Archive for July, 2012

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Camp Pride: Where Summer Fun Awaits

The Association of Blind Citizens has given many blind children and adults fantastic experiences during the past twelve years. I recently had a nice interview with their President, John Olivera, who told me about Camp Pride, a summer camp established to serve blind kids and teens.

Camp Pride is located in New Durham, New Hampshire and is part of the peaceful lakes region. It was started in the summer of 2011 with a one-week session for children ages nine through fifteen. As John said, “Volunteers staff the camp and most of the counselors are college students.” The camp is in a wooded area and counselors escort blind campers to and from there cabin to get them acquainted with the area.

The schedule at Camp Pride is stocked full of activities. Campers rise by 6:30 and breakfast is at 8:00. Activities start at 9:00 when campers are able to swim in the pristine clear lake, where there is a lifeguard to handle emergencies. At 10:30, campers change and go to arts and crafts at 10:45. The lunch break is at 12:15, when campers can expect hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, or grilled cheese sandwiches. At 1:15, there is canoeing, followed by goal ball or beep ball at 3:00. After supper, counselors and campers relax playing adaptive games like Braille monopoly, checkers, and cards. At 7:30, the program varies with zoo experiences or a talent show on another night. Campers and counselors wind down by singing and chatting around a campfire at 8:30. Bedtime is at 9:30.

When I asked about an afternoon rest hour John smiled, telling me, “When we suggested it to campers, they wanted to get to the next game or sport instead. They have boundless amounts of energy.” However, if a camper is tired and does not wish to participate in an activity, he or she can relax and read outside or in the cabin with a counselor.

So what makes this camp for the blind so unique? Campers do not have to have another disability to go there. Because of their small population they are able to give each camper more attention. Last summer, the camp had fifteen campers, making it possible for counselors and campers to bond and form quick friendships. At Camp Pride, blind campers can get more individualized attention than they would at a much larger camp.

If you want your blind child or teen to experience a week of unforgettable memories, do not hesitate to call John Olivera for this summer’s camp session. It begins on August 19 and ends on August 25. You can call him at 1-781-961-1023. You can also call the Association of Blind Citizen’s activity line at 1-781-654-2000. Look on their web site for more information about this exceptional camp at http://www.blindcitizens.org/. Check soon, as there is still availability at the camp. Do not let financial limitations stop you when listening to the activity line. Today they said the first 20 sign-ups are free.

The future looks bright for this camp. Next summer there are ideas to have a one-week session for blind adults, and I think this is a great idea, as it would give adults the chance to get involved in sports and make new friendships.

If your child went to Camp Pride last year, please share your impressions in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Eye on the Olympics

I began watching the Olympic Games in 1976. That was the year 14-year-old phenom, Nadia Komaneci, took the world of gymnastics by storm, winning three individual gold medals and scoring the first perfect 10 for a female gymnast. I can still recall Ms. Komaneci’s look of steely determination and concentration as she worked her way through the various skills and her ultimate smile of triumph. Having no idea that my vision would wane as I grew older, I became an enthusiastic fan of the sport.

Fast forward to 1988, which finds Maria and I hovering over a 13-inch black and white television set, our focus on a handsome diver named Greg Louganis. He was going for a near-perfect dive, which would mean a gold medal for the United States. We thought his fantastic smile and physique was absolutely riveting. He was definitely easy on our visually impaired eyes. As he dove, creating the most insignificant ripple, we shrieked with glee as we knew he’d just clinched the coveted medal. The next thing we heard was my mother pounding on the door asking what happened. Thinking we were absolutely bonkers, she turned away in incredulity.

Such has been our love and fervor for the Olympic Games. My vision was much better back then and I could really appreciate the glorious opening ceremonies and what would become our favorite sporting events: Figure Skating, Gymnastics, Swimming, and Diving.

