The Consumer Vision

            May/June, 2012

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

Telephone: 508-994-4972

Web Site:

Email Address:

Publisher: Bob Branco

Editor: Janet Marcley

Print Production: Alpha Graphics

Braille Production: Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library

CD Production: Allen Hensel

CD Reader: Bob Zeida

Email Production: Bob Branco and Janet Marcley

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

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

Table of Contents:

Guide Dogs in the Work Place

Living with Blindness in a Sighted World

How the Government Can Prevent Marriage

Special Notices

Ask Allen

Readers’ Forum


Memorial Day

When I Discovered You

When the Rain Stops

Good-bye to an Old Friend

Enjoy the Birds

Consumer Vision Trivia Contest


            Guide Dogs in the Work Place

by John Justice 

When a newly matched dog and handler return home after training, one of the most difficult decisions is how to deal with fellow employees in the work place. For the most part, each person has his or her own set of rules to go by but there are some essential points that should be made, especially when the dog-and-human team are new to guide-dog work. This article will attempt to cover the most important issues a visually impaired employee might encounter when arriving at work with a newly trained dog.

To begin with, the dog and human are still experiencing the bonding process. That requires that the dog focus his attention strictly on the blind handler. Anything that might distract the dog from this essential part of training should be avoided at all costs. Simple, easy-to-follow rules should be established by the dog handler and no exceptions whatsoever should be made to those rules. No co-worker should be permitted to do anything which might distract the dog from his primary purpose, working with the blind handler.

These dogs are not pets! That is something which should be emphasized most strongly. If that single factor is kept in the forefront of any decision, it should be easier to determine just how to handle any situation. Time and time again, the guide-dog instructors will have mentioned this in one form or another. Nothing should ever be allowed to take precedence over that single, immutable fact. The dog is at work for one reason and that is to guide the visually impaired handler safely and effectively.

Whenever possible, the dog should not be fed in the work place.  There are always exceptions to this rule, of course. But if the dog has to be given food, it should be done in a quiet, restricted area such as the lavatory. At no time should anyone other than the dog’s handler be permitted to feed the guide dog.

Providing unrestricted access to a water dish is not always a good idea since the dog’s intake should be limited and controlled. The old adage “What goes in must come out” is something to keep in mind. In most work situations, the animal will be required to wait quietly for a considerable length of time. If the dog’s bladder is full, this may become difficult and accidents may occur. Until the dog accepts the work area as a part of his world, the same restrictions regarding vacating a bladder might not be as strong in the animal’s mind. He or she might never think of going in the home but that same training might not apply to a strange environment. At no time should anyone be permitted to park the dog except in extreme emergencies. A dog will naturally attach feeding and parking to his human and nothing should detract from that part of the bonding process. 

To Pet or Not to Pet

There are as many theories about this situation as there are guide dogs. But the one thing most trainers and handlers agree on is that petting by strangers should be avoided if not severely limited during the bonding process. For some dogs, that bonding will take months. Even a seasoned guide dog might become distracted if too much attention is paid to him by someone other than the handler. There have been cases in which the dog expressed an unfortunate preference for someone else in the family to the exclusion of the owner. This is certainly understandable given the fact that the handler must insist that the dog perform certain functions, while a friend or family member will not have to impose that kind of restriction. The dog, naturally, will prefer the company of someone who means fun or food over the person who puts pressure on him to perform. Not all dogs enjoy working. When it comes right down to it, pulling someone around in a harness isn’t part of a dog’s instinctive behavior. 

Establishing and Maintaining Rules for Co-Workers

There are many factors which go into a successful working relationship with co-workers. But one thing is almost unilateral – if a person is working, he or she has to follow rules. That is part of how a successful business functions. If co-workers know what is expected of them, they will be much more likely to cooperate. Establishing and maintaining rules of comportment where the guide dog is concerned will take a mixture of logic, understanding and determination. Dogs can be friendly as part of their nature. This is especially true of the various Retriever breeds. They want to be petted and fussed over. Add to that the fact that having a dog at work is unusual. If the dog appears friendly, people will want to pet him. Some others will try to avoid being close to the dog as a part of their normal response to animals. However, we are now dealing with a highly trained guide dog. Having a set of rules printed and distributed with the cooperation of the management is an excellent plan of action. If the management is supporting these rules, then the employees will be more inclined to work within their limits. The best thing to do is to sit down for a while and think about what kind of working conditions are involved.

What kind of working environment are you in? Do you work in a small office or in a larger area such as a call center or data-entry pool? Your dog’s exposure to people will be impacted by that kind of working condition.

Can you restrict access to your dog in some way? If the dog is out of sight, that tends to limit the interest of passing co-workers. If the dog is visible and easily accessible, people will find a way to pet him.

How does your dog react to contact with strangers? Today, most guide dogs are basically friendly but there is some difference in how each dog responds to attention from others. At first, limiting that attention or eliminating it entirely is always best for the dog/human bonding process.

Can you get your dog under control if he begins to respond to the attention of strangers? If you lose control, you lose your guide dog’s usefulness for as long as it takes to reestablish the fact that you are the one he should be putting first. With a new dog, that is a clear and present danger. Whatever it takes, you must retain contact with your guide dog.

Parking Your Dog

Where you take your dog to relieve himself will be dictated by the kind of environment you work in. But there are some basic ideas to keep in mind. Until the dog becomes comfortable with his surroundings, he may not be willing to go at all.

Whenever possible, a quiet area with minimal traffic is best. If the dog has few distractions, the parking process is more likely to succeed. The same area should be used each time since the dog will recognize his own scent and be comforted by that. Remaining calm yourself is a surprisingly strong influence on your dog’s own demeanor. If his human companion shows tension or demonstrates uneasiness, the dog will most certainly pick up on that and respond to it.

