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Spencer's Spotlight

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Spencer's Spotlight published in 2015

February 2015

This article and its contents reflect my experiences and opinion on the products described therein. Talking Scale:

With today's technology getting out of hand price wise, getting into the thousands of dollars, it is so nice to see a bit of helpful technology that is well under $50.00 and be a part of your everyday use. I am talking about the Economical talking bathroom scale.

I just purchased this model. I was surprised by the more than reasonable price as well as its sleek design. This scale is simple in its design and does not require the press of a button before getting on to it. I had always found pressing the button before getting on the other scales to get me off balance causing the scale not to weigh as accurately as it should. This scale activates once you step aboard. A clear female voice announces the weight in pounds and ounces or in grams, whichever you prefer. There is also an option for either English or Spanish.

Due to its sleek design, it will fit almost anywhere and look good in the bathroom. It has a really cool new age look to it. It fits low to the floor so getting on and off this scale is a breeze.

So, you say, where can I get this little gem? I found it on Speak To Me For those of you that may not be familiar with them, the web address is

Product Details:
*low profile tempered glass platform
*weighs up to 330 pounds/150 KG
*it measures 11” X 11” X 0.9”
*it requires 3AAA batteries, which are included
*comes with a 10 year limited warranty
Catalog code: TBS 330
Price: $34.95

Hats off to the manufacturer for keeping the price of this really neat scale affordable for us. So I am off in search of the next blind friendly product to tell you about in next month's issue.

March 2015

Before I go into the description of this popular and productive product, I would like to tell you a story that happened very recently. My friend Renee was getting ready to go to dog guide school and was packing for her adventure. One of her concerns was that she would get her clothes mixed up and would go around mismatched the whole time. Well, believe it or not, a teacher from the Independent Living for the Adult Blind recommended that she get several laundry bags, the kind you wash your undies in. then, for her to place each outfit in separate bags so when they came out of the dryer they would still be together. Then all she needed to do was just unzip and hang them up. Wow! What a great idea, right? Wrong!! Oh, oh so so wrong!

Here is what happened. She did as instructed; put each outfit in a separate bag, washed it, and put them in the dryer.

Results...What came out of the dryer was this tangled mess of bags. They had wound around each other like little snakes and no amount of pulling the knotted mess was going to dislodge them. Someone had to get some scissors and cut the bags apart in order to liberate the clothes.

Well the good part of this story brings me to this month’s spot lighted item. Renee had packed her Pen Friend along with a pack of washable laundry labels. She snagged a sighted person and proceeded to label all her clothes. She was thrilled! The Pen Friend turned out to be a friend in deed.

The Pen Friend is a long fat pencil like device that runs on 2 double A batteries and comes with a USB cord to connect to a computer. The box it comes in has labels on the flap with operating instructions on different labels. Basically, the Pen Friend is your very own bar code reader. You can use it to label all kinds of things, the possibilities are limitless. Your home can become pen friendly! You can also record voice memos to yourself with it if you like.

This simple but powerful device is a very helpful tool to go into our independence kit. If your saying, "I have to have it! Where can I get it?" Not to worry, the Pen Friend is so popular; you can find it in a number of places: Independent Living Aids, Maxi Aids, LSS Products, Speak To Me Catalog, and Blind Mice Mega Mall. So fear not, the Pen Friend is very affordable, ranging in price from 119.00 to 129.00. Bar code labels come in packs. So if you order pack 1, the next time you want to order pack 2 and so on. This way, you do not compromise already scanned items.

There is a more advanced version of the Pen Friend, the Pen Friend 2; however I do not have this version. This item sells for slightly higher coming in at about 150.00. It can be found at Blind Mice Mega Mall.

April 2015

Spencer's spotlight is shining on a product that is a very handy little item to have in your independence tool kit, and that is the Colorino color identifier.

There are several color identifiers and prices range from slightly over 100 to upwards of 700. That is quite a range. Have you ever heard the expression, whatever the market will bear? Well, yep, that’s true, but to be fair, there are major differences between the lower priced identifiers and the mega priced one.