For about 8 years, we’ve owned a 32-inch behemoth of a TV, which has greatly improved Maria’s enjoyment for watching the games–especially as the opening ceremonies have reached mythic proportions. We are, however, seriously considering a larger, high-definition model where I’ll be able to see at least a little something with a bit more clarity.

As the visual world went wild over this year’s opening ceremonies, I sat fairly disappointed that I was unable to see them–including her Royal Majesty “parachute” out of the helicopter (I heard the landing, though) and became so bored that I actually fell asleep before the entrance of the American athletes and the lighting of the Olympic Torch.

Our Secondary Audio Program (SAP) channel is taken up by the Spanish language and, heaven forbid, Time Warner cable ever offer audio descriptions. Even with our 21st Century Communications Act, I wonder if we’ll be able to persuade the cable companies to at least add another audio channel. I’ve heard that they are only bound by law to provide bills in accessible formats. However, recent news has me optimistic for an accessible viewing future.

Disenchanted with our mostly inaccessible television network coverage, I’m gratified to have my Olympic tweets and Medal Alerts iPhone app that keeps me up-to-date with the accomplishments of our athletes.

Feature Writer Romeo Edmead – From a Wheelchair to the Olympics

In a world with a scarce job market, inexplicable shooting rampages, and war, sometimes it may be difficult to find anything uplifting. But the 2012 Olympic Games began in London on Friday, and as expected, the games do come with their share of heart warning stories. One in particular is the journey of Irish Olympian, Kieran Behan, who did more than just defy the odds. During this year’s games, Behan, 23, will compete in the horizontal bar, the floor exercise, and the vault, despite being told he would be permanently wheelchair bound.

Just two years after taking up gymnastics, a plethora of injuries started mounting for Mr. Behan at the age of ten, beginning with the discovery of an enormous lump in his left leg. Luckily, it turned out to be a benign tumor, but an oversight by the medical professionals lead to severe nerve damage in the leg. After being unable to walk for more than a year, Mr. Behan was back to his old stunts again, but his return would come to a screeching halt. His comeback period fell short of nine months, and this time his injury was even worse.

In the middle of a flip, Mr. Behan hit his head on the horizontal bar, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury and a severe loss of balance. Furthermore, he began losing consciousness frequently, which lead to another extended hiatus from his favorite sport. Once Mr. Behan was able to return, broken bones and torn ligaments would follow, but he just refused to give up. Even now, his rotator cuff is partially torn, but he was not going to let that stop him from competing in this year’s games.

Mr. Behan does not expect to win any event in London, but he feels his purpose goes way beyond a medal. He knows his story is a motivational one, and hopes to touch people from all walks of life. He always chased his dream, despite all the nonbelievers, but now even Mr. Behan struggles to understand how he persevered through it all. “I felt like I was in a fairy tale when I got here,” he said. “All I could think about was, is this a dream? Tell me this really happening.”

Source:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/27/sports/olympics/against-odds-kieran-behan-of-ireland-to-compete-in-3-gymnastics-events.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

Letter from the Editor – July 30, 2012

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a nice weekend.

It’s time to enjoy these summer days while they last. I swear, it feels like we just started the summer and it’s August already.

We’re also in the midst of the Summer Olympics, which can be a great time for sports fans–and also a time of great frustration. As a couple articles will point out in this week’s magazine, there are still countless issues surrounding accessibility regarding the Olympics, as well as other areas of entertainment. It’s disappointing to hear about these instances, considering that the Olympics are a worldwide event worthy of being equally accessible to every viewer or listener. It is my hope that by the time the next summer games are held, entertainment equality won’t even be something that we talk about anymore, simply because it has become ubiquitous. There’s a long way to go before we get there, but it is absolutely possible.

Just one brief announcement for this week. The next two issues of the magazine will not be released on a Monday. Next week’s magazine will be released on Tuesday, August 7th, and the following week’s magazine will be released on Tuesday, August 14th.

I hope you all enjoy the articles in this week’s magazine and that you usher in the month of August with some fun plans in store.

Take care, and as always, thanks for reading.

