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, the word "convention" was left out of a sentence in "ACB's Life Membership Roll Grows to 100" (October 1998). The sentence should have read, "Arnold Auch, who incidentally has been a pillar of strength and leadership in ACB's South Dakota affiliate for over half a century, was presented with his life membership plaque at the Saturday banquet at the annual convention of the South Dakota Association of the Blind held at Pierre, S.D. on September 6, 1997."
Since this is the last report I will be making in my position as executive director of the American Council of the Blind, I want to begin by expressing my appreciation and gratitude for the wonderful cooperation and assistance I have received during my years of service with the American Council of the Blind as an affiliate president, as an ACB board member, as ACB's first convention coordinator, as the president of ACB, as the national representative and in recent years as the executive director. This service has been filled with countless inspiring, educational, challenging and satisfying experiences and during that time I have seen ACB mature from a vigorous but small and almost penniless council of chapters to the nation's largest, most effective and most respected organization of blind people. Although I will officially complete my employment with ACB on December 31, 1998, I am looking forward to continuing to work with the organization in my new capacity as a special consultant focusing on expanding and enhancing the value of sports and recreational opportunities for blind and visually impaired citizens in many different ways. In performing my duties I will, among other things, be publishing articles in "The Braille Forum" and other publications, monitoring recently enacted legislation and its regulatory and administrative implementation, helping to educate public entities concerning their obligations and recommending activities and programs of benefit and enjoyment to ACB members. I am looking forward also to becoming more active eventually in affiliate and other ACB business, in which it has not been possible for me to be active in recent years. Besides remaining active as a volunteer officer with several other organizations I hope to improve my computer and related skills (as time and resources permit and not to the point of technological dependence or addiction or at the expense of invaluable personal contact), to engage in both voluntary and professional advocacy on selected issues, to engage in both voluntary and professional consulting on non-profit organizational and programmatic matters, to pursue a more vigorous physical lifestyle, to devote more time to the type of international exchange activities that have increasingly brought the American Council of the Blind to the attention of the rest of the world in recent years and to devote more time to family and friends. Anyone wishing to contact me may write to me at the ACB national office, communicate with me via e-mail at [email protected] or call me at my home office number, (202) 363-8334.
ACB in transition
I am looking forward to working with my successor, Charles H. "Charlie" Crawford, over the next several weeks as he makes the enormous transition from that of a progressive state agency director to the executive director of a non-profit organization which is itself still transitioning from management and program implementation by volunteer officers, directors and committee members to that fine balance as required by the law and/or best business practices incorporating volunteers and a professional staff. Since Charlie as a state agency director has not been a member of ACB or a functionary in one of its affiliates, he initially will not be familiar with many of the customs, practices, expectations, and assumptions that are familiar to long-time active members, but he will bring with him to this position new energy, new ideas, new solutions and new questions. I encourage all members to give him time and space to learn all of the things that make up ACB and which, in some cases, are mixed blessings. Such things include practices that are introduced on a one-time basis and suddenly become expected forever thereafter and with ever and ever more demanding deadlines, a system that allows an unlimited number of convention resolutions to be adopted for implementation, a system of dues that collects only $3 from each member but nothing for members who swell the membership rolls of an affiliate to more than 625 people, or increasingly busy national convention schedules that require staff, board and members to be in more than one place at a time.
By the time this report is published each ACB affiliate should have received at least one copy of the recently completed informational video about the programs and services of the American Council of the Blind. This 11-minute-long video, which begins and ends with statements by ACB President Paul Edwards, focuses on the variety of services provided and the many activities in which blind people successfully participate every day as fully contributing members of the community. It will be extremely useful to all affiliates in educating the general public, prospective employers, government officials and possible sources of financial assistance. The continuous narration is done by nationally known radio and TV celebrity Ed Walker of Washington, D.C., and the rapidly changing visual shots feature such topics as legal and legislative advocacy, daily living, computer and other work skills, recreation and sports, family activity, transportation, ACB operations, public information resources, business enterprise employment and low vision accommodation, among others. Each affiliate will receive at least one copy in the customary VHS format for easy showing as well as at least one in professional beta format for delivery to selected television stations for public service announcement purposes.
International information exchange
As stated many times in this report over the years, the American Council of the Blind is contacted very often by various international exchange or similar programs needing information or assistance in connection with blindness and low vision. As we approach the holiday season it is especially appropriate to summarize the most recent such contact. More specifically, the Washington Foundation recently asked the staff for information and assistance in planning the Washington segment of a visit to the USA in late November by a group of 11 blind orphan students from a school for the blind in Russia. The foundation apparently knew very little about making arrangements for blind students and was extremely appreciative for the information and recommendations which our coordinators of affiliate and membership services and I gave to its staff. We also thank the other organizations in the Washington area which we recommended and which were very responsive in helping with the Washington stay.
Thanks for the memories
At this time I want to thank everyone again for the wonderful cooperation, assistance and friendship I have received during my years of volunteer and professional service with ACB. My sincere thanks go also to the many dedicated, hard-working, knowledgeable, capable, conscientious people who have served as members of the professional staff over the years. I am looking forward to my continued involvement with and service to the American Council of the Blind in the future. Allow me to conclude this report by wishing each of you my most sincere season's greetings and best wishes.
Oral Miller and Kicki Nordstrom stand together, taking a break from the convention. (All photos copyright 1998 by Ken Nichols.)
The head table toasts Oral Miller. Left to right: Pat Beattie, Kim Charlson, Brian Charlson, Cynthia Towers, Pam Shaw, Paul Edwards, Oral Miller, Roberta Douglas, Virginia Fouts and Charlie Crawford.
Humor me! It's been a long day and I am writing this message on my way home after a 12-hour work day. That isn't the reason I am asking for your indulgence, though. I was thinking about what I wanted to write about this month and I started to think about a whole host of issues and things and people and I got to the point where I became hung up just thinking about some individuals I have known and their situations. So I decided that perhaps at the turning of the year, during the season of thanking and giving, there might be a place for me to speak of them. If there are morals to be drawn, you can do that. I just want to talk about people I've known and who they were or are. Some of the people are nice and some are not. Most are sad and some are dead. Is there a purpose to all of this? Perhaps! Let us wait and see.
The names I will use are not the names of the actual people and I have changed circumstances a little lest I be accused of libel. Okay! Enough of that! Now here are some pictures!
Let us start with Christina. When I knew her she was 22. She was not beautiful but neither was she so unattractive that she was unlikely to find friends or love. She had completed two years of college and dropped out. She lived alone in an apartment, collected SSI and crystal animals, and, when I knew her, had just produced a very healthy baby girl. She was not married, had no boyfriend, and expressed no desire to go to work! Her ambition was to be a mother to her baby. "That's something I can do," she told me. "I've never been good with people and I have always been scared and my baby will love me. That's the important thing! I need somebody to love me!"
And then there was Janey. She was a diabetic and had lost her vision after a short but successful career. She was 25 and what she wanted to do more than anything else in the world was to live to the fullest. She threw all restraint to the wind and gave herself to whoever would have her, drank as often and as much as she could, and died a year later.
And there was Bobby. He had lived in an institution all his life and had learned braille and could get around fine within his surroundings. He was 36 when I knew him and I was young enough to believe that as a rehab teacher I could give Bobby the training and confidence he needed so he could leave that institution and get a job and have more friends and, in short, live up to the huge potential I saw in him. After my first few visits, the administration of the institution begged me not to come back. Bobby, who had been well-adjusted and comfortable, had suddenly started beating his head against the wall and acting out in ways that made him impossible to deal with. He is old now but I guess he's still there. Is he happy?
And there is John. He is the best chess player I ever met and has read more than many professors I know. He spends his days rocking and screams if you try to take his pillow away from him. He hums a lot and lives with his mother who is getting very old now. And, of course, he has never worked!
And there was Janice! She will haunt me for the rest of my life as she has for the last 30 years. Her story is a little longer so I hope you will bear with me. Janice was plain and an average student in the 10th grade at a small town public high school. She hated most subjects but loved choir. All she wanted to do was to sing a solo in the choir. That was her ambition. That was the goal toward which she built all her hopes. She fantasized, I think, of becoming a singing star. In the meantime she was alone a lot and wrote passionate fan letters to male rock stars. I was her VR counselor and I told her to go for it. "Ask your choir teacher about the solo," I told her. After all, she had been in choir for two years. Others in her class had been invited to sing solos. Why not Janice? Expect a little from your students, I told myself. Don't intercede for her! Let her do it herself!
