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.
The number for the Louisiana Council of the Blind listed in the September "Here and There" column was incorrect. The correct number is (225) 925-1635.
I suppose it had to happen sometime. Maybe I just was not prepared for it, but there it was in black and white. The United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Office of Civil Rights had drawn its conclusion for all the world to see. The State of Maryland, the letter said, had not discriminated against the blind by denying us accessible pedestrian signals, due in part to the fact that there was disagreement between the two blindness organizations on the matter. Sure, ACB will pursue this on legal grounds and we have every expectation that we will win, but something happened here that all blind people should think about and think about a lot!
What that letter really said was that government officials who are responsible, in part, for the safety of pedestrians' crossing state highways can excuse themselves of any responsibility because our own community is divided on the issue. How did this happen and is there a way to prevent it from occurring again? The collision of two philosophies is not a simple academic event, in this case; the consequences are real and the safety of blind pedestrians continues to hang in the balance.
The reasoning for an opinion like the one frequently offered by Federationists in the matter of accessible pedestrian signaling must be revisited as a philosophy that has, in many important aspects, gone out of date since its first articulation decades ago. It is important to consider the fact that all philosophies are defined in a given time, and, while they may have long-standing value for certain purposes, the context in which they were created can and does often change. The result is that a philosophy which may have, at one time, accurately described a set of circumstances and the ways in which men and women interact with such circumstances can become outdated, and - - as in the case described above -- downright dangerous!
We must ask ourselves if the current interpreters of NFB philosophy have extended it beyond its logical application or diverted it away from its original intent of motivating blind people to take mobility cane in hand and go out and face the traffic and the world, to a place where the safety of people who are blind is now at risk.
It is fair for ACB to ask the above question since we took those positive aspects of NFB philosophy with us when we left that organization almost 40 years ago. Who can argue with the precept that as blind people we need good training and opportunities to succeed in the choices we make? Who can disagree with the tenets that state the need for alternate techniques such as the use of a cane or a dog or braille literacy, all of which can and do make an enormous difference in the quality of our lives and our ability to live independently, and well? Clearly, doing what we can for ourselves not only reinforces a positive self-concept, but also informs the rest of society about our abilities.
However, philosophies can and do produce diminished returns as times change or the consequences of these changing times are not recognized. ACB understands this and recognizes that environmental accommodations such as detectable warnings on subway platforms and accessible pedestrian signaling are needed to compensate for an increasingly hostile and complex system of street and intersection designs. Furthermore, ACB has recognized the fact that not all blind people have the same levels of capability, that we all make errors in judgment which should not cost us our lives, and that drawing a philosophical premise so narrowly as to exclude people is counterproductive to our blindness community at large.
Given this split in how the two organizations have moved forward from the same roots, the critical question becomes what responsibility must the organizations take for acting exclusively upon their philosophical orientations? It's one thing to disagree where the result yields no likely serious harm to a person, but it's quite another to contemplate representing the interest of "blind people" in a way that expressly disagrees with advocacy measures being taken for the safety of us all. This is especially true when blind people have died where accessible pedestrian signals in some cases, and detectable warnings in others, could have meant the difference between life and death.
ACB cannot demand that the Federation think in a certain way. That is for the Federation to decide for itself. However, when we feel the entire community is placed at risk, we can point out the consequences of where we see aspects of Federation philosophy taking a wrong turn. In so doing, we afford Federationists with a chance to understand the harm that is being done and an opportunity to redefine their views in a more productive direction.
ACB could simply ignore the attempts of certain Federationists to almost totally eliminate accessible signaling, because we are convinced we will succeed since the safety measures we are advocating for are a matter of public safety, but we have obligations as well. We must not only make every effort to educate Federationists about the issues as we see them, but we must also listen to their points and make adjustments to our positions as we deem appropriate. We have done both. Only in this way can we reasonably assert that our positions foster safety, because we know that we have gone out of our way to understand the state of the art, and that our advocacy reflects the best interests of our larger blindness community.
Having established the all-too-brief foundation above without going into a number of other important factors, I want to state unequivocally ACB will continue to struggle for a blind-friendly built environment that serves the needs of all people. We invite the Federation to join with us as partners in speeding the day when no blind person will remain at home for fear of trying to use the pedestrian system that was built for everyone.
As this is being written, it■s only been two weeks since the last blind person and his guide dog were killed after going to the same place for breakfast they had traveled to, every day, for two years. The chilling questions remain: could a campaign of both organizations have prevented this tragedy? How many more will die despite ACB's best efforts before we reach our goal? This is the tragedy that fills the heart with sorrow more than any Federal Highway ruling we can and will overturn.
On Wednesday morning, October 11, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the landmark ADA case, University of Alabama et al v. Garrett et al. In the questions posed for review, the state of Alabama challenged the constitutionality of Titles I and II of the ADA as violating the state immunity protections contained in the 11th Amendment to the Constitution. Alabama argued in its written submissions to the court that the provisions of the ADA permitting private aggrieved individuals with disabilities to bring suit in federal court against allegedly discriminating entities of state and local governments were incongruous and disproportionate to the facts found by Congress regarding state and local governments, and that the remedial enforcement provisions of the ADA were beyond Congress■ properly interpreted constitutional power as applied to the states.
Jeffrey Sutton, counsel for the state of Alabama, began the oral argument and was almost immediately confronted with questions from Justices Stevens, Breyer and Sandra Day O'Connor. These justices pressed Sutton to explain why the copious findings of Congress in the ADA and in the contemporaneous committee reports leading up to and supporting enactment of the ADA of arguably unconstitutional discrimination against individuals with disabilities were not sufficient to warrant and justify enactment of the remedial provisions directed against the states in that law. Sutton did his best to argue that the ADA, because of its wide scope, was really a constitutional amendment in the guise of a statute enacted under the Congress' 14th Amendment, section 5 power and directed against the states.
Attorney Michael Gottesman, who argued on behalf of the disabled respondents, did his best to argue that the copious findings of disability discrimination by entities of state and local governments made by Congress as part of its deliberations on the ADA are sufficient under the Constitution to justify the remedial provisions against the states enacted by Congress in the ADA. Justices Scalia and Kennedy as well as Chief Justice Rehnquist pressed Gottesman to explain whether these findings by Congress truly constituted findings of unconstitutional 14th Amendment discrimination by the states as required by the court in its most recent state immunity decisions. Gottesman responded that the long-standing and pervasive discrimination by the states against people with disabilities reflected in the congressional record of deliberations on the ADA did rise to the height of findings of unconstitutional discrimination by the states.
The questioning of Justice O'Connor, who has been part of the court's five-member majority in the recent spate of state sovereign immunity decisions, is most interesting, as analysts seek to find omens in the tea leaves of the justices' questions and comments at oral argument. At one point in the proceedings, she asked Gottesman a theoretical question about whether, because of the complexity of disability discrimination, the earlier decision of the court in City of Cleburne, Texas v. Cleburne Living Center could be read to warrant the establishment of a heightened scrutiny standard under the Constitution for disability discrimination by the states? The apparent willingness of O'Connor to seriously consider elevating disability discrimination by state and local governments beyond the rational basis standard to a heightened scrutiny standard has to be viewed as an encouraging omen by supporters of the ADA.
However, not all of the omens gleaned from the justices' questions and comments were encouraging to ADA supporters. Deputy Solicitor General Seth Waxman, arguing for the United States as amicus curiae, was rebuked by Kennedy for his glib reference to the use of the "magic words" from the court's recent state immunity decisions. Kennedy stated forcefully for the record his belief that when Congress intends to alter the balance of our federalism, it must do so clearly and explicitly. This reinforced Kennedy's hostility to the more expansive arguments being proffered by the respondents.
One final encouraging sign came from the passing comment of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. His view was that even if the Supreme Court were to invalidate the challenged sections of the ADA, Congress could theoretically pass the same provisions again, which would pass constitutional muster so long as Congress made the necessary findings that, in addition to the existence of long-standing and pervasive discrimination by the states against individuals with disabilities, the various state law prohibitions against disability discrimination by entities of state government were not being adequately or effectively enforced, thus warranting the remedial provisions enacted by Congress. If the court does reach an adverse decision to the ADA in the Garrett case, the views expressed by Rehnquist are somewhat comforting because many disability rights advocates had feared that the only possible remedy in the face of an adverse decision by the court would be the arduous prospect of having to campaign for passage in Congress and ratification by the states of a constitutional amendment outlawing disability discrimination by the states. The view that Congress might still be able to enact remedial provisions for disability discrimination perpetrated by entities of state and local governments which could pass constitutional muster so long as certain findings were made by Congress is somewhat reassuring.
Clearly, as reflected in the questioning by the justices, the high court is closely divided concerning the constitutional issues raised and arguments made in the Garrett case. We can now only wait on pins and needles for the court's decision, which should be rendered early in 2001. While I remain hopeful that Justice O'Connor can be wooed over to hold the present ADA as constitutional and not violating the strictures of the 11th Amendment, we as disability rights advocates must prepare ourselves for the worst and prepare ourselves to lobby Congress to enact a new ADA which will pass constitutional muster with the findings required by the Supreme Court, if necessary. Stay tuned to this unfolding legal saga; we will keep you informed in the pages of "The Braille Forum."
Early this fall, the National Broadcasting Company and Newsweek sponsored a two-hour colloquy on racism which was held at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. At this church in 1963, four little girls were killed by a bomb that shattered a peaceful Sunday School meeting and shocked America into action as no previous racist abomination had. If this program is rebroadcast or if you can get hold of a tape of the event, I urge each of you to watch it. It certainly caused me to think deeply about many issues and, for me, there were many parallels between the experiences of recognized ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.
There were many comments made during that program that could just as easily have been made by people with disabilities as by people who are African-American or Hispanic. I am not going to try here to reiterate any of these but want to share some thoughts that I believe need sharing. Some of what I am going to say may be controversial and I certainly would not dare to claim I know how to get past some of the problems I will raise. I do, however, believe that all of us who are disabled need to spend more time thinking about these issues and that we need to learn from the experiences of other minorities.
