Author: Edward Cohen (Page 1 of 3)

One Guy’s Strategy for Dealing with Unfamiliar Public Restrooms

Since this post is written by a guy for guys, you ladies, will have to decide if it contains anything of use to you. But for both groups, please consider using your white cane in these situations. More on that later.

I’m assuming, you’ve figured out where everything is in those public restrooms you occasionally use. But what about dealing with an unfamiliar one?

This post is the strategy I’ve worked out over many years to deal with those situations. I have and make use of my limited eyesight, but maybe a totally blind person will get something out of this as well.

As guys, we’ve learned three things about public restrooms. One, getting in and out can require multiple turns and maybe even opening additional doors. Secondly, while there’s only three fixtures in there we seek, we never know before entering where they will be. So, until a simplified, tactile sign indicating the layout is posted by the gender ID sign as you enter, it will always be a hunt and seek operation. Lastly, don’t even get me started on how many types of soap dispensers and hand drying devices there are, let alone how each operates and where they are hiding – I mean located.

Keep in mind that after doing your business, you want to easily get the heck out. Don’t laugh, I know someone who started calling for help after a frustrating 15 minutes of not finding the door. And no, it wasn’t me.

Public restrooms come in all sizes and layouts. We’ll assume in a one-person restroom, you can figure it out. In a small, narrow, shared restroom, all three fixtures might be on the same wall with the sink closest to the door.

Larger restrooms have no standard layout. But, you know what you need has to be in there somewhere. In the largest restrooms, urinals or even troughs and stalls may be in an adjoining area. Navigating these multi-space types can be the most challenging. Should you feel the need to ask for directions from a fellow occupant, having your cane in hand, will likely result in a helpful response.

For this discussion, we’ll assume you’re dealing with a large, single room facility. Your goal is to create a mental floor plan to follow when you wish to exit. This starts the moment you step from the hall through the entry door or opening. So, here goes.

Begin remembering each turn and/or secondary door through which you passed to reach the main space. Pause and notice what is immediately next to you. This is your exit landmark and remember it well. It could be a full length mirror, the end of the row of sinks, or maybe a large trash can. Remember if it is on your left when you enter, it needs to be on your right when you wish to leave.

Sorry if this is starting to sound like an episode of Mission Impossible. But if it helps you, hum the theme song as you continue your mission. Grin.

If it’s a busy place, step out of the walkway as you confirm your exit landmark. Perhaps, you can tell if you’re alone in there or not. If you’re holding your white cane, pausing a moment won’t raise any concern. I’ve even received some unsolicited useful information from another guy in there.

If the restroom is in use, helpful sounds might identify fixture locations. If you think you’ve spotted them, mark their location on your mental map. Sometimes a ceiling or wall light is located above skinks and urinal, if you can make use of that clue.

If you’re alone in there and the you’re clueless about where the urinals might be, this is where your white cane is particularly handy. Don’t rush, keep track of how you’re moving with respect to your exit landmark. Once you’ve found them and taken care of business, you’re ready for the sinks.

If you already found the sinks, great, retrace your path back to them. If the sinks aren’t yet on your mental map, running water sounds might help. Resume your search. Again, keep in mind where your exit landmark sits.

Once you’re finally at a sink, challenges still remain. You must get water to flow, soap to dispense, find and operate the hand drying device and maybe find a waste basket. I won’t try to describe the many types of such devices and possible locations. So, I hope you’ve already encountered and mastered many of them.

Now, if you were successful in creating your mental map, turn to your exit landmark, and confidently head to the exit.

While it can at times be a stressful experience, I sincerely hope you found something in this post to help you or you could share.

Thank you and happy traveling
Edward Cohen
EZ2See® Products LLC

Why I Finally Started Using a Long White Cane

Long before I decided to begin using a long white cane, I recognized that my eyesight was declining and impacting many aspects of my life.

Among other things, my condition, RP, steals the light-gathering cells in your retina.  Meaning, where others could easily see to navigate, either inside or out, I struggled.   As it worsened, I hesitated going out alone at night.  I hesitated going out with people who didn’t know my sight challenges.  Even on a sunny day, if a shadow wasn’t being cast by steps, I could go flying down them.  I really needed to start using a white cane.  But, like so many in that situation, I held off.

The big wake-up call happened at age 45 when I failed the vision test for my driver’s license.  A follow-up visit to my eye doctor sealed the news.  He pronounced that I now met the terms for being legally blind.   As I sat dejected in the exam chair, he recommended I contact service providers who, among other things, could get me the white cane training I’d need.

