Sunday, September 30, 2012

Kitchen Skills, Gimmicks and Accessible Technology

Every day on FB, people post videos from Youtube. Some are cute, some are silly.

Today, I came across this video that shows how to use a empty water bottle to separate egg yolks from the whites. My oldest son leaned over my shoulder as I watched it, and let me know he thought it was cool. I thought so, too! I mean, I sure didn't think to use the suction capability of an empty water bottle to suck the egg  yolk up and deposit it in another container. Sounds simple and yet, I didn't think of it. Wow! Take a look and see for yourself.

However, a very good FB friend and fellow disability advocate chimed in to say that she didn't like gimmicks like this, and that it would be better to teach good kitchen skills instead. Being an accomplished chef and former restaurant owner, she naturally leans toward good technique and skill in the kitchen.

Although I agree with her for the most part, my son has autism and has never mastered the rocking the egg back and forth in the shell technique. I was happy he took such a liking to this. After all, in our house, we encourage cooking even if someone hasn't mastered all the traditional kitchen skills. Sometimes, it is more important to focus on making kitchen chores fun or learning how to be prepare a meal using a gadget or two rather than rely on Mom for food prep.

My son at 20, loves to cook in the kitchen. He first became responsible for meals when he was 9 and his brother was 4 and 1/2. At the time, I was dealing with severely limited mobility and after losing my only set of contact lenses, was legally blind. As a single parent, I found myself leaving dinner up to him. Of course, in the beginning, I sat nearby as long as I could sit, but as he became more and more accomplished, I would only listen in and use my sense of smell to supervise. With the typical limited fine motor skills many children with autism deal with, he did what he could handle, and used gadgets where it saved time and avoided adding confusion and frustration.

For example, he learned strong knife skills from making sure he had a sharp knife to how to hold a chef knife properly. Using the color-coded cutting board I had been given for my visual impairment, he learned how to cut onions, celery, etc. But, I also allowed him to use the food processor in order to speed up the dicing process or avoid dealing with knives if he felt uncomfortable or was excessively tired that day.

In fact, when it comes to separating egg yolks from whites, we already had a gadget. While strolling through one of my favorite kitchen accessory stores, Sur le Table, I found the gadget pictured to the left. My son loves it! This item allowed him to separate many eggs quickly and put the covered whites in the fridge for another use. We use this at least once a week. My young son who deals with memory deficits and has yet to master many cooking techniques uses it as well. With its color-coded cups and lids (the cups are different sizes as well, so I can feel the difference if need be) and simple measurements, this has been well worth the purchase.

I also thought about a recent Gadget Magic workshop I attended at Metrolina Association for the Blind. Many gadgets that were meant for other reasons were re-purposed to assist people with visual impairments and other impairments remain active in their kitchen.

So, in the end, I come away wanting to share with you ideas my friend had to help interest children in the cooking process while promoting good skills, but also want to remind you to have some fun! Do something unique! Look at the world a little differently and see how you can spark interest in the kitchen. Watch a video and experiment with gadgets with you children. Especially if you or your children are dealing with disabling conditions, getting comfortable in the kitchen is important, whether you can "rock the egg" or not.

Mia's suggestions:
  1. Teach the shell method as a magic trick and give prize to the one who does it with out breaking the yoke and dropping it into the bowl.
  2. Teach all cooking to kids as magic.
  3. Have toddlers dress up like the characters from Ratatouille the Movie or Merlin the Magician.
  4. When they are older,  use it a a science experiment.
  5. Have the little ones grow herbs in window boxes.
  6. Put seeds in egg containers, on damp cotton balls or put seedlings in toilet roll centers filled with soil. Teach them Seed to Plate Mentality. When you do, their IQ goes up, their health is better, and you have peace at meal-time because they are eating what they grew.
  7. Ask questions at the table (Q: What does a scientist call a vinaigrette? A: an emulsion!) and let the first one who gets it right choose what the family has for desert.
A Closing Word from Mia:
  • With morbid obesity killing our country, we must make food interesting smart and part of every day life.
I second that thought!

Now, it is your turn.  Do you use gadgets or "gimmicks" in the kitchen? What are some of your favorites? What are some tips and suggestions you can give families to promote interest in the kitchen?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Three Sons - New Flavor!

