Archive for February, 2012

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Playing Video Games Can Help Improve Your Vision

As video games have become more complex, some might think that playing hours of video games are going to strain your eyes and make your vision worse. However, this is not what research has found, and Daphne Maurer of McMaster University has just discovered that it’s quite the opposite. For children with certain eye diseases, playing video games that have a lot of action actually helps to improve their eyesight.

The study worked with 6 adults who all had dense cataracts. Children who are born with this condition often have the cataracts removed, but they still grow up with poorer eyesight than normal children. The problem is that even though the cataract is removed, the cataract negatively effects the visual cortex development. This results in many years of retraining the visual cortex to get it to perform at normal levels.

Since there was already research looking at how playing video games would impact children with lazy eye, it was Maurer’s hope that it would also help those with dense cataracts as well. What she found was that playing the games for 40 hours a month allowed the patient to be able to read at least one line lower on the eye chart. They were also able to see objects with lower contrast and notice more subtle differences between objects that were moving.

The next step will be to do more clinical trials before doctors start “prescribing” video games. Dr. Maurer is currently working on designing a game that isn’t so violent, but still has enough action to improve their vision since she would prefer that children have non-violent games to choose from.

If you have dense cataracts or lazy eye, have you found playing video games improves your vision?


Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Shalom, Israel!

A friend is currently seeking teenagers to go to Israel and it reminded me of our unforgettable trip we took when I was 14 years old. Before all those memories become lost in the mist, I’d love sharing at least a few with you. There, as guests of a group known as the Original Hebrew Israelites, we toured that beautiful land for two weeks.

Our hotel accommodations were quite fine but we spent only a few nights there as we were whisked from home to home. At times, our accommodations in these abodes consisted of only a straw mat on the floor. In terms of food, I recall eating a good deal of fish, hard bread, eggs and some meat. By the end of our stay, I longed for a good old American-made pizza!

Having good useful vision, I’m not certain a mobility cane would have saved me and I’m glad my Mother had lightening fast reflexes. As we crossed a rope bridge over an amazingly beautiful area known as David’s Fall, I slipped. The next thing I knew, like a cat protecting her kitten, she grabbed me by my shirt collar and hoisted me back up and on we went. Good catch, mama!

Vans were our primary mode of transportation and we took a thrilling ride up Mount Tabor. On our way down, we encountered another van going up. Precision driving skills were put to the test as we very carefully inched passed the other vehicle. The view was absolutely breathtaking! I don’t think Mama found it as exciting, but she remained a trooper. Encountering armed troops at certain checkpoints, mercifully, we were always allowed to pass without incident.

There was one damper, though. At one point we attempted to stop and have lunch in a place called Qumran, but the swarming flies thought they, too, were invited and we were forced to flee to less-infested terrain.

I had several opportunities to sing and play my guitar for the guests at our hotel and other venues. We were also treated to a fantastic concert performed by our hosts. I regret that I no longer have the cassettes. My sister enjoyed one song in particular and even though she had absolutely no idea of the Hebrew translation, she enthusiastically sang it phonetically for weeks after.

Standing on the shores of the Dead Sea, which our hosts called the Live Sea as it contained a wealth of minerals; wading in the Jordan River; experiencing the Mount of the Beatitudes and visiting a host of other historic and Biblical sights were incredible experiences that will not ever be completely erased from my memory. I’m privileged to have been able to take the trip as we never again left the United States.

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Danger on Four Paws – Dogs Attacking Guide Dogs: Part 1

It is estimated that there are over 8500 guide dog teams living and working in the United States today. Each year, professional guide dog schools like Guiding Eyes for the Blind, The Seeing Eye, Inc., and Guide Dogs for the Blind, just to name a few, graduate hundreds of new guide dogs with blind or visually impaired students. A working team faces obstacles and barriers every time the harness goes on and we step out into the community. Street crossings, traffic, construction, crowds, stairs, and ice and snow are the usual work a team encounters and all in stride. Our dogs keep us safe, provide us with a reliable means of traveling, and increase our independence. Most importantly, our dogs are part of us. We share more than just an ordinary pet/owner bond and this is why an attack upon a working guide dog team is a serious and traumatic event for both the dog and the person.

