Archive for February, 2011

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – The ZoomText Keyboard

A few years ago, AI Squared released the ZoomText keyboard.  This keyboard is quite innovative because it contains sixteen buttons running horizontally across the top of the keyboard, specifically used for performing ZoomText functions.  As most of you know, when you are using a computer, there is plenty to learn, combined with the added pile of commands if we need to run adaptive software.  This keyboard strives to reduce some of what we must keep in our heads, by enabling those buttons at the top to do our work for us.

The keyboard can either contain yellow keys with black letters, or black keys with yellow letters.  In both cases, the letters on the keys are presented in bold print, making it easier to locate them.  After you purchase one of these keyboards, you must install the software that comes with it.  This software enables the ZoomText buttons along the top of the keyboard to function.  If you don’t install the software, the buttons will not work.  You also need to be running ZoomText version 9.04 or later in order for the ZoomText keyboard and software to work correctly.

Here are a few ways in which the keyboard can make your computer experience easier.  Let’s say you prefer a black background with white letters and a large green mouse pointer.  Make the necessary changes for the mouse pointer and color enhancements and save these changes to ZoomText.  Then, every time you press the pointer enhancement button, your large green mouse pointer will be displayed.  If you need to change the pointer back to its original appearance, hit the pointer enhancement on the keyboard a second time and it will revert back to the default windows setting.  The same goes for any enhancement you make including color, pointer, focus, and so on.  If the magnification is too small, simply hit the plus button at the top of the keyboard and the magnification will go up one level.

The keyboard comes with a large print book, which explains in detail each key and its function.  If I were designing the next keyboard for sale, I would make the symbols above each ZoomText key larger and bolder for those individuals with low vision.  In their current state, I feel that they are too small to comfortably read.  I also think that some of the other software companies should make similar keyboards for screen reader users.  As screen readers continue to advance, the amount of keystrokes necessary to operate them continues to increase.  It would be nice to have a simple one touch way to make the most common tasks happen quickly.

If you would like more information about the Zoomtext keyboard, visit www.aisquared.com

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – A Packaging World Sealed Shut

How often have we struggled in anger or frustration as we tried to open a tamper-proof bottle of OTC or prescription medication?  Many times, elderly and blind adults look for the arrow on a bottle, which is often hard to detect.  Elderly individuals especially have problems with the pressure screw tops, only hearing the click, click, click with no results.  As if trouble getting to our medicine wasn’t bad enough, tamper-proof packaging now extends to other products like bottles of suntan lotion, baby oil, and the Avon product “Skin so Soft.”  They take minutes to open while you guess how much pressure to put on the cap so it opens smoothly without those annoying clicks or without simply bursting the contents all over yourself. 

Even food items like crackers, chips, and foil-wrapped condiments at fast food restaurants can be challenging.   Have you almost given up opening these packages and asked for sighted help, only to find that even they are no better at opening them?  If sighted people, who have the ability to read any opening directions, are having trouble, this is a big problem for everyone, especially the blind.

We long for the days when opening a bottle, jar, or package was not a struggle–when the twist of a cap or a gentle tug on a bag was all that was necessary.  Wasn’t that nice?  But unfortunately malicious product tampering in the eighties and nineties made companies much more cautious and out went the era of easy-to-open packaging so that their goods could be protected.  I don’t blame them for that, but there have to be better ways to implement packaging security.

When the blind and elderly complained that they found it difficult to open caps on prescription medication, sympathetic pharmacists put prescriptions in easy to open bottles.  My husband always complained about pills on cards and he would often ask me to open them.  When they heard of the problem, accommodating pharmacists would often put the tablets in bottles.  But now, with chain pharmacies, this seems to be the exception as policy supersedes customer satisfaction.

Recently I bought a tube of analgesic gel for gum pain and in frustration had to resort to opening the tube with scissors.  While I was able to use the product the first time, storing it for another time proved to be more difficult.  Plus, the gel was made to be kept in a sealed tube, not cut open.  Who knows if it will be any good when I got to use it again.

As I wrote this article, I asked myself why they can’t just make packaging standards a legal issue as a part of the rights for accessibility for elderly and handicapped adults.  But the biggest barrier is apathy.  Most people just deal with it because it’s what they’re given.  They don’t realize that this isn’t just something that affects the blind.  As aging baby boomers begin to experience arthritis, they too will face this growing problem. I wonder how they’ll react when their aspirin is just the twist of a cap away and yet they still can’t get to it.

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Bringing Pictures and Books to Life for the Blind

Last summer, I worked as an intern for ViewPlus Technologies. They specialize in braille embossers that create high resolution tactile graphics. Working there got me interested in the world of tactile graphics, and how programs around the world use them. I recently came across two programs that specialize in bringing pictures and books to life for the blind.

