Archive for March, 2011

Contributor Eric Calhoun – How To Make The Most Out Of Your Convention Experiences

In my 15 years of self-advocacy, and helping others, I have found State and National Conventions both rewarding and challenging.  But if you follow these important guidelines, your stay at the convention site will be anything but.

-First, plan early.  The earlier you make your convention plans, the less likely you’ll need to cram.  This means coordination of transportation, the hotel payments, and the registration fees incurred.

-Get to know hotel personnel.  When you check in, be ready to give to them your credit card number, how long you’ll stay, and your preference for a room.  If you’re rooming with someone, let them know.  NOTE: When and if you pre-registered, you were probably briefed as to the amenities of your hotel.  Make sure that you familiarize yourself with the Convention Program when you formally register.

-As stated in your Convention Program, you are required to wear your name tag.  This is so your hotel staff gets to know you, and for voting purposes.

Now, let’s move on to room etiquette.

-Use Room Service, wherever appropriate.  This means wakeup calls, extra towels, et cetera.

-Be prepared to keep your “key card” with you at all times.  This is true when you depart the room.

Convention Pointers

-You do not have to stay in the hotel for every single General Session or special-interest presentation. Try and go out of the hotel for an hour or two.  If you have a guide dog, why not take him or her for a leisure walk?

-This ties in with the preceding paragraph, but If you know if you’re getting drowsy, go up to your room and sleep.  Your information will still be with you in your chosen medium on your side table when you wake up.

Most importantly, thank your staff when your departure time arrives.  NFB, ACB-affiliated, and organization-affiliated people want you to know that they paid thousands upon thousands of dollars for you to stay at their hotel.  A courteous word goes a long way.

For those of you attending conferences, I hope that you enjoy your time spent there and encourage others to attend as well.  Take care!

Any other tips for conferences?  Let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

Contributor Terri Winaught – Celebrities Donate Unique Items to Japan Charity Auction

Each day since March 11, 2011, when an earthquake took a heavy toll on Japan and a tsunami pounded that proud country’s ancient shores, many of us have wanted to help, with celebrities being no exception.

Enter the power of a celebrity charity auction, which has already begun on charitybuz and will continue to be held on that site until April 7th.

Items which have been donated as of this writing include a signed acoustic guitar from James Taylor, an autographed cymbal from rock group Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and a selection of vinyls from that rock band. Some celebs, though, are making their donations more unique.  Kim Kardashian, for example, is giving the highest bidder the opportunity to meet her this April.

Jimmy Kimmel, who was evacuated from a French Polynesian island when the tsunami struck, will give bidders tickets to his late night show on the ABC Network. These generous bidders will also get to meet Kimmel at a behind-the-scenes meet and greet party.

If none of these items and opportunities make you want to begin the battle of the bid, keep in mind that more donations may be added to charitybuz, so be sure to check that site on a regular basis.

When this unique auction ends in April, UNICEF will donate the proceeds to tsunami relief.  For more information on celebrity donations to charity, visit

By Googling “celebrities that donate to charity,” you will also be led to links and articles about celebrities providing aid to the victims of the Libyan conflict, and 10 ways Twitter can be used to generate money for charity.

Have any of you been affected by the crisis in Japan or the conflict in Libya?  Do any of you have loved ones who have been impacted by either of these tragedies?  If so, I’d love to hear your perspective in the Reader’s Forum along with any suggestions you might have for providing aid more effectively and efficiently.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Labors of Love

As the good readers of the Matilda Ziegler know, my Mother is now ensconced in a temporary apartment.  She is passed 90 years old and can still “turn around” as we West Indians say, but she needs some help to manage regular meals and chores. We hope the things we’ve done and continue to do make life more comfortable and convenient for her.

New York City offers a wonderful program called City Meals On Wheels.  It is literally a lifesaver and I was relieved to find their website and contact information via Google.  Mama was most receptive as she knows friends who receive and speak highly of this daily service.  Meals are delivered from Sunday to Friday but they provide a snack-like meal for Saturdays as they do not deliver on that day.  I will leave the monthly suggested donation in an envelope and fervently hope that Mama remembers to give it to them. In the meantime, we’ve brought dinners and little treats we know she enjoys.  But what elicited the most positive reaction?  Bananas!  Honestly, it really is the small pleasures in someone’s life that are so very important.

As open to the idea of having meals delivered, Mama was just as resistant to having what is known here as a Home Attendant who could assist with light cleaning.  She believes she is still capable–and in many respects, she is–but she cannot handle it all.  We are doing what we can to make the apartment as safe and homey as possible, but bags and boxes abound. Audio description:  “Bright light bulbs shine over our heads!  The Container Store to the rescue!”

We trooped there and had a rewarding and fun shopping spree.  The store representative could not have been more helpful and accommodating.  Patiently, she walked the huge store with us, scanner in hand, describing and tagging items that were immediately totaled.  I left with a much lighter bank account but a satisfied smile.  We called for a large taxi, piled the items in every which way we could, and made our way to her place to begin the daunting task of stuffing and stacking.  I’m also employing a new strategy with regard to the Home Attendant issue.  I’m referring to them as a helper. This doesn’t seem to ruffle her feathers as much. Wish me luck.

