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Anyone wishing to remember the American Council of the Blind in his/her Last Will and Testament may do so by including a special paragraph for that purpose. If your wishes are complex, you may contact the ACB National Office.
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I have talked a lot in previous messages about many of the issues that I want to raise here. But I think this is the first time I will be putting them together and attempting to suggest some consequences and solutions. This message will be fuller than usual of broad generalizations that individual cases will seem to refute. I make no apology for the broad strokes of this message and hope that all of those who read it will look beyond the many success stories that you can point at to the entrenched realities I try to describe.
I have repeatedly spoken about the degree to which special education as it is practiced in public schools appears to be creating students who are socially and vocationally ill-prepared. I have also, I think, spoken of the pressure that VR is under to achieve quick closures. I have also spoken of the emergence of several new varieties of job placement programs which have a tenuous connection, at best, with vocational rehabilitation, to which blind people have little or no access. Each of these issues is serious and by itself would be cause for concern. When you put them all together, the situation is horrendous and is perhaps getting worse.
Consider a hypothetical young person. Jane has graduated from high school and has not worked. She has not participated in extracurricular activities and has just managed to get through with good enough grades to receive a regular diploma. She has had few blindness-specific training opportunities even though there are sufficient numbers of vision teachers in her district. This is because they have been so preoccupied with making sure she gets all the testing and materials she needs that they have simply not had the time to do training in daily living skills and/or mobility that she truly needs. The school district she is in is very into total inclusion, so there is real pressure for her not to leave her mainstream classroom. Some periods she has had an aide but the success of the teacher's aide has been variable and has often made her more rather than less dependent. She has had very little training in access technology partly because her vision teacher is not good at using it and partly because the school is unprepared to acquire the technology she needs. She really doesn't like school much and decides that she wants to go to work but has no idea of what she wants to do. VR persuades her to take the first job that comes along even though she is not sure that is what she wants to do for the rest of her life. Not surprisingly, she does not keep the job. She doesn't keep the next two or three she gets either and she is, by that time, convinced that she is pretty hopeless. Maybe she had better just accept the fact that she isn't very smart or very capable and be grateful that she can still live at home with Mother and Dad and collect SSI. That's what her parents had expected so it's not much of a surprise to them. Jane is just one more of the 70 percent of blind people who are not being placed permanently. She is just one more blind person sent into the world unready who is eaten up by it and spit back onto the welfare heap where she belongs. She has lived up to all the expectations that society has for her and will spend the rest of her life convinced of her incapacity and unfitness. What a shame! What an unconscionable outcome that is!
Her story may be a little overstated and she may have more options than I have described but, more and more, the school systems of this country are producing young people like Jane and parents are having the stereotypes they have not learned to distrust reinforced by results. It isn't enough for us to tell parents that their kids are capable. We have to recognize that there is a need for systemic change and make that change happen. As long as mainstream classroom teachers have little or no training in dealing with blind children, they will expect vision teachers to do their jobs for them. As long as schools and school systems focus on graduation rates and college entrants as measures of their success, we will not build an education that creates well-rounded, life-ready students who are blind. School systems are recognizing that they have to train all students to be work-ready but most of the time schools don't have the knowledge or the interest to assure that disabled kids are included in the vocational programs that are becoming more and more inherent to school curricula. Most of their sighted peers have already been working for a year or two by the time they graduate. Most blind students don't even participate in work experience.
There are some agencies for the blind that are doing a good job of recognizing the problems and of intervening. Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington are states I am familiar with where good things are happening to kids while they are still in school and Texas has some excellent programs also. The norm is far less good and no one seems very interested in looking at the root of the problem. When you talk with counselors at blindness agencies, they will readily agree that the kids who are graduating from high school aren't ready for life. But what are they doing about it? Not much. We as consumers know that the school system is not providing the kind of services that are likely to produce well-rounded young blind adults. What are we doing about it? We know that parents are often bullied by the school system and are seldom able to know just how often the school system is taking the easy way out and not expecting enough from their disabled children. What are we doing to help them?
I have heard recently of two congenitally blind students who have just completed master's degree programs who are not functional braille users. Whose fault is this? How could any of those responsible let it happen? The future of blind people is what I am talking about here so please don't shake your heads and say it doesn't concern us! And, before you ask, this is just the beginning of the story. Far too often VR is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Obviously, if what I have said earlier in this message is right, part of VR's problem is that many of those who they must serve are not prepared for work. Relatively low pay for counselors leads to fairly high turnover rates. As suggested earlier, the emphasis on successful employment closures tends to encourage short-term services from which many blind clients do not benefit. Like education, rehabilitation is confused by the range of philosophical variables that adhere to its practice. It is threatened as much by those who would regard it as irrelevant and by those who would argue that it is flawed because it is not administered by disabled independent living proponents. It pays lip service to consumer choice but seldom makes real choice an option. "Choice" too is a flawed concept because it is all too often used by agencies and consumers alike to promote their own agendas. Choice is almost never understood to be informed choice.
So, then, we have parents who often don't believe in the ability of their own children. We have an educational system that may produce academically competent young adults who are blind but which usually makes little progress toward making them ready for life. We have a rehabilitation system which is under siege from many quarters and which has come to doubt its own ability to do what it has been charged to do. It must seek to deal with all the problems that education has conveniently not solved and must place clients as quickly as possible.
This is not a pretty picture. How do we begin to deal with the mammoth task of changing it for the better? First, it is time we recognize that the problems are real and pervasive. Second, we as informed consumers must begin to impact all these areas and force them to take a hard look at what they are doing and how they can do it better. Third, we must suggest some new paradigms that will begin to get at the root causes of the failure.
Just as education systems are recognizing that their non-disabled students are not prepared for the world of work and are modifying their curricula, so we must assure that blind children are able to fully participate in the changing educational climate. We must insist that individualized educational plans include the blindness-specific training young people so desperately need. More important, we must hold school systems' feet to the fire and monitor the effectiveness of these plans. It is the classroom teacher's job to teach students who are blind, just as it is his or her job to teach other children in his or her class. Training on how to deal with blind children in class must become an inherent part of teacher training and should be a part of every teacher certification exam.
We must work to assure that vocational rehabilitation in specialized agencies is protected from the encroachments of outside philosophies. But we must also insist that VR rethink its mission. The word rehabilitation means to redress. Right now rehab is sending its clients to work almost naked. Rehabilitation is not just training a person to do a job. It is assuring that a person has the ego strength and the knowledge to survive in the community where he or she must live. It is not something that can necessarily be done quickly. Before we put people to work, we must be sure that they are work ready. This has much more to do with being certain they understand how a workplace works and how to live independently than it has to do with training them to do the job for which they are being hired. We must insist that evaluations be more detailed and that planning recognize and deal with all the barriers to long-term placement, not just some of them.
We must find ways to get more involved with parents so that they have higher expectations of their children earlier. We must get involved and stay involved with young people so that they can use us as their role models. Unless we force our way in, neither education nor rehabilitation will make us an integral part of their process. The new rehab amendments give rehabilitation councils in each state more influence. We must be prepared to work on these and must also begin to work with rehab to develop and implement a new vision of what their mission must be.
I have already written a message that is much longer than usual and have barely begun to analyze either the problems or the potential solutions. A whole generation of blind people is at risk and it is up to us to find ways to turn this situation around. We have the capacity to use our experiences and our firsthand knowledge of being blind to help to shape a new dream for this generation that embraces technology, new educational techniques, broader job potential, and communities where the ADA has extended our right to fuller participation. At the moment, all of these opportunities are mere potential. It is up to us in ACB to recognize and harness that potential and turn it into real change. There's lots for us to do so let's get working! Jane needs us!
At first glance, the several boxes of brailled cards Oral Miller held in his hands seemed ordinary enough. They were, after all, simple cards on which he had brailled relatively cryptic notes.
I saw those cards on a quiet November Saturday afternoon in the ACB national office. I had gone in to the office that day to assist a friend of mine with some modifications being made to the ACB computer network and Internet connections. Oral was in as well, cleaning out his desk and packing up his personal things. His time as executive director of ACB was ending, and he was busy doing all those transitional things one does when he ends one era of his life and embarks upon another.
I was busy at my computer when I noticed Oral was standing in my door. "You have a minute?" he asked. "I'd like you to see this."
He came into my office and deposited a box of braille cards in my hands. "Go ahead and look through them," he encouraged.
At random, I began pulling cards out of the box and reading the cryptic notes. Immediately, I realized what I was reading, and I was struck by the immensity of what he was sharing.
