Archive for May, 2013

Recipe of the Week – Festive Baked Eggs

Submitted by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Hard boil eight eggs. Peel and cut in half. Remove yolks and mash. Add 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff eggs, and place in the bottom of a slightly-greased baking dish. Top with one of the following optional sauces, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Option 1: Combine one small jar chopped pimentos with one can cheddar cheese soup.

Option 2: Combine two finely-chopped green onions with one can cream of mushroom soup.

Reader’s Forum – Week of May 27, 2013

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

In response to Bob’s article How Did We Survive Without the Cane? Denise wrote:

All the years I attended the New York Institute we never used canes getting around the campus, either. We just walked around without one and knew where we were going. It amazes me, too, when I think about it because sometimes we would run from place to place instead of walking and it’s a wonder we didn’t have accidents happen to ourselves or others. I think it’s because young people are less afraid of things like that happening and are just so carefree at that age. We had an outside school store where we’d have to leave the campus and walk up a long block to get there and we would go there by following the grass line instead of using any type of mobility aid. Now when we go back to the school for Alumni weekends, it is so strange using the cane or dog there, but it also feels different than when we attended school and didn’t need any type of help getting around. I think it’s because as we get older we are aware of getting more bumps and bruises. Now, though, the students have to use their canes at the school, but I feel in our day we were more independent without them.


In response to Bob Branco’s May 13 Op Ed, Joe Fallin wrote:

It’s a little late to do this, but I think some important issues concerning the decline in membership of blindness organizations were not brought out.

First: The traditional recruiting base for these organizations, schools for the blind, have receded in importance. The alumni of these schools formed a network of people who had much in common. Since there are fewer totally blind people than there were in the 1960s and many are educated in public schools, there is no longer a natural place where blind people come to know one another.

Second: Blind people simply are not as hungry as they used to be. Unfortunately, we’re victims of our success. With the coming of SSI and Medicaid, many choose not to be employed anymore. I understand why someone would choose that life because the private sector is no more interested in employing people who are blind than they used to be.

Third: People simply do not join anything anymore. Social media encourages people to meet only people like themselves, so advocacy becomes more difficult with lower numbers and a narrower audience.

Expecting people who are blind to have one organization is like expecting the Republican and Democratic parties to merge because we’re all Americans.


Also in response to Bob Branco’s May 13 Op Ed, Daniel wrote:

Bob Branco’s op-ed about the decline in consumer organizations has generated some controversy in the Reader’s Forum. Many people have offered their ideas as to why, in general, blind consumer organizations might be in decline. Others have taken this as an opportunity to bash the NFB. It is to those individuals that I write this letter in defense of the NFB.

First off, the characterization of NFB leaders as neurotic is childish. The word “neurotic” is a clinical word with a clinical definition attached to it. Only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose an individual as being “neurotic.” And note that I used the word “individual.” It seems to me unfair to paint with such a broad brush and to diagnose the leadership of an organization as being “neurotic.” It may seem from the outside, and even from the inside, that many members of the NFB are way too overconfident about their blindness. Is that such a crime? I would rather spend time with successful blind people who are confident and can provide mentorship to other blind people than to spend time with people who are not confident and may feel sorry for themselves.

It seems to me that the NFB can’t win. Some people criticize the NFB for being too autocratic while others dislike what they call “infighting.” I think that healthy disagreement is a good thing. By debating ideas they can be weighed and proposals judged on their merits. Once these disagreements have been resolved away from the public eye, an organization can present a
united front and move forward in the arena of ideas.

As far as the article describing a Colorado Center for the Blind’s student difficulties in getting home, is there any reason to believe that this gentleman was not told about the holiday after Thanksgiving? Maybe he was told and he simply forgot. It is worth noting that no other student showed up for class that day. It is one thing to challenge NFB philosophy and policies with the facts, but it is something altogether different to bash the NFB with baseless accusations and speculations. This brings me to my final point.

I think that it is pointless to speculate about the number of members of the NFB. All I’ll say is that anecdotal evidence and mere conjecture are not proof. It is up to the person leveling these wild accusations to provide hard proof that will back up his claim.

I’ll let a member of the ACB defend that organization. All I’ll say about them is that even though the so-called “civil war” has been over for years, they never pass up an opportunity to take petty jabs at the NFB.


