Archive for March, 2012

Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Why We Must Care

On Sunday, February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin went to a 7-11 store in Sanford, Florida. After buying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea, this young teen began walking back to his father’s fiancé’s house. It would be the last walk Trayvon would ever take. Twenty-eight-year-old neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman saw to that, when he shot the unarmed teen in the chest.

A question that continues to be asked is, “Was George Zimmerman justified in shooting Trayvon Martin?” According to the “Stand Your Ground” law, which the Florida legislature passed in 2005, he just might have been. Florida is one of 20 states that have a Stand Your Ground Law, which gives its citizens wide latitude in interpreting what it means to have reason to feel threatened and therefore justified in using deadly force. To understand that law within the framework of the Trayvon Martin case, what did this teen do to cause Mr. Zimmerman to feel threatened? Zimmerman answered that question by telling authorities that Trayvon looked “suspicious.” And why was that? Was it because Trayvon was a young African-American? Unfortunately, there have been studies which seem to give credence to that possibility.

In one study conducted by psychologists from Notre Dame and Purdue Universities in Indiana, participants were asked to shoot at black and white human simulation targets. What the researchers found was that, despite the participant’s age, gender or race, black targets–especially black male ones–were the most likely to be shot at.

Do studies like this explain why an armed George Zimmerman shot an unarmed Trayvon Martin? Does such data also explain why Sanford police have yet to charge Mr. Zimmerman with a crime?

Since many, if not most, of the Ziegler’s readers are blind or vision impaired, some of you may be wondering what this has to do with us as a minority.

For one thing, as a white cane traveler, I would hate to be walking through George Zimmerman’s gated community subdivision. I might look “suspicious” while arcing my cane or shore-lining to locate a tactile landmark. Some key differences would be that I’m white, female, and my use of a cane would be an obvious indication of blindness. But I would also think that if it were dark enough outside–as it was when Trayvon was shot–that someone could initially mistake a white cane for a weapon.

That’s just one of many reasons why we must care. We must also care because sharing Trayvone’s parents’ pain affirms our shared struggles as minorities. We must care because the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s paved the way for landmark legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act. We must care because we are united by the common bonds of struggles, successes, tears and triumphs–bonds which transcend color and culture, disability and difference. We must care because people united can challenge others to change. Change can stop the hard rain of injustice and replace it with reconciliation. And reconciliation can turn the most horrible tragedy, like Trayvon’s death, into a legacy of all life equally valued and seen as sacred.


Feature Writer John Christie – Pioneer Retires from American Printing House for the Blind

Fred Gissoni, a true legend and a pioneer in the assistive technology field for the blind, retired on December 30, 2011 after being employed at The American Printing House for the Blind for 23 years. While at APH, he answered many questions concerning technical issues as well as other topics.

On the day he retired, there was no fanfare or celebration. He went to work just like it was another day and ended one era and began another–and that’s just the way he wanted it. This is the way he made immeasurable contributions to the blindness field. He would always stay backstage.

Fred was born without sight in Northdale, New Jersey and in 1956, moved to Kentucky with his wife Betty who was also blind and a teacher in the blindness field. With a background in counseling, Fred was first employed at the Kentucky Department for the Blind as a placement counselor, where he worked for 32 years. While there, he started an independent living center, worked with engineers to develop products, and headed the agency’s technical division when it came in to existence. Ever since childhood, Fred had a keen interest in machines and electronics and got his amateur radio license and learned Morse code in 1946. To this day, he is still an avid ham radio hobbyist.

In the 1960’s, Gissoni made his first real contribution to the blindness field. Fred and Betty heard about the abacus that Cranmer was developing for the blind. This abacus would become the state of the art tool for the blind. Gissoni played an important part in the development of this tool by spreading the word. He began by writing a book of instructions, which can be downloaded from the APH website. He also headed up a summer program for teachers of the visually impaired on this device at the University of Kentucky.

In 1985, Gissoni and an engineer named Wayne Thompson were both involved in the development of the short lived products PocketBraille and Portabraille, devices that would pave the way for the renowned Braille ‘n’ Speak. Once this product came on the scene in 1987, Gissoni was giving lessons and writing about how to use the product as well.

A year later, he then went to the American Printing House for the Blind to serve as an instructor and advisor on all things technology. His arrival there also prompted others to join the APH group as well. “Fred was responsible for my coming to APH,” said Larry Skutchan,” who is known for the development of such popular APH products as the Book Port and Braille+ Mobile Manager.

