Smart Kitchen Gadgets

Ever wish you could just tell your microwave to cook your food? And wouldn't it be great if your phone alerted you to an open refrigerator door? This month we discussed the pros and cons of tech tools in the kitchen and answered the questions: what's out there and what's worth it?

September 24, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Tech It Out – Smart Kitchen Gadgets

Presented by Ricky Enger

September 24, 2019

Ricky E: Welcome everyone to Tech It Out for September. My name is Ricky Enger, and I am a learning expert in assistive technology at Hadley. And before we get started, I just have to say one quick thing. So it was one year ago today that the first Tech It Out actually happened. So welcome to the one-year anniversary of Tech It Out, and I will raise my glass of cinnamon tea in celebration. Yay! Okay.

So, with that out of the way, for those of you who might be new to Tech It Out, just a quick description of what this is. We select a topic each month, we kind of dive into that topic a little bit with some general information, and then we do the fun part, which is opening it up to the community to ask questions, and provide resources that you all have found helpful, and that's honestly my favorite part is watching everyone share the information that they have gathered, just from their experiences.

This month's topic is kitchen gadgets, and a lot of fun can be had with this. We actually have had some questions come in before the presentation, and if you do have questions on future topics, you can send an email,, or just check out the nifty little emails that get sent out announcing the topics, and there's a place there to respond with your questions. So we'll be answering some of those during this.

As I said, the topic is smart kitchen gadgets, and one of my favorite questions that came in ahead of time was, well, what can I do with dumb gadgets? And I thought, well you know, there are a lot of dumb gadgets out there. And we're going to talk about when it's appropriate to use technology in the kitchen, and when it might be easier to just use a tried and true method, batteries not required kind of solution. So, what do we do in the kitchen? Probably make a lot of messes if you're anything like me. But theoretically you're in the kitchen to cook, and there is of course food that you have to store in the kitchen, and perhaps you have to wash your dishes after you're done, and if you're not doing that hand washing, maybe you want an accessible way to do that.

So, let's start out then talking about refrigerators, and ranges. And, what kinds of options are available that make these devices "smarter" than they are traditionally? So when we say a smart gadget, generally what we're talking about is something that is connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, can be activated via a smart assistant, such as Google, or the A lady, which I won't say her name and trigger everyone's assistants. There is additionally the ability to connect to these devices from your smartphone, so that too kind of classifies it as a smart gadget.

So ranges and refrigerators, this technology is kind of in its infancy right now and can be a little more gimmicky than useful. Refrigerators for example, Samsung is kind of the big player in this market, and they're making smart refrigerators. Well what exactly do you need your refrigerator to know? Some of these have a big display on them, so that you could actually write notes to your family members, you could have a calendar, which replaces the traditional calendar that might kind of hang on the refrigerator, and such. You can also use your smartphone to take a peek inside the refrigerator, because there are cameras in it, so if you were at the store and you couldn't remember if the milk was almost gone or whatever, then you can activate this camera inside the refrigerator, and look at what's in there. Well, that might be great, but if you are totally blind, or low vision, this may not be a particularly useful feature for you. The one thing that I've seen these smart refrigerators do that could actually be useful is that what if you left your refrigerator door open, and you left home? In that case, it really would be nice if your phone could alert you, because that refrigerator may be beeping in your house, and telling you, hey, you left me open, but if you're not there to hear that, then you needed a way to be notified of that. That really is kind of the only interesting thing I've seen thus far for smart refrigerators. So what about smart stoves, smart ranges?

This too is kind of in its infancy, although in my mind, you can do a few more useful things with a smart stove than you can with a refrigerator. So, from manufacturers like GE, and Whirlpool, they have this stuff available, and you could for example tell your smart assistant to preheat the oven or use your smartphone and connect to your smart range, or whatever, and set a timer. You cannot do things like have it turn on your actual burners. I think the idea is that if you're cooking something on your stove top, you probably are and certainly should be in front of it and paying attention to it. If that's the case, then you should be able to turn it on, on your own. So, I don't know how many additional features we're going to see with smart stoves/ovens, but those are some of the options that are available.

