Service of What the Public Must Learn About People with Disabilities

September 12th, 2019

Categories: Assumptions, Disability, Perception

Photo: medicalxpress.com

I suddenly went deaf in both ears and didn’t know why. It turns out it was a garden variety ear infection but I didn’t know that and spent three weeks in a silent world.

At the time I visited a boutique in Lenox, Mass. looking at blouses and a saleswoman came over. I assumed she’d said—“May I help you?” or something close. When I told her I was totally deaf and added “thank you, I’ll let you know if I need anything,” she looked at me with panic. I’ll never forget her expression of alarm.

You couldn’t tell by looking at me that anything was off kilter, yet this brief experience made me realize how people with permanent conditions must feel daily. So when Helen Rabinovitz suggested a post on what the public assumes about people with disabilities I accepted with enthusiasm.

This is what she wrote:

Lisa Rabinovitz with Ethan, the service dog she trained herself.

My 33 year old daughter has Cerebral Palsy. Lisa is beautiful, articulate and has a genius IQ. Yet people see her in a power wheelchair and assume she can’t communicate. It’s insulting that able bodied people think that people with disabilities are less than smart.

Rewind to middle school. My husband and I get called to the headmaster’s office three times. He said “Lisa isn’t trying,” or “She’s not participating,” for example. Finally on visit number three I said to him… “The problem is that her teachers see her wheelchair first and Lisa second. She’s smarter than they are so she’s bored!” No more visits to the office! When the school got computers, which were upstairs in a building with no elevator, administrators sat Lisa with an aide downstairs. She taught the aide how to use it.

High school…Lisa, her service dog and sister Rachael are in the hall and a teacher came over to chat. She spoke directly to Rachael and then said to be sure and tell Lisa what she’d said. Rae told her she could speak directly to Lisa. Embarrassed teacher!!

Just because a person uses a wheelchair or walker or crutches doesn’t mean they’re stupid. It’s important to treat everyone we meet, no matter how they get around, with the respect and consideration everyone expects.

Do you assume that if a person suffers from one affliction it impacts everything else about them? Are you uncomfortable around people with disabilities? Why do you think that is? What might be done to disabuse the public of their false notions about disabled friends, students, colleagues and strangers?

 

Photo: reddit.com

Service of Marketers Ruling the Roost: When Hip Overrides Clarity

September 9th, 2019

Categories: Marketing, Restaurant, Technology

Photo: eyecatch.co

When service or communications are poor, customers must wonder whether an operation is being run for them, the owners or the staff.

It may be none of the above.

Frequently the marketers run the show. Many are enamored of technology, to heck with whether or not the hip, new effect does the trick. It’s more important to appear to be cutting edge. Take revolving digital screens that move so quickly that customers can’t read and/or absorb the information fast enough. This isn’t a good choice for a fast food restaurant–or for anything else if the fast-moving screen features more than a few words with an image.

Hot & Spicy McChicken Photo: McDonalds.fandom.com

Britton O’Daly wrote “Wait, Where Did That Burger Go? Diners Struggle With Fast-Moving Digital Menus,” in The Wall Street Journal. In one example a customer was frustrated because he didn’t catch the name of a new chicken dish at McDonald’s so instead of waiting for the screen to return–he feared holding up the line–he ordered a burger. I wonder why he felt he couldn’t ask for “one of those new chicken dishes?”

That customer may have been intimidated by marketers who are also in love with the cutesy names they give their products. To be considered “in,” there’s pressure to use them. I break out in a rash when forced to order coffee at Starbucks [I admit you rarely see me in there]. If I want a small coffee with skim that is how I will order it. You can keep your Grande, Venti and Trenta. Phooey.

Photo: pinterest.com

Back to the original subject. O’Daly wrote: “Digital billboards are now everywhere, and companies love them. The only problem: people have a hard time reading them.”

This harkens back to an amazing looking logo in an unreadable font that also irks me. What’s the point?

