The idea might sound interesting, but don't do it to impress us!
A German student has invented braille tattoos. Until now, those without sight haven’t been able to appreciate the skilled artwork behind body inking, but Klara Jirkova wants to change that.
The University of the Arts Berlin student created the raised tattoos resembling braille bumps. Now you can modify your body to let the blind feel your statement through their sense of touch.
The raised bumps consist of implants under the skin, and could include individual beads or a small tablet of embossed text. The beads can be relatively small, but not as small as standard braille text as the body’s muscles would absorb and they would be lost to touch. The embossed tattoos come made in surgical stainless steel, 316L, titanium or a specially formulated plastic.
August 1, 2007:
Blindness cure through study of...Zebrafish?
Check out this interesting article on how stem cells and Zebrafish may pave the road to repairing many kinds of retina damage.
July 10, 2007:
Another reason why "W" is our least favorite letter of the alphabet
Forget science. Screw healthcare. All you need to know is that stem cell research is evil. Evil! EVIL! We say again, E-V-I-L!!!!!!!!! At least that's what our Commander in Chief wants us to think. And teaching kids about safe sex? Out of the question. Global warming? Secondhand smoke? AIDS? Twaddle. The Special Olympics? Yawn.
Yup, even the Special Olympics.
U.S. Surgeon General sees 4-year term as compromised
By Gardiner Harris, International Herald Tribune
Published: July 11, 2007
WASHINGTON: Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona told a congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.
The administration, Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to "water down" a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm.
Carmona said he was ordered to mention President George W. Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings. And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization's longtime ties to a "prominent family" that he refused to name.
"I was specifically told by a senior person, 'Why would you want to help those people?' " Carmona said. The Special Olympics is one of the nation's premier charitable organizations to benefit disabled people, and the Kennedys have long been deeply involved in it.
When asked after the hearing if that "prominent family" was the Kennedys, Carmona responded, "You said it. I didn't."
In response to lawmakers' questions, Carmona refused to name specific people in the administration who had instructed him to put political considerations over scientific ones. He said, however, that they included assistant secretaries of health and human services as well as top political appointees outside the department of health.
Carmona did offer to provide the names to the committee in a private meeting. Bill Hall, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said that the administration disagreed with Carmona's statements.
"It has always been this administration's position that public health policy should be rooted in sound science," Hall said.
Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, said the surgeon general "is the leading voice for the health of all Americans." "It's disappointing to us," Lawrimore said, "if he failed to use this position to the fullest extent in advocating for polices he thought were in the best interests of the nation."
Carmona is one of a growing list of present and former administration officials to charge that politics often trumped science within what had previously been largely nonpartisan government health and scientific agencies.
Carmona, 57, served as surgeon general for one four-year term from 2002 to 2006, but was not asked to serve a second. Before being nominated, he was in the Army Special Forces, earned two purple hearts in the Vietnam War and was a trauma surgeon and leader of the Pima County, Arizona, SWAT team. He received a bachelor's degree, in biology and chemistry, in 1976 and his M.D. in 1979, both from the University of California, San Francisco. He is now vice chairman of Canyon Ranch, a resort and residential development company.
His testimony comes two days before the Senate confirmation hearings of his designated successor, Dr. James Holsinger Jr.
Two members of the Senate health committee have already declared their opposition to Holsinger's nomination because of a 1991 report he wrote that concluded that homosexual sex was unnatural and unhealthy.
Carmona's testimony may further complicate Holsinger's nomination. In his testimony, Carmona said that at first he was so politically naïve that he had little idea how inappropriate the administration's actions were. He eventually consulted six previous surgeons general, Republican and Democratic, and all agreed, he said, that he faced more political interference than they had.
On issue after issue, Carmona said, the administration made decisions about important public health issues based solely on political considerations, not scientific ones. "I was told to stay away from those because we've already decided which way we want to go," Carmona said.
He described attending a meeting of top officials in which the subject of global warming was discussed. The officials concluded that global warming was a liberal cause and dismissed it, he said. "And I said to myself, 'I realize why I've been invited. They want me to discuss the science because they obviously don't understand the science,' " he said. "I was never invited back."
