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.
The price for a complete set of JAWS for Windows manuals from HotKey Systems was incorrectly listed ("High Tech Swap Shop," May). The price has since come down to $55, which includes shipping and handling.
I am on my way to a meeting that is being held by the National Weather Service here in Miami. Gayle and I are actually traveling together and here I am writing a president's message instead of keeping her company. It's a funny message, too, because it's about change.
How do you as a person feel about change? Most of us if we were asked that question without context would say that we thought it was a pretty good thing! There are all kinds of platitudes out there about change! "The organization that doesn't change, is doomed to disappear!" "Change is inevitable so relax and enjoy it!" Those kinds of sentiments are abstract. Change becomes a horse of a very different color when it is applied to you or your affiliate. This is especially true when the expectations that people have of you change.
For the past five years or more ACB has been developing and implementing a long-range plan. At its core is a recognition that we must change as an organization to remain competitive and so that we can become more efficient. That is fairly abstract and I think that ACBers in general applaud these efforts. It's a lot different when some of those changes come close to home to roost.
A few examples might help. ACB and NFB are probably among very few national consumer organizations who pay you to be a member. Our dues are very low and the costs of the services that you receive far exceed the dues you pay. On the very face of it, this is ridiculous. No organization ought to be subsidizing its members to the degree that we are. Dues pay for about 15 percent of the cost of the magazines we produce. Any of you who have been at conventions, though, know just how fierce the debate is when a modest increase in dues is proposed!
Here's another illustration. We passed an amendment to our constitution that created the position of executive director. The implications of that change are clear to me. We as an organization have embraced the notion that we need a more centralized approach to governance with some responsibilities and prerogatives transferring from the board to our paid leader. This is a fine notion in the abstract. However, does that mean that affiliates are prepared to provide the information that we ask for or that they are willing to embrace this new central government approach? If the rights and responsibilities document is any indication, the answer is no!
Here's another instance! Most of us would agree that the political climate is changing! We might find it harder to agree about the exact nature of those changes or about their import to us! What we almost always fail to do is change ourselves so as to be able to optimize our advantage in the new Jerusalem! If, for instance, more decisions are being made at the local level, what are state affiliates doing to educate local chapters and make them more able to carry out these new responsibilities? If people with disabilities believe they have civil rights, why do we still find it more comfortable and easier to excuse employers from making reasonable accommodations or local governments from making the changes the law says they should?
The truth is that change is happening and that ACB and me and yes, even you, have to be prepared to bite the bullet and alter behavior and attitudes alike. It's easy to preach the gospel of change! It's much harder to become a change agent. And yet this is precisely what each of us must become if ACB is going to succeed as we move to implement our long-range plan. As an organization and as people we make choices! We can choose to stand aside wringing our hands and blaming change and everybody else because we are being left behind or we can recognize that change is all-encompassing. We are not exempt!
Change is hard! I've been trying to find the time to exercise regularly and am not doing a very good job. I have forced myself to use Windows 95 and am not finding it very easy! I am tempted to jump back into DOS and feel secure and safe! My work place is completely rebuilding its structure and I must tell you that, like many of my peers at work, I am frightened at the prospect of widespread change. The point of all of this is to say to you that it doesn't matter how we feel about change. It is like death and taxes. It will happen whether we are comfortable with it or fond of it. The question we have to answer is how will we react to it!
I hope that we can perceive change as an opportunity to look hard at who and what we are and that we will have the courage to open ourselves to its potential rather than closing our minds to it! Change will happen. Can we accept that and become change agents? I think we can but we need to recognize just how hard change is and how resistant most of us are to it! We also have to recognize that demanding change just for the sake of change is just as empty as burying our heads in the sand. I spent my life trying to run 10 miles from all those people who are absolutely sure they know just what changes we have to make! Many of these folks take the view that when you are making an omelette, eggs get broken and that's too bad! My goal is to make changes but to make them slowly enough that people don't feel that they are being stampeded toward a precipice. But I must ask all of you to recognize that you and me and ACB all have to change! We don't have a choice!
From time to time ACB members and many others want to know the purpose and value of the World Blind Union (WBU), of which the American Council of the Blind has been a member since the WBU was formed in 1984 through the merger of the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind and the International Federation of the Blind. As an international organization the WBU is important as a deliberative, advisory, consultative, informational and advocacy organization on broad issues of importance to blind and visually impaired people. In some parts of the world its regional committees coordinate the flow of information and assistance from developed to developing nations. While the North America and Caribbean region performed this function to some extent, it is more useful as a forum for the discussion of issues of importance to blind people as expressed by the member organizations, which, in the USA, are the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Blinded Veterans Association, the National Federation of the Blind, the American Printing House for the Blind, and the Rehabilitation Services Administration. The regional meetings are customarily hosted by different members in the USA and Canada, and it was our pleasure to co-host with the American Printing House for the Blind the most recent regional meeting, held in Louisville. Some of the broad topics discussed at those meetings included braille competency and the teaching of braille, cooperation in the development of international technology standards and the possible improvement of services for the blind in developing countries. Inasmuch as I had served on the committee that negotiated the merger of the two international organizations in the early 1980s, drafted the merger resolution, presided over the meeting merging the organizations and served on the committee that drafted the WBU constitution, I was particularly interested in the proceedings of the regional meeting. We extend our commendations and appreciation to the staff members of the American Printing House for the outstanding job they did in making all local arrangements.
Who said that ACB national staff members never deal with new, different and provocative issues? Wrong! Recently other staff members and I took part in a very interesting meeting with a dedicated advocate endorsing a program called "Puppies Behind Bars." No, the program does not relate to the confinement of puppies but to the selective training by women prisoners of young dogs intended for eventual use as guide dogs. The advocate displayed an open mind to the points raised by guide dog users as well as non-dog users and was pleased to communicate thereafter with our national affiliate, Guide Dog Users, Inc.
During the recent national conference of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, I had the opportunity to introduce ACB's new director of governmental affairs, D. Alfred Ducharme to the members of that organization. That gave Ducharme an opportunity to comment (generally very favorably) on the quality of the rehabilitation services he had received from his state rehabilitation agency, whose director was present in the audience. The substantive thrust of the brief remarks which he and I made in the midst of a very crowded agenda restated the determination of the American Council of the Blind to support appropriate specialized services for blind and visually impaired people.
The members of the ACB national office staff are accustomed to receiving international guests, but the request which came several weeks ago from the Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired was a delightful change in that it stated that the members of the delegation wanted to meet with blind people and talk to them about everyday problems and concerns rather than going back to Sweden with "a briefcase full of brochures and laws." Accordingly, the activities which we scheduled ranged from a pizza luncheon, attending a celebration at the library for the blind and seeing world-famous sites such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial to having a leisurely dinner with several ACB members from the community. And, yes, even in the midst of such activities and afterwards it was possible to discuss with the delegation members a number of important issues and to exchange valuable information.
Who knows where effective advocates will come from? Those of us who were college classmates of Ralph Nader at Princeton would not have guessed then that his name would someday become synonymous with consumerism. That possibility was in my thoughts recently when I had an opportunity to speak briefly at a seminar conducted as part of the reunion activities of the University of Chicago Law School. As the generally successful alumni in attendance at that workshop were discussing their ways of "preventing the berries of the bramble bush from becoming painful briars" I took advantage of the opportunity to encourage them to "give something back" by devoting their resources and skills to advocacy in behalf of blind and other disabled people. Again, who knows where the next advocate will come from?
The ACB national office is already benefitting from the presence of ACB's 1998 national college intern, Tim Keenan of Shrewsbury, Mass. Tim has just finished his freshman year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and will be majoring in computer science. His duties in the national office this summer, of course, will be quite varied and we are confident that everyone who meets this tall, athletic, soft-spoken young man will be pleased to meet him.
The national Visually Impaired Student Congressional Internship Program, administered by the American Council of the Blind in conjunction with other organizations and bipartisan offices on Capitol Hill, is off and running with its first class of outstanding student interns in the offices of five U.S. senators. It was not easy for the senatorial offices to choose between the dozens of outstanding student applicants and, of course, each office was free to consider such variables as the committees on which the senator serves, the major fields of study of the applicants, the place of residence of the applicants, etc. Ultimately Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) selected Kimberly Waegele a 1998 graduate of the University of Southern Colorado; Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M) selected Jonathan Avila, a senior at Mary Washington College of Fredericksburg, Va.; Sen. Ron Wyden (D- Ore.) selected De Al-Mohamed, a 1998 graduate of the University of Missouri; Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.) selected Paula Briscoe, an American who is still working on her Ph.D. at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) selected Dianna Green, a senior attending Penn State University. Although the students must follow their own individual schedules during their stay in Washington, it has been possible for ACB personnel to interact with them on a few occasions. Administering such a program is complex because of the individual needs of each student, the requirements of the different offices involved, and the number of parties involved in making all major decisions. Although the American Council of the Blind made the commitment up front to pay for the housing, any necessary orientation and mobility training, technological accommodations and a living stipend for each voluntary intern, we are very pleased to express our appreciation to the Aid Fund for the Blind of Washington and the Delta Gamma Foundation for the invaluable grant assistance which they have given for the support of this program. A report on this year's program appears in this issue; information about next year's program will appear in a future issue of "The Braille Forum."