I never saw Janice again! Piecing things together later, it was clear that she had done just what I had asked her to do. Her teacher, in front of a large portion of the choir, had burst out laughing and allegedly said something like: "Sing a solo! You can't even carry a tune! I've only kept you in this choir because you are blind and it's really time you found something else to do. So, after this semester, take something else. You just aren't good enough to be in the choir and I should have told you so long ago!" Janice killed herself that night. She left no note! She said no good-byes. For her, there was just no longer a reason to live. It was that simple.
One more picture! He is sixteen years old. He is bright but he can never do enough to please his alcoholic mother who makes it clear that all he has to look forward to is being taken care of by her. He will never work. No one can love him. After all, he is blind! He is standing on a sea wall. He has decided there is just no point to living any more. Just as he leaps toward sharp rocks below, someone grabs him off the wall. Eventually he ran away from home and survived. I will tell you his true name. It is Paul Edwards!
There are lots of other people I could write about. I have known people who have been beaten by fathers, raped by uncles, disparaged by counselors paid to help them, abused by teachers, or rejected by families and lovers. The cruelty we can inflict on each other knows no bounds, my friends! I won't depress you any more, though. You have known your share of blind people who you can add to my list. Judged by statistics, there are more on the list than I want to recognize! I want all of us to spare a thought for each of my pictures. They are part of who we are. They are brothers and sisters of ours. And, just perhaps, there is some of each of them in each of us. Let us not forget those who have been bent and shattered by the system we have vowed to make better. Let us spare a moment during this season to think of our list of pictures. They are the people our movement is all about!
Let us stop for a moment and give thanks for all we have and for all that we have done! I have heroes. Each of the people I have told you about in this message is a hero for me. I don't think about their failures. I think of their dreams and their courage and their strength! I may hate a system that put each of them where they were but I love all of them!
Reach out with me as winter comes and parties happen and touch some of the people on your list! That's what Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah are really about! The greatest present each of us has to give is a part of ourselves! We spend so much time thinking about ourselves and what we need! Instead, this holiday season, how about sharing a little of who you are and what you have to give with someone who needs you? I'll try! Will you?
Paul Edwards presents Nancy Scheigert with her life membership.
Come to Los Angeles for the 1999 convention of the American Council of the Blind. Don't miss this opportunity to visit the city that fluctuates from reality to a dream world and then back to reality again. Los Angeles is a place of rapid change, of new ideas where trends are established, put into practice, seen in movies or on TV and then move on east. Convertibles, short skirts, health food, in-line skates, and the internet were all born here. Los Angeles continues to send new ideas to market. Your participation in the 1999 convention with its wide variety of activities will allow you to experience the life and style that is Los Angeles.
The convention takes place Saturday, July 3 to Friday, July 9. Convention rates at the two hotels will be in effect two days before and two days after the above dates. The convention hotel is the Airport Westin located just minutes from the Los Angeles Airport at 5400 W. Century Blvd., phone (310) 216-5858. The overflow hotel is the Airport Marriott at 5855 W. Century Blvd., just four blocks from the Westin; phone (310) 641-5700. Both hotels provide free van transportation from and to the airport and will provide shuttle service between hotels. Rates at both hotels are $60 per night plus tax for the convention. However, at the Westin for the February meetings, rates are $65 per night plus tax.
The affiliate presidents' meeting in February will begin Saturday morning, February 13, and continue through Sunday noon, to be followed by the ACB board of directors meeting Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. The boards of several special-interest groups will also meet that weekend; presidents of groups meeting should promptly complete the form sent to them by Barbara Hayes and return it to the ACB national office. The reservation cut-off date for the February meetings is January 22, 1999.
As indicated last month, ACB's designated travel agency is now Prestige Travel of Suffern, N.Y., phone (800) 966-5050. When you call, ask for Chastity or Gina and indicate you are traveling for ACB. Through this travel service, special agreements have been established with American, Delta and United Airlines. Securing your flight tickets from these airlines through Prestige Travel will result in some free tickets for ACB to be used for convention business. You can, of course, call the airlines directly, but you won't always be assured of securing the lowest fares.
We are looking forward to a great convention in Los Angeles in 1999.
WASHINGTON Under the headline "The budget mess; Congress badly botched huge spending bill," the Worcester, Massachusetts "Sunday Telegram" writes, "Question: What weighs 40 pounds, is 16 inches thick and full of pork? Answer: The federal spending bill recently passed by Congress."
One newspaper reported that "The 40-pound, 4,000-page, $500 billion spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton contains more pork than a hog farm and will cost taxpayers billions of dollars in silly, unnecessary and wasteful programs."
By now, most readers of "The Braille Forum" have already learned that Congress has passed and the president has signed into law the biggest federal budget in American history. Most, however, are probably not aware of how much money was wasted and on what specific things the money was spent. Consider just a few examples of waste illustrated by the "Austin (Tx.) American-Statesman" which reported on October 22 that "The surprises included $750,000 for grasshopper research in Alaska, $250,000 for a lettuce geneticist in Salinas, Calif., and $1.1 million for manure handling and disposal in the Mississippi town of Starkville. Bee researchers in Baton Rouge, La., are to receive $300,000, and Maine researchers get $220,000 to study low-bush blueberries. Eight states will divide more than $5 million to research the uses of wood."
If that isn't enough, consider what the "Boston Herald" had to say on November 7: "... the corporate welfare part of the federal budget [is] $125 billion..."
The highly respected National Public Radio (NPR) reported in its broadcast of October 25 that wasteful military projects were added to the pork-laden bill. "The C-130 jet cargo plane program, that the Pentagon said it didn't want, [is] funded at $1 billion. The plane is made by Martin-Marietta, in Speaker Newt Gingrich's Georgia district, and it's to be stationed in Mississippi, Senator Trent Lott's state. The Pentagon also didn't want a machine called the all-terrain crane. It's made in Representative Bud Shuster's district in Pennsylvania." $8 million was appropriated for the unwanted crane.
Among the billions appropriated under the "emergency" heading was $18 billion for the International Monetary Fund. In an editorial published by "The Indianapolis News" on October 26, that paper challenged the efficacy of the billions of dollars appropriated in the new federal budget, writing, "Despite the claim that the $18 billion bailout was necessary to save the world economy, this money is not only an insult to American taxpayers, it is also an economic disaster, sending more signals that the United States is prepared to prop up every financially reckless government in the world, so long as U.S. banks own some of its debt."
Despite herculean lobbying efforts on the part of the American Council of the Blind and its friends in the disability community, the 105th Congress did not pass the Kennedy-Jeffords Work Incentives Act or restore the linkage between earnings limits imposed upon blind people drawing SSDI with those imposed upon seniors drawing Social Security retirement.
It's time for blind people to stand up and scream from the Hill top that "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!" We absolutely must not accept so-called "emergency" spending on such things as manure handling or lettuce research at a time when our fearless leaders in Congress and the White House tell us we can't afford to extend Medicare and SSDI benefits as work incentives to people with disabilities or restore the linkage on earnings limits between seniors and people with disabilities.
We ought to organize as many thousands of blind people as possible and stage a sit-in at the Capitol Building, each one of us with a copy of Sen. John McCain's 52 pages of "pork-barrel" spending to show the press and ask the questions, "What about us? Aren't we more important than cow manure or blueberry bushes? Shouldn't American tax dollars be spent to improve the lives of Americans rather than people living in Indonesia, Korea or Russia? Just whose country is this anyway?"
Since the very birth of the American Council of the Blind, we have held a strong and continuing tradition of support for categorical services from agencies accountable to us. Our conviction on this matter has been tested many times and ACB has always responded with a resolve that has consistently proven the value of our support as partners with agencies serving the blind.
This partnership is a two-way street. Not only must we be concerned with making sure that categorical services and resources are available to us, but we must also define what we mean when we use the term "partner."
What follows are a set of questions which I presented to state agency heads, written to assist them in determining the extent to which their agencies are consumer-friendly. It is printed here to help affiliates in thinking through the health of your relationship with your state agency. While not all the questions may result in yes answers, they help to set a framework of expectations that can be met as our partnerships work through any issues these questions may surface.
(Editor's note: These questions were presented as part of a panel in which Mr. Crawford, representing the American Council of the Blind, participated with state agency directors. The panel dealt with agency and consumer cooperation. His presentation was given at the meeting of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind in mid-November.)
* Does the state agency make its information available to consumers in a media which it can be read and used or preferably in the media of choice for those consumers?
