Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Let's Learn Shapes with Shapely-Cal

Blind children learn by touching. And what better way to learn about squares, triangles, circles, and wavy lines than by getting acquainted with Shapely-CAL!

Let's Learn Shapes with Shapely-CAL, developed by Creative Adaptations for Learning (CAL), is a book of poetry - in large print and braille, plus raised, textured illustrations that can be read by blind children and adults without the intervention of a sighted person. Learners can “see” how shapes combine to form objects, complex scenes and actions, while enhancing pre-braille readiness skills.

In this delightful 21-page tactile shape book, Shapely-CAL rises up to introduce your child to all the many shapes that make up our world - from raindrops to footballs. Every child in the classroom, blind and sighted, and every member of the family will have hours of fun with Shapely-CAL.

Click this link to purchase Let's Learn Shapes with Shapely-Cal from National Braille Press.

Teaching Children who are Blind to Understand Reading Concepts

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

A few weeks ago I was honored to be a presenter and a vendor at TAER’s conference in Dallas, Texas. Before I signed up to be a trainer, I asked myself what I would want to hear as a participant and thought about what I was most passionate about along with my friends who are vision teachers. One thought kept pounding into my brain- “Teaching a child who is blind to truly understand concepts during reading.”

My mother, who is a vision teacher as well as a reading specialist, has pretended to be a seesaw when Tim and Pam rode on one in the Patterns series, played hide and seek and role-played many other scenes that were being portrayed in a book. I learned once again from my mother about how important understanding is before you can ever ask a child to read with fluency and understanding Braille.

During my training on this topic, I quoted the best: Dr. Phil Hatlen, Dr. Virginia Bishop and Myrna Olson on Braille reading. Amazingly each had similar views on teaching concepts for Braille comprehension. For example, each believed in the benefits of a story box for younger children, that Braille should begin in infancy and that reading skills should be relevant. Another great point that Dr. Phil Hatlen makes in his incredible book, “The Opportunity to be Equal- The Right to be Different”, is that children learn through different types of styles such as: Basal Reading (when the skills are taught beforehand such as vocabulary, character analysis and background building), phonetics, whole language, and language experience where the child writes about his experiences and begins to understand that the dots represent real words in a real world.

Other great tips by these amazing professionals: Teach through real objects until the concept is understood then graduate to two-dimensional tactual objects, Braille is King and will never become obsolete like some professionals believe. The age of technology will not take the place of Braille and should be used as an incredible resource, make reading fun and exciting, literacy is the right of all children, documents in print should also be provided in Braille and that less than an hour a week of Braille instruction creates an illiterate reader.

I added a few tips of my own: Look for a child’s likes and dislikes and surround him or her with favorite objects. Bond with a student before you expect them to hand over power to you, and keep a routine when working with children who have a visual impairment as this will give more security and a safety zone for learning.

I recently wrote three novels in a series of The Adventures of Abby Diamond where I demonstrate that Abby is a girl detective who happens to be blind. The emphasis behind Abby is that she is just like everyone else- she just cannot see. I have also put Abby Diamond on audio (homemade) CD’s and electronic copies for embossing with no PDF formatting. My intent is for a Braillist to Braille on the correct level of contractions for each student.

When I wrote and am still writing the stories for Abby Diamond I also tried to create a high interest story with vocabulary and mysteries that would keep a child interested. Teachers can teach any testing objective through the electronic copies of Abby Diamond. Please see my website for ordering:

People who are blind deserve the same opportunities as others who can see just like Dr. Phil Hatlen said, “The Opportunity to be Equal – The Right to be Different.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to Pick Up Dog Poop

How to Pick Up Dog Poop

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Unsightly, smelly, a breeding medium for germs and disease, and a huge hassle on the sole of a shoe, dog poop is not a desirable feature in any neighborhood. Dog feces plays a significant role in water pollution,[1] especially in cities, and the bacteria that makes its way into streams, lakes and the water table can make people sick. Indeed, a single gram of dog feces can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria that can cause cramps, diarrhea, intestinal disorders and kidney problems.[2] In 1991, the EPA even designated dog poop as a "nonpoint source of pollution" putting it right up there with oil and toxic chemicals.[3] Yet about 40 percent of Americans don't clean up after their dogs![4] And in Buenos Aires, a latecomer to cleaning up dog poop from the streets, an estimated 650 people end up hospitalized every year from slipping on dog poop.[5] Removing dog poop and disposing of it properly is therefore a public health and safety activity, and one in which every dog owner should proudly participate. Yet, handling dog poop is not the most pleasant of tasks. Here are some ways to minimize the unpleasantness of the task. And if you see someone leaving their dog's mess behind, feel free to educate them on these methods, especially if it's poop scooping week![6][7] Have courage and do your bit to ensure that our canine friends can live with us in harmony, and not put the dog poop complainants on high alert!


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  1. Be prepared. Whichever method you choose, be prepared by having the right items with you whenever you and your dog are out and about. Have enough cleaning up items for the duration of the outing and your own dog's particular needs.
  2. Protect yourself. If you want extra protection than just the plastic bag or pooper scooper, bring along a disposable latex glove to wear as well, and dispose of it in the trash at the same time as discarding the poop in a bag. You could also bring along cleaning wipes or anti-bacterial handwashing gel as an additional cleaning precaution. If you're not well, pregnant, or immuno-suppressed, taking these extra precautions is probably very sensible.
Plastic bag method
  1. Bring several bags with you when you take your dog for a walk.
    • Plastic grocery bags work well for picking up dog poop. These bags do sometimes have a tear or two, so it helps to use two bags - one inside the other. This way the odds are extremely small that there will be two holes in the same location and you are almost guaranteed not to get poop on your hands.
    • Using two bags of whatever kind also has an insulating effect so that you don't feel the heat from the poop as much. And it also helps to reduce the smell.
    • There are also pre-made poop bags available for sale that are self-sealing and strong.[8] These are especially good if you're queasy or the quality of the grocery bags in your area is somewhat flimsy. (You might also be doing your bit to stop accepting plastic bags!)
    • Some pet supply stores have doggy bags that are scented. You may want to try some.
  2. Turn the bag inside out and place it on your hand as if it were a glove.
  3. Grab the bottom of the bag with your fingers. Grasp the poop on the ground and pick it up into the bag.
    • On concrete, gingerly lift it directly up from the surface to leave as little behind as possible.
    • On grass, make a claw-like circle with your fingers; get as far under the pile as possible, then lift with care.
  4. Be careful removing your hand. Use your other hand to pull the top of the bag over your fist and turn the bag back outside in, retaining the poop inside the bag.
  5. Tie the bag shut tightly. Dispose of it in the nearest trash receptacle. Holding your breath until you've picked up the poop and tied a knot in the bag(s) helps a lot.
    • Be aware that not everyone agrees that disposal in the trash can is the best option. The City of Toronto found that 23 to 27 percent of waste in parks was from dogs in 2006![9] The eco-friendly response to this is to take it home and flush it down your toilet (minus the bag) so that it is treated along with the human sewage.[10] Naturally, if you do this, maintain very high hygiene standards.
Pooper scooper method
  1. If you can't bring yourself to handle the poop even through a plastic bag, or you cannot bend over for any reason, purchase a commercially made "pooper scooper". These usually consist of a handle on one end of a long arm, with a double-sided shovel on the other end. When looking for a suitable scooper, check that the size is appropriate for your breed of dog.
  2. Clean the whole yard using a large pooper scooper. Large pooper scoopers are available for yard cleaning, and these allow you to insert a plastic bag into the scoop end, then proceed around the yard collecting dog poop with a rake or similar tool to push the poop straight into the scoop. At the end, simply tie up the bag and dispose of the whole bag in the trash can, without ever having to touch the dog poop.
Delegation method Poop scooping services are popping up all over the place.[11] While this is a costlier option, it is worth the cost for some people, especially if the dog waste accumulates in a fixed place like your yard. And if there is no service in your area and you're an enterprising sort, why not start such a service?[12] It could be very rewarding!
  1. Ask dog owners you know if they know of any good "waste handling" services.
  2. Ask a local landscaper or pet-sitter if they'd consider providing this service.
  3. Look up a service in the Find-a-Scooper International Directory at
Dealing with dog poop rebels
  1. If you come across someone who won't pick up their dog's poop right in front of you, assert yourself. Explain to them how unhygienic their action is and how it is disrespectful to the neighborhood. As well, explain that it lets down all dog owners who get smeared with the thoughtlessness of the few who don't pick up the poop and ends up with more bans on where dogs can go. There's no need to make a song and dance but do insist, and if it's a violation in your area, contact your community association or other suitable contact and report the incident.
    • You might say something like: "Sir/Madam, I realize that it's not the most pleasant task but as dog owners we have to show everyone else we are responsible and care about both our dogs and our neighborhood. Dog poop harbors disease and people don't want to tread in it. So, I'd really appreciate it if you'd pick up after your dog, just as I do."
  2. Offer the person one of your bags. The gesture is difficult to turn down because it's polite and it's showing the other person that you expect them to behave responsibly.
  3. Set an example to others by being proud to pick up your dog's poop.[13] This shows other dog owners an example of good dog ownership and lets people know that any mess around isn't from your dog.



