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I have been thinking a lot lately about the word "advocacy." It has Latin roots and comes from two words. I studied Latin for a while and was a very poor student. I have not looked it up, but I think the word "ad" means "to" and the verb "vocare" means "to voice or speak." At least one picture of an advocate is not necessarily a pleasant one. It causes me to think of lawyers billing hours and fighting for causes. It is also a church term, advocate, and one finds advocates at inquisitions. On the face of it, then, it seems a little strange to hear ACB described as an advocacy organization and to hear ourselves described as advocates.
Yet I am comfortable with this notion of who we are and what we do. If what we do is "speak to" issues, that is a good thing. If what we do is "speak to" people, that, too, is fine. I think that we sometimes do not spend enough time thinking about our role as advocates and what that implies and, since I have been doing it a lot lately, you get to spend some time at least reading about it.
Advocacy is not a simple thing, though what I have said so far implies that it is. All you have to do is speak to issues and people and you are advocating. No, my friends, that is not all. First you have to know what you are going to speak about. Then you have to shape what you say for the people to whom you are speaking and then you have to have the courage to speak when prudence often bids you be silent.
Most of the time advocacy seems easy because people are content to let you say your piece. It is easy to listen passively to an advocate. Often they are saying good and laudable things and, most of the time, you can agree with them and feel rather like you do after a good sermon at church on a Sunday. You are uplifted, strengthened and just a little better informed. What makes advocacy more complicated and less passive than sermons is that an advocate must not only talk to people but must also ask people to do something. If you go someplace and speak about issues that are of concern to us as members of the American Council of the Blind, you should not only be providing information. You should also be suggesting action and you should have ways of monitoring whether the actions you want are actually happening.
Advocacy is not simple. It is because it is not simple that there are so many efforts that we make that are not successful. It is an art and it is a thankless and never-ending task; and it is the most important thing we do in ACB.
It's also worth remembering that, even though we in ACB know that our issues are the most important and meaningful concerns in the world, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other organizations who believe in their issues just as fervently as we do. We have been extremely successful as advocates. This is a measure of how good we are at what we do and it is also a measure of how willing people are to listen to us. However, competition among issues is getting more and more fierce every day. Many organizations are actually hiring firms to plan their advocacy campaigns. More and more issues are being argued on television, in the newspapers, on the Internet, in the halls of Congress and everywhere else where an issue can find its way, with careful strategic planning and immense expenditures of money. Does this mean that we must use these techniques if we are to hope to be successful? No, it does not. We have demonstrated over and over again that, with judicious application of money, we can persuade the public to look with favor on the issues we raise. We should understand that this public acceptance of our issues is based on the way the public is disposed to look at us.
As we demand that we be thought of as people first, let's be clear that it is partly because we are thought of as blind first that we are successful. It is ironic that the very pity we do not want is what often brings us success. I don't suggest that we suddenly build our campaigns on this pity. I insist, however, that we recognize its reality. We do not feel nearly as helpless as others perceive us to be. This gives us an immense advantage in seeking to be heard on our issues. However, we should be aware that, if we are ever truly successful at ferreting out all those stereotypical notions of blindness and eradicate them once and for all from the public consciousness, we will throw away much of our advocacy advantage. It is precisely because of those stereotypes that we get as much as we do.
If the preceding paragraph seems just a mite cynical, I am sorry. It is not intended to be anything but real. We are a small group of advocates striving to be heard in a large ocean of advocates. We must seize whatever advantages we can. We must also not lose track of the real value of what we do.
As advocates we are often speaking for those who cannot or will not speak. Many of our brothers and sisters who are blind have become too tired to speak or lack the ability to speak well for themselves. While we are reaching out to them and teaching them to have the courage and ability to be their own advocates, we stand up and are counted speaking to others for those who cannot or will not speak for themselves. This is what advocacy truly is. It is speaking to issues and people for those who cannot or will not speak. This is not just high-flown rhetoric, my friends. This is what ACB is all about. We are a force that wins because we are not afraid to speak. We are a group of people who use joint advocacy to speak with one very loud voice. We are the conscience of our nation on issues relating to people who are blind. If you are looking for a purpose for your membership in ACB, look no further. In simple terms that is what we are and why we are and who we are. We are the voice of the blind seeking to make things better for the blind in a world where it is harder and harder to be heard. We are heard and we will continue to be heard because we are learning every day to be better advocates.
Carolyn Garrett died in Texas last year in a tragic traffic accident. But her death was the straw that awoke ACB to the need to devote a major advocacy effort to pedestrian safety. We have already won victories there and will continue to win more. One brave lady's suffering has ignited an organization to action! We know our fight will be long and hard and that many will misunderstand what we seek. But we will succeed because, my friends, we are advocates and we are proud of it. So we will speak to traffic engineers and the press and our friends and neighbors of Carolyn Garrett and we will speak for the many people who die, are hurt, or are scared to death every time they cross the street. As more of us speak for them, more of them will come forward to speak for themselves. More importantly, more and more streets will have accessible pedestrian signals and blind people using them. Advocacy is the weapon we will wield in our war to make the world safe for people who are blind! And we will win!
How often have you been confronted with or even asked yourself the question: how does this affect the disability community? Whether you are advocating for service delivery that realistically addresses the issues of blindness or looking for accessibility features of which you can take advantage, there is a new and increasingly present effort on the part of decision makers to somehow place the discussion in the context of disability rather than blindness. Two examples of this evolving phenomenon occurred within the last few weeks.
The first example happened in the land of Lincoln. After years of frustrating efforts to improve the service system for blind folks, our Illinois Council of the Blind determined it would have to seek the creation of a commission for the blind if things were to realistically change. So our affiliate set out with great zeal and effort to research and develop a legislative bill to create a commission. After months of work, the legislative proposal was made ready and submitted to the legislature. What happened at the House and Senate hearings was sadly predictable and a real example of playing the disability card.
The chief bureaucrat of the Illinois rehabilitation establishment got up and pontificated on how the creation of a commission for the blind would take away money from other disability services and necessarily reduce the quality and availability of those services for all disabilities. He listed not only rehabilitation in his testimony, but also independent living. This is important as it points out that his view is that blind folks fall within a kind of integrated model for services and to the extent that all disabilities are serviced, then blind folks ought to be happy or at least accepting of the system. In short, if the blind community wants better service, then the total investment in disability services would need to be increased to the point where all disabilities could receive a far greater proportion of money to meet their needs.
How can blind folks argue against that? Don't we all believe that everyone should get the best services? To think otherwise is blatant self-interest, is it not?
The second example pervades the discussion of re-establishing the link of Social Security earnings limitations between the blind and elderly populations. Here, the argument goes something along the lines of blind folks already get more than other disabilities and hence should not be asking for more. To do so is unfair to other disabilities and would ultimately cause them to protest such unfair treatment. In fact, one highly placed aide to a senator told us that other disabilities were not happy with the idea of blind folks having their earnings limits once again tied to the elderly population.
In both of these examples there are two dynamics which are attempting to change the context in which decision makers are looking at blindness issues. The first is that all disabilities are to be seen within a community model to afford equity to all. The second is that it is becoming increasingly politically dangerous to argue a disability-specific point since whoever dares to make those arguments runs the risk of condemnation by "the community."
The more sinister side of this issue is hardly ever mentioned. It is the watering down of services to broaden them to everyone, the disappearance of specialized knowledge, the creation of easy excuses not to provide services due to lack of money or larger populations in need, and the pitting of disability groups against each other at will.
How can the American Council of the Blind deal with this? How do we convincingly make our arguments when the disability card is put on the table? Should we?
The first step in dealing with the disability card issue is to flatly reject the assertion that blindness is just like any other disability. Not only to reject the argument as a public matter, but also to reject it as the personal basis upon which we determine our advocacy. There is everything right in saying that blindness is a real and defining disability that both separates us from the larger disability community and unites us with them in areas of common need. There is everything right and even compelling for us to point out that wheelchair ramps and accessible traffic signaling systems or mobility instruction are not mutually exclusive or in competition but are necessary for those who need them.
When we are told that we need to wait until more money is available to the disability community so we can then get our share, we must forcefully make clear that our needs are not a question of relativity; they are real, they are now, and they must be addressed. When we are told we need to wait in line just like everyone else, then we must ask ourselves whether the line is being used to facilitate a real service common to all folks, or whether it is a functional block to our issues ever being properly addressed. The difference is vital.
The disability card can be an ace for all disabilities or a joker. Look at who is dealing it and why. Think through the consequences of going along with the hand you are dealt, and understand that accepting the hand we are dealt is accepting the game someone else has designed. We will only play the game when the disability card understands who we are and becomes the ace we want and not the joker we have gotten.
Los Angeles in July is a pleasant experience. While the weather is warm, there is always a breeze from the Pacific Ocean and the humidity is never too high. At the February meetings we found the Westin Hotel, where all convention activities will take place, very willing to work with us in late planning for the convention. We are negotiating with the Westin to offer some reduced food prices or specials in the hotel restaurant. The usual quick meals (breakfast and lunch) during convention week will be available. The convention program will list restaurants outside the hotel and how to get there conveniently and safely. You should remember, however, that California prices are higher and we are limited in what can be done to reduce them.
