Tag Archives: Travel

No Paper Or Plastic. Instead I Use Earth Bags for Grocery Shopping

A black man delivering a bag of groceries. He is smiling and wearing a baseball cap and crewneck T-shirt with the word "delivery" across his chess. The bag of groceries contain a baguette, head of iceberg lettuce and a pineapple.

I haven’t gone totally and completely green. Rather opting for simple and small changes to help the planet. One  adjustment that  is now a routine part of my life is using reusable grocery bags, or what I call earth bags. I made this major modification several years ago and now it is a no brainer. . I literally don’t even think about it anymore. I just quickly grab them from the pantry doorknob and out the door I go.

When I am in the checkout line I strongly insist, even demand, all my groceries must be bagged in them. No paper, no plastic, thanks. I feel really good about this small habit because I know how much plastic is harmful to the environment. I know I can’t totally rid my life of all plastics but this little  practice makes a huge difference. And here are some more reasons I say, “No paper, no plastic.”

1. I want to help save trees.

Two brown paper bags of groceries sitting on a hardwood floor. The bags contain apples, bag of bagels, a baguette and head of iceberg lettuce.

I used to think paper bags were better than plastic. To a certain extent this is true. Even though they will break down better they are still destined for the  landfill. Also, they are harder to find. When I was growing up the question was, “Do you want paper or plastic?” I  would usually  respond with  paper, please. Now  many stores I frequent  don’t even offer paper , just plastic. When I use my earth bags I use less paper.  In my mind this gesture can save a tree or two.

2. Don’t want to be a Litterbug.

Plastic bags usually end up as litter because of carelessness.  They are so simple to use and very lightweight, you just forget about them. Look around your community and you will see plastic bags  floating around. Many communities, including mine, have launched don’t litter/keep our community beautiful campaigns.

3. Plastic bags are flimsy.

Empish standing with grocery cart in the checkout line.

We all have been in the checkout line. The bagger  is placing only one or two items per plastic bag. Then you walk out the door trying to carry a gazillion  plastic bags. I really hate that! Just another reason I use earth bags. Plastic bags are so thin and flimsy. They don’t last. If you got canned goods or heavy food items forget it. They rip and tear. To avoid this groceries are double bagged yet that is more plastic.

4. Plastic bags take up space.

Which leads to my next reason for using earth bags. After carrying those gazillion plastic bags home, what do you do with them? You can reuse it as garbage bags or to store items. But it is too many of them for all of that. They can populate like roaches. Taking over your home. Cluttering your kitchen drawers and closets. So, you know what happens next? They go in the trash and off to the landfill.

5. Earth bags  fit better in my metal grocery cart.

Empish is pulling her metal shopping cart in one hand while holding her white cane in another.

I take Paratransit, a transportation service for the disabled,  to the grocery store. This could mean the bus driver giving me the evil eye as I try and board with a bunch of bags. Realistically, that doesn’t work. So, I got a metal grocery cart. But placing all those plastic bags in the cart  doesn’t work either. But earth bags do. I can usually sit two bags side by side. Then place two more bags on top. That is a total of 4 bags. The metal cart rolls smoothly on and off the wheelchair lift on the bus, making me and the bus driver happy. Once off, I keep it moving and roll right into my house.

6. Earth bags are just plain easier.

It doesn’t take rocket science or  a lot of work to use earth bags for my grocery shopping.  I just grab and go. Also, they are easy to maintain. Most of my bags are made of strong and durable fabric that last a long time. And if they get soiled  or dirty just a  quick cleaning in the washing machine and they are good as new. For my reusable freezer bags, a fast wipe down with  a soapy dish rag and they are ready for the next shopping trip.

It’s Earth Month and April 22 is Earth Day! Have You Gone Reusable Yet? A tiny change like bringing your groceries home in reusable bags can make a large difference. Single use plastic bags are bad for the environment. Use earth bags instead.

Do You Know About the White Cane? Read These 10 Intriguing Facts

Two White Blind Teens Holding canes and Sign Saying Celebrate White Cane Safety Day

When I first started using my white cane I learned how to cross busy streets and intersections. I learned how important it was to have my white cane directly in front of my body so that motorist could see it clearly. To a motorist, driving down the street or hovering at a streetlight, the white cane stands out because of its color and the red strips help deflect a vehicle’s headlights.

National White Cane Safety Day

Empish Holding White Cane at Street Intersection

Through my years of travel, I have learned how important it is to know and be aware of the laws that protect white cane travelers. The first national White Cane Day was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It designated October 15th as National White Cane Safety Day. My home state, Georgia, went a step further and created a state law and protection for those pedestrians that use a white cane.

In honor of White Cane Safety Day, I have listed some intriguing facts provided by the Perkins School for the Blind and Accessibility.com. Read them to see how much you learn.

10 Intriguing Facts

1. Did you know it’s legal to take a white cane through security at an airport? Yes, according to TSA. However, it has to go through the X-ray machine. So, when I travel through the airport I will fold my collapsible cane  and place in the bin to avoid damage.

2. Do you know  who was George A. Bonham? In 1930, Bonham, president of the Peoria Lions Club (Illinois), watched a man who was blind attempting to cross a street. The man’s cane was black and motorists couldn’t see it, so Bonham proposed painting the cane white with a red stripe to make it more noticeable. The idea quickly caught on around the country.

Little Black Girl Wearing Braids and Walking with White Cane

3. Did you know  white canes are high tech? Inventors have equipped white canes with ultrasonic devices that detect obstacles up to nine feet away. Vibrations in the cane’s handle warn users of potential hazards in their path.

