Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Holidays are here again and the problem of what to buy for your friends and family might be rearing its head once more. At The Chicago Lighthouse though we've got you covered. We've got great deals on new and ex-demonstrator technology throughout the holiday season and beyond, so be sure to come and check out the latest deals by following this link!

Our latest offer is a new Humanware Synergy SI 24" HD CCTV for just $2095, which gives you a saving of $1300! Not bad I'm sure you'll agree, whether you want to treat yourself or a loved one. Call us with any questions at 312-997-3649. 


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

So How Do I Do That?

This is a question we get asked a lot at the Lighthouse by people who are visually impaired or blind and who want to achieve something like watching TV more easily, reading a book or using an ATM. 

Because of this we created 'The Chicago Lighthouse Presents How To...' Youtube Channel, a channel dedicated to answering questions on how to perform specific activities as a person with a visual impairment and increase quality of life. 

We have 13 videos up already with more on the way, and if you have a topic you would like to see covered then don't hesitate to contact us and let us know. If we can, we'll make a video on it! See the Youtube Channel here and see a sample video below. 


Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Next Generation of Portable Camera

Technology advances ever onward, and one of the latest devices to be born from the imagination of the engineers at HIMS is the E-bot.

The E-bot is a portable CCTV camera designed to be connected via HDMI to a television or monitor - so far so normal. What sets the E-bot apart is that it can also wirelessly connect to an iPad, using the iPad's screen as its monitor!

In another twist, the most advanced version of the E-bot, the E-bot Pro, is fully motorized and allows control of the camera through either swipe and touch gestures directly on the iPad screen, or with the included remote control. This is fantastic for making fine adjustments when magnified and makes it possible to use the camera from beyond arm's length as you don't need to touch the camera in order to move it. 

The E-bot comes in three models, with the E-bot Pro being the most fully featured. The E-bot Pro, in addition to the motorized movement, offers great OCR, distance viewing, near viewing and superb portability due to its fold-away design. 

Look out for a video on the E-bot very soon, and in the meantime read more about the device here

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Joy of Reading

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” ―Helen Keller, The Story of My Life

One of the main areas in which people who are blind or have a visual impairment suffer, particularly if they have lost their vision at a later age, is the loss of their ability to read. Suddenly being unable to read mail, books, magazines, restaurant menus and product labels, to name just a few areas, means a loss of independence and a subsequent decline in quality of life. Often people will turn to their family and friends for help; however having to rely on others is unsatisfactory to many people and the psychological burden further leads to a decline in quality of life. If a student experiences vision loss, being unable to access textbooks or see the whiteboard can put them at a disadvantage to their peers and lead to a loss of motivation in school and poor grades. Being able therefore to propose viable techniques that can enhance the ability of a person who is blind or visually impaired to read is very important, and thankfully there are many devices that can be utilized. 

Electronic magnification is a huge area and consists of devices from handheld to desktop and every size in between. Using an electronic magnifier or CCTV a user can read anything from a menu or food label to a book much more easily than with a regular magnifying glass.

If magnification doesn't work for you then OCR may be the answer. OCR or read aloud devices can take a picture of a piece of text and read it aloud to a user. Great for reading mail or books these devices can do wonders for your independence. 

As well as these there are many services available providing audio books. The Library of Congress runs a program called BARD offering free audio books and a device to play them to people with a visual impairment. You can apply at or visit your local library. In addition, services such as and learning ally offer access to many books including textbooks for students. As well as these, through a tablet, e-reader or phone it is possible to download thousands of books from places such as Amazon or the Apple App Store. 

Reading as a person who is blind or visually impaired is a huge topic and can't be covered in a blog post. For more information you can contact us at 312-997-3649, email at and visit our Youtube Channel at 

The Connect 12 - A Connection to the Future

The Connect 12 from Humanware is a fantastic new device combining the convenience of tablet technology with low vision features. Based on an Android tablet, the Connect 12 runs the Prodigi software meaning good quality near magnification, fast and accurate OCR and ease of use. An optional extra is a wireless distance camera which can be used to magnify the whiteboard, look out the window or whatever else you might want to see.

Once you have finished on the Prodigi side it is easy to exit to the Android side and use Android's built in accessibility to access the internet, send and receive emails, take pictures, read books and so much more. Fantastic for students or those wanting a really portable do-it-all device, check out the video below to see it in action!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Ditch Your Car, Get a Bike...It's Good for your 'Elf!

