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.
CORRECTION Due to an editing error, Tiffany Wakefield was listed as a student at Randolph Macon College. She is a student at Randolph-Macon Women's College.
I think most members of the American Council of the Blind are aware of the death of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, leader of the National Federation of the Blind. He died after a year-long battle with lung cancer. His death has lots of ramifications for the future but this message will look at none of these.
This message will instead simply be my farewell to a man who, whether we like it or not, was a leader, a role model and a force in shaping the lives of blind people everywhere. This will not be an analytical message because I don't feel like thinking about consequences now. I want to think about the man and what he stood for and who he was. Dr. Jernigan did much for people who are blind. He was a brilliant man who made decisions and stuck with them regardless of the consequences. He was a man of vision. He saw blindness in a particular way and, more than any leader before or since, he made others see blind people his way. We may deride the notion of blindness as a mere inconvenience but people all over the world used that phrase to build an identity for themselves that their societies made very difficult.
I have spent some time with Dr. Jernigan and he never failed to be polite even when we were disagreeing violently. He was a gracious host who knew more about wine than I ever hope to know and was glad to share his knowledge and his wine. He shared with me a love for science fiction and we spent a lot of time discussing literature and ideas. However we in ACB may feel about Dr. Jernigan, he has left a legacy behind of which his family and the NFB can be proud.
Certainly there were things that he did and attitudes that he had that were repugnant to me and that harmed people who are blind. I suspect that when I die there will be many who will point at my shortcomings too. I choose to remember other things and, however we feel, the world will mourn Dr. Jernigan's passing. I remember a crackling fire in his home and good wine and good conversation. I remember a person who could listen and who had no hesitation about disagreeing. His arguments were sometimes wrong but they were never without some merit. I remember a voice that had the power to move individuals and audiences. I remember a writer who had tremendous ability to communicate with people at all levels. I remember a man who used the tremendous power he had sparingly most of the time and who, by the end of his life, was working to build consensus when he could.
I will miss his intellect and I will miss his sense of humor. He had the ability to make people feel as important as the president or as unimportant as a field mouse. I have been publicly at the wrong end of his ire and we have privately had many heated discussions. That was part of who Dr. Jernigan was. He was a man who stuck to a notion with tenacity and panache.
There are many things I wish I had said to him. As adversaries, we didn't often have the chance to share how much we valued our interchanges. It is too late for him to hear me now but there are a few things I would say because I feel I need to say them. So, for the next few paragraphs, let me talk to Dr. J. as if he were still here and let me remember with him.
Dr. J., you are one of the most exasperating people I have ever liked. You could make me as angry as few could because I always thought you knew very well what you were doing and you cared very little if people strong enough to take it got stamped on if they were in your way. But you had a vision. It wasn't mine. But you saw it clearly and pressed on. I remember an occasion when I was with you when you spent a lot of time with a particular lady's problem. You made me wait and made that person feel like she was the most important person in the world.
You and I shared several evenings together with more wine than I liked to remember the next morning and what I recall most about those evenings was your sense of style and your courtly manner.
I will think most often about our many private conversations. At one point, I remember you asking whether ACB had any purpose. You suggested that what ACB ought to do was just fold up its tent and cease to be. Obviously I disagreed and still disagree with that notion but you forced me to look beyond the day-to-day issues and articulate for you and for myself what makes ACB what it is. And that is just one example of the way your incisive intellect came at an issue from a direction that was different from mine. You were willing to hear what I had to say and were even willing sometimes to say that my arguments had merit. You certainly came to acknowledge that ACB had a place and, had there been more time, I truly believe we could have continued to build more bridges. We will still build them, Dr. J. But one of the primary architects will not be there to see them completed.
So, Dr. J., I will miss you. Blind people around the world will miss you! ACB will miss you! NFB will miss you! And perhaps that is all that any of us can hope for at the end. Good bye, Dr. J. I think I dare to say that you were a friend and friends are hard to find and hard to keep. You are beyond the petty struggles of every day now. I hope the wine is good and that blindness is truly just an inconvenience wherever you are now!
(Editor's Note: The following article was taken from a message left on the ACB Internet listserv. The article responds to the views expressed by some in foreign countries that there does not seem to be a level of awareness of ACB in contrast to the philosophical writings of Kenneth Jernigan. This article makes the point that those writings have value, and that the ACB has taken the best of the philosophy in our roots and given it renewed and vibrant meaning through the dynamic and democratic organization that we are.)
The American Council of the Blind is the product of revolution and our organization has dared to allow the seeds of democracy to grow and become the foundation of our being. We learned from the pain of our birth to treasure that which we took with us from the NFB and to leave behind that which dampened our spirits and kept the power of love and engagement of the future restricted to the writings of a few rather than the wisdom of the people.
Let the so-called view from afar contemplate the birth of the American democracy, where the best values and dreams of the old were catapulted into a reality never before experienced by nations. That is the philosophy of the American Council of the Blind. That is the legacy our founders gave us and that is the power of our future and the core of our philosophy. Let every blind person wherever he or she lives on the planet come to know ACB for who we are; not in opposition to the positive contributions of NFB, but as those who have truly made them real in the context of a living organization that has enough faith in our people to unleash the power of our wisdom, our hopes and to be the engine of progress that is truly changing the face of the American experience of the blind.
Without any intent to cast a negative view on the philosophical assertions that have been made by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan during his life and while clearly applauding the value of the positive contributions that philosophy has made to many lives of people who are blind around the world, I believe there is more that must be said if the philosophy is to remain true beyond the era in which it was developed. To seriously maintain the intellectual integrity of the philosophy, we must constantly apply the test of time, as a way of preserving the basic value of the philosophical message into the future. Here, the experience and wisdom of the American Council of the Blind become critical to the proper treatment of the subject.
It is true that training and opportunities can liberate a blind person from self and socially imposed constraints. What happens, though, when the training and opportunities that existed at the time of the articulation of the philosophy no longer apply to the present and the future?
Can mobility training really provide a person with the same level of access to an environment which has become much more complex and pedestrian hostile? No amount of listening for traffic patterns can overcome changing light cycles as determined by sensors buried underneath the pavement. No amount of mobility instruction can help with traffic circles where pedestrians must "claim the intersection" by making eye contact with the drivers. No amount of mobility instruction can provide the information a pedestrian needs if that information is only provided visually. The mobility training of old may still have great benefits, but it cannot be relied upon for the same level of independence it once offered without risking serious harm or death. The ACB is working to change this reality, but the multiple factors that have changed our walking environment to a much more hazardous one will not be addressed overnight.
What amount of training can help a blind person access digitized displays? When Jernigan wrote his well-thought-out philosophy, there were technologies that had not even been born. Now we see those technologies emerging with no access to a blind person. None. If the current trend in appliance engineering continues, the blindness community will be faced with digital displays that offer multiple menus for selection from touch screens or other similar visual interfaces. From stoves that paint a picture of where the burners are to cellular phones without buttons to push, the ACB Environmental Access Committee has more than enough challenge to enable the training we receive from rehabilitation teachers a fighting shot at success. Again training must rely upon an accessible environment to be meaningful.
And what about the notion of opportunities? In the original sense, an opportunity would have been something like sending someone to the work place where a trained person could simply start working. As we have seen with the introduction of inaccessible software in computers, that opportunity must be extended in a way that one can take advantage of it. Hence, our opportunities are mediated by the extent to which they are actually accessible.
All of this is to say that the view from a distance, as has been articulated on the ACB Internet listserv and its praising the philosophy of Jernigan, is in need of the above updating.
Over the years many people have marveled at the number and quality of international friendships enjoyed by the American Council of the Blind as exemplified by the international speakers who have spoken at ACB national conventions and the delegations of ACB members who have traveled to other countries to obtain and share information of importance to blind and visually impaired people. One of the reasons for this situation has been the ability and willingness of the national office staff and others in the national capital area to provide reliable and relevant information when contacted by various organizations that focus on the importance of international exchange activities. In short, many of the visitors I have mentioned in these reports over the years have not come to the national office simply to convey their greetings but have come to give and receive information. Recently, for example, we were pleased to meet Dr. Ayse Turan, an adviser to the government of Turkey who was in the USA studying the variety of job opportunities made available to blind and visually impaired people. Although Dr. Turan is an ophthalmologist by training, she was focusing on expanding the types of jobs for which blind people could be trained in her country, thereby going beyond the traditional jobs held by the blind. Yes, we are extremely concerned about the low rate of meaningful employment held by blind people in this country, but discussions with many international visitors reveal that we are, nevertheless, much better off than are many other countries.
