Archive for October, 2011

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Training Healthcare Workers How to Work with the Blind

Visiting a doctor or any other healthcare professional can be nerve-racking, but it can be even worse if you have vision problems. I have been lost or confused more than once in large clinics or hospitals, and sometimes it seems like employees aren’t trained on how to be helpful to the blind. I think the worst is when I’m asked to fill out paperwork, and having to ask for assistance because I came by myself. I recently came across a great video that was produced by the New Hampshire Association for the Blind that teaches healthcare workers how to be helpful when working with the blind.

The video starts by reminding healthcare workers that visually impaired people are unique and that their vision varies widely. It is important not to assume that they have no vision, or that you know what kind of help they need. They then discuss the different ways the blind travel. For instance, if the person is using a guide dog, it is best to ask if the person wants to do sighted guide or have their dog follow you. Next, they discuss the importance of giving clear and detailed directions. Using words like “over there” aren’t helpful. The video does a great job of showing these concepts and others by providing two different versions of scenarios, one that is inappropriate or unhelpful, and the other that shows proper technique. The overall message is that when in doubt, simply ask, “How can I help you?”

The video is available on YouTube which means that it can be shared with anyone. I found that the concepts apply to most situations, not just healthcare workers, so I encourage people to share the video with as many people as possible. The best way to ensure that the blind have a positive experience in public is through education.

Here’s the link to the video:

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – It’s a Music Player, It’s a Watch, It’s an iPod Nano

I was recently on the phone with the friendly Apple sales representative discussing choices for wireless keyboards. Our iGuy insistently prompted that I inquire about Apple’s newest cool piece of hardware–not the sought-after iPhone 4s with the incredible Siri feature–but rather the 6th Generation iPod Nano. When I came to, I had impulsively ordered red Nanos with black wristbands.

You’ll need to attach your Nano to your computer with the supplied USB cable and open the iTunes application in order to add content to the device. iTunes and I are at least on speaking terms these days. Additionally, you’ll probably want to add VoiceOver to the player. I needed my knowledgeable iGuy’s help with that as the radio buttons weren’t as apparent to me as they should have been. By the way, for those readers who would like to know, I created a playlist, added music to that playlist, and then copied and pasted the music to the Nano. I used tried and true Windows commands (such as copy and paste) whenever possible.

The iPod Nano is now a touch device but the Voiceover gestures work well. There is a home screen which contains Settings, Fitness, Videos, Clock, Podcasts, Radio and Music–not necessarily in that order. Swipe to the right or left with one finger to move through these menus. Double-tap on an app to open it. VoiceOver is not shy and she’ll quickly tell you what to do. My main interests are the Music player and the Clock. Headphones and speakers make a huge difference but I have Boost bass and the Pop equalizer set, which makes me an extremely happy music listener.

If you think you’re getting an accessible talking watch, you are–sort of. The Nano has no speaker, which means you are unable to hear the clock out loud. This will be a definite drawback for some. As a person with some usable vision, I set the clock face to one that I can see well and I need only turn on the screen and use a double-finger swipe to the left to read it. My iGuy put the Nano into my wristband, but I was then able to do that for Maria’s on my own. Additionally, we set the screen orientation as a team. He turned on the Black and White setting, turned off VoiceOver and I changed the orientation with the rotation of two fingers. I then turned VoiceOver on and switched back to the default color scheme. One disappointing omission is that of the watch face descriptions. VoiceOver announces only numbers, which offer no clues to the true watch-face designs.

This exciting 16 GB device truly gives new meaning to the phrase “portable player.”

For more information on the iPod Nano, you can visit:

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – JAWS 13 Review: Part One

On Monday, October 24, 2011, Freedom Scientific released JAWS version 13. I am surprised they called it 13 since many of us think of 13 as an unlucky number. Here are some of my thoughts on this release.

First, the new Optical Character Recognition (OCR) feature is the first of its kind in the world of screen readers. This feature allows users to read PDF files that currently are not readable by screen readers. The way it does this is by taking an OCR of the document you are attempting to read. Once this is done, you use the JAWS curser to move and read the document. Be sure to check out the “What’s New” option in the help menu to get specific instructions on exactly how to use this feature. The feature will also work when you are playing some DVD Movies. These movies are usually not accessible to us because a menu will appear on the screen giving us some options to pick and these options haven’t been readable in the past by screen readers. I’ve tried this at home with a few DVD’s and got very different results with each one. Some will OCR fine and others are still not readable. Maybe in the future, they can improve this feature since this is the first time it appears in a release of JAWS.

