Wednesday, October 29

Gucci update

Greetings. Yes, for those paying attention, I've just given you the name of my new dog. I mentioned it in one of my last posts in the Dog Blog in September, but it was toward the end of the post. I figure that we're past the initial "breaking in" period and it's okay to throw her name out there. I'm told that when she is laying down with her paws straight out in front of her and her head off to the side, that she looks very classy, lady like and regal. For those that I work with or who I may stay with or see every so often, I would still request that you not use her name when she's working. Actually, when introducing her to the masses at work when we got back, I said that "... her name's secret." Evidently, this has stuck and now many people at work call her "Secret" when they see her in the hall. Upon reflection, I'm fine with this nickname, mainly because it sounds nothing like her real name, so there's little chance of her getting confused or distracted.

As for her work around the training center, it has gotten better by the week. I was able to arrange during my trip to Jersey, for a Seeing Eye field trainer to come and visit me after I got home. As it turned out, this didn't happen until the secodn week. In a way though, I was glad so that Gucci and I could go through our initial settling in time. It also gave me a chance to see what things we needed to work on and thereby optimize the time I did spend with the trainer. Jonathan, the trainer, was very good and even though we didn't have as much time as I thought we would, we still got lots done. When we were through he asked me if there was anything else, and my response went something like, "Well, sure there are. But I think most things will work themselves out in time," and they have.

It seems like at the end of each work week, I can look back and see the progress that Gucci has made during that week and overall. For instance, she initially was unsure of how to handle canes. Keep in mind that since I work at a training center for the adult blind, canes, many canes, are a daily occurrance for us. Anyway, she handled ones that were off in a distance or in the middle of the hall just fine, but when people popped up in front of her, or got their canes underneath her, she totally stopped. That created some awkward situations with people telling me things like, "Looks like you need to work with her some more." With Jonathan's help and through the past few weeks, her decisions and confidence have both gradually increased. Now the only time she will stop in front of a cane is if we're coming around a corner and someone pops up in front of her that she didn't expect, like if we're turning left when we come out of a stairwell and someone just happens to be right there. That particular incident happened this morning. When they do happen, I drop the harness handle, talk to the person, and gradually we will pass each other. When the other person has passed me, I'll pick up the handle and encourage Gucci to go on.

The way she goes around people has also gotten better, both those with canes and those without. I think she's finally figured out that people outside the Center will freely get out of her way, but those inside will not. In fact, those inside might just stop where they are, sometimes in the middle of the hallway and sometimes on the sides. She just navigates around them though and goes on. I'm beginning to realize what other German Shepherd dog guide owners told me before I went up for training, that their dogs would see things from 30-50 feet away and already start to problem solve how to get around them.

Gucci is also becoming more confident in her decisions. The big thing remaining for us to fix is for me to correctly interpret her stops or swerves for obsticles. When she swerves to the right on a sidewalk, is it because she's going around something, or because she wants to go to the right because she recognizes the area that she makes her daily deposits at? Or, is she just goofing off and distracted from another dog or a person? All these things go through my mind when I work her, and I'm guessing when any guide dog handler works their dog.

Some say that you can relax when using a dog, and this is ttrue. In some cases not as much thought is involved as when you use a cane. However, this lack of thought is made up for in other ways, such as interpretting the dog's movements correctly, offering corrections when they don't do something right, and keeping them on task. And being aware of the environment you're in so you can correctly direct the dog. It took me a long time with my first guide to accept that my role was the navigator and my dog was the guide. I can give her instructions, but if she chooses not to obey them, like not turning left when I ask her to, then she may be preventing me from running into something. Believe you me, plenty of guide dog handlers, including me, can recount times when they didn't listen to the dog and stepped off a curb into a puddle, or banged into a sign, and then realized that this was why the dog stopped or wouldn't turn.

