Archive for April, 2011

March 2011 audio version

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Reader’s Forum

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

Franek wrote in, saying:

I realize that disabled people, including the blind and partially sighted, make up small part of society and therefore adaptive equipment is made in small batches which equates to higher prices. Yet, why don’t try to find cost effective alternatives?  In the days of communism, the polish Czechs and East Germans all produced cheap, effective upward Braille writers.  The East German picht and mini picht both were good pieces of equipment.  The Russians had Sekonda Braille watches so cheap that they were cheaper to replace than to repair. Here in Britain, we had the Stainsby Wayne Braille writer.  Now why has no one tried to get hold of the rights and designs and produce these items again?  Why should we only have expensive items available when the majority of blind and disabled people are on a low income or government benefits? Maybe someone starting a business could start looking into providing cost effective equipment based on these older designs.  I look forward to other readers thoughts

Franek Kozorowski

Hartlepool, UK


In response to a special notice in last week’s magazine, Elaine wrote in to say:

I wanted to let readers know that Philmore voicemail customers cannot create their own boards.  They can set up distribution lists and forward messages to people in those lists.  However, if a customer wants a board, he or she must contact the owner of the system and request it. 

Elaine Johnson


In response to Contributor Terri Winaught, Ten Reasons Being Blind Isn’t So Bad, Bill wrote:

Hello, I want to comment on Terri’s article.  I had a funny experience one time while I was in college.  I was in the bar on campus and the bartender asked me what would happen if I tied one on.  I told him that my guide dog would take me back to the dorm, which she did on a couple of occasions.

Bill Meinecke

Virginia Beach, Virginia

News – Blind Water-Skier Sets World Record

If you’ve ever tried water-skiing, you know that it is more difficult than it seems.  The more seasoned skiers will tell you all you have to do is stand up and hold on, but you need to have great balance and be able to anticipate how a wave will move you.

Imagine then, water-skiing for miles–23.85 miles to be exact.  Blind water-skier Steve Thiele recently accomplished this feat and set the open sea water-skiing world record.

Steve hadn’t been on the water for more than 15 years, but when his employer asked him to come up with an interesting fundraiser to support charity groups Cancer Research UK and Ghana Outlook, he knew he’d have to come up with something more exciting than a simple sponsored walk.  So, not only did he grab his skis again, but he set out with a goal–to set the new world record.  The last time he competed was at the Disabled Waterski Olympics over a decade ago, but after a couple runs, he found it had all come back to him and he was ready to go.  

With the folks from Guinness World Records on hand, he went to start the challenge.  But before he could get going, they informed him of a very odd requirement–he had to wear a blindfold.  Having been blind from the age of eight when he fell from a tree and damaged his optic nerve, he laughed at their request and probably thought they were joking.  However, they were dead serious.  “Guinness World Records do not distinguish between able-bodied persons and disable persons,” Steve said.  “So they said that in order for me to break the existing world record, I had to wear the blindfold.”  He joked, “It didn’t make a difference to me.”

So, the blind man–extra blinded by the blindfold–finally began his challenge and shortly thereafter set the new world record.  When his run was over and the questions began to come at him, he remarked, “It must have been humorous watching a blind person wearing a blindfold.”

Regardless of what unnecessary requirements needed to be met, Steve’s record is an impressive one that required massive amount of balance, strength, and stamina and hopefully he raised a ton of money for the charities he supported. 


Contributor Fred Sanderson – Expectations

Everyone has them, and everyone wants them to be met.  But what are they?  Wiktionary defines an expectation as “The prospect of the future; grounds upon which something excellent is expected to occur; prospect of anything good to come, especially of property or rank.”

This definition is from the perspective or point of view of the actor, for example, “many people will come to help with this project, and it will be a great success.”

There is another perspective or point of view that ought to be considered in order to ensure that one maintains balance in life whether confronted with good times or bad.  That perspective is best defined by the renowned psychologist Viktor E.  Frankyl, who developed his psychological viewpoint while he was a prisoner in several Nazi concentration camps.

In his book, “Man’s search for meaning,” he stated, “It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.  We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead, to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life, daily and hourly.  Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.  Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems, and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

From this perspective, we can react to what life presents to us with dignity and integrity rather than bemoaning our circumstances as being unfair because they do not meet our expectations or seeing ourselves as victims of circumstances.  How does this relate to the example of people helping with a project? We have the liberating capability of meeting each of life’s challenges without any preconceptions of what should or should not be.  Thus, if someone fails to be present at an activity with which they agreed to help, we can focus on getting the job done without bemoaning the other’s lack of commitment, for life’s expectation of us is to get the job done, not to be frustrated with someone’s lack of responsibility which we cannot control. 