There is everyone's favorite appliance, the microwave, and this one has a few more options than you might even find with a range, or a stove. Because not only can you tell it how long to cook something, etc. You can actually place it in different modes, so there's the defrost mode, and maybe you want to defrost chicken, and perhaps your microphone, we often cook with those don't we? Perhaps your microwave has a preset that says this is how long you defrost chicken, or this is how long you cook popcorn. So with a smart microwave, in theory at least, you can activate it to do those things. And, you can basically either connect via your smartphone again, or you can tell your favorite assistant to do that. There are microwaves like this from GE that are pretty standard in terms of the level of power, and the actual size of the unit, and you can use multiple smart assistants. So if you have Google, or the A lady, each of those can connect to this smart microwave. The other one that there was a lot of buzz about earlier this year was the actual A lady microwave, and so this is made by Amazon, it's Amazon Basics. It can be controlled by that particular assistant, not by Google, or through Siri. The drawback of this one is that not only can you control it just from a single assistant, but it's actually kind of small, and underpowered. Now there are people who really, really like this, and they don't need a lot of power, they don't need a super large microwave. But when you think about what are the cooking directions that you see on packages, and they say, you know for 1,200-watt microwave, cook it for three minutes, for 1,100 watts, make that three minutes and 45 seconds, and so on. Rarely do they have instructions for 700-watt microwaves, and so that means you might have to do a little creative mathematics to figure out just how long you need your food to cook inside this Amazon Basics microwave.

Again, with that said, I know that there are some who have had great success with this, and they really like it. One other neat thing that the GE microwaves have is something called Scan to Cook. And the accessibility of this might be hit or miss, because it kind of depends on your knowing where the barcode is on your thing that you want to cook. But let's say that you do know that, and you're able to activate this function. Now you don't have to know what the directions are, it's already programmed into the microwave, and can cook it for that length of time. Which I think is actually pretty cool.

One of the questions that was submitted a number of times was about kitchen thermometers. So meat thermometers, or candy thermometers, or what have you. And, there are a couple of options for this. There is the iGrill thermometer, this used to be made by a company called iDevices, and it's since been sold to Weber. And so this is the kind of thermometer that you would use for grilling, or perhaps roasting meat in the oven. And the way that it works is that the device itself has its own display, and it also has these probes that you would place into the thing that you want to analyze.

Of course, with this display, that's not going to do some of us a lot of good, right. So you're also able to connect it to your smartphone, and monitor that via an app. This was done primarily because there are people who are smoking meat, or they're doing something that they don't necessarily need to babysit. Maybe you've put your meat in the oven, you don't need to be standing there watching the display, it would be nice if you could just be in front of your TV, and pick up your smartphone whenever you needed to have that information and get it.

The benefit to those of us with blindness or low vision is that our smartphones can use this technology in just the same way, assuming that the apps are accessible. And in the case with the iGrill meat thermometer as well as one called Maverick, there are probably others, but these are two that have been verified by users as being accessible. So with those and their connected apps, we can get that same information quite easily, and that's pretty awesome.

If you're frantically trying to write some of these things down, and like oh, what was that company? What was that app? Be aware that this stuff will show up in the show notes, we'll have links to all of it. So if you don't catch it here during the live presentation, then you will be able to check out the show notes and grab all that stuff.

The device that has become one of my favorite kitchen gadgets is the Instant Pot. This is a pressure cooker, but it's not like your grandma’s pressure cooker that you thought was going to blow up the house at any second, because it's super loud, and you know stories have been passed down of one of them exploding and there's still food on the ceiling 20 years later from this pressure cooker incident. The electric pressure cookers of today are much more safe, there are a lot of things built in to keep things like that from happening. It's a lot different technology as well. You're not setting it on the stove top, it's actually a self-contained unit.

So the pressure cooker, the one that I have is a Bluetooth model. Unfortunately it's not made anymore, but you're able to connect it with your smartphone via Bluetooth and control it that way. The pressure cooker that exists now is the Instant Pot Wi-Fi version, and it can be accessed via an app, but it's no longer connected via Bluetooth, it's actually on your Wi-Fi network, just as your computer and perhaps your phone is. And for the longest time, it actually wasn't very accessible. It's only within the last month or so that the Instant Pot company has made some major improvements.

