Brown’s Bargains Episode Twenty-Nine

This week, Brown’s Bargains has gone in search of everyday items you can use around the home, all available from the RNIB Online Shop.

Amplidect 260 talking cordless phone – twin set: product code: DH391, £83.33

This twin set of amplified cordless telephones with voice guide comes already paired for your convenience. It features talking Caller ID, talking keypad, large buttons with large font and a tactile centre key. Hearing aid compatible.

Rechargeable Torch: product code: DH386, £17.95

Lasts up to four hours with no need to replace batteries.

Talking radio controlled calendar alarm clock: product code CC76BK, £39.95

This analogue talking alarm clock announces the time, day and date in a clear, English male voice. It’s radio controlled in the UK and it features an optional alarm with snooze function, LED light illumination and adjustable speech volume that can also be turned off if required.

Brown’s Bargains Episode Twenty-Eight

Brown’s Bargains has undergone a price rise! This means that we can now feature three items for under the new price of £100 each, instead of £30 each. We hope this new rise will give listeners more variety when shopping, and enable Brown’s Bargains to source even greater value for your money.

MyCharge Peak, available from Computer Room Services, £41.67

The myCharge Peak is the perfect way to keep your devices charged while on the go.
Plus with clear voice output, you’ll always know if your battery is turned on and
how much power is remaining. Charge up to 3 devices at once including the iPhone,
Android, bluetooth speakers, or other USB devices. Plus, a wall charger is included
in the unit and can fold out for easy charging. Note the wall charger is a USA style plug, but this device can also be charged from a USB wall plug such as the iPhone plug. We sell these wall plugs as a separate option, but the UK version does not come with this unit. It can also be charged from a computer via USB. Hello myCharge. The myCharge Peak 6000 is a rechargeable 6000mAh battery pack that
will charge the average smartphone four times, and even charges iPad and other tablets.
The Ultimate Solution for Power Anxiety
myCharge Peak 6000 addresses one of the most critical needs when it comes to mobile
technology: the loss of power. Unlike wall and car chargers that require an outlet
to function, the portable power of myCharge Peak 6000 allows users to stay charged
while on-the-go, wherever and whenever.

Kings Audio Sovereign USB Memory Stick Player, available from Computer Room Services, £32.00

The Sovereign USB Memory Stick Player now has the capacity to bookmark multiple USB memory sticks, so if you have a talking book, talking newspaper or a magazine all on the go at the same time, the Sovereign player can bookmark each stick with a tap of the play/pause button, allowing you to go back at any time and listen from where you last left off.

Yet another new feature is the addition of Cue and Review, so that by holding down the Rewind button the listener can wind back within the track to replay, say, a telephone number or other useful information. Holding down the Forward button will allow the listener to ‘fast forward’ within the track.
Also, the Sovereign MP3/WAV Player has a redesigned battery compartment that now takes a standard Lithium Ion battery (Nokia Style) which clips in easily. These batteries are widely available in the UK from shops and online. It is even Bluetooth compatible!

BlueTiger SoundTrax Bluetooth Stereo Headphones, available from Computer Room Services, £60.00

SoundTRAX by Blue Tiger are the wireless headphones that you have been looking for! Up to 30 hours of use on a single charge, pristine music clarity, and Bluetooth, 3.5 mm, and microSD card connection options.
SoundTRAX are equipped with a built-in microphone so you can answer your calls, or use the headset for communication and audio transmission for online games. Hear every detail in a multiplayer match and chat with your teammates all without getting your mouse and keyboard mixed up with messy headset cables.
On top of the ear cup, you will find a microSD card slot. Stick a microSD card full of up to 32gb of mp3 or WAV files and you won’t even need to take your phone with you! Perfect for jogging, cycling, or working out.
SoundTRAXâ„¢ are also equipped with an auxiliary port to plug any device with a 1/8″ stereo audio cable output directly into the headset.
Built-in Bluetooth technology with A2DP allows any iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android devices, or any other Bluetooth devices to play through the headset wirelessly.
Multiple connection options, extreme battery life, and high quality sound make the SoundTRAXâ„¢ the perfect solution for wireless audio fidelity.

Brown’s Bargains Episode Twenty-Seven

Brown’s Bargains continues with the Christmas theme by sourcing some neat ways to parcel up your goods:

Set of 6 Medium Christmas Giftbags with Rope handle & Attached Tag: available from Amazon or direct from Cards Galore, £7.49.

