Archive for February, 2012

Reader’s Forum for the Week of February 21, 2012

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

In response to Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Has Time Life Heard of the ADA? Stuart wrote:

In Terry Winaught’s article about the problems of contacting Time Life, all that I can say is, it ain’t fun trying, they just don’t get it. I have had to get friends to check out the infomercials and obtain the numbers for me; however, when I mentioned the problem in the subsequent calls, they just didn’t get it, no one understood, it was like “talking to the wall.” I would ask to speak to a supervisor; however, that didn’t get anywhere either, they just cannot put 2 and 2 together, it’s like, in their heads, the elevator doesn’t go all the way to the penthouse.
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In response to Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – I Hear Jazz in You, Chela wrote:

I’m a totally blind jazz trumpeter and tenor singer. I’m a total jazz fanatic, in fact I’ve studied jazz since I was 13. I also have Hal Leonard’s Real Book volume One 12 CD set but it has only the piano bass and drums, so one would have to provide the melody and noodle around the solo section and you can get it from www.jazzbooks.com, just be aware it is around 97 dollars! I highly recommend it for all musicians. Also I think you’d like Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue. In fact I have both the album and the book Kind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis Masterpiece by Ashley Kahn and Jimmy Cobb which I scanned and submitted with some help in the proofing from a fellow bookshare volunteer to get it onto bookshare.org and it will definitely change your perspective on the album and you’ll even listen to it differently, shoot I know I do!

Sincerely,
Trumpeter Chela Robles
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In response to Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Paying Disabled Workers Less Than Minimum Wage Must End, Dave wrote:

I would like to comment on some of the items about sheltered workshops.

First off, some sheltered shops do pay minimum wage or more. The National Federation of the Blind has worked long and hard many years ago to enable blind men and women to obtain good jobs and wages when working in shops. However, there are still some shops that do not pay minimum wage and the working conditions are very poor. To some, it may well be the only place blind people can obtain work, and some work is better than no work at all. The NFB is working to make jobs more accessible to blind people. All we want in the NFB is choice, the NFB does not put down blind people working in sheltered shops, NFB does not like the way blind people are treated. There is lots of money to be made out there, blind people just want their fair share.

I used to work at Alphapointe Association for the Blind, they lay off a lot of blind people while the sighted remain on the job. The new director has demoted most of the blind guys who were supervisors, some of their jobs at the Association require some good vision, not all of Alphapointe’s manufacturing jobs are blind friendly, benefits have been cut unless you are a permanent employee, and those who are on call don’t have any benefits.

It used to be a good place to work for a young guy getting some work experience 30 years ago. The former director and assistance director encouraged blind guys to try and do better for themselves, that’s not the case today. A sheltered workshop is some place to work in a pinch after losing a job like myself back in 1995 until my disability started again, I got the lump sum 5 months that blind people receive because there is no waiting period for blind reapplying for disability for blindness a 2nd time, other disabilities have to go through a waiting period no matter.

Blind people are exempt from the 2nd waiting period or more times. We have pretty good benefits working in the states BEP vending stand facilities, but not everyone is vending material, we need to be less picky about where to work and swallow our pride some, because of this economy most people can’t be choosy about where they work, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, things will eventually get better, in the meantime we need to do what we can to survive, just like everyone else, be glad we have what we do have compared to other blind people in other countries.
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In response to Sally’s post regarding issues navigating within Word Pad, Edward wrote:

Sally should do the following: place five karats “^^^^^” or five at-signs “@@@@@” where she stops reading the word pad book. Every time she opens the word pad book, she first has to search for the “^^^^^” or “@@@@@” punctuation marks.

She has to make sure that she saves the word pad book after adding the punctuation marks and as she reads she has to move the punctuation marks.

News – Eight Year Old College Student Doesn’t Like Being Called Genius

I have no clue what was going through my mind when I was eight years old, but it certainly had nothing to do with midterm grades in my college courses. The more likely scenario involved me trying to figure out how to get the Frisbee out of the tree–and the baseball bat that we used to try to get it the first time.

Moshe Kai Calvin is a very unique kid, but he hates being called a genius. Though, it’s tough to think of him as anything but. At age eight he enrolled at East Los Angeles Community College and in 2009, at age 11, earned his first of two Associates of Arts degrees. He graduated with a 4.0 GPA, as well. Now 14 years old, and preparing to graduate from UCLA, he’s also just published and English version of his book called “We Can Do.”