* Is the agency hiring people who are blind and providing equal opportunities for upward mobility?
* Are all agency computer and other information systems accessible to and usable by blind employees and consumers as appropriate to their business needs?
* Are the offices of the state agency accessible to consumers both in terms of transportation and the built environment?
* Does the state agency require its counselors to engage in good faith negotiations with consumers as to mutual expectations within the context of consumer choice and responsibilities?
* Does the state agency insure that information about consumer organizations is available in a balanced and non-prejudicial environment? Is this information made available with sufficient frequency, in accessible media and without favoring one organization over others, so as to allow consumers to know about and make their own choices as to what to do with the information?
* Does the state agency share information on important topics such as budget and program development in sufficient time to allow consumers to properly assess and productively react to the information?
* Does the state agency avoid any actions which would have the effect of chilling the personal decision of employees to join any consumer organization of their choice and to conduct themselves accordingly outside the framework of agency business?
* Does the agency conduct its training and its business with other agencies involving the views of a balanced spectrum of consumer organizations?
* Does the state agency director and appropriate staff attend and participate in state meetings of consumer organizations?
* Does the state agency director and appropriate staff meet with the leadership of consumer organizations on a sufficiently frequent basis to maintain productive dialogue and input?
* Does the state agency support consumer initiatives including legislative activities?
* Does the state agency actually change anything as a result of consumer input?
* Does the state agency insure that it takes into account consumer needs for scheduled meetings at convenient times and places with appropriate supports to facilitate consumer participation? This includes issues such as evening and weekend meeting times and cost reimbursements as necessary and appropriate.
While there are other questions that could be asked, the above listing has been written to assist consumers and state agencies in thinking through the process of achieving that dynamic relationship which is necessary if the partnership of consumers and state agencies is to produce optimal results. Hence, negative responses to the above listing should be seen as red flags to promote remedial actions in order to avoid negative relations and the consequential risks they would engender to the viability of consumer support.
(Reprinted with permission from "Horizons," December 1998.)
Christmas/Kwanzaa/Chanukah. The winter holidays are upon us.
This is the time of year when able-bodied society learns that people with disabilities may have physical or mental impairments but their dollars are not disabled.
This is the time of year when we read Charles Dickens' memorable "A Christmas Carol." We can think about Tiny Tim and wonder how he would be faring at the end of the 20th century. As a mobility impaired child might he still have difficulty in the older stores or malls which were not fully accessible?
While wondering about old images in modern times, what about jolly old St. Nick himself? Is Santa Claus a person with a disability because of his size? Is he sufficiently obese to have an impairment under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as Cook v. Rhode Island holds?
What about the fact that Santa wears glasses sometimes? Should we consider that in determining if that makes him a vision impaired person under the law? Actually, most of the cases and EEOC say yes, we should.
But let us not examine Santa in isolation. He has a cast of multiple helpers and worksites.
Would there be steps or ramps up to all the department store Santas? Does the North Pole have to be accessible as a worksite for people with disabilities, even if it does pre-date all the accessibility laws? Wouldn't the elves, people whose height is impaired, who help out there need an accessible site? Frankly, it is difficult to conceive of a non-slip surface, which the access codes/guidelines require, at the North Pole.
Are Santa's reindeer considered to be on a conventional fixed route (a most extensive one) or on a route more akin to demand response (in reality, prayer response) paratransit for purposes of service evaluation? Consistent with the spirit of the United States Department of Transportation bus rules, Santa calls out all the stops as he travels from porch to porch.
Moving on from the traditional/mythical, let us also take a contemporaneous look at how we celebrate the winter holiday.
Churches, synagogues and temples of all faiths have made strides over the past several years to improve their accessibility. Groups, such as the National Organization on Disability, have helped spur this change. While more facilities are accessible, it is always best to plan ahead so that any additional temporary accommodations can be put in place. In Silver Spring, Md., the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have the best light show in town this month, gladly provides dignified assistance.
Let us not fail to recognize the commercial side of the holidays. We no longer shop in person exclusively. What about all the catalogs, such as REI and L.L. Bean, which come with TDD (telecommunication device for the deaf) numbers as well as regular telephone numbers? The larger catalog shops are open more than the mall shops. Catalog shopping is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so if you're stuck in an inaccessible place or situation you can still take care of a dear one.
Oftentimes we celebrate holidays by dining out. Invariably, the first words of the person serving you are, "Let me tell you about today's specials." Then the person recites what is new on the menu (and commonly reviews the regular items which are also available). This holiday ambiance which makes the occasion extra special is in reality no more than a reasonable accommodation for a person who is vision impaired.
The winter holidays are a time to step back and contemplate, to relax and enjoy. Chill is my kids' word. It is a time to step back and be appreciative of what you have and look forward to a new year. So let me, with the deepest sense of appreciation of each one of you, wish you dear readers the best of holidays and happiest of '99.
It's every blind or visually impaired person's nightmare. You arrive breathless at the bus stop only to find that the last bus of the day is gone. So there you are, perhaps in a not-so-safe area, in the dark, your cane or dog harness in one hand, and your other hand fumbling for the cell phone to call a friend, a cab, anything that will get you safely and quickly away from that useless bus stop.
This is when you curse the transit agency for not running buses longer; you curse yourself for not getting where you needed to be on time, and you curse your cell phone for forcing you to push so many buttons just to get a simple call through. For despite his good training, Rover's getting the least bit restless or perhaps the cane you awkwardly tucked under an arm so you could reach your cell phone is slipping, and now, struggling with the slipping cane or restless dog, you're punching in numbers like a fiend. You're so flustered you're having trouble even remembering the number. All the while, you're fantasizing about a simple phone that would let you place your call quickly and easily. Meet the SOS Phone, a sleek six-button cellular phone that is fraud-proof and designed specifically to help you make that quick emergency call.
What is an SOS Phone?
Unlike its cellular sisters, the ones advertised heavily on radio and TV, the SOS Phone won't offer paging services, it won't do voice mail, and no one can call you on it. It is a small phone designed to let you make a quick call to a family member or another number just to let someone know you're coming, you'll be late or to notify them of an emergency. Fully hearing aid compatible, the phone fits nicely into a suit jacket pocket, purse or small bag. It operates on the analog 800 mHz cellular frequencies, and it works in all 50 states. It only has three buttons for dialing, an on/off button, and two small buttons to increase or decrease the volume. There are no menus to mess with, and there's no complex visual display. While I'm no policy expert, I suspect this phone comes closer to meeting the accessibility requirements in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 than most phones. Best of all, SOS Communications, the phone's manufacturer, is working with ACB and other organizations to ensure that user's manuals are available in braille, large print, cassette, and computer disk.
"We're genuinely interested in making this phone and its accompanying manual as accessible to blind and visually impaired users as possible," says David McCann, president and CEO of SOS Communications. McCann, whose grandmother was blind, says he wanted to put his phones into the hands of blind users after he read a review of the Motorola Pocketalk pager in this magazine. "I read the story on your web page," he explained, "and I knew we had something to offer of real value."
McCann is right. SOS Communications sent a phone to me for review for a four-week period. I'm sold, both on the concept and on the product.
How It Works
When you buy and register the SOS Phone, you provide the company with a list of 10 phone numbers you'd call most often. When you need to make a call, you simply press the on/off button until you hear a dial tone. You then select one of three buttons to push. The top button will connect you with someone who can dial any number you specify. The middle button is currently used to connect you to a local towing service, but McCann says it could be programmed to connect you to your local cab company or paratransit organization. The third and final button connects you with your local 911 service. That's all there is to it. No dialing long numbers followed by Personal Identification Numbers, no Send key to push, just pick one of the three dial buttons and tap it once after you hear the dial tone. If you're not attracted to all the high-tech bells and whistles of typical cell phones or if you just want a phone you can use for a minute or so relatively infrequently, this could be a perfect match for you. The buttons are easily distinguishable and their different shapes make them easier to use. The on/off button is small and round; the volume-up and volume-down buttons are small and shaped like arrows pointing in the up and down direction. The 911 emergency button has tactile dots at each end to distinguish it from the others.
Placing a Call
With only three buttons to pick from, "dialing" is easy. Set the volume to a comfortable level and press the top oblong button. The top button will automatically place your call to the SOS calling center in San Diego. A well-trained operator comes on the line, calls you by name, and asks how your call should be directed. A connection might sound something like this:
You push the on/off button. When you hear the dial tone, you push the top call button. You hear a series of rings and numbers dialed in quick succession on your phone. A single beep sounds and an operator comes on line. "Good morning, Mr. Crabb, this is Lisa. How may I direct your call?"
