Question and Answer Session 8

This week's discussion was an open-ended question and answer session. We discussed sending materials through Free Matter for the Blind, as well as sharing tips on correct hand positioning.

November 21, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Embracing Braille – Q&A Session November

Presented by Vileen Shah

November 21, 2019

Vileen S: As you know, today is our open question/answer session. So alright, this floor is open for questions. Please raise your hands.

Elyse H: That sounds good. I see a couple hands are popping up.

Elyse H: Beth, you're unmuted. Go ahead.

Beth: I also noticed that this is kind of like braille in the mail and it takes longer for Free Matter for the Blind. They always say it takes longer, and also even when they use cardboard, because I heard cardboard can keep the braille from flattening, sometimes the dots are still a little flat. So if I send braille, I wonder what I can do. When I receive braille, it's kind of flat. Over.

Vileen S: Okay, great. Thank you, Beth.

Elyse H: Beth was asking about when you get braille in the mail, sometimes the dots are pushed down because of the transferring and all the handling. Is there a different option that you could put cardboard or something in the envelope that would keep it a little less squished? Over.

Beth: Yeah, because that's what I heard, anyway.

Vileen S: Yeah, sure. It's very important that you place a cardboard, and oftentimes I add a cardboard when I return my students' assignments. Yeah, it's important that you place a piece of cardboard that covers your braille so that the braille dots are protected. Also, it is necessary that you use reasonably thick braille sheets. I have received lessons on thin print papers. I was able to read but not everybody can. I'm just blessed to be able to do that, but that's too hard to read, so maybe if you want to have your dots protected, and that's a really good point, Beth, you have raised, then you may want to use thick sheets that they call 60 pounds or 80 pounds papers. Okay? So that the dots can be saved, and a cardboard will further help to save the dots, and that is important.

Beth: Sorry, is that thicker than regular braille paper? Because some people use computer paper.

Vileen S: Regular braille paper. Depends what do you call a regular braille paper? Do you buy them from, where, MaxiAid or APH?

Beth: Yeah, sometimes. Like from MaxiAids or American Printing House, or yeah.

Vileen S: Oh no, those are good.

Beth: Okay.

Vileen S: Those papers are good. Those are made for writing braille and the thickness part is perfect when you buy from MaxiAid or APH. Okay?

Beth: Great. Okay.

Vileen S: Very good. Let's see the next person. Then they can give the question.

Elyse H: Okay. Allen K. You're next in line.

Allen K: When you're talking about sending the mail, if you use a cylinder, like toilet paper roll or a cylinder, you can roll it up and put it in that, and they will accept that in the mail as well. I had one more thought. I don't remember. I'll have to get back. Over.

Vileen S: You can tell later, okay? Over.

Allen K: Yes.

Vileen S: Thank you. Thank you, Allen. Your input is always very valuable, and I don't know what we can do without you.

Allen K: I have a cold so I'm not thinking very well today.

Vileen S: No, no. You will be fine. Okay, you mentioned about the cylinder mail, and that they accept. I know they do, and I do receive sometimes. Personally, I'm not in favor of sending cylinder mail, because the way the paper has been folded I have to unfold it and then it folds back and does not let me have my hands on the paper, and it takes longer to grade such an assignment, so I wouldn't advise. However, if your instructor accepts it, that's just fine. Every instructor is different. I wouldn't advise to go with that.

One more thing that comes to mind about braille lessons. I've noticed that many people use bubble wrapped envelopes to send your braille lessons. I may say that you really don't have to, because if you protect your braille with the cardboard, you don't have to spend money on buying bubble wrapped envelopes that are more expensive than the regular ones. The bubble wrap does protect, but it's not necessary.

Another thing that I would like to add here is, someone mentioned about Free Matter for the Blind takes longer. Actually, by law, the Free Matter for the Blind envelopes are to be treated as First Class mail, and the post office should not discriminate, should not delay the Free Matter for the Blind letters. That's the law. Now, how far this law is observed, how far it is followed, we do not know but we do know that sometimes the Free Matter for the Blind mail is not treated equally. That is unfortunate and I do not know how to educate the post office. Okay? That's all. Over.

Elyse H: Allen.