Why is the public intimidated into ordering food or drink using the names a company gives it? Why does management put aside common sense and allow marketers to incorporate the latest widget or gadget to communicate with the public even if the vehicle doesn’t do the job? And why does a marketing department, or its advisors, lead its clients down so many primrose paths?

Photo: eater.com

Service of Second Hand Clothes: Thrift in Unexpected Places

September 5th, 2019

Categories: Retail, Second Hand, Uncategorized

Photo: picclick.com

One of my office mates years ago owned an extensive collection of fur coats and jackets from ermine and fox to mink and beaver. She’d bought every one of them at a thrift shop.

In my early 20s I knew a woman whose very wealthy husband paid for anything she wanted. He kept a tight grip on her by giving her cash only if she’d tell him where she was going and what she wanted the money for. He’d know what she bought at stores by checking his credit card bills. Desperate for cash which represented a modicum of independence, she’d sell, for a few dollars, amazing barely worn clothes I couldn’t otherwise afford–a win and for me super win.

Photo: medium.com

Hand-me-downs are nothing new to kids with older siblings.

Even so, I was surprised to read Suzanne Kapner’s article–written with Micah Maidenberg–in The Wall Street Journal: “J.C. Penney Tries On Used Apparel.” That’s right: The store, which is suffering from plummeting sales and stunning losses is partnering with threadUP for the clothes.

So is Macy’s which, Kapner and Maidenberg wrote “reported a disappointing second quarter that sent its stock plunging.”

ThredUp bills itself as the “largest online consignment and thrift store” and boasts, on its website, that you can “shop your favorite outfits from over 35,000 brands, all up to 90% off.” It touts that it’s causing a resale revolution.

Photo: treehugger.com

As I write this I’m humming “Second Hand Rose,” a song that Barbra Streisand and before her Fanny Brice made famous. Written in 1921 by Grant Clarke and James F. Hanley the second verse about the “girl from Second Avenue” goes:

I’m wearing second hand hats Second hand clothes That’s why they call me Second hand Rose Even our piano in the parlor Daddy bought for ten cents on the dollar Second hand pearls I’m wearing second hand curls….

Auto dealerships sell second hand cars and customers don’t blink so why can’t department stores sell used apparel? Isn’t it ironic that the stores think they can sell used clothing when they are having trouble enticing customers with the new? I wonder what the Penny’s and Macy’s vendors think? Will shoppers leave the thredUp department and spend money in the cosmetics and accessories counters? Will they pay full freight for the new clothing in the stores? Can you predict the outcome of this trend?

Photo: thredup.com

Service of Should One Manufacturing Car Rule Fit All?

September 3rd, 2019

Categories: Automobiles, Government

Photo: ford.com

When it comes to rules governing clean air and other environmental issues, health care too, California has been ahead of the curve as long as I can remember. I’ve worked with associations and companies that would cringe when the state proposed a new regulation governing the industries in which they were involved because they feared it would cost them money and catch on universally.

The state currently has a federal waiver that allows it to set its own auto emission standards.

The Trump administration is proposing to ease fuel economy standards to save manufacturers money and encourage them to sell gas-hungry trucks and sport utility vehicles the public prefers. According to Ben Foldy and Mike Colias in The Wall Street Journal “the rollback being pushed by the administration is so extensive that car companies are worried it will set off a protracted legal battle with California—the nation’s most populous state and the biggest auto market—and ultimately conclude with manufacturers having to meet two different sets of requirements for selling cars in the U.S.”

Photo: bmwusa.com

Federal rules agreed upon in 2012 called “for increases in fuel economy annually through mid-decade to an average of about 50 miles a gallon.” The administration wants to freeze them at 37 miles a gallon.

Meanwhile Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW signed a separate agreement with California for standards more rigorous than this administration’s and not as severe as the last one’s. Mr. Trump reacted: “Car companies should know that when this administration’s alternative is no longer available, California will squeeze them to a point of business ruin.”