While walking through my local Harris Teeter, I love to come across the display tables! There is always some delicious, delectable drop of goodness to be found and yesterday was no different.

Right near the cheese and bread aisle was a table for My Three Sons (MTS). I was kind of surprised, because MTS has been a regular now for some time. If you read my blog post on pimiento cheese, you know they are one of my favorites. But, to my greater surprise and happiness, there was a new flavor: Spicy White Cheddar.

In fact, not only was there a new flavor, but a new product.

Clear cups with covers, filled with pita chips on the bottom and a small container of pimiento cheese resting on top.

Had to bring one home for the family [Snack cup]
New to the market are snack cups; a convenient travel up with pita chips on the bottom and a small container of pimiento cheese on top. Obviously made for those of us who can't wait to return home to get back to our pimiento cheese, these snack cup would easily fit in a lunch bag with a cooling gel pack. The snack cup come with Original flavor and Spicy White Cheddar.

The new flavor, Spicy White Cheddar, was marvelous! A smoky and even cayenne pepper heat permeated the super flavorful white cheddar cheese spread. Not too hot, it was a perfect mix of Vermont cheddar cheese and warmth. I guess you can tell I love it.

For now, the snack pack will be available in Original and the Spicy White Cheddar. I had to ask when a full tub of the new flavor would be available. With a secretive smile, our server murmured, "There is a tub, but right now, the snack cup will be available at Harris Teeter only. Oh, I just LOVE to be in on the special flavors and locations!! I couldn't worm any other secrets out of her, so for now, run, roll, stroll down to your nearest Harris Teeter and try Spicy White Cheddar.

Leave me a comment when you have tried it, and let me know what you think. Hope the new tubs are out by the holidays! My Three Sons, are you listening?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Cooking Without Looking Show

More than a year ago, during my many perusals of FB, I came across a page about a cooking show called Cooking Without Looking. Now, I can't pass up any cooking/foodie-related show, so I clicked the link to check it out. What I thought was a simple click has turned into an online friendship with the creator and executive producer, Ren'ee Rentmeester, and a deep, loyal love for her show.

Not too long ago, when I heard that the show's website was going through an overhaul, I reached out to Ren'ee and asked her if I could interview her in celebration of the new site. As a foodie, I felt honored to cross the geographical barriers of our locations, and "sit down" with a woman with a grand vision.

Ren'ee's bio reads like an intriguing journey of an unfolding focus. It begins with the early expression of her love with media and journalism at 17, when she went to work for WLUK-TV in Green Bay, WI. And, with her degree in Journalism (minor in Political Science/International Relations), she began her career in full at an CBS-TV affiliate in Miami in a series of positions that range from Promotion/Ad Copywriter to Press/Community Relations Director/Producer.

A twice Emmy nominee, Ren'ee won an American Heart Association award for a series of PSA on people who experienced a stroke in middle-age. After opening her own Advertistin/Public/Media Relations company in 1996 to growing success, winning an award for volunteering for March of Dimes, and sitting on numerous boards, Ren'ee began researching the area that would lead to her ground-breaking series.

In 2000, the non-profit Vision World Foundation was born, which is the parent company for the show, Cooking Without Looking. The show has rave reviews from people from it's immediate viewing area in South Florida to people who now have access to past show clips and recipes on Youtube, Vimeo and Facebook.

The Cooking Without Looking Group (from left to right) Celia Chacon, Allen Preston, Ren'ee Rentmeester and Annette Watkins
The three hosts and guest chefs all deal with visual impairments of varying degrees. But, the show does more than just give quick tips and recipes for the visually impaired. There is a section where helpful kitchen items are discussed and awareness is given to different eye conditions and disorders. In the discussion, there is not the typical emphasis on "tragedy and inspirational characters," but on people who live real lives, love to cook and eat good food. That approach, I believe, is the reason for it's success. 

Too often, stories, shows and the media make disability awareness and advocacy focus on the heroic character instead of the neighbor next door, who has a great recipe collection. On Cooking Without Looking, the emphasis is on adaptation so we all can enjoy a good meal. We hear about accommodations as the meat sizzles in the background, creating the perfect kitchen ambiance. We watch a tool being used to incorporate ingredients into a sauce as the hosts toss about humorous banter. For me, this show illustrates my approach to advocacy; let's enjoy each other's company and differences: let's focus on life and food! 

