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The Advocate: Our Online Newsletter




Published by the Association of Blind Citizens

Fall/Winter 2004

Association of Blind Citizens Web Site: http://www.blindcitizens.org

P.O. Box 246

Holbrook, MA 02343

E-mail John Oliveira: president@blindcitizens.org

E-mail Chrissy Laws: editor@blindcitizens.org

phone: (781) 961-1023

News-and-Activities Line:

(781) 654-2000

Fax: (781) 961-0004

Vehicle-Donation Line:

(888) 881-9090


President’s Notebook

By John Oliveira

On behalf of the Association of Blind Citizens' board of directors, I would like to wish you a happy holiday season. It is time for another update regarding the activities of the Association of Blind Citizens.

Our programs continue to flourish, and the need for the activities in which ABC is involved in continues to be evident to the blind and visually impaired community. We continue to sponsor children's camps. These camps give blind children a chance to participate in activities that they would not be able to experience in their communities.

Our commitment to braille literacy continues to move forward as we sponsor the reprint of a children's book in braille. “How Do You Know What Time It Is?” was released in October as part of the National Braille Press children's book club. ABC will continue to support projects that promote the learning or use of braille.

The college scholarship program received more applications than in previous years. That indicates to me that the funding for educational services for the blind is needed and ABC will continue to do what we can to support the scholarship program. ABC awarded $20,000 to blind students from around the country. These students are our future leaders, and I wish them the best.

As another deadline approaches for the close of our Assistive-Technology Fund, the online applications continue to arrive. The Assistive-Technology Fund continues to receive mention in a variety of publications for the blind. The word is spreading and it indicates to me that the need for this one-of-a-kind program to grow exists, and we must do what we can to make funds available for this program.

The notes of thanks and appreciation from people who have received ATF grants please me as they show the expectation that these recipients have for a brighter and more independent future with the new technology acquired.

The 2004 Beep-Ball World Series was held in Columbus, Ohio. The Association of Blind Citizens beep-ball team, the Boston Renegades, participated in a 12 team beep-ball tournament. The highlight of this tournament was the opportunity to play in the consolation-bracket championship game. The game had many lead changes with much excitement for the fans and lots of action for the players.

I would like to thank the players, volunteers, and knowledgeable and energetic coach Rob Weissman for their hard work and an exciting 2004 season. This competitive sports program for the blind has more participants than in previous years. ABC has operated the beep-ball program for four years and a solid foundation is developing.

Three major building blocks form this foundation. The first is the strong commitment of the volunteers involved in operating this program. These volunteers give up four months of valuable weekend time and many additional hours during weekday evenings. And for this great personal sacrifice the players, ABC and the blind community thank them. The second building block in this foundation is the strong commitment of the players to build this program for future participants. The third is the financial support of ABC's board for a major portion of this program as well as administrative support from ABC's office staff. I look forward to a successful 2005 season.

I enjoyed spending time with some of you during our most recent daytrip to Nantucket. The trip was educational and a great opportunity to just have some fun touring the island. The ferry ride was one of the roughest that I have ever experienced, but we all had a wonderful time; we look forward to repeating the trip again in 2005. If you have any suggestions on activities or trips you would like ABC to plan please call the news-and-activities line at (781) 654-2000.

In an effort to promote improved access to the theater for the blind and visually impaired community, ABC awarded a grant to the Cultural Access Consortium for the construction of an audio booth for describers of live theatrical performances. ABC is the major financial sponsor of this audio-booth project. This booth will provide blind and visually impaired audience members with a better quality of audio description by eliminating distracting background noise.

I look forward to seeing the completed booth and attending audio-described performances in early 2005. This booth will be available for theaters in New England to use when they offer audio-described performances.

On a personal note, this audio-booth project means a lot to me since I helped raise the funds that were used in purchasing the audio-description system used at the Wang Center.

Another activity which we provide is Saturday at the Movies. On the third Saturday of every month, ABC shows an audio-described movie at the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street. This again is a part of our commitment to provide access to movies in the Boston area. If you wish to start this program in your state please contact me.

