Welcome to The Blind Perspective

Audio: Welcome to The Blind Perspective

April 2021

Volume 7 Issue 4

Table of Contents

The Blind Perspective in hardcopy braille!
Sponsors of the Month
Greetings from the Editors’
Recruiting for Access Technology Study
A Thyme to Plant
Arts and Crafts for the Visually Impaired
Beyond the Book Jacket
Blind Mobility
Computer Tech 101
Connecting the Dots
Fire at the Overbrook School for the Blind
guide dog corner
Kaleidoscope of Crafts
Water Gardening by Touch
Blast from the Past


The Blind Perspective Newsletter has been produced in such a manner that makes it easier to stroll through the articles. If you are using JAWS, System Access, or NVDA, press the letter H to move through the headings. If you are wanting to skip back simply press the shift key + the letter H. For MAC users, press Control Option Command plus the letter H and to go backwards through the articles press Control Option Command shift plus the letter H. If one of the links do not work for you just copy and paste it in to your browser and it should work.

The Blind Perspective in hardcopy braille!

Interested in a braille copy of The Blind Perspective? We now have that covered as yet another avenue for your reading enjoyment! The cost is 60 US Dollars for a 12 month subscription. Get a subscription for yourself or perhaps as a gift. It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

  1. Contact us at theblindperpective@gmail.com and we will send an invoice.
  2. Pay the 60 US Dollar invoice via PayPal.
  3. We ship the braille copy to your door or an address of your choice!

Sponsored by: CastleKingSide.org

Have you always wanted to play chess but didn’t know how? Do you need to improve a particular part of your game? Do you think check mate is your friend handing you some money? Then you need to check out Castle https://www.castlekingside.org, where you can listen to audio lessons on an array of topics, read articles, shop for chess gear and more. So come check us out and have some fun. See you on the board!

Editor’s Note: We decided to run the above sponsor’s ad again this month free of charge do to the fact the magazine was released late last month.

Sponsored by: Essentially Braille Custom Braille Your Way



Audio: Greetings from the Editors’ Tonya
Audio: Greeting from the Editors’ Ben

Greetings from the Editors’

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am always glad for warmer weather even though my allergies go crazy. The ability to go outside to grab something without a sweater makes me smile.

This month, The Blind Perspective has exciting news: Hard-copy Braille! That is right. You can get a subscription for embossed copies of the Blind Perspective to come to your door each month. Please visit http://www.theblindperspective.net for details. Don’t worry, if you don’t want to get braille, you can still read and or listen to the audio on The Blind Perspective for free. We will still put it on the website and it will be sent to all the subscribers. We are just really excited to offer yet another option to get information into the hands of those who want and need it. If you get a paid subscription in April, you will receive January through March along with it so you get the whole year.

This move helps support The Blind Perspective and gets the magazine into the hands of people who do not use computers!

Please email theblindperspective@gmail.com if you have any questions.

April also marks the return of book reviews, a column called Beyond the Book Jacket by Bonnie Blose. Bonnie has graciously offered to share her book reviews with us and we are grateful. Bonnie has much experience and her writing style is very pleasing. Please be sure to check out her book reviews and the books she tells us about. I know I am eager to read the ones in her article for this month.

It has been brought to our attention that there is a problem with the order of articles on NFB newsline. Please know that we are checking into this. We hope to work with the organization to find a solution.

As always, thank you for your patience and for reading The Blind Perspective.

By Tonya J. Drew, CBT

As mentioned in the March 2021 issue, The Blind Perspective is no longer using the Facebook social media platform. We are sorry for any inconvenience. The chosen platform is now MeWe. If you don’t have a MeWe account, you can go here: https://mewe.com/join/theblindperspective Sign up for your own account and look for The Blind Perspective there. This will allow us to continue being able to discuss issues and share ideas.

For new readers and as a friendly reminder we have a new policy regarding guidelines for writers of The Blind Perspective. Please review said policy at the bottom of the page before submitting an article.

By Benjamin Drew


Recruiting for Access Technology Study

Audio: Recruiting for Access Technology Study

The National Research & Training Center on Blindness & Low Vision is recruiting people with blindness or low vision (age 21+) who are working or are interested in working to be part of a 5-year study about access technology (AT) use, particularly in the workplace. Some questions we will seek answers to are:
• What access technology do you most commonly use?
• How do you decide whether to use a specific access technology?
• What are your technology challenges?
• What tools do you need that aren’t currently available?
We want to know YOUR thoughts and experiences! Participation will involve completing multiple surveys to help us determine how access technology use is changing over time.
Why participate?
• You’ll help identify gaps in access technology – what is needed but not available, which our technology company partners, including Microsoft, Google, OrCam, Vispero, and Aira are interested in!
• Findings will allow us to make recommendations for access technology users, VR professionals, access technology specialists, and employers.
• We’ll share study results directly with you, and you’ll have the chance to join a community of study group members.
Want to have your voice heard and help us with our 5-year study? Complete our pre-screening survey online at https://msstatecoe.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8i98Qap5V441mdg?source=38 or call 662-325-2001 to schedule an appointment for a telephone screening. Contact Michele McDonnall (m.mcdonnall@msstate.edu) or Emily Damm (edamm@colled.msstate.edu) with questions.

A Thyme to Plant

Audio: A Thyme to Plant

To support climbing plants such as grapevines, climbing roses or clematis, trellises make statements that accent scent, shape and color. They originally were an architectural element used to support greenery.

Pliny the Younger (circa 61-113) wrote letters which told that trellises existed in ancient Greece. King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) hired an architect to build an elaborate trellis for his French garden, which quickly caught on with other aristocracy in Europe. Walt Whitman wrote about a trellis in one of his poems.

