Meet Nancy Jo Geise…!

Hi there! My name is Nancy Jo Geise.  I am the Augmentative and Alternative Communication Liasion at Networks for Training and Development, Inc. for over 7 years primarily working in the Northcentral, PA area.  I know that title is a mouthful but what does that mean?  Well, let me tell you what I do.

My first 4 years at Networks I worked in our office, that was also set up as a “smart home” in Sunbury, PA. While there, my job was to maintain the library of assistive technology (AT) and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices. I also did scanning and filing, , acted as the hostess for those who came to use the office, helped with day to day things at the office such as checking general email inquiries and was a co-presenter at trainings about assistive technology and augmentative and alternative communication as well as employment in the community.

I am a 2011 graduate of the Communication Mentors Course. I also met with people who were just beginning to explore AT and AAC to give them encouragement and to show others what is possible to be more independent.

For the past 3 years I now work out of my home office. I continue to check the email, and scan but I have learned some new jobs as well. My job coach helps me to deliver flyers and taught me to convert VHS tapes to DVDs. I also continue to enter evaluations from trainings into the database and generate evaluation summaries.  Additionally, I am working on archiving photos through scanning and making them digital.  I also continue to maintain our AT library we have up here.  There is a lot more I do, but that’s my job in a nutshell.   

OCTOBER – National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Yes, it’s that time of year, again. October was the time to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month. For old curmudgeons who have been celebrating it for many years, it can be easy for us to have a rather jaded view of the whole affair. In many respects, I feel as though we have made very little progress in our efforts to provide people with disabilities the basic right to work in the fields of our own choosing, and to be paid on a par with our peers. In fact, the numbers indicate that we still have a very long way to go before we can truly say that we can walk into any employment situation and know that we will have an equal shot at obtaining any job for which we are qualified. But, if we take a closer look at our own history, we can see how and why this issue matters.

People with disabilities have often been working in one way or another throughout history. Unfortunately, the ways in which people with disabilities have had to earn a living involved begging and other occupations frowned upon by most members of their communities. In other instances, we were shut away in attics, often hidden away from society entirely. Of course, there have always been celebrated exceptions to this rule.

With the dawning of the Enlightenment, when education of children and adults with disabilities began to become a reality, people with disabilities began to insist on participating fully in the communities of our own choosing, and in a way commensurate with our abilities. Eventually, legislation finally caught up with those of us who believe that education and employment in inclusive settings is a goal to which we should all be able to aspire.. That is something to celebrate. Is the legislation perfect? No – but it is a start.

The Workforce Investment Opportunities Act (WIOA), offers us the opportunity to realize this goal. But it can only work if we all treat every day as if it were a day to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness.

  • Be an active participant in the movement. In every store you frequent, think about jobs that people with disabilities could do. Imagine someone you know working in that store. If you have a disability, imagine yourself working there, too.
  • As you go about your daily tasks, think about barriers that people with disabilities might face in performing some of those same tasks. Think how those barriers could be eliminated, and how their elimination might benefit everyone.
  • Think about how your company could employ people with disabilities. How can we all work together to make every day a day on which we can celebrate our triumphs but continue to work towards the full participation of people with disabilities in our communities of work ?

If we all join together, we can make a difference. See how many ways you can work towards making work work for people with disabilities. Be a part of the movement! And, if you are so inclined, please feel free to put ideas into the comments section. I’ll start with a few ideas of my own.

Every time I take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft, I let the driver know that I am going to work. I explain that I am going to attend a meeting, provide a training, or provide music. These drivers meet many people on a daily basis, and they can spread the word.

I also advocate for universal design in many situations where I encounter barriers. This includes everything from inaccessible kiosks to flat, touchscreen microwave ovens.

I’ll bet you can think of lots more. Let’s all work to make every day National Disability Employment Awareness Day!

Seems like a blink of an eye… a Networks’ story

Mike and I “birthed” Networks for Training and Development, Inc. (Networks) officially on November 12, 1992 driving to Harrisburg, PA to submit our incorporation papers. Two days later, we got married. “All balls in the air”, we liked to say! Little did we know at the time what a motto and mantra this would become for our journey with Networks and our life. We were skittish and hopeful, madly in love with each other and the dream of what Networks might be, headstrong, and yet careful.