Sincerely,
Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Lora’s Summer Squash Casserole

Submitted by Lora Leggett

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter
3 small yellow squash or whatever you have
1 medium onion, I used half of a Spanish onion
1 medium green bell pepper, I used half of a very large one
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sweet basil
1 (10 3/4oz.) can cream of celery soup, undiluted
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If desired, peel the squash and cut off the very tips of each end.

On a cutting board, slice the squash and chop the onion into bite size pieces or slice it if you like.

Rub the butter on the bottom and sides of an 8 inch square glass casserole or desired baking dish.
Place the squash and onion on the bottom of the pan in one layer if possible. You can put the rest on top.

Sprinkle the garlic powder and sweet basil over the vegetables and gently mix them around in the casserole so the herbs will be equally distributed. I did not measure these herbs and ran out my basil bottle. A teaspoon may not be enough for your taste.

Pour the cream of celery soup over the vegetables and gently mix again to get it to spread evenly.
It is important because you are not adding water or milk to dilute your sauce.

Pour the Mozzarella cheese on top and spread evenly.

Place the casserole on a cookie sheet and use oven mitts when putting it into or taking it out of the oven to avoid quick temperature changes to your casserole or burning yourself.

Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Remove casserole on cookie sheet from oven and allow to cool at least 15 or 20 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

Reader’s Forum for the week of July 23, 2012

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

In response to the recent comments concerning a lack of skills, Mary wrote:

I have a few general comments regarding the discussion about lack of skills.

I’ve always been extremely independent. I was always told to adapt to society; the world didn’t owe me anything. For example, I’ve addressed envelopes and mailed lots of things since the 1960s when I was in high school. I was the only blind student in my high school, and often had to contact my regional library to obtain books for school. This was also true in college, since I was an English major. In those days I used a typewriter to address envelopes, and these days, with a PC, I use a label printer.

I don’t have sighted assistance, and have very rarely had it or asked for it; I was brought up to be as independent as possible. I knew there would be times when my family and other help wouldn’t be around. In the business world, there was no room for excuses; IBM had jobs, and I did my job the same as anyone else. If I needed adaptive technology, I got it and learned to use it on my own time.

These days, I have no family nearby; I do shopping and other things online. There are a couple people I can ask for general help, but I’ve only had to do that once in the past few years.

Getting a state ID would be almost impossible for me; one reason is that travel is difficult due to hearing loss. I think the requirements are excessive and ridiculous; two photo IDs? Many of us are fortunate if we have just one.

If you have sighted help, be glad you’ve got it; but think about how you’d manage without it. It can be done.
##
In response to Contributor Valerie Moreno – Open Mouth, Insert Foot, Amy said:

I’ve had very bad experiences with rehab teachers. In high school, I had one itinerate for my academics and another for O & M. I ended up teaching my academic teacher how to use the computer she was supposed to be teaching me on, and the O & M teacher would start me learning from one end of a street, only to go from the other end the next week.

After college, I went to a popular rehab facility, because everyone said how good it would look on my resume, and how it would help me find a job. I tried, I really did, but honestly, I learned more of what I couldn’t do than what I could. They expected me to know things I didn’t know, and not to know things I did. They insisted on my doing things a certain way, even when that way didn’t work for me, and there were monitors in the hall after classes, and if you said anything negative about the staff, they told the staff about it and you got questioned the next day. Also, if another trainee, as we were called, was having a rough time adjusting, or doing something or coping with a situation and you tried to help them, you got in trouble and were told to concentrate on your own program and not to worry about anyone else’s.

On the other hand, I have had some really good teachers, too, like the lady from my local Blind Association who came out to show me Rake Knitting, just because I called the agency and said I was bored! Also, there was an O & M teacher, again from the same organization, who taught me where I needed to go in the nursing home where I’ve now volunteered for the past twelve years. I think rehab teachers, as well as other blind people, need to find solutions that work, regardless of how they may look to others, or how others have done this or that in the past.