This year the opening session Sunday evening, July 4, will begin at 7:30 p.m. The morning sessions Monday through Friday will begin at 8:30 a.m. The final general session of the convention will take place Friday morning, July 9, a session that may continue until 2 p.m. Exhibits will take place in two rooms, with several located in the ballroom foyer. As was the case last year, security will be provided.
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.
The ACB designated travel agency is Prestige Travel, (800) 966-5050. Ask for Gina, Terri or Jean. Tickets purchased before May 1 will receive a 10 percent discount. Through Prestige Travel, special agreements for discounted air fares have been established with American, Delta and US Airways. As with most travel agencies, there is a $10 service charge for each ticket purchased.
This year's overnight tour will take participants to San Diego on Friday and Saturday, July 2 and 3. Buses will depart the Westin promptly at 7:45 a.m. on Friday morning and arrive in San Diego at 9:45 a.m. The first activity will be a trolley tour of the city, with detailed narration. This will be followed by lunch and then a visit to one of the oldest missions in California. After this visit, the group will check into the Holiday Inn Select for a rest period before dinner. At 6 p.m. the group will board the buses for a delicious dinner followed by a musical show for the evening.
On Saturday, after a continental breakfast at the hotel, the group will visit the Point Loma submarine base. There will be an opportunity to tour a modern submarine. For those who may feel a submarine, with its narrow passageways and steep steps, will be too difficult, a tour of the tender ship will be provided. If the tour of the ship is also believed to be difficult for some, a group meeting is planned with a person from the base to describe the base and its operation. After the base visit, a short time for shopping is scheduled, then lunch, and after that a visit to a large winery. At the winery the group will see how the grapes are processed and made into wine. There will also be an opportunity to taste a number of wine varieties. Also, there is a store where wine and other souvenirs can be purchased. After the winery tour it will be time to return to Los Angeles.
The price for this fabulous tour is $189. This includes transportation by air- conditioned motor coach, all ride and admissions fees, one night's lodging (double occupancy) at the Holiday Inn, lunch and dinner on Friday and breakfast and lunch on Saturday. If a single room is desired, there will be an additional cost of $53.
Reservations for this overnight tour must be made by June 1, 1999. To reserve your space, contact ACB's Minneapolis office at (612) 332-3242.
Other tours will include: Saturday, July 3, a tour of greater Los Angeles, including Hollywood, Beverly Hills and downtown (includes lunch; will be repeated Sunday, July 4); Sunday, July 4, a tour to the Crystal Cathedral at Garden Grove for the Sunday morning worship service, followed by a brief reception, a visit to the gift shop, and lunch; Monday, July 5, a tour to the Queen Mary huge passenger ship at Long Beach (includes lunch); Tuesday, July 6, family fun at Knott's Berry Farm, with shows, rides and Cordelia's famous chicken dinner; Tuesday, July 6, a tour to the Crystal Cathedral at Garden Grove to learn its history, program, tour the grounds and gift shop; Wednesday, July 7, a tour of the Braille Institute of America; Wednesday, July 7, a dinner cruise on the bay at Marina del Rey (not finalized at this writing); Thursday, July 8, a visit to the Center for the Partially Sighted; Thursday, July 8, the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, a narrated tour with items you can touch. A baseball tour at Dodgers Stadium is under consideration for Friday, July 9.
The 1999 convention will have many attractions. The program will be challenging, the exhibits great as always, and the tours most interesting. Don't miss out on a great convention in California!
Most people associate Washington, D.C. with politicians and hot air. But the cold snap that occurred the first weekend of March did not keep leaders of the American Council of the Blind from attending the legislative seminar.
The Saturday session allowed attendees to introduce themselves, and ACB's executive director, Charlie Crawford, to introduce the basics of advocacy and the issues that would be addressed the next day. Those issues were: rehabilitation and services to older blind citizens; implementation of the Transportation Equity Act and Air Carrier Access Act; Social Security; and information access.
The Sunday sessions kicked off with an introduction from Charlie Crawford. "Today's sessions are really the meat of the matter," he said. "Without knowing the information we need to know in order to properly conduct ourselves and have intelligent conversations with staffers and representatives and senators on the hill, then we are pretty much at a kind of a catch-as-catch-can situation." He reviewed the issues and introduced Joe Cordova, director of the Blind and Visually Impaired Division of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, who spoke on rehabilitation councils and services under the Rehabilitation Act, as well as other topics.
In August 1998, President Clinton signed the Workforce Investment Act into law, and the Rehabilitation Act amendments were part of that, Cordova said. The amendments had several provisions which focused on key principles. These principles are: increased consumer participation and choice in the rehabilitation process; streamlining the rehabilitation process; and improving the due process system. "The changes in the 1998 amendments centered around increasing consumer participation through the role of the rehabilitation council," he said. In 1992, the amendments established the state rehabilitation advisory councils; there were certain functions that the councils were designated to do. But the 1998 amendments enhanced and elevated the role of the rehabilitation councils, Cordova said. "In fact, if you refer to the Senate language in the bill, it specifically says that Congress intended for the rehabilitation councils ... to be much more than simply advisory ..."
The functions of a rehabilitation council are addressed in Section 105 of the 1998 amendments. They are: in conjunction with state rehabilitation agencies, the councils will conduct a statewide comprehensive needs assessment of the rehabilitation needs of blind people in that state; review, analyze and advise the state agency on its performance in certain key areas such as eligibility, effectiveness, scope, function and performance of the state agency in carrying out its role in the rehabilitation process; determining the goals and priorities of the agency, and evaluate the agency's priorities and performance. "For example, one of the indicators will be how well that agency performs in the placement in high-quality employment of blind people," Cordova said.
Following a question-and-answer session, Charlie Crawford spoke on rehabilitation councils and services for older blind people. A rehabilitation council, he said, "is one of the more powerful weapons in the arsenal of consumer involvement in the decision- making process in the state." He encouraged his listeners to become involved in rehabilitation councils in their states, if they were not already. "The fact of the matter is that you have a lot more power in your states now to chart the course of history for blind people with respect to rehabilitation, and God knows they need it, to make that difference," he stated. "So think that through when you get back to your homes next week. ... The last thing I want to say about rehabilitation councils, and this is very important, is the fact that you can literally alter the priority set of a state agency with respect to rehabilitation if you use the rehab council appropriately. ... Use that power wisely, but use it."
Crawford also discussed services for older blind people. "For many years, the reason why state agencies have been able to not get too upset about the fact that older blind monies were not plentiful in the Rehab Act was because for many reasons ... [including utilization of] Title I dollars, those agencies could assist people to become homemakers. They could provide the independent living services that people needed: mobility, braille, home teaching ... They could help people deal with assistive technology and other kinds of services through the Title I program without necessarily having to have that person ultimately go out there and earn a paycheck in the sense that the current regulations contemplate. So for that reason it hasn't been a super urgent issue, although many people knew in the back of their minds that someday, someday there would come a time when somebody said, 'Wait a minute. Isn't vocational rehabilitation to get people jobs? So what are you doing with all these homemakers?'" That question has been asked over the last few years, Crawford said, and answered by Congress via the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act.
Crawford believed that rehabilitation has been too narrowly defined as "to help people get jobs." "There is a way to make sure that the states are able to properly serve the needs of persons who are above the age of 55 years old and have lost vision to the point of legal blindness," he said. He told the story of an older gentleman, age 74, who called him when he was in the Massachusetts office, and asked if someone could drop by. Crawford and two others went to visit this man in his sparsely furnished apartment - - "a radio and some furniture ... and three dogs." They talked about the kind of services he might need, "and he kept saying 'no' to everything, didn't really need it, didn't really deserve it, didn't really have any friends. What he did have was three dogs." And the man walked the dogs every day in the morning, at noon, and in the evening, then go to sleep, "and that was his life. If that describes the circumstances of many elderly blind persons, and I think it does, then it is probably one of the most strenuous indictments of how the federal government has literally turned its back on the issues of elderly blind people."
Crawford also told a story of an 84-year-old woman who had not left her apartment in two years to cross the street. The woman had not received mobility training; when asked, she said she was afraid to cross the street. "That person spent two years of her life in her apartment for what, and why? Do we have answers for that? Well, I know that we'll get a lot of hot air from Congress about how we love everybody and want to help everybody, but that has to turn into action. Words are cheap."
He cited statistics from rehabilitation that showed that in 1986, the older blind program was estimated to cost $26 million in 1986; it currently costs $12.4 million. "So in 13 years we have not even begun to hit the threshold of what it would have taken to service elderly blind people in 1986," Crawford said. He gave figures from Massachusetts, showing that 37,000 people were blind, and of those, 25,000 are over age 55. The state spent $6 million in vocational rehabilitation; $2 million of state money and $200,000 in federal money went for the older blind population. "The equation is quite lopsided," he said. "For every $1 we were spending for older blind people, we were spending three or four for vocational rehabilitation, and yet the population of older blind people outnumbers rehabilitation 12 times over."
