We help blind and visually impaired individuals stay in their homes and out of institutions.

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Sierra Services for the Blind

Newsletter  -  May 2019

"Sometimes we stare so long at the door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open."

~ Alexander Graham Bell


Transportation Explained

The program we have for our blind and visually impaired clients is dependent of transportation.  The loss of a driver’s license isolates the individual in a rural community far more than it does in a city with a transportation grid.  We have to transport clients to our support groups, to events ranging from the fifth Wednesday of a month luncheon to allowing them to come to our fund raising dinners, or simply to come to the office for personal assistance.  It is why we have a full time Transportation Coordinator, Niki Davis.  The program is so extensive we need volunteer drivers to accomplish it.

But we also have to meet the needs our clients have to access medical appointments and some other personal functions critical to their lives.  We use our volunteers for this function quite often.  However, because of the volume we are unable to provide access for that trip to the market for instance.  With around 150 clients, if we did store trips it would be all we could do.  There is a good market solution in the works and that is a separate article in this newsletter.

At the same time, pardon the pun, transportation is a two way street.  The client needs to accommodate us once in a while by making sure their appointments fit into our working hours.  The office opens at 9:00.  If a client sets a doctor appointment for 8:00, or even 9:00 it means either an employee has to come to work an hour early, or a volunteer needs to make special arrangements to get up and out early.  So we ask our clients to please make your appointments in a manner consistent with our working hours: 9:00 to 5:00.  Thus, appointments should be set from 9:30 to around 3:30.  This is more important for those doctor appointments held in Sacramento.  Help our volunteers miss commuter time traffic.  We are not available on weekends.

We have been known to make exceptions in medical emergencies, but they are and should be rare.  We know other forms of transportation in our community are either rare or expensive.  That is why we do whatever we can to accommodate the needs of our clients, and why we don’t charge for transportation.  Also rare is when we simply have to say no.  But it does happen and we hope you understand.

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Abraham Lincoln answering someone who called him two faced,

“If I had two faces do you think I would choose this one?”

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New Nonprofit in town for groceries

AbleCarts is a new nonprofit in town.  Their service is simple.  You can call and order your groceries, they go to SPD and do your shopping for you, and then deliver to our home.  But there is more to them than meets the eye.  They, like us are a human service filling a need in the community.  They hire individuals who have disabilities to do the shopping, providing jobs to those who often want them but cannot find them.  At the same time serving those who despite their own disability now fill a need as basic as something to eat.  While some stores, Raley’s and Save Mart will take an order and have it ready for you, AbleCarts does it all.  There is a fee for the service, $5.99 for the shopping and transportation, and 15% of the order to maintain the program and expand it to serve more individuals.  Your first delivery is free to get the program up and running.

They are a perfect example of an agency filling an unmet need in the community, and filling another unmet need while they do it.  To reach them, and learn more about the service you can call them at 530.277.5964, or contact them by email at  Or call our office at 265.2121.

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There is commonality in all cultures, though varied somewhat.  One would say: “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you." Another might say: “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” They both work extremely well.

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What is considered Client Service?

During this year’s Annual Meeting of the Membership the Executive Director was asked what it meant when he said we had performed 5,021 units of service.  He answered with example.  The breakdown of what was number of units in each category was not specified, and we will try to answer that here.

The example of what a unit of service is was set by the government as it relates to their statistical requirements.  When we had government grants we had to report our “Units of Service” to justify the grant.  Once that was begun that became the statistical base we have continued to use even though we no longer have the grant.  We kept it for two reasons.  One, logging the information creates the records we keep on each client.  Simply, we print out an outline of what we did for the client and it goes in the file.  Second, statistics are something gathered over time, and to change how we took them would mean we had to reinvent the wheel to some extent.

A unit of services is something we have done for the client.  If they come to a support group meeting we log it with a short description of what was discussed in the group.  That is one unit of service.  The same is true if they come into the office for a specific purpose, such has having us download a book from the Library of Congress, or show them how to operate their book player.  Transportation is a little different.  If we take a client to the doctor, or a volunteer does, each way is a unit of service.  The state set that up that way since different people might be involved.  One takes them, another takes them home.  Perhaps the LIFT takes them there and they get that unit for their grant, but we took them home.  Time is also a factor.  A trip for a client to come to a group at the office who lives down the block takes only a couple of minutes, but a trip to the U.C. Davis Medical Center for a procedure could take all or most of the day.  No matter, each is only one unit.  When a new client comes into the office it can take anywhere from a half hour to two and a half depending on the need.  No matter, one unit.  Some phone calls count, such as setting up a ride, or when we wind up counseling or talking to the individual about their needs and how best to accommodate them.  A lot of the little things we do are not logged, and some things that go on for days or weeks.

