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.
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Photo copyright 1999 by Ken Nichols.
As another year begins, it is common to see messages such as mine, looking back at what we have accomplished over the past year. I don't plan to do that here. There is another temptation which is to look at the past century and try to pick out the highlights. That seems to be happening everywhere in the media and there are lists of the century's top 100 everything floating around. I don't plan to indulge in that sort of nonsense either. However, you will not escape unscathed from the beginning of the last year of this millennium because I want to spend a little time looking at the year 1900.
In that year, Miami, the city I live in, was not yet three years old, and Cuba was being freed from Spain only to find itself coming increasingly under the influence of the United States. We were three years away from the first-ever airplane flight and electric lighting was in its infancy. For the vast majority of Americans, oil and wax provided light. There were virtually no telephones; there were no cars; there was no radio, no television, no talking books, and virtually no braille. In fact, if you were lucky enough to be attending a school for the blind, you were as likely to have been taught moon type or New York point.
In states like Kansas and Missouri, however, there were already organizations of blind people who were actively working to make things better for people who were blind. I am happy to say that those organizations still exist and are affiliates of the American Council of the Blind. Schools for the blind had already, in some cases, been operating for half a century, and 1900 was the first year that we are aware of special classrooms being set up within a public school system.
In a very real sense, we were living in a world where the town was the center of people's existence, not the country or the world. In 1900, we were beginning to see the shift in population that would make cities the places where most Americans lived but 1900 was a year when towns were still the norm. Women could not vote. The temperance movement was actively campaigning for the eradication of the demon rum and was on its way to persuading the country that prohibition was a good idea. The United States was a rarity: a democratic republic. Throughout the world, most people had very little say about how they were governed or about the laws that were made that they had to obey. The whole world was on the gold standard though the US was seriously flirting with free silver. Good incomes were measured in the hundreds of dollars a year, and most trade unions, if they existed at all, had very little power.
There are those both in Europe and in the United States who would look back to 1900 as a year of incredible peacefulness. Many nostalgically perceived the end of the Gilded Age as a time of immense promise and dignity where most people knew their place and most people could look forward to better times. It is ironic to me that we are approaching the 21st century with as much trepidation and hope as operated for our forebears in 1900. I find myself heartened and disheartened by looking backwards. Clearly blind people can compete far more effectively in society because of technology, and it is very likely that we could not have sustained a national organization of blind people such as ACB as things were in 1900. However proud we may be about our accomplishments of the last century, we shouldn't forget that, for some blind people anyway, a good education was to be had only at schools for the blind in 1900. Many of the approaches to blindness that we take for granted were devised and implemented in schools for the blind. One of the very first national organizations to form in the field of blindness brought teachers together to share techniques.
On the other side of the coin, many blind children of color were not given the opportunity to be educated and, when schools for the blind did begin to serve them, they were often segregated from other students. Wilson's book on famous men and women who are blind demonstrated an ability we know blind people possess, but, those exceptions aside, most blind people could not expect to work and were not expected to contribute much to society. Services existed to get blind people out of the home and into a segregated work place where they could do something useful for society with little remuneration and less dignity. Society knew where we belonged and we, as blind people, for the most part, concurred. There must have actually been something comforting about knowing where we fit in the scheme of things, though. Now, when a proportion of blind people are working and when we have higher expectations of ourselves, it can tear a good person into little pieces when no job is to be found.
No, I'm not suggesting that we all jump on a time machine and travel back to the good old days of 1900. Life expectancy was limited. Most people were lucky to eat meat once every two weeks, and vaccination was a word that was just coming into use, though there were very few vaccines and less public health. As cities were evolving, immigrants were living in cramped, dirty tenement buildings with little sanitation and less privacy. What I do want us to think about a little is just how far our world has traveled in a century.
If there is one thing that has characterized this century it is the escalation of change. The first long-playing records were pioneered by the talking book program in the late 1930s and now records are becoming rare and record players are almost extinct. What is even more unnerving is that the cassette technology that replaced records and that has operated for only 25 years or so is almost certain to have disappeared by the time the new millennium is very old. If television didn't manage to create a "global village," the Internet may well manage to do it. I can safely suggest that no one in 1900 could have imagined the world as it is today. While Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee felt like a fish out of water at the court of King Arthur, he survived and recognized much of what he saw. Had he come forward to our time, I suspect he would have been incapable of functioning in a society as dependent on technology as ours is.
We have come a long way in the last hundred years but we have moved backwards almost as often as we have moved forward. Society is still trying to tell us where we belong and even other groups of disabled people are trying to tell us who we are. But we know now as we knew, even in 1900, who we are. We are people who are blind who have rights and dignity and who demand that society recognizes both. We are brothers and sisters who are as much in need of each other as we were in 1900. What is sad but true is that there are just as many threats out there to the success of people who are blind as there were in 1900. If disabled people don't get us, new technology might. Social Security and specialized services for blind people are under attack and, if statistics are to be believed, only 30 percent of us have ever held a job. Most of us had families in 1900. Far too many of us do not have families in 1999.
I suppose that William Shakespeare is right. "Comparison is odious," but, William, it is interesting. I have no moral to draw in my first message of the last year of the 20th century. I do not claim that we live in kinder or gentler times, though perhaps we do. I suppose that there is one thing I would have you take away from this message. It is embodied in an old adage that I first saw in French which, translated, says: "The more things change, the more they stay the same!" Happy New Year! May the last year of the second millennium treat you well.
If you met Eunice Fiorito at a conference or convention anywhere in the world, you could not forget her, or her voice. Within a few minutes, and in that operatic voice commanding attention, Eunice would find out who you were, where you came from, what you were doing there and then convince you to take part in one of the numerous advocacy projects she was heading.
And advocacy projects there were. Throughout her private life and professional career, Eunice was a diligent advocate and unabashed spokesperson for the rights of all people to be heard and protected -- wherever they were and whatever their circumstances. When she died on Nov. 22, 1999, following months of illness, she was still serving as chair of the Alexandria Commission of Persons with Disabilities.
Born in Chicago, Ill. at the beginning of the Great Depression, Eunice Kathleen Frelly had only a slight visual impairment. However, she became totally blind by age 16 after being struck on the head by a baseball. She chose to remain in her high school to graduate, and was the first blind student to receive a bachelor of science degree at Loyola University. She received her master's degree in social work from Columbia University in New York, and later took several courses toward a doctorate in health services administration.
In the early 1970s, Eunice and a group of disability leaders established the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, and elected Eunice as the organization's first president. In 1977, Eunice and other ACCD pioneers led a march on Washington, where they staged a three-day sit-in at the office of Secretary Joseph Califano in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. They were protesting the delay in signing the implementing regulation for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Nixon had vetoed the act, and four years after Congress had overturned that veto, the Ford administration had not issued the regulation, and it looked like more delay from the Carter administration. By then, Eunice had a national reputation for shaking the confidence of public officials with her ardent verbal confrontations. Eyewitnesses report that, toward the end of the sit-in, Eunice and Joseph Califano faced each other. In the voice so many remember, Eunice boomed, "Now Joe, you know what we're here for and what you need to do." Secretary Califano started to respond, but because Eunice was such a statuesque and imposing figure, he climbed onto his chair to be taller than she when he answered. A few weeks later, the 504 regulation was signed, defining the first federal civil rights statute for people with disabilities, and the model for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Eunice, always the civic activist, was a founding member of Disabled People International, serving on its board for years. She was also a founder and board member of the League of Disabled Voters, and a very active member of the Washington, DC League of Women Voters. She chaired committees of the World Blind Union, and was a longtime member of ACB.
And then there was her professional career, jobs she was paid to do. Her professional positions included rehabilitation teacher/caseworker with the Illinois Department of Public Welfare; social worker at New York's Jewish Guild for the Blind, where she helped to establish the nation's first outpatient clinic for children with multiple disabilities; and Director of Psychiatric Social Work and Rehabilitation Services at New York City's Bellevue Medical Center. Eunice's lifelong interest in politics led her to organize and head the first Mayor's Committee on the Handicapped during the terms of Mayor John Lindsay and later, Mayor Abraham Bean in New York City. She was the first person with a disability to receive the Outstanding Meritorious Service Award from the City of New York. While living in New York, she met and married James Fiorito.
Eunice joined the federal government after accepting a political appointment in the Carter administration, and moved to Washington, DC to work in the newly created Department of Education. For the next 19 years, she held a variety of advisory positions including Special Assistant to the Commissioner of RSA.
