The Consumer Vision

  July/August, 2014

Address, 359 Coggeshall St., New Bedford, MA 02746

Telephone, 508-994-4972

Web Site,

Email Address,

Publisher, Bob Branco

Editor, Terri Winaught

Braille Proeduction, Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library


A Notice from the Publisher by Bob Branco

First Letter from the Editor by Terri Winaught

Buying Online with Care and Caution by John Justice

Different Views by Ernest Jones

US Airways Flight Makes Emergency Landing after Dog Evacuates from

Cape Cod Apartments Designed for Persons with Vision Impairments from the Associated Press

Preparing for New England Summer Storms by Karen Crowder

Major Appliances Not designed with Blind in Mind by Ernest Jones

What's Happening to Our Education System by Bob Branco

A Letter to the Matilda Ziegler Magazine

Letters from Our Readers

Community Notices

Trivia Contest by Bob Branco

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     A Notice from the Publisher

When sending correspondence to Consumer Vision, only use the Verizon account. The G Mail account is only used for sending the magazine to its readers. Thank you for your cooperation.

On July 8, I had a very interesting conversation with Justin Slaughter of

Senator Markey's office. As you know, I organized a letter-writing campaign

to Senator Markey regarding the reduction of benefits to persons with

disabilities who get married. I believe we have made some progress!

Two weeks ago, representatives from Senator Markey's office approached the

National Federation of the Blind. While I don't know the details of their

dialog, the goal is for Senator Markey to find a republican in the Senate

who would support changes in the current legislation. The Federation

assured Markey's office that they will help find such a republican. If a

republican does not come forward, there will be no changes in the law.

Slaughter feels that republicans will question the cost of these changes.

He added that the total cost of increasing benefits to married couples might

exceed a billion dollars, and that it's possible that the money is in


As most blind people know, adaptive products for the blind, for the most part, are too costly for the consumer to afford. The following is a letter that I wrote to the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind reguarding this subject. The letter is self-explanatory:

Dear Commissioner Saner,

I am very concerned about the cost of many adaptive products for the blind.

The prices for most of these products are outrageous and unaffordable to the

average blind consumer. It is believed among the blind community that one

of the major reasons for this problem is because some agencies buy the

products at these prices, which justifies the cost. Though many agencies

have the money, what happens when a consumer is asked to pay? For example,

JAWS costs over a thousand dollars. Most blind people are on extremely

fixed incomes and make less than that with SSI. How can these people afford

to pay for JAWS while they have to put food on the table, buy clothing, pay

the rent, etc.? It is a very difficult task.

What needs to happen is that agencies, including the Massachusetts

Commission for the Blind, band together and convince these companies that

many of their products are unaffordable to the blind population. If clients

are encouraged by the agency counselors to buy their own adaptive products,

such as JAWS, then agencies such as the Commission for the Blind should set

the example. If Maxi Aids, Freedom Scientific or any other company has a

market of agencies that continues to buy these outrageously-priced products

for the blind, they would be reluctant to lower their prices because they

know that this market works.

If you believe that my recommendations are not feasible, then we need to

come up with another plan to accomodate the blind population. We, as blind

people, are encouraged to live as independently as the sighted. It's not

easy with one hundred dollar measuring tapes, three hundred dollar talking

microwave ovens, one thousand dollar versions of JAWS, eighty dollar braille

watches, and so on.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my concerns, while realizing

that I speak for many, many blind people as well as myself.

      Warmest regards,

Bob Branco

Commissioner Saner has responded privately to this letter, however, he won't respond publicly. If you have any questions or would like to hear the Commissioner's response to this very important issue facing the blind, please email Commissioner Saner at or call 800-392-6450, and with voice activation, say "Paul Saner."

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Hello, Consumer Vision Readers,

As your new Editor starting with the July-August 2014 issue of Consumer Vision, I'd like to introduce myself.