So how do we fix that equation? Is it important to fix? "Some people say the aging system can take care of these folks, no problem. But how many councils on aging do you know [that] have support groups for elderly blind people or work with elderly blind people on issues such as 'how do you access mobility services? can you access them?', 'how do you get rehabilitation teaching at home?', 'how do you learn braille? and how do you access technology?', and, more importantly, 'how do you access each other?'" He mentioned the stereotypes of "you can get anything from Medicare" and asked the audience who they wanted to get service from, and what kinds of services.
What this means is that millions of older blind Americans get lost, Crawford stated, because they don't believe they deserve services; they rely upon family who is often too busy to help; the services that they do get don't address blindness issues; and they just give up. "Why don't we, and why doesn't the service system, recognize these people?" he asked. "Because they don't want to be called blind. They don't want to think about themselves as blind people. And the service system plays into that obnoxious idea by basically saying, 'Don't call them blind. Call them visually impaired.' ... So these folks have no idea who they are!"
The core of consumerism, Crawford said, is that it's OK to be blind and it's all right to associate with other blind people, and it's a good idea to grow as a human being dealing with your blindness instead of avoiding it. Most older blind people are not getting that message from anyone.
So what can be done? One of the legislative imperatives this year was the older blind issue. Crawford urged the audience to ask Congress for $26 million for the older blind program, to tell senators and representatives the story about older folks losing their vision. He told them that Congress was currently slated to spend $6 million to restore a Maryland merry-go-round, and projected that in 10 to 15 years, 25 percent of all people over 80 will be legally blind, unless there's some major medical breakthrough. He advised his listeners that these people need to know that it's OK to be blind, which they can learn by association with other blind people, getting the training they need in mobility and braille, and getting whatever other services they need. "All it really takes is a condition to make sure that we value people who are over age 55, that we value the fact that they need to have the ability to live their life independently and happily, and to get there we only need to have enough money for four merry-go-rounds."
Donna Seliger, president of the Iowa Council of the United Blind, pointed out that listeners could tell their congressmen that it costs considerably less to train an older blind person to stay in his/her own home than to keep them in a nursing home. A nursing home runs about $30,000 a year, she said; rehabilitation costs $500 to $1,000.
Following Crawford's presentation, Mark Richert, governmental relations representative for the American Foundation for the Blind, gave an update on legislation. In 1984, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act was enacted; its provisions were "minimalist." States simply needed to be aware of the accessibility of their polling places. Two years ago, the Texas affiliate filed a suit regarding ballot accessibility; the county of El Paso settled, but on appeal the Fifth Circuit Court said the secretary of elections had no power to enforce that decision. Sen. John McCain (R- Ariz.) introduced S. 511, which is a set of amendments to the voting accessibility act, along with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). This legislation says that remedies will be substantially increased, sets fines, and that "all polling methods that are selected and used for federal elections shall be accessible" (including ballots in a variety of accessible media, as well as instructions). It also allows for privacy in casting ballots. Richert urged attendees to thank McCain when they saw him.
Following a break, Julie Carroll, an advocacy attorney for the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Kathleen Blank, an attorney for the National Council on Disability, discussed transportation rights, particularly the Transportation Equity Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. Carroll spoke first about the Air Carrier Access Act, which has been on the books since 1986. It took the Department of Transportation a while to regulate, she said, "so Paralyzed Veterans sued them and finally got regulations out of them in the early '90s." Then along came the Americans with Disabilities Act, which put airports under most of its regulations. "So it can be a little confusing as to what your rights are in air travel because when the ADA came along we already had the Air Carrier Access Act, and Congress just said, 'OK, well, the ADA then doesn't apply to the airlines.' So that's important for you to remember as we're working this issue on the hill because a lot of people still don't know that. A lot of them think, 'Why do you need Air Carrier Access Act? You've got the ADA.'" The answer: the ADA does not cover airlines.
Though there are several hundred pages of regulations governing air travel, blind people still get very inconsistent, unpredictable treatment from airlines. "You get there and they want to tell you where you can sit and where you can't sit, and what's better for your dog if you're traveling with a dog, and whether you can sit with a companion or not, whether you need assistance boarding or not, whether you may or may not pre- board," Carroll said. She believes that the regulations are clear as to rights, "but the airlines just have not embraced this. And I think part of the reason they haven't is because there really aren't a lot of teeth in the law." Much of the enforcement has been left up to the Department of Transportation. The bill came into the limelight when Congress began reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, and saw it as a vehicle to deal with this issue. This legislation will determine how much federal money goes to airports and the federal aviation system.
Blank is the primary author of the soon to be released report on the Air Carrier Access Act, its implementation and enforcement, and how it impacts people with disabilities. She told the audience how the National Council on Disability began its series of studies on the civil rights of disabled people, transportation and education among them, several years ago at a summit. In the process of researching this report, NCD found one large problem underlying all the rest: a lack of sufficient funds to deal effectively with the enforcement issues. This lack went all the way up to the general counsel's office at the Department of Transportation, where one person handles all the complaints on a part-time basis.
Blank gave an overview of compliance monitoring. "The first step that the agency must undertake is to attempt to help the covered entity, the airline in this case, implement the law and to set up a mechanism within their organization to comply with the law," she said. "So we found that ... there was really only one provision in the regulations requiring some type of activity on the part of the Department of Transportation with respect to monitoring ... DOT was to require all the airlines to give them implementation plans ..." regarding how the airlines would handle complaints from passengers with disabilities and compliance with the Air Carrier Access Act. In 1995, DOT initiated the "Traveler First" program. Currently, DOT holds monthly meetings with airline representatives to discuss complaints received.
Most disabled people are unaware of their rights under the Air Carrier Access Act, Blank said. She found this somewhat surprising, because the regulations state that "airlines are obliged to make information available to people with respect to their rights, and also to have complaint forms available at every airport, and to have on duty at all times while the airline is operating in that airport a complaint resolution officer, or CRO." She believed that more effort needs to be made to educate the public about the Air Carrier Access Act, and reminded her listeners that when disabled people ask for accommodation, the public thinks of special services, not equal access. She also saw a need for more funds for her department's travel budget, in order to do good monitoring.
Julie Carroll then addressed legislation currently in the Congress, including S. 82, which will cover foreign air carriers operating in the United States. It will also: mandate that DOT investigate all complaints, report disability data by airline, increase the penalties for violations, and state that technical assistance must be available in alternative media. She hoped that this language would make its way into the bill: "Nothing in this act impacts an individual's ability to bring a private right of action or to take punitive or compensatory damages from such action." This is the wording PVA's attorneys prefer because "it presumes we already have a private right of action."
A bill in the House of Representatives, HR 1000, sponsored by Bud Shuster (R- Pa.), is another aviation funding bill. Carroll urged her listeners to speak to the members of the transportation committee and ask for an amendment to strengthen the Air Carrier Access Act and make it look more like the Senate version.
After lunch, seminar attendees focused on Social Security issues, with the help of ACB treasurer Pat Beattie, Mark Richert, and ACB director of advocacy and governmental affairs Melanie Brunson. Beattie spoke first. She reminded her listeners that "Social Security is a lot of things," and reviewed the differences between SSI and SSDI. In 1934, the laws set up the definition of legal blindness; and in revising legislation, that definition must be kept because of its impact on other legislation.
There are several different kinds of bills that are active on Capitol Hill regarding Social Security: linkage of the substantial gainful activity level with seniors ages 65 to 69; elimination of the earnings limit for the elderly but not for blind people; reform the current system; and work incentives. The most effort is going into reform of the system, she stated.
Richert spoke next. "I have no idea how to make Social Security funny," he quipped. Social Security was the first topic addressed by the legislative imperatives handed out, and it's an important issue. In 1977, the linkage was put in place; in 1996 it was broken. Those ages 65 to 69 can earn up to $30,000 per year before losing any benefits. Blind people can only earn $1,110 a month on SSI; $500 a month on SSDI. "Our amount is set by statute," he stated, "and the language that started to make that process happen was built into the law in '77." What needs to happen, he said, is that the linkage needs to go back into the legislation. The temptation is to say that "these provisions harm blind people." The reality is simply that this is the status quo now.
"The truth is, if the linkage is restored, as we want it to be, what we're saying is that blind people should be able to collect a disability pension ... because they're too disabled to work, and yet we should allow them to earn $30,000 a year before their benefits are taken away," Richert said. He reminded his listeners that they would probably be talking to Hill staffers who do not make $30,000 a year, and who are not blind. Tell staffers that you have equipment purchases, transportation costs, and other such things to offset.
He talked about S. 285, which has been introduced, and a bill about to be introduced by Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R-Md.), regarding Social Security. Ehrlich has "a long commitment to this linkage issue," Richert said, "and it's good news that he's willing to once again take on this issue." Ehrlich currently has 175 co-sponsors for the bill. It takes 218 to get a bill through.
There are controversies out there regarding the Jeffords-Kennedy work incentives legislation. It does two things: focus on health care and gradually working off the rolls. The bill will allow recipients to keep their Medicare benefits free of charge for 10 years. Something similar was done for the Medicaid program that allows the states to set their own caps. What's covered under the act? Personal assistance services and access to health services and prescription medications, including readers and transportation to and from work, Richert said. People should be able to work their way gradually off the rolls. He urged people to ask their congressmen or staff, "Did you know that by just earning $1 over the amount that you lose your cash benefits completely? And if you consistently do that, your health coverage goes bye-bye?" Most staffers don't know about that, he said, and it's important for them to know that you can't gradually work your way off the roles.
