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.
You never know where you might learn something. I was at a meeting of the managers of the college where I work and the facilitator suddenly began to say some things that really resonated with me. I thought that perhaps some of them would resonate with you, too.
Our college is going through megachange as, by the way, are most two-year institutions in the country. Many within our system are uncomfortable with some of the new directions and, as we begin to adopt priorities for the next year, the facilitator was focusing on our roles as managers of change. The first thing he said that got my attention was that he had just about decided that he couldn't change anybody as a manager. He averred instead that all he could do was model behavior, provide clear direction and give people choices about whether they chose to take the modeling seriously or face the consequences.
That is a startling concept for a blind person, an advocate and a leader to get his little mind around. Thinking about it, though, I decided he had a real point. It isn't the negative assertion it seems to be. Modeling is very hard, though. It's so hard to be tolerant all the time. It's so difficult to project the positive always and to constantly be a conveyor of just the right essence of proper blind person. And yet, we are modelers of behavior in the eyes of those around us. Like it or not, we are constantly being compared to the stereotypes that people have of a blind person. We certainly have the option to reinforce those stereotypes but most of us lessen them by just being ourselves. We do it unconsciously. If we began to recognize this more, though, might it impact more?
The concept that I could make others change was even harder for me to swallow. After all, my whole purpose is to create change for people who are blind. Once more, though, I stopped and thought it through. Simply asking folks to change doesn't often do much good. Asking for change is akin to saying "build it and we will come." What if by modeling change and going there first we demonstrated that we were already there so it is high time they built it? In a sense, that is what modeling change is all about. Of course, there is a danger that by demonstrating that we can use a system before it's modified, we will persuade society that they don't need to build it at all. Modeling change involves not only being there but demanding that where we are accommodates to our needs. Instead of talking in the abstract, let's take a real life example.
The ADA says that drivers will call stops on bus systems. In most places it isn't happening. In most places, too, blind people on buses are as rare as hen's teeth. What if each local chapter sponsored busathons where members would not only ride regular buses but would also call in complaints each time a bus stop wasn't announced? That would send two messages. First, there is demand. Second, we won't put up with the law being ignored. It may also have a third consequence. Some folks who have been unwilling or unable to use the regular bus system may actually get to like it. We are change modelers, not simply demanding change.
The facilitator went on to make another point that, if anything, had more impact on me. He said that it takes far less evidence to convince someone that an organization is in trouble than it does to convince people that it is doing well. You just have to point to a couple of instances and everyone is prepared to believe the worst of your organization. To convince people your organization is doing well, you have to fill books with evidence.
I spent a lot of our convention this year being profoundly depressed by how easy it was for negative comments that might or might not have been true to be turned into prognostications of gloom and doom for ACB. It didn't seem to matter that I spent a lot of time telling all of you about what we accomplish. It didn't seem to matter that our new executive director did the same. It was far easier to simply accept all the negativity as absolute fact than it was to balance it with the tangible successes to which we point. If this is true at the national level, I daresay it's just as prevalent at the state and local levels.
I am not at all suggesting that anyone stop criticizing what ACB does or what your state or local chapters are doing. I am suggesting that we recognize that it takes far less criticism to undermine an organization's effectiveness than we might think. I am also suggesting that we not be quite so willing to believe the worst about the organizations we support. It is far easier to yell and scream about what's wrong than it is to try to solve the problem.
I challenge all of us to not criticize unless we are willing to offer a possible solution in which we will play a role. Once again, that makes us modelers of change and not simply Cassandras. I have never been to a chapter meeting or a state affiliate meeting where there was nothing to celebrate. I have also not found one of those organizations that was perfect. The affiliates and chapters that are growing are those who have recognized their weaknesses and galvanized around problems of blind people that needed solving.
I came away from that management meeting with a lot to think about. I have decided that I am happy modeling change and am coming to terms with the fact that many will seek to tear us down while few will laud what we do. I suppose that I feel that being forewarned is being forearmed. If I recognize that I cannot change people, I won't be upset when I don't. I can continue to celebrate all that ACB has done. I challenge all of you to do the same. If all of us model a passion for the organization and an absolute belief in the value of what we are doing, we cannot help but impress those around us. For me, it isn't an issue of whether the cup is half full or half empty. The cup runneth over and it is filled with all that each of you does to model change. I will not let the cup be affected by those who choose to drink bitterness to the dregs. I will glory instead in those who fill the cup with what they do.
The history of independent living centers and for that matter, the independent living movement and blind folks has been at best a rocky one. These centers, once created to basically service the needs of wheelchair users and people having had amputations and the like to get back into the community, have been cropping up in many places and seem to be offering more services to more populations. A second look at independent living is in order.
On the plus side, many such centers have begun to substantially recognize the differences between various disabilities and to develop programming and services aimed at meeting the needs of discrete populations. Hence, enlisting the help of a local independent living center to get announcements on buses or to get local governmental information made available in alternative media can actually be productive in some cases. In fact, as ILC directors and staff become more sensitive to the issues of blind people, and as some of them are blind themselves, we must reconsider what ought to be the relationship between the organized blind movement and the independent living movement.
The fact that there is at least a tacit relationship between blindness groups and the independent living movement is not in dispute. Clearly, every time someone from the IL movement represents themselves as speaking for the disability community, the average person is likely to think they are representing the blind as well. This is both the promise and the danger of independent living centers.
The notion that independent living centers, the independent living movement, or statewide independent living councils actually represent the interest of blind folks is just outright silly. When seen from the larger perspective of the "disability community," there is the clear temptation for policy makers to accept the premise without much question. After all, it's easier for politicians to work with a small group representing the disability community than a collection of groups such as the deaf, the blind, the mentally ill, and folks with retardation. Even more tempting to these politicians is that they can demand an agenda from the disability community which by its nature would have to be global and not likely to get to the important discrete issues of specific populations.
Much more dangerous than the above is the conditioning effect that this notion of disability community has on discrete populations. Once the blind or deaf or mentally ill or persons with retardation and others begin to see themselves as disabled rather than blind or whatever, then their own expectations and view of themselves changes. As that happens, legitimate disability-specific advocacy gets labeled as selfish interests and inconsistent with the larger disability family.
This challenge to identity should not be taken lightly. It is the most dangerous and harmful aspect of the cross-disability tenet of the independent living philosophy that must be reconciled if there ever is to be a solid relationship between the various groups that make up the larger community. In short, the big tent is not home for anyone when it is constantly touted as the home only for everyone.
Fortunately, there appear to be signs of change within disability thinking around independent living. Some of the framers of the original philosophy are noticing the basic flaws in what they once saw from a naive view and now have to visit from a more educated perspective. Even as there are still other disability leaders who are trapped in their use of all disabilities to justify their own agendas, the view that discrete populations actually exist and must be respected is growing.
Are we there yet? No. There are still those who oppose separate and identifiable services for blind folks and even have attacked our agencies. The most recent example of this was in Texas, where folks claiming to represent disabilities did their best to kill the Texas Commission for the Blind. Also, who can forget Illinois, where the rehab agency had the nerve to say that discrete services from an agency accountable to blind folks would hurt other disabilities? We even know from our own sources that there were celebrations at one of the national programs when it appeared that separate services in a particular state would be eliminated. These groups should make no mistake in understanding the resolve of the blindness community to stand up for who we are and to reject these at best simplistic and at worst contriving, one size fits all view of rehab or independent living.
With all that said, ACB must continue to seek dialogue with those in the independent living movement of good faith. We have seen coalitions where the different groups respect each other and work together to support each other. This model holds the greatest promise to heal the wounds and spawn a new way of thinking.
The day can clearly come when the independent living center can take on a role as convener of various disability interests and help in getting the job done for many disability issues. However, that day cannot come at the expense of any disability group giving up its identity to the notion of disability community and it certainly will not come until the independent living philosophy matures to the point where it sheds the arrogance of thinking anyone else has the right to represent the blind other than blind folks ourselves.
Next year's convention will be held in Louisville, Ky. We will be staying at the Galt House Hotel, which is in the downtown area at the river.
