The contents of this column reflect the letters we had received by the time we went to press, August 15, 2005. Letters are limited to 300 words or less. All submissions must include the author's name and location. Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

Regarding 'Ray'

Dear Editor, I would like to comment on the article appearing in the February 2005 issue entitled: "DVS (R) Enhanced DVD for the Movie 'Ray.'" I saw this movie, once with audio descriptions and once without. I very much enjoyed hearing the descriptions, and the movie is excellent. Jamie Foxx does a superb job of portraying Ray Charles. I was given the soundtrack on CD as a Christmas gift last year, and the music is wonderful. Thank you for publishing this article. I sent it to a few friends, and a life skills tutor who works with me. I hope more documentaries such as this will be made available with audio descriptions. This service truly does add a lot to programs which otherwise would not be very enjoyable for those of us who can't see the TV/movie screen and want to know what's going on.

-- Jake Joehl, Evanston, Ill.

Regarding the DECTalk Express USB

I would like to correct and add to my previous note to the editor. In that note, I stated that the newest DECTalk Express USB has good speech that is understandable by people with some hearing difficulties who cannot clearly hear the consonants in the Eloquence speech synthesizer. Unfortunately, I was led astray by my previous good experience with the DECTalk PC, which had very good consonant pronunciation, and by the advertising for the new unit. I have since found out that this is not the case for the newest version of the DECTalk Express USB. The newest version does not currently have speech that is clear enough for me to hear the consonants correctly. Hopefully, the software technicians will improve this in the future.

I have also found out that, in order to use the most recent version of Acrobat 7 with a screen reader, people have to have fairly new computers with a lot of additional memory, as well as Windows XP, which is out of the range of many disabled people on limited budgets.

I don't want to mislead anyone else with a hearing impairment into buying the DECTalk Express USB.

-- Sylvie Kashdan, Seattle, Wash.

About the July-August Issue

I am disappointed in your article titled "Because of Our Guide Dogs, We Felt Like Prisoners in Paradise!," by Patty Yarman. I too heard about this event and your article did not mention anything in the hotel's behalf. Did you decide it would be such a terrific human-interest story that doing a little background work wasn't necessary? Patty told me that Roosevelt did leave the hotel room for an extended period of time. Both Patty and Steve were very concerned that they might have lost Roosevelt in Mexico forever. They were later told that during Roosevelt's absence he played around the pool, which was frightening to many of the guests since he is a large yellow Labrador, then he relieved himself on the landscaping because he had had his dinner not long before he managed to leave the hotel room. I agree the hotel didn't treat the Yarmans and Boulters with the kind of patience they would have found here in the United States, but your article made it sound like nothing happened and these people were suddenly (and for no reason) thrown out. Next time do your homework before writing a story most people will take as totally true.

-- Dawn Maxey, Chicago, Ill.

I really enjoyed several articles in the Forum.

1. Susan Mazrui's comments on the learning curve and high-tech. Her tongue-in-cheek style made an area that really makes me flying mad a little more tolerable. She writes well. She and Kathi Wolfe stand out in the magazine.

2. Brandy Prince: Horrible. I may do an audio blog item on this one. I think if someone gathered together all the pieces on hit-and-run and other accidents involving the blind into a book, it would be huge, like a telephone directory. (You can find my audio blog at www.teleread.org/blind.)

3. Extreme Makeovers: I agree with you. I thought the Nebraska Center people were judgmental. I quit judging blind people long ago. I don't buy this "Blindness is no big thing, just learn a few alternative skills and boom ..." I visited the www.miracleworkerstv.com web site and cornea transplant was one thing they were interested in doing. A doctor in New Orleans I recently visited thought I should consider that. I may never do it. But if someone at a place like the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins said to try it, I would at least give them the consideration to hear why and what the risk was. I had 20/400 in my early life before secondary glaucoma stole it by my late teens, and would love to have it back. It was just enough vision to do a lot of things independently without always having to run to a sighted person and literally giving him the power to refuse you something like reading a can without yet another piece of costly, temperamental high tech. We have so many gizmos it's disgusting.

-- David Faucheux, Lafayette, La.

