Archive for September, 2010

Sensible Questions from the Sighted World

Since we’ve had a few articles that cover the sheer ineptitude of the sighted world when trying to understand the blind community, I figured that I’d ask some friends of mine if they had any unanswered questions for those of you who are visually impaired.  I’ve also included a couple of my own.  I do hope that the questions proposed here are considered sensible.  None of them have anything to do with the existence of Braille chicken acquired from blind-only grocery stores, I promise.

The first is one that I’ve wondered about and is then followed up by a similar question.  It has to do with trust.  There have been many articles written in this magazine by our feature writers and contributors that have mentioned the help of strangers.  Without trying to sound too paranoid or pessimistic about my fellow humans, the truth is that there are many people out there who would gladly take advantage of someone who cannot see.  Whether it’s a clerk at a cash register or a person guiding you through a busy area, there is always the chance that their intentions, no matter how well they present them, are actually a disguise.  Do you find it difficult to trust strangers who offer to help you?  Are you apprehensive about asking a stranger for assistance?  Do you feel that you’re a better judge of character now that you have to focus on things outside of someone’s facial mannerisms to gauge their intentions? 

The next question that works off of the previous was given by my girlfriend who works with children.  She asked me what the parents of blind children, or conversely, blind parents with children, tell their kids about how to treat strangers.  Of course, at younger ages, they’re probably taught to not speak to strangers, as every parent tells their child for their own safety.  But what about when they start to breach that age where independence begins to take over and situations arise where interaction with strangers becomes a greater possibility?  Is asking for assistance recommended only if it is absolutely necessary, or are they encouraged at an early age to become comfortable with public intervention?  From a parenting perspective, I’m sure there are many different views on this that may change from situation to situation and not remain static.

Going in another direction, a friend of mine who is my technology go-to guy, asked what piece of modern technology has impacted your lives the most.  I briefly talked to him about the virtues of screen readers and things like VoiceOver on the iPhone and how they’ve made all of the information we tend to take for granted entirely accessible to the blind.  I’m still interested to see what you have to say, as I’m sure that your answers will vary.

Going in yet another direction, one friend of mine, who considers herself quite the matchmaker, was curious about the relationship aspect of the blind community.  She was initially curious about the outlets used to find a mate.  I assured her that you all are no different and that you enjoy the same things we do, but it was her final remark that really caught my attention.  She said, “Think of the dynamics of a first date for you and I.  Your first opinions of the person are almost undoubtedly aimed at their looks.  Is he or she pretty, what are they wearing–things like that.  If you can’t see the other person, the entire game is changed, so to speak, and instead of looks driving your initial feelings about the person, you immediately dive into their character and find out who they truly are.  It seems so much more intimate.”  As I listened to what she had to say, I realized that I had never really thought about it like that and I felt that it was not only insightful, but a great thing to pass on to you.  The questions that eventually emerged from our conversation were: Are looks as important in your relationships as they are for many new sighted couples?  If not, do you feel that your relationships work better because you’re not so focused on looks, and rather who the person is inside?  Do you think compatibility is easier or harder?  In a culture where so much emphasis is placed on looks and shallow behaviors prevail so often, do you feel that you’re able to bypass many of the shortcomings that go along with dating and get to know a person much better?

Again, I hope that these questions will be viewed as at least mildly intelligent and not as an unfortunate continuation of sighted ignorance.  I also hope that if you have a response to any of these, that you’ll submit them for the reader’s forum.  Not only will I pass the answers on, but it will hopefully open up some interesting dialog.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Does Everything Happen Because We’re Blind?

In my experience, I often encounter blind people who believe that most of the bad things that happen, or things that frustrate us, occur because we are blind. Being blind myself, I encounter a lot of rejection in my adult life, particularly while looking for work, so I think I can understand where this attitude might be coming from. However, I want to put this in its proper perspective.