Today’s guide-dog handler is always taught to pick up after the animal. Many cities and towns have regulations which insist that an owner not leave any evidence that his or her dog has been visiting. But what to do with the bag after everything has been successfully completed is always a question of planning and knowing your surroundings. Some employers have gone to the extreme of providing special containers for the disposal of the dog’s solid waste. In most cases, there are usually outside trash cans which will solve the problem. But this is one activity which should be kept absolutely private. The presence of anyone else might distract the dog enough to prevent nature from taking its course. No matter what the provocation, never ever bring the baggies back into the building.   

Grooming and Dog Fur

One of the most difficult problems a dog owner may encounter is in dealing with his or her guide dog’s fur. No matter how hard we try, dogs do shed, some more than others. If the work area is carpeted, an amazing amount of fur can collect when the dog stays in one particular place. During certain seasonal changes, the dogs will “blow their coats” at an alarming rate. Our only weapon against this invader is continuous and careful grooming. The more hair we remove, the less likely it is that it will end up on our clothing, the carpets, upholstery in vehicles or on other people’s garments. If one of your co-workers doesn’t particularly like animals and then finds dog hair on his or her clothes, the result may be some kind of confrontation or even a complaint to the management. Brushing the dog every day before work is something that is recommended (though isn’t often practiced). But in the final analysis, that is our only defense.

Removing hair from our own clothes can be accomplished with relative ease by a device called a “Lint Roller” which is designed with sheets of sticky film which, when rolled over pants, skirts, blouses and coats, does remove an incredible amount of loose hair. There are other devices like lint brushes which have short, stiff bristles that can also be used for the same purpose. How we appear to our sighted co-workers is important to them, if not to us. People with sight rely on it for a large part of the input they use from day to day.

Finally, a word or two to the cleaning staff might help with the fur which collects in the area where the guide dog rests during each work day. 

Warning! Please Read!

The one piece of advice that can be offered to any new guide-dog user without reservation is this: Maintaining a low profile with your dog is always best. Attention of any kind, even the most well intended, can be damaging to a new relationship between dog and master. Encouraging your co-workers to keep their distance and to give you and your new dog a chance to learn and grow is the best course of action. A new dog/human relationship can be compared to the sprouting of a new plant. Too much handling, especially by someone who doesn’t know and understand the way to do it, can only cause harm. There have been extreme cases in which a dog had to be returned because the human handler had lost all control of the situation. It just isn’t worth taking that kind of chance.  Your new dog is a rare and precious thing. Don’t allow well-meaning heavy-handed strangers to deprive you of one of life’s most marvelous experiences.

Thank you for taking the time to read this information.

John and Linda Justice

with Guide Dogs Jake and Zachary

personal e-mail: 

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            Living with Blindness in a Sighted World

by Ann Harrison


Have you ever met a blind person walking down a street, or shopping, or doing other normal activities? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a blind person living among sighted people? Well, in the next few pages, I am going to answer those questions, for those of you who are sighted and wondered how blind people do what they do everyday:

As a blind person I often find it frustrating when I ask someone who is sighted for help, because they don’t understand how they can help me. I will ask someone which way I need to go to get to a certain department of a store, or to a certain intersection, and he/she will often tell me “Go that way” or “It’s over there,” and point in a certain direction which means nothing to me, because I can’t see where “over there” is. I sincerely hope that after reading my story, those of you who are sighted will understand what it is like to live as a blind person in the sighted world.

When I was born, I was placed in an incubator and given 24 hours of oxygen, when I should have gotten only eight hours of oxygen. The excessive amount of oxygen caused damage to the optic nerve, and the nerve didn’t develop properly. This was the cause of my blindness. I have light perception, which means that I can see light, such as the sun light, a camera flash, or a light that someone has turned on in a room. I can also see shadows, but can’t tell what they are. This small amount of vision is in the left eye only, due to the fact that my right eye is artificial. I have worn an artificial eye since the age of 18 months, after my eye was surgically removed.

Along with my blindness, I have a mobility issue called spatial disorientation. This simply means that I can stand in the middle of a room, no matter whether I am familiar with the room, and get disoriented without audible (sound) or tactile (something you can touch) clues. For example, if I stood in the middle of my bedroom at my mother’s house, and the fan was turned off, or I wasn’t standing near the bed, or the bookshelf, I would get disoriented until I touched something familiar to reorient myself. Here’s another good example: Let’s say I have a bowl of soup and I want to put it in the microwave. I am standing in the middle of the kitchen. In order to find the microwave, I have to move either to the left or the right, find the counter, which helps me reorient myself, and from there, find the microwave. Regardless if I find the counter that is next to the stove, or the counter that the microwave sits on, when I touch the counter, I know where I am at that point and can continue to find the microwave.

I grew up in Rochelle, Georgia, and graduated from the Georgia Academy for the Blind, which is a residential school for blind and visually impaired students as well as students who are multi-disabled. A residential school is where the students go to school during the day, but instead of going home, they stay in dorms or cottages as they are sometimes called. Some students go home for the weekend, or at least I did, except when a field trip was scheduled on a weekend during high school. The method of reading for the blind is called Braille, which I learned to read in school. I also get talking books, which are recorded books in a specialized format produced for the blind and physically handicapped by the National Library Service (NLS), a division of the Library of Congress. I order books I want to read through my local library for the blind, located in Doublin, Georgia. I can also go to the Georgia Library for Accessible Services (GLASS) website, enter my ID number and pin, and order books.

Although I took one class in public school during my eighth-, ninth-, and tenth-grade years, I had a teacher at the Academy whom I could go to when I needed things transcribed into Braille, or when I needed my Braille work transcribed into print for my public school teacher. Now that I’ve graduated high school I realize I would have had a more difficult time in public school because I wouldn’t have had access to materials in Braille or on cassette as I did.

After I graduated high school, I took some Vocational Rehabilitation training at several facilities for independent living skills, computer skills, orientation in mobility, and other skills necessary to live independently. I worked as a consumer-information specialist for the Gallup Organization for two years. I conducted studies for different companies on a range of products and services, such as banking, retail, etc.

