The Consumer Vision

The Consumer Vision

September/October, 2008

Editor-in-Chief/Publisher, Bob Branco

Braille Production, Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library CD Production, Bob Zeida

Cassette Production, Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library Proof-reading and Formatting, Cori Castaldo

Treasurer, Gail Teixeira

Advisory Committee: Clem Beaulieu, Dan Germano, Marianne Martin, Lisa Saulnier, Bonnie Chachter, Charles Soforenko and Gail Teixeira

If you would like a subscription to the Consumer Vision Magazine six times a year, please contact the Consumer Vision office at 508-994-4972 or email us at The cost for a subscription in Braille or print is $6 per issue or $36 for the year. The magazine is available on cassette, CD and email free of charge.


Former Perkins School Director Remembered
Fall Nights
Post Office Frustrations
The Ultimate System
Disabled Turtle Finds Romance after Getting Wheels
The Quietness of Braille
21st Century Great Depression
AADB Today -- Spotlight on the Deaf-Blind Community
Deaf-Blind Community Events
The Consumer Vision Trivia Contest


Former Perkins School Director Remembered

By Bob Branco

I was quite saddened to hear that Benjamin Smith, former director of the Perkins School for the Blind, passed away on August 7th. He was 95 years old. I am not sure what the cause of death was, but at least Mr. Smith lived a very long and productive life. I credit Mr. Smith for being the director who brought many changes to Perkins at a time when students lived by strict rules on its campus. I was one of the students who was at Perkins throughout Mr. Smith's entire term as director, so I was a witness to all that he did. He served in that role from 1971-1977, and was the only blind director Perkins ever had.

Prior to Mr. Smith's role as director, punitive action would be taken against boys and girls for showing affection toward one another. Quite often, students were given a three-day suspension if they were caught kissing. In the second year of Mr. Smith's term, it became apparent

that the interaction between boys and girls would be tested. He introduced cottage dating. The cottages on the campus are similar to college dorms, in that students lived in the cottages if they couldn't go home. In the evening, students at Perkins would visit their mates at their cottage. When cottage dating first took place, I was quite impressed with the concept, yet I found it rather strange because I never thought Perkins would take such a liberal step. When a boy finished visiting his girl friend, he would go back to his cottage by himself. However, when a girl finished visiting her boy friend, the boy had to accompany the girl back to her cottage and then go back to his.

Mr. Smith also introduced the independent living program, and included several courses in the Upper School curriculum toward that end. In fact, several students became so independent that they were given their own key to the cottage. I don't think this ever happened prior to 1970. The school was too strict for that.

As many of the academic students were leaving Perkins for various reasons, Mr. Smith went in a different direction by bringing in more students with special needs. At the same time, many of the Upper School cottages became co-ed. Bridgeman and Tompkins, which were once cottages for junior-high and high school boys, were now young adult cottages, consisting mostly of adult men and women who either graduated from Perkins and needed additional independent living training, or new clients who were brought to the school for this type of training. Brooks and Fisher, which were cottages for junior high and high school girls, were now co-ed cottages for undergraduates, including those in either the B or U divisions.

By the time I graduated, which was also Mr. Smith's last year as director, every Upper School cottage except May and Moulton were co-ed, meaning that girls and boys lived under the same roof. After a time when a student was suspended for kissing another student, does anyone really think that nothing ever went on in these co-ed cottages?

I remember visiting Mr. Smith in his apartment with the rest of my graduating class. At that time, it was a tradition for seniors to visit the director the week of graduation. Even though he liberated a lot of what Dr. Waterhouse and his predecessors did, Mr. Smith had strict morals of his own. One afternoon during my sophomore year, he called the entire Upper School student body into the chapel and gave us a pep talk about why it isn't nice to swear. At that time, many students were swearing a lot, and I guess Mr. Smith got wind of it.

On a cool Friday afternoon in 1975, I was summoned from my typing class and was asked to appear in Mr. Smith's office. My father was there presenting Mr. Smith with a check for $1,500. My father owned a night club and decided to hold a fund-raiser for Perkins with several bands donating their time. He explained to Mr. Smith that the check was not made out to Perkins School, but to the "Children of Perkins School."

My father didn't want any of the money raised to go toward administrative costs. He wanted to make sure that every penny went toward the growth and education of the children.

Another change that took place under Mr. Smith's direction happened with gym classes. At one time, boys and girls took gym separately. Mr. Smith made it co-ed. As was the case with cottage dating, I was very impressed with the new concept of taking gym with girls, and frankly I didn't mind. It's not like we all took showers together. We just took gym together.

