Archive for February, 2013

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – The History of President’s Day

We may have enjoyed the long weekend given to us by the President’s Day holiday, but how much do we really know about its origins?

Before the Uniform Holiday Act took effect in 1971, Americans observed two holidays in February. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was quietly celebrated on February 12th, while Washington’s birthday was celebrated with much fanfare on February 22nd. Today there are three states which still recognize and celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday–Connecticut, Missouri, and his home state of Illinois.

Washington’s birthday was celebrated for the first time as a holiday in 1879 in the District of Columbia. Congress implemented the holiday for their offices in Washington first, and then expanded it to include all federal offices in 1885. Its celebration was the first holiday meant to honor American citizens. Memorial and Veterans Day would come later to recognize veterans for their service to our country.

The concept behind President’s Day as we know it began in 1951 when Congress started discussing its viability. A national committee was formed by Harold Stonebridge Fisher from Compton, California. He felt President’s Day should be appropriately celebrated on March 4th, since many of our presidents had been inaugurated on this date. This bill was stalled in the judiciary committee, though, and was eventually defeated. Many felt that three holidays in less than a month might prove too confusing.

Observing Washington’s birthday as part of the Uniform Holiday Act was passed on June 28, 1968, with its observance starting in 1971. Since then, the holiday is observed on the third Monday in February with a floating date from the 15th to the 21st. The name of the holiday was changed from Washington’s birthday to President’s Day in many states in the eighties. However, in Virginia, Washington’s home state, there is a month-long observance of this holiday. They still celebrate its observance as George Washington’s Day with a large parade in his honor.

Since 2008, I’ve tuned in to the History Channel this time of year and watched their biographical sketches about our presidents. Their accomplishments and shortcomings are given equal importance and it’s always interesting to learn more about our country’s history and those who helped to shape it.

Source:, search for “President’s Day”

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – A Verizon Weekend

We’ve used Time Warner Cable since 1990. But, my decision to switch to Verizon FiOS had nothing more to do than with the saving of cold hard cash. Earlier attempts to use Verizon were disappointingly unsuccessful. I called help so often that I’d memorized the steps for accessing their help menu and getting to a representative, who was less than helpful.

Intrigued by the recent $89 per month plan promoted by Verizon, I thought this would be a great time to cancel Time Warner’s $155.00 Basic Package, which does not include premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, or offer telephone service. In light of recent weather activity, it might be a wise idea to have a land line. Our new plan includes HBO, Showtime, telephone, and internet service for approximately $137.00 per month for two years. That’s quite a bit higher than the magical $89.00, but as you add services, prices go up. Let’s hope that at the end of the two years, the price increase is gentle.

Once the installation was finished, I was then faced with the tedious task of re-connecting all our Wi-Fi devices to the new network. I didn’t realize we had so many and I still have a few to go. Two successes: I am once again able to connect my VoiceSense QWERTY to Wi-Fi. For some inexplicable reason it simply stopped connecting to Time Warner’s network. The other plus is that downloading speeds are spectacularly speedy!

It never occurred to me to install the TV guide app on our iDevices, but now that it is, I can tell it’s going to be very useful. It is Voiceover accessible and you can find a show, go to a channel, or find a network. Once I upgraded our package, I waited about a half an hour and turned on Oprah Winfrey’s network (OWN). I was then able to watch her interview with Beyoncé Knolls. I knew that Beyoncé’s documentary would be shown on HBO (Home Box Office). Once the name of the documentary was mentioned, I opened the TV Guide app, searched for the show, and then sat rapt as she revealed her innermost feelings to us.

Thank heavens Maria alerted me to the fact that she was unable to send emails. Unless you have a Verizon email account, you’ll need the assistance of a technician to set up your email with regard to the outgoing server and other settings. I resignedly surrendered control of each computer and he performed several setups. Exploring key dialog boxes might reveal some hints to me so that I can perform the same task on our other computers.

So far I’m very pleased with Verizon FiOS and I’m hoping the feeling continues.

