Thursday, March 26, 2015

Braille Kit for GE Electric Range

Hi friends,
I am going to share this press release that I read today. It's about a Braille kit (label system) that you can apply to the GE Artistry electric range.

Here's the press release:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — March 19, 2015 — The simplicity of
GE’s Artistry™ Series of appliances—an affordable suite of appliances targeted to first-time homebuyers and Millennials—lends itself to a unique market segment: the visually impaired. Working with students from the Kentucky School for the Blind, GE engineers and designers in Louisville, Ky. developed an accessory kit of braille overlays for the new Artistry electric range controls that helps the visually impaired use its cooktop and oven functions.

According to an American Foundation for the Blind article, stoves are the least accessible class of appliances.1 Many ranges today have smooth, push buttons on a back control panel. The ADA-compliant Artistry range offers front-control knobs that are within reach, and a straightforward design that lends itself to a braille accessory kit for the blind or visually impaired.

“Both my parents taught special education,” says Lee Lagomarcino, a GE product manager who initially championed the project and observed Kentucky School for the Blind students interacting with ranges. “As we developed the Artistry electric range, we knew its simplicity made it more universally appealing and ideal for a braille application.”

The Kentucky School for the Blind helped GE engineers determine that a high, medium and low heat setting was needed for the cooktop.

Student input leads to product concept
Students from the Kentucky School for the Blind helped the GE team determine what was needed—a high, medium and low heat setting for the cooktop, and a low, 350 degree and broil option for the oven. With those readily accessible features to serve as a baseline, the oven can be adjusted to a recipe as needed.

A focus group of students at the school came up with ways to make ranges more user friendly—using puffy paint and brightly contrasting colors to showcase their ideas. GE took those ideas and turned them into the custom-designed Braille kit. Students also tested the initial designs for ease of use.

Kentucky School for the Blind Program Coordinator Paula Penrod said, “Many times, manufacturers will introduce a new product, then seek comments from consumers with disabilities. Consumers who are blind and visually impaired have unique needs when using appliances. By working with GE during the production stage, our students were able to demonstrate the type of Braille modifications that would be most helpful. We appreciate GE for seeking our students’ input on the front end of GE’s Artistry range project.”

As a thank you to the Kentucky School for the Blind and its students for their help, GE donated a full suite of Artistry kitchen appliances to the school’s campus on Frankfurt Avenue in Louisville, Ky.

Pricing and availability
The GE Artistry electric ranges and Braille kits are available in black and white and can be purchased nationwide where GE appliances are sold. For help locating a dealer, go to and use the Dealer Locator tool or call the GE Answer Center at 1-800-626-2000. The estimated retail price of the Artistry electric range is $599, and the braille kit is $15.75.* (Retailers - Pub number 4-A034 fits the black Artistry range model ABS45DFBS, and pub number 4-A024 fits the white Artistry range model ABS45DFWS.)

In addition to the braille kits for ranges, GE offers a standard braille kit for common buttons on its microwave ovens. The kit (pub number 4-A212) can be ordered where GE appliances are sold.

GE Appliances
GE Appliances is at the forefront of building innovative, energy-efficient appliances that improve people’s lives. GE Appliances’ products include refrigerators, freezers, cooking products, dishwashers, washers, dryers, air conditioners, water filtration systems and water heaters. General Electric (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter to build a world that works better. For more information on GE Appliances, visit

1. As a group, stoves are the least accessible class of appliances we evaluated. The vast majority have flat, inaccessible oven controls. – American Foundation for the Blind
* Retailers set their own prices.

Ranges, Wall Ovens, Cooktops

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Magnifier Discovery Board

Happy March! I am sorry that I have not blogged since the beginning of the month! The time has just flown by as I have been adventuring it with new friends in Canada. I had the pleasure of presenting in Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon over the past two weeks. I loved meeting their teachers, parents and related service providers. But you know me, I was on the look out for ideas for our kids! I loved brainstorming ideas that support the Expanded Core Curriculum. 

One idea I wanted to share was this one from CNIB (in Calgary, Alberta) early childhood hallway. They had several of these discovery boards but the magnification one really caught my eye. This board is a painted white with little items to discover with mounted magnifiers. I suspected that these are 4x handheld magnifiers. Three of the magnifiers have a light option.

The bottom magnifier with the long adjustable neck isn't the strongest of the magnifiers but it is fun for little hands to use. Notice that the maggie right above the bottom maggie has red shiny paper on the handle (hello visual efficiency!). The magnifier is mounted to a hinge.
I love this idea for many reasons; the discovery fun with the magnifiers and getting our kids comfortable with using magnifiers. I also thought this would be something that could be added to a center in a general education classroom. This is another great idea that helps our students as well as engages our sighted kids as well. You know my next question...what areas of the ECC could you incorporate into this discovery board?
The items that they used were permanently mounted to the board. I had another idea that I thought of was using a magnetic board that you could spray paint. I wonder if you could use the magnetic backing to swap out new items? I'm going to make some of my own (thanks to CNIB!) and I will post  pics and updates if it was or was not a good idea. 

Special note: make sure that you use magnifiers with a power of at least 4x (x=power). I dispensed magnifiers for several years with students and I have found that most students need at least a 4x. 4x handheld "maggies" (my code word for magnifiers) are usually the minimum strength that our kids can use. A lot of school age students would rather die than use a handheld maggie. Dome maggies seem to be a home run with our kids. They come in a variety of different sizes. Most are 4x. You can order handheld magnifiers for a reasonable price. 
There are several places that you can order handheld magnifiers with and without lights. The prices can vary. The stronger the power of the magnifier, the more skill required. Dome magnifiers and 3.5x/4x handhelds are pretty easy for kids to use. I find that one of the most family friendly places to recommend are places like MaxiAids or Independent Living Aids. You can order a handheld at the cost is about $14-$25. Dome magnifiers can run anywhere from $14-$35 and are pretty reliable, easy to use durable items. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

DIY Vision Project: Easy Busy Board Project

Hi friends, I have a super fun project that's easy peasy to do: a busy board! I know you have seen them around. You can buy them (really expensive) or have seen them floating around on Pinterest. My faithful partner-in-crime hubby helped me make two busy boards in one afternoon. Why busy boards? These boards are great for learning about cause and effect, problem solving, discovery and fine motor skills. Here's how to make them for our kids:
I decided to go with a smooth finished round circle for our board because I liked the thickness, weight and shape of it. I bought it at Lowe's for about $7 a piece.

Next, I had Todd spray paint it a nice shade of red (visual efficiency for our kiddos). He did several coats on both sides and let it dry for a few hours. The spray paint was about $10 (or less) from Lowe's as well. I made sure to buy a flat finish to avoid glare.

Last, we added our latches. You can also buy these from Lowe's (or any home improvement store) for under $5 a piece. This latch board were simple ones that promoted easy fine motor skills. These busy boards went to my preschool age students. I really liked the contrast that the red backdrop provided. We placed each latch in a clock layout. It's simple but effective with the layout. Not too much visual clutter at all!

I also like the possibilities that can come from this. You can easily keep this as is and let your kids explore and have fun. You can build on skills by discussing positional directions or clock layout or buy two of each latch and mount the extra latch onto cards for matching games.

I've seen some really cool ideas for these busy boards on Pinterest where they have added zippers,  chains, light swtiches, and casters. I also thought about making another one and including a tap light (I will post pics if I do!).  All you need to do these is a drill, spray paint and latches--easy peasy!