It seems like we were just celebrating summer outside, taking in 90-degree days while enjoying a burger from the grill, but as the leaves turn to fall and the temperatures change for many of us, that can only mean one thing: the holidays are coming. Another tradition that has returned for this year is the annual AccessWorld Holiday Gift Guide. Below, we've collected a variety of items both new and old. All prices reflect cost at the time of writing and are subject to change.
Before I continue, I often see questions similar to "What type of gift should I buy for a person who is blind?" The short answer is usually, "The same thing you would buy for anyone else." Think of a hobby they might enjoy, a favorite type of food, or something important in their life. For most items, you don't need to buy a specially adapted version just for someone with a visual impairment. That said, there are some items that have been modified so that a blind person can use them by touch, with a talking guide, or by some other means. We've highlighted a few of the many available options below.
No matter the level of cooking experience, there are a variety of tools to help someone in the kitchen. Let's start with a classic from Blind Mice Mart, the Pourfect Measuring Cups and Spoons for $27.11. This set gives you 9 measuring cups and 12 measuring spoons that cover just about any imaginable amount. Need a 1/64 of a teaspoon drop? Or a large 2-cup portion? This set has you covered. Oh, and by the way, these durable plastic containers also include braille on the handles, so you can easily identify the size of each.
For the baker, try out this set of Extra-long Silicone Oven Mitts from Homwe for $12.99. This set has a silicone grip on the outside that makes it easy to grab pans out of the oven, while the inside is made of a soft fabric. At nearly 14-inches long, they will cover much of your arms and help prevent burns. They are also waterproof and can withstand temperatures up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit.
Accessible cooking thermometers used to be one of those items that you needed to pay a pretty penny for, but there is now a very affordable item available on Amazon. The Kizen Instapen Pro Instant Read Meat Thermometer for $15.95 will speak the temperature of your meat or other dishes within about two seconds. It is also waterproof and comes with a spare battery and a hook to attach it to a refrigerator. I also like that the thermometer is retractable for safe storage.
Is that can of soup Cream of Chicken or Cream of Celery? Or is it actually a can of cat food? CanDo Reusable Braille Labels are a new product that can solve these and many more dilemmas. These labels attach to cans of various sizes and are dishwasher safe. They are available for dozens of common products from canned foods to beer, or you can request your own. A 2-pack of labels is available for $6.
Entertainment on a Budget
We've published a variety of articles on ways to accessibly enjoy television shows and other content, but I'd like to put in a plug for Amazon's Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote for $39.95. While none of the major streaming devices will speak every screen for every app, Amazon has included a number of features on their Fire TV devices to help make more channels accessible, and they have continued to improve the interface over time. Apps that include a good or reasonable accessibility experience include Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and Prime Video. The voice remote will let you say the name of a TV show or movie to find available services that include that show. You can also ask many of the same voice commands that you would ask an Amazon Echo. Many services also now include audio-described content, making television and movies more enjoyable.
Google has released an updated small smart speaker they're calling the Nest Mini, available for $49. In addition to louder sound compared with the original 2017 model, this version can be mounted to a wall and includes touch-sensitive controls. You can even buy two Nest Minis and wirelessly pair them together for stereo sound. While it may not be a needed upgrade for someone who already owns the 2017 model, it’s a great way to introduce someone to smart speakers or add to their set.
Toys and Games
There have been plenty of new releases for accessible toys and games in 2019. In October, Mattel and the National Federation of the Blind made news by debuting Uno Braille at Target for $9.99. While it has been possible to purchase braille Uno cards from specialized stores in the past, this is one of the first times that a mass merchant is offering a braille game in their store aisles, which is pretty special. The game itself includes 108 braille Uno cards that use print as well. There is braille writing on the box, including a message to visit UnoBraille.com for instructions. The game is available both in stores and online.
Many kids and kids at heart love to build masterpieces using Lego sets but until recently, the instructions for these sets were not available in an alternative format. Now, Lego for the Blind, the brainchild of Lego fanatic Matthew Shifrin, includes directions for over 30 Lego sets, ranging from a Pet Shop to a Volkswagen T1 Camper Van. Some assistance may be required to sort the pieces by color, but once this is done, the instructions can guide them the rest of the way.
