Archive for September, 2013

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Apple Continues to Improve Access to Their Mobile Devices With iOS7

Last week Apple came out with their new operating system for their mobile devices. The new iOS 7 not only has a new look, but it also has a number of new features for people with disabilities. I have been using the new software for over a week, and I am thoroughly impressed. Voiceover has some very useful improvements. Users can now have as many high quality voices as they choose, braille users now have access to nemeth code, low vision users can use a large cursor with VoiceOver turned on, and the new handwriting rotor setting allows users the option of drawing letters on the screen instead of using the touch screen keyboard. The handwriting option is my new favorite feature. Since it has no explanation, here is how you use it. The setting can be used to look up apps or whenever you are in a text field. First turn the rotor to handwriting, then start drawing the letters you want on the screen. If you draw the wrong letter or the device misunderstands your drawing, swipe left with two fingers to erase the last letter. When you’re finished with a word, swipe right with two fingers to put in a space. To access upper case letters, numbers, or punctuation, swipe up or down with three fingers. When in Safari, write the letter you want and it will switch to that rotor setting. This feature may make the issue of typing on the on screen keyboard a thing of the past. To read about all of the new accessibility features in iOS 7, visit this link:

Feature Writer Ann Chiapetta’s Dog Guide Extraordinaire Verona – Dogs in the News

Are fake service dogs spoiling it for us? I don’t know if any of my other canine colleagues are worried about this, but I sure am. I mean, I know my job and I love to do my best for my human partner, Annie. What I’m upset about are the fakers. Yes, you know who I am talking about. They are the dogs who look like us, but don’t let them fool you. Let’s just say that even though we’re all cousins, they haven’t made it past elementary school. Service dogs like me have graduated from college.

Let me give you an example. One day I was taking Annie to lunch. As we came back from the deli, we passed a vitamin store and this little white thing came running up and he tried to bite me. Well, it sure scared me but I was not going to let him get me or Annie. We stood there, he kept snapping, and I avoided his little teeth. Well, the owner of the store ran out, tried grabbing him and he ran away from her and tried to bite my hind legs. I turned around, Annie following me. Finally the lady got the dog and we left. He is supposed to be a service dog. That, readers, is not how a real service dog behaves.

There is more about this concern of people taking fake service dogs into public and how it will make it bad for us in the following article posted on Pawnation:
The article states, in part, “A growing number of dog owners are trying to pass their untrained companions off as service animals – and they’re actually getting away with it.”

It’s not hard to do because service dog gear sold on the internet, like vests, harnesses, and I.D. tags can be purchased without proving the dog is a legitimately trained and certified service dog.
The backlash of the public becoming less and less tolerant of service dog teams is what concerns dog guides and dogs trained to help our partners with disabilities. It’s already hard enough to be accepted in the public and due to misbehaved frauds like that little dog who tried to hurt us, people will be confused and even less willing to receive us in public places.

My partner Annie says it’s the bad apples spoiling it for all the good ones. Not sure I get that, but, hey, she’s only human.

If you have any thoughts on this article, comment in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – iOS7 Initial Impressions

You know that I, like other enthusiastic iDevice users, was positively salivating with anticipation over the impending download of iOS7. Unlike previous updates, we received no friendly dialog box heralding the update. Trying to maintain a shred of sanity, I closed the software update window, and it wasn’t until almost midnight that I scrambled to begin the update process. I’m pleased to report that it went very smoothly for us, as have previous updates. Even with my limited vision I could see the “gorgeous” and beautiful new look of the tiles. I use those adjectives as we heard them, ad nauseam, during Apple’s iOS7 presentation. Following are some brief impressions after having lightly explored the operating system for a few days.

The visual: you know, I only recently learned that the apps on your home screen are called “tiles”? I’ve been referring to them as icons. This, of course, is a result of my being primarily a Windows user. The screen appears larger but this might be as a result of there not being a border around the tiles, at least not one that is visible to me. The colors, however, are not as vivid as they were in previous versions. Additionally, the contrast is not as sharp, or there at all. Previously, I was able to clearly see the date on the Calendar app and the letters on the on-screen keyboard, but no longer. I must squint or use Voiceover to hear it.

