Archive for July, 2011

Recipe of the Week – Apricot Chicken Pasta

Submitted by Dave Hutchins
Yield: 2 Servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut into thin strips
4-1/2 teaspoons sherry or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup uncooked bow tie pasta
1/4 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2-1/4 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1. In a small saucepan, bring apricots and sherry to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes or until apricots are tender. Cool.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute mushrooms in oil until tender. Add garlic; saute 1 minute longer. Reduce heat to medium. Add the chicken, cream and soy sauce; cook and stir for 5 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese, almonds, onion, salt, pepper and apricots. Drain pasta; toss with chicken mixture.
Apricot Chicken Pasta published in Cooking for Two Summer 2007, p37

Reader’s Forum for July 25, 2011

For your convenience, all Reader’s Forum submissions are separated by the ## symbol.
In response to Contributor Valerie Moreno – Sound Reasoning, Marie wrote:
Oh, my yes! Valerie’s article hit a good chord. When I was small, my parents had a cuckoo clock–until I tried to give the cuckoo a bath and ruined it. I got whipped for that. There was no more cuckoo clock after that–until my mother got one from a blind friend after my father’s death. When she passed away, I got it. It was a genuine Black Forest clock and played “Emperor’s Waltz” on the hour. I don’t remember if it went off on the half hour. Then, in 2000, I bought a battery-operated one from Speak to Me, which played twelve different tunes and cuckoos, and it is nice. I still have it to this day.
Let us not forget the numerous talking toys and musical toys I had as a child. If I only had some of those, they would be antiques today! And, starting in 1980, all kinds of talking clocks and such, through the years. Now, I also have a mantel clock which chimes or plays music if I choose either mode. Three other clocks talk, one of which is an atomic talking clock, and there is a clock on my cell phone which speaks, too. Since no alarm clock can wake me (I don’t use them anyway) I have a vibrating clock, but if I am in a very deep sleep, that won’t do. Most of the time, though, I wake up on my own, or my cat pats me, because she is hungry. That gets me up for sure.
I am addicted to talking devices–my Victor talks, my digital talking book player from the library talks, of course. My desktop and laptop computers talk, too. I don’t know what I would do without speech!
In response to Contributor Valerie Moreno – Sound Reasoning, William wrote:
I am writing in regards to Valerie Moreno’s article on the talking clocks. We have them all over the house–4 alarm clocks, a calculator, we even have a talking glucose meter now and everything. The biggest thing I enjoy strictly for pleasure is our bird clock. It is hard to keep animals in an apartment, and that bird clock hangs on the wall, and when he gets in trouble I just go buy him some new batteries. If I had the money and the room, I would have them all over the house. I jokingly tell them I have everything that talks, even the talking wife. Thank you for your articles. The talking clocks are the best thing they ever did for us blind people.
In response to Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Will Braille Ever Be Affordable?, Bill wrote:
I have to say right on. Braille is horribly expensive. I was at the ACB convention in Reno last week and the rep from Humanware was there demonstrating the Apex. When I asked him what we are paying for when we purchase this device he said the Braille display. When I asked him about establishing a payment plan he said that the company is too small and the interest would be very high. We are really getting the shaft. Some way has to be invented to make technical Braille cheaper to produce.
In response to Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Sir Paul, Here We Come, Chela wrote:
Here is a note I wrote about a concert I recently went to.
As several of you may be aware, last year on a Facebook group, Smooth Jazz Spot (, which is run by Ken Levinson, had a discussion back in March about alternative ways of listening to jazz–in particular, smooth jazz, since all the terrestrial radio stations that were playing primarily smooth jazz owned by Clear Channel decided to go rock style instead. Somehow in the middle of the discussion, it shifted to who our favorite artists are and some of them actually have links to their broadcasts like Dave Coz. I mentioned Chris Botti as my top favorite and the owner told me that I should contact him and tell him that his music inspires me to play. I laughed at the thought of it and told Ken off the group in an email how it couldn’t be done and the website is not screen reader friendly, not to mention when he had the chat about his Live In Boston CD, the chat wasn’t accessible, either. I said, “Fat chance.”
But it was Ken Levinson who really nudged me to go for it. He told me to compose an email to him and then he’d give it to his friend who also is Chris Botti’s friend, saxophonist, Dave Coz. So I did, and through a chain of multiple people, it made it through to Chris, who then shared it with Archie Castillo, who invited me to one of the concerts.
