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(Editor's Note: This is the full text of President Edwards's report to the ACB National Convention in Houston.)
My report of ACB's activities during this past year will focus on some of the positive and some of the negative experiences we have had and will look ahead to ACB's next year as well.
Let me talk first about our relationships with other disability organizations. For the first time in my memory, we found ourselves with potential enemies within the disability movement. Enemies may be too strong a word because our aims correspond with many of the activities of the organizations with whom we have disagreed this year but we clearly had differences that isolated organizations of and for the blind from other disability groups. The issue, as most of you know, concerns whether blind people have the right to choose who should provide services to them. We categorically believe that services can best be delivered by separate agencies for the blind. Other disability groups believe that services are better delivered through a cross-disability service delivery model. In December of 1996 I participated in two major telephone conferences that were beamed to many independent living facilities across the country. It is to the credit of National Council on Independent Living and other organizations producing these telephone meetings that they were prepared to allow me to state our case. While I may not have persuaded too many people in those organizations to change their positions, I do feel I had an opportunity to express our views and, based on some correspondence received afterwards, I certainly did make our position clear.
Then, in the spring of this year, the National Council on Disability decided to adopt a position that was similar to the NCIL pronouncement, and I found myself going to Santa Fe, N.M. to the National Council on Disability's quarterly meeting to try to persuade them not to adopt a divisive position such as the one they proposed to accept. They did not adopt a position that opposed separate agencies but they did recommend a General Accounting Office study that would focus only on blindness agencies to determine whether the separate agency model was actually more successful or not. Obviously, we had to oppose that kind of position. Why should you isolate one particular disability and focus on that instead of looking at the many others that are inappropriately served by more than one model? Both the NCD and NCIL also adopted positions that attempt to get other disability groups covered by a section of Title 7 of the Rehab Act which currently only authorizes services to older blind people. I didn't succeed at persuading them to change that position either.
Of course, ACB was not alone in our opposition to these policies. We worked closely with all organizations in the blindness system on these issues and, while there was not sign-off on all the positions we chose to take, there was widespread agreement about the direction we needed to go. ACB found itself isolated from the rest of the blindness system or much of it, perhaps only because we continued to act on our belief that coalitioning is still valuable and that we need to keep the lines of communications open with other disability groups, even those with whom we disagree. Ladies and gentlemen, I continue to believe that coalitions are valuable and necessary, and ACB will continue to seek to cooperate with NCIL, NCD and every other disability group when there are issues where we can work together. ACB will continue to oppose positions taken by those or any other organizations when they jeopardize the rights of blind people! And I must tell you that I am disturbed that organizations that claim to be in favor of consumer choice and who say they think that disabled people should be able to make their own decisions did not respond to the unequivocal and unanimous decision made by blind people about the kinds of services all of us want!
The importance of holding firm on this issue was demonstrated all through this year by the continuing efforts of some states to do away with separate agency status. While Illinois appears to have lost ground this year, I want to recognize the extremely hard work of the members of our affiliate there who have certainly made their legislators aware of their feelings and may well have assured some separation of administration for programs for the blind in Illinois. We will need to continue to work in Illinois along with other organizations to protect service delivery for blind people. In Nevada, there was a real danger that a report requested by the legislature would persuade them to make undesirable changes in the service delivery system for blind people. I am glad to report that Dave Krause and the Nevada affiliate were able to persuade the legislature not to take action at that time. I want to pay tribute to both the Illinois and Nevada chapters and to many other state affiliates for their continuing advocacy for the right of blind people to effective and separate services.
During the coming year we cannot relax our vigilance. Blind people deserve discrete services, and ACB will continue to regard protecting those services as an absolute priority. All of you will need to help! All stakeholders must be persuaded that the special needs of blind people for services no other disability group needs are not open to negotiation.
ACB sought to cooperate with many organizations this year. At our board meeting this year in September, the board approved the exchange of delegations of four people each between the National Federation of the Blind's convention and our convention. I assured the board that I wouldn't agree to the exchange unless there was clear evidence that the NFB board had considered the issue and unless we could publicize the plan as a joint decision taken by both organizations. As things worked out, we did not exchange delegations. I am saddened by this because I truly do believe that it is imperative that blind people work together whenever they can to assure that nobody can use our division against us. We must continue when we can to work cooperatively with the National Federation of the Blind. I truly do believe that we are able to talk with each other and, while our positions will and do sometimes differ, I am satisfied that both our organizations aim to do what we believe to be what is best for blind people. We will not always agree but I pledge to all the blind people of this country that ACB will work to cooperate when we can so that when blind people speak, we'll speak with a united voice. There are just too many places where blind people are under attack for me to propose anything else!
The American Council of the Blind has continued to work with many organizations in the blindness field and I am satisfied that we have built relationships with the leaders of those organizations that will serve us well in years to come. This year, as many of you will know, we held our legislative seminar in conjunction with the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind. I would like to express here our appreciation to the Foundation for subsidizing some of our members so that they could attend the Taylor seminar. I do not believe that our collaboration was an unqualified success and we will need to work to make sure that our needs are well met by our future participation in this seminar. However, I want to make two comments. First, the American Council of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind can bring to Capitol Hill in Washington many of the strongest consumers and many of the strongest professionals in the field of blindness. If we can go there with a united voice and together, I believe we are making a statement that is both important and significant. Second, there has already been one important consequence of our participation. There is a national coordinating body working to develop and implement what is called The National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youth with Visual Impairments, including those with Multiple Disabilities. We have been asked by this group to appoint a representative to their board. Had we not been at the seminar, I do not believe we would have been asked.
Later this year, the American Council of the Blind will be hosting a meeting of the North American and Caribbean region of the World Blind Union jointly with the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville. This, too, is significant. As we work with other organizations, they will come to better understand where we stand and our knowledge of what they do and how they feel will also be expanded.
In that connection, I was honored to be invited to make two presentations at the recent National Industries for the Blind conference in San Diego, Calif. I am pleased to tell you that, with one exception, all the feedback I have received to my efforts there have been positive. My objective there was to suggest that agencies and consumers need to forge partnerships. We are our own best allies and we must learn to change the way legislatures perceive services to blind people. We need each other and we can have a significant impact on how things are done at agencies serving blind people, whether they are associated with NIB or not!
Later this fall I will be attending the meeting of the National Council of State Agencies Serving the Blind. Here, too, we must seek to build a capacity for cooperation where we can. I know that we can work together to build stronger service delivery models and to protect the 26 states where there still are separate agencies from attacks that are inevitable and will come. But we have not always been able to agree with the National Council of State Agencies, but we have always been willing and able to speak to each other, and I'm convinced that over the next few months we'll forge an alliance that will be rock-solid.
In addition to all these activities, I attended two meetings of the North American/Caribbean Region of the WBU (World Blind Union), and I also attended the U.S.-Canada Technology Conference sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind. I had an opportunity to visit with Ritchie Geisel, who is director of RFB&D (Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic), at his headquarters in New Jersey. The American Council of the Blind also, of course, held two separate board meetings outside of those at the convention and held our mid-year meeting for affiliate presidents.
Perhaps our most important area of collaboration this year is an initiative I announced last year. The work of the four- organization task force on information access continued all through this year. Brian Charlson and Julie Carroll represented the American Council of the Blind well as members of this group which also includes representation from the American Foundation for the Blind, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired and National Industries for the Blind. We made some small steps forward this year but we still have very far to go. All of you will need to get behind our efforts so that manufacturers and regulators alike will know that blind people truly care whether they will be left out of the education and information revolution. This year we determined that we had to step up pressure on Microsoft and begin better collaboration with other manufacturers of software and hardware in the field. We also advocated for strong regulations from the Access Board and have begun to look for other ways we can impact the system. It is my hope that next year we will have more tangible results that I can report!
I have so far concentrated on external affairs. Let me now turn to some issues within the American Council of the Blind.