  • Wash your hands thoroughly when you get home.
  • If you've gone walking and you've forgotten the bag, many places offer them free near trash cans.
  • You can make your pet's poops more tolerable to yourself by altering your dog's diet.
  • It is possible to encourage your dog to relieve himself at home before and after a walk; doing so saves having to deal with the mess anywhere else.[14] However, this will depend on the breed, as some dogs will defecate as a result of exercise and this is simply about knowing your dog well enough.
  • It’s estimated that the 75 million dogs in the U.S. create 3.6 billion pounds of waste per year.
  • A healthy diet for your dog produces less offensive poops! There will be less waste to pick up when your dog eats quality food with less fillers.


  • Leaving the poop on the street, or in the park is against the law in most states of the United States and in many other places around the world. It can carry a heavy fine. So enjoy your dog, but at the same time keep the streets clean. Pick up after them!
  • Be sure to deposit the dog poop in a legally designated trash container, not just wherever.
  • Do not touch the feces with your hands, especially if you have an open cut. Always wash your hand(s) after a dog walk when you have picked up poop.
  • Wildlife and kids are very susceptible to the germs found in dog poop.[15]

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  6. National Scoop Poop Week in the UK,
  7. International Pooper Scooper Week,
  8. Margaret H Bonham, Dogs Make Great Pets, p. 57, (2005), ISBN 978-0-7645-8831-0

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Pick Up Dog Poop. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

Outline Maps of the United States in Braille and Large Type

State Maps Collection

Bold line/tactile maps of U.S. regions and states!

Each State Maps Collection is a set of embossed and printed outline maps for a region of the United States. Use as starting points for lessons on individual states. Add to the images with tracing wheel lines, craft ink, glued-on textures, or whatever materials you regularly use to produce tactile graphics. Add braille labels as needed. Because of their printed outlines, these maps are also useful to low vision readers.

Three printed/embossed copies of each state are provided in a kit, as well as a regional map showing all the states in that collection in relation to each other. Also included is a set of print-only maps that can be copied or used as masters for "swell paper" tactile graphics.

The four State Maps Collections are:

  • Northeast Region: 1-04110-00 -- Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia

  • Southeast Region: 1-04111-00 -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands, South Carolina, Tennessee.

  • Central Region: 1-04112-00 -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin.

  • Western Region: 1-04113-00 -- Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii/Guam, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming.
Click this link to purchase any of the State Maps Collection.

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
Web site:
APH Shopping Home:

Dress for Hot Success: Spring and Summer Fashion Trends

By Sassy Outwater

Ladies and Gents: The key to 2011 fashion is time travel! The days of comformity have passed, ushering in the dawn of self-expression and offering up something from each of the past five decades to spice up your style. Whether you like a little sixties glamour, some seventies sophistication or a little punk hippie bohemian… Go for it! Retro, unique and chic are the rules for Spring and summer clothes and accessories this year. Which is also great for your closet, since mixing and matching eras is the name of the game. The one big no-no this year is too much of anything. Less is more. Here’s a quick breakdown of the hottest clothing and accessory trends for guys and gals, with a few blind-friendly style tips.

Gentlemen: Back away from those skinny jeans and get ready to rock your flares. Flare-legged jeans and pants are in this Spring for you. Summer suits in lighter richer tones broadcast fun and business simultaneously, so don’t be afraid to practice knotting a tie. But be tasteful. Easy on the stripes, the patterns or the bright colors. A little goes a long way for you this year. With those flared jeans comes a blessing for you… heavy work boots are in. Show us your stud side, and pull out those big heavy boots. This year is all about letting the manly man out. Stick with classic and manly, and you’re on the right track.

Ladies: The tables are turning, and curves are in again. Skinny is on its way out the door, and beautiful women with confidence and curves are all the rage now. Femininity is in. Strong, confident women who can get tough, and still look gorgeous in a dress.

Flared jeans are replacing skinny jeans (finally). Wide-legged jeans that show off hips and fall straight to the floor from the hip are classy, stylish ways to dress up a casual day. Bell-bottom jeans and clogs, or platform sandals with brass studs are straight out of the seventies and straight into your closet for 2011.

Retro is in this year when it comes to accessorizing. Studs, chains, anything to bling up your shoes, purses and other accessories. Also, think exotic. Flowing shimmery dress fabrics straight out of the seventies, tassels and fringes on bags, shirts and shawls… Go a little wild. Back away from the animal prints and polka dots a bit this year, and think more sophisticated, retro look with a little punk thrown in. Clunky shoes, wide belts, big buttons… add a little something to every outfit that falls just a tad outside the box.

In the dress department, think sixties and seventies glamor. Dresses that flow nicely over your curves and have an eye-catching hem or skirt to blow in the breeze are in style this year. Tail hems—skirts with a longer hem in back—add a little modesty and flare to shorter summer sundresses and skirts. Don’t be afraid to show your legs off this year. Shorts aren’t the most body-flattering things in the world, but a flowing skirt draws the eyes away from upper body defects, enhances a woman’s natural curves, and gets men daydreaming. Sheer dresses are also in style, which means it’s time to rock that little black camisole or a pretty pair of leggings under your short sheer dress. Modest and sexy can co-exist very well this year. Sheer on top, just a hint of lace underneath, and everything is still nicely covered up.

When choosing your clothes and patterns this Spring, think stripes, Tie-dye, and nautical. Blues, warm yellows, deep greens, and deep purples are in this year. But pair wisely. Pick tops with strong bold stripes that compliment your figure. Once you have a patterned piece on top, pair it with a neutral jean or pant or skirt. If your skirt is brightly patterned, choose a neutral top. Lace is also in this year… but not the full lace pieces that have been so popular for the past few years. Accentuate a top with a delicate antique lace collar, or choose a skirt with a lace hem. A light crochet wrap for a chilly evening might be the perfect finishing touch. Things that look old or homemade, like antique lace or crocheted pieces are very popular this year. All over tie-dyes are out. One or two bold circles on a dark background, or a little judicious use of color on a skirt can be all you need to take an outfit from plain to stellar.

I know a lot of blind people who are rather scared of the changing fashion seasons. It’s not exactly possible for us to pick up a magazine and see what everyone is wearing these days. Most of us stick to basic colors, and steer clear of patterns or gaudy accessories for fear of wearing the wrong thing or not matching. But I am issuing you a challenge! Have fun this year! Fashion is all about expressing your individual style this season. The only way you can do it wrong is to not try to have fun with your appearance. Spice up your closet and have fun experimenting.

Bottom line, we’re still a struggling economy. Fashion is compensating by closet-diving and reviving old trends… mixed together to make a new trend. Mix and match judiciously and with an eye—well—hand toward individuality, and you know you’ll be a 2011 Summer trendsetter. Don’t break your bank, either. Hit the secondhand stores for that one-of-a-kind treasure, or dig through your closet for that skirt that hasn’t been in style for 20 years. Out with the new, in with the stylishly old. Now I dare you, put some Spring in those flared jeans! Strut your stuff, sexy!

Sassy Outwater is a totally blind chick, full-time musician, part-time writer, Yoga-instructor, health nut and style-junky.

For more fashion, health and beauty tips for the blind, or just to find out more about me and my crazy life, visit me on Twitter:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bureau of Engraving and Printing Launches EyeNote App to Help the Blind and Visually Impaired with Money

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) has developed a free downloadable application (app) to assist the blind and visually impaired denominate US currency. The app is called EyeNote(tm). EyeNote(tm) is a mobile device app designed for Apple iPhone (3G, 3Gs, 4), and the 4th Generation iPod Touch and iPad2 platforms, and is available starting today through the Apple iTunes App Store.

EyeNote uses image recognition technology to determine a note's denomination. The mobile device's camera requires 51 percent of a note's scanned image, front or back, to process. In a matter of seconds, EyeNote(tm) can provide an audible or vibrating response, and can denominate all Federal Reserve notes issued since 1996. Free downloads will be available whenever new US currency designs are introduced. Research indicates that more than 100,000 blind and visually impaired individuals currently own an Apple iPhone.

The EyeNote app is one of a variety of measures the government is working to deploy to assist the visually impaired community to denominate currency, as proposed in a recent Federal Register notice. These measures include implementing a Currency Reader Program whereby a United States resident, who is blind or visually impaired, may obtain a coupon that can be applied toward the purchase of a device to denominate United States currency; continuing to add large high contrast numerals and different background colors to redesigned currency; and, raised tactile features may be added to redesigned currency, which would provide users with a means of identifying each denomination via touch.

