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.
Last month I wrote a message on transportation because I was told by a few people that I hadn't done this and that I should. Those folks did not communicate with me by phone. Instead they wrote me an e-mail message. Right now I am averaging about 60 messages a day and I am only subscribed to one list. You will understand more of what I mean as this message goes on. E-mail is perhaps the most direct and often the quickest way to communicate with people and, as I have told you in a much earlier message, I have made tremendous use of it since I have become president of ACB.
Right now I am sitting out on my patio on a Sunday afternoon with soft bluegrass music in the background, wind chimes tinkling, and the sounds of neighbors cutting their lawns. I am writing this message on my Braille Lite and will then transfer it to my computer from whence I will send two versions to Nolan Crabb. One will be a WordPerfect version which I will attach to my e-mail message and the other will be a text version that I will send as part of my mail message. I probably don't need to send both versions but it's sort of a kick to do it and it gives Nolan a chance to read the message right away if he wants to using his e-mail program rather than having to leave it and open WordPerfect and retrieve my document once he has downloaded it. This approach to my messages has saved me no end of hassle. Former presidents had to fax their messages to ACB and, before the advent of the fax machine, actually had to print out and mail their copy to the office or "The Braille Forum" editor wherever he or she was.
This is just one of the ways that e-mail has changed my life. Another way is that e-mail can be used to transfer other documents than just my messages. I receive all kinds of information that is helpful from many people all over the country and, in fact, from around the world. I just published an article in the National Federation of Blind Citizens of Australia newsletter and was sent a copy of their magazine by e-mail the day it came out. I get my state newsletter and some from other states the same way so that I can easily keep in touch with what's going on elsewhere.
There is an option in some browsers that allows you to save whole books and have them forwarded to your e-mail address. Mississippi State has been working with a search engine that is designed to work directly with e-mail. Through Juno, an organization that surely deserves some kind of an award, e-mail is available to anyone free and, as you can see, just by learning to use e-mail you can get much more than just the chance to send a few messages back and forth to close friends. One of the things you can get as an e-mail user is access to Internet mailing lists known as listservs. These are another outgrowth of the age of information and, what is even neater, while they require some maintenance, they are, for the most part, automatic.
A listserv is a mailing list for e-mail users interested in the same topic. A single address is made available to which they send messages on their topic of interest. Thus, by sending a message to the list's single address, a person can send a message or a question to all the people on that list. The listserv or software which maintains the list knows the e-mail addresses of all the members of the list. It simply copies the message and distributes it to all members. There are thousands of lists now on any subject you can imagine and, indeed, there are beginning to be hundreds of lists relating directly to vision and blindness. Some of them are very technical but many are of general enough interest to be worth your finding out more about them.
The American Council of the Blind has several lists. The one I want to talk about in this message is called "acb-l" for American Council of the Blind List. When I checked over two weeks ago there were already well over 200 members and non-members subscribed to the list. At the end of this message, I will tell you how to subscribe so hold on!
When ACB first discussed putting together a listserv, I was frankly ambivalent. I was afraid that it would be like some lists are and would be full of silly messages or that it would get used for all sorts of idiotic questions. My fears were quite unjustified. I have followed the list since its inception and have been overjoyed by the quality of the debate that has occurred there. Sure, there are curmudgeons on the list who have nothing very positive to say but there are huge numbers of folks who are prepared to spend a lot of time and thought discussing serious issues. How does ACB differ from NFB? How can we make technology more accessible? What do you do when sighted people go too far in trying to help? How can we become more involved with the generic disability movement so that the distortions and inaccuracies currently showing up in the NPR series "Beyond Affliction" can be corrected? Often there are direct messages sent to the leadership of ACB about convention organization! Lots of people on the list are not happy about the hotel situation this year, for instance!
We have participants from Australia and New Zealand who write regularly to the list and their perspectives show just how universal many of the issues we discuss really are. People don't just write two- or three-sentence responses. Many take the time and trouble to write detailed and sometimes lengthy messages of quality that is perfectly high enough to be used as a "Forum" article.
I have taken the time in this message to talk about this list because I hope more of you will become involved. More than that, I want those of you who have chosen not to subscribe to know that you are missing a lot! Yes, there are days when the list can be annoying and where your e-mail box can get pretty full of junk; but there are also days when the list can startle you with a new idea or a new concept! It is a place that is friendly and immediate and fun and immensely valuable to me as president! That's another reason I wanted to write about the list. I want those people who are on it to know that I do read it. I have purposely kept out of the list much of the time because I don't want to act as a potential brake on the free flow of information. When I have put my two cents in, however, I have often been disagreed with pretty violently, sometimes publicly and sometimes privately. One of the nice things about a list, by the way, is you can choose whether you want to send your message to the list as a whole or whether you just want to say something to the person who sent the message you are interested in replying to.
E-mail is the easiest way to get your feet wet on the internet and, as this message has tried to show, it's much more than just sending messages back and forth. Get involved! Subscribe to the list even if you don't ever plan to send a message. Many of the over 200 people on the list just sort of lurk in the background and read the messages. If that's your style, that's just fine but don't miss the high quality of debate and discussion that can add a whole new dimension to your membership in ACB.
As I promised, then, here's how to subscribe! You need to send a message to a program called majordomo! That program is where the automated message routing happens. This version of majordomo is located on a server in Oklahoma operated by a company whose internet name is telepath.com. So to write to this program you just tell your e-mail program where to send your message. When you see the word "to:" at the top of a message, you simply fill in the blank line with the address. Keep in mind that in this case, you're actually writing to a piece of software, not a human being. So you type: email@example.com. The strange sign is the at sign which is the shifted number two on your computer. You don't have to do anything else with any of the other lines in the message heading. Leave even the subject field blank. Then, in the body of the message, type the word subscribe followed by a space. Then type your first name, a space, then your last name and another space. Finally put in your e-mail address with the less than sign at the beginning and the greater than sign at the end. The less than sign is the shifted comma and the greater than sign is the shifted period on your computer keyboard. See, that isn't hard. I'll see you on the list!
Orlando, Fla. and the Clarion Plaza Hotel are ready for the 1998 convention of the American Council of the Blind. We trust you are ready and that you have completed and mailed your pre- registration forms to the ACB Minneapolis office. Forms received after June 19 cannot be considered pre-registration. Some meetings and tours have limited space available, so send in your forms early. If you want this pre-registration information on cassette, call the ACB national office at (800) 424-8666. However, printed forms MUST be used to pre-register.
You may be surprised to learn that at the time of this writing (early May) there are still some rooms available at the Quality Inn Plaza Hotel, the overflow hotel, at the $51 per night plus tax rate. This is due to reservation cancellations of other than ACB convention attendees.
There will be volunteers at the Orlando airport on Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4. Van service to the hotels is provided by Mears, Transtar and Town and Country. Mears and Transtar charge $21 and Town and Country $25 for transportation to and from the hotel. There are booths outside the baggage area where you can purchase your round-trip tickets. Volunteers will have coupons from Mears and Transtar which will reduce your fare either $3 or $4. Cab fare is $25 one way.
Convention dates are Saturday, July 4 to Saturday, July 11. All convention activities, including departure for tours, will take place at the Clarion Plaza Hotel. Tours depart promptly at the time indicated from the hotel ballroom exit. Please be there ready to board the bus 20 minutes before departure time. Convention activities begin on Friday, July 3 with the overnight tour to St. Augustine. Departure time is 8 a.m. On Saturday, July 4 at 8:30 a.m. the ACB board of directors will meet. Exhibits open at 1 p.m. Also on Saturday, there is an Orlando city tour, a tour to Disney's Magic Kingdom, and a welcome to Orlando party in the evening planned by the Florida Council of the Blind. Shuttles will operate between the Clarion Plaza Hotel and the Quality Inn Plaza from Friday, July 3 at 7 a.m. to Saturday, July 11 at 1 p.m.
On Saturday, July 4 at 5 p.m. a convention information session is planned for those people attending for the first time. This session will be repeated on Sunday at the same time. A tour information session will be held Sunday at 11 a.m. Check your program for meeting locations. After checking into the hotel, your first contact should be at the registration office to pick up your registration packet and the convention program. The preliminary part of the program includes much information which will be useful to you during convention week. This section will answer many of your questions regarding the hotels and convention procedures.
This year, we are fortunate to have the National Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired (NAPVI) joining ACB at convention. There will be some combined programming and NAPVI will hold some of its own sessions. However, all meetings are open. NAPVI's activities are included in the convention program.
The 1998 convention will be challenging and exciting. Orlando is ready. We hope you are also!
Convention time is fast approaching. Though Margie Donovan has written an article on the practical side of handling the 1998 ACB and GDUI convention, I'd like to take a closer look at dogs and public gatherings.
