Regarding Access To Digital Publications: An Open Letter To the ARRL

Several years ago, the ARRL, our country’s ham radio organization, began publishing its monthly membership magazine, QST, electronically, both on the web and in a smart phone application. Unfortunately, the web version was Flash based, and the iOS version just plain didn’t read with Voiceover. Naturally, the blind ham community was pretty disappointed, because, while we do get QST from the NLS talking book program, it’s delayed from the printed and electronic edition, and doesn’t include advertising. (It used to be even more delayed and not include a bunch of other stuff, too, so that’s improved.) Parenthetically, of course we want to see the ads. After all, it’s the best way to learn about new gear, right?

Back in 2014, my friend Rob and I had the chance to talk to QST‘s publisher, steve Ford, about this problem of their inaccessible magazine. He told us then that they would look into it more, that a publication usable by us was possible, they just had to figure out the best way to handle it, words to that effect at any rate.

A week or so ago, we got word that the electronic QST was changing formats, and since this new one was HTML 5 and not Flash, maybe i would be usable. I was pretty hopeful anyway, as HTML5 is not inherently problematic in the way Flash is.

It was not to be, however. First, we got suggestion that it should work, because it worked with this thing that I’d never heard of. Then, this evening, we got another note saying that no, it didn’t work with JAWS or Zoomtext. Sure enough, I tried the sample provided, and it didn’t work on the Mac either.

I wrote the below email a couple hours ago and sent it to the person who was in touch with another blind ham. Apparently Allison Mclellan works with Steve Ford on QST.

Anyway, here’s my reaction and what I wrote to the ARRL via Allison. Some may think I’m overreacting. That’s OK. But the fact is that the ARRL had offers of assistance. Even if they didn’t, they know who in the membership roster signs up for the blind membership and could have asked. (They didn’t have to, I know I’m not the only one who offered to help or asked about this.) So what other conclusion can I have drawn?

Hello Ms. Mclellan,

Please feel free to share my comments with whoever should see them, including the general membership if you so desire.

Thank you for corresponding with Tom Fowle and others on this issue. I was excited, if apprehensive, about the changes that are going into effect for the new digital QST. I remember talking to Steve Ford about the issue of access to the digital QST by blind hams during the 100th ARRL anniversary convention. At that time, he told me and my friend Rob, KB5UJM, in his office, that accessibility was possible, they just had to figure out with the publisher how to implement it. I was disappointed to see no real movement on this, but I understand how slowly change can be brought about.

I really must express my extreme disappointment, therefore, at how the issue of accessibility was, or rather was not, handled while implementing the changes ARRL has. While I’m pleased that you have apparently been tasked with dialoguing with our community, it seems to me that this is playing catch up, at best, and a token effort at worst. Here you have an untapped resource that is willing and able to assist you: a group of tech savvy blind members, and I know at least a few of us had volunteered our assistance directly. Untapped, yes; during these developments, was any effort made to reach out to your tech savvy blind members to ask for help, even with testing to see if the solution you had could be made to work? I was certainly never contacted, and, judging by your response, neither was anyone else.

Before I go on, you’ve hit a couple of the major accessibility tools. Voiceover on the Mac and iPhone, and the free NVDA screen reader, are a couple more. I had a quick look with Voiceover with as little success as you had with JAWS and Zoomtext. I don’t think the accessibility tool in use will make much difference.

Here’s the real question. Are we or are we not valued members of the amateur radio community in general, and the ARRL in particular? Does the League, an organization to which I have a lifetime membership, consider me fully able to contribute to the hobby, or am I just a charity case that this great hobby can only serve to be a little bright spot in my otherwise pathetic little life?

Of course we all enjoy the recorded version of QST. We’re pleased that we now have very little of the content removed now. We enjoy it several weeks after everyone else. While this has certainly improved since I first became a ham 29 years ago (now we have, say, a three-week lag instead of a six-week or more lag), even that lag sometimes leaves us scrambling to keep up with events, not to mention being left out of the conversation when all the other guys in our radio clubs are discussing the new QST that just landed on their doorsteps. I understand completely that this used to be unavoidable, and the recorded version was, and still is, a great solution. But now, with the advent of readily available (and cheaper) hardware and software that we can use, we should have options, and many of the barriers to full inclusion are becoming more and more artificial. Including access to digital publications.

Of course we’re willing to help make better access happen, but we can’t do it without the ARRL first asking for help and providing us with the ability to help. Of course we want to be full and equal members of the ham community. And, for my part, I’d happily pay full membership price, not the blind rate, for full, equal, and timely access (yes, including all the ads, we want to drool, too!) to QST.

Cane or guide dog?

In honor of White Cane Safety Day, I offer this…

On another blog,, Jena asks her readers what they would choose and why, after telling her own story. Here’s my response.

I don’t see this as an either/or, but I’m weird. Always have been. Also contrary.

I’m a good cane user. I have no problem with the cane, nor with the fact that it very definitely marks me as blind. When I use a cane, I prefer a rigid one (one that doesn’t collapse or fold), because I haven’t found a collapsing one that gives nearly the tactile feedback a rigid cane does, and that’s much moreimportant to me than the ability to tuck the thing out of the way.

Back in 1995, I read a whole bunch of articles in a now infamous issue of *The braille Monitor*. Some had a definite anti-guide dog bias. Some of the ones that were pro rubbed me wrong. Remember contrary? Yeah, after reading that, I decided I’d like to do this guide dog thing. Four dogs later and, well, here I am, four dogs later, and that fourth was the first one I have trained myself. That should tell you where my preferences lie.