P. S. Having the Independent Living training on my resume didn’t help one iota in finding a job!
##
In response to Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Those Magical Summers at Camp Allen, Jan wrote:

As for Camp Allen, I went there from 1962 to 1971 and those were some of the best times of my life. I’m still in touch with many of the girls I met there and they are some of my best friends. I went to public school and was with sighted kids all year. And my time at camp was spent with blind kids, so I felt I had the best of both. Camp Allen still exists, as far as I know. It’s now a co-ed, multi-handicapped camp.
##
In response to Contributor Valerie Moreno – Blind Cat’s Bluff, Lisa wrote:

I enjoyed reading Valerie Moreno’s article about being a blind person and the owner of a blind cat. I also am blind and adopted a blind cat 8 years ago. I got Oliver from a local animal shelter. He had been left there because he had originally been a part of a multiple cat household, and he didn’t thrive there at all. While he doesn’t care for other animals, he loves people and soon became one of the favorite cats of the shelter.

When I brought him home it was fun to experience his orientation skills. He would learn one space and then expand his territory to another room and then another – until, in short order he had learned the whole apartment. A year ago we moved across the country and once again Oliver quickly adapted.

I don’t know that there’s any particular advantage for a blind cat to have a blind owner, or vice versa, but I’ll admit to feeling a certain bond with Oliver because of this.

There’s an organization dedicated to rescuing blind cats from shelters where they would otherwise be put to sleep. Their website is: www.BlindCatRescue.org.
##
In response to Contributor Valerie Moreno – Blind Cat’s Bluff, Lynne wrote:

Aw, may you have many wonderful years with him.

In the few months we’ve had our Mickey Cat, he’s definitely turned our quiet lives upside down with his addiction to pushing objects from various surfaces (mostly during the middle of the night/early morning). We’ll try to train him out of it, but I always tell him he’s lucky he’s so cute! Smile.

We have no plans to give him up so we’ll all just have to learn to adjust.

Enjoy him and take care.
##
Deb Weiner wrote in to say:

I would like to write today about our elections. Actually, that is a lie, I really do not want to write about that, but I feel compelled to.

It must be some deep seated psychological problem that keeps me doing this, but no time for that now. I am struck by the amount of money being spent. The sums are completely obscene, especially since there is little difference between the 2 candidates. Countless millions are being collected to pay for 30 second TV spots that do nothing but lie about what a liar the other guy is. A pox on all of them. The truth is not in these 2 or any other politician that I can think of.

Businesses and individuals are throwing their money away on these ridiculous rituals that we go through every 4 years and it is going to get worse. Wait until after the conventions. Wait until the robo-calls start interrupting the few minutes’ peace you get every day. Just think of the good that could be done with all that money. Small businesses could be started, poor people could be retrained for new jobs, elderly folks could be fed and sent to doctors, new research could be started. But no, we have to be treated to this foul spectacle we call our elections.

One last thing, I am swearing off election and political writing for a while, hopefully, a long while. For the foreseeable future, I am going to be writing about the positive things I see going on in this fine land. It is too easy to fall into the trap of negativity. Enough. The best thing we can all do is to put this nonsense behind us.

Contributor Valerie Moreno – “Please Wait”

Recently, I had to call a governmental agency and was trapped in a maze of menu choices that had me yelling at the robotic voice.

We’ve all been there, and it never gets easier, does it?

I’m always impressed with the choice of ads or music chosen to entertain us while waiting. Music that could be termed “The Dull-Dead Strings Ensemble” has me gritting my teeth or falling asleep within five minutes. It’s much easier to wait if there’s lively music or an oldies song playing. At least then you can sing along.

Voice-prompt menus are frustrating and sometimes hilarious. My husband’s slight Spanish accent always seems to confuse the so-called all knowing computer. “I’m saying I was born in Arizona, not Montana!” he’d often scream. Heaven help a random cough or sneeze! After a quiet “ah-choo,” the robotic voice asked, “Norman, Oklahoma. Is that right?” Perhaps it might be useful to find out what guttural noise my city sounds like.