At the time of her retirement, she was vice chair of the Department's Task Force on Section 504 -- the focus of the sit-in she had organized 20 years earlier!
Finally, there was the wonderful, generous hostess Eunice who presided at magnificent dinner parties in her beautiful home. Eunice held at least three such celebrations a year at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, and provided five-course feasts for 12 to 15 guests at each event. When Eunice ceremonially swept the old year out the door, accompanied by loud whoops and epithets, her neighborhood must have wondered if she was throwing out a poorly behaved dinner guest. Since winter was such a special time for Eunice, it seems fitting to quote a few lines from the winter solstice poem "The Shortest Day" by Susan Cooper:
"...As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year..."
And though we say farewell to Eunice, clever, feisty, loving Eunice, her voice should never die.
(Editor's Note: Eunice Fiorito's family requests that memorial tributes should be sent to ACB for the Eunice K. Fiorito Advocacy Scholarship Fund. You may send those funds to the ACB national office, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005. Please make sure to note that the money is for the Eunice Fiorito Scholarship Fund.)
Congress has finally taken action on the Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, which contained provisions for the "Ticket to Work and Self-sufficiency" program. Thanks to last- minute lobbying by many in the disability community, the legislation was approved in November by both houses of Congress. The president has said he will sign the bill. The signing ceremony has been scheduled for the week of December 13.
The Work Incentives legislation will implement a number of changes to both SSDI and SSI programs. These changes will be phased in over the next year and a half. Below is a brief summary of the bill's key provisions.
Expanded Health Insurance Options
SSDI beneficiaries who return to work after October 1, 2000, will be able to keep their premium-free Medicare Part A coverage for an additional four-year period beyond the four years already provided them under current law. This means that they will be able to count on premium-free Medicare Part A coverage for a total of eight years from the time that they go to work.
Also, beginning October 1, 2000, states will be able to offer both SSI and SSDI recipients who would not otherwise be eligible for Medicaid the opportunity to "buy-in" to their Medicaid program.
Although they are not required to do so, states may liberalize limits on resources and income, and may allow employed individuals with medically determinable impairments (as determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) to buy into Medicaid even though they may no longer be eligible for SSDI or SSI disability benefits because of medical improvement. For purposes of this particular buy-in, states may require individuals to pay premiums, or other cost-sharing charges, set according to a sliding scale based on income.
There will also be a number of other changes in eligibility rules for SSDI and SSI beneficiaries. Beginning 13 months after enactment of the legislation, individuals whose prior entitlement to disability and health care benefits had been terminated because of earnings from work activity may request reinstatement of benefits without filing a new application. Such individuals must be unable to continue working on account of their medical condition and must file a reinstatement request during the 60-month period following the month of employment termination. While the Social Security Administration is making a determination on their reinstatement request, individuals are eligible for provisional benefits for up to six months.
Work activity will no longer automatically result in a continuing disability review. Under the new rules, such reviews will be conducted on a regularly scheduled basis and determination of an individual's continued eligibility will be made at these scheduled times, rather than being based on an individual's work status.
The Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency
This program can provide SSDI and SSI beneficiaries with a ticket they can use to obtain vocational rehabilitation services, employment services, and other support services from an employment network of their choice. These employment networks can be comprised of either public or private agencies. Agencies may choose to provide services directly, or to enter into agreements with other (subcontracting) providers, who can furnish portions of the services. These selected agencies will be required to develop and implement an individual work plan (IWP) in partnership with each beneficiary. Each collaboratively developed IWP must include a statement of: (1) the beneficiary's vocational goal; (2) services and supports necessary to accomplish that goal; (3) terms and conditions related to the provision of those services and supports; (4) rights and remedies available to the beneficiary; and (5) the beneficiary's right to modify his/her work plan if needed. Each individual work plan is effective upon written approval by the beneficiary and a representative of the employment network.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is authorized to pay an employment network under either an outcome payment system or an outcome-milestone payment system, and each employment network will notify SSA as to which payment system is preferred. State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies will be able to participate in the program as employment networks. They will provide services under plans approved under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If a state VR agency wants to accept a referral of a disabled person from another employment network, there must be a written agreement between the VR agency and the employment network outlining the services to be provided by each entity and their respective rights and responsibilities.
The Social Security Administration is prohibited by this act from initiating any continuing disability reviews while a person is using a Ticket to Work and Self-sufficiency. Congress has expressed the hope that this will encourage beneficiaries to participate in this program.
The Work Incentives Improvement Act authorizes SSA to conduct several demonstration projects and studies over the next five years aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of additional proposed work incentives. One of the most significant of these involves an evaluation of the effects of a $1 for $2 withholding of SSDI payments for earnings over a level specified by the Social Security Administration. This would extend to SSDI beneficiaries the same gradual benefit reductions which SSI recipients are currently allowed. Because both the Social Security Administration and members of Congress were concerned about the potential increased cost of such a change in SSDI rules, provision was made for gathering information about the actual fiscal impact it would have before implementing it across the country.
Stay tuned for further information about who is eligible to participate in these demonstration projects. We will try to keep you informed as SSA publishes its implementing regulations and makes other information available. If we don't answer your question here, you can, of course, call the ACB national office and I'll try to answer it or put you in touch with someone who can.
The American Council of the Blind surveyed 163 pedestrians who are legally blind regarding their experiences in independently crossing at intersections with and without audible pedestrian signals. Surveys were administered orally to 154 people in groups who were attending conventions in Florida (30), Virginia (24), and California (100). Responses were by a show of hands. Surveys were administered orally and individually to nine people in various locations in Pennsylvania. The number of respondents for each question varied from 128 to 159.
Respondents indicated that they sometimes had difficulty knowing when to begin crossing (difficulty hearing surge of traffic on street beside them), which they attributed to one or more of four reasons.
The surge was masked by right-turning traffic: 91% (144 of 158)
Traffic flow was intermittent: 86% (132 of 154)
The intersection was too noisy: 81% (125 of 154)
The surge of traffic was too far away: 65% (98 of 152)
Respondents indicated that they sometimes had difficulty traveling straight across the street for one or more of the following four reasons.
Difficulty figuring out where the destination corner was: 79% (101 of 128)
Veered because there was no acoustic guideline (parallel traffic): 75% (119 of 159)
Veered because the street was too wide: 70% (112 of 159)
Confused by unexpected features such as medians or islands: 85% (138 of 155)
Respondents had experienced one or more of the following problems with push buttons.
Couldn't tell whether they needed to push a button: 90% (142 of 158)
Had difficulty locating the push button: 87% (137 of 158)
Couldn't tell which crosswalk was activated by the pushbutton: 81% (127 of 157)
Push button was so far from the corner that they couldn't push the button and then return to the crosswalk and prepare for crossing before the WALK interval began: 78% (122 of 157)
Respondents had experienced one or more of the following eight difficulties with existing accessible pedestrian signals.
The signal was too quiet: 71% (112 of 158)
Couldn't tell which crosswalk had the WALK signal: 68% (107 of 158)
The signal was too loud: 45% (71 of 158)
Couldn't remember which of two sounds was associated with crossing in a particular direction: 27% (42 of 158)
Confused by the sound of an APS for another intersection: 19% (30 of 158)
Couldn't localize the sound of an APS and use it for guidance: 6% (10 of 158)
Crossed street with an actual bird instead of bird call signal: 4% (7 of 158)
Didn't cross because they thought the signal was an actual bird: 3% (4 of 158)
8% (12 of 158) of respondents had been hit by a car.
29% (45 of 158) of respondents had had their cane run over.
62% (98 of 158) of respondents have gotten partway across an intersection and realized that the light had changed against them.
36% (57 of 158) of respondents try to avoid crossing unfamiliar signalized intersections.
17% (26 of 158) of respondents limit their travel to familiar areas due to the complexity of intersections.
34% (22 of 128) of respondents have one or more audible pedestrian signals in the area where they live.
20% (24 of 128) of respondents were aware of the existence of local guidelines for the installation of audible pedestrian signals.
The frequency of experiencing any of the above problems is influenced by many factors, including the environment in which respondents live, and their own travel experiences. Therefore the percentages reported here cannot be generalized to all environments or to all blind pedestrians. In addition, respondents were asked only whether they had sometimes experienced particular problems. Their responses did not reveal whether the problem was experienced rarely or frequently. Therefore the results are only suggestive of the relative frequencies with which blind pedestrians experience difficulties at intersections.
