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.
All photos in this issue copyright 2000 by Ken Nichols.
In my January message for the first month of the last year of the last millennium, I talked about what life was like for people who were blind in 1900. The real 21st century actually begins this month, and I thought it might be interesting to do a little crystal ball gazing. It is absolutely clear that a blind person from 1900 would have found himself or herself very much out of place if he or she were suddenly transported to our time. I suspect that we would feel just as dysfunctional were we to find ourselves suddenly transported a century ahead. Perhaps I should talk about why this is even a subject that ACB should be concerned about. Obviously, one reason is that I enjoy extrapolation and, as president, I get to choose what I write about! More than that, though, I think there is a real advantage for an organization that serves blind people to strive to understand the environment in which it operates. I wouldn't dare play the role of a futurist, predicting with authority what life will be like a century ahead, because I have no confidence that we can see very much of what is likely. No one in his right mind could have predicted the changes that have occurred in the 20th century and, though my sanity is not at all certain, I don't believe I can predict all of the changes that are likely to happen over the next three generations.
I do believe, however, that we can extrapolate -- based on current trends and on predicted technological change. In its purest sense, extrapolation is usually pretty accurate because honest prediction is based on situations that are already developing.
More and more young blind people are becoming computer users. A larger and larger percentage of blind children are attending regular public school for their whole education. Braille training continues to be poor. I think that most people would agree with all three of these statements. If we put them together, can we draw any conclusions? I think we can. I believe that many young people do not now perceive themselves as needing to connect with other blind people. They are gathering information from the Internet; they are not using braille; and they are striving to make friends in mainstream classrooms. Their parents may also be discouraging contact with blindness organizations and, without the cultural base that attendance at schools for the blind imposed on many young blind people who grew up in the first half of the 20th century, there simply is not the same blindness orientation that operated before.
This concurrence of circumstances has already meant that ACB has found it difficult to reach out to many young people. It also means that many young people are now tending to avoid other blind people and I see this trend getting worse, not better, because there is little perceived incentive for young blind people to get involved with one another, or with blindness organizations.
In addition, technology is lessening the differences between people who are blind and those who are not. One basic motivation for getting involved with organizations like ACB was a shared recognition by people who were blind that their blindness made things difficult.
Ten years ago, though scanning was certainly possible, the results were less than wonderful and even blind people with a real interest in technology chose not to acquire much of their information through scanning. Now more and more blind people are reading whole books that they scan and are relying less and less on more traditional sources for books such as RFB&D and NLS. At this point I can and do scan 400-page paperbacks in an hour and prefer to choose what I will read rather than relying on NLS's book selection. A single CD can now contain thousands of pages and, for the first time, blind people can acquire their own library of classic literature. The Internet, too, is a source for downloadable books and so information is no longer the scarce resource it once was for people who are blind. This trend is bound to continue and more and more information will become accessible over the next decades. With the emergence of e-books, small Internet devices and audio on the Internet, the ways that we will access information are proliferating. In other countries, too, the use of CDs to produce multiple formats of the same book on a single CD is already under way. As a side light, we might note that in those countries, Daisy technology is replacing cassettes just as scanning has, for many, rendered the Optacon obsolete.
In many speeches over the past several years, Ray Kurzweil, developer of the first reading machine, has spoken about the future. He thinks that by 2020, we will have pocket scanners that can read menus, grocery store labels and street signs. It will probably be possible for those same devices to utilize satellites to tell a blind person exactly where he or she is. All the possibilities that this technology unlocks will almost certainly work with the existing trends toward "disconnectedness," to make it less likely that blind people will feel they need other blind people in their lives, or organizations like ACB.
I don't believe that these trends render ACB obsolete. I do think that we have to rethink what justifies our existence -- as integration into mainstream society becomes more of a reality for so many blind people. I have always thought of integration as low among the prioritized reasons that justify our organizational existence, although I continue to believe that the organized blind movement must work to assure that the societal changes that occur are inclusive. We also have a need to be certain that society knows it is doing a lousy job of employing blind people and accommodating our needs in the built environment.
Our real task as the new millennium starts is to recognize that we have a new job to do. We must go out and actively convince blind people that they need one another, and that they need ACB. Our value to blind people continues to be huge. We in ACB continue to work to help society understand blind people and to help blind people understand our connectedness one to another. That is our mission and we must accept it, but we will need to know that our task will get harder, not easier. As more and more blind people perceive themselves as not needing us, we will have to find ways to reach out to them to articulate our relevance in a society that is more and more open to people who are blind. We are a community within a community and must find meaningful ways to connect with those who may not know just how much they need us!
It appears to some that the federal Rehabilitation Act has fallen on hard times. The Rehab. Act, which once stood alone as a noble effort to make the lives of people with disabilities as whole as possible, now resides inside the Workforce Investment Act. And a guiding belief in the value of the whole person once associated with rehabilitation seems to have been superseded by the primary motivation of doing whatever gets people jobs, any jobs as long as they can be called "integrated," and abandoning just about everything else.
On one side are those who say that all those old-fashioned ideas about providing a person with assistance aimed at getting their baseline lives and skills together before narrowing services down to employment-related issues are too expensive and don't really have an impact on the bottom line purpose of vocational rehabilitation (which is to produce tax-paying employed individuals). They point to the many folks who may have been highly educated and received various services that improved the quality of their lives, but remain unemployed or under-employed. In short, say these rehab reformers, these clients of the system were denied the essential social service -- a job!
The other side argues that getting a job is very important but we must also pay attention to the equally important goal of making sure these folks get enough independent living or social services and training so that they will be able to take full advantage of later employment-related services. These supporters of the whole person approach believe the current rehabilitation establishment is essentially cheating people out of important services that would make them more employable and better able to participate fully, not only at work, but in their communities as well.
Is it all as simple as drawing lines between the two positions: i.e., rehab exists to improve the "lot" of people who are blind versus rehab exists to get people jobs, jobs, jobs? Moreover, are we allowing too many blind people to be overlooked by rehab simply because they are not seeking classic employment?
We don't need to answer these questions today, but as an organization of the blind, we will need to begin the dialogue which will lead to our advocacy for the reauthorization of the next rehabilitation law. There are many ways to view the topic that range from sending vouchers to everyone, supporting the current system, redefining the nature of rehabilitation, or any number of other considerations.
No matter what we decide, there are plenty of discussions ahead and resolutions to be written. It's not too early to start thinking about these issues, since it might be too late if we allow others to start thinking about them for us.
On December 4, 2000, Bank of America announced the installation of Florida's first talking ATMs. Hundreds more talking ATMs will be installed in Florida by Bank of America over the next two years as a result of a national agreement reached with the bank earlier this year by ACB's California affiliate, the California Council of the Blind.
The bank's press release included a quote from Doug Hall, chair of the access committee of ACB's Florida affiliate, the Florida Council of the Blind. Doug praised the bank's announcement, saying, "We are thrilled that Bank of America has taken this important step in providing independent access to banking services in our state. We applaud Bank of America and urge other banks in Florida to follow its example."
There are already over 300 talking ATMs in California as a result of the California Council of the Blind's efforts, and Bank of America has agreed to install one talking ATM at each of its ATM locations across the country. CCB's attorneys will begin negotiations with the bank in the spring to determine the exact schedule for these installations. The California lawyers who negotiated the talking ATM agreement with Bank of America have set up a toll-free number and an e-mail address so people can easily contact them about talking ATMs. The e-mail address is [email protected] and the phone number is (888) 316-8870. As one of CCB's lawyers who negotiated the first agreements, I encourage all of you to use the phone or e-mail to suggest new locations for either Bank of America talking ATMs nationwide or Wells Fargo talking ATMs in California, to notify CCB about any problems with the machines, to let us know what you like about the machines, or to find out about bringing talking ATMs to your state!