Imagine yourself as a guide dog. Your view of the world is centered about two and a half feet from the ground. At that level, you encounter a lot of purses, legs, briefcases and those long white sticks so prevalent at gatherings of blind people. Toddlers, low shelves and benches are also within your range as a dog. Though guide dogs are trained to be aware of the space their human partners take up beside and above them, this aspect of the human/dog relationship can sometimes be confusing for all involved.
As we prepare to gather in convention in July, I think about the entire process for my dog. Being a seasoned traveler, he is not particularly unnerved by airplanes, crowds or other guide dogs. Long meetings where he is tucked neatly out of the way are par for his course, or so I am reasonably sure. Then I realize about halfway through convention week that my dog no longer finds this scene of people, meetings, theater seating, elevators and hotel rooms pleasant or even interesting. His personality either disappears completely, turning him into a tired robot, or it manifests itself in stubbornness, like a toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the mall where everyone will criticize, no matter what disciplinary method is used. I wonder, when I think about my own stamina for conventions, if I don't exhibit the same behaviors.
Each year we hear people grumble about poorly kept guide dogs, dogs sprawling in aisles, being jammed into impossibly full elevators and generally being in the way; such are the perceptions of those not attached to their leashes. To ACB's credit, the guide dog is an accepted part of the organization's membership and culture. Like other aspects of culture though, the dog's mere presence does not assure its complete tolerance.
I find during ACB conventions where I have many duties, want to attend many different types of programming, and interact with a wide variety of people, that I become tired much more easily because I am caring for another party along with myself. Not having any children, I can only imagine that this is what parents go through. The cane user can board an elevator generally effortlessly, without being concerned about tails and legs being caught or trampled. The cane user can attend parties, mindless of coffee tables full of munchies. The cane user also does not have to remember to take the cane out during the day for relief, or see to its regular feeding and watering schedule.
But we knew this going in, didn't we? Those of us who chose to work with guide dogs learned in that first week of training that our lives were no longer exclusively ours. Conventions, especially those involving our peers, with ready access and acceptance of our disability and our needs, sometimes remind us of this fact by tugging at our endurance.
I'll be honest! I've instigated some doggie races down empty hallways, rough housing with a toy in my room and other forms of raucous play to relieve canine stress during conventions. Yes, these sessions were as gratifying to me as they were to the dog. However, we must keep in mind when doing such things that we are in a public facility and others might not appreciate the sounds of large dogs running down halls or bouncing off walls.
In 1998, GDUI hopes to help alleviate convention stress for guide dogs by offering a play time from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., July 7 through 9. Dogs can play in a secure, fenced area, off leash. The area will be staffed with GDUI volunteers. Handlers must stay with their dogs at all times. Only one or two dogs will be allowed in the play area at once, and no toys can be brought in. But this time will allow for running, rolling and generally stretching out with some freedom from the press of convention activity.
Another frequent convention dilemma is whether to bring one's dog to events or leave it in the room. This, of course, depends on the personality of the dog and the situation. One of my pet peeves about any convention is the tight space at lunches and banquet functions. The standard eight-chair configuration leaves little room for dogs. Each year I hear horror stories about the dog left lying, sprawled, behind someone's chair. This dog is stepped on, tripped over and cursed. The handler, fearing for the dog's safety, becomes increasingly touchy about the subject of its position and a vicious cycle of snapping and comments fast ensues.
After much consideration, I am purchasing a new cane to use during the upcoming convention. I know that there will be times when my dog is tired or events where he simply will not be comfortable. This presents a quandary for me, as the president of the guide dog affiliate. What? Can't you take your guide dog everywhere? Though this is not my first venture into "practical access," it is my first public pronouncement of such a strategy at an ACB national convention.
I would go so far as to say that, regarding the place of guide dogs in the scheme of convention activities, the old saying "children are best seen and not heard" applies. But children will be children and dogs will be dogs. The mix of people, canes, other guides, hectic schedules, cramped seating, crowded halls and elevators and a new environment can make even the best dog exhibit some unconventional convention behavior. Keeping your dog well-groomed, tending to its relief needs, making sure it is out of the way as much as possible, and leaving a lot of extra time to navigate and handle elevators, etc., will make the convention experience much happier for all involved. The wonderful thing about gathering in such a convention is that if you are having a work or behavior problem with your dog, not only will trainers from all the major schools be present, but your peers will also be available for that all important ear.
Please come join us in the GDUI suite. Our hours of operation are from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 4 through 9 and by request July 10.
To all of you who are reading "The Braille Forum" in preparation for the 1998 convention in Orlando, I have some information I want to share with you. I am this year's chairperson of the deaf-blind committee. I need you to know who we are, what we need, why we are here, and what we are doing. This committee has not been very active for some time. It may be that the use of the word deaf-blind in the committee name has discouraged some from getting involved. It is not etched in stone that only people who are profoundly deaf and totally blind can participate in this program. As a matter of fact, most of the people who participate are visually impaired and hard of hearing. They range in age from teens to elderly; there is no set age, gender or severity of disability.
In order to benefit all the people we would like to have in seminars and workshops, we need you to help us determine how many of us there will be, what we need for accommodations and devices, as well as what kind of programs you would like to participate in or learn about. When your registration packet arrives, please read it over carefully and help us determine who you are, what you need, and what your interests are. We will welcome you to our gatherings the best way we know how if we are prepared for you.
I know there are people with Usher syndrome and those who have RP with a sudden change of hearing that has occurred with age. This may be a frightening time for you and it may be difficult for you to adjust and adapt. Come to a deaf-blind committee gathering and we can all share in this together.
On Saturday, July 4, from 7 to 9 p.m. we will have a communications get-together followed by a social gathering. This means we will participate in a crash course of how best to communicate with a person who is visually impaired and doesn't hear very well either. Some of us may also want to learn to do hand-in-hand signing for people who are truly deaf-blind. On Monday evening we will have a pizza supper and a panel discussion. This may be the place you want to be to get the answers to some of those questions you have in mind!
I expect that we will have some people who will be from various agencies, schools or other organizations. That is fine, but I want to see more people there who want to participate because they are living the reality of the situation and want to share with others and learn from their peers. If you have suggestions, questions or concerns, the ACB national office can put you in contact with me. I look forward to meeting many of you in Orlando in July. Have a safe trip; see you then!
The North Carolina Council of the Blind recently sponsored a trip to Disney World for 12 students from the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. The students and chaperons left on a weekend in late March.
Also, the NCCB recently began producing its quarterly newsletter, "The Council Review," in braille.
The state convention will be held October 9-11 at the Holiday Inn, 2008 S. Hawthorne Rd., Winston-Salem, NC. For more information, contact Tim Jones at (704) 391-3204.
Hey, all you singles out there! There will be a "Single Mingle" at convention on Monday, July 6 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. This event will be packed with activities designed to bring single conventioners closer together. A voluntary single register will be set up so that attendees may continue networking throughout the year. Entries in the register will include name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and so on.
Visually Impaired Data Processors International is offering two computer training sessions during the 1998 convention. The sessions are scheduled for Monday, July 6 and Tuesday, July 7, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Each course will provide students with a hands-on introduction to the Microsoft Windows 95 operating system and to Microsoft Office 97 business software suite. Each class will feature different screen access packages, JAWS for Windows one day and Slimware Window Bridge the other day. The course will be taught by an experienced trainer from the manufacturer of the featured access software package. The course can accommodate up to 10 students per session, two students per computer. This course is intended for computer users with experience using either MS-DOS or some version of Windows. VIDPI members pay $20 to attend; non-members pay $35. For more information on these sessions, or to sign up, contact Frank Welte at (415) 983-7656 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
W3ACB is the ACB Radio Amateurs' newly acquired vanity call sign.
IMPORTANT - The ACBRA annual business meeting will be held on Thursday, July 9, 1998 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Don't forget the meeting when making your plans. We will have election of officers, consideration of more amendments to the ACBRA constitution, and you will have a chance to talk with others about your experiences with ham radio. Those of you who are not hams, but are interested, please come and see us. We would like to be of help to you in your pursuit.
ACBRA BREAKFAST - For those of you who will be in Orlando the morning of Sunday, July 5, ACBRA members will be getting together informally for breakfast. We will meet someplace outside the hotel to keep the cost down. I arrive at the Clarion Plaza Hotel around 3 p.m. and can be reached after that time. When checking for my hotel extension, remember there are usually two Robert Rogers at the ACB conventions: I am the one from Cincinnati. Mike Duke K5XU, the ACBRA vice president, may act as an alternate. I will be monitoring 147.48 mHz under the call W3ACB at 9 p.m. for 30 minutes for anyone seeking information about ACBRA.