In conclusion, focusing on what life expects from us rather than on what we expect from life can reduce our level of frustration, and help to maintain a positive attitude as we confront various situations.  We can still hold others accountable for their actions, but we need not become frustrated when those expectations are not met.

Contributor Terri Winaught – Chuck Tanner: Remembering a Baseball Legend

While attending a Pittsburgh Pirates game during the summer of 2009, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting former manager Chuck Tanner.

Since that was such an enjoyable encounter, the news on February 11th, 2011 that Chuck Tanner had died at the age of 82 filled me with surprise and sadness.  “We certainly lost a baseball great,” I remarked when the news broke for a commercial.

I certainly wanted to know more about the man who was baseball and family personified, and I love searching the Internet, so I Googled “Chuck Tanner” and “Pittsburgh Pirates”, and learned the following about this legend.

Charles William (Chuck) Tanner was born on July 4th, 1928 in the small Western Pennsylvania town of New Castle.

Before Chuck’s managerial and front office careers, he got out there on scorching summer days and hot humid nights to play ball.

According to Wikipedia, Tanner’s playing career spanned eight years, from April 12th, 1955 to May 8th, 1962.  During this part of his career, which began when Tanner was 27, the teams he played for were the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, and the Los Angeles Angels.

Tanner’s batting average was .261, he hit 21 homeruns, amassed 105 RBI’s, and played in over one thousand games. He performed these feats as a left-handed batter and thrower.

Chuck went from playing the game to managing some of its players by working his way through the Los Angeles Angels Minor League system from 1962 to 1970, when he became a Major League manager.

The Major League teams chuck managed from 1970 to 1988 were the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Whitesox, Oakland Athletics (Oakland A’s), and the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Chuck began managing the Pirates in 1977 after being traded by the Oakland A’s.  Some of the greats on Tanner’s team were future Hall of Famers Bert Blylevin and Willie Stargell, along with Dave Parker, who has yet to be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Upon getting into the World Series in 1979, the Pirates met a tough team.  Though not expected to win because they were three games behind the Baltimore Orioles, Chuck Tanner successfully led the underdog Pirates to a World Series victory.

Chuck continued to manage the Pirates until 1985 when drug abuse scandals among some team members threatened to pull apart the fabric of the family.

When Tanner’s management career ended in 1988, he served the team in front office capacities, his last position being Senior Adviser to new Pirates Manager Neil Huntington.

Chuck retired from his successful and multifaceted career in 2007.  Despite the Pirates having lost way too many games lately, they were never losers in Tanner’s eyes.

When baseball great Tanner said his final farewell to his hometown on February 11th, 2011, after what has been described as “a long illness,” his life was celebrated at a public memorial service and at a private funeral.

Contributor Kate Chamberlin – The Skateboard Gardener

A person who loves to garden rarely does so to burn calories.  Gardening has been viewed as a leisure activity, soothing to the spirit, a satisfying blend of nature and nurture. 

Experts are agreeing that gardening is, in fact, a healthy exercise, even if it isn’t the heart-thumping aerobic variety.  Gardens may look plush or serene, but gardening can include low-level but beneficial physical activities: stretching, bending, lifting, pulling and carrying.  For many people, the simple, down-to-earth physical demands of gardening provide a relief from stressful routines of home or workplace.  And the joy of gardening serves as a mood-booster, enhancing emotional health and feelings of well-being. 

Some tips for gardeners:

Always wear a hat, gloves and sunscreen when working outside.  Wear comfortable non-binding clothing.

Drink plenty of water – plants aren’t the only ones who can suffer from dehydration.    

Try to schedule gardening time for early morning or late afternoon.  Avoid the midday heat and intense ultraviolet rays of the sun.

Use a padded knee rest for extended periods of gardening work.  I sit on a skateboard to roll around my square-foot garden.

Bend from your knees.  Avoid the “touch toes” position to reach down for weeds, tools or supplies.

Wash hands carefully after gardening to clean soil-borne bacteria or other potentially harmful substances from the skin.   

Select a garden size and style that promises diversion, not demands, and which can survive with a flexible schedule of attention.   

If a personal garden isn’t feasible, explore the opportunities to participate in a community garden plot or beautification project. 

Enjoy the beauty of the garden at every stage, and consider it a positive reflection on the gardener, no matter how modest the effort.    

