Monday, September 25

Trade in or trade up, you decide

Greetings. Freedom Scientific has announced a new competitive trade-in program for the PAC Mate that has to be the most competitive yet. If you own a BrailleNote model, of any sort, in good working condition, you can trade it in for a PAC Mate, with or without a Braille display. Read the details of this trade-in program here. Pay special attention to the pricing. Even if you trade in your mPower or PK for a PAC Mate QX400 with 40 cell Braille display, the resulting cost will still be slightly less than a brand new speech only PAC Mate. Prices range from roughly $795 to $2295 for this trade-in program. Don't quote me exactly, but rather read all the details for yourself.

What's almost as notable as the trade-in program to me, is the length of time its being made available for: till the end of the year. I can't think of a better Christmas present for someone than a new PAC Mate. Throw in a new wireless card, a custom carrying case from Executive Products, and some other accessories, and you've got quite a package.

If you've been wondering about how to use your mPower or PK in this constantly changing world of ours, especially when it seems to be falling further and further behind; or, if you have been thinking about getting a PAC Mate but have wondered how you would manage it; or, if you have even been considering whether it really is worth staying in a closed system like HumanWare has; than this trade-in program could be the answer for you. With Jonathan Mosen on the FS crew now, there's no telling what will come of the PAC Mate family of products in the upcoming year. Besides, do you really want to be left behind again?

Sunday, September 24

Marlaina talks about guide dogs

Greetings. The following message regards a show on ACB Radio that Marlaina Lieberg hosts. Tonight's topic is on gide dogs. Read more for the details. I figure that, not only is a dedication for her to her newly retired dog guide, but one for me as well to Tony. After the show runs for 24 hours, it will be replayed next weekend on Sunday, and then go into Marlaina's Shows On Demand section of the ACB Radio site. Enjoy.

Hello friends. This is an announcement I'm sending far and wide and if you
are interested, I encourage you to do the same.

As many of you know, I have officially retired my guide of over 9 years,
Madeline. We've had a wonderful party aboard the Vision of the Seas, Royal
Caribbean's number one member of the voyager class ships, and yesterday we
had a grand party for her here at our home.

On the next Marlaina, we'll take a look at the concept of guide dogs. Our
first guests will be two puppy raisers who will tell us why they got into
this, the requirements and expectations placed on raisers, what it's like to
get and give back that first dog, and more.

We'll follow that up with a visit from a trainer from Guide Dogs for the
Blind, who'll tell us about the training experience, working the dog,
teaching the dog commands like left and right, and a bit about the class

Finally, we'll talk about retirement issues. How does one know when it's
time, how does one prepare for such a transition. We have a guest
tentatively lined up for this segment, but if it doesn't work out, we'll all
discuss the topic together.

It is my hope that this show will honor the concept of the human/dog
relationship, and I dedicate it to madeline, with appreciation for the
partnership we've had. Madeline is guide number seven; I've worked with
guide dogs since 1964; she'll always be very special and very dear to me.

Come join my guests and me, and help make this marlaina a very special show.

While I'm away, Jeff Bishop will be hosting the Marlaina program, and I know
he's got lots lined up for you!

All this and more is up for grabs on the next Marlaina, heard on ACB Radio
It all starts on Sunday night at 9 PM Eastern, 6 Pacific, which is Monday
morning at 1 Universal. The program will replay for 24 hours, and of
course, is available via podcast from the ACB Radio replay page. As always,
we'll take your calls at our toll-free number, 866 666 7926.

Please save this message and click the link below on Sunday at 9 PM Eastern,
6 Pacific or Monday at 1 Universal to listen. I can't wait to spend time
with you there! Feel free to distribute this message to others whom you
think may be interested.

As always, thank you so much for your continued support of my ACB Radio

Marlaina Lieberg

Click here to listen to the show, or visit the ACB Radio Mainstream Channel Page and click on the appropriate link to listen with your media player of choice.

Thursday, September 21

GPS and the blind

Greetings. Here's an article about GPS and the blind from USA Today. It specifically focuses on people who use guide dogs, and who are or may be trained to use GPS with their dogs by the guide dog schools. Interesting.

