The Braille Forum, October 1999

Braille Forum
Vol. XXXVIII October 1999 No. 4
Published By
The American Council of the Blind
Paul Edwards, President
Charles H. Crawford, Executive Director
Penny Reeder, Editor
Sharon Lovering, Editorial Assistant
National Office:
1155 15th St. N.W.
Suite 1004
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 467-5081
Fax: (202) 467-5085
Web Site:
Paul Edwards' voice pager: (888) 895-8553

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: Penny Reeder, THE BRAILLE FORUM, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 1004, 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.

Copyright 1999
American Council of the Blind


President's Message: The Folks Who Run Away, by Paul Edwards
Building a Bridge, by Paul Edwards
Convention: The Magnificence and the Magic, by Charles H. Crawford
Blind Pedestrians Get a Helpful Voice at Crosswalks, by Bob Pool
Advocacy Works to Get Cheap Tickets Ad off the Air
Summary of 1999 ACB Resolutions
An Interview with Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, by Penny Reeder and Terry Pacheco
Affiliate News
In Memoriam: Thomas H. Stout, by Robert L. Williams
Hail to the Cane, by Jeff Thom
Letters to the Editor
Here and There, by Elizabeth M. Lennon
News Notes from the National Office
High Tech Swap Shop

Due to technical difficulties, the convention highlights and other convention-related articles will appear in the November issue. We appreciate your patience while the national office moves.

by Paul Edwards

I am actually very late writing this message. I am sitting on an airplane heading for Chicago for our September board meeting. I have been thinking for a long time about what role our organization has in the larger scheme of things. You will be glad that I don't intend to write a dissertation on that subject here. Instead I want to discuss a subject that has recently received a lot of attention because of a bill that is pending in Congress. The bill itself would give rehabilitation teachers and orientation and mobility instructors the right to be reimbursed for services delivered to Medicare-eligible folks. This is a huge step forward and, obviously, ACB is absolutely behind this effort. The issue that came up is how should blindness be defined? Initially the bill would have defined blindness as including anyone whose vision was worse than 20 over 70 and there was no inclusion of the more traditional 20 over 200 and limited fields which is the Social Security and state VR definition of blindness. We were subsequently able to get the Social Security definition included but left the 20 over 70 part in as well. Was this a good idea? On one hand, it could be argued that there are limited funds available to serve people who are blind. By diluting the pool of Medicare recipients who may be eligible for services, are we asking that these dollars be stretched beyond usefulness? Isn't this a dangerous precedent to set? Do we risk seeing the whole definition of blindness altered so that it will be harder to identify those who should most be assured services? This is certainly a risk. I believe that the advantages of extending eligibility outweigh the dangers. In the first place, when we go to Congress or our state legislatures we can speak of much larger numbers in need of services who qualify to receive them. This makes us less of a low-incidence disability. Second, we can utilize this new funding source to intervene earlier in vision loss which can, almost certainly, make a huge difference in how well the visually impaired person adjusts to blindness. I have no doubt that expanding the definition of those eligible to be served with Medicare dollars is a good thing. My other comment, however, at the time the issue came up for discussion, will bring me to the heart of what I want to talk about. I said that I didn't see this extension as much of an issue because most of those who would qualify would not seek services. This, to me, is a major concern. So many of the elderly folks who could most benefit from services and from ACB choose to vehemently avoid admitting to vision loss. "I'm not blind," a person will say, "I just can't see too good!" Far too many continue to drive long after it is safe and most avoid seeking help in adjusting to vision loss until they have already reached the point where adjustment is much harder. This is because there seems to be a need to admit to impairment before they can accept the notion that they need assistance. Despite all our best efforts, blindness still carries with it an immense stigma. No matter how effectively we have convinced ourselves that being blind is OK, those losing vision are convinced that their usefulness as people is immensely diminished as their vision decreases. This not only deprives us of a huge population of potentially valuable members, it also denies those who run from us the huge advantages that involvement with well-adjusted blind people can provide. More than half of the blind people in this country are over 55 years of age. How many of our affiliates have worked to develop organized outreach to this huge potential membership pool? Even more relevant is the question: would it do any good? The answer to that question for me is probably. But it is not a simple issue. Invite them and they probably won't come! We must rely on our new aging affiliate to help us develop appropriate strategies to attract older blind people to our organization. We must also rely on the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI) to help. Many people are more comfortable seeing themselves as visually impaired or low vision than they are admitting to blindness. Perhaps each state affiliate should begin to work with CCLVI to assure that there is a state chapter that is active and that works closely with our ACB chapter there. Let me stress that I am not nearly so interested in this population as potential members as I am in our potential to help them adjust to their vision loss. The issue for me is that far too many people go through traumatic experiences which we could help them avoid. Their families are all too willing to believe all the usual stereotypical notions about blind people and put immense pressure on those losing their sight to become the helpless, dependent, pliable non-entities they believe is a consequence of vision loss. I have seen far too many older blind people reborn and revitalized by their involvement with ACB to countenance quietly the waste of a valuable resource that ignoring this population represents. I will be asking our aging affiliate and CCLVI to work together to develop a presentation of our mid-year affiliate presidents' meeting in Louisville on how all of us can cooperate. I know that the membership committee will also work with them to develop some written guidelines that we can use in our affiliates to reach out to this huge potential membership. There are two other issues that we need to focus attention on. First, we need to explore what it is about blindness that is so scary. What can we do to lessen the fear of vision loss? Must we look beyond our current efforts to dispel myths to a whole new approach? I don't know the answer to this question, but neither the ACB nor organizations serving blind people can ignore it. Most of the attention we devote to publicizing positive achievements focuses on younger blind people. Should we look for more older people to spotlight? Do we focus enough on the real triumph of living independently or do we tend to take it for granted? Should we begin to sell more the capacity of blind people to be fully integrated into their communities as real achievements? The other issue involves another challenge. This one does not apply to us but is being issued to agencies serving people who are blind. Far too often agencies do not work cooperatively with consumer organizations and involvement with our local chapters is not an inherent part of the rehabilitation process. Indeed, many of the agencies who serve older blind people best inhibit their involvement with us by setting up peer counseling groups. Am I opposed to peer counseling? Absolutely not. I am opposed to duplication of effort and to wasted resources. Our membership is by far the most qualified group to lead peer counseling efforts but we are seldom involved. Instead, older blind people find themselves in groups which are certainly helpful but which fill many of the same functions that membership in ACB will afford them. We are competitors instead of being collaborators. So my challenge to those serving older blind people is to consciously reach out to ACB affiliates and build exposure to us into your rehab process. Recruit peer counselors from our affiliates and incorporate local chapter events into your peer counseling group schedule. You should not only do this because it is the kind of cooperation that a consumer-driven agency takes for granted, but also because it is the way to be certain that older blind people become the people they can be and remain enthusiastic long after you have ceased to serve them! We in ACB need the wisdom and experience older members can bring to us! Older blind people need the confidence and reassurance we can provide! It is a partnership neither group can afford to ignore!

by Paul Edwards

On Saturday, September 18th, 1999, the American Council of the Blind's Board of Directors confirmed a decision made by the corporate members of the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services. This decision completes the reorganization of ACB and ACBES which began with the creation of executive director positions for both organizations. There are many tasks which require ACBES and ACB to work together in order to meet the objectives of both corporations. As our two organizations begin to expand their approach to raising funds, there is also a need to keep track of all the various streams of money and work harder to consolidate our financial position. As a result, ACB and ACBES have created the position of Chief Financial Officer and has confirmed James Olsen as our very first CFO. This position will report jointly to the president of ACB and to the chairman of ACBES. Many of the administrative elements of our convention as well as primary administration of our scholarship program are among the new tasks Olsen will supervise. With the creation of this important new position, both boards believe that we have created a system that will enable both organizations to move ahead into the new millennium. All involved in the decision confirmed that we need this bridge between our two organizations and Jim Olsen was the only person with the knowledge and ability to fill this new and crucial spot. As president of ACB and a member of the corporation that is ACBES, I would like to congratulate both organizations and Jim Olsen. We are embarking on a new era and, with Jim Olsen in charge of building the bridge between our two corporations, we cannot help but succeed.

