by Sue Lichtenfels

The announcement of products and services in this column does not represent an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its officers, or staff. Listings are free of charge for the benefit of our readers. The Braille Forum cannot be held responsible for the reliability of the products and services mentioned. To submit items for this column, send a message to [email protected], or phone the national office at 1-800-424-8666, and leave a message in mailbox 26. Information must be received at least two months ahead of publication date.


ACB now has the VIP series of talking thermostats available at its online store. The VIP series is the first digital thermostat with audio playback of day, time, indoor temperature, temperature setting and programming instructions so blind and visually impaired users can precisely and easily manage their indoor comfort.

Yes, the VIP talks to you! When you press the day/time, weekend or weekday schedule buttons, you are voice prompted to enter the correct settings. Press the report button to hear day of the week, time, indoor temperature and the temperature setting. Press the up or down arrow buttons to raise or lower the temperature and hear the new temperature setting.

The VIP Talking Thermostat comes in three models, so whether your heating and cooling system is one- or two-stage or heat pump, gas, oil, or electric, there is a model to fit your needs.

When you purchase your VIP Talking Thermostat from the ACB Store, you receive a well-established product with a proven track record, and product reliability which carries a lifetime warranty. The Talking Thermostat is blind-user-friendly, and does not require a sighted person to do the initial set-up. It comes with an audio compact disk with complete operating instructions, as well as a large print version, and a user's guide with technical information. You will also receive superior product and customer support from a supplier with 50 years of experience in the heating and cooling controls industry.

To order a Talking Thermostat, or to obtain more information, visit the ACB online store at


Shadows in the Dark offers a large selection of braille greeting cards with braille pictures and more than 2,000 specialty gifts. Their new contact information is: Shadows in the Dark, 22615 Mathis Rd., San Antonio, TX 78264-9581; phone (210) 621-2070; web site; or e-mail [email protected].


The TalkingTabs All-Audio Guitar Instruction Complete Beginners Series Special Edition is designed for people who are visually impaired. There are no materials to read. It uses all-audio instructions that verbalize exact hand and finger positions, guiding you every step of the way so you can begin playing notes, scales, chords, and your favorite songs. A guitar and CD player are all that's required to complete this 20-hour course. For more information, visit or call 1-800-660-6850.


The Songs of Love Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to writing and recording personalized songs for children and teens who are chronically or terminally ill. Each child receives a CD of his or her own song, free of charge, with original melody and lyrics based on profiles submitted by hospitals and families. Every "song of love" is one of a kind; songs are never duplicated. To request a song, fill out the Songs of Love Profile Sheet giving all of the child's special interests, hobbies, favorite people, pets, music and things. Songs can be written in any language and style for children up to age 21. Expect a four- to six-week wait for regular delivery; orders can be rushed for special circumstances. For more information, visit or call 1-800-960-7664.


For those who shop for a child with a disability, the 2008 Toys "R" Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids is now available in Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us stores as well as online at The complimentary guide offers qualified toy recommendations based on research from National Lekotek Center, an independent non-profit organization that hand-picks and tests the toys featured in the guide. For more assistance picking toys, contact the Toy Resource Helpline at 1-800- 366-PLAY (7259).


Bentley is a fuzzy plush teddy bear. He is dark brown with tan coloring around his nose and on his belly. Bentley measures 22 inches and wears a white satin bow tie with black dots. When you purchase Bentley for $22 plus $5 for shipping, you support SportsVision in its development of sports and leisure activities for people who are blind or visually impaired. To order, send checks or money orders made payable to SportsVision to PO Box 23053, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, call (412) 429-1996 or send e-mail to [email protected].


"The View from Under the Pew" by Diane Winters Johnson tells the story of Walter, a guide dog who assists Pastor Diane in her daily life at home, and at the church where she works. Walter helps Pastor Diane get to the church, to the hospital where she visits the sick, and to his favorite weekly event -- the potluck supper. Walter loves his view from under the pew, where he can listen to the choir sing and see the faces of the families who have come to church. For ages 6-10, the book is available in print or braille for $14 from National Braille Press. To order or read more about this book, visit, or call 1-888-965- 8965.


"Behind Our Eyes" is an anthology of 27 writers, each of whom has a visual or physical disability. The stories, essays and poetry offer an insight into how disabled people feel about the way they're perceived in today's world. The book is available for order from IUniverse, Barnes and Noble and using ISBN 978-0-595-46493-7.


"Two Ends of a Leash: Unshackled" is the life story of Dr. Grace Napier. She was born blind, and started school when there were no special education programs for blind children. But she had a hunger to learn, and a gifted teacher changed her life. She began using a guide dog at age 17. Now 85, Grace resides in Colorado after a career of teaching children and graduate students. To read more, ask your local bookstore to order the book (ISBN 978-1-58736-959-9), or contact Wheatmark, 1-888-934-0888 extension 100.


