The Blind Perspective

Welcome to The Blind Perspective

December 2018
Volume 4 Issue 12

Table of Contents

Greetings from the Editor
Movers & Shakers
International Perspective
Exercise, does a body good
Have I Got A Story For You
The Braille Highway
Kaleidoscope of Krafts
Spencer’s Spotlight
Computer Tech101
A Time to Plant
The Alternating Duo: Seeing the World Differently
the Rotating Trio: WindBag
Cooking Concoctions
Riddle & Brain Buster


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, NVDA, or Window Eyes, 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.

If you have any trouble reading this copy you can go to Click Here it will take You to the read the current newsletter

Greetings from the Editor

By Karen Santiago

Hello Readers!
As we come to the end of 2018, I look back on all the wonderful articles the Blind Perspective authors have shared with us. I have learned so much from each of them; tried a new recipe, read a new book, purchased a new gadgets, did more stability ball exercises, downloaded a new app, got rid of the burnt smell in my microwave, learned about blind people living in other countries, made bath balms for friends, grew loads of fresh herbs, better organized for my upcoming trip, prepared more balanced meals, figured out some of those riddles, and made the braillable in this month’s Braille Highway article. Those are just some of the things I have learned and tried throughout the year, I hope you are doing the same.
This publication would not be possible if it were not for the amazing writers and their hard work every month. In addition to the writers, I would also like to thank Teddy for putting the audio format together each month, and thanks to Nat for managing the website and getting the newsletter on Newsline! Thank you all for another successful year.

And, on that note, I would like to introduce you to Tammy Lynn. She is our newest member of The Blind Perspective. She will be writing articles all about guide dog related issues. Her segment is titled, The Guide Dog Journey, which will be published every other month, beginning in January. So, stay tuned for that!

Below are holiday greetings from some of the sponsors we have had throughout 2018. Thank you.

This Christmas may you have; Peace, the Spirit of Christmas, Hope, the gladness of Christmas, and Love, the Heart of Christmas. May these be yours throughout the Christmas Season and the New Year!
From All the Mice at

From all of us from the AT Banter Podcast, Ryan, Rick, Steve, and Rob, we wish you and yours the very best in the Holiday Season and we look forward to bantering more for you in the New Year!

I want to wish everyone a very very happy holiday!!! May the holidays bring you great love and joy.
Christy, Mary Kay Consultant.

May your Christmas be filled with joyful noise, delicious treats, and its greatest of gifts; Family and Friends!
From Dale, Cheryl, & Tim at Cooking In The Dark!
Show Archives:

Happy Holidays from the entire team at Canadian Assistive Technology! We hope the season will be filled with love and laughter into 2019 and beyond!

Wishing you a Christmas overflowing with Love, Laughter and wagging tails!
From Julie Johnson & On The Go Dog Guide Products.

The Gift of Christmas is a precious reminder that Miracles happen! Remember the Reason for the Season! Happy birthday JC.
From Marjorie & everyone at

Greetings from! Here’s wishing all of you a very happy holiday season!

Season’s Greetings! May your holidays be filled with Peace, Joy, and Happiness!
From Konrad and Ultimate Tech Mods- 32 & 64 GB Memory Card Upgrades for Second Gen Streams.

To listen to our audio version of the newsletter click below:
The Blind Perspective Audio

At A Glance: WayAround, Swedan, Stability Ball, Wildly Different, Reflections & Drawing, Wreath, Stuffers, Plugs, Getting Ready, Questions, Real or Not, Pizza, Riddle, Brain Buster, and Classifieds!

Please click on the link below to hear holiday greetings from all the members of The Blind Perspective. Thank you Teddy for putting this all together.
Holiday Greeting from all of us!

I was recently invited to be on the Cooking In The Dark show with Dale and Cheryl. Dale made gingerbread, and we all talked about The Blind Perspective! Click the link below to listen to the show
Cooking In The Dark

Movers & Shakers

By Karen Santiago

This month I had the pleasure of conducting a Q&A interview with Jessica Hipp. She is the Chief Operating Officer for WayAround. Read below to find out what WayAround is and how it may be a good addition to your toolbox.

