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(Editor's Note: This is the text of the report given by ACB President Paul Edwards at the mid-year board meeting.) Let me just say a few things to you about the last six months and perhaps a final couple of things about vision. Since the convention there has been substantial change in the American Council of the Blind both in terms of personnel and in terms of what I would regard as a re-energizing of our initiatives and efforts. I think that what most of you should have been able to pick up without any question at this meeting is the degree to which those of us who are engaged in working as leaders of ACB are beginning to prioritize our activities and are beginning to work at fairly high levels of commitment on specific issues. We believe that this is going to ensure that the American Council of the Blind will be able, both in the short run and in the long run, to gain a lot more recognition for ourselves, but also will be able to do more for blind people throughout the country.
We continue to work in a number of areas with other organizations. It was my pleasure last year to serve on the search committee that ended up hiring a new executive director for National Industries for the Blind. I wouldn't normally make that part of a report to you, except that something very significant happened. That is that National Industries for the Blind, for the first time in its history, hired a gentleman who is totally blind. It also hired a gentleman who is fairly young and who comes to National Industries for the Blind with a record in the private sector that every single sighted applicant envied. And I think that's a significant indication of the capabilities of blind people, and I applaud National Industries for the Blind's board of directors for having the vision and good sense to recognize a wonderful candidate when they have one.
We also have been working very closely with a number of organizations, probably most notably the American Foundation for the Blind, on a number of issues and on a number of initiatives, and I want to describe a few of them to you because I think they're relevant to some of the things that are happening at the state level. We work on a general and specialized task force that the AFB hosts, conference calls for the most part, but the general-specialized task force has as its primary objective beginning to work seriously on bringing folks together who can help when specialized services are threatened. The general- specialized task force was very active in Texas. We were mobilizing for efforts in North Carolina last fall (still are). We are continuing to work with the folks in California and Illinois to try to encourage and help them with their commission bills, and essentially the intent of this group is wherever special education or specialized services are at risk, there is a task force of organizations from around the country who are able to step forward and be of assistance. Virtually all of the organizations that are relevant are playing on this team. The only organization that chooses not to be a part of the general- specialized task force in terms of blindness organizations is the National Federation of the Blind.
As a subcommittee of the general-specialized task force, I and a few others are working closely on an issue that concerns me. I don't think we've discussed it much and I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it now, but you will hear more about it later. That is the degree to which specialized services are being affected by the degree to which vision services, rehabilitation teaching services and services delivered in terms of orientation and mobility are actually now being paid for and delivered by occupational therapists who have no training in blindness. We are actively working to try to move that issue ahead. We have a resolution in that subject which I take very seriously, and I've been working very closely with this specialized task force to try to move that issue forward. As you know, AER received our resolution and is now actively participating in that task force and I feel like that's a huge step forward because in the past AER has sort of ignored the fact that the issue is even there. So with regard to that issue, I think we're making progress.
Just three other activities that I'd like to report on. First, last week I had the pleasure of attending a meeting at the National Library Service for the Blind in Washington, D.C. It was a meeting of leaders of consumer organizations and also of the library networks to explore what the implications of going digital were for national library services and for services delivered from libraries. And I think that while we're still several years away from even determining which approach we're going to take toward digital service delivery, the National Library Service has recognized that digital services are going to happen. And I think the reason I'm raising this with you now is because when we're talking about a base of our people that is around 800,000 or currently reading one way, we're going to have a tremendous task ahead of us that I hope the American Council of the Blind will work to help bridge in terms of creating opportunities for others to learn to read in new and different ways.
The second activity that I'd like to talk about is the World Blind Union and the regional meetings thereof. Brian Charlson and I attended the last regional meeting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada a few weeks ago, and I think that the North American region is actually beginning to move in some directions that have the potential, at least, of having some good things to offer to us in this region. In the first place, there will be an effort to actually plan for some initiatives that will speak to the needs of people who are blind in this region, and in the second place, the North American region has formed a committee on technology that will look at coordinating efforts North America- wide. The expectation is that we'll be able to persuade that committee to take some positions on behalf of the whole blindness community. For those of you who aren't aware, the National Federation of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind, the Canadian Council of the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Association, the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Library Service for the Blind and RSA and a whole range of other organizations actually serve on this group, so if we can get this group to take a position, we may be able to say to Microsoft that every significant organization of and for blind people in North America says this, and I think that potentially could be a very powerful voice.
The last activity that I want to talk about is transitioning. We have had a good deal of change over the last few years in the ACB national office, and while I would like to believe that change is over, unfortunately change seems to be part of our lives. Most of the change that has happened over the past six months has been fairly positive, and I'm looking forward to being able to relax as president in my old age and let the executive director, national office, my board of directors and my officers do all the work. So far it hasn't happened, but I remain hopeful. The change that has occurred though, it seems to me, has this time been a broader kind of change than simply changes of personnel. I would like to believe that the changes that we've made in the national office, as well as the changes that we've gradually been making in the way our board of directors operates, in the way our midyear meeting operates, the way our convention operates and the way our legislative seminar will operate, are going to create a new and stronger and more vibrant and more capable American Council of the Blind. The American Council of the Blind, as our executive director said yesterday, is only as strong as every one of our local affiliates and our state affiliates and our special-interest affiliates are. And the American Council of the Blind is far more than a national office or a board of directors. It is a group of blind people standing together to say that life for blind folks must change. If there is a single thing that characterizes the American Council of the Blind and that makes us different from any other organization that's out there, it seems to me that what makes us different is our notion that as citizens of this country and as people who are part of a vibrant and growing society, we have a right to expect that society to make changes that enable us to fully participate in it. If there is a core value that I embrace and that I think the American Council of the Blind embraces, that is what it is.
Ladies and gentlemen, what I'd like to say to all of you is what I take away from the last two days and what I have begun to take away more and more from every state affiliate I'm at is that we are an organization that is growing and changing and building. I'd like to quote as the last thing I do as part of my presidential report the president of the Florida Council of the Blind, who said a couple of weeks ago at the spring board meeting of our organization that he had sort of a problem with us describing ourselves as a consumer organization. And he said that he had a problem with that because consuming seems like taking. Well, he may be right! Certainly I've always felt comfortable with the idea of being a consumer because I think of consumer in terms of "Consumer Reports": we're the group out there who has to put up with the range of services that are out there, and who get an opportunity to evaluate them and make them better. However, what he said and what I'll share with you just for you to take away and think about is that what we are perhaps even more than a consumer organization is an advocacy organization. What he said and what I categorically agree with is that it is our job to stand up for those folks who are not able to stand up for themselves, and to articulate positions for folks who don't do as well at articulating positions. And we as leaders of this organization can take what we learn here back to our affiliates and invigorate and enable more advocates in each of our affiliates.
In this and future issues of "The Braille Forum," we will discuss the content of our many issues, but let me take a moment to discuss the content of ourselves.
There are times when ACB shines more brightly than any beacon. There are times when our people show the depth of their humanity, the brilliance of their understanding and the force of commitment to building a better world in which we can live. That was the scene at this last weekend in Los Angeles as ACB folks from all over our nation met and shared great dreams, hard work and celebrated the many successes we have earned along our journey.
First there came the introduction to the pedestrian safety presentation by President Paul Edwards. He gathered all of us in a moment of silence for Carolyn Garrett and our other blind brothers and sisters who have been lost to pedestrian accidents. In that one moment of silence, I could feel all of ACB reaching beyond everyday life to support each other and share our common commitment to making the simple act of crossing our streets a celebration of freedom rather than the occasion of fear.
As the day moved on, we were blessed with excellent presentations from folks like Julie Carroll on accessible intersections, Scott Marshall on Social Security reform, Debbie Grubb on the pedestrian safety handbook, Michael Byington on how to proceed with resolving Social Security problems, Debbie Cook on the world of the accessible governmental workplace and ongoing efforts under Section 508, Brian Charlson on the human side of technology, Earlene Hughes on our web site development, and so many more too lengthy to mention. While differing topics were presented, each had that common thread of clear delivery, relevance to blind folks, and positive ways to address the issues. Not one of the deliveries fell short of these standards of excellence and all of them kept the continuing interest of our affiliate presidents.