For months, I vacillated between thinking of following the doctor’s advice and holding off.  I couldn’t verbalize what kept me from taking his sensible advice.  I knew no blind person to whom I could talk about this.

In my case and maybe for others, my reluctance was really based on fear.  No, I wasn’t afraid of the cane itself, it was fear of what people I knew would now think about me when I appeared with a white cane.  Fear that I’d no longer be seen as the competent guy that I knew I was.  Fear that coworkers or supervisors might start treating me differently and maybe start questioning my work.  Fear that friends would feel sorry for me and want to be overly helpful.  Maybe I was just uncomfortable at the thought of beginning to present as a blind person.

Then there is the thing that guys might not talk about.  If you’re at the age when you’re hoping to go out on dates or find a partner for life, a guy is likely to think his chances are slim if he advertises his disability.

On that point, significant vision-loss wasn’t a factor until after I married.  But before we were engaged, I told her of my retina condition.  I explained that already, I was uncomfortable with night-driving and it would probably get worse.  Her response was simply, “Well okay, then let me start doing all the night driving”.  And that was all there was to it.  I’m a lucky guy.

During a period when I was open to the idea of using a cane, I learned there was a local chapter of a national blind organization in my city and they had an upcoming meeting.  Meeting and talking to both vision-impaired and totally blind members over a period of months, gradually got me over the hump.  I obtained my first folding cane and started learning proper travel techniques.

As I practiced with the cane on walking trails, it was obvious how helpful the cane was.  No more tripping on uneven pavement or stepping into water-filled holes.  Those coming towards me assumed I didn’t see them and gave me wide berth.  Past concerns I’d bump into people, happily vanished.

I worked in a large government complex downtown and had a responsible job.  Even as my vision declined, I was able to successfully travel inside and around the buildings.  I never ended up pulling my folding cane out of my shoulder bag at work.  I did use that cane to get to the bus from home, from the bus to the building and then reverse it all at the end of the day.

I did use a cane when I became involved with new volunteer organizations.  I did use it whenever we traveled by plane or train.  Beside the benefits I’ve already mentioned, a bonus was if I stepped into a confusingly designed or poorly lit public restroom, some helpful guy might be in there and offer some useful directions.  If I accidently bumped into someone, my apology and the sight of my cane always prevented any misunderstanding.

This isn’t a blog on where to go to get assistance.  Dear reader, you could be living anywhere.  But, you might reach out to those in your community who work with seniors or contact your local or state library.  If you have access to the internet, search for the word “blind organization” and the name of your state.  If you have such a thing, consult your phone book.

My relationship with my white caned totally changed when we moved to a new city.  I decided I’d use my cane from then on.  Now everyone who knows me here, knows me as a cane user.  Perhaps it is being older, but I now am proud to walk throughout my community showing that blind people can safely travel independently and are otherwise, no different than anyone else.

I admit that I am not the person who can preach to anyone about boldly stepping forward to start being a cane user as soon as it would help.  I can only say that once I got and learned how to use my white cane, many things I feared did not happen.  And at the same time, challenges I previously faced greatly diminished or ended.

If low vision is making you uncomfortable going around independently, I’d urge you to reach out to any of the many organizations that exist and are anxious to help you.

Consistency is Your Friend

As I’ve said in past Blog Posts, recognizing and then phasing out long-held habits that no longer help you anymore and forming and practicing new helpful ones that do, can reduce stress and make your life a little easier.  

Many of my other Blog Posts deal with how to reduce losing things and then finding things.  The tips below are along the same lines, but a bit different.

I avoid randomly setting down my wallet, keys and cane on returning home which used to lead to panic when I needed them when it was time to head out.  This no longer happens because I now have a small box by the door. I no longer have to look for them.

Here’s what I do to more easily locate the glass, cup or bottle from which I’m drinking.  Assuming I’m standing or sitting at a table or counter and have it in my hand, I press my elbow against the table’s edge with the item held upright.  Keeping my elbow touching, I lower the item to the table. To locate it, I contact the same spot with my elbow and lower my hand. Bingo, there it is.  This technique works for all sorts of similar purposes.

During a meal, do you misplace the piece of silverware you’re using; or worse yet, bump it and send it flying?  Get into the habit of consistently setting it on the far side of the bowl or plate with the handle pointing away from you.  