“…I heard the dogs charging at us from across the street. They immediately went for Gundy’s neck. I yelled at them and tried to push them away from Gundy. I got in one good swing; when I tried again, I received a bite to the middle finger of my right hand. I then panicked and yelled for help. I have never felt so helpless before. Until then, I had the attitude that I could take care of myself in almost any situation.” This was the account of a victim of a guide dog attack, taken from

According to a 2011 survey taken by The Seeing Eye, Inc., 44% of guide dog handlers surveyed reported an attack on their dog by another dog. It is imperative for the general public and first responders alike to know that even a leashed dog can be as dangerous to a working team as a moving vehicle. A lunging dog can distract the guide dog and cause harm to the handler. Handlers have often reported that a leashed, lunging dog was responsible for secondary injuries due to the working dog attempting to avoid a confrontation.

Moreover, an attack by a loose dog is akin to an assault to the team, much like a mugging. By nature, a dog attack is violent and causes acute post-trauma symptoms for both handlers and dogs. After an attack, some dogs can no longer perform guide work due to physical and psychological trauma and have to be retired. This costs the schools tens of thousands of dollars, as the breeding and training of one guide dog ranges from $40-60 thousand dollars. Even more disturbing is the toll it takes upon the person. As victims of such a violent attack, handlers reported acute, post trauma symptoms like loss of sleep, hyper vigilance, and heightened anxiety when returning to working with his/her dog near the location in which the attack took place.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Aging: A State of Mind

When I turned 25, my mom reminded remarked, “You are now a quarter century old.” This statement helped to reinforce what I knew–the carefree days of young adulthood were over. Though that statement seemed a little dark, my mom was calm about the subject of aging, always reassuring me that “You are only as old as you feel.”

At 29, I received my Associates Degree from a local junior college. Before my thirtieth birthday, though, I felt that I had almost forgotten the feeling of accomplishment. “I should be doing more with my life,” I thought. So, during the 80’s I got my Bachelor’s Degree in English, started working, and in July 1990, I got married.

By my late forties, my philosophy about aging was changing. I was part of the baby boomers, as we were defined, and I began reading books and listening to programs which were redefining “old age.” I recall many people were buying products which promised youthful skin and energy.

By my mid-to-late fifties, though, I had to accept aging as a natural process, as many anti-aging claims of the late nineties had given us false hope. All of those products and philosophies never turned out to be the fountain of youth that everyone built them up to be.

I was taking adult enrichment courses at Alpha, a branch of Fitchburg University. In addition to that, I continued developing my writing at classes and workshops. Much more than any cream or special drink ever could, these activities keep my mind active, as did the challenge of using my new accessible computer.

So now, considered a senior citizen, I have come up with a few ways to alter your perception on aging and begin to, perhaps, enjoy it.

– Keep a positive upbeat attitude.
– With patience, problems are always solved
– Eat a varied diet and try new recipes and foods.
– Pursue a long-deferred dream, like traveling, or start a new career, hobby, business venture, or educational pursuit
– Do exercises you enjoy. I personally like swimming and walking often.
– Get involved in political and other causes you care deeply for.
– Have a good network of friends.
– A romantic relationship is great for spirits, mind, and body. My mother’s friend, Violette, did not marry until she was 63.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you need to be doing what you love. When you can accomplish that, everything else falls into place and age is simply a number.

January 2012 audio version

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

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Feature Writer John Christie – Education Crisis Must Be Solved for Blind to Compete in Society

The days when a blind student could go in to a classroom with a slate and stylus and a Braille book and a Brailler are long gone. Now, they need e-textbooks, iPads, and notetakers. But with all this new and high tech equipment, are they getting an equal education compared to their sighted peers? As of this writing, I would say a resounding “no” unless things suddenly change.

First and foremost, The E-Wave is rolling into your district and will be there before you know it. In addition, the iPad is also being used in school with students from K through 12. Will the blind student know what the iPad has to offer? Will the teachers of the visually impaired know the iPad themselves? How many know how to connect Braille notetakers to iPads?

