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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Independent Living Resources Series: Diving Into December 2021

Diving Into December: Organizing Your Clothing

Throughout December, we have reflected on the previous year, and we have begun to set goals for the swiftly approaching New Year. December is a great time to get organized to be ready for all that the holiday season and the New Year has to offer, so get excited to dive into these topics with us this month:

  • Organizing Your Wallet
  • Organizing Your Kitchen
  • Organizing Your Clothing
  • Organizing Your Mail

In this third installment of our “Diving into December” series, we will take a look at the best ways to organize clothing so that you feel confident in what you wear wherever you go.

Why It Matters

Wearing clothing that you can identify is important, whether you are dressing for an internship or you want to be sure you are reaching for your favorite t-shirt on a casual Saturday. Organizing and identifying clothing can feel like a very visual task, but with a few tips and tricks, you can feel confident that you are selecting clothing from your wardrobe that matches and suits the occasion.

Labeling and Organizing Clothing

Everyone has a different way to organize and identify clothing, and we encourage you to develop the system that works best for you. Reference this list to get some ideas for how to create your own organization system:

  • A simple cut in the tag of a piece of clothing can help you differentiate between items. For example, you could put a vertical cut in the tag of all of your black clothing items, a diagonal cut in the tag of all of your gray clothing items, and a horizontal cut in the tag of all of your navy items.
  • Strategic closet or drawer organizing can help keep items in their proper place for quick access. Perhaps you have one side of the closet for shirts, and another for pants. Perhaps you choose to organize your closet by color or season.
  • You never have to worry about matching socks again with pairing tools, such as safety pins or sock locks. You can simply take off your socks after a long day and either (1) use a safety pin to keep them together or (2) feed them through the plastic holder to keep them together. Both will keep your socks paired through the laundry process – both washing and drying, and they keep your socks together in the sock drawer as well. Safety pins can be purchased from dollar stores or retailers like Wal-Mart or Target, and sock locks can be purchased on Amazon or from specialty retailers like the NFB Independence Market sock locks (Item number AIG59S), LS&S sock locks,  and Maxi-Aids sock locks.
  • Consider going through your wardrobe once a year or so with a friend, family member, or hired shopper to ensure that your clothing is free of stains or other natural wear and tear so that you can always feel confident that you look your best!

Specific Labeling Ideas

You may feel that you want to have the maximum information available to you on your clothing labels. There are several different options that involve attaching a customized label to your clothing using a pin or a needle and thread:

  • WayAround: WayAround has a special line of labels (WayTags) that can be attached to clothing using a needle and thread. Once you have gotten your WayTags, you can download the WayAround app and create the content for each label. You could choose to include the color, laundry instructions, and style of dress (casual, professional, formal, etc.). Then, when you scan the tag later with the app, all of the tag information you entered in will be read aloud to you.
  • Braille Clothing Labels: These premade Braille aluminum labels can be attached to your clothing with a needle and thread or a pin. The labels are very small and are safe to launder. They are available from specialty retailers like the NFB Independence Market labels (Item numbers AIG44B and AIG86B), LS&S labels, and Maxi-Aids labels.

Contact us

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Independent Living Resources Series: Diving Into December 2021

Diving Into December: Organizing Your Kitchen

As we enter December, we reflect on the previous year and begin to set goals for the swiftly approaching New Year. December is a great time to get organized to be ready for all that the holiday season and the New Year has to offer, so get excited to dive into these topics with us this month:

  • Organizing Your Wallet
  • Organizing Your Kitchen
  • Organizing Your Clothing
  • Organizing Your Mail

In this second installment of our “Diving into December” series, we will take a look at the best ways to organize visually-labeled items in your kitchen.

Why It Matters

Even if you are not much of a fan of cooking or have little exposure to how to cook nonvisually, keeping an organized kitchen can help you feel more confident in terms of preparing basic meals independently. You can organize your kitchen with various labels and/or strategic shelving, and then you can quickly locate any item you need without any hesitation. Whether you have goals of preparing quick meals or becoming a full-fledged chef, keeping an organized kitchen that is easy for you to navigate is key to whatever cooking activity you want to accomplish.