  1. How did WayAround get started?
    WayAround was started by two architects with vision loss, Darwin Belt and Armand Fisher. They worked together in their twenties and reconnected after they both had retired. Armand lost most of his vision in his 50s, and Darwin has had low vision for much of his adult life.
    About three years ago, Darwin asked Armand what was the hardest thing about having vision loss. Armand replied, “Navigating public restrooms. It’s the only place my wife can’t be with me, and sometimes even with my white cane I can’t find what I’m looking for.”
    They decided to use their professional expertise to create a way in which individuals with low vision or blindness can get information about the world around them. Since that first conversation, their vision for WayAround has expanded far beyond restrooms. WayAround allows anyone with any degree of vision loss to get information that’s readily available to people with good eyesight. From signage to menus, emergency exit plans, available features and how they work, WayAround can provide information about what’s immediately around you with the simple scan of a smart device.
  2. When did WayAround launch?
    WayAround launched its home and office product in January, 2018. This product uses smart WayTags that can be attached to any item around the home and office. The WayTags work with a free app for iPhone or Android to add smart, customized information about clothing, medication, craft supplies, tools, files, and more.
    We’re still working on WayAround for public spaces.
  3. How does it work?
    To use WayAround, you need two things; the free app and WayTags. First, select the item you want to tag (or label) and choose a WayTag that works for that item. Then login to the app and select the button to create a WayTag. You’ll have fields to enter a description, which can be up to 2,000 characters! Then you can add other details. Details are a great way to add information that you want to know sometimes, but not always. For example, nutrition information, washing instructions, dosage, etc. Once you’ve added all of the information you want, select the write button and hold your device against the WayTag. When the information is saved, your phone will vibrate and you’ll see a screen that says, “Success WayTag written.” If you need to change something, you can edit any amount of information using the edit button.
    To read the information, select the read button and hold your device against the WayTag. The information will appear using whatever accessibility settings you have selected on your phone: VoiceOver, inverted colors, large font, etc.
    We’re often asked which devices have a built-in NFC reader and how to find it. iPhone 7 and above has a built-in NFC reader. The reader is located on the top edge of the phone, near the center. This is the area of the phone that you’ll use to read and write WayTags. If you have an older iPhone, you’ll need the WayLink which is an NFC reader that connects to your phone via bluetooth. The WayLink also works with iPads. Many people who have a device with a built-in NFC reader prefer the WayLink because it allows for faster scanning without having to interface with the phone between scans.
    For Android users, many Androids have a built-in NFC reader, but not all of them do. The easiest way to find out about your device is to do a quick online search to find out whether your device has an NFC reader and how to be sure it’s enabled.
  4. What are the different tags available? WayTags come as stickers, magnets, buttons, and clips. They all work exactly the same, so you would choose a WayTag based on what you want to attach it to. The oval hole button is one of our most popular products. It’s heat and cold-proof and waterproof. Plus, you can loop a rubberband or hair elastic through the oval hole to attach it to just about anything. We’ve heard of people using this WayTag for items in their freezer, items that go outdoors, and one person even tagged her tomato plants with it!
    The WayClips are another very versatile product that can be used on paper or thin cardboard, think cereal boxes, granola bars, etc. It has two tongues and can also work to close bread wrappers or with a rubber band to attach to just about anything.
    Tags are either square or round to indicate whether they can be used on metal. Round is for regular, and square goes on metal. Metal interferes with the NFC technology, so the square tags have a protective barrier that allows them to be placed on metal items.
    Our Starter Pack includes some of all of the different types of WayTags. It’s a great way to try them out. Once you decide which you like best, you can order any type of WayTag in a pack of 25.
  5. How has WayAround grown?
    We’re still in our first year of launching the home and office product, and we’re getting lots of traction from users, VRTs, O&M instructors, and more. We just updated the app to include some new features that lets you further customize the information you store.
    Also, we debuted WayAround for public spaces in November at the NIB conference. Look for more info on that soon!
  6. What does one need to do to get started?
    To get started, download the free app from the App Store or Google Play. It’s called WayAround, Tag and Scan. You’ll be asked to create an account with your first and last name, email address and a password.
    You’ll also need some WayTags, which you can buy from our website, They cost about a dollar per tag.
    Last, check to be sure your device has an NFC reader. If you have an iPhone 7 or above, you’re good to go. If you have an older iPhone, or if you want faster scanning, get the WayLink, which you can get on our website.
  7. Do you have any special offers for the holiday season?
    Yes! Use coupon code freeship to get Free Shipping on your order. It will work through the end of the year.
  8. What is your contact information?



Twitter: @WayAround
Phone: 833-857-7760

International Perspective

Sweden, by Kait Bessing

A bit about Sweden:
Sweden is the largest country located in northern Europe, about the size of California. Its capital is Stockholm. The land borders of Sweden are Finland and Norway. It connects with Denmark via the Öresund bridge. The population of Sweden is just under 10 million.
Swedes hold nature in high esteem, which is one reason why environmental issues are so important. Only one per cent of solid waste goes to landfill in Sweden – with the rest recycled or used to produce heat, electricity or vehicle fuel in the form of biogas. Renewable energy sources account for more than half of Swedish energy production.
By any measure, Sweden is one of the world’s most innovative nations, and it has been called the most digitally connected economy. Swedes are early adopters of new technology and the country’s non-hierarchical society creates a fertile environment for new ideas.

Blind Schools:
We used to have a blind school called Tomteboda, in close to Stockholm. It was residential. I went there myself from 1963-1966, after which I was integrated into a mainstream school.
The school starting age in Sweden is seven, so that’s when children started Class One at Tomteboda. Students would remain there until age 16 or 17. However, some students who were academically bright were moved to mainstream schools two or three years before that, at 14 or 15. They could then prepare for higher education from there.
Tomteboda also taught the usual academic subjects, though they gave students an extra year to be able to keep up. So, ten rather than nine years, as in most other Swedish schools. Tomteboda was founded in the 1880s, and lasted for just a hundred years. In the mid-1980s it was closed, since it was felt that blind children should all be integrated into the mainstream schools.
Some students were not academically inclined, and they were offered the option to train for one of the “traditional” blind crafts, such as brush-binding. There were also facilities for basket-making and piano tuning. Blind girls learned to type in preparation for jobs as typists, typing from dictation.
There was another residential school for both blind children and those with other disabilities, mostly learning difficulties. This was situated in the town of Örebro, and it lasted about ten years longer than Tomteboda; into the 1990s. Parents and teachers fought fiercely for their school, feeling that the special needs of their children couldn’t be addressed in a mainstream school. But in the end, this school (Ekeskolan) was closed too.