Carmona testified under oath at a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee headed by Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California. The topic was strengthening the office of the surgeon general. Dr. C. Everett Koop, surgeon general in the Reagan administration, and Dr. David Satcher, surgeon general during the Clinton administration and the first year of the administration of George W. Bush, also testified. Each complained about political interference and the declining status of the office. Satcher said that the Clinton administration discouraged him from issuing a report showing that needle-exchange programs were effective in reducing disease. He released the report anyway.
Koop, said he was discouraged by top officials in the Reagan administration from discussing the AIDS crisis. He did so anyway.
All three men urged major changes in the way the surgeon general is chosen and the way the office is financed. Carmona described being invited to testify at the government's nine-month racketeering trial of the tobacco industry that ended in 2005. He said that top administration officials discouraged him from testifying while simultaneously telling the lead government lawyer in the case that he was not competent to testify. Carmona testified anyway.
Sharon Eubanks, director of the Justice Department's tobacco litigation team, was in the audience during Carmona's testimony. "What he said is all correct," she said. "He was one of the most powerful witnesses. His testimony was very important." Carmona said that he felt that the duty of the surgeon general, often called the "nation's doctor," was to tackle many of the nation's most controversial health topics and to issue balanced reports about the studies underlying them.
When stem cells became a focus of debate, Carmona said he proposed that his office offer guidance "so that we can have, if you will, informed consent." "I was told to stand down and not speak about it," he said. "It was removed from my speeches." The Bush administration rejected the advice of many top scientists on this subject, including that of the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Elias Zerhouni. Similarly, Carmona wanted to address the controversial topic of sexual education, he said. Scientific studies suggest that the most effective approach includes a discussion of contraceptives. "However there was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to preach abstinence only, but I felt that was scientifically incorrect," he said.
Carmona said that drafts of surgeon general reports on global health and prison health are still being debated by the administration. The global health report was never approved, Carmona said, because he refused to sprinkle the report with glowing references to the efforts of the Bush administration.
"The correctional health care report is pointing out the inadequacies of health care within our correctional health care system," he said. "It would force the government on a course of action to improve that." Because the administration does not want to spend more money on prisoners' health care, the report has been delayed, Carmona said. "For us, the science was pretty easy," he said. "These people go back into the community and take diseases with them." He added, "This is not about the crime. It's about protecting the public."
A CURE FOR BLINDNESS?!?!?!?
Since the news broke just a few hours ago, a flood of emails have come in asking for Danny's reaction to the alleged scientific breakthroughs in stem cell research -- claims that a cure for and a means to prevent blindness might be possible in just a few years.
Danny has been a longtime reader on the subject, and strongly supports the obvious potential that stem cell research holds...not only for the treatment of the disabled, but for the quality of life and health of all people.
Though these recent developments are certainly cause for excitement, the headlines are a bit misleading; this research (SO FAR) might only help with certain conditions of blindness, like macular degeneration.
Danny's blindness was caused by severe retrolental fibroplasia (ROP), and while there is reparative treatment for those who have it to a lesser degree, the damage to Danny's eyes was permanent since his infancy.
The notion of a cure provokes both excitement and a little bit of fear for Danny. If he could ever choose between being blind or being sighted, of course he'd choose sighted. But he doesn't like to think that his blindness defines him any more than being gay defines him; it's just a small part of who he is, for better or for worse, and he feels no compulsion to change or be any different. His life is not perfect, but he is perfectly happy.
is one of the articles from REUTERS:
Scientists plan stem cell cure for blindness
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists plan to use stem cells to cure a common form of blindness, with the first patients receiving test treatment in five years.
The pioneering project, launched on Tuesday, aims to repair damaged retinas with cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. Its backers say it involves simple surgery that could one day become as routine as cataract operations.
They believe the technique is capable of restoring vision in the vast majority of patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness among the elderly that afflicts around 14 million people in Europe.
Some drugs, like Genentech Inc.'s Lucentis, can help the one in 10 patients with so-called "wet" AMD and U.S. biotech firm Advanced Cell Technology is looking at stem cells in other eye conditions. But there is no treatment for the 90 percent with "dry" AMD.
