Hello there and welcome to our monthly feature of all kinds of tips.
We at the business desk are pleased to bring you our monthly feature of a
plethora of tips that cover a wide range of topics.
All of our tips are designed to help you save time, cut down on your
research, and help you get ahead.
So go ahead and read on.
This week we bring you our monthly tips.
It’s what we do for a living! We help you to help yourself!
From the business desk team at http://www.sterlingcreations.com.
Follow us on Twitter @accessibleworld
Helpful tips for October 2017
In this issue:
Articles of the day
From the pages of Donna’s travel diary
Courtesy of the research team at http://www.sterlingcreations.ca
We start this month with some info from our good friend Dan Thompson:
splenda was an insecticide that became a sweetener when an assistant
misheard an order to “test” it as “taste” it.
a stick of chewing gum costs five cents to buy but 17 cents to clean off the
second street is the most common street name in the usa. first street is the
third most common.
the green zone golf club is on the border of finland and sweden: half the
holes are in one country and half in the other.
bruce lee was hong kong’s 1958 cha-cha dance champion.
the nectar of citrus plants contains caffeine to attract bees.
Okay: What do olive trees need in order to thrive?
Well, they need sunshine, grout, solitude, and silence!
2 tips for your kids with the approaching flu season:
Wash your hands each time you come home from outside.
Sneeze into your elbow.
Something about dogs:
If you have more than 1 dog and one of them has just died:
Best to let the other dog see that his/her buddy has passed on and this way
they know and understand and they do not keep looking for them.
Articles of the day
Chosen by the Business Desk team
Unclogging Stopped Drains
Sometimes, sink, shower, tub, and toilets will become stopped up and will
only drain slowly or, worse yet, not at all. This may
cause a messy overflow. In sink, shower, and tub drains, the blockage may be
caused by accumulation of food particles, grease,
soap, and hair. In toilets, it may be due to large wads of tissue, wash
cloths, or other materials which have fallen into the toilet
bowl. Although it is not the most pleasant household maintenance project to
tackle, it can bring good results, sometimes more
quickly than spending the money to hire someone like a plumber to take care
of the problem. It can also be very satisfying to
accomplish this. Persons with limited vision or no vision at all can open
plugged drains just as successfully as someone with good
vision by using the “right” tools and following the steps outlined below.
Tools you may need to unplug sink, lavatory, tub, or shower drains:
Drum augur (sometimes called a “snake”)
Channel lock pliers or 12-inch pipe wrench
Straight or philips screwdrivers
Tools you may need to unplug toilets:
Closet augur also known as a toilet augur
Any of the tools listed above are available at hardware or building supply
For those who may not be familiar with the drum augur or toilet augur the
following description may be helpful.
Drum augur: The drum augur consists of a flat bottomed cone shaped canister
with a 1/2-inch tube coming out of the middle of the
top of the dome. A plastic handle slips over the tube allowing the canister
and tube to rotate while the handle is being held still. At
the end of the tube is a thumb screw. Inside the canister is a coiled 20-25
foot cable 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch in diameter. The cable is
like a stiff but flexible spring that can go around fairly sharp corners.
To operate the drum augur, insert the end of the augur into the drain line.
Slide it forward until the end of the augur encounters a
turn in the pipe or the debris. Leave about 6-8 inches of the cable between
the end of the tube and the opening into the drain line,
lock the cable in place with the thumb screw, turn the canister clockwise
with the round knob on the bottom while holding the
handle on the tube at the top of the canister. The augur will turn around
and around as you rotate the canister and by applying
forward pressure, you can work the cable further into the drain line. When
the top end of the tube is close to the opening of the
drain line, loosen the thumb screw, pull out more cable, tighten the thumb
screw, and work more cable into the drain line.
Toilet augur: The toilet augur consists of a tube (usually plastic) about
3/8-inch in diameter and about 30 inches long. One end
makes a sweeping 90-degree turn and extends about three (3)inches. A steel
rod protrudes out of the other end of the tube which
is attached to a crank handle. The other end of the steel rod is attached to
an augur which is about 24 inches long. The augur is
like a stiff but flexible spring which can go around turns in the toilet
bowl or sewer drain line.