More information is available at

Medicare Rights University

The Medicare Rights University (MRU) provides expert online education on Medicare benefits, regulations and consumer rights. It is an excellent learning tool for professionals, caregivers and consumers. MRU uses the many resources of the Medicare Rights Center to deliver detailed, comprehensive instruction. These resources include a national Medicare helpline, an education department and a team of legal experts.

Courses and webinars cover such topics as:

  • Enrollment periods
  • Medicare costs
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Part D drug coverage
  • Preventive care
  • Medicare eligibility
  • Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage
  • more
… Available Course
  • Medicare Basics

    This course provides you with the information and skills you need to help older and disabled Americans understand the Medicare program. Throughout this course, you will learn more about the details of Medicare costs and coverage, enrollment and options.

  • Understanding Medicare Options

    This course provides you with the information and skills you need to help older and disabled Americans understand their Medicare health plan options so that they have the knowledge they need to make an informed Medicare health plan choice. Throughout this course, you will get an overview of the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans (private health plans).

  • Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Care

    This course provides you with the information and skills you need to help individuals get and maximize the Medicare skilled nursing facility benefit. Throughout this course, you will learn more about eligibility and coverage details.

  • Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D)

    This course provides you with the information and skills understand the Medicare prescription drug benefit and how it works. Throughout this course, you will get an overview of how this benefit works, including what drugs are covered, what your rights are and how it coordinates with other drug coverage.

Click this link to visit the Medicare Rights University at

Friday, April 22, 2011

Money-Saving Uses for Mouthwash

Mouthwash is useful for so much more than just rinsing plaque away! When it was first invented, it hailed as a surgical antiseptic, and as such it has unique properties that can save you lots of money. So before you head to the store for an athlete’s foot treatment, sanitizer, or astringent (or over a dozen other things), check out this list to see how you can replace them with mouthwash. Note: For almost all the tips here, you want to use mouthwash that is alcohol-based (that’s one of the secret ingredients), and in most cases without sugar.

With its antiseptic properties, mouthwash is brilliant for cleaning and light medical uses. It's also great for travelers, since it's so multifunctional. Check out these creative uses for mouthwash that will keep you fresh, in more ways than one.

  • Nail Fungus Eradicator: Nail fungus problems can make your toenails or fingernails thick and discolored, and once you’re infected it’s incredibly difficult to eradicate. Make up a 50/50 solution of alcohol-based mouthwash and vinegar, and apply to the affected area with a cotton ball (use a new one each time) two-to-three times per day. Be warned — nail fungus is stubborn….you won’t likely see results for at least a few weeks.
  • Bruise Treatment: Did you go bump in the night? Waiting for a whopper of a bruise to appear? Rub some mouthwash on the affected area, and you can save yourself from a gaudy bruise (or at least reduce the appearance of it).
  • Poison Ivy Treatment: Stop scratching! Instead, apply some mouthwash, and not only will it relieve the itchiness and inflammation of a poison ivy attack, but it can also dry up the area and begin the healing process.
  • Hand Sanitizer: I once had a hand sanitizer that came in a small spray bottle, which I treasured for its convenience and sanitary properties. I’ve been searching (unsuccessfully) for a replacement ever since. Now I just use mouthwash, and I can freshen up any time. It’s also great for cleaning the kids’ hands in a pinch. (Again, make sure it’s alcohol-based and sugar-free, otherwise you’ll be a sticky mess).
  • Deodorant: Mouthwash makes an easy substitute deodorant in a pinch, with its bacteria-killing properties. Be warned though, if you just shaved your armpits, applying an alcohol-based mouthwash will sting!
  • After-Piercing Care: Part of the after-care process for tending to new piercings (or even caring for older ones that have become infected) is to apply a special disinfectant solution twice daily. Why not use mouthwash instead? Mouthwash is (obviously) especially handy in healing a tongue piercing.
  • Athlete’s Foot: In the same way that mouthwash treats nail fungus, it acts as an antiseptic for athlete’s foot. Soak a cotton ball in mouthwash and apply twice a day. You know it’s working if it stings a bit, and you should see positive results in a few days.
  • Foot Bath: Even if you don’t have athlete’s foot or some pesky fungus to tend to, soaking your tootsies in a mixture of mouthwash and water can refresh and soften them after a long day on your feet.
  • Garlic-Odor Killer: It would be stating the obvious to suggest that mouthwash, in your mouth, eliminates garlic odor. But it can also take care of the smell of garlic on your hands after you’ve handled it. Just pour some on your hands, rub them together, and let them air-dry.
  • Facial Astringent: Apply mouthwash (again, make sure it’s alcohol-based and sugar-free) to a cotton ball and wipe on your face after you’ve used your normal face wash. Rinse with water afterward, and you’ll have saved yourself the bulk and cost of a fancy facial astringent.
  • Clean Cuts and Scrapes: Remember, mouthwash was first used as a surgical antiseptic before people figured out its mouth-washing properties. Apply some mouthwash to your boo-boo, dry, and dress it with a bandage as necessary.
  • Dandruff Treatment: Not into expensive specialized dandruff shampoos? After shampooing, try rinsing your hair with a 50/50 mixture of mouthwash and water (1/2 a cup of each will do). You may have to repeat this process a few times to eradicate the dandruff completely. Bonus: your hair will smell minty fresh.

Mouthwash cleans, sanitizes, and even revives. Here's how you can make good use of it around the house.

  • Keep Cut Flowers Fresh: By mixing two tablespoons of mouthwash per gallon of water and filling your flower vase with this mixture, your cut flowers will last longer (by killing the bacteria that accelerates decomposition).
  • Glass Cleaner: Apply mouthwash to a damp cloth and go to town on glass surfaces. Dry with a cotton cloth.
  • Computer Screen Cleaner: As long as your computer screen is glass (DO NOT use this technique on LCD screens!), you’ll save mad money on specialty computer screen cleaners by simply using the technique above to remove smudges and computer dust.
  • Laundry Sanitizer: In the same way that mouthwash removes bacteria from your mouth, you can remove it from your laundry as well. Add one cup to the regular cycle of a full load of laundry (make sure the mouthwash is sugar-free and alcohol-based). This is especially handy for those stinky gym socks; mouthwash kills all the bacteria that is sometimes left behind in a regular wash.
  • Toothbrush Cleaner: Mouthwash cleans your teeth; why not your toothbrush as well? A rinse with or dunk in a cup of mouthwash before brushing will ensure your toothbrush is clean and free of the bacteria hanging around your bathroom. Eeeww.
  • Toilet Cleaner: Out of toilet bowl cleaner? No problem. Just pour a cup of mouthwash into the toilet, let it sit for half an hour, and give it a swish with the toilet brush.
  • Plant Rescue: A mixture of 25% mouthwash and 75% water sprayed onto your plant leaves rescues them from mildew and fungus. Don’t do this more than once per week, though.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Deciding When to Take Your Guide Dog With You

by Alena Roberts

As you’re reading this, I’m likely either on a ride or waiting in line at the new Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. I’m here on vacation, but my guide dog Midge is not with me. I decided that it was best for both me and her that she stay home, even though she would be welcome at the theme park. With that in mind, I decided to write about how guide dog users decide when and when not to bring their guides with them. Obviously, every user will be different, but I think it’s important that as guide dog users, we remember that our dog’s feelings about the places we take them do need to be taken into consideration.

In the almost 6 years that I’ve had Midge, I’ve only left her for multiple days three times. On each occasion, she has been left with someone I trust and someone she trusts and knows. Here are the things I consider when deciding to leave my guide for an extended period of time.

  • Will I be going somewhere where I plan to use my guide, or will I primarily use a sighted guide instead?
  • Is the place I’m going likely to have other dogs there? (this is important for dogs that are easily distracted)
  • Is the place I’m going likely to be crowded?
  • Will bringing my guide hinder my ability to have the freedom to have fun?
  • Is the place I’m going friendly to dogs?
  • Will the place I’m going have good relieving areas?

Although I try to take my guide as many places as possible, I know that she and I wouldn’t be happy if I took her everywhere. As much as I dislike using a cane, I would rather use a cane than feel like I was putting my dog in an uncomfortable situation. I also believe that just like with children, sometimes we guide dog parents need a break.

What are your feelings about leaving a guide dog for an extended period of time? What do you consider when deciding if leaving your guide is the right decision?

Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

ViewPoints with Nancy and Pete Torpey

Each week, Nancy and Pete Torpey use this program to share their life experiences and information they have gathered over the years living with vision loss - from the everyday to the high tech. The conversational nature of the show will have listeners connecting with them right away.

The Torpey’s both have PhD's in Physics and retired from Xerox Corporation after over 25 years in corporate research. Nancy is sighted and Pete is blind, and they've been learning together for many years. Pete and Nancy have two adult children, and they love to travel, hike and enjoy music together.

"We started this show at the encouragement of the station manager of our local public broadcasting service. The half hour show airs weekly on the radio reading service, has been picked up by several affiliate stations (including the Canadian reading service), and is available as a podcast."

