President’s Message: Thanks for Our Blessings

by Kim Charlson

As 2014 winds down, I thought I would take a few moments to reflect on some highlights for me personally, and some positive moments for ACB.
First, I have to give thanks for my successful conquering of breast cancer in 2014! I was declared 100% cancer-free in June, and when you receive that kind of news, you can’t help but take stock of all the things that matter. Family and friends truly made the difference for me as I dealt with my treatments, work responsibilities, and ACB commitments. I am so grateful for all of their support and encouragement. Having many things to do kept me focused on what needed to be done … and allowed me to keep my medical situation in perspective. When I received my diagnosis on Feb. 14, 2013, I told my oncologist that she had to cure me because I had very important work to do for the blind community all across this country, and I didn’t have time to be side-tracked by cancer. She said she would do that … and she did!
Several years ago, I had the privilege to work with Sue Ammeter and the ACB Health Issues Task Force on implementation of a structured negotiation settlement with the American Cancer Society (ACS). ACB’s work made it possible for many of the ACS informational publications on all types of cancer to be available in accessible formats. Now, over 10 different publications are available in braille, large print, audio or electronic formats directly by contacting the ACS at 1-800-227-2345 or at We all need to continue to spread the word about the accessible materials available from ACS, how they can be ordered, and that it is because of work by ACB that these materials are now accessible.
Because providing access to information is so important to me professionally in my work as a librarian, the ACS settlement was one of my favorite successes ACB has achieved. It really became personal when I discovered that I would need to avail myself of the ACS materials to learn more about my own diagnosis and treatment options. I am glad it was there for me, and for the hundreds of other people who unfortunately have needed to utilize the resource because of a cancer diagnosis. What is good for all of us is that we have this resource available to us and that it is now accessible. Please help to share this information with others who may be in need of accessible materials about cancer for themselves or to help with a family member or friend’s diagnosis.
I also want to recognize the Women’s Concerns Committee for their commitment to making a Breast Cancer Support Group available. I want to extend my personal commendation to Lori Scharff of New York and Linda Porelle of California, the two social workers who facilitate the teleconference support group. This monthly call is for blind or visually impaired women who are going through, or have experienced, breast cancer, and is usually around 90 minutes in length. Whether you are newly diagnosed or in treatment, or a 5-year-plus survivor, you are welcome to join the discussion. Meetings are the first Tuesday of each month and start at 8 p.m. Eastern. If you are interested in becoming part of this support group, contact either Lori at or Linda at (415) 577-8437 for more information about the group.
I am so proud of ACB for recognizing the importance of access to medical information in accessible formats, and for recognizing the importance of specialized support networks like the breast cancer monthly support call. While we all wish this wasn’t necessary, cancer in all of its guises touches the lives of so many people every day. ACB continues to do our part to make the independent management of health care easier for people who are blind with accessible information, support groups, and now with the successes of ACB with braille, large print and audio prescription label information. Stay tuned for more details in this area in the near future.