Vileen S: Anybody-

Elyse H: Yep. Allen has their hand up. Go ahead.

Vileen S: Oh, okay.

Allen K: Yeah, one thing about the pound weight in braille paper. You can also get it from either Publix or the Walmart or whatever, or Office Depot. Anything 65-pound weight or larger will be exactly what braille paper would be like, so you don't have to really go through Maxi-Aids because they're going to charge a little bit more, and I've been using that. I've noticed though that when I send my stuff with cardboard in it and I've got it back from you, Vileen, it was so hard to read it was so flattened out. So it all depends on how it goes through the postal carrier, how much stuff they pile onto all those letters. That also helps flatten those dots out as well. Over.

Vileen S: Great. Two more things. One, we mentioned about the thickness of paper, and Allen mentioned about having those papers available in other stores, local stores. Walmart or something like that, which is great. I also allow my learners to submit their assignments on index cards, five by eight index cards, so that the size of the sheets are smaller, half the size of the regular braille sheets. So in case you have to repeat, rewrite the sheet, you do not have to repeat the entire information on a longer sheet, because the sheet is half the size. Secondly you do not have to spend more money for the bigger envelopes. The smaller envelopes hopefully, it changes, but hopefully are available at lower price. So that's another thing, but again, it's up to the instructor. I keep telling all my learners that you do not have to buy expensive papers. You can just go to any local stores and buy a stack of 100, 200 index cards of the size five by eight. That's also been another good option. Okay, that's that. Over.

Elyse H: Okay, Beth. You're next in line.

Beth: I was going to ask about the Free Matter for the Blind law. Like, just say if you're wanting Free Matter for the Blind things and you notice it's taking longer. Can you report that they're disobeying the law to the post office? Over.

Elyse H: Good question, Beth. Let's ask our group if anybody has experience with that, but I am jotting a note to research it and we can post some information if not later today on the show notes as well for free matter.

Vileen S: Sure, yeah. Yeah, if we can find the law, that can help.

Elyse H: Yep, that's what I was thinking. Because I agree with you, Vileen. It should be treated as first class mail.

Vileen S: Yes.

Elyse H: And unfortunately that's not what all post carriers do.

Vileen S: No. Some post offices even do not accept Free Matter, as if they don't know like that. And, what you can do? It's ultimately the personnel.

Elyse H: We have another hand up here. Maybe they have some ideas for us. Their name is saved as The Braille Chicken Whisperer.

Tonya: Hi, everybody. That is me. I'm Tonya from North Central Kentucky, and I do have a suggestion. I've had many, many run-ins with my local post office, and so what I did was I made stickers that say "Free Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped" and at the bottom it says "DMM 703-5.0," which is the law that encompasses Free Matter for the Blind, and usually when you have that on your Free Matter there's no problem. They can look up the law right there on their computer and they know what you're allowed to do. Over.

Vileen S: Wow, terrific. Would you repeat that law for everybody please? BMM?

Tonya: D as in David, M as in Mark, M as in Mark again, 703 ... There goes JAWS again ... 5.0, and if you put that below your Free Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, there's no problem because they can look it up right there in the post office.

Vileen S: Terrific. This will help a lot, and I believe the participants here are well enlightened about the law now. This is very helpful, tremendously helpful information, so thank you so much. Oh, okay. We have more hands raised.

Elyse H: I believe this is Jodie. You're next in line.

Jodie: The one thing I do is I buy the Free Matter for the Blind stamp from one of the catalogs, and it not only looks more official but it also has the postal regulation number right on it, and I find that things go through a lot smoother that way. If you just write "Free Matter for the Blind" on it then there might be questions, where the stamps actually have the regulation. Then you just get a stamp pad and you can use it as many times as you want.

Elyse H: Thank you for sharing.

Vileen S: Yeah, thank you.

Elyse H: That's a great idea, to have a pre-printed stamp you can just-

Vileen S: Yeah, lots of people, I mean not a lot but there are some people who use a stamp, and a Free Matter for the Blind stamp is available with MaxiAid and other braille stores, I believe the Braille Superstore. So instead of printing labels, you can use the stamp. I think the impressions could be like ... Impressions run in about thousands, which means you can use it for likely something like a thousand times. This is good enough, you know? But then it's up to you. I don't think the stamp contains the information about law. Anybody who has used it can tell me more. I don't use it so I'm not so much aware, but this is certainly great information. One more piece of excellent information Jodie you gave about the ink stamp. Good. Thank you. Over.

