Archive for October, 2013

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – An Angel

As you know, Whitlee, my first guide dog, passed away recently. I’ve been doing a lot of mental reflections on the situation ever since I received the news of her passing. She sure was a dignified dog who knew what her purpose was on this earth. When she worked, she folded her ears back and looked like an arrow. It was difficult to distract her away from her work and she was quite an intense, serious dog.

My life changed the day she entered into it. We began walking 2 miles each morning before work and another 2 miles in the evenings after work. I never gave any thought to the fact that once she was at my side, my fears about getting hit by cars disappeared completely. It was like she took those away from me.

It can be so easy to get bogged down with all of the problems in our country and around the world. Sometimes it seems like everyone is stressed out and it becomes easy to adopt this way of feeling. Even if the stress doesn’t affect me, I think that just like everyone else, I get caught up in the rhythm of work during the week and weekends off. Sometimes it is easy to think that people aren’t paying attention, or that they don’t care.

I’ve been taught a lesson many times in my life. People really do care, even if they don’t see me all the time. Many friends and acquaintances have written or called me when they found out about Whitlee’s passing. Everyone expressed their concerns for me and they reminded me that there are lots of people out there who have gone through this before and they are happy to help if I need anything. It is heartwarming to know that people genuinely do care and they want to help. I am so thankful and grateful to everyone who has come forward with their words of encouragement and support. Many times in life, there is gain that is found from loss.

Whitlee is my hero. Like all of you who have guide dogs, every one of them are precious and we must honor them every day and cherish each day when we put the harness on them and ask them to go forward. They hold our care and trust close to their hearts and they are loyal every day that they are alive. Whitlee had thirteen wonderful years here on earth and everyday that she was with me, I always thought to myself, “She does so much for me, what can I do for her? How can I make her happy and comfortable?”

I’m glad to have known Whitlee and I praise and honor every day that we had together. Now, I must be sure to keep Joel’s best interest in mind as we work together each day. I have made sure to pay attention to him carefully in the days that followed the news of Whitlee’s passing. I was obviously upset about it, but, with Joel, I reminded him that he is a good boy and that everything is ok. We’ve taken quite a few trips to play with his favorite ball outdoors and he has enjoyed some good runs with his ball in his mouth. I want to make sure that he is happy and ready to work each day, just like Whitlee did for almost 9 years. So, make sure you give your guide dog, pet dog, or any other animal in your life a big pet and a hug. We love them and the love is unconditional!

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – California Pizza Kitchen, Our Favorite Eatery

We’ve enjoyed the delicious Southwestern cuisine of the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant since 1995 and have many awesome memories. The food and ambience have remained consistently excellent. Changes have been made to the menu that have not always been to our liking, but we plan to support this terrific hot-spot as long as it remains open in New York City.

During the first week of my employment at Lighthouse International, a supervisor was set to move to California with his family. To celebrate, our staff took him to what was then a relatively new restaurant. It was new to me anyway. I was completely enthralled with the unique menu and open environment and could barely wait to brag about my new find. We’ve since celebrated many an occasion there. When I was asked where Maria would like to go when she was laid off from her medical transcription job, I promptly responded that the get-together must be at CPK. We’ve since taken many friends there, celebrated several birthdays, met there after performances and gone there to relax after a long week. Acquainted with several staff members, they know to bring a Braille menu to our table. In fact, Maria has proofread many a menu, pronouncing the latest version thinner but acceptable.

And speaking of a thinner menu, this is one aspect of CPK that has driven me bonkers! Thanks to their corporate entity, the menu is in constant flux. We recently learned that the company is doing well but I tell you I’ve been sorely disappointed over the years as I’ve attempted to order favorite dishes and drinks that have been either replaced or discontinued. Frustrated from months of changes, I once made such a fuss that the manager came to our table to console me. The latest incident came as we were thwarted in our efforts to order their delicious pumpkin cheesecake, as it was sold out nationwide.

The most heartbreaking change was the closing of the CPK near Lighthouse International. This was the one we visited the most. Like so many establishments here in NYC, the landlord was demanding an exorbitant amount of rent for the sought-after Manhattan space and the management of CPK refused to pay. I’ll never forget the date as it coincided with that of our first cabaret show. The bright side is that there is a CPK conveniently located near my job and it’s become our new home.