ACBRA CONVENTION CALLING FREQUENCY - Once again, ACBRA is using the two-meter simplex frequency of 147.48 mHz as a calling frequency. We are recommending that you call 10 minutes plus or minus the hour. Try frequently. Try on the half hour as an alternative.
PROTECT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC AND ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT FROM LUGGAGE SCANNING - There is a new breed of high-powered luggage scanner around, the Invision Technology CTX-5000 SP, many of which are already scanning luggage in U.S. airports. These damage even slow-speed films (400 and 800 speed). There is danger to electronic equipment even from the older scanners. However, there are those who will argue the point, but none are ready to back it up with money for replacements. The new security scanners are even more likely to damage solid state equipment. Make sure you carry your computers, Braille 'n Speaks, communications equipment, etc. with you, and insist that security personnel hand-scan your electronic equipment. Have a visual inspection done on your high-tech equipment. Usually, I have little problem when I offer to demo my goodies to them at the security gate as working equipment. In short, if you have photo or electronic items that you value, don't pack them in your checked luggage. Carry it on with you.
Please contact one of us in ACBRA before the convention so we
can know how many to expect at our events. Robert R. Rogers
(K8CO), e-mail email@example.com; or phone (513) 762-4022 office, (513) 921-3186 home;
Mike Duke (K5XU), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; phone (601) 362-5083 home, (601) 982-6301 office.
(Reprinted from "American Journalism Review," May 1998. Further reproduction of this story is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder unless reproduced in a specialized format.)
(Editor's Note: Clark Walworth is the managing editor of the Twin Falls, Idaho, "Times-News." We realize that some of the advice presented here may not apply to every job-hunting "Forum" reader, but many of the tips are universally applicable. While much of this story is targeted to graduating students, there is plenty here of value for anyone looking for work. We hope you enjoy the author's style and perspective as much as we do.)
No journalism schools invited me to speak at commencement this year. Same as last year, and the year before that.
They're making a big mistake. I could tell the graduates something useful for a change. If you want the secret to a perfect martini, ask a drunk. If you want advice on getting your first newspaper job, ask the editor of a small paper.
Some of the many resumes I get are alarming. One woman informed me that, "having a master [sic] degree in communication" from a prestigious Western university, "I apply for your open position." Another candidate confided that he had written for an adult-oriented newsletter. He enclosed reviews of skin flicks and strip clubs, one of which employed entertainers with (in the applicant's professional judgment) "butts to die for."
The garden-variety blunders? Misspellings. Grammatical errors. Bad photocopies. Windy cover letters.
Most graduates þ and other applicants þ could improve their job prospects by simply applying good sense and careful workmanship.
Here's some free advice from a Grumpy Old Editor:
1. Keep it simple. Some job applicants package their resume and clips in expensive binders. A few of them seal each clipping in a plastic page protector, as if it were an heirloom, and then encase it all in a three-ring notebook. Those fancy binders don't fit in my file cabinet so I strip off all the packaging and staple together the bare pages. Save your money to buy stamps for more applications.
2. Keep it short. I have a newspaper to run. I don't have all day to review your life story, fascinating as it is. Edit your resume until it fits on one page. Ditto for cover letters. In fact, if your letter fills more than half a page, I probably won't read all of it. (Am I hurting your feelings, kids? Tough.)
3. Can Johnny write? You've dreamed of being a writer all your life, and I can grant your wish. So don't send me a letter that begins, "Hello, my name is Johnny Jayskool, and I saw your job notice at the Porcupine State College placement office." Where you saw my notice is irrelevant. And if I decide your name is worth knowing, I'll look for it in the customary place þ at the bottom of your letter.
I thirst for evidence from your letter that you have the intelligence and skills to be a professional journalist þ and the ability to write an imaginative lead. Write one.
4. Be professional. Libraries have books describing the proper format for a business letter. Read one.
5. Get it right. Don't misspell my name. Lousy first impression. And don't forget to revise your text from one application letter to the next. I commonly receive letters, neatly addressed to me, expressing a heartfelt desire to work for some other newspaper.
6. Proofread. If you're applying for a job as a writer or copy editor, don't use your cover letter and resume to demonstrate your incompetence.
7. Include clips. I need work samples. If you don't bother sending them, I won't bother hiring you.
Send work that's relevant to the job. If you're applying to do layouts and headlines, send layouts and headlines. But always send your best stuff, too. If you're applying to cover education and your best stories are about crime, send whatever education clips you have, but also enclose your best work overall.
8. Give me references. Some numbskull a few years ago ended his resume with the phrase "References available on request." Now it's the biggest fad since bell-bottoms. And just as dumb. Restaurants don't tell customers, "Silverware available on request." If I'm going to consider hiring you, I'm going to call references. Don't make my job harder.
9. Use e-mail. Employment advisers say to follow up your application with a phone call. It's reasonable advice, unless you're me. When I'm screening applicants, I may receive 25 or 30 resumes a week. Just reading them strains my time. Do you think I also want 25 or 30 extra phone calls?
But remind me you're out there with a brief, friendly e-mail: "I sent a resume for your copy desk opening. If it hasn't come, please let me know and I'll send another."
10. Be ready for my call. That joke recording on your answering machine was cute when you were a sophomore, but it's a liability in the job market. Replace it with something businesslike. Also, coach your roommates to answer the phone like adults. Chatting with the cast of "Animal House" irritates me.
There you go. Ten rules, a nice round number. They won't get you hired, but they might get you an appointment to see me. Remember to wear socks.
Just what does it take to be the founder of a dial-in newspaper system? Independent wealth perhaps? Celebrity status maybe? The ability to convince an entire legislature in one meeting that a talking newspaper for blind citizens is a good idea? If indeed those were the qualifications needed to start a talking newspaper, the vast majority of us could never succeed. While all of those attributes might be helpful, none of them is necessary. Steve Bauer of Wichita, Kan., is proof of that. An ACB member, Bauer is not independently wealthy. He does not have celebrity status; if you were to ask Wichita citizens if they recognize his name, the vast majority of them would return a blank stare. He's never asked the Kansas legislature for a dime. But Bauer is the founder of the Air Capital Telephone Reader. The service he founded allows blind Kansans to dial a telephone number and hear various publications read to them either by volunteer narrators or synthetic speech. By using the telephone keypad, blind and visually impaired callers can read whole articles, skip through parts of the story or jump from headline to headline to pick a story of interest. He's proof that all you really need is a little dream and a lot of drive.
Bauer's dream for accessible news in his town was born in 1992 when he visited suburban Washington, D.C., and heard the Metropolitan Washington Ear's Dial-in News service. "I was hooked," he recalls. "I knew that I wanted that kind of service in Wichita both for myself and for others to enjoy, use, and learn with."
The dream remained only a dream until 1995. That's when Bauer knew that if the dream were ever to be anything more, he had to take some decisive steps. First, he had to form a corporation that would enable him to raise funds for the endeavor. "In July of 1996," he recalls, "the Information Access Association, Inc. was officially formed and became a 501(c)(3) corporation in the state of Kansas."
Bauer thoughtfully put together a board of directors consisting of seven people. Three board members are blind; two have blind children. "I felt with that mix of people that we could seriously target the information needs of our target audience," he says.
The Air Capital Telephone Reader is so named because of Wichita's designation as the Air Capital, a name resulting from the heavy presence of aircraft manufacturers in the city.
Once the corporation was formed, the fund raising began in earnest. Bauer knew it would do no good to raise funds if he had no news to play to callers. He approached editors at "The Wichita Eagle," a Knight-Ridder publication, to get their cooperation. The paper's editors saw Bauer's efforts as a positive step for the paper, and they agreed that the "Eagle" should be available to the Air Capital Telephone Reader. Today, Steve Nomer, vice president of the Air Capital Telephone Reader, arises at 2:30 a.m. to retrieve the digital version of the newspaper. By about 4 a.m., telephone reader subscribers can call and hear the paper for that day.
Equipment was purchased in August of 1997, and testing began soon after that. Today, those who call the Telephone Reader will hear "The Wichita Eagle" and the "Wichita Business Journal" (read by a voice synthesizer). Prime-time TV listings are read by volunteer narrators. At present, employment and other advertising sections aren't available since the newspaper does not currently provide those files.
"We also offer what I call the Telephone Reader News Desk," Bauer explains. "It has a variety of things on it including 'ACB Reports,' 'The Braille Forum,' 'The Braille Monitor,' segments of 'The Radio Amateur Information Network Journal,' the Telephone Reader's own newsletter, and more. It's more than just newspapers."
By November of 1997, the newspaper began sending its computer files to the Telephone Reader. In late January of this year, the service officially opened. "As of now," Bauer says, "we have about 130 people signed up."