New Sounds: the battery connection alert used to be somewhat shrill and reasonably audible. Now I can barely hear the new mellow, soft sound when I connect the phone.

Apps: so far, most of my apps are compatible. I was a bit surprised to learn that I needed to authorize the operating system to use the microphone for apps such as DropVox for DropBox.

Status Bar: it’s a small thing but I am very pleased to hear the name of my Wi-Fi network right there on the status bar. Our college is now using a new network and my phone often accesses the wrong one. How convenient it’s been to be able to verify and immediately change it.

AppSwitcher: some might find the visual and Voiceover gestures to this area a bit unnerving, but it only took a few minutes for me to figure out that you should perform a single-finger left and right swipe to move among your apps and a single-finger swipe up and down to access the Activate and Close options. Using several iOS versions has afforded me a certain sense of exploratory bravery, and as long as I don’t smell smoke, I’ll try every gesture I know until I figure it out.

Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Microsoft Support Line for Persons with Disabilities

Since the 1990’s, the Microsoft Corporation has perhaps been best known for its various Windows platforms, the most current being Windows 8. What isn’t as well known, however, not even by access technology instructors, is Microsoft’s Disability Support Line which began in January, 2013 and operates out of Toronto, Canada. When you call their toll-free number, 1-800-936-5900, you will speak with a technician whose job it is to help persons who are blind, vision impaired, or have other disabilities with computer troubleshooting and repair issues.

When I first called, the technician and I quickly realized that my key problem was JAWS-related. Two days later, when Freedom Scientific helped me with my JAWS problem, I called Microsoft back to inform them that my Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 was not fully accessible. More specifically, I explained that I could not effectively access Word files nor could I write a Word document because I was always asked to enter a product key. Having bought my computer from a good friend which, of course meant that it was not new, I explained that I had no idea what my Product Key was or how to locate it. Before long, that situation was remedied. (By the way, did I mention that this service is free?) Well, it is, and the service is available from 8am to Midnight Eastern Time Monday through Friday, 10am to 6pm on Saturday, and 10am to 5pm on Sunday.

To assess service quality, callers are asked to complete a brief survey at the end of each call. I was genuinely impressed that a supervisor, and not an automated system, which I hate, conducts the survey.

SOURCE: This is also a website from which you can download podcasts of archived programs and sign up to be on a list on The site also provides contact information for business owners who are blind or vision impaired, and encourages our patronage of those businesses.

Tell us in Readers Forum if you are familiar with, or have used Microsoft’s Accessibility Support Line and what your experiences were like.

Feature Writer Romeo Edmead – Music From A Distance

No matter the profession, Jazz piano instructor, Mark Miller just cannot seem to get away from home deliveries. The former driver for U.P.S., 53, still makes many home visits, and even goes far beyond the parameters he once had while behind the wheel of the truck. Now, instead of handing over packages at the front door, he goes from country to country, sitting right in living rooms, bringing along his piano lessons via telephone and Skype. Although his teaching career began 30 years ago, he has only taught remotely for a little more than a decade, with lessons spanning more than half the continents of the world.

Regardless of their location, Mr. Miller’s main objective is to give his students knowledge of the piano that will last for an eternity. “I would say that the biggest compliment I can get from a student is that Mark gave me the ability to look at the piano and play the piano creatively, not just play what someone else wrote,” said the Illinois based music teacher. “Playing lifelong is one of the greatest pleasures anyone can have.”

If Mr. Miller is cognizant of what one of his current students said about his teachings, he would probably feel like he is getting his point across. Angela, a Seattle based college professor, who prefers to be mentioned by first name only, began taking lessons 2 years ago, but started playing piano at the age of five. “I think he’s the kind of piano teacher I’ve been looking for my whole life,” Angela, now 42, said. “I think those of us who don’t have some magical talent or gift feel we need a little bit of theory or instruction so we can have some tools or strategies for playing that sound more professional and he’s really good at that.”