Many of you will remember the Galt House since we used this hotel for our convention in 1980. However, the hotel has changed over the years and has added another tower. This additional tower will allow us to house all of our convention in one hotel. The rate per night for our convention will be $65 plus state and local taxes.
The two towers are known as the east and west towers. Each tower has its own lobby; check-in can be done at either tower. I will talk about the hotel more in my next article. After my visit with the hotel I will give the exact details of the 2000 convention.
Since we will house everyone in one hotel, there is plenty of time to make reservations. Our contract with the hotel requires that a deposit of one night, including all taxes, be paid when you register. This can be done by credit card, check, or money order. When you use a credit card, you will need to give them your card number and expiration date. Your card will not be charged until one week before your arrival date. To receive a refund of the deposit, the hotel must receive a cancellation notice 48 hours prior to your arrival date.
The Galt House will allocate the suites in the east tower on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, when you make your reservations, request a suite if you would like one.
I am sure most people realize that being convention coordinator is a new assignment given to me by President Paul Edwards. As I get into this job I am beginning to realize how big it is. Thank goodness I have John Horst as my assistant and I will be learning from him along the way.
John Horst has done an outstanding job over the years and I am pleased to have his support. You can't begin to understand the amount of details that must be kept up with, the logistics that must be implemented, and the number of people involved in order for our convention to be a success. The people, for the most part, are volunteers. In fact, there are many hundreds of people needed for this event to take place.
John, my hat is off to you and, as my grandmother would have said, "you done well."
The summer is flying by. The 1999 convention is behind us, and it is now time to start thinking about next year's convention in Louisville. The national office staff has already started planning for it, and hopes you are preparing too. Affiliate presidents should be working with members in their areas to begin planning their programs. We need to know who your program chairperson is by November 1, 1999. We need to have your program information by January 2, 2000 in order to prepare the pre- registration forms. LeRoy Saunders is already working with the hotel and gathering information about the surrounding area for inclusion in the program. Stay in touch with the national office staff; let's work together to make the 2000 convention the best one we've ever had.
The Pennsylvania Council of the Blind will hold its annual convention November 5-7 at the Ramada Inn, 201 S. Second St., Harrisburg. The theme of the convention is "Mainstreaming: Can It Be Better?" ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford will be the banquet speaker. For more information, contact the Pennsylvania Council office toll-free at (800) 736-1410.
The American Council of the Blind of Maryland will hold its 1999 convention October 2-3 at the Days Inn, 8801 Loch Raven Blvd., Towson. The luncheon speaker on Saturday will be ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford. Other activities include: a panel to discuss employment opportunities in Maryland; Congressman Bob Ehrlich; a presentation from the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss; and a dance on Friday evening, October 1. For more information on registration, contact Gary LeGates at (410) 876-1578 or via e-mail at [email protected]
ADVOCACY WORKS FOR MINNESOTA
The Metropolitan Transit Commission that serves Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., like other transit companies, uses printed signs at bus stops to inform riders of route changes. What's a blind or visually impaired person to do? Tom Heinl, past president of the American Council of the Blind of Minnesota, wondered this as well. It is impossible to know about any changes unless a sighted person tells you. This is what happened to Heinl. He then filed a complaint with the appropriate federal agency to get some changes. After a year, with help from state representative Bruce Vento (Democrat-4th District), the MTC was forced to make accommodations.
The transit commission formed a data base in which customers can be called or otherwise notified of route changes in their bus routes. All a person has to do to get the notification is call the MTC, ask to have their name, telephone number and bus route(s) they take put on this list, and when the route is changed, they will be notified.
The other question Heinl thought of was what a blind person would do if he/she were looking for a plumber or other item and did not know what was available. So he complained to U.S. West, the local phone company. After some prodding, they reluctantly set up a system for verbal access to the Yellow Pages. This complaint was filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. With the threat of a law suit by the Minnesota attorney general's office, the telephone utility began providing the service.
How does the service work? A blind person simply dials 411 and asks for the Yellow Pages assistance operator for the visually impaired, who will give the information needed.
For more information, contact Tom Heinl at 456 Blair Ave., St. Paul, MN 55103; e-mail [email protected], or phone (612) 489- 8609.
The American Council of Blind Lions experienced an extraordinary two weeks in California. It made its inaugural introduction to the 82nd Lions International Convention in San Diego on June 27. During this convention an information and exhibit booth provided the nearly 20,000 attendees from around the world an introductory look at what is regarded as a critical linkage between Lions International and a prestigious organization of the blind. All recognized that Lions committed to Helen Keller in 1925 to be "knights of the blind" and to support the community needs of the visually impaired, and followed up on that commitment by developing the white cane and associated legislation to ensure its recognition throughout the country.
The ACBL delegation of about 15 people was further acknowledged with a place in the annual parade, and with that exposure, much greater awareness was provided to the nation as well as to the general population of Lions. Even many blind individuals who were not associated with ACBL became very supportive of the mission displayed, and the entire group was highly visible and acknowledged during the week's convention.
The thrust of this strategy is obvious: to bring together a greater education and awareness to Lions about the community needs of the blind and visually impaired and ultimately develop networks for transportation and employment. These issues are beginning to be discussed and will be encouraged through the hierarchy of Lions International through the adoption of a special category of blind services through Lions International.
On Monday, July 5, newly elected president James Ervin addressed the ACB national convention in Los Angeles and further expanded on the commitment to return Lions to their commitment to Helen Keller. Ervin has committed to work with ACBL in projecting its mission statement within all of his presentations during the upcoming year. "There have been many unfortunate situations in the past regarding relations with Lions and the blind community," he stated. "But those relations must be forgotten and forgiven, and we must spend our energies in building for the future." He has designed his administration toward vision and relates future activities of our organizations around "four ships": leadership, partnership, fellowship and membership. These four ships clearly will include ACB, and we are proud to be a part of his crew in the future growth of our organizations.
Following his address, many ACB members asked about the qualifications to become a Lion within their community. To join, you need to ask a current Lion within a club nearby to serve as a sponsor. It is the mission of ACBL to encourage every blind and visually impaired person to extend this effort and join a Lions Club. The Lions membership needs to be educated; the most appropriate way to do that is to "join the pride." ACBL continues to educate its members on appropriate activities which will assist this education and awareness building, and newsletters and articles through Lions International will educate from within that organization. Each district governor in the United States and Canada will be encouraged to have each of their clubs include the blind and visually impaired community so that in the future we can all truly work together. This is an exciting time, and success depends on working together, communicating and sharing in the ideas and dreams of these two organizations. Help us by recommending your friends to become involved in building this relationship. It will take time, but in the future it will benefit everyone.
ACB IS MOVING UP During the first weeks of October, the ACB national office will be moving. The address will still be 1155 15th St. NW; however, the suite number will be 1004. During that time, we will be dealing with the installation of a new phone system and other such things. We will attempt to keep disruptions to a minimum. We appreciate your patience during our move.
IT'S NEVER TOO LATE
It's never too late to go back to school. Request your scholarship applications from the national office now! Call toll-free (800) 424-8666 between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Eastern time. Applicants must be legally blind in both eyes. All applications must be returned to the national office by March 1.
WHITE CANE SAFETY DAY
White Cane Safety Day is October 15. Stay tuned for further news on this.
(Editor's Note: The pre-convention board meeting report was written by Carol McCarl; the post-convention report by Charles Hodge.)
The pre-convention ACB board meeting was called to order at 8:30 a.m. on July 3 by President Paul Edwards, with all members present (Chris Gray arrived later). The first two items on the agenda were reports from the president and executive director. These reports were brief since each would be giving a complete report at the general session. In his comments, Charlie Crawford indicated that he admired and learned from the affiliate members in North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, with whom he had recently worked. These members were instrumental in bringing affected parties to the discussion table to ensure the maintenance of separate state agencies to perform the rehabilitation services needed by blind and visually impaired citizens. Crawford concluded his report by stating that the ACB national office will be moving to a different suite in the same building sometime in the fall.