by Charles H. Crawford

That long-anticipated Sunday evening finally came. The vast spread of the ballroom filled with blind folks from every corner of our nation. The states and special-interest affiliates lined up with their members all chatting and greeting each other. Then it came, the voice of President Paul Edwards calling the 1999 convention of the American Council of the Blind to order. In that moment the diversity of attentions in the room came together in a single focus of pride and celebration. We were on our way, we were magnificent and the magic of ACB would once again unfold throughout the week ahead! First there came the issues, real life stuff. Whether you were crossing a street or surfing the web, trying to deal with Social Security or getting the maximum benefit from rehabilitation; whether you simply wanted to gain an understanding of basic civil rights or wanted to explore the more serious implications of recent Supreme Court decisions, the information was there and accessible to you! Then there were the exhibits, a world of high and low technology getting you everything from color identification to the edges of the Internet. There it was! From feeding your dog to orienting yourself in new places, the exhibits filled the senses with all that can be done with the ingenuity of the many people who brought their special inventions to be shared. Then there was the entertainment. You would really have to work at it to get bored. Whether you wanted a described movie at a real theater, tours to many places, a showcase of talent that would entertain for hours, a professional rock group of blind folks from Sweden, parties almost everywhere, or more quiet and soothing musical entertainment, it was waiting for you throughout the week. Best of all, there were the people! No matter when or where you roamed, there were new friends to meet, new people with whom to share their own part of the world and new adventures to explore. New and old friends alike met and shared what they had learned, promised to work on each other's concerns and had a great time along the way. Whether this reminds you of the great time we shared in Los Angeles or makes you wish you could have been there, the really good news is that there's only 10 more months until we launch Kentucky 2000! If you thought this year was enjoyable, then get ready for Louisville. See you there!

by Bob Pool
(Reprinted from the "Los Angeles Times," July 3, 1999.)

Say hello to the talking crosswalk. The first one in Los Angeles introduced itself Friday to 2,500 blind and visually impaired people gathered at Century Boulevard and Concourse Way for a convention. The automated voice system is connected to the pedestrian signals in front of the Airport Westin Hotel. It tells when it is safe to cross the busy, 120-foot-wide boulevard, and when it is safer to stay on the curb. "Crossing Century at Concourse," the signal announced as pedestrians pressed the "walk" button. When boulevard traffic came to a halt a few moments later, the voice advised: "The walk sign is on to cross Century." Los Angeles transportation officials installed the unusual pedestrian signal in time for the start of the 38th annual national convention of the American Council of the Blind. Along with conference meetings scheduled at the Westin through Friday, the convention will include a trade show at the nearby Marriott hotel that will feature such advances as computers that translate books and magazines into artificial speech. The talking crosswalk was unusual enough to leave some convention-goers speechless. "I've never seen anything like this," said Jean Mann, a 45- year-old blind computer programmer from Guilderland, N.Y. "I wish we had something like this at home. We could definitely use these on some of our corners." The signal gives pedestrians 25 seconds to cross the 10-lane boulevard which is the main entry to Los Angeles International Airport. A beeping loudspeaker next to the button alerts the blind that the crosswalk is there. As an extra touch, an arrow above the signal button vibrates when it is safe to cross the street. "It works well. It gave me all the information I needed," said Judi Cannon, 48, a tour guide at a school for the blind who lives in Quincy, Mass. "It would be totally impossible to cross this street without it. I'd take this system over one that uses a buzzer or chirps or does coo-coos any time." Noisemaking pedestrian signals are used at about 30 intersections in Los Angeles, including corners near the Braille Institute on Vermont Avenue and around Cal State-Northridge in the San Fernando Valley. They make coo-coo sounds for north- south crosswalks and peep-peep sounds for east-west crossings, said Brian Gallagher, a transportation engineer in charge of signal timing for the city. "The verbal message is an alternative we wanted to try," he said. "This convention is a chance for us to get some feedback." The talking signals are manufactured by Polara Engineering Inc. of Fullerton. Company President John F. McGaffey -- who was adjusting their volume Friday afternoon -- said he is loaning the $485 signals to the city for testing. Convention coordinator John Horst of Elizabethtown, Pa. said the American Council of the Blind has prepared guidelines for traffic engineers across the country to use for making street crossings safer for sightless pedestrians. Mitch Pomerantz, who serves as Los Angeles' compliance officer for the Americans with Disabilities Act and is blind, arranged for the Century Boulevard signals. He predicted that the convention-goers would have plenty to say about the talking crosswalk.


In August, it came to the attention of ACB that an advertisement depicting a blind man with a cup as a prop for a woman to give a donation and expecting change back was airing on various cable channels. The advertisement was aimed at portraying that this woman was really cheap and that she could utilize Cheap Tickets on the Internet to get inexpensive tickets. ACB quickly responded to the advertisement and demanded its removal. Here are the exchanges between ACB and the advertising agency. ACB's letter to the Travel Channel To Whom This May Concern: The American Council of the Blind is a membership organization of blind persons around the United States. You have an advertisement negatively portraying blind persons, sponsoring and the ACB demands that this advertisement be removed given its outrageous nature. Sincerely, Charles Crawford, Executive Director cc: Cheap Tickets, Inc. The company's response As Senior Vice President of Colby Effler & Partners, the advertising agency for Cheap Tickets, Inc., I'd like to respond to your concern regarding our television commercial entitled "Donation." I'd like to apologize for the misunderstanding and make it clear [that] your concern is understood. The commercial was never intended to exploit or humiliate the visually impaired. Our intent was to simply reinforce that there is a little "cheapness" in all of us by focusing on the main principal within the commercial, the woman making the donation. Cheap Tickets, Inc. is a highly reputable company who has a strong interest in helping many organizations including the Easter Seal Society, Association for the Mentally Handicapped, and the homeless. With that said, we take your comments very seriously, apologize if our actions were misinterpreted, and will discontinue airing the commercial. Sincerely, Paul Izenstark Senior Vice President/Group Account Director The above shows only one part of ACB advocacy. Our interest must go beyond merely stopping these kinds of advertisements in their tracks. ACB needs to develop a fact sheet to guide advertisers in how to positively portray blind folks as everyday people rather than objects of popular stereotypes.


