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 URL for the Text Cloner, listed in November's "Here and There" column, was misprinted. The correct web site is http://www.premier-programming.com.
If it ever happens that a history of our national blindness community at the start of the 21st century is written, it will surely mark this year as a watershed time of unprecedented success, and the name of the American Council of the Blind will headline each event. Truly this has been a year in which ACB members and friends have altered the course of events as builders of the future.
Our belief in and support for each other has led us, as a community, to realize a level of participation in our society that has and will benefit all blind people. Moreover, the heroes of our success include many individual ACB members who simply understood the need and acted with the support of all of us.
While leaders such as Debbie Grubb, Brian Charlson, Julie Carroll, Debbie Cook, Earlene Hughes, and Jonathan Mosen help shape our successes in many areas such as pedestrian safety and information technology access, people with names like Dorothy, Jo, Donna, Ralph, Peggy, Mike, Kim, Sue, Pat, Al, Carla, Dan, Barbara, Billie Jean, Cathy, Ed, and so many more were taking the issues to the local level and making sure our concerns were raised and acted upon. Indeed, the list of ACB heroes is far too long to fit in this short message, but you all have made this year one to be remembered for many years to come.
In a single year, ACB and our partners changed television broadcasting through the introduction of descriptive video as a requirement for the future. We secured standards of pedestrian access for the public rights of way, and we even got the waterways covered through passenger vessels access standards as well. We set a direction of access to the Internet and office computing through our work on web sites and federal development of standards for electronic equipment! We protected the rights of blind people to services aimed at our issues and accountable to us. We launched ACB and the blind community into the era of Internet radio and we made online convention registration and membership applications a reality.
Thanks to the willingness of ACB members to believe in each other enough to make the impossible happen, we have launched an era of success that will benefit all blind people and we've only just begun! For now, let us enjoy the holidays and get some rest. We will need it since the future holds new challenges, and while we may not be blessed with lots of money, we have shown the power of the greatest wealth of all: our faith in ourselves, in each other, in our families and friends, in ACB, and in the knowledge that we have the hands to build the future and the hearts to change the world.
I wish all of you peace, happiness, blessings and love this holiday season, and I thank you for who you are and what you have done for ACB and all people who are blind.*****
It is the day before Halloween as I sit to write my December message. This is actually one of the harder messages I have had to write because it focuses on ACB's need for more funding. ACB does many things well but fund-raising may not be among them. I am convinced that we make optimal use of the money we have and, considering the smallish budget with which we operate ACB, we get a great deal accomplished!
Perhaps many ACB members have not thought very hard about where the money comes from that keeps ACB afloat from year to year. This message will provide some of that knowledge. Some of what I have to say does not make for pleasant reading but it needs to be said, for the time has come for all of us to face some hard truths.
Let's start with where ACB's money comes from. Less than 3 percent of our budget comes from membership dues and, if we add affiliate contributions and individual gifts, we are still well below 10 percent. We earn $3 for most members and spend $19 (on average) for each "Braille Forum" recipient. This leads us to a rather strange circumstance: expanding membership actually costs ACB money. Does this mean that we are suggesting that membership is not a good thing? Not at all! But it is worth noting that we spend nearly 20 percent of our budget producing a magazine that is a membership benefit, which our dues do not come close to supporting. Most other organizations, whether they are non-profit or not, do not include a magazine as part of the membership; instead they charge members a separate subscription price.
Over the past two decades, ACB has depended for most of its funds on the operation of thrift stores in various locations around the country. At one point, income from these stores constituted well over 80 percent of ACB's revenue. The board and the national office have worked hard to diversify our sources of income over the past 15 years and now thrift stores provide about two-thirds of our revenue. This still means that we are seriously affected when things are not going well in the thrift field, as they now are not. Though I would certainly not classify myself as an expert economist, I believe that the better the general economy is performing, the worse thrift stores do. And, our success in thrift stores is affected by world trends as well. In the mid-90s we were earning a substantial amount from the sale of rags. These were materials that we could not sell and that were exported to third world countries for remanufacturing into clothing. As Asian economies began experiencing difficulties, the bottom fell out of the rag market. We have also chosen to take less money out of our thrift stores so that ACBES could relocate some stores and open new ones. This year in order to meet the commitments that they had already made to ACB, our thrift stores had to dip into their reserves.
The American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services is the separate entity that runs our thrift stores. It is run by a separate board of directors partly elected by ACB's board and partly chosen from outside people with business experience. A majority of its members must be members of ACB's board. ACB owes a tremendous debt to those who run ACBES out of our Minneapolis office. We also owe a lot to the managers and staffs of our 10 stores. Without their hard work ACB could not function. The ACBES board and management have taken some hard decisions this year and I believe that next year things will improve significantly on the thrift store front.
Other sources of income include a national telemarketing campaign, individual fund-raising events, foundation and corporate grants, income from our investments, and bequests. As you can see, then, many of our income elements are volatile. It is very hard to base the running of an organization on revenue sources that we do not and cannot control. We are constantly looking for alternative ways to raise funds and ideally these approaches will generate more predictable amounts over time.
Several years ago, the convention created the resource development committee which has worked hard to develop funding initiatives. The challenges are great for this committee, and the pressure is on! I urge all of you who may have suggestions to bring to the members of our resource development committee to do so!
Since his arrival at the national office, executive director Charlie Crawford has sought new fund-raising approaches and we are lucky to have someone with his skills on board. He has actually found funding for many of our specific initiatives and is constantly looking for other approaches to raising and saving money.
In spite of the generosity of ACBES, ACB will also have to dig into its reserves to pay for our operations this year. Before going on, I should perhaps say a word or two about our reserves. Those of you who have been around ACB for a long time will know that there was a period in the middle of the 1980s when ACB came very close to going under financially. Ever since then the board of directors has been insistent that ACB do its best to put aside funds so that we would have reserves available for just such a year as this one. We have done a good job and actually hoped to eventually reach a level of reserves large enough to run ACB off its interest. We are a long way from that point, and, since we must use reserves this year and next year, we will make a serious dent in our spare resources. Clearly the board has done a good job of protecting ACB from itself. We did this in two ways. Each budget over the past several years, till now, has required us to take $50,000 off the top and place it in a board designated reserve fund. It also required us, till now, to place any funds received in bequests that exceeded $75,000 into our reserves. ACB owes a substantial debt to our board for requiring us to put these funds aside.
In the next paragraph I will talk about some of the things we might do to make things better. First, let me tell you how our budget gets adopted each year. It is just another indication of the democratic and deliberative approach that characterizes how we do things in ACB. It is up to the executive director, in consultation with the president and the chief financial officer, to develop a proposed budget. This goes to a budget committee elected by the board at its September meeting. That committee, which meets in December, this year will have the right to substantially amend our proposed budget before sending it on for adoption by the board in Des Moines in January. The board can change things that the budget committee proposes, and has done so in the past. However, the key thing to remember is that the budget is not official until it is adopted by the board of directors of the ACB.
Given our size and our resources, I believe that ACB does an outstanding job of making things better for blind people all over the world. We are very fortunate to have the staff we have in the national office who all wear a variety of hats to get the job done for us. In past years we had at least two more professional staffpersons than we now do and yet ACB remains at the forefront of championing change for people who are blind. Our work is not the issue here. The issue is how do we find ways to increase our resources so that we can do more and so that we do not have to continue to dip into our reserves.
Obviously, we could increase our dues but, when that has been proposed in the past, it has been soundly defeated by the convention. We could use our convention to make a little money. It loses money virtually every year. We could hope that our affiliates and our members will be more forthcoming with their support. Although our affiliates and individual members are often quite generous, and we appreciate that generosity, so far, that has not been the option that meets our financial needs. We can and will seek alternative ways to raise funds. Our work is too important for us to do anything else! ACB will continue to grow both in membership and in influence. That is a given.
It is also unfortunately a given that, unless some major miracle occurs such as the loaves and the fishes, we will not have enough resources to cover our costs next year and will once again dip into our reserves. Among the likely consequences of our current situation is that we will have to cut down on the number of issues of "The Braille Forum." We will also, of course, freeze our staff at its current low level. We will drastically curtail travel and will also look at other ways to save dollars. This is what prudent resource management is all about. Every step backward we take is a shame and a sin because there is so much yet to be done. I will pray about loaves and fishes and we will do as much as we can with less.
May your holiday season be filled with joy and, when you give, think about ACB. Every small loaf and tiny fish helps. ACB is our organization and together we must and will find a way!*****
On October 21, 2000, Dr. John W. Sutton, an active member of the American Council of the Blind and a lifelong advocate in behalf of blind and visually impaired people, died in Salisbury, Md., following a long illness.
