Archive for October, 2012

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Renaissance Pup

For over ten years, my husband and I have attended the Renaissance Fair in Tuxedo, New York. I started going to these fairs when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area and convinced Jerry it was fun. Eventually, we purchased costumes and bought multiple visit passes for the fair in New York. Jerry is a pirate–the most unrestricted kind of costume, of course. As for me, I am dressed in shades of blue. I hear it makes my eyes look really cool, as they are multicolored; green and brown with blue specks. I was using a white cane back then, and it was one of the most difficult mobility challenges because of the uneven ground, tree roots, gravel, and sunken slate pathways that comprised the walkways meandering this way and that way throughout the fair grounds. Most of the time, I used a person to guide me and a few times I tripped over things or stepped in the mud.

The first time I went with Verona guiding me it was hard, but in a different way. She had to learn to avoid obstacles like rocks and roots, and I had to learn how to go with her, how to interpret the signals she was providing with her body language and through the harness handle. The first time was mostly successful, especially the guide work. I no longer had to hold on to someone and use my cane as a walking stick. The harness handle gave me back my balance and I was finally able to enjoy the surroundings. I relaxed more, smiled more.

We worked out a method so Verona would follow Jerry through the crowds, even if we were separated by them, she always found him again. One thing that I still have to watch out for, though, is the food left on the ground. One time she snatched up a whole turkey leg and another time she ate some discarded nuts.

Verona has a special party collar to wear and it matches my costume, too. Now, every year we go, the employees working the fair know us and say hi to “Ye working Canine,” in an English accent. The best part is they all know the rules, “Ye best not pet ye canine, upon orders of the Queen.” Huzzah!

What fairs do you like to attend? Tell us in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer John Christie – Deaf Community Wins Two Year Battle With Netflix

Back in August, we introduced you to an issue brought up by the National Association for the Deaf, a lobbying group, who sued Netflix for not providing closed captioning for its “Watch Instantly” streaming service. Now, the company has agreed to a settlement.

The problem that started it all was that while captioning was visible on smart phones and tablets, as well as computers, it was not on products that stream Netflix to a television set. Before the lawsuit was settled, neither Netflix nor the television manufacturers had little incentive to solve the problem of closed captioning for the deaf. Publicizing the lawsuit may have been the only way to make Netflix comply. Due to the amount of publicity this case received, it was settled fairly quickly in a Springfield, Massachusetts court room, ending the battle between Netflix and the deaf community that has been going on for two years.

Spokesman Jonathan Friedland said that Netflix has ninety percent of its programming available with closed captioning. However, he said that with the number of devices that are out there, it’s hard to provide high quality captioning on all of them.

In the settlement with a deaf viewer, Netflix will be able to offer captioning on all movies and TV shows available through their service by September 2014, and will provide 100 percent full captioning by 2016. Until the company can comply with the full settlement of the case, Netflix will provide a list of closed captioning content to the deaf community. In addition, Netflix will pay $755,000 in legal fees as part of the settlement.

I congratulate the NAD for fighting for the deaf community and suing Netflix for not providing full closed captioning for their content across all platforms. Now, everything will be accessible to the deaf as far as TV and movies are concerned. Hopefully, this case sets a precedent for all content providers and will hopefully mean that descriptive video for the blind will be implemented, as well as the menus for the cable systems. This victory for the deaf community could be a real example of what the blind could do when fighting for equal access to entertainment.

Sources: http://www.hackingnetflix.com/2012/10/netflix-settles-caption-lawsuit-with-national-association-for-the-deaf.html

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/173565281.html?refer=y

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/07/closed_captioning_lawsuit_netflix_faces_legal_charges_for_not_complying_with_ada_requirements_.html

Letter from the Editor – Week of October 22, 2012

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a great weekend. If the weather where you are was half as decent as it was here in New England, it was still beautiful. Next Tuesday will mark one year since we were buried in snow with that freak storm, so I like that the weather appears to be more docile this October. At least, I hope it stays that way.

