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Sierra Services for the Blind Newsletter

February 2023

Aging gracefully is in the art of trading our experience for wisdom, and the realization that a country lane is measured not in how fast we can run, but how well we see the journey.


Advice from the Stoics

Some people are just calm about everything that happens to them.  At least on the outside.  We call them Stoics.  But there is much to learn from the philosophy built around it.  Basically, simplicity is the idea.  Don’t worry about those things that do not pertain to you.  Applying common sense always works out somehow. Stoics focus on what they can control, and work around what they cannot.  You are the only one that controls how you respond to things.  Don’t suffer from imagined troubles when you have enough life has given you.  There is always something you can do about a situation, as long as it is your situation.  Stay clear of other people’s problems.  And, as they said of old, do not judge lest you be judged in return.

Set personal goals, and be sure they are attainable.  Then stop once in a while and assess how things are going.  Are you accomplishing something that makes your life better, or just following the will of others?  Especially if those that went before you were traveling in a herd toward a cliff?

If you follow the idea to seek so you may find, remember you have one mouth to speak, but two ears to listen.  There are others who go before you that have been successful dealing with the problem you are having.  How did they do it?  And what did the ones who failed do as well.  The best school is experience, but only as long as you take the time to look in the mirror and ask the one you find there what they have learned.  You may find most of your complaints are ones that you own, don’t give them to others.  They have enough of their own troubles as well.  Don’t be one of them.

Everyone who suffers the loss of vision has the same problem: “Now what?”  The answer is also the same.  Do what you need to, and can do for yourself, and that will ease the journey for both you and those around you.  Do what you can as long as you can and don’t expect special treatment.  Asking someone where your glasses are when they are on top of your head is funny, but making them come from what they are doing from across the house or town is not as funny.  They have the right to say “No” now and then.  When you can no longer do something do not hesitate to ask for help.  But even then remember to say “please” and “thank you”.  We need to remember to take the hand that is offered when it is needed, but remember to let it go when it is done.  Even if it is only a smile, showing gratitude by being positive and offering a kind word or some encouragement is always positive.  By being the model of strength others need in their lives we can return the favor.

The perfect example is found in our volunteer drivers.  Remember, they have taken time out of their lives to give you their careful consideration.

Concentrate on those things that make you happy.  Keep the poetry and sunshine in your life and your personality, and share it with those around you.  When you lose the ability to see it does not change your ability to do other things and find new experiences.  The journey continues though it may slow down some, and it will change course a time or two.  Share your dreams and optimism, and keep your dark cloudy days to yourself a little more.  Helen Keller could neither see nor hear the world she lived in, but even she knew to, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you never see the shadows.”



"You never know what your actions will do, but doing nothing produces nothing."

~ Dalai Lama


Stem Cells and Glaucoma

The latest issue of GLEAMS, the newsletter of the Glaucoma Research Foundation has a question and answer article with Doctor Jeffrey Goldberg who is the Chair of the Opthalmology at the Byers Eye Institute at Stanford University.  When he was asked about the progress related to Glaucoma he said that they are able to produce the cells in a laboratory.  They will not be able to start human trials until after the FDA approves those results.  He also showed optimism to the progress being made in stem cells generally.

He provides a list of things to do if you are given a chance to participate in any research study.  He has four questions you should always ask before participating in any trials.  He also says to get the answers in writing.

  1. Ask if the treatment has been published in peer-reviewed articles in reputable journals?
  2. Is part of the clinical trial found on the internet site
  3. Is the trial registered with the FDA and us a number assigned to the trail?
  4. Does it cost you anything.  Clinical trials are sanctioned and are conducted without cost to the patient?

We would add, is the trail part of a study by an established University granted by an accredited research foundation or agency?  And, is the doctor qualified to perform the study?

Stem-cell therapy is clearly the future of curing the diseases that cause blindness.  Trials for eye problems other than glaucoma are most encouraging.  Though it is hard when you are the one losing sight to be patient.  But that is the problem with what we call the future.  It is always ahead of us, and subject to that thing called hope.  Even when trials begin, it takes time to find out the long term effects of any medical procedure.