In the beginning, even though we were fully incorporated as a 501 C3 charitable non-profit, we were supported under Horizon House, Inc’s wings for almost two years until we felt skilled enough to fully “fly from the nest” on our own on July 1, 1994. It was an invaluable time for us — a way to learn the ropes gradually ourselves and build an infrastructure that could last, all while doing our work and maintaining the contracts we had. We couldn’t have done any of this without the backing and support of Mike Covone and Kathy Sykes (from then Phila. OMR), Nancy Thaler (from then PA OMR), and my old friend, Wayne Chioda (then Ex. Dir. of Horizon House, Inc.). Jeff Willush and Mary Joy Kaiser Reinartz, of Horizon House, jumped in and helped us tremendously over those two years to hone our organizational skills, guide us to set up all the needed processes and protocols, and ready ourselves for the real work ahead on our own. Leslie and Alan Seese became our fiscal advisors and accountants. And loving friends Paul Bartolomeo, Mike Fittipaldi, Jeff Petraco, and Beth Barol became our first Board of Directors. All shared our hopes and dreams but also gave us the reality checks we so needed.

Over the years that ensued, we were blessed with amazing colleagues, partners, funders, and staff. We grew in contracts and areas of work. We spread our wings beyond Philadelphia. And we learned much. But we always tried to stay small, flat, and intimately connected to our founding values and mission. And we always tried to envision together an amazing future – of more fun, more challenges, more learning, and a time when Mike and I would be in very different roles…. or maybe not involved at all. We had always hoped that Networks would last beyond us, both literally and figuratively, and so always used creative strategic planning with our team to develop together possibilities and realities. Thank goodness we did this.

In early 2000, Mike and I travelled to Hawaii for two back-to-back conferences where we were presenting. From the moment we stepped off the first plane in Honolulu we knew this was somehow to be a part of our future. This was confirmed over and over during our two-week stay on Oahu and Maui. We came home to PA invigorated and immediately started dreaming of how to get back to HI, and how to help Networks grow in new directions that were less dependent on us. We spoke openly with everyone and shared parts of our own private “PATH”… a five-year plan where our roles would be somehow different, Networks would be honing new leadership, and our various services would be more autonomous and known. We tried to keep “the plan” ever present in our minds so we might not miss possibly connected opportunities. And, as so often happens, the universe was listening and more and more connections came to us.

Staff leadership skills were increasing everyday and some new extraordinary folks joined our ranks as staff, consultants, Board members, collaborators, and funders. In 2004 our son, Michael, got married and accepted a teaching position along with his new wife on Maui. Our connections were growing more obvious! Soon after, while visiting Michael and Megan on Maui, we stumbled upon an incredible opportunity to buy a condominium there, which “the kids” moved into as their home. Together, the four of us planned how we would gradually come more often and somehow eventually move there, too. Our grandson, Ethan, came along and added to the joy. It all just seemed like an amazing dream that was gradually falling together in a magical puzzle.

Contracts and incredible work opportunities grew and grew within Networks. Our staff were well known and our reputation and collaborations grew stronger across the country and the world. Some of us started a new wing of Networks, Wholistic Practices, and I started attending massage school in Maui when I was there and via distance learning when I was not. With this, I started coming to Maui more often and staying longer. Michael and Megan found their own home and moved out of our condo. Mike and I travelled to Maui in August 2009 to set up our own home. And unknown to most, I changed my drivers’ license and officially moved to Maui with the plan I’d visit PA now several times a year but otherwise live here. Mike would use the next year to gradually shift his roles and move to Maui the following September. As perfect as everything was falling into place, things shifted dramatically on October 4, 2009. I had just come home to PA and insisted we go to the NJ shore for a “last surf of the season”…. little did we know how true this would be.

Hours later we were at the emergency room and then travelled to the nearby trauma center. Mike had broken his neck while diving back out for another wave, was rescued by onlookers on the beach, resuscitated, carried off the beach on his beloved surfboard, and rushed to the hospital. I knew it was bad. Friends and family immediately assembled at the hospital. Calls came in from around the world. And Mike stayed with us for several days until his last gift could be made…. donating all of himself, saving the lives of 12 others, and greatly effecting the lives of hundreds more. We celebrated his life as he would want — at a friend’s wonderful restaurant with great food, wine, and beer and with hundreds of friends and family singing, playing music, laughing, hugging, and remembering this silly amazing man.