Lunch and learn
What a novel idea inviting representatives of other non-profit organizations to meet at the ACB national office in downtown Washington to discuss fundraising and other non-profit management issues with the professional staff of Human Service Charities of America and other federated fundraising organizations! The "lunch and learn" workshop which ACB hosted recently was very well-attended and very educational. While it is essential for ACB to focus on blindness-related matters, it is also essential for ACB as an organization to communicate and exchange information with other non-profit organizations concerning the operation of a modern organization on a businesslike basis in the late 1990s.
It is seldom that international visitors have the time to offer to assist ACB in performing the hundreds of tasks connected with operating each day. Recently, however, Kadi Lamin Kamara, a native of Sierra Leone and a citizen of Sweden, offered her volunteer services and soon thereafter spent a number of hours in the ACB national office doing whatever was necessary such as bulk erasing cassettes and placing braille labels on cassettes. We are sure that her cooperative spirit is appreciated in Sweden.
Busy fall convention season
ACB officers, directors, committee members and staff members have been typically busy in recent weeks assisting with state affiliate conventions and related activities. Among those who have enjoyed meeting the members and sharing information and enthusiasm with them have been ACB President Paul Edwards at the Tennessee Council convention, treasurer Patricia Beattie at the Illinois convention, publications board member Jay Doudna at the Kansas convention, executive director Oral Miller at the New York convention, board member John Buckley at the Arkansas convention, governmental affairs director Alfred Ducharme at the South Dakota convention, advocacy director Melanie Brunson at the Missouri convention and "Braille Forum" editor Nolan Crabb at the Maine convention. And the fall convention schedule is just getting started!
As Congress has worked frantically to end the current session in time to leave time for campaigning, as well as for other matters which have been highly publicized as of late, national staff members have been racing from meeting to meeting to exchange information, check on the status of matters and map new strategies based on last-minute changes. Fast-moving matters can be followed only by calling the Washington Connection toll-free at (800) 424-8666 and by monitoring internet releases. However, upcoming articles in "The Braille Forum" will focus on some issues which, although still changing, are moving slowly enough to be discussed such as the possible development of standards concerning audible traffic signals and telecommunications equipment.
Donate via payroll deduction
The 1998 Combined Federal Campaign is now under way and we urge anyone who has access to that outstanding program to designate the American Council of the Blind to receive assistance by way of payroll deductions during 1999. What an easy and convenient way to make a meaningful contribution to the American Council of the Blind, CFC no. 2802, although the number is not necessary if the name of the organization is written in on the form. Likewise, we urge you to write the name of the American Council of the Blind in the designation forms used by United Way job site campaigns. Since some local United Way campaigns neglect to inform national organizations that funds have been designated to them, we ask you to let us know if you make such a designation so we can follow up with the local campaign.
New staff members
Yes, in recent weeks you may have heard two new voices answering the phone in the ACB national office. We are very pleased to welcome Barbara Vodapivc and Patricia Moreira as the newest members of the national staff. Vodapivc, whose principal duties will focus on advocacy activities, worked previously with Lutheran Social Services and the District of Columbia Commission on Mental Health. She stated that her interest in ACB's advocacy program springs from her advocacy in behalf of children as a "CASA" (Court Appointed Special Advocate). Moreira, whose primary administrative responsibilities will focus on membership and affiliate services, adds her very valuable Spanish-English bilingual capability to the collection of communication skills already in the office. We are confident that the members and friends of ACB will enjoy meeting and working with these outstanding new staff members.CAPTION
Oral Miller and Roberta Douglas take a brief break from the banquet's sentimentality to share a smile with the photographer. (All photos copyright 1998 by Ken Nichols.)
The location for the American Council of the Blind convention in 1999 is Los Angeles, Calif. This huge metropolis 467 square miles offers fun, diverse culture, great entertainment, fine dining, all kinds of shopping, stargazing and more. Temperatures in July range from 63 to 83 degrees, and there will be little chance of rain. Tours will be planned to some of the great sites that Los Angeles has to offer.
The Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel, located just minutes from Los Angeles International Airport at 5400 W. Century Blvd., is where the convention will take place. The dates are Saturday, July 3 to Friday, July 9. The overflow hotel is the Airport Marriott at 5855 W. Century Blvd. Room rates for both hotels are $60 per night plus tax for up to four people per room. The telephone number for reservations at the Westin is (310) 216-5858 and at the Marriott is (310) 641-5700. As usual, shuttles will operate between both hotels. A credit card number, check or money order to cover the cost of your room for the first night is required to hold your reservation. If you wish to hold your room for late arrival, payment of the first night must be made. Both hotels provide free transportation from and to the airport. Vans are driven through the pickup area outside the baggage locations. They do not stop unless flagged down. We suggest you call the hotel when you arrive at the airport so that the van drivers can be alerted by radio to watch for you.
By this time, as you would expect, the Westin Hotel is full. However, we want to again remind all people who have made reservations for individuals other than themselves to be certain these rooms will be used. Please don't wait until close to convention time to cancel since at that late date some rooms may go unoccupied for the convention.
The affiliate presidents meeting will take place at the Airport Westin Hotel Saturday, Feb. 13 beginning at 8:30 a.m. It will continue through Sunday noon. The ACB board of directors meeting will take place Sunday afternoon, Feb. 14 and continue through Monday noon. Please be aware that room rates at the Westin for this meeting are $65 per night plus tax, $5 more per night than the convention rate. The reservation cut-off date is Jan. 22, 1999.
New travel agency
For a number of years the American Council of the Blind has contracted with International Tours of Muskogee, Okla. to provide airline tickets and travel information. However, this travel agency has been sold to AAA Travel and recently added a $15 fee to each ticket purchase. Also, Nancy Mayberry, who many ACB members have dealt with is now retired. As a result of these changes, AAA Travel is not providing the same quality of service it once did.
We have contacted a number of other travel agencies to provide service to ACB members. The best proposal received was from Prestige Travel, located at 100 Route 59, PO Box 629, Suffern, NY 10901; telephone (800) 966-5050. ACB will be using Prestige Travel to provide travel services for 1999. However, ACB members can begin using this travel service immediately. When you call the 800 number, ask for Chastity or Gina.
For 1999, ACB through Prestige Travel is establishing agreements with American, United and US Airways. ACB members are encouraged to use this new travel service to secure complete information and the lowest fares. Using this service will benefit ACB in that some free air fares will be made available.
Be certain to mention that you are a member of ACB when you call Prestige Travel.
Don't miss Los Angeles in 1999! It will be an exciting and challenging convention.
TEA-21, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, was signed into law on June 9, 1998. TEA-21 reauthorizes federal surface transportation legislation formerly entitled the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). It has been called the largest public works legislation in U.S. history, authorizing $217.5 billion in transportation funding over the next six years.
The law, as originally enacted, was designed to promote the safe and efficient mobility of goods and people, including people with disabilities, while mitigating congestion and pollution by striking a balance between the federal investment in highways and the federal investment in mass transit. Advocates for public transportation struggled to maintain this balance during the ISTEA rewrite. Overall, this balance was maintained and there was approximately a 50 percent increase in funding for both highway projects and mass transit over previous authorization levels. Only part of the funds authorized, however, are guaranteed. Part of the funds are subject to the annual appropriations process. Thus, public transportation advocates must work every year to educate their representatives to ensure that maximum funds are appropriated for public transportation.
There are a number of provisions in TEA-21 that are important to people who are blind or visually impaired. The purpose of this article is to provide advocates at the state and local levels with the information and references to use in local advocacy efforts. It is up to local advocates to make accessibility projects a priority with local planners. The following sections describe the TEA-21 provisions that are a must for any local advocacy tool box.
Federal operating assistance for paratransit services has decreased substantially in recent years. Many transit providers reacted by cutting fixed-route services so that they would not have to provide expensive complementary paratransit service. Congress provided some relief in TEA-21 by providing an alternative funding mechanism for ADA paratransit services. ADA complementary paratransit expenses can now be treated as a capital cost matched at an 80 percent federal share. The transit operation may use up to 10 percent of its FTA formula funding allocation for paratransit, but only if the agency is in compliance with all applicable provisions of the ADA in its fixed-route and demand-responsive systems. An agency that is operating under a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) is deemed to be ADA-compliant for the purposes of using this funding flexibility.