New Generation of Vision Aid comes to the office

On Friday February 24th we will hold a demonstration in our offices of the latest reading device from OrCam.  Introduced to us by local low vision specialist Dr. Tiffany Chan, the OrCam My eye 2.0 will be demonstrated in our office by representatives from OrCam.  When we were approached to provide the venue to introduce the new technology we were more than glad to accommodate. The idea is not new, but devices up to this point have been cumbersome, and simply ugly to wear.  This new version is not much larger than a carpenters pencil and can also be used as a hand held device.

The device fits on the side of your glasses and reads the document or other printed material to you.  The speaker is just over your ear.  You can read a document, sort mail and read a letter. If you are in a store hold it in our hand and hear the label on a box or can, or hear the label on your medications or anything you place in front of it.  It is not a magnifier, it is a reader.  It requires enough light and the rechargeable battery lasts about two hours or so.  It is also able to tell you what is in front of you when you are moving, and describe the person you are looking at, or with face recognition tell you who it is.

The presentation will begin at 1:00 in the afternoon, and those that are interested can stay on and will be able to try the device with the aid of the company representatives.  They are priced about the same as other hand held video magnifiers or a CCTV.  If you are interested call the office and let us know you will be coming.  We need to know how many people we will have so the company can bring enough people to make personal demonstrations and we can get the office set up to accommodate everyone.  To set your place at the table call 530-265-2121.


 "Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things come together."

~ Vincent Van Gogh


Organizing your environment for vision loss

One of the things we have to remind people when they are losing vision is that you will need to reorganize your home to some extent.  Both for safety reasons and accessibility.  Most of the things are common sense.

You will need to improve lighting in those places where you are working.  That light in the fan over your stove you never used is an example of a simple fix.  Light the house evenly so you are not going from bright to shadowed areas.  Control glare.  Inside you may have to cover shiny surfaces like a glass table top with cloth.  Outside you can wear amber of dark yellow glasses and wear a hat with a brim.

You can get large checks with large print and raised lines from you bank.  A large dial clock with dark hands and numbers, and use the accessibility feature on your computer to enlarge print.  Photo copy recipes to enlarge the print.

From a stationary store you can get raised spots to put on the “On” buttons for appliances, or on the heat settings for dials on the stove.  You can also use fingernail polish to paint the button in a contrasting color.  White paint on a black “On” button is an example.  If it has a key pad for numbers like a microwave or the phone put it on the five to show you where the center of the pad is.  Computer key pad numbers are reversed.

Move furniture so there is a clean path to walk.  Position things that you can put your hand on to orient yourself.  Put bright paint or tape on the edge of a step to contrast with the lower part of the step.  That works both inside and outside on steps.  Also on the railings so you can easily find them.  If there is no post or twist at the end of a railing put raised spots or bright colors to tell you where the end of the steps are.  Make sure rugs are firm on the floor and the edges are flat.  A door mat will tell you when you are close to the door.

Clear away clutter, especially on the floor.  Shoes you took off with the other foot may be something to trip on later.  Dog toys could be anywhere, especially balls.  On counters there are things that can be tipped over.

Make a habit of closing cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom every time you use it.  Many of us open it to get what is in it, and leave it open so we can put it back when we are done.  Always close it so you don’t hit your head on it as you lose peripheral vision.  The same with drawers.  If you have to bend over put your hand out in front of you to make sure there is nothing to hit your head on.

In the kitchen don’t wear lose clothing like the sleeves on your shirt that might get caught on something.  This is critical if you have a gas stove that has the dials on the back of the stove as sleeves could catch fire when you reach over to use the dials.  If you can, have a stove with the dials on the front.  If you have a white stove use pans with black handles.  Black stove use chrome or white handles.  Stainless stove, black or white, not chrome.  If you have a light colored counter, get dark heat pads to put things on much the same as pouring milk in a dark cup and coffee in a white cup so you can see the level.  Glass blends with the surface.

The time to do these things is before you lose sight of them.  They are new habits you have to develop and that takes time.  So does training others who live with you to make them more careful.