AMD is caused by faulty retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, which form a supporting carpet under the light-sensitive rods and cones in the retina.
The new procedure will generate replacement RPE cells from stem cells in the lab, with surgeons then injecting a small patch of new cells, measuring 4 by 6 millimeters, back into the eye.
The London Project to Cure AMD brings together scientists from University College London (UCL), Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and the University of Sheffield.
It has been made possible by a 4 million pounds ($8 million) donation from an anonymous U.S. donor, who the project's leaders said had become frustrated by U.S. curbs on stem cell work.
Embryonic stem cells are the ultimate master cells of the body, giving rise to all of the tissues and organs. Their use is controversial because many people oppose embryo destruction, although Britain has encouraged such research.
Surgeons at Moorfields have already restored the vision of a few patients using cells harvested from their own eyes, which were moved to a new site. But this process is complicated and only a small number of cells can be moved, limiting its use.
By injecting RPE cells derived from stem cells instead, Dr Lyndon Da Cruz of Moorfields hopes the operation can be reduced to a simple 45-minute procedure under local anesthetic.
"If it hasn't become routine in about 10 years it would mean we haven't succeeded," he told reporters. "It has to be something that's available to large numbers of people."
Similar tests on rats have already proved highly effective.
Pete Coffey of UCL, the director of the project, said he was confident the procedure would work in humans but the team needed to ensure the safety and quality of batches of cells, which would take time.
"The goal is within five years to have a cohort of 10 or 12 patients to put the cells into," he said.
The project, which is non-commercial, was welcomed by patient support groups. Alistair Fielder of the eye research charity Fight for Sight said it represented a real chance to tackle a hitherto untreatable condition.
FEBRUARY 25, 2007:
Adam McDaniel's interview with "THE UNSUNG CRITIC"
A Hollywood blogger, The Unsung Critic, recently chose one of Adam's scripts as the best of 2006, and featured him in the lengthy interview on his site. Though they spend most of the Q&A blabbing about screenwriting, Adam was able to talk a little bit about our book. (If he hadn't, I would have killed him!)
OCTOBER 25 , 2006:
Web surfing woes
The Associated Press has an interesting article on the difficulties faced by blind web users trying to make their way through the internet.
...like any evolving technology, accessing the Internet has hardly been a smooth ride for the blind. Some sites can be difficult to navigate, particularly if they contain relatively few text links and rely more on graphics and other visual elements that screen-reading software such as Jaws can't interpret.
That's why the NFB, an organization that represents blind people, is suing Target Corp., saying that its Web site is inaccessible to blind Internet users.
Last month a federal judge in California allowed the NFB's case to proceed, rejecting Target's argument that its Web site wasn't subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act, a 1990 law that requires retailers and other public places to make accommodations for people with disabilities. Target argued that the law only covered physical spaces.
The case, which is entering a pretrial phase called discovery in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, could set an important precedent for applying federal accessibility law to the Internet. ...
John Pare, a spokesman for the NFB, said most Web sites are far easier to navigate than Target's. In a demonstration of screen-reading software for The Associated Press, Danielsen showed that many links on Target's side were unintelligible to the Jaws software, and that the final purchase required the use of a mouse, something even the most sophisticated blind Web surfer would have trouble with. However, he was able to navigate other sites and purchased a CD from Amazon.
Jaws, made by Freedom Scientific, is a popular kind of screen-reading software, but there are others, including Window-Eyes, made by GW Micro, and Hal, made by Dolphin Computer Access.
Many Web sites already have made major progress in becoming accessible to the blind, and some, such as those run by the government, are required to do so by law.
Yet surfing the Internet is not always worry-free for the blind. Crista Earl, the head of Web operations for the American Foundation for the Blind in New York, said graphics that don't contain textual labels — which can be read by screen-reading software — are a common obstacle for blind Internet users, as are "forms" that are unlabeled. Forms are the little boxes where you insert data, such as a book title you wanted to search for.
