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.
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I am actually writing this message on the day I returned from the American Council of the Blind convention. As soon as I got back I went to bed and died and now I am listening to soft music on my patio and writing a message I didn't expect to write. I am actually writing it because of a perception that is becoming more and more widespread: that the Americans with Disabilities Act is of no consequence to people who are blind. There is also the implication that other disabilities are making out like bandits while us poor, put-upon blind people are being shafted right and left.
It is time that this inaccurate, negative generalization stop! This kind of simplistic solipsism has no place in our thinking and serves only to deepen the rift that is already wide enough between us and other people who are disabled. The Americans with Disabilities Act is regarded as landmark legislation by people with disabilities from all over the world. They rightly see it as a first step in protecting the civil rights of people who are disabled. The fact is that our law is being used as a model by other countries that have or are working on the passage of legislation that will validate the existence of a minority in need of protection: people with disabilities. Laws in Australia and England and Sweden, to name but three, would probably never have been passed or considered had it not been for the ADA. It is also not mere rhetoric to say that the Americans with Disabilities Act has had the effect of acknowledging discrimination against people with disabilities as a reality and making society responsible for working to mitigate its worst effects. I would argue that the "Findings and Purposes" section is as important as the rest of the law. When you have a chance, take a look at the language that is included there! I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to say that people with disabilities were ashamed to ask for what they needed before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also we had little recourse when private companies refused to do anything to make their products and services more accessible. The ADA says unequivocally that people with disabilities have rights that society has an obligation to protect. This is a substantial and meaningful change! It is also a huge first step. People are blaming the law for the failure of society to change quickly enough for them. There is a huge range of other factors which account for the slow progress we have made toward full access to our society. Most of them have nothing to do with the ADA! We live at a time when government is being urged to do more with less and when state government is rebelling against the attempts of federal legislators to balance their budget by passing the responsibility for paying for programs that are expensive down to the states. More and more dollars are being funneled through programs that put a premium on dividing the poor into camps that will fight each other for access to an increasingly small pot of money.
The media have chosen to regard the Americans with Disabilities Act as fair game. I am not sure I have ever seen a single issue on which the media have been more unfair! Sensational stories appear about the abuse of the ADA. There is no effort to report either on the fact that virtually all of these cases get thrown out of court or on the myriad instances of real discrimination that are everywhere for people to see if they will but look. They also, for the most part, choose not to report on the fact that enforcement has been made difficult by a combination of under-funding and bureaucracy. It is clear that the resolution of ADA complaints is not going to be immediate. Most complaints take years to get attention!
I would also suggest to anyone who is minded to be fair on this issue that you ask members of other minorities whether they believe that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has solved their problems at one stroke. Are we so naive that we truly believed that the signing of a law would make prejudice and discrimination disappear?
I am equally tired of the argument that people who are blind have gained nothing from the Americans with Disabilities Act. In some communities huge amounts of public information have become available in accessible formats. We have the ability to make more information available if we will but insist that it be produced! Paratransit may not be perfect but it is far more widespread than it was before the passage of the ADA. Communities that had dragged their feet about setting up systems have been forced to do so! The right of people who are blind to have equal access to regular buses has also been strengthened. Enforcement is not perfect but whose fault is that? It certainly is not to be laid at the feet of the law! Bureaucrats, legislators and people with disabilities must all bear some of the blame. People with disabilities want someone else to do all the work! If your rights are limited, you should protest! If your access to society is abridged, you should seek remedies. Don't wait for others to do it for you.
Under Title III the protections seem paltry, I agree. Nevertheless we lose sight of the basic and ineluctable fact that, regardless of how little a place of public accommodation may be required to change, there is a requirement that they serve people with disabilities. The last time I looked, blind people were a part of that group! Just how they will manage to provide the service may be open to negotiation. The fact that they must is not!
No law ever goes far enough. The Americans with Disabilities Act is certainly not perfect. It was passed in a political climate where some elements of it were weakened so that it could be passed at all! This is certainly true of Title III and probably applies to the transit elements of Title II. That is the way things are in this world. No group gets all that it wants. The fact that blind people did not get as much as they might have from this law may be due to our failure to speak with a single voice. One organization of the blind opposed the Americans with Disabilities Act until the very last moment. I am not at all suggesting this position is inappropriate. I am saying that it was incredibly difficult for those of us who were working to get more for people who are blind to succeed when there was a perception that blind people were actively hindering passage of the ADA. The American Council of the Blind did not, at that time, have a Director of Governmental Affairs and, if the truth were told, there were simply not that many blind people involved in the inner circles where the actual elements to be included in the ADA were being debated. We carp about what is missing and never seem to celebrate what is won! Without the Americans with Disabilities Act, tactile warnings would not be on subway platforms and blind people would still be dying! Without the ADA, hotel room doors would not have braille and large print signage, even those few that do. Without the ADA, very few communities or companies would have made any effort to make the listings of jobs they have available, accessible! Without the ADA braille on elevators in public buildings would be the exception, not the norm.
But it is under Title I that people who are blind have gained the most. Many of these gains are difficult to quantify and harder to define. They have to do with the creation of an environment of openness to the employment of people with disabilities, including people who are blind. One of the things that lawyers have made clear to corporations and local and state governments alike is that it is cheaper to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act than it is to fight it. There are jobs out there, folks! The question of why people with disabilities have not gotten them is more complex. It is, at least in part, due to our failure to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that the Americans with Disabilities Act offered. Time and time again, I talk with employers who are open to hiring blind people and who are perfectly prepared to make the accommodations that are needed. Qualified people with disabilities seem to be as scarce as hen's teeth. Both rehabilitation agencies and consumer organizations must do more to assure that young people entering the job market are truly work ready. While we are on the subject of Title I, I want to suggest that reasonable accommodations are far easier to get and are likely to be far superior because of the passage of the ADA. I am particularly pleased that the ADA clearly indicates that reasonable accommodations don't just have to be provided when a person is hired but also apply to a person seeking promotion. One of the reasons for the negative evaluation of the Americans with Disabilities Act lies in the fact that there have been far too few statistics required. Because there is no quota system as there was with the affirmative action provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there have been few statistics kept by communities or corporations. The federal government has also not done much to encourage or require their collection. Perhaps one of the jobs that the Presidential Task Force on the Employment of People with Disabilities can do is require the publication of more meaningful indicators of how far we have come and how far we need to go. Then we will be able to make judgments on the success or failure of the Americans with Disabilities Act with something other than rumor and sensational press coverage!
I want to speak also about training! In the long run, training may be the most important result of the ADA. Whether they want it or not, hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans have been trained about the rights of people with disabilities. They have been forced to confront the discrimination issue and have been disabused of some of the stereotypes about people with disabilities that were as much of a barrier to full inclusion as was the discrimination. I think that the Americans with Disabilities Act is actually responsible for the fact that there are advertisements that feature people with disabilities. Our greater acceptance as an integral part of our society is due to the training that has happened as a result of the passage of the ADA.
Finally, I want to focus on an issue that may well make me unpopular. Blind people are not filing complaints. The only way to make the law take cognizance of the specific problems that blind people are having is to file complaints. It is just not happening. I know that some of the complaints that we file go nowhere and that it is frustrating. This is not a reason to stop. It's a reason to redouble our efforts to be certain that our issues are known and heard. It also lays the foundation for what will be considered when the Department of Justice must do a review of the regulations after 10 years. Do not blame the ADA when your laziness is really the issue.
Do not look to the Americans with Disabilities Act as a panacea! That it is not! Do not expect it to solve every state and local problem for you. It will not. Do not expect it to eradicate prejudice and discrimination at a single stroke. It can't and won't! Expect it to be a major step toward validating you as a person first and your disability as well. It does that! Expect it also to be a springboard which, if used creatively, can make a huge difference and that will happen. The failure of the Americans with Disabilities Act, if it has failed at all, is due as much to the degree to which people with disabilities have chosen, consciously, to denigrate it! If you tell the world the law is a failure, why should the world try to abide by the law! If you project an image of hopelessness and negativity, where is the incentive for people to comply with the law? The Americans with Disabilities Act is a huge victory for people with disabilities. Will our negativity and whining turn it into an irrelevant could-have-been? It's up to us!
Because the ACB national convention takes place during the summer and requires so much time in preparation, some people succumb to the belief that ACB does little else during that period. Quite to the contrary, convention preparations and the conduct of the convention go on in the midst of countless other activities. For example, many other ACB members in the national capital area and I took time out to take part in an incredibly moving memorial service for Dr. S. Bradley Burson, a founder and very active member of ACB. (See "Charter Member Finds Final Rest" in this issue of "The Braille Forum.") A few days later, several members were honored to take part in the Friends of the Heart Memorial Service for the late Sen. Jennings Randolph. During that service many of his accomplishments were summarized and, of course, the enormous role he played as a friend of the blind and a sponsor of the Randolph-Sheppard Act was underscored.
