Archive for August, 2012

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Paralympics 2012

The upcoming Paralympic Games will begin on August 28th, and will run until September 16, 2012. The torch will be lit on August 28th by relay teams representing the four nations of Great Britain. Each team will climb the highest peak of the Nation they represent and, by flint and kindling, light a torch.

Groups of disabled and non-disabled scouts will ascend Scafell Pike (England), Snow don/Yr. Wyddfa (Wales), Ben Nevis (Scotland) and Sleeve Donard (Northern Ireland). Each relay team will carry the flame to its capital city for a short ceremony and then proceed to the main arena to be united with the Paraolympic flame during opening ceremonies on August 28th. The Chair of the London 2012 Organizing Committee, Seb Coe, said, “By creating the four Flames through human endeavor at the four highest peaks in the UK, we will ensure that the spirit of each home nation is represented in the Paralympic Flame.”

On the home front, the United States will be sending 54 Olympians to Great Britain to compete in this year’s Paralympics. Five of these athletes are visually impaired. One of those athletes, Lex Gilette, is a blind long jumper. Lex relies on practice, muscle memory, and his sighted partner, Wesley Williams, to position and guide him. Gillette, with the help of Williams, is the current the world record holder for his classification, with a jump distance of 6.73 meters, or a little more than 22 feet.

My favorite event is Para-Dressage. Equestrian events first appeared in the Paralympic program at the 1984 Games, held in Stoke Mandeville and New York, and have been featured at every game since Atlanta in 1996. In Sydney, riders competed with borrowed horses. Equestrian athletics for the disabled is rapidly growing and almost all nations have opened dressage to people with disabilities. Over the years, the system in different dressage grades will develop in the next Olympiad or two, say experts. Classification is a unique element of Paralympic sports, intended to ensure fair competition. As each sport at the Paralympic Games requires different skills and competencies, the impact of impairment on the performance of the athletes varies. That’s why each sport has its own unique classification rules. Perhaps this is why dressage is so attractive to athletes with disabilities. Or, maybe it’s all about the horses.

What is your favorite Paralympic sport? Tell us in the Reader’s Forum.


Letter from the Editor – Week of August 27, 2012

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a great weekend.

Well, it is upon us–the final week and the unofficial end of summer. It certainly went by fast.

But before we stampede into autumn, I encourage all of you to get out and enjoy the summer sun while it’s still here. From what I’ve heard, it looks like we might need to prepare for a rough winter, and we may find ourselves yearning for these hot temperatures that we’ve cursed these past couple months.

Just as a reminder, due to the Labor Day holiday on Monday, September 3rd, the magazine will be released on Tuesday, September 4th. This will be the last disruption to our regular publishing schedule for quite a while and I appreciate your patience throughout the month of August.

Also, following the release of this magazine, I will be sending out the July 2012 Audio Edition. If you’re a subscriber to the Audio Edition email, check your inboxes this afternoon. If you would like to subscribe, please email me at You can also listen to all audio editions by going to

That should cover everything for now. I hope you all enjoy this week’s magazine. We’ve got some great articles covering what will be going on at this year’s Paralympic Games, as well as some important advocacy issues and other great topics from our talented writers and contributors.

Take care, and as always, thanks for reading.

Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Chocolate Sour Cream Filling and Icing Ingredients:

2 cups granulated sugar or Splenda or half and half
6 Tablespoons Hershey’s Chocolate Flavored Syrup
2/3 cup dairy sour cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Chocolate Sour Cream Filling and Icing Directions:

In a saucepan, combine the sugar and chocolate syrup.

When well mixed, add the sour cream, and cook over medium heat to the soft-ball stage (234 degrees).

Remove from the heat; add vanilla and beat until thick enough to spread.

Add nuts of any kind for variety.

Makes 1 1/2 cups icing.

Cake Ingredients:

3 blocks Hershey’s Baking Chocolate, (3 ounces)
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup boiling water
2 cups Splenda light brown sugar, packed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Cake Directions:

Combine baking chocolate, butter and boiling water in a small bowl; stir until chocolate and butter are melted.

Thoroughly combine brown sugar, flour, baking soda and salt in a large mixer bowl.

Gradually add chocolate mixture, beating until thoroughly combined.

Blend in eggs, sour cream and vanilla; beat 1 minute at medium speed.

Pour into a greased and floured 13x9x2 inch pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool and frost.