I would like to welcome Chrissy Laws to the Association of Blind Citizens’ staff. Chrissy will be the editor of the newsletter starting with this edition, and she will also work with me on special projects. I look forward to working with her.

In closing, I ask for your support so that we can continue to expand our services to the blind community. If you can make a cash contribution or donate your time we would love to hear from you. The board of directors and I are working hard to ensure the future of the Association of Blind Citizens. I have outlined some of the activities that we have sponsored, but we are also working hard to make sure that these activities will be funded in the future.

Enjoy the newsletter, and remember that we welcome articles from our readers. May your stocking overflow and may you have a happy and healthy new year.


Thinking Outside the Suggestion Box

By Chrissy Laws

We want The Advocate to be a newsletter you look forward to, so let us know what you want to read. We plan to write original content, pack it with resources and use the newsletter as a forum for our readers. So e-mail me your suggestions today. But don’t just suggest; if you love to write and want to submit material to The Advocate, let me know: editor@blindcitizens.org.

In this issue we have a new column called Plain in Maine. Last year I moved from a city in southeastern Massachusetts to a small town in northern Maine. My column explores country life -- simple recipes, animal care, gardening and much more -- from a visually impaired perspective.

Our column entitled Blindsided lists articles of interest to the blind community. Everything from the latest technology to blind people in the news, you’ll find in Blindsided; look for links to read the pieces that interest you.

Viewpoint gives our blind and visually impaired readers the opportunity to review a book, event, product or anything else. Or you can write opinion pieces on almost any topic for this column. We also encourage our sighted readers to give their opinions on any blindness-related issue.

We want a new name for The Advocate, too. If we at ABC agree on the name you suggest, I’ll interview the reader for the next issue. So send in your suggestions today; I look forward to hearing from you!


High-Tech Specs

By Chrissy Laws

Imagine donning a pair of glasses that could restore your sight. Well, products like this exist and work for some with low or no vision.

Last year I reviewed a product from Enhanced Vision called Jordy that uses a television camera mounted on a pair of glasses to enlarge whatever the user looks at. Until then I had given up on glasses ever improving my sight, but this product actually worked for me. You can learn more about Jordy at http://www.enhancedvision.com/jordy.php.

Products like Jordy cost more than most of us can afford, but through programs like ABC’s Assistive-Technology Fund, equipment becomes affordable. Visit http://www.blindcitizens.org/assistive_tech.htm for more on how we can help you get the tools you need.

Another upcoming product doesn’t help users see, but tells them helpful visual information. The TV camera on the glasses sends a message to a laptop computer carried in a backpack. The user hears what the camera picked up in a document or on the Web; the computer can even identify a face if the person’s name happens to be in its database. For more on this project contact Nikolaos Bourbaki: bourbaki@cs.wright.edu. So far the product works in a laboratory setting, and researchers hope to conduct real-world testing soon.

One of the most exciting high-tech systems out there enables blind people to see light and basic shapes. For those eligible for the procedure, a four-hour operation to have electrodes implanted in the visual cortex of the brain must take place. These wires connect to a microcomputer worn on a belt, and sunglasses equipped with a TV camera show the images to the blind person. Dr. William H. Dobelle designed this amazing artificial-vision system which you can read more about at http://www.dobelle.com/asaio1.html and http://popularmechanics.com/science/medicine/2002/6/artificial_vision/.

Dr. Dobelle performed several successful operations, but sadly he passed away this year. This will affect the project, but director for the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind’s adaptive-technology program, Joe Lazzaro, has hope.

"For the short term, the death of Dr. Dobelle is a serious blow to his company, but not for the long haul of artificial-vision research in general,” Lazzaro says. "Dobelle pushed the envelope, putting into practice the theoretical technology from the 1970s and 1980s. That's valuable research and practical engineering. I believe that it is time for a wireless brain interface based on Dobelle's work, but doing some additional research and development to make the prosthesis wireless."

