Braille Monitor                                                                  June 1985

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Comments on Clothing

Detroit, Michigan
March 5, 1985

Re: Numbered Tags for Identification of clothing

To Whom It May Concern:

Quite some time ago, I wrote to the American Foundation for the Blind and presented to their Organization an idea for identifying clothes. This idea was putting numbers on tags rather than color descriptions. I proposed the idea for personal reasons which I shall state; however, I felt that the idea would be beneficial to all blind persons.

I have a fairly large number of dress shirts that are of the same material and the same cut. However, their similarity ends here. Some of them are solid colored with white cuffs and collars; some of them are solid-colored without white cuffs and collars; others have blue and white or brown and white pin stripes or checks. Still others have blue and white or brown and white pin stripes or checks with white cuffs and collars. I believe you can readily recognize the problem I would have in labeling these shirts with tags that merely state brown, blue, etc. I suddenly came upon the idea that if I had tags with numbers e.g., 1-20 or 1-99, then I could sew a tag on the shirt and write the description of the shirt on a card or Braille sheet. I further considered the fact that even those blind persons who are poor Braille readers are usually fair readers of Braille numbers, and they could dictate on a cassette the description of an article of clothing along with the corresponding number. This procedure would work with ties, socks, slacks, etc. I know that other techniques are available; however, I believe this technique would enable a blind person to avail him or herself of all colors, designs, and materials. It would be a lot easier to identify items which are of the same material, and it would virtually eliminate any margin for error.

Please let me know whether you believe this is a viable idea and whether you believe that it could be implemented by our Organization.

Thank you for your time and attention. I am:

Very truly yours,

John C. Scott
Attorney at Law

Baltimore, Maryland
April 2, 1985

Dear Mr. Scott:

I found your ideas about using numbers to identify clothing interesting--particularly, since it is the system I have used for most of my life. At the top of the inside of the right hand inside coat pocket on suits I have a thin metal tag attached with a safety pin. I put a Braille number on each tag and write a corresponding number on a sheet of Braille paper. Each necktie has a Braille number stapled on the inside of the narrow end. Again, the corresponding number is written on a sheet of paper. Since I have more ties than suits, I begin the system with tie number one. If it goes with suits three, four, and six, my first line would read: Number one, followed by a space, followed by the numbers three, four, and six. The system continues down the page and on succeeding pages until I have no ties left. On a separate sheet I list each suit by number, followed by a detailed description of the suit (what color it is, where and when I bought it, and any other pertinent data--such as: "good for funerals)."

I have never used the numbering system on socks. Rather, I have cardboard dividers in a dresser drawer. My socks are divided into the general categories: brown, black, gray, and blue. When socks are washed, I keep them straight and put them back into their places.

As to shirts, mine--all, that is, that are used for business and dress wear are (not because of blindness but because of my antediluvian tendencies) white. Therefore, they require no identification. I have both long sleeved and short sleeved casual shirts, but they fall into three general color categories and are thus easily identified by location and/or texture.

I don't know how many other blind people use a variation of the numbering system for clothes, but I am acquainted with quite a number who do. Of course, each individual will tend to use his or her own personal pattern. For my own part I have found the metal color tags not very useful, but I suspect this has to do more with my eccentricity than the unusefulness of the tags. Be that as it may this is my reaction to your numbering suggestion. In summary my feeling is that the numbering of clothes is a good idea but that most blind people who want to use it will probably not have great difficulty in devising their own system. After considerable experimentation I have found, for instance, that thin sheets of aluminum can be Brailled on a slate or a Perkins Brailler and then cut into tags. The tag can be left attached to a suit that goes to the dry cleaner. I never remove the metal number tag from the time I buy a suit until the time I donate it to my favorite thrift store. As I have already said, I attach the metal tag with a safety pin. It is easy enough to drill or punch holes in the tag to accommodate the pin. As to ties, I use numbers made of dymotape. I attach the number with a stapler. I try to eat in such a manner as not to require frequent tie cleaning. However, accidents will happen, and the dymotape will not stand up during dry cleaning. Accordingly, when I am unfortunate enough to need to send a tie to the cleaners, I remove the tag and reattach it when I get the tie back. I try not to be so messy as to have to send out more than one tie at the time.

Nobody taught me any of these things. It just seemed easier to learn them than to muddle through without them. Whether it would be helpful to share this sort of commentary with others, I am not sure. Maybe this sort of thing would be so elementary that the reader would be insulted. On the other hand, perhaps we should not take it for granted that what one individual finds easy to think up will pop with equal facility into the next person's head. I say this because of the difficulty I find with certain problems and techniques that are regarded as elemental and simple by certain of my associates.

Thanks for your letter, and I would be interested in having your reactions to what I have said.

Very truly yours,

Kenneth Jernigan, President
National Federation of the Blind