The first is called Living Paintings, which is an organization in the U.K. They have designed a touch and sound system that brings pictures to life. The packs they distribute use thermoform representations of the graphics, an audio recording that describes the graphics, and color versions of the pictures so that the packs can be shared with sighted peers. Their catalog offers something for everyone. For children, the packs range from children’s books which have been translated into braille and have tactile representations of the illustrations, to art history which provides a child with tactile versions of paintings accompanied by an audio description of the art and information about the artist. For adults, the packs explore the world of art, and are grouped into topics such as works of art from specific galleries. The packs can be borrowed for free by anyone with a visual impairment in Britain or Ireland. Here is a link to their website: http://www.livingpaintings.org/

The second program is the Feelix Library in Australia. This organization brings books to life for blind and visually impaired children ages 0 to 6. The library includes over 450 titles, and again is a free service to anyone that Vision Australia serves. Instead of only translating the book’s text into braille, Feelix kits contain the original book annotated with braille, an audio version of the book, some tactual aids to better help the child enter the world of the book, and a handbook of tactile pictures so that they can tell the story themselves. Here is a link to their website. http://www.visionaustralia.org.au/info.aspx?page=1063

These are just two examples of how pictures can be brought to life for people with vision loss. I really hope and wish that one day we’ll have similar programs here in the states.  If any of my readers know of programs like this in the U.S., please let me know. If you’ve used either Living Paintings or the Feelix Library, I would love to hear about what your experience was like.

Letter from the Editor

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a nice weekend.  It seems that all of our wishes here in the Northeast for the snow to go away may have actually worked.  In fact, they worked so well that there was measureable snow in Arizona, which the announcers of this weekend’s match play golf tournament simply couldn’t believe.  As some of the golfers walked the course, they made it a point to playfully toss snow at each other.

In any case, weather aside, I’m very happy to say that there were a bunch of reader’s forum submissions last week–enough to produce a great section of the magazine this week as well.  I’m really happy that you all are submitting your comments and I’d love to see it continue.

I think we’ve got a great magazine for you this week, with articles from our feature writers as well as a couple contributors.  I hope you all enjoy it.

Take care, and as always, thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Pork and Sweet Potato Stew (Crockpot Recipe)

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Ingredients:

1 pound boneless pork shoulder roast

3 to 4 sweet potatoes, peeled

1 large carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1medium onion, chopped (or 1 Tablespoon dried onion)

1/3 cup dried apples

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1/2 teaspoon rosemary

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup apple-cranberry juice

Directions:

Spray the inside of a 3-4 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Cut the pork and sweet potatoes into chunks and place them in the bottom of the crockpot. Add carrots, celery, onions, dried apples, sage, and rosemary. Pour chicken broth and apple-cranberry juice over everything and gently mix together. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

During the last hour, if desired, you can make a paste of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and water and add it to the stew to thicken.

Note: can use a whole apple (peeled and diced) in placed of dried apples; however, do not add until the last hour or so of cooking.

Enjoy!

Reader’s Forum

For your convenience, reader’s forum entries are separated by the ## symbol.

In response to Lynne Tatum  – Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, Sanford Rosenthal said:

I read the article about hair by Lynne Tatum this week.  I used to solicit help by frequenting the barber shop for my haircuts monthly.

The last time I went was over a year ago.  I had to wait too long while other customers came and went.  I vowed never to go through that again as I picked myself up and walked out the door without a haircut.

I immediately purchased electric hair clippers and professional barber scissors.  These scissors have blades probably only about 4 inches long but really sharp.  It is necessary for me to have the sharpness because then it doesn’t pull the hair but rather cuts it effortlessly.

I use a guard on the electric clippers.  I think it is around one or two eighths long.  This protects my hair from getting cut unevenly.  Different length guards are available for longer or shorter length haircuts.

After the electric clippers I use the scissors.  There are always strands of hair that barbers call feathers.  The scissors can cut any loose hairs left over from the clippers.

On the sides and back I use a wet shave razor with some shaving cream.  Pre shaving oil applied before the shaving cream helps stop razor burn.  After shave balm applied after the razor cut also is helpful in stopping any uncomfortable abrasiveness on the sensitive nape of the neck.

That is the whole process.  It takes me about a half hour or less.  The cleanup and oiling of equipment takes a few more minutes.  I find that having this equipment at home enables me to make time to clip and cut much more often than when I used to go to barber shops.

##

I am writing to respond to three items in the Feb. 7 Matilda Ziegler.

