The Consumer Vision

July/August, 2015

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

Telephone, 508-994-4972

Email Address,

Web Site,

Publisher, Bob Branco

Editor, Terri Winaught


Notice from the Publisher *** by Bob Branco

A Letter from the Editor *** by Terri Winaught

It's Time to End the Misperceptions *** by Susan Lichtenfels

Three Beeps Precede Emergency *** (released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC

I'm Moving, I'm Blind *** by John Justice

News Article *** forwarded by Alan Dicey from Plantation, Florida

A Unique Disability *** forwarded by Alan Dicey from Planrtation, Florida

Dressing for Success as a Blind Person *** by John Justice

The Price of Inclusion *** by James R. Campbell

Do the Blind Need Taken Care of? *** by Ernie Jones

Google Purpose-Built Robotic Car Tested on Public Road

Tips for VIPS (because visually-impaired People Are Important, Too *** by Penny Fleckenstein

Eating in the Dark *** by Ernie Jones

Part 2:  Journey from Rehab to Recovery *** by Karen Crowder

Readers Forum *** Submitted by Bob Branco

Special Notices *** Submitted by Bob Branco

Trivia Contest Winners *** Submitted by Bob Branco

Trivia Contest Question *** by Bob Branco

  In addition to separating Table of Contents items by three asterisks *** this symbol will also be used between articles to make it easier for you to use your device's search function to skip items in which you are not interested.

A Notice from the Publisher

Dear Subscribers,

Consumer Vision has reached an important milestone.  As of the July/August edition, Consumer Vision will now be read through the Talking Information Center in Massachusetts.  If you have a TIC receiver, or are able to access TIC through other means, you will be able to hear Consumer Vision on the last Wednesday of every other month at 12:00 noon, Eastern Time.  These months will be July, September, November, January, March, May, etc.  If there are five Wednesdays in one of those months, Consumer Vision will still be read on the last, or fifth, Wednesday at noon.

I would also like to tell you that much of the poetry submitted in Consumer Vision will be featured on an existing poetry segment through TIC.  Check the TIC schedule for information about that program.

We at Consumer Vision are very pleased with this progress, and I sincerely hope we get more readers as a result.  For those of you who are listening to Consumer Vision through the Talking Information Center, you may want to consider subscribing as well.  We publish six times a year.  If you want to be put on the email subscription list, please email

       Warmest regards,

       Bob Branco, Publisher

         Consumer Vision *** 

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A Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

  As much as I love reading the excellent and professionally written articles from our capable contributors, I also love hearing from our readers.  Susan Jones, for example, wrote to say how much she liked my abecedarian poem about joining AmeriCorps.  Thank you so much, Susan, and keep on sharing your thoughts.  Should you ever also wish to contribute an item or column to Consumer Vision, I would also strongly encourage that.

  A gentleman whose name is forever locked in my very dead BrailleNote wrote to tell me that Whirlpool has been making their appliances accessible for many years.  (To this reader:  I hope that you will write to me again so that your name can go from its current state of burial to the much improved state of resurrection.)

  Though I certainly commend GE for their hard work and efforts collaborating with the Kentucky School for the Blind, it's still good to know that they are not the only company addressing the important issue of accessibility for persons who are blind or have limited vision.  If not in this edition of Consumer Vision then in the next one, I would like to further research the accessibility of Whirlpool appliances in order to validate the reader who shared that by elaborating on whirlpool's efforts, developing and creating products that are blind- and low-vision friendly.

  To say more about our more-than-capable contributors before concluding with something about me, I want to commend Ernie Jones, James R. Campbell, Karen Crowder, and Penny Fleckensteine for their consistent works that continue and uphold the high professional standards set by Publisher Bob Branco and first and longtime Editor Janet Marcley.

  My final item is how delighted I am that it's summer.  Despite the humidity that is sometimes hard to bear, summer is—and always has been—my favorite season.  Each year, summer serves up refreshing evening breezes, flower-scented air, the resounding ping of baseball bats accompanied by fans who cheer or boo, depending on what their team is doing, and youth hoping for amusement park fun and city pools to make splendid splashes in.

  To offer any comments, feedback or suggestions, please don't hesitate to contact me at or phone 412-263-2022.  (The cell phone number I gave in last month's issue is as deceased as my BrailleNote:  While doing some recent cleaning, I spilled water with Pinesol in it, and there went my iPhone.  Don't you just hate when that happens?)

  Thanks for reading with me, and have a sensational and super summer!

    Terri Winaught,

    Editor ***

    Consumer vision Magazine

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It's Time to End the Misperceptions

By Susan Lichtenfels

It has been my experience that time and time again, people with vision loss are misportrayed in books, movies, and television programs as compared to the real lives of "average" persons with vision loss. It would seem the drama of the struggle that the sighted world believes we "endure" every day is too irresistible to avoid exploiting. Not only do these bastardized images make a good story, but they make a great stereotype. I have encountered two such disturbing images of "the blind" in the past few weeks that I wish to bring forward for your consideration. I will then offer a strategy for overcoming these misperceptions.

Several weeks ago I had been researching an appropriate audio described movie to show as part of a local museum's blindness awareness activities. I began by visiting ACB's Audio Description Project at because the site lists all of the DVDs that include an audio description track in the USA. I learned that the 30th Anniversary Edition of the 1979 TV Version of "The Miracle Worker" is audio described. Hard as it might be to believe, I as a blind person had never watched, seen, or read "The Miracle Worker." Generally, I knew it recounted the story of Annie Sullivan's triumphant effort to teach Helen Keller, a deaf-blind child, how to communicate. In my ignorance, I thought, "Wow, would this not be a great film for the museum's movie night?" I clicked on the sample audio description for the movie. And that is when my stomach lurched in a visceral response to what I was hearing.

The audio describer did a fabulous job of bringing to life the scene where Annie struggles to teach Helen how to eat eggs from her own plate. In this excerpt, Helen's actions include kicking on the floor, pinching and slapping Annie, pounding on the door, climbing onto and crawling under the table, flailing her arms, banging on the table, eating with her hands, licking her plate, repeatedly throwing  the spoon, spitting eggs in Annie's face, and rolling on the floor with Annie. Could there be a more damaging portrayal of how blind and/or deaf-blind people act? Since William Gibson's 1959 creation of "The Miracle Worker," millions of people have experienced this disturbing scene on television, in movie theatres, in print, and on countless stages. Readers can listen to this audio described scene for themselves at

The second, more recent example of a troubling portrayal of a person with vision loss takes place in best-selling author Danielle Steel's "A Perfect Life." In it, the character of Salema is a young woman who has lost her vision due to type 1 diabetes. Despite graduating from the far-off, residential school for the blind, Salema continues to live on-campus because it is "easier" for her. Salema has a live-in, 24-hour personal aide who has totally infantilized her. The aide dresses her, bathes her, brushes her hair, puts toothpaste on her brush, cooks for her, cleans up after her, guides her everywhere, and essentially treats Salema as an invalid. Unfortunately, Salema is entirely comfortable with this arrangement and is completely incapable of doing anything for herself when the aide unexpectedly dies from meningitis. When the school is closed to avoid an outbreak, Salema's mother is forced to bring her home and hire a new aide. Fortunately for Salema, this aide eventually makes her learn independent living skills. Once again, we have these unflattering, stereotypical attitudes about the blind front and center in a mainstream novel. This book was released in July 2014 and sold over 30,000 copies in its debut week. Considering the various publishing formats, it is difficult to know exactly how many people (at least hundreds of thousands) have read this novel since its release. The book is available through the National Library Service.

While both "The Miracle Worker" and "A Perfect Light" in their own way tell the story of overcoming the challenges of vision loss, one must consider the damaging images that are used to distort what it means to live with vision loss. When people with vision loss are portrayed in popular culture as helpless, sedentary, and financially dependent, sighted individuals latch onto these negative images and the stereotypes persist. For those of us with vision loss, the struggle to overcome the negative image that the sighted world has of "the blind" is a daily undertaking. If you're like me and have become frustrated by the on-going misperceptions, I encourage you to get involved in a world-wide effort for change.

