Archive for July, 2012

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – More Adventures in the Park

Last week’s article on Central Park prompted more recollections from the sublime to the hair-raising.

The charming Central Park Zoo is a wonderful place to explore. When my nieces were younger, we took them there and I will never forget as they easily walked under a small, wooden bridge and I painfully smacked right into it. I swear that I saw stars the day. There was nothing to do but take a few breaths and keep going, as I didn’t want to spoil their outing. My mobility cane proved absolutely useless as it went right on ahead while my well-known hard head met an equally inflexible material. Years later, Maria and I had a blissfully pain-free experience as we tested materials for tactile sea anemones and other spongy and rubbery substances for use in an exhibition for persons who are blind and visually impaired.

At Central Park North, there is a wonderfully relaxing spot with a winding lake with benches that follow its twists and turns. We rarely sit, as we find it far more beneficial to circumnavigate the lake. These days, walking around the lake is challenge enough, but there was an occasion when we met with acquaintances who offered to ride around the Park with us on our single bikes. I really underestimated my failing vision at the time. All I’ll say is that they almost had to fish me out of the lake as I slid down a hill and only a gate stopped me from taking an unexpected dip. Our companions could do nothing more than look on in helpless horror. That was the last time I rode that darned single-person bike. Another winter season found us completely lost as we veered off the path. How we made it out of the park, we’ll never know, but we haven’t tried that scary, snowy misadventure again.

Central Park has several picturesque and famous spots and we’ve availed ourselves of most of them. Recently, Maria and I were asked to sing the National Anthem at a Beep Baseball game. I was pleasantly surprised at the lush greenery to be found on the field where the game was played. The grass was literally like a plush carpet. It’s gratifying to know that all lawns are beautifully maintained at the same level of the Great Lawn.

In addition to Wallman’s Skating Rink and the Carousel, if you have the opportunity to visit Central Park, try to visit the amazing Conservatory Gardens with its fountain and terraced gardens and path containing a riotous profusion of flowers and plant life. We had all intentions of strolling through that glorious area during my vacation, but were stymied by the hazy, hot, and humid weather conditions.

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Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Making the Decision to Retire Your Guide

Most of the guide dog users that I know would tell you that in an ideal world their guides would work forever. Sadly this isn’t the case, and we, as their handlers, have to make the tough decision regarding when it’s the right time to retire them.

Back in May, I got my annual call from Guide Dogs to ask if I wanted a home visit from one of the instructors. Since Midge wasn’t having any specific issues that I could think of, I opted to just have a talk about how she was doing. During the conversation the instructor brought up the fact that Midge is almost nine years old, and it’s their policy to just check in about whether or not retirement is something I’m thinking about. At the time I said that Midge was fine, but just the mention of retirement apparently acted like a bug in my ear because after that talk, I started noticing things that I was probably ignoring.

It didn’t take long before I started arguing with myself about whether or not I could put up with issues I was experiencing with Midge, such as how she has been slowing down her pace significantly and getting easily distracted. I had a talk with a number of my friends who were guide dog users, as well as my husband. They all encouraged me to start the application process so that if I had to retire Midge, I wouldn’t have to go without a guide while I waited to get into a class.

I started the application at the end of May and I just had my home interview yesterday. Having the home interview made everything real. I know that Midge is ready to retire in a lot of ways, but I’m not sure I’m ready for her to retire and to transition to a new two year old dog. One of the great things about working a dog is that you become a well oiled machine. That all goes out the window with a new dog. You have to spend the time and effort to teach them everything the old dog knew and adjust to their greater energy level.

I would love to hear others’ experiences of retiring their guide in the reader’s forum. Also, if you’ve kept the old guide, which is what I’m doing, how did you help the old guide get used to the new one?

