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.
It's 9 o'clock at night. You've had a pretty hard day and you are actually thinking of turning in early. Your phone rings and the voice on the other end of the line is diffident and desperate and just a little hysterical. He says: "I've just started losing my vision and somebody said I should call you because you know all about being blind."
I know you don't feel much like talking to anyone right then but the truth is that you have just been paid a huge compliment. You have been seen around your community doing ordinary things and doing them well and people have noticed you. Whether we like it or not, we are noticed by everyone. One of the toughest things people who get to know us have to learn to do is to ignore all the people who stare at us!
I have received calls like these and I am prepared to bet that most of you have as well. ACB gets so caught up in trying to deal with major challenges that confront the whole blind population today that we seldom take the time in these pages to look at the very real and very personal problems that are at the core of our movement. How you or I deal with that call will determine how our movement is perceived by those who need us most. More than that, in a very real sense, how we handle that call is also a measure of our willingness to reach out and help someone else when they need it the most.
And yet it is the small and insignificant individual actions that make the most difference. As an exercise at your next chapter meeting, ask each member to talk about how they were first involved in ACB. Chances are that it was because someone told them about us. The chances are also that what they were told was intriguing enough to persuade the person to come to a meeting. We don't recruit a thousand people at once; we attract one person at a time. How each of us interacts with others is a measure of how our organization will grow.
I am not sure that I know just how we should go about recruiting new people. I think that varies from person to person and from area to area. I believe that we have to realize that we are all ambassadors of ACB. Each of us sells ACB every day.
Far too often, we keep our ACB selves in one little compartment and only bring it out at meeting or convention time. Some of us may even be a little ashamed of being part of a blindness group. I am certain that many of the people who aren't members are not a part of us because they are ashamed. We have to learn to help those people get past the shame society creates to a pride in our disability.
One of the most controversial things I try to do involves what some people are calling "blind pride." I ask people to confront squarely the shame that we have been taught to feel about ourselves and encourage each of us to challenge those who would ask us to be ashamed. We must get past the parents who don't want their kids associating with the blind, even though their kid is blind. We must get past the school systems that segregate blind children from other blind children. We must do away with the barriers that are erected by others so we will not see ourselves as who we really are.
I remember meeting a blind guy a few years older than I was when I was 12. This was in Calgary, Alberta and I thought he was pretty neat. He walked around on his own using a white cane and even crossed streets by himself. I decided that if he could do it, so could I. I followed what he did and had a white cane and, one day, when he wasn't around, I crossed 17th Avenue, a very busy street. I went and got myself a milkshake and felt as proud as punch about the fact that I was able to do that. I crossed back over safely and rushed into the store and ran to tell my mother what I had accomplished. I was shocked by her reaction. Not only did she not seem proud, she screamed at me for what I had done and, later that night, beat me with a belt and sent me to bed without supper. I don't think that this story is an isolated incident. What ought to make us proud is turned into a shameful act of rebellion. Parents mean well, and so do others who try to help, but it is as though they cannot picture blind associates as independent, competent people and must therefore consciously or unconsciously put barriers in our way. "Oh, I'll do that for you!" is to me one of the most confining and most kind statements you will ever hear.
The other problem is that, after a while, we get used to it. When I was divorced from my sighted wife of 18 years, I was absolutely petrified of living alone. I had become too used to having somebody around to do things for me and had gotten out of the habit of doing them for myself.
What we are all about as an organization, it seems to me, is helping ourselves learn to have the courage to be all that we can be. It is not easy and many around us will resent our trying. More than that, we will not always succeed. People will wait to watch us fail because it reinforces the notions they have of who we are. But we must persevere.
I think that a great local chapter activity would involve asking each member to write on a piece of paper something he or she would love to be able to do but can't. I bet you would find that there are people in the chapter who could teach people how to do most of the things they want to try. If there aren't people there, find somebody outside the chapter and ask that person to help with the learning. We don't become independent all at once. Every small success we have adds to our sense of accomplishment and makes us prouder of who we are.
Many of you who have attended conventions where I have spoken will remember that one thing I say in almost every speech is that we can read in the dark and most sighted people can't. There are lots of other things we can do that we should be proud of but we tend to take our accomplishments for granted and dwell on what we can't do.
So, my friends, let's learn to recognize just how neat we are. When somebody calls at 9 at night at the end of a hard day, let's accept the compliment we are paid and say: "They were right! I'm blind. Blind people know more about being blind than anyone else. I'm glad they recognized it!"
For many years ACB has practiced the art of finding common ground with folks who might otherwise be viewed as antagonistic to our goals. Even through the most difficult of struggles, we have always looked to find ways of understanding the other side and developing solutions that incorporated the legitimate concerns of others. This strategy of constructively engaging those who often were hostile to our interests has earned us the reputation of an organization that can be a partner in solutions rather than an unyielding defender of the extreme. Is this approach still useful? Let's take a look at it today and how it is working.
ACB is fully engaged in many issues of real importance to our community. They range from access to all manner of electronic equipment to developing balanced and productive relationships with the rehabilitation establishment, from making our pedestrian environment more user-friendly to getting real opportunities for blind folks to work, and from developing better prospects for folks who have lost vision and are elderly to leveling the playing field for blind kids at school. These and other issues confront us on a daily basis and where there has been progress, there has been the handprint of ACB.
The willingness of ACB and its partners in AER to work with traffic engineers produced agreement on accessible street crossing language. The tireless work of ACB affiliates often in partnership with AER, AFB and NFB has held the line on separate state agencies in almost every instance. The coalitioning of ACB with other folks such as the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind and the recent introduction of the NFB has begun to show real promise for the development of real resources to assist the elderly blind. Through all of this has been the classic ACB leadership that asks the question, how can we work together on this?
Even as this is said, there will be times when ACB will part company with others. While others urged a more conservative approach to revitalizing the vending facilities program, ACB, RSVA and the Blinded Veterans Association have made it clear that action is needed now. While we believe the NFB is undergoing a slow evolution toward understanding the wisdom of our positions, especially in the areas of environment and technology, we have moved forward on our own in the knowledge that the lives and careers of our blind brothers and sisters hang in the balance.
If anything will be said of the American Council of the Blind in the 20th century, it will certainly be that it was an organization that addressed the reality of the times, reached out in friendship to all who would work to make the positive difference, and who took the blindness community into the next century with a strength that only comes from caring enough about every person to build a better world for all people. We must not forget the lessons of our past. ACB will continue to constructively engage the issues of importance to the community as a true friend to all of good faith and reason. The strength of our resolve and the force of our engagement spring from the heart of our community and the victories will come as surely as we stand together in this experience of democracy we call the American Council of the Blind.
The Airport Westin Hotel and the city of Los Angeles are ready to welcome you to the 1999 convention of the American Council of the Blind. The convention committee and the California Council of the Blind host committee also welcome you. We trust that by this time you have completed your pre- registration forms indicating your choices for special meetings, tours and social events and mailed this information to the ACB Minneapolis office. Your pre-registration forms must be postmarked no later than June 18, 1999. After that date you may not receive the lower prices. Also, there are limitations on admissions to some tours and events. A cassette copy of the pre- registration information is available from the ACB national office. Call (800) 424-8666.
At this late date there are still rooms available at the Airport Marriott, the overflow hotel, located about four blocks from the Westin. Call (310) 641-5700. Shuttles will operate between the Westin and the Marriott Friday, July 2 through Friday, July 9. Both hotels provide van transportation at no cost from and to the airport. Unless you are instructed otherwise upon arrival, after picking up your luggage, go to the first traffic island outside the airport. The van pick-up is at the green sign. There will be volunteers at the airport to assist you on Friday and Saturday, July 2 and 3.
Convention activities begin with a great overnight tour Friday, July 2 and Saturday, July 3 to beautiful San Diego. On Saturday, July 3, the board of directors will meet. Exhibits open at 1 p.m. Also on Saturday, there is a Los Angeles city tour departing at 10 a.m. which includes lunch. This tour will be repeated Sunday, July 4. The Welcome to California party hosted by the California Council of the Blind begins at 8 p.m. The opening session of the convention with the president's address and roll call of affiliates takes place Sunday evening, July 4, at 7:30 p.m. Again this year the National Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired (NAPVI) will be joining ACB at convention. There will be combined programming and NAPVI will hold sessions alone. However, all meetings are open to anyone who wishes to attend.
