THE CONSUMER VISION
Address: 359 Coggeshall St., New Bedford, MA 02746
Publisher: Bob Branco
Editor: Terri Winaught
Proofreader: Leonore Dvorkin
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Three asterisks *** are used to separate the title of each article from its author. In the same way, three asterisks *** are used between each article to make it easier to use your browser's search feature. In sections with several submissions, such as Special Notices, three asterisks are also used to separate the submissions.
1. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR *** by Terri Winaught (with an important extra note at the end)
3. GUIDE DOGS: EMOTION AND DEVOTION
*** by John Justice
5. WHEN IS CHARITY ACCEPTABLE? *** by James R. Campbell
6. WAYS YOU CAN ASSIST THE BLIND *** by Ernie Jones
7. SEVEN PEOPLE IN A WAITING ROOM *** by Jane Kronheim
8. LET'S TALK ABOUT SLEEP PARALYSIS *** by Casandra Xavier
9. TAKING A CIVIL SERVICE TEST *** by John Justice
10. SPECIAL NOTICES *** Submitted by readers and compiled by Bob Branco
11. RECIPE COLUMN *** Compiled by Karen Crowder
12. TIPS FOR VIPS (Because Visually Impaired People Are Important, Too) *** by Penny Fleckenstein
13. READERS' FORUM *** Submitted by readers and compiled by Bob Branco
14. PEDDLE YOUR WARES FOR FREE—OR ALMOST FREE *** by Bruce Atchison
15. TERROR ON A SUMMER DAY *** by John Justice
16. A CAR OF HER OWN (Part One) *** by Karen Crowder
17. MONASTERY, AN ACROSTIC *** by Terri Winaught
1. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Back in the 1970s, when Maurice White founded the nine-piece band Earth, Wind and Fire, they acquired that name because of the three parts of Maurice's astrological chart.
When I think of Earth, Wind and Fire, I think not only of the legendary band that was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, but also of the factors that influenced so much of August's weather.
Regarding wind, there were parts of the state of Indiana that experienced tornadoes with winds of 160 miles per hour. (I can only do my best to imagine what that must have been like for the residents who experienced it.) If any of you, as Consumer Vision readers, were in the path of that power and peril, I hope that you experienced neither injuries nor property damage. If you endured any difficulties, please know that you will remain in my prayers.
Moving on to fire, anyone watching the news on TV knows how devastating the fires were that covered so much of the West Coast in terrifying and persistent flames. Again, I can only do my best to imagine walls of flames jumping highways and horrifying homeowners. Whipping winds definitely played no small part in fueling those home-threatening flames.
With Washington State having been one of those areas, and with one of our contributors living in Walla Walla, my hope is that our Creator's divine, sacred hands kept him and his loved ones safe.
Before concluding with my usual tokens of appreciation, I feel compelled to comment on Patty Fletcher's article about serving as a Vista. My experience with national service was just as positive as what Patty so perfectly described. Being a Vista can also serve as a segue into successful employment—something which is extremely important to a community whose unemployment rate exceeds 70 percent. If any of you have also served in Vista, AmeriCorps KEYS, or AmeriCorps Health Corps, I'd love to read about your experiences. Did you have any difficulty being accepted? Were reasonable accommodations made under the Americans with Disabilities Act? If you had difficulties initially, did they get resolved, and was your experience then as positive as Patty's?
In conclusion, I want to thank publisher Bob Branco, proofreader Leonore Dvorkin, and all of our compelling, creative writers.
As Consumer Vision readers, please know how appreciated your feedback always is. To express opinions and make suggestions, feel free to email email@example.com, or phone 412-263-2022. A friend of mine who is always sending me articles he thinks will be of interest to readers is Ernie College, a longtime friend with whom I attended elementary and high school. I mention this not only to acknowledge a great friend, but also to point out that your feedback can be in the form of recommended articles.
Have a sensational September, and thanks for reading with me.
Terri Winaught, Editor
EXTRA: An important note from Bob Branco, Terri Winaught, and Leonore Dvorkin:
After much consultation, we three have agreed that we need to have a limit of 2,000 words for articles of any type that are submitted to Consumer Vision. This is mainly in the interest of somewhat reducing the length of the issues. Other publications have similar limits. Please see #19 below for tips on how to write articles that fall within this limit.
2. WANT TO HELP REDUCE POVERTY? STOP PENALIZING MARRIAGE, NEW REPORT SAYS
by Evan Smith, August 2, 2016
If you are in the middle class and receiving food stamps, Medicaid, or cash welfare, don't get married. Not if you want to keep your benefits, that is.
A new study by the American Enterprise Institute offers fresh insight on a glaring flaw in the nation's federal entitlement programs--a flaw that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been trying to fix for years. The AEI study highlights a "marriage penalty" that gives middle-class couples a financial incentive to avoid marriage in order to continue receiving government benefits.
"For several decades now, policymakers have created programs with little if any attention to the sometimes severe marriage penalties that they inadvertently impose," Ryan notes in "A Better Way," the House Republican caucus's new policy platform. "So instead of rewarding people trying to create a stable family, our safety net actually discourages them."
And here's the rub: numerous other studies have shown clear financial and socioeconomic advantages to marriage. These include higher lifelong income, lower rates of teenage pregnancy and child delinquency, and higher upward mobility for children in lower income families, just to name a few.
This has created a Catch-22 for low-income or middle-class couples thinking of marriage, according to Bradford Wilcox, one of the authors of the AEI report.
"Instead of rewarding people trying to create a stable family, our safety net actually discourages them."
Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, Wilcox explained how nearly half of all U.S. families receive some kind of means-tested government assistance, from Medicaid to food stamps. But for couples earning a combined income between $24,000 and $79,000 — which is to say, the average American family—these benefits end with marriage.
The disincentive has real-life consequences. Almost one third of all adult Americans report that they personally know someone who has not married for fear of losing government benefits, according to a 2014 study.
What we have, then, is a vicious cycle: Marriage rates have decreased due to couples' fears of losing benefits, which leads to slower economic growth among America's lower and middle classes, given that "the retreat from marriage is a major factor contributing to the economic inequality in the United States," according to the Washington Post. Slower economic growth leads to more reliance on government benefits, which leads to a further retreat from marriage…and on and on it goes.
This raises a simple question: Has the retreat from marriage been a major factor in the rise of America's welfare state?
"When you raise this kind of question among my progressive colleagues and the folks that I engage with on Twitter, you tend to get a fairly negative response oftentimes," Wilcox said. "But the problem with that kind of response, the idea that there's really no connection between welfare theoretically and how people approach child−bearing marriage, is that it doesn't actually comport with the data on this question."
Instead, the data confirms what Ryan and others have long understood.
It may not be what the young bachelors in their early twenties want to hear, but getting married is important. What we need now, according to Ryan and the authors of the study, is to stop penalizing Americans for doing so.
Evan Smith is a Staff Writer for Opportunity Lives.
You can follow him on Twitter @Evansmithreport.
3. GUIDE DOGS: EMOTION AND DEVOTION
by John Justice
There are some people who believe that dogs are not capable of making choices on an emotional or devotional basis. They believe that dogs make selections from much more direct, sensory input. The fact is that dogs of all kinds, especially those who are trained working dogs, do express a preference for the people or animals they'd rather be with. This is a proven fact. Dogs, if given the choice, will most definitely choose a particular person. Occasionally, we find an individual who seems to be a "dog magnet." He seems to draw dogs to him without really trying hard. Again, that's something dog trainers have known for years. One man can teach a dog something, and his animal will obey out of respect or ingrained obedience. But another trainer will achieve even better results with the same animal because the dog chooses to perform the task. Why? He or she likes the second man. We have often wondered what it is that makes one human a "dog magnet" while another person doesn't share that gift. It most certainly is not an ability or a learnable trait. The entire situation is based on several discernible factors.
1. Each person puts out a certain scent which may draw or discourage animals naturally.
2. Body language is very important to an animal. We all do certain things that the dogs interpret in either a positive or negative manner.
3. If there are two people in a home and one puts the dog through his paces while the other can be related to relaxation, play, and cuddling, most dogs will prefer the company of the easy person to the working human. "Any dog takes the easy road if he can."
4. Certain dogs prefer male or female humans.
5. If one of the humans in the house demonstrates weakness or illness, some dogs will be drawn to that person. The reaction can be compared to the response of a good herding dog to an injured member of his flock. He or she will devote much more attention to that injured animal, often neglecting the rest of the flock in the process.
6. A comfortable location, no matter which human occupies it, will always draw a dog. If, at the same time, the dog receives pets and kind words, so much the better. But, as anyone who owns dogs can tell you, it is often the bed, more than the occupant, which causes the dog to migrate to that area.
As modern humans, we spend inordinate amounts of time trying to erase our natural male or female tendencies. Some women just don't want to be treated like ladies. Certain men want to be considered "sensitive and understanding" to the extent that they almost act "female" while trying to play the part. But who created the definition of "lady" or "man"? The most wonderful thing about our civilization is that people don't have to live by a so-called stereotype. They can pretty much be what they want to be. Changing our mannerisms is something that we do consciously.
