For your convenience, each reader’s forum entry is separated by the ## symbol for easy navigation. Enjoy!
In response to Feature Writer John Christie – The Blind Person’s Allowance:
In order to receive the Blind Person’s Allowance in England (just as in Scotland and Wales) one only has to be registered as a blind person to receive this tax allowance: we certainly do not have to be totally blind to receive it. In our parlance this is 6/60. What you call 20/200.
Re buying accessible equipment.
We have another – more controversial – allowance known as the Disabled Living Allowance which is available for anyone with any form of disability (though like your own system its darned hard to get). This is not means tested, and anyone from the age of 3 to 64 may apply for it if they’re registered blind or partially sighted. It has two parts: Care Component and Mobility Component. At present (though not for much longer), these are split into levels. The mobility component is in two levels. Someone who’s registered partially sighted such as myself will hopefully be able to get the lowest rate mobility allowance only.
At present those registered blind – even with no sight whatsoever – will get the lower level mobility allowance.
But from April this year, those with no sight at all, light/dark perception, color vision and as much as 3/60 vision plus people with tunnel vision or with no peripheral vision will be given the higher rate of mobility allowance.
And this is not all. The whole lot is to be disbanded in 2013 or 2014 and replaced by a new allowance: Personal Independent Payment – and it is feared that many of us who will not qualify for the higher rates now will be losing them altogether.
You also asked if people use their tax allowance to buy equipment. The tax allowance is £250 so yes, that will go some way to buying our equipment. If one is lucky enough to be in work, the government has a scheme ‘Access to Work’ which provides funds for specialist equipment in the workplace, but a lot of people do save up their allowance (paid monthly) to buy all the special equipment that keeps us independent. Like you in the US, it doesn’t come cheap to buy any equipment. While it is true that a small amount of basic equipment (such as a hand magnifier) is available on our National Health Service and the provision of a guide dog is paid for totally by charitable donations to the dedicated not-for-profit organization, one has to buy even a white cane at not exactly pence! Actually come to think of it, as we also have to pay for our spectacles unless in very straitened circumstances, most of us do need all the monetary help we can get just to make the most of our distance vision or to protect our eyes from the sun that we certainly do see here all the year round if not as hot as you do in the US.
Sincerely Mrs Chris McMillan
Reading, Berks UK
In response to Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – To Retire or Keep Working my Guide Dog:
I don’t think there is an arbitrary time to retire a guide dog. As long as the dog is comfortable, can do its job well and enjoys working, I see no reason to retire it. A handler knows his dog so well that I think he senses when the time is right, and when that time comes, it’s the most loving thing he can do for such a wonderful companion and helper.
In response to Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – To Retire or Keep Working my Guide Dog:
I wish to talk about my experience on retiring a guide dog.
Though I am currently not a dog user, I used a yellow Labrador retriever steadily for eight years which I received from Guiding Eyes.
I found myself wrestling with the question of when to retire my dog for something over a year. He was in good health, though I too depended upon an arthritic medication and aspirin to relieve my dog of some pain.
While attending an NFB convention, I asked several staff members from Guiding Eyes as well as dog handlers when I should consider retiring my dog. The universal answer I got was “You’ll know when it’s time.”
One day, about a year later, I was making a fairly routine trip when my dog lead me diagonally across an intersection for what seemed to be no apparent reason. I finished my trip, took a cab home from the appointment and took off his harness. He immediately went to his kennel and did not come out for more than four hours. Though he still had more than two years of life in him, and though we would walk and play, he had given me the message that it was time for leisure.
Ever since that day, I have come to believe that a dog will do something unusual that will let his handler know when it is time to retire. I would doubt that a person should put an age limit on when a dog should stop working. I have heard of dogs working until age 12 and I’ve heard of dogs retiring at 4.
It is my opinion that if someone is to tell you that you’ll know when it is time is indeed a statement of wisdom.
I am an older blind guy. I have found a few tricks that help me in my day to day life. One thing that makes blind people a bit isolated if we don’t live in a large city where public transportation is everywhere and often, is the inability to get across town and to the exact location without paying a great deal of money taking a cab. Here is what I do. I take the bus to as close as I can to get to the location I wish to travel to. However, sometimes getting to the exact location is not on the bus route and I can’t walk that far or don’t know the route. While I am on the bus, I take out my trusty cell phone and call a cab. I tell the cab company what corner (after asking the bus driver,) that I will be waiting on and what time the bus arrives. I get off the bus and there is the taxi. The cab takes me the last mile or two and as I am leaving the location I call the cab once again and have them pick me up.
I don’t need to feel isolated in my suburban home. I can get out for a night on the town for bus fare and perhaps another ten or twenty bucks for the cab. It isn’t perfect, but solves my problems.