The percentage of respondents who sometimes experienced various problems is not necessarily the same as the perceived severity or importance of those problems. For instance, a blind pedestrian may have difficulty locating pushbuttons but consider this a less important problem than being unable to determine which crosswalk is actuated by a push button, because the difficulty of locating a push button is not normally life- threatening, while pushing the wrong button to cross a street may lead to crossing with the wrong signal. Therefore, respondents were also asked to indicate the one problem in each of four categories which they considered most important.
The two problems considered most important in knowing when to cross were: 1) right-turning traffic masked the surge of parallel traffic -- 71 percent (91 of 128) and 2) traffic was intermittent -- 13 percent (16 of 128).
The two problems considered most important in crossing straight across the street were 1) getting confused by an unexpected feature such as a median strip or island -- 57 percent (62 of 108) and 2) not knowing where the destination corner was located -- 18 percent (19 of 108).
The two problems related to push buttons which were considered most important were: 1) knowing whether there was a push button -- 58 percent (57 of 98) and 2) they had trouble finding the push button -- 15 percent (15 of 98).
The two problems considered most important in using APSs were: 1) the APS was too quiet -- 36 percent (24 of 67) and 2) they had difficulty remembering which sound was for which direction -- 21 percent (14 of 67).
California is the only state which has specifications for APSs. Bird-call type signals are recommended, and are widely used throughout California, although several other types of signals are used in a few cities. Elsewhere in the United States, there is less uniformity in signal type. The bird-call type signal, sounding "cuckoo" for north-south crossings, and "peep-peep" for east-west crossings, is intended to convey to blind pedestrians unambiguous information about which street has the WALK signal. To obtain data on the success of this strategy, responses of Californians (100) vs. non-Californians (63) were compared for two questions.
Seventy-eight percent of Californians (78 of 100) and 50 percent (29 of 58) of non-Californians indicated they sometimes did not know which crosswalk an APS was for. Twenty-five percent of Californians (25 of 100) and 29 percent (17 of 58) of non- Californians indicated they sometimes couldn't remember which sound was for which direction. Therefore, despite the greater use of and familiarity with bird-call type signals in California, which are intended to clearly indicate which street at an intersection has the WALK interval, blind pedestrians in California report a particularly high incidence of problems in deciding which street an APS is for.
This may be partly a result of forgetting which signal is associated with which direction. Other possible causes include being unaware of either the direction in which they are traveling, or the compass orientation of the intersection.
Forgetting which signal is associated with which direction was considered the most important APS problem by 23 percent (10 of 44) of Californians who indicated a most important problem with APSs, vs. 17 percent (4 of 23) for non-Californians, and difficulty deciding which crosswalk an APS indicates has the WALK signal was considered the most important APS problem by 14 percent (6 of 44) of Californians and 30 percent (7 of 23) for non-Californians.
Since many Californians, who are primarily familiar with bird-call type signals, indicated that they had difficulty determining which street had the walk signal, and a number of Californians indicated that they considered difficulty determining which street had the walk signal to be the most important problem in using APSs, this survey indicates that a bird-call type signal is of no particular advantage in conveying information about which crosswalk at an intersection has the walk signal.
(Editor's Note: The article below is the first in a series of four. Last September, when I read Sarah Blake's poignant letter to her retiring guide dog, Elli, I asked Sarah if she would be willing to allow "Braille Forum" readers to accompany her on the journey of acquiring and adjusting to a second guide dog. The article below is a somewhat shorter version of that therapeutic letter. In the early spring, Sarah will describe the experience of returning to The Seeing Eye and getting to know her second guide dog, Dori. Then, in the early summer, we will check in again with Sarah to learn about her adjustment to the new dog and the dog's adjustment to returning home with Sarah. In the fall, we will visit Sarah and her menagerie (Dori, Elli, and several cats) one more time to see how it was for all of them to learn to live and work together. We at "The Braille Forum" hope that you will enjoy the series.)
Big tears ran down my cheeks as I sat at my computer. I had thought I was doing well in adjusting to the prospect of retiring Elli, my first dog guide. Perhaps I was doing too well.
That was until I was notified that my class assignment at The Seeing Eye had been changed from November to September. Suddenly, reality began to set in. Right or wrong, I had made a choice to retire Elli, and now I would be entering a new era of life.
I had first begun to suspect that the time for retiring Elli was near during the summer of 1998. While attending the annual convention of the American Council of the Blind, I noticed that Elli's enthusiasm for working was significantly diminished. She had always thrived on work, throwing her head into her harness as soon as I picked it up. Not even the stress of conventions had dampened her spirits until now.
A few weeks later, my mother and I noticed that Elli was having difficulty maintaining her energy level at the track. Usually Elli was the one who tired me. Now it was I who tired her. In December 1998, I had surgery and did not work with Elli for several weeks. I questioned the wisdom of putting a nine-year-old dog back to work after this time, and in March 1999, I took my first vacation without her.
I survived the vacation, and I thought that this meant I would survive going to The Seeing Eye with no problem. But going to The Seeing Eye was different. I hadn't realized how different it was until this day.
Searching for some means of closure, I wrote a letter to Elli. I tried to capture my feelings about the change. "In a little over three weeks, I will be going somewhere very important," I wrote, "and I'll be leaving you behind. It's not that I haven't left you before. I've been taking trips for several months without you. ... But this trip is different. This time I'm going to get a new dog. It feels like I'm replacing you. Someone else is going to do your job. I guess that's a little different from just not having you around. It's having someone around who isn't you. It's letting someone else do what you should be doing."
Writing those words made me realize the impact Elli had had on my life and how often I had taken her presence for granted. I spent the rest of my letter writing out my memories of our eight years together, trying to capture my feelings and Elli's spirit on paper, trying to make them last.
"In May, 1991, I took this trip for the first time. ... It was a Saturday, May 18. I was on the airplane for a long time. I remember that as it was landing, I got scared. 'What in the world am I doing getting a dog?' I thought. 'I don't even like dogs!'
"But I had seen those proud guide dogs, and I thought they were the key to independence. Now I would be getting one of my own. ... My instructor had taught me some commands, and we had taken a practice walk. He held the dog's end of the harness and leash, and I held my end. I gave him commands using the name 'Juno' as if he was a dog. ... On Sunday morning, I took another Juno walk, and after lunch we all waited around with mixed nervousness and anticipation. I had a roommate, Rachel. We compared notes on what we imagined our dogs would be like. We heard instructors saying 'phooey' to somebody's dog, but it wasn't mine or hers. Then the big moment came.
"'Ms. Blake,' my instructor called from outside my door. I went out to the lounge. He had already gone back out there and was sitting across the room with you. He told me to call you. I braced myself for the moment of truth and called your name.
"You came running over to me and started licking my hands. My instructor wanted me to stick my hand inside your mouth. Oh, how scary! What if you bit me? (Of course, you didn't.) ...
"We spent that first afternoon just being together. I rubbed your belly. You gave me your paw in classic Labrador retriever fashion. You licked my hands but (thankfully) stayed away from my face. How did you know I hated having my face licked?
"Training was hard work. There were times one of us would rather play than work. But we worked hard, and the big day to go home finally came. We went to the airport, and I learned how to get you to ride under the seat in front of me on the plane. Dad picked us up from the airport in Houston, and I remember how proud Mom was to have you in her car! It made me feel like she was proud of me because you were mine.
"I turned 19 while I was there at the Seeing Eye. I've often said that you were my birthday present to myself. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present. You went to universities with me and sat for hours in class and in the library while I did research. You should have your Ph.D. by now. You've gone with me to make presentations to groups of children, university classes, and church groups. You've been on stages with me while I sang in choirs and by myself. You've gone with me to huge conventions and been a real trooper when all those people and other dogs were walking where I wanted you to take me. You've gone to banquets and never moved a muscle when I dropped a crumb from my roll on your nose. I don't know many dogs who can achieve that. ... And now your time to have fun and just be a dog is here.
"... I know I need to do this. I know that you wouldn't want me to be without the kind of help you gave me. But part of me doesn't want to do this. That part of me doesn't want anybody else doing your job. That part of me wants you to keep on doing it and feels guilty for letting you stop. You're still healthy. Maybe you could still work. Maybe I just haven't kept you in shape enough. Maybe if we started out slowly, you'd be able to work again. ...