Blind or visually impaired people sometimes use paratransit instead of fixed-route service because the environment around a bus stop or transit station is inaccessible. Transit agencies concerned about reducing demand for expensive paratransit services may be willing to join with blind advocates to convince local officials to install sidewalks, accessible street crossings, and audible signs that would enable blind people to use fixed-route services. Many TEA-21 funds can be used to improve access to the environment.
Section 3003 of TEA-21 creates a new category of transit projects that will be eligible for federal financial assistance from the Federal Transit Administration. TEA-21 calls for transit agencies in urban areas with a population over 200,000 to allocate 1 percent of their urban formula funds to "transit enhancement activities." In FY 1998, this will amount to approximately $30 million to be divided among 125 urban areas. These newly eligible projects, termed transit enhancements, are defined as follows: "The term transit enhancement means, with respect to any project or an area to be served by a project, projects that are designed to enhance mass transportation service or use and that are physically or functionally related to transit facilities. Eligible projects include, among other things, bus shelters, pedestrian access and walkways, signage, and enhanced access for persons with disabilities to mass transportation. Eligible transit enhancement projects can also include projects such as public art, restoration of historic facilities, landscaping and scenic beautification."
Disability advocates will have to work at the local level to ensure their needed projects receive funding priority.
Section 1202 of TEA-21 requires that bicyclists and pedestrians, including pedestrians with disabilities, be given due consideration in the comprehensive transportation plans developed by each metropolitan planning organization and state. This section further provides that "Bicycle transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways shall be considered, where appropriate, in conjunction with all new construction and reconstruction of transportation facilities, except where bicycle and pedestrian use are not permitted." Additionally, TEA-21 provides that transportation plans and projects must provide due consideration for safety and contiguous routes for bicyclists and pedestrians. Safety considerations must include the installation, where appropriate, and maintenance of audible traffic signals and audible signs at street crossings. While this section does not specify where audible street crossing technology must be installed, its inclusion in this section of the legislation means that projects to install such technologies are eligible for federal matching funds of at least 80 percent. ACB is serving on an advisory committee of the Institute of Transportation Engineers to establish guidelines for the installation of accessible pedestrian technologies. Advocates will have to work at the local level to ensure that funds are applied to making street crossings accessible. The Access Board has recently completed a report summarizing the accessible pedestrian technologies currently available. To obtain a copy, call: 1-800-USA-ABLE (872-2253).
Section 1202 of TEA-21 calls for design guidance to be developed by the Secretary of Transportation, in cooperation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and other interested organizations, on the various approaches to accommodating bicycles and pedestrian travel. The guidance must include recommendations on amending and updating the policies of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials relating to highway and street design standards to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. ACB will work to ensure that the new design guidelines consider the access needs of blind and visually impaired pedestrians.
Access to Jobs and Reverse Commute Projects
Section 3037 of TEA-21 establishes a federal initiative to meet the employment-related transportation needs of welfare recipients and low-income individuals. The purpose of this program is to encourage the development of transportation services designed to transport welfare recipients and eligible low-income individuals to and from jobs, with particular emphasis on projects to transport individuals to suburban jobs. While this provision of TEA-21 does not specifically refer to people with disabilities, a high percentage of people with disabilities, including people who are blind or visually impaired, are in the low-income population this program is intended to benefit. Additionally, grants will be awarded to transportation providers based, in part, on the percentage of low-income residents of the geographic area to be served. Thus, it is likely that individuals who are not income eligible, but who live in the targeted geographic area, will also benefit as paying customers from these new transportation opportunities. In authorizing this program, Congress made the following findings, many of which come as no surprise to blind people, who are dependent on public transportation:
(1) two-thirds of all new jobs are in the suburbs, whereas
(2) three-quarters of welfare recipients live in rural areas or central cities;
(3) even in metropolitan areas with excellent public transit systems, less than half of the jobs are accessible by transit;
(4) in 1991, the median price of a new car was equivalent to 25 weeks of salary for the average worker, and considerably more for the low-income worker;
(5) not less than 9,000,000 households and 10,000,000 Americans of driving age, most of whom are low-income workers, do not own cars;
(6) 94 percent of welfare recipients do not own cars;
(7) nearly 40 percent of workers with annual incomes below $10,000 do not commute by car;
(8) many of the 2,000,000 Americans who will have their Temporary Assistance to Needy Families grants (under the state program funded under Part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)) terminated by the year 2002 will be unable to get to jobs they could otherwise hold;
(9) increasing the transit options for low-income workers, especially those who are receiving or who have recently received welfare benefits, will increase the likelihood of those workers getting and keeping jobs; and
(10) many residents of cities and rural areas would like to take advantage of mass transit to gain access to suburban employment opportunities.
The TEA-21 Access to Jobs provision authorizes a 50 percent federal match to assist eligible projects. Four types of Access to Jobs projects are eligible for funding; Projects that:
(1) promote the use of transit by workers with non-traditional work schedules;
(2) promote the use of transit vouchers for welfare recipients and eligible low-income individuals;
(3) promote the use of employer-provided transportation, such as the transit pass benefit program (currently provided under section 132 of the Internal Revenue Code); and
(4) finance capital expenses and operating costs of equipment, facilities and associated capital maintenance items related to providing access to jobs.
Up to $10 million per year is available for reverse commute projects. Reverse commute projects that are eligible for the 50 percent federal match are projects related to the development of transportation services that transport residents of urban areas and non-urbanized areas to suburban employment opportunities. This includes projects that:
(1) subsidize the costs of adding reverse commute bus, train, car pool, van routes or service to suburban workplaces;
(2) subsidize the purchase or lease by a non-profit organization or public agency of a van or bus dedicated to shuttling employees from their residences to a suburban workplace; or
(3) facilitate the provision of mass transportation services to suburban employment opportunities.
Congress authorized part of the funds for these projects to be spent from the mass transit account of the highway trust fund. The remainder authorized must be appropriated from the general fund. A total of $150 million per year for the next five years was authorized.
To ensure that Access to Jobs funds are distributed across varying sized communities, Congress prescribed the following allocation percentages:
(A) 60 percent shall be allocated for eligible projects in urbanized areas with populations of at least 200,000.
(B) 20 percent shall be allocated for eligible projects in urbanized areas with populations of under 200,000.
(C) 20 percent shall be allocated for eligible projects in areas other than urbanized areas.
Grants became available in October 1998. Watch for these new transportation opportunities in your area.
Advocates must remember that TEA-21 is authorizing legislation. Most of the access provisions are not mandates, they are merely authorizations for federal matching funds. Local planners will determine which projects will have federal funds applied to them. To learn how you can get involved in seeing that TEA-21 funds are used to make pedestrian and public transportation access a reality in your area, contact your Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) or your state Department of Transportation. You can also contact your regional office of the Federal Transit Administration to learn how to get involved in the TEA-21 planning in your area. Contact information for FTA regional offices can be found on the FTA web site, http://www.fta.dot.gov For more information and updates, visit the following web sites: http://www.dot.gov, http://www.transact.org, http://www.istea.org
(Reprinted from "The Houston Chronicle," October 9, 1998.)
A blind woman heading for her college class died October 8 after being hit by a school bus as she crossed a street in southwest Houston.
Carolyn Garrett, 48, was just starting to cross West Fuqua shortly after 7 a.m. when she was hit by the bus as it turned right off Hiram Clarke.
Houston ISD Superintendent Rod Paige said he knew Carolyn Garrett and her husband, Mike, from when they were members of Brentwood Baptist Church.
"These were the most phenomenal people you could imagine. It's such a devastating tragedy. When it became clear that it was Mike's wife ... I can't recall feeling this empty."
The driver, Chester Hopes, 49, who has driven for HISD since 1990, has been suspended without pay pending an investigation, but no charges have yet been filed against him.
Houston police accident investigator J.R. Brashier said Garrett and Hopes were both heading north when the signal turned green. Garrett stepped forward as the bus turned right and she was struck by the right front tire and knocked down. The rear tires of the bus then rolled over her, Brashier said.
"Both had a green light, but as a pedestrian she had the right of way," Brashier said.
"The driver of the bus said he never saw her when he turned and didn't know she was there until he felt the bump," he said.
Sam Ibrahim said when he arrived for work at a nearby service station a few minutes after 7 a.m. he saw the bus stopped at the corner and a woman lying on the street.
"She was moving her legs like she was in pain," Ibrahim said. "When the fire department got here, her legs had stopped moving."