One of the things visually impaired people miss the most is the independence of being able to get around and do simple things like shop for groceries, meet their friends and go for coffee. Not being able to drive makes  doing every day tasks like these much more difficult and can result in a serious loss in quality of life.

Enter the Elf...The Elf is a vehicle designed by Organic Transport, and it was spotted by our own Tom Perski as a potential tool for people with low vision to use to gain back some independence. The Elf is at heart an electric bike, however around the bike is a chassis making it look like a small car even including wing mirrors, head and tail lights, indicators and a horn! To drive the Elf you use handlebars which control the 2 front wheels, and the rear wheel keeps the whole thing balanced. On the handlebars is a throttle for acceleration, and a shifter to adjust the gears for the pedals. If you want to relax and drive put your feet on the pedals and hit the throttle, if you want to get some exercise use the shifter to adjust the pedals to the correct gear for the speed you are traveling then let back on the throttle and start pedaling!

The Elf is legal to drive in bike lanes and on the sidewalk, and could be a great mode of transportation for those with a visual impairment. Charging the battery is easy and can be done either by plugging it in (around 3 hours to a full charge) or via the solar panel found on the roof of the vehicle (7 hours to a full charge on a sunny day). The top speed is 20 mph and you can travel around 40 miles on a single charge so you can get around at a decent speed and distance and the bike always feels stable and easy to drive (if sometimes a little bumpy). The starting price is a little steep at around $6000 but considering the features the price makes sense, and if it gives some much needed independence back then it's worth every penny. Check out our video below!

It's Time To Make Life EZ

An interesting movement in the AT field over recent years has been the homogenization of different types of technology into one device. This has been seen with CCTV's that contain OCR technology, Read-Aloud devices that combine email capabilities, Smart Phones that can be used for numerous different tasks related to the low vision and blindness etc. This homogenization is a great trend as it means a user can carry less devices and make their lives a little easier.

Following this trend is the Blaze EZ from HIMS, a fully featured DASIY reader featuring WiFi capabilities and OCR. The Blaze EZ is around the size of an iPhone 5 and weighs just 138 grams making it very portable. The front of the device is uncluttered; At the top are two speakers at the left and right with the power button between them. A record button is located under the left speaker. Under that are found 3 buttons in a row for access to music, radio and books. Under these can be found four directional arrows with a button in the center for navigation and selection. Finally, under the arrows are 3 buttons in a row, a cancel button, an explorer button for accessing menus and the OCR button for performing OCR.

The Blaze's main competition is likely to come from Humanware's Victor Reader Stream 2nd Generation, itself a very capable OCR device. The devices have in similar built in WiFi capabilities, allowing you to download DAISY books from Bookshare, BARD, stream online radio and download podcasts. The Victor Reader features a numeric keypad which makes navigation and accessing certain features somewhat easier. The Blaze EZ on the other hand features OCR which the Victor Reader does not. In my tests with the OCR it works very well - it performs the OCR quickly, the accuracy is impressive and the voice is clear. The Blaze does not give any indication as to the paper alignment like the KNFB Reader does, so it can be harder to align. Nonetheless I can see it being a very useful tool. One other nice feature that the Blaze has which the Victor Reader does not is built in storage - 16GB is built in with around 12GB available for use. This of course can be expanded with an SD card (support for up to 64GB SD cards).

Both of these devices are great examples of homogenization in the AT field, offering multiple features to access entertainment on the go. The Blaze is interesting in offering OCR in such a compact package, and it does it surprisingly well. This comes at a cost though, with the MSRP at $695, while the Victor Reader comes in at an MSRP of $369. Whichever way you choose to go you really can't go wrong! To find out more call us at 312-997-3649.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah it's the Magnilink Zip!

Low Vision International are no strangers to making great low vision devices. We were big fans of their portable camera system, the Magnilink S, a few months back and now have had the chance to review their portable desktop CCTV line, the Magnilink Zip. Suffice to say, once again we are impressed.

The Magnilnik Zip comes in many varieties with optional 13 or 17 inch screen sizes, an optional X-Y table, an optional HD or Full HD camera and an optional rechargeable battery. All models can fold flat for easy transportation and feature LVI's fantastic design aesthetic, looking sleek and modern to fit in with your other appliances.

The Magnilink Zip is a great CCTV for a student thanks to it's optional rechargeable battery allowing it to be used  away from an outlet, it's fold-away design allowing it to be easily transported between classes and it's camera which can be used for distance or near viewing. Great for zooming in on the whiteboard then looking at a handout!

