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! 

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