Don’t let the short title fool you, because this 100-page book serves as a guideline for other young people to follow in his footsteps by keeping themselves focused and setting every goal with extreme commitment. “People need to know you don’t really need to be a genius, you just have to work hard and you can accomplish anything,” he said.

Focus is a big part of his life and he limits himself to 4 hours of TV a week. But don’t think that his nose is firmly inserted into a book all day, either. Calvin loves SCUBA diving, soccer, and martial arts and makes time for all of these activities in between his study schedule.

Calvin is currently attending UCLA as a math major, lives in student housing with his parents, and attends the school on a scholarship. After earning his bachelor’s degree in the near future, he plans to enroll in a graduate program with the inevitable goal of earning a doctorate. With his track record, maybe he’ll get two.

When asked what his plans are for the future outside of his education, he laughed and said, “Who knows […] That’s just too far into the future for me to see.”

Might I suggest a driver’s license?

Source: http://www.austin360.com/watercooler/boy-geniuss-book-reveals-life-in-college-at-2176441.html

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Beware of Your Supported Environment

When a blind person, particularly someone with other limitations, chooses to receive home care or other assistance, they should be extremely careful about how they choose the proper agency and its staff. It’s been documented by many clients that some of these workers have a tendency or a desire to take charge of the client’s environment, leaving the client helpless to take care of their own property. For example, some homemakers take over the kitchen, use the items, and put them back wherever they want without the client’s input. Not only does this behavior leave the client helpless, but it may prove to be dangerous.

Recently, a blind friend of mine had a homemaker work in his kitchen. When the homemaker’s job was done, he quickly put things back where he thought they should go without telling my friend where he put them. At one point, the homemaker had two bottles which looked exactly alike. One had bleach in it while the other had orange juice. In his haste to put things away, the homemaker placed the bleach in the refrigerator and the orange juice in the cabinet. Being that the homemaker didn’t realize his mistake, he could not let my friend know what he had done. When my friend went to get orange juice out of the refrigerator, he used what little vision he had to recognize that the bottle contained bleach instead of juice, catching the homemaker’s mistake just in time. Can you imagine what could have happened if my friend didn’t have any usable vision to detect this error? I don’t even want to think about it.

When someone is hired to work in your home, it is imperative that the worker put things back the way you want them, or just lets you put them back. In my own personal opinion, if the worker fails to comply, you should correct them or get another worker. Blind people with other limitations, or anyone else with similar problems, must be proactive and make sure they hire the proper agency staff who will show more respect for the client’s independence.

Just because a client has some limitations, it doesn’t mean they’re an invalid. We all want to know where everything is, and not be at the mercy of some egomaniacal workers who don’t care.

Feature Writer Terri Winaught – How Did It All Begin?

While Valentine’s Day has come and gone and the chocolates are all eaten and decorations put away, I still wondered how it all began. So I went searching. Have you ever wondered, like me, if there was actually a person named “Valentine” in whose honor this holiday is celebrated? Well it turns out that there was such a person, and he was actually quite remarkable.

The reign of Claudius II was marked by significant persecution of Christians in Rome. As part of that sentiment, it was unlawful to render any aid to Christians. Despite that illegality, Valentinus, believed to be either a priest or a bishop, was helping Christians by marrying them. Valentinus was subsequently arrested and jailed for his good deed, but even incarceration couldn’t stop him from living and spreading his faith.

According to one account of his time spent in prison, Valentinus tried to convert his jailers. During this process, one guard allegedly told the priest, “I have a daughter who is blind,” and asked the priest to pray for her. The priest prayed, and was later informed that the daughter’s sight had been restored.

The night before Valentinus was executed, according to this account, he wrote a note to the guard’s daughter in which he said, “Be my Valentine.” The year in which Valentinus is believed to have been martyred was 270 A.D.

Though we may never know which parts of the history of Valentine’s Day are legend or speculation, what is true is that there really was a saint who demonstrated the purity of unconditional love by being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to practice a loving faith.

I obtained the above information from an Internet radio show entitled, “Embrace Your Vision,” hosted by Judy Redlich. To hear a podcast of Judy’s program about Valentine’s Day, visit www.judyredlich.com and follow the links, or access the program directly by going to http://webtalkradio.net/2012/02/14/embrace-your-vision-%e2%80%93-more-than-just-valentines-day/.

Judy’s website will also tell you about the full life and career of this dynamic woman who just happens to be blind.