People to People Committee
More than 40 years ago the knowledge that significant international change can be made at the non-governmental level served as impetus for establishment of People to People International. Very soon thereafter the People to People Committee on the Disabled was formed to focus on ways in which disabled people and friends of disabled people can share information and bring about beneficial change. This mission was clearly in mind at the 1998 meeting of the committee, which it was my pleasure to attend. Although much aid that goes from the USA to developing countries goes via various governmental aid programs, it was emphasized during the recent meeting that organizations of the disabled can also play major roles by sharing information, sharing resources to the extent possible and working closely with international and United Nations organizations dedicated to assisting disabled people. Though the inquiries were not related to the activities of the People to People Committee on the Disabled, I am pleased to report that within recent weeks I have received several inquiries from ACB members who are very interested in seeing ACB or an entity assisted by it play a larger role in assisting blind people in other nations. Upon conclusion of my professional duties as executive director of the American Council of the Blind, I hope to be able to devote more time myself to this extremely worthwhile endeavor.
Although I have worked closely with the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of the District of Columbia for many years on many issues, not until recently did I have an opportunity to attend their annual awards and motivation banquet. What a delightful, uplifting, inspiring and frequently humorous evening it was! While it was clear that many of the practices of the organization have been established in very close cooperation with another organization of the blind, I was pleased to have an opportunity to inform many of the attendees that, despite what they might have heard otherwise, the American Council of the Blind has always been in the forefront in defending or enhancing the employment opportunities for blind people through the Randolph- Sheppard program. When I attended a meeting a few evenings later of the National Capital Area chapter of the ACB of Maryland, both my wife and I, while enjoying some wonderful hospitality, had an opportunity to discuss many of the other issues of importance to blind people. A dog in a wheelchair?
The field of service to disabled people is often assisted through the preparation of well-made training videos by disability organizations for the use of service personnel. Recently such a video, prepared by the Paralyzed Veterans of America in conjunction with Amtrak, was previewed at Union Station here in Washington, D.C. The fact that not all disabled travelers need wheelchairs was pointed out. What many of the viewers did not know was that when the video was being planned, one of the riders had intended to point out this fact in a manner which then ACB governmental affairs director Julie Carroll vetoed, namely by having a guide dog leap into a wheelchair and be wheeled away. New dollar coin
Indeed, wasn't the introduction of the Susan B. Anthony dollar a fiasco! The lesson learned from the introduction of that coin has not been lost, and representatives of the U.S. Mint have been consulting regularly with members of the American Council of the Blind concerning the size, design and configuration of a new dollar coin which the U.S. government plans to produce following exhaustion of the present supply of Anthony dollars. The USA is one of the few major countries in the world that does not have a commonly used coin valued at one unit of its basic currency. No, the purpose of producing a coin is not for the convenience of blind people who cannot read the figures on paper currency; it is for purposes of business and commerce, but this time around the U.S. Mint is not going to overlook the needs of blind and visually impaired people. As I have said many times before, advocacy does not always take the form of victories that are shouted from the rooftops or underscored by fireworks. Affiliate conventions
Yes, many ACB affiliates hold their conventions during the summer. For example, recently Laura Oftedahl of the ACB board of publications represented ACB at the convention of the Vermont Council of the Blind; ACB president Paul Edwards spoke at the convention of the North Dakota Association of the Blind, and ACB Director of Governmental Affairs Alfred Ducharme spoke on the program of the Florida Council of the Blind.
Coordinator position filled
I am pleased to announce the appointment of Billie Jean Keith and Barbara Hayes, both of Virginia, to assume on a job-sharing basis the duties of ACB coordinator of affiliate and membership services. Both Keith and Hayes are longtime ACB members who have held various affiliate, national and convention committee positions, and both bring much information about ACB, its affiliates and the field of blindness to this position. Before her early retirement recently, Keith was on the staff of the National Council on Disability and Hayes was employed by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Having the position of coordinator of affiliate and membership services performed on a job-sharing basis will be an innovative way of applying the extensive knowledge of these very dedicated and capable ladies to an incredibly detailed, varied, changing and demanding professional position.
The 1999 convention of the American Council of the Blind will take place at the Airport Westin Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif. The convention dates are Saturday, July 3 to Friday, July 9. Room rates are $60 per night plus tax. The Airport Westin Hotel is located at 5400 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045; phone (310) 216-5858.
The overflow hotel is the Airport Marriott at 5835 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045; phone (310) 641-5700. The rates are $60 per night plus tax. Shuttles will operate between both hotels.
For the year 2000, the convention will take place at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky. July 1 to July 7.
The ACB of Indiana will hold its 27th annual convention September 11-12 at the Best Western in Scottsburg. Room rates are $60 per night plus tax for up to four people per room. Reservations can be made by calling (812) 752-2212 by August 11. Some of the featured speakers will be: Amy Pais, director of psycho/social services and field representative for Lions World Services; Dr. Michael Brumet, a provider of low vision services; and many others.
The North Dakota Association of the Blind wishes to express its sincere appreciation and gratitude to the American Council of the Blind for providing resources so that ACB President Paul Edwards could attend its recent convention, held June 12-14 in Fargo. He spoke about difficulties experienced by blind and visually impaired people attempting to access information with touch screens, information kiosks, and graphics-intensive computer software packages. He also delivered the keynote speech at the banquet, which focused on the future of ACB and NDAB.
During the banquet, NDAB awarded three scholarships. The winners are: Amy Brunner, a social studies major at the University of Minnesota; Jeremy Schmidt, a computer science student at the University of North Dakota; and Arla Joan Carlstsen, who is pursuing a counseling degree at Minot State University.
New officers are: Olga Neal, president; Loris Van Berkom, vice president; Cora Como, treasurer; Renae Huseby, secretary; Mark Kueffler, board member; Charlotte Feldman, editor; and Loris Van Berkom, 1999 ACB convention delegate.
The 1998 annual convention of the New Jersey Council of the Blind will be held at the Quality Inn in Somerset October 24-25. Election of officers will take place Saturday afternoon. The luncheon costs $20; the registration fee is $10. Payment must be received no later than October 5. The business meeting will take place Sunday morning. Make your hotel reservations as soon as possible by calling (732) 469-5050. Send in your money and registration form to Ottilie Lucas, 520 Ewingville Rd., Ewing, NJ 08638 no later than October 5.
The following individuals were elected to the ACB board of directors at the national convention in Orlando:
Alan Beatty, Fort Collins, Colo.
Debbie Grubb, Bradenton, Fla.
Sandy Sanderson, Anchorage, Alaska
M.J. Schmitt, Forest Park, Ill.
Pam Shaw, Philadelphia, Pa.
These individuals were elected to the board of publications:
Winifred Downing, San Francisco, Calif.
Charles Hodge, Arlington, Va.
Jenine Stanley, Columbus, Ohio
A more detailed report of election results will appear in the September issue.
The taxi driver was quite disturbed. He understood that it was his obligation under local, state and federal laws to transport the woman and her guide dog to the convention hotel, but he explained that he was hesitant after his last experience with a guide dog and its blind handler. The spacious Lincoln Town Car with its newly upholstered leather seats had plenty of space on the floor for the dog but its handler insisted that it ride on the seat beside him. When the dog exited the cab its nails left deep irreparable scratches in the leather. Since the car was not insured and used to supplement the fleet in anticipation of a large number of hotel guests, the driver would be "eating" the cost of new seats. When the driver approached the blind man about the damage his dog had done, the handler simply dismissed it, saying, "That's too bad, buddy" and walking away. This driver initially swore he would never carry another guide dog. It didn't matter what the law said. He'd take his chances but the fine couldn't be any more than the cost of the damaged seats. Luckily, once it was explained that any major damage above the cost of normal wear and tear is the responsibility of the dog handler, this particular driver accepted his responsibility under the law and carried several other guide dog teams, though reluctantly at first. The dogs stayed on the floor as they should have, and all was well.
In many taxi cabs, however, there is no space on the floor for the dog. This does not mean that any dog should be allowed to damage seats or that such major damage should go unacknowledged by the handler. Using towels or plastic rain ponchos can help alleviate such damage and dirt from a rain-soaked dog.
At this year's ACB convention a number of dog accidents were observed in the main hotel. One could attribute these accidents to a variety of factors, but there was no excuse for accidents being left with no attempt to see that they were removed.
In addition, GDUI officials received many complaints about barking dogs left in hotel rooms. These barks were not the occasional woof of surprise, but marathon barking sessions that disturbed other guests.