Approximate Size (w x h x d) 10.25×8.25×4″ (26x21cmx10cm)

Other Designs & Sizes Available.

Scotch C10 Desk Tape Dispenser – Black – 25 mm to 75 mm Tape Core Up to 25 mm Wide: available from Amazon, £11.34.

• Suitable for Tape Rolls of 25/75 mm tape core up to 25 mm Wide
Keep your Scotch® Magic tape conveniently placed on your work surface with this classic design dispenser.

Cute & Traditional Christmas / Xmas Wrapping Paper 50cm X 50cm 12 sheets/Pack (7 Designs): available from Amazon, £3.29, available from Amazon

• 12 Sheets
• Cute and Traditional Designs
• Cellophane Wrapped
• Each Sheet Measures 50 x 50 cms
• 7 Designs.

Brown’s Bargains Episode Twenty-Six

To help you start planning the festivities, Brown’s Bargains this week went in search of some rather nice Christmas cards that all raise money for various charities.

RNIB Christmas cards: a pack of 10 in a choice of five different designs that include white envelopes, £3.95 per pack.

These cards all say “Merry Christmas” but have no Braille in them. Choose from:

Santa’s Classic Car;
Christmas Post;
Our Finest Gifts;
Highland Cattle;
Robin and Holly.
Call the helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit the online shop at
www.rnib.org.uk/shop

Guide Dogs Bumper Pack: £4.99 for a pack of 20 assorted Christmas cards with the Guide Dogs logo printed on the back. Message inside reads: “With best wishes for Christmas and the new year.” Also available in packs of 40 and 60.
www.dogalogue.com

Fab Forty Christmas cards from the RSPB: £8.99. A selection of Christmas cards in 20 lovely designs with an inside message of “With best wishes for Christmas and the new year.”
www.rspb.org.uk

Fifty Years With Braille

THE PAST

My journey with Braille began 50 years ago, in the autumn of 1966. At the tender age of four, my parents were forced to send me to Sunshine House Pre-School Nursery in Northwood, Middlesex, where I spent my first 18 months away from home. “It will do your daughter good to learn to be away from her family before she starts boarding-school proper,” the authorities unceremoniously informed my distraught parents.

I still have a vivid memory of my first day, when staff lured me to a wooden doll’s house that stood on the landing at Sunshine House. “You promise to be here when I come back mummy?” I pleaded tearfully. But when I returned to the play-room downstairs, my mum had gone, shoved out of the door sobbing her heart out as the institutional regime I was to face for the next 12 years tried to pries us apart.

I came to accept life away from home, though I never liked it. But one positive aspect of boarding-school was learning Braille. For me, it was exciting, addictive and, of course, a necessity given the limited resources available to blind people back in the 1960s. I tackled it with fiendish enthusiasm right from the word go. I remember that my journey really began with a set of dominoes with raised dots on them. I clearly recall a teacher at Sunshine House showing me how to play the game, and allowing me to explore the number of digits on each domino. While a set of tactile dominoes doesn’t reflect Braille at all in a formation sense, I think the teacher wanted me to get used to feeling dots, and being able to count them so I could pair them with other dominoes containing the same values.

picture-of-dominoes

From dominoes, I moved onto small cards with a few Braille cells on them that I started to remember as being A, B, and C. By the time I went to Linden Lodge School in Easter 1968, I knew what the first 10 letters of the Braille alphabet were. And it was then that my happy association began with the Perkins Brailler. The school asked my parents if they would consider buying me one to help with my learning development. They paid £14 for the same Perkins Brailler that now languishes silently in a corner of my computer room, still in perfect working order and ready to go! It was a lot of money to cough up in those days.

By the time I was eight or nine, I had a full command of the Braille language, and was able to read the grade one and two code. From the early days of reading simple books like House On The Hill, and the Tin Pot House, I ventured onto the Wide Range Reader series, and became completely hooked on reading and writing Braille.