To suggest a topic for Judy’s show or to tell your story, E-mail jredlichspeaks@att.net

Feature Writer John Christie – A Helping Hand to Those in Need

Debbie Gleeson had a dream of helping other people in poor and underdeveloped countries–and it remained a dream until she saw a documentary about a woman from Quebec named Nicole Pageau. Pageau ran a center in Rwanda for orphans and widows. The women started emailing each other and that’s when Gleeson decided to go to Rwanda to assist disadvantaged people and give of herself.

Gleeson, who is very giving of herself, makes two trips to Rwanda every year. On her trips, she brings three suitcases of things to help the people. She brings sewing machines and teaches women how to make school uniforms and also helps street orphans by passing out shoes. She has also taught multiple people how to use a computer.

One of her first projects was to bring the Seika Braille Display to a blind couple who went to college and were married. By bringing this Braille display to Pierre and Vanantie, a friendship soon developed. She quickly learned that it was unusual for blind people to be living on their own, with Pierre employed as a massage therapist. Through this relationship, she learned that blind people are generally illiterate, abandoned, and unskilled. There are also no government programs to provide training for children or adults. Vanantie, who graduated from college in December, went to college as part of an experimental program from the government and the college provided a computer and sighted classmates to help her.

Gleeson says that the blind couple is quickly becoming advocates for the disabled. They try to help people with disabilities as best they can in spite of their limited resources.

The couple has two children and lives in a house given to them by the government. They have also taken in a blind woman named Emily. This woman lived in a hut with palm leaves and tin. With no training, she desperately needed people to bring her food. Now, she has gained confidence and is learning Braille. Pierre has also distributed 150 canes to blind people in various villages by obtaining a cargo van.

Gleeson lamented that she was only permitted to carry three suitcases when she travels. But now, with new government regulations, she will be only able to take two suitcases because luggage limitations.

Debbie’s husband hopes to join her on her next trip. However, with illness in her family, she may only be able to make one trip in 2012. In the near future, the couple hopes to build a house or a school. For more information on her work in Rwanda, you can go to the following resources: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw130207. You can also go to her blog at: http://www.dgrwanda.blogspot.in/.

Hopefully, with help from Gleeson the blind couple that she is helping will be a great example of what other blind people can accomplish. Maybe, through this experience, the government will appropriate money towards services for the blind and disabled.

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Renovations of the Heart: Part 3 (Fiction)

My heart was in two places, and until that moment, I didn’t want to admit it. If it was like this after fifteen years, there was no hope, I thought, watching Walt and his fiancé hold hands while we waited at the reception’s bar for drinks. My husband couldn’t come and even though Cara was with me, I felt lonely. It didn’t matter that my husband needed to work so we could come to the reception.

After a few drinks and an hour of dancing, I got my white cane and headed outside. Cara was busy with a few kids she’d met and I took the opportunity to slip out after letting their mom know where I was going.

“Want some company?” asked Walt, appearing beside me. Once outside, he put my hand on his arm and we walked around the garden. “Are you happy?” I asked.

He stopped and seemed to consider the question before answering. “Yes. I’m doing what I love to do; I’m with someone I think I can spend the rest of my life with, so, yeah, I’m happy.” He squeezed my hand against his side for emphasis. I felt his bicep bulge.

“What about you, Amy?”

I leaned into him for a moment, then sighed and let go of his arm.

“I’ve got so much to be thankful for, my marriage, my kids, and my family. For a long time after my diagnosis, I pushed them away. I didn’t want them feeling like I did, you know? But it’s better–I’m getting there, getting back to being me.”

“What’s it like—going blind, I mean.”

“Not being able to control it. Not knowing when it will get worse is what I hate the most about it,” I answered. I knew he was looking at me. I reached up and touched his cheek; I wished I could see his hazel eyes one last time.

“I’m going to be okay” I said, and fell in beside him. We walked back to the reception, my arm tucked securely into the crook of his elbow.

I knew I didn’t have to say I was scared about losing my sight, about living with the anger or the fear. Walt knew. He understood, and, if I’d learned anything about him during our friendship, it was that he respected and admired me for fighting my way through the slush pile called disability.

“Amy, did I ever tell you how amazing you are?” he said, and leaned in to kiss me. It was just like the one he shared the day he finished renovating our kitchen. There were so many times I wanted to know what he thought about me, about my life, my decisions but I was too afraid to ask. Too afraid to let anyone get close enough to see my pain.

