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, Ed Hersh's telephone number was listed incorrectly ("High Tech Swap Shop," June 1999). The correct number is (717) 872-2463.
(Editor's Note: What follows is the text of Paul Edwards' speech to the convention on July 4.)
For the first time since I have become president of ACB, I have the opportunity to speak to you on the Fourth of July. Independence Day ought to have a special significance for people who are blind, and I think it does. In fact, ACB was born for many of the same reasons that caused the United States to break away from England.
In 1999, the independence of people who are blind is still an issue, which is why the American Council of the Blind continues to be crucial in the lives of all blind people in this country. In a very real sense, what the American Council of the Blind has done over the past year is to declare our independence and reaffirm the right of blind people to that independence. As I report to you on what we have been doing over the past year, I hope you will join me as we celebrate the various declarations of independence that we have made.
Perhaps the most important and pervasive threat to the independence of people who are blind lies in the ongoing effort of narrow-minded, ill-advised bureaucrats and legislators to undermine the provision of services to blind people through separate agencies. Over the past year, the American Council of the Blind and the rest of the blindness community fought such efforts in Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, California, South Dakota, South Carolina and Kansas. That's frightening. I personally participated in a march in North Carolina where nearly 600 blind people and their friends emphatically and unequivocally expressed their desire for independence through appropriate service. The American Council of the Blind will continue to oppose any and all efforts to limit the provision of appropriate services to blind people delivered by people trained to serve blind people, preferably in an agency that specializes in serving people who are blind. We cannot wait, however, till new threats arise. We must speak whenever we can in favor of separate services and must actively work in those states where separate agencies do not exist to encourage their creation. We in the American Council of the Blind know that now only 26 states have specialized agencies. We must begin to make that number grow until it reaches 50. Every blind person in this country has the right to be served by a separate agency staffed by trained specialists. We declare that this is one of the things that independence is about!
One of the affiliates of the American Council of the Blind is the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America. During the past year, the American Council of the Blind worked closely with them to prepare another declaration of independence. We prepared and adopted priorities for the Randolph-Sheppard program in a day- long meeting hosted by the American Council of the Blind in February. The American Council of the Blind and RSVA believe that there is a real need to strengthen the vending program and to create more opportunities for blind vendors throughout the country. We invited the whole blindness community to join us in developing these priorities that we knew would assure that the program would grow and prosper in the new millennium. Many organizations in the blindness community chose not to participate in our deliberations. That's their loss. Some other organizations chose not to sign on to the priorities that were adopted. The American Council of the Blind and Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America will stand tall because we had the courage to demand that the vending program be strengthened and protected! The American Council of the Blind will work over the next year to see that the priorities we adopted will move forward and any organization that stands in our way should know that we will not rest until the vending program lives up to the high ideals that such leaders as Durward McDaniel had for it.
This year, the American Council of the Blind adopted accessible pedestrian signals as one of its priorities. We published a pedestrian safety handbook, and, through Julie Carroll of our environmental access committee and many others, we have played a leading role in assuring that standards are developed that will include and encourage the use of accessible pedestrian signals. One of our affiliates as well, the California Council of the Blind, has just reached two agreements, settlements with the Wells-Fargo Bank and another one. This will assure the deployment throughout California of the first generation of talking ATMs. And we will work to assure that California is not the only state where blind people can independently access ATMs! Debbie Cook and our information access committee have worked equally hard to make certain that the needs of blind people are included in guidelines concerning access to information. In all of these areas, the American Council of the Blind is asserting its right as blind people to be independent in a society that we declare has an obligation to be accessible to all citizens, including those of us who are blind.
As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, let us celebrate the independence it implies. But let us not rest, because there's still much to do, and ACB will work to extend the coverage of this law so that it protects blind people from discrimination that is not yet addressed. Before this year is out, we will fight to assure that the ATM section of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines that is now reserved is being applied.
We will work to assure that tactile warnings at dangerous intersections become as inherent to the ADA as are wheelchair ramps. The American Council of the Blind declares that every person in this country has the right to be independent in the built environment, and we will not rest until we write laws that assure that the environment is as friendly as we can make it.
This year too, the American Council of the Blind issued a challenge to state agency directors. We published a set of principles that we believe ought to inform and underpin the way state agencies and blind people interact. At the spring meeting of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, a resolution was introduced, asking that body to adopt these principles as theirs. They chose not to pass that resolution. Now the American Council of the Blind will ask each and every one of our state affiliates to assure that every single state adopts these principles as the very heart of the philosophy of rehabilitation, whether the agencies like it or not! We declare our independence from state agencies that patronize their clients, expect too little of blind employees, denigrate consumer organizations and refuse to cooperate to work on issues that the blind of their state support. The days of servility are over. Agencies for the blind are our agencies, and are intended to enhance our independence. Let each state affiliate begin now to work for the adoption of ACB's principles in their state. If you're able to do that, you will be able to in effect assure that rehabilitation makes the progress that so far it has not. Independent blind people can do no less.
This year, ladies and gentlemen, the American Council of the Blind began to work on what I believe is an exciting initiative, and I suspect that Dr. Ponchillia would agree. We have contracted with Oral Miller, our former executive director, to begin to assure that people who are blind have access to recreational opportunities in their communities. Far too often, communities do not include blind people in their recreation programs and planning. Too often people who are blind don't know they have rights to participate in recreation programs. How can people who are blind perceive themselves as involved in their communities when they are systematically excluded from recreational programs? Independence, we declare, means more than just the freedom to work. It also includes the freedom to fully participate in all activities in the community in which we live.
This year the American Council of the Blind has continued to make its presence felt on the Internet. Close to 200 people are on our ACB listserv, and our web site is being looked at by blind people from all over the world. We recognize that our web site must be an example to others of how to create a web site that can be used independently by anyone who chooses to visit us. We declare that independence for blind people means we must have access to the information on the Internet and access to training on how to use it.
We will continue to work this year to assure that the older blind program is adequately funded. More than half of the blind people in this country are over the age of 60, and most of them receive services that are inadequate at best. We declare that independence for older blind people means having access to sufficient training to assure that blindness may never be a reason to enter a nursing home.
At the other end of the spectrum, we've worked actively to promote the appropriate education of blind children and their parents. We are proud to have the National Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired with us again this year. The American Council of the Blind remains committed to protecting the rights of blind children to the most appropriate educational placement available. We must and will assure that children learn braille because we declare that independence for blind children means being able to function at the same level as can their peers who are not blind. Our role must be to support parents and assure that blind children learn that it's really pretty cool to be blind. Unless they learn to know us and value us, children will never learn that lesson. It's up to us to make certain that children know that blindness isn't horrible, that it is something not only to be lived with but with which one can thrive.
The American Council of the Blind will continue to build relationships with blind people outside of our country. I'm proud to tell you that we have with us at our convention this year representatives from several foreign countries. Later in the week you will hear from our special international guest, Mr. Michael Simpson, who is president of Blind Citizens of Australia. Blind Citizens of Australia was kind enough to host me a couple of years ago, and I learned a tremendous amount about the way things are done in Australia, and about quality beer. You'll also have an opportunity to get to know many of our other international guests. They come from Japan, Canada and Sweden. Later this week, too, you'll have the chance to hear from a group of blind musicians who are with us from Sweden. And from all that I've heard, ladies and gentlemen, this group really rocks!
We must remember that while we have much to do in this country, we are fortunate to have gained the independence that we have. We cannot afford to look inward and must be conscious that blind people in other parts of the world are far less well off than we are. We declare that independence for blind people cannot be limited to one country or even one hemisphere. We must seek to assure that people who are blind everywhere can be fully integrated into their communities.
Within the American Council of the Blind there has also been change. We have hired a new executive director, who you will hear from shortly. Last year we welcomed three new board members, and this convention will see us elect at least one new officer. That's because Steve Speicher has chosen not to run for his post as second vice president. I'd like to acknowledge all the hard work Steve has done for ACB. While I didn't always agree with him, I very much admired and respected Steve's attention to detail and his vision of ACB. I hope I can entice Steve to remain active and involved at the national level. He will be missed!