Dr. Sutton, a native of Maryland and a graduate of the Maryland School for the Blind, received his B.A. degree from Washington College, his masteržs degree from the University of Louisville and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas, after which he was appointed to a position as the first visually impaired psychologist employed by the U.S. Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs). While serving on the staff of the Veterans Administration for 41 years, he worked both in the office and outside the office as an advocate for and counselor of blind and visually impaired people.He joined the American Council of the Blind in the 1970s through the New Jersey affiliate, and as a way of underscoring his interests in the objectives of ACB, over the next 25 years he joined several other ACB affiliates as his professional and/or personal business took him to other parts of the country, e.g., Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Alaska. Following his retirement from the Veterans Administration, he returned to his native Maryland and began an extremely busy life as an advocate, counselor and educator. In recent years he served as chairman and co-chairman of the ACB Committee on Concerns of the Older Blind, and was a founding member of the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss. At the time of his death at age 75, he was a member of ACB, the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the American Psychological Association, several community visual support groups, the Wicomico County Commission on Aging, the mayor of Salisburyžs disability council, the advisory committee to the rehabilitation service program at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, the Maryland Governor's Council on Disability, the Advisory Council of the Maryland Technical Assistance Program, the American Board of Professional Psychology, the National Register of Health Care Service Providers, the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, and the American Association of Retired Persons.
One of the truly meaningful testimonials given at the very well attended memorial service for Dr. Sutton on October 28, 2000, was the presence of many elderly blind citizens who had met him and benefitted from his counseling and encouragement at the various peer support groups with which he had been associated in the community. Dr. Sutton is survived by his wife of 25 years, Eloise ("Ellie") Rita Sutton.
The people who attended the memorial service for John Sutton had met him over the years in many different capacities and under many different circumstances. However, there was one person present who had met him several decades earlier under truly unique conditions. What most of the people present did not know was that, while earning his master's degree at the University of Louisville, John, who had been an accomplished athlete while at the Maryland School for the Blind and Washington College, had "earned his board and keep" by working as the wrestling and track coach at the Kentucky School for the Blind. Yes, John was my coach the year I entered high school in Louisville.*****
(Editor's Note: Byron K. Smith, who was the producer for the music CD described below, has produced radio and audio programs for Indiana University for more than 30 years. He is also a board member of ACBI.)
When an ACB chapter wants to raise funds to finance community projects, members may be confronted with some difficult choices. When the Bloomington, Ind. chapter of ACBI pondered raising funds, the results of the fund-raising choice they made turned out to be rewarding and successful.
The members wanted to finance projects which would increase community awareness about blindness issues and people who are blind or visually impaired. At the same time, it seemed important to involve chapter members in a meaningful effort.
"A lot of people enjoy music," remarked chapter officer Jeff Busch. "And we have a chapter member who sings beautifully, accompanies herself on the guitar and writes songs too."
Everyone agreed that a music CD by that chapter member, Suzanne Ament, would be a best seller. Chapter members were sure that "people would enjoy the American and Russian folk songs Suzanne performs." So Jeff Busch arranged to record 18 tracks of music at a nearby studio. Then other chapter members helped produced the music CD, "Light And Shadow," which is now for sale.
Ament, who is currently teaching at Butler University in Indianapolis, cannot remember a time when she did not sing. She holds a doctorate in Russian history from Indiana University, and has performed Russian and American folk songs in her native U.S. and in Russia during half a dozen trips to the country she has come to love.
"The title song, 'Light And Shadow,'" explains Ament, "is a song that came out of a broken heart. When you love somebody there is pain and great joy. That song is about one particular love of my life that will always be there."
Ament, who has enough vision to orient herself to her surroundings, likes the local character of the Bloomington chapter of ACBI. "It's about people who are right there doing things for people who are right there. We have state and national connections but the real benefits come from people helping people in a very local sense."
The "Light And Shadow" CD is available from the Bloomington chapter, just in time for holiday shopping. Checks for $15, made payable to the Bloomington Chapter of ACBI, should be sent to P.O. Box 1131, Bloomington, IN 47402-1131. Questions and comments can be sent by e-mail to [email protected]*****
No, this isn't a story of navigating a busy shopping mall during the holiday season with your trusty guide dog. It is a holiday "tail" of some great gifts for the dog lovers in your life though. Here, Guide Dog Users Inc. (GDUI) presents its wonderful holiday gifts! All proceeds from these items go directly to the work of GDUI, the largest organization of guide dog handlers in the world.
Have you ever wanted a guide dog or wished you could give a loving home to a retired or "career change" dog but decided that you just couldn't have pets because of the expense and time for feeding, grooming and vet care? Well, GDUI has the perfect dog for you. Our selection of Labradors, golden retrievers and German shepherd dogs come with or without custom-made leather harnesses. These adorable stuffed animals don't bark, shed and never have to be taken out in the cold or rain for relief breaks. The GDUI kennels have lots of puppies, and even nearly life-sized dogs, all waiting for good homes. Here's the perfect gift for a puppy raiser or friend who loves guide dogs!
For that touch of class, GDUI offers guide dog theme jewelry. The guide dog pin features a Labrador in harness with the words "Best Friend" in braille. Our birthstone necklace makes a great gift to commemorate the birth dates of all the guide dogs in your life, puppies you have raised, or even the birthdays of your children and grandchildren. This necklace comes in silver or gold with your choice of gem stones.
To help keep that pet looking its best, gift givers can choose from GDUI's wide array of grooming items. Our Miracle Coat waterless shampoo, Petkin pet wipes and teeth cleaning pads help keep any dog, guide or family friend, smelling great. Specially formulated breath pills keep away the dreaded "dragon breath!" Our selection of brushes and combs, including the popular Zoom Groom line, handle the pet hair during the holiday season and beyond.
GDUI also offers some gifts designed specially for the guide dog handler. Our unique harness pouch features a flap for storing flat items like credit cards or paper money and a clip for holding your keys. It fits any harness design with its classic black style. The GDUI harness sign explains in easy-to-read words and graphics "IGNORE WORKING DOG", a great gift for that first time handler.
Of course, we could not leave out the most important gift recipients, the dogs! GDUI carries many safe toys for pets and guides alike. The Goody Ship, ball and bone hold treats for hours of safe chewing. We also carry the Kong line of toys plus various types of bones. Your dog can have a comfortable traveling bed with GDUI's Comfort Pack, a soft folding bed with non-skid rubber backing. This bed comes in a carrying case with pockets to hold all your grooming supplies. It makes a great carry-on bag for your dog when traveling.
What about those hard-to-buy-for dog lovers in your life? How about letting them know that a donation to GDUI supports advocacy efforts around the world? A donation of any size on behalf of a friend, family member or dog lover is welcome and will help continue services like the GDUI Empathizers, who continue to help so many face the loss of a guide dog. How about giving a guide-dog handler you know a yearly membership in GDUI? Memberships are only $10 per year! For those who like dog-related reading, how about an audio edition of Dog Fancy Magazine or Pawtracks, the GDUI quarterly publication.
ACB members know the special honor of receiving a life membership in the American Council of the Blind. You can reward the work and dedication of your favorite guide dog handler with a life membership in GDUI. Life memberships cost $250 and may be paid in installments.
Still looking for that perfect gift? We can help! A call to Jane Sheehan at the GDUI offices can get you started. All of the great gifts mentioned above can be found in the 2000 GDUI catalog. If you don't have a copy of this publication, just contact our national office at the address below!
Guide Dog Users Inc., 14311 Astrodome Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20906; e-mail [email protected] Office hours: Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST; Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. Within the U.S. and Canada, call toll-free: (888) 858-1008. Outside of North America, call (301) 598-5771.
GDUI wishes you and your four-footed friends a happy and safe holiday season!*****
When the pre-convention meeting of the ACB board of directors was called to order on July 1, 2000, all board members were present, and approximately 40 guests filled the meeting room. After the meeting agenda had been adopted, the board turned to the minutes of the mid-year board meeting, which were read and approved.
Noting that he would be delivering a detailed report to the convention, President Paul Edwards told the board that he is particularly proud to report that ACB has become recognized as an active agent of positive change for people who are blind. "ACB is the organization which embraces change and is constructively using change for the benefit of all blind and visually impaired people," Edwards said.
He then discussed management initiatives, which are aimed toward meshing the day-to-day operations of both ACB and ACBES. Edwards described meetings which ACB's elected leadership held with the staff of the Washington, DC office in the fall of 1999, and with the staff of the Minneapolis office in March of this year. Edwards said that ACB leaders had been surprised to learn that the Minneapolis staff felt that ACBES, its mission, functions and operations were not very well understood or appreciated by the ACB membership and staff. Therefore, Edwards continued, in an effort to foster mutual understanding, ACB was scheduling convention-week tours at the ACBES thrift store in Louisville, so that members might gain a clearer understanding about ACB Enterprises and Services, and the role the organization plays in supporting ACB programs and services.
Edwards described an upcoming meeting between ACB and ACBES staff and leadership where the agenda was expected to include communication and flow of financial information to elected officials and staff; refinement and delegation of functions for carrying out the national convention; and refinement and delegation of priorities and duties regarding operation of our scholarship grants program.
