THE BRAILLE FORUM is available in braille, large print, half- speed four-track cassette tape and computer disk. Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for publication should be sent to: Nolan Crabb, THE BRAILLE FORUM, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005. Submission deadlines are the first of the month.
Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Patricia Beattie at the same address. If you wish to remember a relative or friend by sharing in the council's continuing work, the national office has printed cards available to acknowledge contributions made by loved ones in memory of deceased people.
Anyone wishing to remember the American Council of the Blind in his/her Last Will and Testament may do so by including a special paragraph for that purpose. If your wishes are complex, you may contact the ACB National Office.
For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the "Washington Connection" toll-free at (800) 424-8666, 6 p.m. to midnight Eastern time Monday through Friday.
The advocacy services staff at the ACB national office is proud to announce the establishment of a new, electronic Job Bank. The Job Bank is posted on the internet and contains job listings sent to ACB and other appropriate listings. This service is available now! To access the Job Bank, please contact our web site at http://www.acb.org, and then click on the ACB Job Bank link. Thank you, and good luck.
Some people have dubbed the 1990s as "The Age of Information." Clearly, over the past few years, the capacity for sharing information has multiplied incredibly. Though the use of modems predated the introduction of the fax machine, that technology was the first approach to seriously impact information exchange. Printed documents could, for the first time, be sent instantaneously anywhere a telephone could go! More than that, fax machines were relatively easy to use and didn't require special training. Then came the internet and e-mail. Over the past two years in particular the cost of internet access has plummeted. Now anyone with a computer and a modem can access the internet for less than $20 a month and have free access to e-mail.
ACB is in a serious quandary. On the one hand, ACB is a democratic organization, many of whose members do not own computers and may not have either the money or the expertise to acquire access to them. On the other hand, the speed at which decisions are made demands that ACB use all the media at its disposal to ensure that we can provide our members with all the information we can as quickly as we can. If we do less, we are failing our membership. Other organizations have embraced the new technologies completely. If we fail to do the same, we will be left behind not just in terms of our image but, in a very real sense, in terms of our capacity to act quickly and decisively enough to have an impact on the legislative process.
Put simply, then, this is the question. Should ACB make optimal use of the technologies at its disposal or should we, for the sake of equity, hold off till a larger proportion of members have access? It's not an easy question. To begin with, it's not primarily a blindness issue.
Ever since it became clear that the computer was going to become a pivotal information-sharing device, many have expressed the concern that our society is dividing into two distinct groups -- those who can afford information and those who cannot. In an effort to try to deal with this issue, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 embraced the concept of universal access. To offset "information poverty" the act required that public libraries, health care facilities and schools be encouraged to acquire high- speed access to the information infrastructure so as to make such entities places where people who could not afford computers of their own could access the internet. It was also in this spirit that the provisions for disabled people were built into this legislation. Neither disability nor poverty was supposed to stand in the way of accessing the information superhighway.
In Miami, Fla., where I live, and in many other communities throughout the country, a new kind of access has begun to emerge. In three counties here, public libraries have banded together to create a system called SEFLIN, the Southeast Florida Library Information Network. This allows anyone with a computer to access some aspects of the internet, such as e- mail, and access to library catalogs. The most significant feature of this system is that it is free. There are many, many cities who have followed similar strategies to create access to information for their residents. Some of these systems have come to be known as "freenets." They are not ideal. Usually there is a limit to how long you can stay on each day which impacts speech users more than it does people who can read the screen easily. There are also a limited number of channels available, which means that free systems are often busy.
I have not referred to access because, though some elements of the information superhighway are difficult, there are certainly a number of approaches that make relatively equal access to a pretty huge proportion of the superhighway available to any blind person with a computer, whether he or she uses speech, large print, or braille. In the future, as we move to new platforms, this may not continue to be the case but, for now, all of us can drive on the highway and can go down most of the roads on which we might wish to travel.
Legislators have embraced the new technology with a vengeance. Every legislator has an e-mail address. Fax messages and e-mail messages are becoming the most usual way of communicating positions to legislators. The days of letters are fast giving way to a time when phone calls, telegrams, e-mail messages and faxes are the norm. The result is that decisions are made much faster. We have a much narrower window of time to communicate with our legislators than we used to have; and, if the voice of ACB is to be heard, we cannot afford to ignore any of the new technologies.
Many blind people now have access to faxes as well. Either a print copy of the fax can be scanned or a fax can be directly received by the computer the blind person is using and then converted by scanning software into readable text.
To sum up, then, the technology is out there that can give people who are blind pretty comprehensive access to information and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 at least pays lip service to the need to make certain the information superhighway is available to everyone. There's one more piece that I want to add to the puzzle.
The Americans with Disabilities Act has very quietly begun to have an impact on information access. Cities, states and counties are beginning to recognize that they have obligations to assure that information is made available to all their citizens including those who are disabled. San Jose, Calif. has adopted a web site policy that mandates that all city web sites are developed so that they can be fully accessed by people with disabilities. The state court system of California has adopted clear and unequivocal policies that must be followed to assure that all disabled participants in court cases have their information needs met. Washington state and Dade County, Fla., where I live, have set up information access projects. Colleges and universities have been placed on notice by decisions made by the Office of Civil Rights that they must assure that students and employees who are disabled have as much access to information as their non-disabled peers. Perhaps the most far-reaching decision made yet was released on April 7th. That decision concerned libraries and clearly stated that it applied to public libraries as well as to the university to which it was addressed. In essence, the decision said that libraries have an obligation to assure that their materials are accessible to people who are blind. It specifically indicated that libraries which are making extensive expenditures on technology for their patrons must commit to making this technology accessible to people who are blind. It speaks specifically to the provision of access to the internet and to the provision of scanners where appropriate. This is a tangible indication of how the ADA is helping blind people and we must work to extend the applicability of this decision. Right now the decision only applies to the region where it was made. ACB will seek to persuade other regions to issue similar decisions. You should help by asking your local public libraries which are creating internet access what they are doing to assure that you have access to the internet too.
Where does the ACB stand technologically? Several years ago, we created a computer bulletin board. That is still operational but has the serious drawback of requiring people to call long-distance to access it. We have a web page which can be accessed without calling a long-distance number but is, as yet, only in its infancy. One feature of our web page is the electronic job bank which our national office staff maintains and updates. Back issues of "The Braille Forum" and some access to state affiliate publications and web pages are also a part of our web page. We expect to do much more with it over the next year. We hope that by the time you read this we will also have started ACB list serves. These are mailing lists that will allow members to raise questions and that will allow ACB to send information to members automatically.
One of our state affiliates has recently raised a serious question about our job bank. Its members have asked whether it is appropriate for us to be disseminating information such as this electronically when it is not being made available in other ways. Even if we accept the need to use the new technology for emergencies, should we use it for other things when we don't make the same information available through the telephone lines? My answer is a resounding yes. We must. There is just too much of a gap between what we can afford to do with telephones and the opportunity we have to make more information available to our members. The reality is that we can send out information to our members at virtually no cost that will keep them better informed about trends, legislation, and jobs. If we fail to do this, we are depriving our people of vital information that they can use. By making this decision are we in fact creating an information elite within our organization? Perhaps we are. I am not sure. I think there are some steps we can take to lessen the impact of our approach. Mark Richert should work with state affiliates as should Holly Fults to help them to find ways to identify computer people in their affiliates and to give them the job of spreading information to those members who do not have computers. Also we will continue to use the Washington Connection and "The Braille Forum" to take the most important of the information and summarize it. We will also look at new telephone technology that may allow us to make more information available than we now do. The cost of our 800 number is very high, however. Our budget for telephones is nearly $50,000 a year. We can certainly look at spending a larger proportion of our funds on telephone access but members should know that the dollars we allocate for this will be dollars we will not have to spend on other things.
Information is the most vital commodity of the 1990s. ACB, the law and plunging computer costs are all making accessing it more affordable. Our efforts must be aimed at making more of our members able to access information. There are lots of ways we can work on this. The Hadley School just announced a program where it will give away older computers to people who will commit to working to master them. This still means that we have to spend money to buy access technology and that's not cheap. Florida's Division of Blind Services Advisory Council has just about finished putting together a program that will make grants for access technology available to those who don't qualify for rehabilitation service. The state of Maine has passed an access technology loan bill. There are other options available in other states. On the west coast, a group of folks have set up a program to which people can donate older access technology for tax deductions. These are some of the ways we can work at our state and local levels to get technology into the hands of more of our members. And that is the direction we must go!
