The Consumer Vision

            March/April, 2012

Address: 359 Coggeshall Street, New Bedford, MA 02746:

Telephone: 508-994-4972

Web Site: www.consumervisionmagazine.com

Email Address: bobbranco93@gmail.com

Publisher: Bob Branco

Editor: Janet Marcley

CD Production: Allen Hensel

CD Reader: Bob Zeida

Email Production: Bob Branco and Janet Marcley

Board of Directors: Clement Beaulieu, Darryl Breffe, Steve Brown, Lauren Casey, Dan Germano, Bob Hachey, Allen Hensel and Alan Soule.

Note: For searching purposes, three asterisks (***) have been inserted just before the beginning of each new article or section.

Table of Contents:

News from the Publisher

Obtaining Sighted Help

Beware of Your Supported Environment

Coastline Elderly Nutrition News – March for Meals Campaign 2012

Ask Allen

February Afternoons

Consumer Vision Trivia

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            News from the Publisher

Dear Readers,

I regret to inform you that Consumer Vision’s cross-promotion with New Bedford Guide has come to an abrupt end for reasons I won’t go into. I hope that New Bedford Guide continues to inform the citizens of Greater New Bedford, as I hope their staff wishes good fortune for Consumer Vision. With that said, this wasn’t the appropriate time for a cross-promotion of both magazines.

Our cook book, “What We Love To Eat,” is now available in large print and on CD for $10. If you would like a copy, please make your check payable to Consumer Vision, and send to Bob Branco, 359 Coggeshall St., New Bedford, MA 02746. Every recipe in this book was submitted by a blind cook. We hope to produce it in Braille very shortly. Please note that we do not accept credit purchases.

On a final note, please respond to all Consumer Vision inquiries to my Verizon account, bobbranco93@gmail.com. I very rarely check the g-mail account, because the only reason for the account is to send the magazine, as a result of Verizon’s thinking that Consumer Vision is spam. Thank you, in advance, for your cooperation.

Bob Branco, Publisher

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            Obtaining Sighted Help

by John and Linda Justice  

As visually impaired people, we all face one challenge which is greater than any other: How can we get around and find what we need in a world designed for and populated by people with vision who just don’t understand our problems? Efforts have been made to provide alternative forms of transportation and, to some extent, this has made our lives easier. But there are things we have to do if a normal life is our goal and many of those tasks don’t fit well with services like Para Transit. We can try to live in a neighborhood where public transportation is plentiful but in many cases, areas like that are plagued by high crime rates, dangerous street crossings and property which just isn’t suitable for our needs. The funny thing about being blind is that each of us handles our challenges in a unique way. Anyone who comes along and thinks that a one-size-fits-all solution is going to work for every blind person is sadly mistaken and probably suffers from an inaccurate understanding of how we live. Recent developments which have created huge “super stores” only add to the difficulty because of their vast size and minimal staff. Retailers today base their entire operation on the customer’s ability to “do it himself” rather than being served individually by trained sales personnel. Although that personal touch isn’t completely dead, it is quickly becoming a part of the endangered species list.

What to do? After many years of trial and error, my wife and I have developed a method of screening and employing people who can provide the transportation and the help we need. This process may not work for everyone but we hope that it will provide some ideas and a fresh approach to a problem we all have in common.

Why not hire and train people to do what you need? Who would know better what is required? Will it cost money? Yes it will. But then, so does public transportation or Para Transit. 

Imagine having someone drive you to a large store like Wal-Mart, bring you inside and help you find exactly what you want. Imagine having someone you know driving you to the doctor’s office and waiting for you until you are ready to go home. Imagine someone taking you to places where those hard-to-find bargains are located and helping you to get them. If any of this sounds appealing to you, read on.

Before we begin this adventure, I would like to ask you a couple of questions. They are definitely pertinent to the discussion.

1.     Do you own your own vehicle; car, van?

2.     Are you willing to use local newspapers to advertise for what you want?

3.     If yes, do you have a phone that can be used in an advertisement like that?

In general, I imagine that you, as a blind person or couple, don't have a car which can be used. As for the rest of the questions, if you are going to be looking for help, here are a few ideas.