First of all, I must point out that I was outraged by the fact that there was not a single mention of disability during this whole program. There was mention of gender and class, and Hispanics and blacks and Asians, and young people -- as oppressed minorities -- but not one word about people with disabilities. Even though we are the largest minority in this country and are, many believe, the most disadvantaged of them all, it seems that people from all those minorities who are also disabled are marginalized and disenfranchised by the more "relevant" minorities of which they are members. I have noted this before. I have railed against it before. Now it is time that we confront it. Now it is time that we face some harsh truths about our society, about ourselves, and about the relationship between the two.
The fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law without teeth is not an accident. It is rather a reflection of society's firmly held conviction that the condition of having a disability does not comprise the status of a recognizable, valid minority. Society rejects our minority status because it is not prepared to face up to the notion that people would willingly and knowingly discriminate against a population they pity and admire. I think there is also a continuing fear of contamination by our disability that underpins this attitude. There is also the fact that, while skin color or cultural affinity are relative, disability is absolute and immutable. Either we are cured or we are forever different and less than other members of society.
If my hypotheses are accepted, there are others that follow. Perhaps the most obvious is that integration as an option for people with disabilities is a chimera beyond our reach. It is a goal that is unattainable because we are a reminder to society with our every achievement of the unmet potential that may describe the rest of society. Each of us who succeeds must therefore be regarded as the exception that proves our inherent inferiority.
I think it is also fair to say that many people with disabilities connive in this notion of who we are by pretending that their disability doesn't exist. In a very real sense, the notion of full inclusion in our schools and in our society is the greatest threat to the disability rights movement because it encourages children and adults alike to see themselves as part of a larger society at the expense of their identity as people with disabilities. The best and the brightest of our disabled young people are graduating from high school and college with little or no contact with others who are disabled. The very technology that is beginning to level the playing field is the harbinger of death to disability culture. It is giving those who have access to it the capacity to pretend they are not disabled. And why not?
Families are ashamed of disability and shudder at the thought that a child would actually want to embrace it. The media portray people with disabilities either as helpless or self-centered. We are a part of society. How can we not be infected by the same values that permeate it? Most of us, in our heart of hearts, see ourselves as pitiable and inherently inferior.
Nothing I have said so far is new or revolutionary. Many who have studied disability culture have arrived at similar conclusions. Perhaps they have not stated them quite so baldly or emphatically and have often hedged them about with a range of other variables so that their reality might not seem so stark. Can we do anything about it? Should we do anything about it? Those are hard questions; I will try to deal with the second question first.
I think it is absolutely crucial that we confront these issues. Unless we do, we will continue to be marginalized by our society and by the minorities of which many of us are members. This is not an easy road I ask us to travel and we will have to stare many hard truths in the face along the way. I am absolutely convinced that, unless we confront and accept the reality of what it means to be disabled, time and technology will erode our movement. More important, I am convinced that until we actively change the way we see ourselves and until we demand that society confront its view of us, we will not change the stark statistics that all of us abhor. Can rehabilitation succeed when education, the media, and the whole weight of society promote values diametrically opposed to the very objectives rehab seeks?
There are things we can do. Some of them I have already talked about. We can actively insist that the curricula in our school systems include positive portrayals of disability. There has never been a black or a Hispanic or a woman president. There has been a president with disabilities, but, at best, those disabilities are a footnote in many textbooks. We must also force schools to recognize that the most important component of education is exposing students with disabilities to successful role models who are themselves disabled. Earlier this summer I was pleased to attend a state leadership conference for high school students with disabilities, where the high school kids were exposed to adults with disabilities and the disability rights movement. We must do more of this and start much earlier.
We must also embrace our disabilities militantly. We can no longer simply accept a disability as just a part of who we are. From now on, I will be a disabled person: not a person with a disability. Only by making disability the core of who we are can we convince society that we are truly proud of that. I am blind and I'm proud and everyone around me should know it!
We must demand that the media begin to tell the truth about disabilities. Force the American public to confront the millions of us forced to live in poverty by society's marginalization! Show the diabetic afraid to go to work because he or she might not have insurance! Show the tyranny of the rehab system and the indifference of our fellow man. Focus on the discrimination and point at the real culprit: our society!
We must intervene with families so that they are not ashamed of their disabled children. We must reach out to the vast majority of disabled people so that they are not ashamed of themselves! We must find ways to persuade those who have turned their backs on disability to turn around and see us as we are with all our flaws and imperfections that we and they together have made!
Can we do this? I have a nightmare that, unless we try, nothing else we do will amount to very much!
When educators and trainers seek to develop curricula for training people with disabilities in the skills of self-advocacy, the importance of including positive role models in any anticipated training program cannot be overstated. The influence of a successful mentor can make all the difference in a person's life decisions and the paths down which those decisions may lead. We are all affected by our life experiences, and by the people we see playing their various roles in our perceptions of the world.
Before the advent of the civil rights movement, a person of African-American descent was unlikely to be seen in a role of authority. In our society and in the world depicted by the media of the times, people of color were portrayed in largely menial roles -- providing services to their white authority figures. Before the women's liberation movement of the 1970s, women were primarily depicted as wives and mothers, seldom if ever as leaders, corporate executives, doctors, lawyers. All such roles were filled by men and the society accepted this so-called "norm" as appropriate. Anyone who broke out of the mold was considered strange and unseemly.
Nowadays, because of our exposure to positive role models, we see African-Americans as Congressional representatives, military commanders, city and state leaders and in many other key, successful roles in our society. We are also seeing women succeeding in many careers formerly thought to be "appropriate" only for men. Women are now Congressional representatives, mayors, governors, lawyers, doctors, pilots -- and the possibilities seem unlimited! All this came about because women have had positive role models who blazed untrodden trails.
In the world of disability, including blindness, sometimes the unintentional barriers that are constructed by families and others who provide custodial care can limit growth and potential fulfillment. The all-encompassing personal care which is sometimes provided by well-intentioned able-bodied providers speaks to helplessness, encourages dependence and cannot possibly coexist with an independent mentor or positive role model. When we see someone who is just as disabled as we are doing things which do not fit conveniently into our learned model of helplessness or dependency, then we may begin to re-think our perceptions of what is possible -- and dream of being and doing more!
First we dream. Then, we can become the dream.
I can speak of these things because of my own life experiences: I have lived the traditional female role and then - - because of positive role models -- emerged to become the most authentic me. As a blind woman, I initially bought into the helpless and ashamed self-image, but with the influence of positive mentors, I discovered the part of my humanity which had been suppressed and discouraged and now lives in the sunlight.
Therefore, I believe that any training in self-advocacy cannot rely upon an able-bodied professional telling a person with a disability, "just do it."
The most successful training in self-advocacy has been accomplished through the peer-support methodology. This approach allows people with disabilities, including people who are blind and visually impaired, to interact with people with like disabilities who are successful self advocates. Shared bonds of similar life experiences and comparable struggles can facilitate a powerful and motivating training experience. Successful visually impaired mentors can acquaint visually impaired people with the very possibilities of daring to dream, and with the prospect of translating these dreams into individualized realities!
(Reprinted with permission from "The Minneapolis Star-Tribune," May 30, 2000.)
Kids don't raise their hands in Connie David's classroom. When she asks a question, a quiet chorus of names riffles through the room: "Vanessa," "Raphael," "Chris," "Jessica."
"Let's hear from someone who hasn't answered yet," David says.
Blindness may keep her from seeing her third-grade class, but it doesn't keep her from knowing her students. With the help of a longtime aide, David has been navigating Minneapolis classrooms for eight years. Now at Wenonah Elementary, she continues to keep her kids in line and learning.
The kids know she's tough, and they like Ms. David. The hardest thing is not being able to pet her Seeing Eye dog.
"I've never really had a dog in the room before. It's hard not to pet him," said student Faith Randal.
There are a growing number of blind teachers in classrooms around the country, according to the National Association of Blind Teachers. But David is the only blind classroom teacher in Minneapolis and one of only a few elementary-school teachers in the country.
Blindness isn't what the kids notice about David. Chris Tornio, 9, talks about how much he likes the experiments she does with the class, like putting two drops of water on a tray and seeing which one runs faster.
Tyler Coombes, 9, talks about how much he likes to be her partner and go along right next to her on walks to collect cans.
"I like being her partner. A lot," he said. "She laughs a lot. She's a good teacher."
In the beginning there were adjustments for David and the children, but the early discomfort is long forgotten. Watching her in front of the classroom, it's easy to see how. When the kids talk, they look into her eyes. When they pause and look at her, her eyes point at theirs. David holds the students' attention as they discuss the story, or the math problem, or the geography lesson. Little happens in the room that she doesn't know about.
"Raphael, sit up straight and show me you're ready to learn," she demands, and the boy puts the chair on the ground and does just that.
"Thank you," she says and quickly moves on to the day's discussion about the differences between a city and a town.
She moves through the room and feels a notebook on top of Jessica's desk, when the desks are supposed to be cleared.
"Why do you have this out?" she asks sharply. Before Jessica can open her mouth, David answers her own question. "Oh, you were looking up the answer," she said. "That's what I call resourceful. That's OK, you can keep it out."
David is determined and strong-willed. She can be prickly and blunt. But she is usually seen as truly dedicated to her students. She's known for her extra phone calls and notes home to parents. Her firm control means that other teachers turn to her for help with disruptive students.
"I found that she sees more in the classroom than a teacher who can see," said Art Lakoduk, principal at Jefferson Elementary, where David worked for six years before transferring to Wenonah. "It's amazing to me. Just by the movement and how it was, she knew who it was. She always had tremendous control of the classroom. She clearly was in charge of that room."
David said her teaching philosophy is simple. Her job is to teach children, not to be their friend.
"My kids in this classroom all know that I care about them, and they all know that what I want from them is the best that they can give," she said.
Jan Randal requested David as teacher for her daughter, Faith. She got to know David when Faith was in second grade and Randal was trying to start a can-collecting project at school. David was the most enthusiastic and supportive teacher. Randal realized that her high expectations would be good for Faith, who is a good student.