In response to Bob Branco’s May 13 Op Ed, David McElroy wrote:

Regarding the two national advocacy organizations, I feel that neither one has the interests of the blind at heart. They are only interested in the benefits provided to their “leadership.”

So long as we, the blind, are truly less than equal, they can maintain these benefits for themselves and their chosen. I have to guess that this attitude goes back to the very beginning of both organizations. This is also the root cause of the infighting I think. Everybody wants a piece of that fundraising pie.


In response to Terri Winaught’s article Affordable, Universal Accessibility, Edward wrote:

I once used Jaws, but it’s expensive! When Microsoft has a windows upgrade, Jaws has to make an upgrade too. Then, you pay for a revised version of your screen reader. This is the hair that broke the camel’s back. I needed to upgrade to a Windows 7 computer. Jaws would have to be upgraded for $500 to make Windows 7 accessible. So, I decided to download NVDA.

At first I was a little bit confused. Then, I went through the keyboard commands and user guide. NVDA is not perfect. For instance, I got gibberish while using AOL email subject lines and email addresses. I would highlight the line, copy with control+c, then read the clipboard with NVDA button+c. NVDA’s latest download version allows access to the AOL email editor without gibberish. NVDA may have problems, but the problems are being addressed. NVDA is a great alternative to Jaws or Window-Eyes.


Cheryl Wade wrote:

I would like to respond to Julie in the May 20 issue. She said blind people don’t have a good lobby, so we don’t get things done.

I think this truly is a mixed bag.

First, Social Security Disability Insurance recipients are allowed to make much more money each month if they are blind than if they have some other disability. People who are blind are much more likely to receive SSDI benefits on the first try compared to people with other disabilities. Second, a person who is blind does not have to pay for a state ID, at least in Michigan. We can download books for free — books that people who are not blind would need to buy. We have been very successful in helping to set accessibility standards for many kinds of technology.

Of course, there are down sides. We still can’t make Microsoft create an operating system that truly works for us. And, because the federal government allows us to make more money and still receive disability payments, I fear we are seen as a group that has a really big, big disability.

A friend told me she went to a state hearing about budgetary expenses that effect blind people. A legislator said something like, “We already spend more money on you blind people than on any other group.” Yeah, maybe they do, but that money pays us to sit on our bottoms, rather than get real jobs.

So, yes, it’s a really mixed bag. But it’s not all bad.


Beth wrote in response to Ann Chiapetta’s articles on service dogs:

With great interest, I am following the progress, both in the U.S. and Japan, of the robotic guide dog, which has many positive ramifications, for instance, for people who could not or don’t want to care for a living animal or deal with behavioral quirks, for those with bad allergies and for those who would benefit from different orientation and mobility methods. Outdoor and indoor navigation will be possible with this general concept, with indoor being done with RFID tags on objects and recognition of those by the dog. Training and acquisition costs would be much less than for a real dog and the sadness of illness and death of real dogs would be eliminated. Has anyone ever seen any of the robotic dogs being developed? Thanks for any input, now and in the future.

Contributor Linda – Adventure for a Chinese Guide Dog: Part 1

Hi, I’m a guide dog called Ersi. My name means “thinking with my ears”. My master is Linda, a blind person living in Shanghai. I’m most honored to accompany her on her unusual trip to the US, a trip of a lifetime for both Linda and me!

Linda’s adventure began in San Francisco. She arrived just in time for Christmas. She stayed with her friend, Joyce, a retired bank executive. Being a Chinese American, Joyce was very enthusiastic about helping visually impaired people in China. On Christmas Eve, they had a big party, enjoying delicious turkey, Californian crabs, roast steak, mashed potato and cookies. Linda met a lot of people and among them was Tieno, another student of Joyce’s, who spent the whole day driving all the way from Texas!

The following days Linda explored the city with me. She strolled on streets and went to shops, restaurants, supermarkets and other public places without any trouble. What impressed her most was that every time she and I reached an intersection, all the cars moving in different directions stopped and waited until we crossed the street. It was really a new experience for us and everything seemed to be barrier free!

Murreta is a new city between Los Angeles and San Diego. Accompanied by her student Tieno and other American friends, Linda and I went there to attend a New Year’s reception. Towards evening, after a seven-hour car ride from San Francisco, we arrived in the city hailed as “the future of Southern California.”

The reception was held by the Murreta government in the banquet hall of a luxury hotel. In the hall, a large variety of wines were on display with a scent of wine wafting from corner to corner. People of different ethnicities stood or sat chatting and sipping wine. They gave Linda warm greetings when she entered the hall with me. Actually, it turned out that we were the stars of the reception!