Jodie: Thank you.

Elyse H: Okay, thanks. Donald, did your thought come back?

Donald: Yes, I remembered what I forgot.

Vileen S: Yeah, good.

Donald: In the magazines I've been reading lately, they've said "Library for the Blind and Print Disabled," not "Physically Handicapped." I don't know how universal that is, but I just wanted to let people know. That's what they're saying they are now, so if you want to address anything current you might want to put "blind and print disabled," not "blind and physically handicapped" anymore.

Elyse H: Okay, Beth. You're next in line. Go ahead.

Beth: I was going to ask, well, a question and a comment. I was going to ask, the ink stamp. I think you get that from American Printing House. Is that correct? Also about "handicapped." I think it sounds more like you can't do anything. Like it sounds degrading like blind people are just invalids or something. Over.

Vileen S: Yeah. Well, it was so in the past of course. Now, most people know that the blind can do a lot, because blind people have proven themselves. There was one blind gentleman who even climbed Everest, reached the peak, which is something that is unbelievable. It's not that easy-

Beth: Yeah, I heard-

Vileen S: There are people who do things, and thanks to the media. Things keep coming on, they keep showing on TV, and now the social media also talk about the successes, so now people at least know. Most people. Not all, but most people know that the blind can do a lot. Terrific. Okay. Next one?

Beth: No, the stamp, the APH, does that come from ... I mean the ink stamp. How many times can you use it, and does it come from APH?

Vileen S: At least, I do not know. Maybe Allen Kmiotek knows by chance?

Allen K: It depends on how the stamp comes. If it's one of those self-inkers where you kind of push down on it and it clicks, you have to eventually either re-ink it or get a new cartridge. The other ones that have just the handle where you stamp it onto another pad, you have to also re-ink those. So it all depends on how much ink stays and doesn't dry out on you. The other thing I was going to mention, if you want to use a different verbage, just use "visually impaired." That kind of covers everything and Hadley uses it in their name as well. Over.

Vileen S: Great. Yeah, that's right. Yeah, "visually impaired" is another word. It's much better than "handicapped." Okay. Next one?

Elyse H: Okay, thanks. Jodie, you're next in line. Go ahead.

Jodie: Well, I was just about to say the same thing. You have a variety of different choices and you can buy the stamp from many of the catalogs, LS&S Group, MaxiAids, and Independent Living Aids. You don't have to just get it from APH. I think you can even buy one on Amazon. I think that's where I got mine the last time, because a lot of the sellers, Maxi-Aids and other companies, actually sell through Amazon now which makes things a lot more convenient.

I also wanted to agree that I use the index card stock paper that you buy at Staples. I don't order braille paper special because you have pay shipping and everything, so I just get the index card stock from Staples and I like the idea of using five by eight instead of 8.5 by 11, so I'll remember that in the future. But can I ask a question about hand position? Because that's one of the disadvantages of taking the correspondence course is that we can't be watched by our instructors as far as hand position and reading goes.

Vileen S: Certainly I will allow you to ask this question real soon.

Jodie: Okay, okay.

Vileen S: But let me first have this topic completed as quickly as we can, okay?

Jodie: Okay. Thank you.

Vileen S: You are most welcome to ask a question and I would love to answer and get the contribution from others as well.

Jodie: Okay.

Vileen S: Wow. So, we have had a real nice discussion on sending braille lessons via mail or even sending braille materials via mail, and one more thing I may want to add. At times we have some international participants and sending Free Matter for the Blind is pretty common in most countries, but again, each country has to make a law related to sending braille material at no cost, and some countries have not.

Elyse H: This is Elyse real quick. I pulled up the United States Postal Service information about Free Matter, and people that are residents of the United States, including territories, insular possessions and the District Columbia, and any American citizens who are living abroad are eligible for Free Matter, with other considerations, so Vileen is correct. In other countries they may have different laws. Over.