Anyway, a month and then some has gone by since we got back from Jersey and I think we're making good progress toward being a good working team. We're not there yet, wherever there is, but we're on our way. I wonder how things will be and what they will look like in another few weeks/months? Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 28

Blind marching band

Greetings. The following was posted to an email list. I love reading and posting stories like this to this blog. It's these kinds of stories that get my blood flowing and provide another side to what the average person considers blindness to be. Enjoy!

Blind marching band and the Tournament of Roses Parade

Members of the Ohio State School for the Blind marching band react to
News that their band has been invited to the 2010 Tournament of Roses Parade.

The entire student body was in the gym when the surprise announcement was heard.

The band's trip to Pasadena, Calif., will cost about $1,500 per person.

Donations can be sent to the Ohio State School for the Blind

Parent-Teacher-Staff Organization, 5220 N. High St., Columbus 43214 The

entire student body had been herded into the gym to sing The

Star-Spangled Banner, which was video- recorded for a school project.

That was pretty cool, in itself -- several of the roughly 120 students at the Ohio State School for the Blind have perfect pitch, so it wasn't your

average school-choir rendition.

What happened next was even cooler: Music director Carol Agler's cell

Phone rang and the crowd went quiet. She held the microphone to the phone's earpiece as a man, calling from California, invited the school's

marching band to join the 2010 Rose Parade.

You'd have thought Paris Hilton or the Jonas Brothers had just walked

in -- that's how loud the screaming was.

"Congratulations, and we look forward to seeing you all," said Gary Di-

Sano, the parade's president in 2010.

The Rose Parade, which features flowers-only floats and takes place in

Pasadena, Calif., each New Year's Day, has never hosted a blind marching

band. In fact, Agler said she doesn't know of another one in the


Right now, there are only 17 band members, plus about as many sighted

marching assistants who help them stay in formation.

"I think this will generate more kids in the band," said Agler, who

co-directs the band with another teacher, Dan Kelley. They've got a year

to whip the band into shape and to raise money for the cross-country trip.

Band members likely will practice marching on the school's campus and

Even on one of the gym's treadmills. The parade route is about 6 miles and

Will take about two hours to march, a grind the band isn't used to.

"I'm nervous, but I'm excited, too. It's gonna be hard, but we're gonna

Get through it," said Bria Goshay, a 15-year-old snare drummer from


The band was formed in 2005 and played its first full season with about

20 members in 2006. Its uniforms are castoffs from another high school that got new ones.

During a regular season, the band plays for an audience a handful of

times: at deaf-school football games, at a Dublin high-school pregame show, at the Ohio State University Skull Session in St. John Arena. The band recently marched in a Circleville Pumpkin Show parade.

Twenty-one bands from across the country have been booked for the Rose

Parade, said music committee chairwoman Stacy Houser. Two others,

Pickerington Central High School and Ohio University, are from Ohio.

"A blind marching band is such an incredibly unique thing," she said.

"We're hoping it'll be an inspiration throughout the country."

Bands are chosen using several criteria, including marching and musical

ability, uniqueness and overall talent.

Macy McClain, who plays the flute and piccolo in the band, likened the

Honor to being on American Idol.

"Except you don't have to stand in line," she said.

Dog note to God

Greetings. I received the following from an email list for guide dog users. Enjoy, and as always, please excuse any formatting errors.



Dear God: Is it on purpose our names are the same, only reversed?

Dear God: Why do humans smell the flowers, but seldom, if ever, smell one another?

Dear God: When we get to heaven, can we sit on your couch? Or is it still the same old story?

Dear God: Why are there cars named after the jaguar, the cougar, the mustang, the colt, the stingray, and the rabbit, but not ONE named for a Dog? How often do you see a cougar riding around? We do love a nice ride! Would it be so hard to rename the 'Chrysler Eagle' the 'Chrysler Beagle'?

Dear God: If a Dog barks his head off in the forest and no human hears him, is he still a bad Dog?

Dear God: We Dogs can understand human verbal instructions, hand signals, whistles, horns, clickers, beepers, scent ID's, electromagnetic energy fields, and Frisbee flight paths. What do humans understand?

Dear God: More meatballs, less spaghetti, please.