The E-Texts that the blind students are getting are not an educational equivalent experience compared to the standard books that their sighted peers are using. The E-Textbooks that the blind person uses omit diagrams, pictures, and charts. Links to web pages are also omitted. Charts and other visuals make up a quarter to a half of the content that is on a textbook page. The lack of visuals on a textbook page may not be mentioned in the E-Text for the blind. The blind person may not realize that they are missing vital information that the sighted student has available to them.

Another disadvantage that the blind student has to face is that the sighted student has the whole textbook available to them either at home or at school. However, the blind person doesn’t have the whole textbook available because the book is in many volumes. This is a real problem because some teachers teach chapters out of sequence. This is also a disadvantage for blind students because when studying for exams, students may need access to other chapters and textbook glossaries and indexes may be in separate volumes. These volumes may not be available to the student.

These are just some of the problems that students and professionals who teach the visually impaired have to face. These are also the problems that publishers of E-Textbooks have to solve–and they have to solve them soon so that blind students won’t lose out in the educational process.

These matters need to be addressed quickly so that when these students become adults, they might be able to reverse the high unemployment rate for the blind and become a contributing, competitive, and integrated piece of the workforce.

Source: NFB (original article link is broken)

Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Following Dreams, Showcasing Abilities

At birth, Chaz Kellem was diagnosed with a rare bone disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta. A result of this unusual challenge is that a person’s bones break easily–so easily, in fact, that Chaz has had 40 broken bones and undergone 12 surgeries.

From an early age, Chaz’s supportive parents instilled a can-do attitude in their son by encouraging him to try new things and pursue his dreams. Since one of Kellem’s biggest goals was to work for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he obtained the required skills by attending Edinburgh University in Western, PA as a Sports Administration major.

When I interviewed Chaz, the first question I asked him was whether he had to convince admissions counselors that he could be just as successful as his peers without disabilities.

“I didn’t have any trouble getting accepted to Edinburgh,” Chaz began. “The problem I had was convincing others that I could earn a living with my major. This was such a new area that even OVR wanted me to go into something else,” Kellem said.

To help him further pursue his dream, Edinburgh was extremely open and supportive right from the start. They afforded Chaz leadership opportunities that enabled him to succeed and showcase his abilities.

“Through what I did at Edinburgh, I was able to pave the way for others with disabilities to come to my university and excel,” Chaz proudly explained.

Kellem graduated from Edinburgh in June, 2005 and was hired by the Pittsburgh Pirates on a part-time basis in December, 2005 as a ticket sales representative.

Chaz related that working for the Pirates has been–and continues to be–a wonderful experience. He went on to describe the Pirates as “a first-class organization to work for, and PNC Park as a world-class venue to work in, especially when it comes to physical accessibility.”

“Teamwork is always evident in the Pirates family, whether in the park or at the front office,” Kellem stated.

Having been promoted several times during his employment with the Pirates, Chaz’s current position is Director of Diversity Initiatives. In addition to his career, Kellem’s ability-focused attitude has also instilled in him a love of adaptive sports. “I am the coach for a wheelchair basketball team and I play second base for Pittsburgh’s only competitive wheelchair softball team,” Chaz shared.

Given how busy Chaz Kellem is, I asked what he does to relax. “I enjoy the essence of silence as well as hard work,” he replied. “I try to spend time with family and friends as much as possible. I really love to live the Pittsburgh life and take in as many restaurants and attractions as possible,” he exclaimed.

I felt that my interview wouldn’t be complete, though, unless I asked about employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Specifically, I asked Chaz what advice he would give to persons with vision impairment who want to pursue sports careers.

“Be humble,” Chaz began advising. “Be humble enough to start from the bottom and work your way up, since success doesn’t come overnight. Also, keep the focus on what you can do; educate the public; give back by helping others; allow yourself to grow and keep the movement going. If we, as persons with disabilities don’t keep it going, it won’t continue,” Chaz concluded.

Do any of you work in the sports field or have friends with vision impairments who do? Tell us in Reader’s Forum what it was like for you or your friend to get the necessary training, find a job, and get promoted.