Photo: vw.com

Foldy and Colias wrote: “In a statement responding to the tweets, Ford said: ‘We have consistently supported one 50-state solution for regulating fuel economy standards, and this agreement with California provides regulatory stability while reducing CO2 more than complying with two different standards.’”

Its obvious why a 50-state solution is ideal. Tweaking cars for different markets is onerous and far more costly than, say, manufacturing pillowcases in different sizes for European and U.S. beds.

Other manufacturers that didn’t join the four wanted to wait for the final federal ruling anticipated for later this year. Foreign manufacturers didn’t participate in the pact, according to Foldy and Colias, was because they were afraid the president would impose tariffs on their cars as he’d threatened.

The administration also wants to “revoke California’s federal waiver to set its own emissions standards.”

Outlier GM is “pushing for rules to require car companies to sell battery-powered cars across all 50 states,” and feels that the Golden State doesn’t give “enough credit for sales of fully electric vehicles.”

Should car manufacturers be encouraged to produce more fuel efficient vehicles or is it better to loosen up the rules to keep them increasingly profitable so that they can share profits with investors and employees and in theory pay more taxes contributing to the greater good? Is the administration right to rescind California’s exemption from federal emission standards so that manufacturers can make one car that fits all rules?

Photo: hondanorth.com

Service of Reporting to the Public New–Dire–Drug Side Effects When There Are No Alternatives for Chronic Ailments

August 29th, 2019

Categories: Chronic Disease, Drugs, Media, Medicine, News, Side Effects, Tablets

Pill organizer Photo: tripsavvy.com

I get that people want to make smart decisions about their health, especially these days when many doctors don’t have time to explain the pros and cons of the meds they prescribe. And in spite of thorough vetting by the FDA before a drug is approved there often are discoveries of adverse side effects over time when patients take new drugs.

But when there are no alternatives the information we read and hear via consumer media can serve to frighten more than enlighten, and to what purpose?

Here’s the headline that inspired this post: “New Study Adds to Concern About Certain Drugs and Dementia Risk.”

Lisa Field wrote: “As people get older, they’re more likely to need medications on a regular basis to manage one or more chronic conditions. Some of these medications fall into a class known as anticholinergics and may not be ideal to take for long periods because they could increase the risk of dementia.” In an article on nextavenue.org Field highlighted results of a study published in a recent issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Photo: attorneygroup.com

She continued: “If there are no effective non-anticholinergic medications or other non-drug interventions, then I think whether the benefits of taking the medication outweigh the potential risks depends very much on the individual circumstances and the severity of the condition for which treatment is needed,” said the professor of medical statistics in primary care at the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine.” Carol Coupland authored the study.

Tell me the point of worrying patients with this information if their chronic condition forces them to take an essential medicine for the rest of their lives which, one hopes, is longer than the time a dreaded side effect like dementia might set in? Should consumer editors and bloggers, TV and radio news producers table articles and programs that spotlight dire drug side effects until alternatives exist for these patients?

Photo: medshadow.org

Service of Who Are Students Cheating–Themselves or Future Employers &/or Customers?

August 26th, 2019

Categories: Academia, Academics, Cheating, Students

Photo: businessinsider.com

I’ve written previously about high school and college students paid to take tests for others and ghost writers who draft college and grad student papers for a fee. A newer twist to student cheating is brought to us via the web: hundreds of sites claim to offer tutoring but actually sell offers to complete assignments with original work.

According to Tawnell D. Hobbs in The Wall Street Journal, “As the school year starts off, colleges and high schools are increasing steps to spot and fight a persistent form of cheating in which students find someone online to do their homework.”

The paltry and lackluster solutions offered in the article don’t portend much success. And it sure has taken schools a long time to wake up. One participant in the article said he’d worked for the cheating websites for a decade and he stopped eight years ago.