As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Smith will be remembered for taking a school that many thought was an institution and turning it into a school with a few contemporary touches.

Bob Branco

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By Sue Small

Prayer is special! It is like a gift unwrapped with different goodies with colored ribbons. When we see God answer our prayer, it's like a cool drink for Man in hot desert sun. When a baby smiles, it is like the Holy Spirit comforting us with His peace. God has a plan like a road map. God has what people need that is true worth and purpose in life. He gives us the innocence of a child when we ask Him in our hearts and life. We have a new song like angels sing in one accord. He is a constant friend who understands every situation and need.

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Fall Nights

By Karen Crowder

It is late September when Autumn arrives.

Warm Summer nights and evenings become distant memories,

In October we hear the whisper of falling leaves.

They cascade to sidewalks and lawns.

There is the false promise of Indian Summer.

On cold October days dry brown leaves crunch under our feet,

Leaves are raked in lawns and yards.

The warm lazy days of September are forgotten.

November arrives with bitter cold nights, and the harvest of fresh apples and pumpkins.

We cover beds with woolen blankets

Keeping out the early winter chill.

The cold turns the once lush grass from green to a dirty brown,

Branches of trees barren to a dingy gray.

Bitter winds of December blow.

The friendly sounds of carols and Christmas bells make us smile.

The pristine white of God's snow dressed the ground in pure white.

Christmas lights make windows glow.

Shoppers line sidewalks in winter coats.

Cold winds shake snow-laden branches signaling Autumn's end.

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Post Office Frustrations

By Bob Branco

I received a notice in the mail indicating that I had a package at the post office. At times, it's not easy for me to just go to the post

office whenever they want me to, so I called the telephone number on the slip to request redelivery of the package. The phone number on the

notice was an 800 number, so I knew I was in trouble right away. Keep in mind that I just wanted to talk to my local post office, not someone in the Western United States. I simply wanted a mail carrier to redeliver a package.

When I finished dialing the number, I received a bunch of computerized instructions. I was able to speak my answers to the computer's

questions: What is your first name? Spell your first name. What is your last name? Spell your last name. Give me your street address and apartment number, if any. What does it say on the top left portion of

the notice? Which boxes are checked? What is the article number? Et cetera. Not only did I have to answer all of these questions for the computer, but the computer needed to verify half of my answers by repeating them back.

Oh, it gets better, trust me. After spending nearly ten minutes trying to answer the computer's questions, it transferred me to a human customer service representative. Guess what she did? She asked me all the same questions that the computer just asked me. I now had to repeat all of my answers, once again, to a human being who was working in the Western United States. I finally pointed out that all I wanted to do was reschedule a delivery, and that there should be a quicker way for postal consumers to get this accomplished - without spending 15 minutes on the phone talking to computers and then repeating the information to humans who work thousands of miles away from where I live. The girl, who was very nice, transferred me to another girl. She, too, was from the

Western United States. I finally told the second girl to please give me the local number of my personal post office. She did, I thanked her, and hung up. Oh, by the way, I have to be home when the package is redelivered. God help me if I'm not. Any thoughts?

Bob Branco

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The Ultimate System

Telephone Voice Service Available

Lady Lou is the owner of the Ultimate System, and Jim is the programmer of the System. They explain that the set up is to allow persons with disabilities to communicate by voice in a community forum. Several other systems on the market do the same thing; however, the monitoring and control of the system set this one apart. Lady Lou closely monitors the content of the Ultimate System and maintains some simple ground rules

for control and order so everyone can benefit and enjoy the services.

Other features include voicemail, community bulletin boards, news, weather, and information, live radio stations, conference chat rooms and much more. The partner carrier also provides local access numbers throughout the U.S. and Canada which are included in the services. This system also allows members to take advantage of contests that earn prizes. The cost of the service is FREE!

And you will never receive a bill from me! I ask that you enjoy the System! To sign up or to inquire, call 603-580-9403 or 214-230-1134.

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Disabled Turtle Finds Romance after Getting Wheels

Arava the disabled turtle is using her new set of wheels to get around in more ways than one. Officials at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo say the 10-year-old spurred tortoise has begun mating since being fitted with a custom skateboard to overcome paralysis of her hind legs.

The 55-pound turtle is unable to move herself forward with her front legs alone, so the zoo's staff built her a metal board with two wheels that can be strapped to her stomach.