Click this link to visit the ViewPoints website:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

APH Talking PC Maps Software

APH Talking PC Maps Software provides spoken and on-screen map data and 12 million points of interest for U.S. states, territories, and Canada on one flash drive. It speaks on any Windows® computer, whether or not the computer has screen reading software installed. APH Talking Maps is a joint venture of APH and the Sendero Group LLC.

This software does not give information about a user's actual physical location; it is not a GPS system. Instead, it provides a verbal description of physical space and what it contains. It gives persons with visual impairments the same information available to sighted persons through incidental learning when they look at maps, street signs, and signage on buildings.

This software helps your student:

  • Virtually explore streets and learn their layout by moving to the next intersection or by making left or right turns
  • Set a destination and track the distance and compass heading to that destination
  • Save, reverse, review, and print or emboss pedestrian or vehicle routes
  • Track the side of the street you are virtually walking on, and make realistic decisions about turns and street crossings required to navigate to a destination
  • Record or type descriptive information about a particular intersection, parking lot, building, or other location; and attach that information so that your student can access it when he/she explores the map
Example Uses of APH Talking PC Maps software:
  • O&M Learning Tool:
    Learn a new part of town:
    your O&M student can learn about the part of town to which his family will be moving. He can locate his new address; virtually travel along new streets; and learn about cross streets and intersection shapes. He can create a pedestrian or vehicular route from his new home to school (or anywhere else that he wants to travel); explore the route on-screen; and print or emboss it for use when actually traveling.
  • Classroom Map Study Tool:
    Explore Washington, DC:
    your sixth grade student can be included in the classroom's virtual tour of Washington DC. While other students are looking at street maps annotated with government building names, your student can virtually explore the nation's capital. She simply sets her position to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and virtually walks the blocks intersecting with Jackson Place, hearing where the Lincoln Memorial is located, and even finding out that the Senate private dining room is 1.74 miles East.
  • Incidental Environmental Learning and Location Literacy Tool:
    Locate a business for occupational interviews:
    your eleventh grade rehabilitation consumer can locate and interview members of ten occupations with which he is not familiar. After setting an address in the heart of the business district, he can virtually examine points of interest in categories and subcategories; locate types of businesses, services, or other facilities; find the phone number to use when making a personal contact with a member of an occupation; and even produce a route from school -- all with a few keystrokes.

APH Talking PC Maps software, along with a User's Guide, is delivered on a USB flash drive. Technology-savvy students and adults can use this software with little assistance. Other students may need some instruction in its use.

Catalog Number: 1-04105-00
Click this link to purchase APH Talking PC Maps Software.

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
Web site:
APH Shopping Home:

Friday, April 15, 2011

About Face

by Kiesha Meikle

When it comes to the magic that is make-up, it really is amazing what you can achieve with the right products and the right technique. After all, where would Marilyn Monroe have been without her signature beauty spot, or Sophia Loren without her winged eyeliner and would we have been so taken with Judy Garland’s perfect pout if she had not found ‘her’ shade of red lipstick?

This said, there is a real difference between loving a look and being able to recreate it on yourself. And it really doesn’t matter if you are blind, partially sighted or fully sighted, the truth is, unless you are a trained make-up artist you will smudge, drip, smear and slip many times until you are able to master a new technique and actually make it your own.

For this reason, I learnt long ago to invest in a multipack of moist correction wipes (or wet wipes to you), which are now an absolute essential part of my make up bag. Sometimes, it is not how you put your make-up on; rather it is how you take it off.

So, to make things easier, I have listed some techniques you can use to master some of this season’s key make-up trends… and of course some of these will include the use of my old friend the wet wipe.

Going au naturel

The natural look is perfect for those who like to keep things simple.  For eyes and blush, opt for soft or pastel shades that compliment and blend well with your skin tone. A tinted moisturiser looks as natural as can be and is great for blind and partially sighted women who want light coverage, as it does not need to be applied precisely like a heavier foundation. Another great trick is to add a small amount of moisturiser to your fake tan, or use a moisturiser which contains tanning agents. Remember to go easy as these can build up over time.


Colour will be the word on everyone’s lips from superslick to ultramatte. If you are blind or partially sighted and find it difficult to get a neat finish, try applying lipstick to the bottom lip only and press lips together, do this twice for a stronger tone and then use your wet wipe to trace around the outer line of your lip to get rid of any smudging.


Again, colour is the name of the game, so don’t worry about being too heavy-handed if you want to stay on trend. Applying perfect eye shadow if you are blind or partially sighted is easy when you know how.  

  1. Stroke a clean eye shadow brush on to the eye shadow pallet twice and blow on it, then apply a stroke over the eyeball area three times.
  2. Turn the brush over and do the same to the other eye.

By applying your eye shadow in this way, you will get even coverage on both eyes. Using a clean brush or your fingertips (cue the wet wipe) you can then gently smudge the eye shadow.

Kiesha Meikle offers fashion and beauty advice for blind and partially sighted women. She works as a communications officer at Action for Blind People. Kiesha also works as a lifestyle journalist and launched StyleAble as an online fashion and beauty resource for blind and partially sighted women (and hopefully men in the future).

Fashion forecast

by Kiesha Meikle

Oh the fickle world of fashion. Once again the season is changing and with it the trends. Have you been keeping up?

Well don’t panic if you haven’t, because if you have your own personal style then that’s ok - following trends can simply be a way of finding new elements to add to your look. However, if you are keen to stay at the forefront of fashion then be warned, as timing is everything. Did you know that wearing a new trend too soon is just as bad, if not worse, than wearing something considered passé? I made that mistake at London Fashion Week… nuff said.

I thought I would give you a heads up so you are prepared for Spring/ Summer 2011, and not a minute before. If you have a carer, family or friend shopping for you just pass this on, that way you can blame them if you are arrested by the fashion police!


Key elements: Tassels, feathers, crochet, macramé and appliqué, shift dresses, plaiting, weaving and knotting.

Top tip: This is not a trend to be overdone, especially if you are more of a curvaceous body shape as the varying textures of this look can add serious bulk (especially the feathers!). Don’t go overboard with this one as you don’t want to look as if you have knitted your old doilies together – think handmade rather than DIY! A cool tassel bag or nifty scarf or accessory to wear with your old faithfuls is all you need.


Key elements: Animal prints and shapes of all kinds on everything including satin dresses and tops. Accessories shaped as animals.

Top tip: Again, go easy with this one, as dressing head to toe in any print or colour is risky; add an animal print to the mix and you are asking for trouble. However this is a fun look and if you dilute it too much you could miss the point. Veer on the wild side by grabbing yourself an animal shaped bag and wearing it with that leopard print coat/accessory/skirt/top/shoe/scarf lurking in the back of your wardrobe.


Key elements: Strong shades of orange or tangerine.

Top tip: Bolder shades are key to carrying off this zesty look. Get yourself an orange top or jacket and wear this as an accent colour, coupled with a deep colour on the bottom (but not brown!). This will do amazing things to your silhouette, making you look slimmer especially if you have a pear shape. For those who love to tan, tangerine is always best on golden skin so slap on the fake bake.


Key Elements: Blue jewel tones especially on draped or flowing dresses in satin and silk.

Top tip: This is a great for most occasions and easy to pull off, just get yourself some very blue denim or flares if you want to be bang on trend. Find a shade (you can find out more about colour on that suits your skin tone and stick with it, however try to go for bolder blues rather than pastel shades. Stronger blue tones look great on most people from blonde hair to black skin - find a blue that will help you sparkle.

Kiesha Meikle offers fashion and beauty advice for blind and partially sighted women. She works as a communications officer at Action for Blind People. Kiesha also works as a lifestyle journalist and launched StyleAble as an online fashion and beauty resource for blind and partially sighted women (and hopefully men in the future).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

FreePhone2Phone Makes Free 10-Minute International Calls, After an Ad or Two

For the cost of listening to one or two audio ads, 20 seconds or less each, you can make a free international phone call. It only lasts 10 minutes, but for certain types of phone users, that's more like a feature than a restriction. And it actually works.

The hardest part of using FreePhone2Phone is likely entering in the international and area codes to complete your call. Find your local access number on FreePhone2Phone's site, dial it, listen to an ad, enter your number, then (perhaps) listen to one more ad. Then your call is connected, and that's about it.

FreePhone2Phone is, as you guessed, free to use in the U.S., with advertising. Only a few countries allow for calling cellular phones, but most land line numbers are free to call. Calling the same number twice in one day also cuts the call limit to five minutes.

Click this link to visit

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nature's Finest Bounty

Nature's Finest Bounty is a new website offering both premium organic coffee and an opportunity for blind and visually impaired entrepreneurs. The coffee is available in ten flavors and is available in both whole bean and ground form. Money raised benefits the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan.

In addition, the site is looking to sell products made by blind entrepreneurs ranging from preserves and soaps to music and artwork. For more information on this, email

Click this link to visit the Nature's Finest Bounty website.