I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ms. Melanie Brunson, Esq., of Whittier, Calif., to the position of Director of Advocacy Services of the American Council of the Blind. Brunson, a member of the California Council of the Blind, is a graduate of Whittier College and the Whittier School of Law, and she is now the project director for the Dayle McIntosh Center in California. She will be joining the staff within the next few weeks and will have an opportunity to meet many ACB members at the upcoming national convention in Orlando.
It is with sadness that I announce the recent death of Dr. S. Bradley Burson, a founder, former officer and longtime active member of the American Council of the Blind. Many ACB members and friends in the Washington metropolitan area attended a very impressive memorial service for "Brad" recently following his death while traveling in Ohio. There will be a memorial article about Dr. Burson in a future issue of "The Braille Forum."
Picture yourself as a college student searching for a summer job. Imagine applying for an internship on Capitol Hill, competing with numerous other applicants, wondering if you're good enough to be chosen. Now imagine making the computers in congressional offices accessible.
Boldly going where few visually impaired students have gone before Capitol Hill are five visually impaired students. These five are participants in a brand-new program of the American Council of the Blind, the Visually Impaired Student Congressional Internship Program.
Jonathan Avila, a senior computer science major at Virginia's Mary Washington College, is working in Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D- N.M.) office. In his letter of application, Avila stated that he was interested in legislation that affects today's youth as well as legislation that affects people with disabilities. He stated that he wanted to be involved in legislation that would help change the nation.
Avila, the secretary for the National Alliance of Blind Students, had much to say about this internship. "I think it's the experience of a lifetime," he said, adding that he would do it again just for the experience. "I think a lot of young people don't try to change their government," he continued. Many don't write letters to their congressmen to let them know what they want or how they think current legislation should be changed. "I feel like I'm doing something for my country and my senator."
Previously, Avila was an intern and computer lab aide at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. At NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, he was a multimedia programming intern, where he worked on a team to create a multimedia project that would teach elementary school students about remote sensing and biodiversity.
Kimberly Waegele, a recent graduate of the University of Southern Colorado, works in Sen. Wayne Allard's (R-Colo.) office. She intends to earn her master's degree in special education for the blind and visually impaired at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. In her letter of application, she wrote that the American Council of the Blind had given her the chance to fight for laws so that she could teach and other people with vision impairments can fulfill their dreams as well. "I've been learning a lot," she said. She has learned the correct way to respond to those who write to the senator, attended hearings on various topics, and given tours of the Capitol.
Waegele, a social studies teacher, has been interested in the legislative process for some time. In March, she attended the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute and lobbied Congress on several topics. When she returned to her students in Colorado, they were really interested in learning what she had done. It gave her þ and her students þ new insight into the legislative process. "I think it's an excellent learning experience," she said. "I've never done a job like this before, so it's kind of a learning experience."
Dianna Green, a senior speech communications major at Pennsylvania State University, works in Sen. Rick Santorum's (R- Pa.) office. "Whatever they need me to do, I do," she stated. She called the internship challenging but not impossible. "It's something I never thought of before," she said. "I thought, 'Oh my God, this is going to be really hard.' ... This is not too hard at all."
Green entered the vending program in Pennsylvania after graduating from high school. She managed two snack bars, one for a factory and one for a company. That lasted about five years; the factory closed, and the company laid off three-fourths of its workers. So she decided to further her education. While waiting for the paperwork to go through, she became involved in volunteering with what is now Family Services of Blair County. She also became involved in raising funds to build an alcohol- free club for adults to dance, play pool and socialize. The club is doing well, she said, but she is not involved with it anymore.
She viewed her internship as a "great opportunity," and would do it again, adding, "There's so much going on down here, you couldn't pass up the opportunity." So much is going on all at once that she noted, "There is never an ending point to something. There is always more." Green has learned that she really has to listen to people, and pay attention to what they're saying, not just the mental images she gets when listening to them talk. She has also learned that she is teaching people by setting an example. She plans on going to law school after graduation.
De Al-Mohamed, a recent graduate from the University of Missouri-Columbia, works in Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-Ore.) office. Previously she was an intern in the Missouri state legislature for state Rep. Bill Boucher. She stated in her letter of application that she had three goals for herself: to see how government works "from the inside," to see how members of the U.S. Senate view themselves and their role, and while learning, perhaps do a little educating of her own.
"It's a fantastic program," she said. But, "I got spoiled at the state level. I got to do a lot more things." She has answered phones, written letters to constituents regarding current legislation and the senator's position on it, and researched bills on Social Security and health care. She enjoyed her work in the Missouri legislature so much that the people there thought she would enjoy working at the federal level, and pushed her to apply. One of the things she's noticed is that at this level there's a lot more mail, about 1,500 pieces a week, as opposed to the handful at the state level.
Al-Mohamed also noticed that the pace is much quicker here than at the state level. There's more "now" stuff, but her competitive spirit keeps her going. She believed that the experience was helpful. "I'm part of the system," she said, "and I'm helping make the changes." Sometimes when people visit the senator's office, they ask her if she's a tourist. She'll reply, "No, I'm working here." She believes her presence educates the public about the capabilities of blind people, and would do it again for the experience.
Al-Mohamed is a fencer in her spare time. She is the number- one fencer in Missouri in foil fencing, and she recently began tandem biking.
Paula Briscoe, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of St. Andrews (Scotland), works in Sen. John Chafee's (R-R.I.) office. She received her bachelor of science in political science from Frostburg State University in 1989. She wanted to become an intern "because reading about how the legislative process works is not the same as actually seeing it in action." She has written reports on several projects, including sanctions and bankruptcy law, and hopes to find a job in the Washington area.
She has been an instructor of international relations at the English Language Teaching Center at St. Andrews, as well as a tutor for several courses. In her spare time, Briscoe enjoys scuba diving. She is an internationally licensed Advanced Open Water Plus diver and a member of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors International.
The idea for this program came from Moira Shea, whom many of you may remember was the first staff person to be allowed onto the Senate floor with her guide dog. The VISCIP board, composed of ACB Executive Director Oral Miller, a representative from the Brookings Institute and a Senate staffer, had to choose from among numerous candidates. The students' achievements made it hard for the members to choose. Each senator was free to consider such factors as the committee(s) he/she served on, the applicant's major fields of study, and the place of residence of the applicant.
"ACB picked a good team of interns," Waegele said. Al- Mohamed concurred. "It's a fantastic program," she said, adding that she hopes to see it expand in terms of people participating and in terms of the number of senators participating, hoping that it would eventually expand into the House of Representatives.
Jonathan Avila hugs Kimberly Waegele as they share a table at the ACB convention banquet in Houston. Both are interns on Capitol Hill. (Photo copyright 1997 by Jowdy Photography.)
Jennings Randolph, former U.S. senator from West Virginia, passed away May 8, 1998 at the age of 96. That was what the obituary said þ a detached, perfunctory statement of fact, devoid of emotion or depth. It is a huge irony that "The Washington Post" obituary made not one mention of his contribution to the blind and to other people with disabilities. He was the father of the Randolph-Sheppard Act for the blind and the Black Lung Benefits Act, and he made important, lasting and meaningful contributions to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Education of the Handicapped Act, and the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, among others. No doubt there will be a biography of Jennings Randolph which conveys the richness of his life and the profound contributions he made to the well-being of this nation. In the meantime, I want to share with a population to whom he was devoted þ blind people þ some of the things I remember about a very memorable man. It is also important to recount a bit of Jennings Randolph's own story.
Jennings Randolph's association with, and interest in, blindness began as a result of the detachment of the retina in one of his eyes which required him, a young man, to remain totally immobile for weeks, his eyes covered. From that time forward, as he related the story to me, because he had experienced blindness at least temporarily, he held a strong and dedicated interest in promoting employment and independence among the blind. Subsequently he joined Lions International and became actively involved in blindness issues. As a young member of Congress in 1934 Randolph attended a Lions Club convention in St. Louis. During an extended river boat cruise, Leonard Robinson, a blind lawyer, convinced Rep. Randolph to introduce the blind vending stand bill that would become the Randolph-Sheppard Act, signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 20, 1936, during his first term in office.