Dogs, on the other hand, respond to the real thing. They react directly according to input which reaches their instincts and senses, not their minds. Any training we give a dog is superimposed on the animal's basic canine makeup. When a dog is allowed to be free, he will often do things we don't necessarily approve of. But this isn't based on any thought-out plan; it's just natural for the animal. What we have to do, as the thinking part of the equation, is to anticipate the dog's instinctive reaction and move to avoid our canine friends stealing the cake from the counter or knocking a child down to get the ice cream.
Is dog training wrong? No. But it isn't natural for a dog to relieve itself only outside. If a dog sees some form of edible treat, it's natural for him to try for it. Dogs do adapt to these restrictions and live full and active lives. Thank God they do, or we'd all be in trouble. But never, ever forget that training of any kind is a veneer which covers any dog's hardwired set of natural reactions to stimuli.
Now, let's address the human/dog interaction. When we are matched with a dog, we gradually take control of the animal until he or she obeys us without question. That's what training is all about. The dogs learn early on that the harness means one set of reactions, while no harness is something entirely different. That is why the instructor places so much emphasis on removing the guide dog's harness before allowing him or her to park. If the dog gets the idea that it's all right to relieve himself while in harness, then why not do it while traveling along a sidewalk? After all, it's outside, right? We're not in the house, where parking is taboo.
All dogs are individual creatures. As a guide dog handler, you might be matched with a companion one day that you like and even respect but that you don't love. Loving a dog is a rare and priceless gift. Having that dog return your affection is even more incredible. A dog can learn to obey you without really loving you. Some never achieve that link that we all long for. Others seem to fall into the rhythm of life with their particular human and there is little strain or adjustment.
Dogs do have emotions. They show their true colors a lot more easily than we do. They live "closer to the floor," so to speak. Their reactions and interactions are based strictly on instinct, emotion, and natural stimulation. You can read any dog reasonably well by observing him or her over a period of time. Their untethered responses are the key to what kind of animal they are. As you all know, guide dogs are very special animals and are chosen very carefully from the beginning. But beneath that layer of training, each dog has a personality. How the dog works and plays is unique to him or her alone. But once the training is completed, we learn what kind of new guide we have been given. Since a dog is basically an entity who responds to physical, auditory, and olfactory messages, the environment into which he is released has a direct effect on how the dog matures. So when someone says that they make the dog what he is by loving him, that is essentially a true statement. If the owner shows the dog affection and kindness, he will eventually expect that treatment as a part of everyday life. The reverse is also true. If a dog is subjected to a more rigid and less friendly set of living conditions, he or she may, in time, change to match those circumstances. Each human handler can, to a great extent, mold his or her dog by gentle encouragement and praise.
But we can never expect any guide dog to behave exactly as one has done before. That is something we have all learned, at times the hard way. We must never forget that an incredible amount of careful selection and screening has been performed long before we meet our new dogs for the first time. For that reason, many schools tend to lay the blame for a failed team on the human element, because that is one part of the equation that the trainers can never completely anticipate. But even with the best of breeding and selection, things do go wrong. A dog/human match is an extremely complex set of checks and balances. If the human tends to be emotional, does the dog have the steadiness to absorb this kind of outburst without long-term damage? If the human part of the team stumbles or falls, will the dog be able to handle that kind of shock and still be a participating part of the team?
The environment in which the team works is a very important consideration when choosing a guide dog. Some animals will survive quite well in an urban setting, while others wouldn't be able to handle that kind of constant noise and activity for long periods of time. Conversely, a dog that is well adjusted to city life might not be able to deal with the open spaces and strange aromas of a country setting. Mistakes, although rare, are almost inevitable. But consider the number of successful dog teams compared to the failed attempts.
Do we put our own human emotions onto a dog's makeup when we try to explain his or her actions? Well, of course we do. But it isn't all interpretation. Because dogs have to interact with humans, they often act like humans in surprising ways. Treasure a guide dog. Your life may depend on it.
Personal email of John and Linda Justice: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: John Justice is author of two novels, one short and one long: It's Still Christmas (C 2015) and The Paddy Stories: Book One (C 2016). Both are in e-book and print formats from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online buying sites. The Paddy Stories will be continued in Book Two.
Summaries, text samples, and buying links for both books: http://www.dvorkin.com/johnjustice/
4. VOTER APATHY IN THE UNITED STATES
by Bob Branco (originally published in Word Matters, www.ernestdempsey.com)
It's happening everywhere. More and more people are staying home on Election Day. Our right to vote is either watered down or rejected, and this makes me very sad.
When I hear about these low voter turnouts, my initial reaction is that people don't have time to go to the polls because they are too busy. However, after much thought, I realize what the problem really is. We are tired of establishment politicians who make empty promises. When we don't see a trend toward improvement, we develop a lack of trust in politics to the point where it doesn't matter who runs for office.
Let's talk about modern culture. We have a presidential candidate who emerged because of frustration over the establishment. Donald Trump is popular because he is different. People are looking for satisfaction, whether Trump is a good presidential candidate or not. However, is this a good thing for the country?
If we believe Donald Trump is good presidential material, that's one thing. But if we vote for Trump simply because we are allowing him to use our emotions, that's quite another thing.
I am also concerned that public schools are trending away from teaching history and civics. It's at the point where students may be deprived of knowing how our country was formed. The more knowledge we have about the evolution of the United States and what our Founding Fathers expected, the more quality our vote has. It's bad enough that many people aren't voting, but it's even worse when people vote for very casual reasons. Someone once told me that the reason why she voted for a particular candidate was because he was bucktoothed. When did being bucktoothed help make America great? I'd like to know.
In my opinion, there is only one way to keep people voting. Candidates need to keep their promises. That way, there will be more trust in future candidates because the present legislators are setting a good example.
5. WHEN IS CHARITY ACCEPTABLE?
by James R. Campbell
Charity: benevolence or good will toward others less fortunate than ourselves.
Charity takes many forms, and it's most often associated with churches or groups who dedicate themselves to doing good for others. The Lions Club is one such group. They provide a wide range of services for the blind and other physically challenged individuals. Countless individuals have benefitted from their generosity over the decades.
The Lions Clubs were the brainchild of Melvin Jones, a Chicago businessman who believed that the members of his club should take their concern for those in need to the community. Since its birth in 1917, the Lions Club has provided many invaluable services to the communities they serve.
One of my best friends was in dire need of a Braille writer. She was 10 or 11 years old when a local Lions Club in Odessa bought her a Braille writer. It was supposed to be a big surprise. However, my friend's mom wouldn't let her have the Brailler. She said that was charity, and as such, it was unacceptable.
There are many blind persons who associate charity with pity. Unfortunately, this is often the case when people who don't know what we are capable of offer us a gift. This puts us in a bad position too often for the liking of many. A gift is one thing; the motive behind it is what matters. If a gift is given to a blind person out of pity or favoritism, then we as blind people have the right to question whether the gift is acceptable. On the other hand, if a gift is given freely without such notions, then it might be acceptable under certain circumstances.
I have a caveat when dealing with people who offer gifts to me. I always make an effort to give them something in return, as a matter of fair exchange. This maxim comes from the perception on my part that our society is turned the wrong way because of the values the younger generation has been raised with. Today's youth, for the most part, are self-absorbed and entitled; their parents give them anything they want. And it doesn't stop there. Many college sports teams do the same thing in an effort to recruit promising athletes. Rarely, if ever, are there examples of young people giving back. Stories like these do exist; we just don't hear enough of them. And that is a tragedy.
I had occasion to entertain a visitor last Friday. His name is Mike Bates. He is legally blind, having lost his sight eight years ago. I had spoken with Mike by phone several times before his visit. We had a nice visit last Friday. Mike brought me a stand-alone Internet radio that was given to me by the Recording Library of West Texas. I will be writing about this radio in a future article. Don't think for one moment that I intended to let Mike leave my house empty-handed. He got something in return for his gift. He wants to learn Braille and teach it to others, and he wants to learn to use screen readers. I had some information that I thought would help him along the way toward his goal. I was more than grateful for the radio, in that it allows me to listen to Internet radio without resorting to the computer. I did not buy my laptop just for Internet radio and YouTube. If I had, it would have been a waste of money.
Japanese educator and peace activist Josei Toda once admonished: "Remember what others have done for you more than you remember what you have done for others."
This is a lesson that I do not take lightly, and I don't believe that our young are being taught this lesson.
Lyndon Johnson's Great Society program was one of the biggest mistakes of his term as our president. Instead of giving the poor a hand up, they got a handout. Now they have come to expect charity from the government. True compassion entails that the poor should have been given a broom, rubber gloves, and trash bags. Now they expect the government to pay for their children, substance abuse, and laziness. And yet we wonder why the Social Security fund is going broke. And it is far worse now than it ever was.
There was a time when the blind were given charity out of pity. We were never expected to do anything but occupy our rockers and state institutions, never to be allowed to venture out in society. We were never meant to be seen, and less heard, according to the pundits of the past. No longer is this true to the extent that it once was. We still have people who give us special favors out of pity, but we must do our part to give as well. Only then is it appropriate to accept a gift from someone else.
As always, thanks for your time.
With Loving Kindness,
James R. Campbell
6. WAYS YOU CAN ASSIST THE BLIND
by Ernie Jones
Have you wondered how best to assist a blind person? Following is a list of comments I received when I asked other blind people their thoughts on how sighted people can best assist them.