Capture the spirit of Nobel achievement Through Sound

Alfred Nobel was both a creative genius and an idealist. The inventor of dynamite and over 300 patents left an enduring legacy to the world by establishing a fund which would award annual prizes in five specified fields: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. Economic science was added in the 1960s. But what does it take to win a Nobel Prize: genes or genius, education or environment?

On this website, you can hear Nobel Prize-winners speak! Listen to the sound samples on this page with Windows Media Player. You can hear:

  • Harold Pinter (1930 - 2008)
  • Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
  • Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856 - 1924)
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919)
Click this link to hear the sounds of Nobel Laureates.

How to Create Accessible Microsoft Office Files

By Cory Bohon

Accessible Office Documents Picture Whenever you are creating content for mass consumption (be it students, co-workers, or the Web), you should consider the accessibility of what you are creating. For example, if your content has audio, have you created a transcript or captions so that people who are deaf can access it? If your content has important visual information, have you formatted this information in a way that is compatible with the assistive technology used by people who are blind or have low vision?

Microsoft Office files are the predominant document types handled by individuals in both academia and the corporate world. Files with .doc/docx, .ppt/pptx, and .xls/xlsx are a proprietary format, so how can you guarantee the accessibility of these files when sharing with others? As it turns out, the newest versions of Office are accessibility-friendly, allowing you to create accessible content. Furthermore, these versions even have an evaluation feature that will go through your document, checking it for inaccessible elements.

The Microsoft Office Blog recently published a post about creating accessible PowerPoint presentations. This post, which goes over understanding accessibility, creating accessible presentations, and sharing accessible presentations, can get you up to speed on creating accessible presentations in no time. But what about Word or Excel documents?

Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows includes a great feature called the Accessibility Checker that will scan your Office documents for inaccessible items. (Unfortunately, this feature isn’t available in Office 2011 for Mac, but Office 2011 for the Mac does tie in to the accessibility features built into Mac OS X, including VoiceOver.) To use the Accessibility Checker in Office 2010 for Windows, do the following:

  1. Click File > Info > Prepare for Sharing
  2. Next, click on the Check for Issue button, and then click Check Accessibility
  3. The Accessibility Checker task pane will appear in your document, alerting you to any accessibility errors in the document.
  4. Clicking on a specific issue in this task pane will show you the reasoning behind the error in the “Additional Information” section

Fixing the errors that appear in the Accessibility Checker will ensure that your document is at least a little more accessible than before.

To learn more about the accessibility features of Microsoft Office, check out the post by the Crabby Office Lady on Creating Documents for All Audiences.

Cardnap: an Ebay for Gift Card Balances

As every store is eager to let you know, gift cards can't be refunded for cash. So what should you do with that nice-but-misguided plastic? Cardnap offers a spot to sell your balance at a slight loss, as well as pick up other, more helpful gift cards at a discount.

Cardnap's primary function is to report on the best discounts, and the best selling prices, at gift card swapping spots like Plastic Jungle, Cardpool, and others. Type in a store name, browse through the discounted offerings, or hit the Sell section to see how much you can get for your remaining Cheesecake Factory balance. Free to use, the site claims no affiliation with any of the sites it scans, and there's a handy balance checker you can use for any card.

Click this link to visit

What Records to Keep Year-To-Year

A Tax Tip Article from The Tax Institute at H&R Block.

You have forms, statements, policies, records and more.  Keeping it all organized can be quite a chore.  What do you keep?  And for how long?  Here are a few tips for managing your document storage.

Keeping tax records in case of an audit

According to the IRS, you should keep your tax records from 3 to 7 years depending on your situation.  Additionally, the IRS recommends keeping copies of your W-2 forms until you’re eligible for retirement.  Having these documents can help you be prepared in the event of an audit.  In fact, many people do not realize that a tax examiner will not have your old returns.  Instead, they will ask you to bring your past tax returns to the audit.

If you need a copy of an old return, your H&R Block Tax Professional can help.  Or if you did your taxes online with H&R Block At Home, you can access a past return at You can also request of a copy of a past return from the IRS for a small fee using IRS Form 4506.

More reasons to keep those tax records

Having past tax records on hand can be quite useful for reasons other than an audit.

  • Having a reference for next year’s return: previous returns can give you a starting point when accounting for all your deductions, credits and more.
  • Figuring the tax free distributions from your IRA by referencing the nondeductible contributions to it filed on Form 8606.

Keeping records of large purchases

You might make large purchases of items that you may want to sell later (your home being one of the largest).  Keeping records and receipts related to these items can help you identify a gain or a loss when you do sell.  Plus, having these records can help you determine an insurance reimbursement amount if you have a claim due to damage or theft.  Some examples of the records you want to keep include:

  • Records detailing improvements to your home.
  • Receipts regarding the purchase, maintenance, and improvement of rental property.
  • Records of capital assets such as coin and antique collections, jewelry, stocks, bonds, and more.

Other things to consider

Keeping your bank account and loan records can help you verify your taxable income in the event that the IRS believes your lifestyle appears more comfortable than your income would support.  Here are some other records and documents to consider keeping:

  • Insurance policies: to help you determine your reimbursement in case of a loss from a casualty or theft, medical expenses, or certain business losses.
  • Family records such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, etc. – to prove a change in filing status or dependency exemptions.
  • Health history and medical procedure records: to prove necessary and deductible medical expenses.
  • Receipts or other records showing purchases: to prove payment for large purchases.

Cleaning out the file cabinet

Once you determine that you no longer need receipts or old credit card statements, it’s a good idea to shred the records before you throw them away.  With today’s concerns about identity theft, the extra step to destroy the documents can give you peace of mind.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Learning Ally is the New Name for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

Name change reflects nonprofit’s strategy to support a broader population of individuals with learning differences and reading disabilities.

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D), a 63-year old nonprofit organization serving over 300,000 individuals across the U.S. with learning differences and reading disabilities, announced that it has officially changed its name to Learning Ally, effective April 11, 2011.

The new name is accompanied by a tagline, "Making reading accessible for all", and was selected after months of research and focus groups were conducted with hundreds of RFB&D student members, parents, volunteers, education professionals and other stakeholders.

“Changing the name of a long-established national institution such as RFB&D is not something we entered into lightly,” says Andrew Friedman, Learning Ally’s President and CEO. “Our members themselves were the key driver of this transformation. For one thing, our mix of users today includes individuals with diverse learning differences that are outside the scope of our former name.

“Most important of all,” adds Friedman, “our members have expressed loud and clear that they don’t wish to be labeled or typecast with a specific ‘disability.’ They just want the same opportunities to succeed that others enjoy. Our new name goes to the heart of supporting their desire to learn and achieve.”

Recording for the Blind was founded in 1948, with a mission to provide equal access to the printed word for veterans and others with blindness and visual impairment. Early volunteers recorded textbooks onto vinyl discs and tape reels. During the 1990s, RFB extended its mission to include access for people with dyslexia and learning disabilities, and changed its name to RFB&D. As its library grew to become the largest of its kind in the world, RFB&D made audiobooks accessible on cassettes, CDs and downloadable formats with extensive navigation capabilities for students with reading disabilities. Users accessed their books with specialized assistive technology devices from a variety of vendors.

In 2010, RFB&D embraced the latest mainstream technology, making its content accessible on Mac and Windows computers for users at home or in school. And in February 2011, an application was released enabling its entire library of downloadable audiobooks to be played on Apple iOS devices including the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

All of this is good news for the widening base of students, parents, teachers and schools that Learning Ally serves.

“We truly cherish the values of our founders and stand on the solid foundation built by countless RFB&D volunteers and donors,” says Andrew Friedman. Today we recognize that as many as one in five individuals learn differently. Now as Learning Ally, we continue to support our blind and dyslexic members, while positioning the organization to be even more inclusive, as an advocate and friend to people for whom access and reading are barriers to learning.”

Founded in 1948 as Recording for the Blind, Learning Ally serves more than 300,000 K-12, college and graduate students, as well as veterans and lifelong learners, all of whom cannot read standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Learning Ally’s collection of more than 65,000 digitally recorded textbooks and literature titles, delivered through internet downloads and various assistive technology devices, is the largest of its kind in the world. More than 6,000 volunteers across the U.S. help to record and process the educational materials, which students rely on to achieve academic and professional success. Learning Ally, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Education, state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, call (866) 732-3585 or click this link to visit

Friday, April 08, 2011

One More Look at The Adventures of Abby Diamond

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

Abby and the gang go to the beach and find more mysteries than they ever counted on.

“Another Holiday”

We were on a break from school when I got a call from Alison.

“Hey, Abby,” Alison said. “Got any plans for the next few days?” Man, I loved when I heard these words from my friend. You see, Kaitlyn, Alison’s mother, had sent us on some really cool trips like to Hawaii and Charleston, South Carolina.

“No,” I blurted too quick. “Are we going somewhere?” Alison began laughing.

“Abby, you can always make me laugh and the answer to your question is yes although we won’t be traveling very far.”