In 1999, The American Printing House for the Blind launched the Fred’s Head blog. This resource is comprised of all the tricks and tips that Fred knows and has been a great source of information for countless people.

A few months into retirement, Fred’s bout with cancer is now under control and he considers each day a gift. We in the blindness community consider Gissoni a gift as well.

Gissoni was a true pioneer both in the blindness field and just in general with everybody. He was enthusiastic about learning any new product that came out and teaching it to others in a variety of ways. He would also team up with engineers in order to make the product more user friendly for the blind. He will surely go in to history as a hero to a lot of people.

Luckily, Gissoni’s hints are still on the APH website and can be accessed by anyone. To read his amazing blog, go to


Feature Writer Romeo Edmead – A Climb On the Dark Side

Up until March 9, 2012, only 46 people had ever climbed all 48 mountains in the state of New Hampshire in a single winter. The very next day however, that exclusive club was augmented by one, when Nashua, New Hampshire resident Randy Pierce ensconced himself in history. Climbing the peaks is impressive enough, but Mr. Pierce, 45, happens to be totally blind, and has been that way for 12 years. To put such a feat in further perspective, Mr. pierce was also wheelchair bound at one point, and just got back onto his feet less than six years ago.

Everything began changing dramatically for Mr. Pierce in 1989, just one month after graduating college. Due to a neurological disorder which remains unknown to this day, Mr. Pierce said, “In a span of two weeks, I lost all of the vision in my right eye and more than half in my left.” By 2000, his vision was completely gone, and the same disorder left him confined to a wheelchair by 2004. “For that year I couldn’t walk or hold things steady because I didn’t know where steady was,” said Pierce. “So when I’d try to drink water I’d literally pour it on the floor or on myself. It was rough!”

As difficult as that may have been the worst was yet to come. The next year, Mr. Pierce’s guide dog collapsed one day and died the next, due to a cancerous tumor in his heart. “I sort of highlight that ’cause that was the lowest point in my life,” said Pierce. “No doubt about it.”

Shortly after his dog’s death, Mr. Pierce began using the tragedy as a motivational tool. He was very inspired by the way the dog even tried guiding him in a wheelchair, and after a half dozen surgeries, all followed by countless hours of physical therapy, Mr. Pierce was walking again by 2006. Even though Mr. Pierce feels he would have pushed to walk again regardless, he does not hesitate to give credit where credit is due. “My dog did everything he could because he believed in me doing this,” Pierce said. “I said I’m not going to honor his death by quitting the progress we were making.”

Eventually, Mr. Pierce got a new dog named Quinn, and after hiking with him in the woods he decided to try Quinn out on a mountain. Mr. Pierce determined that they would begin climbing the 48 in 2010, with a goal of completing their mission in exactly a decade. Explaining his precise time line, Mr. Pierce said, “The thing about that is that 2020 is the double entendre for perfect vision.” After attempting some climbs in the summer of 2010, finding where to put his foot proved to be an arduous task for Mr. Pierce. A friend then suggested that climbing in the winter would be easier simply because the large gaps would be covered with snow. The friend turned out to be correct, and offered to train with Mr. Pierce to accomplish a new goal of climbing all 48 peaks in a single winter.

On December 22, 2011, Quinn, Mr. Pierce, and the rest of the team began their mission. Each climb was at least 4,000 feet, and the longest day was a 13 hour ordeal. The final journey was the shortest, even including a small celebration at the top.

Certainly, Mr. Pierce is impressed with his own accomplishments, along with the rest of the team, but he really marvels at what Quinn did. “If you were doing his job you’d be guiding somebody 18 feet tall, that weighs 800 pounds, with feet the size of a table, up narrow, twisty slopes with drop offs left and right, and you are responsible for your safety and his safety,” said Pierce. “He can’t see, and you can’t speak–now how is that for a job?” Although Quinn has some select company in one area, he does stand alone in an entirely different category. Only two dogs have ever climbed all of the 48 before him, but Quinn has the distinction of being the first guide dog.

To celebrate their accomplishments, a large group welcomed the team when everyone descended the final mountain, and the grilles were already fired up. Even Quinn, who Mr. Pierce keeps on a strict regimen of dog food, was entitled to a few steaks.

The partying will continue for now, but Mr. Pierce does want to do a little more climbing before Quinn has to retire. Until then, Mr. Pierce will spread his message like an epidemic, hoping that everyone understands, “Your sight lets you see where you are now, and vision lets you know where you are going in the world.”

