Archive for June, 2011

Contributor Kate Chamberlin – Screen Doors

The slam of a screen door is reassuring, irritating, and wonderful. It’s nostalgic, a bit of Americana and home.
One late afternoon, our almost-four-year old was playing next door. It was time to come home, so I called his name, and then realized he must be in their house. I gave a whoop and called his name again.
Throughout the years, family and neighbors have learned when this Mom gives a whoop or rings the old school marm’s bell, someone had better come on the double. And, so it happened. I heard the porch screen door slam and a little voice holler, “I’m here, Mimi.” I was reassured that he was home, safe and sound.
I suspect my mother felt irritation when she heard her screen door slam, because what we heard was, “Why do you always have to slam that door?” The screen doors on our homes were the “modern” aluminum ones that rattled like flimsy tin cans tied together. The bottom panel was usually dented and loose from kicking it open and closed when her arms were full of groceries or golf equipment. The upper screen wasn’t much tighter.
My grandmother’s screen doors were made with wooden frames with a wooden strip waist high and a vertical piece supporting it. The screen door on the porch was the first one you came to after climbing the steep stone stairs and rounding the corner to pull the Captain’s bell, announcing your arrival.
The porch was an add-on to the New England saltbox and, throughout the years, had sagged so that the door was not only wedged shut, it had multiple layers of dark green paint sealing its fate. Right next to it was a screen door that went directly into the dining room. Sometimes it stuck at the bottom, so if you were in a hurry and not being careful, the top would open, but not the bottom and you’d walk into the edge of the door–a painful experience. The screen was usually bowed from constantly missing the T support when you ran out of the house to play.
My screen doors are wooden like my grandmother’s. They make the same nostalgic slam hers made and sometimes stick at the bottom. I did add a spring to the horizontal piece, though. It adds a nice vibrating twang when it slams. After we’d bowed the screen, I added a “push-me” board with stenciling on it, to keep the screen from being pushed out completely.
Often after grocery shopping, my husband will let my guide dog and me out of the van part-way up the hill and we’ll walk the rest of the way. When I hear my neighbors aluminum door rattle, I know I have one more driveway to go. When my guide dog stops, I feel for my unique wooden mailbox, give him a kibble for doing a good job, and we head up my driveway. Once in the house and the screen door slams behind us, I know we are home, safe and sound.

Feature Writer Romeo Edmead – Who Needs Hands to Ride a Bike?

When Damian Lopez Alfonso was just 13, he was obsessed with kites. Today, he still brags that he was the best at locating kites amongst his friends. Although that hobby was abruptly curtailed, he eventually picked up another activity where he also excelled. The transition was anything but seamless, though, and Mr. Alfonso is actually lucky to be alive. One day when he and a friend attempted to retrieve a kite with a catchy drawing, he received the shock of a lifetime.
The kite was caught in the power lines above a building, and the boys decided to remove it with the aid of a metal rod. As they approached, Mr. Alfonso’s companion got cold feet and tried discouraging him, too. Unfortunately, valor won over discretion that day, and he took charge. When the rod and power lines touched, he was electrocuted and received severe burns to his arms, face, and torso. He was hospitalized for the next year, and today he lives with no forearms and a disfigured face.
Twenty-one-years later, Mr. Alfonso’s new love is bike racing, and he aspires to compete in international Olympic competition. With no forearms, he is still able to balance, steer, and travel at tremendous speed, using his elbows to press the brakes and shift gears. He has already been victorious in several local tournaments in his native Cuba, racing against able bodied cyclists. Olympic competition is another story though, because according to Olympic standards his bike is illegally assembled. In order to operate his brakes and gears, his handle bars must be turned upside down so they can be closer to him.
Mr. Alfonso’s determination has touched many people, and they have joined his campaign in a major way. Complete strangers have donated money for him to travel to New York for doctor’s visits, and doctors are trying to fit him with prosthetic arms free of charge. If they find something that works, Mr. Alfonso may be competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. He is registered to compete in Canada next month, which is one of the qualifiers he needs to be eligible for next year’s games. In the meantime, he tried some prosthetic arms during a ride in New York’s Central Park earlier this month. He quickly became frustrated, and was quoted in a New York Times article saying, “I’ve ridden my whole life the other way, and now I can’t brake. I don’t know why I need this. Why do they have this stupid rule?”
What are your thoughts about Mr. Alfonso’s situation? Do you think the Olympic rules are exclusionary for riders who, in this case, are perfectly capable of riding at a high level with only simple, non-performance enhancing bike modifications?