Tuesday, September 12

Thoughts on "comforting" words

Greetings. Its interesting the kinds of things people say to you after you’ve lost someone close to you, whether it be a friend, family member, person, or animal. Things such as, “I’m sorry for your loss.” The first time I heard this phrase was when my grandmother on my Dad’s side died back in 1995. I had not heard that for someone really, or even somewhat, close to me, and frankly, I didn’t know how to respond. Why were they apologizing to me? When Tony died, I began to understand it though.

Then there are the phrases that really don’t mean much, might even sound cheesy, but are supposed to sound good. Some examples of these are things like, “They’ve crossed the rainbow bridge and are in a better place.” Where is this rainbow bridge? And, is it the rainbow bridge that’s at the end of the alleged pot of gold?

Then there are the phrases that sound good but don’t offer much in the way of comfort, or at least not beneath the surface, such as, “They’re in a better place.” A better place? Ok, I know that Tony’s in Heaven, but how is him being in that better place supposed to make me feel better now when he’s not with me? Granted, picturing him in Heaven brings slight comfort, but here again, not as much when you consider that he died suddenly. If he had had a long drawn out illness and was sick over many months, then perhaps that might bring some comfort. But that wasn’t the case; he died about 80 minutes after I received the call from Geoff that he wasn’t doing so good.

Then there’s the ever popular, “He’s in no more pain.” This brings some degree of comfort, but there’s a certain part of it that still doesn’t seem to acknowledge the loss.

I’m not opposed to acknowledging the loss, but I’d rather do it in an appropriate, and not a cheesy, manner.

I haven’t had occasion to think a lot about these phrases, which is good. However, I have thought about them from time to time over the past week and a half or so. I’ve even told a close friend, something along the lines of, “Don’t even tell me ‘he’s in a better place’, since that doesn’t really offer any comfort to me.” To which my friend said, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell you that. I’ve been through that before, and it sucks.” Those words acknowledged the issue, but didn’t try to sugar coat it to make it sound good. He couldn’t have said it any better.

Saturday, September 9

Songs and Links

Gretings. This semed like a fitting post after my letter to Tony.

Those who know me well, know that I love Petra, the long time Christian rock group. Two of their songs really helped me get through last weekend, and continue to help me. I got the lyrics for these songs from Petra Rocks My World.


There's a step that we all take alone
An appointment we have with the great unknown
Like a vapor this life is just waiting to pass
Like the flowers that fade, like the withering grass
But life seems so long and death so complete
And the grave an impossible potion to cheat
But there's One who has been there and still lives to tell
There is One who has been through both heaven and hell
And the grave will come up empty-handed the day
Jesus will come and steal us away

Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes
And death finally dies

Many still mourn and many still weep
For those that the love who have fallen asleep
But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache
Just one shout from above and they all will awake
And in the reunion of joy we will see
Death will be swallowed in sweet victory

When the last enemy is done from the dust will come a song
Those asleep will be awakened - not a one will be forsakened
He shall wipe away our tears - He will steal away our fears
There will be no sad tomorrow - there will be no pain and sorrow

The next one is called “More Power to ya,” and this one more than the last, has really uplifted me in those quiet moments, like when I’m getting ready for bed. Here’s the song.

You say you've been feeling weaker, weaker by the day
You say you can't make the joy of your salvation stay
But good things come to them that wait
Not to those who hesitate
So hurry up and wait upon the Lord

More power to ya
When you're standing on His word
When you're trusting with your whole heart in the message you have heard
More power to ya
When we're all in one accord
They that wait upon the Lord, they shall renew, they shall renew their strength

Jesus promised His disciples He'd give strength to them
Jesus told them all to tarry in Jerusalem
When they were all in one accord
The power of His Spirit poured
And they began to turn the world around

So be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might
Put on all His armor and fight the good fight
In all of our weakness, He becomes so strong
When He gives us the power and the strength to carry on

There were several times when I played these two songs over and over, especially in the time before my parents arrived last weekend.