If you’re fortunate enough to reach a human being after five rounds with the robot, try remembering why you called in the first place. By this time, I’m normally too aggravated or laughing too hard to think.

May there come a day (soon) when phone menu choices become shorter, clearer, and quicker–and they’re all equipped with spunky tunes to listen to as we’re told to “please wait.”

Feature Writer John Christie – The Talking Checkbook

The Talking Checkbook is a user friendly program for the blind that helps you keep track of and manage a variety of accounts.

The Talking Checkbook has a user interface that is easy to use for the blind. You can use it for your checking account, a savings account, or even have a retirement account–just to name a few. It includes a manual that is very easy to use as well. The Talking Checkbook works in Microsoft Word and functions with XP, Vista, and Windows 7 operating systems. Some of the features include reconciling accounts, sorting records, and categorizing transactions, all which can be done on an unlimited number of accounts. In addition, you can print checks as well as write checks. The program also has an accessible calendar as well as a calculator. If you ever get lost, it also has an excellent help system as well as a hot key list of all the keys you would need to use the program.

Another great feature of the Talking Checkbook is the ability to choose your own voice. You have four choices–WindowEyes, Jaws, no voice, or a voice called standard. The standard voice is similar to the voice heard when using the Talking Typer. With the Jaws and WindowEyes voices there is no need for scripts or set files.

The Talking Checkbook also supports multiple currencies. These currencies include U.S. Dollars, British Pounds, and the Euro.

You can also backup and restore data. Regarding this matter, I called Tech Support at Premier Assistive Technology, Inc. in DeWitt, MI and left my email address with them. They responded to my question on how to back up the Talking Checkbook using Windows 7 almost instantly, and have quickly responded to other questions in the past as well. This bodes well for users who like to know that support is readily available.

The Talking Checkbook also comes with two training videos. I attempted to click on these videos but they wouldn’t play completely through. These videos are also available on their website, but they are flash-based, and largely inaccessible. This is an issue that I brought up to them during my questioning.

The Talking Checkbook costs $59.95, can be downloaded or received on a CD, and you can place your order online or over the phone.

The Talking Checkbook really is a great program for managing any type of checking or savings account. It is very user friendly and setup is a no brainer. Plus, if you ever get stuck, the company stands behind their product and offers great customer service. All in all, this program is a great choice if you’re looking for an inexpensive and easy way to manage your accounts on your own.

For more information about the Talking Checkbook, contact:
Premier Assistive Technology, Inc.
13102 Blaisdell Dr.
DeWitt, MI 48820 USA
Phone: 517-668-8188 Fax: 517-668-2417
E-mail: info@readingmadeeasy.com
Web: www.readingmadeeasy.com

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – 2012 Storm Chasing: Part 1

On June 8, I took my flights to Chicago and then to Denver, CO, where I would begin yet another adventure of storm chasing with Silver Lining Tours. I left my apartment at 4:30 AM to get to the airport on time for my first flight. I never really enjoy flying, but again on this trip, the flight crew made me feel welcome and assisted me in boarding and exiting the planes. I didn’t have any issues traveling to Denver at all.

Upon my arrival in Denver, there was a free shuttle to the hotel and I arrived there safely. I was glad to get to my room to relax and rest before my friend, Alan, joined me. Alan and I were roommates in college and we both studied meteorology together. Alan got me hooked on chasing storms back in 2008 when we went on our first chase adventure together. Since that time, he hasn’t been able to come with me again until now.

On June 9, Alan and I met the other guests and tour director, who would be with us for the next 6 days. The group was quite diverse, with folks coming from Denmark, Switzerland, the U.K., Utah, California, and Boston. As we sat through the orientation, I could feel my excitement building. Roger, the tour director, gave everyone an idea of what to expect and went over all of the rules set forth for everyone.

