Archive for September, 2011

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – When Will Discrimination Against Guide Dogs End?

In the past nine years of being a guide dog owner, I’ve only been asked to leave, or rather to leave my dog outside, a hand full of times, and I’m pretty sure that I’m in the minority. Here we are in 2011 and there are still reports of guide dog/service animal owners being discriminated against. When are all Americans going to realize that service animals are allowed almost everywhere?

The inspiration for my frustration comes from an article that I read today about a woman in Georgia who was forcefully removed from a Social Security Office because she had her guide dog with her. Melissa McMann and her husband were visiting their local Social Security Office to fill out paper work for their recent adoption of their daughter when a security guard told them that dogs weren’t allowed, and that they needed to leave. Mrs. McMann tried to explain to the guard that Herby was her guide dog and that he was allowed in the building. Even though the dog had his harness on and a sign that said “Working Dog for the Blind” the security officer didn’t believe that the dog could be in the building. He then grabbed Mrs. McMann and took her out of the building.

The guard has been charged with battery and the Social Security Office has apologized to Mrs. McMann, but is that enough? The ADA was passed in 1990 and 21 years later guide dogs and their owners are still asked to leave? This isn’t acceptable. As guide dog owners, all we can do is continue to educate the public about our rights, but companies and government offices need to make sure their employees know the rights of service animal users. Here’s the link to the full article. http://www.ajc.com/news/social-security-guard-faces-1185244.html

What kind of experiences of discrimination have you had as a service animal user? If you don’t have a service animal, how do you think it would feel if you used one and you were asked to leave a business or were not waited on properly because you had one with you?

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – An Employment Story: Part 2

That first job, I worked 25 hours a week as a social worker and spent the rest of the time looking for a full time job in the field for which I obtained a degree. I wasn’t utilizing the knowledge I acquired as a marriage and family therapist and for that reason alone, I needed to move forward. Working as a youth group facilitator and benefits coordinator were challenging, but neither of them would help me prepare for the family therapy licensing exam. I still had to collect 1000 clinical hours and filling in as a social worker was only satisfying the demand for the student loan payment. After eighteen months of applying the social work techniques I learned on how to finesse the Medicaid bureaucrats, I was ready to move on. I called my old rehab counselor and asked to have my case reopened based on one objective: to acquire gainful employment. After a few formalities, I was once again a client of the New York State Commission for the Blind. This time I was going to find the right job in the field I required and at the salary reflected in the post-graduate degree hanging on my wall. I didn’t know how long it would take but I wasn’t giving up.

I went back to the beginning, reestablishing the contacts I’d made since completing the internships while attending the master’s program. After 12 months, I had two leads: one was for a readjustment counselor for the Veterans Administration and the other was for a vocational rehabilitation counselor for New York State. The former was my first choice and the latter would be my back up because it required a certification program and I really didn’t want to go back to school for after completing seven years of it.

So, I applied to the VA and waited.

I have to say, however, I began to lose hope after the third month. It was a pivotal time for me and it tested my resolve. The black dog was shadowing me once again and I doubted my ability to stay strong and keep positive. I was still receiving SSDI benefits because my salary was low enough to keep them. I wanted to get off benefits because I’d been on them since 1993. I’m never going to be able to kick the dependency cycle, I thought – I’m going to be on benefits for the rest of my life. All of it was wearing me down; I just wanted to be a whole person again. It was a rough patch for me and my friends and family were my cheering squad. I kept going because they refused to let me give up. They all said I was worth it and I just had to find the right employer.

Finally, after another four months, I received the employment letter and on October 12, 2010, I became a family therapist for a Vet Center in White Plains, N.Y. It took just under three years after graduating with a master’s degree to finally be able to move forward and work in my field, gain the experience I required and hopefully soon, take my exam.

What is your employment story? Share it with us in the Reader’s Forum.

Letter from the Editor – September 26, 2011

Hello Everyone,

As always, I hope you all had a nice weekend.

We’ve got a great magazine lined up for you all this week and I hope you all enjoy it. Also, I’m still in the process of putting together a comprehensive events supplement for Fall and Winter 2011, so please feel free to continue sending in suggestions. The more the merrier.