With respect to the scholarship program, Edwards announced that he had reluctantly agreed to accept John Buckley's resignation as scholarship committee chairperson. He indicated his intention to announce Buckley's successor at the post-convention board meeting.
In his executive director's report, Charlie Crawford pointed to the very successful March legislative seminar as an example of the sort of program which is growing and having an ever more important impact on our members and upon decision makers on Capitol Hill. Crawford also pointed to a sound on-time performance record for "The Braille Forum" over the past six months as well as to the successful outreach and widening impact of ACB's web site and ACB Radio.
Crawford described efforts to raise grant funds to support important ACB program initiatives such as the revised edition of the pedestrian safety manual. He ended his report by telling the board that the national office's initiatives to partner with and support members and affiliates are bearing positive dividends in achievements throughout the country.
In a brief summary of her written report to the board, Penny Reeder reported that "Braille Forum" readership is up 7 percent over last year's levels. She also indicated that, except for the May edition which had been late because of Braille Institute of America's errors, for which they had apologized and taken corrective action, the on-time performance of the Forum had improved in the past six months. Reeder noted that ACB's web site has been growing ever more popular among members and the general public who want to learn about blindness, and that ACB Radio has dramatically widened the scope of the Internet audience for ACB and awareness about our organization.
Jonathan Mosen spoke to the board about the remarkable development and progress of ACB Radio in its short seven-month existence. Mosen thanked the board and membership for their forward thinking vision in commencing and supporting the ACB Radio project.
Using the latest available figures through the first five months of the fiscal year, ACB treasurer Pat Beattie indicated that while revenues were lagging behind budgeted expectations by approximately $44,000 as of May 31, expenditures had been held in check and were running approximately $51,000 below budgeted expectations. Thus, as of May 31, our actual deficit was only about $35,000 instead of the budgeted and anticipated deficit of approximately $42,000 at the five-month point in our budget cycle. While Beattie cautioned that the big expenditure months, such as July, were still to come, she ended her report by saying that ACB's financial condition was slightly better as of May 31 than anticipated in our budget documents.
The board entertained several brief committee reports. Dawn Christensen reported for the awards committee that five separate awards would be made by her committee at the 2000 national convention. Brian Charlson reported on behalf of the information access committee that several ACB representatives had been working collaboratively with others to ensure improved timely publication of textbooks in alternate formats for secondary school children. Charlson said that it was his hope and best educated guess that concrete results could be expected to come out of these negotiations within the next 12 to 18 months.
M.J. Schmitt reported for the Durward K. McDaniel Committee that committee had made awards to enable two first-timers to attend this convention in Louisville. From west of the Mississippi River, the committee had selected Laura Collins of South Dakota, and from east of the Mississippi, Stancil Tootle of Georgia.
Convention coordinator LeRoy Saunders reported that the convention appeared to be getting under way in good shape. Saunders said that there might be a shortage of volunteers on the Fourth of July. "There are always last-minute glitches, many of which are only apparent to those keenly involved with convention operations," Saunders continued. But he said that, in general, he believed we could look forward to a highly successful convention week.
President Edwards called upon Dr. Otis Stephens of Knoxville, Tenn., to make a report to the board regarding the constitutional challenge being mounted under the 11th Amendment against the ADA in the U.S. Supreme Court. Stephens briefly reviewed the history of the Supreme Court's rulings regarding the sovereign immunity of entities of state government as well as the various doctrines or legal criteria or tests which the high court has developed over time to assess whether Congress does or does not have the authority under the fifth section of the 14th Amendment to abrogate the states' traditional immunity from private party lawsuits under the 11th Amendment. In particular, Stephens pointed out that unlike race, religious, gender and national origin discrimination where the high court has imposed a standard of strict or heightened scrutiny in order for states to justify their actions and defeat efforts by Congress to permit private party lawsuits against those states, the Supreme Court has thus far not granted disability discrimination such a status. Thus, the states may justify their allegedly discriminatory conduct under a low rational basis test where the burden of proof remains clearly on those who are advocating that Congress did appropriately abrogate the states' 11th Amendment immunity by subjecting the states to private party lawsuits such as those under Titles I and II of the ADA.
Dr. Beezey Bentzen of Boston College reported on research projects which ACB had an important role in initially funding. Bentzen congratulated ACB for having the foresight to grant seed monies to help get a number of important research projects off the ground. For example, as early as the 1993 national convention in San Francisco, ACB granted financial support for research into talking sign technology, detectable warnings and curb ramps, wayfinding tiles and other directional surface treatments, and audible pedestrian signals with emphasis on the location of and timing of push button control locator tones. These research projects have led to published results in recognized academic journals which have in turn served as decisive ammunition in influencing decision makers at the national and international levels to include items of special interest to our membership in ongoing standard setting projects. In particular, Bentzen pointed to the inclusion of language on location and timing of push button locator tones in the current draft language of the latest revision of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Bentzen's recent research on roundabouts is demonstrating to traffic engineers that these designs often have adverse impact upon blind and visually impaired pedestrians.
When the NISH appeal came up for discussion, Edwards told the board that a scheduled meeting of the advocacy services committee during the coming week was expected to result in a post-convention report on this topic. Several board members raised concerns about the potential cost of the appeal, as well as the requirement which had been imposed by the trial court of having one lead counsel, who happened to be the NFB's counsel, speak for all party defendant intervenors. In response, Edwards assured the board that their concerns would be conveyed to the advocacy services committee.
Second vice president Pam Shaw reported on the work of a special ad hoc committee which had reviewed applications from ACB affiliates for financial support. The committee recommended that the board approve a grant of $3,000 to the ACB of Maryland to assist with a well-designed membership development campaign. The board voted to approve the grant request of the ACB of Maryland.
In his report on behalf of the history committee, Dr. Otis Stephens indicated that, since the manuscript of the ACB history is nearing completion, the committee is turning its attention to finding a publisher. The committee has some encouraging leads and believes that the ACB history can and should be published during the year 2001, the 40th anniversary of ACB's founding. The chief editor for the history, Dr. Jim Megivern, described the revised contents and chapter outline of the history and said that he expected the publication to be completed by the 2001 convention.
The next topic was the recently announced acquisition and merger of Blazie Engineering and Henter-Joyce into Freedom Scientific. Although the board was pleased that Freedom Scientific would be exhibiting Blazie products at this convention, several members expressed concern over the dampening of competition in the assistive technology products field, which may result in higher prices for blind consumers. On the other hand, Brian Charlson pointed out that in addition to exhibiting a full line of Blazie Engineering products at this convention, Freedom Scientific had also donated a Braille Lite for a deaf-blind consumer to use at this convention. Pam Shaw agreed to take the lead in preparing and submitting a resolution concerning Freedom Scientific.
In a discussion of the circumstances which had led him to authorize posting the 2000 convention program on ACB's web site, Edwards told the board that the board of publications had persuaded him that the membership's right to relevant and timely information outweighed the concerns for protecting ACB revenues through the convention administrative fee which had lead the board to adopt a 1996 policy prohibiting release of the program in advance of the convention.
Crawford announced that a lawsuit brought by a blind woman employee of a bank in Oregon which had been supported by ACB was successfully settled with the blind woman being awarded the reasonable accommodations which she had sought.
Under old business, Edwards and Charlson indicated that in late March, because WeMedia had not been able to guarantee the terms which had been a condition of ACB's preliminary understanding, the decision was made to break off negotiations with WeMedia and to keep the ACB web site located at Telepath. Under new business, Brian Charlson announced innovative computer/Internet classes which would be made available to presidents and leaders of ACB affiliates during convention week. The classes, Charlson said, were being funded by a grant from Bell Atlantic, and conducted by trainers from the Carroll Center.
As the meeting concluded, the board voted to thank outgoing directors Chris Gray, Ardis Bazyn and Sue Ammeter for their dedicated service as ACB board members. These three directors were not eligible to run for re-election to the board at this convention on account of term limit provisions in the ACB constitution. In addition, the board voted to express its heartfelt thanks to John Buckley for his dedicated service to ACB as scholarship committee chairman.*****
Paul Edwards opened the meeting by welcoming all board members and guests. He announced that Kim Charlson will be serving as the board of publications' designated ex-officio member on the ACB board of directors for one year and will conclude her service following the pre-convention board of directors meeting in 2001.
Regarding the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services, Pat Beattie announced that LeRoy Saunders has stepped down as chair of ACBES. Pat Beattie is now the ACBES chair. Michael Garrett from Houston, Texas has joined the ACBES board. ACBES corporate elections will be held in the fall. Efforts are under way to fill the ACBES executive director position.
Resolution 2000-47 regarding distribution of braille materials from the ACB national office was referred by the convention to the board for action. A committee was established consisting of Kim Charlson, Penny Reeder, Terry Pacheco, Dawn Christensen and a representative from the Braille Revival League. The committee's charge is to research implications of expanded braille document distribution from the ACB national office including financial and staffing ramifications, and to recommend a plan and timeline for more effective handling of braille document distribution. A report was scheduled to be made to the board at the September meeting.