My name is Terri Winaught; I have written articles from time to time for Consumer Vision; and wrote weekly columns for the Matilda Ziegler. I also write for Magnets and Ladders, a twice-a-year online publication of Behind Our Eyes, a writers group of persons with disabilities; and am published in the 2013 anthology: Behind Our Eyes: a Second Look. Although this is my first time as a magazine editor, I have edited a local newsletter since 2007; and once, when asked, helped edit nonfiction and poetry submissions to an issue of Magnets and Ladders.

My interests include: being a good friend; spending time with friends; writing nonfiction and poetry; singing-especially hymns, and songs from Broadway musicals-listening to soul music from the 1960's; Enjoying the Motown sound; and listening to regae. (Since it's summer and therefore baseball season, I just have to add how much I love going to Pittsburgh Pirates games. On July 4th, though, since the Pirates played the Phillies and I grew up in Philadelphia where I attended Overbrook School for the Blind, my husband, Jim and I purposely aggravated Pirates fans by wearing our Phillies T-shirts.)

My favorite foods are pancakes, and pasta with tomato sauce: In fact, when I began dating my husband, he started calling me "the pancake queen" because all I ever ordered was pancakes. That said, one of my favorite places to eat is the International House of Pancakes, more commonly known as IHOP.

To conclude with some notes about editorship and one final note about me, I can't thank Janet Marcley enough for the impeccable job she did as this magazine's Editor for so many years. My promise to you as readers is that I will do my best always to maintain Janet's very high standards. As part of that process, I welcome all of you to contact me with any feedback or suggestions as follows: E-mail:, or Also, feel free to phone me at 412-263-2022, home; or 412-737-8004, cell, on which you can also text me.

Janet, I extend best wishes to you in whatever new endeavors you might be pursuing.

Finally, an introduction of me wouldn't be complete without telling you that my favorite compliment to people I like is to tell them that they should be cloned, so if I never tell you, "You should be cloned," it means that I don't like you. Not to worry, though, because I like pretty much everyone I meet or talk with. I'm sure that will include each of you, and I look forward to getting to know you as I continue to edit this wonderful magazine Bob Branco works so hard to publish.


Terri Winaught

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If you are considering buying something online, your chances of success are reasonably good but there are exceptions. If, for some reason, you end up

with the wrong product or with something which doesn't come up to your expectations, you might, as a visually impaired customer, run into problems.

For example, there's a company which markets something called The Total Gym. Apparently, it's exercise equipment which helps the user to lose weight or

aimprove his or her body strength. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, THIS company will not pay to have unsatisfactory merchandise returned. What they

will do is wait for the customer to return the equipment and then credit their account for the purchase. That policy, in and of itself, isn't all that uncommon but the equipment weighs almost 100 pounds. In order to assemble the equipment, it has to be taken out of the specially designed shipping cartons.

It is virtually impossible to remove the equipment without seriously damaging or even destroying the packaging. The cost for returning something that heavy, even using FedEx Ground or the post office, is quite high. These companies have to list their return policies on the sites where the products are being sold, but many people don't take the time to read that detail and it costs them. When it comes to returning any merchandise, never do it unless the company gives you an RMA number. RMA stands for Return Material Authorization. It's a code which is used by the vendor to identify a particular shipment as being returned so that they can credit the customer for the original purchase.

If merchandise is sent back to the vendor without an RMA, the product goes back into the warehouse's stock and no record is available to prove that it was returned. Most companies will work with the purchaser but some are unscrupulous enough that they will deny ever receiving the returned items and refuse to credit the account for the original purchase. They aren't breaking the law by doing this and quite often, the customer has no legal recourse in the matter.

If you do decide to buy online, become an intelligent and well-educated customer. Learn as much as you can about the company you are buying from and be sure that you fully understand their return policies.

When making a purchase through an on-line provider like EBay, you buy the merchandise through them but it is supplied by many different companies, depending on the product. EBay itself is a clearance house and doesn't own or warehouse some of these items. They keep track of the orders and send a purchase request to whichever company can supply the item for the best possible price. EBay is a reputable company but that doesn't necessarily mean that their suppliers are. If you are buying an electronic device, it may have been manufactured in China, South Korea or exotic places like Malaysia or Thailand.