After I was terminated from my job at the Gallup Organization, due to the lack of work, I went to another facility for extensive training in certain areas that I needed, such as to enhance my independent living skills and get up-to-date training in new computer software and technology, including MS Word, which I prefer to use now. (Back in the days when everybody used DOS, Word Perfect was my word processer of choice.)

In order for me to use any of these programs, I use a screen-reader called JAWS for Windows, which stands for Job Access with Speech, in conjunction with the latest Windows software. With this software I can read electronic documents through the Internet and VIA text on a web page, as well as documents written in MS Word and those sent to me through email.  My software cannot read graphics unless the web designer uses tags to describe the photos, or uses text-graphic labels or text hyperlinks to navigate around a web site. I also use a program called Open Book, which is reading-machine software that works in conjunction with a scanner. I place a printed document on the scanner, and use my reading machine software to scan and read the document to me. Unfortunately, this software cannot read handwritten material. This particular adaptive software for the blind was developed by Freedom Scientific; for more information about the products they have developed and sell, go to Those of you who are web designers can also contact Freedom Scientific to learn how to make your web sites more accessible for the blind.

I have recently moved back to Rochelle from Canton, where I lived with my husband, who is also visually impaired, and his family for a number of years. During that time, along with working with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) to continue my training, I taught myself, first, how to knit, and now I am teaching myself how to crochet. I first tried to learn how to knit through the Internet, but I never could keep my work straight, so I got an instructional book so I could teach myself. I learned how to keep my work straight, but found with bigger projects that the heavier fabric weighed the knitting needles down, which loosened the stitches; and you need different needles for different types of projects. Through a magazine I received through NLS, I taught myself how to crochet simple things. I continued to do this, even after I got my first guide dog.

My husband and I had applied for guide dogs through three different schools, two of which didn’t accept us because of the area we lived in. We actually were accepted by Southeastern Guide Dogs and I graduated with my guide dog, which was a Yellow Lab-Golden Retriever mix named Star. I worked Star for three years. I believe that working a guide dog is much better than using a white cane, but you have to take special precautions in extreme heat or cold, which can harm the dog’s feet. 

Unfortunately I had to retire my dog after my daughter was born because I found it very difficult to take care of a dog and a baby at the same time, even though there are people who are blind, have had children and work guide dogs at the same time. As a blind person, it’s difficult to prevent a child from getting hurt because of something I can’t see; and with my spatial disorientation problems, if I get disoriented when transporting her, I could accidentally bump her into something (which unfortunately, did happen once when she was small).

Now my daughter Sharen is nineteen months old, and she is at the stage where she walks and, in most cases, even runs, where she wants to go. I find it even more difficult to take care of her, since it is almost impossible to keep up with her now. This is the reason I prefer to have a sighted person in the room with me to help me take care of her, in the areas of feeding, diaper changing, bathing, and even watching her at play to make sure she doesn’t get seriously injured, or try to grab and possibly eat something that would harm her. The reason I say eat something that would harm her is because, as parents, regardless whether we are sighted, we all know that small children are the world’s best tasters, which means that anything they get their hands on goes right into their mouths.

To help you understand the difficulties of caring for a baby, here’s an illustration: When I feed Sharen, I have to locate her mouth with one hand and bring the spoon of food up to her mouth with the other. This can be almost impossible at times, because just as I bring the spoon to her mouth, she moves, and causes me to get food either on her face or on her clothes. As sighted parents, you understand the difficulties of feeding a small child, but try feeding one with your eyes closed. You will soon discover it is twice as hard to do when you can’t see which way her head is turned. This is the reason I prefer someone who is sighted to feed her, unless I am feeding her finger foods, in which case I can break or cut the food into small pieces and give it to her one piece at a time, and she puts the food into her own mouth. When she was first born until she was about nine months old, the only difficulty I had in bottle feeding her was measuring the formula to make sure I had the right amount. After the bottle was made, I held her in my lap, located her mouth and gave her the bottle. As she grew older, I was able to give it to her and she would put it in her mouth, but I had to make sure she did because, if not, she would have milk all over her clothes.

If you wonder how I go shopping, well I go with my mother, or sometimes on the bus. If I am using cash to make a purchase, I have the bills folded in a certain way so that I can differentiate between the bills. So when I hand the cashier the money and she/he gives me my change back, I ask what the bills are so I can fold them properly. If I’m with my mother, I ask her, but if I am taking the bus, I ask the cashier, and then I can fold the bills according to my method and put the money away. When I use my debit card, however, I ask someone to help me slide my card through the slot. If the pin pad is raised (which means I can feel the buttons), I find the dot on the number five and then I enter my pin and press enter, which is the button on the lower right hand corner of the keypad with a circle in the middle of it. If I can’t feel the keypad, it can be very frustrating and someone has to enter my pin for me, or I run my debit card like a credit card to make a purchase.

I also must say that I am glad that some stores are doing away with the self check-outs, because they are inaccessible to the blind. The reason for this is that, even though the machines talk, they only talk to a certain extent. They do not tell you the price of the item when you scan it, and they don’t tell you the total of your purchase. The self check-outs also have touch screens, which are useless to me because the panel is flat, with no raised buttons. I have to be very careful when asking for sighted assistance when traveling alone, because you never know whom to trust. If I am not careful, someone could take my money and run, especially in a larger city, though I haven’t encountered that problem in Wilcox county. 