Resolution 2000-23, which was also referred to the board for action, deals with the establishment of a committee to assist in the mid-year meeting planning process, to include board members and designated state and special-interest affiliate presidents. Committee members responsible for implementation of this resolution are Pat Beattie, Paul Edwards and Alan Beatty. A report will be submitted to the board with implementation strategies and a suggested time frame.
Resolution 2000-43 relating to leadership training was adopted by the membership and forwarded to the board for action. A committee consisting of Paul Edwards, Pat Beattie, Charlie Crawford, Mitch Pomerantz and Alan Beatty will work on a report for the board on possible directions for ACB leadership development training.
Sanford Alexander reported on the resolution prioritization process which is conducted to assist staff in handling implementation of those resolutions that are time sensitive, as opposed to those that can wait for later action. Alexander explained that the advocacy services committee had met during the convention and made the following recommendations to the board:
(1) After analyzing the circumstances surrounding the National Industries for the Severely Handicapped (NISH) suit involving the Randolph-Sheppard vending program, it was believed that it was appropriate for ACB to become more involved and remain involved with the NISH appeal. Funding for the appeal could come from the small surplus left over from the initial funds set aside for the case. The appeal process should be less expensive than participating with the defense against the suit, Alexander reported, and ACB can contribute other resources and not necessarily expend a great deal of money to be involved. The amount of $5,000 for ongoing pursuit of the NISH appeal was suggested and authorized.
(2) ACB has been asked to enter into the filing of an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on the Garrett v. Alabama case. This will be an extremely important ADA case that will be coming up before the Supreme Court for argument in October 2000. Melanie Brunson, ACB's director of governmental affairs, was directed to research possible avenues that ACB could pursue to join other organizations in support of this case. A motion affirming ACB's involvement in the Garrett case was adopted.
(3) Melanie Brunson participated in a negotiating meeting in Portland, Ore., to assist in the development of terms for settlement on a significant employment discrimination case involving an employee who is blind and a major national bank. ACB believes that this is a strong blindness-related employment discrimination case and was pleased to be involved in its settlement.
Much discussion ensued regarding the labor issue between the unionized narrators at the American Printing House for the Blind and APH management regarding salary issues, working conditions and medical benefits. The role of the board with respect to outside labor concerns was discussed. A motion was approved directing the executive director to conduct fact-finding and when more details have been determined, to send a transmittal letter from ACB conveying our understanding of the facts in the situation and encouraging both sides to move forward in good faith negotiations to settle the labor dispute. A further recommendation that negotiations should take place to ensure no interruption in the production of recorded materials for the Library of Congress talking book program was made.
Board members selected Sanford Alexander and Ed Bradley to represent them on the executive committee, and officers chose LeRoy Saunders and Cynthia Towers as their representatives to the executive committee.
Finally, under housekeeping activities, the board dissolved the ad hoc committee on selling of merchandise and the initial task force on affiliate rights and responsibilities.*****
Featuring Scrooge, portrayed by the Social Security Administration; Bob Cratchit, portrayed by blind and visually impaired people who are eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); and Tiny Tim, portrayed by blind and visually impaired people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Why this satire? Because there is little about Social Security which makes one feel merry, as in Christmas. Much about the story was less than happy. Certainly, the character of Tiny Tim had a lifestyle which can be well understood by Americans who are dependent upon SSI, and the Cratchit family as a whole had little more to live on or look forward to.
But Dickens' main protagonist, Scrooge, did finally see the error of his miserly ways, as does our modern-day Scrooge, the Social Security Administration. So let's talk up front about our modern-day Scrooge's gifts for this holiday season.
Tiny Tim doesn't quite rate a fatted goose or turkey. You do get this one-time-only gift: your SSI benefit payment for January will be paid to you on Dec. 29, 2000. And you do get an increase in monthly benefits. The federal minimum benefit for a single beneficiary goes from $512 per month to $530; for married couples who both receive SSI, the benefit goes up to $796.
Keep in mind that some states provide a state supplement to increase the monthly benefit for both single and married beneficiaries. The supplement amount varies from state to state. We will discuss the state component of SSI a little later.
So in this version of "The Christmas Carol," life for our modern-day Tiny Tim continues to be pretty tough. And here's another thing to remember before you rush out to spend your new- found wealth. The cost of basic Medicare coverage will increase from $45.50 per month to $50, beginning with your January payment. This applies to all Medicare beneficiaries, whether you receive SSI, SSDI or retirement benefits.
Now, what about the Cratchit family in general? The gift in this year's stocking for beneficiaries under SSDI, as well as retirees, is that your January check will include a 3.5 percent cost of living increase.
For SSDI beneficiaries, the earnings limit continues its slow but steady climb upward. During calendar year 2001, the substantial gainful activity level (SGA), the amount our modern- day Bob Cratchit is allowed to earn without losing eligibility for cash benefits is $1,240 per month, or $14,880 per year.
There are lots of ways in which an individual, particularly individuals who are self-employed, can earn much more than the SGA limitation without losing benefits. We will discuss some of those income reduction rules in future issues of "The Braille Forum."
The two Social Security programs which most impact the lives of blind and visually impaired Americans are the SSDI and SSI benefit programs. What we want to do here is to point out the major differences between SSI and SSDI.
Clearly our modern-day Tiny Tim, represented by those individuals with blindness or vision loss who are dependent upon SSI to survive, has some serious issues to cope with. The SSI program came into existence when the federal government took over the old state cash benefit programs for the blind and severe vision loss community.
Because of its historical roots in state programming, SSI remains part federal and part state. The Social Security Administration sets up the basic eligibility and benefit standards for SSI, and the states have individual authority to impact those federal guidelines. For example, many states provide the Social Security Administration with revenues to increase the monthly benefit payment. A beneficiary may not be aware of what is causing his or her level of benefits to rise, because the state's monthly payment is included in the one payment from SSA.
Every state could add a supplemental benefit for Tiny Tim, the SSI beneficiary, if we as advocates would educate our state legislative bodies about the difficulty of living on SSI. In our opinion, the Clinton administration failed miserably in welfare reform by not addressing the inequities of the SSI program.
More than the matter of the amount of the monthly benefit, the major difference between SSI and SSDI is about economic empowerment. Our modern-day Tiny Tim, while on SSI, is restricted both by how much he can earn and by his own financial status. There are extreme limits on how much money you can have, either in cash or tangible assets (e.g. a home, a car, or other such things). What is worse is that Social Security not only looks at your income, if you are an SSI beneficiary, but at the income of others who live in the family unit. If you are a dependent, living at home, even over 18 years of age, the (Scroogey) Social Security Administration will consider your parents' income in determining financial eligibility for benefits. If you are married to a working spouse, they will take into account your spouse's income.
Today's Bob Cratchit, receiving SSDI benefits, faces a wholly different set of issues which govern eligibility. SSDI, when it works properly, is really an excellent disability insurance program that provides cash payments to beneficiaries, based on prior earnings and age, with no regard to their financial assets.
We who are blind and visually impaired have worked hard to obtain special provisions for beneficiaries who are legally blind. For example, the amount of money we can earn and remain eligible for benefits is substantially higher than that for beneficiaries with other disabilities. Also, the number of quarters we are required to work can be as few as six, depending on age, and should not have to exceed 20. Individuals with disabilities other than blindness must have paid in for at least 40 quarters.
In our next article, we will address the rules impacting earnings limits for those of you (Tiny Tims who are) SSI beneficiaries in more detail. In the meantime, whether you receive SSI, SSDI or neither, have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.*****
In addition to presenting three successful days of outstanding programming at the ACB national convention in Louisville, the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss was pleased to receive unexpected local press coverage in "The Louisville Courier." Subsequent to a phone call delivered through our ACB press room, President Teddie Remhild was visited by a reporter from "The Louisville Courier" who wanted to learn about a program which was scheduled for presentation by the AAVL in partnership with the committee on deaf-blind concerns, to address the issues associated with the combined losses of vision and hearing in later years. The guest speaker, Martha Bagley of the American Printing House for the Blind, and formerly of the Helen Keller Institute, spoke about the particular challenges of experiencing both vision and hearing loss in later life and was joined by a panel who discussed the various devices available to assist individuals with hearing loss. Patty Sarchi, chair of the committee on deaf-blind concerns, moderated this program.
In addition, AAVL presented programs on coping with vision loss in later years, as well as adapting to the challenges of later life, a rap session and the very popular Musical Mixer featuring Al Gayzagian and Cathy Skivers playing piano selections of "The Songs from the Good Old Days."
At its business meeting, AAVL elected Teddie Remhild as president for a two-year term, Freddie Peaco as vice president, Jean Peyton, secretary and Ken Metz and Michael Richman as board members.