Getting far beyond the depth and superb quality of the topics, our presenters were the real stars of the show. Our talented affiliate presidents and great members who came to share and learn from the meeting! These men and women asked real questions, made solid contributions, and sounded for all the world to be exactly what they are: leaders of a caliber that would make any organization envious!
To sum up, last weekend showed an ACB clearly understanding the issues facing our community with the power of intelligence, commitment, compassion, and expertise to address them. Yes, there were many voices that sang one song and it lifted our spirits to the heights of where our founders gave of themselves; the simple truth that together we set our course and our success will be measured only when together, we arrive.
The mid-winter meetings are now over and we are looking forward to July. Those who attended found the Airport Westin Hotel very accommodating. Along with ACB, another large group was meeting at the hotel at the same time. The hotel was crowded but the staff was able to meet our needs. The difficulties that did surface will be dealt with so that all will be in order by convention time.
There are some differences from previous years because the convention will end on Friday, July 9. These include: the opening session Sunday evening, July 4, will begin at 7:30 p.m.; general sessions each morning Monday through Friday will begin at 8:30 a.m.; the Friday general session will continue until 2 p.m. if necessary; the convention banquet will take place Thursday evening, July 8; and the post-convention board of directors meeting will take place Saturday, July 10.
Convention dates: Saturday, July 3 to Friday, July 9
Place: the Airport Westin Hotel, 5400 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90045; phone (310) 216-5858.
Overflow hotel: the Airport Marriott, 5855 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90045; phone (310) 641-5700.
Hotel rates: $60 per night plus tax for up to four people per room
Reservation cutoff date: June 10, 1999
Shuttles between hotels will be operated by the Marriott and supplemented by the Westin. Airport transportation will be provided 24 hours a day at no cost by both hotels. Airport shuttles run every 15 minutes from the hotels.
ACB designated travel agency: Prestige Travel, (800) 966- 5050; ask for Gina.
This year the overnight tour will be to San Diego, which is about 2 1/2 hours from Los Angeles. Not all arrangements for this tour are completed, but it will include a narrated trolley/bus tour of San Diego, visits to the Point Loma submarine base, a narrated tour of one of San Diego's oldest historical missions, a trip to a working winery (which will include wine tasting), a musical show Friday evening and some time for shopping. Hotel rooms will be double occupancy unless one is willing to pay the extra cost for a single room. The exact cost and more information will be included in the April issue of "The Braille Forum." California costs are higher, but we are doing our best to keep them consistent with the usual charges for ACB overnight tours.
Additional tours will include the Saturday, July 3 Los Angeles city tour, repeated Sunday, July 4; the worship service at the Crystal Cathedral Sunday morning; the Queen Mary; the Braille Institute of America; the Center for the Partially Sighted; Knott's Berry Farm; the Crystal Cathedral and grounds at Gordon Grove; the Autry Museum of Western Heritage; and perhaps a TV show taping and a Wednesday evening dinner cruise on the bay.
If you are planning an exhibit or boutique, or if you are a special-interest group program or committee chair, please be certain to return the forms you have received promptly to the addresses indicated. Also, if you have made room reservations for others for the convention, be certain to cancel any rooms that will not be used so that they will be available for additional people who wish to attend.
Don't miss out on a great convention in July!
While there weren't any earthquakes during the 1999 mid-year affiliate presidents' meeting of the American Council of the Blind in Los Angeles, affiliate leaders left the meeting with earth-shaking new insights into everything from pedestrian safety to fund-raising.
The meeting, held in mid-February at the Airport Westin Hotel, attracted affiliate leaders from throughout the United States. Both state and special-interest affiliates were well represented.
Following introductions of those present, the topic of pedestrian safety and new Accessible Pedestrian Signals became the group's primary focus. Julie Carroll, an advocacy attorney for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the chair of ACB's Environmental Access Committee, conducted a panel that included Dr. Billie Louise Bentzen, representing Accessible Designs for the Blind in Boston; Deborah Grubb, a board member of the American Council of the Blind; Janet Barlow, an orientation and mobility instructor from Atlanta; and Lukas Franck, an instructor at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, N.J. Barlow and Franck demonstrated various types of Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) devices.
According to a study of blind pedestrians recently conducted by Bentzen for the Access Board, 8 percent of those surveyed had been struck by a vehicle while crossing a street. Some 29 percent of the respondents have had their canes run over. Additionally, 62 percent of those studied got partway across the street and realized that the light had changed against them.
Carroll said a natural result of unsafe street crossings is fear. "Thirty-six percent of those surveyed said they won't cross unfamiliar light-controlled intersections," she said. According to the survey, 34 percent of the subjects said they had an APS device near where they live. Of that number, fully half said they couldn't tell which cross street was safe according to the signal.
"This survey helps us develop standards," Carroll explained. "With this information, we can help manufacturers design products that will be of most value to us. By seeking to develop standards, we aren't endorsing any particular manufacturer."
Grubb explained to affiliate leaders the importance of a new pedestrian safety handbook prepared for use by state affiliate members who work with traffic engineers and others interested in intersection design and pedestrian safety. She said the book included a definition of an Accessible Pedestrian Signal. "This is a good definition," Grubb said, "and you should take it with you when you go visit local leaders and traffic engineers."
Grubb said the book includes information on various ways of obtaining APS devices, and it includes reprints from "The Braille Forum" on modern intersections and recently passed language in the transportation act. The book also includes a model state pedestrian safety law. It is now available from the ACB National Office.
Bentzen described in detail the new technology available regarding APS devices. If you think chirps and cuckoos are the only types of pedestrian signals available, you have some catching up to do.
Some of the new technology demonstrated includes walk buttons that emit clicks or tones that can even automatically change in volume as traffic noises change. These tones allow blind pedestrians to more easily locate the button, which activates the longer light allowing for safer crossings. In addition to making the button easier to find, the new signals also alert the pedestrian as to when to walk. One signal is both tactile and audible, and the newer devices can be activated simply by holding the button in a few seconds longer than normal. That puts an end to the constant chirps and cuckoos some of the older devices use. Today's APS devices can be programmed to work only when needed by a blind person. Another signal provides alternate melodies or tones which emanate from first one side of the street then the other. These alternating signals would provide a beacon of sorts that would give blind pedestrians a better reference and enable straighter and faster crossings. That system is currently on trial in Japan.
The Seeing Eye's Lukas Franck cautioned his listeners that blind pedestrians won't likely get everything they want immediately. "What we want to do is build standards that won't freeze out any specific manufacturer or result in old technology being used when new technology that may come along would work better," he explained.
If crossing at a complex intersection isn't the safest activity in the world, neither is messing with the IRS. That's the message ACB Assistant Treasurer James Olsen conveyed to affiliate leaders interested in obtaining 501 (c)(3) non-profit status for their affiliate. Olsen said from small beginnings, the non-profit status ranks have swollen significantly, and so have the regulations. "The regulations which deal with non- profit status have increased dramatically in recent years," he explained. "They've even moved into the state and even the county level in some cases." Those regulations have increased in part due to the kind of non-profit organization that says it's non-profit and then pays its chief executive officer millions of dollars a year. Health maintenance organizations are examples of non-profit groups who often pay top dollar to executives.
Olsen said regulations are no reason to be afraid of working toward status as a 501 (c)(3) company. "This is very much about thorough record keeping," he said. "If you're going to be serious about this, you have to keep good solid records."
He reminded his audience that "you can't incorporate in one state and then change that incorporation to some other state. Just as you can't change the fact that you were born in a certain location, so you cannot change the birthplace of your corporation."
While he did not go into the technical details of obtaining a non-profit status, he warned leaders that once they obtain a tax- exempt letter, they need to know where it is at all times. "You might be able to get a copy from the IRS," he cautioned, "but don't count on that. Whatever you do, make sure several people in the affiliate know of the whereabouts of your tax-exempt letter and other related documents."
Olsen described the various forms that one needs to complete in order to maintain tax-exempt status. The forms vary slightly, he explained, based on the non-profit's income.
Oral Miller, a sports and recreation consultant to ACB and its former executive director, urged affiliate leaders to make sure they know what the corporate status of their affiliate is. "Where's your charter, your constitution and bylaws, and where are your documents that indicate that you've paid your corporate filling fees?" he asked. "It's vital that you know where these things are."