The new Quick Settings replaces the Insert V dialog box. I personally hated that dialog box because I felt as though there were many options there and it was difficult to remember which option you had changed when you hit spacebar and made a change. Now, with Quick Settings, the options are all arranged in a tree view, very similar to the Settings Center, found first in JAWS version 12. You can move to an option, change it, and also know how long the changes will stay in effect. You can check how long an option will stay in effect by pressing your applications key when you’ve arrowed to an option on the tree view.

The next thing added is the new Table Layer Keystrokes. This is an attempt to help the end user not need to hold down so many keys when they are moving through tables. This is a great idea for those who have trouble and I think it will greatly help people who have limited use of their hands. The only issue I have with this feature is that you need to start it by pressing a few keystrokes, and if you press Escape after you’ve started it, you have to start it all over again.

This brings me to a point I must make about JAWS–it is a very feature-rich program with lots of items and choices for the user to make about how they wish it to behave. You can adjust features for specific programs, or you can adjust them globally, meaning they will affect how JAWS behaves in any situation. Somehow, I feel that over the years, they’ve added so many features that it really becomes difficult to remember where things are located and it can be very overwhelming for new users to become comfortable with. I just wish there were a simpler approach to the program.

Next week, I’ll write more about JAWS 13 in part two for you. In the meantime, you can read about all the new features at

Letter from the Editor – October 31, 2011

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a nice weekend. For those of you affected by the ridiculously early winter storm we had, I hope you’re faring well. I know at one point we had about 831,000 people without power here in Connecticut, and well over a million including New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Some areas got as much as 20 inches of heavy wet snow, which wreaked havoc on the trees and power lines. Things are quite a mess.

The biggest problem is that some people will be without power for the better part of a week, and inland temperatures will be below freezing at night–making this large outage much worse than Hurricane Irene, when temperatures were still at a comfortable level. If any of you are affected by this, or know someone affected by this, make sure that you find a safe and warm place to be until power is restored.

As for the magazine this week, we’ve got a great series of articles for you, including a very appropriate contribution regarding how to prepare for winter, along with many other topics that you’re sure to enjoy.

So dust the snow off of your pumpkins, and I hope you all have a safe and warm week and a Happy Halloween.

Take care, and as always, thanks for reading.

Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Triple Crust Peach Cobbler

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

When two crusts in a cobbler just aren’t enough, try this recipe. You’ll find three flaky layers separated by sweet, juicy peaches.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Start to Finish: 1 hr 40 min

Makes: 12 servings


3 packages (11 ounces each) Betty Crocker® pie crust mix
1 cup cold water
1-1/2 cups Splenda or sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 cans (29 ounces each) sliced peaches in syrup, undrained


1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Stir 1 package pie crust mix and 1/3 cup of the cold water until mixture forms a ball. Flatten ball; roll into rectangle, 11×8 inches.

Cut into 4 strips, 11×2 inches each. Place strips on ungreased cookie sheet; bake 18 minutes. Set aside.

2. Stir 1 package pie crust mix and 1/3 cup of the cold water until mixture forms a ball. Flatten ball; roll to fit bottom and sides of ungreased rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches. Place in dish; set aside.

3. Stir together sugar, butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon extract and peaches in large bowl. Pour half of mixture in baking dish. Arrange the 4 pastry strips on top. Pour remaining half of peach mixture on top.

4. Stir 1 package pie crust mix and remaining 1/3 cup cold water until mixture forms a ball. Flatten ball; roll to fit on top of mixture in baking dish. Cut several holes or slits in crust. Place crust on top of mixture in baking dish; seal to edges of dish.

5. Bake about 1 hour or until crust is golden brown. Store covered in refrigerator.

Nutrition Information:

1 Serving: Calories 740 (Calories from Fat 360); Total Fat 40g (Saturated Fat 15g, Trans Fat 11g); Cholesterol 30mg; Sodium 630mg; Total Carbohydrate 89g

(Dietary Fiber 2g, Sugars 48g); Protein 5g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 15%; Vitamin C 4%; Calcium 0%; Iron 10% Exchanges: 1 1/2 Starch; 1/2 Fruit;

4 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 8 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 6

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.