Two years ago, I was planning a reunion of 50 blind people from my former high school. When I booked the restaurant, I was told by the manager that the group could not order food off the entire menu because there would be too much traffic in the kitchen while the cooks were trying to fill the numerous orders. Instead, I was asked to pick a handful of items from the menu, and give the group those choices. Someone in my group felt that we were treated this way by the manager because we are blind. I would like to know what our blindness has to do with what goes on in that kitchen. Was the man trying to tell me that if we were all sighted, the cooks in the kitchen would have an easier time fulfilling all of our food orders? I don’t see the logic in that, yet, this kind of attitude is out there whenever a blind person or group is faced with a special obstacle, which I believe was meant for anyone, blind or sighted. Did I enjoy choosing several items from that menu for the entire group of fifty blind people? No, but I certainly wouldn’t blame the whole problem on our blindness. That makes no sense.

Several months ago, a blind woman from Arkansas had a bad experience on the telephone with her pharmacist. Without going into detail, the pharmacist gave the woman a run around. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know the cause of this problem, yet the woman is convinced that she was treated badly because she is blind. Isn’t it possible that there was a problem at the pharmacy to begin with? Maybe someone called in sick, or maybe the delivery truck broke down, or maybe someone just had a bad hair day. It is quite possible that if the woman had sight, she would have been treated the same way.

I run a bowling league for persons with disabilities. Sometimes we have to take several Sundays off during the bowling season because outside organizations decide to hold big tournaments which use up all the lanes. This happens a lot in the bowling world, and I think nothing of it. Yet someone felt that our league was being tossed aside, probably because some of us have disabilities. If all of us in the bowling league were able bodied, the tournament would still happen, the entire bowling alley would still be filled up, and we’d still have to take several Sundays off, so who was this person trying to kid?

Being blind for my entire life, I know all about being frustrated and being denied certain opportunities based on blindness. I won’t deny that this happens to all of us. But when we start using blindness as an excuse for every bad thing that happens, then this attitude only hurts us even more. A visually impaired woman in my own city actually told someone that every bad thing that happens to her is the result of her being blind, so there you go, that sums it all up.

Contributor Terri Winaught – Part Three: Ray Charles – Soaring to Success

In 1959, Charles crossed over to top 30 radio with the release of his impromptu blues number, “What’d I Say,” which was initially conceived while Charles was in concert. The song would reach number 1 on the R&B list and would become Charles’ first top ten single on the pop charts, peaking at number 6. In wikipedia, a free, online encyclopedia in which articles, authors, and writing styles vary, this chart topper is described as “having lyrics that are very suggestive in their back-and-forth call and response between Ray Charles and the Raelettes.” Before he left the Atlantic label in 1959 for more lucrative opportunities with ABC Records, Ray released his album, “The Genius of Ray Charles.”

Hit songs, such as “Georgia On My Mind” (US #1), “Hit the Road Jack” (US #1) and “Unchain My Heart” (US #9) helped Charles transition to pop success. (Georgia On My Mind was so popular, in fact, that it garnered its first Grammy in 1961, was sung for Georgia’s State Legislature on April 24th, 1979, when it also became that state’s official song, and was also performed during the 6th season of Designing Women–on previous episodes of that show, Georgia had only been performed instrumentally.) 

Ray’s landmark 1962 album, “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” and its sequel “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2,” helped to bring country music mainstream. Though, these albums also brought Ray controversy.  In the Movie, Ray, which is available on an audio-described DVD, there is dialogue in which Ray is described as “a sell-out.”  As noted in his 1978 autobiography, Brother Ray, several of his friends and colleagues disparaged the decision to go Country as “crazy.”   Based on additional dialogue from the movie, it seems possible that some labeled him “a sell-out” because Charles was already so well known for jazz, rhythm and blues, and combining those styles with Gospel to pioneer the African-American music style that came to be known as “soul.”

Ever the versatile musician, Ray Charles continued to record major pop hits, including “Busted” in 1963 (US #4) and “Take These Chains From My Heart” (US #8). 

Given his vocal versatility and instrumental genius, this writer is not at all surprised that “Brother Ray” achieved the landmark successes  that enabled him to break down society’s barriers of culture and color.  What does at least somewhat surprise this writer, though,  is Ray’s ability not to be denied his dreams, despite the difficulties of addiction and arrest.  Charles’ 1965 arrest in Boston for heroin possession was his third, having previous police encounters in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Again referring to the 2004 movie, Ray, the hostility of the arresting officers in Indiana as “Unchain My Heart” played in the background, was evident as they referred to that #9 pop hit as “jungle music that was ruining the nation’s young people.”