4. Did you know there is a standard technique for using a white cane? It was pioneered in 1944 by Richard E. Hoover, a World War II veteran rehabilitation specialist. His technique of holding a long cane in the center of the body and swinging it back and forth before each step to detect obstacles is still called the “Hoover Method.”

5. Did you know  most people who are visually impaired don’t use a white cane? In fact, only a small number do; about 5% or less. The rest rely on their useable vision, a guide dog or a sighted guide.

6. Did you know there is more than one kind of white cane? There are actually three different kinds of white canes. The standard mobility cane, used to navigate. The support cane, used by people with visual impairments who also have mobility challenges. And the ID cane, a small, foldable cane used by people with partial sight to let others know they have a visual impairment.

a blind woman wearing sunglasses and holding a white cane

7. Did you know certified Orientation & Mobility specialist  can’t get their certification unless they train under a blindfold  with a white cane? O&M specialists teach white cane technique but to become certified at least 120 hours must be spent blindfolded and traveling with a white cane.

8. Do you know what materials  make a white cane? Today’s modern, lightweight canes are usually made from aluminum, fiberglass or carbon fiber, and can weigh as little as seven ounces. Some white cane users prefer straight canes, which are more durable, while others prefer collapsible canes, which can be folded and stored more easily.

9.  Did you know  you can’t use a white cane if you are not visually impaired? In some states, it’s illegal for a person who is not legally blind to use a white cane to gain right of way while crossing a street. For example, in Florida you’ll face second-degree misdemeanor charges and up to 60 days in prison.

10. Did you know that not all canes are white? A cane with alternating red and white stripes signifies that the user is DeafBlind. A cane with red at the tip indicates the user has no vision. However, this is standard. Although a little controversial because the white cane is strongly recommended  for identification, some people will use other colors they like, or to make a fashion statement or to deflect from their blindness. Those who want to express individuality will choose a colored cane.  The colors range  from black to purple  or pink and more.

What Did You Learn?

After reading these 10 intriguing facts,  how much did you learn about the white cane? Are you familiar with the White Cane Safety law? Share your thoughts and comments and let’s discuss the use of the white cane.

Justice Department sues Uber Over Wait Fee Disability Discrimination and I’m Not Surprised

Disabled Black Man in Wheelchair Boarding Bus
Disabled African American Man In Wheelchair Boarding Bus

Last week I heard on my news podcast and it was confirmed in my ADA email newsletter that the US Department of Justice was suing Uber for disability discrimination over its wait fee policy. AS I listened to the news I was elated. It was about time but as they say, “the wheels of justice roll slow.” I was not surprised at this news because for years Uber had been charging me wait fees. It has become part of the reason I moved away from using their service and started relying more heavily on their competitor, Lyft.

Lawsuit Against Uber Explained

According to the suit, Uber was discriminating against the disabled by not giving amble time to board the vehicle upon arrival. Uber charges a wait fee two minutes after a driver arrives, and the customer is charged until the car begins its trip. This policy was added back in 2016. Now, these fees are charged to everyone as a way to compensate drivers but were never intended for riders who are ready at their designated pickup location and/or need more time to get into the car. But fees were charged even when Uber was aware the wait time was disability related. For example, a person folding up a wheelchair or a blind person with a mobility aid navigating to the car.

My Experience with Wait Fees

This is what I find so interesting and why I felt the need to say something on my blog. I don’t typically speak on lawsuits but I will today. Uber says that wait fees were not intended to be charged to customers who are ready to go or who need extra time due to a disability. But I beg to differ because of my personal experience. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I was already standing at the curb of my location when the Uber driver pulled up and I was still charged a wait fee. The number of times I had called the driver in advance letting them know I was blind, using a white cane and how I was dressed so they could easily find me and yet still charged a wait fee. The number of times I was standing with a store representative who helped load my shopping bags in the Uber car as I got in the back and was still charged a wait fee. The one time the driver asked my permission to go inside to the bathroom before we left and I said okay. Only later to be charged a wait fee.

Empish Holding White Cane at Street Intersection

So, my eyebrow is raised with a smirk on my face when Uber says the following, “We fundamentally disagree that our policies violate the ADA and will keep improving our products to support everyone’s ability to easily move around their communities.”

To add insult to injury, when I would alert Uber to the wait fee charges initially they would keep quoting the policy like I didn’t know what it said. As if I didn’t know that already. At first they would refund me the difference but would never explain why I was charged in the first place after I took the time to give details. Then after a while they stop the refunds altogether stating I had requested too many adjustments to my account. The wait fee amounts would be typically under a dollar, which is not much, but it was the principle of the thing that would get my blood boiling. I would do everything in my power to be ready when the driver showed up but it didn’t matter I would get charged anyway. So, now you understand why I finally left? I even asked around to other blind friends and they shared the same story. So, I knew it wasn’t personal but a bigger problem.

Transportation is Critical

Transportation is one of the most critical issues for those of us in the disability community, especially the blind and visually impaired. We need reliable and affordable transportation. Accessing our own transportation helps us maintain our self-confidence, independence and quality of life. I remember when Uber came to my town I was so excited and happy. The ability to get up and go like my sighted peers was absolutely wonderful. To not have to wait hours on public transportation was great. When things like this happen it really is hurtful and harmful to a community that is a bit vulnerable. It diminishes trust and respect for us as disabled folks. I am passionate about this topic and plan to give my comments to the US Department of Justice. They are asking for people with disabilities to share their experiences and I will do so. If you are disabled and have had problems with Uber’s wait fees I encourage you to do the same. You can contact the Justice Department at 833-591-0425 (toll-free), 202-305-6786, or send an email to Uber.Fee@usdoj.gov.