For your convenience, all Reader’s Forum submissions are separated by the ## symbol.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? Danni wrote:
It’s not just wait staff, believe me! I’ve been dealing with this garbage for nearly 28 years and sometimes it’s rather irritating. Why is it so hard for folks to understand that we are human?
Just yesterday at a doctor’s appointment I was talking with my doctor by myself in the room and when she walked me out to the waiting area she tells the gal I am with “We will see her in a year.” Uh, I was just talking to her and not once did she say that directly to me.
Sometimes I ignore it and let it roll off my back other times I get rather irritated.
I’m human and that should be the first thought in anyone’s mind and most especially folks in the medical field!
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? David wrote:
Perhaps, they simply are not sure how to establish contact with a totally blind person. They can’t look at you and ask, What would you like. It’s not a big issue for me. I just deal with it. Some gripes are always going to be with us. I think getting a job is more important. I have a friend who got nearly ballistic when a wait staff told her that her Coke was at 12:00 and her vegetables were at 3:00. I’d have simply thanked her and gone about my business—at least she was trying. Often, blind people differ in their styles of help and assistance and we need to remember that sighted people are not going to remember several different strategies. It’s nice when they ask us if we need help or such and don’t just assume we do, but it’s not worth upsetting myself anymore.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? Beth wrote:
I have had no experience of having a sighted person’s voice raised, thinking I am deaf as well as blind and I have had only a very few instances of wait staff asking my sighted companions what I want to eat. I believe that, in many cases, lack of eye contact, which is very disconcerting to the sighted, accounts for the questioning of our companions. This is not meant as a negative regarding the blind or the sighted, I just believe it’s the main reason. The wait staff may think they have to try to overcome the lack of eye contact by shouting at us. These kinds of behaviors are not unfortunate, as claimed in the piece. I find them insignificant and I just happily reply to the wait staff’s requests and continue with my day. Coincidentally, I now have a 60 percent hearing loss and I at times may need a raised voice.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? June wrote:
Because of multiple disabilities, I always travel with someone. This situation happens regularly to me. However, I think the explanation is very simple.
When a person wants to start a conversation it almost always starts by establishing eye contact. I believe the sighted person simply has no idea how to start without the eye contact and does the easiest thing and turns to the sighted companion. What makes me mad is when my companion, who knows better, answers for me!
Once again, it is a matter of our needing to educate others if we want this practice to stop. The question is, is there a somewhat universally accepted way to get a blind person’s attention when you don’t know their name? I prefer a touch on the arm or shoulder, but I know others who would hate that.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? Edward wrote:
I am totally blind and get my wife to help with the menu at restaurants. Then, I order my own food. Most people do not notice that I am blind. I tie my folding cane to my pants. I snake the elastic through the loop for the belt, then wrap the end of the elastic around the other end of the folding cane. This allows me to carry the folding cane without holding it.
One afternoon I took my wife’s cousin to Starbucks for an ice coffee. The woman at the counter got all excited. She started shouting, “hey you!” I said, “are you talking to me.” Since totally blind people cannot see whether people are talking to them or around them, I was understandably confused. She said, “Are you blind?” I replied, “Yes!” She said, “How did you know that was a ten dollar bill?” I told her my trick for folding bills differently to figure out what I was carrying in my wallet. She was not being mean, just amazed and surprised. You have to be patient with the waiting staff. Eventually, they will get it.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? Robin wrote:
I agree with Bob that wait staff could be trained to deal with customers who are blind more effectively. The fact of the matter is, however, that most wait staff are young people who are only waiting tables until something better comes along, they complete their education and move into careers, etc. There are very few career wait staff.