I went to work for Sen. Randolph in March of 1971. He had agreed to hire me as Special Counsel for the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare. I didn't really know what the job would entail, other than taking care of the senator's legislative interests in that committee. He was chairman of the powerful Public Works Committee, whose jurisdiction encompassed everything from interstate highways to the nation's environment. Because of his seniority, he could have been chairman of the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, which dealt with labor matters, employment programs, education, health, children, aging and "the handicapped." He could not under the Senate rules be chairman of two major committees, however, and relinquished charge of the Labor Committee to Sen. Harrison Williams of New Jersey. Randolph retained his chairmanship on the Subcommittee on the Handicapped, however, and as it turned out, that's the area on which he wanted me to concentrate.
One of the first major legislative issues the senator assigned to me was the overhaul of the blind vending stand program, known as the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Around the same time, he directed me to be the primary drafter of the bill that would become the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Before the presidential veto of precursor bills, the rehabilitation legislation included a title establishing a national formula grant independent living rehabilitation program, and an older blind services program. In the midst of work on these important issues, Randolph directed me to work with Sen. Williams' and Sen. Javits' staffs to create a new disability compensation program for coal workers' pneumoconiosis þ the Black Lung Benefits Act. All three measures were þ and are þ landmark statutes.
There was rarely time for quiet thought or reflection on Capitol Hill in those halcyon days þ neither Jennings Randolph nor the urgency of the torrents of legislation would allow it. Yet the senator found the time to return to his beloved West Virginia nearly every week. It was as if he was campaigning for re-election every week of every year. When the Senate was in session, and after a long day of committee hearings and floor debate, Jennings Randolph would devote his evening hours to telephoning colleagues, friends, and constituents, and hand writing notes and letters, thanking people for this or that. The day I read of his passing I was rummaging through some old papers and ran across one of those notes, written to me October 11, 1974, two months before the Randolph-Sheppard Act amendments became law. He thanked me for my "fine effort þ successful þ in holding our purpose but in moving in a realistic way to an agreed bill." Apart from my deep appreciation for his recognition of my work, I didn't think much at the time about what that note represented. I understand it now: a giant of the U.S. Senate, 72 years old, working 16 hours a day for his constituents and his country, took the time to write a note of thanks and encouragement to a young attorney in his employ. There was no benefit to him; no political gain or advantage to be had, just a routine act of kindness and support. That was Jennings Randolph.
It is never easy to write articles like this. Many times, suddenness and other circumstances mean we didn't have a chance to say good-bye. But then again, goodbyes aren't always easy. So let's just remember a little.
Last year, Marcia learned she had cancer. She fought it desperately; and with her will and the grueling regimen of chemotherapy, she went into remission. In January, when Lynn Hedl paid a visit, Marcia was sure John and she would be in Orlando, making music and having fun. But two weeks before her passing on June 1st, we learned she was in Hospice. Then came the news that John had succumbed to a heart attack on May 27, coincident with Marcia's going into a coma. They were not long parted.
Not more than three years ago, Marcia retired from the New York Lighthouse where she had taught for the duration of her career. A very accomplished classical and jazz pianist, Marcia taught piano to many students and a music appreciation course of which she was very proud. John supported that course by recording hundreds of music tapes. He was also a piano technician. Marcia taught night and day. She gave recitals until shortly before her retirement and found new venues for playing and teaching in West Palm Beach. She and John were instrumental in persuading the Lincoln Center to provide braille concert programs and other accommodations for blind concert- goers. I remember a letter from Marcia (when her name was Mendelssohn) recommending a jazz teaching book by John Mehegan to be brailled by the braille music section of the National Library Service. It was a good idea; the book was done; and I have used it in my teaching.
The Koglers were devoted to Friends-in-Art. John made backup recordings for several years of the Showcase, just in case the main recording suffered some mishap. Marcia always teamed with Showcase artists who needed an accompanist, as well as pleasing the crowd with her concert level solo performances. She loved playing in the hospitality suite as well.
There may be more information on interment and memorials in the future. This year's Showcase will honor them. May they rest in grace and peace.
The purpose of this article is to pique your interest in Friends-In-Art (FIA). FIA is a special-interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. Its mission is to encourage artists þ writers, sculptors, painters, raconteurs, dancers, actors, and musicians þ to "be the best that they can be." We also hope to promote interest in the arts among visually impaired non-artists. We use a variety of methods to accomplish these aims: workshops, museum tours, our annual showcase, and advocacy efforts. This article will describe how we evolved from a number of unorganized artists to what we are now: a group of people interested in the arts working to be more organized.
In 1978, in Salt Lake City, while Barbara Chandler was attending the ACB convention with her husband, she visited an art gallery. On an impulse, she asked an employee there if she could touch the sculptures. This ultimately resulted in the gallery's agreeing to extend the exhibit for an additional day, so that interested ACB convention attendees could enjoy the exhibit via the fine art of touching.
The next day, Barbara returned to the museum with a group of blind friends she had recruited the prior evening. The visit was a great success and led to the launching of a loosely formed network of people interested in pursuing adventures in art. During each of the next several conventions, Barbara sought out local museum exhibits accessible to people with visual impairments and led a merry band of art adventurers in exploring them. Gradually, the group began looking for other outlets for their artistic interest. The next year, they found a piano and started to perform for and with each other. Then, Barbara located a painter who was gradually losing his sight, and persuaded him to talk about how this sight loss was affecting his art. Sculptors, wood carvers, and creative writers began to demonstrate their skills or talents. To help organize these activities Barbara, supported by Jim Chandler, rented a suite, where people made pottery and read poetry. Rita Levy and Janiece Petersen joined their energies to Barbara's in locating exhibits and organizing musical events. The ACB leaders recognized the activities of these artists and encouraged them to form an affiliate devoted to blind people and the arts. Thus, in 1984, with great fanfare, Friends-in-Art was established.
Since its formation, FIA has built upon many of the activities of these pioneers. Each year, interested conventioneers have attended a museum or gallery with accessible exhibits ranging from a computerized rendering of the Shroud of Turin to native crafts, African art and Native American sculpture, indoors and out. In addition, FIA produced a brochure designed to assist those interested in making similar exhibits more accessible, and promoting museum tours in which visually impaired and sighted participants can experience the benefits of enjoying art together. This brochure has been emulated by many museums, including the Smithsonian Institution.
The initial "singing-around-the-piano" activity has grown into the annual showcase where performing artists can "strut their stuff" for enthusiastic audiences. Cassettes of prior showcases will be available at the FIA boutique in the exhibit hall.
Since 1992, FIA has sponsored workshops for those interested in learning more about MIDI technology. These sessions have led to a thriving discussion group on the Internet. (For additional information, e-mail Mike Mandel at [email protected]
Creative writers play an important part in FIA's kaleidoscope of activities. For the past several years, Monday nights have been set aside for poets to read their works, and workshops dealing with the art of writing have been offered. Space has also been made available both at our exhibit and in our suite to sell books written by FIA members.
Not to be forgotten is "The Log of the Bridgetender," our newsletter, somewhat irregularly published but soon to recover. A bridgetender's task, by the way, was to keep an eye out for ships, and, when necessary, to open the bridge to let them pass through.
In the future, we hope to expand our efforts in the advocacy arena: encouraging museums to develop touchable exhibits and multimedia materials to increase enjoyment by visually impaired persons; working with technology manufacturers to increase the accessibility of MIDI products; and partnering with teachers to improve arts education for visually impaired children in mainstream classrooms. Plans are in the works to offer an annual $1,000 scholarship to further the education of a visually impaired artist. To spread the spirit and gain new ideas, we would like to recruit new members.
If we have piqued your interest, we encourage you to join us in our adventures. Come visit us at our booth to check out our T-shirts, hats, and cassettes, and in our suite to meet new friends or learn about the wonders of MIDI technology. Take part in some of our activities, or, if you want to learn more about us at any time, please feel free to contact Mike Mandel at 400 W. 43rd St., Apt. #20L, New York, NY 10017. Dues are $12 ($8 for students). We welcome those with the artistic spirit to become members of Friends-in-Art and have some fun while increasing opportunities for visually impaired artists and art enthusiasts to create new art and enjoy the creations of others.