Braille became an integral part of my life from then on. My parents bought me a Braille watch, various games with a Braille dice, and tactile wooden puzzles. We had a large collection of 45s, so I set about slipping the cover of every record into the Perkins so I could identify each single by writing the name of the song and the artist in grade two Braille.

braille-watch-image

Having mastered Braille proficiently, I then learnt to touch-type on a manual typewriter. I was a good speller, and excelled in written communication in both Braille and print. By the time I left Linden Lodge at the age of 16, I was considered by staff and pupils alike to be one of the very best pupils ever to be taught Braille at the school, (their words not mine.)

After that, I divided my time between reading Braille books and magazines, or typing letters to sighted family and friends in print. I also taught my mum how to read and write grade one Braille because she became fascinated with it too. It also meant we could exchange private letters and notes when I went onto attend the Royal National College in Hereford.

When I began working as an audio-typist, Braille still featured prominently in my life. I would take Braille magazines to work to read during my lunch-break, and I had my Perkins Brailler on my desk beside me when I needed to take down a telephone message. Looking back, it was a noisy and cumbersome way of taking down names and phone numbers for my colleagues, that I would then type up in print and pass onto the staff member concerned. And as my responsibilities in my working life increased, I would keep a Braille appointments diary for my boss, inserting a print page on top of each Braille sheet, so we could both access it. No electronic calendars, reminders and Emails in those days!

perkins-brailler

It was while I was working for Social Services as a Clerical Assistant in the 1980s that my first introduction to electronic Braille came about. My boss wanted me to go with her to meetings to take minutes, but it wasn’t practical for me to walk into a room full of people and start bashing away on a noisy Perkins Brailler. I had heard of something called Eureka, a device with a Braille input keyboard and synthetic speech output that could read back all data being entered. The difficulty was the cost, £1,595 I think at the time. But when the then Manpower Services Commission showed me one, I was completely hooked, and vowed to buy one of my own to use as it contained so many exciting features.

eureka-picture

From then on, Eureka A4 became my main tool for many years. I carried it to case conferences and took minutes silently, then typed them up on a BBC Master computer. My little office had suddenly turned into what we all called the Tardis: wires and plugs everywhere; speech synthesis robotically reading data back to me that I had entered on the computer; my newfound friend Eureka with her quirky Australian accent … you couldn’t make it up!

As the years flew by, my hunger for assistive technology grew, my love of all things Braille never waning for a moment. As the development of access kit went from strength to strength, so too did my desire to learn how to use it. And it was in 2001 that I finally managed to purchase my first Braille display. Yes it was second-hand, and yes they had already been around for several years in one guise or another. But I was so excited when I unboxed my Alva ABT380 unit. At that time, I was using Windows Millennium, JAWS version 4, and Word 97. I attached the Alva ABT380 to my computer using its serial port, and couldn’t believe what I was feeling as the electronic pins went up and down to form Braille beneath my fingers. So as well as relying on the speech synthesis of JAWS to read the screen, I could also move about with the buttons on the Braille display to read a line at a time of Braille text. It was like all my Christmases and birthdays had come at once, I was so excited and liberated to have refreshable Braille at my disposal as well.

alva_abt380

This new experience coincided with the start of my HND in Practical Journalism at a mainstream college near to where I lived. It meant I was now able to proofread documents and assignments at home. But I needed to take notes at college too, so funding from Disabled Students’ Allowance enabled me to purchase a BrailleNote Classic. My dear friend, Eureka, was now past her best, and had become outdated for many of the tasks I needed to perform. BrailleNote offered me the opportunity to have a small machine with 32 refreshable Braille cells for reading, and a Braille input keyboard for taking notes during classes. And because shorthand was a mandatory requirement of my HND, I asked the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) if they would accept Braille shorthand instead of the Teeline method my classmates used. It was agreed that provided my tutor could dictate passages to me at the required speed levels, and I could read them back to her before printing them off for submission to the SQA, I could continue with my studies. And this is what happened. My tutor dictated passages at 70, 80, 90 and 100 words per minute that I rattled down in Braille on my BrailleNote. Using the 32 Braille cells, I could read them back to her verbatim before printing them off for submission to the SQA. I passed both my shorthand exams with merit!

THE PRESENT

As Windows has moved on to the current version 10, and screenreaders have become more sophisticated, so Braille has undergone a revamp of its own. We now have what is known as Unified English Braille (UEB.) This overhaul has been designed to make learning the code easier, and to enable those working with Braille transcription to adopt a more standard conversion. Many of us who have been Braillists for years don’t like UEB at all, and can’t see the need to change what we have all grown up with and learnt to love. Would sighted people let you change what they know as print?

