Fighting the Mess

Morning. I am officially overwhelmed. I have said it before: my life is cluttered. My house is cluttered. Sometimes even my mind is cluttered. On one level I realize this is not good for someone with visual impairment. It means I lose things. Lots of things. More things that I ever used to lose.

On another level, dealing with the mess can be just plain overwhelming. I don’t feel like tackling it. Sometimes it is a lot easier to buy new or do without.

Generally, the mess wins no matter what I do.

This morning things reached critical mass – again – and I figured I had better do something about it before it blew up. Parts of my half-hearted effort were to sort laundry and get rid of articles I had printed out but never written a page on.

Laundry and vision loss articles…they may not be two great things that go great together, but one of the printed out articles I found from VisionAware was about blind people doing laundry.

Does that freak you out a bit when things come together like that? That cosmic convergence stuff? Does me.

Anyway, laundry is not that hard for me. I keep the setting the same (except for delicates) and stick a finger in the measuring cup to make sure I don’t run the cup over with detergent. Then I wipe my hand on a piece of clothing so I am not all detergent-y. If I have to change the setting, I use a light to make sure it is right. My handheld reader has a light and that works well.

What I liked were the suggestions they made for ironing. I admire you people who are organized enough to get things out of the dryer and hang them instantaneous. I know this avoids a lot of wrinkles. I am great for leaving the house with the dryer running or going to bed with it on. Clothes have sat in the dryer for days. Meaning? I iron every morning.

VisionAware has some really good ideas. Since we all know contrast is a good thing when you are low vision, having a solid color ironing board cover is good. They also suggest you get a heat-treated pad to set your iron on when you are moving the clothing, etc. That will allow the hot part to be down and you don’t burn yourself when you reach for it.

Those are the two things you might have to purchase. Ideas that involve things you probably would not have to purchase include using a funnel or a turkey baster to put water in the iron. Personally, I just use an old Febreze bottle and squirt things. Marking the proper setting so you don’t scorch things can be done with that raised marking stuff or even nail polish. [Lin/Linda: I think when Sue says ‘raised marking stuff’ she means bump dots.]

The last idea I liked was finding the iron by grabbing the cord first. If the contrast of the cord with everything else is poor, tie a ribbon on it! After all, safety first.

OK, back to the fight. Personally, I think I am going to lose again.

Written August 6th, 2017

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Put the Savor Back in Life

As my father got older I really started to worry about his nutrition. Left to his own devices Daddy would prepare a lunch of canned peaches in heavy syrup, a couple of cookies and a bowl of ice cream. It was like dealing with the tastes of a six year old! Sugar, sugar and more sugar!

I eventually learned taste loss comes with old age. Since sweet is the last flavor we can still taste, many of us go to a high sugar diet. Not all that great.

Lost of taste is just one of the sensory losses we experience. Science Digest in February of 2016 ran an article reporting 94% of older Americans have at least one sensory loss. 38% have losses in two senses and 28% have three, four or five sensory losses. Some of these deficits were mild but many of them were serious. The study found 64% of their sample ages 57 to 85 suffered with a significant deficit in at least one sense. 22% had major deficits in two or more senses.

Yikes! This is scary stuff!

Sensory loss takes the savor out of life – literally. It is one of the main reasons people may report a reduction in the quality of life.

Alright, now that we have had the stuffing scared out of us, what can be done about this? Most sources suggest getting any potential sensory loss evaluated medically. Some sensory problems cannot be treated but there are some that can.

Just because some of us have a vision loss that is currently not treatable does not mean the same holds true for other sensory loss. Don’t be fatalistic! Go for help.

Then, of course, there are rehabilitation services. I would like to say rehabilitation services and assistive technology is universally available, but I know better. If you cannot get services funded, use resources such as this website. We regularly try to find things that are free or relatively inexpensive that can help you cope with your vision loss. I expect there are websites for hearing impaired although I am less optimistic about sites on taste, smell and touch loss.