James Carmen Weaver is the author of the novel "Before Winter." This family story/love epoch is set in the Appalachian Mountains and is about a blind widow with a 10-year-old daughter. The story relates her trials and tribulations, evil plots against the family, crafty escapes, and features a "knight in shining armor from Florida." Weaver used the Blue Grass Council of the Blind's web site as part of his research for the novel and will donate $1 for every book sold to an organization for the blind. To order your copy, call him at (251) 867-4272 or send an e-mail message to [email protected].


ASB's Online Bookstore provides shoppers from around the world access to over 800 brailled books, 26 various recorded magazine subscriptions, and 11 radio broadcast selections. To see a list of titles, visit


The Braille Caravan by Creative Adaptations for Learning, available from National Braille Press, that is! This educational toy, made in the USA, consists of 30 goldenrod non-toxic plastic blocks. Each block represents the braille cell, designed with six black pegs that can be manually pushed up or down to form dots 1-6. Using a finger, stylus, or pencil, a young child or newly blinded adult can easily make letters, words, and even whole sentences by manipulating the six dots on each block, and joining them in a "caravan." The set contains 30 braille blocks, a canvas carrying bag, a print activity guide, and an English Braille Symbols Chart for just $30. To order, call (800) 548-7323 or visit


Craft Adaptations for Adults with Vision Impairments (revised 2007) by Stephanie Stephens Van is available through VisionAWARE. The book includes 17 craft projects for beginner to advanced crafters. The author also gives adaptive "tricks of the trade" -- hints for measuring, using scissors, threading needles, and labeling. The book can be downloaded for $25 from


Faith Cummings has a variety of hand-knit and crocheted items, from wearables to afghans, for sale. She also dresses dolls of different sizes in outfits ranging from modern to historical patterns. Items are made to order. Prices vary according to the item desired. To learn more, contact Faith at [email protected] or (540) 337-2036.


J. Barrett sells hand-made Irish fisherman afghans for $40, including shipping. Each set of patterns tells a tale, a print copy of which is included. Choose fringed or scalloped edging. She also knits infant sweaters with bonnet and booties in a choice of colors, $20; baby afghans, $20; angel-shaped dish/face cloths, $6; crocheted rosary in a pouch, $6; crocheted towel to hang on refrigerator handle or doorknob, $6; and hats, scarves and mittens in choice of color, child size, $15, or adult size, $20. Other gift ideas are available, including shawls, ponchos, potholders, pouches, purses, and more. Specify item color and send check or money order to: J. Barrett, 39 Cathy Circle, Portsmouth, RI 02871; phone (401) 683-0940 or e-mail [email protected].


Sweet Tooth has added chocolate guide dogs, braille chocolate watches and other chocolate holiday items to its extensive offering of braille chocolate bars. Available sayings on the chocolate bars include Happy Birthday, Love You, Have A Nice Day, Thank You, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. They weigh 4 1/2 ounces and can be made in milk, dark or white chocolate. Plain chocolate bars cost $2.50 each; bars with nuts, crisped rice or peppermint cost $2.75. Sugar-free bars cost an extra dollar each. They are bagged in cellophane and tied with ribbons. Shipping and handling extra. To order, or get a price list, contact Sweet Tooth at (585) 544-1853 or send a request to [email protected]. Send check or money order made payable to Judy Davis at 32 Vinton Road, Rochester, NY14622.


This gigantic fortune cookie is both a gift and greeting card all in one! Good Fortunes Cookies (R) make a sweet impression for any occasion. These delectable treats help you to voice anything you want in a BIG, BIG way. Every cookie can be created especially for your friends, family, colleagues, or clients to celebrate any holiday or special occasion. Messages inside can hold up to 10 personalized sentences. Learn more at, or call 1-800-644-9474.


Satisfy your chocolate craving by indulging yourself in rich, gourmet chocolate every day! Experience a delicious one-ounce bar of 72 percent cacao dark chocolate in conveniently packaged one-week or four-week prescriptions, so you can treat yourself or a loved one to a moderate amount each day. Get your dose at, or call (214) 550-3929.


Cheesecake & Books by Cheesecake and Crime, Inc: A place where fiction and function meet! Cheesecake and books are the perfect combination for the sweet tooth and novel lover in you. Cheesecake and Crime features a wide arrangement of delectable cheesecakes along with the latest book from mystery and suspense authors. From their tempting kahlua and amaretto flavors to their fun holiday flavors and sugar-free for the health conscious -- it's simply a crime to want more sent right to your home! Visit, or call (702) 629-5523 for more information.


Susquehanna Association for the Blind and Vision Impaired's Large Print Calendars are bigger and better than ever! This year, the calendar is nearly double the size to provide as much room as possible for writing in appointments and special occasions. Individual calendars can be purchased for $5 and will be shipped free matter for the blind. Shipping charges will be added for those not eligible for free matter shipping. Bulk pricing available.

For more information, or to order, contact Lindsay Fauth at 1-800-606- 1349 or via e-mail, [email protected].

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