Why though? It’s really simple. I just plain like working a dog. Does it “enhance my independence”? Does it “give me freedom”? Not especially. I’ve traveled as much and as widely before I got my first dog as after. I’ve visited two more countries without a dog than I have with one. I just plain and simple like working a dog. I like seeing how they work a problem. I like the ease of crossing wide open spaces, like parking lots. I like the way they’re so proud when they’ve found the door that you asked them to find. Sharing my life with an intelligent being whose intelligence is far different from yours is pretty amazing. My dogs and I are very close and share real rapport. Are they “my best friends”? No, I have human friends, thanks. Do they ‘take care of me”? No, they’re always late with the mortgage payments. It’s a partnership, and like any good partnership, it isn’t, as Dr. Phil says a 50/50, it’s a 100/100. They give me their best, and they get my best in return.

Are dogs a lot of work? Oh,goodness yes. There are food and vet expenses, and you can’t just fold them up and stick them in a corner. Training my own was rewarding, too. But I tell you, my life is full and rich and lovely with my dogs. Oh sure, my life would be full and rich and wonderful if I didn’t have them, but it would be different somehow, different in a way that I can’t really describe.

So, yes…I think, as long as I am able, and can find enough meaningful work for one, I’ll have a guide dog.

Here are some additional thoughts that I didn’t post in response.

After my first and second guides retired, I did the same thing. I asked myself, “Do I really want to do this again?”

Ultimately, we all know what my answer was, but why would I have asked the question in the first place? If guide dog use is, as many guide dog users would have it, superior to cane use, why is this even a question?

Everything is a tradeoff. Canes are not wholely good or bad. Guide dogs, likewise, are not wholely good or bad. Each has very definite advantages and disadvantages. Most people know what the advantages are to a guide dog.

  • A guide dog is a constant, reliable companion.
  • A guide dog navigates open spaces with ease, even where sometimes a clearly defined path does not exist. Think of parking lots as the most obvious example.
  • Guide dogs remember and cue on familiar places, thus making familiar routes and destinations very easy.
  • Guide dogs offer an additional safety check for that car you didn’t see, and didn’t hear coming in time.
  • Getting through crowds and obstacles is often very efficient, since a guide dog will avoid obstacles as a matter of course.

All great, right? So what’s to put someone off? There are disadvantages, too.

  • Dogs require feeding and vet care.
  • Doggie doo. Need I say more?
  • You can’t just stick a dog in the corner when you’re not using it.
  • Dogs consider useful landmarks as obstacles to be avoided.
  • Learning a new route with a dog takes a while sometimes, and, until the dogis patterned to a new place, finding said new place is often time consuming and not as easy. Finding, for instance, the fourth sidewalk on the left, or second door on the right, takes a bit more effort and a different strategy. And sometimes a cane.
  • Dogs argue. If you go somewhere and intendon going somewhere different from where your dog thinks you’re going, well, the arguments can be pretty epic. Silent, but absolutely real.
  • Complaints about dog hair left in homes, in cars, on clothes.
  • Related, getting a cab or an Uber or Lyft can be a real problem. No matter what the law says, there are jerks who somehow think that it doesn’t apply to them.
  • I’ve even heard of people who lose friends, or whose interactions become severely limited, with friends who just don’t want your dog in their car or home or general vicinity. (I’ve been very fortunate in this regard, and the friends I have who don’t want my dogs around them have actual real life allergies and are very respectful about asking, so not really a consideration for me.)
  • And the big one, public interference. SOme call it “social icebreaker”, but I call it “damnedably annoying”. I really don’t want random people interrupting perfectly nice lunches with friends, or reading books on the bus, or crossing the street, to demand that I gie them my life story, or tell me about the dog they had just like mine, except it was a completely different size, color, and breed, and also refuse to talk about anything else. and distract/pet/talk to/make stupid noises at/otherwise distract my dog. The people who say that people don’t ignore them anymore the way they did when they used a cane, I have to disagree with. We’re ignored just as much whether we have a cane or dog…it’s just that with a dog, your dog gets all sorts of attention you (or at least I) don’t necessarily want.

But even with all those disadvantages, I still believe that having a guide dog is nicer than not having one, and so I’ve had four so far. And that doubt? Yeah, it never lasted very long.

Oh, and the other thing. Trust. I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s the hardest part for me, putting my trust in a new dog. If the people who just automatically and immediately trust a new dog really exist, I’m not one of them. Learning to trust a new dog is a real effort for me. I want to be in control, and i have to learn to give up some of that. I have to learn it every time. Imagine this transition as Hilde goes from student to not student anymore, and I go from teacher to…whatever it is you are after.

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Sorting Through My Feelings: Can’t I Just Be Happy?!

I have a couple of things I want to write, and that I’ve been intending to write, but this one maybe can’t wait.

Reading through twitter, I came across this article. Mind you, it’s not the first sort of article I’ve seen like it, but I had a reaction to it.

OK, I had a couple reactions to it. First, I hated the headline, because it just sounds icky and like inspiration porn may well be coming.

That really wasn’t all though. I read the article, and I thought, “I think that family’s going to be disappointed”.

Wow, I’m usually not so negative about things.

I’ve seen other articles about the next big thing that would offer some sort of sight for some kinds of blind people, and usually, I think, well now…that’s interesting. Usually, the people who benefit from these things are those who have had sight before and have lost it due to accident or to a genetic condition like RP. So what’s the deal with this one? Why the negative reaction?