To operate the toilet augur, insert the end of the tube into the bottom of
the toilet bowl and begin turning the augur handle
clockwise while holding the tube and pressing forward to work the end of the
augur around the turns in the bottom of the toilet
bowl. When the end of the augur encounters the blockage, it may push through
or the debris may get hooked by the augur. In that
case, you can attempt to withdraw the augur with the debris attached to the
augur by continuing to turn the crank handle
clockwise while you withdraw it.
Steps to Unplug Sink or Lavatory Drains
You may first try to unstop the drain line by using a measured amount of
chemical or herbal drain line cleaner which you can
select from a variety of types and strengths from most hardware stores or
building supply centers. Before choosing the drain
cleaner, review the directions and cautions carefully as some of the
chemical drain cleaners are quite caustic and can damage the
drain line pipes and may also emit hazardous fumes. The drain line cleaner
can sometimes loosen the stoppage which then can
be flushed away with warm water.
Tip: Manufacturers recommend not putting chemical drain line cleaners into a
garbage disposal unit as this may cause damage to
Safety tip: If you use a chemical drain line cleaner and the blockage is not
cleared, run water into the drain line and let it drain
away before using the drum augur. If a chemical solution remaining in the
line splashes out on you, particularly your face or eyes,
it can cause a chemical burn. If it does, rinse it off immediately.
If the chemical or herbal drain line cleaner doesn’t open the stoppage or
only allows slow drainage, you can follow the next steps
to eliminate the blockage.
You should first put on a pair of thin surgical gloves to protect your hands
from infection. The thin gloves allow you to detect your
work by feel. You may be able to insert the end of the drum augur into the
drain opening at the bottom of the sink or lavatory.
Many bathroom sinks have a stopper which is activated by a knob or handle.
In these cases, you will need to remove the stopper
by reaching under the sink, detaching the trip leaver that raises and lowers
the stopper, and then removing the leaver and stopper.
Sometimes, the blockage occurs where the trip leaver connects with the
stopper. Clearing this debris may solve the problem.
If that is not the case and you can not insert the end of the augur into the
drain opening, you will need to remove part of the drain
line called the “trap” from below the sink or lavatory. The trap looks like
the print letter U. It helps keep fumes from the sewer from
coming into your home because it holds a small amount of water that blocks
the sewer gas. You can remove the trap by using a
channel lock pliers or pipe wrench to loosen the chrome or plastic hexagonal
nuts that hold the drain line together and also
compresses the gaskets that prevent leakage. Sometimes the blockage occurs
because debris gets lodged in the trap but more
often it is further down in the drain line.
Tip: if the drain has been in place for a long time, the locking nuts
(particularly metal ones) may be rusted and break into pieces. If
so, you will need to replace them with nuts of the correct diameter. The
gaskets may also have deteriorated and need to be
replaced so there will be no leakage. You can get an assortment of gaskets
and locking nuts from any hardware or building supply
center. Occasionally the drain line itself will have deteriorated and need
to be replaced.
Tip: You should place a pan or other container under the trap to catch
contents from the trap and the drain line to keep spillage
from the floor or bottom of the cabinet.
Once the trap is removed, insert the end of the drum augur into the drain
line and follow the operating directions in the above
description. When you think you have loosened the debris, pull the augur
cable in and out a few times while continuing to turn it
clockwise and then withdraw the augur from the drain line. You can either
reconnect the trap and drain line or insert a garden hose
into the drain line to test whether you have penetrated the blockage. Once
you get water to flow through the drain line, you may
want to run the augur in again to further dislodge the blockage.
Reassemble the trap or reinstall the sink stopper. Be sure the brass or
plastic nuts holding the drain line together are snugly
tightened with a good gasket in place, but do not over tighten.