Immediately within Networks, our team assembled – Board and staff – and made plans to carry on, do the needed work, and to support one another as everyone grieved. Funders, colleagues, supporters, and even competitors reached out to us to offer their help, their love, and their support. Shauna Roman and Jill Gromen stepped up to the lead within Networks. And I stuck to our last plan, driving cross-country in Mike’s “surf mobile” and shipped it to Maui, returning home on Christmas Eve.

Somehow time passed, the work got done and well, contracts continued, new work and connections blossomed, and Networks shifted yet again into a new revised and strengthened organization. Shauna accepted the role of Executive Director and has carried it out with the grace and strength of someone born to lead. Other staff stepped up, too, taking on new roles, going back to school, stretching themselves, seeking additional certificates of achievement, and digging in deeper to their true selves. New partnerships have come our way, some old friends have parted company to pursue new adventures, and our work has deepened and expanded.

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And who is Networks today? Are we the same organization started on a whim and a dream by Mike and I 24 years ago? In many ways we are the same wild and unabashed group of rebel-rousers refusing to play it safe or by the traditional rules. We still look to the cutting edge, the untried, and the “why shouldn’t we?” initiatives… especially when our passions and values tell us we must, show us that something is terribly wrong, or that others are not willing to try. That’s when Networks has always shined. We still do. But we are also a real organization that is almost a quarter of a century old. We have a proven track record of effectiveness, a group to turn to when you feel there’s no one else, and a well respected mature non-profit that has weathered and grown through situations some thought would end us. Not! And like many we support and call our teachers, these life lessons have instead enriched us beyond what we ever could have imagined.

I can’t wait to see what comes next for Networks, what our next chapters will entail, and how we will continue to grow! What a wonderful and amazing ride this has been….

feet encircling found treasures on the beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With much love,

Rosa

 

 

Pulling Back the Curtain

Some of you may know me, or may know of me, but you may not know what it is I do with Networks.  So….

Officially, I am our Webmaster, which means it is my job to make sure the pages on our website (www.networksfortraining.org) are up-to-date and working properly.  When our available services or resources change, or when there’s a special event coming up that needs to be advertised, I get the information posted to the proper sections of the website. When there are documents or resources to post, I convert them to multiple formats and help to check them for accessibility so they can be used by as many people as possible.  When it’s time for us to change the look of our website, I work with Diane Kehoe and Jeff McCary to come up with a new design and layout, to make sure the site meets accessibility standards, and to get the content entered onto the pages of the new site.  And, I do the same things for the websites we manage for The Communication Mentors’ Network (www.communicationmentors.org), The Got Mike! Fund (www.gotmikefund.org), and Philadelphia on the Job (www.philaonthejob.org).

I also manage the online discussion boards we use with many of the courses offered at Networks.  This involves making sure course participants are entered in and able to use the system, setting up the discussion forums prior to the start of a course, and assisting participants when they forget their usernames or passwords.  This last one happens more frequently than you might expect.  (Please, everybody, set your online passwords to be something you’ll easily remember…and keep a list of them somewhere safe and secure!!!)

Finally, I serve on the governing committee for The Got Mike! Fund.  In addition to managing the Fund’s website and online advertisements, I maintain the Fund’s list of donors, keep the rest of the governing committee apprised of donations received and the Fund’s financial status, and help to decide what events the Fund will support and how the funds will be spent to fulfill the mission of the Fund.

Oh, and by day, I’m a high school social studies teacher on the island of Maui.  It makes for a busy schedule, but Networks is in my blood.  I’ve been a part of the Networks family since my parents founded the organization, I worked in Networks offices in Philadelphia and Valley Forge while I was in college and grad school, and I’m happy that I can continue to be involved remotely after I get home from school and my kids are in bed!

So You Want to Go Back to School… (Lessons Learned)

I was recently asked to share some thoughts on my recent completion of my Master’s Degree. I returned to school for my Masters several years after completing my Bachelors’ Degree – 13 years. I love learning! I enjoy reading and acquiring new skills and information. This being said, I had struggled with the decision to go back to school – how would I EVER find the time! And what program would I pursue? When I found the program at Nova Southeastern University I could begin to see the possibility of my completing a graduate degree – all courses in this particular program were offered online. How critical this was to my completion of my degree I would not realize until later. The curriculum was just what I had been looking for – a good balance of technology for education and use of social media. I could see my using the information I was learning right away. And I did! It seemed that whichever course I was into at the time was correlating with something we were doing here at Networks. Lesson One – pursue your passions!