"Good morning, could you connect this to my home number please?"
"Your call is being directed to your home, Mr. Crabb."
Almost immediately, my connection is completed, and I'm talking to someone at the house. A simple tap of the on/off button at the end of the conversation disconnects me, and I hear the dial tone again. I can tap the on/off button again to completely turn off the phone or tap the top button again to place another call.
The connection takes about 45 seconds to complete from the second I turn the phone on to the second it begins ringing at my desired connection point.
"We realize that blind people are perfectly capable of using some relatively complex equipment," McCann acknowledges. "But we believe there are those out there who don't want to mess with a lot of extra buttons. We're offering a basic phone that lets them push one of three buttons to get to an operator, a towing service or directly to 911 emergency services in their area."
Since all calls are routed through the service center, cell phone thieves won't get very far if they steal your phone. And since no one can call your phone, your costs are kept down and there's no danger of the kind of fraud that occurs with regular cell phones.
You aren't limited to your 10 phone numbers that you provided when you signed up for the service. You also provide a password to SOS when you sign up. If you want to call a number other than those on your hot list, you simply provide the operator with the password and the other number. Your call is put through immediately.
I initially had concerns about being dependent on an operator to put a number through for me. I'm sorry to admit this, but my concept of customer service people is cynical at best. The SOS Communications operators are obviously trained and trained again. I unerringly encountered top-flight professionalism and civility, even when it was 3 a.m. in California and I was calling from inside a subway car at 6 in Washington. My calls got through at 3 a.m. Pacific time as well as they did at any other time of day. The folks on the night shift are as well-trained as those on the day shift. They have to be. Targeted primarily toward sighted senior citizens, the SOS phone is designed as an emergency calling system, not a long chatty kind of service. As a result, McCann says the calling center takes in some 25,000 calls per month.
It's Not Perfect
While the SOS Phone may very well save your life or at least keep you in touch when the need is greatest, it has its drawbacks. The first one I noticed was the battery compartment design. If you're like me, you expect the flat end of a battery to rest against the little springs in the holder. I've rarely if ever seen a battery holder that allowed you to install the plus end, the one with the little nub or bump on it, against the springs. The first time I installed the four AA batteries that came with the phone, I got them in wrong. In fact, it took my 16-year-old daughter to get them in right. I hope future versions will have a more standard battery layout.
If you're blind, you can't tell whether the phone is getting a signal from the cell site. A "ready" light flashes for the benefit of sighted users, but you can't tell for sure until you dial out whether you're going to connect. You can get a dial tone and still not ultimately make a connection.
Additionally, the per-minute charges for use of this phone is priced to avoid long-distance and roaming fees. You'll pay $1.45 a minute rather high if you plan to use hundreds of minutes. If you pay annually, your monthly fee is about $8.25. You can pay $9.95 per month if you'd rather, and SOS Communications is happy to set up an account where your payment is taken directly from your bank if you prefer not to use a credit card. That's a good system if relying on volunteers to help you get the bills paid is sometimes a problem. This is a paperless way of getting the bill paid, and you can tell when dealing with your bank that the draft has been withdrawn. If money is an issue, you can even tell SOS Communications how much money you want to spend per month on use charges over and above the $9.95.
The Good News
The SOS Phone does give you an audible low battery indicator. You'll get about 60 minutes of talk time on the batteries. You also hear audible tones as you increase and decrease the volume. While they're not essential, they're helpful in getting the setting the way you want it.
The SOS Phone's ease of use means that the manual is small. It's small, but not scant or deficient. Written in a clear, concise style, it's obviously marketed toward non-technical people. Regardless of how you might fear technology, you'll feel quite comfortable with this phone quite quickly. The manual is easily understood and logically written.
The phone pumps out 600 milliwatts of power; that sounds more impressive than it is. That's about what you can expect from a unit its size. That means you'll encounter an occasional dead spot where the phone won't work. In the Washington area, I found remarkably few spots. SOS negotiates with a variety of cellular providers to ensure that you get coverage regardless of where you may travel in the United States. This phone does not allow you to make international calls. That's just another way to prevent phone fraud.
The Bottom Line
While I've enjoyed using this phone immensely, I personally would want one with some more high-tech ability. For most blind people who want an ultra-simple phone for safety, this is the best thing I have come across. For demanding business users like myself, it's too limited in functionality and I would lean to a general purpose cellular that would allow me to receive as well as make calls.
However, if you want a phone that works in emergency situations or that lets you make quick calls, I highly recommend the SOS Phone. The sound clarity is good, it feels good in your hand, and nothing on the market I've seen is as simple to use.
For more information about how to order an SOS Phone, call (800) 767-3141. The phones are currently available in Fred Meyer stores in the west and northwest. The phones cost $119.
I'm standing in the middle of High Street in downtown Columbus, Ohio. There are thousands of women all around me, waiting for the start of the Race for the Cure, an annual fund-raiser for breast cancer. The most important of these, to me, is standing at my left side, a bungee cord dangling from her right hand. She is my daughter, Kara, and it's her 26th birthday today, May 16, 1998.
The woman on the loudspeaker shouts, "All the six-minute mile runners to the front! All the walkers to the rear!" Because she is excited and happy to see so many people lined up to run in this annual race, she shouts, although her voice is amplified over the two-block-long staging area. "One minute to the start!" she yells.
Kara has found a spot for us to stand, somewhere in the middle of 3,000 women. We are far from six-minute milers, but we do want to run, not walk, so slipping into a spot about halfway between the beginning and the end of the mob seemed like a good idea. This would be our first race together, and Kara's first ever. "Did you ever think, 26 years ago today, that we'd be doing this?" she asks.
"Not in my wildest dreams," I say, but I am so proud of what she is about to do that I find it hard to speak. I'm a little nervous, and I know she is too. I fiddle with the other end of the bungee cord in my left hand. This would be the tether that would keep me on course. As a blind runner, I had learned that holding onto a short tether, the other end of which is held by the sighted companion runner, is the most effective way of guiding. I had considered wearing a badge saying "Visually Impaired," as I had heard other blind runners and blind skiers do, but I nixed the idea after Kara said, "I can see why you might do that, but it's just not you. Besides, I think it would be obvious that one of us is visually impaired if we're holding a tether." I had left Sherry, my Seeing Eye dog, at home. Crowds frighten her, and it might be dangerous for her, so Kara would be my guide, and the bungee would be my badge.
When I first mentioned this race to Kara and showed her the brochure, she read it thoroughly and thoughtfully. "This would be a nice thing to do on my birthday," she said. I didn't know if she was being sarcastic or not. After all, she had never run for three miles straight, and it would mean getting up before noon on a Saturday. Nonetheless, without further mention of it, I sent our registrations in, hopeful that she would really do this with me. I had run in two other races with a friend, but the thought of running with my daughter to fight breast cancer was more exciting than doing a hundred races with anybody else.
About two weeks before the event, Kara said, "I guess I'd better go out and practice running, since I've been forced into this." She smiled when she said "forced," so I knew that any reluctance was overshadowed by the challenge of doing something new and different. "I guess if I'm going to run with you, I'd better be able to keep up with you."
We did several training runs together at the track near our house and practiced keeping together with the bungee cord. "I'm going to like this," she said as she playfully jerked me from side to side and forward and backward. I was laughing so hard I couldn't run, and Sherry, who was along for the exercise, looked at us like we didn't have any sense.
"Don't make me laugh. I can't run and laugh at the same time," I said. It was then that I knew for sure that I was going to like this too.
"On your mark! Get set! Go!" the woman yells. I expect the crowd to rush forward, pushing us down the street like a huge conveyer belt of bodies. But no, we are standing still, not able to take even one step. Minutes pass, and still we wait for the hundreds of people ahead of us to get started. Finally, slowly, we begin to move. Our impatience mounts as we discover that we are trapped in the middle of the walkers, who apparently comprise most of the participants. "OK," we say to each other, "We'll walk for the cure." But we are both disappointed. We want to run. That's what we had trained for. Walking three miles for us is nothing, but running the distance would be a challenge. Then Kara takes on a new challenge, finding a way to pass the walkers in front of us and get ahead enough to start running. Soon we are darting first to the right and then to the left, weaving our way through and around the walkers. "I have to think of myself as two people wide, and find a hole big enough for us both," Kara says. I clutch her arm as we run a few steps in one direction and then suddenly change directions as Kara finds a hole and makes a break for it. At last there is a little space for running, so Kara says "tether." I drop my death grip on her arm and hold the hook of the bungee cord as we had practiced. With that one word, I've been signaled that the coast is clear, and I can go for it. We realize we've gone a mile, as we see the first water stop is just ahead. "Do you want to stop for water?"