Before I go on, I want to say that I hope I’m wrong. Being wrong would make me very happy, and being right would not. If these glasses are everything this family hopes they are, I will be the first (well, second maybe) to be happy for them.

There are probably several things going on here. First, I think it’s an expectations setting problem. If this kid’s sight is bad enough that he really can’t read print, I’m fairly sure that learning to do so will at least take a lot of time, at best. In any case, at least the way the story is framed, it seems they’re hoping these glasses will solve all of his blindness problems, and I’m thinking that it just isn’t so. Anyway, everything I’ve read suggests that, if you don’t learn to integrate sight when you’re very young, doing so later isn’t easy, and may even be fairly traumatic. Maybe my reaction would be less negative if this family had different expectations. I don’t know.

Anyway, I’m discussing this article with a friend who happens to be sighted, and she asks me something that I thought about just a little bit before she asked me. “Could you…perhaps….just a little bit….be jealous?”

This is indeed a possibility, and it’s a possibility I kind of hate. You see, I’m just not the brooding, bitter, jealous type, not at all. I’ve got a full life, with friends and a family. I’ve traveled, not only to many of the states, but to other countries. I’ve shared my life with amazing people, not to mention amazing animals. I’ve had fulfilling jobs. (I’ve had the soul sucking kind too. And, really, there are aspects of sight that I find, frankly, kind of frightening and overwhelming.

OK, so yes, there are things I wish I could do but can’t. I wish I could enjoy the sunsets and pictures and the silent bits in movies where everyone’s laughing uproariously and I have no clue why. I wish I could drive. I wish I could read printed things without either asking someone or relying on sometimes unreliable technology, even just to pick up any book I wanted whenever I wanted. I wish I didn’t have to work twice as hard for half the credit. But you know, these are the cards I’ve been dealt, and I’m fine with that. Usually. Most of the time.

So…Is there some jealousy there? Because this kid may have something that I likely never will? Even though it’s not necessarily something I’ve really spent a lot of time missing?

Maybe. And I hate that.

But what I hate more is that I can’t be happy for this family’s joy and hope for this new thing. And I really wish I could.

Update: oh dear. Thanks to Holly, or maybe no thanks…anyway…I read their fundraising page, and I think maybe I don’t feel so bad about feeling so bad. Actually, now I’m a little bit disgusted. Mom is saying that her son can’t, can’t can’t, can’t, can’t, unless he gets eSight glasses. Can’t use a computer, which he’ll need to do for high school. (My question is, why has he not been getting access to a computer by now? Somebody ha failed this kid.) He can’t go to college unless he gets eSight glasses. (Really? Blind people were doing that before the advent of lots of really useful technology.) And lots of other can’ts that just aren’t so. Yeah. Somebody really short changed this kid and his mother, and they apparently either don’t really know what’s possible or they’re really pulling at the heartstrings of other people who don’t know what’s possible. Sadly typical.

How Not To Respond To a Recruiting Email

I just received an email from somewhere I once applied for a job. Sure, it was, admittedly, a crappy job, but it would have been a job anyway, and those aren’t very plentiful, certainly not in a depressed city like the one in which I live.

When last I talked to this company, they asked me to come in to fill out an application…or interview…or check out the operation…I forget exactly, but something caused me to mention that I would need an accommodation. This led to mentioning that I could happily provide my own, negating the need for the “you’re too expensive” argument. I got put on hold. When the agent came back, I think her name was Jessica, she unsurprisingly told me that, due to the sensitive nature of their data, any software such as that which i would require would pose a “security risk”, and so, unfortunately, she was sorry, but they couldn’t help me.

This stance didn’t stop them from sending me this email:

Dear Clyde,

I have good news! DialAmerica is growing, especially in our Erie office, and we’d like to invite you to apply again.

We have both full and part time positions available and offer:

A variety of daytime, evening and weekend schedules to help balance your work/life needs
Rapid advancement opportunities – we promote from within
Guaranteed salary plus incentives
Paid on-the-job training and weekly pay checks with direct deposit
A great family atmosphere, committed to your success

If you are conversational, articulate, engaging and have a positive attitude, please give us a call. And students, now is the perfect time to lock in your summer job.

Please click on the link below to apply online or call our recruiting team for more information.
Apply Here: http://dial.am/ROM5

Regards,

DialAmerica Recruiting Team
DialCareersErie@dialamerica.com
814-835-8194

DialAmerica – Where YOU Make the Difference!

Click here to unsubscribe from future emails.

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTE:

This e-mail message may contain confidential information that is intended only for the named recipient(s) above. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this e-mail or its attachments is strictly prohibited. If you received this e-mail in error, please immediately notify the sender by replying to this e-mail and deleting the message and any attachments from your system.

I didn’t unsubscribe from their email list, and maybe I should. I only just now noticed the confidentiality notice at the bottom, which, as we all know, is a ludicrous thing to put on any email anyway.

I’m pretty sure that the following will end up in a black hole and no one will actually see it, but what I replied back to them, below, is a classic example of how not to handle this kind of situation. I knew this when I sent it. In my defense, I somehow can’t manage to care about what this company thinks of me, and it seems likely there’s no actual bridge for me to burn. And anyway, I’m pretty sure that you wish you could, or would, or had, written something like this yourself. Right?