Ray’s 1965 arrest was followed by successful drug rehabilitation at a Los Angeles, California clinic and being on parole in 1966.  Never one to lose hope or humor, Ray’s next songs–“Cryin’ Time,” “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” and “I Don’t Need No Doctor” reflected victory over adversity.

In 1967, Ray released the hit, “Here We Go Again” (US 15), a song which he would re-record in 2004 as a duet with Norah Jones.

Though the songs Ray charles released later in the 1960’s and into the 1970’s were hit-and-miss as chart toppers, that doesn’t mean that his career was over:  Rather, Ray was driving his career in new directions.

In November 1977, Ray Charles hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live, and played a major role in the 1980 hit film “Blues Brothers”–the website lyricfreak.com describing Ray’s performance as a “cameo.”

Though Ray Charles supported Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, he courted controversy in 1981 by touring South Africa at a time when they were being internationally boycotted because of their system of Apartheid.

In 1985, Ray sang for President Reagan’s second inauguration, and appeared on the Happy Anniversary episode of NBC’s Bill Cosby show that same year.  In 1986, Ray rendered his unique version of “America the Beautiful” at Wrestlemania #2, and in 1989, Ray recorded a Japanese song that translated into English as “Ellie My Love.” This was also the first song by a Westerner so successful in Japan that it sold over 400,000 copies.  During the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s, Ray made several appearances on the Super Dave Osborne show where Charles performed short vignettes in which he was driving a car as Super Dave’s chauffeur.

In 1990, longtime friend Quincy Jones produced the Skhaka Kahn hit “I’ll Be Good to You,” on which Ray collaborated by also singing.  Also in 1990, when successful Mupetts creator Jim Henson died of bacterial pneumonia, Ray joined the Mupetts cast as they sang “It’s Not Easy Being Greene.”  Ray commented on that trademark theme song by saying, “Jim Henson took a simple song, a piece of felt and made it into something powerful.”

In the early 1990’s, Ray added to his newfound fame and recognition among young audiences by recording a Pepsi commercial in which he popularized the phrase, “You’ve Got the Right One, Baby, uh huh.”  Also in the early 90’s, Ray was among many singers who were part of the moving “U.S. Aid For Africa.”

In 1993, Ray performed at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, and appeared on episodes of “The Nanny,” as a character named Sam, in 1997 and 1998.

Between 2000 and 2004, Ray performed with vocalists who were as varied as his multifaceted career and included  B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, James Taylor, Johnny Mathis, Norah Jones, Travis Tritt, Van Morrison and Willie Nelson.

At the age of 73, “The Genius” made his final crossover journey on June 10, 2004 at 11:35am in his Beverly Hills, California home where he was surrounded by family.  The man who had spent a lifetime exploring and journeying was interred at the Inglewood cemetery in Inglewood, California. The BBC noted after Charles’s funeral that “It did not go unnoticed that Susaye was the only Raelette to sing at Ray’s service.”

In Part Four–and the final part of this series–I’ll be quoting what famous people and publications said about Ray; the number of Grammys and other awards Charles received, some aspects of his personal life, causes to which he donated and websites on which you can find Ray Charles apparel, CDs, DVDs MP3s, and song lyrics–in short, everything Ray–since this final part will be entitled, “Ray Charles: A Lasting Legacy.”

Are any Ziegler readers Ray Charles fans?  If so, do you have any of his earliest music, including the 45s?  What are some of your favorite Ray Charles tunes?  I’ll be interested in hearing answers to these questions along with any additional comments you may have in Readers Forum.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – A Writing on Readers

This piece has been on my mind for several years and now I am finally allowing it to flow from my fingers.  Do you believe in readers?  Are you comfortable with someone knowing your personal affairs?  Do you trust people to that extent?  Our unqualified answer to those questions is a resounding yes, but we have had reasons to question our sanity as we have had readers who could barely read on a first-grade level, much less the complex mail and documents we present.  On the other hand, we have waxed poetic on readers whose voices and delivery were absolutely stunning.  We would have allowed them to read our contacts list had they agreed.  Okay, perhaps I am exaggerating just a bit.  Allow me to tell you about some of the more interesting personalities who have crossed our reading path.  I will do my best to organize the piece as chronologically as I can.