"No," I say. "I'm afraid we'll lose our position and be overtaken by the walkers." Our first left turn takes us into German Village and cobblestone streets. "Pick up your toes," I warn. "You don't want to trip and lose our place." The crowd is thinning now and we pick up our pace. People are standing on the sides of the street, cheering us on. "This is easy," Kara says. "The hardest part was dodging everybody during the first mile. Next year, we're starting closer to the front."
"Next year!" I think. "We've gone from feeling forced into this, to looking forward to it, to planning for next year. This is great!" Now, we're having fun. We turn left onto 3rd Street, and I notice for the first time in my life that it goes uphill. We're proud of ourselves, because not only have we passed all the walkers, but we're now up with the runners, and even pass one now and then. We grin with our little personal victories. "We're up with the big kids now," I say.
We also choke back tears as Kara reads to me the signs on the backs of some of the runners, such as "In memory of my mother who died May 16, 1997." That's one year ago today. Others are running in celebration of friends and family who are survivors. I have several friends who are survivors of breast cancer, so next year I'll run in their honor.
We're on the last mile, and the bungee cord technique is working well. We're hot and thirsty, but we don't dare stop now. "Look!" somebody calls and points at us. "They're hooked together so they won't get separated."
"There's our first idiot," says Kara. She has a tendency to be a bit intolerant of those who aren't as observant about people with disabilities as she is. It happens again about two blocks later, but we just laugh and keep running. Then I hear a familiar voice shouting my name. It's my friend Eve, standing on the corner of 3rd and Rich. She has come down to cheer us on.
"Lookin' good! You're doing great, Mary!" The sound of Eve's encouragement was better than a drink of water. Now we're turning left onto Broad, and I know it won't be much longer. In a matter of minutes, we'll be heading left on High Street toward the finish. My mouth is full of cotton, and my legs feel like lead. Then I hear another familiar voice. It's my friend Tom, near the finish line on High Street, also cheering us on. He had run in the men's division earlier in the event. I wonder how he did. The woman yelling over the loudspeaker is urging us all to keep running to the finish.
Kara counts down as we head for the finish in front of the State House. "Fifty yards! Twenty yards! Ten feet!" And now we're there. We slow to a walk. Someone hands us a ribbon, and someone else hands us a bottle of water. We toast each other with our water bottles and begin to make our way back to the statehouse lawn where the awards ceremonies will be held.
We collect our free food, coupons, and gift certificates, and settle on the grass for one of the most moving and touching experiences we will have ever shared, not just as mother and daughter, but as two women. A breast cancer survivor is speaking now about her struggle out of the "valley of darkness and fear." As the mother of twin 6-year-old boys, she says that her goal was to walk them to their first day of school. She feels victorious, because she met that goal. We all applaud, but we want to cry. Some of us do. She also won the race in her division today. What a great day this is for her, for us all. Other survivors are recognized and applauded. We observe a moment of silence for those who are not with us today. Every one of us in this crowd today has been touched by cancer in some way. We each have our private sorrows and fears, but united in hope and prayer, maybe, just maybe, we've taken a step toward conquering this dreaded disease.
Kara says, "I'm glad we did this today." I am too. I'm grateful that we, as women, could participate in something that affects all women. We didn't win any trophies or prizes, but we are winners, because we did it, we did it together, and we'll do it again.
The bungee cord lies between us in the grass. Its work is done for the day, but its symbolism will stay with me to give me strength and courage. Connection is what it's all about, one child to her mother, one woman with another.
The career of a radio disc jockey is a very interesting one. It lets you get to know all kinds of people, most of whom you only meet by telephone.
I worked the late night shift as a deejay in Mexico City for almost 15 years. Often I took calls from people who had problems: troubled teenagers, runaways, kids on drugs, people contemplating suicide or divorce. These were lonely people confused, unhappy, frightened people wanting desperately to have someone to talk to, someone to confide in.
Of all these experiences, one stands out most in my mind. It involved a young lady named Jackie. Jackie was in her mid-20s. About a year earlier, she had been in an automobile accident and, as a result, had completely lost her sight. She felt cheated by life and angry with God.
I gently asked her what she had done since the accident. "Nothing, really," she admitted, just waited and hoped that somehow, some way, some miracle would bring back her sight.
I tried to reassure her that being blind wasn't the worst thing in the world that could happen. I suggested that she needed to prepare herself in the event that the miracle might never come, suggesting that she still could find purpose and meaning in life.
Her response was to lash out at me in anger. "How would you know what it's like to be blind?" she challenged.
I listened to her tirade with calm compassion, letting her vent all of her bitterness and anger and fear. And then I said quietly to her, "Yes, Jackie, I do know what it's like because, you see, I am also blind."
I was not prepared for her reaction. She became even more angry, shouting, "Why do you mock me? You are cruel! And you are a liar." With that, she slammed down the phone, without giving me a chance to respond.
I felt awful. Yes, I had told her the truth, but perhaps I should have waited, or told it to her differently. I had gambled that my revelation would shock her out of her state of self-pity. Instead, it had enraged her.
I slept very restlessly that night. Jackie's words kept coming back to me. "You are cruel!" Was I, in fact, truly insensitive to her anguish? I have lived with blindness all of my life and have accepted its inconveniences. Perhaps, because of this, I was not able to really understand or feel the deep fear and sense of helplessness and loss which she was experiencing.
The next night I waited and hoped and prayed that she would call back. About an hour into the program, her call came. She was calmer now. "Why did you tell me last night that you were blind?" she asked.
"Because I am," I said matter-of-factly.
"But but you can't be. You don't sound blind," she stammered.
"Well, you don't sound blind either," I replied. We both laughed.
"But how is it possible? How can you be working if you are blind?"
I explained to her that being blind did not mean being void of talent or ability. I told her there are blind people doing a lot of different jobs. Absence of sight does not necessarily mean absence of intelligence or talent.
She listened attentively, wanting to believe but still filled with doubt. We talked long that night. In fact, over the next several weeks she called every night. We talked at length about her fear of blindness and about those things she still could do without sight. A warm bond of trust was building between us. I felt tremendous satisfaction that apparently I was helping to make a difference, a positive difference, in Jackie's attitude and outlook on life.
And then, one night there it was, the promise of a miracle! Her uncle in California had written to her family and told them of a new medical procedure that perhaps, just perhaps, could restore Jackie's vision. She was to fly to California and enter the hospital to have the operation within a couple of weeks.
But now she was filled with a new sense of apprehension and fear. She didn't know if she should go through with it. What if it didn't work? What if she remained blind or worse?
She asked for my advice. I encouraged her to take the chance but not to count on it. If it worked, it would be a blessed gift from Heaven. If it didn't, it would be God's will, and she could still have a happy and productive life.
She seemed reassured. We discussed the operation a lot over the next several days. Finally, she decided to go ahead with it. She promised to call me as soon as she returned to let me know how it turned out.
The waiting was awful. What if something went wrong? What if there were complications? Here I was urging her to go through with this major operation about which I knew very little. Who was I anyway to be giving medical advice on so important a decision to someone I didn't even really know?
About three weeks later, I received her call. My heart leaped with excitement. "Jackie. How are you?" I tried to keep my voice calm, but the anticipation was killing me.
"I can see again," she said.
There were goose bumps all over my body. I wanted to cheer. I felt great joy for her and, at the same time, a tremendous sense of relief. Thank God! I thought to myself. "How wonderful for you, Jackie," I said. "I'm so very happy it all worked out." "Yes, I'm happy too," she said, "and I'd like the chance to tell you so in person."
I was certainly curious to meet this young woman whom I had known for over four months only by telephone. How would she behave now that we no longer had a common bond? We now were different she could see.
We agreed to meet the following day for a cup of coffee.
We met the next afternoon as planned. She told me about the operation and how excited and thrilled her family was over her regaining her sight. She was thrilled too, of course. Now she could get on with her life. Her blindness had been a dark and frightening interlude, like a bad dream, but now it was over. Her life had been healed.
Suddenly, somehow I felt we were now two strangers. The dramatic crisis of recent months which had brought us together was now past. The intense emotional bond which had existed between us melted away. She no longer needed my help, my support, my counsel.