Brunson addressed ACB's position regarding the various bills. She has held conversations with blind and visually impaired people regarding the Jeffords-Kennedy bill, and one thing that disturbed her was this comment: "Well, we don't really need the health care; that's for the folks in wheelchairs." Audience members booed and howled in response. "Do not say that to them because eventually you will need to go to the doctor, and that's not when you want your surprise," she said. "What we want to communicate to the folks on Capitol Hill is that legislation that encourages people to go back to work and removes some of the barriers to that attempt to go back to work is what we are after. ... Jeffords-Kennedy provides people with the security of having access to health insurance in the face of an employment market which very often requires people to take something as their first job that does not allow them access to health insurance provided by their employer."
Many people, she stated, are going to work for the first time, and many more visually impaired people are returning to work after a long absence. "In either case, in order to get into the work force, they are required to take a part-time job or a job with a company that is not large enough or financially able to provide them with health care insurance ... And if you have that as your most likely job possibility, Congress should be encouraging you to take that job ..." All of us use health care, she added.
"Congress has a history in recent years of going back and fixing things," she stated. "We've seen them having to do that several times, and we are hopeful at this point that if the legislation passes and they finally figure out what the flaws are in the ticket, that perhaps they'll be willing to go back and fix some of those limitations down the road. The important thing is to get the legislation in place first, with the aspects of it that are good for us."
ACB is supporting the bill restoring the linkage to the level of seniors ages 65 to 69, Brunson said. "... It's going to be interesting to see how the legislation actually fares," she stated. "What we suggest that you communicate is that, there again, the issue is how do we put as many people in a good position to go back to work as possible? And we do that by removing barriers. And one of the barriers that blind people face is the unavailability of technology ..." The House legislation does not have a bill number, but the Senate bill is S. 285. The other linkage bill number is S. 279. The Jeffords- Kennedy bill is S. 331; it is the Work Incentives Improvement Act. "Those are the pieces of legislation that you want to draw your representative's attention to when you go to speak to them about Social Security," she reiterated.
The Senior Citizens Freedom to Work Act "just came out this week, and we have been discussing the impact of that legislation on the linkage issue as another monkey wrench in the soup," she said. Its bill number is HR 5, introduced by Sam Johnson (R- Texas) and Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), among others. It is a bill to eliminate the earnings limits for seniors, but keeps the limit for blind people. She emphasized that what people needed to tell their representatives was that the issue was "not an issue of fairness, but of improving the work incentives for blind people," and that they needed to impress upon the congressmen the kinds of blindness-related work expenses that they've paid, or been unable to pay. "If they knew how much it cost for a blind person to purchase the computer technology to do the job as a word processor or computer programmer ..."
Charlie Crawford then reviewed laws related to pedestrian safety. "The issue for Congress with respect to pedestrian safety is not so much that we're supporting any piece of legislation per se, because it's already been passed," he said. Section 1202 of the Transportation Equity Act allows for cities, towns and political subdivisions of states to be able to construct accessible pedestrian signalized crossings, with up to 90 percent of the money available from the federal government. ACB has prepared a pedestrian safety handbook, he said, and urged listeners to pick up a copy on their way out of the room. ACB has already worked with two traffic engineers who are currently working on installing accessible pedestrian signals. "That's incredibly good news, because what it shows is two things," Crawford said. "The first thing is that people do care about pedestrian safety, and secondly, that traffic engineers are not monsters ... when they have the information in their hands, they can actually do some good things for us." There will be more to come in the future regarding pedestrian safety, he said, but the bottom line is that people are hearing ACB's message and acting on it.
The final panel of the day dealt with information access. Margaret Pfanstiehl, president of the Metropolitan Washington Ear, spoke on description. She told a story of speaking with a staffer at the Federal Communications Commission, a former economist at the Congressional Budget Office, who had told her, "'Well, I'm usually a marketplace kind of a guy -- let the marketplace take care of it. But,' he said, 'there are things that the marketplace will not take care of, and this is one of [them], and I think that FCC has a role here.'" She believed that FCC chairman William Kennard would be sensitive to the needs of a minority population. "The big problem is that they are still very concerned what Congress thinks," she stated. "Their first reaction was, 'Well, we need more study.'" So the American Foundation for the Blind did a study, as did WGBH and several others. FCC had said that once the third study was in, the commission could proceed with a notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM). And the commission has not yet presented the NPRM, Pfanstiehl said, so she wrote a letter to Kennard, "the gist of which was, this issue is not going to go away, this is rank discrimination, the federal government cannot continue to overdo for the deaf and ... do nothing for the blind and visually impaired, another group who has a severe sensory deprivation."
So when can we expect the NPRM? The demand for description, Pfanstiehl said, needs to come from the consumers: "you, you, you and you." She also mentioned the restoration of toll-free lines to call the Washington Ear from Maryland and Virginia.
Alan Dinsmore, senior governmental relations representative from the American Foundation for the Blind, spoke on copyright, Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. There is a great convergence of technology going on, he said. "One of the things that is happening when we use the term 'convergence' is all of the information technology is now coming through your home and up on your screen. And if you're not a computer user, there's not a real impetus to become a computer user because in a short time it's going to be coming into your home through other sources -- the set top box ... [via] cable, through your television, through hand-held appliances which can connect you to the Internet. In other words, everything is coming together. That is both the blessing and the curse of information technology for people who are blind."
Dinsmore spoke about the "curse" part first. He mentioned his participation in a call-in radio show a few weeks ago that was supposed to be about braille, and how many questions were about technology. The impression he received from that show was that people thought there was no need for braille anymore. "The point of fact is, you do need to know it for a number of reasons," he said. He told the audience that the most interesting call he received was from a blind woman who had worked for 20 years and now is unemployed. The reason she gave for her unemployment: technology. "So this is why we maintain such an interest in copyright, in Section 255 Telecommunications Accessibility, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act," he noted. "This is why we are pushing so hard to get the proper implementation of things that are on the books now."
The 1996 amendment to the copyright act was supposed to make it easier to gain access to materials for qualified entities. "That amendment worked as far as technology took it," Dinsmore said. "But technology is now in the process of running way out in front of the amendment, because one of the major problems is, there is so much going into the copyright world now and it is going so fast that there is an inability to get the material in, for example, an electronic format that anybody can use to convert to a format that is useful to someone who is blind or visually impaired. What we need to do is fix that." AFB is working with the Association of American Publishers and the Software Information Industry Association Accessibility Working Group, looking at how to solve accessibility issues.
Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has yet to be implemented, Dinsmore said. "It's up to the FCC to turn [the guidelines] into the regulations that work." In his view, a regulation that works will give access to more than plain old telephone service. "It isn't going to work if the only thing that we have is a telephone that we can pick up, because if that telephone is only regulated to do certain basic things, it will be simply getting us where we can already go without a regulation. So what's the point of the whole last three years of activity ...? There wouldn't be any point at all." What's needed, he said, is that telephone to offer basic services and subscriber services. And those services need to be accessible.
Dinsmore mentioned information kiosks, where people in shopping malls and other such places would be able to get information about stores and so forth. These also need to be accessible, he said, or blind people will not be able to get the information they need to conduct their lives. "We are creating what some people have called virtual public accommodations," he said, "places that you customarily go to on the Internet to conduct business that weren't open in 1996. The concept didn't even exist."
Regarding Section 508, he said, it was "completely rewritten in the last reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act, which occurred last year. It is now a very, very powerful device." He told the audience about what was happening under Section 508. For one, the Access Board is currently working with consumer organizations, including the American Council of the Blind, to develop standards for accessible information technology. He reminded his listeners that the federal government is the largest purchaser of information technology. That technology must be accessible to individuals with disabilities who are federal employees, as well as other disabled individuals who are customers of federal services. What this all means is that companies "are going to take a very, very long look at developing accessible information technology if they want to do business with their biggest buyer."
After the Access Board develops standards, the federal government must make standards for its acquisitions. These standards will even cover services the federal government delivers on the Internet, because questions will be raised if the federal government uses inaccessible information technology that people download as training modules for its employees, he said. He believed the rule-making process will have enormous potential, and reminded his listeners that the job doesn't end once the legislation gets passed; congressmen need to be reminded of why the legislation is needed.
The seminar ended with a banquet on Sunday night and visits to Capitol Hill on Monday.
The American Council of the Blind seeks a motivated and qualified individual who is blind to become the next editor of "The Braille Forum" publication and to manage the telling of the ACB story throughout the many information avenues available to the blindness community and beyond.
General duties include: editing, producing and distributing "The Braille Forum"; providing publicity and public relations for ACB; and supervising a staff assistant. Interested candidates must: possess a degree in journalism or a related field from an accredited four-year college or university; have at least two years experience in a similar position; be able to use computers and the Internet in the performance of job duties; and be able to communicate effectively. For a more detailed job description, contact the ACB national office.
To apply, send your resume, cover letter, and three to five writing samples (such as articles, opinion letters, or other such writings of a length not longer than 200 words. Excerpts from writings can be submitted to come within the 200-word parameter.) to the attention of Charles Crawford, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 720, Washington, D.C. 20005. All materials must be postmarked no later than June 1, 1999.
