THE BRAILLE FORUM is available in braille, large print, half- speed four-track cassette tape and computer disk. Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for publication should be sent to: Nolan Crabb, THE BRAILLE FORUM, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005. Submission deadlines are the first of the month.
Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Patricia Beattie at the same address. If you wish to remember a relative or friend by sharing in the council's continuing work, the national office has printed cards available to acknowledge contributions made by loved ones in memory of deceased people.
Anyone wishing to remember the American Council of the Blind in his/her Last Will and Testament may do so by including a special paragraph for that purpose. If your wishes are complex, you may contact the ACB National Office.
For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the "Washington Connection" toll-free at (800) 424-8666, 6 p.m. to midnight Eastern time Monday through Friday. Washington, D.C., residents only call 331-2876.
Due to an editing error, the area code listed for the North Dakota convention hotel ("Affiliate News," March 1998) was incorrect. The correct phone number is (701) 235-3333.
Incorrect information about the Independent Transportation Network was included in the book review in March ("Book Review: 'Bert's Eye View' An Excellent Look at Macular Degeneration"). The service is only available in Maine at present.
The telephone number for Access USA's The Braille Factory was incorrectly listed in "Here and There," April 1998. The correct number is (800) 263-2750.
I have been president of the American Council of the Blind now for nearly three years. In all the many messages I have written for this space, I have not included one on transportation. This is not because it is not an important issue. Most blind people would say that the single largest barrier to their full participation in our society is transportation. Many of our members do not have access to public transportation either because they live in small communities or because their transit system has determined for whatever reason that they are not appropriate for the system. The country is rife with providers who are probably breaking the letter of the ADA every day but who are certainly crushing the spirit of that law. As I write this message I am on my way to work using one of the better paratransit systems in the country. For the most part, I get to work on time and can use my system as often as I wish with no likelihood of having a trip refused. Our hours are probably the longest in the country since the system is available from 4 in the morning through 2 in the morning. In fact, last Monday morning I was picked up from the airport at 1:30 a.m. on my way in from the California Council of the Blind convention.
It is not that I consider transportation unimportant or trivial. It's not that I have a good system and don't wish to rock the boat. It is that transportation is, for me, the single most frustrating area of advocacy with which ACB must deal. I would far rather deal with the vagaries of Social Security law than wrestle with local providers over transit issues.
Nevertheless, here I am, bright and early on a sunny April morning, frustrating myself. There are reasons. First, it's time I talked about this issue. Second, I want people to know that transportation will be one of the featured panels at our convention this summer. We have avoided it long enough! And third, I've already sent in my taxes so I needed something to make me crazy!
Maybe a little background is in order. I see transportation as a place where we have a lot to gain! Much of the work has to be done at the local level and much of the time you will find yourselves challenging the rulings of local government because it is bound and determined to minimize the impact of paratransit on its budgets and has been slow to retrofit its bus fleets. Perhaps most egregious of all, very few providers are doing a good job of announcing bus stops. Some of you may be aware that ACB has participated in a Project Action grant to try to train drivers and providers to better live up to their responsibilities. That is certainly a step in the right direction. We have another grant up for consideration at this time to extend these activities. The fact is, though, that people who are blind throughout the United States do not have adequate access to transportation and are ill-prepared to deal with the arguments put forward by transit providers or local government.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and its accompanying regulations are confusing to say the least. This has made things harder for people trying to ascertain their rights. There is no absolute consistency from local district to local district about how such things as the three-quarter mile rule is interpreted and there are almost as many eligibility standards as there are local jurisdictions. Perhaps after the convention this summer members will have a better idea of how they can proceed. Clearly the key is getting involved!
Far too many of us stand on the sidelines wringing our hands over how bad things are. The only way we can be sure that our rights are being protected is by protecting them ourselves. Transportation is perhaps the best example of a program that is driven at the local level and where our participation is crucial. The Dade County program is not as good as it is because our local government is inclined to be philanthropic. It is that good because advocates have been involved in monitoring the program since its inception in 1976. That is the only way to be certain that the program is responsive to your needs. There are requirements built into the ADA that require consumer involvement in transit planning. Too often communities regard these obligations lightly and approach the planning process and consultation with consumers in a pro forma manner. This is because we are letting them do that! I have said before in this column that a people gets the government it deserves. If we do not demand that our voices are heard, we should not complain when they are not. It isn't enough just to come out once a year either. Transportation providers have a number of committees that operate year-round which must be consulted about paratransit and regular bus policies. We must become active members of these committees and we must take the time to read and understand the laws and regulations that have been written. Both the ADA and the regulations are available in accessible formats from the Department of Justice. Many of us have simply not bothered to request them.
Having said all this, the problem of transportation will not be solved by local participation alone. People who are blind need more and better mobility training and our concerns about paratransit should not lead us to ignore the fact that regular bus routes are currently often not usable. We have to demand more audible traffic signals. Perhaps we have reached the stage where talking signage is an appropriate option. We need to support the allocation of more federal, state and local resources to public transportation and away from highways. We need to be aware of the impending arrival of the electric car which is virtually silent and poses a real threat to blind people who rely on hearing to know when it's safe to cross a street.
Not all the transportation barriers we face are societal. If the United States built a usable transportation infrastructure, would we come? How many blind people now travel alone? How many of us wait till we can find somebody to go with us before we will venture out? We need to change too! A white cane or a guide dog is a visible symbol of our use of transit systems. It's easy to trot out statistics about how many blind people there are in a community but, all too often, advocates are embarrassed by the very small number of blind people who are prepared to use public transportation. We have become as spoiled as the rest of society and don't go anywhere unless we can get a lift. We have allowed ourselves to become dependent and have sacrificed our capacity for independent mobility out of fear or, what is worse, out of laziness! Maybe local chapters of ACB should organize "busathons" where activities are planned around bus routes and where members are encouraged to use buses more than they do now.
This message has barely scratched the surface of an issue that is as complex as it is intractable. Full participation in a society depends on our ability to get places. Transportation is truly the greatest barrier we face, I think. ACB will continue to regard transportation as a matter of high priority but each of you in your own local communities are far more important than any of us at the national level. You are your own best advocate! So get involved and, above all, use your transit system!
Many advocacy and legal rights questions pop up suddenly and can be settled quickly, but most require additional action and many of those require several revisits before a solution is reached. Likewise, a national convention resolution, once adopted with many florid "whereas" and "resolved" clauses, is light years away from solving the problem -- that is, until meaningful action can be taken to implement it. Readers of "The Braille Forum" will recall the very strong position taken by the American Council of the Blind calling for the recently dedicated Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial to show President Roosevelt in his wheelchair and also objecting strongly to the artistically stylized but illegible representation of braille at various places throughout the memorial. Strong action was taken on this matter by ACB members, other disabled citizens and many members of the general public through vigorous participation in a public hearing held in Washington recently. More specifically, a few weeks ago the National Park and Planning Commission of the U.S. Department of the Interior conducted a well-attended public hearing for the purpose of obtaining input regarding implementation of the provision of the law calling for a "plan for the design and construction of an addition of a permanent statue, bas relief or other similar structure to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial to provide recognition of the fact that President Roosevelt's leadership and struggle by the United States for peace, well-being and human dignity was provided while the president used a wheelchair." During the hearing one witness, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, said, in part, "I believe very deeply that there must be a free-standing statue of President Roosevelt in his wheelchair prominently placed at the beginning of the memorial. ... No other form of representation can have such empowerment. Some have argued that a statue of Roosevelt in a wheelchair would misrepresent him because the president always hid his disability. Well, Mr. Roosevelt was a man uniquely of his times. He understood what you could do and could not do in leading a nation." Outstanding statements were made by ACB members Charles Hodge, Scott Marshall and Michael Byington. In their statements they specifically brought attention to such important considerations as the amount of ambient or "white noise" created by fountains and other features, unmarked and unexpected extensions at the bases of many statues and other structures, the artist's stylized representation of braille (on panels located at least seven feet above the ground), and the lack of braille or any other non-visual means of communication to convey the information supposedly conveyed by the stylized representation concerning Depression-era agencies established under the direction of President Roosevelt. In short, the members of the National Advisory Committee and the government officials present heard the message in simple, clear, direct terms. While the majority of the speakers concentrated on the wheelchair issue, several in addition to the speakers named above referred to difficulties encountered by visually impaired visitors to the memorial. International exchange conference
The extent to which international exchange programs benefit disabled people and are available to disabled people was underscored clearly at the recent Joining Hands Conference, conducted in Washington, D.C. by the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, sponsored by Mobility International USA and the U.S. Information Agency. Many university-based and free- standing exchange programs alike highlighted the outstanding experiences of disabled exchange participants -- such as a blind Fulbright scholar who taught music at a Nigerian university or an energetic wheelchair user who is now working with students in Paraguay. Aid to developing countries
The above-described conference on international exchange activities should serve as a perfect reminder that the ACB national office will accept any braille slates, braille writers, braille watches or clocks and other small aids and appliances for donation to blind citizens in developing nations. In the national office we receive countless requests for such materials every month and we fill requests with whatever equipment we have on hand. We will also accept small tape recorders if they are in working condition.