You can read more about back to school technology on our sister blog at and see the Magnilink Zip at our online store here   or even better, just watch our video review below!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Beacon of Hope?

Here at The Chicago Lighthouse we are always excited to try out new technology, and that's why when Boni approached us with a desire to install navigation beacon technology here we jumped at the chance!

Boni is a company from Turkey who have been working on a navigation system to aid those who are blind or have a visual impairment to navigate through unfamiliar spaces. The way they do this is by using small beacons installed in strategic places around buildings which transmit locational data to an app (currently available on iPhone but soon to be available on Android also). Using the app is very simple and allows you to choose a location that you would like to navigate to and have the app tell you the direction and distance you need to travel both audibly and visibly. 

                                                                                                   The beacon is seen on the ceiling

Additionally the app will transmit data about your surroundings as you walk around. For example, when you walk into the lobby here at The Chicago Lighthouse the app will relay the information that you are in the lobby, that the store is to your left, the front desk is in front of you, and the offices are to your right.

The Loud Steps app giving navigational data

This kind of tool can be very useful for navigating new and unfamiliar spaces. The beacons have already been installed in multiple places in Turkey such as shopping malls, and in the tests we have carried out here at The Chicago Lighthouse the navigation technology has proved to be useful to participants as an addition to their cane. In the future we hope that this technology will be commonplace making everywhere accessible to people with a visual impairment and providing a beacon of hope for equality everywhere. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Used But Not Abused

Technology is a great asset to those who are blind or visually impaired, helping to give back independence where it may have seemed that there was no hope. The down side to this is that technology costs, and is unfortunately not covered by services such as Medicare and Medicaid. 

To help with this The Chicago Lighthouse offers used or ex-demo equipment at highly discounted prices. All the equipment is tested by our Assistive Technology team to ensure it is working correctly, and is available to be tried out at our downtown (1850 West Roosevelt Road, Chicago IL) and Glenview (222 Waukegan Road, Glenview IL) locations. 

Our used and ex-demo equipment can be found here and here And of course if you have questions about anything, technology related or otherwise, then please call! You can reach us at 1-800-919-3375, or feel free to email

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tom's Corner has a New Home!

Tom's Corner has now migrated to its new Youtube Channel and can be found here

For those of you not in the know, Tom's Corner is the weekly radio show featuring Tom Perski, Senior VP/Rehabilitation at The Chicago Lighthouse. Each week Tom talks about the latest and greatest in Assistive Technology in an informative and entertaining manner. You can catch the show live every

Saturday morning from 7:45am-8:00am on WCPT (820-AM 

& FM) or catch up with past broadcasts on our Youtube


Navigation Just Became a Breeze...

For the blind and visually impaired, navigation around unfamiliar areas can be a scary proposition. Talking GPS units can be a godsend in this situation, providing street by street navigation that can guide a blind or visually impaired pedestrian to their destination. The Trekker Breeze from Humanware was one of the best GPS systems on the market but was hampered by slow connection time to satellites and a problem losing it's signal in built up urban areas. 

Humanware have just released a solution to these problems in the Trekker Breeze+, an updated version of the Trekker Breeze that promises drastically reduced connection time to satellites and much better signal retainment in built up areas.It offers some other great features such as the ability to create your own landmarks, browse points of interest in your area and set routes to them, and even the ability to explore routes virtually before embarking on them.

The Trekker Breeze+ comes in at a great price point at $799 if you don't already own a Breeze, or $199 if you have a Breeze already and want to update it to the Breeze+ model. 

We think the Trekker Breeze+ is a great tool, but don't take our word for it! Check out the video demonstration below and see for yourself, then see it on our website here

Monday, June 15, 2015

Educate and Entertain Yourself with Great Resources from the AFB!

The American Foundation for the Blind is a fantastic organization striving to bring equality for those with a visual impairment and has been doing great work since 1921. That's why when we were recently alerted to their blog we had to check it out, and we were not disappointed. Featuring fantastic articles on topics ranging from getting to grips with the new iWatch from Apple, to anecdotes and stories about Helen Keller, the AFB Blog is a highly recommended resource and we would encourage you to check it out here 

And for those of you who love to keep up to date on the latest technology (hopefully that covers most of the people who read our blog!) don't forget about the AFB's AccessWorld magazine, a free online magazine published monthly and covering news and reviews on the latest and greatest technology out there, as well as articles on low vision and blindness news from around the world. Check it out here

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Vario Ultra - A Braille Display for the Modern Age!