He reminded the group that obtaining non-profit status is just the beginning. "You must comply annually with corporate regulations in your state," he said. "That means sending in annual reports and relevant fees or whatever is required."
Olsen urged his listeners to make sure the purpose statement is concise and properly written. Even if other parts of the affiliate's constitution change, he encouraged affiliate leaders not to mess with their purpose or mission statements. "Those statements are what helped convince the IRS to give you non- profit status," he said. "If you wordsmith those statements, if you change them, you'll get more than raised eyebrows at the IRS."
Olsen said successful non-profit status applications always clearly state what will happen to the assets of the corporation should it dissolve.
"Remember, you can't engage in political activity," he cautioned. "You can bring the politician to your convention, but you can't give money to his campaign."
He said while it all can seem overwhelming, the organization's checkbook alone can serve as a solid accounting system, assuming that checkbook is kept in good order.
The afternoon session began with a panel discussion of creating and maintaining an accessible web site. ACB First Vice President Brian Charlson, ACB webmaster Earlene Hughes, board member Chris Gray and ACB of Ohio President Tom Tobin each spoke.
Charlson told his listeners that the internet is an excellent source to put an organization and its information in front of a great deal of people. "The letters 'www' are as common as P.O. Box," he said. He suggested that affiliates should have technology liaisons, and if they have pages on the web, that they should connect those pages to the ACB web page. In selecting someone for the webmaster, Charlson suggested several things to think about: 1) find someone who likes dealing with computers; 2) find someone to back that person up; 3) get your newsletter editor involved; 4) whoever the person is should be an avid e- mail reader (and a good responder); 5) the person must have a thick skin to be able to deal with whatever complaints come in; and 6) affiliate presidents should not be the ones doing everything; let somebody else manage the web page.
Tom Tobin talked about the experience with web pages in Ohio. Mary Hiland, whose articles you may have read in "The Braille Forum," brought her friend Carol Slike to the affiliate as its webmaster. Slike is now a member of ACB of Ohio. It was a matter of being "in the right place at the right time," Tobin said.
But the web page has not always been so speech-friendly. The first attempt at a web page, Tobin said, was too visual. But Slike, Tobin and others took time to talk and listen, and got the affiliate's page off the ground. It now has information about the state convention, links to state agencies and the ACB web page. If you have questions about how Ohio did it, you may e- mail Carol Slike at [email protected]
Charlson warned his listeners to be careful when accepting a volunteer as a webmaster; sometimes things don't work out as well as they have for Ohio.
Earlene Hughes, ACB's webmaster, spoke next. She mentioned that it was her first ACB gathering, and she was glad to meet the people who are "the heart and soul" of the organization. She said what got her into web page design was the constant "link, link, link" she heard on other web pages. And then Windows changed everything about how blind people access the web and computers, she added.
Hughes encouraged her listeners to think of a web page as a chain with lots of links. "And if one of the links is broken, ... you'll get a message that says 'not found,'" she said. Currently on the ACB web page are "The Braille Forum," the Washington Connection, resource lists, the job bank, affiliate links, convention information, speeches in Real Audio, ACB Reports, resolutions, the constitution and bylaws, and much more. But, she said, "it's hard to find information if you don't know where to look." She urged affiliates to keep their lists of officers up to date, and said that it will take teamwork to keep the web page current. She hoped to make the web site the best it can be.
Chris Gray spoke next about the mechanics of the web. He reminded his listeners that once they'd typed in a document, they couldn't just slap it up on the web. It would not come out looking right. Web documents need to be coded in HTML.
"Where will we be next year?" he asked. He hoped that more affiliates would have pages linked to ACB. Gray mentioned that Earlene Hughes had come to him and talked about Indiana's page, and had linked it to the ACB web page, and that now Pat Price is doing the Library Users of America web page.
The nuts and bolts of web access include having an internet account with access to the web, and search engines. Some people who get to ACB's page get there by accident of the search engines, he said. And usually "once they're in ACB's web site, they search around." The panel finished with a question-and- answer session.
Following the internet panel was Debbie Cook, chair of the information access committee, updating the audience on the progress made in federal standard-setting for access to information technology. The committee is "trying to get teeth into the laws," she said, including Section 508 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. She stressed that there's a difference between standards and guidelines: standards are enforceable, guidelines are not. ACB has signed on to a consumer letter in an attempt to file a telecommunications complaint to move forward the process of making digital telephones accessible. She is hoping to hear from many ACB members, especially those who have Sprint PCS service. E-mail her at [email protected]
Following the break, ACB treasurer Pat Beattie, American Foundation for the Blind director of governmental relations Scott Marshall, Michael Byington and ACB director of advocacy and governmental relations presented a panel on Social Security reform. Beattie reviewed the alphabet soup of SSI (Supplemental Security Income), SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), OASDI (Old Age and Survivors Disability Income), IRWE (impairment-related work expense), BWE (blindness-related work expense), SGA (substantial gainful activity), and the differences between Medicare (for people on disability) and Medicaid (welfare health insurance).
"Social Security is ... the problem everybody hates and nobody, Republican or Democrat, wants to fix," said Scott Marshall. It goes through a cyclical basis of crises, he added, and politicians are hesitant about trying to fix the system. But there are several things that can be done: raise payroll taxes; cut benefits; or invest money in a creative way to create more revenue. "Politicians can't stand to have a big pot of money untouched," he stated. And by 2013 the trust fund that is Social Security won't be able to play the IOU game anymore with other federal "pots."
Marshall urged his listeners to keep their eyes and ears tuned to Congress for the Kennedy-Jeffords bill and other bills, including the Work Incentives Act, which would provide for health care, attendant services, reader services, and help for transportation. A grant system would allow states to fund Medicaid and a voucher system for rehabilitation would aid people in keeping their jobs.
Melanie Brunson addressed the topic of "what do you get when you call ACB." Her department assists to the extent it can regarding Social Security problems, but it can't represent people who have to appear in court. What it mainly does is give information to callers who say things like, "I have a relative who has just lost her sight. What is she eligible for?" or "I'm blind. What am I eligible for?" She asked people to let her know if the Social Security Administration is following through on requests for alternative media.
Michael Byington spoke about what happens when you receive a notice of overpayment. He said that one way to deal with it is to say that you "got a print letter and once you could finally read it your appeals dates were exhausted." Tell them you need it in an alternative format, he stressed, and 40 percent of the time you will get the format you want.
If the first option fails, you then need to figure out whether the overpayment is SSI or SSDI-related. Once you've done that, you need to prove that the overpayment was not your fault. You can tell SSA that you can't afford to repay them, or claim undue hardship. But you should always appeal, Byington said, and fill out both a request for reconsideration and a request for waiver of repayment.
The topic of descriptive video came up next with a report from Laura Oftedahl, host of ACB Reports. CBS is in the process of getting some programs described and making decisions on which others to describe. She urged the audience to call their CBS stations and tell them you want Descriptive Video Service. She also urged them to know about DVS so that they could explain it to their CBS stations.
Oftedahl exhorted her audience to "get out there and knock on doors." Contact your local stations and Blockbuster video stores and ask for described videos, she said.
Another subject she mentioned was described first-run movies. The next one is "8 Millimeter," an R-rated movie with a great deal of violence. It was scheduled to come out on Feb. 26. She also talked about General Cinema's movie theaters, some more of which are purchasing and about to use DVS equipment to describe first-run movies. Those theaters are in: Philadelphia; Dallas; New York City; Minneapolis; Milwaukee; and Baltimore. If you live in these cities, keep your ears tuned to your local paper to find out the exact location of the theater.
Following Oftedahl's report, ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford presented his report of activities over the last several months. He told his listeners that he was impressed with the quality of the presentations, and that he hoped people would be able to effect change in their states. He also discussed priorities. "Priorities are important because priorities are the things that drive decision-making," he said. One of ACB's current priorities is changing the priorities of traffic engineers to include the accessible pedestrian signals mentioned above.
Another topic Crawford touched on was Social Security. "Blind people should be able to work." ACB is working on changing that. But the topic that really kept the audience on its toes was information access. "Who ever decided that information belongs only to people who can see?" he asked. "And what about computers? We should have the same rights to use them [as sighted people]." These topics will be discussed in greater detail at the legislative seminar.