The items are shipped in bulk to a distribution center located in the U.S. from which the orders are filled. So, that laptop, tablet or IPod passes through several levels before it actually reaches the consumer. Normally, that doesn't present a problem but if the customer ends up with the wrong device or with something that is defective, problems can and do arise. As blind consumers, we have additional problems unique to us which are based on the fact that we can't see the documentation, labels and instructions provided at the time of delivery. Many companies like Apple use the product ID to identify where the item was purchased, when the sale was completed and so on. With that, they can confirm that it is still under warranty. Apple will immediately initiate a return process. In some cases, they will provide a return box which includes a prepaid label which is used to return the device. Most reputable companies will follow the same procedure. But when you purchase from a huge on-line provider like amazon or EBay, you have to rely on that vendor's policy where returns are concerned. The precise instructions must be followed or a company like that will not honor the return. This is a necessary step for them since their volume of sales is tremendous and many people will try to defraud a company like EBay. They don't often succeed but they still try. With that in mind, if you have to return anything bought from an on-line provider, learn as much as you can about how to return the purchase properly.

Sighted help might be necessary in order to find and use the correct return label. Never throw away the original shipping carton until you are absolutely sure that the device is working correctly. It is recommended that you retain the carton and all documentation for at least three months. In most cases, the customer will find any defect during that time. For blind customers, all of that paperwork is a real nuisance but there may be something essential included such as the return label.

This is very important, especially where electronic devices are concerned. In order to communicate with the vendor and identify your particular product, you need the product ID number or serial number. In most cases, that information is printed directly on the device or on the carton. With Apple products, it is often available electronically but this is not necessarily the case with other electronic devices. Do whatever you have to do to obtain and make a record of that product ID information. You may not be able to return the merchandise at all without it.

Product warranties come in many forms. Depending on the manufacturer, there might be different time limits for manufacturer defect, product return and so on. Be sure that you know exactly what to expect from any warranty.

When ordering on line, use care and caution. There is no way for the vendor to know that you are visually impaired. If you make a mistake and check the wrong item on a list, your credit card will be charged for the item and you will receive merchandise you didn't want.

This is something which happens quite often, even to customers with vision. Before confirming any on-line order, use any opportunity provided by the site to verify that the correct item has been indicated. Most reliable on-line vendors will give their customers several opportunities to confirm that the information is correct before clicking on the "Buy" button. Take whatever time you need to make sure that the product is the one you have chosen. Errors in on-line ordering can often be costly, annoying and time consuming. As blind customers, we should use an elevated level of care when making such a purchase.

"There is no crime in taking your time!" Enjoy your shopping but be very careful.




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Different Views

By Ernest Jones

June 2014 Guide Dog Sullivan Lake

"Watch out!" my brother shouted.

It was the first time my brothers were to walk with me and Melita, my first guide dog, over a rugged mountainous trail. Throughout the past year I had taken many walks with her, both on narrow trails and along our county roads, and I had complete faith in her ability to keep me safe. Thus I was ready to prove Melita would keep me secure as we hiked the 4-mile trail along one side of Sullivan Lake, in the northeast corner of Washington state.

Though rain had fallen during the night, the morning sun broke through the clouds, casting warm rays of light across the land.

We left the car in the quiet parking lot. My niece would later meet us at the other end of the trail that my brothers, Ralph and Clarence, along with my nephew Loren and I, would walk. I had the feeling those in my group still didn't trust Melita to keep me safe and I knew they would be watching our every move on this walk.

Melita, always wanting to be out front, guided me to walk at the head of the group, and we set off. The trail was not bad - that is, for a person alone, but a little narrow for a guide team. My right shoulder was constantly brushing against the wet branches that crowded the trail, and shortly my right side was soaked. Thanks to me wiping up the water on these branches, my companions remained dry.

"Watch out for that tree," one of my brothers called out, only to add, "Oh, she is taking him around the tree."

Time after time I would hear one call out about watching out for some large rock, tree or other object, only to hear him add, "Oh, Melita is watching out for him."