I have become involved in a new volunteer project that aims to provide a mirror that reflects the true image of people with vision loss, free from the foggy haze of stereotype. The ReImage campaign will use the mass appeal of the internet and digital media to re-create the images of people with vision loss while establishing new possibilities. The foundation of the campaign is website which will emphasize our shared human experiences with raising children, owning a home, taking a trip, enjoying the outdoors, working at a job, spending time with friends, dealing with family issues, managing a household, relaxing with a favorite hobby, getting an education, and the like. By consistently focusing our stories on these aspects of our lives and making our vision loss incidental to our narratives, we can shift the sighted world's focus off of the disability and onto the person. Stories are currently being collected for this new project and can be emailed to Submission guidelines and sample stories are available on the temporary page at

For people with vision loss around the world, The ReImage offers an opportunity to unite, while emphasizing our individualism. Together, through our stories based on the many "normal" aspects of our lives, we can counter many of society's misperceptions about people with vision loss. Let us tell our stories, not about how we lost our vision or what great resources are available, but about our experiences as people.


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May 21,, 2015

WASHINGTON (CN) - Three beeps will precede emergency messages shown on TV screens and the like, alerting those who cannot see it to switch to an audio channel and listen, the FCC announced. The Federal Communications Commission Thursday announced it had adopted a rule that would allow people with visual impairments to access emergency messages through a second audio stream on tablets, laptops and smartphones. In 2010, Congress passed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), which aims to ensure that people with disabilities have access to new technologies. Among other things, the law requires companies that display emergency information on a screen to provide a secondary audio programming channel for people who are blind or have visual impairments. The new FCC rule implements CVAA provisions that require technology allowing quick access to emergency information, without using vision. When a screen on a tablet, smartphone, laptop, television or other device shows an emergency message, it will be preceded by three tones, and the message can be heard by switching to a second channel. The rule also requires equipment such as set-top boxes to have an easy-to-use device to switch to the secondary audio stream in the event of an emergency. In a statement, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stressed the importance of access to emergency information, such as in instances of natural disasters, without the use of vision. Wheeler referenced a blind woman in Pittsfield, Mass. whose roof was blown off during Hurricane Irene because she couldn't see the emergency messages on her TV screen. The FCC is seeking comments on other issues related to the rule, including how it should prioritize emergency messages, and if school closing schedules should continue to be available on the secondary streams. This week the FCC also voted to make its pilot program "iCanConnect" permanent. That program provides people with hearing and visual impairments with equipment to access the internet and other technologies. The program, which was started in 2012, was set to expire in June, but the commission voted to permanently extend it due to its successes.  ***

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I'm Blind, I'm Moving!

Now What Do I Do?

By: John Justice

                One of the most challenging experiences for a blind person is moving. What do you do?  How can you organize things so that you can find them in the new location?  What about labeling? In this article, I'm going to share some of our hard-earned lessons and pass along some hints that helped us through the years.  Linda and I are both blind.  With that in mind, even considering a move can be a scary thought.

Touring the New Location

                Let's begin by getting a complete understanding of the layout at the new location.  You might need sighted help with this.  The alternative would be one of the specialized measuring tools such as a Braille tape measure or an electronic sizing device. Whichever process is used, a complete picture of the location is essential. 

How large is each room?

How long are the open wall spaces?  This information is important when determining where to put larger furniture such as a couch or entertainment center. There may be a piece of furniture which is just too large for its planned new location.  Before engaging a moving contractor, be absolutely sure that all of the furniture will actually fit into the new home.

What exactly is the layout of the new home? 

Is there a dining room or dining area?

Is there an eat-in kitchen?

Is there room in a hallway to place something like a storage cabinet if needed?

How many closets are in each room? 

How large are they?

How many wall sockets are there in each room? 

Where are they located?

Are there walls where shelves can be safely installed?

Is there a planned emergency exit such as a larger window or a secondary door?

Where is the storage area if any?

Where can a guide dog be parked?

Planning Your Move

                Don't overwhelm yourself.  Start early and take rooms in succession.  Which room has the most items in it?  In our home, that would be our living room. There might be an office which contains software, files on disks, documents and so on.

Keeping and Discarding Items

Before we moved, there were hundreds of compact disks, almost as many records and yes, I'm not kidding, cassette tapes, all stored in the living room. Add that to all of the "decorations" we have.  There were model ships on the walls and on shelves. We had some of Linda's miniature animal collections and a few things that couldn't be categorized. That seems like a lot, doesn't it?  Think about your own living room or family room.  Sit down and make a list of all of the things you have collected over the years which have ended up in that room, the one where you spend most of your time. Start early and don't hurry this project.  "If in doubt, throw it out." That's an old saying my family has lived with for as long as I can remember.  The most important thing to keep in mind is not to carry things you don't want or no longer need, along to your new destination.  That may seem obvious to some readers, but take a moment to think about it.  What do you have now that you haven't used for years?  Do you think that you will be using it any time soon?  Can you live without the item in question? When we started looking at our compact disk collection, we found things that we hadn't listened to for years.  At the time, the compact disk was popular but now, after years of being ignored, why would we want to keep some of this junk?  Yes folks, things do end up in the junk category at times.  There are older compact disks that you might want to keep because they have been produced by a favorite artist.  Naturally, you wouldn't want to discard any of those recordings.  We went through our recordings in all of their forms and made a list that looked something like this.

Christmas collections, keep

Electric Jam, discard.

Saline  Dionne,  keep

Terry Gibb, discard

All sixties and seventies sets, keep

Willie Nelson, keep

After we had completed our lists, we went around the room and pulled all of the recordings we no longer wanted.  We put them into a box and donated them to a local thrift store.  By the time we were finished, we had discarded about a hundred recordings on all media.  That could have been an entire moving box. 

                Be careful with this selection process but avoid being a packrat. Don't keep anything that you aren't sure of.  On the other hand, once something is gone, it's gone forever.

                This same keep and discard method can be used for everything you own. Use the same selection process for clothing, shoes, kitchen utensils, dishes and glasses. If you have tools in your home that are used for household repairs, go through them carefully.  If anything is broken, discard it.  If you can't use it now, you won't be able to use it in your new location.

Look through all of your extension cords and make sure that you are taking only the best or most useful.  Remember, inexpensive extension cords will lose flexibility as they age.  Check for missing insulation.  A cord with bare spots can become a danger.

Packing Materials

The most valuable commodities you will need in any move are listed below.

Sturdy boxes in several sizes

Shipping or moving tape, not Duct Tape

Packing paper for wrapping delicate items

Lots of time and patience

Don't use questionable boxes at any time.  If one of them comes apart during a move, you might lose something which is much more valuable than spending the additional money to buy quality shipping containers. When choosing boxes, keep several things in mind:

Sturdy cardboard construction

Strong seams

Relatively large size

Always choose boxes which can be sealed tight during shipping.

The best tape to use is shipping tape.  There are several good reasons for this choice.

  Duct tape is not water resistant.  When the conditions are dry, it does hold well but this tape will come loose when exposed to very little moisture.

Shipping tape has water resistant adhesive.

Shipping tape is usually thin and pliable.  It can be shaped to fit the seams and corners of packed boxes.

Shipping tape comes in two inch widths.  With tape that wide, the seals are much more forgivable. As a blind person, it is easier to manage a good strong seam and the completed seal is much more reliable.

If possible, use wrapping paper, not newspaper.  It comes in large sheets which can be used to protect delicate dishes.  Newspaper is a good secondary choice but the printer's ink is very toxic.  If your delicate items are wrapped with newspaper, the ink will often transfer from the paper to the surface of your glasses or dishes.

All of these items are available in most home improvement stores and in some of the larger hardware retailers.

Packing Electronic Items

                Any electronic item, when shipped by the manufacturer, is always enclosed in some kind of protective material.  Most people discard the original boxes because they take up too much room.  In order to protect electronic items during a move, the best effort must be made to reproduce that kind of protection.

Never over-pack a box containing electronics.

Use a box which allows at least two inches of space all around the item.

Any kind of packing material can be used but the best results are achieved by using Bubble wrap.  Or, if available, Bubble wrap's bigger cousin called Blister pack.

Avoid using a packing material called Peanuts.  These are small light pieces of Styrofoam shaped like peanuts.  They will easily spill out of an open container and are virtually impossible to find if they get loose.  Attempts have been made to place peanuts into smaller plastic bags to avoid the problem.  It doesn't work!  Often, during shipping, the weight of the electronic device will shift.  The peanuts will crush and any air captured in the bags will burst out.

When packing a piece of electronics, follow these steps: 

1.      Place a thick layer of protective material at the bottom of the box.  Make sure that the entire bottom is completely covered.

