Thursday, January 27, 2011

Understanding "The Process" (Part 1)

One of the things people always ask me is if I think the Lakers have a good shot at the title this year. Of course they do! They usually do! They have a strong starting 5 and a good bench. Kobe just has to show up every game and want to play the team game. 

Another question people ask me, perhaps even more than the one about my beloved Lakers, is "How do I go about getting AT?" The process of getting assistive technology covered is not as difficult as you would think. The biggest mistake most people make or the problem that they face is that they don't gather all of the information they should about the process before they proceed. Hopefully, after reading this article, you'll have a better idea about how to get your AT funded without having to buy it out of pocket.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What Time Is It?

This bargain is one of many I've found in the Dynamic Living catalog. It’s the Big LED Calendar Clock, and it’s a handy item. The display is easy to read with large red letters and numbers on a black background. The time displays with numbers 2.25-inches tall and the letters and numbers in the calendar display are 1.5-inches tall. The only improvement I would make would be to also make it talk, but at $99.00, it’s a nice bargain. 
Big LED Calendar Clock

If you need a larger number and don't mind not having the calendar available, they also have a nice clock with 4" numbers. The 4" Display Remote Control Alarm Clock gives you a great large display of the time. With 4" tall numbers, the clock works very well for people with various visual impairments. 
4" Display Remote Control Alarm Clock

Dynamic Living has a few other clocks that might make a difference for you. For more info, check out their clocks and watches at

Other places you can find large print clocks and watched include Maxi-Aids and Independent Living Aids

If you've got a hearing impairment and you need a clock that will alert you in a non-auditory fashion, these sites can help you too. Clocks for people with a hearing impairment usually have a visual or tactile alert system. What does that mean? Well, often, they'll flash a lamp connected to the clock. If it doesn't flash a lamp, it may vibrate a pillow shaker letting you know the alarm is going off. 

The venerable "old man" in this arena is the Sonic Boom alarm clock by Sonic Alert. The clock has been around for a while and has lots of users who swear by it. You can plug a lamp into the Sonic Boom and it will flash the lamp when the alarm goes off. If the lamp won't work for you, you can plug in a pillow shaker so it will vibrate under your pillow. The unit can be purchased with a pillow shaker, but the lamp is not included. You can find the Sonic Boom at for $59.95 (+ shipping & handling). You can also find it at Independent Living Aids too. There are also travel versions, pocket versions, and even vibrating watches! The key is to figure out just what you need and use that. And don't forget, in a pinch, you can always set your cell phone on vibrate, set an alarm (if it has an alarm function) and either sleep with it on you or put it under your pillow. You might want to make sure it's vibration is strong enough for you to feel it through the pillow. 

Whatever your need may be, be sure to research possible solutions as much as you can before making a final purchase.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Seeking Stability?

This hint is from a Basement Regular who wished to remain anonymous. Her tip was for making house hallways a little easier to navigate for folks with a balance or mobility problem. Her simple tip was to add a hand rail to both sides of the hallway. Having handrails down both sides of the hall takes a pretty wide hallway since the minimum distance between handrails is supposed to be at least 36 inches. So you may only be able to put up handrails on one side of the hall. Still, for those folks who have difficulty navigating a long hallway, handrails can be a godsend. If you are a do it yourselfer or you know one, this simple project can be completed for less than $100, depending on how fancy you want to get with your handrails. Now, handrails, like most everything else in a house or building, have design and building specifications that must be followed. Those can be found online, at your local library or by contacting the county regarding specifications for handrails. As with any home modification or improvement project, never proceed unassisted if you do not know what you are doing. 

Opening Jars Made Easy!

You may have seen the commercials for this nifty little gadget. Unlike other automatic jar openers that may be constrained to a particular jar size for operation.  Because this unit does not have a chamber into which the jar is placed, it is not limited by the size of the jar. To use it, all you do is place the One Touch on top of the jar you want to open, press the start button, and it opens the jar by itself. Now, you can buy the One Touch from the Maxi-Aids ( for $19.95 + shipping. I also found it listed on for $39.99 I was recently made aware that Happy Harrys has the One Touch so if you try there, you can get it same day. However, do note that not all stores share the same pricing and not all stores will have the same availability.  For the price, that’s a heck of a bargain!

