Archive for June, 2012

Recipe of the Week – Orange and Almond Cake

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 10 slices
Serving Size: 1 slice


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup reduced-fat margarine, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease the base of an 8-inch non-stick baking pan and line with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together.

Beat the eggs until they are light and frothy.

Beat the margarine and sugar together until smooth and creamy.

Add the beaten eggs gradually, beating well between each addition.

If the mixture shows any signs of curdling, beat in a little of the flour mixture.

Stir in the flour mixture together with the ground almonds, almond extract, and orange zest and mix lightly to a thick, fluid (but not runny) consistency, adding a little orange juice or water if necessary.

Pour into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake in the center of the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center.

Strip off the parchment paper and leave the cake to cool on a wire rack.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 122; Protein: 2 g; Sodium: 99 mg; Fiber: 0 g; Carbohydrates: 16 g; Cholesterol: 32 mg; Fat: 6 g;

Exchanges: 1/2 Starch, 2/3 Other Carbohydrate, 1 Fat

Reader’s Forum for Week of June 25, 2012

In response to Feature Writer Terri Winaught – From Humble Beginnings, Fred wrote:

It was my privilege to attend the Pilot Dog Alumni convention from June 22-24 held this year in Northbrook, Illinois. Pilot dog has been in existence for 52 years, and it is the only school with an alumni association that holds conventions on an annual basis.

At these conventions, we participate in obedience and obstacle course competitions, enjoying food, friendships, and fellowship.

Throughout the year, and during the convention, the alumni raise money for the ongoing Pilot Dog program. The cost of producing a Pilot Dog team is between $8,500 and $9,000, far less than the cost of other guide dog schools, and the quality of training and dogs is stellar.

I received my first Pilot Dog in 1971, and am currently working with my seventh Pilot dog.

Fred Sanderson, Pilot Dog Alumnus.

Health and Science – Voice Recognition Software May Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease

Voice recognition software isn’t altogether new to the public, but with the introduction of programs like the iPhone’s “Siri,” it will quickly become a ubiquitous tool in our lives. But outside of sending text messages or looking for great tacos nearby, voice recognition may be able to help doctors diagnose a disease much earlier (and much cheaper) than ever before.

Max Little, from the University of Oxford, has been using voice recognition software to detect changes in a person’s voice over time as a way to either confirm, or detect the onset of, Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that is normally diagnosed through an analysis of symptoms, along with lengthy and expensive tests to rule out other possible conditions. However, there is no true concrete method of detecting it at this time.

Mr. Little is hoping to change that by taking recordings of a person’s voice over a period of time and using an advanced algorithm to analyze changes in their voice and compare those changes to many subjects who have been confirmed to have Parkinson’s disease. Using data that he collected from 50 patients with Parkinson’s who had their voice recorded once a week for six months, he was able to “teach” his machine to detect common changes among all of them. In recent tests, he was able to figure out which patients had the disease and which didn’t with 86 percent accuracy.

Now, Little is hoping to improve his testing with the aid of crowd sourcing. He is inviting the public to call in to a phone number that he has established and leave recordings so that he can improve his software. He aims to collect another 10,000 voices, and is encouraging people from around the world to help him out so that his software can learn as much as possible.

Little is quick to say that his program will not replace any clinical experts, but rather offer them a quicker and cheaper diagnostic alternative to what they current employ, while at the same time providing them with data on the symptoms of the disease and how they change over time.

It’s incredibly interesting that a technology that allows us to talk to our phones to figure out if it will rain or not, or to order movie tickets, is also able to do something amazing like diagnose degenerative diseases and further medical research.


Technology – Fleksy Paving the Way for Visually Impaired Touch Screen Typing

As costs have fallen recently, many of you have entered into the smart phone world by way of the iPhone and its wonderful VoiceOver software that comes standard with each device. While VoiceOver is an incredible piece of software that allows a visually impaired individual to interact with a non-tactile phone, there are still companies looking to accent the software and make the overall iPhone experience even easier for the visually impaired user.