I have the Color test from American Printing House which was my 10th anniversary present which was in 1999. Price tag came in at a whopping 600. Well, what did I get for the price? Quite a lot actually, in addition to giving me the color, it gave the saturation, which is the degree of density. A higher number means the lighter the color. Pretty neat.

My husband Chris was working at Bell South and he wore white shirts. I was having a difficult time keeping his shirts white and he was complaining they were looking dingy. Well, I got to thinking about that and what I could do to fix the problem. I got a sheet of paper and checked the number of the pure white color. It was 8.0 so then I was able to use that number as a benchmark to measure the whiteness of his shirts. So in that regard it was worth the price. Today's model of the color Test comes in at around the 700 dollar price range. OUCH!!!!

Worry not; this month's spotlight is on the cororino which is just under 200.00. Making it significantly more reasonable. It is a handheld device with a small lens on the end of it that when pressed against the item, the color is announced when the button is press. It will say dark or light or just announce the color if it is in the middle range. It may also say pale or give a combination of colors light grey brown.

-It takes two double A batteries which is also a feature I love. It makes it easier to travel, not having to worry about taking a charging cord along with you.
-This little baby also has a light detector built-in. How cool is that! Being totally blind myself, it comes in very handy, especially if my sighted friends forget to leave me in the dark.
-It can detect more than 100 nuances of color.
-It also has a place for earphones (not included) so when shopping for clothes and you know this, sighted people don't always know their colors, you can discreetly check behind them.
-It comes with a protective carrying case to make it easier to take shopping with you.
-It includes 2 double A batteries.
-includes instructions on cassette with large print and quick start booklet.
-One year limited warranty.
-Catalog # 10395500, price $198.00.
Would I recommend this product? Yes, definitely! It is not the least expensive color identifier, but it is certainly in my opinion, worth the money. If interested in ordering it, call the American Printing House at 1-800-223-1839.

May 2015

This month the focus will be on a tried and true piece of equipment no serious braille user should be without. I am talking low tech. actually, it is an attachment to the braille writer.

It is a label maker made of metal that slides in place and is held in place by the two side arms. A strip of dyno tape is held in place by to clips on both sides of this device.

It is lightweight, easy to learn, easy to use, and won't make too deep of a dent in your pocket.

With the 6 Dot Label maker debuting in a few months, I thought I would remind folks that this is also a quick and efficient way of making labels. I must admit, I do have one, use it often and still, I am getting the 6 dot as well. I plan to do a manic amount of labeling.

Just because technology is going high tech as far as label making is concerned, the label attachment for the braille writer as well as our slates should never be far from us. After all, no batteries, no power, no problem.

The label attachment for the braille writer sells for around 30.00 and can be found at The National Braille Press

June 2015

When I was contemplating what I would focus on for this month's item, I thought of what I use and always have with me most everywhere I go. It is a digital recorder. Now, I am not going to focus on any particular model, because the price can range from under $50.00 to the ridiculously over priced ones.

Sighted individuals can reach for a piece of paper and pen or pencil to jot down a note, make a list, or just take down a quick phone number. I look at using a digital recorder in the same way a sighted person uses pen and paper. Granted, the more digital notes you make the more difficult it is to find that number you know you just recorded the other day. But, sighted persons also have to remember what they did with that scrap of paper they put that important number on as well.

I have several, and have recorded phone numbers, grocery list, directions, recipes, and e-mail addresses; the list is endless. I have recorded my dog playing with a squeaky ball, and barking which is priceless since she died several years ago. I also have several audio clips of my late husband. With a simple press of a button, I can hear his voice giving me phone numbers or directions on how to complete a task on the computer.

Also, if you have any one of the talking book players such as the Book Sense, Victor Reader Stream, or the plextalk you know they also have a built-in digital recorder that can come in handy when recording classes, instructions, or a fun event.