I must also report to you that I received today a letter of resignation from the chair of the board of publications, Carol McCarl. She was the very first person that I appointed to anything as president. So she started virtually synonymous with me. Her letter indicates that work with Blindskills needs to take more of her time. She has brought a stature and dignity to her position as chair of the board of publications that will be hard to replace. As the president, I'd like to say thank you very much, Carol, for sticking with it.
As your president, I have had the opportunity to visit with many of you this year in state affiliates. I have had the privilege of being with you in your states and coming to understand the problems that you have at the state and local level. I want to thank all of you for your hospitality and for your grassroots efforts to tell ACB's story. We are a hug with a friend, a shoulder to cry on, a strong arm to lean on and a place where laughter is allowed. So, on this Fourth of July 1999, let us give thanks most of all for each other! Thank you.
As ACB winds up the 20th century, there are many accomplishments of which we can be proud. The seeds we have planted in environmental access, the beginnings of a new relationship with agencies serving the blind based upon real partnership, our efforts to secure a meaningful place in the information age amongst other initiatives are all taking hold and starting to bear fruit. Indeed, the name of ACB has become firmly associated with progress and partnership with those of good will and concern for making the experience of living in our nation a full opportunity to go as far as our dreams will take us. Even as we celebrate our success in this century, let us look forward to the next with that classic ACB sense of optimism and determination that will surely make our Kentucky 2000 convention shine!
This year, the national office will work hand in hand with our ACB convention committee to put together what we aim to be the best convention in our history. This is only fitting since we should start the next millennium with a view of where we are going based upon the values that have served us so well, the achievements we have fought to gain, and our ACB people who have stayed the course through thick and thin.
So stay tuned to "The Braille Forum" and the Washington Connection as convention-related activities take shape. We have many things to do before Kentucky 2000 can get under way and we ask all affiliate presidents and officers to start thinking about what your affiliate needs to do and who will be helping to get it done.
The national office is gearing up to collect and move information earlier, more efficiently and more often in the service of a great convention. We will work to streamline much of the work that needs to get done and we will do it in partnership with all the great committee chairs and other folks with responsibilities over the coming year.
The last year of this century will be a very busy one for ACB. We are getting a head start on our many functions such as the legislative seminar, the mid-winter meeting, and the many other services we will need to perform for the organization. With the great people and dedication we have in ACB, get ready for a great year ahead and a super convention to share our success of this century and to celebrate the start of ACB and our partners in the next!
The 2000 convention will be held at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky. July 1-8 (may be extended; please watch future editions of "The Braille Forum").
Address: Galt House Hotel, 140 N. Fourth St., Louisville, KY 40202; phone (502) 589-5200 or (outside Kentucky) (800) 626-1814 (in Kentucky, call toll-free (800) 962-0150).
Room rates: $65 per night plus tax
Floyd R. Cargill, 76, died at Lipe's Private Care Home, Springfield, Ill., on Thursday, April 29.
Floyd was born in Makanda, Illinois (Jackson County), the son of George and Alice Johns Cargill. He is survived by his wife, Joanna; one son, Meredith A. Cargill of Jacksonville, Ill.; one brother, Frank Cargill of Queen City, Texas; and several nieces and nephews.
Floyd graduated from the high school of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (then called the Illinois School for the Blind). He received his bachelor's degree in political science and his master's in guidance and counseling at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
He taught for a year at the Illinois Visually Handicapped Institute in Chicago. Then he returned to the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired as the social studies teacher and sponsor of the student council. In 1954, he married Joanna Levitt; the following year, Meredith was born.
Floyd moved to Springfield in 1961 as the Chief of Services for the Blind in the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services. He retired in 1984.
Floyd was a member of First Assembly of God Church, the American Council of the Blind, the Illinois Council of the Blind, the Springfield District Association of the Blind, and the Sharps 'n' Flats Organ Club. He served as chairman of the Braille Authority of North America, which monitors the setting of standards for the braille codes, and co-chaired the international conference to unify the braille code for all users of English Braille. He has served as committee chairman of Scout Troop 38 in Springfield, president of the Sharps 'n' Flats Organ Club, chairman of the Jacksonville Council of Exceptional Children, and executive secretary of the Illinois Council of the Blind.
Floyd was a founder, first president, life member and editor of the newsletter of the Braille Revival League. This organization was formed to promote the production, teaching and use of braille. He also helped establish the Illinois Association of Blind Teachers, followed by the National Association of Blind Teachers, of which he was president and life member.
Floyd was involved with his son in the Boy Scouts. He took the inaugural hike over the Heritage Trail near Jacksonville, the pilgrimage to Lincoln's Tomb, and the 21-mile walk from New Salem to Springfield on the Lincoln Trail. He enjoyed working with tools, reading, music and travel. On the day of his retirement, he took the family on a 13-week tour of western Europe.
He has received various awards for his service to the blind, including the George Card Award from the American Council of the Blind and the Mary McCann Award from the Illinois Council of the Blind. In recognition of his long and dedicated service to the blind people of Illinois, the Floyd R. Cargill Scholarship was set up in his honor.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Floyd R. Cargill Scholarship Fund, Illinois Council of the Blind, P.O. Box 1336, Springfield, IL 62705.
What does one say following the loss of a friend and colleague at the age of only 44 years? Cheryl Handy (or Cherrie, as she strongly preferred) was both of those things, as well as my wife for five and a half years. She was not the easiest person to get to know, but once you knew her and she knew you, there was no one more loyal or supportive.
Cherrie was a strong individual with very definite opinions and tastes. Along with her abiding passion for fashion, Cherrie's other consuming interest was guide dogs, having used a dog since her college days at California State University-Long Beach during the mid-1970s. She believed fervently that a guide dog offered the most effective means of mobility for the blind, and much of her life's work was devoted to this belief. Relatively early in Cherrie's adult life she, her husband at the time and another couple started a short-lived guide dog school in the state of Washington. While ultimately unsuccessful, this dedication and commitment to her chosen cause continued to be apparent in subsequent endeavors.
Cherrie Handy served for several years as a consumer member of the board of Guide Dogs of America. She was elected to the board of directors of both Guide Dog Users of California and Guide Dog Users, Inc. She served one term (1991 to 1993) as GDUC president, and two terms (1992 to 1996) as GDUI president. In the latter capacity, GDUI membership skyrocketed to the 1,000 mark, an accomplishment of which Cherrie was especially proud.
As GDUI president, Cherrie was instrumental in obtaining ACB's financial and organizational support to lift the three- month quarantine restriction formerly imposed by the state of Hawaii against guide dogs. Through her efforts, funding was gathered from a number of sources, including several guide dog schools hitherto unwilling to get involved in this 10-years-plus struggle. Such financial support culminated in a settlement between the plaintiffs (including GDUI) and the state of Hawaii in April 1998.
On a personal note, Cherrie recognized that Hawaii's quarantine was an issue with significant ADA ramifications. One late afternoon, I arrived home from work to her greeting: "Hi! Get on the phone and help me convince Michael Lilly [the attorney handling the lawsuit] that this is an ADA case." I did so; and after an hour of rather intense discussion, he was convinced that the quarantine could be successfully argued on ADA Title II grounds.
At its annual convention in July, Guide Dog Users, Inc. presented the Moffitt/Gleitz Award to Cherrie Handy "in posthumous recognition of her outstanding service to GDUI and her tireless commitment to the canine and human partnership." This was particularly poignant since her father was in attendance to accept the award.
Cherrie Handy passed away early on the morning of June 14th, following the recurrence of the cancer which was first diagnosed and treated in 1994. Throughout the past year, when cancer was again detected, Cherrie steadfastly believed that she could beat it, even after voluntarily choosing hospice care over further chemotherapy in April. Approximately 50 people participated in a "celebration of life" memorial at her apartment on June 19th. Pursuant to Cherrie's wishes, she was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea from her father's boat on June 27th. Some 35 friends and family members attended this final tribute to her life and memory.
Those of you who wish to honor and remember Cherrie Handy's dedication to the cause of guide dogs may do so by making a financial contribution to Guide Dog Users, Inc. Make your check payable to GDUI and indicate in the ledger that it is for the "Cherrie Handy Memorial Fund." Please mail your contribution to GDUI's treasurer, Jane Sheehan, 14311 Astrodome Dr., Silver Spring, MD 20906-2245.