Those cards contained information about telephone calls Oral had handled over the nearly 20 years he has been involved with the national office. I realized at that moment that in my hands I held incontrovertible proof that our lives are not ours alone, but rather that we all belong to one another in a very unique and real way.
As I studied those cryptic notes, I began to think about the people who had received direct assistance from Oral that those notes represented. There were cards that dealt with answers to airline regulations, information about technology, answers to questions about ACB policies, help for newly blinded people, ... and the cards went on and on. But rather than cards, I was visualizing a veritable cavalcade of people whose lives had been touched improved by the life of one man who stood modestly at my desk with several more boxes of those cards in his hands.
"This is incredible," I said quietly. "Oh, I have boxes and boxes of these silly things," he observed nonchalantly. But I knew these cards represented not merely phone calls but changed lives and refocused perspectives and renewed hope and determination all the legacy of one individual who cares deeply about what this organization stands for and about its ability to provide information and other assistance that improves the lives of blind and visually impaired people everywhere.
If you've ever stood reflectively at the foot of a monument or in a place that is meaningful or sacred to you, you know the feeling I had on that Saturday before Thanksgiving. I recognized in those cards the immense value of the monuments we build as we quietly go about our lives lending a hand here and there, simply giving of our time to offer a quiet word of encouragement when it's needed or answer an anxiously posed question.
I returned the box quietly, knowing that anything I would say would be inadequate in the light of what those cards represented. Perhaps without intentionally doing so, Oral had again reinforced a treasured lesson best summed up by the poet John Greenleaf Whittier who once wrote, "I lift thee, and thee lift me, and we'll ascend together." How right he was.
If you've flown in recent years, you've been the beneficiary of Oral Miller's efforts in working with various airlines and federal agencies to ensure that regulations regarding blind and disabled travelers were fair and reasonable and to assist in the training of personnel.
If you've switched on a radio reading service recently, you've benefitted from the efforts of Oral Miller and others on Capitol Hill. It was Oral's forceful testimony that caused the then-new Republican majority to understand the value of public radio and its association with radio reading services.
Over the years, I've come to realize that Oral's name is known by cabbies and congressmen, restaurant workers and reporters, and people of all types and varieties in and around Washington. On "Take Your Daughter to Work" days, he always found time to engage my daughters in brief conversation, something relatively insignificant to him perhaps, but to them, it was an important part of the day.
As I contemplated the hours of effort those cards represented, I remembered instances in my time at ACB where Oral's advice and encouragement was desperately needed and gratefully received. I have always appreciated his ability to separate the person from the performance. As his co-worker, you knew, even in those times when your performance had disappointed him, that his sense of respect and appreciation for you as a person had not diminished. Armed with that knowledge, you could forge ahead, learn from your mistakes, and emerge with new lessons learned and renewed determination to improve.
I've tried pretty hard over the years not to take up your valuable time as readers of this magazine with my mental meanderings. But just this once, I hope you'll understand my need to use some space here to say thanks, good-bye, and good luck to a man who has championed this publication and its cause wherever he went. Like you, I look forward to a new year with all that it entails for ACB. But my personal new year is made far richer because of the kindness and influence of Oral Miller. Thanks, Oral, above all else for your friendship; thanks for the counsel when I needed nudging in the right direction. Thanks for your example, and for continuing to believe, not only in me, but in the individual members of ACB and in blind people everywhere. And yes, thanks for showing me those boxes of cards. Without intending to, you taught anew a lesson I need to relearn from time to time. I needed to be reminded that my decisions and actions directly affect those around me. If only all of society could remember that one valuable principle. You see, I'm a pretty simple-minded guy in some ways. I hold to the idea that we live under the direction of a creator who is not so interested in the number of cars and computers we own or the titles and accolades we pick up while we're here. But I believe those boxes of cards and all they represent would be keenly interesting to that creator.
Good luck, and those of us who know you look forward to your continued involvement with ACB.
Oral Miller and Nolan Crabb stand together sharing smiles and memories at the convention banquet. (This photo copyright 1998 by Ken Nichols.)
It is now 1999 and almost past the time to complete plans to attend this year's convention. The dates are Saturday, July 3 to Friday, July 9. The place is the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel at 5400 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA; phone (310) 216-5858. Rates are $60 per night plus tax. The overflow hotel is the Airport Marriott at 5855 W. Century Blvd.; telephone (310) 641-5700. The Marriott will be providing shuttle service to the Westin and return during convention week. The Airport Marriott is a first-class hotel; there will be volunteers stationed there. The staff assures us they will do their best to accommodate people staying at the Marriott but attending the convention at the Westin. Rates at the Marriott are also $60 per night plus tax.
If you have not already made your reservations for the convention, now is the time. You most likely will find the Westin full, but it is worth trying. However, the Marriott has ample rooms. Please keep in mind other ACB members and friends who wish to attend the convention. If you have reserved a room and now find you cannot attend, please cancel that reservation promptly. Please do not block rooms and then cancel at convention time since at that late date rooms at the convention rate may go unused.
The affiliate presidents meeting will take place at the Airport Westin Hotel on Saturday, February 13 and continue through Sunday noon, February 14. The ACB board of directors will meet Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. The boards of several special-interest groups will also meet during this weekend.
For both the February meetings and the convention, 24-hour complimentary shuttle service from the Los Angeles International Airport to the hotels and return is available. After claiming your luggage, exit to the street. Proceed to the middle island and stand under the green sign that says "hotel vans." The Westin vans are white with maroon stripes. Vans run continuously. You may want to call the hotel upon arrival and request them to radio the van drivers to look for you.
Remember that the ACB designated travel agency is now Prestige Travel. Call (800) 966- 5050 and ask for Chastity or Gina. To secure schedule information and the lowest fares, special agreements have been established through this travel service with American, Delta and United airlines. You will be assisting ACB when you use Prestige Travel for all ACB-related travel needs.
Cathy Skivers, president of California Council of the Blind, has appointed a host committee to work with the ACB convention committee in planning the 1999 convention. Much work has already been completed. The 1999 convention in Los Angeles will be a great success!
Ah yes! The perfect after-school scene. All the 10-year-olds, including myself, babbling about how so-and-so was an idiot. Like all fifth graders we wondered if Joe's one dollar reward poster for Jack's head would really work or not. Some kids in the know said that Jack had friends in the high school and Joe would soon be toast. Indeed, those were the days of innocence and that day was like every other until ...
A group of kids started teasing Rosie, a girl I had never really noticed before. They were mocking her behavior and generally making obnoxious statements. I looked in her direction and our eyes locked in a meaningful moment where human awareness cried out from a place I had never known existed.
My carefree life of TV and kickball and all the kid stuff I had grown to understand to be my world suddenly melted before me and I saw beyond today into eternity. This girl gazed upon me with the eyes of one who had lived thousands of years. Her blank stare burned deep into my soul and I was confronted with the pain of disability as experienced by a girl who was not even old enough to be a teenager. Her hopeless look spoke to me of a life in which she had little or no control. Her confusion told me of one who wanted to be like all the rest but was cast over a chasm of insensitivity and ignorance.
Here and without words I found the first major promise of my life forming and it was to do no harm to those who were lost to the fates and shunned by a world too preoccupied with its own issues to reach out in caring to others. Little did I know at the time that I would find myself 12 years later alone with my dog guide with the same look of despair in my eyes after being ignored by a group I had wanted so much to join. Little did I know as a 10-year-old that my life and that of Rosie would share being on the other side of the great divide, knowing the way back would neither be easy or without pain.
In the early '70s after having fought a number of academic freedom battles I chanced upon a group of young blind folks and together we met a guy named Durward. While we always joked that we would be in the old folks' home before he finished a sentence, his words and his wisdom struck chords that still ring today. We learned of the American Council of the Blind and we learned we were not alone. The rest is history.
I share this with you as my first report as the new executive director of ACB because I wanted you to know something of who I am. While there is a great deal that I bring to the task, remembering Rosie and my unspoken promise are building blocks that have guided my life and work. Chances are that I will never see her again, and yet every new year is an opportunity to renew the memories and the commitment.
Each of us in ACB has been blessed with an opportunity to join with our sisters and brothers to narrow the great divide, to reach out to others including the Rosies of the world and to provide hope where there was emptiness, to build a future where there was only space, and to know that we are together even when we are apart.
This is our new year. This is our time for resolutions and revisiting those promises we have made. To our husbands and wives we reaffirm our promise to love and honor each other. To our children we renew our commitment to provide guidance and love. To our friends and family we remember them in our celebration of life. Indeed this is a time of renewed promise and it is a time to appreciate our American Council of the Blind and what it means to us.