Here are the Bank of America Talking ATM locations in Florida.
The exact California locations can be found on the CCB website at
http//www.acb.org/ccb/atms.html. California and Florida locations
are also posted on the web site of CCB's attorneys at
Cocoa Beach: Causeway, 4300 N. Atlantic Avenue
Coconut Creek: 4803 Coconut Creek Parkway
Fort Lauderdale: Galleria Mall, 2414 E. Sunrise Boulevard
Broward & 441: 3800 W. Broward Boulevard
Jacksonville: Cobblestone, 2709 Monument Road
Downtown Jacksonville: 50 N. Laura Street
Miami: 701 Brickell Avenue
Ocala: 326 E. Silver Springs Boulevard
Orlando: 55 W. Church Street
Fashion Square: 3117 E. Colonial Drive
St. Petersburg: Exxon -- Sun Coast, 6201 US Highway 19 North
Tampa: Hillsborough County Courthouse, 419 Peirce Street
Westshore Mall: 100 N. Westshore Boulevard
Davis Island: 337 E. Davis Boulevard
I am pleased to find myself writing this article. It is a pleasure to report about an organization serving people who are blind which has done the right thing. A few months ago, I wrote an article for ūThe Braille Forumū in which I expressed my concern about the General Council of Industries for the Blind's (GCIB) failure to join the American Council of the Blind (ACB), the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and National Industries for the Blind (NIB) in supporting the payment of at least the federal minimum wage for people whose only disability related to working is blindness.
GCIB had tabled a policy statement supporting minimum wage at its spring 2000 meeting. My worry was that the perceived failure of the blindness community to come together concerning this subject would serve to force the issue, and would result in the opening of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, or the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Act, to Congressional scrutiny. I continue to counsel against putting these laws under the Congressional microscope until we are certain that opening them can bring about more gains in the creation of good employment opportunities for people who are blind or disabled than losses of good jobs. Currently, segments of both the small business lobby and the independent living lobby have advocated for the virtual abolition of JWOD, and this could cause up to 6,000 gainfully employed Americans who are blind to lose their jobs.
At its fall meeting, GCIB adopted a short and concise policy statement supporting the payment of at least the federal minimum wage for people whose only work-related disability is blindness. This statement was adopted as a substitute motion, to replace a proposal by GCIB's president, William Thompson, which would have resulted in GCIB's supporting not only the payment of minimum wage, but rather paying all people who are blind a "living wage." In recent legislative parlance, this term represents an income well above the minimum wage. While the Thompson proposal actually went further than the proposal which was ultimately adopted, either version achieved what was needed. GCIB needed to be in step with the rest of the blindness community on the minimum wage issue.
ACB should be commended for its adoption of resolution 2000-21, which sent a clear message to the GCIB leadership that the minimum wage issue is an important one, and that GCIB should get on board with the rest of the blindness community.
As you may already know, the American Council of the Blind Legislative Seminar is scheduled for the weekend of February 24-26, a little earlier than usual. I hope many of you are making plans to attend. Because we aren't always able to finalize our agenda until just before the seminar, you may have to wait a few weeks to learn about the specific issues we'll be covering this year. The legislative process being what it is, Congress's own agenda can change rapidly, and chances are good that the 107th Congress won't provide an exception to this precept. Regardless of the issues that make their way onto this year's agenda, though, I'd like to suggest to you that there are some things you can do before you come to Washington that can help you prepare for your meetings with legislators. Here are my recommendations; they are based on our collective experiences in the legislative trenches, and I believe that if you can take some of these suggestions to heart, you'll find that this year's seminar will result in some real, meaningful gains for ACB and the issues we care about.
The first thing you may want to do is to find out all you can about the members of your legislative delegation. How well do you know them? Do you know what committees they serve on? Do you know what issues they are particularly interested in? Knowing these things can allow you to phrase your comments in a way that will relate to something your member really cares about. For instance, if you discover that a legislator has a particular interest in livable communities, you can talk about any number of issues that are of concern to blind people in terms of making communities more "livable" for people who are visually impaired.
Most members of Congress now have web sites. Those of you with access to the Internet can glean a lot of information about how your members have voted and the issues that are important to them by spending a little time on their web sites. If you find that you can't access the information on those sites, then you already have an important issue to talk about, since you can bet that members want their constituents to know what they have to say!
If you aren't yet computer savvy, or you don't have access to the technology you need to surf the net, you can still learn quite a lot about your legislators by calling their offices and talking with their staff members. Most maintain offices in the districts with local numbers. Ask the administrative aide you speak with what committees your legislator serves on. Members of Congress as well as senators usually put out newsletters outlining a range of issues and positions, as well as crucial votes and projects they think are particularly meaningful to constituents. These newsletters can serve as a pretty good indication of the things your legislators think are important, so if you hire a reader to help you go through your mail, you should include those newsletters from your senators and representatives in the stack to scan and read.
The kinds of information you learn from conversations with staffpersons and your perusal of newsletters can provide the foundation for your future conversations with your legislator. Do you share his or her priorities, or should your legislator change his or hers to coincide with yours?
Once you get the legislator's attention, how do you keep it? How do you convince them to do what you want them to do? I have found that one of the most effective tools for doing this is sharing your personal story. Do you have a personal experience that can drive your point home? Share it. Has someone you know been helped by a government program, or would they be hurt by the reduction of funding for a project? Let the legislator know about this as well. We've all heard the "personal stories" that politicians use to support their positions during debates and speeches. Your stories really can make a difference to legislators, so don't underestimate their importance.
You might also want to find out as much as you can about your legislator's voting record on previous legislation that may be of particular interest to you, such as Social Security reform, special education funding, or other disability issues. Your legislator's voting record will give you some idea of whether your reception will be friendly or hostile. If you are likely to be met with resistance, what might you do to counter that resistance? Would the legislator benefit from hearing some personal stories about how his previous votes have had a negative impact on his constituents? On the other hand, if the reception is likely to be friendly, could the legislator benefit from a pat on the back? Some members of Congress need to be rewarded for their votes and reminded that their constituents know they have a representative who cares. This kind of information can be useful in preparing for any meeting with a legislator. It can help you strengthen your case and make the legislator feel that the meeting is beneficial for him or her, as well as you.
I encourage all of you who are planning to attend the ACB legislative seminar to get in touch with your legislators' offices and start gathering information that can give you a head start on making ACB's case. Then the seminar itself will be the frosting on your cake and we all will have an even more successful experience.
Kentucky Honors ACB and Paul Edwards
A highlight at each ACB national convention is the presentation of awards to members and citizens who foster the principles which guide the American Council of the Blind. At the Louisville convention, the list of citizens, members, and organizations who were honored by prestigious awards included ACB President Paul Edwards -- known henceforth as "Colonel Edwards" - - and the American Council of the Blind itself.
On Sunday evening, Russ Maple, "A" District Commissioner for Jefferson County, Kentucky, welcomed all ACB members to Louisville, and honored the American Council of the Blind with a proclamation: "...whereas the American Council of the Blind is a national membership organization formed by blind people to promote the independence, dignity and advancement of blind and visually impaired individuals; and whereas the Jefferson County commissioners welcome this convention to Jefferson County and would like to commend its members for continuing to strive to increase the equality of opportunity and quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people, therefore be it hereby known that the Jefferson County commissioners on behalf of the Jefferson County community recognize and encourage the efforts of the American Council of the Blind and hereby present to them...this Community Excellence Award."