We have finally had a chance to make a video demonstration of the Vario Ultra Braille display, and this little guy is definitely a good tool to have around for the modern girl or guy. Featuring a sleek aluminum body, ergonomic design, excellent feeling Braille cells (available as either a 20 or 40 cell setup) and the ability to connect to 5 devices simultaneously, this Braille display hits all the right buttons. 

Check out our video review to find out for yourself what this Display is all about!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Orcam Brings Facial Recognition and Exceptional OCR to the Game

The Orcam has been in pre-release in the USA for a few months and we have had the chance to try it out, and we are liking what we see. For those of you who haven't seen the promotional video (see it below) the Orcam is a wearable camera which attaches to the side of a pair of glasses and can perform OCR to read aloud whatever text the wearer is looking at. In addition the Orcam offers additional features such as facial recognition whereby, once you have stored a person in its memory, it will recognize that persons face when it sees them and tell you who you are looking at. It is also possible to store products into the Orcam's database so when you look at a products packaging it will tell you what the product is.

This technology can be extremely useful for the vision impaired or blind, and from our hands on we have seen that it works very well. The speed and accuracy of the OCR is exceptional, providing good quality speech output and being able to be triggered by the user simply pointing at what they want to be read. The speech is transmitted to the user via bone conduction so the audio is not spoken out loud to whoever is in the room with you!

Facial recognition is a feature that many will find useful to avoid embarrassing social faux pas, particularly useful for the blind or those with central vision loss, but does have limitations currently such as only being able to store 20 people in the memory, and having some problems if the person, for example, is wearing glasses but was not when they were initially stored in the memory. However there is a lot of potential for this idea and further updates will hopefully improve on some of these limitations.

The Orcam offers a new vision of how blindness and low vision technology can be integrated into your life through unobtrusive, wearable technology that assists with the things people most struggle with. Although not perfect, the Orcam offers a glimpse of the future of assistive technology and promises a new era where technology will seamlessly blend into a person's life and allow them full access to the world, whatever their disability.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Humanware Launches the Next Generation of Trekker Breeze!

Humanware's Trekker Breeze has long been a useful tool for people who are blind or visually impaired to confidently navigate when out and about, providing a simple to use interface that can be manipulated one handed leaving a hand free to hold a white cane or dog guide. The Trekker did have a few problems though, such as very slow starting time, not telling you what side of the street things were on and sometimes inaccurate location finding when not in street view.

Step up the New Trekker Breeze+ Humanware yesterday launched the next generation of Trekker Breeze addressing all of the issues that users had with the first generation. Humanware promise quicker start up, much better location finding when not in street view and better description of where things are. We haven't had hands on time with it yet (keep tuned for a video review when we get one!) but judging by Humanware's past successes we are fully confident they will deliver another great product, and really look forward to trying it out.

Best of all is the price. A new Trekker Breeze+ will set you back $799, a great price itself, but even better if you already own a Trekker Breeze you can have yours modified to the new version for just $199! That kind of pricing is really forward thinking and consumer conscious, and we love it.

Check out the press release from Humanware below and call us at 1-800-919-3375 with any questions!  


HumanWare Launches the Trekker Breeze+
More Accurate for More Informed Travel
HumanWare is excited to announce a new travel tool to add to the navigation toolbox. The Trekker Breeze+ is the next generation of HumanWare’s popular Trekker Breeze talking GPS. Building upon the success of the original Breeze and based on the feedback received from visually impaired travelers, the new improved Breeze+ is the most accurate, intuitive, and effective navigation aid designed for travelers who are visually impaired.
Buy now

Developing strong orientation and mobility skills is essential for successful travel for individuals with a visual impairment. Effective skills with a white cane or dog guide enable a traveler who is visually impaired to successfully and safely navigate from work to home, home to school, or among different countries around the world.

“ The integration of GPS into our guide dog training curriculum would not have been possible without the relationship we have built with HumanWare. We are excited about the new Breeze Plus because it delivers the features and upgrades our clients and instructors have been requesting. HumanWare proves once again it listens to the needs of our clients.
The changes are another example of the commitment of both Leader Dogs for the Blind and HumanWare to provide meaningful products and services. We look forward to our continued collaborative relationship and the chance to improve travel of all who ask.”
Says Rod Haneline, VP and Chief Programs & Services Officer at Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Based on popular user feedback, the Breeze+ uses the same effective design as the original Trekker Breeze while on the go. With well pronounced tactile buttons, all device functions can be operated using one hand, leaving the other hand free for your white cane or dog guide.
It’s what’s inside that makes all the difference
The Breeze+ uses the latest in GPS technology to provide you with the fastest, most accurate travel information when and where you need it. So what’s different about the Breeze+ compared to the original Trekker Breeze?

