Information When You Need It, Where You Need It: Audio Labelers

A PenFriend is held in someone’s right hand touching a small white label on a can of soup, “reading” the label.

Here is a post about the PenFriend mentioned in Talking Pill Bottles Part 2 . It is the first of  a group of posts about alternatives to print labels.


The PenFriend was a breakthrough in labeling for anyone who struggles to read printed instructions or information. When it appeared, my colleague Eleanor Martin and I gave it a large bin all to itself in our crowded department to show off all the ways it could be used, and clients kept thinking of more.


What is an audio labeler? First what it is not. It is not a print reading device like a prototype from MIT. It is an audio recording device the size of a large marker, which comes with sheets of electronic labels. First someone has to record the print you want to read; later you can erase and reuse the labels. The labels are paper thin, self-adhesive and about the size of coins. The voice recording is stored inside the device and can be as long as you like. The labels can be canceled and re-recorded. You stick them on the back of your credit card, or on the top of a can or whatever else you need to identify.


Audio labelers are especially useful to people who are adjusting to sight problems in later life, and are less likely to become skilled braille, or screen reader users.


The PenFriend now has a competitor, the Touch Memo, which I have not tried. If you have one please add a comment about it, especially the recording quality, which sounded poor on the promotional video.

Here is a very incomplete list of the ways you can use an audio labeler.


For your wallet or purse:

The number, expiration date and security code of any credit or debit card

Medical card details

Reward cards for stores

On the outside of your wallet, or on a separate card in your pocket

Information about appointments, with addresses and phone numbers etc.

Grocery and other shopping lists


For your medications:

Pharmacist can record all details of prescriptions onto one of your electronic labels with your PenFriend


For labeling foods:
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Frozen foods, the adhesive sticks well

Cans, stick the electronic label to a piece of tape for reuse

Spices and herbs

Packages with preparation instructions (reuse the labels as above)


For general household use:

Bills and insurance papers

Directions for using equipment with complicated instructions

Directions and recipes for food preparation on cards, or in a small plastic photo album

Address and phone number book for your contacts

Cosmetics, skin care products, garden products, etc.

CDs, DVDs, photos

Clothing, using the specialized PenFriend laundry labels



PenFriend Voice Labeling System $139.95

The original audio labeler with 250 hours of recording time, very clear instructions and good audio quality. It takes 2 double A batteries


Touch Memo the new kid standing on PenFriend’s shoulders, but with some significant improvements, especially for anyone with loss of sensitivity in their fingers. Only 80 hours of recording time but some labels are tactile and you get more of them, including the expensive laundry labels with the original package. The battery is rechargeable and you can upload the audio labels to keep them backed up on your computer; an important point if you spend hours labeling a collection of DVDs or whatever.



Please let us know other ways you use your audio labeler, as well as what you think  of the Touch Memo.


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