After orientation, we took a short half mile drive for dinner at a huge buffet and the diet killing food began! On June 10, we started our travels and over the next six days, traveled over 3,500 miles from Texas to Nebraska to South Dakota and back to Colorado. While in Texas, we visited the Big Texan restaurant, where you can order a 72 ounce steak with all the trimmings. If you can eat everything in one hour, the meal is free! No one in our group was brave enough to give that a try.

We saw several great storms that had lots of great structure to them. These storms produced a ton of wind, lightning and hail, but for the most part, none of them produced any tornadoes. Finally, on June 16, we saw a very interesting storm in Colorado. We watched the storm as it grew and grew, and finally, after 6 days of chasing storms, this one produced a small tornado. I was so glad because Alan had never seen one, even though we had chased together in 2008.

After six days of chasing together, Alan had to return to CT, but I had another 6 days of chasing to go as the first tour ended and the second one began.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Camp Allen Today

In an effort to discover how my beloved Camp Allen has changed since I was last there, I set up an interview with their Executive Director, Mary Constance, who has been there since 2004. I also spoke with Lois Stachura Gunderson, a partially blind junior counselor employed by Camp Allen during the summers of 1959 through 1961.

From 1960-1969 this camp had three directors. The male director from1960-1962 accelerated change by creating additional outings and sporting events, always displaying his outgoing personality.

Campers were somewhat shocked by the new female director who took over the position in 1962. She was there until 1969. Positive improvements were made, including a chapel and a new dorm. But the easy going ways of camp life began to disappear.

One Sunday night in 1964, she had us in tears, lecturing campers in the chapel on how ungrateful we were. I did not return after 1965, as her strict adherence to camper’s neatness and conduct made camp more like a school. At the end of her terror–I mean tenure–a young male director replaced her in 1969 who enacted one lasting change by making the camp co-ed, as it remains today.

With the new director, good days were prevalent once again with his cheerful emphasis on outings, sports, and swimming. The demographic of the camp was also beginning to change, with more multi-handicapped people there. Mary Constance told me that “By the mid seventies Camp Allen was for multi-handicapped children/teens.”

By 2004 when Mary Constance became executive director, countless changes had occurred. As Lois Stachura said to me on Saturday, “You would not recognize the camp. It is so large now counselors come from all over the world.” She fondly remembered the old Camp Allen, saying “It was small; we were like a big family.”

Mary informed me of changes which have occurred in the past 43 years. The pine grove is gone and the chapel stands there now. There is a new double cabin, a new pavilion, and a new swimming pool. After she became director, there were necessary repairs to the aging pavilion and immediate updates to the old electrical system. As Mary told me, though, “The daily schedule is the same as you remember.” I suppose that while some things must change, you do tend to stick with what works. An example of that schedule and a daily menu can be found on Camp Allen website.

The camp now has ten-day sessions which begin in June and end by late August. There are 65 campers to each session. The camp accepts people with vision problems combined with mobility/cognitive disabilities. They also accept children/teens/adults with other disabilities. Mary mentioned some of the campers’ favorite activities. “Everyone loves the bouncy house, where kids and adults can have fun bouncing on the inflated floor. Everyone loves sitting around the camp fire on Sunday nights when new campers check in. They sing and have s’mores,” she said.

The reputation of Camp Allen has skyrocketed under Mary Constance’s direction and has become one of the most popular camps in New England. Many campers return year after year. The age of campers ranges from very young to 79 years old.

The future is promising and more changes are already in place. They’re planning to construct a new shower house near the pool and there are plans to make repairs to the old pavilion as well.

If you want further information about Camp Allen, contact Mary Constance at 603-622-8471. Ziegler readers can email her at mary@campallen.org. Their website is www.campallennh.org
Write to them at:
56 Camp Allen Road
Bedford, New Hampshire 03110.

You can apply online, but do it early if you want you or your child to experience ten unforgettable days making new friends and having life long memories.