·   Significantly improved GPS acquisition time
When frequently using this newly updated GPS technology, you
can expect to have a GPS connection in as little as 10 seconds
after the device boots.
·   Greatly improved performance in urban canyon environments!
The urban canyon environment often found in large cities has
always been less accommodating to GPS usage. With the
updated GPS technology in the Breeze+, you can expect
a consistent GPS signal, regardless of your environment.
·   Improved GPS accuracy
With Breeze+, you can expect accuracy of landmarks to
be significantly improved. For example, testers have
reported that their landmarks have been announced less
than 5 feet from the original location.
·   Higher quality GPS signal
Once Breeze+ acquires the satellite signal, you can expect
to travel with a higher quality GPS signal. This means a more
accurate detection of your location.

Travel with confidence with Breeze+
Here are just a few of the features existing Breeze users love:
·   Traveling to a specific address or business?
Breeze+ provides you specific walking or driving instructions as you travel.
·   Wondering where you are?
Use the “Where Am I Button”. This button tells you your current cardinal direction, next intersection, nearest address and current street.
·   Curious about what you just passed?
The What’s Around feature lets you know what interesting points of interest are around you.
·   Worried about how you will get back home?
Simply drop a landmark in front of your house and Breeze+ will walk you back to that exact spot whenever you want.
·   Nervous about navigating in open areas such as a campus or park?
Breeze+’s open area mode allows you to use landmarked locations to get from point A to B confidently.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Microsoft Surface Brings Full Portable Computing to the Blind and Visually Impaired

With the release of Microsoft's Surface 3 tablet/laptop hybrid we thought it was time to blog about the benefits of this great line of devices for people who are blind or visually impaired (read a review of the Surface 3 here

The Surface 3 is the first time that Microsoft have released a Surface outside of the Pro line that runs a full version of Windows 8.1 - what does this mean? It means you will get a fully functioning laptop replacement running a full version of Windows for a lot cheaper than was previously possible.

Starting at just $499, the Surface 3 can have up to 4GB of RAM and 128GB storage, and uses an Intel 'Atom' processor which seems from the reviews to be capable for most users needs. Also available is the great Surface Type Cover, a fantastic keyboard with fully tactile keys that also doubles as a cover (although this will set you back a further $130).

The keyboard is a great feature for people who are blind as it allows easy navigation of the computer using the keyboard only, and also connects to the tablet with a strong magnet meaning you don't have to fumble to find the port and connect it - simply bring the Surface close to the keyboard and the magnet will do the rest! Talking of ports, the Surface also offers a full sized USB port, making it a breeze to connect a printer or transfer files with a USB drive).

The other great thing about the Surface 3 (and Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3) is that it runs a full version of Windows 8.1 - meaning if you are a current user of JAWS, NVDA, Window-Eyes, Zoomtext, MAGic or anything else that runs on a Windows platform you can install in on this tablet and be ready to get computing right away! Also, any programs you are used to using on your computer, be it something from the Microsoft Office suite, Google Chrome, Photoshop or anything else that will run on a Windows computer can be installed and run on the Surface.

The convenience of being able to pick up a tablet and be familiar with the OS and operation for someone who is blind or visually impaired is huge, as it means no need to familiarize yourself with a whole new operating system that may or may not have been designed with the needs of the blind and visually impaired in mind. As the Surface line has been around for a while now you can also save some money by buying used or refurbished devices, just make sure you buy The Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro 3 or Surface 3 - The Surface and Surface 2 do not run full versions of Windows 8.1.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Zoomax's Butterfly Takes Flight.....

Here at The Chicago Lighthouse we are big fans of Zoomax's products as they combine great features and great prices. We're glad to see the Butterfly, our latest acquisition from them, is no exception. This 3.5" portable electronic magnifier features 5 color modes, 1.5x to 15x magnification and a freeze frame mode. The thing that we really like though (and that gives it its name!) is the butterfly shaped stand on the rear of the unit. This stand puts the screen at an angle towards your eyes, making the device very ergonomically well designed and comfortable to use. 

Check out our video about the Butterfly then call us at 1-800-919-3375 for more information! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Accessibyte, a Great Educational Tool for Teachers of the Blind, Visually and Cognitively Impaired

A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Jorgensen, developer of the Accessibyte suite of accessible software, and last week we got together for an interview to find out all about the software he offers - and we think it's great!