He also mentioned the changes at the office: a new system of managing; the direct connection ACB now has to the internet; a review of work plans; quality circles; weekly staff meetings; and much more. "ACB is a place of invitation, not condemnation," Crawford said. He thanked Oral Miller for all his work, and he thanked his listeners for their attention. "You are number one for the national office," he said. "You are only as good as the trust people have put in you."
In the third and final session, affiliate leaders got the chance to tell each other what their respective affiliate is doing. The Utah Council, for example, is involved in an extensive grant-writing program that has netted the funds used for transportation purposes. The Utah affiliate operates a braille production facility, assists with transportation costs in the rural and urban sections of the state, and it even funded a river rafting trip for its student affiliate. "Many feel we buy memberships with these programs," said Janis Stanger of Salt Lake City. "We believe that we're serving members with these programs. There's a significant difference."
Carl McCoy, president of the Florida Council of the Blind, said his affiliate is involved with a peer support program which provides counseling to newly blinded people via a toll-free number. The Florida affiliate is raising money through a long- distance carrier that offers 4.9 cents a minute and provides the affiliate with monthly funding based on the number of subscribers it generates. The affiliate also operates an information access initiative. That project, run from the governor's office, stems from an executive order signed by the governor which declares that every Floridian has a right to access information on the Internet.
Lynne Koral, president of the Alaska Independent Blind, talked about seminars the affiliate sponsors throughout the state. It brings in experts who can assist members on topics ranging from macular degeneration to accessing the Internet. A workshop is planned for various cities throughout the state in 1999 in which a variety of topics, including Social Security, will be discussed.
She pointed out that the state's center for training adult blind people in such areas as computer access and independent living, has recently hired a certified mobility instructor. "That's been a long battle," she said. "I think that person was hired in large measure as a result of our efforts there. We want to make sure our people get quality service."
Paulette Monthei, president of the National Alliance of Blind Students, thanked those affiliates who provide student-oriented programs. She said the student affiliate's newsletter has taken on a new look in recent months with stories relevant to a variety of issues including information access.
Members of the Michigan affiliate were recently involved in a leadership retreat and planning session which ultimately resulted in the preparation and production of a leadership handbook which includes the affiliate's constitution and bylaws and a section on running effective meetings. Some chapters in the state are involved in braille production, brailling bus schedules, menus and other documents purchased by municipalities in the area.
Following the affiliate share session, the group turned its attention to state agencies and the relationship between affiliate leaders and the state rehabilitation advisory councils.
ACB Executive Director Charles H. Crawford assured his audience that state agencies genuinely want to enhance their credibility with consumer organizations. He pointed to a document in the February issue of this magazine in which he spelled out some of the issues of importance to consumer organizations like ACB.
Jenine Stanley, president of Guide Dog Users, Inc., provided brief remarks on the importance of transportation and of ACB members being involved in the various planning groups and advisory groups associated with transit agencies.
Following her remarks, ACB President Paul Edwards presented Nolan Crabb, former editor of "The Braille Forum," with a plaque honoring Crabb's nine years of service to the organization. "This comes as a complete surprise," Crabb said. "I had no idea this was going to happen. I'm grateful for this and for the opportunity to work with all of you. If I've succeeded in this position, it's because I've been surrounded by a tremendous team of leaders and members of the organization."
There was a time when urban pedestrian travel through major city intersections was much, much easier than it is today. First, the east-west traffic moved; then, the north-south traffic moved; and this alternating rhythm repeated itself throughout the day. If you stood for a while at an unfamiliar traffic-light-controlled intersection, you could begin to feel a cadence to the rhythmically alternating traffic pattern.
Today, by contrast, all bets are off. While waiting to step off the curb at today's light-controlled intersections, you are listening to an auditory free-for-all: cars moving in your line of direction, or parallel to you, may be moving on one side of the street, but not the other; there may be a left-hand turn moving in front of you during one traffic cycle, and none in the next; if you are walking on the right side of the street, there may even be cars that start out sounding like parallel cars that then just seem to disappear altogether. In fact, because traffic patterns at these major intersections have changed so radically in the last quarter century, the whole teaching method that orientation and mobility specialists use in teaching people who are blind travelers to negotiate these intersections has radically changed. All this is something that I would not have known about had my brother, Mickey, not been a participant in orientation and mobility instructor's course work in recent years.
When I took long-cane travel over two-and-a-half decades ago, mobility instructors taught that the safest crossings at major intersections were so-called counterclockwise crossings, with the parallel street on the traveler's left and the cross street in front of the traveler. Were a pedestrian to make a second street crossing immediately at the same intersection, that traveler would turn left to make the second crossing. Hence the term "counterclockwise crossing" for those of us ancient enough to remember analog timepieces with physical, moving hands. In the early '70s, a northbound traveler, for example, was trained to step off the curb and cross the street in front of him or her when the traffic traveling north and south on the traveler's left-hand side, the traffic parallel to that traveler's line of direction, began moving. When the so-called cross traffic began moving east and west in front of him/her, our '70s traveler knew to wait on the curb for the beginning of the next parallel car movement in the traffic cycle before starting across the street. Under ideal conditions with a large traffic volume moving in both lines of direction, east-west and north-south, those traffic lights became relatively easy to "read" audibly with extensive practice under the watchful eye of one's mobility instructor.
Why counterclockwise? Because, back then, a traveler would potentially be walking toward an idling cross-traffic car acting as a sound beacon. If our old-time traveler veered to the right or left during the crossing of a particularly wide intersection, the sound of that idling car's engine would aid in making a mid-course correction. Our traveler's cane might even detect either the front bumper or the driver's-side door of this helpful sitting sound beacon, line up with the front bumper on the traveler's right side -- quickly but calmly -- and continue safely to the street corner that was directly ahead of the traveler when he or she first stepped off the curb and began crossing the street.
By contrast, today's long-cane travel instructors teach that clockwise crossings are safer, with the parallel street on the right, so that a second crossing at the same intersection would be made by turning right. Clockwise crossings are said to be safer nowadays, because the modern-day traveler audibly reading a traffic light has two confusing enemies: left turns and split parallel traffic control. Audibly a car turning away from you is harder to track than a car turning toward you, because the first gets quieter and dies away, while the second gets louder and changes into cross traffic as it completes its turn. Remember, this is travel, not Zen. You want to make decisions based on what you can hear clearly, not on what you cannot hear. Thus, when waiting to cross a street while standing on the left side of an intersection, you can clearly hear a left-turning car turn in front of you. As it now becomes a so-called cross-traffic car, you know not to go. Now the only traffic to use safely as a "go" signal is oncoming, parallel traffic: eastbound traffic, for example, when you are traveling west. When it reaches you, you know that this traffic traveling in the opposite direction from yours is not going to turn, because it has already passed straight through the intersection that you are facing. It is, therefore, reliable parallel traffic that says, "go, step off the curb and cross the street now." It is not misleading left- or right-turn traffic. Also, one or more cars waiting in a left-turn lane can delay parallel traffic in one direction, but not in another. So pay no attention to those cars traveling north as you prepare to walk north across an intersection, because the northbound cars may have a green light while you and the southbound cars on your side of the street do not, and/or because you are waiting for those cars in the southbound left-turn lane to get their separate green turn arrow or light! When that oncoming parallel traffic rolls, though, you know that you should have a green light -- on your side of the street.
Mobility instructors -- and spouses -- may also point out that oncoming cars can best see you -- and your cane, which may be a good thing on a bad travel day.
Personally, I can say that since my brother showed me this travel training technique change, an intersection near my workplace that used to be a very fear-filled crossing for me is now relative child's play -- albeit pay close attention child's play!
When you think of Washington state, you probably think of apples if you're a healthy eater; if you're a computer user, perhaps you equate Washington with Microsoft.
But if you're blind or visually impaired, you'll doubtless link Washington with the Washington Council of the Blind. This affiliate of the American Council of the Blind is moving forward at an amazing pace in providing services to blind and visually impaired people in the state.
The Washington Council has donated the necessary funds to pay for the March issue of "The Braille Forum" in all editions. So while all of us are the beneficiaries of the Washington Council's generosity, the affiliate is well known for its ongoing work closer to home.