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Four of my Favorite Fourths

July Fourth serves as a reminder of the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans, and is also a wonderful summer celebration time. It is synonymous with outdoor concerts, family vacations, and barbecues–all fun activities.
For me, four of these holidays stand out as being extra special. The first was in 1959. I was nine, and spending my first summer at an all-girl’s camp for the blind in New Hampshire. The day started sunny and very hot. All of the campers were excited because we would be treated to an afternoon at Pine Island, a small amusement park in Manchester, New Hampshire. That day was a blast and it was nice to get away from supervised activities and going on all the fast rides. Before leaving, we chatted and sipped cold sodas in paper cups at shaded picnic tables. That hot evening, we were to have a special surprise–going for a swim in the pool before bedtime. This would be a Fourth of July I would never forget.
The next memorable holiday came in 1976. Three of us anticipated going to the pop concert on the esplanade near the Charles River in Boston. It was America’s centennial celebration and the concert would be spectacular. My mom and I drove from Weymouth to my friend’s apartment in South Boston. We had second thoughts about attending the concert, though, as my friend thought the large crowds would make guiding two blind adults difficult. So instead, we had fun celebrating at the house as we overheard the concert from a distance without the crowds.
Another occurred in 1993. I had been married for almost three years and we owned our home in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Marshall loved the Fourth and thoroughly enjoyed pops concerts, fireworks, and family barbecues. We had company in from out of town and sat on our lawn listening to a concert that we could hear from the speakers at a nearby park. Marshall loved the fireworks, having enough sight to appreciate their bright colors. The next day was warm–perfect for a barbecue. We sat on the sundeck enjoying burgers, grilled chicken, and hotdogs. That evening, I made my first home-made ice cream cones and everyone loved them. After that, most of our family disappeared downtown to see another fireworks display. I remained home to watch the younger kids and chat with guests who were too tired to go out.
In 2006, our family make up had changed and Pam, our step daughter, was married with two children and living in Gardner, Massachusetts. My life had changed as well with Marshall’s passing, yet this family tradition was still going strong. We enjoyed another delicious cookout with burgers and homemade chicken salad. We sat around and told our favorite stories and laughed as hard as we could. We really enjoyed every moment of each other’s company as we basked in the warm July weather.
There was a bittersweet element, too. The two oldest grand children were growing into adults, and Pam and her family would move to Northern Maine in less than two years, which would make it more difficult for us to get together like this in the future. Though, it made me appreciate that day even more.
What’s your favorite part of July Fourth? Any fun stories you’d like to share?

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – On Getting Older

I can scarcely believe that I’ll celebrate my forty-ninth birthday this August–chronologically and socially turning a pivotal corner, but it’s all good. Not certain I’ll be shouting my age from the rooftops if I’m lucky enough to reach my eighties. We’ll see. Maturing is not for the faint of heart but so far I welcome the challenge.
Do any of you have “Owl Syndrome?” The symptoms are as follows: you’re watching or listening to one of those fast-paced, fast-talking Hollywood gossip shows and you find yourself repeating, “Who? Who?” The names of many current television and movie stars are lost on me. Blithely tossed around, I’m lucky to catch a handful. A remedy to this malady might be the purchase of Apple TV, which offers such useful information. Until then, the dreaded “Owl Syndrome” has me firmly in its talons.
I now know what the generation gap really means as it pertains to music. I listen to and enjoy many current artists, but sit utterly aggravated when I hear some who clearly do not meet my standards. Patiently, Maria endures my tirade on why this or that young (and clearly untalented) artist was given the award, or why they have such a huge following. I generally conclude with the fact that I’m too old to “get it.” On a positive note, I’m learning to embrace my crabbiness. Hmm. “Embracing My Crabbiness” really does sound like a great title for my book.
I now move on to the sensitive subject of physical appearance. Most notably, my hair. I have been assured by those who are able to see it that the ever-growing swath of gray makes me look distinguished as opposed to extinguished. The best description came from my twenty-five-year-old niece, who remarked that it looks “luxurious.” Toying with the idea of coloring it, I really do not have the personality of one who will keep it up and I shudder at the thought of a color job gone wrong. With regard to my physical appearance, I find myself growing more satisfied with my body type. I walk, tandem bike ride, and do a bit of light weight-lifting (to keep my arms from hanging like loose jowls) and I’m quite pleased with the results. I hate to admit it, but there is something to that saying about looking good is feeling good.
And now to the most relentless and unforgiving aspect of getting older–memory loss. Constantly in learning mode, I can happily report that the concepts, commands, and lyrics are sticking to my aging brain, but the speed of learning is definitely not what it used to be.
Hmm. Gee, I can’t recall the next point I wanted to make.
How do you cope with these pivotal moments in age progression? Let’s hear from both the young and old readers to find out.