Resolution 99-01 restores future ACB conventions to not less than their former seven-day length. This overturned a decision made regarding the 1999 ACB convention to try a six-day convention format. Resolution 99-02 takes the position that whenever an accessible pedestrian signal is installed at a signalized intersection, such a signal be installed at all legs of the intersection at which a pedestrian signal is provided, except to the extent that doing so would be inconsistent with safety and access. Resolution 99-03 urges the Federal Communications Commission to require satellite and cable companies to make listings of the stations which they receive and the day's programming for each channel fully accessible to their blind and visually impaired subscribers. Resolution 99-04 concerned Blazie Engineering's failure to participate in ACB conventions. It was withdrawn by its maker because it was determined by that individual that the resolutions which ACB already has on file adequately covered the subject. Resolution 99-05 dealt with encrypted books. It was withdrawn because the maker discovered that the manufacturers addressed do not indeed have plans to produce books in the manner the resolution described. Resolution 99-06 was withdrawn by its maker because the subject matter it covered was more comprehensively incorporated into Resolution 99-25. Resolution 99-07 urges issuers of credit cards to use best practices in implementing the ADA by providing credit card statements to blind and visually impaired customers in accessible formats, and also urges that braille markings be placed on credit cards when requested by blind and visually impaired users. The resolution puts ACB on record as taking the position that any information provided in braille or other accessible formats should be presented so as to represent all official notices, terms, conditions and benefits as well as statements of charges on the credit card; it further offers ACB assistance to credit card providers in implementing the terms of the resolution. Resolution 99-08 dealt with the convention format. After being read on the floor of the convention, it was withdrawn by its maker. Another convention format related resolution, Resolution 99-01, had already been adopted. Resolution 99-09 calls upon the RSA to amend its Randolph-Sheppard Act implementing regulations in order to set forth those limited grounds under which state licensing agencies (SLAs) are permitted to waive the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority with respect to locations on federal property offered to such SLAs by federal property managing agencies, and also takes the position that the amended regulations must require that, when state licensing agencies decide to waive the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority, or to waive particular offers of locations, the SLA must include the elected committee of blind vendors in the decision. The resolution further takes the position that if the SLA ultimately makes a decision to waive a particular offer, the SLA must do so in writing, including copies to the elected committee of blind vendors, setting forth the grounds for waiver recognized by, and permitted under, the newly amended Randolph-Sheppard Act implementing regulations. Resolution 99-10 calls upon Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to exercise its already existing monitoring and oversight authorities under the Randolph-Sheppard Act to obtain full compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act requirements by chronically non-complying federal property management agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. Resolution 99-11 was defeated by the ACB convention. Resolution 99-12 concerned the need to increase numbers of Randolph-Sheppard Act vending facilities located on federal property. It called for a specific set of actions to be taken by ACB. Its maker withdrew it after consultation with other advocates working in the Randolph-Sheppard field as it was agreed by all parties that the actions called for might not yet be the most appropriate ones to take. Resolution 99-13 supports, approves, and ratifies the "Randolph-Sheppard Program: Call for Action" document recently created by the American Council of the Blind, the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, and others interested in the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Resolution 99-14 was defeated by the ACB convention. Resolution 99-15 supports the substantive provisions of S. 511, which would amend the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (VAEHA) in a number of positive and constructive ways, including the provision of a guarantee to individual blind voters that they have the right to vote in federal elections by means of a truly secret ballot; also commends Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for their introduction of this legislation. Resolution 99-16 urges the National Restaurant Association to adopt policies making it a condition of membership that all member restaurants offer complete braille and large print menus. Resolution 99-17 concerns challenges to the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws. It was referred to the ACB Advocacy Committee. Resolution 99-18 takes the position that identifying braille and large print information should be placed on product packaging or labels as a matter of public health and safety, and personal independence; that when such labeling is not practical the product name and a toll-free number where further information such as dosage of non-prescription drugs, lists of food ingredients, and nutritional information can be obtained; and that the requests for these accommodations be conveyed to the appropriate governmental agencies and other organizations associated with consumer products and safety labeling. Resolution 99-19 calls upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to, on July 14, 1999, vote to adopt a final rule implementing Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act Amendments of 1996, and insuring access for people who are blind and visually impaired to telecommunications products and services having the same features and functions, and at comparable prices, as are offered to the general public; and further calling on the FCC to reject any attempts to weaken the intent of Section 255. Resolution 99-20 directs the ACB staff to take all actions necessary in working with Congress, the Railroad Retirement Board, and the Social Security Administration to insure that blinded railroad workers who are under the age of 65 are provided with a substantial gainful activity level equivalent to the earnings limit provided to blinded workers under the Social Security Act. Resolution 99-21 rescinds the direction of the ACB board of directors to not consider convention sites outside of the territorial United States. Resolution 99-22 establishes 13 principles which the American Council of the Blind views as essential in order for state agencies for the blind to maintain positive working relationships with consumers and organizations of the blind, and urges ACB affiliates and chapters to work to insure that all state agencies for the blind in the United States adhere to these principles. Resolution 99-23 urges that the Department of State comply with federal law by making available materials used by the public in formats accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired. Resolution 99-24 concerns access to locks. It was received by the Resolutions Committee and was not withdrawn by its maker, so it was read on the 1999 convention floor. Its maker, however, was ill and unable to visit with the Resolutions Committee about the resolution. At the recommendation of the committee, the resolution was thus tabled time specific and will be taken up by the 2000 ACB Resolutions Committee. A tabled resolution is not adopted by the ACB convention and is not published as a part of the 1999 ACB resolutions. A text of this resolution, however, is provided at the end of this report as it is an ongoing part of the ACB convention record and business. Resolution 99-25 supports the accessible pedestrian signal language approved by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, calls for its usage in all future installations of accessible pedestrian signals, continues the support of the American Council of the Blind for the installation of accessible pedestrian signals, and urges completion of the additional research needed to develop the necessary accessible pedestrian signal guidance and standards. Resolution 99-26 was defeated by the ACB convention. Resolution 99-27 was referred to the ACB board of directors. It concerns involving ACB members in committee work who have heretofore not been involved in such work. Resolution 99-28 requests the ACB convention committee and the ACB board of directors to explore the possibility of holding its national convention during dates that do not include a holiday. Resolution 99-30 authorizes and urges the officers, board of directors, exhibit coordinator and convention committee of ACB to decline the request to participate in ACB convention exhibits by any exhibitor, seller, and/or promotional entity who requests to be a part of the ACB convention, but who is documented to have engaged in unfair, dishonest, or documented disreputable business practices. Resolution 99-31 concerns affiliate seating signage at ACB conventions. It was referred to the ACB Convention Committee. Resolution 99-32 directs the executive director of the American Council of the Blind to renew efforts to establish the lines of communication sought in ACB resolution 98-38 with Secretary Togo West, United States Department of Veterans Affairs; directs that Secretary West's reluctance to meet with leading advocates in the field of blindness be called to the attention of members of the appropriate Senate and House committees charged with responsibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and directs that an invitation be extended to Secretary West to attend the 2000 ACB convention in Louisville in order to report on the progress in addressing the concerns expressed in resolution 98-38 to VIVA and the general ACB membership. Resolution 99-33 expresses support for H.R. 1601 and S. 285, and urges the sponsors of H.R. 1601 and S. 285 to demonstrate unwavering support for these bills as indicated by bringing any other legislation introduced relating to Social Security earnings limits into consistency with the provisions of H.R. 1601 and S. 285. Resolution 99-34 expresses support for legislation strengthening penalties against hate crimes involving persons who have disabilities, and urges Congress to include language in such legislation clearly articulating Congress' intent to address the rising rate of hate crimes against blind people and guide dog teams. The resolution further urges that Congress should be unmistakably clear that, for the purposes of any hate crime statute, a guide dog is an extension of its blind handler. Resolution 99-35 urges the ACB convention program committee to incorporate, to the greatest degree possible during each year's national convention, workshops, seminars, one-on-one training, "master classes" and other opportunities emphasizing skills development provided by individuals and organizations both from within and outside ACB; urges ACB special interest affiliates' cooperation in bringing skills development training opportunities about; and urges that financial and other incentives be identified to encourage ACB convention exhibitors to offer their services in support of such programming. Resolution 99-36 directs that ACB participate in ongoing discussions involving representatives of the Association of American Publishers, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and the National Federation of the Blind to develop a pilot project demonstrating the feasibility of a national repository of standardized electronic files to facilitate the production of accessible texts and other materials; states ACB's firm position that any national repository system to be established must allow maximal participation by a wide variety of entities producing accessible materials and should not be restricted to a roster of one or two providers; and directs the ACB national office to contact representatives of the organizations currently in dialogue to communicate ACB's concerns and to secure a place at the table during future negotiations to develop a national repository of electronic files. Resolution 99-37 requests the information access committee to consult with product manufacturers, and such other entities as they deem appropriate concerning the provision of accessible product manuals. Resolution 99-38 commends the limited, but growing, number of utility companies who are offering billing in alternate formats, and strongly urges state public utilities commissions to require all utility companies under their jurisdiction to provide bills in alternative formats, upon request by blind and visually impaired customers. Resolution 99-39 directs the officers and board of directors of the American Council of the Blind to amend the ACB convention guidelines to require that the exhibit coordinator participate during all stages of the convention planning process, including site selection. Resolution 99-40 directs that ACB join with its affiliate, the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, in taking such actions as are necessary to convene a meeting between Commissioner Fred Schroeder, Rehabilitation Services Administration; the Assistant Secretary of Education for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Judy Heumann; ACB officers and staff; and officers and staff of the RSVA in order to raise the issue of the politicization of the RSA, and further directs that, should the above-described meeting be unsuccessful in ameliorating the situation of the politicization of the RSA, the officers, directors and staff of ACB are authorized to take additional steps, such as requesting that the Inspector General of the United States Department of Education investigate the matter, and/or bringing the matter to the attention of the appropriate congressional oversight committees. Resolution 99-41 concerned some inappropriate actions taken against licensed blind vendors by the Texas Commission for the Blind. It was withdrawn by its maker because it was decided that the position taken by the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America was sufficiently strong without the need for support from ACB. Resolution 99-42 concerned involving the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America in current and future reviews of currency development. It was withdrawn by its maker because it was decided that the position taken by RSVA was sufficiently effective without the need for support from ACB. Resolution 99-43 recommends that the Unified Braille Code (UBC) not be adopted at this time. Resolution 99-44 commends the Los Angeles Department of Transportation for its installation of experimental accessible pedestrian signals at intersections near the site of the 1999 American Council of the Blind national convention, and urges the city of Los Angeles to continue its efforts to improve access for people who are blind through additional installations, research, and standard development with regard to accessible crossing signals. Resolution 99-45 expresses thanks to convention volunteers, to the coordinator of volunteer services for her training and coordination of volunteers, and to members and friends who volunteered their time during convention week to work in such areas as press room, convention office, information desk, and other areas where essential convention functions were provided. Resolution 99-46 expresses thanks to the 1999 American Council of the Blind convention hotels. Resolution 99-47 expresses great appreciation to the host committee for all of its efforts with regard to the convention; and commends all members of the energetic and exemplary California affiliate to ACB and commends the California Council of the Blind for its excellent work in the holding of the convention.