Maple followed this presentation with another to ACB President Paul Edwards, who, on behalf of Kentucky's Governor Patton and the Secretary of State of Kentucky, was honored by being commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel. "The highest honor awarded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky," Maple said, "is that of Kentucky Colonel. Our colonels are Kentucky's ambassadors of good will and fellowship around the world. Commissions as Kentucky Colonels are presented for contributions to the community, state or nation, and for special achievements of all kinds. With your commission ... the governor recognizes your service and accomplishments on behalf of others."
Edwards joins a long list of distinguished citizens so honored, including Lyndon Johnson, Winston Churchill, John Glenn, Carol Channing, Ann Margaret, Muhammad Ali, Jeff Foxworthy and Whoopi Goldberg.
BOP Honors Ken Stewart and Hollis Liggett
The Ned E. Freeman Writing Award was presented by Kim Charlson, chair of the board of publications, to frequent contributor to "The Braille Forum," Ken Stewart. "The recipient of this year's award has contributed a number of articles to 'The Braille Forum' in the past few years," Charlson said. "ACB members might recognize such interesting titles as 'Runners High,' published in the May 1996 issue, or 'Encounters of the Lobbyist Kind,' January 1998, or the evocative title ... 'The Carrot Takes a Bus Ride,' July 1998."
Stewart was recognized this year by the Board of Publications for "Passing Through," his review of "Planet of the Blind, A Memoir."
"I much appreciate this recognition," Stewart said. "It's just a terrific honor, and I thank Kim so much and the whole board of publications, and I certainly agree with Paul Edwards that 'The Braille Forum' is just a wonderful publication."
The board of publications presented a special achievement award to Hollis Liggett for the work he did to promulgate the principles of free thought and freedom of the press, which have been so vitally entwined with the philosophy of the American Council of the Blind since it came into being 39 years ago.
"We're presenting this evening a special Exceptional Achievement Award for his contributions as editor of 'The Braille Free Press' between 1959 and 1961 to Hollis Liggett," Charlson said. "[Liggett] established the moral and ethical tenor of the debate within the organized blind movement which ... led in turn to the formation of the American Council of the Blind. Your common sense, Hollis, and down-to-earth writings brought understanding to many regarding the turmoil within the organized blind movement of the era. And those writings still are with us today and speak to us with just as much moral force and persuasion as they did in 1959 to 1961."
Charlson continued, "I have asked Jim Megivern, the historian who is working on the manuscript for the history of the American Council of the Blind, to share a little bit of Hollis' writing with you."
"How many of you were at the NFB convention in Boston in 1958?" Megivern asked. "Could you raise your hands? ... I see you, M.J. ..." For the benefit of those who were not at that fateful convention, Megivern spoke about the Card amendment, the article summarizing it in "The Braille Monitor," and how it led to the split and, ultimately, "The Braille Free Press."
"Hollis wrote a letter to Jacobus tenBroek," Megivern continued. "It said, in part, 'It seems that you exercise complete authority in all matters concerning the federation, that you and you alone can make decisions as to what action the federation will take on an issue, what amounts of money it will spend and for what, whom it will hire and how much it will pay. You have no need except by choice to consult with anyone upon any of these matters.' ..."
In accepting a plaque, which reads "The American Council of the Blind Board of Publications Exceptional Achievement Award presented to Hollis Liggett in recognition and appreciation for his contributions to independent thought and democratic principles through his service as editor of 'The Braille Free Press' from 1959 to 1961...," Liggett spoke movingly of those early days of the ACB and the people who risked much to stand up for their beliefs and principles.
"I would like to take just a few minutes to say something about my experience with the Federation and with the Free Press," Liggett said. "The only regret I have tonight is that Durward McDaniel's not here to share ... The first I knew about any problems with the NFB was a letter from Marie Boring which she circulated all over the country outlining the problems they had with Dr. tenBroek and the Federation and the lack of any democratic procedure. Anyway, I wrote a letter in response to her letter and sent it to the president, the administration officials and the board members ... In response to my letter, I got a call from Durward McDaniel. Durward was feeling pretty discouraged at that time; he wasn't making very much headway and I think he needed a friend and an ally ... So we discussed the problems at length and ... a little while later ... I got another call from Durward. He asked if he could come to Memphis and talk to members of the Association of the Blind, and I said 'Sure...' So he came, and we had a meeting, and I told him that I thought the Memphis Association would probably be willing to ... get out some kind of newsletter. Turned out it was a magazine ... That was the beginning of the Braille Free Press Association and its successor, the American Council of the Blind. ... That was the highlight of my life ... and this is another highlight of my life. Thank you very much."
ACB Honors Descriptive Video Services
Noting that his presentation coincided with the 10th anniversary of the founding of Descriptive Video Services of Boston, MA, Paul Edwards presented the following certificate to Lori Kay, the new director of WGBH-DVS: "The American Council of the Blind recognizes by this certificate the pioneering efforts made by WGBH in Boston, Mass. to make descriptive video services a reality on television, on videotape and in movie theaters. We hereby celebrate with WGBH the 10th anniversary of descriptive video and congratulate its directors and staff for their ongoing advocacy on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of blind people who benefit from video description."
"We couldn't have done it without you," said Kay. "And I also want to thank Laura Oftedahl ... who worked with us for most of the past 10 years and was a major force in getting DVS where it is today." Oftedahl echoed Kay's sentiments, and stated, "You have made DVS one of the best things thatūs ever happened for blind people."
Another highlight of the convention's opening ceremonies was presentation of awards by ACB's awards committee.
"We're going to try to be as quick as we can with this, but people certainly deserve their day in the sun," said Dawn Christensen, chair of the committee.
Elizabeth Lennon, who was one of the founders of the organization which won the Affiliate Outreach Award, presented the plaque to the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International for Project Insight, which facilitates networking for people who are losing their vision.
Coletta Davis, CCLVI president, said, "We are so, so proud of this award. ... We have peer support groups all over the country, and we have been most fortunate ..."
When she presented the Membership Growth Award to CCLVI, Terry Pacheco, Coordinator of Affiliate and Membership Services, said, "We have had 37 affiliates with membership growth in this year ... and I think we should all be very proud of ourselves. One affiliate in particular had a 122 percent increase."
"If we can do it, so can you," Davis said. "One of our members in Florida, Rosanna Lippen, got 650 members this year, and she promises us that she's going to get maybe almost 1,000 next year." Davis introduced Lippen to the convention, along with Joyce Kleiber, one of the founders of Project Insight. The convention responded with thunderous applause.
Roger Petersen, winner of the 1999 George Card Award, presented this year's Card Award to Bud Keith. "The awardee this year happens to be someone that I've known for a very long time," Petersen said. "[He] has provided, both by precept and by example, for the advancement in the welfare and the rights and the self-confidence and self-esteem of blind people. He lost his own sight at the age of 11 and didn't let that stop him from continuing on with all kinds of activities, including athletics. He was a skier, a bowler...[and] internationally known in that area. He served people with visual impairments by being a federal employee in the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services, and that's no mean task, believe me ... He's also served the blind men and women of Panama by being a Peace Corps member there, by helping to organize the Helen Keller School for the Blind by working there. To add to all these feats ... he's now showing us how to survive cancer, and that's no mean task either."