More than 300 participants in the Randolph-Sheppard program gathered in New Orleans over Labor Day weekend to discuss "A Vision for the Future." Licensed managers, BEP staff, and state licensing agency directors spent four days seeking ways to advance the future growth of the Randolph-Sheppard program.
The first national conference since 1994, the New Orleans meeting was largely an outgrowth of the "Call for Action" developed by ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford in 1998 in response to challenges facing blind vending facility managers throughout the nation. Sponsors included Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, American Council of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind, National Association of Blind Merchants, the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind.
RSVA set the tone for the conference by its commitment to advocating on behalf of the interest of managers. Revising the definition of "active participation," expanding employment opportunities through marketing the program, and addressing program challenges were major points of priority for the RSVA legal team in the victorious military dining facility lawsuit in the Federal District Court for Eastern Virginia, which brought participants up to date on future prospects for the program on military bases.
Leading RSVA were Terry Camardelle, president; Donnie Anderson, second vice president; Kim Venable, treasurer; Julie Carroll, legal counsel; Charles Glaser; Richard Bird; Ardis Bazyn; Art Stevenson; John Gordon; and many others. The ACB was well represented by Charlie Crawford and Terry Pacheco.
Kim Venable seemed to be everywhere at once, assisting the Louisiana Rehabilitation Services in hosting the conference while serving as a floor leader, managing the RSVA hospitality suite and guiding tours of historic Bourbon Street.
Ardis Bazyn, program chair for Sagebrush, invited Terry Murphy, NCSAB President, and Tom Robertson, chair of the Randolph-Sheppard Committee for NCSAB, as well as federal and other state officials to continue the dialogue in Las Vegas March 14-18, 2001. Richard Bird, chair of the Sagebrush conference, offered to provide vendors and administrators each a meeting room at the conference.
The New Jersey Council of the Blind held its state convention Oct. 20-22, 2000 at the Days Inn in Bordentown. At the convention, Garden State Guide Dog Users Inc. was voted in as a chapter of the New Jersey Council. The group is looking forward to being voted in as a state affiliate of GDUI at the national convention in Des Moines.
If you are employed by your town, city, state or federal government, you are invited to become a member of ACB Government Employees. If retired from any of the above, you are also welcome to join ACBGE. Many people think government employees means only the federal government. Not so. ACBGE strives to provide an interesting program for members during the ACB annual convention, including a social mixer at the beginning of convention week, and a lunch and afternoon program covering subjects of interest to local, state and federal employees. Dues for ACBGE are $10 per year, payable on or before January 1 of each calendar year. If you would like to have a dues notice sent to you, please leave a message for ACBGE treasurer Skip Hayes at (703) 532-2618, or e-mail to [email protected] Make sure you leave your name and address, spelling any hard-to-spell names, streets and so forth. A dues notice and return envelope will be sent to you. The mailing address for the ACBGE treasurer is: Skip Hayes, P.O. Box 7230, Falls Church, VA 22040.
At the ACB national convention in Louisville, the ACB Radio Amateurs held its annual meeting and elections. Due to a constitutional change approved in 1998, terms for officers are now two years in length; board members' terms are three years. ACBRA's officers are: Mike Duke, K5XU, president; John Glass, NJ6P, vice president; Berna Specht, KE4VCN, secretary; and Robert Rogers, K8CO, treasurer. Andy Baracco, WQ6R, was elected to the board.
ACBRA is already making plans for the ACB national convention in Des Moines next year. But before doing that, everyone who wants to be counted as a member needs to pay dues. Affiliate lists are due back at the national office by late February. So send your membership dues of $10 to Robert Rogers, 1121 Morado Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45238.
ACBRA is planning to have its breakfast get-together at the convention, possibly on Sunday morning. There are plans to move the annual meeting to sometime later in the week; more on that later.
VIDPI is already looking forward to the 2001 ACB convention. Once again, VIDPI will have a program of vendor-presented computer technology on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday or Wednesday, there will be a luncheon with a speaker, and the annual business meeting will follow.
Since there was such an enthusiastic response to VIDPI- sponsored computer training at the convention, there are discussions about doing it again. Stay tuned for further information.
If you would like to be a member of VIDPI, get your dues in by February. Full membership is $20; associate member dues, $10. Send your dues to Mary Abramson, 0N032 Ambleside Dr. #2402, Winfield, IL 60190-1904.
VIDPI also has a chat room available on the web site, http://www.acb.org/vidpi. It's easy to use; you need a computer with a sound card, a microphone, some voice chat software which your computer will download automatically the first time you visit the chat room, and a graphical web browser. Chat sessions are held on Sundays at 8 p.m. Eastern; the room is available at other times as well. And if you'd like to join the VIDPI e-mail list, send a blank e-mail to [email protected]
Guide Dog Users Inc. in Texas is the newest affiliate of GDUI. It is in the process of planning its first statewide organizational meeting, scheduled for Saturday, January 27, 2001 at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center, 4800 North Lamar, in Austin. Plans include a panel discussion with representatives from each of the dog guide schools. Each panel member will have a few minutes to present an overview of his school's training program, and then we will allow time to answer questions and hear concerns expressed by dog guide users from the audience. The one day conference will also include speakers on such other topics as geriatric dog health, and legal access and enforcement of guide dog laws.
We need your help to reach Texas dog guide users so that we can share information about the group with them. Please let all your friends in Texas know about this exciting opportunity to organize and advocate for ourselves and our dogs. For more information about the group, or about the upcoming statewide conference, please contact Kathy Blackburn, president, 8607 Delaware Court, Austin, TX 78758; phone (512) 837-7557, or e- mail, [email protected]*****
(Editor's Note: As our December Braille Forum goes to press on the week before Thanksgiving, we are amazed to contemplate the fact that we still do not know which candidate is planning his inaugural celebration and which is planning a quiet night at home in front of the fire. Yet we, like all of you, believe that there will be cause for celebration on the evening of January 20 -- no matter who the victor turns out to be. For, by then, American will have weathered and triumphed over the significant storms spawned on November 7. We will celebrate a triumph of democratic principles and reaffirmation of the constitutional precepts which have sustained U. S. citizens for more than two centuries now. So, no matter who is throwing the inaugural ball, we hope that you will think about purchasing your own glass slippers -- and join in the celebration!)
When I was 14 or 15 years old, I remember seeing fuzzy pictures of a Presidential Inaugural Ball on our little black and white TV. I can't remember which president was being honored, but the celebration was very impressive. Presidents can ask any famous stars they like to attend and perform at their balls. The stars get a lot of publicity and the public gets a lot of free entertainment. At that stage of my life, I was more impressed by the entertainers than by the political significance. Up until that time, I had thought presidents just presided over very dull meetings and made very dull speeches. (Come to think of it ...)
Since moving to Washington, DC 13 years ago, I learned that every four years on January 20th, the city holds a big parade and many parties. It is Inauguration Day and the whole city celebrates. There is not just one inaugural ball, but several official balls and many unofficial ones. The President, First Lady, Vice President and Second Lady attend all official balls -- a long night for everyone involved. I have attended three Inaugural Balls to honor two presidents, one for Bush and two for Clinton. It doesn't matter what political persuasion one supports. Celebrations honor the office of the presidency and our country, not the actual person who was elected to the office. At least, that's my opinion.
The first time I was invited to an inaugural ball, I got the invitation because of my job. I was director of communications for the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), a veterans' service organization. The BVA always got tickets to attend the Veterans Ball. The Veterans Ball is an official ball named the "Salute to Heroes," and usually is the first ball that the president visits. The Veterans Ball serves an elegant four-course dinner, has great live music and dancing to entertain 1,200 people. Some official balls do not serve food or even provide places to sit down. One mingles until the president and his party arrive and go. Tickets cost about $100 each, even to some of the balls without food or seats. At that price, tickets are still much sought after. Invitations to the "Salute to Heroes" are limited to veterans, their families and guests. I was the "and guest."
After receiving and accepting the invitation, the big search began for the perfect ball gown. An inaugural ball is not an occasion for a cocktail dress or dressy anything else. It requires a ball gown. There is probably more written about inaugural gowns than is written about the people wearing them. Since I hadn't owned a formal gown since the frilly one my mother made for the junior prom, I joined the hunt. Men have it easy; they wear tuxedos and only have to decide what color cummerbund will distinguish their attire. Women have many choices to make and often at great expense. Some women spend hundreds of dollars to buy their gowns; some spend hundreds of dollars to rent designer gowns. Time is invested looking for the perfect inaugural gown. Because I didn't have hundreds of dollars and scads of time to spend, I went to a bridal shop and after a couple of hours trying on many designs that could be custom made, I found a silver crepe floor length gown with silver applique around the neck for $100. It was hanging on a rack all by itself and on sale. Perhaps it was an unclaimed made-to-order dress for a wedding that didn't happen or was abandoned by a mother of the bride who didn't like the finished creation. It was fine for me and the only accessories I needed were silver earrings, an evening purse and shoes. I wore that gown in 1989 and 1993 and refer to it as the dowager duchess dress. It has been retired for the time being.
