Author: Edward Cohen (Page 2 of 3)

Finding stuff, Part 1: In the Kitchen

Finding stuff and then knowing what it is

If your eyesight no longer gives you the information you need about the world around you, it’s time to pay more attention to other senses.   The sense of touch is the sense most used by low-vision and blind people to learn about the world around them.  Below are things that I’ve come up with that work for me.  Please share some that work for you.  You may need sighted assistance to set up some of these.  

I’ve divided these tips into two parts.  This one focuses on dining issues and finding and identifying things in the kitchen. The next one deals with clothing issues.

Making eating a bit easier

  • Yes, you can touch your food to help get it onto a fork, but probably not when dining with strangers.
  • If you have some sight, consider selecting a plate or bowl with a color that contrasts with the contents to makes food easier to spot.  
  • Some meals are easier eaten in a bowl instead of on a plate.  This might help when dining out.

What’s in this container?

Rubber bands are my friend.  Here are a few ways I use them.

  • There are several similar salad dressing bottles in the fridge door, but my Italian dressing is the only one adorned with a rubber band.  
  • We store many dry items in identical glass jars.  The one with my corn chips have a rubber band around the cap.  My cracker jar has a rubber band around the bottle cap.
  • Olives always go into the same glass jar on which I’ve put a tactile bump on the cap.
  • Consider learning the braille alphabet.  Then you can use adhesive labels with a word or letter.

 Where is that button?

Our microwave and other appliances have a flat screen display, useless for the blind and low-vision.  

I put a tactile bump on the microwave 30 second and off button and I’m good to go.  These tactile bumps are small adhesive-backed raised dots.  An example you are familiar with is the one your cabinet doors close against, to protect the wood.   Find them online or at a hardware,  big box or dollar store.

There are so many handy tips and devices to make kitchen tasks easier.  Consider finding and working with a trained rehabilitation teacher.  They can be very helpful.  

My next post deals with identifying and managing clothing.

Image of Edward, owner of EZ2See

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

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Now where did I put that?  Breaking unconscious habits

In my last Blog Post, I said I would begin to discuss those unconscious habits that may no longer serve you and what to do about them.  This post discusses the all too common situation of briefly setting down an item and then not being able to quickly find it.

Before I start, let’s agree that it will help if you assign a place for an item and then always put it back there.  This is, of        course, much easier to do if small children aren’t around.

The key to breaking habits is to pause at the critical moment to consider your options and only then continue.  At first you won’t regularly pause.  But keep trying, eventually you will.

Here are some options to consider when you pause:

Option 1:  Get a grip

Consider not setting the item down at all.  Obvious, right?  If you don’t set it down, you won’t be looking for it all over.  Evaluate what you’re holding.  For example if it is something small and light like a bread bag twisty, you might grasp it lightly between your teeth.  You’re unlikely to misplace it there.

Option 2: Got pockets?

If clenching it in your teeth isn’t appropriate, what about putting it in your pocket, assuming you have one?  Of course, you’ll have to remember you put it there.   Think of the old joke of the person looking for their glasses only to find them resting on their forehead.

Option 3: Corner the problem

Consider that a 3 foot by 5 foot table has over two thousand square inches.  Plus, if the table has stuff on it or your vision is poor, finding what you set down can be even harder.

Now consider that most tables or counter tops likely have no more than four corners.  If you get in the habit of setting things down on corner, you’ll only need to look in one or two places which could greatly reduce your frustration finding things.

Even kitchen counters may have inside or outside corners.  If not, consider the corners of those fixed objects that sit on the counter top.

My next post will deal with reducing and dealing with dropping things.

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Sharing Tips I’ve Learned

Occasionally I’m invited to share lessons I’ve learned as I deal with vision loss and show some of the devices I find helpful.  At more than one, I’m encouraged to put this information on to the internet.  So here goes.

The first thing you need to know is that every state has a program specifically devoted to assisting people of all ages who are dealing with vision loss and blindness.  They are a tremendous resource, so seek out your state’s program.  Look for State Services for the Blind or something like it.  They have professionals who can come out to you and they may also be able to provide useful training, products and/or devices at no charge.  

Over my 60+ years, I slowly at first and later more rapidly, lost eyesight.  In a way, I’m lucky.  I’ve had the time to learn a lot of coping skills.  I’m convinced that a big part of dealing with vision loss is mental.  By mental, I mean the many unconscious habits we have.  Perhaps these actions were positive and helpful in the past.  But it’s likely that some of them are not anymore.  Some may now even be harmful or dangerous.  