The Arizona Council of the Blind held its 27th annual state convention May 2 and 3 at the Rodeway Inn/Airport in Phoenix. Dan Martinez presided; second vice president Edwin Druding served as convention coordinator. The convention theme was "Full Participation." Among the many program participants were: Cindy Holt, Director of the Special Needs Section of the Phoenix Public Library; Bill Pasco, director of Sun Sounds Radio Reading Service; Dr. Frank Kells, president of the board of directors of the Arizona Council of the Blind Federal Credit Union; Dan and Jackie Olson, co-chairs of the Arizona affiliate of the Foundation Fighting Blindness; and Tom Perski, president and CEO of Macular Degeneration International in Tucson. One of the highlights of the banquet was the awarding of $500 scholarships to: Aaron Garrison, a sports medicine major at Northern Arizona University; Jorge Tarazon, a political science major at the University of Arizona; and Cheryl Fogle, a graduate student studying archeology at the University of New Mexico.
This year's annual convention of ACB of New York will be hosted by the Greater New York Council of the Blind in Albany. The convention will be held at the newly refurbished Comfort Inn, and will take place September 25-27. Room rates are $66 per room per night. Included in convention plans are interesting speakers, exhibits, refreshments in the hospitality room, and much more. For more information, contact Alan Gilman, 250 E. Gunhill Rd. #5C, Bronx, NY 10467; phone (718) 653-0699.
The South Dakota Association of the Blind will hold its annual convention October 9-11 at the Radisson Hotel, 445 Mount Rushmore Rd., Rapid City, SD 57701; phone (605) 348-8300. Convention occurrences will include: a walk-a-thon, tour and pizza party at the Black Hills Regional Eye Institute, legislative luncheon, banquet and auction. Room rates are $54 per night single and double occupancy, $65 for triple, and $74 for quadruple occupancy. State rates will be honored with presentation of state ID. Make your reservations by September 9. If you have questions, contact Kevin Puetz at (605) 348-5064.
If you're totally blind and own a conventional pager, chances are you have to get a sighted person to read the display to you from time to time. But the folks at Motorola have designed a pager that's more like an answering machine þ you don't get little characters on a display that gives the content of the message; you get the actual voice of the person leaving the message.
Called the Pocketalk, this little device fits nicely in a purse or clips unobtrusively to a belt like any other pager, but it behaves like an answering machine. How it Works:
The person receiving a message from a conventional pager usually gets little more than a phone number and a cryptic message. He or she must find a phone and try to contact the person who sent the page. With Pocketalk, you actually hear the message as it is spoken by the person leaving it. That individual calls your pager and gets a greeting similar to what he would hear on an answering machine. The caller leaves a 30- or 60-second message, depending on your account, and hangs up.
That message is then digitized or converted from sound to a series of ones and zeros. Once your friend's words are digitized into a neat little message packet, the packet is fed to a radio transmitter which sends it to your Pocketalk. Your Pocketalk notifies you that a message has arrived, and you push a button on the unit to play the message. Immediately, you hear your friend's voice.
If you're in range of a Pocketalk transmitter, you'll get your message in as little as two minutes from the time it was recorded to as much as 25 or 30 minutes, depending on the traffic on the pager's network and your location. Your Pocketalk unit actually notifies the transmitter where it is at frequent intervals, so the computers can make intelligent decisions about where you are at a given time and thereby send your friend's message to the closest transmitter, guaranteeing delivery. The Unit:
While it is bigger and thicker than conventional pagers, the Pocketalk is still very small, especially when you consider the kind of circuitry necessary for it to do its job. The ease of operation is almost unparalleled in any device I've tested. This unit has seven buttons and one slide switch þ that's it. The slide switch locks the battery door in place, so that one almost doesn't count in terms of the frequency of use.
The first buttons you encounter are the down-volume and up- volume buttons. There are 10 volume settings, and the unit beeps as you change the settings to give you an idea of how loud or soft it will be at that setting. These buttons are on the left side of the pager as you hold it with the speaker facing you.
Across the top are three additional buttons þ the lock/unlock key, the message delete key, and the power/alert button.
The lock/unlock button lets you "lock" a message in your unit so it can't be accidentally deleted. You have to lock the message while it's playing. When you press the button, the pager emits one beep to let you know that you've successfully locked the message. It beeps twice when you play and unlock a message.
The delete key is self-explanatory. Tap it while the message is playing, and the message is expunged from the pager's memory, assuming you haven't locked the message. The unit beeps when the message is deleted.
The power/notification alert key is somewhat more complex and can be a real problem initially for a blind user. If the pager is off and you tap the power/alert key, you may hear beeps or feel it vibrate, depending on how it's set. That signifies that the pager is on and is notifying the paging computers/transmitters of its whereabouts. To turn the unit off, you have to hold down the power/alert button for two seconds or so. Again, it may beep or vibrate to let you know it is off.
The power/alert key is also used to determine how you want the Pocketalk to notify you when a page comes through. You have three choices: tone notification þ the pager beeps and waits for you to push the play button to hear the message; tone and automatically play þ the pager beeps then instantly plays the message; vibrate þ the pager vibrates to let you know that a message has arrived, playing it after you tap the play button; and no audible notification þ if you select this option, you are notified only visually if a page comes through.
Unfortunately, the visual-only notification is the problem for blind users. Many users might assume that they've turned off the pager when in reality they've selected the visual notification setting. That's especially possible if you're new to the pager and don't know that you have to hold down the power/alert button to actually turn the device off. The notification choices rotate as you push the button. If you want the notify and play option, the pager will emit a short beep when that option is on. For notification only, a long beep is heard. The pager vibrates to indicate that you've chosen the vibrate notification. When you select visual-only notification, the pager does nothing. This is one of the most significant flaws in the unit. Fortunately, with a little use, you'll remember this feature and can take steps to avoid any confusion.
The power/alert button also serves as a pause button when you're playing a message. This is a handy feature, since it lets you write down a number or even transfer a portion of the page to another recording device like a mini cassette recorder.
The final two buttons are the play/fast forward and the rewind buttons. When you tap play, you hear the message as it was sent; if you hold down the play button, the message increases in speed, but not in pitch. The effect is similar to the speech compression achieved on some tape recorders where speed changes, but not pitch. Because your message is digitized, the speech compression is clearer than it would be with a conventional tape recorder.
The rewind button does exactly that. If held down, it rewinds your message as you play it. The effect is similar to that achieved when holding down the skip back key on a CD player; you hear bits of the message as it goes in reverse. If you merely tap the rewind key, it will go to the beginning of the message and start over or it will move back to a previous message. They've Got You Covered:
In cities where the Pocketalk works, any Metrocall dealer can provide you with assistance and with a unit. You'll pay around $20 a month for unlimited messaging and voice mail. The unit can cost between $100 and $150. Even if you accidentally delete a message from your pager, it will remain in your voice mail for 24 hours or longer, depending on the type of account you purchase.
Unfortunately, the Pocketalk isn't available everywhere. If you live in places like Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix or Las Vegas, you probably won't get service for several more months. Much of California isn't yet covered, but Los Angeles is, and San Francisco will be covered in the very near future.
Currently coverage is available in cities in the east coast corridor þ Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and some points between. Chicago-area residents can take advantage of Pocketalk, as can those living throughout much of Texas and Florida. It's best to check with a Metrocall retailer in your area or call (800) 864-3848 to determine whether Pocketalk works where you live. Internet users may visit the Pocketalk web site, http://www.pocketalk.com, for additional information.
Another plus for this unit is the audible low-battery indicator. When the battery is low, the unit emits four short beeps to remind you that the battery is low just before it plays a message or immediately after it is turned on. I had my doubts about the audible low-battery indicator at first. It seemed a little erratic on my unit þ going off earlier than I would have expected. The pager operates on a standard nine-volt battery. When the audible indicator first went off on my first battery, I measured the battery's voltage at 7.5 volts. I could blame the meter, but it accurately measured other batteries I had around, so presumably it worked with the Pocketalk's battery as well. I'm no engineer, but 7.5 volts seemed awfully high to start grumbling about a weak battery.
Since a low battery can make it harder for the pager to be in contact with its host to tell it where the pager is, you run the risk of waiting longer than normal for your messages to be delivered. You can count on between four and five weeks of battery life. You can prolong the battery's life slightly by keeping the volume low when playing messages. Turning the unit off and on repeatedly actually may drain the battery more quickly than simply leaving it on. There's Room for Improvement
Some ACB members who tested this unit in Florida felt the up- and down-volume buttons were too close together or were hard to define. I personally had no problem with the proximity of the buttons. Moving them farther apart might change the size of the pager, and that would be a mistake. Perhaps Motorola could put a tactile ridge between the buttons, making them more defined. Doing so wouldn't force the company to enlarge the pager.