The September Audio Edition will be released this week–possibly this afternoon if we can get everything arranged in time. So check your inboxes and our website for that soon. Otherwise, there are no new updates for now, so we’ll continue on into this week’s magazine.

Take care, have a great week, and as always, thanks for reading.

Sincerely,
Ross Hammond

Recipe of the Week – Impossibly Easy Chicken Pot Pie

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 6 Servings

Preparation Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 35 Minutes

Ingredients:

1-2/3 cups Green Giant frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup cut-up cooked chicken
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup, (10 3/4 ounces)
1 cup Original Bisquick mix
1/2 cup milk
1 Egg

Directions:

Heat oven to 400ºF.

Mix vegetables, chicken, and soup in ungreased glass pie plate.

Stir together remaining ingredients with fork until blended.

Pour into pie plate.

Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Variations:

Add more flavor by stirring 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite dried herb into the veggie mixture. Oregano, basil, thyme, and dill weed are all great choices.

Have leftovers from another meal? You can substitute leftover turkey for the chicken and the same amount of cooked vegetables for the thawed frozen vegetables, if you like.

You can also change the flavor by using another variety of condensed creamy soup.

Reader’s Forum – Week of October 15, 2012

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

In response to comments made about his recent article on Braille watches, Bob Branco wrote:

I wish to respond to a comment made about my article on braille watches. A gentleman referred to the “quality of parts” needed which may justify the higher cost of a braille watch. What additional parts are there, quality or otherwise? You have a few dots put on the watch face, and the lid snaps shut. What else is there to a braille watch that requires the use of a quality part?
##
In response to comments made about the recent article on Braille watches, Fred wrote:

In the Op Ed page two issues ago and in the most recent issue, there were discussions of Braille watches. Most recently, a reader commented that Braille watches may not be as popular as at an earlier time because fewer blind people are reading Braille.

I want to point out that what we call “Braille watches” really are not Braille. These watches have raised dots around the face of the watch but these dots do not represent numbers but only locations around the clock face. One does not need to be able to read Braille to use a Braille watch. The two activities have nothing to do with each other. To use a watch with raised dots one needs to know the location of 12:00 O’clock, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00. One also needs to know how to tell time on an analog clock; one with hands that point to various points around the clock face.
##
Sally Ross wrote in to say:

I am behind in thanking everyone for responding to my questions regarding Melatonin helping with sleep cycles. Thank you to everyone who responded. I will be looking into this further.

Thanks,
Sally F. Ross

Contributor Brian Fischler – Laugh For Sight NYC 2012: Tickets on Sale

It seems like only yesterday that I was folding up my cane and hiding it in my computer bag on the way to work. When I first started getting around with a cane, like many, I was ashamed and embarrassed. Nobody likes to show weakness or faults. Wow, that was a long time ago, but not in a galaxy far far away. It’s now 2012 and I pretty much have lost all usable vision, and I no longer work in corporate America. Do I miss the money? You betcha. Do I miss the job or the people? Absolutely not.

For the last nine years I have worked as a comedian. Coming to terms with losing my vision and eventual blindness and sharing it all with the public turned out to be very therapeutic for me. I’d be lying if I told you it’s wine and roses all the time. Don’t get me wrong–like many of you I still have those “Why Me” meltdowns. I just learned to keep those meltdowns in the home.

So why the trip down memory lane? When I sat down to write this article promoting this year’s Laugh For Sight NYC, it hit me–this is our tenth benefit. It blows me away when I think of all the amazing, talented comedians that have donated their time to Laugh For Sight. The generosity of comedians never ceases to amaze me. I’d be lying if I said that I am completely happy with the success of Laugh For Sight, as we still have yet to reach the financial fundraising that I would have hoped for, but considering the times we are living in, the mere fact that we are still going, and going strong, says something. I like to think of Laugh For Sight as a night where the blind and visually impaired communities can come out and have a very special night all about us. Judging by the turnout of people with canes and guide dogs at Laugh For Sight, we’ve accomplished that mission.