Take time to stop and smell the roses and the vegetables along the way!

As for me, I experienced a bit of a gardening conundrum recently.  The weather was perfect for outdoor chores.  I took my skateboard and went out to weed the perennial beds along the patio and brick walks.  Since I planted the beds years ago, I know exactly what is supposed to be growing in there–everything else gets pulled.  The sun felt warm as I assigned a problem to each weed and yanked.  The air became noticeably cooler when the clouds moved in.  I heard   sprinkles on the wide brimmed straw hat I was wearing.  I put my hand out, palm up to check for rain.  No rain. 

I yanked more weeds.  This time, I felt sprinkles on my face and heard it hit the underside of my hat brim.  I know the Rochester area weather is strange, but to rain up?  As I pulled more weeds, I finally realized what was happening.  The mature seed pods of the weeds that had wintered-over were spring loaded.  Whenever I touched them or the wind blew, the heads would knock together, bursting open to launch the next generation of weeds.  “Spring has sprung” has a whole new meaning for me now.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Integrating Blind Students

In 1969, during my last year as a student in a local sight saving class, my parents were informed that there was nothing more that the New Bedford School Department could do for me, and it was recommended that I attend the Perkins School for the Blind.  I expressed my objections as most any other youngster would.  Who wants to leave home and spend their teenage years far away from their roots?  In those days, most, if not all blind students attended schools like Perkins.  I spent eight years there until I graduated in 1977, and received a quality education.

During the 1970’s, blind students began leaving private schools to return home, because new legislation was passed allowing the blind to be integrated with the sighted.  Many college bound blind students were leaving Perkins, so in order for the school to keep its existence, the director brought in more and more special needs students.

I never had the experience of being integrated with sighted high school students, so I can’t comment on that.  Based on what I’ve heard from younger students who had this experience, I will assume that the students needed to make more of an effort to keep up.  At Perkins, everything was accessible for a blind student, so the job was simple–pick up your books and get to class.  I would imagine that if a blind student was integrated in a sighted high school class, he or she would need to find their own adaptation; whether it be tutors, readers, outside resources to have books recorded on tape, etc.

Though it may be a little more difficult for a blind student to keep up with his peers in public schools, I feel that they would be fully prepared for the sighted world once they graduated.  Although I had a quality education at Perkins, the fact remains that I ate, played with, went to class with, and lived with blind people exclusively–so in a sense, it was a blind world, for lack of a better term.

While making these observations and reaching these conclusions about which students were prepared more for the sighted world, I’m not necessarily blaming anyone, particularly the guidance departments.  They try their best. The guidance department at Perkins did what they could for me by helping me with the necessary paperwork for college.  However, paperwork is just what it is.  It’s not a social environment or a new living arrangement.  It’s simply a means to a goal.

What are your feelings about student integration into sighted schools?  I welcome your comments in the Readers’ Forum.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Making the Perfect Popovers

For those who are unaware, popovers are hollow, crispy, muffin-like creations leavened with eggs.  Many people mistakenly believe that popovers are difficult to make, but they are surprisingly simple to prepare with only five ingredients.

How did I discover these delightful muffin-like creations?   Well, on a snowy cold January morning in 1958, we were introduced to this treat at breakfast. The staff at Perkins was often introducing us to new foods like corn fritters, squash, or corn muffins, and suddenly these delicious flaky creations arrived.  I loved the crispy shells and eggy interior running with melted butter. They were so good, we had to have second helpings.  I was hooked, and at home we would occasionally make these. We would have them for breakfast, and as a desert, we filled them with ice cream and chocolate syrup.

Early attempts at making popovers independently yielded mixed results.  They stubbornly stuck to muffin tins and didn’t rise high enough.  Once, I over compensated by putting too much Crisco in the pans and set off the smoke alarm in my apartment.

I eventually found a foolproof recipe, “Unbelievable Popovers,” from a now out-of-print cookbook, “What’s Cooking in 39/99.”   The recipe lived up to its name and was loved by everyone.  In 2009, I tried a new recipe from “Baking Illustrated” and the results have been good.  I discovered that combining the two recipes makes truly perfect popovers.  The ingredients are from Baking Illustrated’s recipe, the method for baking them is from What’s Cooking in 39/99.  Baking Illustrated recommends heating pans first and filling them, but as a blind cook, I do not feel confident working with hot muffin tins starting them in a cold oven.   Cooking them at one temperature is safer and simpler.  Do not give up if they do not turn out perfectly–as the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.”  Note: popovers can be made with low-fat skim or almond milk and spelt or whole-wheat flour.