One of the big problems I noticed immediately was that you get no audible indication that the pager can handle no more messages. Some kind of audible indicator alerting the user that the pager's memory is full would be a good thing. Those with sight get a visual indicator of that in the tiny display screen.
Some folks in the Florida test wanted an earphone jack built into the pager. I see this as a mistake, since it would open the unit to potential dampness or water damage. Of course, an earphone would guarantee privacy, but most of the time I don't want to take time to fumble about inserting an earphone to hear a 30-second message.
The digitized sound of messages received is far from crystal clear. It has that under-water sound characteristic of some digitized voices on digital answering machines or digital recorders. If you have some hearing loss in addition to blindness, you may have some problems with this unit. While its audio amplifier isn't totally wimpy, it may not be strong enough to get the message to you loudly and clearly enough. The Bottom Line:
Having said some negative things, it should be pointed out that Motorola seems genuinely interested in making the Pocketalk a viable tool for blind and visually impaired people. The company is working on manuals in alternative media, and you can actually hear much if not all of the documentation for the unit by calling a special number provided by Conxus, the company which operates the paging network for Pocketalk. Motorola has done focus groups with blind users in Florida.
Following a three-month free trial period provided by Motorola, I found the Pocketalk so useful that I established my own account. Already, I've found uses for it I didn't realize existed when I first began trying it. It effectively serves as a second phone line for me. My oldest daughter and I are undeniably netheads (heavy Internet users). That means that our primary phone line is almost constantly in use when someone's awake. By forwarding my calls to the Pocketalk, I can tell who's calling, disconnect quickly, and return the call. It's a great wireless answering machine. The digital nature of the messages means that folks can't just accidentally tune in and intercept my messages. You can use the pager in a limited way to create a brief things-to-do list for the day.
Everybody who has insufficient vision to drive a car has been inconvenienced at least once by a bus stop announcement which didn't happen. Bus stop announcements are so important to some travelers that there is now a federal requirement that each major station and junction point on all common carriers, trains and buses, must be called aloud.
Compliance with the federal regulation has been very difficult to realize. The failure of New York City's 8,000 bus drivers to comply brought me to an annual "Bus Forum" three times to complain. At that public hearing sponsored by a statutory consumer advisory council, New York City Transit Authority administrators listened passively to me (the first year), claimed major progress (the second year), and apologized for their previous unfounded optimism based on flawed data (the third time).
At the 1998 public hearing, my fourth appearance, my statement was radically different. I thanked the transit authority for its actions to gain compliance. Finally there is convincing evidence of a system-wide concerted effort to change driver behavior. The most notable feature of the TA's new approach is a program which presents tangible rewards for good job performance making announcements. The authority has teamed up with the drivers' union to promise $5,000 in employee amenities at whichever depots demonstrate a high rate of stop announcements. There are 19 depots in the system which serves all five boroughs comprising the City of New York. Twenty-five- hundred-dollar awards are offered for other depots with good records of compliance.
The seriousness with which the TA administration began treating this driver function is witnessed by the assignment of 150 other employees as traffic checkers. These checkers ride routes on all work shifts and, without making their presence known to a driver, record each time there is a required announcement and each failure also. The check is not completed until at least five designated stops are tabulated. The typical route has from 10 to 30 stops which should be announced.
After three months of data collection, the 126th Street Depot in Manhattan was declared the first recipient of an award. Their final score was not inspiring, but it did represent progress, and the authority publicized their achievement in the organization's employee newsletter in a column known as "The Winner's Circle."
I have been advised by the Authority Bus Division's Director of its Customer Relations Center, Steve Nacco, that "the carrot" of rewards for compliance is accompanied by "the stick" of disciplinary action for non-compliance. He assured me that any bus driver reported by a traffic checker for making absolutely no stop announcements was disciplined. There were only two drivers operating out of the 126th Street Depot who fell into that category. Nacco gave credit for the authority's efforts to the senior vice president of his division Millard "Butch" Seay, who declared to his management staff that gaining compliance on stop announcements is a company priority.
The top-down leadership on the issue is also reflected in the text of the duty manual distributed to employees. "The Bus Operator's Guide to Customer Service" addresses at some length the importance of announcing bus stops. The handbook, which is updated yearly and compact enough to fit in a uniform shirt pocket, states in part, "... you're required to make announcements all the time, every time, at major stops." Thus it minces no words about the mandate, but also appeals to employee pride in being a part of one of the world's premiere public transportation systems. The handbook points out the broad appeal of calling stops. "And as you know, visually impaired people aren't the only ones who need to hear your announcements. People who are unfamiliar with the route, the stops, or the city in general also depend on you. And at night the tinted windows make it difficult for anyone other than the bus operator to see outside the bus."
The transit authority has long encouraged customer feedback on service. It distributes postcards and leaflets for the submission of complaints. It urges riders to report the employee badge number or vehicle number with details of any improper bus driver conduct including announcement omissions.
I have reported drivers on a number of occasions and once, the follow-up by the authority showed that these messages are heeded. When a Madison Avenue driver refused to verbalize the bus number, simply gesturing to his dashboard, I stood in the bus' open doorway waiting until he cooperated. His attempt to close the doors on me and pull away was formally reported by me. I was later contacted to attend a hearing as a witness against the driver. My acceptance of that role, I believe, then strengthened management's position in gaining the union's support for the application of appropriate discipline.
The transit authority invites messages commending especially good conduct too. The content of these communications from the public is taken seriously also. The authority has acknowledged that making stop announcements is a leading subject of commendations. About 80 percent of the thousands of complimentary notes from riders cite bus announcements specifically, and this fact is highlighted in the handbook for bus operators.
In discussions with transit authority personnel, why many bus operators resist making announcements has been the subject of speculation. I once observed to a subway motorman that subway conductors are much more compliant. He claimed they know "if they don't, they'll be yanked off the train right there." I doubt that is the difference. A conductor took his job recognizing the primary customer service functions of it, whereas the bus driver has traditionally seen his job as centering around the macho task of controlling 27,000 pounds of steel barreling down the street. My experience has suggested that female drivers are much more likely to make announcements than men, consistent with the traditional nurturing role of that sex. But Nacco leans more toward the difference between the "old-timers" in the company and younger employees more receptive to a redefinition of the driver's primary tasks. He reported that one of the two 126th Street drivers who made no announcements at all was a woman. Microphones installed in buses were intended for stop announcements but, perhaps because their alleged inoperative condition was frequently used as an excuse for failure to announce stops, that is not now a required technique. The authority hopes that hands-free mikes will increase driver compliance when they are installed in the future.
"The Braille Forum" (January 1998) reported on a Project Action grant which gained full compliance from a pilot sample of bus drivers making stop announcements. It demonstrated the power of intensive training, close supervision, and follow-up monitoring, with about two dozen drivers at the Alleghany County Transit Authority and the Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority. New York City is attempting to reach all of the drivers in the largest bus system in North America. It is an awesome task, but the TA's administration attests to a commitment to try whatever it takes to accomplish what federal law demands and what they now appear to realize þ their customers want and need bus stop announcements.
Reprinted from a United Press International Dispatch (Further reproduction of this story is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder unless reproduced in a specialized format.)
LOS ANGELES, March 26 (UPI) An eye doctor has pleaded no contest to refusing to let a blind man bring a guide dog into his Los Angeles office.
Municipal Court Commissioner Kristi Lousteau ordered 51-year- old ophthalmologist Dr. Marc R. Rose to contribute $5,000 to Guide Dog Users of California, attend a guide dog sensitivity training session and give his employees copies of state laws on access by service dogs. Rose was charged with refusing a blind person and his specially trained guide dog access to a public place.
State medical board investigators say Rose refused to let the blind man into his office with a guide dog on two occasions in November 1996, even when the man was accompanied by the training director of the Guide Dogs of America. The man was trying to get an eye examination required by the Social Security Administration. Investigators with the state medical board launched a probe into Rose's conduct after getting a complaint last year from the guide dogs' group.
Rose is the second Los Angeles businessman convicted in the past three months of refusing access to service dogs. The owner of a fast-food restaurant was ordered to pay $2,700 in fines in January for refusing to let a wheelchair-bound woman into his business with her service dog.
(Reprinted with permission from "Horizons," July 1998.)
The U.S. Department of Justice and the National Collegiate Athletic Association in late May 1998 reached an agreement which will lead to revisions in policies that will enable more students with learning disabilities to participate.