Overall, if you’re lucky enough to have any control over where things end up in your kitchen or elsewhere, the following might help:    

  1. Use the sides of cabinets the home for frequently used items.  
  2. If salt and pepper shakers are in identical containers without obvious tactile markings, decide which goes on the right or left.  Make up your own rule; here’s mine. I don’t favor pepper, so the container on the right is salt. Get it, salt is right and pepper is wrong, I mean left. 

Bottom line, I agree with the old saying, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  

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Reducing Dropping and Spilling Things

This post deals with the common but troublesome act of dropping or spilling something.

Whether it’s hard to see what you dropped or the getting down and back up is difficult, reducing the number of times you have to do it is a plus. 

But if you’re dropping things because you’re unsteady or for similar reasons, please seek medical advice. 

To drop or spill things less often, you will need to stop and consider what you were doing both physically and mentally when it happened.  Maybe you were not fully focused on what you were doing or not using the best technique or moving too fast. I know I’ve been guilty of them all.

Your challenge will be to recognize when you’re about to repeat such actions.  Then eventually replace them with actions that might lessen the chance of it happening again.

The tips below aren’t brilliant, but perhaps you’ll find something of value and helpful. 

On Spilling 

  1. Pour over the sink where spilling won’t be a problem.
  2. Pour where the light is better.
  3. Pour into something that has a color that contrasts with what you’re pouring.
  4. Don’t over fill items you’ll be carrying.
  5. When carrying liquid or loose items, place the item in or above a larger item to catch spills.

On Dropping Things

  1. Stand over a work surface so if the item drops it won’t fall all the way to the floor.
  2. Keep the item touching the work surface as you work with it.
  3. Manipulate the item,  as close to the work surface as you can, 
  4. take a moment and fully focus on what you’re doing.
  5. Take it slower, you’re more likely to drop things when you’re moving too fast.
  6. When carrying something, hook the item to you if there is a way to put it over your finger, hand or arm.
  7. When possible, use two hands when carrying something.
  8. Improve the two hand carry by pressing your elbows against your side. It also helps keep the item level.  Yes, you might look like you’re praying, but there are worse things to look like you’re doing.

Let me know about techniques that work for you and I’ll pass them on .

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My Brush with TV Fame

I hope this blog inspires you to expand and share news with your network.

I served on a volunteer commission for some years and met many interesting people.  I particularly hit it off with a few of them.    

One fellow was particularly intrigued when he learned of my calendar business.  When I moaned and groaned about the difficulty I was having getting media coverage, he mentioned that his wife worked at the local TV station.  See where I’m going with this? Grin.

He kindly agreed, with no guarantees, that he’d mention me to her.  Fast forward about 3 months. One afternoon I got a call from a producer at his wife’s station.  He asked if I’d be available tomorrow for an interview in my home. After a quick check of my calendar, we set a time and I provided my address.  He told me the name of the woman who would be doing the interview.

Early the next afternoon, a young woman with a tv camera and tripod on her shoulder arrived.  We chatted as she looked around and suggested I sit in a comfy chair in the family room. Her kind demeaner and genuine interest in my effort put me at ease.  For the next 40 minutes, as she stood beside the camera, I responded to her wide-ranging questions. The experience came to feel like speaking to an interested friend. 

When we thought we’d about covered everything, she said it would be on today’s 6:00pm and 9:00pm news.  Sure enough, there it was. Of course, it had been edited down to a few minutes, yet it retained much of what I hoped would be there.

You can read the transcript and click the link to see it here.  Even more amazing is she contacted me a month or so later to do a follow up that is  offered here in the same way.  

While the pieces were only viewed by those in that station’s viewing area, many friends and acquaintances remarked that they saw it.  I can only hope that perhaps someone who would benefit learned of it as a result.   

So, never doubt the value of both expanding your network and sharing with them what you’re doing.

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Participating in an Accessibility Walk

I’m writing this Blog for two reasons.  First, some folks said I should share when I do interesting stuff.  Hopefully you think that is what this is. The better reason is that you may want to seek such an event where you live.

Our county health department person in charge of their active living program created this event to which I and others were invited to participate.   

The purpose was to expose city and county officials to the everyday, real-world experiences that people with various physical and mental different challenges as they negotiate our downtown streets and sidewalks.

It turned out that I was the only blind or low-vision person invited.  There were 2 people with physical disabilities using their own equipment–one a manual wheelchair and the other a power wheelchair.  I wished folks dealing with other challenges like hearing loss or who walked with difficulty could have been there too.

