Archive for May, 2013

Recipe of the Week – Crockpot Black Bean Soup with Chorizo, Ham and Bacon

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 6 Servings


6 slices bacon, rough chopped
8 – 10 ounces Mexican chorizo
1 whole large onion, medium diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 whole ham steak (14 to 16 ounces) medium diced
4 cans black beans, drained and rinsed (15 ounces)
1 can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes (28 ounces)
2 – 4 cups chicken broth or stock, depending on preferred soup consistency
1 whole chipotle chili in adobo, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Sour cream, optional for garnish
Chopped cilantro (optional, for garnish)


In a heavy frying pan over medium heat, cook bacon until of the fat has rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat in pan (save the rest for another use or discard it). Add the chorizo, onion, and garlic to the pan along with the 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat. Cook over medium heat, stirring as needed, until onion is translucent. Put all of the ingredients into a large crockpot (except sour cream and chopped cilantro) and stir to distribute ingredients.

Cook on high for 4 hours or low for about 6 to 8 hours.

Serve topped with sour cream and chopped cilantro if desired.

This soup is spicy hot, but the level of heat depends on the how the manufacturer has seasoned the chorizo and also upon the chipotle chili in adobo. Different varieties of chorizo may be seasoned hotter than others. For those who need to cut back on the heat level, don’t add the chipotle chili in adobo because it carries quite a bit of heat. Another option is to cut the chili open and remove the seeds prior to chopping the chili. Throw the seeds away and just add the remainder of the chopped chili to the soup.

Reader’s Forum – Week of May 20, 2013

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

Julie wrote:

I wanted to respond to Bob’s article about declining memberships in the organizations for the blind. I don’t have much to do with either organization and the main reason why I don’t is because there is a lot of infighting that goes on both within the group and with other groups. I realize each side thinks they have a point, and maybe they do, but this fighting that groups do among themselves does a lot of harm to blind people in general. I think other folks outside the group would like to be involved and try to help, but they don’t know what to do because it’s like being told to turn right and left at exactly the same time. People walk away in this situation, confused and uncomfortable. In fact, we don’t have an effective lobby, and that’s why so many strides are being made for other disabled groups, but not for us. To state it bluntly, though, I don’t want to waste my energy if the infighting is the main thing that is going to happen. I have sat through many a chapter meeting of both organizations where infighting among themselves has gone on for at least an hour, nothing gets done, and honestly, that’s not how I want to spend my time.


In response to Bob Branco’s article about consumer organizations Dave wrote:

I think the biggest problem we are facing is too many people want to grab all the recognition they can get in these 2 consumer groups. Too many people want to shine, some people in the ACB and NFB don’t want others to grow. It happens in all organizations, the Shrine has lost many members, organizations are drying up because of many reasons like: no appreciation, stress from fund raising, too costly to be member, too much greed, jealousy, envy, etc, it is happening in all organizations. I really don’t believe that there is 50,000 in the NFB, I think what is happening is that when someone moves from on state to another, they keep their membership in multiple chapters, you can’t tell me with between 2 and 3 thousand people attending the NFB convention that there are over 50,000 members, my guess would be around 20,000 to 25,000 maybe at the most, no disrespect to the NFB. I am a member of NFB been one since 1982 on and off with my first convention in 1983 in Kansas City. We all have our organization problems, there is good and bad in both organizations.


David wrote:

As regards consumer groups and their membership statistics, we may never know. It may not be in any organization’s best interest to disclose shifts, esp. downward shifts in membership figures.

I have been told by a friend who has recently attended the national conventions of the two major consumer groups of the blind that one is tending to mostly have older members and to be more social. The other still has younger members.

I would hope younger blind people feel more integrated by society, more accepted, and to have better chances at work and prospects than many people I knew. It would be nice if we didn’t need advocacy groups anymore.

I must say I have been disappointed in the advocacy groups. I have felt poorly treated and have never really gotten any help with several important adaptive tech issues – I have tried to do what I could to spread the word and change what it means to be blind, but I feel I flopped spectacularly. That I was never good enough to be in their fast-track set. I have felt that several people liked that I was an excellent student back in the day, but because some of my other skill sets did not come up to snuff, travel for instance, I did not rate any longer.

The article in this issue of the magazine horrified me. The guy who attended the Denver Center should have been told the Center was closed. That seemed like a terrible odyssey—what if he had been severely diabetic and had fallen in the snow? Surely that could have been dangerous. I just don’t understand that cruel-to-be-kind mentality. I guess that is why I don’t rate and I flopped.