Convention time is fast approaching! Convention dates are Saturday, July 4 to Saturday, July 11, 1998. The overnight tour to historic St. Augustine takes place Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4. On Saturday and Sunday, many of the special-interest groups hold their board meetings and some social functions. On Saturday evening, there is a Welcome to Orlando party where you can greet your friends and renew old acquaintances. The Florida host committee promises that the music will not be too loud and the snacks will be great. There will also be tours of the Orlando area Saturday and Sunday and tours to Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
The opening session of the convention takes place Sunday evening with a report from President Paul Edwards and the roll call of affiliates. Exhibits open Saturday at 1 p.m. and continue through Wednesday until 1 p.m. General sessions are scheduled every morning Monday through Saturday, with outstanding speakers, panel discussions, scholarship presentations and the business of ACB.
About the same time that you receive this issue of "The Braille Forum," you should have received the ACB pre-registration packet which describes many additional activities of the convention. Please be certain to complete your pre-registration forms promptly and return them in the enclosed envelope provided. If you would like this information on cassette, please request it from the ACB national office by calling (800) 424-8666 weekdays between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Eastern time. If you are a wheelchair user or have severe ambulatory limitations, be certain to indicate that on the form. Only printed forms can be used for pre-registration.
The 1998 convention takes place at the Clarion Plaza Hotel, 9700 International Dr., Orlando, FL 32819-8114; phone (800) 866- 9700 or (407) 352-9700. Rates are $55 per night plus tax for up to four people per room.
The overflow hotel is the Quality Inn Plaza, located at 9000 International Dr., Orlando, FL 32819; phone (800) 999-8585 or (407) 345-8585. Rates are $51 per night plus tax for up to four people per room. There are still rooms available at this hotel for July 4 to July 8. Additional rooms are available at the Best Western Plaza Hotel from July 2 through 11, 1998. The hotel is located at 8738 International Dr., Orlando, FL 32819, about four blocks from the Clarion on the same side of the street; phone (800) 654-7160. The rate is $85.50 per night plus tax for up to four people per room.
Once again, we would like to remind anyone who is holding a reservation at the Clarion and will not be attending the convention to be certain to cancel your reservation promptly so that rooms will not go unoccupied. Program information
What a gangbusters plenary program we have in store this year! Conventioners will have an unparalleled opportunity to talk directly with Michael Lilly, the talented attorney who successfully prosecuted the Hawaii guide dog litigation which will ultimately result in far greater access to the state for guide dog users. Wouldn't you also like to hear a demonstration of a digital talking book that will find whatever chapter or section you want to hear at the push of a button? Considering the extent to which most blind and visually impaired people must rely on public transportation, you won't want to miss the panel of nationally recognized experts that will focus on the transportation needs and rights of blind people. Whenever listeners to talking books think of narrators who have been reading for many years and who are loved by generations of listeners, they always think of this year's featured narrator, Ms. Terry Hayes Sales of Louisville, Ky. In the field of international exchange and activity, we will be extremely interested in the remarks of Kiki Nordstrom of Sweden, vice president of the World Blind Union and one of the truly energetic and effective international advocates in behalf of blind and visually impaired people. Finally, you definitely should not miss the Tuesday evening activity that will give you an opportunity to meet and converse with many of our other international guests -- including several from Japan (including a high official of the Japan Braille Library) and the director general of the Institute for the Blind of Taipei, Taiwan, among others. Transportation from airport to hotel
Transtar airport shuttle and Mears transport service provide round-trip van service at $21. Ticket booths are located just outside the baggage pick-up area. Town and Country, which has a counter at the Clarion, also provides this round-trip service for $25. As usual, there will be volunteers at the Orlando airport on Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4, to assist people arriving for convention.
This year, there will again be tours every day beginning with a great overnight tour to historic St. Augustine. See the April "Braille Forum" for details. It costs $179 per person for double room occupancy. Motor coaches for this tour are not wheelchair- accessible unless one can board the bus without assistance. Wheelchairs can be stowed in the luggage compartments and retrieved upon arrival at the destination. All attractions in St. Augustine are accessible except the second level of the fort.
Additional tours include visits to Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Sea World, Universal Studios, Splendid China, Gatorland, Kennedy Space Center, and perhaps a beach party at Cocoa Beach which may include a picnic. Guide dogs will not be permitted on some rides at Disney World and Universal Studios. At Gatorland, be sure to keep your dog with you since they tell us that dogs are one of alligator's favorite foods.
The Wednesday evening feature this year will be at Church Street Station, Orlando's perfect location for food, fun and entertainment. Located in the historic section of the city, the block is closed off from traffic at night so that one can visit shows, unique shops and restaurants. A served, plated dinner is planned with a possible show right in the room where dinner is served. Shows available include Rosie O'Grady's Dixieland Revue, rip-roaring country and western music at the Cheyenne Wild West Saloon, high-energy dance music at Phineas Phogg's with additional street shows and shopping. Return bus times will be staggered since many will want to stay late to enjoy the fun.
On the last Saturday evening, July 11, we are again planning a dinner theater at Sleuth's Mystery Dinner Show just a few blocks from the Clarion. See the pre-registration packet for exact times and costs on all these tours.
Don't miss the Orlando magic in 1998!
The Federal Communications Commission will take a hard look at accessible telecommunications equipment regulations and will do more regarding audio description in television. Those were the assurances of FCC Chairman William E. Kennard, who addressed attendees of the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute in early March.
Kennard reminded his listeners of the vast changes that have resulted since the invention of the telephone. Those changes, he said, aren't of value unless all citizens can benefit from them.
"For how does it profit a country to build the best airplanes, or automobiles -- or telephones -- if those inventions can't benefit every citizen?
"Nobody knows this better than the members of the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Council of the Blind."
Kennard declared that telecommunications must improve, and society must be more inclusive. He made that declaration from a rather unique perspective.
"For those of you who cannot see me, I'm African American. I bring up my heritage because I have been profoundly influenced by, and benefitted from, the struggles that people of color have waged to promote equal opportunity in this country. Nobody handed African Americans the rights we enjoy today. Those rights were won. In the courtrooms and the classrooms, on picket lines and cafeteria lunch lines, on Freedom Rides across the South and polling places across America, pioneers of the civil rights movement in this country fought for those rights. They fought for equal opportunity.
"And here I stand, today, on the shoulders of those pioneers, with the same message of equal opportunity for leaders in the disability rights movement."
He referred to a demonstration he had seen of speech-to- speech relay technology, allowing those with speech difficulties to use telephones more successfully than ever before. That demonstration, he said, convinced him of the awesome nature of the job of providing telecommunications access.
"Service providers and manufacturers no longer have the option of choosing whether to provide access to telecommunications equipment and services for people with disabilities. It must be done. That was mandated by Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It is a broad mandate. Given the fundamental role that telecommunications has come to play in today's world, Section 255 represents the most significant opportunity for people with disabilities since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.
"And at the FCC we intend to fully implement it. And I am committed as chairman to devote the resources necessary to make it work. To be unable to use telecommunications makes it next to impossible to get an education, to get a job -- even to call 911. It forces those without access to be dependent on the rest of society.
"For those reasons alone, the failure to ensure access for people with disabilities comes at great cost. But there are other reasons, too. After all, doesn't limiting the access for 49 million Americans deprive this country of a wealth of ideas and ability? And haven't we seen that products designed initially for consumers with disabilities also turn out to appeal to the rest of America? Of course we have. There are countless examples."
He pointed out that the telephone had initially been invented as a device for teaching deaf people; the typewriter, designed in Italy, was originally used specifically and solely by blind typists. Closed captioning, once the domain of deaf viewers, is the darling of every sports bar, gym, airport, and stock exchange in America. It's now used to help immigrants learn English and to help improve reading comprehension.
"All this is why, when we announce our implementation plan for Section 255, one of the things I want to do is provide incentives for industry to consider disability issues at the front end of the development and design process -- and on an ongoing basis," Kennard said.
He said industry's participation is essential. It must be given the flexibility to be innovative. "My hope is that Section 255 will encourage manufacturers and engineers to install accessibility features voluntarily," he said.
He urged industry leaders and consumer organizations like ACB to continue to work together to forge new access solutions. He plans to expand the FCC's use of electronic mail and accessible web sites to allow more Americans to provide written comments to the commission.
