Archive for February, 2011

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Handicapped Parking Law is Not Fool Proof

As you know, people who drive their own cars, yet have a disability, can use their placard to gain access to a handicapped parking space in front of a business.  If you live in Massachusetts, have a disability, and are being driven, the driver can use your placard in order to park in that same handicapped spot.  But here is where there’s a loop hole in the law–one that, unfortunately, we can’t really solve very easily. 

If you drive me to a store, and I give you my placard to put on your windshield while you wait for me, how can you prove that I was ever in your car without the cops taking your word for it?  For all the police know, you could have found anyone’s placard in a dumpster, or on a side walk, or borrowed it a year ago, because the police only check your car without bothering to find out where I am.  If you’re not in the car, either, it’s worse.  All the cops do is see a placard in your window, and without knowing if it belongs to you, your relative, or nobody, they conclude you’re not breaking the law.  The police could be checking to see if you are parked legally in the handicapped space by seeing my picture on the placard, and meanwhile I could have found another ride home from the store, or maybe I wasn’t with you in the first place.  How would the police know for sure, even though you were totally honest in finding that handicapped parking place?  There is a lot of potential for abuse under these guidelines, if you really stop to think about it.

For example, say I regained all my sight and was able to drive a car.  One day I decide that I’m going to be lazy because I don’t feel like walking a long distance.  I go to my neighbor, who has a disability, and I say, “Can I borrow your placard.”  If my neighbor gave me the placard, I could drive into any handicapped space I wanted, without my neighbor with me, and no one would know the difference, so I’d get away with all this abuse.  The police don’t ask where the person with the disability is; they only want to know that if I’m parking in a handicapped space, I have someone’s placard on the windshield.  This morning I went to the dentist, and my driver wanted my placard in order to park closer to the building.  What if a lovely dental assistant took me back to her place while my driver was still parked outside with my placard?  The cops would never question my whereabouts after not giving my driver a ticket.

I think something different should be added to the law to keep everybody honest.  What do you think?  Any suggestions?  Let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – A Beautiful Indian Summer Day

It was Tuesday morning, October 26, 2010.  I looked at the time–already twenty after nine–and I was worried that I had missed my appointment with a new orientation and mobility instructor.   I phoned her and luckily she said that she would arrive at my apartment in forty minutes.

Taking note of the warm air coming in through the window, I dressed in cotton slacks and a tee shirt.  The intercom buzzed and I let her come in.  After introductions and necessary paper work were taken care of, we started our day. 

We first went to my storage room located in the basement.  We put a rubber band on the doorknob so I could easily identify which room belonged to me.  We then took to the outdoors.  The breeze was warm, hinting at what was probably one of the last warm days of the year.  We walked in the direction of the trash bins and I remember smelling herbs flowering around the leafy trees.   We could not identify them, but they could have been bayberries, evergreen, spearmint, or basil.  We didn’t stop too long because we still had much to do.

As we walked, we appreciated the warming sunshine–days like this would now be rare.  As we walked, I practiced using echo-location to find the trash bins along the way.  Echo-location is the ability to sense the presence of objects, walls, bushes, or other objects by using sound to identify them and their proximity to you.  Mobility instructors approve and encourage this as an adjunct to using our canes. 

After reviewing the route, we walked from 600 Pennsylvania Avenue to 500 Atlantic Avenue.   I discovered that this route, although challenging, was doable, especially with the nicer weather.  As our journey progressed, we noticed the summer-like intensity of the sunshine, and it felt like it could easily be over 70 degrees. 

When we reached Atlantic Avenue, we noticed the sharp increase in traffic.  My instructor remarked that all she could see were steps, but I assured her that there was a ramp that lead to the gym and office, our final destination.  Our plan to map out the route was successful and I was able to visualize it and get there with ease.  I also created Braille directions to carry with me.

On our way back home, as we walked on Pennsylvania Avenue, I was struck by the difference in the environment.  Atlantic Avenue had so much more traffic, but Pennsylvania Avenue was pleasantly much quieter, with more trees and garden-style apartments.  It made for a peaceful walk back through the waning summer breeze.  Though, upon returning to my apartment we found that we had to shed unnecessary outerwear.  It had gotten quite warm.

We bid each other goodbye, and after she left I turned on my window fan to enjoy the odd Indian summer weather.   While normally very short-lived, I recall this spell of mild weather lasted until mid-November.

I was reminded of this by the unseasonable weather we’re having now.  As of this writing, we have had three spring-like days in February with temperatures in the fifties and sixties.  With spring on our doorstep, we will soon have warm sunny days melting tall snow drifts and the blossoming of daffodils and the chirping of robins to usher in the spring season.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – ‘Nighty ‘Night!