The basic problem when dealing with a customer who is blind is a lack of eye contact. Typically a waiter/waitress doesn’t know the patron’s name, nor do they need to. They simply approach the table, make eye contact and proceed. A sighted customer knows the wait person is speaking to them, simply because they’re looking at them. In dealing with a customer who is blind, they can’t operate normally. That’s why they may choose to talk loudly. I don’t think it has anything to do with perceived disabilities or intellectual deficits. I’ve had wait staff tap me on the shoulder or lean over and speak into my ear in a quiet tone. This is definitely preferable as the physical contact and/or the awareness of their physical presence lets me know they’re talking to me. I’ve always made sure to thank a waiter/waitress who does an exceptional job of dealing with me respectfully. A little larger tip helps reinforce the right kind of behavior and, hopefully, they do a good job the next time they have a customer who happens to be blind. Focusing on the positive and refusing to dwell on the negative is, in my opinion the best way to deal with this, and many other situations.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? Elaine wrote:
The subject of sighted people talking to the person a blind person is with instead of the blind person has been discussed on phone systems I’ve been on over the years. When it’s happened to me I tell the sighted person that they can talk to me. Sometimes I just answer the question before the person who’s with me can say anything.
I’ve heard that one reason some sighted people don’t talk to blind people they don’t know is because many of us who are blind can’t make eye contact with them. Sighted people are used to establishing eye contact with other people before they talk. I think there’s a lot of truth to this because I remember hearing about how important eye contact is when I took speech in school. When we gave speeches to the class, one of the things we were evaluated on was eye contact. Since I’m totally blind and unable to look into anyone’s eyes, I wasn’t evaluated on that issue.
In response to Rita Pulsoni’s requests for independent living strategies, Valerie wrote:
Rita, I was very moved by your request in the 7/10 Reader’s Forum. I married in ’79 and my husband was totally blind, I had partial vision. We usually split the tasks of marriage between us–he worked and had all that to do. I cooked, kept house, wrote checks, and took care of our daughter, etc.
He died two years ago and our daughter is on her own, so I had to move in to a smaller place alone.
Schwan’s Foods has home delivery to many areas of the U.S. You can call to find out if they deliver in your area. Their number is 1-888-724-9267. I don’t travel well now that I am totally blind, so I have a drugstore that delivers and get some grocery items from a local supermarket that delivers too. I do this by phone. I pay bills this way. When I can’t get help shopping for clothes, I call Walmart.com or any store that you can call and phone order. I take para-transit going places. My daughter reads my mail.
It may take a bit of time, but there are many ways to manage. Do what feels right for you and don’t worry about meeting others’ expectations. I found living alone very different from the 31 years I was married. Trust yourself and give yourself time. It’s daunting at first, but it can be ok and fun too.
In response to Rita Pulsoni’s requests for independent living strategies, Christine wrote:
Labelling is the answer to Rita’s problem. Over here, many blind people use something called ‘Penfriend audio recorder.’ This is a pen acting as a small recorder and its small adhesive labels containing the information can be attached to all sorts of things, including items for the freezer. It’s very popular among those who use it. It’s not cheap of course, but what high tech things are?
Before the arrival of this device, people used their own systems of labelling, and they often involved elastic bands. But it probably works better if you don’t have anyone around to ‘interfere’ with your system.
To keep one’s clothes in order, colored shaped buttons are often used to great effect sewn on to the discrete clothing labels.
Here in the UK, if people still use checks, we have a check guide which works on a template basis where the relevant blank areas are cut outs and each bank has its own guide. We use ‘chip and pin’ cards when using them as debit or credit cards, but for those who can’t use these, there is still the previous system of chip and signature cards which works well – at least it does once you’ve got the relevant staff to realize it still exists. Many people do not feel comfortable using a personal identification number card reader.
We do not have talking automatic teller machines here in more than a few places so checks are still much used to get money from banks or building societies.
High tech equipment is used to read back printed material such as personal letters etc. We can use telephone banking to have statements read to us or we can use large print or braille. We can also have passwords set up with companies such as the gas, electricity, and water boards, who come to our homes to read our meters. Gas and electricity meters tend to be inside our houses still, the water board may occasionally need to come and tell us if there are water leaks on our roads and they need us to turn off our water. The telecommunications companies will also issue passwords though we rarely need them to come to our homes unless our phone is out of action.