Letter from the Editor – March 26, 2012

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a nice weekend. I can’t believe that this is already our last issue of March. Time is really beginning to fly by.

I just want to make a quick announcement. Last year in April, I published a special poetry month issue which had a huge section of poems sent in by readers. Since it was such a hit, I’d like to do the same thing this year. So, calling all poets–this year’s poetry issue will be published on Monday, April 23. Please have all submissions in to me no later than Wednesday, April 18 so I have time to go through everything before the issue is published. Last year’s section was great, so let’s make this year’s even better!

That’s all for now. I hope you all enjoy this week’s magazine–we’ve got a great collection of articles for you.

Take care, and as always, thanks for reading.

Ross Hammond

Recipe of the Week – Cajun Shrimp Casserole

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 6 servings


2 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
1/4 cup Butter
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh or frozen sliced okra
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons Salt
1 can cream of shrimp soup, (10 3/4-ounce)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups cooked long-grain rice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Garnishes: quartered lemon slices, fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs


Peel shrimp; devein, if desired.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and peppers; sauté 7 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in okra, lemon juice, and salt; sauté 5 minutes. Add shrimp, and cook 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Stir in soup and next 4 ingredients until blended. Pour into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and cheese is lightly browned.

Garnish, if desired.

– 1 (10-ounce) package frozen onions and peppers may be substituted for fresh onion and bell peppers.

– 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup may be substituted for cream of shrimp soup.

Note: Unbaked casserole may be made one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before baking as directed. To freeze unbaked casserole, prepare as directed, omitting Parmesan cheese. When ready, bake, covered, at 350° for 50 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese, and bake 10 more minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.

Reader’s Forum for the Week of March 19, 2012

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

In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – Beware of Your Supported Environment, a representative from the Illinois Poison Center wrote in to say:

We read with great interest, the piece entitled “Beware of Your Supported Environment” by Bob Branco, published February 24, 2012. In this piece, some very salient points were made about visually disabled persons taking extra care when selecting homemakers. The author described an incident involving a blind friend who had a homemaker carelessly place a bottle of bleach in the refrigerator. Fortunately his friend recognized the error and did not consume any of the bleach. Mr. Branco went on to state: “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”. This is the issue we would like to address.

If Mr. Branco’s friend had ingested the bleach, ideally he would have had access to the toll-free National Poison Control Center phone number (1-800-222-1222). Accidental ingestions of bleach and other household products are frequent reasons prompting calls to U.S. poison centers. Had he called the poison center, he would have been told that an unintentional swallow or two of household liquid bleach, in most cases, is not a serious problem. Minor symptoms including mild throat irritation, nausea, or vomiting may occur. Treatment would involve nothing more than drinking a cup of water or milk along with some calm reassurance.

A few other ways specialists at a poison control center offer assistance to both disabled and nondisabled individuals include, but are not limited to, therapeutic errors with medication, food borne illnesses, bites and stings, and environmental chemical release. Guidance is offered when a potentially harmful substance is swallowed, inhaled or splashed in the eye or on the skin.

Readers are advised to learn about poison control services by visiting the website for the American Association of Poison Control Centers at Also, readers may access websites for their designated area or state poison control center. Contact your poison control center to receive free poison prevention literature, stickers, magnets and more.

Poison-proofing the home and training paid homemakers and family members to place household products in a chosen safe and secure location, well out of reach of small children, service animals and pets, is the best course of action to prevent unintentional poisonings. If an accidental poison incident occurs, poison center help is available for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year at-1-800-222-1222.

Anthony M. Burda BS Pharm, DABAT, Certified Specialist in Poison Information, Illinois Poison Center
Dana L. Portman PharmD Candidate 2012, Midwestern University CCP
In response to Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Making Prescription Drug Labels Accessible, Chris wrote:

Here in the UK, Braille is now imprinted on all over the counter and prescription medications– mind you, you need very nimble fingers and good Braille to be able to distinguish it. I am not a good braillist by any means but I can feel the dots if not read them on some things–however the over the counter medications are way beyond my fingers. This is as a result of a European Union directive not something the UK has done for itself.

Braille is also added to some other products – though only a small number overall – and only by certain national supermarkets. The only product I can safely say I’ve known have Braille on it for as long as I can remember is ‘bleach’. But I only know of one supermarket who embosses it on just its own product.

