It’s that time of year again and never before in our collective memory has there been such a confusing holiday season. Do we gather with loved ones or not is certainly the first question on most of our minds. And, once we figure that out, the pandemic also weighs in when it comes to selecting the best gifts.
Gifts that require going somewhere – such as theater tickets or museum memberships – might not be the best choices right now, since so many venues are operating on limited schedules or not open at all. And, of course, if your gift recipients are blind or low vision, the social distancing required in such facilities pretty much negates the pleasure of the experience.
Games that require playing with others in an up-close and personal way may not be the most satisfying gift choices in 2020 either. But enough of this talk about what doesn’t work! There are plenty of great gift ideas in 2020, and many of them can be delivered to you or your favorite recipient for under $100.
Keep it simple, keep it clean
In this era of COVID-19, we all know the rules: wash your hands, wear a mask, stick to small gatherings and distance yourself from others. Bottles of hand sanitizer and canisters of bleach wipes don’t make very thrilling surprises, but there are items which can add to the rule of simplicity and cleanliness while adding a spark of joy as well.
One of the first rules learned by folks new to vision loss is the importance of maintaining order. Being organized also makes it much easier to disinfect the surfaces around you. Here are a few items which will bring a smile to the blind technology lover.
Talking smartphone sanitizer
What do all of us touch thousands of times every day? Our smartphones or tablets or other mobile devices. In response to this fact, devices employing ultraviolet rays to disinfect phones and other small object grew quickly in popularity with the pandemic.
Two unique models available from Mystic Access offer voice prompts to tell you when the disinfecting process has begun and when it is complete. One model offers aromatherapy as well, and both can accommodate other small items – think cash, keys, credit cards, or other tiny items you touch all the time. Choose between a five minute version with aromatherapy or fifteen minute version with wireless charging capabilities. $65 from Mystic Access, www.mysticaccess.com or call (716) 543-3323.
Other items to keep desk clutter under control are cables and chargers. Choose three nylon braided cables with reversible micro usb connectivity or three for USBC, each trio $20 from Mystic Access.
There’s nothing like bags and pouches for organizing your items – from technology to jewelry to any other collectible – and Guidelights and Gadgets have bags of just about any size for every occasion. All are genuine leather and affordably priced. From tiny bags to hold ear buds, dog treats, or a spare key, to the new crossbody roomy leather chest pack with upright phone pouch ($55) for convenience when using AIRA and Be My Eyes, there’s a bag to fit your needs. Email your questions or orders to Barry Scheur, email@example.com, or call him at (617) 969-7500.
Smaller items can mean less clutter, too, and there are a number of small products available to add productivity to the access technology user’s life. The Orbit Writer, a six-key braille input keyboard that can connect to your smart phone or tablet is small enough to fit in a purse or pocket. Buy the Orbit Writer Bundle from Guidelights and gadgets, and you’ll get the keyboard, pouch, and recorded tutorial (Contact Guide Lights and Gadgets for pricing information)
Of course, not everyone likes to type in braille. For that time when we can travel again and need lightweight products (or just because some people like cool technology that comes in tiny packages), A T Guys sells a nifty foldable QWERTY keyboard. This keyboard can pair via Bluetooth with your Windows, iOS, and android devices, or plug in to one of them via a USB cable. Weighing just one pound and folding to the size of a print paperback, this keyboard offers a full qwerty layout – including F1 through F12 keys, and some dedicated keys for switching among your various devices. The Plugable folding keyboard, Model bt-key3xl, comes with its own carrying case and sells for $55. Available from A T Guys](http://www.atguys.com), (269) 216-4798.
A unique approach to boosting the sound of your smartphone or portable book player is the Soundbox. No wires, no Bluetooth or other connection is involved. Just place your device on top of the Soundbox and enjoy the gigantic boost in volume and sound. Choose the basic Soundbox, $25, or the new Soundbox Stereo Amplifier, $45, both from Guidelights and Gadgets.
Even if you and yours aren’t traveling like you once did, no one wants that feeling of dread that a dead iPhone can inspire. The Harbolt Company offers two new portable chargers from Mophie, 4000 or 6000 MAH, that are similar in shape and smaller in size than most smartphones. Each has an onboard lightning connector and one USB port. From $30 to $45 from The Harbolt Company, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (409) 633-2572.
Michael Baldwin is a stay at home dad who has hand crafted the kitchen cabinets and a variety of pieces of furniture enjoyed by his wife and children in their Nebraska home. His most recent creations, cutting boards hand crafted in a brickwork pattern from end grain cherry, mark the beginning of his taking his artistry to market. In varying sizes, ranging from approximately 8 by 11 inches to 12 by 15 inches and priced from $50 to $100, these cutting boards will delight the cook in your life. Michael welcomes conversation about custom sizes to fit your needs. To order, email him at email@example.com.
For the jewelry lover in your life, combine beauty with braille with a unique design from Elegant Insights. Key tags, zipper pulls, necklaces, bracelets, bling for your purse or your dog’s collar – all can be personalized with braille and/or engraving. Customize charms for wine glasses or tags for suitcases and anything else that invites sparkle. See product options here or call owner Laura Legendary at (702) 605-1265.
For Those Who Bark Under the Tree
Guidelight Dogs has tons of gift ideas for dogs and their humans. For guide dog handlers, lights that attach with Velcro to harness handle or strap will add a bit of safety to your nighttime walks. Owner KaeAnn Rausch loves to talk about dog toys and has ones to meet the needs and wants of pets and service dogs from large to small and mellow to mighty. Dog toy orders over $20 are 20 percent off. Of special interest to guide dog handlers will be the Training Bundle. This package includes a leather waist pouch, pick-up bags, clicker, dog treats, and more, $30 till December 15. To discuss dog toys and more, contact owner KaeAnn Rausch, GuideLightDogs@gmail.com Or call her at (781) 286-1696.
Shirts and Donations
The company Two Blind Brothers (that was indeed founded by two blind brothers) prides itself on selling shirts softer than any others. T shirts, turtle necks, hoodies and more, made of a unique blend of cotton, bamboo, and spandex, each sporting the embroidered braille name of its color, and giving a portion of proceeds to the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Check them out at here](http://www.TwoBlindBrothers.com).
And of course, you can always give a gift to a favorite organization in honor of someone you love. The National Federation of the Blind, American Council of the Blind, your favorite guide dog school or the American Foundation for the Blind, are just a few examples of worthy nonprofit organizations benefiting blind people who would welcome your holiday donations.
Finally, please note that every product referenced in this holiday gift guide is sold or made by a blind artist or entrepreneur. Support them. Support one another. And have a beautiful and peaceful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or other celebration - and wave goodbye to 2020 with joy and health and safety!
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
- The 2019 AccessWorld Holiday Gift Guide by J.J. Meddaugh
- 2020 Senior Solutions: Low-Tech and No-Tech Tools for Independence by Deborah Kendrick
More by this author:
- Simple Sounds: A Review of the Sangean PR-D17 Radio
- A Profile of Ron Brooks, Vice President, Transit Market Development, American Logistics