Your challenge is to recognize those habits that are no longer helpful.  Let’s call them, “Habits to Stop” or H2S.  One clue that you’ve found an H2S is when you find yourself frustrated over something you just did such as walking in, setting your keys down and later can’t find them.  When you notice an H2S, you might even want to stop and say out loud, “Oh, an H2S”.  Finding and replacing it is the solution and your mission.

Once you’ve spotted an H2S, you’re on the path to success.  The next step is to find a replacement habit.   Lastly repeat it until it becomes subconscious and automatic.

In my next several blog posts, I will get very specific on the helpful habits I’m using.  I hope you’ll let me know if you find any of them helpful.  Perhaps you’ll share some of your own.

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When I get an order through the mail

One of the major things that motivated me to turn this calendar idea from something just for me into what it is now, was  the feeling I got hearing the comments from those first enthusiastic buyers.  I’d think to myself, “Wow, I’m really helping someone”.   Could this be what a teacher, medical professional or the like experiences as they go about their work?  How few of us ever get to experience such a feeling.   

As each handwritten first time or repeat mail order form arrives, it reminds me of that original feeling.  Sometimes people give me feedback via the website or in a note stuck in the envelope.  How rewarding it is to hear that this simple product is making a difference in people’s daily life.  

While orders to resellers and over the Internet to individuals are a vote of confidence, these mail-order customers are somehow special to me.  I hope I never lose this feeling.

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With Spring Comes Yardwork

I don’t know about you, but when working in the yard I often can’t find the rake or other long-handled tool I had just set down.  This happens even when I consciously place it where I think I’ll find it.  It occurred to me that, just as a lack of contrast makes it hard to find things inside, that may be part of what is happening here.  

The wooden or metal handles blend in with the ground and trees.  They stand out better when laid on the sidewalk or driveway, but that isn’t the best idea.  When inside, I set things down in certain places and that really helps to find them.  But I’ve yet to develop such helpful habits when setting things down outside.  Of course, outside is much bigger than inside.  Maybe drag out an old garbage can to serve as the tool holder?  

So, now I’m thinking of how I can add some contrast to the tool.  White tape or white paint on the handle is one idea.  If I find something that works well, I’ll share it.  If you have already found a solution, would you share it with me?  I’ll pass on what comes in.

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On finding help with this business

I have quickly come to realize that the range of possible market avenues that I could explore far exceeds my time to do so.  Plus, I’ve learned that this whole marketing and sales thing can be learned, but doing it on the job is a slow and painful process.  

I’ve reached out to family and friends across the US and Canada.  To a person, they were happy to learn of what I was doing and encouraged me.  While several offered posts on their Facebook page or offered to show the Sample around, in the end no one had an interest or the time to do more.  Totally understandable.

Since launching this effort, I knew that I’d need someone with real business experience if this was ever going to be more than a “hobby business”.  At every opportunity, I’ve sought such a person or persons.  I’ve been approached by an occasional earnest and talented recent college graduate already interested in marketing, advertising or sales.   A few others have taken calendars to show when they headed south for the winter.  I’ve also begun to look for actual independent sales agents with only partial success.

The most often repeated advice from people, who know such things, is that once I am selling in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 a year, the help I need will appear.  It is all about showing that real money can be made with this product.  

So now that it looks like sales of the 2018 edition will hit that mark, I’m hopeful that a team member or even a partner will soon be found.

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Would it help to have a video?

Early on, I started  thinking about adding a short video to my website.  People who know such things, said that this would be a good idea.  The video would focus on the calendar; not me.  

For some people, merely looking at pictures of the calendar on the website does not explain the product or clearly communicate its innovative features.  For others, seeing it in someone’s hands as they flip through it would be helpful. Such a video would have to be short, only two or three minutes long. 

It was also suggested that I consider adding short videos showing the various practical techniques and practices I’ve developed and use that help as my vision declines.  Sounds good, but where to find the time and more importantly, the video resources? For now, I’ll try to put such things into print. But I’m always on the prowl for video help.  

Little did I know how my network would eventually come to the rescue and the experience be written in a future Blog. 

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On Being Selected for the BizPitch Competition

Towards the beginning of the 2016, I was informed of an upcoming event called BizPitch.  It is put on by the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in this area, a very helpful organization.  If you were selected, you could present your small business idea or actual start-up to a small group of local business-savvy people from various sectors. It was presented like the TV show “Shark Tank”, but without any money being offered.

I submitted my application and was one of 3 folks selected.  The director of the local SBDC office who alerted me to the opportunity, drove me to the event.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the first presenter because it showed me how it all worked.  It took place in the classroom of the local community college.  Tables ran around 3 sides of the room with the panel, observers and the other presenters sitting on the outside.  The first presenter was a young man with some kind of mobile app idea.  As he spoke from behind the lectern, it became apparent that the fellow was known to two of the panelists.  The feedback was basically, “yes we’ve heard all this before, what have you done with the advice we gave you last time?”  An awkward moment.  So I was prepared for some tough love.