In response to Lynne Tatum – Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, I certainly hope that the awful experiences you described regarding hair care (or lack thereof) in your early childhood are now the rare exception rather than the tragic norm.  I couldn’t be happier that you have found a reliable and capable stylist into whose capable hands you can place your tremendous tresses.  My hope is also that African-American women who choose to style their own hair no longer have to contend with harsh, smelly products like the old Tony perms.

Regarding Karen Crowder’s contribution about Jenny, who realized her dream of being an on-air personality (Past Treasures), I would have loved to hear Jenny’s show.  My love of oldies includes Rock ‘N Roll from the mid fifties to the late 70’s, with specific emphasis on soul ballads, soul music in general and music recorded on the Motown label.

Sadly, I’m not surprised to hear that Jenny, who now lives in Maryland, is no longer a D.J. because stations want “newer” music.

The following are some thoughts I have on your wonderful friend of many years might again pursue her love:

1.  In the Feb. 7 Special Notices, there is an item about Route 66 still airing Oldies online.  You or Jenny might want to contact that show’s host to see if there is any way they can collaborate.

2.  If your friend has computer access and familiarity with YouTube, the first link on that popular site is, “broadcast yourself.”  Hopefully, www.youtube.com, which can also be accessed through Google, will serve as a new beginning for reviving those “lost treasures.”

3.  As an ACB member, I don’t know nearly as much about ACB radio as I wish I did, but I do know that they are always looking for new programming.  If visiting www.acbradio.org does not provide info on how you might host a radio show–and if they would be an appropriate venue for Past Treasures, phone ACB’S Washington Connections toll-free at 1-800-424-8666.  If that does not help because it is more a recording of ACB’S legislative efforts and advocacy, the website, www.acb.org, will give you their local Washington, DC number under the “contact us” link.  (For more ideas, please feel free to E-mail me at songbird1953@access995.com, or tmariew313@gmail.com).

Last but not least, to comment on Steve Famiglietti’s article, “Why Is That Dog In Here,” you may have an excellent point, Steve, that if these people were to go blind and live in your shoes for even one day, they might feel differently.  Unfortunately, though, there are also blind people who dislike dogs and therefore also “just don’t get it.”

Great job!! Not only to the writers on whose items I have commented, but also all of the feature writers and contributors whose creative gifts keep this magazine the excellent and respected publication it has always been.

Terri Winaught, Pittsburgh, PA

##

I read with interest Bob Branco’s Op Ed in the February 7 weekly edition on the digital talking book player. I believe NLS did a fine job of ensuring that the player is easy to use and heavy duty.

When I received my digital play on Christmas Eve of 2009, I wanted to send it back, but since I had some time to kill, I decided to see what using it would be like. I didn’t know that over a year later I would feel like I’ve worn the player out. Now I hate the time it takes to wind a tape and to have to cope with a tape that wobbles.

I’d also like to say that Karen Crowder’s – Tips for Planning for the Next Nor’easter in the January 24 Weekly Edition struck a chord with me. She may laugh when she reads that I was alarmed when I learned 5 inches of the white stuff was predicted with ice to follow. Since I have medicine that needs to be kept cold, I immediately put 4 large gel packs in the freezer to put in 2 coolers should my power go out. Though the electricity held, my food supply was a bit lacking–I had almost no vegetables. Now I try to stay supplied regardless.

Finally, Martin Jaeger’s – The Mailwoman in the January 31 Weekly Edition reminded me of the time my mail had accumulated because I’d left home on a Thursday and didn’t come back until Sunday, causing my mail lady to almost call the police.  Now when I’m going to be gone several days I let her know.

From Barbara Mattson

Spartanburg, SC

##

I thought I’d comment on Romeo Edmead’s article “Who’s Dating Who?”

I have been totally blind all my life and I am comfortable dating both blind and sighted women. I was married to a sighted woman for 25 years and am now single. Most of the women I date are sighted, but that is because I don’t have much contact with blind women in my community. I am not opposed to dating blind women, but I just don’t have contact with any here in Reading, Pennsylvania. The main difference between blind and sighted women is transportation–sighted women have cars and can drive. If there are any blind women that are dating here in Reading I don’t know about them. They don’t go to the places I frequent and I have never run into them on the street.

Roy McCutcheon

##

In response to the Valentine’s Day articles posted in the February 14 edition of the magazine:

I thought to share my romantic Valentine, which happened when I met my boyfriend who is now my husband.

When I lost my first husband in Canada, I took a course in college to learn computer skills and also to alleviate my loneliness.

Along the way, I met an online friend–he was sighted, and a bachelor guy from Britain who was always there to chat with and to assist with my computer problems.