This brings up kind of an interesting point that I think is worth mentioning, and that is let's say that your app isn't accessible. And yet, you want to use this device. Or let's say that you haven't purchased a smart microwave or whatever, but you still want to cook your food, of course. Are there ways to go about doing that, that really don't involve technology? And, the answer is pretty much always, yes.

The ability to use smartphones, or what have you have voice assistants to access some of these things, is incredibly convenient, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with the tried and true methods of placing bump dots on the buttons on a microwave for example, or memorizing when you're turning on to cook on your stove top. What temperature is this on if I point this knob at 3:00? So, even though there are so many interesting kitchen gadgets that are "smart", nothing at all wrong with using something that doesn't require batteries, or electricity in order to get that information.

The air fryer is another one of my very favorite gadgets. And, the one that I own is very much a dumb gadget. It doesn't have anything digital, it's an analog air fryer where you turn the knob to turn it on, and that knob also serves as a timer. And, that's what it does. There's another knob to change temperature, and that's what you get. I'm perfectly happy with my not-so-smart air fryer. If I weren't though, there is one, and I believe this is the only one, but there is one option for an air fryer that you can connect it to your smartphone, and it's called COSORI, I'm not sure which, and you're able to just connect that with your smartphone, and use an app with it to air fry your food. Air frying is really cool, because it's getting that nice crunch like you would with fried foods, but it doesn't require all of the unhealthy oil that say a deep fryer would require.

I want to talk about just a couple of quick other things, and then we will open this up for all of your questions, and comments. We've talked a lot about kind of the mainstream options that everyone has access to. But what about things like something that actually talks? Maybe you want something standalone, maybe you really have no desire to connect something to your smartphone, or you don't want to use a voice assistant to yell out what you want your kitchen gadget to do.

In that case maybe you're looking for something talking. And there are definitely a lot of options for that. For example, there are talking thermometers, just as we spoke about the meat thermometers earlier, that can be connected via smartphone. There are ones that you just press a button, and it talks. So, if you're looking for these kinds of things, if you want a talking thermometer, or perhaps a talking kitchen scale, where would you go? That too is a question that was submitted ahead of time.

LS&S and MaxiAids are probably the more well-known options that all of us might go to, to look for this kind of thing. But they're not the only game in town. There is a place called The Braille Superstore, and that has some interesting things as well. There is a place called Guide Lights and Gadgets, and they have a website, but it's probably better for you to just call them up and you know, talk about maybe what you're looking for. And they can certainly help you out. Then there are places just like Amazon, where you would think, okay, something that is designed specifically as an assistive device, you're not going to find this on Amazon right.

Well, it turns out that you do now. There are people who may not need assistive technology for much in their daily lives, but perhaps they're having a hard time reading small print on some of these little LCD screens, or maybe you're in a place that doesn't have good lighting, and so it just turns out to be convenient overall to have something that talks. That's why we're seeing places like Amazon carry some of these talking gadgets, such as a kitchen scale, a thermometer, and those kinds of things. So there are places to look for what you want.

It's important to keep in mind again that if you're shopping for a big appliance like a range, an oven, a refrigerator, does it have to be smart? Yeah, probably not. At this point, the kind of smart add-on is more of a nice to have than a necessity. But I expect that a lot of that is going to change fairly rapidly, even in the next five years. That's really exciting. It's a good time to be alive, and watch the advancements in technology, and just kind of see what kinds of problems they solve.

So, with that, we're ready to go ahead and open this up for questions that you all have, and we will go then to 781. 781 you have a question?

Speaker 2: I think this might be mine.

Ricky E: Yes, that's you.

Speaker 2: Okay, I just wanted to make a quick comment. I have a microwave that's brailled, it came that way. And, it's not the old you know like the old one that came with the overlay, this actually had braille on it. My children gave it to me as a Christmas present, I just love it. I did braille on one part of it, or put bump dots on actually two different things, but otherwise it works wonderfully well. It's a commercial grade one, so I should really, I'm just looking to see if I have all the details of that, which I should have done before I called you.

Ricky E: No worries.

Speaker 2: Let me just see. But anyway, it's really, I just I would really recommend it. My children knew that I needed one, and they knew about the talking microwave, and decided that I would prefer braille, which was totally right.

Ricky E: That's excellent.

Speaker 2: It's a Panasonic, and it's NE1054F.