I, along with her many friends and colleagues in ACB, as well as the hundreds of guide dog users whose lives Cherrie Handy touched, are proud and honored to have known and worked with her during an all-too-brief life. She will be remembered both for the victory in Hawaii and the growth of the special-interest affiliate she loved so much. We shall miss Cherrie's friendship, dedication and passion tremendously in the years to come. Farewell.
If you believe what you see and hear in the media, everyone in the world has e-mail. Right? In fact, chances are the vast majority of "Braille Forum" readers don't have e-mail, and many of them don't want it.
For those who do want it but can't afford a computer and a modem or don't want to have to learn the ins and outs of Internet computing, there is e-mail from CUE Information Systems, a Texas-based company that lets you dial a toll-free number on your phone to hear any e-mail messages you may have received read aloud to you by a synthetic voice. How It Works
When you sign on with CUE Information Systems, you actually get an e-mail account that allows anyone to send you e-mail. Of course, you can't receive file attachments. But any plain-text e-mail message comes through just fine. You don't need a computer to receive e-mail, however. You simply call the number you get when you sign up, tap a couple of buttons to get to the e-mail message section, and listen to each message as is it read to you. When you've heard the message, you can elect to keep it, delete it or even forward it to someone else.
You don't need a computer to let you know when you've received e-mail either. The service can actually call any phone number you designate and verbally alert you to the fact that you just got an e-mail message. If you're not close to your phone, the system continues attempting to let you know you have mail for up to 12 hours.
You can also have voice mail and a host of other telephone-based services. There is a step-by-step help system that lets you learn how to set up your account. The tutorial is easy to understand, and you don't need to know Internet jargon to be successful as a CUE subscriber. Telephone Blues
You may not want to mess with a keyboard and some arguably esoteric Internet commands to get e-mail, but you'll pay a price for that. The CUE e-mail system uses a female voice to read your e-mail. There's nothing wrong with that, but I found the voice hard to listen to after a short period. I understood it for the most part, but its unnatural quality brought on a good case of mental fatigue very quickly.
I had a problem with the lack of control the caller has over the message. Assume you get an e-mail message from someone whose address you want to write down for future reference. There's no way with the CUE system to have that address or any other part of the message spelled to you. Sometimes it's vital to be able to have parts of the message spelled back to you, especially if you're listening in a noisy room or over a speaker phone.
Admittedly, those of us who are familiar with dial-in news services are rather spoiled by those services. When using most or all of the dial-up news services available today, a touch of the telephone keypad lets you move freely up and down the message in segments as small as a word or letter at a time. If you're expecting that kind of flexibility with CUE, forget it. It's not there.
The dial-up services also let you change the pitch and rate of the synthetic voice you're listening to. Again, not so with CUE. The system would be much more useful if you had more control over how the message is presented to you. You can't even change punctuation levels, so it's sometimes difficult to determine where a forwarded message begins, especially if it is interspersed with comments from another receiver, as is often the case with e-mail.
Of course, the obvious advantage is the portability of the system. You don't need to carry a laptop around or try to find a modem port on a phone at a hotel or in an airport. You can check your e-mail from any phone that can make a connection to the toll-free number. It's a great way to travel light and stay informed. I never lost e-mail during the three-month trial period in which I used the system. I also took advantage of the voice mail service. A fax service is also available that allows you to fax your incoming e-mails to a fax machine you designate. I did not use the system's faxing capability. I never had problems dialing into the system, and I never encountered any busy signals or other difficulties. CUE is extremely reliable, and that counts for a great deal. You can get used to the sound of the voice and benefit from the system's dependability. There aren't a lot of convoluted menus to deal with when retrieving e-mail. So making a quick call even from a pay phone is simple enough. I doubt seriously that the system works with pulse-dial or rotary phones, but those are pretty much non-existent these days anyway.
You'll pay between 15 and 25 cents per minute for usage, depending on your volume of use. The system bills in six-second increments with no minimum charges. That price includes all services offered including voice mail, faxing, long-distance calling, and e-mail.
For more information, contact Patricia Connor at CUE Information Systems, (972) 623-3366 or visit http://www.cuevoice.com
Last summer a close friend asked me to attend an arts and
crafts show with her. I found a yard sign that fit our four-
legged family member perfectly and could not pass it up. It is
in the shape of a dog bone with the words, "Spoiled rotten dog
lives here." Yes, Citrus, like my four previous guide dogs, is
spoiled. But my definition of spoiled is being well cared for,
extremely loved, and held in very high esteem. I have told
people many times that a guide dog's dedication and devotion to
his/her user, as well as the service provided, are sufficient
reasons for spoiling one. Knowing what a special place dogs have
in my heart, a friend sent the following humorous piece to me.
Top Ten Reasons a Dog Won't Use a Computer
10. T0o0p hqa5rxd 6tt0[o 6t[p3e 2w9igtjh ;pa3wds (too hard to type with paws)
9. "Sit" and "stay" were hard enough; "delete" and "save" are out of the question.
8. Saliva-coated floppy disks refuse to work.
7. Three words: Carpal Paw Syndrome.
6. Involuntary tail wagging is a dead giveaway that he's browsing www.purina.com
5. Fire hydrant icon simply frustrating.
4. Can't help attacking the screen when he hears "You've got mail."
3. Too messy to mark every web site he visits.
2. "Fetch" command not available on all platforms.
1. Can't stick his head out of Windows 95.
AAVL OFFICIAL AND GROWING
The Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss is now official, active and growing. The group advocates, challenges, educates, enlightens, informs, provokes and welcomes anyone who is interested in the causes and problems of vision loss and aging. Dues are only $10 per year. For an application form, or general information, contact Al Gayzagian via e-mail at [email protected], or via telephone at (617) 926-7641.
OLD DOMINION CONVENTION
The Old Dominion Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired will be holding its convention October 22-24 at the Holiday Inn, 725 Woodlake Dr. at Greenbrier Pkwy. in Chesapeake. For reservations, call (757) 523-1500 or (800) 465-4329. Room rates are $72 per night plus tax. Early registration is $60; late registration, $70. For more information, contact Linda Broady- Myers at (804) 273-9616.
So you're in the market for a braille notetaker, but you don't want a Braille 'N Speak. You've heard about other products, but you have some concerns about them as well. Don't make a final decision until you've seen the Braille Companion manufactured by PulseData and distributed in the United States by HumanWare.
I got a close-up look at the Braille Companion earlier this year, and what I saw generally impressed me. First, don't be confused by the name of this unit. It's not a notetaker with a braille display. It is known as the Braille Companion because it uses a braillewriter keyboard. Neither PulseData nor HumanWare would comment at press time regarding whether the unit would someday include a braille display.
"OK," you say, "so it doesn't have a braille display. Why should I want one?" Actually, there are some compelling motivators for buying a Braille Companion. Versatility, good documentation, and ease of use are just three reasons you should look at this one before you make a decision.
The unit's layout is pretty straightforward. If you're an experienced Braille 'N Speak user, you'll feel quite comfortable with the Companion almost immediately. Many of the commands you're familiar with as a Braille 'N Speak user are understood by the Braille Companion. Upon opening the hinged lid, you find a braille keyboard similar to the Braille 'N Speak, but with one interesting difference. The Companion features a divided space bar. Instead of being at the bottom center of the unit, the space bar actually spans the breadth of the keyboard. The left space bar is at the bottom of the keys for dots one, two, and three. The right space bar is at the bottom of the keys used for dots four, five, and six. The device doesn't care which space bar you use when writing. While all this sounds a bit strange, it actually gives the braillist more options with regard to how you hold your hands on the keyboard. While I was a bit ambivalent about the feature at first, I found that after some use, the divided space bar feature helped both my braillewriting speed and my accuracy.
The unit I tested also had a small flat screen monitor in the lid which could be activated or disabled at will. The display might be useful for someone who needs sighted assistance with the unit or for a sighted person to look at what you're typing for whatever reason, but I personally found the screen more novel than necessary. In fact, I disabled it as quickly as I knew how so I could save on battery life.