Enter Fleksy, a new touch typing text input app designed with the visually impaired in mind. Fleksy works similar to other predictive text input apps in that it can guess what you’re typing as you type it out. For instance, if you were to start typing the word “house,” by the time you typed the letters “h” and “o,” the program would already be well on its way to finishing the word, allowing the user to type faster.

But Fleksy has taken this process a step further. Their algorithm not only predicts the word you’re going to type, but predicts it based on what letters are near the word you’re intending to type as well, making it an even “smarter” program choice for the visually impaired. In a product demo, they show someone typing the word “arrange” to be sent in a text message. The word appeared on the screen quickly, but the user typed the letters z w y s b h r. The program recognized that all the letters of the word “arrange” were within close enough proximity to the letters that were typed and so that’s the word that was displayed, rather than the jumbled text.

Now, while predictive text is not perfect, and certain words are typed close enough to each other on the keyboard that there may be mistakes, this is a very large leap forward in touch typing and it should enable anyone who knows the general layout of a classic QWERTY keyboard to type faster than they would normally be able to while using the iPhone. Fleksy will allow the user to send the text via text message, email, or copied for use in other apps.

The makers of Fleksy, Syntellia, have submitted the app for Apple’s approval and hope to launch it in the app store soon. They’re also hoping that Apple likes the keyboard option enough that they may consider building it into their VoiceOver system.

For those of you with iPhones, check the app store in the coming months for any updates. If you try it out, let us know your impressions in the Reader’s Forum.


Contributor Valerie Moreno – Summer Memory

Summer is the time for cook-outs, trips to a beach, and carefree enjoyments. However, there is something called “Summer Mayhem,” and in 1997, it surely came my way.

Cooking in hot weather is difficult, especially for a mom who would pass up the kitchen toil in the deepest cold. With the air conditioning on high and recipe in hand, I set out to make some ice cream pies for my husband and daughter.

Alone in the house, except for our two cats, I gathered the ingredients. Preparing the ice cream filling went perfectly–it was transferring it to the two graham cracker crusts that caused culinary calamity.

Slowly pouring filling, my brow creased as a splattering sound rippled over the dull hum of the air conditioner. Was the sink leaking? No, but the crusts were! Small holes in the bottom of both had expanded with the added filling. “Oh, no!” I raced for rolls of paper towels as a steady stream of goop flowed from the end of the table.

Pressing sheets of towels across the mess, I was soon covered with cold wet pie filler up to my elbows. I also realized one of the cats had jumped on the chair beside me to watch the fun.

“Chee Chee, no!” I yelled as the flood of ice cream hit her full in the face. Her nickname wasn’t “Screechy Chee Chee” for nothing–leaping to the floor, the little black kitty landed in a puddle, her ear-piercing meows filling the kitchen. The phone began ringing, as if on cue. “Forget me!”
I shouted at it as Cheech shook herself wildly, sending sprays of goo across the stove front, cabinet, and wall.

Hours later, after cleaning the volcanic mess, the hysterical cat, and me, I slumped in the recliner and felt hot tears sting my eyes. I’d survived my dessert disaster, but it was only July! I cringed, wondering what cooking chaos lay ahead. Yes, this was just the beginning.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Lack of Skill Results in Labeling

Yesterday, I had a rather humbling experience which I would like to share with all of you. I was talking on the phone with a fellow blind person about how he needed to send me some written material. When he admitted that he didn’t know how to send an email, I wasn’t surprised because many of us, blind or sighted, can’t do that. However, he also told me that he didn’t know how to mail a letter the old fashioned way. I paused for several seconds while trying to figure out how an adult blind man couldn’t put a stamp on an envelope and drop it in a mailbox. I realize that some of us do not have access to a mailbox, yet we still get the job done. This man couldn’t get the job done, and that’s why I am writing this column.