Resumes accompanied by a cover letter and the writing samples may also be submitted by e-mail if the body of the message contains the cover letter, the resume, and the writing samples clearly marked as to which is which and all in an MS-DOS text with line breaks if saved from an MS-Word processor or same format if from others. Please send such e-mail to [email protected] Your e-mail submissions may not be dated beyond June 1, 1999. If you do use e-mail, you must also mail a hard copy of your writing samples to the address above. Please do not use the e-mail address for questions or other non-application purposes.
(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.)
At the Monday session of the ACB board meeting, Executive Director Crawford offered a revised edition of an office personnel manual begun by previous executive director Oral Miller. Calling it the cake that Oral made with some icing put on by Crawford, he suggested its adoption as a modernization plan. Containing family-friendly provisions such as flex time and telecommuting along with administrative leave for dog guide training, the plan strikes a good balance between consideration for employee concerns with strong accountability for getting ACB business done. The board will review the document and make its final decision later.
Two important communications happened last week over the ACB direct internet link. In both circumstances we were able to get the right information to the right traffic engineers in seconds. Both of them thanked ACB for helping them get what they needed and we thank our members for thinking of the national office to use when information critical decisions are made.
For many years, the independent living program for folks who are elderly and blind has received little attention or money from the administration and Congress. ACB has begun to make the pitiful funding levels for this program an issue. Since then we have already received a positive response from one senator and are awaiting more feedback on our efforts. This issue will be a topic for the legislative seminar.
A small subcommittee of the Board of Publications and the executive director conferenced last week on the elements of what will go into the job announcement for the editor of "The Braille Forum." We hope to have this out in March to begin the process of getting new leadership at the "Forum" and to fill the big gap left by Nolan as he takes on the challenge of technology at the state level. Billie Jean Keith will be working with Sharon to ensure the "Forum" continues to offer good information as we search for a new editor.
July is not that far away. The convention program committee met in Los Angeles to begin putting together the national programming of a shortened but exciting convention week. More to come on this, but even now we can tell you offers of big movie attractions, blind professional musicians from foreign shores and more are popping up! A strong mix of issues, fellowship, entertainment, information dissemination, and exhibitions await you this year! Stay tuned for more.
E-mail users can now subscribe electronically to "The Braille Forum." No more waiting for the diskettes, tapes, large print or braille production to get your "Forum" if you use e-mail. Just send an electronic message to [email protected] Leave the subject area blank; write in the body of the message (without the quotes) "Subscribe brailleforum-L" and send the message. Thanks to Nolan, Chris Gray, and especially Earlene Hughes for the fine work on this!
In both written and oral testimony, the American Public Transportation Association heard from ACB that the proposed signage regulations for emergency exits in railway cars were not accessible and hence not acceptable. Unfortunately, it appears that our testimony was seen as going beyond the ADA requirements by the folks writing the standards and so we will now need to ask the Federal Railway Administration to reject the standards until they come into compliance.
The national office sent out two draft documents of interest this last week. First we sent out the call for action document for review on the vending facilities program. This document is the product of the February 19 conference on vending issues and should be ready for release shortly. The other draft sent to the reviewing committee deals with the notice for the position vacancy for the editor of "The Braille Forum." This too should be ready soon to be released.
Just as we were thinking we were all set with the legislative seminar, Congress has come up with two new things for us this week! First, they have done the right thing by introducing a bill to guarantee accessible voting places for folks who are elderly or disabled. Then they once again took the wrong track and are about to consider legislation that raises the earnings limits for elderly people to give them a better deal if they get a job, but did not link blind people to it again. More to come on this on the Washington Connection.
After a weekend of solid fellowship and information, our ACB members made hundreds of congressional visits to advance the interests of our blindness community. Reports back show lots of attention paid to our issues of linkage, Social Security reform, funding for elderly blind programming, civil rights enforcement on air carriers, voting place access, and copyright changes to require electronic submittal along with print documents for copyright approval.
Our governmental relations and advocacy staff now have the information from the visits and will use it to follow up on a most successful operation.
Despite snowstorms, airline delays and commuter connections, ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford joined with our Illinois affiliate to testify for a Commission for the Blind bill before a state senate committee. Excellent work by M.J. Schmitt, Dave and Ray from the Illinois Council has put the issue squarely in front of the legislature.
Even as ACB and ICB stood proudly at the barricades and pushed for the blind of Illinois to have their own service agency, we faced the usual bureaucratic babble on how this would take away from other disabilities, present legal issues, run counter to integrated services, and create duplicative administrative waste. While we were not surprised to see the state rehab people, independent living centers, statewide independent living council representatives and a provider or two, we did note with particular disgust the testimony of the NFB of Illinois in opposition to the bill. ACB has already communicated our concern to the NFB national office and we will get this matter straightened out!
Later today, ACB and other partnering advocates, including The Washington Ear, the Blinded Veterans Association and the American Foundation for the Blind, will be visiting with Chairman Kennard of the Federal Communications Commission to discuss moving the agenda of descriptive video services. The technology is there, the cost is low, and it's time to make visual information accessible.
The Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America and ACB have been participating in some fairly heavy negotiations with other advocates and the federal government to insure the rights of blind vendors on military bases. Stay tuned for news and updates as we get closer to some real action on this and other issues including a major national effort to revitalize the vending program.
ACB has been sought out by the Cellular Telephone Industry Association to work with them on making sure they keep on track with development and deployment of accessible phones along with proper training for their people. All this thanks to the hard work of members and partners! Now we can look forward to paying those cellular phone bills, eh?
Early tomorrow another exciting trip begins for me to work with an affiliate on issues of importance to them and ACB. Let's hope for sunny skies, good temperatures, great fellowship and much learning for all involved.
(Editor's note: The official minutes of this meeting can be obtained from the ACB national office.)
The mid-year meeting of the American Council of the Blind board of directors began at 1:30 p.m. on February 14 at the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel. All members were present. Following the approval of the September 1998 minutes, ACB President Paul Edwards presented his report (see "President's Message," March 1999). He also appointed the members of the Affiliate Rights and Responsibilities Committee: Mitch Pomerantz, chair; Stephen Speicher, committee coordinator; Debbie Grubb; and Winifred Downing. The committee's goal is to have a revised document ready for distribution sometime in May.
Charlie Crawford, ACB's executive director, reported on the activities of the national office. He stated that staff members have work plans for the year. Plans will be evaluated by reviewing the responsibilities that were established for each position. In describing the work plans, Crawford said, "Here are the duties you were responsible to have done. This amount of time has passed between the time we established that duty and defined that duty. Now what have you done in order to accomplish that? ... What happens is that you empower the employee because the person then has a real sense of being valued for what they do. You also give the employee an opportunity to make some creative decisions for what they do."
He also stated that Cindy Lovering and other support staff members are writing a manual to be given to new support staff when they take a position in the national office.
Nolan Crabb gave his final report as editor of "The Braille Forum." He has accepted a position as a computer information technologist for the Missouri Rehabilitation Services for the Blind. In his report, Crabb pointed out that the very first electronic edition of "The Braille Forum" was the March-April 1990 issue, his first year at ACB. The news that the e-mail version of "The Braille Forum" is now up and running was affirmatively received by the board and guests. Applause greeted these words: "The milestone that I am proudest of and most excited about at this point is that starting with this February issue, Potomac Talking Book Services is going to stream 'The Braille Forum' digitally (the audio version) out to the web. We will build a link from the ACB site directly to Potomac Talking Book and it will be transparent to the user. They'll simply hit the link and it will say, 'audio version of "The Braille Forum"' and they'll be able to hear, a track at a time, the streaming audio from Potomac Talking Book. ... That stream, incidentally, will also include ACB Reports."
Crabb concluded his remarks by publicly recognizing the fine, dedicated work of assistant editor Sharon Lovering with these comments. "I want to tell all of you very publicly that, over the last five and a half years it has been a great pleasure for me to work with Sharon. She bailed me out on thousands of occasions and came to my assistance on thousands of others. Please recognize what a tremendous asset she has been to me."
At this point, Sue Ammeter, president of the Washington Council of the Blind, presented Nolan with a check in the amount of $15,000 to pay for all formats of the March 1999 "Braille Forum." The check was given in recognition of the important part "The Braille Forum" plays in communicating with the ACB membership and others.
Carol M. McCarl, chair of the board of publications, reported that she and Winifred Downing were selected by the board of publications to work with Charlie Crawford to hire a new editor. Charlie Hodge will represent the BOP at ACB board meetings beginning with the post-convention board meeting in July.
McCarl concluded with an invitation to affiliates and individuals to submit articles for the next several issues of "The Braille Forum." During the search for a new editor, there will be opportunities for a variety of submissions to be considered for publication. Articles should be sent to Sharon Lovering's attention and received by the fifth of the month preceding the month of publication.
After the break, Guide Dog Users, Inc. president Jenine Stanley reported on the policy to be utilized by the convention committee in choosing convention sites and hotels. The document was created in response to a July 1998 resolution and includes a checklist that can be used by the committee when it goes out to look at a property. Since copies of the document were not available for distribution to the board, it was decided that LeRoy Saunders would evaluate the document and be prepared to make a report on the convention committee's behalf at the pre-convention board meeting in July.