This brings me to another subject. You may ask how I use a microwave, or cook on a stove. Even though a microwave has a flat panel and the buttons are not raised, I have what are called bump dots, which are rubber dots of different colors and there are some of different shapes, that have an adhesive on the back which allows them to stick to the surface of the microwave so the buttons can be made tactile. Another method that is widely used on stoves is what is called high mark, which is similar to puff paint but is used on surfaces such as stoves, washers and driers, and even dish washers and microwaves to make the controls more tactile. I have also used Braille labels on numbers and other buttons on a microwave. I help my mother cook from time to time and I like cooking in her kitchen because she has counters on both sides of the stove, which helps me when I am cooking. I can put a dish on the counter on either side of the stove, depending on which side of the stove I’m using, and transfer the food from the hot pan to the dish. In some kitchens I’ve been in, the stove is on one side of the room and the counter is on the other, which is too spread out for me due to the spatial disorientation problem that I explained earlier.

As far as labeling food is concerned, there are so many different ways to label things, it’s hard to describe them all. I have to have someone read the packaging label on the can, box, or bag, and then I make Braille labels. For example, on a bag of potato chips, I can put a Braille label on the clip that’s holding the bag closed. There are so many ways to label clothing, like Braille metal clothing tags sewn on the label, or beads or buttons sewn onto clothing that match the outfits. 

In my spare time, I am teaching myself how to crochet using a book I got from the library for the blind in Doublin, which I also mentioned earlier. I am almost finished with the book on crocheting afghan patterns and will move on to other patterns. After I have finished that book, I will either go on line to find patterns or design some patterns of my own. The only thing I don’t pay attention to is the color sequence in the patterns, because I can’t see the colors, so I would get the colors mixed up. I just use the colors I have and work the stitches as indicated. Even though the book gives instructions for crocheters who are sighted and crochet with one hand using the hook to work the stitches, I use the hook in my right hand in conjunction with my left hand to find the stitch I want to work into, and then I use my left hand to guide the yarn that I have placed over the hook through the loops on the hook. (For those who don’t crochet, I apologize if this doesn’t make sense, but that’s the best way I can explain how I crochet.)

When you meet a blind person on the street, or wherever you happen to be, let me give you some helpful information or advice. There are a lot of people that think blind people have problems hearing, walking, or talking. This is not true, so if you see me somewhere, and you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask me, but please don’t shout at me.

If you wish to guide me somewhere, let me explain the proper way to do this: Allow me to hold on to your elbow or, if your are really tall, I will hold on to your wrist, which is more comfortable to me. If we approach steps, you step up first so I can feel you move ahead of me, and then I can follow. If we are going through a narrow passageway, put your arm behind your back so that I know to walk behind you.

If you see me with a guide dog in the future, please do not grab my arm, or the dog’s leash or harness, because grabbing a dog’s harness is like grabbing the steering wheel of a car while someone else is driving.  This can cause a serious accident, and either my dog and/or I can get hurt. If necessary, I will ask you to let my dog follow you or I will ask you to give me directions, such as forward or straight, left or right; and then I will give the dog the appropriate commands to get me to my destination.  When I ask for directions, you must give me specific directions, such as go straight until you come to the wall in front of you then turn right, “When you get to that wall over there, go that way” and point in the direction you mean, because I can’t see where you are pointing. If I am in a store and I ask where a certain item is located, don’t say, “It’s right there.” If you can, give me directions as I have explained above, which will help me.

I sincerely hope my story has given you some insight of what it’s like living with blindness in a sighted world.  

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            How the Government Can Prevent Marriage

by Bob Branco

Like everyone else, blind people are capable of falling in love and getting married. I suppose I could talk about marriage from a religious point of view, but instead, I will talk about it as a chosen preference, and how the government tries to prevent it from happening.

I know several people with disabilities who are afraid to marry because when their income subsidies are combined, a portion of the total amount is reduced. Yet if the couple is forced to cohabitate, something which is frowned upon by a portion of society, the government allows each partner to keep his entire income subsidy.

It doesn't matter if a couple cohabitates or gets married. They still have the same bills to pay, so what sense does it make for government to interfere in a couple's personal finances when they get married? When did the marriage license become the cause of the reduction of personal income? Who is supposed to pay the household bills if money is taken away from this married couple? Thus if a couple does the right thing morally, they are financially penalized? What sense does that make?

It is so frustrating to hear how intimidated these couples are by the possibility of money being taken from them, and how they would prefer to spend the rest of their lives being single. I also heard of a happily married couple getting a divorce because they would make more money that way. So in a sense, sincere love is tarnished by government regulations.

One logical solution is for persons with disabilities to get a job, or to keep their job. With that said, not everyone is capable of holding a full-time job because of a physical or emotional problem, which is why these individuals need extra income. We must help this particular group by making politicians understand that running a household can be an expensive business, and to take money away from these people is almost criminal.

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            Special Notices

Join a Free Voice Chat Site Community on the Web!

Would you like to meet other blind or visually impaired  individuals from across the country and around the world?

Do you like challenging games, old-time radio, adapted cooking techniques, book clubs, Chess Chat, product presentations, and much more?

Join our free chat community at

"Catch the vision – it's Out of Sight!"

The Jubilee Club Magazine is a monthly cassette produced by and for blind readers that features messages from around the world, a travelogue, stories of triumph and tragedy, and a monthly competition. Subscriptions are free (British residents are asked to contribute two pounds annually); subscribers are asked to provide high-quality 90-minute tapes to editor: Malcolm Mathews, 93 Winchelsea Road, Tottenham, London, N17 6XL (England) and to wrap a rubber band around any cassette that contains a message.

Airport Screening Tips

Dear fellow guide-dog handlers,

As you know, Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) has previously offered suggestions for guide-dog handlers in an effort to make airport screening proceed more smoothly.

Recently, enhanced airport-screening procedures have been incorporated for all passengers traveling with any animal. In light of this, GDUI offers the following suggestions to guide dog handlers:

As you begin the screening process, inform the TSA officer or contracted screening officer that you would like them to bring your belongings to you after they have been screened. Prior to walking through the metal detector, place your guide dog on a sit-stay and make a long leash, holding the leash clip in your hand. Then, walk through the metal detector holding the leash behind you as you proceed.