Several terms often get confused and used interchangeably: trellis, arbor and pergola. A trellis is a structure that provides shade and a support for plants to climb. An arbor is a recessed or partially closed off area that provides seating and is usually larger than a trellis. A pergola is a trellis that covers a walkway and may or may not include seating.

In ancient Egypt, arbors provided relief from the desert heat. In ancient Rome, stone columns and statues decorated arbors.

Mediterranean gardens typically are areas that include desert plants. If space allows, there will be a small table with some seating. Privacy is created with climbing vines or fragrant flowering vines adorning trellises or arbors. Heat loving, drought tolerant plants in terra cotta pots add charm. Large plants include bamboo, grasses, exotic flowers and citrus fruit trees. Fragrant plants include herbs such as rosemary, lavender and thyme.

Originally, in the 1600’s, espalier (a French term) meant the actual trellis or frame on which a woody plant such as blackberry vines or fruit trees were trained to grow. Now, espalier has come to mean the practice of growing and of the plants themselves.

Simple trellises support vines and keep plants off the ground. Without a trellis or cage, fruiting plants like tomatoes and cucumbers could topple over from the weight of the fruit and possibly break. More plants can be grown in less space with trellises because vines and fruit are not taking up ground space. Plant diseases are less of a problem because the leaves stay drier when off the ground. There is increased air flow around the plants. The harvest is easy to reach.

Trellises are usually open framework or lattice structures of interwoven or intersecting bits of wood, bamboo or metal that support and display climbing plants.

A trellis should be put in the ground and stabilized to remain upright during the growing season. Some trellises can remain in place for years, others are able to be folded up for off season storage. Plant seeds or transplants once the trellis is in place to avoid disturbing the root structure of the plant.

People used to use twine to tie their plants to trellises. Today, clips, shower curtain hooks and other devices, easily felt by low vision and blind people, can loosely attach plants to trellises. The devices can be reused and stored to last for many seasons.

Containers of plants can be put on a sturdy trellis.

Now, it is “thyme” for me to check the trellises for the plants I put in containers every year.

By Sue Brasel, Master Gardener

Arts and Crafts for the Visually Impaired

Audio: Arts and Crafts for the Visually Impaired

When I was young I liked to play with things that children do, drawing, playing with clay, and other activities. I was never good at drawing because I am partially sighted and had more vision then, but not enough to stay within the lines of a printed coloring book.
The other children made fun of me as early as kindergarten while I tried to do this, and although I tried at home I knew I couldn’t keep up with them so eventually I gave up on it.

As I got older my vision changed and I went through a few eye operations which have changed my vision. I lived with a desire to do more arts and crafts projects on my own. My father taught me some about knots for macrame and I made belts and wall hangings for friends.

When I moved to Indiana in 2007, I realized I had to find things that I could do. Long ago a very good friend who understands about blindness took me to an arts and crafts show in New Hampshire. Some of the art pieces were worth well over twenty thousand dollars. There was a wooden carved bird collection an artist had for sale, and all of his art was
museum quality. This was so beautiful I really admired his work. We asked if I could hold a piece to touch it and feel it. The piece was a bird called a chickadee. It felt so lifelike. We walked through a large breezeway. On a wall was a very large art piece. This was a three dimensional map of the entire city all in wood. The frame was about eight feet high and eight feet long. I was amazed, and my friend said I just had to see this. So we spent the next half hour exploring the map. I had my hands all over it exploring where bridges and buildings were it was so detailed. It showed all the roads too. This was the most amazing thing I had seen in years.

It still influences me with my own art I have created. One of my great ambitions was to learn sculpture. I thought that I would just see if there was anyone I could ask about having sculpture lessons downtown. So I looked it up on the internet and made the call.

An older gentleman answered and said I should come to the shop. When I arrived there were a lot of sculptures on shelving that others had made and they were getting ready for an art show. The gentleman, Bob, sat me down at a table and brought over pieces for me to see and touch. He said that he wanted me to identify these objects. There were about ten that he showed me and I got nine out of ten. One was very abstract so I didn’t know what it was supposed to be. But he said I had done well.

The next week I came back to the shop, and he had me using stencils to make a bowl that was beautiful like a big maple leaf
which I gave away as a gift to a friend who helps me with volunteer work.

The third week I went back to the shop and sat at the same table again. This time Bob handed me a huge glob of clay and said that I should make something. I sat thinking what could I do because I hadn’t done anything with clay since I was a child. I made a statue of a German shepherd like some guide dogs I had. Bob was amazed and told me that his last blind student could only make geometric figures and that was all.

We started making statues in earnest and I sold them to the guide dog community as extra income for three years along with other objects I made
like nautical figurines and birds, as I have always been interested in birds. When I lived on our small farm my mom taught me how to identify them by sound since I had no vision to see them in the trees. So then with the objects I made at the shop Bob helped me with the colors and details to make these beautiful using a color chart. I used my color id machine to help us discuss the colors that were appropriate for the objects I made. I started to make other types of art pieces at home. These are on a plexiglass frame. I take off the backing and use sculpture clay like it was paint making a sort of 3-D picture. This means I can feel the objects in the picture. The backgrounds are scenic and I use bulletin board paper. Some paper comes in sky views like day time sky with clouds or a night time sky with stars. I have such a frame which hangs in this house of mine. It is a plexiglass frame that has three large trees in it that are fall colors of orange leaves, red, and gold leaves with green leaves at the bottom of the trees. The sky is a blue sky with clouds. Below are evergreen trees and the center focal point is a large buck deer with all his antlers. Another picture is a night sky with a house, fence, black tree and a gray wolf on the ground. The house has glow in the dark windows, and there’s a glow in the dark moon overhead.