Melita paused to allow me to feel the large tree that leaned over the trail so I could duck under it. She walked me carefully over stones that gave footing across several small streams feeding the lake, and in other places she would gently push me more to the right to clear the bank dropping down to the lake.

Twice we had to traverse across landslides that consisted of piles of rocks and boulders, from gravel-size to larger than basketball-size covering the trail, and Melita carefully led me across to solid ground. In some places the trail climbed up the steep slope to what I was later told to be around 300 feet above the lake, only to then drop back to almost lake level. In one place the trail was completely blocked by fallen trees and Melita took me up a steep bank until we could cross a narrow ravine and once again drop down to the trail.

Several times Melita and I stopped while the others looked across the lake to watch a logging company using a large crane swing the logs up and over the steep hillside to where they could be loaded onto trucks. Other times we just stopped to enjoy the beauty of the land and to take a rest. The hike was strenuous in places and I had to keep alert lest the rocks covering the path roll under my feet and send me sliding down the hill.

About two hours later I felt a change in the trail. No longer was it rough with stones and roots to step over. The terrain was nearly level and the ground was cushioned from years of decaying pine needles and other vegetation. It was easy walking and I relaxed, enjoying this restful walk after the more difficult trek over the rocky hillside.

Turning to my brothers I said, "I am sure glad we walked the trail going this direction for we had the hardest section first and ended up on this gentle easy walking path.

One of my brothers replied, "I am glad we walked the trail going this way also but for a different reason. There was a stretch of several hundred feet where the trail lay right on the edge of the bank and I could look right down into the murky water below. That dog kept you pushed up close to the far side of the trail. She is some dog - she sure watched out for you."

I smiled as I realized that finally my brothers were seeing just how safe walking with a guide dog could be. Being blind would not confine me to the easy chair. With my guide dog I'd keep hiking the mountain trails.

Don't let fading eyesight rob you of enjoying life.

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Dog's 'evacuation' forces emergency landing of US Airways flight to PHL

Sam Wood,

LAST UPDATED: Friday, May 30, 2014, 3:35 PM

Airline passengers often grumble about leg room and the quality of airplane food.

There's a new complaint being aired by a few hundred souls who boarded a flight Wednesday from Los Angeles to Philadelphia: Not enough pooper-scoopers.

A Philadelphia-bound US Airways flight, already two-hours delayed, was forced to make an emergency landing in Missouri after a passenger's service dog defecated in the aisle.

"It was the worst smelling blowout I've ever smelled," passenger Steve McCall told Inside Edition. "It wasn't little pieces, it was full-fledged dog diarrhea."

The crew was able to clean up the dog's mess. But then the situation took a turn for the worse.

The dog pooped again.

The stench wafting through the cabin made several passengers sick.

"The second time after the dog pooped they ran out of paper towels, they didn't have anything else," said McCall. "The pilot comes on the radio, 'Hey, we have a situation in the back, we're going to have to emergency land.' "

Outraged passengers documented the incident on Twitter and other social media platforms.

"People started dry-heaving, a couple of people threw up," McCall said.

"The first time was bad, the second time people said 'You got to get us out of here! This is nasty.' "

The plane was diverted to Kansas City. A cleaning crew scoured the aisle.

The voyage resumed.

"You just had to laugh," McCall said. "It was so outrageous and out of control. It was a story you couldn't make up."

Service dogs are "usually excellent flyers," said Bill McGlashen, spokesman for US Airways. "They know how to behave and sit in the right area. And this is just one of those incidents when the dog became ill."

Folks who rely on service dogs every day say the incident may be much ado about nothing.

"I'm sure this would not be a news story if a human had been sick on a plane," said Jim Kutsch, president and CEO at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, N.J. and a Seeing Eye dog user since 1970. "Dogs are living beings and they, too, get sick."

Dogs routinely spend many hours without needing to relieve themselves, he said. Travelers with service dogs usually adjust the feeding schedules of their animals to accomodate a long flight.

"Seeing Eye has been around since 1929, and if this is the first time that a story like this gets this much attention, it obviously doesn't happen very often."

Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or

Follow @samwoodiii on Twitter.

article found at:


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Cape Cod apartments for those with limited vision

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Associated Press

YARMOUTH, Mass. - Life with limited vision can be challenging, but a partnership between a local nonprofit organization and a Cape Cod assisted living facility could make it a little brighter.

The Cove at Thirwood Place, located on Flax Pond in South Yarmouth, is now marketing a new low-vision support services program complete with apartments

outfitted with technology to help residents read, cook and better manage their environment.

"We're equipping these apartments to make life easier for folks with low or impaired vision," said Larry Lyford, director of sales and marketing at Thirwood Place, during a recent tour of a prototype unit.

Lyford and a small army of other officials, including Cynthia Stead, who is executive director of Sight Loss Services Inc. Cape Cod and Islands and a Times columnist, showed off a device that warns a user before his or her cup literally runs over and a computer mouse that reads and digitizes text, enlarging it on a flat television screen.

"I always like to demonstrate them on telephone books," Stead said about the reader's ability to boost the size of small print.

The apartments also come equipped with an iPad loaded with applications to scan bar codes, read money (Lyford showed how it could discern a $5 bill in his hand) and read aloud the resident's calendar, news, weather and notes.

In the kitchen, adjustments ranged from the high tech (a talking microwave) to the simple (a cutting board colored black on one side and white on the other

for contrast). The apartment also included a talking thermostat, thermometer and bathroom scale.

Stead and Thirwood officials said they expect the number of people with impaired vision on Cape Cod to continue to rise.

Last year, Sight Loss worked with 2,048 clients, including both individuals and institutions, Stead said. At least 1,500 of those are people with sight

loss, she said. Barnstable County puts the number of legally blind residents at 1,900, she said.

"It's probably closer to 7,000," she said about the region's population with low or impaired vision. That could easily double in the next 10 years, she said.

The Cove low-vision apartments - which can be equipped to order - also come with dimmers on all the lights and a high-intensity task lamp, said Beth Patkoske, spokeswoman for the Davenport Cos., which owns Thirwood.

The company is working with other partners to provide even more services and to train its employees to be better prepared for clients with limited vision, said Lyford and Paul Rumul, chief operating officer for Davenport.

"The thing that's going to make the difference is the staff, the care and compassionate follow-up," Rumul said.

The technology and services are available for a one-time added cost of $2,000, which pays for equipping the apartment, he said.

Because help at the Cove is available 24 hours a day, residents can be taught how to use the technology as often as necessary, Patkoske said.

Thirwood, which has 212 units on 45 acres, is also collaborating with Cape Cod Healthcare and a doctor who works specifically with individuals who have low vision, she said.

Thirwood also offers scribe services to read residents mail or write out cards for them, Rumul said.

This is important because, while the reader technology can read printed material, it still has trouble with most handwriting, Stead said.

"This isn't just new to the Cape," Stead said about the suite of services. "This is new to New England."

Despite research and progress at a significant cost, sight loss diseases are largely incurable, she said.

"It's a matter of managing a condition as long as you can," she said.

Rumul admits offering the low-vision services makes sense in other ways as well.

"This is just good business," he said.

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   Modern Appliances Hard for the Blind to Use

By Ernest Jones

Why is it that today manufacturers use hidden grids of controls on appliances, and an array of identical buttons on remote controls? Is it because this is supposed to look better? Is it because they can crowd more controls into one small box? Blind people have quite a difficult time operating devices that have hidden or confusing controls.

Several months ago our microwave gave up, sending us on a search for another one. But we left store after store without buying a new microwave. All the controls for operating the microwave were behind smooth coverings. Sighted people can easily see through these to locate the control they wish to use, but blind folks find it impossible to identify the controls. When we pointed out this problem, the clerks would only shrug their shoulders and curtly reply, "Well, this is all we have."