Instead of limiting the ways we disseminate information, we must work to expand the options that enable our members to get more access to it. We must use the law, innovation, and our national office to help our affiliates and our members to be drivers on the information superhighway.
Although most of the readers of "The Braille Forum" who will be attending the 1997 national convention of the American Council of the Blind in Houston will have already pre-registered, it should be pointed out that conventioneers are encouraged to look over the enormous list of interesting topics that will be covered on the various programs and to sit in on as many of them as possible. Many observers have described the variety of topics covered as a veritable smorgasbord of educational and fascinating presentations to be enjoyed. In addition to the topics and speakers mentioned in earlier issues of "The Braille Forum," consider the fact that nowhere else could you hear in less than one week presentations and discussions of such fascinating topics as traveling abroad blindly (by NABT), body language (by NABT), an extensive job fair (by NIB), mastering the challenges of aging and vision loss (by ACB Committee on Aging and Blindness), making the ADA accessible (by ACB advocacy director and others), critical legislative concerns (by ACB governmental director and others), the status of blind people in China and other parts of Asia (by ACB executive director and guests from Asia), the CD-based digital talking book machine (by LUA), the new copyright law (by LUA), the national braille literacy competency test (by BRL), the Telecommunications Act (by VIDPI), the firsthand experiences of a world-famous talking book narrator (by LUA), and "seeing" photographs and other graphic material without sight (by ABLA). And I haven't yet mentioned the plenary program and a truly exciting banquet, featuring, among many other things, presentations on voting rights, special education and "inclusion," the best ways to shop, attacks on categorical rehabilitation services for blind people, a truly "listener- friendly" update and preview of technology by an internationally known expert, changing library services, and a performance by the Theatre by the Blind. All indications at this time suggest that this year's list of exhibitors will be the largest in our history and, on top of that, they will be under the same roof with all of the meetings. In short, plan on this being one of ACB's best conventions!
Recent weeks have given many ACB officers, committee members and staff members an opportunity to meet more of the members and to take part in a variety of state affiliate conventions. Among these were visits by ACB President Paul Edwards to the Utah and Mississippi conventions, Second Vice President Steve Speicher to the Wyoming convention, board of publications member Mitch Pomerantz to the Nebraska and Iowa conventions, Assistant Treasurer Jim Olsen to the Badger Association convention, Director of Governmental Affairs Julie Carroll to the California Council convention, Director of Advocacy Services Mark Richert to the Alabama and Bay State conventions, and Executive Director Oral Miller to the Arkansas convention. Each convention featured wonderful hospitality, an outstanding educational program and an inspiring advocacy program. Some of the very important Washington area advocacy activities in recent weeks have included participation by the governmental affairs director in the lengthy meetings of the American National Standards Institute committee dealing with the proposed standards for detectable warnings, automatic teller machines and braille signs. The committee considered public comments, but made no weakening amendments to the proposed standards. During a period the executive director and the advocacy director spoke at the 11th hour to the national conference of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB). Since a few state administrators have recently questioned ACB's participation in a cross-disability coalition, it was important to remind them that ACB had been either the principal player or one of a very small handful of principal players who were at that time defending specialized services for the blind from a well-meaning but misguided attack from the National Council on Disability. The executive director also addressed the national conference of the Community Transportation Association of America. At that meeting he had an opportunity to remind the transportation planners and administrators that blind and visually impaired people do, indeed, have important transportation concerns, that there is a growing perception in the blindness community that such concerns are discounted or disregarded completely and that they as transportation providers should not sit idly by, as they do in many communities, while affluent special interests misuse the local political process to cut back or do away with transportation services sorely needed by disabled and elderly people in the community.
Advocacy and Metro
Advocacy for blind people takes place in the real world. Recently advocacy services director Mark Richert traveled out to the distant suburbs by subway (Metro) to assist the parent of a blind child in an IEP matter. On his way back into downtown Washington and while going through the Dunn Loring metro station he fell off the platform onto the tracks. Since there was no one else around, except an attendant in a far-away kiosk who may or may not have seen the accident by means of a closed-circuit TV monitor, and since Mark, very fortunately, was not disabled by the fall, he scrambled back onto the platform by himself and proceeded to put himself and his backpack back together as the attendant arrived on the scene. He was the seventh blind person to fall off a Metro platform since Christmas of 1996. And people wonder why the American Council of the Blind and other plaintiffs have filed suit to compel the installation of detectable warnings along subway platform edges?
Visit the Job Bank
As announced previously in "The Braille Forum" and on the Washington Connection, the American Council of the Blind is taking steps to publicize a greater number of job openings. You are reminded that an ever-increasing number of openings may be explored by contacting the Job Bank section of the ACB web site at http://www.acb.org. Simply click on the Job Bank link. Yes, we are exploring ways of publicizing more openings also by telephone.
The city of Houston is ready to welcome you to the great state of Texas. The convention committee, the host committee led by Dr. Ed Bradley, president of the ACB of Texas, and ACB staff are taking care of last-minute details. If you have not yet completed your pre-registration form and mailed it to the Minneapolis office, you should do so immediately. These forms must be received by June 20 if you want to take advantage of pre- registration reduced costs. Some convention functions have limited space available, so send in your completed forms early.
Please note that in the May "Braille Forum" information was included on a discounted airport-to-hotel and return fare. The cost is $20 and is available Thursday, July 3, through Sunday, July 6, and on return Thursday, July 10 to Sunday, July 13. This van transportation will be provided by Hatchwell Travel, but a reservation must be made by calling (800) 897-8750, informing Hatchwell of the date and time of your arrival. Then forward a check or money order to Hatchwell Travel, 2650 Fountainview #204, Houston, TX 77057. Credit cards will not be accepted. This must be done by June 20, 1997. Remember, there are two airports in Houston. Taxis are also available, but expensive because of the distance unless several persons are sharing the fare.
At this writing, both overflow hotels -- the Marriott West Side, (713) 558-8338, and the Red Roof Inn, (713) 785-9909 -- have vacancies. Rates at the Marriott are: single and double, $49 per night (plus tax); triple and quad, $59 per night (plus tax). At the Red Roof Inn, $46 per night (plus tax) for single and double, and $48 per night (plus tax) triple and quad. Shuttles will operate between the hotels from Friday, July 4, to Saturday, July 12 at 1:30 p.m.
The first activity of this year's convention will be the overnight tour to San Antonio July 4-5. That will depart promptly at 7:30 a.m. from the Adam's Mark. On Saturday, July 5, there will be a Houston city tour that will be repeated Sunday, July 6. Check the May "Braille Forum" and the pre- registration packet for more detailed information on tours. Also, for those who want to know more, there will be an information session on tours on Sunday at 11 a.m. in the Richmond 1 room. All tours will depart from the Adam's Mark Hotel ballroom exit. Please be present to board the buses 15 minutes before time of departure. Buses will leave at the time scheduled. Persons who are late will miss the tour and there will be no refunds unless there is a real emergency. Any changes in tour planning must be resolved with the convention registration office.
On Saturday, July 5 at 8 p.m. there will be a "Welcome to Houston!" party hosted by the ACB of Texas. There will be food and entertainment. There will also be an information meeting about the convention Saturday at 5 p.m. for those who are attending for the first time. This session will be repeated Sunday, July 6 at the same time. At 8 p.m. the opening ceremonial session of the convention will take place with the roll call of affiliates. Convention attendees should arrive in Houston early, pick up their convention packets at the registration office located in the Westchase 4 room on the left side of the ballroom foyer, and be ready for a challenging and exciting week.
For more detailed information on the variety of speakers, events, and interesting goings-on at the convention, check the "Report of the Executive Director" earlier in this issue. Some Last-Minute Changes
The Friends-In-Art Writers' Workshop is titled "Writing for Performance: A Storytelling Performance and Workshop," by John Dashney. It focuses on how stories are developed for oral presentation. Techniques for telling and recording stories will be featured, as will bibliographical resources from NLS.
The tour to the Astrodome and Houston Astros-Cincinnati Reds baseball game is Saturday, July 5, as the pre-registration packet indicates, NOT Sunday, July 6, as previously stated.
The dinner theater on Saturday, July 12, will be at The Great Caruso's restaurant, situated within walking distance of the Adam's Mark. The cost is $30. If you attend this dinner theater, which will still be a fabulous dinner and an outstanding performance, and have already paid $55, $25 will be returned to you. If you choose not to attend and have paid, the entire amount will be reimbursed.