Sincerely Chris
In response to Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Making Prescription Drug Labels Accessible, David wrote:

I recently attended a talk at the complex where I live about medications and not getting them confused. The website is the company gets your prescriptions and literally packages each months meds in a square cardboard with bubbles, they call them cups, you have a morning one, coded maybe yellow, lunch is coded red, and night is blue, they are working on tactile markings for blind. It sounded nice. They know when you need refills and ship ahead to you.
In response to Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Making Prescription Drug Labels Accessible, Amy wrote:

I am in the process of getting Scriptalk, and am very excited. RiteAid wouldn’t do it, and apparently, the company who makes Scriptalk has been working with an advocacy group to try to get the drugstore to do it for a long time. I asked the Medicine Shop, which is independently owned, and they said yes! I am now waiting for my reader to come via UPS.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – Has the Computer Revolution Gone Too Far? Wesley wrote:

While I am an avid long time computer user, I fully agree that companies and government agencies have gone too far in literal requirements that persons process requests for whatever they need online.

We must remember that millions of Americans are not connected, and millions don’t own a computer. The expectation that everyone has ready access to the internet is absurd and demonstrates a true disconnect by companies and agencies. However, I do believe that job applicants are best served online in many cases, since many positions require the use of a computer. Applying online demonstrates an applicant’s ability to use these systems.

Finally, in the long run I see no reasons for society to hang on to paper, and as a blind person I find no use for paper, especially given that I can’t read it. Screen readers can manage many document types, and digital storage is extremely inexpensive. Likewise, anyone can easily create backups of their data either by owning additional USB hard drives, thumb drives, or auto-backup through the internet. Companies and government agencies have extensive systems that mirror data in real time. The loss of data is the least of my worries, I personally have files that are a quarter century old, and maintain multiple backups to prevent loss of these files. Meanwhile, one good flood, fire, or other mishap, and any paper documents would be lost. I’ll stay digital!
In response to Isaac’s question about teaching his family members the importance of living near decent public transportation, Eric wrote:

With regard to Isaac’s question:

Isaac, might I suggest videos from the national Federation of the Blind’s National Center, 200 Wells St. at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230.

Also, try a video that I recommend from Braille Institute, 741 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90029. It’s called Bridges to Independence.

To answer your question, wanting to live near public transportation is very important. This gives you access to shopping, restaurants, and things that are important to you. If you don’t want to rely on sighted assistance, this is a most logical approach.

Eric Calhoun

Contributor Penny MacPherson – Six Hours in the Life of a Blind Single Parent: Part 2

After putting her socks on, Triana decides that she would like to watch “Lion King”, so I put it on for her. Because she had been watching it earlier this morning, it’s only got another half hour left. But that will be enough to capture the morning on paper.

“I want to watch it again, Mama. C’mon, Mama!” She’s not the most patient person in the world–then again, neither am I. As I rewind the video for Triana, I chuckle to myself as I hear her singing “Rock-a-by Baby” to Baby Doris, as she rocks her tenderly in her arms. Baby Doris sighs with relief. Sometimes, she is not so fortunate–finding herself flung face-down on the floor.

After lunch, the next challenge comes when trying to put Triana down for a nap. Full of energy, so afraid she might miss something, yet fussing and whining more with each passing minute, I let her know it’s time for a nap. If I say, ‘Now it’s time to lie down, close your eyes, and stop talking,” once, I say it at least a dozen times. She just doesn’t want to give up. She hops in and out of bed. She hums. She engages in imaginary conversations with five dollies on her bed. “I want Mama’s hair,” she whines. “Where’s Grandma?”

“She had an errand to run. When you wake up from your nap, we’ll shoot some video of you with the new camera she’s getting. But, you must take a nap first.”
“Okay. I take a nap.”

After all this, she finally settles in and I half consider taking a nap myself–but I don’t, because the desire to write outweighs the desire to rest.

Mom comes home with the video camera and discovers that the battery pack is missing, which translates into another trip to the store. Two telephone calls and a paragraph later, Triana wakes up requesting a drink of water.

After Triana’s nap, she gets up and plays.
“What are you doing?”
“I just got my cake. Do you want a piece?”
“I would love one.”
She hands me an invisible piece. I pretend to savor it.
“Is it good Mama?”
“It sure is.”

Hearing plastic rattling, I say to my Angel Girl, “I must have that plastic bag. It’s not safe for you to have it.” She continues crinkling it until I gently take it away.

A few minutes later, Triana’s asking to use her potty chair. Maybe she’s getting the hang of it.