Digital recorders are small enough to fit in a pocket or purse easily and can indeed be a very handy item to have in your independence tool kit.

July 2015

After giving much consideration for the subject for this month's spotlight, I zeroed in on Apple's Wireless Keyboard.

*It is not so small that it is difficult to manage, in fact it is a very comfortable keyboard to use. The keys are a good size for typing no matter the size of your fingers.
*It is battery operated, which I love. I already have too many things that require charging so batteries are cool. It uses 2 double A batteries that are extremely easy to install.
*I usually have a very hard time pairing devices to my I Phone but pairing this keyboard was a breeze.
*The batteries last for weeks and makes typing text so much easier especially if you are writing e-mails or articles for The Blind Perspective!
*The cost is around 75.00 and can be found at Best Buy, Apple, or you can order it on line from Amazon.
This is one more small device that helps us level the playing field just a little bit.

August 2015

In this age of modern technology and gadgets of all kinds that do all manner of chores for us, this month's spotlight is going to shine on something so basic and so low tech but oh so useful.

It is a timer with a dial that can be turned to braille markings all around the face of the timer.
*There is a braille dot for every 2 and 1/2 minutes, 2 dots marking at every five minutes intervals, and 3 dots mark the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions.
*Just turn the dial to the desired length of time and you can hear a clock like ticking as the time counts down to zero.
*A quiet audible ring can be heard when the timer is done. It only rings once so keep it close to you so you will be sure to hear it.
*It is small and fits on a stove or counter wherever you happen to need a timer.

I saw this little gem at the Independent Living Aids booth in Orlando Florida during the NFB national convention.
For under $15.00 it does not need to be charged, nor does it need batteries. It is just good to know with all these high tech solutions, we can still find ways to keep it simple sweetie.

September 2015

I have been asked to give my views on this month’s spotlight subject.
The KNFB reader app

First of all I would like to bring to light a little prospective for those of you not sure or still hugging the fence about getting this most amazing app. The year was 1995, the venue was the State Convention, the booth we were at was demonstrating the Kurzweil Reading Edge. A stand alone machine capable of reading text.

The rep gave me a demo using a paperback book. I was mesmerized, I was sold, and then came the price tag. How much? Well.... 6,500. Yes, I thought it was a deal. You see, I have heard of Kurzweil, and previous models had a price tag of well over 50,000.

So you see, to see this model for well under 10,000 was a dream come true. It was attainable. The following week, I went to my bank and explained what I wanted to buy and why. I was approved by the bank manager for an unsecured loan for the full amount. It took me 5 years to pay for it and never once did I regret the purchase.

In 2005 or 2006, Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation for the Blind collaborated on a much smaller and more portable version. It used a PDA and camera combination that brought optical character recognition to a whole new level. And, not long afterwards, a version was created for the cell phone. The PDA camera combo priced out at around 3,000 and the cell phone brought the price tag down to around 1,500.

I purchased the Nokia N82 with the KNFB Reader on it. The application used the camera’s flash on the phone and worked quite well. Aiming was key to getting a good picture for recognizing. I loved it! When my husband died, I was totally dependent on it to read my mail.

This brings me to the app for the iPhone. For 99.99 this amazing technology can be purchased for anyone to benefit from the world of printed material. The learning curve is short and the recognition time is quicker than you can hand a sighted person a piece of paper and ask them what it says. It is that fast, and in most cases, quicker.

Now, for those of you that say, hmmm, not sure. Version 2 has just been released and has a 25 page free trial, so no more excuses. The world of print is just a double tap away. If text recognition was not enough, this app has a PDF reader built in. When imported from an e-mail attachment or other sources, it will extract the print read it to you and give you the option to save it and sink it with drop box.

In my opinion, it is worth 10 times the price and then some. I could not give it a high enough recommendation. My gratitude goes out to the entire KNFB Reader team for providing an invaluable tool to put in our independence tool kit.

