A tea kettle that nearly pours itself. Microwaveable slippers that both warm the feet and are comfortable for walking. An indoor/outdoor thermometer that talks. A cordless headset that lets the wearer listen to TV on high volume without annoying others.
Items like these can make life more manageable and enjoyable for adults with disabilities such as hearing loss, low vision or with chronic conditions like arthritis or diabetes. Today we bring you a sample of what's available with the idea that something in this list might make an appropriate holiday gift. While some of these items are new on the market, most are tried and true.
We based our selections on advice about what's popular and truly useful from advocacy groups, catalogs, manufacturers and staff in stores that cater to people with disabilities.
Don't be surprised to find something perfect for an able-bodied person as well. Good design is universal.
For kitchen and cooking
• Black measuring cups and spoons: Their dark color makes it easier to see ingredients such as sugar, flour and salt. The measure marks are extra large and in different colors. $7.25 and $4.25 at www.SightConnection.com •
Oxo Good Grips Downpour tea kettle: Lift this 2-quart pot by its oversized, non-slip handle and tilt. The force of the water opens the spout automatically. Good for folks with compromised strength. $40, Linens 'N Things.
• Alaskan Ulu (OO-loo): This cutting tool has an easy-to-grasp handle directly above the cutting surface which creates more pressure than an ordinary knife. Fine for slicing bread, cutting pizza and chopping vegetables. Easy on the hands and wrists. $18 and up, www.ulu.com.
• EZ-Fill Liquid Level Indicator: This little gadget hangs on the side of a cup or glass and buzzes when liquid gets near the top. $13. Sight Connection Vision Aids Store, Web site or catalog.
• Black & Decker Electric Jar Opener: A compact appliance that eliminates twisting and straining to open lids. Only one hand is needed to slide the jar in place and press the button. It adjusts for height, and it collapses slightly for easier storage. Some models also have a can opener. Especially good for people who have arthritis. $35 to $60, Fred Meyer, Target and other stores.
Clocks and thermometers
• Talking Atomic Clock and Calendar: This clock announces time and date in a female voice with a British accent. It keeps time and self-sets by receiving a radio-signal transmitted by satellite. When daylight-saving time rolls around it automatically adjusts. $48, SightConnection Store, Web site or catalogue.
• Sonic Alert Sonic Boom Clock: This alarm has volume and tone controls. It flashes a lamp and/or vibrates the bed to awaken heavy sleepers or those whose sight or hearing is impaired. $49.95 or $69.95 with the bed shaker, The Store at the Hearing Speech & Deafness Center.
• Talking Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer: Says "good morning," "good afternoon" or "good evening." Optional hourly chime tells the time and indoor and outdoor temperatures. Large dual display in Fahrenheit or Centigrade. $18.35, SightConnection Store, Web site or catalogue.
• Callusan Mousse: This foams out just like a hair mousse and keeps extremely dry skin moist. It leaves no film or odor. And it's especially useful for diabetics or anyone worried about skin breakdown. $12.95, Take Care Stores.
• Nail Care Plus: The manicure tools in this kit are specifically designed not to break the skin. They're effective on thick nails and calluses. Good for diabetics. $39.95, Take Care Stores.
Aids for daily living
• Zipper and Button Puller: Indispensable tool to help people with stiffness and limited mobility get dressed. $4.95, Take Care Stores.
• Needle Threader: Now you can thread a needle with your eyes closed. $4, SightConnection Vision Aids Store.
• Folding Reacher: (To help in grasping light-weight objects out of reach.) Extends to 23 inches but folds to 14. Useful for people who've had hip or back surgery, use wheelchairs or have arthritis. ($26.95) Take Care Store.
• Talking Scale: A polite female voice tells the truth, which may or may not be a selling point. $82, Sight Connection Vision Aids Store.
• CosySoles: Microwaveable slippers and mitts made of polar fleece and filled with sterile whole oats take about 60 seconds to heat up and stay warm for about 40 minutes. Slippers come in four sizes and claim to be the only heated slipper you can walk in. Recommended for people with diabetes, arthritis and for anyone with poor circulation. Made in Canada. Slippers $50; Mitts $24.95,www.cosysoles.com or call 888-806-7809.
• Elastic Shoelaces: They're just like any other shoelaces except longer and stretchy making it possible to tie shoes without bending so far down. $3.95, Take Care Store.
• Clarity (formerly Ameriphone) Cordless Phone: For moderate to severe hearing loss. Has adjustable volume and tone control and automatic channel selection. Compatible with hearing aids that have a telecoil (telephone switch). Programmable memory for 10-speed dial phone numbers. Oversized, lighted key pad. Extra loud ringer. $115-$150, The Store at the Hearing Speech & Deafness Center; also the SightConnection store.
• Television Ear Set: Sennheiser DirectEar for TV and Theater. Headset is wireless and system operates by infrared signal. Connects to audio output jack on TV, VCR or stereo. Volume control on headset is independent of TV volume. $199-$229, The Store at the Hearing Speech & Deafness Center.
• PockeTalker: A portable pocket-sized system for two-person conversations in noisy places such as cars or restaurants (uses earbud, neckloop or headphones.) Microphone has extension cord. $154 to $179, The Store at the Hearing Speech & Deafness Center.
For people with memory loss
• Homemade memory book: Create a book with photos and simple, large-print captions chronicling the person's past interests and achievements. Be sure to include pictures of family and friends.
• Music: The ability to enjoy and remember favorite music stays with us for a long time. Experts on Alzheimer's recommend finding recordings from when the person was in their teens.
• Old movies and TV shows: Many old movies and television shows are being released on DVD for the first time. People with short-term memory loss still may have classics like "I Love Lucy" stored in their long-term memory and might enjoy seeing them again.
• Tickets to an athletic or entertainment event with an escort. Persons with memory loss still enjoy getting out. An escort offers safety and companionship.
• Cuddly toy animals and dolls are especially good for people in advanced stage of dementia, when having something to hold is comforting.
• Craft items that reflect the person's interests such as quilting or woodworking are relevant gifts in the early stage of dementia to promote activity and a sense of accomplishment. But don't give the person something they no longer can handle.
This list is just a start when it comes to the variety of cool gadgets and special aids at reasonable prices that are now on the market for people with disabilities. Happy shopping!
Marsha King: 206-464-2232 or email@example.com
Sources for some of the gifts listed.
Take Care Stores
Catalog available: In stores or call 800-447-2839
Seattle's Capitol Hill, 125 16th Ave. E., 206-326-3496
Northgate, 9800 4th Ave. N.E., 206-302-1208
Redmond, 2700 152nd Ave. N.E., 425-883-5052.
The Store at the Hearing Speech & Deafness Center
Catalog available at the store.
Store: 1625 19th Ave. at Madison, Seattle
By phone: 206-323-5770 or 888-328-2974
Vision Aids Store
Catalog available in the store or by calling.
Store: 9709 3rd Ave. N.E., No. 100, Seattle
By phone: 206-525-5556 or 800-458-4888
Linens 'N Things
Stores throughout Puget Sound area (www.lnt.com)
Stores throughout Puget Sound
Stores throughout Puget Sound, (www.target.com)