2.      Center the electronic device on the layer of material.  Make sure it is lying down flat.

3.      Fill the open spaces around the device with more packaging material until the device is firmly held in place.

4.      Place more packaging material on top of the device.  Make this layer at least as thick as the one beneath the device.

If possible, shipping electronic components in their own individual containers is best.  If more than one item is within the box, handling during moving can cause the contents to shift and the results might be damage to one or both of the devices.

Packing Tips and Tricks

When packing a box, remember that density equals weight.  For example, use a small box to pack your compact disks or records.  A box which contains about a hundred compact disks, will weigh close to fifty pounds.  As you can imagine, filling a larger box with compact disks could result in a container which is too heavy to move safely.

When packing dishes or glasses, always provide plenty of loose packing material on the bottom, top and sides of the box.  Even the best movers will often handle boxes roughly.  Packing material will cushion the delicate contents.  Provide a protective layer between each dish.  Never pack dishes in stacks.  Often, dishes will shatter within a box even though the container doesn't appear damaged.  Special "Dish Pack" boxes are often available from these stores.  They aren't too large to handle.  The cardboard is very thick and the box is designed to look like a square barrel.  Many years ago, dishes and delicate items were often packed in barrels.

Linen and blankets can take up a surprising amount of space.  Start with a larger sized container.  Pack each carton full but don't overstuff them. These items won't break during shipping but the box may distort or burst open if it is packed too tightly. On the other hand, avoid leaving too much open space in any box. These containers are going to be stacked within the moving van.  If a box isn't fully packed, it may be crushed by other containers during the move.

             Wardrobe boxes are available.  This is a tall sturdy box which is fitted with a metal cross piece designed to hold clothing on hangers. The front opens and drops down, revealing the open enclosure topped by the hanger bar.  If the move is being handled by a professional company, wardrobe boxes can be made available on request at an additional cost. 

Food items such as flower or sugar should always be enclosed within a plastic bag.  If there is any leakage during transit, it will be contained within the bag.  If possible, glass jars should be placed into small containers to avoid damage.  It is always best to discard partially used food containers.  Once opened, a jar or plastic bottle can never be completely sealed.  Discard as many of these used food items as possible.

Frozen items can be packaged in picnic coolers.  These are long chests, made of plastic or Styrofoam.  Freezer packs called "Blue Ice" can be purchased at a home improvement store.  Once placed in a freezer, these compact packs will help to keep the inside temperature of the cooler as low as possible.  The anticipated service time for blue ice freezer packs is about twelve hours.  Never use liquid ice!  Ice will immediately start to melt and the result is, of course, water.  Even the best picnic coolers will leak if filled with water.  The water will often damage or contaminate frozen food.

Common Sense in Packing

As a rule of thumb, if something can happen during a move, it is always best to assume that it might happen.  Don't take any chances with your items.


For a blind person or couple, labeling presents some real challenges.  If you have someone who can use a marker to label each box, that is best.  Any stick on labels can be rubbed off during transit.  If a printed label is used, don't rely on the adhesive provided by the manufacturer.  Place the label using the sticky backing.  Then, use small pieces of packing or Scotch tape to create a frame.  If a frame is created, the edges of the label should be at least a half an inch beneath the tape on all sides.

But what if you're blind and you don't have sighted help? If you have a printer connected to your personal computer, you can create your own labels.  If using Microsoft word, there is a font menu which is available by pressing CONTROL+D.  You will have to choose the type of font, the style and the size before printing.  Here's an example:

Font, Times New Roman

Style, Bold

Point size, 24

I recommend Bold type since it stands out on a box of any color.  Most printers can handle that size of font with no trouble at all.

Be sure to use the Centering command (CONTROL+E) to make sure that the printed label is in the center of each line.  If you print your label at the top of the page, you can fold the paper with the top part showing, then cut away the unwanted material. If you are uncomfortable with cutting the paper, twenty-four point type measures just under an inch in height.  Fold the paper across the narrow width, into quarters. Make sure that the first fold is on top.  That makes large labels which can be affixed to the box using the framing technique described above.

                Dymo Tape can be used to label boxes but it has the same problem as moving labels.  The adhesive will sometimes release the label or it might be rubbed off when two boxes slide together.

There is paper stock available which is thicker than average copier paper.  That type of paper will also hold a Braille label. When you buy the paper, tell the sales person that you need card stock or construction paper.  Make sure that it measures eight and a half by eleven inches.  It will pass through your printer.

Putting the right information on any label is important.  As you are packing, put your own braille labels onto each box.  The label should contain the contents and the room in which the box is to be left. For example,




When you create your print labels, use the same information so that the movers will know where to put a box.

In many situations, houses differ in size.  You may find that boxes which should have fit into the living room, just won't go there.  With this kind of label, you can still find the boxes even if they are stored somewhere else. The label will tell you what the box contains.


I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  If you do have sighted help, it is always best to accept their assistance.  But keep in mind that you are the one who will have to deal with things when the move has been completed.  Make sure that the labels are printed in the manner you choose.  Never assume that someone helping you is going to know, instinctively, how you want things done.




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News Article

Forwarded by Alan Dicey of Plantation, Florida

AUSTIN, Texas - For three years, Charlotte Brown has been chasing a medal by trying to jump over a bar she couldn't see.

The senior pole vaulter cleared that bar Saturday, earning a third-place finish at the Texas state high school championships. And proudly joining her on the podium as the bronze medal was draped around her neck - her service dog Vador.

Brown is blind, yet that's not stopped her quest to become one of the best in an event that would seem next to impossible.

"I finally did it," Brown said. "If I could send a message to anybody, it's not about pole vaulting and it's not about track. It's about finding something that makes you happy despite whatever obstacles are in your way."

Brown had qualified for the state meet each year since 2013 with Emory Rains High School. She finished eighth as a sophomore and improved to fourth as a junior.

At her hotel room Friday night, Stori Brown tried to counsel her daughter that it was important to remember that she was one of the few to make it this far, whether she won a medal or not.

"No," Charlotte replied. "I need to be on that podium."

Brown was born with normal vision, but developed cataracts when she was 16 weeks old. That led to the first of several operations, including insertion of artificial lenses. Her vision stabilized until she was about 11 when it started to worsen.

By 2013, she still had pinhole vision but couldn't see color or distinguish shape from shadow. Brown is now blind. While not faced with total darkness, her mother described what remains as a "jigsaw puzzle" of mixed up shades of light and dark.

Despite her disability, Brown takes pride in her fierce spirit of independence, born out of growing up in a family with two older brothers who pushed her to help herself in the rural town of Emory, about 76 miles east of Dallas.

"If there's a way to do something for yourself, that's a good idea," she said. "When I need to know if my socks match or not, it's a good time to ask for help. Can't find Waldo? Probably need to ask for help."

Run down a track and hurtle herself more than 11 feet into the air? No problem.

Brown first took up pole vaulting in seventh grade because she wanted something a little "dangerous and exciting." She competes with a combination of fearless abandon and meticulous attention to detail. She counts the seven steps of her left foot on her approach, listening for the sound of a faint beeper placed on the mat that tells her when to plant to pole and push up.

On Saturday, Vador walked her to the warm-up area and stretched out behind the jumpers as they went through each attempt.

Brown missed her first attempts at 10-0 and 10-6 but cleared both on her second try. She cleared 11-0 on her first attempt, then soared over 11-6.

She secured a medal when two other vaulters bowed out at that height, leaving Brown among the last three in the field. She made three attempts at 11-9 but missed each one. She briefly slumped her shoulders and shook her head after her final attempt, then got to her feet to acknowledge the standing ovation from several hundred fans she could hear but not see.

"She came to win," said her father, Ian Brown. "As parents, we are thrilled she got on the podium."

Brown medaled in a talented field. Sydney King, who won gold at a height of 12-3, has signed with Oklahoma to pole vault in college.

"I don't how many people do could that," King said. "Her story, she's what keeps me going when things aren't going right for me."

Brown is headed to Purdue on an academic scholarship and plans to walk on in track. Her brother Lachlan is a hurdler for the Boilermakers.

"It took me three years to get on the podium, and I finally did it," Brown said. "This story really wasn't about me. It was about everybody that struggles with something."

Author Bio

Ruth Silver surmounted the challenges of vision loss and later hearing loss to become a successful teacher and service provider for children and adults with special needs.

Ruth is the Founder of the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons in Milwaukee. She served as executive director for seventeen years. For the next eleven years, she continued to work part-time as consultant, outreach presenter, teacher, coordinator of new projects and support group facilitator.