At any presidential function where the public is permitted, much attention is given to security. Metal detectors, like the ones at airports, are everywhere, and the screeners appear to be more intense than the usual security guards. They are Secret Service agents and every guest is carefully scrutinized. My tiny beaded evening bag only has space for a lipstick and tissues. It was amusing to watch a huge man open and peer into it. He was only doing his job. Even when I went back and forth to the ladies room, I had to pass through security and the evening bag was inspected.
The sense of excitement and expectation was present throughout the evening. After all, everyone was dressed up for a big occasion and being among so many beautifully dressed people added to the sense of excitement. Part of the fun was seeing that my gown fit in very well with so many more expensive gowns. For the primary players, it must have been absolutely exhausting. They had already sat through or marched in the Inaugural Parade that lasted for five or six hours. I have not attended any of the parades myself because it is easier for me to see them on television with the narration.
At the first Inaugural Ball I attended in 1989, our table was very close to the head table where all the commanders and presidents of the veterans organizations were seated. About 20 minutes before the President's party was scheduled to arrive, food serving stopped and no one was allowed to enter or leave the ballroom. Apparently, halls and doors are selected by the Secret Service at the last moment for the president's party to use. No one knew the route so all doors were watched. The lights got brighter and the music played. We knew the instant the president arrived because the band played "Hail to the Chief" as one of the doors opened and the president's party swept in. I was only about 20 feet from President Bush when he came in, and could easily see him and his party move into the room and up to the head table. By the time he reached the front, everyone was standing and applauding wildly. After he and the other dignitaries were introduced, the president made a very short speech about how wonderful it was to be there, and after about 10 minutes of handshaking and hand waving, his party left and headed to the next of 12 official balls. Food service resumed, we dined, and the music and dancing went on until the wee hours. When we finally departed, I suppose everyone was as tired as I was, but they all appeared to be happy to have taken part in the nation's celebration.
Even though I probably won't ever meet a President or First Lady, I did meet some very special people at each of the three Veterans Inaugural Balls I attended. The honored guests were the Congressional Medal of Honor veterans, and some sat at my table. After meeting some of these heroes and hearing their stories, I realized again that we should never take our freedoms for granted. It may sound a little soppy, but it is absolutely true.
If you are ever invited to attend such a celebration in the future, no matter what your political leanings are, I'm certain that you will also find it to be a wonderful experience to be a part of the nation's party of all parties. While writing this article, a little voice occasionally chirps, "Where are you going to look for that next perfect ball gown?"*****
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. General comments on the Forum
I just got my issue of "The Braille Forum." First off, I like the information about workshops. I work at the Virginia Industries for the Blind in Charlottesville, Va. I've worked there since I was 21; I'm now 35 years old. I chose it because, along with blindness, I have some brain damage which caused a hearing disability. Also, I wanted to be with other people who had disabilities.
I've had good jobs over the years. ... I did the bagging, learned to pack and renovate mattresses, then folded sweatshirts that we made for the Army. I did the other [work] on the assembly line that didn't call for a sewing machine. I'm well liked as a co-worker. I don't think money is everything. It's all in a day's work. I finish tasks on time or ahead ... then go home knowing I have earned my pay and given something to the world.
Another thing, the story about glaucoma: the doctor found out I have glaucoma. I learned a little about glaucoma. It was helpful.
-- Annette E. Lockington, Charlottesville, Va.
Regarding today's traffic
To the Editor,
In recent days the ACB-L e-mail list has seen many messages regarding a tragic automobile accident in which a blind pedestrian was critically injured and later died. I was saddened by the event, but I was also disturbed at many of the responses I read on the list. Many immediately concluded that the driver was at fault, stating that the law requires a driver to stop when a blind person approaches. In theory, such a law is great, but there are often situations where something happens so fast that the driver is unable to react in time, in spite of all due caution and skill. There may have been many other factors involved in this tragic accident; a poorly designed intersection, weather, bright sunlight that impeded the driver's vision, or the woman or her guide dog may have made a bad decision that caused the event.
Some said officials are all too quick to side with the driver, as evidenced by findings in a large number of accidents involving blind people over the past several years. The fact that far too many blind people have been struck and killed by autos in the past 5 years does not necessarily imply that the drivers were at fault. There is more traffic in our major cities than ever before, and there are more accidents involving pedestrians. Anyone who has been driving for years will tell you that it is more difficult and dangerous today than in the past.
We who are blind are more likely to be active and take calculated risks today than in the past. We go to school, work, and do other things that require us to cross streets, sometimes taking our lives in our hands. I have been a dog user, and I traveled with a cane in Pittsburgh for 18 years. I was a competent and careful traveler, but I still had some close calls that I'm aware of, and perhaps some very close calls that I don't even want to know about. Most of them had nothing to do with driver error. In fact, if it were not for skilled drivers, some of my close calls would probably have gotten me killed. They happened because of wind, noise, my lapses in concentration, construction, ice and snow, or sometimes just due to a misjudgment on my part. The plain truth is that traveling without sight is risky, and increased traffic and congestion are not helping matters.
Yes, there are bad and careless drivers out there, but let's not waste the emotional energy aroused by this recent accident by simply blaming the driver prior to any investigation or strong evidence. Instead, I urge all of us to funnel the energy created by our anger and sadness into work on things we may have the power to change. Are improvements needed in guide dog and cane travel techniques currently being taught? Do we need more audible pedestrian signals? Do intersections need to be evaluated for safety in view of increased traffic? Do new tools need to be developed to minimize risk to our safety? Do drivers need to be taught more effective safety skills? The answer to all of these is yes, and each of us can do our part to promote change.
If the driver in this incident was at fault, then I hope he or she is found guilty and appropriately prosecuted. We human beings are prone to make mistakes, and a simple error in driving, such as concentrating on passing traffic on the left while forgetting for just an instant to look to the right, could result in someone's death. Driver, if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol or if you were somehow otherwise blatantly negligent, then I hope you go to jail. On the other hand, if you were not at fault, or if you simply made a small human error that, due to random chance, caused this horrible occurrence, then I urge you to forgive yourself and join us in our efforts to promote change that will result in safer travel for people who are blind. I also urge you to forgive us for making you an undeserved lightning rod for our emotions.
-- Jerry Berrier, Shrewsbury, Mass.
Regarding a previous letter to the editor
I am canceling my subscription to "The Braille Forum" because I am so upset by your decision to publish Bud Keith's letter. I believe that Keith owes ACB a public apology for inappropriately airing matters which should, at best, be reserved for private conversations. He should examine his own backyard instead of trying to point fingers publicly. Comments about how someone looks or dresses should not be for public consumption. Issues of personal appearance should be quietly and diplomatically discussed. If he has particular people in mind, he owes those people, and ACB, the courtesy of bringing up such matters in private conversation.
-- Jack Hogarth, Denver, Colo.*****
I'm delighted to be selected by Penny Reeder and the board of publications to be editor of this column. For many years, I admired the work of Elizabeth Lennon, and hope to continue her example of dedicated service to ACB. Sincere thanks go also to Sharon Lovering who has written this column many times and sets a high standard to follow. My association with ACB goes back nearly 20 years when I submitted articles to then "Braille Forum" editor, Mary Ballard. In my home state, I served two terms as president of the Mississippi Council of the Blind, then two terms as that affiliate's secretary. Later, I was invited to serve as a member on ACB national committees such as scholarship, credentials, environmental access, women's concerns, and the CCLVI board. I was especially honored to serve as chair of the board of publications; for four years, I headed up the ACB convention press room. Currently, I serve as secretary for ACB Government Employees, and am president of my local chapter in northern Virginia. My experiences on local and national committees and boards have given me a thorough background and appreciation of the dedicated volunteer work done by ACB members throughout the United States.
My professional working life as a blind woman included being editor of the magazine for the Blinded Veterans Association, the founding director of a statewide radio reading service, a policy analyst in the federal government and, for about 12 minutes, a Playboy bunny. (That adventure appeared in a 1985 "Braille Forum.")
ACB means many things to many people. For me, ACB has given me a sense of belonging to a group that strives to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired citizens. Because of my involvement with ACB, my participation has led to wonderful career opportunities, and introduced me to my husband. What more can I say, except cheers to ACB!
Plans for "Here and There" are to provide as much useful information as possible. For every item that sends readers to their computers, I hope to include an item that does not require any computer use at all. If you have an item to be considered for this column, please call the ACB toll-free number, (800) 424- 8666, and leave me a message describing the product or service. You can also send e-mail directly to me at [email protected] Please bear in mind that we receive hundreds of messages a month, and must select those items that are most useful for our readers.
Products and services announced in this column are not an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its staff, or elected officials. Services and products are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products and services mentioned.