In accepting the award, Raymond "Bud" Keith said, "... This is very special, because it comes from a lot of people who've known me for many years and know my rough edges and ... that sometimes in fighting for what I believe I haven't always been as polite or as considerate of others as I perhaps should have been. But we've been in a wonderful fight for a long time, and it's fantastic to see the progress and to be given the privilege of standing on this stage with all the other people who've worked so hard and deserve the recognition."
On Saturday, Mike Duke presented the Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award to Leonard DuBoff, who was unable to attend the convention. Duke included this list of accomplishments in his description of DuBoff's many years of distinguished service: "He lost his sight, partial hearing and one hand in a college laboratory explosion on May 14, 1964. After completing rehabilitation, [he] changed his career from mechanical engineering to law. ... Leonard became a law professor; he taught from 1972 to 1994 at Lewis and Clark College ... and he was also a teaching fellow at Stanford Law School from 1971 to 1972, and an instructor at the Hastings College of Civil Advocacy in 1978. [He] has been very active in his community as well; he received the Silver Beaver Award for his activities in Boy Scouts of America and has other awards for various community service activities. He chaired the art law section of the Association of American Law Schools; he pioneered the field of visual arts law; he left teaching in 1994 to found a law firm. He has since been an active practitioner representing clients in his law firm in all aspects of business law, though his focus is on the intellectual property. ... [He] is recognized as a leader in this field of intellectual law. ... [he] has also served as chair of the Oregon Commission for the Blind for more than eight years ..."
The next award was a surprise. "It's really very, very difficult to surprise the next person, because this individual is always kind of busy," said Pam Shaw, of Margarine Beaman. "[Margarine] has a way of drawing people in who really want to work to help to make our conventions a success ... [She] is always on duty; often her day starts at 7 a.m. or earlier, and it doesn't end until late at night ... Ask her to do anything, including get the presidentūs coffee, and she tends to do it ... Not only has she been invested in making our conventions a success, but she's been invested in accessibility for blind people ... Never have I seen this person tired or complaining!"
The Outstanding Service Award reads, "The American Council of the Blind presents the Outstanding Service Award to Margarine G. Beaman with gratitude and appreciation for her many years of service as volunteer coordinator. Your tireless efforts to recruit and train volunteers and to make every hotel accessible have made our conventions so successful."
"I'm overwhelmed," Beaman said. "I do this because I love everybody and I do it because I want to. And I'll be here as long as you'll have me, until I die I guess ... and I don't know if I'll ever see it all the way to the end, but I will be there as long as I can to make sure everything's accessible and we have volunteers and have a good time. ... Thank you so much!"CAPTIONS
Kim Charlson shares a laugh with Hollis Liggett and Jim Megivern.
Having just come through the holiday season, it's easy to sit back and reflect on the good times spent with loved ones. Now I've got you thinking. Are you thinking about the wonderful gifts you have received? The time you shared with family and friends? Well, I hope so! I am now going to ask you to switch gears just a bit.
Think about individuals or organizations who have made an impact on your life, as someone who is blind or visually impaired. Could it have been a blind or sighted member of your community? Could it have been a project that your state or local chapter offered?
Hold that thought while you find your slate and stylus, or amble over to your computer. Now it's time to put those thoughts into action. The American Council of the Blind is currently seeking award nominations for the year 2001. An award is a tangible way to thank those who have gone the extra mile for you.
For your information, criteria for the several ACB awards are:
The Robert S. Bray Award, which was established in 1975 in memory of the late chief of what is now the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, is presented periodically in recognition of outstanding work in extending library services or access to published materials, or improving communications devices or techniques.
The Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award recipient is selected each year from among blind candidates who, through their lives, associations, and activities, have demonstrated their integration into and their interaction with the life of the community. It is not necessary that the candidate be a member of or active in any organizations of the blind, or be engaged in work for the blind.
The George Card Award is presented periodically to an outstanding blind person who has contributed significantly to the betterment of blind people in general. This award is not limited by locality or by nature of the contribution.
The ACB Distinguished Service Award is given to a sighted individual who has made substantive contributions to the field of blindness. The award will be given as warranted.
Remember to send in your nominations by April 15, 2001.
The awards listed below are for state and special-interest affiliates, not individuals. Criteria are as follows:
The ACB Membership Development Award seeks to recognize a state or special-interest affiliate with the highest percentage of membership increase over the previous year. In 2001, the percentage of increase of membership will be calculated by comparing the membership total reported by the state or special-interest affiliate to the ACB national office as of March 15, 2001, to the affiliate membership total recognized by the 2000 Credentials Committee. Affiliates need to be certain that they get their membership lists and counts in to the national office by March 15.
The Creative Outreach Award is available to state and special-interest affiliates to recognize innovative outreach projects or programs. "Outreach" is defined as any activity other than fund-raising, which is designed to acquire or retain members, educate the public about blindness, and about the affiliate. Projects to be considered include but are not limited to: public education, public relations, public service announcements, and web page development. The outreach effort must result in some measurable success. Incidental income derived from a project or program will not disqualify a state or special-interest affiliate from being considered for this award. State affiliates are encouraged to recognize meritorious local chapter outreach efforts; local chapters are not eligible to receive this award. Nominations for this award must be submitted by the president of a state or special-interest affiliate, and must include a description of the project, its goals, and outcomes. Nominations must also be received by April 15, 2001. Copies of video clips, radio spots, newspaper articles, or other appropriate evidence of impact of the outreach project or program should be attached to the letter of nomination. The project or program must originate in, but not necessarily be concluded in, 2000.
Please send your letters of nomination directly to the ACB National Office, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005. All nominations must be postmarked by April 15, 2001. Nominations should not exceed 500 words and should include name, address, and telephone number of nominee and nominator.
The American Council of the Blind announces its 2001 Internship Program, which has been developed to afford a meaningful work experience to a blind post-secondary student. The paid internship will be for a maximum period of 10 weeks and will also include, if necessary, a reasonable housing and transportation allowance. Duties will include activities associated with providing public information and education, membership assistance, communications, legislative monitoring and assistance with publications.
If you would like to be considered for this internship opportunity in the ACB national office, please submit a letter of application by April 1, 2001 to: Charles Crawford, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th Street NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005.
Along with your letter, send documentation concerning the school you attend or plan to attend, as well as information about your major field of study, vocational or professional objective, prior educational and employment history, skills (e.g., braille reading and writing, typing, computer, low vision aids), extracurricular and civic activities. Your letter should also include a paragraph explaining why you would like to spend a summer in Washington, DC, and the benefits you expect to receive from the internship.
The Visually Impaired Student Congressional Internship Program (VISCIP) is offering a unique opportunity to blind and visually impaired college students who want to spend part of the summer of 2001 working as interns on Capitol Hill. VISCIP is an independent bipartisan non-profit educational program.
To be considered for the 2001 internship program, your application must be postmarked, e-mailed or faxed by February 28, 2001.
The internships, which will place you in Congressional offices, will last for seven consecutive weeks, from June 4 through July 20. VISCIP will provide orientation and mobility training, as well as a one-day seminar on the legislative process. VISCIP offers participating interns a $100 stipend per week and will provide housing in a local university dormitory.
Every year, thousands of students make their way to the nation's capital to serve as interns in the U.S. Senate or House. As is the case for any intern, this internship opportunity will build self-esteem, sharpen basic office and workplace skills, and expose visually impaired students to the legislative process and Congressional research.
