THE BRAILLE FORUM is available in braille, large print, half- speed four-track cassette tape and computer disk. Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for publication should be sent to: Nolan Crabb, THE BRAILLE FORUM, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005. Submission deadlines are the first of the month.
Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Patricia Beattie at the same address. If you wish to remember a relative or friend by sharing in the council's continuing work, the national office has printed cards available to acknowledge contributions made by loved ones in memory of deceased people.
Anyone wishing to remember the American Council of the Blind in his/her Last Will and Testament may do so by including a special paragraph for that purpose. If your wishes are complex, you may contact the ACB National Office.
For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the "Washington Connection" toll-free at (800) 424-8666, 6 p.m. to midnight Eastern time Monday through Friday.
Due to an editing error, the SSI and SSDI amounts were reversed in "They Came, They Listened, They Advocated" (April 1999). The correct amounts are: SSDI, $1,110 per month; SSI, $500 per month.
In February I had the pleasure of attending a relatively small but extremely important meeting convened by National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. It was a meeting of leaders among librarians, leaders of the blindness organizations, and senior staff from NLS. The purpose of this meeting was to explore some of the implications that people could see lurking in the future for readers of NLS materials. Obviously what affected readers would also affect the libraries that delivered services to them. Attending that meeting provided me with lots of food for thought and also forced me to look again at the complexity of literacy and people who are blind.
Have you ever considered how many ways we "read"? Let me list just some of them. We read using braille. We read using tapes. We read using flexible disks. We read using computers, both using braille displays and synthetic speech. We acquire some of what we read from libraries. Some we buy commercially. Some of us buy print books and scan them. Some of us buy commercial audio books. Some of us download whole books from the Internet or read on-line. Some of us use magnifiers and some use closed circuit television sets. Some of us use new devices like the Road Runner that are tiny portable devices that allow us to carry books with us in our pockets taken from computers. Some of us read using the Optacon which, though slow, has saved my life many times. Compare our versatility with the usual approach taken by the light-dependent population. Even though a few hardy souls are using the Internet, most readers still prefer to print out what they must read rather than sit in front of a computer screen.
The point of all this is to celebrate our versatility. We are so eager for information that we will go to lengths our non-blind friends would not consider. Are we actually moving to the place where our methods of reading and those of our non-blind peers will intersect? This is an important question and there is evidence to suggest that perhaps we are. Right now, the Bible read by Alexander Scourby is on the Internet and is being read, presumably, by many for whom synthetic speech would be an absolute barrier to reading. More and more programs are being bundled with speech since the advent of sound cards and synthetic speech software. The next version of Windows will almost certainly have speech included. Those of us who have become accustomed to synthetic speech are beginning to marvel at how many new software speech programs there are each year. According to several people who were at the meeting, Ray Kurzweil has said that the next two years will see a quantum leap forward in synthetic speech, making people who don't have to listen to it willing to embrace it as a way to read.
Microsoft recently released a standard for dealing with e- books. These are a whole new world that the Internet has created. There are now several firms that are marketing small hand-held devices that will go to the Internet and download a whole book into themselves. You pay to rent or buy the book but, at the moment, you read the book in print on a small screen on this device. The fact that there are several companies in this business suggests that they believe there is a market. Time will tell on that one. More and more books are finding their way onto the Internet and more and more people are taking advantage of their availability.
I know that I have acquired a whole library of these electronic books. I did not own braille books as a kid and I think I felt this lack. My brother would get books for Christmas and I wouldn't. It's true that you could always buy books if you knew where to go but they were horribly expensive and, besides, why should your parents buy you books when you could borrow them for nothing from a library? Most of the books that are out there are classics but that is not all bad. During the last year, I have re-read all of Jane Austen's books and have actually found a couple of Dickens novels that I hadn't read before. The truth is that the Internet is struggling to decide how it will treat books. I now shop for print books at Amazon, an Internet bookstore. I can browse by myself and feel no pressure to buy a book if I don't want to buy it. When I have spent an hour with somebody going through books, I feel compelled to come away with something. Maybe this is just my perverse nature, I don't know. However, I can now look up an author and see just what is there. The Internet bookstores go further than just listing books. They have reviews and encourage customers who have bought books to comment on them as well. In a very real sense, I get far more out of Amazon than I am likely to get from a regular bookstore where I must rely on the publisher's blurb as my only guide, if I can find somebody to read it for me.
There are now a few sites on the Internet that have electronic books available for download at a price. Others actually allow you to sample hefty chunks of books before you must decide whether to buy. All these sites are, at least to some degree, accessible to us. What does all of this mean? First we are using more and more of the tools that sighted computer users used to take for granted. There are library catalogs, the Library of Congress data bases, and, of course, the NLS now has a couple of versions of their catalogs available on the Internet, as does Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. If e-books are successful and Ray Kurzweil is right, are we just a few years away from buying a commercial machine that will allow us to buy books like everybody else and read them digitally using a small e-book reader? Further into the future will more and more people actually read using speech while fewer will actually read using print? There is certainly some evidence to suggest this is likely.
More and more companies are working on voice recognition programs that are making it easier and easier for people to speak to their computers and dictate all their letters. Many telephone programs are using synthetic speech to give traveling folks access to their e-mail. There are a number of programs on the market now for making your computer talk which have nothing to do with screen readers!
The trouble with all the new developments that are coming onto the market for the general public is that they ignore the needs of people who are blind. The ACB has been involved for the past couple of years with a necessarily painstaking process undertaken under the auspices of NISO (the National Institute of Standards Organizations). This process is aiming to develop a standard that will make digital books truly accessible to people who are blind. Last summer at the ACB convention, NLS handed out a wonderful book it has prepared that explores some of the implications of going digital. Any of you who failed to pick it up might ask if it is still available. It's called "Digital Talking Books: Planning for the Future" and goes into much more detail than I can or will on the implications of this new medium. It makes for some exciting reading, though, and I urge all of you to grab it.
Suddenly e-books come along and, with very little warning, Microsoft puts out a proposed standard which makes very little reference to the work that is being done by NISO. The same kind of thing is happening with voice recognition and new speech engines. They are great and may well have potential for people who are blind. Unfortunately, some of them are extremely graphical and difficult to manipulate without a mouse. Even as telephones become more versatile, they become more inaccessible and, in case you wonder what the telephone has to do with all of this, it is the telephone that is driving the need for speech for those who would not otherwise need it.
Change will happen. That is certain. Almost inevitably, within the next 20 years most of us who now use NLS will be reading digitally, one way or another. I applaud the careful, thoughtful approach taken by NLS to a very difficult problem. NLS already has several staff members working full-time on the implications of the digital revolution. Soon we will be able to reap the first benefits of it. Within the next six months, some 3,000 braille titles will be available on the Internet for any blind person to download. Clearly digital books are here to stay. It is up to us to make sure that the digital books that emerge for sighted people can be used by those of us who are blind. Debbie Cook, chair of our technology committee, is actively working with others on the e-books issue and on more accessible telephones. We are active participants in the NISO effort to build standards for the digital book and that standard should be available in draft form, at least, by the year 2000.
One final thought. What is literacy? Can we define it the same way as we did a few years ago? If large numbers of ordinary people learn to talk to their computers and read using speech, will the level of literacy drop in our country as we have traditionally defined it? How do we define literacy among people who are blind and have not learned braille? Can we truly say they are illiterate when they read two to three times as many books as does the average American?
For me, these are hard questions to answer. Blind people ought to learn to read. When they can be taught it, braille must be made available. That doesn't change the stark reality that circulation of braille books through the National Library Service's network continues to decline. Will we ever reach a point where braille reading will be as rare as Sanskrit speakers? Will it simply become economically impossible to justify producing braille? Let us prevent that by becoming advocates for braille and by reading it everywhere we go. If sighted people won't give up print books, let's carry braille with us as a symbol of our literacy and our pride in our medium of reading!
Say, have you ever really considered the amount of talent and truly outstanding folks in ACB? Well, as executive director I have had the honor of working with and observing lots of people over the past few months and I simply have to say that I am overwhelmed with the quality and substance of so many within our ACB world. While I can't mention everyone, here are some examples of what I mean.
If you are going to California for our convention, look up Cathy Skivers! Here is a woman who has led our affiliate to great heights through her talent and dedication to what ACB is all about. Cathy and CCB have forged new partnerships with other blindness and disability organizations through leadership that builds consensus through quality ideas. Beyond the gracious willingness of CCB to host our conventions multiple times in recent years, and far beyond its famous hospitality and parties, CCB has become well-known for its many activities including helping to spread the word about AIDS and blindness through 60 excellent training workshops it has already conducted. If that were not enough, California has led the way with litigation against inaccessible state parks, banking machines and educational testing services. With its 46 affiliates, 22 committees and having just passed 65 years of working for blind Californians, we really can say there's gold in those hills.