The decision to hold Target's Web site to the same standards of accessibility as its physical store under the Americans with Disabilities Act was considered a victory by many advocates for the blind, but at the same time others worry that the ruling could be read too narrowly.
UPDATE! The NEW YORK TIMES has a similar article here.
SEPTEMBER 1, 2006:
Upcoming QUEERS ON WHEELS workshop & UNITED NATIONS Disability Treaty
On Saturday, October 21st at 8pm, Queers On Wheels will be presenting their sexuality and disability workshop at the Cerebral Palsy group conference. This session will focus on ways that adults with CP can enhance their sexual lives, including alternative ways of expressing sexuality. Though this does not directly address issues of being visually impaired, we felt that it was worthy of mention. For more information, go to http://www.thecpgroup.org/conferences/Conference2006.htm.
Also, check out this BBC News article regarding the United Nations Disability Treaty -- a new convention to protect the rights of the world's 650,000,000 disabled people.
AUGUST 12, 2006:
D.J.'s addicted to MYSPACE!
D.J. admits that he is now completely addicted to www.myspace.com, and is happy to find that his profile has had quite a number of visits in just the last few days. CLICK HERE to check it out.
has also created a special group on MYSPACE to discuss being gay and disabled.
Hopefully it will be more popular than the seldom-visited BRAVENET forum from
a few months' back.
AUGUST 3, 2006:
Why no sculptures on the site?
The one question most frequently asked of D.J. is this: Why aren't there any photographs of his sculptures on the website? It's a simple question, but D.J.'s answer is a bit complex.
"It's a deliberate decision," D.J. says. "The fundamental reason why I love sculpting so is because it's a tactile art. Every time I sell my work to someone, or it's put out on exhibit, I insist that it is never to be kept behind glass or out of reach. It can only be fully enjoyed if people are able to touch the work, as I did.... Without that, it defeats the very purpose behind its creation. The same principle holds true regarding photographs. Someone can 'see' a sculpture, but without the tactile sense, they'll never appreciate it the way I intended them to. I want people to experience it on my terms, rather than through their own two eyes."
will be making a new sculpture -- a self-portrait -- specifically for inclusion
in the book, however. And as to the possibility of allowing photographs of
his work to be featured on the website in the future? "I'll think about
it," he quips.
Project delays...and a new publication date.
So much has happened these last few months that the book and this website have been in a bit of limbo. Sadly, this past Spring, Adam lost both his mother and his aunt -- and within just three weeks of each other. This has caused an understandable delay in the book's progress, postponing the original publication date.
ECHOES THROUGH THE DARK is now tentatively scheduled for a nationwide
hardcover release in 2007! And in some GOOD news, a major GLBT magazine has
expressed interest in covering the book! More info to come...
New forum set up!
D.J. created a new forum on BRAVENET where people can discuss issues relating to disabilities, sexuality, as well as survivors of sexual abuse. ALL people and ALL views are welcome, but please, while we encourage users to speak their minds, we hope that you will treat each other with intelligence, dignity, and respect...be you black, white, gay, straight, liberal, or conservative.
To access the forum, you can hit the button here, or on the FORUM menu button at the bottom of the screen.
Yay! Adam's letter to the editor has been printed, word for word, in the April 25th issue of THE ADVOCATE, which hits stands this week! Please help us encourage the magazine to feature more stories about disabled gay and lesbian issues. You can write to them at the following address:
Letters to the Editor
P.O. Box 4371
Los Angeles, CA 90078
Phone: (323) 871-1225
Fax: (323) 467-6805
MARCH 28, 2006:
D.J.'s response to ADVOCATE article.
Never one to be bested, D.J. Wessler has submitted his own follow up letter to THE ADVOCATE regarding their article:
While I was happy to read (and be mentioned in) your "Gen Q" article on being queer and disabled, I couldn't help but feel that it merely scratched the surface of a topic deserving greater coverage.
As a blind gay man, my greatest obstacle is neither my disability nor my sexual orientation; it's having to contend with the social misconception that I'm completely helpless, with nothing better to do than sit in an empty room feeling sorry for myself. It's a double-edged sword, sharpened by both the public at large as well as the general LGBT community.