Huh. I’m not even sure why you’re emailing me, considering last time I called to enquire, your recruiting person actually told me that you couldn’t accommodate my disability. Specifically, and in my opinion incorrectly, that any screen reading software I would need to perform my job functions would pose “a security risk”. Considering that places like the Social Security Administration, Verizon, Internet service providers, the VA, and others who handle lots of sensitive data, use such software daily and widely, this sounds like a discriminatory and illegal stance to me. Kind of a shame I didn’t ask for this verdict in writing. Care to reconsider?

I’m sure you know exactly why this is the worst way to respond.

I still kinda feel better.

“But…You Don’t Look Blind”

Inspired by this post, I decided to take her challenge, even though she’s said it about as well as anyone I’ve seen.

Sure, we’ve all heard it, or anyway, all of us who are blind have heard it. We know its intent, too. Of course it’s intended as a compliment. Is it a compliment?

As I’m so fond of saying, words mean things. Be careful which ones you use. “But…you don’t look blind”, “You don’t act blind”, “Wow, I forget you’re blind” have subtexts that you may not have considered, or even thought of, and probably didn’t intend, although if you think about them for a second, you might see them next time.

My first reaction when someone says that I don’t “look/act blind” is, naturally, “Really? What’s blind supposed to look/act like?” Usually, if I ask, it comes down to a lack of sureness or confidence, a slow and halting step, a bumbling and stumbling one’s way through life, things I don’t generally do (though, admittedly, sometimes doesn’t everybody?) So, the statement really points up a preconception that I, somehow, don’t fit into. I must, therefore, be special or better, or something. I assure you, I’m neither special nor better.

Some people may get this comment because their eyes look “normal”. I’m pretty sure mine don’t, if only because I don’t open them very wide, so that really can’t be why I get it sometimes. Most of the time, it’s pretty obvious I’m blind, and I’m OK with that. Sure makes some people edgy though!

Oh, but I didn’t mean it that way, I meant that, you know, you just function so normally. I mean, you do everything. You shop and travel and play games and use the computer and have a daughter and animals. That’s kind of amazing.

Stop.

Or put another way, when you’ve found yourself in a hole, stop digging.

I get it. I know you meant to say something nice, express admiration, even express that, “were our roles reversed, I’d curl up and die”, or something. Your intentions were good and kind, and I appreciate your intentions. But this is what I hear:

“Blind people don’t do normal things like have kids, pets, or hobbies, they don’t go anywhere, they need someone to mind them, they certainly don’t travel alone. Can’t expect much out of them really, what with their affliction and all.”

So you’re amazed today. What about tomorrow when you’ve decided that I’ve run up against some thing you just don’t think I can cope with?

Am I a one off? Am I really that special? Or is it just a fluke, and at midnight my carriage turns back into a pumpkin?

I have a friend who says that the greatest compliment you can pay a person who is blind is to forget that s/he has a disability. Really, I couldn’t disagree more. No, I am not my disability, but my disability is part of who I am…kind of like my odd sense of humor, penchant for random useless trivia, geek tendencies, love of animals, and sensitive nature. No, I’d say the greatest compliment you could pay would be to understand that I have a disability, then Move on and for god’s sake treat me like a human being anyway. Not an object of pity, not an object of misplaced awe and admiration, not Superman, not an incompetent, not a child. Just a human being, same as you. Maybe I’ll need your help with something different, but that’s about it. If you want to compliment me, that would be the highest compliment you could pay me. Ever.

Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word

I think Elton John, or perhaps Bernie Taupin, had the right of it.

Two of the things human beings seem to have the most trouble with for some reason are two very short phrases, sometimes related:

  • I’m sorry.
  • I was wrong.

Recently, I was put in mind of this, as I sometimes am. Sometimes it’s something that comes to mind because I seem to be saying both a lot. Sometimes it’s just random, because I’m strange.

Anyway, these are very simple things. Yet, simple does not always mean easy. No, these are not easy things at all, not for most of us, but they’re quite simple. My basic philosophy on both “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong” is this: offer them without reservation, without conditions, with no strings attached, sincerely, and from the heart. It’s a tall order. It’s something most of us are very reluctant to do. Well suck it up, buttercup, because that’s the only way that those things actually work. They have to be offered with no strings, with no reservations, with no conditions, sincerely, and from the heart.

A long time ago, I got a really great lesson in how not to offer an apology. It made such a strong impression on me that I refer to it still, and i bring it up in my mind when it’s my turn to say I’m sorry, so I know both how to do it and how not to.

One day, I came home late. It wasn’t really late, but it was later than I was expected. But I was going to university, and sometimes things happen that keep you out a little. So I walked in the door and I got an earful about how I should have called, why was I late, I was selfish and only thought of myself, and a whole host of things. This speech left me angry, resentful, and pretty miserable. In this state of mind, I went back to my room. In a short time, my mom came back and said, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you pissed me off.” Rather than its probably intended effect, the apology had rather the opposite effect. It isolated me further, made me even more resentful and angry, and was the one thing that sparked my intention to move out as quickly as possible. Probably not its intended effect, but that’s what happened. Looking back on it, I think, in just a few words, it broke every one of the rules I’ve made for myself when offering up an apology. So in that respect, it was valuable; it taught me how to do it and, as importantly, how not to.

The rules are simple, but, as I said, not easy. Here they are.