Below is the complete interview with Ren'ee Rentmeester, creator of The Cooking Without Looking Show. Don't forget to sign up for the FREE Ebook at the new and improved website, and share the site with others!

F4A: What made you start Cooking Without Looking?
I had served on many boards of non-profits for most of my life because, as a person in the media, you must reach out into the community, and this meant lending my media expertise pro bono to both national and local non-profits.

I wanted to start something where we could help people who, no matter what their race, creed, ethnicity, financial situation, needed help. Blindness worked, so, as I did my research (2001) I found that there were a multitude of blind people on listservs who loved to cook. In fact, those were the most popular listservs. That's how I began my research since I had never met anyone who was blind. I could get an honest assessment since people where just writing about their experiences as people who were blind.

That intrigued me, so I began looking around Miami blind chefs, and I found one. We shot a pilot for PBS, and it got picked up. As it went on, many people wanted  just regular, everyday people who were blind, and that's when I started to speak to groups and there was an amazing number of people without eyesight who told me
they always wanted to be cooking on TV.

F4A: Can you tell me a little bit about each host and what they bring to the show?

Annette Watkins: She has been with us from the very beginning. She does the Food for Thought Segment where we feature what's new in accessibility, doctors, research, etc. She also gives us the 'healthy' recipes for improved eyesight. Annette has Stargaardt's.

Allen Preston: He's also been with us from the beginning. He talks about tips and keeping it clean, and some of the simpler recipes.

Chef Don White: Our classically trained chef, Don gives us food history, tips, and some of the most amazingly delicious recipes that you can cook on a budget.

Sabrina Deaton and Dr. Marc Gannon: present 'Macular Moment' and discuss research for the number one eye disease, Macular Degeneration. Dr. Gannon is director of the Low Vision Institute and has been a long time supporter (right from the beginning) of the Cooking Without Looking TV Show.

F4A: What are the challenges in producing a show like this?

Actually, I had to think about this because we have so much fun, that I  haven't stopped to think about the challenges. Mostly, it's getting advertisers to understand that if you have a show with people who are blind in it, that that means you will have your regular viewers, plus the blind folks. They think that only blind people will watch.

We've found that to be incorrect. In the 11 years we've been producing the show, it's really about 50/50 blind to sighted. The fact of the matter is that anyone who cooks can use all of these tips. It's just that if you're blind or have a visual impairment, they make it easier for you.

Other people who are especially attracted to the show:
- Beginner cooks;
- Bachelors/Bachelorettes;
- College students;
- Newlyweds;
- The self-admitted “cooking impaired”;
- People who like to cook, and would like some new, out-of-the-box tips;
- People who eat…

F4A: Do you have any difficulty getting guests to be on the show?

No, as a matter of fact, they call us and invite themselves, lol!

F4A: Do you have difficulty getting sponsors? What is the response of the corporate/entertainment world?

The response has changed throughout the years. But, it's a constant educational process. We are always fighting off the old stereotypes of what people believe blind people are or what they do.

F4A: Who comes up with the recipes? 

Everyone brings their own recipes. To help them make their choices, I tell them to imagine that they want to impress company which is coming over. What would
they like to make?

F4A: Are there bloopers? What are they like?

Yes, there are bloopers, but not as many as you would think. On some shows, we do outtakes at the end of the show. One of our famous ones was when a blind chef with macular degeneration grabbed for what he thought was a white towel. It was really a bowl of whipped cream.

When I edit, I leave those in because people have told me that when they see someone on TV make a mistake, it empowers them to go back into the kitchen and cook fearlessly.

F4A: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in producing this show?

I've learned not to fear blindness because I've met so many people who have gone blind and just used it as a challenge which they have to overcome.

Also, it's not about the's about the ability we all possess. When I counsel people who call in telling me that they've lost their eyesight, I try to help them understand that there's so much more to them than their eyesight. There's so much more life to be lived beyond what we see.

