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The two federal agencies that employ the largest number of blind people are the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. At press time, both agencies plan to adopt new computer operating systems which may well exclude their visually impaired employees. Despite assurances from their supervisors that everything will be fine, the blind people who work for these and other federal, state and local agencies are understandably very concerned. Companies are adopting network approaches to information sharing that are requiring blind employees to be completely retrained on new software and hardware.
At the recent board meeting in Houston, Texas, the American Council of the Blind's directors decided unanimously that we must "escalate" our advocacy on this complex and terrifying issue. The reality is that jobs are being lost by blind people every day. In the case of the federal government, there are laws and procedures that ought to protect disabled employees. They are apparently not working.
Then there is the Internet which is already a source of huge quantities of information. Blind people, for the first time in history, can get access to more information than they can possibly use; but still much less than their sighted peers. Here, too, there are problems. As graphical approaches to getting around on the "net" become the norm and web pages become more and more sophisticated, blind people are being left farther and farther behind.
Realistically, the developers of software for blind people are struggling just to keep pace with the changing operating systems and cannot possibly keep up with all of the changes that occur in applications. Changes in the computer industry are happening at an unprecedented rate and every change has meant that blind people must play catch-up.
One of the problems in trying to deal with this issue is that it is so complex. It's hard to make people who aren't in the middle of the problem understand it well. In a short message like this, I can't possibly go into much detail; however, I want to try to explain the approach that ACB has taken up to this point, and how and why we have decided our approach must change in the future.
For those who do not know, Microsoft is the company that makes, among other things, graphical operating systems such as Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. It made its first several million dollars when it developed DOS and made it the first real standard operating system for the IBM-based personal computers that were introduced in the 1980s. Later Microsoft would market Windows and, more recently, Windows 95. It has always been the feeling of access technology experts that the single best place to begin making computers more accessible lies in somehow creating access to the operating system itself.
Many of you will remember that, some two years ago, the states of Massachusetts and Washington got the attention of Microsoft by threatening not to buy any more Microsoft products if access was not taken more seriously by that company. After this furor settled, Microsoft began to work seriously on making its systems more usable by people with disabilities. Its approach involved developing a set of rules, programs and protocols that came to be known collectively as Active Access or Active X. Put very simply, Active Access allowed developers of application software that runs under Windows and Windows 95 to share information about their graphics, icons and structure so that screen readers and other adaptive programs could access them more effectively. In meetings with the ACB and others, Microsoft committed to making Active Access utilities "recommended" by January 1 of this year. If a developer wanted the Microsoft seal of approval, it was recommended that each program incorporate Active Access. It was expected that, once program developers had an opportunity to learn to use and take full advantage of Active Access, Microsoft would make it "required" rather than "recommended." It had also agreed to provide resources to enable access technology developers and advocates from within the blindness community to attend several mainstream computer trade shows for the purpose of meeting with applications developers to create a better understanding of how Active Access works and other things that could be done to make it easier to access new programs being developed for the general public.
The first three months of 1997 have come and gone. There is no sign of a commercially viable Active Access though a very early version has been tested. Word on the street is that Microsoft has had to regroup and issue a new "beta" version � one with fewer errors and simpler programming routines. Microsoft is using some Active Access elements in its own programs � programs like Internet Explorer and Office 97 � as they are being released. However, many of Microsoft's own applications have significant access problems. Those that were to incorporate Active Access have included only partial implementation and some of those have been poorly done. It might not seem that three months is much of a delay, but in reality, it is to those whose employment is dependent on working with these systems today, not promises for access tomorrow.
I said earlier that computing changes quickly and we are at the beginning of a whole new era involving what is being called "network" computers. You may have even seen commercials about web TVs. These are very inexpensive computers that will only work when connected to cable networks. They are not, however, just terminals. They will have their own operating systems built into them. It is currently unclear whether any of these new computer operating systems will be accessible or if they can be made accessible. Other companies besides Microsoft are also developing applications that work with Windows 95 or other operating systems and they are not exactly thrilled with the unfair advantage that they believe Microsoft is being given by the creation of a dependence on Active Access. Some companies appear to be saying that we, the disability community, have tied our star to the Microsoft wagon and now we must pay the price! The bottom line is that we can wait no longer. If we don't find a way to move ahead, blind people will simply fall farther and farther behind. ACB is involved with an Access to Information Task Force that involves several organizations in the blindness field. That group as well as our own Environmental Access Committee will be looking at how we can best respond to the dangerous information logjam we are now facing. I think that there are a few things we now know. First, we know that we can no longer have faith that Active Access will have much impact for at least the next year. Second, we know that software manufacturers only have a limited legal obligation to make their programs accessible. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act states that these companies only have to make accessibility changes if they are "readily achievable," meaning not very difficult or very expensive. Most companies argue that they are doing as much as they need to do. We cannot expect to achieve much by way of moral or legal persuasion to force them to do what we need them to do. We, therefore, must focus our attentions primarily on the Title II entities such as state and local governments who buy software and computer equipment, and we must demand that they provide us with access to the office and classroom hardware and software that they buy. This may appear to be an indirect approach, but it will probably generate a greater level of access for a greater number of blind people in a shorter period of time than any other direction we might take.
We must also get the attention of the media. If manufacturers believe that only blind people are affected by these issues, they are not likely to do very much. We must find ways to build a groundswell of concern. We must make our issues the issues of our families, friends and neighbors.
The word "escalation" is a significant one for the American Council of the Blind. We can ill afford not to push harder. President Clinton committed this nation to placing a computer in every classroom by the year 2000. If we are not careful, many of those computers will not be accessible to blind students! Virtually every public agency and private company will have converted to a less than accessible system within a very few years if not months. They have no choice. The new programs can run faster and produce more and the agencies and companies cannot afford to turn their backs on the increased productivity that these new programs can provide.
Altruism and negotiation can only achieve so much! In addition, to meet our objectives, we may be compelled to use confrontation and even perhaps demonstration. A whole class of people with disabilities is being systematically excluded more and more from new programs � programs that provide an opportunity for learning, for employment and for independence. This is not just a matter of access, it's a matter of survival! Most experts are predicting that by the year 2020 (no pun intended), virtually every household in this country will have a computer, and somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of the information people will be using will come from cyberspace. It's estimated that by then, there will be virtually no jobs for people without computer access. We must act now to make sure that when we reach the next century, we as blind people will not have been relegated to second-class citizenship in cyberland. As the spring and summer roll on, you will be hearing more about ACB's efforts. For now, I want all of you to know that the American Council of the Blind is committed to a significant escalation of our war against exclusion. Put more positively, we will be fighting for access and inclusion. We are not asking for anything extra and all of us need to remember this: We are demanding the same access to computing that every other citizen can have. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is our first wedge but, even there, we are not being helped much because the Federal Communications Commission is not presently planning to develop regulations to implement the protection built into the Act. All of us should persuade our Congress members to urge the FCC to get on with the job! We, collectively and individually, need to make information access our issue of the day and of the decade.
The Attacks On Special Services Continue
I wish I could report at this time that the National Council on Disability (NCOD) had at least provided the American Council of the Blind and the other organizations in the blindness field with the requested copy of the recommendation which it plans to make to Congress and other decision-makers regarding the elimination of specialized services for blind people. However, the only thing we have received to date has consisted of verbal requests forwarded through NCOD's executive director that we submit more specific information � about a recommendation which we have not seen and about which no organization of the blind was contacted before its preparation. George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." It appears that NCOD is determined to recommend the return to a rehabilitation service system for the blind which was essentially discarded decades ago in favor of a system which at least attempts to meet the unique needs of people who are blind or severely visually impaired. It has not been that many years, for example, since a united effort by blind people in the commonwealth of Kentucky led to the establishment of a specialized state agency for the blind there and it has been within the past year that blind people there united again to defend that agency from being merged into the general rehabilitation agency. The fact that the present system of specialized agencies and/or services is far from perfect and could be improved tremendously is apparently being viewed as a reason for going back to a system that was far worse. By the time this article goes to press we will have been in further contact with Congress, among others, regarding the divisive impact of the recommendation which we have been informed NCOD plans to make. Stay tuned! ... And The Attacks On Specialized Services Continue
So, what led you to believe that specialized services are being attacked only in the fields of education and rehabilitation? Approximately 20 years ago the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind, which later merged with the International Federation of the Blind to form the World Blind Union, adopted a resolution urging the formation of a separate international sports organization to develop and oversee sports programs for blind athletes. That resolution was based on dissatisfaction with sports programs then available to blind people through an existing international cross-disability sports organization. As a result of that resolution the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) was formed and at approximately the same time other international sports organizations were formed to provide services to people with other specific disabilities, such as cerebral palsy. Over the years the various international disabled sports organizations have cooperated to the maximum extent possible in the conduct of large international competitions such as the Paralympics and world championships. This coordination has been facilitated by a separate coordinating mechanism or confederation, which has also played an important role in representing disabled sports before the International Olympic Committee. However, in recent years that coordinating organization, the International Paralympic Council (IPC) has structured itself and adopted other policies so as to minimize or essentially eliminate any disability-specific input into the making of rules governing international competition. The proponents of these decisions insist (and isn't this argument familiar?) that the rules should be made by experts in each sport with little or no regard to the way in which that sport should be modified for each disability. They also argue in favor of cross- disability competition, which would result, for example, in races between people with different disabilities regardless of whether they happened to traverse the distance in wheelchairs, on artificial legs, on neurologically unreliable biological legs or on two good legs without the assistance of vision. IBSA officials have vigorously objected to this merging of all disabilities together and especially to a process that would allow rules to be made by those not familiar with the unique needs of blind people. In fact, at the special international assembly of the IPC held during the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, the IBSA president, Mr. Enrique Sanz Jimenez of Spain, informed the assembly that IBSA would withdraw from the IPC if blind athletes were subjected to the procedures summarized above. Readers of "The Braille Forum" will recall that later in the summer the World Blind Union at its international assembly in Toronto adopted a resolution unanimously endorsing the position of IBSA and urging the International Olympic Committee to terminate financial assistance to IPC unless it changed its policies. At the meeting of the IBSA board of directors in Rome recently considerable discussion was devoted to a partial agreement reached between the IBSA president and officials of IPC concerning recognition of IBSA for certain purposes. And in light of this agreement, however, there is still an enormous amount of progress that must be made to obtain recognition of the fact that blind people and experts of their choice are best equipped to define their needs. This issue becomes even more important in view of the fact that in most nations throughout the world there is a government agency that focuses on sports and health issues for able-bodied and disabled people. While there is not a specific federal agency entrusted with this responsibility in the United States, it comes as a surprise to many people that there is a federal mandate in the Amateur Sports Act for the U.S. Olympic Committee to encourage and assist in the conduct of Olympic sports for both able-bodied and disabled athletes.