I must begin by thanking my board of directors, my officers and, in particular, my executive committee who have been of immense help this year. I would also like to thank those of you who served on committees or as committee chairs. Without your help we would not be able to function in all the areas where ACB must demonstrate a presence. Let me also take this moment to thank our American Council of the Blind staff. Many of those on our staff are new this year and all at our national office and at our ACBES office have worked hard and long to assure that we are well-represented. This year the board adopted an evaluation system for the executive director which is going some distance to help us define what the shape of our national office will actually be. We're making substantial changes based on our long- range plan and we can and should expect our executive director to take a stronger leadership role.
The staff at the headquarters of our American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services office also had an excellent year! By the way, ACBES has also adopted this year a business plan which should make our fund-raising arm stronger over the next few years. The ACB Development Committee that was required by the bylaw change last year has met by telephone just before convention. I took a long time putting this committee together because it is so crucial in determining what ACB's future growth is going to be like. Our next meeting will be a full-day face-to-face meeting where we will develop for board approval proposals about how we can best increase our assets and improve our available cash so that we can expand our services to blind people.
Within ACB we have also worked to implement our long-range plan. In particular I would like to single out Stephen Speicher for the work supervising this activity and I would also like to particularly commend the committee chaired by Diane Bowers who has produced and continued to work to change a document on Affiliate Rights and Responsibilities, which could be one of the most important documents we'll work on for the next several years. It will define how we work with each other and will help us look at ways we can improve what we now do.
Brian Charlson worked this year as the primary liaison with committees. Through no real fault of Brian's, I do not think our committees have functioned well this year. We're going to need to look at change if we are to succeed at making our committees more functional. For those of you on committees who have done good work this year, well done! For those who have not performed as well as you might, I hope that you will recognize that your commitment to work on committees is not something that should be taken lightly. ACB is more than just a convention every year! We need to be active on a broad range of fronts between conventions. Our committees must function! We cannot afford another year of mediocre performance!
I'm going to be working, in fact, and right near the end of my report tonight you'll hear a proposal that I'm going to make that I think may go a long distance towards helping the committee structure, because each of our officers will actually supervise some committees pretty soon. Next year different officers will supervise committees and that should improve how well we all manage to operate!
There are two more internal concerns that I want to draw to your attention. This year through the excellent work of the membership committee, we completed a survey of people who allowed their memberships in state or special-interest affiliates to lapse. The results of that survey are disturbing! At its core, the survey suggests that there is much we need to do if we are to be able to say that we are doing a good job of retaining our members. The survey made recommendations to the board, many of which will be implemented. The success of this survey shows that we need to utilize approaches such as this and the Rights and Responsibilities paper to help us learn how we can and should change what we do so that we can become an even more effective voice for the blind people of this country.
The second issue I want to highlight is our convention! I believe we have reached the point where we need to take a hard look at how we arrange conventions and what we expect from them. While I am recommending that we continue to utilize the convention committee as our primary way of handling our convention planning, I am also conscious that we need more input and assistance from the national office. As a result, I am going to be asking Oral Miller, our executive director, to act as co- equal chair of that committee, along with whoever is chosen as the chair of that committee. This is an unusual approach but the national office has a huge role to play in conventions. I want their input to be both direct and continuous! The committee will be asked to also prepare a report for the board by our mid-year meeting that will focus on changes that they believe need to be made in how we handle conventions. It appears that we lost not just one, but several attractive bids this year because we couldn't make a decision about them. We may be at a point where our membership may need to look at adopting guidelines each year rather than adopting bids. I don't know where this will go, but I do know that the current situation isn't serving us well! There are just too many issues that we need to take a hard look at so that we can make our convention as good as it can be. It is the centerpiece of our year! We simply must assure that we are looking at all the options that may be out there! Should ACB hire professionals to plan more of our convention now that we are as big as we are? Should we look at entering into a multi-year bid with a hotel chain so that we can assure that lower rates will stay with us? How can we assure that we move all over the country and don't end up as we appear to have over the past few years, confine our conventions to southern states? These are hard questions that go to the very core of how we do what we do but we must face the fact that the times they are a-changin' and the bus may be leaving without us!
I have left some very good things till the end as well as the major proposal for change that I want to make. The best things are all of you! I have had the opportunity to visit 14 affiliates this year. That involved a lot of travel for me but it also gave me a wonderful opportunity to get to know a great many of our members in person! I got to see the diversity of approach that our affiliates are taking! This year I will be able to see more of this diversity as I am already committed to attend conventions in Georgia, Missouri, Virginia and Pennsylvania. It is at the state and local level that our true strength lies. Those who are leading our state affiliates should be very proud of what they are doing. Our strength lies in what they do and in what the leaders of our local chapters do as well! I am constantly filled with pride as I go from state to state and see just how effective we are as an organization. Please join me in thanking our state affiliates and local chapters for all they do!
And, ladies and gentlemen, everywhere I go I am constantly reminded of the efforts of our special-interest affiliates as well. I may find myself involved in a braille literacy celebration or I may find myself caught by a low-vision seminar, or I may find myself involved in computer-related training or advocacy, or I may find myself running across a copy of "Pawtracks" or folks who tell me about the Guide Dog Users International. The accomplishments of our special-interest affiliates shine too! Join me in thanking special-interest affiliates for all they do!
I've said before, in other places, and I'll say once more now, the most important thing we can do at this convention, ladies and gentlemen, is celebrate each other. And celebrate our ability together to become and build the kind of system for helping each other to become all we can be that makes ACB the great organization it is.
And now I come to what turned out to be the highlight of my year! In June of this year I had the privilege of representing the American Council of the Blind in Australia. I attended the convention of the National Federation of Blind Citizens of Australia which was held in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. There is a full report of their convention in our July "Forum," which I commend to all of you. It was great fun writing it, and even more fun attending their convention. I cannot tell you just how much of an impression Australia made on me. You will understand better when you do read my report! But one of the things that the National Federation of Blind Citizens of Australia does, however, has direct relevance to my report to you. They have four vice presidents, each of whom has specific areas of responsibility. That's not so unusual, but this is: the vice presidents are required to present a report to the membership of the organization about what they are doing and the membership is then given an opportunity to ask questions about their projects. I am going to be using a similar approach this year. I will be using all of my officers but will be giving each one of them some very specific assignments. They will be reporting back to you next year at our convention in Orlando. If the system works, we can look at whether we should change our bylaws. What I want to do immediately is find a way to create even more shared leadership than I have been able to do for the first two years of my presidency. If you are going to be able to choose who your future leaders ought to be you must be given more opportunities to hear from them and to see what they can do. And I think this experiment will give you that chance! I also think it will take some of the pressure off me as your president. I must admit to all of you that doing as much as I have this year and trying to do a full-time job as well has not been easy!
I have spent much time in this report outlining some of the challenges we have faced this year. Next year doesn't get easier! We are still faced with the prospect of Rehab reauthorization where many changes we oppose have been proposed and may find their way into the Senate version of the bill. We still need to assure that the Federal Communications Commission adopts a rule that is as strong as we can make it so that access to the information superhighway for blind people won't become a sham! Social Security reform, better access to one-stop centers and a need to work to assure that the regulations for the recently reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act legislation maximize educational opportunities for blind children and young people are just some of the challenges we will face.
I think this has been a good year for the American Council of the Blind. We have made many strides forward. I have received numerous letters from many of you that have helped me to know that some of the directions we are going are the right ones. I thank all of you who took the time to write me either using traditional mail approaches or e-mail. We certainly did not please everyone. On a list serve in June, there was a comment that deserves quotation. The writer, a former member of the American Council of the Blind by the way, wrote in part: "It's a truism that without a dependent constituency, no advocacy power structure can long survive, so all of these structures have a vested interest, despite their rhetoric to the contrary, in fostering and maintaining dependency. If true social and economic integration were to happen overnight, every advocacy organization in the country would be out of business and a lot of highly paid authority figures would be out of work, since most of them have neither the skills nor the personalities to work in the real world. Nobody is less interested in true freedom for disabled persons than the disability lobby and their fellow travelers, disabled people who've been conned into believing that with just a few more laws and the exercise of just a little more pressure, utopia can be achieved."