  • Say the words. I’m sorry. Or, I was wrong. Then, shut up.
  • If you need to explain what you’re sorry for, do that. But “I’m sorry” has to be the last thing. Because, shut up (See above). Something like, “When such and such happened, this is how I reacted to it. I was wrong to have reacted that way, and I’m sorry.” Then, shut up.
  • Mean it. If you say it and don’t mean it, the person to whom you are apologizing will know. Whether you mean it or not always tells. Always. So you’d better mean it, or else don’t even bother.
  • Don’t justify. Remember “Shut up”? Yeah. Don’t justify. Don’t qualify. DOn’t…do….anything else. You can explain if you need to, but explain, don’t justify. “My intention was [insert good intentions], and I’m sorry that that isn’t what happened.”

It’s true that sometimes, “I’m sorry” won’t fix everything. Still, if done right, and sincerely, it sure can help. When asked “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?”, I’d have to say that, while being right has a certain amount of satisfaction attached to it, being happy is much, much better. (This is coming from a guy who has both been wrong a lot, and also insisted on his rightness a lot.) But being happy is a lot better, and I believe learning the art of the apology, a thing I’m still learning every day, has made my life and my relation to other people much more fulfilling.

Is It Possible To Be Too Polite And Accommodating?

Marlon will appreciate this.

Not long ago, I made a friend. Yes, I know, it happens to the best of us, and sometimes, to the rest of us. But I managed it somehow, and, after chatting online a while, we managed to meet in meatspace. Since then, we’ve managed to meet up a few times, and she’s helped me out with errand running and shopping and things like that. I’m the first blind person Andrea’s really ever met, or at least been friends with, the case probably more often than it isn’t, but we developed a natural rapport without lots of awkwardness. Even so, a bit of miscommunication in the name of polite accommodation (on both our parts, I hasten to add), now gives us one more thing we can laugh at.

Anyone who knows me knows that I walk at a pretty decent clip. Melanie claims that I don’t walk, that in fact what I do (especially with Leno or one of his predecessors) is run. I think that may be stretching a point, but that’s what she says. Anyway, I told Melanie, after one of my shopping trips with Andrea, that “She’s a pretty slow walker, but at least she’s good company, and she doesn’t complain at the length of my shopping list.” This in sharp contrast to the Walmart greeter who helped me a couple times, who, had he walked any slower we would be going backwards, commented at the length of my shopping list, and would say things like, “Oh, hey, we’re really getting through this list” every 5 minutes or so.

This past Monday, Andrea took me downtown in among both of our errands to renew dog licenses, and to get Hilda her lifetime one. She told me where we were parked, and off I went, then remembered that I maybe should wait for her to catch up. I thought nothing of this, as this isn’t too unusual. Dog licensing completed, we did her shopping and my shopping. It took us a while, time passed, and the day got away from me, but that’s another story.

We were chatting last night, and Andrea mentioned that I was “kind of reckless” crossing streets. I protested that I certainly was not, at least not most of the time, When crossing near the municipal building, I had the traffic light and everything. She says that she was amused, and surprised. I asked, “Why surprised?” She responded, “Because we snail crawl through stores.”

Oh yeah. The lightbulb went on.

She was trying to accommodate me by slowing down. She’s never had a blind friend before, so how did she know? I never said anything, assuming she was just a slow walker…some people are, and I didn’t want to rush her if she was a slow walker. How did I know? After all, when someone’s guiding you, you walk at her speed, right? So here we were, both trying to accommodate a need neither one of us actually had. “My mama taught me to be polite,” I said. “Lol well, at least we can’t be called rude. Slow. Turtle like. Passed by a snail. But not rude. ” It’d probably be a great scene for somebody’s sitcom. You’re welcome. Anyway, we are both relieved that we don’t need to be so polite anymore.

So, just remember. It really is possible to be too polite and accommodating. Y’all blind folks, don’t assume those sighted people really need special accommodations. Sometimes they do, and we have to take their affliction into account by, for example, remembering to turn lights on. Sometimes though, not so much.

The Budcast: Fopydo Scanning Stand

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted anything like a podcast. True, this isn’t much like much of anything, but I wanted to get it out as soon as possible, without a lot of fuss. So, in my usual, casual, unedited and sloppy style, here it is.

The folks at Fopydo have developed some low-cost stands for general photo taking and document digitizing with an iPhone, tablet, or digital camera. After expressing some interest in these, I was able to test some of their offerings. The latest is a stand that Fopydo has designed specifically with the needs of blind and visually impaired OCR users in mind. At a projected selling price of $10, this is going to be a hard one to beat. In this latest Budcast, I describe the stand and put it briefly through its paces.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the stand, or about a projected availability date, drop Fopydo an Email as directed on their web site. Tomek is definitely interested in our needs and in making a product that will be of benefit to us.

One thing I forgot to mention in the recording is that there are holes in the back of the stand to assist with raising the stand to capture larger documents. These guide holes help to ensure that both sides of the stand are level and the height is predictable. The guide holes are on both sides where the L-shaped base wires fit in the back of the stand.

Fora slow news day: Verizon Continues to Give Me the Shaft

Update: Verizon just called to tell me that, miraculously, they’ve finally worked out that, yes, the phone arrived, and yes, they were able to finally authorize my credit. Of course, I only got apologies for the delay and assurances that, yes, I was correct, there really was no excuse for it taking this long. *Whew*

I just sent the following Email to our local NBC affiliate. Feel free to share with whoever you like.

Perhaps for a slow news day, though I’m at my wit’s end with this. Verizon has not resolved this problem after nearly three months. To save time, here’s what I originally wrote on the matter, admittedly in some heated language, on my personal blog:

[Blog post deleted, but you can read it by visiting this page.]