Garrett, the mother of three daughters, died shortly after arrival at Ben Taub Hospital.
"I've had a tremendous loss in my life," said her husband, Michael, who is also blind. "My wife was a very special lady."
He said his wife was going to a Metropolitan Transit Authority stop, where she caught a bus to take her to class at the University of Houston-Downtown.
"She catches the bus every day there," he said.
He said they have lived in the neighborhood for 24 years and are very familiar with their surroundings.
Nevertheless, he said, "anytime there is a busy street, any time there is noise, it presents a distraction to any blind person."
Ironically, Garrett said he and his wife had just talked Wednesday night about trying to get money from a federal program to install an audible alert system at that particular intersection.
"The system lets blind people hear the light change," he said.
Brashier said any possible charges will depend on a review of the evidence by the Harris County district attorney's office.
HISD spokesman Terry Abbott said Hopes has been involved in only four minor accidents since joining HISD. He said the bus was carrying six students to Montgomery Elementary School.
Abbott wouldn't speculate on how long an HISD investigation would take.
"This obviously is a critical important investigation. It has to be done the right way," he said.
Garrett, a financial analyst, said his wife could only see well enough to tell if it was day or night.
"Essentially, she functioned as a totally blind person, but that didn't stop her from doing things because she was continuing with her education," he said. "Ultimately her goal was to be a Christian counselor."
Garrett said his wife led a full and active life and used to compete in powerlifting and bicycle races in events sponsored by the U.S. Association for Blind Athletes.
"She stopped powerlifting after our last child was born in 1987," he said.
Longtime neighbor Louw Allen said Mrs. Garrett "was a very sweet person, a very devoted person. She loved her children and was a very good neighbor. I can't say enough about her."
The Rev. T.R. Williams said Mrs. Garrett was an active member of New Faith Church, which they joined after leaving Brentwood. "It's a tremendous loss, a tremendous shock to us all," he said. "Words are just inadequate to express what we are feeling right now."
No one at HISD could remember a fatal accident involving a district bus.
"The fact that we have a wonderful record is irrelevant when it comes to this," said Paige. "All of that is out of the window over this one accident."
(Editor's Note: Garrett was an active ACB member, serving in various capacities on the local, state, and national levels. We include below comments from those who knew her as a result of her connection with the Library Users of America, an affiliate of ACB, and her work with state and local affiliates and chapters.) John Taylor:
Memorials may be sent to either the ACB of Texas Scholarship Fund or the ACB of Texas NABS Chapter at 905 Martin Street, Houston, TX 77018. Carolyn was 48 and will be sorely missed.
Carolyn served the Library Users of America, a special-interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, as secretary, director, program chair, and member of an advisory committee to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. She was committed to her family, church, state affiliate, its student chapter and scholarship fund.
Although Carolyn served with distinction in many capacities, and her loss leaves a painful void, it is appropriate that we remember and celebrate her life and steadfast character. Carolyn was a quiet, tolerant individual whose approach to problems was solution-oriented. Her word could be relied upon. Carolyn Garrett has earned a place of respect and honor in our hearts. She has enriched our lives. All who knew her are better because she came our way. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Garrett family.
Many of the things you will read in this memoriam will seem as though I am canonizing Carolyn, but all who knew and loved her know without a doubt that Carolyn needed no canonization. The fact of the matter is that Carolyn lived life to its fullest. She believed passionately in the issues that face us as blind and visually impaired people. She loved her family more than she loved life itself. Above all, she loved her Lord.
I am not sure where to begin talking about my precious memories of my sweet friend and awesome mentor.
When I arrived at work the day after Carolyn's tragic death, I was telling a co-worker, (who at one time made Carolyn's acquaintance) about Carolyn's sudden death. Shortly thereafter, another co-worker came by my office and asked, "Who was she?" Immediately, I responded that Carolyn was a board member of the Texas Commission for the Blind, but more importantly, "She was my FRIEND!"
I can still remember discussing child rearing with Carolyn. She felt so passionately about raising children. She was so excited as she discussed every possible detail that might come up with little newborn babies. Throughout the time that my children have been growing up, I have had many occasions to ask Carolyn many questions about children. The terrific thing is that she always had an answer. She never said that she didn't know or that she would think about the answer. Even better than that, her suggestions always worked. I found myself many times saying that I would try and work out a particular problem with my children, so as not to bother Carolyn all the time. However, I found that if I had gone ahead and called her sooner, I would have saved myself and my children a lot of grief.
In watching Carolyn interact with her husband, Michael, as well as her children, it became apparent to me that she didn't just "talk the talk," but rather she lived out her convictions in all aspects of her life.
The 1998 scholarship committee. Top row, left to right: Roy Ward, Cathy Schmitt, and Michael Garrett. Bottom row, left to right: John Buckley, Rochelle Foley, Patty Slaby, and Alan Beatty. Not pictured: Ann Byington, Alice Jackson, Gayle Krause, Dee Snyder, Naomi Soule, and John Taylor.
(Reprinted with permission from "Horizons," November 1998.)
Thanksgiving is the truly American holiday. In the tradition which flows from the Pilgrims, we take time out to appreciate family, friends, and a sumptuous turkey dinner.
Thanksgiving at the end of the 20th century means taking a few days off work and driving to visit our loved ones who are dispersed in different cities. Along the way we encounter monster traffic jams, which sadly have evolved to encompass the phenomenon of the angry driver, "road rage."
Let me suggest that "road rage" is not the only element of anger in our midst. There is growing evidence of similar feelings in the workplace, what I call "workplace rage."
Do you recall the horrific instances of disgruntled postal service workers literally shooting co-workers? The situation led to the expression "going postal," to mean a worker who freaked out and took violent, even lethal revenge on a supervisor and co-workers. "Going postal" is the most extreme example of workplace rage.
In the context of employer-employee relations, a new visceral anger is emerging. The new rage at work is not the internet but anger.
Workplace rage manifests itself not only in the lack of warm, friendly jobs but also in cases where employees challenge discrimination.
The September 1998 cover of "Workforce" magazine, "Why Employees Are So Angry," with headlines reading "Griping, lawsuits and even violence are on the rise because there's a gap between expectations and reality." There are, according to author Gillian Flynn, "mountains of unmet expectations."
That is certainly true for people with disabilities. Nolan Crabb, editor of "The Braille Forum," unequivocally states that "the day of being grateful to just have a job is past."
He's right. It's been past for many years. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act have promoted a sea change in attitudes and expectations.
Along with equal employment opportunity and reasonable accommodation should have come such basics as adaptive technology, such as a talking computer for a person with carpal tunnel syndrome or a vision impairment, and accessible communications, e.g. readers and interpreters, for people with communication-related disabilities. The expectation was that unemployment rates for people with disabilities would go down. For people who are legally blind or have other significant vision impairments it is still, conservatively, almost 75 percent! No disability advocacy group is hailing the ADA as a law which has led to full employment for its members who can and want to work.
The rising of expectations in the context of our litigious society is visible in the process of redressing employment discrimination. A recent study conducted by Barry Goldman (no relation, never met him) of the University of Maryland, "I'll See You In Court! Why Employees File Discrimination Claims," documented the anger expressed by people filing discrimination charges at offices of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). EEOC is the administrative agency at which to file charges of employment discrimination under the ADA and other federal civil rights laws.
Professor Goldman observes that 71 percent of the people who filed with EEOC felt "angry, mad, or vengeful." He observes, "When an employee perceives that he or she is treated unfairly, this may send a signal to the employee that the organization (or its agents) do not view him or her as 'just like them,' sending a signal of exclusion." He recalls for us the vivid scene in the movie "Network," in which the fired newsman screams out, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"
Barbara Veldhuizen, deputy director of the EEOC Baltimore District Office, confirms much of what is in the study. EEOC gets calls from people in crisis, financial and/or emotional, to whom something bad has happened at work. That something bad can be a firing, not being promoted, or even not being able to take a planned vacation. The something may have happened just recently or may have been festering for some time. Often by the time the person calls or comes to EEOC, the person is anguished and frustrated at having been unsuccessful in trying to resolve the matter with their employer, as Professor Goldman observes.
But remember EEOC is not an omnipotent workplace ombudsperson. It can only address statutorily based discrimination, such as race, sex, religion, national origin, or disability, not plain unfairness or even gross mismanagement. Also, EEOC's trained staff have large caseloads, commonly exceeding 90 cases, which does not bode well for the individual who wants and needs his/her one situation addressed NOW!