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 rate: $60 per night plus tax for up to four people per room
Reservation cut-off date: June 10, 1999
ACB and the California Council of the Blind are ready to welcome you in 1999!
Members and staff of ACB attended a press conference on April 28, at which Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R-Md.) announced the introduction of his bill to relink the earnings limit for blind SSDI recipients to that for seniors receiving Social Security. ACB members and others in the blindness community have been working for several months to help him gather enough co-sponsors to ensure this bill's passage by the house. Ehrlich announced at the press conference that the bill was being introduced with 230 co-sponsors, more than the 218 needed for passage. According to Ehrlich, this represents a bipartisan recognition that by raising the exempt earnings threshold for the blind, we are restoring fairness and encouraging, rather than penalizing, work.
Many will recall that the amount of exempt earnings for the blind who receive SSDI was the same as that for seniors until 1996. At that time, legislation was enacted that will allow seniors to earn as much as $30,000 per year by 2002, but this increase was specifically denied to the blind. Ehrlich's bill, H.R. 1601, which he has called the Blind Empowerment Act, would apply the same earnings exemption to the blind and seniors receiving Social Security. The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee for consideration. ACB will be monitoring the committee's actions closely. It is our hope that the committee will act quickly, so the bill can be brought before the full house for a prompt vote.
A similar bill in the Senate (S. 285, by Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz.) needs our support. To date, this bill has not gained the momentum of Ehrlich's bill and has only around 20 supporters. Remember that both houses of Congress must act before the linkage restoration can become law. At the time of this writing, the McCain bill does not have enough votes to pass the Senate. If you support the intent of these bills and want the earning power of an estimated quarter of a million blind people to be restored to what it was before 1996, please keep in touch with the ACB national office to find out how you can help us gain congressional support for both of these bills. The work is not complete until the president signs the measure into law. There is still a lot of work to do before we get to that point. We want to be certain that we'll have a report on that press conference for another edition of "The Braille Forum" later this year. Stay tuned and stay involved!
On March 5 the American Foundation for the Blind, as part of its Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute, presented Guide Dog Users, Inc. with one of its 1999 Access Awards.
GDUI, a special-interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, was recognized for its 20-year advocacy and legal efforts that culminated in the state of Hawaii no longer requiring guide dog users to quarantine their dogs for three months when visiting the state. GDUI worked with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to create an exemption to the state's strict quarantine policies -- the first exemption Hawaii has ever allowed -- which is a major step in the implementation of the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding service animals, and a significant move toward equality of access for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Following countless efforts to make a change in the quarantine process for guide dog handlers through scientific and legislative channels, a class action lawsuit was filed in 1993 by guide dog users residing in Hawaii and on the mainland of the United States against Hawaii's animal quarantine. With a trial date approaching in April 1998, the case was preliminarily settled, allowing the Hawaii Department of Agriculture time to begin development of rules and to go through the rule-making process, including public hearings, before adoption of the proposed rules. The rules were finalized and approved by the court in August 1998, and now allow guide dog users to visit Hawaii free of quarantine as long as they comply with certain vaccination, antibody and microchip requirements.
Jenine Stanley, president of Guide Dog Users, Inc., stated in her acceptance of the award, "Guide Dog Users, Inc., worked tirelessly to make our rights as guide dog users to travel to Hawaii a reality. In fact, I was honored to be the first guide dog user from the mainland United States to visit Hawaii when I attended the settlement agreement signing by the court in September 1998, representing GDUI, and then after the official business of the trip, my husband and I were able to enjoy our postponed honeymoon in 'paradise.'"
Hundreds of individuals and many organizations, including the American Council of the Blind, many ACB state and local chapters, and several guide dog training schools made generous financial contributions to GDUI to help in continuing the effort. Without this grassroots support, GDUI would have been unable to champion the cause on behalf of all guide dog users. Special thanks also go to Michael A. Lilly, who served as attorney for GDUI, and to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, which was also instrumental in the case.
GDUI has developed an information kit for any guide dog handler planning to visit Hawaii which outlines the requirements, along with a timetable to assist in planning for the trip. The kit also includes special forms designed by GDUI which are very helpful to the guide dog handler and veterinarian in providing the information required by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. This kit is available in braille, large print, cassette, IBM- compatible diskette or via e-mail by contacting GDUI toll-free at (888) 858-1008.
For more information about GDUI, or to become a member, contact: Guide Dog Users Inc., 14311 Astrodome Dr., Silver Spring, MD 20906-2245; phone (301) 598-2131 or (888) 858-1008; e- mail [email protected]
Members of ACBRA, or those interested in ham radio, don't forget to include ACB Radio Amateurs on your ACB convention calendar. ACBRA will meet for an informal breakfast (pay your own way) on Sunday, July 4 at 7:30 a.m. The place will be announced later. After breakfast, at 10 a.m., ACBRA will hold its annual meeting.
To communicate with us during convention week, tune your radio to 147.48 mHz simplex. The club call is W3ACB. An informal net will be held on Saturday, July 3, at 9 p.m. on 147.48 mHz simplex. Call in for last-minute information. During the convention, if you wish to reach us or each other, call around the hour or half hour plus or minus five minutes on the frequency.
Let us know if you are coming to the meeting and the breakfast in order to assist us in the planning. Contact either Robert Rogers (K8CO) at (513) 921-3186 or via e-mail at [email protected], or Mike Duke (K5XU) at (601) 362-5083 or via e-mail [email protected]
As everyone knows, this summer's convention is coming fast! The VIDPI program and training committees have been very busy planning this year's sessions. In previous years, VIDPI has held small, technical sessions. While these sessions have been highly valuable to attendees, we are trying to address a more general audience this year. Below you will find our schedule of events. We hope you'll find something to interest you.
Last year VIDPI held two sessions during which we trained ACB members to use Windows 95 screen reading programs. Since it was our first attempt at holding such sessions, we only held two, and attendance was very limited. This year we've greatly expanded our training program! If you are interested in any of our training sessions, please be aware that each session has a limit of 20 participants and 10 coaches so be sure to get your pre- registration forms in early. Each event will be a three-hour, hands-on training session. Two students will share a computer and will be assisted by a coach. Training during most sessions will be provided by the vendor of the screen reader being taught. We will emphasize features of Windows, Microsoft Office, and the screen reading software.
Our full program schedule is as follows.
Sunday 9:00 a.m. -- Registration, welcome, introductions, question and answer session, and other business as time permits.
Sunday 1:30 p.m. -- VIDPI microcomputer seminar: this session has always been a big hit and this year should be no exception. Come hear from vendors about what is new and improved in their products, services and organizations.
Monday 1:00 p.m. -- Intermediate level training on JAWS for Windows. Training provided by Henter-Joyce's training staff. Participants in this session will be expected to be familiar with the basics of JAWS for Windows.
Monday 6:00 p.m. -- Using JAWS for Windows: This three-hour, hands-on training session will cover the basics of JAWS for Windows. It is intended for people with some knowledge of computers. Training provided by Henter-Joyce training staff.
Monday 9:00 p.m. VIDPI Mixer: Our mixer is always a fun event. Come join us, enjoy yourself, meet new friends and help support our scholarship which is already helping blind students to pursue degrees in computer science.
Tuesday 1:00 p.m. -- WindowEyes Training. The G.W. Micro training staff will train students in the use of their popular screen reader, WindowEyes.
Tuesday 1:30 p.m. -- Demonstration of Windows-based web browsers that do not require a screen reader! That's right, IBM will demonstrate its new product, Home Page Reader, and Productivity Works will demonstrate the latest version of its product, PwWebSpeak. Both of these web browsers run under Windows and make it easy for a blind person to surf the web without having to worry about the complexities of a screen reader.
Tuesday 3:30 p.m. -- Applying Internet Technologies to Real World Problems (Joint session with NABS): Several blind students and professionals will demonstrate how they use the Internet to: conduct research, perform job duties, read newspapers, buy music, and do other interesting and necessary tasks.
Tuesday 6:00 p.m. -- Slimware Window Bridge Training session. Training provided by Syntha-Voice's training staff.
Wednesday 12:30 p.m. -- Luncheon (Speakers to be determined). If you haven't heard it yet, let me be the first to break the bad news. Food is going to be an expensive part of your trip to the 1999 ACB national convention. Come join us for lunch and get more than just food for your dollar.
Wednesday 1:00 p.m. -- OutSpoken for Windows Training Session. Training will be provided by the training staff at Alva Access Group.