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Louisville 2012

The American Council of the Blind celebrated its 51st annual conference from July 5-14, 2012. It took place in the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky. The city had something for everyone; from Churchill Downs to the Maker’s Mark restaurant. Just over the state line in Indiana, tourists went to a farm and a glass factory. Conventioneers also visited the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory and Museum. Just outside the hotel, visitors could purchase a ticket for a steamboat dinner cruise. The hotel was only two blocks from the restaurant district and the locals were welcoming, which made the entire experience very gratifying.

Affiliates were busy hosting everything from a talent show to a cigar night. I heard that the Three Dog Bakery tour was perfect for both two and four footed tourists alike.

I love going to the national convention because it gets me energized about my role in the blindness community. I catch up on the political agenda and socialize with other blind people. The vendor hall is also a main attraction; I get to talk to all the assistive technology companies and shop for gifts. It feels like a bazaar and I love it.

It can be overwhelming, though, and I always make sure I schedule in some downtime for both me and my dog. Our dogs work harder than we do, sometimes leaving the hotel room at 7 am and not returning until 8 the same night, with only short breaks to eat and relieve themselves.

The main bar in the Galt House’s conservatory bridge walkway between the towers was built from a fish tank and was about 20 feet long. Although it was lost to me, I always got a kick out of the kids’ reactions. One time, a bunch of guide dog users came walking off the elevator and I heard a kid exclaim, “Whoa, look at that!” We all had a laugh with that one. Another time, as we entered the elevator, a little girl got scared and made her mother pick her up. I couldn’t blame her; she’s eye level with our dogs.

Imagine twenty or thirty cane and guide dog users all waiting for the elevator. Now, imagine the elevator doors opening and 30 other blind folks exiting. Can you say chaos? I call this phenomena elevator roulette. It was always a toss-up if we could get in the elevator on the first shot or not. One time, fed up with it, we asked a sighted man to help us find the stairs and learned all the back routes using them instead. It saved us a lot of time and frustration.

The most helpful thing I’ve learned during a national convention is to be flexible and give yourself enough time. If you over-commit, you will be stressed instead of enjoying it.

Have any of you gone to conventions or conferences this year? Tell us about your experiences.

Letter from the Editor – July 23, 2012

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a great weekend.

Many of you have no doubt heard about the shooting that took place in a Colorado movie theater during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie. Twelve people lost their lives. They ranged in age from 51 years old, to six. As many as 61 others were wounded in some capacity. The gunman has been captured, and now the families of the victims, the town–the whole nation–wait to hear the reasons behind it.

The problem is that the media is hungry for facts, for exclusives, for anything that they can tie to their brand so that they can be the first to report. When there are no facts–or at least, when whatever facts are available dry up–they turn to conjecture. There’s nothing worse for a news station than the inability to report on the biggest story in the country right now.

So they begin to find any shred of a connection and squeeze it for information that doesn’t matter or isn’t even there. I listened to an interview today where someone spoke with a woman who worked at a convenience store that the gunman purchased soda and potato chips from a few times. What could she possibly know about him? How is her interview at all relevant? Other than giving a murderer even more air time and attention, what does that accomplish? The type of people who commit heinous acts of this nature crave this attention, and we give it to them without a second thought.

So there will be none of that here. Rather, I ask that you keep the victims and their families in your thoughts and disregard any nonsense that is thrust your way by the press–there will be a lot of it. Until any official report is released, there are no facts, just a bunch of people talking for the sake of it.

There are no new updates for this week. As always, our writers have done a fantastic job putting together articles for all of you and I hope you enjoy them.

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

Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Crock Pot Chocolate Mud Cake

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 6 to 8 Servings


1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 Tablespoons Butter
2 ounces semisweet chocolate (or 1/3 cup chocolate chips)
1 cup sugar (2/3 cup & 1/3 cup, added separately)
3 Tablespoons plus 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/3 cup Milk
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 cups hot water
Whipped cream or ice cream


Note: the cake’s cooking time and final appearance will vary depending on your crock pot’s size.

Coat the inside of a 2-1/2- to 5-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.

Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water and mix well.

Whisk in the 2/3 cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of cocoa, vanilla extract, salt, milk, and egg yolk.

Add the flour mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed.

Pour the batter into the slow cooker and spread it evenly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, cocoa, and hot water until the sugar is dissolved.

Pour the mixture over the batter in the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the crock pot.

Even when done, the cake will be very moist and floating on a layer of molten chocolate, but you’ll know it’s ready when nearly all of the cake is set and the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pot. As you check, try not to let the condensed steam from the lid drip onto the cake.

When it’s done, turn off the power and remove the lid. Let it cool for 25 minutes, then serve it in bowls topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

Reader’s Forum – Week of July 16, 2012

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

In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? Danni wrote:

It’s not just wait staff, believe me! I’ve been dealing with this garbage for nearly 28 years and sometimes it’s rather irritating. Why is it so hard for folks to understand that we are human?

Just yesterday at a doctor’s appointment I was talking with my doctor by myself in the room and when she walked me out to the waiting area she tells the gal I am with “We will see her in a year.” Uh, I was just talking to her and not once did she say that directly to me.

Sometimes I ignore it and let it roll off my back other times I get rather irritated.

I’m human and that should be the first thought in anyone’s mind and most especially folks in the medical field!
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? David wrote:

Perhaps, they simply are not sure how to establish contact with a totally blind person. They can’t look at you and ask, What would you like. It’s not a big issue for me. I just deal with it. Some gripes are always going to be with us. I think getting a job is more important. I have a friend who got nearly ballistic when a wait staff told her that her Coke was at 12:00 and her vegetables were at 3:00. I’d have simply thanked her and gone about my business—at least she was trying. Often, blind people differ in their styles of help and assistance and we need to remember that sighted people are not going to remember several different strategies. It’s nice when they ask us if we need help or such and don’t just assume we do, but it’s not worth upsetting myself anymore.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? Beth wrote:

I have had no experience of having a sighted person’s voice raised, thinking I am deaf as well as blind and I have had only a very few instances of wait staff asking my sighted companions what I want to eat. I believe that, in many cases, lack of eye contact, which is very disconcerting to the sighted, accounts for the questioning of our companions. This is not meant as a negative regarding the blind or the sighted, I just believe it’s the main reason. The wait staff may think they have to try to overcome the lack of eye contact by shouting at us. These kinds of behaviors are not unfortunate, as claimed in the piece. I find them insignificant and I just happily reply to the wait staff’s requests and continue with my day. Coincidentally, I now have a 60 percent hearing loss and I at times may need a raised voice.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? June wrote:

Because of multiple disabilities, I always travel with someone. This situation happens regularly to me. However, I think the explanation is very simple.

When a person wants to start a conversation it almost always starts by establishing eye contact. I believe the sighted person simply has no idea how to start without the eye contact and does the easiest thing and turns to the sighted companion. What makes me mad is when my companion, who knows better, answers for me!

Once again, it is a matter of our needing to educate others if we want this practice to stop. The question is, is there a somewhat universally accepted way to get a blind person’s attention when you don’t know their name? I prefer a touch on the arm or shoulder, but I know others who would hate that.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? Edward wrote:

I am totally blind and get my wife to help with the menu at restaurants. Then, I order my own food. Most people do not notice that I am blind. I tie my folding cane to my pants. I snake the elastic through the loop for the belt, then wrap the end of the elastic around the other end of the folding cane. This allows me to carry the folding cane without holding it.

One afternoon I took my wife’s cousin to Starbucks for an ice coffee. The woman at the counter got all excited. She started shouting, “hey you!” I said, “are you talking to me.” Since totally blind people cannot see whether people are talking to them or around them, I was understandably confused. She said, “Are you blind?” I replied, “Yes!” She said, “How did you know that was a ten dollar bill?” I told her my trick for folding bills differently to figure out what I was carrying in my wallet. She was not being mean, just amazed and surprised. You have to be patient with the waiting staff. Eventually, they will get it.