"But I know how tired you are. I know you are in no shape to go traipsing around the country on all these trips while I look for jobs. I know you are in no shape to deal with full days at a university if I decide to go on to graduate school. You are about to be 10 years old. It's time for me to let go. Somewhere in my mind I know that I am not betraying you or ignoring you and that both of us will adjust. I just wish it was easier."
Writing the letter was more of a help to me than I ever thought it could be. It not only gave me a certain amount of closure regarding her retirement, but it also inspired me to write about the experience of transitioning to the new dog and the experience of having a dog guide in general. Elli now enjoys the high life of a spoiled pet, and I enjoy the company of not one but two wonderful Labrador retrievers. Elli's retirement was one of the most emotional times of my life, but her working years made every moment of my grief worthwhile.
One of the main attractions of ACB conventions is the presentation of awards to outstanding recipients, and this yearžs convention was no different.
The Sunday opening session of the convention featured the presentation of the Ned E. Freeman Excellence in Writing Award by the board of publications. Carol McCarl, BOP chair, presented the award to Larry Johnson for his December 1998 "Braille Forum" article titled "Blind Faith." Johnson's article was chosen from a field of 35 contenders for excellence in writing, widespread appeal, and interesting and instructive content. The article is a chapter from his soon-to-be-published book about his experiences as a blind deejay in Mexico City. McCarl told the convention that there were many deserving runners-up, and she encouraged ACB members to go back and read articles they may have missed, and to keep writing for "The Braille Forum," where airing of sometimes competing ideas epitomizes the very essence of the American Council of the Blind.
"I feel like I just won an Oscar," Johnson said. "It's really important to a writer to know that somebody reads his stuff."
Dawn Christensen, chair of ACB's Awards Committee, discussed the new directions which the committee has attempted to take. There are now two categories of membership awards, she noted: one for membership outreach, and one for membership growth. "Unfortunately," she said, "the committee received no nominations for the outreach award." She expressed the hope that members will submit several nominations for next year's award.
The American Council of Blind Lions won the membership growth award, with a remarkable 111 percent growth rate during the preceding year. Elizabeth Lennon presented the award to Alan Beatty, president of the ACB Lions. "Next year," Beatty said, "we'll double it again!"
The 1999 winner of the George Card Award is Paul E. Ponchillia. Dr. Ponchillia, a member of Western Michigan University's faculty for many years, and founder of the first sports and arts camps for blind children, was honored for his many endeavors to improve the lives of visually impaired children and adults.
Ponchillia said, "Short-term programs will never take the place of year-round programs that are specific. But I can tell you that they're very, very much worth doing. I challenge you -- I challenge us all -- to put our efforts into sports, recreation, and the arts ... I've been blessed with a lot of luck, a lot of good fortune. I've received other awards, but nothing compares to this! And the reason is: It's from you -- the coolest blind people in the world!"
At the banquet Thursday night, two more awards were presented: the Robert S. Bray Award and the Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award. Awards committee member Mike Duke assisted in the presentation of the Bray Award. "Our recipient served as counselor with our blind vision for the Lutheran mission with blind and visually impaired persons in St. Louis, Missouri. Before accepting this position full-time in 1998, he was the full-time pastor of a Lutheran congregation in Overland, Missouri. He is directly involved with the mission's publication of periodicals: 17 in braille, seven in large print and five on audio cassette ... also in the transcription of hymnals, Bible studies and other special request items as well as a library of Christian materials in the above-mentioned formats. In addition to all of that, he's been a missionary; he works to encourage other blind people ... to be missionaries and to take part in their community. The person who nominated tonight's recipient describes him as a devoted father, husband and a person who always seems to be looking for new ways to reach out to his community. ... The winner of our Robert S. Bray Award is Rev. David Andrus of St. Louis, Missouri."
Andrus could not attend the convention, but he did send an acceptance speech, which Duke played. "Thank you very much for this award," Andrus said. "It is truly humbling and honoring to receive the Robert S. Bray Award for work done in the area of library service." He told the audience that he had lost his sight when he was 11, and learned braille and mobility skills, and knew that "I wanted to be able to help people somehow, some way, and so I headed out on my educational journey, which took me to finally be a Lutheran parish pastor." He served in that capacity for several years, and then came to the Lutheran Library for the Blind. "I really believe that those years as a parish pastor helped, because I got to understand some of the hurts and pains that people have. That, along with my own experience in knowing other blind people and what it's like ... I've worked very hard in helping the library provide materials that can be comforting, helping and especially give people strength in their spiritual walk with God. But not only that, we provide many other resources as well. I must also ... give acknowledgement to the wonderful staff that we have, the three paid staff but even more importantly the hundreds of volunteers around the United States that help produce this braille, large print and audio cassette so that blind and visually impaired people may feel a part of society and churches and play an active role with other people. ... Thank you from the bottom of my heart, as we will continue to provide these services and, God willing, a few more as well in the near future."
The plaque reads: "The Robert S. Bray Award of the American Council of the Blind is presented to Rev. David Andrus in recognition of his dedication to providing religious materials in accessible formats for people who are blind and visually impaired; Los Angeles, California, July 8, 1999."
The next award presented was the Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award. "The American Council of the Blind awards that we give out are for the most part only given to folks who have managed to demonstrate a level of excellence that is very difficult to manage," said ACB President Paul Edwards. "In fact, there are some years when we donžt even give awards. So I'm sort of anxious to figure out who in fact gets this one."
Christensen told her listeners, "The person who submitted this nomination specifically asked me to keep it confidential until this evening. So all I can do is really hope that the individual is here. I did a little snooping, and they're supposed to be here." But the results weren't confidential for too long. "... this gentleman was born in Idaho -- couldn't be too many of them, could there? -- and attended the Idaho School for the Deaf [and] Blind until sixth grade. His family then moved to Oregon, where he attended mainstream junior high and high school. In his sophomore year, he was elected class president, and at that time he knew it was his first real acceptance with his sighted peers -- a very important time for him. He then attended University of Oregon, where he did his undergraduate work, and then Cornell University, where he worked on his Ph.D. He was involved in many, many, many civil rights activities ... a variety of different organizations such as the Independent Living Center for the Handicapped, the National Association for the Physically Handicapped, the Washington, D.C. Center for Independent Living, the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, United Cerebral Palsy board of directors ... He's very much been a part of ACB for as long as I have, and that's been quite a while."
The winner, Roger D. Petersen, was indeed in the room. "Congratulations, Roger," Christensen said. "It is industrial strength braille, isn't it?" Petersen said, reading the plaque through the plastic wrapper. "Well, I recognized my biography there somewhere along the way; the Idaho part ... I want to say that I really didn't know about this and also that I'm very flattered and pleased at this particular award because of the importance that Durward McDaniel played in my life and in my coming into the American Council and in my coalition activities ... and even in commiserating with me at the time that I was ejected from the National Federation of the Blind. As I say, this is a very meaningful award to me, and I hope to continue to be worthy of an award named for Durward McDaniel. Thank you very much."
(Editor's Note: If you know someone worthy of one of the awards ACB gives, check this issue of "The Braille Forum" for deadlines and qualifications.)
Roger Petersen bows his head at the podium microphone as he accepts the Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award.
Each year at the national convention of the American Council of the Blind, the board of publications (affectionately known as the BOP) presents awards. The first is the Ned E. Freeman Award, instituted in 1970 and named for the first president of the American Council of the Blind who, after completing his term of office, became editor of "The Braille Forum." His friends have said that he enjoyed this work more than any other task he had performed in his long years of service to ACB.
The board of publications accepts submissions for the Freeman Award from any writer on a topic of interest to readers of "The Braille Forum." Submissions may be published in the magazine if space allows. Articles appearing in the "Forum" between April 1999 and March 2000 are automatically eligible. Materials published by an ACB affiliate are also welcome. Send a print, braille or electronic copy of the published article accompanied by a letter of nomination.
While mastery of the craft of writing is a major consideration by BOP voters, favorable choices in the past seem to have been made because of interesting subject matter, originality in recounting an experience, or novelty of approach. A Freeman Award winner will receive a plaque and $100.