Reader’s Forum – Week of August 20, 2012

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

In response to Roy McCutcheon’s comment in last week’s Reader’s Forum, Beth wrote:

In his letter regarding baseball, Roy McCutcheon stated that he was paid $20 per hour to take phone calls and type. Would it be possible, Roy, for you to tell us what company you worked for, in case we want to try doing this type of work?
In response to Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Fleksy: Creating a New Way to Type, Richard wrote:

I am writing this using Fleksy. This really does take typing to a new level with the on screen keyboard.
In response to Feature Writer John Christie – Carroll Centre Adds Zumba to Their Summer Program, Jean wrote:

Not only have I attended Zumba classes, I am legally blind and teach Zumba Gold in Brenda, AZ. I have taken 2 training classes, Zumba Basic and Zumba Gold. I asked the instructor via email if there would be someone to help me understand the steps and she said there would be.

I love Zumba Gold and the flexibility I have with the dance steps and my choices of dances. My students seem to love it. I strongly recommend trying it if you like to exercise.

Jean Marcley
In response to Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – I Am Not Amused, Stephen wrote:

I also have grown not to like scary rides, but love the water rides and if you want a water park adventure of your lifetime, visit the Wisconsin Dells which is a town and all they have are water parks.
In response to Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – I Am Not Amused, Carole wrote:

I rode my first roller coaster when I was eight and was immediately hooked. I enjoy just about any amusement ride, but none can rival a giant roller coaster. Excitement builds as the coaster makes the long, slow climb to the top of the hill, pauses briefly, then plunges wildly into space. It soars, drops, twists, turns, and sometimes stands you on your head. The adrenaline rush is incredible. I feel free, fearless, wild with joy. I celebrated my fiftieth birthday by riding at least a dozen different coasters at Cedar Point Amusement Park.

As I age, it’s harder to persuade anyone to ride with me. I haven’t ridden for three years. My granddaughters and I are separated by a thousand miles. My husband used to ride with me, but at some point he decided that tumbling, spinning, flying through the air, and getting dizzy just wasn’t fun anymore. I am now retired and preparing to celebrate a significant birthday. I’d love to return to Cedar Point and check out the roller coasters, but perhaps I’d better just eat some cake and remember the thrill of those exhilarating, crazy rides.
In response to Sally’s previous request regarding canvas crafts, Jeannette wrote:

When I attempted to work with plastic canvas, I thought I had done quite well. However, a friend told me I had missed a few holes. I tried again and did much better. If I want a design on something like a heart or star, I pick up that shape or cut one. I place it on the canvas and anchor it down with yarn. At that point, I take yarn and outline the design with a yarn needle. Then I cut the yarn that is holding the pattern and put it away. Then I fill in the design. Depending on what weight of yarn you are using, fill all the holes with the yarn. Some people are good in free handing the design. Use different colors to form the design. It is necessary to count the holes. I do this by using yarn needle to count each hole. By using these ideas, you can make a very pretty piece of work. I have been totally blind since 1950. If you want to, email the editor and ask for my contact information. I would be glad to visit with you.

A Ziegler reader,
Jeannette Barton

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Children Becoming Victims of Political Correctness

I’m sure that when you were children, either you or someone in your class called the teacher cute. I’m also sure that at the time nobody had a problem with that. If a nine year old boy thinks his teacher is cute, then so be it. We all have our little crushes.

Well, if you have no problem with children calling their teachers cute, don’t go to North Carolina. Recently a 9-year-old boy from North Carolina was suspended from school for two days because he called his teacher cute. The principal of the school felt that this was a form of sexual harassment on the part of this poor 9-year-old. I honestly don’t think that this little boy had any other motivation than to innocently speak his mind. He happens to like his teacher. So what? Not to mention, he’s nine years old. I highly doubt his intent was remotely inappropriate or made in an effort to make the teacher feel uncomfortable.

In another town, two boys, age 9 or so, were roughing it up in a playground. One boy happened to kick the other in the groin. I’m sure you roughed it up with the children once in your life if, for no other reason than to have fun. Well, in this particular case, one boy was charged with making a sexual overtone toward the other just because he kicked him in the groin.

Hey, you get in a fight with a boy, and it becomes physical. That’s how it is. When I was a child, I sometimes wrestled with boys on the school playground for fun. There was never anything sexual about it. We were just having fun.

Things are being taken far too seriously and these two instances highlight how it has begun to negatively affect our children. It’s getting ridiculous.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Feature Writer Romeo Edmead – Guitarist Is A Real Toe Jammer

Bike riding, flipping, and head stands, are all impressive stunts without using your hands, but what about playing a string instrument? That concept may be an anomalous one to many, as long as you are not talking about people like George Denehy, who was born with no arms and does exactly that.

Denehy, 18, plays guitar, strumming away with the use of his feet, rapidly becoming one of the latest YouTube sensations. For Mr. Denehy, this is far from a novelty, because he mastered his craft some time ago, after his initial introduction to a string instrument.