Well, Mr. Smith, I disagree! In fact, I disagree with virtually everything you say! Over the next year, the American Council of the Blind has a lot of work to do! And I can safely promise that utopia will not arrive on my watch and I am proud, very proud, of the huge number of committed people within our organization who can get past the cynicism and bitterness that this message from Mr. Smith exemplifies to see that, without our efforts, the lot of people who are blind would be considerably poorer! I am saddened that anyone could be so bitter about a group like ours!
Ladies and gentlemen, that's the end of my report to you, but, by the way, in preparation for the real world, please increase my salary!
It is tempting while preparing this report to merely look at the office schedule or calendar and simply comment on a few of the highlights, but that temptation must be resisted because not all of the important things which ACB does are shown on a calendar. For example, for the past several weeks the ACB national office has benefitted from the employment, cheerful personality, industry, ingenuity and sense of humor of its 1997 national college intern, Ms. Susan Olson of Little Rock, Ark. Susan has just graduated from Henderson State University of Arkadelphia, Ark., with a major in English and education. She completed her teaching internship at the Arkansas School for the Blind, from which she had graduated, and while in Washington has lived on the campus of Georgetown University with hundreds of other college interns from throughout the United States. She is "into fitness," having competed in track and field sports both in high school and college, and, in her own words, "loves to shop and travel." The members of the staff of the ACB national office have truly enjoyed having Susan with us and we believe her internship has been the positive experience which this program was expected to be when it was set up a number of years ago. We wish Susan the best of good fortune as she moves on into her life and we are confident she will be successful.
It was, indeed, a pleasure to see the participation of our 1996 intern, Jim Denham, our 1995 intern, Paulette Monthei and our 1994 intern, Sandra Pickett Evans during the recently completed 1997 ACB national convention in Houston, Texas. Both Jim, who has just graduated from college, and Paulette, who is still in college, participated actively in the program of the National Alliance of Blind Students, and Sandra participated in various activities in her professional capacity as the Public Information Director of her employer, Envision (formerly Wichita Industries and Services for the Blind) of Wichita, Kan. International Visitors
The ACB national office has been visited by a number of international guests in recent weeks. For example, we were fascinated to learn of the work of the Blindness Protection Association of Taipei, Taiwan, and to learn more about the status of the blind and services for blind people in Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Namibia as we met with participants in the recently completed International Leadership Training Conference for Disabled Women. The members of the national office staff and many other ACB members in the Washington metropolitan area also enjoyed visiting with and hosting members of a delegation of blind and sighted visitors from Japan whose trip was coordinated by the staff of the Japan Federation of the Blind. The delegation members had expressed a preference beforehand to stay in the homes of typical Americans rather than in hotels and we want to thank the ACB members and staff members who served as host families. Members of that delegation as well as guests from Malaysia, the People's Republic of China, Canada and several other nations took part as active participants in the 1997 ACB national convention in Houston.
In recent weeks it was ACB advocacy director Mark Richert's pleasure to participate in the state convention of the ACB of Texas. At the same time I was enjoying my participation in the state convention of the Vermont Council of the Blind. These affiliates, though thousands of miles apart, share one thing in common ■ dedication to serving their members and other blind residents of their states. That dedication was underscored by the presentations of several Texas members during national convention plenary and special-interest sessions and by news from Vermont soon after my return to the effect that the organization had obtained a small grant to be used for improving library services for the blind.
For many years representatives from the field of blindness who attended the annual national conference of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (PCEPD) found it difficult to meet with their counterparts in the blindness field. To help remedy this situation a few years ago the Oregon Commission for the Blind, Blindskills, Inc. and other organizations hosted a reception for representatives from the blindness field and the results were outstanding. This year this young tradition was continued and with great success as ACB and several other national blindness organizations hosted an extremely well-attended reception during the PCEPD conference. Scores of representatives attended and agreed enthusiastically that the practice should be continued as a way of enabling representatives of a low-incidence disability such as blindness to meet and discuss common concerns.
Over the years the ACB national office has served as the official or unofficial test or evaluation site for many different assistive devices. How many remember the "Talking Optacon," the talking dictionary and the digital pocket recorder, among others? How many have ever heard of the "virtual mouse" for use with computers? This is a product designed for use with Windows 95 by a Canadian company. Editor Nolan Crabb is in the process of evaluating the device as this issue goes to press. He will also be evaluating the Eureka Braille Computer for a review in a future issue of the magazine. And how many have ever wondered if the omnipresent laser printer could be used to produce braille as well as graphical characters? One corporation which recently demonstrated its equipment to national office staff believes that such production may be feasible. In early July, we were visited by representatives of a Japanese company who brought samples of braille produced via a modified laser printer. While the braille is not exactly what we're used to in terms of height and sharpness, it has potential for quick jobs such as braille/print
Because the 1997 ACB national convention adopted 40 resolutions, the staff is going to be busy in coming months implementing those resolutions. In order to stay up to date on what is happening regarding those resolutions as well as important legislative, regulatory and judicial matters that will impact on the lives of blind and visually impaired people, continue to call the Washington Connection, (800) 424-8666. In recent months the hours during which staff can be contacted directly on the toll-free line were expanded by 20 percent as a way of providing more service to ACB members and the general public.
The 1998 convention of the American Council of the Blind will take place at the Clarion Plaza Hotel, 9700 International Dr., Orlando, FL 32819-8114, July 3-10. Telephone numbers for reservations are (800) 627-8258 or (407) 352-9700. The rate is $55 per night (plus tax) for up to four people per room. The overflow hotel is the Quality Inn Plaza, located within easy walking distance with just driveways to cross. The address is 9000 International Dr., Orlando, FL 32819; phone (407) 345-8585. More information will be available later this year.
Phil Hatlen of the Texas School for the Blind moderates a panel discussion on where blind children should be educated.
Cynthia Towers reads the names of her nominating and seconding speakers in her run for re-election to the position of secretary.
(Reprinted with permission from "The Blind Californian," Summer 1997.)
"I am looking for a job, but just can't find anything," is a comment that I often hear from individuals who are seeking employment or who feel stuck in their present jobs. If you are in this situation, I challenge you to ask yourself the following questions: 1) How much time have I spent in my job search over the past one, two, or even six months? 2) Was sending out resumes to employers my primary "job search" tool?
I want to focus on the "how to's" of an effective job search. As many of us know ■ maybe all too well ■ looking for a job is hard work! And that is how one needs to view a job search: as though it were a full-time job. To send out a few resumes every once in a while or to be only looking for the "ideal" job description is NOT an effective way to search for a job. An individual who is serious about his/her job search will do the following:
* Set a routine schedule. Establish certain days and times each week to devote to your job search. Keep this schedule and arrange other activities around it. For example, Sundays from 2- 5 p.m., Mondays 8 a.m. to noon, etc.
* Dress for work and sit at a desk or table. You will be more productive, take yourself more seriously, and be less distractable if you dress for the occasion. Sitting at the same desk or table during each session will bring continuity and structure to the routine.
* Begin your week on Sunday. It is estimated that the heaviest response from Sunday newspaper job listings takes place by mid-morning Tuesday at the latest. Responding quickly can improve your chances of consideration if there is no stated deadline. You have more time if there is a stated deadline. (Note: Answering newspaper advertisements is not the most effective job search tool, as many believe.)
* Keep yourself organized. Develop a recording system which will include a copy of the job announcement or your notes as to the qualifications and responsibilities, contact information, date and place the announcement was advertised. Most importantly, record the action taken: was a resume sent? telephone call made for further information? a letter of recommendation or sample project included when resume was sent? etc. Keep track of the date and individual(s) spoken with, and information provided as follow-ups are made. After sending out several resumes, you don't want to say "what position did I apply for?" when an employer calls from Working Wise company.
* A cover letter is expected, even if it is not requested. A cover letter introduces you and your resume to the reader. The letter should identify what position you are applying for, how you learned of the position (especially if someone else referred you), what your experience is and why you are qualified. Additional information that will give the reader a clearer understanding of who you are as a person is encouraged. This is also an opportunity to discuss breaks in employment, organizational membership/leadership experience, and personal qualities. Employers have stated that they have thrown away resumes sent without cover letters. If possible, try to address the letter to a specific person.