At First Glance
The Braille Companion has a menu interface. Immediately after turning it on, you can move the cursor or arrow keys up and down or from side to side to hear the various menu options available to you. Menus are almost always the enemy of proficient braillists. Mercifully enough, you can jump from menu to menu and from task to task quickly by tapping the first letter of the program you want to run. For example, if you want to begin using the word processor, you could simply type "W" to jump to the word processor menu. A single keystroke lets you jump from your current task to the last one you were working in. This is truly helpful if you're jumping quickly between the word processor and the calculator, for example.
The word processor is quite robust. With it, you can create, edit, and save files. You can export them to a WordPerfect file format as well. You can spell check them and do regular cut and paste operations similar to what you might expect with a computer-based word processor.
In addition to the word processor, which appears to be a central function of the Companion, other features abound. There is a calendar program, a calculator, a telecommunications program for use with a modem, and a diary program that lets you plan your day and sounds alarms for you as appointment reminders.
You can also invoke MS-DOS and work in that environment if you wish, and the Companion offers an excellent file manager program that lets you search for files, delete files, and more. The Speech
The Companion uses a speech chip that you've doubtless heard on other products distributed by HumanWare. Speech parameters are easily set, and I found the speech extremely understandable. Admittedly, I may not be the best judge of that kind of thing. I'm used to some pretty mechanical speech running at some rather high rates, so you need to test the Companion's speech for yourself. My only minor complaint with the speech was the rather clogged-sinus sound of the speech. While the diction, inflection, and rate are excellent, I found myself wanting to pass the synthesizer a Kleenex, especially after I'd been listening to it for a while.
I like the way the different tasks of which the Companion is capable are so seamlessly integrated. Many of the features are designed to help you automate several tasks that could otherwise be tedious. There are templates for creating envelopes and letterhead, for example. The unit also has an address book feature that lets you include phone numbers and addresses. You can easily and quickly search for any number in your list even if you don't remember all the information about that contact. You can search on any part of the contact information. If all you remember is the first name, you can simply enter that as the search criteria, and it is quickly located. Addresses in your address book can be instantly used to create envelopes or even labels.
The Companion uses a PCM/CIA card for file storage. I found the unit I tested to be reliable even in those times when I would shut the unit down without saving. I don't recall losing any work. There is a battery backup to ensure that information you've saved doesn't disappear when the main battery dies. Additionally, you get plenty of notice from the Companion regarding the status of both the main and the backup battery.
While I didn't put it through all the paces, the telecommunications program looked relatively robust. Of course, it's DOS-based, so if you plan to surf the Internet, you'll want a shell account -- one that allows you to use the Internet in DOS. I could see no reason why the Companion couldn't be used to surf the web if you use a text-only browser. What Could Make It Better?
One of the big differences I noticed about the Braille Companion almost immediately is its weight. The unit I used included the small print display screen in the lid, which I'm sure added something to the weight. I realize weight isn't all that important, but if you're carrying this unit along with other things in a briefcase, the weight of individual objects inside can accumulate quickly.
I found myself worrying a bit about the fragile nature of the lid latch as well. It's based on a rather small spring which looked like it could easily slip out of place if bumped by something else you were carrying.
Even with the screen disabled, I felt the battery life of the Braille Companion was somewhat shorter than most Braille 'N Speak units I've used. I got between six and nine hours of battery life from the unit between charges. The company asserts that batteries can last from 10 to 12 hours between charges. Some AA cells are used as a battery backup for the main battery. These are user-replaceable batteries, and the company recommends replacement every 60 days. I suppose it's better to be safe than sorry and follow the recommended replacement plan, but I couldn't help but wonder if the battery replacement really had to be done as often as the company recommends. You can disable the reminders about replacing the backup batteries if you choose to do so. The Documentation
I was truly impressed with what struck me as a well-organized manual. While it's available in a variety of media choices, I found the on-line version to be the most convenient. You can call up a full-text version of the manual any time you need to see it. Divided into chapters, this full-text manual comes up in the word processor, allowing you to rapidly search for a given topic. While it's not exactly documentation, the Companion includes a "learn" key that, when activated, lets you simply press keys to see what they do without actually affecting the document you're working on. This is a particularly handy feature to newcomers to the product.
The manual is concise and logically organized. It goes through the operation of the Companion in a step-by-step manner. Each chapter is designed either to be read in concert with the other chapters or to simply serve as a stand-alone chapter. Because of that, some of the steps listed in each chapter seem rather repetitive. But that structure allows you to easily skip through chapters and search for only those areas where you need help most.
The Braille Companion is sold in three versions. The deluxe version, which includes the Braille Companion, the lid-mounted LCD screen, and a 3.5-inch disk drive, costs $2,595. The Braille Companion Complete is the second of the three purchasing options available. It includes the Companion and the lid-mounted LCD screen; it sells for $2,345. The third and final option is the Braille Companion Standard, which does not include the disk drive or the LCD display. It's priced at $1,995. These various configurations can be purchased either directly from HumanWare or from its network of dealers nationwide. For additional information about HumanWare or the Braille Companion, contact the company at (916) 652-7253. You may also wish to visit the company's web site at http://www.humanware.com
It's 4:17 p.m. and you're driving home (alone, of course) after an unusually hard day on the job. Not only was the work load extraordinarily heavy, you also had a disagreement with your boss, and no matter how hard you tried he just wouldn't see your side of the situation.
You're really upset, and the more you think about it, the more uptight you become. All of a sudden you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to radiate out into your arm and up into your jaw. You are only about five miles from the hospital nearest your home, but you don't know if you'll be able to make it that far.
What can you do? You've been trained in CPR but the guy who taught the course neglected to tell you how to perform it on yourself.
How to survive a heart attack when alone Without help, the person whose heart stops beating properly and begins to feel faint has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness. However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest. A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without letting up until help arrives, or until the heart is beating normally again.
Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a phone and, between breaths, call for help.
Tell as many other people as possible about this. It could save their lives!
The editorial staff reserves the right to edit letters for content, style and space available. Opinions expressed are those of the authors, not those of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the opinions expressed herein. In response to "Advantageously Blind"
I have just read the June issue of "The Braille Forum" and, try as I might, I just could not restrain myself from writing this reply to Mary Carla Hayes' funny piece titled "Advantageously Blind." It was funny and it was pure nonsense!
I have trouble with the dictum of the brand X of consumer organizations to the effect that blindness is not a handicap but only a minor inconvenience. But to characterize blindness as an advantage I believe is going too far, unless I am missing the joke.
I am perplexed when I hear a blind person assert that he would prefer to be without sight if given the choice. I often hear it said that blindness is no big deal to a congenitally blind person because "he doesn't know what he is missing." I don't believe that. He or she must be aware of the myriad of things a sighted person can do that he cannot.
Hayes tells us that she can listen to the soundtrack of a Pay-Per-View TV presentation without paying for it. I have the same "privilege." The cable people know that we can receive the sound but consider the sound without the picture to be of little or no value so they do not bother to scramble the sound, which they could very easily do. Except for news programs and speeches, I find TV programs and movies frustrating. Even with description, if and when it becomes widespread, a blind person will be missing much of what is conveyed on the screen. How can you consider that to be an advantage?
I would be very happy to spend what it costs to own and operate an auto, considering the comfort, independence and convenience a car provides. Is it possible that she really considers it an advantage to have to walk from point A to point B, using a cane or a guide dog or using public transportation, when it is available, which often it is not? Is driving a car more stressful than hoofing it in a congested, noisy, dangerous city? I don't think so!
If given a choice, I would not trade the vast world of print, illustrations, movies and computer graphics for the dubious privilege of being able to read and write in the dark. While I agree that we have much more information available to us these days than we had previously, due to the march of technology, I would just point out that the Talking Book program, with the expenditure of millions yearly, can only manage to provide us with about one-tenth of the books published each year. Some advantage!
Hayes dwells on all the money she saves by not owning and operating a car, not having to buy printed materials, not having to pay for premium TV channels and so on. In my opinion, that advantage is more than wiped out by the fact that most blind people are unemployed and those who are employed are underemployed and probably underpaid. They could not afford cars, books, newspapers, magazines and HBO!