Since the metal detector will alarm if anything comes in contact with it, you can request that the screening officer hold your hand to assist you in walking through without brushing the sides of the machine. Once through the metal detector, call your guide to you, continuing to hold onto the dog's leash, but do not touch your dog until after the screening officer has screened the dog.

Expect the screening officer to approach you at this point to swab your hands with a dry cloth as part of ETD screening. We have been assured that this dry cloth leaves no residue. It is intended to attract any traces of substances being tested for. The cloth will be placed into a machine for analysis and you will be informed of the results. This test procedure is designed to detect very small amounts of certain chemicals. Some travelers have even reported that they required additional screening following the test, with the apparent cause being attributed to personal-care products they use, or even medications they take. For this reason, you may want to consider making a note for yourself of any hand creams or lotions you have used, or if you have had a manicure recently, as well as any medications that you take or may have handled. Such information may be helpful in the event that you are identified as requiring additional screening. If possible, it may be a good idea to avoid using hand lotions or having a manicure on the day of air travel.

After all screening is completed, your belongings should be brought to you. If not, remind the screening officer that you had requested this and would appreciate this assistance.

The general advice and information that is currently being provided by the Transportation Security Administration will be shared in a separate e-mail.

We hope that this is helpful to you.

The GDUI-Legislative Committee

Peoria Blind Center

ICEVI Conference in June

My name is Adrijana Prokopenko and I am a teacher of English at the school for blind and visually impaired children in Macedonia - Dimitar Vlahov - Skopje. This June, two of our members will be representing the school at the International Council for Education of people with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) conference in Romania. If you happen to know anyone who may be attending from your part of the world, or if you are attending yourself, please email me. It would be nice to communicate with people even before the conference. My email address is

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            Ask Allen

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


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


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


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


Greetings from Sri Lanka. I have some technical questions and would be very grateful if you could arrange to have them answered by your technical staff on Consumer Vision, whenever convenient.

1. I use several pieces of equipment which run on rechargeable batteries. My problem is that after connecting the charger to the mains, I forget to turn it off after the proper time has elapsed. Consequently, some of the less expensive items get burned. Is there some sort of timer which I could set to turn off the electricity to the plug at the right time? The times usually vary from two to four hours. We operate on 240V, not 110.

2. I have a large collection of material on cassettes which I wish to transfer to CDs as MP3 files. Is there a simple piece of equipment which can do this for me?

3. I have a Booksense XT. When I press and hold zero to change from the internal memory to the SD card or to the USB pen, the unit stops working and freezes. Is there a way to avoid this?

Thanks much.

With best wishes


Allen’s Answer:

1. Here are some numbered links to products that might provide a solution to your overcharging issue:


a) You may also try searching your local area for products native to your voltage and outlet specifications. These products appear to function adequately for your intended purpose; however, I would have questions about whether they would match your regional requirements.

b) Your issue raises questions regarding types of batteries you are using and the means with which you are charging them. I'm inclined to suggest that you pursue matching the right charger to your batteries. Please feel free to provide me with further details about your set up & I might be able to make additional suggestions to help remedy your issue.

2. Please see the links below as possible solutions to your question:

NOTE: these three links appear to describe the same device configuration under three different brand names. I'm thinking that one company has the market under several brand names. You may wish to research in more depth to determine if there’s something out there that would suit your needs better.

3. I'm afraid I have no experience working with this particular reading device. However, from personal experience of a similar vein it appears as though there is a conflict between onboard hardware and the software that drives it. Below are some things you might try (some may not be appropriate, depending upon the capabilities of your device):

a) Check that you are using the most up-to-date firmware. (Firmware is machine-language software that runs your device, found on the manufacturer's homepage usually within the support tab.) Often, products of this nature allow for the user via a USB connection to update firmware versions which are basically machine- and software-bug fixes.

b) Check that the SD card and pen are manufacturer-certified or -approved. Again this information can often be found in the support section of the manufacturer's homepage.

Please feel free to contact me with further questions.

Thanks & Kind Regards,

Al Hensel

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            Readers’ Forum

Legislation for Accessible Labeling

My name is Brian J. Coppola. I am a 47-year-old legally blind and hard-of-hearing man who has two associates degrees, one as a paralegal and the other in general studies; I graduated with these degrees from Northern Essex Community College Cum Laud. I also hold a Bachelor of Art in political science from Merrimack College. I worked for some time in the field of assistive technology at Northern Essex Community College teaching the use of the Zoomtext software to visually impaired students.  

The now-resigned state senator of Methuen, Mass., Steven A. Baddour, has been working on legislation for about 10 years to mandate that health insurance companies cover the costs of devices that read information contained on a medication bottle. I’ve been working on this bill too which, for the most part, was put into study order, but during the 2007 legislative cycle, it was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Financial Services and then moved onto the Joint Committee on Health Financing. It is currently SO1855 and I am calling on Massachusetts residents who are blind, including those who get help with their medications from personal care associates (PCAs), visiting nurses or family members, to call the Massachusetts State House at 617/722-2000 and ask members of the Legislature to get the Bill moved out of committees and onto the floor so that Massachusetts can take the lead in what Edward Markey is trying to do. Making prescription bottles accessible in audible format has already been proven to be cost-effective, saving health insurance companies monies from unnecessary emergency-room visits and the uses of visiting nurses or PCAs. Without this Bill, this situation could be a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, HIPPA, and the Olmstead Decision of the United States Supreme Court of 1999, which requires that disabled people be allowed to live in the least-restrictive environment possible.  

There are other uses for PCAs for the blind, such as transportation. They also need to include a benefit for medical transportation in Medicare so that a blind person can go to a doctor whether they are on Medicaid or, in Massachusetts, MassHealth. Accessible medicine bottles makes more sense than visiting nurses coming out to set up medicine regiments just as transportation makes more sense so that the blind can go to doctors and other places, including employment and other places in the community, with a higher level of independence.  