How true it is that you only miss something once you don’t have it.  And, oh, how dearly I miss the restorative, regular six-hour night’s sleep I so took for granted when it was mine to snore away.  These days, my sleep is divided into little more than fitful bursts of two-hour cat-naps, which leave me feeling slow-witted and dull once my teaching is done. That is the surprising thing, I have been able to teach through the fog but by no means have I been at one hundred percent.  This malady comes as I am snarling through learning the whereabouts of familiar functions and features in the latest version of Microsoft’s Office–2010.  Thankfully, my mind is like the proverbial steel trap when it comes to learning and teaching new commands.  Accustomed to cramming dozens of keystrokes and sequences of steps in my crazy brain, I am perfectly capable of awakening from a deep sleep and accurately rattling off such maneuvers as inserting a table–using that annoying Ribbon Bar. Is that impressive or horrifying?  Perhaps a bit of both.

Remedies, you ask?  Advil PM sits patiently waiting in our medicine cabinet. Hmm. Is it feasible to take that when I don’t have pain?  The natural substance, melatonin, has also been recommended but I’m wary of taking a new drug that might cause unwanted and/or unknown side effects.  My solutions?  Caffeinated beverages are off-limits during evening hours, including my favorite brand of hot chocolate.  Sheepishly, I admit to indulging in a few pieces of delicious chocolate candy acquired for Valentine’s Day.  But how much caffeine could a few morsels have, really? Additionally, I’m trying to regulate my sleep by forcing myself to stay awake during the day and go to bed at around 11:00pm or midnight.  This is working, with varying degrees of success.  I am staying up longer but I’m ready to crawl between the sheets by 8:00pm.  Better than 2:00pm but not ideal as we have two ensemble rehearsals that do not end until after 7:00pm.  Too tired to even grab my coat and sweater to make the area more inviting, last week, while waiting for Maria, I fell sound asleep with my head on a hard table.  Now that’s sleepy!

Realizing that I have a few stressors that might be contributing to this dreadful sleep deprivation, I am in the process of completing tasks that might become aggravation points.  Certain you’ll think me mad, I announce that I delighted in writing reports while lying in bed.  Why? My mind was calm and I used an easy-to-use, legacy notetaker.  I’m hoping that as organization returns to my life, so will my beloved sleep pattern.   Sleep well, readers.

Have you had trouble sleeping?  What were your remedies?  Let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Can the Blind Walk in a Straight Line?

I can only speak for myself, but I’m not sure that I’m capable of walking in a straight line. This is evidenced by when I walk unassisted in my own house, and run into things because I think I’m walking straight, when in fact I’m not. Since this is something that has bothered me for a while, I decided to find out what the research says. I asked my question to The Naked Scientists, a weekly science podcast that is produced by Cambridge University. The show hosts were so fascinated by my question that they decided to make it a part of their show called “Question of the week.”  I’m sad to report that the research shows that in fact the blind have a difficult time walking in a straight line, and so do the sighted when they’re blind folded.

Numerous studies have been done to look at this phenomenon, and they all have demonstrated that when the brain doesn’t have something visually to focus on, that humans are not able to walk straight. What makes it even more frustrating, is that the blind folded, and blind study participants almost always think they’re walking in a straight line, when in fact they are not. What ends up happening when there is no visual focus, is that we walk in circles. It seems that our canes and guide dogs serve much more of a service than just getting us around obstacles.

Here is the link to my question of the week on the Naked Scientists.

And here is a piece called “A Mystery: Why Can’t We Walk Straight” from Robert Krulwich on NPR.

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – What I Want to Remember: Part 1

(Previously published in Dialogue Magazine: Spring 2011)

I lost my sight at the age of 28, and resigned from my job because of it. I worked as a designer for an acrylic furniture company and could no longer perform my duties, which were all visual in nature. I mourned this part of my life more than any other because I didn’t know how to take all the creative energy and transfer it into something else. One night, out of sheer frustration, I began to write. First it was poetry, most of it fanciful and meaningless. This turned into journaling and short stories, which led to some successful small press literary magazines publishing my work. It wasn’t until much later, when I was in college, that I realized I’d made the transition from expressing myself with the visual arts to those of the literary kind.  From this point, I resolved to develop my talent because I knew it would become an essential part of learning how to successfully live with a disability.

What I didn’t realize back then was that re-training my mind was the cornerstone of the transition into blindness. I will always remember what life was like before it and I am grateful that I do have the visual references of the first 26 years of my life to help me go forward.

Images have a way of tattooing themselves to the psyche. If they are referenced enough, one will never forget them.  All writers use this sensory recall as an essential tool to enhance the craft. What I didn’t know at the time was that developing it would one day help me deal with losing my sight.

I call this my soul sense, and it incorporates personal visual experiences with other sensory skills, like touch, sound, smell, and taste.