There was a bicycle/pedestrian advocate, one person who worked with a group that promoted independent living and another from a group helping those with brain injuries. The rest of the group came from city and county government.  They included one city council person, our mayor, the assistant city administrator, the fellow from public works responsible for sidewalks and, of course, the county public health person.

What made it all work was the consultant who led the effort.  They were an expert on such topics as the ADA, signal devices and what made sidewalks, driveways, intersections, traffic signals and curb cuts safe to use.

We left from the downtown library and walked 8 blocks out one route and back another.  During the walk, folks tried on the low-vision simulator glasses and the spare wheelchairs brought for that purpose.  I skipped both of them. <grin> 🙂

I had the chance to point out to the city folks how helpful contrast is to those with low-vision.  I was surprised to learn that none of them knew that. They asked if the “truncated cones” in the sidewalk by each curb cut helped.  I said that for me, they mostly helped because they contrasted with the concrete so I aim for them.

Some of us gave them an earful about the curb cuts that dumped you out into the intersection instead of directly into the crosswalk.  The audible crosswalk features also generated much discussion.

I left feeling that some good might come from this.  If it does, many people will benefit. Maybe this is something to consider where you live?


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My Experience with the Assistive Technology Challenge

For a number of years, a combination of organizations in my city has held a competition to encourage the development of assistive technology.  While my product didn’t seem to qualify last year, I was encouraged to apply. 

The instructions indicated that they were looking for software with an emphasis on the health field.  I again questioned the value of applying, yet the organizers encourage me to apply. With thousands of dollars being awarded, I decided to apply.  Surprise, I was one of six companies selected to deliver their “pitch”.

We each were allotted 5 minutes to make our pitch.  So, I used the 2-weeks prior to craft my words to address their list of questions.  I provided PowerPoint slides to describe my target audience, the market size and its growth potential. 

On the big day, the contestants were instructed on how the event would work and the order in which we’d appear.  I was third. I sat and listened to the first pitches. I listened with awe at the work that had been done and the potential for what these companies were offering.

When it was my turn, I greeted the panel and handed each a calendar as I explained why I started making this product.  Then I pointed out the design features that so appeal to my customers. 

I then called for the slides to begin.  As I went through my target markets, I included their current size and growth potential and my annual sales growth.  

The last question to addresses was how I’d spend the prize money.  I would use it to hire a sales or marketing person which has always been my greatest need.

The judges’ initial positive feedback made me think I had a shot; but it was not to be.  They then pivoted and didn’t see that the demand for a print calendar was very large and with cell phones everywhere, the market would continue to decline.

I did sell a couple of calendars at my table in the exhibit hall.  A few people dropped by with words of praise and encouragement. I made some good contacts with other tabling groups.  

The event reinforced what I had long ago learned.  To keep moving forward, you just have to find and make your own breaks and keep going; which I did. 

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Thank you Rochester Post Bulletin and Boomer Grandpa

Hello friends,

I’m so pleased that Loren Else, the man behind the Boomer Grandpa column, featured me in one of his articles in our local newspaper, the Rochester Post Bulletin.

Karen noticed in the paper an upcoming Saturday event at the Civic Center called the Healthy Living Fair.  We stopped in that Saturday after hitting the Farmer’s Market. Apples and spinach were in my backpack.

When Karen and I walked in, she pointed out that our newspaper had a booth.  Believing that local newspapers are very important, we have subscribed since moving to town.

Loren Else, writer of the Boomer Grandpa column

I said, “Let’s step over”.  Loren Else, who writes the Boomer Grandpa column, was staffing and talking to people.  Never known for being bashful, when he was free I confirmed that he was the person who wrote about what some boomers were doing in our community.  When he confirmed that was indeed him, I pulled out a copy of my calendar. I intentionally took one, just in case such an opportunity might present itself.  

Loren looked at the calendar and asked a few questions.  I could tell he had a keen ear for possible stories. After a couple of minutes, he asked for my card and said he’d be in touch.  It sounded promising, but I’ve heard such words from others before that led nowhere.

What a pleasant surprise when he called a couple of days later to arrange a chance to talk.  Two days later we were sitting across from each other with coffee between us. We talked for almost an hour and a half with his little recorder running the whole time.  

He asked all sorts of questions about my early years, my many career paths and much about how the EZ2See® Weekly Planner/Calendar came to be. And throughout the time, I got to learn a bit about his interesting life as well.  The following week, the article came out. How fun it was when I heard from those who know me. Hopefully, it makes someone who it might help aware of the product.