But those words and that kiss provided me with the answer I’d ached to hear for so many years. He validated our past and the future with a simple set of words and gestures, what I will always remember as a renovation of the heart.

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – Home Again

After spending ten days at the campus of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, I took a nice, long ride back to Hartford, CT. As we drove north, I noticed a bit of snow cover on the ground from a weak snow event that happened the night before I left the campus. When we arrived home, the driver from Guiding Eyes helped me assemble the new crate that had arrived for Meyer. When we entered my apartment, Meyer walked around and sniffed his way through every room. After the trainer left, Meyer ran laps around the apartment for five minutes. I could already tell that he liked to slide on the carpeting. One thing became quickly apparent during our first few hours at home–Meyer was a young, fit dog, whereas Whitlee was an older dog who was not interested in running laps. It was true that she had slowed down considerably and I could really see the difference between the two dogs once I got back home in my own space.

I began my five days of home training with Kathy, the field rep from Guiding Eyes. Our first walk took place the morning after a three inch snowfall. This meant that most sidewalks were not properly cleared, which was good because I got to see how Meyer would deal with snow piles at the curbs. At first, our walk went fine. Then, we encountered a barking dog stationed behind a fence. I know this dog well from the many walks I did with Whitlee. When we encountered this dog, Whitlee would just keep going and ignore the dog. Meyer, however, thought it was suddenly play time. It is such a high level of a distraction for a guide dog to come upon another dog that is behind a fence barking, jumping and running as we try to pass. In this case the property runs parallel to the sidewalk for an entire block, so it was very difficult getting past this other dog with Meyer. We must have worked through this situation for at least 30 minutes. Kathy gave me some techniques to use to help Meyer learn to ignore the dog and focus on me. After all, a guide dog needs to focus on their person in order to keep them safe. I thought time stood still as we worked through the situation and I didn’t think I would ever be able to handle this on my own. But finally, after lots of work, Meyer and I made it past the noisy dog and continued on our way. When we got back home, I was mentally exhausted from the experience and I realized that I would have to use the tools Kathy gave me every time we passed this other dog. I couldn’t avoid walking and working Meyer just because of that distraction, I had to learn to be confident and consistent.

It is important to note that when I got Meyer, even though I intended to approach the situation with no expectations, that just wasn’t the case. It was very easy to expect him to act just like Whitlee. It was easy to expect him to work and perform just as Whitlee performed and that is not a fair thing to do to him. After all, he has his own personality and, like Whitlee, he has his strengths and weaknesses. It is my daily task to remember this and give him the fair chance he deserves.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Six Great Accessible Websites for Blind Computer Users

Whether you are new to using your first or second computer there are some intellectual challenges while learning email, Microsoft Word, or the internet.

In the summer of 2003, I took lessons at Fitchburg Public library to familiarize myself with Microsoft Word, email, and websites. I finally received my computer late that September and was curious to explore the world of the internet.

After almost nine years, and a bunch of trial and error, I have a few favorite websites I keep returning to because they are entertaining and often educational, but more importantly, they are very accessible. Here I will highlight six websites which are blind-friendly and informative. I often lose track of time when visiting them and they are a breeze to navigate.

www.perkins.org has information about the Perkins School for the Blind, their history, and updates about upcoming events at the school. It also informs you about innovative programs for both children and adolescents. Perkins not only offers blindness products, but an impressive collection of locally-written and produced books as well. These books are recorded at the Lacey Recording studio, a part of Perkins’ large Talking Book and Braille Library. Subjects range from the history of Boston and Massachusetts as a whole, biographies of local sports and political figures, and some good local fiction.

www.homereaders.com and its new site, www.blindaudio.com, offer catalogs, cookbooks, and informational books. They recently expanded and now have a Braille division. You may have already heard of them, as they produce the Schwans food catalog and preparation guide.

www.smallflowers.com is an online apothecary to discover older and newer fragrances, Yardley of London, Maja, and other health, bath, and body products. Everything is listed alphabetically by scent brand and country. Customer service is friendly and they are aware if what you request is available.

www.carroll.org is where they carry items like talking thermometers and other useful accessible products. They inform you of events and new distance learning classes taught from the Carroll Center as well.

www.walgreens.com is where you can find everything from groceries to appliances. You can also learn information about specific diseases or a drug’s side effects.

www.vermontcountrystore.com is where you go to discover New England fare, delicious, Vermont maple syrup, balsam draft stoppers, or request hard to find items. Their customer service is wonderful and they really care about making their site accessible. When elderly and blind customers complained because there site became difficult to navigate they listened to us.