She hasn't been disappointed. When Randal was having trouble understanding the math Faith was bringing home, David sat with her and explained it.
Randal said Faith has learned a lot about people with disabilities from David, but that's not why she asked for her.
"When I think of her as a teacher, I think about her teaching abilities," Randal said.
"I don't think the road has been easy for her," said Joan Hultman, principal at Wenonah. "It's said that you have to do twice as much to be half as recognized. And I think that's true. But she has done it quite admirably, and with a lot of skill." A teaching team
David couldn't do it alone. She's clear about that.
Three key supports help her navigate the sighted world: her reader, her Seeing Eye dog and her classroom aide. Julie Christenson reads David's mail and other materials onto tapes for David to listen to. Her dog usually sits in a corner in the classroom. David doesn't tell people the dog's name. That, and the ban on petting, is for safety. If her dog became attached to the children, it could run after them and pull her along -- even into traffic. It almost happened to her years ago.
Sandy Pierce, 46, is David's eyes in the classroom and her full-fledged partner in teaching. The two frequently speak in half-sentences to each other. The rest is understood.
Pierce is the one who corrects the papers, who helps the kids learn cursive writing. She checks knees for scrapes after recess and prepares whatever David needs for the lesson. She writes on the board; she reads to the class. She watches the kids' faces and tells David if something is going over their heads.
David and Pierce have been working together for eight years, and it hasn't always been easy. Lakoduk, who was responsible for the pairing, said that between the two of them, the students are in good hands.
"They were kind of like husband and wife -- most of the time it was good, some of the time they needed some mediation," Lakoduk said.
David and Pierce say that working together has gotten easier as they've figured out how to accommodate each other's needs.
"We are a team," David said. "We are a team in the true sense of the word." Tough beginning
David recognizes that she's not always sweetness and light. But her style helps her keep control of her life when so many things are out of her control.
"You give up your sense of privacy. There's always at least one other person who knows how much money I have in my checking account. I can never read my own mail," David said. "That's just kind of how I've had to be in order to do the kinds of things I've wanted to do in my life. If you're a person with a disability, you don't get what you need by sitting back and hoping someone will notice, because they don't," she said.
David, 48, was born in Clinton, Iowa, the third of seven children. She arrived 12 weeks early and weighed less than 3 pounds. A nun fed her by eyedropper. In 1952, doctors didn't know that high concentrations of oxygen in incubators caused blindness. David has never known sight.
While blindness doesn't define her, it has shaped her life. At age 5, she was sent to a school for the blind 120 miles from home. She was with her parents and her siblings every other weekend. Her mother would set the table for dinner, come to Connie's place and burst into tears. At the school, things weren't much easier. There were no hugs, no cuddling, lots of scolding. The girls were watched all the time and did nothing independently.
By the time David got to high school, she was very busy -- with 4H projects, with baby-sitting, with cheerleading -- and visits home became even less frequent. Then she went off to college.
Her list of crentials is long: a 1979 degree in child development from Rockford College in Illinois, a master's in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota, a parent education license and special training in the teaching of reading. But even with a teaching license, she couldn't find a job. In the early 1980s, teaching jobs were scarce, and no one needed to take a chance on a blind teacher, David said.
She started in the Early Childhood Family Education program 15 years ago. After seven years there, she got her first elementary classroom job, in the third grade at Jefferson Elementary. David had to fight to get the job, but she converted the staff into believers.
Now, a longtime employee of two schools and about 200 third-graders, David said she sometimes grows weary of having to prove herself over and over. But her profession is an extension of her desire to help people learn, she said.
She is a teacher because she sees how much education changes the world for kids. She recalled a boy who came into her class a nonreader.
"When he comes to me and throws his arms around me and says, 'Thanks, Ms. David, now I can read.' He read this whole book! I almost cried. It's stuff like that that makes it all worth it."
The American Council of the Blind is pleased to present its 2001-02 scholarship program. ACB will make 30 scholarships, ranging from $500 to $2,500 in value, available to legally blind students pursuing post-secondary education in various fields of study, including, but not limited to, business administration, physical and computer sciences, advocacy, and social services. Award decisions will be based on academic excellence, community involvement, and leadership qualities.
Applications are available from the ACB national office at 1-800-424-8666 or on our web site, http://www.acb.org. Please note that we will make the scholarship packet available in alternate formats (cassette tape, braille, computer disk, even e- mail) for informational purposes only, i.e., all applications and supporting documents must be submitted in print. Applications must be received by ACB no later than February 1, 2001.
The scholarships will be presented at the ACB 40th annual national convention in Des Moines, Iowa, in July 2001. Scholarship winners are expected to be present at the convention if they have reached their 18th birthday. ACB will cover all reasonable costs connected with convention attendance.
The American Council of the Blind meetings of affiliate presidents, board of directors, affiliate boards and committees will be held on the three-day weekend of January 12-15, 2001. Note: This is a change from the customary February dates. The sessions will take place at the Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, located at 700 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50309. Please write or call the Marriott for room reservations. The telephone number is (515) 245-5500. The rate is $60 per night plus tax for single or double occupancy.
The affiliate presidents meeting will begin Saturday morning and continue throughout the day, on into Sunday until noon. The board of directors will meet on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. Some affiliate boards and ACB committees will also meet during this weekend. If you are a president or chair of a group that wishes to meet, contact Terry Pacheco at the ACB national office, (800) 424-8666. Tell her what time and which day you■d like to meet, the number of expected attendees, meeting room set- up, and any special needs.
On Saturday evening, January 13 at 8 p.m., the Iowa Council of the United Blind will host a hospitality session in President Edwards■ suite. For additional information on ACB's winter meetings, contact Terry Pacheco at the number above, or John Horst at (717) 367-6346.
Des Moines, Iowa will be the place to be in July 2001, as the American Council of the Blind celebrates its 40th anniversary at a convention with something for everyone! We are looking into a number of tour possibilities, and are excited to have found opportunities in and near Des Moines that will capture your imaginations between June 30 and July 7. Iowa is a state with lots more to do and to see than many may have imagined. Let me touch on some of the possibilities!
Are you interested in the workings of government? Then you will be pleased to learn that Des Moines is the capital of Iowa. The state buildings are available for tours, and we also plan to visit the Iowa Department for the Blind, which is within easy walking distance of the convention complex.
What better place to build your dreams than in a castle! Did you know that one of "The Great Castles of America" is near downtown Des Moines? Salisbury House, where the fabled lord of that manner himself would feel right at home in the medieval halls -- perhaps even wearing some of the (touchable) suits of armor -- welcomes tourists who dream of days of yore and lords and ladies of centuries past.
What about your childhood fantasies of being a movie star -- or perhaps the president's first lady? Step into your dreams when you visit the birthplace of the movie star John Wayne, or Ike's first lady, Mamie Eisenhower.
Do you devour books and films about a young nation where pioneers cleared and tilled the land with horse-drawn plows and the spirit and determination that epitomize 19th century America? Then visit the Iowa Living History Farm, where you can examine the farming equipment that got the job done before the advent of diesel engines, or visit the general store, where the pot-bellied stove is still the place to exchange stories with friends and neighbors, the cracker barrel still offers up the snack food favored by your great-grandparents, and the wooden planks of the floor still exude the soft aroma of the lemon oil that keeps them in good condition.
Maybe you were captivated by that modern romance story which took place in fabled Madison County. Just south and a little west of Des Moines is the setting for the novel and movie. The farm house, now called "Francesca's House," is open for tours and the narration there is exceptionally good. One of the covered bridges is in the Winterset city park where it is accessible in a safe and clean environment.
Did the concept of living in a commune, where the work of each would contribute to the well-being of all, capture your imagination in the '70s? Well, there's a famous community in Iowa that you might want to visit and tour, the Amana Colonies. About two hours east of Des Moines is the community of seven villages established by people who believed in hard work and excellent craftsmanship. The tour possibilities include the broom and basket makers, candle makers, the woolen mill, furniture and woodworking shop. This unique German community has an abundance of good food and great shopping possibilities for you to enjoy.
And that's not all! We are exploring many other possibilities, and will keep you informed as the months go by and we all make plans to experience our personal fields of dreams at the 2001 national convention of the American Council of the Blind, in Des Moines, Iowa.
To make hotel reservations for the 2001 ACB national convention, call the Des Moines Convention and Visitors' Bureau at (800) 451-2625.
In February 2000, the ACB board of directors, in an unprecedented move that sent shock waves through the entire organization, created a new ACB affiliate, Blind Friends of Lesbians and Gays (BFLAG). To my knowledge, this is the first ACB affiliate based primarily on lifestyle. Although there are certainly blindness-related concerns here, as there are in every aspect of life for blind people, I think the majority of BFLAG's concerns have to do with lifestyle and sexual orientation, with blindness taking a distant second place. Creation of this affiliate has, in my opinion, set a dangerous precedent for ACB, and one that will cause deep and lasting rifts within the organization.
It has been argued that by creating this affiliate, the board, and therefore the American Council of the Blind, has given tacit approval to homosexuality. Although it is tempting to make this kind of logical leap, especially if you oppose the creation of this affiliate either on moral or religious grounds, you should understand that the board's decision was based on ACB's constitution, and had nothing to do with morality.
The requirements for becoming an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind are spelled out in Article III of ACB's Constitution, "Membership, Voting and Dues" as follows:
"Any organization having at least twenty-five (25) voting members, the majority of whom are blind, may apply for affiliation with this organization [ACB]. Such application must be approved by a majority of the Board of Directors. To remain in good standing an affiliate shall maintain a membership of at least fifteen (15), a majority of whom are blind."
Section B of Bylaw 10, "Application for Affiliation," states the information that must be included in an application for affiliation:
"Such an application shall contain the following information: a cover letter stating the reasons for the application, a current membership list indicating those members who are legally blind, those who are voting members, and a copy of the applicant's governing documents including, as applicable, its constitution, bylaws, and articles of incorporation. An application shall be accompanied by a tender of one year's affiliate dues computed under ACB's Bylaws and based on the membership list submitted with the application."