Our reader adventure began with a young woman from South Africa who had a most pleasant voice and demeanor.  She eased us gently into this unknown realm with her dulcet tones and efficient reading style.  What a pleasure it was and I shall never forget her.  Ironically, I cannot recall her name, only her lovely voice.  I know, that is just too pitiful.

From the same organization, we were then paired with an effervescent gentleman from Italy.  His name I do remember, but I shall not name names in this article.  This man had the most wonderful Italian accent and his reading skills were excellent.  We will always recall a particular evening when we asked him to read a recipe.  He read with great enthusiasm and vigor and we were rolling along quite calmly until he came to the passage where we were to “Beat the hags.”  Beat the hags?  Wait.  Why would we want to do that?  Additionally, we did not know any hags at that time.  Things have changed since then, but I digress.  Now, readers are volunteers and you do not want to offend them, but we simply could not hold it in and broke into uproarious laughter. He asked ever so innocently what was so funny.  When we told him, he burst out as well.  We were very sad to see him go and wish him great fortune wherever life has taken him.

We feel a spark of pride in knowing that we have educated two young people in the fine art of check writing.  They were volunteering as part of their school’s community service program and at the urging of their parents.  We talked them through it and their smiles of accomplishment brought satisfaction to our mature hearts.  Our first young lady probably went on to an Ivy-League college as she was attending an elite school here in Manhattan and our latest young male reader is experiencing his first semester at the renowned Brown University.  Highly proud, you would have thought we were their parents. Imagine a young woman with dulcet tones and a young man of seventeen with a wonderful resonant baritone voice.  We discussed boyfriends and all things social with her and the highly popular American Idol television show with him.  As he admitted at a volunteer awards ceremony, it took two hours to read twenty-minutes worth of mail.  I promised to keep the Idol chatter down and not bring up that highly frustrating show.  Thankfully, no one was taking bets.  Maria put forth a valiant effort in trying to keep us on track but it was a losing battle, to be sure.

This young man also helped us complete the 2010 Census, over which I had a head-scratching moment as to what to call myself.  Well, it really just came down to Black or African-American.  I am still thinking about it.  I knew that I did not feel comfortable with Negro, although I was advised by representatives of the 2010 Census that some older Americans wanted that designation included.  Kudos to them for attempting to satisfy as many citizens as possible.  I think I am leaning towards an American of Caribbean and Southern heritage.  Cari-South, perhaps?  I will keep working on that.

Is it not reasonable to assume that readers should be able to read?  Perhaps you are thinking they should be auditioned, and I agree with you whole-heartedly as we have suffered through volunteers who fairly mumbled and stumbled from one sentence to another.  It was torture by reading, I tell you, and it was not pretty.  One particular session was beyond tedious and caused Maria to fall asleep, leaving me with the grueling task of slogging through it.  Oh, how cruel. I must also mention the fact that you never know what readers will find boring or engaging.  I am under the assumption that when they sign up to read, they agree to read just about anything, barring erotic material.  Who knew that reading a catalog would send a reader practically under the table?  The man fairly flew out of the room when the session was done.  He did not even stop to say goodbye.  We sat there speechless for ten seconds and then broke into uncontrollable giggles.  Starting out upright, he ended up slumped over the table almost foaming at the mouth.  We never saw him again.  Good thing.

Another memorable reader entered the room; meticulously arranged three cups of coffee and proceeded to drink from each in turn.  Reading all addresses, he commented on every state he had visited.  I need not tell you that the session took a painful year and a half.  Help!

Years ago, we were indeed fortunate to be paired with one of the most organized readers we have ever known.  She used colorful markers and folders to identify and hold our important documents.  She located all manner of services and had us in tip-top shape for the length of her service. We learned that she not only organized us but was a craftswoman who made detailed cabinets and other furniture.  We do miss her. We stayed in touch for a few months, perhaps even a year, but sadly, we did part and have not heard from her since.