So my 26th birthday comes along and my mom and dad were telling me we should go to Yoshi’s instead because Chris Botti’s concert this year is expensive, almost $300 for two people to go. But I really wanted to go–I was desperate and prayed that somehow Archie could offer me two free complementary tickets the next day. So, April 7th comes along and I get an email from Archie Castillo! Thank God for people like him! He told me he had two tickets available for me under my name and that they are free and would be available at will call at 6 PM.
The night of the concert, my mom helped me with my makeup and straightened my hair with her curling/flat iron, which I’m afraid of, by the way! Then I at 3 o’clock, called the box office to double check if the tickets made it and they said yes. So I dressed up and was wearing a silk black dress that went to the knees, my boots, a nice necklace, and a nice black sweater. Mom loaned me the necklace and sweater. My dad wore slacks and nice shirt.
Mom took a picture of us before we left. Thanks to dad’s GPS we found the Davies Symphony Hall and the Lighthouse for the Blind is across the street. We got the tickets and decided to go grab dinner before the doors opened.
After our meal, we go back to the Davies Symphony Hall and we snag a parking spot. We went in and located our seats and we were 9 rows away from the stage. But best thing of all, even though there was no flash photography allowed, and cell phones had to be turned off, and no recording, I snuck in my DS50 Digital Voice Recorder and no one knew. Yes, call me a sly jazz cat but if there weren’t going to be any pictures, I figured capture it somehow. The audio turned out well, but unfortunately, I just found out my recorder and its software is not compatible with my version of Windows. It goes from XP to Vista, yuck! So I’m praying I’ll get an XP Desktop so I can load it on there someday.
Chris was amazing. I dug every note he played, improv or not. That was one night I’ll never ever forget thanks to Chris Botti and Archie and Dave Coz and Ken Levinson for a wonderful birthday gift for my 26th year. Virtual hugs one for each of you!
In response to Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Sir Paul, Here We Come, Roy wrote:
My favorite concert of all time was an Elton John concert I attended in Nashville, TN in 1993.
I have been to nine Elton concerts and this was by far the best. It was at the Grand Ole Oprey House and I was in the fifth row from the front. And on stage was Elton, all by himself, no band or anything. Just Elton on the piano, entertaining what seemed like only me for two hours. He opened the show with “Tiny Dancer,” which is my favorite Elton song and he just seemed to get better from there. Thank you, Elton, for such a wonderful show!
In response to Feature Writer Op Ed with Bob Branco – Appealing to the Consumer Groups, Edward Zolotarevsky wrote:
All the best planning and training might not help. Most companies do not hire disabled employees. For instance, I attended a job interview that ended quickly. The interviewer told me that they already hired a disabled employee. If I turned out a top job candidate, they would not hire me. If a company has “equal opportunity employer” posted on their front door, would the statement ensure employment of blind candidates? If the answer is yes, why are so many blind people unemployed? If more blind people should be hired, it’s a question of civil rights. Therefore, ADA should be amended to entitle the disabled to employment rights equivalent to those of the able-bodied. Our disabilities do not prevent us from performing our jobs. To our potential employers disabled people are seen as not worth hiring.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – Appealing to the Consumer Groups, Bill wrote:
I say you’re right on target asking the question why the unemployment rate for the blind is still 70 percent after thirty years. I believe and I said it before that the consumer groups are not doing enough to educate employers as to our abilities. I believe a lot more work has to be done on this issue. Right on, Mr. Branco.
In response to Feature Writer Alena Roberts – TV Speak by Codefactory Comes to the US Market, Larry wrote:
I went blind in March, 2004 and five years ago I discovered audio descriptive television. I discovered DVS by listening to my television guide on NFB-Newsline on the phone. In February 2011, I changed my cable company and got Verizon Fios. On installation day, the Verizon tech said that Fios does not offer the SAP needed for the DVS. I was told that it may be available in the summer. I called Fios in June and was told it would not be available at all. I contacted the Verizon president’s office and the representative tried to help, but was not able.
I then sent an e-mail to WGBH in Boston and in less than a week Mr. Chris Clark solved the problem. I needed the help of my sighted reader because you must use the cable menu on the screen.
It is a shame that we in the blind and visually impaired community are still treated like second class cable subscribers who pay a first class fee. I understand that the FCC is considering changing their rules to rectify this atrocious wrong.