Currently, Ruth is a consultant and community outreach presenter for the Center while independently participating in book events for her recently published autobiography, Invisible: My Journey Through Vision and Hearing Loss.

Ruth has a Bachelor's degree in the Education of the Deaf, graduate credits in the Education of the Blind and in Counseling, and certification in support group facilitating.


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Forwarded by Alan Dicey, Plantation, Florida

Deaf-blindness is not simply deafness plus blindness.  It is not two disabilities put together. It is one unique disability.  Let me try to explain.  I am totally blind having lost my vision gradually starting in childhood.  In young adulthood I started losing my hearing.  With hearing aids, I am able to understand some speech in a quiet environment.

When I was only blind, I could socialize with many people at a gathering.

Now, at best, I can converse with the individual next to me.

When I was only blind, I could interact with people in a room where the radio was playing, dishes were clattering and laughter abounded.  Now, with background noise, I can understand nothing and be alone in a crowd.

When I was only blind, I could sense sadness, joy, anger and agitation by a person's tone of voice.  That is no longer possible and the loss sometimes causes misunderstandings.

When I was only blind, I could hear the softest footsteps.  Today, I am repeatedly startled by the voice of a person who has entered the room with no forewarning.

When I was only blind, I could identify a person by his/her voice.  Now, I cannot tell who is talking to me unless I first hear a name.

When I was only blind, I could move quickly with my white cane and, in familiar surroundings, without it.  Now, I walk cautiously to avoid bumping people since I cannot hear if others are around or where they might be.

When I was only blind, I could retrieve a dropped item in seconds by hearing where it fell.  No longer able to localize sound, I must now search on my hands and knees and even then may not locate the item because it rolled behind a door or into another room.

When I was only blind, I could stand unsupported in the middle of a room, bend over, turn sharply and jump out of bed quickly.  This is no longer the case.  Like many others with hearing loss, I have balance problems, which prohibit abrupt movements.

When I was only blind, I had no difficulty hearing the ring of the telephone or doorbell.  Today, even with amplified ringers, my responses are inconsistent and I must consider using a vibrating alert system.

When I was only blind, talking on the telephone was fun.  Now, even with hearing aids combined with a volume control phone, some words are missed and misunderstandings occur.  Sometimes I use a Braille-type telephone, which is slower and does not convey the emotional nuances of the voice.

When I was only blind, I spent hours listening to "talking books".  Most voices now sound muffled.

When I was only blind, my husband and I enjoyed movies; he provided an occasional description.  Movies are confusing and no longer pleasurable.

When I was only blind, life had minimal stress.  Now, piecing together bits of information, localizing difficulties, balance problems, misunderstandings, attitudes of others and unpredictable drops in hearing increase daily stress and fatigue.

The list of challenges is equally long for individuals who are deaf and have lost or are losing vision.  Deaf people rely on their vision to compensate for their hearing loss.  Blind people use their hearing to compensate for their sight loss.  Deaf-blind people are only able to compensate for the loss of both sight and hearing by learning deaf-blind specific adaptations that focus on developing and integrating touch, taste, smell, kinesthesia and any remaining vision or hearing.

"When I acknowledged the need and learned new ways of doing old things, my splintered pieces combined into a complete, though narrowed, whole.  I rejoice once again in being able -- differently able."

Ruth Silver


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This topic is a sensitive one for most visually impaired people.  However, an effort should be made to present ourselves as professionals in a business environment or as well-balanced members of society in a social situation.  We can't see our appearance but every single sighted contact we meet uses that as a primary judgment before making any other determinations.

                How do we, as visually impaired individuals, make sure that we are dressed for success or simple acceptance by the world around us? There is the financial aspect of the problem to consider as well.  But don't we owe it to ourselves to look the best we can?

                First, we will examine the attitude shown by many blind adults.  "I can't see the world around me so I'll just pretend that they can't see me either." This is partially an emotional response and demonstrates frustration.  Although the attitude is certainly understandable, it should be avoided at all costs. Let's put this problem right out into the open and address it step by step.

Yes, the world does see you and they react directly to your physical appearance.

If you dress like a pig, the world will treat you like a pig.

Yes, there is a way to dress neatly and respectably without unreasonable expense.

We all have to remember that our appearance will often create an attitude on the part of the sighted world.  "Oh, she doesn't know any better.  The poor thing is blind.  What else can you expect from someone who can't see herself?

How many perfectly qualified job applicants have been rejected by a potential employer because they arrive for the interview dressed in a manner which is totally inappropriate?  Add blindness to the formula and the applicant might end up with an insurmountable disadvantage. Study after study has proved that a sighted person uses vision to measure his or her world for at least 70% of the time. Hearing and sense of smell, for a person with good eyesight, is often ignored or rejected out of hand. Since we, as visually impaired individuals,  do not have sight to rely on for the majority of our observations, we use all of those senses to create a perception of our environment.  Since we have to exist in a world which is based primarily on the use of vision, our only way to survive and be accepted by the sighted majority, is to never forget that.  Everything we do should be arranged with the sighted world in mind.

                Meet George.  George is thirty-one.  He is very intelligent and lives independently in an apartment near Center City Philadelphia.  George has trained extensively in the use of access technology.  He is an excellent computer user and has a well-developed understanding of Microsoft Office.  He is a good communicator and has no trouble at all in conversing with anyone, sighted or blind, on any chosen topic. 

                George has just received a call, scheduling an interview for a possible position as a customer service representative at Verizon.  There are other visually impaired people working at Verizon's call center. 

How should he dress for this interview?

What do people wear in a call center environment?

What should he bring along with him?

There are several important things to remember when dressing for an interview. 

Clothes should be neat, clean and well maintained.

Think carefully about the kind of work environment you might be in.

Never over-dress.

Never under-dress.

If you don't know what is appropriate, find out in advance.

Always be clean and well-groomed.

Bring only what you will need to complete the interview.

    Every one of us has sighted contacts of one kind or another.  After all, blind people are a minority.  It is possible that no one has ever told you what is or isn't proper dress in a given situation.  Although it may be embarrassing, the most effective tool you have at your disposal is the question.  George asks his neighbor, a young man who works at a local bank.  "Fred, how do people dress where you work?  What do guys wear?"   Fred pauses a moment and thinks about George's question.  "Well, guys wear dress pants and dress shirts.  The girls wear dresses or skirts with blouses.  We're not allowed to dress down at the bank."   Wow!  Look at how much information George learned with one simple question.  His neighbor across the hall is a UPS worker.  "I guess they wear uniforms at work."   Later, George asks Will and is told that UPS couriers do indeed wear uniforms. George sits down and thinks about what he has learned for a minute.  "Okay, if I wear a pair of dress pants and a decent dress shirt; that should work."  


    Mandy lives in a small town in upstate New York.  She has to come into Utica to be interviewed for a staff position at a credit union.  Her father is a farmer and her mother works at a local school as a teacher's aide.  Her brother is in the service and hasn't been home for months.  Mandy does two things.  She writes Robin, a friend who is also blind.  "What kind of clothes did you wear when you worked, Robin?"   At the same time, Mandy waits for her mother to come home and asks the same question.  Her mother is in her early fifties.  She sits down at the kitchen table and thinks about her daughter's question.  "Well Mandy, I always wore dresses, different kinds depending on the season.  But I'm a lot older than you.  Tell you what.  I'll look at some of my magazines to give you some ideas of what girls your age wear."   After their conversation, Mandy and her mother go upstairs to look at Mandy's closet.  Her mother examines every garment and then turns to her daughter.  "We're going to have to find you some new things, Mandy.  Everything you have is either too informal or way over the top because it's too dressy."   Mandy's mother takes her into town and they stop at a discount clothing store.  One of the sales women greets them.  Mandy explains what she is planning to do.  Between the sales woman and her mother, they find several outfits including dress slacks, nice blouses and a couple of skirts.  The sales woman helps by making sure that the clothes are "age appropriate" for Mandy.  The sales girl suggests pantyhose and they find several pairs which match Mandy's skin color.  Finally, they move to shoes.  Between the three of them, several pairs of shoes are chosen which aren't high heels but dressy enough to set off the rest of her outfits.  The total cost for Mandy's shopping trip is just over $200.  As they leave the store, Mandy's mother mentions a thrift store nearby which sells used clothing.  "If you find yourself short of money, try one of these stores.  They sell good clothing which is slightly used.  If you find a nice sales person, you could probably end up with several outfits for less than what we spent today."