In a move that some may think unpopular and insensitive, GDUI encouraged hotel staff to take appropriate action on the issue of unclaimed accidents. If security or housekeeping personnel saw someone leaving a dog mess and not attempting to seek assistance, or verbally offending a hotel staff member when questioned about said accident and not taking responsibility for its removal, the staff could add a $10 clean-up fee to that person's room charge or, if the person was not a hotel guest, could take name and address information and charge the same fee. The Clarion Plaza staff was very reluctant to do this. We explained that irresponsible accidents, those left and unclaimed or denied, were damage, just as if a guest left careless cigarette burns or spilled wine and chose to leave it to stain.
Then came the infamous "Three barks and you're out" rule. If security received a report of a barking dog, the handler would be contacted as soon as he/she returned to the room. Upon the third such contact, the person would be escorted from hotel property, just as anyone else causing a disturbance in his/her guest room.
Convention attendees, tired of dog accidents both inside and outside, away from the designated GDUI relief areas, began reporting, on the urging of GDUI convention representative Margie Donovan, those who blatantly did not clean up after their dogs. Margie talked with these individuals and alerted their schools if they continued to ignore their responsibilities.
Finally a report of a dog loose in the restaurant, barking and disrupting guests at the Mystery Theater event on the convention's final evening merited some careful thought. Many calls came in to my home asking me to contact the guide dog handler's school and report her inability to control her dog. I refuse to report anything to a guide dog school that I did not see firsthand and have not discussed with the handler in question. I would ask that we all keep in mind that a business can, and should, evict a dog and its handler for such behavior based on the repeated failure to control the animal. I would support any restaurant manager who chose to do so under these circumstances.
Is this a patronizing or draconian stance GDUI takes? No. It is a GDUI standard we call "responsible access." Having a service animal does not automatically relieve one of all other responsibilities associated with animal handling such as relief clean-up and behavior control.
GDUI members set high standards for themselves. One member asked me, nearly in tears, "Does everyone else think GDUI members are making the messes here at convention? I know I'm trying hard to clean up and all the people from my affiliate are too."
"No," I assured her. "People are not blaming GDUI or its members." In fact, those very members became zealots for the cause of responsible access.
Conditions were very difficult this year in Orlando, but we managed to have an exciting, information-filled convention. That theme of responsible access extended into GDUI's ADA discussion, where we learned that the public behavior of the dog is more important than the job it does; service animal or not, a poorly behaving animal can be denied entry or evicted from a business or public entity. This places a greater burden of responsibility on our shoulders as guide dog handlers, a burden which Morris Frank and the early guide dog teams hoped we would all carry based on their example, but a burden we have dropped in all too many situations.
Though much criticism can be lobbied at those who chose not to clean up after their dogs, who allowed their dogs to sprawl in aisles or who left barking dogs in their rooms, many good things can also be said about the fellowship that comes with responsible access. GDUI members offered to help others learn to clean up, ran to get help when someone was stuck monitoring a dog accident and offered to "dog sit" those dogs who might bark if left alone.
The most amazing bit of responsible access I witnessed during the convention was the GDUI trip to Sea World. Through heat, crowds and confusion, around 14 guide dog teams, five other blind people who chose to leave their dogs at the hotel, and 10 sighted guides followed Sea World Education Department staff to pet baby sharks, dolphins, sting rays and penguins. The level of dog handling in this complex situation was simply outstanding. Any trainer would have been proud to see the way people worked with their dogs and the sighted assistance GDUI provided. When two dogs began showing signs of heat stress, handlers, volunteers and Sea World staff were there to rescue them. All were supportive and those two dogs walked, tired but well, into the hotel several hours later.
One could say that the 1998 ACB convention was the best of times and the worst of times for guide dog handlers, but keeping in mind the philosophy of responsible access, the good far outweighed the bad.
In the last several months, we have had to acknowledge farewells to many ACB members, their impact measured in part by how we miss them. One of these, Dr. S. Bradley Burson (Brad) died on May 25 after a massive brain-stem stroke þ a form of stroke leaving little chance for survival. It has taken some time to write these words that just may get the right things said.
The first Burson I knew was Dr. S. Bradley Burson, blind nuclear physicist. When he visited the Illinois Braille and Sight Saving School with his film and speech about how nuclear fission would change the world, we high school students knew we'd better give attention and respect. Dr. Burson articulated clearly this important information. But we also knew that it was a very unusual accomplishment for a blind person to achieve employment on this level. I was impressed.
Time went by. Brad continued to grow, as the following paragraphs show. I saw Bradley Burson at alumni meetings and noted his organizational and parliamentary skills, together with his dedication to helping other blind people reach their goals.
Then I got to know Brad. He came to Silver Spring, Md. þ my neck of the woods. He had just married Dr. Phyllis Biesemeier, one of my best high school friends. The first time we visited them in their new apartment for dinner, Brad's greatest thrill was in showing off the huge speakers he had constructed; yes, in the apartment!
We rejoiced with Brad and Phyllis when they adopted Jennifer in 1979 and celebrated many events and holidays with them. One thing was predictable on any visit: Brad's workbench þ the kitchen table þ was always cleared of car parts, wood pieces to be joined or drills and measuring devices to make precise holes. Brad and Phyllis acquired houses to rent. I was always convinced it was so he would have enough things to fix.
Another phase of Brad was his consummate love and concern for ACB. He was always interested in the integrity of the constitu- tion and bylaws as the strength behind the council's democracy. Such an ardent historian was he that we often would only need to name a city where ACB had met. Out came dates, the name of the hotel, persons in attendance, decisions made, etc. I remember running with him and Phyllis to get to the Maryland caucus on time as recently as 1997.
Brad loved to travel, as does Phyllis. In his work, Brad consulted in many foreign countries on aspects of nuclear acci- dent prevention. But there was always time for "Die Lorelei" and other German songs after the day's work was done. In his retire- ment, just three years ago, Brad and family went to South Africa and to visit many spots in the United States where he had gar- nered lasting friendships and pleasant memories. He also became interested in his family's genealogy. To that end, he and Creig (his oldest son) had gone to Mansfield, Ohio. The birthplace of his parents and the home and burial place of his grandparents became the object of research and the spot where he became ill. Although this location posed many travel difficulties for family in the month of his decline, there is a comfort. Brad was laid to rest in the same cemetery as his grandparents.
A memorial service was held in Silver Spring, Md. on June 2. A number of ACB members were in attendance, and family members delivered heartfelt word pictures of the meaning Brad had in their lives. My song was "Climb Every Mountain," because it seemed to me that when Brad topped one mountain, he just moved on to another. Now resting on that Ohio hill, he has left us a mountain of memories.
(Editor's Note: ACB board member M.J. Schmitt was among those who shared that mountain of memories. In an interview with Nolan Crabb, she recalled Brad Burson this way:)
"I remember most Brad's strong presence in meetings," she recalled. "His was a commanding presence. People would listen to Brad; his influence really throughout his time in ACB was significant. He truly made his mark on this organization."
As one of the early founders of ACB, Burson was among those who voted to found the new organization. But he didn't stop there. Schmitt recalled his work to start VIDPI, a project in which she was also involved.
"We actually started VIDPI as far back as 1969," she ex- plained. In its earlier days, the group was only loosely con- nected with ACB; VIDPI members were often members of ACB as well, but it was somewhat independent from ACB until 1974.
"That's when Brad said we needed to strengthen the affiliate and ACB by bringing the two together officially," she said. She recalled fierce debate on the issue of whether the organization ought to be part of ACB's burgeoning special-interest affiliate structure. "That debate split the organization," she said, "but eventually, we won by a few votes. They kept the name, and the majority joined forces with ACB."
She recalled that Burson was "a real tactician." He was involved with VIDPI until his death, working on the organization's constitution and bylaws, among other things.
"Brad worked closely with politicians and with Durward," she said. "Whenever Brad came to Washington, he could be found on the Hill talking to congressmen and senators.
"Brad proved that one individual can indeed make a differ- ence. He will be missed; indeed, we miss him a great deal. He had much to offer, and he gave much for the betterment of the organization."
Dr. Samuel Bradley ("Brad") Burson, 80, a retired physicist with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, died May 24, 1998 at Woodlawn Nursing Home in Mansfield, Ohio after a stroke.
Dr. Burson, a resident of Silver Spring, Md., was born September 27, 1917 in Chicago, the third of four children of Samuel N. Burson and Carrie B. Niman, and raised in Beverly on Chicago's south side. He graduated from the Illinois School for the Blind at Jacksonville after losing most of his vision in an accidental shooting at age 15. He earned an A.B. in physics from Stanford University and subsequently graduated from the Universi- ty of Illinois with a LL.B. in law and a Ph.D. in physics.
He pursued a career as a research physicist in nuclear spectroscopy at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, IL, and later as senior engineering physicist at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C.