Dear God: Are there mailmen in Heaven? If there are, will I have to apologize?

Dear God: Let me give you a list of just some of the things I must remember to be a good Dog.

1. I will not eat the cats' food before they eat it or after they throw it up.
2. I will not roll on dead seagulls, fish, crabs, etc., just because I like the way they smell.
3. The Litter Box is not a cookie jar.
4. The sofa is not a 'face towel'.
5. The garbage collector is not stealing our stuff.
6. I will not play tug-of-war with Dad's underwear when he's on the toilet.
7. Sticking my nose into someone's crotch is an unacceptable way of saying 'hello'.
8. I don't need to suddenly stand straight up when I'm under the coffee table .
9. I must shake the rainwater out of my fur before entering the house - not after.
10. I will not come in from outside and immediately drag my butt.
11. I will not sit in the middle of the living room and lick my crotch.
12. The cat is not a 'squeaky toy' so when I play with him and he makes that noise, it's usually not a good thing.

P.S. Dear God: When I get to Heaven may I have my testicles back?

Sunday, October 26

New way to comment

Greetings. For those interested, I've changed the way comments are handled on this blog. From now on, a comment link will be embedded in each post. So, instead of opening the link with the post's title, you can click on the link for the number of comments. Each method goes to the same page. The comment form has changed as well. Before, you had to select your ID from a set of radio buttons, whereas now it's a combo box with many more ID options available. Those that have blogs on Blogger have this option now. Comments on this blog will still be approved before they appear, so I can monitor and prevent spam from appearing, but hopefully this will help make the commenting process easier. Read more on the new feature below. The following was taken from the Blogger Buzz Blog:


Today we’re bringing the embedded comment form out of Blogger in draft and making it easily available to everyone. This feature puts the comment form at the bottom of each post page, below the comments, instead of on the separate, Blogger-styled page.

The embedded comment form is more convenient for your readers because they can use it to post a comment immediately, without clicking over to a different page. It also looks better, since it matches your blog’s style and colors.

If you’re logged in to Blogger with your Google Account, you can also subscribe to comments via email by clicking the “Subscribe” link. Unlike with the full page comment form, you don’t need to post a comment to subscribe.

To enable the embedded comment form for your blog, go to the Settings > Comments page and look for the Comment Form Placement setting. Change it to Embedded below post, save your settings, and go check out a post to see the new form in action.

The embedded comment form works on both Classic and Layouts templates, though if you’re using a heavily-customized Layouts template you may need to reset your widget templates before the embedded comment form will appear.

We think that the embedded comment form is a big improvement, so we’ve made it the default setting for all new blogs.

Happy commenting!

Update, 10/23: We regret that this feature is being enabled for some existing blogs that didn’t specifically enable it. We are working to undo that, but in the meantime if you see this on your blog and don’t want it, go to Settings > Commenting and change Comment Form Placement to either “Full page” or “Pop-up window.”

Get prepared for Louis's birthday

Greetings. I received the following note from National Braille Press via their email announcements list. Enjoy.


Louis Turns 200!

National Braille Press has been busy planning a virtual birthday party
in anticipation of Louis Braille's bicentennial this January 4th. We're
sending this notice out early, so you have time to help us spread the
word about a genius inventor.

First, we commissioned artist Judith Krimski to design a new image of
Louis that would respect his place in history and illuminate the
vitality of his vision today. Her stunning Louis icon appears on almost
every Bicentennial commemorative item listed below.

Read about the icon image here:

Next, we designed a half-dozen, low-cost items that you can use to
spread the word about Louis's Bicentennial --starting today and
throughout 2009! All of these items can be purchased at our new website

Louis Lapel Pins. Our goal is to have everyone who cares about Louis
wearing his lapel pin this January 4th-and every other day! It even has
teeny-tiny braille letters across the bottom. Get your whole company to
participate! $5 each, plus shipping.

Louis Note Cards. Keep in touch with friends and family with these
gorgeous 4.25" x 5" note cards. Includes 10 cards and envelopes in a
sturdy card box: $7.99 for the set, plus shipping.