On another note, who would have thought having cable television and phone service installed would be a complicated endeavor?  Well, it does help if you have the correct address.  The short story is that Mama now has three different street numbers, and like a magic key, we had to see which one fit our cable company.

We’re definitely getting there!

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – A Life of Advocacy

I have been in consumer groups advocating for rights and services for the blind since the early 1970s. It all started when I was twenty years old and began paying attention to and watching the civil rights and anti-war movements.  It made me ask, “Who speaks for the blind?” 

At first, I was part of a young adult group funded by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, where I formed friendships and became involved in exciting activities.  During the summer of 1970, we attended a baseball game at Fenway Park and a beach in Situate where we went sailing and enjoyed cooking classes.  Though, shortly after, I learned that due to a lack of funds, the program was eliminated.

Not wanting to disband the group, we formed a blind leadership club.  This group then became a chapter of American Council for the Blind in late 1971.  Our original premise was to help mentor younger students, but it took a different direction.  During the five years I was there, we advocated for new legislation for guide dog users and continued dental coverage for Medicaid clients who are blind, among other issues.  In early 1974, consumer groups filled the state house, educating the public about job discrimination–a hot topic that is still talked about today. 

We also advocated for the blind at the local level.  In 1972 we worked to see that Braille menus were provided for blind customers at Brigham’s, a local restaurant chain in the Boston area.  In early 1974, we started talks with museums about making exhibits accessible.  It was not all work, though; we socialized after meetings and formed lasting friend ships. 

In 1977, I joined the NFB and made new friends among fellow blind students.  Besides joining the student division, I also joined our state division, and through the years I would learn more about advocacy.  Later, I rejoined the ACB and reunited with old friends to continue our work.

In 1991, we called our legislators about the threatened closing of a large work shop. The state house received so many calls that eventually the funding was restored.  They simply did not realize so many people cared. All over, consumer groups began to take a creative approach to fight deep cuts in library services in the early 90s as well.  We did this by sending our cassette books to the statehouse.   Again, funding was restored.  It was another instance where they didn’t take the time to see how important our library services are.  

The effect of our work can still be seen today.  Since the spring of 2009, a day for the blind occurs every April at the state house.  Agencies such as Perkins, Massachusetts Association for the Blind and the Carroll Center band together with the two consumer groups.  Our goals haven’t changed, though–we are still there trying to stave off deep budget cuts to vital programs.  This year, we are banding together on April 20 in an effort to keep programs we have.  It is an incredible feeling to know that our actions inevitably affect all of the blind residents of our state, and our advocacy keeps essential programs from being needlessly removed.

February 2011 audio version

Welcome to the Matilda Ziegler Magazine audio player. To begin listening to the magazine, simply click the “Read more” link below. Once you select the month, an embedded media player will start playing the magazine immediately. While using this player, you can press the control key plus the space bar to pause the current article. To proceed to the next article hold down the control key and the shift key and then press the N key. To go back to the previous article hold down the control key and the shift key and press the P key.

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Feature Writer John Christie – Seeking to Eliminate Limitations

As October 2010, also National Disability Employment Awareness Month, came to a close, the staff at Work Without Limits reflected on the progress of enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Massachusetts. Alexis Henry, who is the ScD, associate professor of psychiatry and Associate Director of Work Without Limits, and Kathy Petkauskos, Work Without Limits’ senior program director, held a brown bag lunch seminar at UMass Medical School on October 25 to discuss their successes as well as their goals for the future.

The Work Without Limits initiative spreads information to the disabled community and to other groups involved with getting the disabled community employed. It also helps build and create community networks as well as provide training and technical support to service agencies and providers. They routinely conduct research and evaluate and analyze policy so that changes can be made throughout the system.

“We are a booster engine to the large engine of state infrastructure that helps people with disabilities fully participate in the community,” said Dr. Henry, also co-principal investigator group that funds Work Without Limits. “We deploy our resources to give many different kinds of activities a lift. Sometimes we’re very behind the scenes, sometimes we’re more out in front.”

Work Without Limits was created in 2008 to improve employment opportunities for the disabled and also focuses on improving transportation and medical insurance as well.  They encourage employers to work with them so that they can meet their business needs as well as the needs of the disabled community.

Work Without Limits occasionally holds meetings solely for the disabled. They welcome guests to come and speak on topics such as finding employment with federal agencies. They’ve also held open discussions on employment issues after the guest speaker speaks. Some of the employment issues that are discussed include interviewing and resources on the net to find employment and overall accessibility problems. The meetings are held in the evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Boston Public Library.

Work Without Limits is a fantastic group who not only advocate for the disabled but provide services and seminars which encourage discussion and instill hope in a community that is woefully underemployed.