Wednesday 2:00 p.m. -- VIDPI Business Meeting. If all of this great programming isn't enough to convince you to join VIDPI, and if the promise of a great quarterly newsletter doesn't quite complete the job, just remember that you can join our organization, attend the business meeting, and help direct our organization into the next century. We hope you will!
Wednesday 6:00 p.m. -- Training session (content and provider to be determined). We are presently negotiating with several professional trainers. Unfortunately, as of press time, plans are not yet final.
Thursday 1:00 p.m. -- Training session (content and provider to be determined). Interested in getting involved?
In order to conduct seven training sessions, each with 10 coaches, we need a large number of coaches with experience using one or more of the products mentioned above. If you are interested in being a coach, please contact Frank Welte at [email protected] or (650) 508-8329. Convention fees
We regret that all of this activity costs money and that our treasury can't handle the burden unaided. Nevertheless, we believe our fees are quite reasonable! VIDPI's registration fee will be $7 for pre-registration and $10 on site. This represents an increase over previous years but rising costs demand that we have increased funds available. Training sessions will cost $25 for pre-registration and $30 on site. These funds are used to pay for the cost of obtaining and maintaining required computers and software for our training sessions. In order to continue expanding this wildly successful program we must be able to pay associated expenses. In fact, $25 is quite inexpensive for a three-hour training seminar. Cost for the mixer will remain unchanged at $5 pre-registration, $6 on site. Finally, the luncheon charge this year will be $30 for pre-registration and $35 on site. Again, let me remind you that food in L.A. is quite expensive.
After all that bad news I'm sure everyone would like some good news. All other VIDPI sessions will be absolutely free! That's right, no extra charge to attend the microcomputer seminar, browser demos, or anything else! Of course we do ask that you pay the VIDPI registration fee ($7 pre-registration, $10 on site) if you plan to attend one or more of these sessions. Want to become a VIDPI member?
The standard dues for VIDPI is $20. This entitles you to vote at the business meeting, receive our quarterly newsletter, hold office and be a fully participating member in our organization. We also have a student membership, corporate membership and associate membership. For more information about membership, please contact membership secretary Mary Abramson at [email protected] or call (630) 231-5332.
So come and join VIDPI for this year's busy program in L.A. You won't be disappointed!
Do visually impaired persons who are gay face particular problems in our world? This question has been discussed and addressed at each of the last three annual conventions of the American Council of the Blind. Tulsa was the site of the first gathering and folks joined to air personal experiences and define common problems.
Those who attended the meeting mentioned some things we all deal with at some time that are often common to all blind persons, such as: how does our visual impairment affect us in social settings? Are gay-specific national or local periodicals available in a usable medium? Are catalogs of gay-related items such as jewelry, greeting cards, and emblems available in a suitable form? If not, then how can we influence the publishers and distributors to make such things available or can we find another way to meet our information needs? What titles has the Library of Congress produced in accessible media that would be of particular interest to us? What information can be found using computer bulletin boards or the Internet? How can we establish a continuing discussion of issues we face?
The ACB conventions in the two years following the initial meeting in Tulsa saw some of these questions answered or probed further. Guest speakers have helped. Some information has been put into useful media.
One feature of the last two gatherings of what has been loosely called Blind Friends of Lesbians and Gays (BFLAG) has been a time set aside for meeting and greeting. In each of those years a separate time was given on the second day of the convention to give those with interests in common a chance to become acquainted. In 1998, a person familiar with facilities and entertainment of interest to our particular group joined us in this social session.
In the more formal sessions, the group has heard from invited guests. A representative of the National Library Service brought a bibliography of recorded materials of interest. A representative of a national organization for families and friends of lesbians and gays told of an important national effort that organization has mounted. A taped catalog of gifts and cards was prepared and was available to those present at one session. The group will assemble again during the 1999 ACB convention. A room will be set aside on July 4 for a morning time to meet and greet each other. On Wednesday, July 7, the group will hold a meeting to discuss common problems. There will probably be a presentation of interest to the group. All interested are welcome to drop in.
Nationally, a severe shortage of qualified teachers of students with visual impairments and orientation and mobility specialists is having a detrimental impact. Students with blindness and low vision frequently receive instruction from personnel who are not qualified to teach critical skills in braille literacy, computer proficiency using assistive technology, and safe, independent travel. This problem is even more alarming in rural communities, where shortages of qualified personnel are most acute.
The National Plan for Training Personnel to Serve Children with Blindness and Low Vision is a two-year project funded by a U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education grant to the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Division on Visual Impairments. Collaborators on this project include the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind or Visually Impaired (AER) Division 17 Personnel Preparation. The American Council of the Blind provided consumer input during four days of strategic planning in February and March, during which the stakeholders developed specific strategies, taking into consideration several different possible future scenarios. The American Council of the Blind will continue to participate in the process, which will culminate this summer in the completion of a comprehensive strategic plan. The National Plan for Training Personnel to Serve Children with Blindness and Low Vision will highlight strategies to provide a full continuum of services to every school and educational setting serving children who are blind, deaf-blind, or have low vision. The plan will be used to enhance the quality of education, the literacy of students and the overall needs of infants, toddlers and school-aged youth.
The first draft of the strategic plan is expected to be released for review in June 1999. ACB invites consumer involvement in this process. If you are interested in reviewing the draft plan and providing feedback, please contact Susan Crawford at the ACB national office or via e-mail: [email protected]
The concept of blind people participating in sports with or competing against sighted sporting competitors is certainly not new. Even a superficial check of the records shows that residential schools for the blind especially encouraged such competition in certain sports. For example, earlier in the century teams from the Kentucky School for the Blind frequently played the then relatively new game of football against sighted teams (before the introduction of the forward pass and other departures from simply carrying the ball) and as recently as the 1940s teams from the Michigan School for the Blind under the direction of the late Dr. Charles E. Buell played football against sighted teams. However, before the adoption of federal or state laws mandating the provision of physical education services to blind and other disabled students, there were few opportunities for blind athletes to develop these skills to participate in a wide variety of sports with or against sighted athletes. One of the first sports to provide such opportunities was wrestling and we are familiar with the names of several blind people who competed very successfully on the college level in that sport as far back as the 1920s and 1930s. During those years a few outstanding blind athletes attained recognition by participating very successfully in other sports where the lack of vision was previously considered to be a very substantial handicap. For example, in the early 1930s the late Arthur Copeland, a legally blind graduate of the Overbrook School for the Blind and then a student at Temple University, narrowly missed being selected to represent the USA as a member of the 1932 Olympic swimming team. Likewise and in more recent times, Trischa Zorn, still an active and exceptionally successful legally blind swimmer and now a teacher of learning disabled children in Indianapolis, narrowly missed selection to the U.S. Olympic swimming team in the late 1980s while going through her undergraduate years at the University of Nebraska on a swimming scholarship. During coming months I plan to research and publish several articles focusing on the successful participation of other blind people in sports that were previously considered to require sight. We appreciate the encouragement and support given to this and related projects through the dedication, foresight and estate planning of the late Dr. Charles E. Buell and the late Josephine Buell.
In her 1980 doctoral dissertation, Patricia Rice Whitley said about Dr. Charles Buell: "Dr. Buell is a man of many talents, one of which is the desire to see that visually handicapped boys and girls are physically active and physically capable of performing with their fully sighted peers. ... Throughout his professional career he has stood up for the right of blind and partially sighted individuals to enjoy comprehensive physical education programs." Although Dr. Buell was extremely pleased with and proud of the accomplishments of many of the mainstreamed blind athletes referred to above, such as the aforementioned Trischa Zorn whom he personally encouraged and assisted in many ways as she competed and grew up in southern California, he would certainly beam with pleasure and satisfaction if he were living today (he passed away in 1992) over the success of Kevin Szott, a legally blind New Jersey native who is now training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in hopes of being selected to represent the USA in the 2000 Olympics as a member of the USA Olympic judo team.