I do not consider that I am advantaged because I am not able to see the people I encounter in my daily comings and goings. The things Hayes calls trivial distractions, such as color of skin, hair, eyes, clothing, grooming, build, facial characteristics and expressions are not so trivial when I consider that the only clue I have about a person's character is the sound of his or her voice. This is especially true of loved ones.
Hayes' most preposterous statement is that this would be a better world if everyone were blind. Her article reminds me of the old joke about the child who killed his mother and father so that he could attend the orphans' ball. What price advantage?
I once was able to drive a car, read a newspaper, play ball games with a mute ball, recognize people before they spoke, revel in the wonders of nature. I am now almost totally blind. Hayes states that blindness is not the end of the world. I agree. Blindness, however, is the most traumatic thing which has happened to me in my entire life, to this point. I have learned to live with blindness, but in no way would I be able to say that it is an advantage, with only one exception. I assure you that I would gladly give it up in return for normal vision.
What is that exception? I have found that my blindness brings out the goodness, kindness and compassion in strangers who would not be aware of my existence if I were not blind. -- Tom D'Agostino, New York, N.Y.
In response to "Advantageously Blind"
I was intrigued by the article "Are You Advantageously Blind?" by Mary Carla Hayes, which appeared in the June 1999 edition of "The Braille Forum." In this article she cites several advantageous reasons for being blind. From the tone of the article I take it that she was only half serious. For instance, she implies that by not being able to drive, we can save money by not owning a car. Isn't that a little like telling the amputee to cheer up because now he will save money on shoe leather? I don't drive, but several of my family members do. Guess who bought the cars? Besides that, insurance for a teenager, when he or she is the primary driver, is unbelievably expensive. In addition, I wanted these cars to be safe, so I spent extra on maintenance as well. If I had been driving, I am sure that I would have gotten off cheaper. I am thinking of tires, brakes, transmissions and so on. Many blind people use dog guides. They require their own share of care. They have to be fed even when they're not working.
She also suggests that driving might be detrimental to one's health. I would hazard a guess that walking is more detrimental. I have a feeling that contending with the traffic does major damage to most of my internal systems. To tell you the truth, I am often scared to be out there. Just this morning I had an encounter with a slow-moving car. A lady was backing out of her driveway and bumped me. She apologized profusely because, as she put it, she didn't see me. As I am thinking about it now, I should have apologized to her too because I didn't see her either. I am glad that Hayes didn't say that one of the benefits we have by not driving is that we get more exercise by doing errands on foot. It is true that I do a lot of walking, but it is stressful; therefore, I don't think it's beneficial.
She also counts as a benefit the free braille magazines that we are entitled to receive from the National Library Service. Now please don't get me wrong. I do appreciate the National Library Service. But, you know, you really can't wrap fish with braille paper from a magazine. That means I still have to subscribe to the local fish wrapper. My wife says she reads it for the advertisements. That just means that I have to spend more money to buy the things that are advertized. So, again, the financial benefits are not that great.
Hayes counts it a blessing that we can work in the dark. My coworkers don't think so. They often turn lights on for me. Now, I wouldn't mind, except for the fact that there is usually no one to turn them off for me at night. Therefore, the building security officer sends me these notes telling me that my lights were left on again! Are they really my lights? I don't mind working in the dark. But it wouldn't do to say to a co-worker, "Let's go and work in the dark!" It would especially not do if that co-worker was of the opposite sex. No! Blindness just isn't sexy.
Then there are those dandelions in the yard. I am very much like Hayes in that regard. I don't mind dandelions either. But what would people say? Then there might be other things like ragweed and poison ivy too. I can imagine the representative of the local fish wrapper with a photographer coming to interview me about my dandelions and ragweed.
Seriously, though, I do appreciate the positive attitudes of the ACB and the NFB. But I don't think that blindness should be made into a positive thing. It's not what God intended. I accept it, and I deal with it on a daily basis. There are so many things that I can do and there are some that I can't. Most importantly, I can be happy. If I would, by some miracle, regain my vision now, my happiness would not automatically increase. The commotion in the streets would be very confusing. I still would not automatically be able to read print. I might even have to learn to tie my shoes again. I don't think any of that will ever happen, but my happiness is not contingent on this happening. -- Martin Kleiber, Villanova, Pa.
Responding to three articles
I am glad to see that there is a "Letters to the Editor" column. Frankly, it is about time. As you will see, I am not conservative. I believe that the only way change can be implemented and effected is when rebels such as us are listened to and respected.
I am writing in response to three articles printed recently in "The Braille Forum." One appeared in the December 1998 issue, and it concerned appearance. Another appeared in the June issue, regarding guide dog behavior at conventions. I am appalled and aghast at the condescending style of both articles. Is it necessary to admonish adults about the behavior of their guide dogs? Do those ACB members who handle guide dogs have dogs that are that badly behaved?
The third article appeared in the June issue also; it was written by Bill Lewis. But more on that later.
Now about appearance (the article by Catherine Schmitt of the California Council of the Blind, December 1998). Appearance is important on a job interview, but only up to a point. A visually impaired or blind person can have a plethora of computer skills, be neat in appearance (I shower every night and I hope you do too, brother) and still not get the job. This issue must be addressed if we are to effect and implement change. This is due to prejudice, discrimination, ignorance and intolerance on the part of the sighted public. In the article, Schmitt made it sound as if the onus is only on the blind job applicant. It is as if the ACB embodies the attitude of "be clean and neat, polite and courteous, skilled, and you will get the job." What's wrong with this philosophy is the corollary: the inference that if a blind person did not get the job, well, maybe there was something wrong with him, and not the endeared sighted public. Perhaps blind people, who never complain or protest, are fearful they will lose whatever bit of assistance they think they have. This is not true. We are right with other oppressed minorities, not ahead of them by much. But here is the other difficulty.
His conservatism, William Lewis, stated in his article every reason why 75 percent of working-age blind people are unemployed EXCEPT prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, ignorance and intolerance. The ACB appears to have the attitude that "everything's fine, so let's party." I am not with the NFB, since they are a cult, but then, I am not conservative either. In fact, I am the Al Sharpton of the blind, and we need one. I do have a job; in fact, I own a home. This is great, now that I think about it. But there was terrible insidious underhanded housing discrimination. I have a job, with a computer at my work station that speaks (I have JAWS with DECTalk) but this is only because I now have a supervisor, a good, devoted and intelligent lady named Evelyn who sees everything as a "civil right." This is fine by me. But why do you allow such reactionary material to be printed in the "Forum"?
As the Al Sharpton of the blind, I would say that after a blind person's acquisition of computer skills and whatever other skills are deemed essential, if he does not get the job, how about implementing, on a large scale, the Job Tax Credit Incentive? If this should fail, then large companies and firms should be ordered to take them! Maybe they would not all be qualified, but there would be employment, many would in fact be qualified, and there would perhaps be a bit of an attrition rate. That's life. What can you do?
How about first aid classes? These are not taught at agencies "serving" the blind either. If I didn't have Evelyn, if I didn't have good attorneys and good friends who helped me along the way, I would have problems. This is good and well, but it could have been me, and what we must all think is that it could be any one of us. We all must unite to help each other through the tribulations, persecution and pain as real brothers and sisters. It is true there are two categories of sighted people: those who simply don't know us and those who don't want to know us. The latter category has racism against the blind. This is documented, implicitly though it may be. Many employers, landlords and managers find ways to circumvent the Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act.
Some people (I realize not quite all blind people in workshops) could, if worked with, gain better employment. What about job recruitment or job development? Commissions for the Blind don't do this, since counselors are either mired down with paperwork or simply want to close cases. As one recently put it, and I have to give her credit for honesty, "it's a numbers game." Do we simply want a "blind elite" who made it, and to heck with the rest? I must say I got it all right. But I have family support as well, and while this is good, what about the poor blind person who doesn't have that? What is he supposed to do, and why is he ostracized and not tolerated or helped by those blind elitists who see themselves as having "made it"? I know that all of this is true of oppressed minorities, but when are we going to wake up? What we must see is that we are all oppressed. Other minorities do this. Why don't we? -- Lucia Marett, New York, N.Y.
(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.")