Vileen S: Interesting. Thank you. That helps a lot.

Elyse H: Yeah, and I'll post this too afterwards. I see a hand is up. Beth, you are next in line.

Beth: I was also going to say first, just say if somebody did an assignment, just say it's an audio on digital cartridge, and they could still send it Free Matter for the Blind. And another question is, you know those containers from NLS. When I get digital cartridges in them, where would they write "Free Matter?" Do they stamp it or is it a label, or what is it? Over.

Vileen S: Probably Elyse has some answer. Do you?

Elyse H: Yes. So the cartridges, Beth, you're talking about with the NLS books, they have a pre-printed card that has your address on one side and when you're ready to send it back you flip it over.

Beth: Oh. Oh yeah, that one. Yeah.

Elyse H: Yep. So in that little paper-

Beth: That has "Free Matter" on it.

Elyse H: It sure does.

Beth: Oh, okay.

Elyse H: It has the address to where it goes, and "Free Matter" is pre-printed. Good question.

Beth: And about the digital cartridge. Like if you were maybe doing something like audio or sending some other blind person a book that you maybe downloaded on digital cartridges, it's free matter also?

Vileen S: Yeah.

Elyse H: Yes, if you're sending it to somebody who is visually impaired, it is free matter to them.

Vileen S: Free matter. Yes. Yeah, yeah, that just encourages me to add that once I even sent a braille embosser, which may be some 60 pounds, 80 pounds, I do not know, as Free Matter for the Blind. It does not have to be braille material, but it could be anything that the blind people can use. So it could be a braille embosser, it could be a cartridge, could be your equipment, a slate and stylus, a braille writer. Everything that the blind people can use, that goes Free Matter for the Blind. Over.

Elyse H: Yes. I think we're ready to go back to Jodie's question. Jodie, are you still with us? Would you like to hop in again? Let's see if I can find her on our list.

Vileen S: Yeah Jodie, if you could unmute yourself just feel free to go ahead.

Jodie: Hi.

Vileen S: Yeah, hi.

Jodie: I think one of the disadvantages of the correspondence course is that if we get into bad habits, the way we read, that we're not going to be picked up, so I wondered if you could describe the correct hand position. I know you're not supposed to scrub. You're not supposed to press too hard, but the lighter you touch the better your reading will be, but could you describe a correct hand position and how you read with two hands?

Vileen S: Alright, it's a good question and it's a question that I think we did discuss a little bit more, but I wouldn't mind having it repeated. If you're asking me a question, it won't help much. Because I think I'm using my hands much differently from normally what others do, so I would request Allen Kmiotek. He's the most reliable and expert on that, but I'll briefly tell what I do. I just have my hands and my shoulders to be, I feel like, and I read braille with different fingers. I use my thumb. As I said, I'm doing it differently, but normally it's a good habit to have your both hands on a braille sheet, braille paper, or a braille book, braille page, and gently feel the dots with both your index fingers. That's the most common way. Let's see if Allen Kmiotek has to say more. I'm so sorry. I'm not that expert on that. I think I spoiled myself. Okay, Allen.

Allen K: This is Allen. Can you hear me?

Vileen S: Yes. Yes, yes. I can hear you.

Allen K: Basically the best way, especially if you're starting out, even if you're only just keeping your left hand at the beginning of the next line while you're reading with your right hand. Eventually you'll start to get to the point where you will go halfway across a page with both index fingers and then move down to the next line while you're finishing the first line, and then you're ready to go halfway across the page with your left hand, and that's advanced reading but if you're just starting out, reading with your one index finger or the finger that works the best is the way to go. Over.

Vileen S: Okay, great, and maybe Allen you can tell more but let me add to that. That you should be first having a comfortable seat, maybe sitting on a chair or something. Have your book on a desk or some kind of flat surface and position yourself in a relaxed way that your shoulders are not too tense so that you don't get tired soon when you are reading braille. That right, Allen?