Get an accessible version of a classic puzzle with the Rubik's Tactile Cube by Winning Moves Games for $10.99. We've seen various accessible Rubik's cubes in the past, but this one is one of the sturdiest and most affordable we've found. Each of the six sides includes a different shape, such as circles or squares, which correspond to the six colors found on the cube. Twist each section of the 3X3 cube in various ways until it is solved.
If board or card games are more their style, peruse the growing selection of accessible games and kits from 64 Oz. Games This small business creates accessibility kits, which can be used to make dozens of the most popular games accessible. Most kits include braille attached to plastic sleeves that cover the cards. Some include additional elements such as tactile dice. A variety of game accessories are also available. We should mention that many of these game kits will require some assembly which can take some time, especially for a larger game such as Apples to Apples.
Reading for Learning or Pleasure
Whether the goal is to learn some new technology or just enjoy a new bestseller, there are plenty of options to consider. For someone who may have just received their first iPhone or is still wanting to learn more about one, Shelly Brisbin's iOS Access for All for $25 may be the ticket. Newly updated for iOS 13, this is the most comprehensive guide to accessibility features on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and covers both basic topics as well as many more advanced features. You can read an AccessWorld review of the iOS 12 edition from Jamie Pauls. The book is electronic only so the recipient will need a computer, phone, or other device to enjoy it.
This is also a good opportunity to include a quick plug for Dean Martineau's book, Windows Keyboard Power User Guide, available in both audio and Microsoft Word formats for $15 from Tech for the Blind. Bill Holton reviewed this book in the October issue, which offers a bevy of time-saving tips and tricks. Dean's second book, focusing on the Chrome web browser, is expected to be available this month.
If you don't know which book to buy, you can get a gift membership from Audible. The venerable audiobook store offers memberships in 1-, 3-, 6-, and 12-month increments for new or existing members. Memberships are $15 a month, but you will save the cost of two months with a $150 annual plan. It's also possible to buy individual books from the site. Audible supports a variety of platforms including iOS and Android phones and Amazon's Alexa devices, so your recipient will most likely have a way to listen.
For children and other braille readers, check out the catalog from Seedlings Braille books for Children. Their dynamic catalog of books includes board and picture books with print and braille for young readers as well as bestsellers for older elementary and middle school kids. Most books are produced in contracted braille, with a few offerings in the simpler uncontracted form. If you are buying books for a blind child, you may need to consult with their family to find out their braille skill level. Parents and caregivers who are blind may also appreciate books in braille to read to their children or those they love.
Other Cool Gifts
Elegant Insights has become one of the most popular sources for braille jewelry, thanks in part to their wide variety of options and styles. This fall, they launched Spot-on Sports Fan Key Tags for $25, a set of officially licensed NFL-themed jewelry. The four-piece set is highlighted by a braille football charm that will include a customized "go team" message for your chosen city. Also included are an NFL logo tag, a split ring for keys, and a carabiner clip to attach to a backpack or other items.
If you're stuck, there's always the clichéd, but rarely unappreciated gift card. If your recipient is a frequent traveler, how about a gift card from Lyft or Uber which can be used to summon a vehicle just about anywhere in the country. This works best for those who have an iPhone or Android device, which is generally needed to request a ride.
Hopefully something in this list sparked your interest, or caused you to go down a rabbit hole looking for that perfect gift. If you're like me, it's just as fun to give gifts as it is to receive them, and I hope you get to do a bit of both this holiday season. Happy Holidays.
Websites for Sources
- 64 Oz. Games
- Blind Mice Mart
- Elegant Insights
- Google Store
- iOS Access for All
- Lego for the Blind
- Seedlings Braille Books for Children
- Tech for the Blind
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
- AccessWorld 2018 Holiday Gift Guide by Deborah Kendrick
- Holiday Gift Guide for the Last-Minute Shopper
More by this author:
- Access to Multimedia Streaming Devices, Part 2: A Review of the NVIDIA Shield TV
- Blasting Barriers to Creating Affordable Braille: A Review of the Braille Blaster Software from APH