Sources: Chaz Kellem: profiles on Google, Linked In and MySpace;; interview with Chaz Kellem;;; article entitled, “Left Behind,” by Anne Belser: October 27, 2011; and

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – Partners Together

One of the most difficult aspects of having a guide dog is the reality that eventually the dog will need to be retired, or the dog will pass away. This is something every guide dog owner must face along the way. Once they retire, you have to deal with the prospects of getting a new guide dog, if you so choose. In a lot of ways, retiring Whitlee and getting Meyer was ending one relationship and starting another. It has come with its happiness, struggles, sadness, and ultimate success.

As this new journey continues each day, I find myself at times making mental comparisons of the two dogs. For example, Meyer likes to play with his toys, we do this a few times a day together and he makes me laugh quite a bit. Whitlee and I didn’t do much playing–she was either working or chilling out as I carried out my daily tasks. Another comparison between them is that Meyer is a bit of a slow poke on his morning walks, where as Whitlee always had this good focus and drive to her work, no matter the time of day or the place.

My biggest hurtle to cross with Meyer is that we are still new together as a team. Having a dog is not fresh and new to me as it was with Whitlee. With her, everything we did was a first for me with a dog. Now, I am doing all of the same things with Meyer, but he is not the first and it feels like it is the same old stuff but with a different dog. I suppose for people who drive cars, they remember their first car and the level of independence they felt when they drove off in it for the first time. I remember the first time I took a walk with Whitlee and the feeling has been unmatched to date.

So you might wonder to yourself, do I appreciate Meyer for who he is? Do I think I will come to trust and respect him? Is it ok that I don’t have the same feelings towards him as I did for Whitlee?

My answer to all these questions is yes. It will take time for these things to all fall into place. Each day, I feel that we are moving in the right direction towards trust, comfort, respect, and love between Meyer and I. Every day, being with him, watching him during our days, walking together with him and caring for him are all helping to get us closer in our journey. I think we’re meant for great things.

Letter from the Editor – February 27, 2012

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a great week and a nice weekend as well.

I can’t believe that February is already over and March is upon us. It feels like it was Thanksgiving not that long ago. Though, I can tell you that I am looking forward to the Daylight Savings Time switch and a 7 pm sunset. Even though this winter has been really warm, driving home in the dark every night is definitely something I never enjoyed.

We’ve got a great group of articles for you all this week that cover a vast array of topics, so I hope you all find something that you’ll enjoy.

Take care, have a great week, and thanks for reading.

Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Salmon and Sweet Potato Fishcakes

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 4 servings


3/4 pound yams (or sweet potatoes), sliced
3/4 pound salmon filet, cooked (baked, steamed, or grilled) and flaked with a fork
3 large whole scallions, very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Grated zest of 1/2 lime, plus juice
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cups cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice


Steam yams until very soft, about 20 minutes on stovetop or 2 to 4 minutes in a microwave oven. (If using a microwave oven, drape a damp paper towel over the top of the yams). Cool yams until easily handled by hand. Using your fingers, peel skin from the slices. In a medium bowl, coarsely mash yams with a fork.

Mix in salmon, scallions, mustard, the zest and juice of 1/2 lime, plus salt and pepper to taste. Blend until well combined. Shape mixture into 8 cakes, using about one-third cup for each. Arrange fishcakes on a plate, cover, and refrigerate 1 to 4 hours.

Spread cornmeal over a small plate. Coat a large non-stick skillet generously with cooking spray and heat until hot on medium-high heat. Meanwhile, dredge fishcakes in cornmeal, coating them all over. Cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Make the sauce by mixing together in a small bowl the mayonnaise, mustard, rosemary and lime juice. Serve the sauce with the salmon cakes. If desired, serve fishcakes in hamburger buns, preferably whole wheat, along with a lettuce leaf and a dollop of the sauce.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 287; Protein: 20 g; Carbohydrates: 29 g; Sodium: 374 mg; Fat 10 g;
Exchanges: 2 Bread/Starch, 2-1/2 Medium-Fat Meat