Then there are those on the national level! Have you ever considered the wealth of talent on our board? How about Debbie Grubb and her untiring advocacy for pedestrian safety and willingness to go anywhere she is called upon to represent us? Then there's folks like Pam Shaw and her magnetic ability to draw people together, or Chris Gray who has built our Internet interface with skills second to none. Not enough? No, we have Sue Ammeter who has given Washington state focus and direction to where people look to us for advice, M.J. Schmitt who put Illinois on notice that we need real services for blind folks in that state, Ardis Bazyn who has helped the vending community to understand and move a progressive agenda toward revitalizing the Randolph-Sheppard program, Alan Beatty who has set his sites on expanding ACB in the southwest and building greater bridges with the Lions, John Buckley and his help with scholarships and financial ideas, Dawn Christensen with her ever-present energy and leadership, and Sandy Sanderson whose determination and initiative is well-known to blind folks in Alaska.
How about our committees and affiliates? Who could forget the great work of Julie Carroll and all the other committee people like Debbie Cook? I have seen folks on the state affiliate side like Patsy Jones in South Carolina, Ed Bradley and Audley Blackburn in Texas, Mike Duke in Mississippi, Kim Charlson in Massachusetts, Tim Jones in North Carolina and so many others in the states showing what can happen when we join together to get the job done.
I have said all of this without even mentioning ACBES, the special affiliates, our national office staff, or our officers, who all deserve our appreciation for their constant contributions to ACB!
To keep this article within a reasonable length, let me just say that I have never seen as many good people in the ranks of officers as we have in ACB. From a president who personifies the best in our organization to all the officers who take their roles with the uppermost commitment, we truly are blessed with a bounty of talent within our leadership.
Finally, let me speak to why all the above folks shine as brightly as they do. It's simple. We have a vibrant and engaged membership of blind folks who care about each other and what happens to our community.
I know I have left many folks who deserve lots of credit out of this brief acknowledgement of how truly fortunate we are with the people we have, but I think it's important from time to time for us to celebrate ourselves. From each member to each affiliate to each staff person, ACB is an organization of great people and talent! Are there ACB stars everywhere? You bet! In my few months as executive director I have been honored to work with the best.
Thanks to all of you and I hope to see as many in California as can come.
By the time you receive this issue of "The Braille Forum" there will only be six weeks left until convention time in Los Angeles. You should have received your convention pre- registration packet. Please complete the forms promptly, making the selections in which you are interested and return them in the envelope provided. Pre-registration will save you money, since many tours, trips and meals cost more if you register for them at the convention. You will also increase your chances of being a part of activities in which participation is limited. Please be certain to indicate on your pre-registration form if you are a wheelchair user or if you have serious ambulatory limitations. A copy of the pre-registration information on cassette tape is available from the ACB national office. The tape is for information purposes only. The print form must be completed for official pre-registration. If you wish to have an exhibit or tabletop boutique or advertise your products or services by placing your information in the convention registration kit, or be a convention sponsor, or support the convention newspaper or newsline, forms for these purposes are available from the ACB national office, or you may call exhibit and advertising coordinator Diane Bowers at (405) 733-7878. This should be done as soon as possible.
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
Designated travel agency: Prestige Travel, (800) 966-5050
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.
Once again, we would like to remind everyone that if you are holding a reservation at the Airport Westin Hotel and will not be attending the convention to be certain to cancel it immediately so that rooms will not go unoccupied.
Program and tour information
The first activity of the 1999 convention is the overnight tour to San Diego. This tour will depart the Westin on Friday, July 2 at 7:45 a.m. and return around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 3. The tour costs $189, which includes transportation by air- conditioned motor coach, admission to all sites, one night's lodging at the Holiday Inn Select (double occupancy), lunch and dinner on Friday and breakfast and lunch on Saturday. If you want a single room, it will cost you an additional $58. Reservations for this tour must be made by June 1. To reserve your space, call ACB's Minneapolis office at (612) 332-3242. For information on sites to be visited, see the April "Braille Forum" or the description in your pre-registration packet.
There will be a Welcome to California party Saturday evening, July 3 at the Westin at 8 p.m. hosted by the California Council of the Blind. This will be a great night for you to meet and get acquainted with others attending the convention, greet your old friends and make new ones. We are assured the music will not be too loud.
All tours are described in the pre-registration packet, including times and costs. Other tours include a tour of greater Los Angeles on Saturday, July 3, repeated Sunday, July 4; the morning worship service at the Crystal Cathedral at Garden Grove on Sunday, July 4; the Queen Mary and Knott's Berry Farm on Monday, July 5; Tuesday, July 6, Center for the Partially Sighted and a narrated tour of the Crystal Cathedral, its history and programs; Wednesday, July 7, the Braille Institute, California's largest agency for the blind; Wednesday evening, a fabulous dinner cruise from Marina del Rey on the luxury yacht Hornblower; Thursday, July 8, the Autry Museum of Western Heritage; and Friday, July 9, a L.A. Dodgers vs. Seattle Mariners baseball game at Dodger Stadium.
This year's convention sessions will end Friday at noon rather than on Saturday noon. The Sunday evening session will start at 7:30 p.m. All general sessions will begin at 8:30 a.m. The nominating committee will meet on Monday evening, July 5. The Candidates' Forum will be held Wednesday, July 7. The legislative seminar, diabetes seminar and banquet will take place on Thursday, July 8.
Some changes are being planned for the Sunday evening roll call of affiliates. Affiliate presidents should watch their mail for notification of these procedures.
The ACB convention in 1999 will be a great one. Complete your arrangements now to attend!
BLIND LIONS: ON THE SCENT OF SUCCESS
Since the last article, "Blind Lions on the Prowl," which described the need for visually impaired Lions to join an organization whose sole purpose it is to communicate the needs of the visually impaired within Lions, the American Council of Blind Lions has enjoyed a successful growth period. Also, new communication has begun in the form of a bi-monthly newsletter, which highlights issues from around the country on projects directly aimed at assisting the blind, as well as including many other articles about ACBL's involvement in building awareness. The newsletter is provided in large print, braille, on audio cassette and computer disk (in ASCII text). ACBL has representatives in 35 states and enrollment continues to swell with more word-of-mouth solicitation.
A newly added service is the production of large print, braille and disk copies of "The Lion" monthly magazine. These are being produced following the receipt of a computer disk from Lions International that contains the magazine, which is then reformatted for production of the different media. The affiliate has also been asked to start producing other printed materials which Lions provides its members, such as new member packets, officers' duties information, and other such things.
Beginning this year, "Tips for the Community" are being added to the communication list, which is specifically geared to those "little-spoken needs of the visually impaired community." These tips include the need for alternative formats, methods of introduction to visually impaired individuals, life skills needs (such as safety in community life), assistive technology advances, and much more. These tips are specifically aimed at having blind Lions make presentations to their clubs and districts on methods which all Lions Clubs can use to improve their inclusion of visually impaired individuals. A great misunderstanding often occurs that has made some clubs complacent in their awareness and frequently makes them patronizing to the blind and visually impaired community. With these suggestions, ACBL hopes there will be more improved cooperation.
ACBL's excitement this year focuses on the 1999 international convention of Lions in San Diego, where the affiliate will participate in the parade and have an exhibit fully describing the organization and its mission. Blind Lions who wish to remain in their own "pride" can make reservations directly with the Summitset Suites Hotel by calling toll-free (800) 962-9665. ACBL hopes to have greater exposure throughout this convention and circulate freely with white canes and guide dogs to identify its presence. The current schedule has ACB President Paul Edwards addressing the convention on Thursday, July 1. The ACB convention begins on Saturday, July 3 at the Airport Westin Hotel in Los Angeles, and Jim Ervin, president of Lions International, will address this conclave on Sunday, July 4.
For more information, contact Alan Beatty, 519 Locust St., Fort Collins, CO 80524; e-mail [email protected]; or call (970) 484-2598.
UPDATE FROM DEAF-BLIND GROUP
Another year has come upon us with the wonders of another promising ACB national convention. Many of us look forward to this time of year so we can gather with old friends and meet new ones. It is the time of year where we can get together and share our knowledge, trials and tribulations, and make a difference. "Together We Can Do It" often quoted by Helen Keller.