Before you decide to try finding someone to assist you, discuss exactly what you need. For example, you can do as Linda does. She has someone drive her to the grocery market but while she's in the store, she has one of the market’s staff members assist her in finding all of the items on her list. She knows where they are located because she did a walking tour and recorded what products were in each aisle.  So when she prepares a weekly list, she puts down not only the items but also their location in the store. All the driver has to do is drop her off. While she's inside, he or she goes and does other errands we need, such as dropping off or picking up dry cleaning, checking our business mail box, and picking up Chinese food if we're having that on any particular day. When the errands are complete, the driver returns and looks for Linda. When she is just about ready to check out, the driver goes to get the car and has it ready at the curb in front of the market.

But how do you choose the right person? The key is to listen very carefully to what the person is saying during the initial interview. With a guide dog or two, one of the key elements in picking a driver is finding someone who doesn't mind dogs in their vehicle. that's important!  Never ever agree to go out with a hired driver who doesn't want you to bring the dog. If the driver doesn't want your guide dog, he or she doesn't want you, and that's that. Remember, if the driver does strand you somewhere, at least you will have your dog to help you get around. What would you do if there was no dog?

Put together a set of key questions that you can ask a potential applicant.

1. Are you in good physical health?

2. Can you carry groceries or other packages?

3. Do you have a good driving record?

4. How do you feel about guide dogs, even when wet, riding in your vehicle?

5. Are you bothered by weather conditions, e.g. rain, snow, ice?

6. Can you guaranty us prescheduled times when we need them?

7. Are you reliable when it comes to keeping schedules?

8. Are you bothered by heavy traffic or congested driving conditions? 

Paying for Help

We pay our drivers the same way that bus and cab companies pay: The driver is compensated for the time he or she spends behind the wheel and if a wait is necessary, the paid time continues. On the other hand, we do not pay for "down time," which means that we don't pay the driver for the time between appointments. Here's an example: Let's say that you have an appointment at 8:30 a.m., but you are going to be there until 2:00 p.m. We base our rate of pay on the time it will take for the driver to bring you to your appointment and go back home. If that takes an hour, we pay for the hour. When the driver picks you up at 2:00, his pay starts again and continues until you are dropped off at home. The time between those two appointments is not paid time. It's "down time" or "uncompensated time," and that time is the driver's to do with as he or she pleases. It's always a good idea to plan several errands during the same outing so that the driver's time is utilized in the best way possible. If you have to buy groceries, go to the drug store and the bank all on the same day, figure out where those locations are and plan your route so that you do each thing in successive order. If the bank is the closest location, begin there and work your way out until you reach the final destination.

You can arrange a "block" of time in which you are going to do various things and you pay the driver for that entire block since you are keeping him or her with you.

Hiring a driver and his vehicle must be considered at a different rate of pay from using your own car or van as the mileage on your driver's vehicle must be taken into consideration. You can do this several ways, depending on what works for you. One way would be to record the odometer reading at the beginning of a trip and then reading it again at the end. Calculate the number of miles and pay the driver on the basis of a standard mileage rate. There are federal guidelines used for that purpose. Ask your tax-services representative what the current rate per mile is.

The alternative would be to offer to fill the driver's tank with gas on a longer trip. Or, you could agree on a flat fee which could be incorporated into your hourly rate. On the average, we pay the driver at $10 per hour with our van. How far could someone go in an hour? If you're on the highway, it could amount to about 50 miles. At $.35  (thirty-five cents) a mile, that would be $17.50. In a trip like that, you'd be better off agreeing to fill the driver's tank before the trip. Usually, a decision has to be made on whether to pay the driver a combined rate including mileage and hourly compensation or just agree on a fee which is satisfactory to everyone. The best way to handle the situation is to keep it simple. Try to come up with a rate of pay that will take both the driver and the vehicle into consideration. How about $15 an hour? Look at the trips you are going to be taking. If you are going long distances, then a flat rate is best. If you are going to be staying relatively close to home, then you might want to consider an hourly rate. Keep in mind that you are taking up the driver’s time and creating wear and tear on the vehicle. Both of those factors must go into any agreed rate.

People respond differently in each part of the country. In Texas, someone will drive 50 miles and not even turn a hair. In New Jersey, they want to be paid for partial miles and get really cranky if your figures don't agree with theirs. I have always found that agreeing on an hourly rate which takes into consideration the driver and the car is best. If you are planning on using the driver several times a week, then a cumulative rate is the best way to handle it. Keep an accurate record of the times you spent for each trip and then pay the driver at the end of the week. Don't get involved with piece-meal paying. You might get someone who works one job and then doesn't come back. If they have to wait till the end of the week to get paid, the average person is going to be much more reliable because they'll lose a lot of money if they don’t complete the schedule. 