Last week we were given a CPK points card. Our friendly server read the numbers, which I recorded. I’ll be visiting the website to investigate its accessibility.

I’m keeping my tastebuds crossed as word is that the scrumptious pumpkin cheesecake might return to the menu very soon.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Celebrating Halloween: Then and Now

In the late 1950s children always went trick or treating with their parents. Parents often created costumes for their children; my mom put together a ghost costume from a sheet, rubber ball and short pole. At the age of ten, I walked, with my mom, out of our home on Halloween in 1959, dressed as a ghost with two heads. I happily went trick or treating and our neighbors liked the creative costume. I would dress as a ghost for the next two years.

In junior high, I went to Perkins annual Halloween parties. They were in the gym of the Howe building. There were many activities: creepy scavenger hunts; bobbing for apples; and eating a doughnut from a string. In 1963, the party was held on a Thursday night. It ended with students chatting while they enjoyed delicious plain doughnuts and sweet apple cider.

After my marriage to Marshall, we began our own Halloween tradition. After moving into our home in Fitchburg, we opened our home on the specified Trick or Treat night in Fitchburg. For the first two years, we did not get many kids coming to our house, but our stepchildren always arrived for candy and homemade cookies. By 1993, I began doing things in a more organized way.

By mid October, we got several bags of miniature chocolate bars and Hershey kisses from our local supermarket. We also bought extra baggies. Sitting on our couch on our city’s Trick or Treat day, we worked as a team and I filled baggies with several candy bars and Hershey kisses. Marshall put the closed bags in one plastic shopping bag. Since we often started running out of chocolate candy, we would fill variety bags with fireballs, hard candy and a few pennies. We hung the bags on our decorative wooden front door.

At 5:45 on trick or treat night our porch and hall lights went on until eight P.M. When the doorbell rang, I frantically ran to open the door and ask how many kids there were. As I handed the kids bags of candy I inquired how they were dressed. There was often an adult with the kids and they politely answered my questions. They briefly told us what costumes they were wearing. Some were vampires, tramps or witches. A few had traditional costumes like ghosts or goblins. They happily thanked us and put the candy into their bags.

My stepchildren, Pam and Andrea, and their grandkids arrived last. We always served them sweet cider and delicious homemade cookies. The year I remember best was 1996. Pam related to us how their accommodating neighbors were also serving her family cider and cookies. These neighbors were wonderful.

Throughout the nine years we opened our home on this evening, our home’s popularity steadily rose. Kids knew us as the house where you received good candy with a smile. Our tradition gave us chances to observe how the celebration of Halloween was changing. Kids now arrived in groups with adults often in cars. We seldom saw children walking towards our house on our quiet street. I never encountered rudeness or impoliteness from anyone. Perhaps our home with the Halloween wreath and our friendliness made everyone feel at ease.

Halloween, like other holidays, has its way of setting aside reality for kids and adults. It gives kids a chance to dress up in scary costumes and receive candy from adults. For adults it is a time to enjoy candy and watch programs or movies about the paranormal or make believe.

Feature Writer John Christie – New Machine Brings Magic to Blind Children in Japanese School for the Blind

A new machine is being used at the Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired in Tokyo, Japan. The machine actually prints toys for blind children. The machine operates by Voice search and 3-D printing.

The machine was first invented by Yahoo! Japan. The company’s designers put a 3-D printer into a bulbous, cloud-like housing and outfitted it with a voice based user interface. The machine also has a database of toys. The way the machine operates is the children at the school will shout out a toy that they want and the machine will spit out the plastic toy. Once the plastic toy is spit out of the machine, a teacher peels the extra plastic off the printed product. The children can request a variety of toys including giraffes, unicorns, trucks, buildings, bugs, dinosaurs and so forth by pressing a big button. This is really like having your wishes come true with a magic lamp.

The idea of this machine was conceived by Osamu Aranami, head of Yahoo! Japan’s advertisement division. “I believe innovation comes from the combination of old things,” he said.