Bridget wrote:

I am emailing regarding the article: Alena Roberts – Three Exciting Technologies That Are On The Horizon.

I often find products “blind friendly” and not specifically made for the blind and this works out fine for me.

I am a diabetic on an insulin pump. When I first started using it; I was given such freedom. It was like my ball and chain were taken off.

I have had it since 2005 and I have not upgraded. The company keeps calling me. They tell me that I have no tech support or part replacement with the model I have. I tell them with all of the changes, or they call them improvements, I am more restricted in what I can do independently with the insulin pump. Then they start talking about Braille buttons. I tell them no, no, no. How about just a different sound to know the difference between the low battery and low insulin. Currently they have the same sound. No need to make a blind specific pump or Braille the buttons. Look at the cell phones. What about a voice over option or a chirp and a chime for noises. Something, anything?

They have talking blood testing machines. I have contacted that company and they said maybe in the future.

I can have my cell phone turn on my coffee pot and my fridge tell me when I need milk but I can’t find an insulin pump that has more than one warning tone?

Anyone else see a problem with this picture?


Ed wrote:

In response to Bob Branco’s op-ed on the so-called blind consumer groups, I would suggest that the reason many of us do not want to be involved with either of these organizations is that we are thoroughly disgusted with what they are doing. On the one hand, you have NFB, led by a bunch of blind neurotics using their organization to act out their emotional problems with bizarre lawsuits, foolish drivel such as the assertion that blindness is only a minor inconvenience, and their belief that they can speak for all of us about what kinds of help blind people do or do not need. On the other hand, you have ACB, which is a glorified social club that does nothing but throw parties and put out a lot of ridiculous happytalk. If these organizations want to call themselves blind advocacy groups, they should solicit feedback from the mass of blind people before they can make any claim to speak for us.


Beth wrote:

Hi, everyone, here is a fantastic YouTube accessibility site. I use it on a PC, I do not have a smart phone. Enjoy!


Jake wrote:

I would like to comment on Terri Winaught’s article “He Walked by Faith,” featured two weeks ago in this great magazine. I’ve flown several times, and one of those times was by myself. I flew out to Seattle to visit some relatives, and my experience couldn’t have been more pleasant and enjoyable. At the beginning of my flight out of Chicago, 2 trainee flight attendants sat with me and explained where the plane’s emergency exits were, among other things. Fortunately we did not need them at all, as our flight was uneventful. Ditto for my return flight to Chicago. That was my only solo trip. I’ve heard about the movie “Alive” but haven’t seen it. I even knew about that plane crash prior to reading this article.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – How Did We Survive Without the Cane?

When I was a student at Perkins School for the blind from 1969 to 1977, one thing that amazed me was how the children on campus traveled without a cane. At that time, it didn’t occur to me just how important the cane really was, and even after I took mobility lessons, I put the cane away and continued to walk around the Perkins grounds without it, as did everybody else.

As I grew more dependent on the cane with time and with additional training, I have become amazed at what we did on the Perkins campus. How did we do it, especially those of us with no vision at all? Did we sense where landmarks were because, prior to mobility training, we had no choice? I remember totally blind children leading their friends from building to building without their canes, and I simply took it for granted that this is how it was in life. It’s not like someone put a cane in our hands the moment we arrived at Perkins for the first time. We learned mobility at a given time in our curriculum.

Today, the cane is part of me. I never leave home without it. I thank God that I learned travel skills at Perkins and in my college years, so that I can be as independent as possible. With that said, I applaud how brave we apparently were at Perkins, and how determined we were to reach our destination with lots of confidence, while all we carried were our school books, but no cane.

If you read my book, “My Home Away From Home, Life At Perkins School for the Blind” you will learn more about my experiences as a teenager who had to live away from home.

Did you ever travel a lot without a cane as a child before you were taught mobility?

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Supporting Local Farmers

Spring is my favorite time of year. It’s the time when my plants start popping up again in my garden and it’s also the time to start planting food. This past week my husband and I planted lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, onions, and strawberries. There is nothing quite like going out to your backyard and picking food that you grew yourself. Unfortunately most of us are not able to grow all the fruits and vegetables in our own gardens. Thankfully though many farmers around the country have Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs at their farms.