Because they won’t want to pay for multiple drafts, posits Hobbs, some high school teachers require multiple drafts thinking that some “aren’t likely to pay someone” for more than one. This doesn’t sound like an effective preventative to me–how much does it cost to copy a few pages?

Other teachers have students increase the work they do in class. Fine, but this solution doesn’t address cheating on homework.

Some public school districts, such as Wake County’s in Cary, N.C. have upped the punishment–the severest being suspension.

Hobbs reported that students should expect to pay from $15 to a few hundred dollars for their homework assignments. One fixer out of Tulsa charges on average $20-$30 for math, chemistry and physics. The person was so bold as to be interviewed by this prominent reporter and allow his name to be published. I’ve deliberately not mentioned his name.

Another participant in the article said that for 10 years and until 2011 he earned $60,000/year working for the cheating websites. “’I would take students through entire semesters. Once they’ve used your words,’ it’s hard for them to start turning in their own work without getting caught, he said.”

Photo: marketbusinessnews.com

Tricia Bertram Gallant, director of the Academic Integrity Office at the University of California—San Diego told Hobbs “We as a society have let this get out of control. We’ve reached a new level when people are willing to admit they do this for a living.”

Hobbs reported that “a Wall Street Journal review of 100 websites offering tutoring help or writing services, or both, found they promise custom high-school and college work. Some websites offer to run work through anti-plagiarism programs to prove it is original.”

Students are also bold to admit that they cheat!

According to Hobbs student gripes with the websites include missed deadlines or poor work “according to complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau and online reviews.”

Will I need to wonder if my appendix or other body part is being removed or repaired by a doctor who, in med school, paid someone to complete that particular procedure’s homework? What happens to these students when they get a job–can they perform? Does the cheating ever stop? Were you an instructor would you implement pop quizzes so as to compare the quality of work with what you received in homework assignments? Is there a solution with teeth?

Photo: eastlakecv.com

 

Service of Leveling the Playing Field for Admission to Top Public Schools

August 22nd, 2019

Categories: Admissions, Competition, Education, High School

Photo: lemongrad.com

Speed reading lessons gave some school kids a leg up in my youth. [My parents didn’t spring to finance that trend.] I didn’t know of test prep in the day though I sure could have used those classes: My pencil-paper-multiple test-taking skills are atrocious.

Leslie Brody reported in The Wall Street Journal that Ronald Lauder and Richard Parsons spent “an additional $1.5 million on their campaign to preserve the admissions test to elite New York public high schools, this time by providing free test preparation and advertisements encouraging more students to take the exam.” The team had previously spent $860,000 for advertising and lobbying. Their initiative is called the Education Equity Campaign

Photo: chalkbeat.org

Lauder graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and Parsons was the CEO of Time Warner. According to Wikipedia, Lauder’s school “is ranked #49 in the National Rankings,” fifth within New York, 6th in the NY metro area and 67th among STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] high schools, reported usnews.com. “Schools are ranked on their performance on state-required tests, graduation and how well they prepare students for college.”

The campaign’s objective: “to help low-income students in underrepresented communities get into the eight specialized high schools.” [Wikipedia listed 9]. In addition to the Bronx High School of Science these are Brooklyn Latin, Brooklyn Technical, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, Staten Island Technical and Stuyvesant.

What’s the impetus for this initiative now and the philanthropist’s attempts to bolster a different avenue for the underserved population to follow for admission to some of the best high schools in the city? Mayor de Blasio wants to deep six the exam “to better integrate the public high schools.” Specifically he wants to “admit the top 7% of performers from each middle school citywide, using course grades and state test scores.

Photo: twitter.com

In 1970 CUNY, the City University of New York, experimented with changing the standard admissions recipe in favor of open admissions to level the playing field for the diverse city population. Some say that this ruined the stellar reputation of one of the top schools in the state if not the country at the time. CUNY accepted any high school graduate whether or not they had taken the Regents exam. I skimmed nyc.gov “History of Open Admissions and Remedial Education in the U.S.” and read that five and six years later the trustees twice voted to “reestablish admissions standards.” The first plan would have required CUNY applicants to demonstrate 8th grade competency in reading and math; the second would have required those community college students who did not have a minimum high school average, class rank, or General Equivalency Diploma score to obtain remediation through a ‘transitional program.’”