“Yea, I knew it!” I squealed. “Where are we going this year?” I asked. You see another great thing about traveling with a rich movie star was that she would foot the bill regardless of where we were going.

“Well, Kaitlyn’s movie premiere is in Houston Saturday night, so since we are off this week, she said that we could go with her. We’ll drive and take our time, she said. You and the gang will need to bring a swimsuit, dressy clothes for the movie premiere and then casual clothes. Guess what? Kaitlyn is paying for Jaxson and Glen to go, too.”

“You’re kidding!” I laughed. “Why those two bush leagues?” I said. “Bush leagues?” Alison questioned.

“Yeah, Neils taught me that term. It means someone who is below average.” I teased. “No, really, Alison, I am glad that Jaxson and Glen are going. They are really cool guys.”

“Kaitlyn met the boys at one of our dances. They stood there and stared at her the whole night. Glen actually came up with his own words instead of mocking everything Jaxson said. He said she was the most beautiful ‘thing’ he had ever seen.” We both laughed really hard.

So,” Alison continued. “Kaitlyn owns this really large beach house, so we will have our own rooms and the boys will have theirs. Guess who use to live there… are you ready for this, Abby?”

“Who?” I anticipated.

“Sandra Bullock. It was her old beach house in Galveston.” Alison squealed. “My mom and Sandra have been great friends since they both worked on a movie after Sandra’s movie, The Proposal.” Alison said. “My mom bought it from her after she was filming in Houston.”

I couldn’t believe it, but another great trip with my pals was on its way as well as an interesting new character that the gang and I would meet.

A few hours later, Neils, Andrea and I were on a three-way call.

"Abby, I am taking my black dress with ruffles. It’s short and today I bought a really cool necklace to go with it,” Andrea giggled.

“Guys, I am so excited, too. I am taking my hot pink dress that has really cute colorful circles all over it, and it has a purse that matches,” I said.

“I’m taking my jeans,” Neils joked or at least I hoped that she was joking.

The next day it was time to leave. My mom took Andrea, Neils, Alison and me over to Audie and Kaitlyn’s to wait on Kaitlyn.

“Bye Mom,” I yelled when I closed the door. “Bye Mrs. D. and thank you,” screamed Neils and Andrea. After Audie greeted us we walked into Alison’s room and waited on the movie star.

“Alison, your room is really cute,” Andrea said. “I love how it is decorated in vintage pink and black like the 50’s. Hey, and you even have an old vintage phone just like the ones from the 50’s. Cool.”

“Well, it’s small, but I like it ‘cuz it’s cozy and it’s mine,” Alison grinned.

Just then we heard a really loud knock. “Hey, Hey, anybody home?” Yep, it was our favorite classmate, Jaxson. We laughed when we heard Glen mock Jaxson’s every word.

“Come on in, Jaxson,” Alison screamed. Audie had gone into the backyard and didn’t hear the two pounding away like it was a matter of life and death. I laughed when I heard a sack rattle with all kinds of snacks inside.

“Jaxson, what all did you pack?” asked Neils. “You brought the whole grocery store with you,” she laughed.

“Hey, I am growing and I don’t want to be starving ‘cuz I get grumpy if I ain’t eating,” Jaxson stated.

“Well, you are for sure growing,” Neils teased. We then heard another door and sure enough it was our movie star ready to take us on another adventure.

“Sticky Fingers”

Kaitlyn never disappoints with her pampering others on a trip, and she didn’t disappoint us this time either. She rented a huge SUV equipped with everything imaginable like DVD players, a refrigerator and music with earphones that come from the seats. She laughed at us as we were ‘ooohing and ahhhing’. Kaitlyn really seemed to get a kick out of Jaxson and Glen. I guess it’s because they didn’t put on any airs about her being so rich, famous and beautiful.

“Man, your hair smells good,” Glen said aloud. Jaxson trying to help him not seem like a total nerd said, “Geez, keep your thoughts to yourself. You embarrass me.” Kaitlyn really began laughing during this scene.

“Well, Jaxson you’re embarrassing me eating peanut butter and jelly in this nice ride. Man, your fingers are sticky and so is your DVD case.”

We continued driving down highway 45 on our way to Houston and then on to Galveston when Neils piped up.

“Hey, Guys. Look up ahead. There’s a prison museum. Cool. Can we go, Kaitlyn?” Neils asked. Neils was always into anything that involved law enforcement. She watched every police show that was on cable television. For some reason, Kaitlyn hesitated which was not like her when it came to kids having fun.

“Well, I don’t know if we have enough time,” she stammered.

“Can we go if we hurry?” sputtered Jaxson.

“Sure, let’s go in as long as we go quickly,” Kaitlyn said louder than normal.

We walked into the museum and waited for Kaitlyn to pay.

“Abby,” Andrea whispered to me. “I don’t think Kaitlyn wanted to come here. I feel bad about this.”

“Me, too, Andrea. I don’t know why the other kids kept pushing her into doing this. I mean, what big-time movie star wants to visit a prison museum?” I asked.

I have to admit the museum was fascinating. It showed old prisoners’ pictures, uniforms and weapons that they used to try and break out of jail. We watched a video on the prison systems in Texas and then got to take pictures of all of us in a real jail cell. Jaxson jumped up on the top bunk.

“Man, I ain’t never going to jail,” Jaxson moaned. “You have to sleep on this old burlap mattress and use the commode in front of everybody.”

“Commode?” Neils asked. “Jaxson, my grandpa says ‘commode’. No one under 60 years says, ‘commode’, we say, ‘toilet’.

“Whatever,” he muttered. “Hey, Guys, look at that chair over there. The orange one with wires all over it. Man, I promise you, I ain’t never going to get close to committing no crime, and have to see ‘Old Sparky’ up close.”

“You just committed a crime by murdering the King’s English,” laughed Andrea and Neils. We were all walking through a line of glass-in objects from past prisoners when Alison yelled out.

"Oh, my gosh. Look here. Here’s a picture of two gangsters from Texas, Bonnie and Clyde. They robbed so many people, but it doesn’t look like they got away with it,” Alison said.

There was a model of the prison rodeo that some of the prisoners rode in, and uniforms that the prisoners wear. We continued to walk around the museum when I heard Glen say, “Hey, Alison. This prisoner has the same last name as your mom.” Kaitlyn spoke up quickly, too quickly if you ask me, “Oh, Glen that man’s name is Joe Summers. That is a very common name. Try to ‘google’ the name Joe Summers and see how many hits you get.” I could hear her breathing speed up. Glen continued talking.

“Hey he was arrested fourteen times for robbing banks. Wow. It says from 1970-1990, ‘Sticky Fingers, Joe’ robbed over seventy-five banks. If you keep, reading,” Glen continued, “You’ll see that even though he did some really bad things, he has turned his life around.”

Kaitlyn interrupted, “Well, I think I ‘ve seen enough of the museum. Are you guys ready to leave?”

“Yes,” we all agreed. It was really an interesting place, but I could hear in her tone that we better get a-move-on and hit the road.

As we were traveling down the highway, Kaitlyn’s mood seemed to lighten.

“How would you all like to go to the Arts Fest in downtown Houston,” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered for all. “I love to go to Art Fest. They have all kinds of fun stuff to do. Artists bring all of their creative creations and there’s plenty of food to eat.” We drove to the Art Fest and had the best time. Neils and Andrea did sighted guide with me. That’s where I fold my cane up and am guided by another person by holding on to their elbow.

“Look over here,” Alison screamed. “Friendship chains. We can have all of our names engraved on the chain. Mom said that she would buy one for all of us.”

“Cool, Alison, but Glen and I want ‘Born to be Wild’ on ours.”

“Yep, we sure do. Right, Bro?” Glen the parrot echoed.

Kaitlyn bought us all the friendship chains, food, drinks, ice cream and anything else that our little hearts desired. If Jaxson and Glen didn’t stop eating so much, Kaitlyn was going to have to do three more movies just to pay for their food.

“Abby, feel of this,” Neils said. “They engraved your name in Braille on all of our chain bracelets. In purple it says, ‘Neils’, in pink it is written, ‘Alison’, and in blue it says, ‘Andrea’. Your name is engraved right here. Man this is the greatest gift ever.” I agreed with Neils, and we all put on our bracelets while laughing at Jaxson and Glen singing the song, “Born to be Wild.” Kaitlyn really got a kick out of these two goofballs.


After we left Houston, we drove straight to Galveston. Nan and Pop had taken Neils, Andrea, Alison and me last year. I know it sounds a little bit like fiction, but we met a kid named Campbell who was looking for a treasure from his ancestor, John Lafitte, the pirate. We found the treasure after following a series of clues, and were able to return the treasure back to him and his family. I always have fun in Galveston. I love that place. I love the beach, the sand and of course, the sea food.

We pulled up to the house and I heard Jaxson and Glen going crazy, “Oh, my gosh. This is the biggest freaking house that I have ever seen!” Jaxson yelled, and he wasn’t kidding either.