And speaking of smell and taste loss…

In Betrayed by our Bodies – Sensory Loss and Aging Dan Orzech suggests the use of odor detecting technology so we can avoid burning up in a fire (smoke detectors) or being asphyxiated by leaking gas.

Orzech suggested using a little butter or gravy to make the odor and flavor of food more chemically available. (A man after my own heart!). He also reported dehydration can make it harder to taste so make sure you drink your fluids.

Although not being able to see colors well is a hallmark of AMD, do what you can to make foods bright, colorful and visually appealing. Intensely colored foods are rated as more flavorful that dull colored foods.

Given the number of readers and FaceBook members we have, I would suspect more than one or two of you are experiencing multiple sensory losses. Don’t ignore them. There really are ways to put some of the savor back into life!

Written August 4th, 2016

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Behind the Wheel: Part 2

continued from Behind the Wheel: Part 1

In talking about why Yvonne drove after three years, she mentioned independence. Speaking personally, I would love the freedom of driving. The shared ride service here is a pain. The other night I was picked up at the Y and had to ride along to a local restaurant. We waited half an hour for the second passenger to get his ‘stuff’ together and get it on the road.

You have heard me scream plenty about rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn to get 10 miles down the road ‘only’ an hour early.

Unfortunately, shared rides come with many indignities and inconveniences.

Right now I have started ‘jonesing’ for a chocolate milkshake. The drive-in restaurant is only a mile away but it is on the other side of a busy road. I’m thinking that trying to get across that road for a milkshake – even a large! – may not be a good idea. Shared rides and going by foot may not leave a lot of room for spontaneity, either. (Yes, I do have a husband. He is dieting!)

I would love the freedom of driving. After all, this is the woman who renewed her license so she could feel like a big girl! But I don’t drive. The eyes in this head are too far gone.

Yvonne did her homework. Good idea. I did my homework for my bike riding. I know my routes pretty well. Today the Children’s Museum next to the Y had a street fair. The road was blocked. Detour ahead! On my bike, I just dismounted and walked through the fair. In a car, I would have been rerouted to a road I rarely travel. Things happen. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that. You cannot always count on doing what you planned to do.

Yvonne mentioned problems with family members using the car, not transporting her and not doing basic maintenance. Without the family members she is on her own. Maintenance? I used the same garage for nearly 40 years. I think if I asked, they would have come for me. I find it is always good to inquire. You don’t know what people will do for you until you ask.

My license has not been pulled. A few weeks back I went and had it renewed. No one questioned me. No one threw me behind bars. I can legally drive but I don’t.

Many states are not good about making sure people who should not drive don’t. And even if they pull licenses, the roads are full of unlicensed drivers anyway. Driving or not driving is the decision each of us must make for himself.

Would I ever drive? Perhaps. With a very sick husband or a very sick dog or if I had fewer resources, perhaps. I have said it before: I am blessed with resources. What would I do if truly stuck? Dunno. Maybe, but right now, my answer would still have to be no.

But what did the Yvonne do?

written August 6th, 2017

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BlindSquare App

When I was at the Summer Academy a couple of people mentioned they were navigating with an app called BlindSquare. They asked if I used it and I was almost sheepish to admit my vision is still good enough to navigate with plain old Google Maps.  It is surprising how social norms change from place to place.  I felt like being blinder would have given me more ‘street cred’, but what the hey, I got by.

BlindSquare appears to be the app VIPs (Visually Impaired Persons) in the know use to navigate. According to its advertising BlindSquare is the “world’s most popular accessible GPS-app developed for the blind and visually impaired.” It is said to describe the environment, announce points of interest and also alert you to street intersections as you travel.

The home page says BlindSquare is self-voicing and has a dedicated speech synthesizer, whatever that means. There is an audio menu that can be accessed with the buttons on the side of your phone. Seeing the screen is not required.

BlindSquare announces your progress towards your destination. It marks your spot (sounds like Beastie Baby! ) and can lead you back should you want to return. The app opens with voice over. BlindSquare ‘understands’ a variety of languages. These include many of the most ‘popular’ European languages as well as some others like Finnish and Romanian. The farthest east they go looks to be Turkish. The farthest south they go looks like Arabic.