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – JAWS Training: Part Two

If you are a teacher, Freedom Scientific is offering a new certification program. You can study all of the materials provided on the JAWS DVD, study the material found on the Freedom Scientific training pages, and then take a test. If you pass the test, you can become a certified instructor. There is a one-time fee to become certified and there is also a yearly fee required to keep your certification up to date. For additional information about this new program, you can visit

If you would like to become an experienced web surfer with JAWS, you can take advantage of the free “Surf’s Up” training pages. These pages contain lessons put together in a specific order which enable users to read through and practice using JAWS on the web. The great thing about these lessons is that the pages that are used as practice pages are completely useable and accessible with JAWS. This means that the experience you have while practicing a skill will be exactly the experience you should have on that web page.

Sometimes, it can be frustrating to visit a web page to try out an activity, only to find that the page you are using is not screen reader accessible. I use “Surf’s Up” frequently because I don’t always remember everything about web surfing and it is a great place to refresh my memory. It is also a good place to check occasionally, in case there are new features added to JAWS which involve web surfing. You can take advantage of all the free training lessons on the Surf’s Up pages by visiting

If you’ve tried everything that I’ve written about in these articles and you still find yourself at a loss, you can elect to take one of the courses offered at the Freedom Scientific headquarters in St. Petersburg, FL. For some of us, there is nothing like sitting in the classroom, learning directly from an instructor. I’ve taken several courses at Freedom Scientific and have found all of them to be of great value to me. Not only have I learned a lot from the class instructor, but I’ve learned from the other students in the class as well. During our lunch breaks, we shared our training techniques and it was helpful to hear how someone was able to teach an individual or group based on their specific needs. You can learn all about the training program at Freedom Scientific by visiting

Whether you are a new or experienced JAWS user, I really encourage you to take advantage of all of these materials that are provided by the company. We can always learn something new.

Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Bringing the iPhone and Braille Together

I hate touch screens. I absolutely, positively do! For this reason, I have yet to purchase an iPhone and I returned an Android smart phone. All of that said, I was recently intrigued when I came upon Alena Robert’s article about some new iPhone apps and she mentioned BrailleTouch. Wanting to learn more about how this app bridged the gap between touch screens and Braille, I went and did a little digging.

BrailleTouch is an iPhone app which enables users to type on the touch screen by using it as you would the standard keyboard on a Perkins Brailler or electronic note taker. A man named Caleb, a graduate student at Georgia Tech University, and his colleagues, developed this with the hope of enhancing the computing experience for persons who are blind or vision impaired.

To develop this application, researchers selected 11 individuals who were blind. What they found was that persons familiar with the Braille keyboard mastered the app in about an hour and typed at an average speed of 23 words a minute (A podcast of this is available on

Once you have downloaded a free trial version, you can use the app by holding the phone in both hands with the screen facing away from you. When held in this manner, your left hand will automatically be on the part of the screen that corresponds to dots 1, 2, and 3, just as your right hand will naturally be on the portion of the screen corresponding to dots 4, 5, and 6. You would then write as if using a Perkins or note taker.

While free to try out, if you want to fully utilize this application in order to send E-mails, text messages, and have the ability to copy Braille text into the clipboard, you must purchase this app from iTunes. This application costs $9.99 US, as does the upgrade that enables copying and pasting. While there is a cost to unlock all of the features, it’s comparatively small when you consider the price of a separate device.

At this time BrailleTouch supports only Grade 1 Braille, but every attempt is being made to upgrade it to Grade 2 so that this app will appeal to Braille users at all levels. BrailleTouch is also currently only available in English. If you want your language to be supported, there is a features link on along with a Contact Us link. Get in touch and maybe you can help them develop the software for your language.

One other aspect of BrailleTouch is that it is supported only on iPhones 3GS and later, and you must have at least the iOS 5 operating system. You will be unable to access this app on an older iPhone. Additionally, BrailleTouch can also be used on the iPod touch. The iPad and Android smart phones do not support this application currently, though researchers are hoping to adapt it to Androids soon. Though attempts were made to utilize this application on the iPad, most participants found it difficult and frustrating due to the larger screen size.

While I cannot deny my dislike of touch screens, this app at least makes me feel better about them and it’s encouraging to know that developers are coming up with new ways for the blind to interact with touch screen devices using Braille.

If any reader who is an iPhone user has downloaded BrailleTouch, we’d love to hear in Reader’s Forum how it is working for you.