The current state of play is that there is now a greater choice of Braille displays, though cost is largely prohibitive. With the huge rise in the use of Smart devices, many portable Braille displays now pair with your Apple or Android peripheral to give you Braille in addition to VoiceOver or TalkBack. This year has seen the launch of the world’s first certified Google Braille tablet, and the world’s first truly affordable reader for under £500. Newer Braille embossers also allow you to print contracted Braille from them directly. In addition to using refreshable Braille, these days, I too have an Index embosser for producing hard copy Braille when I need it.

THE FUTURE

Parents get much more of a say today in whether they want their child with a visual impairment to be integrated into mainstream education, or taught at a specialist school. With the use of computers and Smart devices still on the increase, there is more emphasis than ever on using voice recognition and speech synthesis, and less urgency on teaching Braille.

This has prompted many to believe that Braille is on the decline, a terrible indictment for someone like me who was reared on it as my first language. The thought that blind children could one day go through education never having learned Braille at all just fills me with horror. But as the current generation dies out, this might be a very real prospect unless Braille is still on the curriculum, and the technology to use it becomes more affordable. The critics argue that Braille is bulky, costly to produce, and past its sell-by date now that speech synthesis has become so sophisticated. Advocates like myself argue, however, that Braille offers independence and an extra skill, is more immediate than speech synthesis, and is incredibly important in literacy for teaching children spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalisation, and numeracy.

While being apart from my family was often torturous for them and for me, the one saving grace is that I was able to learn skills that have so far enhanced my life, and given me those much needed experiences over my 50 years with Braille!

Brown’s Bargains Episode Twenty-Five

It is all about accessible stationery this week, and what you can purchase for 2017! All available from RNIB.

2017 big print wall calendar: product code DS0317, £4.49
A3 with each month clearly displayed on one page in two columns. Spiral bound with hanging hook.

2017 big print pocket diary: product code DS0417, £5.49

Wire bound with easy to wipe clean covers. Includes dedicated pages for personal details, special occasions and forward planner. In the back there is also a small plastic sleeve so you can put in shopping receipts, or notes.

2017 braille pocket organiser: product code BB1117, £8.49

This braille pocket organiser comes in a small blue PVC padded ring binder which is handy and compact to use whether you’re at home or on the move. UEB format.

Brown’s Bargains Episode Twenty-Four

Brown’s Bargains went in search of products you can use around the home this week…

Powertel 46 big button corded phone: Product Code DH387, £24.95, available from RNIB

Easy to use, amplified big button corded phone with volume and tone control, three memory buttons including SOS, and easy to see keypad.
• Visual flash for incoming calls
• Three speed dial buttons
• Hearing aid compatible
• Easy set up – no mains or batteries required

Gripper jar opener with handle: product code DK169, £12.95, available from RNIB

This jar opener grips onto most jar lids or caps and then utilises a long handle to help make opening your jars and bottles easier.

iSlice Magnetic Safety Cutter Tool, £4.32, available from Amazon

Safely clip, cut and open thousands of items. the ergonomically shaped iSlice features a built in magnet for easy storage on the fridge and has a recessed high-tech zirconium-oxide ceramic blade that resists wear and never rusts. No more cut fingers from scissors or knives Cuts: Recipes & coupons plastic packages Photos Scrap books Newspaper & magazine articles Shrink wrap – CDs.

Brown’s Bargains Episode Twenty-Three

Brown’s Bargains this week went in search of some useful and novelty talking keychains …

Talking Keychain Clock with Alarm, £9.07, (part of the Magnifying Aids range,) available from Amazon

• Loud Talking Clock.
• Easy To Hear
• Very Popular!
• Keychain ready.

A small clock on key chain with a talking alarm in English.

Talking Keychain (Silver), £12.99, available from Amazon

• A full function talking alarm clock with the added feature of an alarm with the choice of 3 different sounds
• The handy key chain clock is so compact making it portable, you can take it with you wherever you go! It will easily fit in to any handbag or pocket,
meaning you can take your talking alarm with you
• It has a clear LCD display and clear voice the device is easily set with just 3 buttons on the front face
• The alarm clock has a female voice
• The silver key chain clock is powered by 3 x LR44 batteries which are included with the clock.