WHAT WILL YOU FIND AT CONVENTION?
Scholarship winners: Suleyman Gokyigit gives his audience a big grin and many thanks for awarding him a scholarship. (All photos copyright 1996 by Jon B. Petersen.)
International speakers: Lola Marson of Jamaica talks about the employment of blind people in the Caribbean region.
Panels on various topics: Jamal Mazrui, Debbie Cook and Mitch Pomerantz discuss access to graphical user interfaces.
Music: The Barber Shoppers perform a selection at the banquet in Tulsa.
The Florida Council of the Blind will hold its convention at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Tallahassee, 101 S. Adams St., September 26-28. Room rates are $45 a night plus 10 percent tax. Make your reservations no later than Sept. 5 by calling (800) 222-8733 or (904) 224-5000. Amtrak and Greyhound stations are nearby, as are several restaurants. The State Capitol Building and other places are also within walking distance. Come see Tallahassee!
At the ACB national convention, ACB Radio Amateurs will use the two- meter frequency of 147.48 mHz. simplex as a communications channel. We will attempt to follow the plan of listening on frequency at the hour, plus or minus five minutes, for calls to ACBRA. Of course, one might find us there at other times, so feel free to break in. Also, we have been in touch with the Houston-based Northwestern Amateur Radio Society concerning its repeater. The repeater is on 146.66 with 600 down, with no PL and no autopatch. It has generally good coverage of Houston and the area in which the convention hotels lie.
Please plan to attend the annual ACBRA meeting on Thursday, July 10, 1997 from 13:30 to 16:30 local time. At that time, there will be election of officers. Work is being done toward a finished copy of the ACBRA constitution for presentation at that time.
We are eager to have you as a member of our group. I can provide you with details and would like to hear from you. 73, please QSL? Please contact Robert Rogers (K8CO), 1121 Morado Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45238; phone (513) 762-4022. I do return calls. My e-mail address is: [email protected]
On April 26, 1997, the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the ACB, in cooperation with the Price Hill Lions Club of Cincinnati, again hosted a picnic at Sharon Woods, a park on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Those attending, 60 in all, were members of ACB, the Lions Club, and the NFB of Cincinnati. The Lions, with the leadership of Tim Roedersheimer, provided cooks at the grills, guides for two hikes, and that indispensable facility of transportation to and from the picnic.
This was the fourth annual picnic of this sort (the first was held in 1994). Joyce Rogers of the ACB of Cincinnati and Tim Roedersheimer of the Lions worked out the details of the picnic that spring of 1994. It came after a five-mile hike through Sharon Woods. Not all of the 14 present hiked that day, but all enjoyed the wonderful spring weather and the food. It seemed to work out so well that Joyce and Tim made sure it was repeated in subsequent years, each one better than the previous year.
The picnic included members of the Cincinnati NFB as guests, but this isn't to imply the NFB'ers and the ACB'ers always see eye to eye on philosophy. It does say we all enjoy the company of one another. The two organizations have worked together on projects in the interest of blindness issues in the community to achieve common goals. I guess one of them was to have picnics together. Tim and Joyce believe the picnic will continue as a much anticipated annual event.
I have lived in New York for two years and I can't find them!
I have heard about "them" in Washington, D.C., Miami, Houston, L.A. and all points in between. Why can't I find "the elusive New Yorker?" I've been told they're easy to spot by their callous, impersonal, impolite and arrogant manner dealing with people and situations. I had expected to meet these abrasive, ill-mannered people every time I walked down the street. I'm still looking after all these months.
My inability to find these people has nothing to do with the fact that I am legally blind and use a white cane. By legally blind, I mean that I have little more than light perception in one eye and no useful vision in the other. My eyesight renders the world like a Monet painting. I interpret what little I see through the filter of memory and imagination with more than a little dash of emotion. I have no depth perception and a dark spot on the sidewalk can be a shadow, a hole, or an asphalt patch. Before I moved to Manhattan, I was certain that my getting around the city would be impeded by the New Yorker of legend. I realized that my white cane would not be sufficient to deal with these monsters and I would probably need a seeing eye Veloci Raptor.
What I feared would be my first encounter with the New Yorker of legend was my first attempt to ride solo on a New York City bus. I'd been given detailed instructions from a friend as to how to reach the nearest number 10 bus that would get me to upper Central Park West.
When I reached the point that I hoped would be the bus stop, I approached a blurred form and asked, "Is this a bus stop, and if it is, does the number 10 stop here?"
The voice from the blur, that of an elderly lady, informed me that the 10 did stop there but that the bus that was arriving was a 104. She boarded the bus and I waited. A few minutes later, another bus pulled up to the stop. Before I could approach the driver, two different voices, one young and one old, said, "It's another 104." I waited again and another bus approached. Again, three or four unasked voices said, "It's another 104." I was later to learn that the Metropolitan Transit Authority thought that the number 104 was the number of buses you ran between two number tens. A few minutes later, another bus arrived and a chorus of a half dozen voices chimed, "That's a number 10."
My first thought was these incredibly helpful people must all be from out of town. Over the months, I began to wonder if this was a town of mostly tourists.
Before moving to New York, I worked for almost 20 years in Washington, D.C. I worked in the bureaucracy on both sides of Capitol Hill and in the White House. Although legally blind since birth, a degenerative eye condition has caused me to use a white cane for the last four years. During the two years before I left Washington I had used my cane daily and not one person in Washington, D.C. approached me on the street and asked if I needed assistance. I knew Washington extremely well and never did need assistance so this fact had no impact on me.
In New York I've discovered that if I stand on a corner waiting for a light to change, someone will generally ask if I need any help crossing the street. I don't think I look any more helpless in New York than I did in Washington, although it's possible. I've actually tried to concentrate on looking alert, but it doesn't help.
The blurs that approach me seem to cover the broad range of humanity. Male as often as female, young as often as old, and with a wider variety of accents than I would expect to hear at an embassy party in Washington.
Where are the New Yorkers?
I haven't changed but the people on the streets certainly have. I'm beginning to re-evaluate John F. Kennedy's statement that Washington, D.C. was the best of both worlds: northern hospitality and southern efficiency. I never thought I'd live to see the day when I'd come to the realization that New York was a more friendly city than Washington, D.C.
Speaking English is not always a prerequisite for helping me. On one of my visits to my tea and coffee emporium, I was caught by every traffic light between 55th and 43rd. Halfway through my trek, I was waiting for the light to change when a blur well under five feet with a heavy, ancient Italian accent said "walk" as it grabbed my elbow. The little old blur practically dragged me across the street. I thanked the elderly gentleman and went on my way. While waiting for the next light to change, I felt the tug at my elbow again, and once again heard the word "walk." I didn't have the heart to tell the little fella that I was in no hurry and just out for a stroll. I went into overdrive making certain I would beat the next light and leave my benefactor far behind so I could enjoy the rest of my walk in peace.
There are a number of blind people in this country who resent being asked if they need assistance. They can become violent by simply being asked if they need help in crossing the street. They will fly into a rage if you attempt to take their elbow unsolicited. On the latter point they're justified; you should never grab a blind person and then ask if they need assistance. It can be a terrifying experience under most circumstances. However, on the busy streets of New York, I don't have time to preach proper etiquette to someone who is simply trying to help.
These small annoyances aside, I'm ready to admit that the elusive New Yorkers of song and legend are either not the cold, impersonal creatures they're cracked up to be, or that when they see my cane these people must dive for the first open doorway and I've been dealing with a group of very nice, considerate and likable tourists.
If the reflections are right I can see a puddle of water in my path. If the reflections are not right a wet sock tells me a puddle of water was in my path. One day, attempting to step across a narrow puddle I was suddenly grasped by the arm and led around the narrow pool by a blur with long blond hair and a Hispanic accent. "Agua, agua, agua" was all she said; luckily I know a few Spanish words. A few months later I again attempted to step across a narrow pool of water and two blurs with French accents who knew a little English took me by the elbow and led me past the pool saying "water, water, water." In both instances I thanked the blurs and went on my way.
I tend to daydream between the short blocks, so I don't keep count. When I think I'm in the general area of the street I am looking for, I'll ask the nearest blur the number of the street. One day while walking up Fifth Avenue I asked a blur what the next street number was. His oriental mumble was incoherent and I realized he couldn't understand my question. As I walked on I suddenly realized there was a person walking close beside me who stepped ahead and was suddenly facing me. In the halting English of a deaf person, she leaned forward and slowly said, "Did you ask him what the street number was?" "Yes," I replied. "It's 46th Street," she said. I thanked her and she turned and walked in the opposite direction. I thought to myself, I've heard of the blind leading the blind, but only in New York could the deaf lead the blind.