Edward Zolotarevsky
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? Robin wrote:

I agree with Bob that wait staff could be trained to deal with customers who are blind more effectively. The fact of the matter is, however, that most wait staff are young people who are only waiting tables until something better comes along, they complete their education and move into careers, etc. There are very few career wait staff.

The basic problem when dealing with a customer who is blind is a lack of eye contact. Typically a waiter/waitress doesn’t know the patron’s name, nor do they need to. They simply approach the table, make eye contact and proceed. A sighted customer knows the wait person is speaking to them, simply because they’re looking at them. In dealing with a customer who is blind, they can’t operate normally. That’s why they may choose to talk loudly. I don’t think it has anything to do with perceived disabilities or intellectual deficits. I’ve had wait staff tap me on the shoulder or lean over and speak into my ear in a quiet tone. This is definitely preferable as the physical contact and/or the awareness of their physical presence lets me know they’re talking to me. I’ve always made sure to thank a waiter/waitress who does an exceptional job of dealing with me respectfully. A little larger tip helps reinforce the right kind of behavior and, hopefully, they do a good job the next time they have a customer who happens to be blind. Focusing on the positive and refusing to dwell on the negative is, in my opinion the best way to deal with this, and many other situations.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Does He Want in his Coffee? Elaine wrote:

The subject of sighted people talking to the person a blind person is with instead of the blind person has been discussed on phone systems I’ve been on over the years. When it’s happened to me I tell the sighted person that they can talk to me. Sometimes I just answer the question before the person who’s with me can say anything.

I’ve heard that one reason some sighted people don’t talk to blind people they don’t know is because many of us who are blind can’t make eye contact with them. Sighted people are used to establishing eye contact with other people before they talk. I think there’s a lot of truth to this because I remember hearing about how important eye contact is when I took speech in school. When we gave speeches to the class, one of the things we were evaluated on was eye contact. Since I’m totally blind and unable to look into anyone’s eyes, I wasn’t evaluated on that issue.
In response to Rita Pulsoni’s requests for independent living strategies, Valerie wrote:

Rita, I was very moved by your request in the 7/10 Reader’s Forum. I married in ’79 and my husband was totally blind, I had partial vision. We usually split the tasks of marriage between us–he worked and had all that to do. I cooked, kept house, wrote checks, and took care of our daughter, etc.

He died two years ago and our daughter is on her own, so I had to move in to a smaller place alone.

Schwan’s Foods has home delivery to many areas of the U.S. You can call to find out if they deliver in your area. Their number is 1-888-724-9267. I don’t travel well now that I am totally blind, so I have a drugstore that delivers and get some grocery items from a local supermarket that delivers too. I do this by phone. I pay bills this way. When I can’t get help shopping for clothes, I call or any store that you can call and phone order. I take para-transit going places. My daughter reads my mail.

It may take a bit of time, but there are many ways to manage. Do what feels right for you and don’t worry about meeting others’ expectations. I found living alone very different from the 31 years I was married. Trust yourself and give yourself time. It’s daunting at first, but it can be ok and fun too.
In response to Rita Pulsoni’s requests for independent living strategies, Christine wrote:

Labelling is the answer to Rita’s problem. Over here, many blind people use something called ‘Penfriend audio recorder.’ This is a pen acting as a small recorder and its small adhesive labels containing the information can be attached to all sorts of things, including items for the freezer. It’s very popular among those who use it. It’s not cheap of course, but what high tech things are?

Before the arrival of this device, people used their own systems of labelling, and they often involved elastic bands. But it probably works better if you don’t have anyone around to ‘interfere’ with your system.

To keep one’s clothes in order, colored shaped buttons are often used to great effect sewn on to the discrete clothing labels.