Important Rule

A driver must understand that failure to complete the schedule for an entire week of events will forfeit that week's compensation. Explain that you are depending on the driver to provide reliable service, for which you are paying. If the current driver won’t provide what you need, you’ll still need the service and will have to, if necessary, engage another driver to finish the job. Therefore, if the driver strands you for any reason other than an emergency, that driver must understand that in doing so, they will lose the entire week's pay. This is a serious thing, everyone. You are doing business when it comes to something like this, so treat it like a business. To quote one old-time limousine driver I heard, "Soft hearts get run over in the driving business." 

Driver Interview

It's always best to use every sense you have to observe a driver.  If you detect nervousness that is more than average, you can probably assume that the driver will act that way behind the wheel. Listen to the applicant. Get him or her talking. One of the key tests we make is waiting to see if the driver arrives on time. If they do, that's a good mark right away. If your applicant arrives smelling badly from unwashed clothes or hair, chances are that the driver doesn't care much about his or her appearance and therefore won't care much about anything else. Let the driver talk and listen to what is said and how it's said. Don't make any decision until you have had time to go over the interview. We always go out for a test drive with every applicant we're seriously considering.  Driving style will often tell you a lot about the driver. If you feel sudden starts and stops and hear cars blowing their horns when the driver makes turns, you are probably dealing with someone whose skills are limited or even poor. The condition of the vehicle will tell you a lot about the owner, too. If the car is dirty, smells bad or is filled with junk, you don't want any part of that driver. If the car is in poor mechanical condition, then it becomes a danger to both the driver and the passenger, you. Remember that you are going to be relying on that driver’s vehicle to get you where you have to go. If the car is in poor condition, it won’t be reliable in the long run. Conversely, if the car is in good running order, you can probably rely on the driver to function in a similar way. Use your intuition. If someone feels wrong, they probably are wrong. Never second guess yourself. First impressions will often tell you more than any other interaction with a potential driver. 

Establishing a Working Relationship with the Driver

Maintain a distance between yourself and any hired driver. Don’t forget that this is an employer/employee relationship and never give any person a chance to do something you'll regret. Don't let them handle money except in small amounts, suitable for things like dry cleaning, stamps or the like. Never ever let a driver see your banking information. Never fully trust any driver until you have had a long successful experience and even then, keep your distance. Don't let drivers do you favors without compensation. One way or another, it will eventually have a negative impact on the overall relationship. If the driver perceives weakness or vulnerability in you, he or she may try to take advantage of that situation. 

Creating the Advertisement

Create an advertisement that tells the reader exactly what you need in as simple terms as possible.

“Driver for blind couple, Willow Grove. Shopping, errands, occasional trips. Our car. 215-555-1212.”

If you live in a large metropolitan area such as New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles, it might be better to advertise in a local church paper or post your advertisement at the local grocery or drug store. If a newspaper covers too large a service area, you are going to run into trouble in sorting out the applicants. When you are listening to the messages, eliminate immediately the ones who don’t suit your needs. Avoid calling the ones back who don’t fall within your accepted guidelines. It is far too time-consuming and serves no real purpose. Once you are running the listing, ask those key questions. Keep in mind, the further away a driver lives, the more likely something is going to interfere with his or her doing the job. Pick people as close to you as you can. Never ever hire anyone

with a foreign accent unless they can provide verifiable proof of residency and a valid local driver’s license. If any potential driver cannot produce verifiable identification including a valid driver's license, they are not on your list. Never settle for a driver you aren't sure of. 

Rules of Conduct

Once you have chosen a driver that seems to suit your needs, put together a set of rules which will be presented to him or her. Include things like no smoking in the vehicle, no drinking while on duty, etc. Some of these things would appear, at first, to be common sense. But never rely on a person’s using that rare and often absent gift. Never assume that the driver knows anything until you are absolutely positively sure about him or her. On the other hand, rely on the driver’s being able to see things you can’t. If there is construction or an accident on your planned route, the driver may inform you of that and suggest an alternative approach. That is fine as long as you are able to achieve your goals. 