Bicentennial Wall Poster. Perfect for any classroom, this beautifully
illustrated 12.25" x 17" poster celebrates the life and achievements of
Louis Braille with images from France. Free-you pay for shipping only.

Print/braille Bookmarks. Perfect for the classroom, library or the
office, these colorful bookmarks feature our Louis image and facts about
his life. In packages of 30 for $8, or 50 for $12, plus shipping.

Braille Key Chains. These unique gold-plated coin key chains measure
1.5" in diameter. On one side, the words "Louis Braille 1809" appear in
braille, and the reverse side shows hands reading braille and the words
"Braille Opens Doors" Designed and produced by Paul and Bernie Dressell:
$5, plus shipping.

Tactile Louis. Commemorate the 200th birthday of Louis with this signed
and numbered, limited edition, ivory-colored, cast resin plaque,
sculpted by tactile artist Ann Cunningham. Hang it on a wall or display
it on the wire stand that comes with each plaque: $45, plus shipping.

Whatever you do, celebrate Braille. These make great holiday gifts!
All these commemorative mementos are available at

To order any items or books, send payment to:
NBP, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115-4302
Or call and charge it: toll-free (800) 548-7323 or (617) 266-6160 ext
20. Or order any of our books online at

Friday, October 17

Tip: convert Word 2007 documents into another format

Greetings. I realize that not everyone in computer world has Office 2007, for whatever reason, be it switching to the Ribbon or something else. That's why the following tip from the Fred's Head Companion on Convert Microsoft DOCX Files to HTML caught my attention. This tip does a good job of describing the site to use and the process. What it doesn't mention is that not only can you convert to HTML, but also to other common formats, such as plain text, rich text, Word 2003 (.doc), and many others. This would be a great site, the one mentioned in the tip that is, to bookmark and keep on hand for those coworkers or friends who don't use Word 2007, or if you simply don't want to have to mess with any extra stuff that Word 07 might throw in. By the way, it's worth mentioning that various kinds of formatting will be stripped out, however, other formatting will remain, such as font styles, tables, underline, and others. This is one of those ideas that makes me ponder, "I wish I had thought of that." Enjoy.

Thursday, October 16

New Perkins Brailler

Greetings. I'm going through some older emails that I've meant to post at some point. Anyway, here's the official press release about the new Perkins Brailler. Enjoy.

Quiet cars survey

Greetings. If you have been involved with a quiet car, such as in an acccident, then please read the following message and consider taking action. I received this from an email list. Thanks.

***Please forward***
FYI. Pasted below is a letter from Debbie Stein, chair of NFB's Quiet Car
committee. She is conducting a survey of both sighted and blind people who
have experienced accidents or near accidents involving vehicles they could
not hear. Her contact info is at the bottom of this message. Please help
if you can.


Open Letter to Guide Dog Users


As you probably know, many people in both the blind and sighted
communities are increasingly concerned about the hazard posed by
silently-operating hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as very quiet
cars with standard combustion engines. Because it is extremely difficult
to hear these vehicles under normal traffic conditions, cyclists and
pedestrians are often dangerously unaware of their presence and movements.
I chair the Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety (CAPS--also
known as the Quiet Cars Committee) of the National Federation of the
Blind. We are gathering information from people who have had accidents or
near accidents involving vehicles they could not hear.

If as a pedestrian or cyclist you have been in an accident involving a
quiet car, or if you have had a frightening close call, please contact me.
I am conducting a short survey with people who have had quiet-car
incidents, and I would like very much to collect information about what
happened to you. The survey questions take ten to fifteen minutes.

The information you share will help us build a stronger case for the need
for a solution to the quiet-car problem. Thank you in advance for your


Debbie Stein

Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety
National Federation of the Blind

OverDrive and the Stream

Greetings. I received the following announcement yesterday from the Stream Newswire regarding playing books from OverDrive on the Stream. Read and enjoy.