The Washington, D.C. subway system is super modern and color-coded. Instead of numbers, they have the red, blue, orange, green and yellow lines. Although by law they are required to announce the color of the train arriving, sometimes they forget. On a number of occasions I would turn to an individual and ask "Is this a blue or an orange?" Too often the answer was "yes."
Public transportation was one of my major fears in moving to New York, particularly in mastering the New York subway system. Of course I was afraid to be mugged, but in New York there was a time when the term subway and mugging were synonyms.
The first few times I rode New York's subway system I assumed the worst. One afternoon at rush hour I stepped off a D train at Rockefeller Center and immediately was grabbed by a tall blur. My first thought was who the hell would be dumb enough to mug somebody at rush hour at Rockefeller Center? A husky male Hispanic voice said, "Don't hit the girder." He led me around the steel girder and was barely able to make it into the train I had just exited.
Of course I knew the girder was there. Not only have I collided with a few of them, I've asked several for directions. They've never been very helpful and I do wish the MTA would stop painting so many of them in dark colors.
Columbus Circle is my home base and within a few months I had mastered the number 1, number 9, A, B, C and D trains. My system was simple: as I reached the platform I would look for a blur that did not resemble a steel girder. As a train pulled in, I would ask the blur, depending on the platform, the number or letter of the train. Should the closest blur not understand English, I would ask a blur leaving the train.
Once as a train pulled in I turned to a very short, gray-topped blur that barely reached my belt buckle. "Which train is this?" I asked.
An elderly and strongly accented female voice said, "Z."
"Z?" I asked.
"Z!" she repeated.
In the year I had been riding this particular line I knew that only the A and the D used the tracks.
"Z?" I asked one more time.
In a loud and irritated voice she said, "Z as in zog!"
Suddenly I realized that whatever her country of origin, Lassie was a zog. I barely made the D train.
My first trek alone in Central Park I felt like Columbus. I didn't know where I was going. I didn't know where I was when I got there, and when I left I didn't know where I'd been, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. Each exploration gives me more familiarity and confidence and the realization that someday I'll learn how to find my way out of the park without asking blurs.
I have lectured on design, photography, and disability civil rights from Quebec City to Seoul, Korea, and most points in between. Why is it that I have never received so many unsolicited offers of assistance as I have experienced in New York? In my 20 years as an advocate and lecturer I never received so many offers of help as I have received the last two years in New York City.
In 1991 a Louis Harris Poll found that 58 percent of individuals interviewed felt uncomfortable, anxious, or embarrassed in the presence of a person with a disability. The most startling part of the poll, for people outside the field of disability civil rights, was that 47 percent of those interviewed said they felt actual fear.
The fear was based on the stereotypes, negative images and myths that have been used against people with disabilities for millennia. "The fear factor" is responsible for keeping people with disabilities from society's mythical mainstream.
Perhaps my treatment at the hands of New Yorkers has to do with the fact that they have had to suffer also from almost universal negative images, myths and stereotypes, or perhaps the typical New Yorker has no fear of anything.
Now that the warm weather is here, it's time to think about all the things that make summer so much fun -- like the smell of a backyard cookout on a warm Sunday afternoon. I had always assumed that cooking on a grill required some sight; but, after hearing that a totally blind friend of mine had successfully managed it, I decided to see what I could do. It turned out to be far easier than I thought, and I'd like to share the experience.
A word of warning before you don your chef's outfit and rush off to the nearest department store, credit card in hand. If you're going to use a grill of any kind, you'll be working around an open flame, and you have to expect a certain amount of heat. There are several easy ways to manage both, as you'll see later, but if you're frightened by the prospect of having your hands near the fire, my advice is to sit back, enjoy the aroma, eat the food, and let someone else do the cooking.
The most essential item for outdoor cooking is, of course, the grill. There are two types -- those that burn charcoal briquettes and those that run on propane gas. I ruled out charcoal-burning grills because I didn't want to mess around with briquettes and lighter fluid. I also knew that when you cook with charcoal, you have to let the fire burn down to the point where the coals glow red hot before you can put anything onto the grill. This requires more patience than I have. Furthermore, I've noticed that many sighted people have trouble mastering the fine art of controlling a charcoal flame. I prefer a gas grill for two reasons: there's almost no mess involved, and the flame is controlled by simply turning a dial. You don't even have to worry about matches, since most gas grills have an electric igniter which lights the gas at the touch of a button.
Gas grills come in several shapes and sizes, and cost anywhere from $100 to $300. I chose a Sunbeam for $169, which looked reasonably well- built, but didn't have lots of features that I thought I might never use. I may someday outgrow this grill, but for now it is quite adequate. Incidentally, the grill will have to be assembled. This takes about two hours, and requires the aid of a friend.
Before you can start using your new grill, make sure that the grill's propane tank has been filled. This means a trip to a gas station, or some other place equipped to fill propane tanks. Remember that propane is a highly explosive fuel, so read and heed the accompanying instructions for its use and storage.
Before you start to dazzle your friends with culinary wonders, you need to assemble your arsenal of tools for handling the food. First on the list is a good pair of oven mitts. I prefer the kind that come up to the elbow. After all, summer is the time for short sleeved shirts, and there's no sense in burning your arms. Next, you'll need something to turn the food. Some people like to use a long-handled fork for this purpose, but I prefer a double spatula because I think it gives me better control. If you can't find one of these spatulas in your favorite cookware store, they are available from Ann Morris Enterprises, Easier Ways, and several other places.
While the double-sided spatula works well with steaks and other large pieces of meat, it's practically useless for manipulating hot dogs or chicken legs, which can roll around on the grill. It's equally unsuited for flipping hamburgers because of their tendency to break and crumble. In these situations, a wire basket is the perfect solution. Available in department stores, these baskets come in several shapes and sizes, depending on the type of food they're designed to hold. I bought two of them; one designed to hold up to four hamburger patties, and the other (called a "barbecue basket") intended for more general use. While the hamburger basket is smaller and more maneuverable, the barbecue basket will hold pieces of chicken, lamb chops, or even various types of fish.
Now that you're equipped with all the necessary utensils, it's time to fire up the grill and begin cooking. Most grills have two burners, each of which is controlled by a knob with a pointer. Fortunately for us, grills have not yet become as high tech as some other appliances -- no digital displays or touch-sensitive keypads to confuse and confound us -- just two rotating knobs with pointers that we can actually feel! Each pointer swings in an arc running from about 12:30 (off) to 9:30 (highest intensity flame) to 5:30 (lowest intensity). I do most of my cooking with the pointer set somewhere between 6 and 7 o'clock. You'll have to experiment a bit here, since the position of the control may vary from grill to grill. In general, however, you use the lower flame for chicken and other small pieces of meat which need to cook more slowly, while the higher settings are more suitable for steaks. Be careful not to use the highest setting, or you'll end up with something more appropriate for a fire sale than a cookout.
Once you get the flame properly adjusted, you'll find that your success as a backyard cook depends on timing. Here again, you'll have to experiment, although there are a few simple principles to keep in mind. At the risk of stating the obvious, thicker pieces of meat require more time to cook than thinner ones. Generally, I cook steaks anywhere from six to eight minutes per side. Pork chops and chicken take from 10 to 12 minutes per side, and seem to come out best with a low flame (the pointer on the control between six and six-thirty). The optimum cooking time for swordfish is about eight minutes, again, depending on the thickness of the cut. You may want to have a sighted friend inspect your handiwork the first few times, but once you draw up your own list of optimal cooking times, you'll find that your results are pretty consistent.
Now that we've covered the basics, you're ready to venture into the wonderful world of backyard barbecuing. I hope that you too will discover how much fun it can be. Bon appetit!
Dear Mr. Crabb:
In the January 1997 issue of "The Braille Forum," you published an editorial called "The Full Inclusionists Just Don't Get It." As an inclusionist I must take issue with some of your points.
First of all, as I said, I am a pro-mainstreaming advocate, but with an important proviso: that a qualified resource teacher be available to teach the necessary alternative skills for blind children to compete in the public school system.
I spent most of my school career in public school with the exception of three months of my fourth-grade year, when my parents placed me in what was then called the Louisiana School for the Blind in Baton Rouge in 1959. I was not prepared for what I encountered.