Afterwards, Triana decides to watch “Lion King.” As I leave, Zazoo protests being put into the birdy boiler. I hear the strains of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” tugging at my memory–dancing with Triana’s daddy, near the Canadian border. But it’s over for the two of us–and Triana is the very best of what we had.

AUTHOR’S Biographical Sketch
Ms. MacPherson, holds both a B.A. from Wells College (Aurora, NY) and a
Master’s of Teaching degree from the University of Virginia (Charlottesville.) She has offered poetry workshops at various elementary schools. MacPherson conducts women’s healing through writing workshops spiritual writing intensives, and community poetry readings. She has authored ten books of poetry. Her work has appeared in such publications as: Just Another Writing Magazine, Beginnings: a Magazine for Emerging Writers, Access, Expressions, The Glens Falls Post Star, Discovery: the John Milton Magazine, Muscadine Lines: a Southern Journal, The Lekarev Report, Beautiful Reflections, coachingyourcreativity, Creativity Portal Newzine, Scriptorium, and addictivefiction. She currently resides in Florida with her twelve-year-old daughter.

Contributor Michelle Koren – LCA and My Family: An Introduction – Part 2

Months went by and we learned that we were moving to Colorado. After getting settled in, we found a local church that our family could attend. The pastor, pastor’s wife, and the congregation embraced us like we were family. No one seemed fazed by the fact that Elizabeth’s eyes moved a lot. When the pastor’s wife learned that we were looking for an eye doctor for Elizabeth, she suggested a local pediatric ophthalmologist.

At this point, Elizabeth was 17 months of age. I still worried that whatever was wrong with her eyes would be life threatening in the future. Just a little bit of insight on me, I’m a worrywart. In fact, I’m the biggest wart on the worrywart log! So, I didn’t get my hopes up for a diagnosis. After taking Elizabeth to several doctors already, I was starting to lose hope that anyone would know what was wrong with my baby.

Despite my feelings, I made the appointment anyway. The doctor came in and introduced herself. She was nice but not at all interested in a lot of chit chat with me. She examined Elizabeth’s eyes, and dictated some notes and a diagnosis to her nurse who in turn wrote everything down in her chart. The doctor then turned to me and explained to me in laymen’s terms what the diagnosis meant. Of course, I questioned her about it being a life or death kind of disease. She answered with a smile and said, “No, this is not going to threaten her life.”

Many have asked how I felt and what my reaction was when learning that my daughter was blind, and I’m sure my answer is a surprise to most. You see, we lived with the worry for so long that this was connected to some kind of cancer or terrible disease that might take her life. When I heard that it was blindness my thought was: We can live with this! We can do this! It’s not going to take her life; we have a diagnosis, now we have direction!” I was elated because this was something we could deal with!

Something I would say to parents who have just learned about their child’s blindness is ask your child’s doctor for resources. Before we left the appointment, Elizabeth’s doctor had given me information about the school for the blind in our city and a contact name. Before that, I didn’t even know there were schools for blind children. So, don’t be afraid to ask for contact information. There are people out there who can educate you on what to do next. They can also get you in touch with other parents who are dealing with the same difficulties you are.

Once I got in touch with the school for the blind, they had set an appointment for an Early Childhood Program Teacher of the visually impaired to come to our home. The following are just some of the things she worked on with Elizabeth:
Growth and Development
Mobility and Orientation
Sensory Needs

Be assertive for your child–you are his or her advocate. Find the answers to your questions and concerns by asking the doctor, a teacher, etc. If you don’t have a school for the blind in your city, look up the nearest one in your state. They likely have teachers of the visually impaired they can send to your area. The public schools also have teachers of the visually impaired and early education programs for little ones with special needs. The information we learned from the Early Education Program at the blind school has been priceless.

Is life easy after finding such help? Of course not! I have days in which I still mourn the fact that Elizabeth and Melody cannot see the face of their little sister, the mountains, the stars, or even the detail on their beautiful Easter dresses. I even get angry with blindness and everything about it. And, we wonder every day if the new baby, Tate, will also have LCA. But, having the help and resources gives us hope. It has taught me that there is nothing my girls cannot do. Yes, they may have a visual impairment, but they have had many successes because we put our own fears aside and asked for help.

Parents, you can do this! Your child can do this! And now, it’s go time!

Author’s Note: If your child has been diagnosed with LCA, an excellent place to start is (the foundation for retinal research). You will want to be registered with tfrr for new information on research, other families with LCA, and fundraising opportunities to help our little ones.