John: I "love" the sighted person who grabs your arm and steers you like a forklift.
Frances: When someone tries to take my hand to help me walk down a corridor or through a medical building, I politely say, "Let me take your elbow, instead."
Debby: It is not helpful to grab my dog's harness and tell me that something is "over there." Nor should they give commands to my dog. Just give me directions. It is fine to ask me if I need help. I can always politely refuse if I'm doing okay.
Oh, one more not-so-helpful thing: Sometimes at street crossings, drivers will yell, "It's okay to go," and then they get annoyed if you don't. But what if another car is passing and the car's idling engine muffles the sound? I could walk right in front of another vehicle.
Sarah: It is never helpful to grab a blind person's cane to guide. While using the sighted guide technique, the guide doesn't need to count the steps as you climb up or down the stairs. When giving directions, don't just point, but give specific directions.
Mike: When I still had some vision, I was encouraged to begin carrying a cane. I could see well enough to recognize the number of the bus I would need to take, but people apparently didn't believe it. They were constantly trying to put me on buses I didn't want to go on until I gave up carrying the cane for that reason.
Pat: People have attempted to drag me across streets I didn't want to cross. I stood at the curb of a four-way intersection. A young lad came up, grabbed the end of my long white cane and literally dragged me across the street.
He said, "There you are, ma'am, safely on this side."
I thanked the lad but then added, "But I was waiting for that bus," pointing at the bus on the other side of the street as it pulled away.
Well meaning, but he forgot to ask if I needed help.
Sharon: Thom was going to try on a suit. This salesperson grabbed me by the shoulders, pushed me into a chair, and then marveled at the fact that I could sit alone.
Virginia: I did a presentation on how not to help a blind person. I told my audience not to pet the dog, not to grab or drag the person, and please don't yell at us. We can't see, but we can hear.
Tim: It was not helpful when someone grabbed the tip of my cane and lifted it up to guide me in a way he thought I should be going.
Dan: I am not helped by someone taking my finger and putting it on a place where the person wanted to guide, instead of giving me verbal directions.
Linda: It is never helpful to say "over here," "over there," or "right here" when I ask where someone or something is. I can't see where you are pointing.
Lauren: Don't grab a blind person's arm and pull him along or grab his dog's harness or call the dog's name. The best thing to do is ask if you can help.
Lee: I despise someone grabbing me, or in one case someone taking the tip of my cane, and saying, "Just follow me," when they have no idea where I want to go.
Gene: I don't like people to assume that if I am walking with a cane or guide dog, when I am coming up to a crosswalk, they need to grab my arm and pull me across the street. They can ask me if I need help.
Matt: Please don't grab a blind person's hand, arm, or shoulder and say, "Bless you," or an equivalent phrase. This startles and invades body space. If you wish to confer such good thoughts, speak without touching.
Arthur: "The pea escaped your fork," or" You left a little food on your plate," are comments that make it clear the sighted person is watching every move the blind person makes while eating. This creates embarrassment and resentment.
Bob: If dining with a blind person in a restaurant, feel free to describe any satellite dish. When eating with friends, I ordered a burrito in a Mexican restaurant, but I didn't know about the satellite dishes until dinner was over and the server asked if I wanted a box for my rice, beans, and plantains--none of which had been in the item description on the menu.
Tara: Once, just as I brought my leg up to the first step of a bus, a woman who stood behind me, without a word, grabbed me under my arms and lifted me up the steps.
Dot: I like people telling me who they are when they say "Hi" to me. When the dog and I are out, I prefer that someone tell me there is a tree near me or tables outside, not tell me which way the dog should go to avoid the obstacles. Too many sighted people want to do the dog's work. Also, don't assume I want to take the elevator with the dog. Sometimes an escalator is the more direct route to one's destination.
Dave: Another thing that frustrates me is when they offer to help you, give you their arm, but then take you in a wrong direction and think they've done their good deed for the day. You stand stranded, wondering where you really are. That's when I am very thankful for the GPS.
Judy: Helpful folks are those who ask, "How can I best assist you?"
Have a great day.
Author of Onesimus, the Runaway Slave
Encouraging the Blind
Greater love hath no man than this.
7. SEVEN PEOPLE IN A WAITING ROOM
by Jane Kronheim
So I was getting four new tires on my car, plus wheel alignment. Those of you who drive and hang around waiting rooms for the job to finish know what I mean.
After giving the dealer my keys, I headed for the waiting room. There were six other people there when I arrived. I noticed that four of them never looked up, transfixed by their tablets. One man seemed to just sit there staring forward with a blank expression on his face. And one guy was actually reading a magazine.
After getting some coffee, I decided to grab a Sunday paper that the business was generous enough to buy for us to possibly read, and sat down for what appeared to be eons of waiting time. So I hunkered down to read the headlines, the editorials, the opinion pieces, a crossword puzzle, and various For Rent or For Sale ads. All this time, I would glance up occasionally to see how the other people were doing. They were still staring down at their screens and tablets. The young woman who sat near me was using her thumbs to not only tap on various areas of the screen, but I saw her doing mathematical transactions while flicking her remaining fingers as if counting up or down on her own digits. Still no one talking, not a one.
Gradually various people's names were called as their car jobs were finished. Another guy entered with a breakfast sandwich. After gobbling that down, he, too, got out his iPhone or iPad and began the rather boring activity of staring down at his device.
After about an hour, with not one person talking, I watched as a young man began pacing around with his iPhone, having a conversation with a friend, perhaps; or maybe he was really talking to his imaginary self. Being the nosy person that I am, I tried to listen in as he carried on his conversation, wandering around in what appeared to be a circle while talking with the unknown person at the other end of the digital line. The young man's voice was unclear and I could barely make out his utterances. He acted as if I wasn't there. He acted as if the room was not there, perhaps lingering in some parallel universe.
This is the picture of our modern, digital times; i.e., no one and nothing exists unless in the virtual world. There once was a time when I enjoyed taking up a conversation with a stranger in a waiting room. It could be at a doctor's office, at the dentist's, or just waiting in line at the bank. No one talks anymore. Everyone stares. No more bantering at coffee houses or bagel nooks. What a boring world we now live in. Am I getting too old, or am I just not hip enough for the tablet set? I recall a time not too long ago when people were engaging in all sorts of animated conversations, even between people who were total strangers, just hanging out at a table near each other. There were political debates, spontaneous sharing of poetry or phrases from books or writing that people were interested in. Even gossip. You used to hear people talk about their neighbor's barbeque and what delicious recipes were prepared for the 4th of July event. Now, much to my dismay and displeasure, people are so wrapped up in the "i" devices that the person next to them no longer exists.
Where are we headed? And what will happen when people get so absorbed by their screen time that eventually they will dissolve and evaporate and all that will be left is a foggy image of the person on someone else's screen?
Jane Kronheim has been an educator for the blind and visually impaired for over 30 years. She is originally from Cleveland, Ohio and moved to New England in 1979, where she assisted Perkins School for the Blind in the development of their first preschool and Infant-Toddler program. She is also an artist and inventor and the author of short stories and poetry. Jane has developed numerous approaches for literacy and multisensory educational materials for young children. For the past 20 years, she has been writing a column called "A Learning Experience" for The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, which has wide circulation throughout southern New Hampshire. Within the past seven years, Jane has started an audio, recording, and sound editing business called Voices of Experience LLC. You can reach Jane at email@example.com.
8. LET'S TALK ABOUT SLEEP PARALYSIS
by Casandra Xavier
All of us, or at least many of us, have heard of "old hag syndrome" from the olden days, known as sleep paralysis in our current time. A lot of us have experienced the sensation of being unable to move or talk during sleep or what was supposed to be a cat nap. The cat nap and/or sleep becomes a fear-filled moment you've learned to dread any time you lie down for a while. The scary sensation after the attack of old hag syndrome lingers with you after prying yourself out of a numbing cycle.
I must say that I am not a novice to sleep paralysis, and I will admit that it is the scariest feeling ever while it happens. The first time I had this happen was when I was seven years old, living in Mattapan, Massachusetts. I was in a bedroom in the morning, jumping up and down on a bed, when I decided to crash and lie down for a few minutes. I then realized that I was not able to move for a few minutes and I was also unable to speak! I was terrified to be able to hear my sibling running around and being unable to ask him/her to move me so that I could get off the bed. I was lying on my back when this sudden attack of sleep paralysis happened. I was hearing weird whisper chatters in the middle of the conversations my sisters and brothers had. The chatters got louder and the fearful feeling grew larger than ever. After it reached a certain peak, the cycle broke and I felt even more tired than I was before it happened. The longest duration of a sleep paralysis attack is said to be no longer than three miserable minutes.
There was no way that I would keep lying down in that exact same spot for a repeat of that scary encounter. No way! I sprang off that bed and ran to my mother, telling her what had happened to me. Seeing how she had seven other kids to tend to, she might not have understood what was going on with me. She told me to sit in the living room with my other siblings until I felt better and the feeling from the nightmare left.