But telecommunications access wasn't the only thing on Kennard's mind that Sunday in March.
"One other issue that I would like the commission to explore is video description. As you know, video description can help television come alive for people with sight disabilities. I believe that the commission should explore whether providing video description services should be an element of broadcasters' public interest obligations," he said.
He mentioned the existence of his disabilities issues task force and expressed the hope that it would increase in importance at the commission.
"I want the FCC to become a more accessible, more user- friendly place for people with disabilities. I want advocates for the disability community to feel at least as welcome and knowledgeable about the FCC as the lobbyists for large telecommunications companies do," he asserted. "That's why our task force reaches out so aggressively to disability organizations. We want you to find it easy to express your concerns to the commission. And we want to meet those concerns."
Kennard said if industry and the disability communities can work to solve problems and break down access barriers, it should be easier for disabled employees to gain higher-paying jobs in telecommunications.
He encouraged those with an interest in engineering to get involved in access issues. "In fact, in order for Section 255 to be effective, the industry must have engineers and product designers ready to meet the demands of Section 255. What better opportunity can there be for engineers with disabilities -- people with firsthand knowledge about the problems we urgently need to fix?" he asked.
Kennard gave examples of blind and disabled students who had been assisted by technology, urging ACB members and others in the audience to "be the conscience" of the FCC.
"My grandfather was a brilliant man," Kennard reminisced. "He was gifted in arts and literature. He wrote beautiful prose. And he was self-taught. He could recite the works of Shakespeare. He had a wonderful mind. And he had endless potential. But do you know what he did for a living? He was a janitor. His barrier to access to greater opportunity was the color of his skin.
"I often think of him. I think of how much more he could have contributed to his society if only his society had allowed him to reach the fullness of his own potential," he said. "I think of how different his life might have been had he been born a generation later. But even today, in our generation, the potential of millions of Americans is wasted because they are denied access -- access to technology; to opportunity; to education. The law gives us tools to unlock this great potential. I have talked about some of those legal tools today."
Kennard said working the legal angle isn't enough. "But let us never forget that our mission is not only to change regulations," he said. "We know that it takes more than a regulation to compel people to see past differences and disabilities -- to see the inherent value in every person.
"So our job is not only to change regulation, it is to change minds; to change attitudes; to change perceptions. It is to work toward a world in which all of our fellow citizens embrace diversity and recognize the potential and ability and value of every human being. That is our mission. I feel very honored and privileged that as chairman of the FCC I can join you in this mission. And I am here to promise you today, that so long as I am chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, your voices will be heard."
On March 13, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13078 (Federal Register volume 63, page 13111, March 18, 1998) on the subject of employment of adults with disabilities. The order finds that the employment rate for adults with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64 is an appallingly low approximately 25 percent, as compared to the over 80 percent employment rate for adults of working age generally. The order then sets forth its objective of raising the employment rate for adults with disabilities to as close as possible to the employment rate for the overall working age adult population by July 26, 2002, the 10th anniversary of the effective date of the employment discrimination provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The order then establishes a national task force on employment of adults with disabilities to be composed of 13 members, seven cabinet secretaries (the secretaries of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Education, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Treasury and Transportation) and the heads of six independent federal agencies (the commissioner of the Social Security Administration, the administrator of the Small Business Administration, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the chairman of the National Council on Disability, and the chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities). In addition, the order charges every federal agency, including those which are not members of the national task force, to review and evaluate their programs and make recommendations to the national task force by the fall of 1998 on how their respective programs could be modified or changed to eliminate barriers to the employment of adults with disabilities and assist in meeting the order's objective. The chairman of the national task force will be the secretary of Labor; the vice chair will be the chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
The order also assigns specific subgroups of the national task force to review, evaluate and coordinate the federal government's efforts in specified areas toward achieving the order's objective. One troubling aspect of the order for blind people and the blindness field in general is the last sentence of Section 2(c) of the order. That sentence instructs a subgroup of the national task force, composed of the secretaries of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and Commerce as well as the administrator of the Small Business Administration and the chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities to consult with the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Severely Disabled to assess the impact of the Randolph-Sheppard vending facility program and the Javits-Wagner- O'Day purchase program on the employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for people with disabilities.
Some view the evaluation and scrutiny of both the Randolph- Sheppard and Javits-Wagner-O'Day programs contained in this sentence of the order to be ominous and virtually ordaining that recommendations will come forward threatening the very survival of one or both programs as we know them. These observers also view the fact that the order specifically couples these two programs together for review and scrutiny somehow lends credibility to the contentions made by those inside and outside the federal government who have been agitating to undermine the statutory priorities in both programs by pitting the two priorities against each other. On the other hand, I contend that the executive order does not necessarily constitute a threat to the Randolph-Sheppard or Javits-Wagner-O'Day programs and that in fact the special scrutiny of these programs prescribed by the order may give advocates of both programs an opportunity to demonstrate once again that these programs are legitimate, cost- effective, worthwhile tools toward greater employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for blind and other disabled Americans. I believe that we as advocates for the blind and these two statutory priorities can, if we are vigilant and smart in playing our cards right, turn what may appear to be a threat into a challenge and an opportunity to vindicate the benefits to be gained for the blind and other severely disabled individuals through better and stronger implementation of these programs. This would be particularly so with respect to the Randolph- Sheppard program if through the recommendations made by the task force, agencies such as the Veterans Affairs Department and the Defense Department, which have traditionally refused to comply with the act's priority, could be brought into compliance.
Finally, the order calls upon the task force to make reports to the president outlining its activities and progress and making recommendations for proposed legislation and budgetary needs on November 15, 1998, 1999 and 2000 with a final report to be filed with the president on July 26, 2002. While Executive Order 13078 is long on vague yet nice-sounding rhetoric and platitudes and short on specifics, the details will have to be filled in through the recommendations which find their way into the reports of the national task force and which are the final end product of the task force's review, evaluation and assessment efforts. Hopefully, the national task force can prove positive and constructive in its role of coordinating the mission of literally hundreds of federal agency programs.
(Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of columns by the president of Guide Dog Users, Inc., an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. A former winner of the Ned E. Freeman Excellence in Writing Award, Stanley is a frequent contributor to "The Braille Forum.")
A special thanks goes to "Braille Forum" Editor Nolan Crabb for encouraging a column specifically about guide dogs, their handlers and issues we face. Though my name appears as the author, selections in future columns will feature writings from prominent people in the guide dog and accessibility fields.
As the 1998 ACB and Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) conventions draw near, I'd like to share some important information about travel access and convention programming. Do you have questions about the airlines and your guide dog? Would you like to ask federal officials about the laws that govern our access rights? Have you ever considered getting a guide dog? Read on!
It seems that every year around convention time, which coincidentally falls on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, GDUI receives calls about airline access issues. These calls come to us around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as well. We hear about hassles obtaining assistance at the airport, and of course, the perennial question of "does a service animal really need a health certificate to fly in the cabin on a domestic flight?" Well, GDUI decided to go right to the source, the Federal Aviation Administration.
Airlines fall under the Air Carriers Access Act rather than the Americans with Disabilities Act. This can become quite confusing in some circumstances regarding service animals. For example, an airline employee may ask legally under the ACAA to see your guide dog's ID if he or she has reasonable doubts as to whether it is a service animal. Asking for ID is strictly illegal under the ADA. A helpful and informative circular is available regarding service animals and airlines from the FAA and GDUI.
Though specific language has not yet been written into the ACAA regarding whether an airline can demand presentation of a health certificate for your guide dog upon boarding the plane, officials at the FAA and Department of Transportation assure GDUI that they will explain to airlines that demanding service animals have health certificates is considered an undue hardship for the person with a disability and should be stricken from any airline policy. GDUI continues to push for specific language stating this fact in the ACAA, but until such language is instituted, you may contact FAA officials listed in this column should you have specific problems with an airline.
Some guide dog handlers say they don't mind getting a certificate or that they will get one just to assure no conflicts during travel. These certificates can cost as much as $50 extra and do pose an undue hardship, especially to frequent travelers. GDUI is working with the customer service departments of the 10 major U.S. airlines to spread the word to reservationists, the main source of problems, regarding health certificates.
The other issue that airline staff members face frequently when guide dog teams fly involves seating. Contrary to popular airline staff belief, there is no federal law that says guide dog handlers must sit in bulkhead seats. The ACAA says quite the opposite, in fact.