In your July-August issue there is a section on the Extreme Makeover Home Edition that I'm upset with. I don't agree with the things that were said. Here's why. In November 2004 I was on a bus headed to Florida and heard about the shooting. A lone gunman entered the store and started shooting, killing two and injuring one. What was not mentioned was that his wife, prior to the shooting, had been out of the hospital only a few days herself. ABC heard of this tragedy and wanted to help.

What everyone fails to see is that here is a man who worked one day and was shot the next. We all have gone through accepting the facts that we don't see as well as we used to and we all have had a hard time accepting that; we want to blame someone. So who does this man blame? Nobody.

The important thing that we all need to look at is that people can come together in our communities and help our fellow man. When 9/11 happened and there was a need for help at the World Trade Center, everyone put their differences aside and helped! This is what I thought and still think America is about, and we need to look at it that way. Let's stop complaining about what should have been done or not done and take care of the access issues and rehabilitation. Let's work to make things better and stop complaining about how or what someone got from a show. I'm happy that this family got what they did and the community came to help a fellow American in need. Let's do something to make things better for the future!

-- Kim Ledford, Warner Robins, Ga.

I've been thinking about the recent situation faced by James Dolan of Florida. I think most of the real problem is in the title of the TV show: "Extreme." There's nothing wrong with others pitching in to help a fellow human being when tragedy strikes; that's what we're supposed to do. Maybe there seems to be some resentment, envy, or even jealousy involved, but, again, I think the root of the problem is in the obvious excess of material things lavished on the entire family after Dolan's unfortunate encounter.

I agree with those who suggest that the top priority should be the best possible rehab services for Dolan, and support services for his family. Blind people don't necessarily require wider doorways; but such accommodation can make navigation and maneuvering much easier, especially for a newly blinded person who's adjusting to the situation. The new house is a marvelous idea, but the big problem is in its excess. The kids didn't lose their dad; he has a new lifestyle to learn. The gadgets and gizmos abundant in the new house aren't going to help with that in the long term, where basic, everyday skills are needed. The message of the program seems to be that a lot of material "stuff" will be provided to the victim of whatever happened, but the recovery and subsequent readjustment to life will be left up to them.

The gadgets and gizmos won't get them their original life back. I wouldn't criticize quite so much if the "stuff" the family received was of a more practical nature. Remove the "extreme," and apply more common sense.

I wish the Dolan family all the best in their adjustment to a difficult, unexpected situation. I hope they avail themselves of help that will guide them to a more practical solution to their problems.

-- Phyllis Lackershire, Richland Center, Wis.

I spoke to you briefly today. I wanted to commend you on a superb editorial on the Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I have occasionally watched this reality show myself and found this show very much in keeping with the general theme of the program: find some unexpectedly bereft family and give them a dream home. I also agree with your philosophy: if you are going to complain, do it to the right person and make it count.

It is hard for all consumers to advocate for all the needs of the blind; after all, that is part of the work of ACB. But I believe if an individual has a particular grievance, he or she should take up that particular cause, if he/she is genuine about wanting to see a change. If we all worked on issues that were meaningful to each of us, we would find that a lot more would change. Bravo! Here's to making a difference!

-- Marie R. Heep, Mason, Ohio

When I saw the title of the article on large print reproduction I eagerly read it, anticipating some significant information. The writers' efforts to adapt their production to the visually impaired community is commendable. Their visit to a public school offered a great opportunity to report on the user's satisfaction with the product and its shortcomings.

I was disappointed that the article did not deal more with the actual product. The only reference seemed to be a comment about the weight of hardbound books. The article was basically a promotional piece touting the performance of the Imtrek Corporation.

Both the writers and "The Braille Forum" missed an opportunity to be of service to the users of large print. Many producers of large print material have very limited insight as to what constitutes "quality" and "desirable" large print. This article would have been a good place to document the exact needs of a user and make suggestions for improvements. Detailed information on the following would be useful for producers of large print.

Type of paper used: weight, tint, density, size

Typeface: is this considered a "sight-saver" font, or just enlarged type?

Type: size, bold or thin letters?

Printing: single-sided or double-sided? Does ink bleed through?

Line spacing: single, double or 1 ?

Binding: hardbound, spiral bound, stapled? Does it lie flat?

Identification: illustrated cover, extra large print on cover?

-- Norman Loeber, Show Low, Ariz.

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