Methods for Labeling

Labeling items in Braille or audio indications can help you to quickly identify items in your kitchen. There are many ways to do this, and we encourage you to experiment and decide which method works best for you or use a combination of these methods:

Braille labels

You can create Braille labels at home using basic adhesive labels or Dymo Tape, and a slate and stylus or Braille writer. We recommend Braille labeling items that will last a long time, such as a spice container.

WayAround

This product is an app that you can download to your phone that allows you to create and scan labels (called WayTags) that you can purchase from the WayAround website. You could include anything you want in the label, including important notes such as what the item is, its expiration date, nutrition facts, and any cooking instructions. After creating the label, you can place it on an item, and later when you want to identify it, you can scan it with the app and your phone will speak aloud everything that you included in the label. Learn more about WayAround’s kitchen-specific labels here.

PenFriend

This is a device that allows you to create labels using your voice. You can include anything you want in the label, and then scan it later to identify it using the PenFriend device. The PenFriend will then play your recorded voice saying what the product is and any other item information you included in the recording. Find out more about the PenFriend here.  

Other Ways to Identify Items

Labeling is a fantastic way to keep your kitchen organized, but it can take time, and, depending on the labels used, there can be cost involved. There are other ways to maintain organization even when time and money are limited:

Strategic item placement

Establishing a system where you plan to store certain items in specific places can be a helpful way to identify items without necessarily having to label them. Perhaps you keep your favorite cereal all the way on the left-hand side of the cupboard, or maybe you keep canned soups on the bottom shelf and all other cans on the upper shelf. Or perhaps you keep the pepperoni frozen pizza above the veggie frozen pizza so that you always know which one you want to grab depending on your preference.

Tactile indicators

Placing a tactile indicator quickly on an item can be a fast and easy way to ensure you will be able to identify it. Do you want to make sure you eat the frozen green beans instead of the frozen veggies? You could place a snack bag clip on one of the bags to instantly tell them apart. Do you want to have the broccoli cheddar soup instead of the loaded potato? You can place a rubber band around one can to tell them apart. You could even put a small notch in the lid of a spice container using a knife to serve as a tactile indicator. For example, you could put a notch in the salt lid so you can tell it apart from the pepper by feel. Remember to make a very small notch or blemish which would be tactile, but not such a strong tactile mark that the lid would then be open.

Get creative

Think of ways to organize your kitchen that will be both memorable and workable for you. Remember that you are the one who needs to access the food items, and so making a system that works for you is key. The Bridges Helpdesk is here to help you brainstorm ideas to ensure that your kitchen is exactly how you want it to be regardless of the task at hand.

Contact us

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Financial Resources Independent Living Resources Series: Diving Into December 2021

Diving Into December: Organizing Your Wallet

As we enter December, we reflect on the previous year and begin to set goals for the swiftly approaching New Year. December is a great time to get organized to be ready for all that the holiday season and the New Year has to offer, so get excited to dive into these topics with us this month:

  • Organizing Your Wallet
  • Organizing Your Kitchen
  • Organizing Your Clothing
  • Organizing Your Mail

In this first installment of our “Diving Into December” series, we will take a look at the best ways to organize visual information in your wallet.

Why It matters

From money to cards to papers, everything in our wallets is labeled in print that is not accessible to blind/low vision individuals. Learning strategies to keep up with everything that goes in and out of our wallets is key to financial success and general organization. Prepare to have spaces for gift cards or cash received as holiday gifts, and to keep your debit and credit cards organized for holiday shopping!

Organizing Cash

Most blind and low vision individuals have a personalized system to have their money folded in specific ways so that they can identify the bill value immediately upon touching it. For example, one could choose to have $1 bills folded in fourths, their $5 bills folded in half, their $10 bills folded in eights horizontally, and their $20 bills folded in eights vertically. It is important to set aside time to organize your cash so that you are able to readily identify it when you go to reach for it to make a transaction. The Seeing AI app, which has been featured previously on this page, has a currency reading mode that can allow users to identify bills across many different currencies. Taking the time to sit down to go through and organize cash with an app, reader, or iBill Talking Banknote Identifier can help you to feel more in control of the money you have and to feel confident in the exact value of each bill.