It's not hard to understand why the board granted BFLAG's request for affiliation. BFLAG met all the constitutional requirements, and the board wanted to uphold ACB's policy of including any organization of blind people. Unfortunately, in its haste to be counted on the side of political correctness, the board overlooked two very important things. First, BFLAG's concerns have more to do with lifestyle than with blindness. Second, many ACB members see sexual orientation as both a moral and a religious issue. They feel that the board's decision forces them to choose between their religion and an organization which they regard as a vital part of their lives. It's an impossible choice, and one that no one should have to make.
The newest special interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind is Blind Friends of Lesbians and Gays, known by the acronym "BFLAG." Questions about our affiliate have been coming up at chapter meetings, in private conversation, and in public and private commentary on the various e-mail lists and other media since the ACB board of directors welcomed us into the organizational fold in February 2000. I would like to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and address the concerns that have been raised about our organization and our inclusion as a special-interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. Who Are These "Lesbians and Gays?"
We are people whose sexual orientation is not the heterosexual orientation which society generally defines as the norm. We have not chosen to define ourselves as lesbian or gay -- we are lesbian and gay because that's who we are.
During the ACB convention in July of this year, BFLAG hosted a lecture by Gregory Phipps, who is a member of the sociology department of the University of Louisville. Phipps discussed the larger culture's understandings and misunderstandings about homosexuality. His presentation included research findings which indicate that sexual orientation is in no way a matter of choice, but rather a consequence of complicated genetic and environmental factors, which are not subject to individual decision-making or control. He pointed out that many gays and lesbians may attempt to reject who they are in order to try to conform to the larger culture's pressure to be heterosexual.
Every young person, Phipps said, grows up hearing countless messages about the romantic feelings that he or she is expected to feel for members of the opposite sex. For a person who does not experience such romantic attractions, the implicit expectations which accompany all these messages and the pressure to conform with what society defines as normal can feel like trying to press one's right foot into a left shoe and a left foot into the right shoe, and then trying to walk through each day -- smiling as though one's feet don't hurt. No matter how much a person may try to fit society's definition of normal, no matter how successfully he or she manages to navigate through the world in shoes -- or roles -- that aren't the right fit, at the end of the day, it is impossible to shed one's sexual orientation.
Phipps' presentation made clear that cultural misunderstanding has led to the rejection of gay people by some and to outright violence toward gays by others. It seems only natural and fitting that many people who are gay and lesbian find comfort and solace when they have an opportunity to know and socialize with other people who may have experienced self-doubt, stereotyping, rejection, or other consequences of living in a heterosexual society as homosexuals. The Beginnings of BFLAG
BFLAG began at a meeting held during the 1996 ACB convention in Tulsa, where a convention meeting room was set aside for gay blind people to meet to discuss common issues and experiences.
Leah Gardner, BFLAG's vice president, says of that notice of the first meeting of the focus group, "Perusing a ■Braille Forum■ article containing notes of special interest for convention goers, I was amazed to see a notice announcing meetings for a group called Blind Friends of Lesbians and Gays. I can't even begin to express the relief I experienced when I discovered that a group had been established to address the unique concerns faced by visually impaired gays and lesbians."
The experience of getting to know other gay and lesbian people who were also blind was a meaningful one for those who first ventured forth to find one another and share mutual concerns. Subsequent meetings were held during each succeeding national convention. Each year, the size of our group was larger.
One year, an attorney from the largest gay and lesbian community center in the country talked about hate crimes against people with disabilities, and against people who were homosexuals. Another year, a representative from the National Library Service delivered a bibliography of talking books that are related to gay themes. Each year, those attending the gay-focused gatherings had the chance to socialize and to discuss problems and mutual concerns.
At the 1999 ACB national convention, the people who attended the gay-focus meeting voted formally to pursue affiliation with the council. The ACB board accepted BFLAG's application in February of 2000. Why ACB?
Some have wondered why an organization of the blind would be an appropriate home for blind gays. Some have asked why an organization of people who are gay might not be a more logical group with whom to affiliate.
Statistics which describe demographics and distributions of populations provide an important component of the answer to these questions. The most widely quoted estimate for the prevalence of homosexuals in the general population is one gay person in each group of 10 (i.e., 10 percent). An estimate of the prevalence of blind people in society at large is one in 500. It's clear that there are far more people who are gay in an organization of people who are blind than there would be blind people in an organization of people who are gay.
ACB points with pride to the diversity among its members and affiliates. Its including an affiliate that addresses the needs of yet another marginalized group is one more sign that ACB is a leader, and that the American Council of the Blind is of and for all people who are blind. What Will BFLAG Do for Its Members?
BFLAG will be an advocate. BFLAG will work for access to goods and services which the sighted gay community takes for granted. It will encourage the publication, in accessible format, of news magazines and newspapers that specialize in gay matters. It will seek publication in accessible format of catalogs of gifts and greeting cards designed for the gay community. A newsletter for BFLAG members will provide information about community and commercial resources.
BFLAG will provide personal encouragement and support for its members, who must cope with the consequences of our visual impairments in addition to the ramifications of living in a society that is not always welcoming of our presence. Many disabled people live with a sense of isolation from mainstream society. Disabled people must often go out of their way to accomplish goals the able-bodied take for granted. People who are gay must often take special steps to avoid persecution and to accomplish goals the non-gay population takes for granted.
One often unspoken benefit of being a member of ACB is that members can know they are among a group of people who share similar experiences and similar frustrations. This ability to associate with colleagues who may share a similar history, and similar concerns on two levels is doubly -- or perhaps exponentially -- more important for people who are not only visually impaired, but also gay or lesbian. BFLAG offers members the comforting realization that others share some of the anguish and some of the successes that many might have otherwise thought they were going through alone. For example, BFLAG's 2000 convention program included two very successful evening meetings set aside for personal support and discussion. BFLAG's e-mail list will offer members another way to share with one another. Membership in Blind Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Membership in BFLAG is not limited to people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. Anyone who affirms the constitutional purposes of BFLAG may join, and all are welcomed.
(Editor's Note: In recent months, ACB-L, the e-mail discussion list which ACB makes available to its members and friends became the venue for a number of rather unpleasant discussions. Debates have skirted the outer edges of civility at times. Some subscribers have attempted to dominate discussions by the sheer number of messages they have posted on particular topics, day in and day out. Some subscribers actually unsubscribed during the worst of these times, and others of us made liberal use of our delete fingers on computer keyboards. Yet ACB runs a moderated list, and discussions did not become so heated or messages so aggressive that subscribers were asked to leave or messages could be characterized as "flaming." At this writing, the ACB List has returned to the civilized discussion group list members joined in the first place, and sharing information and talking with friends have once again become the reasons people give for joining the list and posting messages.
Even during the days of the most heated discussions and the most destructive slings and arrows, however, the List was a source of strength and hope to a number of subscribers. Friendships were forged, divine intervention was sought and granted, and ACB-L was a corner of the ACB dwelling place where the best aspects of the American Council of the Blind were allowed to grow and thrive. We thank Rosanna Lippen for reminding us of the best reasons for subscribing to ACB-L.)
Between all the bashing and slandering that was happening on ACB-L a few months ago, a husband wrote a loving note asking for us to pray for his wife. She had injured herself at work and was in a great deal of pain. Being totally blind, he said that he was afraid that he wouldn't be able to do enough for her. He seemed to be in great fear of losing her, not to anyone else, but to depression and negative emotions that emerged from fear and feelings of hopelessness that went beyond the vision loss they both shared.
He received many replies with well wishes and legal advice from readers who had read his message and wanted to help. But I felt a personal need to go deeper. I felt a connection to this man's wife. We shared low vision and back injury issues. I e-mailed him privately, showing support and compassion to this woman I had never met.
First in return came an e-mail from him, thanking me for caring and taking time to share my experiences. Following that initial message, there started a unique friendship that is continuing to grow each day.
And with the growth of our friendship, the woman has gotten stronger, and improved health is on the horizon. We now speak on the phone and via e-mail almost daily. And I feel lucky to have made an impact on someone who in turn has made one on me.
I find it amazing that we have been in the same place for several national conventions, yet never crossed paths. But now, I have something additional to look forward to: meeting this wonderful lady and her knight in shining armor in person at future ACB conventions.
Thanks ACB-L. And thanks Randy and Sherri for changing and enriching my life through love, compassion and support.
(Note: To subscribe to ACB-L, send a message to [email protected] Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message, type the words "subscribe ACB-L.")
Want to make changes in your pedestrian environment?
Have you ever wished you could obtain the money to make big changes in your pedestrian infrastructure? Well, here's your chance. The Department of Transportation■s Federal Highway Administration is granting funds to two entities who can help them develop, implement and evaluate transportation strategies to support transportation and community and system preservation practices which incorporate beneficial short- and long-term environmental, economic, and social equity effects which can help build livable communities. Eligible applicants are state agencies, MPOs, tribal governments, and units of local governments recognized by a state (which includes towns, cities, public transit agencies, air resources boards, school boards and park districts). Because non-governmental organizations are not eligible to receive these grants, they are encouraged to form partnerships with an eligible recipient as the project sponsor. The closing date to apply is January 31, 2001. For more information, go to
Blindness Awareness Month in Arkansas
On October 12, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee read and signed a proclamation declaring November as Blindness Awareness Month in the state. The Arkansas Council of the Blind played a role in this; the event was intended to bring the public■s attention to blindness and blindness-related issues, support and services, new technologies, and leisure and recreational activities that are available, which allow blind people to enhance their lives and enable them to compete as equals in the sighted world. The Arkansas Council convention will be held at the Heifer Project International Conference and Retreat Center near Perryville March 30-April 1, 2001. The cost for a two-night package, which includes five meals, is $100 per person plus a $10 early bird registration fee. For a one-night stay with three meals, the cost is $55 plus a $10 registration fee. Some of the scheduled speakers are the lieutenant governor, and ACB second vice president Pam Shaw. There will be a banquet Friday night and a picnic and hoedown on Saturday evening. For more information, contact Michael Triplett at (501) 223-9090 or (800) 562-6101.