Ricky E: Excellent. Yes. And we will definitely have that in the show notes. I'm hoping that it can still be found. Some of these things are available, like I know a lot of the talking microwaves actually unfortunately disappeared. So I'm hoping this one is still around.

Speaker 2: I hope so, because it's about three years old maybe. Yeah, my son found it on Amazon. So that illustrates your point.

Ricky E: Perfect. Thank you so much.

Speaker 2: Sure.

Ricky E: Blind Educator, you're next.

Blind Educator: Couple of comments. For those who want to keep mainstream appliances, there is a service out called touchable surface research, and they can like do overlays, or give you little stickers with icons, transparent so you can just put over the programmable stuff, like for microwave, they'll have different icons for different things, like defrost, popcorn, and [inaudible] so on and so forth. Those would be useful especially if you have you share your appliance with a sighted person, which it can still see the print, and you still could get the touch if you have those icons put on there.

For air frying, or for anything cooking, may I also recommend Randy Resnack, the Big R on Twitter, he has a podcast, and he's big into cooking, and always testing out accessible appliances. That might be another resource for you to look at.

Ricky E: That's a great resource. And it actually brings up a good point, and that is, sometimes it's hard to test some of this stuff yourself, because it isn't there on the showroom floor just waiting for someone to connect via smartphone, or Bluetooth. So that's when being able to talk to others or hear from others who have actually used some of these devices is really, really important. So yeah, Randy Resnack is great, in fact he is the person who introduced me to my favorite air fryer. So that's definitely a great resource, and that's who will be in the show notes. Let's go to 303 on the phone. It's your turn.

Deborah: My name is Deborah, and I'm calling from high in the Rockies. And, I currently use an ID Mate bar code reader from En-Vision America to read all my barcodes on everything from a can of tomatoes to a CD, or a DVD, etc. and, I use it to create my own barcodes for my canned and preserved items. So if I make a peach chutney, or a blackberry jam, or something that I could locate it later. Are these barcodes also transferrable, or somehow translated on a smartphone? We're high in the mountains, so we don't have cellphone connection, if you can imagine that. But we will be able to use one eventually. So I'm wondering if anybody uses their smartphone to create, how do I say this? You run the barcode actual tag across the reader, and it says that in your own voice, because you made the barcode.

Ricky E: That's a great question. So the…first of all, I will say that the ID Mate scanner is one of the best purchases I've ever made. It is expensive, in comparison to you know, perhaps going out and buying something for $50 or $100. So it's a bit more of an investment, but in my mind, it has been well worth it because it is so much simpler than using an actual smartphone with an app to find the barcode that you're looking for, and then get directions for it.

Now in answer to your question, I'll answer that in two parts. The first is I guess to reiterate that if it's a barcode on a box that comes from the store, or whatever, it can be a little challenging to find. If you're doing a lot of your own barcodes, I don't think this program reads barcodes, but there is something called WayAround, and these are tags that you can place on things and you can include instructions, you can include for example the date you canned it or whatever. Anything that you want to include on this tag you can do so, then it can later be read with your smartphone.

It's something that you type in rather than recording your voice. But that does exist. Does anyone perhaps a bit later when I comment on the Pen Friend, because I think the Pen Friend can do some similar things to this, and that's a standalone rather than a smartphone device. But, if you're looking for a way to do this just from your smartphone, then I think WayAround is a great idea.

Deborah: Okay, thank you. So it's WayAround?

Ricky E: Yes, it's all one word, it's WayAround, W-A-Y-A-R-O-U-N-D. And they sell packages of tags, and they have different types of tags. They have ones that will attach to metal, they have ones that have adhesive backing. They have ones that have one or two buttonhole type things so that you can sew them into clothing if you were using them for that. So they're very much multi-purpose tags, and you can program them using a smartphone.

Deborah: Now are these tags the same ones that En-Vision America includes with the ID Mate?

Ricky E: They're actually not. So for that, that's going to be just a straight up barcode tag.

Deborah: Right.

Ricky E: And, for those there are apps that can read barcodes, but I haven't had any experience with ones that you've programmed from En-Vision. I don't know that those would be read by a smartphone.

Blind Educator: Ricky?

Ricky E: Yeah.

Blind Educator: Yeah, the ones that En-Vision is just private, because it's going to be for personal recordings on them. So no other phone will pick it up.