A decade earlier, Mr. Denehy started taking cello lessons, eventually becoming quite accomplished in playing classical pieces. Once he took up guitar, his background made the transition a seamless one, so his new hobby launched his recent celebrity status. After seeing a video of Mr. Denehy performing at an event in Virginia, a member of a prominent music group contacted him. The drummer for the Goo Goo Dolls, was flabbergasted by Mr. Denehy’s talent, and invited him to perform at a festival in Pennsylvania. He opened for the band, then joined them on stage later to perform one of their big hits.

The opportunities do not just begin and end with the stage for the up and coming musician. Television appearances, including one with CNN, are scheduled in a couple of countries, and he will also record tracks for a terminal illness website. When discussing his unique talent, Mr.
Denehy explained what he feels it can do for others. “I think it just gives people a little light of hope to follow what they want to do themselves.”

One other thing Mr. Denehy aspires to do is reunite with his blood relatives, who he has not seen in more than a decade and a half. He is originally from Romania, but joined a family that adopted him and eight other children from all over the planet. Everything should come full circle at the end of August, when Denehy boards an airplane destined for the place where it all began. He will return to Romania, intent on visiting his other family, with his adopted mother right alongside him.


Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Into the Musical

I would attend a Broadway musical each week if time and my bank account allowed. What follows are brief sketches of just a few musicals that were suffused with all the elements we’ve come to expect from one of our favorite genres.

Admittedly a macabre musical, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeny Todd is not to everyone’s liking, but I’ll never forget the first time I heard it on a cassette recording and longed to see it live. A magnificent birthday gift, I later found myself sitting in the theatre, breathing in the manufactured (but powerful) smell of the infamous bake house. Even without benefit of audio description, we thrilled at what scenery we could see. It was a magical night, but that smell really was unforgettable.

I knew people in high school who attended the Rocky Horror Picture show multiple times, as that was the thing to do back in the day. I couldn’t understand the obsession, but I unashamedly admit that we have seen Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber’s glorious Phantom of the Opera at least twice. I mean, how could I, a tried and true New Yorker, pass up half-priced tickets? During one show, we managed to get front-row seats, sitting immediately behind the conductor. How thrilling it was to have the chandelier seemingly falling right on our heads. You could feel the swoosh of air and the audience let out a communal gasp of fright. This was a much more satisfying performance than that of a previous Phantom show where the lead soprano and the orchestra ended in two different keys.

Recently we were offered the opportunity to see a free performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park with audio descriptions. All I can say is thank heavens for helpful New Yorkers who assisted us in finding the entrance to the famous outdoor theatre. Thinking I would need to use the compass on my iPhone, I greatly appreciated the friendly guidance of other theatre-goers. What an incredible experience to partake of such a thought-provoking, intricate, albeit wordy, musical under the evening sky. The forecast threatened rain, but it remained a mild, lightly breezy evening. The detailed descriptions began almost the moment we squeezed ourselves into the narrow seats and continued through the two and a half-hour show. The performances were outstanding and the sound effects brilliant. Imagine hearing the booming strides of a giant’s footsteps as she enters and departs. I looked up even though I couldn’t see a thing. Our merry band would probably have enjoyed the show but the audio descriptions made it infinitely more rewarding. The piece of résistance came when the excellent reader of the audio descriptions led us out of the park.

What are your experiences with live theater? Let us hear about them in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Terri Winaught – The Perkins Brailler: Final Notes

Having given the history and types of Perkins braillers, I’d like to conclude this series with information about resellers and repair specialists.

To view a list of the resellers on the Perkins website is to realize the extent to which this dynamically growing facility has conducted international outreach. The countries where Braille users, and those who buy other Perkins products, will find resellers include: six countries in Africa, eight countries in Asia, plus the United Arab Emirates, eighteen in Europe, two in North America, and two in South America (I was surprised to find no resellers in Australia or New Zealand).

In addition to increasing the availability of the school’s products, which include access technology and low vision aids, reselling also provides work for agencies and individuals in developing countries whose livelihoods are greatly aided.

Regarding income generated, Perkins’ website has no information about resellers’ earning potential either in this country or abroad.

Just as reselling brings extra revenue, so, too, does Brailler repair. To become a certified repair specialist, Perkins offers introductory and advanced workshops at their Watertown, Massachusetts facility. In the Introductory workshop, participants learn how to clean and oil all of the Braillers that Perkins sells. Essentially, beginners become familiarized with basic maintenance procedures. In the advanced workshop, attendees learn how to dismantle Braillers, how to troubleshoot, and how to reassemble the machines.

As with resellers, repair specialists work in the United States, South Africa, and several other countries. Also as with resellers, Perkins’ website cites no earning figures for repair specialists in the U.S. or internationally.