Kim Charlson then reported on behalf of Otis Stephens, chair of the ACB history committee. She stated that Jim Megivern would attend the convention for three days, during which time he will interview a few members who were present at the 1961 formation of ACB. Charlson indicated that Megivern has 200 pages of the text to be reviewed by the committee. The committee's goal is to have the published copy of the ACB history in the hands of the members by July 2000. Many other committee reports were scheduled to be given at the post-convention meeting.
The remainder of the meeting was given to presentations by representatives from Des Moines, Iowa and Lansing, Mich. These two cities were being considered as possible sites for the 2001 ACB convention by the convention committee. Upon discussion of the locations and options available, Des Moines, Iowa was chosen as the site by a vote of the ACB board. The convention will take place from June 30 through July 6, 2001.
A motion was made and passed to review the convention survey and to place the convention on the agenda for the September 1999 ACB board meeting. A convention survey will be distributed to all ACB board members and convention coordinating committee members.
Of interest to those who were unable to attend the convention is the fact that there were two audible signals on Century Boulevard in front of the hotels. The one directly in front of the Westin Hotel is in full compliance with what was unanimously adopted in June by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. There is a locator tone to guide you to the pole button to press. When the button is pressed and held down for about four seconds, it will announce when it is safe to cross ("walk sign, cross Century"). There is a tactual arrow that vibrates and points across the crosswalk. When the visual signal begins flashing in the "don't walk" mode, the audible signal reverts back to the locator tone.
The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.
Post-convention board meeting
The post-convention meeting of the ACB board of directors was called to order by President Edwards around 8:40 a.m. Pacific time on Saturday, July 10. All board members were in attendance, as well as about a dozen guests. The board adopted an agenda for the meeting which included three additions previously circulated to board members. These items were: a review of a document prepared by Sue Ammeter and Chris Gray on the NFB's newsline service; a report from Pam Shaw on the issue of selling goods at ACB conventions; and a resolution referred to the board by action of the convention.
Edwards announced some important appointments. He informed board members that at a convention debriefing meeting held with key officers, staff and members of the convention committee the previous afternoon, John Horst had indicated his desire not to return to the position of convention coordinator and convention committee chairman, although Horst desired to remain involved in convention planning and development. Edwards announced that he had asked LeRoy Saunders, ACB's immediate past president, to take on the responsibilities of convention coordinator and chairman of the convention committee. In accordance with Horst's wishes, Edwards stated that he was appointing Horst to the convention committee to serve as Saunders' assistant convention coordinator. Saunders stated that several board members had approached him, stating that it might be helpful for him to have the assistance and perspective of someone who is totally blind in evaluating and assessing future convention sites, exhibit areas, potential tour sites, etc. His wife, Patricia Saunders, is totally blind and an experienced convention attendee. LeRoy thought he would benefit from having the perspective of someone who is totally blind on convention-related matters if his wife accompanied him on some of the convention coordinator trips. However, in order to forestall any questions about or objections to his wife's presence with him on certain occasions, he wanted to raise the matter before the board for its advice and direction. The board voted to authorize LeRoy Saunders have his wife accompany him at ACB expense on certain convention-related travel in order to provide him with the much-needed perspective of a totally blind person in evaluating and assessing potential convention locations, exhibit areas, tours and so forth.
Edwards also informed the board that Carol McCarl had submitted a letter to him requesting that she not be reappointed as chair of the board of publications, and that he had appointed Kim Charlson to replace Carol. He also announced that he was reappointing Jay Doudna to be the second appointed member of the BOP. In light of Charlson's appointment to chair the board of publications, Edwards asked her for her resignation as co-chair of the membership committee; although he was not prepared to announce her replacement, he did have someone in mind to appoint to co-chair the committee with Debbie Grubb.
John Horst then presented the convention report. He stated that the convention, despite some problems, had gone fairly well; 1,226 people had registered and about 500 people had attended the banquet on Thursday night. Both figures are slightly larger than comparable numbers from the past two or three years. Horst then reviewed some of the problems encountered, such as the last- minute switch of the exhibit area to the Marriott and the fact that the tour to Knott's Berry Farm was not met by theme park personnel as had been planned. He then fielded numerous questions regarding other convention problems. Edwards stated that most of the problem areas raised by board members had already been aired at the debriefing meeting the previous afternoon, and that it was his intention to go to the national office by sometime in early fall to have a face-to-face meeting with LeRoy Saunders and Charlie Crawford regarding convention issues. Edwards hoped that by making specific task assignments early with firm, early deadlines, many of the problems encountered this year could be avoided next year. Horst's report was accepted.
The board then turned its attention to a special presentation by Mitch Pomerantz and Sue Ammeter regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It raised many concerns regarding the proper interpretation and enforcement of the ADA. Board members expressed some serious, nagging problems. The board voted to request that the advocacy services committee meet and come up with two or three specific recommendations for consideration by the ACB board at its September meeting regarding the ADA problems highlighted by this presentation. The board then voted to table further discussion of potential legislative initiatives responding to these concerns until the committee's recommendations were available for consideration.
Debbie Grubb spoke next for the resolutions prioritization task force. She reported that the task force had given more than half the resolutions adopted by the convention a priority one designation, with about one-fourth of the adopted resolutions being assigned a priority two designation and the other one- fourth, a priority three designation. After going through all the adopted resolutions one by one and fielding numerous questions, the task force's report was adopted as is by the board of directors.
Following Grubb's report, the board then broke into two groups, officers and directors, for the purpose of electing members to the executive committee, which is chaired by Paul Edwards. The board broke for a luncheon, sponsored by the vehicle donation program, at which Michael Irwin explained the basics of the vehicle donation program and fielded numerous questions from board members and staff. Several board members from states whose affiliates have participated in this program gave testimony as to the honesty, integrity and ethics of Irwin's company.
The afternoon session began around 1:30 p.m. Pacific time. Brian Charlson reported that the officers had elected him and Pat Beattie to join Edwards on the executive committee; Chris Gray reported that the directors had elected him and Ardis Bazyn to serve for the next year on the executive committee.
Edwards and Charlson presented a joint report to the board regarding their activities representing ACB in meetings and activities of the World Blind Union, both regionally and internationally. Edwards reported that ACB was making slow but steady progress in furthering some of ACB's positions within the WBU. Charlson indicated that the North America-Caribbean regional group of the WBU had been involved in three major areas: continuing to broaden the outreach and programs of the regional group; working on the upcoming quadrennial meeting of the WBU to be held in Melbourne, Australia in November 2000; and working on a joint access committee for better computer access for blind and visually impaired people throughout the region. Charlson admitted upon questioning that a chronic problem with the region is getting meaningful membership, attendance and participation from entities from the Caribbean nations, which now have to join as individual nations. Most Caribbean nations are small, and provider organizations and consumer groups simply don't have the financial resources to join and pay dues, and/or attend and participate in regional and international meetings and activities. The board accepted this report.
The board then turned its attention to a draft document prepared by Chris Gray and Sue Ammeter regarding the NFB's newsline program. The document, while acknowledging that the newsline program is useful for blind people, points out that there are other telephone-based talking newspaper services throughout the country which give equal or superior service to that of the newsline, and at lower costs. The paper urges public entities using public funds to look carefully at alternative talking newspaper services before spending tax dollars on the newsline program. Several board members mentioned other telephone-based talking newspaper services in addition to the ones listed in the draft document. The board authorized Chris Gray and Sue Ammeter to investigate the talking newspaper services, and if such services do provide equal or better services to those provided by the newsline, then the document would be revised to include these services.
Several board members expressed the view that a similar position paper should be prepared regarding the NFB's Jobline program. To that end, an ad hoc committee of Brian Charlson, chairman, Sandy Sanderson and Ardis Bazyn was appointed to work on developing such a position paper, which would then be presented for review and approval by the board.
Pam Shaw then reported to the board that on account of unavoidable schedule conflicts during convention week, her committee had been unable to meet to develop appropriate guidelines regarding the issue of selling goods at ACB conventions. It was agreed that this agenda item should be deferred to the September board meeting. Edwards then asked the board to adopt a process through which goals and priorities for the national office could be established for the coming year. He proposed that he and Charlie Crawford would meet and develop those goals and priorities for review by the board at its September meeting. The board agreed to this process.