It really is a horrendous situation when readers insinuate themselves into your personal and financial life.  This was the case with a controlling volunteer who made unwanted and unsolicited judgment calls.  Opinionated to the max, she felt it her duty to advise us on most aspects of our lives whether we needed advice or not.  I am thoroughly glad that we only knew her for about a year.  Once dragged through the mud of her manipulative nature, I became justifiably gun-shy about ever having another reader.  The problem was that my vision was becoming worse and I was procrastinating with regard to sitting down and getting the job done.  This situation could not continue.

Would you believe we have had a reader who was a host on QVC? We have caught her on television a time or two.  Maria more than I, as she is practically glued to that channel.  She is a lovely lady and we remain friends and see her on occasion for dinner.  She reminds me of a Charlie’s Angel type (a 70’s television action show) as she is slightly built but proudly admitted that she can use a gun.  We all chortled as she pronounced 92nd Street Y as “92nd Streety.”

The reader prior to the young man I have come to call Mr. D. Brown, was a kind, young woman who left us once she became pregnant with her first child.  She had a beautiful baby boy and resigned from her job because she could not bear to leave him for long periods of time.  We regretted losing her but no one could blame her or stop her.

Our current reader is the most artistically inclined, if you will.  We saw her perform a stand-up routine at a comedy club here in New York City.  She was quite good.  We will, no doubt, discuss her fabulous performance in greater detail when next we meet for our reading session.  She warned us about eating any food at this establishment as she thought it might not be safe but, of course, we did and I am glad that I am alive to write this selection.

It has been a pleasure recounting some of the more interesting and humorous facts about our readers, but in all seriousness, they have performed a priceless service that we could not do without.  Their time, energy, and efforts have been greatly appreciated over the years and we would be in a hopeless fix were they not around to assist with both trivial and important matters.  Yes, we could accomplish reading tasks using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software such as the Kurzweil 1000 and Open Book.  Speech synthesizers are lovely things, but they definitely lack a certain warmth and humor in their delivery.  Bottom line:  As long as reading volunteers will have us, we will definitely have them.

Feature Writer John Christie – Olympus Offers New Accessible Digital Recorders

Olympus is now offering two new digital recorders. The Olympus DM-4, the most recent recorder that came out in June 2010 has some new features. However, the DM-2 also has some good features. They provide high quality recording and playback. They also have large color LCDs and voice guidance. Both models also have intuitive menus and stereo mix. The DM-4 also has text to speech and voice recognition. You can record, edit, and play podcasts with both of these models. In addition, you can record and play music, textbooks, and audio books. The DM-4 and the DM-2 have an internal memory capacity of 8 gigabytes and 4 gigabytes. The DM-4 also has voice recognition so users can verbally navigate menus with voice commands. Users are also able to set the time and date and create a schedule using only voice commands.

Both of these devices offer stereo microphones so users can play and record PCM, MP3 and WMA (Windows Media Audio) files. These features make this recorder a useful tool for school, work or home. You can listen to your audio book at the gym or listen to your podcast on the way home.

In addition to voice recognition, the DM-4 is a DAISY Player, which means it can play Talking Books.

The DM-4 and DM-2 both have a feature called voice guidance. When the feature is turned on, users can navigate menus and various set up options guided by a voice. The pleasant voice informs users to set the time or date and other menu selecting modes. It also tells you the folder name as you go from one folder to another.

The text to speech function allows users to hear the time and date of the recording as well as key words those users can set. Users can identify the recording without listening to the whole recording. Text files are also able to be played on the DM-4.

The DM-4 can hold 8 gigabytes of media, equivalent to 2,000 hours of recorded playback.  The DM-2 can hold 4 gigabytes and will play back 1,000 hours of recorded material. Both devices have a removable microSD media card to further expand capacity by up to 16 gigabytes.

The DM-4 and the DM-2 both have a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which can be operated for more than 20 hours. You can recharge the recorders with an AC adapter or by connecting to a computer with a USB.

Olympus Sonority Software is accessible with Windows or Mac. Using this software, you can erase noise, adjust sound effects and divide files. You can also upload, organize files, and download podcasts.  You can also move media to both devices by using the USB cable provided with both recorders.