People are intimidated by the thought of dating someone who is disabled; they fear they'll have to play the dual role of partner and caretaker. While this may be true to some degree, it does not mean that we are unable to care for ourselves, or help in the care of others. What we need is not unalterable pity, but a genuine, sincere understanding that, in spite of our handicaps, we, too, are complete human beings. We can make our own contributions to the world, to a job...and to a relationship.
I do hope your magazine will give more attention to this subject in future issues. We are a very unique part of the LGBT community, one that does not deserve to feel invisible, much less ignored. If we are ever to gain acceptance from those who choose to exclude us because of our sexual orientation, we must first gain acceptance from those who choose to exclude us because of our handicaps.
MARCH 24, 2006:
D.J.'s original interview available.
Our INTERVIEWS page now has more from D.J.'s original interview with Gretchen Dukowitz of THE ADVOCATE. At D.J.'s request, we have edited the material down so that it keeps in focus with the overall subject of the article (the hardships faced by disabled gays and lesbians), rather than the full details of D.J.'s life. More on the the latter shall come as we draw closer to our (hopeful) publication date.
MARCH 14, 2006:
D.J. mentioned in ADVOCATE article; Adam's letter to the editor.
D.J. Wessler has been featured in the March 28th issue of THE ADVOCATE, which hits news stands this week. The article examines Eva Sweeney's organization QUEERS ON WHEELS, and the difficulties faced by those who are both disabled and gay.
While we are delighted to see some attention paid to this seldom discussed topic, we could not help but feel that the article only touched the surface of an important subject. D.J.'s original interview was rather lengthy, yet only two of his comments were finally featured. Perhaps our expectations for a more in-depth article were just wishful thinking; nevertheless, we hope that you will give it a read.
I was grateful for your "GEN Q" article on Queers on Wheels; I had the pleasure of meeting Eva Sweeney last year, and found her to be an extraordinary young woman of great insight, courage, and good humor.
However, I felt your coverage merely glossed over the larger issue of the many hardships faced by disabled gays and lesbians. In an age when most gay-themed publications juggle the usual headlines of politics, entertainment, and youth culture, this very special group has remained virtually ignored -- both by the queer community as well as the public at large. There's a wealth of untapped stories to be found here, and they warrant far more than the few paragraphs you gave it.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: A bold new book explores the struggles of a young man who is both disabled and gay.
(Los Angeles, CA) - If sexual orientation is a sensitive enough issue in today's times, imagine how challenging it must be for those with disabilities. The subject has rarely been addressed openly in either LGBT or disabled circles, leaving those among this very special group to feel excluded from two fronts. A bold new book, CHASING ECHOES THROUGH THE DARK, written by first-time author D.J. Wessler in collaboration with Adam McDaniel, explores the life of such a person.
Blindness is just a handicap. But loneliness is a curse.
No one understands that more than sixteen-year-old Daniel Wessler. Blind since birth, he struggles to find his place in the world in spite of his disability. Resourceful, talented, creative and intelligent, he seems more than up to the challenge, making a name for himself through his sculpture and gaining respect and admiration from family and friends.
But Daniel is also gay -- a fact he desperately hides from everyone around him. Trapped between two worlds of prejudice, he is unable to see, unable to love, and almost unable to live.
It is only through meeting Aaron, an adult gay man and creative mentor, that Daniel can come to terms with his true self at last. But as the friendship between them deepens, Aaron learns that Daniel is harboring other secrets -- secrets far darker than the shadows of his blindness, setting off a chain of events that will change both their lives forever.
CHASING ECHOES THROUGH THE DARK is a poignant story of friendship and love, told through the eyes of someone who can not see, but has experienced more than many could ever imagine. Filled with both humor and heartbreak, it is also a tale of perseverance in the face of immeasurable odds … and immeasurable loss.
The manuscript of CHASING ECHOES THROUGH THE DARK is still in progress, with a projected 2007 release date.
Wessler was recently interviewed for an upcoming article in THE ADVOCATE examining the hardships faced by those who are both disabled and gay. More information on his book can be found at www.chasingechoes.com. The site also features a special links page designed as a resource for the disabled and gay community.