Accessibyte ( is the name for a suite of great software designed to aid teachers of the blind, visually or cognitively impaired, with applications such as a talking typing teacher called 'Typio', a suite of accessible games testing reflexes, math skills, language skills etc called 'Accessibyte Arcade', and an application to very quickly and easily convert text files to wave (audio) files called 'WordWav'. 

We had the chance to test the software out over a couple of weeks and had great fun with it. The interface proves to be excellent, being very visually uncluttered and simple to navigate. Users can customize the applications for the individual student (for example setting up custom lessons in Typio) to make sure that all skill levels are catered for. The arcade offers games needing as little as one button to be pressed to play, meaning the entry level skill needed for people to enjoy the software is very low. 

We were really impressed with the Accessibyte suite of software, and with Joe himself, and highly recommend checking out the website at and trying the software for yourself! 

Watch the interview below!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Zoomax know how to 'Panda' to their audience....

The Lighthouse has just received a new desktop CCTV from Zoomax, the company who introduced the Butterfly, Snow and Snow 7 HD electronic handheld magnifiers, and we like. 

The CCTV is called the Panda and comes in a striking black and white color scheme (hence the name!). Containing all the features you would expect such as 17 different color modes, 2x-70x magnification and a 19" monitor, the Panda is an attractive CCTV with a good image and is really easy to use.

And now for the best part (drum roll please).....the Panda retails for just $1695! That's a great price for a quality CCTV like this and makes it one of our favorite choices for an entry level, good quality unit. 

Easier to look after than a pet Panda, the Panda CCTV might be just what you or a loved one is looking for!

Need help with the TV remote ? X1 from Comcast just might be for you....

We've been talking a lot about accessible television recently, and today we came across another great service that can make it easier for people with a visual impairment or who are blind use their television - X1 from Comcast!

This service introduces some great features for the blind and visually impaired, such as an accessible television guide, accessible menus and accessible DVR control so you never have to miss your favorite shows again or find what channel they are on :-)

In addition, a problem to many people with a visual impairment may have finally been solved - Comcast have introduced a voice activated remote control! no more struggling to find the correct button, simply speak into the remote to have it change channels, start recording, suggest things to watch and a lot more. 

We think that this service has a lot of potential for helping people with visual issues access and use their television more easily, potentially increasing their quality of life and happiness. 

For more information on this service, visit

We are always getting questions about television and hope that our recent articles can help with some ideas on how to make watching television easier and more fun as a blind or low vision individual. As always, feel free to comment or call 312-997-3649 with any questions!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Watching TV as a visually impaired person

Let's face it, everyone likes to watch TV, but for the person with a visual impairment this can be a difficult task. For those with a central or peripheral scotoma it can be hard to see faces of the people on television, and easy to miss important action happening on the screen. 

Audio described television (which we talked about last week with regards to Netflix) can be one helpful tool for this problem. A narrator describes the action on the screen so even if you can't see it you can imagine what is happening through the narration. 

However there are other options out there. One device is magnifying television glasses designed to magnify at distance. Sit in your easy chair with these on and the television will appear twice as large, which may be just what you need to better see what's happening. 

If these are not enough, a spectacle mounted telescope can be prescribed which would allow you to magnify objects in the distance to an even greater extent - however bear in mind that as you magnify your field of view will become smaller, meaning you may not see the entire television screen at the same time and will have to move your head around as you are watching. 

Tom Perski from The Chicago Lighthouse, now 62 and having been legally blind since the age of 21, offers some advice from his own experience - "I have found the best way to watch television is to use a smaller television and sit closer to it" He says. "Many people think a larger television will help, but it is hard to see the whole screen. If you have a smaller television and sit right up, relative distance magnification makes it appear much larger"

Tom adds "If you have central vision loss it is more effective to use eccentric viewing (your peripheral vision) to look at things. I find it best to sit at an angle to the television in order to help with this".

So as you can say there are many possibilities. Call us today at 312-997-3649 to discuss what might work for your individual needs!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tech Sale!

Every visually impaired person could benefit from some technology in their life to help with everyday tasks such as reading, going to the supermarket or seeing the items on the menu at the restaurant, but the cost of technology can often be prohibitive. If you have found this to be the case in your life, the tech sale might just be the thing for you!

At the moment we have reduced the price of a number of exciting electronic magnifiers and read aloud devices and have some unbelievable deals. They are going fast so be quick if you want to see what we have to offer, and visit our tech sale page here! Keep looking regularly as new products will be updated as and when we have them.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Good News, TV Fans!

