Reader’s Forum – Week of December 23, 2013

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

Karen Crowder wrote:

I liked Jane Kronheim’s article on the validity of audio literacy. I also appreciated Roger Cicchese’s article about how Christmas gifts can change our lives.

I frowned on using Talking Book machines until I was seventeen. Depending on Talking books was an inferior substitute to turning pages of novels or textbooks in Braille. However, at seventeen, when registering for services at the Commission for the Blind in Boston, I was pleased when I was offered a Talking book machine. I listened to all its simple instructions read by the wonderful Talking book narrator Robert Donley. I immediately ordered the literary classic Wuthering Heights hoping it would capture my imagination, as Jane Eyre had. It did not, it was disappointingly different, and lacked the engaging plot Jane Eyre had.

Throughout the summers of my sophomore and junior years I read literary classics, such as Gone with the Wind, Up the Down Staircase, Blackboard Jungle and Ray Bradbury’s short story collections Machineries of Joy, The Illustrated Man and the October Country. The terrific narrators for these texts engaged my attention. I also used Talking books for term papers or schoolbook reports.

When cassette books began appearing in Talking book topics in the early seventies, I began reading them. Unfortunately, a few early cassette books were of varying quality. My copy of Brave New World was of poor audio quality. The recordings kept on fading in and out. However, this was the exception. I enjoyed reading The Patch of Blue and Door into Summer, both on one and seven eighths cassettes. When15/16 speed two and four track books appeared in the mid and late seventies they were popular with many blind children and adults. I did the majority of my reading for college and pleasure with audio books.

A wider variety of material was available on cassette and talking books, and cassette players and recorders were portable. I did not abandon Braille, but discovered that I could be literate with audio books

Roger’s article about receiving his reel-to-reel recorder brought back memories of Christmas gifts which changed my life forever.

At eleven, I was elated to receive a Perkins Brailler as my big gift Christmas morning gift in 1960. It was one of the last gifts I would open, and I have the wooden case it came in. Throughout these past fifty-three years it has enriched my life and has been of invaluable importance throughout my academic and personal life. I wrote my first lines of poetry, drafts for term papers and stories on it. I still have this sturdy machine; I am grateful my parents made sacrifices to buy it.

His article made me reflect on how gifts change our lives. Until the next Reader’s Forum, may all Ziegler readers have blessed holidays.

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Lucia wrote:

I wish to comment on a particular incident that transpired on Tuesday, December 17, 2013. A gentleman, Cecil Williams, of the Bensonhearst section of Brooklyn, NewYork, actually fell from the subway platform onto the tracks, along with his guide dog.

Mr. Williams is recovering at St. Luke’s Hospital, Manhattan, New York. He sounds weak and in pain, but thankfully, he is able to speak, understand speech, and function. I am happy that Mr. Williams will be well.

But there is a problem. It was reported over the radio, and in our local paper, that Mr. Williams “fainted” and that he is diabetic. This may be true, but, the way I see it, there is more to the story.

I have vestibular paroxysmal positional vertigo. Often, I have stumbled on the subway platform, but I have never fallen from the platform onto the tracks. (Forget about Access-a-ride, the Para-transit service, they never showed up and then called me a “no-show”). I have one question! Why ever was Mr. Williams that close to the edge of the platform? Why was his dog so close to the edge of the platform?

Newspapers and radio reports focus on the donations the school that “trained” this dog will receive, and on how Mr. Williams will get a new dog, and will retain his present dog, who was with him at the time of this tragic accident.

Nobody focuses on the quality of the training of the dogs at the schools that train dogs to work as guides. Evidently, the dog had never received subway training. The question is, when was the dog first exposed to the subway platform? And not just the subway platform either: the double-edged subway platform!

You can bet that the school I will be attending trains the dogs on double-edged subway platforms even before the dogs are assigned to us at the school!

I have a problem! Vision-impaired and blind people better start complaining about the “services” they receive from organizations that claim to “serve the blind,” or nothing will get better in the way of quality of life of blind and vision-impaired people.

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David wrote:

As regards Tim Bowers, I am glad he could make his own decision, but I was saddened that there is little hope or seemingly little hope for such a spinal injury. Christopher Reeves chose life, but even he did not walk and I so thought he would walk again one day. Maybe stem cells can help. Ann Chiapetta summed it up well, as did Stanley. The item certainly was very thought provoking as seen by the number of responses.