Tomteboda taught Braille, of course. It was my first alphabet, only I mostly “cheated” by reading with my eyes. I learned the visual alphabet almost parallel to Braille, and started to read books almost at once. I have about 25% vision, so I always have been able to read print books, with the aid of strong glasses.

Orientation & Mobility:
I remember we were pretty wild inside the school grounds, like kids generally. But we were forbidden to go beyond the gates alone until about age ten. When we reached that age, we were instructed in the proper use of the white cane. Our instructor had learned this in the USA, and was somewhat of a pioneer in Sweden.
I remember being told to hold the cane diagonally in front of me, as I was partially sighted and didn’t need to tap it. So, mine was a shorter stick, used mostly as a marker. When crossing a street, I had to stick it out straight in front of me, to show the drivers I was there.
On my first excursion, I forgot to do this last, and so failed my test. I had to try again later. After succeeding on the second try, I was let out alone to the first boundary, a corner shop. I had to cross one small street to get there. I was so proud to be able to go out and shop for sweets whenever I felt like it!
My lessons never progressed much beyond that, as I left before my boundaries could be stretched. But the older students eventually learned to cross the city, by bus and underground (subway), before they graduated.

It has been a long time since I attended university. However, I do know for a fact that there are plenty of support resources for blind students. I just don’t know what form they take nowadays.

I know there is a separate organization for all the disabled sports, like there’s the separate Paralympics. If you want to play competitively, that’s where you go. But otherwise I believe people with disabilities can mix in with other sporty folks as far as is practicable. For blind people, this is especially true for swimming.
Blind children are integrated into mainstream schools now, so I suppose solutions are found for them on a local level. For special games, I know of goalball and showdown. The latter is a little like table tennis, but with high frames around the table. I believe some people are experimenting with football (soccer) but I can’t offer any details. (To boast a little, our women’s goalball team took a bronze medal at the Paralympics in London 2012. One of my colleagues was on the team!)

Job Training:
We don’t have separate job training per say, but you can get some assistance at the Low Vision centers; advice on how to write a CV, how to write a job application, conduct a job interview, etc. And once you get a job, the Department of Employment will provide you with the aids you may require, such as browsers like Jaws or ZoomText. Or maybe you need a CCTV to read documents; they will provide that too. All this is free of charge! They will also upgrade when needed. Years ago, they used to provide computers too, but now they say it’s the employer’s responsibility since everybody has them.

Many blind people use public transport; but if you are elderly, not very mobile, or if you simply don’t know how to get there, then there is a taxi service. This is not specifically for blind people, but for anyone who can’t use public transport. You need to apply for this service, attaching a doctor’s certificate of your condition.
The taxi service has limits. You only get so many rides (this varies locally), and you may have to share your cab with other people. This means you can never be sure when you’ll arrive, so you need to have a good margin.
In Stockholm, the cab picks up three times per hour: ten past the hour, half past, and then ten to the next hour. You have to book at least 20 minutes in advance. In practice, this means half an hour as you may have to wait on the phone. You can also book via Internet, but their website is not very accessible to blind people, so most use the phone.
The taxis don’t always arrive on time either. People have been known to wait over an hour for their cabs. The cab drivers get better paid for taking “ordinary” fares, so they often decline these special ones.
The public transport system is more accessible than it was, with vocal announcements as well as visual, but we are still lobbying for platform walls at the metro stations. Too many blind people have fallen off the edge onto the track. Fortunately most have survived, but many have been more or less badly injured.
I don’t know why authorities always take it for granted that blind people will have a sighted assistant when they go out. Well, some of us do, but others prefer to be independent and travel on their own.
Some of the larger bus stops have automatic audio announcements as soon as a bus comes in, saying what bus it is and what destination. Also inside the buses and the trains you have audio announcements of the next stop.
In some of the buses you can press a green button, rather than the ordinary red one, when you want to get off, to indicate that you need more time. I think this green button sits below the red one that you would press if you want to get off but don’t need any extra time to do it.

Getting Around:
The pavements (or sidewalks as you call them) are separated from streets by curbs, but sometimes there is a strip in between for cyclists. This is not always clearly marked for blind people, so we run the risk of getting run over by bikes. We have been lobbying about that for years, but so far with no results to speak of.
Yes, there are curb cuts at intersections (if this is your word for crossings?). Usually there is one to one side of the traffic light post, which is great for wheelchairs or walkers. There is a button on the post you can press for the Green light (for pedestrians), and when it’s Green you also hear a rapidly ticking signal. When it’s on Red or Wait, the ticking is much slower. This is the standard for all traffic lights, and the ticking goes on whether you press the button or not. This is to make it easier for blind people to hear where the crossings are.

Braille in the Public:
There is no Braille on the traffic light posts. It is thought that the ticking is enough. But there is Braille as well as audio on all our ATM’s. At least there is an audio option, however, you don’t have to use it.

Guide dogs:
We did use to have a guide dog school, where guide dogs were trained and their handlers would go for courses. It was a state school. But then it closed, and guide dogs are now trained at a number of private schools.
Guide dogs have access to public buildings except for restaurants and grocery shops, where it’s up to the proprietors to decide. This causes some conflict, as many guide dog handlers will just march in regardless. Some hospitals and malls also refuse guide dogs.
We have tried to raise public awareness on the importance of guide dogs, but many people still confuse them with ordinary pets.