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at 978/702-9403. I thank you in advance for your understanding of this matter.

Brian J. Coppola

PS: While I am at it – government-supported cell phones with screen-reading, screen-magnifying, vibrating and Braille display capabilities should also be made accessible to those who are blind and/or hearing-handicapped.  


In response to John Justice’s article in the March/April Consumer Vision about drivers and to Bob Branco’s article about being careful of our supported environment, Brian Coppola wrote:

1. If a driver asks for sexual favors rather than money for their time, it’s prostitution. Don’t tell the employer. Call the police.

2.  Blind inventors/programmers needed to invent some ideas I have that would keep a disabled person, such as one who is blind, safe from the mistakes a homemaker may make. One example is the legislation that will make prescription labels accessible.

3. Blind people who hire drivers should think about some investment in time to go to a place like the Carroll Center in Newton, Massachusetts, to see and look into GPS systems for the blind.

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by John Justice  

Mama always lived a hard life, but somehow found the grace and charm to remember the good things. She was born in 1919 in a fishing town called Biloxi, Mississippi. The McCarthy family was never rich but they had enough to go around. Mama would work on the shrimp boats as a young girl, helping relatives sort the shrimp into barrels based on their size. This was done on the docks where the boats tied up and dumped their loads into huge bins. After the sorting, someone else further down the line would chop off the heads and still further along, the shrimp were packaged in one way or another for shipping to market. Handling shrimp hour after hour made her little hands bleed. For years, she wouldn’t go near a shrimp in any form.  

At the age of eighteen, Mama met a man who swept her off of her feet and right into the back seat of his car. She became pregnant and, in those days, the man had to make an honest woman out of her. That is what Mr. Fuller did. My half sister Hazel was born after the usual time but the marriage didn’t last. It wasn’t long before my mother was on her own with a baby in the heart of Philadelphia. My great grandmother took her in and Hazel was raised for part of her life in a big row home on North 23rd Street.

But life wasn’t through with Mama, not by a long way. She trained as a telephone operator and worked there for a time but soon moved on to a local department store. Mama didn’t like taking orders from people for whom she had no respect. My father came along then and Mama became a Justice. I was born in 1945 at the end of World War II. My parents had both gone off to serve, as many young people did in those days. Eventually they came home, but Dad was never the same after the war.

I was born with congenital Glaucoma and Mama’s bad luck followed her right into a new life on a farm in southern New Jersey. After serving in the war together, my parents bought that farm with their combined G.I. Benefits. No one knew about my illness at first but I soon began to develop horrible headaches and it became obvious that my vision was going.

It was then that Hazel Geraldine Justice showed her true metal.  She mortgaged that farm for everything she could get and spent the money trying to deal with my illness. I was almost 20 when she made the last payment. Unfortunately, all of her efforts and every penny she spent weren’t quite enough. After nine operations and months in various hospitals from Baltimore to Philadelphia, I finally lost all of my vision.

Did my mother give up? As she would put it, “Hell no! That just made it more important to try harder!”  Mama worked hard to teach me what she could and then tried to find the best possible school that instructed blind children. There was no way she was going to let me go to a school in a city she hated, namely Philadelphia. So I ended up in Maryland School for the Blind. As it turned out, that choice was a big mistake. In those days the school was very large, poorly managed and the children had only minimal supervision.  A laundry building was burned to the ground and I was blamed for it. The principal beat me so badly with his belt that I ended up in the school infirmary for days. I never went near that building. When my mother heard about how I had been treated, she came up there with blood in her eye and brought me home.  When the principal tried to interfere, she threatened to sue him or knock him on his butt, whichever he preferred. Nothing more was said and the next summer I went off to school in Jersey City, New Jersey.

During my stay there, my father disappeared, leaving Mama to deal with a poultry farm, a back-breaking mortgage and a blind son. Later we learned that he just couldn’t handle serious responsibility after the war.  He did leave my mother with one parting gift, my younger sister. The next time I came home, Dad was gone but Jane was in a basket in the back of our station wagon. No one had ever told me about the baby. As a blind boy living in a residential school, much of normal life passed me by. 

But when I came home, my training in independence came from a woman who had more than her share of common sense and an understanding of my unique problems. I can still remember her saying, “Jacky, I’m not going to treat you like some kind of cripple. You are blind and that will take some adjusting but I just don’t have the time to wait on you hand and foot. You’re a strong young boy and you will get hurt from time to time. Together you and I will figure out what you can do and how to do it. We’ll try some things that work and others that won’t but I won’t baby you, Jacky. I can’t.”  Like any young farm boy, I did get banged up a bit but for the most part, her support and her ability to teach me how to be independent has served me well all my life. Mama bought me a bicycle and taught me how to ride it along the soft shoulder of our country roads. She brought me along when we picked up fruit that we didn’t grow for our store. I worked right beside her, carrying watermelons and bags of corn. My mother bought futures in local crops. Every year she would invest in the vegetables and fruit grown by farmers in our area. She brought me to several different farms where I would work cutting corn, picking strawberries, peppers, broccoli and other vegetables. I would spend hours in a field working my way along the rows, filling the burlap sack and then following the ploughed furrows back to the parked wagon. I couldn’t understand why she did this at the time since there were plenty of farm workers but I learned to be independent and to work until a job was done.

We nearly lost Mama while I was in sixth grade. She caught Rocky Mountain Fever from a tick and it damaged her heart. For the rest of her life, Mama lived with a plastic heart valve. It slowed her down a bit but she didn’t quit. She never quit as long as there was work to do. But Mama always found time to read to me from books by such authors as Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burros. She would always check my typed homework after one particularly embarrassing incident. I typed an entire five-thousand word assignment with the portable machine set on Stencil. In that position, the ribbon doesn’t touch the page.  Thank God I kept my notes.

