For your convenience, all Reader’s Forum submissions are separated by the ## symbol.
In the November 11th Readers Forum, Lucia wrote about the importance of persons who are blind or vision impaired asserting their rights as other groups have done, and I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Lucia, for your well thought out and written comments on that topic.
In addition, I would also like to thank George and Patricia, both of whom wrote me personally with questions about the Sprint phone I discussed in last week’s issue.
I am always eager to hear from fellow readers either personally, in the Reader’s Forum or both.
I would like to comment on the article about songs that mention the word blind or make reference to blindness. There are many different kinds of blindness such as intellectual blindness and spiritual blindness. The song by the Teddy Bears that was mentioned has nothing to do with physical blindness or blind people. The song has to do with mental understanding. The girl in the song is saying that someday this guy she loves will understand that he was meant for her. I think some blind people give sighted people a bad impression more than the lyrics of any song.
Bob Branco wrote:
I would like to respond to those readers who put their trust in self-driven cars. My concerns have nothing to do with distractions, the human element, or drivers who would rather text. My concerns have to do with the imperfection of a machine that we have to put all of our faith and trust in. Bridget is absolutely correct! How do we find this car when we leave the shopping mall? It could be the twenty-fifth car in the tenth row of sixty-one cars in a parking lot, or maybe it got a ticket because it parked in a handicapped place without a placard in the windshield. Does the car have a mind of its own when it sees a parking lot or the adjacent side street, and how would the blind passenger know where to go in order to enter the building unless he’s told or is able to program the car to park where he wants it to park? That can be extremely complicated because every single destination has a different parking plan, and we may not know some of these parking plans to begin with. I believe that if you put two cars on a road, one self-driven and one not self-driven, the self-driven one will more than likely crash first, simply because it has fallible parts. If humans wouldn’t text while driving, consume alcohol before driving, or daydream or sleep while driving, they would be as careful with cars as we all want them to be, and I would trust those situations a lot more. Any circuit could fail at any time without advanced warning. At least if you are with a human who texts, is drunk, or wants to fall asleep, you would probably know about it.
Educating the Nonsightless: It was said in the November 11, 2013 issue that “we can complain or we can see the sick humor and do our best to educate even in adversity. It is our choice. Let us choose wisely without eyesight and demonstrate a little insight.” While I concur with these sentiments, I do not think that while suffering a migraine one should be expected to endure sick humor and play the “let’s educate the public” game. I used to think that with the efforts of the more vocal members of NFB and ACB aided by the rapid dissemination of information on the Internet, we’d soon have a 100% saturation. This is sadly not the case! I don’t feel that my efforts have done any good. I sometimes read in church using braille materials. I have spoken to school classes about guide dogs (when I still had one, that is.) I have patiently explained about talking computers and suffered through the most trying of questions and feel it’s like plowing the sea. It seems no one listens to explanations of how I perform daily tasks. They usually want to know if I was born blind. I was not. That seems to make them feel better. So I know what red or mauve is. Woohoo! I can’t mystify them with echo-location abilities. I’m not that good a bat. I don’t have magical hearing. My other senses did not suddenly become preternaturally keen! Drats! I grant it’s not easy being blind. It’s not something I’d have chosen, but it is doable. I think there are too few blind people as a percentage of overall population, and each has a different skill level, so we may never hit a tipping point that will cause a saturation of knowledge in society. Some blind people are extremely successful and others struggle. I’m not sure what makes one succeed and another fail. It’s not college GPA. Perhaps, knowledge of braille, travel skills, sighted spouse, luck. Just not sure. I suspect brains. I suspect that the IQs for the really successful ones run higher on average than their sighted counterparts or maybe they are more proactive, manipulative, …
Self-driving Cars and Faux Independence: I refuse to be beaten up by the independence meme. I am not a bad person if I need help. I think the interdependence model is best. So many independent types just get help in a catch-as-catch-can manner. I don’t really care to wander around the airport and eventually snag a bystander. Yes, it’d be a good time to educate the public again. But when I’m traveling, I really don’t have time to play teacher or hear how amazing I am just to be out breathing and walking. I won’t muddle along in a crowd as is the fashion at some of the conventions in a manner described by one blind nerd as Brownian Motion. I won’t have a sighted colleague talking to me en route to anywhere while I frantically ask questions to keep him or her talking so I can tell myself I walked here myself to avoid committing the Lèse-majesté of sighted guide! I think self-sufficiency is good. I wonder about the liability of these self-driving cars. If one causes an accident, who is at fault: the blind driver, the manufacturer of the equipment, both, neither? I’m sure the ambulance chaser lawyers will have plenty to say on that one. I’d hate to be at the wheel when things go wrong and depending on my limited sight to try to fix them in the split seconds before a major smash-up. I love my friends, might even like to drive them places, but don’t want to be responsible for injuring them. I’d hate to entrust their lives to technology. We all know how flawless it is, how great voice recognition is, how perfectly the GPS gives directions, and how hacker-proof it all is. I’d be curious what the Freakonomics guys might say about this scenario. I’ll let the blind daredevils out there beta-test or is that test drive this amazing automotive technology. It’s just so new. I think of early aviation and the accidents and the steep learning curve. Self-driving cars just sound too good to be true. I have been around long enough to recall how the rapid advances in technology were hailed as magic for the blind and how everyone would have jobs. I’m older and more cautious now. It’s too hard to find qualified techy types to help you. When you do find someone, he or she often assumes you have more knowledge than you do and can become impatient when you don’t catch on quickly. It must be nice to be a tech genius and make a mint from an expensive piece of niche-market software. I wish I could. There are opportunities out there, but one must be very creative to extract benefit from them. Out-of-the-box thinking doesn’t hurt either or mega-networking.