The map that I saw with all raised figures has influenced me to go on to making all types of art that are three dimensions. It is my belief that the totally blind should have access to pictures the way sighted people do and access to sculptures they can touch.
For those of us who have some memories of how things look after loss of vision, it can be used to create art with this ability. I still recall what colors look like although I am now in my sixties, even though I lost color vision at age 27.

During this time when we all have been indoors so much it is important to find hobbies we can engage in to keep our minds and hands busy.

I wish you the best with future art you try to make, and don’t be afraid to try something new. I order most from Amazon to keep colors straight and what colors I wish to use in the supplies I am needing for a creation. Amazon and other sites have products you can try to make things to give away as gifts if they come out well. Recently I found a clay that dries overnight and a kiln isn’t necessary. The clay dries very hard so I made a sculptured bowl for a friend to thank her for all she does for us at home. You can find a material that works for you too.

By Karen Bailey

Beyond the Book Jacket

Audio: Beyond the Book Jacket

Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

In college, I wandered through book stores with a roommate unable to understand his excitement in discovering a new novel by one of his favorite science fiction authors. Margaret Peterson Haddix changed that with her fabulous novel Turnabout.

When this fabulous science fiction book begins, Amelia Hazelwood is 100 and tired of living. She lives each day no longer able to do much she could when younger. Along with several other residents of the nursing home in which she lives, she signs a document not caring or understanding how it will affect her life. Amelia begins to notice changes. Suddenly, she no longer needs the hearing aids she has used for some time. With ease, she can again swing her legs over the side of her bed.

Hazelwood discovers she has agreed to participate in a study for an experimental drug (PT-1) that reverses the effect of aging by making telomeres grow. All who signed the papers realize they are growing younger each day. Because the drug is experimental, it must be kept a secret. While the reversal seems wonderful, it isn’t. As the residents grow younger, they lose all the memories they cherished as they grew old. With each year that passes, a year of life with all its memories disappears. Even though many chromosomes are left for memory, the ones gathered during a long life are replaced with younger ones.

One of the participants decides to take a secondary drug to stop the process because he doesn’t want to forget all the lovely things people said at his wife’s funeral. Amelia and her friend Anny Beth, another participant in the experiment, decide to leave the nursing home. As they grow younger, the need to keep the secret grows. They move often to escape the questions they cannot answer. Their bodies unaged with each passing year making it harder to keep the drug secret.

Amelia, now called Melly, 16, and Anny Beth, 18, begin to worry. Growing younger is going to become a problem. While enjoying the life and freedom of being teenagers again, they realize the time will come when they will be infants no longer able to care for themselves or each other. Alternate chapters reveal what happens in their lives between the year 2000 and 2085. On their own, the doctors who began the experiment are no longer available to help. A person named A.J. Hazelwood is attempting to contact them. Is this person related to one of them? What will happen if they respond? Can they afford to take the chance? Can they afford not to?

I won’t spoil your reading pleasure by revealing more but must admit this novel gave me a deep and lasting sense of how complicated life can get. I suppose my picture of science fiction was one filled with machines I thought I wouldn’t understand with strange people who would experience things I could never comprehend. In this fine yet thought provoking novel, Haddix gained my interest with all there is to consider. In the end, novels that make us ask what we would do in the same circumstances change our view, our perception, and what we read.

BARD DB52466 Reading time 5 hours 35 minutes Read by Jill Fox

When We Were Lost by Kevin Wingnall

I didn’t want the phone to ring. I hoped no one would drop by. The virus left my mind completely. Updates for my computer and eating could wait.
These were thoughts I had while reading When We Were Lost, the only novel by Kevin Wignall available on the Bard site. How can I plead for more and make it happen? I would do almost anything.

Although labeled a thriller and adventure for young adults, When We Were Lost is far more.

Nineteen high school students are on their way to Costa Rica for a two week environmental project when the plane in which they were flying crashes killing 212 of the 231 passengers. The plane comes down in a rain forest, but the survivors do not know in what country or how far from civilization they are.

They take what can be used from the plane and prepare for days of hiking hoping the minimal food and water they have will last.

This novel is about what happens to people living through extremes with possible death at any time. It begins and ends with the description of the butterfly effect which does much to explain what happens and why.

Tom Calloway lost his parents when he was nine. He misses them and has no friends. He agreed to go on this trip for the convenience of the best friend of his mother who is his guardian. When the plane crashes, Joel Aspinall, the son of a politician takes the role of leadership. It is a job he is ill prepared to do. Although Tom is a loner, he is a master of assessment and has a deep understanding of the feelings of the survivors who were in some of his classes.

As Joel makes poor decision after poor decision, Tom begins to realize many who survived the crash may die. After the death of the third crash survivor, he vows no one else will. While Glen makes reckless and hasty decisions, Tom quietly thinks through what they need to do each day. What he proposes is often a harder sell, but a number of the students trust him and decide to break away leaving the rest to Joel believing he will get them out of this terrible situation.

Loss leads to soul searching, and there is much for the survivors to think about as the story unfolds.

Although Tom has no desire to lead the group or to take the responsibility for them, he worries increasingly about the danger Joel causes and makes counter suggestions which are sensible and proves himself the one worthy of trust.