To go along with theory and instruction, confidence building is also a major part of Mr. Miller’s teaching repertoire. He works with visually impaired pupils like Angela, but he does not just stop there. Mr. Miller also has students who have limited use of their limbs, but he takes pride in figuring out a method of teaching any student interested in learning. “My first disabled student, which this month is the tenth year that I’ve taught her, is 76 and has no use of her left side,” Mr. Miller said. “So I write one handed arrangements for her.” Furthermore, Mr. Miller spoke about another student who can only use her right hand, is blind, and navigates with a wheelchair, which makes the peddle inaccessible to her. She had never played before encountering Mr. Miller, but has been taking lessons for the last 3 years. “That is my greatest joy,” Mr. Miller said. “Teaching someone to play who never thought they could ever do it.”

Although former student Noel Romey was not a novice when he began taking lessons, the totally blind chemical engineer said he did receive a significant education from Mr. Miller. Mr. Romey, a 34-year-old Virginia resident, took lessons from 2003-2006, and acquired knowledge he always longed to obtain. “He kind of helped me to learn some new chord structures and learn about jazz,” Romey said. “I always enjoyed listening to it so I always wanted to learn how to
play some of the really complicated sounding chords, so he really helped me to change my playing style.”

Whether they are past, present or future, Mr. Miller relishes the thought of a student discovering the aspects of piano playing that are under appreciated. “When you play the piano, more parts of the brain are used,” Mr. Miller said. “You’ve got the spatially, you’ve got visually, you’ve got the tactile, and the dexterity.”

If you’re interested in finding out just how true Mr. Miller’s convictions are, he offers lessons for a minimum of 2 hours a month, at a rate of $90 per hour. He will even give an initial lesson free of charge, and anyone who signs up afterwards can pay by check, Visa or MasterCard. Via telephone, he can be reached at 847-382-6346 or 847-401-1721. Online, you can read more about Mr. Miller at or

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Surviving Wild Weather and a Power Outage in Littleton Maine

On Wednesday afternoon September 11, a severe late summer storm affected Littleton and surrounding towns in Northern Maine. It was a warm humid day and I was relaxing in Pam’s large kitchen sipping ice cold Pepsi. John, Pam’s husband, walked in smiling and suggested I, “Come out and listen to what’s going on.” I took his elbow, and we walked to the large front porch. Everyone was sitting and chatting and we could hear distant peals of thunder. Yet there was a gentle breeze. Would residents of Aroostook County be spared the forecasted tornado warning? As the thunder grew louder, John observed ominous dark clouds.

The intensity of the storm increased, yet I remained happy to be spending a week here with my family.

Out of nowhere, hurricane-like winds came from all directions. John said, “We had better get in the house.” Just as the door shut, rain lashed the windows and the hurricane-like winds reminded me of the August 19, 1991 Hurricane Bob. The tranquility of this late summer afternoon was gone, and shortly Pam and John announced, “The power is out.”

Power outages and severe weather are nothing new to residents of Northern Maine. When the rain subsided, John hooked up the gas-powered generator. This would keep the microwave, refrigerator, freezer and a few lights on. Pam’s son Jonathan and I thought having subs would make preparing supper easier for Pam.

John and Pam drove to Houlton, but after forty minutes, they had not returned. Were there long lines at the local sub shop? Was storm damage worse than anticipated?

When they rushed in, Pam announced, “It looks as if a category 3 hurricane struck! There are trees down everywhere. The power in Houlton is out.” Had we actually had a small tornado? Everyone had something different for supper; Pam thoughtfully made me a lovely cheese and mushroom omelet on the outdoor gas grill.

The evening took on a surreal quality. John brought out a deck of cards. As John, Jonathan and Pam played Gin rummy I wished I had packed a deck of braille cards. We all shared experiences of how we had survived power outages and I learned that this occurs several times each year in Northern Maine. I was impressed that the power was restored in hours, not days, because of the efficiency of their utility company.