Each year hundreds of licensed blind vendors under the Randolph-Sheppard program gather in Reno at the National Vendors' Training Conference or "Sagebrush" conference to discuss issues of vital concern to their program. One of the featured speakers on this year's program was ACB's Director of Governmental Affairs Julie Carroll, who focused on, among other things, an initiative then being promoted by the Department of Defense to remove dining hall facilities from the priority of the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The matter was being complicated by the fact that at that time the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped, which is primarily responsible for oversight of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program, was then thinking about endorsing the Defense Department's proposal. Such possible endorsement was opposed from the beginning, we are pleased to report, by committee member and former ACB president LeRoy Saunders. We are pleased to report further that at its March 13, 1997 meeting, the committee voted to withdraw its possible endorsement after hearing strong presentations by Julie Carroll and other blindness advocates. Indeed, vigilance is necessary 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
British Disability Law
One of the outstanding but little-known highlights of the recent ACB national legislative seminar, which was held in conjunction with the American Foundation for the Blind's legislative seminar, was the very informative lecture presented on Sunday evening, March 9, by Dr. Amir Majid in the nature of a comparative overview of the recently enacted British Disability Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Dr. Majid, a British-educated blind barrister and college professor who was born in Pakistan, outlined the rocky course which the British act followed into enactment, but his basic conclusion was that it fell far short of the enforcement provisions needed to make its objectives a reality. Have we heard that said about the ADA?
(Editor's Note: The position papers which were distributed to Congress as part of the legislative seminar are included at the end of this story.)
More than 120 participants in the 1997 "Tell It To Washington!" workshop co-sponsored by the American Council of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind joined forces in a blitz on Congress in early March designed to educate new members and remind old ones that blind and visually impaired Americans want strong language regarding braille and categorical services in pending reauthorization legislation. The group also urged Congress to get tough with the Federal Communications Commission and prod it to implement regulations dealing with access to telecommunications equipment as mandated in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Before the group could take Capitol Hill, it had to learn how to present those issues of greatest importance. Robin Bowen, a staff member representing Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), kicked off the legislative seminar by delineating three things ACB members should keep in mind when visiting members of Congress.
She said first, visitors should define priorities by personalizing the issues in terms of importance to the member of Congress. The second component of a successful visit is talking about the impact of programs and services on the budget. "When you're presenting the numbers," she explained, "always make them your friends." She said visitors should attempt to show how federal support makes the program or service more effective. "Try to demonstrate that the federal money is being well used, and the product or service is better or of higher quality as a result of it."
According to Bowen, the third and most important factor of a Capitol Hill visit is the re-education of members. She urged her listeners to keep close tabs on their senator or representative and know who is in office. She said re-educating the staff is critical. "Staff turnover normally averages two to three years," Bowen explained.
Following Bowen's remarks, Julie Carroll, director of governmental affairs for the American Council of the Blind, updated the group regarding the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act. "There's a possibility of a one-year extension being approved," she said, "but we're operating under the assumption that the act will be reauthorized this year." She cautioned Hill visitors to keep the message simple and focus on the importance of the preservation of specialized services and programs for blind people. She said Congress should be made aware of the importance of specialized technology and the value of independent living services for older blind Americans. "I want to remind you that Congress isn't sitting around thinking of how it can improve services to blind people. Many of them are thinking about how to get the federal government off the backs of the states. You can sell the idea that if we preserve specialized services, we give states more latitude in setting up separate commissions for the blind. Those who favor generic services would remove that option."
She said data now exists that clearly demonstrates that separate agencies do a better job at placing blind people in positions paying higher wages.
Denise Rozell, representing the governmental relations office of the American Foundation for the Blind, provided a concise background on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is up for reauthorization as of this writing. She said only the act's discretionary programs are up for reauthorization. Part B of the act is of particular interest to blind and visually impaired people because it sets forth the annual planning requirements for each child's educational team. "Some disability groups are saying 'don't do anything to Part B,'" Rozell explained. "But that's where we want the braille and assistive technology language."
At press time, no language regarding braille instruction or assistive technology existed in the Senate version of the bill; language for both provisions currently exists in the House version, H.R. 5. The braille instruction language in the House version of the bill was jointly drafted by virtually all of the organizations of and for the blind.
Scott Marshall, vice president of governmental relations at AFB, asked the group to urge Congress to intensify pressure on the FCC to implement regulations that would ensure accessible telecommunications equipment under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. "They're dragging their feet on this," Marshall explained. "The FCC is in pretty tight with industry. We don't have the resources to walk the halls of the commission every day, but industry does. We need to get Congress to understand that these regulations aren't being implemented."
The group turned its attention to a drive spearheaded by ACB to enhance congressional awareness of the Social Security linkage issue and bills introduced to correct problems which arose last year. Last year, Congress broke the linkage between blind SSDI recipients and those aged 65 to 69 regarding the statutory earnings test that allows blind people and seniors to earn money in addition to their SSDI checks. Referred to as Substantial Gainful Activity earnings, the current SGA amount for blind recipients is $1,000 per month. The earnings limit will rise significantly for seniors over the next five years, but not for blind people if the law remains unchanged. Those visiting Capitol Hill were reminded that restoring the linkage between blind recipients and those aged 65 to 69 is extremely important. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has authored the Senate version of the bill. The House version is authored by Rep. Barbara Kennelly (D- Conn.).
At the conclusion of the meeting, those in attendance fanned out on Capitol Hill to visit Congress. I. Ensuring Access to Telecommunications Technology and Services
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 included landmark disability access provisions which require that new telecommunications equipment and services be designed so that people with disabilities can independently use the equipment or service. The disability access requirements are contained in Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. Congress recognized that individuals with disabilities need improved access to gain an equal opportunity to benefit from the revolutionary changes taking place in telecommunications technology. Under Section 255, manufacturers of telecommunications equipment are required to ensure that such equipment is designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable. Likewise, providers of telecommunications services must ensure that their services are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable. If a telecommunications device or service cannot be made directly accessible to individuals with disabilities, Section 255 requires compatibility with assistive technology commonly used by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for implementing and enforcing these requirements. Unfortunately, the FCC has not yet taken action to ensure that the straightforward and future-oriented disability access provisions will be implemented by the telecommunications industry � both manufacturers and service providers.
It is necessary for Congress to ensure that the FCC takes action to implement the clear mandate contained in the Telecommunications Act by establishing the "rules of the road" for disability access. Clear and comprehensive rules will ensure that accessibility for individuals with disabilities becomes the priority envisioned by Congress when it enacted the disability access requirements. In addition, clear rules are needed to ensure that all covered manufacturers and service providers will compete on a level playing field. These rules should also cover a broad range of telecommunications services, including enhanced services, user interfaces, and software now commonly included in telecommunications products.
Further delay by the FCC will do harm to consumers and industry alike.