That was posted on 29th October.

After that, I received a query for more information from Verizon’s Facebook page, and they assured me that they would look into the matter. They also sent yet a third round of shipping labels. Between the three mailings that were supposedly ordered, I got one plastic bag with instructions to use the label provided with my replacement phone (which had already been used, of course), and, finally, a shipping label I could use. As I was out of town for part of the beginning of November, the phone was shipped out November 10th, and received, according to USPS tracking, on November 14th. To date, Verizon has not credited me yet, they still claim that the matter is “under internal investigation”, and, while they claim to have put a hold on any collections proceedings and marked the amount as not due, I’ve received calls and texts from the financial services department at Verizon Wireless asking for payment, in order to “avoid an interruption of service”.

Here is a full transcript of messages between me and Verizon wireless on Facebook:

As requested, I’m sending a private message. The details of this are posted already, so I need not belabor them. My Verizon mobile number, so you can look at whatever you need to, is (814) 431-0962.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for the message, Buddy. Yes, I can see the previous posts and I am aware of the issue regarding your iPhone. I’m very eager to review your account. However, it’s protected by a billing system password (not the same one used at My Verizon Online). Please share so I can review further. – Dion
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Right. Hi Dion, Andrea, Jennifer, Alan, and all the ships at sea. It’s [redacted]
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for greeting all of us, Buddy. It’ll just me me this time around. I’m having a look at the equipment history on your account to find the replacement device that you’ve advised was issued through Apple’s inventory.

I’ve found that there was a replacement device activated on your line in November 2013. What I don’t show is the origin of the device (as being a warranty model). Does that date jibe with your records or was it at some other time? Do you happen to have any documentation from Apple left over from the exchange? – Dion
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
That’s the one, yes. It was definitely under warranty (after all, the 5S was only released in September of last year), and it was replaced under Apple’s expedited replacement. They only charged $29 for the cross shipment. This was handled over the phone with Apple’s support department, and I didn’t have AppleCare, so definitely standard warranty replacement. I don’t think I have anything from Apple on this, but if I do, it’s on another computer.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
I could come up with a payment confirmation from Paypal, but I’m not confident I can come up with any more than that.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Pay dirt!
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thank you for all of these details, Buddy. Just in case, what Apple Store did you visit in order to have your original device replaced? – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
None. There isn’t one here. I called Apple.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan

AppleCare

Dear Clyde Brannan, Repair ID:
D108330606

We have shipped the replacement IPHONE 5S you requested. Please allow two business days for delivery.

Courier: FedEx
Tracking number (active within 24 hours): 582783491141

Shipping address:
1114 W 30TH ST
ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA 16508-1540
UNITED STATES

To protect your shipment, Apple’s courier won’t deliver your package without obtaining your signature. If you’re not present for the delivery, the courier will return the next business day.

Identification Numbers of the Original Product
Serial Number: F17LG13LFNJM
IMEI (GSM network): 357989051615436
MEID (CDMA network): 35798905161543

Identification Numbers of the Replacement Product
Serial Number: F17LF2NUFNJM
IMEI (GSM network): 357989054813012
MEID (CDMA network): 35798905481301

Please retain this email as a record that your product’s identification numbers have changed as a result of this service request.

The replacement product will come with instructions for returning the original to Apple. To avoid being charged a non-return fee, you must return the original so that Apple receives it by 2013-11-29.

Visit Repair Status to view the current details of your service request.

Regards,
The AppleCare Team

Copyright © 2013 Apple Inc. All rights reserved.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
That was November 15, 2013.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Sorry. I was on a call (work, tech support, just finished). The Email from Apple should have everything you need in it?
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thank you for this information, Buddy. I attempted to reach out to you to provide you these details, but you weren’t available to take my call. I will be submitting a request for escalation regarding the serial number for this device, in order to have it updated in our database. Once I receive confirmation, I will reach out to you to make sure this is all taken care of. Thank you once again. We look forward to getting this resolved for you. – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Great, thank you. I’m sorry I couldn’t take your call, I was on another call myself.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
No worries, Buddy. I most definitely understand! The last email excerpt definitely includes all the details I will need for this. Once I hear back/have a resolution I will reach back out to you. Should hopefully be no more than Five business days. Thank you once again, Buddy. May you have a great evening. – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
OK, thanks. Meantime, if I ever get shipping materials, it’s going back post haste. With tracking.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, that’s a great idea. We will be speaking with you soon. Have a great night. – Katie
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Thanks Katie. And you’re #6. Have a good evening.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Do you know, this is now officially beyond stupid. Apparently yesterday we received an envelope from Verizon, one presumes that this is what passes for “return shipping materials”. It included a plastic bag to put the phone in, and instructions to use the box that my new phone came in, along with the shipping label included with my new phone. This, of course, is impossible, since that shipping label went back to you when I shipped this phone back the first time and it was returned to me. With no return label. Which the replacement “shipping materials” should have included if anyone had any sense. If I was angry at Verizon Wireless’s corporate incompetence before, rest assured I’m far beyond that now.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Lets clear the air, Buddy! Just to confirm, we did not include a shipping label in the return packaging? I am truly concerned as one should have been sent to you. If not, we can request for another to be shipped out. – Lena
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
I’m not sure which batch of return shipping materials this is, as yours would be the third ordfer for them, and this was the first that was received. In the envelope was a letter, as outlined, a plastic bag, and nothing else.
As this has been ongoing for over a month, from my first return of the iPhone 5S to today, you can well understand why I am, to put it mildly, disgusted. And angry. And have zero confidence in a smooth resolution.
I believe I asked this on the phone before, but I can’t just take this phone and turn it in at a Verizon store?
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, we want to restore your confidence in us and resolve this equipment matter right away. You will need to ship that device back to us in the shipping materials that you were provided with. Please retain the tracking number for your records. Once the device is recieved, we will submit an escalated request to ensure that your Edge trade in is accepted. – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Seriously. You gotta be kididng me. Have you in fact read this whole exchange? Have you reviewed what’s transpired to this point? You must not have if you sent an inane reply like this. Seriously. Read through the history. This response did absolutely nothing to restore any confidence.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, I apologize for my confusion. After reviewing your account, I see that was a follow up placed by a previous representative to ensure that your issue is resolved. However, the notes are very vague. I’d like to take ownership of this matter and further assist you from here. Can I contact you by phone? Do you have a moment to speak with me this afternoon? – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Yes, but before you do, you’d better read this, so that we’re not covering already covered ground: http://buddy.brannan.name/blog/2014/10/dear-verizon-piss-off/