During his 55-year career Dr. Burson authored and co-authored more than 130 scientific research papers, greatly contributing to the knowledge of nuclear decay properties and the safety of nuclear power. In 1965 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Lawrence University in recognition of his contributions to the understanding of fundamental nuclear struc- ture. His work on containment vessels was part of the informa- tion provided to the Russians after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986.
Championing issues of the visually impaired, Dr. Burson had served in various capacities with the American Council of the Blind of which he was a founder, including legislation to strengthen the rights of blind vending stand operators in Illi- nois and changing the "relative responsibility" clause of the Social Security Act for disabled individuals. He was also a lifelong Fellow of the American Physical Society and member of the Illinois Bar Association.
Most recently Dr. Burson had been working on his autobiogra- phy and genealogy. A sixth great-grandson of colonist George Burson of Bucks County, Pa., Dr. Burson had been researching his Niman and Bradley family histories in his parents' hometown of Mansfield, Ohio, when he was stricken.
Survivors include his wife of 22 years, Dr. Phyllis J. (Biesemeier) Burson; five children: Craig N. Burson of Oklahoma City, Okla., Loren S. Burson of Gaithersburg, Md., Darrell B. Burson of New Carlisle, Ind., the Rev. Linda J. Burson of Albion, Mich., and Jennifer V. Burson of Silver Spring, Md.; four grand- children and several cousins.
A memorial service will be held in Silver Spring, Md. at Woodside Methodist Church, 8900 Georgia Avenue, on June 1, 1998, with visitation at 12:00 and service at 1 p.m. Internment will be in Mansfield Cemetery, Mansfield, Ohio. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the American Council of the Blind, the University of Illinois Department of Physics, or Stanford University. Geiger-Herlihy Funeral Home, Mansfield is in charge of the arrangements.
There is an experience every blind person should have. What is it? you ask. It is swimming with dolphins, a wonderful and freeing adventure which obliterates any limitations blindness places on us. Words can't completely substitute for the sensory experience a dolphin swim offers, but I will try to convey some of the magnificent adventure here.
I had the opportunity to experience four dolphin swims in June in Key Largo, Fla., at a dolphin facility called Dolphins Plus. A grant from the Lilly Foundation allowed me to travel to Key Largo for those swims and for a week-long observation of a dolphin therapy program for severely disabled children. The impressions I came away with are numerous and all positive. While my comments in this article apply directly to Dolphins Plus, I am sure that other programs around the country would share many of the same characteristics.
Why is swimming with dolphins particularly accessible to the blind? It is the incredible amount of sensory stimulation that goes along with the dolphin swim that makes this a terrific activity for a blind person. Some activities that the general public can enjoy are occasionally less reachable for the blind. When vision is the most involved sense in the experience, a blind person can feel separated from the full enjoyment her sighted companions might discover. None of that is present with a dolphin swim.
The sounds dolphins make are varied and interesting. The clicks, squeaks, and pops which characterize their communication are unique and intriguing. When a dolphin comes up for air, the puff of the blowhole on the top of its head sounds exactly like the gasping inhalation of an Olympic swimmer training for a distance event! The underwater sounds are even more notable. Dolphins use an echo location method of searching out their world, something akin to sonar. While a swimmer is in the water with the dolphins, the echo-location clicks can be felt as small pricks or electrical impulses. Combine that sensation with the wonderful barrage of whistles and squeaks, and you have a grand sensory experience! You don't need sight to tell when the dolphins are nearby or diving or checking you out with echo- location; other senses completely supply that information.
The touch of a dolphin is also spectacular. Rather like a wetsuit in texture, the dolphins' skin is constantly shedding. A thin residue of tissuey skin brushes off at every stroke of the hand. It seems to disappear magically when the salt water meets it. The dolphins are very firm with densely formed bodies; no pinching an inch on these creatures! The dorsal fin, which can be held for a thrilling ride around the pen, is firm cartilage formed perfectly for the grip of a curious person's fingers! The dolphins are also trained to give foot kisses and to push a human through the water with the rostrum, the part of the dolphin's face people usually assume is the nose. This hard projection is extraordinarily smooth. And don't worry; dolphins have no sense of smell, so your feet won't bother them!
Normal sea smells, tastes and touches also contribute to the sensory feast a dolphin swim offers. The scent of fish and clean salt air is something that this landbound Hoosier really trea- sured. The salty kiss of the water is somehow soothing, and the brush of seaweed and small fish swimming past reminds people that this facility in Key Largo keeps its pens as natural as possible, with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. Only a chain-link fence blocks the way, allowing the sea water and small sea creatures to come in and out freely. The gates are even opened occasionally to let the dolphins have a bigger free swim; they always come back home to Dolphins Plus.
Sound like something you might want to experience? Well, you still have another decision to make. The facility offers both structured and unstructured swims. Structured swims are with trained dolphins who have learned interactive behaviors such as foot kisses, body rubs, playing with rings and balls, and giving dorsal rides. This is fun and exciting. In the structured swim, you get hands-on contact with the dolphins as they respond to the human world.
For a more peaceful and contemplative experience, try the unstructured swim. Here, humans go into a pen with four wild dolphins who have not been trained to perform any behaviors at all. As the people at Dolphins Plus explain, you are stepping into the dolphins' living room and must behave accordingly. Swimmers in the unstructured program are not allowed to touch the wild dolphins, but the dolphins might choose to make contact on their own. You can simply float around in the warm salt water and soak in the sounds, echo-location clicks and other sensations of being with these magnificent wild creatures on their own terms.
I enjoyed both swims fully. The structured swim was a lot of fun. A staff member could assist a blind person in the water here, and I believe it would be possible for a sighted companion to go in the water at the same time and help under the direction of the trainer on the dock. The unstructured swim could be handled in much the same way. The unstructured swim is an incredibly peaceful experience which you will never forget. Whether you choose to have assistance from the staff or plan to have a traveling companion help you out, the Dolphins Plus staff would need to be aware of your blindness ahead of time when you register for your swim in order to accommodate you fully.
As a final note, I also observed the dolphin therapy program for a week. This program is called Island Dolphin Care and is a branch of Dolphins Plus. Here trained therapists work with severely disabled children in both classroom and water settings to help them through motivational play therapy. I viewed chil- dren with autism, serious muscular problems, learning delays, and other disabilities as they interacted with the dolphins and the caring therapists. I was quite impressed with this program too. The dolphins are a strong motivation for a child to learn a new word or to hold onto the ring, ball or fin tighter in order to interact with the dolphins. The children seem to enjoy the therapy, and the dolphins seem incredibly sensitive to the children's problems. Island Dolphin Care is a fine program which doesn't offer miracles, but provides a unique and stimulating adventure to children and families who likely wouldn't have many other opportunities like it elsewhere.
So, are you sold on dolphins? I am. Be prepared to pay $80 or more for your swim depending on variable factors you would discuss with Dolphins Plus. And remember that there are other facilities which provide dolphin/human interaction, though the therapy program is more unique. Factors such as hotel locations and mobility issues in Key Largo would need some attention, as this town does not have many sidewalks. Other water-related activities, shops, and restaurants could fill your days in a delightful way as well.
Write to Dolphins Plus, P.O. Box 2728, Key Largo, FL 33037. I have never before had a recreational experience where my blindness was not a barrier to my full enjoyment of the activity; I am sure you would find the same results. The magnificence of the dolphins topped off my whole trip as an adventure of a lifetime!
(Reprinted from the "White Cane Bulletin," Florida Council of the Blind.)
It is with extreme sadness that we announce the death of Teresa D. Blessing, past president of Florida Council of the Blind and CCLVI.
Terri was born in Argyle, N.Y., a small town near Glens Falls. She graduated from Hudson River State Hospital as a psychiatric nurse, then practiced her nursing skills in Albany. There she met her future husband, Arthur Blessing. The couple had a daughter, Beverly Bensaide of St. Petersburg, and a son, Alan R. Blessing, also of St. Petersburg.
In 1958 Art and Terri moved to Lakeland, Fla., and the following year they purchased a home in Bradenton where Terri resided for the remainder of her life. Terri and Art celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on May 1.
Terri was very active in her community, where she attended Christ United Methodist Church. She could always be counted on to help out whenever her skills were needed. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in education, then worked in the Manatee County Head Start program for about 10 years. As her vision diminished from a hereditary illness, Stargardt's disease, which she shared with her father and her daughter, Terri became involved in projects relating to blindness and low vision. She was legally blind the last 22 years of her life.
Terri's loving and caring nature touched countless lives, both in her organizational work and in her personal life. She served those in need in whatever way she could. Her outstanding leadership abilities led her to top positions wherever she went.