by Penny Reeder and Terry Pacheco

On September 14, 1999, Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), spoke with the editors of "The Braille Forum" and Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America's (RSVA) "Vendorscope." The interview grew out of agreements reached during a September 7 meeting between Charlie Crawford, executive director of ACB, Julie Carroll, general counsel for RSVA and Judy Heumann, Director of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), and Schroeder. During the interview, Schroeder responded to concerns about bias, as expressed in ACB Resolution 99-40; talked about the rights of visually impaired consumers of rehabilitation services; and the responsibilities of rehabilitation service providers toward the disabled community in general, and blind and visually impaired consumers in particular. Highlights of the discussion follow. Consumer choice, the hallmark of good rehabilitation services Schroeder began by saying that there is the potential for a person who is visually impaired to receive a great deal of service from the vocational rehabilitation (VR) system. "Unfortunately," he continued, "there is also the potential for an individual to receive minimal assistance, because there is not a specific entitlement ... to a given quantity of service." The VR system, he said, has an obligation to all its consumers to provide services which respond to individual needs and capitalize on people's skills and interests. This is an unlikely result, though, if people who are blind or visually impaired do not realize that there are opportunities open to them to live essentially normal, fulfilling lives. Vocational rehabilitation has, therefore, an obligation not merely to provide a catalog of services from which a blind consumer can choose, but also -- and more important, in Schroeder's opinion -- to provide encouragement. Schroeder believes that blind people in particular need vast quantities of information about the many options for work, education, and community involvement which are open to them so that they will be able to make informed choices about the services they need and the paths they want to pursue. RSA has conducted a number of choice demonstration projects, whereby funds were allocated, through a competitive grant process, to non-profit rehabilitation service providers and state agencies to demonstrate concrete processes for incorporating the legislatively mandated, rather abstract concepts of consumer choice in the rehabilitation process. Schroeder indicated that the findings from those demonstration projects have been disseminated to the state agencies via informational memoranda. In the next fiscal year, Schroeder said that RSA will sponsor a national conference to review the findings of the demonstration projects and to focus specifically on consumer choice. Although a date has not been set for this conference, Schroeder assured the "Forum" that "..consumers will very much be involved in the conference, ... particularly those who participated in the choice projects. We want them to describe their experiences, and to tell us what ... was the key to the programs' working for them." We asked how RSA ensures that state agency administrators and rehabilitation service providers do more than just pay lip service to the concept of consumer choice. Schroeder replied that, since 1995, RSA has completely restructured on-site monitoring of the state agencies, moving away from a quantitative checklist approach toward a more qualitative outcome-based performance assessment. He said, "RSA attempts to answer questions such as: Did the individual obtain employment? Is there evidence that the employment is consistent with the individual's own choice? Is there evidence of satisfaction with the employment outcome?" Schroeder said that RSA's monitors talk with consumers, with rehabilitation counselors, and, to a limited degree -- so as not to violate confidentiality -- with employers. The "Forum" asked Schroeder to comment on reports of certain state agencies' disseminating information about specific consumer groups (e.g., the NFB) while failing to provide a similar public relations advantage for alternate, or rival, consumer organizations. Schroeder said, "... rehabilitation has to help people develop a perspective on disability broader than what the individual might have, simply by virtue of acquiring a disability. Really, the way to do that is by meeting other individuals who are blind. ... There is not a specific legal mandate to require that this happens, but it is clearly a concept that we promote in our work with the state rehabilitation agencies." The "Forum" persisted. "But what if a state agency, like the Maryland Rehabilitation Center, for example, were to disseminate information about the philosophy and activities of, say, the ACB of Maryland, while completely neglecting to disseminate similar information about the activities of the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore? Does RSA have an obligation to assure that the state agencies present a balanced picture, or a wide spectrum of beliefs about blindness and consumer organizations?" Noting again that there is no statutory requirement for VR agencies to acquaint their blind consumers with consumer groups or to put them in touch with mentoring organizations or individuals, Schroeder said, "... in terms of good practice, clearly we would want rehabilitation agencies to give people as broad a perspective on individuals' disabilities as possible. In terms of how a state agency would do that -- dispensing literature or whatever -- they have a good bit of flexibility." Emphasizing his belief that directors of state agencies must nurture their contacts with disabled consumers and the organizations which represent them, Schroeder stated, "I cannot imagine an agency that would operate efficiently and effectively without a strong tie to consumers in the state." Ties to the Federation Schroeder's perceived indebtedness to the NFB and Kenneth Jernigan in particular have been widely reported. We asked him if he is a member of the NFB. He replied that, when he accepted the position of Commissioner of RSA, he resigned all his memberships in consumer and community organizations, including the NFB and even the Rotary Club. "I could not be an active member of an organization that is a grantee -- and there are other kinds of restrictions -- and so, the simplest way to deal with it was simply to resign all memberships." Increased efficiency in RSA, Schroeder reports Whereas many consumers of rehabilitation services suspect that more money is spent on administrative costs and on the systems for delivering services than on actual services, Schroeder disputes this perception. While noting that the figures vary from state to state, Schroeder says that the data indicate, generally, "somewhere between nine and a half and ten percent of rehabilitation dollars are spent on administration." Because agencies vary in size and in the particulars of providing services, Schroeder says that straight comparisons are not feasible, but he believes that, "In terms of actual administrative costs, [rehabilitation agency expenses are] ... fairly low." The "Forum" asked whether consumers have recourse when they encounter delays in eligibility determination or service delivery. Schroeder stated that the 1992 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act strengthened consumers' rights to timely determination of eligibility for VR services, as well as acquisition of necessary assistive technology. VR agencies are required to make a determination of eligibility within 60 days, unless the agency and a consumer have jointly agreed to extend this time frame. Furthermore, he said, requirements in the 1998 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act virtually guarantee undisputed eligibility for VR services to people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. "If an agency fails to make an eligibility determination within 60 days of receiving an application," we asked, "what should a blind applicant for VR assistance do?" Schroeder replied, "Well, the first thing that I would always suggest doing because it is the most expeditious, is to raise it up the line administratively, and to complain that the decision has not been made. But, beyond that, if that is unsuccessful, if a client has a dispute that cannot be resolved with an agency, he or she should seek assistance from the Client Assistance Program, which we fund, and which is available in every state." (Editor's Note: To obtain information about the Client Assistance Program in your state, you may contact ACB member Teddie Remhild, at (202) 408-9514, or visit the National Alliance of Protection and Advocacy Systems web site, Many people, we told Schroeder, contact ACB to express frustration about long delays in acquiring approved assistive technology. Schroeder acknowledged that this has been an ongoing and significant frustration for many consumers of VR services, and for Randolph-Sheppard vendors as well. "A person's ice machine may break, and, because of a particular state's purchasing rules, it may take six months to get it fixed or replaced. This is intolerable. By the time the new ice machine arrives, the vendor could be out of business." Schroeder described his administration's strategies for solving such problems. RSA sponsored requirements in the 1998 Rehabilitation Act amendments to give states flexibility in the procurement process for assistive technology. "The reason we put that in," he explained, "is not to supersede state purchasing requirements, but to [offer] a lever for state agencies to go to their state purchasing offices and to seek either streamlined systems, or certain exemptions in categories of purchases as they would apply to [our] clients." The process of purchasing assistive technology can be, by its very nature, a complex undertaking, Schroeder went on. Because of the variety of assistive technology solutions and the high cost of the equipment, it is difficult for many agencies to warehouse the products. "Some agencies have been able to do this," he pointed out, "and this solution can help blind people who have the ordinary needs. But, if somebody has a more particular need, then you're right back in that whole bind of going through the purchasing process." Homemaker a perfectly acceptable outcome, Schroeder states "What about those blind people," we asked, "who for various reasons are not going to be seeking competitive employment as the outcome of their rehabilitation?" In the last eight years, it seems to us that many VR agencies have defined acceptable goals of rehabilitation services exclusively in terms of competitive closures. "How," we asked, "can people who are not going to work receive the rehabilitation training they need to lead safe and meaningful lives?" Schroeder responded that the problem boils down to one of limited resources for dealing with burgeoning needs. Some older adults can be served via the Chapter II Independent Living Funds for Older Adults, but the pot of money, he acknowledged, is far too small to serve the number of people who need help. RSA supports pending legislation which would expand funding for this purpose. Another mechanism for funding rehabilitation training for