This technology is not old but will be useful in a variety of situations. With this voice recognition device and 3-D printer you would be able to make a replacement battery cover for your TV remote.

Getting back to the kids at the blind school in Japan, they don’t care about the complexities of the machine. All they care about is the toys it spits out.

This machine is amazing. It’s like a magic lamp spitting out toys for the children. It’s also good that this product will be useful for everyone as it will be able to make replacement parts for a number of products.

Source: http://www.wired.com/design/2013/10/this-amazing-machine-gives-blind-kids-any-toy-they-want/#slideid-269511

Feature Writer Ann Chiapetta – The Science of Touch

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece in the Ziegler about shoes equipped with haptic GPS technology. The shoes would vibrate signals to the user, providing information while walking to a location.

This got me wondering, what is haptic technology and how is it used today?

According to Wikipedia, “Haptic technology, or haptics, is a tactile feedback technology which takes advantage of the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user.” The origin of the word haptics is the Greek haptikos, meaning able to grasp or perceive. Haptic sensations are created in many consumer devices with tiny motors that create vibrations. Think of the game controller that vibrates during game play, simulating the feel of gun shots.

Haptics are also used in other ways. For instance, tactile vibrations are given to the surgeon when implanting pacemakers. There are so many possibilities for haptics to enhance the world for the blind and the vision impaired. And this is just the beginning.

To read more about how haptics are used, go to: http://www.immersion.com/haptics-technology/what-is-haptics/

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – eSight Eyewear: Bringing Sight to People with Low Vision

There are a number of devices that are designed for people with low vision, but none of them are specifically designed for the end user. Glasses can be a great benefit to some, but for others, glasses don’t end up enhancing the usable vision. After watching his two sisters lose their vision to Stargardt disease, Conrad Lewis decided to find a way for people with low vision to utilize the vision they had. What he created is called eSight Eyewear, a set of glasses that uses a camera and two LCD screens that project the image from the camera onto the eye.

One of the benefits of eSight is that it’s customized for the user. The company is training eye care professionals to work with the end user to make sure that the camera is going to be effective for the kind of vision the user has. The customization includes changing contrast, zoom, and color preferences. According to the FAQ, eSight is best suited for people who have, “Macular Degeneration, Stargardt Disease, Ocular Albinism, Diabetic Retinopathy, Leber’s Disease, Cone-Rod Dystrophy and other low vision conditions.” The device works best for those with an acuity of 20/40 and 20/400 with a field of more than 15%. This Youtube video highlights three people who are benefiting from eSight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CgxJ6SWSx0

If you feel like eSight may benefit you, there are a number of eye care clinics that can work with you. Most of them are in Canada, but the plan is to have trained professionals throughout North America. This page gives a list of all the clinics that are available at this time: http://www.esighteyewear.com/esight-eyewear

I think that this is a very exciting new device and my hope is that it will end up benefiting many people. I can even think of students that I work with now that would benefit from this technology.

Letter from the Editor – Week of October 28, 2013

Hello Everyone,

I hope you had a great weekend.

Please let me know if you are not getting the magazine and I will do my best to get it to you as quickly as possible.

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

Have a great week.

Sincerely,
Editor

Recipe of the Week – Slow Cooker Roast Beef Hash

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 pounds beef top round steak, trimmed of fat, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 package brown gravy mix (0.87 to 1.2 ounces)
1 cup water
3-1/2 cups frozen potatoes with onions and peppers (from 28 ounce bag)
1 cup frozen sweet peas frozen

Directions:

In 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker, layer onion, beef, salt, pepper and dry gravy mix. Pour water over all. Cover; cook on Low heat setting 8 to 9 hours. Meanwhile, thaw potatoes in refrigerator. About 30 minutes before serving, stir in thawed potatoes and frozen peas. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook 25 to 30 minutes or until potatoes and peas are tender.

Expert Tips:

Cook leftover hash in melted butter in a skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown. Have fried eggs and Texas toast on the side for a ranch-style supper.

