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Shelley Peterman Schwarz, at her home in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, September 3, 2013. Amber Arnold — State Journal

AMBER ARNOLD — State Journal

As we prepare for the holidays, I find myself stressing over what to get my older relatives whose needs have changed. Then this experience gave me an idea: My mother began having lots of trouble hearing me on our daily phone calls.

It was frustrating for her to keep saying, “I can’t hear what you’re saying. Talk louder.” I already felt like I was yelling.

Mom needed a phone with better amplification so I told her about the Telecommunications Equipment Purchase Program (TEPP) in Wisconsin which is designed to pay for specialized telephone equipment for people having trouble accessing basic telephone services. She recently received her new phone. What a difference it has made!

It made me think of what a wonderful holiday gift this might be for someone with a disability or age-related limitations in your family.

Any Wisconsin resident is eligible for a $100 voucher to purchase specialized telephone equipment. Vouchers are based on the type of disability you have and the cost of the telephone technology you need. You apply for a specific voucher category. The limits are as follows: Hard of hearing, $100; Deaf, $800; deaf low vision, $2,500; deaf blind, $7,200; speech impairment, $1,600; or mobility impairment $1,600.

There is no copay for people who are hard of hearing. However, all other categories require a $100 copay. Once an application is accepted, a voucher is issued to the individual.

You can fill out the application online at http://psc.wi.gov/. (Click on consumers and assistance available to consumers to find the TEPP program.) Staff at your local independent living center (ILC) will provide assistance applying. To locate your ILC, visit http://www.cilww.com/service_area.htm or call Access to Independence (ILC -Madison), 608-242-8484. Once you receive the voucher, a person from the ILC can help you determine and locate the equipment you need.

Another gift idea is the Cool Grip tray which is a unique gift for people with essential tremors, Parkinson’s disease, or an unsteady gait. The tray’s slotted handles make carrying hot food easier and safer and there’s no need for oven mitts. From www.TheCoolGrip.com; 2 CoolGrip Set for $19.99 plus $4.95 shipping.

But perhaps my favorite gift suggestion is the Downs Designs Dreams/NBZ Jeans. These are blue jeans designed for people of all ages with Downs Syndrome, wheelchair users, (like me), and people with differing abilities and body types. None of the jeans have buttons, snaps, or zippers. They have full elastic waistbands, belt loops, mock fly fronts, and are made of soft and stretchy denim. The jeans are stylish and comfortable and look like the jeans everyone else is wearing.

Contact Downs Design Dreams/NBZ Jeans; 877-390-4851 ; www.downsdesignsdreams.org/.

Author Shelley Peterman Schwarz offers tips for how to live better with aging, disability or chronic illness. Contact Schwarz at Shelley@MakingLifeEasier.com. Her column runs every other Sunday.

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