The Washington Council joined ACB in 1990, according to its president, Sue Ammeter. It currently has 12 chapters with a statewide membership of 250. Coordinating the efforts of 12 chapters is no easy job, but Ammeter and her board have, over the years, devised programs that help the chapters work together to make things happen. "Those chapters that get their dues and membership lists in on time get a $500 bonus for so doing," Ammeter explained in a telephone interview.
Recognizing that it's not easy to get people from Washington to various ACB conventions, WCB leaders and members have agreed that it's worth it to have solid representation at ACB conventions, no matter where those conventions are held. As a result, the Washington Council gives stipends of $300 to those wishing to attend a national convention. "It doesn't pay the full cost, of course," Ammeter explained, "but it certainly helps. It may make the difference whether a specific member can attend the convention."
Ammeter said the WCB holds a first-timers contest for those wishing to attend national and state conventions for the first time. Every chapter sends representatives to WCB board meetings. That means that even if a chapter does not have a representative on the board, it can still send someone to the meetings since the state affiliate picks up the expenses for those chapters to send a representative.
Washington is like many other western states in that it must face the rural transportation reality. Ammeter said the affiliate deals with that issue to some degree by holding its convention in different sections of the state each year. "One year it's in the western half of Washington, another year it's in the eastern part," Ammeter explained.
What about the old rule that says that a small percentage of the people do the lion's share of the work? Ammeter said while human nature is the same in Washington as elsewhere in terms of motivating people, the WCB works hard to ensure that more of its members have a meaningful job. "People are limited to participating in two committees. This is to encourage new people to be part of the committee structure," she added. The chapter sent new representatives to the ACB legislative seminar earlier this month. "The affiliate works together because of the participation of the members in board meetings, committee meetings, and the convention," she said.
WCB leaders are well aware that the affiliate won't function without solid outreach and equally sound internal communications. For that purpose, the affiliate maintains a toll-free 800 line that works within the state. The line is answered live and fields a host of questions from members of the public as well as members of the affiliate. Additionally, the affiliate offers "Newsline," the quarterly newsletter which keeps members abreast of in-state and some national happenings. According to Ammeter, Peggy Shoel, editor of the "Newsline," works to make sure affiliate members from throughout the state have an opportunity to contribute to the newsletter.
But toll-free numbers, informative meetings, and even newsletters aren't the only things that make WCB membership meaningful. The affiliate also maintains a crisis aid committee, which was recently reactivated. This committee looks at individual emergency cases where funding is needed to solve an immediate short-term problem for a blind or low-vision person in the state. Where possible, the committee rapidly approves dispersal of money to assist in these emergency crisis periods.
The Washington Council knows how to turn junk into value -- within limits, of course. The group is highly successful at taking old cars donated by residents of the state and converting them to badly needed cash used to fund affiliate programs. WCB members also benefit from funds raised from a variety show targeted to children. Ammeter said the affiliate is also mindful of bequests. Ed and Phyllis Foscue of Seattle, long-time members of the affiliate, provided a significant sum of money to assist the affiliate. Ed Foscue had worked tirelessly with the scholarship fund during his years as a member.
"One of the forces unifying the Washington Council is working on issues that make a difference to blind and visually impaired residents of the state," Ammeter explained. "We've worked on the braille bill and a host of other legislative issues."
The affiliate also gives funds to programs that are important to its members, "and the Forum is one of those," she said. Leaders and members didn't just want to toss money into a general fund, so everyone agreed to sponsor an issue of "The Braille Forum." "We wanted to give money to something tangible," she stated.
The affiliate's major thrust this year is membership and chapter development.
According to the trusty Franklin Language Master, a "mentor" is a trusted counselor, guide, tutor or coach. Many of us think of mentoring relationships as formal arrangements, such as college- or employment-based mentoring. We all too quickly disregard the mentors in our midst.
When I received the e-mail from Charles Crawford telling of Nolan Crabb's decision to leave ACB for a challenging career in Missouri, shaping technology for blind people, I was of course overjoyed for Nolan. I was also sad and a bit hollow. I not only consider Nolan a friend, but he has been a key mentor for me since I began my involvement in ACB at the national level in the early 1990s.
To me, the key word in mentoring is "trust." Nolan, having had a wide range of professional experience both outside and within the blindness field, could always be trusted to tell me what he really thought, even when I was wrong or overreacting. I remember speaking with Nolan for the first time during the Phoenix convention. I was a young person who loved to write and wanted to help. He told me in his straightforward way that the press room was not a rehabilitation center and I would learn best by observing and doing. And so I did. Nolan was literally practicing what he told me as his job duties expanded with ACB over the years. He came in not knowing much more about the computer than word processing and leaves us as a nationally recognized speaker on computer access. He learned it all on the job, not always gracefully, but always with an eye to making things better.
We all know Nolan as the editor of "The Braille Forum" and one of the people who make ACB a leader among non-profit organizations in presenting itself in cyberspace. Nolan is also a professional journalist with "real world" experience that has not only benefited ACB, but those who have asked for his guidance over the years. I think that we all too often forget that people come to ACB with experiences from the general work world that shape them and how they approach their jobs. High standards and pride are hallmarks of Nolan Crabb's work and all that he expected from me when he asked me for something for the "Forum." When I won the Ned E. Freeman Award in 1993, I know that it was Nolan's inspiration and tough love as a critic that got me there.
I wanted to take this public opportunity to thank Nolan for his encouragement and support when I entertained the idea of running for the Board of Publications. What was I thinking? There I was, president of one of ACB's largest and fastest-growing affiliates, someone who has always been a constructive critic of ACB because I know the quality we are capable of. Was I really ready for this? Nolan talked these things out with me and told me I was.
Little did I know that I would be sitting in my second BOP meeting some six months later, talking about selecting his successor. With tears in my eyes, I thanked him, but in typical Nolan fashion, he moved us along to the business of putting out the "Forum" between editors and running the convention press room. Life goes on, deadlines must be met.
Nolan, I wish you luck health and happiness. Your role as a mentor is not over for me. I hope to continue to learn from you and thank you for allowing me to recognize when someone has fulfilled that role in my life. These relationships are what make ACB and my involvement in every aspect of it invaluable.
In the March-April 1990 issue of this magazine, I wrote a brief message entitled "What a Way To Start the '90s!" As I write this for the March 1999 issue, I can't help but think about how much has changed for me personally and for my family since I wrote that introductory message to you more than 9 years ago. I suppose the vast majority of "Braille Forum" readers are aware of my decision to step down as editor after more than nine years. I've accepted a position with the Missouri Rehabilitation Services for the Blind as the agency's technology specialist. By the time you read this, I will have begun my new assignment.
I marvel at the amount of change I've experienced over that nine years. In early 1990, just days before we moved to Washington, my daughter had seen a documentary on President Bush. The documentary included footage of a toy chest the president kept in his office for his grandchildren when they visited. My little girl, then aged six, was certain that "he must be a nice grandpa. I bet he lets me play with those toys when we get there." Of course, Mr. Bush is long since gone, and the little girl who was once so interested in his toy box is on the verge of obtaining a driver's license and worries about whether the cheerleading squad at the Missouri high school she will soon attend will have room for her.
Much has changed for "The Braille Forum" since February of 1990 when I came. We're a monthly now, and we're 50 percent bigger than we were in those days. More of you are reading the magazine these days as well. In a day where there is fierce competition for your time, those circulation numbers are gratifying indeed to those of us who are responsible for gathering and disseminating the information you've come to count on.
Changes like those I've mentioned would never have been possible were it not for the valiant men and women who worked hard to shepherd ACB's resources and channel them in appropriate directions. I've been encouraged here to learn new skills, and I've enjoyed the creative freedom to experiment with new ideas for the magazine. So while much has changed for me, for my family, and for ACB, I remain grateful to those of you who have been long-time readers as well as those who have signed on in recent years. I don't pretend to know what makes a good issue of the magazine. Your reactions have often come as a surprise to me over the years. I've included stories that I thought weren't all that significant only to have the phone ring off the desk with your reactions. Stories that I thought would really bring in a cavalcade of letters and calls barely registered any interest. I appreciate your help in reminding me constantly that it would be easy to get out of touch with you, the readers of this publication. Many of you have written without any hope of financial compensation. That willingness to share your talents speaks to your appreciation and love of this organization and what it stands for.