        They go home and Mandy sews color tags into the skirts and blouses which match.  Some of her other tops will go with either her brown or black slacks.  She puts labels in them which indicate the primary color.

        The only way we, as blind people, are going to survive in a sighted world is by being accepted. Since the sighted rely primarily on visual input, we have to work to make our appearance acceptable.  The following statement is blunt, but it happens to be true.  Being blind is no excuse for dressing in rags. The sighted world might make allowances for our appearance but in doing so, they will, most definitely, immediately place a poorly dressed blind person into a classification which is lower than they are.  That classification means that the blind person doesn't rate full consideration in any respect. Being reduced in value like that might cost you a job opportunity, acceptance in society and, most of all, it will cost you the respect you deserve.  Don't lower your own personal value by ignoring the perceptions of the world around you.




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© June 13, 2001

It is a fact; the advances in modern technology have opened doors for the blind and disabled that we never thought possible. Because of these advances, we can participate more fully in the wider world outside. Before these advances, we had few contacts, and were left at the mercy of either the telephone companies or the U.S. Postal Service. Our modern technology now allows us to send e-mails, surf the internet, and download books from the National Library service.

One factor still bars many blind persons from participation in a wider society, that being the cost of hardware and software. The average computer cost anywhere from $300 to $500, if you can find one on sale.

Some places sell refurbished computers for as little as $100, which is all that most blind persons can afford. If a blind person wants a new computer, he or she must go through the state vocational rehab agencies. They will provide computers to students, those who have employment, or those who are seeking employment. And the rehabilitation agencies pay high prices for the equipment that they buy.

Recently, I spoke with a totally blind man who is familiar with the system and how it works with respect to what it provides for the blind. Here is what he had to say.

"The fact that there are so few blind consumers compared to sighted consumers lends itself to the high price of hardware and software for the blind and disabled. The development and research costs of these things are not cheap. These expenses are passed onto the agencies who work on behalf of the blind, because the companies that make these products are seeking ways to recover and costs of R&D (research & development). Even worse, these companies know that the rehab programs for the blind will pay their prices for the equipment".

One company sells a screenreader for $900, and the occasional upgrades cost at least $300 or more per upgrade. There is competition from screenreaders such as NVDA, which have opened up more doors for the blind that otherwise would have been closed.

Many blind consumers are turning to the IPhones, because they can afford them if they buy them on payment plans. Many prefer these phones because of the freedom they allow, no cable, phone, or other in-line internet hookups are required. The appeal of Apple's voice over is a strong competitor to traditional screenreaders like Jaws and even NVDa.

There are many blind people I have spoken with who either can't, or won't use a computer. Many are scared of them, or unfamiliar with how they work, or don't have the patience to learn to use one. But for those who would like to have one, the cost of putting food on the table and other daily expenses leaves those who live on fixed incomes in the cold, unless they 1. Get a refurbished unit, or 2. Go through voc rehab, which will pay extravagant prices for computers and related software.

For the blind consumer who buys their own equipment, other challenges must be faced. In the beginning, sighted help is needed for setup. Once this is done, there is the matter of instruction, and many who don't go through the agencies aren't lucky enough to have a blind friend to walk them through it. And, as before, the agencies will provide this help under limited circumstances. There funding and staff is limited, which is a setback for them as well.

We can only hope that the price of computers and software goes down, or many blind persons will be left in the dark ages, without the benefit of such equipment, and the joy and freedom it can provide. This is certainly something that needs a lot of forethought, especially on the part of those who develop this equipment. We hope that somewhere, a brighter future lies ahead for the blind consumer in the high tech arena.  ***    

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Do the Blind need Taken Care of?

By Ernie Jones

While talking to an acquaintance we had known for years, my wife said, "I am taking an extended trip back east to assist our daughter. I may be gone over a month."

"But who will take care of Ernie?" this person asked.

"Ernie will take care of himself," was my wife's calm reply.

Why do people think a blind person needs to be taken care of? Now, in writing this I realize these folks really are concerned, for in their minds they are sure they would be quite helpless if they became blind.

After all, who is going to make sure I have food to eat and clothes to wear? Maybe because I am a man they think I have no knowledge of preparing meals or making sure I have clean clothes to wear.

I know many blind people who live alone and manage fine. I know other married blind people manage their full amount of household duties. After all, it is only right that each person living in the house share in the household chores. Thus when I was alone, I had no problem caring for myself. I also had friends I could call on if I needed some groceries or medication. Read on to find out what some other blind people have had to say on the topic of living alone.

[New voice]

Many people do not understand how I can live alone with the dogs and care for the lawn and housework, etc. Add the old car to this list. Yes, I am doing body and mechanical work on an old '51 Studebaker I am restoring, and people are bewildered. But why should blindness stop me?

[New voice]

The one thing that comes to mind is dialing a phone. In the past, someone with sight told me that she needed the light on in order for her to dial the phone. If the light wasn't on, she asked me to dial the phone because she couldn't see it.

[New voice]

Please tell people that, despite what they see on TV and in movies, blind people do not have to use their white canes to get around in their houses. We get so irritated when blind people are portrayed as though they are so helpless they can't even find their way around their own home.

[New voice]

When my husband and I married, he had nightlights all over the house — and still does. He had some kind of nightlight that stayed on when the electricity went off. In Lukeville, Ariz., on the border, where we first lived in government housing while he worked with Customs, the electricity went off quite often in thunderstorms. Well, we had a storm, the electricity went off, but the night lights didn't come on. I had to take him to the bathroom. Now mind you, he'd lived in that house since 1980. We married in 1983, and it was probably four months after our marriage that this happened. So who needed help getting around the house? Not me, the blind one.

[Back to me]

I forget that people need lights on in the house. Often, when a visitor wants to see how I can use the computer, I just walk down the darkened hall into an also dark computer room. The light switch is right next to the doorway, so quite often, the visitor will just switch on the ceiling light. When I am alone, visitors will need to turn the front room lights on, for they can't navigate in a semi-dark room. But almost always when they leave, it is I who has to go from room to room, making sure all lights are off. I forgot to make a thorough check while my wife was gone, and a couple days later a neighbor told me the porch light had been on for a couple of days.

Now a blind person may have some trouble when it comes to matching stockings and other clothes, but this too can be made easy. For me, my stockings are all the same color and style. When I need to buy new ones, I will buy stockings that don't feel anything like my old ones so is easy to match up pairs. Of course, a person could pin the pair of stockings together before washing to secure the pair stays together.

I tend to wear pants and shirts that go with blue or black, avoiding green and brown, which may not blend with other colors as well. Blindness need not stop anyone from living alone or enjoying a full life.




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Google purpose-built robot cars tested on public roads

Google unveiled a new prototype of its self-driving car earlier this week Google's purpose-built robots cars are getting the green light to drive on public roads.

This summer some of the self-driving cars will be tested on the roads around Mountain View, California, where the search giant is based.

Before now, the small vehicles have only driven on test tracks and have not mixed with regular traffic.

Google has tested autonomous vehicles on public roads but all of them have been heavily modified Lexus SUVs.

The robot cars will not be completely autonomous, but will have safety drivers on board who can take over if needed.

"Every moment has been building towards putting these cars on the roads where we can start learning even more from them," said Jaime Waydo, systems engineer in the self-driving project, in a video released to accompany the announcement.

Eventually the purpose-built robot vehicles will not have a steering wheel or any other control though detachable versions will be used during the forthcoming road tests. The top speed of the cars will be capped at 25mph

(40km/h) during the tests.

In preparation for their public debut, said Ms. Waydo, the cars had been put through a series of demanding reliability and durability tests. Each vehicle has been clocking up thousands of miles each week on the test tracks - some of which resemble Californian highways and streets.

Mixing with real-life traffic will help Google engineers refine the on-board software to cope with many situations the cars have not encountered during testing, said project head Chris Urmson in a blog post.

"Getting these cars out in to the public and allowing people to react to them, allowing us to see them out there, that's a huge deal and most importantly it's the necessary step to getting them to drive themselves," he said.

Analysis by business correspondent Theo Leggett

As Google's autonomous car program rolls inexorably forward, it's tempting to think the days of the human car are numbered. But it isn't that simple.

The company has shown that autonomous cars can run reliably on well-mapped and predictable routes, but they are a long way from being able to cope with the un-programed chaos of a city centre at rush hour.

And what happens when there's an accident? Questions of liability still have to be solved, and traffic laws updated to take account of driverless cars.