The 2000 convention tapes are now available! A full set consists of all general sessions, the Thursday breakout sessions, the ADA clinic, the legislative seminar, the diabetes seminar, and the small business seminar. There is no banquet tape due to rules governing the recording of professional musicians. A full set costs $25; separate sessions cost $5 each. Call the ACB national office toll-free at (800) 424-8666 to order. Or you may send your payment, along with your request, your name, address and telephone number to ACB Convention Tapes, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase 3.5 percent in 2001. These benefits increase automatically each year based on the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In real terms, this means that for people who are blind or who have severe vision loss, but are working and receiving SSDI, the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level will rise from $1,170 to $1,240 per month.
For individuals receiving federal SSI payments, the monthly rate will change from $512 to $530. For a couple, the maximum federal SSI monthly payment will rise from $769 to $796. For more information, call your local Social Security office, or visit the web site at http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/index.html.
BRL, Inc. is offering its tutorials and key guides at reduced prices for gifts during the holiday season. Gift orders will be accepted through January 15, 2001. Orders may be placed online at http://www.wyfiwyg.com or by phone at (770) 716-9222, or by fax at (770) 716-9599. All orders are shipped UPS.
Tutorials include: "Verbal View of Microsoft Windows 95 and 98" (standard print and audio cassette, $45; large print, $55; grade 2 braille, $90); "Verbal View of Microsoft Word 2000" (print and cassette, $45; large print, $55; grade 2 braille, $65); "Getting Started with Microsoft Windows 98" (grade 2 braille and audio cassette, $45); "Microsoft Windows 98 Key Guide" (print and audio cassette, $10; large print and grade 2 braille, $15); "Microsoft Word 97/2000 Key Guide" (print and cassette, $10; large print and braille, $15); and "Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.x Key Guide" (print and cassette, $10; large print and braille, $15).
A brochure detailing the 142-year history of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has recently been published. It is the first company-sponsored history of the Printing House. The brochure is available from the Callahan Museum of APH at no cost to the public. Available in print and braille editions, the brochure may be requested by calling the Callahan Museum at (502) 895-2405 ext. 365 or by e-mail, [email protected]
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has established a project called the "Teacher Next Door" for public and private school teachers. The program offers HUD-owned, single family houses at a 50 percent discount to teachers in K-12 classrooms. The teacher must commit to living in the house for three years. For more information, call toll-free (800) 217- 6970, or visit their web site http://www.hud.gov/tnd/tndfact.html.
Lions World Services for the Blind will offer a new course beginning Feb. 5, 2001, in Microsoft Computer Systems Engineer 2000. Prior to the nine-month course, all candidates must be on the LWSB campus (in Little Rock, AR) for a 30-day evaluation beginning no later than January 8, 2001. The curriculum throughout the course prepares students for MCSE 2000 industry-standard certification through seven certification exams.
Following training and certification, successful students will be eligible for several employment opportunities in the field of technology. A person who is blind or visually impaired can work at businesses that have a computer network, internally or externally, facilities such as educational institutions, hospitals, government agencies, banks, and much more.
This training was made possible through a collaborative agreement between LWSB and Information Technology Education Center (ITEC), also located in Little Rock. ITEC has been providing information technology training in central Arkansas. For more information about the prerequisite skills, contact Sherrill Wilson, LWSB Director of Training, at (501) 664-7100, e- mail, [email protected], or at the web site, www.lwsb.org.
Dr. Irmo Marini, an associate professor specializing in the graduate training of rehabilitation counseling students at the University of Texas, is seeking personal experience stories written in the first person by people with disabilities. The finished textbook will be used to train students throughout the country to understand the experiences and perspectives of people with various disabilities.
Contributors will be cited as the first co-author of their chapter, and will have an opportunity to help non-disabled counselors understand disability situations. Dr. Marini, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 1981, proposes that instead of reading what non-disabled writers "theorize" about disability, this textbook will focus on real life experiences of people who are living with a disability.
Your chapter should be 1,500-2,500 words, double-spaced and typed using Microsoft Word 97, or WordPerfect (versions from 5.1 to 7). Also required is a printed copy and 3.5-inch disk. The topical areas listed below should be included. 1) basic demographic information including your disability, how/when it happened, education, age, marital and living arrangement status, employment or history of; 2) how you perceive you have been treated by society (public places, hospitals, social occasions, etc.) overall in general as well as specific instances which may occur every now and then; 3) what ways you have used to deal/cope with your disability which could include aspects of your personality, family support, finances; 4) if/when there are times you feel as though your situation (which may/may not have anything to do with your disability) becomes difficult to cope with, and if so, what generally triggers these feelings; 5) what do you believe to be the greatest assets and the greatest barriers in your life; 6) what key messages/advice would you want to convey to soon-to-be counselors regarding working with people with disabilities (your chance to educate them); and 7) any other information you deem important for a psychosocial textbook for counselors working in this field.
If you are interested in contributing a chapter, please contact Dr. Marini (collect) at (956) 316-7035, or e-mail at [email protected], or write to University of Texas-Pan American, Rehabilitation Services, 1201 W. University Drive, Edinburg, TX 78539-2999.
Following a near miss that could have been a tragic accident for Beth Marcus and her pet dog, and because she didn't like the reflective apparel available, she founded a company called Glow Dog, Inc. The company sells unique safety apparel for people and pets. Glow Dog uses a technology called "IlumiNITE," a printing process that embeds millions of microscopic reflectors into the weave of a fabric. Because the reflectors are microscopic, the fabric maintains softness and daylight/indoor color. At night, the fabric reflects a brilliant light in the headlights of oncoming cars.
The company specializes in reflective safety wear. For dogs, there are bandanas, capes, even a bow tie (for formal wear). For cats, there are a few items, in case your cat would deign to wear something like a collar decoration. For humans, there are polar fleece jackets, boat hats, pants, backpacks, raincoats, T-shirts, safety vests and windbreakers, as well as children's windbreakers and other items.
All merchandise and a catalog appear on the Glow Dog web site. Visit http://www.glowdog.com, e-mail [email protected], call toll-free (888) 456-9364, or fax (781) 687-9888, address: 131A Great Rd., Bedford, MA 01730.
People who are blind and visually impaired with a goal to be self-employed may be interested in a conference to be held from March 29-31, 2001. The conference, entitled "Focus on Self- Employment," will be coordinated by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (RRTC) and takes place in Portland, Ore. Sessions will focus on the role of future entrepreneurs with severe visual impairments, the resources and training that can increase effectiveness, and accommodations needed to make the business competitive and successful. For registration information, contact Stacy Butler at (662) 325-3304, or e-mail her at [email protected]
For those who work using a computer with screen reader while also answering a phone, this split headset may be the solution to avoid a stiff neck! This headset plugs into a phone and a computer enabling the user to hear the phone while navigating through computer applications and hearing the screen reader. The headset costs $280, and is available from a company named CCAI. For more details, phone (303) 365-0008, fax (303) 365-0105, e- mail [email protected], or visit the web site, http://www.ccai-sales.com.
Do you want to read your own private financial statements and bills in braille or large print? Tell your bank, credit card, utility and other financial companies about Accessible Braille Services, a division of the Metrolina Association for the Blind. ABS accepts transmitted data and printed bills and statements from companies and translates them into braille or large print for customers who request them. To learn more, call (704) 887-5101, or visit the web site, http://www.mab-jlbm.com.
The Probert Encyclopedia is now available on-line, free of charge, in a special edition designed for blind and visually impaired readers. It contains no pictures, making it easier to read with a screen reader. Visit http://www.spaceports.com/~mprobert/access/index.html.
SBC Communications Inc. has announced that braille and large-print bills are now available to customers in all of the company's subsidiaries, including Ameritech, Nevada Bell, Pacific Bell and Southwestern Bell, to help remove barriers to independence for customers with visual impairments. With the availability of these bills, the company supports its commitment to the SBC Universal Design Policy, which promotes making products and services accessible to all customers, including those with disabilities.
In addition to these billing options, SBC has developed an instructional brochure for its most popular services in Braille, large print, and audio cassette. The brochure includes information about all of SBC's individual services as well as step-by-step instructions on how to access them. For more information regarding any of these services, or to receive Braille or large-print bills, subscribers may contact their local customer service representatives, or visit the web site, http://www.sbc.com.
Would you like to shop via phone? Contact Evoice toll-free, (800) 438-3864, and follow the directions. The company has a žscanž feature which allows people to shop for specific items. Call toll-free (800) 555-7226 and leave a message explaining in as much detail as possible what you would like to find. An on- line shopper will return your call with information.