What websites do other Ziegler readers like and why do you like them?

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Missouri Panel Suggests Cutting Medicaid for the Blind to Pay for Higher Education

Throughout the country, states are trying to balance their budgets and change how they fund certain programs. In the state of Missouri, the governor has requested that 65 million more dollars be given to higher education. This, in my opinion, is a good thing. But in order to raise the funds given to higher education, funding has to be cut somewhere else or taxes must be raised. The panel that creates budgets for the Health and Human Services Department has decided to recommend ending Medicaid funding for the blind to pay for higher education. This is not only irresponsible–it is cruel.

The unemployment rate amongst the blind is 70%, much higher than the rest of the population. Many blind citizens live on SSI or SSDI and use Medicaid as their health insurance. Some don’t realize that many of the blind in this country either have other disabilities or medical conditions which cause them to need more medical care than non-disabled people. This, as well as the reality that most blind people aren’t able to buy their own insurance, is why Medicaid is provided to them in the first place.

The article points out that there is no income limit for the blind to qualify for Medicaid in Missouri, and some may think this is unfair. I could see this rule being changed to ensure that the blind Missourians who need aid the most receive Medicaid rather than all blind Missourians. But, to cut off the program completely is simply going too far.

These recommendations have been sent to the budget committee where they will likely be changed, but the point is that they were made in the first place, and it could happen in other states given the current economic situation. I recommend that Missouri readers contact their state legislator to let them know how losing their Medicaid would affect them. Here’s a link to the article that discusses this issue: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/panel-votes-to-cut-blind-benefit-from-medicaid/article_c61ec7a4-c071-51b5-bfdc-adea5f936b45.html

What are your thoughts on this? While higher education is important, does it outweigh the importance of providing medical care to those who need it most?

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Where Has All Your Money Gone?

Getting and keeping our finances organized is definitely a priority for many of us. To that end, I offer this tiny tutorial on using Microsoft Excel to at least figure out where your money has gone. This is a mainstay lesson in my MS-Excel course, which moves nicely from version to version and is screen-reader and screen-magnification friendly.

With MS-Excel open, practice moving around the spreadsheet by pressing your directional arrows. You should hear and/or see cell addresses. A cell is the intersection of a column and a row. So you should hear A1, B1, C1, etc. Press Control-Home to return to Cell A1. That’s Column A Row 1. I always start by inserting the date in Cell A1 by pressing Control-Semicolon and Enter.

Next we’ll create a calculation that subtracts a value from an original balance to return with our current balance. Make certain there are no spaces in any calculation or formula we create in this tiny tutorial.
1. Press your right Arrow to move to Cell B1.
2. Type the equal sign. This is a must when creating all calculations and/or formulas in MS-Excel.
3. Type the current amount of money you have in the bank, under the bed, in a piggy bank, or anywhere else. There is no need to type the dollar sign.
4. Type the minus sign (the dash).
5. Type the letter D and the number 3 and press Enter.

Next, we’ll type in the Column headings. Once you’ve become familiar with making this spreadsheet, you can use column headings that apply to your situation.
1. Arrow to Cell A2 and type the word Item.
2. Right arrow to cell B2 and type the word Amount.
3. Right Arrow to Cell C2 and type the word Description.
4. Right Arrow to Cell D2 and type the word total.

Now, we’ll create the formula that will automatically add the values in Cells B3 through B15.
1. Arrow to Cell D3.
2. Type the equal sign.
3. Type the word “sum”.
4. Type the left parenthesis.
5. Type B3.
6. Type a colon.
7. Type B15.
8. Type the right parenthesis.
9. Press the Enter key.

Lastly, we’ll fill in our items.
1. Press the Home key to move to Cell A4 followed by the Up Arrow to move to Cell A3.
2. Type the word Rent or any other expenditure you might have.
3. Press the Right Arrow to move to the Amount column and type a dollar amount.
4. Right Arrow to the Description column and type one in.

As you begin filling in your spreadsheet, periodically check Cells B1 and D3. They should be changing to reflect your remaining balance and total amount spent.

Do you have any quick tips for keeping track of your finances? Let us hear about them in the Reader’s Forum.