Edwards then asked Charlie Crawford to discuss some of the fund-raising ideas that have been under consideration. He discussed several potential programs, including a long-distance telephone program through which ACB could gain monthly voluntary contributions from members and supporters. The board asked many questions about this program. Crawford admitted that one of the sticking points in negotiations has been making billing statements available in accessible media.
The board next turned its attention to resolution 99-27, which the convention had referred to it. This had grown out of the meeting for the future of ACB, and it calls for a blue ribbon committee composed of ACB members who do not serve on any other national committee. The members would serve for staggered three- year terms, and would have the responsibility of bringing concerns from the membership and innovative ideas and solutions to the ACB officers and board for implementation. The idea is that such a committee could serve as an ongoing avenue for individual members to bring their concerns and solutions to the leadership at the national level. After considerable discussion, the board agreed that an ad hoc committee consisting of M.J. Schmitt, chairperson, Sanford Alexander and Dawn Christensen should be authorized to study the resolution and its implications, budgetary and otherwise, and report back to the board with any recommendations by the September meeting.
The board then voted to go into executive session.
Following the executive session, the board reconvened in open session. Edwards reported that the board had received information and reports on sensitive, confidential financial matters growing out of the conducting of the 1999 convention, and that the board had held candid discussions on these matters but had not taken any official action at the time with respect to those matters. He announced that the board meeting would be held September 17-19 at the Radisson Hotel in Schaumburg, Ill. He also stated that he had an idea for future board meetings taking place other than in conjunction with national conventions: that the board should meet at the convention site for its September board meeting, rather than at the mid-year meeting in February. This would enable the mid-year meeting to be moved around to various regions throughout the country, where regional leadership training seminars could be offered. It was agreed that further discussion of this proposal would be held at the September board meeting. The board voted that a survey regarding this proposal should be sent to all affiliate presidents to solicit their input before the September meeting.
Edwards then asked Saunders not to make any further agreements with the Schaumburg Radisson Hotel until the board settles the matter of future September meetings. With no further business to transact, the post-convention board meeting adjourned at 5 p.m. Pacific time.
(Editor's Note: With the year 2000 just around the corner, we thought readers of "The Braille Forum" would enjoy a humorous look at all the problems a computer and the Internet caused one reader.)
Buy a computer, find an Internet service provider, load e- mail and get on the ACB list. Simple, right? Maybe for some people it is. But for me ...
Everything worked great until I placed the order for my computer system. I'd done all the research, determined exactly what kind of computer system I wanted and from whom I wanted to buy it. I had the costs calculated just about to the penny. It's just that I forgot a few small things. I needed a table to put the computer on, a chair that was high enough for me to reach the table, a wooden runner to make my swivel chair swivel, a set of wires to connect the computer to the telephone, a connector box to put the wires in, and an electrical surge protector. (I also needed someone to connect the wires, but I didn't discover that until later.)
So I bought all that. The company salesman came to my house to install the already-put-together system, and the installation went perfectly. That is, until he left. Within an hour I had so much static coming through my speakers that I couldn't understand what my synthesizer was saying. First thing Monday morning I called the salesman, he sent me new speakers via UPS, and I was, I thought, finally on my way to joining the ACB list.
I learned, however, that the supposedly easy process of getting on line was not always so easy. For one thing, in order to get on line with the provider I'd chosen, I needed to unload my speech program, which left me scrambling for some way to read the on-screen instructions I was supposed to follow. Since the salesman I'd relied on before could not help me install e-mail, my father stepped in. The installation went without a hitch.
There was just one small problem: my e-mail didn't work. Apparently the CD the provider had sent me had some defects, and didn't contain all the information it should have. My father spent days entering codes and numbers into my computer to make it work. And eventually it did. I was thrilled! Now I could join the ACB list.
But there was one small problem. My synthesizer wouldn't read any of the menus, and it read e-mail messages so haltingly that I could have taken a nap between each line of text. Fortunately I had some pretty wonderful support (both technical and emotional) from friends, and we were ultimately able to change enough of the computer settings to make the speech read relatively smoothly.
Then, all of a sudden, the icons on the desktop stopped speaking. I couldn't access any programs at all since I didn't know where they were. Fortunately, the solution to that problem was an easy one. The manufacturer explained that synthesizers only like certain colors, and since mine had somehow been altered along the way, we had to change them back to neutral ones.
But wait; I couldn't connect to the server. I got nothing on the phone line at all, except for static. So I asked the phone company to come out. Since it lost my service order the first time I called, it took awhile. But eventually they fixed my phone lines so that water would not accumulate on them and keep ruining my connection.
Once that was fixed, I found that I could no longer send or receive messages. My Internet provider had been bought out and the new company was attempting to put in a new server -- but not without a lot of crashes. There were so many crashes that they added several days to each customer's contract.
Even with the new server, I was having trouble. After six fruitless calls to the provider (I generally waited for 45 minutes to an hour before I reached someone), I was stuck. For the first time I seriously considered changing providers, and actually found one who, for a $40 fee, would come to my home and install it. (Many companies charge more than $200 to do that.)
My one last contact was with a visually impaired computer instructor who came to my home, and for the price of dessert, worked with me and my provider for three hours. Somehow, by this time, multiple e-mail accounts had been established, my screen was divided into three parts when it should have been two, I was getting countless "dial-up networking" errors, and my synthesizer was getting totally confused by my provider's on-screen advertising. What exactly he did, I'm not sure, but it had a lot to do with creating short-cut keys.
Five months after I began the process, I finally subscribed to the ACB list. I had to do it twice because I forgot to put ACB-L in the body of the message. Is it worth it? You bet.
There are two valuable lessons I've learned from all of this. One is that a person needs all of the technical and emotional support he/she can get during this time, and that the more support you have before you start the process, the better off you will be. Secondly, I learned that computers often don't work right, particularly when you add speech. Sometimes it may be because we push some incorrect keys, but after all, that's really easy to do when synthesizers don't speak everything. Mostly, though, the reasons they don't work are unknown, and when they do begin to work again, the reasons are equally mysterious. So if your computer, like mine, doesn't work, you're neither stupid nor inept nor a failure. Everyone else is struggling just like you; they're just afraid to admit it.
So is everything fine now? Yes; I just have one small problem. I have too many messages!
You have heard much discussion over the past year or two about threats to services for people who are blind or visually impaired. These threats, both in Kansas and across the United States, have taken many different forms but all have several common threads. The single driving force behind proposed, contemplated or executed changes in service structures for blind people is economy. Put simply, the misdirected belief that such changes will cost less without negatively affecting services leads to changes that cost less and produce less, too.
Another theme that has been developing is that of blind and visually impaired people banding together in a way not seen for many years in order to fight for the survival of a service system that has served them well. As part of this effort, national organizations such as the American Foundation for the Blind have assisted in the gathering of data to support the axiom that blind people are best served through a system of specialized services designed to address the unique needs of this population. Leaders from both NFB and ACB have traveled to help state affiliates defend the preservation of specialized services for the blind. Paul Edwards, president of ACB, and Dick Davis, Assistant Commissioner for Services for the Blind in Minnesota, made such a trip to a special meeting of the Kansas Division of Services for the Blind Future Design Team on May 2, 1999.
Many people have fought against attempts by the independent living leadership to capture funding designed for rehabilitation which they feel could more appropriately serve people with disabilities within their independent living framework. It's warm, it's fuzzy; but, unfortunately, it won't work. Worse yet, it violates one of independent living's basic principles of consumer choice by telling blind people that they can't have specialized services even if they think that is what is best for them.
The last of several remaining common threads in this struggle that I will discuss today is the emergence of cooperation between state affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind. In several instances, and Kansas is proud to be counted among these, both organizations have worked together to confront the common threat.
The joint statement that follows reflects the work between the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas and the Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. It serves as a document upon which future steps may be based as the struggle to maintain services that blind people know work continues.