F4A: Is there anything the community of PwDs can do to support the show?

Glad you asked. We see how excited people get about Christine, the blind chef on the Masters. We are trying to get The Food Network, namely their sister station, The Cooking Channel to understand the necessity for this show. We want them to know with the Baby Boomer population, the blind/visually impaired/low vision community is growing by leaps and bounds. Also, this will add to the number of people watching the network, not limit it to people with limited eyesight.

Here are the contact names and numbers to call in your support:

Food Network General Manager: Bob Tuschman
Vice President of Programming for the Cooking Channel: Jen Quainton (
 Food Network Main Line:  212.398.8836
Just ask for Bob Tuschman or Jen Quainton
Lauren, his assistant:  212.401.5360

F4A: Are there any future plans, additions or changes for the show?

We are shooting on location and out of the studio. We are building a new website. People will be able to become one of our club members for a $27 fee.

Scott Treeman is a pianist who is blind and he scores the original music for our show. Our announcer is a young blind broadcaster by the name of Brian Macko.

F4A: Will there be a cook book/dvd released? I want one!

We have a Cooking Without Looking TV Show Cookbook with recipes from
the first three seasons. It comes with a descriptive CD.

We also have OFFICIAL Cooking Without Looking TV Show Aprons just like the hosts wear.

F4A: Are there plans to close caption the segments? I want to share this with everyone in my network, and I have several friends who will tune in if there is captioning.

All shows are closed captioned.

F4A: What do you want people to remember about you and the show?

I want people to remember that we were the first TV show to illustrate that just because you don't have eye sight doesn't mean that you have to give up on your hopes and dreams for a meaningful life. That, there's a place for you to exhibit your own special skills; and that no matter what life hands us, there's a way around our challenges.

Our show is about inclusion, and not exclusion. There's room for everyone at this party we call, 'life.'

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Get Creative! Make Your Own Seasoning Mix!

Seasonings [Description: Round white bowls full of different seasonings]

Now that I have recovered from the DNC and all the visitors have gone home, it is time to get back to my main love; food. Well, I guess I shouldn't say my main love, but it ranks up there, sometimes edging the children down the list.

Part of the reason I created this blog was to give a platform for topics as simple as seasonings. When I was growing up, it was the period of Julia Child and French cooking, which seems to consist of taking any meat, seasoning it lightly with salt and pepper and spending the next half-hour on the sauce or sides. Well, growing up in a house with a West Indian-born Mom and going to a church full of southern-born men, that was what we called "naked meat."

How could it possibly have any flavor with just salt and pepper? In fact, until the Louisiana and Southern cooks began to break into television, I didn't see anyone cooking the way my Mother taught me, and how I saw the men season the piles of meat before laying them on huge home-made grills.

As a child, we had a cabinet full of seasoning, dried mostly, but occasionally fresh were bought for a special occasion dinner or event. I was taught early on how to rub, poke, lift the skin and hide seasonings on various kinds of meat.Vegetables also were seasoned, not as heavily as meat of course, but there was no dropping veggies in a salt bath and leaving it at that.

Today, we have the benefit of many ethnic groups contributing to our seasoning IQ. Indian seasonings can be found on grocery store shelves and ethnic stores abound, where you can wander down aisles perusing seasoning additions. Right here in Charlotte, where food entrepreneurs abound, we have a shop dedicated to nothing but seasonings, called The Savory Spice Shop. Classes are held and dishes prepared showing locals how to sharpen their seasoning sense.

So, you know as a grown person who finally sees seasoning on television the way I learned, I have to have a slew of seasonings in the house. I don't have a spice rack, not even a shelf. I re-purposed an old bookshelf/CD Rack into a SpiceCase. Yep, that's what I call it: The SpiceCase. Here is a picture:

The Spice Case [Description: Six-shelved black bookcase filled with spice bottles]
Now, I am also a collector of recipes. As usual, I print out more than I can use, but I have created a book of Tried and True recipes that have stood the taste tests of my children and were deemed worthy to repeat. I also have a book that has nothing in it but condiment, seasoning and clone recipes.