To make the story short, our friendship went deeper, and on the Valentine’s Day of 2001, I received a ring, an engagement ring from my boyfriend thousands of miles away.

When the school was over, I flew to Britain to meet my waiting boyfriend.  On September 3 of 2001, he put a wedding ring onto my finger, and here we are happily living together, commemorating that romantic Valentine’s Day when he proposed to marry me.

Estelita

Health and Science – New Development in Burn Treatment

While you may not hear about guns curing people of ailments, there is one that has virtually revolutionized the way burn victims are treated.

Current conventional methods heal burns on the body’s largest organ in as long as weeks, sometimes months.  During this time, the wounds are highly susceptible to infection, which is the reason why many people die from severe burns.  Even though scientists are able to grow skin, the grafts sometimes are not made in enough time to save the patient.

Enter Jorg Gerlach, a scientist who has developed a spray gun that will change everything.  The spray gun uses healthy stem cells, taken from unaffected areas of the patient’s skin and mixed with a sterile solution, to work its wonders.  As it sprays, it coats the affected tissue with the healthy stem cell solution, enabling the skin to heal itself incredibly fast.

In a video demonstrating the technology, a police officer had been severely burned during a fourth of July party.  His arm, he said, looked like a charred piece of meat.  When he went to the hospital, doctors asked him if he would be willing to try an experimental new treatment that they felt he would be a great candidate for.  He agreed, and they went to work.

The officer had checked himself into the hospital on a Friday evening with second degree burns all over his right side.  Miraculously, by Monday morning, less than 4 full days later, his skin was entirely healed.  So far, over a dozen patients have been treated using the spray gun, all of them with stellar results.

This new treatment has been hailed as the possible “holy grail” of burn treatment.  With the ability to cut down healing time from weeks and possibly months to only days, this new device has the potential to help millions of burn victims around the world.

While certain types of stem cell research are wrought with controversy, hopefully this one, which only takes healthy cells from the patient’s own skin, will be acceptable and widely used as quickly as possible.

Source: http://gizmodo.com/#!5749968/the-skin-gun-that-sprays-new-skin-on-burn-victims-is-real

Contributor Terri Winaught – Heins Ward: No typical Beginning

Everyone who follows professional football–and especially Pittsburgh Steelers fans–can describe with pride the numerous accomplishments of over-achiever and Pittsburgh Steeler Heins Ward.  What many may not know, however, is what a tough beginning this lion-hearted sports legend and legendary philanthropist had.

In Part 1: No typical Beginning, we’ll explore what it was like for this mixed-race African-American and Korean born youngster to be raised by his Korean mother as a single parent after coming to the United States. 

Born on March 8, 1976 in Seoul, South Korea to a Korean mother and an African American soldier/father, Hines E. Ward Jr.’s journey to the NFL was far from typical.

He made the move to the Atlanta, Georgia area when he was just 1 year old.  His single mom, Young-He Ward, who eventually managed to provide for her son despite coming to the US alone knowing no English, would raise him from there. Over time, Hines began to appreciate the sacrifices Young-He made for him and the determination she had to make a life for them. Young Heins showed how much he appreciated his Mom’s determined sense of sacrifice by embodying it in his heart and soul.

Hines became a top scholar-athlete in Georgia, not only as quarterback for his highschool, but also on the baseball field. He was even drafted at the end of his senior year by the Florida Marlins, who offered a $25,000 signing bonus. But Hines chose to pursue his first love and went on to play college football for the Georgia Bulldogs.

True to his nature, Hines proved he would do anything to get playing time at Georgia. Though recruited as a quarterback, Hines was so successful in other roles, and he eventually stopped practicing with the quarterbacks altogether. Whatever Hines was asked or volunteered to do, he put his heart and soul into. When temporarily pressed back to the quarterback position in his second year because of a starting quarterback injury, Hines was able to successfully move the Bulldogs down the field, and even got the nod as the starring QB in the Peach Bowl, where he still holds the record for the most passing yards. By his junior year, however–under the new coach, Jim Donnan–Heins was made a full-time receiver. Part of the reason for that was that Hines was the first player to come to see him when he became coach. In that first conversation with Donnan, Hines told his new coach that he would do whatever it took to help the Bulldogs.

At the end of his senior year he was bestowed All-ACC honors and finished his college career as Georgia’s second all-time receiver with 144 receptions. His 3,870 total yards ranked second in Bulldogs history to Herschel Walker.