I was ready to call off our search, feeling it was a lost cause, but I found hope as we entered the last store. Although this store also had appliances made with the same covered control box, we found two workers who went beyond the call of duty. They looked in their system index and found a microwave that appeared it would even be accessible to the blind, then gave us the information to contact the company that sold the appliance. Their effort to help us did not net them a sale, but I think they knew they had helped a person in need, and this was enough. I will add here that this information led us to buying a microwave that I can use. Also, we will now encouragae others to do their shopping at this store.

A couple of years ago our electric range gave out and our son bought us a brand-new kitchen range. Though the knobs that controlled the stove burners were easy for even the blind to operate, it was still a guess just where the low, high or in-between heat settings were. We contacted the manufacturer of this range and they sent me a Braille grid to place right over the control panel of the stove. This covering would make reading these controls easy for the blind who have learned to understand Braille and whose fingers are sensitive to such small raised dots. The problem is that I only read a little Braille, and with my garden- and yard-worn fingers I had no idea what Braille mark was what. There were numerous settings in this window, and I could not distinguish the Braille for turning the oven on from the Braille for temperature settings or the Braille for length of time to cook or the many other Braille markings. I promptly discarded this covering as being useless for me. Later Dorothy placed a few raised marks on the grid that was covering all the stove's controls. By feeling these raised dots and markings, I can at least use the oven. I just ignore the other settings such as clock, light, timer, bake set time and such.

I contacted several major appliance manufacturers concerning this problem but I never really got the feeling that the people I talked to even cared. Two manufacturers never even answered my inquiry.

Recent TV upgrades required new remote controls, and I found in my hand a remote control covered with many small rubber buttons with not the slightest idea what button to press for even turning the TV on or off. The high-rise dots used by the blind to mark items won't stick on these rubber pads. So for some time I just pretended our TV was gone. Recently, my wife tried placing some high-rise dots on another remote control's outer plastic edge, next to a few main buttons. We hoped that by finding these high-rise dots I might be able to at least turn the TV on, find and use the mute button and change stations.

I am still trying to work this remote.

Do these appliance manufacturers think that blind people are not able to care for themselves - so there's no need to build appliances they can work? This is a major problem for the thousands in our country who find their eyesight fading. Many older people with fading eyesight have had no training in Braille.

They need something they can either feel or hear to make it possible for them to continue to use today's appliances.

Have a great day as you select and use your appliances.

Ernie Jones

Author of Onesimus the Run /away Slave

Encouraging The blind

Greater love hath no man then this

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     Surviving severe summer storms

     By Karen Crowder

New Englanders are vigilant about preparing for Nor-easters or snowstorms. These storms can arrive from late October through early May. People drive to supermarkets stocking up on nonperishable items, batteries and paper goods. "We expect power outages which may last several days.

Unless there is a threat of a hurricane, we do not often experience power outages during summer months.

Monday July 7, 2014, began as a lovely summer day. The warm sunny weather was perfect for outings and swimming at pools beaches or lakes. No one in Central and Western Massachusetts expected severe weather on this picture perfect July day. . Noah weather predicted threats of thunderstorms during late afternoon and evening hours in Worcester county and Western Massachusetts. . No one took this seriously, these storms pass, with out power outages. At three O' clock while doing research for an up coming article, I noticed increasing static on a Worcester A.M. station. When I heard distant rumbles of thunder at 3-45, I shut off my computer... I closed the windows turning on the air-conditioner. I made a wise decision. Noah weather, announced thunderstorms were heading towards Western Massachusetts, and the Fitchburg area. Before 4-30, severe thunderstorms and torrential rains were headed towards the Leominster area, and Middlesex County. Leominster/Lunenberg/Fitchburg area would experience severe thunderstorms accompanied by torrential rains.

At four thirty, loud thunder and torrential rains were pounding on apartment windows and air-conditioner ports. I had not seen storms like this since June 2008. Before five o'clock for seconds, our power went out. I have a large surge protector, which beeps when there is an outage. I discovered I had no phone or computer service after power returned. Pressing the reset button on the large surge protector did not help... I called Comcast, my provider, learning that there was a power outage in the Leominster Fitchburg area. Computer, TV and phone service might not return until nine P.M... It seemed unusual for Comcast to have major power outages during summer months.

