There’s an App for That: Guide Dog Users Regulations at Your Fingertips

From the mailbox:


Guide Dog Users Group launches Innovative Mobile App

Tampa, Florida (September 17, 2014): The National Association of Guide dog Users Inc., a division of the National Federation of the Blind and the nation’s leading service animal advocacy organization, announced today that it has release the NAGDU Guide & Service Dog Advocacy& Information app. This new IOS app provides comprehensive information about the rights and responsibilities of service animal users under state and federal law.

“Every law in the United States concerning service animals can now be in your pocket,” says Marion Gwizdala, NAGDU’s president and a guide dog user himself. “There is no other single source for this type of information.”

The NAGDU app provides the entire text of the implementing regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) concerning service animals, along with the relevant laws of each state. It also offers specific guidance for those industries in which service animal users face the most challenges, such as restaurants, taxicabs, hotels, and health care facilities. In addition, those who face discrimination because of their service dog can use the app to call a special advocate trained to resolve such issues. The app is provided for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users  free of charge as a public service by the National Association of guide dog Users. You can find the app by going to

or by simply searching for “NAGDU” in the Apple app store.

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About the National Association of guide dog Users

The National Association of Guide dog Users is the nation’s leading membership organization for blind people who use guide dogs.  NAGDU is a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind. NAGDU conducts public awareness campaigns on issues of guide dog use, provides advocacy support for guide dog handlers who face discrimination, supports sound policy and effective legislation to protect the rights of guide dog users, offers educational programs to school and civic organizations, and functions as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind. For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users and to support their work, you can visit their website at


Or send an email message to


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Time to Glow Take a Bath

We’ve been having some electricity problems lately, so when bath time came, I knew creativity was in order. Neither of my children is a fan of the dark, so I needed a safe way to light bath time up. Rather than risk flashlights falling in the tub, I opted for glow bracelets.

I started by filling our bathtub with warm water and bubble bath, then broke open a package of 15 glow bracelets. I snapped each bracelet and used some of the connectors to make them into shapes–circles of different sizes and long chains, mostly. As I finished each shape, I tossed it into the bubble-filled water. NOTE: Do NOT cut open your bracelets and try to dump the contents in the water. They glow because of a chemical reaction between two chemicals; the chemicals are separated by glass. The cracking/popping noise you hear when you activate them is the glass breaking. I have no idea what the chemicals are or if they’re safe to bathe in, but I know children shouldn’t bathe in broken glass.

Once I’d set everything up, I called the kids in for bath time. They were pretty thrilled. Gone were fears of the dark; instead, they enjoyed feeling in the water for bracelets, putting them in different shapes, and playing with them in the water. The bubbles made the bracelets hard to see (it wasn’t super-clear where they were at), so it even became a tactile activity for Peanut, my little boy who so wants to use his eyes that he sometimes resists developing his other senses. Over an hour after their bath was done–in the dark with no tears or fussing–the kids are still playing with the bracelets by putting them in different shapes and combinations.

This activity was a win for us, so I’ll definitely keep it in the arsenal for the future. If your kiddo doesn’t see as well as Peanut but does still have light perception, you might try glo sticks rather than bracelets, and try for brighter colors–the sticks are bigger, so they’ll be easier to see and colors like yellow and green seem to generate the most light.

Glow sticks are fairly inexpensive these days. You can pick up packages of all sorts of glow items at Dollar Tree for $1, or, if you stop by Big Lots in the days after Independence Day each year, you can get them for even less (I probably paid twenty cents for a packet of glow bracelets after the holiday). I think I’ve also seen them in the dollar aisle at Target.

Below: Peanut and Sprout play in the bath


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CCVI Book & Author Fall Luncheon

Join us for the CCVI 20/20 Club*

Book & Author Fall Luncheon

Friday, September 26, 2014

11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Grand Street Café Special Event Space

4740 Grand Ave., Kansas City, MO 64112

Please use parking garage (enter from McGee Street)

Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author, will join us for a conversation about her much-anticipated second novel Under the Wide and Starry Sky, which tells the improbable love story of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife.

$40 per person includes a softcover copy of Under the Wide and Starry Sky, a conversation with author Nancy Horan, and lunch featuring modern American cuisine. (If you need a vegetarian option or have food allergies, please let us know.) A booksigning will follow.

Reserve your seat by Sept. 20.

No actual tickets will be distributed. Your name will be on a guest list at the event.

Horan’s visit is presented by Rainy Day Books.