Fresh peaches make a tasty substitute for the canned. Use about 3 medium peaches, which equals 2 1/2 cups sliced.

Reader’s Forum – October 24, 2011

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

In response to the Editor’s request for Halloween stories, Allison wrote in, saying:

When I was in college, my guide dog and I were invited to a Halloween party. Of course we needed costumes. My fiancé made a fire hydrant costume for me, and my guide dog just went as herself. Needless to say, the costume was a hit and we won first prize.

The only downside was that my fiancé had forgotten that I might actually want to sit down at this party, and the costume didn’t bend. So I spent the whole party standing. However, it was well worth the minor inconvenience.

Allison Fallin
In response to the Editor’s request for Halloween stories, Karen wrote in, saying:

I am not generally a believer in ghosts, goblins, or other entities, but I had a strange experience while living at a YWCA in Massachusetts. I believe this building had been there for a good long time, and rumors often circulated that late at night you could hear someone playing the old piano in a recreation room upstairs. When investigated, there would be nobody present they said.

I used to go upstairs with my guide dog to this room, and play the old piano mostly during the day. One night however, after a stressful day I decided to go into this same recreational area and sit at the piano. Upon entering the room it felt strangely too quiet. As my dog and I stepped across the carpet, I heard close to me in front of me, a sound like a rocking chair swinging back and forth like there was somebody in that chair. It was about nine in the evening and there was such a deep silence except for this sound. The chills went up my spine as I reached out to find the rocking chair. Imagine my surprise when there was no chair in front of me, and the sound stopped the moment I reached out to find it. I turned gave my dog the forward command and never was seen in this room at night again! I got a good fright, and wonder if this was just my imagination, but I was so sure that chair was in front of me. I later went back to that room, but there was nothing there except the old piano and bench and a few regular chairs during the daytime. The room had been used for church services for some people from Haiti in the past, but there was nothing there when I returned.

Karen Bailey
In response to Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Experiencing Blue Man Group, Kit wrote:

I have to agree that it is a very visual show. I saw them 4 times before I lost my sight and once since I have lost it. My fiancé and I have seen Trans Siberian Orchestra twice and we are going a third time this November. The shows we have seen are amazing. The music is awesome. They use pyrotechnics that can actually be felt from anywhere in the arena. Last year we saw the Christmas show and then in April we saw Beethoven’s Last Night. After the second show, I stood in line and got to meet the band. They also signed my t-shirt that I bought. I also got to meet the Blue Men after the show in Philly in December. True to form they did not speak at all. They were very nice though, and one of them even tied a piece of confetti around my wrist.

Kit McElwee
In response to Contributor Nancy Scott – Werekitty, Amy wrote:

I was alone with our dog Lady at our house one night. Our house was about 100 years old, and the owner died peacefully in a nursing home, but due to certain things that happened, we sometimes half-jokingly said he was haunting the place.

Well, it was thundering, but not too badly, so I decided to jump in the shower quickly before it got worse. As I was drying myself, the bathroom door, which was the only way in or out, opened! I looked over, expecting to see Mom or Dad coming in, but there was nothing! I stood there frozen, waiting for the owner’s ghost to come grab me! I said, “Louie, if that’s you, just go away and leave me alone.” Nothing happened for a few minutes. Then I heard, “Jingle, jingle, jingle.” I looked down and saw Lady standing there. She had pushed the bathroom door open to be with me because she was scared of the thunder! Haha!

Contributor Lori Castner – Pumpkin Time Again

“Oh, here comes another pumpkin pie!” someone lamented as the lady ahead of me deposited her offering for the Fall church potluck on the already-full table. Thank goodness I had brought brownies.

But for me, especially during the months of October through December, there simply cannot be too much pumpkin. That was even true the November my husband brought a 12-pound pumpkin for me to cook and bake into pumpkin pies. When I felt its size and weight, I shrieked with dismay, “What do you expect me to do with this huge thing?”

Rising to the challenge, I cut the 18-inch diameter pumpkin into huge wedges, and used all four burners of my stove along with my four largest kettles to boil the pumpkin into tender goodness.