For those that are wondering, here’s the link to the Sunrise Exotic Ranch and The Seeing Eye. If you would like to remember Tony, then please donate to one or both of these groups. Thanks.

Tony's Letter

Greetings. The following is dedicated and written to Tony, my former guide dog that just passed away.

Dear Tony,

This is a hard letter for me to write, since you’re not with me anymore. I know you are with God in Heaven though. Which probably means that you’re reading this from somewhere in cyberspace. I don’t know how advanced the technology is in Heaven. I trust that you are doing well regardless. If you get the chance, send word to me of what things look like up there.

Anyway, I wanted to write you this note and to tell you how much I appreciated you an your service as a guide dog. You guided me for 4 years. You were a wonderful guide dog. Even though retirement came earlier for you than for other guide dogs, you still put everything into your work, and later into your play as a retired dog guide.

What can I say to express my appreciation and love for you? How can I summarize the 11 years that we spent together? I’m not sure there is a way. However, hopefully the following paragraphs will scratch that surface to some degree.

I remember when I first arrived at The seeing Eye on May 27, 1995, climbing out of the Lincoln Town car and not really knowing what to expect. Everyone was so friendly when I walked through the Seeing Eye’s front door for the first time. I felt like I had known them all my life, even though we had just met. I then met you the next day, a Sunday. I remember that you were a little sad from being separated from your trainer, Peggy, since you were running back and forth for the door to me. Each time you came back to me though, I had a hug for you. And, eventually, I guess you decided that life was better with me than over by the door. That time was a whirlwind of activity as I tried to understand how to use you properly and all the commands. I’m sure that there were times you must have thought, “Come on, do this, this, this,” as I was struggling. But, as it would happen many times after that, you were patient with me.

Then we came back to Dallas 27 days later, and that presented another set of challenges for you, since you were then getting used to my environment, not the other way around.

We had many a happy time and some sad ones during the working part of your life. Such as, when you peed on the Richland Community College bridge during class changing on a weekday. I feel bad that I didn’t pick up on your signals to me, but I was young. After all, it only happened in the first few months that we were working together. Or, the time I took you to Six Flags Over Texas. I’m sure you were confused by the roller coaster cars moving overhead, thinking that they should be on the ground like other cars. Or, the time we went to Colorado to go skiing. That was a fun trip.

In 1997, we moved from Dallas to Denton so I could transfer to the University of North Texas. Those were fun times as well. I remember getting lost on the first day of classes, thinking that I could find my way on my own and could take a shortcut. My shortcut, or perhaps you’re thinking, somehow got us to Pizza Hut on the edge of campus, instead of to the Student Union building. Looking back, I wonder if you had planned things to happen that way. Or, all those looks you gave to Heather. She was doing her best to guide me while you were trotting along on leash. When thinking of Heather’s guiding, I can’t forget when she accidentally walked me into the back of the stairs. I told her it was ok, even though it wasn’t, and then you must have given her a dirty doggie look, because the next thing I hear from her is, “Shut up.”

Yeah, we had some good times. I don’t have the space to recall all of them. You were there with me in the happy times; in the sad times; when my dad’s mom and grandmother died; when at the Colorado Center when I tried to use my cane and came back from the library feeling down about my abilities, you comforted me. When I got the news that I was able to go to the Colorado Center from my state rehab counselor, you wagged your tail in anticipation, even though you might not have known what all the excitement was about. In 2003, when I graduated from college, I know you were with me there, even though I used my cane to walk across the stage. So many memories.

About a week ago, on September 1, when Geoff, Larry and Jesse came over to move and hook up the new washer and dryer, you went out to greet them, even though you weren’t feeling well. I’m grateful that they were there, since it was Geoff that called me at work to tell me that you weren’t feeling great. On the bus ride home, I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew things weren’t good. I remember calling my dad and telling him of the situation, and then calling Jack, who said that either he or his wife would meet me at the apartment to help take you to the vet. I remember getting home, meeting Jack at the door, throwing my stuff down, and going to the bedroom to check on you. You were lying on the mat you used in the bedroom and obviously weren’t doing real well. It broke my heart that you weren’t able to get up and walk out like you had done so many times before. Jack carried you to the car, put you in your usual spot in the floor below the dashboard, and I got in, and we rushed off to the vet. It was kind of fitting that you were below the dash, since that’s where you always sat when you were guiding.