There are some concerns we need to address. We need to know how many people come to the convention who are visually impaired and hearing impaired or deaf-blind. We want to provide the accessibility required for you to enjoy your time at the convention. Accessibility is not an easily accomplished feat. The ACB convention is the one place it MUST and SHOULD be granted. We can offer interpreters, listening devices, and volunteer guides, but we need to know how many are needed prior to the final arrangements for the occasion.
At this time there are a few assistive listening devices available. We are purchasing more. If we had a more accurate count of people wanting to use them we could have more available. These devices are very helpful during the general sessions, the banquet, and some of the affiliate meetings. If more people needed them in affiliate meetings, they could be made available. Announcements are made at the beginning of each general session about the availability of assistive listening devices. If you need such a device, get to the general sessions early and find Jay Doudna or Mike Duke at the recording area.
"Coping Skills, Technology Updates, & Your Independence" is the theme for our seminar this year. Cathy Keircher, a representative from the southwestern region of the Helen Keller National Center, will share her knowledge with us. Along with Cathy will be the former representative Rustie Rothstein. It promises to be a very interesting and rewarding day for all of us who are VIHI/DB members of ACB. Due to the shorter convention, you only have one chance to get together with the VIHI/DB Group this year. Watch for your registration packet in the mail and be sure to choose the VIHI/DB Seminar and state your need for an interpreter or listening device. The sooner we know the better we can provide. For more information, or to express your opinions, contact Patty Sarchi at [email protected] or phone (207) 947-5550. See you in Los Angeles!
IVIE BUSINESS EXPO
The Independent Visually Impaired Enterprisers (IVIE) will be conducting its first business expo at this year's ACB national convention. This will be an excellent opportunity for visually impaired entrepreneurs to network with each other and showcase their products and services. It will also give all interested convention attendees the chance to meet visually impaired business owners in person and learn about the wide variety of job opportunities that self-employment provides. The IVIE Business Expo will be held on Monday, July 5 from 5 to 8 p.m.
Here's how it works. If you are a blind or visually impaired business owner who would like to have a table at the expo, you will need to register with IVIE in advance. Simply submit the registration form along with a check for the required fee. Registration fees are $10 for IVIE members and $25 for non- members. Your registration fee entitles you to a table at the expo, where you can show your products, hand out literature and answer questions about your business. All participants will be listed in a directory which will be available to people attending the expo. This listing will give you another great opportunity to advertise your products and services. The registration deadline is May 15. Anyone who registers after this date cannot be guaranteed a listing in the directory.
Please note that IVIE annual membership dues are $10. This covers chapter membership, ACB membership, and "The IVIE Motivator," the affiliate's quarterly radio-style cassette magazine, and endless networking opportunities. When registering for the business expo, please note if you would like to join IVIE and if you would like $10 of your expo registration fee applied toward your IVIE dues. If you have any questions about the business expo, or IVIE in general, call Carla Hayes at (724) 941- 8184.
Even if you are not in business for yourself, come to the IVIE Business Expo and learn firsthand about the diverse job opportunities that self-employment can provide for blind and visually impaired people.
IVIE BUSINESS EXPO REGISTRATION FORM
IVIE member $10 ___
non-member $25 ____
If non-member, would you like $10 of your registration fee applied toward annual IVIE dues? ___ YES ___ NO
Please make check payable to Independent Visually Impaired Enterprisers and send it to Carla Hayes, 230 Robinhood Lane, McMurray, PA 15317. For your convenience, this form can be submitted in any of the following formats: braille, print, cassette or computer disk (ASCII or WordPerfect 5.1). If you have any questions, call Carla Hayes at (724) 941-8184.
Summer is rapidly approaching. The ACB national convention, which includes the Guide Dog Users, Inc. convention, is approaching too. All programs for GDUI will take place at the Los Angeles Airport Westin beginning Sunday, July 4, and concluding Thursday, July 8.
Los Angeles in July tends to be fairly hot, the average temperature being in the mid-80s to 90s, and dry. If your dogs are not used to dry weather, they may require more frequent watering. For some dogs, the asphalt may present a challenge as it absorbs the heat. If your dog is not used to walking on hot sidewalks, you may want to restrict your outdoor walking primarily to early morning or mid-evening hours when it is cooler. Remember, you can get booties to protect your dog's feet.
Los Angeles has drinking water suitable for human and dog consumption; however, many people do not like the taste. Dogs with sensitive systems may do better drinking bottled water, which GDUI may have available. For most dogs, drinking L.A. tap water should not present any difficulties. If you are planning to take advantage of the water donated to GDUI for your dog's consumption, be sure to bring a container to use to transport the water from the GDUI suite to your room.
Petsmart of Signal Hills, Calif. will be delivering food twice during convention week. To place an order, call Bob Camire, store manager, at (562) 988-0832. Credit card orders may be placed from June 25 to July 2 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time. When placing a credit card order, be sure to ask for Bob and state that you are a member of GDUI; you will receive a 20 percent discount. They will need you to provide the specific brand, main ingredient, size, and bar code number if you can get it, e.g. IAMS, lamb and rice, nine pounds. Credit card orders are preferred; however, you can pay cash on delivery. Out-of-town checks will not be accepted. Dog food will be delivered to the hotel on Sunday, July 4 at noon and Wednesday, July 7 at noon. In order to claim your food, you MUST be at the ACB information desk at noon to claim it. Unclaimed food will be returned to the store. Petsmart carries most major brands of food, except IAMS, and the store is able to obtain some prescription diet food.
Emergency veterinary care is available through Dr. Anderson at the Animal Emergency Facility, located at 1736 S. Sepulveda Blvd. #A, telephone (310) 473-1561. This facility is approximately 12 minutes from the Airport Westin. An initial $59 emergency office visit will be charged upon arrival. Should additional medical procedures be necessary, an estimate of the total cost will be provided prior to treatment. A deposit is required prior to treatment, and the full balance will be required prior to discharging the animal. The Animal Emergency Facility does accept checks and credit cards.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind is sponsoring a K-9 stress relief area, a fenced area where a guide dog can shed harness and leash, play a little ball, kong, tug of war, or just relax and sniff around for a few minutes. Guiding Eyes plans to make the area available to all guide dogs at the convention, and will provide supervision on a scheduled basis. Be sure to check with the GDUI suite for location, hours of use, and rules for enjoyment.
What about barking dogs?
Barking dogs should never be left alone to disturb hotel guests while their owners enjoy a stress-free evening without harness in hand. Many conventioneers and hotel guests lost several nights of sleep last year when barking dogs were left alone. Both the Marriott and the Westin will address the owners of dogs who bark excessively as they would address other hotel guests that are nuisances. Both hotels have a "three strikes and you're out" policy. You will be contacted by hotel security and warned twice; upon the third contact, you will be escorted off the premises.
The designated relief area at the Marriott Hotel will be located off the lower lobby in the pavilion. At the Westin, the relief area will be located off the main lobby in the area where the hotel generally parks shuttle buses; the shuttles will be parked elsewhere during convention week. GDUI, ACB and the hotels do NOT provide clean-up bags, so be sure to bring plenty of them with you. Cleaning up after your dog is a MUST! Assistance is available to train individuals in cleaning up if need be. It is our dogs and our responsibility to assure a well- kept relief area. As stated in the ADA, hotels are required to reasonably accommodate us by providing a guide dog relief area; however, they have no obligation to maintain it. If you designate a tip for the guide dog relief fund on the pre- registration form, it does not include paying someone to clean up after your dog. It is merely a tip for hotel staff who have assisted in maintaining the relief area.
Using ice buckets to feed your dog results in the hotel having to dispose of them, as the plastic absorbs the oil from the dog food. Using hotel towels to play tug of war generally results in the hotel having to replace the towels due to tears from the dog's teeth. Bathing your dog in a hotel bathtub and leaving dog hair to clog the drain often causes plumbing back-up and property damage due to flooding. Indoor dog accidents which are left for someone else to clean up while the handler walks away cause extensive damage to the carpet as the mess gets trailed through the halls by other conventioneers. All of the above are considered property damage to the hotel and appropriate fees will be assessed to your room to replace damaged property. If your dog has an accident indoors and you need assistance in cleaning it, you should stay near it while asking someone to find help for you. This will not result in damages and fees; this is responsible dog handling. Indoor accidents are only considered damage when they are left to be tracked all over the halls and absorbed by the carpet. A $10 fee will be assessed to the rooms of those individuals who are seen leaving the site of an accident prior to assuring it is taken care of.