Maryland Grants New Chapter a Charter
At its pre-convention board meeting October 6, ACB of Maryland granted a charter to the Southern Maryland Council of the Blind. This new chapter operates in these southern Maryland counties: St. Mary's, Charles and Calvert. ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford provided an inspirational speech at the banquet. Convention attendees passed resolutions addressing mass transit accessibility, increased staffing for the Maryland State Library for the Blind, and called upon the governor and his transportation secretary to stop opposing the installation of accessible pedestrian signals. The most important resolution supported the introduction of the model pedestrian safety legislation being promoted by ACB. The best-received announcements were about agreements to install accessible signals in downtown Baltimore and Silver Spring, as well as at a signal near the Maryland School for the Blind.
(Editor's Note: The following article which appeared, as an open letter, in the Council for Exceptional Children's Division of Visual Impairment (DVI) Spring 2000 "Quarterly" is reprinted with the permission of the publisher, and the author, Dr. Stuart Wittenstein, who is Superintendent of the California School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the President of DVI. We thank Dr. Wittenstein for sharing this perceptive and compelling article with us. It seems particularly relevant to recent controversy surrounding definitions of "least restrictive environment(s)" in public and private schools, and the concept of "segregated employment" in industrial workshop settings.)
If you consistently use the word "segregated" as an antonym for "inclusive" when referring to specialized educational programs, regional centers, and special schools serving blind and visually impaired learners, I am asking you to reconsider this choice.
The word "segregated" is so loaded with emotional baggage, the result of hundreds of years of slavery, discrimination, and racism, that its use produces serious miscommunication. For example, individuals may infer from the use of the word "segregated" that one type of educational placement option is considered morally superior to another. This was not the intent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act which, while stressing the need to educate children with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate, makes clear that for some children a different type of placement may be necessary. In fact, the word "segregated" does not appear anywhere in the legislation or the regulations of the IDEA.
"Segregation" recalls for us that children of different races were sent to separate schools for political, social, economic, and cultural reasons. Segregation policy was not carried out because these children had different learning needs. These acts of racism are not analogous [to] the excellent services being provided by programs, schools, and centers that are meeting the unique educational needs of some children with disabilities. Better descriptors for such programs include "specialized" or "disability specific." These terms are less judgmental and more accurate than the word "segregated."
Professionals who provide disability specific services to blind children in specialized schools believe that they are providing a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for these children in accordance with IDEA and with best practices in their field. Additionally, many of these programs are community based, involve blind students with non-disabled students in local programs to the maximum extent appropriate, and have set goals to provide these intensive services for short periods of time and return youngsters to their home districts with the skills they need to succeed. These schools are fulfilling a vital need in the educational service delivery systems of their regions. Such programs are particularly suited to meet the unique needs of some children who have low prevalence disabilities like blindness and deaf-blindness. The dedicated and caring professionals working in these schools do not believe that their schools are in any way morally inferior.
Unfortunately, many speakers of national prominence, legal resources, and even judges and hearing officers continue to misuse the word "segregated." It is my hope that by calling attention to the use of the word "segregated" in this context, these individuals will be able to modify their language so that specialized programs will not be portrayed as morally inferior choices for children, but instead as part of the full array of placement options necessary for all children to receive a free appropriate public education.
(Author's note: The following document is based on a presentation I gave to airport managers and administrators to educate them about our difficulties, as visually impaired people, with independent navigation through airports. It is presented here as an accurate statement about that topic and to inform "Braille Forum" readers about a solution that works!)
Air travel is, for me, as for hundreds of thousands of others, a necessity. I travel frequently and place a high value on the freedom and removal of geographic barriers that air travel represents. Yet, in spite of my appreciation for air travel, navigating the airports which are the gateways to my geographic independence has become an increasingly difficult mobility challenge for me.
As a matter of fact, confronting my increasing difficulty with independent navigation through the various airports I routinely encounter has become my own personal barometer of progressive vision loss. When I had a fair amount of useful vision left, I could see enough to read jumbo gate signs, restroom signs at casual walking distance, and even signs designating concourses, baggage claim, and other critical locations. But as details of the visual world have fallen away, I have had to develop other strategies, not always successfully, to accomplish the routine tasks associated with airport use.
In 1975 I could still see large gate signs, but I could no longer read small restroom signs which were often placed in the middle of restroom doors. Then, in the mid-'70s, people with low vision like me were presented a wonderful innovation in assistive optical devices, a focusable telescope which could be variably focused on targets at distances as close as 15 inches. When I acquired this highly versatile and flexible tool, I could once again read signs, regardless of the distance I was away from them. I felt empowered, delighted and home free.
I remember a situation I found myself in, shortly after I acquired my first optical telescope. I was connecting on a transcontinental trip from San Francisco to New York. We stopped in Denver or Houston or wherever and I de-planed to stretch my legs and seek some personal respite. I observed a number of people going in and out of a door which I suspected was the men's room entrance. With confidence I pulled out my telescope (it resembled an old-fashioned pirate spyglass!) to read the sign on the door across the concourse aisle. This gadget, I remember thinking to myself, could allow me to regain an almost forgotten -- and much valued -- freedom, the ability to find the bathroom without assistance. Peering through my miniature telescope I trained the focal point on the center of the likely men's room entrance and attempted to find and read the plastic strip which was the sign. Twisting the device to bring the sign into focus took a few seconds. As I finally got the optical system to focus and was slowly beginning to read the sign, the door swung open, and I was staring into the intensely contemptuous face of a very angry woman who was exiting the woman's room door and glaring into the telescope of a person who she assumed was a pervert trying to sneak a peek into the woman's rest room.
Red-faced and stunned, I hurriedly put my telescope away, and attempted to look casual as I strode down the concourse, hoping she would not call security.
In intervening years, restroom signs have become an ever more elusive "golden fleece" of my airport travel.
Some of my most significant problems have resulted from the new ADA specifications for rest room signs. Airport administrators and decorators, it seems, can interpret the specifications in widely disparate ways.
The signs with the big, bold type are very easy to see and read if you know where to look, and if you can see well enough to read them.
But, the question arises, if you don't have much usable vision, where are they?
In one city I was visiting, the airport planner put the darned things against the far wall of the entrance to the restrooms, so that when I got right on top of the sign in order to read it, I found myself already standing in the actual restroom entrance hallway. Of course, it took two tries to find the right accessible "men's room" sign!
In Cleveland, they decided not to bother with the tactile aspect of the specifications, and had signs produced that are almost completely flat. Belatedly recognizing that their signs were supposed to include a tactile element, they augmented their flat signs with a peel-off sort of "universal figure" and letters.
About three years ago, I was departing from Cleveland Hopkins. This was my "home" airport and one with which I was very familiar. However, recent airport renovations had re-configured the airport layout, and I was uncertain about the exact path of travel from the airline check-in concourse to the hall which led to the gate concourses and restrooms. I asked another traveler if the men's room was down the new hallway and to the right, and he confirmed my guess. I thanked him and went on my way. I traversed the 30 yards or so of the connecting hallway turned right and approached the restroom, my first destination. Then, above the din of travelers and "Muzak" and airport announcements, I heard -- along with hundreds of others - - the booming voice of my new friend, "Okay, buddy, turn to the left, the toilet is right there... keep going, on the left... right there, the toilet is right there!"
My self-appointed guardian still stood where I had left him, where he could observe my every movement, from the top of a short flight of stairs, which gave him the vantage point he needed to guide me from a distance.
I quietly acknowledged his less than subtle assistance with a wave and a murmured, "Thanks, thanks a lot."
Then there was the time in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport that I boarded the electric cart, and joined several blue-haired ladies traveling as a group. I discretely asked the driver of the cart to drop me at the restroom nearest to my gate. I actually enjoy the independence and even the challenge of finding the gate in short range, sort of the glory lap of airport travel. Passers-by are usually willing impromptu guides, and the distance from restroom to gate is never far. And so I asked my golf cart chauffeur to drop me at the entrance of the male gender room of rest.
He turned and in a loud voice rich with cowboy twang shouted to the other passengers on the cart, "You ladies don't mind waiting for this feller while he uses the toilet, do you ladies? Y'all have plenty of time before y'all's flight!"
Unnerved, I quietly implored him to merely drop me off, and I explained that I did not require the courtesy of a full cart wait.
"Ladies," my persistent support person continued, "This feller doesn't want us to wait for him while he is in the toilet! Tell him we don't mind."
Now more assertively, I told him sternly that I neither wanted nor needed him or the ladies to wait for me, just drop me off, PLEASE!
We drove along in silence until the driver pulled the cart over and shouted over his shoulder, "The toilet's over there. I'll ask this gate agent to keep an eye out for you when you come out of the toilet."
Now quite flushed and feeling a combination of relief to be done with him and consternation at his most public pronouncements, I found the door to the empty restroom, located a stall, and settled in. My quietude was short-lived as I quickly suspected something was terribly wrong when I heard the clicking of oncoming high heels, and women's voices in conversation. The unavoidable realization struck, I was in the right convenience, but in the wrong, wrong room. After hurriedly considering my options, I decided to wait until the crowd seemed to clear, find the exit and blend back into concourse pedestrian traffic.
Unfortunately, the gate agent and apparently everyone else waiting at the gate across from the women's restroom had watched me go in, and indeed had kept an eye out for my return. But no salutations were forthcoming; the place was silent as a tomb.
Then, just last month, my wife and I were in St. Louis, and she directed me into the restroom opening and told me to turn right. The way was temporarily blocked with other men and their luggage, but I perceived that this was one of those restrooms that could be accessed from either end of the partition forming the entrance. I turned left, proceeded, but was abruptly turned around by a woman exiting the women's room, which shared the opening.
I could share even more examples of this string of public embarrassments caused by navigating environments without accessible signs, but you get the picture.