Here in the UK, if people still use checks, we have a check guide which works on a template basis where the relevant blank areas are cut outs and each bank has its own guide. We use ‘chip and pin’ cards when using them as debit or credit cards, but for those who can’t use these, there is still the previous system of chip and signature cards which works well – at least it does once you’ve got the relevant staff to realize it still exists. Many people do not feel comfortable using a personal identification number card reader.

We do not have talking automatic teller machines here in more than a few places so checks are still much used to get money from banks or building societies.

High tech equipment is used to read back printed material such as personal letters etc. We can use telephone banking to have statements read to us or we can use large print or braille. We can also have passwords set up with companies such as the gas, electricity, and water boards, who come to our homes to read our meters. Gas and electricity meters tend to be inside our houses still, the water board may occasionally need to come and tell us if there are water leaks on our roads and they need us to turn off our water. The telecommunications companies will also issue passwords though we rarely need them to come to our homes unless our phone is out of action.

Computer users can buy everything online they need including groceries but I don’t know how you set that up so that you know the man at the door is genuine. I don’t like the idea of buying food online.

People on very low incomes or with a disability can often access companies who will do small jobs for you such as gardening and small repairs. They will do this free if you are on a very low income and are also elderly, but it varies where you live.

My husband is registered blind, I am registered partially sighted. We don’t care to do decorating though my husband can so we pay for all that sort of thing, otherwise we manage everything ourselves except we cannot drive. Until our daughter was old enough to drive, if we couldn’t do it without a car we went without unless it was an item that would be delivered normally by a company.
In response to Rita Pulsoni’s requests for independent living strategies, Isaac wrote:

There’re many things you can do to help yourself in the kitchen. I think the key word is organization.

I do these things to help myself since I live alone:
1. Put corn on one shelf.
2. If I am having green peas I put them next to the corn with a piece of cardboard in between them.
3. I might tear the label on the peas just a bit so I know it’s peas.
4. I might tear the label on the corn twice on opposite sides.
5. I try not to have too many different canned vegetables that it gets confusing.
6. You could make labels and put them on things, but that’s a lot of work! I try to avoid as much of this as possible.
7. I learn to recognize frozen foods by the feel of the package like hamburger, chicken, roasts, and beef ribs!
8. I learn how frozen lamb and steaks feel.
9. With boxes, I try to keep it simple. maybe two boxes of one thing and two of another. I tear corners of boxes to help me remember different things like potato balls or potato puffs or french fries.
10. Some frozen vegetables come in bags, boxes, and I learn to identify them by shape or sound when shaken and sometimes tears in the boxes on the corners.
11. Again I try not to overwhelm myself with a large number of varieties of things.
12. I like to make hamburgers and put things like sliced mushrooms and onions in each burger and bake them. Then put them in ziplock bags and put those in a larger ziploc bag in the freezer. So some evenings, I get a burger, a can of corn and a baked potato for dinner. It’s easy!
Now these are just a few ideas. Others may have some additional ideas, but you just have to decide what’s best for you!

I have a deaf blind friend who does all his cooking and he makes chicken polonesia every Christmas day!
In response to Rita Pulsoni’s requests for independent living strategies, Abbie wrote:

I lived alone for years before I got married. Most of the time, I was in a subsidized apartment which included excellent maintenance so when something broke down, it wasn’t hard to get it fixed. I have enough vision to read labels on food and other items if they’re large enough, and if they’re not, I have both a desktop and portable magnifier.