As ACB takes on the challenges of the new year, we can be certain that our efforts to make our street crossings and pedestrian travel-ways will continue with even more success. We know our ACB will be there for those in need and continuously work to promote meaningful and dignified services for the blind, make sure our laws protect and promote our quality of life, insure that our environment becomes increasingly friendly to us, promote accessibility to the information we need and to uphold the trust of our membership.
Make your new year's resolution count! Put ACB on the top of your list since you are on the top of ACB's! Also put "The Braille Forum" as your first reading since you will find lots of exciting things happening throughout the coming year.
(Editor's Note: This submission originally appeared on ACB-l, the Internet mailing list of the American Council of the Blind. Many on the list thought it appropriate that we include it in the magazine.)
Right across the Western world, debate is taking place about the costs of blindness and the role of the state in compensating for those costs. I've yet to find any country that fits my own personal perceptions of what would constitute the ideal Social Security system with respect to blindness. However, the organized blind in New Zealand have had significant victories in this area. This short article describes the primary entitlement available to totally blind people in New Zealand, and the basis on which we have argued for its introduction, and latterly its retention.
In New Zealand, totally blind people are entitled to receive a Social Welfare benefit with the antiquated and tasteless name "the Invalids Benefit." It is paid irrespective of earnings, although the definition of "totally blind" is extremely strict. To qualify, you must have a visual acuity of no more than 3/60 in the better eye with correction, and/or a visual field no greater than five degrees on either side of a fixation point.
There are some anomalies in our Social Security Act which prevent some totally blind people from receiving the benefit. Although a blind person's earnings are not taken into account when eligibility for the benefit is determined, a blind person's unearned income is. One would normally expect this to mean income from investments and the like, but it also includes the income of a blind person's spouse. This is clearly a ridiculous provision. It effectively says that a blind person's spouse is responsible for the costs of their partner's blindness. Because this provision only applies to one's spouse, and not other family members, it is effectively a tax on the conjugal rights of the blind, and it is something we've sought to change for 40 years.
The blind are the only disability group for whom the Invalids Benefit is not means tested. I attribute this to the fact that the blind were organized long before any other disability group in New Zealand. The Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand, which was then called the Dominion Association of the Blind, was formed in 1945, just after the conclusion of the second world war, and only five years after the formation of the National Federation of the Blind. We immediately began advocating for a non-income-tested benefit, and were finally successful in having the means test for the benefit removed in 1958.
Every so often, we have a public servant try to remove the non-income-tested benefit from blind people, on the grounds that no other disability group is entitled to such a provision, so the blind shouldn't be either. Unfortunately, the ideology of the present government is not compatible with having a serious investigation conducted as to whether the provision should in fact be extended to other disability groups. We have just fended off the most aggressive challenge to this provision yet. We were successful in doing this due to our political muscle, the negligible savings that would have been gained from removing the provision, and the considerable potential for a politically undesirable reaction by the public. Sadly, we did not win on philosophical grounds, although this is how we won the abolition of means testing in the first place, when the prevailing view on economics and government's role in society was markedly different from today.
Despite having won the victory on political grounds, we're very confident as to the soundness of our philosophical argument for retention of this provision. These days, almost every action the government takes, and every program we want retained, must be justified on economic grounds. To this end, 10 years ago, the association and the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind jointly commissioned the writing of a study called "The Costs of Blindness."
The findings of the study proved conclusively what we already knew. Blindness costs. We use the word "costs" in its widest possible context. Cost does not merely refer to dollars, although blindness clearly does cost in dollar terms. However, there are also costs in terms of lost opportunity and lost leisure time.
We also argue that rather than being a handout, the benefit is actually an investment in the equalization of opportunity. In a recent submission we wrote when the benefit was last under threat, we mentioned a self-employed blind person who used the benefit to pay for an extra staff member part-time to read and perform other functions directly related to blindness. Without funding to hire such staff, he would not be able to continue in his work, and he now pays more in taxes than he receives from the benefit. That's an investment on the government's part in employability and independence, and it's generating revenue the government wouldn't otherwise be receiving.
There are a number of potentially hidden costs, such as the fact that in order to be truly independent, a blind person needs to be close to public transportation, and perhaps have a property which is fenced if they have a guide dog. It helps too if the property is close to a park so the dog can be exercised. Parenthetically, New Zealand has a high number of guide dog users on a per capita basis. The house may also have to be larger than would be the case if the person was sighted, in order to accommodate bulky braille material and other equipment. The location of the house, its size, and the fact that it is fenced, are all characteristics which make a property attractive to a sighted person. For a blind person who wants to be independent, however, they are not discretionary.
It's also true that blind people are handicapped more by other people's perceptions of our capabilities than by blindness itself. Consequently, blind people are likely to face longer periods of unemployment than the average sighted person. The benefit being paid even when a blind person is in employment serves as a kind of buffer which can cushion us during the next period of unemployment.
We have never argued for this provision on a basis that seeks to play on people's fears of blindness, or in a manner that elicits pity. We are clear that this provision is an investment in our full participation in society. If that investment doesn't take place, blind people's discretionary income is depleted for the privilege of being blind, and there is a tragic underutilization of the most valuable resource we have, people.
WASHINGTON, December 4, 1998 The International Day for Disabled Persons, a celebration of the culture of disability, held today at the State Department, attracted more than 65 people, among them athletes, assistant secretaries, and officers of organizations.
"If John Kemp were with us today, and knowing the topic that we have chosen this year for our theme, the culture of disability, John might greet you as follows," said David Williamson, president of America's Athletes with Disabilities. "Distinguished volunteers, staff, friends, parents, persons with disabilities, Secret Service agents, class agents, people of class, no-class people, people of color, colorful people, people of height, the vertically constrained, people of hair ... the optically challenged (Oral) ... animal companions ... We hope we have welcomed everybody, and if we've missed somebody, we're very sorry."
The event, hosted by the People-to-People Committee on Disability, the U.S. Council for International Rehabilitation, and America's Athletes with Disabilities, recognized individuals, organizations and their efforts that have helped create the positive culture of disability in the United States and throughout the world. "The purpose of creating the International Day of the Disabled is to provide an opportunity for government, organizations of disabled persons and society to focus on the freedoms and potentials of persons with disabilities," said David Williamson. The United Nations endorsed the International Day of Disabled Persons in October of 1992. "And there have been a variety of activities over the years that have been done ... at the U.N., ... in our states ... [and] in Washington."
David Waugh, chairman of the committee on disability, and Molly Williamson, principal deputy assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of International Organization Affairs, welcomed guests.
The People-to-People Committee on Disability was founded in 1956 by then-president Dwight D. Eisenhower, Waugh said. "It was President Eisenhower's vision that people from various communities in the United States would encourage and promote peace between the nations if they were in regular supportive contact with people having similar instances in other nations. The Committee on Disability has honored this commitment these past 22 years, and is pleased to associate itself with this special day honoring disabled persons worldwide."
Waugh spoke for a moment about non-profits, "organizations that exist to serve others." Many in attendance today, he said, are from the non-profit sector. "And we are very fortunate that ... laws of the national [and] state government of the United States favors citizen involvement in managing of certain of their affairs." Such organizations file papers which make them exempt from taxes. But in many countries, non-profits are often held to the same standards of reporting and so forth as for- profit organizations. The number of people involved in such organizations is enormous. The typical structure of a non-profit, including officers and a board of directors, are usually not understood or appreciated, he said. Many fledgling non-profits in these countries fail. None of the progress made by American non-profits would have been possible if they operated under laws similar to those in other countries.
Molly Williamson spoke next. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm very pleased to welcome you here this afternoon and to join you in commemorating the International Day of Disabled Persons," she said. The State Department is addressing disability issues on the home front as well as overseas. Here, the department has "made strides in removing barriers and the full participation of persons with disabilities." There has been a continual increase in disabled individuals taking and passing the foreign service exam, and an increase in people following up and becoming employed with the foreign service. Overseas, American embassies are being renovated for access, including wheelchair ramps. The department is working with the United Nations and its affiliated organizations on numerous issues, including the adoption and implementation of standard rules of equalization of people with disabilities. She also mentioned that the United States and the United Nations are working on helping the Agency for International Development implement community-based rehabilitation programs and other such programs.
Following the welcoming remarks, David Williamson addressed the theme, "Celebrating the Positive Culture of Disability." Culture, he said, includes behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought typical of a civilization or community. "And we all have different ways that we participate in these civilizations or communities," Williamson said. "For those of us who are disabled ... we have probably been down many roads ..." He spoke about different types of bones: wishbones, the ones who say, "I wish somebody would do something about my problem"; jawbones, the ones who talk a lot and do nothing; knucklebones, the ones who knock everything and do not recognize anything positive; and backbones, the ones who do the work and say little to nothing. Many in the audience are backbones, he said.