Duties and Responsibilities

Here is where your individual needs become very important. Some might want only a driver who can bring the family from place to place reliably and safely. Others might prefer to have a person who can assist in places like the super market or a clothing store. Your earlier discussions should have established these criteria. But whatever you decide is needed, be ready to think of your driver as a clean slate on which you will be writing. Make sure that every task you set is clearly understood and that the driver knows exactly what he or she is supposed to do. In the beginning, patience and clear explanations must be paramount in any driver/passenger relationship. But one thing is important: Never ask the driver to do something you can do yourself.  Employer/employee relationships must be built on respect for each other. If the driver loses respect for you, you will lose control.  That must never happen! Be polite and patient but never play on the driver’s reaction to your physical impairments. As the relationship grows, things like that will gradually disappear. But if you have a clear-cut set of guidelines for the driver to follow, there will be fewer misunderstandings, disappointments or cross purposes. 

Rating Your Driver

Any new job will require an adjustment period. After the driver has had time to settle in, use a pre-determined set of parameters to rate the driver’s performance. If there are too many negative results, it’s time to find another person.

1.  Is the driver on time?

2.  How is the driver’s attitude toward you and your dog?

3.  Has the driver argued about the rate of pay?

4.  Has the driver argued about your planned routes?

5.  Is the driver too curious or nosey about how you live?

6.  Does the driver try to do too much for you?

7.  Is there anything about the driver which makes you uncomfortable?

8.  Does the driver get along with everyone in the family?

9.  Does the driver interfere with the dog’s guiding or discipline?

10. Has the driver ever broken any of your pre-stated rules? 

A Free Ride is Not Necessarily a Good or Safe One

The services we have described in this article will cost the visually impaired person. Your individual budget may determine how much you will be able to spend on this kind of personalized attention. As blind people, we become far too comfortable with the idea that things will be given to us, simply because of our impairment. If you want or need this kind of service, you must be prepared to pay for it. When it comes to drivers, there is no such thing as a free ride. Anyone who thinks that will soon discover that they will be paying in one way or another. If you keep this kind of arrangement on a business basis, that should eliminate any misunderstandings. We knew a young lady once who got free rides to and from work. Everything went well until her driver began to ask for compensation in the form of sexual favors. Fortunately, that young woman was able to qualify for Para Transit. Her employer is willing to put up with the fact that six times out of ten, she is late in arriving. Her boss simply couldn’t understand why she no longer was interested in accepting free transportation and was willing to pay for it.     

Thank you for taking the time to read our article. We have been using drivers for about twenty-seven years now. We hope that our observations and suggestions will assist you in finding that special person you need.       

John and Linda Justice

with Guide Dogs Jake and Zachary

            personal e-mail: john_justice@verizon.net

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            Beware of Your Supported Environment

by Bob Branco

When a blind person, particularly someone with other limitations, chooses to receive home care or other assistance, he should be extremely careful about how he chooses the proper agency and its staff. It's been documented by many clients that some of these workers have a tendency or a desire to take charge of the client's environment, leaving the client helpless to take care of his own property. For example, some homemakers take over the kitchen, use the items, and put them back wherever they want without the client's input. Not only does this behavior leave the client helpless, but it may prove to be dangerous.

Recently, a blind friend of mine had a home maker work in his kitchen. When the homemaker's job was done, he quickly put things back where he thought they should go without telling my friend where he put them. At one point, the homemaker had two bottles which looked almost exactly alike. One had bleach in it while the other had orange juice. In his haste to put things away, the homemaker placed the bleach in the refrigerator and the orange juice in the cabinet. Being that the homemaker didn't realize his mistake, he could not let my friend know what he had done. When my friend went to get orange juice out of the refrigerator, he used what little vision he had to recognize that the bottle contained bleach instead of juice, catching the homemaker's mistake just in time! Can you imagine what could have happened if my friend didn't have any usable vision to detect this error? I don't even want to think about it.

When someone is hired to work in your home, it is imperative that the worker put things back the way you want them, or just lets you put them back. In my own personal opinion, if the worker fails to comply, you should correct him or her or get another worker. Blind people with other limitations, or anyone else with similar problems, must be proactive and make sure they hire the proper agency staff who will show more respect for the client's independence. Just because a client has some limitations, it doesn't mean he's an invalid. We all want to know where everything is, and not be at the mercy of some egomaniacal workers who don't care.

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Light House icon

From the desk of Kim Ferreira, MS, RD, LDN

CoastlineElderly Nutrition News. Contact me with anyquestions at (508) 999-6400 x194 or email:ksferreira@coastlineelderly.org

            Coastline Elderly Services, Inc.