Bauer says putting together a service like the Telephone Reader had its price, both monetary and personal. "The first step was one of the most difficult I've had to make personally," he explains. "I had to resign from or not accept nomination for various positions in local and state blindness-related organizations. There was just so much of me to go around; I felt in order to make this project work, I had to put a considerable amount of time and effort into it." He says some people connected with those organizations apparently misinterpreted his decision to resign from various positions. "I think some of them perceived that I was somehow angry or had in some way turned against them. That's simply not the case. I knew I'd have to handle a lot of the day-to-day operations once we were up and running. This really has been about time, not some change of attitude toward any of the organizations in which I'd previously served."
In fact, time was a major factor in the establishment of the Telephone Reader. Bauer and his associates began talking to potential funders in the spring of 1996. His job was made more difficult by those nay-sayers who were vocally convinced he wouldn't succeed. "The unique thing about our organization is that we are not connected with any blindness organization, either local, state or national, government agency, educational institution or radio reading service. We're totally independent in that regard; I think that's quite phenomenal."
Bauer says Wichita's local radio reading service apparently perceived his efforts as a threat to its operation. "We're not a threat; a radio-based reading service and a telephone-based reading service do nothing but complement each other. When you really get down to it," he adds, "they serve two different audiences." Explaining those differences to potential funders is still a difficult process. He must constantly point out to funders the importance of being able to call the Telephone Reader when it's convenient and hear the newspaper rather than being forced to listen to the paper on a set schedule. There's much to be said as well for the ability to edit articles at will. "With the radio," he points out, "you're really at the mercy of the volunteer narrator who does the editing. With our service, you can jump and skip through paragraphs or whatever you need to do. We can also allow you to get proper name spellings if you need it when hearing that part of our service read by synthetic speech."
Bauer says he had several choices when it came to buying equipment to run the service. He ultimately settled on the University of Kansas Telephone Reader software. "We felt it had the most flexibility," he explains, "and the fact that they were close to us indicated we'd get good support." As the operations officer for Intrust, N.A. bank, he approached his employer about space for the Telephone Reader. There was a tiny office that had been vacant for many years. "It was so small," he explains, "that nobody wanted it. But it was perfect for what we needed."
Bauer's software allows him to track the reading habits of his callers. He explains there are basically three groups of listeners þ the instantly hooked, the occasional callers, and a third group who fear they will somehow break the system if they depress the wrong key on their telephone keypad. He said a basic fundamental that must occur when working with Telephone Reader users is helping them establish the habit of reading the paper. "You should recognize that many people never were in the habit of picking the paper up off their porch and reading it each day. Still others were in that habit at one time, but fell out of it when they lost their vision. We actually need to work on getting people in the habit of reading the paper. You can't do that if callers experience busy signals when they call in." Bauer currently has eight lines available at any given time. Each user receives a complete information packet in his or her medium of choice which details the procedure for getting on the service and lists help commands and categories for the publications.
Bauer says local and state news is by far the most popular section of the paper. All other sections are read roughly equally. "We clearly make a difference where local and state news is concerned," he explains.
Asked what advice he would give to someone interested in starting a similar news service, Bauer says one of the first steps is to talk with the editors of the local paper. Get acquainted with the paper's computer person as well so you can determine the format in which the files will be sent. Second, look at where you will house your operation. You may not need much space, especially if you plan to rely heavily on synthetic speech. Then, he says, don't be afraid to ask for money from virtually anyone and everyone. "Use every possible resource you have every connection you have with a business or agency in the area use those connections. Don't hesitate to ask people you know to help you seek out possible funding sources."
To hear a demonstration of the Air Capital Telephone Reader, call (316) 337-7701 and select option 2 from the menu you hear. This is a toll call for those living outside Wichita. You may also leave a brief message at this number to obtain further information. Those with access to e-mail may contact the Telephone Reader by writing to: email@example.com. Eldorado, Kan., residents can call (316) 321-8963 at no cost to them.
Bauer says those who wish to subscribe to the service may do so, but they must complete an application for service. The application's primary purpose is to authenticate the subscriber's status as a print-handicapped reader.
(Reprinted with permission from "Horizons," June 1998.)
Readers should be alert for the forthcoming decision of the United States Supreme Court in Clinton v. New York City, which challenges the line-item veto of the president. This is a very important case, which, though not a disability law case, could have profound implications for people with disabilities. The case was argued at the end of April 1998, with a decision expected in late June or early July.
Until 1996 under the United States Constitution with its provisions for separation of powers amongst the president, Congress and the courts, a president could either approve or veto a total enactment of Congress. It was yes or no on an entire measure which had been approved by the United States Senate and House of Representatives. If the president vetoed a bill, then Congress could override the veto with a two-thirds majority in each chamber. This all-or-nothing system led to much shrewd legislative maneuvering, particularly on spending bills where amendments would be added to a bill because the congressman or senator advocating for the amendment was sure it could become law because the president would not veto the basic bill to which the special-interest amendment had been added.
However, in 1996, Congress passed the line-item veto which allows the president to cut parts ("lines") of tax and appropriation bills while keeping the rest. At the time of enactment it was recognized that many states have line-item veto laws. The federal government would just be doing what the states, for the most part, are already doing.
The argument is now made that when a president lines out part of a bill the president is changing what Congress had adopted and was putting into effect a measure that was different from what had been passed þ without getting Congress' approval of the revised measure.
A line-item veto can be very useful in eliminating those special amendments which have been tacked on to bills. The line- item veto can be used to eliminate that special project which is in reality a waste of taxpayer money. It could be a great tool for balancing the budget by cutting down waste in government.
But that is just one side of the issue. It is a mistake not to also consider the potential dire consequences of this presidential tool.
A line-item veto is a very potent weapon, not necessarily a friend of people with disabilities. Do NOT think of the line- item veto being used by President Clinton or President Bush, each of whom has been basically supportive of people with disabilities. (Focus here on the line-item veto. Leave aside your views on President Clinton and former president Bush.)
Rather, consider the lethal nature of a line-item veto in the hands of a president who was totally opposed to civil rights or disability rights. What if the president were to line out the appropriations for the Department of Justice's filing of any ADA cases or for line-out provisions for special education grants from the law funding the U.S. Department of Education because the president thought ADA suits should only be brought by private attorneys or just didn't like special ed? What if the president were to line out the appropriation for a program of the Social Security Administration, such as SSDI, because the president thought too many people were receiving benefits? What if the president eliminated all funding for Randolph-Sheppard vendors because of total disbelief in that program?
To cut to the core, a line-item veto could be used to gut a program a president did not want to fund. What is a waste to one person (the president) could be of overriding need to many others (people with disabilities).
This is a very important case with implications transcending the community of people with disabilities. Clinton v. City of New York raises fundamental issues of governance. The "winner" in this case may not be apparent for years, regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, when it is clear how the line-item veto if upheld (which is questionable) is applied in everyday Washington politics. Along with the disability cases already argued this term (the dental patient with HIV, Abbott v. Langdon, and the applicability of the ADA to inmates in state prisons, Department of Corrections v. Yeskey), this case means that in 1998 the Supreme Court will wield the most influence of any Washington entity on the lives of people with disabilities.
If there's anything in the world more common than a cold, it's probably a bar code symbol. These ubiquitous little symbols appear on virtually everything we buy, and now an Illinois-based company has developed a device that helps you harness the bar code and use it to solve the mystery of what's in that can, box or package.
The device is called i.d. mate, manufactured by En-Vision America of Normal, Ill. It works on a simple premise. It lets you create a voice message that is linked to the bar code on any product you might buy. Consisting of a scanner and a main unit, the i.d. mate is very portable. To use it, the blind operator would simply sweep the scanner over the product he or she is about to buy. The scanner beeps once it has found the bar code and recorded the unique number. If you know that you have a can of Campbell's tomato soup, for example, you could scan the can, listen for the beep, then record the name of the product and type of soup. You might simply say "Campbell's Tomato Soup." Your voice message is stored on a small flash memory card. Next time you go to the store and scan the soup cans, your i.d. mate would speak your voice message when it saw the tomato soup can.
The i.d. mate was originally conceived as a way for two blind brothers to play cards with sighted members of the family, according to Philip Raistrick, president of En-Vision America. He recognized that each playing card had its own unique bar code on it. Using a personal computer and a bar code scanner, Raistrick designed software that would allow his brothers to hear what their card was through an earphone. "One of my brothers didn't know braille," he explained, "so this was a good substitute."
Of course, Raistrick recognized the difficulty of using the original design of his machine. Its biggest drawback was its lack of portability. He set to work building a product that could be carried easily and that would allow a blind user to scan any product for the bar code, then record a voice message that would be associated with that particular bar code until the user deleted the message. Some two and a half years after his initial design, Raistrick was ready with a prototype of a more portable bar code reader/voice recorder.