Yet autonomous technology is already here.

Many mainstream carmakers have well developed research programs of their own. Self-parking, adaptive cruise control and emergency braking systems can be found on a number of cars on the market today.

So the transition to driverless technology is likely to be a gradual process, with the role of the human at the wheel becoming less important over time.

In addition, said Mr. Urmson, the public test would let Google gauge how other road users react to the robot cars.

Figures released earlier this week show that four out of the 48 self-driving cars tested on public roads in California have been involved in accidents in the last eight months. The car makers involved, Google and car parts maker Delphi, said the bumps were the fault of humans in other cars.

The Google cars involved in these earlier tests are modified Lexus SUVs rather than the purpose-built robot cars.

News about the public road tests came soon after Google announced a new prototype of its pod-like autonomous vehicle.

In the UK, the government has put cash behind four projects that will test robot cars on public roads in Greenwich, Coventry, Bristol and Milton Keynes.


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TIPS For VIPS (because visually impaired people are important, too)

By Penny Fleckenstein

Summertime. Farmers' Markets. Fresh produce. Great food.

Sunshine. Family and so much more. Allow me to please let me help you make your summer more enjoyable and fun. Also, please check out my blog at:

for Motivation For Your Every Day Life.

Clean your toilets out with three tablets of Efferdent or store brand equivalent. Take off the wrappers, put in the tablets, let sit for ten minutes, and then scrub with a toilet brush. I like to use the mint scented ones myself.

I have a big family here at home still, and I get the pleasure of washing a lot of dishes. I feel grateful for the nice hot water therapy my hands enjoy every day. But, sometimes, my legs and feet get tired. I have a cloth covered soft chair I bring in by the sink so when I get too tired to stand, I can kneel on the chair and still get all my dishes clean and my prayer life in order. God must need to talk to me a lot!

A few years ago, my Mom and Dad bought me an anti fatigue floor mat. It has a smooth rubbery surface and underneath is a spongy-cushiony pad which gives your feet great relief. I need to buy another one. Mom and Dad have one in their kitchen. I stood on it the other day. I must acquire another one.  In fact, I should get more than one. I wish my whole kitchen floor could be made that way. Mom looked online for me and said they're anywhere from $20 to $50 from such places as Walmart and Amazon. She can't recall where they bought theirs, but I believe it is in the $50 price range. It feels so good on the feet!

I have an aide who is willing to sharpen my knives for me. He brought over his tool and boy, do sharp knives make a difference!

They cut smoothly, faster and safer. Scissors are a great cutting tool as well. They're good for cutting green onions, pizza, and parsley just to name a few.

I love summertime for baseball. You can bring unopened bottles of water to the baseball stadium. A great idea is to freeze them so that they're not hot by the time you get to the park. I forgot to do that yesterday.

Another tip I learned from my friend Nancy Leverett is to put Bryanna's food in a quart size Ziploc bag. When it's time to feed her on-the-go you open up the bag, fold down the top a little bit, and let her bury her nose in it and eat up all the food.

Then you use the same bag by filling it up with water. Toss it out. No bowl to take up space or clean out. Fantastic!!

Cook corn on the cobb with its husk on in the microwave for about four minutes for a small ear, five minutes for a medium ear, and six minutes for a large ear. Let cool some, and then peel off the husk. Yummy moist sweetness inside with very little effort!

MMM, who knew! Real bacon in the microwave! This tip was given to me courtesy of my friend Brad Corallo. He says, "you take two paper plates, put down a sheet of paper towel, place say, two slices of real bacon down on the paper towel, cover with another sheet of paper towel and then tuck the paper towels underneath the paper plate. Microwave for two to two and a half minutes depending on how crispy you like your bacon."

I do hope you take time to get out and enjoy the summer. There are so many benefits! May you have fun playing and enjoying!


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Eating in the Dark

By Ernie Jones

Finding your chair beside the large, heavily loaded table, you take a quick glance around the room at your friends before settling down for what you know will be a grand feast. The aromas floating up from the food — a mixture of spices, sweetness and savory dishes — are tantalizing, causing your salivary glands to engage. Several large casserole dishes are too large to pass around the table — you hold your plate out for another to serve you. Slightly smaller dishes of vegetables, breads and salads find their way, as if by magic, around the table. You help yourself to these foods and send them on to the next person waiting.

You have your fork grasped firmly in your hand, ready to stab some delicious food that is just begging to be eaten ... when suddenly the room goes black.

Confusion reigns as people stare into the blackness. With the fork in your hand, it is now time for you to eat. What are you waiting for? Are you a little concerned because the lights are out? Or are you afraid you might have to leave this delicious meal and help fix the problem? You hear a jumble of whispers as others ask, "What happened?"

Then you hear your host speak — his voice suggesting he is struggling to not burst forth into peals of laughter.

"Folks, this is a minor situation. It has happened before — just go ahead and eat your food and I'll go fix the problem. You are in no danger, so enjoy your food. The lights will be back on shortly."

Are you concerned about what caused the blackout? Or are you more worried because you can't see your plate filled with tempting food? But remember, you know what food you have on your plate. It's not as if someone else has filled your plate with what they thought you wanted. And be assured, you will still be able to find your mouth.

You dip down and take a bite of food, not knowing what it is until it enters your mouth, when suddenly the room is again ablaze with glowing lights. In astonishment you stare first at your food, then, looking up, at the grinning host — and you understand what had caused the blackout.

There had not been a power failure – just a host playing a prank on his dinner guests.

But consider what would happen if, because of an accident or some eye disease, the world suddenly turned black. This new dark abyss can be very difficult to pull yourself out of, and just the thought of sitting around a table with many other people, whether they are friends or strangers, can be frightening.

The newly blinded person finds others serving him or her, and a feeling of helplessness descends over them. It may be hard for this blind person to once again really be comfortable dining out with friends. The fear of making a mess is real, so they are extra careful. But given time and experience, these people will soon feel almost at home in a crowded dining room.

It is not always easy to allow others to serve you. In a way you are giving up some of your independence by having a helper fill your plate with what they think you might want. As you start to eat, you really don't know what you have on your plate, especially as foods mix with other foods; Delicious Jell-O salad begins to melt as the hot roast placed against it warms the Jell-O, causing little rivulets of sweetness to slip under the roast, potatoes or other vegetables.

Today, I refuse the Jell-O salad, not because I don't like it but because I don't like it mixing in with all the other foods. Usually each bite placed in my mouth is a mixture of at least two different foods. But as we blind know, it is not hard to get the fork or the spoon to our mouth.

With this in mind, I was taken aback one day while eating at a large potluck. A man sitting next to me asked, "How much can you see?"

"I can't see anything," I told him.

"But you have to be able to see," he responded, "you are feeding yourself."

I was tempted to ask, "Can't you feed yourself when in a dark room? Haven't you ever eaten popcorn or other snacks while watching some movie in the dark?" But I resisted this remark and continued actually feeding myself. Why not give it a try? — enjoy your meal with lights out. You might be surprised at how easy it is.  ***

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Part 2 A Journey From Rehab to Recovery

By Karen Crowder

I was ensconced in Room 512 at the Highlands rehab unit in Fitchburg Massachusetts. 

I sat conversing with my roommate while eating spicy soup, a hot dog and soda for supper.

Although tired, I slept poorly Wednesday night. Constant beeping of call lights, and distressing heartburn from the soup and soda, kept me awake.  A medication, Phenobarbital - which is for my epilepsy - had not been delivered to their pharmacy. I was given Tylenol for ankle pain and liquid antacid.  I fell into a restless sleep after one, awakened at five by an aide. She took my pulse, blood pressure and temperature.

I would become used to this intrusion, aides take and record patients vital signs between five and five thirty each morning.    

Thursday morning I was occupied, signing forms - agreeing to treatments while there. I liked the warm, accommodating activity director. She helped me fill out a long activity form.  I signed up for morning fitness, board games, religious activities etc. She also read meal choices to me each day. By Thursday evening, I was adjusting to my surroundings. The pharmacy delivered my medication to the nurse's station. After a restful night, Friday was a better day; it dawned sunny and warm.

After the physical therapist evaluated me for a walker, I was wheeled to the first floor gym.  I loved the balmy air wafting through the windows while doing leg and arm exercises. After a delicious lunch of baked cod, veggies, rice and lemon meringue pie, my friend Marian surprised me with an afternoon visit.  I was delighted to see her. For an hour we chatted about books and life.