* Use the prospective employer's terminology. People like persons who use similar words and ideas. Try to use key words/phrases from the announcement in your cover letter and resume. Be cautious not to overuse the words and to add your personal flavor as well.
* Standard advice is to not state salary history, even when this information is requested. This can be used as a screening tool before looking at anything else (you don't want that) or you may ask for less than the employer has in mind. State in the cover letter that you are interested in discussing salary during the interview or after a mutual fit is realized. When salary is discussed, try to learn what the employer has in mind first and then offer a wide range. If you do not have paid work experience or have worked for very little, research what the average salary is for the type of position that you are applying for at the company or its competitor. Then give a range around the average amount with an explanation that now that you have experience, you feel you are well worth the salary.
* Reward yourself. Establish a time to relax and have fun each week after you have "worked" on your job search. You need to set short term (weekly) goals and feel good about achieving them. This will help you realize how much you are "working" and remain hopeful.
Following these tips will help you keep a positive attitude and stay healthy during your job search. Your hard work now will result in a job in the long run!
On May 1, 1997, the people of Great Britain went to the polls in a general parliamentary election which resulted in an enormous and truly historic change in the British political landscape. The conservative government of Prime Minister John Major ended up losing over half of the parliamentary seats it held in the last Parliament, and the new Labor Party and its leader, incoming prime minister Tony Blair, were swept into office with the largest Labor majority in British electoral history.
Shortly after his appointment by the queen as prime minister, Tony Blair named David Blunkett, the re-elected Labor member of Parliament for the Sheffield-Brightside constituency to be the new secretary of state for education and employment. Blunkett, who was a Sheffield City Council member from 1978 to 1988, was first elected as a Labor Party member of Parliament in 1987. From 1992 until the most recent election, he served in a number of capacities in the Labor Party's shadow cabinet. Blunkett happens to be totally blind and uses a guide dog, and he is the first blind cabinet minister in history. He will be a very important cabinet minister in the new Labor government, judging from Queen Elizabeth II's speech from the throne at the state opening of Parliament on May 14. In her speech, the queen announced that one of her new government's highest priorities will be to introduce and pass through the House of Commons comprehensive reform of Britain's educational system in order to guarantee greater fairness, access and availability of educational opportunities to Britons of all socioeconomic classes. Thus, David Blunkett as secretary of state for education and employment will play a key role in the success or failure of the new Labor government in this session of Parliament.
In addition to Blunkett's elevation to the status of a government cabinet minister, the Labor Party also succeeded in electing Anne Begg as a new member of Parliament from the Aberdeen-South constituency in Scotland. Begg has used a wheelchair since her teenage years as a result of a rare blood disease. She has been a well-known disability rights advocate in Scotland and is the first wheelchair user elected as a member of Parliament in British electoral history. She is widely thought of among British political pundits as one of the rising young Labor Party stars in the new crop of recently elected Labor members of Parliament from Scotland. We wish both Blunkett and Begg well as they take on the challenge of their new parliamentary responsibilities.
The ACB of Ohio will hold its convention November 7-9 at the Holiday Inn on the Lane in Columbus. Its theme is "Exploring Your Options." Workshops will focus on employment, education and recreation. Mitzy Friedlander will be the banquet speaker. Returning favorite activities include water aerobics, a meeting of the guide dog users group, and entertainment by Don Haines. The exhibit hall will be expanded this year; it will feature access equipment, adaptive aids, and mainstream vendors such as Tupperware, Avon and some toy companies. Pre-registration is $65; forms will be sent in September. Contact the ACB of Ohio, P.O. Box 21488, Columbus, OH 43221-0488; phone (800) 835-2226 (Ohio residents only) or (614) 221-6688.
Seems everywhere you turn these days, some journalist is trying to scare you to death by warning you about the latest personal crisis. The air you breathe will kill you; what you eat will doom you to a short and tragic life; and the latest one, appliances and gadgets are taking over your house, rendering empty electrical sockets an endangered species. OK, so maybe that's not a crisis, but wouldn't you love to have one appliance that isn't such a specialist in its field, so to speak?
Take radios as an example. How many of them do you have in the house? I'll bet you have more than two, and some of us have even more than that. Then, there's the TV: Let's see ■ there's a little one in a bedroom probably and another one elsewhere in the house capable of receiving the Secondary Audio Program (SAP) channel so you can hear audio description.
Just once, wouldn't it be wonderful to have a portable high- quality device that can receive AM and FM radio signals, your local radio reading service, TV audio signals, and the SAP signal which lets you hear audio-described programs? If I were to tell you that such a device exists, you might suggest that having that many capabilities in one unit means lots of things have been compromised. Such a unit exists, and there's very little about it that is compromising in any way.
If you're truly worried about the dangers of appliance clutter and the corresponding lack of empty electrical sockets, you might check out the Radio Shack Optimus 12-604 AM/FM/TV radio which has been modified to receive both Secondary Audio Program and Subsidiary Communications Services by FM Atlas Corp. of Esko, Minn.
Allow me to briefly explain what all this technobabble means so you don't throw down the magazine in disgust. Chances are, you're familiar with regular FM radio and even TV audio signals that you hear any time you operate a radio or TV. For the purposes of this review, we'll refer to those signals as the main channel or main signal. What you may not realize is that the same station that sends your favorite song or sitcom to you also can send additional information as part of that signal. This additional information can only be understood by TV sets and radios equipped with decoders that can turn this seemingly hidden information into music, news, foreign language programs, and of course, TV programming which includes verbal descriptions of visual events.
FM broadcasters can send signals in what is called the Subsidiary Communications Service (SCS) formerly known as SCA. You may have a radio in your house which can receive the main channel of an FM public radio station and a subcarrier channel that carries your local radio reading service. This is a good example of a main channel and an SCS channel. A radio reading service, of course, is a facility that broadcasts books, magazines, newspapers, and other information. The radios you get from your radio reading service are usually set to one station only. So you can hear the local paper from the radio reading service or whatever is available via the main channel simply by flipping a switch on the radio. If you take this radio reading service unit with you on vacation to another city, it likely won't work at all.
For the past 20 years, Bruce Elving of FM Atlas Corp. has been in the business of modifying a wide range of radio receivers so they can receive and play these special SCS signals. Elving's radios can be tuned to different stations. So if you visit another city, you will be able to hear the reading service in that community.
One of the newest radios in his rather varied product line is the Radio Shack Optimus 12-604. Of course, you can learn more about this radio by visiting any Radio Shack, but don't talk to the salesman about radio reading services or descriptive video. The radios at Radio Shack won't be modified to hear those signals. You will at least be able to gain some knowledge regarding the radio's appearance at Radio Shack. Only FM Atlas will sell this radio modified.
The unit operates on AC power or six D-cell batteries. I'd call it portable, but it's not small. It has separate bass and treble controls, a sliding switch that lets you select the band you want to hear FM, AM or TV and a large tuning knob.
I live in an area that makes life tough for radio and TV signals. Despite my location, this radio performs incredibly well. This unit has some tremendous ability when it comes to playing weak FM signals which are nestled against some strong ones. It's ability to select the weaker signal and reject the stronger one is outstanding. The radio has provisions for an external antenna, but it performs admirably with the telescoping one. In fact, it has several terminals for a variety of external antenna cables including 300- and 75-Ohm cables. There were so many connections, and that part of the manual that dealt with them was diagrammed such that the connection options were confusing. I've found that listening to the subcarriers of relatively weak FM signals is best done with an external TV antenna, but a simple T-shaped dipole can do a nice job as well.
The SAP portion of this radio is ultra clear in my area. WETA Channel 26 with its Descriptive Video Service offerings is as clear in the radio as it is on cable. There's a real novelty for me of being able to flip a switch from the main channel and hear the DVS programming so clearly and crisply. Within seconds of the end of the DVS program, I can quickly and easily tune to the FM band and hear the Metropolitan Washington Ear, our local radio reading service.
The radio reading service comes in quite nicely using the telescoping antenna.