Kevin Szott, who was featured in an article in the November/December 1998 issue of "The Olympian Magazine," hopes to be the first American gold medalist in judo þ while also being the first blind athlete in the world to compete in the Olympic games. He advanced from a complete judo novice to number five in the USA in only five years, but he is accustomed to attaining success through hard work and talent. He holds a total of 31 national titles in wrestling, power lifting, shot put, discus, javelin and judo, won in competitions through the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). These achievements landed him a place on the Hartford Company's Team Ability, the first corporate-sponsored team of disabled athletes. At age 10, Kevin's loss of sight began through a combination of retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration, leaving him with approximately 5 percent vision. An avid baseball player at the time, he switched to football and wrestling. About his loss of sight, he said, "My parents knew I would have to compete in the real world sooner or later. Their expectations for me were the same as those of my two brothers, college and a good job. I was always expected to become a productive part of the community." He played football in high school and college, becoming a Division III All-American lineman at St. Lawrence University. About his experiences as a football player, he said, "You don't have to see the whiskers on their chins to play center. You just have to be able to see their bodies in order to make your blocks." Actually, football runs in his family; younger brother David Szott is an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League.
After obtaining his bachelor's degree in biology from St. Lawrence University, Kevin was employed as a strength and conditioning coach at Pennsylvania State University. While there, he earned a master's degree in exercise physiology and continued to compete in wrestling and international track and field events through the USABA. When international interest in wrestling declined in the 1980s, his interest turned to judo. "I think it was an easy transition because of my wrestling background," he said. "The mental training was already in place. Since they are both one-on-one competitions, I am a step ahead of someone coming from just a team sport background." Even after winning the judo silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics he was skeptical about his ability to compete at the Olympic level. "I was fighting at 215 pounds and my coach told me that he thought the basic ability was there but that I needed to get back to 255 or 260 pounds. I thought he was kidding." His doubts finally started going away in 1997 when he beat the top-ranked heavyweight sighted athletes in the U.S. International Invitational Competition. During an interview, he speculated that his impaired vision may actually give him an advantage during competition because "some opponents try to figure out how to use it to their advantage and they end up worrying about it too much instead of fighting." Winning the bronze medal at the 1997 Muruchan International Judo Championships resulted in his being ranked number five in the USA and qualified him for residency at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. About this move, he said, "For me, leaving my secure job at Penn State and moving to Colorado Springs to train full- time was an act of commitment to go for it all the way."
Kevin Szott's day at the training center starts with a 90- minute practice session with the national judo team and then continues through the day, working out for an hour and a quarter lifting weights, a 30-minute cardiovascular workout, and then another hour and a half workout with the national judo team. In order to qualify for the Olympic trials being held in the spring of 2000, he must maintain or better his number five national ranking and at the trials he must win the heavyweight class in order to earn a berth on the U.S. Olympic team. Kevin's brother David came for the first time to watch him fight and as himself a wrestler was "blown away" because "in wrestling you make a mistake and have a chance to come back, but in judo you make a mistake and you are done." Although athletics currently command a very large part of Kevin's energies, he keeps it all in perspective, continuing to enjoy skiing, the guitar, golf and reading.
ACB members and friends who attend the upcoming 1999 ACB national convention in Los Angeles will have an opportunity to meet Kevin Szott, who is scheduled to be the featured blind athlete speaking at the Sports Fanatics Luncheon and taking part in various other convention activities following his return from an international competition in Thailand.
If you ask people to define the "perfect" sport, they might say it should be playable by anyone, easy to learn, injury-free, inexpensive, playable at recreational and competitive levels and fun! Many people would say that the sport of Showdown meets all these requirements. And why? It can be played by visually impaired people without any assistance from sighted people; it enables a visually impaired person to compete fairly against a sighted person; it does not depend upon strength, so males and females can compete fairly against each other, as can younger and older players; it does not require a lot of equipment, and this makes it inexpensive; it is a non-contact sport and, therefore, is injury-free. It crosses cultural, language and geographic barriers and is played in countries from Austria to Zambia. It was showcased at the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona, the 1990 World Championships and the 1990 World Youth Games, the 1988 Paralympic Games in Seoul, the 1984 Paralympic Games and the 1980 Olympiad for the Disabled. After this introduction, what is it?
Showdown is a super fast-moving table sport remotely akin to table tennis or another rocket-fast game called air hockey. It is played on a wooden table approximately 12 feet long and having sides on it approximately five inches high. A screen running from side to side divides the table in half, but leaves enough space on its bottom edge for a small plastic ball, which has a small steel ball bearing in it for sound production purposes, to pass under it after being struck by a wooden paddle similar to a table tennis paddle. The object of the game is to hit the ball off a side wall, along the table, under the screen and into the opponent's goal. The first player to reach 11 points, leading by two or more points, is the winner. Players score two points for a goal and one point when the opponent hits the ball into the screen, hits the ball off the table, or touches the ball with anything but the paddle (also referred to as a bat) or the playing hand. Players can score points regardless of who is serving. Each player serves five times consecutively and a served ball must hit the side wall before going under the screen.
Competitive Showdown is somewhat different from the recreational version in that in competition a sighted referee controls the game and all players must wear blindfolds to ensure complete visual fairness. Although the quality of the game is enhanced by quietness in the vicinity of the table, it is interesting to note that I first saw it being demonstrated out- of-doors in a plaza just inside the gate of the Barcelona Paralympic housing center. Although the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) has recognized Showdown as one of its official sports and has adopted rules for it, it is not yet being played much in the USA. However, ACB members attending the upcoming national convention in Los Angeles will have an opportunity to see it and give it a try. Plans have been confirmed for a few of the enthusiastic supporters and players of Showdown from Canada to conduct ongoing demonstrations, to give instructions and to provide information generally for substantial periods during several afternoons and evenings at the convention headquarters hotel in Los Angeles. Information will also be available in large print and braille. Our Canadian guests plan to donate the Showdown table to a group or organization in the Los Angeles area so it can be used after the convention for the enjoyment of the sport in that area. Showdown is an excellent activity for the improvement of hand and ear (or hand and eye) coordination, quick response, controlled reflex action, kinesthetic analysis, medium-fine muscle control, balance adjustment, and several other useful skills.
Where did this sport and its name come from? Its inventor, Joseph Lewis, a totally blind man from British Columbia, described it as a lot like table tennis, "but without the hassle of chasing the ball all over the place." He also said, "The name Showdown popped into my mind because of my fascination with gunslingers and Marshall Dillon and the showdown in the old movies. It's a game where a couple of opponents are confronting each other." Anyone wanting further information about Showdown may contact Mrs. Geraldine York, IBSA Showdown Subcommittee, 304- 15111 Russell Ave., White Rock, B.C. V4B 2P4, Canada; phone (604) 531-6660; e-mail [email protected]
On February 17, 1999, Reginia "Reggie" Rohde died following a bout with cancer, ending 30 years of work as a braille transcriber.
She began her brailling career by taking a class in brailling given by the Adult Education Program of the Mountain View (California) schools in 1968. After a nine-month course, in which she excelled from the first, she joined the Sixth District of the California Transcribers and Educators for the Visually Impaired (CTEVH), and soon after was certified as a literary braille transcriber by the Library of Congress.
For three decades she spent most of her leisure hours, sometimes seven days a week, transcribing braille. When she moved to Oregon in 1972, she began brailling for the Volunteer Braille Services in Portland, and continued with them until returning to California in 1985. While living in Los Osos, Calif., a small town 10 miles from San Luis Obispo, she brailled for the California Polytechnic State University and the vision services office of the county schools. During this time, she also brailled for blind individuals as far away as Kansas City, Mo.
In her last three years of life, she had macular degeneration in both eyes, but was able to continue brailling.
Reggie was a member of the National Braille Association, the CTEVH, the California and Oregon Councils of the Blind, and many other organizations. With her husband, Don (who is a tapist), she worked with and for the blind, both in organizations and their homes.
She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Don; two sons and their wives; two granddaughters and two great-granddaughters. She is sorely missed by her family and friends.
(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.")
ACB will be expanding its involvement with the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities to include federal budget development and housing issues. In addition to ACB involvement with areas such as civil rights, employment, education, Social Security and transportation, these efforts will give us greater understanding and influence over how the federal government prioritizes spending and the quality of life in housing.
ACB has requested that the White House facilitate its request to meet with the Secretary of the Veterans Administration on issues of more global impact than are appropriate to discuss with the blind services people at an initial meeting. The secretary had attempted to delegate the meeting to blind services which would not be productive without a larger discussion first.
Looks like the lights have turned green on moving the RSVA, ACB and other partners' vending facilities program agenda. While the agenda makes a clear call for meaningful action by those responsible for administering the program, much work will be necessary to insure that the program is revitalized.
The leadership of the American Council of the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind met in a conference call to discuss and develop a plan of assistance to our affiliates in Texas as they bravely continue the battle to preserve a quality Commission for the Blind in that state. The battle plan was agreed upon and actions are under way to achieve the goal. More cooperation can be anticipated in the future over these kinds of issues in the many states.