Students practically had to ask the house parent for permission to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. You even had to be careful which of your fellow students you confided in, as many of them loved to score brownie points with the house parents by tattling on others for petty nonsense for the express purpose of getting them in trouble; and the new students usually bore the brunt of such treatment. The teachers we had were often rejects from the regular school system.
And another interesting thing was that out of the entire L.S.B. student body, only a friend of mine and I were the right age for the grade we were supposed to be in. It was not uncommon to find teenagers in first, second or third grade, and not necessarily because they were learning-disabled, but because the faculty or staff would put you back a grade in an eye blink.
I'm glad you had inspirational teachers who expected something of you, and I agree with you that being blind does not entitle you to free rides at the amusement park; and maybe there are cases of grade manipulation in the public school system, but blind people have to compete with the sighted all their lives and they may as well learn how to do it early.
I also agree that children can be cruel at times, but any time there is someone a bit different around, that is likely to happen. You just have to roll with the punches and play the cards you're dealt.
I can tell you that the resource teacher we had in New Orleans was hard and demanding to the point of being psychologically abusive, but we learned. The exclusionists just don't understand that the problem is not and never has been mainstreaming; it has been the lack of qualified itinerant teachers to teach the necessary skills. No one in their right mind would ever suggest that a blind child be placed in public school without learning braille, typing, mobility or any other necessary skill, but to knock the entire public school system just for a few isolated incidents and sing the praises of a residential school system that has been far less productive is unfair.
There may be some incidents of cheating, test score and grade manipulation and such, but what about residential schools that continue to use outdated textbooks long dropped by the regular school systems, or lowering their curriculum to the lowest common denominator so that the learning-disabled can get through school?
Admittedly public schools are more deficient in their teaching practices today, but even the worst public school system is far less detrimental than the residential school system which has shortchanged blind students for years without even being held accountable for it.
For those who must attend residential schools, why should they have to settle for less of a quality education than those who do not?
In summary, I admit that both mainstreaming and the public school systems are not perfect, but frankly, I wouldn't wish a residential school on my worst enemy.
In response to article about FDR memorial
In response to the April "Braille Forum" article, "Disability-Rights Advocates Protest Design of Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial," by Charles S.P. Hodge, it seems to me that FDR had a personality, an ego, a personal and public image, and he has the right to show those things in whatever way he chooses. I do not like the history revisionists making God and people into whatever they want. Alexander the Great was never portrayed as a homosexual. George Washington was never portrayed as an ambitious man but poor military strategist. Lincoln was called "Honest Abe." Napoleon and Teddy Roosevelt were not famous because of being very very short. Ray Charles is not portrayed as denying his blindness by substituting "imagine" for "sight." And when Newt accepted that $300,000 loan from Dole, did he say, "Thanks, Lefty?" Nope. Let history be what it is -- history. FDR was known to us as the president who led our country through a depression and a world war. To stand tall, he does not need the help of the wheelchair.
In response to "Who Are We?"
A reply to President Paul Edwards' question in the March issue of "The Braille Forum," "who are we?"
What a provocative question!
Consider me (Fay Lentz, Prevention of Blindness, Consultant for the Beaver County Association for the Blind, Beaver Falls, Pa.) an objective observer.
"Who are we?" in reference to the people who are blind in America. I see the people who are blind as members of society, each of whom has his or her own distinctive personality. I see the people who are blind as people who communicate what is meaningful to them, and what is or is not meaningful as defined by their blindness.
The life of a person who is blind is very complex. To ignore that fact is to run the risk of faulty generalization, something that is often done.
Then too, you must realize every person in this world is first a very complex individual. Everyone wants independence, everyone strives to be the best no matter who the opponent might be. So back to the question, "Who are we?" My answer: the majority of people who are blind in America are social people working on social changes for the betterment of society.
(Reprinted from "The Promotor," Winter 1997.)
(Editor's Note: Mention the word "transportation" in a room full of blind and visually impaired people, and you won't find many smiling and laughing about it. Transportation, or the lack of it, is such a seminal part of our lives that few of us find much that is humorous about it. We found this story in the newsletter of the North Dakota Association for the Blind, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. We found the author's perspective on the frustrations of transportation refreshing and unique.)
Because I don't see well enough to drive a car, I spend an enormous amount of time waiting to ride with someone else. This has proven to be quite an interesting pastime and study in human nature over the years.
While wars rage on in parts of the world and people do incredibly evil things to one another, I have been fortunate to discover many big-hearted folks who are very kind. More times than not, people are willing to give someone a ride, just for the asking.
The people whom I find the most interesting, however, fall into two major categories. The first is filled with those who would have given me a ride if they had known I was going to want one. I call them the "would'ves."
I find these guys at any place where it is humanly possible to stand and wait for a ride. In short, everywhere! I guess it would be more accurate to say they find me. All "would'ves" have two characteristics: willingness and tardiness. They always find me standing at a store's entrance with my coat zipped and my hands in my pockets waiting for a ride. The spotting always occurs just after I have finished my shopping and I have called to get a ride from the local cab company, my spouse or anyone else who possesses a valid driver's license and a set of wheels. I am never, ever spotted before the call for a ride is made.
I am always waiting with lots of stuff near at hand. I am usually accompanied by a hefty mound of groceries, which fill to overflowing a metal cart, or bags stuffed with shopping bargains I just couldn't pass up. Sometimes I'm found by a "would've" waiting outside the health club at the end of the day with my gym bag in one hand and briefcase in the other.
The well-intentioned "would've" appears and announces his or her presence with a cheery greeting. Immediately he questions my apparent state of waiting. "Are you waiting for a ride?" the "would've" queries. I have decided the "would've's" question must be of a rhetorical nature, as none have waited for my answer, but just keep right on talking. "If I would've known you needed a ride," they continue, "I would've given you one." While the offer is genuine, heartfelt and truly appreciated, this interaction has happened hundreds of times, and I know not one of them has stopped to listen to himself.
I have often wondered how I was to know that particular "would've" was in the area so I could know to ask him or her for a ride before calling for one.
The second category of people who also seemingly need to identify for themselves the fact that I am waiting for a ride are called the "wanna knows." These guys, however, are apparently not as sure as the "would haves" that I am in fact waiting and inquire to confirm the accuracy of their hunch. "Waitin' for a ride?" or "Ya gotta ride comin'?" they say as they stroll by. These guys are also different from the "would'ves" in the fact that they probably wouldn't have offered me a ride if they would have known I was needing one in the near future. I believe this because not one has ever offered. They just want to know, so they ask! They are curious by nature, and as preschoolers were probably the kind of kids who after being told what would happen still put bobby pins in electrical outlets just to see for themselves. They have to know for sure whether I am in fact waiting for a ride, so they ask.
The one thing the "wanna knows" share in common with the "would'ves" is the silliness factor. They, like their kin in the first group, have no idea what they are saying.
After many years of mulling over this topic, I think I have finally come up with a plan. It will be my contribution to really help out the "would'ves" who live in my community. I will announce at the beginning of every meeting I attend that I will be needing a ride home afterwards. After being dropped off at the farm and ranch show held at the local community center to browse, I will shout from the doorway so participants can begin making their plans to get me back home again as I will be ready to leave in about an hour. On those rare occasions I attend church without my spouse and son, I will be the first announcement. I will tell everyone who I see as I begin each shopping excursion of my need for a ride home in a while. I figure this will put all those "would'ves" on sufficient notice and afford each the opportunity to make good in retrospect on their transportation offers.
Right before I go through the checkout line I will have the courtesy counter announce over the in-store intercom, "Janelle will soon leave the building!" I will be sort of like a "blue light special." Upon hearing that resounding message, all of those "would'ves" will come running like a stampeding herd of cattle. They will have to draw straws or flip coins to see who gets to take me and my stuff out the door and down the road. I believe if I am consistent with this plan every time I go anywhere, the "would'ves" will have no regrets.
I am not too sure what I can do for those "wanna knows." I've got a little streak of smart aleck in me that wants to come out and play when I am questioned by one of these folks.
The problem is that I don't always think fast enough, and maybe for the sake of the manners my mother taught me, it is a good thing. If I would have the time to think when questioned by a "wanna know," I'm afraid the smart aleck would prevail. I would say, "No, I really haven't made any plan for getting home. I thought I would just hang around by this door and wait to see who showed up to get me out of here." I might also answer by saying, "I'm waiting for a chariot of fire from heaven. One is about due, you know."
As long as there are cars, drivers and places to go, I will continue to wait for a ride. Thanks to all my friends, family and hundreds of other people who have taken me hither and yon over the years. Thanks too to the "would'ves" and "wanna knows." You guys are really interesting! You have given me yet one more topic on which to write!