Why is telecommunications access important to people who are blind or visually impaired? New technology and services that are inaccessible to people who are blind or visually impaired are rapidly being deployed. Examples include: telephones and fax machines with video menus, or flat panel keypads, with no alternative access options; personal communication devices using touch-screen or pen-based input mechanisms; television and cable set-top box systems that are operated with "point and click," remote control, and on-screen interactive menus that provide the user with only visual feedback; telecommunications services that rely on visual displays, graphic icons, or interactive "point and click" menus.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 also contained important provisions which could dramatically improve access to television and other video programs for people who are blind or visually impaired. [Video description (also known as audio description) refers to a means of making television, movies and other video programming accessible through verbal (audio) descriptions of key visual elements which are inserted into natural pauses between the program's dialogue, without interfering with the original audio of a program or movie. The narration enhances understanding and enjoyment of a video program by providing verbal descriptions of essential visual elements such as settings, action, comparative size, gestures, body language, scene changes, graphics, subtitles, and costumes.]
Despite a mandate to "ensure the accessibility of video programming to persons with visual impairments" contained in Section 713 of the Telecommunications Act, the Federal Communications Commission has chosen to focus its rulemaking on video programming accessibility via closed captioning. Although Congress required the FCC to examine "appropriate methods and schedules for phasing video descriptions into the marketplace ...," the commission's study failed to adequately address these issues. Accordingly, to date, no further progress has been made to realize video programming access through video descriptions for blind or visually impaired persons as contemplated by Congress.
The FCC can exercise its discretion to adopt regulations to promote the accessibility of video programming to persons with visual disabilities.
Congress must ensure that the FCC takes action to create an equal opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired to access the new frontier of telecommunications products and services. Members of Congress are asked to write to Chairman Reed Hundt and other members of the Federal Communications Commission requesting that the commission proceed to issue regulations under Section 255. In addition, the commission should exercise its discretion to issue regulations governing video description of television and other video programming.
II. Restoring the Earnings Linkage Between Blind Social Security Beneficiaries and Retirees
During the 104th Congress, legislation was passed which raised the earnings limit for seniors so as to allow and encourage more senior citizens to remain in the work force after retirement age. In the process, an important provision of the Social Security Act, Section 223(d)(4), was disrupted, leaving behind blind workers. Since 1977, this provision established that the amount of earnings that seniors aged 65-69 could earn without losing Social Security benefits was statutorily linked to the earnings limit for blind Social Security disability insurance beneficiaries. By breaking this important linkage, the future of the earnings limit for working blind people was placed in serious question. The message sent to blind people of working age was that, while retirees are valuable contributors to the nation's work force, the work of blind people is not important.
Corrective measures have been taken in both the House and the Senate to restore the linkage between the earnings limit for seniors and blind Social Security beneficiaries. Representative Barbara Kennelly has introduced H.R. 612 to restore this statutory linkage. Senator McCain has introduced S. 375, the Blind Persons Earnings Equity Act, in the Senate to correct the problem. Why is Linkage So Important to Blind People?
The earnings limit is important to blind people because of the consequence of earning above that limit. When seniors, aged 65 to 69, earn above the earnings limit, they merely lose one dollar for every three dollars they earn. Seniors do not lose Medicare as a result of the earnings limit. By contrast, when blind people earn above the earnings limit, after a brief trial work period, they abruptly lose all Social Security benefits, including, ultimately, Medicare. Thus, it is critical to working blind people that the earnings limit not be set at an amount likely to discourage working. Just as it is beneficial to have more seniors remaining in the work force, it is important for blind people to work, earn better wages, pay taxes, and contribute to the Social Security Trust Fund.
We urge the 105th Congress to support the important legislation introduced by Senator McCain and Representative Kennelly to restore the statutory earnings test linkage between seniors and blind workers.
III. Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, provides the authority for federal grants to assist states to provide comprehensive vocational rehabilitation and independent living services to eligible persons with disabilities, including persons who are blind. Since the enactment of the Barden-LaFollette Act of 1943, the precursor to Title I of the Rehabilitation Act, authority has existed to enable a state which enacts a law establishing a separate agency or commission for the blind to assign to that entity the responsibility of providing VR services to the state's blind residents. At the present time 26 states provide these services through a separate state agency or commission for the blind.
In addition to job training and placement services, existing Title I authority also provides the basis for the funding of specialized pre-vocational services. These include instruction in braille and the use of braille, orientation and mobility services to teach blind people to travel independently through the use of a white cane, and training in the use of assistive technology. These essential services provide a foundation which must be in place before a person who is blind can enter job training.
An analysis of the most recently published case closure data from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (FY1994) shows that the specialized agencies for the blind place a higher percentage of blind persons into competitive work settings and that these closures had higher weekly earnings than did closures provided by general rehabilitation agencies.
Despite this success, proponents of generic rehabilitation services advocate for the elimination of blindness-specific programs. Finally, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 796(k) authorizes specialized independent living services to older blind individuals. Such services as braille instruction and orientation and mobility provided to older adults under this authority is the only source of funding for these services targeted to this population. We expect that proponents of the generic independent living movement will continue their attack on the services to older blind individuals program.
We urge Congress to protect and preserve the option in the Act [29 U.S.C. Sec. 721(a)] which permits states to provide VR services to their blind or visually impaired clientele through a separate identifiable commission or agency for the blind. Specialized vocational rehabilitation services for the blind must not be sacrificed into a generic service delivery model in the name of alleged greater efficiency or cost savings. This would prevent blind and visually impaired people from receiving essential specialized rehabilitation services to prepare them for employment. Similarly, the separate authorization for independent living services for older blind adults should not be consolidated with generic independent living program authority.
IV. Reauthorization of IDEA and Ensuring High Quality Education for Blind or Visually Impaired Students
We believe that every child in America should receive appropriate early intervention and education services which will ensure that he or she gets a strong start, is ready to learn and grow to be independent. Grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees that all children with disabilities have a free, appropriate, public education. For more than 20 years, IDEA has assisted states in their obligation to provide essential educational services to these students.
IDEA is a sound law which has provided a generation of students with disabilities the educational opportunities which they otherwise might have been denied. Part A, the definitions section, and Part B, the formula grant program to assist states in providing special education to their students with disabilities, are permanently authorized. Parts C through G support a variety of special education programs and services including support for personnel development, Parent Training and Information Centers, media and instructional technology, research, clearinghouses, and the development of innovative services for students who are deaf-blind. Part H provides services for early intervention for infants and toddlers. The programs in Parts C through H, called "the discretionary programs" because they exist at the discretion of Congress, expired September 30, 1995 and must be reauthorized.
Any educational system providing services to students who are blind or visually impaired must be flexible and committed to providing each student with an educational setting and specialized services that can meet a student's needs on an individual basis. Children who are blind or visually impaired were the first students with disabilities to be "mainstreamed" in the local public schools, even before the advent of Public Law 94-142, now Part B of IDEA. Local schools did not provide any curriculum, and some still do not provide an adequate one, in the specialized skills needed by a child who is blind or visually impaired to meet their unique communication and related educational needs. This often occurs because of the lack of personnel specially trained to teach blind or visually impaired children. For example, most children who are blind or visually impaired need specialized instruction in braille to enable them to participate equally with their sighted peers in school and ultimately to compete in the workplace. Unfortunately, when looking at blind and visually impaired students currently being educated under IDEA, it appears that braille is not being taught to all who could benefit from its use. In fact, the number of students who are braille readers has decreased over the past several decades to include only 10 percent of students who are blind or visually impaired. Additionally, studies show that providing a person who is blind or visually impaired with braille as a literacy tool increases their opportunities for independence and employment. Because it appears that braille currently is not being provided to the extent appropriate, a requirement for the teaching of braille to blind and visually impaired students is necessary as part of the IEP process.
In addition to assuring access to a basic education, IDEA also provides for "related services." These are the services necessary for a child with a disability to benefit from special education and are an integral part of every disabled child's education. Currently IDEA includes a non-exhaustive list of examples of related services such as physical and occupational therapy, speech pathology and audiology, and counseling services. The most important related service for children who are blind or visually impaired is orientation and mobility services (O&M), teaching a child to travel efficiently, safely and independently in a variety of indoor and outdoor environments. While O&M is intended to be provided for children who need it, as evidenced by Department of Education guidance and current practice in most school districts, it is not included in the statutory list of examples and therefore is not always provided when needed. The inclusion of O&M in the list will help assure that children who are blind or visually impaired get the related services they need to benefit from special education and successfully access educational and, ultimately, employment opportunities.
Address the significant decrease over the past several decades in the number of children who are blind or visually impaired receiving instruction in braille by requiring that training in braille be provided through the IEP;
Address the significant increase in the use of technology in the school by requiring that assistive technology, including access to telecommunications services in the classroom, be included in the IEP;
Ensure provision of the services and supports necessary to meet the specialized needs of students who are blind or visually impaired including instruction in O&M. In order to codify current practice and policy, O&M services must be included in the list of examples of related services in the statute;
Address the significant shortages of personnel qualified to meet the unique learning needs of students with low-incidence disabilities by establishing a separate program within IDEA for preparation of low-incidence personnel;
Reauthorize IDEA this year without weakening particularly the due process and parental rights provisions.