Arava arrived in Jerusalem a few months ago from a petting zoo in southern Israel with the unexplained handicap, and found no reptile romance. Zoo curator Shmulik Yedvad says it's not that Arava has come

out of her shell with her unique new wheelchair, but that a particularly amorous 10-year-old male has been after her.

On the Net:

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The Quietness of Braille

By Karen Crowder

Talking watches, clocks, calculators and recorders now fill our lives. What was life like 40 years ago before this technology filtered into our everyday world? In school there was the almost silent steady writing

with a slate and stylus. In History and English class, we learned how to take notes. In Home Economics we must have written a notebook worth of recipes.

At night, the clickety-clack rhythm of Braille writers filled study halls. The quiet turning of pages meant reading and absorbing text for class. In bed with lights out, we could read forbidden romance or

mystery novels.

During weekends or summer months at home, we could read while listening to a softly playing radio. We would read a book, letting the magic of words take us to past centuries or wonderful or frightening worlds of

the future. We could read current fiction about events that might have happened yesterday. We could also read current magazines, like

Seventeen, Reader's Digest, Boys' Life or American Girl. Always keep up with today's trends and events.

Before talking items came of age, we could stand on a scale, looking at our weight in Braille. There were silent clicks as we looked at the time on our Braille watches. We could quietly time our meals by setting our alarms with Braille timers, Big Ben or Westclox clocks. We could even check the outdoor temperature with a Braille thermometer.

In the eighties, the seduction of talking technology came. It seemed amazing. With the touch of a button, we could tell the time, time meals and read a book. It was cheaper and so convenient, but what price have

we paid? Now we have less privacy. Everyone knows when we look at the time and weigh ourselves. People know when we set our alarms or read a book. Those Braille note takers are good, but we always have to worry about them crashing or their battery life.

In college, we could efficiently take notes in Braille. I say let us depend less on talking items. Go back to the quietness and tranquility

of Braille.

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21st Century Great Depression

by John Tavares

What? Depression? It can't happen! That's what they said in the

1920's, and that's what they said in the 1990's. Yes, it does happen,

and it is happening. Many people don't understand what is going on partially because no one cares if they are living comfortably. People

had this illusion of the American Dream: If I work hard, I'll get paid more and will succeed financially - big house, SUV in the driveway, kids in college.

But what if I were to tell you that for the last 30 years people have been getting poorer and poorer and now they realize that they are impoverished! That big house? Guess what? You don't own it; the bank does. Your SUV? You don't own that either. The bank does. Your kids' education? Your kids are going to better themselves and make themselves richer with better jobs? Sorry, your kids are going to give a large part of their money to the bank. Then most will work at jobs they are overqualified for and make somebody else richer and richer. They will have huge credit card, car, and house debt - basically becoming slaves

to banks and the wealthy. And the cycle starts again: a new batch of slaves to go to school. Don't get me wrong, there are the few kids that make it and get the better job and enrich themselves. (Most are I-V league graduates or straight A students from "regular" colleges). But

if everybody has a Bachelor's Degree, to whom do we give the best jobs? The perfect A's or I-V leaguers. For those who get B's or C's in

college, it's to the $30,000 a year jobs we go to pay back loans of $10,000; $30,000; $50,000 or more. Can they afford a new car or house fresh out of school? Nope. So they borrow more money to buy them, and

the cycle starts again. How long do you think this can go on?

The main reason for the coming depression is the decline in real wage. What is real wage? When you bring a paycheck home you have what economists call a "nominal wage". Your "real wage" is how many products and services can you buy with that money, or, your nominal wage minus inflation.

Example: Let's say you have a $100 paycheck, and you decide to blow it all on bread. If you live in 1990, bread is $1, and you can buy 100 loaves of bread. If you live in 2008, bread is $2, and you can buy 50 loaves of bread.

As you can see the same $100 is buying less because the price of bread is going up. If your boss was giving proper pay raises, you would always

buy 100 loaves. When your pay rises with prices this is called

inflation. Inflation is not necessarily "bad". It's only bad when it

is out of control. So in this example, the proper pay raise should be to $200 over the past 10 years. If not, you are actually getting poorer! If it is more than $200, you are getting richer. In this case, 1990 is the base year, and we are calculating what $100 will buy in 2008 in relation to 1990.

How can I find out if I've been getting richer?

Obviously, there are millions of items and services to calculate. The government did all that work for you creating a value called CPI, or consumer price index. They even provided a calculator on their BLS web-site. All you have to do is put in your wage/salary and years, and presto! You can see if you've been ripped off! Try it it's fun!

