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COOKING SAFELY presents numerous challenges for the visually impaired.
The Independent IJving program teaches students helpful hints like how to use
timers and label stove controls to assure proper times and temperatures. Here
Amelia Stewart dishes out a perfect batch of rice as Marie Mathis serves a hearty
V - t
IDENTIFYING denominations of pa- THE "SAY WHEN" is the nickname
per money can be a real problem for for the liquid level indicator demon
the visually impaired. Essie Irene strated by Margaret Iuimbert. The bat
Cumbee demonstrates how each bill is tery-powered device emits a loud beep
folded before storing in a wallet. when the glass is nearly full.
p&f ?m umt - ir^? .
TAKING TURNS cooking, serving and cleaning up the daily meal allows each
student in the Independent living program a chance to do it all. Here Ruth
Simmons brings a dish of mixed vegetables to the table.
STAFF PHOTOS BY ERIC CARLSON
A MIDDAY MEAL highlights each gathering of the Independent IJving participants and mini-center directors. Shown
(clockwise from left) are Essie Irene Cumhee, Phyllis Smith, Mary Allred, Erank Bennett, Amelia Stewart and Ilene Probst.
VIPs Find Friends, Freedom
Through 'Independent Living'
BY KKIC CARLSON
Marie Maihis of Lcland used to think
she was the only visually impaired
person living in Brunswick County.
Miles away, in Holdcn Beach, Margaret
Lambert thought the same thing about her
So did Frank Bennett of Shallotte. That's
why he was so surprised when Ann Smith
called from the N.C. Department of Human
Resources Services for the Blind. She told
him about a new program called "Inde
pendent Living Rehabilitation Services,"
which provides special training for people
who have lost most or all of their vision.
"When she told me about the program
coming here 1 thought, 'Boy, I'll be the only
one in THAT class,"' said Frank. "It sure
was nice to find out I was wrong. Not that
I'm glad to hear someone else has the same
"It's just nice to have people you can re
late to," said Marie, completing Frank's
You'll find a lot of that among members
of the VIP Club, a group of ten visually im
paired people who were brought together
when the Independent Living program held
a three-week series of classes at Calvary
Baptist Church in Shallotte recently.
Only two of the VIPs knew each other
when they arrived the first day. But now
they seem like the oldest of friends, laughing
and joking and trading stories about the
tragedy and the comedy of losing their sight.
"I remember when I was staying in
Raleigh, at a place 1 wasn't familiar with. I
was getting ready to go out and I picked up a
spray can to do my hair," said Marie. 'Turns
out it was spray starch and I had starched
my hair to death. It was so stiff, it took me
two days to get it out."
Sitting around a table in the church fel
lowship room, the others laughed knowing
"I'm just glad it wasn't bug spray!" she
said, eliciting more hearty chuckles.
Scenes like that seem funny in remem
brance, but they can be increasingly frustrat
ing for someone who's view of the world is
slowly slipping away. That's why the Inde
pendent Living program was started.
Marie and the others have learned several
new ways to identify things they used to rec
ognize by sight. One or more rubber bands
can slipped around a container so a sightless
person can tell which one is which. Safety
pins can do the same for different colored
"I've had enough bad
times to know when the
good times have
Because even a blind
man can tell when he's
walking in the sun."
Or a set of child's magnetic letters can
identify the canned goods in your cupboard,
explains Amelia Stewart of Shallotte. Stick a
"B" on a can top to indicate "beans." Put a
"T" and an "S" on another to identify "toma
Asked how she used to tell them apart,
Amelia grabbed a can and held it so close to
her face that the label touched her nose.
"Like this!" she said as the others joined
her in laughter. They couldn't see Amelia,
but everyone knew what she meant.
They all said the best part of the
Independent Living program was "the fel
lowship," the finding of new friends. But the
classes also gave them back some of the
freedom that had slowly slipped away with
their sight. Each one had learned new tech
niques and discovered new gadgets that
would make it easier to cope with their loss
Phyllis Smith of Supply was particularly
excited about "puff paint." Class members
learned to use this flourescent, glue-like
stuff for marking stoves and other appli
ances to identify time and heat settings. The
paint leaves a bright mark for those who still
have some vision and a little raised bump
that can be easily felt by those who don't.
Ann Smith and the other program direc
tors visted each participant's home to help
design individual indentification systems
custom-fit for each one's needs.
"The first day I went to Phyllis's house,
she said, 'I'm SO glad to see you!"' Ann
said. "She had a pound cake all made up and
ready to bake. She was just waiting for me
to set up the markings."
"I used to have to crawl on top of the
stove with a magnifying glass to sec the set
tings," Phyllis said. "They also told me
about these long oven mits that will help
keep me from getting burned."
Essie Irene Cumbec of Supply used to en
joy making quills, bul had to give it up as
her vision failed. She was overjoyed to learn
about a special gadget that would allow her
to thread a needle without seeing it. Now
she hopes to sew again with the help of a
large magnifier that can be mounted around
Ruth Simmons of Supply loves her new
talking clock. It wakes her up in the morning
with a loud rooster's crow. And every time
she presses the button, it tells her the time
with an electronically produced human
"You can't imagine how nice it is when
you don't have to keep asking people what
time it is," said Ruth.
Like the others, Murphy Hcwcu of
Supply looked forward to hearing some of
the magazines and books on tape now avail
able for the visually impaired through the
state library system. He demonstrated the
use of a special tape player with large, easi
Another favorite device was the liquid
level indicator, which the VIPs jokingly re
fer to as the "say when." It's a little battery
powered gadget you put on the side of a
glass before pouring liquid into it. When the
level nears the top, the indicator "says
when" by emitting a loud beep.
"There's only thing wrong with it. Now
our tea won't be sweet,'" said Nell Long of
Ash. "Because we won't be hanging our fin
gers into the glass!"
Again the group members join in a round
of laughter. Their vision may be impaired,
but their sense of humor certainly isn't. All
agreed that the three-week course had more
than fulfilled its promise of helping them
live more independantly. It had also given
them a new circle of friends.
As they finished preparing their last class
meal, group members sat down to eat with
Ann and the "mini-center" directors Mary
Allrcd, Alex Propst and Ilene Propst. After a
prayer of thanks, the VIPs talked about hold
ing regular meetings throughout the year.
"I just wish it could go on and on and on,"
The Independant Living mini-centers
move from county to county across the state.
Smith hopes to hold another series o! classes
here next year and encourages visually im
paired persons to learn more about such pro
grams through the Brunswick County De
partment of Social Services or by calling
N.C. Services for the Blind in Wilmington at
UNE GUIDES help the visually impaired keep their sentences straight. As Nell l ong looks on, Phyllis Smith demonstrates
a check-writing guide that allows her to feel where the date, amount and signature belong.