Now consider the benefits of signs that talk! Talking signs broadcast spoken-voice information which is transmitted via infrared light. The transmitted sound can be heard only by travelers with receivers, who use the signs as precise beacons for sign location and information. Talking Signs are silent, invisible and unobtrusive to everyone except the people who need them. For people who cannot read the printed signs posted in the built environments where they travel, talking signs offer beacons of simple information, transforming the unfamiliar into the navigable and obvious.
When people who are visually impaired travel in settings where talking signs are part of the environment, all destinations become obvious and accurate, and the possibility of independent travel opens like a magic door. I know that it won't be long before all major airports are signed for everyone.
Today, we consider it right and normal for people who get around in wheelchairs to have access to public buildings via ramps, automatic doors, accessible phones and restrooms and other amenities. Why not provide real access for travelers who can't read print signs as well?
A city could provide no more universally accessible welcome mat than to make airports truly accessible to all. So, come on airport designers, and managers, join your colleagues at airports like Reagan National in Washington, DC, where the plans for renovating the old terminal include installation of talking signs. Give us a sign, an accessible and useful talking sign!
(For more information on the signs manufactured and marketed by Talking Signs, Inc., visit their web site at http://www.talkingsigns.com.)
There are numerous homilies about how it takes time to achieve something, e.g., "It takes time to rush into something"; "Rome wasn't built in a day"; and "The longest journey begins with the first step."
If we want to see change we should be willing to do something about it. But we also may need to add patience to our persistence. I have pursued some advocacy issues that affect me personally but may have relevance to the needs of other people with disabilities as well. For example, one day I went to cash a check at a branch of my bank which I had not frequented before. When the teller asked for I.D. I offered up a credit card and my state of Oregon identification card. She said she could only accept a driver's license, not the I.D. card. I pointed out that being blind, I did not have driving privileges. Apologetically, she said that it was bank policy to require a driver's license.
I confirmed with management that indeed, the insistence on seeing a driver's license was bank policy. I wrote letters and made phone calls to bank management, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act and explaining how their policy discriminated against all people who could not obtain a driver's license. I further pointed out that a state I.D. card had the same requirements to obtain it as the driver's license except for the driving test. For over a year we went back and forth, with me sometimes getting commitments from them to revise their policy and then being told they would not.
When I finally accepted the reality that the bank was not going to change its position I filed a grievance with the Department of Justice (DOJ). After about six months the DOJ wrote saying they had accepted my complaint and would investigate. Now and then, I would contact them to see what was happening and was always told that my complaint was still an active file. Finally, four years after filing, I received a letter from the DOJ saying that they had settled the case and that the bank henceforth would accept an Oregon identification card as valid I.D. Satisfaction didn't come quickly but it did finally arrive.
Two years ago I was summoned to jury duty. When I got to the court house I discovered that there were no accommodations for a person with a visual impairment. I noted that each person entering the jury waiting room was handed a juror's handbook. I was offered nothing beyond a suggestion to go find a seat and wait for my name to be called. I did get on a jury that time and got to know one of the judges. He and I tried to bring about some changes at the courthouse but got nowhere.
Again this summer, I got a summons to report for jury duty. This time, I called ahead and connected with a person who, because of our conversation, had expressed a commitment to see things made accessible. It hasn't happened yet but I am more confident than ever that it will.
Over a year ago, I noticed that curb extensions were being installed around the city. These extended "sidewalks" are at street corners where the sidewalk is extended out past the parking strip so that there is a shorter distance for pedestrians to traverse across the line of traffic. These "extended sidewalks" are a very good idea for older folks who may be a little more frail than younger pedestrians, people using mobility devices, and those who can not move quickly. The problem for a blind cane user is that there is virtually no tactile way to determine when one transitions from the walk to the street. Since the walk ends right at the point where the traffic flows, the extended sidewalks can end up being very dangerous. With one step you are on the sidewalk, with the next step -- splat!
I don't care to be run over, nor do I want anyone else to be injured. I began raising the issue everywhere that I could think of, including the local transit district's Committee on Accessible Transportation, various city departments, and the National Advisory Committee on Pedestrian Rights of Way. Recently it seems that people are finally listening and looking for ways to resolve the hazard.
I believe that I have finally convinced others of the importance of my position, because now the decision makers are calling me, rather than my having to call them. The transit district has sought my input on potential solutions at light rail and bus stop locations, a local shopping mall has been in touch to seek advice on tactile warning strips, and upper level policy makers within city government are now expressing an understanding of the problem along with a willingness to make changes.
The point is that change can happen. It may take a lot of persistence and even more patience but one person can be successful. One's motivation may be basically selfish, as mine has been, but it never hurts to point out that others can benefit from our successes. You don't have to go it alone either. Consumer organizations like ACB have great folks who would love to help you slay those dragons. One person can make a difference. It may take a little more time and patience than we might wish, but the effort is well worth the making!
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. We will not print letters unless you sign your name and give us your address. In response to Lucia Marett
I am writing in response to Lucia Marett■s letter in the August "Braille Forum." As someone who has spent the first 20 years of his working life in the human resources field, and who has advocated to expand job opportunities for people with disabilities for almost 30 years, I feel compelled to respond to a number of her erroneous assertions and conclusions.
At the outset, while I take exception to almost everything she writes, I am most especially disturbed by the tone of her letter. The attitude conveyed seems to be: I couldn't find a job so how can anyone else who is blind -- particularly someone who is totally blind -- have found employment. Her whining, badgering, angry tone is symptomatic of the "victim mentality" which too many people with disabilities have chosen to adopt. Regardless of how hard one tries to hide it during the job interview, this mind set always becomes apparent to the interviewer. No one is going to hire a person who displays such an attitude; employers hire applicants for their ability and positive attitude, not their disability and "poor me" outlook. The employment arena aside, how many of us consciously choose to spend time with people who are always negative, angry or who complain constantly? I certainly don't! This may explain why Ms. Marett has had difficulty finding work and why she is so unwilling to accept that other blind people do have successful careers.
With regard to Marett's comments concerning Bill Lewis' article, I must offer several of my own comments in response. First, I believe sheltered workshop employment should be considered a career in the sense that, at one time, it was one of the few viable options available to blind persons. By present- day standards, it may not be an attractive alternative for most blind people, but this does not mean that it wasn■t a career 40 or 50 years ago. The sheltered workshop served as a relatively reliable source of income for many at a time when the alternative was to sit home and let their families support them.
Second, the careers cited by Lewis are jobs currently held by real blind and visually impaired people, many of whom are ACB members. It is unfortunate when someone who is apparently blind asks who would hire a blind nurse or an early childhood specialist? I have known a nurse who was blind and worked for several years (in discharge planning) after losing her sight. I am aware of a woman who operates her own day care center. Over the years, I have met three totally blind mechanics, a radio astronomer, two appliance repair persons (both of whom own their businesses); a custodian, several engineers, attorneys, teachers and psychologists. It might be very enlightening for Ms. Marett to contact AFB's Careers and Technology Information Bank (CTIB) at (212) 502-7642, which maintains a database of more than 1,700 blind and visually impaired people performing every kind of job imaginable. She can speak directly to blind people who are working in those careers about which she is so skeptical.
Third, she asks how blind people (presumably in professional positions) manage the print. We do it by using assistive technology (e.g. reading machines) and/or paid readers. (It is my understanding that the New York State Commission for the Blind is pretty good in this regard.) The question she should be asking is: How have blind people overcome negative public attitudes and stereotypes? The answer is that the successfully employed blind person looks and acts competent: he or she exhibits good hygiene and grooming, gets around well with a cane or guide dog, and has a positive attitude about life in general and him- or herself in particular. As a supervisor of five staff and someone who has done a good deal of interviewing and hiring in over 25 years of government service, I would not employ anyone with Marett's attitude.
Fourth and finally, my remarks are not intended to lessen or trivialize in any way our 70 percent (not 75 percent) rate of unemployment, but only to point out that many of us are our own worst enemies insofar as how the public sees us. Believe me, Marett is not the "Al Sharpton of the blind." Let me conclude by answering the questions posed at the close of her letter: "When will blind people work together to combat discrimination, prejudice and bigotry ...?" We already are, as members of the American Council of the Blind, and in our state and local ACB affiliates. "Why do blind people abandon their own?" Frequently and sadly, many blind people "jump ship" because of the aforementioned "victim mentality" displayed by their fellow blind peers. They choose not to associate with such negativism.
Those of us who believe in blind people and know what we have already accomplished and will accomplish in the future are not "complacent, conservative elitists." We are realists who have been in the work force and have a pretty fair idea of what it takes for blind people -- regardless of visual acuity -- to compete on equal terms with the sighted in the job market. Life isn■t fair; so be it. We can either moan and wring our hands over the injustice of it all, or we can work together to overcome injustice, one obstacle and one battle at a time!
-- Mitch Pomerantz, Los Angeles, CA
I would like to augment Joseph Neff■s very informative article on glaucoma which appeared in the August issue of "The Braille Forum." I have a tale to tell which, I hope, will be a reminder to those of us who are blind or visually impaired regarding this insidious disease.
One morning earlier this year when I left home for the airport to fly to New Jersey, I felt slight discomfort around my left eye which made me wonder if a sinus attack were brewing. By the time I reached Newark I was almost certain that this was a case of acute glaucoma. My work as a professional in the field of blindness had long ago educated me regarding glaucoma, the excruciating pain associated with the acute form of that disease, and the necessity for periodic tests for intraocular pressure. I was well aware that just because one is blind, he or she is not immune to the disease.
To make matters worse, during several nights in the weeks preceding my trip to New Jersey I had awakened with discomfort in my left eye, had consciously noted to myself that I should go to the doctor for a pressure check, and had equally consciously decided to wait until I returned from the trip north.
Once I reached New Jersey, events occurred very quickly. Within 24 hours, on an emergency basis, I was in surgery having the lens and part of the vitreous gel removed from my eye. Needless to say, it was a traumatic experience, one which was quite probably avoidable, and, incidentally, was a source of considerable embarrassment to me as a former professional in the state of New Jersey. I took more than a little chiding from the ophthalmic surgeons, along the lines of, "Of all people, you should have known better!"