To find out more about Work Without Limits you can go to:


Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Clinical Trials for a European Artificial Retina Come to the US

Throughout my life, I’ve had multiple doctors tell me that they think that my vision will be restored in my life time. The research into artificial retinas in the last five years has made me think that this might actually be true. Earlier this month, the European Union authorized the use of the Argus II, a retinal implant that was developed here in the states. This implant uses an external camera to provide images of the person’s surroundings. More exciting though, in my opinion, is the announcement that the Wills Eye Institute will be conducting clinical trials of the Sub-retinal implant that was developed in Germany.

Unlike the Argus II, the sub-retinal implant does not require an external camera to work because the implant is behind the retina. This implant also has over 1500 photo cells, which means that the images the patient sees are clearer. This number is nowhere near the number of photo cells that the human eye has, but it’s a step in the right direction.

According to Retinal Implant A.G.’s website, here are some of the benefits that patients might get from the implant:

Orientation in space

Visual Field between 8 and 12 degrees

Ability to read without visual aids except reading glasses, at least recognizing someone holding two fingers, and recognizing faces

Ability to recognize letters with additional visual aids

These benefits may seem small to some, but for those of us who have lived without usable vision for many years, this is huge. I myself miss reading the most, and although I enjoy reading Braille, I miss being able to enjoy a bookstore or library. I sometimes struggle with whether I want my vision to be restored. A part of me has very much accepted my blindness, but there is a part of me that misses being able to see someone smile or watch a sunset. I think that those of us who have lost our vision rather than never had it, have a harder time deciding whether they would ever want their vision restored if the option was available. At this point, I think I would be a part of a clinical study if it was available to me. I would like to hear from readers about their thoughts on this implant and restoring vision.

If you live in the Philadelphia area or think that you might be a candidate for the upcoming clinical trial I encourage you to contact the Wills Eye Institute.

To learn more about the Wills Eye Institute visit this link:

To learn more about Retinal Implant AG visit this link:

Feature Writer Romeo Edmead – A Champion Unlike Any Other

In the sport of wrestling, earning national championship honors at both the high school and college levels is quite the accomplishment.  As arduous as that may be, imagine achieving all of that with just one leg. Fortunately, for Arizona State senior Anthony Robles, he does not have to dream about that anymore.

Last weekend, the 22-year-old Robles, who was born without a right leg, transformed that dream into reality in Philadelphia.

By his own admission, Roble’s initial dabble into wrestling began rather inauspiciously. But with time there came improvement, and eventually he became determined to wind up exactly where he did. When it all started back in high school, he weighed less than 100-pounds. Now, at 125-pounds–and able to bench-press more than 300 pounds–he leaves the sport at the top of his weight class.

As many great champions do, Robles saved his best season for last. He did not lose a single match this year, and the coup de grace was a master piece. His opponent, Matt McDonough, last year’s national champion, was just what the doctor ordered for Mr. Robles final act. He assumed his regular starting position, and by the time the contest concluded, Mr. Robles emerged victorious in a landslide. Afterwards, the usually calm Robles did confess to being awfully nervous prior to the match. “I almost started crying,” he said, “I was scared.”

For all that he has accomplished it would appear that Mr. Robles has chosen to embark on the ideal career path. He aspires to be a motivational speaker, and hopes that many people can find strength in his journey. Despite his professional goals, Robles said he did not do any of this for the attention or recognition. Instead, it was all for the love of the sport that helped to build his own intestinal fortitude and shape his character.


Letter from the Editor

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a nice weekend.  It seems that winter still has a hold on us.  They’re calling for more snow here on Wednesday and Friday.  We may be able to see the pasture, but we’re not out of the woods yet. 

I’ve got a few announcements for this week.  First, I’d like to say that I am incredibly happy with the comments we’ve been receiving for the reader’s forum.  It’s been weeks since we haven’t had one in the magazine and I’m really enjoying getting such great feedback from all of you.  It’s a section of the magazine that has begun to grow and I hope it continues.  You all have done a great job.

Moving on, for those of you still waiting for the February audio edition of the magazine, I’m sorry for the delay, but it will be sent out this afternoon following this week’s magazine.

Also, I’ve been receiving requests for a slight change regarding the use of symbols in the magazine.  For navigation purposes, they work great, but they were not allowing readers to navigate directly to sub-sections, like posts in the Reader’s Forum, Special Notices, or Pen Pals or simply bypass those sections altogether.  So, with the help of various readers, I’m making a very slight change.  Now, in between articles and main sections of the magazine, there will be three pound symbols, displayed as ###.  In sections of the magazine like the Reader’s Forum, Special Notices, and Pen Pals, those entries will continue to be separated by two pound symbols, displayed as ##.  That way, if you wish to navigate through or beyond any of those sections, you will now be able to.

That should cover everything for now.  I hope you all enjoy the magazine and have a great week.  Keep thinking Spring!

Take care, and thanks for reading.


Ross Hammond, Editor

Joke of the Week – House Advantage

“This house,” said the real estate salesman, “has both its good points and its bad points. To show you I’m honest, I’m going to tell you about both. The disadvantages are that there is a chemical plant one block south and a manure plant a block north.”
“What are the advantages?” inquired the prospective buyer.
“The advantage is that you can always tell which way the wind is blowing.”