There are actually two tuning knobs on this radio once Mr. Elving has modified it. The smaller of the two knobs lets you tune the SAP or SCS channels for clarity. The magic of this radio is its ease of use. A toggle switch lets you jump between the main channel and the SCS or SAP channel. When listening to a radio reading service, you■re bound to hear some signal from the main channel. This is referred to as "crosstalk" and it varies depending on how loud the signal from the main channel is and how far away you are from the station. The quality of the filtering and other factors in the modified radio will also affect the quality of the sound of your radio reading service. The radio I purchased came with Elving■s Elf 2 adapter. That just means you can tune the radio among various subcarrier channels on the FM band. The audio amplification and speaker in the unit are excellent. You can eliminate some hiss on distant weak stations by adjusting the treble control slightly. On main channel FM or TV broadcasts, you'll be pleased with the sound of the radio. It's not stereo, but it sounds as good as any mono radio can.
There are generally two subcarrier or SCS channels available from most FM stations. Your radio reading service probably broadcasts on a frequency of 67 KiloHertz (kHz.) or 92 kHz. The modified Radio Shack unit can tune either of these frequencies, and the tuning is convenient. There are no covers to remove,no dip switches to set; simply slowly turn the knob on the back of the radio until you hear the signal at its best.
The Manual: I found the small printed manual that came with the radio relatively straightforward and easy to use. You can easily tell when you■re operating in SAP or regular TV mode. There■s very little about this radio that■s complicated, so the manual is quite small.
Battery Life: I installed the batteries in my unit almost as soon as I got it home. I've used the unit exclusively with batteries since. It■s been going strong for nearly two months of moderately heavy use. It appears the unit is relatively efficient when it comes to power consumption.
The only thing that might inadvertently shorten battery life is a manual switch that you must flip when selecting either batteries or house current. As you probably know, most radios and other appliances these days automatically switch between batteries and house current when you plug the unit in. Not so with the Optimus 12-604. If you don■t flip the switch when you plug it in, you'll still be running on battery power. The switch is easily located and easily manipulated, but remembering■s the thing.
Sensitivity: As stated earlier, the radio is very selective, making it a joy to listen to those hard-to-hear FM stations. The AM selectivity is excellent as well, just in case you■re one of those folks who enjoys listening to long-distance AM stations at night. The tuning knob is big and turns smoothly enough, but it■s not one of those hair trigger knobs you'll find on some pieces of equipment. The only downside I've experienced is the radio's sensitivity to computer interference. I used mine recently about 10 feet away from a Speak-Out synthesizer. The radio was pulling in a rather weak signal using the subcarrier. I was frankly surprised at how much static I heard when the Speak-Out was on. This isn't the kind of radio you want to sit on top of your computer, and you definitely won't want to use it while your Braille 'N Speak is on.
While I've never dropped my radio deliberately or otherwise to see how it holds up, it appears rugged enough. The speaker grill is plastic and looks solid. The analog display for tuning is probably not big enough to be of much value to some visually impaired listeners. A great deal of information has to be crammed into the display. The unit includes a standard walkman- type headphone jack, but you won't hear programs in stereo. The TV band is divided into five positions. Channels two through six make up the first position, and channels seven through 13 comprise the second. The UHF channels 14 through 69 are divided among the other three sections.
The Legal Issues: Those who have experience with the Subsidiary Communications Service may question whether a radio capable of tuning the various subcarriers is actually legal. There are some broadcasts on the FM subcarriers which businesses and others pay to use. Many businesses still use subcarriers to play instrumental elevator-type music to customers shopping in their stores. They pay for such services. With one of FM Atlas's modified radios, you could hear those services as well in many cities. You don't need to be an ethics genius to understand that listening to something you don't pay for is wrong. But if the radios are used for appropriate listening, you're probably in good shape. Bruce Elving has repeatedly asked the Federal Communications Commission for a ruling on his equipment. Despite repeated inquiries to the Commission, it has said nothing regarding his products. If you're buying the radio to hear a radio reading service and to have access to descriptive video programs, the FCC probably won't care a great deal. I've never known anyone who was fined, prosecuted or even sternly warned by the Commission for having a tunable radio in his home capable of receiving FM subcarriers. You might want to notify your radio reading service that you have a tunable SCS radio, but that's not required by law.
I purchased my radio primarily to listen to a subcarrier service in the Washington area which offers Brigham Young University football and basketball broadcasts among other things. I've done the right thing by notifying the station that I'm a listener. I'm not a big fan of elevator music, so listening to such services frankly doesn't tempt me at all. And as for the SAP TV programming, listening to SAP is perfectly legal under all circumstances. In fact, receiving a SAP broadcast is as legal as receiving a broadcast with closed captioning. This radio's magic lies in its convenience and excellent performance. I can listen to a game or the radio reading service and easily flip to the TV bands for some Descriptive Video Service programming. For me, this is an all -in-one product that makes great sense. It probably will do the same for you.
The Radio Shack Optimus 12-604 modified to receive FM SCS and TV SAP transmissions is available from FM Atlas, P.O. Box 336, Esko, MN 55733-0336. Call (218) 879-7676 for information. Ordering via Visa or MasterCard can be done by calling (800) 605- 2219. The fax number is (218) 879-8333.
This modified radio costs $115 plus $7 for shipping. Minnesota residents should add 6.5 percent sales tax. Elving's work is warranted, and in the 10 or so years that I've dealt with the company, I've found him to be honest and willing to assist his customers in any way possible.
Elving also offers a variety of less expensive modified radios. He also sells a print broadcast-oriented newsletter and a comprehensive print directory of FM broadcast stations in the United States and Canada. You can send $2 to the above address for a taped catalog.
As an orientation and mobility specialist who works with children, I find that many parents and families of blind children do not understand what orientation and mobility is and what they should be concerned about in how this service is provided to their child.
Orientation and mobility for children is age-appropriate training, orientation being understanding where you are and where you are from another object or place, and mobility being how to move to that other object or place safely and efficiently. While the skill level of blind children may vary due to visual acuity, physical conditions, cognitive functioning and psychological factors, it should not limit the quality of O&M services they receive. Parents should ask a few questions of the O&M specialist and, for that matter, the school system provider.
1. Are my child's travel skills comparable to other children his age? Example: The sighted children travel around school or their neighborhood without assistance. Does yours? Do they participate in school activities like P.E., band, etc., or do they just sit on the sidelines?
2. Is your child's O&M specialist full-time or part-time? Many parents don't realize that many O&M providers in schools are part-time and that they have other duties in schools like teaching. This can take away valuable time from your child's O&M training. Should you demand a full-time O&M specialist to work with your child?
3. Is your child only trained on the school's campus? This may be a sign your child is just being given immediately needed skills like how to find the restroom, cafeteria or classroom and not transferable skills like how to cross streets, travel in residential and business sections, etc. While being able to travel in school is important for educators to have your child go to class, if this is all that is being done, then it may hurt your child in the long run. When your child is grown, how will he/she have the skills to travel to work, the store, or get his/her children from school? How will they do this if they are only shown how to travel within their school environment?
4. How many hours of O&M services do they receive a week? If they are good travelers on and off campus they may not need a lot, but if they are poor travelers who use sighted guide to a great extent, then they may need more hours.
5. How are the mobility aids your child uses? Are they in good condition? Is the cane the right size? Is the monocular the right power, as recommended in the last low-vision exam?
6. Can you observe the O&M work your child is involved with? If not, ask why.
There are many things parents should know about orientation and mobility as it relates to children; not everything can be addressed here. The more informed you are as a parent means that you can better monitor what is right for your child. Read all you can on O&M and visit with full-time O&M providers, especially those that work with adults, and find out what they see as to the problems, if any, that some of their clients have had coming out of the school-based O&M. Remember, never be afraid to speak up when it concerns your child, and never accept that everything that can be done for your child is being done.