Below is the recipe for these great popovers.  I have doubled the original recipe so it will make 18 to 24 popovers.  Cut the recipe in half to make eight to twelve.


2 cups all purpose flour–Gold medal is recommended

1 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine


Put eggs and milk in a large mixing bowl, stir with wire whisk for 50 seconds.  In smaller bowl, briefly whisk flour and salt, then add it to the egg milk mixture.  Whisk for thirty to fifty seconds.  Add melted butter, stirring with a whisk for a few seconds, then a wooden spoon.  The batter should be smooth.  Let it rest for 30 minutes to develop the gluten.  While batter is resting, put about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a small bowl.   

Use the oil to thoroughly grease inner bottom and sides of nonstick muffin tins.  After the thirty minutes are up, measure out half a cup of batter to fill each muffin tin until almost full.  Put them on the top rack in a cold oven.  Turn oven to 425 degrees and bake no longer than thirty minutes.

The popovers will expand dramatically and should be easy to remove from muffin tins.  Serve them immediately or re-heat them later in a toaster oven for five minutes. A hungry family will eat these in no time.  

Sources: Recipe from Baking Illustrated, Volume 2: Best Classic Recipes. Baking instructions came from What’s Cooking in 39/99, which is out of print. You can still buy Baking Illustrated from National Braille Press.   According to the most recent catalog this is now only available in eBraille, but check with NBP as they may still have Braille copies left.


Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Deciding When to Take Your Guide Dog With You

As you’re reading this, I’m likely either on a ride or waiting in line at the new Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. I’m here on vacation, but my guide dog Midge is not with me. I decided that it was best for both me and her that she stay home, even though she would be welcome at the theme park. With that in mind, I decided to write about how guide dog users decide when and when not to bring their guides with them. Obviously, every user will be different, but I think it’s important that as guide dog users, we remember that our dog’s feelings about the places we take them do need to be taken into consideration.

In the almost 6 years that I’ve had Midge, I’ve only left her for multiple days three times. On each occasion, she has been left with someone I trust and someone she trusts and knows. Here are the things I consider when deciding to leave my guide for an extended period of time.

Will I be going somewhere where I plan to use my guide, or will I primarily use a sighted guide instead?

Is the place I’m going likely to have other dogs there? (this is important for dogs that are easily distracted)

Is the place I’m going likely to be crowded?

Will bringing my guide hinder my ability to have the freedom to have fun?

Is the place I’m going friendly to dogs?

Will the place I’m going have good relieving areas?

Although I try to take my guide as many places as possible, I know that she and I wouldn’t be happy if I took her everywhere. As much as I dislike using a cane, I would rather use a cane than feel like I was putting my dog in an uncomfortable situation. I also believe that just like with children, sometimes we guide dog parents need a break.

What are your feelings about leaving a guide dog for an extended period of time? What do you consider when deciding if leaving your guide is the right decision?

Feature Writer John Christie – ScripTalk Makes Prescriptions Accessible to the Blind

En-Vision America now has a device which makes reading prescriptions accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The device is called ScripTalk Station. ScripTalk Station uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) and text-to-speech (TTS) to read the prescriptions.

The best part about this device is that eligible individuals may receive a free ScripTalk Station patient reader through the Pharmacy Freedom Program. Pharmacies that participate in the program attach a small RFID label that contains the prescription information on a small computer chip. The ScripTalk Station then interfaces with the RFID label as the bottle is placed on top of it and reads the prescription information aloud to the individual.  This includes the drug name, all dosing instructions, side effects, warnings, and the doctor and pharmacy’s contact information.

The ScripTalk Station is a great product for any blind person who is on medication. By relying on RFID technology, they are now able to help prevent accidents involving people taking the wrong medications or taking too much.  Many Americans suffer from prescription drug-related injuries every year.  With devices like this, those types of accidents could be significantly reduced in the blind community.

Beyond that, though, this is yet another device that has been developed to increase the amount of independence a person has.  For some people, the only way they’re able to reliably obtain the information on their medications is for someone else to read for them.  Since medications can sometimes be a touchy subject, this process can be embarrassing.  With ScripTalk, a user can even use headphones if they need to identify their medications in places where they’d like to maintain their privacy.   

To obtain a free ScripTalk reader, contact Anna McClure at En-Vision America

1845 Hovey Ave.

Normal, IL 61761

(800) 890-1180

[email protected]

When you contact them, be sure to provide pharmacy details as well to see if there are participating locations in your area.

For more information about the program and the device, go to