JOINT STATEMENT OF GOALS AND PRINCIPLES created by a joint committee of representatives from the NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF KANSAS and KANSAS ASSOCIATION FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PARTICIPATING: Susie Stanzel Richard Edlund Sanford J. Alexander, III Michael Byington Created May 1, 1999
This document is not intended to restrict the overall planning process of the Division of Services for the Blind Future Design Team. The two major consumer organizations of the blind in Kansas, however, have found a number of goals and principles in common as they have worked together through the futures planning process. It is the joint view of the leadership of these two organizations that it will be beneficial if goals and principles on which we are certain the two organizations agree are set forth as a beginning point for the Future Design Team's final planning.
1. Blind people as consumers have the right to exercise informed choice as to what services they receive.
2. Services for the Blind has to have a center-based/facility- based services component as well as field components. The facility-based rehabilitation center for the blind must be seen as one component of a system of several components, all of which are working together.
3. In disability groups other than the blind, medical model rehabilitation is usually finished before vocational rehabilitation is started. With blind people, the medical model portion of the rehabilitation process does not happen before other aspects of rehabilitation are started. The rehabilitation of a blind person probably would not be more costly if one counted the medical rehabilitation costs of other disabilities as being a part of the overall rehabilitation process.
4. Everyone who works for Services for the Blind, and everyone who is in the supervisory chain of command for the agency, including janitors, cooks, secretaries, and all other employees, should have at least three weeks of training under sleep shades prior to or shortly after beginning work for the agency. This provision must apply to the director of the agency as well. Under the current organizational structure this provision would also include the Commissioner of Rehabilitation Services.
5. We need a comprehensive Services for the Blind agency, not just a services for the blind Section 110 money funded vocational rehabilitation agency. We need an agency that provides services for the blind on a continuum with 110 monies only being one component of services provided and funding used. The concept must acknowledge that cradle to grave services are appropriate for many individuals who are blind.
6. Blind services personnel should be supervised exclusively by blind services specialist supervisors.
7. Kansas should submit to the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) a separate state plan for the blind. Blind services should not be a portion of a combined plan.
8. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) reimbursements for placements of blind workers should come directly back into the blindness services system, not into a general or combined agency.
9. Services for the Blind should be non-means tested.
10. Kansas Industries for the Blind (KIB) still can serve needed purposes and should not close.
A. A categorical, facility-based program needs to continue to exist. It should not be weakened in terms of services provided. Core services should include:
-- travel training
-- activities of daily living/independent living skills
-- assistive technology/computers
-- braille/communications skills
-- community recreation
-- industrial and manual arts
-- adjustment and modification of attitudes about blindness
Vocational evaluation needs to be a significant portion of the program.
There must be a vocational component.
Housing options including home and apartment living should be available as well as some dormitory space.
Overall capacity should not be decreased from current levels.
B. Administrative services for the entire Services for the Blind program should be separated from the facility-based rehabilitation program.
C. We need, in addition to the facility-based component, travel trainers located in area offices throughout the state. These individuals would provide community-based cane travel training and orientation assistance. We suggest the formula of one travel trainer for each rehabilitation teaching position. The two orientation and mobility instructors at the RCB should work in close concert with the field travel trainers to insure a smooth transition into the community for those blind persons leaving RCB training.
D. The rehabilitation teaching program should not be restricted to younger individuals only. Older Kansans who are blind should have access to rehabilitation teaching services through the rehabilitation teaching program as well as through the Kan-SAIL program.
E. Services for the Blind needs to have a waiver specialist working at full effort toward a program or system of blindness- related, community-based waivers.
F. An early childhood and blindness specialist is needed to work in the field.
G. A low vision consultant position is needed for the field.
H. An evaluation of caseload size for the entire blind services field needs to be performed, with caseload size evaluated based on factors of population density, travel time, and area covered by the blind services professional.
I. The Little Randolph-Sheppard Law in Kansas needs to be strengthened.
J. It has been made clear to the Future Design Team that the state of Kansas no longer desires to operate Kansas Industries for the Blind (KIB). When privatized, the state should work cooperatively with potential privatizing agencies, having expertise and proven track records in employment of the blind. This work should continue until privatization is successful. In the unlikely event, however, that the state continues to operate the program for some additional time, the following changes should be made:
-- Purchasing rules exemptions similar to those provided by the legislature to K.U. Medical Center
-- There should be an exemption from VR eligibility. Blind people should be able to be hired off the street if jobs are available and they want to work at KIB.
-- State of Kansas employment transfers from KIB work to other available state positions should be maintained and continued as an available benefit of KIB employment whether KIB remains a state facility or is privatized.
(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.")
This week featured three states in which the national office has been involved. In South Dakota, we see the state moving toward a combined agency model with discrete services for the blind, but looking like shrinking personnel and a request for us to just accept the good faith of the state. We will have a teleconference on this with the South Dakota ACB leadership on Sunday, August 8. In North Dakota we are working with our ACB leaders to fashion a better and separate state agency for blind folks there, and we have advised the state planning people from Minnesota that mergers of state agencies are not productive. There will be surely more to report on these and other states as ACB and its partners continue to defend and advance the concept of agencies that are truly accountable to and configured for blind folks.
An article may soon appear in the "Los Angeles Times" articulating the interests of blind folks with respect to telecommunications equipment. Primarily focused on cell phones and their visual menus, the interview also covered issues such as ATMs and even descriptive video. Now let's see what gets written ...
The negotiations have pretty well ended on where ACB will be for the next 7 years and the new lease awaits signature. We will be at the same address with suite 1004 rather than suite 720. The new space is slightly larger to accommodate expansion for a couple of interns to be at the office on a continuing basis. This will afford us with special talents to apply to projects in need of short term and intense attention from time to time.
In addition to the new location, we have secured partial support for a new phone system from Bell Atlantic Corporation. This will allow us to move from a rapidly aging and decreasingly efficient system to one that can meet ACB's needs for years to come.
We completed work on presentation and format aspects of our resolutions and will begin distribution next week! Already we have sent a copy of the audible traffic signaling resolution out for use in a negotiation in one of the states. This kind of fast processing and care for the will of our membership is a credit to the folks in the national office who did the work, the resolutions committee itself, and Mike Byington who put in the great effort required to make it happen as quickly as it has!
Melanie Brunson finished up her advising a passenger vessel group on ADA issues and got back to the national office just in time for three employment-related discrimination issues to crop up! In addition, we continue to follow up on one guide dog complaint where the state wants to let the company off easy, and with the problem of Social Security Administration notices in inaccessible media. There are a number of other individual and collective advocacy issues bubbling on our burners and stay tuned to "News Notes" for a stream of activity as it all unfolds.
There is a lot to getting an ACB convention rolling! Already Barbara and Billie Jean have started work on the first announcements to targeted groups and one of our interns is updating the affiliate presidents' list to make sure we get the word to ACB leaders!
Just to give you an idea of the work load our interns do, we greatly appreciate Lisa Hansen who is going nearly crazy trying to get an accurate listing of potential exhibitors for the convention. There are around 700 companies to check out for addresses, phone numbers, contacts, e-mail and whether they even exist in some cases. Great work Barbara, Billie Jean, Jenny and Lisa!
In a brief but productive meeting between Executive Director Charlie Crawford, Governmental Affairs Director Melanie Brunson, and a group of blindness private agency folks, we dealt with the issue of getting proper reimbursements for professionals serving the blind from Medicare and Medicaid. This is a serious issue where consumers constantly hear that there is just not enough money to get the professionals we need and the equipment that makes a difference for us. This issue will get real attention as a bill in Congress will shortly be introduced and we will be there to move it along! More to come ...
Penny Reeder dropped in to visit with the national office support and other staff this week. While Charlie Crawford was off in Oklahoma (see next story), Penny got a chance to learn a bit about what the folks do and how they do it. We are looking forward to seeing Penny on a regular basis when she takes on the challenge of "Braille Forum" editor in September.
After a chance to meet with a few ACB folks in Oklahoma, Charlie Crawford addressed the staff of the vision services division of the state agency for folks with disabilities on the ACB principles of consumer cooperation and the national background for special services. Much ground was covered and the staff and Director Ray Hopkins were most receptive to the talk.