My husband Bill inspired me because when I met him, he owned and rented twenty houses despite being totally blind. When he suffered a stroke three months after we were married, and we realized we needed a modified home to meet his needs, I figured if he could own twenty houses with no vision, I could own one with some sight. I rented another house that was easier to modify for a wheelchair and eventually bought it. Of course when you’re not in an apartment building where there’s maintenance, getting something fixed can be a bit tricky but not too much so. I’ve been living in this house for almost six years, and I now have phone numbers for an electrician, a plumber, and other maintenance personnel. Bill and I are happy, and I feel confident that I can handle just about any problem that comes our way.
Mina wrote in to say:

To answer those that have responded with ridicule for my idea of using braille to address envelopes, thank you for your kind and generous support. I am being sincere. It’s too bad you do not dream of a day when we can braille envelopes just like we do our braille letters to our blind friends and blind family. In such a future, the machinery can read braille. I will keep my dream alive and keep advocating for this. Blind people can be just as independent as the sighted, even if they live alone. All it takes is the right training. You will find that blind people from the NFB are very “can do” and can do anything. For those of you who do not know, the NFB are the National Federation of the Blind. They are blind people for the blind.

Another reader on here made a good point. We should be supporting each other and helping each other, not ridiculing ideas.

Contributor Valerie Moreno – Blind Cat’s Bluff

Several months ago, I was blessed with the adoption of a blind Russian blue cat, who has become my best friend.

Not quite a year old when he came to live with me, JJ was at home in our small apartment within a few days. Being blind myself, I’d decided not to limit his activity around the house, so we could both realize our sharing and independence together. He certainly is the smartest cat I have ever had, and I soon began to understand the meaning behind his Mona-Lisa smile, a trait of his breed.

After falling off bookcase shelves, JJ decided this wasn’t his cup of cat tea. The bathroom became off limits after he woke me from a sound sleep at two in the morning, banging on the shower curtain. He enjoyed toys that made noise, especially ones I used to play with him.

Then came the game of “Let’s Fool Mommy” when I didn’t oblige his tactics for mischief. Most notable was the case of the missing spoon. I’d dropped one while drying dishes and heard him grab it, scurrying in to the bedroom.

“I know you took it, boo,” I declared, using one of his many nicknames.

After taking the house apart three times, I gave up. “You’ve got a stash somewhere!” I shouted. JJ put his nose in my palm. Kiss, Kiss.

One week later, passing my chair at the kitchen table, my foot hit something beside the back chair leg. The spoon! JJ circled my legs, tail wagging merrily, as if to say, “Gotcha!”

His unconditional love has gotten me through lonely holidays, grief, and tears. He knows when I need to cry, often wiping tears from kisses or a gentle, soft paw. We still clash over his jumping on the kitchen table and it’s taken six combs and a thousand scratches to find a way to groom him we can both enjoy. He reminds me daily that love and friendship are the most incredible gifts. He’s consolation, comfort, and assurance when life seems to make little sense.

As for his mischievous behavior? As I write this, my left slipper is missing. Where is his stash?

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Catering to Your Child or Your Job?

Sunday afternoon, I hired someone to cater a cookout in my yard. She is a nice person, extremely sociable, works hard, and cares about everybody. However, she is not a good multi-tasker, and tends to stress easily.

Before I express my concern, I want to make it clear that I love children, and would invite them to my functions any time. However, I believe that a person that is hired to do food prep, cooking, cleaning up, etc., should not take her 5-year-old daughter on the job with her. I don’t know the circumstances which caused her to bring the little girl to the job, but if that were me, I would turn down the job if I couldn’t find the appropriate baby sitter.

I observed the woman while she was trying to cook hamburgers and hot dogs, and all I heard was, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.” I understand that young children need their mommy. That’s not the issue. I am upset because the mother took her child on a job where a dozen people depended on her to make sure that the food was cooked properly. How can any caterer, whether it’s a friend or a professional, fully concentrate on what she’s doing for a dozen people if her little child makes demands of her all the time? As it was, she forgot some of the food that I required, and at one point, the flame on the gas grill flared up to a dangerous level while she wasn’t paying attention.

The woman is also very protective about her work, and can’t take criticism. But it’s obvious that she has no problem bringing her child to her jobs on a regular basis, because she brought her to my house two years ago while she and her husband put up new curtains and remodeled the kitchen. I had to chase their little girl, who was two years old, around the house to make sure she didn’t put her hands on anything dangerous, because her parents were too busy working.