Ricky E: Yeah, that's what I thought, I didn't want to give false information, but I thought that's kind of how that worked.

Blind Educator: Yeah the only way that you could share in other ones is if you actually have a barcode that's not registered yet, but is used publicly, a barcode where you can add it yourself, upload it, and then they'll add it to their database. Then when you update your database, it will get updated. But those are unregistered barcodes that are out there on like on the Buddy Works, and stuff. But going back to the WayAround, you forgot to mention that in order for you to use those, you need to have a phone like an iPhone 7 and up, or an Android with NXE technology. If you do not have those phones. You can get like an iPod Touch cheap, but you also need to purchase the wavelength to use at the NFC Reader.

Ricky E: Yep, that's true. So if you're purchasing a new smartphone, you're definitely okay, but if you're using something much older, there is an add on that will allow you to do that scanning.

Deborah: You would scan the barcode on the iPhone, and then it comes out in text, and then the text is read to you?

Ricky E: Yeah, that's exactly right. You basically touch it to the tag, so it's a little easier I think even than scanning a barcode, because as soon as your phone touches the tag, then you will hear that information that you've placed into the tag. And I've used it for a lot of different things, whether it's for clothing, or for... I haven't really labeled any food yet, but I have labeled makeup, like eye shadow palates that have multiple colors. So I can type out the order that they happen, and it's a lot easier than trying to fit braille on something, or just try and remember what this meant.

Deborah: I find it extremely useful for inventories for freezer goods. Not things you buy, but everyone is always packing away some leftovers or something in the freezer.

Ricky E: Absolutely.

Deborah: It's an excellent way to label.

Ricky E: You got it. Let's go to 215, on the phone, you have a question. And before I unmute you, oh there you go, you unmuted yourself, I just wanted to mention, someone said in chat, I think I misspoke when I gave the command to raise your hand on the Mac, it's actually command shift Y, and not just shift Y. So, go right ahead, 215.

Speaker 6: Hi, you know, I think there is another resource for getting gadgets, and that's Blind Mice Mart. And, one thing that I just got that I kind of like is a talking toaster oven. And it's just very versatile, you know, it's not a normal toaster oven, because it really does bake. You can bake decent things in it. It's not your good old toaster oven. One thing that I wish it would speak a little bit faster, the voice is slow. But it really works quite well. The other thing that interestingly enough, I have used my Opticon, I still have my Opticon, and I still use it. I've used it to label my microwave, and you know, which was helpful, I think. Because then all I needed to do was to ask someone to help me put the labels on where they needed to go, because I had already had an idea of what was on the microwave itself. And that did save a little bit of time.

The other question though that I have is, when you have an appliance, and it's a smart appliance, and oh let's say your Instant Pot is on Wi-Fi at this point, and your Wi-Fi goes out, and then you're stuck. What can you do? That's my only problem that I'm seeing with some of these smart devices. I'd be worried if something goes wrong with the infrastructure, then you're stuck.

Ricky E: And that is an absolutely legitimate concern, and in fact when a user was sharing with me her experiences with the Wi-Fi Instant Pot, she said, well sometimes just the connection doesn't happen, the connection drops. And what she's done in that case is that for the Wi-Fi Instant Pot in particular, now this may be different for other devices that do have touch screens, but for this particular device, there are tactile buttons that are very easily discernible, and there is a list of the order in which these buttons are laid out on the unit. So when it happens that oh no, I can't connect anymore, then you have to do the thing that might take a little more time, and just go to that diagram of buttons, and figure out which thing you need to push. Now, there are a number of people who, because of the difference in the price between the standard Instant Pot and the Wi-Fi model, have chosen not even to bother with the Wi-Fi model. Which again is a perfectly okay thing to do. They've decided that it's easier and cheaper to just memorize the order in which these buttons happen, and kind of what their default settings are, than it is to pay all this money, and have to be concerned about whether your smartphone is always going to be connected or not.

So, I guess we do just have to keep in mind that as much as we love these smart gadgets, they are a convenience that we need to, if we can, know how to function without should the situation call for it. Let's try 508 on the phone again, 508, I believe you have a question.

Speaker 7: My question is, you mentioned the A lady with the microwave was it?