As an adult, I now know that sleep paralysis is associated with the brain being caught between sleep stages, which triggers the sensation of fear and other emotions. During college, I successfully executed some research about "old hag syndrome," and this research turned out to be a very familiar situation among my peers, as well. I learned that there were other people in the same room who had experienced the exact same thing. I was glad to know that I was not the only person fighting off the old hag.
During the years of having this happen, I began noticing a pattern of when these nightly nightmares occur. The attacks come along while I am extremely fatigued and finally able to get a few undisturbed hours of sleep. In the midst of sleeping for a few hours, the attacks just might happen.
HOW TO BREAK THE CYCLE OF SLEEP PARALYSIS
This may seem crazy, but I will continue on with this anyway.
While in the moment of the attack, as you lie there motionless and helpless, your breathing becomes restricted by something unseen or unknown. It is best to try and take as many very deep breaths as possible to disrupt the full episode. If you are successful at that, you'll awaken extremely tired; you'll feel like you've moved multiple mountains in one night. After the cycle is broken, do not remain awake, but try to relax yourself if you can and go back to sleep. If you stay awake after this encounter, you'll increase the risk of the same attack another night or the same moment you sleep. I know this sounds insane, but anyone else who has experienced this can tell you; a victim of old hag syndrome can explain how much of an arduous task it is. I say "something" instead of "someone" for a reason: There is no one there physically causing you to have breathing problems during the sleep paralysis attack. There are some scientific facts to back this up. Sleep paralysis occurs when the brain and body aren't quite on the same page when it comes to sleep. During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, dreaming is frequent, but the body's muscles are relaxed to the point of paralysis, perhaps to keep people from acting out their dreams. During the dreaming stages, people tend to believe there is someone coming after them.
A lot of people have averted their ears to this subject because it seems far out, but it's not. Discussing common situations directly is simply being bold and upfront about a subject that a lot of people do not understand.
HOW TO DETECT AN ATTACK OF SLEEP PARALYSIS
A lot of us have the ability to notice when our bodies are extremely tired or if it's simply time to go to bed. Well, in this case, the detection of an attack is simple. When you first lie down, you wouldn't normally feel a sudden wave of extreme fatigue, and that is where the start of sleep paralysis comes in. Sometimes, a lot of us get snatched up by the inability to move before we realize, and some of us feel very heavy. Try to move as much as possible to shake it off, get up for a few minutes or become consumed almost instantly.
I want to know some of your experiences with this nightmare that happens while you're awake. Are you afraid to discuss it with people? Are you afraid of being judged because you talked about sleep paralysis?
9. TAKING A PENNSYLVANIA STATE CIVIL SERVICE EXAM
by John Justice
Recently, it was suggested that I take a state civil service exam as a part of finding new employment. When I called to set this up, I was informed that the process was completely accessible. When I reported at the scheduled time, what I found was alarming, to say the least.
The position I was working toward was Clerk Typist, 1 and 2. Part of the test involved typing from source material. The applicant listens to recorded information and duplicates it by typing the same information into the system with a completion rate, after deductions for errors, of not less than 40 words per minute. I didn't think that this would be a problem, since the last typing test I took at work gave me a completion rate of 81 words per minute. I took that test on a fully automated computer site at FedEx.
The system at Civil Service was so antiquated that I couldn't use JAWS or any other screen reader to take the test. I was supposed to take this part of the exam without actually being able to hear what I was typing. If I took the test in this manner, I would be flying blind! On the other hand, a sighted applicant could see the words being typed on a screen. This was, in my opinion, an unfair situation.
The source material was stored on cassette tapes which had been produced in the ‘70s. By this time, the recordings were so badly distorted that I couldn't fully understand some of the words being spoken. Was the reader saying "document" or "documents"? Was she saying "effected" or "effect"?
The test was set up in such a way that no one who couldn't achieve the 40 word per minute minimum was permitted to take the rest of the test. I did my best, but the highest score I could attain was 37 words per minute. That wasn't bad, considering the deplorable conditions I was expected to work under, but it just wasn't good enough.
The second part of the test was question and answer. That section was supported by JAWS. But even then, my responses were to be recorded on an old grid-style answer sheet. The proctor would black out a corresponding square on the grid which represented my chosen answer. I could read the questions and multiple choice responses with JAWS, but again, the system on which the test was set up was inaccessible. I wouldn't be able to enter my own responses with a screen reader. I went downstairs and waited for two hours for my Paratransit ride to pick me up.
I learned that the typing test had been set up in the ‘50s and was based on the days when applicants used typewriters. Many people from those days could type accurately at amazing rates. Of course, they could see what was being typed and make any necessary corrections. Since I couldn't see the screen and couldn't use a screen reader, the conditions were actually putting me at a distinct disadvantage because of my blindness.
I contacted the state Civil Service office in Harrisburg, describing what had happened and informing the representatives that the test was in no way accessible to those with visual impairments. In a professional manner, I pointed out that the current arrangements did not meet either Federal or state equal access guidelines. I made several suggestions involving digitizing the source material and using an open Word document that would allow me to use a screen reader and could be corrected at a later time. Like many other government agencies, I expected Civil Service to move like dinosaurs—slowly, if at all.
However, my messages and suggestions did yield relatively fast results. The source material was recorded in a digital format and it was agreed that I could type in a standard Microsoft Word document. I was rescheduled for a test under the new conditions. I was successful in completing the typing test and providing responses to the question-and-answer section of the exam. I am now registered as a candidate for Civil Service employment. However, there are at least 81 other applicants with higher scores than mine. Although some provision is made for those who are over 60 years of age or working with a disability, the likelihood of an immediate contact is low.
My perseverance did have some permanent effect on how these tests are administered. Any future visually impaired applicant can now take these examinations with a reasonable expectation of fair treatment and equal access. I did suggest that the question and answer section of the exam be automated so that a future applicant could take the entire test without involving another party. I don't know when or if those changes will be made.
Anyone who is considering taking a civil service test in his or her own state may run into similar difficulties. There is, unfortunately, a wide range of interpretation as to what is or is not accessible. However, forewarned is forearmed. Good luck.
10. SPECIAL NOTICES
Gently used Hims Voice Sense for sale. This includes:
2 USB cables
Voice Sense command Summary (Braille)
I will sell this device for $600, which includes shipping within the United States. (Note: Shipping cost may need to be added for both Alaska and Hawaii.) I accept personal checks and money orders. Contact me if you are interested in a layaway plan.
Contact Barbara Sheinbein
Telephone 314-965-8006 (Central time)
VOICES OF XPERIENCE
Access technology for people who are blind or visually impaired is traditionally expensive. We all know it and want something better and more affordable.
Voices of Xperience is now offering a wide variety of restored and ready-for-sale Braille and talking devices. These include Braille and Speaks, Type and Speaks, which are early model talking note takers, PacMates, Braille Senses, Voice Notes and Talking Dictionaries. All items are cleaned, with battery packs and backup memory batteries replaced, new AC adapter chargers and, where possible, manuals on CD. Prices are generally 70 to 80 percent below the original retail price. For details call Roger Cicchese: 603-827-3859 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nonfiction by Christine McDonald (C 2013)
Gritty and gripping, this is the story of the author's journey from almost two decades of prostitution, addiction, and prison to a life of blindness, motherhood, and happiness. She has survived brutality and discrimination with resilience and optimism.
Review quotes: "Horrifying, heartbreaking, informative, and inspiring." "A riveting memoir." "An eye-opening view of life on the streets and beyond." "A must-read."
In e-book and print from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online sellers, with dozens of 5-star reviews on Amazon.
Website, with details and buying links: www.crypurple.com
Alternate website: http://www.dvorkin.com/cmcdonald/
Christine's second book will be released in the fall of 2016.
11. RECIPE COLUMN
by Karen Crowder
The beginning of September brings summer's last weeks, with Labor Day and weekend bazaars and festivals. Interspersed with summer heat are still-open lakes, pools and beaches. Ice cream and roadside stands are also open.
Cities and towns start bustling with school and college activities.
With the beginning of another academic year, my column of recipes concentrates on breakfast, lunch, and supper recipes that are easy to prepare.
a. Quick Breakfast Sandwiches
b. Cheese, Mayonnaise and Lettuce Sandwich
c. Fast Beef Stroganoff
d. Easy Chocolate Pudding
a. Quick Breakfast Sandwiches
Two English muffins
Four slices American or cheddar cheese
Two large eggs
One teaspoon butter or tub margarine
In toaster or toaster oven, toast English muffins for two minutes. In microwave, rub two dessert or custard cups with butter or margarine. Poke yolks and microwave each egg for 30 seconds.
Put one slice of cheese on one-half toasted English muffin. Place egg on top of cheese. Top with other slice of cheese and toasted half of English muffin. Microwave each sandwich for 10 seconds (this will melt the cheese slices). Serve on plates, accompanied with fruit, coffee, tea, or milk. You can add a slice of cooked bacon or ham to your sandwich before microwaving it.
b. Cheese, Mayonnaise, Tomato, and Lettuce Sandwich
When I was attending UMass Boston, I often bought this sandwich from the student cafeteria. It was inexpensive and nutritious, making a quick, delicious lunch.
Cain's or other brand of mayonnaise
Four slices American or cheddar cheese
Romaine or Boston lettuce leaves
Slices of tomato
Two hamburger or bulky rolls.