Health and Science – Vaccines from Space: Another Shuttle Legacy

With the space shuttle missions now over for the foreseeable future, many are looking back on the achievements of the program. Aside from advancing our knowledge of our planet, solar system, and universe, the space shuttle missions also gave researchers a unique opportunity to study certain diseases as well.
Biotech firms like Astrogenetix discovered that when they removed gravity from the equation, bacteria is able to grow at a much faster pace. Specifically, they studied the bacteria responsible for the food-borne illness salmonella, and MRSA, the deadly infection that comes from staph bacteria that is largely resistant to the antibiotics normally used to treat staph infections. In the past three years, different batches of the two bacteria were taken up into space a dozen times.
Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking that the rapid growth of deadly bacteria inside of a metal box floating around the planet might not be the best idea, or perhaps the safest situation for the astronauts. However, that concern aside, this method of growing bacteria was hugely advantageous. By growing the bacteria at an exceptionally rapid rate, researchers were able to begin to understand how they grow and what specific genes are responsible for their growth and spread. This also allowed them to extract DNA in much larger quantities, which gave even more insight into what makes these things tick. With an increased knowledge of their reproduction, advances in vaccine creation will come at a much faster pace.
Many people, including great minds like Carl Sagan, believed that the space shuttle was largely an unimpressive waste of money and space travel–a very advanced, very expensive space delivery vessel. While it is true that the shuttle was used frequently for re-supply missions and not for exploration, the fact that it helped aid in the understanding of many other things, both on this planet and floating in the infinite ether around it, while it made its delivery runs speaks to the versatility of the missions that took place. They were never for a singular purpose. To say anything less is to marginalize what was accomplished and what can now be accomplished in the future with the knowledge and experience gained from the missions that took place. We may not stand and watch men and women riding explosions into the sky any time soon, but whatever the future may bring in that respect will be due to their efforts.

News – Testing Done on Quiet Electric Cars

It’s been brought up in this magazine before that electric cars may be so quiet when running that they may be undetectable to a visually impaired pedestrian. While this sentiment was held as a truth, tests have now been done to confirm its validity, and with predictable conflicting results.
With gas prices as high as they are, electric cars are becoming more and more attractive to drivers looking to save some money, especially drivers in a city environment. Without a classic gasoline or diesel motor, there is no combustion or exhaust noise, making the electric cars supposedly quieter by comparison. This is something that has worried advocacy groups in many countries and has led to, in some cases, legislation requiring electric cars to produce some sort of prominent audible noise while operating.
So, as a result, studies have been performed to see just how quiet these new electric cars are. In one experiment, the noises generated by cars with gasoline and electric engines were compared as they performed multiple maneuvers at varying speeds. The study shows that at low speed–roughly 5 miles per hour–electric cars are only one decibel quieter than their gasoline counterparts. When speeds increased to about 12 miles per hour, they sounded nearly identical–with both exhibiting prominent tire noise. With this study, they concluded that there was not any significant noise difference between the two to suggest that a pedestrian would be able to clearly differentiate between the two types of vehicles.
In another test, though, ten visually impaired participants were asked to listen to audio recordings–to simulate them standing on a curb at an intersection–to see when they could hear the electric vehicle. They found that in semi-rural areas, the risk posed by electric cars was 1.4 times greater than conventional cars and 1.3 times greater in urban areas. Across the board, they found that electric cars were much more difficult to detect when pulling away from a stop.
The Department of Transport’s main concern is protecting the public from hazards, but currently, even though electric cars may pose a potential risk, there are still so few people with electric cars that any sort of regulatory action will surely be delayed.
What are your thoughts about electric cars and what, if any, regulatory action needs to take place to protect visually impaired citizens? Do you think more testing needs to be done to come to a concrete conclusion? Let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – “LEEP” 2011