Another facet of Evoice is called "Meet Your Mate." This is a group on Evoice where you can send messages that introduce you to someone who may become a significant other. "Meet Your Mate" is now open to members and non-members of Evoice in the United States. To send a message, call (800) 222-6000, press 5, and after being prompted, press the pound sign, followed by the number 727-4444. After the tone, introduce yourself using your Evoice number and/or other contact information. Describe your interests and the qualities you are seeking in a friend or mate. After completing your message, press the pound sign two times to send it. If you are a current member of Evoice you can listen to other people's introductory messages. If not, you must wait for other participants to contact you. To sign up for Evoice, call (800) 438-3864 and follow the voice prompts.
Have you always wanted to learn how to play the guitar? Visit http://www.musicvi.com and check out the guitar course called "Intro to the Guitar for the Visually Impaired." There are four complete courses in audio format as well as individual lessons and songs taught on CD or cassette. Lessons via the web site are changed monthly. There are also free samples of songs and lessons on the site.
Passion Press publishes books on CD and cassette, and recently put its catalog on tape. Among the company's many productions is D.H. Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover." To order, or request a free cassette catalog of titles, call toll- free (800) 724-3283, or visit the web site at http://www.passionpress.com.
Games and crosswords designed for children who are blind (ages 5 to 12) are available from MindsEye2. Products include sound effects and optional background music. Puzzles include: "Down on the Farm" (identify farm sounds); "Under the Sea"; "Don't Bug Me!"; Crossword Riddles; "A Day at the Zoo" and many more. The CD-ROMs run in Windows 95/98. Instructions are on the CD and in print. Braille or cassette instructions are available upon request. Prices range from $15-$40 (plus shipping). Order from MindsEye2, Route 1, Box 404-A, Bland, VA 24315. To order by credit card, call toll-free (888) 892-7878, or visit the web site http://www.mindseye2.bigstep.com.
This coffeehouse sells gourmet coffee, tea and gift baskets with braille labels, if requested. You can order by toll-free number or on-line. The catalog is available by e-mail only, but the people in this mom-and-pop computer coffeehouse are friendly and very responsive to phone customers. According to coffee lovers on the ACB listserv, the selection of coffees and teas is excellent. For more information, call toll-free (800) 347-9687, visit the web site, http://www.coffee-anyone.com, or e-mail inquiries to [email protected]
Former students of the New York Institute for Special Education are keeping in touch with other students through Evoice and a listserv. They invite current students and any former students to join them. The New York Institute's Evoice mailbox number is 694 73999. To sign up for the listserv, send an e-mail message to [email protected], leave the subject line blank and send the message.
Create braille business cards from your regular printed business cards with "The Impressor" from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). This custom-made, metal embosser allows you to display four lines, of 13 braille cells each, with a single squeeze of its handle. The Impressor costs $85; to order new metal plates to change the braille message, the cost is $42. To discuss the information you wish to present in braille, or to order, call (800) 223-1839.
California Canes provides a wide range of white canes, including the lightweight carbon fiber models that are lighter than aluminum canes and stronger than steel, according to a press release from the company. To contact California Canes, call (949) 489-1973, fax (949) 489-0996, or e-mail [email protected]*****
HELP NEEDED: My Open Book software developed a problem after a computer upgrade. I am a DOS dummy and my HP scanner stopped talking to me. My backup diskette says "reading error, abort, retry, fail?" I will pay a consulting fee to anyone who can solve this problem. Call Rod Lawson at (713) 665-1116, or e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: Pentium 233 PC completely loaded for blind user with Doubletalk and CD recorder plus 8 gigabyte drive, awe64 sound card, 56K modem and network card. Asking $2,000 or best offer. Yamaha four-track minidisk mixer newly cleaned and realigned with extra data disks. Asking $500. Roland DR660 drum machine, $200. Roland DR770, newest drum machine, in excellent condition. Brand-new. Asking $250. Call Dan Kysor at (916) 648-2147 or e-mail him at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Type 'n Speak with flash ROM, under service contract until September 2001. Asking $750. If interested, call Rodney at (703) 533-7650 or via e-mail, [email protected]
FOR SALE: King James Bible in braille, $100 or best offer. King James Bible on tape, $100 or best offer. Perkins brailler, excellent condition, $250 or best offer. Call Joe Turri on his voice pager, (810) 403-2402.
FOR SALE: One Reading Edge machine in excellent condition. $1,800 or best offer. Magnicam CCTV (black-and-white), perfect condition. $495 or best offer. Contact William Hobson via e- mail, [email protected]
FOR SALE: Keynote Gold Multimedia Speech version 1.11, $50. JAWS for Windows version 3.3, $200; comes with tutorials. Open Book version 3.0, $250. All three may be purchased for $500. If interested, send e-mail to [email protected]
FOR SALE: Kenwood TS450S ham transceiver with built-in antenna tuner and voice synthesizer. Hardly used. Comes with print and taped manuals, Kenwood power supply. Asking $800 (includes shipping and insurance). Digitech VHM5 (The Vocalist) Vocal Harmony Processor. When programmed, will change a single voice into two or more harmonized voices. Like new. Print and taped manuals. Asking $600 including shipping and insurance. Call Ray Howard at (740) 432-2287 or write to him at 61951 High Hill Rd., Cambridge, OH 43725.
FOR SALE: Two blood glucose monitors. OneTouch Profile with mini voice system, and a OneTouch II with a Voice Touch and an audio useržs guide. Each one comes with a carrying case, two boxes of B-D lancets and test strips. Asking $75 for each. Call Julia at (760) 741-6503.
FOR SALE: 386 computer, IBM-compatible, complete with Artic speech synthesizer, modem and monitor. Asking $125. Perkins braille writer, completely rebuilt. Asking $325. Braille Lite 2000, freshly serviced by Blazie with new battery pack. Not under service contract, but eligible for one since it was just inspected. Comes complete with power adaptor, carrying case and cables. Asking $1,750. Contact Nino Pacini at (313) 885-7330, or via e-mail at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak 640 with cables, braille manual, and carrying case. $500 or best offer. Contact David Redman at (626) 339-0805.
FOR SALE: Curtis A/B switch box for printers. Cable included. $20. Uniden Beartracker BCT-7, everything included; preprogrammed for your state, city or town. Can be used in car or home. $60. All prices include shipping. Contact Dan at (520) 284-3775 or via e-mail, [email protected]
FOR SALE: Eschenbach electronic magnifier (CCTV). Portable; has hand-held camera unit that can be mounted on a writing stand. Originally cost $3,700; best offer accepted. Call Allen Stutts at (919) 967-1874, or e-mail him at [email protected]
FOR SALE: PC 486 dx4 100 with 32 megabytes of memory, 540 meg hard drive, Soundblaster 16 audio card, CD-ROM, 250-meg RIC- 80 tape drive, Epson Stylus 500 color printer, 56k modem, Windows 95 and MS Office 97. $400 or best offer. AMD K 6-2 333 meg CPU, 64 meg memory, 8-gig hard drive, Soundblaster 16 audio card, runs Windows 95 and MS Office 97. Arctic card, US Robotics Sportster 56K external modem, 8x CD-ROM, 800-meg Travan tape drive. No keyboard. Asking $450 or best offer. For either system, call Margie Donovan at (415) 750-6604.
WANTED: 486 computer in good working order for use with my DP11+ and monochrome monitor. The computer needs to have MS-DOS 6.2 (diskless). I would prefer one that has two floppy drives: one for 5 1/4" disks and the other for 3 1/2" disks. Reasonable prices accepted; will pay for packaging and shipping. Call Douglas Price at (301) 365-1585.
WANTED: Braille Lite in good condition, reasonably priced. Reading machine in good condition, reasonably priced. Call Kimberly Morrow at (816) 561-4466 extension 116 or e-mail [email protected]
WANTED: Screen reader that will perform with 486 computer that has 16 megabytes RAM and DOS 6.1. Please call Obie Binnicker at (903) 831-5327.*****
(When you're breakin' out in rashes, 'Cuz your computer only crashes, take a little break to read this very scientific explanation of computer crashing by that renowned expert, Dr. Seuss [or one of his descendants!]. The editor wishes to thank Mark Ashby, Potomac Talking Book's Reader Extraordinaire, for putting up with our inclusion of this tongue-twisting literary masterpiece in the December Braille Forum. Thanks, Mark. Happy holidays to you, and to all our readers.)
The Braille Forum Editorial Staff
If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
And the bus is interrupted at a very last resort,
And the access of the memory makes your floppy disk abort,
Then the socket packet pocket has an error to report.
If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,
And the double-clicking icon puts your window in the trash;
And your data is corrupted cause the index doesn't hash,
Then your situation's hopeless and your system's gonna crash!
If the label on the cable on the table at your house
Says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,
But your packets want to tunnel to another protocol,
That's repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall,
And your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss,
til your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse,
Then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,
'Cuz sure as I'm a poet, the sucker's gonna hang!
When the copy of your floppy's getting sloppy in the disk,
And the macrocode instructions cause unnecessary risk,
Then you'll have to flash the memory and you'll want to RAM your ROM.
Quick, turn off the computer and be sure to tell your Mom!
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