Williamson also talked about the core values of the culture of disability identified by Dr. Carol Gill, a post-polio survivor, in her book. One of these values involves the acceptance of human vulnerability and interdependence as part of life. Another is a great sense of humor. One important core value is fortification, which is gaining energy from being a community; unification is also important. But the critical function is recruitment: gaining support via expansion to allow each person a sense of belonging to the community. Some key concepts in Gill's book are: stop the in- fighting; work across disabilities; and work across coalitions in real political world situations.
He said that the latest Harris Poll still shows significant gaps between disabled and able-bodied people in work and education. Of Americans with disabilities, 20 percent have not completed high school, and 30 percent have inadequate transportation. But 33 percent of disabled people are satisfied with life in general; 69 percent socialize on a regular basis. Williamson also mentioned the Amateur Sports Act amendments which made the U.S. Olympic Committee the national Paralympic committee. The various disability sports organizations cooperated and collaborated to put forth the amendments which were eventually passed. Working together is what helped them pass. Coalitions have more impact than groups working alone, he said. "... We need to celebrate our differences as Americans, as members of the world community, who ... try to make a contribution. ... recognize that it either has made a difference, or that it is making a difference, or that it will make a difference."
David Williamson then presented the Culture of Disability Award to Linda Mastandrea, a Paralympic athlete who competed in the 1996 games in Atlanta. Mastandrea is a member of the U.S. Cerebral Palsy Athletic Association who literally stumbled onto wheelchair basketball at the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana. She now uses a chair, but when she was at the university she did not; she was still walking, "very slowly," and sprained her ankle. Friends carried her to the Rehabilitation Education Center on campus, where she was approached by the basketball coach. "It's that particular moment and that particular day really that led me to, number one, identifying with other people with disabilities, even meeting other people with disabilities for the first time in my life, and realizing that I had missed out on an entire piece of myself for 19 years," she said. "So I'm really fortunate that I chose that school and even more fortunate that I sprained my ankle. Because of the events of that day I've been able to do some amazing, amazing, incredible things."
Judy Heumann, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, also spoke. She gave kudos to Madeleine Albright for recognizing the importance of disability internationally. She mentioned the women's forum of the World Blind Union meeting last year, and a meeting which will be held in Mexico City sometime in 1999. "Collaboration, I think, is really one of the most important parts of any of the activities we can be involved in, in looking at international work," she said. Among the problems facing disabled people worldwide are illiteracy, education, health care and employment.
Following Heumann's remarks, Liz Scott of the People-to-People Committee on Disability presented Gabriele Stoikov, Chief of the Vocational Rehabilitation Branch of the International Labour Organization (Geneva, Switzerland) with the Pioneering Award. "It's a great honor for me to receive this award on behalf of the International Labour Organization," Stoikov said. "Work is the key to economic and social inclusion in our eyes, and therefore one of the most important roles that we should set out for persons with disabilities ..."
The ILO is the oldest member of the United Nations, founded in 1919. It has 175 member states and focuses on all aspects of work, from training and human rights to actual employment. "Much social awareness and change is born out of conflict and tragedy," Stoikov said. The rehabilitation branch began by looking at the employment problems of ex-soldiers with disabilities after World War I. After World War II, services became more comprehensive, focusing on all disabilities, no matter what the cause. In the 1970s, there was a movement to abandon segregated mainstreaming; the ILO also gained recognition as a private organization. It started noticing several things: an incredibly large and increasing number of people with disabilities; the increasing cost of preserving disability benefits; the organization's increasing recognition; the increasing amount of legislation demanding inclusion; and the consequence of wars, particularly land mines. "We have a vision for our disability program," she said. She said she pictured it as a hub and spokes system, with employment as the hub and quantity, equity and quality as the spokes.
As to how the ILO will make the hub-and-spokes system work, she said the foundations of the program are: research and sharing information; technical cooperation; and advising people on legislation and their rights and responsibilities. Other parts include what Stoikov called the "seven pillars": a strong media strategy; building strategic alliances; fund raising; prevention of disability; mainstreaming; sustainability; and principles of non-discrimination. And the "roof" that will take ILO into the next millennium will use a code of management practices, an action program, and an "agent of change." She advised her listeners, "Be conscious that your work ... has effects beyond your borders." Stoikov closed with this remark: "The ILO promotes ... work for all men and women. Why should we accept any less for people with disabilities?"
Doris Margolis presented the Bernard Posner Memorial Award to John Langmore, Director of the UN Division for Social Policy and Development's Disability Program. Following Langmore's remarks, the recognition of distinguished guests, and David Williamson's closing comments and thank-yous, the celebration closed with a reception.
In the old days traffic lights made traffic easier by making the environment highly predictable. Lights changed like clockwork, because they were clockwork. Big gears turned in the controller boxes, and the gears clicked into place with an audible click. Cars with big V8's roared from their rumbling rests and announced the light change that the box click had predicted.
With the mass move to the suburbs, the advent of computers and the simultaneous explosion of the number of cars on the road, things began to change. Although the idea of actuation is nearly as old as the car itself, cheap reliable computer power, combined with pressure to move traffic as efficiently as possible, has made the actuated intersection an increasingly common feature in the life of the American pedestrian. So ... a brief overview of the details of the new reality.
There are two main types of controllers used to switch traffic lights, pretimed and traffic- actuated. Pretimed (fixed time) traffic lights operate with a predictable, regularly repeated sequence of signal indications. Signals rotate through a definite cycle in a constant fashion, but may change at different times of day, such as during rush hours. Most signals used to be of this type. They are still very common in downtown areas because traffic volume is predictable, stable and fairly consistent. The clockwork itself is mostly gone though, replaced by silent computer chips.
At traffic-actuated intersections, the lights respond to the traffic that is present. For example, if there is no traffic in the left turn lane, the left turn arrow will not function during that cycle. If there is only one car in the northbound lanes, the light may be green only for enough time to allow that car to cross the intersection.
The semi-actuated intersection is the most common type you are likely to encounter. They are very common once you are beyond the downtown areas of the city, usually when a minor street crosses a major one. It is called semi-actuated because the minor street, and only the minor street, has sensors or detectors in it. The engineer's goal here is to maximize efficient and safe traffic movement. Therefore, the major street has a green light unless there is a car waiting on the minor street. That car triggers a detector, and eventually will be given a green light. If there were no cars there, the light would never turn green! More cars = Longer light! One car = Shorter light! Sometimes as short as 7 seconds!
If the intersection was designed for pedestrian use, there may be a pedestrian walk/don't walk signal. To get a walk signal, you must push the pedestrian button to get a special longer pedestrian timing. Especially when the main street is very wide, the green phase programmed for a single car will not be long enough to allow a pedestrian to safely cross the street. In that situation, it is essential for the pedestrian to push the pedestrian button in order to have enough time to walk across the street. Rather than seven seconds for a single car, a pedestrian may get 20 seconds or more to cross the same street, but only if the intersection "knows" the pedestrian is there.
One variation of a semi-actuated intersection occurs when both streets are large. Turn lanes on both streets may also have sensors in them, which can affect intersection timings and phases markedly.
Fully actuated intersections are relatively rare and occur where two streets meet and there are detectors on all approaches. These are typically two very busy streets.
It is also possible for a street or intersection to operate on a pre-timed basis at some times, and on fully actuated or semi-actuated control at other times. Also, in case of construction damage to the actuators, or computer failure, the intersection will usually revert to pre-timed. The possible variations make it important to call your local traffic engineer to get the details when using an unfamiliar intersection. Learn the theory and "jargon" so that you can solicit the information from traffic engineers.
In some cases there may be a pedestrian button but no pedhead (see definitions below). In that case the pedestrian timing will apply, but there is no separate information provided. In other cases there is a pedestrian button and a pedhead. The messages provided by the pedheads are so widely misunderstood by the general public that they are worth a review here.
The WALK interval is generally only 4 to 7 seconds long. That is, the signal only says WALK (or shows the illustration of a walking person) for that long. The pedestrian is expected to leave the curb during this interval but is allocated a much longer period to make it across the street.
When a flashing DON'T WALK or ORANGE HAND is visible, it is the "pedestrian clearance interval." It lasts much longer than the WALK interval. It is often misunderstood, but the intent of flashing DON'T WALK is to discourage pedestrians from starting to cross when there is insufficient time to complete the crossing. The pedestrian who is in the middle of the street generally has time to complete the crossing after the flashing DON'T WALK begins.