I also heard of a personal care attendant in my city who brought her toddler with her while caring for a patient with spina bifida. Due to his paralysis, she needed to administer bowel treatments. On one occasion, she was administering bowel treatment to the man while her toddler was bouncing on her knee, demanding attention. If that actually happened, then would it be foolish to believe that a visiting nurse who gives a patient a shot would have the needle yanked away by the child she chose to bring on the job with her? I don’t really think so.

I understand that in today’s society there are lots of single mothers who have to juggle providing for a child and making money, and at times they don’t have all the resources at their disposal, such as affordable day care or a private baby sitter. With that said, where do we draw the line concerning which jobs you should bring your young child to? I welcome your comments in the Readers’ Forum.

Feature Writer Terri Winaught – With a Patriot’s Heart

Brooks Army Medical Center (BAMC) is a Texas hospital to which veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are flown to recover from serious burns and other injuries.

In mid-December 2004, actor, film director, and film producer Denzel Washington visited Brooks to express his appreciation to those veterans. While there, Denzel was told about Fisher Houses, lodgings where families can stay to be near their injured loved ones. Because military families often have limited incomes, this onsite housing is provided at little or no cost. That being the case–and also given the always-increasing number of patients–Fisher Houses fill up quickly with more always being needed.

Although Denzel was initially reported to have responded by writing a check which covered the entire cost of a new Fisher House, those facts were somewhat exaggerated according to While Washington did make a sizable donation to the medical center, he did not get out his check book on the spot, since Mr. Washington rarely carries a check book with him. Additionally, the contribution was made a month later and did not cover the complete cost of new housing.

It is essential to note that the above clarifications are by no means attempts to diminish this celebrity’s generosity. If anything, I was surprised not to have heard about this sooner since it occurred 8 years ago.

While I can appreciate that inquiring minds want to know about things like celebrity marriages, their often-quick divorces, and struggles with addictions, I still find it sad that gossip about others’ painful, private hells can garnish many a magazine page while goodness and mercy don’t even make page four. I commend Denzel Washington for giving back and making good matter. While it’s disappointing that this deed went unrecognized, it is also encouraging to see that he didn’t care to garner publicity, either. In an age when people are so often doing good deeds with the required presence of an army of photographers and press, this quiet and generous act was never thrust into the limelight for his own gain. It was simply a gift he felt needed to be given.

While writing this, I thought not only about the horrors of war, but also tried to imagine what life must be like for the blind and vision impaired in war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. If any readers are from Iraq or Afghanistan, I’d be interested in hearing whatever they feel able to share about the impact of war on their lives as persons who are blind.

Sources: and

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Aiming for Gold at the Summer Olympics

When people think of blind athletes competing in the Olympics they probably only think of the Paralympics, but one Korean Archery contestant is defying that stereotype. Im Dong-Hyun is a 26 year old archer who has severe myopia. Not being able to see the target doesn’t stop him, though.

He has already won two gold medals from being on the Korean archery team in 2004 and 2008, and this year he’s shooting for gold in the individual competition. He started dabbling in archery when he was just 10 years old. He wanted to quit at 15, but his parents convinced him that the time he had invested would eventually pay off, and it certainly has.

When Im looks at the target, he can’t see the details. He can still see the colors of the board, but they’re more like paint splotches then defined areas for him to aim at. None of that matters, though, because he feels like seeing the target isn’t necessary anymore–his muscles have simply learned what they need to do. He even avoids doing other sports that may change the muscles that he uses for archery because he doesn’t want to compromise their learned memory.

Im feels like winning the Individual Men’s Archery competition would be the pinnacle of his career. Even if he does win, he plans to continue competing until 2020, which would make him a world leader for almost two decades. I hope that Im is able to achieve his dream and is an inspiration to all blind archers and the visually impaired community at large. It’s great to see that athletes with disabilities are being included in the regular Olympic games.