The weekend was summer like, with temperatures in the eighties.  I wished I could be outdoors appreciating this late September heat.

Saturday morning; part of my physical therapy session was outdoors. As I did arm and leg exercises, the balmy breezes and sunshine felt lovely. The older therapist was upbeat, impressed with my balance and strength.   In the gym, evaluating my balance and age, she thought it wiser for me to have a sturdier walker without wheels. She insisted I ice my right ankle often and keep it elevated to bring down the swelling. 

Saturday afternoon phoning friends; I enjoyed talking, feeling their concern and friendship. That night supper was good. My roommate and I chose cheeseburgers. They were delicious with onions. I was becoming used to the schedule. Breakfast was between seven thirty and eight, lunch between eleven thirty and noon, supper between four thirty and five. Bed times were between seven and eight. Sponge baths were mandatory mornings and nights. Two days a week we had showers.  Patients are wheeled to a large room under sprays as aides helped.  We used our products or what the Highlands had. Sunday in occupational therapy, I was introduced to the rehabilitation unit's model apartment that afternoon. The concentration was on kitchen tasks. It was tiny, with a small stove, microwave, sink, refrigerator, table and chairs. I demonstrated washing dishes, putting a pretend dinner in the microwave and pouring water into a mug from the coffee maker. Though I was successful, it was difficult doing tasks on one foot. I was dependent upon the walker or wheel chair for balance or rest break.

The next three and a half weeks at the Highlands were filled with challenges, hope and friendships. 

The week of September 29, through October 6 were filled with discoveries. 

On October 6 I dressed and groomed myself nearly independently, doing arm exercises on the bike in the gym as part of occupational therapy that afternoon.

I went to the Catholic Mass; it was in the first floor auditorium. After Mass many of us recited the rosary. I found the soothing serenity of the prayers relaxing.

I had met Linda, a delightful aide, Sunday night. Almost every night she would help me with grooming making sure my ankle was iced and elevated.  She always made sure my cartridge player was nearby.  She would give me either bottled water or juice and snack crackers.  My roommate and I talked or watched TV. I complained about my injury and my inability to function normally. She put this in to perspective. She has MS and is in chronic pain. She uses a walker, but has an upbeat attitude. If a cure is not found, she could be in a wheelchair soon; her suffering made my complaints infinitesimal.

Tuesday I was awakened and given a set of X-rays on my ankle.

That afternoon my lovely roommate told me she was leaving Thursday; I was happy for her. Her advice was: 

"Keep your eyes on the prize", keep weaning yourself off the pain meds, and "do what they tell you to."  I would miss her humor and conversation. I received a surprise call from my step-grandson who lives in Portland Oregon. He is doing well enjoying the temperate climate. He is visually impaired and appreciates the efficient transportation.  

Wednesday morning I was wheeled into an office. The occupational therapists had fabulous news for me... they were thrilled with my x-rays," if I graduated to a walking boot", everything would change dramatically. Therefore, I would be walking soon. They also gave me goals I had to achieve before leaving. Dressing independently, "grooming ", cooking simple meals, mobility - getting in and out of bed, and doing laundry.

I was fortunate to have Cindy for my main occupational therapist. Visually impaired, she understood how to instruct me and see I achieved my goals.

Thursday morning I attended morning exercises on the first floor, saying "goodbye to my roommate who would return home to her generous, kind husband.

I was having trouble sleeping. I asked if I could take the Ativan I had been prescribed once in the hospital. From that night until November 10, I would take one tablet at bedtime.

Friday October 3, the orthopedic specialist for the Highlands was happy with my speedy progress. He thought I was ready for a walking boot. My ankle incision was re-bandaged each day. That morning a nurse took out the staples and my discomfort was diminished.

John was my main physical therapy assistant. We worked on the bike or the parallel bars in the gym. The exercises improved my leg and arm balance and strength. 

Monday morning October 6, in a specialized van I went to Longview Orthopedics near Leominster Hospital. After examining my ankle, the orthopedist fitted me with a walking boot. The boot is heavy. Without a sock or stocking it was cumbersome and uncomfortable. It has foam rubber padding inside, a thick rubber sole and a button to inflate or deflate it. There are three Velcro strips in front, which enclose your foot.  Velcro straps and a plastic-foam Velcro brace in front give me extra support. Extra straps and Velcro keep the brace in place. At the Highlands in physical therapy, while walking I discovered my right foot hurt.

Even ten or twenty steps were an effort. After a massage, it felt better. That afternoon I felt as if I was back to square one. In a brief conversation with a social worker, she asked if I felt depressed as if I had let people down I said "Yes", thinking if I had been more careful I would not have inconvenienced so many people with this accident.  By that evening, those troubling thoughts and feelings faded. 

The weeks from October 7 through the 24 ..., were ones of challenge, hope and friend ship. Tuesday October 7 was a beautiful warm summer day. My blind friend Claire visited me late that morning. 

She enjoyed lunch and spending the entire afternoon with me.  When Claire's sister returned, she brought me welcome Dunkin Doughnut's iced coffee and a plain doughnut

Cindy and another occupational therapist were emphatic about correct, safe techniques for getting from my wheel chair to my walker.  I had to bend my knees sitting or standing. They gave me no breaks, expecting me to meet the same standards as other patients. If I did the exercises incorrectly, I had to repeat them. The constant reminder from Cindy was "slow down" and "take your time finding the walker."

John kept working with me in the gym on parallel bars, doing stretching and balancing exercises. I often pushed myself. I stretched my legs to the side front and back doing twenty stretches.

Saturday, Columbus Day weekend, Pam, John and Jonathan came for a welcome visit. They brought me lunch from MacDonald's. Besides a fish fillet sandwich, fries and a Coke, they purchased requested items from Walmart. They were happy with my speedy progress. After they left, at two, I was wheeled with other patients to the auditorium. I enjoyed listening to musicians play oldies and familiar tunes.  I made a new friend who was in the rehab unit.  That evening I knew I was recovering…becoming engrossed in a History Channel documentary about World War I, the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. After midnight we were awakened by the blaring fire alarm. This seemed a strange time for a fire drill.

Sunday with Cindy in occupational therapy, I did a load of laundry, and with help, organized clothing in the closet and my drawers. 

I felt a sense of accomplishment as I played another game of bingo...a sighted person showing me where to put the chips. Monday, the holiday, physical and occupational therapy began evaluating me on using a quad cane. At every session I would use my white cane. By the end of that week, they decided I could just use my white cane... Monday afternoon I had my hair cut and styled at their small salon...stylists come each week cutting washing and styling patients' hair. I found the male stylist friendly and competent as I received compliments on my new hair cut. Tuesday evening I had a new roommate. She is older partially deaf. When conversing I found her a warm pleasant individual.

By Wednesday, physical and occupational therapy broached the time and date for my home evaluation. Cindy and I also worked on efficiently taking my boot on and off. I learned how to put the brace on correctly.   

Friday afternoon I attended Mass that night. I began eating every meal in the fifth floor dining room with three other women; we formed a bond. At every meal, throughout my last week there, we shared good or difficult times we had.

Throughout my stay I had always tried to keep an upbeat attitude towards my recovery, I pushed negative thoughts aside.

Friday night I had an anxiety attack, and felt as if I would not return home. Perhaps I would flunk the evaluation. With Maalox, another Ativan and positive thoughts, these feelings began fading Saturday morning. Cindy reassured me "I would do fine." 

On Monday October 20 I had my home evaluation. A kind neighbor from Liberty Place picked me up. 

Cindy and another therapist followed us to Liberty Place. The evaluation went well...they were convinced I would be safe in my apartment.

Wednesday afternoon the social worker began the discharge process.  I enjoyed morning fitness activities playing bingo, and chatting with other patients that rainy afternoon. In a discussion group, a man I spoke with worked at Burbank Hospital, the same years my husband did…Thursday was my last session with John. We worked on the exercise bike. He massaged my ankle; the last bandage was removed Wednesday, and John made sure I got the salads and fruit I had requested.

Thursday night I said goodbye to my friend and aide Linda. She had always made sure my cartridge player and phone were charged. We had discussed current events.  Linda wished me well and was glad to have known me.

Friday morning.  I said goodbye to everyone at eleven thirty. I left the Highlands - my second home. Aide therapists and nurses were happy I was resuming a "normal life". The perky aide who helped me pack, gave me a little hug and kiss - beaming about my return home... 

My kind neighbor picked me up with my luggage. On our way, we stopped at MacDonald's drive through.