As to comparing blindness with this severe injury, most sighted fear blindness above everything, even AIDS and cancer, or so a counselor once told me. I think quality of life regarding blindness depends on several factors; geography, health, ability to work in a supportive or challenging job, and family life. Not all have these things and not all consumer organizations are supportive. There should be more to life than learning a mobility route. Resources vary and Rehab services vary greatly among the states. I really do not feel Louisiana, at or near the bottom of every list you can imagine, is a good place for blind people.

I found the article about the tape player interesting but wondered if the author knew how his parents managed to get him a tape player after they had said they could not. I have an acquaintance who records everything. He really annoyed me once. He apparently recorded me saying something, not quite flattering, about a past teacher, and reminded me of it years later. I wonder how liability works in this instance. I think this fetish of his to record anything and everything in a sort of reality-show mentality is creepy, a bit vampiric, an audio thief.

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Lucia wrote:

I agree wholeheartedly with Danni, and all of us should agree with Danni! Blindness or visual impairment, while a disability, are not tragedies, and do not justify a decision to end one’s life. Rehabilitation is great! I loved it! Yes, Tim Bowers’ sister was a nurse, and, too often, nurses and other medical “professionals” make the wrong assumption about visual impairment and blindness. Danni is right: blindness or visual impairment, while a disability, cannot compare with the disability of being on life support, nor can it compare with some of the other disabilities. We are disabled, but less so than some of the people with other disabilities.

Ziegler readers! If you don’t have your healthcare proxy, your living will, or as it is called “advanced directives” get it quick! Designate two people as your healthcare proxies, so if you are ever unconscious, in trouble or seriously injured, unable to render a decision about your life and its quality, the healthcare proxies you designate will respect your wishes, and tell the Medical “professionals” that they are legally obligated to implement your wishes as to your quality of life. This is critical! There is a form to fill out to create a living will, but really, get legal assistance if possible, since this is more valid and more binding than a simple form. Whatever your wishes are concerning quality of life, make your wishes known! Living wills go like this: some of the questions are; Do you want, in the event you are unconscious; nutrition, hydration, ventilation, resuscitation? Do you want abortion? Do you want psychosurgery, sterilization, or ECT? (Electro Convulsive “Therapy” or “shock treatments”)?

I say this since many medical “professionals” assume that blind people should receive either no treatment, or less treatment, and professors of bioethics want to kill disabled persons. One is Peter Singer, of Princeton University.

I know this sounds a little paranoid, but this does not mean that what I am saying is untrue. So get your healthcare proxies and your living will, or “advanced directives” in order and on your person. Sign it and date it with witnesses present. It will do you no good in your drawer.

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Regina wrote:

In response to Bob’s Op Ed: How the Blind and Sighted are Perceived: this issue is similar with most visually impaired persons in the world at large. I have always differed with a lot of people here at home, the sighted, who have perceived me in the same manner just because I can’t see. You can imagine, even your children or sisters or brothers take it just the same; they don’t believe you even if you feel that you have done the right thing, they will always remain on the contrary side. Each time you make a mistake, they will take it this has happened because you are blind; but when a sighted person acts the same, it will be an accident like you mentioned in that topic. If a blind person looks untidy, sighted persons will always take it because he or she is blind. This has made me to look tidier than a sighted person should. Each time I’m called upon to read in Church on Sunday, people will always remain astonished as if they have seen something very strange. Let’s continue educating the sighted world that despite our disability, we are all human beings carrying about everything in a very human form.

I would like to comment on the Gift of Literacy by Jane Kronheim. Literacy really counts in someone’s life. Like here at home in Zambia, Africa, only a person who is able to read and write is considered to be literate. Now, coming to myself as a blind person, who is able to read and write by the use of Braille skill, surely, I’m literate so to say; because with my Braille skill, I can read just as many books as possible, making me proud of my Braille which has allowed me to match with the sighted so-called literate world. Yes, with the advanced technology giving audio access to the visually impaired people for instance, enabling them reading many books as well is applauded. However, I still feel that both audio and printed Braille material should be utilized; otherwise, literacy for us blind persons will remain half-baked. Thanks to Louis Braille for making me, a blind person, be counted in Society.

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Robert wrote:
I was very moved by James R. Campbell’s article about his friend who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. There is a great deal of mental illness in my family. I have three cousins who are mentally ill, and two of them took their own lives.

I work with a helper via phone on the Internet. He is Schizophrenic. But his medication keeps him doing fairly well. He is extremely bright, and excellent at helping me. If he has an off day (which doesn’t happen often) I call him when he is feeling better.

I pay him for his help, and he appreciates the stipend, and I appreciate his help.

Thank you, James, for a moving, kind, thoughtful piece.


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