While there is plenty of adventure here and I was riveted by it, what I loved is the development of the characters. Tom thinks about the three whose lives are cut short by accidents as they try to find help. He thinks about the death of his parents and learns he has an ability to listen and comfort others he never knew he had. The friendships and ties the group of students have is something he has never had. He considers this a “world of friendship” in which he has no part. Unlike Joel, Tom Calloway knows life is hard and that it makes no promises. He knows it can end without warning and how difficult going on can be when you don’t really know yourself and feel it best just to go through the motions of living without allowing closeness to others. Tom discovers many of the survivors like him and always have wanted to know him. They remember the profound statements he made and questions he asked in Literature classes.

The devastating crash and its consequences give them the opportunity to know each other in a way they never thought they would. As Tom finds himself thinking about them as individuals, he hopes some will remain friends when they return home. He is honest in his thinking and knows some of the people on this trip will not and doesn’t want them in his life.

As I read this fine novel, I thought how much I am like tom. While he can have the rain forest, I am a good listener and know truth sometimes comes without the promise it will get better. Like Tom Calloway, I know loss changes us. All we know is we must go on. There are no guarantees. Life will be different, but no one can say when or if it will be good or when that will happen.

Like Tom, I have learned that I can trust me in an emergency and that I will know how to listen as someone cries. Like him, I have learned comfort happens without words. Sometimes it is the most effective closest communication we can give. We eventually learn in what country the plane came down. We discover why the pilot made the choice he did. Joel nearly gets himself and another survivor killed when he decides aid can be obtained from some men who have a cocaine business they have a strong desire to protect without interference.

What is special about Tom is his belief Joel is worth saving. It is through loss we find ourselves. All life is valuable, even if we would not live ours the way Joel does.

If you don’t like the death that accompanies adventure, this is not for you. You may want to avoid this book if you have an aversion to either spiders or snakes. In a group living as these teenagers must, survival is carved from the skills each shares.

I recently had a talk with someone who said he wasn’t special. He said he goes to work each day but has no outstanding or special skills. Although he is about 12 years older than the students here, I had that conversation while reading this book. It made it even more special. There are many people who live lives they do not consider valuable or special. They have no idea how tremendous they are just because they are here and share themselves. It
is something I will never stop telling the person with whom I had that conversation. We are all special. Kevin Wignall reminded me just how much through his exquisite novel. Through loss, Tom Calloway discovers he is a survivor capable of great love and compassion and needs what others have to give.

I am not sure I have done this fine work the type of review it deserves. Let me end by saying love sometimes makes it difficult to find the right words.

To say I love this book is not enough. To say I admire and want more from this author is true. I will long for other novels by Kevin Wignall. There are a number of them but they are not available to us. He is a fine British writer I hope you will come to know and appreciate as I do.

BARD DB99822 Reading time 8 hours 49 minutes Read by Will Collyer

By Bonnie Blose

Blind Mobility

Audio: Blind Mobility

As a visually challenged person, I find that I must be aware of where I am and how I will get from one place to the next. I use the feeling in my feet, trailing with my fingertips, my cane, and sighted guides.

When traveling with a friend in a car I relax my awareness of where I am. This changed after I received a ride home from dance class. Denise and I were taking an adult belly dance class. I was to get a ride with a cab and Denise said to cancel the ride she would take me home.

We were laughing and talking all the way to my home.
You must understand that I live in a subdivision that has 4 different house types. There is a two level, a Tri-level and a ranch and a Straight across ranch. I live in a straight across ranch.

Denise pulled into a drive and told me that the garage door was open. After gathering my things I got and waved good bye before entering the garage.

The door into the house was in the correct corner of the garage but as I felt the edge of the door, I realized that the screen was closed and was aluminum. My house had a wood screen door that we seldom closed. I was in the wrong house!

I hurried out to see if I could catch my friend but she was long gone. I had no clue even what direction my home may be. I had to return to the house that was dropped off at to ask the embarrassing question. Where am I and how far is my home? Fortunately, I was not far from my house about 10 houses away. The neighbor knew me and where my house was and offered to take me home.

Since then, I try to know where I am and now I have a smart phone to help me if I am lost again.
“Hey Siri, directions home.”

Carol Farnsworth

Computer Tech 101

Audio: Computer Tech 101

Hi folks. Before we get started, I, unfortunately, have to, once again, take the whip to that poor deceased equine, otherwise known as a dead horse. To quote Dennis Miller, “I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but …”, I, once again, have to caution you all about scams and “fishing expeditions” that are trying to get your data.

Recently, I received an E-mail, supposedly from my credit card provider, saying that a decline had happened that day and was I aware of the retailer involved. At first I was very skeptical, as I’ve said many times you should be, but decided to call the credit card provider to verify. It turns out that someone had gotten hold of, I think, the card number but didn’t have the complete correct information needed so the transaction, which was for only a dollar, was declined. At first I was apprehensive that a charge I had done earlier that day for my last hospital stay, an amount of no small significance, was declined. I was both relieved and angered when I saw the details for the transaction. It turns out that some of these scammers do a charge for a VERY small amount to see if both the card is good and to see if you catch it. If it doesn’t work, they move on. However, if it does and you don’t notice, things could add up REAL quick. Fortunately, the provider, Chase in this case, caught it and walked me through the process of getting a new card. Thankfully, it was relatively painless and I only had to advise a couple of companies with which I had automatic billings of the new card information. Also, I continually receive Spoofed E-mails that are trying to get some information from me or, with a darker purpose, are trying to get some malware or spyware on my computer.