Tip: Before replacing things you may have stored underneath the sink or
lavatory, run water threw the line and check to see if
there are any leaks. If there are leaks, slightly tighten the nut where the
leak is found. This usually will stop any drips. If dripping
persists, it may mean that the gasket needs to be replaced.
Tip: before storing the drum augur, rinse the augur cable off with warm
clear water as contents from the drain line will sometimes
adhere to the cable. Allow the augur to dry before returning it into the
canister to prevent it from rusting.
Steps to Unstop Tub or Shower Drains
You can try to clear the stoppage by using the chemical or herbal drain line
cleaner as described above. If this is not successful,
follow the next steps.
Before you begin, put on the protective thin surgical gloves to protect your
hands. The procedure is much the same as for
unstopping sink or lavatory drains except that the trap underneath the tub
or shower is usually not easily accessible. For the tub,
you will need to remove the stopper and run the augur into the drain line
where the stopper was. For showers, you will need to
remove a slotted covering over the drain at the bottom of the shower. These
are usually held in place with a couple of screws
around the outer edge of the drain cover. Insert the drum augur as described
above, and if the blockage is not too severe or too far
down the drain line, you should be successful in unstopping the drain line.
Tip: Before putting the tub stopper or drain cover back in place, run some
warm water through the line to wash away as much of
the debris as possible and to make sure the water is draining away at a
Tip: As above, rinse the drum cable and allow it to dry before putting it
away for storage to be certain that any debris has been
washed off and the cable does not rust.
Unclogging Stopped-up Toilets
Begin by putting on thin surgical gloves to protect your hands. Often times,
using a toilet plunger will open the blockage by
dislodging the contents if they are stuck in the trap at the bottom of the
toilet. Depress the plunger, place the plunger over the
drain at the bottom of the toilet, then, pull up on the plunger handle. If
the debris is not too compacted, this may loosen the
blockage by pulling the clog back toward the plunger rather than compacting
the clogged debris into a solid mass. If this
technique does not loosen the blockage after you have tried several times,
place the plunger against the bottom of the toilet bowl
keeping the handle as near to vertical as you can. Work the plunger up and
down. The plunger will tend to form a seal with the
toilet bowl which helps increase the downward pressure on the blockage. If
after a number of vigorous attempts this doesn’t work,
follow the next step.
Use the closet augur as described above. This will most often, but not
always dislodge the blockage. If it does not succeed, it may
mean that the blockage is further down the drain line than the augur can
reach. You may have to try to find a “clean out” opening
to the sewer line which should be located somewhere below the pipe coming
down from the toilet. You would need to remove a
cover with a wrench and would most likely need to use a stiffer cable.
Tip: Be sure to rinse off the plunger and augur and let the cable dry before
If the line was installed a number of years ago and there are trees in the
surrounding area, tree roots may have grown into the
sewer line. This usually requires a powered cutter blade inserted into the
line. It may be more practical in that case to hire a
company like Roto-Rooter to do the work. Also, in older installations, the
sewer pipe under ground may have been broken which
would mean that the sewage might be leaking into the ground which could
contaminate the soil surrounding the pipe. In this case,
the line might have to be repaired or replaced.
If you have been successful in unclogging the drain line, you can feel a
great sense of accomplishment knowing that you have
solved a significant problem. And, you will also have saved some money. Best
yet, you will come away with a sense of satisfaction
in knowing that you have accomplished something that many have been fearful
By Gil Johnson at Vision Aware
Replacing Faulty Light Switches and Wall Outlets
These directions are intended for both the general population as well as
blind and/or low vision home repair enthusiast.
Light switches and electrical wall outlets can occasionally become
defective, working only sometimes or not at all. In addition to
this making the light or appliance unreliably usable, it can be unsafe. Many
people are afraid to tackle electrical projects fearing
that they will be shocked or injured. Any person, with or without vision can
safely and successfully replace electrical switches and
outlets by making sure the electricity to that switch or outlet is turned
off and following the five steps described below.
If you do not have enough vision to identify the colors of the electrical
wires and the color of the terminals, you will most likely need
assistance from a sighted person to identify the color of the wires and to
be sure you know which terminals are brass and which
are nickel so that you can safely install them.