"Carriers shall permit a service animal to accompany a qualified individual with disabilities in any seat in which the person sits, unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain unobstructed in order to facilitate an emergency evacuation." (14 CFR Sec. 382.55(a))
"If a service animal cannot be accommodated at the seat location of the qualified individual with disabilities whom the animal is accompanying, ... the carrier shall offer the passenger the opportunity to move with the animal to a seat location, if present on the aircraft, where the animal can be accommodated, as an alternative to requiring that the animal travel with checked baggage."
A new section of the rules, 382.83, will go into effect in October, but is already being phased into airline policies and procedures. This rule states: "... carriers make available to passengers with disabilities four types of seating accommodations. These included seats in rows with movable aisle armrests for wheelchair users, seats for a personal care attendant (PCA) next to a disabled passenger needing the PCA's services during the flight, seats in either bulkhead or non- bulkhead rows for persons traveling with service animals, and seats providing additional legroom for persons with fused or immobilized legs. While a carrier might have to reassign other passengers to make these accommodations, no one would be 'bumped' from a flight and the carrier would continue to follow all FAA safety rules, including the exit row seating rule. The carrier could establish up to a 48-hour advance notice requirement for someone requesting a seating accommodation."
To learn more about or clarify questions concerning these regulations, you may contact: Robert C. Ashby, Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Regulation and Enforcement, Department of Transportation, 400 7th St. S.W., Room 10424, Washington, DC 20590.
Formal complaints should be directed in writing to: Aviation Consumer Protection Division, Room 4107, Department of Transportation, 400 7th St. S.W., Washington, DC 20590; phone (202) 366-2220.
The above telephone number is a recorded message with instructions on filing complaints. Should you need further information, please contact GDUI toll-free at (888) 858-1008.
Now that you are ready to board that plane for a trip to Orlando and the ACB and GDUI conventions, here are just a few notes on GDUI program sessions. Special thanks to GDUI program chair Sanford Alexander, volunteer coordinator Susan Hager and Margie Donovan, GDUI's representative to the ACB Convention Committee, for all their work on this year's outstanding program.
Let's talk access issues! On Monday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. GDUI will hold a panel discussion on current access issues. Moderated by Karen Luxton Gourgey, Guide Dog Users of New York, this panel features representatives from the Department of Justice and other federal agencies overseeing legislation such as the ADA, ACAA, Fair Housing Act and other important but seldom noticed laws and regulations. Come with your questions ready. This is the place to learn.
GDUI teams proudly with Mark Richert, one of the first recipients of our Access Partners Award. Participants in the GDUI access panel will appear the next day in the ACB convention plenary session on civil rights, moderated by Mark. This coordination of program resources will benefit all convention participants.
Have you ever thought about getting a guide dog? Are you curious, but not quite ready to take the plunge? GDUI offers a unique panel session entitled "So you want to get a guide dog?" on Wednesday, July 8 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Moderated by GDUI board member Liz Garner, this session features panel members' experiences in making the decision to get a dog, including revelations about exactly what the dog does and does not do, family and employer reactions. Audience participation is encouraged! GDUI offers this session especially to members of the National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired (NAPVI), who will be meeting during the ACB convention. This is a time for families to learn about guide dogs and for children to see real guides, touch harnesses and grooming gear and ask questions.
If you have any questions regarding GDUI or its convention programming, please contact us at: Guide Dog Users Inc., 14311 Astrodome Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20906; or call toll-free (888) 858-1008. The toll number is (301) 598-2131. Jane Sheehan, treasurer/office manager, electronic mail: [email protected] or Jenine Stanley, president, [email protected]
My mother was only 17 when I was born. I was the first of her five children. Six months after my birth, I was diagnosed as suffering from congenital glaucoma. The prognosis was not good. My mother was told that I would probably be totally blind by age 10.
Back then, many of the surgical techniques that are used successfully today did not exist. The primary treatment then was a course of drugs administered in eye drops to control the pressure inside the eye. With each uncontrolled rise in pressure, irreversible damage was done as the lens within the eye was forced back against the delicate retina, destroying more rods and cones necessary for vision. Unlike the adult onset of glaucoma, the congenital form is quite painful.
Between the ages of five and eight, I had three operations to attempt to stabilize my condition. The last of these left me without light perception, totally blind.
By that time, I had two normally sighted brothers, two and four years younger than myself. My mother had no experience to guide her in rearing a visually impaired child. She had never known a blind person, nor were there any experts to turn to for advice. I was a lively child, curious about everything and independent in temperament. Mom decided that since she knew so little, the best plan was to stand back and let me discover for myself what my limitations might be.
Many years later, my mother admitted that there were often times when she watched fearfully from the kitchen window as I ran full tilt into a tree or backyard fence. She fought the natural impulse to rush out to the rescue unless I really seemed hurt. She held her breath as I climbed trees, stood on the seat to pump my swing or played rough and tumble games with my younger brothers. Sometimes she put aside housework to help me learn to roller skate or jump rope. Never did she impose her own fears for my safety on me. She always encouraged me to try new things, understanding that this was the only way I would learn to handle them. She didn't want her fears transmitted to me, burdening me with another handicap to overcome in addition to blindness.
As I grew into a young girl, she taught me how to do housework, sew and cook. This not only gave her an extra pair of hands around the house, but permitted me a sense of competence and usefulness. I never realized that the reason she directed me through the steps of preparing a meal from another room was because she found it difficult to watch me handling sharp knives or hot pans on the stove or in the oven.
She worked hard to see that I didn't develop any of the blindisms which would single me out as different from my sighted peers. She gently admonished me to look in her direction when I spoke to her and to hold my head up high. She offered advice on which colors went together and looked best on me. She spent a lot of time shopping and sewing for me to make sure I dressed in the latest fashions. She taught me to feel confidence in my appearance and to take pride in good grooming.
She drove miles to take me to special camps and other activities with visually impaired youngsters so that I could practice such social skills as learning to dance. I could then take these skills and use them confidently back in my sighted community. Most of all, my mother gave me the gift of freedom to try my wings. She held back from offering me comfort when I fell unless I was actually hurt, gave it freely when I did, and never intimated that she thought I might fall. My wonderful mom understood that to truly love a handicapped child meant that she must suffer in silence through her own fears and doubts and let me go. She knew instinctively that if she tried to protect and shelter her little wounded chick, I might never learn to reach for my full potential in life.
I am now the mother of three grown children, grandmother of two, married to a fine man, and a businesswoman. I was the first in my family to obtain a college degree. I spent two and a half years serving in the Peace Corps and once climbed a 10,000-foot mountain. All of these accomplishments are mine because my mother was brave enough to let me run and play, explore and grow, just like her other four unimpaired children. She was always there to offer a hug or word of encouragement, but never there to teach me her fears. She was the wind beneath my wings.
(Further reproduction of this story is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder unless reproduced in a specialized format.)
On March 20, 1969, David Szumowski's dream of a military career ended when he was blinded by a grenade while retrieving dead soldiers from a Vietnamese battlefield.
Friday -- exactly 29 years after that fateful injury -- Szumowski will be sworn in as a San Diego Municipal Court judge.
Szumowski, 52, will be the only judge in California who is blind, and one of only a handful across the country.
His appointment by Gov. Pete Wilson is Szumowski's latest achievement since his injury forced him to find new directions for his life.
"I've landed on my feet pretty well," said Szumowski, who has been a deputy district attorney for 12 years. "Everything happens for a reason. I believe that."
Szumowski joined the Army after attending the University of Richmond in Virginia's capital. He was sent to Vietnam in 1969.
He had been there just 40 days when his unit, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, was sent to retrieve the bodies of American servicemen from a battlefield. As platoon leader, Szumowski stuck his head out of a tank to direct his troops. He was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
He lost his vision but refused immediate medical attention and led his troops with the help of a helicopter overhead until the mission was completed.
"It only lasted about an hour," Szumowski said. "It was not fun."
Back in the United States, Szumowski was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for his bravery on the battlefield.
"The war was over for me," he said.
But a long rehabilitation was beginning.
At first, Szumowski had hopes that his vision could be restored. With time, he realized that this was impossible, and his eyes were removed and replaced with artificial ones.
"And now I have nice blue eyes," he said. "Most people don't know they're fake."
He decided to use his veteran's benefits to go to law school and attended the University of Denver. The full impact of being blind lay years ahead.
"It was a time not to think about what I was going to do with the rest of my life because I was in law school," Szumowski said.
When he graduated in 1973 and began trying to find a job, Szumowski said, he went into a psychological tailspin. He struggled for three years to come to terms with his blindness.
"I had to decide that wallowing in self-pity wasn't going to be very productive for 30 or 40 years," he said.
Szumowski decided to begin anew and moved from Denver to San Diego. He worked for more than three years as a veterans' counselor, then was selected executive director of the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, designed to change the image of the Vietnam War veteran.
