Meals On Wheels

Braille Changes Lives

“It changes the lives of our braille readers,” said Susan Quinn of the braille menu lists and meals heating instructions, recently updated by Carolyn’s Braille Services.

Susan is a Social Work Intern with Meals On Wheels, a service of Senior Services of King County. Each week, Meals On Wheels delivers thousands of frozen meals throughout King County to homebound people age 60 or more, thus helping them to eat well and remain independent. Clients telephone in their meal orders, choosing from a list that contains 33 options. Braille readers have that list in braille, a format they can read independently.

The nutritious meals are packaged to be stored in the freezer and heated in a microwave or a conventional oven. Each meal is marked in braille, eliminating guess work for blind clients as to its contents. Heating instructions customized for each meal are also available in braille.

Seattle seniors may use the Mobile Market, a home delivery program where individuals order by phone from a list of groceries and other supplies. That list, too, is in braille.

Meals On Wheels of King County is part of the Meals On Wheels Association of America, the oldest and largest national organization composed of and representing community-based Senior Nutrition Programs in the 50 U.S. states and Territories.

There are approximately 5,000 local Senior Nutrition Programs in the United States. Each day, these programs provide one million meals to qualifying seniors. Meals may be served at community locations like senior centers or delivered directly to the homes of seniors with limited mobility. Many programs provide both services.

Contact information for Meals On Wheels Association of America:
Phone: 703.548.5558

Contact information for Meals On Wheels of King County:
Phone: 206-448-5767 or 1-888-308-6325

What a Difference a Braille Menu Makes

Last month I brailled the menus for Bremerton Bar and Grill. Here is what an enthusiastic diner had to say about her recent visit to the restaurant:

Just got home from our Peninsula Council of the Blind chapter social at Bremerton Bar and Grill. We received top notch service from Sarah, and enjoyed being able to peruse the complete menu in braille! Our steaks were delicious, and we just plain enjoyed a great time of visiting! Two thumbs up for our night out to Bremerton B&G!

Does your favorite restaurant have braille menus? If so, let us know so we can tell the world. If not, consider suggesting they contact Carolyn’s Braille Services. We’d love to help them out.

Holland America Line offers Braille Menus

cruise ship at sea

The Holland America ms Eurodam

Just ask! Holland America contracts with me to transcribe restaurant menus into braille. The braille is a standard offering. Because each cruise is a little different and has its own lunch and dinner menus, creating braille menus for a cruise line is an ongoing process. At the beginning of that process there may be a question: “do you have braille menus?” In the case of Holland America, the answer will be “of course.”

As I braille, I imagine what I would chose were I aboard ship perusing the menu in the lovely dining room. There are Appetizers, Soup and Salads, Entrees, Desserts, Beverages, and Wine selections, with many choices in each category.

Dishes range from elegant and exotic to familiar and down home; some may reflect the cuisine of the area in which the ship is cruising. HAL understands special diets. Although I am a vegetarian, I would have ample options for each course.

I bind the braille menus for a cruise into books with the lunch menus in one book, dinner in another, and a table of contents in the front listing the menus by cruise day. Dinner menus I recently brailled for a 17-day cruise required 113 pages of braille. Even considering that braille takes more space than print, about three braille pages to one print page, that is a lot of tantalizing dishes from which to choose.

A friend took her granddaughter on a cruise. The teenager, enchanted by the array of desserts, ordered several each meal, taking some back to her room for a midnight snack. By the end of the cruise, she had enjoyed every dessert on the menu.

ms Eurodam Rembrandt Dining Room

Holland America ms Eurodam Rembrandt Dining Room

A few years ago when my place of work was in a large office building, I was concerned about how my noisy braille embosser sounded to the office on the other side of the wall. The nice lady smiled and said, “It is no problem at all. The sound of your braille printer reminds me of the relaxing thrum of the engines on the wonderful Holland America cruise I took.”

I was transcribing braille menus for Holland America Line then, and I continue to do so today. When I braille the cruise ships’ menus, I, too, have a feeling of being on a cruise, but through the stories the menus tell, not the sound of the braille embosser.

If you are contemplating a Holland America Line cruise and need braille, let your agent know in advance. HAL will be glad to oblige.

images courtesy of Holland America

Braille Menu Memories

I like to braille restaurant menus!

One of the pleasures of eating out begins before the food is served. For many diners, the first course is a thorough reading of the menu mixed with discussion among dining companions as to the options. Braille readers are denied this camaraderie if a print menu is all that is available.

closeup of a fingertip on interpoint braille

Embossed Interpoint Braille on Paper

The first menu I brailled was for a popular Seattle restaurant. This was in the days when braille menus in restaurants were a rarity. In this restaurant, the braille menus were prominently displayed on a table in the spacious entry way where they drew attention from all diners.

When the restaurant manager offered the very first braille menu to a customer who was blind, the woman burst into tears. It was the first time in her life she had been given a menu she could read for herself. She placed her order and then read the menu from cover to cover while she enjoyed her meal.

The enthusiastic manager kept me well supplied with free lunch coupons, which I shared with my braille reading guests who eagerly used the braille menus. Although the restaurant is no longer open, the good will over the braille menus lingers.

A True Story

This was told to me by one of my braille students.

A lady was eating in a restaurant. Her guide dog was lying under the table with his head facing out, just as she had placed him. Some bacon fell from a plate carried by a passing waitress and landed right in front of the dog’s nose. The dog quickly crossed both front paws over his muzzle, as if to resist the temptation, and remained in that position until the bacon was removed. All guide dogs receive specialized training in staying on task when working, but isn’t that exceptional discipline?

Perkins the Braille Dog would have snatched that falling piece of bacon before it hit the ground. Then again, Perkins is not a guide dog. He’s a family pet.

image by kainita

Starbucks offers their first Braille Gift Card

In honor of Disability Awareness Month, Starbucks is offering a rechargeable gift card with the Starbucks name embossed on it in braille. Braille is only available on one card, their Fall Leaves pattern version. Braille on cards like these is important because it lets users tell by feel which card is in their hand.

Gift card with Fall leaves graphic and Starbucks in braille

Starbucks Fall Leaves Card

Here is an excerpt from the Starbucks blog post that announced the cards:

This fall, for the first time, one of our new Starbucks Cards has Braille on it. National disability leaders made this recommendation to us a few years ago at a community symposium. Our Starbucks Access Alliance initiated the idea with our Card team and helped make it happen.
from Braille Banter
on the Starbucks Blog

Notice that, so far, this is a one-shot thing, just for this single occasion. Also notice that it’s been a long time in the making, a recommendation having been made “a few years ago.” In my opinion, the long time span shows that whatever small things we do in support of accessibility can add up and bring results over time.

How to Support the Starbucks Braille Card

  • Comment on the Starbucks blog post.
  • Do you have a Twitter, Google +1 or Facebook account? Share the post via the Social Media buttons on the post.
  • Post about your interest in the braille card, directly on the Starbucks Facebook Wall.
  • Include “@starbucksidea” or “@starbucks” in tweets about the card. Starbucks might miss tweets about a “braille card,” but chances are that they watch tweets directed at their own Twitter accounts.
  • Buy a gift card. Christmas is coming – buy two and give one to a friend! The Fall Leaves card is the one with braille.
  • Register on Comment on suggestions about braille, or post your own, new ideas. Would anyone like to ask for braille on a Christmas-patterned card?
  • Call your local Starbucks to ask if they have the brailled card in stock.
  • Keep that brailled coffee card and re-charge it at your favorite Starbucks.
  • Mention how nice it is to have the braille version every time you use your card. Encourage others to do the same.