Mama always wanted me to be a lawyer or a teacher. She encouraged and even bullied me into studying hard even when I wanted to be lazy. But I had other plans. I wanted to be a night club musician just like she had been in her younger days. Gerry Burke worked in the Philadelphia area, singing with band leaders like George Nardello and Butch Mathes. Yes, I was bitten by the performing bug early in life and it was her fault. She bought me a used piano when I was very young. When the local teachers couldn’t handle a blind student, she tried to teach me herself.  Thanks to her encouragement, I was awarded a piano by a local Lion’s Club at the age of ten. Mama soon had me playing for her as she performed in skits for her Daughters of the American Revolution club or the Lady’s Moose lodge.

One of her last professional singing jobs was at the Latin Casino in Willingborough, New Jersey. She was in the house band, warming up the crowd for people like Louie Prima and Julius Larosa.  My favorite was Louie Prima. When he started singing those noisy party tunes, I wanted to be up there playing the piano with Sam Butera, his band leader.  Children weren’t allowed in the club so I was ordered to stay in the car while my mother was performing. On many nights, the lead act would start late so I’d sneak up to the side door. If I heard Louie singing, it wasn’t long before I was inching my way inside. That old club was smoky and had poor ventilation so the management would open the side doors to bring in some cool air. At first, I’d stand in the door, then the music would draw me inside. If Manny, the M C, saw me, he’d order me out and back to the car. After doing this three times one night, he just shrugged, brought me a chair and a glass of soda. As long as I could hear Mama singing or Louie’s band playing, I was happy.

Mama had a great voice and loved to make the people laugh with her antics. She had this huge felt hat. The thing had to be about size fourteen. In the middle of a solo, Mama would walk quietly up behind the pianist and pull that hat down over his eyes. He just kept right on playing but the audience went wild. Another one of her tricks was to do a split and have her dress tear right off. Of course, she had another outfit on under it but everyone got a kick out of that too. She was always singing around the house so why was she surprised when I wanted to be an entertainer as well?

After a brief stay at college, I went to New York and finally got a job with a touring band. Mama was so angry that she wouldn’t talk to me for a couple of months. But finally, after the last show, we made our peace.

Mama saw me through one disastrous marriage and then into a happier time when I met Linda, my present wife. Mama and Linda didn’t see eye to eye for the longest time. But finally, after years of armed truces, they came to an understanding. That happens with two strong women at times. Linda just wasn’t going to be pushed around by anyone, not even The Duchess, as some people called my mother.

Cancer attacked Mama in the eighties. She fought it off the first time but lost a kidney in the battle. In the early nineties, it returned again and she didn’t have the strength to win a second time. My wonderful vibrant, sometimes annoying and overbearing mother, died in nineteen ninety-one. She left a terrible aching emptiness inside me that only Linda’s love and understanding has been able to fill. For my Mama, blindness was a challenge to overcome, not the end of life. Every day brings new problems and I remember her attitude and determination as I face each one. I have learned much in my sixty-six years from many people, but none has had more of an influence on me than my mother, Hazel Geraldine Justice. On this special day for mothers all over, I dedicate this story to her and to all of the mothers who have faced the challenge of bringing up a blind or physically impaired child. I believe that God has a special place set aside in Heaven for people like that.      

John and Linda Justice

with Guide Dogs Jake and Zachary

personal e-mail: 

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            Memorial Day

by Karen Crowder

This holiday reminds everyone summer is here

Beaches and lakes beckon people as they dash across soft sand

Splashing and swimming in to cold salt or fresh water   

It is so cold  people wistfully complain along our sunny New England coast

In the Carolinas and Florida waters are inviting and warm

Sand soft, summer has already arrived there,   

Amusement parks open everywhere,

Inviting smells of pop corn and cotton candy

Tantalizing children

Splashes of soda and drops from ice cream cones, shamelessly spill on new pastel cotton tea shirts,

Kids laugh and scream, excited to be on fast rides,    

Roadside stands serve us ice cream and hot juicy fried clams

We wear short sundresses and sandals, temperatures soaring to ninety degrees

The solemnity of this day has us dropping by cemeteries 

Praying, remembering loved ones now gone.  

We think of brave soldiers sacrificing there lives this year for America 

Students are away from classes for one day

No books to open, not a homework assignment to do?  

They sigh that evening wishing tomorrow they had no classes,

Parades come to town bands playing patriotic songs

We gather smiling singing so proud of America

Celebrating soldiers valiantly sacrificing there lives  

Thankful to that someone who invented this grand holiday

Honoring those who gave there lives for this country’s freedom 

In backyards families gather enjoying there first cook-out

The aroma of hamburgers chicken and hot dogs cooking tempting us

We can’t wait to voraciously eat grilled cheeseburgers hot dogs barbecued chicken and fresh coleslaw.

Evening arrives, people say goodbye, left-overs are packed to take home, driving away in cars, cool night air coming through open windows  

The first summer holiday slowly ending.

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When I Discovered You

by Karen Crowder

I met you in September of 2003

I was intrigued with all you had to teach me

I knew a book of knowledge was open to me

Your awesome web pages for me to explore and see, 

I acquainted myself with web sites like Vermont country store

Discovering all products it had to offer,

I looked in CVS wall greens, surprised at all there was to see

I was amazed learning through tears and frustration  

That Brilliant concept of email 

It was like writing old-fashioned letters for friends to see

Instant messages coming back to me.

Was it better than talking on a phone?

Instead of a human voice I always heard a monotonous Jaws tone 

This I ignored with new friends I was making

Always busy on blindness, cooking, women's and fragrance lists,  

The computer became overwhelmed, having a small break-down 

correcting my email, cutting back on lists,

deleting thousands of messages; healed the poor belabored machine

On Word I have written stories, articles and poems like this,  

Writing is an escape, better than looking through endless email.

It no longer held that novel fascination for me,   

The internet always takes me to worlds never opened to me,

To knowledge-based websites, vacation destinations, malls and stores.