The DM-4 and the DM-2 come with Li-ion Battery, AC Adapter, Stereo Earphone, USB Cable, Conversion Cable (DM-4 only), Carrying Case, Strap, Olympus Sonority Software, Instruction Manual and Warranty Card.

The DM-4 comes in black, while the DM-2 comes in silver. You can get the DM-4 from Ferguson Enterprises. Their phone number is 605-854-9280.  At this time, I don’t know if they sell the DM-2 digital recorder.  They sell the DM-4 digital recorder for $299. This includes the tutorial.  This price is right in line with other devices like the Victor Reader Stream, while allowing the user to record media as well.

The DM-4 and the DM-2 digital recorders are great recorders. You can record lectures and get rid of any background noise by using the Olympus Sonority Software. In addition, you can use the DM-4 to download talking books if you’re able to.  The recorder is also an excellent recorder to take around especially since it comes with a carrying case.

The DM-4 is definitely a product that I may purchase in the future. When I was present for a demonstration, the voice navigation was very clear and guided the user easily through the menu and various functions.  I’m also very fond of the idea of transferring files from the recorder to the PC.  

For more information on both recorders you can go to http://www.photoxels.com/pr-olympus-dm-4-dm-2/

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – I’d Rather Have a Car Drive Me, Than Drive While Blind

Driving has to be one of the most visual things you can do, so most days if you asked me if I’d like to be able to drive while blind, I’d say no.  This feeling is not because I don’t think that technology should be created to allow a blind person to drive, but rather I don’t believe the added stress of operating a vehicle when I can’t see my surroundings would be worth having access to a car. Instead, I would rather own a vehicle that drove me, and thanks to researchers at Yale, that possibility may be closer than we thought.

One of the reasons why we don’t already have cars that drive themselves is because it’s really difficult to mimic human sight, but a prototype of a super computer may have finally mastered this challenge. The NeuFlow, as it’s being called by its creators, is a super computer that is able to process its surroundings in real time just like the human eye. It is able to accomplish 100 billion calculations per second, and it fits on one single chip, which means it should be easy to put it into cars and other robotic machines.

To me, having cars that drive themselves comes with multiple benefits outside of giving the blind access to better transportation. For one, cars would become immediately safer because an emotional human wouldn’t be operating them anymore. Part of the added stress of operating a vehicle that was designed to be driven by the blind would be worrying about other drivers. If all cars drove themselves, then everyone could enjoy their rides in the car. Computer-driven cars would also follow all traffic laws which would likely mean far fewer accidents. Finally, commuters would have the option of doing something productive on their way to work, and would likely be less stressed because they didn’t have to worry about focusing on they’re driving. I think all these benefits could come from having a much better public transit system, but since I know how attached people are to their cars, then I hope the driverless car is in our near future.

What are your thoughts? Do you hope that one day the blind will drive, or would you rather have a car drive you instead?

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Books and Technology: Introducing ReadHowYouWant

Six months ago I received an advertisement posted on a blindness related email list asking for book reviewers. Being a writer and a digital book user, I replied to the ad and was introduced to the Read How You Want on-demand digital book enterprise.

History

ReadHowYouWant Pty Ltd and its R&D parent company, Accessible Publishing Systems Pty Ltd, are both Sydney, Australia-based privately held companies co-founded by electronic publishing pioneers Christopher Stephen and Greg Duncan. When Chris’s sister, who suffers from MS, developed difficulty reading, they began experimenting to determine whether people with reading difficulties could benefit from changing the text format.
After more than four years of testing, ReadHowYouWant has successfully developed award-winning conversion technology that reformats existing books into high quality, alternative formats quickly, easily, and at price points comparable to standard format books (http://www.readhowyouwant.com/about-us.aspx).

If you want to find out more about this eBook publisher go to: http://www.readhowyouwant.com

If you would like to try your hand at downloading and reviewing books for this publisher, here are some tips: formats available for reviewers include large print, Braille, and DAISY (DAISY are all via download). The reviewer must have the equipment to read the material. I prefer to use a Victor Reader Stream listening to the default synthesized voice. Other possibilities include other digital book readers and other portable computing devices, like laptops and/or note taking devices, and home computers. Refreshable Braille displays are also another option for those with print disabilities. If you can download files, you can surely participate in this read and review program.