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Giving Red and Green Back to People with Color Blindness

One of the things I miss most is being able to enjoy the vast variety of colors that exist in this world. I can still see color, but it’s very difficult for my eyes to focus enough for my brain to understand what color I’m looking at. But for an estimated 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women, there are a great number of colors that they’ll never perceive properly because they’re color blind. At this point we don’t have a way to cure this problem, but scientists may have stumbled upon a way to help those who are red/green color blind experience more of the color spectrum than they ever have before.

The term color blindness is really a misnomer since most people who are color blind still see color, but they have trouble distinguishing between certain colors. There are people who live in a world of grays, but they are a rare subset of people with color blindness. The most common form of this condition is what we call red/green color blindness. People with this condition will have trouble distinguishing between reds and greens. They also may see reds as orange or light brown. As you might imagine, this can make activities like matching your clothes and identifying objects very challenging.

Recently, a group of researchers developed a set of glasses that would help medics better identify veins and bruises on their patients. What they didn’t know at the time is that these lenses would also help people see reds and greens better. The drawback though is that they block out yellows and blues.

According to a scientist who tested them out, the glasses made reds and greens stand out like he’d never experienced, but he didn’t like the fact that other colors were now invisible. For example, a yellow light on his baby’s monitor was just not there when he had the glasses on. The good news, though, is that the glasses are already available for purchase, and they can be used in situations where people would want to or need to be able to distinguish reds and greens. This finding will also hopefully lead to a better solution that would help people see the reds and greens without blocking out other parts of the color spectrum.


Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Useful Tools

The weather of the last month has sent me back to January 2009, remembering that no matter how cold it was or how much snow accumulated the previous night, the guide dog school instructors rounded up the new students and new dogs and we set out to learn how to walk in it as a team. Armed with hand warmers and long johns, we were the intrepid, the fearless, the frozen.

But I digress. Now that I’m considered a veteran of traversing the snow as a blind person and a guide dog user, I’ve adopted a few useful tools to help avoid falling on my butt while climbing over mounds of ice and snow.

First, if you don’t have to go out in the unplowed areas, stay inside. It’s much safer and warmer. However, if you must go, even only for a short distance or length of time, use common sense. Take your cell phone, wrap up, and don’t take any unnecessary chances. Prolonged exposure to below freezing temperatures can result in frostbite, so cover those hands and wrap up with a hat and scarf.

A good pair of boots with insulation and non-skid soles for traction in the snow are essential. For ice, one can purchase rubber traction devices like Yak Trax that attach to the bottom of your boots by clipping on the toe and heel. They have coiled metal wires that criss-cross under your foot and give you excellent traction in the slippery stuff.

Next, other than good outerwear, I often use a ski pole when walking in deep snow. It keeps me oriented by identifying the path from the grass line and doesn’t slip on what is under the snow, like a white cane. I purchased a set of used ski poles for $10 at the local ski shop. The ski pole was instrumental in keeping me from falling on my butt during the past two weeks. Plus, when one hits a patch of ice, it slides so you know where the ice is and can dig in or go around it.

Walking in the city is a challenge, though, and other than relying on your wits, avoiding the barriers of snow is frustrating and can be dangerous. Verona and I have been staying inside for lunch due to the haphazard way the city of White Plains has plowed the streets. Some are clear, but some corners are completely blocked and I’ve had to back-track two or three streets to get where I’ve wanted to go. Verona is a pro at finding even the smallest path through the white mounds, too. But I’m not taking any chances and I’ll be bringing lunch from home for a while.

Good luck to all of you and stay safe and warm until the snow melts.

What are some of your winter travel strategies? Let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer John Christie – Change Language, Change Perception

The Social Security Administration wants to eliminate the term “Mental Retardation” from all of its documentation and replace it with the term “Intellectual Disability.” They are not required to make this change, but many governmental agencies have elected to alter the language on their own anyway.

Advocates for people with intellectual disabilities welcome this change. They feel that with this name change it will eliminate many stereotypes that this disability group has suffered with in the past and hope that public perception will be altered as well.

