Reader’s Forum – Week of December 30, 2013

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

Terri wrote:

Two Ziegler contributions on which I would like to comment are Valerie Moreno’s piece from Monday, December 16, 2013, and Bob Branco’s Op Ed fromm Monday, December 23rd, 2013.

Having attended the Overbrook School for the Blind with Linda Hudson, I found Valerie’s piece a well written and moving tribute. Even had I not known Linda, the situations Val described and her descriptors for sharing them, would have made Linda jump out of those pages like a long lost friend.

As for Bob Branco’s Op Ed about the 6 year old boy in Colorado, I couldn’t agree with him more. When I think of “sexual harassment,” I think of bad behaviors like fondling or inappropriate touching but certainly not the affectionate gesture of kissing someone on the hand as an act of kindness.

When I was 7 in 1961, I met singer Neil Sedacka whom I absolutely adored! This renowned singer ended our meeting by kissing my hand. Should I have run to my parents and exclaimed that I had been sexually harassed? At that age, I wouldn’t even have known what that term meant, just as I’m sure that this innocent Colorado youngster still has no idea what sexual harassment truly is.

Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that the little girl did anything wrong either if, in fact, she told the teacher or however the teacher found out. What I am saying instead is how much more important it is to address truly bad behavior rather than transforming an act of innocent affection into something it was never intended to be.

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Zerline wrote in response to Lucia in last week’s Reader’s Forum:

For years Miss Lucia raised mucho bucks to support the particular school that Mr. Williams got his dog from. Now she is going to question how they train their dogs? How dare you bite the hand that you once believed in and relied on for your mobility.

If I was the director of training and you applied for services from my organization and I had read your article I would turn you down. All schools here on the East coast give their dogs ample training on subways and even Metro North. So to here that Miss Lucia is questioning the integrity of what the school is doing makes my blood boil.

Everyone that I have talked to about this situation says that it’s a tragedy, but anyone could have fallen when suddenly you don’t feel well or you lose your balance. I’m glad that Mr. Williams is going to be fine and hopefully some good will come of this, but to put down a school just because maybe the person didn’t feel well suddenly and lost his balance is going a bit too far in my book.

By the way, he’s going back to the same school to get a new dog soon. I’ll also be returning to this same school.

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Albert wrote:

I am not sure where Lucia lives, or what school she intends to attend when getting a guide dog, but rest assured that all the schools on the east coast in fact train their dogs for subway travel to the best of my knowledge.

Cecil got Orlando from Guiding Eyes in New York State.

Lucia stated “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. ” Lucia how can you even attempt to make such a generalized statement like this without knowing just what Guiding Eyes, the Guide Dog Foundation, Seeing Eye or Fidelco does with regard to platform training, either double sided or not?

Lucia also stated, “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?”

The answer should be clear as day to anyone who is familiar with how guide dogs are in fact trained on any and all train or subway platforms. First the platform edge is the line of least resistance for a guide to travel with their handler, and is in fact the correct place for a guide and his handler to travel. Imagine trying to weave in and out of the crowd on a very busy double sided platform? It would be disastrous.

I would love to hear back from Lucia about the school she chooses, that does not train its dogs in the very same fashion as those I mentioned above, so I can avoid them like the plague.

Any school that teaches a different protocol for navigating subway platforms would have to work very hard to convince me the way that I and Cecil, and nearly every other handler working the subway system in NYC, navigate train or subway platforms.

I caution everyone from making such general statements, because not every school is as bad as was intimated in her post.

Perhaps Lucia can do more research about this very critical consideration, and get back to us with regard to which schools agree with her seemingly misinformed position on protocols for traveling in subways and or train platforms.

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Ann wrote:

I would like to respond to Lucia’s comments regarding the training of dog guides on subway platforms in the December 23 edition. I think Lucia is misinformed about how dogs are trained and how the schools handle the team’s training. We were tested and re-tested during our training. Even before this, in the home interview, the field representative evaluates your home environment and the types of transportation you commonly take so they understand your traveling needs and match you with the best dog for you. I, too, suffer from dizziness due to night blindness and my dog helps me stay safe when I feel disoriented. When on a train platform, I trust my dog to stay back from the warning strips as she was taught. If we are too close, she pulls me away and only proceeds to the train when she knows it’s safe, otherwise, she will refuse my command. I think Lucia may not understand that a dog guide will do their best to keep you safe but that there will always be situations, like in Mr. William’s case, where even the dog’s best efforts weren’t going to help.

I truly wish that if Lucia would have checked with other dog guide users before she made her comments because they are simply not true. I would be happy to speak with her regarding Guiding Eyes and the training program to provide accurate information regarding our dogs and how they are trained to travel in urban surroundings. My email address is:dungarees@optonline.net

I am the graduate council president and can say that Cecil and Orlando are doing well and recovering from their ordeal. The staff from Guiding Eyes has been helping Cecil with managing his needs and those of his dog, Orlando. Guiding Eyes is like a big family and I think they are doing a wonderful job supporting Cecil in this time of crisis, I think that both Cecil and Orlando are heroes and I am proud of the fact that they were matched and trained at Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

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James wrote:

I feel compelled to respond to Robert’s Reader’s forum piece that he wrote in the December 23 issue. I can only hope that what I wrote about my friend helped at least one person; if this is the case, they my mission has been fulfilled. For the record, I suffer from clinical depression, anxiety, and PTSD as a result of my dysfunctional family. I am on medication, and function well most of the time. My view of mental illness is the same as blindness, it should not keep us from doing our part to make our society a better place to live in. In fact, my view is, and always has been that those of us who live with these conditions every day as I do fare far better if we participate in our society to the greatest extent that we can. I do not let my blindness, or depression, keep me from speaking out on those issues that matter. In fact, this is one way of coping. If I hear a story on the news that bothers me for some reason, someone will hear of it, either in my poetry or in a piece such as this. Not everything that I write is about blindness, and there is good reason for that. We are not islands, living in a society unto itself. With the world as it is, it cannot wait for our contributions to it. In my view, this requires that we look beyond our disabilities and become part of the larger game plan. That applies to mental illness as well.