For instance, when I hear a jet plane, my mind cues up the image; when someone points out a beautiful sunset, I recall one. I use the power of observation to keep the memories close, that way I will never be without a reference.

Of course there will be surprises, like when I expected the Napa leather bag to be black or brown and the sales clerk told me it was electric blue.  I’d never seen electric blue leather bags, so it took me a moment to put the image and the color together in my mind.

Blindness is a way of being, a distinct circumstance in which a person learns how to navigate through life.  To ignore it means we are ignoring ourselves and denying the personal growth to cope with the emotional nature of living without it.

Letter from the Editor

Hello Everyone!

Well, while the unseasonably warm weather was unfortunately very short-lived, I hope all of you enjoyed the long weekend.

Last week, the January audio edition was made available on our website and the direct download link was sent to the audio edition subscribers.  If you wish to subscribe to the audio edition mailing list to receive the link automatically, please let me know by emailing and putting audio edition subscription in the subject.

This week we have a great mix of articles from our feature writers as well as a few contributors.  A new reader’s forum is included which I hope will encourage all of you to continue sending in submissions so that we can eventually make this a weekly installment in the magazine.

That should cover everything for now.  I hope you all have a great week.  Think spring!

Take care, and as always, thanks for reading.


Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Marmalade Chicken for Two

This recipe for two is perfect for the Valentine in your life.

From at

Orange marmalade and freshly grated orange zest make a deliciously tangy sauce for quick-cooking chicken tenders. Serve with brown rice.

2 servings, Active Time: 20 minutes, Total Time: 20 minutes


1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

1 tablespoon orange marmalade

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

8 ounces chicken tenders

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 large shallot, minced

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest


1. Whisk broth, vinegar, marmalade, mustard and cornstarch in a medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

3. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and shallot to the pan and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 30 seconds. Whisk the broth mixture and add it to the pan. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer; cook until the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Add the chicken; return to a simmer. Cook, turning once, until the chicken is heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in orange zest.


Per serving : 213 Calories; 8 g Fat; 1 g Sat; 5 g Mono; 68 mg Cholesterol; 10 g Carbohydrates; 27 g Protein; 0 g Fiber; 246 mg Sodium; 55 mg Potassium

1/2 Carbohydrate Serving

Exchanges: 1/2 other carbohydrate, 3 1/2 very lean meat

Tips & Notes

Note: Chicken tenders are the virtually fat-free strips of rib meat typically found attached to the underside of chicken breasts. They can also be purchased separately. Four 1-ounce tenders will yield a 3-ounce cooked portion. Tenders are perfect for quick stir-fries, chicken satay or kid-friendly breaded “chicken fingers.”

Contributor Fred Sanderson – Valentine’s Day Every Day

Valentine’s Day is often thought of as a showing of gratitude and appreciating relationships (usually between couples), expressed through the giving of cards, candy, or flowers.  It is also associated with the word “love.”  Using the acronym “L O V E” this article will set forth some principles that, if followed, can make every day “Valentine’s Day.”

The letter L stands for listen.  When a person listens to his or her companion, and lets the speaker know through words or gestures that he or she understands what is being said, the listener feels valued and appreciated.  The speaker and listener do not have to agree with each other, but the fact that they can both understand and respect one another’s opinions will do much to strengthen relationships.

The letter O stands for observe.  In the context of relationships, the observed person feels important and pleased that the observer is taking note of what matters.  Facts to be observed might include: What does might companion like to eat, drink, or wear? What does my companion enjoy reading or discussing?  Does my companion enjoy crowds and large parties, or does he or she prefer small groups and quiet activities?  Does my companion enjoy watching or participating in sports?  Knowing these facts will make relating to a companion much easier.

The letter V stands for value.  Whatever a companion might enjoy doing or believing, he or she deserves to be respected, even when the partner may hold opposite views.  Criticism or destructive comments have no place in the kind of relationship described here. If two people find that they cannot frequently agree to disagree positively, then the relationship is in jeopardy.

The letter E stands for express.  It is essential to let others in relationships know, both by words and actions, that they are valued, that they make a difference in your life, and that you appreciate their being part of your life.  Failure to express feelings of gratitude and appreciation for another can result in that person feeling taken for granted, endangering the health of the relationship.

In conclusion, if listening, observing, valuing, and expressing are practiced on a regular basis, every day will be Valentine’s Day, for these elements are the building blocks that maintain and strengthen relationships between people.

Contributor Judith E. Vido – Once Upon a Valentine’s

Valentine’s Day is upon us and you’re gonna love this one–I hate Valentine’s Day! There was a time when I waited hopefully for the day of love, to see if by some magic I would be sent dozens of roses by some mysterious admirer. And, every year at the stroke of midnight when they had not been delivered, I would cry. I would feel unwanted, unloved, and blame it all on–hmm, who would I blame it on? Men? That doesn’t seem quite fair, now does it? Oh well, maybe I’ll think of the guilty party later (It surely couldn’t be me).