The Vernon Henley Award was established in 1988 to honor the man who created and first produced ACB Reports, a radio presentation distributed to radio reading services around the country. At the time of his death, he was chair of the board of publications, having assisted editors by conducting writing workshops and by recording for them on audiocassette materials otherwise not available to them. The award is presented to a person, either sighted or blind, who has made a positive difference in the media -- whether in radio, TV, magazines, or daily newspapers -- which may change public attitudes to recognize the capabilities of people who are blind, rather than focusing on outdated stereotypes and misconceptions. Programs and/or articles written and produced specifically for a visually impaired audience, as well as those intended for the general public, are eligible. Multiple articles or programs submitted by one author or organization will be judged as separate entries. The Henley Award is intended to be a vehicle for publicizing ACB throughout the general media, and to encourage excellence and accuracy in electronic and print coverage of items relating to blindness.
Recipients of these awards for the last five years are ineligible to enter the contests. Freeman Award winners 1995-1999: Kathy Nimmer, Walt Stromer, Debbie Grubb, George Covington, and Larry Johnson; Henley Award winners 1995-99: Department of Justice, Tom Brokaw and NBC Nightly News, The Seeing Eye, and Kyle McHugh. Nor are those who are members of the ACB national office staff or members of the board of directors or board of publications during the awarding period eligible for the Ned E. Freeman or the Vernon Henley award.
Submissions for both awards must be postmarked no later than April 15, 2000. All submissions should be accompanied by a cover letter providing details about the submission, its origin, and any other pertinent information. Include your return address in the cover letter, and, if you want your manuscript returned, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Send submissions to ACB Board of Publications Awards, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005.
The long-anticipated arrival of the new millennium is upon us. I hope that your December holidays were cause for celebration. As I write this, two days before Thanksgiving, I have no way of predicting how problematic your Y2K New Year's events turned out to be, but I hope that the recalibration of all the computers that keep our lives on track will have been uneventful for all of us.
Your "Braille Forum," which has been tracking those events and eventualities which are important to members of the American Council of the Blind for nearly four decades now, is entering the next millennium with a few changes in mind -- and that's why I'm writing this column. Of course, the "Forum" will continue to perform those essential functions which have always been the hallmark of ACB's monthly publication: We will continue to bring you up-to-date information on legislation and advocacy-related issues; we will continue to make space available for all of our members to express opinions, share information, agree and disagree with one another. We will continue to come to you in the formats of your choice (print, braille, computer disk, audio cassette, and e-mail), and, when new technologies and formats arrive on the scene -- as they inevitably will -- "The Braille Forum" will keep up with the changing times and evolving technologies.
At the same time, we want to make our magazine appear to be a product of the 21st century! Can you help us update our image? We are looking for a new ACB slogan -- something to capture the essential nature of ACB, a short, catchy, communicative phrase which will make readers want to learn more about us, while reassuring long-time members that we're still who we say we are.
We also want a new logo! If you're a graphic artist -- or a tactile one -- please help us define ACB with an attractive communicative logo!
We are accepting entries in both our contests for the coming six weeks. Submit your entry anytime after January 15, and no later than March 1. A panel of writers and artists, recruited from ACB's membership lists, will pore over the entries. Our tentative plan is to announce the winning slogan and present the winning logo design at the ACB national convention.
You needed a creative outlet for your long winter cabin
fever, didn't you? Well, here it is -- put those creative juices
to good use. This is your chance in the first month of the new
century to garner some immortality -- or, at the very least,
experience your own personal 15 minutes of fame! Send your
entries in print or braille to:
American Council of the Blind
1155 15th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
Or, e-mail your entries to [email protected]
We are looking forward to receiving entries from every segment of the ACB population -- from every age group, from every affiliate, and from all our varied perspectives.
Happy 2000 to all!
Penny Reeder, Editor
The mid-winter meetings of the American Council of the Blind will take place Friday through Monday, February 18-21, 2000 at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky. Rates at the Galt House are $65 per night plus tax for up to four people per room. The reservation cut-off date is January 31, 2000.
At this writing, the following meetings are scheduled. More meetings may be added later.
1. The Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss will meet on Friday, February 18 at 3 p.m.
2. The ACB Lions plans to meet on Friday or Saturday. The date and time are not yet certain.
3. The convention and local host committees will meet jointly on Friday, Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
4. The affiliate presidents' meeting will begin Saturday morning at 8:30 and continue with appropriate breaks through late afternoon. This meeting will again convene Sunday morning and meet from 8:30 a.m. until noon.
5. The Kentucky Council of the Blind will be hosting a hospitality night in the president's suite, room 346 in the east tower, from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19.
6. The ACB board of directors will meet Sunday, Feb. 20 at 1:30 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 21 from 8:30 a.m. until noon.
When arriving at the Louisville airport, transportation to the Galt House Hotel is available by van or taxi. The cost of van transportation operated by Executive Transportation Systems is $8 per person. For two people, the cost is $6 each. For three or more, fares are further discounted. Call (502) 727-0268 for further information. There is a standard taxi fare of $14 for up to four people per cab. For the February meetings, all activities and all sleeping rooms will be in the west tower of the hotel, with the exception of the president's suite, which is room 346 in the east tower.
Make plans now to attend the first legislative seminar of the 21st century. The seminar, which will take place during the weekend of March 18-20, is an opportunity for all of us to take action on the important issues of our time. We have a full legislative agenda this year, and we need your help if we are going to convince Congress to act on it.
In addition to our traditional trip to Capitol Hill, we plan to offer an advocacy seminar where you can learn strategies and acquire tools to use, not only on the Monday sojourn to the hill, but also when you return to your own states and interact with legislators and policy-makers at the local level. At least one member of Congress has expressed an interest in attending this year's legislative seminar. Look for more details about the program in next month's issue of "The Braille Forum."
In the meantime, we encourage you to make your plans to attend. The space is limited, but your opportunities to make a difference are endless! Make reservations at the Doubletree Park Terrace Hotel, which is located at 1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW in Washington, DC. Call the hotel's registration desk at (202) 232- 7000. Remember, ACB will pick up the tab for two representatives from each affiliate, for two nights' stay.
Everything is coming together for our convention in Louisville. Pat and I just spent several days in that beautiful city, and although we are exhausted -- from all the tours and hospitality we experienced there -- I am pleased to tell you that there are abundant resources and Kentuckians who are preparing to make us feel welcome and entertained in Kentucky.
Pat and I spent two wonderful, and exhausting, days going from one tour site to another, so we could check out what's available for all of you who are planning to spend the July 4 week with us at the national convention. We were fortunate to be escorted by Carla Ruschival, who knows her way around the Blue Grass State, and two tour companies who were eager to show us the diverse attractions the state can offer us. We went to Churchill Downs; Sluggers Factory and Museum; The Bell of Louisville, a lovely plantation; a pottery factory; a dinner theater; a gambling riverboat on the Ohio River; and -- of course -- the American Printing House for the Blind! And that's just a sample of what's available!
Pat and I had a most pleasant visit with Tuck Tinsley at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). I want to say a special word of thanks to Tuck, because in addition to keeping us company and showing us around, he was getting ready for APH's annual meeting. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of APH and the time we spent in the APH museum. I think many of you will want to schedule a block of time for touring this fascinating museum.
Jerry Annunzio will be setting up all the convention-related tours. I have asked Carla to work with Jerry, and I am confident that their team will be able to provide some exciting and entertaining experiences for those of you who plan on taking some tours and seeing some Kentucky sights. Stay tuned to žThe Braille Forumž in coming months for more details.
The Galt House Hotel is close to the airport. It takes only about 15 minutes to make the trip from the airport to the hotel. We expect the Galt House to provide shuttle service at a rate of $8 each way. However, when Pat and I were in Louisville, we took taxis to and from the airport, for a flat rate of $14 each way, so we have not thoroughly investigated the hotel shuttle service yet.
While we were there, we were able to settle on the exhibit space, and also to figure out which meetings could be held where. All of the exhibits will be located directly across from the ballroom, where we will be holding our general sessions. Right now, it looks as though all of our meetings will be in the East Tower.
All of the restaurants are located in the West Tower. One coffee-shop-type restaurant, called the River Grill, is open from 6 a.m. until midnight. But, if you're a real coffee-drinker, be advised that a cup of coffee in this establishment cost me $1.69. (I will be packing a coffee pot -- and Pat will be packing a hair dryer -- for our convention stay, since the Galt House does not supply coffee pots in the rooms, and we could not determine just how many hair dryers housekeeping might be able to make available.)
Don't worry, though. Members of the Kentucky Council of the Blind are going all out to make sure that our stay in their home state is comfortable and pleasant. I would like to thank all the members of KCB for their help and input.