"This is a kind of database," he explained. "Our software associates the bar code number with your voice message and stores it on the memory card."
Raistrick said most users buy multiple cards for multiple purposes. "You could have a card for groceries, one for a music collection, and still another for videocassettes or some other product."
Raistrick said bar codes are a natural for use by blind and visually impaired people. "These bar codes are about the size of a postage stamp," he explained, "and they can be found on more than 90 percent of all things manufactured and sold in the United States."
He said many people use the i.d. mate to label medicines. "Not only can you have labels on the medicine, but you can record the instructions for taking the medicine if necessary."
Of course, the longer your messages, the fewer you can store on the flash card. Still, including cooking instructions on a recorded label means that whenever the bar code scanner scans the bar code for a meat pie, for example, you'll not only hear the words "pot pie," you will hear the cooking instructions if you recorded them.
According to Raistrick, even clothing can be labeled and scanned. You could even include information about what piece of clothing matches another clothing article. "We know of secretaries who are using this on those adhesive file folder labels that are bar coded," he said. It's a good way to have an electronic filing system without filling a file drawer with bulky braille dots.
Some users even use the i.d. mate to determine patterns of dishes that may not be tactile enough to feel, Raistrick said. Randolph-Sheppard vendors also use the product to label stock.
"One of the best features about our system is its ability to decipher the bar code number no matter how you hold the package you're scanning," Raistrick said. "We could have used a cheaper scanner, but the blind user would have been in a real fix because those cheaper scanners won't work unless the package is exactly right side up and the bar code is oriented in exactly the right direction. Our scanner is omni-directional, and you aren't required to hold the product in any certain manner."
The i.d. mate also includes a memo feature that allows you to capture a phone number or other item quickly when you aren't near the slate and stylus or your marking pen. Your memo is stored on the same flash card as your bar code information. Each time you insert one of the flash cards, it gives you the title of the card þ "Software Collection," "groceries," "CD Music Collection," etc. When scanning a bar code, you get immediate audio feedback from the scanner that it has successfully found the information it needs. The unit also includes a talking clock, and the product when shipped comes with carrying case, rechargeable batteries, AC power supply, and a cassette tutorial.
For additional information about the bar code reader and its features, contact En-Vision America at (309) 452-3088. Fax: (309) 452-3643. On the Internet, point your web browser to http://www.envisionamerica.com or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Foundation for the Blind Had Challenged Findings NEW YORK In the "Letters" column of the May 6 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association" (JAMA), the American Foundation for the Blind criticized a study published in JAMA's Dec. 24, 1997 issue, and reported by the Associated Press. The study þ by researchers from the University of Iowa School of Medicine þ indicated that blind workers were three times as likely to be injured on the job as non-disabled workers.
In the letter, Dr. Corinne Kirchner, director of policy research and program evaluation at AFB, pointed out that in order to include enough blind workers in the study, special selection procedures were necessary. When these questionable procedures are factored out þ as Dr. Kirchner believes they should be þ the sample of blind workers became too small for the resulting statistics to have any meaning.
In their reply to Dr. Kirchner's letter, as well as to others, the authors of the study supported her statement: "We agree that our results for blind and deaf workers were based on small numbers and should be regarded with caution. We reported them to suggest a causal hypothesis."
In an interview, Dr. Kirchner said, "The authors now recognize that their findings 'should be regarded with caution.' This was nowhere stated in the original article. Furthermore, JAMA was irresponsible in publicizing the findings without questioning their weaknesses."
Dr. Kirchner went on to note that the authors agreed with AFB on another point as well þ their research was flawed because no data were included on workplace environment factors. "Such data are extremely limited, and the stated injury rates may have resulted from the workplace not being safe for people with disabilities without reasonable accommodations required by law," Kirchner said. "We applaud the authors' recognition of the limits of their work, and hope the issues raised since the publication of their study will have a positive impact on disability research in the future."
Dear Mr. Crabb:
This is in response to the February letter from Mr. Dee Christensen of Utah.
First, with regard to not enthusiastically supporting the organization, it is my firm conviction that along with the right to complain comes the responsibility of doing all we can to fix what we think is broken. With regard to politics, that means voting; with regards to a grassroots organization such as this, it means making sure the money is available for the programs and services which we think are important.
Second, with regard to the abolishment of residential schools for the blind, I believe this is fundamentally wrong. In the first place, just as not all sighted students are equally equipped to handle the large classroom setting of the mainstream public school, neither are all blind students. The more timid among us may find themselves bewildered by and unable to cope with the prejudices and stereotypes which still exist. Second, the multiply handicapped, as well as some others, need special attention to be taught even the most basic of skills, such as dressing themselves. Proponents of total mainstreaming argue that we are all one big happy family. In fact, we all tend to gravitate toward like-minded individuals þ nature lovers to nature lovers, sports enthusiasts to sports enthusiasts, etc. We should have the right to decide whether we are most comfortable with all blind people, all sighted people, or a mix of the two. Parents of sighted children can choose from public schools, magnet schools, private schools, or boarding schools. Parents of blind children deserve the same right to choose the best all- around education experience for their child.
In a similar vein, of late I have realized that a joining of forces between the Federation and the Council would be a bad idea. Our country was founded on the concept of two parties, now Democrats and Republicans, as a means of insuring a system of checks and balances, so that as many of the needs and wishes of our diverse population are met as possible. The same needs to be true in our community. For some, the more strident, national level oriented philosophy of the Federation is more appealing, while for others, the more amiable, grassroots mission of the Council is most comfortable. In a melding of the two organizations, the less outspoken would be overrun by the more vocal.
Thank you for allowing me to share my opinions.
If you haven't read about it or heard about it, you soon will. What am I talking about? The debate over privatizing Social Security, an issue so momentous to our society it will surely occupy center stage for the 2000 presidential election.
Most of us are aware that Social Security is the federally mandated insurance scheme which protects millions of Americans against the financial risks associated with old age, loss of a supporting parent and of course, disability. Fewer of us, however, are aware of the demographic time bomb built into a system where 76 million baby boomers are set to begin retiring by the end of the next decade.
To begin to appreciate the magnitude of the financial problem facing the Social Security system, consider the following: When Social Security was set up in 1935 with an eligibility age of 65, life expectancy was 61. "U.S. News & World Report" writer Matthew Miller stated in his April 20, 1998 article, "Rebuilding Retirement," that "You didn't need an M.B.A. to know the system was sound. Today, life expectancy is 76 and rising, and there are many more seniors for the system to support."
In 1960, there were five workers paying Social Security taxes for every retiree drawing benefits; today that number is just over three, and by 2030 it will drop to two workers per retiree.
Social Security is primarily funded by means of a payroll tax automatically withheld from an employee's paycheck. The rates have gone from 3 percent when the system began in 1935 to a whopping 12.4 percent today, leaving four out of five American workers paying more in their payroll tax than in their income tax. Adjusting for inflation and interest, an average earner born in 1915 and turning 65 in 1980 could expect to get back roughly $60,000 more than he paid into the system. Someone born in 1936 will just about break even, and those born after 1960 can expect to pay at least $30,000 more in payroll taxes than they ever receive in benefits (an estimate found repeatedly in mainstream publications dealing with the topic).
The board of six trustees (four are cabinet secretaries and two are appointed by the president) which is responsible for overseeing the Social Security trust funds stated in its 1998 report to the Congress that "the Social Security trust funds are projected to be adequately financed until 2032. At that time, annual tax income to the combined trust funds is projected to equal about 3/4 of the cost of benefits payable. Individually, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund, which pays retirement and survivors benefits, is projected to be able to pay full benefits on time for about 36 years þ until 2034. The Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund, which pays disability benefits, is projected to be able to pay full benefits until 2019." Very simply, the system is going broke. An even more important date is 2013. The trustees further reported that by that year, combined trust funds, including all funds for retirees, survivors and disabled people, will be completely depleted and the system will only be able to pay out as much in benefits as it is able to collect from tax revenues.
Experts and commentators from across the political spectrum appear to agree that the system must change to accommodate the new demographic realities of a society that is living longer and having fewer children. The debate centers on what changes would be most fair and work best. Some favor privatization of the system while others favor improving and maintaining the present system. Still others prefer a hybrid system which would allow workers to privately invest a portion of their payroll tax in private stock and bond accounts like the popular IRA and 401K plans utilized by millions of workers today.