Ricky E: Yes.

Speaker 7: You said that connected with an app, was that my understanding?

Ricky E: That's actually just used by voice. So, that one in particular can just be used by voice, and so you would say, "A Lady, cook my popcorn," or whatever, and that's done by voice. The GE microwave I believe is similar, but it can be used with Google, and the A lady. And in both those cases, you're using your voice rather than an app to get the appliance to do what it needs to do.

Speaker 7: Yeah, I'd be a little bit wary, because sometimes the A lady tends to eavesdrop.

Ricky E: Yeah.

Speaker 7: So, what if you're not home, and that microwave comes on? Then what?

Ricky E: Yeah, there's actually a review about that, where somebody said, you know, what happens if it starts, and it's on for like 99 hours, or whatever? Apparently-

Speaker 7: I know.

Ricky E: There are some safeguards built into that. And, the other side is that there's a very specific set of key words that you have to say in order to make that happen, and as much as the A lady can be a little strange from time to time, the likelihood that she could pick up that particular phrase would be, you know, pretty slim. But it is a legitimate concern as far as like, well what happens if I set it, and then I forgot, and does it just stay on or whatever? But apparently there are some safeguards for that. The same is probably true for the GE model as well.

Speaker 7: Thank god.

Ricky E: Yeah, no kidding.

Blind Educator: Ricky?

Ricky E: Yes.

Blind Educator: With that, I believe and I could be wrong, but I believe in order for you to use either Google or the A lady appliances, you still need to have their particular app to set them up, to connect them to the Wi-Fi, so-

Ricky E: Yes.

Blind Educator: If you are away from home, you could always use that particular app to monitor and see if it's running, or not.

Ricky E: Yeah, that's true. So as a part of this-

Speaker 7: Okay.

Ricky E: It's unfortunately never as simple as you take it out of the box, and you go, "A lady do blah, blah, blah," you do have to use that app to actually connect the device to your home network, and say this is where we're going to use this, and it's a part of our home now. Now, you know, that is again a great point.

Speaker 7: Yeah.

Ricky E: Let's go to 510 on the phone, with a question. 510.

Speaker 8: Great, thank you. I was looking at replacing my electric range stove top, and it seemed like most of the models that are available now do not have knobs or dials, they have digital controls that really I don't know how I would access them. And I just wonder if anyone has that type of situation, and if you found any solutions for using appliances that have digital controls. You know, sometimes it's becoming harder and harder to find anything with manual controls.

Ricky E: Yeah, that's a sad state of affairs, and I agree. The Whirlpool that I have right now is kind of a hybrid, and it has knobs for the actual burners, and then for the oven, it has digital controls. The nice thing about the Whirlpool is that even though the surface feels flat, I'm able to place braille labels, and if you don't read braille you can certainly use bump dots or something similar. I'm able to place those on the bake, and the broil things on the oven, and then there's an up arrow, and a down arrow that I placed to make the temperature go up, and then make it go back down. And then press the start button.

So for each of those things, I have braille labels, but again you could use different shaped adhesive dots, and so on to do that. Does anyone have experience with an oven where the actual stove top is like this as well, where it's digital and doesn't have knobs?

Speaker 8: I'm having problems getting a dishwasher with the same thing. Everything's smooth, everything's digital.

Ricky E: Yep, and I am in a similar boat, my dishwasher has a couple of bump dots on it to do the basics, like here's where the start button is, and so on. But in terms of selecting which wash and all of that, they're all smooth, and really it just takes some creative labeling. So again, either braille or shaped adhesive things that you can stick on to the surface of this. There is one dishwasher made by GE that is "smart", but not quite smart enough. Because, you can monitor a cycle that's already in progress, but you can't actually control the dishwasher to select the cycle that you want, and make it start.

What I found, and this is tedious and time consuming unfortunately, but it's just reality, and that is to go from store to store and see the kinds of things that you can get your hands on, and sometimes you're lucky enough to get a sales associate who really knows not only what the appliance can do, but is willing to think creatively about how it might be modified so that it can be used comfortably by you. All right? Let's go then to 915 with a question, 915 on the phone, I'll unmute you.

Speaker 9: I have a couple of comments from things that were mentioned.

Ricky E: Sure.

Speaker 9: You had asked if anybody uses a Pen Friend.

