Sunday, June 02, 2002

Accessible gifts to make life easier

        With graduations and Father's Day around the corner, we're entering one of the highest gift-buying seasons of the year. Grads and dads of all ages want to organize their lives, so here are a few “accessible” gift ideas for those on your list with disabilities.

Voice Mate

        A personal data assistant that only requires the user to speak, the Voice Mate allows the user to store phone numbers, appointments, and personal reminders with your own voice. Although this pocket-sized unit has a clear visual display, it also “talks” you through all operations, making it fully accessible to those with vision or physical limitations.

        To record phone numbers, you simply press one button to record the name, then enter the phone number either by speaking or typing in the digits on the telephone-style keypad. To make a call, press one button, speak the name as you have stored it and hold the Voice Mate to the phone mouthpiece while it dials the number for you.

        Appointments are set in the same way. Enter the date and time from the keypad, and speak the content of the calendar entry. Appointments can also be tagged with reminders, so that the user hears an alert at hourly, daily or weekly intervals.

        For making a note to yourself, Voice Mate's Memo function allows you to record short or long messages for later playback. Other useful features include a talking calculator, time announcement and an alarm clock.

        It's a bit pricey at $259, but if traditional organizers aren't an option, this makes a wonderful gift. To order, write the manufacturer at Parrot SA, 28rue Meslay, F. 75003 Paris, France; call (888) 936-0001; e-mail; or visit

Dr. Seuss

        When I first read the words to my 3-year-old, I knew Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go would long be a favorite book of wisdom. Now, this book (suitable for graduations is available in a combination print/Braille edition. The Braille text and picture descriptions have been inserted on clear overlay pages in the original book — a great gift for Braille users or anyone interested in expanding horizons.

        To order, contact National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen St., Boston, MA 02115; (800) 548-7323; or visit Price $17.

Other products

        For a host of talking products, magnifiers, assistive listening devices and products designed for those with limited strength and dexterity, Independent Living Aids is an excellent source.

        Sample items include an All-In-One Bottle, Jar & Tab Opener ($2.95), the Sunbeam Hot Beverage Maker ($25), a Designer Backgammon Game (with holes to keep pieces in place, $28).

        Also available are walkers, amplified telephones, assistive computer products, large-print cookbooks and dictionaries, and an array of products adapted to make daily work and play more manageable. Contact Independent Living Aids,200 Robbins Lane, Jericho, NY 11753; (800) 537-2118; or

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