The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.
** ACB REPORTS
Do you have an interesting or unusual career or hobby? If you do, ACB Radio wants to know about you. Laura Oftedahl, producer and host of this monthly news magazine, will be interviewing blind and visually impaired people for the program at the ACB national convention in Houston. If you are attending and would like to tell your story to blind and visually impaired people nationwide, contact Laura to set up an interview. Contact Laura at Echo Communications, 104 Coolidge Hill Rd., Unit 7, Watertown, MA 02172, or call (617) 923-7768 before 9 p.m. Eastern, or e-mail her at [email protected]
** WINDOWS TUTORIALS
CrissCross Technologies has a new series of tutorials on tape designed to help speech users learn to use Windows 3.x and Windows 95. The tapes take the listeners through the basics of starting up Windows and into using screen- reader features to simulate mouse movement. "Speaking of Windows ... 3.x" is on four 90-minute tapes and sells for $50; "Speaking of Windows 95" is on six cassettes and sells for $60. For more information, contact Crista Earl at (718) 268-6988 or [email protected]
** TAPING FOR THE BLIND
Taping For The Blind, in conjunction with the George Observatory, a satellite facility of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, has prepared a taped, audio-described tour of the George Observatory Visitor's Center and Telescopes. Visually impaired individuals will hear descriptions of the exhibits, displays and telescopes. The Visitor's Center and telescopes are open to the public on Saturdays from 3 to 10 p.m. For more information, contact Jennifer Silva at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, (713) 639- 4613.
** KELLER AWARENESS
Are you in the dark about people who are deaf-blind? Participate with agencies and organizations worldwide in the Helen Keller National Center's 1997 awareness campaign focusing on independence and participation of deaf-blind people in their communities. The campaign begins in June and continues throughout the year. For more information, contact the Public Relations Department, Helen Keller National Center, 111 Middle Neck Rd., Sands Point, N.Y. 11050, or call Barbara Hausman at (516) 944-8900, extension 325.
** AWARD WINNER
Mary Clardy of the Lighthouse of Houston is the winner of National Industries for the Blind's National Blind Employee of the Year Award. She is a graduate of the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee, as well as from Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind and the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center in Austin, Texas. The Lighthouse hired her in 1983 to work on contract assembly jobs; when a clerical program began there, she convinced her counselor at the Texas Commission for the Blind to enroll her in it. She is now one of six telephone switchboard operators at the VA Medical Center.
** NIB JOB OPENINGS
National Industries for the Blind's associated agencies are beginning to operate base supply centers for military installations and have openings for operations managers, store managers, assistant store managers, store clerks and warehouse clerks. Basic requirements are: high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate; know how to operate computerized cash registers and related office equipment; good interpersonal skills; able to work as a member of a team. Higher-level positions require direct experience in a base supply center operation. Wages and benefits vary with employer. For more information, contact Kathleen Gallagher, National Industries for the Blind, 1900 N. Beauregard St., Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22311-1727; phone (703) 578- 8343, or e-mail [email protected]
** SHADOWS IN THE DARK
Shadows in the Dark, a producer of braille pictured greeting cards, has moved. The company's new address is: Shadows in the Dark, 4600 Pine Hill Rd., Shreveport, LA 71107-2716; phone (318) 459-1426; e-mail [email protected] The company has cards for birthdays, anniversaries, Easter, thank you, St. Patrick's Day, sympathy, get well, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, Valentine's Day, teacher and friendship. For ordering information, contact Shadows in the Dark at the address above.
** T-SHIRTS FOR SALE
ACB of Metropolitan Chicago is selling T-shirts with "The Great Chicago" on them, featuring a silhouette of the city skyline, in sizes medium, large and extra large. T-shirts are $7 each. Contact Patti Lanphear, 509 Kiowa Cir., Unit 204, Naperville, IL 60565; (630) 961-2007.
** SWEET BLESSINGS
Sweet Blessings is a combination prayer ministry and customized gift service. Gift items are bakery products. There are 45 products listed in the catalog. If you would like a recorded catalog, or have any questions, call (860) 525-1759.
** GALILEO READS
Galileo is the newest reading machine for the blind. To use it, place whatever printed matter you want to read on the glass; close the lid and press a button. Within a short time it will read the contents of the item to you. Once you've read it, you can store it for future reference and even make electronic copies. You can also hear your text in a variety of languages: French, German, or Spanish. It's a stand-alone reading machine that can also connect to your computer and transfer information back and forth between the two. Galileo can also translate faxes into text and read them aloud. Galileo is available from Technologies for the Visually Impaired, 9 Nolan Ct., Hauppauge, N.Y. 11788; phone (516) 724-4479.
** WINDOWS 95
"Windows 95 Explained: A Guide for Blind and Visually Impaired Users," by Sarah Morley, is now available from RNIB Customer Services, P.O. Box 173, Petersborough, PE2 6WS, United Kingdom. It is available on disk, print, braille, and tape; each version costs seven UK pounds. The book describes the Windows 95 concepts, provides a listing of keyboard commands and a glossary. For more information, call RNIB at 011 44 1733 370 777 (within the UK, 0345- 456-457), or e-mail [email protected]
** AFB PACKET
The American Foundation for the Blind has available a packet of consumer information materials for older people who are losing their vision, and their families and friends. Fact sheets -- "What Is Low Vision?," "Maintaining Your Independence," and "Tips for Home and Travel" -- are included, as well as resource lists describing helpful organizations, books and adaptive devices. For a free single copy, contact Judy Scott, Director, American Foundation for the Blind Southwest, 260 Treadway Plaza, Dallas, TX 75235; phone (214) 352- 7222; e-mail [email protected]
** ALADDIN XL
The Aladdin XL Personal Reader from Telesensory is now available. It is a black-and-white system that's easy to use, with a 19-inch display and high contrast. The monitor sits directly on top of the camera body and is secured at the back to a tilt bracket, minimizing glare on the viewing screen. Aladdin XL also includes the Shadow Mask, also found on the Aladdin Pro series, which highlights a portion of the screen while dimming the rest. For more information, contact Telesensory at (800) 227-8418.
** NOD WEB SITE
The National Organization on Disability has a site on the World Wide Web. Its address is http://www.nod.org. Images have descriptive phrases attached to them; all icons have optional text navigational links. The site provides information about NOD's programs, including the Community Partnership Program, National Organization Partnership Program, CEO Council, and Religion and Disability Program. The site was designed and developed by InterActive Development Corporation of Silver Spring, Md.
** SURF THE NET
"Top Netsearch Guide: How To Find What You Want To Find On The Internet" is now available from Top Dot Enterprises. This recorded tutorial teaches the user how to use Altavista, the most comprehensive index to the World Wide Web, as well as how to use Yahoo and other important directories of Internet resources, how and why to search Usenet using Altavista and DejaNews, how to find information on a wide variety of topics of broad interest, and how to accomplish all these things using e-mail. The tutorial is available in two- track and four-track versions, and comes with a supplemental disk containing an html file of pointers to the resources discussed, as well as other files of interest. The two-track version costs $22.50; the four-track, $19.50. Add $2 for shipping for either version. Contact Top Dot Enterprises, 8930 11th Pl. SE, Everett, WA 98205; phone (425) 335-4894; e-mail [email protected]; or via the web at http://www.eskimo.com/~deamar. Tutorials for Windows 95 may also be available; please check with the company.
** FOUR-NIGHT CRUISE
Travel by Touch Ltd. specializes in travel for the visually impaired. The company is offering a four-night cruise December 1-5 aboard the ship Viking Serenade. The itinerary currently reads as follows: Monday, Dec. 1, departing Los Angeles at 4:45 p.m.; Tuesday, Dec. 2, Catalina Island; Wednesday, Dec. 3, San Diego; Thursday, Dec. 4, Ensenada, Mexico; Friday, Dec. 5, return to Los Angeles. Rates per person, double occupancy (including insurance), are: Category L, inside cabin, Pacific deck $295; Category G, outside cabin, Pacific & main decks $345; and category F, outside cabin, Star, Club & Cabaret decks $355. An initial $100 deposit per person is due immediately to reserve first choice cabins. Make all checks payable to Revel Travel Service and send to P.O. Box 491546, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Another installment is due July 25. The final payment is due October 3. Port charges and tax add $88.50 per person to the prices listed above. For more information, contact Barry or Flora at (310) 473-0653 or toll-free (888) 868-2455, or contact Rena or SaraLee at Revel Travel Service, (310) 553-5555 or (800) 227-3835. Rates and arrangements are subject to change. There are penalties for cancellation. For every cabin booked, Travel by Touch Ltd. will contribute to a vision-oriented non-profit organization. Travel by Touch can also arrange individual and group travel worldwide, including sea and inland cruises, land tours and air travel. The firm has recently associated with a full service travel agency, Revel Travel Service.