Ricky E: Yes.

Speaker 9: That is one of my favorite tools around the kitchen. They've got sticky labels, and I attached them to pieces of an index card, or a round disc, and I put them in those snack bags. You know, like half lunch bag things for your sandwich, those snack Ziploc bags. And I will record on there. Everything is labeled in my freezer. If I'm freezing chicken breasts, I put them in a quart Ziploc bag, and then I stuff one of those things inside there, and I label it, and I say what it is, that it's chicken breast, or it's ground beef, and the day I froze it. And if I've got like hot wings, or chicken tenders, my husband takes and reads the directions on how to cook it in the toaster oven and the oven. Okay, you can put a lot of directions. If I buy any type of sides, or packaged, you know meals or anything, he can put the entire description of how to make it on there. So when I do my slow cooker, it'll say, use five cups of cut up vegetables, and two pounds of chicken, and place in the crock pot, he reads the whole direction thing with it, how much water and everything. So you can record, as long as you're holding down the button for record, you can record a very lengthy message on the Pen Friend app. And I put that on my, like my Tylenol, my Benadryl, I put it on my canned goods sometimes to label a lot of stuff in my kitchen.

And then another comment for marking things, or labeling things, I have one of those ovens that have the smooth top on it, the burners, I have the knob.

Ricky E: Oh yeah.

Speaker 9: And of course my microwave, I have the flat surface. So, long ago for my mom, we used the Spot N Line pen, or liquid dots. It used to be called liquid dots, but it's called Spot N, the letter N Line. And so basically it's kind of like puffy paint, and my husband actually put it on my stove, he put B for bake, BR for broil, the up and down arrows for the temperatures, because everything starts at 350 now, and you go up or down. An X for to turn it off. My microwave, he actually outlined all of the numbers, and put an L for lights, an F for fan, a P for power. And on that infamous dishwasher, he's got an N for normal, and a circle for start.

Ricky E: Awesome.

Speaker 9: Yeah, so we've done a lot with the liquid dots, or Spot N Line, the tube of it costs like $4 at MaxiAids. They have black, white, and I think that orangey color. I've used it on my treadmill for all the numbers are written that way, everybody can use it.

Ricky E: Yeah.

Speaker 9: And they can see. Because the background on the microwave is black, and all the numbers are usually a lighter color, so we just took the white one and outlined it so anybody can use it, and it doesn't affect anyone. My biggest issue was my touch screen washing machine I bought. That I had to put the bump dots right below where you touch, because if you put the bump dots where you're supposed to touch to change it, it doesn't recognize your finger.

Ricky E: Oh, yeah, because it's taken up by the bump dot, and it's looking for that actual-

Speaker 9: Looking for the physical touch-

Ricky E: The finger. Yeah.

Speaker 9: Yes.

Ricky E: Those are great examples of an actual low-tech idea of making something that you have to use more accessible, and sometimes it's an app, and sometimes it's just not going to be an app, it's going to be something just like that.

Speaker 9: Yeah, I try to do very basic stuff. The Spot N Line pen, even on my toaster oven, I have dashes for the temperatures, and all of that, on the knobs. So that I know where to put them. So I mean that comes in handy for a lot of stuff, and is super low tech.

Ricky E: Exactly. Joseph Hudson, you have a question. Let's go to you, I will unmute you, I think you got your hand raised.

Mike T.: Oh, yes. I'm Mike Troriquil from Montreal, in Canada. I actually, I receive the program, anytime I have time I tune in, and when I don't have time, because of work I always listen to the recorded version. I really appreciate that. I just wanted to add to the Pen Friend, I also use that, and I also use the label like, [inaudible] that I want to keep away, and then maybe go back to them in the future. It's been very, very useful. It puts or records whatever information, later, so that next time you're looking for it, you just touch it to the Pen Friend and it reads back to you. I really liked it. Actually, really, I like the program, I always listen to it. Yeah, so that's it.

Ricky E: Thank you, and yeah, the Pen Friend is definitely a popular little gadget, I don't own one myself, but it sounds like I should. I have a number of other things that do the same thing, but a lot of people really, really love it.

Mike T.: Yeah.

Ricky E: That's great. Let's go to 708.