Scott Marshall of the American Foundation for the Blind acts as parliamentarian at the convention in Chicago. (Photo copyright 1994 by Natalie Sigler-Westbury.)
Texas is the state where everything is big. It is a big state with big cities, big ranches, big herds of cattle, and where cowboys wear big hats. Any Texan will tell you that bigger things have been accomplished and are taking place today in the Lone Star State than anywhere else.
The 1997 convention of the American Council of the Blind will also be very big. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States. As you might expect this year the Adam's Mark Hotel, where all convention activities will take place, has been sold out since last December. However, the Marriott West Side and the Red Roof Inn that just opened have ample rooms available. We will be repeating the excellent shuttle service that convention attendees found very acceptable last year. The Marriott West Side is six miles from the Adam's Mark but shuttle service on the freeway makes the commute only about 20 minutes.
The dates of the ACB 1997 convention are Saturday, July 5 to Saturday, July 12. Hotel rates at the Adam's Mark and at the Marriott are: single and double occupancy, $49 per night (plus tax); for triple and quad, $59 (plus tax). At the Red Roof Inn, $46 single and double (plus tax); $48 for triple and quad (plus tax), a slight change from what was stated last month. This hotel offers a free continental breakfast on peak days. There is a restaurant next door open 24 hours.
The telephone numbers are: the Adam's Mark, (800) 436-2326 or (713) 978-7400; the Marriott, (713) 558-8338; and the Red Roof Inn, (713) 785-9909 or the general Red Roof reservation number, (800) 843-7663.
Houston has two airports: Hobby and Intercontinental. Airport Express provides van transportation to and from the above hotels. Round-trip cost is $38 per person; $21 one way. Airport Express ticket booths at the airport are in the luggage pickup area.
ACB through the AAA Travel Agency of Muskogee, Okla., (800) 259-9299, has established agreements for convention travel with American and Delta airlines and with this travel agency for all additional airlines. AAA Travel of Muskogee provides discounted fares, has a profit-sharing plan with ACB and provides some free travel for ACB personnel. You will assist ACB by using this travel service. Also, if you are interested in extending your vacation, weekly cruises to the western Caribbean and Mexico now depart from Houston and AAA Travel can provide you with cruise information.
Exhibits and boutiques
If a company or agency with which you are associated is planning an exhibit, or if your chapter or affiliate would like to have a boutique at the convention, you should contact either Holly Fults at the ACB national office or Diane Bowers, exhibit coordinator, at (918) 745-0807 without delay. You will be sent information on how to apply for exhibit space.
Commercialization at the annual convention
For some time concern has been expressed about the promoting of items for sale at the annual convention. There have been complaints that some people become unduly aggressive in approaching others regarding the items they have for sale. As a result, the convention committee recommended and the board of directors approved the following policy. 1. Except when requested as a part of a presentation or demonstration by ACB or an affiliate, information regarding for- profit commercial ventures will only be allowed in the convention program in the list of exhibitors or through paid advertisement such as advertisement in the convention program, convention packet inserts, or sponsorship of the convention newsline or newspaper. Announcements about such commercial products or services may not be made during the general sessions or the convention program except to identify speakers or donors of door prizes. 2. Not-for-profit ventures are encouraged to exhibit or advertise at the appropriate rate. They may be listed as sponsors of convention events. 3. Affiliates are encouraged to take advantage of reduced rates for exhibit boutiques or to use appropriate paid advertising methods. Promotion of sale by individuals of products, services or raffle tickets in areas other than the exhibit hall or through paid advertising may only be done by an ACB member on behalf and for the benefit of ACB or one or more of its affiliates. Such promotion or sales cannot be disruptive of ACB convention events or interfere with movement of attendees to and from convention functions (including the exhibit hall), shuttles, or other hotel facilities.
This year the pre-convention overnight tour, July 4 and 5, includes a visit to San Antonio. While there, you'll visit Fiesta Texas, San Antonio's great showplace with four theaters, the San Jose mission, and, of course, the Alamo. You'll also take the exciting boat ride on the San Antonio River. After lunch at Hailey's Restaurant, your visit to Fiesta Texas will begin with a film on San Antonio, then it's on to the shows, the many displays, and the great Six Flags theme park rides for those who are interested. Dinner will be included in your visit to this showplace.
On Saturday, after a continental breakfast at the Comfort Inn which will be your place of lodging for Friday night, it's on to a tour of the San Jose mission and the Alamo. These missions were established in the 18th century by Spanish padres to convert the Tegas Indians, for whom Texas was named, to catholicism, and to advance Spanish culture north of the Rio Grande. After the visit to the Alamo, it's on to a narrated boat ride on the famous San Antonio River. This will be followed by lunch at the Palomo Del Rio Mexican restaurant. From there, it's time for the return trip to Houston, arriving around 6 p.m.
Those taking this tour must be at the bus pick-up site at the Adam's Mark at 7:15 a.m. Friday. This year, if you are late, you will miss the tour and there will be no refunds. There will be some entertainment on the buses and a rest stop.
The cost of the tour is $150; $175 if you sign up when the buses are departing. That assumes there is room. This cost includes transportation by air-conditioned motor coach, some entertainment on the way, admission to all tour sites, one night's lodging double occupancy, lunch both days, dinner Friday evening, and a continental breakfast Saturday morning. If you must have a single room on Friday night, be prepared to pay an additional $25.
Reservations are required for this tour. Please contact ACB's Minneapolis office at 120 S. 6th St., Suite 1005, Minneapolis, MN 55402-1839; phone (612) 332-3242. Reservations will be accepted after April 1 and will only be confirmed when full payment is provided by Visa or MasterCard number, check or money order made payable to ACB Convention 1997. Each motor coach will include several volunteers and there will be an ACB person in charge, but individual guide service will not be available unless you secure and pay for your own guide.
Additional tours during the 1997 convention will include: the Houston city trip Saturday, July 5, repeated Sunday, July 6; trips to the Science and Industry Museum, the space center, the Moody Gardens and perhaps the railroad museum at Galveston, the Astrodome � no baseball game, the Astros are not scheduled � the greyhound dog tracks, Houston agencies for the blind, and a dinner theater Saturday evening, July 12. The Wednesday evening feature will be either a trip to a western ranch for a barbecue and entertainment or a dinner cruise on the bay. Watch the May issue of "The Braille Forum" and the pre-registration packet for more information.
Be sure to join your ACB colleagues for a great convention in 1997!
The morning of Thursday, February 27, dawned warm and breezy in Washington, D.C. as a hearty band of about 150 disabled protesters gathered at the gateway of the soon-to-be-dedicated Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial site. The rally was called to order by Jim Dickson, renowned blind sailor and disabled voting rights advocate and organizer, who now works for the National Organization on Disability which organized the rally. An inspiring invocation was given by the Rev. Claudie Grant, who is a blind minister from Arlington, Va. The invocation was followed by a series of rousing speeches given by disabled people representing various disability groups. The speeches were interspersed with musical selections from the civil rights movement and protests of the 1950s and '60s.
The thrust of the speeches was that our great country should be ashamed that the memorial to our greatest disabled leader should deny his status as a disabled person. It fails to depict him even once as a disabled person in the statuary and bas- reliefs scheduled to be included in the seven-and-a-half-acre memorial site. Well-known disabled individuals such as Evan Kemp, former chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Justin Dart, former commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration called upon the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Commission and the Interior Department's National Park Service to reconsider their decisions regarding the design of the memorial so that at least one depiction of Roosevelt as a disabled person could be included. These leaders also intimated that if their calls for reconsideration fell on deaf ears, they were prepared to engage in further protests which might include acts of civil disobedience. If further protests occur, they will happen prior to the May 2 scheduled dedication date. The ACB convention, through passage of resolution 96-01, has expressed its concern and disappointment that the current design of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial fails to include even one depiction of President Roosevelt as a disabled person. The resolution also calls upon the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Commission and the National Park Service to develop educational materials which candidly acknowledge President Roosevelt's status as a disabled person.
As a symbolic gesture near the end of the rally, Jim Dickson stapled a picture of President Roosevelt to the gate of the construction site for the memorial and called upon the pertinent public officials to stop hiding Roosevelt's greatest source of character and strength: his disability and his battle to overcome it. Even though the park police tore down the picture of President Roosevelt in a wheelchair within minutes of its installation, the gathered disability rights advocates left the rally with a sense that an important message had been sent to relevant decision makers.