After additions and deletions to our membership database, it looks as if our organization has grown by about 2,000 people this year! Must be doing something right eh?
At the Thursday meeting of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford introduced two major proposals.
The first was the ACB principles of consumer cooperation. You may remember these from an earlier "Braille Forum." ACB asked that the council adopt these as principles for state agencies as well. As of this writing, it is too soon to know whether they had the opportunity to act upon the request, but that information should be available next week. All ACB state and special affiliates should stay tuned on this one since it has the capacity to shape a much more fruitful and balanced relationship between state agencies and blind folks in their states.
The second proposal was the vending facilities program call for action! This document which was distributed on Friday over ACB-L and ACB-Announce has the potential to revitalize the vending programs around the nation. State agencies must adopt the agenda or improve upon it, if we are to get the job done!
In three unrelated cases, ACB has been working with the parties to see if we can assist them in getting the issues resolved. These have to do with the responsibilities of the states to properly implement services for blind folks, and the civil rights of blind persons. An additional case may be taken on with constitutional implications. ACB is not ready to discuss these issues in public as yet since the parties must agree that legal intervention is necessary and ask ACB for that help, but the point here is that ACB stands ready to safeguard the rights of people who are blind when circumstances warrant the action of our council.
If you tried to reach our national office last Friday and got no answer, it was because of NATO festivities and security around our office area. No, the leaders of NATO did not ask us to lend them our offices, they sort of borrowed the whole city! With certain subway stations closed and barricades along sidewalks and support business operations closed, we were unable to productively open the office. All should be back to normal by Monday.
In a short speech to a crowd during a congressional event on the introduction of the House version of the linkage bill, ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford stated the fabric of trust between the blindness community and Congress was once again being made whole. Other speakers at the rally included members of Congress, the president of the National Federation of the Blind, the executive director of National Industries for the Blind and various notables. It is anticipated that the legislation should pass with a majority of House members already co-sponsoring the bill. The next challenge after getting the bill passed in the House will be a successful Senate campaign. ACB members will be hearing more on this issue through the Washington Connection, News Notes, ACB-Announce and "The Braille Forum."
Conversations have occurred with advocates from both ACB and NFB in South Dakota on the potential move to consolidate services for the blind. ACB is awaiting the arrival of documents to study the situation in that state and has already suggested a strategy to combat the problem. ACB will be an active participant in the solution.
In the matter of Texas, ACB has sent materials developed jointly with NFB and AFB to impact upon the upcoming hearings and vote in the Texas Senate. ACB applauds and takes great pride in our members in Texas and especially congratulates Ed Bradley and Audley Blackburn on their tireless work during these times of great trouble for blind folks in the lone star state.
This edition of "News Notes" is being written in Salt Lake City after the successful conclusion of a great Utah Council of the Blind state convention. A good mixture of young and old, men and women and lots of bright people came together to do the business of the Utah blindness community at a brand-new building housing state services and consumer groups together. Executive Director Charlie Crawford spoke on pedestrian safety, why folks should join ACB and the Utah Council, and on the history of the struggle to get access to the graphical user interface computing environment. Nolan Crabb came up to give classes on the Internet and Ralph Sanders flew in from Maryland to help with Social Security matters and to provide a historical perspective on consumerism.
There's no question that Utah is strong and growing. From plans to expand chapters to advocacy on pedestrian safety to work on getting aids and devices added to Medicaid and Medicare, you will find the Utah Council there! Congratulations to the great folks in Utah!
Executive Director Charlie Crawford attended a White House ceremony announcing the new dollar coin to be minted in January of 2000. The coin will be gold in color and have a smooth rim which should make it easily distinguishable. The coin will also feature a Native American woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition west. This recognition of the contribution of Native American women was highlighted by First Lady Hillary Clinton during the ceremony. There were also representatives of Native American Vietnam era veterans and a great presentation of American Indian drumming and song.
The pre-registration packet has been completed and is scheduled for mailing on May 17. In addition we have sent the material off to Future Forms for encoding to be placed on the ACB web site where folks will be able to fill out the form and submit it electronically to the national office for printing. We are also busy putting together the full program for the convention.
There's more. We are negotiating to see if we can get the convention activities audio streamed in a big way through the Internet. More on these subjects as progress is made.
This has been a good week in two states where ACB has been highly involved with preservation of state services for blind folks. There appears to be positive action in the Texas state senate and much credit is due Audley Blackburn and Ed Bradley from our ACB affiliate in that state. They along with NFB of Texas, AFB, and our friends in AER have made a mighty push for keeping a meaningful service delivery system alive and well. South Carolina is also headed in a more positive direction as a result of ACB's continued activities. Patsy Jones and all of our South Carolina members have taken a strong stance for good service and balance in that state and we are anticipating good results.
In three letters sent this week to Ohio and U.S. Department of Justice officials, ACB has alerted them to our intent to legally represent the civil rights interests of dog guide users and a woman who was denied cab service on the basis of her having a dog guide. The case has constitutional implications since the driver of the cab defends his actions by claiming dogs are against his religion and the cab company owner has backed him up on it.
Charlie and Susan Crawford had a delightful supper with some staff of the Overbrook School and a number of international students who are spending a year at the school. Young adults from South America, Asia, and Europe have been given our Internet address and will be plugged into the ACB information system as they choose.
(Reprinted from "The IVIE Motivator," winter 1998.)
Are you advantageously blind? If you have been blind since birth, you are congenitally blind. If you have lost your sight due to an accident or illness, you are said to be adventitiously blind. In either case, you can be advantageously blind. According to my own definition, being advantageously blind simply means having the ability to perceive the advantages of being blind and using them to offset some of the obvious disadvantages of blindness. Don't get me wrong. I am not trying to diminish the fact that blindness is a serious disability with its share of challenges and frustrations. However, believe it or not, there are ways of turning many of the disadvantages of blindness into advantages -- if you care to look for them.
For example, one of the biggest inconveniences of blindness is not being able to drive a car. This robs us of a great deal of our freedom, spontaneity, privacy and independence. However, have you ever considered the advantages of not driving? For one thing, if you can't drive a car, you don't have to own one. Think of the money you can save! Owning a car is expensive! In addition to the initial cost of purchasing the car, such things as automobile insurance, maintenance, annual inspection fees and other incidentals must be figured into the equation. You could probably use public transportation, join a car pool or even pay others to drive you places for a fraction of the cost of owning a car. Of course, this is not as convenient as being able to drive for yourself, but using the money that you save to do something nice for yourself will help to ease the pain. I jokingly call my secondhand Baldwin theatrical organ my car. It was bought with some of the money I saved by not buying a real car. This organ may not be able to get me anywhere, but I enjoy playing it, and since it has a car horn sound effect, it even goes beep-beep like a real car.
Automobile ownership has other drawbacks, too. A car will take up a lot of valuable space in the garage, which could be put to more constructive use. If you don't own a car, you don't have to spend time cleaning it and scraping off the snow and ice from it in the winter. Finally, I have no scientific data to back up this theory, but I am willing to bet that if you don't drive a car, you will probably live a lot longer because you will not have to cope with the longer-term physical effects that the stress of driving puts on a person's heart and blood pressure.
Another disadvantage of blindness that many blind people complain about is the inability to read normal print. Although this presents its share of problems, it does have its advantages, too. For instance, have you ever thought about all the books, magazines, newspapers and other free audio material that we get via radio reading services, NLS and other sources just because we are print-handicapped? Our sighted friends have to pay for most of their reading material, and they don't even have access to all the audio reading materials that we do. Even though many people would rather sit down and read a book than listen to it, audio reading has its good points. For one thing, you can listen to a book while doing other things. The other day, I emptied the dishwasher, made breakfast and cleaned three rooms while reading part of the local newspaper and finishing five chapters of a library book on tape. I smugly wondered if any of my sighted friends could have accomplished so much work and reading in only two hours. Also, think of all the trees we're saving by not subscribing to print newspapers and magazines! Finally, those of us who read braille have the added advantage of being able to read and write in the dark. Sighted people can't do that!