The solid DON'T WALK signal occurs after the flashing DON'T WALK in conjunction with the vehicular yellow signal. Pedestrians should have cleared the intersection at that point. There is also a "change interval" where the light is red in all directions.
Definitions and Technical Information
Below are some definitions of common terms as used by traffic engineers. Phase and cycle, in particular, have precise definitions. It may be helpful for you to understand these terms in talking to a traffic engineer about an intersection.
Pedhead the "walk/don't walk" signal, usually a square box type signal on a pole, aligned to be visible to sighted pedestrians from the crosswalk
Ped button the button that you push (sometimes called the ped detector), which may be difficult to locate at some intersections, but is usually on the same pole as the pedhead
Pedcall What happens when you push the button. It signals the signal controller box that there is a pedestrian at the intersection.
Ped Phase what you get for pushing the button (the ped phase is designed to be a long enough time to walk, rather than drive, across the intersection).
Cycle the time required for one complete sequence of light changes (phases)
Phase a part of a signal cycle allocated to any combination of one or more traffic movements receiving the right of way at the same time, for example, the westbound phase, the pedestrian phase
Interval a portion of the signal cycle during which the signal indications remain unchanged, for example, the pedestrian walk interval, the pedestrian clearance interval
Split percentage of the cycle length allocated to each of the various phases.
Components of traffic-actuated signal
A traffic-actuated signal has four main components: detectors, controller unit, signal heads (the traffic lights), and connecting cables. The most common type of detector is an "induction loop" where a loop of metal wire is embedded in the pavement, and then covered with waterproof putty to prevent weather damage. These "loops" may be diamond shaped, rectangular, square or round, and are usually at least 5 feet on a side. They are often, but not always, visible. An electric current is passed through the loop. When a vehicle travels over the detector, its metallic mass changes the inductance of the loop, notifying the controller unit of the vehicle's presence. The pedestrian "detector" is generally the ped button; however, there are some other types of detection systems being developed.
(Reprinted from "The White Cane Bulletin.") Paul Verner was born in Butler County, Pa., and had resided in Tampa since 1957. He was employed by the Division of Blind Services as a food service manager from 1963 until his retirement in 1986. During those years, he trained approximately 50 people, many of whom are now employed by the state.
Paul was a charter member of the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of Florida and served on the board of directors for 20 years, also serving as its president. He was active in the national organization, Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, serving as its president from 1982 to 1986, as well as treasurer. He received the RSVA Vendor of the Year Award in 1982. He was the first person to receive the RSVA Don Cameron Advocacy Award and was a life member of RSV of Florida. He served as convention coordinator for RSVA in 1977 and 1991. He was on the Advisory Council of the WUSF Radio Reading Service in Tampa.
Paul was active in the American Council of the Blind and the Florida Council of the Blind, serving on both boards of directors. He was president of FCB and served on numerous committees. He was a long-time member of the Tampa chapter of FCB.
Paul received the FCB R. Henry P. Johnson Award in 1991, and the prestigious President's Special Award in 1988 and received a lifetime membership in the American Council of the Blind.
In his own community, he gave endlessly of his time and energy. He supported PTAs, helped organize the Southeast Tampa Little League, was a founding member of the local civic association and served on the board of the Bay Area Boy Scouts, and was a member of the Lions Club.
Paul was an active member of Bayshore Presbyterian Church. He was an elder and served on various committees during the years. A memorial service was held at Bayshore on October 24 and was attended by a great many of his family, friends and admirers. The family requests that donations in Paul's memory be sent to: Bayshore Presbyterian Church, Paul Verner Memorial Fund, 2515 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa, FL 33629.
Paul was preceded in death by his wife Kathryn. He is survived by a daughter, Patricia Henry of Tampa, a son and daughter-in-law, Larry and Beverly Verner of Silver Spring, Md., and several grandchildren and their spouses, as well as a great-grandson.
Paul's willingness to help wherever needed, his pleasant personality and his smile will be missed by everyone.
(Editor's Note: A version of this story originally appeared in "The Los Angeles Times." The author is a technical consultant and freelance writer who has contributed material to "The Braille Forum" in the past.)
Today degrees are being given to students with disabilities with the same words, the same reputation and the same standing as those given to their classmates. But the disabled students are not necessarily earning the same degree or getting the same education.
As a college student in the '60s I was one of only a handful of blind students to have attended my western, Ivy League college. They hadn't decided what blind students could or couldn't do. There was no office filled with people telling me and my professors how I had to learn, from what I had to be exempted, and when I was supposed to have what finished. It was up to me to find readers, get the work done, devise ways and means for testing and accessing information, and communicating with professors and administration to see that I got it ALL done on a par with all the other students in the college. The idea of being exempted from a math class or written requirement never crossed our minds.
As a psychology major, one of the grim requirements for graduation was statistics. This is not a favorite class for most students. Why should I be different? My professor and I discussed how I might learn the concepts and succeed in the course before it began. I remember meeting with him in his office and being presented with a green flannel bell curve topped by a second such curve broken into several standard deviations; these were pressed on a white flannel board divided into quadrants by black axis stripes of flannel glued to the board. As the class progressed we passed around these and other tactile representations of the concepts being discussed. Every formula was derived using words and concepts until it was understood by the entire class. I believe all of us had a better grasp of statistics when we were finished with that multisensory approach than any other group to go through the course.
They could have simply exempted me from the requirement. It was a small private college. They could do what they liked with their students. But a degree from that college had a meaning that included a certain level of experience, knowledge and accomplishment. Were I to have been given the degree without the knowledge, it would have been a fraud. I earned my degree as did every other student from my college. Exceptions were made for methods, not for content or accomplishment.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and affirmative action have taken their toll along with helping students with disabilities. Special student services often dictate standards and requirements to the colleges and universities being attended by these students, altering the education and degrees these students are given. In too many cases, readers are not only proofreading, but also editing and rewriting submitted papers and projects. Scribes are including content with their creation of material. And with notetakers deciding what is important to remember, curriculum is being determined for disabled students by their support staff rather than their professors. Because math is difficult to visualize and more difficult to verbalize, blind students are sometimes even being exempted from math requirements rather than support staff being required to learn to present the concepts in accessible format. Still, the disabled student is granted the B.S. degree when what may actually have been earned is a B.S./ABMC (all but math and composition) or some variation of this lesser accomplishment.
What is this doing to the image of disabled graduates? It is allowing them to be seen, and sometimes actually making them, mere shadows of their peers equal, but not equivalent. And how will this be seen by employers? Think about it. If a person gets out of the work for the degree, how much of the work will they have to get out of on the job? If a person was not required to attain all the standards before being given the piece of paper, how can an employer expect them to meet the standards for employees? These mock degrees are doing no favors for anyone with a disability. They are ruining the standing of those credentials truly earned by students in the past, and are setting up today's disabled students for failure in the future. Taking the easy way out will only result in doors being slammed.
With so many scanners and reading devices on the market, it is sometimes difficult to choose which one to buy. It was therefore with great interest that I listened to a computer feature on one of our local radio stations last fall. The announcer spoke of a flatbed scanner called the Image Wave made by Storm Technology. The machine used Textbridge, an OCR program manufactured by Xerox. The price at that time for the whole package was $150. At this point, and at that price, I decided to give it a try.
The scanner is designed to be used for putting photos in your computer, but it works quite well with text. You need at least 8 megabytes of RAM and a CD-ROM drive to load the software. No extra card is needed for the computer. You just plug it into the parallel port and away you go.
What's in the box?
When you open the box, you will find the scanner and manuals. There is also a CD which contains the necessary software. There are many programs on the disk for filing of documents and such. However, these are superfluous. The only two needed for purposes of text are the EZ photo scanner software and the Textbridge OCR software.
The software itself is very easy to install. Everything operates in Windows, and with a good screen reader things are very easy. You are prompted every step of the way. You should have 20 megabytes free on your hard drive.
Once installed, no calibration of the scanner is needed. Plug the scanner into the port, plug the transformer into the outlet and begin.
How do you do it?
The process of scanning text is a very easy one. You don't even have to turn the scanner on. The easiest way to start is to go to the Program Manager and load Textbridge. You will be prompted the rest of the way. The scanner has tactile numbers, making it easy to find the location of the top of the page. Remember to put the text face down. You will be prompted for that. Caution: you must set the scanner's INI file for text (Scanmode=0). The people at Xerox recommend that you set the scanner for 300 dots per inch resolution for best recognition results. Also make sure that you check the preview and verify buttons. Everything else is done automatically.