There is a general disability benefit which gives you 60% of a certain sum if you are blind, and 30% if you are partially sighted. You still have to apply for it.
To receive 100%, you must have several disabilities. They calculate how much extra money you have to spend because of your disability, after you give an estimate of any extra services and charges (health care not included).
Screen readers and other adaptations are free of charge. Also, white canes, and indeed, guide dogs and also glasses. But computers as such are not included, and have to be bought with your own money. There are various funds you can apply for if you can’t afford this.

Reading service:
There are numerous talking books, all for free. You borrow them from your local library, on Daisy disks or online. You can borrow or buy Braille books.
There is also a service where you send in written material (anything but actual books) and they turn it into Braille for you, all for free.

Blind organizations:
We have one main organization, the SRF (Synskadades Riksförbund). It’s a national federation of blind and partially sighted people – which, incidentally, is my employer, as I work at their Stockholm branch office.
There is also a national youth organization which organizes kids of ages 12-31. I used to be a very active member there.
Both the SRF and this youth group do a good deal of lobbying for better conditions and accessibility.
Apart from these, there are smaller groups centered around various diagnoses, such as RP and glaucoma. They hold lectures as well as social activities.
There are also two clubs of guide dog owners. All these are “of” organizations, where only blind and partially sighted people have full membership and voting rights. Sighted people may become supporting members, but may not vote or sit on boards.

Final thoughts:
Because Sweden relies a good deal on state funding and taxes, we are not so dependent on charities as some other countries.
We don’t have to pay for our own aids, they are provided on loan if applied for. In practice it means we get to keep them. Like I said previously, this includes anything from a white cane to a guide dog.
That said however, many people are finding that their finances are no longer enough, and are again having to turn to charities and churches, something that was unthinkable 20 years ago. This includes disabled people, who are in general poorer than others, not employed to the same degree as able-bodied people.
I look with sadness on this development. It is a poor nation that can’t provide for all its citizens!

Exercise, does a body good

By Dan Kiely

Hello to all you Exercise Does A Body Good fans. The holidays are now upon us, with good foods, drinks, and friends. It is important that we keep working out to burn any excess calories. In this article I reintroduce to you the stability ball. What size is right for your height and three new exercises.

The stability ball is also known as an exercise ball and the swiss ball. The stability ball exercises work your balance, strengthens your core muscles, and also can strengthen a specific muscle.

What size?
Typically, individuals less than 4 feet 6 inches require a 30 cm ball. You should choose a 45 cm ball if you are between 4 feet 6 inches and 5 feet tall. From 5 feet to 5 feet 5 inches, select a 55 cm ball. If you are between 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet 2 inches, use a 65 cm ball.

Exercise 1: jackknife.
Starting Position: Get in a high-plank position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and hands flat on the floor. Place your shins on top of the stability ball. Brace your core to keep your body in a straight line from head to toe.
Movement: Squeeze your core and bend your knees to roll the stability ball toward your hands, until only your toes are resting on the ball, keeping your hips down as you do so. Pause, then slowly straighten your legs back behind you, returning to the starting position.
Modification: Start with hands on the floor underneath your shoulders and shins resting on the ball. Your body should be totally straight, perpendicular to the floor. Then, roll your knees toward your upper body. When you get to this position, it should look like a horse with hands on the floor and knees and shins resting on the ball. Your hips and knees should be bent at 90 degrees. Roll the ball back onto your shins, into the starting position.
Repetitions: try to do 25.
Benefits: hip flexor muscles and abdomen.
Smile, and have fun with either one.

Exercise 2: hamstring curls.
Starting Position: Lie with your back flat on the floor and legs straight with the back of your calves on top of the stability ball. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips off of the floor so that your body forms a straight line from shoulders to heels.
Movement: Drag your heels to roll the ball as close to your butt as possible, or until your knees form 90-degree angles. Pause, then slowly straighten your legs back to the starting position.
Repetitions: 25, and I bet you will feel the burn.
Benefits: Strengthens your hamstrings and glutes with this seemingly simple move, while also engaging your core.

Exercise 3: pass the ball.
Starting Position: Lie with your back flat on the floor and your legs extended straight out on the floor, holding the ball overhead with both hands. Brace your core to minimize any arch in your lower back.
Movement: Squeeze your abs to lift your arms and legs to place the ball between your calves, creating a “V” position. Lower back down to the starting position, but this time with the ball between your legs. Repeat the movement, passing the ball back and forth between your hands and legs.
Repetitions: 25, should do the job.
Benefits: Challenge your entire body with this exercise.

I find working with the exercise ball to be fun, versatile, and not too expensive. I have seen the prices range from 40 to 60 dollars. If you want more stability ball exercises in another edition, just write an email to my address above and I will describe more in the next article.

Health Tip
The benefits of a protein shake:
If you’re on track with your caloric intake including a protein shake, drinking it at night could have advantages. Protein is shown to boost your metabolism and stimulate muscle growth. Increasing your metabolism speeds up the rate you burn calories and is shown to help with weight loss. Here are some health benefits of whey protein that are supported by human studies:
•Whey is an Excellent Source of High-Quality Protein.
•Whey Protein Promotes Muscle Growth.
•Whey Protein May Lower Blood Pressure.
•Whey Protein May Help Treat Type 2 Diabetes.
•Whey Protein May Help Reduce Inflammation.

Should you drink a protein drink before or after a workout?
It is debatable, protein is the main ingredient in building muscles. It also helps restore fatigue muscles after a workout. So, when should you is up to you, experiment with it and see how your body responds.
Everyone’s body responds differently, so happy protein drinking and happy holidays!