I also want to let you all know about a series of articles that will be coming up in October. I was contacted a little while ago by a research institute that is investigating Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, something that occurs almost exclusively in people who are totally blind. This disorder results in recurring bouts of trouble falling asleep and staying awake. Since our magazine reaches many blind and visually impaired individuals throughout the United States and the rest of the world, they felt that we would be a good medium to get the word out about the study they’re doing. The articles will also serve as an opportunity to bring this issue out into the open and possibly clear up and misconceptions or questions you all may have.

The series will be made up of five parts, beginning next week with an introduction that will outline what Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder is, and will include various interviews of blind individuals who live with it. The series will then outline current treatments and ongoing research that is being performed to remedy the disorder.

These articles will be written by Lynne Lamberg, co-author of The Body Clock Guide to Better Health, published in 2000. Lynne has written extensively about sleep medicines and disorders for both physicians and the general public.

If you would like to familiarize yourself with the studies being done prior to the appearance of the articles in this magazine, you can visit www.non24registry.com or call 888-389-7033. For more information on Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, you can visit www.24sleepwake.com

Since we have had articles published in the past, as well as Reader’s Forum discussions regarding troubles sleeping and the various remedies, I thought that this series would be interesting to all of you and may answer some questions you have. I also want to point out that we are not being paid, nor are we paying to feature this series. This series will not be an advertisement for the company performing the research. If you are interested in participating in any studies that they are doing, you are free to contact them, but the main goal of this series for me was to provide all of you with the best information possible regarding a disorder that almost exclusively affects the blind and visually impaired population.

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

Take care, and thanks for reading.

Sincerely,
Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Wing Soup

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 8 Servings
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cook: 4 hours

This recipe is popular with guests and a perfect football snack. Start with a small amount of hot sauce, then add more if needed to suit your taste.

Ingredients:
6 cups Milk
3 cans light condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted, 10-3/4 ounces each
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 1 pound)
1 cup sour cream, 8 ounces
1/4 to 1/2 cup hot pepper sauce

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. So Easy!

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 cup) equals 311 calories, 17 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 97 mg cholesterol, 486 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 24 g protein.

Reader’s Forum – September 19, 2011

For your convenience, all Reader’s Forum submissions are separated by the ## symbol.

In response to Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Jerry Lewis – A Controversial Humanitarian, Heather wrote:

Hello, I am deeply saddened by the disrespectful way the MDA dismissed Jerry Lewis. I always watched some part of the telethon because my own cousin had MD. Never have I seen Jerry Lewis show any kind of disrespect for his kids. In fact, he was always so proud of their achievements. He had his kids on Oprah, the Today Show, CNN, etc. How is that being disrespectful of persons with a disability?

Those who watched the telethon regularly could see how sick he was and still always showed up for the telethon–that is dedication. I don’t think I can watch the MDA anymore after this–they showed their true colors. They showed that they don’t have any class and I wonder if they do what they say with our money!
##
In response to Feature Writer John Christie – AFB Evaluates Two Free Screen Readers, Samuel wrote:

Let me start by saluting the manufacturers of the two free speech software packages, NVDA and Thunder, who, by their technological-gesture, have opened the doors of opportunities to individuals who are blind in the developing countries to now own a speech software, use it independently to an appreciable degree on a computer, and be carried along in this computer age, thereby bridging the Digital Divide. They (the manufacturers) may never know the relief this has brought to us. Going by statistics, a great deal of persons who are blind in the developing countries are unemployed and affording any of the well-known speech software for computers, before now cost a fortune; most of us who did either used a demo or cracked version.

Forgive me if I may be sounding like Oliver Twist, but I humbly request some more, and that they also look into the manufacturing of free software for phones.
##
In response to Feature Writer John Christie – Postal Service Could Go the way of the Horse and Buggy, Heather wrote:

That seems so un-American, to get rid of the postal service. That is like not having turkey for Thanksgiving. I thought they were going to outsource the post offices to Walmart and other stores. So you have your eye center, photo center, clinic center, and than your postal center. After all, UPS does this, and it actually makes it easier because you don’t have to make a special trip to the post office. You can buy grandma’s gift at Walmart, wrap it, and then mail it. Just think, you save on gas too because you only have to make one stop!

Contributor Brian Fischler – Laugh For Sight NYC

Why don’t blind people skydive? Keep on reading to find out!