March for Meals Campaign 2012

Help Us End Senior Hunger

Each week, Coastline delivers meals to over 4,000 elderly individuals living in New Bedford and the surrounding towns of Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Gosnold, Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester.

The number of older adults in need of meals continues to grow, so raising money for this program is becoming more important. The March for Meals campaign helps local organizations like Coastline raise money, and it also helps to make people aware of the importance of Coastline’s nutrition program.

This year, for the first three weeks of March, Coastline worked with local restaurants to collect donations on behalf of the program, wrapping up the campaign with a Fun Walk and Wellness Fair on the 24th. We enjoyed samples of healthy food and yoga and Zumba demonstrations, with information from local organizations available.

For more information, please visit Coastline’s website at coaslineelderly.org.

Coastline Elderly Nutrition News. Contact me with any questions at (508) 999-6400 x194 or email: ksferreira@coastlineelderly.org

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            Ask Allen

Allen Hensel of Milford, Massachusetts has a vast amount of knowledge about gadgets, and would like to answer your questions about many of these products in the Consumer Vision.

Allen knows about Rechargeable batteries of all types, MP3 players and peripherals, GPS devices, digital cameras, backup drives, flash- or thumb-drives, portable radios including HD, LED lights including flashlights, power mats, computer mice and keyboards.

Basically, Allen will offer shopping or practical application advice on any small portable gadget that one might want information for. He does a lot of comparative research and would be happy to do it for others.  Besides, he loves to learn new things anyway so why not put that learning to good use.

If you have any questions for Allen, please email them to me and I will forward them. Your questions, as well as Allen's answers, will appear in his column in the Consumer Vision.

            Question: Do you know of a good, accessible DVD player that will allow me to listen to the other programs on a DVD such as out-takes or second programs, like if there’s more than one episode of a show on a disk.  Thanks  

David Baharian, Quincy Mass

            Answer: Hi David, If you are looking specifically for a DVD player with voice-over or text-to-speech, I am not aware of one. I've actually been searching for such an animal myself. If I have not addressed your question specifically please let me know.

Allen R. Hensel | Sr. Inside Sales Account Manager | Office & Consumer

Products | Avery Dennison

22 Mechanic St., Milford, MA 01757 | 800.334.3873 |

al.hensel@averydennison.com

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            February Afternoons

by Karen Crowder

Early afternoons in February are often cold with bone-chilling winds,

Four-foot Snowdrifts obscure fields sidewalks and lawns

New fallen snow looks pretty its whiteness  decorating trees,

Kids laughing slide down steep hills on sleds saucers tobogans or pieces of cardboard 

They might skate on ponds thick with ice on cold windy afternoons

They run home for that warm cup of cider or hot chocolate.  

In mid February the sun is warmer, snowdrifts now a dirty grey

Afternoon sun warms porches, starting to melt ice on ponds

It shines until after 5 P.M.  

A stray sixty-degree day reminds us spring is not far away

As you stand outdoors you smile hearing a song sparrow or robin,

You dare not put frozen items in a car trunk

the blessed bitter winds of early February gone  .   

On late February afternoons radiant sunshine in windows,

The snow is gone and bitterly cold days are fewer,

Warm 45/55-degree days are common,

On rare afternoons the temperature might reach 68/70 degrees when everyone wears spring jackets or sweaters,

Robins sing, sparrows and lone chicadees sing their melody heralding spring's arrival Milder winds blow

as February disappears into March disabilities, as well as any other general information about computers.

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            Consumer Vision Trivia Contest

Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in the January/February Consumer Vision: Donder and Blitzen are the German translations for thunder and lightning. Congratulations to the following winners:

Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts

Mark Benson of Wichita, Kansas

Jean Marcley of Brenda, Arizona

John Justice of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania

Susan Jones of Indianapolis, Indiana

Jake Joehl of Evanston, Illinois

Volly Nelson of Reidsville:City, Georgia:country-region>:place>

Lauren Casey of Lawrenceville:City, New Jersey:State>:place>

Wesley Smith of Milwaukee:City, Oregon:State>:place>

Chad:country-region> Grover of Corning:City, New York:State>:place>

And now, here is your trivia question for the March/April Consumer Vision: Which Major League baseball team used to be the St. Lewis Browns?

If you know the answer, please email bobbranco93@gmail.com or call 508-994-4972.

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