In your preparations to attend the ACB national convention, be sure to pack plenty of plastic clean-up bags, dog toys, extra treats, and handy wipes for handling indoor accidents. Happy trails; see you in Los Angeles!
There is little doubt that the American Council of the Blind has entered an era of significant change. For some in ACB, this is not viewed in a positive light. A few years ago, I heard a veteran ACB member comment to the effect that the organization had become too big! Nevertheless, society as a whole is changing (whether for the better is open to debate) and ACB must change as well if it is to continue as the foremost advocate for blind and visually impaired people in the country. As in nature, an entity either adapts or perishes.
Recognizing this reality, ACB's 1995 Long-Range Plan calls for a variety of actions designed to facilitate the organization's transition to the 21st century. One area the plan addresses is "relations with ACB affiliates." The first action specified in the plan under this category states: "Develop a clear list of affiliate rights and responsibilities and take steps necessary for its dissemination and implementation."
This resulted, in 1996, in formation of the first ad hoc committee on affiliate rights and responsibilities. The many months of hard work and frank discussion in which the committee engaged laid much of the groundwork for what the second committee, which I chair, is now charged with accomplishing. Our role is to produce a document which strikes a delicate yet necessary balance between the individual state and special- interest affiliates, the board of directors and the national office.
Perhaps the most significant change to which ACB's membership must adjust is the employment of a strong executive director, with overall responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of the organization. The result is the ACB board of directors is becoming more of a policy-making body; less directly involved in oversight activities. This shift is consistent with the direction which other consumer and professional non-profit entities have taken in the 1990s. If ACB is to advocate successfully on behalf of our constituency, the organization must compete effectively -- competition not being limited to the corporate sector -- for the time, attention and even fiscal resources of those we need to influence.
Since its inception, a guiding principle of the American Council of the Blind has been the concept of "states' rights." This is the notion that affiliates, both state and special- interest, are autonomous; free to determine their own priorities and direction within the context of ACB affiliation. Clearly, there is the potential for conflict between this guiding principle and the shift to a more centralized organizational structure.
The mission of the committee on affiliate rights and responsibilities is to resolve this seeming conflict. In so doing, the committee must address two key questions: 1) If we are building a stronger central organization, what can be done to help our members and affiliates become more comfortable with this change? and 2) Keeping in mind the organization's history and adherence to democratic principles, what is the appropriate role of the various ACB affiliates within this new structure? In short, we hope to formulate a document which will be a framework for establishing an environment of mutual trust and cooperation between ACB, its members and affiliates.
Timeline and Process
The committee is comprised of the following members: Charles Crawford, ACB Executive Director; Winifred Downing, member of the board of publications and president of Library Users of America; Paul Edwards, ACB President; Debbie Grubb, member of the ACB board of directors and former president of ACB of Maryland; Mitch Pomerantz, president, ACB Government Employees and immediate past president of the California Council of the Blind; and Stephen Speicher, ACB second vice president.
By the time you read this, each of the five components of the existing rights and responsibilities draft document will have been reworked and disseminated to the committee. It will be fine-tuned in an early May conference call, then made available prior to the July convention for a 90-day comment period. The draft will be provided to affiliate presidents, placed on ACB-L and the web site and published in "The Braille Forum." Input from ACB members will be considered and incorporated, as appropriate, into a second draft which will be forwarded to the board for review, approval and/or rejection. If ratified, it is anticipated that a number of constitutional amendments would be required to fully implement this document.
The committee is serious about receiving constructive, thoughtful input from as many of you as possible; whether you hold -- or have held -- local, state, or national office, or are a rank-and-file ACB member. If possible, please frame your responses around the following two questions: 1) How do you see the current state of relations between your affiliate and ACB? and 2) If you believe there are concerns, what recommendations do you have to improve those relations?
It would be especially helpful if you could reference your comments to one of the five sections in the document: I. Formal Relationships; II. Communications between ACB and Affiliates; III. Membership; IV. Finances and Fundraising; V. Leadership Development.
All correspondence should be directed to Mitch Pomerantz, 1344 N. Martel Ave. #102, Los Angeles, CA 90046. You may send your comments in braille, print, tape or disk.
Before you head for the convention, remember to leave word of where you'll be. I always plaster a big note on the refrigerator held by a magnet from some convention. Even when you tell people where you're going, they don't really listen, so write it down. Braille probably is a two-magnet message.
Upon arrival at the convention, the first thing to do -- after hanging up your clothes and finding the fire escape stairs, ice machine, etc. -- is to check the "Calendar of Events" section in your program. You will have to make decisions on events not to be missed and ones you can do without. You and a friend may have to record separate sessions and exchange tapes later. Recordings of ACB convention general sessions, the legislative and diabetes seminars and the banquet are available after every convention. For details, contact the ACB national office.
Forget sleeping. You can sleep when you go back home.
Get involved in at least one special-interest group. If you are a librarian or avid reader, a lawyer, musician or teacher, or would like to meet a librarian, lawyer, musician or teacher, or just want to learn, there is a special-interest group to welcome your participation.
Hang out at the exhibit hall. Do it often. The exhibits at an ACB convention provide the best opportunity for a blind or visually impaired person to see and try out the latest developments in technology. It's also the place to see and buy familiar aids for independence, like those little wire needle threaders and braille T-shirts. It's also the place where everyone goes when they're not in meetings.
Manufacturers introduce new products at the major consumer conventions. They have to test the market and we are the market. They want and need our impressions, suggestions and feedback. The exhibit hall at an ACB convention is the perfect place to exchange ideas and to meet new, cool people. In fact, it is easier to meet people in the exhibit hall than at parties. Parties are held in big, open rooms while exhibits are held in big rooms with pathways and specifics to talk about. "How can you say that I am the only blind person you know who still uses WordPerfect 5.1? No thanks, I don't need a 10-minute demo disk of JAWS For Windows; I thought you were the Bead Lady." Spend at least a couple of hours a day hanging out in the exhibit hall. Remember, you already gave up sleeping when you arrived.
If you come away from an ACB convention without making new friends and finding some useful information to make life more productive, interesting and fun, are you sure you went to Los Angeles the first week in July? Look on the refrigerator!
The reputation and activities of the American Council of the Blind continue to attract the interest of blind people and organizations of and for the blind around the world.
For the third consecutive year, the Japan Federation of the Blind (JFB) will be sending a delegation to attend ACB's national convention, which this year, of course, will be in Los Angeles.
So, exactly who and what is JFB and what does it do for blind people in Japan?
JFB is the oldest and largest organization of the blind in Japan, with a membership of some 50,000. JFB provides a whole range of services and initiatives which benefit blind people all over Japan. Here is a list of their activities and objectives.
1) Assistance to Regional Chapters -- JFB provides advice, information and financial assistance to its 57 regional chapters, located in the 47 prefectures (political subdivisions) of Japan and its 10 major cities.
2) Investigation -- The Japanese government is required to conduct a survey and make a report every five years on the status of visually impaired people in Japan. In order to enhance the accuracy of the government surveys, JFB also conducts surveys.
3) Activities in Employment for the Blind -- JFB promotes the expansion of vocational opportunities, both to create new occupations as well as to ensure the jobs of massage, acupuncture and moxa-cautery.
4) Consultation -- JFB has a consulting office for its visually impaired members. Counseling is offered concerning independent living, medical assistance, laws, and taxes. More than a thousand consultations are provided to members each year.
5) Braille Library -- JFB's Braille Library contains some 13,000 braille books and approximately 32,000 books on tape. The lending service is free. In 1997, the library lent 7,802 braille books and 97,620 recorded tapes (38,600 titles) to blind people. Many volunteers support these activities.
6) Braille Printing House -- JFB's Braille Printing House has two computerized editing and printing machines as well as several ordinary ones, producing about 5 million sheets in braille annually. They issue public relations leaflets for the local government in braille at its request, publish and sell braille booklets on the laws and the regulations relating to the welfare of visually impaired people, and publish a monthly braille magazine, "Tenji Nippon" (Braille Japan). At the request of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, JFB also publishes "Tenji Kosei" (Braille Welfare), every other month, and "World Now" twice a year.
7) Recording House -- Recording House produces JFB's own recorded magazine, "Nichimoren Hour" (JFB Hour) monthly, and also makes PR tapes for the local governments. At the request of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, JFB's Recording House produces monthly on cassette tape "White Papers on the Welfare in Japan," "Kosei (Welfare)." They are distributed to chapters, institutions, and to visually impaired individuals throughout Japan.