We learned this week on a conference call with the folks from the American Foundation for the Blind that some new money for older blind folks may get put in the Older Americans Act as that legislation is reauthorized by Congress. The battle for increased money under Chapter 2 of Title VII (Independent Living Services for older blind) within the Rehabilitation Act is still hot, but Congress is tied up in knots over the budget agreement. So stay tuned, gang.
Wanna go shopping on the Internet and make a bit of money for ACB? How about getting your e-mail over the phone without a computer? Or would you just want to donate directly online? These are three ways that ACB will be launching to earn that much needed cash to keep up the high energy activities of this organization. Next week the news will be out in detail and we hope all of you will take advantage of the opportunities!
We have continued our discussions with our North Dakota affiliate on advancing a specialized full service agency in that state. This will take some time, but the environment looks good for it. Pennsylvania has managed to hold its own against lots of political wrangling and now is looking at trying to introduce the notion of a commission-like bill in their legislature. While the national office has not had a great deal of communications on this with its Keystone State affiliate, we have been kept aware of things by John and Pam and look forward to getting more deeply involved as the new legislation takes strategic shape. South Dakota is getting very hot with the governor basically blowing off the ACB and NFB in his plan to reorganize disability services. Clearly the disagreement of the Rehabilitation Council and the fact that the governor simply cannot reorganize without the consent of the legislative branch are of little concern to him. ACB and NFB will make it clear to the Rehabilitation Services Administration that we expect more than obtuse responses to the issue.
ACB will have a conference call on Sunday, August 8 to map our strategy for South Dakota and get the ball rolling!
ACB filed a complaint this week against a cab company in Maryland over their seeming refusal to guarantee equal service to folks using guide dogs. The complaint focuses on the cab company claiming that their drivers are "independent contractors" and the company can't do much beyond suspending a driver from being able to bid on jobs from anywhere from an hour up. This form of discipline has two major problems. First, it never applies to drivers who do not bid on jobs where they know there is a guide dog, and secondly it puts the blind person at risk of being unable to get to a destination in the time frame they need.
The ACB filing seeks to have the United States Department of Justice investigate and develop a realistic compliance plan with the company. This could mean the status of independent contractor could finally be subjugated to the civil rights of folks using guide dogs.
In a similar case, ACB advised a guide dog user in Ohio to reject a state agency negotiated offer of settlement with the offending cab company. In effect the settlement would not even have had a finding of discrimination, but only a promise by the cab company not to discriminate against folks with disabilities. You heard right, the word was disabilities and no mention of guide dogs at all. A joke? Of course. The Ohio agency has no teeth. ACB, Guide Dog Users, Inc. and ACB of Ohio will have to work to correct this. In the meantime, the guide dog user who was the victim will have to review her other options that are there for her.
Now that the rehabilitation agencies are starting to require counselors to become what are called Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC), there have been at least two instances where blind folks have attempted to get the necessary application information in accessible media and have not been successful. This obviously creates a real problem for blind folks wanting to become rehabilitation counselors and for the states who become partners in discrimination by their insistence upon the CRC status.
ACB has written to the certifying body to advise them that we expect equal access. Should they fail to respond appropriately to our letter of concern, then we are ready to take the next steps to force compliance.
As this "News Notes" is being written, the executive director is in southwest Georgia at the state convention of the Georgia Council of the Blind. Transportation, industries for the blind, the role of independent living centers and state agency responsibilities head the many topics to be covered.
What? Too heavy you say? Well, your executive director actually participated in the talent show. Could this be a case of today Georgia, tomorrow Showcase?
With start-up fairly soon, ACB has entered a five year deal with Mail-Call to provide e-mail access by telephone to folks who either don't have computers or just would rather use the phone to access their e-mail. ACB also signed on to Remit.net for them to create a link on our web site for folks wanting to contribute through a secure server. This will allow visitors to our web site to make online donations to ACB. Both deals will become active in the next few weeks and we will let folks know what they are and how they work once the services are activated.
We are holding off on Greater Good for shopping online, until we are clear on exactly what accessibility issues are out there. We can say, however, that we have been able to visit the Greater Good site and shop in all the stores using a screen reader.
ACB is looking at Kentucky 2000 by making sure our exhibitors from the Los Angeles convention hear from us with a big thanks and check on their impressions. We will be sending out the early information to all exhibitors for Kentucky 2000 shortly.
September and October will be meaningful months for the RSVA/ACB/BVA call for action when a broader number of groups will meet in Washington to really start dealing with the issues. Later, in October there will be a meeting between ACB, NFB, AFB and others to get to the business of defining our expectations of what separate agencies ought to be and how we can move that agenda forward.
So what would "News Notes" be without mention of the battle for the states?
This week has been most interesting in that ACB heard back from the governor of South Carolina with what is reasonably good news. The long and the short of it being that he recognizes the value of balanced consumer opinion in the formulation of decisions impacting upon blind persons in the state. This recognition is important from the standpoint that our South Carolina affiliate has gotten the point across loud and clear!
In South Dakota, the governor just has not gotten it. Despite attempts from both the NFB of South Dakota and our affiliate, the South Dakota Association of the Blind, the state just keeps on thinking it can dismiss blind folks as just too small to worry about.
ACB in consultation with its South Dakota affiliate has written the necessary letter to the federal government to properly point out the lack of legal authority which would be needed for the governor to do what he wants to do. ACB is confident and optimistic that the partnership with NFB in that state will continue as we head toward legislative D-Day in January.
Most of the clients who contact me on a regular basis are aware of the fact that I had eye surgery recently to remove cataracts that were so mature and dense that I was virtually blind in my right eye. By the time you read this, I will have had the same operation done on my other eye.
Something that I'd been ashamed to admit and have tried to hide in the past is the fact that I am legally blind. Yet, despite this, I've been an artist who could draw and paint beautiful pieces of work because of my keen sense of color. I've been one to do just about anything creative I could muster, be it art, music, or writing. All of this brought me joy. When the cataracts developed and matured over the years, however, not only did light become dimmer, but I became color blind! Purple became brown; blue became green; pink was orange, and so on. My world became more hideously distorted; and, for someone who was already severely visually impaired, this was agonizing!
Before having surgery, I decided to make peace with my blindness, to see it as a friend and a tool meant to serve me in my spiritual growth and work, rather than viewing it as an enemy, something to be loathed. Being blind has kept me far more removed from the distractions of the physical plane and more focused on the divine. I have been a clairvoyant and mystic all of my life.
I went into the surgery center in Nashville feeling anxious, nervous and excited all at the same time, wondering what would transpire as a result of the surgery. Would it prove helpful and restore any vision, or leave me in a worsened state? Everyone there was wonderful, and I kept an open mind.
When the surgery was completed and I looked through the right eye for the first time, I could see color -- awesome color! I've been feeling the awe and wonder of a newborn baby, looking all around me and seeing all of this brilliant color, majesty and beauty! The sky is really blue and the grass and trees are a brilliant green that is so alive. I dart about like a little child looking at things; even the littlest things bring such ecstasy to me. I keep saying, "Thank you, God!"
As human beings, we tend to take so much for granted that we lose the innocent awe and wonder that a child possesses even for the little things. Yet it is so important that we have a deep reverence for everything in life and be filled with constant gratitude. Everything we have is a precious gift; it's important that we don't wait to show gratitude and appreciation after it's been removed or lost. Please give thanks for all you have, both great and small, here and now. Praise and celebrate the beauty of life at all times.
Even though there is no cure for my blindness, at least I've been granted some improvement to my vision that has allowed me to see color once again, and I'm seeing more clearly as I recover. Every moment I'm gleefully celebrating my new vision. All of this is having a profound impact on me at all levels. It is also helping me to let go of the past and open myself to a new life and a new world.
Though I'm in my fifties, people still perceive me as young, probably due to the fact that I've never quite lost my childlike innocence and sense of awe and wonder. I have also been through near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences, which allow a person to transcend the illusion of time. I plan to facilitate discussion groups on NDE's and OBE's in the very near future.