Commencing in 1981, three licensed blind vendors under the supervision of Nevada's Randolph-Sheppard licensing agency, the Nevada Bureau of Services for the Blind (NBSB), operated vending facilities under indefinite permits granted by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation at the Hoover Dam. Two vendors operated the Snacketeria and the Dam Store located at the Dam's Visitors' Center. In 1988 the Bureau of Reclamation proposed to move these two vendors to temporary trailer sites in order to expand the Visitors' Center and parking facilities. The vendors were not satisfied with the Bureau of Reclamation's plans for temporary facilities for their locations, so at their own expense, they built their own temporary facilities and moved their inventories to them. During this time, however, the NBSB and its licensed blind vendors were reassured in writing on several occasions by Bureau of Reclamation officials that upon completion of the new Visitors' Center and parking facilities, the two vendors and their existing inventories would be moved into the new locations at federal government expense.
Despite these earlier assurances, when the new Visitors' Center and parking facilities were completed in 1994, the Bureau of Reclamation contended that by moving their inventories at their own expense to their temporary locations, the vendors had somehow waived their entitlement to have the Interior Department pay to move their inventories to the new facilities. Even more startling, the Bureau of Reclamation now argued that the vending locations in the new facilities fell within a narrow exception in the Randolph-Sheppard regulations, thus making them not subject to the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority. The bureau went on to contend that the vending locations at the new parking garage could only be operated by the state licensing agency and its vendors if mutually agreed-to contract terms could be achieved. The bureau adamantly maintained that the state licensing agency and its vendors must pay monthly rent for the new parking garage facilities and must also pay a percentage commission upon their gross sales.
For its part, the state licensing agency and its vendors rejected the contract arguments of the federal property management agency, and the vendors continued to operate their businesses from the temporary location they'd occupied since 1988. NBSB and its vendors believed that they had a right under the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority to operate vending facilities at the new parking ramp under their existing indefinite permit. That permit did not demand payment of any rent or commission on gross sales. The state licensing agency also contended that it had just discovered the existence of several vending machine sites at the Hoover Dam site, and that the Bureau of Reclamation had failed since 1975 to pay the state licensing agency and its vendors the appropriate share of income due from those machines.
When negotiations on these issues broke down, NBSB filed a complaint for arbitration with the U.S. Department of Education, which convened a three-member arbitration panel. After taking several days of testimony from witnesses, hearing oral arguments from attorneys on both sides, and reviewing written motions from both sides, a divided arbitration panel announced its final administrative decision in the case on August 30, 1996.
The panel majority, consisting of chairman J.C. Fogelberg and panel member Robert Humphreys, held that the exceptions to the Randolph-Sheppard priority urged by the Bureau of Reclamation were a strained interpretation and did not apply and that therefore the priority and its normal indefinite permit provisions applied to the vending sites located in the new facilities. The majority rejected Interior's argument that the new locations would not provide an economically viable location to the blind vendors because there were fewer than 100 federal employees working at the site and the site arguably contained less than 15,000 square feet of working space. The panel held that the interior parking space within the ramp should be counted as working space, thus taking the vending facilities outside of the narrow exception to the priority. The majority also pointed out that such exceptions are in the implementing regulations for the protection of and must be claimed by the state licensing agency and its vendors and cannot be imposed upon them by the federal property management agency. In this case NBSB had never claimed that the vending facilities at the new parking garage were economically unviable. In fact, the state licensing agency vociferously argued that these locations' economic viability was not dependent upon the number of federal employees who frequented them but upon the large number of tourists who used their services. The panel majority went on to hold that the state licensing agency and its vendors were entitled to operate the vending facilities at the new parking garage under their existing indefinite permit without the payment of rent or commissions on gross sales. Lastly and stunningly, the panel unanimously held that the Bureau of Reclamation must conduct an audit to determine the income from the recently discovered vending machines since February 7, 1975, and that the Bureau of Reclamation was liable to pay the state licensing agency and its vendors 30 percent of the total pursuant to the vending machine income-sharing provisions of the Randolph-Sheppard Act implementing regulations. This final aspect of the arbitration panel's award could result in the state licensing agency and its vendors receiving a truly staggering monetary bonanza.
The dissenting arbitration panel member, Shannon Bybee, steadfastly followed the Bureau of Reclamation's strained interpretation of and arguments regarding the exception provisions of the regulations. The dissenting opinion characterized the Bureau of Reclamation's demands for monthly rent and commissions on gross sales only as the bureau's opening position in negotiating a reasonable contract with the state licensing agency and its vendors. Remarkably, however, even panel member Bybee joined in the majority's stunning award of nearly 22 years of back vending machine income-sharing payments.
This arbitration decision under the Randolph-Sheppard Act represents an enormous victory for the state, but more importantly for the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority and the rights of all blind vendors.
(Editor's Note: Our review of the Business Memo digital recorder (March 1996) generated enough interest that I thought you'd find the following review of another digital recorder of value.)
I was first introduced to the Voice-It digital recorder in April 1995 and have not been without one since. For those of us who are blind or visually impaired and have difficulty jotting down brief notes, the Voice-It provides a very effective alternative to pocket-size notebooks, micro cassette recorders, or cocktail napkins. While some may support the use of Braille for such purposes, I believe the Voice-It is more functional for on-the-go note taking. Some advantages of the Voice-It include: one-handed operation, mobile operation � the ability to fully operate it while walking, and the unit's capability to record and play back short notes on the fly. Let me be clear about one thing: This device is no replacement for proficient Braille skills. Many times you will still want to transcribe a note from the Voice-It as a more permanent record. However, the Voice-It is a well-designed product, reasonably priced, and has tremendous applications for blind and visually impaired people. I have found it to be an extremely useful tool and almost never leave home without it.
The Voice-It is a miniature personal digital recorder, the size of a standard credit card and about one and a half times as thick. Its slim design allows it to slip comfortably into a pants pocket or hand bag. Ergonomically speaking, the Voice-It's design is excellent. There are no sharp corners or edges and the operating buttons are large and laid out in a clear, intuitive fashion. Crafted of high-quality plastic, with a membrane surface covering the domed buttons, the Voice-It looks good and more importantly, feels good.
A description of this little high-tech/low-tech product wouldn't be complete without a few words of praise for its creators, Voice-It Worldwide, Inc. The folks at Voice-It really have done a marvelous job of developing a very user-friendly product. Their work is evident by the Voice-It's simplicity and straightforward ease of use. Containing only seven or eight buttons, depending on model, the Voice-It is very easy to learn to use. All the buttons are located on one side of the unit and arranged into two logical clusters. The three buttons located on the lower end are record, erase last, and erase all. They are arranged in a triangular manner and are easily referenced by their distinctive positions. The remaining four buttons are located near the top of the device and control how messages are played back. The three playback control buttons are logically arranged in a horizontal row. The button on the far left plays the prior message, the one in the center plays the current message, and the one on the right plays the next message. The fourth button in the playback cluster is located directly above the next message button. It is used to control such things as turning confirmation tones on or off, turning on a blinking light to alert the user that there is a message waiting, or on some of the advanced models, to select the message channel or category. All of the various Voice-It personal notetaker models are laid out in an identical manner. Once you learn to use one, you have basically learned to use them all.
I refer to the Voice-It as a high tech/low tech device because it is in reality an extremely advanced piece of electronic technology but it also is very easy to use. Sometimes it is difficult to believe something as internally complex as this product can be so simple to operate. To record a message, all the user needs to do is press the record button once and begin speaking. When finished with the message, just press the record button again and it's done. To play back your message, simply press the playback button once and your message is spoken back to you in your own voice. To add more messages, simply repeat the recording procedure, pressing the record button once to begin your message and again to end your message. When you have several messages recorded, you can play them back by pressing the playback button once for each message. Each press of the playback button will advance forward one message. Should you wish to hear a previous message, simply press the prior message button just to the left of the playback button. Each click of the prior message button interrupts the current message and jumps you directly to the beginning of the previous message. Similarly the user can jump forward through messages by clicking once per message on the next message button just to the right of the playback button. Should you want to jump to the beginning or end of all your messages, simply hold down either the prior or next message button slightly longer until two beeps are heard instead of the single beep for one message and you are taken all the way to the beginning or the end of your messages. When you are through with a message and want to get rid of it, just press the erase last button once after listening to it. When you hear the two short beeps, it is erased from memory, freeing memory space for new messages. Should you wish to erase all your messages, hold down the erase all button for a second or so until two beeps are heard and all messages will be deleted, restoring the unit's full recording capacity.
In addition, the folks at Voice-It Worldwide are genuinely interested in universal access design in their product line. They seem to truly realize that "the masses" include people with disabilities and they are constantly improving their products toward this objective. For example, the first generation of Voice-Its had red and green lights (LED) to give visual feedback to the user but no comparable sensory feedback system was provided for those who couldn't see the lights. Recognizing this situation could be a problem for some users, the developers at Voice-It included verification tones along with the lights on their next generation of products. This type of universal design has now been incorporated into all of their products.
The current Voice-It product line includes five credit card size personal digital recorders, the Voice-It message center with four separate user channels, and their newest entry, the Voice-It Manager. With the exception of the message center and the Voice- It Manager (not described in this article), the major difference between the various Voice-It models is recording time.