May 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 Steven Famiglietti – Tornado Chasing: Part 2

One of my favorite aspects of storm chasing is how the others on the trip are interested in the storms. For the most part, most of us in our normal lives don’t have anyone to relate this interest to, so when we find other chasers, we just want to talk about the chasing trips, rather than the storms or their structure.
On Saturday night, we had a great dinner and our tour director, Roger Hill, told us that Sunday looked like a good day for finding storms. We traveled to South Dakota on Sunday, and as the day progressed, things continued to look good for storms to form. As in past years, we were able to get ourselves in the correct spot to watch the clouds rising higher and higher in the sky. Suddenly, there was a bolt of lightning and the rain began to fall–we were on the chase. Roger uses a laptop equipped with software which shows us the radar overlaid with GPS. This enables him to know the exact location of the chase vans and the exact location of the storm itself. All of this information is critical because it is always best to know your location and your escape zone.
We stopped several times along the chase to view, experience, and photograph the storm as it grew larger and larger.
During one stop, everyone was watching the storm and there was a sudden bolt of lightning that struck the ground near us and we were ordered into the van. Lightning is one of the most dangerous aspects of storm chasing, as there is no way to predict when and where it will strike. After several more strikes which we viewed from within the van, we traveled down the road a bit more and found ourselves in a large area of fields. It was there that we noticed rapid rotation in the clouds and suddenly a skinny tornado dropped to the ground about 5 miles from us and swirled around for a while before disappearing into the clouds.
We then traveled through some golf ball-sized hail as we made our way closer to our hotel. Hearing the hail hitting the van was so loud that we couldn’t hear ourselves talk. Then, we drove out of the hail and into the heavy rain and winds. As we did so, there was plenty of frequent lightning flashing all around us. I never see as much lightning as I do when I chase these storms. After about ten minutes, the rain began to subside and the storm was weakening. Roger confirmed this by checking the radar and announcing that there was no chance of any more tornadoes.
Suddenly, there was a slight jolt on the left side of our van and I noticed that my window was shattered. Everyone on the left side of the van noticed that their windows were shattered too. We had no idea what caused this to happen–there was no hail and very little rain. When we arrived at the hotel a few moments later, Roger discovered many piles of little pebbles all over the inside of the van. He confirmed that the wind had picked these pebbles up and thrown them against the side of our van, breaking the glass. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Roger has been chasing storms for over 25 years, has seen over 570 tornadoes, and gone through hail as large as grapefruits and never had anything like this happen to any of his vans.
Needless to say, this was my most exciting trip to date and I can’t wait to go again. We were not able to chase for a few days because the glass took a few days to arrive. But once we had the new windows, it was back to the chase again.