You can read the article here, in the Post Bulletin

Image of Edward, owner of EZ2See

Edward Cohen is the creator of the EZ2See® weekly planner/calendar.

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When Where You Are Is Not Where You Want To Be  

This Blog Post is quite different than my other ones.  This one came to me over time and seemed worth sharing.  I’m trying to put into words a philosophy for dealing with my vision-loss. It’s an attitude I’m trying to live by.   Perhaps it will strike a chord with you. Here’s how this thought came to me.

I have more trouble seeing now than I did about a year ago.  I have a couple of routes that I can walk to get to the store, the coffeeshop and downtown.  One is more shaded by trees than the other, so when it’s hot I take the more shaded route. While the coolness is nice, it is also darker.  A year ago, I could make out the curves in the sidewalk and paths where the shade was deepest.

However, this year I realized that I no longer could see the path in those shaded spots.  It was disheartening to face the reality that my eyesight had declined so much so fast. I stood there soaking in what this meant.  After a bit, with no visual clues, my handy long white cane found and kept me on the path. I slowly get past this and other sections and back on my way.  

Over time, I started to try and see beyond the deeply shaded sections.  If I could make out where the path picked up beyond these sections, I’d aim for them.   Combining confidence that comes from using my long white cane, some eyesight and this method, I’d get through these spots more quickly.  Later, I realized that if I could see someone on the path ahead of me, I’d try to use them as a moving target.

It was on one of those walks that it dawned on me that such a practice could be an allegory for the way one lives their life.  There will be times in our lives when we may feel lost, getting nowhere or unhappy with our current situation.

But if you have a big goal or a series of smaller goals, you have that spot in the path ahead to aim for.  If you don’t have such goals or if they are vague, work on them. Having goals and working towards them can be very helpful.

Image of Edward, owner of EZ2See

I also noticed that If someone was a bit ahead of me on the trail, I could use them to point the way forward. I translate this to mean, find or learn about someone who has walked a path similar to yours.  Especially if they are now in a “place” more like where you’d like to be. Guides, role models and mentors can make all the difference as you travel along your path.
Edward Cohen is the creator of the EZ2See® weekly planner/calendar.

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Saving Face: Spatial Awareness Suggestions

By saving face I don’t mean avoiding embarrassment, but it could mean that too.  I’m really talking about actually avoiding running your head or face into things while moving about your place.  Why in the world would this happen?

If you are someone who moves with ramrod straight posture, you can skip this blog post.  For the rest of us whose posture tends to assume a slight bow, read on.  

Moving in this way puts your head slightly forward of your torso.  In this position, with good eyesight in dark spaces, it’s potentially more likely for your head or face to contact the corners of walls or partially open doors.  

To reduce injury, consider these ideas.

  1. Try to always keep doors fully open or fully closed.  Close cabinet doors before walking away.
  2. Little lights can be helpful.  Put nightlights in selected outlets to offer some “navigation” aids. 
  3. Create your own “early warning system.”  This means that your hands will contact the object before the rest of you.  Use this defensive move when you aren’t positive of the situation, when going around corners or passing through doorways. Here’s how I do it.
    1. With your thumb pointing up, pivot one arm up so your hand is about centered on your body at a comfortable height.  Keep your fingers slightly curved towards you and won’t get jammed if they contact an object before the rest of you does.
    2. For extra protection, position both hands in front of you and lightly press your fingers together or rest one against the other’s palm or forearm.  Whatever seems comfortable to you, just be sure those fingers are several inches in front of any part of your face that you have become fond of.

But accidents can happen even when you’re standing still.  When you bend over, you can run your face into something below and in front of you.  The goal is to always remember to check before bending over.  Some things to remember to do before bending down:

  1. Sweep your foot or hand in front of you to see if something is there,
  2. Bend over slowly rather than immediately reaching for a dropped object,
  3. Take a step backwards before bending over, or  
  4. If you can, lower yourself instead of bending at the waist.  

Changing lifelong habits takes awhile.  The key is to begin to transition to habits that help you.  Let me know if you found something here helpful.  

This is my husband’s second year for your calendar and pen order. LOVE THEM ALL!!

Your product is great and has given my husband his “freedom” back – he knows when his appointment are without needing to ask anyone He loves being in control of his schedule and life.  Independence – a very good thing to keep as long as physically possible!!

Thank you again, from both myself and my husband.

Alexis S.  Port Angeles, WA

Image of Edward, owner of EZ2See

Edward Cohen is the creator of the EZ2See® weekly planner/calendar. 

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