"The prosthetic would be useful for those who are totally blind," Lazzaro continues. "This will give persons, including myself, light perception and some crude image-acquisition capability."

"Dobelle's work is only a small fraction of what's going on in artificial vision," Lazzaro says. "Moreover, the FDA is undergoing clinical trials for retina chips, for persons with macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, from several companies. Preliminary results of first-generation retina chips are positive, and work is ongoing to make the next-generation chips with higher resolution, making for better images."

Lazzaro states that current retina chips require a fully attached and partially working retina, something some of us don't have. But again he has hope.

"My retina is half detached, and the half that is, still has problems," Lazzaro explains. "But hope springs eternal for the fully prosthetic retina or the brain implant à la Dr. Dobelle. While I am not pining away for vision, waiting for eyesight to get my life back on track, I am strongly interested in artificial-vision research for my work at the Commission for the Blind, as a science writer and as a blind person."

Dr. Dobelle once said that artificial vision would someday make braille, the long cane and the guide dog obsolete. Lazzaro agrees.

"I do believe that artificial vision will eventually make much of the assistive technology and other solutions used by the blind community obsolete," Lazzaro says. "But this won't happen until artificial-vision systems like Dobelle's and others are accepted by the FDA in the United States. Once they get FDA approval, insurance plans will cover the procedure, making it available to those who need it."


Blindsided

  • Are Web Sites Doing Enough to Serve the Disabled?:
  • Business Management Taught to Visually Impaired:
  • Department of Defense Program Provides Technology for Disabled Workers:
  • Electronic Eye May Help Blind Cross Street:
  • King County Library System First in Nation to Offer Digital Audio Service:
  • Moving Forward: Oars Back in Water, Blinded Gilbert Envisions a Future:
  • New Sonar Device Helps Blind Navigate:
  • New Technology a First for Disabled Voters:
  • ScanSoft Launches SpeechPAK TALKS for Speech-Enabled Mobile Phones:
  • Scholarship Offered for Blind Students:

  • Plain in Maine

    By Chrissy Laws

    If your water temperature reads 114, you’ll make matzo instead of bread, and if the thermometer says 116, you’ll have to eulogize your yeast. At least that’s how complicated bread baking seemed to me. But then a couple of friends of mine gave me some simple instructions on how to make it. For this wheat-bread recipe you’ll need:

    • 2 Cups Hot Water
    • ¼ Cup Oil
    • 1/3 Cup Honey
    • 1 Egg
    • 1 Tablespoon Wheat Gluten
    • 1 ½ Teaspoons Salt
    • 1 Packet Yeast
    • 6 Cups Whole-Wheat Flour

    In a large bowl mix all the ingredients except the flour. Now add half the flour (3 cups), and mix it well. Add the remaining 3 cups of flour, and knead the dough by pressing it flat with your hands, folding the dough and repeating the process for about 10 minutes. You can remove the sticky dough from your hands by rubbing a little flour between them, and a bit of oil on your kneading surface will keep the dough from sticking to it.

    Rub the dough with a little oil and place it in a clean bowl. Cover it with a damp cloth -- the oil and damp cloth keep the dough moist so do this for each rising. Let it rise for about an hour or until it doubles in size.

    The next time you feel the dough, it’ll be filled with air. Push it down and knead it again for another five minutes or so. Let it rise as before for about an hour.

    Now divide the dough in half. Form two loaves by rolling the dough and shaping it into two rectangular-shaped pieces. Place each in a nonstick or buttered loaf pan, and wait another hour or so for the loaves to rise an inch above the edges of their pans. Prick the tops of the loaves a few times with a fork to allow steam to escape while they bake; place the loaf pans on the middle oven rack and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Let them cool for a while before removing them from their pans.

    You can store your bread in gallon-size plastic bags, and place them in a breadbox or any cool, dry place. It’s best to eat them within a week, or you can freeze them. Also, by cutting off slices as you need them, the bread will stay fresher longer; sliced bread gets stale quicker because more air gets between the slices. For more tips on bread baking visit http://www.newhomemaker.com/cooking/bread1.html.