Luckily, coins are a bit easier to organize tactilely:

  • Quarters are the largest coin and have rough edges
  • Nickels are the second-largest coin and have smooth edges
  • Pennies are the second smallest coin and have smooth edges
  • Dimes are the smallest coin and have rough edges

Organizing Cards

We seem to carry more cards than ever, including insurance cards, legal ID, work or student ID, transportation access cards, credit and debit cards, and gift cards. Sometimes, it is easy to tell cards apart. The new REAL ID cards have rough markings on them which make them unique to the touch. Perhaps your insurance card is made of a thinner material than all of your other cards so you are able to tell it apart from the others. Even with these distinctions, there are still likely cards that feel the same and have no notable differences from other cards in your wallet.

Many wallets are designed with layers of card slots in which you can categorize your cards based on your own system. Many people find it helpful to have a specific place for each card so that they always know they are presenting the correct one. As you are still getting used to your card layout system, you may even choose to write it down so that you can refer to it until you are able to find each card in your wallet fluidly. The Bridges Helpdesk is always here to help you brainstorm ways that will work for you to organize your wallet in a way that is personalized and useable.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Bridges Blog Independent Living Resources Recreation Resources Series: Next Steps November 2021

Next Steps November: Nurturing (Yourself)

It’s November, and the leaves aren’t the only things changing. We settled into the school routine, and the holiday season is gearing up. November is a great time to create bridges between our current realities and the futures we seek, so these are the topics we will explore this month:

  • November 2: Navigating (Your Future)
  • November 9: Networking
  • November 16: Niche (Finding Yours)
  • November 23: Nurturing (Yourself)
  • November 30: Nurturing (Yourself)

In this fifth installment of our “Next Steps November” series, we discuss Nurturing (Yourself) – why it is important and how to make it a strength for you.

What is Nurturing (Yourself) and Why is It Important?

Nurturing yourself involves taking the time and energy to focus on yourself and your needs. These days, it is easy to get wrapped up in external activities and lose track of what makes you happy.

Of course, not having homework and chores would be great, but nurturing yourself doesn’t mean running away from your responsibilities. Instead, it’s about making sure that you take care of yourself while you are taking care of your responsibilities.

Nurturing yourself helps to keep you physically and mentally healthy. While it can be tempting to just charge through day after day, you might find yourself feeling drained. This feeling can keep getting worse unless you put yourself on your to-do list and prioritize yourself.

How Do I Start Nurturing Myself?

Step back and breathe

The first step in finding what you need is to take a break from your busy life – even for just a few minutes. Put aside your homework and leave your chores undone. Turn off distracting media; just sit with yourself for a few minutes.

Identify what you need

What comes into your mind? What sounds good and relaxing? This can include a variety of things:

Activities

  • Meditation, Yoga
  • Sports
  • Running, walking
  • Creating art, knitting
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Singing, dancing
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Cooking, baking
  • Gardening
  • Many others

Entertainment

  • Movies and TV
  • Music
  • Sports
  • Attending live performances

Food

  • Special/favorite dishes
  • Special/favorite treat or beverage
  • Favorite restaurant

Make the time you need

After you identify what nurtures you, you need to make certain you take the time to do it. Consider scheduling a time for you; put nurturing yourself on your to-do list. This could be every day, three times a week, or anything or schedule that fits into your life.

Alternatively, make a list of what nurtures you, and go to it when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Pick one of your choices and do it. Nurturing yourself not only helps you at that moment, it also makes you stronger and more ready to meet your responsibilities and achieve your goals.

Where Can I Find Out More?