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 Jennings Randolph Research Awards program at the Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision is accepting applications until September 30. Two $500 awards will be awarded shortly thereafter to two individuals interested in conducting applied rehabilitation research. These funds may be used to support questionnaire development, postage, travel, dissemination activities, etc. Preference will be given to projects focusing on employment-related issues. Selection criteria will be based on feasibility, soundness of research design, and potential meaningfulness to rehabilitation practitioners. Interested individuals should request an application from J. Elton Moore, Director, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, P.O. Drawer 6189, Mississippi State, MS 39762; phone (601) 325-2001, fax (601) 325- 8989, or e-mail [email protected]
The United States Organization for Disabled Athletes is seeking people to fill the positions of office manager/bookkeeper and executive director. Duties of the executive director include supervising the organization's paid staff, supervising the activities of operations of all offices, entering into contracts on USODA's behalf, assisting the development director in coordinating all fund-raising programs approved by the executive committee, assisting the budget committee in preparation of the proposed annual budget, supervising the proper handling of correspondence with member organizations, standing committees, government agencies, public or private organizations and contributors, serving as a non-voting member of the board of directors and all standing committees of USODA, and carrying out other responsibilities as assigned by the board of directors. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree with five to seven years of non-profit management experience, including but not limited to personnel, finance, organization and fundraising administration; strong oral, written, interpersonal and leadership skills, and an understanding of issues concerning disabled people. Travel is required.
The office manager/bookkeeper is responsible for managing the computerized financial/accounting systems, including purchasing and accounts payable, cash receipts and banking, the general ledger and its accompanying financial statements and spreadsheets, payroll, and enforcement of company policies; supervising of administration office personnel; maintaining personnel records; maintaining state registration requirements pertaining to fundraising activities, completing and submitting the forms in a timely fashion, analyzing professional fundraising contracts and scripts for state compliance, and maintaining correspondence with state agencies and informing the executive director and/or executive committee as to status on a timely basis; and other duties as assigned by the executive director. Applicants should have an associate's degree in accounting with five or more years of related administrative, supervisory, and accounting experience (fund accounting preferred), know how to prepare financial statements, quarterly and annual payroll reporting and auditing procedures, strong verbal and written communication skills, as well as a positive, motivating leadership style, excellent time management skills, be well- organized, able to implement new procedures and manage many projects simultaneously, and in-depth knowledge of PC operations, familiarity with a variety of software packages including word processing, accounting, payroll and data base management.
Send cover letter and resume to USODA, 7209 East W.T. Harris Blvd., Room 348, Charlotte, N.C. 28227, or fax to (704) 536-7045.
BFI AudioBooks of Stamford, Conn., recently released a tape titled "Runaway Horses, Chickens, and Other Upset People," which is a lesson in conflict resolution for children ages nine and up. In this whimsical tale, four characters learn from each other how to take control of a confrontation through sensitivity to the other person's feelings and the appropriate response. This 25-minute tape comes with a guide for teachers or parents that gives suggestions for discussion and activities. It's available directly from BFI AudioBooks, 1391 Hope St., Stamford, CT 06907; it costs $9.95 plus $3.50 shipping and handling. For credit card orders, call (800) 260-7717.
Blind Resumes and Profiles is a new web page linking more than 100 home pages of blind people around the world. Its current address is http://www.blindrap.com If that address doesn't work, try http://www.manasota.com/blindrap.html The page holds resumes and profiles of blind people at no charge, and contains many employment-related links. Blind RAP hopes to become a non-profit organization. If you would like to be a volunteer or a board member, see the "please help" section at the web site.
The Princeton Braillists have recently completed tactile maps of Russia and its former republics, as well as maps of Pennsylvania. "Russia and Its Former Republics" is a 16-page booklet containing six maps (three of which are foldouts) and keys showing boundaries, rivers and major cities as of 1997. It costs $4, which includes free matter shipping unless advised otherwise. "Tactile Maps of Pennsylvania" is a 23-page booklet containing general information about the commonwealth and nine full-page maps with keys showing major cities, rivers and lakes, major highways, land regions, physical features, county boundaries, agricultural products and resources. It costs $6, including free matter mailing unless advised otherwise. Allow four to six weeks for delivery of either product. Order from The Princeton Braillists, 28-B Portsmouth St., Whiting, N.J. 08759; for more information, call (732) 350-3708.
The American Red Cross just released "Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities." It's a 45-page booklet that's designed to help disabled people prepare for natural disasters and their consequences. Contact your local Red Cross chapter for a copy, more information and prices. The booklet is also available on the web at http://www.redcross.org/disaster/safety/disability.html
The Connecticut Radio Information System recently received the National Association of Radio Reading Services' Program of the Year Award for best newspaper presentation. It presents newspapers in a program called "Front Pages," which airs for an hour each morning and evening Monday through Friday and an hour and a half on Saturday.
The PACER Center, a non-profit organization for parents of children and young adults with disabilities, has a new feature on its web site. It can now be used for sharing strategies for helping disabled people find, keep, or improve employment; it is located in the employment strategies section. The address is http://www.pacer.org It currently has more than 250 documents, including articles, resource directories, legislative updates, and information on PACER projects and events. The information is available in text-only and graphics-enhanced versions.
Former Army sergeant Karoline Martin was recently selected Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year by the Disabled American Veterans. She joined the Army in 1983 as a fully sighted, athletic, motivated trainee. She completed Airborne training at Fort Benning, Ga., and later served with the elite Fifth Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., and a tour of duty in Frankfurt, Germany. She was a petroleum specialist and constantly exposed to hazardous chemicals. She was honorably discharged from the military in 1990. She is now an instructor at the Thorncroft therapeutic riding program in Malvern, Pa., and resides in West Chester.
Dr. Gerald W. Mundy is the new executive director of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind & Visually Handicapped. From 1975 to 1996, he was the executive director of the Clovernook Center ■ Opportunities for the Blind in Cincinnati, Ohio. He will take over the duties of the position this fall.
According to a press release from Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc., HumanWare recently joined the company's network of distributors of Omni 1000 and Omni 3000, PC-based reading systems for the blind, visually impaired and learning disabled. For more information, contact Kurzweil at (800) 894-5374, send e-mail to [email protected] or check the web site at http://www.kurzweiledu.com
Or, if you have the proper equipment and would like to try out the software, contact the company at the number above. The following hardware is needed to run Omni 1000 software: Pentium processor, 32 megabytes of RAM, 1.2 gigabytes of hard disk storage, a floppy drive, a CD-ROM drive, a 17-button keypad, a color scanner, speech synthesis, speakers, and a microphone.
"Brief Encounters of the Right Kind ... or, How to Make Your Point as an Advocate in 10 Minutes or Less" is a humorous instructional video tour through the do's and don'ts of lobbying at the local, state and national levels. Three experienced lobbyists discuss how professionals, families, consumers and volunteer advocates can use their knowledge to influence public policy. Also included with this video is a manual called "Brief Encounters of the Right Kind: A Tool Kit for Advocates" and a copy of "The National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities." It's listed as ISBN 0-89128-283-1 for VHS format, and costs $49.95 plus $5 shipping; PAL format costs the same, and its ISBN is 0- 89128-284-X.
"Reaching Out: A Creative Access Guide for Designing Cultural Programs and Exhibits for Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired" by Mary Ann Siller and Elga Joffee is a video and manual set that provides easy instructions on how to make public exhibits and programs accessible to blind and visually impaired viewers. It's meant for museums, libraries, schools, historical societies, corporations, and anyone who needs to make information available to visually impaired visitors. For VHS format, the ISBN is 0-89128- 949-6; PAL format, ISBN 0-89128-944-5. Each costs $23.95 plus $4 shipping.
If you would like to order a copy, or if you have questions, call AFB Press at (800) 232-3044.
OOK Inventors Research and Development has expanded its rolling cane tip line. The model A is the one previously advertised in this space. Model B has a new shape and housing design that enables it to mount on any cane of one-half-inch diameter. However, the new design will cause your cane to have a "right side up." Model C can only be purchased with the Easy Glider Cane, which has a rolling tip and several new features. For more information, call toll-free (888) 200-0212 or fax (704) 436-8214.