There are blind people in my community who take this very personally, because they regard this man’s unwillingness to learn how to mail a letter as the direct result of being blind, and that it’s men like him who give us the reputation of being stumbling, bumbling, lazy people when we’re not.

Am I saying that the blind need to be perfect in order to put an end to this unfair reputation? No, because not only are there certain things I can’t do, but there are things that many sighted people can’t do as well. To go further with my point, I don’t use my blindness as the reason why I can’t do certain things. What excuse would the sighted have? I know how to change a light bulb, and have done so thousands of times, yet I know a sighted woman who actually told me that she doesn’t know how.

I could go on all day about how society excuses the sighted because we can’t regard sight as the result of someone’s lack of ability to perform a task, while it’s easy for society to say that the blind use their disability as a reason for not doing something, whether it’s true or not. Instead, I will concentrate on this man’s lack of knowledge of how to mail a letter, because I honestly believe that if he had sight, he’d know how to do it. Therefore, I would encourage him to learn despite his blindness, if, for no other reason, it lessens the desire for the rest of the blind community to be labeled by society as incapable.

I will bet that if I asked this guy why he couldn’t mail a letter, he’d tell me it was because he is blind. That, my friends, sums it all up.

Where do you stand on this issue? Let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Taking Reading to a Whole New Level

Every year the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) puts on their Braille Readers are Leaders Contest. The contest lasts for two months and concludes on Louis Braille’s birthday. The point of the contest is to inspire young people to practice reading Braille for fun. I myself participated a few years ago as an adult. I read just over 1,000 pages of Braille. For me, it was a great experience, but it’s nothing in comparison to this year’s winner of the contest who read over 21,000 pages.

Maegan, a fourth grader from Yakima, Washington, only started learning Braille two years ago. She’s been losing her sight since she was about one, but she avoided learning Braille initially. Her teacher, Mr. Magruder, has been encouraging her over the past two years, and in that time she’s gone from just knowing her alphabet in Braille to reading and writing in Braille above grade level. During the contest, Maegan went above and beyond even what the NFB expected of its participants. Up until now, the highest ribbon you could receive was for 12,000 pages, but Maegan thinks they need a 20,000 page ribbon as well.

Maegan likes reading the Nancy Drew and Black Stallion book series. She hopes to be a lawyer or a judge someday, which is why she enjoys Nancy Drew. She thinks solving puzzles and being nosy is great. If she continues reading as much as she did during the contest, I have no doubt that she’ll go on to do great things.

This year’s Braille Readers are Leaders contest doesn’t happen until November, but that gives everyone a chance to work on their reading skills now in preparation. Maybe there’s someone out there who can out-read Maegan. She’s certainly created an inspirational target to surpass.

Have any of you participated in the Braille Readers are Leaders contest? Let us hear about your experiences in the Reader’s Forum.


May 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 – Making Mainstream Tech Support Work for You

Have you had trouble as a blind person calling mainstream tech support and gotten mixed results? In this article, I will talk about my experiences with mainstream tech support and will include some ideas on how to handle tech support representatives from a blindness point of view.

First, let me begin by focusing on my most recent encounter with Verizon. The reason for the phone call was that I wasn’t receiving emails from BlindBargains. My question was whether this problem was on their end or the BlindBargains end. I called Verizon and got a foreign tech support person. She first told me to optimize Internet Explorer. I didn’t know how to do this and told her that I was blind. “We’ll have to get someone else to help you,” she told me. Then I asked, “How about I let you take over my computer remotely?” She was all for that and I followed her directions so that she could take over my computer. She did optimize Internet Explorer and then I told her to be sure that the email accounts configured properly. She was then able to tell me that the problem wasn’t on Verizon’s end. I finally solved the problem by unsubscribing and then re-subscribing to the BlindBargains newsletter.