8) Development and Sale of Aids and Appliances for the Blind -- In Japan, under the Law of the Welfare for Physically Handicapped Persons, the government subsidizes the purchase of aids and appliances for independent living. Under this law, the district welfare offices send requested orders to JFB who, in turn, supplies them to its members. JFB's Development Division is also involved in developing aids and appliances for the visually impaired.
9) Training Courses and Seminars -- A 24-week training course for reading service volunteers is held once a year, and a 10-week course for braille transcribing volunteers is held twice a year. Regional chapters of JFB hold seminars on flower arranging, cooking and knitting.
10) Competitions, Contests and Concerts -- Under the auspices of JFB, various competitions are held annually: "shogi" (Japanese chess), braille writing, word processing, and some sports such as table tennis, volleyball, baseball, and judo. JFB also holds essay and poetry writing contests, including "tanka, haiku, and senryu." Concerts of Japanese traditional music and performances by National Young Blind Musicians are held annually.
11) Communication and Cooperation with Organizations Abroad -- Through the World Blind Union (WBU), JFB contributes to activities abroad and the exchange of information on the welfare of the blind internationally. JFB members visit many other countries and invite many visitors from abroad.
12) Computer Networking -- JFB selects and prepares news articles from the news media and its own resources, and distributes them via work stations using computer networking. These are sent daily to visually impaired people throughout Japan. It is the first daily newspaper for the visually impaired in Japan.
13) Tokyo Guide Center -- At the request of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, JFB provides sighted guides for visually impaired people who want to travel in Tokyo. History
In 1948, some 70 blind people gathered in Osaka and decided to establish the Japan Federation of the Blind (JFB), for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the blind. Over the years JFB has appealed to the Diet (Japanese legislature) and the government to recognize the need for improving the circumstances and status of blind people in Japan. As a result of its efforts, the welfare system and policies relating to blind people were greatly improved.
In 1964, the office of JFB was moved from Osaka to Tokyo. In 1966, JFB was authorized as the official organization for social welfare for the blind by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Its present offices were built in 1970 and its braille library was founded that same year.
With its membership of 50,000, JFB is the biggest organization of disabled people in Japan. There are five major interest groups: Youth, Women, Musicians, Masseur, and Sports. Each interest group has its own annual general assembly, committee and research group.
Many of the members of JFB are masseurs. The reason for this is because blind masseurs fear unemployment. They feel they need to be united and strong against government policies which might threaten their livelihood. Japanese massage is one of the most common occupations for blind people in Japan.
If you plan to attend this year's ACB convention in Los Angeles, why not plan to introduce yourself to one of the members of the Japan Federation of the Blind delegation. Just walk up to him or her, put out your hand and say: "Hajimemashite" (pronounced hah-gee-may-mah-shtay), which means "Nice to meet you."
If you've looked around for a TV set capable of receiving the Secondary Audio Program channel for video description, you've doubtless discovered that such a set isn't necessarily easy to find. Maybe the idea of spending a lot for a TV has kept you out of the video description market. Perhaps you've heard of those clunky hard-to-connect decoders that attach to your TV to provide SAP programming and you've decided that using such a decoder isn't for you.
Ratec International, Inc., a Walnut, Calif., company, has designed a SAP receiver that strips away any excuse you might have had for not listening to video description.
For $105, you can own a small stand-alone receiver that does a magnificent job of bringing in descriptive video programming in areas where such programming is available. (A lower price is available for radio reading services.) Super Simple Operation
Using the Ratec SAP receiver is the very essence of simplicity. When you call the company to order the receiver, you need only tell them which public TV channel in your area carries WGBH's Descriptive Video Service. The receiver is set to that channel. When you open the box, you only need to plug the receiver into a wall outlet and turn it on.
There are two controls on the front of the unit. The round knob turns the receiver on and off and adjusts the volume. The small switch next to the round knob lets you pick whether you'll hear described programming over the SAP channel or whether you'll hear the main channel. It's very similar to a radio reading service unit which allows you to alternate between the radio reading broadcast and the main channel. It's SAP with a Difference
Although this unit comes previously set at your request, it differs from similar receivers in that you can tune through the 69 TV channels using dip switches located on the back of the radio.
While this isn't something for the faint-hearted, a blind person can easily set the switches using a small screwdriver, a pen or a stylus. There are eight such switches, and the receiver comes with a print chart that tells you how to set the switches for all the channels.
It sounds more complicated than it is. The dip switch tuning means you can take your SAP receiver on the road anywhere you go and hear visual events described verbally on a public television station's SAP channel.
Why This Receiver?
You may recall that "The Braille Forum" reviewed a combination SAP & SCA receiver from FM Atlas in Minnesota in the August 1997 issue. It could be tuned simply by turning a knob at the front of the unit. If tuning by setting dip switches sounds harder, you may wonder why you would want something like the Ratec receiver. The answer is simple: Sound quality.
I found absolutely no background hiss in the Ratec receiver when listening to the SAP channel. It was crystal clear, and it sounds better on SAP than does the FM Atlas radio I reviewed two years ago.
There was no audible difference between the reception of the main channel and that of the SAP channel when switching between them. Even distant stations came through quite well in both SAP and main channel modes. In fact, this receiver truly shines in its ability to pull down weak stations. Of course, they won't sound perfect, but you can hear relatively distant stations quite well in most cases. You Gotta Love Those Connectors
While most receivers capable of tuning in the SAP channel have screws on the back to which an external antenna can be connected, the Ratec receiver actually has a standard connection which can handle a cable TV drop line connector. As a result, hooking this receiver up to a cable TV box or satellite receiver is a snap. The antenna that comes with the unit connects directly to the same connector on the back. There are no screws to loosen and tighten, no twin lead cords to worry about. If you're not a big fan of attaching antenna terminals to screws, you'll love the connector on the Ratec receiver. Regardless of your skill levels, you won't need sighted help to connect either the supplied antenna or a cable TV jumper. The Tests
I tested the Ratec receiver both with the supplied antenna and with my cable TV box. On the antenna tests, the machine performed almost flawlessly. I was about 45 miles from Baltimore when I tested the unit on channel 22. In some parts of my house, the SAP was difficult to hear. However, on the upper floors and outside, channel 22's SAP programming came in adequately.
Of course, the unit did much better at tuning in the public TV frequency in Washington, D.C. When listening to WETA channel 26, the SAP programming could be heard easily in every room in the house. I even put the unit on the floor in the worst part of my house for TV reception. Even there, it performed respectably. There was virtually no hiss or other background noise in the SAP reception.
I next set the unit to channel three and effortlessly connected it to my cable TV box. For all its many faults, Cable TV Montgomery, my cable provider, knows how to get quality sound on the SAP channels. Once again, that quality sound was reflected by the excellent performance of the receiver.
I not only heard SAP programming very clearly on the Washington and Baltimore public TV stations, but the Spanish language programming on HBO came through clearly. The shortwave signals available on C-SPAN's SAP channels also came through with admirable clarity. Your results may differ significantly depending on whether your cable company can handle the SAP channel. Tune On In þ The Audio's Fine!
While you won't get the full-bodied sound of huge speakers from the Ratec receiver, you'll get more-than-adequate sound from the built-in speaker. The unit is truly a pleasure to listen to. You won't hear any tinny sounds in this machine. The speaker does a nice job, both on the SAP and the main channel, of providing the full signal. There are no artificial highs, but nothing is clipped either. The sound is quite full for the receiver's size, and the audio amplifier is more than strong enough to deliver loud but relatively undistorted sound. The unit I tested had some problems with feedback when the volume was turned up to a loud setting, but Ratec has fixed the problem on the commercially available models. (I tested a prototype unit.) The receiver is a tabletop receiver with a wooden cabinet and a cloth speaker grill. That wooden cabinet probably helps a bit where the sound is concerned. There is a headphone jack for either an external speaker or a set of headphones. So What's Not To Like?
In the perfect world, that dip switch chart would be available in some form other than print. While Albert Lin, marketing director of Ratec, says he does not recommend that people alter the dip switches, I think the company should make provisions for those of us who do want to adjust them from time to time. A braille or electronic dip switch chart would be a real plus.
The fact that this unit is electrically powered makes it less portable than it might otherwise be. At press time, Ratec announced the addition of a battery pack to power the unit. You'll pay an additional $30 for the battery. You alone must decide whether true portability is worth the extra money.
