Letters to the Editor

The contents of this column reflect the letters we had received by the time we went to press, March 15, 2013.  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.

In Response to the President's Message

Dear Editor:
The President's Message in the February issue laudably articulates a concern shared by many ACB leaders, i.e., the "digital divide" which separates a portion of this organization's membership from those who are well-connected by the Internet.
President Pomerantz recalls research conducted by Dr. Ronald Milliman around 2007 implementing the first of three mandates in Resolution 2005-15 passed virtually unanimously at the ACB annual convention held in Las Vegas.  A report posted to the Leadership e-mail list in May of 2010 detailed the conscientious study done by Ron and an assistant identifying about one-quarter of the survey sample who did not have Internet access.  But I, and some others too I am sure, felt that we cannot reliably determine how many ACB members are Internet users from that prodigious work done by Ron interviewing 234 members who may not have been representative of the total membership.  As Ron reported, he was limited to working with members from less than half of ACB affiliates (with no special-interest affiliates in that group of affiliates, and none from 15 states), and only with those individual members who had phone numbers on file with the affiliates.
Such a small sample, about 2 percent of the universe being studied, could still yield reliable data if the 234 subjects were the result of what social scientists call a "random sample." But here skeptics can claim that Ron's sample was "self-selected" by being people who assure that their affiliate had their phone numbers, and by belonging to affiliates which were willing to cooperate with this study. 
Alas, as discussed in the board of publications meeting which received Ron's study results in March 2008, Resolution 2005-15's first directive remains unsatisfied, and it is still unknown how large a portion of our ACB membership does not have Internet access.  Indeed, Ron found that among that probably "plugged in" group, almost one-quarter were not Internet users.
One affiliate leader has suggested attempting to collect Internet-use data during the annual membership renewal process. Or perhaps we can find a well-financed academic body with sufficient resources and research know-how to make contact with every member in a truly random sample.  In the meantime, it is reasonable to expect that the size of that portion of our members on the wrong side of the digital divide has dwindled in the years since the original research effort, aided no doubt by the shrinking size of the nation's area not yet reached by broadband service.  And ACB is respecting the second mandate from Resolution 2005-15, "establish policies which minimize the communication disadvantages to this population …", and the third mandate, "Promote activities, communications and programs to encourage and facilitate Internet use by non-Internet users."  One example of this assistance, aiding members to become more plugged in, is spreading the word that there are more and more ways to reach the Internet without a computer.  A company called Voice on the Go makes it easy to send and receive e-mail messages by telephone for only $4.99 per month.  Internet Speech is another of the companies with e-mail service via phone.
In the interests of full disclosure, I confess to being the author of Resolution 2005-15.  So I cannot claim objectivity in this discussion!
- Ken Stewart, Warwick, N.Y.

In Response to 'Tips on Dealing with a Power Outage'

I read the article about preparing for a blackout (March 2013). We have them quite frequently where I live. Here are a few additional comments which may help folks.
Putting an audio device playing something at the stairs or some other appropriate place may be useful. For instance, put a radio playing music or spoken words at the entrance to a basement. The audio can act as a homing signal. Of course, this would require a rechargeable or hand-crank radio.
If your phone is electronic, it will not work during a power outage. So, having an old-time phone is vital.
Leave the freezer door closed as much as possible. Only take out what you will need and use an ice chest. The less you open a freezer door, the longer your food will stay frozen and usable. Speaking of food, keep food that can be eaten without cooking on hand at all times, and have a non-electric can opener. Ideas for food supplies include: nuts, dried fruit, canned fruit, canned tuna, ready-to-eat cereal, rice cakes and crackers, nut butter or peanut butter, snack bars, granola bars or energy bars.
Finally, about generators. Some home owners install in-house generators. These come on automatically when the power goes out and run on propane or natural gas. They are fairly expensive to install but well worth it in emergencies. If a household does not have its own generator, knowing somebody who does can be valuable. If your house has well water, having a generator is particularly important. Without one, your well pump will go out when the power goes out. If flooding is happening, your sump pump will also go out and your basement will flood. Sump pumps with battery backup are available and are invaluable during times of flooding.
Hope these hints prove valuable.
- Elizabeth Aldworth, New Paltz, N.Y.

In Response to 'ACB Braille Forum Now Available on Newsline'

I recently checked out "The ACB Braille Forum" on the NFB Newsline site and one of the articles I read in the magazine was about its availability there.  As I read, I was acutely aware that, although NFB sponsors the Newsline, that fact was only mention once in the entire article except for the web site address.  I know that many in the ACB consider the initials "NFB" akin to an unpleasant four-letter word, but I feel that credit should be given where it is due.  Just as "The ACB Braille Forum" is called by its complete name, shouldn't NFB Newsline be given the same respect?
- Carol McGhee, Romney, W.Va.
Carol, you are correct.  We do apologize.  See the correction on this issue's table of contents.