If you are like me and live in a place with lots of farms, it is good to shop around when deciding what CSA to participate in. For those that are not familiar with what a CSA is, here’s how it works. Local farmers offer a certain number of shares to the public. A share is usually a box of fruits and vegetables, but it can also be other things like cheese. You then purchase the share for a fee and you get a box of food each week. The benefit to the farmer is having income that they can count on for the season and the benefit to the consumer is having access to fresh local produce. To learn more about CSA’s in your area, visit this link and put in your location information:

Another great option to get local produce is “you pick” farms. Every summer I look forward to spending time at one of my local blueberry farms. I get more blueberries than I could ever want and they’re at a price you can’t beat. The way a “you pick” farm works is just like it sounds. You pay a fee for the food you buy, but it’s at a reduced cost because you picked the food yourself. Visit this link to help find “you pick” options in your area:

Enjoy finding produce in your area to support local farmers, and if you have good gardening tips, share them in the reader’s forum.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – How I Learned To Travel on the Trolleys and Subways

Para transit fees have risen in the Boston area. At the last ACB conference, we were encouraged to take advantage of the accessible MBTA system. I will describe the challenges I faced learning to use subways and trolleys in 1969.

After graduation from Perkins, from August through November I had mobility lessons in my hometown Weymouth. My instructor was extremely patient, competent and thorough. I learned proper cane technique and how to reverse routes. I learned routes from my parent’s house to the bus stop and our parish church. We repeated these routes until we were positive that I knew them. I practiced these routes daily. It gave me opportunities to visit with a neighbor or stop at the coffee shop at the bus stop. I gained self-confidence and a sense of independence.

By November, my instructor was familiarizing me with the concept of navigation of busier intersections in Weymouth. I was learning how to cross them when these delightful lessons ended. The state wanted him to teach me bus, subway and trolley travel for a skills / job evaluation in January 1970.

Our first lesson on independent navigation took place on busses on the Red and Green lines and was on a Thursday in early December.

We traveled on the MBTA bus from Weymouth to Field’s Corner station in Dorchester. When standing on the open subway platform I was overwhelmed by the loud rumble of the oncoming train. My instructor taught me to recognize the difference between a distant and approaching train. As we sat in the warm car, we counted seven stops to Park Street Station in Boston.

After going up a flight of stairs, I did not know what to think of the constant racket of Green Line cars speeding along the tracks. We traveled with a sighted guide onto the car going two stops to Arlington Street station. After leaving the trolley, I faced learning to navigate the maze of stairs and turnstiles in that large station. Unlike today, there were no maps or audible announcements on the MBTA. Attentiveness, quick thinking and a good memory were essential for successful travel through this system.

Subsequent lessons were easier. Trains and trolleys became less overwhelming to travel on. As our lessons progressed I learned to never hesitate to ask for help. This was fun; I had interesting conversations with young students about music radio stations and what schools they attended. In January, I mastered crossing four streets to Morgan Memorial on Berkley Street. I listened for parallel traffic crossing before I judged it was safe.

The weather was cold and there was snow everywhere for the last two lessons. That Thursday it was bitterly cold as the teacher put Bill, his other student, and I through two rigorous lessons. At the last lesson, on Friday, I was confused by oncoming traffic and began crossing at the wrong time. As we walked back, I knew this had not been a good lesson. The teacher confirmed it as he said, “I almost flunked you today.”

My friend Bill and I often traveled to Arlington or Park Street Station after our day at Morgan Memorial. That summer I had the same instructor and he taught me the route to Hickox Secretarial School on Tremont Street. My mobility instructor was more than a teacher. He taught me to be more self confident and to honestly admit when I did not know something.

The Commission for the Blind and mobility instructors made sure future students were thoroughly prepared to travel in to Boston; they were not rushed as Bill and I were. The challenges of learning to navigate the city showed us what courage and inner strength we had.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – An Applelicious Experience

Promising Maria that we’d do our best to get to Apple’s famous tubular elevator without incident, we needn’t have worried. As soon as our feet hit the spacious plaza, we were greeted by a helpful gentleman, who escorted us right to the elevator, where we met another friendly greeter who guided us on and pressed the button. You might be wondering why on earth I’m going on about the greeters. Well, when Maria and I last tried traversing that area, we almost wound up taking an unexpected dip in a lovely pool.

Did you know that elevators and I have only a grudging relationship? I must take them, but I’m tense all the way up and back. The Apple elevator, however, a pleasant enough ride and it’s moderately interesting watching our descent. Wondering whether we’d be able to catch the attention of a representative once we stepped off, our fears were once again laid to rest as a cordial and competent sales representative approached us to assist in purchasing Maria’s new iPad Mini!