When I heard from the vet that you were on oxygen, but that you were not in the best shape, I then had to make some decisions. That was one of the hardest times of my life so far. I had to decide if we were going to try to bring you back to some semblance of health, or put you down. After some thought, I decided to put you down. I’m sorry for not asking you at the time what you wanted to do.

I remember going into that room and putting my hands on your rump. You wagged your tail, which I appreciated. You knew I was there. You were glad for my touch. I couldn’t say anything meaningful to you, but you understood and were fine with simply my touch. Jack told me when they gave you the shot and when you stopped breathing. I felt it all though. I know when you stopped. In fact, I remember pleading with you not to fight what was happening when your breath quickened ever so slightly. After you left this world and went into Heaven, Jack and I said our prayers for you. I remember praying a simple prayer to God, saying just, “Thanks for Jack, and thank you for Tony.” That was all I could say, but that’s all I needed to say. We stood there a few minutes. Another hard thing was leaving your body lying there. Thankfully though, one of the nurses offered to take you to her ranch of exotic animals, the Sunrise Exotic Ranch, and burry you there. I gratefully took her offer and thanked her. I plan to come out and see your graveside soon, and to see what animals your lying near.

It was hard for me to leave that room, but I knew that I had to. I got the call from Geoff at about 12:05, and you officially died at 1:25. This brief amount of time would come to mind later when I started dealing with the fact that you were no longer with me. Officially, the doctor said that you had congestive heart failure. I don’t know what all that means, except that you were not doing good when I came home and when Jack and I took you to the vet.

Another hard thing was calling Mom to tell her of your passing a little after 2. I don’t get real emotional, as far as sadness anyway, so recalling for others your passing, and beginning to deal with it over the following 3 days, had me crying and my throat closing from the emotion of things. My parents came down for the weekend, which helped a lot.

Tony, I thank God often that I had someone wit me most of that day, and that there were people here to tell me that you weren’t feeling great. From Geoff and Larry, to Jack, to talking with my parents and friends on the phone; there weren’t many times when I was by myself. Actually, in those quiet times when I wasn’t talking to anyone or with anyone, God was with me, so I’m quite sure that I was never alone that day.

I want you to know that I’m in the process of giving away some of your things, such as your bowls, dog food, medicines, spare leash, and other things. But I’ve decided to give them to people that have or are going to get guide dogs. That’s one thing I’m doing to remember your service. I’ve also called the Seeing Eye to inform them of your death, which they were grateful for. I don’t know that I’m going to get another guide dog. At least not right away. Whether I do or not, I’ve heard it said that people always remember their first dogs, and I’ll definitely always remember and treasure my time with you. No matter if I get several more guide dogs, or some pet dogs, you’ll always have a special place in my heart.

Being at work helps me stay occupied and busy. When I come home though, there have been times when I’ve missed seeing you, or have expected to see you. Such as your normal feeding times, when I enter or leave the apartment, and others. I’ve left your main leash and collar on the inside doorknob to remind myself of you. I always touch them when I leave the apartment. I’m also keeping your mat in the bedroom. I had to clean it since it was still dirty from the day you left. That was hard in a way too. Part of me wanted to keep it just like it was so that I could remember, but then again, my company probably would not have liked that too much. After it was cleaned though, I placed it in its usual spot, right my the desk. I remember being in the efficiency in Dallas and you and I having those disagreements of where the mat should go. That was a small efficiency to begin with. You would move it close to the bed, since you wanted to be near me. After tripping over it several times and you, I would move it to the other side of the room, and you would gradually move it back again. It seems we had the same disagreements over the mat in the bedroom.