Dawn Christensen reported that solicitations for awards appear in the February issue. The two new awards will be given to affiliates or special-interest groups -- one that increased its membership by the greatest percentage, and one with an outstanding outreach program or service. The awards committee has requested the opportunity to give these new awards at the opening session of the ACB convention.
During the discussion of the upcoming convention it was established that the nominating committee will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, July 5. This should allow for attendance by conventioneers at receptions scheduled prior to that time. There were many other topics discussed at length that pertained to the convention. Most were referred to committees. The board decided that changes to occur in the convention week would be described in the March "Braille Forum" (see "Looking Forward to the 1999 Convention," March).
Kim Charlson presented the history committee's report. A motion was made and passed to direct the committee to contact Jim Megivern and request the completion of the ACB history by June 1.
Teddie Remhild was next, and made her case for a new affiliate on aging and vision loss. She stated that such an affiliate would allow for more representation than a committee. It has 65 charter members with a nine-person board. Officers are: Teddie Remhild, president; Freddie Peaco, vice president; Roy Ward, recording secretary; Al Gayzagian, corresponding secretary; and Gerald Konsler, treasurer. Several more people in the audience joined during the presentation. After discussion and many questions, the board voted to allow the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss. Remhild agreed to submit the alliance's constitution and bylaws, a membership list, and the appropriate dues to the national office by March 15.
When the ACB board reconvened at 8:45 a.m. February 15, the 1999 budget was discussed at length and passed. The second document considered was the employee handbook originally written and submitted by Oral Miller in September 1998. After discussion of three additions made by Charlie Crawford, the motion passed to provisionally accept the document. Members of the board were directed to consider the portions that pertain to administrative leave for the purpose of securing a dog guide, telecommuting, and flex time scheduling. Crawford requested them to give him their comments within 10 business days of the meeting. The final acceptance of the handbook will be placed on the agenda of the pre-convention board meeting.
Pam Shaw reported that the document regulating the grants and loans to affiliates policy were distributed to the members of the board. Since it is a new document, changes can be expected as applications begin streaming in and the committee learns about processing them. Members of this committee are: Pam Shaw, chair; Paul Edwards, ex officio; Mike Duke; Mike Geno; and Jenine Stanley.
The meeting concluded with the pre-convention board meeting set for 8:30 a.m. July 3, and the post-convention meeting at 8:30 a.m. July 10.
KABVI PLANS SPECIAL EVENT
The Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired is sponsoring a special raffle at this year's convention. KABVI is raffling a copy of the first pamphlet written by Helen Keller, titled "Our Duties to the Blind." This booklet was written in 1903 and presented at the first annual meeting of the Massachusetts Association for Promoting the Interests of the Adult Blind, held at Perkins Hall in Boston on January 4, 1904. This is a wonderful item for book collectors or those interested in collecting things of and about Helen Keller. The booklet was donated to KABVI by a librarian well acquainted with rare books who secured it from a reputable book seller and can vouch for its authenticity. Raffle tickets will be available for a donation of $5 each and can be obtained prior to June 1, 1999 from KABVI treasurer Robert Chaffin, 1105 Centennial Blvd., Hays, KS 67601. After that date, they will be available from KABVI members at the Los Angeles convention. The winner will be selected at the Kansas caucus during convention.
ALLIANCE ON AGING AND VISION LOSS
For the first time in many years, the American Council of the Blind approved a new affiliate at its mid-year meeting in Los Angeles. The Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss presented the ACB board of directors with a constitution and bylaws, 65 charter members and an elected 10-member board. The board discussed all pertinent issues related to the acceptance of a new affiliate, and asked many questions of AAVL's president, Teddie Remhild. When the motion to approve the affiliate was made, the voice vote was unanimous; applause filled the room.
Remhild pointed out that the advantages of an affiliate over a committee were that it would have greater ability to reach out to the new population of older visually impaired adults, and it would empower the affiliate's membership to speak for itself regarding aging issues and needs. The Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss will be inclusive of all vision loss experiences, with the emphasis on issues of aging.
Officers are: Teddie Remhild, president; Freddie Peaco, vice president; Roy Ward, recording secretary; Al Gayzagian, corresponding secretary; Gerald R. Konsler, treasurer; and board members Etta Burge, Jean Sanders, Milly Lillibridge, and Flora Beck-Weintraub. Bill Lewis will be the newsletter editor and ex officio board member.
The Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss will be planning three days of programs at the convention. For more information, contact Teddie Remhild at (714) 533-6051 or Al Gayzagian at (617) 926-7641, e-mail [email protected]
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.
FORUM BY E-MAIL
Have you always wanted to receive "The Braille Forum" via e-mail? Now you can. Send an e-mail message to [email protected] Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message, type subscribe brailleforum-l. Be certain to spell out the word "braille." Also, please notify the ACB national office if you no longer wish to receive your subscription in braille, large print, cassette or computer disk.
The toll-free lines for the Metropolitan Washington Ear dial-in newspaper and magazine service are back throughout the state of Maryland. To reach it, dial (877) 681- 6636.
The Lake Zoer Waterski Club, located in Sandy Hook, Conn. (just outside of Danbury), was founded in 1991 by Joel Zeisler. It specializes in waterski training for the disabled. Zeisler is also the coach, and he is experienced in working with the disabled. He has trained blind people, amputees and others to waterski. The club's two champion skiers are Allan Golabek and Mark Hieftje; both men are blind, and both have been chosen to represent the United States at the 1999 World Disabled Waterski Championships in London this August. If you are interested in joining, call (203) 426-0666.
SPORTS FOR HEALTH
Do you like to ride bikes, go horseback riding, paddle a canoe, or take hikes through the woods? You can participate in Sports for Health. If you need a sighted guide, invite a friend. The dates are August 1-8. For more information, or an application, contact Fred Quick at (718) 379-0246, or e-mail [email protected]
The Hadley School for the Blind recently released a new edition of its course catalog, which is available in large print, braille, on tape and on disk. It describes 91 courses offered to blind people, their families and friends, and professionals who work with them. Among its offerings are 13 new courses: health 1; health 2; classroom survival strategies; using raised markers; braille literacy 1: tactile readiness for braille; braille readiness 2: learning the braille alphabet; business law 1; business law 2; small business management; independent living; early independence; partners in education; and college bound: supporting your child's transition to American University. Hadley's General Education Program offers courses in five core areas: academic and high school studies; braille and other communications skills; technology; independent living and life adjustment; and recreation and leisure. The Parent/Family Program offers courses for parents of blind children and family members of blind adults. And the Professional Program contains courses designed to help professionals who work with blind people.
For more information, visit the web site, http://www.hadley-school.org
Washington State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson received the 1999 Catherine T. "Kay" Gallagher Award during the American Foundation for the Blind's Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute. Dickerson, who is visually impaired, is in her third term as a representative of the 36th legislative district. She serves on the Children and Family Services, Finance, Judiciary, and Family Policy Council Committees, and is vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus. Previously, she served as the executive director of the Bellevue Schools Foundation.
The New York Hall of Science recently began a pilot program of audio tours for visually impaired visitors. These tours highlight "Hidden Kingdoms -- The World of Microbes" and "Seeing the Light." "Hidden Kingdoms" showcases a collection of the smallest creatures on earth, and explores the relationship between this hidden world of amoebas and molds to our world by using a combination of living microbes and static displays. "Seeing the Light" focuses on the properties of color, light, and the mechanisms of human visual perception. You are requested to notify the museum that you are coming. For more information, call (718) 699-0005, fax (718) 699-1341, or visit the web site at http://www.nyhallsci.org
"HandiTalk" is a one-hour weekly call-in program discussing the issues facing the millions of people with disabilities. Michael Lauf is the host. It can be heard via the Internet in Real Audio and MP3 formats. A toll-free worldwide number allows people in North America as well as parts of Australia, New Zealand, Israel and London to participate. Topics range from employment and consumer rights to technology and discrimination. Visit the web site at http://www.ttalk.com. HandiTalk airs in the U.S. on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern (5 p.m. Pacific), or Wednesdays at 01:00 Universal. To call in with questions, dial (888) 591-8324. For more information, call (888) 639-4954 extension 218 or visit http://www.ttalk.com/handitalk.htm.
Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic has a new president. His name is Richard O. Scribner, and he's been a board member since 1991. He came to RFB&D from Salomon Smith Barney. Scribner began serving in his new post on January 1.