In recent years, one of the areas of the country that I have genuinely enjoyed visiting fairly frequently is southern Louisiana, or Cajun country. The warmth of this region's inhabitants, along with their very special culture, has charmed me and led me to a real abiding interest in Cajun music, which ordinarily features the accordion and the fiddle. As my interest in Cajun music has developed, more and more of my friends from Louisiana would tell me tidbits of anecdotal information about the fabled Iry Lejune, the young blind French Cajun accordion virtuoso who was killed in a fluke highway accident at the age of 25 in the fall of 1954.
Iry Lejune was born on October 28, 1928 to poor French Cajun parents who lived on and worked a farm near Church Point, La. Lejune soon developed severe eye problems, and was a low partial who wore Coke bottle-type glasses throughout most of his life. Because of his visual impairment the young Lejune could not perform independently many of the farming chores that his family performed daily. He did, however, have one superior talent which he learned from his uncle, Angelos Lejune, a well-known Cajun accordion player, and other musically inclined relatives. Iry could play the heck out of the French accordion.
Young Iry would place his beloved accordion in a flour sack, sling the sack over his shoulder, and hitchhike a ride the six miles into Church Point on Saturday afternoons. He would then go into one or more of the local beer halls, pull up a chair alongside the ever-present pool table, announce who he was and that he was going to play the accordion. Once the patrons heard his music, they would shower the pool table with tips in the form of coins. While Iry claimed to be blind, my friends who were eyewitnesses to these early performances say with a chuckle that Iry never missed picking up a single one of those tips, since that was the way he was scratching out a living.
In the mid-1940s, the young Lejune went to Houston, Texas, and recorded a 78 rpm record for a small recording company. The company, however, did not have the resources to promote and distribute the record properly, and the disillusioned Lejune returned to his home in Lacasine, La.
Iry still believed that he had the talent to become a star in the recording world. He got his chance in 1947 when he heard that disk jockey Eddie Schuller had a daily show on radio station KPLC in Lake Charles, La., and that Schuller's show contained a 15-minute segment where anyone who played a musical instrument could come in and play on the air. Well, you guessed it, Iry with his French accordion in a flour sack showed up on Eddie Schuller's doorstep asking to play on the amateur segment. Eddie put Iry on the air, and the young accordion player was a smash hit among Schuller's listeners. However, the station owner was not a fan of Cajun accordion music and ordered Schuller not to bring Lejune back on his show.
But Schuller recognized talent when he saw it. He had formed a small record company, Gold Band Records, and he and Lejune quickly reached a gentleman's agreement that they would record four sides in the middle of the night in the KPLC studios when they were not being used for station purposes. The agreement stated that Schuller would use all of his contacts with other disk jockeys and radio stations throughout Louisiana and Texas to promote and distribute the records produced, and that only if positive financial results could be produced within six months from the initial recording sessions would future recording sessions result. Under this agreement, Iry Lejune went on to cut 26 sides for Gold Band Records between 1947 and his untimely demise in 1954. Virtually every one of these sides is now deemed to be a Cajun music classic. Such recordings as "The Love Bridge Waltz," "The Waltz of the Mulberry Limb," "The Church Point Breakdown" and others became wildly popular in French-speaking Louisiana and southeastern Texas. Lejune's capacity to get the right syncopated rhythm or beat from the accordion and to coax from that instrument a big, multi-faceted, almost big-band sound, are hallmarks of his accordion playing.
Unfortunately, while his legendary reputation was just beginning to grow, Lejune, while returning with his band from a village green square dance on the evening of October 8, 1954, met his flukish and untimely end. The car the band was riding in got a flat tire. While one of the band members had the car jacked up on a portable jack in an effort to repair the flat tire, Lejune was standing off to the side of the road. A speeding driver who evidently had imbibed too much alcohol came along and ran over Lejune and two other band members. Lejune's body was thrown some 125 feet off the road into the nearby swamp; he was killed instantly.
As Iry Lejune's relatively few recordings have been played and replayed by Cajun disk jockeys and radio stations over the more than four decades since his death, his reputation has also grown exponentially to the point that today, Iry Lejune is recognized as the greatest French Cajun accordion player who has ever lived. While most of us are aware of the legendary talents of such blind performers as Ray Charles, Jose Feliciano, Stevie Wonder, Ronnie Milsap, and Doc Watson, blind Louisianans should take great pride in singing the praises of the legendary Iry Lejune as one of the truly great blind musicians and performers. Iry Lejune, despite early setbacks and the odds stacked against him, nevertheless believed in his own talents and abilities. His story of achievement and success should stand as an inspiration for all blind people.
I'm a guide dog user. As I write this, I find myself in the position every dog user eventually faces -- that of retiring one guide and waiting for the time to get another. This between time is a perfect time to reflect on what a dog means to me, what a dog brings to my life, and what is involved in having a dog where dealing with other people is concerned. This time to reflect has resulted in a fascinating internal journey indeed.
Having been blind all my life, I thought nothing of traveling independently; I didn't have a cane until I was 16 years old. By then I'd had some serious accidents and had inadvertently visited some very interesting places. I remember clearly the embarrassment I felt in using a cane. "Everyone will know I'm blind!" "They will when you fall into a man-hole as well," retorted my first instructor.
Now, between dogs, I can say what I've heard all my life but in reverse: "I have an INKLING about what it's like to be sighted, now that I'm without my glasses!"
For me at least, a dog is indeed like wearing glasses and a cane clearly is not. That's because I can walk faster, longer, and in unfamiliar places and I will have a guide. Granted, my guide does not speak English, but it communicates in a very unique language. Cane travel puts a much heavier burden on me to constantly interpret everything and I must say, despite all the impositions, I'll stick with glasses! Part of what I love about walking with my four-legged glasses is the chance to think, to relax, to commune with my Higher Power. Though others might, I do not experience this freedom with a cane.
There are many inconveniences to having a dog: it needs care -- I become responsible for another living being, one who is powerless to care for itself. In this way a dog is like a child and a car or a bicycle combined. Maintenance, cleaning, check-ups, they all go with the territory. And when it's pouring or very windy or very hot, a dog is a dog is a dog.
I feel safer with a dog and this round of a dog's absence makes me recognize just how courageous one must be to go about in the world from place to place. The "no guts, no glory" attitude has taken me across several streets. It makes me have a sense of the difficulty people face who have become visually impaired. When I was younger I hated it when people told me I was courageous. Now I just say "thank you." This is because courage is what it takes and I'm grateful we all have degrees of it.
The dog's interaction with other people is both a blessing and an inconvenience. This is where the glasses concept really helps me. To walk up and compliment someone about his or her glasses might be okay; to ask someone to remove them so one can hold them or try them on is going a bit too far. To leave my glasses lying in a place where they can be knocked down, dropped, or stepped on is a big mistake. I would have a lot to lose if someone fell on my glasses and broke them, got hurt, or both! Dogs are, quite obviously, larger than glasses. But working to ensure that the dog is as unobtrusive as possible and asking others not to intrude on its ability to work and expecting to take it with me where I go is no different from our demanding that protruding objects have some type of warning, that edge detection be present before drop- offs, or that our access is guaranteed. In this case, the burden is on me as a dog user, and sometimes it's quite a burden. Some dogs are big, some dogs are stubborn, some dogs are lots of things which make negotiating with them difficult. But my friends and colleagues, sighted or blind, deserve the access to move about freely and safely, just like what I say I want.
I know one thing: I'm sure ready to hug and pet my next four-legged pair of glasses!
I've participated in numerous computer-related conversations over the past several years with a variety of people. In a great number of these conversations, Jamal Mazrui's name would pop up along with some very complimentary words about a program he created called Talking Directory. I'd hear phrases like "I'm always using it ... " and "I don't know what I'd do without it. ... "
I knew, vaguely, what Talking Directory was -- a program that would allow me to move through my directories in DOS on my computer's hard drive and manipulate the files in a variety of ways. I never felt a need to own such a program. I've always been such a hard case when it came to DOS that I felt I could always do things more quickly simply by typing in commands rather than moving through menus and the like.
