equipped with the popular voice assistant as well as the ability to play your favorite music, audio books, podcasts, and more.
Other Voice Assistants
Of course, Amazon isn't the only maker of a popular voice assistant. Google and Apple are in the game as well, with one of the best deals around being the Google Home Mini. With arguably better sound than its Echo Dot competitor, the Google Mini speaks in a clear male voice, and is offered as a premium for a variety of other purchases. At this writing, for example, Best Buy is offering a four-pack of Tile Bluetooth trackers for $34.99 with a Google Home Mini thrown in for free.
Reading and Writing
Adaptive Information Systems has some high-end blindness products available for discounted prices. Sales include the Victor Reader Trek at $559, the second generation Victor Reader Stream at $349, the Brailliant BI-14 braille display at $875, and the Prodigi portable CCTV at $2,700. All products include free shipping and braille or print documentation upon request. Order from Adaptive Information Systems, Inc., email the company, or call 608-758-0933.
Speaking of those Tile trackers, they make a fabulous gift for anyone who ever has a moment's hesitation locating items. Attach a Tile to your car keys, white cane, smart phone, brief case, or guide dog, and use the accompanying app to locate the desired item anywhere. Once you or your loved one is out the door, here are some other gift ideas.
Organizing Your Gear
For carrying smaller tech items such as smart phones, GPS devices, or even non-tech items like credit cards and cash, Guidelights and Gadgets offers affordable and lovely leather pouches with multiple zip pockets. Choose the Leather Four Pocket Adjustable Neck Pouch, perfect for smart phones and other small items at $16, or the Leather Carry-all 6 inch by 9 inch organizer with 8 separate compartments, to hold even a braille display along with phone, wallet, and other items, with two straps, $42. (Get 10 percent off with code AW18.) Order by email or by calling 617-969-7500.
I'm not talking about credit card charging, but the constant need to keep all those portable devices we carry with us everywhere powered up and running. Blind or sighted, most people have portable devices that need charging. Smart phones, headsets, portable speakers, GPS devices, and even hearing aid accessories and glucose monitors—if we are on the move, keeping essential tools happily fueled matters. We all know the experience of one of these essential tools losing power when needed most.
The Accessible 15,000 mAH power bank from the Harbolt Company, is a sleek device with a single button and two USB charging ports. Press the button to receive vibrations, tones, or both to indicate the level of power remaining in the unit. Available from the Harbolt Company, $74.99 (10 percent discount with code Access10 till January 1, 2019). Order by email or call 405-633-2572.
With a bit less power, 10,000 mAH, but half the size, is the iWalk Talking Power Bank, from Guidelights and Gadgets. The Talking Power Bank is especially compact and has its own built-in tiny cables, one lightning connector and one micro USB. Its entertaining messages, delivered in a clear female voice, indicate that the unit is ready and/or how long recharging the unit itself will require.
A quick charge chip makes getting your smartphone or other device back up to power a snap. $70 (use code AW18 for free shipping and a 10 percent discount). Order by emailing the company or by calling 617-969-7500.
Using a magnetic cable can save the wear and tear on frequently accessed lightning or USB ports. Buy a 5-foot magnetic cable, used for powering lightning or micro USB devices, and plug its accompanying tips permanently into the ports of the two devices you charge most frequently. $29.99 (10 percent off with code Access10 until January 1, 2019) from Harbolt Company.
Gifts for Kids and Pets
Amazon has an Echo for Kids, $69, that includes 300 books from Audible, Disney Radio, and the usual assortment of trivia and games.
For popular children's books featuring both print and braille, visit the bookstore at National Braille Press. From board books like Dr. Seuss's Hop On Pop to a bilingual (English and Spanish) edition of Are You My Mother? and dozens of other titles for children of all ages, books are fun for blind children or for their braille-reading grown-ups to read to them. Also great gifts from NBP are the braille magnetic alphabet and numbers sets ($9.95), and the book of tactile mazes (Amazing Mazes, $17). Order online or call 800-548-7323 Ext. 520.
And for those canine children, Guidelights and Gadgets has dog toys ranging in price from $6 to $35 and useful items for travel. Every dog owner will appreciate a collapsible water bowl, 2-cup, 3-cup, or 5-cup capacity ($12 to $20), or a handy Furlifter for removing dog hair from those hard to reach places, $15. (Remember code AW18 for ten percent discount and free shipping.)
We hope this guide gets you moving in the right direction for this holiday season, and remember that the gift of your own time is appreciated by everyone within your personal circle and beyond!
Websites for Sources
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
- AccessWorld's 2017 Online Shopping Guide, by Janet Ingber
- More Holiday Gift Ideas for People with Visual Impairments, by Deborah Kendrick
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