The contents of this column reflect the letters we had received by the time we went to press, February 15, 2006. Letters are limited to 300 words or fewer. All submissions must include the author's name and location. Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Regarding the Unified English Braille Code
A few minutes ago I received an e-mail from John Hemphill of the Helping Hands Braille Ministries, which, I think, is in the Grand Rapids, Mich. area. I've never been to Grand Rapids, but from what I know about it, its superabundance of Dutch Reformed and other Reformed churches, Grand Rapids, and surrounding places, are great. Michigan may be climatically cold, but it's a lot better than Kansas' humidity!
In his letter, John said something I have been waiting to hear from someone in braille production: "I am definitely opposed to the Unified English Braille Code. I agree that it would do great harm to the cause of braille at almost every phase of production and use."
As you may know, we are hearing sentiments such as that in this country, and have been hearing them more and more. The blind in other English-speaking countries have, I believe, not been given such opportunity to express themselves freely.
-- Jeff Frye, Overland Park, Kan.
Blindness ... Not Enough
For those low-vision through no-vision consumers who sometimes choose to hire sighted help, the possibility of a personal assistant being paid for by insurance is worth exploring. Unfortunately, at this time neither long- term insurance health coverage nor Medicare expanded care accepts legally blind as a qualifying disability.
However, in the absence of a sighted spouse, it soon becomes clear that assistive technology and independent living skills do have limits. Specifically, coping with thousands of products on miles of aisles in a modern supermarket simply demands eyesight. Consequently, this most common task means either beg for help from a store employee or bring your own sighted guide.
While this report may not be of interest to some blind individuals who rarely seek sighted assistance, often this is an important issue for many of the approximately 20 million Americans with serious vision loss. But our health industry has decided in this case to insure only people who have motion/mobility impairments and to exclude sensory impairments.
This situation seems at the least very unfair and may, in fact, be discrimination. What do you think?
-- Larry Harper, Milwaukie, Ore.
I've been legally blind for the past 25 years or so. During that time I have developed a few pet peeves that have an impact on those of us who are visually impaired. They seem to fester as I get older. At the top of the list is this concept of "large print." I'm very aware that there is a wide range of visual acuity between being legally blind (limbo land) and blind. Therein lies the problem. To coin a phrase, one size font does not fit all. I, for one, still have to use some kind of a magnifier to read what is currently heralded as "large print." I'm sure I'm not the only one out here with this problem.
I've wondered for a long time how this "large print" standard was established and by whom. Did the ACB board have input in the matter? How can it be modified to make it more user-friendly? I'm not so naive to think that there should be several versions of "large print" or that changes wouldn't incur additional costs. Any change in this regard will have inherent cost increases. This having been said, however, I am proposing that the font size be increased a couple of points and the characters be printed in bold instead of standard type. I'm suggesting that the publishers and printers in this country and possibly around the world who tout "large print" may want to embrace this proposal as an upgraded service to their readers. I'm sure their readers would welcome the change. Who knows, the cost/benefit scenario may even prove to be good for business.
So, can anyone out there shed some light on this "large print" dilemma and help press for a change, or will my pet peeve continue to fester?
-- Tom Lealos, Powell, Wyo.