For more information, please visit our web site: www.viscip.org. Remember, the deadline for submitting your application is in late February, so get started now!
Meetings and seminars on fascinating topics, social gatherings, tours, and all-around good fellowship are components of the national convention of the American Council of the Blind. The 2001 national convention will take place in Des Moines, IA, from June 30 until July 7. The Durward K. McDaniel Committee offers you an opportunity to throw your hat into the ring, from which two lucky winners will be selected to receive an all- expense paid trip to the ACB convention in Des Moines this summer.
For those of you who are newcomers to ACB, Durward McDaniel was the driving force who held this organization together during its formative years. He worked tirelessly, 24-7, for the council, and his forte was membership development. Durward believed in bringing people together!
Each year the committee named in his honor conducts a fund- raising event or two, to raise money to honor Durward's memory. Since he always said that people are our greatest resource, we decided to sponsor the McDaniel First-Timers' Contest, which brings two new people, one from each side of the Mississippi, to each national convention -- where their leadership skills will have a chance to sharpen and grow. If you're interested, read on!
If you have been active in your state or local organization, send us a biographical sketch, so that we will know something about you. Then, approach your state affiliate president and ask him or her to write a letter of recommendation for you. Send your documentation to the Durward K. McDaniel Committee, in care of the ACB national office, 1155 15th Street NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005. The deadline for receiving your documentation is April 1, 2001. Letters carrying a later postmark will be ignored.
If you are genuinely interested in the American Council of the Blind and you want our organization to occupy a prominent place in your life, take a chance on this McDaniel Committee contest! We look forward to seeing you in July.
Jermaine Gardner, the winner of the Friends-in-Art $1,000 scholarship for 2000-2001, is currently a piano and composition student at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Md. Even though he is only 16, he has many performances behind him of note. He has performed with Stevie Wonder, appeared on television shows such as Good Morning America, the Today Show, The Late Show, and the Donahue Show. In addition to all this Jermaine has been to the White House twice to perform. He also has received many honors and awards: the young soloist award for the state of Maryland sponsored by Very Special Arts, first place in high school honors competition, and first place in the Maryland Music Teachers Association (MMTA) competition for young artists.
This past summer Jermaine attended a workshop at Oberlin Conservatory that was devoted to early keyboard instruments. The workshop has inspired Jermaine to pursue the study of early instruments in his future college career. He plans to attend Oberlin to work toward a music degree in order to perform music of the 18th and early 19th centuries on authentic instruments. Jermaine is a very personable and outgoing young man whom we are sure will continue to work hard toward his goal of a career as a composer, performer, and concert pianist. All blind or visually impaired students who plan to major in music, art, drama, or creative writing, or who already are majoring in those fields, are invited to apply for the Friends- In-Art Scholarship for 2001-2002. This $1,000 scholarship is offered annually for achievement, talent, and excellence in the arts. To obtain an application, send a self-addressed envelope to Mike Mandel, 400 W. 43rd St., Apt. 20l, New York, NY 10036. All applications must be returned by April 15, 2001.
The pre-convention overnight tour is planned for the Amana colonies in east central Iowa. Come with us to explore the unique and fascinating area called Amana. The Amana Colonies, which are tucked into the rolling hills of eastern Iowa farm land, have been designated a National Historic Landmark. The hard working people of this area are of German descent. "Gemutlichkeit" is the word in German that connotes "warmth, cheer and friendliness." You will find "Gemutlichkeit" overflowing from every one of the quaint seven villages which form the colonies of Amana.
Amana was founded nearly 150 years ago. Seeking religious freedom, the early settlers of the Amanas left Germany in 1842, and settled near Buffalo, N.Y. In 1855, the "Community of True Inspiration" moved west, forming their first village along the Iowa River. Eventually, 26,000 acres were purchased and six more villages were settled. Theirs was one of the longest-lasting communal societies in the world.
Their communal system remained essentially unchanged for 89 years. All land and buildings were owned by the community; families were assigned living quarters, and each person over school age was assigned tasks in the kitchens, fields, factories or shops.
In 1932, the people voted to end the communal way of life. They created the Amana Church Society to direct matters of their faith, and the Amana Society, Inc. to oversee their businesses and farming operations. Today, many of the businesses in the Amana Colonies are independently owned and operated. Our pre-convention tour will leave from downtown Des Moines early on Friday morning, June 29 and return Saturday afternoon, June 30. The drivers of the air-conditioned motor coaches will double as professional tour guides, giving detailed narration, and an ACB representative and ACB volunteers will accompany us on the buses.
An early stop on the tour will be the Community Church Museum, where a local resident will explain the history and highlights of this community's worship services. Other stops will be the communal kitchen, the cooper shop, the broom and basket shop, which features a giant rocking chair, the woolen mill, the winery with the tasting room and many more shops and attractions.
We plan to eat lunch at the Ox Yoke Inn, where the food is served family style and is so good that you may not want to leave. We'll eat dinner and see a play at the Old Creamery Theater.
The next morning after breakfast we will finish our tour of Amana. On the way back to Des Moines we plan to stop at an outlet mall where you will have free time to shop and have lunch on your own.
You will treasure your memories of this fascinating tour. We'll see you there.
In September, the blind and visually impaired community in Louisville, Ky., celebrated the first anniversary of an innovative program which had been initiated a year earlier at the Louisville Free Public Library. In September 1999, the library became accessible to blind and visually impaired people when two computers -- complete with adaptive hardware and software -- were unveiled at the main library on York Street. In ensuing months, similarly adapted computers were installed in three other library branches.
Thanks largely to an industrious and unassuming worker in the library's business reference section, blind and visually impaired people have become significantly more welcome and visible at the various library branches where training on accessible computers is now offered.
Maury Weedman, who as the father of a totally blind son named Jamie, had become familiar with screen readers and braille embossers, is the person who turned his ideas about making the public library accessible to every member of the public into a reality. Speaking at last July's Library Users of America (LUA) convention in Louisville, Weedman explained how the project began, and how he became the library's coordinator of adaptive technology: "I wrote a proposal one day and went to the director with it, and he said 'Yes,' and that just sort of started us on our road."
Charlie Harris, the library's manager of information services, told the LUA gathering, "I'm really, really excited about what we're able to do with adaptive technology; and I think this is only the beginning. We're just beginning the journey at the public library, and we're so excited and so proud to be on the journey."
Of course it wasn't as simple as all that. Grants had to be sought, and a needs assessment had to be conducted. But according to Weedman and Harris, grassroots community participation and support kept the ball rolling. Louisville's mayor and other city officials offered support and encouragement. The local Library Foundation raised much of the funding for the project, in addition to procuring a $300,000 grant from the Gates Foundation. Organizations of and for the blind worked together to assist the library by promoting the program to the community of blind people, and advising staff members about which hardware and software to purchase.
Weedman organized an accessibility team of library staff members at the various branches to provide blind and visually impaired patrons with one-on-one training on everything from screen readers and braille translators, to Microsoft Office and the Internet. The team is also responsible for ongoing development of the overall program. Harris pointed out that despite the scheduled staff training sessions, for the most part, staffpersons have learned how to use access software -- such as JAWS for Windows, Duxbury, Magic and ZoomText -- on their own through trial and error.
Weedman said the response to the new program has been phenomenal. Library staff members have been training blind and visually impaired people, as well as their family members and teachers, four days a week at the main library, and one day a week at the three branches. There have been so many requests for technology training that training sessions must be scheduled two months in advance. Four staff members provide training at the main library, and one staff member is available for training at each of the three branches.