Have you had trouble sleeping? Maybe it's your pillow! Try an overstuffed, hypoallergenic buckwheat hull pillow. These pillows provide support, can be plumped into your favorite resting position, and can relieve back and neck pain, headaches, TMJ and other painful conditions that can keep you awake at night. These pillows are double stitched, durable, and have zippered covers for easy washing. Custom orders are provided on an individual basis. Contact Marie Caputo between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at (860) 643-1234 or e-mail her at [email protected] with specific measurements. All prices include shipping. The pet bed, for larger pets, costs $37; the all-in-one cushion for use in wheelchairs, cars or boats costs $56.45; the knee pillow, $15.95; wrist pillow, $11.95; travel pillow, $26.95; neck pillow, $26; child pillow, $36.45; large pillow, $49.95. Make checks or money orders payable to Marie Caputo, 470 Tunnel Rd., Vernon, CT 06066. All orders will be shipped within 10 working days of receipt of payment and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Goodkin Border & Associates has several specials going on through spring on its computer packages. One offer includes: JAWS 3.2 with Eloquence speech installed on an Intel Pentium II 400 mHz computer with 128 megabytes of SDRAM, an 8.4-gigabyte hard drive, 40x CD-ROM drive, ATI 8-megabyte AGP video card, 56K v.90 fax modem, Yamaha 32-bit Wavetable sound card, 1.44-megabyte floppy drive, PS2 net mouse, 104-key Windows 98 keyboard, 15-inch flat screen monitor, stereo speakers and microphone, Windows 98 with CD and manual, Grolier's encyclopedia and Corel WordPerfect Suite 8, all for $2,450. The second offer consists of an Intel Pentium II 300 mHz laptop computer with: JAWS 3.2 with Eloquence speech installed, 64 megabytes of RAM, 3.0-gigabyte hard drive, AGP 4- megabyte video card, 24x CD-ROM drive, 12.1-inch SVGA active matrix display, 56K v.90 PCMCIA fax/modem, lithium ion battery, Windows 98, A/C adapter and carrying case, all for $3,150. Contact Elizabeth Hopp at (800) 759-6275 extension 28 to order.
Marjorie Arnott has a wide variety of knitting, crochet and cooking books. They include afghans and blankets; sweaters; washcloths; hats, gloves, scarves and mittens; slippers; knit and crochet toys; knit and crochet baby shower books; and many more. Among the cookbooks are: meals across the miles; several three-ingredient cookbooks; Lipton mix cookbook; cookies galore; and many others. Arnott has also started a general section which has a book of poetry and one which is called "Kitchen Cupboard Remedies." If you are interested in any of the above, or want to receive a catalog, write to Marjorie Arnott at 1446 N. Coronado St., Chandler, AZ 85224-7824; or phone (408) 345-8773, or visit the home page at http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rowan/marjorie-crafts.html.
The Blind Work Association of Binghamton, N.Y. recently appointed Robert Hanye as its new executive director. Hanye began his duties there on February 16. He succeeds Conrad Range, who retired after 20 years of service.
FOR SALE: Sony 377, model 3-8514, three-speed stereo tape deck, including dozens of 7-inch reel tapes. Make offer. Fully loaded Dell IBM-compatible computer with 32 megabytes RAM, 300 megabyte hard drive, Procomm and Telex, Hays-compatible modem; DOS 6.2, Duxbury braille translator, WordPerfect 5.1, Vocal-Eyes 3.0, Accent speech, Open Book 3.5 with scanner; cables and manuals; instructions. Turn on and use. Printers not included. $1,200 or best offer. Contact Bill Lewis at (316) 681-7443, or e-mail [email protected], or write him at 3509 E. 2nd St. N., Wichita, KS 67208.
FOR SALE: Braille Pad notetaker manufactured by Artic. 1998 revision. Currently under service contract. Comes with manuals in large print, braille, on cassette and computer disk, connectors, carrying case and earphones. Asking $700. Contact Deanna Noriega, P.O. Box 1104, Manitou Springs, CO 80829; phone (719) 391-2564.
FOR SALE: 386 IBM clone computer with 8 megabytes of RAM, 430-megabyte hard drive, DOS 6.0 and Windows 3.1 for Workgroups; VGA monitor, mouse and keyboard. $300 or best offer plus shipping. Acernote Laptop 730 with a 486 processor, 125 megabyte hard drive, internal 2400 baud modem (can use faster external modem), DOS and Windows 3.1 for Workgroups; trackball mouse, monochrome screen, leather carrying case, manuals and utility software. $450 or best offer plus shipping. Both in excellent condition. Call William at (616) 344-8177 and leave a message.
FOR SALE: Perkins brailler. Asking $250 plus shipping. Call Roger at (510) 412- 0791.
FOR SALE: Brand-new talking microwave, $300 plus shipping. Acoustic guitar and case, $250 plus shipping. Call Rosemir at (510) 233-6105.
WANTED: Used CCTV in good condition. Call Warren Williams at (601) 627-2366.
WANTED: Sony TC105 reel-to-reel recorder in good condition. Call Colin Blackwood at (781) 585-4803.
ACB wishes to thank its many members and friends who gave so generously in response to our fall 1998 letter requesting support for ACB's ongoing programs and services. This partial list of donors reflects only those people who gave us permission to publicly acknowledge their gifts.
Jack Crawford, Somerville
Mr. and Mrs. John Granger, Talladega
Joel Marler, Montgomery
June Milam, Birmingham
Mike Parker, Mobile
Julie L. Herring, Anchorage
Sandy Sanderson, Anchorage
Lynne Koral, Anchorage
Elena Harper, Prescott
John E. Lane, Mesa
Valarie Lintz, Phoenix
Norman Loeber, Show Low
Michelle Musil, Phoenix
Stanley Olivier, Sun Lakes
Edward Josef Schuler, Arizona City
Monty Ball, Little Rock
Davis Duty, Fort Smith
Leroy and Mary Johnson, Springdale
Lorene Denney, Clinton
Hazel C. Jordan, Little Rock
Mr. and Mrs. Donald G. Almy, Huntington Beach
Beatrice Bel, Half Moon Bay
Kevin Berkery, Burbank
Ralph Black, Sacramento
Regina Chavez-Berlin, Albany
Michael Chin, Corning
Bianca Culbertson, Carmichael
Ann P. DeLint, Cerritos
Winifred Downing, San Francisco
Virginia Gong, Union City
Philip Hallford, San Diego
Greg Hill, Rio Linda
K. Hillhouse, Books Aloud, San Jose
Constance Hubbard-Schoeman, La Canada
Byron G. Jay, Riverside
Katherine Jenkins, Redwood City
J. Henry Kruse, Albany
Judy D. Larson, Castro Valley
Eugene Lozano, Jr., Sacramento
Jill O'Connell, Carlotta
Teddie Remhild, Anaheim
Melva C. Rhodes, San Luis Obispo
Peter Schustack, San Luis Obispo
C. Carroll Stough, Long Beach
Lawrence Swenson, Penngrove
Technologies for the Visually Impaired, San Francisco
Tim Tomasello, San Ramon
Jinger Valenzuela, Glendale
Barry and Flora Weintraub, Los Angeles
Hazel Beal, Pueblo
Wendy Cody, Lafayette
June E. Englehorn, Littleton
Nellie Garcia, Wheat Ridge
Marge Gallien, Colorado Springs
Theodore Ruskin, Littleton
Maureen Carr, Branford
Anna Godrie, Fairfield
Bernard W. Kassett, Tolland
Barbara Lombardi, Shelton
Louise A. Manginello, Hartford
Ellen M. Telker, Milford
Harry W. Wenz, Fairfield
Alice and Al Capodanno, Wilmington
Stewart H. Wiggins, Wilmington
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Oral O. Miller
Frank A. Bartola, Winter Park
Gladys Burck, West Palm Beach
Evelyn Dellavolpe, Ocoee
Marion Eiermann, Orlando
Herbert C. Eiermann, Orlando
Nancy Gould, Delray Beach
Carther Graham, Tallahassee
Virginia Graham, Daytona Beach
Debra Hietala, Saint Petersburg
Jack Landress, Lake Worth
David Lang, Ormond Beach
Ruth and Clinton Moore, Port Charlotte
Grace C. Moulton, Tallahassee
Nigel Ricards, Boca Raton
Michael Romeo, Stuart
Jeanne and Don Sanders, Clearwater
Fred Scheigert, Vero Beach
Ronald D. Scouten, Lakeland