"The goal was to separate the politics of the Vietnam War from those who were caught up in fighting it," Szumowski said.
After a year, "I decided I didn't want to be a professional v eteran," he said, and put his law degree to use.
He opened a law practice with attorney Perry "Tom" Christison, who later became a judge and whose death of a heart attack Sept. 30, ironically, created the spot on the bench Szumowski will fill.
Szumowski joined the District Attorney's Office in 1986 and since then has prosecuted a wide range of cases, including murder cases. He has been a familiar figure in the downtown courthouse as he walks the halls on his way to court with his 8-year-old German shepherd guide dog, Lucky.
He has a legal assistant to read files and do research and uses a special talking computer and scanner to assist him in his job.
Lucky sits under Szumowski's desk when they are in his tiny eighth-floor office in the Hall of Justice, and Szumowski said he expects that the dog will be at his feet when he takes the bench.
Szumowski and his wife, Janice, live in Coronado.
Despite the radical twists and turns his life has taken as a result of his experience in Vietnam, Szumowski said he does not regret going there.
"You can't live in the past," he said. "You've got to look forward."
Do you like to sing? This year at the Welcome to Orlando party on July 4, the Florida Council of the Blind will be holding karaoke. Being a professional singer is not required. If you want the thrill of being on stage, this event is for you.
Here's how it works: you decide what song you would like to sing, put your name down, and when your name is called, you will sing the tune you selected. Background music is provided; you provide the vocals. If you need moral support, bring your friends; there will be ample microphones available. Volunteers will be available to provide assistance in filling out the song slips as well as reading the lyrics if you do not know the tune. Although karaoke host Katie Joyce and other volunteers will be available to read lyrics, it will be helpful if you know the tune, especially if more than one person is singing. Songs in almost every musical category are available.
Karaoke will begin at 9:15 p.m. and last for about an hour, followed by a 30-minute break and another hour of karaoke. Sound interesting? Check the box for the Welcome to Orlando party and come join in!
The Visually Impaired Veterans of America will hold a breakfast meeting Tuesday, July 7 at 7 a.m. Plan now to attend the breakfast and hear Mike Lewis, southeast regional VIST coordinator, speak. On Tuesday afternoon there will be a workshop and business meeting from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Check your pre-registration form for more details.
Do you have an article you would like published in the Tennessee newsletter? Or have you lost contact with a friend in the state, and want to re-establish contact? If so, putting your notice in the Tennessee newsletter would be a good way to start. Your item should be limited to five minutes. It may be submitted in braille, large print or on tape. It will be published as space permits. If your item is submitted on a 90-minute tape it will be published as is and returned to you with a complete publication when available. If possible, please send pre- addressed return mailer with your item to James Carter, 1709 Sundrop Dr., Knoxville, TN 37921-4158.
The purpose of the American Council of the Blind Radio Amateurs is to introduce legally blind people to amateur radio as a hobby and promote ham radio by providing a forum for exchanging information and ideas among blind hams, by providing referral and supportive services, maintaining liaisons with other sectors of ham radio users, encouraging and facilitating development of adaptive devices and technologies for making ham radio more accessible, and by conducting a radio service net, when possible, serving legally blind people. The affiliate maintains communication with its members through the radio, e-mail and a newsletter.
ACBRA will hold its annual business meeting at the ACB national convention. Check your pre-registration form for more details.
The FIA suite will be open from Sunday, July 5 through Thursday, July 9. Visual and tactile artwork will be on display in the FIA art parlor from Sunday, July 5 through Tuesday, July 7; discover drawing with a new tool that creates a raised line! The FIA registration fee is $4 pre-registration, $5 on site.
The FIA board meeting will be held Saturday, July 4 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Your input is welcome.
The FIA Mixer will be held in the suite on Sunday, July 5 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. You can sign up for Showcase rehearsal/audition time slots, become a member, and meet and greet friends. Light refreshments will be served. Showcase chorus rehearsals will be held in the suite on Sunday night after the mixer and on Monday from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Once again, two MIDI workshops will be held, one for beginners and one for advanced musicians. MIDI for Beginners will allow participants to gain some practical experience using a MIDI workstation. Presenters for the beginners' workshop are Nancy Marie-Luce and Janiece Petersen, both of whom are professional performing musicians with experience in MIDI. This workshop will be held Monday, July 6 from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m., room TBA. The advanced MIDI workshop will be held at the same time, and will emphasize the demonstration of music notation software and its accessibility for both music students and working professionals. Other aspects of access to MIDI may also be demonstrated. The advanced workshop will be held in the FIA suite.
The Showcase rehearsal/audition will be held on Monday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Remember, have two selections prepared in case someone else plans to do the same one you do. And for those who enjoy poetry, the prose and poetry reading will be held Monday from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Read from your own creative store and listen to others' original writing. The host will be Herb Guggenheim, a published poet and university instructor in poetry and creative writing.
FIA's luncheon and business meeting will be held on Tuesday from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Also on Tuesday, you will have a chance to meet the artists whose work will be on display in the suite. The artists will discuss their techniques. The event starts at 3:30 p.m. And on Tuesday night comes the Showcase for the Performing Arts, a sparkling blend of talents tried-and-true and new. Be on time; performers need to arrive at 7 p.m., and the audience should plan to be seated by 8 p.m.
On Wednesday, the Writers Workshop will feature Steven Kuusisto, author of two published books who recently appeared on ABC's 20/20. He will discuss the process of writing personal narratives. The workshop begins at 1:30 p.m. and runs until 4:30 p.m.
For those who like singing, the round and harmony sing will be held in the suite on Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Bring a round to teach or a song that begs for harmonizing and plan to sing the rounds and songs others bring for sharing.
The post-election board meeting will take place in the suite on Thursday from 7:30 to 9 a.m.
Also on Thursday, we will tour the Alben Polacek Sculpture Gallery. A wide variety of sculpture is presented indoors and out, reflecting the artist's philosophy. Nature and religion predominate. The tour will leave promptly at 12:30 p.m. and return around 4 p.m. And in the evening, NAPVI will meet FIA in the suite. Discussion will center on growing in the arts. This is an opportunity for NAPVI participants to meet with a diverse group of professional artists and explore special adaptive technology. This event begins at 7:30 p.m.
In addition to the events listed above, Friends in Art will, as usual, be maintaining a boutique in the exhibit area. Items for sale will include: Showcase tapes from 1993 through 1997, new FIA hats, T-shirts (the hats and T-shirts match), a new instructional tape on MIDI, as well as additional items produced by individual members. FIA will also be running a raffle. First prize is a bookshelf stereo system, second prize is a cassette dubbing deck, and third prize is a cassette album of selected shorts from popular public radio broadcasting programs. Participants need not be present to win.
We look forward to seeing you in Orlando, and hope you will join us.
As was the case in 1997, a three-tier fee structure will be charged for convention newspaper and telephone newsline ads. Organizations and individuals wishing to have ads in the convention daily newspaper and telephone announcement service will contribute to the cost of production via the following fee structure.
For-profit businesses will pay $100 for an ad for five days or $35 per day.
Non-profit organizations and ACB affiliates will pay $25 for a 100-word ad which will run for five days or $10 per day.
Individuals will pay $15 for the entire five-day run of the paper/telephone system or $5 per day.
These fees will entitle the advertiser to announce his/her product in both the daily paper (available in print and braille) and on the telephone announcement service. Announcements via the telephone are subject to word reductions or even removal if important convention business announcements fill the newsline tape time. The 1998 convention will feature newspapers between Sunday and Thursday.
At last year's convention, President Paul Edwards announced that he would be delegating areas of responsibility to each of ACB's national officers. He assigned me two areas: oversight of several committees and implementation of ACB's long-range plan. I offer this interim report for your consideration and comment.
ACB faces enormous, relentless and growing demand for its services and expertise. According to the last figures I heard, the ACB national office fields more than 18,000 phone calls per year. Don't forget the substantial daily mail deliveries to the national office, and the countless letters and phone calls to ACB's affiliates. Our national staff works very hard. Thousands of talented and committed ACB members donate countless volunteer hours to ACB's mission. Still, the sheer volume of need for what ACB offers often threatens to overwhelm our ability to respond effectively.
So many individuals and organizations face similar challenges that management consultants have formulated this deceptively simple advice: plan your work; work your plan. Immediate past president LeRoy Saunders took the first step on this road by convening a long-range plan committee which, after a lot of hard but enjoyable work, presented to the ACB board a five-year plan which it adopted in February 1995. Some parts of the plan have already been accomplished: establishment of the executive director position and executive committee, improvements in the approach to ACB's financial future, and a membership retention survey, for example.