Members of this disability group often have varying abilities in reading and math. In addition, they can have trouble understanding abstract ideas. However, many are more than able to hold down jobs such in construction, the arts, manufacturing, as well as many other areas of employment. They may have trouble adapting to the job, but with time they can get used to their surroundings. Some may also need job coaching where a professional in that field teaches them the job. As with everyone, they just enjoy life and want to succeed.

Many people with intellectual disabilities have become successful. One of these people who I know is a guy named Jeff, who is also blind. For a while, he worked at National Braille Press in Boston as a Proofreader. Then he moved to Ohio and was a Proofreader for the Clovernook Printing House for the Blind. Eventually though, despite the years he spent in that role, he had to give up the proofreader position because of a sleep disorder.

Jeff is unfortunately an outlier, though, and many people with intellectual disabilities are stuck in sheltered workshops and are not really given the chance to prove themselves in the community. Initiatives like this one serve to change that and assist these individuals to become productive and proud members of society.

This is not the first time that the Social Security Administration attempted to change the wording for this group. In 2010, the agency had a comment period on this topic, but no changes were made. Hopefully, in 2013, the wording will be changed after the new 30 day comment period, which ends on February 27, 2013. You can send comments either by internet, fax, or mail. To comment via the internet, you can visit Use the Search function to find docket number SSA-2012-0066. The system will issue a tracking number to confirm your submission. You will not be able to view your comment immediately because we must post each comment manually. It may take up to a week for your comment to be viewable. Toyou’re your comments use the number (410) 966-2830. If you choose to comment by mail, address your comments to the Office of Regulations and Reports Clearance, Social Security Administration, 107 Altmeyer Building, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21235-6401. Once you choose a method to send your comments, you must stick to that method. Multiple comments can’t be sent by the same person.

I encourage all of you to submit comments regarding this matter. By doing so, you will be directly supporting the SSA’s efforts to improve public perception of the intellectually disabled.


Letter from the Editor – Week of February 19, 2013

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a nice weekend. I just want to let you all know that the January Audio Edition is now available to download or stream directly from our website. If you wish to have the download emailed to you automatically each month, please send me an email at with “Subscribe to Audio Edition” in the subject line.

Beyond that, everything is business as usual here at the magazine. It’s amazing that February is almost coming to a close already, but it’s nice to know that Spring will be here soon, and with it, some warmer weather and a lot of melting snow.

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

Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Caribbean Fried Bakes

Submitted by Leol Williams

These bakes are also known as Fried Bakes, Trini Bakes, Guyanese Bakes, and Floats. Though it is called a bake, it is not cooked in an oven. Rather, it is deep fried. Floats is probably the most apt name for them because once in the oil, the dough floats to the surface and puffs up.
In Trinidad, these are the bakes (also known as Johny bakes) made often to eat with Bake and Shark, or with Fried Salt Fish.

Prep Time: 6 minutes
Dough resting: 30 minutes
Total Time: 36 minutes
Yield: 10


4 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp white granulated sugar
A pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Lukewarm water
Oil for deep frying


Add flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon (if using) to a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Rub in butter to flour mixture.

Add enough water to make a soft dough. When the dough comes together, knead for 2 – 3 minutes. Rub the dough with oil and let rest, covered for at least 30 minutes.
Knead rested dough for 1 minute and then divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and form into balls.

Heat oil in a deep pan and let come up to 350 degrees F. The oil should be hot but definitely not smoking.

Roll one piece of dough into 3 1/2 to 4-inch circle. Add dough to oil – the dough should sink and within 2 second start floating to the top of the pan. Using a long-handled pot spoon, spoon oil over the top of the dough so that it continues to puff up, as soon as it puffs up, flip it over. You will notice that it starts to bubble and move around the pan. Let cook until the side is nicely browned.

Using a slotted spoon, remove bake from pan draining off the excess oil. Place in a paper-toweled bowl.

Repeat the process from until all the bakes are made.

Serve with Fried Shark or Fried (sauteed) Salt Fish, or eat as it is with cheese, butter, ham, jam or jelly.

Reader’s Forum – Week of February 11, 2013

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

In response to Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – Wrongly Accused, Carol wrote:

I have had guide dogs since 1970 and the incident that Steven Famiglietti spoke of has happened to me more than once.