Questions about the event?  

Contact Susan Belger Angulo at or 816-841-2284 x2017.

*Formerly Friends of CCVI and CCVI Young Friends

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CCVI Patio Party

patio party new colors

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Yes You Can Can

Sunday night, I decided to rid myself of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) peaches camped out in the fridge and make some jam.  To make it more fun, I decided to have the kids help me.  Yes, I had my 5-year old child with a vision impairment and my almost-three-year-old help me can.  You know what?  You, and your VI kiddo, can too.

First, our recipe:  Ginger-Peach Jam from  You can get the recipe we used here:

Next, some additional tools:

1)  A cutting board for each helper.

A blunt serrated knife with an orange handle lays across a white cutting board with a grey border.

One of our Safe Cutters atop a peachy cutting board.

2)  A knife for each helper.   Whilst fundraising for Trolley Run, I bought two “My Safe Cutters” from Pampered Chef for the kids.  (You can buy one here:  This was our first real test of the product, and I have to say, it was about perfect.  The tip is rounded, so they couldn’t stab themselves.  It’s a serrated blade that works to saw through items, but didn’t cut straight down quickly and easily like my paring knife.  In short, it was the perfect tool for my two little helpers to get to cut up some peaches and develop manual dexterity and cutting skills.

3.  A hot water bath canner with a can lifter, or, if you’re feeling daring, any pot that will allow you to put your jars in and have 2″ of boiling water above their lids.  (Seriously–you can use a dutch oven if you want.  A canner’s just more convenient.)

4.  A small sauce pan to boil your lids in.  (The lids have to be hot.  The rings don’t.)

5.  A lid lifter.  (You don’t want to burn yourself getting the lids out.)  Mine is a cool magnetic tool that Efrit picked up for me for about $2 at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.  You can pay about $20 for one that’s marked for canning at a specialty store if you want.

6.  A funnel.  Not really necessary, but it makes filling small-mouth jam jars easier.  Mine’s bright yellow and came from O’Reilly’s.

7.  Tongs to lift your jars out of the canner to fill them (the jars need to be hot before they’re filled).  I find my metal salad tongs work great, but you can buy a specialty tool for this too if you want.

8.  Paper towels to wipe the rims (you want there to be a good seal between the lid and the jar, and jam hampers that if you’ve been messy).

9.  Hot pads.

10.  A cloth to set your freshly-canned jam on.

11.  A ladle or big spoon of some sort to spoon the jam into the jars.

12.  About 8 8oz jars.  Ball’s are lovely.

Finally, our results:

I think just about anyone can enjoy hot-water-bath canning, regardless of how well they see.  It’s a matter of figuring out what works for you and adapting accordingly.  I did the bulk of the cooking for this recipe:  the crystalized ginger is tough to cut, and there’s no way I’m letting kids as small as mine near the cooktop when it’s got three burners blazing and three pots boiling.  Still, as they get older, if they’re interested, I’ll let them get more involved in the process. Someday, Peanut is going to need to be able to feed himself, and if he wants to feed himself with home-canned goodness, more power to him.  We’ll just need to figure out how to adapt it along the way.

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An Adaptable Toy: Melissa & Doug Sound Puzzle

imageWe are big Melissa & Doug fans here at Casa de Phouka.  The toys are well-made and durable; they also tend to be made of wood, which is our preference in a plastic-filled world.  Their toys remind me of the ones I grew up with, 30-odd years ago, that encouraged me to use my imagination and were designed to last a lifetime.

While birthday-gift hunting for one of Peanut’s friends, we discovered that Melissa & Doug make Sound Puzzles.  These puzzles are designed so that when the right piece is placed in the right slot, it makes a noise.  I thought this would be an excellent toy for a burgeoning braille reader:  with the addition of a few braille labels, Peanut’s friend could match the name of an animal with the sound it makes and get practice with manipulatives to boot!

This was one of the quickest braille jobs I’ve done:  all I did was braille the name of the animal on a sheet of sticky braille paper, then cut and stick the label on the critter.  If you wanted to reinforce the braille, you could make two sets of labels:  one for the puzzle piece, and one for the slot it goes in.  With about 20 minutes’ work and two AAA batteries, you can have a fun, noisy toy for your beginning braille reader.

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From the mailbag:


CANnect is a consortium of agencies and schools whose mission is to create leading edge, user-friendly and accessible online educational opportunities, learning resources and life skills training for persons who are blind and/or visually impaired, for professionals who serve them and for their families.