Henry B. Stern, Lake Worth
Mike Hall, Flowery Branch
Juanita Mathews, Savannah
Mrs. Paul Moss, Roswell
Thomas H. Ridgeway, Macon
Therese Sprinkle, Atlanta
Charleen Y. K. Doi, Honolulu
Hisaka Stone and Goto, Attorneys, Honolulu
Makia Malo, Honolulu
Clara Bowie, Carbondale
Mr. and Mrs. Ray Campbell, Glen Ellyn
Trudy Carroll, East Alton
David L. Crawford, Vandalia
Elsie Haug, Chicago
Sally Hering, Lake Bluff
Mr. and Mrs. George Hoy, Chicago
Heidi A. Kimbel, Rock Island
Alison King, Geneva
Dennis Mijia, Highland
Natalie F. Miller, Evanston
Donald G. Morrow, Chicago
Maureen Ryan, Chicago
Terry-Ann Saurmann, Arlington Heights
Gail Stamps, Evansville
George Vlasak, Franklin Park
Carol Warren, Peoria
James J. Barnes, Crawfordsville
Rev. Maurice Brockman, Indianapolis
John, Debra and Erin Fountain, Paoli
Paul J. Hums, Mishawaka
Mary McMichael, Bloomington
Joseph J. Neff, Indianapolis
Mike and Dolly Sowder, Bedford
Dr. and Mrs C. William Trubey, Bluffton
Ray and Jackie Warren, Indianapolis
Linda Dietrich, Fairfield
Marjorie A. Hansen, Mason City
Roger H. Larson, Eagle Grove
Frank Strong Jr., Des Moines
Thomas J. Basgall, Salina
Betty Christian, Wichita
Don L. Cox, Wichita
Donald D. Enos, Wichita
Marilyn G. Lytle, Wichita
Glenna and Howard Morrow, Overland Park
Kathryn Hynes Smith, Manhattan
Donald and Billie J. Flannery, Lawrenceburg
Gladys Hall, Louisville
John S. Llewellyn, Louisville
Thomas Lutes, Bardstown
Susan B. Robertson, Louisville
Charlotte Himel, Covington
George Roderick, Augusta
Audrey S. Koch, Rockville
The Leading Edge, Severna Park
Gladys E. Loeb Foundation, Silver Spring
Francis and Sheila McKeown, Baltimore
Doug Slotten, Chevy Chase
John and Eloise Sutton, Salisbury
Andrea E. Bader, Boston
Gilbert J. Busch, Jamaica Plain
Brian Charlson, Watertown
Virginia Dean, Cambridge
Donna Fanelle, Medford
Al and Betty Gayzagian, Watertown
Robert Gildea, Arlington
Edward Heartz, Brookline
Natalie Lamken, Northampton
Angela Mannerson, Salem
Laura Oftedahl, Watertown
Dennis Polselli, Framingham
Judy Savageau, Worcester
Robert W. Florine, Kalamazoo
Margaret M. Hunerjager, Niles
Elizabeth M. Lennon, Kalamazoo
Frederick T. Neumann, Lansing
H. Kirkland Osoinach, Cross Village
Betty J. Petersen-Neumann, Lansing
David Russell, Marysville
Donald J. Schichtel, Grand Rapids
Edward D. Bender, White Bear Lake
Bruce Elving, Esko
Marlena L. Haugen, Saint Paul
Jack and Sharon Hicken, Duluth
Dale and Diane Mevissen, Duluth
Linda Oliva, Minneapolis
David W. Schmidt, Maple Grove
Max Swanson, Minneapolis
Mike and Elaine Vining, Minneapolis
Vernon P. Williams, Burnsville
James Paul Duffy, Gulfport
Elton Moore, Mississippi State
Jettie Norris, Tupelo
W.R. Sallis, Jackson
Kathryn Hames, Ballwin
Ann Murphey, Rolla
Edith M. Schmutzler, West Plains
June Smith, Saint Louis
Mildred Taylor, Crane
Jean VanWinkle, Springfield
Mrs. R. M. Lockwood, Bozeman
Elizabeth C. and Harvey G. Robe, Missoula
Don and Vivian Pohlmann, Hastings
Tammy Bennett, Winnemucca
Janis Riceberg, Las Vegas
Dr. Richard W. Bleecker, Jersey City
Dennis Hartenstine, Red Bank
Judith Rose-Valente, Oak Ridge
Lisa Valvano, Edison
Joseph Zesski, Mt. Laurel
Lonnie Lanning, Albuquerque
Fred Mansfield, Santa Fe
Eric Blair, New York City
Joan O. Brown, Rochester
Harriet J. Burke, Red Hook
Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Cronin, Lawrence
Inez and Tom D'Agostino, New York City
James Dinnigan, Maspeth
George Downey, Long Island City
Josephine Durham, Mineola
Robert Fearon III, Oneida
Jacob Goldfein, New York City
Karen Gourgey, New York City
Richard Hutcheson, Potsdam
A. Leo Imerti, Long Island City
Elizabeth Juvet, Bethpage
Alice Lockwood, Brentwood
David R. Nelson, Kenmore
Mary Randall, Astoria
James V. Ricciardi, Oyster Bay
Margaret Ricciardi, Oyster Bay
Philip G. Rich, Albany
Paul and Mary Sauerland, Hicksville
Ken Stewart, Warwick
Miriam Vieni, Westbury
Janet Wettenstein, Rochester
Jessie Ballew, Winston-Salem
Mr. and Mrs. Walter Kee, Burlington
Norma F. Krajczar, Moorhead City
Judith K. Redfield, Clemmons
Fanny L. Seville, Bismarck
Richard and Gina Bird, Parma Heights
Donald Brucker, Columbus
Dawn M. Christensen, Holland
Stanley Doran, Columbus
W. C. Evans, Bellevue
Rea R. Fellows, Columbus
Kent Lions Club
Jack R. Linville, Columbus
Catherine Manghelli, Lima
Jim Oyer, Columbus
Anera and David Shell, Cincinnati
Ruth J. Spillan, Columbus
Jane Strohmeier, Cincinnati
Brian White, Columbus
Lillian Alexander, Tulsa
Libby Cahalan, Edmond
Wanda Eller, Tulsa
Nancy J. Mayberry, Tulsa
Patricia Palmer, Henryetta
Margaret Alvarez, Tigard
Cathy Bickerdike, Keizer
Mary Chambers, Portland
Harvey W. Gibbens, Salem
Mildred S. Gibbens, Salem
Drs. Hamada, Matti & Assoc., Grants Pass
Teena Hazel, Pendleton
Sherri Jackson, Ashland
Carol McCarl, Salem
Mr. and Mrs. W. G. Menning, Salem
Gerald and Carolyn Patrick, King City
Margaret Reznicsek, Salem
Paulette Stokes, Portland
Ellen Werthaiser, Brookings
Donald F. Allison, Shade Gap
Richard C. Bechtel, Haverford
Connie L. Bortfield, Lancaster
Tom Brozena, North Wales
Mr. and Mrs. Sebastian Demanop, Havertown
John Figliomeni, Childs
Mary E. Frizzi, Pittsburgh
Janice Hargick, Shenandoah
Kathleen M. Huebner, Philadelphia
John Horst, Elizabethtown
Evelyn Kaufman, Philadelphia
Merlin Stacy Keller, Wexford
Jerold G. Klevit, Jenkintown
Marita Mathews, Pittsburgh
Anna Mary McHugh, Ashley
Pearl M. McMichael, New Brighton
Mary Jane Nester, Shenandoah
Shirley Nyland, Munhall
Anna B. Porter, Lancaster
Don Schreiber II, Harrisburg
Mary Smith, Reading
Patsy Jones, West Columbia
Ted Kneebone, Aberdeen
John Adams, Elkton
Cindy Adams, Elkton
Robert K. Armstrong, Memphis
Herb and Gwen Jared, Knoxville
Carrie Byars, San Antonio
Coastal Bend Area Council of the Blind, Corpus Christi
Jo Cassidy, Cypress
Dennis Gerron, Dallas
Ron Graham, Copperas Cove
Duncan Holmes, Fredericksburg
Larry Johnson, San Antonio
Janet L. Jones, Houston
Bernice Klepac, Houston
Oleva "Bo" Randall, Richmond
McLeod Stinnett III, Dallas
Ronald B. Bradshaw, Woods Cross
John H. Freebairn, Salt Lake City
Nadeen Hackwell, Ogden
Ernest Heyborne, Cedar City
Theda S. Imlay, Salt Lake City
Ora G. Peterson, Provo
Cindi L. Vega, Salt Lake City
Eugene M. and Eileen B. Wood, Salt Lake City
Joann Nichols, Brattleboro
Michael Richman, S. Burlington
Patricia M. Beattie, Alexandria
Robert Burke, Charlottesville
Kathleen M. Carr, Falls Church
Eunice Fiorito, Alexandria
Leslie Henson, Richmond
Charles Hodge, Arlington
Nancy Jenkins, Richmond
Milly Lillibridge, Arlington
Betty Y. Mehalko, Quinton
Sandra G. Neuzil, Reston
Everett and Cynthia Roberts, Woodbridge
John Sours, Arlington
S. Steiger, Hampton
Roy and Mabel Ward, Richmond
Sue Ammeter, Seattle
Doris Blevins, Spokane
H. Marie Campbell, Kent
Barbara I. Harville, Richland
Julia C. Lynch, Seattle
Rhonda L. Nelson, Auburn
Teri Reinkens, Pasco
Bill Van Winkle, Richland
Terry P. Waldron, Spokane
Donna Brown, Romney
Charles J. Varney, Crum
Rosale H. Alsbury, Appleton
Richard B. Berres, West Bend
Helen A. Broeren, Madison
John J. Carter, Greenfield
Virginia and Adrian DeBlaey, Milwaukee
Bernice Dern, Sheboygan
Walter Johnson, Milwaukee
Donald Lehmann, Kenosha
Velma Mitchel, Prairie du Chien
Eugene Persohn, Green Bay
Vivian Wiedeman, Superior
20330 NE 20TH CT.
MIAMI, FL 33179
FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
57 GRANDVIEW AVE.
WATERTOWN, MA 02172
SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
825 M ST., SUITE 216
LINCOLN, NE 68508
556 N. 80TH ST.
SEATTLE, WA 98103
906 N CHAMBLISS ST
ALEXANDRIA VA 22312
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
2118 NW 21st St.
Oklahoma City, OK 73107
ELIZABETH M. LENNON, Kalamazoo, MI