Was the representative aware of the Voiceover screen reader? Yes, she was, and enabled it with the triple-click Home command. I was pleasantly surprised that the feature was enabled for that demo device. She admitted not being skillful in executing the Voiceover gestures, but no matter. We dazzled her as we swiped and double-tapped our way around, proving our competency in this area.

Once we were salivating to buy the Mini, she smoothly talked us through the various options. We opted for the 16gb device and a 5gb AT&T data plan. She also encouraged us to purchase AppleCare. It made sense. If you’re going to purchase an expensive device, you might as well protect it as best you can.

Maria purchased a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard that paired flawlessly without needing to input a code. We also splurged on some extra lightening cables and plugs. It’s been my experience that the lightening cables simply do not last as long as the 30-pin cables.

The rep and I used teamwork to set up the device, handing it off to perform various tasks. I could have probably set it up at home but it was much faster having her setup the data portion – unknown territory to me. I’m still becoming accustomed to the extra real estate and spacing on the device. Further, once you’re in the Settings area, you’ll find that the categories are on the left and the options for those categories are on the right. I’m finally remembering that layout.

Maria is enjoying her Mini so much I’m wondering if I would delight in one of my own. Stay tuned to a Matilda Ziegler near you!

Feature Writer John Christie – Hadley Has a Wide Variety of Courses for the Blind and Visually Impaired To Take Advantage Of

Hadley is a distance education institution which was founded in 1920 by William Hadley and Dr. E.V.L. Brown. Hadley’s first student was from Kansas. She took a course on learning Braille. Now, Hadley has an enrollment of 10,000 students from all 50 states and 100 countries.

Hadley offers four main areas of study. They include adult continuing education, family education, Hadley School for Professional studies and their High School program. Their adult continuing education courses or (ACE) include Braille and academic studies as well as independent living and technology courses. Other courses that are offered in this category include business and employment skills as well as recreation. Family members related to the blind person are also eligible to take these courses.

Family education is another category that Hadley specializes in. Courses which the severely visually impaired person and their families can take include child development, independent living, and Braille reading and writing to adjustment to blindness issues. Family education is really helpful to the newly blind.

Hadley School for Professional Studies is a unique Distance Education Program for professionals who want to work with the blind and visually impaired. HSPS for short is a great program for busy professionals who want to either want to work in the blindness field or volunteer in the field. In addition, you can also earn continuing education credits. Students who are enrolled in a college program or university program may apply as well.

If you are 14 or older, Hadley has a high School program. You can either take a full high school curriculum through Hadley or take courses and transfer credits from Hadley to your local high school.

Hadley also has a variety of web courses. Many of these courses emphasize using the computer.

In September 2011, Hadley launched a new program called Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship. The objective of this program is to help people launch and grow their own businesses or advance in their careers. The goal of this program is to assist in making a dent in the 70 to 80 percent unemployment rate for the blind.

Hadley has some great course offerings for the blind and professionals going into the blindness field. Hopefully, people will continue to take advantage of these offerings and improve the quality of their lives.

Feature Writer Ann Chiapetta – Canines Helping Humans: Dogs for the Deaf

In the first article in this series I said that dogs are powerful creatures and they don’t even know it. They change lives, providing safety and independence for people with disabilities and comfort for those in need.

Dogs also love to be given a job, whether it’s as a loving family pet or service dog. The organizations that train and place service dogs meet these goals but differ in the types of training they provide. So far we’ve heard about dogs helping families with autistic children and other psychiatric disabilities. The next kind of specialty dog is one that assists the deaf and hard of hearing. There are at least 7 training programs offered for dogs that help the deaf, maybe even more if the private trainers and self trained teams are included. For this article, however, I am concentrating on the most popular programs, most of which require new teams to train on campus for two to three weeks. Some programs, like the one offered by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) and Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD), among others, offer a program for a two person team to work with the new dog as well as follow up from instructors once they arrive home with the new dog. The third person, often a family member, helps the handler and new dog to practice behaviors and target new sounds. This isn’t a requirement but can be a benefit for new teams. One deaf couple, who each have a hearing dog, actually went back to CCI together and were able to each be matched with dogs from the same litter. Each dog alerts to the alarm clock of the person handling the dog. Now that’s what I call very handy, for sure. One woman tells how her Labrador retriever kept her out of harm’s way while crossing a street. A car ran the stop light and she didn’t hear it but the dog pushed her out of the way of the oncoming car. She said this was a behavior that wasn’t practiced as part of their training, but the dog’s instincts took over.