Bottom line, it could have been a lot worse and I can’t recommend strongly enough to contact the company involved to verify the veracity of the message, either online or phone, that you received. I would have noticed since I watch my bank and credit card transactions very closely so it was more of an inconvenience than anything else. Also, you need to pay close attention to the grammar in E-mails that you receive professing to be from reputable companies. In a number of cases, you will see problems with grammar, such as improper word tense usage or improper syntax. This is usually due to translation from another language where improper syntax is a common problem unless the translator is very fluent in both languages. In addition, some common sense is in order. I recently received a message from Amazon, supposedly, with a forward in it. Now, anybody with half a brain should know that Amazon will NEVER forward something to you regarding your account. The reason why these weren’t worse was because, as Professor Moody was always saying in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, you need to practice “constant vigilance” and don’t be afraid to contact the company directly if you have any questions regarding the legitimacy of the message or phone call you’ve received; as I’ve said before, companies are VERY aware of the scammers out there and welcome contact for verification purposes.

Okay, end if sermon so we’ll get to our topic. I had a friend of mine come across this one and, while I’m not totally sure why it happens, the fix is pretty easy. What I’m talking about is that you have a window up, such as Windows Explorer, you get off of it to use another program and, after you close the other program, the window you were on doesn’t seem to want to behave. I have a folder setup on my Desktop for the various database programs I’ve written so I can easily get into them but I’ve found that, if I’ve told Access to compact the database upon exiting the program, it doesn’t go back to the “menu” so I can either open another database or close it when I’m done. What seems to work very well is to press the ALT and Tab keys together and then press them again. What this does is to switch to another window and then return the focus to the one you were on making it work again. I’ve had this happen if I copy/paste a large number of files from one folder to another. As I said, I’m not entirely sure why it happens, but I can say for certain that the above “fix” works. I pretty much use it almost reflexively now when I close one of my database programs or am “backing up” files by copying them to another folder/drive.

Anyway, I hope this helps some of you out there. Should you have any questions about this or another computer topic, please feel free to send me a message to my email address and I will reply ASAP, even if it’s just to say I’m sorry because I can’t answer the question. As always, Happy Computing!

By Jim Morgan

Connecting the Dots

Audio: Connecting the Dots

Have you ever omitted words for effect? I think anyone who has ever done some creative writing has done so. Teachers do this for emphasis on where an answer goes. When someone omits a word in speech, there is a way to indicate that in writing whether it be print or braille.

There are two specific ways words can be omitted in braille. The underscore, dots 4, 6 and 3, 6 is used when omitting an entire word. The dash, dots 6, and 3, 6, although it can be used as a way to connect words, can be used to omit part of a word.

These can be used when appropriate no matter how long or short the word is or no matter how many letters. There are exceptions to this rule. If in print one would use an extra long dash (this is rarely done), you would use dots 5, and 6, and 3, 6, creating a long dash in braille.

To practice these, much like our last discussion, is just to do it. Make up sentences and omit words or letters using the above dot combinations until you are comfortable.

Until next time, keep connecting those dots!
Tonya J. Drew, CBT

Fire at the Overbrook School for the Blind

Audio: Fire at the Overbrook School for the Blind

What a witness remembers


It was shortly after 5:00 in the afternoon of Thursday, March 10th, 1960, when the fire alarm sounded in the main building at the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At first, everyone questioned why there was a fire drill taking place after school hours? Once the students were evacuated, the reason became apparent; the sound of fire engines, the smell of smoke and no “all clear” signal was given to return to the building. Instead, the children and staff were taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Parochial School and Convent located a short distance from Overbrook. Once there, each dormitory group of student was assigned to a classroom for songs, games and to wait for further instructions regarding returning to the school. Initial false news bulletins reported fatalities and injuries to some of the students; as a result, parents began arriving at the convent to pick up their children.


Because I was one of four patients in the school infirmary when the fire alarm sounded, I remained in place based on the school policy regarding fire drill procedures for sick children. About ten minutes after the alarm went off, the nurse on the night shift ran into my room saying “you have to get dressed and get out of here, there’s a fire!” Before I could put my clothes on, a fireman arrived, picked me up and carried me out of the infirmary, down the stairs, out into the cold March day into the nurse’s room in the building next door. After a short time, I was taken to the classroom at the convent where my dorm group was gathered. I was immediately reprimanded by my housemother for allowing the fireman to carry me to safety. I was then placed in the back of the room away from the other children in case my illness was contagious. It was decided that I would spend the night at the convent sharing a bedroom with one of the nuns; I thought that was a cool idea!

I began to wonder if my parents had heard the news yet; I later learned that a customer came into the hair styling salon where my mother worked late on Thursday nights as a beautician and brought the news of what had happened. My father received a phone call from my grandmother who saw the story reported on the local television news.

I was tucked into bed only 5 minutes when someone came to the room saying that my father was waiting at the school to take me home. I was transported back to the school to change from pajamas into the brownie uniform I was wearing when I was admitted to the infirmary two days earlier.


When I arrived home, my mother had a serious discussion about the facts and details that were known about the fire up to that point; this is what I learned:

The fire started in a third-floor bedroom of an employee who had been smoking. The flames quickly spread to parts of the upper two floors and roof of the main building which later collapsed, trapping 7 firemen. Five fire fighters were rescued with minor injuries; Lieut. William Adgie was killed and FF David Murphy died from his injuries on September 19, 1960. As a memorial to the fallen fire fighters, two plaques were placed in the sidewalk at the front entrance to the school.

It was the first day on the job as switchboard operator for the evening shift for seventeen-year-old blind student Teresa Hayes. She placed the first call to the fire department to report the fire in the main building. Even after everyone was evacuated, Teresa remained at the switchboard despite the smoke and windows breaking in the auditorium just 50 feet from her work station. She was finally dragged away from the building kicking and screaming by the lieutenant of the fire patrol. In a statement to the press, Miss Hayes later said “I thought it was my duty to stay at the switchboard to bring as much help as I could.” Teresa Hayes was awarded the first City of Philadelphia Medal of Honor for her courage and bravery on that day.