We left the restaurant and stood quietly among the flower gardens along the Paseo de La Reforma. She told me that she was engaged now to be married. I wished her luck and happiness.
We said our good-byes with a silent embrace, and I knew somehow that this was a final farewell. I never heard from Jackie again. But it had been an extraordinary experience, a special opportunity which I had had to help another human being in time of need. It has remained one of the most cherished memories of my broadcasting career.
(Reprinted from "The Blind Californian.")
First impressions do count! As blind and visually impaired individuals, we must remember this fact. During the first few minutes of meeting a person in a social setting or an interview, the viewer is deciding, consciously or unconsciously, whether you will be listened to seriously since your personal image "sells" yourself. Your image consists of what and how you wear clothes, the manner in which you conduct yourself, and personal hygiene.
Why is personal image so important? Realistically we live in a competitive society and companies want employees who will positively promote the organization's image. According to Dr. Jean Rosenbaum, appearance, perhaps more than anything else, acts as a non-verbal cue to the recruiter. It tells a lot about you what externals you think are important, your role in life and perhaps even how you feel about yourself. Appearance is a visual symbol to others about who you are. In an interview, you want a recruiter to remember only the positive things about you.
An individual with little or no vision may find it harder to recognize and demonstrate a positive personal image than will a sighted peer, but the fact remains that individuals are first judged on their personal appearance. Guidance from sighted friends or family members is important. Think critically about the feedback you receive when you ask someone's opinion, conscious that the individual has your best interest in mind.
A fellow CCBer (let's call her Joan), who is totally blind, once told me that, when she was looking for her first job and receiving assistance from a sighted counselor, the counselor suggested that she wear sunglasses because of the unusual appearance of her eyes. The counselor had noticed that sighted folks had been distracted by her features and paid less attention to what she had to say. Joan was very uneasy about the idea, not being sure how her family would respond. The counselor went to the store with her to choose glasses that would complement her facial structure. When Joan arrived home, her family thought that the sunglasses were a great improvement. The idea had just never occurred to them because they were so accustomed to her appearance; they hadn't realized the impression it made on others and were delighted at the help their family member had been given.
Achieving a satisfactory solution to this problem had three aspects. First, a sighted individual explained how other sighted people responded in a non-verbal fashion to Joan. Understanding how people react in a situation of this kind can provide a key to what your personal image is saying to others. Secondly, the counselor had a constructive suggestion and provided assistance in carrying it out. This practical involvement in solving a problem is perhaps unusual but certainly effective. Thirdly, Joan asked for feedback from family and friends, thus gaining a broad perspective about how her image would be improved with others.
Sometimes friends who are totally blind have asked for my opinion on whether a blouse and skirt match or if a pair of earrings complement a particular dress. They also say that they have several sighted people from whom they regularly seek advice on their appearance.
If you are not sure whose opinion to trust, consider that in general conversations you can gain a feel for the people in your network of contacts who tend to "look nice," dress well and have the same kind of approach to life that you do. These will be the people from whom you seek suggestions. Among them you will be able to identify individuals who enjoy shopping and can assist you in the selection of items you need to purchase. You can start the process by asking a question like, "Can you help me? I'm trying to decide if this blouse and pants really go together. What do you think?" Don't, of course, use the same question repeatedly or direct questions to the same people if you are trying to assemble a group of friends you can rely on for both advice and practical help.
What are your personal image strengths and areas for improvement? Positive Impressions for Successful Interviewing (The Art of Wardrobe Planning and Selection) suggests the following tips for creating a positive personal image when interviewing:
* Be clean and neat.
* Breath: clean and fresh.
* Hair: clean and well-styled for the shape of your face; no scalp flakes on the shoulders. (Men should be aware of particular company policies regarding hair, beards and mustaches.)
* Hands: smooth, not rough to the touch.
* Nails: clean and well-shaped, not chewed. (Women should avoid chipped nail polish or nail lengths that might give the impression that they would interfere with work.)
* Perfume, cologne or aftershave should not be overpowering. A simple guide would be to put on half of the usual amount or none at all.
* Coordinate suit, shoes and socks/nylons.
* Shoes should be closed toe in good shape; cleaned and shined or polished.
* Plan ahead what clothing you will wear; try it on; sit down in it; check it out in front of a mirror or another person. Fit is important.
* Underclothing and butt cracks should never show, sitting or standing.
* Coordinate your outfit in line, color and balance. You want to be heard, not remembered for what you were wearing that was not appropriate.
* Accessories should be limited and have a business look that stay in place and do not jingle.
Dress for Men
Wear a suit, coat or jacket; a dark navy blue or charcoal gray solid or pinstripe tailored suit would be an excellent choice.
When interviewing, avoid large plaids and the color green.
A white or pale blue long-sleeve shirt is always good.
Avoid a shirt pocket of pens and pencils.
Wear a conservative tie, unless you have checked out the company and know that it is acceptable not to wear one. If in doubt, wear one. If you are not accustomed to wearing a tie, practice putting one on, tying it and just wearing it ahead of time. It will help you to be more comfortable during the interview.
Check pant length. When standing, pants should cover socks. Be sure pants do not cling to socks when sitting or standing.
Dress for Women
Tailored suit is the no. 1 choice for an interview.
Select a color that complements your skin and eyes a solid or pinstripe in navy blue, gray or black.
Shoe height should be comfortable to walk in. A pump type shoe presents a more conservative look.
When wearing a suit, dress or skirt, sit with legs and knees together or crossed for a professional appearance.
As you have noticed, conservative is better when establishing a professional image. Remember, when in doubt, be conservative. It is better to be a little more conservative than less compared to the interviewer.
While some of the suggestions are meant specifically for interview situations, many are good guidelines to follow on a daily basis. Discussion with others, personal shoppers, books and magazine articles can provide more definition for creating your best personal image. Good luck!
Here are some references you may wish to consult.
Employment Development Department, "Positive Impressions for Successful Interviewing (The Art of Wardrobe Planning and Selection)": Pamphlet available from Employment Development Department, State of California.
Rosenbaum, Jean, M.D. "Is Your Volkswagen a Sex Symbol?" New York, Hawthorne Publishers, 1972. (Check your public library.)
the South Dakota Association of the Blind held its annual convention in Rapid City October 9-11. The theme was "70 and Still Growing." Highlights included a walk-a-thon, pizza party, tour of the Black Hills Regional Eye Institute, record-setting auction, and a legislative luncheon attended by numerous federal and local candidates for government office. Alfred Ducharme, ACB's director of governmental affairs, was the keynote speaker; he updated SDAB on the year's legislative successes and failures. SDAB member Don Michlitsch accompanied Ducharme to a multi-state town meeting discussing Social Security privatization, where Ducharme was able to address the nationally televised meetings on camera, challenging the efficacy of replacing Social Security with privately financed accounts for the millions of Americans with disabilities who have no income to contribute.
SDAB now has co-presidents, Mark Krogstrand and Dawn Flewwellin. Three cheers to convention coordinator Doug Puetz for putting together an exceptional convention.
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.
CARVED ART PUZZLE
The Carved Art Puzzle was specifically designed for visually impaired people by Katchina Internationale Inc. of Quebec. The pieces are similar to regular puzzles, but have raised pictures instead of photographs. Shapes available include: decorative candle; eagle; tulip; butterfly; hummingbird; maple leaf; hot air balloon; lighthouse; and the Statue of Liberty. The candle and eagle each cost $6.59 Canadian; the tulip and butterfly, $15.59 Canadian each; and the hummingbird, $15.19 Canadian. The maple leaf, hot air balloon and lighthouse each cost $20.49 Canadian, and the Statue of Liberty, $33.99 Canadian. For more information about U.S. prices, call or write Katchina Internationale Inc., C.P. 84062 Gatineau, Quebec J8P 7R8, Canada; phone (819) 775-6181.
NIB HAS NEW CEO
James D. Gibbons has been appointed to the office of president and chief executive officer of National Industries for the Blind. This appointment took effect November 1.
Gibbons' previous post was president and CEO of AT&T CampusWide Access Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T. He integrated acquisition of that company into the AT&T college markets strategy, grew its customer base, and implemented innovative communications solutions. Gibbons attended the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, and received his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University. He was a gold and silver medalist in national competitions sponsored by the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes.