I wasn’t the only person that cried over your passing. Aside from me, here’s a brief list of the other people that have cried tears for you, in no particular order: Jack, Mom and Dad, grandmother on my Mom’s side, Janie, and others. Many people have offered their condolences, to numerous to list. Tony, a lot of people miss you down here. However, I know that I’ll see you again, whenever my time is up. You lived a long 13 years, which is great for a lab. So, I’ll see you soon, and I mean really see you, not just through my fingers.


Thursday, September 7

Personal update

Greetings. Well, the week has been fast and busy. Monday went well, especially after the Time Warner repair man left and I had my Cable TV and Internet connections back. The past three days have been filled with things at work, from reviewing with my Windows students for their final test tomorrow, to doing evaluations, to doing some miscellaneous things like cleaning up floppy disks, and much more. If I ever thought I wouldn’t have enough to do as a teacher back when I started, like in April and May, I was wrong. I’m managing to stay caught up, somehow, but I can see now how the 2 hour planning period often is not enough. Of course, we’re near the end of one cycle and moving into another one. Which will, among other things, bring me a new set of students to teach. I’ve been given one of the 3 different Windows classes to teach, at the same time as the one I’m teaching now oddly enough.

On another note, doing the computer evaluations on the new keyboarding students, which for me was 9, and going straight to another class has been kind of rough. My colleagues warned me that this would happen, that I would get run dry from getting the new people started, doing evaluations, and meeting all the other requirements of the first few weeks of training. However, for whatever reason, I just filed what they said away in the, “Yeah, right,” category. I’d like to go back now and acknowledge their comments,  Of course, this is all taking place during the largest group of new students ever at the Center. Normal conditions would be no more than 3 new people at once, if that much, per class. Oh well. And, just when I got a handle on things, there’s another new group coming in October. It apparently never ends.

However, getting new people in keyboarding only means that others move onto Windows, and getting new people in Windows means that others move onto their next class, and so forth. I’m quite pleased with my current batch of Windows students. Sure there were rough spots, but those are the things I can note and hopefully improve upon in the next cycle.

On the topic of Tony, that’s gone relatively well too. I’ve gotten lots of condolences from people at work, and even a few from people in other places. I’ve come to terms with Tony’s death mostly. I will still think and mourn for him every so often of course, but I’m better able to cope and handle things now that there’s more time between now and when It happened. Although, tomorrow around the times that things were happening last Friday, I’ll probably remember and be sad all over again. Hopefully not as much though. I think the hardest time was last weekend, in the first few days. Having my parents here really did help. If I needed to cry, then I did. And it was good to have a shoulder to cry on, and to talk and laugh about things that happened with Tony in years past. I don’t cry often, so last weekend made up for the past few years or more. Now though, I’m in the process of giving many of Tony’s things away. I will keep his mat in my bedroom, and his main leash and collar. But most other things I’m giving to people who have guide dogs or are getting them. I figure that guide dog users would be a good group to give his things to, since there are times when its hard to get out and get supplies for one’s dog. Plus, its kind of a memoriam for Tony to pass his things onto another guide dog. I’ve also contacted the school I got him from, The Seeing eye, and let them know of his passing. Before anyone asks, I might get another dog, but not right now. I’m living in an apartment. Since Tony has lived with me for a number of months, I can appreciate how interesting it can get to have a dog in a place like this. Not to say that I won’t ever get one again. Truthfully, I haven’t decided. I like being able to feel everything in my environment with my cane, instead of giving directions to someone else, such as with a dog. Besides, there’s also the issue of the daily responsibility, like taking the dog out every morning at 5:30 or 6, no matter what. So, we’ll see.

Even though this has been a short week, I’m going to be just as glad when my planning time comes around tomorrow at 3, and even more when 5:00 comes. Aside from all that, football starts big time this weekend, with the Cowboys starting their season and Texas playing Ohio State. It has been fun to watch all the activity surrounding a big game in a top 25 college town. Coming from a smaller lower ranked school like North Texas, that was nothing like this. Anyway, I plan on putting up those tributes this weekend or early next week. Until then.