It is true that California is well-known for its wine, but Linda and I were more impressed with the friendliness and hospitality of the people there!

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Fund Raising Obstacles

As of this writing, I run two nonprofit organizations. In order for me to run these organizations properly, I had to learn about all the rules and regulations, especially about how to raise money. For example, I was told that I had to wait two years to file for a raffle permit, and once I was approved, I would have to pay a lottery tax. I was also told by a prominent local attorney that even though many organizations run 50-50 raffles, it is illegal to do so in Massachusetts. I checked this information out with the Attorney General’s office, and it was verified. The reason why 50-50 raffles are recognized as illegal is because this type of activity fits under the category of pooling, which is illegal. Second of all, according to Massachusetts legislation, the value of the raffle prize has to be known before the raffle begins. In the case of 50-50 raffles, the winning amount of money is not known until the raffle is done, because the concept behind a 50-50 raffle is for half the profits to go to the organization, while the other half of the profits go to the person with the winning ticket.

Though there are certain things that I was told not to do in order to raise money, I hear about many other organizations that do them anyway. Without going into detail, I heard of one organization that recently created its own fund, and is doing a 50-50 raffle. The organization is not two years old, and it is based in Massachusetts. If I am to believe the legislation which verified what the local attorney told me, this other organization shouldn’t be conducting any raffles at all, let alone a 50-50 raffle.

Regarding this subject, I came to a conclusion. I hardly think that my nonprofit organizations are being singled out, or that someone is out to get me, so therefore I believe that a lot of organizations in Massachusetts are not aware of the law. To prove my theory, I will tell you what the attorney said when I asked him why 50-50 raffles are held on a daily basis even though they’re against the law. He said that the law is so unrecognized that one day someone went to a town clerk to file for a raffle permit, and the clerk thought it was strange that anyone would want to apply for a permit, because raffles are assumed to be legal.

I’ve even been met with strong and abrasive opposition when I suggested that a 50-50 raffle is illegal in Massachusetts, but I also know why there is strong opposition. As far as I’m concerned, either the legal profession needs to educate us more about raffle guidelines, or they should do away with the law altogether.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – When Severe Spring Weather Upsets Plans

When Oklahoma made news with incalculable damage from an F5 tornado, our attention was drawn to how severe weather can disrupt our lives.

After a dry spring, Central and Western Massachusetts began receiving beneficial rain Sunday May 19. Showers began reviving drooping shrubs, grass and flowers. On Tuesday, we enjoyed summer-like weather temperatures in the 80’s. According to NOAA, weather temperatures reached ninety degrees in Chicopee Falls. That evening severe thunderstorms and pouring rain arrived in Western Massachusetts. NOAA weather and the TV meteorologists were predicting tornado watches and warnings across Western Massachusetts. Leominster and Fitchburg were experiencing thunder and lightning and rain late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. Severe weather Wednesday was a reality, would this change our plans?

Although the sun was shining NOAA weather predicted severe storms for Central and Western Massachusetts by Wednesday afternoon/evening. I phoned Marian informing her. She said she would call at five so that by six we could decide whether to go to the healing service.

My blind friend Claire arrived at my apartment at one. We were looking forward to spending time together and going with Mary and Marian to our parish church in Leominster.

As I was preparing a tuna casserole, meteorologists on TV alerted listeners that Western and Central Massachusetts were under a tornado watch. As the casserole was baking, the phone rang. As Marian and I spoke, we hoped our plans would not change. I reassured her that rain showers would not bother us. We would make a final decision by six and the service was at seven. They lived in Townsend and would arrive at my apartment at six thirty. As the hour passed, Claire and I were glued to the TV and growing less optimistic that the storms would pass by our area. Tornado warnings were announced for Western Massachusetts giving me unsettling reminders of the June 1, 2011 tornadoes and the horrific damage done in parts of Central and Western Massachusetts. Before six o’clock, the tornado warning extended to parts of Central Massachusetts including Fitchburg and Leominster. This would alter the careful plans we had made. When the phone rang, Marian’s first words did not surprise me. “We’re not going, Mary does not want to get caught driving in the storm.” During our conversation with sincere regret she said, “I really wanted to go.” I sympathized and said, “so did I. We can’t do anything about our weather.” We ended the phone call agreeing it was better to be safe.”