Reading the comments it seemed to me the developers of BlindSquare are awesome people. They responded in the affirmative to just about all of the suggestions and have been adding languages right along.  Updates are added regularly.

Now for the bad news. BlindSquare is $40.00 in the App Store. There is a free version called Blindsq Event  available in the App Store but it is seriously pared down from the for a fee version. The pay version featured three or four pages of options and Blindsq Event featured one. I would say what  do you want for nothing, but my answer would be ‘the World!’ so I know better than to ask that question.

I just downloaded the free version and will play with it later. As always, I would love to have others’ opinions. Please download it and let us know what you think.

Those who have the pay BlindSquare, please chime in!

written August 2nd, 2017

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The Proper Magic Potion

Hi, home from physical therapy. My physical therapist and I looked all through the offerings of a world-famous corporation – gee, what could that be? – and picked out a new cart for me. See how this one works.

I came home from Penn State with my rotator cuff tendinitis flaring again. I had hauled my rolling crate around with some of the travel being uphill. Apparently not a plan. Not only do we become pack mules for all of the vision related stuff we get to haul around, we also get to have pack mule injuries!

How do other people handle the problems of – well, freight? Does anyone walk to the grocery? How do you haul everything? Any great ideas on carts?

I looked online for ergonomic carts and dollies and what they are showing is similar to what I just ordered. I will let you know if the new one is any better than the several I have purchased over the last year and a half.

FYI if you know someone who is mechanical and want to make some money, ask him (or her!) to design a rolling crate that can take punishment and not fall apart in three months! Not only would I buy one but I know several teachers and therapists who would also buy one.

That is the practical part of this page. Now for the not so practical but sort of cool part. Anybody ever read H.G. Wells The Island of Dr. Moreau? In that late 1800s science fiction novel Dr. Moreau creates human-animal hybrids using vivisection. Nasty business.

Today scientists are much more efficient than what Wells imagined. Today if scientists want a fish-mouse hybrid, they do it at a genetic level.

Madness, you say! (Cue demonic, mad-scientist laughter). Whoever would want them to produce a fish-mouse hybrid? Well, maybe you would.

Zebrafish are cool. They can regenerate parts. Put zebrafish genes in mice and they can regrow parts, too.

The parts the scientists are growing in mice are glial cells. The scientists have prompted the glial cells to become functional interneurons in mouse retinas.

Interneurons are connecting cells between other nerve cells. Remember I told you they are able to grow photoreceptors in eyes but cannot get them to connect? Interneurons are connectors. They receive and process signals from the rods and cones. With the proper magic potion for the job, scientists got adult mice to grow interneurons in damaged eyes. And the best part of all? They conducted signals!

This research was just published in July, 2017. It’s very early days and they have to work out many bugs, check for safety, etc. but it is the first step. Maybe some day they will inject photoreceptors into your eyes, inject zebrafish genes and magic potion, all over your lunch hour. By the end of the week you will have grown those new photoreceptors AND hooked them up to your optic nerve. Wow. Science fiction becomes science fact.

If you want to read the short version of the research findings, I found them in the ScienceDaily post. The date was July 26, 2017.

written August 1st, 2017

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Talking to Your ATM

Before I get on the topic of this page, I want to give you a quick FYI. If you remember, I mentioned my monocular was full of condensation. Could not see a thing! Although I think many of you know this anyway, I just wanted to remind you: don’t throw it away; dry it out. I plopped mine down in a nice, warm patch of sunshine and it is all better now. Hair dryers work, too. Microwaves do not. Monoculars have metal on them.

And from low tech aids to high tech….automatic teller machine, ATMs, money machines, call them what you will, they are practically ubiquitous to modern life. Problem is, most of them require you to see and read that glary, little screen. Yippee.

I have sort of memorized the one I generally use. As long as the questions are the same and the answers are in the same places, I’m good. When I first lost a lot of vision and I had not mastered the routine, it was nasty.