At nine thirty, everyone was guessing when our power would return. Pam’s husband was hoping it would return at ten. Pam thought we might have to wait until the morning. With the generators off, we listened for the reassuring hum of the refrigerator.

At ten thirty, we were delighted when the lights returned and we heard the hum of the refrigerator and freezer. For our household life was now normal. On Thursday, we discovered this storm had damaged property in the Houlton / Littleton area. It rained heavily for the next three days. Gardens in the area got a little extra water.

In my next article, I will be answering reader’s questions as to what really happened and how I spent the rest of my vacation in Littleton, Maine.

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – College Part 5

Half way through the first semester of my RA life, our boss, the Resident Director, took another job at a different university and left after Thanksgiving. They put someone in her place while they conducted a national search to fill the position. When we returned from the winter break, we met our new boss and Resident Director, Dave. Dave was a nice guy but when it came to following policies and doing things the right way, he was a no-nonsense kind of guy. He held all of us to the highest standards and everyone on our staff quickly respected him for his strong leadership style.

As for the residents in the building, those who did what they should do were his friends and those who refused to follow policies didn’t have it so easy. He always trusted our decisions and we knew we could count on him to back us up in difficult situations.

One week, there were a lot of incidents in the building and a lot of us RA’s were very stressed out. People began to argue and it was getting ugly. I think everyone expected our weekly staff meeting to be a nightmare at the end of that particular week. When we walked into Dave’s apartment, we were first surprised to find out that he had made dinner. Second, there was no agenda for the meeting. Dave handed each of us an index card with our name printed at the top of the cards. We sat in a circle and he instructed us to pass our cards over to the person to our right. Then he asked us to write something positive on the card in front of us and pass the cards along. After a short time, we all had written on everyone’s cards and ended up with our own cards. It was quite an emotional and uplifting activity and it helped all of us to stop our negativity and get on with business. I still have my card in my top dresser drawer!

One of the things that still remain with me about the days that I was an RA in the dorm is that when it came time for graduation, I had to be a part of the selection process to find new RA’s. The reason this still remains with me is because a few of my residents took part in the process and became RA’s because of the fact that they knew me. They watched me and looked up to me. It is never a good feeling when we are called out about something we did that is negative, but it sure feels nice when we are recognized when we do something positive.

For me, being an RA was a huge confidence builder and not only did I feel like I was on an equal playing field with my peers, but I was also a leader to them. I think that as individuals with blindness, or vision loss, it is important that we take time to put ourselves in these roles because, it helps educate the public that blindness or low vision is not a sentence for disaster and isolation, we too can get out there and make a positive difference.

Letter from the Editor – Week of September 23, 2013

Hello Everyone,

I hope you had a great weekend.

This week we have the second part of an article by contributor Theresa Petrey called Two Different Worlds about her experiences in and out of school.

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.


Recipe of the Week – Crockpot Jambalaya

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 8 Servings


1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 sweet green pepper, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 package frozen corn kernel, thawed (10 ounce)
1/2 pound chorizo, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 can chopped clams, drained (6-1/2 ounces)
1 can red kidney beans, drained (15 1/2 ounces)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 can stewed tomatoes (14 1/2 ounces)
1 can tomato sauce (8 ounces)
5-1/2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
5-1/2 cups instant brown rice
1/2 pound small shrimp
3 scallions, thinly sliced


In a 5 to 5 1/2 quart slow cooker, layer onion, celery, peppers, garlic, corn, chorizo, clams and beans. In bowl, mix broth, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, seasoning, sea salt and black pepper. Pour into slow cooker. Cover slow cooker; cook on high heat for 5 hours. For last 10 minutes, stir in instant brown rice and shrimp. To serve, garnish with scallions.