1999 Thunderbirds Virgil / Thunderbird 2 Talking Keychain, £12.99, available from Amazon.

• Vintage Gerry Andersons Thunderbirds Thunderbird 2 Virgil Tracy Talking Keychain.
• Released by Vivid Imaginations in 1999, this fantastic Thunderbird 2 Talking keychain features four phrases that Virgil Tracy says in the television
show.
• This fun, chunky blue keychain emblazoned with a picture of Thunderbird 2 fits in the palm of your hand or clips to your belt.

At the touch of a button the keychain repeats one of four favourite Thunderbird phrases.

The four phrases are:

• Thunderbird 2, understand you are at danger zone FAB
• Thunderbird 2 to base
• FAB Scott. Lets get down there!
• Thunderbirds are go

Brown’s Bargains Episode Twenty-Two

This week, Brown’s Bargains went in search of some accessible stand-alone calculators to make your number-crunching a little easier …

Reizen 12-Digit Jumbo Talking Calculator: product code LC222, £15.95 excluding VAT, available from
RNIB.

This giant sized talking calculator is about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. It announces each button press and calculation in an American female voice. The easy-to-see, oversized black buttons are printed with white text which gives good contrast against the silver coloured surround. It also features a large 12 digit LCD display. There is an adjustable volume, and speech can be turned off completely if not needed. Hinged LCD display tilts towards you for easy viewing. Displays the time and includes alarm function. Text on buttons is 1.4cm high (56 point) and number and function buttons measure 3.8cm wide by 2cm long. LCD display measures 14.4cm wide by 3cm deep and calculations are shown in 2.2cm high characters (88 point)
• Requires two AAA batteries (not supplied)

Flexible Talking Calculator: RRP £7.99, now £4.99, available from Amazon.

Have fun with this roll-up flexible talking calculator. It can do your calculations out loud and comes fully loaded with a clock and alarm clock function. There is also a handy magnetic strip on the back which allows you to stick it to your fridge or other such surfaces.

• Large Symbols, Talking! (With On/Off Function)
• Time and Alarm Function, Flexible – Roll It Up!
• Magnetic Strip on Back – Attachable to fridges etc…
• Battery Powered (Included!)
• Dimensions: 21cm x 29.5cm (A4 Size)

Talking Calculator With Earphone: £20.95 (including batteries), available from Cobolt Systems Ltd, 01493 700172

A basic function calculator with percentage and memory keys. This calculator features a large clear display, adjustable volume, selectable speech on/off,
large tactile keys and an earphone which disconnects the speaker when plugged in for private use (included).
Size: 175mm – 7″ (W) x 130mm – 5.14″ (L) x 33mm – 1.29″ (D).

Brown’s Bargains Episode Twenty-One

This week, Brown’s Bargains goes in search of some hygiene products to make you feel good and look immaculate!

Oral B Pro 600 Cross-Action Electric Toothbrush: RRP £49.99, now £24.99, available from Amazon

• Dynamic movement helps you achieve enhanced results
• Removes up to 100% more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush
• Clinically proven 3D cleaning oscillates, rotates, and pulsates to break up and remove plaque better than a regular manual toothbrush
• Rechargeable electric toothbrush with one mode: Daily clean
• Included in pack: One toothbrush handle, charging station with brush head storage, one toothbrush head

BaByliss 7235U 10-in-1 Grooming System for Men: RRP £30.00, now £24.99, available from Amazon

• Rechargeable trimmer with five interchangeable attachment heads
• Precision trimmer (0.5 mm) with titanium blade technology for extreme precision and sharpness
• With a five-position comb guide (3 to 15 mm) and three jawline blending combs (3 mm, 5 mm and 7 mm)
• Body groomer (0.5 mm) with five-position comb guide (3 to 15 mm)
• Three-year guarantee
• Rechargeable trimmer with five interchangeable attachment heads
• Precision trimmer (0.5 mm) with titanium blade technology for extreme precision and sharpness

Remington WDF4840 Cordless Lady Shaver: RRP £34.99, now £24.97, available from Amazon

• Double foil shaver for comfortable and quick shaving results
• 2 x hypoallergenic floatings heads the follow the body’s contours
• Intercept trimmer for enhanced cutting performance and smoother results
• Cordless with charging stand
• Bikini trimming comb attachment