Laugh for Sight will host its Sixth Annual New York City benefit at the world famous Gotham Comedy Club on Monday, October 3, 2011. Legendary Comedians Robert Klein and Steven Wright will take the stage along with Eddie Brill, the audience warm-up at The Late Show with David Letterman, Jessica Kirson from Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, myself, Brian Fischler Top Gear U.S.A. and Co-Founder of Laugh For Sight with his guide dog Nash, and some very special surprise guests.

The night will start with a silent auction presented by Patron Spirits featuring donations from Comedy Central, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Jimmy Fallon Show, NY Yankees, Eli Manning, Charlize Theron, Top Gear U.S.A., Susan Michel Limited, Felix Rey, Kramer Portraits, Exhale Spa, and much more. The silent auction will begin at 7pm with the Comedy Benefit starting at 830PM. Tickets can be purchased on Gotham Comedy Club’s website at www.gothamcomedyclub.com, by calling 212-367-9000, or by clicking on this link http://gothamcomedyclub.com/show.cfm?id=99171&cart

General Admission Tickets are $35 and VIP Reserved Seating is $75. To make a donation for the silent auction, purchase a corporate table sponsorship, or to get involved with Laugh for Sight which holds benefits in New York City, Los Angeles, and South Beach, contact us at info@laughforsight.com. Please visit our website for updates at www.laughforsight.com, and follow us on Twitter @LaughForSight.

Oh, and blind people don’t skydive because it scares the heck out of the dogs!

Contributor Nancy Scott – New Rules

What happens when four totally blind kids play hide-and-seek in a grade school resource room? One thing is new rules.

Our game area was our classroom and a cloak room beyond. At first, we played the traditional way. I even covered my eyes (I don’t know why) when I counted to one hundred while the other three kids hid.

But one day it occurred to me that I could change hiding places if I was very quiet. So I snuck out from behind the piano as someone came toward me from the other side, and switched to hiding under the long table. It had two ends to exit from, too.

I liked not getting found. But imagine my surprise when I moved one day and heard someone else moving. Once we met I knew it was Tom because we touched hands and whispered conspiratorially.

After that, Tom and I almost never got found, unless we felt bad for Bob and Annette and let them find us. We mostly didn’t look for each other I think.

Bob and Annette never moved from their original hiding places and never caught on that Tom and I did. I don’t think they even suspected when we’d say we had hidden somewhere where they’d already looked (We are still all friends, and Tom and I confessed, once we were young adults).

But you wouldn’t catch us hiding in a cabinet. After all, it only had one way out. We did have to not get too close physically to our pursuers (they could feel air moving and hear close footsteps) so there was some timing involved as to when we could sneak out from behind or under.

Of course, we couldn’t play with sighted kids like this.

Were Tom and I smarter? Or were we more devious? I hope it was both (I wouldn’t want to just be devious).

What were the games you played with your friends when you were younger? Let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

Contributor Adrijana Prokopenko – Growing Up in Macedonia: Part 2

In 1998 I learned about a program for international students sponsored by the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia. By that time I had graduated from high school and completed my first year of university studies. I discovered that I met all of the criteria, and I was accepted into the program. I had heard many good things about education for the blind in the U.S., and I was thrilled to have this opportunity.

My parents were very happy for me. They wanted me to have a bright future and to achieve my goals, and they realized that in our country I could not get the training I needed. I am sure that at times they worried about me and felt sad that they wouldn’t be able to see me for a whole year.
Still, they also knew that if they kept me here, they couldn’t help me much and I wouldn’t be pleased either.

I entered the Overbrook program in the fall of 1998. The program was designed to teach cane travel, assistive technology, and leadership skills. I also studied English and took part in choir and sports. The teachers challenged us and expected us to work hard, so we were busy most of the day.

There were ten international students in the program. My friends were all students from countries where blind people lived much as we did in Macedonia. I related to them easily from the beginning. We were there for each other at any time of the day or night.

On the weekends we left Overbrook and stayed with host families in the Philadelphia area. At the end of the school year we took a trip to Washington, D.C. We planned the whole trip for the students and staff, from travel and accommodations, to meals and sightseeing.

After a year at Overbrook I obtained a scholarship to study at Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus. I graduated from the English teaching department in 2003. When I returned to Macedonia, I began looking for a job. Because I was blind, no one wanted to give me a chance. I went to countless interviews and was always turned down. Finally a friend of mine introduced me to another English teacher. Through her, I found some private students who came to me a few hours a month, but I still needed a fulltime job.