Have I Got A Story For You

By Carla Jo Bratton

Holiday Greetings lovers of literature!
I have 3 wildly different books for your perusal this month.

Where the Crawdads sing
written by Delia Owens
reading time:12 hours and 14 minutes
BARD number; DB92245
CELA number; DA57446
Not on RNIB yet

How long can you protect your heart? For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So, in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens. Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

My Comments; One of the loveliest books written. Delia Owens is a naturalist and this is her first fiction novel. I loved it. 5 out of 5. I got a copy for my Mother for a gift.

The Outsider
written by Stephen King
reading time: 18 hours and 42 minutes
BARD Number; DB92110
CELA Number; DE77729
RNIB; It’s listed as on demand and for sale

An 11-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

My Comments; If you enjoyed the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, you will want to read this. My advice, don’t start this one when you are going to be home alone for the weekend! I scared myself silly!

David Bowie made me Gay; 100 years of LGBT music
written by Darryl W. Bullock
reading time: 12 hours and 31 minutes
BARD Number;DB91244
Not on RNIB or CELA

A history and celebration of the many LGBT musicians, composers, and producers who influenced popular music. Ranges from lesser-known artists of the early days of jazz and blues, through more modern icons such as Freddie Mercury and Elton John. Places these musicians in the historical context of the struggle for LGBT rights.

My Comments; This is a music appreciation and history book. Not a sex book! A very interesting look at a time in music that often goes unseen. I learned a lot and enjoyed it immensely.

So until 2019 gentle readers, I wish for you Happy Holidays and a Safe and wonderful start to the New Year!
Books make the perfect gifts!
Happy reading, Carla jo

The Braille Highway

By Nat Armeni

Hello and welcome to The Braille Highway article for the month of December. In this article I will reflect a little on the year 2018 and also give instructions on how to make a frilly Christmas tree in braille. As always, I invite, and welcome any and all feedback from you the readership. You can communicate with me by using the email at the beginning of this article.

The majority of my articles in 2018, were about my fellow writer’s perspective on braille and how important braille is to them professionally and personally. I have learned through all these Q&A’s that braille is truly an important tool to have in order to enable a person to live a full and independent life.

I believed these things before, but now I am convinced beyond a shadow of the doubt that having learned braille and making it a big part of my life has opened doors and given me many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. The simple tasks of selecting a cd, DVD, or an important printed document can all be made easier to accomplish independently by labelling them in braille. The same holds true for being able to differentiate between food items within my freezer. With a little organization and the time that it takes to properly label things, it makes life much easier, and a bit less stressful. The bottom line is that we are all striving for a better quality of life and I think that braille can assist in making that a reality.

For some of us, braille assists in allowing us to be color coordinated by labelling our clothing. Games that have been adapted with braille such as playing cards, board games, and bingo cards allow us to participate in these fun activities. Yet others may enjoy making braille diagrams to keep the young children or grandchildren in their lives entertained. So, as you can see and already know, braille is a well-rounded tool to have in one’s toolbox.

Please find below instructions on how to produce a frilly Christmas tree that you can put on the front of a greeting card, on a placemat, or as a gift tag. Do not fear if you are not well practiced in making braille. The braille signs are mentioned, and also included immediately after in parentheses are the corresponding dots to make that character.

This frilly Christmas tree is drawn using 7 lines down and 10 spaces across. The contraction A R and G H form the top of the tree and begin the flaring out of the branches to the left and right. The next 4 lines continue the basic triangular shape of the tree with the branching out of each line. Line 6 brings the branching in on each side and the dots 4-5-6 and the letter l suggest a trunk. Line 7 completes the tree and flares out the trunk a bit. This is an easy tree to “draw” and a pretty one to look at.

Line 1: 4 spaces, braille an A R sign, (dots 3, 4, 5), braille a G H sign, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 2: 3 spaces, braille two A R signs, (Dots 3, 4, 5), braille two G H signs, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 3: 2 spaces, braille three A R signs, (dots 3, 4, 5), braille three G H signs, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 4: 1 space, braille four A R signs, (dots 3, 4, 5), braille four G H signs, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 5: braille five A R signs, (dots 3, 4, 5), braille five G H signs, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 6: 1 space, braille three A R signs, (dots 3, 4,5), braille dots 4, 5, 6), braille 1 l (dots 1, 2, 3), braille three G H signs, (dots 1, 2, 6).
Line 7: 4 spaces, braille an A R sign, (dots 3, 4, 5), braille a G H sign, (dots 1, 2, 6).
This is the end of the instructions and I hope you had as much fun as I did when I created my first frilly Christmas tree.

Thank you so much for supporting The Braille Highway! I wish you and yours, a very happy, healthy, safe, and blessed Christmas! I am of Italian descent, so, Buon Natale, when translated means, Merry Christmas.
Remember to stay on the dotted line of life! I will talk with you again next year.

Kaleidoscope of Krafts

By Lindy van der Merwe

It is once again the start of the holiday season and the ideal opportunity for spending time with friends and family while creating hand-made items and good memories. Our craft for this month is something special that is easy to make and that should spread joy and good cheer whenever people visit your home.

All over the world, wreaths have been used for centuries, for various religious and cultural reasons, but they remain a popular way to welcome others to our homes, so for this month we are making a one-of-a-kind candy wreath.

these handmade candy wreaths are so great to have hanging around for holidays or birthdays or any other celebration where you want to share a treat in a fun way! not only do they act as a decoration, but they are also edible! everyone can just unwrap a candy whenever they feel like having a sweet treat.