When Heins entered the 1998 NFL draft, he was concerned that his role in multiple positions might affect his ability to be chosen by an elite team.  He also received terrible news when a pre-draft physical revealed he was missing an ACL in his left knee, the result of a childhood bicycle accident. However, he was finally picked up by the Pittsburg Steelers in the 3rd round, 92nd overall.  From the moment the black and gold jersey was handed to him, he knew that it was his job to make the teams who passed him up regret their decision.

Source: http://www.hinesward.com/hines-ward-biography.php

Contributor Howard Geltman – Blindness Isn’t a Disability–It’s A Way of Life

I am a fifty-seven year young (seasoned) legally blind person. In my younger years, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, I had enough vision to read large print books, look at people as they passed by, and much more.  Now, within the past year, most of what I had visually is gone.

I wanted to do a bit of research on the term “Disability,” so I let my fingers do the walking to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Here is some of what I found (with my thoughts added).

Definition 1:

A: The condition of being disabled. Ok, that works for me.  I just don’t like the term “Disabled.” Impairment sounds better.

B: Inability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment.   Hmm, well perhaps I wouldn’t qualify as a brain surgeon–too much liability insurance needed I’m sure.  Oh, I know, a stunt car driver.  Well, that may not work too well, either.  Though, I drove a fork lift when I worked in a factory when I was twenty-two. The boss did not believe I was legally blind at the time because I got around so well. But, I bent a center beam in the factory one evening, and that quickly ended that position–such a loss.

Definition 2:

Lack of legal qualification to do something.  I can’t be a bus driver–no driver’s license. I guess if I took off the windshield wipers, mounted two white canes, and placed a large sign in the rear window saying “Blind Driver, Do Not Pass!” that might work. If you were a legal driver and saw a car decked out with that, would you dare pass it?

Definition 3:

A disqualification, restriction, or disadvantage.  Disadvantage?  I guess that depends on who is evaluating the situation.

When I attended Oak Hill School for the Blind in Hartford, CT, all of the students were considered equals. We did not have labels placed upon us as was the case outside of the gates of the school. We didn’t judge people by the way they looked because that didn’t matter to many of us who couldn’t see that well anyway. We judged people by “feeling” with our hearts.

These days, if I go places and need to register, many times they will talk to my wife, and ignore me. That is, until I speak. Or people scream at you with louder voices because they are under the impression that most blind people are deaf too. And the list goes on.

It isn’t because they are ignorant. In many cases people do care, they just don’t know how to show it properly.

Should we place our heads in the sand, so to speak? Of course not! You simply go on with life doing the best that you can. That is all that can be expected from any of us.

In many ways we are not the ones with a so-called disability. The rest of the world is. They just haven’t realized it yet.

Contributor Carole Rose – Meeting Molly Sweeney: Part 2

I am familiar with the play, Molly Sweeney, because I met and spent several unforgettable hours with the lady who portrayed her.  Her name was Priscilla Lindsey, and although she never revealed her source, someone suggested to her that she spend time with me to gain some insight into the life of a well-adjusted, productive blind person.

We spent hours in my home, reading her part of the script, discussing Frank and Dr. Rice, and chatting about blindness in general and the attitudes of persons who believe that there is nothing worse than not being able to see.  Priscilla was a delightful lady, who from the beginning accepted me for the person I was–a wife, a mother, a professional and someone involved in a number of activities.  Her questions were insightful and our discussions were honest and revealing.  I was invited to a rehearsal where I helped Priscilla with her stage presence.  I also met Frank and Dr. Rice and explored their character interpretations as well as their attitudes toward the play’s subject matter.  Like Priscilla, the gentlemen accepted me immediately and made me feel a part of the production.  I was a guest at the opening performance and had my name listed in the program as an advisor to the cast.  It was an experience I’ll always remember.

Having been blind since birth, I firmly believe that surgically restoring one’s vision later in life would have devastating consequences.  Most people who have never seen with their eyes still possess vision through their other senses, including mind and heart.  A person with restored vision would be bombarded with so much visual information so rapidly that the ability to comprehend would be overwhelming.  It is possible that a person who has never seen would not be able to process much of what a person with sight actually sees.  The actors and I agreed that if you’re going to be blind, being born blind has its advantages.  We also agreed that losing one’s sight later in life can be more difficult because of the adjustment involved.  For some, this adjustment can be long and difficult.  Others never completely make the transition.

Surveys have shown that people fear blindness more than most other conditions or diseases–even the fatal ones.  This is a visual world, and for many, it is a world which can be truly experienced and appreciated with the eye.  If people would just take the time to explore their world through senses other than sight, they would discover that there are alternative ways of seeing.  Perhaps they would be less afraid.  Perhaps they would begin to understand and appreciate.