Reader’s Forum – Week of October 21, 2013

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

Alice wrote:

First of all, about the organization for the blind, I think they all do some good, but there is too much in fighting in the blind community that divides us rather than unites us. I think we should try and work together, not only in the organization but as a group. We should try to help each other rather than put each other down. For example, we should try to help people who are unable to work, by trying to encourage people to find jobs and help them in the process. It is also a good idea for people who are not working to try and find volunteer work which sometimes can lead to employment. I can understand that people are afraid to lose their benefits if they start working, but in life we all need to take risks, to be able to move along and I think it is time for the blind to get together and go to our rehab agencies and tell them that we are tired of evaluations and other non essential programs and demand that they help us find employment. I think if we make our voices heard the organizations will do more in this regard. Another suggestion I have is that people who are not working form a nonprofit organization to help people find employment.

I am presently running an organization called Helping Hands for the Disabled of NYC. We do a lot to help the community. I have never gotten a request to help someone find employment, however I would look forward to the challenge. If you are in the NYC area, and want to find a job, give me a call at 718-606-9712.

##

Kathy wrote in response to Bob Branco’s Op Ed last week:

I was asked who dresses me in the morning for work, umm really crazy so told them my husband. Can I feel the colour of my clothes? Still think the Guide dog who is referred to as a blind dog takes the winning place.

##

Kathy wrote in response to Sandra’s comment:

Do understand your frustrations of partly sighted people getting a guide dog and that one feels only when you are totally blind you are then blind. I too have met blind persons who sit down and read the magazine in print. So how to correct that? I am a person who has had four dogs. When I got my first one I could see a lot but not labels and such. See a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa is such an eye condition. It is totally night blindness and our day vision is very confusing. We cannot identify steps against ramps. So believe me I did need my dog as actually could see things but not see enough to be safe.

Some R.P. blind persons can see more long sighted so even more confusing for them and also not safe to not have a dog. So this could really become a story on who does qualify.

##

Gabby wrote in response to Bob Branco’s Op Ed last week:

I get asked some stupid questions but only by little children who do not know better. I present disability awareness presentations for Girl Scouts, and some of them are as young as 5, so they ask stupid questions, so that is okay with me. However, I had a bad experience with an adult who didn’t ask a stupid question, but she did assume. I think that ADA, instead of Americans with Disabilities Act, should have stood for “Ask, don’t assume”. Everyone assumes that I am either helpless, contagious, or something else, all because the stupid people can’t imagine doing it if they don’t have sight, so they just assume I can’t. One adult rushed her 4-year-old daughter who had been talking to me away from me when I said I was blind, whispering something about “she can’t see”. I really wish that those people were blind and could see what we all go through. All the people in the school cafeteria talk to my helper about what I want to eat instead of to me. The sad part is: the helper even lets this happen, and the helper has worked with people who are blind for over 20 years, so that is extremely sad that someone who is trained in the blind lets that happen. Also, once at Girl Scouts, an older lady was cooking or serving food or something, and when I asked what I want, she began, “Wait. How does she…” and let her sentence trail off. I’ve also had stupid people say, “Guess who?” I’ve also had people who have lifted the tip of my cane up off the ground when I’m looking for something. Sadly, these people are said to have been trained on how to help people who are blind, so that is extremely sad. In fact, one of those people is my helper, the same idiot who lets those cafeteria ladies talk to her, then she says, “Oh, I didn’t even notice” like she’s the stupidest person around, which she probably isn’t, but she’s pretty close. I know I have a lot to say, but my point is, little children can ask stupid questions and stupid things can be done without them being stupid, but adults, especially those who are supposedly trained in helping those who are blind, shouldn’t be able to get away with this craziness.

##
Dennis wrote:

The United States has had some blind people on television: from someone who played a role in the kids show, Rug Rats, to a winner of a cooking show. We also had a blind contestant on the hit show American Idol. So the entertainment industry is taking some progressive steps.

##

David wrote:

I think the number of blind people who are out of work is largely due to the fact that they want the job, not so much a job that is satisfying, but the job and if they can’t get one most blind don’t want to really work. The 70% or 75% or whatever it is nowadays is kind of out of touch with reality. There are plenty of jobs blind people can do if they can only get past their egos. A job is a job no matter what kind it is and it should be satisfying to the recipient. I am not saying that we should be grateful or just take anything, but learn to be more patient, but not let others walk all over us either. We need to try and educate others when we are traveling and be more respectful of each other and the sighted.