So why, you probably wonder, would someone leave here after nine years? The answers are personal and have little or nothing to do with the job itself. To be honest with you, I've grown tired of living in an area of the country where things are so heavily regulated. I want to be able to toss an amateur radio antenna in the air somewhere without some architectural committee threatening me with lawsuits. What a refreshing change it will be to put a satellite dish up without being forced to justify its existence before some relatively insignificant municipality. This all sounds rather juvenile to most of you, I'm sure, but I suspect there are a few of you who appreciate the value of personal property rights and the importance of accountability.
Mostly though, I'm making the change because I have long hoped for a career in technology at some level. I've discovered in recent years that when I had two things to do -- one technology related and the other "Braille Forum" related -- I would gravitate to the technology task first. That realization speaks volumes to me about what I need to do with my career life.
There are other reasons, of course. Some are family related, still others have a lot to do with a wanderlust that has plagued me for most of my adult life. There is something intensely powerful to me in venturing to new places and assimilating myself into new cultures.
There are so many of you who have done so much to improve my life. I'm not sure you realize how important a part you've played. I am truly grateful for your efforts and your concern. Amidst all the change of the past nine years, I remain unchanged in my sense of appreciation to this magazine's readers and to the spirit of giving independent voices a platform that the "Forum" provides in accordance with the wishes of its founders. If I could give my successor one piece of advice, it would be this: Become well acquainted with and feel the spirit of those early writers of this publication. Then with that spirit, build a future for "The Braille Forum" that will raise it to new heights of importance among blind and visually impaired readers the world over.
Thanks again to all of you, best wishes, and farewell.
(Editor's note: What follows is a compilation of information from ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford. This information was originally distributed via ACB-L, the organization's Internet mailing list. These weekly e-mail notices are intended to be informal brief summaries of weekly activities in the ACB National Office. We include them here for the benefit of those who do not currently have access to ACB's Internet mailing list.)
Blind Texans stand tall: separate agency saved!
Go get 'em Ed Bradley and Audley Blackburn of Texas! They and other ACB folks along with lots of work from all the blindness interests in Texas put together and managed a campaign of real and powerful advocacy against some well organized forces to convince the Texas legislative sunset commission to drop the idea of combining the services to the blind into a kind of administrative blob. While some minor issues remain outstanding, we all can take a page from our folks in Texas on how to get it done. The national office was involved, but let's put the bulk of the credit where it belongs: right there in Texas. Congratulations to our affiliate for a job well done!
ACB and partners help FCC on Section 255 implementation
Thanks to the fine work of Debbie Cook representing ACB and some coordinating assistance from Charlie Crawford, ACB has helped shape and signed on to a document to assist the FCC on what telecommunications access needs to be. This relates to the equipment like cell phones that we will continue to rely upon for telecommunications and all the extra little features they keep putting into those little critters. The basic approach is to give the phone makers the ability to provide product line access in that not all equipment will be accessible immediately, but that equipment representing a product line will be there for us at a comparable price to the other products in the same line. This was not an easy task to get done and particular thanks go to Paul Schroeder of AFB and Karen Strauss of the National Association of the Deaf for their hard work in developing the document and building consensus.
Internet arrives at ACB National
Well, it's here! Our first computer was hooked to the router and internet came alive at the office. What's that you say? Computers never work right the first time? You are right! Up came the internet and down went the network. We hope to get the problem fixed this coming week and have the office online and humming!
Pedestrian safety handbook nears completion while dark days befall Virginia
Another blind person was killed recently while crossing a street. Joe Shankle, who was a vendor and not a member of ACB, died from being struck by a vehicle as he attempted to cross a street in Richmond, VA. ACB has sent a letter to the police department to review the reports and make sure that all proper actions were taken. Despite this dark and sad background, our national office has been working with ACB board member Debbie Grubb to finish up on the pedestrian safety handbook for the mid-year and legislative seminars. An accessible crossing may or may not have saved Joe's life, but nobody will ever know since there was none there.
Braille Forum electronic subscriptions coming to a computer screen near you!
We hope to start the electronic subscription to "The Braille Forum" next week! So hang in there and we will let you know how to get your copy hot off the wire!
Local Washington agencies meet and ACB delivers consumer message
Charlie Crawford met with a group of Washington area agencies for the blind on Friday and helped in fashioning a more consumer- oriented view of elder blindness. The agencies were very receptive to the idea that older persons who are blind can indeed come to the conclusion that blindness is OK and get on with lives of real enjoyment. More on this in the future.
ACB national office agrees to work on descriptive video issue at FCC
The Federal Communications Commission was quite interested in following up on descriptive video issues for broadcasters last year, but then nothing happened. So we are going to take a look at this next week and start working to get the ball rolling again. There are potential legal actions from outside of ACB to force the agency to move on the issue, but we believe we can intervene with positive results before any litigation becomes necessary.
National office works with states in trouble!
There are at least three states in need of continuing work to make sure blind folks get reasonable services from folks who know something about blindness. The national office has been on the phone and sent materials to various folks in these states and will let you know how things progress. We have good people in our affiliates there and we will keep on working until blind folks are reasonably assured that they will get what they need.
California and Illinois take on the challenge!
While there was some small involvement of the national office with the California effort and a more involved reviewing function for Illinois, our affiliates in those states have shown real leadership and spunk to start moving the agenda to their own Commissions for the Blind. Writing the language, building the coalitions and moving that agenda are no easy tasks, but California and Illinois are doing it!
ACB Internet utilization and plans expand
The national office convened a conference call featuring President Edwards, First Vice President Brian Charlson, Executive Director Crawford, "Braille Forum" Editor Nolan Crabb, board of publications liaison Jenine Stanley, and web site contractor Earlene Hughes to talk over where ACB is and where we need to be going with respect to internet utilization. The discussion was a good one and issues such as web site construction, affiliate links, electronic information request to ACB, "Braille Forum" availability and insuring all ACB members have access to information on or off the net were addressed. All the participants contributed much expertise to positive outcomes and more will become evident as ACB gets further into the net and information processing in general.
Older blind issues advanced
ACB continued its leadership role with its partners in the addressing of issues of the elderly blind. In two meetings with both or one featuring ACB, AFB, NCSAB and NFB along with others, we began to develop advocacy strategies for the near and long term federal funding and legislative agendas. Stay tuned for lots happening in this area.
Model state law for pedestrian safety nears completion
In addition to the already great work done by folks such as Debbie Grubb and Julie Carroll, an advocacy attorney with the Paralyzed Veterans of America, on our pedestrian safety handbook, we are about to add a finishing touch of a suggested model state law for pedestrian safety. These materials will be available for the mid-year affiliate presidents' meeting and the legislative seminar. This information will allow affiliates to expand our pedestrian safety efforts far and wide. In addition, we are negotiating a new approach to local advocacy which should help ACB members all over the country without their having to do anything other than reaping the benefits. More to come on that one, eh?
Social Security linkage issue forming
Lest we forget, the Congress is actually in session and issues of concern to us are starting to make their appearance. There are at least two approaches being identified on the linkage issue. The one that re-links the earning limits of elders and the blind and another one still being discussed in the administration to carry out President Clinton's desire to get rid of limitations for the elderly. This latter approach may actually prove to be an avenue worth exploring since it would resolve the linkage issue forever if we can get our people into the mix. Melanie and Krista will have more to say on these topics as the situation solidifies.
One of the best moves west
Long-term "Braille Forum" editor Nolan Crabb has set his sites on a new career in technology. While we wish him the best with his new challenges, there is no question that we will miss him at the national office. Nolan has assured us that he will remain active in ACB and we know Missouri will be getting a new great member. So if you are ever in Jefferson City and hear a computer talking faster than the speed of light, then say hello to Nolan and Hobbit the doggie for all of us. We will miss you, Nolan; all the best from your friends.
Live internet connection already bears fruit
Now that the national office is live on the net, we have already sent and received important information instantly in the service of ACB. In a matter of mere seconds, we were able to bring up and send important Congressional records to an affiliate that will allow them to clearly show a federal agency that they just can't go off and mess up the employment of blind folks.
In another circumstance, we received information from a board member which we might well be able to reproduce in braille for the mid-year presidents' meeting. This would not have been as likely in the past with our old dial-up system.