Joseph Hudson: It's Joseph. I wanted to just make a comment about devices that are a little hard to find buttons on and are a little hard to figure out. I've had good luck with Whirlpool dishwashers.

Ricky E: Okay.

Joseph Hudson: Especially with the start and stop functionality, because the start button on the one that I have has a big round circle on it, and then the other one has like a smaller, and then the stop button is kind of like a smaller shape. They're still easy to find.

Ricky E: Yeah, and that's just kind of a point for going out, and wherever you can, your Best Buy, too bad Circuit City doesn't exist anymore. You could go in and touch all of these things, and that is kind of an essential part I think in choosing what your appliances are going to be, not only so you can see oh that door feels all plastic, this feels cheap, I don't want to use this, but also you know, can I make this accessible?

Joseph Hudson: You know, you're talking about, you mentioned places that are starting not to exist anymore, we just lost our Sears.

Ricky E: Oh no, and yeah.

Joseph Hudson: Yeah.

Ricky E: Sears is another great place to do this, and I think we're about to lose ours as well, and so the place-

Joseph Hudson: Oh no.

Ricky E: Yeah, the places for walking in and looking at this stuff are just unfortunately disappearing, but if you do have a Sears, that is like an excellent option to go in and check out, because they have all of the appliances that we've talked about this evening, they sell refrigerators, they sell stoves, and microwaves, and that kind of thing. So it's good to just get out and explore where you can and see what you can touch. We do have time for one more question, 708, I was going to get to you and skipped over Joseph mistakenly, so let's take 708 on the phone if you have a question.

Speaker 12: Oh, I was going to talk about the washer. She is so correct, it's hard to shop. I'm also in a wheelchair. So I have to have that consideration too, and she was so correct about the washer. I learned that some of these flat appliances, you have to find a way to put it above, beside, or below, because it can't. But some of these things just are squished so close together, you almost have to come up with a new language underneath, beside, or below to do it. And then you've got to find a way to fit them in there, but she was so correct about that. And I have used a wand like the Pen Friend in the same way. It just saves me for knowing what's in my freezer, and what's on my pantry because I took the sticky, put it on a three by five card, and then you can record these are my ginger, and cinnamon spices. It has your voice, and then you can say how many you have left, or how many cans you have of this, or how many bags of broccoli, that is a wonderful thing. So I'm just reiterating some of what the others said as a second opinion, yes I've used these from a wheelchair as well, and I was really having good luck with them.

Ricky E: Fantastic, thank you so much for that. Just one quick thing before we end the meeting, for those of you who have already bought your washers and dryers, this is probably not helpful at all, but I did buy a GE model of washer and dryer, and mine is a smart one, so I can ask what its cycle is, and so on. I do have to actually set that cycle, and the buttons are relatively tactile. But the one thing I wanted to mention about GE was that even if you don't buy the smart version of the washer and dryer, GE does have a talking module, and it does need to be purchased separately from your GE appliance. But it's $100 add-on, and it will make your GE appliance speak to you, and tell you what cycle you're on, and things like that. That actually works with some older GE models. So we'll have a link to that in the show notes. Which you can find over at You can send me any information, or questions, or things that you'd like to have included in the show notes, I'm at

Speaker 13: Ricky?

Ricky E: Yes.

Speaker 13: Yeah, I would like to say one thing if you don't mind, to all these people using the Pen Friend. And, a couple of months ago I heard somebody before the meeting started, and there was a lot of chatter, and I couldn't get in to tell her this, but she said her Pen Friend had broken. Well, I noticed something that mine quit speaking, so I put my earbuds into it, and it works that way. So I just wanted to let you know that if your speaker goes out, don't throw it away, try your earbuds first.

Ricky E: Try the earbuds, excellent.

Speaker 13: Yes.

Ricky E: Thank you so much.

Speaker 13: Because that's how I use mine now, because they tend to put little cheap speakers inside them sometimes.

Ricky E: Yes. Awesome tip, thank you.

Speaker 13: I saved some money.

Ricky E: Appreciate that.

Speaker 13: Okay.

Ricky E: All right.

Speaker 13: Okay thank you.

Ricky E: Thank you. I want to thank you again for joining us and being a part of the one year anniversary of Tech It Out, I really appreciate it, and I hope that you'll do so again next time. Thank you.