Allen K: Yeah, and if you're putting it on a table, like a table that you eat off of, that's a little bit high. If you do it on a platform that's like on a typing table where it's a little bit lower, closer to your lap, that's a better position. Because when it's up high, your shoulders raise up and that will cause tension in your shoulders and back as well. If you have a lap table which can also be used as a tray for food, it flips over and it goes across your lap and it has a border on it to keep your book from sliding off. That's also another good position if you're sitting in a bed or whatever. Those are other options but making sure that you're in a comfortable position and your back is straight. You don't want to be slouched, because that's going to cause also more tension. Over.

Vileen S: Great. Yeah. Does it help you, Jodie?

Elyse H: I hope so. We have another hand up here.

Vileen S: Yes. Let's listen to that.

Elyse H: Jeff, you're next in line.

Jeff Anderson: [crosstalk] I have kind of a conundrum as far as a reading position. I am right hand dominant, but my left hand is more sensitive as far as reading braille, so how do I overcome that? That would be kind of awkward, right?

Vileen S: Okay, so as I understood you, you have your right hand dominant but when you read in braille, it's the left hand that works better. Is that something you said, like that?

Jeff Anderson: That's correct. Over.

Vileen S: Okay. So to that, my answer is that it doesn't matter. I mean it's good. It's fine. Which hand is dominant in your regular tasks and which hand is dominant in your reading braille, these two things are different and as long as you are comfortable reading braille, and as long as one of the two hands functions as a dominant hand, that is just fine. There is no such thing as only one hand should be dominant or right hand or left hand should be dominant. Nothing like that. As long as you are able to read braille proficiently, efficiently, and whatever hand combination you are using, that just works. I'm not bragging, but I said before and I'm saying that I read braille any way I feel comfortable. Sometimes with my fingers, with my thumb. Oftentimes I read braille with left thumb and right index. Anything that helps. Okay, over.

Elyse H: Great. Beth, you're next in line.

Beth: I was going to ask, Allen said something about a board or something. Like if you're sitting, like if you have the book on your lap. Because part of the problem for me anyways is slouching, so where do you get this board from? Over.

Allen K: You can check with Bed Bath and Beyond, or even Walmart might have it, and it's basically a lap table is what it's called, and it goes in two ways. It curves down so it goes over your lap, or you can flip it around and use it as a serving tray. So it's kind of a dual thing but you want to get one that has like a one-inch lip all the way around the edge of the board so there's like a little well, so that keeps your board from sliding around. It also helps to put that rubber matting that you can use for your shelves in your kitchen, to put that down. That rubber matting helps keep also your book from sliding around as well, and it can fit comfortably over your lap when you're sitting in a bed. Over.

Vileen S: Wow.

Beth: And that rubber mat I could get from Bed Bath and Beyond if I don't have one?

Allen K: You can get it from there. You can get it from a Publix or any grocery store or Walmart. You can get those all over the place. It's just rubber matting for shelving is what it is. We used it on the boat. I've used it on a boat so stuff doesn't fly around inside the cabinets.

Beth: Yeah, I get a lot of coupons for Bed Bath and Beyond so that's perfect.

Elyse H: I've seen it at the Dollar Tree too. It doesn't have to be a fancy place. Good idea, though.

Vileen S: Very good. Very good.

Elyse H: It will keep your materials from shifting or wiggling on you. Alright, Bob. You have your hand up. Go ahead.

Bob: Okay. I'm here. What about folding your book over? So instead of having the book open to two pages, one on the left, one on the right, what about just folding the book over? You know what I'm saying? No.

Elyse H: Yeah, it makes sense. If you wanted to keep it open and less wiggling on your lap.

Bob: Yeah.

Elyse H: Depending on the binding I'm sure that could be an option. Some are-

Bob: Like our lesson books with the plastic ring deals. You can fold those over real easy, but is there any drawbacks or pluses or minuses to doing that?

Vileen S: There are a couple of things. To begin with Bob, it's all fine. You can do it. Not a problem. However, every book is different. The binding is different. If it is a spiral, then oftentimes the spiral gets worn out and then your pages start coming out of the spiral. But, as far as those lesson books are concerned, they are good to use like that. Over.

Elyse H: Allen, you want to add in here?

Allen K: They got lesson books that aren't spiraled but they're thin enough where you can do that but be careful when you fold them over that you're not crushing the braille when you're trying to flatten it out a little bit. Books from the library, no. Most of them are in hardcover and you can't do that at all. They're even hard to just keep them open because they curve into the binding. Over.