I hope this testimony will serve as an inspiration to you, and to remind you to take a moment to pause and look around you and appreciate all the beauty that surrounds you. Leave your grown-up world and cares behind for a spell and allow yourself to play, celebrate your life, and take in all the beauty you can behold. Every day I'm so in awe as I behold the vivid blue sky, puffy white clouds, the rich bright greens of the grass, trees and foliage, the brilliant flowers and birds, the light and candles in my home, and even the dancing graphics on my CD player! I can't forget to mention the glow of all the cobalt glass I have around. My poinsettia is still thriving and brilliant red; I can now see the exquisite cornflower blue and magenta of my African violets and the white of my peace lilies. I even saw a flickering lightning bug for the first time ever just a few days ago!
Now it's time to dig up some paints and do some landscapes, seascapes, skyscapes and portraits as I used to do.
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.
Jewish Heritage for the Blind has available the high holiday Machzor in large print and braille. Mail or fax your request, along with a note from your doctor or eye care specialist confirming your vision problem, to Jewish Heritage for the Blind, 1655 E. 24th St., Brooklyn, NY 11229; fax (718) 338-0653. Supply is limited to one per family.
AFB NEEDS YOU
The American Foundation for the Blind is seeking nominations for its 2000 Access Awards. These awards honor individuals, corporations and organizations that are eliminating or substantially reducing inequities faced by blind people. Nominations should illustrate an exceptional, innovative effort that has improved the lives of blind and visually impaired people by enhancing access to information, the environment, technology, education or employment, including making mainstream products and services available. The effort should be one that has a national impact or that could be used on a national level.
Send your letter of nomination in print, braille, on audio cassette or via e-mail to AFB 2000 Access Awards Committee, Attn: Jay Leventhal, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, NY 10001; e-mail [email protected] Nominations must be received no later than October 1. Product brochures, patent applications and other materials of support substantiating the nomination should be enclosed with the letter. These awards will be presented at the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute in Dallas, Texas March 3-5, 2000.
SKI FOR LIGHT
Are you a blind or visually impaired adult who would enjoy a week of cross-country skiing in the Colorado Rockies? The Ski for Light 2000 event will be held in Granby, Colo. January 30-February 6. This event marks the 25th anniversary of Ski for Light. Don't know how to ski? Don't worry! Ski for Light matches each visually impaired skier with a sighted guide who will instruct you in the techniques of cross-country skiing.
Participants will stay at the Inn at Silver Creek and ski at nearby Snow Mountain Ranch. Skiers range in age from 18 to 81, and in ability from beginner to advanced. In past years, skiers and guides have come from Norway, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, England, France and other countries, as well as from the United States. The week costs $650 double occupancy ($800 for a single room) and includes all meals, ski instruction, equipment for first- time skiers, ground transportation from the Denver Airport, and after-hours activities. You are responsible for the cost of transportation from your home to and from Denver. Partial stipends are available on a limited basis for first-timers, based on financial need. Applications must be received by November 1, 1999. For an application, contact Judy Wilkinson, 528 W. 111th St. #7, New York, NY 10025; phone (212) 662-9593, e-mail [email protected]; or download the application from the home page, http://www.sfl.org.
Speaking of skiing, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Regional Ski for Light event will take place in early January in Sherman, Pa., near Binghamton, N.Y. If you would like to learn to cross-country ski, or if you already know how, and want to enjoy the outdoors, evening social events, good food and fellowship in a country setting, come on up! For an application or further information, contact Barry or Louise Wood at (201) 868-3336.
SUPER SUMMER SALE
The Mid-Tennessee Council of the Blind is having a super summer sale! Braille T-shirts, baseball caps and tote bags are half off. All three are imprinted with the ACB logo and read "We're a group that has a vision" in print and braille (the first few words of the ACB song). T-shirts are short sleeved, 100 percent cotton; the color is natural, with sea green paint. You may choose from sizes large, extra large, and extra extra large; each shirt is only $8. Ball caps and tote bags are the same color, natural, with sea green paint, and cost $4 each. All prices include shipping. Send check or money order to Mid-Tennessee Council of the Blind, c/o Kathy Lamb, 2700 Lakeland Dr., Nashville, TN 37214.
The Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision recently released a set of public service announcements for use on radio reading services. Each tape has four pieces of information: 1) an overview of RRTC activities; 2) a summary of a research project called "Barriers to Employment for Persons Who Are Blind"; 3) an overview of an information resource and referral database; and 4) a summary of a research project focusing on the employment status of persons who are blind. For a copy, contact the RRTC at (662) 325-2001.
Michael A. Naranjo, a sculptor blinded in the Vietnam War, was recently named Disabled American Veterans' Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year. Naranjo's works are displayed in museums and private collections worldwide. His first sculpture was an inchworm.
The winners of the National Industries for the Blind Grant M. Mack Scholarships are Leanne Forrest and Bryan J. Cecil. Forrest plans to major in business management at Mississippi State University; Cecil is interested in majoring in communications at North Carolina State University.
Justin Pierce, a legally blind man, has learned to operate and program a robotic arc welding solution from Motoman, Inc. This was made possible by Mississippi Industries for the Blind, the Mississippi Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Motoman, Inc. Pierce attended a basic robotic programming class in January 1999. Through the class, he learned to "teach" points in the welding joint to tell the robot it had a welding job; walked it through that job; and put in the additional lines of code the robot needed to finish the job.
BRAILLE ESSAY CONTEST
The World Blind Union, in cooperation with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, invites any individual to enter a braille essay contest on the topic "What Braille Means to Me." Essays should be written from a personal perspective and describe how braille has affected or changed a life. Ten winners will be chosen; each will receive $500 (Canadian) and the winning essays will be published in English, French and Spanish and distributed internationally. Published essays will become the property of the WBU. Winners will be notified by mail. The decision of the judges is final. Submissions must be postmarked or received electronically by February 1, 2000.
The contest is open to individuals who are blind, visually impaired, deaf-blind or sighted. Entries may be submitted in English, French or Spanish, and written in print or braille; electronic submissions are preferred. Essays should be 1,000 to 1,500 words in length and must include, on a separate sheet of paper, the individual's name, address and telephone number. Essays should not include personal identification within the text. Winning essays will be selected based on their ability to capture the judges' interest and how compelling, powerful and creative they are. Submissions will not be returned.
Send your entries to: Attn: James W. Sanders, CNIB, 1929 Bayview Ave., Toronto, ON M4G 3E8, Canada, or via e-mail to [email protected]
Recordings of the 1999 convention program of the Visually Impaired Data Processors International are available for purchase. The tapes include the VIDPI microcomputer seminar, a program on the practical uses for the Internet, the business meeting and other presentations. Training workshops were not recorded. The set of tapes costs $10. Send your order to Robert A. Jones, 348-9 Silver Creek Circle, Jacksonville, FL 32216-1973; phone (904) 721-2389.
Eric Calhoun, a member of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the California Council of the Blind, has created a newsletter to talk about blindness issues and much more. It's called "Eric Calhoun's Newsreel." To subscribe, it costs $20; if you want to keep any or all of the tapes, $60; and $100 for a life membership. Send check or money order payable to Eric Calhoun, P.O. Box 1003, Inglewood, CA 90308.
Are you diabetic? Do you have trouble finding sugar-free desserts? Sue Slater, a native of St. Louis, has come up with a way. She created a guide to sugar-free desserts that can be found at restaurants and bakeries throughout the United States. This guide is available on the Internet at http://www.sugarfreesites.com.
Nancy and Bob Buchanan are agents for IXC/Eclipse Telecommunications, a full-service nationwide long distance telephone company. Out-of-state rates for customers of Baby Bells or, in some cases, United Telephone, in 36 states are 7.5 cents per minute. Customers of other local carriers and residents of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, Iowa, West Virginia, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Utah and Minnesota can get 8.9 cents per minute; those living in Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible for these rates. Eclipse offers good in-state rates as well, ranging from 5.5 cents in California and Illinois to 11.9 cents in Nebraska. All billing is in six-second increments after the first 30 seconds. There are no monthly minimums. You pay only for the time you use plus mandated state and federal fees and taxes. For more information, call the Buchanans at (803) 256-1223, e-mail [email protected] or fax them at (803) 256-1019.