What breeds of dogs are used as hearing dogs? Pretty much any breed and size, from poodles to German Shepherds. Some people prefer the smaller dogs, some the larger. Some programs breed dogs and others look for dogs in shelters and take donated dogs. The dog has to be tested for sound reactivity, temperament and willingness to work before they are accepted into formal training. Training takes about three months to one year, depending on the program and the needs of the person to whom the dog will be matched.

Interestingly, different countries identify hearing dogs in varying ways. The United Kingdom requires dogs to wear a burgundy service vest; in Australia dogs who help the deaf wear orange collars and leashes. The United States leaves it up to the individual, as the ADA does not require service dogs to wear service vests but many hearing dogs do wear them to help the public understand not to distract them when they are out working with their handler.

Dogs for the deaf make it easier for a person to go out in public and also live a more independent life.

For more information:

CCI home page:

Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Affordable, Universal Accessibility

Although I have worked off and on since 1975, November 2005 was the first time in 25 years that I was preparing for full-time employment. Part of my new position involved extensive computer use which I was not looking forward to. My reason was my preference for Braille displays and my extreme dislike of the synthetic speech produced by every screen reader with which I was familiar. Once I learned how to use JAWS, however, I was so proud of myself that I became addicted to it – addicted, that is – to everything except the price. The Pittsburgh Office of Blindness and Vision Services, now part of OVR, paid a good bit for JAWS. Were I starting that same job in 2013, and asked if I wanted JAWS or WindowEyes, I would say “no.” That’s what Robert Kingett – author of an informative article in the May, 2013 Braille Monitor about NVDA-said when a vocational rehabilitation counselor asked that question. What follows is a summary of both advantages and disadvantages of NVDA as presented in Robert Kingett’s article, “My Ongoing Search for Accessibility.” There will also be a brief history of this program’s development.

Having debuted in 2006, NVDA, which stands for non-visual Desktop Access, was developed by an Australian company called NV Access. Unlike commercial screen readers, NVDA is a free, open source screen reader which can be downloaded onto any Windows-based computer by going to NVDA can also be downloaded onto a thumb drive, enabling the user to have portable accessibility right in his or her pocket. In addition to being compatible with the Microsoft Office suite of products like Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, NVDA also works with Windows platforms from XP to 8. In his article, Robert Kingett also mentions the 36 languages into which NVDA has been translated: Afrikaans, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (both simplified and traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Kingett when he lists NVDA’s strengths as being free (though donations are always welcomed and encouraged), community driven and not profit driven and a program which is constantly being updated at a rate of three updates per year with 20 enhancements and 30 fixes.

As with any product or service, NVDA has its flaws and is not right for everyone. If you enjoy NVDA and find it as useful as Robert Kingett has, then you might feel, as I also do, that affordable, universal accessibility has been transformed from a longed-for dream to a welcomed reality.

To read Robert Kingett’s article in its entirety, go to and locate the May, 2013 edition of The Braille Monitor. You can also e-mail me at, and I will gladly send you Mr. Kingett’s article. Robert Kingett is a film critic, motivational speaker, and performing arts critic who lives in Chicago, Illinois. Additionally, Mr. Kingett has cerebral palsy, is partially sighted, and is a technology enthusiast.

To find NVDA add ons, visit and If you are on the Philmore Productions Voicemail system, you can learn more about NVDA by entering Box 3070 and asking to join Debbie’s NVDA group. To join a more technical, web-based group, e-mail David Goldfield, Access Technology Instructor at Associated Services for the Blind e-mail:

If any readers use NVDA, share your experiences in Readers Forum.

Letter from the Editor – Week of May 20, 2013

Hello Everyone,

I hope you had a great week.

Unfortunately my experiment with spacing the emails out last week did not solve all of the email distribution problems we’ve been having. I’m still working on it. I’ve set up an automatic response on the email address that will send either the magazine or supplement to you if you do not get the emails initially. All you have to do is send an email with the subject “Did not get magazine” or “Did not get supplement” and it will be sent to you right away. I will update these emails every week going forward.

Thanks to those who wrote in to the Reader’s Forum.

Thanks for reading and have a good week.