Terri received many well-deserved accolades and awards over the years. Some of her accomplishments include helping form the first chapter of Council of Citizens with Low Vision and serving as president of the Florida chapter of CCLVI for five years. She was on the board of directors of CCLVI, an international group, and was president pro tem at the time of her death. She was instrumental in starting a Division of Blind Services Rehabilita- tion Center in Sarasota/Manatee County.
Terri was one of the founders of Project Insight, an FCB outreach program for people who are newly blind or visually impaired. She was on the board of directors of the Manasota Lighthouse in Sarasota and maintained a peer support group for the Lighthouse. She also served as its president. She was a member of the Division of Blind Services Advisory Council, the Friends of the Braille and Talking Book Library, the ADA Advisory Committee of the Asolo Center of the Performing Arts in Sarasota, and many other boards. Two years ago Terri served as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging, where national policy was formed on national aging programs.
These are only a few of Terri's accomplishments. Her spar- kling smile and twinkling eyes will be missed when FCB members convene, but she and her accomplishments will never be forgotten.
Comments from some of Terri's friends
We will miss Terri in so many ways. She contributed so much to this and other organizations. She was indeed a giving, hard- working and unselfish leader. She leaves with us an outstanding example of genuine caring service to others. þ Carl McCoy, president of Florida Council of the Blind
I always teased Terri whenever I had something to do by telling her that I should get an OK from "Mother Teresa." We always laughed about this. þ James E. Lamb, past president, Florida Council of the Blind
I believe that Terri embodied the spirit of giving, loving, caring, and working for others. Although Terri was heavily involved as an important leader in several activities, causes and organizations, I never heard her say, "Look at what I am doing." Instead, Terri was more likely to say, "I'm sorry that I'm not doing more!" Doug Hall
Terri sparkled and made life beautiful! She was able to move people and get things done without nagging. She brought people together and her and Art's very presence was uplifting. Their relationship was a model to aspire to. Nancy Burgess Hall
The last time I spent with Teresa Blessing, she was looking ahead and planning what she could do next to be of help to others who were blind. This was no different from the first time I saw her almost two decades ago.
Teresa Blessing had a gift for seeing others as they could be, not as they were, and for helping them to become more than they thought they could be. She always spoke softly and was a little surprised when people didn't live up to what she thought they could accomplish. She was lavish with her praise for others and deprecated anything she did. She was a teacher, a healer of hurts and a source of hope that seemed to go with her everywhere.
I will miss her quiet laughter and her power to always find something positive to focus on. I will miss her wisdom and her caring; her compassion and her acceptance of everyone as equally deserving of her time and her attention! Most of all, I will miss those quiet times when she would share bits of a life that was full of caring and love with those of us who had much to learn from every word she said.
I cannot see her again here, but somewhere she is helping and cheering and caring and just being Terri!
Paul Edwards, ACB president
Six years ago I had the pleasure of being elected the trea- surer of the Florida Council of the Blind. I did not realize it at the time but I was to work with Teresa Blessing, who was elected as president without even being present in Jacksonville. I would look to her for help in many things in life. I consid- ered her a very good and trusted friend. She taught me many valuable lessons. She taught me to trust my feelings to fight for the things in life that are important. She had the ability to talk me into giving whatever she wanted of me. When she ran for president of CCLVI, I ran six times before finally getting on the board. I cannot remember ever trying for something so hard. She would say, "Jim, you are doing such a good job," and I would know I was about to agree to do something else. If I had a problem with anything she always managed to come up with a solution. She often told me to shut up and listen and I did. We all lost a great person when she left us. The only thing I can say is that I will always remember her with love. I know she will be a part of my life forever. I look forward to seeing her again in heaven.
James Warth Jr., treasurer, Florida Council of the Blind
("White Cane Bulletin" editor's note: Terri would want us to add this: "Good luck, Jim.")
(Editor's Note: We are reprinting this piece from the January 1997 "Braille Forum" as a memorial to Teresa, who died recently of cancer. This is one example of her ability to reach out to others and uplift those around her.)
The process of growing older brings many changes in our lifestyles. We often find that the "golden years" may become a bit tarnished and require a little polishing. Add to this loss of visual acuity and you have the foundation for the grieving process. Psychologically one must work through the phases of grieving before becoming confident again.
When we first hear that we are losing our sight we experience denial, and many of us go to several different doctors because we are not yet ready to accept this fact. Another emotion that we must work through is anger at our loved ones, ourselves, our supreme being and the world in general. Next we may suffer from a "poor me" syndrome, followed by loss of self-worth, a feeling of helplessness, and despair.
Once these emotions have been worked through, it's time to start thinking in a positive manner. Remember, you are the same person that you have always been, and even though you have lost your sight you have NOT lost your vision! Begin to think posi- tively. Remember that you have a purpose for being, and that help is available.
Sometimes it takes a while to work through the emotional process of grieving and to come to terms with the inconvenience of loss of sight. How you cope with this depends to a great extent on the type of person you have been throughout your lifetime. If you have been a happy, upbeat person, it will be easier to deal with. Sharing with others who have a visual impairment helps us understand that we are not alone. Volunteer work, finding solutions through rehabilitation training, joining the American Council of the Blind or other consumer organizations and continuing to live your life as you have in the past as much as possible are all helpful.
The summation of the entire dilemma of dealing with the emotional trauma of vision loss in our mature years is ultimately up to each of us individually. How we perceive ourselves in the situation is exactly how it will be.
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.
Betty Jo and Jack Keitzer have been selected for inclusion in the 1998-1999 edition of "Who's Who of American Inventors." They are the inventors of a multipurpose check-writing guide for anyone who has difficulty writing. If you would like to order a check- writing guide, write to Keitzer Check Writing Guide, 5324 Ingleside, Leesburg, FL 34748.
Are you a Vietnam veteran who has a child with spina bifida? Or are you the child of a Vietnam veteran, and do you have spina bifida? If you answered yes to one of those questions, call the Spina Bifida Association of America at (800) 394-5387 for informa- tion. The Agent Orange Benefits Act of 1996 provides Vietnam vets' children born with spina bifida a monthly monetary allowance, lifetime health care benefits, and vocational and rehabilitation training. Compensation began October 1, 1997.
The Arizona Instructional Resource Center at the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix recently completed a braille transcrip- tion of the English translation of the Koran. The braille copy is seven volumes long. For more information, call the AIRC at (602) 331-1470.
John J. Frank, a certified rehabilitation counselor, is researching requests for large print accommodations made to employers, schools, banks, or anywhere else. He needs your stories about this ADA (or Section 504) accommodation. Please list: 1) attempts to get what material from whom; 2) the results (how long it took, how hard it was, or reasons given for refusals), and 3) further actions taken (complaints to whom and the results). Your name will not be published. Write to John Frank, c/o Rehabilita- tion Counseling Department, 259 Huntington Hall, Syracuse, NY 13244-2340, or e-mail [email protected]; phone (315) 476-1142.
The Braille Authority of North America met in Washington, D.C. April 26-28. It reviewed numerous reports prepared by technical committees and heard detailed presentations from committee chairs. BANA now has a web site, which is currently located at http://edtech.sandi.net/epd/bana.html. The board also approved an addition to "English Braille American 1994."
Ski for Light 1999 will be held in Anchorage, Alaska February 21-28. The week will involve cross-country skiing, interesting apres-ski activities, good food, fellowship and more. Ski for Light matches each skier with a sighted guide. Skiers range in age from 18 to 81 and in ability from beginner to advanced. The hotel is the Hotel Captain Cook, with skiing at Russian Jack Springs Park. The cost is $650 for double occupancy or $790 for single occupancy, and includes all meals, ski instruction, equipment for first-time skiers, and after-hours activities. Partial stipends are available on a limited basis for first-timers, based on financial need. The application deadline is November 1. For an application, contact Larry Showalter, 15002 NE 9th Pl., Bellevue, WA 98007; phone (425) 644-5663, or e-mail [email protected], or download the application from the Ski for Light home page at http://www.sfl.org.
The American Foundation for the Blind recently named J. Elton Moore as associate editor of the "Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness." Moore is a professor of counselor education at Mississippi State University and director of MSU's Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision. He is a former Switzer Fellow and a recipient of the 1996 Mississippi Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired's Outstanding Service Award, as well as the author of numerous articles and book chapters, and a frequent speaker at national and international conferences. He will retain his positions at the university. As associate editor, he will be concentrating on rehabilitation issues.