Sighted people really don’t have much of a clue about blindness, they lots of times go by what they have seen other blind people do in the past. We need to really mind ourselves and try to display good behavior, we are constantly being watched and judged, one bad apple ruins it for the rest of us. As far as the ACB and The NFB, they are not employment agencies; they are supposed to advocate for us and possibly assist in looking for jobs by providing resources for us to find jobs, etc.

I agree with Sandra about guide dog use, I really feel that only totally blind people should have a guide dog. Too many times I have seen high partial vision guide dog users just leading their dogs around only by a leash. Then they like to sometimes leave their dogs home, saying something like “it’s too hot or cold” or “I’m helping someone else cross the streets and its easier leaving the dog home”, I say to that you really don’t have any business needing a dog if your vision is that good, next thing we might see someone who got a dog start getting their vision back and driving with the dog in the front seat of the car. I also feel that there should be some kind of mental evaluation to get a dog, I know a woman in Kansas City who is just like a marine drill sergeant with her last dog, she has a new dog now, but the last dog was just like watching Gomer Pyle, there should be some kind of mental stability for getting a dog. People who get dogs and cannot keep them just make it harder for the rest of those who really need them.
It is respectable to be blind, treat others the way you would want to be treated.
In response to Gene’s response to my response in the Reader’s forum about dog guide users on the amount of vision they have, I have seen a few dog guide users not using their dog guide properly, which is not using their dog’s harness, more or less having a dog for a pet is the impression that I’m getting from these people with dog guides, some people I know use their dogs when it seems to be more of a pleasure than a need, “well I guess I’ll leave the dog home today, it’s not really needed, like having someone read something to you because you don’t happen to have your reading glasses. I am really in favor of people who really need dog guides go for it, but there are still many who really shouldn’t have one because of their skills of travel and mental state of mind, some people I’ve seen are abusive to their dogs, I’ve seen it at conventions and on the streets.

##

Zerline wrote in response to Sandra:

While I’m going to respect your views, I beg to differ with you on who should and should not receive a guide dog.

First of all if you waited a long time to receive your replacement or first dog, then you should be questioning the school in which you applied to as to why there is such a long wait for you to get serviced. How could you think that a school is taking someone over someone else just because they have sight or not?

You don’t know their condition or what they can see or not see, just because they are reading a newspaper doesn’t mean they can see something else. It was your choice to wait until you couldn’t see anything to apply for a guide dog, and that is totally your right. Thank God I happen to have some vision, but cannot see far distances, should I then not have a guide dog according to you? My dogs have not been wasted, for just as a person uses a cane to identify that there is something wrong, the guide dog does the same.

I had friends who had RP, and were able to do fine during the day at times but were at a loss when it became cloudy or dark. So to narrow it down just to the totally blind to get guide dogs is just not your call at all. If any school operates like that I’d make sure not to apply for service from them.

Reading your post really got me angry, but I then realized that that’s your opinion and that’s all it is. Blessings.

##

Anne wrote:

On the government shutdown, President Obama should be there at meetings. We’ve had government shutdowns in the past and the President was always there at every meeting. On blind people owning guns, a blind person doesn’t need a gun to protect themselves, they can take self defense classes.

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LeDon submitted a poem titled A New Way To Be:

I have lost my sight and I can not see.
Oh, why has this happened to me?
Is it God’s unknown plan?
Or am I just an unlucky man?
Blindness will not be the end of me.
I will find a new way to be.
So, now birds singing in the trees
The whispering of a soft summer breeze
Are all sweet sounds for me to hear.
As I learn to see with my ear.