In 1960, there was no crisis intervention offered to children who experienced traumatic situations as there is today. Those of us, who were forced to evacuate the school to escape the fire, were deeply and profoundly affected by such a frightening event. Because we were forbidden to talk about the fire by teachers and staff, we became our own best counselors and therapists by listening to each other’s nightmares, rehashing the day’s events and expressing our concerns and fears about whether it would ever happen again. Some of the classes were taken to the fire station where the two deceased and five injured firemen were employed. Some type of group counseling or therapy would have been extremely beneficial and cathartic for all of us.


The auditorium was totally destroyed but was completely rebuilt by 1964. The gymnasium was partially damaged but was relocated across the street from the school in a brand new facility.
A new library was constructed in place of the gymnasium. A museum containing many exhibits and concrete objects is now housed in the location of the old library.

The elementary wing for grades 3 and 4 was totally renovated and there have been one or two more buildings added to the campus.

By Susan Lowry Mason (a ten-year-old student attending the school at the time of the fire)

Guide Dog Corner

Audio: Guide Dog Corner

We are getting close to the time when we will discuss schools and how to apply, but here are some things I would encourage you to consider.

Don’t make assumptions. Don’t figure that you are not active enough, that you are too old or that you cannot have a service dog in your apartment. Part of the application process for any school is obtaining current medical information; let the school decide about your health and activity level. As for keeping a service dog in a rental unit, it would be considered a form of discrimination for a housing provider to deny your dog residence in the building or to charge you a pet or other fee in order to keep the dog there.

What if you say or feel you don’t like dogs? My sister mentioned this to me several years after I had trained with a guide. “You hated dogs; why do you like them now?” The truth is, pets are very different. You may not understand a pet’s behavior or the sounds it makes if you are not able to see the dog or see it well. A properly trained service dog is like no pet you would probably ever know. Besides, you and your guide are a team and tremendously connected. This does not mean that you keep the dog on leash with you all the time. You may be told to do this when you bring your new guide home, but that is a decision of the school and your trainer. Our guides are not machines. They need love, attention, care and work, but you know them, how they feel, how they will likely act, etc. A properly trained guide should not be aggressive in any way. Neither of my dogs has barked much if at all. I cannot emphasize enough talking with and meeting other guide dog teams. Not all teams are perfect. Not all guides are well behaved. I personally steer away from them and, as we will discuss when we start to talk about schools, I would not apply to a school where I felt that the dogs were not well behaved.

Talk with your family about your decision. The dog will be a part of your life and your residence. If you have a spouse or live-in partner and that person is opposed to your having a guide, talk with your potential school about this or any concerns you may have such as having young children at home.

Can you afford a dog? Many years ago in a previous job where I was a rehab counselor, a client told me how he didn’t have money for food but in the next breath said he wanted to get a guide dog. My response was, “If you can’t feed yourself, how are you going to feed a guide dog?” Some schools do help pay for medical expenses, this varies by school, but I do not think schools in general would pay for food, grooming or toys because yes, your dog would love some toys but don’t stock up on anything until your dog is home and you know it better.

Work on your mobility. This is critical. You are going to be asked about routes you travel, and it seems that the practice these days is to ask for a video to be sent to the school as a part of the application process where you will be asked to walk somewhere using your cane. You need to have an idea of how to get from one place to another and have had mobility training. And if you get a dog, keep up those cane skills! What will you do if your dog gets sick or you can’t take your dog somewhere or choose not to do so? People who get dogs may not like the cane, but it is an essential skill. After all, you can’t just put a harness on your dog and say, “Go to the store” and expect it to take you there. They are smart but that’s asking a lot.

Do you have enough room for a dog? Some people have small apartments, but keep this in mind.

Think about where you would take the dog to relieve. I was considering a condo some years ago and would have had to take my dog (I had both Mary Jane and Cameo then) into an alley to relieve. My sisters saw the condo and where I would have to take them. “You can’t take them in an alley at 5 in the morning,” I was told, and that was probably right. It is one of many things to consider, and people have more than likely had to take their dogs just like I have described and have done it successfully.

Before I trained with Mary Jane, I told a friend of mine, another handler, that I had gotten her a bed and put it in my office. “Oh, no,” my friend said. “She wants to be with you. Her bed needs to be next to yours.” I moved the bed where my friend said, and that was for sure where Mary Jane slept. Even now after more than 9 years together, Cameo often stays in the same room with me or lies beside or in front of me. Many times I could be cooking or doing dishes and she is lying right next to the sink so I tell her she is going to be the death of me if she doesn’t move!

Anyway, I have shared many thoughts and would invite any comments or questions. But after all of this, I still say that deciding to train more than 18 years ago was one of the best decisions of my life. I love Cameo, loved Mary Jane, and enjoyed caring for them.
Sharon Howerton

Kaleidoscope of Crafts

Audio: Kaleidoscope of Crafts

Welcome again to the Kaleidoscope of Crafts segment. Our project for this month is a special keepsake craft. The original article at https://catsherdyou.com/diy-cat-paw-print-keepsakes/ explained how to make this for a cat, but you could just as well make it with your favorite dog in mind or if you have small children or grandchildren, this will be a wonderful craft to make with them too.

A simple salt dough is used since it is not only safe for humans and animals, but fairly easy to make and you are likely to have the ingredients at hand. To make your dough, you will need:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup salt
1/2 cup water

You will also need some wax or parchment paper, cookie cutters and if preferred, a straw, food coloring and essential oils.