The anger which Professor Goldman notes in a person in crisis who gets no relief from his employer and then comes to EEOC but who gets no relief from EEOC will not be dissipated. In fact, it may become rage.
Before disability advocates run out to embrace this study, they should be aware of the statement by Goldman that says "... the ADA is unusually vague in several key areas including such key terms as what exactly constitutes a 'disability' and 'reasonable accommodation' ... These definitional vagaries may force employers to endure unusual amounts of uncertainty for years until the courts resolve many of these issues ..."
Here the professor is clearly wrong. When the ADA was enacted it built on almost two decades of history and evolution under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act related to those key terms. To reiterate such a biased criticism is totally inappropriate at best.
There is constant learning, constant evolution in the workplace, as managers and employees cope with new dynamics, including people with impairments who, especially as a result of laws enacted in the 1970s, namely the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as the ADA, are actively striving to be taxpaying members of society. The increasing service orientation and white collar/computer-based nature of the workplace does not make reasonable accommodation impossible to provide or disability incapable of definition.
As a society we need to take a good hard look at what these articles are highlighting. We dare not let Professor Goldman's error lead us to disregard his study or cause us not to discuss the issue. The worst thing we could do would be to continue to silently rage. Clearly, as "Workforce" notes, more must be done to bring reality not illusions to the workplace.
As we pause for Thanksgiving, let us take some time for introspection, to reflect at the holiday. We need to grasp what is truly happening, what we each bring to the work (as well as dining) table, what each of our responsibilities are, what is realistic to expect from ourselves, our co-workers, our employers. How can each of us, in the true Judeo-Christian ethic, make the workplace better?
Reality with humanism would be my motto as an employer. It is a creed which I think is consistent with the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
The meeting was called to order at 9 a.m. Sept. 19 at the Radisson Hotel in Schaumburg, Ill., with all board members present.
An early development was establishment of the Durward K. McDaniel White Paper Committee to write ACB position papers based on resolutions passed by the membership. Work of the committee will provide answers to such questions as, "What is ACB's position regarding the Randolph-Sheppard Act?" Committee members include Ardis Bazyn, Brian Charlson, and Chris Gray.
Oral Miller, executive director, submitted a copy of his proposed comprehensive employee manual. The manual will be reviewed by Pat Beattie, Paul Edwards, Charlie Crawford, and Oral Miller. They will make recommendations for its adoption at the February 1999 ACB board meeting.
Dawn Christensen, chair of the awards committee, asked that her committee be authorized to set up criteria for two new awards. One will be awarded to the affiliate with the highest percentage of increase in membership for the previous year. The second new award will recognize an affiliate's outreach programs or services. The board passed a motion granting authority to the awards committee to develop criteria and present the two new awards.
John Horst gave the convention report. He particularly noted that some members reserve multiple rooms for an upcoming convention. In doing so, others are prevented from making reservations in the main hotel. As the convention draws near, individuals are told there is no room at the main hotel, so they decide not to attend the convention, after which some with multiple reservations cancel. To avoid unfair treatment of the membership, the following motion was passed:
"Beginning with the Louisville, Kentucky, convention in 2000, individuals who book a room must pay one night's deposit per room reserved. It will be up to the convention committee to determine if and how refunds will be given to any who cancel their reservation."
John Horst reported on suggestions that the convention committee is considering to allow for the shorter convention week, which will occur in July 1999. The convention will take place from Saturday, July 3, through Friday, July 9, 1999. President Edwards will include comments about upcoming convention changes in his "President's Message" column of the December "Braille Forum."
Debbie Grubb gave the ACB Pedestrian Access Working Group report. The board passed a motion to adopt the report proposals. Group members Julie Carroll, chair of the Environmental Access Committee, Debbie Grubb, Charlie Crawford, Jenine Stanley, and Patricia Beattie will concentrate on pedestrian access needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. The committee will assist in the creation of a national coalition of groups interested in various pedestrian safety issues. It will also assist in developing new street design guidelines. It is hoped that in time, the group will formulate a model state law for ACB affiliates to bring before their state legislatures.
LeRoy Saunders, chair, American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services, Inc. (ACBES), gave a short report regarding ACBES operations and the staff in the ACBES Minneapolis office.
The ACBES board currently has five members. Three were elected at the Sept. 19 ACBES annual membership meeting. Those elected for a two-year term are Patricia Beattie, Alan Beatty, and LeRoy Saunders. The two remaining members of the ACBES board are John Granger and Pamela Shaw.
The meeting concluded at 6 p.m. with an announcement that the ACB board of directors will meet on February 14-15, 1999. The meeting of state and other ACB affiliates will take place on February 13-14, 1999.
Minutes from this ACB board meeting are available at the ACB national office.
(Editor's Note: Have you ever thought of having to deal with both blindness and a mobility impairment? Perhaps you've done it temporarily. With winter's ice and snow an inevitability in some parts of the nation, the possibility that some of us may be forced to think about getting around with both a cane and a walker is very real. Here's hoping it doesn't happen, but in the event that it does, we thought Steele-Lacey's experience at dealing with a cane and other mobility aids would be helpful.
Those who attend ACB conventions will remember Laurinda as a cheerful volunteer at the ACB information desk. Her life changed dramatically in a split second one evening last summer when the outdoor deck on which she stood collapsed. She and many other guests at a party plummeted to the ground. The end result was serious physical injuries that forced her to look at new and difficult ways of getting from place to place. This is her story in her words. It is our sincere hope that no reader of this publication will endure the extreme frustrations and difficulties the combination of blindness and mobility impairments can bring about. But if it happens, at least you have the experience of one individual who continues her slow recovery and who understands all too well the vicissitudes of learning a new way to travel independently.)
Though the summer evening began as a party in Northern Virginia for my brother-in-law and his fiancee, quite suddenly, it became a disaster. The poorly built second-story deck where my husband and I were visiting with family friends collapsed. I will never forget the chilling cries, falls, and chaos of that moment. But, despite my shock and pain while waiting for ambulance crew services, one of my initial concerns was reunion with my white cane. How could I get around a hospital or anywhere else without it? Thankfully, it was found close to where I lay in the debris. I held it close as I was transported to Fairfax Hospital.
Little did I know then just how many more mobility aids I would have to handle before I would really be up and going again.
Not long after reaching the hospital emergency room, I was informed of my need for immediate surgery designed to set my multiply fractured right leg and it was at least another 24 hours after the surgery before I began to comprehend the reality of my orthopedic condition. An external fixator was attached to the fractured area and no weight-bearing would be possible on that leg for perhaps several months.
Though some light physical therapy began in the hospital a few days after the surgery, my curiosity and desire for some means of independent mobility were acute. How could I get from point to point at home, in the office or anywhere else safely and independently with a mobility aid?
Would my white cane be usable with another mobility aid? I knew these answers existed somewhere among friends and contacts who use or have used wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches. So my calls went out, and valuable recommendations came in. Wheelchairs that could be steered and moved with one hand were recommended to enable use of the white cane with the other hand. Front-wheeled foldable walkers were recommended for ease in usability. Canadian or forearm crutches were recommended for hand and arm protection by several individuals who shared with me what worked best for them. These recommendations gave me excellent fuel for thought, requests, and trial in the weeks ahead.
Though the basic physical therapy continued during my week in the hospital, it was not until I transferred to a medical care facility for rehabilitation that my focus and strength building and mobility aid use began. With orientation and mobility specialist Donna Sauerburger, I explored a number of aids and a variety of techniques that resulted in my slow but successful mobility.
At the medical care facility, only the standard, two-push rimmed manual wheelchairs were available. But, utilizing my left hand and uninjured left leg, I could, with practice, get the wheelchair going in the desired direction with my right hand controlling a white cane in a slightly varied type of arc for the exploration of the floor space ahead.
Two means of front-wheeled walker use also began to give me even more flexible mobility. I found that I could actually use the walker itself to explore the upcoming floor surface by pushing it further ahead than I would actually move and then pulling the walker back to the normal distance of a step before actually using the walker for weight-bearing and forward progress. I also found that I could use my white cane on the ground surface ahead of the walker, and then put the cane under my arm before actually moving forward on the walker.
With weeks of practice, utilizing a wheelchair and walker, being able to return home has been a tremendous joy and challenge. Though orthopedic healing and my mobility are not fast, they are happening. The identified and practiced techniques enable me to safely traverse the surfaces and environmental changes throughout the inside and outside of our house with caution.