The NCAA is in essence the licensing entity for men's and women's college athletics. Based on a student's performance academically as well as athletically in high school, a student applies for up to four years of eligibility in sports. In the best cases, the student is being recruited by a college(s) of her/his choice. If there is a problem that would preclude a full four years of eligibility, there is an appeal process within the NCAA for waiving purported deficiencies. Nevertheless, students with learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia, were encountering enough difficulties with the NCAA that a lawsuit was filed in federal court in the District of Columbia.
Under the agreement reached, there will be more courses potentially available for approval by the NCAA so that certain classes which had been taken by learning-disabled students in the past but for which the NCAA had not given them credit toward eligibility (thus denying or limiting to less than four years the eligibility of the learning-disabled student athletes) will now be approved. More courses being approved will translate into more learning-disabled students getting eligibility and more learning-disabled students receiving the full four years of eligibility. The NCAA will also be utilizing an expert on learning disabilities as it assesses student applications for waivers. Hopefully, this should lead to more informed decision- making and, as a practical matter, more students getting waivers. The NCAA practices in the past had sometimes caused students not to be recruited by the school(s) they wanted most, it was alleged in the suit. The NCAA is to put its own house in order, conducting awareness training to staff, member universities and high schools, students and parents. It will also pay the four plaintiffs some compensatory damages.
This settlement could be a sign that the NCAA is about to get a message it should have gotten in the aftermath of the spirit (if not the letter) of the Rehabilitation Act regulations which were issued in 1977. This 1998 settlement is one of those so obvious þ what took it so long? þ but better late than never events, however overdue.
The result resonated with me as a former youth soccer coach. I am convinced that at least one of my former players had a learning disability. She could never grasp what it meant to be the left or right striker (forward) or left or right fullback on defense. My coaching partner and I quickly realized that we just had to tell her if she was on the side of the field near us or the part farther away. No big deal. No paperwork. No lawsuit. Simple common sense. The young lady was with us for several seasons. While she was not a star and never needed the NCAA to approve her for any college eligibility, the accommodations we put in place quietly allowed her to go on and enjoy, to be out there like any other kid.
So too with what will apparently happen here. There will be more students with learning disabilities out on the intercollegiate fields of play, enjoying and being young adults, just like all the other athletes. When the student athletes are on the field you cannot tell which, if any, have a learning disability. Now more students with learning disabilities will get to try and "be like Mike."
Some of the better, more accessible stadia are in the Washington metropolitan area. Camden Yards in Baltimore can be so accommodating it will make you forget how bad the Orioles pitching has been this year. Closer to home, both Prince George's Stadium in Bowie and Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, home of the Bowie Baysox and Frederick Keys, respectively, each a minor league affiliate of the Orioles, have much to offer in the way of accessibility (as well as baseball and other fun). The minor league seasons run through about Labor Day and tickets are generally available. The Orioles finish a couple of weeks later. It is best to call now if you want to go there this year.
On a personal note, I will miss Paul Hearne, the late director of the Dole Foundation and force behind the American Association of People with Disabilities. I remember how he appeared in my office at the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board after taking his first ride on an accessible subway. Paul was a New Yorker, whose home town subway system was not at all accessible. He could not get over the system in this area. His wit, street and intellectual smarts, and zeal will be real losses.
Sadly, with the passing several months ago of Evan Kemp, this is the second major death in the disability community in the past year. I think it is time to celebrate the living, like Justin Dart, so we can make sure that words of appreciation are heard by the good people, who can draw further inspiration from them.
The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.
The Vision of New Hampshire Award honors an individual who has provided significant direct or indirect service on behalf of blind and visually impaired New Hampshire residents. The award will be presented at the October 1998 Vision of New Hampshire Celebration of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind.
Nominations must be postmarked by August 15. Late or incomplete nominations will NOT be accepted. The nominee must be a resident of New Hampshire whose service, leadership or innovation has benefitted blind and visually impaired state residents. For example: 1) service: an individual who exemplifies compassion and caring by providing consistent and outstanding direct or indirect service on behalf of visually impaired people; 2) leadership: as the leader of an organization, association, club, project, or company, who has exerted influence on a statewide basis for programs which benefit visually impaired people; or 3) innovation: such as, inventing assistive technology which helps visually impaired people live more independently, or the provider of medical care who shows extraordinary concern for patients with serious vision impairment or has developed innovative treatment(s) of eye conditions. Paid employees of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind and members of its board of directors are NOT eligible. Copies of the nomination form are available in braille, tape or large print. Call toll-free in New Hampshire (800) 464-3075. Return the form by August 15 to: President, New Hampshire Association for the Blind, McGreal Sight Center, 25 Walker St., Concord, NH 03301.
Louis is the American Printing House for the Blind's database of accessible books and materials for people who are blind or visually impaired, formerly called Carl Et Al. It was named Louis in honor of the work of Louis Braille. The database provides bibliographic and location information for books and materials in braille, large type, recorded and computer disk formats. These materials are available from 200 agencies across North America. To use Louis, go to http://www.aph.org or via dial-in. To receive the software for dial-in service, contact Christine Anderson, resource service manager, at (800) 223-1839. There is no charge for access to Louis, but APH is asking major agencies and schools that submit titles and search Louis to make an annual contribution of $300. For more information, contact APH at the phone number above.
Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic recently presented scholarships to six people. The Scholastic Achievement Award winners are: Krista Erickson of Illinois, Cari Lynn Karpinski of Ohio and Angela Renee Matney of West Virginia. Learning Through Listening award winners are: Jennifer Lynne Akman of Washington, D.C., Jennifer Landfair of Virginia and Samuel Yuichi Ogami of California.
Order three original songs written by Brenda and Dave Trevino and featured at the 1998 ACB national convention in Orlando. You get "The ACB Song," an upbeat, positive song about blindness that is displayed in the center of the ACB quilt, "The PC Blues," a humorous look at the catch-22 situation of needing a computer for employment and not being able to afford one until you're employed, and finally, "A Tribute to Oral Miller," a musical accolade to our retiring executive director.
The price is $6 per tape. Send orders and make all checks payable to: Brenda Trevino, 3518 Golf St., Nashville, TN 37216.
Now available from HotKey Systems is a complete set of JAWS for Windows manuals in braille. These include: Help, Configuration, Dictionary, Frame, Keyboard, Script, and Customization Managers. The price per set is $55, which includes shipping and handling. Contact Dave and Ann Durber at HotKey Systems, 63-25B Bourton St. #1B, Rego Park, NY 11374; phone (718) 335-1788, or fax (718) 335- 1786.
The Metropolitan Washington Ear now has a site on the world wide web. Its address is http://www.washear.org It's designed for those with low or no vision, and offers "The Washington Post," selections from the "Wall Street Journal," "Time," "People" and "Washingtonian." The Dial-In News and Magazine service is available within the Washington metropolitan area without a charge.
Ted C. Henter, president of Henter-Joyce, Inc., recently received the third annual Evan C. Kemp Jr. Entrepreneurship Award from the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. This award is presented annually to an individual with a disability who "has displayed exemplary skills, energy, leadership and courage in business."
Also, Henter-Joyce was recently named the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year in category II (25- 100 employees). The company is now in the state competition.
The Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning & Technology is now taking applications for the coming school year. Classes will begin the first week in September. The school offers a full course in piano tuning and technology. All instructors are blind; all instruction is hands-on. Scholarships are available. Help with living arrangements is also available. Catalogs are available upon request from the Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning & Technology, 2510 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, WA 98661; phone (360) 693-1511, fax (360) 693-6891 or e-mail [email protected]
Heartfelt Press is a small home-based company. It produces baby books for babies with special needs. "Under the Plum Tree" is the memory book for a baby's first year; "A Rainbow in My Pocket" is for ages one through five, and "A Note in My Lunchbox" is for a child's school years. All books set aside special pages for the child's family to express their thoughts and feelings; all are home-printed and assembled, and can be changed and personalized. Another book, "The Heart of a Rainbow," takes the best parts of the first two, but doesn't cover the first year as thoroughly. It is meant for children not necessarily born with special needs and/or for saving organizations the added cost of two books when dealing with limited budgets. Books cost $25 each (Kansas residents must pay state tax); orders of 10 or more, each book costs $22. Other books are in the works. Contact Linda Magnuson at 5307 Hallet, Shawnee, KS 66216; phone (913) 962-4895 or e-mail [email protected]
The American Foundation for the Blind recently presented its Helen Keller Achievement Awards to R.E. (Ted) Turner III, vice chairman of Time Warner Inc., Livio D. DeSimone, chairman and CEO of 3M, Toy Manufacturers of America, Inc., and musician Marcus Roberts. Ted Turner received the Helen Keller Achievement Award in Audio Description; Livio DeSimone received the Helen Keller Achievement Award in Employment Opportunity. Toy Manufacturers of America, Inc. received the Helen Keller Partnership Award for its partnership with AFB in producing the "Guide to Toys for Children Who Are Blind." Pianist and composer Marcus Roberts received the Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award for his music; his latest album is "Blues for the New Millennium."