"Computer Bytes" is a monthly compilation of items from other newsletters, computer brochures, and portions of magazine articles about computers. It is published by the Oregon Talking Book and Braille Services, and can be found on the web at http://www.osl.state.or.us/tbabs/compbytes.html.
GEOGRAPHY & MORE
The Princeton Braillists have braille maps of several states available, as well as human anatomy, atlases of North and South America, the Middle East, Russia and its former republics, and Morocco. States available are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida. Each state booklet costs $6. "Basic Human Anatomy" costs $15, including shipping. The atlases of North and South America cost $56 for the set; individual volumes cost $15, plus $4 shipping for one or two volumes. "Atlas of the Middle East" covers 17 countries; it costs $20. "Maps of Russia and its Former Republics" shows boundaries, rivers and major cities as of 1997; it costs $4. "Maps of Morocco" costs $5. Each booklet is bound with cardboard and a multi-ring binder. Send check or purchase order to The Princeton Braillists, 28-B Portsmouth St., Whiting, N.J. 08759. Credit card service is not available. Allow four to six weeks for delivery. For more information, call (732) 350-3708.
On July 23, the full bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit announced its decision in Alsbrook v. City of Maumelle, Ark., et al. By a six to four vote, the court held that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) exceeds the power of Congress to implement the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as authorized under section five of that amendment. Therefore, Title II of the ADA is unconstitutional; it is also in violation of the 11th Amendment's bar against lawsuits in the federal courts brought by private parties against entities of state government.
The plaintiff in this court case is Christopher B. Alsbrook, who suffers from congenital amblyopia, which with corrective lenses could be corrected to normal -- 20/20 in his left eye, and nearly normal, 20/30 in his right eye -- and he applied and was hired as a law enforcement officer by the city of Maumelle. But in order to become a certified law enforcement officer, and to be eligible for promotions and consideration for potential law enforcement positions elsewhere, Alsbrook had to apply for and gain certification from a state agency known as the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training (ACLEST). ACLEST had promulgated a medical standard that all applicants for law enforcement officers must have corrected vision of 20/20 in both eyes. Thus, Maumelle could not get certification for Alsbrook, and he was consigned to working as an uncertified officer who could not be assigned to criminal investigations. Alsbrook sought a waiver of the vision standard, but ACLEST denied his request, stating that it did not have the authority to waive the standard. Eventually, ACLEST granted Alsbrook a waiver and his certification, and he was hired into a higher-paying position as a law enforcement officer with the city of Little Rock, where he is currently employed. He brought the action under Title II in the belief that he had been denied full participation in and the benefits of the law enforcement program offered by the various state and local government defendants because of his visual impairment. The U.S. District Court for the District of Eastern Arkansas had denied the state and local government defendants' motions for summary judgment, and the court of appeals had agreed to hear and consider an interlocutory appeal from that district court ruling.
The court of appeals through Circuit Judge Beam, who wrote the majority opinion, stated that it must engage in a two-prong analysis under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment. First, the court held that the language of the ADA is clear and unmistakable in its intent to abrogate the states' sovereign immunity. The court then moved to the second prong of analysis, deciding whether Congress, through enacting Title II of the ADA, had gone beyond its authority under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment. The court admitted that Congress did find discrimination against disabled people in society in general, but that Congress had unfortunately failed to make specific findings that entities of state and local government had engaged in patterns of such disability discrimination. The court then pointed out that while not fatal to a claim of Section 5 authority, the Supreme Court has never held that disability discrimination constitutes a suspect classification for 14th Amendment analytical purposes. While it appeared to admit that Congress could legislate, carry out and enforce the rational basis standard of disability discrimination against the states recognized by the courts, the court says that Title II's requirements go far beyond a simple carrying out of a prohibition of disability discrimination.
The court contended that since the reasonable modification requirement contained in Title II, which is undefined in the statute, required state and local governments to implement open- ended modifications to their programs in order to accommodate disabled individuals; therefore, it required much more of state and local governments than the simple rational basis prohibition of disability discrimination mandated by the 14th Amendment. Therefore, the court held that Title II goes beyond the legitimate authority of Congress to carry out the rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, and was therefore unconstitutional. Since the court had held that Title II of the ADA was invalid as going beyond Congress' authority to enact, the court also held that Title II also violated the state's sovereign immunity from private party suits in the federal courts guaranteed under the 11th Amendment to the Constitution. The court also stated that the individual state office holders, both in their official and personal capacities, were not subject to being sued in the federal courts under 42 U.S. Code Section 1983 which forbids those acting under color of state law from unlawfully discriminating against individual citizens.
The court's rationale for this holding seems rather cynical and inconsistent on its face as the court contends that Title II of the ADA (which it has just declared unconstitutional) grants the plaintiffs a comprehensive scheme for enforcing their federally guaranteed rights, thus making reference to the above-mentioned code unnecessary; state and local government defendants are protected from private party suits under that section by their immunity. The court then reverses the decision of the federal trial court in favor of Christopher Alsbrook, and instead grants summary judgment to the defendants.
The four dissenting judges, through Circuit Judge McMillian, question the logic and holding of the majority with respect to the constitutionality of Title II of the ADA. The dissent points out that four other federal appellate courts (and a fifth in the works) have considered these contentions and have held that Title II of the ADA is a constitutional exercise of Congress' Section 5 authority to carry out the rights guaranteed to citizens of the United States under the 14th Amendment's due process and equal protection clauses.
Since the U.S. Department of Justice was a party intervenor before the court of appeals on the side of Christopher Alsbrook and argued in defense of Title II's constitutionality, I believe it is likely that the United States will petition the Supreme Court to grant review of this decision. I also believe that if the Justice Department seeks Supreme Court review, especially in light of the existing conflict of decisions among the courts of appeals, it is likely that the Supreme Court will agree to review this case. The Eighth Circuit's striking down of Title II of the ADA is a major judicial defeat for the rights of disabled people. This decision, if allowed to stand, would gut this part of the ADA which guarantees disabled people access to and participation in programs and activities offered to the public by entities of state and local governments. If this decision were to be confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, even going back to Congress for a legislative fix would not solve the constitutional defect. The disabled community would then be confronting the daunting prospect of attempting to pass a constitutional amendment granting Congress the power to enact a broad-based disability discrimination prohibition covering entities of state and local governments such as those now contained in Title II of the ADA. Confronting the recent sovereign immunity decisions announced by the high court at the end of its last term, we in the disability community may well be facing such dismal political prospects in the next year or so. Yet we as disability rights advocates must not let such sobering possibilities dampen our resolve now to marshall the best possible arguments in defense of Title II. I hope that ACB will be in the forefront of disability organizations raising the best arguments and loudest voices in favor of the continuing constitutional vitality of the ADA before the Supreme Court.
FOR SALE: Type 'n Speak with latest upgrade, still under warranty. Comes with manual on IBM-compatible disk. Call B.J. Keith at (703) 528-4455, or e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: HP 3P scanner. Make offer. For sale or trade, licensed copy of JFW 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]
FOR SALE: Computer monitor, Packard Bell model VGA, color, 14 inches. Good condition. $50. Call Ed Verner at (210) 822-6123 or e-mail him at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Optelec Spectrum Jr. color CCTV with 14-inch monitor. Used as a demonstrator at a low vision clinic. Only 18 months old. Asking $2,795 or best offer. Humanware Clearview black-and-white CCTV with 17-inch monitor. Used as demonstrator at low vision clinic. $1,995 or best offer. Aurora autofocus black-and-white headmount camera system. Used as a demonstrator at low vision clinic. $2,195 or best offer. Call (800) 284-1823, extension 373.
WANTED: Several braille cells with wiring, the kind used in refreshable braille displays, to help Stanford students and professor develop tactile communication apparatus for the blind and deaf-blind. Defective 20- or 40-cell unit also acceptable. Does not matter if six- or eight-pin type. Contact Alexander Ramsay at [email protected], or write him at 23484 Belaire Ct., Los Gatos, CA 95033.
WANTED: Goal ball. Call Roger at (925) 969-9744.
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ELIZABETH M. LENNON, Kalamazoo, MI