My biggest struggle in returning to school – getting my brain used to rigorous research and writing. It is amazing how “out of practice” we get at these things. It definitely took some adjustment on my part. But this was one of the things I enjoyed most about returning to school – it forced me to find the time to research, and keep up to date with, information relevant to my field. It is the one thing I am extremely pleased about with my alumni status from my graduate school – continued access to their library! Lesson Two – never stop learning!

Some think online learning is easy – it is not. Learning online is not for everyone. It takes discipline. You have to carve out the time to get the work done. The value of online learning comes in your ability to learn wherever, whenever, and however you need to. My father was diagnosed with cancer a short time into the program at Nova, and his care took increased amounts of my time. The fact that the Nova program was online is actually what made me able to continue. As long as I had an Internet signal I could take my work with me and get it done. My dad would actually ask me “so what are we learning this semester?” I think he enjoyed the stimulation of his mind as much as I did. He was my biggest cheerleader and sounding board that I had! I could not have completed the course without him. Lesson Three – we all need cheerleaders when we try things that challenge us! Even so, I did have to take a semester here and there as a break due to things happening here at home.

I completed my degree – a Masters in Information Technology in Education – in August of 2015. My only regret was the absence of my cheerleader – we lost my dad to cancer one month before completing my degree. Not only was it a great sense of accomplishment, but it gave me knowledge and skills that I will use throughout my career. Due to the recent loss of my dad, I didn’t feel much like celebrating. My Networks’ family celebrated my accomplishment along with me – I also could not have done this without them. They reminded me of my next lesson. Lesson Four – take time to celebrate your successes!

If you have a dream that you would like to pursue, take the time to do it. I would have regretted not completing this life goal if I had not taken the opportunity to do so. Thank you Networks for the opportunity you presented me. Thanks also to my family and Networks for the support and encouragement you provided. For others thinking of pursuing their passions — is it a lot of work? Yes. Is it worth it? DEFINITELY

“Let’s get Human” …an iOS App review

Have you ever tried to make a transaction online and you just couldn’t get all your questions answered and you desperately wanted to speak with a human being? Or have you had trouble using a particular website and you wanted to find a customer service phone number so that you could make a purchase but couldn’t find the contact information? Well, thanks to www.applevis.com, I discovered that there’s an app for that. The app is called GetHuman, and it’s available from the iTunes store. You can also access the same information from their website www.gethuman.com.

I particularly like to use the iOS version of this app, because I find it to be completely accessible and easy to use. This is particularly important because when you reach a point where your stress level is off the charts, the last thing you want to do is have to deal with accessibility issues of an app that is supposed to assist you in your efforts to get assistance.

While it is true that this app has not been updated recently, it works well, and the information it contains appears to be up to date. I am using the most recent version of iOS which is 9.2.1 on an iPhone 6, and I am using VoiceOver to access and read the screen.

This review is based on the iOS version, with use of Voice Over technology. A sighted user would be likely to have a different user experience.

  • Step #1: When you first open the app, you will discover two buttons that, when pressed, do nothing and are not labelled meaningfully. Please do not despair. These buttons are just decorative. One swipe to the right lands you on an edit field where you enter the company’s name for which you are searching. You can use any method to enter text. All methods for entering text will work. I have found that, for me, dictation did not work as well as other methods, such as using a Braille display or on screen keyboard. I recommend entering the information in the search edit field unless you have way too much time on your hands. There are over 11,000 entries. However, if you are curious and enjoy finding out about businesses you may have never encountered, you can swipe through the list.
  • Step #2: Once you have found your company’s entry, a swipe to the right lands you on a “share” button. Not only can you share the information, but you can assign to a contact. So, you can create a contact with this information for the next time you wish to use it.
  • Step #3: You will find an explanatory area telling you to tap to choose your preferred contact method. A swipe to the right lands you on a button which is not labeled, but fear not. Here’s why. In this app, swiping to the right of the unlabeled button will give you the information you need. For example, after the unlabeled button, you will immediately encounter the phone number for the company you are searching. Tapping either the unlabeled button or the phone number will call the phone number using your iPhone. Next, you will find out the average amount of time you will have to wait for your call to be answered. Then the app will tell you how to avoid the “phone tree” in order to actually reach a human, avoiding the menu options.
    There is an option to “call me back” which can be helpful in those situations where you may wait for a long time before your call is answered. The call back is free – at least I have not encountered any charge when using this feature.
  • Step #4: You will encounter another unlabeled button with an e-mail address to the right of it, if an e-mail address is available. Then, you will find recent reviews of the company’s customer service. Tapping on the individual reviews will expand them. I have not found these reviews to be particularly helpful, since these interactions are by their very nature individualistic. Next, you will reach another button. Swiping to its right will let you know that you can obtain the company’s full profile by going to www.gethuman.com. Tapping that button will take you there.