CANnect has designed and implemented a Portal: Course Catalogue through which users are able to access existing English language online accessible courses.  We are working toward the goal of making CANnect THE one stop shopping site, like Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity in the airline industry.  Members are now in the process of uploading their accessible online courses, videos and webinars to CANnect’s Portal

We invite you to join our efforts by agreeing to post your own accessible online course to CANnect’s Portal Course Catalogue. .  Let’s make courses more accessible to blind persons and their families the world over.  Together we can do it.  If you are visually impaired or are a teacher of the visually impaired, take a look at the courses to see if any of our accessible online course suits your needs.    Questions? or 1-617-244-8934

We look forward to hearing from you.Â

NOTE CANnect is spelled with an A not an O.Â

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Adventures in Reading: Mighty Dads

imageOn a recent library trip, we found a wonderful, high-contrast story celebrating dads and their little guys or gals:  Mighty Dads, by Joan Holub, pictures by James Dean.  If your child loves Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, he or she will probably enjoy Mighty Dads.  If your child has a vision impairment, Mighty Dads may the more popular pick:  although the story is simpler, the pictures are much higher contrast, and thereby easier to see.

imageEach pair of pages features a big construction machine and its mini me child:  dump trucks, excavators, bulldozers, long-arm cranes, boom trucks, cement mixers, backhoes, graders, steamrollers and forklifts.  Aside from the last two pages where all of the big machines and their kids get together, the illustrations are simple and high contrast.  Each dad in the story works with his kid at a task, like digging a trench or knocking down a building, and the dads help their kids succeed.  It’s a sweet, simple story that both Peanut and Sprout love–and Peanut, even with his vision impairment, is able to enjoy both the pictures of the big machines and their smaller children.

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Adventures in Reading: Here We Go!

Eric Carle's Here We Go!

Eric Carle’s Here We Go!

It may go without saying, but I’m a huge fan of Eric Carle.  Even before I sought out children’s books with brightly colored, high-contrast illustrations, Carle’s tissue-paper creations had a warm place in my heart.  I grew up with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I’ve loved reading Carle’s books to my kids.

Peanut spotted Here We Go! while we were looking for gifts for a recent birthday party.  This book is perfect for adaptation:  it has bright, high-contrast illustrations.  It’s a board book, so it’s nice and sturdy.  Best of all, however, is that it comes with its own manipulatives and sound box:  the book itself is about different machines that go, like planes, trains and automobiles.  The bottom is a steering wheel and sound box–every button or indentation on the steering panel makes another fabulous noise that goes along with the illustrations in the book.

imageThis book was a quick braille job–it may have taken me 30 minutes at most.  I also brailled the two spots on the steering panel that included letters–I believe they were RPM and WEGO FM (these were a tight fit).  The horn works, and each of the indented spots in the panel makes a different noise when pressed.

Here We Go!  is a fun read.  It has bright, high-contrast pictures and a great noisy toy attached.   This is a great book to add to your library–and a good one to practice on if you’re making your own twin-vision books at home.


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Location:  2500 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108 (It’s by Crown Center, and you can generally get there through the sky walks)

Cost:  FREE!

Web Site:

If you’re looking for something to do on a dreary afternoon, you can’t go wrong with Kaleidoscope.  Kaleidoscope is a children’s art center that is provided by Hallmark as a community service, and it is awesome.  It’s totally free, but you do need to get tickets to get in; check for details.  I’ve had times where I was able to walk right up and get tickets on the fly; other times, we’ve had to wait or had to go home disappointed.  If you’re coming from out of town or making a special trip, definitely check their Web site and get there early to get your spots.

When you enter Kaleidoscope, you enter a brightly colored wonderland of hands-on activities.  There are sound walls and reading nooks and all sorts of art just waiting to happen.  I think it’s a bit overwhelming, but my kids have both loved it every time we’ve been there.  You may need to be very hands-on with your children, but your kids can have a great time in Kaleidoscope regardless of how well they see:  Peanut has been to Kaleidoscope both with his parents for Family Art Sessions and for a field trip with his CCVI classmates, and all visits have been successful.  His only lamentations are saved for when it’s time to go.

The art supplies available in Kalidoscope vary by visit; you never know exactly what you’re going to find.  On our last trip, the kids painted paper butterflies that had holes punched in them so you could hang them to make them fly and decorated and cut their own puzzles.  You will definitely find Crayola products, given that Crayola is owned by Hallmark; we’ve found everything from crayons to stamp pads on our visits.

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