Yes, I still have much farther to progress before my life and limbs return to normal. But some things stand out quite clearly to me as a result of this challenging time. Information sharing about mobility aid use and preferences within our visually impaired community establish a launch pad for answers needed by those of us who suddenly require such assistance. Brainstorming and encouragement are a tremendous help for confronting and conquering all kinds of difficulties. Yes, we can use a variety of mobility aids when necessary and still keep a hand on our white cane for key travel information.
(Reprinted from "InfoWorld") NEW YORK It's hard to just say no to Stevie Wonder. After all, the blind musician is one of the great pop icons of the last three decades, and as an inspirational speaker for the young and disabled and an activist for the African-American community he has a certain moral force.
So two years ago when he asked to speak to SAP America's Chief Executive Officer Paul Wahl about an idea he had, the company said yes.
The germ of that idea turned into the SAP/Stevie Wonder Vision Awards program which just capped its first year with a gala celebration and concert by Wonder here Wednesday night spotlighting computer technology that helps the blind and the visually impaired with access in the workplace.
The program also comes at a time when SAP, a developer of enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology, is trying to take its traditional image as a company whose products are difficult to work with, and turn it around. ERP technology covers a range of business management, accounting, logistics, and human resource applications.
More than 200 award applicants from 12 countries participated in the awards program, ... which gave out a total of $500,000 to winners in a variety of categories, including the Product of the Year a new version of the Kurzweil reader system that lets vision-impaired and blind people scan documents into a scanner, which then converts the text into speech output.
Technology from finalists, shown at the awards ceremony, covers a broad range of enabling devices, from a mouse that lets blind people "feel" the icons on a graphical user interface to Windows training material for the blind.
Corporate use of these tools is not just charity visually impaired and blind people can be a great asset to any workforce, according to Wahl.
"We now have blind people [at SAP], some of them are programmers, and we are delighted to see how quickly they become a very talented work force to build applications," Wahl said. "Some of them are even going into the research side to build a very complex, innovative search engine for information for business that can be used by blind people."
For blind people, the graphical user technology that almost all new applications use doesn't do much good, Wahl noted. The awards program was founded to encourage the development of software and hardware that lets visually impaired and blind people of which there are about 170 million in the world take advantage of contemporary advances in technology.
The plan for the program was hatched two years ago when SAP asked Wonder to play at a user group conference.
"I was very happy to be asked to be part of their celebration ... and I said I'm fine doing the concert and performance, but what I want to do is get together with the president and talk about an idea I had," Wonder said.
As it turned out, the idea to set up a program to encourage enabling technology for the blind had a special interest for Wahl, whose daughter Carolin is blind and works at SAP AG in Germany.
"The common vision of Stevie Wonder and SAP is that we want to take the workforce of blind people and make it available for many companies around the world," Wahl said.
Wonder, an avid user of technology in his work as a musician, was one of the product testers in the program.
The awards program spotlighted finalists, including:
* Kurzweil Educational Systems, whose Kurzweil 1000 took the Product of the Year award. The program is a PC-based reading tool that converts print into speech. Features include text editing, white-on-black scanning, and text enhancement for people with low vision. For pricing and other information, the company can be reached in Waltham, Mass., at http://www.kurzweiledu.com
* GW Micro, whose product line includes the Sounding Board, a speech synthesizer that offers capitalization alert, format alert, fast forward, and rewind. The company is in Fort Wayne, Ind., at http://www.gwmicro.com
* Sarah Morley, who took the Pioneer of the Year Award for her work on Windows training materials for the blind and visually impaired. The material explains Windows 95 features and concepts from a non-visual point of view, and are available in print, diskette, Braille, and cassette formats. Information on Morley's materials can be obtained at the Export Department, Royal National Institute for the Blind in Peterborough, United Kingdom, or from Morley's Web site at http://www.winguide.co.uk
* Control Advancements, which puts out the VRM Virtual Reality Mouse, which gives users tactile feedback, allowing them to feel their way around a Windows 95 graphical user interface. The company can be reached in Kitchener, Ontario, at http://www.controladv.com.
* F.H. Papenmeier GmbH & Co., whose products include the Braillex 2D Screen, a display and accompanying keyboard that incorporates the use of the Braille raised-dot reading technique to let blind people "read" Windows and OS/2 interfaces. In Germany the company can be contacted in Schwerte; in the United States, contact Sighted Electronics Inc. at http://www.sighted.com
SAP America Inc., in Philadelphia, can be reached at http://www.sap.com Its parent company, SAP AG, in Walldorf, Germany, can be reached at http://www.sap-ag.de
What, you ask, is an article about fencing and ping-pong doing in a magazine for and about people who are blind? Those who attended the ACB of Maine convention learned that both of these sports are quite doable by those with little or no vision. Patty Sarchi and Gary McLaughlin, our convention planners, turned the one-day convention into a weekend of learning and fun. The Saturday session was filled with meetings designed to help all of us be creative. There was a session on journal writing, remarks by Andrew Potok, blind author of "Ordinary Daylight," and brief remarks by Nolan Crabb, representing the ACB. On Sunday, the last day of the convention, we played.
Anyone who has attended the Carroll Center in Newton, Mass., has been exposed to fencing for blind athletes. For most of us in Maine, though, this was an entirely new experience. Jod Bowles of Lewiston brought himself and a car full of equipment to the convention on Sunday. Jod is an excellent teacher and those of us who tried it had a blast.
It works like this: The lane in which the fencers must stay is delineated by a long strip of carpet which was laid out on the concrete of a courtyard at the convention center. Each fencer wears a protective jacket, a mask, and a glove on the hand which holds the sword or foil as it's called in the jargon of the sport. The foil has a rubber tip on the end of it and it is quite thin and flexible. The blade is square in shape and does not have a sharp edge at all. Once we had acquainted ourselves with the equipment and realized that we would be quite safe in this sport, we began.
The fencers face each other in the lane. It is desirable to turn sideways so that you present as small a target to your opponent as possible. The fencers begin with their foils crossed and each may ask to "take a measure" of the other. This means that each may run his or her blade down the blade of the opponent and actually go in for a touch without the opponent moving. This maneuver allows each fencer to orient themselves before beginning. Once measures have been taken the bout begins. One fencer is assigned right of way. This person asks the other if they are ready. When that person says "fence," the bout begins. The person who has been assigned right of way may advance and try to get a touch on his or her opponent. A touch occurs when one person touches the other with the tip of the blade in an on-target area. This area includes the upper body, excluding the head. The touch must be made with the tip of the blade, not the edge. In competition the equipment has sensors built into it; when the tip of the blade contacts a target area, the sensors buzz. We were fencing with dry equipment and so needed to call either "passe" or "touche" when an opponent lunged towards us.
Once we had been introduced to these rules we were ready to begin. Jod had us think of the foil as an extension of ourselves, much like the long cane. Since we only receive information from the cane when it is in contact with something, it soon became apparent that staying in contact with our opponent's foil was going to be crucial. I found that if I lost touch with my opponent's foil I felt a little lost. It was like walking down the sidewalk and suddenly finding the tip of my cane out in space. The exchange of right of way allowed for smooth advance and retreat by each fencer. I also found that the sport required great concentration. I had to concentrate on who had right of way at any given moment. I had to keep vigilant to my opponent disengaging the foil and coming at me from an unexpected angle. In this regard I find fencing as complete a recreation as any I've ever done. I completely lost myself in the sport. I also found the rules of engagement and the traditions of fencing very appealing.
Fencing, as we know it today, grew from the art of dueling as it was practiced in France. The opponents salute each other at the beginning and end of each bout and each person is on his or her honor to call touches made against them. It's also a physically demanding sport, as I learned from my sore muscles the next day.
While some of us fenced, others played an adapted game of ping-pong. I was introduced to this game while visiting friends in Michigan. It's played with a ball that looks just like a regular ping-pong ball but has little noise makers in it that sound whenever the ball moves. The table is adapted too. Across the back and most of the way up the sides of the table there is a backstop which sticks up about an inch. This prevents the ball from rolling off the table if a player misses it. Also along the sides of the table, for about a foot on either side of the net, there are little troughs to catch the ball should it roll off closer to the center. The net is either raised or removed.
In adapted ping-pong, we used regular ping-pong paddles, but swatted the ball rather than hit it into the air. The ball stays on the surface of the table at all times. Aside from that, the game is played much as it is played by sighted folks. If one person hits the ball and the other person misses it then it is the first person's point. If one player hits the ball into the trough up near the net that person forfeits a point. It was not especially difficult to adapt the table. One of our members, Jack Beveridge, made the adaptations on a table he had at home. The children especially enjoyed the ping-pong, but they certainly didn't have a monopoly on the fun.