Another suggestion is to post your review on not just the publisher’s blog but also on your own blog and on any social networking sites, like Facebook. I’ve reviewed two novels for this program, both of which are cross-posted on my personal blog, www.brainnatter.blogspot.com and the Read How You Want blog, http://www.readhowyouwant.com/blog/  

Why do I continue with the program? Simple, I love to read and write. I took a chance and have been pleased with both the Read How You Want website itself and the book choices. 

If you are interested in downloading a book for reviewing, please contact
Bradi Grebien-Samko, Publicist
Email: bradi@readhowyouwant.com

Business phone: 971-340-9853

If you want to read more about the founders of this enterprise, go to:

http://abledbody.com/expertviews/2010/04/02/read-how-you-want-builds-books-just-for-you

Letter from the Editor

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a great weekend.  I’d just like to make a quick announcement about the audio edition.  I’m currently in the final phase of getting everything organized so that I can send all of the September articles off to be professionally recorded and made available sometime in early October.  I’m really excited that I’ll be able to offer a spoken-voice audio version to you and I hope that you enjoy the changeover from the current synthetic voice. 

That said, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the Association for the Blind of Western Australia for providing a free DAISY audio edition of the magazine for as long as they have.  For me, it was the first gesture I received from an outside organization as editor of this magazine and is one I will never forget.  If you are interested in voicing your thanks for their wonderful help, please email me your messages and I will pass them on.

That covers everything for now.  I hope that you all have a great week and I’ll talk to you again in October!  I can’t believe it’s already that time again.

Take care, and thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Ross Hammond, Editor

Reader’s Forum

To navigate between forum posts, please search for the ## symbol using your browser or word processor’s search or find function.

In response to “Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Everyone Likes to Play Games Including the Blind”:

I also like Jim Kitchens’ audio games for the blind. Of course, the price is right, too, because he makes them available for free.

One of my favorite games of his is Monopoly. Sound effects are great and I play it with my 8-year-old son, who is sighted. He played this before he understood the board layout, but the next Christmas, he also received the board game version, so he could put the physical layout in place with what he knew from already playing and loving the game with me on the pc.

Even though he has the board game, my son still loves coming into my study and asking to play Monopoly with me on the pc. He calls the SAPI computer voice Jim Kitchens, because it says it is “by Jim Kitchens.

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In response to Tim Hutchin’s previous reader’s forum comment regarding note takers in college classrooms:

I agree with Tim H. concerning the use of notetakers by blind college students. This skill should be a part of each student’s IEP! I am a blind teacher of the visually impaired and I have never used a notetaker while attending several colleges. I used tape recorders, micro-recorders, slate and stylus, and the Braille Lite to notetake during class lectures without an issue. I know many blind students who rely solely on their assigned notetakers to notetake for them. However, what happens when their notetaker doesn’t show up to notetake for them for a given class? Who will take notes for them when they work and have to attend meetings, workshops, conferences, etc.? We must prepare our blind students to notetake while in high school. Otherwise what good is the IEP anyway? I have noticed that many sighted teachers of the visually impaired will not include notetaking in the student’s IEP goals? Why not? Blind college students can competently acquire and master this skill with some practice. What would we think if sighted students required assigned notetakers for their college classes?

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In response to requests about your summer activities:

You asked for interesting summer events. From the sixth to the tenth of July, the town of Hartlepool was the venue for sixty tall ships taking part in the tall ships race. I attended and sighted friends described the ships. There were a million visitors and each night ended with fireworks. There was also an international village plus music bands. It was a most moving occation. My only complaints were that the guide was not available in alternative format and the ground around the tall ships I visited was uneven. Maybe one of your U.S. readers was over in Hartlepool and it would be interesting to have their views.