A loss

We have just lost one of the most important individuals serving the clients of Sierra Services for the Blind.  The passing of Niki Davis, the Transportation Coordinator who provided or organized your trip to the doctor and all of our services is a critical loss.  It is also a reminder that we are people helping people, and Niki was one of the most compassionate, organized and dependable people to ever work here.  Niki was not simply a driver who took people somewhere, she was a friend to many of our clients.  And, an example to emulate for all of us.  She was a traveler all her life, and is now on one more journey to a new experience.  I would guess with a smile and a sense of curiosity she held over from her childhood.

As an organization we take on the collective personality of those of us who work here, and replacing her is not simply a change in staff.  When we find that new person to fill the void we too will change a little, and as we did with the addition of Niki seven years ago, we will assure you the changes will be an opportunity for us to grow a little with the new ideas that come with change.  An opportunity guided by the example Niki gave us.


Membership Drive Begins

It is time for the Membership Drive to start, and the letters are coming out.  That means it is time to remind the public and the client why we have such a thing, and how it works.  We also need to make it clear you do not need to be a member to receive services from Sierra Services for the Blind.  All services are free of charge.

When the organization was formed 42 years ago membership was the first fund raising campaign.  But they also wanted it to make sure Sierra Services did what it said it was going to do, and it was designed as a voting membership that would elect the Board of Directors and insure we stayed on track and we serve our clients as we promised.  That way, should the agency start to stray from its original intention the membership could pull it back into compliance.  In the extreme, they could toss the whole board of directors out and start over with one that did what it was supposed to do.  We have an annual meeting every year and should the board wish to change the by-laws they must get approval from the membership to do it.

We no longer have the board election that night.  It became impossible to replace board members during the year.  But we do still require they come to the membership to change the by-laws.  This process still allows the members to vote board members out if they do not perform.  You must be a member for 30 days before the meeting to vote that night. 

It is still only $10 for an Annual Membership.  We keep it low so that the client, and the public, can easily be a part of this process.  There is a $100 Life Membership as well.  Many, if not most of the Life Members and Annual Members add a little something of a donation at the this time, so it is still our largest fund raising event each year.

Those that have considered us in their estate planning still are a major source of our funding.  This is not only placing us in your Will, but using Sierra Services for tax related needs such as the required minimum allocation in some investment programs.  These finds come in once a year, but the ongoing funding for the everyday operations are even more dependent on events like the membership drive which becomes critical after the damage COVID did to fundraising for non-profits.  Once canceled it is harder to re-establish an event.  As we change to different forms of fund raising, like Giving Tuesday and more electronic methods, and re-establish our dinner events the membership helps us reach out into the public as we do with our newsletters.

Our voting membership is unique.  The idea the client who benefits from the activities of the agency also has a direct control over that agency to make sure it does what it says it will is very rare.  The community, both business and the families of the client can also be part of that system.  Most of our clients are on fixed income, which is why we do not charge for our services.  Access to counseling, education and especially transportation to medical appointments are critical when vision is lost.  And the causes of blindness occur in one of every three seniors no matter who they are.


"I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."

~ Groucho Marks


Who are these clients

Among our clients we have race car drivers, rocket scientists, housewives, construction workers, college professors, gold miners, business owners, firemen, those who graduated high school and those that have multiple doctorates, artists, corporate officers, farmers and truck drivers, atomic energy consultants and pilots.

Needless to say, our peer groups are most interesting.  So, too, the trips the volunteer drivers take for us.


A penny for your thoughts

Among the things that worry our clients is the loss of both mental and creative endeavors, and the freedom to do not what we are constantly told but what we want to do head the list.  Relevance requires patience as much as being able to accomplish a task without interruption.  If we make a mess of something we have done thousand times we need to laugh at it, not have someone tell us we are losing it.  “They”, “Them”, and “The others” need to know we are keeping the light on as best we can.  So, we need to remind them.


                             Keepin' the Light On

Sometimes it ain't easy keepin' the light on

It wants to act more like an old candle

Flickering in the wind of others

Dripping wax between your eyes

          and off the end of your nose

When there are enough of them

Making wind as they will

They blow it out from time to time

So, you just have to light it again

          and hold your hand in front of it 'tell they calm down a bit

And look for one of the calm places

          where your candle can burn even

Better to light the way on to where you think you might be goin'

Making passage more at ease

Using the time for better things

          than spend it on them that only makes the wind

Makin' it easier keepin' the light on


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

(530) 265-2121

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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.




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