The five Voice-It models discussed in this article range in recording time from 40 seconds to over 8 minutes. Specific models include: the VT-40 with a recording time of 40 seconds and a suggested retail price of $49.95, the VT-90 with 90 seconds of recording time at $64.95, the VT-180 which holds up to three minutes of messages for $79.95, the VT-300 with a 5 minute message capacity at $89.95, and the VT-540 holding 8 minutes for $109.95. I have located these products in electronics superstores and warehouse office supply stores for about 20 percent less than the suggested retail price.
Some of the ways I use my Voice-It include: making reminders to myself as they pop into my head, capturing phrases and fleeting thoughts related to something I am writing or a project I am working on, or getting down someone's phone number or their e-mail address. I have also found it to be invaluable when traveling. I use it to record everything from bus and train schedule information to airline gates, departure times, and seat assignments. It's just so easy and convenient to use I am always coming up with new applications.
After carrying one of these little guys in my pants pocket for nearly a year and a half, I have found them to be very reliable and durable. I can honestly say I have never lost a message due to equipment failure. The only time I ever lost any messages was when I accidently pressed the erase all button when I put my very heavy briefcase on my lap on a crowded bus and my Voice-It just happened to be in the wrong position in my pocket. The erase all button ended up right under the corner of my laptop computer and that did the job. Since then I have learned to always try and carry my Voice-It with the buttons facing in toward my leg. Aside from leaving it out in the rain or running it through the washing machine, the Voice-It seems to be highly resistant to damage. Although I haven't ever directly abused mine to see how far I would have to go to break it, I have dropped it a few times and it survived fine.
The Voice-It is powered by miniature replaceable batteries which the manufacturer states should last six months or so. In my real-world use, I am pleased to report that my first set of batteries lasted about a year. Since the Voice-It uses standard miniature batteries, they are readily available and competitively priced.
As you can probably tell by now, I think the Voice-It is a great product with lots of useful applications for blind and visually impaired people. It is small, easy to use, relatively inexpensive, reliable, and very well designed. In addition to all these features, it is a tool that, right out of the package, can be used by people who are blind or visually impaired. For these reasons, I would like to encourage anyone who thinks this product may be of benefit to them to check it out. I don't think you will be disappointed.
For more information about the Voice-It product line, contact: Voice-It Worldwide, Inc., 2643 Midpoint Drive, Suite A, Fort Collins, CO 80525; phone: (970) 221-1705; fax (970) 221-2058.
Jeffrey C. Senge is the Information & Computer Access Program Coordinator for the Office of Disabled Student Services at California State University-Fullerton. He may be contacted by phone at (714) 449-5397 or e-mail at [email protected].
The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.
The "Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind" completed 90 years of uninterrupted publication with its March issue. The magazine, founded in 1907 by Mrs. William Ziegler, brings a broad sample of the variety of reading material available to print readers. It came into existence following a serendipitous meeting of Mrs. Ziegler, who had a blind son, and a Tennessee newspaper man, Walter G. Holmes, who had a blind brother and knew how hard and expensive it was for blind people to find materials they could read. After meeting Mr. Holmes, Mrs. Ziegler agreed to pay all the costs of an embossed magazine if he would edit it. The first edition was mailed to subscribers in March 1907, and required two horse-drawn wagons to haul the mail bags to the post office. The magazine also pioneered the privilege now known as "free matter for the blind or handicapped." In 1910, Mr. Holmes instigated legislation that would allow magazines for the blind to be mailed postage-free. The publication is now available in braille and half-speed four-track cassette. For subscription information contact Ziegler Magazine, 80 8th Ave., Room 1304, New York, N.Y. 10011; phone (212) 242-0263, or e-mail [email protected]. The magazine also has a home page, http://www.zieglermag.org.
The Jewish Heritage for the Blind is offering a limited supply of the large print Megilas Esther and the Haggadah. To request the Megilas Esther, contact the Jewish Heritage for the Blind, 1655 E. 24th St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11229; phone (718) 601-9128. To request the Haggadah, write to the Jewish Heritage for the Blind, Department of Large Print Publications, at the same address listed above.
The 1996 edition of the manual entitled "On the Move in the Great Outdoors" by Robert J. Redington is now available on a four- track tape from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, 200 Ivy St., Brookline, MA 02146; phone (617) 738-5110, in Massachusetts, (800) 682-9200. It costs $5. It describes the techniques of walking along roads and paths with the cane, dog or sighted guide, and how blind people and their guides can go trail hiking, backpacking and camping, tandem biking, canoeing, rowing and cross-country skiing.
Visions has five vacation opportunities at the Vacation Camp for the Blind. Trip A, from July 2-5, is called "Horizons Unlimited." It is limited to 30 visually impaired adults (18 years and over) with special needs and multiple disabilities. It costs $500; a minimum fee of $100 must accompany your application. Trip B, "Chez VCB," will be held July 13-24. It is limited to 120 guests, adults only, including independent single adults, couples, seniors and a limited number of guests with special needs. You can choose to come for six or 12 days; $60 per day is the fee. A required minimum fee of $10 per day must accompany your application. Trip C, "One Family," scheduled for July 28 to August 8, can also hold 120 guests, including families with children, young adults, and/or seniors. Pick six or 12 days; $60 per day is the fee. A fee of at least $10 per day for adults and $5 a day for children must accompany the application. There will also be two trips of the "Tour de Force;" the first, scheduled for July 7-12, and the second, August 10-16. Each tour can handle 45 guests, blind or visually impaired adults (and sighted spouses) who must be able to travel independently, administer their own medications and need no assistance with daily living skills. These tours will have three escorted trips, including restaurant meals and admissions to such places as the Westchester Broadway Dinner Theater, West Point, horseback or buggy rides, etc. Tour #1 is $225/single, $425/couple; tour #2 is $265/single, $470/couple. All fees must accompany the tour application; check, MasterCard, Visa, and American Express are accepted. Fee includes round-trip transportation from New York City to camp. For more information, or an application, call Visions at (212) 425-2255, extension 107 or 124.
The International Leadership Forum for Women with Disabilities is set to be held June 15-20, 1997, in Washington, D.C. It will be co-chaired by the U.S. Social Security Administration and the Department of Education. This is scheduled as a follow-up to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women that was held in Beijing in 1995. It will offer sessions and workshops on exemplary practices and projects in the areas of leadership development, health services, education, employment, technology, advocacy and public education, and electronic networking. In addition, there will be a pre-forum Institute on Leadership Development in Eugene, Ore., June 1-14; for details on the institute, contact Cindy Lewis at P.O. Box 3490, Berkeley, CA 94703, phone (510) 848-9808. For more information on the leadership forum, contact Kathy Martinez at the World Institute on Disability, 510 16th St., Oakland, CA 94612; phone (510) 251-4326.
National Braille Press is putting together the "1997 Blind Community E-mail Directory." If you are not already in the directory and would like to be added, please send your e-mail address, city and state to [email protected] by May 16. The directory includes blind individuals and blindness-related organizations.
Maurice Brockman is looking for a manual typewriter in good working order and a Perkins brailler for a 19-year-old blind student in Malawi who has passed his nation's secondary school exam. If you can help with the donation of a used typewriter and/or Perkins brailler, or money to purchase such items, please contact Maurice Brockman, Treasurer, American Council of the Blind of Indiana, 3806 Pepperchase Ct., Bloomington, IN 47401-8425; phone (812) 334-8141.
"Cat Lovers Only" is a cassette that discusses the nature of domestic cats, their physical and emotional needs, and the history of cat-human relations. The tape is two hours long, and frequently speaks of the author's personal experience with his cats. It costs $14.95. This tape and others are available from BFI Audiobooks, 1397 Hope St., Stamford, CT 06907; phone (800) 260-7717 or fax (203) 968-2255. For more information, contact the company.
Lelar Gravatt can handle airline reservations, motel reservations, car rentals, package tours, group tours and cruises. She tries to put her blind clients' itineraries on tape or braille cards, and provides other special services to assist blind travelers achieving maximum independence while traveling, according to an announcement from the company. Call her at (208) 983-0687, or write to: Your Travel Consultant, Lelar Gravatt, 227 SE 5th St., Grangeville, ID 83530-2119.
Under a marketing agreement, Telesensory will be marketing Henter-Joyce's JAWS for Windows software through Telesensory's dealer network. JAWS for Windows is also available through Henter- Joyce's own network of sales representatives and dealers. Telesensory will continue to market ScreenPower for Windows in parallel with JAWS for Windows.
Plans for a school reunion are under way for former students, employees, and friends of the Mississippi School for the Blind formerly located on Capers Avenue. This celebration is slated for August 29-31. All those interested in participating should contact Gwendolyn Stokes as soon as possible at (601) 982-7014, or write her at 987 Chastain Dr., Jackson, MS 39206.