The 23rd annual Ski for Light will be held February 8-15 at the Four Points Hotel in North Conway, N.H. Skiing will take place at Great Glen Trails in the Pinkham Notch section of the White Mountains near Gorham. The fee is $625 double occupancy ($750 single occupancy) and includes meals, lodging and round-trip ground transportation from Logan Airport in Boston and to and from the hotel. It also includes free equipment rental for first-time skiers. Partial stipends are available for first-timers, based on financial need. Skiers ages 18 and older with any level of experience who are interested in and committed to improving their cross-country skiing skills or in learning the sport are welcome. Cross-country skiing is the main focus of the gathering. The event ends on Saturday with a race, rally and awards dinner. The applications deadline is November 1. Applications received after the deadline will be considered as space permits. Full payment is due no later than January 1. Applicants will be notified of their status beginning in mid- to late November. To get the application, you may download it from the Ski for Light home page, http://www.tmn.com/sfl/home.html and then submit your completed application via e-mail to Larry Showalter at [email protected] Or, to request a print or computer disk version via e-mail, call him at (614) 478-7898 before 9:30 p.m. Eastern time. Apply quickly; space is limited.
At its recently held 36th annual national convention in Houston, Texas, the American Council of the Blind awarded life membership certificates to 14 new life members. In addition to the impressive awards ceremony during the convention's opening session on Sunday evening, July 6, at which certificates were presented to the new life members, President Paul Edwards hosted a special reception for life members and invited guests in his suite at the Adam's Mark Hotel on Thursday evening, July 10. As will become apparent to the reader later in this article, this reception was particularly special this year as President Edwards joined the ever-growing honor roll of ACB life members this year. I wish, as an ACB life member, to thank him for taking the time out of his very busy convention schedule to host and preside during the life membership reception.
The new life members are a representative group from all geographic regions of the nation, roughly mirroring ACB's overall membership. For example, a devoted wife, Sheri Keller of St. Louis, Mo., purchased a life membership in the name of her husband, Mike Keller, in order to honor Mike's many years of dedicated service toward bettering the lot of blind people in his community. Mitch Pomerantz of Los Angeles, Calif., Rudolph Thompson of Philadelphia, Pa., Linda Yacks of Wheat Ridge, Colo., Ardis Bazyn of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Rodney Moag of Austin, Texas, also stepped up and purchased life memberships. Five ACB affiliates also honored eight of their living members by purchasing life memberships in their names. The ACB of Ohio honored its executive director, Ken Morlock of Columbus, Ohio, by purchasing a life membership for him. Similarly, the Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired honored Kalamazoo resident Elizabeth Lennon's many years of dedicated service by presenting to her a life membership. The Missouri Council of the Blind honored one of its true stalwarts, Carl Mack of St. Louis, by presenting him with an ACB life membership. Also, the Arkansas Council of the Blind honored its immediate past president, Adeline Holden of Little Rock, by presenting her with a life membership. And not to be outdone by any other affiliate, the Florida Council of the Blind continued its custom of honoring important living members of its organization, particularly past presidents of FCB, by purchasing four life memberships to honor three of its past presidents: Paul Verner of Tampa, Jim Lamb of Orlando and Teresa Blessing of Bradenton. With well-deserved fanfare, the Florida Council of the Blind also presented ACB's current national president, Paul Edwards of Miami, with a life membership.
With the addition of this year's 14 new life members, the honor roll of life members in ACB has swelled to 80. While it is a big challenge, the decision was made at the life members' reception to strive to gain 20 more new life members so that by this time next year, following our next national convention in Orlando, the total will reach a nice, round 100.
In order to meet this ambitious target, I would respectfully suggest as the fall state affiliate convention season comes upon us that your state affiliate may wish to follow the examples of our affiliates in Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, Ohio and Michigan by honoring one or more of your deserving living members with an ACB life membership. Life membership dues in ACB is $1,000; this amount can be paid in up to five equal annual installments of $200. Those interested individuals or ACB affiliates which may wish to participate in the life membership program may contact ACB's assistant treasurer, Jim Olsen, at the Minneapolis office, 120 S. 6th St., Suite 1005, Minneapolis, MN 55402-1839; phone (612) 332- 3242. Let's all work together and meet the challenge of having at least 100 ACB life members by this time next year; if we succeed, it will be an achievement we can all be proud of.
Dear Mr. Crabb:
I was moved to write a response to the editorial published in the June "Braille Forum" entitled "The Full Inclusionists Just Don't Get It!" I wanted to relate my experiences in being educated in the public school system in St. Paul, Minn.
I was educated in what was called in the '50s "sight-saving classes." These were held in one of the grade schools in the city. We had all eight grades in this school. For high school, we attended another high school into which this grade school fed. In grade school, we learned braille in these classes as well as subjects dealing with braille reading, such as spelling, math, phonics, typing, etc. We also attended corresponding classes with sighted students of the same grade, such as English, history or social studies, music, gym, field trips, etc.
In high school, we had a resource room with a teacher who helped us with reading assignments. Typewriters were available so we could type our assignments. We took the same classes as sighted students, and had the same homerooms and shared in the same activities.
I never had to attend a school for the blind, so that whole culture of being with just blind students is foreign to me. This way of educating blind students was done before the invention of the itinerant teacher. The way I was educated was best because we were able to get the training in braille that we needed, plus we were included with the other students. This helped us learn to live and learn with sighted children, and let them see what blind children could do and how they could do it.
Throughout grade school and part of high school, our parents formed a support group that enabled them to learn of programs and activities through local and state agencies for the blind that were available to them and their children.
When I attended college, I was able to go to class, study with textbooks on tape and in braille, and take tests with readers. Because of such assistance, I, along with other blind students, was able to be integrated into a full college life.
Finally, a very important reason why this worked well was family life. Children who are able to attend a school near their homes can continue to live at home with their families. This would be far better than living in a dormitory and going home for some weekends and holidays.
In my opinion, inclusion and special training in braille, mobility, etc., is best, for it allows blind children to socialize with sighted children early. Friendships between blind and sighted children can be formed that may last a lifetime. In later life, the skills learned will help the blind adult function in society. Everyone, sighted and unsighted, benefits.
FOR SALE: MagniCam, black and white. Asking $300. Contact George or Sue Illingworth at (313) 937-9687.
FOR SALE: Visualtek Voyager XL with 19-inch monitor. $1,000 or best offer. Contact Thomas Long, 8566 Peppermill Run, Chagrin Falls, OH 44023; phone (216) 543-2044.
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak 640. Brand new. Comes with cables and cassette tutorials. Asking $900 to $1,100 or best offer. Contact Karen Gorman at (561) 575-1602 or write to her at 18821 Misty Lake Dr., Jupiter, FL 33458.
FOR SALE: 386 PC with 40 megabyte hard drive, DECtalk speech and Flipper screen reader. Includes software and hardware for the Arkenstone Easy Reader 2.0, as well as DOS 3.1, WordPerfect 5.1 and dBase. Also comes with print printer and some documentation. Asking $500 plus shipping. Contact Marj Schneider, 3937 Pleasant Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55409; phone (612) 822-0549, or e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: 1992 Kurzweil Personal Reader consisting of two parts: the scanner and the electronic computer interface system. Like new. Asking $1,450 plus shipping. Contact J.J. Jackson at (312) 856-3678.
FOR SALE: Viewpoint CCTV with two 13-inch monitors, small hand- held camera and writing stand. In excellent condition. $700 or best offer. Contact Steve at (561) 833-0649.
FOR SALE: Complete intermediate reading computer system. Includes full voice package (speech software and synthesizer), full communications package (internet and bulletin board software), full scanner system (with scanner and software), color monitor, back-up floppy disks with all system software and manuals, various word processing programs, a disk management program, and a security system. Asking $2,495, which includes shipping within the U.S. and delivery in greater Detroit area. For more information, call Rob at (800) 790-0135.
FOR SALE: Kurzweil personal reader. Complete with manuals, all cables and training tapes. Includes Bookedge scanner and hand scanner, carrying case. Asking $2,000 or best offer. Also for sale, Super Vista screen magnification system, complete with manuals and cables. $2,000 or best offer. If interested in either of these items, contact Steve Hopp at (615) 822-3465.