Now onto the important information. This year’s Laugh For Sight NYC will be held on Monday, October 29th at the world famous Gotham Comedy Club. Proceeds will benefit the Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. We are thrilled to announce the night will be kicked off by celebrity host Bonnie Bernstein of ESPN. She will be joined by legendary comedian Robert Klein, Eddie Brill, Bonnie McFarlane, Paul Mecurio, Jim Norton, Colin Quinn, Rich Vos, and of course Nash and me. The silent auction will start at 7 PM, followed by the comedy show at 8:30 PM. Tickets can be purchased through www.gothamcomedyclub.com, or by calling 212-367-9000. For the latest information make sure to follow us on Twitter @LaughForSight.

Contributor Nancy Scott – One Little Word

Sometimes you know sighted people are having trouble accepting you just by one little word.

A friend and I went to a play. While munching on after-performance treats, she casually said, “If people walked by you quickly and didn’t see your white cane, they’d think you were normal.”

I’ve heard this verbal distinction from other sighted people, but it bothers me. I am not sighted and I do not look sighted. But this is not the same thing as being “abnormal.”

I might allow comments like this to go unchallenged if the person isn’t important enough to me to attempt to enlighten the view. In this case, though, I was talking to someone I like and with whom I had an ongoing relationship where respect would be important.

So I took the risk and said, “I’m not sighted, but I’m perfectly normal. Well not perfectly, but I’m just blind.”

I don’t mind being called “blind” since it’s accurate. “Visually impaired” is not accurate for me since I’m totally blind. I don’t mind “disabled” or even “challenged” since I am those things. And I’m a “high maintenance friend.” Bur “normal” and its opposite are vague judgments that demean without facts.

I wanted my companion to be a friend and not a person of conversations edited or manipulated so someone would feel superior and someone inferior.

I wanted to enhance her belief system and not just her language. And I didn’t want to be seen as automatically “less than” in her eyes. Could that start with one little word?

Contributor Erin Jepsen – The Blindness Spectrum

An event stands out from the haze memories in my childhood. I sat in a van with several other grade school aged kids. Taking off my thick glasses, I rubbed my tired eyes with a sigh. This led to questions from the others about how much I can see without my glasses. Rather than attempt a detailed explanation, I said the obvious, the trope that society expects from thick-glasses-wearers. “I’m blind without ‘em,” I foolishly said.

Immediately, this led to bored children asking me to count fingers, try to get me to blink or look. When it eventually worked, and a movement caught my eye, they accused me of lying and faking. As I look back on it, I both cringe and sigh. Finding out much later that I actually do have a mild vision impairment makes me look at that past encounter differently. To me, it forcibly demonstrates a fallacy in our modern culture and language. To most people who haven’t had to think about it, the word “blind” means “no light perception.” Period. Blind means black. You can see, or you can’t. Hollywood hasn’t helped us combat this stereotype, and for thousands of blind people who have a degree of sight, confusion occurs daily, causing people to think we’re either faking blindness, or that we should act solely as a sighted person, since we can obviously see something. We are forced to choose one or the other, blind or sighted, and for those of us living in the borderland between, life can often be very difficult.

In my thinking, we could correct this problem by taking a page from autism. Everyone accepts that autism contains varying degrees of severity, because the language we use to identify it clearly shows this. We say “They’re on the autism spectrum,” and people get that the person may be high-functioning, or they may be more impaired. There even exist separate conditions that are similar to high functioning autism, such as Asperger’s Syndrome. A person who is diagnosed as having Asperger’s might need only a few supports to be successful in school and work.

With blindness, we need a similar clarity of language. Instead of “I am blind,” although completely acceptable to use; it might be clearer to say something like “I am on the blindness spectrum.” For me, I have enough sight to function as a sighted person for a good portion of my time, but I still need some non-visual techniques to be successful, and I don’t drive. My daughter, who has a limited field of sight in only one eye, is in a different place along the spectrum. Instead of “legally blind,” which still seems vague, it would be easier to have the concept of a continuum, with different flavors of vision, from photophobia to reduced field, to loss of central vision, to night blindness, to lowered acuity or other experiences.