After the wedges cooled sufficiently, I peeled them and pressed them through a ricer–a strainer with a press inside which pureed the pumpkin.

Then I filled several crusts with the traditional mixture of pumpkin, white sugar, more spices than the ingredients list called for, eggs and evaporated milk–the brand that sports my favorite recipe on the label. Using real pumpkin rather than canned made the pies extraordinarily “pumpkiny” beyond belief. I had plenty of pumpkin to freeze after baking two 10-inch pies: pumpkin to be used in soup, bread, cheesecake, coffee cake, muffins, and maybe more pies.

That large pumpkin has vanished, but every year I use at least several cans of puree to replicate all those treats and surf the web for new recipes.

And, of course, we take several trips to our local frozen yogurt shop during October and November for pumpkin yogurt and watch eagerly for our nearby coffee stand to advertise pumpkin lattes.

Are there any pumpkin fanatics out there? Share your pumpkin stories in the Reader’s Forum and feel free to submit your favorite pumpkin-themed recipes as well.

Contributor Lynne Lamberg – Improving Sleep and Alertness in the Blind – A Five Part Series: Part 4

Part 4 – Developing New Tactics for Treatment

Karen Karsh, a Denver-based singer, songwriter, and pianist, has a busy schedule—too busy, she insists, to be stalled by sleepless nights and foggy days. The chair of the board of the American Council for the Blind of Colorado, Karsh, 59, has been blind since birth.

“I haven’t officially been diagnosed with N24HSWD,” said Karsh, “but I have every symptom.

“At times I sleep normally, and at other times, I awaken frequently,” she reports. “When I’m exhausted in the daytime, I can’t just fight it. I need to nap.

“My sense is that as I get older, these problems get worse.”

A professional singer since she was 15, Karsh has performed with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and recorded for ABC Dunhill Records. Her website,, offers samples from her latest CD.

Karsh has served as an artist in residence for the Denver public school system for 30 years, teaching songwriting.

She also talked her way into a job as an on-camera television reporter. She created and hosted a weekly feature called “Unsung Heroes” for Denver’s KUSA-9News for three and a half years. The program received Gannett Broadcasting’s Innovation of the Year award in 1992.

Karsh is married and the mother of a 25-year-old son. With her professional, volunteer, and family commitments, her schedule often includes late nights and early mornings.

If sleep persistently proves elusive, she may take a sleeping pill to break the cycle. “It’s tough to go without sleep night after night,” she declares. Her physician eased her concerns that occasional use of a sleeping pill would prompt dependence on such medication.

She tried melatonin a few times without finding it helpful. She concedes she did not try it in a systematic way, or know the best time to take it.

Research in progress seeks to determine which blind people are most likely to benefit from taking melatonin, what doses are appropriate, when in the cycle it works best to stabilize rhythms, and whether it has acute or long term adverse effects.

A five-year study that began in 2008, funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), aims to describe the variability of body rhythms in blind individuals, and to assess the efficacy of 0.025 mg to 20 mg doses of melatonin in synchronizing body clocks with the 24-hour day. Researchers hope to enroll 200 participants. More information is available at

Recent work suggests smaller doses of melatonin may lock or entrain rhythms to the 24-hour day as well as or better than larger doses, said Jonathan Emens of Oregon Health and Science University, one of the NEI study investigators. Smaller doses, such as 0.3 or 0.5 mg, he said, may give the body a more discrete time signal than larger doses.

In the US, melatonin can be sold as a dietary supplement. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved its use for the treatment of any medical disorder, and does not regulate its sale. Some other countries, including the United Kingdom, most European countries, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, regulate melatonin as they do other hormone treatments, and require a prescription for it.

“The medical literature has not produced evidence of significant risk derived from its use,” the American Academy of Sleep Medicine said in guidelines on the clinical evaluation and treatment of circadian rhythm sleep disorders published in 2007. “Thus,” the guidelines state, “the benefits are well supported, and the risks seem low.”

Melatonin’s most commonly reported adverse effects include headaches, nausea, unusually vivid dreams, and daytime grogginess.

Melatonin’s utility in resetting body clocks has spurred development of melatonin-like medications. Part 5 of this report describes some of these medications, and research in progress to assess their safety and efficacy.