Dear Victor Reader Stream Friends:

Overdrive (, the popular service that provides recorded audio books that can be downloaded from many public libraries, has recently began offering some audio books in MP3 format. We have been receiving queries about whether these new MP3 books can be played on the Stream. The answer is yes. You may download them to a sub folder within the Other Books bookshelf of the Stream.

Author and technology reviewer, Anna Dresner who wrote the popular NBP book, "A Pocketful of Sound" has published an article on her blog about Overdrive's new MP3 books and how to play them on your Stream. The article can be found at:

The Pocketful of Sound book which is a comprehensive review of portable media players including the Stream can be obtained from National Braille Press. For more information visit:
Thank you,
The HumanWare Team

Monday, October 13

Assisting a guide dog team

Greetings. when making my daily round of some blogs, I came across a post from the Fred's Head Companion blog from the American Printing House for the Blind on Assisting a Guide Dog Team. Though the author of this post is a graduate of Guide Dogs for the Blind out in California, I agree with what they write, and would recommend that all read and consider what they have to say. My only addition would be to plug The Seeing Eye verses Guide Dogs for the Blind, but that's more of a personal bias, :) Enjoy.

Thursday, October 9

Got my radio upgrade

Greetings. As I write this, I'm listening to crystal clear music from my new Sirius radio. This is quite a thing for me, not just because it's Sirius, but because previously, radio listening consisted of either listening to a Walkman or my clock radio. I've been looking for an alternative to these options, especially since neither of them really received stations very well. I've heard that reception on the first floor of my complex isn't very good, for whatever reason.

Thanks to my stay at The Seeing Eye and of getting the chance to preview Sirius for free, I've become addicted. I went to Best Buy last weekend to look at various receivers and radios, and then came home and purchased the equipment from Amazon. Thanks to FedEx shipping, I received the receiver 2 days ago, and the Boom Box radio today. So now I've got music coming from the radio, which is on the night stand by my bed, and I can move about through my apartment and still hear the radio.

The big thing about Sirius, aside from the commercial free music channels, that I'm looking forward to are the numerous play-by-play sporting events broadcasted through the week, especially the NFL games on Sundays. The music channels aren't that bad either since there's a great variety of music, and the music played is everything from current radio hits to songs you haven't heard for years. This probably would have made a great Santa gift, but since I had the money, a gift certificate, and most of all the strong desire, not to mention much of the NFL season remaining, I went ahead and got it now. presets? Already got all but one of the 11 set. However, since there's a "Go to channel" button that allows you to type in the three digit channel number and then instantly goes there, the presets are almost not needed.

This weekend's going to be fun listneing to all the variety of stuff, including sports. Were I not so working minded, I might entertain the thought of skipping work tomorrow just to stay home and listen to the new radio. However, i am very work minded. That doesnt' mean though that I won't race out the door at 5:00 approaches. I might even take a cab just to get home quicker than the bus. Talk later, ... maybe, :)

Sunday, October 5

Quiet Hybrids a Threat to the Blind

Greetings. I received the following news story from an email list. In the article, it is said that a guide dog cannot detect a hybrid car. The only way I can see that this would happen would be if the car comes up behind the dog-human team. Otherwise, "detecting" the hybrid is just like the behavior during a trafic check, when a car crosses the path of a guide dog and they react by stopping, swerving, or backing up. I can attest to the effectiveness of these traffic checks during training, since my dog and I received quite a number of them, and she reacted correctly each time. In other words, we're still here. The main issue with hybrids in training is the student not knowing what the dog is reacting to. To the student's point of view, since they can't hear the car passing, the dog just stops all of a sudden and the student doesn't know why exactly. Of course, since this would usually happen in the street or a parking lot, it's not too hard to figure out. Anyway, keep this in mind when reading that statement. Enjoy, and as always, please excuse any formatting errors.

Quiet hybrids a threat to the blind
By Isabel MascareƱas,
Tampa Bay's 10 News
September 26, 2008

Palmetto, Florida - Hybrid cars offer better mileage and less pollution but when the vehicle switches from its gasoline engine to an electric motor, it's
virtually silent.