Jim Shaw, a blind library patron, said training is tailored to the needs of each individual, whether one has a vocational, educational or personal objective in mind. One can receive as little or as much training as one wants or needs. Shaw said he has had quite a few two-hour training sessions on accessing various library databases via the Internet. Thanks to the braille embosser and braille translation software at the main library, he has also learned how to format and produce braille documents. In short, Shaw said, he is a very satisfied patron.
The Louisville Free Public Library is also the home of the city's NLS sub-regional Talking Book Library, which has around 1,400 patrons. Because the adaptive technology training staff has access to the sub-regional's recording studio and duplicating facilities, plans are afoot to provide individualized training materials and tutorials on tape, as well as in braille and large print.
While many people ask for training on access technology and software, very few actually come to the library to use the computers. Weedman said one reason for this lack of personal computer utilization is inadequate transportation. When this reporter asked if some of this reluctance might be the result of a perceived psychological or attitudinal barrier, Weedman said that, luckily for blind and visually impaired Louisville residents, librarians have a very positive, naturally non- threatening attitude toward blind and visually impaired individuals.
Weedman said the aim of opening up the library to people with disabilities is not to put them in a separate area and provide them with some kind of "special" service. Rather, the goal is to integrate them into the facilities and areas that all other patrons use. Blind and visually impaired patrons can access library materials with adaptive equipment, including a scanner, tape player and closed circuit television. One can find blind patrons performing their own database and Internet searches, capturing data on computer disks and converting files to braille or large print. Visually impaired patrons are able to interact with librarians in the same ways their non-disabled peers routinely do.
According to Harris, the library has ambitious plans for upgrading and expanding service to the blind and visually impaired community. It plans to purchase additional screen readers and optical character recognition software, and install braille embossers at the three branch libraries where access equipment is currently located. The library also plans to expand its training to include most common application software packages, and to set up accessible computers in the children's areas.
Shaw said the Louisville Free Public Library has set up a model program that other communities around the country should emulate.
"I would encourage all of you to go back to your communities and encourage your libraries to follow suit and to do something similar to this," he told the LUA gathering.
Last year, when the accessible computers were introduced to Louisville's blind and visually impaired community, Weedman said he could sense the intense excitement. "I could tell there was a sigh of relief. It's like, 'This is our library, too, and you really mean it!'" Weedman said a psychological barrier had thus been eradicated. "A curtain had been opened, you know, and I think that, symbolically, it really was an important thing to do. I mean, it was a very public commitment made."
For more information about the Louisville Free Public Library's services for blind and visually impaired patrons, contact Maury Weedman via snail mail, phone, fax or e-mail, as follows:
Snail Mail Address: Attention: Maury Weedman
Coordinator of Adaptive Technology Louisville Free Public Library 301 York St. Louisville, KY 40203 Phone: (502) 574-1617 Fax: (502) 574-1657 E-mail: [email protected] Web Site: http://www.lfpl.org
The National Science Foundation is supporting the development of a unique technology that offers new instructional strategies for teaching braille, as well as a multitude of academic and non- academic subjects to braille readers. The system, dubbed "SAL," will be appealing to both children and adults. The project director, Sally Mangold, Ph.D., and Exceptional Teaching Aids, Inc. are currently evaluating the hardware, software and specialized curricula with ten prototype devices.
The braille stand-alone Speech Assisted Learning (SAL) system offers an exciting opportunity to overcome critical problems that have plagued educators and rehabilitation teachers for decades. SAL is an innovative stand-alone braille learning station which provides computer-assisted instruction to support a full- page paper braille display. The system's synthesized speech is used for spoken tutorials, presenting questions, and giving positive reinforcement for correct answers. The instruction which the system facilitates can be very effective with any subject.
A student merely slides a braille exercise, embossed on 11" x 11- 1/2" braille paper, onto SAL's pressure sensitive platform and SAL instantly recognizes the page and voices the appropriate directions.
Students insert a data disk into SAL, place one of the exercise pages on the platform, listen to the instructions, and then start to work. Children and adults smile when they discover that a slight press on the paper makes SAL voice the name of whatever is under their fingers. SAL can read a character or a word. Exercises may be written so that when a student presses the correct answer SAL makes an encouraging response such as "Excellent", "Perfect", or "Right." If the incorrect answer is pressed, the student will hear responses such as, "Wrong Answer," "Try Again," or "Not Correct."
SAL is user-friendly. A standard electronic braille keyboard allows students to enter written responses to questions and receive immediate feedback. Educators, rehabilitation professionals, librarians, and braille users will appreciate this revolutionary advancement in technology. SAL will enable blind children to augment the instruction they receive from vision teachers and special-needs instructors. Youth and adults can accelerate their learning of new braille codes or study new academic areas with programmed assistance. It is possible to program SAL to speak languages other than English. Educators will be able to select total curriculum packages that teach skills in academic and non- academic areas. The opportunities for instruction stretch to the horizon and beyond.
"Creative ideas for uses of SAL keep multiplying," says Mangold. "Several people have asked about using SAL to take SAT tests. I'm certain this could be made available, if there were enough requests."
It is anticipated that the SAL device and supporting curricula will be available for purchase in the fall of 2001. The system is expected to retail for about $3,000.
"That's quite a bargain," says Mangold, "especially considering that it has its own powerful computer and all the features needed for a totally stand alone system." Updated information about the SAL system will be posted at the Exceptional Teaching Aids, Inc. web site: www.exceptionalteaching.com.
I have been using large print since 1991 and was interested in the problems others may face in receiving this ADA accommodation.
Many people do not know the ADA exists or do not know what types of alternate formats to print are readily available. Still many others are finding the law to be a great benefit. Of those who do know about the ADA and print access accommodations, some do not request these accommodations. I was curious as to why some people avoid asking for this help.
In 1998 my request for volunteers to tell me about their experiences with requesting large print was published in "The Braille Forum." A report detailing my findings from that research, "Requests by persons with visual impairment for large print accommodations," was published in the November 2000 issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, vol. 94, no. 11, pages 716-719.
Four major themes emerged from the stories which I gathered. Based on the research methodology of summing and then ranking the number of times each difficulty was mentioned, the most frequently reported problems dealt with the great length of time it took to get the accommodation or to go through the request and appeals process. The next most obvious theme was the emotional toll the process took on some people. Anger, frustration, and fear were either mentioned or evidenced by several respondents. The third most frequently mentioned difficulty was the quality of the product received, i.e. its clarity, pagination, weight, size, awkwardness, durability, and cost. Finally, lies or misinformation given in response to requests for large print were also reported.
Many people who ask for large print copies of publications, including documents which government agencies at all levels make available to constituents, as well as the kinds of instructional materials which are routinely handed out in college classes among the other required readings, is an offer of access to a photocopy machine which the large-print reader can utilize to make his or her own copies in sufficiently large print. Sometimes, the suggestion will be made that a visually impaired person can bring the material to a certain location to be enlarged by someone else. Both approaches require the person with the disability to bear part of the burden for building his or her own accommodation, which is something the law prohibits. While requiring people with visual impairments to make their own enlargements or to go out of their way to secure the services of others might be appropriate when all people, including those without impairments, have to make special trips to acquire materials, if the material is being given to all who want to read it without their needing to make special trips, then persons with visual impairment should not have to put in this extra effort. Of course if the material is computer generated to begin with it should not have to be photocopy enlarged at all but should be printed out in whatever size large print is desired, upon request.