A breakthrough in accessible websites

Greetings. I received the following news story on an email list and thought it worthy of posting here. Let those who doubt know that the web is a place of public accommodation and must be made accessible to blind computer users. Note, this is as easy as putting alt tags on images, and/or descriptions below them. It need not require a total rewrite of a website, or a "text only" portion of the site to meet accessibility standards. Hopefully others will learn what it took a lawsuit for Target to learn, and make their sites accessible from the start. And, if you don't know how to do this, then you can find various websites that explain how, both in simple and technical language. One resource is the Computers page of my site, especially under the heading "Web Development Resources." Enjoy.

KARE11 TV, Minnesota USA
Thursday, September 07, 2006

Court rules Target must make website accessible to the blind

A federal district court judge ruled Wednesday that a retailer may be sued if its website is inaccessible to the blind. The ruling was issued in a case
brought by the National Federation of the Blind against Target Corp.
The suit charges that Target's website ( is inaccessible to the blind, and therefore violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the California
Disabled Persons Act. Target asked the court to dismiss the action by arguing that no law requires Target to make its website accessible. The Court denied
Target's motion to dismiss and held that the federal and state civil rights laws do apply to a website such as
The suit, NFB v. Target, was filed as a class action on behalf of all blind Americans who are being denied access to The named plaintiffs are
the NFB, the NFB of California, and a blind college student, Bruce "BJ" Sexton.
The plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates, a Berkeley-based non-profit law firm that specializes in high-impact cases on behalf of people
with disabilities;
The court held: "the 'ordinary meaning' of the ADA's prohibition against discrimination in the enjoyment of goods, services, facilities or privileges, is
that whatever goods or services the place provides, it cannot discriminate on the basis of disability in providing enjoyment of those goods and services."
The court thus rejected Target's argument that only its physical store locations were covered by the civil rights laws, ruling instead that all services
provided by Target, including its Web site, must be accessible to persons with disabilities.
"This ruling is a great victory for blind people throughout the country," said NFB President Dr. Marc Maurer. "We are pleased that the court recognized
that the blind are entitled to equal access to retail websites."
Dr. Maurer explained that blind persons access websites by using keyboards in conjunction with screen-reading software, which vocalizes visual information
on a computer screen.
Target's website contains significant access barriers that prevent blind customers from browsing among and purchasing products online, as well as from finding
important corporate information such as employment opportunities, investor news, and company policies.
The plaintiffs charge that fails to meet the minimum standard of web accessibility. It lacks compliant alt-text, an invisible code embedded beneath
graphic images that allows screen readers to detect and vocalize a description of the image to a blind computer user. It also contains inaccessible image
maps and other graphical features, preventing blind users from navigating and making use of all of the functions of the website. And because the website
requires the use of a mouse to complete a transaction, blind Target customers are unable to make purchases on independently.
Explaining the ramification of the ruling, Mazen M. Basrawi, Equal Justice Works Fellow at Disability Rights Advocates, noted that: "the court clarified
that the law requires that any place of public accommodation is required to ensure that it does not discriminate when it uses the internet as a means to
enhance the services it offers at a physical location."
"I hope that I can soon shop online at just like anyone else," said UC Berkeley student BJ Sexton, who is a named plaintiff in the lawsuit. "I
believe that millions of blind people like me can use the Internet just as easily as do the sighted, if websites are accessible."

Monday, September 4

The best of times, and the worst of times

Greetings. I'm writing this post with mixed emotions. Last Friday, Sept. 1, was a very good day and a very bad day for me. The good, I finally got a washer and dryer from a coworker and even had it setup while I was at work. The not so good, said coworker had his last work day before he moves to New York for a new job, and my former guide dog died. I plan to write tributes to both these people when the time comes. My parents came down to Austin for the weekend which was very good as well. They helped me work through some things, talk and make some decisions, such as what to do with some things my dog used. That was helpful for me and them. On more recent news, today the Time Warner repair man came and fixed my Cable and Internet connections, which have been out since last Wednesday. That was another reason why I was glad my parents came down. Otherwise, I'd be sitting in an apartment that would have been too quiet.

So, this is the somewhat good feeling Wayne signing off for now.