A final note about Perkins’ repair certification curriculum is that learning is enhanced by online videos.

To conclude, Perkins is world renowned as premier school to educate persons who are blind, vision-impaired or deaf/blind. Through repairing and reselling its broad range of products, Perkins provides meaningful work to persons worldwide; and never to be minimized is the role Perkins continues to play in encouraging and advocating for greater Braille literacy.

Do any of you work as certified repair specialists or resellers? I’d love to hear not only what the training was like, but also what it was like to find work and how frequently work becomes available.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – A Spectacular Day at Perkins Pond

Since the summer of 2002, Robert Branco has held summer reunions for Perkins students at the pond. This year’s reunion stands out as an especially wonderful one for me.

On August 19th, it was sunny and warm with low humidity–a perfect day for our reunion. At nine in the morning, I took a taxi to Leominster station and met Bonnie, a woman I’ve known since high school. Shortly thereafter, we took a bus to Acton, because of work on train tracks. We eventually boarded another train, with her and her guide dog going ahead while I received sighted help.

As we got in to Boston, I called our ride explaining our train’s delayed arrival at North Station, and that we did not make the scheduled 10:40 ride time. The dispatcher reassured us that our ride would be there within half an hour, and to our delight, it pulled up right as we stepped out of the station. By noon, we were walking with others to the pond. For the exception of the train delay, the trip went pleasantly smooth.

I was so drawn to this serene oasis; the delicate fountain and sound of water gently running from the frog pond gave our area an aura of peace and relaxation. I felt as if I had stepped in to a world which was a sanctuary of tranquility, apart from the school’s beautiful, yet imposing, buildings.

I walked to Bob, giving him the batches of homemade peanut butter chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies I had made for dessert. As we found seats at picnic tables, a union of voices welcomed us to sit.

While there, I met a young Perkins student who aspires to get into theater and dancing. Her mom copied down my phone number and we hope to keep in touch. I also had a chance to chat with friends as the gentle cacophony of conversation buzzed around us. As we talked, delicious chicken wings, hot dogs, and burgers were passed around. Everyone enjoyed the meal, but it was catching up with old friends and meeting new friends which made this reunion so special. You really had to hang on to the minutes, as the afternoon was speeding by. “It is the people, not the food, that I enjoy most,” Bonnie said, smiling.

I navigated across the neat cement walkway to other tables, chatting with friends as I went. I was glad to talk with a friend I had last seen at the 2011 state ACB convention. It was so good to see her and keep in touch. As we talked, the soft sounds of a saxophone played by a well-known blind musician served as the perfect backdrop.

All too soon, I heard Bonnie call me as a reminder that it was time to catch our ride. We said goodbye to everyone as another summer reunion came to a close. As we waited for the ride, I could still hear the distant sounds of the fountain.

I will remember this year’s reunion as one of the best ones I have attended. The blending of Perkins’ previous students with their current ones, and the new fountain on the old campus, was a perfect view of past meeting present and future.

Do any other Ziegler readers attend special reunions with school graduates?

Feature Writer John Christie – New Program Makes E-Texts a No Brainer for the Visually Impaired

Christopher Toth, a blind software developer, has designed a program that will open up the world as far as reading is concerned. The program is called QRead. With QRead, it is possible to read PDF and ePub material easier than ever before. ePub material may include newspapers and technical titles, as well as many other types of material. Some other supported formats that QRead works with include Bookshare Daisy files, Microsoft Word 2007, Microsoft Compiled HTML Help CHM files, and plain text files.

With QRead, users can tab between an unlimited number of titles and place an unlimited number of bookmarks, as well as return to where they last left off while reading. With this amazing program, you can skim through a book by percentage or find passages with its useful Find feature.

QRead interfaces with major screen reading software including Jaws for Windows, Window-Eyes, Super Nova, System Access, and the free and open source NVDA. The program costs $30 and its nearest competitors cost $80.

When you buy QRead, you receive an activation key. Once you receive this key, you tab to the activation tab and paste the number in to the program, giving you the full use of the program. From time to time, you will need this number again in order to continually verify that you’re the correct user. So, once the number is emailed to you, put the number in a safe place so you don’t lose it.

Mr. Toth explained why he created the program. “Historically, access to PDF, ePub, and other e-text formats has been cumbersome, difficult, or even impossible. I invented QRead to fix this, and in the process have created a tool which will vastly improve your reading experience, regardless if you’re a casual reader, student, or professional”, he said.

QRead is a great program either for the casual reader or for a person in school. You can read anything from your local newspaper if the paper is in one of the above listed formats or a manual for a new device that might be in PDF format. This program has surely opened the world of reading to blind people and is a great invention.