There are several new products available for youth with disabilities and their families from the PACER Center. "I Am A Beautiful Person: Sexuality and Me" is a 13-minute video for parents to use as they begin discussing sexuality with their child or teenager with a disability. It is closed captioned and sells for $35; it can be rented for $10. The center has prepared a workshop outline, "Sexuality and Youth with Disabilities," including transparencies for overhead projectors. This outline and accompanying sheets help professionals teach parents how to address sexuality issues and nurture the development of healthy sexuality in their disabled child. The outline costs $10; a set of 21 transparencies costs $126. "Transition Trek" is a board game that offers an entertaining opportunity for exploring life after high school. The game can be played with family or friends; it will help teens with disabilities answer questions like "Where will I work?," "Can I go to college?," "What are my rights?," and many others. It comes with instructions, score sheets, game board, cards, die, and six markers; it costs $35. To order any of the above, contact the PACER Center, 4826 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55417-1098; (612) 827-2966 (parents in Minnesota, call (800) 537-2237).
FOR SALE: Optelec Spectrum Jr. CCTV with color monitor. Under warranty. Asking $1,950 plus shipping. Call (520) 282-4895.
FOR SALE: One Optelec 20/20 and color CCTV. Still in shipping container, never used. Asking $1,500. Call (215) 381-3066.
FOR SALE: Artic Business Vision with internal synthesizer card; also, a VersaBraille II Plus and a dot matrix printer. Will accept any reasonable offer for any item mentioned. If interested, call (615) 883-6946.
As the cherry blossoms peak and fade here in Washington, my thoughts turn to hot weather, summertime, and the upcoming ACB national convention in Houston, Texas. I recall all of the progress and achievements in countless fields which ACB has accomplished for the benefit of blind and visually impaired people in recent years. I know those milestones are not garnered easily; they result from dedication, perseverance and sacrifice, and their price is not cheap. Monetary resources are an essential factor in the accomplishment of the many milestones we've gained.
Each year at the ACB national convention, individuals who have paid life membership dues or who have made the commitment to do so by paying an initial installment are awarded life membership certificates during a plenary convention session. Life membership dues in ACB are $1,000, but those dues may be paid in five annual installments of as little as $200 each. If we as blind leaders and advocates really believe in the causes which our organization pursues daily, then we must step forward and make our personal commitment to those causes by becoming life members of ACB. In a real sense, we as blind people must do it for ourselves; if we don't, no one else is likely to do it for us.
I would not ask others for such a commitment unless I had made the same level of commitment. As a fully paid life member of ACB, I am respectfully requesting that other like-minded interested and concerned members and friends of ACB make the commitment to join with me and the ever-growing legion of life members, thereby supporting ACB's ongoing efforts to increase society's awareness and responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of blind and visually impaired people everywhere. State and special-interest affiliates can also do their part by paying life membership dues on behalf of their living members who may be particularly deserving of such an honor. Interested individuals or affiliate leaders should contact James R. Olsen, Assistant Treasurer, at 120 S. 6th St., Suite 1005, Minneapolis, MN 55402-1839, (612) 332-3242, before the opening of the ACB national convention, to obtain further information. I hope that this year, as in recent years, we can have another bumper crop of at least a dozen new life membership certificates awarded at our Houston convention. I would love to have an overflow crowd at this year's life membership reception held in the president's suite during convention week.
ACB wishes to thank its many members and friends who gave so generously in response to our fall 1996 letter requesting support for ACB's ongoing programs and services. This partial list of donors reflects only those people who gave us their approval to publicly acknowledge their gifts.
Russ Riemann, Anchorage, AK; Jeff Lang, Talladega, AL; Mary C. Paar, Gadsden, AL; Edna M. Baker, Little Rock, AR; W.C. O'Connor, Marmaduke, AR; Ellen Gregory, Farmington, AR; Imogene Johnson, Little Rock, AR; Robert Maxwell, Little Rock, AR; Bert Mullens, Russellville, AR; Dick Seifert, Little Rock, AR; Timothy L. Ayres, Youngtown, AZ; Robert & Faye Williams, Phoenix, AZ; S.J. Dumler, Phoenix, AZ; Alan Gore, Phoenix, AZ; John E. Lane, Mesa, AZ; Valarie Lintz, Phoenix, AZ; Stanley F. Oliver, Sun Lakes, AZ; Edward Schuler, Arizona City, AZ; Melody Banks, Riverside, CA; Ralph Black, Sacramento, CA; Gary Lee Clayton, Glendale, CA; James Conway, Alameda, CA; Peter-Marc Damien, San Francisco, CA; Ann P. DeLint, Cerrito, CA; Gregory A. Fowler, Mountain View, CA; John Gasper, Merced, CA; Burnette E. Hall, Yucaipa, CA; Sylvia Halote, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA; Lillian G. Harman, Yucaipa, CA; Mr. & Mrs. Russell Johnson, Modesto, CA; Virginia Katsanes, Union City, CA; Kim Joseph Lingo, San Diego, CA; William H. Martin III, Fresno, CA; Clifford A. Munger, San Rafael, CA; Jill O'Connell, Carlotta, CA; John D. Partridge, San Lorenzo, CA; Mitch Pomerantz, Los Angeles, CA; Janet Lyn Powell, Lakeside, CA; Mr. and Mrs. William Saunders, Walnut Creek, CA; Peter Schustack, San Luis Obispo, CA; Jinger Valenzuela, Glendale, CA; Deryal Wilkerson, San Pablo, CA; Marion & Hazel Beal, Pueblo, CO; Marge Gallien, Colorado Springs, CO; Nellie Garcia, Wheat Ridge, CO; Irene McAlister, Denver, CO; Ernest & Rosalie Gay, East Hartford, CT; Carol Gillispie, West Haven, CT; Anna Godrie, Fairfield, CT; David Goldstein, Bridgeport, CT; Howard Goldstein, New Haven, CT; Bernard W. Kassett, Tolland, CT; Barbara Lombardi, Shelton, CT; Marcia Nigro, Hamden, CT; Roberta Douglas, Washington, DC; Thomas Miller, Washington, DC; Charles Allen, Orlando, FL; Frank A. Bartola, Winter Park, FL; Lorraine Betz, West Palm Beach, FL; Gladys Burck, West Palm Beach, FL; Robert J. Carter, Venice, FL; Beatrice David, Tampa, FL; Evelyn Dellavolpe, Ocoee, FL; Denyse Eddy, Winter Park, FL; Herbert & Marion Eiermann, Orlando, FL; Ned & Alice Engle, Lakeland, FL; Mr. & Mrs. William J. Ferrell, Merritt Island, FL; Frances Golden, St. Petersburg, FL; Ion J. Holdridge, Sparr, FL; James Kracht, Miami, FL; Bernard Krebs, Plantation, FL; David J. Lewis, Margate, FL; John W. Manchester, Orange City, FL; Grace Moulton, Tallahassee, FL; Luis Oliva, Carol City, FL; Doris Petersen, Dunedin, FL; Fred Scheigert, Vero Beach, FL; Sarah K. Schenck, West Palm Beach, FL; Henry B. Stern, Lake Worth, FL; Connie Stolp, Maitland, FL; Peggy Williams, Stuart, FL; Mr. Kim Haynes, Marietta, GA; Junaita Matthews, Savannah, GA; Charleen Doi, Honolulu, HI; Cynthia Hirakawa, Honolulu, HI; Milton M. Ota, Honolulu, HI; David & Ardis Bazyn, Cedar Rapids, IA; Roger Eggerss, Shelby, IA; LuAnn Emmen, Harlan, IA; Kenneth Erb, Mt. Pleasant, IA; Roger H. Larson, Eagle Grove, IA; Frank Strong, Jr., Des Moines, IA; Lelar Gravatt, Grangeville, IA; Dorothy Klotz, Post