2ND ANNUAL SKI FEST
The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes and Challenge Aspen invite all visually impaired and blind skiers and their guides to the second annual blind ski fest and championship race. It will be held Feb. 6-13, 1999. All participants should be comfortable skiing easy blue runs and should either bring their own equipment or be prepared to rent from a local ski shop. Helmets are strongly recommended for skiing and are mandatory for racing. You should be prepared physically for the rigors of skiing. You are strongly encouraged to bring your own guide. If it is impossible for you to bring a guide, you must contact Challenge Aspen as soon as possible. The cost for participants is $295; for sighted guides, $150. This includes six days of lift tickets, small group instruction, race training clinics, video analysis, an event T-shirt, mid-day snack, meal discounts, a novice race and national championship races in the giant slalom and super G.
Lodging is available in two places: the Snowmass Inn ($139 plus tax per night for up to three people per room) and the Pokolodi Lodge ($150 plus tax per night for up to three people per room). A continental breakfast will be served at the Pokolodi Lodge for guests of both hotels, and is included in the room rate. For reservations, call the Snowmass Inn at (800) 635-3758 or the Pokolodi Lodge at (800) 666-4556. Indicate you are with the Challenge Aspen Blind Ski Fest. Rooms are subject to availability.
The schedule is: Feb. 6, arrival and registration; Feb. 7-12, on-snow instruction; Feb. 9-10, giant slalom and Super G races; Feb. 11, novice race. Clinics will be offered in the mornings, leaving afternoons open to free skiing and working on new skills. Those who are not racing will have on-snow instruction on race days. For more information, or to request an application, contact Brian Santos at the Challenge Aspen Office, (970) 923-0578, or visit the web site, http://www.challengeaspen.com
National Exhibits by Blind Artists is seeking artwork by legally blind artists for its 25th anniversary exhibit. This is a juried show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and it will be held sometime in fall 1999. Slides of your work are due by January 21. Send them to NEBA, 919 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107, or call for prospective, (800) 222-1754 Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern.
The Braille Revival League has produced the 1999 version of its Braille Literacy Month Packet. It contains numerous resources, including information on the history of braille, recommendations for possible braille literacy projects, a sample proclamation, newly designed braille literacy posters, information on the Braille Revival League, a bibliography of books about Louis Braille, a public service announcement, an internet resource list on braille-related web sites and e-mail lists, and more. If you or your organization would be interested in a packet, send a check for $5 to cover the costs of production and mailing to the Braille Revival League, Attn: Kim Charlson, 57 Grandview Ave., Watertown, MA 02472-1634; phone (617) 926-9198, or e-mail [email protected]
Congress recently passed legislation that amended the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (S. 2119), which included the entire package of disability sport provisions endorsed by the United States Disabled Sports Team. These amendments accomplish three objectives: (1) provide that athletes with disabilities are "amateur athletes" under the act and, as a result, are entitled to the rights and opportunities set forth for all athletes under the act; (2) recognize that the U.S. Olympic Committee is the national Paralympic committee for the United States and responsible for the development of U.S. participation in the Paralympic movement, including preparing the team for the quadrennial Paralympic Games; and (3) provide that the USOC must designate either an Olympic National Governing Body, where feasible and appropriate, or a Paralympic Sport Organization to govern and develop each sport on the program of the Paralympic Games.
Worldwide Marketing Enterprises is a new mail-order catalog company that sells gifts, novelties, collectibles, Beanie Babies, jewelry, spun glass, musical sculptures, fragrances, figurines, dolls, personal protection alarms, household items, and much more. One of its newest products is "The Stacker," which allows you to microwave two plates at the same time. It is dishwasher and microwave safe, locks in place when in use and folds to store in a drawer. It costs $14.95 (including shipping). The other new item is called "Headbandz," a product that allows you to listen to your portable radio, cassette or CD player while keeping your ears warm. It is made of fleece with built-in earphones (which can be adjusted, and removed to wash the headband). It comes in black, red, yellow, green and blue, and costs $29.95 (including shipping). You may order these items, or request a catalog on cassette, 3.5-inch disk or via e-mail, by contacting Worldwide Marketing, PO Box 51166, Kalamazoo, MI 49005-1166; phone (616) 344-8177; or e-mail [email protected]
5 NEW VP'S
The National Organization on Disability elected five key staff people as vice presidents of the organization. They are: Charles Dey, Vice President and Director, Start on Success Student Internship Program; James Dickson, Vice President and Director, Community Partnership Program; Mary E. Dolan, Vice President, Communications and Special Projects; Jennifer Sheehy, Vice President, CEO Council; and Ginny Thornburgh, Vice President and Director, Religion and Disability Program.
The winner of the 1998 Robert B. Irwin Award is ACB's immediate past president, LeRoy F. Saunders. It was presented to him by Carl R. Augusto, president of the American Foundation for the Blind, on October 20. In presenting the award, Augusto said, "Recipients of the R.B. Irwin Award are the backbone and heart of our business and they have made our movement what it is today. ... LeRoy has done so much in so many different capacities for blind and visually impaired people. In 1951 he started his career as a direct labor employee ... During his illustrious career, LeRoy became a role model as a volunteer and a national leader, as well as a paid staff leader. With the General Council of Industries for the Blind, he was regional representative, secretary, and eventually the president in 1980. ... He is past president and life member of the American Council of the Blind. During his presidency of ACB, he was an outstanding president, guiding that organization to increasing prominence in our field, and the relationship between ACB and other major national organizations of and for the blind reached new heights. I can attest to that personally, as the ACB and AFB relationship strengthened during LeRoy's presidency. He was a key element in bringing all the organizations of and for the blind closer together in the early '90s closer together than ever before. ... I know of no one individual in the history of our movement who has had the breadth of experience that LeRoy has had. He has done this with passion, humility, diplomacy, grace, and a special caring for blind people and an unwavering belief in their capacities. ... it is a great pleasure and privilege to present the 1998 R.B. Irwin Award to LeRoy F. Saunders."
Goodkin Border & Associates is offering a new computer speech package. It includes JAWS for Windows 3.2 with Eloquence speech synthesizer installed in a PC with 300 megahertz processor, 64 megabytes RAM, 4.3 gigabyte hard drive, 36X CD-ROM drive, 8 megabyte video card, 56K fax modem, sound card, 1.44 megabyte floppy drive, mouse, Windows 98, mid-height tower case and a 15-inch SVGA color monitor. It comes with a three-year manufacturer's warranty and can be shipped anywhere. The company accepts Visa, MasterCard and Discover. For more information, or to order, call Elizabeth Hopp at Goodkin Border & Associates, (800) 759-6275 extension 28.
No, it isn't the cartoon character being chased by Wile E. Coyote. The Road Runner is a tiny text-reading device that lets you store up to 3,000 pages of text in files for reading on the go. The unit is a little smaller than an audio cassette and has a telephone style keypad for control. It will let you store several complete books as well as other shorter documents. While reading, you are able to adjust the volume, rate and voice; and the device will remember where you left off in each document and return you to it automatically. It also permits up to 10 independent bookmarks per document and provides searching capability and a sleep timer. To use it, you need a PC computer to transfer the text to the Road Runner. Road Runner comes with headphones, two AA batteries, a nine-pin serial cable and a taped instruction guide. It costs $349 plus shipping. For more information, contact ShrinkWrap Computer Products at (703) 620-4642 or toll-free (800) 377-0774.
MERGER IN MASS.
The Vision Foundation has merged with the Massachusetts Association for the Blind's Community Services Department. This new division of the association will be called Vision Community Services, and have an expanded presence in service delivery in the state. The two groups have been discussing the possibility and collaborating on services to older state residents with vision impairments. For more information, call (617) 738-5110, or visit the web site, http://www.mablind.org Massachusetts residents may call toll-free (800) 682-9200.
US West now makes phone bills available to its customers in braille. If you would like your phone bill in braille, or for more information, call (800) 223-3131.
The Pennsylvania Conference for Service Providers in the Field of Visual Impairment will be held April 28-30, 1999 at the Holiday Inn-Hershey-Grantville, Grantville, Pa. The theme is "Collaboration: A Vision for the Future." For reservations, call (717) 469-0661. For more information, call Vince McVeigh at (610) 543-9911.
APH JOINS NLS
The American Printing House for the Blind recently joined in a cooperative agreement with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to work on the revision and ongoing maintenance of the National Literary Braille Competency Test. NLS has been administering this test for braille teachers since May 1994. It is currently being revised as part of a validation study conducted by Human Research Resources Organization of Alexandria, Va. During the next two years, APH will participate with NLS in organizing two committees to facilitate the revision process and to manage and maintain the testing program over time. The Administrative Issues Committee will oversee administration of the test and recommend policies and procedures associated with it; the Test Development Committee will develop and maintain the test (e.g., introduce new test forms as needed). The administrative committee will have members from ACB, AER and NFB; the development committee will include a representative group of teachers. The American Printing House will produce the print and braille test materials.