At last, in September 2006, I found a job at the school for the blind that I had attended as a child. I enjoy working there, and I do whatever I can to help my students.

Some things at the school have improved since I was a student there. The school recently acquired a Braille embosser, so we may soon have access to more books than ever before. However, there is still no trained staff to teach orientation and mobility, daily living skills and similar specialized courses that most blind people in the West are easily able to get. Without cane travel skills, it is very hard for blind people in Macedonia to travel independently.

Teaching blind students involves much more than teaching a particular subject. Each of my students is special in unique ways. Some want to become musicians or computer programmers. Some plan to be massage therapists or telephone operators–blind people in Macedonia have traditionally found work in these fields. I try to introduce my students to blind people who are working, and the students get very excited about these contacts. I hope that my students will have many opportunities that were not available when I was growing up. I hope they will not have to encounter the discrimination that was such an obstacle for me and for so many others.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Shooting Video Blind

I am proud to say that I have a hobby which most sighted people enjoy doing, but it is not one that I would be expected to enjoy. I like to make lengthy videos by using a small camcorder. Though people are amazed that I can actually operate a video camera without any sight, I find it easy, as long as the camera’s controls are easily identifiable. Now that we are ushering in the age of touch screens, I’m hoping that it won’t affect me too much.

I have taken videos of local softball games, house parties, high school reunions, musicians performing in night clubs, snow scenes, and flag football pick-up games. When someone sees me making my own personal movies, the obvious questions are asked. How do I know where the object is that I want to take a picture of? Do I actually see the small screen on the camera? I tell them that I aim the lens at whatever or whoever I want to take a picture of by listening. This strategy has worked well and as I became used to orienting myself towards the source of voices or a certain activity, I was able to create better shots. It takes some practice to ensure that you’re getting the shot that you want, but you’ll find that it isn’t difficult to master.

I find this hobby enjoyable for several reasons. But mainly, I get joy out of capturing fond memories which I can hear on the sound track, and that others can see when I invite them over to watch the films. I have shown my videos to several people, and for the most part they are of good quality. Would I put them on television? No, but for my own personal use, they are adequate.

I would be interested to know how many other blind people use video cameras or camcorders to make their own movies. If this is a hobby of yours as well, let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Ready, Set, Perform!

On Friday, September 9, the day of our first cabaret performance, I vowed not to engage in any strenuous activity that would cause me to become even more stressed-out than I already felt. The day seemed to drag on but once we passed the four o’clock hour, it sprouted wings and the time fairly flew.

Our color scheme was black and white for the singers and solid black for our band members. I praised myself for being able to button a most unique and intricate black silk shirt that had a good deal of buttons where some would remain open to reveal my white silk tee underneath. This I wore over black slacks. Not trusting my rusty ironing skills for such an important event, I sent the slacks to the dry cleaners and they came back in excellent condition. Next, came the jewelry. One of my birthday presents was a lovely pair of rose-shaped earrings, a delicate chain and a charming, stylized letter L. Having gone through the horrible experience of thinking I’d lost the entire ensemble at a restaurant where it was given to me, I knew without a doubt that this was the jewelry I would wear on this very special event. It all worked perfectly.

I am, by nature, a casual clothing kind of woman, but this occasion required that we not only sing well but look great–and by all accounts, we sure did! We engaged a fashion consultant to help us shop for our outfits. That was quite fun. She also came to apply our makeup just before we left for the venue. She generously gave of her time and we greatly appreciated that.

Arriving by taxi, we were promptly escorted by the Manager, to Triad NYC’s spacious green room where three singers moved to three different areas and began running words and music quietly to themselves. During this time we learned that the house had no one to take tickets. I went into panic mode but was quickly assured that the wife of our guitarist would do it. Good thing as at least fifty people chose to purchase their tickets at the door.

Without benefit of a sound check and having to position the chairs just right on the small stage, we began our show and it was positively magical. Our near-capacity audience laughed and interacted with us on a level that I hadn’t experienced for some time. What an incredible feeling. From our first note to our last we felt they were enjoying the show and were with us all the way. We’re all ready to do it again and I’ve already saved the website of a venue in which I’ve longed to perform.