Though less important, a third possible disadvantage of blindness is not being able to see what is going on when watching television. Audio description of the action helps, but it is often not available. Again, there are definite advantages of not having to depend on sight when watching TV. First, unlike our sighted friends who are tied to a television set, we can watch TV any time and anywhere using a Walkman or radio that has TV sound. Imagine enjoying the evening news while camping in the woods, listening to your favorite soap opera in a doctor's office waiting room, or enriching your mind with PBS programming while commuting to and from work! The possibilities are endless! Also, many VCR tuners and cable converter boxers allow you to pick up the sound for several of the cable premium channels such as Cinemax, Showtime, TMC, Disney and even some pay-per-view channels. The picture is scrambled, but that doesn't matter to us since we can't see it anyhow. Sighted people have to pay a monthly fee just to get a clear picture, but we get these extra channels free. Think of all the money we are saving by not having to subscribe to them. We also get to miss all that subliminal visual advertising that lures sighted people into buying things that they really don't need, thus saving us more money.
A fourth and probably one of the most serious disadvantages of blindness is simply not being able to see and missing out on all the important visual information that the world has to offer. However, even this which seems to be a curse can be turned into a blessing. Sure, we miss out on important visual information. By the same token, we are not distracted by unimportant trivia such as a person's skin color, build, complexion, clothes, hair style, etc. Without the distraction of these seemingly silly external details, it is much easier for us to get to know a person on the inside -- and isn't that what really matters in the long run? Sure, we miss out on the beauty of sunsets, stars, butterflies, flowers and the rich colors of changing autumn leaves. On the other hand, we also get to miss many of the visual annoyances that give most sighted people fits, such as dandelions in the middle of a green lawn, uneven margins on a typed document, fingerprints on the refrigerator door, streaks on windows, and other trivial eyesores. Not being distracted by these minor annoyances gives us more time and energy to concentrate on more important matters. Being the perfectionist that I am, it's a good thing I'm not sighted. If I could see, I would probably spend so much time pulling weeds, straightening up the house and making things look better that I wouldn't get anything else done in life. In fact, I have often thought that it might be better if the whole world were blind. Then we wouldn't have to waste so much time and money on making things look good, and we wouldn't have to worry about graphical user interfaces because nobody would use them. Just think how much more accessible our computers and appliances would be!
OK. Maybe I'm stretching it a bit, but you have to admit that I have made several good points. The important thing to remember is that blindness isn't the end of the world. In fact, if you have the right attitude, it could be the beginning of a whole new world. Even though we are blind, we can still have the vision to create a better life for others and for ourselves. Even though we cannot have physical sight, we can choose to have insight and to use it wisely. I believe this so strongly that if someone were to offer me my sight at this very moment, I would probably reject the offer.
So, what about you? Are you advantageously blind? The decision is yours!
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.
CELEBRATE THE CENTURY
The U.S. Postal Service is currently issuing a series of stamps entitled "Celebrate the Century," commemorating important events of recent decades. They have already issued stamps for the 1950s, '60s and '70s, and are currently accepting votes on nominated events of the 1980s. The postal service would like all citizens to visit the web site, http://www.usps.com, and vote on several proposed subjects for stamps in that series commemorating key events of the 1990s. Write-in votes will not be accepted.
But for many in the community of people with disabilities, the number one event of the 1990s was passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. There is a consumer advisory committee that makes the decision on what goes on the ballot for each decade. The committee is still accepting nominations for the 1990s. The more letters they get for a particular nomination, the better the chance it has of getting on the ballot. So if you want to have passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act considered as a memorable event of the 1990s, write letters to the committee. Mention the Turn of the Century program and the nominations for the 1990s. Tell them that we want to see an ADA stamp issued in the year 2000, the 10th anniversary year of the ADA, as part of the "Celebrate the Century" series. Send your letters to The Citizens Stamp Advisory, USPS, 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Room 4474E, Washington, DC 20260-2437.
CANDLE IN THE WINDOW
Candle in the Window will be holding its 13th annual conference August 11-15 at the Kavanaugh Life Enrichment Center just outside of Louisville, Ky. The conference, titled "From Anxious Thought to Bold Action: The Self-Actualized Blind Person in Community," will explore issues and skills related to advocacy for self and others; developing personal relationships for mutual enjoyment or support; forging alliances within the group or with other groups; and taking on leadership roles to bring about positive change. There will also be time for swimming, hiking, eating, singing, quiet reflection and just plain "hanging out." The conference costs $180; however, if you send in a $35 deposit by July 15, you will receive a $15 discount. For more information, contact Sheila Killian at (510) 547-5321 (or e-mail her at [email protected]), or Peter Altschul at (202) 234-5243 (e-mail [email protected]).
Courage Cards and Gifts is conducting a search for artwork for its 2000 Courage Collection. The holiday collection designs are selected by a volunteer committee of artists, marketing professionals, and individuals from the greeting card industry. The committee selects artwork based on artistic merit, suitability of subject, color and marketability. Each artist receives an honorarium as well as national exposure through the distribution of catalogs and promotional pieces as well as TV, radio and print advertising. Courage Center's search committee seeks colorful, unique holiday art, including Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's. All artists are invited to enter. The committee is especially interested in art by children with disabilities. The entry deadline is July 30, 1999. For a copy of the Art Search guidelines, an application and a 1999 catalog, call Courage at (888) 413-3323 or (612) 520-0211, or send e-mail to [email protected], or write to Courage Cards and Gifts, 3915 Golden Valley Rd., Golden Valley, MN 55422.
Disability Rights Advocates, a California-based national disability law center, recently filed a class action complaint in federal district court on behalf of people with vision, hearing and physical disabilities against the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the state of California. The complaint is based on violations, including failure to provide accommodations for visually impaired visitors such as braille signage and access to printed material, failure to provide effective means of communication for hearing-impaired visitors, and lack of access to restrooms, parking, travel paths, picnic areas and trails for wheelchair users. The California Council of the Blind is a plaintiff in this case. For more information, contact Disability Rights Advocates, 449 15th St., Suite 303, Oakland, CA 94612-2821.
The Jewish Guild for the Blind has a free brochure available called "A Guide for HIV/AIDS Caregivers ... when assisting those with vision loss." It is available in English and Spanish. For a copy of it, write to: Public Relations Department, Jewish Guild for the Blind, 15 W. 65th St., New York, NY 10023, or call (212) 769- 6263. Please specify which language version you prefer.
Playback Marketing offers several music packages of CDs and cassettes. You can purchase any of the following for $40 or buy three or more sets for $38 each: Country and Western, 12 CDs and 12 cassettes; Big Band and Easy Listening, nine CDs and nine cassettes; and Rock Oldies from the '50s to the '70s, nine CDs and nine cassettes. You may purchase either of the following sets for $20 or buy three or more sets for $18 each: Children's Songs and Stories, five CDs and five cassettes; or Light Classics and Movie Themes, five CDs and five cassettes. The following six-hour cassette albums are available for $10 each, or if you purchase three or more, $9 each: Amos 'n Andy, two different albums; Lum 'n Abner, two different albums; Screen Director's Playhouse; Gangbusters; Murder at Midnight; and Dark Fantasy. You may order in large print, braille, on tape, on disk, or via telephone. Contact Playback Marketing, 1308 Evergreen Ave., Goldsboro, N.C. 27530; phone (919) 736-0939 or toll-free (888) 217-2312.
The Alabama Conference on Aging and Vision will be held at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham August 1-3. The conference will focus on assisting the elderly in staying as independent as possible, increasing their self-esteem and providing services to meet their needs. Topics to be addressed include vision loss and driving, recreation for the elderly, elder law, dementia and vision loss, macular degeneration and mobility. The conference costs $125 for early registration and all materials. Scholarships and stipends are available. For more information, call (205) 290-4451.
NEW FROM BRL
BRL, Inc. has numerous new resources available. One of them is a list of blind e-mail distribution lists. It presents 80 of the most popular lists. Another is a blind e-mail users list, containing more than 5,500 e-mail addresses for blind individuals and groups that serve the blind. It is available on disk for $40. The blind web site list offers information on more than 700 items for the blind. It, too, is available on disk, for $10. The company also offers "A Verbal View of Windows" in regular print ($75), large print ($120), braille ($120), and on audio cassette ($75). Program key guides are available for Windows 95 and 98, as well as Microsoft Word 97. Standard print costs $20, large print costs $25, and braille costs $25. For more information, or to order, write to BRL Inc., 110 Commerce Dr., Suite 210, Fayetteville, GA 30214; phone and fax (770) 716-9222; e-mail [email protected], or visit the web site, http://www.wyfiwyg.com
SPEAK TO ME!