"Digital Talking Books: Planning for the Future," a 72-page report outlining the scope of activity and steps required to develop digital talking books, was recently released by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Copies are available in braille, large print, and on cassette and computer disk from the Reference Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20542; phone (202) 707-5100 or e-mail [email protected]
A free fact kit is available on a non-profit program that will distribute more than $100 million in new, donated supplies to non- profit organizations and schools in the coming year. Goods are donated by U.S. corporations from their overstocks and discontinued merchandise, and earn the companies a federal income tax deduction. Products include office supplies, housekeeping items, toys, games, audio and video tapes, books, hand tools, maintenance supplies, safety items, personal care products, clothing, holiday decorations and party items. Recipient groups pay dues ranging from $375 to $575 plus shipping and handling. Members choose what they need from catalogs issued every 10 weeks. To get your free fact kit, call the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources, (800) 562-0955.
Innovation Management Group recently released version 1.2 of The Magnifier for Windows. It is a movable, sizable 2x-10x area magnifier that requires no additional hardware or software. It can magnify any text or graphics in Windows or Windows applications. The Magnifier costs $29.95, and is compatible with Windows 3.x, 95, 98 and NT. A working "limited run time" demo copy is available on IMG's web site at http://www.IMGpresents.com or by calling toll- free (800) 889-0987.
Jay Doudna, a member of the ACB board of publications, who recently retired from the Radio Talking Library (a service of the Lancaster County Association for the Blind), received the C. Stanley Potter Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Radio Reading Services. Doudna currently works at the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia.
The United Drag Racing Association's Alcohol Funny Car team, headed by Jim Spencer and Dave Shell, came in first during a match race at KilKare Speedway in Xenia, Ohio. Dave Shell, crew chief, has been blind since he was 2 due to retinitis pigmentosa. Tony Bogolo drove the crew's funny car. This is the team's first win of the season.
"Mouse to Keys" is a new series designed for anyone who uses a screen reader or screen magnifier. The series is a set of reference manuals to complement any computer course, and have been written for Windows 95, Word 97, Excel 97 and Access 97. All titles are available in large print, on tape, and in braille. The series can be ordered by e-mail; send messages to [email protected] It can also be ordered via mail at Desktalk Training and Technical Consultants, 27 Poplar St., Caulfield South, Australia 3162. For more details, visit the web site at http://www.netspace.net.au/~desktalk.
Shadows in the Dark recently reduced the prices for its braille pictured greeting cards. The company offers: birthday, anniversa- ry, Easter, thank you, St. Patrick's Day, sympathy, get well, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, Valentine's Day, teacher, friendship and congratulations cards. One card costs $2; a set of 10 cards, $17.50; and a set of 20 cards, $30.
Also, the company has joined forces with Poetic Expressions for the production of braille pictured poetry cards. Cards available are: birthday, anniversary, Easter, thank you, sympathy, get well, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and friendship. One card costs $3.50; a set of 10, $30; and a set of 20 cards, $50. Contact Shadows in the Dark, 4600 Pine Hill Rd., Shreveport, LA 71107-2716; phone (318) 459-2233, or e-mail [email protected]
The Hadley School for the Blind's Parent/Family Department is offering a distance education program to relatives of blind people. This program is meant for parents and family members, and it's set to give them a chance to learn new skills that will help them help their blind relative. The courses provide answers to many questions about blindness. Courses include "Braille Reading for Family Members," "Independent Living for the Visually Impaired," and "Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness." For more informa- tion about this program, call (800) 323-4238 or (847) 446-8111.
"Foundations of Rehabilitation Teaching with Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired," a book published by AFB Press, recently won the C. Warren Bledsoe Award of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. The award recognizes "an outstanding author or authors in the field of the blind." The print version costs $56.95 plus $8 shipping and handling; the four-track tape version costs the same amount. To order, call AFB Press at (800) 232-3044. Orders must be accompa- nied by payment (for individuals) or institutional purchase orders, and sent to AFB Press, PO Box 1020, Sewickley, PA 15143.
The "No Frills, Just Priced Right" catalog will be available in September. It includes all-occasion gifts, talking products, specialty items for guide dogs and items for daily living. To receive it on cassette, call (760) 778-8280. The catalog is also available on 3.5-inch disk for $1. If you have received the catalog on disk before and still have the disk, return it to 3140 Cambridge Ct., Palm Springs, CA 92264, and the company will copy the catalog and send it back to you with no charge. Visit the web site at http://www.onisland.com/jett.
"Working with Visually Impaired Young Students: A Curriculum Guide for 3 to 5 Year Olds" was recently published by Charles C. Thomas. Its author is Dr. Ellen Trief of the Jewish Guild for the Blind in New York City. The book provides a curriculum model for preschool programs for visually impaired children ages 3 to 5. It tells how to help children grasp the concept of color, visualize shapes, numbers and letters, improve fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and grasp basic mobility and orientation skills. It is available at book stores for $36.95 plus tax.
The Vermont Supreme Court recently upheld an order by the state's Human Services Board that a CCTV qualifies as durable medical equipment, is a prosthetic device, and is covered by Medicaid. The decision favored Lorraine Brisson, who appealed a decision by the Vermont Secretary of the Agency of Human Services. Brisson originally applied to the Department of Welfare for funding; the department denied coverage, but was overruled by the Human Services Board. The agency reversed the board's decision, denying coverage.
The Vermont decision on Medicaid coverage for a CCTV should be reviewed in conjunction with the Elizabeth Dear decision, published in "The Braille Forum" in August 1994 (pages 23-24). As you will note, the applicant for Medicare coverage for a CCTV was denied coverage twice by a Medicare carrier. An administrative law judge decided that a CCTV was a prosthetic device and awarded coverage.
The Dear case reads in part: "The Administrative Law Judge notes that the hearing officer's decision denying coverage and thus reimbursement was based on the conclusion that [a] CCTV is not a prosthetic device as it 'does not replace a body part.' ... However, that reasoning is not persuasive. First, Medicare in its own carriers' manual provides an alternative basis for coverage, i.e., the device replaces all or part of the function of a permanently inoperative or malfunctioning internal body organ (own emphasis supplied). Second, the hearing officer's conclusion that a prosthetic device must replace and become part of the body runs contrary to prior determinations finding that external items such as colostomy bags and irrigation and flushing equipment are covered as prosthetic devices. It is on the basis that the CCTV device replaces the function of a permanently inoperative internal body organ (left eye) and a malfunctioning body organ (right eye) that the administrative law judge concludes that coverage is proper. The CCTV was furnished upon the physician's order, and the test of permanence is clearly met. This conclusion finds further support in the fact that had the claimant been able to tolerate a rigid lens such would have been covered under the law. ... It is the decision of the administrative law judge that the closed circuit TV (CCTV) meets the definition of prosthetic device and thus is a covered medical or other health service for which reimbursement under Medicare is to be made in accordance with the reasonable charge provisions of the law."
The Vermont Supreme Court decision in the Lorraine Brisson case reads in part: "Brisson applied to the Department of Social Welfare for funding for a CCTV. The Department denied Medicaid coverage after determining that a CCTV does not qualify as durable medical equipment, is not a prosthetic device, and is not within the scope of covered vision-care services. The Human Services Board reversed and awarded funding, determining that a CCTV is a covered prosthet- ic device. The Secretary of Human Services, while accepting the board's findings of fact, reversed the board's decision and denied coverage on the ground that CCTVs are not within the scope of covered vision care. This appeal followed. Brisson argues (1) that Vermont has opted to provide Medicaid coverage for eyeglasses; (2) that CCTVs qualify as eyeglasses under the Medicaid Act; and (3) that the secretary's refusal to provide funding for CCTVs as eyeglasses is impermissible under federal law. ... Her doctors prescribed a CCTV as a medically necessary prosthetic. She uses one currently on loan to help her read medical labels and legal documents, follow directions on food preparation, and pay her bills. ... Federal regulations define 'eyeglasses' as 'lenses, including frames, and other aids to vision prescribed by a physician skilled in diseases of the eye or an optometrist.' DSW concedes that a CCTV, as an aid to vision, falls within the scope of the federal definition of eyeglasses. ... In this case, however, the board found that without a CCTV Lorraine Brisson would require full-time, Medicaid-covered nursing care. It is uncontest- ed that a CCTV would cost as much as 123 hours of nursing care and that the CCTV would remain useful for a much longer period of time. DSW cannot credibly maintain that coverage is too expensive where providing a CCTV would be fiscally expedient and would maintain the recipient's ability to live independently."
It appears that people in the Medicare and Medicaid program, who need a CCTV, will be able to obtain reimbursement or payment only through the appeals process. You will note in both the Dear and Brisson cases that the CCTVs were prescribed by doctors.
These decisions constrain me to a purely personal comment on the situation concerning Medicare and Medicaid coverage for prescribed CCTVs and other items necessary for people who are blind. I believe, for example, that people who are blind and have need of a CCTV are being discriminated against by the federal and state governments because of their blindness. The Health Care Financing Administration (Department of Health and Human Services) has been very obdurate over the years when attempts were made to obtain coverage for items needed by blind people. Unfortunately, I cannot remain dispassionate about the situation any longer. Why haven't all of the organizations and individuals (and blind people themselves) joined together to bring a class action suit to obtain coverage? Why not now?