As some of you may be aware, TV has just got better for thousands of people with the introduction of audio description by Netflix on 'select titles' including its new hit show 'Daredevil', the critically acclaimed 'House of Cards' and 'Orange is the New Black', and Tina Fey’s ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ and the epic adventure series ‘Marco Polo.’

This will be followed up by audio description being made available on many more of the TV shows and movies available on Netflix, making potentially thousands of shows more accessible for people all over the world. 

This move by Netflix comes at a time when it was receiving increasing pressure to make its content more accessible from groups such as the Netflix Accessibility Project ( Previously Netflix had stated that it was the studios responsibility, and not theirs, to supply this content, but this has now all changed. A large part of the reason for the change in mind no doubt was the irony caused by its new show 'Daredevil' being about a blind lawyer with superpowers, but not being accessible to people who are blind!

Whatever the reasons, we applaud Netflix for being 'daredevils' in taking the right steps to increase accessibility to its shows, and we know many people will get a great deal of pleasure from it. 

Spring is finally here, and with it comes The Butterfly.....

The market for small portable electronic magnifiers has just got better with the introduction of a new device - The Butterfly from Zoomax. Zoomax has already impressed us with it's Snow and Snow 7 HD  handheld electronic magnifiers, and the Butterfly continues their impressive track record.

Smaller than either of the Snow's, the Butterfly features a 3.5 inch screen and weighs only 4.2 ounces making it ideal for taking around in a pocket or a purse. The magnifier also boasts 1.5x - 15x magnification and 5 different color modes.

The magnifier also has a fold out stand shaped like butterfly wings so yo can rest it on whatever you are reading without having to hold it up.

We love this magnifier as it is simple to use and really portable. Zoomax has a history of making great electronic magnifiers, and this is certainly no exception! At $299 we think this is great value for money and an essential tool. Call 312-997-3649 for more information!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tune in to Tunity

The Tunity app is a great new resource that is proving to be very popular, and even better it's free! But what is it, I hear you say? Tunity is an app that lets you stream audio from your favorite TV Channels through your phone. What's the point of this, I hear you say?! Imagine you are in a noisy sports bar and want to listen to the game they are showing on the TV - just start up the app and listen from your phone! Or imagine you are in the waiting room at the airport and want to listen to the TV's they always have playing but muted - start up the app and enjoy!

We think this is really good option for people with a visual impairment as it would allow them to listen to television channels in situations where they may not be able to see the television. Peter Tucic, my esteemed colleague, used the app at a bar over the weekend and said it worked great!

In order to start streaming the audio from the television simply point the phone at the television and take a picture of the screen. Once done, the audio will start playing through your phone. From the website (

What is Tunity?
Tunity allows you to scan a muted Live TV and get the audio streamed directly to your phone.

What do I do?
Simply scan any Live TV for one second and the app will identify the channel and stream the synchronized audio.

Where can I use it?
It's perfect to use at a sports bar, gym, airport, waiting room, and even at home.

Does it work for every channel?
Currently the app supports 48 channels (Tap “Supported Channels“ on the Settings page for an up-to-date list.)

The app is free on iOS and Android so why not give it a try!

Friday, March 27, 2015

eSight Electronic Glasses Help You See Again!

The eSight electronic glasses are continuing to make waves across the States, proving to be a fantastic solution for many people with central vision loss. These revolutionary glasses feature two video screens which are connected to a camera mounted in the bridge of the glasses. With the glasses on a user can see whatever they are looking at in the video screens, and magnify and improve the contrast of anything they see at distance and at near!

This can be huge for those with central vision loss who have been unable to see people's faces, read signs, books and magazines, watch television and many other things. Using the eSight all these things can be made possible again improving the lives of those with central vision loss drastically. 

Watch the video below to find out more, then call 312-997-3685 to arrange a demonstration to see if eSight might be right for you!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

For Work or for Fun, Accessibyte is Great!

We were recently introduced to a new suite of software which aims to provide solutions to instructors of people who are visually impaired or special needs. Current applications include a typing tester, a collection of accessible games testing various motor skills and a converter from text to audio. All the applications work great and are fully accessible for the visually impaired and totally blind, as well as being useful learning tools for those with a cognitive impairment. Accesibyte will also make custom software for people's individual training needs!  From the website:

"The mission of Accessibyte is to introduce new and needed tools to instructors of visually impaired and special needs students. Accessibyte products are designed and developed by a professional working daily in the field of blind rehabilitation. Product ideas stem from direct observations and discussions with teachers of the visually or cognitively impaired." 