Spread mayonnaise on rolls. Put one slice of cheese on each half of rolls. Top cheese with lettuce leaves and add tomato slices. Serve with beverage and fruit.
c. Fast Beef Stroganoff
I tried this for supper the first year of my marriage, and it became an instant hit with my family. You can prepare this dish in one hour. It is a delicious supper on a cool September evening.
One pound 80% lean ground beef
Two to four cloves garlic
One small onion
One four-ounce can mushrooms
One can mushroom soup
Two tablespoons flour
Dashes of Worcestershire sauce, catsup, steak sauce, and soy sauce
Pinches of allspice, salt. and garlic powder
Four tablespoons margarine or butter
One and a half cups sour cream
One bag Success rice.
In a large skillet, sauté cut and peeled cloves of garlic and onion in four tablespoons butter or margarine.
After five minutes, add ground beef and stir, blending meat/vegetable mixture for two minutes. Let it cook for 10 minutes on low heat.
Add mushroom soup, mushrooms with liquid, flour, condiments, and spices.
Stir mixture, allowing it to cook for 20 minutes on low/medium heat.
Add sour cream, blending it in. Simmer stroganoff until ready to serve.
While it is simmering, prepare Success rice. Fill a three-quart saucepan half full with water. Let it come almost to a boil. Put one bag of Success rice in the water, letting it cook for 11 minutes. With oven mitts, pick up the saucepan, draining the water. After cutting open the bag of rice, put hot rice in a glass casserole dish. Top it with a little margarine or butter. Serve rice in bowls, topped with delicious hamburger stroganoff. If you are serving four to six people, double the recipe.
d. Fast Chocolate Pudding
One of my favorite desserts has always been a cold, creamy chocolate pudding. However, I have often found that today's instant puddings don't emphasize enough chocolate flavor. I changed this, adding unsweetened cocoa and chocolate chips. Everyone I have served this to likes it.
One package instant chocolate pudding
One and three fourth cups whole milk
One tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
One fourth to one half cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.
In mixing bowl, stir pudding and cocoa for 30 seconds. Add milk and stir with a wire whisk for two minutes, until pudding begins to thicken. Finish stirring pudding with a plastic or metal spoon for one minute. Add chocolate chips and stir them in for one minute. Refrigerate mixture for one-half to one hour. Serve as a light dessert.
I hope all readers have enjoyed reading my September recipe column. I hope it evokes nostalgic memories of late summer and early school days.
12. TIPS FOR VIPS (Because Visually Impaired People Are Important, Too)
by Penny Fleckenstein, who blogs at: http://notyouraveragesinglemom.com
It's been a hot, hot summer. There are days I've felt like staying indoors to take advantage of my comfortable air-conditioned home.
The three air-conditioners I bought this summer were surprisingly less expensive, with more of a variety at Home Depot than at my usual place, which is Sam's Club. At Sam's, I pay for a premium membership, which gives me 5% back on all my purchases. It took me a while to realize I had done the purchase of my air-conditioners the wrong way. I should have bought Home Depot gift cards from the Giant Eagle, so I could have earned fuel perks. For every 50 points in fuel perks, I trade them in for a $5 off coupon at the Giant Eagle. Whoops.
When the sun comes down to scorch me, and the heat from the pavement hits my face, I feel the urge to stay indoors with my guide dog, Bryanna. I feel bad for her having to wear her black coat everywhere. Last week, we visited one of Pittsburgh's free spray parks. Although the sign clearly said, "No dogs allowed in the spray park," my friend Beth placed Bryanna and me on a bench right next to it. While the children played in the water, the sprinkler passed by, making it rain on us. How relieved and happy she felt! As we gathered the kids to leave, we stood on a black playground mat which burned her feet. Whoops.
Later that afternoon, I went to the dentist for my regular teeth cleaning. For over a month, I'd been experiencing ear pain and pain on the right side of my face. I had been told by my substitute doctor (mine was on vacation) to ask the dentist about TMJ. I had visited the urgent care in my town with no advice other than to "take 600 mg of Ibuprofen and follow up with your doctor within two days." The lady doctor at urgent care told me that my primary care doctor should have planned slots for emergency visits. It took plenty of persistence on my part to convince the receptionist to give me an appointment when Monday came. I had to go to a different office and they only had one opening. The next one wasn't for two days, or I could wait for over a month till mine got back from vacation.
As Dr. Phil says in his book Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters: "But it does mean your problems need to matter to you. If they don't matter to you, they won't matter to anybody who can really change them." Don't feel as if you should minimize your problems or apologize for them. Our world has for too long conditioned us not to make waves. We don't want to make a scene or disrupt the flow of things. As a result, we settle quietly much too often. If a problem is important to you, then that's enough; that qualifies it as worthy. It's important, because you are important."
I needed to see a doctor. I was only getting pain relief when I took 800 mg of Ibuprofen. I could also feel a sinus infection. That urgent care doctor was convinced she was not going to give me anything. The substitute doctor agreed with me. She prescribed me a muscle relaxant (which I ended up not taking because she scared me by saying I must use my CPAP, or I could stop breathing) and a 21-day course of antibiotics.
My sinus infection is a lot better now, thank you very much, but here I was at the dentist with pain on the right side of my face due to TMJ. They did numerous X-rays, cleaned my teeth, which required an open mouth, and talked about extracting teeth. No mention of what I could do about TMJ, although I had pointed it out a few times. The dentist said to come back in two weeks for a reevaluation. REALLY?
I took the bus home with the thunder rumbling and just a few sprinkles till I got in the door. I felt dejected. Only the substitute doctor seemed to be on my side. She said the dentist would help me with my TMJ. Where was the help? I wondered.
I felt infuriated and exhausted. It had been a long day, with a visit to Phipps Conservatory, our botanical gardens, and then the spray park. I collapsed on my bed. I automatically proceeded to an extended stretching session. In that stretching session, I opened my mouth wide and gave into an enormous yawn. Before I knew it, my jaw popped and went into place. Who knew it was so easy! Whoops.
Other exciting news in our household is that my son, Isaac, will be attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He's 19 years old and is not overly concerned about things that cause me great anxiety, such as travel plans. We discussed having his youth pastor drive him or taking Greyhound. With the trip only a week away, I told him that before buying his Greyhound ticket, we should check out the price to fly on Southwest Airlines. We were totally shocked when we found a midweek fare of $38 one way. For that price, Zachary and I are going to fly to Chicago with him and fly back the same day. Each person is allowed two checked bags for free.
We'll bring everything that Isaac will need from August to December. Seeing his dorm room and meeting some of the people that will be in his life, having lunch and dinner with him, and helping him settle in will give this mom peace of mind. Totally worth a lot more than $38 one way!
We have purchased his bedbug cover from http://www.achooallergy.com. I wanted to order it earlier, but I couldn't reach my daughter. The bedbug cover cost me $64, plus $22 for two-day air shipping. She told me it was the best one, because it is breathable, unlike the ones sold on Amazon.com. I'm glad I waited for her, because I always want to buy a high quality product. It would have been so easy to buy from the place we're used to because of our Amazon Prime membership.
With the start of school, I'm sure there will be more surprises.
May your children and grandchildren, and possibly great-grandchildren, experience a wonderful school year and learn a lot.
I would love to hear about your own "whoops" moments and what you've learned from them. Please email me at: email@example.com I'm looking forward to your correspondence.
13. READERS' FORUM
ABC and CBS newscasters have been announcing regularly that Uber will be testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. Although no specific start date has been mentioned, this trial is expected to begin in the next couple of weeks.
Although this seems like a technological move forward, some people are questioning the safety of driverless cars, citing as an example a man who was killed when a Google driverless car was involved in an accident.
Especially since advancements in driverless technologies have the potential to enhance independent mobility for persons who are blind or have low vision, what do you think about the safety and future use of driverless cars? Would you ever ride in a driverless car, with its many sensors and onboard computer system? Would you be a passenger in a driverless car only if a person was there to take over if something went wrong? (In the upcoming Uber trial, a driver will be there to take over should something go wrong.)
The cars Uber will be using in the upcoming pilot are Ford Fusions.
To read the most recent article I received about Uber and self-driving cars, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Given that I read articles about self-driving cars with great interest, I was of course sorry to learn of that one death. However, here are some statistics to put it into perspective. Every year in the U.S., there are 1.3 million traffic deaths. That's 3,287 every day. As many as 50 million more people are injured or disabled every year. I've read in numerous places that some 90% of car accidents are caused by human error. One of the most important predictions regarding self-driving cars is that they will greatly improve traffic safety and greatly reduce the number of accidents and traffic deaths. It now appears that such cars will become quite common in the next few years, as so many major companies are working hard on the technology. These cars will revolutionize transportation for the blind and disabled, the elderly, and anyone who is simply a timid or not very skilled driver. As a person in that last category who is also no longer young, I say, bring them on! I can hardly wait.
Hello, Bob and Consumer Vision Team,
My comment is directed at John Justice's article entitled "Is there an advantage?" That discussed assumptions regarding living with blindness as a congenitally blind person or as one who lost sight after having started life as a sighted person.