Sincerely,

Franek Kozorowski, Hartlepool, UK

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In response to “Op Ed with Bob Branco – Does Society Really Believe What It Asks?”:

I always enjoy the op ed articles but I was particularly amused by the one concerning stupid, thoughtless inquiries made of us by the normies. I’ve never been asked about the blind store which sounds like a place where one either buys window treatments or a place to hide from ducks, but I’ve been frequently asked about my superior sense of hearing, if my white cane means I’m going hiking and do I need my husband to help me give a urine specimen. I nearly lost my cool at this last one, but I always feel I may be the only blind person a normie has met and I need to represent with dignity and grace. I also had a stranger pray loudly over me while I was attempting to eat my lunch at the Red Lobster. I know she meant well, trying to heal what she saw as my poor blind body so she did not get a garlic cheese biscuit up her nose.

As a formerly sighted person myself, I try to remember if I was that clueless. Did I ever ask a blind person to say something in Braille? Or try to help them to a bench in the mall when they didn’t want to sit down? I hope not.

Oh, and Bob, sorry, but I didn’t get you that Braille chicken. I only had enough Braille money to get myself from Blind World back to the unenlightened streets of Sighted City.

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In response to “Tactile Texting for the Blind”:

This is another device, where sighted people are making what they consider to be beneficial, without consulting accessibility consultants or real-life users. There is no need for such a device, with iOS4 on iPhone and iPod Touch having full Bluetooth Braille output and input without the need to touch the iDevice, controlling it all from the braille display. iOS4.1 brought this functionality to Bluetooth keyboards, where one can have complete control of iDevice from keyboard, iOS4 brought text input.

Why create, purchase and learn another input method, when there are far more effective and familiar ones?

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In response to my story about the bus driver and the service dog:

Your story about the driver objecting to the service dog reminds me of an experience that my wife and I had with a friend several years ago. We had reservations at an area dinner theater. In the lobby, personnel tried to bar her from entering the theater with her dog. She pointed out that it was illegal to bar service dogs. Theater personal threatened to call police. She urged them to do so. While waiting for the police, my friend entered the theater and joined the rest of the party. After a few minutes, someone came and apologized. I doubt that any more service dogs have been denied access to this theater.

Virgil A. Cook

Blind Sailor Gets Help From Shore

When Ed Gallagher decides to go sailing, he doesn’t rely on anyone else on the boat to help him control the sails or steer in the right direction.  He simply grabs his guide dog, Genoa, and hops in the boat.  But not without grabbing a few key accessories first.  He’d be lost at sea without his specially-designed glasses with a camera built in and his laptop.  While he is on the boat running it solo, he does receive help from the land, made possible through the wonders of wifi.  His captain, the man on land playing what is essentially a very real video game, is his friend, Herb Meyer.

When Ed wants to go sailing, he calls up Herb and they connect wirelessly.  Herb can see what Ed is looking at through the camera on his glasses and gives directions, telling Ed to tack left or right, to guide him along the way.  Herb is a sailor himself, though his is relegated to a wheelchair after a sailing accident left him without the ability to walk.

Ed’s overall goal isn’t just to focus on sailing, though.  Instead, he envisions an entire network devoted to help guide blind people through their everyday lives using the technology that he has utilized to not only sail, but drive a car through the Rocky Mountains, fire pistols, try his aim with a bow and arrow, and even do repairs to his home.  All of these tasks have been completed with help from miles away as they watched through a computer screen to help Ed.

Other’s can’t help but agree that technology is a great thing for people with visual impairment.  According to Mark Richert, the director of public policy for the AFB, “Technology is a tremendous liberator for people with vision loss and most people with disabilities.”

Ed’s system is not fool proof though.  He was severely injured last year during a skiing accident using the same system.  It took him months to recover.  His system also gives rise to concern from people who feel that systems like his would encourage the blind community to depend on these helper networks to go about their daily lives instead of learning independence skills and taking care of themselves on their own.  “I fear that they will think having someone sighted see for you is the only solution to blindness,” said Bryan Bashin, chief executive of San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind.

No matter which side of the argument you find yourself, his project, named Genoa Services–for which his dog is named after–is gaining steam and he is receiving donated equipment from companies like Logitech.  Ed is also in the process of applying for a federal grant.

What do you think about Ed’s system?  Let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, September 14, 2010.  The title is “Remote Control: A Blind Man Sails With Help From Afar.”