Note taking on a budget

Well, it’s February 2016 and my turn to write a blog has soon come around again!

I receive a wide range of queries and this time I’m going to discuss the subject of note taking, as it has arisen quite often.

Many people take the ability to write down a quick note for granted,  one of those things they do without really thinking about it.  They may keep a pen and note pad next to the phone or if they are into technology they may use the notes app on a smart phone to make a quick note such as a phone number or a message for a family member.  For blind people or people with low vision who can’t see to hand write, this is often more of an issue

Solutions range in price from about £30 to £300 depending on the complexity of the product and whether you want it to be more than just a note taker. I may look at some of the multipurpose devices in a future blog but for now I’ll concentrate on the more affordable products.

I am sure many of you reading this will have come across those small hand held voice recorders that accountants and doctors use for dictating letters and notes which are typed up by secretaries. Well, these, often just referred to as Dictaphones or voice recorders have not gone away and they can be purchased for as little as £30.  They are now digital however which means they do not use cassettes.

At this price, you can expect decent quality recordings and the ability to record 40 hours or so of notes. They can be split into different folders e.g. family, work, clubs etc. and any message can easily be deleted without affecting messages around it.  This is a distinct advantage over cassettes.  The cheaper models don’t talk but they do often have beeps which will give you a good clue as to what is happening.

RNIB sell one of these cheaper end models for around £40. It is the Olympus DP211 Notecorder.  This is described as Easy to see and while it has good large print and tactile buttons, only some functions have audible bleeps associated with them and deleting messages is particularly awkward if you do not have enough sight to read the display.

For people with little or no vision my current favourite is the Sony ICdbx140 available from PC world for £23.99.

This unit has buttons for play, record, stop, back a message and forward a message as well as a button to move between folders. Deleting a message is a matter of holding the slightly recessed delete button for a second or so, releasing it and pressing it again to confirm.

As with almost all of these products there is a settings menu which is fairly inaccessible and you may need initial help to turn bleeps on in this menu but this only need be done once and your settings are remembered when you remove the battery.

Model names do change regularly so I have not provided a link to any products here as they are likely to quickly become out of date.

Other devices for playing audio such as Daisy Players also have basic note taking facilities. They are more expensive, generally costing around £250 to £300 but if you are considering a device such as a victor Stream or a Plextalk Pocket then you will get note taking included so may not need a digital voice recorder.

I’ve taken up plenty of space already so it’s good bye from me until my turn rolls round again!



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East London Vision (ELVis) is the subgroup for the 7 geographical areas that naturally cover all of east London north of the Thames: • Barking and Dagenham • City and Hackney • Havering • Newham • Redbridge • Tower Hamlets • Waltham Forest. ELVis is designed to provide an effective and efficient way of ensuring that vision impaired people living in East London get the support and services they need. It is an umbrella organisation with voluntary sector, user led representation in each of the east London boroughs. Our vision is that everyone living in East London experiencing, or at risk of, any form of sight loss, receives a high quality service relevant to their need and at a time appropriate for themselves. Our aim is to enhance & link vision impaired services and organisations throughout East London, improving the quality of life for blind and partially sighted people and increasing individual independence.

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