For your convenience, all Reader’s Forum submissions are separated by the ## symbol.
In response to Sally’s requests for arts and crafts ideas, Terry wrote:
Hi Sally and anyone else interested in crafts. I am a low partial who does plastic canvas, knitting, loom knitting, safety pin beading, some beading and I am sure I can think of more. I love crafts. I am a member of the NFB Krafters Korner and we would like you and others, interest in crafts, to join. Even though you have lost some or all of your sight, you can still do crafts. You can visit www.krafterscorner.com for more information, or send an email to the editor for my contact information.
In response to Sally’s requests for arts and crafts ideas, Jan wrote:
There are several internet resources.
Blind and VI people interested in fiber crafting can join the Blind Stitchers list on Google Groups. It’s a friendly place for knitters, crocheters, and other fiberistas who are visually impaired or blind. Support and expertise abound for anyone from novice to advanced. Discussions range from fibers, to projects, to craft trivia, to detailed descriptions of stitches and techniques.
Another resource for blind and VI yarn crafters is Working out Kinks and Fingering Yarn, a Word Press blog. It includes tutorials on various knit and crochet stitches and techniques as well as general information on other crafts and crafty observations. There’s something for all skill levels, and there’s a blogroll, which links to other helpful resources.
In response to Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Bring on the Braille, Roy wrote:
I am a very enthusiastic Braille display user–have been since 1991. I started off with one called the VersaBraille, made by TSI. It was a 20-cell display which had its own small built-in modem and computer. From there I graduated to the Alva 380 display in 1994 and now own a Brailliant 80 cell display. I have never used voice, don’t like it, don’t want it.
Alena is right. Braille displays have become much more compact and portable. I love my Brailliant 80 and, in fact, it is my most valued possession. I’m using it right now as I write this and I have the Alva available as backup should something happen to this one. I’ve had it for 2 years now and the Braille is still as fresh as ever.
In response to Feature Writer John Christie – How the DTV Radio for the Blind Came to Be, Barbara wrote:
Responding to John Christie ‘s piece on the digital TV radio, I hadn’t watched TV in years until I bought Richard Oehm’s digital TV radio. Since I have a little vision, the only time I’ve wished for a picture is when I was watching the Olympics. I’m not sure how the dives and gymnastics would have been described, other than what was narrated from the sportscaster.
In response to recent submissions regarding independent living, Joe wrote:
Despite my unwillingness to learn, my mother insisted that I know something about handling myself in the kitchen.
I prefer a gas stove over an electric unit because when such a stove is turned off, it cools quickly. The electric stoves do not. For some years I have lived in Virginia in a rural setting in which there are no natural gas lines. So I had to deal with electric cooking.
I very strongly recommend that you use potholders and pot holder mittens. The latter help you work deep in an oven where you might brush your arm against a part of the hot oven.
I was a bit concerned when my sighted wife wanted to replace the stove with one which has a flat surface. She did most of the cooking so this wasn’t of concern, but when she became very ill, she could no longer cook. The thing I did was learn which knobs control which unseen burner. I did that by turning the burner on and off quickly and then looking around the top to see where it was warm. That led me to realize that with this technique I could easily know just where to place a pot or pan.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – The Narrator isn’t all that was Advertised, Abbie wrote:
My husband Bill and I purchased this radio recently, and we love it, despite the fact that the voice doesn’t provide all information on the screen. I listen to NPR and Bill listens to baseball games on ESPN radio, and neither of these stations provide any feedback on the screen, anyway. It would be cool if it would tell us what the score is or what classical or jazz piece is playing on NPR, but you know what they say about having your cake and eating it, too. Perhaps someday, they’ll come up with a radio that provides more audible feedback, but this is a great start as far as accessible products are concerned. We’re grateful to be able to set the clock and alarm with audible feedback and know what frequency we’re on when we turn the radio on and tune to a different station.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – The Narrator isn’t all that was Advertised, Jeff wrote:
I, too, purchased the radio. I find it reasonably useful but was also disappointed that the song and artist identification functions are not made accessible. Furthermore, it would have been nice to be able to switch to shorter messages since changing from one preset to another means that the voice will announce the preset up or down action, followed by the frequency of the station and this takes a couple of seconds, and the voice of the narrator is louder than the music volume and so I worry when tuning while another person is asleep in the room or area. I see that there is a reference to software and hardware version in the manual and that promises future revisions, I hope, but, there is not any connection on the unit that looks to allow such an update, thus, I would imagine that one would have to wait for the appropriate updates to take place and then buy that version of the radio? I realize that when such products are made available to the market, someone has indeed done us a service, and I don’t want to criticize that effort, but, maybe including some blind testers for early prototypes would help to refine the device and make it a winner for the blind user as well as the inventor and if we can get manufacturers having a successful sales outcome then it only serves to encourage more devices that include the blind consumer as a target market.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – The Narrator isn’t all that was Advertised, Terry wrote:
Though we have not tried every feature, I believe it does the best job on the features most people want and like. Yes, I like to be able to set the time, and setting the alarm on for work days and off on weekends is good. It is very easy to set and use the presets and to scan up and down the frequencies. It would be nice if you could choose to hear the visual of the song and title, but I certainly would not want that talking automatically. It borders on too much and too slow verbosity now. My biggest complaint is that the power cord is too short. It may not do everything, but it does do a good job for the money in my opinion.
In response to Sally’s question about playing harmonica, Glenn wrote:
I have been playing this wonderful instrument for fifty years and I have even made a little money doing so. The first thing is that there are two sorts of harmonicas most of us think of. There are the little ten hole models which are called diatonic harmonicas. These are the “Marine Band” most of us think of. These are tuned to only one key. A “C diatonic harmonica, “has only the notes that are in the key of C. A “G harmonica has only the notes in the key of G,” and so on. The second sort are the harmonicas with a slide on the right side of the instrument. These have all the notes on the piano on the instrument. When you push in the slide you get the note which is one half step above the note that you are either blowing or drawing on, these are the black notes on the piano.
If you wish to just play around the campfire or have fun by yourself, the diatonic might be the one you want. That harmonica is a bit tricky as the bottom holes aren’t in the same order as the rest of the harmonica. This is so if you blow on the harmonica you get the starting chord or the “one” chord and when you draw on the bottom three holes you get the turnaround or “five chord.” This makes it possible to have a little chord back-up when you play. To play the do-ray-me scale start at the fourth hole blow, you can use your first fingers to cover all the other notes above and below the fourth hole until you can get only one hole by puckering your lips. Be sure to put the harmonica in your mouth, not just touching it with your lips.
You can go to the web site www.SPAH.org which is the “Society for the advancement of harmonica,” and find a huge amount of information about harmonica. Those of you who want to play the diatonic harmonica professionally you may wish to go to www.howardharmonica.com and Mr. Howard Levy has the most in-depth lessons that I have found on-line. This is not free you must play a monthly subscription and that might be a problem for some. So, look at your old friend www.youtube.com, there is a bunch of information there.
Harmonica prices have recently gone up quite a bit. A “Marine Band Diatonic harmonica” can cost from thirty to forty five dollars, but you get what you pay for. You can try some less expensive models from Hohner, Suzuki, or Lee Oscar as well.
If you take your time and just keep trying you will be playing a tune or two in a couple of weeks. It is said “You can play harmonica in a couple of weeks badly, or play harmonica very well in a life-time. I have been playing for over fifty years and it was great fun and worth every minute.
Best of luck!