When Mazrui offered me a copy of Talking Directory 2.0 to review for this magazine, I accepted eagerly, but I knew I'd be a hard sell. My mind set was that menu-driven programs were for wimps, and that if you really wanted to do the DOS dance with your machine, you had to do it from the keyboard, remembering almost endless streams of esoteric commands that aren't English at all. Since I began using Talking Directory 2.0, I've become converted to the program's seamless operation. You see, Talking Directory is far more than a menu-driven system where you move the arrow keys and hit enter to execute a program or somehow change a file. If it weren't, I'd have politely wished the author well and been unimpressed with his software. The bottom line is, if you play with this program at all, you'll be anything but unimpressed, even if you're an old command-line hard liner such as I have been. The Manual
Mazrui appears to be a rare bird indeed. In the software development world, there are those who can develop wonderful software and there are those who can write wonderful users' manuals. Usually, the two never converge in one individual. The Talking Directory 2.0 manual is concise, friendly, and even in plain English. This is not the manual to have, however, if you're pulling your computer out of the box for the first time. It assumes you know a little something about DOS (the Microsoft Disk Operating System) and how DOS works with your files and directories on your computer's hard disk. But since it says that right up front, there's no deception and no time wasted reading something you can't understand. The joy of this manual, however, is you don't have to know all things regarding DOS to succeed with the manual or the program. There's very little in here that gives you verbal whiplash. The program is not overly complex, but I don't recommend just diving into it without at least one pass through the manual. (Read it a second time while you're playing with the program; that will help solidify the concepts you'll need to make the program perform at its best.) The on-disk manual is written well enough that a single pass through it and some preliminary playing around with the program and the help information will get you up, running, and happy with the results. Installation
Talking Directory 2.0 was installed quickly and easily on my computer's hard drive. The installation routine is chatty enough that you don't need any sighted assistance to get it on your machine. The manual covers the installation procedure thoroughly, and there are no unpleasant surprises. Once installed, you simply type TD to run the program. The first time it runs, you're asked a series of questions about your hard drive -- easy questions. They're so easy, in fact, you can simply press enter to accept the answers already provided. What Can It Do?
This little program not only includes a host of its own commands, but it gives you a variety of possibilities to create your own commands so that you can enter your favorite word processor with a single keystroke, for example. It's capable of helping you view the contents of almost any word processing file regardless of what word processor was used to create it. You can perform single commands on multiple files. Let's say, for example, that you want to delete or move six files in a directory. You can tag or mark files and then perform the command on all of them at once.
You can index your directories in the program such that directories and files can be sorted based on date/time, size, file name or file extension. While this doesn't change the physical location of the files on your disk, it's a great way to sort files by name or even age. You can compress and decompress files (a process known as zipping and unzipping) from within the Talking Directory program. A few simple keystrokes take the place of what can be some convoluted DOS commands that do the same thing.
With single keystrokes, you can jump through your directories, go to a specific directory, and jump around among the files in that directory. The commands are written such that they become quite easy to remember after only a little use.
The built-in viewer can read most DOS-based or Windows-based word processors as well as the Hyper Text Markup Language file formats used on the Internet's World Wide Web. The not-so-good old days of being forced to first enter the word processor just to read two lines of a file to determine what it is are gone, thanks to the quick single keystroke used in Talking Directory 2.0. Viewing is far more interactive with this program as well. It allows you to create notes about the file you're reading. That's extremely handy if you're reading a manual for the first time and simply want to take notes on the manual that can later be brailled or just reread. You can set up bookmarks for the files you're viewing as well. A simple tap of the semicolon puts you at the point of the bookmark no matter where you may be in the file-reading process.
I'm not a big fan of software reviews that include a seemingly endless series of keystrokes and tell what they do. That's what the manual's for. Suffice it to say that this program is feature-fat and keystroke-lean. Perhaps one of Mazrui's biggest selling points with this program is its speed and ease of use. You can delete whole directories including their files with one keystroke. Of course, the program asks you whether you really want to do that before it executes the command, but the sheer convenience of being able to do that quickly makes this program worth the money.
Talking Directory 2.0 has much to offer in terms of searching flexibility as well. You can find words in files, search for files using a variety of patterns DOS alone would never permit. I did some serious file searching using a 486 DX machine running at 33 mHz and never found the searching to be inordinately slow. You can also create notes or descriptors about the files within your directories and have the program search for something using those descriptions you've created.
In addition to being able to date- and time-stamp files, you can use the built-in calculator. It has the ability to translate those letters you hear on TV which are associated with telephone numbers back into numbers. Let's assume your transit company's phone number is 217-RIDE. You can simply type in RIDE when the calculator feature is enabled, and you'll hear Talking Directory say "7433." If the calculator isn't enough, the program also offers a kind of perpetual calendar. With the right keystrokes, you can figure out the day of the week of a holiday several years or months into the future or past. You can also use the financial calculator should you need to do so. The built-in calculator is surprisingly flexible and the calendar is useful in terms of helping you determine on what day an event will occur.
If you already own and use Talking Directory, you can upgrade to version 2.0 for $20. Version 2.0 lets you use the tab and shift-tab keys to jump between directories, files, and paragraphs in the view mode. It runs either from the DOS prompt or in a DOS box in Windows 95. You won't have to worry about any problems with the year 2000 and your computer. Talking Directory 2.0 handles dates both in this century and the next.
You need a computer with at least an 80286 processor and DOS 3.3 or later to use this program. The price is $70. That includes free technical support (you pay for any calls), a cassette tutorial, and of course, the program, manuals and accessory utilities needed to make it work.
In short, it can be safely said that Talking Directory 2.0 puts a lot of dazzle back in DOS. Indeed, for those who aren't yet ready to make the switch to a Windows-based operating system, Talking Directory 2.0 may be just the thing you need to prolong the life and enhance the usefulness of your version of DOS.
For additional information about this program and others available, contact Jamal Mazrui, Access Success, 1400 East-West Highway #427, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Orders outside the United States should use U.S. currency and add $10 for shipping and handling. To order by credit card, call Ferguson Enterprises at (605) 546-2366, fax to (605) 546-2212, or e-mail [email protected]
A trial version of the software is also available. It is identical to the commercial version except that it produces registration reminders at set intervals.
Jamal Mazrui answers a question about graphical user interface access at the 1996 convention in Tulsa.
FOR SALE: Perkins brailler, comes with dust cover, $200. Two braille labelers by 3M, $20 each. Contact Tammie Hansen, 1200 N. Terrace Dr. #124, Provo, UT 84604; phone (801) 375-7843.
FOR SALE: 1.44 megabyte 3.5-inch portable disk drive for the Braille 'N Speak and Braille Lite series. Asking $250 plus shipping and handling. Contact Isaac Obie at 755 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02118; phone (617) 247-0026; or via the Internet at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Super Vista screen magnification system. Comes with all software, hardware and manuals. Asking $2,000. Contact Steve Hopp at (615) 822-3465.
FOR SALE: Braille Blazer. Comes with cables and manuals. Three years old, in good condition. $800 or best offer. Contact Michael Todd at (717) 266-9793.
FOR SALE: Pelco 19-inch black-and-white CCTV. Unique in-line design on its own roll-around stand. Large 19-inch by 14-inch X/Y reading table. In good condition. Asking $1,300 (includes professional packing and shipping). Contact Christine Tucker, 898 Merton Ave., Akron, OH 44306-1918; phone (330) 773-4438.
FOR SALE: Blazie disk drive, $250; comes with cable, new adapter, and braille and cassette manuals. American Heritage Dictionary on cassette, $25, rarely used. 2400-baud modem, $10. Prices do not include shipping and handling. Contact Denise Avant at (773) 325-1117 between 7 and 9 p.m. Central time, or by e-mail at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Vert Plus excellent quality speech synthesizer and screen reading software, version 4.5b, $375. Call Dave at (716) 877-5620.
WANTED TO BUY: Brailler, talking dictionary, APH tape player, and clipboard writing guide with the hard metal clip. If you have any of these, please contact Paula Hill at (757) 686-9790.
WANTED TO BUY: Computer, 486 or better, with printer. Willing to pay up to $60. Contact Etim Aka at (202) 531-7854, or write him at 2920 Ontario Rd. NW #301, Washington, D.C. 20009.
Sue Ammeter, Seattle, WA
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Carol McCarl, Chairperson, Salem, OR
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Ex Officio: Laura Oftedahl, Watertown, MA
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