Step 1
Work outside or on a covered surface since this project qualifies as one of the more messy crafts.
Keep some extra water and flour at hand so you can reach it easily if necessary.
Mix all three ingredients together in a bowl and knead the dough with your hands.
If the dough feels crumbly and won’t hold together after a few minutes, add a teaspoon of water at a time and knead it in.
If the dough stays sticky, add a tablespoon of flour at a time and keep kneading until you have a nice dough in your bowl.
Be patient when adding extra water or flour and make sure it is thoroughly kneaded in before adding more so you don’t overdo it.
You could add essential oil and food coloring to the dough at this point as well. Just remember that food coloring is likely to stain your hands, so gloves will have to be warn.

Step 2
Next, place your dough down on some waxed paper and use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten it to around 1/4-inches thick.
Then, put the waxed paper with the dough somewhere your pet usually walks, the idea being that it will walk across the dough, leaving its paw prints all by itself with no help from you.
Of course, this may probably not work out the way you want it to, in which case you will have to find a way to get that all important paw print onto the dough.
I won’t give instructions for this, except to say that some kind coaxing and a nice treat may perhaps help with this step.

Step 3
Once you have a paw print or two, you can decide on if you’d like a piece with, say, two prints on or perhaps a small piece of clay with only one pawprint.
Use a cookie cutter or a larger circle or square shape to cut out the piece with the print on it.
If you want to hang your keepsake as an ornament, grab a drinking straw from the kitchen and poke a hole in it now.

Step 4
The next step is to dry your precious clay piece. You can either do this using low heat (around 90 degrees C) in the oven or alternatively, simply leave your piece in a safe, dry place for a few days to dry out completely.

Step 5
Lastly, choose some kind of sealant to cover the keepsake. This will protect it from moisture in the air and give it a nicer appearance.
You could use clear acrylic spray paint, Permanent white glue that dries clear (like Elmer’s glue), floor wax, mod podge or even clear nail polish.
Let the sealant dry completely. Then hang or display your keepsake to treasure for years to come.

Happy crafting until next time.

by Lindy Van Der Merwe

Touching Your Water Garden

Audio: Touching Your Water Garden

How to Water Garden without Seeing
As an avid water gardener who is blind I have been asked by sighted gardeners how do you garden and what do you enjoy about water gardening since you have no vision? It took some reflection on my part to discover why I enjoy water gardening other than I just knew it felt good.

I have been without sight most of my life. I grew up on a farm and enjoyed farming but it all changed to a new level once I started water gardening. My sighted wife and I have been water gardening as a hobby and as a business.

The sounds, sensations and odors involved with water gardening are unique compared to the rest of nature. I never get bored with listening to water features and all the various sounds you can make them create. It can be a simple trickle sound to a more intense rushing sound. Originally I disliked the softer trickle sounds. But as can happen with music, I have come to acquire an appreciation for the gentle trickle. To me a waterfall sounds like a jazz composition. Even though the flow rate is consistent the water will create variations in sound over time. I have spent countless hours experimenting with the sound by placing rocks or other objects in the flow to create new water melodies. Hopefully the sound changes I make are also visually pleasing. Other sounds I have noted are the kissing sounds fish make when they feed or the distinct sounds of dragon flies when they move. Every summer night is filled with the courting sounds of frogs. But it is not just the sounds that make water features so attractive.

There are many unique sensations to be felt. Water has a smooth flat surface feeling and a therapeutic feel when flowing. Perhaps this is why fish swim into the flow off a waterfall. I am continuously fascinated by the feel of water lily leaves floating and their various sizes, shapes and sinus constructions. The stems are hollow and make for good drinking straws. When I touch a dying leaf and stem I sense a different feel from healthy counterparts as they are soft. In murky water, my sighted wife often asks me to feel inside the pot of waterlilies and see how many growing points have developed. I have also made braille labels for the waterlilies. They aren’t affected by nature like print labels are so I can always tell her which plant is which. The braille dots on plastic are resilient never break down or become unreadable by a covering of algae.

Repotting a water lily is like uncovering a mystery. It is easy to divide waterlilies by touch. The anchor roots and the feeder roots are easily distinguished and the growing points are easy to find. With a little experience I can find new plants and separate them from the old root stock with just my sense of touch.

Most marginal plants can be identified by touch or fragrance. Aquatic mint and acorus both have a distinct smell. Grasses are obvious and some have edges. Corkscrew rush curls and iris have strap leaves. Floating hearts might be a bit of a challenge because some water lilies have small leaves too, but their flowers definitely are different.

String algae are another venture into mystery land. In the spring it is mushy and doesn’t stick together. The summer version is where it gets its name. I don’t need sight to collect string algae but pea soup algae are a different story. I only know about pea soup algae after a sighted person reports it. But without sight I can still enjoy a green pond whereas sighted folks want to change it.

The water lily flowers have so many different fragrances. From my above- ground pond I can pull a flower to my nose to savor the smells. My above-ground pond also makes it easy to access all the sensations of water gardening and it is ergonomic for seniors.
Much of the work of pond maintenance and pond construction can be performed without vision. I use a talking tape measure, beeping level, talking weight scale, and talking thermometer to aid in construction and maintenance. As soon as a talking salt meter and talking water test kit come on the market I will have them too.

My talking computer gives me access to the same tools as a sighted gardener, for example I gather information about water gardening, calculate water volumes receive weather reports, and perform as president of our local water garden club.