Once the page is scanned, you will be prompted the rest of the way. When you hear "preview," go to the view menu and press "V" for invert. This is extremely important. If you don't, you will not get any text. This is a quirk of the TWAIN scanners. You will find that hidden in the manuals. When verify comes on, you can see some of the text in an edit box. This is a spell check device which lets you correct the recognition. The process is repeated for each page scanned. You can turn off the verify and run the document through your favorite spell check after it is saved.
What does Textbridge do?
Textbridge is an excellent program for optical recognition. It really solves the problem of reading graphic text with speech. Not only will it work with the scanner, but you can also translate faxes that come into your computer fax program. You need not invert the faxes on preview. The recognition on faxes is flawless. The recognition on scanned documents depends on the quality of the scanner. Textbridge supports many scanners. If you buy the program separately from Xerox, there are many drivers on the disk. I bought the upgrade separately. It is very inexpensive. Textbridge also works with many languages. You set the languages when you install the software. The Textbridge that comes with the EZ photo image wave is the European version and contains many language dictionaries. There is even a differentiation between American and UK English.
Support for this product varies. Xerox gives excellent support for Textbridge. Storm Technology is lacking, owing to the fact that their personnel hasn't worked with blind people. However, if you read the manual carefully, and use the help screens and prompts you should be all right. Textbridge is particularly excellent in the area of columns. You set auto segmentation and Textbridge does the rest. I have had no problem reading columns. You can also save your files for different word processors.
I have found the software and scanner quite good. The scanner itself is somewhat slow, perhaps owing to the fact that I have only 8 megabytes of RAM. I use my scanner with a notebook computer and have no problem. Everything is portable. The scanner is very light. I found it very easy to learn and I have scanned many documents and books since I bought it. You really get bang for the buck. Textbridge can also work with HTML files on your disk. For text, it's another way to go. Added to the use of the Optacon, and the internet, it makes information readily available.
(Editor's Note: The author is a member of the American Council of the Blind and of the American Blind Lawyers Association, an ACB affiliate.)
On September 14, 1998, 23-year-old Kristina Knoll of Sacramento, Calif., boarded a plane for Austria to begin her tenure as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Innsbruck. She took along her books on cassette, her talking computer system, print scanner, all the hardware and software a well- equipped blind student would need. But Kristina is not blind; she is dyslexic.
Print has never been kind to Kristina. All her life, the printed word was confusing. She suffered greatly starting in kindergarten, with frequent headaches and stomachaches. So great was the stress on test days throughout her school years that she would often be too ill to take the exam. Despite all this, she made it all the way to her freshman year in college before experts determined she was dyslexic.
Although the diagnosis was clear, the solutions were not. Some suggested she try colored eyeglasses to improve her reading.
Her father, Norman Knoll, is an attorney with the state of California. He decided to do his own research. His first stop was my office. Norm had worked with me for several years.
"I knew that Tim dealt with print all the time, but I had not really paid much attention to how he did his reading. I thought Tim was as good a place to start as anywhere since when it came to reading print, Kristina was seriously impaired," he said.
I showed Norm my various tools, and Norm brought Kristina in for a demonstration. She was immediately taken with the realization that she could understand and retain what she was hearing. Norm and I went to the Sacramento Society for the Blind and purchased a four-track cassette recorder/player. Kristina was in the middle of her semester and time was short. A check with RFB&D found that most of her current textbooks were already available. The tapes showed up quickly and Kristina immediately began reading with her new media. Now doing her reading from tapes, Kristina went from midterm grades of barely passing to getting A's on her finals.
Her use of alternative technology did not stop there. She next obtained a speech synthesizer and print scanner software. She started scanning textbooks when time or campus resources were insufficient to put the material on tape. She also discovered that she could read print more easily if she had the material copied on certain colors of paper. She had known for years that fluorescent light was hard on her eyes, and used natural or incandescent lighting whenever possible.
Kristina is now a competent and confident student, and has no plans of stopping with the bachelor's degree she obtained last spring. She both teaches and takes classes at the University of Innsbruck, and plans to get in on some of the world-class skiing the area provides. Education and research, which used to instill such terror and frustration in her, has now turned into what she believes will be a lifelong love of learning.
The sad part of this story is that it took so long for Kristina to discover that it was not lack of intelligence that caused her so much grief, but rather a still poorly understood medical condition that impacts an estimated 3 to 6 percent of the U.S. population. Her story could have remained a tragic one if her father had not taken the initiative to look outside for other resources. Once she was exposed to viable solutions, she instantly and gratefully embraced the alternative technology first developed for those with visual impairments.
Kristina uses a combination of methods, designed to take full advantage of all her senses. When doing casual or pleasure reading, her primary method is to use tape recordings. When close study is called for, she will listen to the tape version while following along with the print copy. When using the computer, she will both listen to the synthetic speech and watch the display. She has found that the computer display is more readable for her when using certain colors of lower contrast; for her, stark black on white is the worst.
"I'll use whatever techniques work for me," Kristina said. "I'm always on the lookout for better techniques and technology."
Something happened the other day to make me consider changing my name my last name, that is. I'll keep spelling and pronouncing Janiece to the end of my days because I like my dad's creation; but I am thinking of going from Petersen back to Avery, my original name.
Some years back, when I could have made that change, I didn't. Having been Petersen for most of my professional performing life, I wanted to keep that connection with people looking for vocalists or pianists people who can ice the income cake, so to speak. You might conjecture that I want my name at the beginning of the alphabet again. Truly, I never liked that, especially at flu shot time or when professors seated us alphabetically. (You can't sleep in class when you're on the front row.) Actually, it's because Avery is shorter five letters to Petersen's eight. You might say, "But that's always been true." Frankly, it's also true that I get tired of spelling both my first and last names: all those e's, you know.
Now, I have come across something that makes long names seem even longer: spelling each letter of your last name with two touch-tones on the telephone keypad.
Spelling with two tones indeed! I'm just getting used to turning mnemonics into numbers; as in "800-collect." Letter-to-number decoding is understood not to be everyone's natural bent; people like Tom and Ray Magliozzi wouldn't say, "888-cartalk; that's 888-227-8255." And Rudy Maxa wouldn't follow "sav-trav" with "728-8728." I'm good enough at converting letters to numbers that I almost never get kicked out of the system for spelling the first three letters of a last name too slowly. (Incidentally, I wonder why it has taken me so long to remember that g-h-i are the number 4.)
Now comes US Air with a two-digit system. When I called to confirm a reservation, my first mistake was calling when I was in a hurry enough of a hurry that I didn't register that operator was star-0. To complicate things further, the system asked for only one number for the month; i.e., not 0-9 for September. And if the date is before the 10th, you don't enter a 0 first. Then, in addition to the flight number, it asked for the number of flight miles, too. I had never encountered that piece of information before receiving a braille itinerary from Wakefield Travel. Being one who recalls Cole Porter lyrics better than phone numbers or any numbers I congratulated myself for remembering 613 miles this time. Yes, there is a help menu if you don't remember the miles; but, as I said, I was in a hurry.
The synthetic US Air voice recapped what I had entered and then said, "Enter your last name, using the two-digit code for each letter. For instructions and practice, press ..." I listened to part of the lesson and went back to spell Petersen. P is 7 1 because it is the first letter on tone 7. E is 3 2, T 8 1, etc. Oops! I think it was the 7 2 for S where something went wrong. I was then synthetically informed, "There is no passenger by that name on this flight." With that, I was kicked back into the lesson for practice.
"I know I need practice, but now?" I thought. I wanted out of this so badly that I pushed 0. "Invalid entry," I was told. Even knowing that I hadn't written down US Air's number, I hung up. At that time, it would have been nice if US Air had had a mnemonic for its 800 number. There I was, entering 4-1-1 again. I had to listen to Bell Atlantic's canned commercial again and US Air's initial recording as well. Then, ah, music to my ears! "If you are using a rotary phone, please wait." I didn't even enter star-0 to get an operator more quickly. I couldn't imagine going through all the "if this, press that"s again, only to have to spell Petersen at the end and not know what to do if I goofed. The nice operator probably heard my double sigh of relief when she reconfirmed both my outgoing and returning flights.
I have already alluded to my remembering lyrics better than numbers; so sometimes as with my Social Security number I sing them on the appropriate tones of the scale. After trying this with a few letters of Petersen, I decided that the greatest benefit of singing it by number would be to improve my yodeling.