I am writing because I feel like Christmas has gotten way too commercialized. Some department stores and discount stores have announced they are opening an hour earlier this Thanksgiving. Therefore, those employees can’t spend time with their families. I think the best way to put a stop to this before it becomes an all day thing is for people not to show up at the mall or any other store that chooses to do this. I would like to know your comments on this.
In response to Bob Branco’s op-ed piece, “Are We Hooked On the Computer?” The answer is an emphatic yes. Right now, (November 11), Kari Steele, voice over image voice for KOST 103.5 radio, and midday air personality, uses a computer to load songs. What if the computer went down? Well, there is backup. Not so much of a problem solved! Unless you have to use the CD player!
I recently had to make a trip to a semipro football game. The computers were down at Omnitrans Access Services in San Bernardino. There was an incredibly long wait, to find out where my driver was. I had taken the Metrolink Inland Empire-Orange County Line into San Bernardino. My ride was for 6:00 P.M. I had called to let them know that I was ready at 5:20. It wasn’t until 5-35 that I got Dispatch. The GPS wasn’t working, so she
couldn’t ascertain where the driver was, because her computer was down. No offense, but they were poorly unprepared. She, (the Dispatcher) should have, immediately, sent a taxi out to get me. There was no one at the Train Station who was going over to San Bernardino High School. Luckily, I got picked up, but after 6:50!
The GPS also failed me again on November 7. I was headed toward Orange County, also on Metrolink; this time, I used the Orange County Line. I was ready for my 6:40 trip to Glover Stadium for a high-school football game between Anaheim and Katella High Schools. When I called Orange County Access Services, I was told the GPS was not working. I was offered a taxi, not by OCTA, but by passers-by. I declined, because my trip costs $3.60. I got picked up an hour later but my trip was on the house. Free! And
again, no one was going over to Glover Stadium.
Now if paratransit services had backup plans, not going so far as to strand passengers, then we would be better off. But without a computer working? That is ridiculous folks!
Several years ago I badly sprained my ankle. When I was in the emergency room, my ankle, which was very badly swollen, was examined and subsequently xrayed. The doctor came to me, said it was not broken, and added here are some crutches for you to use. I was with my Seeing Eye dog, and said: doctor, if you can show me how to use crutches with my dog I will be glad to try. His response was to walk out without another word. The nurse asked me what I planned to do and I suggested a support cane, which she got for me. That worked fine. Many years after that I broke two bones and dislocated my ankle. I was pleased to receive very good treatment that time at the emergency room.
While reading the article about the emergency room visit the only thought I had was that this story had to be made up. I’ve been totally blind all my life and have been to the ER several times and at several different hospitals around the country and I have never, ever, ever been treated like that. I’ve always been treated kindly and patiently and have never been mistreated or made fun of because of my blindness. If this is a true story that is the ER visit from hell.
After reading about the emergency room experience I think it is time to circulate this again. It is not the greatest training video ever, but it certainly addresses some of the more obvious (to us) issues. Send it to EVERYONE you know – sighted or blind, in the medical profession or not. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlP7mCr3LmQ
James R. Campbell submitted a poem, titled “Good Night America”:
Good Night America, how are you?
You don’t know me, I am one of your native sons.
I am one of many with a thousand questions,
That we must answer for ourselves.
Go quietly amid the day’s leftovers,
That remain after the Thanksgiving feast.
This day was once ours,
A time of rest and respite.
But the ads in the sales papers
That come from near and far.
Have lured you away from what matters most,
The simple pleasures in life
The holidays were once a time set aside,
For simple pleasures with family and friends.
If we honored this tradition for one year,
Then, for that year, we would regain what we have given up all too willingly.
Go quietly amid the day’s leftovers,
And if you choose to line the pockets of the giants.
At least, remember those who lack,
What money can’t buy this holiday season.