Also, AFB's "Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness" has a new editor-in-chief. Her name is Jane N. Erin, and she is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation at the University of Arizona-Tucson, past president of the Council for Exceptional Children's Division on Visual Impairments, and the author and editor of a number of publications dealing with education and visual impairments.
United Friendship Network is now forming. It has worldwide friendship links available, and directories of the club in braille and two-track (normal speed) tape. Contact Donna Webb in braille or on tape at 531 Prescott St., Unit 12, Pasadena, CA 91104.
Dale Otto, president and CEO of the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, recently received the Gold Glove Glaucoma Award in recognition of his contribution to the community in the area of glaucoma awareness, according to a press release from the Columbia Lighthouse. The award was presented by former all-star baseball legend Kirby Puckett, who retired as a player for the Minnesota Twins in 1996 due to glaucoma-related vision loss.
National Industries for the Blind recently honored three employees as National Blind Employees of the Year. They are: Yoseph Getachew, the 1998 Peter J. Salmon National Service Employee of the Year, Alexandria, VA; Violet Thompson, Xerox Department leader, Goodwill Industries of Greater Rochester, NY and the Peter J. Salmon National Manufacturing Employee of the Year; and William H. Hawkins, bank officer and service department sales manager at UMB Bank, Kansas City, MO, the first recipient of the Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award.
"Intro to the Piano for the Visually Impaired" is a beginning piano/keyboard course that talks the student through the basics of playing the piano. The course comes in a cassette album that is fully brailled, and includes a free "Piano by Ear" instructional tape. The course is taught in a detailed step-by-step process with several built-in breaks which allow the student to rehearse what was learned before moving on. The price of the course is $37, which includes shipping. Foreign orders please add $3 for postage.
Also, Valdosta Music & Publishing recently released eight piano instructional cassettes for the blind or visually impaired. The only prerequisite for using these tapes is that the student know the names of the notes and the location of middle C on the piano.Current titles are "The Old Rugged Cross," the theme from "Love Story," "Fur Elise," "Moonlight Sonata," "Blues and Boogie Styles," "Georgia on my Mind," "Anniversary Waltz," and "Silent Night." Each title is $10 plus $3.50 shipping and handling per order. For more information, write or call Bill Brown at Piano by Ear, 704 Habersham Rd., Valdosta, GA 31602; MasterCard or Visa orders call (800) 484-1839, security code 8123.
"Moving with Marge," a 50-minute exercise program on cassette produced specifically for the blind, is designed to strengthen and tone all major muscle groups. It costs $7.50. Also available are tapes of Ray and Lois Howard singing traditional inspirational songs; those, too, cost $7.50. For more information, contact Lois Howard at (614) 432-2287, or write her at 61951 High Hill Rd., Cambridge, OH 43725.
C. Richcreek Enterprises has several items. One is the easy writer guide, crafted in mahogany for use with regular paper. It has 16 strings to be used as guide lines and one bead per line for easy reference to the end of a sentence or paragraph. The Aladdin knife sharpener, molded in plastic, has the stones positioned in a slot at an angle to ensure a good sharp edge each time. The easy check-writing guide is placed behind the check and carbon, enabling the user to feel the lines through the check. There are two items for talking book users: an unstrapper, to remove the plastic shipping box tapes are mailed in, and a manual cassette tape tightener. The scanner deck is for use with the HP 2P and HP 3P Scan Jet models. It supports a book flush with the face of a flatbed scanner, allowing the scanner to see the full page. Its left and right wings are removable, saving space when not in use. To order, call or write C. Richcreek Enterprises, Route 5 Box 42B, Astoria, OR 97103; phone (503) 325-4005.
"Intro to the Guitar for the Visually Impaired" is a new guitar course for the totally blind beginner. The course teaches the first position chords, the three most commonly used rhythm patterns for these chords, several songs, all the notes in first position and several songs using the notes. It is comprised of three professionally recorded cassettes. Also included is a free tape which teaches the guitar part to a contemporary song as originally recorded, and the author's phone number so students can call with questions or problems. To order, send $37 check or money order (overseas requesters add $3 for postage) to Guitar by Ear, 704 Habersham Rd., Valdosta, GA 31602; MasterCard or Visa orders call (800) 484-1839, security code 8123. Or for more information, you can visit the web site at http://www.guitarbyear.com
The Selective Doctor, Inc. specializes in the repair of Perkins braillers and IBM typewriters. Repairs for braillers are $45 for labor, plus the cost of parts. Send your brailler via U.S. mail to: The Selective Doctor, Inc., P.O. Box 28432, Baltimore, MD 21234. Free matter shipping is accepted. The brailler should be insured, which costs about $6. The company will add the cost of the return insurance to your bill. For more information, call the company at (410) 668-1143.
The American Foundation for the Blind recently released a new brochure called "Every Seven Minutes ..." as part of its continuing efforts to convince policymakers and the public of the value of specialized services for the blind. Single copies of the brochure are free by calling (800) 232-5463; additional copies can be ordered from AFB Press in packs of 10 brochures and one master set of inserts for photocopying (ISBN 0-89128-317-X) at $10 plus shipping; call (800) 232-3044.
Also available from AFB Press is the "AFB Directory of Services for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons in the United States and Canada." It is available in print and on CD-ROM; the CD is designed to run on Windows, Macintosh and DOS platforms. The print version is 624 pages long and contains more than 2,500 listings covering public and private organizations and governmental departments that provide education, information, rehabilitation, low vision and aging services, as well as information on producers and distributors of alternative media, adaptive devices and other products useful to blind and visually impaired people. The print edition, ISBN 0-89128-300-5, costs $149.95 plus $10 postage and handling, and includes the CD-ROM edition. Contact AFB Press at the telephone number above. Institutional purchase orders should be sent to AFB Press, Customer Service, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, N.Y. 10001.
Did you know that your city, county, park district, public school and even your local transportation provider are all required by law to give you information about the Americans with Disabilities Act? These local entities must provide ADA Notices to you and other interested people. ADA Notices are documents that inform people about the ADA and various local and state public services, programs and activities, as well as your rights under the law. They are free from these public entities; however, many do not have them available. Four national organizations (the International City/County Management Association, the National Recreation and Park Association, the American Public Works Association and the American Association of School Administrators) are now offering ADA Notice Kits to public entities. All kits contain large print, braille, cassette and computer text notices. To ensure that such notices are available, contact your city, county, town, school, park, transportation agency, public works provider and other various governmental departments in your area and let them know about your rights to receive this information; also let them know about the ADA Notice Kit. To obtain one, call the ADA Notice Hotline at (312) 640-1438.
The centennial reunion at the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has been set for August 4-6, 2000 in Aberdeen. Many activities will be held throughout the weekend. The Ramkota Inn is the "reunion motel," so call and make your reservations at (605) 229-4040. For more information, contact Dawn L. or Dawn F. at (605) 626-2580 or toll-free (888) 275-3814.
FOR SALE: IBM PS/2 486 personal computer with DECTalk speech card and Arkenstone scanner. Software includes Open Book, Vocal- Eyes and ZoomText. Asking $600 plus shipping. Contact Craig at (219) 246-1410 or e-mail him at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Completely reconditioned Perkins brailler. Asking $350. Trade-ins accepted. Payment plan negotiable. Contact Nino Pacini at (313) 885-7330 evenings and weekends.
FOR SALE: Canon electric typewriter, less than one year old, with braille and print manuals. $300. Man's Seiko braille wristwatch, $100. Contact Ruth at (419) 522-5708.
FOR SALE: Jumbo brailler, $450, includes shipping. Braille 'n Speak 640 with 1996 update, carrying case and adapter, $850. DECTalk Express (external), brand new, in box. Asking $950, including shipping. Talking adding machine from Science Products. Comes with instruction tape. Asking $240. "AM Gold 1970" CD, $16 (includes shipping). If you are interested in any of these items, contact Isaac at (617) 247-0026.
FOR SALE: One Touch talking glucose monitor. All accessories included. Braille and print manuals available. $100. Call Judy Duncan at (703) 765-1336.
FOR SALE: Kurzweil Reader Edge. In excellent condition. Comes with carrying case. $2,500 or best offer. Call Marlene at (804) 222-4334.