A variety of public interest groups, like the Campaign for America's Future (CAF), The Century Foundation (TCF) and the Brookings Institute have all issued statements and position papers opposing the privatization of Social Security. These groups argue that Social Security has lifted millions of aged and disabled people out of poverty and privatization would expose these segments of our population to too much risk. They further argue that Social Security should not be seen as an investment program, but rather as an insurance plan that provides a minimum floor beneath which beneficiaries cannot fall. Additionally, The Century Foundation has argued that privatization would help the higher income earners more than it would the poor who disproportionately benefit from the redistributive system we now have in place. The Social Security system today pays higher relative benefits by percentage of average wages earned to lower income people than it does to those earning higher incomes. Finally, CAF, TCF and other similar groups claim that higher taxes and collective private investment of a portion of the Social Security trust funds are really all that is needed to ensure continued solvency.
It should be noted that these self-identified progressive institutes and think tanks have virtually ignored the debate as it relates to people with disabilities. Articles, fact sheets and reports produced by these groups have made only vague references to SSDI benefits and make a general assertion that SSDI beneficiaries will be harmed if the Social Security system is privatized. As a matter of fact, the SSDI and OASI trust funds are legally separate and benefits from one program may not draw from the fund of another; thus it is unclear exactly how privatizing the pension system generally will negatively impact citizens with disabilities. All of this is not to suggest that these groups are wrong. Rather, I point out these facts to illustrate just how much disabilities issues have been left out of the debate, even by our purported friends on the left.
Many readers will recount how Social Security, as an issue, has been labeled the "third rail" of American politics, as in, "you touch it and you die." This conventional wisdom has been turned upside down in recent years as more and more politicians recognize the impending demographic emergency. Referring to Social Security, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) recently stated, "It's gone from being the third rail to a passenger train." There seems to be a popular momentum building which favors at least some kind of privatization of the system.
Pulling the privatization bandwagon are groups like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the CATO Institute (CATO) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). These right-of-center think tanks argue that Social Security is nothing more than a pay-as-you-go pyramid scheme that will inevitably collapse as fewer and fewer workers are asked to support more and more retirees as the baby boomers begin to retire.
Edward H. Crane, President and CEO of the CATO Institute, stated in 1995, on the 60th birthday of Social Security that "at 60 it was perhaps time for Social Security itself to be retired." Crane and others buttress their arguments by an alarming array of statistics which suggest that individual workers would gain a much higher rate of return by investing their payroll tax of 12.4 percent of wages in private securities rather than entrusting their retirement to the government. Privatization, it is argued, will not only make for much richer retirements, but will increase the nation's savings rate too, which would have the further effect of lowering interest rates and increasing economic growth.
Those opposed to privatizing Social Security speak of the market risk of a fluctuating stock market. Privatization advocates answer this by pointing out that for all 30-year periods in the United States from 1802 until the present, stocks have outperformed bonds 99.5 percent of the time (including U.S. Treasury bonds where virtually all Social Security trust funds are invested).
Privateers also point out that other countries have successfully made the transition from a pay-as-you-go system to a private market-based system of individual retirement accounts. Chile led the way back in 1981 when it privatized its own Social Security system under the leadership of its Labor and Social Security Minister, Dr. Jose Piqera.
In his testimony before a U.S. Senate committee in June 1997, he said, "After 16 years of operation, the results speak for themselves. Pensions in the new private system already are 50 to 100 percent higher þ depending on whether they are old-age, disability, or survivor pensions þ than they were in the pay-as-you-go system." He further attested that "the [Chilean] system also includes insurance against premature death and disability." Disability benefits are secured by all Chilean workers by way of a 2.9 percent payroll tax that purchases private group life and disability coverage from private life insurance companies.
Chile appears to have been very successful in its privatization efforts. As a result of creating a system of private pension and disability insurance accounts, Chile has dramatically increased its national savings rate and enjoyed a booming economy for 12 straight years with annual growth rates exceeding 7 percent (the United States averages between 2 and 4 percent annual growth rates). In addition, workers in Chile get to monitor their growing pension accounts by using ATM-like machines where they can move their money among various highly diversified private investment funds overseen by the government.
Can the United States follow Chile's lead? Should we opt for our own private system of pension and disability insurance? CNN reported on May 19, 1998 that a private "version of that is working already for some people in Galveston, Texas." In 1980 the county took advantage of a now-closed loophole in federal law, and public workers from grass cutters to sheriff's deputies voted to drop out of the federal system. Under the Galveston plan, payroll deductions, instead of being dumped into a large money pool to pay benefits, like the federal government does, are instead invested in annuities. Workers have individual retirement accounts, just like private business. According to CNN, "The results have been phenomenal ... with employees retiring with two and three times the amount of retirement benefit they would have had with Social Security." Long-time Galveston workers are retiring with about $4,100 a month. The equivalent worker contribution to Social Security would yield only $1,200.
CAF and other progressive think tanks are quick to point out that the Galveston plan is not a good model for the whole country since it has not been sufficiently time-tested. They also point out that disabled workers' benefits have not been as successful (although no specific data was provided to buttress this point).
The May 23, 1998 issue of "The Economist" reported that among the privatization plans presently on the table, "The very best so far is a scheme announced on May 19th by the National Commission on Retirement Policy (NCRP), a bipartisan, 24-member group of politicians, businessmen and policy wonks sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. The NCRP plan, entitled 'The 21st Century Retirement Security Plan' would divert two percentage points of the current 12.4 percent payroll tax that finances Social Security into individual savings accounts. Individuals would have some choice of where the money would be invested, including stock market indexed funds. The retirement age would rise to 70 by 2029, and the early retirement age (at which people can receive less than full benefits) would rise to 65 by 2017. The result, claim the authors, is a comprehensive scheme that shores up Social Security without a tax increase. The individual savings accounts would be modeled on the existing Thrift Savings Plan which federal employees use for their retirement, and would be administered through the existing payroll tax structure.
"At bottom," says "The Economist," "the rescue of Social Security requires either raising contributions or cutting benefits. The plan rejects the idea of explicitly raising individuals' contributions; the overall payroll tax will remain at 12.4 percent. It does demand the use of projected federal surpluses to pay for the transition. But its basic feasibility relies heavily on raising the retirement age, and to some extent on reducing payments to wealthier Americans and cutting the consumer-price adjustment for pension benefits." Progressive groups have properly pointed out that all these changes amount to a cut in benefits.
Even the liberal champion of the left, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), a long-time friend to citizens with disabilities, proposed a reform plan which would raise the retirement age over time, cut the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) and lower the Social Security payroll tax by 2 percent and allow workers to privately invest that portion in private accounts. Moynihan's plan does not spell out how his reforms would affect SSDI. Robert Kuttner, writing in the progressive journal "The American Prospect," said that Moynihan's plan "cuts payroll taxes substantially, adding to the system's shortfall and requiring an eventual 30 percent cut in benefits." Kuttner further stated that "any comparison of stock market returns with Social Security returns compares apples with oranges ... Social Security is far more than just a pension system, and its payouts are government guaranteed."
Whatever your opinion may be with respect to the Social Security privatization debate, one thing remains unequivocal. That is, people with disabilities have been largely left out. Despite the fact that one in every three Social Security checks does not go to a retiree, the overwhelming number of studies and articles dedicated to the topic have utterly ignored SSDI and its beneficiaries. The American Council of the Blind, however, recognizes the critical significance of the privatization debate and will continue to closely monitor it for its potential impact on blind and visually impaired recipients of SSDI and related benefits. Privatization of Social Security will undoubtedly capture the attention of many ACB members in the months to come, and as ACB prepares to convene in Orlando this summer, privatization will likely be a focal point for a resolution.
NOTE: Readers interested in exploring this topic on the Internet should check out the following sites: http://www.ourfuture.org, http://www.ssa.gov, http://www.epn.org, http://www.socialsecurity.org and http://www.tcf.org These sites all include a variety of related links which will assist you further as you research issues surrounding the privatization debate.
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.
Paul Hearne, president of the Dole Foundation, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, former director of the National Council on Disability, died May 3 in Washington, D.C. He was the father of the AAPD and a pioneer of equality in employment, ADA and united advocacy. Send your messages to the Dole Foundation, 1819 H St. NW, Suite 340, Washington, D.C. 20006- 3603; phone (202) 457-0318, or fax (202) 457-0473.
The National Park Service recently instated a free shuttle bus service for the elderly, those who use wheelchairs, and those who are mobility impaired. The bus will travel back and forth on Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets northwest, with passengers being picked up and let off at either end. Intermediate stops will be at the northwest appointment gate and the northeast gate on Pennsylvania Avenue. Upon request, the shuttle will also run on East Executive Avenue to the visitors' entrance gate. The shuttle will operate Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. For more information, contact the White House Visitor Center at (202) 208-1631.