Contributor Erin Jepsen – Encouraging Imaginative Play in Blind Children

I’d like to share some ideas for parents to help encourage a vision impaired or blind child to use their imagination or to learn to play with toys. Often, a blind child, especially one who is adopted like our daughter, needs some gentle encouragement and direction in order to learn to play with toys or use their imagination during playtime.

Normally, I’ll present some toys that our daughter likes, and some tips for finding toys that might appeal to a vision-impaired child.

Dolls that talk: Abi has an Elmo, a “Learning Baby Tad,” and a Cabbage Patch Kid. She’ll sit with the Tad’s light pressed against her eye and listen to the songs. She likes to carry the Cabbage Patch kid on her back with a bandanna, like they do in Africa, where she came from. She also likes a doll stroller because she can use it to feel her way across a room.

Dolls and stuffies (stuffed animals) can be tough, because to a sighted person they look like the thing they represent. But to a blind person, they look nothing like the thing they represent. Dolls do not feel or smell like a real person, so there is no correlation or desire to mother them. Also, stuffed animals might be rejected if the child has a texture aversion to the faux fur.

It may help for the parent to help the child to feel the eyes, feel the ears, feel the feet, identify the parts, and get a doll that has rubbery skin, a heavy body, and features that can be easily felt (as opposed to painted on). Try out a few different dolls at the toy store to find one with a pleasant smell that the child enjoys touching.

For children who prefer cars and trucks, touching the parts of a real car such as the bumper, doors, and tires may help a child correlate the same parts on a toy and understand what it represents.

Abi likes a toy cup to make us “food” or “coffee” and we eat it and praise her. She loves to do that! We have a play kitchen, and I put Braille on the toy microwave, like I have on my “big” microwave. I showed her how to say “beep, beep, beep, brrrrrrrrr, ding!” and take the cup out. She thought that was so cool.

She loves to bang on our piano. We have a lot of kid instruments, like little cymbals, and crashing those together is great fun! We are constantly trying to find toys that make noise. At school, they made shakers by putting beans and uncooked pasta into recycled plastic bottles. She loved that, but got mad when we were done and would not let her dump the beans back out again.

We read books with Braille on them, to learn to track the words, or board books with textures or attached toys that squeak. I encourage her to “scribble” on the Perkins Brailler, or to color pictures like the sighted kids do. A little preparation ahead of time with puff paint makes for a great tactile coloring page!

I find that being low-vision myself helps me understand her “play” even if it looks different from what sighted children might do. Movement is stimulating, but so is sound, and when they are listening, blind kids hold very still. Also, I look at what her hands are doing to know what she is thinking about. Whether it’s exploring the texture of the rug, to playing with her zipper, she is always thinking about something, and those little hands are always busy.

Helping blind kids to enjoy a sensory-rich and imaginative play experience will benefit the child’s future education and brain development, and will also bond parent and child closer together as they play with one another.

Please share your play ideas in the Reader’s Forum.

Additional resources:


Adaptive toys and games

Op Ed with Bob Branco – We Can’t Have It All

Have any of your friends or loved ones tried to encourage you to use your blindness in order to get what’s rightfully yours, even though you may not be eligible for it?

As you know, SSI is a program that a blind person has to qualify for. It is not something that you are automatically entitled to just because you can’t see. Yet, there are those who believe that every blind person has the right to a share of this money.

I won’t mention who it was, but back in the 80’s, a family member offered to hide my financial assets in an escrow account, just so that I could receive SSI. After all, I’m blind, so I should be automatically entitled to it, right? In this family member’s opinion, I should go after what’s rightfully mine instead of a crook going after it. This individual obviously didn’t understand the logical point. I would be just as crooked if I hid my assets, because I’d be getting my hands on money that shouldn’t belong to me.

I understand my family member’s sincerity, and that he actually believed what he said, so it angered him when I refused to allow him to hide my assets. Unfortunately, there are people in this world who would have done what my loved one asked me to do, which in turn creates a vast amount of abuse, resulting in the loss of potentially millions of dollars which belong to the people who need it the most.

I would assume that my loved one’s attitude is an old school attitude, which is shared by many others who try to simplify their blind family member’s world. “Okay, you’re blind, so go for it. It’s there for you.” That’s the thought running through their mind. The point is, not all benefits are available for all blind people, and no member of our family should be angry with us for pointing that out.

Has something like this happened to you?