Tools that you may need:
Straight or philips screw drivers
Pliers that incorporate a wire cutter, sometimes referred to as
Wire stripper or sharp knife for stripping insulation from the
Parts you may need:
Replacement switch or outlet of the same amperage capacity and
color of the one you are replacing
Replacement switch or outlet covers if the one you remove is
marred, dirty, or cracked
A selection of wire connecters, also referred to as wire nuts, used
to connect two or more electrical wires together or to cap off an
Switches are, or should be, mounted in a plastic or metal junction box
inside a wall. Most often, light fixtures are controlled by only
one switch, sometimes called a single-pole switch. It has a lever which when
moved into the “on” position allows electricity to flow
to the lights or other device and when moved into the “off” position, breaks
the circuit thus stopping the flow of electricity. Usually,
the switch is installed so that when the lever is up, the light is on, and
when the lever is down, the light is off. Sometimes two
switches are installed in the same junction box with two separate switches
that are side by side or two switches incorporated into
the same housing. These switches have two screws or terminals usually
located on one side of the switch where the incoming and
outgoing black supply wire is connected. A third terminal is located on the
end of the switch where a “grounding” wire is
connected. The grounding wire which may be red or some other color than
black or white will be grounded to a water line or
grounding rod somewhere near where the electrical wires enter the building.
A dimmer switch works in a similar manner. It will have a sliding lever
which, when moved up or down, increases or reduces the
amount of current thus raising or lowering the illumination. Some light
fixtures such as fluorescent lights can not operate on a
dimmer switch. The dimmer switch may have three wires to connect the power
and ground rather than terminal screws. These can
be connected to the wires in the junction box by twisting the uninsulated
end of the wire from the switch to the incoming and
outgoing wire using wire nuts.
Light fixtures can also be controlled from more than one location with a
two-way (double-pole), or three-way (triple-pole) switch.
The three-way switch will have three terminals and the four-way switch will
have four terminals. The least complicated to install is a
light switch that operates from only one location although multiple location
switches are not much more difficult to replace.
Replacing switches that operate lights from two or three locations is
similar to the following steps except that there are more wires
to connect. When removing a two-way or three-way switch, pay attention to
which color wire is connected to which terminal on the
switch and try to install the new switch following that pattern.
Electrical wall outlets also should be mounted in a plastic or metal
junction box inside the wall. Sometimes outlets are connected
to a switch in another location. This is usually done so that lamps can be
turned on near an entrance to the room.
Electrical outlets that power appliances with 120 volts of electricity have
two screws or terminals on each side, one set being brass
colored and the other set a shiny nickel color. The incoming black supply
wire is connected to either one of the brass terminals and
the outgoing white wire should be connected to one of the nickel colored
terminals. If another outlet is connected through the
outlet, an outgoing black wire may be connected to the second brass terminal
and the white outgoing wire should be connected to
the other nickel colored terminal. You may not be able to tell which wires
feed the outlet and which go on to another outlet, but it
really doesn’t matter so long as the black and white wires are connected as
Tip:It is helpful to put a small piece of electricians tape on the black
wire to tactually identify it. You can also use the orientation of
the light switch or the outlet to help remember where the brass terminals
Almost all outlets have two places where an appliance can be plugged in. In
older installations, the outlet will have two slots into
which the plug can be inserted. Newer outlets have a third opening where the
third prong of a plug can go in. As with the light
switch, there is a grounding terminal located on the end of the outlet which
connects the third prong of the plug to the grounding
circuit. Outlets that are installed in a bathroom, above kitchen counter
tops, or outside should be equipped with a ground fault
interrupter circuit (GFI). The outlet has a circuit breaker incorporated
into the outlet which trips if too much current is drawn or if a
short occurs because of moisture. The GFI outlets connect in the same way as
Appliances such as kitchen stoves and clothes dryers which operate on 220
volts of electricity have only one place to plug in the
appliance instead of two like the 110 outlets. It is usually controlled by
one circuit breaker that is distinguishable from the 110
circuit breakers because it is much larger and is located in a separate
circuit breaker box. A 220 outlet is replaced in much the
same way as a 110 outlet but is connected to 3 wires of a much heavier gauge
inside the junction box.