Glenn Sabatka – Fort Myers, Florida
I wrote the following to my local newspaper, the Huntsville Times, and it was published on Jan. 14.
On Saturday, January 8, there was a tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona. At least six people were killed, including a judge and at least one child. Many others, including a US Congresswoman, were seriously wounded. The shooter is in custody. At this writing, his motives are not known.
This is not the end of the story. The blood which was spilled in Tucson covers the hands (and the lips) of many prominent citizens. I refer to the hosts of what has come to be called “talk radio and TV.” You can find them all over, just tune up and down your radio dial–I need not name them here.
Their rhetoric is filled with hate, bigotry, intolerance, confrontation, and a totally unAmerican attitude of total condemnation of those with whom they differ ideologically. Just turn their programs on for fifteen minutes. You will hear terms such as “traitor, treasonous, enemy, socialist, communist, nazi, unamerican.”
You will see web sites, including one from a candidate in the 2008 election, showing the faces of opponents with shooting targets superimposed over them.
Did the shooter listen to talk radio? Is he a nut of the right or left? Did he visit these web sites? We do not know at this time. However, the blatant hostility and aggression spewed forth daily in our media must surely have touched him. It is time to re-think the concept of “free speech,” and talk a little more about “responsible, respectful, tolerant speech.”
Huntsville, AL 35802
In Response to Feature Writer John Christie – The Blind Persons Allowance:
I am writing in response to the article about the Blind Allowance. As far as SSI and SSDI are concerned in this country, we blind who are unable to work are penalized heavily and live by outdated rules. In California, they cut the SSI down to $908 a month from $972 a month in 2008. There is no cost of living increase until 2012. If a blind person marries another blind person, $200 is taken away from each of them each month, no matter what part of the country they live in. In other words, if you live in a state which pays you only the Federal part of the SSI, which is $694 a month, and you marry someone who is blind, and he/she loses $200 of their check as well as you do, and you are left with barely enough to support you, unless you live in low income housing, or with family. If you marry someone sighted and they get a good income, like $2500 a month, then the blind person loses all their SSI check and gets no money at all. These outdated rules are the reason so many of us live alone, or stay out of relationships, or live with other people without being married to them. SSI gives us no incentive to improve ourselves, no way out. You are not supposed to do this, or that, and the cuts in the state part of the SSI have hurt us in various ways. I cannot afford to go places as often as I would like to, because at $5 each way, it adds up. It cuts down on our being able to socialize with others. I also have to be careful what I buy at the grocery store, and not get anything extra. The only luxuries I allow myself these days are Internet access and my XM satellite radio. Besides myself, I have two cats to take care of. If I wasn’t in low income housing, I’d be on the street, as my family has passed away years ago. There is no way to save money for anything, no savings, nothing extra. At this time, I am glad my landlord pays for the heat and electricity and I pay for the rest. Because AT&T charges separate charges for every little thing, I am on Universal Lifeline, which lets me pay $9.07 a month. I have no long distance on my main phone, because I cannot afford long distance. I don’t have voice mail, Caller ID, or anything extra on the house phone. So, as you can see, the deep cuts have forced me to cut away a lot.
In response to Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – To Retire or Keep Working My Guide Dog:
This is a very sensitive topic and one that every guide dog owner has their own opinion about, but I decided I’d give mine since I’ve used a guide dog since 1976. I believe each dog is different along with each circumstance, but I’ve chosen to work my dogs as long as they could work. The situation was different with my first dog since she suddenly started having vision problems at the age of 6, and I needed a dog to get me to and from work. I had to retire her. I didn’t have room for 2 dogs so chose to take her back to the Leader Dog School and received my second dog. This was the right decision for me at that time in my life but that doesn’t mean it would be now. I received my third dog from Leader Dog and worked him until he was thirteen. We went to technical college together. I couldn’t have made it through that experience without a dog, so if something had happened to him during that time, I’d have been faced to make another difficult decision. I just put my fourth dog to sleep last February at the age of 14. Due to my circumstances, I was fortunate to be able to give her a long happy life and was able to allow her to slow down with age. I worked her until the last year of her life, although we had slowed down considerably. I’ve now received my fifth dog from Southeastern Guide Dog, and my plans are to keep him just as long as he’s happy and healthy. I believe I’ll know when it’s time to stop working him. Each one of my dogs has let me know. That certainly hasn’t made it any easier to make those decisions, but I’m glad I was able to listen to my heart and make each decision as it came. I don’t believe there can be a mandatory retirement age for man or dog. As you mentioned in your article, two things that are of utmost importance are the financial means to support your dog and to be sure your dog is happy, healthy, and comfortable. If you can do these, then I say let your heart be your judge.
Thank you for the opportunity to express my views on this topic.