They are also great to give as gifts. You can make small versions by using pipe cleaners to form circles, attaching them to the Christmas tree or as a table setting for guests or on the children’s doors for Christmas morning.

you can basically use any candy you can imagine as long as it’s wrapped with the little twists at either end. For Christmas, you might want to use a mixture of candy that has been wrapped in shiny red and/or green paper or silver and gold may look great as well. or simply buy a mixed bag and tie the candy on randomly for a fun and festive wreath.

I’ve discovered there are more than one ways to make these wreaths. The method I am sharing below might take slightly longer, but I consider it to be a fairly easy method and what is nice is that it can be a family activity. Depending on the size, these wreaths can take an hour or two to make, but the process is really simple and once you get the hang of it, things should go smoothly.

You will need:
Wrapped candies (the ones with the paper twisted on each side)
Thin ribbon or pipe cleaners
wire hanger, or a brass ring that can be found at most craft or hardware stores
Small scissors

Step 1: If using a wire hanger, bend it into a circle, keeping the hook intact so you can use it as a hanger for your wreath.
note that normal, adult-sized wire clothes hangers will make a fairly large wreath.

Step 2: If using ribbon, cut a 6-inch piece.

Step 3: Llay the ribbon or pipe cleaner flat and place the twist of the candy paper at its center. Knot the ribbon or pipe cleaner around the paper end of the candy, leaving a tail on each side.

Step 4: Tie the two loose ends of the ribbon or pipe cleaner around the wreath, with the candy on the inside of the circle.

step 5: Continue to tie candy to the wreath, pushing the tied pieces as close together as possible so that there are no gaps.

Step 6: keep adding candies, one at a time, until you have filled the entire wreath.

Step 7: If preferred, tie a bow at the top of the wreath with some ribbon.

Step 8: Tie a piece of ribbon from the top of the wreath to the handle of the small scissors so that they are hanging in the middle of the wreath low enough that you can use them to cut pieces of candy from the wreath. Or simply untwist a candy, leaving the colorful papers on the wreath until all have been unwrapped.

hang your hand-made candy wreath on a wall or door and admire your unique creation. It might not last long once it is up.
This will be the first time we will make one of these candy wreaths for our home and I hope it will become a family tradition in years to come.
Happy crafting and a blessed holiday season to all!


Spencer’s Spotlight

By Cheryl Spencer

Regarding last month’s article, I apologize if the audio did not make sense without an introduction. Pete Lane created my scrapbook. It is a beautiful keepsake and I will treasure it the rest of my life. Now you have the rest of the story as someone used to say.

Last year my family decided to forgo the gift giving and just give each other Christmas stockings instead. This is a good opportunity to “stock” pardon the pun, up on things like batteries, bump dots, and dyno tape. These are just a few of the things that come to mind when giving your family ideas of what would be a good stuffer for you. There are also fun things like the handheld talking bop-it game, or the handheld version of the game Simon.

Then there are practical things like index cards, memory cards, flash drives and charger cables. You get the idea. If your family is anything like mine, they are clueless when it comes to buying blind friendly merchandise. Give them little hints along the way. You never know, the stocking stuffer elves might surprise you this year.

I just want to end this year by reaching out to each and every one of you, wishing you all the very best for the coming year! Take some time for yourselves, do something you enjoy, and be thankful for the many bles sings in your lives. Have the happiest of holiday seasons and the very best for the new year!

Computer Tech101

By Jim Morgan

I thought we’d do something a little different this time. I thought we’d talk about plugs. Now, I don’t mean the “eckeltricity” plugs that so fascinated Arthur Weasly in the Harry Potter series, I’m talking about where we plug cables into devices and some slight differences that you might not be aware of.

In the days of yore, otherwise known as about 10 to 15 years ago, plugs went into, basically, one place and one way only AND they had little pins in them so you had to be a little careful when plugging them in or said pins could get bent and cause all kinds of grief that usually required a very small pair of needle nose pliers or tweezers. Thankfully, for the most part, this is no longer true. However, while it is still safe to say that cables only go in one way, there might not necessarily be only one place where they’ll fit.

The first plug I’m talking about is our old friend, the USB plug. This is found, of course, on many types of cables ranging from flash drives, to keyboards and mice to printers. While I’m not sure about tablets, every laptop and desktop computer made to this point has at least two of them; usually more. What is different is that on laptops, and, possibly, some very new desktops, there is a port that is just slightly larger than a USB port but a USB will still fit in it. This port has dual functions. While it will still read USB devices, it’s really the connection for an external monitor. You recall I mentioned that pins were almost gone? Well, this is the replacement to the Video or Invidia ports on the computer. I’m sure you can see the benefits of the new design but it can be confusing. The easiest way to tell is that instead of sharp corners like a standard USB port has, the corners are more rounded so it’s more akin to an oval racetrack, like Indianapolis, than a rectangle. The good news is that while a USB will fit in this port, or so I’ve been told, a monitor cable will not fit in a USB, so you kind of know when you’ve got the right one. Also, since there are no pins, it’s a lot easier and safer to plug in and disconnect.