These are great when you are living on a budget (most people with disabilities that I know are living on a pretty stringent one), and you want to be able to whip up something without spending a lot of money or deal with pre-processed, pre-packaged foods. Also, if you are dealing with sodium restrictions, you can alter the mix as you please, leaving out any ingredient that doesn't fit in with your dietary needs. I have been making my own fajita, taco and chili seasoning mix without store-bought packets for years now.

Recently, I came across three meat rubs, and realized I hadn't tried any of them. Well, we had just bought two packs of ribs (end of season nostalgia) and I thought, hmmm....what a great way to have end of summer ribs and see if this rub mix would pass inspection to be save in the Tried and True book for next summer!

So, true to my nature, I didn't try one or two, but combined the ingredients for all three and came up with my own. After mixing, mostly by eye (though I did make a mental note of which measuring spoon I used), I came up with "Aunt Judi's Master Rub!" Well, that's what I called it when I finished mixing it all up. Right now, it is the only rub I'll use. Why?

Because the ribs came out fantastic BEFORE I put a drop of BBQ sauce on them! Couldn't snap a picture. As I told friends on FB, they were gone before I could blink!

There was an underlying sweetness from the brown sugar, but not overbearingly so. The pepper, which tasted so strong when I first tasted the dry ingredients had softened to the tenderest of heat and smoke. The rest of the ingredients became one cohesive taste that reminded me of church outings along the Hudson River near Bear Mountain in New York State.

I was flabbergasted! Instead of mixing together just a bunch of seasonings, I had recreated my childhood summers!
The Master Rub [Description: Seasonings in a round plastic container]

So, I share with you the rub recipe. I can't rightly call it mine, since many an old deacon has obviously mixed up the same thing, but I don't mind. If you and your kids get to taste a bit of what my childhood was like, it is worth it! Enjoy!

Aunt Judi's Master Rub ( I couldn't help it! Love the way it sounds!)

It is pictured in a plastic bowl, but if you can, store the rub in a recycled glass jar, which is better for herbs and spices.

3 TB brown sugar
2 tsp paprika (smoked if you can get it)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp kosher salt (or as needed)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (My mother would have grated it from whole)
1/4 tsp powdered cumin
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp mustard powder

Combine all ingredients and mix until incorporated with a fork.

Rub generously on ribs, chicken, pork chops, turkey or steaks for barbecuing.

Wrap meat in wax paper or foil and let marinate for at least 4-5 hours (overnight is best!) before cooking or grilling.

For my ribs, they went into the oven at 250 degrees for 6 hours. Perfectly tender! Slather with sauce and let warm as you please, but can be eaten "dry."

Monday, September 10, 2012

We, the People, Have So Far To Go

Book Cover: In Search of Freedom

Below is a copy of a message left on the Obama/Biden People With Disabilities Dashboard message board. I will not post her name because I have not spoke with her directly, but this is horrendous! It is so hard to read this and usually I would apologize for the length of a post, but this time I refuse to do so. It is important that you hear the anguish of this woman, someone who has volunteered her time and given unselfishly to this campaign. Also, I will not shorten it, because I hear it over and over again; how someone with a disabilities is disrespected and treated so hatefully. And in this case, by team members of the Democratic Party, who were supposed to represent the most "open and accessible" administration in history.

I am appalled at her treatment, and I ask the people of Florida and this campaign office to answer to these allegations! I ask you to apologize to the people along with this woman who were treated this way. I demand that someone with a disability or proper disability training be a part of future event planning and logistics. And, this office owes all those people an apology!

Just last week, I got the chance to meet with Patrick Kennedy during the Disability Caucus at the DNC in Charlotte, NC, and he talked about how the Disability Vote was growing and how important it was to this election. If you are going to represent the President, represent him everyone!

Message on People with Disabilities Obama/Biden DASHBOARD Message Board ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am a Data Captain, Team Member for X19 Clearwater, FL. Campaign Office. I was so thankful to the staff at the office when they gave me 2 extra tickets so I could take my 2 teenage boys to the speech with me. I was told BLUE meant I had (Priority Tickets) It was supposed to have been a very exciting, chance of a lifetime that my boys could tell their future grandchildren about. Instead it was a horrifying disaster for them and for me. Single, Disabled Mother of Two, Full-Time Student.