severely disabled adults of all ages exists under Chapter I programs (under Title VII, Part B, of the act). Some training, particularly in daily living skills, can be provided to severely disabled people who are blind by independent living centers via this funding stream, but, again, the number of clients who can be served is minimal, when compared with the need. "Now, it is currently absolutely legal and appropriate for an individual to have a case open using Title I, VR dollars, even if that individual is not seeking employment per se," Schroeder said. "But the employment outcome would be 'homemaker.' The homemaker closure has been controversial over the years, and yet it continues to be an allowable closure. It was controversial, I think, because many blind people felt as though agencies didn't stretch to help them expand their views of what the world could potentially hold for them, and that it was simply easier to provide a little bit of daily living skills training and O&M and close the person as a homemaker. And that would clearly be an inappropriate use of the homemaker closure. But, homemaker as an outcome is a legitimate employment outcome under the Rehabilitation Act regulations." Schroeder suggests that, if people are being denied services because the homemaker closure is not a competitive employment outcome, they can -- and should -- certainly appeal that finding. Comparison shopping for training programs "Suppose," we said, "A VR agency is pushing one particular training program and a consumer -- who really doesn't know anything about rehabilitation options except that he or she needs training -- isn't sure that this particular program is the one that can meet his or her needs. Or suppose that a consumer has responsibilities at home that preclude him or her from attending a residential facility. How can consumers learn about the variety of training options that may be available, or have a say about which ones are the best match for their needs?" "Well," Schroeder replied, "you've got to have opinions, preferably not just one person's opinion, but multiple people's opinions, if you're going to make what I consider to be legitimate informed choices. What I would want, as a blind person, is to talk to blind people who have been through these programs, and preferably people who have had good and bad experiences, and to see for myself how those experiences match my priorities and what I'm looking for." "What," we continued, "should a blind person do if he or she finds that a training program is not meeting his or her needs, or if the training is just not up to par?" "Complain! Complain and complain and complain!" Schroeder said. "Raise it. Raise it with your counselor, if that doesn't work, raise it with the supervisor. This process of rehabilitation can be lengthy. You don't want to add to that by wasting time in a program that isn't productive or isn't meeting your needs." Schroeder noted that consumers can get the names of their state directors of vocational rehabilitation from the agencies with whom they're working, as well as the names of representatives on the state rehabilitation (citizens') advisory boards. Options for blind people who work for the VR system "Do blind rehabilitation counselors," we asked, "have the same choices about training and assistive technology as the consumers they serve?" Schroeder noted that employees of state rehabilitation agencies are protected against discrimination, and are guaranteed reasonable job-place accommodations, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. If employees feel that they are getting less than adequate services in the way of accommodations or opportunities for upward mobility, RSA can facilitate resolution of such disputes by getting in touch with the appropriate enforcement agency. "Beyond that," he continued, "I think there's a responsibility for VR agencies to model best practice, above and beyond whatever the minimal requirements in the law might be." Braille Schroeder, who taught himself to read braille when he was a teenager, is a believer in braille -- as a literacy tool, and therefore a catalyst toward self-actualization. He said that RSA has funded a number of grants in the area of braille literacy to try to improve the skill levels of vocational rehabilitation service providers, and to heighten an emphasis on acquiring braille skills in the vocational rehabilitation process. After RSA received some negative -- and embarrassing -- publicity about its failure to make braille available to visually impaired participants in a National Council on Independent Living meeting, the agency took steps to assure that information will be made available in alternate formats whenever and wherever a Department of Education employee needs it. Schroeder says that OSERS is very proud of its alternate formats facility, which is managed by ACB member Katie Mincey. As the federal government goes about finding ways to implement Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, he believes that the Department of Education facility will be viewed as a model to be emulated, he hopes, in all federal facilities. Talking elevators, audible traffic signals, and other environmental accommodations We took note of the elevator in the Department of Education's Mary E. Switzer Building which announces closing and opening doors, as well as the numbers of each floor in transit. We asked Schroeder how he feels about enhancing the liveability of built environments by adding speech to elevators, or -- more important to us -- increasing the safety of blind travelers by installing audible traffic signals at intersections which are perceived to be dangerous. Schroeder said that he does not think any one answer is right for all blind people in all situations. "I have mixed feelings about some of the accommodations. But I think it is unreasonable to draw the line too strictly on either side of the argument." He said that, no matter what the outcome, he will be content if he feels that the choice has been made by people who are blind, rather than by people who may think they know what is best for blind people, or even by professionals who work with people who are blind. Citing the relatively low-tech environmental access advantage which the white cane offers its users, Schroeder continued, "I don't believe that technology should be used as a substitute for good training. Yet, can technology enhance training? Of course." The perception of bias Some members of the American Council of the Blind have expressed reservations about Schroeder's well-known endorsement of NFB philosophy. They have wondered, openly, whether Schroeder could separate his association with the Federation from objective decision-making. ACB members were concerned when Schroeder's picture appeared on the cover of the National Buyers' Group (NBG) publication. These concerns were heightened when RSVA members learned that the NBG was a co-sponsor with RSA of bi-regional Randolph-Sheppard training conferences, where RSVA had no similar opportunity to establish a presence. These misgivings led to the passage of Resolution 99-40 at the ACB convention in Los Angeles. When we asked Schroeder to comment on the National Buyers' Group's participation in RSA-sponsored Randolph-Sheppard events, Schroeder replied that the NBG's presence had no more significance than would the participation of any product vendor at any conference or association convention. Schroeder continued, "What I told Julie Carroll, who is, of course, general counsel for the RSVA, is that we would be glad to make certain that, when Randolph-Sheppard trainings are being contemplated, that the planning committee be made aware that RSVA does operate its own buying program, and to make certain that any invitations that are extended to the National Buyers' Group are also extended to the RSVA buying program as well." Schroeder stated that no one should attach any more significance to his interview in the NBG publication than one would to his participation in our interview, or the report which Pacheco will write for RSVA's "Vendorscope." "I believe very strongly," Schroeder said, "that the Randolph- Sheppard program historically has been the most successful employment program for blind people that this nation has ever known. It is not the largest employer, but, in my opinion, in terms of earnings and opportunities, it has been the most successful employment program that our nation has had for the employment of blind people." He believes that his administration's re-definition of the term "cafeteria" expands the number of locations which are potentially available to Randolph-Sheppard vendors, especially with regard to military troop dining facilities. We asked Schroeder to respond to blind vendors' concerns about several recent military dining food-service contracts' being awarded to NISH, which is a Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) sheltered workshop program for people with severe disabilities, rather than to Randolph-Sheppard vendors. Schroeder said that RSA is working to get the Randolph-Sheppard priority recognized in the federal acquisition regulations. "One thing that's very important is that this issue should not be distilled down to a conflict between the employment needs of blind people and the employment needs of other people with [other] disabilities ... We believe, certainly, that there are many opportunities under the JWOD program that can be legitimately pursued to provide employment [for people] with other disabilities without weakening employment opportunities for blind people." He elaborated on his perceptions of RSA's role in expanding opportunities for blind vendors and achieving consensus on future directions for the program. "RSA is glad to participate in any way that we're able to, to expand opportunities for blind people through the Randolph-Sheppard program. What we are not interested in doing is pushing changes to the program that are not widely supported by the Randolph-Sheppard community. There are many of us, I think, who have had ideas about regulatory changes or possibly statutory changes or program emphasis changes and so on, and I really believe that the political environment is such that we have got to be fully united as we make any kind of large policy decisions around how the Randolph-Sheppard program works in this country. When I say, 'united,' I mean the blind vendors, I mean the state licensing agencies, and RSA. We have got to be working very closely together..." Schroeder is optimistic that the Randolph-Sheppard Vision Project (RSVP) events slated for the year 2000 will achieve some of these consensus-building goals. Perceptions of bias unfounded, Schroeder states Schroeder concluded the interview by stating: "My intent is not to go out and try to endorse, either directly or in some closet way, any private [consumer] outfit. We [at RSA] simply just don't do that. It's legally inappropriate, and it's also just not the right thing to do. And it certainly is not our intent. My intent is not to disenfranchise any blind person in this country. I have no interest in trying to suppress blind people who are expressing their views, expressing their will, and having good opportunities, and if you hear of problems or issues of this type, feel free to bring them directly to me."