Steps to Replace Electrical Switches or Outlets
Step One: Turn off the circuit breaker
You must first turn off the circuit breaker or remove the fuse governing the
circuit to which the switch or outlet is connected. Older
homes and apartments often have one or more fuse boxes with anywhere from
two to eight fuses. The fuse box is metal and may
be located in a stairwell, closet, basement, or garage. The surface of the
box may be flush with the surrounding wall or it may stick
out a couple of inches. The box will have a metal door which must be opened
to expose the fuses. Fuses lay flat on the outward-
facing surface. They are round and screw into a socket in the box very much
like the socket for a light bulb. The fuse can be
unscrewed by turning it counter-clockwise. Circuit breakers are standard for
all newly constructed and remodeled homes. They
serve the same function as older model fuse boxes, and are generally found
in the same areas of the home. Circuit breakers look
like small light switches and are generally organized in rows of two to
eight or more that can run horizontally or vertically. To trip a
breaker, the switch-shaped button is moved down, up, or side-to-side
depending on the position in which it was installed.
When electrical circuits were installed, the installer should have provided
a list that tells which outlets and lights are on each
circuit. If no additional outlets or lights have been added since
installation, you can quickly tell from this list which fuse or breaker
governs the switch or outlet you need to replace. If the circuit list is not
available or has not been kept up-to-date, it may be difficult
to determine which fuse or breaker governs that particular switch or outlet.
You may wonder how you can tell which fuse or breaker
governs a non working light or outlet. If you are not certain you have found
the correct fuse or breaker, you can turn the power off
to the entire house or get a circuit tester to determine if there is
electrical current in the wire by the switch or outlet.
Tip: If there are two switches mounted side by side in the junction box or
two switches on one unit, be sure that the circuit
governing both switches are turned off.
Step Two: Remove the switch or outlet plate cover
Once you are certain that the electricity is turned off to that circuit,
remove the plate which covers the switch. There are usually two
screws holding the plate in place. Wall outlet covers are anchored with one
screw in the middle of the cover between the two
Tip: If the plate has been painted over, the slot in the screw may be
covered with paint. You can expose the screw slot by scraping
away the paint with a screw driver or point of a knife. If the wall and
outlet cover have been painted or covered with wall paper you
might carefully cut the wall paper with a knife just at the edge of the
cover before removing it. This will help avoid damaging the
finish on the surrounding wall. You can get a slightly larger plate cover
than the one you removed which will cover the edges.
Step Three: Remove the switch or outlet
The switch or outlet is anchored in place with a screw at either end. These
screws may also have paint in the screw slot which
should be removed as described above. Once these screws have been removed,
you should be able to grasp the switch or outlet
and pull it out of the junction box.
Step Four: Disconnect the old switch or outlet and connect the new one
In older installations, the switch may only be connected with two wires, the
incoming and outgoing black supply wire, and there
may not be much slack wire in the junction box. The white wire may be
connected somewhere in the circuitry or it may be found at
the back of the junction box. In older installations, a grounding wire may
not have been installed. To remove the defective switch,
disconnect the two wires from the terminals by loosening the screws in a
counter-clockwise direction. The screws can be removed
entirely but the last turn or two may require a bit of force because of the
way in which the threads holding the terminal are made. If
you do not remove the screw, you should find that the wire is curled around
the screw terminals in the same direction that the
screw is tightened. By using the point of a knife you can straighten the
wire enough to lift it off the screw. If the wire is not
connected to the screw terminals, it may be connected by being inserted into
a spring loaded slot on the back side of the switch or
outlet. You may be able to release the spring and withdraw the wire by using
a straight screw driver or the point of a knife in an
access slot that is provided. If the spring doesn’t release, you may have to
cut the wire with a wire cutter. If you do, make the cut as
near to the switch as possible thereby leaving as much slack wire in the
junction box as possible.