I have volunteered almost all of my free time to the campaign. Sometimes 12 hours a day.

The planners for these events do not seem to consider or think about the obstacles and or limitations of the handicap. They did not designate parking for the handicap at the charter bus area. I and other handicap in wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches had to walk all the way around a very large shopping mall to get to where the buses were picking up the attendee's. Walking that alone was very painful and I struggled. Then we had to STAND and wait for the special (handicap accessible) bus to come. That may be fine for people in wheelchairs. It was not fine for people like ME. Anyone with a cane, walker, crutches, were struggling to stand. Once we finally got on the bus. The trip was fast and easy. We all thought the hardest part was behind us. We were very wrong!

Once we were off the bus we were told where to go by what colors our tickets were. My tickets were blue. I was being directed towards a very long line. Up and over curbs! Curbs! How are people with wheelchairs and walkers supposed to be able to handle this if they don’t have anyone with them to help? There were plenty of volunteers! But, not one of them was willing to help any of the handicaps through this “impossible obstacle course” we had to go through to get to the back of the line. This line seemed to have more people without a handicap that people that did.

I was in pain and really struggling to get to the back of the line. I found a fellow volunteer in the line and asked him if my kids and I could cut in line with them. I was verbally and almost physically attacked by a non-handicap older female in the line screaming “ Line Cutter!” I was then being screamed at by the entire crowd around me. So I got moving toward the back of the line which was so far away. I needed to go through hilly grass, more curbs, as I am trying to get to the back of the line. More buses are dropping off more Non-handicaps who can move much faster than I can. So the back of the line was continuing to become further and further away. I couldn’t take anymore I needed to rest.

I saw a volunteer I knew from my Clearwater office. I told them I needed help! She went down the line to find someone she knew to see if they minded us cutting in line with them. She did! I was able to get a chair to sit on. We were in line for over 2 hours. How are the handicap/elderly, which can’t stand or walk at all or for very long supposed to handle this? Some handicap didn’t! They left in ambulances because of the whole ordeal!

It was hot and they were passing out water. I can’t drink the water! I am in line and have no access to a handicap bathroom! Since it took 2 hours for each handicap person to get inside, I am glad I didn’t drink anything!
Now I am inside but they are still directing the handicap up impossible curbs and grassy hills! My knees and legs are shaking like wet noodles. I can barely keep standing never mind walking up the hill.

I am now crying trying to struggle and not make a scene. I don’t want to worry or embarrass myself or my children. After a few moments I fell to the ground. My legs couldn’t carry my weight anymore. I sat on the grass trying to figure out how I was going to make it the rest of the way. After about 20 minutes a golf cart came by and asked if I needed help. I thought to myself. This is a godsend for me BUT! What about the other handicap and elderly? He put my walker in the back and brought me to the handicap section of the event. I thought…. Finally the worst is over! But, when I looked around the handicap section, I felt so let down.

The scene was like something from the 1960’s. I imagined that this is where the Black’s would have been seated, hidden, out of the way as not to be seen by cameras. Behind a line of trees and bushes that made it impossible to see the podium where the president would speak. I felt insulted.

I felt like a second class citizen. Planners had placed plywood on the grass to make sure the wheelchairs and walkers etc. would have a flat surface. The handicap section was over crowded with non-handicap people. So the area of plywood was all taken by the time I got there. They gave us folding chairs but, they ran out of them quickly and asked the non-handicap people to please give up their chairs for the handicap and elderly.

Most refused saying they deserve better than to sit on the ground. Doesn’t the handicap and elderly deserve better as well? I was given a chair that if I had sat in it the legs of the chair would just go all the way into the ground. Instead, I sat on my walker and gave the chair to my children to take turns sitting on. One child sitting on the wet ground, the other in a chair that’s legs were half in the ground. Looking around at this area was disgraceful. We all talked about how this could be possible in this day and age. Especially from someone who is looking for our vote. Some of the crowd knew I was a Team Member. We couldn’t believe their volunteers and supporters were being treated so horribly. It was a very depressing sight!