[Lasina then called, we discussed the issue, she summarizes.]

Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thanks for taking the time to speak with me this afternoon. As we discussed, I’ve submitted a request to send you the shipping materials again. It will take 7-10 business days to reach you via U.S. Postal mail. Make sure that you retain the tracking number once you ship the device back to us. I will contact you on November 11, 2014 to follow up with you and submit that request to dissolve that equipment charge on your account.

Again, I truly apologize for these inconveniences. We take full ownership/responsibility of this matter and look forward to getting this resolved for you soon. – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Thank you. I’ll be happy once this is all behind us.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, no worries! I got you covered. I’ve already submitted an escalated request to accept the device once it is recieved. I will be submitting another request once I’ve verified that it’s been accepted in our warehouse. Additionally, your account has been noted to ensure that everyone on our end knows exactly what’s going on.

Please feel free to reach out to us anytime between if you have additional concerns. – Lasina
Oct 31

[No contact from Lasina on the previously agreed November 11]

Buddy Brannan
For Losana: Looks like Verizon received my phone a few days ago. I got the label before I left for a long weekend on the 6th, the phone went out on the 10th, y’all received it Friday the 14th according to the postal service.
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
Umm. Make that last for Lasina. Oh dear. I really butchered that, sorry.
Nov 19

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for the reply and the update Buddy! Lasina is not in the office yet. Can I assume that all of your wireless concerns has been addressed now that your phone has been received? If you have any additional questions then please share as we are here to help. – Arnett
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
Hi…No, you really can’t. It was received last time, too. Please pass on to her, she’ll understand what to do with it. Once I receive my credit properly for the returned phone, then we’ll be resolved, but not before.
Nov 19

Verizon Wireless
Understood. The issue is currently under review. We appreciate your patience. – Yosef
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
For Lasina:
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
Ahem. Yes. For Lasina: we have a problem. Verizon has, according to the postal service, received the iPhone 5S I shipped back on 14th November. I not only have no acknowledgement of this from Verizon, and not only does my account show a past due amount, but I just got a call from Verizon financial services requesting payment. As I have fulfilled my end of the Edge contract not once but twice, faithfully, and as requested, and Verizon has dropped the ball in processing this *several* times,, beginning with not recognizing a warranty phone replacement, I clearly do not owe the balance of the contract at around $374. Not owing this amount, I also do not intend on paying it. Moreover, any marks on my credit report will be disputed and should be removed, if indeed they such has been filed. I have fulfilled my end of these transactions in good faith and have received hassle and bother in return. While all of the actual people I’ve spoken to have been nothing if not unfailingly polite and helpful, the process has been anything but.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thank you so much for the details. I can understand your concern. We would love to check into this information for you ASAP. Do you by chance have the tracking number for the package that you sent back? If so, can you please provide that number to us. Please keep us posted. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
9202090107859993927533

USPS says:
delivered
removed class name to show expected date on closed state
Expected Delivery Day: Thursday, November 13, 2014 tooltip widget/added Sept27’14Release/JR

Product & Tracking Information
Postal Product:
First-Class Mail®
Features:
Return Service

DATE & TIME
STATUS OF ITEM
LOCATION
November 14, 2014 , 5:28 am

Delivered

FORT WORTH, TX 76190
New Status Summary Panel

Your item was delivered at 5:28 am on November 14, 2014 in FORT WORTH, TX 76190.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
Thank you so much for those details. I did place in a ticket for our warehouse to review this information so we can get these chargers cleared for you. Your ticket number is: 183630. As soon as I hear something back I will make sure to inform you. I have reached out to our financial services department for you as well to place a hold on the account due to the investigation. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
No doubt you’ve seen the previous action on this issue. Thanks.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
You’re welcome! We will normally hear something back with in 48 to 72 busines hours. But, with the holiday in the mix it may be a little later. Looking forward to getting this taken care of for you. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
Again for Lasina: Verizon has had the iPhone 5S sent in as part of my Edge upgrade, for the second time, since November 14th. As it hasn’t come back to me a second time, I assume this means it’s in process; however, I have received no confirmation of this, and I have also not received an appropriate credit for it on my bill. Instead, I have received a request for payment of a past due amount, followed by a threat (today) of service interruption if the past due amount is not paid. I reiterate: I am not paying the amount you claim I owe on this phone upgrade, as I have fulfilled my end of the contract. Twice. You have not. This ball has been dropped more times than I care to count. This issue has gone unresolved for what is now going over two months. I get apologies. I get assurances. I get no resolution, and I get lots of hassle and inconvenience. I have been very patient. I’m through being patient. Were I as slow to resolve a problem you had with me, I can assure you that Verizon would not be nearly this patient with me, and it would demand immediate resolution. When the shoe’s on the other foot, however, I’m expected to patiently wait for your incompetent systems to work their “magic”. This needs to be resolved. Immediately.
Dec 6

[Lindsey called me, assured me that a block was again put on the amount that isn’t really past due, and I shouldn’t receive any further communications from financial services. Except I did, about five minutes later, if not less.]