In some other areas, work has begun in a tentative sort of way but, so far as I know, has not been pursued in any sustained, systematic manner. For example, the convention suggestion box has been better announced and -- many thanks to those of you who responded -- better filled in recent years; but I don't know of any ongoing work looking at how those suggestions can be used to increase convention attendance.
Some projects, such as re-examining the purpose and role of the membership committee, or developing a comprehensive leadership development strategy, have been discussed, or even started; but I know of no active progress in these areas currently. Membership concerns arise in nearly everything we do. If all these issues are to be handled by the membership committee, then making that committee larger would make it more possible to handle the expanded work load. If the role of the membership committee is more narrow, then we need to know that so that projects can be assigned elsewhere without offending anyone. Progress in several other areas depends on resolving this issue.
Other projects have been started but now await someone to step forward and provide the ongoing energy necessary to complete them. The training and resource manual for board members, for example, owes its current development to prompt and gracious contributions from Patricia Beattie, John Buckley and LeRoy Saunders. If you would relish the opportunity to complete the task of telling the board what it ought to know, be advised the job is currently open.
At the 1996 convention, the affiliate presidents meeting produced enough volunteers to organize three working groups. To those who chose the group on time-sensitive communications, I offer my apology for not getting you organized. On the other hand, don't be so shy about seizing the initiative: if you are still interested, call me. Nolan Crabb and Chris Gray have done great things for ACB on the internet. But a number of communications issues still need attention.
An apology also goes to those who volunteered to look at how ACB could improve its services to special-interest affiliates. The working group did not form as such. But a number of special- interest affiliate presidents did meet during the Houston convention and again at the Orlando mid-year meeting. I hope the participants found both those meetings as exciting as I did. That second meeting produced several suggestions, including a request that national staff assist these affiliates in avoiding duplication of speakers and programming. I brought those suggestions to the board for consideration and found its response puzzling.
The third working group discussed at the 1996 convention, however, has produced real results. All the credit belongs to the group's members, all current or recent affiliate presidents. Diane Bowers of Oklahoma chaired the group. Frank Welte of VIDPI performed the thankless duties of secretary, for which we nevertheless thank him. Nelson Malbone of the Virginia Association of the Blind, John Brockington of Georgia, Mitch Pomerantz of the California Council and Sanford Alexander from Kansas completed an extraordinarily dedicated and productive team. They accepted the challenge of drafting a statement of affiliate rights and responsibilities. Based on their work as well as feedback from other affiliate presidents, national staff and the board, their fifth, yes, fifth draft went out to all affiliate presidents in time for consideration at the spring round of state conventions. The constitution and bylaws committee is now reviewing that draft as well. Many thanks to Diane and the other group members.
All right. I admit it: implementing the long-range plan is high on my personal list of ACB-related priorities. I have not always been perfectly diplomatic in pursuing that goal. If I had personally spent more hours on individual projects, some of them would be further along than they are. But in the long run, that approach would just be a prescription for burning out the candle without lighting the fire. At first, I assumed that because the board had approved the plan, individual members would come forward to indicate an interest in working on those parts of it which particularly interested them. With one or two exceptions, that didn't happen. No discredit to them: after all, they didn't authorize my assumptions. Next I became proactive and asked individuals for specific kinds of help. With a few much- appreciated exceptions, that approach worked no better than the first one.
Having neither the right nor the desire to throw stones, I intend no criticism of my fellow board members. They are busy, able people with the best interests of ACB at heart; and many are heavily engaged in a number of issues which are important to ACB's constituents. We are working hard. But all too often we are not working together: we are busy, but we are not working the plan.
When a majority of board members decides to give implementation of a common plan a higher ranking on their individual lists of priorities, ACB will become a more effective organization, especially if the board sticks to that approach over a period of time. Until that time, however, the plan we have now is likely to remain just a collection of worthwhile projects flourishing or dying according to the changing agendas of individuals or small groups. As to whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, the opinions which really matter are yours. And you will get to express those opinions in July.
In the meantime, I wish to thank some dedicated and gifted people for agreeing to serve as chairs of the committees for which I am responsible. Dr. Ed Bradley will serve as chair of the nominating committee. Please be advised that this committee will meet on Monday evening rather than the usual Tuesday. This change should help more candidates get to more caucuses by reducing duplication of caucus times. But it does put additional pressure on the credentials committee and press room. So that the nominating committee chair and the eager candidates will have a complete list of nominating committee delegates as soon as possible, please get those names to the press room as early on Sunday afternoon as you can.
Shelley Foley will chair the credentials committee. I have asked this committee to address two issues beyond its usual duties. The first item involves working with the constitution and bylaws committee to see if we can improve our current system of determining whether a candidate is eligible to run for a particular office. In the vast majority of cases, there is no doubt. But when there is, it seems to me that the matter should be treated as a question of credentials and resolved before the nominating committee meets. The second item comes from the long- range plan, which suggests that we develop some sensible way of identifying affiliates in need of special assistance. Since credentials tracks membership information and now conducts some of its proceedings in closed session, it seems a natural group to be involved in this process. I hope the membership committee will also participate, as well as a small number of other individuals.
Michael Byington will chair the resolutions committee and faces some of the toughest challenges I am handing out. The long-range plan calls for finding ways to streamline the conduct of convention business. Currently, every resolution submitted to the resolutions committee must come to the convention floor for disposition. Last year that number was around 40; next year the convention will be a day shorter. So how do we shorten the amount of time spent in floor debate of resolutions without discouraging minority views or the free flow of ideas? One idea is to get as many resolutions as possible submitted to the committee well before the convention so that interested parties can debate and improve initial drafts before the convention meets. Yes, I know: moving in that direction would probably require a bylaws amendment or two. Next challenge: how to get final, official versions of all resolutions into the hands of advocates by August 1 or earlier. Michael, when you're ready for number three, just call me; I have a list.
Kathey Wheeler and Dawn Christensen return as chairs, respectively of the constitution and bylaws committee and awards committee. Kathey and I don't always agree about whether "Robert's Rules of Order" should be part of the dog or part of the tail. But she has always been gracious about being right, and I keep trying to learn. The work of Dawn's committee, of course, simply cannot be done at the last minute. With all the projects Paul put on my plate, I am grateful to Dawn that I can rely on her experience and organization to get the job done on time and with class.
If you have followed me this far, then you deserve a gold star -- two if it took you half as long to read this as it took me to write it. I look forward to being with many of you in Orlando. Just be sure all your long-range plans are flexible enough for you to work in some fun around the edges.
(If you have comments about this article or would like to help with the implementation of ACB's long-range plan, please call me at (402) 475-8355 (voice-mail before and after business hours Central time), (402) 489-7836 between 6 and 9 p.m. Central time; or e-mail me 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 Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped will remain open throughout the 1998-99 school year, according to a press release from the Wisconsin Council of the Blind. The legislature realized the weaknesses in the proposal that would have closed the school, and effectively let the proposal die. Wisconsin residents who want to send their child to the school, or obtain more information, call Karen Heesen at (608) 752-0139 or the Wisconsin Council of the Blind at (800) 783-5213.
National Industries for the Blind recently assisted the U.S. Army's 2nd Cavalry, which is stationed in Bosnia and sponsors schools and classes in a certain area, by providing a supply of pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, audio tapes and other school supplies.
NIB also recently named former ACB president LeRoy F. Saunders as the Robert B. Irwin Award winner for 1998. William S. Thompson, president of the Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches, wrote in a letter of nomination (which was quoted in the NIB press release), "LeRoy exemplifies, in the grandest manner, personal upward mobility. This mobility has enabled LeRoy to benefit untold numbers of American citizens who are blind through his example and leadership." Saunders will be officially honored at an award ceremony at the GCIB/NIB annual meeting in St. Louis in October.
The Dorton College of Further Education runs a summer school for visually impaired people. The theme of this summer's program is "An English Cultural Experience." Participants must be 18 or older. Spaces are available for July 5-11, July 12-18 and July 5- 18. Request an application from Tina Middleton, Dorton College of Further Education, Seal Drive, Seal, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 0AH, England, or e-mail [email protected] The two-week package includes 10 study visits to various places including Hever Castle, Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Chartwell House (home of Winston Churchill), Knole House and London. The one-week packages will include five study visits, offering a selection of the above places. Informative talks and supporting material in braille, large print, or standard print in English will supplement the trips. Sighted people are also welcome to apply. Applications and payment must be received by June 1.