"D-Sport Online" is a new sports magazine available on the World Wide Web. It features up-to-date articles on the most recent events, personalities, results and scandals in the world of disabled sports. It arrived on the web June 1. Its address is http://www.portal.ca/~igregson/dsport.html
For those of you who have not been able to participate in the retinopathy of prematurity survey previously advertised, there is still time! The timeline for the survey has been extended. If you have residual (usable) vision and ROP (formerly called retrolental fibroplasia), request a survey from the following address: ROP Questionnaire, 1337 Marigold St. NE, Keizer, OR 97303-3552. Because this survey involves ROP adults with usable vision, it is only available in print.
Visions '98: The Gift of Sight, the national conference of The Foundation Fighting Blindness, will be held at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago August 21-23. Fifteen researchers will spend three full days discussing the most recent information on the progress and direction of retinal degenerative disease research. One morning session is devoted entirely to clinical treatments such as genetic testing, gene therapy and transplantation. Afternoon coping sessions will include programs on mobility, computer skills, advocacy and many others. For more information, call (800) 683- 5555.
Have you ever wanted to grow a garden but lacked the space to do so? Well, a new type of garden can help you do that. It's called the Living Wallgarden, and it substitutes an artificial growing medium for soil, containers for outdoor garden plots, and allows everyone to grow a garden easily. It can be used indoors or out, comes in various sizes, and takes a fraction of the space of a traditional garden. Containers come with growing medium, fertilizer, and easy-to-follow instructions. All you supply is the plants themselves. If you are interested, visit the Living Wallgarden web site at http://www.livingwallgardens.com
Has this ever happened to you? You've received a package notification notice that says the carrier will try again the next day, and you know you probably won't be in then either. What do you do? Well, Maita Products has a solution: the Package-Park system. It consists of a plastic-coated steel bracket that won't harm your front door, a water-resistant nylon sack, and a padlock (which you provide). Mount the bracket on your front door, hang the sack on the bracket, and leave it open so the carrier can put your package in it and lock the bag. (Make sure you keep the key to the lock.) It costs $39.95 and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. For more information, or to order, write to Maita Products, 8604 Second Ave. #205, Silver Spring, MD 20910, phone (301) 891-2328, fax (301) 891-2325, or visit the web site at http://members.aol.com/maitapds
ITT Night Vision recently released two new night vision devices, the Night Vision LV210 binocular and the LV6015 monocular. Both units collect minute amounts of undetectable light and intensify them, creating near-daylight conditions through the eyepiece, which enables those who are night-blind to see at night, according to a press release from the company. The LV210 features a 25-millimeter lens, deluxe headmount, automatic brightness control, and weighs less than a pound. It costs $2,395. The LV6015 monocular features an ergonomic design and includes a headmount, neckstrap, built-in infrared illuminator, automatic brightness control, and works on two AA batteries. It costs $3,400. For more information on either of these products, contact ITT Night Vision, 7671 Enon Dr., Roanoke, VA 24019; phone (800) 448-8678, or visit the web site at http://www.ittnv.com
New from California Canes is a Nightlight harness handle. This harness handle glows at night and, when fully charged, can be seen from 500 feet away. It picks up a charge from street lights and headlights, but for maximum visibility, charge it under a direct light for 3 to 5 minutes. The handle is made of heavy-duty steel tubing and treated with a glow-in-the-dark formula. The handle grip is made of high-grade rubber; the handle comes in 16-inch, 18- inch and 20-inch sizes. And to go along with it is the Nightlight utility pouch, designed to fit all harness handles. It's made of bright sturdy canvas and has two reflective Velcro straps for visibility and a zippered pouch for keys or other items. For more information, contact California Canes, 25611 Quail Run, Suite 123, Dana Point, CA 92629.
Outa Sight Products has a catalog of products for visually impaired people available. Included in it are such things as Smart Tags for identifying your clothing, brailled ceramic products (and you tell the company what you want brailled), books (including "What Blind People Wish Sighted People Knew About Blindness"), children's books, including Dr. Seuss and the Berenstain Bears, music on cassette and CD, items for your guide dog, food (for you and your dog), baby products and gifts, computer stuff, aromatherapy items, personal helpers, kitchen items, diabetic products and much more. Call (888) 876-4733.
The Talking Book Marker is a device that plugs into a jack near the headphone jack of your tape player. You hold down the switch while listening to the tape. When you doze off, you relax your grip and let go of the switch, marking your place. Contact The Talking Book Marker, c/o Jim Daily, 835 Emma St., Butte, MT 59701; phone (406) 782-2202.
Home Readers is a company that reads catalogs onto tape. Catalogs available include "Lands End," "Sheplers Western Wear," "Chadwick's of Boston," "Sugarfree Marketplace," "Pop'n Stuff," "Spices Etc.," "Walnut Acres," "Heberts Candies," "Figis," "The Missing Link," "Audio Editions," "Drs. Foster and Smith," "Tupperware," "Avon," and many more. For a complete list, write to Home Readers, 604 W. Hulett, Edgerton, KS 66021; phone (913) 893- 6939 between 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Central time.
The Easy Glider Cane is an update of the white cane available from OOK Inventors Research & Development. It is not a folding cane; it has a rolling cane tip, new paint and reflector tape, specially designed hand grip and a bend at the handle. It costs $65 plus shipping and handling; North Carolina residents must add 6 percent sales tax. Contact OOK Inventors Research and Development, 6325 Barrier Store Rd., Stanfield, N.C. 28163; phone (704) 436-8213, or visit the web site at http://www.hrzdate.com/ook
The Virtual Harpers chapter of the International Society of Folk Harpers and Craftsmen recently announced that Sylvia Woods' book "Carolan Tunes for All Harps" is now available in braille through the National Braille Association's transcription service. Contact the National Braille Association at 113 Townline Circle, Rochester, N.Y. 14623-2513; phone (716) 427-8260. If you would like to join the Virtual Harpers, send e-mail to Maggie Pinckard at MJPinckard@lbl.gov or visit the web page at http://www.halcyon.com/hertz/paul/virtual_harpers.html To join ISFHC, write to Folk Harp Journal, 500-C N. Civic Dr., Walnut Creek, CA 94596.
Full Life Products now has available a talking caller ID designed for users with disabilities. The model 9500CW has accessibility features, including quick setup, audible call review (which announces the callers' telephone numbers from the call log), visual and audible message waiting indicators, call waiting, and many more. For more information, or to order, contact Full Life Products, P.O. Box 490, Mirror Lake, NH 03853-0490; phone (800) 400-1540 or (603) 569-2240, or visit the web site at http://www.superproducts.com
Innovation Management Group recently released version 1.2 of The Magnifier for Windows. It is a movable, sizable 2x-10x area magnifier that requires no additional hardware or software. It can magnify any text or graphics in Windows or Windows applications. The Magnifier costs $29.95, and is compatible with Windows 3.x, 95, 98 and NT. A working "limited run time" demo copy is available on IMG's web site at http://www.IMGpresents.com or by calling toll- free (800) 889-0987.
"Absolute Magnitude" magazine, which specializes in adventure science fiction, now has an electronic version and a disk version available. The disk version will work with DOS and Windows platforms, and includes full-text versions of each fact article and work of fiction found in the print edition. Advertising and graphics are not currently included. The electronic edition comes with the View text browser, which is a shareware file reader compatible with adaptive equipment. Full documentation for View is provided. Individual issues of "Absolute Magnitude" cost $4.95 each; one year's subscription costs $16, two years, $27. E-mail subscriptions are available for $13 for one year ($24 for two years). For more information, or to subscribe, contact the magazine at DNA Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 910, Greenfield, MA 01302-0910; phone (413) 772-0725, or e-mail email@example.com
"Blazie Computers on the Internet" is a step-by-step guide to getting on the net with a Braille 'n Speak and a shell account. This tutorial is designed as a companion to "Top Guide to the Internet," according to a press release from Top Dot Enterprises. It takes users through the configuration processes for Brlterm, Pine and Lynx, with interactive demonstrations of the use of these programs. The tutorial consists of one four-track tape and a supplemental disk, and can be ordered from Top Dot Enterprises; phone (425) 335-4894, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you like to join a travel club? Accessible Vacations and Travel Club is a travel club for blind and visually impaired people. Full adult membership in the club is $32.95 for the first year; $29.95 each year thereafter. Membership for those under age 18 is $22.95 for the first year; $19.95 each year thereafter. Those under age 18 must have parental/guardian consent to join. Associations, organizations and groups can join also, for $22.95 for the first year and $19.95 each year thereafter. Included in the membership is a newsletter, called "Directions." For more information, contact Accessible Vacations and Travel, P.O. Box 24236, Cincinnati, OH 45224; phone (513) 931-0600.
