by Sharon Strzalkowski
The announcement of products and services in this column does not represent an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its officers, or staff. Listings are free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be held responsible for the reliability of the products and services mentioned. To submit items for this column, send a message to [email protected], or phone the national office at 1-800-424-8666, and leave a message in Sharon Lovering's mailbox. Information must be received at least two months ahead of publication date.
NLS Survey Going On Now!
The Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is currently conducting a survey to understand how best to serve the needs of readers of talking books and braille. It runs through May 10th.
You do not have to be a current NLS reader to take the survey. This survey is designed to learn more about your experiences with talking books and braille, what types of talking book and braille materials and services you are looking for, and what NLS can do to get you interested in the free Library of Congress talking book and braille program. If you aren't currently using NLS, let us know what services you want and how we can add you to our list of NLS readers. If you are a current NLS reader, let us know what we are doing well, where we can improve, and what new services you would like NLS to offer.
Take the survey now and let your opinions be heard! To take the survey online, or to learn more about it, go to www.LibraryOfCongressSurvey.com. Or call 1-866-545-1618 to schedule a time to take the survey over the phone. Your answers to the survey questions will be kept confidential.
BANA to Hold Spring Meeting in D.C.
The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) is holding its spring meeting in Washington, D.C., April 11-13. This meeting is being hosted by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Agenda items include reports from all committees (e.g. music, formats, tactile graphics); in-depth reports will be presented by the bylaws committee and the Unified English Braille task force.
Meetings on April 11 and 12 will take place in the Madison Building at the Library of Congress, which is located at 101 Independence Ave. SE., Washington, DC 20540. Meetings on Saturday, April 13, including an Open Forum, will be held at the Arlington Public Library, 1015 N. Quincy St., Arlington, VA 22201.
The open forum will give participants the chance to discuss braille and learn more about BANA. Members of the BANA board will share plans for the transition to UEB. Braille readers, teachers, and students as well as producers and distributors of braille are encouraged to participate. It will be held Saturday, April 13, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Arlington Public Library. A meet-and-greet time with snacks will begin at 10 a.m. To reserve a seat, contact Frances Mary D'Andrea at (412) 521-5797 or by e-mail at [email protected].
Tax Time Assistance
It's tax time again, and the IRS has a wide variety of accessible tax forms and publications available for blind and visually impaired people. You can now download hundreds of the most popular federal tax forms and publications from www.irs.gov. These products range from accessible PDFs to e-Braille formats and are accessible using screen-reading software and refreshable braille displays. Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities, explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues, is also available. To download forms or publications, visit www.irs.gov/uac/IRS.gov-Accessibility. Individuals who are unable to complete their tax forms because of a disability may also get assistance from a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly site (VITA or TCE). To find a Tax Assistance Center near you, go to www.irs.gov, click on contact IRS and then select contact your local IRS office, or call 1-800-906-9887.
Camp Abilities Nebraska is a week-long residential sports camp for youth, ages 9-19 who are blind, visually impaired or deaf-blind. Campers will enjoy sports and recreational activities in a safe environment with instructors who have experience in adaptive techniques. The camp is co-sponsored by Boys Town National Research Hospital and Outlook Nebraska, Inc. The cost is $300; scholarships are available. Nebraska residency is not required. Registration is limited to 20 campers, and the deadline is May 1! Camp Abilities is also seeking volunteers in the areas of adaptive physical education and special education; orientation will be held July 20th-21st. For more information, contact Kristal Platt, camp director, at (402) 498-6365, [email protected] or visit www.BoysTownHospital.org/HearingServices/EducationalOutreach.
Employees of the Year
Congratulations to Greg Szabo and Larry Irvin, who were named 2012 Employees of the Year at the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind. Szabo is a senior production worker, and Irvin is a help desk technician/front office support worker.
New Career Opportunities
National Industries for the Blind's Contract Management Support Training Program is assisting associated agencies in recruiting and hiring qualified blind professionals as contract close-out specialists for the Department of Defense. Positions will be located across the country, but primarily in Harrisburg, Pa., Columbus, Ohio, Richmond, Va., and Alexandria, Va.