I sat there waiting for the event to begin. I had to time 5 minutes for my teenagers to take turns on the chair so they didn’t fight about it. I then saw one of my Field Organizers in a blocked off area. I walked over there to try to yell to her to come to the fence line to speak with me. I explained to her the insufficient and deplorable situation. She apologized and tried to explain why we were segregated from the rest of the public. She didn’t say anything that justified the placement or treatment we were enduring. I told her that I didn’t work hard for the campaign to be treated like trash. If the campaign thinks it’s ok to treat people like this they do not only lose the support I have been giving them but they will lose my vote.

I walked back to the handicap area, I looked toward the podium and realized not only could we not see the president. If the trees weren’t there we would still only see the back of the president’s head!

As I timed the 5 minutes for my kids, someone was speaking at the podium but none of us could hear what they were saying. We began to yell. “We Can’t Hear You!” But it seemed useless. We asked the volunteers to let them know we couldn’t hear. We were actually told to “Shut Up!” by two different volunteers assigned to the area.

The way I saw these volunteers treat the elderly and handicap was deplorable! Our section that was closed off visually from the event also couldn’t hear the event either. We all sat there disgusted! Who planned this event? Who thought so less of us that they thought this kind of treatment to the disabled were acceptable? I sent my son to go in front of the trees with my camera. He came back saying a lady grabbed his phone, closed it and handed it back to him and told him to go sit back down in a very mean way. I was beyond angry! You treat me like trash and you now dare to treat my son that way? We can’t see or hear the President. You won’t even allow us to take pictures like the other guests? At one point my other son worked his way past the trees and got a few pictures. The elderly and other handicap were now begging my son to take their phones and video cameras down there so he could take pictures for them! I felt so sad for all of them that I began to cry. Why were we being treated like we are trash? Why are we not equal to the rest of the guests? My son did his best to take as many pictures has he could for the other handicap while being screamed at by the volunteers to go back to his place. (His Place) as in the hidden section! It was awful!
I tried to text anyone I knew at the Clearwater office. 2 Field Officers to let them know we couldn’t hear the people speaking. It was no use I didn’t receive a reply to 1 the other, not until after the event. We all just gave up and just sat there talking amongst ourselves at what a sad situation this was. Many of them came to this event full supporters of the President but, left with mental and emotional scars that the Man they supported did not treat them as equals as he has said in many speeches and policies. We were obviously 2nd class. We left knowing we were now NOT voting for Obama. How could we when we were just treated so horrendously.

We then had to fight to receive the free” FORWARD” signs that were being handed out. Yet another insult to us, it seemed we didn’t deserve those either. We at this point all felt so defeated that we just didn’t have enough energy or self-worth to try to fight another battle. We were all trying to prepare for the impossible struggle of the obstacle course again to get to the bus’s and then walking that far walk to our cars.

The speech is now over, we didn’t hear a word Obama said. I tell my kids we will sit and wait a while and not try to fight through the huge crowds. I sat there trying to prepare myself and my legs for this horrible journey to the buses.
I ran into a Field Organizer from my office. She had obviously heard what I had said to the other Organizer earlier. She tried to apologize that I had a bad experience. I tried to explain it wasn’t just me! It was how they treated all of us as a group! I told her a handicap person needs to be part of the planning process for these events! It seems that only a handicap person can see the obstacles and struggles that healthy people obviously DO NOT SEE!

She asked me to wait a moment so she could find a golf cart to take me the rest of the way to the buses. I waited for 10 minutes and they still couldn’t find one so I said never mind and I walked away. I then ran into my Field Organizer for my Team. When I turned around I could see that the other Field Organizer was following me. I told My Org, that She wants to talk to him and I walked past him. I began crying, so hurt I was treated this way. How could they treat me this way after the hours of work I put into the campaign? As I walked up a bit of a hill I could feel my tendon clinch and I couldn’t put any wait on it anymore. I was in so much pain and had so much further to walk to those buses. I had to make it there! I was about to collapse! I sat on my walker in the middle of the parking lot. My children having to see me like this was very traumatic for me and for the. They were worried how they were going to get their mother to the buses then to the car to drive them home. My children were traumatized!!! They will never be the same! I won’t either but, for different reasons.