Margarine Beaman has also made a visit to Kentucky and has met with the hotel staff and with KCB. Margarine is the person who will work with the hotel on accessibility, braille, and recruiting and training volunteers. It takes a lot of volunteers to assist us in having a great convention. Thanks to Margarine and members of the KCB, everything is already falling into place for the 2000 convention.
The Galt House is a comfortable hotel. You may remember that all the accommodations in the East Tower are suites, and that the cost per night is $65 plus state and local taxes. Our contract with the hotel requires that you make a deposit for one night's stay (including the amounts for state and local taxes) when you make your hotel reservation. You may use a credit card, a check, or a money order to accomplish this. To receive a refund of your deposit, you must notify the hotel of changes in plans at least 48 hours prior to your arrival date. Remember, if it turns out that you are unable to attend the convention after you have made room reservations -- if you don't want to lose your deposit and if you don't want ACB's convention costs to go up --you should notify ACB and the hotel of your intent to cancel by May 31. Our Contract with the Hotel Initially, we have contracted with the Galt House for a block of 400 rooms. Our contractual arrangements stipulate that, if 90 percent of the 400 sleeping rooms which we have blocked are filled, we will get all the convention amenities -- including our meeting and exhibit space -- at no cost. We can increase or decrease the number of rooms we have blocked up to one month prior to the convention, but once we have made that firm commitment (say, for 400, 500, or X-hundred sleeping rooms), we are obligated to fill the space. If we do not fill the space -- for example, if a number of you have second thoughts about attending the convention and do not cancel your reservations in a timely manner -- then we will be billed for meeting and exhibit space according to a percentage-based formula. For example, should only 80 percent of the rooms in our block be filled, we would have to come up with 25 percent of the cost for the meeting and exhibit space (in this case, 25 percent of $5,000 equals $1250!) If 30 percent of our block were to be empty, we would have to come up with $2,500! So, you can see how important it is for us (John Horst and me, that is) to make an accurate estimate of the number of members who will be attending our convention and staying at the Galt House Hotel -- and how important it is for each of you who may have a change in plans to cancel your reservations just as soon as you realize that you cannot attend the convention. Think KY in Y2K!
As you can see, many of us are already busily making contacts and planning for your visit to the Galt House Hotel and other attractions in the beautiful Blue Grass State. We will see you there!
The Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss will hold a meeting of its board of directors, interested members and friends at the ACB midyear meeting on Friday, February 18. For more information, call Teddie Remhild at (301) 588-9570 or e-mail her at [email protected]
The Alabama Council of the Blind will hold its annual convention in Mobile at the Adam's Mark Hotel. The dates are March 10-12, 2000. For more information, contact Van Fulghum at (256) 362-4358 or via e-mail at [email protected]
MEMBERSHIP AT LARGE
The American Council of the Blind Constitution and Bylaws provide that any person who has reached the age of 18 and who is not a voting member of an ACB state/regional affiliate is eligible to become an ACB member-at-large with the right to an individual vote at the ACB national convention. Annual membership at large dues are $5. Application forms for new members-at-large are available from the ACB National Office. The ACB Constitution and Bylaws further provide that all dues are to be received no later than March 15. All membership at large dues must be clearly identified as such and should be sent so as to be received no later than March 15, 2000, to American Council of the Blind, Pat Beattie, Treasurer, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005.
There can be no question that by the end of these next thousand years and most likely by the end of this century, blindness will have been all but eradicated from the face of the earth. The mere consideration of this probable reality springs forth many questions from both the heart and the mind.
Some might ask if blindness is so bad that it needs to be eradicated, while others will ask why should it take so long. Surely once it happens, all will ask what must it have been like to live a life without sight?
Our old familiar talking books might survive the change as a kind of novelty or even art form. Similarly, our talking clocks and timers will most likely become something cute to give as a Christmas, holiday, or birthday gift. Even the once liberating talking computers will make the journey to new machines with which one will converse. The same fate will not be true for braille, white canes, guide dogs and the like that will slowly disappear into history as little more than academic notations.
What then will future generations think of us? Our alphabet soup of the blindness world will bear no relation to reality. No ACB or NFB. No AFB or BVA. Will the future ever know of us, or even have reason to care? These are the questions that really matter.
It will not be our canes, or dogs, or computers, or detectable warnings or any of these external things that the future will remember. It will be the quality of who we are and why we do what we have done that will serve the deeper human reality and meaning of the new times.
ACB will not be remembered for its material successes. Indeed, what the future will celebrate when it reviews the past and organizations such as the American Council of the Blind will be our spirit, our ideals, our values and what it was that fueled our persistence in the face of a world that many times just did not think we even existed.
The legacy of ACB will not be handed down to the blind of many next generations. It will be given to a human race still plagued with the need to communicate within itself and understand its real potential. Future generations will know that, because there were organizations such as ACB -- that founded themselves on the value of each member, practiced democracy as a real means of governance, held out the promise of a better tomorrow through common endeavor, built partnerships with all of good will and succeeded in changing even the physical world from a collective vision that could not be denied -- then there will be great reason to be optimistic about how much more future generations of humanity can do with all that will be available to them. As certainly as these words are written, there will be people in the future who will read of us and find even more meaning in their lives.
We are the present of blindness upon whom the future will rely to record the past. Let us give a legacy of celebration of the human spirit and of a people who helped build a better world from the lives we led today. ACB will not be remembered as an end in itself, but rather a place where hope was more than a word and home was a place for all to share the heralding of a better life for everyone.
(Editor's Note: What follows is a compilation of information from ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford's weekly submissions to ACB-L, the organization's Internet mailing listserve. 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. If you would like to view these notes on a weekly basis, visit the ACB web page, http://www.acb.org. Scroll down to "News Notes" and select it. You will then be at the page where "News Notes" is housed. You may choose the current issue or whichever back issue you would like to read. Please let us know your opinion of "News Notes.")
In a direct letter to the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, ACB has inquired after a rumor that SSA is considering changes in the definition of blindness. This, if true, would be of serious concern to all blind people. ACB will stay with this until we are either satisfied that the rumor is false or assured that any changes would not happen without our full knowledge and participation in the process. Stay tuned.
Many blind folks who apply for a passport are being required to have some written document explaining why they don't have a driver's license even when they have other state-issued identification. This sets up criteria which are different from other folks and ACB has advised the Department of State that they need to review this requirement in light of their obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. We can reasonably anticipate the eventual acceptance of a non-driver's license without additional burdens, once the issue is addressed. Thanks to Melanie Brunson for writing up the letter.
The National Council of State Agencies for the Blind is meeting in San Antonio this week and ACB and RSVA are well represented on the vending facility issues. We are confident that Julie Carroll and Terry Pacheco will keep the call for action alive and well at the meetings.
The major victory for ACB and NFB in South Dakota continues to protect the separate state agency identity in South Dakota. The national office and our South Dakota affiliate conversed for a time yesterday on strategic options to keep the ball rolling in our favor.
As "News Notes" is being written, we have had a conference call set up for this evening to talk about how things are going in Michigan. It may take some effort, but the goal of accessible bills is one well worth the struggle.
With ACB members and staff well represented at the Federal Communications Commission, a unanimous vote of the commissioners heralded in a new era for video description and blind people! The FCC will be releasing a notice of proposed rule making that will start the process of getting video description available on national prime time TV for a good solid chunk of programs.
The national office will be sending out information on the proposed rules as soon as they are out. ACB members and friends will need to write letters of support to make sure this extraordinary opportunity does not pass without result! We are in good shape and it fully looks like we will have video description available in the not too distant future, but we must stay the course and make sure our voices are heard when the need arises. Special thanks to all the ACB folks who came, and a warm thanks to Sandy Sanderson and Lynne Koral who came all the way from Alaska!
Well, it was most interesting to see a laptop computer with a 40-cell braille display that has all the bells and whistles to do any task in speech or braille in DOS or Windows. It was like seeing a computer commercial like the one on TV that says "it's in there" each time we asked a question.
Its major problem is the cost and you'll be hearing more about it as time goes by. Check out their web site at http://www.aadbrl.com for more info.
ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford sent out a letter to all the participants in a discussion to get a national repository of text publications. This idea has been bubbling out there for some time and under ACB resolution 99-36, we are moving to join in.
NISH lawsuit stirs ACB interest Recently there was a lawsuit filed by the National Industries for the Severely Handicapped to get mess halls at military bases freed up from the priority they have for blind vendors. ACB is looking at this to see where our best interests can be served and certainly will not stay on the sidelines when vendors are threatened.