I remember one year the Prince Charming of my dreams (and my nightmares) showed up at my place about seven thirty Valentine’s evening. Snow had begun earlier in the afternoon, and it was a winter wonderland outside. This was the most beautiful, enchanted Valentine’s days I remember.

We ate dinner, but the gentleman did nothing but go on and on about his housemate–ahem, a woman–and how she was so depressed because she and her boyfriend had recently broken up. It seemed she was lying in bed, Camille-like, waiting for a long-distance phone call from some dude with which she had reacquainted herself. After listening to all this for an hour, he said we should go over to his place and check on her.

Dummy that I am, I agreed. We walked in snow up to our knees from the drifts and made the six or so blocks. When we arrived, he went to check on the damsel in distress, and I waited in the kitchen.  She didn’t even come out to say hi.

When my prince charming came back to finally be with me, we sat, and sat, and sat. At last the long-awaited call came for the lady fair, and we–you got it–sat some more.

At some point he went to check on her again. The call was over and the guy wanted to just be her friend.

Fair lady collapsed in tears and Prince Charming decided it was time for us to leave so, get this, he could come back to be with the poor thing while she was so depressed. At this point, “Camille” left her death bed and came to utter some inane remark to me about how she hoped I didn’t mind Prince Charming checking on her–he is such a good friend (I wanted to scratch her eyes out, but I didn’t).

We walked, well, he dragged me through the snow, still falling heavily, back home in half the time. Once there, he wished me a good night and left.  Happy Valentine’s Day to me.

That is my most memorable Valentine’s Day. The rest are just a blur of fantasy, wishes, and unfulfilled romantic dreams. After enough years of such disappointments, l just learned to not give a hoot.  Now I hate it rather than just ignore it because I never know if I am supposed to do something or not.  It’s very confusing–I feel for you men.

Now here we are again, another Valentine’s Day straight ahead. And I tell you, I’m not buying anything this year. A cup of coffee and a nice big hug is good enough for me.  Still, I don’t begrudge you your romantic dreams or your Prince Charmings. Go for it, with my blessings! I sure did, once upon a time, a long time ago.

Contributor Martin Jaeger – Wanted: Blind Bowlers

My nephew, Arthur, would like to join a BBA (Blind Bowlers Association), but there is no such thing. He would even settle for a handful of blind veterans that would like to bowl once a week.

Arthur was drafted during the Vietnam War.  There, he sustained injuries, not from throwing hand grenades at machine gun nests and tanks ala John Wayne, but from a motor vehicle accident, when the truck he was in was forced off the road and flipped over. At that moment, his future dreams were crushed. His mind was confused, he couldn’t concentrate, his perception of reality was distorted, and his sight was fuzzy, blurred, and filled with floaters.  He was taken to a hospital, where brain surgery was performed, and he was told he might not live or see again.

After his discharge, he spent years trying to find a job–he had given up all thoughts of being a statistician, the career for which he had had been trained. He had lost the ability to do simple arithmetic problems. With hard work, he eventually overcame many of his disabilities and found employment with the IRS. But then, six years ago, at age sixty one, he lost sight in one eye and had to retire. He returned to the Veterans Facility in Sepulveda, California for care. 

Sadly, six months ago he lost the sight in his other eye, and became legally blind. He became a prisoner at home–confined to his own sink hole. He knew about the thriving world outside, but it was beyond his grasp; he felt like a building had collapsed on him.  However, a few rays of sunlight somehow peeked through the clouds.

Arthur was sent to the VA in Palo Alto for training at the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center. Whatever you think of the government, the Center in Palo Alto is phenomenal–a life saver. And while we all have the impression the government is going to mess up, Arthur’s case makes you feel that they managed to get something right. For three months, they gave Arthur special training on the latest equipment that would help him adapt to the new world. They even sent him home with a ton of equipment. He has talking computers so he can type. He has a ruler that reads out inches. He has a device that will identify colors for him. He has an audible device that will find studs in the wall.

He’s even getting a powered wheel chair. You are probably thinking the VA is going too far letting a blind person drive a powered wheel chair. The VA wants the blind veterans to be able to live life to its fullest potential. Arthur has some vision, and with special training it was possible to teach him to operate a powered wheel chair and any day he will receive it.

But Arthur wants more. One of the recreational activities the center provided was bowling. By taking him out to bowl, they reinvigorated his love of the game.

Now, Arthur is more optimistic than he has been in years. He’s doing something he would never have dreamt of doing: putting together a group of blind bowlers who’ll meet every week. He plans to contact a bowling alley and maybe if he’s lucky, get a free lane. Soon the word will be going out: Wanted, bowlers. Only blind ones need apply.