Attendees at the 1998 ACB convention were the first to hear selections from a unique CD that tells the story of guide dog partnership, firsthand. Musician and owner of Laurel Creek Music Designs, Veronica Elsea of Santa Cruz, Calif., presents 11 songs that take the listener through the many emotions and situations faced by people who work with guide dogs in "Guide Dogs First Hand." Elsea has worked with seven guides during her career and features sounds of three guides on the CD, including her current dog, a black Labrador named L'orange.
"In this CD, I address aspects of living and working with a guide dog that aren't covered in glossy brochures or impressive speeches," Elsea states in the liner notes, included as the CD's final track.
These songs truly come from the heart of someone who has experienced the joys and sorrows of guide work. The CD was created from the experiences of Elsea, her twin sister who also uses a guide dog, and members of the Buddy-L electronic mailing list for guide dog handlers.
The selections in this CD take you through scenarios so familiar to a guide dog handler. In the first song, "Your First Dog," we celebrate that very first partnership. For those of us who have seen many dogs pass through the harness, this song brings back fond memories. For those working that first special dog, some tears can be expected by the end of the song. In fact, it is doubtful that anyone connected with guide dogs can make it through the CD without feeling a lump in the throat at least once.
The next two selections take an upbeat look at common feelings of guide dog handlers. "He's Mine" warns friends and family about exactly who is in charge in the partnership. "I Love You but I Could Kill Ya Sometimes" brought the house down at the Guide Dog Foundation breakfast during convention as one of those songs everyone can relate to, chronicling all those moments they definitely don't tell you about in guide dog school. This section of music finishes with "Most of the Time," a song that slows the pace a bit and talks about frustration and self-criticism.
The tender and painful song, "Do You Know How Hard I've Tried" speaks to the dog who is about to be turned back in to the guide dog school because the partnership is not workable. Elsea addresses a topic in this song not often discussed and captures that moment when all the frustration and anger are gone and the handler must part with the living being of a dog.
"The Mental Game" picks up the pace again to remind people of the mental exercise it takes to work a guide dog and celebrates our joint abilities as a team.
The next two selections are haunting and definitely wrenching. "Something's Missing" tells of the feelings when a handler knows it is time to retire a dog but that being has not yet left the harness. A song sure to inspire controversy in some camps, "A Cane is a Four-Letter Word," begins with curiosity about using the cane between dogs, but has melancholy undertones and ends with the person pleading "Somebody give me a dog!"
"My Next Dog Will Be Perfect" is a lighthearted look at our fantasies, and the reality, of getting a new guide. Sometimes that reality, that dogs are not immediately perfect, can be hard to face. "I'm so Glad I Waited" tells the story of a partnership that took time and patience to develop but has paid off in the end.
The CD's musical selections end with a love song for the guide dog, "How Did You Know." It talks about that special feeling when you literally fall in love with your dog and are so comfortable and pleased with your partnership.
The CD ends with Elsea reading the liner notes and acknowledge- ments. This is the first CD I have purchased that has these often overlooked items in an accessible format. The collection is also available on cassette tape.
Sounds of dog barks, whines, moans, panting and jingling harnesses fill the songs. Real life cane sounds, traffic, a leash correction and other bits of the outside world lend variety to the music. Elsea's classical training shows in the careful mixing and balance of the selections. Her voice captures so many emotions with great sincerity.
Reactions to the CD include: "I don't have a guide dog, but after hearing this CD, I think I want one" and "This is the heart of what we are, people with guide dogs." Phyllis Herrington, Community Outreach Coordinator at the Guide Dog Foundation, Smithtown, N.Y. where Elsea and L'orange were trained, uses selections from the CD in her lectures to students in guide dog class. "The songs spotlight what we are discussing so well," she says.
If you are interested in joining the Buddy-L electronic mailing list, a source of inspiration for this CD, send e-mail to [email protected] In the subject line of the message, write subscribe. In the message text, write subscribe buddy-l and your name.
"Guide Dogs First Hand" is available through Veronica Elsea, Laurel Creek Music Designs, 1306 Laurel St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060-3519; telephone (831) 429-6407; electronic mail [email protected] Credit card orders may be sent to Guide Dog Users Inc., 14311 Astrodome Dr., Silver Spring, MD 20906; call toll-free (888) 858-1008.
Computer software is getting to be more and more like automo- biles þ there are new models every year. Corel's WordPerfect Suites are no exception. Only last year, Corel unveiled WordPer- fect Suite 7 and Corel Office Professional 7. This year's models are WordPerfect Suite 8 and WordPerfect Suite 8 Professional. While there are a lot of similarities between the standard and professional editions of version 7 and the standard and profession- al editions of version 8, there are also some marked differences. Standard and professional versions
I really should digress here momentarily to explain the basic difference between the standard and professional editions of both versions of the WordPerfect Suite. The main difference is that the standard editions do not include Paradox, the relational data base application. Additionally, there are some peripheral programs in the professional editions which are not included in the standard editions. Most noticeable in version 8 are CorelCENTRAL, the calendar and scheduling application, and the Envoy 7 printer driver. Also included in the professional edition only are Time Line, a project manager, and Corel Web Site Builder, a web site designer and manager.
Additionally, WordPerfect Suite 8 Professional Edition comes with Netscape Communicator, while the standard edition comes with Netscape Navigator, version 3. Communicator is automatically installed as part of CorelCENTRAL. Unfortunately, the Communicator version is 4.01a, which, to say the least, is extremely buggy. For example, if you're in a web application such as HotMail, and you try to tab from the address line to the subject line, Windows will give you the message, "This program has performed an illegal operation," and then it closes the browser. It is my understand- ing, however, that Corel will soon issue an update containing its modified version of Netscape Communicator 4.03. This, if and when it is issued, will take care of nearly all the bugs in the earlier versions of Communicator. Suite 8 features
Among some very nice features in WordPerfect Suite 8 is the addition of Grammar-as-you-go, which does for grammatical problems what Spell-as-you-go does for misspellings. These features immediately flag misspelled words and offer corrections from which you can choose. Please note that some screen readers may have difficulty with this feature. The QuickTasks feature of version 7 has been expanded into the PerfectExpert. QuickTasks let you rapidly complete documents that are geared toward a specific task. In addition to providing projects and templates or forms that let you personalize documents, spreadsheets, etc., this feature includes computerized coaches that literally walk you through the process of document creation and personalization step by step. Ask the PerfectExpert lets you ask a question in plain English and get directed to the exact help file you need. You might ask "How do I create labels?" and the PerfectExpert would take you to that section of the help file on label creation. Yet another elegant feature of WordPerfect Suite 8 is that, with the exception of Paradox (Professional only) and CorelCENTRAL (new in Suite 8), all applications retain the file formats from version 7. This guarantees total portability of most documents when you upgrade to version 8. WordPerfect Suite 8 also takes full advantage of Intel's MMX technology for speed and efficiency in handling graphics. Bugs and issues
In addition to the above-mentioned problem with Netscape Communicator 4.01a, there are a few bugs in WordPerfect Suite 8 which could cause some difficulties for visually impaired users. In version 8, however, no mnemonics are given at all for the Print command in any of the applications. Instead, the Print option is, as it were, hard-wired to the Enter key. Thus, when you open the Print dialogue box in any suite application, you simply press Enter, and the document or other output is automatically sent to your printer. Frankly, in all the software I have ever used, I have never seen anything that ingeniously simple.
Regrettably, though, one most disconcerting bug from version 7 remains in version 8. Help text is always black, while the help background is default Windows color. Thus, if you're using a black screen, as I do, you simply can't access help ... Black-on-black equals black, and I don't think you'll be reading that very well. There are, however, two notable exceptions þ Quattro Pro (a spreadsheet program) and Paradox (a program used to read databas- es). In these two cases, help text, like the background, is in default Windows color. Thus I get my cyan text on the black background. Even here, however, there's one slight problem. Certain shared help screens come up with absolutely black text even in Quattro Pro and Paradox.
In the meantime, I have found a work-around which will allow a user of a black screen to see a help topic on the WordPerfect document screen. You simply click help, find your desired topic and click on it. When the seemingly blank help screen appears, you copy it to the clipboard by pressing control-C. You must use the keyboard shortcut because clicking Edit will cancel the help screen. After you've pressed control-C, cancel the help screen and press control-V to paste the help topic to your document screen. It will appear in your selected text color. This copy-and-paste routine will work for all help screens throughout the suite, but of course you must view them in WordPerfect.