For Helen Arnold, that silence can be deadly for her and her guide dog Corki. She's been blind since birth.

"We cannot hear the hybrid in non-operation mode. We don't know you are there," says Helen. It's not just the handler; guide dogs usually can't
detect hybrids either.

"The biggest challenge with the hybrid is it's so quiet," say Heidi Illgen, lead trainer at Southeastern Guide Dog, Inc.

The Southeastern Guide Dog facility in Manatee purchased a hybrid this year to enhance its training. Illgen takes Troy, an Australian Shepherd, through this life saving lesson. Illgen says dogs have a visual span of about
three feet from side to side and six feet up. The hybrid car requires they expand that visual perception outside of that straight line of travel.

"It's a lot more responsibility for the dog," says Illgen.
The guide dog learns through repetition.
"If the dog gets too close to the vehicle, we tap the vehicle, tell the dog 'no,'
back up and have the car surge back towards us again. If the dog stops at a reasonable distance we consider safe, we pour the praise on," says Illgen.

The trainer says it's not just the dog that must change its ways the student
must also recognize the dog's signals.

"What we need to do now is teach the student to really pay attention to
what the dog is saying we call it intelligent disobedience. Sometimes a dog will refuse to do an action we're calling for could be because of a safety,"
says Illgen.

"Traveling with guide dog is a team. You have the human factor, the canine factor work as a team. I listen, she sees," says Arnold.

Troy will soon be Arnold's new guide dog after Corki retires. She hopes

hybrid owners will use caution and use their eyes and ears when approaching an intersection.

Arnold says, "Be careful, travel a bit slower."

The National Federation of the Blind has asked the auto industry to add a sound to hybrids so the visually impaired and pedestrians can hear one coming.

Saturday, October 4

Blindness, the movie

Greetings. This is related to the movie called "Blindness" that came out yesterday. It's a bad sign when even the critics don't highly endorse a film. This one in particular though doesn't deal with the subject matter of blindness very well, and anyone who thinks that this is an accurate portrayal of what it's like to be blind has been smoking something.

In case you're not convinced, here's a couple of links from the National Federation of the Blind regarding the movie, on Frequently Asked Questions about Blindness Word document and an related Associated Press story on the movie.

A nationwide protest happened yesterday at dozens of theaters around the country and there have been and I expect will continue to be coverage of the feelings on the movie by a number of media outlets, such as CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times,, and others.

Please pass the word along that the movie "Blindness" should not be seen or supported in any way. This goes beyond what "Mr. Magoo" did about 10 years ago. I've heard that the movie itself presents a dark environment and an overall depressive feeling to it. Trust me, this is one to avoid at all costs.

Next generation Braille Writer

Greetings. I received the following article from a friend regarding a possible new generation for the Perkins Brailler. This sounds like a great improvement on the older model which is loud, heavy, and just needs some overhalls and enhancements. I hope that these new Braillers really sell a lot and that they appear next year at the various consumer conventions for people to check out. I also hope the price comes down. I understand newer, better, and so forth, but doesn't newer also mean cheaper? Or, cheaper than the price given for this new model anyway? Ah well, it's good to have a second generation of the Brailler. And it looks like a lot of time an effort went into designing this model, along with input from the people that will actually be using it. I remember hearing a Blind Cool Tech podcast several years ago where Larry Skutchan of APH was talking with Brian Charleson of the Carroll Center for the Blind about what improvements might happen to a newer Brailler. Perhaps that's where some of the enhancements came from for this model. Anyway, here's the article. Enjoy.

A lighter touch
Perkins School hopes compact Braille machine brings renewed interest
By Dave Copeland, Globe Correspondent | October 3, 2008

Until now, Kim Charlson has kept a Perkins Brailler in almost every room in her house. The 10-pound, breadbox-size machine acts as a notepad for people like Charlson, 51,who is legally blind.

"The one in the kitchen gets the biggest workout," she said. "You only have to make one batch of chili where you mistake fruit cocktail for kidney beans before you figure you better start using it to make labels for everything."