I had another incident which was somewhat more positive with the backup service called Carbonite. I called tech support and told them that I was having trouble installing their software. I couldn’t bring up the dialogue box. I also told them that I was blind and I asked if they could help me install the program. The rep gave me the link and some directions so that the technician could take control of my computer. However, I couldn’t follow the directions fully. He stayed on the phone with me for an hour. I finally solved the problem by having my homemaker install the program for me. Not the ideal situation by far.

Another problem that I called tech support about was that the antivirus program on my computer was deleting Jaws for Windows–obviously a huge issue. The tech support person tried to help me with this issue, but couldn’t. I eventually solved the problem by switching virus programs.

Throughout these incidents, I used some helpful tips for dealing with tech support as a blind person, and I’ve listed some of them below.

1. Be really familiar with the problem before you call. Power on and off the device. Get away from the problem and take a break from it. When you feel that you have tested your own knowledge of the problem to the max, pick up the phone and call.

2. Have the identifying information available such as model number, operating system, or web browser.

3. Don’t tell the person right off the bat that you are visually impaired. That may be okay with you that you are blind, but it might throw the tech person off and they may not pay any attention to the rest of what you have to say.

4. First, explain the problem that you are having with the device or program. Test suggestions that are offered. This will gain the technicians confidence in you.

5. If it becomes apparent that the problem can’t be solved because of access issues, inform the technician that you are blind or have low vision. Tell them that you use screen reading software and not a mouse. If they get distracted because of the blindness issue, tell them that you use technology on a regular basis, or whatever the case might be.
6. Finally, if you find someone who is resistant to communicate with you, ask for a supervisor to assist you.

In my experience, mainstream tech support personnel have been helpful for the most part. You can’t expect them to be perfect, because it’s a sighted world, but many companies are making strides in how they offer support service to the visually impaired community.

Do you have any tips to add to the list? Share them with us in the Reader’s Forum.


Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Continuing to Make Sense of the VoiceSense

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve made quite a bit of progress with my HIMS VoiceSense QWERTY. It now is a device that I carry every day (with the exception of scorchingly hot ones). Here’s the good, the bad, and the issues I hope will be addressed by HIMS.

Being an I’ll-explore-now-and-read-the-manual-later type techie, I probably would have found the Find feature a lot sooner had I perused the manual. Finding it accidentally, it has become an indispensable tool in my VoiceSense toolbox. You can find any document or media file on any drive. Press Control-F; type in your search string, and press Enter. If you need to change search locations, press the TAB key and choose from the list. Quite simple–very useful.

I recently learned about the 7.0 software upgrade through a Tweet on Twitter. Eager to learn more about the new features, however, I turned to an old-fashioned method of delivery–the HIMS mailing list for their notetakers. It is a high-traffic list to be sure, but I noticed that I’m more likely to receive an answer from users and the moderator than calling their Tech Support number. I, unlike some, went through a flawless upgrade using my Wi-Fi connection. You are warned that you may lose some of your personal settings, but I had no problem in resetting items, as it offered the opportunity for me to re-learn their locations. Have I noticed any strange behavior since upgrading? Funny you should ask.

As you can imagine, using the Twitter client is one of my absolute favorite pastimes, but I have recently noticed some quirks. Previously, it seemed that I was able to read more tweets per screen and I was ecstatic. This meant fewer presses of the Control-N command to receive a list of earlier tweets. I’ve noticed, though, that this key command no longer works consistently, nor does its alternate button. How strange! I will post my findings to the list and hope that the bugs are fixed in the next upgrade.

Using the Address Book required that I (annoyance of annoyance) open the help guide as I could not figure out how to move from address to address. It is with a satisfied grin that I announce that I have not only begun adding records, but have modified the field list so that it only displays the fields I absolutely need to fill in.

For those of you interested in games, there are at least two, and I’ve played them each once. I am, however, eagerly anticipating the release of one of my all-time favorite games–Hang Man, which I understand will be available for download in the very near future.

Bottom Line: I have thoroughly enjoyed making sense of my VoiceSense!