The world-wide web is an infinite book of knowledge,

Its library growing larger too much for a mere human mind. 

Computers grow old and must be put out to pasture,

Replaced with an ever-younger -faster -efficient breed,

Will it be impersonal amassing more data?

Will its efficiency and speed help it last forever?  

The hands of time will age it

The machine put into the cemetery with the old ones,

Its owners never forgetting all it taught us.

Computers are much more than a mere machine.

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            When the Rain Stops

by Karen Crowder

Gentle rain sprinkles azaleas and evergreens

Washing air clean of excess dust and pollen,

Soaking in to the once-frozen earth it promises new vegetation

With every drop of rain we are assured summer brooks will not run dry, 

Soft April rains make lifeless grass green

The scent of blooming flowers making us want to linger outdoors,

Warm sunshine after rainy days is welcome

Humid breezes make us anticipate the tropical heat of early summer     

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            Good-bye to an Old Friend

by Karen Crowder

We saw you in the appliance store,

Your magnificent wood shiny cloth-covered speakers attracted us,

We planned to place you in our big living room

You would look grand with your booming console speakers,   

The aging TV consigned to our bedroom

You seemed just right in our large carpeted living room for everyone to see.    

During your years on Marden Street cut-glass candy dishes sat on your wooden top

They were filled with colorful peppermints fireballs and fruit candy

Photos of our family complimented your top

A lace doily covering your fine grained wood

We listened to the booming voice of news commentators

Kids sat attentive smiling watching cartoons    

When we moved would we have to abandon you,

Would you be too large to fit into our apartment,

Your second home in our new living room,

Family photos and cut glass dishes decorated your aging wood surface.

After Marshall left people hinted, "I should discard this old relic."

By 2005 a DVD player XM radio and digital cable box sat secure on your surface   

I wiled away hours watching movie shopping and educational channels

Entertaining people with funny or serious movies,

The speaker's sound quality beginning to fade

By the fall of 2007 the majestic speakers were silenced

The repair men said it was too expensive to fix 

You sat silent in our living room. Until 2010   

They carted you off to some nameless junk yard

My new apartment too small to fit your grand design,

A flat-screen TV sits above my computer desk,

Its tinny speakers unable to match your rich bassy sound,

They do not make TVs like you now, the lovely cabinetry created with so much thought and care.

I will remember the joy and comfort you brought to us on Marden Street and Liberty place. 

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Enjoy the Birds

by Ernest Jones

Do you need eyesight to enjoy the birds in your yard?

I wake to the song of a robin perched high in the maple tree just outside our bedroom window. Then from high in the locust tree floats out the lovely trill of the meadowlark. While taking my guide dog out for his morning relieving I listen to a myriad of birds singing in nearby trees.  Included in this cacophony are the voices of the gold finch, chickadee, song sparrow and house wren who with his mate appears to like the bird house I set up for chickadees.

 The Mourning Dove lifts up his sad mournful cry; when he is disturbed he leaves with a distinct whirr of his wings.

Other favorites of mine are the red wing blackbirds who have a lovely trill to cheer anyone who will take a moment to listen. They let me know when the bird-seed feeder is empty as if they know I can't see but hide the fact that they scatter seed all over the porch and ground as they pick out the choice seeds. Then the quail and doves charge in to clean up the evidence

The California Quail have many different voices. If I come out while they are eating the fallen bird seed I hear them scatter across the lawn like leaves blown in a breeze while muttering their unhappiness at my intrusion. I have told them to stay put, that I'd not hurt them, but they ignore my pleas. But later when I cry out because I have just got stung by a wasp that I was not even bothering, got a large sliver in my hand or hit a finger with the hammer, these quail laugh at me.

Some of the birds' songs are not really beautiful but still in their own way they add to the bird choir. The magpie has more of a scream than a song but thinks she is beautiful in voice while the crow, well what can I say about the crow? After all he is in my email address so I must speak kindly of him.

As you walk down the road do you hear the Chinese pheasant crow?  Do you hear the sudden explosion of voice and wings as he takes to flight from somewhere almost under your feet? I think he deliberately likes to try to scare the passer-by. Then the mallard ducks playing in the creek seem to be constantly quacking and telling their story.

Another bird I hear in the early morning is the owl, who, in his all-wise position (usually high on top of a utility pole), hoots out his disgust that I can't see like he can. He also brags for being able to twist his head nearly clear around.

One year a pair of killdeer made their nest right in the center of our potato patch. We never saw one potato bug that year and though I have tried to convince them to nest with the potatoes again, for some reason they have not accepted my offer; maybe they got tired of eating potato bugs.

These are just a few of the birds that inhabit our valley and who sing their praises to cheer us if we just take time to listen.

Today as you hurried off to work or school how many birds did you hear? Can you identify them by their song, or with your eyes glued to the road do you even hear them?

Have you watched the finches and wrens eat their choice seed?  Their favorite seed is the small thistle seed; they must crack it, drop the hull and eat only the tiny heart of the seed. Have you taken time to think just how many seeds this little bird must eat just to survive? It seems that for every cup of thistle seed I give them I have more than a cup full of seed hulls to blow away.

Now I must admit these little feathered friends would be more helpful if they didn't leave so much of themselves behind on porch rail and porch floor, but in this they don't listen to me either.

Look around you and see these lovely birds; take time to hear their songs for they will brighten your day. Slow down and listen to the songs of these feathered friends for they may put a smile on your face. Even without eyesight one can find a world of beauty.

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            Consumer Vision Trivia Contest

Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in the March/April Consumer Vision: The St. Lewis Browns baseball team is now known as the Baltimore Oreals.  Congratulations to the following winners:

Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts

Barbara Duford of Beverly, Massachusetts

Patrick Gormley of Frostburg, Maryland

And now, here is your trivia question for the May/June Consumer Vision: Who played Candy on the television series “Bonanza”?

If you know the answer, please email or call 508-994-4972.

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