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.
HELP FOR DISABLED IMMIGRANTS
The Immigration and Naturalization Service recently announced a joint program with the U.S. Public Health Service to provide more timely and consistent decisions for naturalization applicants with disabilities. The joint effort began in early August with pilot programs in Los Angeles, Miami and New York.
The holidays are just around the corner. Is there a disabled child in your life for whom you are having trouble finding the right thing? The National Lekotek Center has the following tips for buying toys for children with disabilities: multisensory appeal (does the toy respond with lights, sounds, or movement? does it have contrasting colors? does it have a scent? is there texture?); method of activation (will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? what is the force required to activate it? how many steps and how hard are they to do to activate the toy?); adjustability (does it have adjustable height, sound volume, speed, and level of difficulty?); opportunities for success (can play be open-ended with no definite right or wrong way? is it adaptable to the child's style, ability and pace?); child's individual characteristics (does the toy provide activities that reflect both developmental and chronological ages? does it reflect the child's interests?); self-expression (does it allow for creativity, uniqueness, and choice-making? will it give the child experience with a variety of media?); potential for interaction (will the child be an active participant during use? will the toy encourage social interaction with others?); safety and durability (is the toy and its parts sized appropriately? can it be washed and cleaned? is it moisture-resistant?); where the toy will be used (will it be easy to store? is there space in the home? can the toy be used in a variety of positions, such as side-lying or on a wheelchair tray?); and current popularity (is it a toy most any child would like? does it tie in with popular books, TV programs, movies, etc.?).
For more information, call the Lekotek Toy Resource Helpline toll-free at (800) 366-7529. Lekotek and Toys "R" Us recently released their 1998 guide to toys for disabled children.
The American Foundation for the Blind recently announced the recipients of its 1998 scholarships. They are: Nicholas Giudice of Minneapolis, Minn.; Nancy J. Lee of Tallahassee, Fla.; Amy Marie Shaw of Durham, N.C.; Frank Strong Jr. of Des Moines, Iowa; Dana Lei Patrick of Amarillo, Texas; Yudith Ramirez of Miami, Fla.; Juliana Lynn Raiche of Sterling, Va.; Julie Harding of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Steven A. Jones of Indianapolis, Ind.; S. Andrew Sundaram of St. Joseph, Mich.; Kyung Choi of Cambridge, Mass.; Susan Caputo of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Timothy Cordes of Eldridge, Iowa. Scholarships are available for blind or visually impaired individuals to support their post-secondary education. To receive a current scholarship application package, contact Julie Tucker at (212) 502-7661. Applications must be returned to AFB no later than April 30, 1999.
Also, AFB recently appointed Frances Mary D'Andrea as director of AFB Southeast in Atlanta, Ga. D'Andrea holds a bachelor's degree in special education for the visually impaired from the George Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University, and a master's degree in special education/vision impairments from Georgia State University. Since 1995 she has served as manager of AFB's National Literacy Program, and she continues to coordinate the National Braille Literacy Mentor Project. From 1987 through 1994, she served as an itinerant teacher of visually impaired students for the Fulton County Schools in Atlanta. Prior to that she was a teacher of visually impaired students at the Utah School for the Blind in Ogden and Salt Lake City.
The Voicespondence Club is an international organization in which members correspond with each other by cassette. It is open to all people, with special services to its blind members, including copies of its publications on tape. Its directory of members is available on tape, in braille, or in large print. Dues are $5 per year. Contact Gail Selfridge, 2373 S. York, Denver, CO 80210-5340.
Alcoholics Anonymous now has information available in large print and braille. For more information, or a catalog, write to the General Service Office, Attn: Special Needs, PO Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163; or visit the web site, http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org
NEW CALLER ID
Full Life Products recently released CIDney Model 500, a talking caller ID. It costs $39.99 plus shipping and handling. The unit will speak the incoming caller's telephone number between the first and second ring. If the caller's number is blocked or unidentifiable, the unit will say "number blocked" or "number unknown." It stores the last 10 calls and speaks them back to you on command. The unit is about the size of a deck of cards, and its voice has three volume settings as well as mute. Contact Full Life Products at PO Box 490, Mirror Lake, NH 03853; phone (800) 400-1540, or visit the web site, http://www.superproducts.com
Global Sounds '97, a CD of blind entertainers from around the United States, is now available! The project is a result of an internet contest of blind people from various listserves and contains country, folk, jazz, vaudeville, Cajun and much more. The CD costs $15; the cassette costs $9. This is a fund-raiser for the California Council of the Blind. For more information, or to order, call (510) 537-7877 between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific).
It's that time of year again! Speak to me products' fall/winter catalog is now available. It features a large variety of holiday gift ideas, from talking and singing Santas to musical angels and teddy bears. Electronic items include a talking VCR, 50-minute digital tape recorder, talking heart rate monitor, and a voice recognition phone. Pet items are also included, such as barking dog clock, meowing cat clock, music boxes and much more. Call (800) 248-9965 to receive your free catalog. Request it in print, on tape or an IBM-compatible disk.
The Jewish Guild for the Blind is offering a free poster describing four common vision disorders as part of its National Vision Awareness Campaign. The four-color poster, measuring 23 by 35 inches, illustrates how lines of print look to a person with normal vision and how that same print looks to someone who has macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts or glaucoma. People who suspect they may have one of the illustrated disorders are urged to call their eye doctor or the Guild. For a copy of the poster, write to the Public Relations Department, Jewish Guild for the Blind, 15 W. 65th St., New York, NY 10023 or call (212) 769-6237.
VOLUNTEERS OF YEAR
Calvin and Winnell Wooten of Anniston, Ala. were named the Robert C. Weaver Volunteers of the Year by the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind. This award is AIDB's highest recognition for excellence and achievement, and is presented to individuals who demonstrate their commitment to the institute's mission through a consistent spirit of volunteerism. The Wootens are members of the Alabama Council of the Blind and lifetime members of ACB.
Motorola recently introduced the LS950v voice pager/answering machine, which is 40 percent smaller than the previous model. This system is usable by those familiar with answering machines or voice mail systems, as well as first-time users of wireless technology. Callers simply dial the number and leave their message. The message then goes to the user's LS950v. The unit operates on a single AA battery, with lithium battery back-up (included), and has a dedicated on-off button. It will be available shortly for a suggested retail price of $160. For more information, check the web site, http://www.motorola.com/pagers
There are several new items available from BRL, Inc. that can help blind and visually impaired people master the PC and access the Internet. One is "A Verbal View of Windows." It's a tutorial that offers extensive verbal descriptions of Microsoft Windows 95/98 and the visual cues that appear on the computer screen. Topics are presented independently so you can learn them separately and at different times. This tutorial is available in print, large print, grade 2 braille and audio cassette. Its table of contents is available in print, on disk or via e-mail on request.
Another thing the company offers is a disk of "blind e-mail lists." It offers many online forums for the blind and explains how to join them. Also among the company's offerings are freeware and shareware disks; Windows key guides in braille; PC Braille, a braille translator for WordPerfect 5.1 documents; program documentation in braille; and directory of services and suppliers. For more information, call the company at (770) 716-9222.
E Z BAR
E Z Bar is a pen that plugs in with your computer keyboard and enables you to use a bar code on a food package to know what it is, and allows approximately four lines for you to describe its contents and enter some cooking instructions. Contact Carl Mickla at (732) 826-1917.
NEWS FROM OVERBROOK
The Nippon Foundation of Japan recently awarded the Overbrook School for the Blind a $1.6 million endowment grant. Through the Nippon International Blind and Visually Impaired Persons Leadership Program Fund, the foundation will support the Southeast Asian Network on Access Technology for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons (Project SEANAT) established by Overbrook. The project's goal is to assist in making new developments in access technology more widely available regionally to blind and visually impaired people, and by so doing improve their access to education and employment opportunities. Project SEANAT will begin its initiative in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.