The spring/summer catalog of Speak to me! products is now available. It features a large variety of gift ideas, including talking magnets, key chains, novelty clocks, talking games and toys for children, and so much more. Call toll-free (800) 248-9965 to receive a free copy of the catalog in print, on tape or on IBM- compatible disk.
Mary McAleese, president of Ireland, recently accepted the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award on behalf of her country. This is the third time this award has been presented; the previous winners are Korea and Canada.
Challenge Aspen is holding "A Rocky Mountain Experience" August 27-30, 1999. It will feature white water rafting as well as rock climbing. If you've always wanted to scale rock faces and boulders in the Rocky Mountains, here's your chance. This camp is open to people with all disabilities, but is recommended for athletes with good upper body strength and mobility. The camp itself costs $350; Thursday, August 26, is an optional day, and costs $60. Fees include instruction, equipment, lunches and snacks, transportation and other outdoor activities; the $60 covers the white water rafting. Lodging is available at the Silvertree Hotel, located on the slopes in Snowmass Village. For reservations, call (800) 525- 9402. Be sure to indicate you are with Challenge Aspen. Registration is limited to 15 participants; the deadline is July 25. For more information, or an application, contact Challenge Aspen, P.O. Box M, Aspen, CO 81612; phone (970) 923-0578.
Pierce Transit of Tacoma, Wash. was recently chosen to participate in a national project to create tactile maps to help visually impaired people navigate their way around public transit systems. This project involves applying computer-assisted design technology to generate handheld tactile maps specific to each transit agency's needs. The maps use a combination of braille lettering, large print and raised symbols to convey such information as bus stop locations, pedestrian signals and emergency phone numbers. This grant was sponsored by Project ACTION.
The USA Newsletter for the Blind can now be reached by telephone. To call and listen, dial (918) 627-8867. There is no subscription fee, nor is expensive computer equipment required. Just use your touch-tone phone from anywhere in the United States. If you would like more information about the service, call Chuck Ayers at (918) 664-6646.
The Nippon Foundation of Japan awarded the Overbrook School for the Blind an additional $1.58 million contribution to the Nippon International Blind and Visually Impaired Persons Leadership Program Fund. The fund was created to expand education and employment opportunities for blind and visually impaired people in developing countries using new technology. The first program began in June 1998 in Thailand and serves eight countries in southeast Asia. Among the activities already under way are a computerized braille production service for blind university students in Thailand and a three-year pilot project to integrate 60 blind and visually impaired students into a local vocational/technical college.
"Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources" is available on audio tape. It contains reviews of current books on topics ranging from reproductive technologies to women's autobiographical writing, web site reviews, e-mail discussion lists, new magazines and reference books, and much more. It comes out four times a year, along with a print copy of the issue. Subscriptions include two other resources: "Feminist Periodicals: A Current Listing of Contents" and "New Books on Women & Feminism" (a twice-yearly listing of most of the books recently published in English). There has not yet been enough demand for these two periodicals on tape, but the publisher is willing to consider it. Subscriptions cost $30 for individuals or women's programs, $55 for libraries and other institutions. Or you may select only the tape copies for $15. Send your check payable to University of Wisconsin-Madison to: Women's Studies Librarian, University of Wisconsin System, 430 Memorial Library, 728 State St., Madison, WI 53708.
Are you tired of not getting your packages because you're not home when the carrier comes? Now you can receive packages quickly and securely, even when you're out. The Package-Park system consists of a rugged nylon laundry bag-sized sack and a plastic- coated bracket, and a padlock (which you provide). The bracket attaches to your door; attach the bag to it. Illustrated instructions on the sack show the carrier how to fit the package into it and lock it with the padlock. It costs $29.95 plus $6 shipping and handling. For more information, visit the web site at http://members.aol.com/maitapds. Contact Maita Products at (301) 891-2328 to order. Credit card orders call toll-free (800) 293- 6178 and ask for item HNOH1.
SHARE THE VISION
Helen Keller National Center's 1999 awareness campaign is focusing on the employment of people who are deaf-blind, skilled, highly motivated, hard-working and reliable employees. The campaign kicks off this month and will continue throughout the year.
The GTE Foundation recently awarded the American Foundation for the Blind a $25,000 grant to support a one-year project that will develop and test strategies for making tables and other such data accessible to blind people using screen readers to navigate the World Wide Web.
The Mississippi School for the Blind is having a reunion/founders' day celebration September 2-5. Anyone who attended the school is welcome. For more information, write or call Barbara White Hadnott, 225 Dewitt Ave., Jackson, MS 39203; phone (601) 355-6318.
"Party Line" is a monthly cassette magazine. You can get a free monthly subscription from the Wilson Tape Lending Library Service, P.O. Box 1836, Mableton, GA 30126. If you wish to talk on the magazine, send a 90-minute cassette with your message (up to five minutes) with a $6 contribution to Sanford Rosenthal, 3360 NE 33rd St., Apt. 4, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308.
Would you like to play baseball on your computer? You can with version 13 of the World Series Baseball Game and Information System. You can also review the history of baseball, learn who's in the Hall of Fame, check out baseball records, and try your hand at a 1,000-question quiz. The game comes with 262 teams. It costs $15 for new users, $5 for updates. Send your check to Harry Hollingsworth, 692 S. Sheraton Dr., Akron, OH 44319; phone (330) 644-2421, or e-mail [email protected]
Cynthia Javurek will record printed material onto cassette tape. She reserves the right to refuse material. She works on the minimum wage scale. Call her during the day at (618) 345-5715.
"The Travel Magazine" is a quarterly publication available in braille and on tape. Subscriptions cost $32.95 annually. For a sample copy, send $1 for cassette and $5 for braille to: The Travel Magazine, P.O. Box 24236, Cincinnati, OH 45224.
Regarding the Congressional budget debate
The comments of D. Alfred Ducharme, ACB's former director of governmental affairs, in his article, "Congressional Budget Debacle Injures Blind People," (December 1998) were shortsighted. While he criticized the "pork" in the recently passed federal spending bill, unfortunately, it sounded like he was whining louder than most of the piglets at what he would claim to be a wrongly subsidized hog farm. Please don't get me wrong, I do not support inefficient or misguided subsidies, but as an economist, I appreciate sound governmental investments in industry research that increases the productivity of our agricultural and overall economy, making it possible for the corporate and individual taxpayers (including farmers) to fund worthwhile programs for blind people. I believe Ducharme does not understand the need for investments such as grasshopper research, a lettuce geneticist in Salinas, bee researchers, or manure handling and disposal in Mississippi, and that they are impractical for the agricultural industry to make directly, since the benefits are too long-term and difficult to limit to an individual investor. In this case, our government's role is to collect taxes from the entire industry and make investments for the industry and public good, somewhat like what we ask it to do for blind people. Because of previously subsidized agricultural research and development, the U.S. agribusiness sector is one of the most productive in the world, assuring us of cheaper food and fiber, relatively safe and high quality food, a significant trade surplus, and a larger tax base for the eventual benefit of many blind people.
Contrary to Ducharme's understanding of the world, we can no longer isolate ourselves from both the needs of others outside of our paper boundaries and the investment opportunity in other countries as well. Every one of us is connected to the economic well-being of all our trading partners. In answer to the question, "whose country is this anyway?" I believe it is ours and it is sometimes in our best interest as Americans and humans to spend our tax dollars to help people in Indonesia, Korea, or Russia.
Sen. John McCain believes he is trying to help improve people's lives in America. He is trying to do it by making prudent investments in our economy. I believe we would get further toward our cause to help blind people gain equal accessibility and find quality jobs if we explained to him and other legislators how we, too, can improve our economy's productivity. It sells better than whining about the prosperity of others.
-- Vernon M. Crowder, Clovis, Calif.
Regarding cellular phones
I would like to respond to something in the March "Braille Forum" in which Deb Cook was asking about experiences with digital telephones (especially Sprint PCS). I have had this service for about a year. I think Sprint is a good company. They will try to do what they can. They have nice, clear connections.
The problems I have are connected to the reading of the screens. I explained this when I first bought my phone and asked about free directory assistance just like I have on my home phone. They indicated they did not have a policy like this but I could call each time I received a directory assistance charge and it would be removed from my bill. So far, I have not used this service.
Another problem I have is getting the phone unlocked in order to make a call. I believe, although it is still guess work, that in order to unlock the phone one must turn the phone on and then wait about half a minute. I have had the phone for a year and am just now figuring this out. Before I stumbled on this method, it took five minutes or so before I could get the phone unlocked at times. Another thing I must do if I want to be sure the phone is unlocked for receiving an important call is to call myself and see if the phone works.