FOR SALE: Used Braille writers. Need minor repair. Asking $250 to $300. Contact Debby Smith at the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, 200 Ivy St., Brookline, MA 02146; phone (617) 732- 0242, or e-mail [email protected]
WANTED: Jumbo brailler in good condition, with or without attachments and case. Prefer an electric jumbo brailler. Used CCTV in good condition. Call (412) 228-6456 if you have any of these.
At the outset, let me be clear that the views expressed here are my own as an individual and ACB member. I realize they are at odds with some positions ACB has taken as an organization over the years. I appreciate that this publication permits minority views on controversial issues.
Our ACB mission statement reads as follows: The American Council of the Blind strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people.
In furthering this mission, we examine, support, and oppose various government policies and programs. By and large, public policies are means rather than ends in themselves. Some of them, such as basic civil rights laws, are perceived as so important to equal opportunity that they acquire the status of ends. For example, if someone fundamentally opposes the non-discrimination provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it would be difficult to consider him or her as a supporter of the ACB mission.
On the other hand, our mission does not generally favor special policies for blind people. Legitimate arguments can definitely be made which support separate treatment as a means to the end of equality. For example, sound government should assure that specialized services are available to teach us such skills as braille literacy, cane travel, and guide dog handling. Other matters, however, are more complex and debatable policy questions. This is true especially when we consider long- as well as short- term consequences, and attitudinal as well as concrete effects.
Are separate government agencies for the blind necessary to assure quality services in vocational rehabilitation (VR)? Should government-sponsored vending programs only offer employment to individuals with visual disabilities? Should we receive better treatment by the IRS and Social Security Administration than any other group with a physical or mental impairment?
Obviously, such questions are tough to answer, and this submission does not pretend to do so. Surely, however, these matters should be periodically examined and publicly debated, accounting for historical developments, present values, and future prospects. The seriousness of our mission demands no less.
In the first few decades of this century, blind people were systematically excluded from public programs available to others with inherited or acquired impairments. Accordingly, programs for the blind were often justified on these grounds. Over the last several decades, however, consumer groups and professional organizations have gained substantial knowledge and experience concerning the needs of visually impaired people who would achieve personal independence and economic productivity.
Over the last decade, the financial viability of the United States has become seriously threatened by massive long-term debt and continuing operating deficits. All major political parties and a majority of the American public have conveyed the sentiment that the budget must be balanced in the foreseeable future if we are to protect our way of life and especially that of future generations. Therefore blind people, like all citizens, can no longer routinely ask for additional money for separate programs. We face an imperative to make taxpayer-funded programs work better and cost less. By sincerely addressing this imperative, we help the general quality of our lives, not just the blindness-related aspects.
Let us be clear that separate treatment can still mean optimal, contemporary public policy. Any significant public policy decision involves a balancing of financial costs, philosophical values, and empirical evidence. In some cases, financial costs may be so great as to make a policy untenable. For example, a policy that guaranteed blind people all the technology they want would fit into this category.
In other cases, philosophical reasons for separateness prevail over other values. For example, government funding should be specifically allocated toward alternative formats to the printed word.
In still other cases, empirical statistics could favor separateness. An example of this would be if objective research showed that blindness VR agencies perform better than combined ones in competitive employment outcomes (it has not so far).
When financial, philosophical, and empirical decision-making factors are identified and balanced, a lot of one can outweigh a little of others, and vice versa. Thus, with one of these combinations, we may continue to support particular separate disability programs, such as for people with visual impairments.
Of course, it is not practical to simultaneously evaluate all cases of disability separateness, whether blindness-specific versus cross-disability, or disability-specific versus mainstream. The process of reauthorizing a law, such as the Rehabilitation Act or Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is a particularly appropriate time to do this, since policy makers and media outlets give increased attention then to that subject area.
As a culture adopts progressive values supporting equal opportunity for a previously disenfranchised constituency, the need for special treatment in public policy lessens. For example, some affirmative action policies for African-Americans that were once necessary due to previous discrimination may no longer be needed because our culture has advanced in its respect for ethnic diversity. Some separate programs, in fact, may now be counterproductive because they reinforce racial distinctions that tend to segregate in effect.
Similarly, we may be reaching a point when some eyesight-based distinctions in public policy are questionable in terms of present circumstances and future results. Continuing to promote the array of separate programs may inadvertently entrench age-old misconceptions about the innate abnormality of our lives due to blindness.
To be sure, cross-disability programs have often neglected to include adequate accommodations for non-visual users. A major explanation is that funding and advocacy resources on blindness-related issues have been channeled overwhelmingly toward separate programs. The separate system is self-perpetuating because people it employs resist dilution of budgets and staff they now control. Yet, the political power of blind people would almost certainly make cross-disability programs responsive if portions of the time and effort now spent on promoting separate programs were spent instead on making broader ones non-visually accessible. The political power of people with disabilities as a whole would also be strengthened, resulting in stricter enforcement of fundamental civil rights provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, and Telecommunications Act.
In the world of today, traditional means of promoting the mission of ACB are sometimes unwise. Our long-term best interests will tend to be better served by supporting public policy based on new approaches. These include outcome-oriented justification of separate programs, universal design whenever practical, and personal responsibility for the collective success of our society.
(Editor's Note: It should be pointed out clearly that the American Council of the Blind has not changed its position on the importance and value of separate state agencies for the blind. The matter was discussed at the 1997 ACB convention in Houston. Tapes of that convention will be available in coming months. A taped copy of all ACB correspondence with the National Council On Disability is still available by contacting the ACB National Office. To ensure that our position is fully elucidated, we include below the most recent resolutions regarding the importance of separate state agencies and ACB's continued interest in preserving and gaining new ground in this arena.) Resolution 96-13 Supports categorical and specialized services for persons who are blind throughout the re-authorization process for the Rehabilitation Act
WHEREAS the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is scheduled to be re- authorized in 1997; and
WHEREAS, despite the knowledge, experience and recommendations of the entire blindness community, there is an unprecedented erosion of categorical and specialized services; and
WHEREAS it is our experience, and has long been demonstrated, that such categorical and specialized services are the only viable means to provide pre-vocational and vocational services leading to successful employment and independent outcomes for persons who are blind and low vision;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the American Council of the Blind, in convention assembled, this 5th day of July, Tulsa Convention Center, that this organization direct its officers and staff to make every effort to preserve, protect, defend, and strengthen categorical and specialized service delivery to persons who are blind and visually impaired, in the re-authorization process for the Rehabilitation Act, and as other threats to categorical and specialized arise. Adopted: Cynthia Towers, Secretary Resolution 96-22 Calls upon state and local affiliates of the American Council of the Blind to take a leadership role in working with other organizations to form coalitions to work toward the protection of categorical and specialized services, and residential schools for the blind as an option in the continuum of educational services; calls upon the Board of Directors of the American Council of the Blind to work collaboratively with other organizations to create materials which can be utilized by the above mentioned local and state coalitions and calls for the identification of at least two states to pilot coalition approaches and efforts
WHEREAS, the political climate in virtually every state is focusing on measures that would combine service delivery into large "super-agencies" for the alleged purpose of cost-cutting; and
WHEREAS, this has already resulted in the delusion of categorical services which are absolutely indispensable for the rehabilitation of people who are blind; and
WHEREAS, in addition, in several states the value and relevance of schools for the blind is being seriously questioned by legislators and the media; and
WHEREAS, the American Council of the Blind has a history of supporting both categorical services and schools for the blind as part of the continuum of educational options that must be made available for students who are blind;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the American Council of the Blind in convention assembled on this the 6th day of July, Tulsa Convention Center, that state and local affiliates of the American Council of the Blind are urged to take a leadership role in forming coalitions with other organizations working with blind people including but not limited to, the National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired, affiliates of National Industries for the Blind, and state and local chapters of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED the National Office and Board of the American Council of the Blind work collaboratively with these other organizations and with the American Foundation for the Blind to create and disseminate materials that state coalitions can use to maintain categorical services and schools for the blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the organizations collaborating at the national level identify at least two states to pilot coalition efforts so as to refine and document model approaches to creating such cooperative efforts within 60 days of the end of this convention.
Cynthia Towers, Secretary
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
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