After about 20 minutes a golf cart came along and they had to almost lift me into the cart. My legs had nothing left in them to get me anywhere. I got off the cart the rest of the elderly and handicap waited in the sun for about 45 minutes waiting for a handicap accessible bus to come. I sat there embarrassed balling my eyes out. Everyone was asking me if I’m ok. Well…… everyone except the actual volunteers and bus drivers. When a bus finally came everyone was asking if we could get me on the bus right away. They told them no, that it was wheelchairs first etc. The people in the wheelchairs started yelling and swearing at the volunteers to GET AMIEE ON THE FUZCKING BUS! They fought and fought them. Finally they got me on the bus. I sat there in the bus seat crying and crying. They were filling the bus. My children telling them that their mom is on the bus and they need to get on this one. They were told it was only for the handicap. The Bus driver got in his seat and was closing the door. I got up from the seat yelling and screaming about my children and telling them if they don’t let my children on to get me off!

I then fell in the bus isle and down part of the stairs. That is when he finally let my 2 children on the bus.
When we got off the bus Members of the Largo Office, Diane and Milly, told me to stay there, they would get their car, pick us up and take me to my car so I wouldn’t have to walk to it. What wonderful people Diane and Milly are! Thank you again!

No apology is enough for the trauma and deplorable treatment I went thru on Aug 8,2012. I can’t continue to support a campaign that treats the disabled and elderly in this way.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

DNC News - Volunteering and ADA Support

DNC 2012 logo [Description: Circle with blue arch over red-silhouetted group of people with waves and stars behind it]
Well! There was supposed to be a blog post yesterday, but after attending the CarolinaFest for nearly seven hours, I was completely beat, and spent the night stretched out, trying to feel my feet and calve muscles again. If you haven't had enough from the news, here are some pictures and videos I captured in between standing at the Delegate Park area and Voter Registration with OFA. With more than 30,000 attendees, it was as thick as pea soup, but a lot of fun. I got to meet the fun folks, like Laura from Eventbrite, who let me know all about their non-profit discounts, and a cameraman from The Economist. I listened to Janelle Monae and James Taylor, but left before Jeff Bridges and the rest of CarolinaFest got rained out.

Light Rail/Lynx train pulling into Stonewall Street Station [Description: Lynx train arriving at station with people standing on platform]
By Willamor Media 
This photo was taken on April 21, 2012 in Second Ward, Charlotte, NC, US, using a Nikon D90
Some transportation advice for my readers. Take the Light Rail/Lynx train into town. The last stop is Stonewall, which literally puts you a block away from the Convention Center. Look for blue shirted or even yellow shirted volunteers with lanyards around their necks. Blue shirts are Volunteers and Yellow shirts are Security. For my visually impaired friends, just ask anyone to direct you to the Volunteers or the many Police Officers standing around, many who are from as far away as Virginia, Canada and other parts of North Carolina. Volunteers have maps that can direct you to the main Convention locations. If anyone needs mobility assistance, again please let someone know. The ADA escorts from the Convention Center are there with more than 30 wheelchairs to get people to their Council and Caucus meetings. Cabs are hard to come by, but if you need one, check the hotels first. There are buses along Stonewall that have up to 10 routes to return people to local hotels, but I know that service was interrupted this evening due to protestors and new security measures.

Outside Convention Center [Description: Double row of bicycle police in front of Convention Center]
Today, I was at the Convention Center. Now, I am not going to say everything went perfectly. The logistics on having this many people come in from out of town to volunteer is tremendous. So, I was not surprised they lost my itinerary. Unperturbed, I waited, because I was determined to be a part of volunteer efforts that day. Sure enough, here came a Team Leader asking for four volunteers to relieve the morning crew. We stood at the front, meeting delegates, visitors and the press. I learned more in two hours about the surrounding area than I knew for the past two years!

Will be out there again tomorrow, meeting and greeting as well as attending the 2nd Disability Caucus. I am eager to hear what the topics of the day will be, and I am also will bring the Mission and Goals of Celebrate Connections, the non-profit some local friends and I will start this month (more on this later).

The DNC is a fabulous event for Charlotte. Despite the crowds, high security presence and slow traffic, people are in high spirits and there is a feeling of community and helpfulness I hope will continue long after the speeches are done.

Next up: The Disability Caucus at the DNC!