Version 12 of the award-winning World Series Baseball Game and Information System is now available. It comes with 139 teams, including the 1997 pennant winners and all-star teams. There are two baseball games, nine information programs and a 1,000-question quiz. Action during the game is described in the words of many of the famous radio and TV announcers. It costs $15 for new users, $5 for updates. Send your check and your name, address and phone number to Harry Hollingsworth, 692 S. Sheraton Dr., Akron, OH 44319; phone (330) 644-2421 or e-mail [email protected]
Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week is scheduled for June 21-27, and will focus on the achievement and independence of people who are deaf-blind. All citizens, health organizations, civic groups, libraries, schools and agencies are encouraged to plan state and local activities during June, especially during that week. If you want to help, you can do several things: write your governor, mayor, town supervisor and other elected officials asking them to issue a proclamation declaring June 21-27 Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week, and suggest a photo opportunity, bringing along a person who is deaf-blind and working; joining with your local newspaper to honor several candidates for "Citizen of the Year" awards, including, if possible, a deaf-blind person who is active in the community; a humanitarian award luncheon or dinner recognizing a local or state legislator, congressman or governor, media personality, public or private agency, school or club that has been supportive of deaf-blind people or who have extended or improved services to them; and much more. Sample proclamations, a radio public service script, list of activities, 1998 poster, ad slicks, and a press release are available from the Public Relations Department, Helen Keller National Center, 111 Middle Neck Rd., Sands Point, NY 11050; phone Barbara Hausman at (516) 944-8900 extension 325.
B More Productions provides information on major league baseball, basketball and hockey. The company offers score updates every half-hour, daily schedule of games and more. Call toll-free (888) 354-2637.
Jay Birch, an associate of Booz, Allen & Hamilton Inc., was recently selected by the Industry Labor Council's National Center for Disability Services for its 1997 Employee of the Year Award. This award recognizes successful disabled employees who serve as positive role models for all employees, according to a press release from Booz, Allen & Hamilton. Birch specializes in information security.
Vision Dynamics is a new company that carries adaptive equipment for the blind and visually impaired. Its products and services include: magnifiers, CCTVs, talking products, talking computers, kitchen products, health products, enlargement software, support groups, training, daily living needs, binoculars and monoculars, and more. The store is located at 470 W. Main St. (Route 70), Cheshire, CT 06410. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call (203) 271-1944.
The Peninsula Disability Services Board is now on the World Wide Web. The address is http://members.spree.com/LLittle. On Wednesday evenings from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Eastern and on Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. Eastern, join the chat in "The Able Voice" room. All disabled internet users, their families, friends and caregivers are welcome. There is also a chat room for kids, "Kids Speaking." It is for all disabled youth, and is monitored by an adult monitor. It has the following standards and guidelines: no vulgarity; no soliciting; no threatening; no adults except the monitor; no e-mail or Web site addresses will be listed; only children up to age 18 allowed; and children must use their real first name only and their true age. All parents, guardians, teachers and caregivers are welcome to visit and view the site before allowing their children to participate in the chat room. If you have questions, comments and/or suggestions, mail them to Ms. Leslie Little, Chairperson, Peninsula Disability Services Board, 1409-B N. Mt. Vernon Ave., Williamsburg, VA 23185; phone (757) 221-0542, or e-mail [email protected]
Ted Mason's memoir, "Battleship Sailor," and "Trapped at Pearl Harbor: Escape from Battleship Oklahoma" by Stephen Bower Young, are now available on tape from the Naval Institute Press. Mason, trained as a radioman, was working on the U.S.S. California at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. His battle station in the open maintop of the ship gave him a front-row view of the air raid. "Battleship Sailor" is unabridged on eight 100-minute cassettes for $44.95. At press time, price information for "Trapped at Pearl Harbor" was not available. For more information, or to order, contact the Naval Institute Press at the U.S. Naval Institute, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD 21402-5035; phone (410) 286-6110.
The ColorTest is a new handheld device that helps you distinguish colors independently, according to a press release from the American Printing House for the Blind. Hold an item, such as a jacket or piece of fruit, up to its sensor and it will announce the item's color. It can be used to match clothing. Included with the ColorTest is a leather carrying case, a cassette instruction manual, a quick reference of button layout and function, battery charger and a color chart. It also includes a one-year warranty. To order the ColorTest, call the American Printing House for the Blind at (800) 223-1839. The ColorTest, item no. 1-03950-00, costs $595; optional print instructions, item no. 8-03950-00, cost $2.50; optional braille instructions, item no. 6-03950-00, also cost $2.50.
Blind and visually impaired people can participate in biking, horseback riding, canoeing, hiking and more at Sports for Health in northeastern Pennsylvania. Feel free to invite a friend to join in the fun and apply as a sighted guide. The dates are August 2-9. For more information, contact Fred Quick, applications coordinator, at (718) 379-0246.
Northern Illinois University has a new program that supports distance learning for rehabilitation teachers. Under a grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, students take three courses per year for three years plus a full-time, 12-week internship at sites to be negotiated. Most courses rely on a combination of videotaped lectures, telephone conferences, guided practical exercises, and supervised teaching practicum experiences. Students will also receive hands-on practical learning and teaching experience through participating in up to four 3-day weekends per year on the NIU campus. The applicaton deadline is June 1. For more information, or an application, contact Ms. Brucie Hawkins, Project Director and Instructor, Faculty of Special Education, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115; phone (815) 753- 8455, or e-mail [email protected]
The Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision will be holding a national conference in Memphis, Tenn., from September 20-22. It is called "Effective Vocational Rehabilitation with African American Consumers Who Are Blind." The registration fee is $65. For more information, contact Amy Skinner or Lynn McBroom at (601) 325-2001.
Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company is a student-operated business at the California School for the Blind that sells giant fortune cookies (about 6 inches by 5 inches by 4 inches) with combined large print and braille fortunes. Standard cookies sell for 40 cents each; large ones, $6 each. Customized fortunes are available, as are chocolate-dipped fortune cookies. For more information, contact Judith Lesner at (510) 794-3800 extension 300, or e-mail [email protected]
Sensational Treasures offers gifts for all occasions: spun glass items, music boxes, porcelain dolls, etc. For a catalog, contact Sensational Treasures, P.O. Box 1077, Corinth, MS 38835- 1077; phone (601) 286-2807 or toll-free (800) 861-0264 (voice mailbox number 7224) to leave a message. A regular print catalog costs 45 cents; annual catalog, $2.75; cassettes, $2 per set; braille, $10. Orders will be accepted in print, large print, and on tape. NO braille orders please.
"Cooking with Feeling" is a new cookbook and instruction book offering recipes and adaptive cooking techniques for the visually impaired. It is available in large print, computer disk (WordPerfect, MS Word or ASCII), and costs $25.95 (including handling). The book explains more than 180 techniques and covers all aspects of cooking, from shopping at the market to setting the table. There are 150 recipes included, covering everything from appetizers to desserts, and menus to provide structure for entertaining. Order large print and computer disk copies directly from the author, Deborah DeBord, 81 Cree Ct., Lyons, CO 80540; phone (303) 823-0530, fax (303) 823-0337, or e-mail [email protected] Order braille copies from National Braille Press, (800) 548-7323. For samples, visit the web site at http://www.indra.com/~expressions.
"Families Are Important: An Early Childhood Guidebook for Families of Young Children" is a new 41-page booklet to help families understand what early intervention is, how it can help them, and how to obtain services for their child. It includes resource lists and a glossary. The book costs $5; orders of 10 books or more, the per-copy price is $4. To order, contact the PACER Center, 4826 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55417-1098; phone (612) 827-2966 (parents in greater Minnesota may call toll- free (800) 537-2237).
The Heska Corp., a Colorado-based veterinary pharmaceutical company, recently announced a new program called Partners Care to help maintain the partnership between people with disabilities and their guide, hearing and service dogs. According to a press release from the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, Heska will work with veterinarians to provide financial support in cases where the handler is unable to meet the high cost of diagnostic tests, intervention, and/or treatment of chronic diseases. The pilot program is targeted for IAADP members and will be used in selected cases where Heska believes treatment will restore the dog's ability to continue working for its handler. For more information, write Joan Froling, P.O. Box 1326, Sterling Heights, MI 48311; phone (810) 826-3938; web site http://www.ismi.net/iaadp. IAADP members who would like to apply for support should ask their veterinarians to contact Heska at (800) 464-3752.
Nominations are now being sought for the James H. Veale Humanitarian Award. This is a new award being made available through the E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation. It is named for James H. (Jim) Veale, an ACB life member from Illinois and reader of the "Matilda Ziegler Magazine." He donated money to the Ziegler Foundation; the foundation matched his amount. Half the money will be used each year for the award; the other half will be reinvested so that the award will continue.
Nominations must give the name and address of the nominee and describe the ways in which he or she has been especially helpful to a blind person(s). People outside the United States are eligible. The deadline for nominations is August 31. Send your print or braille nomination to Veale Humanitarian Award, c/o Ziegler Magazine, 80 8th Ave., Room 1304, New York, NY 10011.