Most State agencies want to know how many times we saw the client, and how many meetings did they attended and how many did they miss.  It is their measure of success.  The logging process can tell us that.  Our measure of success is when we see improvement in the client’s ability to negotiate their lives and keep active with the loss of vision.  Did we make a difference, what was it, and how can we do it for others?  Logging gives us information that tells us what worked, and what didn’t.  We have staff meetings so we are all on the same page when working with the client.  We don’t want to send mixed messages.  We also see the client for different reasons, and one staff member may learn something another might not.

We are open approximately 252 days a year, so the 4,783 units amount to 19 specific services we provide our almost 150 clients per day.  As we say, we are not one of the agencies that had a program for the blind that just says you are invited to come to our meetings.  If we have 150 clients, we have 150 programs since we are involved with the needs of each individual.  Some clients we rarely see, some we are in contact with almost every day.  Our job is to help the client maintain their quality of life despite the loss of vision.

The other part of the question at the Annual Meeting was how many in each category.  Coming to a meeting at the office, or going to lunch on the fifth Wednesday is measurable and we can count it.  Spending most of the day preventing a crisis in someone’s life does not have a category, it is a personal contact of one unit.  We have had cases that involved several other agencies that lasted months that were not logged but to note what happened.  They are one unit.  One part of one case was to arrange for Lions Clubs to meet the family on the docks in Alameda when their possessions by arrived by ship and load them into a U-haul truck, and another Lions club on this end to move them into their house.  At the same time, we arranged for the Flying Angels to come to Nevada County airport and take the mother and the 3 year old blind daughter to medical appointments for a few months in San Francisco, and bring them back the same day.  The whole process was one unit of advocacy.  Logged information must also be confidential.  We must know how much to leave out of the log because it is confidential when at the time the State had access to the files.  For us confidentiality is still, and will always be an issue.

As to how many units in each category.  Of the 252 days we are open medical transportation accounted for 110 units, roughly one every other working day.  Trips to programs was 755 for groups and 237 for other reasons.  There were 2993 calls to arrange the transportation.  The peer groups accounted for 675 units of service and advocacy was 120.  Just the BARD talking book program where we download books for clients not available from Sacramento accounted for 56 units.  With all other logged services the total was found to be 5021 units of service.  It is to be remembered that some are just a few minutes, some logged services, especially advocacy would be something that could last hours or days.  Most logs show the time allocated, and the minutes logged added up to 97,360, or 1,623 hours that the staff spent working directly with clients.

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Reporter: “What do you think about Western Civilization?

Ghandi: “I think it would be a wonderful idea.”

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History is full of characters.  They say things that we wish we would have said from time to time.  Ghandi’s response to a reporter is but one example.  Winston Churchill was full of them.  Here are a few examples which some thought worth recording.

One of his most famous being when Lady Astor said: “If you were my husband she would put poison in your coffee.” He said simply, “Nancy, if you were my wife I would drink it.”

A woman said to President Calvin Coolidge, known as “Silent Cal”: “I have a bet against a fellow who said I couldn’t get more than two words out of you.” Coolidge answered, “You lose.”

A member of the House of Lords once said to Churchill on the floor of Parliament, “Mr. Prime Minister, must you fall asleep while I’m speaking?” Churchill’s response, “No. it is a purely mandatory.”

King Edward of England once said: “The thing that impresses me about America is the way parents obey their children.” At the risk of being colorful, Sir Francis Drake asked Samuel Foote:“Sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the Pox.” His answer, “That depends, My Lord, on whether I embrace your principle or your mistress.”

Churchill again when at a formal State dinner when a woman next to him said: “Mr. Churchill, you are drunk.” He answered, “And you, Madam, are ugly.  And in the morning I shall be sober and you shall still be ugly.”

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Medical Progress Moves Forward

The Foundation Fighting Blindness has announced several new medications and studies that will help in the fight to restore sight in those who have lost vision.  Pigmentosa has two new studies, one in the Netherlands where stem cell research is showing dramatic change in vision 18 days after the treatment.  Another is a new drug, now called RGX-314 which will develop into a onetime injection rather than the monthy injections now used.  The study followed patients who were receiving Lucentis injections.  They tested the need for Lucentis injections against patients who also were injected with the RGX-314.  They used three groups who received different levels of RGX-314, and the more then used the better it worked and still had no side effects.  It is very early in the study at the MIRICA pharmaceutical company, but it shows great promise.  They are testing it with both Pigmentosa and Wet Macular Degeneration.