I find this article very compelling, as I have most often asked myself the same question. I lost sight from being fully sighted at age 20 and then in 1983 all went suddenly totally dark. I had a two-month-old child, my firstborn, just married seven months before, driver's license and all the goodies.
So at that time, when I spoke to my wife, I imagined her face as I saw it last; my mother's as a 48-year-old, and the traffic on the road as I remember it, vehicle models as those ranging from 1970−1983, as would have been normal then. I lived in a part of Ontario, Canada I was familiar with, and lived in a small apartment.
Well, then things started changing for me. More children were born, and they grew. My parents aged, as would my wife. I bought a house in a town I'd never seen before, then sold it four years later and bought a farm. The kids moved out after growing up, and before I knew it, 33 years had passed, and here I am in a country (Namibia) where I honestly had never done any research as a sighted person, using photos, etc.
So now, I am remarried, my wife stops in her tracks in a parking lot and exclaims her rare find—a 1983 Toyota pickup truck. She insists I come over and "see" it for myself and so gets permission from its owner. For her, it's such a novel discovery, those little trucks with the 1.6L 4-speed transmission and their resemblance to the old Datsuns and Mazdas of the time.
But she forgot, this vehicle would have been brand new when I last could see. So, I realized, all these years I've been imagining the vehicles on the road whizzing past us, just as I remember seeing them back 33 years ago. For me, the cars still look like that, my mother still looks 48 despite being 81 now, my children's faces...I can't say. I could feel them when they were small babies, when kissing their cheeks good night, but I can't say I really know what they look like with certainty now. When I dream of them, they turn to me, but just when I go to look at their faces, then I awaken.
So, my point is—for me, it seems that whatever advantage of having been in the sighted world I had in the form of using my memory as a reference seems to be dwindling. Does my having seen perfectly 33 years ago perhaps lock me in the past in its own way?
I believe, on John's second point, that my parents might have sheltered me had I been born blind. However, perhaps that's unfair to say, as both Mom and Dad had the altruistic agenda to ensure that their children develop their own strong wings by age 18 and be able to fend for themselves. Also, I might well have been sent to a forward-thinking school for the visually impaired for my own benefit.
In any case, what I saw 33 years ago I can't say is really helping me all that much now. I have had to reform my perspective of the world, and with each year that passes, I feel I share more with those who were born blind.
Hello, Bob and Consumer Vision team!
I'd love to share a couple of comments on the articles, the first being on the "Evolution of the Schools for the Blind," and also on James Campbell's article referring to the challenges of touchpad technology.
Evolution of the Schools for the Blind
I lost my sight in 1983, as a 20 year old, just when the transitions of how blind people should be schooled began to take place in full force. At the time, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind was a federally funded and administered agency offering full offices in all towns with a population over 20,000; each was equipped with mobility and life training staff, as well as a full time employment placement officer. The employment officer liaised with local employers and secured work positions for blind people, which included some very decent paying full-time jobs meant to allow a blind worker to support a family in a typical middle class lifestyle. Employment positions such as industrial manufacturing, small engine, marine, and automobile mechanics, and others typically not seen recently held by blind people were available, and the people who worked here received good benefits, such as $12/hour, translating to about $30/hour by today's monetary value standards. The CNIB itself held a policy of being represented by at least 60% blind people within its staff and administration.
Then, in the early 1990s, the agency was privatized. Local offices closed; others were open only one day a week, down from five days.
Staffing positions were axed, such as sighted drivers for blind employees, forcing the hiring of the original work positions formerly held by blind workers to be held now by sighted people able to drive themselves to the worksite. Most shockingly, the employment placement officer position was discontinued.
Why did this happen? I looked into the problem closely and met with Mr. Edward Gomez, a senior employee of CNIB in Ottawa. He indicated that originally, the CNIB had been founded by the Federal government to provide services to young blinded war veterans, such as from WW I and II, who came back from the battlefield as young men and women, in need of real solutions to continue a near-normal lifestyle. Additionally, eye ailments including cataracts to the cornea and lens, once considered incurable, now could be cured with minimally invasive day surgery. This evolution of events now changed the role of the CNIB, as the majority of people living with blindness were either retired from the workforce or had multiple disabilities. Was this good for me, a then 30-year old with eight children to support? Not at all! However, as the majority rules in a democratic environment, even with such a democracy on a micro level within the CNIB, I was alone in coming up with a solution for my rare situation.
Bob, when you mentioned that the idea of running a chainsaw may have once been part of your training at the traditional school for the blind, I just had to smile. In 1995, having already used the chainsaw previously to cut my own family's wood for heating at our farm in Canada, I became increasingly aware of passers-by asking if I had wood for sale. I noticed the shortage of this product in our community and decided to order two massive double-truckloads of logs from a logging company, figuring I'd cut and split the logs and sell the processed wood for twice the price I bought the logs for. The plan worked. Within three years, my annual customer base required over 400 pickup truckloads of firewood, and through the use of large commercial chainsaws and a Honda 2-way hydraulic woodsplitter, I had a full time job for 19 years, allowing me to offer a good living to my children and save money for this Namibia school project I am involved in now. Most importantly, I felt that I was making a positive difference to the mainstream community through my services. The job had its risks, no doubt, with the worst of it being the 15 foot high piles of 22-inch diameter, 16 foot long hardwood logs I had to manage not to get hit by as they crashed down. I had a method, and I would follow every detail of it each time I went to the worksite. It was failsafe, provided I did not cut corners.
I must say that I feel saddened by the evolution of the blind schools, should that involve openly advocating sheltering and the denial of exciting work opportunities for blind people, as that certainly constitutes a step in the wrong direction. Indeed, the good intentions are to keep blind people safe, and there is no doubt that accidents will happen, as they do to our sighted counterparts. I have friends who are sighted and yet have some wicked scars from chainsaw mishaps, one having lost his thumb from a woodsplitter identical to the one I used. Those machines are unforgiving to anyone who takes a shortcut to a safety rule. By no means do I suggest that you just pick up a tool and use it without proper training and knowledge of its potential, yet just telling me that these tools are dangerous and that therefore I should know nothing about them because of my blindness is by far the most dangerous approach. So, in the meantime, I certainly hope the pendulum of evolution of schools for the blind swings a bit back to the traditional policies of empowerment through education.
In 1983, the dial telephone was a bit of a challenge at first, as one would have to count the number of holes in the dial from the dial stop, and if you took over two seconds to do so, the phone would reset itself to not having dialed any numbers and you'd have to start all over. Then came the push button phone, a lovely advancement for a blind user, as was the first cell phone with its clearly defined push buttons, allowing me to communicate on the fly wherever I was. I felt empowered, as I could always call for help should I really need it—a taxi, etc.
The computer was nice in 1992, but of course expensive, especially the "accent" and "OCR" cards, making the total price of a computer fit for a blind user to scan text to voice a $10,000 investment. The computer used DOS and JAWS 2.2, and it was quite functional for a blind user.
Then came the touchpad, and I didn't like it one little bit. Touchpads and I are not best friends, as the pad, already being kind of useless for a blind user, also reacts to my body from distances such as two and three feet away, especially if I have any sort of a static electric charge such as one gets from wearing wooly clothes, sitting on a cloth-covered couch, or moving on a carpet.
But don't be fooled; the sighted community is not entirely benefiting from this marvel of technology. I remember a medical doctor of the Dobelle Institute, a man normally very quiet, well spoken, and polite, suddenly bursting out in the most innovative of four-letter words I didn't even know existed as he was entering data into the medical data base. It turns out that the marvelous touchpad reacted to his stray thumb near the space bar and deleted many hours of work. In Lisbon, Portugal, I was staying in a fancy hotel and the attendant proudly showed me the new elevator equipped with a touchpad that had, of all things, Braille engraved on its face. Well, just in trying to read the Braille numbers denoting the floors, the elevator went crazy, like an amusement fair ride with me in it, while the people on the outside became increasingly irritated. When I finally got the wild horse to rest on an undefined floor, a group of people came in with me and I left the sighted people to run the touchpad, just for the crazy ride to begin all over again. It turned out that due to limited space, one of the people stood too close to the touchpad and his elbow ultimately set off the wild goose chase all over again.
When the touchpad came out, the incidents of automobile accidents also went on the rise. Just two miles from my home, a father driving his son to school ran right in front of a VIA passenger train going 100 mph which split the car in two, while doing something on that little pad on his phone. Even the car radios and stereos being routinely installed by manufacturers and receiving the green light from auto safety inspection policies require that the driver, should he be the only one in the car, take his eyes off the road to look at that silly screen to figure out which functions to press to allow the changing of channels, volume, tone, and other controls once held by good, old-fashioned analog knobs able to be found via tactile feedback without having to take the eyes off the road. Back when I was still driving, I'd use the CB radio, talking with my friends while driving, always able to adjust my radio with the click of knobs I could find in total darkness. In the 1990s, even the CB radios, such as the RCI 2950 and others, switched to the digital screen, and then one would have to pull over on the side of the road to be able to make radio adjustments safely.
I'm working along with the system as best as I can, avoiding touchpad appliances where possible, always carrying a cheapo cell phone for reassurance. I can actually use it in an emergency, and I figure that just like the fad of young men walking around with their pants down and boxer shorts hanging out for the world to see, the touchpad fad will sooner or later lose its appeal and manufacturers of devices striving for that "ultimate" experience of device control will begin offering the tactile keypad as a novel miracle invention.