I called my friend she was lucky to have a working phone.

Around five, thirty our power went out not returning until seven P.M. . I had a partial charge on my cell phone. I called National Grid. Calling the number for Massachusetts, giving information to there automated system. They thanked me for reporting an outage on my street. As I sat listening to a radio, I hoped we were not in for a long outage.

I opened the windows letting in cooler fresh air. I went outdoors, hoping neighbors might congregate. They had after the historic October snowstorm of 2011.

Parts of Worcester County had experienced a two and a half day power outage. I spoke with a few neighbors. . They were looking down our street, seeing National Grid repair crews.

As I returned to my apartment, I began to realize how isolating power outages could be for people with disabilities. As with the 2011 October snowstorm, other residents were able to drive to nearby resturaunts.

I was delighted hearing familiar sounds of my other radio and whirring of the air-conditioner. It was seven o'clock. And I discovered, my phone and computer were working. After pressing the button on my surge protector, Jaws speech and windows 7 returned. .I talked to my blind friend who also lives in this complex. She was happy to have power again. . I also talked to friends who live in Townsend a town near Leominster. They did not lose power, the storms not as severe in Middlesex County.

Should New Englanders begin preparing as diligently for severe summer storms? We should stock up on nonperishables, batteries bottled water and paper products. If storms are imminent, it is advisable to charge cell or smart phones? If rain and thunderstorms from Hurricane Arthur are an indication, we may experience more severe weather during the summer of 2014 in New England. Until September I hope consumer vision readers have a safe and happy summer.

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    Can Today's Education Save our Future?

  By Bob Branco

I am very concerned about today's education. Are we learning the same way that we learned years ago? Should I believe the theory that the brain isn't getting the proper exercise in today's classrooms because of Iphones, texting, and other forms of technology? If this is true, how are teachers compensating? What can they do in order to continue teaching the old methods so that future generations can possess enough intellect to be the doctors, nurses, lawyers, and other important parts of our future? If the old methods don't work any more, how creative can teachers become?

I have heard horror stories about how kids in a Vermont classroom spend so much time texting one another. Bill O'riley spent a day interviewing college kids on a beach. They were asked basic questions about American history, and their answers made me sick. You would be surprised at the number of college kids who did not know who George Washington was. Some thought that he was a horseback rider. There were other famous historians that these kids knew nothing about. I don't understand it. I will assume that you took American History in highschool as I did. Perhaps you don't need to know all that you learned, but at least you know who George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were.

Is it me, or are schools not teaching kids about George Washington? If it's neither, then where were these kids during history class? Did they have their nose in an Iphone, and if so, couldn't the teachers adopt a policy prohibiting that practice during class?

I am worried. If education is being watered down because of the times we live in, please reassure me that we will continue to produce good doctors, good lawyers, good police officers, and anyone else who will continue to keep us safe from harm.

I am also quite concerned for the future of our literacy.

When people now use Facebook, Iphone and other codes in every day correspondence, including business letters, I wonder where proper grammar is

headed as well.

I guess I am looking for reassurance that education will continue to mean what it always meant, but every time I hear about what today's technology is doing to the younger generation, I am unfortunately having my doubts.

Please try to restore my faith.

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     A Letter to the Matilda Ziegler Magazine

From Karen Crowder

May 29, 2014

Dear editor and Matilda Ziegler board

I am writing you a second letter concerning the consequences the suspension of your publication has had on the blind community.

It has left a substantial void in the lives of its readers and writers.

When this magazine became an internet publication in 2010, several of us were thrilled to be hired as blind writers. For three and a half years, this employment changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The financial compensation and the impact our writing had on readers improved our self-esteem.

Since its suspension in January, blind friends and acquaintances inquire, "What happened to the Ziegler, or, "When will the Ziegler begin publishing again?"

Most of my blind audience relied on NFB News line, anticipating each weekly edition.

They miss our writing and the Reader's forum, Special Notices, Op ED and PenPal columns.

I hope that the current editor and Board realize the value of this publication.