    I like to place a slice of bread on a plate, put little chunks of butter on it and microwave it on high for about 30 seconds. Then I spread the melted butter all over the bread. You’ll have something delicious to serve your family and friends; homemade bread also makes a great gift any time of the year.


    Viewpoint

    The opinions expressed in this column belong exclusively to the author.

    A Book Review

    By Cheryl Cumings

    Title: “One for the Money”

    Author: Janet Evanovich

    Book Number: RC 40224

    Sometimes you may feel that there is nothing new to read. If you have read one female-detective novel, then you may think that you know what to expect. Imagine my surprise when I picked up "One for the Money" by Janet Evanovich.

    In this book Stephanie Plum, a laid off underwear buyer for a Trenton department store, blackmails her cousin into hiring her to retrieve fugitives who have violated their bond agreements. For her first case, Stephanie must find and bring back Joseph Morelli.

    If Stephanie can bring Joe in, she will earn 10 percent of his $100,000 bond. Although she knows nothing about this field and many people tell her this is an impossible task, Stephanie determines to get her man. For a former underwear buyer, the prospect of earning $10,000 serves as a powerful incentive to learn quickly and to succeed.

    It turns out that Joe has had a ubiquitous impact on Stephanie's life since childhood. The story begins with this statement: "There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever, Joseph Morelli did this to me -- not forever, but periodically."

    "One for the Money" takes place in Trenton, N.J. It plays on some of our stereotypes of a city in which everyone -- even the elderly -- carries guns. Yet at the same time, it shows Trenton as a city of close-knit families and neighbors. As Stephanie learns her trade, she calls on friends whom she grew up with who are now on the police force. The people we meet are not always nice, but what would you expect in a detective novel?

    The people and the situations that Stephanie encounters are all richly described. Not only is this a well-told story, it is at times absolutely hilarious. There are occasions when the writing feels a little over the top, but the style fits with the story. If you want something well-written, fast-paced and funny, then this is the book for you.

    Janet Evanovich takes the reader into a world, though unfamiliar, is easily understood. Stephanie's attempts to capture Joe are the primary story, but in order to learn her new career and to pay her rent, she also tackles smaller cases. Stephanie Plum is an ordinary woman who, because of her career choice, finds herself in some extraordinary circumstances.

    The author portrays the main character realistically; Stephanie makes mistakes. Sometimes when trying to stop someone from escaping, in reaching into her purse to find her pepper spray, she grabs her hairspray instead.

    There are several Stephanie Plum mysteries; you can begin reading any of the books. "One for the Money" begins the series and if you appreciate observing the growth and development of a character, then you should definitely read this book first.

    However, if this one is not available and you can get your hands on another Stephanie Plum mystery, the other stories summarize how Stephanie became a fugitive-retrieval agent. With winter upon us "One for the Money" is a fun book with many laughs that you should read.


    Marketplace

    The Association of Blind Citizens announces new products and services for the benefit of its readers. ABC lists these for free and assumes no responsibility for the quality of the products nor the reliability of the services.

    Auction Web Site. At http://www.ocutrade.com visitors can buy and sell new or used blindness-related products.

    Bibles for the Blind Publication. “Word of Life” contains Scriptures from the King James Bible. E-mail info@biblesfortheblind.org for details on this new braille book.

    Cooking-in-the-Dark Cookbook. “The Cooking in the Dark Recipe Collection” contains favorites from the members of the Cooking-in-the-Dark and Blind-Cook e-mail lists. Visit http://www.blindmicemart.com to order a copy. You can also e-mail cookinginthedark@houston.rr.com or call Dale Campbell at (281) 486-1840 for more information.

    DVS E-Guide Update. Visit http://main.wgbh.org/wgbh/pages/mag/resources/dvs-e-guide.html to find out what’s happening in the world of descriptive video.