The days when you hit that menu button by mistake on your cell phone and found yourself enabling all kinds of settings that you never intended to do may soon be gone! This thanks to the releasing of a rule from the Federal Communications Commission that implements Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. In brief, the rule will provide for accessibility to visual menus and other features of telecommunications equipment.
There is no question that ACB had much to do with this. Our face-to-face visits with the commission decision makers, the great work of Debbie Cook in planting the seeds of solutions, cooperation with AFB in presenting a united front and support from our friends in the deaf community worked real miracles in both educating the FCC, forming agreements with industry and combating those who have no interest in accessibility.
Congratulations to all!
We are pleased to announce that our grant application to launch a program of putting the consumer view in the driver's seat for services to elderly blind folks has been successful! Soon the national office will announce a job opening for a part- time person to work with metropolitan Washington blindness agencies to educate elderly blind folks to the fact that their lives not only go on, but can be full and rich from a consumer perspective. Our goal is to let folks know that they need not spend their remaining years looking for a cure, but they can get right back to living a full life with the consumer view and help of other blind folks.
We had a great treat this week as we were shown a voting machine that talks like a charm and allows the blind voter to cast a ballot in full privacy! All you do is insert a card you are given, listen to your options on earphones, press the telephone number pad that has braille on it and you are all done! Not only that, but the machine is currently priced at $1,500, which is substantially lower than other options.
ACB is helping the developers from Digital Corporation of Japan to improve the machine and this may well be a forerunner to the future!
The ACB principles of consumer cooperation will soon be delivered to state agencies by our affiliates across the land. We agreed at our affiliate presidents' meeting that a strategy document needed to be produced and it was done last Monday. We electronically mailed it to affiliate presidents on Tuesday and while many arrived, there were some e-mail addresses that had changed. We have collected the corrected addresses and will send out the materials again this Monday after correcting the mailing list. Those presidents without e-mail and those wishing alternative media will also receive the strategic document in their preferred formats.
We have received a request for information from a staffer within the U.S. Senate on how to make the Senate fully accessible to blind folks and others with disabilities. This may take some time and we are committed to assisting this staffer with the tools he will need to get the job done.
Hats off to the North Dakota state legislature for trying to take a positive look at how to best assist blind folks in that state! A bit different than other states who seem to want to make everything generic, eh?
ACB consulted with its North Dakota state affiliate and a major representative of the current system to explore where we might go with this. It's looking good and a great big pat on the back to North Dakota ACB!
Hey! We got a brand new worker and she's less than two weeks old! Patricia Moreira from our affiliate services unit had an 8- pound baby girl named Vanessa and we are all so very proud of mom and our newest office member.
After the tragic death of Bethel Mines and critical injuries to her husband Raymond in Baltimore last Monday, ACB has sent an opinion/editorial to "The Baltimore Sun" newspaper on pedestrian safety. We are not aware of the condition of Raymond at this point and while neither he nor she are members of our Maryland affiliate, we believe it is of the utmost importance that ACB express the concern of all blind folks for increased attention to pedestrian safety.
The opinion piece looked beyond the issues of audible traffic signals to the larger issues of pedestrian safety and we are hopeful that this will further the awareness of the general public to the fact that far too little priority is being afforded to this issue by our society and our decision makers.
Work is already starting to form up for the next ACB national convention in Louisville, Ky. Stay tuned throughout the year as we build the best convention in ACB history! What better way to start the new millennium?
Your national office will devote major staff resources to this priority throughout the year. The staff's goal is to see that every ACB member who can possibly make it to Louisville leaves with a sense of delight for the experience they had!
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.
5K ROAD RACE
Country's Barbecue Restaurant in Columbus, Georgia is helping visually impaired students go to college. The restaurant hosted the Midnight Express 5-kilometer road race on Saturday, August 28. Live music began at 10:45 p.m. and the run started at midnight. All proceeds from the race were set to go to the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. At press time, the winners' names were unavailable. Stay tuned!
WEB BROWSER FROM NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has developed a web browser that allows blind and visually impaired people to access information on the web. It is called Iliad, and it retrieves and processes information from the Internet using e-mail. It was originally designed five years ago to enable teachers with limited computer power and/or time to search the web quickly. This browser uses a text-based e-mail interface to allow blind people that access. Users send e-mail messages to the Iliad home address and type in the search request using keywords. Iliad uses those words to get information from web search engines and e-mails the results back to the person who requested the information. There is no charge and no minimum computer requirements to use Iliad. All you need is a computer, a modem and Internet access. To receive instructions on using it, send an e-mail message to [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected] Leave the subject line blank, and type (without the quotes) "start iliad" in the body of the message. For more information, call (601) 325-2001.
College football season is coming again. If you would like a copy of the NCAA football schedule in braille, it is available. The schedule contains 132 teams' schedules, including division 1-A and some requested 1-AA teams, the results of the 1998 bowls, and the top 25 teams in the AP final polls, as well as the 1999 pre- season poll, a list of the top 20 winningest coaches of all time, a list of the number-one teams since 1883, the 1999-2000 bowl schedule and much more. It costs $10 per copy. Mailing will be done by free matter. Send your check to Allen H. Gillis, 302 Schaeffel Rd., Cullman, AL 35055.
BRAILLE FREE PRESS
Are you a long-time ACB member? Do you have copies of "The Braille Free Press" hanging around? The ACB History Committee is looking for the September 1961 issue of "The Braille Free Press." If you have this issue, please forward it to the ACB national office. Help the history committee finish the ACB history!
NEWS FROM AFB
The American Foundation for the Blind's Governmental Relations Group publishes a blindness-related legislative briefing service called "Words from Washington." It is available only by e-mail, and it tells what's happening in Washington, D.C. To receive it, request a subscription form from Barbara LeMoine via e-mail at [email protected]
Also, AFB has been working with "The New York Times" on reviving its large-print weekly edition. To subscribe, write to The New York Times Large Type Weekly, P.O. Box 15647, Worcester, MA 01615, or phone (800) 631-2580.
More recently, the American Foundation for the Blind's Access Consulting Program, in cooperation with Dubin-Rosenberg & Associates, has developed a public education campaign to encourage Dallas-area senior citizens who no longer drive due to age-related vision loss to use fixed-route transit services. The campaign consists of radio and TV public service announcements, as well as specially tailored transit training materials for use by transit systems nationwide. This campaign is funded through Project ACTION.
Improve the quality of your life by learning to relax. "Relax and Live" is a 15-minute narrated recording which guides the listener through a series of scientifically proven effective relaxation exercises. It features the background sound of gently flowing water. Each tape costs $8; you may purchase two for $15. Write to Larry Johnson, 10863 Lake Path Dr., San Antonio, TX 78217.
The General Assembly of the International Council on English Braille will meet in Baltimore, Md., November 2-5. Delegates from the United States are Kim Charlson, Betty Niceley, Frances Mary D'Andrea, and Phyllis Campana. Observers are welcome, but space is limited. For more information, e-mail Betty Niceley at [email protected]
The "Braille Code for Chemical Notation 1997" is now available from the American Printing House for the Blind for $16 in both print and braille. Call (800) 223-1839. Library of Congress certified Nemeth Code transcribers may order a free copy from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
Have you been searching for a reliable source to handle your telephone business? L&M Tele-Services can help. Whether you need help scheduling appointments, fund raising, soliciting donations, conducting short surveys, or something else, this new company can handle it. If you need help with patient notification methods, the company offers a fee of $8 per hour, plus a one-time set-up fee of $10. Call, write or fax (605) 388-3056, 4455 W. Sunnyside Dr., Rapid City, SD 57701-8570, for more information.
Ann Morris Enterprises has its 2000 catalog available, with more than 200 new items inside. Some of the new items are a talking VCR, Windows games, talking watch for ladies, and a potato express. Call (800) 454-3175 to request a copy if you aren't already on the mailing list. The catalog is available in large print, on four-track cassette tape and on computer disk. The braille version costs $10. Or you may visit http://www.annmorris.com, Ann Morris' new web page.