Janet Cross does literary braille transcription. It costs $1 per braille page; binding, book covers and labeling cost $2, and packaging costs $2. She cannot do music or math transcription. Orders are sent free matter unless otherwise requested. Contact Janet Cross at (601) 456-3102.
White Iran, the only weekly newspaper for the blind in Iran, needs a new or used manual or electric braille writer to replace its current system. If you know anyone who would be interested in donating one, contact Ali Kamali at 2010 Village Dr. #A201, St. Joseph, MO 64506; phone (816) 271-4144.
Sixdot Braille Products has braille-embossed mugs available. They are stoneware mugs with raised print and braille (mugs are white with blue, green or black print). Sayings include: "I love you Dad," "I love you Mom," "Kids need love," "You can do it," "Follow your dreams," "Seize the moment," "Just add water," and "Keep me warm." Mugs retail for $10.95 each. For more information, or to order, call (612) 824-5939.
Orlando's climate and environment can result in some interesting challenges for you and your guide dog. You will want to be aware of a number of things. Fleas and tapeworms are very prevalent in the Orlando area. You may want to schedule a visit with your veterinarian upon your return home to test your dog for the presence of tapeworms. Regular flea prevention treatment would be wise during your stay in Orlando. Plan to deal with more than just heat and humidity. Orlando is also known for its sudden downpours. As a result your dog's ears may retain more moisture than usual, which can lead to an ear infection. Bring a dog towel for your four-legged friend's ears, so that you can immediately dry his/her ears as soon as you re-enter the hotel. Doing so reduces the risk of painful infections that will inevitably hamper your dog's ability to perform at its best.
If the rain, heat, fleas, and tapeworms are not exciting enough, there's always the hot topic of fire ants to discuss. When a fire ant stings a human, swelling and itching frequently occur. Dogs often do not show the same symptoms, but fire ant bites can be a major annoyance to your dog. These creatures are generally found in grass and they are in mounds.
Cleaning up after your dog is a must; however, it may present somewhat of a challenge as the only grass that will grow in such humidity is St. Augustine's. St. Augustine's is very thick, long, and feels like plastic. But cleaning up can and definitely ought to be done. Remember, cleaning up is a must and if we put forth our best effort to do so, the relief area will be a more appealing place for the dogs. Dog waste left behind is a breeding place for particular types of worms, and those worms will be transmitted to our guides.
Without exception, we should never ask hotel staff or members of the public to walk our dogs for us. Doing so would be like asking a stranger to baby-sit our children. There are some convention attendees who have made it a routine to pay other conventioneers to walk their dogs for them. While you may consider this routine an acceptable one, it isn't a practice generally supported by the guide dog schools.
Give your dogs lots of water, additional relief times, and more play time than usual to relieve much of their additional stress. Happy travels; see you all in Orlando!
As warm weather, springtime and the legendary cherry blossoms return to our nation's capital, my thoughts turn to summer and ACB's upcoming convention, scheduled this year in early July in Orlando, Fla. At the convention, our collective achievements and accomplishments will be reviewed and publicized and our ongoing challenges will be addressed with hopeful solutions. The positive energy generated at national conventions is contagious, and I know that many of us leave such events feeling revitalized, our batteries recharged to confront the challenges facing the blind and visually impaired community.
I hope that such positive energy will infect and inspire some of you to make the undeniably substantial financial commitment to stand up and become a member of the growing honor roll by becoming a life member of ACB. Life membership dues are $1,000, although the pain of that financial hit can be spread out over as many as five equal annual installments of $200. Should you decide to become a life member, you can be absolutely certain that your financial sacrifice will assist ACB in numerous programs and initiatives to better the lives and futures of blind and low-vision Americans. In addition, you and one guest will be invited to a very special reception at the national convention to be hosted by ACB President Paul Edwards, who himself became a life member last year at the convention in Houston, Texas. You will also receive a very handsome framed life membership plaque which you will want to hang in a prominent place in your home or office.
In closing, I would like to suggest to officers, directors and members of state and special-interest affiliates that, just as the Florida Council of the Blind honored Paul Edwards last year by purchasing a life membership in his name, your affiliate may wish to honor one of your living members who has served your organization and ACB with distinction. Such a decision and investment on your part can only bring welcome publicity and positive energy both to your affiliate and the honoree who becomes ACB's newest life member. Such a gesture on your affiliate's part will not only honor one of your deserving members but allow that person to bask in the limelight of joining a growing but still prestigious honor roll of ACB leaders who have forged a glorious and ever-growing record of accomplishment for all of us in the blind and visually impaired community. Those of you who decide to join the honor roll may contact assistant treasurer James R. Olsen at (612) 332-3242 to obtain more information as to how to become a life member in time to be honored at the upcoming convention in Orlando.
For two years, I have conducted a workshop called "Are You Congenitally Blind?" This workshop grew out of the idea that there were things that those of us who are congenitally blind had in common. I started to think this way after feeling quite out of place in Alaska. After all, I was a city person who had grown up in concrete New York and sprawling, less accessible Los Angeles.
In Alaska, there were fewer blind people, and at least in Juneau, the only blind people I met were blinded as teens or adults. I had a dog guide close to retirement who was not used to sidewalkless living, even though she liked the cold.
A mobility instructor and teacher of young children said that I had no visual memory, and therefore I was cut off from 80 or 90 percent of information around all of us. I realized I was feeling inadequate, and wondered if certain feelings and thoughts I was having were those of other people who are congenitally blind. I started thinking about writing a book on the subject, but two people suggested I conduct a workshop for congenitally blind people. I would like to thank Janina Celeste and George Illingworth, who suggested the workshop.
With Helen Keller, Robert Russell and others who were blind and deaf-blind being the images I grew up with, the focus was changing toward funding for those who were adventitiously blind. I never thought those of us who are congenitally blind, and in such a small number, had anything to talk about. Discussion topics at the workshop have included ways in which we, through others, attain information (and the confusion about that information), exercising for health, how we look, independence and confidence, and other subjects related to our conditions. Some folks even asked about particular conditions; they had to see if others shared their eye condition.
Last year, a few people wanted to give input on the threads we explore at this workshop. Feel free to call or write me, Lynne Koral, 1102 W. International Airport Rd., Anchorage, AK 99518; phone (907) 563-2525.
I have thought about, and hope to produce, a book on the subject. So many books have been written from the rehabilitation professional's standpoint. Let us speak for ourselves. Look for the workshop on your pre-registration form.
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak 640, June 30, 1994 revision. Asking $900 or best offer. Contact Ann Wasserman at (732) 222-3510.
FOR SALE: Optelec 20/20 plus 20-inch color monitor; Telesensory Vantage CCTV with 14-inch monitor; two Voyager XL's with 19-inch monitors; Spectrum Jr. 14-inch color CCTV; and Voyager CCTV with 12-inch monitor. Call Tom at (941) 378-8161.
FOR SALE: Complete set of JAWS for Windows manuals in braille for version 3. These include: help, configuration, dictionary, frame, keyboard, script, and customization managers. Price is $75 plus shipping and handling. Contact Dave and Ann Durber at HotKey Systems, 63-25B Bourton St. #1B, Rego Park, NY 11374; phone (718) 335-1788.
FREE: "Understanding Medical Terminology," fourth edition, by Frenay, in 14 braille volumes which are in excellent condition. Will give to the person who has most need of it. Contact Janell in braille or on tape at 303 Harvard Ave. E #302, Seattle, WA 98102- 5487; phone (206) 328-4778.
WANTED: Parts for Toshiba RT7085. Or if you have one for sale, I'd like to buy it. Contact Chester Carnes at (301) 724-4185.
WANTED: Braille 'n Speak 640. Phone (206) 447-0383 or e-mail [email protected]
WANTED: Modem. Contact Ann Wasserman at (732) 222-3510.
Sue Ammeter, Seattle, WA
Ardis Bazyn, Cedar Rapids, IA
John Buckley, Knoxville, TN
Dawn Christensen, Holland, OH
Christopher Gray, San Francisco, CA
John Horst, Elizabethtown, PA
Kristal Platt, Omaha, NE
M.J. Schmitt, Forest Park, IL
Pamela Shaw, Philadelphia, PA
Richard Villa, Austin, 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.
MIAMI, FL 33179
FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
57 GRANDVIEW AVE.
WATERTOWN, MA 02172
SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
825 M ST., SUITE 216
LINCOLN, NE 68508
556 N. 80TH ST.
SEATTLE, WA 98103
906 N CHAMBLISS ST
ALEXANDRIA VA 22312
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
2118 NW 21st St.
Oklahoma City, OK 73107
ELIZABETH M. LENNON, Kalamazoo, MI