No other publication had the wealth of information devoted to blind

audiences across the globe. When considering the Ziegler's future direction, I hope you retain these columns and the plethora of articles written by blind


Again, I thank the editors and board members for reading and considering my comments. We anticipate reading and hearing the words of this 100 year old publication across the world again. .


  Karen Crowder

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Letters from our Readers

Dear Bob,

I really appreciate the "sleepless nights" article by Ernest Jones:I do not suffer from this since 30 years of total blindness, but really feel for those who do - I have 2 friends who have this problem with a wayward circadian clock - and their days are not productive as they fear dropping off while they are restless at night. Its a real problem and I hope it will come to a time that there's a good solution for these folks.

On the "income cuts" from being married - what a shame! I am Canadian, so I cannot participate in the letter writing campaign, but I must say here in Canada it is like that - maybe even worse.

Keep up the fight - this is not right!

On the work and blindness issue - it is an ongoing dilemma.

Yes, I believe I saw a reduction in work opportunity for blind people from the time I lost sight in 1983 progressively up to now. Ironically, the computer having brought about such literacy accessibility as it has, did not bring about a higher employment rate among blind people. Factories who once had programs to hire blind people stopped the practice.

My only advice is for you the blind person to get into your own business. Clients want the product, not the person.

You can be blind but have a service/product and no one questions your sight - just the product.

For example, since 1994 I've been engaged in one of my jobs - processing firewood.

This means, I buy 8 of those massive truckloads (together with massive extra trailer full) filled high with huge 16 foot long logs ranging from 1 foot to 2.5 feet in diameter - get them dropped off in my property, then I get out the commercial chainsaw, roll down these monsters, and cut them into blocks - later I come with a wood splitter and split them up and in winter sell the pile of 150 bush cord of wood (about 300 large pickup trucks full) for twice the price I bought the logs for.

Is this safe for a blind person?

Well, if you do everything according to the rules, yes.

The clients think I'm weird, would most likely never dare hire me on their property for cutting a tree, but - they love the wood and my price is right, so they buy my wood.

I must say, I did not do something so risky when I could see... I used to be a land surveyor and it was much safer... but now - I live like this, also installing renewable energy solar off grid systems as part of my job - and it is dangerous to a point too- but poverty and depression is far more dangerous, so I feel it is worth it.

If you have a skill, market it - start a home business - get the word out with Kijiji, etc and just make it work if you can - it beats trying to convince some employer that you are "worthy" as that can become very annoying.

Good luck!


In response to Ron Febba's letter about prescription bottles, Jean Marcley wrote: There is something called Pen Friend that might help. As with so many other aids for the blind, we do need a sighted person initially to help with the labeling.

It actually records your own voice on a little sticky tab that you put on your rescription bottle or box and you can also put the instructions on there - how many per day, time of day, etc.

I love mine and use it also for OTC meds as the bottles are so similar - ibuprofin, benedryl, Allegra, etc.

This item can be purchased from Blind Mice Mart and a few other places. I'm sure yu can google it. I have had mine for a few years and just love it.


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   Community Notices

"The friendship connections" is a free electronic weekly magazine for blind people covering articles, short stories, technology reviews and anything else readers send that may be interesting for others to find out about. It also contains ads and has a penpal's section. It is free to join and submit info. If you are interested to find out more or subscribe, please email me at:

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   Consumer Vision Trivia Contest

Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in the May/June Consumer Vision. John Boy was the oldest son on the television series, "The Waltons." Congratulations to the following winners:

Karen Palau of Buffalo, New York

Jose Tamayo of Miami, Florida

Kim Etheridge of Bay Minette, Alabama

Phyllis Stevens of Johnson City, Tennessee

Marda Anderson Bartel of Austin, Texas

Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts

Debi Black of Sun Lakes, Arizona

Barbara Duford of Beverly, Massachusetts

Don Hanson of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Linda Brown of Claremont, New Hampshire

Teri Lee of Troy, Alabama

And now, here is your trivia question for the July/August Consumer Vision. Name the only President of the United States who had two nonconsecutive terms in office. If you know the answer, please email or call 508-994-4972.

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