Walking up the ramp to the apartment building with my neighbor, I was happy to be home. After starting to redo a load of laundry, I lay down, beginning to clear out my voice mail and answer calls. My neighbor preparing corn chowder and corn bread for supper, we had supper at her apartment. We begin to become friends that evening.  Saturday I had coffee and delicious corn bread for breakfast.  While writing the first part of this two-part article, a visiting nurse from Health Alliance arrived for a two-hour appointment. Taking my oxygen levels, she asked, "how much I was drinking."  It was low - a little dehydration had set in. I began drinking more water. The weeks from October 25 through December 31, would see challenges hope and new friend ships.  The weeks of October27 through November 12, visiting nurses, home health aides, social workers, occupational and physical therapists were a presence in my life. On October 27, I began walking up and down the outdoor stairs in physical therapy. Monday evening October 27, a good friend Ken and I went to supper at Friendly's in Leominster. We then went shopping at Market Basket in Leominster. He wheeled me around in a cart. 

That week I also received a shower chair from Helping Hands ministry - a part of our parish. That Thursday a lovely home health aide gave me a refreshing shower. On November 3, a local home care organization would become a presence in my life. A social worker came for an intake interview. That evening my friend Candice, Ken and his neighbor had supper at the 99 Restaurant in Fitchburg. We went shopping again at Market Basket. Election Day my neighbor drove me to the polls to vote. That afternoon, I took Para Transit to see the doctor. With trepidation, I climbed the stairs, using the elevator and walking down the hall to his office. He was pleased with my health.  Friday November 7 at Longview Orthopedics received x-rays, my walking boot replaced by a light air cast. My friend and I   went to the mall. I bought a new pair of shoes that my air cast would fit in.

On November 9, I returned to church,

On November 11, before going to the bank and drug store I would see the occupational therapist for the last time. She advised me to get grab bars for the bathroom. Thursday the 12, would be the last day I would see the lovely home health aide, my favorite visiting nurse, and the physical therapist. My home health aide prepared coffee and breakfast for me. The visiting nurse, who is holistic and advising me to eat vegetables and fruit always, listened to my body. I began physical therapy at Ramsey Rehab November 24.  

The week of November 17, I saw the kind social worker for the last time. We discussed the psychological re-adjustment to normal life after leaving a nursing home.

The holiday season would be full with blessings and surprises. I shopped at Walmart the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Ken invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his family in Vermont. Monday I would start having Home Making Services twice a week.

We left Tuesday; snow was forecast for Wednesday.

The Thanksgiving holiday visit was "just what I needed". On the way there, I began to know his mate Juan; I met wonderful people there. My stamina was tested; Sunday I could easily manage the stairs to the bedroom and down to the kitchen/living room...

The nine sessions at Ramsey rehab beginning on November 24, were rigorous. After exercises on a bike, I did challenging strengthening and balancing exercises. After each session, they iced and massaged my ankle. I lay relaxing for the last ten minutes there. Friday December 5, after the orthopedic appointment, I dispensed with the air cast. After my physical therapy session, I visited Claire that afternoon.  We went to a Christmas concert that evening; I had baked cookies; we had a wonderful time.  This Christmas season was special; my best gift is my ability to walk again. 

December 31 was my last session at Ramsey Rehab. January 5, was my last appointment with the orthopedist. He shook my hand - proud of my recovery. With the abnormally cold snowy winter, I could predict damp cold weather because of the pain in my ankle.

On July 6, my recovery is nearly complete.  I look forward to summer heat, swimming in the complex's pool. Exercise will strengthen my ankle. I want to thank, my friends - especially , Claire, Marian, Ken my step-daughter Pam, John, Jonathan, Sharon, Christian, the aids, the nurses and therapists at the Highlands, my doctor, all the good people I met from Health Alliance, Jasmine at Catholic Charities who makes the process of getting homemakers pleasant; and the good therapists at Ramsey Rehab. I wish to thank my parish priest who gave me the Sacrament of the Sick at the nursing home. I want to thank Jesus, the best and wisest healer.


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Readers' Forum

Hello Bob, Patty and Super Awesome King Campbell - The Seeing Eye Dog Here!

Writing to say: 1) your Consumer Vision magazine is awesome, and 2) we're appreciative of the fact that you include our work or ads.

I enjoy the magazine as a whole very much and look forward to reading and helping to promote it each month. Have a great fantastic rest of your day and please - feel free to publish anything I send you unless I say otherwise.

Keep up the great work, and from one author to another, Happy Writing.

Patty L Fletcher

Author, Motivational Speaker, and Nonprofit Consultant or:

PH: 423.963.9476


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Special Notices

Branco Broadcast is a weekly conference call which features a guest speaker.  The guest gives a presentation, and then takes questions from our listeners.  If you would like to participate, please email, and I will send you weekly announcements of our guests, along with instructions on how to get into the conference.  Branco Broadcast is held either on Monday or Tuesday evenings at 7:00 p.m., Eastern Time, or Tuesday afternoons at 3:00 p.m., Eastern Time, depending on the guests' availability.

     Bob Branco

Hey Bob,

Here is a short introduction about the iDevices List Serve:

Notice about iDevices List Serve:


I am the moderator for an e-mail list serve called the iDevices" list.  This is a list for issues with Apple iOS devices and using VoiceOver.

Apple devices running iOS and Voice Over are truly a life changing technology that have had a significant impact for people with visual disabilities.

In order to post questions or answer inquiries to the list, you have to be a member of the iDevices list.  Non-members cannot post messages to the list.

If you know anyone who is interested in joining this list, will you pass on this information.

To join this list send an -email to:


Rita Howells M.S.Ed. CVRT

Rita's iDevice Advice for March 9, 2015

I thought that it might be amusing, informative, or entertaining to share information and/or technology tips with the iDevices List Serve a little bit of "iDevice Advice" each Monday.

So here goes...

Regularly cleaning your cell phone, tablet, MP3 player's touch screen, or any other touch screen device is essential for its upkeep and longevity.

you can safely clean a Smartphone or tablet's touch screen in just a few seconds, removing the build-up of oil, dust, and other grime that can

accumulate on these devices as we rub our fingers over them all day.


*     NEVER use harsh chemicals, including Windex, anything with ammonia, or

alcohol-based cleaners. If a liquid is necessary, you should only use a small amount of water on the cloth. You can also purchase special cleaning solutions, such as iKlenz, which is recommended by Apple, but these solutions are not necessary.

*     NEVER use abrasive cloths, paper towels, or tissue paper, which can

scratch the touch screen. The scratches will be small and build up over time, damaging and dulling the screen. Instead, use microfiber cloths, which are specially designed to clean sensitive surfaces.

*     NEVER use a large amount of water.  If water is necessary to clean the

screen, you should make your microfiber cloth slightly damp instead of putting the water directly on your screen. If any water at all is necessary, it's also a good idea to power off your device ahead of time.

*     NEVER press too hard while cleaning the screen. This can damage your


To clean a touch screen, all you really need is a microfiber cloth. For dirtier screens, you may also need a small amount of plain water (soap is not necessary).

In most cases, simply turning the device's screen off and giving it a few wipes across with a microfiber cloth will be enough to remove any dust and oil in just a few seconds.

To clean the microfiber cloth itself and prevent build-up of dirt, soak the cloth in warm, soapy water, rinse well, and let it dry. Don't use any harsh chemicals to clean the cloth, either. These can damage the cloth.


Rita's iDevice Advice for March 16, 2015Four finger double tap.

It is important to learn VoiceOver gestures in order for a person who is visually impaired to have a successful experience using their iDevice.

The four finger double tap gesture enables VoiceOver practice from anywhere.

So instead of having to go in to

Settings\General\Accessibility\VoiceOver\VoiceOver Practice, you can now perform this gesture from anywhere, and access VoiceOver practice.


To join this list, send an -email to:



Consumer Vision Trivia Contest

Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in the May/June Consumer Vision.  The President of the United States who served between Grover Cleveland's two terms was Benjamin Harrison.  Congratulations to the following winners:

Susan Jones of Indianapolis, Indiana

Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts

Vicky Prahin of Columbus, Ohio

Joseph Lamperis of West Chicago, Illinois

Phyllis Stevens of Johnson City, Tennessee

And now, here is your trivia question for the July/August Consumer Vision.  Who sang the 1970 hit song called, "Jennifer Tomkins?"  If you know the answer, please email or call 508-994-4972.


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