Iowa Department for the Blind
Independent Living Program
Newsletter - Fall 2006

A Day in the Life of Agnes

At the Iowa Department for the Blind, we are frequently asked how a blind person performs daily activities. The focus of this quarter's newsletter is answering some of those questions. It would be impossible to include every technique; however, we have included many that we thought you might find useful. If you know someone who could benefit from these techniques, you may refer them for services by calling 800-362-2587.

Agnes (fictional person) is 82 years old and lives alone in her own home. She lived in California for most of her adult life and moved to Iowa several years ago to be closer to her daughter and family. Here is a day in the life of Agnes.


6:00 AM     The talking alarm clock wakes Agnes up.

Agnes received her talking alarm clock as a Christmas present from her daughter a couple years ago. She relies on it and her talking watch to identify the time throughout the day.

7:00 AM     Agnes showers and dresses for the day.

She distinguishes her shampoo from the conditioner by the rubber band on the shampoo bottle.

She applies her facial moisturizer and make up by touch, using facial bones as landmarks. She is able to distinguish the items she uses by the size, shape, smell, and weight of the bottles and the contents.

She uses the safety pin placed in the waistband of her black slacks and the texture of her red blouse to choose her clothing. Her black socks are located in her top left drawer of her dresser (white are in the top right drawer), and her black shoes are located in their shoe box, labeled with Braille.

7:30 AM     Agnes sits down for breakfast.

She pours herself a cup of water and places the tip of her finger over the edge of the cup to feel when it is full. She places it in the microwave and uses tactile markings on the microwave panel to heat the water for 2 minutes. Upon removing it from the microwave, she measures her instant coffee by touch and stirs it into her water.

She pours herself a bowl of cornflakes using her sense of touch to know when she has enough. She finds the milk by knowing its location within the fridge and the shape of its carton. She feels the location of her bowl in relation to the carton's pour spout before pouring her milk. Once again, she uses the tip of her finger to feel if she has poured enough. She grabs a banana and sits at her kitchen table for breakfast.

8:00 AM     Agnes listens to her local newspaper.

Each morning, she listens to her local paper from 8:00 AM until 9:00 AM. As a person who cannot read standard print, Agnes qualifies for the free service known as IRIS (Iowa Radio Reading Service). This service provides her access to her local paper, the Des Moines Register, twice a day and dozens of other publications.

9:00 AM     Agnes listens to the Fresno Bee.

Agnes moved to Iowa three years ago. Since then, she has been keeping up with the news from her home town of Fresno, CA through the use of NFB-Newsline. She simply dials the toll free number and enters her pin number. She is able to access newspapers from all over the country.

9:45 AM     Agnes does a load of laundry.

Agnes identifies her clothing by texture and other features, such as the shape of buttons, the type of collar, or extra markings (like the safety pin mentioned above). She chooses the appropriate setting by using the raised markings on her washer and dryer.

11:30 AM     Time for lunch.

With her white cane in hand, Agnes heads for the senior center located 5 blocks from her home. Using proper cane techniques, Agnes locates street crossings, listens to traffic sounds for safe street crossing, and locates the senior center independently and confidently.

When arriving at the senior center, she takes out her wallet and pays $3.50 for her lunch. She identifies each bill's denomination by the way it is folded. The one dollar bills are kept flat in her wallet, the fives are folded in half so that they are nearly square, the tens are folded lengthwise so they are long and narrow, and the twenties are kept in a separate compartment of her wallet. She identifies her coins by paying attention to their size and whether they have ridges around the edge.

1:00 PM     Cards with friends.

Lunch is over, and it is time to sit down with some of her friends for a game of bridge. Braille cards allow Agnes to identify them. Agnes enjoys playing and looks forward to it each day.

2:30 PM     Time to relax at home.

Agnes has had a busy morning, and it is time to take a rest. She turns on the tape player and listens to her favorite book on tape that she received through the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. She has always been an avid reader and continues to enjoy it using this free service.

Agnes knits while listening to the book.

4:00 PM     Daily chores.

While doing her laundry this morning, she realized that her favorite blouse has a loose button. She gets out her easy threading needles and thread to tighten the button. She then uses her Braille ruler to hem her new black pants.

5:00 PM     Supper time.

Agnes decides to have a fried hamburger and baked beans for supper. She gets the hamburger located on the bottom shelf of her fridge and forms it into a patty using her sense of touch. She places it in a frying pan and adjusts the pan to the center of the burner by feel. She turns the burner on medium heat using the raised markings placed on the dials by her rehabilitation teacher. She gets out her favorite seasonings (each marked with a Braille label) to add flavor to her meat. She shakes the spices in her hand to measure the amount she wants. Then, she spreads her fingers, tips her hand down toward the meat, and lets the spices fall through her fingers to evenly season the meat.

Next, she goes to her pantry to locate the baked beans. Her pantry is organized, and she knows which shelf contains the baked beans. Judging by the size and shape of the can, she is easily able to identify the can that she believes to be her beans. To make sure, she shakes the can. She pours the beans in a pan using her sense of touch to make sure she doesn't pour them on the counter, centers the pan on the burner, and turns the burner on. She will know when the beans are done by hearing them boil.

Time has passed, she has flipped her burger, and now it is done. She knows this by feeling its texture with her spatula. Well done meat is more firm than under cooked meat. Over time, she has perfected her ability to identify this texture.

She pours herself a glass of milk by placing the tip of her finger over the edge of the glass to feel when it is full.

She sits down to enjoy her meal. Upon finishing, she uses her sense of touch to clean the countertops and dishes.

7:00 PM     Agnes phones her sister.

Agnes calls her sister in California once a week. She places her index finger, middle finger, and ring finger on the 4-5-6 of her number pad. She uses these keys as her home row - just as someone uses a computer keyboard or typewriter. She finds her sister well, and they have a nice visit.

7:45 PM     Agnes prepares for bed.

Agnes dresses for bed, turns on her talking alarm clock, and listens to a couple more chapters of her book on tape. It has been a productive day!


If you would like more information on anything contained in this newsletter or additional techniques for daily activities, or want to refer someone for services, call 800-362-2587 or email Services are available statewide, are confidential, and most are provided at no cost. Individuals do not have to be legally blind to qualify.

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INDEPENDENT LIVING PROGRAM NEWSLETTER  is published by the Iowa Department for the Blind. Please direct questions and suggestions to the Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, IA 50309-2364, 515-281-1333.