What are the duties of these positions? Staffers will complete contract close-out process as required, which requires payment history validation of any products or services, and will prepare close-out documents for contracting officer review and approval as required by standard operating procedures. To be eligible, you must be legally blind; a U.S. citizen; have a four-year business degree or 24 business credits (equivalent work experience will be considered); be highly proficient in computer applications such as Word and Excel, as well as assistive technology (JAWS, Window-Eyes, ZoomText); have excellent verbal and written communication skills; be team-oriented and have a strong work ethic, with good attention to detail. For more information, or to apply, contact Amanda Lee at (703) 310-0471 or via e-mail, [email protected].
Blind Vets Help Deaf
Six blind Oklahoma veterans recently began training on how to make relay calls for veterans who have lost their hearing. Imagine that you are a veteran of the United States Armed Forces who was deafened by an IED. You want to call your mom at home and wish her a "Happy Birthday," but that task is next to impossible. Maybe you want to call your daughter at college and wish her well on her exams, but aren't able to. But with this training from the Veterans Workshop, funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program of Oklahoma City, and the state of Oklahoma's Department of Rehabilitation Services, deaf veterans will be able to make those crucial calls courtesy of the newly trained, blind relay operators. One trainee is 90-year-old World War II veteran Emory Finefrock, who served with the Navy in the Pacific. When asked why he requested to join this training, Emory said, "These are fellow veterans, and if I can help just one, then I will have done my job."
Blind Campus in Wyoming
Wyoming has very limited resources for legally blind individuals. That is why some of its legally blind residents are asking for letters of support. They have created the Blind Campus, a non-profit organization. The mission of Blind Campus is to provide and promote healthy and productive lives and social and economic independence in a secure and contemporary campus for legally blind Wyoming individuals over the age of 18. Blind Campus has nine goals and objectives for the next five years. They include: annual fundraisers and securing funding; transportation plan and services; permanent office; resource center and crisis line; monthly activities and support group meetings; pilot educational classes; campus long-term, temporary and transitional housing; permanent school and training facilities; and private-enterprise programs.
Blind Campus has just opened an office and is accepting donations of new and used equipment and supplies that can be used at the campus or recycled to local legally blind individuals. Please send any items that you no longer are using such as enlargers, magnifiers, computers and adaptive software, braille games and books, ham radios, braille teaching supplies, adaptive equipment, etc. Please mail all donations and letters of support to: Blind Campus, PO Box 2303, Rock Springs, WY 82902. For more information, send e-mail to [email protected], or visit www.blindcampus.com.
Book Club Books from NBP
"Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad" by Ellen Levine is a print/braille children's book for ages 5 and up. It talks about Henry Brown, a youngster working as a slave in the time before the Civil War, and how he decides to gain freedom.
"April Foolishness!" is a print/braille children's book for kids ages 4 to 9. It tells the tale of Grandpa and the grandkids on the farm on April Fool's Day, and all the hilarity that ensues when the farm animals get loose.
For more information on either of these books, contact National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen St., Boston, MA 02115-4302, or call toll-free, 1-800-548-7323. Or visit www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html.
New Notetaker App
The American Foundation for the Blind recently launched the AccessNote (TM), a specialized notetaker for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This is the first notetaking app developed and designed specifically for users with vision loss. What sets it apart? Customized keyboard commands; automatic saving every few keystrokes; cursor tracking; DropBox integration; and its compatibility with BlueTooth keyboards. AccessNote was developed in conjunction with FloCo Apps, and is available at Apple's App Store (SM).
Read Across America with BRL
The Beulah Reimer Legacy (BRL) mission is to increase braille literacy and reading opportunities by placing braille in the hands of eager readers. And now it has more ways to put braille at your fingertips! BRL has over 750 titles of the most popular children's picture books such as Arthur, Clifford, Corduroy, Curious George, Disney, Dora, Fancy Nancy, Sesame Street, the Berenstain Bears and Dr. Seuss. We have classic fairy tales, holiday stories and much, much more. To kick off Read Across America in style, BRL is adding more books to its web site.