Vileen S: Very right. Very right. Thank you, Allen. Good. Yes. Anyone else?

Elyse H: Yeah. I know Dennis had another topic, if we're ready to move on.

Vileen S: Okay, we have a few more minutes. There was someone who had a quick question and that we postponed for a few minutes. I forgot. Who was that?

Elyse H: Yep. That's Dennis.

Vileen S: Oh, Dennis.

Elyse H: Our northern neighbor.

Vileen S: Oh yeah. That's right.

Dennis: Yes. Can you hear me?

Elyse H: Yes, there you are.

Vileen S: Yes.

Dennis: Okay. Yeah, I'm calling about last month, the question session. I didn't quite get in. You were talking about labeling medical container for medication. I don't know if people are aware. I got a ScripTalk. It reads the prescription. It's a little sticker that the pharmacist put on the bottom of the bottle and it's got your name, the medication, the side effect, the doctor, and the expiration date. That is the ScripTalk that comes out of Florida, which is absolutely free, but you got to sign up for it through your pharmacist and then you just put that on your scanner. They send you a scanner, and then you scan your medication and it tells you what it is, so you cannot make mistake. Then if somebody wants the number, I'll give you the number. I got it here in my phone. Hold on a minute. Okay, it's 1-800-890-1100. That's out of Florida, so I'll repeat the number. 1-800-890-1100. That is absolutely free and then it will read your medication for you. Over.

Vileen S: Terrific. Thank you so much. Everybody please keep sharing such information that others benefit. Appreciate your input, Dennis. One quick question to you is which pharmacy we should try to get this from. Do you know?

Dennis: Okay. Well, here I use Shoppers Drug Mart up here in British Columbia, but if you call the number I gave, that is right in Florida. That's where the company that supply the ScripTalk. You talk to somebody there, and then from there they will contact your pharmacist, see if they're already signed up for this program. Or you ask your pharmacist to call the number and they will find out if they want to sign up for it or they already are signed up for it. Over.

Vileen S: Very good. Very good. Thank you so much. Terrific. Okay, let's see. Some people have some comments on this.

Elyse H: Yep. Beth, you're next in line. Go ahead.

Beth: I had a question. You said you can use your scanner to scan. Is that the ScripTalk that has a scanner on it? Over.

Dennis: Yes, it is a scanner which is shipped to you for free. It will scan your medication. It's like going through the grocery when they scan your grocery. Right? The sticker they put on there is the barcode for each medication, and yeah, the scanner comes. It's a little machine. It weighs about three pounds. It runs on battery or electricity. Over.

Beth: Okay. Thanks.

Elyse H: Thank you. Yeah. And it's a standalone. It doesn't scan other text, just the prescription labels.

Dennis: That's exactly correct.

Elyse H: Allen K. You're next in line.

Allen K: Can you hear me?

Vileen S: Yes.

Elyse H: Yes, there you are.

Allen K: You can also get CVS and Walgreens. They also have the capability of providing that device as well. I'm not sure if it's the same device, but they have the capability of doing the same thing. Over.

Vileen S: Great. Thank you.

Elyse H: Okay. Kelly S. You're next in line.

Kelly S: Okay. This is probably more for our Canadian members I guess, but I'm just wondering. I'm just wondering if that ScripTalk service you were talking about, is that available throughout all of Canada, or is it only in specific locations? Over.

Dennis: It's available in Canada. I believe so.

Kelly S: Okay. I might have to have a look at that sometime.

Vileen S: Kelly, you can still try that 800 number, because most 800 numbers are good for the US and Canada. So maybe that's your start to go.

Dennis: That is correct. Yes. Yes, yes.

Kelly S: Okay, great.

Elyse H: And I'll be sure to put that 800 number with ScripTalk down for show notes as well.

Vileen S: Very good. Very good. Perfect, so we're right at the end. I thank you all of you. Thank you so much for attending this session. Thank you so much for participating, actively participating. Keep up this spirit and continue to participate. Feel free to speak up, anybody who did not. Do not feel shy, and always share your views, share the information you have, and feel free to ask questions.