Also, Overbrook was recently honored with two national awards for its technology program, called Overbrook 2001 (and its related staff development program). The program is a four-year project designed to outfit all students at the school with individualized technology systems designed to meet their specific needs. As part of the project, the school holds a summer workshop for staff and seminars throughout the school year to keep them on the cutting edge of technology software. Compaq Computer Corp., along with Scholastic Magazine, awarded a $10,000 Compaq Teacher Development Grant to Overbrook. The grant represents the Silver Award in Pilot Programs, which honors innovative programs, implemented on a limited scale, that deserve local or regional expansion based on good design and promising early results. In addition to this grant, the Pioneering Partners Foundation awarded the school a grant for three staff members to attend a summit in Cincinnati, Ohio during the summer.
Art of the Eye and Art of the Eye II, exhibits of art by visually impaired artists, sponsored by the Delta Gamma Foundation, are currently on tour. The schedule for Art of the Eye is: Nov. 1-29, Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville, Ark.; January 15-March 15, 1999, Omniplex, Oklahoma City, Okla.; Oct. 1-31, 1999, Chicago, Ill. Art of the Eye II will be at the Omniplex in Oklahoma City January-March 15, 1999; at the Dougherty Art Center, Austin, Texas, March 27-April 17, 1999; at the Triton Museum of Art in San Jose, Calif., May 3-June 18; at the One Seagate, Toledo, Ohio, Oct. 8-29, 1999; and at the York County Blind Center, York, Pa. Nov. 8-Dec. 9, 1999. Check these exhibits out!
NEW BECKY DOLL
Mattel recently introduced its school photographer Becky doll. This is the second Becky doll in the Barbie line, and the first time she has a career. Becky will be available at Toys "R" Us stores and at other retailers that sell Barbie dolls. Becky is also in a book, "Barbie, the New Counselor," published by Golden Books, where she works as a camp counselor with Barbie.
The American Council of the Blind currently has a committee on its roster known as the committee on aging and blindness and is chaired by me. Other committee members are John Sutton of Maryland, Betty Gayzagian of Massachusetts, Freddie Peaco of Washington, D.C., Paula Marshall of Louisiana and Roy Ward of Virginia.
It has become increasingly apparent that it is not enough to simply appoint a small committee to address the multifaceted issues of an exploding population in America today. This is a 50-plus age group experiencing new vision loss in later life. This is a burgeoning population which has not been recruited actively by the ACB.
The committee held a business meeting, open to all interested ACB members, at the annual convention in Orlando. The room overflowed with interested individuals who unanimously supported the making of an affiliate specifically organized for this unique membership.
The enthusiasm expressed at this meeting was very impressive. Concerns were expressed that so many who wish to become active advocates in their communities and on a national level are unable to connect with an appropriate group in the ACB organization. Therefore, a subcommittee was appointed to explore the requirements, means and strategies which would look to the creation of this new affiliate. Those people are Roy Ward of Virginia, Jean Sanders of Florida, Vera McClain of Alabama, and Al and Betty Gayzagian of Massachusetts.
The plan at this time is to schedule an organizing meeting, open to all potential members, to be held during the ACB mid-winter meeting, February 12-15, 1999 at the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel. We would select a name for the affiliate, pay dues, vote on a constitution and bylaws, and elect a provisional board of directors at this meeting. A charter request will be made to the ACB board of directors at that time. Dues will start at $10 per year; we hope to have a paid membership of at least 100.
All suggestions, input and responses from interested individuals are welcome. They should be directed to Teddie Remhild, 200 N. Gilbert St. #3, Anaheim, CA 92801; phone (714) 533-6051.
The need and the potential are out there. I am looking forward to launching a new affiliate with your support. I hope many can attend the launching in February 1999.
Suddenly the air crackled with electricity as we scurried along the veranda to the end room. The wind-whipped rain plastered our clothes to our bodies. "Have you got your key handy?" I asked my companion. "I cannot find it!" exclaimed my friend. Frantically I rummaged for mine, having no better luck. Finally my friend found the elusive key and we stumbled into a cold room. Judge, my big black teddy bear of a guide dog, shook furiously, fluffing out his long furry coat to dry. Turning the air conditioner off and a little heat on, I laid a wet blouse near the vents to dry.
And then it erupted. Relentless squawking blasts of noise assaulted my senses, rattling my eardrums, creating instant alarm. Had the storm caused a fire? Then my thoughts raced to the changed status of the air conditioner and I yelled as loud as I could, "Shut it off!" Shortly thereafter the horrifically piercing sound stopped. Boy, do those smoke detectors shatter and shred the silence.
In such a manner were we duly christened as first-timers at the 1998 ACB national convention in Orlando, Fla. But I am getting ahead of my story.
Arriving on Saturday, we found the gathering of first-timers both instructive and entertaining. Our group-sharing left a distinct cosmopolitan flavor that was enhanced as the week's activities were digested.
Sunday morning found us enjoying the Durward McDaniel First Timers Breakfast. I was delighted to meet and chat with George Burkman, the winner from the west side of the Mississippi River (Colorado to be exact). If you are legally blind and have never attended a national convention, you are eligible to apply when the call goes out in "The Braille Forum" to enter the First-Timers Contest. Two winners are chosen and their convention expenses paid. You could be one of them.
What an opportunity!
We braved the exhibits on Sunday afternoon until time for the chorus rehearsal. Later we purchased the catchy ACB original song by the Tennesseans that sings out from the heart of the ACB quilt. Great job! Getting back to the chorus, although it was somewhat chaotic and not particularly friendly to newcomers, the talent was beyond measure. Another practice session on Monday and we were ready to take our place in the Friends-In-Art Showcase Tuesday evening. And what a showcase it was! Spectacular from start to finish.
Sandwiched somewhere in time was our viewing of the described version of "The English Patient." However, in spite of good narration, we found it very difficult to follow. Too many flashbacks for us. Others were overheard pronouncing it "great."
Reunions were both staged and serendipitous. The appearance of Judge's Orlando-based puppy raiser sent him into spasms of joyous recognition. He also nudged noses with a look-alike who turned out to be his littermate, a sister named Jetty. What unexpected fun!
Attending our state caucus and the Candidates' Forum were most educational. It gave me an opportunity to pose a recurring question to the board of publications candidates. Have they considered choosing a new name for "The Braille Forum," one more representative of its readership? ACB keeps abreast of the changing panorama, consistently addressing it through resolutions, amendments, litigation and other means. Often I have wondered why the name has not been updated to include all readers. Wouldn't it be fair to take the pulse of the members in regard to this matter? Let us consider an all-inclusive name to signify and honor our evolving stature and strength as we envision great advances for the visually impaired in the coming century.
Throw in an endearing conversation with Jim Olsen, an exciting election, the wonderful banquet, plus untold canine/people connections and you have only a small portion of the pleasure I derived from this convention. Permanent pawprints and footprints have been left on my heart, but the greatest imprint came from the genuine outpouring of affection for retiring executive director Oral Miller. It truly was heartwarming.
Thank you, ACB, for my "I" opening experience of a lifetime.
First timer? You bet! Last timer? Not yet!!
FOR SALE: Optelec Spectrum 20/20 CCTV. Includes cover, extra bulb and the original boxes. Contact Patrick and Cindi Schmidt at (719) 266-0675 or via e-mail at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Braille printer, good condition. $1,000 or best offer. Disk drive for Versabraille, $100 or best offer. Braille Best Quick Cookbook, $25. Braille microwave cookbook, eight volumes for $30. Send braille letter to Eileen Wuest at 34 Kelly Ct., Lancaster, NY 14086.
FOR SALE: ASAW, never been used. Comes with print and cassette manuals. $200. Contact Marcia Harrison at (804) 354-9920.
FOR SALE: Perkins Brailler. Hardly used. May be used by one-handed user as well as a two-handed user. Call Dorothy Carothers at (714) 525-3675, or contact her nephew, Owen Daly, via e-mail at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Braille Blazer. Has October 1996 revision and service contract through December 1998. $1,000 or best offer. Contact Judi Cannon at (617) 479-7452 or via e-mail [email protected]
WANTED: Computer with speech. Contact Robert Bell at (304) 424-6919 or write him at P.O. Box 464, Parkersburg, WV 26101. Or if you have information on the whereabouts of any programs that receive donated computers and give them to blind people, let him know.
20330 NE 20TH CT.
MIAMI, FL 33179
FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
57 GRANDVIEW AVE.
WATERTOWN, MA 02172
SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
825 M ST., SUITE 216
LINCOLN, NE 68508
556 N. 80TH ST.
SEATTLE, WA 98103
906 N CHAMBLISS ST
ALEXANDRIA VA 22312
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
2118 NW 21st St.
Oklahoma City, OK 73107
ELIZABETH M. LENNON, Kalamazoo, MI