I really enjoy using this app because it can be a true time saver. I also recommend that you visit the website www.gethuman.com to find out more about GetHuman, LLC’s philosophy and history. So, let your fingers do the walking, and you do the talking with GetHuman.

The importance of lunch!

Grief can be all-consuming, a darkness that while initially feels horrible can actually become a crutch & an all too familiar blanket to keep out others & life. Knowing the very real pangs of grief & the weird pull it can have on you, I have studied it & have tried to understand it on many levels. I also now see it in many others & have made it part of my work with others. Joanie is one of many of those I have regularly tried to assist over the last three or so years. Joanie has lived through & past many loved ones – most notably are both of her parents who she lived with since childhood & who died within a year of each other, two very close friends died after suffering long battles with cancer, a brother died suddenly in a car accident, & then her closest companion for many years, her dog died. Joanie was referred to me for massage & when we initially talked she complained of a very sore neck, back, & chest. She also said she had frequent stomach issues, including a tightness & insatiable gnawing. We agreed to meet at her house for her first session… I later found out that Joanie hadn’t left her house in weeks other than to go to the grocery store, which she only frequented late at night or very early in the morning when the chance of running into others was slim. She easily recognized that she was sad & was purposefully staying away from others even to the point of shunning others’ offers of help. And gradually, Joanie admitted that she liked the aloneness & even the sadness, as it had become a part of who she now was & she felt safe in this. Our “massage appointments” gradually included lunch, & then laughter & discussions about all kinds of things came in. At one point, Joanie kind of timidly called me her friend & not just her massage therapist to which I smiled & thanked her & called her my friend, too. She began sleeping more & just at night, cleaned her house a bit more, wore different clothes on our scheduled days, & started preparing new foods for me to try. And she stopped complaining about her neck, back, & stomach so much. One day she called me asking if I knew someone she could help, maybe doing errands or helping around the house. I was thrilled she was asking, as I had shared several times how helping others helped me tremendously when I was at my very saddest. I promised to think of someone & get back to her but before I could, Joanie stopped by my home one day….. a huge surprise for me, as I had never seen her just spontaneously go out! She was so excited because a neighbor had come by the other day to ask how she should trim her mango tree, which led to Joanie going over to her yard & not only trimming the tree but also giving her neighbor pointers on her papaya tree & several other bushes. Joanie laughingly complained to me that the yard was such a mess & there was so much to do, it might take her a month to fix it all! The next week, Joanie called me to apologetically cancel our regular appointment. She had forgotten about it & booked herself with her neighbor… who was taking her out to lunch to thank her for her help. I responded that I was thrilled for her & asked how she was feeling. Joanie complained loudly how sore her neck & back were but then added with a laugh that it was a “very good sore”. Joanie has since joined the local senior center where she is taking various classes. She also offers her yard service to those she meets there & it seems many take her up on her offer. She tells them all they must pay her with lunch. Sometimes we still meet for lunch (when she has the time!). At one recent lunch, she told me that she now “just misses” everyone she has lost but likes better those new people she has in her life. And then she complained again about all the demands on her from others & how sore she was!!

we-rise-by-lifting-others-quote-1

 

One Word!

2015 2016 written into sand with wave washing away written 2015At the start of 2015, many of us identified “One Word” we hoped to work toward, live up to, embody, strive toward and more…  Here are a few of our reflections (along with, maybe, our new word for 2016)…!