Reader’s Forum – Week of September 16, 2013

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

Reader’s Forum

Eric wrote:

Re: Judy’s letter, Ziegler, September 9: It is wrong to tip the vessel of knowledge Judy! Whether you want to admit it or not, we are disabled. Twenty-three years ago, I began writing my own panel speeches on how to treat people with respect, who are blind, visually-impaired, trainable multi-disabled, or, otherwise, other multi-disabled persons. The place was North Torrance High School, Torrance, California. These people inspired
me, motivated me, and I was able to graduate in 1992 from North High. After I left, I learned about NFB and ACB. And I learned to branch out and find like-minded people, who are disabled.

Please do not insult our intelligence. I happen to know someone who went to North, along with me. She graduated 2 years after me, and she knows me; she appeared in this space in the Readers Forum recently. She is disabled, and blind. So to say we are not disabled is not being factual!


Mike wrote:

Hi my name is Mike, and I am totally blind. I just wanted to let Bob know that I use Windows seven, and it works great. The jaws commands are not different, but when you hit the Windows keys, a search box comes up. Windows seven is really nice.


A Ziegler reader wrote:

Are people with disabilities allowed to accomplish their goals even if it means assistance from others? The answer is a resounding yes. In response to the readers forum material already published regarding the man who needed an interpreter in his university classroom, he had just as much right to accomplish his goals as anyone else who either does or does not have a disability. To insinuate that people with a disability should merely accept that they can’t accomplish something because they need assistance or that people shouldn’t advocate or fight for assistance they need is horrifying and degrading. If for example someone wants to be in the medical profession and needs someone with them all day, then that person should be provided for them. If some readers believe that they are not owed anything in life then that is their opinion and I, as a person, respect that. On the other hand, I will not let that stop me from accomplishing my goals. We with disabilities are allowed to be happy, we with disabilities are allowed to follow our dreams. If that were not the case, then parents who are in wheelchairs and need care givers should reevaluate their decision to have children because they need someone’s help to raise that child. Those in a wheelchair who need personal care attendants to travel shouldn’t fight for them and should just stay home and not leave the house simply because that is the way of things. No doctor should have a nurse in the room with him or her because no one else can keep things confidential. No top ranking official may have assistants or secretaries because the matters they handle may be personal. An interpreter is in the same situation. Readers, realize also that many individuals get help they don’t need and that many people such as prisoners are also dependant on our tax dollars. There are many programs developed especially for criminals that in my respectful opinion, don’t deserve them because of something they did and not something they acquired through no fault of their own. So if we need to give life something than life needs to give something back. We did not ask to be born with a disability, the world hasn’t found a way to eliminate it yet, so, if no one is going to excuse me from the responsibilities of the world despite my disability, then the world is not going to be excused from helping me accomplish my goals. The same applies to the individual in last week’s article. Again, with all due respect to everyone’s views, I am free to say that I am extremely saddened by views that this man should not receive assistance and must accept that. My thoughts are with him. May his dreams never die. May they live on and take flight.


Bob Branco wrote:

Allow me to elaborate on my thoughts about affordable legal services for blind people under the age of 65. Over 70% of us, whether by choice or not, are out of work. Many of us live on a government check, which barely pays for the food we eat, the clothes on our back, the rent we have to pay, and the gas and electricity that we have to use. If anyone can tell me how a person who lives under these circumstances can afford an attorney fee, I will listen. Furthermore, if there are any lawyers who let us use an affordable payment plan so that our budgets won’t be affected, I will listen again.

If there are blind people who make enough money to pay for legal services, I think they are very fortunate that they can do so. Others of us are not so fortunate. When a lawyer charges $300 for an initial consultation, that’s nearly half of the Government check. How do we replace that money?

This is not about begging, as a previous contributor to the Reader’s Forum stated. It’s about real life for those of us who struggle to make ends meet before we even think of extra circumstances such as legal assistance. I would love to be in the position to pay lawyers what they are worth whenever I need legal aid. In order to do that, and to keep up with others who can afford it, I would have to set a higher standard for myself by generating enough income in order to accommodate all aspects of life. It is not easy.