14. PEDDLE YOUR PRODUCTS FOR FREE— OR ALMOST FREE
by Bruce Atchison
Since none of us have riches and fame, here are some ways we can get publicity for free regarding our craft items. These aren't guaranteed to be successful, but they won't cost anything much except your time and effort.
The most obvious method is via social media. It costs nothing to join Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other networks. Log onto the mobile link versions to make navigating the sites easier. For example, http://m.facebook.com gets you on the blind-friendly mobile page.
Twitter, and I assume other networks, have similar addresses.
But here's a word of warning: Don't be blatant about promoting your wares or people won't want to hear from you. Just mention it like you would to a friend. People are easily turned off by hard−sell pitches.
And don't post too often about what you make, either. There's a fine line between mentioning and nagging.
Blogging, though not as popular as it once was, is an excellent avenue for product promotion. In my case, I write about topics which my books cover. Then I put a link at the bottom leading to where my paperbacks are for sale. People often click on that when they're interested to know more.
Another possibility is to be a guest blogger on somebody's site. Oftentimes, that person will want to post a guest article on your blog in exchange. This opens up the way for their blog readers to find out about your work and vice-versa. In my case, I donate a post once a month to the InScribe Christian Writers Group.
Additionally, make a product trailer and put it on YouTube for free. In a minute and a half, tell just enough about your wares to whet the appetites of potential readers. Make sure to look your best, as well.
Social network groups are another free outlet for your work. These groups are free to join and cover all sorts of topics. So if your product is about canning fresh food for the winter, you can do a Google search for groups covering that subject.
In the same way, e-mail lists can be your ticket to product sales. IO Groups, Yahoo, and Google Groups are just three examples of sites where you can find folks who might be likely to buy your wares.
One tip I've found effective is to put a link in the signature file of my e-mail program to my books site. For example, you can copy the link from the Amazon page where your product is sold and paste it into the e-mail program's signature file. Or you could put the link to your blog there. Whenever you write somebody, that link will always appear at the bottom of your message.
Then there are the local news outlets that might be interested in interviewing you. Community newspapers and small town publications are always looking for local success stories. Write a short letter to the editor after you find out who he or she is and describe why your wares would be of interest to the readers.
If you have access to a fax machine or a friend with one, prepare a single-page press release telling about your product and why it's important, and give a very short bio at the end. Make it like a news story with a catchy title, such as LOCAL MUSHROOM AFICIONADO CAPS OFF SUMMER WITH RECIPE BOOK.
The same is true of club bulletins. If you're a member, you might even be able to give a talk regarding your crafts. People also admire creative folks and will want to speak with you afterwards.
If your product is religious in nature, you can go to pastors, priests, rabbis, etc. and ask if you can speak about your product's topic and sell a few things at their place of worship. The worst that can happen is they'll refuse.
Local fairs are a nice venue at which you can sell your wares. After paying for your table, which is usually a measly ten or fifteen dollars, all the profits are yours. Once a couple of things have sold, you're in the black, financially speaking.
And if the table rental cost is a bit too expensive for you, or you only have one product to sell, share a table with another artist. Splitting the cost makes it cheaper for you and your partner, as well as making the table look less barren.
You can also post a notice of your new product on Post Office bulletin boards. Make sure to ask permission first. Having a picture of your craft items on the notice is also a good plan, since it gives people an idea of what they look like.
Furthermore, QR (Quick Response) codes aid folks with smart phones to go directly to your product page and read about it. A free QR code generator is at www.qr-code-generator.com. Download and print out the image on your advertisements as an added inducement for customers to visit your product page.
I've found that having copies of my paperbacks with me to show my friends often generates sales. People tend to buy something if they can hold it in their hands. They'll look at the cover, read the blurb on the back, and then open it to see what's inside.
If you can find an obliging store owner who will stock your products on consignment, do so. It'll help generate local sales. Shoppers will see the product and might decide to purchase it. Many folks are impulse buyers who go to a store for milk and come back with a cart loaded with things.
Note: Never assume that the person at the counter is the owner of the shop. When I worked in the Canadian National Institute for the Blind's smoke stands, zealous sales people often assumed that I ran the kiosk. Always ask the cashier what the name of the owner is before making your pitch.
This should give you enough incentive to try all these avenues of free advertising. Remember to ask a sighted friend for help if you get into difficulties. That person might become a customer if she or he likes your product and is impressed that you made it.
About the author: Bruce Atchison is a freelance writer and the author of three books. His articles have appeared in glossy magazines and underground newsletters. He lives in a tiny Canadian hamlet with his rabbit, Deborah.
15. TERROR ON A SUMMER DAY
by John Justice
As a boy, I spent hours exploring the many paths that led through our woodlands around the farm in New Jersey. I learned early that sometimes these trails would end up in a swamp, so I brought along my trusty folding cane. When I rode my bicycle along the road, I would fasten the cane to the handlebars or under the seat. You couldn't ride in the woods, even on the wider trails, because of holes and low−hanging branches. So I would roll the bike along with my left hand while I used the cane or the front wheel to figure out the terrain.
One day, I followed an especially twisted path until it came out into cleared land. I felt around with my cane and found a road or drive that was somewhat overgrown. The path led away from the woods, and I heard a car passing far ahead.
It was then that things started getting weird. First there was the smell. If you have ever been near burned wood, you know what I mean. There's nothing quite like it. There are elements of smoke, the tang of ash, and the wet, rancid odor of coals that have long since gone out. Yes, something very close to me had burned up, a very large something. Like a fool, I decided to investigate. I found a shell−lined driveway and moved up it. The road was now about a hundred feet or so to my left. Yes, here was a flight of stone porch steps, but they didn't lead anywhere. At the top, there was nothing except empty air. I climbed back down and used my cane to explore a little more. Now, here was the end of a huge, wooden beam that was just lying on the ground. It was at least 12 inches on a side. There were pieces of broken shingle and what sounded like shards of glass.
What the heck had happened here? Had the sun gone behind a cloud? Suddenly, I was very cold. Goose bumps had broken out on my arms and legs. It was right then that I felt the fear. It started in slowly, but suddenly I was overcome by the need to get out of there.
Did I leave? You bet I did! I found the shell driveway and moved toward the street. Once I had left the area of that burned building, the fear was somehow left behind. There was no way I was going back through that yard to find the woodland path again, so I walked along the road, and after quite some time, I reached home. This burned structure was on the same side of the road as my own house, but at least three or more miles away. Mom's car was in the drive, so I went into the kitchen. She took one look at my hands and asked me where I had been.
I tried to describe what I had found, and after a moment, she recognized the surroundings. "Jacky, you were in the old Evans place. I never told you about this, but when you were little, there was a family who lived on a little truck farm about three miles away. They were John and Maureen Evans and their two girls, Sarah and Patsy. One night, their space heater exploded, and the house went up like a torch. None of them got out of there alive. The farm has never been occupied again because there's some godawful lawsuit going on about the way they died. The remains of the house are still just like they were that winter night when it went up in smoke.
There was nothing anyone could do. The fire was so fierce that it melted their water tank and turned every living plant into fire for about 200 yards around the homestead. If it hadn't been for the volunteers, the fire would have probably started on the woods, as well. There were about a hundred of them, and they stopped the flames just before they got to the first pine trees. You must have ridden your bike past there a hundred times and never known the house was there. Mr. Evans was an oyster man at one time, and nobody around here has a driveway made of shells like that one. That's what told me where you were, Jacky. There are shell drives like that in Cape May or Wildwood, but only one this far inland, and that's on the old Evans place."
I went on to tell her about how I had explored the area somewhat and then about the cold feeling I got. Finally, I admitted to getting scared and taking off.
She thought for a moment and then said, "I don't know if this is true or just an old wives' tale, but people have said that the old farm is haunted. At night, you can see lights and movement, even though there's no one there. I wonder if the Evans family is still trying to get home."
Somehow, I never stumbled on that particular path again. As long as I stayed on the road, I could pass the Evans farm and nothing would happen. One day, I hit a beer bottle that someone had thrown out of the window of their car. The bottle rolled off the road and down an incline. I wanted to see what it was, so I got my cane and tried to find it. The first thing I came across was that blasted shell driveway. No way was I going one step farther in that direction! Later, Mom was driving me past the farm and she saw the bottle gleaming in the sunlight. It was she who told me what I had run into. I remembered my experience a few days before and vowed that bottle would never be disturbed by me.
This is going to sound a bit strange, but I wonder now if the spirits of that family were trying to warn me against fooling around in that area. Now that I'm older, I can't believe I was so crazy. I could have fallen down their well or stepped on a rusty nail. The remaining wall of the old house could have come down on me if I had shifted something. The best thing I could have done was to get out of there. These days, someone would have come along with a bulldozer and knocked down the rest of that structure to make sure it was safe. Back then, no one cared that much.
Later, I learned that someone had been there long enough to fill in the old well and strip the house of everything that hadn't been destroyed by the fire.