This unit is so simple to connect and operate that there really isn't much of a manual. You get a one-page print document that is almost unnecessary. The antenna only connects one way, and the other controls are different enough that you can't go wrong. I don't think you need vision to set the dip switches, but it may not hurt to have a sighted friend take a confirmatory look at your settings the first time you modify them. Of course, if the unit works after you've done the modifications, a confirmatory look isn't even necessary. Still, until you have a feel for how the switches are set, you could use someone else there for moral support or to at least help you figure out how the switches are initially configured.
In short, you won't go wrong with this receiver. Those who operate radio reading services on the SAP channel will find the Ratec receiver an excellent choice. It's rugged enough, and you can effectively cover the dip switch slot so the switches can't be easily modified. If you're attracted to the idea of a stand-alone SAP receiver, the Ratec unit is probably what you need.
For more information or to order, contact Ratec International, Inc., 20639 Lycoming St., Suite B-6, Walnut, CA 91789; e-mail [email protected] or call (909) 839-0112.
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.
The national office receives a fair amount of correspondence from abroad in foreign languages. Recently, staff members have received letters in Russian, German and Ukrainian. Most have been in print, but some have been in braille. If you can speak, read and write in a foreign language and would be willing to translate incoming and outgoing correspondence for national office staff, please contact the office and ask to speak with Melanie Brunson or Barbara Vodapivc. Tell them what language you are proficient in, and how to get in touch with you.
LISTEN TO WINDOWS
"Listening to Windows 95" is a new training kit for blind computer users. It's available from the American Printing House for the Blind. It includes tactile and large print guides to screen layouts, a manual available in four accessible media, and the first interactive auditory software on CD-ROM to teach Windows basics. Users can learn the main system and applications, including an introduction, desktop features, Explorer, Word Pad, help, control panel, and an Internet overview. The CD-ROM was recorded by APH's narrators. Lessons provide instruction, hands-on practice, and short quizzes. To run this program, you need to have a basic Pentium multimedia computer running Windows 95 or 98. The kit costs $150; its supply code is D-64550-00.
Also available is the Speech Expressor (TM). It allows the audio book listener to change the speed of recorded material without changing the sound quality. This program is compatible with any sound source having variable speed control, including several APH cassette recorder/player models and NLS talking book players. It will also work with devices that do not have such speed control, such as commercial tape players and radios (but here, only the pitch of the voice can be changed, not the speed).
To order either of these items, or get more information, contact the American Printing House at (800) 223-1839; send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the web site, http://www.aph.org
The Arkansas School for the Blind Alumni Association will hold its annual convention/reunion at the school June 4-6, 1999. All graduates, former students, and friends of the school are invited. Registration fees, including meals and lodging, are $22 per person. For more information, contact Travis or Margaret Johnson, 302 Woodford Place, Paragould, AR 72450; phone (870) 236-8498. If you cannot attend but would like to be added to the mailing list, please contact the Johnsons.
NEWS FROM NIB
Envision, an NIB affiliate in Kansas, has formed an independent subsidiary in a partnership with the Canada-based LePrint Express. This subsidiary will operate two new LePrint Express stores employing five legally blind individuals. The two franchises are operating in Wal-Mart superstores in Wichita, Kan., and Colorado Springs, Colo. These stores specialize in printing, copying and desktop publishing services.
Also, NIB has announced the winners of its Peter J. Salmon and Milton J. Samuelson Awards. Patricia C. Jarrett of Greensboro, N.C., is the winner of the Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award. She is the receptionist/switchboard operator at Industries of the Blind in Greensboro. Michelle Mills is the Peter J. Salmon Service Employee of the Year. She works at Wiscraft, an NIB affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisc. Edward Gonzalez is the Peter J. Salmon Manufacturing Employee of the Year. He works at the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired.
WANT A MAGAZINE?
If you're interested in receiving "The Writer" or some other magazine that is currently unavailable on tape, and are willing to pay a modest subscription fee, write to John Corrigan, Associated Services for the Blind, 919 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.
Have you ever thought about writing a book? Well, how about part of a book? With the success of the "Chicken Soup" series, there must be enough good personal experience stories to fill an interesting book about experiences of those who use canes or guide dogs. I have in mind personal experience stories from 200 to 500 words, something that happened to you, be it tragic, funny, or interesting, similar in style to the stories in the "Life in These United States" section of "Reader's Digest." If you would consider writing such a yarn, write in braille, print, tape or via phone to Walt Stromer, 410 7th Ave. S., Mt. Vernon, IA 52314; phone (319) 895-8693.
Marie Caputo has a copy of "Solutions Access Technologies for Persons Who Are Blind" (4 volumes, $12), "Solutions" (3 volumes, $11), and "Financing Adaptive Technology: A Guide to Sources and Strategies for Blind and Visually Impaired Users" (5 volumes, $15). All books will be shipped free matter, on a first-come, first- served basis, after receipt of check or money order. Please include your name, address, telephone number and the name of the book you want, along with your payment. Make your check or money order out to Marie Caputo, and mail it to her at 470 Tunnel Rd., Vernon, CT 06066.
Oral Hull Park's summer camp dates are July 17-24 and August 21-28. Each week costs $300 and includes activities, entertainment, a trip out of the park mid-week, an afternoon of shopping, and meals.
Also, there is an "Open House" for blind and low-vision youth accompanied by a parent or guardian, which will run from September 17-19. This is for those ages 10 to 17. Any blind or visually impaired youth affiliated with a residential school for the blind or regional education service district is eligible to attend. Reservations must be made by August 15. Lodging and meals will be supplied at no charge. Come prepared to have fun, play games, participate in sports, and do much more.
For more information on either of these camps, or the open house, contact Oral Hull Foundation for the Blind, P.O. Box 157, Sandy, OR 97005; phone (503) 668-6195.
The National Church Conference of the Blind will hold its annual conference in Omaha, Neb., July 25-29. It will be held at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel on 118th Street. Come and share in fellowship with other Christians throughout the United States and other countries. There will be workshops, tours and talent time. For more information, write to: National Church Conference of the Blind, Attn: Rheba Finkenbinder, P.O. Box 163, Denver, CO 80201; phone (303) 789-7441.
Kevin L. Buck was recently appointed the equipment and materials maintenance coordinator at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Previously, Buck was employed by Bell Telephone of Canada, IBM, and Digital Equipment Corporation, among other companies. He has extensive managerial and hands-on experience in field service and has provided logistical services to locations around the world.
ADA Consulting, Inc. of Carson City, Nev. has several computer tutorial packages available. One is called "Family Fun with Computing," and it's written for someone who is print-disabled whose family has just purchased a computer but doesn't have the extra money to add a speech package. Another, "Competitive Computing for the Print Disabled," presents six steps a blind, visually impaired or dyslexic person might consider as a way of using Windows 95 so they can be competitive in the workplace. The third title, "MAP," will help you master other application programs that are speech-friendly, such as Notepad, calculator, solitaire, and web-surfing programs. The fourth title, "Tools for Considerable Independence for Computing," will instruct you on how to explore the programs on your computer, floppy disk or CD-ROM drive, and how you can figure out what they are supposed to do and make them do it. The four-title set costs $39.95. It is available in print, large print, braille, two-track cassette tape, or on 3.5- inch IBM-compatible disk. Separate titles cost $12.95 each. Contact ADA Consulting, Inc., c/o Linwood Gallagher, 3220 Woodside Dr. #2, Carson City, NV 89701.
The American Foundation for the Blind recently named Ike Presley as its national program associate for literacy at the organization's office in Atlanta. Presley has served with the Georgia Project for Assistive Technology in Forest Park; before that, he worked as a vocational instructor at the Georgia Sensory Rehabilitation Center in College Park. He has also served as a teacher of visually impaired children in the Dekalb and Fulton County school systems.
(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. Please let us know your opinion of "News Notes." If you do not think they should be printed in the magazine, tell Sharon Lovering or Charlie Crawford.)
ACB to get meeting with big vet
OK, dog guides, get out from under the bed. The meeting with the big vet is with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. We and our veteran members and friends need to meet with Secretary West to discuss some evolving issues including the V.A. authorizing service provision to blind vets by folks who don't know anything about blindness, the implications of this for the civilian service system, vending facilities on V.A. property and the general convergence of the veteran and civilian service models. There is lots to talk about; we will let folks know more later.
Older blind could get big increase
Our efforts at getting more money into the older blind service system may pay off shortly. We are close to having a "Dear Colleague" letter sent around the U.S. Senate asking for 26 million in federal dollars to support Title VII Chapter 2 services to elder blind under the reauthorized Rehabilitation Act. You can help by calling your U.S. senator's office and asking them to contact Pat Morrissey at Senator Jeffords' office to see about signing on to the letter.