Water Gardening is a very viable option for visually impaired gardeners done as a hobby or as a job. I welcome anyone interested in following-up on this topic to contact mel

By Doug Rose, Patti Rose
North Coast Water Garden Club http://www.ncwgc.org
Easy Pond Vac http://www.easypondvac.com

Blast From the Past: International Perspective

Audio: Blast From the Past: International Perspective

October 2015
Volume 2 Issue 10

Here is a Q&A I had with Sharon about living in New Zealand as a blind person.

Do they have schools for young blind children?

Yes “BLENNZ” is a school that caters to children and young people who are blind or have low vision and who are deaf blind. It is a school that is made up of a national network of services.

Did you go to a school for the blind?

Yes I did go to a school for the blind. Back then it was called Homai College but it has since had a name change and is now called “BLENNZ” Blind and low vision Education network New Zealand.

Were you in a regular school, and did they provide assistance?

Yes, while attending regular school I had great assistance. We had paid volunteer helpers who would accompany and assist us in each of our classes. They would for instance read things written on the blackboard, assist us in getting involved in class activities and basically be our eyes for us as well as encourage and motivate us to socialize or mingle freely with our other peers.

Is there a blind organization within New Zealand?

Yes. It is called the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind. It is an organization that provides such services as accessible equipment, mobility, and guide dog training to blind or low vision as well as deaf blind people in New Zealand.

This service provider does not offer job training, although there were a number of courses that they ran some years ago to teach blind people things like job searching and writing a curriculum vitae (cv). they also used role playing as practice for job interviews and so forth.
Now the organization has an emailing service where job vacancies are posted. They also have representatives who assist blind people in advocating for themselves when it comes to seeking employment.
All the other services mentioned above are provided by the RNZFB.

For example, we have an equipment shop that can be accessed online at the official RNZFB website. The equipment services also holds a display every month I believe in various locations in New Zealand.

Mobility is another service provided by the RNZFB. There is an instructor that looks after different portions of New Zealand.
Guide dog services is also a provision by the RNZFB and guide dog schools are regularly run.

Are there vocational schools for the blind?

I wouldn’t call it a school, but BLENNZ does provide a kick start service which helps blind or low vision people to make the transition from school to tursery, the workplace or independent living. They live in a flat supported situation and they are assisted by our adaptive daily living instructors to make those changes.

Is there a reading service?

Yes. The RNZFB’S library service provides information in a variety of accessible formats. There is also an online reading catalog where a user can search and download audio books and magazines. And the library also provides daisy players for those interested in using their library services.

Did you learn braille through the school or other services?

I learned braille at a young age at what was then called Homai College. I don’t remember much about the experience because I had a lot of my sight at that time, but I know that’s where I learned how to read braille.

In spite of the advancements in technology there is still a large demand for braille.

Is braille out there in the public?

I wouldn’t say that braille has made a big deal here, but there is an awareness of it in New Zealand. The buttons on our electronic funds transfer at point of sale (EFTPOS) machines display braille. While the train and bus stations, have audio instructions.

There is a braille authority organization which was set up in 2010. Their responsibility is to maintain and increase awareness of braille usage, set standards of braille codes with current international developments and promote braille as the prime literacy for blind people.

So not really necessary to the public as such. As I said I believe people have an awareness as they do guide dogs.

The reason why the blind community is literate in braille is due to the efforts gone into promoting it. The organization mentioned above was set up for that very purpose. At times, regular workshops are held to inform of the new braille code and other changes. I believe many still struggle with it, not in terms of reading, in terms of personally producing it for themselves. So even though the code got its start in 2007, many are still trying to make the adjustment. At times classes and workshops are run as a refresher for any who need a brush up on their skills.

Are there any blind organizations for recreation?

Blind sport New Zealand Inc. is the sporting national organization provided here in NZ. It is a consumer group of the RNZFB.
Blind sport New Zealand Inc. is the sporting national organization provided here in NZ. It is a consumer group of the RNZFB. Various blind sporting clubs affiliate to this organization and regularly hold games such as blind cricket, hockey, and goalball to name some. They also sponsor sporting teams and individuals to achieve their goals. Blind indoor and outdoor bowls are popular here. Sporting clubs organize games and tournaments all over New Zealand on a regular bases. Goalball is also a big sport here and NZ has sent teams away to compete overseas. Same with cricket. Marathons are also being competed in by blind New Zealanders and overseas. So there is much support both financially and physically for blind sports here in NZ.

Is there assistance with transportation?

Yes, you can obtain a card which gives us half price fares for buses, trains, and taxis. And you can also obtain a disability card which allows us to park in invalid car parks but that is an individual choice.

Transportation and accessibility:

We have tactile strips at curbs with traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. Our traffic lights have audible indications that signify when to cross or not. I mentioned above that our bus stations have audio instructions. This means that some of our bus stations have a pole like a traffic light where when you press the button will give you instructions on what bus is coming and where it is going and how far away it is. This is most helpful and I think from memory there is a tactile strip that leads to it. Some of our EFTPOS machines talk but are without braille and some have braille but do not have audio cues.

More on equipment:

I mentioned above equipment services but I failed to say that blind people can obtain equipment with assistance from different organizations. The RNZFB fund some of these purchases and Work bridge is another organization that will fund equipment for those seeking employment and they will also provide financial assistance for those seeking employment or who wish to study in a tursery educational facility. Our work and income organization here provides weekly income benefits for those with a disability. Again for things like jaws or talks for Nokia phones the RNZFB provides that financial help.

Final thoughts?

The RNZFB is probably the biggest provider of services to blind and low vision as well as deaf blind individuals here in NZ with other most helpful organizations to tap into for that extra help. So yes New Zealand’s blind and low vision and deaf blind communities are well cared for here in NZ.

By Sharon
New Zealand

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