Another musical thought I had was to create a countermelody or variation to help people learn the two-digit numbers for the alphabet. A funny melody it is, if one at all; and it's certainly no countermelody for the "ABC Song" set to "Twinkle, Twinkle." Since that didn't work, I decided to set some shorter names to music to see whether changing my name had any merit. I tried the names of Friends-in-Art board members just for focus. "Mandel" worked pretty well, a little more tuneful than "Hedl." They both end on the third tone of the scale. Kent worked well because T is the first letter on 8, meaning it ends on the first note of the scale. Then I tried some names from the ACB office. Names whose final letters are second on a touch-tone and on the second note of the scale don't make finished tunes names like Crabb, Miller and Keith. Darn it! Avery is the same. Besides still sounding like a yodel, it ends on the second note of the scale. Oh well, so does my Social Security number.
People have pointed out the costs of changing one's name. In addition to the fee, there's re- establishing credit, changing the passport and various ID's and getting everyone to address you by a different name again. To be sure, there are worse possibilities. If we used the Cyrillic alphabet, some buttons would carry four letters. I could also have a long name like Pfanstiehl 10 letters, all different. Some of you are probably thinking that only a flaky musician could have trouble with a name like Petersen, with three letters the same. For now, I've decided to do two things: (1) practice entering my name with the receiver down and when I'm not in a hurry; (2) hope never to be required to spell both first and last names, mother's maiden name, origin and destination of the flight. Can you imagine having to spell United Airlines using two-tone spelling? That's a pretty good reason to fly US Air. Love those five-letter names!
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.
FOCUS ON EMPLOYMENT
The Mississippi State University RRTC on Blindness and Low Vision and the American Foundation for the Blind are co-sponsoring a national conference entitled "Focus on Employment: Breaking Down the Barriers." The conference will be held March 3-5, 1999 in Washington, D.C. It will feature several employers contributing their perspectives. For more information, call John Maxson, RRTC Training Director, at (601) 325-2001, or Gil Johnson at (415) 392-4845.
Audio Darts of Pittsburgh will hold the second Harold Schlegel Darts Tournament March 26- 28, 1999. It will be held at the Best Western Motel, 3401 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA. Rooms are $69 plus tax per night for up to four people per room. For room reservations, call (412) 683-6100. The first event will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday; the tournament will conclude at 5 p.m. Sunday. The cost of the entire tournament is $65. Make all checks payable to Audio Darts of Pittsburgh and mail them to Louis Wassermann, 2503 Silver Oak Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15220. For more information call either Lois Briggs at (412) 366-2630, Harold Schlegel at (412) 921-0172, or Joe Wassermann at (412) 687-5166.
NEWS FROM AFB
The American Foundation for the Blind recently elected four new trustees to the board. They are: George A. Burnett, vice president of AT&T's Consumer Markets Division; Brian K. Charlson, vice president of computer services at the Carroll Center for the Blind (and first vice president of ACB); Judith D. Moore, president and CEO of The Chauncey Group International (formerly CEO of National Industries for the Blind); and Carol Raphael, president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.
The 1999 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute will be held in Washington, D.C. March 5-7 at the Washington Marriott Hotel. The theme is "Leadership for the 21st Century: Negotiating Our Future." The keynote speaker is Tony Coelho, chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. (Please note that this year, ACB will be holding its own legislative seminar. More information will be available later.)
As part of AFB's National Braille Literacy Mentor Project, and thanks to a grant from the UPS Foundation, an information packet has been developed for teachers of braille. The packet consists of fact sheets and resource lists promoting braille literacy, and is available from AFB's information center, (800) 232-5463, and from AFB Southeast in Atlanta, (404) 525-2303.
"Danny and the Merry-Go-Round" and "Andy Finds a Turtle" were just released in a Turtle Book Twin-Pack with an audio cassette. The tape will have a musical introduction and page-turn cues. Both books are spiral-bound paper editions of these children's stories. The tape features Nan Holcomb as the narrator, and David Villani as the producer of the entertaining audio tracks. The price is $16.95 plus shipping and handling. Contact Jason and Nordic Publishers, PO Box 441, Hollidaysburg, PA 16648; phone (841) 696-2920.
Campanian Enterprises of Oxford, Ohio, has several tour programs planned for 1999. One is a tour to Key West Feb. 2-8. Other tours include Washington, DC; Maui and Oahu; New York City; and San Diego to Los Angeles. (And if you are interested in a trip to the Newport, R.I. area, contact the company at the number below.)
If you are interested in any of these tours, contact Campanian Enterprises, Inc., P.O. Box 167, Oxford, OH 45056; phone (513) 524-4846, e-mail [email protected] or visit the web site at http://www.one.net/~campania/ Make your reservations ASAP for the Key West tour!
Braille Sterling by Christiansen Designs is alive and well. Kim Christiansen, the designer of the jewelry many of you have seen at conventions and elsewhere, is now "out of hibernation" and ready to fill orders again. His newest addition is a miniature book pin cast in pewter (available in pewter or 18 karat gold electroplate) that says "read for fun." It costs $20. Sterling silver chains are available in 20-inch sizes in three different cuts: tinsel, diamond cut rope, and gourmette. The braille and sign language "I love you" hand pin and other pieces, including the black lab with a harness pin, personalized cuff links, pendants and earrings, are available as well; call (603) 643-4096, or mail inquiries and/or requests to P.O. Box 583, Hanover, N.H. 03755.
The Princeton Braillists have available numerous tactile drawings and maps. The company has maps of individual states, including Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, Florida, and New Jersey. Each of these costs $6, and will be shipped free matter. "Basic Human Anatomy" includes cross sections of the head and brain; nose, mouth and throat; tooth; respiratory tract; heart; digestive system; and much more. It costs $15. The "Atlas of North and South America" has three units in four volumes: northern North America, the United States, and middle and South America. It costs $56; individual volumes cost $15 plus $4 shipping for one or two volumes. "Atlas of the Middle East" covers 17 countries, arranged alphabetically. Maps show major cities, physical features and points of interest. It costs $20. "Maps of Russia and Its Former Republics" shows boundaries, rivers and major cities as of 1997. It costs $4. "Maps of Morocco" costs $5. Each booklet is bound with cardboard covers and a multi-ring binder. Send a check or purchase order to The Princeton Braillists, 28-B Portsmouth St., Whiting, N.J. 08759; for more information, call (732) 350-3708.
"Dialogue" is a quarterly journal available in braille, large print, IBM-compatible disk, and four- track audio cassette. Articles include such topics as technology, cooking, coping with sight loss, gardening, organizing, parenting, recreation, traveling, writing, and much more. The annual subscription/donation rate is $28 for legally blind readers. For information, support, catalogs and other resources, contact Blindskills, Inc., P.O. Box 5181, Salem, OR 97304-0181, or call (800) 860- 4224 and say you learned about it in "The Braille Forum." Ask for a sample copy of "Dialogue" in one of the media listed above.
"The Disability Bookshop Catalog," a shop-by-mail bookstore that stocks hard-to-find titles covering a wide variety of health topics for the general public, has just published its new catalog. It has something in it for everyone: books, videos and audio cassettes about general medical topics, pain, aging, sports, computers, technical aids, resource directories, and much more. Many of the books are in large print. To receive the catalog, send $4 for postage and handling ($5 if using a credit card) to: The Disability Bookshop, PO Box 129, Vancouver, WA 98666. The cassette version costs $8.50 postage and handling ($9.50 if using a credit card). For more information call (360) 694-2462.
"The Children's Disability Bookshop Catalog" also released a new edition. To receive it, send $5 to the address listed above. If you would like the catalog on tape, send $8 to the same address.
Also available are "Computer Resources for the Disabled" and "Directory of Travel Agencies for the Disabled." The computer book lists sources that will help when buying, financing, funding and using computers; it covers grants, programs, services, technology-related assistance, where to purchase computers at a discount, and information about companies that produce special computer- related products. It costs $19.95 plus $3.50 shipping (print or cassette version). Order it from Twin Peaks Press, PO Box 129, Vancouver, WA 98666-0129. Credit card orders only call toll-free (800) 637-2256.
The travel agencies book lists agents and agencies that specialize in arranging travel for disabled consumers. It lists agencies throughout the United States, Canada and the world. It costs $19.95 plus $4 shipping (print or tape). You may order it from The Disability Bookshop at the address above, or call (800) 637-2256.
California Canes recently came out with the Sidewalker cane as part of its line of carbon fiber canes. Rigid canes cost $18.65; folding canes, $25. For more information, call the company at (949) 489-1973, or e-mail [email protected]
A new wholesale/distribution company is now open. It's called Charm City Specialties, and sells personal alarms, jewelry and other things. For more information call (877) 282-4276, or write the company at P.O. Box 4153, Baltimore, MD 21205.