The beach house named, ‘Paradox’, after the two doctors that once owned it before Sandra Bullock and Kaitlyn, had designed the luxurious house themselves.

The house was a beautiful yellow color and was multiple layers. Alison and Kaitlyn walked with me describing the beautiful place. They told me that it had ten bedrooms, a large living area, a huge kitchen, a media room and was really decorated with posh items. I love to feel the excitement in your stomach when you are on vacation, and I had that very feeling just being inside of this mansion.

Outside of the enormous house, was the beautiful white sand, and within a few feet was the ocean. I could hear the excitement in Neils and Jaxson’s voices when we walked outside.

“Hahahaha,” Neils was hysterical laughing.

“What’s going on?” I laughed, too but didn’t know why.

“Jaxson just bit the dust. He tripped over that sand pile and landed face first in the sand. Hahahahaha,” she continued.

“Oh, Neils,” Jaxson teased. “Look what I have for you. Why it’s a sand pie that’s going to go right in your face.”

“Everybody run,” Neils laughed. After a few rounds of horseplay, the kids began eyeing the water.

“WOW! Kaitlyn, when can we go out and get in the surf?” Jaxson yelled almost knocking me over in the meantime.

“How about, now?” she laughed. I heard loud stomping going up the outdoor stairs into the house, so that they could quickly get their bathing suits. We followed but waited a few minutes so that we wouldn’t be stomped to death by Neils and Jaxson.

“Okay, Everyone,” Kaitlyn spoke. “Choose your rooms.” It’s funny, but even though the huge house had many rooms, the four of us decided to stay together. I mean the rooms were large anyway. Jaxson chose one room and Glen was across the hall from him. Our rooms were on the other side of the house. Kaitlyn chose the room that was right in the middle of our rooms, so in case we needed her, she would be right there.

After we put on our bathing suits, grabbed our towels, and put on our sunscreen, we walked through the kitchen to go outside. I smelled the sweetest smell of fruit that made my stomach growl. I guess Neils did, too, because she blurted out, “Kaitlyn, can we eat some fruit before we go out?”

“For sure, Neils. My house is your house. This food is for you guys to eat all you want. I told the chef that I wanted healthy food for all of us, so that we’ll all feel good all weekend. I did tell him that he could add ice cream with hot fudge tomorrow night.”

“Thank you, Kaitlyn,” I said. “I think I’ll eat some juicy watermelon before I go outside.”

I could hear the laughter from my friends outside. Neils and Jaxson were really loud laughing and chasing Glen. As I was walking outside, I loved the feel of the sunshine, sand and the smell of seawater. This is one of those moments when you’re glad to be alive.

“Come on, Abby,” Alison said. “Take my arm and let’s get out in the water.” I took her arm and we jumped the waves. When the waves would roll in she would yell, ‘jump’, and I would jump because otherwise I got a mouth full of salt water. Eeek.

“Abby, get on board with me,” Andrea said. I held on to some floatation device called a ‘boogey board’ and we rode the waves. I was laughing and having the best time when someone yelled, “Glen is missing!”

“Castles in the Sand”

“Guys, where is Glen?” asked Jaxson. You could tell from the strangled sound coming out of his mouth that he was really worried. “He was just here with me riding the waves. I hope he ain’t dead. What if a shark ate him or he drowned?” I had to admit that I was starting to choke up, too, but then I heard Alison yell, “He’s over here with my mom.” Of course, where else would Glen be? We all thought of Glen as a dumb kid, but he was the one being buried in the sand by a beautiful and popular movie star. Maybe Ol’ Glen wasn’t so dumb after all.

“I’m over here, Guys,” Goofy Glen laughed. He was in hog heaven. It made us crack up.

“Jaxson is next, Kaitlyn,” Glen said.

“I ain’t never going to be buried by nobody, beautiful and skinny movie star or not,” and then he stomped off.

“I want to do it,” I said.

“Great,” Kaitlyn added. “Lay down, Abby, and we are going to turn you into a gorgeous mermaid.” The kids, except for pouty Jaxson, put sand all over me, and then Kaitlyn carved mermaid arms and fins for me. Everyone was laughing and taking pictures of me. I added, “Put my cane beside me.” Neils got a big kick out of this and sent my mom the pictures of Glen and me from her expensive new phone. After I was buried in the sand, Alison and I made beautiful sand castles from the plastic buckets that we bought earlier.

Later that night, we went to several of the really cool souvenir shops along the seawall.

“Hey, hey, look at that four-person bicycle,” Jaxson screamed. “Let’s ride it.” Kaitlyn agreed and we rented two. We pedaled like crazy and had so much fun. I could really feel the Claireze from the ocean on my face, and it was really making me hungry.

“Why does that weird-looking man keep looking over here at us?” asked Andrea.

“Oh, he probably recognizes Kaitlyn or something,” I said.

“It isn’t Kaitlyn that he’s staring at, but it is Alison that the weirdo keeps gawking at like there’s no tomorrow,” Andrea stated.

“Mom, I am hungry,” Alison said. “When can we go eat?” She seemed oblivious to the fact that some weird man was eyeing her.

“Let’s go eat at this really good seafood restaurant across the street. Everyone get what you want. We’ll have chocolate sundaes when we get back to the beach house.”

Jaxson took Kaitlyn literally when she said that he could have what he wanted. He ate a steak, a salad, his own tray of garlic bread, a baked potato and a side of onion rings. “Wow, that was great!!” Jaxson said and then he belched, ‘BURP’.

“Gross. Eeeeeek,” Neils laughed and then did the same, ‘BURP’. My parents would have told us to calm down but not cool Kaitlyn.

“That isn’t anything,” Kaitlyn said. Then to my surprise and everyone in the restaurant she let out a huge, ‘BURP!!!!!’. We laughed, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Neils and Andrea had to carry me out of the restaurant. I was laughing like crazy until Andrea tugged on my arm and whispered, “Hurry up and get into the car, NOW!”

“What’s wrong, Andrea?” I asked.

“The weird man is staring at us again. I guess he followed us into the restaurant. He is really starting to scare me.” We jumped into the car, and drove away without anyone else noticing the stranger that was following us.

That same night, we walked along the private beach area and hunted for sand crabs. We took a flashlight, a big tin pail and a net. We captured the crabs and put them in the pail. When we finished hunting, we dumped them all out of the pail and took off running back into the house.

"Did you see him?” I asked Andrea as we were walking along with the group.

"No, I didn’t see anyone else except for the young family down the beach. I guess he finally got his eyes full or something,” Andrea said simply.

“Hahahhahahaha,” Glen laughed. “This is the coolest trip that I have ever taken with friends. Well, I guess it’s the only trip that I’ve taken with friends.” We stayed up talking and then went to sleep, so that we could be ready for the big movie premiere tomorrow night.


The next morning when we woke up, we ate hot scrambled eggs, buttered biscuits, crunchy bacon and delicious sweet pieces of fruit, and were being waited on by some of Kaitlyn’s staff members. Knowing a movie star had its advantages.

After breakfast we played some more in the water and ran around the beach area. Jaxson stumbled upon a shed that was attached to the house.

“Let’s go inside and see what’s in there. I bet there some kind of really cool jet ski,” Jaxson said.

“Let me try the door,” I said, and sure enough it was unlocked. “Wow, let’s go inside and investigate,” I continued.

We went inside and saw cans of paint, a few surfboards, fishing nets and poles, and then we heard Jaxson scream.

“What’s wrong with you?” screamed Glen.

“I foooouuuunnnddd a fiiiinnnnnngggeeerr!” Jaxson croaked, and then I heard another scream.

It was Alison. “Oh, my gosh. I see it, too!” she yelled. As you know, I am pretty brave most of the time, but I was about to go into full-blown panic until I heard Neils start laughing and laughing hard.

“You guys are really funny,” she laughed. “That’s not a finger; it’s a fishing lure. See?”

Sure enough, Neils was right. The ‘finger’ was nothing but an old fishing lure, you know, what you tie on the end of a fishing pole, so that the fish think it’s a worm or something that they can eat. Well, that was Jaxson’s ‘finger’ that he saw. We were laughing and throwing it around and on each other for at least a half an hour. I was finally relaxing until I heard a loud scream coming from Neils.

“Dead Man Walking”

“I just saw a man!” Neils screamed. “He stuck his head through that window. He looked dead, I mean really white, so maybe he was dead. I don’t know, but I am getting out of here.”

“Oh, no. Guys. I saw him following us around last night. Let’s get out of here,” Andrea yelled.

We all screamed and began running to get out of the shed when a man with dark hair and cold blue eyes stepped out in front of us and said, “What are you kids doing in this shed? Did you find anything? If you did, you need to return it. NOW!”

When the stranger screamed, ‘NOW’, we took off, and I didn’t have to wait for someone to grab my arm. I had a death-grip on Andrea’s shirt and we were out of there. I heard Jaxson scream, “Help me chain the garage shut.” So Neils pushed the man back, knocked him down, and held the door shut while Jaxson chained the door handle, so that the rest of us could get away.