Since no one said not to, I had already spread out all of my stuff on the tables on the 3rd side of the room.  So I was more or less ready when they said it was my turn.  I stood near my materials and talked about the situation people face who are dealing with vision loss as they try to manage their daily schedule.  I ran through my experience with seeking a product I could use and the path that eventually led to me starting my business.  That story is on my website if they wanted even more information.

Over the next 20 minutes I showed them the original, partial-year calendar that got so many people to urge me to start the business.  I showed them the 2016 version that I was selling and the Sample I created and sent out to prospective quantity buyers.  Then at the end I passed out the profit and loss statement that the accountant I had recently hired to  had created.  I finished up describing how my first year went and my plans for the next year.  

The time went by quickly and I heard little or nothing from anyone during my talk.  So I was unsure what they’d say.  With a smile growing on my face, I heard one positive statement after another from the panel.  Some assumed that I had a business background because they approved of all I had done.  One panelist was a numbers person and was thrilled to see actual figures on sales and expenses.  One panelist took a Sample to show in a near-by city to the entrepreneur support group there.  A young man who had come  to watch took a card to give to someone he knew would be interested.

The most ironic part of the day came when the 3rd presenter promoting a summer camp at an unused nearby facility, bought a calendar on the spot.  She was having increasing vision trouble and this was the first weekly planner that would work for her. That had to be my favorite part of the event.    

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EZ2See Products are on YouTube!

My story is on YouTube! Mark McGlinch, a fellow attendee of Rochester Open Coffee Club Tech Meetup, created and posted this video for EZ2See Products.

Periodically it was suggested that I make a video showcasing the calendar.  The idea was that seeing someone flip through it would do a better job explaining than reading words or looking at still images.

Okay, I get it, but where to get the help to do this at a price I could justify.

At an entrepreneur meeting, I had the good fortune to meet another semi-retired guy with a strong video background.  When I mentioned my product and that I was hoping to someday make a video, he was intrigued.

As so often happens, by being out and about, I’d met an interesting person and made a valuable connection and even a friend.  At our first real meeting, Mark said he wanted to do this.

I shared that I also had a video background and brought my descriptions of each shot of the video.  Needless to say, Mark was happy that much of the groundwork was done.

Some time later, he returned an updated and improved version of the shots.  Using his equipment and my kitchen as the set, we planned our next steps.

Mark’s version had fewer shot segments with longer limes for me to say.  Repeating them over and over I learned them, but just barely. Since I wouldn’t be able to see cue cards, getting help with my lines was my biggest challenge.  If I only knew braille better!

To keep the video brief, every word was important, so no ad libbing.  Eventually, all the segments were shot and Mark went off to put it all together.

It was a thrill when the email with the link to the video appeared.  Taking a deep breath, I watched it for the first time. Mark’s work was great, but I felt my delivery was awful.  It isn’t at all how I talk.

But Mark and my wife said it was fine.  So, with grateful thanks to Mark, and with their support, it went online and you can see it here.   Only time will tell how helpful people find it.

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On Coming Up With a Counter Top Display

During the first year, I had several retail outlets offering the calendar.  As the second year started to roll around, I spoke to all of them.  It appeared that those who best displayed the calendar sold them the fastest.  Most of them agreed that if they could stand up the calendar rather than laying it flat, more people would see it and possibly buy it.  Thus I was launched into the enormous world of “point of purchase” countertop displays.  After this experience, I will never look at product displays in the same way.  

After hours of store visits and online research, I narrowed down the options to two methods.  One was a fold up display made of white cardboard that could hold about 10 calendars.  The other option was a clear heavy plastic stand that would hold 3 calendars at a time.  Each had their advantages and disadvantages.

The cardboard ones were cheaper but when shipped were quite large.  Meaning they would not fit into the carton with the calendars.  This meant both additional shipping cost, hassle and the store had to do some assembly to set them  up.  Although the  acrylic display was more expensive, it  would fit in the carton with the calendars.  Lastly, I had to come up with a way to decide on  the text that should go on the display and how to get it on either display without costing an arm and a leg or looking like a middle school art project.

So much effort exerted to encourage a few additional sales.  But I choose not to look at it that way.  If my goal was and still is to get these weekly planners into the hands of people who need them, then I need to do what I can to support these retailers.  I chose the acrylic displays.  I used the computer to print out another slogan, “Finally a calendar you can see”.  My wife is far better with scissors and tape.  She affixed it to the small panel across the bottom and taped it so it almost looked professional.  Now we’ll just sit back and hear if it was worth all the effort.

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