The Voice Diary is a full-featured, palm-sized electronic organizer with 30 minutes of recording time. Features include a to-do list, phone book with multiple entries for telephone numbers and addresses, a diary/calendar, and an alarm that will remind you of when to take your medications or if school hours are different on a certain day and allow you as many alarm settings as you want. It also includes a stopwatch, a timer, and a calculator with roots, percentage and exponentiation power. It is laid out like a telephone keypad. Voice Diary costs $249 for organizations and is available from Independent Living Aids, (800) 537-2118; Innovative Rehabilitation Technology, (800) 322-4784; Adaptive Technology Consulting, Inc., (978) 462-3817; and Ferguson Enterprises, (605) 546-2366. Contact one of these companies for more information on cost for individuals.
NY BUS MAPS
MTA's Long Island Bus recently joined with Baruch College of the City University of New York to develop tactile/large print/braille maps for visually impaired bus riders. The project is funded with a grant to Baruch College from Project ACTION, a national program supported by the Federal Transit Administration and administered by Easter Seals, that promotes innovation and cooperation in solving transit accessibility issues. Baruch College's Computer Center for Visually Impaired People will create and test computer software to enable LI Bus to produce the maps. Long Island Bus will use the software and consumer input, along with input from a community specialist in orientation and mobility issues, to determine features to be mapped.
The Bartimaeus Group recently released NavigAide, an interactive CD that trains blind individuals how to use Windows 95's operating system with a screen reader. Features include: a bookmark, permitting you to return to the real Windows environment to test your new skills, then re-enter NavigAide to continue; a "go to page" function; pause; read page number; and next, previous, and repeat page functions. The system protects you from pressing a key that puts you in an unknown place or application. To operate it, you need Windows 95, a Pentium processor, 16 megabytes of RAM, quad speed CD-ROM drive or faster, and a 16-bit sound card and speakers. A Windows 3.1 version is also available. For more information, visit the web site, http://www.bartsite.com, or call (703) 442-5023.
The American Self-Help Clearinghouse is a national non-profit organization that maintains a database of more than 800 national and one-of-a-kind self-help groups dealing with a wide variety of issues, including: abuse, addictions, bereavement, disabilities, health, mental health, parenting and family concerns, and more than 300 rare illnesses. The clearinghouse also provides information on other self-help clearinghouses worldwide that provide local information. Services are free of charge, and can be accessed via telephone, (973) 625-9565, mail (with a self-addressed stamped envelope), or via the world wide web, http://www.cmhc.com/selfhelp. Their address is: American Self-Help Clearinghouse, Northwest Covenant Medical Center, Denville, N.J. 07834-2995.
Melchior offers sterling silver braille jewelry, such as cuff bracelets and band rings. Cuff bracelets cost $75 (plus a $6 charge for the first three letters, and 50 cents for each letter thereafter; Florida residents add 6 percent sales tax). Band rings cost $50 each plus the same personalization charges. For more information, call (561) 366-8111 and leave a message. Be certain to leave your area code.
Top Word 8 for Office 97 is now available from Top Dot Enterprises. This recorded tutorial consisting of 23 chapters of information about this word processor (including five chapters containing commands to assist users of various screen readers) comes with a supplemental disk. It is available on four-track and two-track cassette. The four-track tape costs $19.50; two-track, $24.50. There is a $5 per order shipping and handling charge. It is available from Ann Morris Enterprises, (800) 454-3175, and from Dean Martineau, Top Dot Enterprises, 8930 11th Pl. SE, Everett, WA 98205, or call him at (425) 335-4894.
The board of publications of the American Council of the Blind is pleased to announce the criteria for the 1999 Ned E. Freeman Excellence in Writing Award and the Vernon Henley Media Award.
Each year, the Freeman Award is administered and granted by the board of publications to an outstanding writer who has made a specific contribution of particular merit in the area of writing by and for blind people. The award is given in memory of Ned E. Freeman, ACB's first president, who at the time of his death was serving as editor of "The Braille Forum."
The board of publications will accept submissions for the Freeman Award from any writer on a topic that would be of interest to readers of "The Braille Forum." Submissions may be published in the magazine if space allows. Articles published in the magazine between April 1998 and March 1999 are automatically eligible. Materials which have been published by an ACB affiliate will also be considered if submitted. Send a print, braille or disk copy of the published article.
The Vernon Henley Media Award will be presented to a person, either sighted or blind, who has made a positive difference in the press, whether in radio, TV, magazines, or daily newspapers, which may change public attitudes to recognize the capabilities of people who are blind, rather than focusing on outdated stereotypes and misconceptions. Programs and/or articles written and produced specifically for a visually impaired audience, as well as those intended for the general public, are eligible. Multiple articles or programs submitted by one author or organization will be judged as separate entries.
The Henley Award is intended to be a vehicle for publicizing ACB throughout the general media, and to encourage excellence and accuracy in electronic and print coverage of items relating to blindness.
Previous Freeman and Henley award recipients will not be eligible to enter a second time. Those who are members of the ACB national office staff or who are members of the board of directors or board of publications during the awarding period are not eligible. Articles from affiliate publications are eligible for the Freeman Award if accompanied by a letter of nomination.
Submissions for both awards must be postmarked no later than April 15, 1999. All submissions should be accompanied by a cover letter providing details about the submission, its origin, and any other pertinent information. Please include your return address in the cover letter. If you want your manuscript returned, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
Send submissions to ACB Board of Publications Awards, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005.
QUILT ON TOUR
The ACB quilt has had quite an adventure since the raffle at the national convention in July! One of its most recent showings was at the Missouri Council convention in Joplin, where several hundred members got to see and feel the quilt for themselves. In November, the quilt went to the Girl Scout Leaders Regional Conference in Kansas City. More than 300 Girl Scout leaders got to see the quilt.
You are invited to apply for the Friends-In-Art Scholarship. This $1,000 scholarship is offered annually for achievement, talent, and excellence in the arts. If you are planning to, or are currently majoring in, the field of music, art, drama, or creative writing, and are a blind or visually impaired student, you may apply for this scholarship. You may obtain an application form by writing to Michael Mandel, 400 W. 43rd St., Apt. 201, New York, NY 10036.CAPTION
Missouri Council president Ken Emmons shows the ACB quilt to Missouri representative Bill Boucher. (Photo courtesy of Jerry Annunzio.)
The American Council of the Blind Constitution and Bylaws provide that any person who has reached the age of 18 and who is not a voting member of an ACB state/regional affiliate is eligible to become an ACB member-at-large with the right to an individual vote at the ACB national convention. Annual membership at large dues are $5. Application forms for new members-at-large are available from the ACB National Office. The ACB Constitution and Bylaws further provide that all dues are to be received no later than March 15. All membership at large dues must be clearly identified as such and should be sent so as to be received no later than March 15, 1999, to American Council of the Blind, Pat Beattie, Treasurer, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005.
FOR SALE: Alva 20-cell unit. In excellent condition. $2,100 (negotiable). Braille 'n Speak 640. In excellent condition. Comes with carrying case, adapter, and teaching tapes. $850 (negotiable). DECtalk Express (external speech synthesizer). In excellent condition. $325 (negotiable). Jumbo brailler, recently refurbished, in excellent condition. (No case.) $450 (negotiable). Office 97 on CD-ROM. $125. Contact Isaac Obie at (617) 247-0026 or e-mail him at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Artic Braille Pad notetaker and WinVision 97 screen reader. Will make any Windows 95 or 98 computer talk, plus get a portable notetaker for the road. Equipment is brand new and in perfect condition. Asking $900. Will also consider trading equipment for a braille embosser. Call Mike at (517) 336-9830.
FOR SALE: Chromadura color CCTV with 14-inch monitor. Best offer. DECtalk speech card. Best offer. Contact Tony Santamaria at 1629 Nokomis Ave., Dallas, TX 75224; phone (214) 331-5112. No collect calls.
FOR SALE: Toshiba T1000 LE laptop with internal Sounding Board synthesizer. Ideal for word processing and basic DOS applications. CD 45 ham rotator with braille rotator control. Prices negotiable. Call Richard Fiorello after 6 p.m. Eastern at (716) 873-4132.
FOR SALE: Two Lexmark inkjet printers. One is model 2050; the other is model 7000. Reasonably priced. Call Paul Anderson at (918) 273-0409 after 6 p.m. Mondays only.
FOR SALE: 1997 braille Blazer with Duxbury software. Asking $1,650. Will accept money orders or cashier's checks only. Contact Marcia Harrison at 4520 Grove Ave., Apt. 2, Richmond, VA 23221, or via telephone at (804) 354-9920.
FOR SALE: Braille playing cards. $7 per deck. Call James Konechne at (605) 249-2378.
WANTED: CCTV. Contact Ken Wester at (703) 430-0541.
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