Falls, ID; Dorothy M. Robertson, Salmon, ID; Karyn Bartler, Glen Ellyn, IL; William Byers, Chicago, IL; Ray Campbell, Glen Ellyn, IL; Leslie Hansen, Naperville, IL; Natalie F. Miller, Evanston, IL; Dan Neuwelt, Chicago, IL; Robert O'Shaughnessy, Chicago, IL; Charles E. Rosenbom, Harwood Heights, IL; Terry Ann Sauermann, Arlington Heights, IL; M.J. Schmitt, Forest Park, IL; Virginia Staver, DeKalb, IL; Susan M. Vlazny, Glenview, IL; Father Boni Wittenbrink, Belleville, IL; James J. Barnes, Crawfordsville, IN; Maurice E. Brockman, Bloomington, IN; Thomas Eade, New Castle, IN; Agnes V. Grinnan, Carmel, IN; Ruth McLain, North Vernon, IN; Mary Richey, Goshen, IN; Jerry Ellis, Medicine Lodge, KS; Donald & Leanne Enos, Wichita, KS; Kathryn Hynes Smith, Manhattan, KS; Mildred Meck, Girard, KS; Lucille Miller, Topeka, KS; Howard and Glenna Morrow, Overland Park, KS; Ernest C. Aldridge, Louisville, KY; Mr. C.D. Baron, Louisville, KY; Lewis & Anna Cain, Louisville, KY; Loretta Curry, Louisville, KY; Thomas L. Lutes, Bardstown, KY; Susan B. Robertson, Louisville, KY; Emma T. Heath, Kenner, LA; Billie L. Bentzen, Berlin, MA; Marion Cole, Braintree, MA; Virginia M. Dean, Cambridge, MA; Jan Doremus, Braintree, MA; Donna Fanelle, Medford, MA; Rose M. Mathews, East Harwich, MA; Joyce Nadell, South Weymouth, MA; Judy Savageau, Worcester, MA; Edward I. Snyder, Williamstown, MA; Donna Evans, Bowie, MD; Audrey Koch, Rockville, MD; Milly Lillibridge, Baltimore, MD; Francis & Sheila McKeown, Baltimore, MD; Janet Merrick, Rockville, MD; Jane Sheehan, Silver Spring, MD; John Sutton, Salisbury, MD; Gary L. McLaughlin, Bangor, ME; George Roderick, Augusta, ME; Linda J. Byers, Battle Creek, MI; Louis J. Cantoni, Detroit, MI; Sandra Fortier, Kalamazoo, MI; Ruth Hall, Kalamazoo, MI; S.A. Humphries, Farmington Hills, MI; Margaret Hunerjager, Niles, MI; George & Sue Illingworth, Redford, MI; Elizabeth Lennon, Kalamazoo, MI; Arthur Miller, Zilwaukee, MI; David & Rosemary Miller, Union, MI; Mr. & Mrs. Frederic T. Neumann, Lansing, MI; H. Kirkland Osoinach, Cross Village, MI; Bonnie Weaver, Dearborn Heights, MI; Edward D. Bender, White Bear Lake, MN; Ottila Gilliland, St. Louis Park, MN; John Huffman, Burnsville, MN; Lonnie Lanning, Little Canada, MN; Mike & Elaine Vining, Minneapolis, MN; Lola Garner, Matthews, MO; William Jackson, St. Louis, MO; Ann Murphy, Rolla, MO; Allen & Jackie Lemaire, Hazlehurst, MS; W.R. Sallis, Jackson, MS; L. Byron Burney, Raleigh, NC; Dawn Hoppes, Shelby, NC; Tony Hoppes, Shelby, NC; Kenneth R. Pond, Charlotte, NC; James Faimon, Lincoln, NE; Don & Viv Pohlmann, Hastings, NE; William H. Higgins, Portsmouth, NH; Edward Fedush, Garfield, NJ; Richard J. Foy, Hamilton, NJ; Dennis Hartenstine, Red Bank, NJ; Joan Leonard, Edison, NJ; Robin M. Braun, Las Vegas, NV; Ronald Malcolm, Henderson, NV; Walter Barrett, Jackson Heights, NY; Joan O. Brown, Rochester, NY; George Downey, Long Island City, NY; Fred & Jo Durham, Mineola, NY; Jacob Goldfein, New York, NY; Leon Goutevenier, Port Washington, NY; Richard Hutcheson, Potsdam, NY; William Kirchgaessner, Rego Park, NY; Mark H. Leeds, Riverdale, NY; Alice Lockwood, Brentwood, NY; Mike O'Brien, Troy, NY; John Persich, Westbury, NY; Mary Randall, Astoria, NY; James Ricciardi, Oyster Bay, NY; Margaret Ricciardi, Oyster Bay, NY; Carol Roy, Bronx, NY; Paul & Mary Sauerland, Hicksville, NY; Ken Stewart, Warwick, NY; Helen Whelan, Seaford, NY; Patricia A. Wisner, New Hartford, NY; Kevin Wollenweber, Valley Stream, NY; Dr. & Mrs. Douglas V. Austin, Toledo, OH; Todd Bauer, Windham, OH; Richard & Gina Bird, Cleveland, OH; Dawn Christensen, Holland, OH; Patricia Dunsmoor, Brunswick, OH; Marilyn Huheey, Columbus, OH; Kent Lions Club, Kent, Ohio; Thomas L. Tobin, Shaker Heights, OH; Alga D. Weaver, Dover, OH; Robert Wiesenberger, Rocky River, OH; Janet Cahalan, Edmond, OK; J. Norman Mashburn, Lawton, OK; Jean Owens, Grove, OK; Margaret Alvarez, Durham, OR; Cathy Bickerdike, Keizer, OR; Charles Brown, Salem, OR; Mildred S. Dill, Coos Bay, OR; Kitt A. Jordan, Portland, OR; Peggy Martinez, Ashland, OR; Margaret Reznicsek, Salem, OR; Rana McMurray Arnold, State College, PA; Frank Beam, Dickson City, PA; Connie L. Bortzfield, Lancaster, PA; Rose Dockton, Philadelphia, PA; Joanne Davidoff, Wyndmoor, PA; Sebastian & Theresa Demanop, Havertown, PA; Catherine Deraco, Philadelphia, PA; Jennifer Goldfeder, Yardley, PA; Stacy Keller, Wexford, PA; Mr. & Mrs. H. Lecke, Yardley, PA; Janice Hargick, Shenandoah, PA; Evelyn Kaufman, Philadelphia, PA; Mildred Mahan, Waterford, PA; Marita Mathews, Pittsburgh, PA; Edward McKelvey, Abington, PA; Pearl McMichael, New Brighton, PA; Hannah Meyer, Philadelphia, PA; Ann Porter, Lancaster, PA; Margaret Sutter, Pittsburgh, PA; Beulah F. Brazzell, Columbia, SC; Patsy Jones, West Columbia, SC; Mary A. Trivison, Hilton Head Island, SC; Arnold & Betty Auch, Sioux Falls, SD; Joyce Eggleston, Huron, SD; Kevin P. Puetz, Rapid City, SD; Cindy E. Adams, Elkton, TN; John R. Adams, Elkton, TN; Herbert G. Jared, Knoxville, TN; Kathy J. Lamb, Nashville, TN; Bobbie Mezei, Clarksville, TN; Rubern Arrambide, San Antonio, TX; Margarine Beaman, Austin, TX; Miriam C. Birdwell, Jourdanton, TX; Jo R. Cassidy, Cypress, TX; George Gray, Pasadena, TX; Edward Guerra, Austin, TX; Joe & Gretchen Smith, Kerrville, TX; Trent Florence, Bountiful, UT; Richard & Nadeen Hackwell, Ogden, UT; Ernest Heyborne, Cedar City, UT; Ray E. Nelson, Salt Lake City, UT; Eugene & Eileen Wood, Salt Lake City, UT; Missy Estep, Richmond, VA; Eunice Fiorito, Alexandria, VA; Charles Hodge, Arlington, VA; Nancy Porter Jenkins, Richmond, VA; Patricia A. Lambert, Arlington, VA; Susan Montella, Virginia Beach, VA; Sandra Neuzil, Reston, VA; Sonny Roberts, Woodbridge, VA; Kathy Sullivan, Alexandria, VA; Roy & Mabel Ward, Richmond, VA; Norman Case, Bethel, VT; Richard & Katherine Erickson, Burlington, VT; Shirley Hartley, Barre, VT; Irma Judge, S. Burlington, VT; Anna Levasseur, Brattleboro, VT; Joann Nichols, Brattleboro, VT; Lloyd Anderson, Lynnwood, WA; William Manke, Kent, WA; T.P. Waldron, Spokane, WA; Roger A. Behm, Janesville, WI; Kathy Brockman, Milwaukee, WI; Dorothy M. Coello, Milwaukee, WI; Walter F. Johnson, Milwaukee, WI; Walter D. Kander, West Allis, WI; Donald Lehmann, Kenosha, WI; Adelheid Maciola, Milwaukee, WI; Carroll Macpherson, Milwaukee, WI; Carolyn Neerhaf, Oostburg, WI; Rachel Wilson, Milwaukee, WI; Donna Brown, Romney, WV; Sharon Fridley, Nitro, WV; Ninetta Garner, Romney, WV; Marjorie Stump, Thermopolis, WV.
Sue Ammeter, Seattle, WA
Ardis Bazyn, Cedar Rapids, IA
John Buckley, Knoxville, TN
Dawn Christensen, Holland, OH
Christopher Gray, San Jose, CA
John Horst, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Kristal Platt, Omaha, NE
M.J. Schmitt, Forest Park, IL
Pamela Shaw, Philadelphia, PA
Richard Villa, Irving, TX
Carol McCarl, Chairperson, Salem, OR
Kim Charlson, Watertown, MA
Thomas Mitchell, North Salt Lake City, UT
Mitch Pomerantz, Los Angeles, CA
Jay Doudna, Lancaster, PA
Ex Officio: Laura Oftedahl, Watertown, MA
20330 NE 20TH CT.
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FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
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SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
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CRYSTAL TOWERS #206 NORTH
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IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
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ELIZABETH M. LENNON, Kalamazoo, MI