OHIO CONVENTION The American Council of the Blind of Ohio will hold its state convention November 5-7 at the Holiday Inn on the Lane in Columbus. This year's theme is "Where We've Been and Where We're Going." The convention will feature workshops, seminars and exhibits aimed at enlightening, empowering and educating blind and visually impaired people. There will also be exhibits of adaptive products on Friday and Saturday. Registration costs $65 if you register before October 15; $75 if you register after that date. The fee is $75 if you are a non-member regardless of the date you register. Refunds for cancellations will not be given after October 25. Room rates are $68 per night plus tax for single through triple occupancy. For reservations, call (614) 294-4848. Space is limited, so call early. If you have any questions, please call Ken Morlock at (614) 221-6688.

by Robert L. Williams

Longtime ACB member Thomas H. "Tom" Stout, 74, of Tucson, died from Alzheimer's disease on August 1. A memorial service celebrating Tom's life was held August 5 at St. Paul United Methodist Church, where Tom and Patricia (his devoted wife of 53 years) were members. Tom was a native of Vicksburg, Miss. A World War II Army veteran, Tom was blinded by enemy mortar fire at the age of 19 in France, October 1944. Following rehabilitation training, Tom attended the University of Arizona in Tucson. There he met a co-ed named Patricia Durkin. The two were married May 26, 1946. He earned a bachelor of science in animal husbandry in 1950 and the master of science in poultry husbandry shortly thereafter. In 1950 Tom was employed by the state of Minnesota as an industrial placement specialist based in St. Paul. From 1960 until his retirement and relocation to Tucson in 1986, Tom worked as a rehabilitation teacher and counselor for the state of Wisconsin, based in Green Bay. Tom was an early member of the Blinded Veterans Association. In 1986 he was co-organizer of the Blinded Veterans Association of Arizona, Southern Arizona Group. He served as president of the Council of Rehabilitation Specialists and president of the Arizona Council of the Blind from 1993 to 1997. He was also a member of the Arizona Governor's Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment from 1986 to 1997. Tom played a key role in attracting Dr. Dan Head as the first director of the University of Arizona graduate training program for orientation and mobility rehabilitation teachers. Tom and Patricia Stout were regular attenders of ACB national conventions. Survivors include Patricia Stout of Tucson; daughter Patricia Stout and son Thomas Stout Jr., both of Minneapolis; son Maynard Stout of Tucson; and two grandchildren. Expressions of sympathy may be mailed to Patricia Stout at 8270 E. Vicksburg, Tucson, AZ 85710; phone (520) 290-9740.

by Jeff Thom
(Reprinted with permission from "The Blind Californian,"
Spring 1998.)

Those of you who are primarily guide dog users, my wife included, might as well skip this article. These words are strictly for the legions of proud users of that stick known as the cane -- or the white cane, to use more precise jargon. Our grievances are many, and it is time we stood up for our rights. Do sighted people come up to us and ask to pet our canes and tell us how wonderful they are? We consider ourselves lucky if we can avoid being accosted by pedestrians who trip over our canes, and if passing cars don't run over them and leave us defenseless. Do those of us who are SSI recipients get a maintenance allowance for our canes? It is true that guide dog users are occasionally discriminated against in restaurants, but just as frequently they are asked if their dogs need food or water. When do our canes receive such consideration? Moreover, extra room is often made for a guide dog, but someone with a long cane is viewed as a mere nuisance. We cane users often fail to accentuate the positive aspects of our partnership with our canes. They never complain, are usually clean, and don't even dream about taking a steak off a plate. When waiting impatiently for an hour at a bus stop, it is not politically correct to beat your guide dog in order to work off your aggressions, but you can pound your cane on the sidewalk without danger of criticism as a means of alleviating your frustrations. If you get lost in a department store, you can't wave your guide dog around to show you need help, but a few dexterous cane stunts will usually bring someone running. I propose to take the first small step towards the commencement of a cane-user revolution by establishing a special- interest affiliate in the California Council of the Blind. The key to a great organization is its acronym, and I have a few suggestions: Californians Love Using Canes (CLUC), Canes Are Us (CAU), Cane Users of California Unite (CUCU), or, my favorite, We Are Cane Owners (WACO). Just remember, if we hold those cane tips high enough, we can conquer the world! Note: My wife, out of fairness to those of you who travel with a sighted guide, has suggested that you establish a special- interest affiliate called Highly Independent Californians Can Use People (HICCUP).