There is one minor annoyance in Quattro Pro. When you first open a blank spreadsheet, you get black-on-black if you're using a black screen in Windows. Fortunately, this is correctable by the user. You simply select the whole sheet, click the background color icon, click OK when the dialogue box opens, and deselect the sheet by moving the cell marker one cell in any direction. This will turn the background white, like it is by default in version 7. Actually, the application's background color, as the icon shows, is already set to white; however, for some reason the Windows default background overrides it until you perform the above-described operation. It would be helpful if Corel would modify the code so that the Windows default would not override the application's default. Incidentally, you need to do the override procedure only once since, when you save the notebook, the application background is saved as default for all sheets which have had the Windows default overridden as described above. In conclusion
In spite of the few problems posed for the visually impaired user, WordPerfect Suite 8, either standard or professional, is an excellent collection of applications for home and/or business. All applications are readily accessible from the Windows 95 desktop, and the interface between suite applications is seamless. Furthermore, for those who prefer the keyboard to the mouse, all applications come loaded with keyboard shortcuts.
My preference is for the professional version, mainly because it includes all three traditional office applications: word processor, spreadsheet and database. In addition, as mentioned above, WordPerfect Suite 8 Professional has a number of very nice peripheral programs. Both standard and professional editions come with the 1998 Grolier Encyclopedia. The only difference between the standard and professional versions is that in the professional you get the deluxe edition of the encyclopedia, while you get the standard edition in the WordPerfect Suite 8 standard version. For further information on both editions of WordPerfect Suite 8, you can contact Corel Corporation toll-free at (800) 772-6735.
FOR SALE: VTek Voyager Plus XL. Black and white. $1,200 or best offer. Call (816) 353-4593.
FOR SALE: 10 new beep baseballs, $25 each. One unit consisting of 20 used beep baseballs and three chargers, $100. One unit consisting of bases, parts, controller and charger, $100. Pair of goal balls, $50. Call Mary at (605) 338-2765 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central time.
FOR SALE: Blazie Type 'n Speak in leather carrying case. Comes with recharger, disk drive and cable for transferring data to the computer, as well as user instruction disks and cassettes. Asking $850. Call Robert at (703) 591-6674.
FOR SALE: Several CCTVs. Two Voyager CCTVs with 12-inch black- and-white monitors; one Voyager XL CCD with 19-inch black-and-white monitor; one Voyager XL CCD Versicolor with 19-inch black-and-white monitor; one Aladdin Pro Plus with 14-inch black-and-white monitor; one Vantage 2000 with 14-inch black-and-white monitor; two Spectrum 20/20 CCTVs with 20-inch color monitors; one Optelec 20/20 with a 14-inch black-and-white monitor; two Executive VSII CCTVs with black-and-white monitors; three EZ Readers with black-and-white monitors; and one Clearview CCTV with a 12-inch black-and-white monitor. If you are interested in any of these, call Tom at (941) 378-8161.
FOR SALE: Electronic talking scale. Comes with adapter. $75 or best offer. Contact Pauline Downing in braille at 25 Highland Ave. #1004, Somerville, MA 02143.
FOR SALE: Type 'n Speak. Includes case and two chargers. $500 or best offer. Call Roger Acuna at (510) 412-0791.
FOR SALE: Business Memo digital recorder. Handles up to 12 minutes of recording time. $50 or best offer; includes shipping. Contact Nolan Crabb at (301) 990-7816.
FOR SALE: Kurzweil Personal Reader model 7315. Includes user manual, software version 2.1, hand scanner and automatic desktop scanner. Old but in excellent condition. Price negotiable. Contact Grace Dayrit at (845) 572-9698 or via e-mail, [email protected]
WANTED: Computer, either IBM or Macintosh, with speech. Contact Robert Bell at (304) 424-6919.
On June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yesky. Yesky had been convicted in the Pennsylvania state courts and sentenced to serve 18 to 36 months in the Pennsylvania correctional system. The court had recommended that Yesky be placed in a motivational boot camp program, successful completion of which would have resulted in his parole after serving only six months of his sentence. He did apply for admission to the program, but his application was rejected by Pennsylvania corrections officials on the grounds of Yesky's medical history of chronic hypertension. He filed suit in the federal district court pursuant to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging that the refusal of state corrections officials to admit him to the program on account of his chronic hypertension constituted unlawful discrimination against him. The court granted summary judgment to the state corrections agency because it said that Yesky had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the trial court and held that Title II of the ADA does cover correctional facilities operated by state and local governments as well as disabled inmates in state-run correctional systems. The Supreme Court then agreed to hear and decide the commonwealth of Pennsylvania's appeal challenging the Third Circuit Court's rulings.
Mr. Justice Scalia delivered the opinion for a unanimous Supreme Court. The state contended that Title II failed to mention prisons or prisoners as covered by Title II, and that therefore the Supreme Court must then apply the "plain or unmistakable statement" test set forth by the court in Gregory v. Ashkroeft under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Scalia explained that the Gregory case raised the issue of whether appointed state court judges were covered by the ADEA. In that case, that law expressly covered state government employees, but the statute also contained an exception for appointed state government employees on the policy-making level. Thus the two provisions of the ADEA created ambiguity as to the coverage of appointed state court judges. The court then applied the plain statement test to hold that appointed state court judges were not within the coverage of the ADEA. Scalia, however, stated that the situation in the Yesky case is not the same as in Gregory, that here the statute's language is plain on its face and there is no ambiguity or doubt as to its meaning. Even if the plain statement test were applicable in this case, he held that the plain language of the statute, that an individual with a disability may not be denied participation in or the benefits of any program or service provided by an entity of state or local government on account of such individual's disability, satisfies the plain statement test.
The state then made two related arguments. The first was that terms in the ADA such as "eligible" and "participant" connote some degree of voluntariness, and second, the involuntary detention of and caring for prisoners against their will is a core function of state government and is not the sort of benefit, program, service or activity provided by state government which Congress intended to encompass within the provisions of Title II. Scalia admitted that the detention of and caring for convicts is an essential function of state government, but he disagrees with the state, pointing out that modern correctional facilities provide many programs and services to inmates such as medical attention and vocational and educational training. Justice Scalia then turned to "Webster's New International Dictionary" to demonstrate that the definitions of words such as "eligible" or "participants" do not hinge upon any sense of voluntariness. The court noted that even if such terms did infer some degree of voluntariness, modern prisons also offer many programs and services such as use of the law library which prisoners may use or decline to use on a take it or leave it basis. In fact, the court pointed out that the motivational boot camp at issue in this case is referred to as a program by the very statute which authorized and established it, and that the program is voluntary on the part of the inmate. Therefore, since state prisons and their inmates fall squarely within the plain meaning of the plain language of Title II of the ADA, Scalia held for the court that state prisons are covered by Title II.
This decision is important since it is one of the first early Supreme Court interpretations of the provisions of the ADA. In this case, even one of the most conservative members of the court interprets the remedial provisions of the act broadly or liberally. This is an encouraging indication for subsequent ADA cases and interpretations before the high court. The court's decision also poses some fascinating problems and issues for resolution in the rulemaking process on access requirements for public housing units which is still pending before the Access Board. In one unsettling aspect of the court's opinion in this case, Scalia is very clear that the court is not deciding and leaves as an open question for a subsequent case whether the application of the provisions of Title II to entities of state government is a constitutional exercise of its powers by Congress under either the fifth section of the 14th amendment or the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.
These constitutional challenges to Title II of the ADA were raised and argued in Pennsylvania's brief before the Supreme Court, but since they were not raised before nor decided by either the lower trial or appellate courts, the Supreme Court refused to address or decide such challenges in Yesky. The court's ruling now will undoubtedly present such issues concerning visually impaired prisoners as whether prison officials can deny use of a talking book machine and talking books to a visually impaired prisoner where the state does make printed magazines and other recreational reading materials available to sighted inmates. We as an advocacy organization may well be confronted with having to take on such issues on behalf of visually impaired prisoners. While the court's decision in the Yesky case is a positive step forward under the ADA, we must all be aware that actions taken as a result of the decision may well pose challenges for our organization and for the blindness community in general.
Sue Ammeter, Seattle, WA
Ardis Bazyn, Cedar Rapids, IA
Alan Beatty, Fort Collins, CO
John Buckley, Knoxville, TN
Dawn Christensen, Holland, OH
Christopher Gray, San Francisco, CA
Debbie Grubb, Bradenton, FL
Sandy Sanderson, Anchorage, AK
M.J. Schmitt, Forest Park, IL
Pamela Shaw, Philadelphia, PA
Carol McCarl, Chairperson, Salem, OR
Jay Doudna, Rosemont, PA
Winifred Downing, San Francisco, CA
Charles Hodge, Arlington, VA
Jenine Stanley, Columbus, OH
Ex Officio: Laura Oftedahl, Watertown, MA
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