The wind began blowing and as we heard faint claps of thunder and the first raindrops I took the fan out of the window and closed the two windows against the growing storm. We made the right decision, driving rain and strong winds were not to end until after seven thirty. As with winter storms, plans can be altered by severe weather during spring and summer months. Severe storms are forecast for Massachusetts Tuesday night and Wednesday. Yet according to the TV and NOAA weather, we may have our first heat wave in central and Western Massachusetts from Thursday to Sunday.

I think everyone will appreciate the warmer weather after a cool spring.

I hope all Ziegler Readers had a peaceful and happy memorial day and will appreciate the warmer summer weather.

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Urge the US Government to Help Make the Written Word Accessible to Everyone

Information is power. As we all know, the more information we have access to, the more likely we are to be independent and successful. Access to the written word has improved tremendously for those in the United States especially now that the Kindle collection is accessible, but the same is not true around the world. There is currently a treaty that most of the world plans to sign that will give blind people around the world access to more written material then they have ever had. The treaty though may end up restricting access rather than adding access if for-profit companies have their way. This week I received an email from Bookshare urging me to sign two petitions to keep the treaty in its current form so that libraries like Bookshare won’t be in danger.

One of the proposed changes to the treaty is a clause that says if a book can be purchased then it can’t be borrowed. This clause could potentially eliminate services such as Bookshare, and possibly make it impossible for blind people around the world to have access to material that is loaned rather then bought. Part of the text from the petition on the White House’s website reads as follows: “Less than 1% of printed works globally are accessible to the blind. This is because laws around the world bar printed material from being turned into formats useable by the blind and visually impaired, or for such material to be shared across borders. That’s why 186 countries will soon convene in Morocco to finalize a Treaty that would empower the world’s nearly 300 million blind citizens with the same rights to read, learn, and earn that the sighted enjoy. However, huge and powerful corporations – many wholly unaffected by the proposed Treaty – are working to fatally weaken it or block its adoption.”

There is also a petition that you can sign from the NFB. Find it at this link:

I am grateful to live in a country where my access to the written word continues to grow, but I think that we have to give that same access to every blind person around the world. Please add your name to these petitions and help our government realize how important this issue is.

Feature Writer John Christie – Visually Impaired Teenagers Make Great Strides to be Treated as Equals in High School Sports

Aria Ottmueller, a high school junior in Arizona just recently took up the sport of Pole Vaulting. She had been trying for a year to get her coach’s permission to participate in the sport. One of the reasons why the coach might not have let her play is because with Pole Vault you have a cross bar and a foam pit.

In East Texas, Charlotte Brown tries to distinguish the runway between artificial turf and grass. She had a hard time doing that so the coach puts a strip of carpet along the runway so that she can be guided toward the bar.

One recent weekend, both of these teenagers competed in their state track and field meets in their respective states. Ottmueller 17, and Brown 15, are redefining disability. In the past, these blind athletes were not accommodated in mainstream high school sports. Now, they are both competing and succeeding in mainstream high school sports.

Brown has cleared 11 feet 6 inches in the sport. She is competitive with the able bodied pole vault teenagers in her age group. She hopes to vault 12 feet or higher in the Texas school meet.

Ottmueller began vaulting five weeks ago after trying for a year to persuade her coach to let her try the sport. Thus far, she has jumped 7 feet. Blind athletes have participated in running and throwing events. However, with Pole Vaulting, many high Schools don’t practice the sport because of liability. In addition, many feel that it is a dangerous sport to compete in for both disabled and non-disabled alike.

Ottmueller was born with underdeveloped optic nerves and can see at 20 feet what a person with normal vision can see at 400 feet.

Brown developed cataracts and can’t tell the difference between light and dark. Both teenagers use Braille as their main medium.

It’s great that these visually impaired athletes are competing in pole vault. Hopefully, both of them will do well in their competitions and will do well in the sport.


Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Being Safe in the Summer

Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial beginning of summer. Whether official or not, summer evokes thoughts of picnics, other outdoor activities, and vacations. While all of the above are fun, fire certainly is not, and fire never takes a vacation. The following safety tips come from the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) education and prevention Programs and a blog written by Teresa Neil, lead in the Fire Safety Prevention and Education Program.