Skipping ahead: “In the 1990s, the university had begun to try to restore the balance between the two and a return to bachelor’s admission standards that emphasized Regents courses, high school grades and standardized testing….”

This is a tough topic and there may be no perfect solutions. Given the unevenness of student competition in public schools in any city, what do you think of de Blasio’s approach–to fill the best specialty public high schools from the top 7 percent of each public middle school in NYC? Or do you think that the Education Equity Campaign’s goal to train underserved students to take the admission tests is a fairer answer and one that would better capture the top students in the city? Is free prep for some and not everyone fair to middle class parents who may not have the means to pay for such classes for their children? What do you suggest?

Photo: educationequity.nyc :

Service of a Bad Sign: Who Approves the Proofs?

August 19th, 2019

Categories: Bank, Bridges, Details, New York City, Potholes, Proofing

Photo: wshu.org

It’s not just road signs in the NY Metro area that need to be corrected at significant expense, but sloppy work by admins that when added up must cost corporations a pretty penny.

I read an Associated Press story in The New York Post which reported that all the signs to the newly named Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge need patching to add his initial–M. “The nearly $4 billion bridge over the Hudson River opened last year. Connecting Westchester and Rockland counties north of New York City, the span replaced the former Tappan Zee Bridge — or, officially, the Gov. Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge.”

Photo: lohud.com

The article continues the “missing ‘M.’ fixes come as a state agency is also correcting a misspelling of the name of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in New York City. For over 50 years, one “Z″ was missing.” Hmmmm.

On a far smaller scale, a bank put the III that had been at the end of my husband’s name at the end of mine, i.e. Jeanne-Marie Byington III. I called to correct the error for future statements. It took three calls and additional incorrect references to my name for III to disappear.

At another institution, I changed a joint account to one in my name. After asking me all sorts of financial questions for 10+ minutes, the customer service person ordered new checks. [I may be the last person on earth to use checks.] I noticed that the account numbers on the new checks matched those of the closed account. Can you hear the bounce of checks near and far had I not caught the error?

As for the road signs: Who proofs them? Must we spend money to fix them right now when funds could be better applied to road repair?

So who pays for the reprinted checks? I don’t know what to think about the banks’ administrative errors except that I hope that the departments at each institution that add and subtract deposits and withdrawals do a better job.

Photo: yonkerstribune.com

Service of I Never Thought It Would Happen Here: Warnings about Travel to the U.S.

August 15th, 2019

Categories: Tourism, Travel, Travel Warning, Trust

Photo: newyorktour.com

Most American tourists who plan to visit countries that are in the news due to unrest read the State Department’s website to evaluate the danger before booking the trip. International travelers no doubt check in with the keeper of their country’s travel warnings as well.

It breaks my heart that we’re now the subject of warnings by other countries. The potential impact goes well beyond the slap at my national pride and obvious financial repercussions.

Our state department assigns each country with one of four numbers to reflect the safety of travel: 1=exercise normal precautions; 2= increased caution 3= reconsider travel and 4= do not travel. Businessinsider.com recently focused on South American countries reporting1’s such as French Guiana, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Suriname and 2’s Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Guyana and Columbia to 4: Venezuela.

Photo: newyork.cbslocal.com

The reasons for Venezuela’s last level: “The State Department warns of crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, and the arbitrary arrest and detention of US citizens. The agency ordered government employees and their families to leave the country in January 2019. There are also shortages of food, electricity, water, and medicine. The agency warns against travelling between Simón Bolívar International Airport and Caracas at night and not to take unregulated taxis from Simón Bolívar International Airport.”