The next port is a similar thing. I’m talking about a phone plug versus a network, or Ethernet, plug. In technical parlance, a telephone plug is RJ11 and a Network plug is RJ45. The thing you need to know is that a Network plug is much bigger and a bit flatter than a telephone plug. Again, the good news here is that the one will only fit into the right size. In the past, there were boards you could install that had both plugs in them. The smaller plug was kind of inside the larger one. You don’t see that too much these days since, believe it or not, the modem and fax/modem are pretty much on their way out. This is due to E-mail attachments, online services, and scanning and sending via a Smartphone. Since most computers only have one Network plug on them and, sometimes, we need to plug several devices in, there is a piece of equipment designed for this task. It is called a “Hub”. Pardon me if you already knew that, I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page. Anyway, These Hubs are available for both Network plugs and USB devices and have a number of options associated with them. However, in most cases, the only real question to ask is how many ports do I need on the Hub. Usually, it’ll be either 4 or 8, but situations vary. One other thing about USB Drives and their ports, a Flash Drive or phone gets its power from the port. This is why some Flash Drives, if left connected to the DTB Player, can run down the battery, even if the Player is Off. This power distribution could be a factor if you are getting a hub to also charge devices such as phones since some require more power than a standard USB Flash Drive.

Next is a slightly different class of plug. Please excuse me for stepping into Electronics, but it’s kind of related. I’m talking about RCA, or A/V, plugs versus HDMI. The former is used on older equipment like VCR’s and “old” DVD Players to connect them to a TV. Also that is the kind of plug that is used by CCTV’s to connect to the TV/Monitor. The issue here is that lot of newer TV’s only have HDMI, which stands for High Definition Media Interface, ports and won’t necessarily have A/V ports. If that’s the case and you need to hook up your CCTV or some other device that doesn’t use HDMI, don’t worry, there is a converter available. I’d recommend a converter with a Female RCA, or A/V, input and a Male HDMI input. If you’re not sure what Male and Female are, just think in terms of the difference between male and female Humans, and I don’t mean beards ;). Anyway, again, I apologize if my brief foray into the world of Electronics stepped on any toes.

Last of all, I can’t stress strongly enough to be careful when plugging power cables of any sort into devices. I’m talking about computers, tablets, phones, etc. The power specifications on these things is, a lot of times, very precise and the wrong cable can damage or even destroy the device in question. Also, you want to be a little gentle when plugging things in, although, a lot of times, they’ll only go in one way. Inside power cords, in particular, they are still pins and they are easy to bend if one applies one of Murphy’s Laws. The one I’m referring to says, “If it jams, force it; if it breaks, well, it needed replacing anyway.” Bottom line, be cognitive of which power cord goes to what because one power cord can fit in more than one device whether it’s right for the device or not.

Okay, I know this is kind of a simple thing, but if one isn’t careful, you can wind up with a piece of equipment you can’t use. Obviously, I’d like to try to help you avoid that. So, should you have any further questions about this, or any other questions, for that matter, please send me a message and I’ll try to respond as soon as possible. Just as a heads-up, I’m going on a Cruise with my family in December and won’t be available for a week since I’ll be somewhere in the Caribbean and can’t/won’t get to E-mail. As always, Happy Computing and, Hopefully, 2019 will be a super year for everyone!

A Time to Plant

By Sue Brasel

Let’s get ready for gardening in 2019!

Figure out what you enjoyed about your 2018 plants. Did your plants get enough light? Could you easily get to your plants? Did you enjoy their fragrance? Was the plant shape good for the size of the container?

Think about plant care. Could you determine when it was time to water? Did you have a convenient way to get water and or fertilizer to your plants? Did you understand how to care for your plants?

If you kept a garden journal, go over your notes. I used a date planner to keep track of which garden, and where in the garden, plants were placed.

In 2019, I need to get better about labeling my plants. If you have a labeling suggestion, please tell me. I will pass it on to other readers! Do braille labels work?

One person told me that a certain perennial does not winter over in his area. He decided to think of that type of plant as an annual, and will now buy replacements every year. Chris wanted to grow lavender, but it didn’t survive. To grow a particular kind of plant, find out which varieties grow well in your area.

You may want to consider an attraction such as a wind chime. Or, you might consider a whirl-a-gig, for a “spin in the wind” attraction. I once had a wooden bird whose wings caught the wind from any direction, and when the wind was fast, the wings churned quite rapidly. Multi-layered glass ornaments on stakes made a great focal point among greenery.

Now is a good time to figure out whether you want flowers, vegetables or herbs. Keys to finding something that will work for you are knowing the growing zone, finding the dimensions of the mature plant, and understanding how to care for that kind of plant. Do you want to start from seeds or are you considering plants that will need to be transplanted?

If you want to garden in a container, how many plants can fit in when they are grown? Consider the thrill, the tall, showy plant, the fill, the medium sized plants, and the spill, the short, trailing plants that drape the edge of the container. My recycled tractor tire herb garden will have basil as the thrill plant, chives and oregano as the fill plants, and thyme as the spill plant. This planter sits outside my entry way, allowing me easy access to herbs while I am cooking.

Do you want plants in your house? In the window sill above my kitchen sink, I have succulents that can’t take the cold of winter. Different sizes and shapes of greenery make me feel good. I also like to feel the different textures of my plants.

I hope these suggestions inspire you to think about your 2019 garden. I’m already anxious to grow new plants in my garden next growing season!
Now, I need to take thyme to take care of my houseplants!

the Alternating Duo: Seeing the World Differently

By Lois Strachan

As a blind tourist I usually have loads of questions about the places I plan to visit; where I should go and what I should do, how I’ll be able to get from one place to another, good places to stay and, of course, the question of what I’m likely to find in terms of accessibility. All that research takes time. So, finding ways to shortcut the process is a real win for me.