Go to In the first box type in your wage/pay when you started your job, and in the year box put in the year you started your job (or "base year"). In the next year

box choose 2008 and click "calculate". It will calculate the real value: this is what your pay should be now. If your pay is less than this

value, congratulations, you've been getting pay cuts and getting

poorer. If it is the same as you are getting paid now, good for you, you never got a real raise ever! If your pay is more than this value WOW you've been getting a raise!

Corporations and business have been seeing profit gains of 100, 500, even 1000% when the workers have been getting "pay raises" that are less

than the real rate of inflation, like 1 or 2% raise. This has been going on for at least 30 years, so people have been getting less and less

money without even knowing it.

Obviously, things need to be sold in order for the economy to keep going. So what do the "rich" and government tell the middle class and poor to do? Spend! But how can people spend money they don't have? Easy! Credit Cards, Mortgages and car loans! So this went on and on and people got paid less and less. When I was in college studying economics, I saw this trend and said to myself "Gee what happens if people get so poor they can't even pay the minimum balance? Or what if people stop buying

things because their credit cards are maxed out and people lose their jobs?" My answer: depression! How long would it take? I wondered. It's happening very, very slowly. I looked at the data and told my professor, "At this rate most people wouldn't notice it until around between 2007 and 2011".

When I ask people "Why do you have a mortgage? What happens if you can't pay the monthly payment?" They say "If that happens we just sell." "Really," I said, "What if everybody decided to do that all at once?" Well, I'll tell you what will happen - the housing market

will crash. Everyone involved will lose their homes. Banks won't get their money back and will fold. Isn't that what is going on? This

effect continues and soon many people will be impoverished. (By American standards of course)

How does oil affect the economy?

Oil is the economy. Everything you have, oil is involved: the price of the chair you are sitting on; the price of food you eat. Why? Simply, the machines that make the chairs and harvest the food use gas and oil. The trucks that bring this to the store and your home run on gas and oil. Without oil, your modern life doesn't exist, unless, of course,

the machines and trucks run on something other than gas and oil. When the price of oil goes up, the price of everything goes up. This is called "stag inflation". It happened once in the late 1970's. For

those who were around, you know what I'm talking about so get ready!

Why is the price of food going up?

The price of food is going up because the price of oil is going up. The price of oil is going up because of greed and because the world is running out. As the world runs out of oil, the oil companies decided to turn corn and wheat that people eat - especially the poor and middle class - into oil called Bio-fuel. This reduces the food supply and raises the price of food. In some 3rd world countries people can't afford food and have been rioting because of it.

Why can't the government help?

In the past, the way the government helped was by lowering and raising the interest rate that all interest rates are based on. In time when the economy was slowing down, the government would lower the interest rate and people would borrow more and spend more and speed up the economy. However, this would cause some inflation. When inflation would get out of control the government would raise the interest rate to slow down the economy. People would borrow less and spend less, and inflation would fall.

But this time, the government can't move the interest rate because of stag inflation. If they lower the interest rate to help the economy, inflation will go out of control. If they raise the interest rate, people will spend even less than they are, causing the economy to become worse. The final result is that the government can't do much at all here.

Raising and lowering taxes can also cause people to spend or not spend. However, the Iraq war and huge national debt are needing more and more tax dollars. When they do lower taxes it's always the wrong people and the wealthy, and they the save it not spend it. The wealthy also use complex schemes to avoid many taxes they should be paying causing more burden on the middle class. When the middle class get their meager tax breaks, they use it to pay off huge debts. Again, little help here.

So things are getting worse and worse. I could give national solutions, but I'm not the President or anyone in charge. My opinion about dealing with this personally is simple: GET OUT OF DEBT, STAY OUT OF DEBT. Pay off high interest rate credit cards first, then various loans and mortgages. Don't live beyond your means! If you can't afford it,

don't buy it! This includes cars and homes. Save your money.

In my opinion, saving in the form of tangible items, if you can - gold, silver, and property - would be best. If not, save your money in banks that deal with the least amount of mortgages. Please note: this is my opinion on how I would save my money. If you follow my opinion, you understand I'm not liable for drops in gold, silver or property prices or banks losing your money. However, paying off debt will save you hundreds if not thousands in interest payments, and this I know for sure. If anyone has further questions, forward them to Bob. Thanks for your time to read this article and good luck.

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AADB Today

Spotlight on the Deaf-Blind Community

*"Patience and Persistence"

By Maricar Marquez

What challenges me the most is dealing with the loss of my vision, which I have been experiencing over many years - ever since I was a youngster. It keeps decreasing, and I don't know when I will eventually become totally blind. This is the biggest fear of my life, but it does not mean that it will stop me from doing what I want to do. Often people think that deaf-blind people are different, or that they are limited because they cannot hear or see. Perhaps it's hard to imagine how people with progressive vision loss might cope with losing the beauty of the world. Yet, we have choices. I have made a choice.