Tip: If, for some reason, you cannot finish connecting the switch or outlet
and have to complete it at another time, you can place
wire nuts over the ends of the unconnected wires and turn the electricity
back on until you have the time to finish the job. If the
wire nuts are snugly fitted to the end of the wires, there should be no
danger so long as no one moves the wires around or loosens
the wire nuts.
Connect the new switch or outlet by connecting the wires to the screw
terminals as described above. Be sure to make a loop using
the needle-nose pliers and placing this behind the head of the terminal
screw head. Be sure that the loop curls in the direction that
the screw tightens. You can close the loop before tightening the screw by
using the needle-nose pliers so that the wire doesn’t slip
out from under the screw head as you tighten it. Tighten the screw by
turning it in a clockwise direction until it is snugly tight. Be
careful not to over-tighten the screw. If you had to cut the wire to remove
the switch, remove ½ to ¾ inches of insulation from the
wire with the wire stripper or by carefully cutting it away with the knife.
Be careful not to nick or scratch the wire if you strip it
thereby weakening the wire and possibly causing it to break when you bend it
to go under the terminal. If you prefer, you can
insert the stripped end of the wire into the spring-loaded slot. If there is
no grounding wire, there is not much you can do about
grounding it unless you want to install a grounding circuit which can be
difficult because of accessing the outlet junction box inside
the wall. The switch or outlet will function without the grounding wire but
electrical code usually requires that the switch or outlet is
connected to a grounding wire.
Tip: It is a good idea to place a strip of electrical tape over the
terminals thereby helping to assure that the terminals will not make
contact with the junction box.
Step Five: Finish the job
Anchor the switch or outlet back into the junction box with the new screws
that are supplied.
Tip: If the junction box is recessed a bit below the surface of the wall,
you can put plastic spacers which look like thick washers on
the mounting screws between the outlet or switch and the box. This will
allow the switch or outlet to be mounted flush with the wall
which will make it easier to use.
Tip: Bend the connecting wires before pushing the switch or outlet into the
junction box so that they fold in behind the switch or
outlet and then insert the mounting screws to secure it in place. This makes
a much neater job and helps eliminate excessive force
on the connection at the terminal screws.
Tip: Remember to orient the lever on the light switch so that when it is in
the down position, the light will be off. If the light is operated from two
or three locations, the lever may be up or down depending on which switch
was last activated.
Lastly, replace the cover. Turn the electricity back on and if it was the
switch or outlet that was faulty, your light and outlet should
By Gil Johnson from VisionAware
From the pages of Donna’s travel diary
The Atlantica Hotel
If you ever decide to travel to Halifax on business, then may I take the
opportunity to recommend to you the Atlantica Hotel of Halifax.
Before you even book, take a minute to visit www.atlanticahotelhalifax.com.
I stayed at the Atlantica in early May 2015 and I can tell you that it was
an experience to remember. From the staff to the rooms and the services
that they offered.
This marvelous hotel is close to almost any and everything. They are
extremely helpful from start to finish. They provide you with suggestions
for booking the best limousine service in Halifax when you arrive. A
service that will offer some of the most comfortable limousines to be found
in Nova Scotia; from Airport to hotel and back to airport.
The Atlantica Hotel is very accommodating towards their blind guests and it
all begins when you arrive and continues through out your stay. From the
restaurant to your room and from receiving assistance to navigating your way
around the hotel. The Atlantica knows how to do it all.
Their booking information is really clear and detailed and as they say in
their information; they are really close to everything important to be found
So if you are ever think of planning a trip to Halifax, here is some contact
info for you.
The Atlantica Halifax Hotel, 1980 Robie St at Quinpool Halifax, Nova Scotia
Toll Free: 1.888.810.7288 | Local: 902.423.1161 | Hotel Fax: 902.423.9069
I’m Donna J. Jodhan enjoying my travels.
To learn more about me, visit
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