In a letter to the developers of Quicken, QuickBooks, and Turbotax, ACB underscored the concerns of a member for the lack of progress in making their software accessible. In short, ACB pointed out the lack of progress at the company could only lead us to believe they were not serious in their representations to work on the issue. Hence, ACB requested that they provide us with a material statement on what they will be doing to resolve the issues.
In a second meeting last week, ACB, PVA, a DC Cab Commission member, and NOD met with the DC Deputy Chief of Police to move along the planned sting operation against Washington cab drivers who refuse to transport blind and other disabled people. The discussions were friendly, but ACB was clear that we expect results and all the reasons for taking time could only be measured against a real product. The outcome is that we can anticipate the start of the operation within 30 to 60 days. AT&T proposal to drop 800 number directory assistance to be challenged
ACB will be submitting testimony to the Federal Communications Commission in opposition to the petition from AT&T to drop their 800 toll free directory assistance service. ACB is sensitive to the cost issue and the fact that AT&T may be correct in its assertion that it only has some 5 percent of the actual numbers out there in its database. Nevertheless, ACB believes that dropping the service is not in the public interest and that new ways of requiring telephone system wide collection of 800 data should be developed along with the mandatory participation of all telephone carriers.
This issue will not be resolved in a short time, but the dropping of the service is hardly a way to deal with it.
Looks like our "Braille Forum" is in need of expansion. While Penny and Sharon are doing great work on fitting as much as they can in the "Forum" with a view toward engaging the reader, we are experiencing more information that ought to be there than the current cost constraints will allow. Hence, a part of our budget talks for the next year will include an exploration of some expansion, whether through additional dollars or the use of new brailling production facilities. All of this will have to be done in consultation with the board of publications.
As this is being written, the second edition of the pedestrian safety handbook is now awaiting one last article before final formatting and publication. We will be looking for funds to cover the cost of brailling and distribution, but at least the electronic edition should be out within a couple of weeks.
We trust that all had a great Thanksgiving and wish everyone a great holiday season! Whatever you do, remember the spirit is what counts. Sharing the season with other ACB members and friends is important. Let's make sure that dropping temperatures are more than compensated by increased warmth toward each other.
The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.
The Summer Music Institute for Blind College-Bound Musicians will be held in July on a college campus in Bridgeport, Ct. This is a three-week residential program for students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades who have had some music experience and are serious about gaining skills necessary for the study of music in college. It will teach braille music, computer composing and notation skills, theory, keyboard and ensemble. Students will have the opportunity to live and work in a true-to-life campus situation while sharing the fun of summer outings, performing and mingling with others of similar abilities and interests. Enrollment is limited to 10 students, who will be accepted based on their applications and telephone interviews. The program costs $2,000. Partial scholarships are available. Applications must be completed and returned by April 15. Students under age 15 or in need of significant financial help should apply early. For an application, or to reach the National Resource Center for Blind Musicians with questions regarding braille music, contact the Music and Arts Center for the Handicapped, 600 University Ave., Bridgeport, CT 06601; e-mail [email protected]; or phone (203) 366-3300.
Dot's Right! is an inkprint-to-braille transcription service. The company transcribes a variety of materials, including menus, personal documents, training/technical manuals and much more. One to 10 copies of a document cost $6.50 per copy; 11 to 25, $4.50 per copy; 26 or more copies, $3 per copy. Menu preparation costs $50 per job, and 10 cents per page. Scanning text and/or images costs $50 per hour and includes layout and editing. California sales tax (8.25 percent) will be added to the cost. Information is available in print and braille. Call or write for a free estimate and more information. The address is: Liz Conejo, Dot's Right Transcription Service, 1864 N. Avenue 51, Los Angeles, CA 90042; phone (323) 254-9213; or e-mail [email protected]
CARVED ART PUZZLE
Katchina Internationale Inc. has available several different types of carved art puzzles -- puzzles with raised pictures. The concept behind the puzzle is to memorize the puzzle pieces by touch, and put it together. These puzzles are not recommended for children under age 3. Puzzle pictures are: a decorated candle; an eagle; a tulip; a butterfly; a hummingbird; a maple leaf; a hot air balloon; a lighthouse; and the Statue of Liberty. The candle and eagle cost $5 each; the tulip, butterfly and hummingbird, $11.90 each; the maple leaf, hot air balloon and lighthouse, $15.60 each; and the Statue of Liberty, $25.80. Prices do not include shipping or taxes. For more information, call (819) 775-6181, or write to Katchina Internationale Inc., C.P. 84062, Gatineau Quebec J8P 7K8, Canada.
NEWS FROM AFB
The American Foundation for the Blind recently initiated a national campaign to define the potential solutions to alleviate the challenge of access to textbooks for blind students. The AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum, a collaborative national effort on the part of agencies and organizations that produce textbooks and other instructional materials, works to ensure equal access to those materials. Forum participants include textbook publishers, educators, access technology specialists, producers of braille and recorded texts, parents of blind children, and blind or visually impaired adults. Partners include ACB, AFB, APH, AER, BANA, NLS, NAPVI, WGBH, National Braille Press, the Association of American Publishers, RFB&D, and many others. Also, Scott McCall was appointed to the post of vice president of national programs. In this capacity, he will oversee AFBžs offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco, as well as the Policy Research and Program Evaluation Department, AFBžs national program associates, the National Technology Program, and the Information Center.
AFB recently launched "AccessWorld: Technology for Consumers with Visual Impairments." This 32-page periodical will be available bimonthly in large print, braille, on tape and via the World Wide Web. A preview issue is available at http://www.afb.org/accessworld.html. AccessWorld will cover developments in assistive technology, government policies mandating accessibility, and industry efforts to provide accessible products and services. To subscribe, or for more information, call (888) 522-0220; e-mail [email protected] or visit AFB's web site, http://www.afb.org. "A Capital Idea! Successful Strategies for Getting What You Want from Government" is a guide to successful advocacy, which is now available on AFB's web site via http://www.afb.org/gov.html. This manual takes you step by step through defining an issue, identifying the players, planning a strategy, forming alliances, meeting and communicating with legislators or regulators, and following up on contacts. AFB is also seeking student interns for its New York and Chicago offices. Students must be in high school. They will work in AFB's Product Evaluation Lab in New York City, and one will work in Chicago with AFB's National Technology Program. For more information, call Mark Uslan at (212) 502-7638. Need information for National Braille Literacy Month? AFB has a packet of braille information available for parents of young blind children. It includes information frequently requested by parents of preschool and early elementary children, such as learning braille as a sighted parent, sources of children's books in braille, and suggested activities parents can do with their child to promote early literacy. For a packet, contact Frances Mary D'Andrea at (404) 525-2303. And the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute will be held Friday, March 3 to Sunday, March 5, at the Marriott Quorum Hotel, Dallas, Texas. The program is "Achieving an Accessible World: Partnerships, Roadblocks, Opportunities." It will feature speakers from the private and public sectors, both in and outside of the blindness field. Early bird registration (before February 4) is $235; registration between Feb. 4 and 25 is $285; after Feb. 25, $325. To register, or to receive the most recent JLTLI Bulletin, contact Gabriella Smith-Coventry at (212) 502-7641, or Corinne Kirchner, (212) 502-7640.
Check Mate Plus is a DOS-based, voice-friendly double-entry bookkeeping system that has a quick and easy amortization table that computes the answers to mortgage and loan questions. It has full documentation and is for IBM-compatible computers only. Contact Robert Langford, 11330 Quail Run, Dallas, TX 75238; phone (214) 340-6328.
Chuck Martin of Ko Am International Trade Co., Tacoma, Wash. has available a new kind of belt called a Ratchet Belt. Instead of holes, it has a ratchet type of device which adjusts easily to different sizes. It has 5 1/2 inches of ratchets, compared with 4 inches of holes. The belt is leather, with a metal buckle. You may view the belt on the web at http://www.ratchetbelt.com. For more information, visit the web site, or write to Ko Am International Trade Co., 9332 S. Steele St., Suite U-444, Tacoma, WA 98444; phone (253) 535-9261, or e-mail [email protected]
Ever been out in the sun and wished your sunglasses could do a better job? Or have you been biking and wished for some better protective gear? Wish no more. DIGI has available several types of SportLens. You can wear them over glasses and with contact lenses, and do a variety of activities with them, including sailing, fishing, biking, and more. The SportLens comes in visor and cap bill styles, and in a variety of colors. The lens is scratch resistant, adjustable, easy to remove (thanks to Velcro) and clean, and fully ventilated. For more information, call toll- free (800) 750-3444.