I returned home with a resolution to climb up on a soap box whenever I had the chance to remind folks who are already blind or visually impaired that it is just as necessary for them to have regular glaucoma checks as it is for those who are fully sighted.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to drag out the soap box.
-- Norma Krajczar, Morehead City, NC
Regarding accessible pedestrian signals
I applaud the July article on accessible pedestrian signals by Sheila Killian and Daveed Mandell. It, like previous "Braille Forum" audible pedestrian signals (APS) prose, is a fine exposition of very important travel technology. I am also pleased there was an editor's note referencing the ACB pedestrian safety handbook which lists a number of companies, all producing walk signal devices.
The company identified by the July article's authors happens to be one of my favorites. In fact, they have loaned me a sample which I demonstrate in meetings every chance I get to stimulate consumer demand for APS's in Manhattan. But I think we need to avoid touting one company too soon. The competition among manufacturers is healthy and can only benefit the quality of the devices offered and their price structure too.
I attempted to make the same point during the March ACB legislative seminar when we discussed approaching members of Congress to advocate for audible locational information within Capitol campus buildings. The name of a particular company which has been aggressively marketing its transmitter-receiver system was used in our briefing as a generic term. I urged in March, and I still believe, we should encourage all entrepreneurs to develop devices in the free marketplace. Only when ACB formally anoints a clear winner after careful comparative evaluation, or when a specific purchase is about to be made according to discrete specifications, should a particular company be selected. Expert professionals, Janet Barlow, Beezie Bentzen and Lukas Franck among them, have been exemplary in their even-handed public presentations of APS devices. Again, attention to the ACB pedestrian safety handbook is highly recommended for a full view of this wondrous APS landscape.
-- Ken Stewart, Warwick, NY
Regarding "The Spirit of ADA!"
As you noted, the torch relay celebrating the Americans with Disabilities Act began in Houston, Texas on Sunday, June 11, 2000 at the Metropolitan Multi-service Center at 1475 W. Gray. Two participants from Houston were missing from the list, Edwin Rumsey and Catherine Gleitz. Both were self-sponsored, paying $100 each to participate in the torch relay. Edwin is the Houston Council of the Blind reporter and a long-time advocate who initiated audio description in Houston. (Note the article in "The Braille Forum" from June 1996 entitled "In Houston, Description Is the Word.") Catherine Gleitz is the past treasurer for the Houston chapter and the past president of Guide Dog Users Inc., and who currently serves as parliamentarian for the Metropolitan Multi-service Center advisory board and as first vice president of the River Oak Gardens Home Owners Association. Hoping you can correct the omission as soon as possible.
-- Edwin Rumsey, Houston, TX
And the list below was submitted, via e-mail, by Mike Smitherman, vice president of the Mississippi Council of the Blind (MCB). The following names of participants in the ADA Torch Relay were not included in Ms. Sloan's Braille Forum article on that topic:
1. Mike Duke -- President
2. Mike Smitherman -- Vice-President
3. Alison Smitherman -- Recording Secretary
4. Kenny Maddox -- Treasurer
5. Rita Taylor
6. Janice Gable
7. Randy & Bonnie Thompson
8. Dan & Peggy Maddox
9. Karen Brown
10. Billy Mayfield
11. Donna Smith-Whitty
12. Judy Sikes
13. Mark Smith -- Executive Director of CCD
14. Ralph Smitherman
15. Jan Hawthorne
16. Carrie Ponder
Sometimes Snail Mail Really Travels S-L-O-O-O-O-W-L-Y!
Bernice, my California friend, keeps me informed. "There's a lot of hubbub on the listserv about that article in the Forum about democracy in ACB," she told me in late August.
The Forum? An article on democracy? What is this, I asked myself? I devour the Forum from back to front every month. The minute I take it from the mailbox everything else goes on the back burner. Scott and Matthew, the two humans who live with me, know not to bother me. Even Sweetums The Cat, who fears nothing and is ruled by no one, approaches me with caution. I am reading the Forum and I am not to be bothered!
But an article on democracy in the ACB? Where was it? I didn't see it.
I searched the house over looking for my most recent Forum. It was not to be found. I guessed the recycling man was reading it off in the west desert someplace. Oh well, an interesting article missed. I'd be more careful next time.
Two weeks later, Scott told me at the dinner table, "There sure is an interesting article in the Forum about democracy in the ACB."
"Yes," I replied, "Bernice told me there was a lot of hubbub about it on the listserv. I must have missed the article. I'll have to be more careful next month and read the Forum from bottom to top as well as from back to front."
When I went to the mailbox on September 25, I was excited to see my faithful blue and white Forum. Oh, for a few minutes rest and quiet while I leafed through its pages. "Here and There," "An Open Letter to...." Wait, what was this? An article about democracy in the ACB? I turned to the cover, "The Braille Forum, September 2000." Aha, I hadn't thrown the magazine away. It just hadn't come yet. A month after it was the hot topic on the listserv, two weeks after my husband listened to it in Alvin the Chipmunk speed on his tape player, I received it in print.
I should have known. In my local affiliate, where well over 50 percent of the membership requests our monthly newsletter in print, my husband gets his braille copy of the newsletter two weeks before I get my print copy.
Eighty percent of those who are legally blind have some usable vision. Only 5 percent of that same population read braille. So, why is it that both in the ACB and my local affiliate, print readers get their magazines and newsletters at least two weeks after everyone else? Whatever the reasons, I suggest that the editors of the publications and the leaders of the organizations stop and look at the subconscious message they are sending out every month to the print readers who receive their publications.
After all, to get the publication out in braille, or on cassette, it had to have been in a format which could have been accessed by light-dependent people such as myself, the people who get it after it's been embossed in braille, recorded on cassette, and hashed and rehashed on the listserv.
In that September Forum, the one with the article on democracy, there was an open letter to the board of directors of ACB and to a certain number of members of the ACB who receive their Forum on cassette. The producer of those tapes vowed to do a better job in the future.
I hope the ACB will do a better job in the future as well, and take measures to ensure that ALL members of the ACB receive the Forum in a timely manner.
-- Janis Stanger, Salt Lake City, Utah
(Editor's Note: We are pleased to announce the selection of Billie Jean Keith as the new editor for the Here and There column. Billie Jean will begin compiling items for the column immediately and present her first column in our December issue. Again, we want to thank Elizabeth M. Lennon for her many years of excellent stewardship of this column, and Sharon Lovering for the excellent work she did while we were searching for a new editor. Look for Billie Jean Keith's introductory column in December. Please submit items for the column to her, via e-mail at [email protected], via snail-mail at the ACB national office, 1155 15th Street NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005, or via phone at the national office, (202) 467-5081 extension 26.)
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 USA Connection for the Blind, advertised in this space in September, is no longer available.
ABLE-NET, an Internet service provider listed in this space last month, has a new telephone number. It is (209) 556-9381. The company provides a variety of Internet services to all 50 states and Canada, and discounts for organizations and individuals with disabilities.
The Jewish Guild for the Blind has a new brochure available called "Assisting People with Vision Loss." It is designed to help sighted people understand how best to help family, friends, colleagues or other people who may be blind or visually impaired. For a free copy, write to the Public Relations Department, Jewish Guild for the Blind, 15 W. 65th St., New York, NY 10023, or phone Victoria Keller at (212) 769-6268.
The National Parent Network on Disabilities, the National Lekotek Center, and Toys "R" Us are continuing their partnership in the production and distribution of an eighth Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. Toys "R" Us is making available an even wider selection of toys, coded with ability symbols for easy identification. If you have earlier versions of the Toy Guide, this issue will be of greater value because ideas, improvements and expansion of toy selections continue to be made in direct response to consumers. The National Lekotek Center has evaluated the toys with children in testing centers in the belief that ALL children should have the opportunity to select toys that will be fun, meet their needs and be useful for developmental growth. A very important component of this new Toy Guide is that it was created in part by parent suggestions from around the country. This guide includes an order form in the catalog to allow parents and families to order toys directly. To request a copy, contact the National Parent Network on Disabilities, 1130 17th St. NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036; phone (202) 463-2299.
The 2000 Democratic National Platform is available on tape for blind and visually impaired people. To get a copy, write to: 2000 Platform, Democratic National Committee, 430 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, DC 20009; phone (202) 863-7191; or e-mail [email protected]
Do you like opera? Will you be in the Baltimore-Washington area? If so, you can see audio-described "Hansel and Gretel" (December 9-10, 13 and 15); "Faust" (March 15-25, 2001); and "Turandot" (June 9-17, 2001). Contact the Baltimore Opera Company's box office at (410) 727-6000 for specially priced tickets and dates and times of the described performances.