WANTED: Jiffy Slate for 3-by-5 index cards. Contact Nino Pacini at (313) 885-7330 evenings and weekends.
In the March 1998 "Braille Forum" I saw three articles dealing with the Americans with Disabilities Act. During my job of waiting for phone calls to score tests, I have some time to read magazines like "The Braille Forum." So I was able to read all three articles.
The first article about guide dogs being allowed in Hawaii, "Aloha Guide Dog Handlers! A Guide to Traveling To Hawaii with Your Guide Dog," was a very positive and informative article that showed what ADA is supposed to be used for. It explained what a responsibility it is to care for a guide dog, something many of us who do not own guide dogs take for granted.
I had problems with the other two articles. The first, "Legal Access: PGA: Please Go Away!", dealt with Casey Martin being allowed to use a golf cart in PGA events. In my opinion, the ADA ruling was a sound one to take. The PGA does not accept government money to function. So can't a private organization make its own rules? Or is it necessary for him to play this sport? If he wins his appeal, can beep ball players try out for major league baseball? Can we blind bowlers try out for the professional bowling tour and use a rail? The successful appeal could be dangerous because it gives the rest of us the opportunity to ask for stupid things, making a mockery of fine legislation.
Finally, the article on the twin sisters who fly aircrafts for small commuter airlines, "Visually Impaired Twin Pilots Lose Important ADA Case," shows how this law can be misused. With glasses these fly girls/women can see well enough to drive cars and fly planes. But the major airlines say these people must have a certain degree of vision to qualify to fly. Yet they ran to the ADA to cry that they were disabled, discriminated against. There are many sighted people who cannot see a thing without glasses. Using the complainants' logic, everybody must be disabled then too. The court did something right by disallowing their claim.
(Editor's Note: Although the world is awash with horror stories about paratransit problems, we found one writer who enjoyed his experience, despite the difficulties involved.) [end of note]
There is not a doubt in my mind that those of us who use a paratransit service have many stories to tell about these services. This type of service is extremely valuable in helping us meet our transportation needs, but they often provide us with the full range of emotion, from pure anger to the ultimate hilarity. In Houston we have MetroLift, a subsidiary of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, to meet the needs of those who cannot use the conventional bus system. The MetroLift service consists of lift- equipped vans as well as taxicabs, when the lift is not required. They recently changed vendors for the taxicab rides, a change which went surprisingly well as far as I'm concerned. But, as I've said, use of this service will leave you with stories, and I'd like to share this one with you.
First let me give you a little background. I've been a MetroLift rider for about 18 months, give or take a couple. The service has allowed me to perform my duties as an officer of the Houston Council of the Blind, and more recently allowed me to attend braille classes offered by Houston Council members. My use of the MetroLift system has been occasional, but regular. I must say that I am very grateful for the service. Most of the drivers I have encountered have been absolutely splendid, hard-working people þ I've always been impressed with the drivers. Sometimes the scheduling system drives me nuts, and sometimes schedules are not to my liking, and sometimes scheduled times are only a figment of somebody's imagination, but, as stated, I appreciate the service. Because of the "sometimes" I have contemplated developing a full-scale marketing campaign for MetroLift using the slogan "MetroLift þ every ride's an adventure," but I have yet to follow up on this campaign. I really don't think they are in the market for such a campaign as they seem to have plenty of business without trolling for more. But the slogan persists with me, so let's get to the adventure that inspired this writing.
On the last Sunday in March I made a reservation for a ride to my braille class for the following day. They offered a 9:22 a.m. time, but I asked for something a bit later, since I didn't need to be there until 11 a.m. They came back with a 10:22 a.m. suggested time which I accepted. (I knew this time would probably be pushed back a bit as they finalized schedules, so I thought this would work out very nicely.) The time was revised to 10:19 a.m., which should have been OK. But the plot thickens.
On Monday morning I was ready and waiting, and at 10:19 a.m. no ride was here to pick me up, so I did as MetroLift instructs us and called their dispatch office. I was told that the driver was down in the Medical Center and had not answered the phone. The dispatch operator asked that I wait 15-20 minutes and call back if he had not gotten here. About 15 minutes later I called dispatch back þ the operator checked it out and told me that the driver was really late and that they would send a yellow cab for me in about 5 or 10 minutes. About 15 minutes later I called dispatch again to tell them that I still had not been picked up. The operator was gone for a few moments and came back and told me that the driver was at the intersection of Howard and Winkler (about three minutes from my house) and headed my way. In about another 15 minutes I was back on the phone þ on hold þ waiting for a dispatch operator when a horn honked out front. I figured that the ride would be a straight shot to the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center where my braille class is held and that this would work out OK.
I went out and hopped into the Plymouth (I think) minivan and we headed out. The pick-up was an hour late but I thought I could still get there and hand in my homework and get the next lesson, and after all, my pick-up from the center wasn't until 12:42 p.m., so this would work. We went down the street and turned left under the freeway on our next part of this adventure.
The driver and I were talking about my fun with dispatch. He told me he hadn't come on duty until 11 a.m. and I was his first passenger. We rolled up the entrance ramp and were shortly on I- 45, the Gulf Freeway, headed northwest toward Houston. Shortly after we got on the freeway there was a mean-sounding "KER-THUNK!" under the van. I said that didn't sound good at all. I asked the driver if he could tell what we hit. He said all he could see was a large piece of metal, and he didn't have any choice except to go over it due to traffic in adjacent lanes. We went for a moment, and then he decided to pull over and check for any damage. He pulled over to the far right emergency lane and stopped. The smell of gasoline descended on us almost immediately. As he opened his door, I said, "I'm smelling gasoline!" He agreed with this assessment. He stepped out, circled the van, and opened my door. He said, "We've got a punctured gas tank so we better get away from the van." I agreed and suggested that he notify the fire department so they could wash down the gas; he said that he had told dispatch and they were working on it. We moved away from the van þ about 10 yards initially þ and stood there to assess our situation. There we were, on some sort of overpass on I-45; behind me was a retaining wall about three feet high. I asked where we were, if it was an overpass or what. Turns out we were on the rather lengthy bridge over Sims Bayou. The smell of gas was strong as the wind was blowing pretty good, so I asked if we were far enough away from the van. Jack (the driver) said that the wind was blowing the gas our way and that we had better move a little farther away, so we went for another little walk. I hope you have a good picture of this tableau: we are now about 40 yards away from our former means of transportation, on my backside is a retaining wall beyond which is a 40-foot drop to the lovely Sims Bayou, on my front about 12 feet away is one of the busiest freeways in the fourth largest city in the nation, traffic is blowing by at 60-plus miles per hour, and that bridge is bouncing like a ride at AstroWorld. JACK þ ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? Well friends, we hung in there and after a bit a Metro emergency car stopped near us and we were able to join Shari in her lovely car. While we sat there, a pumper from the Houston Fire Department rolled by on the service road. No, guys, we're over here!
As we sat there I contemplated how nice it was to be inside a car and how this was going to work out OK without major injury. It had gotten to be a few minutes after noon, and since my braille teacher was to be picked up at noon so she could return home, it occurred to me that perhaps somebody was trying to tell me something. I was asked if I wanted to continue on to the Multi- Purpose Center; I allowed as how I didn't have to have a refrigerator fall on my head, I just wanted to go home. I told Jack that his day was bound to improve þ it had nowhere to go but up. We parted as he went back to talk to the fire department and Shari put it in gear and we headed for sanctuary.
After arriving home I called and left a message for my braille teacher: "No, my dog did not eat my homework þ I don't have a dog þ but like Paul Harvey says, you'll not believe the rest of the story." She did believe it þ "Bob, you couldn't be making all of that up!"
It is more than a week later as I write this, and I wonder if there is any significance to this, or is it just a good story? I think the most important point is that MetroLift drivers really are concerned about doing a good job and are very concerned about the safety and comfort of their clients. Well done, Jack, and to all the other MetroLift drivers; as clients, we are grateful for the transportation as well as your concern. Thanks, too, to Metro for their emergency response troops (that's you, Shari). I do not know if she was a Metro police officer or not þ the car was equipped with overhead lights but it sure didn't feel like a police car. The other side of the coin is the dispatch office. I choose to think they were dealing with insufficient information, not specifically telling me fibs. Remember, I can deal with the truth just fine. I may not like it but I can deal with that much better than with untruths.
Somebody recently asked me if this was really an adventure. I responded, "Well, have you ever been standing on the side of a freeway bridge above a bayou waiting for the fire department to come and wash down your ride?" There was no answer, so I guess that meant no.
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, Rosemont, PA
Ex Officio: Laura Oftedahl, Watertown, MA
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