As I understand it, the Sprint PCS phone has many nice features which I simply can't use. The only thing I can do with it is to turn it on, answer it if it rings, or make a call by punching in each number desired. I don't even know how to use redial or any of the other features available. It would be important to have the instruction manual in a format accessible for the blind. The biggest problem I have had is trying to describe the problems I have so that someone can understand what I need.
What would really be nice is a phone with some audible signals so you know what is happening. I also think free directory assistance would be important.
The second thing I want to discuss is the giving of e-mail addresses only. The majority of blind people are still not on the Internet, and in most cases this is neither because of laziness, stubbornness, or choice, as many articles in this magazine imply.
A fully sighted friend of ours just drove all over St. Louis because of a problem she had with her computer. After about a week of problems, the service technician finally said she had to dial '9' before using it. I'm still not sure the computer works.
In the past several years I have seen several blind people play with computers with access technology but I have never seen anyone really accomplish something with one. I consider myself doing well to write this letter on my Type 'n Speak. I know everyone tells me I could get on the Internet just with this. But it sounds so complicated and foreign to me that I have simply passed on it.
I would like a full computer with all the bells and whistles. But my wife and I no longer work and I am not in a position to spend thousands of dollars to get what I need only to have it sit here gathering dust because no one can figure it out.
It has been my experience even with the Type 'n Speak that many times the service technicians at Blazie can't answer your questions. I think when I ask a question that the technician needs to ask me a question to guide me to the beginning. If they simply answer my question I still won't get the results because I'm starting in the middle of the problem. So we need to start at the beginning and work out the problem from that point.
Remember, many of us never had the opportunity to learn this in school because computers were not in existence then. Now it sounds so mind-boggling and expensive. Many of us are simply not in a position to explore this area of communication. -- Blair R. Gleisberg, Kirkwood, Mo.
For many years, the Missouri Rehabilitation Services for the Blind had been dominated by directors and staff who were either members of the National Federation of the Blind and its Missouri affiliate, or were sympathetic to NFB's goals and objectives. Counseling staff from RSB would routinely give blind clients recruiting and other promotional and informational material about NFB and its state affiliate without ever giving such clients similar material about the American Council of the Blind and its state affiliate. Over the years, ACB and the Missouri Council of the Blind had complained about the exclusive recruitment advantage routinely given NFB by many RSB counselors. Finally, in 1994, the director instituted a new policy (amended in 1995) which stated that all counselors should tell clients that there were two rival consumer organizations of the blind which might assist them in their transition to blindness and that if the client was willing to sign a release, the client's name and contact information would be forwarded to NFBM and MCB. Under this new policy, introductory recruitment and informational materials from both organizations which were pre-approved by RSB would be routinely included in welcoming packets given to new clients. However, the new policy stripped from NFB and NFBM their previously enjoyed exclusive recruitment right among rehab clients, and both organizations were greatly displeased with its implementation.
In 1996, NFB and NFBM filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri (National Federation of the Blind of Missouri v. Carmen K. Schulze) challenging the legality of the new policy as implemented on at least three separate legal grounds. The plaintiffs alleged that they had been discriminated against on the basis of disability in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; that their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, expression, association and assembly had been unconstitutionally infringed upon; and that RSB had denied NFB and NFBM equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
The case was decided on cross motions for summary judgment. On September 11, 1998, district judge Rodney W. Sippel delivered his memorandum opinion granting summary judgment to the defendant on all claims and denying in its entirety the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. With respect to the plaintiff's claim under the Rehabilitation Act, the court pointed out that the rights under the act are really those of RSB's blind clients and beneficiaries. Although the NFB and NFBM contended that they represent and speak for the entire blind community of Missouri, the court swept aside these often-made contentions by holding that the plaintiffs had simply not provided any real substantive evidence that they did indeed represent the rights of individual clients. The plaintiffs did not have the standing to raise such claims. This court decision is very important, as it clearly rejects the NFB's and NFBM's often-repeated claim that they speak for all blind citizens of Missouri.
With respect to the First Amendment claims, the court went through a lengthy analysis, saying that public facilities and programs can be open fora, limited free speech fora, or restricted free speech fora. The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to present any evidence that RSB has in any way opened its facilities or programs as open or limited free speech fora. The court therefore held that RSB's facilities and programs presumptively remain restricted free speech fora, where RSB can place reasonable limitations and procedures upon expression of speech by outside parties such as the plaintiffs. The court held that the restrictions on NFB's and NFBM's free speech inherent in RSB's policy are measured, balanced, and applied equally to all interested outside parties. The court also held that the policy does not in this setting unconstitutionally impinge upon the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights.
Finally, with respect to the plaintiffs' equal protection claims, the court pointed out that the federal courts are split as to whether intent must be proven to sustain an equal protection claim based on disability distinctions. Even if such claims could be proven under a disparate impact non-intentional theory, the court held that distinctions imposed by a state agency must be assessed under the rational basis test, not under a strict scrutiny test. The court also held that RSB's policy, far from treating the plaintiffs in an inferior manner, is actually designed to and does treat all interested parties in an equal and consistent fashion designed to protect RSB's clients' privacy and confidentiality rights while at the same time giving equal and fair access to consenting clients to both consumer advocacy organizations.
This decision is a bellwether decision in favor of fair play and equal treatment of competing or rival consumer membership organizations of the blind. The opinion squarely rejects NFB's and NFBM's unsupported, bald-faced assertion that they, and only they, speak for all blind people. We in ACB can take heart from the court's decision, and then go on about our business of recruiting and assisting RSB's newly blinded clients in Missouri on the fair, equal and level playing field afforded us by the RSB's policy now upheld by the district court. I applaud the vision and tenacity of the Missouri Council of the Blind in steadfastly holding to its position in favor of fair and equal treatment of all consumer advocacy membership organizations of the blind in Missouri and earning that level playing field.
FOR SALE: IBM computer, one year old. Comes with ZoomText, Open Book, JAWS, and 1,000 megabytes of memory. Asking $3,500. Call Rosemir at (510) 233-6105.
FOR SALE: Toshiba laptop with Synphonix speech board and Artic Vision. Asking $100. DECtalk stand-alone speech synthesizer version 2.1, $100. Braille 'n Speak original version, $150. Perkins electric brailler, $300. Contact Charles Reichardt at (607) 431-9606.
FOR SALE: Optacon 2. It's five years old and in good condition; hardly used. Comes with two batteries, a recharger, leather carrying case, and manuals in braille and print. Asking $1,000 or best offer. Contact Laura Collins at [email protected] phone (605) 388-3056, or write her at 4455 W. Sunnyside Dr., Rapid City, SD 57701.
FOR SALE: Accent external synthesizer. Excellent condition. Call Paul Anderson at (918) 273-0409 after 5 p.m. Central time.
FOR SALE: Completely reconditioned Perkins brailler. Asking $300. Payment plan negotiable. Contact Nino Pacini evenings and weekends at (313) 885-7330 or e-mail him at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Aladdin CCTV. Asking $900. Contact Gladys Kuhn at 2380 Quincy Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262; phone (760) 323-0237.
FOR SALE: Voyager DP-11 computer screen enlarger with CCTV unit. This unit is 15 years old and in good working order. Make an offer. Contact Ed Hersh at (717) 871-2463 after 5 p.m. or via e-mail at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Two Humanware speech synthesizers. One is a stand- alone Keynote Gold; the other, a PCMCIA card for notebook computers. Both are upgraded to the newest chips and speak in high-quality voices. The notebook speech card is multilingual as well. Asking $500 each or best offer. Call (703) 812-9653 or e- mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: Used Perkins brailler in very good condition. Includes eraser. Asking $350. Contact Roger Brannon at (850) 877- 9554.
WANTED: Kurzweil Personal Reader or similar machine. Contact Warren Williams at (662) 627-2366.
WANTED: Interpoint full-page slate. Contact Nino Pacini evenings and weekends at (313) 885-7330 or e-mail him at [email protected]
WANTED: Used braille writer. Contact J.V. Thurston, P.O. Box 3042, Lacey, WA 98509-3042.
WANTED: Braille, large print or talking games for donation or reasonable price. Contact Robert Albanese at P.O. Box 43, Lake Placid, FL 33862; phone (941) 465-6955.
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