The machine resembles an eight-key typewriter that creates six-dot characters, with a place to load paper in the back.

But after today, Charlson may no longer need several Braillers. This morning, Perkins Products, a division of the nonprofit Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, is set to release the next generation of the machine, the first major overhaul of the Perkins Brailler since it was introduced 57 years ago. The new model is 25 percent lighter than its predecessor and more compact, allowing it to better fit on school desks and in workspaces. It is also less expensive - $650 compared with $690.

"I remember being a kid, learning Braille, and I'd be carrying this big, bulky thing around, banging into walls," said Charlson, who is director of the Braille & Talking Book Library, another division of the Perkins School.

Braille literacy rates among the 55,000 legally blind school-age children in the United States hover at about 12 percent, down from 50 percent in 1960. While much of the drop-off is attributed to a lack of qualified instructors in public school systems, many who work with the blind say a simpler way for students to write in Braille could help boost that number.

"We're hoping the ease of use and more modern packaging will reinvigorate excitement," said David Morgan, general manager of Perkins Products, which helps the school offset its fund-raising commitments by selling and repairing Braillers, as well as offering training on the machines.

On Tuesday, Morgan, who is not blind, strolled through the company's workshop, where a team of engineers was testing the first batch of the new Braillers. The devices were to be shipped to Louisville, Ky., for the official unveiling with Perkins's partner on the project, American Printing House for the Blind. The engineers - four of whom are from India and will oversee mass production of the machines at Worth Trust, Perkins's assembly company in India - hunkered over the machines they assembled by hand. Over the soft click-clack of the machines, Morgan pointed out the integrated handle and the paper tray that make reading back what a user has just written easier. Also, it is the first such machine that allows users to erase characters.

"This really is the pen and paper for the blind," he said.

Charlson added, "I have all the latest technology and gadgets in my office, but if you look on my desk, front and center, right next to the phone, is my Brailler."

Since the first Perkins Brailler rolled out in 1951, more than 330,000 have been sold in 170 countries, including 10,000 last year. Morgan noted many users have had their machines for decades. "Some of these people have been using the same Brailler for 30 or 40 years. You'd have to pry them out of their hands," he said.

Not so for Judi Cannon, who, like Charlson, works at the Braille & Talking Book Library and was part of the focus group that helped Perkins Products come up with the new design. Cannon, 57, said she was excited about using the upgraded machine.

"I've been advocating for this for years," Cannon said as she took notes on a new, raspberry-red Brailler with her service dog, Almond, curled at her feet.

"The old one, you'd carry it around and your arm would get longer," she said. "But this one is just like carrying a briefcase."

© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Thursday, October 2

Stream turns 1

Greetings. I received the following message from the Victor Reader Stream Newswire. Enjoy.


Dear Victor Reader Stream Friends:

For those of you who could not attend the online first birthday party this past Saturday we have posted a recording of the event that you can download from the Stream product page:

The event began with a greeting from our CEO, Gilles Pepin. We then had an opportunity for party goers to meet and ask questions to HumanWare customer support staff, our Stream software development project leader, and the Stream product manager. Also, we had interesting conversations with HumanWare partner guests Tom Pile from and Mike Calvo from Serotek. We thank our partner guests for providing two lucky party goers with Audible and Serotek memberships. Other prizes included two Streams, Stream accessories, and a grand prize of HumanWare's latest GPS product, the Trekker Breeze.

One fun party gift offered to all Stream users came from Terry Kelly, a Canadian singer and song writer. Terry composed a short Stream jingle that he suggests could be used as a Victor Reader Stream ring tone for your cell phone. You are all invited to have fun with it. The ring tone can be downloaded from:

Our thanks to Terry Kelly for this innovative gift. For more information about Terry and his work visit him at:

We appreciate all who attended and supported the birthday party event. With the great interest in this event, we will plan future Stream information sessions and keep you informed about them on this newswire.

Happy Birthday Victor Reader Stream!
The HumanWare Team