The professionals at the Free Bridges Helpdesk eagerly await the opportunity to serve you. Please feel free to contact us anytime, including holidays and weekends. We are here to support you!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Bridges Blog Educational Resources Employment Resources Independent Living Resources Series: Next Steps November 2021

Next Steps November: Niche (Finding Yours)

It’s November, and the leaves aren’t the only things changing. We settled into the school routine, and the holiday season is gearing up. November is a great time to create bridges between our current realities and the futures we seek, so these are the topics we will explore this month:

  • November 2: Navigating (Your Future)
  • November 9: Networking
  • November 16: Niche (Finding Yours)
  • November 23: Note-taking
  • November 30: Nurturing (Yourself)

In this third installment of our “Next Steps November” series, we discuss how to find your “Niche” – your place in the world.

What is a Niche?

The OxfordLanguages/Google dictionary defines “niche” as “a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment.” More specifically, a “niche” is a situation or environment that “fits” a person’s skills, talents, and desires.

A niche tends to be highly individualized and geared toward a particular person, but there are many areas of a person’s life, and one can develop niches in more than one area of life.

Why Is It Important to Find My Niche?

Choice. Finding your niche is a result of you making choices that fit you, not necessarily following patterns set by others.

Up to now, most of your life, at least the life you remember, has been spent in school. Most of that time has been spent in classes you didn’t choose; they are classes everyone is taking. This starts to change when you get to choose electives in high school, and it keeps changing from there.

After high school, you will be in charge of more and more choices: further education versus employment, and what kind of education or employment you will pursue. These are very important decisions because they will help determine what you will do in your adult life.

You will almost certainly spend many more years working than you did as a student in school. It is worth spending some time now to decide where you want to spend your time as an adult.

How Do I Go About Finding My Niche?

As noted above, niches are very individualized, so it can be helpful to really examine what is special about you.

  • What do you like?
  • What do you like to do?
  • What would you like to be able to do (even if you cannot right now)?
  • What do you dislike, and why? Would you like it more if you could change it or your skills?

To explore these questions, it can be helpful to consider this question: “What If You Had a Magic Lamp?” With this magic lamp, you can wipe out current obstacles to your dreams. Begin without limits (disabilities, finances, etc.). Focus on your interests, your skills, your dreams. Don’t let “reality” encroach in just yet.

Next, explore WHY these are your dreams. Why do these activities sound good? What about the activity fills you with joy, with energy, with purpose?

Once I Have Found My Niche, What Do I Do Next?

Now, we can bring “reality” into the conversation. What are the current obstacles that separate you from your magic lamp dreams?

Skills

  • Do you need more skills to get there?
  • Do you know how to get those skills?

Finances

  • How can you get funding to get the skills you need?
  • If your magic lamp dream job doesn’t yet exist, how can you make it into a job, OR what kind of paying job can you do while pursuing your dream outside of work?

Disability concerns

  • Are there parts of your dream job that “require” physical traits you do not have and cannot change?
  • If yes, are there similar jobs that you COULD do. For example, current technology does not allow a blind person to perform neurosurgery, but blind individuals CAN pursue employment in the area of neurology, including in research, patient care, management, etc.

Make your dream come true

  • Many “jobs” that exist today didn’t exist 30, 20, or even ten years ago. Advances in technology and changes in lifestyle create new job opportunities. Today, there are jobs waiting to be filled in the areas of technological accessibility and cybersecurity. More and more, people are seeking help from talented chefs and other individuals who can share new ideas with them. Tap into your talents and remain ready to move with the times.
  • Turn your passion into profit: From micro-entrepreneurship (Etsy shops, Patreon accounts, etc.) to social media influencers, people are pursuing their passions and finding ways to make a living doing what they love to do.

Get more information

  • Don’t stop exploring. In every field, there are many jobs that might not be obvious from the outside. For example, a high percentage of law school graduates end up in non-attorney jobs, including business, non-profit, and education-related positions. “After the JD” Study Shows Many Leave Law Practice. These individuals still use the skills they learned in law school, but they are not practicing law in traditional ways. Talking with attorneys and individuals in other fields can help you understand what kinds of opportunities are out there.
  • Connect with potential mentors; check out last week’s Bridges Blog, Networking, for details.
  • Contact the Free Bridges Helpdesk; we are eager to help!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.