Next month, WGBH's "Mystery!" show launches its 20th anniversary season with "Second Sight," featuring Clive Owen as Chief Detective Inspector Ross Tanner. The detective is trying to maintain his edge while trying to conceal the fact that he's losing his sight. Co-star Claire Skinner is Detective Inspector Catherine Tully, an ambitious young investigator who offers to help the chief keep his secret -- as long as he uses his status to help her rebuild her career following a drug bust gone bad. They investigate the apparently motiveless, brutal murder of a 19-year- old college student. The show airs on Thursdays, September 30 and October 7 on your PBS station (check local listings for times).
NEW CD LABEL
Easier Ways International Inc. has developed a new braillable label that fits snugly under the tabs on top of the booklet in a CD jewel case. This type of label, when used with a brailler, will take 10 lines with 15 characters per line; when used with a slate, will take 11 lines with 18 characters per line. For more information, contact Easier Ways International Inc., 2954 Shady Ln., Highlands Ranch, CO 80126; phone (303) 290-0987; e-mail [email protected] or fax (303) 290-6446.
Have you ever wanted to get a new computer without spending your life savings? Monty Cassellius, an independent representative of Excel Communications, can help you. Write him at 1004 S. Mercer Ave. #10, Bloomington, IN 61701; phone (309) 661-0314 or toll-free at (888) 242-4751 extension 6049; or e-mail him at [email protected]
Interfaith Specialty Services, Inc. is a new ministry promoting cooperation between churches, communities and families in working to meet the needs of the disabled. For more information, call (215) 324-2539 (TDD users call toll-free (800) 654-5988). "Uphill Journey" is an autobiographical paperback by Angela Lundy, founder of Interfaith Specialty Services. It costs $12 (print or tape). "Church Wholeness" is a video about including disabled people in church service; it costs $20 ($30 with captioning). A set of "Church Wholeness" book and video costs $40. The Enabler Award is an award given in recognition of a disabled person or one who assists the disabled selected by the church or community. The certificate alone costs $12; mounted, $20. Make checks payable to Interfaith Specialty Services, Inc. Pennsylvania residents must include 7 percent sales tax (or enclose tax-exempt number). For more information, call the number above, or write to the company at PO Box 38113, Philadelphia, PA 19140.
Adelaide Wink's Practical Crafts business is still going strong. She is planning on going into making baby sets (hat, sweater and booties), baby afghans and toddlers' sweaters (for 2- year-olds). Will work on other projects on the side. Please allow plenty of time for orders to be filled. Write to: Rev. Adelaide Wink, 59 S. Lee St., Beverly Hills, FL 34465.
ALL OCCASION GIFTS
Worldwide Marketing Enterprises has gifts for all occasions, including Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduation and weddings. Gift items include sculptures, plaques, figurines, brassware, fragrances, crystal, and much more. For your free catalog on tape, disk or in print, call (616) 344-8177, or visit the web site, http://www.catalogcity.com
Outa Sight! Products has a great variety of products in its catalog, including flexible clothing tags and a "smart plug." For more information, or a copy of the catalog, write to the company at 269 S. Beverly Dr. #321, Beverly Hills, CA 90212; phone toll-free (888) 876-4733, or visit the web site at http://www.outa.sight.com
On March 25, 1999 the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit announced its decision in Nelson et al v. Miller. In 1996, a group of blind Michigan residents and voters demanded that various Michigan election officials, including the secretary of state, provide them with voting machinery which would enable them to vote independently. Even though the blind voters suggested a number of types of available machinery and technology which would accomplish the desired result, the Michigan election officials refused to purchase equipment or implement the suggested changes in election procedures. These voters then brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleging that the current provision of Michigan's election law which permits a blind voter to take an adult of his/her choice into the voting booth to assist him or her in marking the ballot did not sufficiently protect their right to a truly secret ballot as set forth in the Michigan constitution, and that the refusal of Michigan election officials to purchase the suggested equipment or implement suggested changes in election practices constituted discrimination against them on the basis of their visual impairments in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as amended. The trial court entered summary judgment for the state official defendants, and the blind voters appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Circuit judge Alice Batchelder announced the court's decision for a unanimous three-judge panel. The opinion first turned to the question of the state's potential liability for damages or relief in Title II suits before the federal courts. State government officials thereby also challenged the constitutionality of Title II and the jurisdiction over them asserted by both the trial court and the court of appeals. The appeals court chose not to address the constitutional challenge head on, but rather stated that it does not have to decide the constitutional question. Instead, Batchelder holds that the court of appeals has personal jurisdiction over the state defendants in this case by virtue of applying a legal fiction first used in the 1908 Supreme Court decision in ex parte Young. The legal fiction is that this case is for future injunctive relief against named government officials, not against the state government treasury, for monetary damages.
When the court finally dealt with the basic arguments, Batchelder held that the court should pay great respect to and should be governed by what the Michigan Supreme Court would hold on these issues if confronted with them. The appeals court then held that, if asked, the Michigan Supreme Court would hold that the present provisions of Michigan election law sufficiently protect blind voters' rights to a genuinely secret ballot guaranteed to them by the Michigan constitution. Batchelder pointed to two decisions of the Michigan Supreme Court which are more than 100 years old and which interpreted a predecessor provision of Michigan election law which interpreted a prior provision of the 1850 Michigan constitution. In these decisions, the Michigan Supreme Court stated that enactments of the Michigan legislature come to the court with a presumption of constitutionality since the court would not assume that the members of the legislature would lightly break their oaths of office to abide by the state constitution. The Michigan Supreme Court cases also upheld against constitutional challenge the provisions of a then-existing Michigan law which permitted someone else to mark blind voters' ballots in accordance with the instructions of that blind voter. The Michigan Supreme Court observed at that time that the Michigan election law provision was designed to permit the widest possible access to the franchise and not to deny the vote of any qualified person. To say the least, the reliance of the appeals court on these ancient Michigan Supreme Court cases is very dubious in light of the modern assistive technology suggested by the appellants and the changed circumstances of this modern era. Yet the appeals court held, based upon its analysis of Michigan case law precedents, that the state supreme court would hold that the provisions of Michigan's current election law sufficiently protect blind voters' rights to a secret ballot guaranteed by the state constitution. The appeals court also held that the actions of the state government officials do not constitute unlawful discrimination against the blind voters on the basis of their disability.
This decision is a second federal appellate court defeat for the asserted rights of blind voters to exercise their franchise rights through a genuinely secret ballot under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. It is a very disheartening setback for the civil rights of blind people, but it points out more sharply that we as advocates must support such legislative initiatives such as S. 511 introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). This bill would amend the provisions of the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 to provide that in federal elections, state election laws and election officials must provide modern assistive technology and equipment and modified election practices and procedures to permit blind voters to independently and confidentially cast a secret ballot. Since challenges to current election practices in these federal courts apparently are not the avenue through which to gain these important civil rights, we as blind advocates may have to fight for such changes in the law. The battle to win the right for blind people to cast a secret ballot is worth waging, and we must win this battle.
When I became a part of the American Council of the Blind, I thought I was a pretty positive person about my blindness. However, after becoming involved at the local, state and national levels, I met more and more blind people in various jobs across the country. I began to realize that I often limited myself in taking advantage of opportunities that were available.
I noticed blind people going to college, advocating in public forums, and otherwise actively participating in the community as a blind person. After noticing what other blind people could do and were doing, I began to become more and more active myself. Because of other members, I bought a computer and started using it with speech. Later on, I got my first Braille 'n Speak because I noticed other members using one. Networking with many other ACB members and friends, I took advantage of all the technology I could afford.
I became involved in the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, became part of local, state and national boards, and decided to go to college. I had not gone to college after high school, but opted to become a bookkeeper/receptionist. When I lost my sight, I had the opportunity again, but went into the business enterprise program. I believe that at that time, I didn't really think I could be a good student as a blind person. I became a vendor and that was OK. However, after meeting so many ACB members in such a variety of careers, I began to appreciate what other things I could do if I really wanted to do them.
When I talked about the possibility of going to college, my ACB friends encouraged me to try. Without their encouragement and that of my family, I may not have done it. It wasn't easy because of all the accommodations that were not provided as they should have been. Also, I was working and had family responsibilities. However, I had the help of many ACB members who told me different ways to handle different situations. I also was able to use ACB activities and experience to help me get college credit.