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. An open letter to all ACB members As you know I am a happy and grateful recipient of an ACB scholarship for this year. ... I wish to thank ACB for choosing to honor me with this scholarship. I greatly appreciate it. It certainly helps, not only with regular college expenses, but also with the extra technology that makes life easier for those of us with a visual disadvantage. I moved into my residence hall on August 14. My first week was extremely busy with rush activities, music auditions, and last-minute details. Classes began on August 19. So far everything is going well. The disabilities office at KU has been very helpful and all my instructors seem to be very gracious and helpful. I am taking 16 credit hours of music therapy classes. I have run into many old friends and met new ones. I also pledged a sorority which is exciting and has given me the opportunity to meet even more people. I really enjoyed the national convention in Los Angeles and feel that I have made lifetime friends. I look forward to seeing everyone in Louisville. Until that time, I will keep in touch and let you know how college life is going. Sincerely yours, Jennifer A. Voelzke In response to "Professions and Vocations ..." I was pleased to see the great number of vocations and professions of the visually impaired. It would be valuable if more visually impaired or blind self-employed or business- employed individuals could be role models for others who may lack the motivation to succeed. My new profession can be added to the career list: a forensic engineer, determining the cause and origin of heavy vehicle fires, and consulting as an expert witness in product liability lawsuits. My vision impairment from glaucoma was diagnosed in mid-1994, when I was 59. I found it amazing how my employer suddenly decided that with my medical condition, I could no longer perform my normal duties. I suppose it was his fear that I would get hurt performing those duties, and of litigation. In my case, I had performed all of my normal duties up to the moment of discovery I was legally blind, even though I was probably legally blind at least a year prior to medical confirmation. I had adapted somewhat, thinking it was normal. After a series of 10 eye surgeries, I started my new part- time career as an expert witness in product liability lawsuits, related to on- and off-highway vehicles, and as a forensic fire cause and origin engineer. With a 10-year background as a mechanical engineer and 30 years as a chief engineer, and with orientation and mobility training and special computer software, I found a new niche. As a left-hander, I've learned to use my right eye for the photography of heavy vehicle fires and product failures. I've learned you can do a lot with low vision if you're willing to try. My ophthalmologist claims I do more than I should be able to, but that's what motivation is all about. Only one large corporation of about a dozen stopped using my services when they learned I had low vision. I have not succeeded in replacing more than 20 percent of my pre-low vision income, but I am a contributor and I enjoy what I do. I kind of stumbled onto the fact that when people learn they have lost a lot of vision, there is fear, then anger, then finally determination to adapt. I belong to many technical and business groups and have met people with similar vision loss situations who need motivation; hence my volunteering, through the Glaucoma Foundation, to talk with groups about early detection and medication for glaucoma. Individuals can make a difference. -- Joseph J. Neff, Indianapolis, Ind.

by Elizabeth M. Lennon

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. SETI-SEARCH No, it's not a search for extraterrestrial life forms. SETI- search is a fast, accessible Internet search engine developed by Agassa Technologies and KIA Internet Solutions. To find it, and test it, visit With this search engine, you enter your keyword or phrase once and then select from a list of the most popular Internet search engines to get results. It is designed to work with a variety of Web browsers, and to support those using assistive technology to interface with the Internet. For more information, visit the web site or send e-mail to [email protected] SPECIALS Independent Living Aids has its educational and recreational catalog available. If you want a sneak peek, visit and follow the links to the educational and recreational highlights. To receive a copy of the highlights by mail, send your name and address to [email protected] Also available is the CAN-DO Question and Answer Corner. If you have a question you would like answered, e-mail [email protected] and Independent Living Aids will e-mail you a response and post the question to the board. If you don't have access to e-mail, call (800) 537-2118. HOLIDAY CARDS The Foundation for Blind Children is selling boxes of 20 holiday cards (with envelopes). Each box costs $12; shipping, add $2.95. Personalization is available. There are three different holiday card designs: "Canyonlands," the Grand Canyon in winter; "Lighting the Luminarias"; and "Holiday Cheer and Children," a picture of four visually impaired children. One design per box. Send check or money order, plus design and personalization information, to: Foundation for Blind Children, 1235 E. Harmont Dr., Phoenix, AZ 85020-3864; phone (602) 331-1470. BRAILLE GREETING CARDS Kim Christiansen of Christiansen Design, who makes the braille jewelry that you've become familiar with at conventions, has recently announced a new line of holiday braille greeting cards. The name of the card line is "Dot Thots -- Just for the Braille of It!" (TM). "Dot Thots" are designed for everyone to enjoy. The cards are printed in full color and have braille integrated into the embossed design. The gift box collection offers two cards of each of four designs, including a Star of David "Shalom" card. If you have friends who like cards that are fun and different, try "Dot Thots." Contact Christiansen Designs by phone at (802) 649- 2925; e-mail [email protected] or visit the web site at SIERRA REGIONAL SKI The eighth annual Sierra Regional Ski for Light three-day cross-country event will be held in Truckee, Calif. March 11-13, 2000. Lodging will be at the Best Western Tahoe Truckee Inn, and skiing will be at the Tahoe Donner Cross Country area. This event costs $120 if you bring your own skis, $145 if you need to rent them. The cost covers two nights lodging double occupancy in Truckee, two breakfasts, two dinners, and trail passes for all three days. If you want to stay in Sacramento on March 10, or if you want a single room, there will be additional costs. Transportation will be provided from the train station, airport and bus station to a local hotel upon arrival in Sacramento on Friday, March 10. Cars will leave Sacramento at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 11 to Truckee, and from Truckee at 2 p.m. Monday, March 13 to Sacramento. Submit your application with a $40 deposit by January 10, 2000. Applications received after the deadline will be considered as space permits. Final payment is due February 15, 2000. Some scholarships are available. For an application and more information (specify print or braille), contact Betsy Rowell, 9608 Mira Del Rio Dr., Sacramento, CA 95827; e-mail [email protected]; or call her at (916) 362-5557. METDESK Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York recently introduced a new marketing division, called MetDESK -- Division of Estate Planning for Special Kids. It will focus on the financial concerns of families with special needs children. Special needs is defined as any limited functioning caused by a mental, emotional, genetic, physical or biological condition which may require specialized programs, training and/or government benefit assistance. For more information, visit the MetDESK web site, or call toll-free (877) 638-3375. HOLIDAY KICK-OFF Home Readers is beginning its holiday season early with the production of its new line of audio catalogs. The company offers more than 30 catalogs and 15 different cookbooks. Some of the catalogs are: Collector's Choice Music; San Francisco Music Box Company; Vermont Country Store; Figi's; American Kitchen; Schwan's; Land's End; Walter Drake; Spices Etc.; Miles Kimball; Radio Shack; FAO Schwartz; Chadwick's of Boston; Sharper Image; Sugar Free Marketplace; Christmas Food Combo; Spiegel's; Pet Catalog; Harriet Carter; Kathy's Corner Gifts and Collectibles; Tupperware; and many more. The cookbook selection includes: Oreo with a Twist; Philadelphia Cheesecakes; Aunt Bee's Mayberry cookbook; Christmas Cookie Cookbook; 101 Diabetic Recipes; and many more. For more information, call Home Readers at (913) 893-6939 or write the company at 604 W. Hulett, Edgerton, KS 66021. You may also visit the web site, or send e-mail to [email protected] VISION MOVES The Greater Boston office of VISION Community Services, a division of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, has moved to new headquarters at 23-A Elm St., Watertown, MA 02472. This office provides a wide variety of programs for blind and visually impaired people, including community volunteers, support groups, visually impaired elders project, information and referral, and community education. For more information, call (617) 926-4232 or toll-free (800) 852-3029 (Massachusetts only). SCHOOL NEEDS HELP The Children's Garden School of India needs your help. The school needs braille writers, braille watches, slates and styli, folding canes and dark glasses. If you have any of these items to spare, send them to: H.N. Tims, Children's Garden School, Telaprolu, Via Gannavaram, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh, 521109 India. CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION The South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired will be celebrating its centennial in the year 2000. The school first opened its doors as "The Asylum for the Blind" in March 1900 in Gary, S.D., and later moved to Aberdeen. Over the years, the school has lost touch with many former students and staff. Anyone who attended, was employed by, or would be interested in receiving information about Centennial Reunion activities should contact the school, SDSBVI, 423 17th Ave. SE, Aberdeen, SD 57401-7699. The school is also looking for any school-related pictures, newspaper articles or stories that people would be willing to share, to be used in the school archives exhibits. Anyone interested in the Centennial Reunion should contact Dawn LaMee or Dawn Flewwellin by phone at (605) 626-2580 or toll-free (888) 275-3814, or write them at the school address listed above. ROSE BOWL INFO Have you always wanted to know about access to the Rose Bowl, but not known where to find accessible information? Wonder no more. The Rose Bowl has an access specialist, and publishes an "Access Guide to the Rose Bowl for Patrons with Disabilities." Call (626) 577-3101 or write to The Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena, CA 91103. Reasonable accommodations will be provided upon request; contact the Rose Bowl at least five working days before the event to put in your request.