In spite of what is taught at guide dog training schools, the form of correction does look cruel. Many describe it as “Why are you yanking your dog’s neck?” Also, more and more, people are not using the choke chain that many guide dog schools use. When in class often it is stressed that the way we conduct ourselves in public is a reflection on the school. Some people believe that the choke chain can damage the dog’s throat. I would think that there could be an alternative way to correct a dog.

We are also taught that if our dog makes an error, make the dog do it over and over again until they do it right. So Steve is at a mall, and this person sees Steve making the dog do the same thing over and over, the dog doesn’t comply, and Steve “yanks” the dog’s neck. I learned that unless it is really serious, don’t keep making the dog do the act over and over again in public. Some guide dogs get stubborn and absolutely will not do it correctly. Steve did state he did have his dog under control at one point, but decided to keep trying to get the dog not to lunge at his friends. Another way he could have handled it would be that once the dog was under control, just stop. And when he was out of the mall, out of the public’s eye, he could have enlisted his friends to work with the dog’s excitability issue. You can be sure that guide dog schools have fielded calls from irate observers and know how to handle such calls.

Also, many who threaten to contact a school don’t. Still, in an age where having a camera available on their cell phone or iPad isn’t unusual, pictures can be taken and posted on the internet. I hope the guide dog schools wake up and work more on verbal corrections or something that doesn’t look so violent. There are people who don’t believe that dogs should be used as assistants and think that whole scene is disgusting and cruel.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Steve to work with his dog on how to greet people. I’m more surprised that this is the first time something like this has happened to Steve than I am that it happened at all.
In response to Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – Wrongly Accused, Sandra wrote:

Being accused of abusing your dog is unfortunate. However, having to give several harsh corrections, especially leash corrections, can look to the general public like abuse. That is why my guide dog school, the Guide Dog Foundation, is breeding much calmer more gentle dogs that are controlled mostly by voice or a gentle harness correction which is only a slight flick of the handle to get the dogs attention.

GDF was very concerned about the negative impression the need for harsh corrections gave to the public. I’ll admit from my thirty seven years of guide dog use I who agree. I remember with my first two dogs having to give hard corrections and I know who it feels to be accused of abuse. I always encouraged people to call GDF and tell them. Then I followed it up with my own call explaining what happened. Over the years graduates complaints about this problem as well as calls from the general public saying they saw us abusing our dogs caused them to begin breeding and training calmer, gentler, more well behaved dogs that do not need such harsh corrections.

I am thrilled not to have to correct my dog with anything more than a verbal correction in a quiet tone of voice only heard by the dog. The public only sees my well behaved excellent working guide. They see me giving her lots of praise and pets for a job well done. That leaves the public with a much more positive impression of guide dog handlers. Unfortunately those of you from schools still training such hard to control dogs will always be faced with the abuse accusations.
In response to Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Discovering and Rediscovering Talented Authors, Gil wrote:

I recently discovered a very talented author who specializes in books for young readers.
Even though I am an adult, I truly am enjoying reading books by Andrew Clements. I am
currently reading the third book in his science fiction series that includes:


A most delightful character in these books is a teenage girl, Alicia, who is blind. Alicia reminds me a lot of a good friend of mine.

My wife is a substitute teacher. She happened to be in the middle of a long term assignment in a classroom of very talkative students when we together listened to and laughed through Andrew Clements’s NO TALKING, DB 65284.

Andrew Clements’s THE LAST HOLIDAY CONCERT, DB 63571, was especially meaningful for me as I observed my daughter’s first year teaching music in an elementary school.

I have also enjoyed reading:


I am looking forward to reading all the other books I can find by Andrew Clements.
In response to Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – My Experiences with Audible, Audrey wrote:

Just remembering my Emerson reel-to-reel; large and heavy, but surely portable, as could independently carry around and hold on lap. Even played 5-inch reels, which was something! So much recording of TV shows, songs from the radio… then came cassettes!
In response to Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – My Experiences with Audible, Danni wrote:

I would like to know if anyone has experienced issues when reading a book on the computer that have been gotten from audible. I have several, but can’t figure out how to read part of a book, stop, and then go back! When I stop the book it goes back to the beginning when I restart! Please help!