NEWS FROM AFB
Jay Stiteley was recently named the director of the American Foundation for the Blind's midwest office in Chicago. He will oversee all of AFB's efforts on behalf of blind and visually impaired people in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Dr. Dean Tuttle and Charles and Roberta Kaman received the 2000 Migel Medals from AFB. Tuttle, an executive with the Hadley School for the Blind, is a retired professor in special education who has written extensively on visual impairment. His 1984 book "Self- Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness" is still used in rehabilitation centers serving blind and visually impaired individuals. Charles and Roberta Kaman are the founders of Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation; they began breeding German shepherds and donating them to guide dog schools in 1960, and training dogs themselves in 1981. Fidelco's "in community" training program is unique in the United States; the trainers take the dog to the person's home and working environment to train as a team. Also, AFB is renaming the Catherine T. Gallagher Award Fund to the William F. and Catherine T. Gallagher Award Fund. These awards recognize blind and visually impaired people who are role models in their community. To help AFB pay tribute to today's blind and visually impaired mentors through a gift to the fund, call Lorraine Zamora at (212) 502-7620 or e-mail her at [email protected] Recipients receive $1,000 and an expense-paid trip to the presentation at AFB■s 2001 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. March 16-18. Eligible recipients are blind or visually impaired people who: are nominated in writing by a community group, school, or civic organization; have two testimonies from blind or visually impaired individuals naming the nominee as their mentor or role model. All references should include and describe the person's independence, community participation and contributions, potential as a mentor or role model, and public speaking abilities. Nominations must be in by December 15, 2000. Send them to Scott McCall, AFB Southeast, 100 Peachtree St., Suite 620, Atlanta, GA 30303, or e-mail them to [email protected]
Do you enjoy playing computer games? Personal Computer Systems produces audio games for the blind community. Windows games are audio only; everything is spoken by a human voice. You don't need a screen reader to play. If you contact the company for a list of games for DOS and Windows, you will receive a coupon for $10 off any game. This offer expires December 31, 2000. Contact Personal Computer Systems, 551 Compton Ave., Perth Amboy, NJ 08861; phone (732) 826-1917, or e-mail [email protected]
Opus Technologies recently released OpusDots Lite, a new software system for transcribing printed sheet music into braille music. The software uses new "scan and click" technology, which lets the user scan the printed sheet music with a scanner, then enter the musical elements by clicking over them in the scanned image. The entered music is then translated automatically into music braille. OpusDots Lite is designed to translate only single- line music for band and orchestra instruments (e.g. flute, clarinet, trumpet, violin, viola), chorus (soprano, alto, tenor or bass music line but not lyrics), and sight-reading or music theory exercises. A non-Lite version of OpusDots, which can translate keyboard and multi-stave music with chords and lyrics, is due out sometime in the future. OpusDots Lite requires a PC with Windows 98 or later, a scanner, and an optional embosser or refreshable braille device for braille output. It is available at a special introductory price of $299 through December 31, 2000. Shipping and handling is $5 per U.S. order ($10 for Canada and Mexico, inquire for other countries). Program updates will be provided for free until the next major release. Contact Opus Technologies at 13333 Thunderhead St., San Diego, CA 92129; phone (858) 538-9401; e-mail [email protected] or visit the web site, http://www.opustec.com.
The 9th annual Sierra Regional Ski for Light three-day cross- country event will be held in Truckee, Calif. March 10-12, 2001. Lodging will be at the Best Western Truckee Tahoe Inn; skiing will be at Tahoe Donner Cross Country. The weekend costs $135 if you bring your own skis, $160 if you need to rent them. Want a private room? Add $100. The fees include two nights lodging double occupancy, two breakfasts (Sunday and Monday), two dinners (Saturday and Sunday), and trail passes for all three days. If you want to stay over on Friday, March 9, lodging at La Quinta Inn in Sacramento costs $35 double, $70 single. Submit your application with a $40 deposit before January 15, 2001. Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Final payment is due February 15, 2001. Scholarships are available. For an application and more information (specify braille or print), contact Betsy Rowell, 9608 Mira Del Rio Dr., Sacramento, CA 95827; phone (916) 362-5557, or e-mail [email protected]
The American Association of University Women Educational Foundation is seeking applicants for the 2001-2002 Eleanor Roosevelt Teacher Fellowships and Community Action Grants. The Roosevelt fellowships provide K-12 public school teachers with up to $9,000 for professional development and projects designed to advance girls' interests in math, science and/or technology. Fellows also receive an expense-paid trip to participate in a five- day teachers' institute (July 21-25, 2001) in Washington, DC. Approximately 25 fellowships will be awarded to women teachers individually or as lead members of teams, which may include other teachers or administrators, men and women. The postmark deadline for the Roosevelt fellowships is January 10, 2001. For an application, visit http://www.aauw.org/3000/ertfapp.html, or call (319) 337-1716 extension 192. Community Action Grants support innovative community-based programs designed to promote education and equity for women and girls. Individual women, including teachers or community activists, as well as AAUW branches, AAUW state chapters and community-based non-profit organizations are eligible. Grants provide $2,000-$7,000 for a one-year project, or $5,000 to $10,000 for a two-year project. One-year grants provide seed money for a clearly defined activity that must be innovative, community-based, and related to education and equity for women and girls. Two-year grants require a focus on activities supporting K-12 girls' interests and achievement in math, science and/or technology, as well as school/community partnerships. The application postmark deadline is February 1, 2001. For an application, visit http://www.aauw.org/3000/cagapp.html, or call (319) 337-1716, extension 192.
CALL FOR PAPERS
"2001: A Technology Odyssey" will be held August 3-5, 2001 at the Doubletree Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pa. The conference committee is seeking presentation papers that address topics related to training blind and visually impaired people in using assistive technology. Topics include but are not limited to: best practice; standards of training; instructor qualifications and certification; policy issues; and the future of access technology. Submit a presentation abstract of 300 words or less by February 1, 2001. The abstract should describe the presentation and the objectives to be met, as well as the title, length of presentation (half-hour or hour), equipment requirements, and your name, title, employer, and contact information. Submit it to Mark Uslan, American Foundation for the Blind, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, NY 10001; fax (212) 502-7773, or e-mail it to [email protected]
Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic has scholarships available. The Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards are given annually to nine blind or visually impaired students at four-year U.S. colleges or universities. The Marion Huber "Learning Through Listening" Awards are presented annually to six highly successful high school seniors with learning disabilities. Competitions are open to active RFB&D members who have been registered for at least one year prior to the deadline -- either individually or through their schools -- and who demonstrate outstanding scholarship, leadership, enterprise and service to others. The application deadline is February 21, 2001. Call (800) 221-4792 to request an application, or visit the web site, http://www.rfbd.org.
Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic and Time magazine have joined together for a special offer that benefits RFB&D and its members. If you subscribe to Time magazine■s large-print version, Time will donate the full dollar value of your paid subscription to support RFB&D. To subscribe, call toll-free (800) 234-8600; Time will send you a Time big-number watch with your subscription. A six-month subscription costs $40.
"Providing Services to African-Americans Who Are Blind: Views of Experienced White and African-American Rehabilitation Counselors" is the newest book from the Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center. It reports similarities and differences in the views of 26 experienced vocational rehabilitation counselors serving African-Americans who are blind or visually impaired. It costs $15; contact Kelly Schaefer at (662) 325-2001.
Medicare beneficiaries may now apply online for a replacement Medicare card. To do so, visit http://www.ssa.gov/medicarecard.
BrailleStream-LCD 1.1 is the first assistive technology solution for offices using Digital business telephones that present call data in an LCD window on the telephone. It is intended to help blind people by processing the data displayed in the LCD window and providing the information to a voice synthesizer or braille display by tightly integrating with JAWS for Windows software by Henter-Joyce, a division of Freedom Scientific. It will also work with MAGic screen magnification software. For more information, visit http://www.adaptiveinno.com, call (905) 737- 6388, or e-mail [email protected]
Text Cloner is a low-cost, easy-to-use OCR software package designed to be used with your existing screen reader. It can handle multiple columns automatically, and you don■t even need to worry about page orientation, because the program will rotate and straighten it for you. You must have an IBM-compatible computer (Pentium 200 megahertz or higher) with 32 megabytes of memory (64 or higher recommended), 40 megabytes of free disk space, and a CD- ROM drive at 2x speed or faster. You also need to have Windows 98, NT, 2000 or ME. Text Cloner■s retail price is $59.95. Check out a trial version at http://www.premier-programming.com.
AccessWorld, the American Foundation for the Blind's technology periodical, is a comprehensive resource for obtaining the latest information on assistive technology. It includes: objective product evaluations; assistive technology news; a question and answer column; a calendar of events; on the job profiles; conference reports and more. The September issue featured: "What Makes a Web Site Accessible?"; "CCTV Users Report Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome"; and "Update on an Industry Pioneer: Is Artic Alive and Well?" You'll receive 6 issues a year, in your choice of on-line, large print, audio cassette, disc, or braille formats. You can read a free sample issue on our Web site, http://www.afb.org. To subscribe, or for more information, please contact AccessWorld/AFB Press, Subscriber Services, 450 Fame Ave., Hanover, PA 17331. Or call toll free (888) 522-0220 in the United States; international subscribers please call (717) 632-3535.
FOR SALE: Acoustic guitar with case. $250. Shipping included. Call Rosemir at (787) 821-1003.
FOR SALE: Outlook Color CCTV from Xerox. Magnifies text and objects up to 40 times their original size. Has a line marker for easy reading, and large yellow controls that are easy to identify and operate. Price negotiable. Call (301) 253-3136.
FOR SALE: Perkins brailler with dust cover, $400 or best offer. Call Roger Acuna at (925) 969-9744.
FOR SALE: Seetec Color 20 System CCTV, used very little. In good shape. Includes XY table. Asking $1,275 plus shipping. Contact Betty Herman at (316) 865-4532.
FOR SALE: Alva series 3 40-cell braille display. In good working condition; under warranty with Humanware until Feb. 28, 2001. Asking $2,500 plus shipping and handling. Serious inquiries only; contact Denise Avant at (773) 325-1117.
FOR SALE: Video-Eye. Magnifies print or any small work and displays it on a large, high-resolution RCA monitor, included. Asking $1,500. Contact Chuck Eigen at (414) 962-7701 or e-mail him, [email protected]
FOR SALE: PC serial keypad, like new. Comes with software and cable. Asking $30. HP5200 PC USB/LPT 600/1200 dpi color flatbed scanner, brand new in box with one-year warranty. Asking $295 (includes shipping). Contact Roger Behm, 1611 Clover Lane, Janesville, WI 53545; phone (608) 758-0933, or e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: Braille Lite 40 in excellent condition. Includes software, Blazie disk drive, carrying case, computer cable, and two power supplies/chargers. Asking $3,500. Call Dan Kysor at (916) 648-2147 or e-mail him at [email protected] Shipping is free.
20330 NE 20TH CT.
MIAMI, FL 33179
FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
57 GRANDVIEW AVE.
WATERTOWN, MA 02172
SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
7601 CRITTENDEN ST. #F-2
PHILADELPHIA, PA 19118
556 N. 80TH ST.
SEATTLE, WA 98103
906 N CHAMBLISS ST
ALEXANDRIA VA 22312
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
2118 NW 21st St.
Oklahoma City, OK 73107