All of our books and flash cards are brailled in contracted (grade two) braille with clear plastic strips which are placed on or near the printed text. Our word flash cards are written in both grades one and two braille so that readers can learn spelling as well as contracted forms of words.
Our materials are shipped free of charge. Please allow two weeks for delivery within the United States. For more information, call (515) 282-0049, e-mail [email protected], or visit www.beulahreimerlegacy.com.
The Technology Podcast
The Technology Podcast is a monthly feature that is produced by Stuart Lawler, manager of the National Center for the Blind of Ireland's training center. This is an audio podcast that focuses mainly on technology, covering interviews, product demonstrations and other bits and pieces regarding technology for the blind. If you would like to hear previous shows, visit www.ncbi.ie and search for technology podcasts. If you or anyone else would like to be a part of the show, send an e-mail to [email protected].
Karen is a blind artist/sculptor working under direction of professional artists at a private studio. She can make sculptures of dogs for guide dog users, such as Labradors and German shepherds; cats; sailboats; lighthouses; pots for plants; platters, mugs and a variety of Christmas decorations. All objects have raised designs; for example, if a mug has leaves, those leaves can be seen as well as felt. The dogs have many details and are about six to eight inches long. They are painted then fired in a large kiln. She also makes birds to coloring and Audubon specifications. For more information, send an e-mail to [email protected] or call her at (765) 216-6745.
Perkins, India Partnership
Perkins and the National Association for the Blind, India (NAB, India) recently announced a new partnership that will help to accelerate growth of programs in India for people who are blind. Perkins will work with NAB, India to build capacity and expertise to educate children who are blind or deaf-blind, as well as to cultivate financial support outside the United States. By creating new opportunities for Indian donors to support the work of NAB, India and Perkins International partners, those organizations will be able to deliver more services to more people more effectively. Perkins is also committed to promoting braille literacy in India.
Described Videos Available
Love watching movies, but get tired of bugging friends to tell you what's going on? For those in the U.S. and Canada, more than 200 movies with audio description are now available. Call Ken Mann at (972) 530-2949 to get a print or CD copy of the movie list.
Leonard Kokel's Certified Brailler Service provides general service, minor and major repair on Perkins braillers. He also has reconditioned braillers available. For more information, contact him at (541) 888-0846 or e-mail [email protected].
Computers for the Blind
Need a computer, but don't have a lot of money? Affordable computers are available from the Texas Center for the Visually Challenged. These computers are between 2 and 4 years old, completely refurbished, with monitor, keyboard, speakers, and CD-ROM drive, along with 2 gigs or more of memory. They will have Windows XP, as well as a demo copy of Window-Eyes and NVDA, along with a word processor, a bookkeeping program, and other applications. And you can also receive a copy of ZoomText. This offer is available in the United States and Canada only. Call Lee Mann at (214) 340-6328 during business hours (Central time) for more information.
Revitalize Your Brailler
Bring your brailler back to life! The Selective Doctor, Inc. specializes in the repair of Perkins braillers. Free matter shipping is accepted. For more information, or to get your brailler repaired, contact The Selective Doctor, Inc., PO Box 571, Manchester, MD 21102; phone (410) 668-1143 or e-mail [email protected]. You may also check out the web site, www.selectivedoctor.com.
Blind Singles Group
Blind_singles is a group intended to help blind heterosexual singles communicate with others and share ideas and experiences as well as discuss on different topics. If you would like to join, send a blank e-mail message to [email protected].
New Book Available
"My Home Away from Home: Life at Perkins School for the Blind" by Robert T. Branco is now available in print and e-book formats. To get a copy, visit www.amazon.com or www.smashwords.com. Smashwords has a greater variety of download options; Amazon offers both e-book and print.