Claire Parker’s Washington Post article “Gun violence in America prompts Amnesty International and a growing list of countries to issue travel warnings” raised my eyebrows and made me sad: How can this be happening in MY country?

Parker wrote: “A travel advisory the organization issued Wednesday ‘calls on people worldwide to exercise caution and have an emergency contingency plan when traveling throughout the USA. This Travel Advisory is being issued in light of ongoing high levels of gun violence in the country.’ ”

Parker added that Uruguay and Venezuela “have also discouraged their citizens from traveling to the United States, citing this weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, as indicators of danger and a rise in hate crimes. The Japanese Consulate in Detroit, meanwhile, released a statement Sunday calling the United States a ‘gun society’ and urging Japanese nationals to stay alert after the Dayton shooting.”

Photo: thrillist.com

She continued: “These are just the latest countries and international groups to label gun violence in America a safety concern. In recent years, Germany, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand have issued similar warnings about travel to the United States.”

Shouldn’t Washington pay attention to this dramatic shift in image that points to the United States as an unsafe place to visit–and by extension, doubts about the security of this country as a safe place in which to park money? You’d think that this would be a wakeup call to immediately revise gun sale regulations and enact measures to ensure reasonable private gun ownership for an administration that honors the almighty dollar above all else.

In addition to lives, which seem to be last in a line of priorities for Congress, and the shame of the well-deserved reprimand by the international community, much more is at stake than hotel, restaurant, and airline bottom lines. Real estate and American-owned businesses should be prepared to suffer losses as international investors seek safer havens for their treasure.

And it’s not just violence-by-guns turning tourists away. A Crains New York news alert on Wednesday August 14, 2019 warned: “Chinese tourists sidestep NYC as trade war rolls on.” To end on a fittingly mercenary note, who, in DC, is watching the store?

Photo: bustle.com

Service of Healthy Frozen Desserts–But is it Ice Cream?

August 12th, 2019

Categories: Fake, Faux Food, Ice Cream

Photo: saltandstraw.com

I have tried ersatz food and have learned that if for whatever reason I cannot find the real thing, I’d rather pass. This goes for meatless burgers, diet sodas or sugarless salad dressing and cookies.

Someday I would like to be proved wrong. In the case of ice cream, my verdict about the increasingly long list of faux treats stands–based on what they sound like: No thanks.

Plant based products at Expo West 2019 Photo: vegtv.com

Anne Marie Chaker’s Wall Street Journal article, “‘There Was Something Else Ground Up in the Ice Cream,’ Children Revolt at Plant-Based Treats,” brought me up to speed on the artificial landscape for ice cream. She wrote “For ice cream lovers, it is the summer of our discontent. Eager to woo health-conscious consumers, food brands are marketing a growing range of ice cream alternatives made with ingredients such as avocado, cauliflower, beets, zucchini, oats and navy beans.”

One man in her article passed on dairy-free ice-cream [an oxymoron?] made of avocado. Other frozen treats in this category include ingredients from soy to sweet potato, pea protein to coconut.

Some dairy ice creams are supposedly healthy, promoting benefits like being “light” while including probiotics. Additional ingredients are spices or vegetables such as turmeric, cinnamon, spinach, zucchini or cauliflower. I like these vegetables and seasonings but for dinner, not in ice cream.

Chaker reported: “Ice cream must contain at least 10% milk fat for it to be labeled ice cream, according to federal regulations. Farm to Spoon bills itself as a ‘plant based frozen dessert’ while Snow Monkey pints made of banana purée and other ingredients say it is a ‘superfood ice treat.'”

I might like these frozen desserts if they tasted OK, but not as a substitute for my favorite food group. Maybe they’d work as a side to a main course. Have you tried any of these exotic concoctions? Would you seek them out? What faux or tampered with foods to make them healthy do you like? In referring to ice cream in Chaker’s article, several people used the word “fun.” Don’t vegetable-based frozen treats sound anything but fun?

Real ice cream Photo: tatecooking.com

 

 

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