Last week, I was once again involved with “LEEP” 2011, which is run by Oak Hill each year. “LEEP” stands for Low Vision/Blind Educational Employment Program. Students must be legally blind, between the ages of 15 to 21, possess good daily living skills, and be able to self medicate if necessary to attend.
This year, we had eight students attending, along with myself and Karin Agritelly. We stayed at the University of Hartford in their Hawk Hall dormitory for the week. Everyone arrived on Sunday and departed on the following Saturday morning.
On Sunday, students had the chance to get to know one another as they set up their dorm rooms, make door decorations, and eat pizza and snacks. Monday, the group traveled to Guiding Eyes for the Blind in New York, where we took a tour of their campus, had lunch, an orientation to their guide dogs, and finally, each student had the chance to take a walk with a dog and trainer.
Tuesday, we traveled to the New England Assistive Technology Center at Oak Hill for a day of technology. First, the group met with the staff of Silver Lining Technologies for a demonstration of computer technology and the iPhone. Next, the group participated in an interactive demonstration of the iPad. For most, it was their first experience with the iPad and they loved it! Finally, everyone made tactile hand prints during an art therapy session.
Wednesday, everyone traveled to New York City on the Mega bus. During our visit, we went to and toured the Wax Museum. Everyone enjoyed taking photos with all of the celebrities on display and we were all fascinated with the new 4D movie demonstration where we not only saw the movie, but experienced special effects such as getting wet when a rain scene was shown or getting hit with wind when it was windy. This was the highlight of the week for the group.
Thursday, the group met with some Oak Hill Human Resources staff and had an interactive discussion about resume writing, job searching, and best practices for interviewing. We then traveled to the Library for the Blind where we learned about the new digital book players and how to download books from the National Library Service website.
As our week came to an end on Friday, we traveled to a local TV station and experienced a taping of a local news show, and then traveled to the CT Radio Information Service for a tour of their facility. On Friday evening, we all had a great time drumming with exotic instruments, which was a great way to have a finale. The next morning, we all packed up and departed.
During all of our activities, we don’t provide individual sighted guides and we don’t allow our students to have staff do things for them that they can do for themselves. Some of the goals of our program are to teach students to practice self advocacy as they experience transitioning from high school to employment or high school to college. All in all, I think the students had a good time and came away with many new experiences.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Updates and a Changing World

Previously, I casually wrote about the fun of being a computer software and hardware instructor at our Computer Center. Little did I know that I would be laid off in the coming months. We sat in shock as our director made the dreaded announcement. I then faced six weeks to ponder the daunting prospect of not having full-time employment after working there for almost eleven years. To be perfectly honest, I believe I emotionally and mentally slipped down the rabbit hole for a bit as my powers of concentration became strangely fragmented. Having no choice, I stoically continued to teach and perform. Given a bit of a reprieve, I was kept on through the month of July. From there on, I’ll be hired as an adjunct on an as-needed basis. Firmly believing that when one door closes, another opens, I’ve inquired about offering beginning guitar lessons at a well-known volunteer establishment, but am also exploring several professional opportunities as monthly expenses wait for no one.
Readers will recall that my mother has been living in a temporary apartment since a fire in the kitchen forced her and my niece out in January. I’m happy to report that they are back in their old place and she is quite pleased. In addition to replacing and repairing items damaged in the fire, the maintenance staff painted and put new doors on her closets. Closets are at a premium here in New York. My mom and niece have four, plus a large, shelved area for linen. How we salivate for even one more here.
Very recently I wrote how joyous it is to wake up to the beautiful sound of birdsong. On a hot-as-Hades Friday, we awoke to the irritating sound of what I, in my sleep fog, thought was drilling being done on some rental space below us. Sadly, it turned out to be the awful sound of an electric saw cutting down the trees and shrubs on our deck. Stunned into immobility, I emerged from my stupor to call our Building Superintendent, who contacted me later that evening to assure me that all would be replanted. Our trees and foliage had died and were filled with wasp nests. We eagerly await the day the birds return and merrily sing once more.
I’ve also truly learned what it is to be the leader of a small ensemble. We’ve had a pianist change, taken promo photos, and added and subtracted songs–and to say nothing of the fun of scheduling rehearsals. We’ve even written what we think is some snappy patter to be spoken between tunes. That was unexpectedly fun, causing me to explore the idea of writing a stand-up routine. In times like this, no option is dismissed.

Feature Writer John Christie – Blind Students Gain Confidence at Surf Camp

From Monday July 18, 2011 to Wednesday July 20, 2011, the eleventh annual Surf Camp was held at Mission Point and South Mission Beach Jetty in San Diego, California. Ocean Experience Surf School and Braille Institute have paired up for the past eleven years to make this camp possible.
The purpose of the program is to let the visually impaired student know the thrill of surfing. The students learned the step by step procedure of how to surf by using adaptive equipment and exploring the fundamentals of surfing including balance, training on the Indo Board, paddling progression, the “pop up,” catching waves, water safety, and oceanography.
“The lessons essentially bring together the adaptive skills we teach in our program,” said Katie Wischmeyer, youth services manager at Braille Institute San Diego. “Knowing this, the instructors at Ocean Experience are great at ensuring all steps are done to make the surf camp accessible to our young surfers.”
Through the Ocean Experience’s surf training program, students walk away with a new found sense of confidence. “Our young students love any activity that is both educational and fun,” said Wischmeyer. “Couple that with this surf camp, and the resulting experience encompasses what we at Braille Institute wish for all our students: Independence.”
Braille Institute also has other activities which help students adapt to a sighted world. These annual events include white-water rafting, camping, and jet skiing. Braille Institute also has a car rally in August where a blind person with directions teams up with a driver to navigate them to the finish line.
The Surf Camp that Braille Institute and Ocean Experience Surf School have started is an excellent program for the visually impaired and blind students. The program gives the students confidence and lets them have fun as well. It also reinforces with the sighted community that with the right training and the proper adaptations, the blind can overcome barriers and do many things that the sighted world thought they couldn’t do.
This partnership between the two organizations is doing a great job changing the perception of the public in regards to what the blind can and cannot do. Hopefully, other blindness agencies will follow in their footsteps.
The Braille Institute’s Surf Camp runs from 9 am to 1 pm for three days in the middle of July. For more information on the Braille Institute surf camp, please email Lanette Jorgensen, at [email protected] or call (619) 225-2317.