Jessica shared, “My word for 2015 was “creativity.”  I’ve been conscious of my need to create & the joy I get from drawing, doodling, painting, and more this year.  Each morning I try to begin my day with drawing something, doodling, or what have you.  It really helps me to ground me in my day.  If I can’t do that first thing in the morning, I’ve been making sure to do something creative throughout the day overall… or evenat the very end of the day.  My word has absolutely kept me in a state of presence and gratitude.  Creativity has lead me to reclaiming joy!  2016 will be my year (and word) of JOY!”

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Julie’s word for 2015 was determination!

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Rosa shared, “…dance! It’s for the actual activity that I want to do more of but it’s also the metaphorical meaning of “dancing” — meaning flexibility, impermanence, joy, lightness, etc.  …(I) have certainly held this mantra all year…. & boy, has it fit & taken me on many extraordinary adventures!!! Throughout 2015 I feel I have “danced” with so many new and interesting people, travelled to several exotic locations to literally dance & help others dance, & have looked for ways to bend & be more flexible as life sometimes happens.  The lovely blend of real dancing & the idea of dancing has clearly been a theme for me this year, & has pulled me back into my youth as well as pushed me forward into more of the now me.  I have visualized a need to sway more, jitterbug, or even samba through situations.  I have also needed to pick up my pace, do a stomp, take the lead, & more importantly / more often lean into my partners more to go with their rhythm (admittedly, not always easy for me).  I have connected with an amazing jazz musician who learned of my love of tap dancing & has asked me to dance with him on a few occasions.  And I now have a very colorful tutu that I ran 2 5k races in!  As to 2016, the word that keeps coming to me in many ways & from many sources is wholeness.  This represents to me a desire to go deeper & to find connections with various threads in my life, to better connect my many selves, & to find within me other ways to grow in fullness & oneness.

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Nancy Jo writes, “My word is helpful this year (2015)”

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Stacey shares, “…I believe my word is commitment!  I found at times, I wasn’t sure about something so I said to myself just make a decision to commit to it and own it. …Or keeping a commitment to someone or self.   It was about a lot of things…making and reaching goals, personal and professional. …Going places, Doing things, Seeing people, What clothes to wear, and so forth…make a decision no matter what and commit to it. 

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Michelle writes, “My One Word for the year has been “give.”  I had grand plans of “giving” in different ways each week, but life took me in a different direction!  Instead of quick “gives,” they turned out to be much more thoughtful, some very involved and time intensive, some required giving of myself in ways I have never done before!  The year has opened not only my eyes but also my heart to the real meaning of “giving.”

Next year’s word:  Pause — My new word is “pause,” and has two meanings for me.  One is to stop before taking action, to think, process, and make good decisions.  The second is to pause and observe the wonders around me and enjoy moments and create new memories, using all of my senses and abilities.”

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Did you have a “word” for 2015?  Do you have a “new” word for 2016??  Please share it with us!

Holiday Shopping the Easy Way with Suzanne Erb

Are you tired even before you start thinking about shopping for the holidays? Are you looking for ways to find those stocking stuffers without fighting the crowds, looking for parking, waiting for your ride, or you just don’t have time to do all that running around? Well, I’m here to tell you that I hardly do any running around during the holiday season, unless it involves music making and/or partying. I’ve collected a few tips and tricks that have made my shopping for the holiday season less stressful, and hopefully hassle free, and I hope they will help you, too.

How do I do it? I never have to leave my couch. I go online and save! Not only do I save on transportation costs, but I sometimes save on shipping, too.

Since I shop on line, and do not have the ability to look at the pictures, I make it my business to read all the fine print, particularly as it pertains to return policies, shipping charges, product description and reviews. I make sure to keep all those e-mail invoices, receipts and shipping confirmations I receive so that I will have a record of all my transactions. This enables people to return merchandise more easily should the need arise. I also try to find a telephone number in case I need to speak to a real person.

I prefer spending my money at stores that make sure that their websites are easy to navigate because I like to let them know that I appreciate their effort to make their sites disability friendly. If navigating the site is problematic, but I know that this website has specific items that I want to buy, I will try to find a phone number, if possible. Otherwise, I just close the page and move on.