A new stem cell program in Great Brittan is also showing great progress with Macular Degeneration.  What is important to remember is that these are studies, and several are going on in the United States as well as in Europe.  While the testing shows wonderful progress, it is still very expensive and will not be generally available for several years.

There are also new developments in the use of Robot Assisted surgery in the delivery of both these new techniques, but also in simple and more common eye surgeries.

There is also a one billion dollar bond issue floating through congress for eye research.  It has failed once, but is back on the table.  Mixed with the drive to lower the cost of medications for all of us, which should result from a more common usage of new techniques and medications we can only hope the cost of stem cell treatments, as well as others such as the Lucentis of Eylea injections will come down.

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"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction."

~ Steven Hawking

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Keeping a sense of humor

William James once said, “Common sense and humor are the same thing moving at different speeds.  A sense of humor is just common sense dancing.”  The loss of vision makes it hard to keep that sense of humor unless we subject it to common sense.  All our lives we have stepped in it before we saw it, we walked into doors marked “Pull” and slapped our foot on the step that wasn’t at the top of the steps we were climbing.  It was funny then if we didn’t hurt ourselves, it still is.

As we age it becomes even more important.  There are four things insurance companies don’t cover unless you pay an extra fee to add it to your policy.  Vision is one of them.  Hearing, dental and medications are the other three.  There is a reason they don’t automatically cover them, they happen to all of us in time.  And, yes, at times it just ain’t all that funny.  Like Mark Twain and others say, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.”  Common sense has the answer, all your life you have run into walls, both literally and figuratively, and you learned to take a step to one side and move on.  Or, if you can’t step to the side make do with what you have or just do something else.  We also learn not to feel sorry for ourselves by seeing what others must face and knowing we have it better than they do.  There are difficulties, and there are disabilities.

We have several clients who were artists.  For them the loss of vision is critical to something they have dedicated their lives to.  Creativity is not singular, so the one who painted landscapes still has the drive to create, to express themselves visually, and that drive is a controlling force in their lives.  Van Gogh went nuts over it.  He had so much to say and couldn’t work fast enough to say it.  So, we learn patience.

For many it is reading.  Many of us have found our imagination also rides out of the printed word.  It isn’t the words, it is the story spun by the writer that gives wings to the imagination.  We are all storytellers to some extent, but it is the writer that has the gift that gives the imagination form.  How many times did we read something and wish we had said that when we had that experience?  So, as we lose sight we turn to talking books.  Here again, the one reading to us must express what they are telling in a manner that takes us along.  If you buy audio books you soon learn that the author may not be the best one to read it.  It takes an actor of sorts to read a book.  Both Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss were meant to be read aloud.

Let common sense tell you to let your sense of humor, your imagination, and your spirit keep you on the right track when the loss of vision and the challenges of age not meant for sissies would take it from you.


Support Sierra Services through eScript!

Contact us or your favorite eScript store to sign up. 

  Locally, SPD participates in this program.

We are looking for volunteer drivers! Interested? Please talk with Niki

(530) 265-2121

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Information on the Or-Cam, a device that reads to the blind

Words of Wisdom

Around the Office

New From BARD

Cotton's War


By Phil Dunlap. Reading time: 7 hours, 54 minutes.
Read by Nelson Goud. A production of Indiana State Library, Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library.

Western Stories

When Virgil Cruz and his gang kidnap the woman he loves and threaten to kill her if he interferes with their plans, Sheriff Cotton Burke turns to Memphis Jack Stump, the only man he trusts to infiltrate Cruz's gang, for help. Some descriptions of sex, strong language, violence.


Smithsonian Magazine,

July 2018



The loss of the S.S. Titanic: its story and its lessons DB 91999

By Lawrence Beesley. Reading time 4 hours, 40 minutes.
Read by Steven Carpenter. A production of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.

Subjects: Travel

Description: The personal record of one of the 705 survivors of the Titanic disaster in 1912. His eyewitness account is augmented by those of other passengers who were spared, contributing to a general report of events and behavior the night the ship sank within three hours of colliding with an iceberg. 1912.

BARD is a National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.




Sierra Services for the Blind

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