“This won’t hold him long, but we might stand a chance.

We ran up the steps to go inside the beach house, and were about to yell for Kaitlyn to call the police until Jaxson said, “I know what he’s looking for.” And then Jaxson pulled out a wad of bills worth thousands of dollars and placed them in my hands.

“Jaxson, what is that?” I asked.

“It’s money. I found it all around the shed while you guys were playing around with the fishing lure. We can’t call the police until we find out if the money belongs to the man or to someone else.”

We tried to regain our composure and walked back into the beach house.

“What was all that noise?” asked Kaitlyn. “You kids sure know how to scream.” We let Alison take the lead.

“Mom, we were playing a game called, “Dead Man Walking,” she said. “We’ve had enough of that silly game, so I think we are all going to stay inside until the movie premiere and play games.” Kaitlyn was busy, so our really lame excuse for the noises we were making were quickly forgotten. She had all of her movie people around her doing her hair, make-up and anything else that she might need.

“Guys, that man really scares me,” Alison said. “The weird thing is that I think I have seen him somewhere before, but I can’t remember.”

“Was it that scary movie we saw last summer?” I asked. “There are movie stars in the house, so maybe he was just playing around with us,” I said not convincing myself.

“No, he ain’t no movie star,” Jaxson said. “He was either a dead man or a really scary alive one, and for some reason, he is hiding this money, and following us around. I ain’t giving it to him, though, until I know what’s going on with him and the money.”

“I just hope he doesn’t kill you or us in the meantime,” Neils quipped.

The rest of the day we played video games, cards and games inside of the beautiful beach house and away from ‘Dead Man Walking’.

“Star Light, Star Bright”

The night of the movie premiere was simply magic. If I didn’t want to be a detective so bad, I would want to be an actress just like Kaitlyn. I loved Kaitlyn even though I still thought that she was a better movie star than a mother, but I kept my thoughts to myself on that matter.

We all got dressed for the premiere. I decided to wear my turquoise shiny short dress with my heeled sandals and my glitzy necklace. Andrea wore her cute black ruffle short dress, Alison wore a baby blue halter top with matching skirt and Neils wore. . . a beautiful green short dress that matched her eyes. Andrea said that she looked stunning. Jaxson and Glen both looked really nice both wearing black suits and ties.

“My mom made me wear this monkey suit,” Jaxson complained until Kaitlyn told him and Glen that they both looked really hot. Neils said that Jaxson turned three shades of red, and Glen looked like he was going to pass out.

Kaitlyn, however, was the true star. Neils said, “I don’t think that I have ever seen someone this beautiful in person. She always looks pretty, but tonight she looks like a star.” Neils said that Kaitlyn wore a long beautiful black dress with a white lace tie around her waist, a beautiful diamond necklace and earrings, and her long blonde hair fell across to one side over her right shoulder.

The audience really seemed to like Kaitlyn’s new movie. I could hear everyone laugh at the appropriate times and clapped wildly at the end of it.

“Mom, I am so proud of you,” Alison said.

“I am proud of you,” Kaitlyn said. “You are the one who has it together.”

We went to the coolest party at some swanky place in Houston. It had a lot of food, and I mean a lot of great food.

“This is the best food,” Jaxson said and Glen, surprisingly, was agreeing again, “Yep, it sure is, Bro.”

I was listening to the music and keeping with the time of the music when Neils came over to me and said, “Dead Man Walking is in this room and he is coming this way!”

‘Dead Man’ took a turn and whispered something to Jaxson and Glen. Jaxson violently shook his head ‘no’ and took off running. Neils told me that ‘Dead Man’ began chasing after the boys.

“Abby, I got to go and help them,” Neils screamed and then she took off running. The rest of our gang saw what was going on and took off to help out as well, and then Kaitlyn walked up.

“Abby, what is going on? Why are all of the kids running?”

“Kaitlyn, Jaxson found some money in the barn and then this weird-looking man chased us and said to give back the money. The man has been following us around Galveston since we got here. He showed up here tonight, and now he’s chasing Jaxson and Glen,” I panted.

“Take my arm, Abby,” Kaitlyn said. “I think I know who is behind all of this.”

I swallowed hard and did what Kaitlyn said, but I could literally hear my knees knocking together.

“Joe Summers”

I could hear kids screaming and footsteps running.

“Dad, is that you?” Kaitlyn screamed. HUH? Dad? What on earth was Kaitlyn talking about?

“Kaitlyn, yes it’s me. I have been saving up some money for Alison, and hid it in the barn until this little crook took my money,” the man replied and continued, “I was following you and Alison around. I heard from a friend of mine that you owned this beautiful beach house and would be there this weekend for a movie premiere.”

“How did you get the money, Dad?” Kaitlyn demanded.

“I got it by honest means, Kaitlyn. You know that I do not rob banks anymore. You know that I have turned my life around. I would never hurt you anymore, and I want to get to know my own granddaughter.”

“Dead Man is your grandfather?” asked Glen.

“You are my grandfather?” Alison asked.

“Yes, Alison. I was in prison years ago for very bad decisions, but I have changed. I have been saving money for you. I do not have a bank account, and wanted to give you the money for your college. I hid it in the shed until after the movie premiere or I did until this kid took it.”

“I didn’t know, Mister,” Jaxson said. “I just wanted to make sure the money was in the right hands. I got it back stuffed in my pillowcase. You can have it back, really.”

“Thank you, Son, I appreciate your looking out for what’s right. I learned the hard way, but I am a changed man. Let’s shake hands. My name is Joe. Joe Summers.”

“We saw your name in the prison museum,” Glen said proudly.

“Yes, I gave them permission to put information up about me, so that others could see that I’ve changed my life, and so can anyone else,” Joe said, and continued, “We all make mistakes and need to learn from them.”

“Dad, I’m proud that you have changed. I’ve been talking to Sue, your sister, and I have heard really good things about how you have turned your life around the past ten years. I am really happy for you. Yes, we all make mistakes, and I know that I have made plenty.” I was proud of Kaitlyn for what she had just said. This could not be easy on her.

“Let’s go back and enjoy the party, and Dad, why don’t you stay at the beach house with us?”

“ Oh, no,” I heard Jaxson whisper to Glen.

“No, Kaitlyn, I got a hotel down the street, but why don’t we all have breakfast tomorrow morning on me. I want to get to know my beautiful granddaughter, and of course, her friends,” Joe said proudly.

“Joe Cool”

Joe did as he promised, and he came to the beach house the next day where he and Jaxson exchanged the money.

“Thank you, Jaxson. I appreciate you doing what is right,” Joe said earnestly.

“No problem, Joe. I just want you to know that I have made tons of mistakes myself. Do you know that I use to…. Oh, never mind, Joe, it ain’t important now,” Jaxson said.

Joe hung out all day with us. He was really a cool guy. Jaxson, Glen, Neils and Andrea went surfing with him. Come to find out, he was an excellent surfer and made his money teaching surfing lessons, and after a few years, he had opened up Joe’s Surf Shop right there on the seawall.

“Hey, Dad. Are you living in Galveston full time?” asked Kaitlyn.

“Yes, I am. I love my new business and my new life. Oh, and before you ask, I do wear sunscreen.” We laughed and had the best afternoon hanging out with Joe Cool.

“The Chain Gang” sung by The Pretenders

“I found a picture of you, oh,oh,oh,oh,oh
Those were the happiest days of my life
Like a break in battle was your part, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
In the wretched life of a lonely heart

(Chorus) Now we’re back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang. . .”

The 6Dot Braille Labeler

by John Christie

In the past, blind people have used a variety of methods to put Braille labels on a variety of devices. Most of them required you to use a stylus and slate. However, the 6dot, made by 6dot Innovations, may revolutionize this process.

The light-weight product comes with a 6-key interface. This ensures that you can produce all the Braille characters and contractions that a regular Braille writer would produce.

The 6dot Braille labeler produces crisp Braille, which is great for use in harsh environments. Each label is cut so that you can remove the adhesive backing.  It comes with an integrated cutting system so that scissors are not necessary. This makes it easy to label a variety of products such as a microwave oven, CDs, or a filing system that you would use at work to keep papers in alphabetical order. In addition, if you live in an apartment, you might want to label your apartment number on your mailbox. The 6dot also has a light touch keyboard. This means that you get full character embossing with a light touch of the keys.

The 6dot features a 32 character buffer so your typing speed isn’t limited and you can make labels quickly and efficiently.

The labeler measures 2.5 inches tall and can easily fit in a drawer. You can also get a shoulder strap for it as well if you’ll need to carry it with you. The labeler runs on 4 AA batteries.

The 6dot Labeler is a great product. It’s portable and can be easily stored when not in use. In addition, it has a cutter to automatically cut the tape.

Click this link to visit the 6dot Innovations website at


Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

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