##

Wesley wrote in response to George’s comments about the government shutdown:

It is apparent that there is a vast divide in America, and a strong belief by a minority of people that a majority don’t want an Affordable Health Care plan. I would suppose those people must be the super rich or folks who only are serving themselves, as they are in a clear minority. I know of next to no one who doesn’t desire affordable health care, and the friends I have in Massachusetts are very pleased with a similar plan that has already been in place for a few years. To even imply that our President is blocking negotiations is totally ridiculous, as it was the Republican party that effectively pitted the federal budget against the Affordable Care Act by aiming to strip its funding. I call that hostage taking, and over 51% of Americans agree that it was these poor actions of Congress that has set us on the edge of a financial disaster. Go ahead and blame our President, but in my view this just demonstrates how some media and personal hatred for President Obama has created a misguided perception that he is holding up negotiations. Would you negotiate with terrorists? As in my opinion that is exactly the true nature of the behavior of the GOP at this time.

Response to Sandra: So Sandra, if I can see something, forget about a guide dog? Those are pretty strong words. Let’s say I have vision that allows me to see centrally, with no peripheral vision. With this kind of vision, I walk into objects that are outside of my central vision. It takes lots of scanning to get the full view of a street before I cross, or trip up or down stairs. But you say that case doesn’t need a guide dog. Now, let’s say I have extremely cloudy vision that effectively only allows me to see a few feet in front of me. I can’t read signs, see the traffic light, or even find the front door. But, no, I have some vision, so no guide dog for me. Need I go on? I find that tolerance is the key to understanding that we are all unique individuals, and what may not work well for you, works perfectly fine for me. If I am concerned about my safety, and find that a guide dog decreases risk, than certainly using one has its benefits regardless of whether I am completely blind or have limited vision.

##

Karen wrote:

Hello, I am commenting on the person who said that they want guide dogs just for totally blind folks. I feel that this remark shows extreme ignorance of different eye conditions and I am extremely familiar with different eye conditions as I used to have to review eye reports for my job years ago. First of all, folks’ eye conditions can deteriorate leaving them helpless on the street. When I first got my guide dog, my first dog, yes, I did have some vision but was tested on the street by my guide dog school for how much vision I had left. They asked what details I could still see while walking down the street. Later on, this was a great thing as my vision then took a huge fall in my late twenties. I had a massive glaucoma attack on top of R.O.P. I became aware that I also had three other eye conditions on top of the two just discussed. I had four operations on my eyes because the condition is extremely rare. The type of glaucoma I have affects internal organs as well. So I almost lost my life and the operations were to save my life not restore vision. My point, don’t exclude partially sighted folks from receiving guide dogs because their condition may not be a permanent thing. Sure some may have more vision and they pay for this by misjudging the dog’s actions but later on their vision goes, and because they still have their dogs they can continue with life. If I didn’t have mine, I would have been left unable to function on the street. My dog also gave me the strength to rehab myself and get out of my bed after all those operations. She was my reason for living and continuing with my life.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Do the Blind Try Harder?

Since I graduated from college, I found myself having to use more of my inner energy throughout my life, especially while competing with the sighted for gainful and productive employment. For every job I applied for, I had to spend many more hours researching accommodations, meeting with my supporting agency about adaptive technology, explaining this technology to my potential boss, arranging rides to and from interviews, etc. In addition, with the constant rejection that we blind people face on a regular basis, we often find ourselves sending out more resumes and making more phone calls than a sighted job seeker.

Even in other aspects of our lives, such as independent living, housing, education and transportation, we feel the need to work twice as hard and spend much more time just to prove that we are entitled to these living situations. The sighted aren’t faced with these types of challenges, and they are not questioned about why they are entitled to life’s practicalities. They just go about their lives doing what they can, hoping for the best. I wish it was that simple for the blind.

While the sighted give 100 percent, the blind often have to give 200 percent.

I have also made an observation in an area where many sighted people take life for granted while we, the blind, continue to depend on our own resources to sustain ourselves. While we try our best to keep our doctors’ appointments and do everything in our power to see to it that we get there on time, I know sighted people who won’t hesitate to cancel their medical appointments the minute their cars break down. I’ve never driven, yet I learned the alternatives at a very young age. We grew accustomed to public transportation, door-to-door service, and the ability to accept all the challenges that go with this. I am not saying that the sighted do not, but many of the sighted are used to a certain life style, and never needed to go into the trenches the way the blind do.

So, are the blind forced to make more of an effort in life in order to compete for first class status? This is a question for the Reader’s Forum.