We highly recommend checking out Accessibyte at 

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Bionic Eye

Larry Hester has spent about 30 years without his vision. Doctors have now given him the ability to see light. Larry is now using a device called the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System which is the first FDA approved device intended to restore some functional vision for those suffering from blindness.

The system allows an individual to see lights again and, as you'll see in the video, this allows Larry to do some activities he never thought he would do again.

Please click here to see Larry's story and how the "bionic eye" works!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Technology Roadshow!

It is the season for the Lighthouse to take Assistive Technology on the road, and on Thursday we'll be heading to Mundelein with a huge selection of the latest technology and tools for living to assist people who are blind or visually impaired. If you are free between 10-3 please drop by to say hello and talk to one of our friendly team about what solutions might help you!

The show is at: Lake County Center for Independent Living, 377 N. Seymour Avenue, Mundelein, IL  60060

Free Games On Your iDevice!

If you're feeling bored this weekend and can't make it to Vegas, why not try your hand at Blindfold Blackjack or Blindfold Video Poker! These are just two of many games offered in the Blindfold series, a series of fully accesible games designed for the totally blind and available FREE on the iOS App Store. Our very own staff member Peter Tucic speaks highly of them, so if you find yourself at a loose end don't dismay, just start to play!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Need a Voice? Get Sandy's VIew!

There's a new blog in town that is bringing a voice to those with a visual impairment - Sandy's View! This log is offered by The Chicago Lighthouse and aims to promote awareness and understanding of issues that effect people who are blind or visually impaired. From the blog:   

"To increase public awareness and understanding, The Chicago Lighthouse proudly introduces “Sandy’s View,” a weekly column featuring responses to commonly asked questions about the challenges facing people who are blind or visually impaired. Each week we will share a question with our audience along with a detailed response. Penning the new column is Lighthouse staff member Sandy Murillo, a journalist and contributor to “The Beacon,” a popular weekly radio program on disability issues." Please submit your questions to"

Make sure to check the blog regularly to keep up to date with the latest issues affecting the low vision and blind community, the blog can be found at or by clicking on the 'Blogs We Like' button to the right of this post!

An Accessible Thermostat with Voice Recognition? Yes Please!

We have just completed a video review of the Honeywell Smart Thermostat with WiFi, a great thermostat for those with a visual impairment that can be controlled through voice commands or through an accessible app. 

We've found the thermostat to work well, recognizing commands correctly and working well in conjunction with the free app. The great thing about the app is that if you remember you have left the heating or a/c on while you're at work, you can turn it off from your office! Definitely a useful feature. 

For more information on the thermostat check out the video below and then call us at 1-800-919-3375!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Miniature Revolution!

The Miniature Revolution is here! CCTV's are going through an interesting phase at the moment whereby they are getting smaller rather than larger, and become much more portable. The line is being blurred between a traditional desktop CCTV and a handheld electronic magnifier. Pictured here are three great new CCTVs from LVI (Magnilink Zip HD 13), Freedom Scientific (Topaz pHD) and Baum (Visiobook), all of which feature screens around 13" and fold-away designs. This is great for those who don't have a lot of space, those who need a portable solution that can be used for reading larger texts like books and newspapers, or those who just like things that are small and stylish! 

We predict this trend towards miniaturization will continue for a while and bring us some great quality smaller CCTVs. This can actually be of great benefit as with a smaller screen you can get your face closer and still see the entire screen, giving the benefit of relative distance magnification. 

As always contact us if you want more information! 1-312-666-1331   


Enhance your life with flowers and enhance a visually impaired person's life at the same time!

Every girl likes flowers, and every girl really likes flowers that will not only look pretty but will help a local charity. Flowers for Dreams, founded in Chicago in 2012, specializes in locally crafted bouquets, hand delivered to their customers across the Chicago-land area. What started as a college project has turned into an amazingly successful business and quite the gorgeous way to help local charities.

In the month of March, The Chicago Lighthouse is fortunate to be Flowers for Dreams featured charity. Flowers for Dreams will contribute 25% of their profits in the month of March to the Lighthouse. So far since 2012, Flowers has donated more than $60,000 to worthy causes around the Chicago-land area. Their goal is to reach $100,000 donated by the end of July. What a way to help both organizations!

Please consider ordering one of their gorgeous bouquets today for any occasion.

And remember...

Every girl loves Flowers (for Dreams)!

Check out the promotion at for more information!