Though practicing and reviewing one’s home fire safety plan may seem like common sense, it can also be just as easy not to think about it during summer’s hazy lazy days. In addition to practicing your escape route, fire safety also includes checking the batteries in your smoke detector once a month. For the benefit of readers with some sight and hearing impairments, there are alarms with strobe lights and bed shakers that will awaken you when the detector sounds.

Just as fire safety in the home is important, so, too, are safety tips when grilling outdoors. Before grilling those meats or vegetables this Memorial Day weekend or at any time during the summer, check your grill’s propane tank to be sure there are no cracks and also that it is connected properly. Once you know that your grill is working properly, remove the lid before lighting. Never add lighter fluid to a grill that is already lit.

When grilling, have a three-foot safety zone around the grill. Also use long-handled tongs to prevent burns on hands and arms.

Fireworks are yet another summertime safety issue. Though most of us leave fireworks displays in the experienced hands of experts, there is always someone who will be curious enough about their use to experiment. Though everyone knows that fireworks get hot, what people may not know is that their tips can reach temperatures of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, fireworks can produce third degree burns.

If your vacation includes visiting a hotel, be sure to learn where the exits are. As part of that process, count the number of doors from your room to the nearest exit. If you feel you will need assistance evacuating, alert hotel staff. Depending on the nature and severity of your disability, you might also want to request a room on the first floor.

Whether at home, at a picnic, or in a hotel, be safe this summer and remember: fire never takes a vacation.

Source: and To sign up for fire safety and other important disability information from the Federal government, go to and link to those topics on which you’d like to receive E-mail alerts.

Feature Writer Ann Chiapetta – Memorial Day

The last Monday of May commemorates Memorial Day, the time to gather ourselves and remember the sacrifices made by our Nation’s soldiers who died protecting our country.

Memorial Day has always been a reflective and poignant holiday for me; my father served in Korea, my uncles and cousins in World War II, Vietnam, and my husband in the assorted international conflicts in the Middle East during the 1980s and1990s. Now that I work for the VA, I hear the firsthand accounts of the demands and sacrifices our men and women in the armed forces make for us each and every day.

Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Eric K. Shinsekby sent out an inspiring message of commemoration. It states, in part, “Memorial Day is set aside to honor the more than one million of our fellow citizens who have fallen in battle since the founding of our Republic. On Memorial Day, their service in uniform stands in contrast to our ball games and backyard barbeques. Our defenders are ordinary Americans performing extraordinary deeds, bearing all the risks for our way of life. In remembering the Fallen, we honor the men and women who kept faith with our enduring principles of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” We remember, as well, those who keep the faith today and honor their patriotism, valor, dedication, and loyalty.”

Originally called Decoration Day, the actual day set aside to fly flags at half-mast, participate in parades, and enjoy the launch of the summer season was May 30th. It was referred to as Decoration Day because it was chosen as the best time by many families to brush off the ides of winter and decorate the soldiers’ graves. Memorial Day was officially declared a National Holiday by President Lyndon Johnson on May 1966 at Arlington National Cemetery. A memorial written by Civil War era orator, Robert Green Ingersoll, eloquently captures the significance of Memorial Day for all generations of our Fallen:

“They died for liberty – they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless … Earth may run red with other wars, but they are at peace. In the midst of battles, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.”

Below is a link with additional information about the history behind Memorial Day.

Letter from the Editor – Week of May 27, 2013

Hello Everyone,

I hope the weather wasn’t too bad for you last week and you had an enjoyable and peaceful Memorial Day.

This week’s magazine and supplement are a day late because of the Holiday so I hope that isn’t too much of a problem for anyone.

I’ve updated the email auto response again for this week, so if you’re not getting the magazine or supplement the fastest way to get it is to email [email protected] with the subject “Did not get magazine” or “Did not get supplement”

Karen Crowder wanted to make a correction to her May 13 article about the origin of Mother’s Day and point out that there is nothing in the Perkins School for the Blind Campus History series about Julia Ward Howe’s thoughts about setting aside the second Monday in June for mothers. The book does briefly talk about the Howe’s accomplishments and how they lived at Perkins school.

Also this week we will have the first part of a three part contributor story written by Linda, a legally blind person from China. Her story is narrated by her guide dog and translated into English by Benjamin Jiang who lives in Shanghai and is also blind. Benjamin learned English through his own hard work with the help of the Hadley School in China, which has, unfortunately, since closed.

Thank you to those of you who wrote in to the Reader’s Forum.

Thanks for reading and have a good week.