Link to Introduction from the Editor:

Link to Part 1:

Link to Part 2:

Link to Part 3:

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – The Magic Keyboard

Several months ago, I wrote about the Zoomtext large print keyboard from Ai Squared. Currently, Freedom Scientific has released a keyboard to work with their Magic magnification software.

This keyboard is similar to the Zoomtext keyboard because it is a large print keyboard and you can perform Magic functions, as well as some JAWS screen reading functions with it.

The keyboard is black with white bold letters on the keys, making it easy to see. There is an extra row of buttons running horizontally across the top of the keyboard, which are used to perform the Magic or JAWS functions. There is also a sliding vertical wheel on the left side of the keyboard which allows the user the ability to adjust the magnification of the display screen by sliding the wheel either towards the user or away from the user. I like the idea of having this wheel on the keyboard because it is so easy to make the magnification adjustment.

Some of the functions that can be performed with the row of buttons running across the top of the keyboard include, turning Magic on and off, turning on and off the color enhancements, mouse pointer enhancements, focus enhancements and accessing the “Research It” dialog box, which many JAWS users have been using since JAWS version 11.0.

In order to use the buttons at the top of the keyboard correctly, you must install the software before using the keyboard. You can either download the software from the Freedom Scientific website, or you can install it from the CD which comes with the keyboard.

I love when items like this keyboard are released because there are so many keyboard shortcuts for instructors and students to remember and these keyboards eliminate the need for all of us to remember so many of them. This keyboard interests me particularly because they have left three of the buttons on the top row with no keyboard assignments. This was done so that the user can assign a few of their own most used keyboard shortcuts to these buttons. I think allowing the user to customize their own buttons is a great idea.

For more information about this large print keyboard you can visit

Feature Writer John Christie – New Programs Give Hope to Unemployed Blind Citizens

In a tough economy, national and state agencies have gotten creative in either reinvigorating programs for the blind and visually impaired or creating new programs. Below are some programs that are either in place or have recently just been developed.

Kathy Martinez, The Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of Labor is visually impaired and is a strong advocate for people with disabilities. She is also a great role model.

Over the past several years Assistant Secretary Martinez has contributed to a number of projects which have had appositive impact on people with disabilities. One of the programs is the American Heroes Project. This program focuses on employment for wounded veterans among small businesses. The program also has a soft skills component through the office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). In addition, Assistant Secretary Martinez’s own department hired a human resource manager. This person will oversee the hiring of persons with disabilities and their needs.

Among successful awareness campaigns, the “What can you do” campaign, which promotes the awareness of people with disabilities, was featured in AMC Theatres. “Employers and the public are starting to get the message and realize how valuable persons with disabilities are in the workforce,” says Secretary Martinez.

The Hadley School for the Blind has many training opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired. For instance, Hadley just introduced the Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship. This center trains people who are blind or visually impaired in entrepreneurship. In addition, Hadley also offers a course in how to become self-employed with a start up cost of $5000 or less. Hadley continues to offer courses on employment and the job search and also has webinars on these topics.

The Contract Management Program available through the National Industries for the Blind continues to thrive. In addition, they started a new networking group in Washington D.C. for the blind and visually impaired. They hope to expand this group to other areas of the country.

States are also trying to be creative in developing employment programs for the blind and visually impaired. For instance, the Alabama Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) works closely with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB), which has five regional centers in the state. Alabama’s Division of Rehabilitation Services offers technology exhibitions that are open to the staff, consumers and the general public. These exhibitions and demonstrations show off the latest technology in order to give people an edge in the workplace or in life. The state also hosts a conference on the topic of transitioning from school to work.

Massachusetts has also done a lot in assisting its working blind to become employed. For instance, the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, along with Perkins School for the Blind, The Carroll Centre for the Blind, and Mab Community Services sponsored a job fair at Perkins which was exclusibely for the blind and visually impaired. A variety of companies and agencies for the blind were there. They included Blue Cross Blue Shield, National Braille Press, and a Para-transit company who does the Ride for the Disabled in Framingham. The commission has also had workshops on Soft Skills Training.

It’s great that agencies for the blind are creating programs for the blind both nationally and statewide. Hopefully, this movement will make a dent in the dismal unemployment picture and more blind people of working age will find employment.