Maybe I’m an idealist. I just wish that our language accommodated a clear concept of the experience of blindness with regard to low vision, not just blackness. As a blind community, it might be worth continuing the dialogue regarding the language we use to identify ourselves in order to make it as clear as possible. Perhaps the answer is education, to teach people that the word “blind” actually means a spectrum. I’d love to hear your own stories and ideas in the Reader’s Forum.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Braille is the Word

In 1965, nearly 48 years ago, I was introduced to Braille for the first time, probably unaware of how valuable it would be for the rest of my life. Though I had usable vision during my school years, I didn’t have enough to read printed text, so I depended on Braille for reading, writing, math, computer operating, and other necessary tasks. During my young adult life, I slowly lost any usable vision I previously had, so Braille became my world. I had to transfer most of my labels into Braille, which were already in very bold print.

Although modern technology for the blind is in direct competition with Braille, I still feel the need to depend on Braille as my main reference point. Braille pages, unlike data in a computer, will not crash or be lost, unless I personally lose them or throw them out. If I’m doing a job, and my computer crashes, I have to think about what we all used to do in the old days in order to get by. For example, I have nearly 3,000 email addresses in my Braille files which I keep in reserve in case anything happens to my computerized address book.

Despite all the wonderful advantages Braille offers, nearly eighty percent of the blind population are not familiar with it. This is a sad state of affairs. Despite the stat, nearly every student at the Perkins School in the 1970’s who didn’t have enough readable vision learned Braille.

When I was in elementary school 45 years ago, Braille tutors would spend an hour a day teaching the blind. Today, this type of tutoring is usually part of a preexisting criteria in order to become a special needs instructor. With that said, I believe, with my experience, I can teach Braille to anybody who wants to learn–blind or sighted. I have had great success in the past teaching this very practical method of reading and writing, and I would be proud to continue doing it.

Braille will never get old, despite all the new efficient ways that the blind can get their work done, and it’s too important to let it simply fade away.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Research and Writing: How Times Have Changed

I’ve been reflecting on how easy it is to perform research and write now for both blind and sighted students. But it was not always this way.

In the fall of 1967, I entered my junior year at Perkins. Our English teacher impressed upon students that we must not wait to choose a subject for our junior essay. A thoroughly researched and well-written paper was emphasized, and it would seriously affect our grade that semester. For that essay, students preformed research on their topics at Perkins or their local libraries. I remember for me, personally, it was quite time consuming.

Subsequently, in October I put some extracurricular activities aside to concentrate on reading about Edna St. Vincent Millay, the poet I would write my essay on. With a talking book and print as my references, my mom would often read to me as I took notes. I took all my notes in Braille and they were very handy references when writing my essay.

Taking notes and reading were easy compared to the writing and countless re-typing of pages on a manual typewriter. Though, even with these small annoyances, I liked the process of writing something uniquely mine. Although the task of footnotes and having your paper proofread for typing errors was daunting, the rewarding sense of a project at its completion was worth these aggravations.

Today, the writing of term papers for blind high school and college students is, comparatively, a breeze. While the research and note taking will always be there, the process is easier now. You can download countless books on Bard, among many other sites. You may need readers for print material, but taking notes is easier with devices like Braille note takers and digital recording devices. For students who do not have a note taker, a Perkins braillewriter will also help to quicken the pace.

Writing and revising term papers also takes up less time, as you can proofread your own work, correcting punctuation or grammar. Spell check is a great help, even though it doesn’t replace a proper edit. Even footnotes and sources are easier to weave into your term paper. If you have questions, you can email your paper to your instructor for guidance. We never had that type of access to our teachers.

Regardless of the process, though, the act of researching a topic and writing their own work teaches a student how to use their voice, how to create arguments, how to express themselves–all things that will help them succeed in their future education and beyond. If anything, the technology that we have now ensures that students can accomplish this more often and at a higher level.

Are there any Ziegler readers who are currently students? If so, what is the process of writing an essay like for you? What about you, parents? How have things changed from when you were a kid now that you’re helping your own children with their school work?