Resources for Rehabilitation recently published the third edition of its popular resource guide, "Meeting the Needs of Employees with Disabilities." It provides information to help people with disabilities retain or obtain employment. Chapters cover visual impairment and blindness, hearing and speech impairments, describe organizations, adaptations, assistive devices and services, as well as suggestions for a safe, friendly workplace. It costs $49.95 (including shipping and handling). For a complete list of publications and prices, contact Resources for Rehabilitation, 33 Bedford St., Suite 19A, Lexington, MA 02420; phone (781) 862-6455; or e-mail [email protected]
Easier Ways recently came out with a new mini perma notebook for brailling telephone numbers, addresses, birthdays, appointments, etc. It is flat and fits easily into a pocket or purse. It comes with 50 sheets (3 by 5 inches, two-hole punched) of clear Perma plastic filler. It makes sharp braille. You can add or remove a sheet easily, and make quick entries without having to remove a sheet. For more information, contact Easier Ways Inc., 2954 Shady Ln., Highlands Ranch, CO 80126; phone (303) 290-0987 or e-mail [email protected]
LOUIS BRAILLE INTERNATIONAL
The Louis Braille International Cultural and Educational Center of Blind People needs your help. LBICEC needs books, office supplies and finances for distribution and sponsoring blind children in Bangladesh. If you have any spare math instruments, braille reading materials, braille writing equipment, braille and talking watches, canes, eyeglass frames, or anything else that could be used in teaching blind children and adults, please send it to Louis Braille International Cultural and Educational Center of Blind People, P.O. Monno Nagar, Tongi, Gazipur, Bangladesh.
Audio Darts of Pittsburgh will hold its third Harold Schlegel Darts Tournament the weekend of March 31-April 2, 2000. This tournament will be held at the Best Western Motel, 3401 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, Pa. The room rate is $69 per night plus tax for up to four people per room. Reserve your room by calling (412) 683-6100. The first event will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday; the tournament will conclude at 5 p.m. Sunday. The cost of the tournament is $65. Make all checks payable to Audio Darts of Pittsburgh and mail to: Louis Wassermann, 2503 Silver Oak Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15220. For more information, call Lois Briggs at (412) 366-2630 or Joe Wassermann at (412) 687-5166.
Braille readers take note! The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has developed technology that will allow you to read a book on the Internet. It's called Web- Braille, and it gives you access to more than 2,700 electronic braille books recently placed on the Internet. Each year numerous new titles will be added. The new service began August 24. For more information, contact Robert Fistick, head of NLS' Publications and Media Section, at (202) 707-9279 or via e-mail, [email protected]
The following braille books are available to anyone who would like them by calling or writing the address listed below. "The American Vest Pocket Dictionary": more than 30,000 words, seven thick volumes (will not fit in your pocket). "The Cooking Class Cookbook": good recipes for beginning cooks, 20 pages brailled on thermoform paper. "Easy Ways to Delicious Meals": a Campbell's cookbook, one volume. "Cooking with Betty Crocker Mixes": package directions and simple recipes, one thermoform volume (copyright 1974). "Muffin Mania": one thermoform volume (11 pages), copyright 1983. "Stouffers": package directions, one volume. "Better Homes and Gardens Salad Book": plain and fancy salads for every occasion, four volumes, copyright 1958. "Better Homes and Gardens Meat Cookbook": all kinds and cuts, 400 ways to fix them, four volumes, copyright 1960. Write to 2655 NW Acey Pl., Corvallis, OR 97330; phone (541) 752-3325.
Ai Squared recently released version 7.0 of its ZoomText Xtra. It is able to run in both Windows 95 or 98 and Windows NT. It is also compatible with Microsoft Office 2000. Support for Windows 2000 will be available as soon as Windows 2000 is released. This version also includes support for TrueColor display modes, mouse wheel zooming, a talking setup program, and much more. To order a trial version, or for more information, visit the web site, http://www.aisquared.com or call (802) 362-3612.
Scanacan is a new device which will allow users to identify their groceries and any other item with a standard bar code. Scanacan, in conjunction with an omnidirectional handheld or mounted bar code scanner, keeps an inventory of what you have on hand. Simple commands will allow you to check what you have in your pantry, cleaning closet, music or video collection, and much more. You can add, change, delete, look up or print your records. Adding records allows you to create your own database of favorite items. Changing records allows you to edit any existing records to update price changes or enter new information about the item. Deleting the records will not delete the bar code from the database, so you can re-enter it at any time. Hardware and software sold together or separately. Contact Ferguson Enterprises, 104 Anderson Ave., Manchester, SD 57353-5701; phone (605) 546-2366.
Jose Inacio Laurini would like to receive an English dictionary from the Library of Congress. He would prefer Webster's or any other similar dictionary, if at all possible, on four-track cassette. If you have one you can give him, send it to Jose Inacio Laurini, 324 Conejo Motta Street, Cabreuva, Sao Paulo 13315-00, Brazil.
IT'S READY & IT'S BIG!
NASDSE and the Hilton/Perkins Program of the Perkins School for the Blind recently began distributing their educational service guidelines for students who are blind or visually impaired. This document is intended to provide assistance to state and local education agencies, service providers and parents. It describes essential program elements which must be considered in designing appropriate services for blind or visually impaired students, including those with multiple disabilities. The blind initiative document is the product of 13 national organizations' collaborative efforts, modeled after the NASDSE's deaf initiative guidelines published in 1994. The document is organized into five chapters, a glossary, and appendices. It has been distributed to state directors of special education, organizations, and parent and consumer groups. If you would like a copy, contact the Hilton/Perkins Foundation, Perkins School for the Blind, 175 N. Beacon St., Watertown, MA 02472.
Technologies for the Visually Impaired has a new reading machine available called the Portset Reader. It is a stand-alone scanner with speech built in. All you do is turn it on, wait for the announcement, lift the lid and place your print on the glass. Press the start key and within a short time the document will be read to you. You can select either a male or female voice for the reading function. The scanner can read a page size up to A4 (slightly larger than U.S. letter) with a type size as small as eight points. It weighs less than 13 pounds and measures 18 3/4 inches by 10 3/8 inches by 5 5/8 inches. For more information, contact the company at (516) 724-4479; e-mail [email protected]; or write to 9 Nolan Ct., Hauppauge, NY 11788.
Now that the World Series is over, you can obtain version 14 of the World Series Baseball Game and Information System. This game comes with 269 teams, including the 1999 Yankees and Braves and the all-star teams. You can play baseball on your computer using all the great teams of the past, Negro and Japanese teams, and many all-star teams. You can also review the history of baseball, find out whožs in the Hall of Fame, check out all the baseball records, and test your knowledge of the game on a 1,000-question quiz. The price is $15 for new users, $5 for updates. Send your check to Harry Hollingsworth, 692 S. Sheraton Dr., Akron, OH 44319; phone (330) 644-2421; or e-mail [email protected]
Have you ever fallen asleep while reading a book on tape, and wished you'd had a bookmark so you could find your place? Wish no more. The Talking Book Marker is a simple switch that plugs into your cassette player's REM jack. While you are listening to the tape, you hold down the switch. When you relax your grip, the switch releases and the talking book stops playing. If you are interested in learning more about the Talking Book Marker, or would like to order, call Jim Daily at (406) 782-2202, or send your name, address and telephone number along with a check for $27.95 per book marker ordered to: The Talking Book Marker, 835 Emma, Butte, MT 59701. If you have Internet access, check the web site, http://www.angelfire.com/mt/jdaily, or e-mail [email protected]
VISION TAPE MINISTRY
Vision Tape Ministry is a free bimonthly mailing of three cassettes containing church, Christian conference sermons and special music. For more information, call Jack or Gwen Kinly at (334) 297-6432, or write to Vision Tape Ministry, 34 Ramsy Rd., Phenix City, AL 36869.
FOR SALE: Optacon model R1D with CRT lens. Has less than 100 hours use; lens used less than 10 hours. Both are in excellent condition. Comes with carrying case with shoulder strap, charger/battery pack, and braille and print instructions. Asking $250 plus shipping. Call Randy at (501) 785-3765 or e-mail him at [email protected]
WANTED: IBM-compatible computer. Contact Rochelle at (602) 962-8731.
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ELIZABETH M. LENNON, Kalamazoo, MI