If you are still able to see, don’t just mindlessly push buttons. When you use an ATM, think about what you are doing and master the sequencing and positioning. It will serve you if you lose sight later.

You may not have noticed but many, many ATMs have jacks for headsets. American Federation for the Blind reported there are 100,000 ATMs that are able to be operated by voice just in the States alone. All you need is a headset with a microphone. Plug in and do your banking. The ATM will ‘talk’ to you and guide you through the transaction.

I found a 2012 article from the Telegraph reporting Barclay’s had installed audio technology in three quarters of their cash machines in England and Wales. They should be farther along in the process now. The technology was reported to work with pretty much any standard headset.

The article went on to say Barclay’s had made the modifications when they realized people were being required to share security information in order to make simple transactions. They were also concerned about “small and fiddly” buttons – you guys know how to describe things😋 – and inconsistencies among machines.

Not sure how many other banks are actually providing talking ATMs. Be sure to inquire if you are interested – and even if you’re not. It is always good to give these people a nudge.

Prashant Naik did a nice comparison between the talking ATM and ATMs with public voice guidance. He reported that each screen is voiced but everything is private because you are hearing it through the headset. If you want to blank out the screen, you can. Naik also remarked upon larger fonts and better contrast if you do chose to use the screen. Naik in fact wrote 24 comparison points in his chart. He concludes the talking ATM is a superior product.

And btw, Naik is writing about India so these things are available internationally.

Once again, I have not tried an auditory ATM myself. I am telling you what I have read. I will occasionally try something and report but at the moment I am functional with what I have and if I bought everything – like headphones with a microphone for example – I would soon be in the poorhouse. Still hoping for some audience participation, guys. Who has used an auditory ATM? Stand and report!

written July 30th, 2017

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Centers for Independent Living

Moving right along, promised you a page on the Center for Independent Living. Let’s do it!

As Virgil’s (sweet, lovable guide dog that he is) Mom was telling me, Centers for Independent Living (CIL) are pretty much all over in the United States. At Virtual CIL you can click a state and a list for that state appears. CIL does appear to be international at least on a small scale. I found one in Dublin, Ireland. Where else? No clue. My browser keeps routing me back to local offerings. Too much like work to try to find many more. Check under Center for Independent Living in your area.

Centers for Independent Living are often funded by government rehabilitation agencies. However, I was told they do have some discretionary funds to use with those who don’t qualify for government funding.

CIL offers peer counseling from people who have practical experience living with your disability. They also offer advocacy. Although they work to support legislation for disability rights and teach self-advocacy, they provide more practical support like helping clients get better transportation or housing as well.

Skill training is a big part of CIL according to the websites. They are reported to not only run educational programs to help people DIY but also to help find trustworthy and reliable caregivers and even financial advisers.

Under the heading of information and referral, they list a variety of things. It sounds as if they may have speakers. Referrals to specialists and suggestions for home modifications and adaptive equipment are likewise within their purview.

Other services? They have LIMITED funds to do basic structural modifications that will allow you to continue to live at home. We are talking things like lowering a section of counter if you are wheelchair bound, not renovating so you have a state of the art, gourmet kitchen.

CIL also offers an awareness program so young people and other, similarly ignorant folks can experience “having” a disability. There is disability sensitivity training – although I daresay one of the camp kids I met had some of the BEST, semi tasteless blind jokes ever! – as well as Americans with Disability Act compliance training for employers and training for firefighters and other emergency responders on how to rescue us – and deal with us! – if need be.

It does sound as if Centers for Independent Living can be a good resource for us who need just a little extra support and knowledge to make it happen as VIPs (visually impaired persons). Of course, like everything in life, individual results may vary. There are dozens of these centers and I would suspect quality of services is not the same everywhere. What I know I learned from a CIL employee who is proud of the job she is doing and a web page or two. Go check it out and report back. Your experiences cannot help others unless you report them. Here is your forum.

written July 30th, 2017

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