Computer users can buy everything online they need including groceries but I don’t know how you set that up so that you know the man at the door is genuine. I don’t like the idea of buying food online.
People on very low incomes or with a disability can often access companies who will do small jobs for you such as gardening and small repairs. They will do this free if you are on a very low income and are also elderly, but it varies where you live.
My husband is registered blind, I am registered partially sighted. We don’t care to do decorating though my husband can so we pay for all that sort of thing, otherwise we manage everything ourselves except we cannot drive. Until our daughter was old enough to drive, if we couldn’t do it without a car we went without unless it was an item that would be delivered normally by a company.
In response to Rita Pulsoni’s requests for independent living strategies, Isaac wrote:
There’re many things you can do to help yourself in the kitchen. I think the key word is organization.
I do these things to help myself since I live alone:
1. Put corn on one shelf.
2. If I am having green peas I put them next to the corn with a piece of cardboard in between them.
3. I might tear the label on the peas just a bit so I know it’s peas.
4. I might tear the label on the corn twice on opposite sides.
5. I try not to have too many different canned vegetables that it gets confusing.
6. You could make labels and put them on things, but that’s a lot of work! I try to avoid as much of this as possible.
7. I learn to recognize frozen foods by the feel of the package like hamburger, chicken, roasts, and beef ribs!
8. I learn how frozen lamb and steaks feel.
9. With boxes, I try to keep it simple. maybe two boxes of one thing and two of another. I tear corners of boxes to help me remember different things like potato balls or potato puffs or french fries.
10. Some frozen vegetables come in bags, boxes, and I learn to identify them by shape or sound when shaken and sometimes tears in the boxes on the corners.
11. Again I try not to overwhelm myself with a large number of varieties of things.
12. I like to make hamburgers and put things like sliced mushrooms and onions in each burger and bake them. Then put them in ziplock bags and put those in a larger ziploc bag in the freezer. So some evenings, I get a burger, a can of corn and a baked potato for dinner. It’s easy!
Now these are just a few ideas. Others may have some additional ideas, but you just have to decide what’s best for you!
I have a deaf blind friend who does all his cooking and he makes chicken polonesia every Christmas day!
In response to Rita Pulsoni’s requests for independent living strategies, Abbie wrote:
I lived alone for years before I got married. Most of the time, I was in a subsidized apartment which included excellent maintenance so when something broke down, it wasn’t hard to get it fixed. I have enough vision to read labels on food and other items if they’re large enough, and if they’re not, I have both a desktop and portable magnifier.
My husband Bill inspired me because when I met him, he owned and rented twenty houses despite being totally blind. When he suffered a stroke three months after we were married, and we realized we needed a modified home to meet his needs, I figured if he could own twenty houses with no vision, I could own one with some sight. I rented another house that was easier to modify for a wheelchair and eventually bought it. Of course when you’re not in an apartment building where there’s maintenance, getting something fixed can be a bit tricky but not too much so. I’ve been living in this house for almost six years, and I now have phone numbers for an electrician, a plumber, and other maintenance personnel. Bill and I are happy, and I feel confident that I can handle just about any problem that comes our way.
Mina wrote in to say:
To answer those that have responded with ridicule for my idea of using braille to address envelopes, thank you for your kind and generous support. I am being sincere. It’s too bad you do not dream of a day when we can braille envelopes just like we do our braille letters to our blind friends and blind family. In such a future, the machinery can read braille. I will keep my dream alive and keep advocating for this. Blind people can be just as independent as the sighted, even if they live alone. All it takes is the right training. You will find that blind people from the NFB are very “can do” and can do anything. For those of you who do not know, the NFB are the National Federation of the Blind. They are blind people for the blind.
Another reader on here made a good point. We should be supporting each other and helping each other, not ridiculing ideas.