Today I’d like to tell you about two websites that can help answer your travel and accessibility questions. One is a site specifically for destinations in the USA and the other is a global resource.

The first site is Accessible Go, a website designed with the needs of disabled travelers in mind. The site has information on accessible travel experiences, reviews of accommodation, discounts for travelers with disabilities and a blog with some great articles about accessible travel experiences. At this stage the website covers only destinations in the USA, but it’s a great resource with tons of information. The site can be found at:

and you can also follow them on Twitter at: @AccessibleGo. Sadly, since I haven’t visited the USA recently, I haven’t had a chance to try out the site myself, but I’d love to hear from you if you have.

The second website is the Accessible Travel Forum, which can be found at:

or on Twitter at: @AccessibleTF. I came across the site when researching accessible travel podcasts before launching my new project, the Accessible South Africa Travel podcast.

The Accessible Travel Forum is a global discussion hub for travelers with disabilities. It’s more than just a bulletin board- you can share information, ask for help from a local resident or a fellow traveler who went before you, participate in group discussions and even share your own travel blog articles.

What I love about the Accessible Travel Forum is the way it engages with the community of disabled travelers to share information and answer questions from other travelers. It contains forums where you can post specific questions and gain informed answers from the community. There are many useful resources on the site and I encourage you to take a little time to look around, and, of course, to join in the conversations and share your experiences and questions.

And if you’re a podcast listener, you can also take a listen to Accessible Travel Forum’s podcast, “Have Disability, Will Travel: or my own podcast, “Accessible South Africa Travel Podcast”.

I hope these resources will prove useful when planning any journeys you’re taking. And till next time, Happy travels!

The Rotating Trio: WindBag

By BlowHard

’tis the season to, be real? Maybe not!

It is about that time of year once again! The question is, do you get an artificial Christmas tree, or do you get a real one?

How many of us grew up with a real one in the house? You either bought a permit, went into a pine forest and tagged the tree of your choice during the summer months, then went back into the forest and cut your own tree, brought it home, and decorated it after placing it into a tree holder. You knew that it would be fresh. Or you bought one at a local Christmas tree lot. They were all over the place, and easy to find.

Or have you grown up with an artificial tree that has been used year after year? No maintenance necessary.

If you choose the real tree, and you buy it from a lot, check for freshness by seeing if the needles come off with a snap or are easily pulled off. If they do, don’t get that one. They should be pliable and moist to the touch. when you put it into a tree stand, you can keep it fresh longer if you use a combination of 50 percent water and 50 percent Seven Up. It’s OK if it goes flat because you want the sugar from it to keep the tree fresh. Occasionally check for dryness and use more water and pop as necessary. Also, use a bed sheet, the bigger the better, underneath the tree. This will help to keep pine needles off the carpet and make cleanup easier.

If your budget is the key factor, the artificial tree is the way to go. If you want the smell of a fresh tree, you should be able to buy a wreath made from real pine branches from just about any Christmas tree lot. Hang it where desired, and spray it with the same mixture as you would use on a tree. Now, you’ve got the best of both worlds for less money than if you were to buy a real tree.

The best way for a blind person to decorate is also the most fun. Invite friends to a tree decorating party and let them do a lot of the work! Remember Tom Sawyer and the fence painting? If that isn’t an option, try evenly placing ornaments, from smallest to largest, from top to bottom around the tree. And don’t forget those candy canes on the branches. To check your work, use “be my eyes” on your iPhone to get an opinion and guidance on correcting your decoration placement.

Have a GREAT Christmas season!

Cooking Concoctions

By Maxine

Italian Bread Pizza

The end of the year is drawing near, and it also seems to be one of the busiest times. You may have office, family, or parties with friends filling up your calendar. So, why not try this delicious and easy French Bread Pizza recipe. You could make it as a quick snack for the kids, dress it up with a side salad and have it for dinner, or wrap it up and bring it to a potluck party.

3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix, divided
Kosher salt
1 large loaf Italian bread; about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise
1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted.
3. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes.
4. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.
5. Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about two thirds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet.
6. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.
7. Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine.
8. increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
9. While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.
10. While cooking, in a small bowl, mix the remaining parsley/ basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano; set aside.
11. Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce.
12. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
13. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with spices and cheese blend, and remaining tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil.
14. Allow to cool slightly, cut into slices, and serve.

Just before returning to the oven for the second time, add toppings such as thinly sliced pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, or crumbled cooked Italian sweet or hot sausage. Enjoy!
May you all have a joyous and blessed holiday season!

Riddle & Brain Buster

By Alex Smart


What do you get if you cross a snowman with a witch?

Answer to November’s riddle
Which is the most curious letter?

Brain Buster

Braving the Elements
Anagram each of the following words and letters to get the name of an element on a periodic table. Example: log + D = gold.

*Levis + R =.
*Furls + U =
*Rang + O =
*Rumba + I =
*Acorn + B =
*Clink + E =
*Bloat + C =

Answer to November’s Brain Buster
Take the last name of a well known American writer, insert the letter P, and you will get the last name of a well known British writer. Who are these two authors?
Edgar Alllan Poe and Alexander Pope


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About claire plaisted

Claire Plaisted lives in New Zealand with her husband, three children. She is a Indie Author and runs a company 'Plaisted Publishing House Ltd,' helping Indie Authors get their books online and looking professional. We are happy for people to submit their work for our team to look through.
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