October 2015

This month's spotlight has been a very long time coming. I have known about this product for at least 3 years and have wanted it from the moment I heard of its existence.

It is the 6-Dot dyno tape label maker. I had seen a prototype at conventions, and was very excited about it.

At long last this year my long wait was at an end. The first week of August I received my 6-dot in the mail. Without going into too much details, there were a few glitches with the unit. I returned it and another unit was sent to me.

It sits next to my computer at the ready. It is extremely easy to use and is so convenient. It sports a Perkins style keyboard, comfortably arranged. It has a rounded shape and is very futuristic looking. It is extremely lightweight, fits easily in your lap or on a table and is so so so convenient to use.

I have created a notebook and I am making labels for the most important information. Things like insurance information user names and passwords, and anything else I consider important. The old braille paper notes have lost most of the dot formation and is so difficult to read. This way it will last indefinitely. I plan to label cd’s, DVD’s, vitamins, electronic equipment, the list is literally endless.

Features include:
Ergonomically designed to be portable and easy to use anywhere
Houses built in Braille Keyboard, supports all grades of Braille in virtually every language
Powered embossing for high quality Braille for accurate reading and a long life span
Automatic scoring and cutting provides effortlessly clean label cuts without the need for scissors
QWERTY keyboard connectivity option enables people who cannot write Braille to generate labels
Dual power options, AC/DC adapters or battery powering, extending the label making choices for users
Uses standard 3/8 inch (9 millimeter) vinyl embossing label tape

Dimensions: 8.0" W x 5.8" L x 2.8" H
Weight: 0.5KG (1.5pounds)
Power supply: 6 AA alkaline batteries or an optional plug-in power supply

Who would I recommend this product to? Well, students, individuals living alone, employees, wives, and husbands. Really folks, this product is such a cool idea and is so easy to use I recommend it to anyone who knows and loves braille as I do.

The price tag is somewhat hefty but when you realize the electronics and research that went into this device, it is worth the price of admission. When you think about it, a standard braille writer sells for well over 500.00. So this item for around the 600.00 mark is quite reasonable in my opinion.

For more information about this amazing product visit:

November 2015

his month I am not going to talk about one specific item but a specific type of product.

We are in a wireless age and our choices for wireless headsets has become as broad a selection almost as much as the devices in which we use them. There are the over the head kind, over the ear kind and the earbud kind, and let's not forget the Bluetooth kind.

The wireless variety come with a dongle that can connect to the USB port in your computer and twa la, your speech is in your headset. Most of them are plug and play.

The Bluetooth headsets sometimes come with a dongle and connect the same way the wireless do. They can also be paired with a Bluetooth enabled device such as a cell phone or tablet or most of the I devices.

There are earbuds with ear molds, loops that fit over the ear, and some that even vibrate. Oh my, so many choices.

The prices can range from the dirt cheap to the, ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!
So, decide what your needs are, how you want to listen to your chosen medium and enjoy the world of private listening.

December 2015

Those of you that have an iPhone may join me in my struggles in navigating iTunes when it comes to transferring content from your computer onto an iDevice. Well glory be! There is an alternative way of getting the job done. It is called an iStick.

It is a flash drive for the iDevice. It comes with both a USB connector and a lightning connecter. Simply insert the USB into your computer, copy and paste from your music or mp3 files onto the drive. Detach it from the computer, then connect it to the iDevice via the lightning connecter, and the iPhone, for example will recognize the drive is connected. You will then be asked to visit the app store and download the app that the drive uses.

Open the app, and in my case, once I found the files on the drive, I chose the share button, and selected save to downloads. Now the files will be located in the downloads folder on the app. How cool is that! It was an answer to many frustrating hours I had spent trying to figure out how to sink my music files from iTunes.

The price for this little treasure varies and can be purchased from Best Buy, Amazon, and eBay. I got the 16 gig, but larger capacities are available.

So, if you know that certain someone that would love something like this for Christmas, it would make a great stocking stuffer, just saying...

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