Buddy Brannan
You will fix this problem immediately. Now. If you an’t, you will escalate it to someone who can. I just got a call from financial services, not five minutes after you assured me I wouldn’t get any such calls. Now, please.
Dec 6

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, I do apologize about the phone call form Financial Services. The system was not updated for the hold on the account before that call went out. We did make sure that the hold is in place going forward. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused. – Kevin
Dec 6

Buddy Brannan
I’ve had apologies. I’ve had assurances. I’ve had excuses. I’m done with it. The only thing I want to hear from you is that this problem has been resolved, and that my account is in good standing. That’s it. Make it so. I’m done with everything else.
Dec 6

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thank you for speaking with me. Have a wonderful rest of your day. – Lindsey
Dec 6

Buddy Brannan
On this coming Sunday, verizon will have my second-time returned phone for one month. A week after that will mark three months of this particular nightmare’s duration. This has gone far beyond ridiculous. Let me draw you a picture. For this to be properly resolved, do I need to file a complaint with the PUC? Do I need to take it to the media? I note here that, even though it is completely irrelevant, I am fairly certain the media would just love a story of “blind mobile phone customer being jerked around by the big mobile phone company”, and, irrelevant as that detail is, the fact of my disability would likely get a lot more attention than it deserves. I can see absolutely no resaon that this problem has gone on as long as it has. This needs to be addressed today. Further payment will be held until this problem is resolved. I’m sure you can understand my position on this.
Dec 12 at 8:27am

Verizon Wireless
Hello again, Buddy. I know that you’ve really been pushed well beyond your limits on this matter. I wish I had more information to share with you, but we are still trying to resolve this matter internally. The investigation remains open at this time. – Dion
Dec 12 at 11:54am

Buddy Brannan
Please do not bother to explain the following text, just received:
To avoid interruption of your Verizon Wireless service, please click http://mobile.vzw.com/paybill to make a payment or dial #PMT from your handset.VZW FreeMsg.
Instead, escalate this issue right now.
20 minutes ago

—End—

Thanks,

What is wrong with us?!

I seem to be asking myself this question an awful lot. Really, what’s wrong with us?!

I’m put in mind of this question, again, after hearing about this story on the news this morning. Well, the little snippet on the morning top of the hour news only mentioned the case, but it was enough. Why can’t we just do the right thing, even if not doing the right thing is legal? In fact, why must there be laws forcing people to do the right thing?

Sure. I understand that what “the right thing is” isn’t always the same from one person to another. Right for whom? Right for the investors? Right for the bottom line? Right for the workers or families of workers? I guess it all depends on your values.

I guess I don’t understand why our corporations, and maybe our society in general, has the skewed values it has. Is it a byproduct of our throw away society? Things are so disposable. It’s kind of like A Brave New World. Actually, it’s really disturbing how much of that novel we’re actually seeing in our society. Think about it. Throw stuff away rather than fixing broken things. Just get a new one. (Sure, sometimes you just can’t, what with, for instance, electronics, being so miniaturized that they can’t be fixed.) Is that also how we handle people? Just throw them away, we can get new ones. They’re just parts, they’re replaceable, one’s about as good as another. Do we value each other so little? Do we value saving a penny, never mind a buck, so much that we can’t modify duties for a pregnant UPS driver? I see that UPS has announced that it’s going to implement a policy that mandates accommodating pregnant employees such as should have been done in this case, yet they maintain that their stance was still legally correct. What about morally correct? Are we so wedded to being right that we can’t unconditionally admit when we were wrong and then make things right?

I don’t suppose that this UPS driver got, or ever would get, an apology. Maybe someone sees this change in policy as an apology of sorts, but there’s really nothing worse than a conditional apology, or an apology with a defense. “I’m sorry, but I was still right” strikes me as something like that. It reminds me of this time when I had an argument with my mother. I was still living at home, though I was by then over 18. I came home late…well, I came home later than expected, at any rate. I walked in the door and I got both barrels. I was selfish. I didn’t care about anyone but myself. If I really had any consideration for anybody else’s feelings, I would have called. (It wasn’t even 10 at night, and it was a weekend!) I was pretty upset. I went back to my room. Some time later, mom came into my room, brought me a sandwich, and said, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you pissed me off.” Nope…that didn’t help. I didn’t consider that an apology at all. Oh sure, it used the right words, or it started to anyway, but it fell short. I think you can see how.

It seems to me that we’d live in a much nicer world if we lived by these rules:

  • If you can do something for someone else, do so cheerfully. Everything we do comes back to us, good or bad.
  • If you wrong someone, apologize sincerely, completely, with feeling, and without reservation.
  • If you make a mistake, own up to it, and do what you can to make it right.
  • Say thank you, and by god, mean it.

Is that really a lot to expect?