June 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 Alena Roberts – Blio Reader Continues to Disappoint Blind Users

Last week I downloaded the new Blio Reader for my iPhone. I was excited, since I knew that this app was partly created by the NFB, which in my mind meant it was going to be completely accessible and user friendly for the blind. I’m sad to report, though, that this isn’t the case. The Blio Reader has some nice features, but at this point I don’t see a compelling reason to use it instead of iBooks. I’ll start with my complaints about the app and then move on to what the app does have to offer.
My first major complaint is that there is no tutorial in the app to help VoiceOver users learn to use it. Many apps do not come with a tutorial, but since this app was supposed to have us in mind, a simple one should have been included.
My second complaint is that the Blio bookstore has no free titles. The app comes with two books, but it would be nice to be able to test out downloading one myself without shelling out money. They do offer a feature that allows a user to download a book from Google’s free books and then import them, but that requires more technical skill than I’m guessing most users have. The Blio bookstore sells books that are free in other apps, so I see no reason why I should spend money for them.
Finally, navigating while reading can only be done by character or by word, which means if I want to reread a part of a page, getting there will be quite tedious.
With some of the major drawbacks aside, here are the features that might attract users to choose this reader. First is the option to purchase other high quality TTS voices to read the books. If the book is TTS enabled, you can read the book without having to swipe every time you need to turn the page. The second major feature is that it is compatible with Braille displays, which increases the number of books available to Braille readers. Finally, there are multiple visual settings which will be helpful to people with low vision.
So, while this reader does have its advantages, and it’s always nice to see new products and services available to the blind community, there are several drawbacks which may immediately alienate some potential users that could have been easily fixed before its release.
Here is another review for Blio by Darrell Shandrow from Blind Access Journal
You can also find a demo and review at the end of this Serotalk podcast.

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Sparks, Nevada: Golden Past, Diamond future

July 8-16 heralded the American Council of the Blind’s National 50th Anniversary Conference. It took place at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel, Business Center, and Casino in Sparks, Nevada. Our guest roster exceeded 1000 registered guests, 200 of those being guide dog users.
I attended as a first-time national conventioneer, taking the opportunity to bring along my husband and 16 year old daughter and making it our annual vacation.
Before attending the conference, however, we flew into Sacramento airport and drove the remaining two hours to Reno so my husband and daughter could see the spectacular Sierra Nevada snow capped mountains and Lake Tahoe. We also stopped at the Donner Pass rest stop and visited the memorial dedicated to the thousands of Chinese immigrants who risked their lives, mostly against their will, to blast through the mountains to lay down railroad ties during our westward expansion.
It was warm and dry, and I drank at least twice as much water than normal due to the arid climate. I certainly did not miss the humidity over on the east coast, though. My guide dog also drank more, but she tolerated the changes with her usual stoic common sense that only a dog can possess.
I attended only a handful of events during the eight day event–a bit overwhelmed by the cost of, variety, and size of the Conference. There is just too much to list here, but suffice it to say that I had my choice of breakout sessions, social events, general sessions, and tours and trips outside the hotel proper. Some events were included in the registration, some weren’t.
The vendor hall was my favorite, however, and I spent hours strolling the tables, greeting old friends, making new connections, and spending cash on different items. My favorite find was a dog tag Brailed with “good dog” on it for my guide’s collar.
Next year the ACB Conference is in Louisville, Kentucky, and I plan on attending and hope I’ll be able to manage my time better to take part in more events.
To find out more about the American Council of the Blind, go to:
Have any of you been to conferences so far this year? Tell us about them in the Reader’s Forum.