Dancing Dots Braille Music Technology recently released version 1.1 of its Goodfeel braille music translator. It automatically converts Lime notation and MIDI files to braille. NIFF files can be imported into the Lime editor, saved as Lime files and brailled by Goodfeel. The translator can accommodate scores of up to 24 instruments. You can braille the entire score for the conductor and each individual part for each musician, or just a few. A demo is now available for download at http://www.netaxs.com/~ddots, or call (610) 352-7607 for a copy to be mailed to you. The full- featured translator costs $795; a trial version, which gives you 100 pages of music braille, costs $49. The $49 can be subtracted from the purchase price of Goodfeel on converting to the full product. Or you can order Goodfeel, Lime and MIDIScan as an integrated package for $995. Contact Dancing Dots, 130 Hampden Rd., Third Floor, Upper Darby, PA 19082-3110.
Ferguson Industries, a division of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, is now producing braille. The company will braille documents in standard English for 60 cents a sheet of double-sided copy on computer-sized braille paper. There is a set-up fee; binding is extra. For more information, contact Ferguson Industries at (617) 727-9840 or their consultant, Rich Wood, at (508) 668-5412.
Sturdy, black pocket check-writing guides are available. These guides have spaces for the date, payee, numeric and written amount, plus signature and memo fields. Standard size checks are held in place for easy writing; guides are durable. Each one costs $4. Also available are pocket-sized signature guides. These fit on a keychain or in a wallet. Each signature guide costs $1.50. If you buy one of each type of guide, it will cost you $5. Send your check or money order, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to Rev. George Gray, 1002 Johnson St., Pasadena, TX 77506-4618.
Or, if you're interested in a Christian magazine on tape, "Circle of Love" is for you. It is a 90-minute tape that includes songs, poetry, Bible games, testimonies, helpful information, a scripture memorization section, pen pals, and more. Yearly subscriptions are $20 if you prefer to keep the magazine; $15 to receive it on a read and return basis. For a free sample write to "Circle of Love" at the address above, or call toll-free (800) 555- 9205, enter mailbox 5384 and press the star key. Be sure to speak clearly and spell any unusual last names, street names and city names.
Tough plastic covers are now available from the American Printing House for the Blind. Covers measure 11 3/4 inches by 11 inches, and are designed to bind 11 1/2 x 11-inch braille documents. They are 19-hole punched and may be bound with a 19- ring comb binding or twin loop binding. They are available in two colors, royal blue and a clear frosted color. Covers are sold in pairs for use as front and back of a document. The blue covers are item number 1-04010-01; clear frosted, 1-04010-02, and they cost $1.40 per pair. Contact APH at P.O. Box 6085, Louisville, KY 40206-0085; phone (800) 223-1839, or e-mail email@example.com
Also available are a two-volume "Basic Tactile Anatomy Atlas," "The Braille Connection: A Braille Reading and Writing Program for Former Print Users," and "Money Handling and Budgeting." Anatomy volume one includes illustrations of the skeletal, muscular, nervous and endocrine systems; volume two illustrates the structures of the cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, urinary and reproductive systems. It costs $105. "The Braille Connection" is designed for adults and teenagers who formerly read print. It consists of a braille connection kit, a teacher's edition, student workbook, student practice book, and a mentoring manual. "Money Handling and Budgeting" is available in large print and braille; each costs $28. For more information on any of these items, contact APH at the number or address above.
The American Foundation for the Blind presented its 12th annual Alexander Scourby Narrator of the Year Awards on June 8. This year's fiction recipient is Graeme Malcolm, a narrator at AFB's New York City studios since 1984. Malcolm has recorded more than 200 books, including Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" and Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Body Snatcher." In the non-fiction category, the winner is Mimi Bederman, who has served as a volunteer narrator for Insight for the Blind in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. for 20 years. She has narrated more than 300 books, including "Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? and Other Imponderables of Everyday Life" by David Feldman. The winner in periodicals, a special category this year, is Jake Williams, a narrator at Talking Book Publishers, Inc. of Denver, Colo. He records magazines such as "American Heritage" and "Sports Illustrated."
The lawsuit against the New York City Commission on Human Rights ended recently when the commission adopted a policy to make its written materials available in accessible media that are usable by people who cannot read standard print, according to a press release from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. The suit was filed last year when the commission failed to respond to two letters from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest on behalf of Vernon Grist, a blind man who had a case pending before the commission. He had filed a complaint with the commission about the treatment he and his wife received from the building in which they live. The commission dismissed his complaint when he refused a settlement offer he felt was inadequate; he appealed and requested tape recordings of his file and three commission publications to help him support his appeal. Grist was joined in filing suit by Disabled in Action of Greater New York and the Greater New York Council of the Blind.
Do you enjoy NCAA football? Do you need a schedule? The Braille Revival League of Alabama will have the 1998 NCAA college football schedules available again this year. Each one costs $10. The schedule contains 128 teams, the 1997 bowls results, 1998 bowl schedules and ESPN Thursday night schedule. Send all orders and checks to Allen H. Gillis, 302 Schaeffel Rd., Cullman, AL 35055. For more information, call (256) 734-4047.
There are employment opportunities in cities of at least 200,000 population. You must work during business hours, full or part-time, mainly on the phone; there is no money investment. It does not involve selling products to individuals, but to organizations (large and small). Training is available. Apply in print, braille, on tape, or via fax or telephone to Easier Ways, Inc., 2954 Shady Ln., Highlands Ranch, CO 80126; phone (303) 290- 0987, or fax (303) 290-6446. The company is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mountain time.
If you need large-print check registers, write to Ron's Simplified Registers, P.O. Box 197, Talent, OR 97540, or phone (541) 779-2458. The company also has simplified registers for diabetics to write date, time, blood sugar, insulin/pill dose, and comments.
Have you ever had trouble voting due to inaccessible polling places, voting booths, lack of accommodations, or inaccessible ballots? Or have you had trouble when attempting to participate in a campaign because the campaign materials were inaccessible, or the events were held in places that were inaccessible, or there were no interpreters provided? Or have you been treated in a paternalistic or condescending manner by people managing a campaign or by workers at the polls? If you have a story to tell about how you, or someone you know, were treated recently when voting or attending a campaign event, mail, fax or e-mail a short summary to: Election Stories, c/o GSILF, P.O. Box 7268, Concord, N.H. 03302-7268; fax (603) 225-2077, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Conference on Volunteer Administration will meet October 21-24 at the Dallas-Fort Worth Hyatt Regency. Discussion groups form a part of the conference, including topics such as "Taking the Helm of a Successful Ship," "Investigate Skills for Unexplored Territories," "Charting Professional Development," and "Targeting New and Different Resources." For information, or to request a registration brochure, call (703) 352-6222. To make your reservations, call (800) 233-1234.
FOR SALE: Brand-new Xerox 14-inch black-and-white CCTV. Comes with five-year warranty for parts and labor. $1,500 or best offer. Call (770) 534-1463.
FOR SALE: Braille Blazer, $1,100. Prints text only. Good shape; rarely used. Braille Lite 18 with 2x speed and superflash, revised October 1997, $2,600. Will take only money orders or certified or cashier's checks. Shipping and handling not included. Contact Denise Avant at (773) 325-1117 between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. weekdays, anytime on weekends.
FOR SALE: Vtek Voyager CCTV with 12-inch screen, magnification, contrast, and cover. In good condition. Asking $800 or best offer. Call Gary at (301) 262-3532.
FOR SALE: Stand-alone Kurzweil Reader Edge. Excellent for someone who is not interested in computers. Includes carrying case. Asking $2,100. Phone (804) 222-4334 and ask for Marlene.
FOR SALE: Kurzweil personal reader with latest software update. Comes with all cables, manuals, hand scanner, carry bag and training tapes. In great condition. Asking $2,000 or best offer. Telesensory SVGA chroma CCTV with automated viewing table. Comes with cable for split screen operation and all manuals. Asking $2,000. Telesensory Super Vista screen magnification system. Includes software, video card and all manuals. Asking $1,500 or best offer. Accent SA Discover Edition synthesizer. Has new battery; in good condition. Asking $550 or best offer. If you are interested in any of these items, contact Steve Hopp via e-mail at email@example.com
FOR SALE: Nearly new Optacon II complete with all accessories. $2,000 or best offer. Contact Elizabeth at (801) 467-4199.
FOR SALE: JAWS for Windows. New; never installed. Comes with all documentation including registration disk. $400 or best offer. Contact Gary Davis, 177 Lake Eden Rd., Black Mountain, NC 28711; phone (704) 686-9180.
FOR SALE: Screenpower speech program for use with DECTalk. Not used much. Asking $300. Call George at (801) 765-9950.
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