(Editor's Note: What follows is a compilation of information from ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford. This information was originally distributed via ACB-L, the organization's Internet mailing list. These weekly e-mail notices are intended to be informal brief summaries of weekly activities in the ACB National Office. We include them here for the benefit of those who do not currently have access to ACB's Internet mailing list. Please let us know your opinion of "News Notes.") ACB nominates Brunson to key advisory board The federal architectural access agency is about to launch an advisory board to look at developing standards for public rights of way. These include sidewalks and intersections where many of our efforts to increase pedestrian safety have centered. This is a table where ACB must have a chair and we have nominated Melanie Brunson to fill it. In addition, Charlie Crawford will be the alternate whenever Melanie is not available to perform her duties. ACB has worked for years to improve access to the pedestrian environment and this will be a great opportunity to move that agenda forward! ACB submits new agenda items for Project Action Executive Director Charlie Crawford submitted a list of four items that Project Action can undertake to improve the transportation environment for blind folks. These include electronic and other access methods to get information on schedules and other parts of transit systems, developing model stop announce programs for transportation authorities, talking sign or other technologies for bus identification, and research into ways of finding and knowing you are at a bus stop or appropriate place to wait for a train. ACB appreciates the help of Ron Brooks in developing these ideas. More to come; let Charlie Crawford know if you have other suggestions for Project Action to look at. Plans to make U.S. Senate more accessible alive and well You may recall reading in "News Notes" a few months ago that there was a small but growing idea to get the United States Senate fully accessible to blind folks. Well, in just a couple of weeks we will be reporting to you on what will be a demonstration of how it can be done. ACB to meet with Congressman on Medicare bill As many of you have probably already heard, there is a bill soon to be introduced in Congress to allow Medicare and Medicaid payments for the services of orientation and mobility instructors and for rehabilitation teaching. The bill may also include payments for durable medical goods such as closed circuit televisions. All of this is great news, but ACB has some concerns for the lack of inclusion of consumer representation in the bill. We have been in touch with the office of the sponsor and look forward to meeting with him to improve the bill before its submission. Older blind project soon to launch at ACB national headquarters ACB announced on the Washington Connection this week that we will be seeking to employ a part-time person to move the consumer agenda within the elder blindness community of the greater Washington area. Our goal is to educate service providers and elders to the consumer point of view on living with blindness in later years. There is no question that through direct contact and the circulation of written information that ACB can make a real difference for the millions of newly blinded elders throughout the land. Once the project has gained strength, we hope to continue our cooperation with our Affiliate on Aging and Low Vision to broaden the work to the nation. Stay tuned for exciting developments as ACB gets the ball rolling in this important area of consumerism! ACB joins in DOJ complaint After the Maryland State Highway Administration has spent the last three years telling blind folks that they are not going to install accessible pedestrian signals on state-owned highways until they have positively evaluated and are convinced by a couple of test installations they have done, ACB has run out of patience. We have joined the Department of Justice complaint entered by a blind woman in Maryland and we are seeking to add the other blind folks who have been similarly denied to the complaint. SDAB lights the fuse and the dynamite works! Looks like we may have won a significant battle in South Dakota to keep a separate state agency for the blind! Our affiliate, along with the National Federation of the Blind, has bravely stood up against the odds and taken on those who would ignore the needs of blind people in favor of their own administrative pipe dreams. It looks like the Secretary of Human Services is backing off his plan to reorganize both VR agencies into a new one. This may be the result of ACB and NFB advocacy with the federal Rehabilitation Administration to reject their proposed state plan based upon solid legal ground, or it may be the fact that the state administration may have finally realized we ain't going away, or a combination of both. In any event, the blind folks of South Dakota have proven that we might be the little guys individually but we are an army together. There is much danger still ahead in South Dakota, but we will press on in the knowledge that we are the only ones who have a right to define our destiny. Congratulations to the South Dakota Association of the Blind and to the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. Executive Director heads for the hills in Texas! Say, we had a great opportunity to speak with the staff, board members and friends of the Texas Commission for the Blind over the last few days. Charlie Crawford shared about ACB and our views of the national scene while Ed Bradley of the American Council of the Blind of Texas gave the folks a view of himself as one effective and committed ACB affiliate president. While the Texas Commission was bruised a bit during the sunset law review, they came out strong and ready to deal with the issues we blind folks face. ACB, the Federation, AER, AFB and other partners in helping the Texas Commission remain a viable agency can take a great deal of pride in the Texas Commission and in our common effort to get the job done. We note with some pleasure that the Texas Commission has seriously adopted a real sensitivity training for its staff by requiring 50 hours of blindfolded activity throughout a year. This training is done with advanced information to give staff a sense of how to cope rather than just being a way to grab the headlines. Even state director Terry Murphy worked a guide dog and got a real sense of the freedom gained from zipping around objects in his path. This kind of agency training along with other examples such as the Texas Confidence Builders puts some shine in that lone star in their state motto. ACB national office gets new phone system Well, we did it. Yup, our old phone system is slowly passing off to telephone heaven and we had to find the where with all to get a new system. Thanks to the donations we have successfully gotten from a corporate giving program, we are now looking at a new phone system to go into the new office space in October. Yikes, will we be busy or what? Now let me see, how do you transfer this call and oh yeah, what was the number to dial? Hmmm. New faces at national office On September 1, the new "Braille Forum" editor and affiliate services coordinator reported for work! Terry Pacheco at affiliate services and Penny Reeder at "The Braille Forum" hit the road running with lots to do and learn. Penny and Terry met with staff on Wednesday and then got down to familiarizing themselves with office procedures, getting a start on going through the many documents and responsibilities of their new jobs, and began communicating right away with lots of people. It has been a great start to their first week of employment with ACB and we welcome them to their tasks and look forward to their contributions for years to come.


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Sanford Alexander
Wichita, KS
Sue Ammeter
Seattle, WA
Ardis Bazyn
Cedar Rapids, IA
Alan Beatty
Fort Collins, CO
John Buckley
Knoxville, TN
Dawn Christensen
Holland, OH
Christopher Gray
San Francisco, CA
Debbie Grubb
Nashville, TN
Sandy Sanderson
Anchorage, AK
M.J. Schmitt
Forest Park, IL


Kim Charlson, Chairperson
Watertown, MA
Jay Doudna
Rosemont, PA
Winifred Downing
San Francisco, CA
Charles Hodge
Arlington, VA
Jenine Stanley
Columbus, OH
Ex Officio: Laura Oftedahl
Watertown, MA


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