FCC meeting highly successful
Our meeting with FCC chairman William Kennard last Friday yielded great support for descriptive video services. We can actually look forward to regulations that will implement the service incrementally throughout the broadcast, cable, and video industries that are regulated by the FCC. The trick is to get the stuff done at the source and then when it is distributed, the descriptive video is already in it. Making sure that there is room in the digital spectrum for this is critical to success. Please be ready to contact Congress once the thing gets rolling so we don't run into lots of unnecessary and misinformed rhetoric about cost and all of that. The cost of doing an hour of descriptive video is about $2,000 to $4,000, which is literally a drop in the bucket to the average production cost. How many millions were spent to produce "Titanic"? The DVS cost was so small that it would not show up on a statistical spreadsheet.
First cut at convention flow chart done
We have completed the first draft of a convention flow chart. This is being reviewed by Billie Jean and Barbara who will let Charlie Crawford know today what they think. Assuming Charlie survives and all is well, the document will then go to the president and members of the convention program committee for review and decisions. So there you go! We are starting to move on this stuff and it's looking good!
Hey, where did all these students come from?
ACB is currently poring through around 200 applications for scholarships to be sent off to the scholarship committee once sorted. Yikes, some of these kids are pretty smart! Three staff and a volunteer should be done processing the applications shortly. We wish all the students the best.
Pedestrian safety got Georgia on the mind?
Debbie Grubb has agreed to represent the interests of ACB at the pedestrian safety conference to happen March 21-23 in Atlanta. Good stuff, with demos of equipment and techniques. Let's look forward to Debbie's report and move the pedestrian safety issue that much closer to reality. Those wishing to have an electronic copy of the pedestrian safety handbook should send e-mail to [email protected] and you will get the text file sent in a message to you.
Battles to save agencies accountable to us rage on
If you are blind and living in North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Illinois, or California, you know the swirl of activity going on to either save, improve, or create separate state agencies for the blind that are truly accountable to us. This is our struggle. Accountable to the blind means just that. ACB in partnership with other advocates (including the NFB in most cases) is deeply involved in assisting our state affiliates to make sure that blind folks count in the minds of state legislators. Whether it's potential legal assistance to force the governor to do his job in one state, or assisting in the lobbying efforts of our people in others, or negotiating with other groups at the national level to either support our people or just get out of the way, we have been active on all fronts.
Will we win? First there must be a "we" to win. We must acknowledge to ourselves and others that we are blind and we have our issues and they must be addressed. Next we must bring that point home to the state decision makers with a conviction that shows them we will not be moved. Lastly we must expect quality service that knows we are the reason for its existence.
There are many ACB heroes and heroines in these struggles. We are together and we will build our future despite those who want to consolidate our services, make our decisions for us, and try every way they know to frustrate our people.
Pedestrian safety studies to utilize ACB expertise
We have been in communication with various folks who are trying to scientifically demonstrate the need for accessible signalized intersections. We and they agree that utilizing ACB members at our conventions and mid-year meetings makes the most sense to gather good data. The resulting reports can be very effective with decision makers as was proven in January with the traffic engineering community.
Get ready for California!
Work is proceeding along with the convention planning. The program committee has the first draft of activities and it's looking very good. Subjects of immediate concern to our blind community, some stuff on the lighter side, and good fun await all folks planning to come. "The Braille Forum" will be telling you more, but I just had to say how things are shaping up in great fashion!
Y2K compliant version of talking checkbook about to be compiled
Don Barrett and Charlie Crawford have completed work on the programs for the talking checkbook year 2000-compliant release. We will compile the program this week and make it available on the ACB web-site.
Vending recommendations about to be released
All the comments are back from the vending conference ACB sponsored in February. The final document will be out shortly and ACB will be in the thick of protecting and promoting the business opportunities of blind folks throughout our nation. Great thanks go to RSVA for its tireless and productive work to assist in this great and complex effort.
"No dog, no dog!"
Guide dog users, are you tired of hearing "no dog, no dog" almost every time you try to get a cab? It's time ACB take a closer look at what appears to be an increasing problem and we start nipping it in the bud. No puppies, did not say the pants. More to come on this as we get the time to work with folks like GDUI in seriously addressing the problem.
ACB.org e-mail addressing issue about to be fixed
Those who have used the ACB.org electronic mailing address will be glad to hear we anticipate resolution of the problems this week! It seems our national office Internet provider adopted the ACB.org name not knowing it would blow away all the accounts that used that address as an alias. So it's created quite a problem for many people and we anticipate getting it straightened out this week. The old alias file will be updated and put back in operation and the national office Internet provider will stop using ACB.org as a domain name.
Forms on the ACB web site?
It looks like we will be implementing online web site registration for the convention! We hope to be testing the automated forms during the first week of May and have them online by the second week. Folks with Windows software will also be able to download the version that can be run in the privacy of your own home and computer. If the files that have been submitted for the convention from the affiliates are readily adaptable, then we might even be able to get a DOS version written up.
U.S. Department of Education comes to visit
Melanie and Charlie had a real good talk with the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights and learned much about how the Department of Education works through civil rights issues. They updated ACB on the settlement of the complaint in California against the community college system and we are looking at trying to fit them into the convention schedule somehow.
E-mail subscriptions to "The Braille Forum" on the rise
Increasing numbers of "Braille Forum" readers are discovering the ease and efficiency of signing up for "The Braille Forum" by e- mail. All you do is send a message to [email protected] and leave the subject line blank. Then type (without the quotes) "subscribe BrailleForum-L" and send the message!
ACB.org e-mail flows again
Thanks to the fine efforts of Earlene Hughes, Chris Gray and the good people at Telepath, our ACB.org alias for electronic mail is now back in full operation. Folks can tell friends, family and business associates to use the ACB.org address again.
Battles to save state agencies for the blind rage on
The AFB special task force on separate agencies and services met this week and discussed the mounting number of challenges to service systems accountable to blind folks. While the situation is serious in many states, there does appear to be progress being made by the various coalitions of consumer and professional groups to keep our services on track. You will be reading more and more on this topic.
Crawford calls for greater attention to the issues of blind industries
In a morning speech before the members of the Mississippi Council of the Blind, Charlie Crawford articulated an approach to resolving the dropping sales in various industries for the blind facilities. In addition he spoke of the need to see more managerial opportunities within industries programs for blind workers. It will take time to develop the advocacy strategy and garner the support for implementation, but we simply must deal with the issues if we are to expect blind folks to have opportunities in these programs.
(Editor's note: Bill Lewis is a long-time ACB member. He is presently recording secretary on the board of Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He recently retired from his career as a clinical social worker. This article is part one of two parts.)
I have been hearing for years that 75 percent of blind and visually impaired men and women are under-employed or not employed. To my knowledge, that estimate is likely based on workers between 18 to 65 years of age, who are theoretically prepared for employment. So why aren't they? In this article, we will look at those 75 percent, and in part two you will be surprised at what the other 25 percent of blind and visually impaired men and women are doing.
Although listed as employable, many unemployed job-seekers are still waiting because they seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some were inappropriately trained. Others are a bit too old to be re-hired, or live with multiple handicaps. Unfortunately, not everyone who graduates from high school, receives vocational training, or attends college will be able to transfer his/her training skills into a preferred work environment. Ask any vocational counselor or job service center.
A lack of appropriate preparation may contribute to the problem. Many people do not know how to approach job-finding. They may be afraid of possible rejections during the job hunt, so sit at home waiting for the job to come to them. Or they are unable to successfully sell themselves to a prospective employer, or may be afraid to move to where the job is. Unfortunately, some job-seekers compound their dilemma by not consulting vocational role training specialists, or attending employment seminars to learn job interview strategies and deportment.
Despite the best of preparations, some job-seekers have bad luck in the job selection process, but give up after a few failures. That is sad, because successful job hunting requires networking, effective 85 percent of the time, self-education about the job market, plenty of patience and persistence, and willingness to go where the job is. For instance, a well-trained worker may find no job in the preferred location, but ignores an open position in the adjacent state due to a fear of moving. Then in desperation, he/she may accept second or third choice jobs, or give up entirely.