On the other hand, the alternative: negotiations, potential conflicts, longer waits, filing complaints, hostility from superiors, etc. may be so odious that many feel they have no choice but to accept this extra time-consuming regimen, or instead choose not to ask for anything at all and just fall back on the time tested method of getting help from family and friends.
I experienced this exact situation in two different colleges, and also at work. I filed a complaint about this to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Ohio. My employer hired an ADA consultant firm. An ACB member was included in that consultation, and the firm agreed with my contention that my employer was required to provide the accommodation to me. But the employer still refused to provide large print. After teaching the EEOC what the law and the technical assistance guidelines said, I won. Then I filed and won again, and again, and again. Four times the same case was settled in my favor. My employer never did comply, never did create a system that would allow equal access to information for all employees. I have heard of other similar "wins" for other folk too.
We may have to ask ourselves if it is worth the effort to begin this process, but for me, the lesson to be learned from this is that I have to prepare my heart and mind in any attempt I make to move this process forward in order not to become worn out and emotionally damaged -- or exhilarated -- by it. That is no easy task. My visual impairment and the accommodations that allow me to read are very important to me, but so is peace, and maintaining good friendly relations with others, and also being involved with other things in life.
The need for an extra measure of courage and persistence on the part of people with visual impairment in order to deal with our environment is something most of us already know about. Damage to our pride and self-respect connected to our desire to not be dependent on others is also something many of us are all too familiar with, but was not what this research intended to highlight. My purpose in conducting this research was to add more details about the requests-for-accommodations processes, to inform entities covered by the ADA, as well as people with disabilities. Knowing about the experiences of others can enable us to avoid being derailed by "new" barriers that demand we reinvent the wheel with each accommodation request.
The next step in this research process is to gather and analyze the stories of people requesting any type of alternate formats, e.g., braille, audio recording, readers, large print etc. I hope to hear about people's experiences with requests to a greater variety of covered entities such as restaurants, museums, and libraries, not just work or school settings. The stories themselves are very interesting but I suspect they will also reveal many helpful patterns and insights. Thank you, ACB members, for your help and participation in this work. I expect that you will be reading about the results and ramifications of our research in future issues of "The Braille Forum."
(Editor's Note: We received this warning message amid our e- mails, and think it's worth sharing. Thanks to the Federal Trade Commission for helping to protect all of us! Caveat emptor!)
Dot com. Dot gov. Dot net. Dot org. Dot edu. Dot mil. Dot tv... The Internet has spawned a whole new lexicon and brought the world to your living room, 24/7/365. And while the opportunities online for consumers are almost endless, there are some challenges, too. As in dot con.
Dot con? Dot con. Con artists have gone high-tech, using the Internet to defraud consumers in a variety of clever ways. Whether they're using the excitement of an Internet auction to entice consumers into parting with their money, applying new technology to peddle traditional business opportunity scams, using e-mail to reach vast numbers of people with false promises about earnings through day trading, or hijacking consumers' modems and cramming hefty long-distance charges onto their phone bills, scam artists are just a click away.
Fortunately, law enforcement is on the cyber-case. Using complaints to Consumer Sentinel, a consumer fraud database, as their guide, law enforcement officials have identified the top 10 dot cons threatening consumers who surf the Internet, as well as many of the fraudsters behind them. In addition to putting many online con artists out of business, the Federal Trade Commission, the nation's chief consumer protection agency, wants consumers to know how to avoid getting caught in their web.
According to the FTC, here's what online consumers are complaining about most:
* Internet Auctions. The Bait: Shop in a "virtual marketplace" that offers a huge selection of products at great deals. The Catch: After sending their money, consumers say they've received an item that is less valuable than promised, or, worse yet, nothing at all. The Safety Net: When bidding through an Internet auction, particularly for a valuable item, check out the seller and insist on paying with a credit card or using an escrow service.
* Internet Access Services. The Bait: Free money, simply for cashing a check. The Catch: Consumers say they've been "trapped" into long-term contracts for Internet access or another web service, with big penalties for cancellation or early termination. The Safety Net: If a check arrives at your home or business, read both sides carefully and look inside the envelope to find the conditions you're agreeing to if you cash the check. Read your phone bill carefully and look for unexpected or unauthorized charges.
* Credit Card Fraud. The Bait: Surf the Internet and view adult images online for free, just for sharing your credit card number to prove you're over 18. The Catch: Consumers say that fraudulent promoters have used their credit card numbers to run up charges on their cards. The Safety Net: Share credit card information only when buying from a company you trust. Dispute unauthorized charges on your credit card bill by complaining to the bank that issued the card. Federal law limits your liability to $50 in charges if your card is misused.
* International Modem Dialing. The Bait: Get free access to "adult material" by downloading a "viewer" or "dialer" computer program. The Catch: Consumers have complained about exorbitant long-distance charges on their phone bills. Through the program, one's modem is disconnected, then reconnected to the Internet through an international long-distance number. The Safety Net: Don't download any program to access a so-called "free" service without reading all the disclosures carefully for cost information. Just as important, read your phone bill carefully and challenge any charges you didn't authorize or don't understand.
* Web Cramming. The Bait: Get a free custom-designed web site for a 30-day trial period, with no obligation to continue. The Catch: Consumers say they've been charged on their telephone bills or received a separate invoice, even if they never accepted the offer or agreed to continue the service after the trial period. The Safety Net: Review your telephone bills and challenge any charges you don't recognize.
* Multilevel Marketing Plans/ Pyramids. The Bait: Make money through the products and services you sell as well as those sold by the people you recruit into the program. The Catch: Consumers say that they've bought into plans and programs, but their customers are other distributors, not the general public. Some multi-level marketing programs are actually illegal pyramid schemes. When products or services are sold only to distributors like yourself, there's no way to make money. The Safety Net: Avoid plans that require you to recruit distributors, buy expensive inventory or commit to a minimum sales volume.
* Travel and Vacation. The Bait: Get a luxurious trip with lots of "extras" at a bargain-basement price. The Catch: Consumers say some companies deliver lower-quality accommodations and services than they've advertised or no trip at all. Others have been hit with hidden charges or additional requirements after they've paid. The Safety Net: Get references on any travel company you're planning to do business with. Then, get details of the trip in writing, including the cancellation policy, before signing on.
* Business Opportunities. The Bait: Be your own boss and earn big bucks. The Catch: Taken in by promises about potential earnings, many consumers have invested in a "biz op" that turned out to be a "biz flop." There was no evidence to back up the earnings claims. The Safety Net: Talk to other people who started businesses through the same company, get all the promises in writing, and study the proposed contract carefully before signing. Get an attorney or an accountant to take a look at the agreement, too.
* Investments. The Bait: Make an initial investment in a day trading system or service and you'll quickly realize huge returns. The Catch: Big profits always mean big risk. Consumers have lost money to programs that claim to be able to predict the market with 100 percent accuracy. The Safety Net: Check out the promoter with state and federal securities and commodities regulators, and talk to other people who invested through the program to find out what level of risk you're assuming.
* Health Care Products/Services. The Bait: Items not sold through traditional suppliers are "proven" to cure serious and even fatal health problems. The Catch: Claims for "miracle" products and treatments convince consumers that their health problems can be cured. But people with serious illnesses who put their hopes in these offers might delay getting the health care they need. The Safety Net: Consult a health care professional before buying any "cure-all" that claims to treat a wide range of ailments or offers quick cures and easy solutions to serious illnesses.