Charlotte wrote:

In regards to Bob Branco’s article on Windows XP. I too am a very strong advocate for this windows system. You are so right that it is blind friendly. I have done everything I can to keep this system and am very saddened to hear that it will no longer be supported soon. I don’t know if it would help, but maybe if enough of us contacted Microsoft, and pleaded our case, they would reconsider. Maybe they have no idea the program is so user friendly to us. What would it hurt for them to continue supporting it? I also still use Outlook Express for my e-mail and don’t look forward to having to give that up either. I know many people who are still using Windows XP and feel the same way you and I do. If there are others out there who feel the same about Windows XP, please contact Microsoft and help us plead our case.


Eric wrote:

Re: David’s letter in last week’s Ziegler: There is nothing wrong with free legal advice. It is given without charge, who are we to criticize his decision? He (David), asks: “when will blind begging end?” When someone is “entitled” to free legal advice, they are doing a service to the blind. Say thank you! Bob Branco is clearly correct here.


David wrote:

I thought it was interesting about the visually impaired voiceover actor. That must be a fascinating career. Wonder how much it pays. Can you grow rich or do you have to keep a day job? In the clip, Pete Gustin did not mention how long it took him from age 21 to now, to become well-known enough to do a Super Bowl commercial.

I wondered, could you do voiceover using braille. I mean if you have text-to-speech production, surely, braille, too? I presume either the files are emailed to him or he scans the printed material. Maybe the microphone could pick up the sound of hands moving across braille pages.

The dog-guide romance item was interesting. If memory serves, in my class at Guide Dogs in San Rafael in October 1989, we had a couple meet and fall in love. Patrick and Gayleen were their names, if I recall correctly. She had the sister, Nichol, to my dog, Nader. I cannot remember his dog’s name. I hope it all turned out well for them.


Fred wrote:

In response to Bob Branco’s article about Windows XP, the program, though blind user friendly, is at least 2 generations out of date, having been succeeded by Windows 7, and now Windows 8. There is a learning curve between XP and Windows 7, particularly with reference to use of ribbons where many formerly menu driven functions have been placed. Windows 8 is even more visually oriented, and the traditional desktop has been removed. We blind users have no choice but to adapt or be left behind.


Chris wrote:

In reply to the ‘voice over’ artiste (as we say in the UK), a well known six day a week radio serial, “The Archers” which is over 60 years old has a totally blind man playing a sighted part: he’s been a much loved reprobate young character for a number of years now – many of his escapades verging just on the edge of ‘legal’ in some cases. He and I went to the same school, a generation apart, but he was there with sons and daughters of my own generation, and he was taught by at least one mutual teacher (and a friend turned teacher of my own).

In reply to the ‘romantic’ guide dog story – I actually saw the TV programme mentioned. There had been one or two other TV programmes on living with a visual impairment this year covering all areas of life – this one will certainly have taken people by surprise. Here’s the link to the original story – with more photos


Mary wrote:

In response to the Op Ed about Windows XP, there are some risks to staying with Windows XP after Microsoft ceases to support this software next April. Since there will no longer be any patches for “holes” in the code, there is a chance that hackers could get into an XP user’s PC and gather information about the user, and even gain access to the hard drive without the user’s knowledge. This could result in identity theft. Also, since many web sites now use software that would make the sites inaccessible with older browsers such as Internet Explorer 7 or 8, XP users will no longer have access to such sites. Screen readers will most likely cease to support Windows XP next year when Microsoft ceases to support it.

I helped some friends move from Windows XP to Windows 7 earlier this year, and, although they had to learn to use different email software and new keyboard commands, their transition wasn’t as hard as they feared. I think most of what holds people back in advancing to newer versions of Windows is fear that they won’t be able to do things as they formerly did. Moving on to newer versions of Windows ensures that you can continue to gain access to software and web sites that you use often. Since businesses and government agencies are just now moving to Windows 7, it will continue to be supported for some time.