When I think of all the ways ACB has helped me grow as a blind person, I am glad I chose to join ACB. Some of you may know me and wouldn't believe it if I told you I tend to be a quiet person and not too confident. However, ACB has made me become more confident. Being an active member has given me the opportunity to use my experiences to grow and hopefully mature into a more creative person.
When I was originally invited to attend and join an ACB affiliate in South Dakota, I did so because a friend invited me. When I moved to Iowa, I was again invited by friends to join an affiliate there. Many of us may hear of ACB in different ways. However, unless invited by someone we know, we may never join. I would encourage all of you to invite friends and acquaintances to attend a chapter meeting or state convention. I'm glad I was invited and really glad I joined. There are so many opportunities in this organization for blind people to learn. I never realized what was available until I networked with all my ACB friends. So I challenge you to invite someone today. He/she will be glad you did!
(Editor's Note: This is part two of Lewis' two-part series.)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists more than 25,000 different job descriptions across the United States. Only a dozen or two were available to visually impaired workers until the creation of vocational rehabilitation services in the 1940s. These included, but were not limited to: broom and mop manufacturing, chair caning, law, medical transcription, ministry, musician/music teaching, piano tuning and repair, politics, professional writing, sheltered workshop manufacturing, social welfare, switchboard operations, and teachers in schools and institutions serving the blind.
Then came the Services for the Blind and vending stand programs but, most of all, the infinite imagination and determination of courageous visually impaired men and women pushing the envelope and stretching for previously unattainable goals. Now visually impaired students and workers every year achieve new milestones in recreation, vocations, and professions; and that trend is nowhere near its peak.
In Kansas alone visually impaired men and women now study or work in more than 54 different job categories. When we include the entire United States, the job list explodes. The following is a listing of jobs gathered by the American Foundation for the Blind's Careers and Technology Information Bank, which is a network of more than 1,900 blind and visually impaired people that affords job seekers the opportunity to obtain firsthand information about job experiences and use of assistive technology. Many of these jobs used to be considered beyond the reach of visually impaired people.
AGRICULTURE: dairy farming, farming.
BUSINESS: accounting, budget analysis, customer services, finance, insurance, business management, personnel, purchasing, real estate, reservations, sales and marketing, stockbrokerage, tax specialization, telemarketing, travel agents.
ENGINEERS: aerospace, biomedical, civil, electrical, general, industrial, mechanical, metallurgic, rehabilitation.
SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS: astronomer, biologist, chemist, computer scientist, geneticist, geophysicist, linguist, mathematician, oceanographer, physicist, physiologist, scientist, statistician, theoretical chemist.
INDUSTRIAL: administrative assistant, braille production specialist, clerk/typist, craftsman, data entry operator, factory worker, maintenance specialist, medical transcriptionist, transit industry worker, office/clerical worker, receptionist, secretary, Spanish interpreter.
EDUCATION: (K-12) biology, English, French, German, history, kindergarten, music, science, social studies, track coaching.
EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION & SUPPORT: career developer, computer services technician, editor, educational administrator, educational assistant, guidance counselor, instructional media administrator.
HIGHER EDUCATION TEACHING: biochemistry, biostatistics, chemistry, computer science, English, French, Spanish, German, history, law, library science, mathematics, music, nursing, physics, psychology, sociology, special education/rehabilitation, speech/communication.
EDUCATION & SUPPORT: career development, computer services, disabled student services, educational administration, financial aid services.
SPECIAL EDUCATION & REHABILITATION: assistive technology instructor, assistive technology specialist, early childhood specialist, rehabilitation/vocational counselor, rehabilitation instructor, rehabilitation supervisor, special education teacher, teacher of visually impaired students.
FOOD SERVICES: food services worker, restaurant owner/manager.
HUMAN SERVICES: administrator, case manager, child care worker, mental health worker, probation officer, psychologist, public health worker, social services worker, clinical social worker, sociologist.
INFORMATION SERVICES: information specialist, librarian.
LEGAL: attorney, civil rights advocacy, judge, paralegal.
MEDICAL & ALLIED HEALTH: chiropractor, low vision services coordinator, genetic counselor, health aide, massage therapist, music therapist, nurse, nurse aide instructor, occupational therapy assistant, physical therapist, psychiatrist, medical and psychiatric social worker, speech language pathologist.
MUSIC INDUSTRY: musician, piano tuner, music publishing.
RADIO/TV/PRINT MEDIA: copy editing, journalism, public relations, radio and television writing.
TECHNOLOGY/COMPUTER RELATED: computer consultant, computer network manager, computer sales representative, computer trainer, database administrator, programmer, technical support specialist, technical writer.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS: switchboard operator, telecommunications specialist, telephone operator.
MISCELLANEOUS: actor, artistic director, clergyman, freelance writer.
SELF-EMPLOYED: architect, auto detailer, career counselor, financial planner, innkeeper, nutritionist, mental health private practitioner, owner of assistive technology company, owner of collection agency, owner of export company, owner of recording studio, owner of talent agency, owner of temporary help agency, owner of women's clothing store, president of coffee exporting company, president of television production company, president of tape duplications company, stand-up comedy/motivational speaker, web publisher, freelance writer.
From these classifications, the jobs in which visually impaired people are most represented include assistive technology instructors, attorneys, clerk/typists, computer programmers, customer reps for commercial and government agencies/businesses, disabled student services providers, educators, librarians, receptionists, secretaries, social workers, rehabilitation supervisors, and vocational rehabilitation counselors.
At the other end, among the most rare and atypical jobs for blind workers were actor, artistic director, architect, astronomer, auto detailer, budget analyst, career counselor, copy editor, farmer, genetics counselor, innkeeper, nurse aide instructor, nutritionist, oceanographer, paralegal, physiologist, psychiatrist, Spanish interpreter, theoretical chemist, track coach, hotel owner, owner of talent agency, owner of temporary help agency, owner of women's clothing store, president of assistive technology company, president of coffee exporting company, president of television production company, and stand-up comedy/motivational speaker.
What visually impaired people are able to accomplish is no longer surprising. Remember the story of "The Little Engine That Could"? In that story, a little steam engine, which was called into service when the big steam engines broke down, managed to pull a string of cars up a mountain by saying to himself, "I think I can! I think I can!"
Somewhere out there are a lot of little visually impaired and blind engines puffing away, going where no little engines have gone before. So if you really want to be one of a kind, try perfecting yourself by being the best you can. As you can see above, there are many role models to draw from; so study the list carefully.
(CTIB searches are conducted free of charge for blind and visually impaired job seekers and rehabilitation professionals assisting clients. Job seekers, researchers and others interested in using the CTIB database may contact the National Technology Center at (212) 502-7642; fax (212) 502-7773, or e-mail [email protected])
FOR SALE: IBM computer with DOS version 3.2, 1 gigabyte of memory, JAWS and ZoomText. Asking $1,800. Call Rosemir at (510) 233-6105.
FOR SALE: Optacon 2 in excellent condition. Barely used. Accessories include an extra battery pack, tracking aid, braille manuals and AC charger/adaptor. $2,500. Contact Oswal in braille, print or on tape at Box 3927, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford, CT 06117 or via e-mail at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Optelec video magnifier model 2020. In excellent condition. Asking $800. Call Alan Spiegel in New York at (914) 472-2445.
FOR SALE: Two Forgers reading machines, black & white. Asking $1,000 each. Call Clarence Cunningham at (205) 822-5839.
FOR SALE: Type 'n Speak. Comes with disk drive, computer cables, carrying case, power supply, and cassette and braille instructions. Software revision date is August 1998. About a year old, not used. Best offer. Contact Tom Motis at (408) 947-2088 and leave a message.
FOR SALE: HP 3P scanner. Best offer. For trade or sale, licensed copy of JAWS for Windows 3.3, the latest version. Willing to trade for Window Eyes 3.0 with Vocal Eyes. Call (412) 422-8343 or e-mail [email protected]
WANTED: Used braille printer and used external speech synthesizer. Contact Allen H. Gillis, 302 Schaeffel Rd., Cullman, AL 35055; e-mail [email protected], or phone (256) 734-4047.
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.
WANTED: Laptop with JAWS and Windows 95. Please call (919) 493-4173 or e-mail [email protected]
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