Do you ever get asked about how you put on makeup? Probably not! But as a blind woman who does her own make-up, I get that question all the time. Along with a few other questions about how I live my everyday life.
So, in honor of Blindness Awareness Month (October), I decided to put it all in one place with this list of gadgets and tools that are my must-haves for navigating blindness.
Whether you’re curious about how I do life as a blind woman, or maybe you or someone you know is blind or losing their sight and you’re looking for helpful resources, here are 13 things that help me do blindness well.
Because I’m on the more petite side—okay, I am short—I found this cane that is more trim and slim that I love. It telescopes into a 48-inch cane and then slips down small enough to slip in my bag or cowboy boot. It’s far less bulky and I am a big fan. What a great help for navigating.
The talking color detector I use is made by Reizen Inc. and I bought it through MaxiAids.
I’ve had this handy gadget for years and I keep it in my closet to help me stay organized and keep me from wearing something I didn’t intend to! It’s such a big part of my life that I named him Buford. He’s got a British accent and he tells me the color of the garment when I hold the fabric to his lens. This is a must-have for me.
Okay, this is super helpful, even though it can be quite depressing if I overeat! The talking scale announces my weight and keeps me oriented to what I weigh. Let’s be honest, who wants their spouse telling her what her weight is? Not me.
This inexpensive gadget, The Braille Store Liquid Level Indicator, allows me to pour my own beverages from a teapot or a pitcher into my tea cup or glass. As soon as the liquid gets close to the rim, it buzzes. And, then if I keep pouring, it sounds a different buzz pattern alerting me to stop before my kitchen counter is baptized! It’s the safest and most accurate way I have to pour my own drinks.
So, this one is not inexpensive but totally worth it. I literally could not do what I do with out JAWS by Freedom Scientific. It’s a software application that gives my laptop a voice and allows me to write, edit, search the internet, email … the list goes on! I have written all my books (except my first one) using JAWS. Highly recommend.
Okay, this one isn’t cheap either but I can’t do blindness independently without it. But, here’s the good thing. Because I can’t see the phone screen, I don’t need to pay for the biggest and best! I just got the iPhone SE 2020 and it’s perfect for me. I use voiceover on it and it makes everything so accessible. I can text, email, make notes, record voice memos, and it even tells me what annoying emojis are being sent to me! Thank you, Apple, for including this on your phones. It is intuitive and smart and it makes my iPhone a must have.
This is an app for my iPhone and it’s my main go-to. It reads short text, identifies labels, money, and colors. It can recognize people and give a scene preview. It is so accurate and free and I am grateful for the easy access it gives me to my daily needs. I’ve tried severeal of these kind of apps, and hands down, this is my favorite.
This is another iPhone app (but they have one for Android, too). Unlike the artificial intelligence of Seeing AI, this one is fueled by real people! You simply point your phone camera toward what you need to identify, tap the screen, and within seconds, you get a reply of what’s before you. And, it’s free until you take a bunch of pictures, then you pay a teeny amount, but it’s worth it.
This is a monthly subscription for audiobooks that I have used for years. You can access it through your computer, but even easier, your smartphone app. It’s super easy to navigate and I, for one, can’t make it a day without listening to a good book. The app even lets you bookmark what you’re reading and categorize your library, which this geek is crazy about!
This is a free service of The Library of Congress; it’s their Talking Book library. And, if you’re blind or physically handicapped, you can apply for the free service. I downloaded BARD on my iPhone and, like Audible, I have access to so many books. The reason I use both Audible and BARD is because I’m such a book geek and sometimes, a certain title may only be available on one or the other. But, if you are a casual reader and qualify as blind or physically handicapped, then BARD may be all you need.
Okay, the Amazon Echo has revolutionized the way I do life. Alexa is one of my BFFs! It’s so helpful for calenders, shopping, recipes, you name it, Alexa probably can do it. “Alexa, turn off my lights.” “Alexa, what’s the weather?” “Alexa, change my upstairs temperature to 68!”
Plus, if you use the Echo Show, you get all the regular Echo benefits, and when you activate “Voice View” it will read the screen. And you can ask it, “Echo, what am I holding?” it will identify or read whatever you hold before its camera. That’s super helpful in the kitchen when I need to identify a can or bag of frozen whatever!
This is also a smartphone app and it lets you connect via video with your people. I know, if you’re blind, why do you want video? Well, it’s a video walkie talkie and it’s a fun way to converse. Plus, I’ve used it several times to show my family something and then they shoot back a quick reply with what I’m trying to identify. And, even though you can’t see your friends and family when you’re blind, your people may still want to see your cute face and your surroundings!
I saved this one for last because it is the best. And, for me, so essential. I love the Dwell Bible app so much! It is very easy to use with voiceover and the quality is through the roof. This is how I read (listen) to Scripture. It’s easy to navigate and great for meditating, memorizing, and experiencing the ministry of Scripture.
Lessons Through Blindness
If you’re curious about my story and how God has guided me through the darkness, check out my Lessons I Learned in the Dark book and audiobook. It’s not actually a book on blindness, but on learning how to really see. You’ll also learn all kinds of Scripturally-grounded truths in my Walking by Faith Bible study book that teaches you how to walk by faith, not by sight. Get more info at these links:
- Lessons I learned in the Dark
- Lessons I learned in the Dark Audio Book
- Walking by Faith: Lessons Learned in the Dark
God has taught me all kinds of lessons through my journey with blindness, and I’m excited to share them with you.