One interesting thing about all this internet connectivity is that we may well be able to pay for the cost of it through savings from decreased "Braille Forums" on diskette in favor of increased subscriptions by e-mail.
President Edwards and Exec Director interviewed!
Paul was up in Washington last week and no, the Senate did not want to hear what he knew about the White House. The Richmond, Va., newspaper, however, was quite interested in pedestrian safety and Paul and Charlie were all too willing to oblige. We will download the story and post it to the ACB-L and ACB-Announce lists for all to see.
Getting the word out about accessible pedestrian crossings and infrastructure is most important if we are to be successful in our efforts.
The love of money may be the root of all evil, but ...
ACB fund-raising activities took up some time at the national office this week. In our efforts to find ways of linking fund raising with benefits to members, you will be hearing more about offerings that will benefit you while helping out the national ACB effort as well.
A man dials the FCC and a woman answers ...
Sound like descriptive video? Well, kind of. Actually, we contacted the FCC this week and are setting up a meeting between a coalition of DVS advocates and the chair of the FCC. The agenda is simple. We need DVS on a par with closed captioning for the deaf.
On a different front at the FCC, ACB signed on to an advocacy document aimed at getting the agency to aggressively move on accessibility to telecommunications related products and services. ACB thanks the American Foundation for the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf for doing some truly good work on the document.
ACB congratulates NFB on great idea
Charlie Crawford sent NFB a note of congratulations this week on its idea to push Congress to require publishers to supply an electronic copy of publications for copyright purposes. The electronic submission would have to comply with a standard issued by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Hence all copyrighted materials would already have source access before even being published. Great idea and ACB will support it.
Clinton administration conference call includes ACB
Executive Director Charlie Crawford participated in a conference call with the Office of Management and Budget leadership to hear the news on the Clinton budget. While there were many good things including Medicaid and Medicare incentives to work, there was precious little additional money provided for elderly blind programming. This issue will be addressed at the upcoming ACB legislative seminar and beyond.
The administration has already committed to ACB that we will have the opportunity to meet with the Office of Management and Budget to begin to realistically address older blind issues and that will impact the next administration budget.
ACB helps those who help blind kids
How well-prepared are educational personnel to work with kids who are blind and all the issues that come up? This is a question that ACB is helping to answer. We sent Susan Crawford off to Virginia last week to work with the Council on Exceptional Children and the American Foundation for the Blind in order to help them from a consumer perspective.
There is much to talk about and learn. We need to be sure that those fashioning teacher and personnel preparation remember the whole blind child and make sure our kids truly have the tools they need and opportunities to thrive. This will take time to get done, but ACB will be there to keep the consumer perspective a major part of the product.
New York law group links with ACB to look at SSA
Have you ever had the experience of getting notices and other pieces of information from Social Security that are not accessible? You are not alone! ACB and a New York law group are talking about this situation and you will hear more from Melanie on it. This may be the start of real progress for SSA and our rights to equal treatment.
ACB leadership gathers in California
The mid-year presidents' meeting is about to begin! Special affiliates will meet first, then the affiliate presidents on February 13 and then the ACB board will wrap up the weekend with its decisions on ACB policy and conduct of business. With topics ranging from Social Security reform to pedestrian safety to adopting a fiscal year 1999 budget, the meetings will certainly be filled with lively discussions and highly intelligent deliberations. With the talent, intelligence and strength of ACB leaders meeting, you can bet there will be lots of product from this year's mid year meeting!
DVS agenda moving
Executive Director Charlie Crawford met with advocates and industry representatives this week to go over the status of where descriptive video services are in the ongoing Federal Communications Commission rule making process. The consensus was that we are ready to move forward with getting the FCC to advance a more solid position on the matter of DVS and a meeting is being arranged with the FCC Chairman to start the ball rolling.
A new face at ACB
The national office has a new person interning for three months. If you call and hear a new voice, then you will probably be speaking with Shahid Mian, who is getting some work experience at the national office. We all know the old story that you can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without a job. So this internship is aimed at giving Shahid a start toward life in the working world.
Accessible forms to fill out for the convention?
We have asked a company that does programming of web site forms to take a gander at our convention pre-registration stuff and see what might be done. This software not only works on web sites, but is also usable on a PC without being on the web. Under any circumstances, the national office is looking at options to see how we can get to the point where folks can pre-register without sighted assistance. The DOS-based program to do that had to be put on hold for two reasons. First, the gathering of information and putting it into a format that could be displayed in an interactive program remains somewhat of an unsolved mystery. Secondly, other programming demands for office calendar tracking and budget development have been taking time to satisfy.
Good turnout anticipated for legislative seminar
Close to 100 registrations have flowed into the national office for the upcoming legislative seminar. Looks like Washington will be hopping as ACB advocates visit Congress and the administration armed with information that will tell the story of what our community needs today! For those not able to make the seminar in person, there is a chance we might well be able to put it out over real audio streaming. So literally stay tuned for more information!
"The Braille Forum" is in need of a new editor. Please check the Washington Connection news telephone tape from the ACB national office since we anticipate advertising the position at some point during the month of March.
If you would be interested in receiving "The Braille Forum" by electronic mail, then please send a note to that effect to [email protected] and we will add you to the mailing list. Please also indicate if you would like us to remove you from the diskette or other editions of "The Braille Forum." We believe the e-mail edition will be very useful to those who receive e-mail and will lessen the cost of distribution as well.
CALLING ALL AFFILIATES
Do you have a newsletter? Has it included articles that would be of general interest to readers of "The Braille Forum"? If it has, send that article in! In the interim period between Nolan Crabb's departure and the arrival of a new editor, articles of general interest will be greatly appreciated.
Also, if you could send information about your state convention (preferably before it happens) and about your plans for the ACB national convention, that would help also. Please try to have articles about your plans for Los Angeles to the national office no later than April 9 for inclusion in the May issue. Thanks in advance for your assistance.
The Alabama Council of the Blind will hold its 44th annual convention in Huntsville April 16-18 at the Holiday Inn Research Park, 5903 University Dr. The rates are $59.95 per night single or double. For reservations, call (800) 845-7275. Pat Beattie, ACB treasurer, will be the banquet speaker. For more information, contact Van Fulghum at (256) 362-4358 or via e-mail at [email protected]
As I packed in preparation for my trip to the ACB mid-year meetings in Los Angeles, Calif., I couldn't help but think about this summer's upcoming national convention.
As a life member of ACB, one of the great thrills for me each year during conventions is those moments when ACB life membership certificates are awarded to those individuals who have purchased life memberships or who are the recipients of life memberships purchased for them by their state or special-interest affiliate or local chapter.
As reported after our 1998 convention in Orlando, Fla., ACB now has 100 life members. Current life members want very much for that honor roll to grow with the influx of a large 1999 delegation. We realize that $1,000, the amount necessary to receive life membership, is clearly a substantial financial commitment for most ACB members. But life membership dues can be paid in up to five annual installments of $200. For more information, contact ACB Assistant Treasurer Jim Olsen at the Minneapolis office, (800) 866-3242.
ACB's new Executive Director, Charlie Crawford, and President Paul Edwards will be leading ACB into the new millennium with creative and innovative initiatives. But such bold new initiatives will continue to strain ACB's existing financial assets. As ACB leaders, we owe it to ourselves, our fellow ACB members, and to our vision of a brighter, better future for blind and visually impaired Americans to step forward and set the example of commitment and leadership by becoming life members of ACB. We do this to support its imaginative entry into the 21st century. I challenge all like-minded readers to step forward and wholeheartedly embrace the challenging mantle of ACB life membership! I also seriously ask the leaders of ACB state and special-interest affiliates and local chapters to look hard at your own respective memberships and see whether there is a living member who has contributed invaluably to your organization over the years. Such an individual may well merit the honor of a life membership purchased by your organization in his/her behalf. By making such a generous gesture, your affiliate or local chapter not only assists ACB in accomplishing its goals and objectives, but your organization pays fitting tribute to one of your very own. If you accept my challenge and become an ACB life member at the 1999 ACB national convention in Los Angeles, you and a guest will be invited to a very special reception hosted by President Paul Edwards, a fellow life member, in the president's suite during the convention. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that your financial commitment is being put to the worthiest of causes, bettering the lot and lives of all blind or visually impaired Americans. You will also gain the ongoing pleasure and continuing social benefit of belonging to an ever-growing honor roll or club of leaders in ACB and in the organized blind movement. I am looking forward to meeting a great new delegation of ACB life members at this summer's national 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.