I have Usher Syndrome, Type I. When I was growing up, I was able to see a person signing, but because of my vision loss it became difficult to converse with other people. I learned to use tactile communication because I did not want to misunderstand or frustrate others. I wanted to be like my peers who could learn how to drive, but I have never learned how to operate a car.

I despised the long, white cane because of its strong identification with blind people, and I was embarrassed by that thought. I now rely on the white cane because it has indeed helped me to travel independently.

I used to read regular print materials. However, my vision has changed and though large print is my primary reading method, I realized that reading Braille is essential because I can never know when I will not be able to read printed materials anymore. My first Braille book was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Reading engaging and fun novels in Braille is a great way of keeping up with tactile reading skills. Patience and persistence have helped me to accomplish my goals.

Patience and persistence have also helped me to succeed in athletics. I have jumped from a plane at 14,000 feet above the earth and enjoyed a parachute ride. I loved going rock climbing and spelunking the caves. I enjoyed the experience of competing in triathlons and my most memorable success was running the New York City Marathon. I went parasailing off the Florida coast, as well as jet skiing and water-tubing.

I like to stay active in new adventures with the help of SSPs (support service providers) who voluntarily serve their time working with me.

I've learned to be patient working with them because there are

different kinds of people with various communication skills and lifestyles. Not only do I enjoy such adventures but I like quiet times like going to Broadway plays in New York City. I enjoyed watching "Lion King" because I relied on interpreters who helped convey the visual information and actors' dialogues into my hands.

I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts and a Master of Science in Administration from Gallaudet University. I am happily married to a wonderful man, Don Horvath. I am a senior independent living instructor at the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) in Sands Point, NY. I have worked with deaf-blind teenagers and adults from different parts of the nation for over ten years at HKNC. I have taught them to enhance their independent living skills to remain as safe and self-sufficient as possible. They have, in turn, taught me to better understand about the lives of deaf-blind people and what challenges they face. I have served on the Board of Directors for AADB since the summer of 2007 where I continue to support the deaf-blind community. Our deaf-blind community is longing for the next conference, and I have been working with other board members to raise funds so that many deaf-blind citizens can attend the conference to meet with other people. Also, AADB's hope for a new generation will be to have young community members become involved and eventually be our future leaders.

People should not give up their future. It may not be fair to be deaf-blind, but we cannot wish it to go away and simply become a

"normal" person. Some are not yet blind but they should think realistically about what they want to do with their lives. There is always a way for us. My decisions are to live life to the fullest and continue to accept new challenges. I have decided to participate to my greatest potential in the world.

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Deaf-Blind Community Events

*More AADB Exhibits

AADB will be hitting the road once again in August. We will have an exhibit at the Foundation Fighting Blindness conference in Washington, D.C. on August 8-10. We also will also have an exhibit on August 13-15 at Pathways to Possibilities in Virginia Beach VA. This state-wide conference is a collaborative effort of the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Project for Children and Youth with Dual Sensory Impairments/Deaf-Blindness, and the Technical Assistance Center for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing at the Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition, we will hold an exhibit at the Southeast Regional Conference on Deafness in Atlanta, GA on October 23-26.


*Ohio Association of the Deaf-Blind Conference

The Ohio Association of the Deaf-Blind (OADB) will be having its fourth annual conference in Columbus, OH on September 19-21, 2008. Deadline for registering is August 15, 2008. For more information on registration questions, contact Lynn Jansen, Co-Chair, 513-242-4171 voice or via email at, or Charlee Major, Co-Chair, at The registration deadline is August 15, 2008.


*Person-Centered Approach to Habilitation

This seminar will take place on September 22 to 26, 2008 at the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults at their headquarters in Sands Point, NY. For more information, contact the National Training Team at, 516-944-8900, ext. 233 Voice, or 516-944-8637 TTY.

American Association of the Deaf-Blind ? 2008 All rights reserved. ----------

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The Consumer Vision Trivia Contest

Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in The Consumer Vision, July/August edition. Tennis star Venus Williams' sister is Serena Williams. Congratulations to the following winner: Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts

And now, here is your trivia question for the September/October edition of the Consumer Vision: On the television series, Eight is Enough, name the eight children. If you know the answer, please email us at or give our office a call at 508-994-4972.

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