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Michael wrote:

A while back, someone said that the iPhone is not blind friendly. I just got the iPhone, and it has totally changed my life. It is very blind friendly.

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George wrote:

I would like to respond to John Christie’s article “The History of Christmas.” First of all, the history of Christmas can be found in the Bible in Luke 1 and Luke 2. John mentioned the birth of Jesus of Nazareth after Santa Claus… this is totally inaccurate. All of these other events happen because of the birth of Christ or the very first Christmas. We have our calendar and are in 2013 AD because of the birth of Christ. The Greek Empire was BC (Before Christ). We have the sharing of gifts and the enormous spending of
money worldwide because of Christ’s birth, not Santa Claus! 25% to 40% of businesses depend on Christmas sales because of Christ’s birth. Without Christ there would be no Santa, etc. Finally Christmas is a time when families travel great distances and spend much money to be with their families on this special day. Again this is because of a small Mom and Dad who went to Bethlehem and while there Mary delivered a baby named Jesus Christ who would forever change the world. Although it is late and perhaps not politically correct since the world prefers Santa over Jesus… I trust all the Ziegler
readers had a very Merry Christmas in 2013.

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Juliette wrote:

I love Jane Kronheim’s writing and particularly enjoyed her article on her early piano encounter. I have some thoughts on her literacy article, namely, by just listening, we don’t learn spelling, paragraphing or other essential writing skills. And perhaps, I’m somewhat of a snob, but I tend to judge people poorly who don’t spell or use correct grammar.
And, somewhat related, in listening to those wonderful digital talking books that I love, how much of what I think of the novel I’m reading is influenced by the person narrating that book? Would I have thought differently had I read the same in braille and it wasn’t acted out so superbly by the narrator? Finally, I enjoy Roger Cicchese’s articles so much! His last “Fools Rush In,” I thought was a very clever piece of fiction he created but, maybe not! I also loved his Christmas bells story but wondered how he read the braille music and rang the bells at the same time!

A happy and healthy New Year to everyone participating in this great magazine!

Very sincerely and with much gratitude,

Juliette

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Sandra wrote:

I want to respond to the message regarding Mr. Williams falling off the train platform. I read a lot of the interviews as well as listened to many of them on the news. It seems that he did faint. I sincerely hope he is feeling well soon. I do agree, it is strange that the dog had him so close to the edge of the platform but, witnesses did state that it looked like the dog was trying to pull him away from the edge but Mr. Williams was already too weak and disoriented to follow the dogs guidance. That dog had definitely been trained for subway travel as it was, I believe from Guiding Eyes. A guide dog of eleven years had probably been working those train platforms for approximately nine years. We also have to wonder if that particular train platform had the tactile warning strips along the platform edge so a blind person would have a definite clue they had gotten too close to the edge. We also have to consider that if the platforms are crowded it is difficult for the dog to always get through the crowds. If Mr. Williams intends on entering any train stations with his current dog, I do hope he requests an evaluation from his guide dog school first just to ensure his safety. I also hope that Mr. Williams can overcome any residual fear and anxiety he may have after such a traumatic experience. Nobody who saw it happen can actually say for sure how the dog went over the edge as well. I can only assume that when Mr. Williams went over he was still holding the harness handle so the dog fell with him. I commend the train conductor for being able to slow and stop the train so quickly. All I can say is that it is a miracle that both Mr. Williams and the dog survived. I wish him a quick recovery so he will be able to be physically up to training with his new dog when the time comes. I am also very pleased that he can now afford to keep his retired dog with him. All of us guide dog handlers face that decision when our dogs retire. Many times it is the large vet bills for an older dog that make it impossible for us to keep our retired dogs. Mr. Williams, as well as his current and future dogs will remain in my thoughts and prayers. Let us all thank God that their lives were spared. What a Christmas miracle.

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Bill wrote:

I want to comment on the piece by Bob Branco on affection. It is a sad state of affairs where we have come to regarding showing affection. Granted there are sexual predators out there but to get punished when a little boy kisses a girl’s hand is ridiculous. I believe that the consequence of not showing affection with each other is that people have become disconnected and distant with each other. I think it is the reason why people don’t care about each other either.

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Anthony wrote:

In reference to Roger Cicchese, Fools Rush In. I had a similar experience. I was late and I was rushing. I could only see blurry colors at the time. I got to the corner seeing the light go green. But I stopped, seeing something to my right. I turned to look and saw next to me what looked to be a whitish-blue figure of a man. At this point all hell broke loose. Horns were blaring, tires were squealing, rubber was smelling and metal crunching. I turned back to see what happened. I then looked back and he was gone. I had the impression it was my best friend Ron who had passed years earlier. I believe in Guardian Angels how about you?


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