I don't think that lawsuit was ever settled. I haven't been back to Goshen, New Jersey in many years. I have always hated those oil−fueled space heaters. They were so badly made that it's a wonder more houses haven't been wrecked by them.
Email for John and Linda Justice: email@example.com
16. A CAR OF HER OWN (Part One)
by Karen Crowder
I began working on the first version of this story in late 2010, reworking it for publication in October 2013. I have been fascinated with the concept of driverless cars since the 1970s. I read the review of Arthur C. Clark's nonfiction book Future Cities. He mentioned the concept of cars that went where you wanted them to go.
In the early 2000s, ideas about driverless transportation came to life. My story was published in November 2013 in the Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind in two parts. I have changed Part One and hope Consumer Vision readers will enjoy it. Any streets, stores, or persons are the work of this author's imagination.
Jan awakened at 8:00, smiling, donning a pair of cotton coral walking shorts and a matching cotton coral top with delicate floral patterns and tiny sequins. Slipping on soft, leather-like sandals which felt like slippers, she thought, This is the day. If it went right, her life would change forever. It was Friday, July 17, 2020, and the sun was shining through her kitchen window.
At a young 62, she was learning how to operate a driverless car.
While finishing a banana and fruit yogurt, she felt twinges of anxiety about today's lesson. She would be driving independently without the guidance of her trainer. What if the GPS malfunctioned, the car sending her careening into oncoming traffic? Her cell phone rang, interrupting these troubling ruminations.
"Hi. Do you have a minute?" Jenn queried.
"Sure, what's up?" Jan asked.
"Where have you been keeping yourself?" Jenn asked.
"I'm taking driving lessons," Jan said. "Oh, from the blind training center I've--" Jan's door buzzer rang. "My instructor is here," she said breaking the connection. Grabbing her white cane, she walked out into the lovely, sultry July morning.
"Ready to roll and drive your own car?" her instructor James asked, with his gentle smile.
"I'm as ready as I'll ever be," she said, walking with him to the apartment complex's parking lot.
In her parking space was a small, shiny, sapphire−blue car. She and James had been working as a team, having weekly lessons since April 17. He had always sat in the back seat, reassuring her with his verbal guidance. She had learned the controls, how to navigate Leominster, Fitchburg, Lunenburg, and Westminster. Today this would be absent, the concept similar to traveling routes independently with a cane.
As Jan sat in the comfortable driver's seat, James's easygoing manner and comforting words reassured her. "Take your time. I want you to understand and know what you are doing. If necessary, we can repeat this test."
In front of her were two rows with three evenly spaced buttons. They were marked in Braille. On the dashboard was a Braille manual. She could refer to it if there were problems or questions about the car's operation.
She pressed the start button, the middle one on the bottom row. A soft British female voice asked, "Where is your first destination?"
"Heritage Bank, at 35 Prospect Street in Fitchburg."
"What is the mileage and your preferred speed?" it asked.
"Seven miles and 25 miles an hour," she said.
"To start, press the GO button on the top row," the human−sounding British computer voice said.
After pressing the correct button, she relaxed while the car quietly drove down the streets of Leominster.
A shrill voice from an oncoming car interrupted her thoughts. "Can't you drive faster? I have to be at work." Young kids were impatient.
"People have accidents speeding," she said.
"You have one of those cars that drive themselves?" he asked.
"Blind people like myself are learning how to drive," she said.
"Oh, sorry," he said slowly, driving away.
The wonderfully efficient GPS parked the car ten feet from the door of Heritage Bank. The bank was locally operated, with attention paid to its customers.
After doing transactions, the smiling bank employee asked," Can we be of further assistance to you today?"
"Thank you, not today," she said. "I'm learning how to drive a car."
"Is it like the luxury ones advertised on the Internet and TV?" the woman asked.
"No, not yet," Janet said. She went out into the sunny, warming parking lot. As she stepped into the car, she thought, I should be at the mall in fifteen minutes.
When she was starting the car, that was when the trouble began.
Story to be continued in Part Two.
17. MONASTERY, AN ACROSTIC
by Terri Winaught
Moonbeams share their soft, silver light with the dark, sacred night.
Only nearby trees, soon to shed their leaves, are there to enjoy this lunar light show.
Nighttime is a gardener who plants Roses of Sharon to tell hearts that are barren, "Come, sit on holy ground, where divine love abounds."
An azure sky, like a blue butterfly, houses galaxies, firmaments and eternity!
Soon, the sun will awaken, and many will be taken by beauty that arises when eastern horizons burst forth into riots of color!
Time tells this Catholic community that-—once more, they must be—hope to the sinner, and the newborn beginner that any soul can be joyfully set free!
Energy courses through veins of servants who maintain lives that are lights of the world.
Reconciliation and heartfelt oblation enliven the mind, soften the hard heart, and comfort the worn, weary soul.
Years of selfless service, and lives lived with purpose, make this monastery a harbinger of hope, a fountain of forgiveness, and an oasis with waters of love!
18. CONSUMER VISION TRIVIA CONTEST
Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in the August Consumer Vision. The only four-letter word in the English language which ends in the letters ENY is DENY.
Congratulations to the following winners:
Susan Jones of Indianapolis, Indiana
Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts
Karen Santiago of Worcester, Massachusetts
And now, here is your trivia question for the September Consumer Vision. Name the only four former Presidents of the United States who are still living. If you know the answer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-994-4972.
19. IMPORTANT NOTES ON A CHANGE TO THE CONSUMER VISION AND SOME TIPS ON HOW TO WRITE SUCCINCTLY
by Leonore Dvorkin
As was stated at the beginning of this issue, Bob Branco, Terri Winaught and I have all come to the conclusion that we need to limit Consumer Vision articles of all types to 2,000 words maximum. It is only logical that a publication have word limits, and in consultation with others who put out electronic newsletters, we have decided that 2,000 words is a very reasonable limit.
Thinking about this matter, I came up with the following list of tips on how to make one's writing more succinct. Bob and Terri approved the list, so here it is.
Whenever you sit
down to write an article of any sort, do the following:
2. Make a
simple, logical outline for the article, either in your head or in a computer
3. Write the
article following that outline—not with actual headings, necessarily, but with
the points more or less in the pre-planned order.
4. Go back over
the article. Read each paragraph in turn and think hard: Can I make this
shorter, more succinct? That is, can I say what I need and want to say in one
or two sentences instead of five or six? Chances are, that is indeed possible.
Also ask yourself: Am I repeating myself? Have I said much the same thing in a
previous paragraph? If so, choose the better, clearer paragraph and keep only
5. A good, succinct article gets your various points across and also keeps the interest of the readers. Two thousand words are usually plenty to inform your readers regarding almost any topic, and you may need far fewer than that. Years ago, I wrote over 25 monthly articles on health, fitness, and nutrition for a Denver print magazine; most of the articles involved quite a bit of research on my part. However, I then had to keep almost all of them to 900 words. The word limit imposed a kind of writing discipline that I very much needed at the time. Eventually, I became pretty adept at guessing when I was approaching 900 words, and then the computer would count the words in the Word file with precision.
6. I encourage authors to include their email addresses at the ends of their articles if they are willing to do so. That way, readers can contact them directly with questions or comments. If an author has a website URL, that should certainly be included as well. Most publishers of magazines and newsletters are willing to give contributors as much publicity as they desire.
7. If you believe that what you have to say absolutely cannot be said adequately in 2,000 words or fewer, you have several alternatives. You might seek out newsletters or magazines that accept pieces longer than 2,000 words. You might submit your piece to the publisher in two or more parts, to be published in two or more consecutive issues. You might create your own blog, on which you can of course post anything of any length, as that is truly self-publishing in every sense. And then, if you find that you have many articles or stories of any length that you would like to send out to a wider audience, you can consider self-publishing a collection of such things. That is what Bob Branco did when he put together As I See It: From a Blind Man's Perspective (revised and expanded edition, C 2013) and then Weighing Things Up: Essays on Trends, Technology, and Present-Day Society (C 2014). I edited both of those books.
8. If you believe you could use some editing help, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to edit articles and even things like blog posts and letters, in addition to the books that my husband and I edit and then have published in e-book and print. My charge is a very reasonable $25 per hour, and only $20 per hour for those who are blind, otherwise disabled, and/or low income. I look forward to hearing from you, should you desire my assistance.
Home phone: 303-985-2327
Leonore is the author of four published books and numerous articles. Her husband, David Dvorkin, is the author of 27 published books, both fiction and nonfiction, and over 50 articles. He is also a retired computer programmer and technical writer. Since 2009, Leonore and David have been editing books by other authors and doing all the technical work required for the publication of the books in e-book and print formats by CreateSpace, Amazon, and Smashwords. The books are then available for sale worldwide. Bob Branco and John Justice are two of their many editing clients, most of whom are blind or visually impaired. By the end of 2016, Leonore and David will have put out a total of more than 30 books by other authors.
For details of Leonore and David Dvorkin's comprehensive editing and self-publishing services, see: http://www.dvorkin.com/epubhelp/
Leonore's breast cancer memoir is available for sale in e-book, print, and audio formats. The title is Another Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor's Journey. The 2012 edition is the most recent of three. Details, excerpts, and review quotes: http://www.leonoredvorkin.com/brcan/ The book is also available in Spanish.