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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Behind the Wheel: Part 3

continued from Behind the Wheel: Part 2

Did we leave you with a cliffhanger? Silly, of course: Yvonne drove! I am relieved to say she got home without injuring herself or others. The car still has all its pieces…but what did she say about it and will she make a habit of it?

If this were a TV show, we would have gone to commercial break, but since we have no sponsors, there will be no words from our sponsors…just returning to what she said:

Yvonne could not see any gauges – including the speedometer. Her dark glasses caused that problem. The lighting and shadows would change along the route and it was bothersome. She planned a route that took her a bit out of her way but allowed all right turns.

Yvonne felt a bit exhilarated she had accomplished the trip. She admitted she had been scared and said she would not make a habit out of it. Many places she has to go are in congested areas and she does not want to drive there.

So successful experiment for our reader. She tried it and I will not. I see waaay too many problems with it. What is the difference? And more importantly, should you try it yourself??????

I have no idea of how much vision loss Yvonne has. I know my loss pretty much precludes driving. But if no one ever said not to drive, how do we make that decision? [Lin/Linda: Yvonne lives in Alabama where they never check a driver’s vision. Also, her doctor never tells patients NOT to drive.]

I found a resource at AAA. That is the American Automobile Association. They have a special website SeniorDriving.aaa.com.  AAA suggests we try the informal driving self-assessment tool 65 Plus to start. If the informal assessment suggests we have problems, a professional driving skills evaluation can be conducted. This can be done at a driving examination site for your state DMV or by a trained driving instructor. AAA also suggests you might want to spend some time with an occupational therapist driving rehabilitation specialist.

Some of these services can be pricey. The OT evaluation may be between $200 and $400 according to AAA. If you need lessons, it may be $100 an hour. Rather doubt any of this is reimbursable by insurance but you can try.

When I tried to find the website for 65 Plus I came upon a number of things that look kind of cool. The self assessment is 15 questions. Also offered are videos with tips for dealing with physical changes that come with age and a site that will tell you how your medications may affect your driving.

Other resources are offered through AARP, American Association of Retired People. The AARP website page Driver Safety suggested there is a driver’s program only 12 miles away from me. Amazing.

My research also suggested some states do driver’s training for ‘mature’ drivers. Check in your state for information.

So, going back to my original statement. Specifically, I am supposed to be the only bad influence on this website.

Please, please, please do not try to drive just because one reader had a successful jaunt. Think you might be able to drive? Have your hunch tested by a professional.

Been told you should not drive? For your sake, my sake and everyone else’s sake, listen, for crying out loud! You don’t want to ruin lives.

And if you are being pigheaded and driving in Pennsylvania? Tell us where you are. I want to stay far, far away.

written August 6th, 2017

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Behind the Wheel: Part 1

TGIF! Happy Friday! In real time it is the beginning of August, 2017. As usual, Lin and I have been pleading for ‘audience participation’ in the website and we actually got some! One of our readers who is also a Facebook group member has been sharing some of her experiences with Lin. Yvonne submitted a comment on one of the recent website pages.

Now a little background on how things work with comments. As I said when we started, Lin and I retain the right to refuse anything we do not think is appropriate. Advertisements are a no no. Anything too private or salacious may have us twittering over it but it does not get to the website🙈🙉🙊. Also, I reserve the right to remain the only bad influence for the site!

That said, Lin got Yvonne’s comment & did not publish it but asked her if we could share parts of what she wrote. She gave her go-ahead.

The topic? Driving with vision loss.

Why just pieces? First reason is this: it scared the bejesus out of us. Second reason: Yvonne outlined how she was going to try driving and we do not want any of you getting any ideas! We will not be responsible.

Yvonne said she was getting behind the wheel for the first time in three years. Oy vay. I would be afraid to get behind the wheel after a year and a half. I have asked my husband to let me drive in a huge empty parking lot and he has refused. He’s afraid of me behind the wheel, too.

I know riding my bike at 7 or 8 miles an hour there are some things I don’t see until I am right on top of them. At 4 times that speed I would be running right into them. Also, coming back from kayaking the other day my friend stopped for an accident. The cop was directing traffic but I could not see his hand signals. What would I have done if I were driving? Gotten out of the car and asked him what he wanted me to do?!?! Don’t think so.

Yvonne said she is not able to see the dials and gauges. Not sure what kinds of gear display her car has but I know I used to have one with the gears on the dash. Putting a car in drive instead of park or reverse instead of drive could be the last mistake I ever make….or ever want to make.

And even if a driver believes he is happily in control at 20 miles an hour in a 35 mph zone, what about the person driving behind him? Could he guarantee he is not going to pass on a double yellow and have a head-on collision? Or how about when he starts blinking his lights, honking his horn and screaming at you? Could someone even hope to maintain composure?

Another point: Yvonne was driving in a neighborhood. While I know kids don’t play outside as much as we did, some still do. Kids are unpredictable and do not follow the rules. Kill or maim a child? Kill me now because I am not sure I could live with that.

So those are my initial thoughts on that. Why did she want to drive? What happened? Tune in next page!

written August 5th, 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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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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