    GPS Product. Freedom Scientific has developed a product that allows a popular GPS package to run on the PAC Mate. You can purchase the Destinator application and GPS receiver from retail outlets or on the Internet, then load StreetTalk to make it accessible and to add special functionality for pedestrian use. Visit http://www.freedomscientific.com/fs_news/PressRoom/en/2004/2004_06_30-1.asp for details.

    Low-Vision Product. Enhanced Vision announces its new LCD Panel Platform that integrates with either Flipper or Max video magnifiers to create the FlipperPanel and MaxPanel. This all-in-one product allows people with low vision to use video magnification anytime, anywhere for reading, writing and distance viewing. Visit http://www.enhancedvision.com or call (888) 811-3161 to learn more.

    National Braille Press Publications. NBP offers two new keyboard command guides: “Windows XP Keyboard Commands” and “Office XP Keyboard Commands.” Each guide costs $10. NBP also offers "A Child's Calendar," a print-and-braille book that features a poem for each month of the year. Visit http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html or call (800) 548-7323 for details.

    Pocket PC. The KeySounds Kurzweil Display Reader (KDR), a Windows-based program, allows users of Kurzweil musical equipment to access the text portion of the LCD on this equipment by copying the text from the LCD to a computer monitor via MIDI. The program works with any version of Windows from 95 on up, and requires a MIDI-capable soundcard and a screen reader. It’s available in an electronic version or on CD-ROM. To order e-mail sales@keysounds.com.

    Search Engine. At http://www.yousearch.com you'll find a new search engine designed specifically for people with disabilities using text-based browsers.

    ZoomText Update. Ai Squared's latest ZoomText update, version 8.11.3, is fully compatible with Service Pack 2. This update also delivers other important fixes and enhancements. Ai Squared encourages all ZoomText 8.1 users to obtain the latest update, even if they are not installing Service Pack 2. Acquire this free update online using automatic updating, the ZoomText update wizard or manual updating at http://www.aisquared.com/support/updates.htm.


    Jan's Tasty Tidbits

    BUBBLE AND SQUEAK

    • 1 Pound Boiling Potatoes, Peeled and Quartered
    • 5 Tablespoons Margarine
    • Freshly Ground Pepper
    • 2 Cups Coarsely Chopped Cabbage
    • 2 Tablespoons Oil
    • 1 Medium Finely Chopped Onion

    Cook potatoes in large amount of boiling water until tender; drain; mash using straight up and down motion to prevent stickiness. Blend in 3 tablespoons margarine and pepper Cook cabbage in boiling water until tender; drain well. In large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons margarine and oil over medium heat. Add onion; stir until soft, about eight minutes. Add potatoes and cabbage; cook until golden brown and crisp, turning occasionally. Serve immediately. Makes four to six servings.

    SAVORY MEDITERRANEAN FUSILLI

    • 1 Pound Prince Garlic and Parsley Fusilli
    • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
    • 1/2 Cup Chopped Red Pepper (1)
    • 1/3 Cup Sliced or Chopped Black Olives
    • 1/3 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
    • Chopped Fresh Parsley

    Cook fusilli according to package directions; drain. Heat oil in skillet; cook red pepper until tender. Stir in olives; heat through. Toss fusilli with sauce and feta cheese. Serve topped with parsley. Makes four main-dish or eight side-dish servings.

    ACORN-SQUASH PURÉE

    • 2 Small Seeded and Halved Acorn Squash
    • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
    • 2 Tablespoons Margarine
    • 1 Tablespoon Milk
    • Dash of Pepper

    Place acorn squash cut side down in a baking pan. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Using a spoon, scoop squash out of shells into mixing bowl. Discard shells. Add brown sugar, margarine, milk and pepper to squash in bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth and well blended. Transfer to a saucepan and heat through. Makes four servings. Purée squash mixture ahead of time; reheat before serving.


    The Association of Blind Citizens, a nonprofit organization, provides educational, recreational and social activities for the blind and visually impaired community. ABC also offers college scholarships and assistive-technology funding for deserving blind and visually impaired people. Please consider giving a tax-deductible donation in any amount so that ABC can continue to create opportunity one step at a time. Thank you so much!

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