GOOD NEWS FROM OHIO
The 1999 capital construction budget approved by the Ohio House and Senate in the final days of 1998 includes a provision which could assist in the sharing of technology with the visually impaired. This provision requires that the state's various agencies set up a procedure to share computers and related equipment with the Bureau of Services for the Blind and other agencies serving disabled people in the state. The bill was approved with the backing of Ohio state senator Robert Cupp and state representative John Williamowski.
CAMP IN YOSEMITE
The Active Blind/Low Vision Group camp session will be held in Yosemite National Park May 21-24, 1999. There is room for up to 55 people, including sighted family and friends. It costs $80, which pays for three nights lodging in heated cabins with bathrooms, and eight meals in the dining hall. Free transportation will be available from Madera, Calif., to and from the camp. Priority consideration will be given to reservations and campership requests received by April 1. Others will be accepted on a space-available basis. For more information, call (559) 439-4457 between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. Pacific time weekdays only.
A notice to all "paper peddler" customers: Peggy Walsh offers her apologies to those who have ordered from her business and whose orders have been delayed. Those orders which she already has will be processed, but more slowly than usual. For health reasons, she will be unable to accept any orders until further notice.
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: decorated candle; eagle; tulip; butterfly; hummingbird; maple leaf; hot air balloon; coastal lighthouse; and the Statue of Liberty. The candle and eagle are $5 U.S. each; the tulip, butterfly and hummingbird, $11.90 U.S. each; the maple leaf, hot air balloon and lighthouse, $15.60 U.S. each; and the Statue of Liberty, $25.80 U.S. These prices do not include shipping and handling. For more information, call the company at (819) 775-6181, fax (819) 920-0606, or write to Katchina Internationale Inc., C.P. 84062, Gatineau, Quebec J8P 7R8, Canada.
Prudential now offers its insurance policies in braille. If you have insurance through Prudential and would like to get a copy of your policy in braille, ask. SUMMER CAMP
It's that time of year again: time to start thinking about summer camp. The Texas Lions Camp offers six one-week camping sessions as well as a day camp for children ages 7 through 16 who have physical disabilities. Prospective campers must have an IQ of 70 or above, and should have some self-help skills in the areas of dressing, eating, toileting and bathing. The camp offers a wide variety of activities, including arts and crafts, field sports, horseback riding, swimming, and camping out overnight.
The camp also offers a session for diabetic children ages 8 through 15. In addition to the activities mentioned above, a medical team joins the camp staff in helping campers learn to control their diabetes. Individual attention in health care is given to encourage control of diabetes while children learn to eat healthy meals, monitor their own blood sugar levels, and give their own insulin injections.
Camp is free for eligible children. For more information, or an application, write to: Texas Lions Camp, P.O. Box 247, Kerrville, TX 78029-0247; phone (830) 896-8500; fax (830) 896-3666; e-mail [email protected], or visit the web site, http://www.lionscamp.com 888 TO CONNECT
Have you ever wished for a simple number that could connect you to any service you wanted, be it a dentist, a plumber or a locksmith? Wish no more. It exists. This service is billed to a credit card and is based on usage, 16 cents a minute. There are no connection fees, monthly charges or sign-up costs. For a demonstration of the system, call (888) 266-8364 and follow the voice prompts.
AFB AWARD WINNERS
The American Foundation for the Blind presented the winners of its 1999 Access Awards at the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute, held in Washington March 5-8. The winners are: Friskies PetCare Company, part of Nestle, which makes Alpo dog food, for a recent TV commercial featuring a guide dog user; Glaxo Dermatology, a subsidiary of Glaxo Wellcome, Inc., for being the first major pharmaceutical company to have braille on some of its product packages; General Cinema Theatres, for being the first movie theater chain to offer newly released films with video description; Space Camp for Interested Blind and Visually Impaired Students, for providing a unique, hands-on science curriculum to blind students in upper elementary through high school grades; Overbrook School for the Blind for its school-wide project "Overbrook 2001," which has become a national model for barrier-free access to technology; and Guide Dog Users, Inc., of the American Council of the Blind, for its 20-year effort that culminated in the state of Hawaii no longer requiring guide dog users to quarantine their dogs for three months when visiting the state.
And Mike Cole, administrator of the Orientation Center for the Blind in Albany, Calif., received the Catherine T. "Kay" Gallagher Award at a separate ceremony in February in California.
Also, AFB Press has two new books available. One, titled "Beginning with Braille: Firsthand Experiences with a Balanced Approach to Literacy," provides activities for promoting literacy at the early stages of braille instruction. Its ISBN number is 0- 89128-323-4, and costs $32.95 including postage and handling. The other, "Skills for Success: A Career Education Handbook for Children and Adolescents with Visual Impairments," outlines specific activities that prepare visually impaired children and teens for independence in daily life and success on the job. Its ISBN number is 0-89128-943-7, and costs $42.95 including postage and handling. To order either of these books, call AFB Customer Service at (800) 232-3044. Orders must be accompanied by payment (for individuals) or institutional purchase orders, and may be sent to AFB Press, PO Box 1020, Sewickly, PA 15143-1020.
This year Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students celebrates its 10th anniversary. The dates are Sept. 25-30, 1999 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. The cost is $500 for all programs except the college-bound program, which is $710. That cost includes programming, lodging and meals from Saturday lunch through Friday breakfast. The deadline for tuition and registration is August 20.
And if you are an adult interested in the program, Space Camp for Blind Adults will be held Oct. 1-3. All forms, scholarship inquiries, and other information can be found on the web site, http://www.tsbvi.edu/spacehome.htm, or e-mail [email protected] For those who do not have internet access, write to Dan Oates, West Virginia School for the Blind, 301 E. Main St., Romney, W.V. 27656; phone (304) 822-4883.
CANES FROM CA
California Canes has numerous canes, cane tips and harness handles available. One type of cane is called the Sidewalker. It is made of carbon fiber and is 2/3 lighter than other metal canes. Joints are computer ground and beveled on the inside so that when the cane is folded, the joints will not cut the elastic. The elastic is thicker than in previous canes. Rigid canes are also available.
Roller tips are but one of the kinds of cane tips available. It is designed for high mileage, with a weatherproof bearing. Glow-in-the-dark cane tips will be available soon.
The Nightlight Harness Handle is also available. It comes in 13-inch, 15-inch, 18-inch and 20-inch sizes. It can also be customized.
And if you're looking for a place to store your cane, the Nightlight Utility Pouch is available too. Canes are not included.
For more information, a price list, or to order, contact California Canes, 25611 Quail Run, Suite 123, Dana Point, CA 92629; phone (949) 489-1973, fax (949) 489-0996, or e-mail [email protected]
WORD SEARCH BOOKS
Enliven Enterprises has recently come out with two word search books designed for visually impaired people. The games come in two print sizes, half-inch tall (30-point type) and inch-tall (60-point type). Books cost $4.49 including shipping and handling. Pennsylvania residents must add appropriate sales tax. For more information, contact the company at (610) 439-3552, or write to: Enliven Enterprises, 2330 Grove St., Allentown, PA 18104-2529.
FOR SALE: AST Ascension 950N laptop with 24 megabytes of RAM, Pentium 75 processor, 33.6K fax modem, 850-megabyte hard drive, Jaws for Windows and Accent SA synthesizer, along with carrying case. Asking $850. Call Steve Hopp at (615) 321-3316.
FOR SALE: Talking microwave. Brand new. $300 plus shipping. Contact Rosemir at (510) 233-6105.
FOR SALE: Vert Plus speech system, Vista large print software, with IBM computer, printer and all software. Best offer. Includes shipping. Contact Suzy Qashu at home, (541) 754-7054, or work (541) 737-2359. Leave your name and telephone number, being certain to include area code, if you get voice mail.
CAN YOU HELP IDENTIFY? Four-track cassette player-recorder that takes five AA batteries. It's 8 inches long, 3.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches tall. What type is it, and where can it be purchased? Send an e-mail message to [email protected]
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