There are many major chains that have made great strides in their efforts to offer blind-friendly websites. Many of them offer apps for smart phones that are easy to navigate and use. “Say Shopping” is an IOS app that is a great iPhone app that is good for people who are not good at spelling. Using your microphone, you can converse with the app and find products. It currently features products available through Target. In the November issue of Access WORLD, published by the American Foundation for the Blind, there is an article entitled “Holiday Shopping Using Your iOS Device” by Janet Ingber. This article is a review of two shopping apps that are completely accessible – the Apple Store app, and the Amazon app. She also reviews “RetialMeNot”, which is not a store; rather, it is an app that provides promo codes, coupons, and much more. Check out the article at the link below.
http://afb.us11.list-manage.com/track/click?u=bd3c8fefc9f905f5ccf41c577&id=e856797f9a&e=6ec4032e1b

In addition to the main chain stores and websites with which most people are familiar, there are companies that are somewhat off the beaten track for people outside of the blind community, but offer quality products at reasonable prices. These are companies owned and/or operated by people with disabilities who are entrepreneurs. While some of them may include the word “blind” in their name, they all sell products that are designed to meet everyone’s needs. It’s nice to be able to support one of our own, and it puts my “employment first” money where my mouth is.

blindmicemegamall.com” is a company featuring several stores in one large, accessible website. You can find everything from electronics to household items, books, jewelry, and more – a virtual “mall” that’s only a few keystrokes or clicks away. You won’t get lost at www.blindmicemegamall.com.

The AT Guys is a great place to find reasonably priced Blindness and Deaf-Blindness products. But don’t be fooled by the name. They have lots of items such as keyboards, headphones, speakers, and other accessories for the cheap geek in all of us. Their free app, available for both Apple and Android devices, called Blind Bargains, shows not only their bargains, but also other sites offering other bargains, as well. There is also a classified section, an audio section where you can find their podcasts, and a news section where you will find important AT news you can use, particularly if you are interested in AT used by people with print disabilities. Visit www.blindbargains.com.

Blind Alive is a company that specializes in wellness products for everyone by providing both verbal and video instructions for their workouts. They offer other products, too, including a special backpack that doesn’t put strain on your back muscles. For all of us who want to be healthy visit www.blindalive.com and feel good about yourself.

By no means has this been an exhaustive list of accessible shopping websites. I encourage you to Google stores you like and see whether their websites meet your needs. I encourage those of you who do not need to use accessible websites also to support companies that make their websites user friendly for all. Let them know you appreciate their effort. I wish all of you a joyful and accessible shopping holiday season!

Aloha Oe’, Millie!

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I was introduced to Millicent through another massage therapist. She knew Millicent & her family but did not feel comfortable providing bodywork to her because she had late stage ovarian cancer. I visited Millie at her home & offered to massage her feet, to which she responded with tears saying her feet hurt so badly. She apologized for the condition of her feet & toenails but I just said that everyone here in Maui has nasty feet! She chuckled with me but seemed embarrassed so instead I suggested we get a pan of warm sudsy water & just let them soak. She loved this idea & said she hadn’t been able to get in the bathtub for so long & missed just lying in warm water. As her feet soaked, I massaged her hands & then her neck & scalp. Millie purred like a kitten! This started a 2 year ritual between Millie & I, where our monthly visits were a combination of soaking (yes, gradually getting her into a bathtub again), chatting, massaging, giggling, & singing old songs. Millie said that everyone was so afraid to touch her as she became sicker but all she wanted was others to hold her. She was afraid to ask. Millie’s granddaughter, Lokelani, was the first to ask if she could sit with us… & so she learned how to massage her Tutu’s neck just the way she liked it. Next came Sam, Millie’s son & Lokelani’s father. He joined us after I massaged his shoulders one day after work & asked if he could do the same for his mother. Soon our visits transitioned to many of us around Millie’s bed which was now center-stage in the family’s living room…. all singing, laughing, & massaging one another.

The last day I saw Millie was at a nearby beach. Millie had been saying for some time that she needed to get to the ocean & so her family made it happen.   Her “boys” carried her into the ocean, cradling her in their arms, while many others joined in as always singing her songs & massaging her & one another. And, as always, Millie beamed & purred.

I was told that Millie passed one evening not long afterwards, while Sam was massaging her feet.