In America today sighted workers shuffle their jobs about every one to five years, and are antiquated in job skills after about five years. Changing jobs, moving around, and continuing education are frequently necessary for job success. For instance, I know a fellow who had to study in three universities, move halfway across the country to find that first big job, change employers six times, adapt to new job duties 14 times, and spend more than a thousand hours of continuing education to stay up with changes during his working career. Another fellow spent years of special training, only to settle on a job in an industrial workshop. Wherever the job is, though, the worker has to be able to get back and forth; otherwise, no job.
Perhaps we should look at the employment situation from another point of view, namely, what an employer is. An employer is simply someone who is unable to do all the work alone, so hires additional people to carry out specific parts of the job, leaving the employer to do what he/she does best. He/she hires others to do what he/she does not know how to do, or does not have time to do. The employer wants someone who makes a congenial impression, knows the job duties, or is willing to learn, shows respect toward the bosses, is willing to accept suggestions and criticisms that may enhance job performance, offers constructive feedback to help the business run smoother, satisfies the beneficiaries of the products and services, shows up for work on time, and is absent no more than the average worker. This last point is especially critical in small businesses, where no one may be available to substitute for an absent worker. In large corporations, where more than one person performs the same job, filling in is easier.
If job applicants enter the interview unprepared, resent authority, demand benefits first, and consider responsibilities to the company only as an afterthought, they are not likely to be placed very high on the hiring list. If hired, they are not likely to do well.
Conversely, difficult and unreasonable employers will usually provoke an inordinately high staff turnover. However, I know of irritable, cantankerous visually impaired men and women who keep their jobs, because their job performance is satisfactory, or they are the company's "token disabled workers" to satisfy government regulations, and enhance the company image.
Unquestionably, health problems can be a big obstacle to employment. Many otherwise employable people cannot work full-time. That seriously restricts job prospects. Chronic health problems and absenteeism effect production outcomes, and could increase a company's insurance costs.
Furthermore, many men and women who could work receive veterans' benefits, SSI or SSDI, and fear giving up their medical insurance coverage to take a job possibly without medical benefits. But, even if eligible for medical coverage, they are afraid of delays in being covered again under government programs if the job does not work out. This problem is being addressed in Congress but is not resolved.
Compounding the quandary, employers are hesitant to hire, even part-time, workers with pre-existing health problems, or who have family members with chronic health conditions. Insurance providers threaten higher premiums. Only national legislation will prevent insurance companies from using that inhibitory standard.
Not working may be depressing. However, there are plenty of constructive and useful things people can do without getting paid for it. Being a parent or housekeeper or volunteer worker do not offer paychecks, but can be very satisfying emotionally. Nevertheless, most people resist using those tags on themselves. Retirement, as well as unemployment, can bring on the same inner conflict.
Interestingly enough, many lottery winners and inheritors of huge sums of money actually have identity problems, trying to figure out why, although rich, they do not feel like they are earning their way. That's why most rich folks are also busy folks. People want purpose, identity, status, and recognition. That's why you may hear a waiter in a Los Angeles restaurant say, "I'm actually in show business;" or hear a retired executive say, "I am a business consultant." So if you aren't satisfied with who you think you are, make up something better. Millions of people do it. As Ann Landers once wrote in her column, "You can be anything you want to be, so long as you can pull it off."
If 75 percent of visually impaired people are not employed, or under-employed, who are the 25 percent of visually impaired men and women who are working? Interestingly enough, many of them are in professions and vocations which were not even thought possible a decade or so ago. Watch for the article, "Professions or Vocations Held or Studied across Kansas and across America by Blind Men and Women." It will make you wonder, "How do they do that?"
FOR SALE: Color CCTV Spectrum Jr. with 14-inch monitor, 3X-50X magnification. 18 possible color combinations. Like new. Asking $1,900. (Originally cost $3,000.) Contact Gene Koelle in Reedsport, Ore., at (541) 271-5522.
FOR SALE: Optacon model R1D, $500. Like new. Call Mark Osowski in Grand Forks, N.D., at (701) 775-6042.
FOR SALE: 40-character Braille Window braille display, with manuals, cables and software included. In excellent condition; less than six months old. $4,000 or best offer. Contact Ann Durber at (718) 335-1788 or write her at 63-25B Bourton St. #1B, Rego Park, NY 11374.
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak 640 with flash ROM, $850. Disk drive for Braille 'n Speak, $200. Get both together for $1,000. Contact Rodney Neely, 2309 Longview Ave. SW, Apt. C, Roanoke, VA 24014; phone (540) 344-6800; or e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: Type 'n Speak. Never been used. Asking $1,000. Call Eldridge Hardy at (334) 418-4940 or toll-free (877) 411-1661.
FOR SALE: Smartview CCTV. Like new. Asking $1,500. Contact Robert Bailes at (423) 982-9064, or write him at 2224 Ridgecrest Dr., Maryville, TN 37803.
WANTED: Braille, large print or talking games for donation or reasonable price. Contact Robert Albanese at P.O. Box 43, Lake Placid, FL 33862.
The Sagebrush Conference of licensed blind vendors was held Thursday, March 11 through Saturday, March 13. Despite a last- minute boycott of this year's conference by the Merchants Division of the National Federation of the Blind, more than 250 individuals attended the conference.
On the first day, the National Restaurant Association conducted a training class for interested vendors on how to market a food service business. During the afternoon, the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America held its board of directors meeting.
On Friday, the National Restaurant Association conducted a second training class for vendors on how to prepare and serve safe, sanitary and healthy food. The association awarded certificates to those who completed one or both classes. Also that day, a workshop for state licensing agency administrators and personnel was held, during which business enterprise program professionals from 17 states were able to exchange ideas for solving problems and furthering the best practices among the states.
There were two presentations during the Friday morning program. The first was an update from the Social Security Administration, which triggered considerable discussion and questions regarding how licensed blind vendors can take advantage of such technical regulatory provisions as impairment-related work expenses and blindness-related work expenses in order to maintain their benefits while operating a vending facility. The second presentation was a panel discussion on the issue of union organizing of location employees and how such activities can affect the operation of a vending facility.
Friday afternoon was dedicated to an excellent food show, during which many nationally known food service providers exhibited their latest product lines and were available to answer questions about their products. Later that afternoon was a social reception in the exhibit area, at which Sagebrush raffled off 10 complimentary two-night hotel stays at the Riviera Hotel for use during the 1999 Sagebrush Conference. It definitely paid for registrants to attend scheduled program events since, at every program session, Sagebrush awarded cash door prizes ranging from $10 to $100.
The first program presentation on Saturday morning involved a presentation by the Small Business Administration regarding its Section 8(a) program for small and economically disadvantaged businesses. A good deal of discussion followed regarding how disabled small-business entrepreneurs can qualify for certification as Section 8(a) businesses, which in turn are eligible to compete for special set-asides in federal government procurement. Even though the assembled experts were unclear as to whether a Section 8(a) eligible business could operate within the framework of the Randolph-Sheppard program, many blind vendors in attendance expressed the view that the program might provide an avenue for a blind businessman or woman to strike out beyond the confines of the Randolph-Sheppard program.
The second program was about a partnership program between the Tennessee state licensing agency and Airmark Services Inc., through which the state licensing agency has been able to aggressively bid on concession and commissary service contracts in state and local government correctional facilities under the provisions of Tennessee state law. Through this effort, the agency has been able to create several new, lucrative vending opportunities for its vendors. What is even more important for Tennessee's vendors is that the state, with nearly 100 counties (virtually all of which have correctional facilities), the prospect of creating a sizable number of vending opportunities through this partnership agreement appears to be very bright. During the luncheon on Saturday, Michael Clayton provided entertainment with his impersonations of actor and comedian Robin Williams in several skits.
The final program session on Saturday featured a presentation by representatives from the General Services Administration, who presented floor plans and blueprints for four types of prototype vending locations which GSA is actively marketing to its numerous client agencies. Several of the prototype facilities have already been placed in several locations in the Washington, D.C. area, and economic results thus far look encouraging. Assuming the new prototype locations continue to meet with economic success and acceptance by federal property management agencies and the targeted clientele, GSA intends to expand its program to introduce the prototype designs throughout the country.
The conference then turned to reports regarding significant developments in the business enterprise program from several states. Several states reported on both success and frustrations as to the results in several arbitration cases brought under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The conference concluded with a social reception, during which 10 complimentary two-night hotel stays for the 2000 Sagebrush Conference were awarded. In addition, a 50-50 raffle was drawn with a winning share of almost $350. So, some attendees went home especially happy, and all looking forward to next year's conference which will be held once again March 9-12, 2000 in Las Vegas at the Riviera Hotel.
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