The Washington State School for the Blind will be holding its former students' convention June 11-13, 1999. Over the years, the school has lost track of former students who have relocated. If you want to help celebrate the last former students' convention of the 20th century, write or call Catherine (Fitzgerald) Golding, 2079 Lakemoor Dr. SW, Olympia, WA 98512, phone (360) 943-5159, or Tina Corey, 1329 X St., Vancouver, WA 98661, phone (360) 693-8532.
TRIANGLE BRAILLE SERVICES
Triangle Braille Services produces lesbian and gay literature in braille for purchase at affordable prices. The company's first catalog includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry not otherwise available in alternate media. For more information, or to request a free catalog in braille, on disk or via e-mail, contact Triangle Braille Services at PO Box 50606, Minneapolis, MN 55405; phone (612) 822-0549, or e-mail [email protected]
TWO NEW PRODUCTS
Lengua-Learn Communications recently released two new products. "Dynamic Communication: Seven Principles for Getting Your Point Across" is a two-cassette audio course which will help you improve your verbal and written communication skills. It features music, sound effects and interactive exercises for motivation and education. The basic course costs $20 and comes on two tapes. You may also ask about the correspondence course and on-site interactive workshops.
"The Teacher's Aid: A Comprehensive Handbook for Blind Teachers," written by Mary Carla Hayes, is available on four half-speed tapes for $35. It was written for blind students considering a teaching career, teachers who are losing or have lost their sight and wish to continue teaching, and blind teachers who would like to sharpen their skills. The book is tone-indexed and contains a resource list for blind teachers with more than 80 listings.
To order either of these, make your checks payable to M.C. Hayes and send them to Lengua-Learn Communications, 230 Robinhood Ln., McMurray, PA 15317. For more information, contact Carla Hayes at (724) 941-8184.
Wouldn't you think that on Christmas Eve, that night of all nights, everybody, absolutely everybody would be bubbling over with good will, love and understanding? That's what I thought as my wife and I hurried into our small church one minute past 11 p.m. for the candlelight service.
As we hurried through the narthex, the ushers handed each of us a candle and one of those cardboard rings with the hole in the center to catch the wax drippings. Our small choir was going to sit in the front two pews on the left, so I squeezed into the second pew beside Marty, and my wife went back several pews.
After five minutes we eight songsters marched to the front and did our best on "O Holy Night." Twenty minutes later, the pastor said, "We will now move into the candlelight part of our service." I remembered last year.
Last year the ushers had come down the aisle and given candles to all of us. Then they came again and lit the candle of each person sitting on the aisle. I held my candle tilted for safe lighting. I felt an usher go by and soon smelled the delightful odor of burning candles. I turned to my wife and whispered, "Did he light your candle?" "Yes," she replied. So, the scoundrel had decided that blind people were not to be trusted with fire. I was furious. I laid the candle on the pew, folded my arms deliberately across my chest, clamped my lips shut and made not a sound during the singing of "Silent Night." If God was going to let this sort of thing happen to me, then I would not be a hypocrite and pretend I was joyful. I smiled and greeted people as we went out but I didn't say what I really felt. I was pretty sure who the usher was who had not lit my candle. I should call him and give him the benefit of my anger. I just sulked the rest of the evening. This year would be different.
When the pastor made the announcement, I took my candle from my inside coat pocket and held it and the ring discreetly in my lap. I did not want to be awkwardly conspicuous by holding it up too high and too soon. I assumed that shortly the usher would whisper, "I'm ready to light your candle." Within a minute, the aroma of candles was filling the church and mine was still in my lap. Left out again. Scrooge was right: bah humbug, hypocrites.
I jammed the candle and ring back into my pocket and did not leave it at the back of the church as expected. I took it home, broke it into four pieces, and hurled it into the wastebasket. After seething for half an hour, I mentioned it to my wife. In her usual imperturbable manner she smiled, said "Oh" and went on reading and drinking coffee.
I was not in a mood for sleep. Maybe I'd stop going to church. Certainly I'd never go to another candlelight service. I would find out who the usher was, call him up, and read him the riot act. I wanted revenge. I might write to the White House and find out who was in charge of enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act. Then I would hire a ruthless heathen lawyer and sue the church for $50,000, and I'd give my share of the winnings to the atheists or agnostics or communists. That would teach them.
By the next morning I had calmed down a little. I like to think of myself as a person who is rational and acts on facts. All right, I'd be generous and just ask for an explanation. Marty was a straightforward person. I'd call her and ask if she could explain. She said, "Oh, I didn't see you had a candle, so when the usher came along I just reached across you and let him light mine and then passed it on. Sorry."
Disgusting. Nobody to blame but me. I had been too discreet and sort of hid my candle under a bushel. At least I hadn't growled at anybody, so no need to apologize. If somebody "up there" heard my thoughts, mea culpa. Next year I'll go again, and this time I WILL get my candle lit.
FOR SALE: Large-cell Perkins brailler. Comes with dust cover and wooden eraser. Asking $500. Money orders only. Write in large print or on tape (making sure to spell out your name and address) to Melissa Zeoli at 211 Scituate Vista Dr., Cranston, R.I. 02920.
FOR SALE: Used Perkins brailler. Excellent condition. $250 or best offer. Call Doug at (605) 348-5064.
FOR SALE: Artic Express with external speaker. $50. Call Jeff at (612) 869-7410 or e-mail him at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Perkins brailler. $250. Call Dick Jones at (703) 671-2220.
FOR SALE: Mynahs. One never used; the other, used only for demonstrations. $1,000 each. Sony 105 reel-to-reel tape recorder, $145. IBM Screen Reader for OS/2, $75. Index Basic braille printers (2), used to print less than 10 pages, $2,200 each. Thiel braille printer, $12,000. The Thiel is a high production machine that prints in several languages and prints 120 characters per second. Sony PCMF1 pulse code modulator for use in recording audio onto video tapes. Includes 3 NP1 rechargeable batteries and road case, $1,000 or best offer (does not include shipping). All prices, unless otherwise indicated, include shipping within the United States. Contact Jill via e-mail at [email protected] or call (215) 487-0347 before 10 p.m. Eastern.
FOR SALE: Aladdin CCTV. Two years old, still under warranty. $800 or best offer. Contact B.J. Keith at (703) 528-4455, or e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: CIDney 500 talking caller ID. Holds up to 10 calls. Comes with phone jack and 3 AAA batteries. $100. Call Candice Stepan at (409) 569-8380.
FOR SALE: Disk drive for Braille 'n Speak. Comes with charger and serial cable. $300. Brailler, $300. Call (510) 412-0791 and ask for Rosemir, or write to 2444 Rt. 20, Apt. #C-103, San Paulo, CA 94806. Delivery will be COD.
FOR SALE: Used TeleSensory and Xerox CCTVs. All have been checked out and are functionally sound. Voyager XL with 20-inch black-and-white monitor, $1,000. Vantage CCTV with 14-inch black-and-white monitor, $900. Outlook CCTV with 14-inch black-and-white monitor, $800. Call Diane at (770) 425-7455.
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak. Latest revision. Under extended warranty. $600 or best offer. Contact Margie Donovan via e-mail at [email protected]
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 (803) 256-3903 or via e-mail at [email protected]
FOR DONATION: Two Sony 105 open-reel four-track tape recorders, as is, you donate $25 per machine to the ACB national office. Shipped free matter. Add $20 per machine if you want them shipped by other means. Call the ACB national office with any questions. Shipment occurs after we receive your check. Call first to ensure availability.
FREE TO GOOD HOME: APH four-track tape recorder/player. Motor mounting broken. Good for parts. Contact Mark Dubnick at (301) 963-0294 and leave a message. No collect calls please.
WANTED: Accessible pedometer, electronic or tactile. Contact Al Ducharme at the ACB national office, (800) 424-8666 or at home (703) 812-9653, or e-mail [email protected]
WANTED: Timex Speak-Easy talking alarm clock. Electric with battery backup. Dual alarm. E-mail Rod Patik at [email protected] or call (303) 370-0049. No collect calls.
WANTED: Donated or reduced price Kurzweil to replace older machine. Contact Bob Groff, 487 PC Circle, Quitman, AR 72131; phone (501) 589-2886.
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