Blind Bargains

This bargain comes from the Sussex Co. AT Specialist, Dan Fendler, and it is a doozie Dan told me about a great little web site loaded with AT bargains for the visually impaired. The site is called “Blind Bargains,” and it is a treasure trove of AT Bargains for the visually impaired. The address is, and I highly recommend adding it to your list of favorites. The site has a lot of features including browsing by merchant, active searches of the bargains in their database, portals to low vision bargains on, and the “Ask Bargain Bob” feature which allows you to access their guru of low-vision bargains. Some of their listings include the VOX 3000 talking kitchen/office scale for $39.50, Dragon Naturally Speaking Standard v.10 for $34.98 (shipping included through, a GeoSafari Talking Globe for $70.48, and a Hamilton Beach Talking Microwave for $89.96. Now, the products don’t come from Blind Bargains. They come from various places. Blind Bargains has just set up a neat and easy approach to finding them. So if you’re online and looking for a bargain, check out Blind Bargains.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Really Big Calculators and Stuff. . .

Sometimes I get people asking me about the items I have listed. They’ll say, “Hey Marvin, I like the stuff in The Basement, but how exactly is it assistive technology?” To answer that, let’s look at the working definition of assistive technology I get from the amended AT Act of 1998.

In the act, it defines an assistive technology device as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities.  As much as a mouthful as that is, it’s a very broad definition for a good reason. By leaving the definition so broad, it can cover a large number of items. So while this does cover a $30,000 wheelchair, it also covers the $1.00 roll of shelf liner that is used as a place mat for the one-handed diner who without it would be chasing a plate all over a table. The big point of the Bargain Basement is to help get everyone thinking about the different pieces of assistive technology we see every day but take for granted because they’re in Target or are advertised on TV without an “AT” label on them. I hope that helps to clear up any of the confusion, and if it hasn’t, let me know and I can see if I can help make things more clear. So without further adieu, let’s get to the bargains!

My first item is the PageUP Porta Book. Now, you may not be able to guess what it is from the name, but it is a pretty handy little device. It actually is several devices in one. First and foremost, it’s an angled book holder. It folds in on itself, creating almost a pyramid effect. You can lay a book on one side for reading. You can also use it for writing if you have difficulty writing with the paper flat on the table or desk. Next, you can use it as a clip board, providing a firm writing surface when one isn’t readily available. You can also use it to hold pens, papers, rulers, and other little things you may need to take with you on the go. Do know that the more you use this for storage, the harder it gets to use the angle function. The device is nice, and at $5 (not including shipping), it’s a deal. The PortaBook can be ordered from Portables Plus. They have both Internet and telephone ordering available. It can also be ordered from for around $16 (plus shipping & handling).

Porta-Book portable book holder

My second item is the Jumbo Universal Remote Control. It’s a nice little find from Innovage Products that can control up to 8 devices. The buttons are large and easy to press, for easy use. The price is reasonably low at $9.99.

Jumbo Remote Control

I've seen these at Home Depot, Ross, Happy Harry’s, and RiteAid. The prices at the different stores has been about $9.99, so that’s pretty well established. has it listed for $4.99 for a limited time. If the buttons on that remote aren’t big enough, there is the Tek Partner Universal which is a little more expensive, but it does have buttons that are a little bigger and that do light up.

TEK Partner Universal Remote

This remote retails for $39.99 and is available from as well as other online retail outlets. DATI does have this remote available in its inventory if you’d like to try it before you buy it.

My third item is WordTalk, a free plug-in for Microsoft Word that allows it to do text-to-speech. This can be handy for someone who needs text read to them for comprehension.  The software will read text by the word, sentence, paragraph, or selection, depending on what the user needs. It also highlights the text as it reads along, allowing a user to visually follow along with the text. Unfortunately, this product does not feature speak-able menu items, so it’s not of much use to the severely visually impaired user. Still, this software is very handy for the user with a learning disability who may need the assistance of having text read for comprehension. The price, free, can’t be beat either! I have tried the software out for a little bit, and it works pretty well. It’s easy to use and the user interface is pretty intuitive so it doesn’t take a long time to figure out how to make it talk.  For more information on the software and to download it, go to

Join us next time when we’ll be looking at more bargains and trying to discover the secret to really great coffee. In the mean time, if you know of any great bargains, hints, or tips that would benefit the group, please send them along. Until next time remember, just because it’s a bargain, doesn’t mean it’s cheap!