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – TV Speak by Codefactory Comes to the US Market

It used to be that if you wanted to find out what was on TV, you had to read it in a weekly magazine. Then cable companies came out with the “What’s on TV” station. And finally digital cable and satellite TV brought us a menu system that allowed you to browse what was on without having to wait for your station to show up again in the streaming list. None of these options, though, are accessible to the blind. Having digital TV comes with so many features, but up until now most of them were unusable by people who can’t see. Codefactory, who is known for making cell phones accessible, has come out with a new product called TV Speak. This application, which runs on a computer, will finally allow blind users to know what they’re watching and so much more.
Here are some of the major features of TV Speak.
– Access to the electronic programming guide
– Record television programs with image and audio or audio only
– Configuring of both TV Speak and the television settings
– Common TV operations such as channel up and down and volume control
– Parental Control configuration
In order to use the application, the user must have a Windows-based computer, a TV tuner card, and a digital TV antenna. All operations of TV Speak are done using the computer keyboard, and if users want, they can use a Bluetooth keyboard so they’re able to operate everything wirelessly. TV Speak can be purchased from Handytech of North America for $245. To learn more and purchase TV Speak, visit this link.
If any readers have tested out this product, please let us know your thoughts in the reader’s forum.

Feature Writer John Christie – When Policy Makers Go Against Policy

In a study published by the journal “Government Information Quarterly,” it was shown that 90 of the 100 websites that were operated by government agencies were violating the government’s own guidelines regarding accessibility. In addition, these web sites were not in compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which states that government electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities.
The President of The National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Mark Maurer, said, “Blind Americans are outraged that the government is failing to comply with its own guidelines to make government information and services available to citizens with disabilities.” He continued by saying that there is no excuse for their actions, given the legal requirements, and that use of the internet is incredibly important in order to have equal access to educational and employment resources, government benefits systems, and all aspects of modern life.. He finished by saying, “We demand that officials in all branches of government take immediate steps to bring all federal websites into compliance with the law, and we pledge to continue to hold the federal government accountable if it continues to treat the blind and others with disabilities as second-class citizens.”
Most of the problems with the websites could be easily resolved as far as accessibility is concerned. These problems included unlabeled images, mislabeled forms or tables, videos without captioning, flash elements without any textual equivalents, and lack of keyboard equivalents for mouse-over actions.
Seeing how simple it would be to remedy these issues, the National Federation of the Blind had good reason to jump on this.
If these websites (at least the majority of them) aren’t accessible to the disabled, what kind of an example is set for the private sector and other organizations to make their websites accessible to the disabled and in compliance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973? Not a very good one at all, really. The government must step up to the plate and make all of their sites accessible to the disabled. Many of these issues involving the lack of accessibility are easy to solve, such as unlabeled images, mislabeled forms, and so forth. These government agencies should develop a program to make all their web sites accessible to the blind and also follow the guidelines they put in place. Perhaps a group needs to be put in place whose purpose is to assess how accessible a site is before it’s launched.
What gets me mad about all this is that these same agencies boast about hiring the disabled. But these actions speak louder than words, and it makes you wonder if they really care about the disabled or if this is a front that they are putting up.

Letter from the Editor for June 27, 2011

Hello Everyone,
I hope you all had a great weekend and are enjoying the nice summer weather. We must keep in mind, though, that there are those in our country who are experiencing some of the harsh traits of summer as well. With uncontrollable wildfires and unyielding floods, many are being forced to leave their homes with no way of knowing what will be left upon their return. Please keep these people in your thoughts.
I can’t believe that I’m already releasing the final edition for June–it seems like time has jumped into fast gear and we’re flying through these months like crazy. Just as a quick reminder, next week’s magazine will be released on Tuesday, July 5 since our office will be closed on Monday July 4 for the holiday.
Also, those of you who are waiting to receive the May Audio Edition will be receiving it sometime this afternoon once it is uploaded into our system.
That should cover everything for now. I hope you all have a great week and a fun-filled holiday weekend.
Take care, and thanks for reading.
Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Turkey Cobb Salad Wraps

Turkey Cobb Salad Wrap Sandwiches are a quick and easy recipe to make with leftover turkey or chicken.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 6
3 cups cooked turkey strips
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup French salad dressing
1/4 cup creamy Parmesan salad dressing
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
2 cups bagged baby spinach leaves
In bowl, combine turkey, tomatoes, avocados, bacon, and blue cheese. In bowl, mix salad dressings; drizzle over turkey mixture and stir to coat. Refrigerate up to 2 days.
When ready to eat, make sandwiches with filling, flour tortillas, and baby spinach leaves. Fold up bottom edge and fold in sides, and serve.