Can you avoid getting caught by a scam artist working the web? Not always. But prudence pays. The FTC offers these tips to help you avoid getting caught by an offer that just may not click:
Be wary of extravagant claims about performance or earnings potential. Get all promises in writing and review them carefully before making a payment or signing a contract.
Read the fine print and all relevant links. Fraudulent promoters sometimes bury the disclosures they're not anxious to share by putting them in teeny-tiny type or in a place where you're unlikely to see them.
Be skeptical of any company that doesn't clearly state its name, street address and telephone number. Check it out with the local Better Business Bureau, consumer protection office or state Attorney General.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the online complaint form.
The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide.
I have worked for the past seven years in the transportation industry. My current employer, LogistiCare, Inc. provides management services to government transit departments. We manage ADA (paratransit) contracts, Medicaid transportation services, as well as several HMO-funded private transportation contracts. My personal experiences as a daily user of paratransit services, along with my professional experiences as an administrator for LogistiCare lead me to share what I know about ADA transportation services, for I have experience in managing some of the most difficult situations that arise from providing transportation services to riders like me! Why ADA Transportation?
The policy-makers who devised plans for ADA (also referred to as "paratransit") services were responding to urban and suburban transportation systems that do not meet the needs of many people who are disabled.
Nearly all cities which have experienced rapid growth during the final half of the 20th century have struggled to cope with transportation grids that cannot carry ever increasing traffic loads, changes in population density and distribution, and amenities and service delivery systems that were designed long before the conditions that characterize modern urban life began to appear. Modern sprawling "cities" like Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, and Miami -- where I live -- are, for the most part, large agglomerations of suburbs with poorly defined or non- existent centers. When urban centers do exist, they are usually ringed by high capacity highway systems, which have come into being to move large numbers of single occupancy vehicles. The single-occupancy vehicle is the master of modern urban development.
Although urban mayors and councils may pay lip service to mass transit and in many instances actually spent large sums of money on fixed-route buses, underground and elevated rail, and light rail systems, most commuters who live in outlying communities and travel in and around cities to work do not support mass transit, either by riding buses or trains, or with substantial proportions of their local tax dollars. At this time, and, in my opinion, for the foreseeable future, the single- occupancy vehicle -- whether car, pick-up truck, or SUV -- will continue to rule. The truth is that people who want, or need, to make use of fixed-route mass transit systems to get from place to place in our modern cities find that such systems do not exist at all, are very limited in the areas they cover, run at infrequent intervals, are unreliable, lack accessible pedestrian paths to pick-up locations, and are operated by drivers who refuse to provide the spoken information which blind riders need to access the systems. Recognizing that typical urban mass-transit systems are inadequate to meet the needs of people with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) contains specific provisions regarding access to fixed-route transportation. ADA paratransit systems were conceived to allow people with disabilities to circumvent the problems presented by typical mass-transit systems, but many disabled people who attempt to use their local paratransit services find that the services do not meet their expectations. What Are the Paratransit Rules?
To evaluate your local ADA transportation service, you will need to determine whether or not your own paratransit provider is meeting the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here is a short summation of ADA rules governing paratransit: First, any local governmental entity which provides regular fixed-route bus service to a defined area must provide comparable ADA paratransit to certified riders within a defined three- fourths of a mile to 1.5 mile corridor of the bus service area. In "clearspeak" this means that if you are traveling within three-fourths of a mile from a bus stop on both the pick-up trip and return trip and cannot use a fixed-route vehicle, then the transit authority must provide you with a paratransit trip.
Please note that this regulation says nothing about whether you live within three-fourths of a mile from a bus stop, it only talks about whether your trip takes place within such a corridor. If you live in a house that is not within the specified distance of fixed-route transit, or if there is no fixed-route transit system serving your community, you cannot expect there to be a paratransit service that can assist you.
The other crucial element of criteria for eligibility which is defined in the ADA regulations concerns lack of access to a fixed- route vehicle. "Lack of access" means, in the opinion of most industry administrators, that a person will be eligible for a paratransit ride if he or she cannot: (a) Board the fixed-route vehicle; (b) locate the bus or rail stop; (c) navigate to his/her final destination after exiting the vehicle; (d) obtain sufficient information to decide when and where to exit the vehicle in order to arrive at the final destination; or (e) that the rider is mentally or physically incapable of negotiating the fixed-route system.
Although this list contains universally accepted criteria for ADA transit eligibility certification, I must tell you that your local jurisdiction may have determined other criteria, and that these criteria may go far beyond those listed above. Many of these locally defined criteria are not written in stone and it may be very worthwhile for you to become educated about the procedures your transit agency utilizes to certify riders for paratransit eligibility. Certification is one area where, I believe, many local transit authorities may be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Another area of questionable practices exists for many local providers who attempt to limit paratransit trips. The rules which govern ADA transportation state that no trip limits can be imposed, and that no questions about the purpose of a trip may be asked. These regulations mean that a reservation operator is not allowed to ask you, "Why are you taking this trip?" or "Why are you going to that location?" Your paratransit provider, the reservations agent, and the local transit authority may not make determinations regarding the relative importance of your trips. Thus, whether you are going for a medical treatment, or simply out to dinner, the purpose of your paratransit travel cannot be questioned, and one trip cannot be assigned a higher relative priority than another. Your Paratransit Driver is Not Your Companion!
I want to point out that ADA paratransit is not an escort or an attendant care service. ADA paratransit was meant to be and should always be considered only a transportation service. Just as you would not expect your bus driver or train conductor to bring your groceries into your home, walk you to a doctor's office or pick you up from your restaurant table, you should not expect your ADA paratransit driver to perform any of these tasks. I feel the need to point out this simple truth because, over the years, I have seen and heard many riders state in meetings or in written complaints that my driver would not help me with my bags, walk me to a location, or come inside to find me. These services do not fall within the job descriptions of paratransit drivers. Riders who need these kinds of services should be traveling with companions or personal care attendants. Companions and Personal Care Attendants
There are two categories which describe the people who may accompany eligible riders on paratransit trips: The most common fellow rider is a "companion," who can be anyone you choose, a husband or wife, a friend or a child. Under ADA rules, the system is required to permit a rider at least one companion who will pay an equivalent fare.
A personal care attendant (PCA) is the second kind of fellow traveler which ADA rules address. A PCA is a person, usually a nurse or other trained medical professional, who has been designated by a rider to provide specific care. This personal care can include a variety of disability-related tasks, such as taking the rider to his or her final destination -- for example guiding a visually impaired person through an airport or large office building -- or monitoring an oxygen regulator. Paratransit drivers are not responsible for monitoring life- saving devices; their responsibility is to drive. If riders require the services of PCAs, it is their responsibility to find appropriate professionals to perform the necessary tasks. Personal care attendants ride in paratransit vehicles at no charge. Local Variability of ADA Transit Services
Every local transit administration seems to have its own particular set of paratransit rules and priorities. There is also a great deal of variability in the sums of money local communities are willing to spend to fund ADA transportation. The paratransit systems can vary considerably in scope of service and individualized regulations, from locality to locality. Obviously I am not capable of writing about all the different systems throughout the country. However, a number of systems that are familiar to me, as a frequent rider, and a professional working in the industry, are illustrative of the differences that can occur from one jurisdiction to another.
For example, in Miami-Dade County and Broward County, which are the two systems that I ride on a regular basis, one must make a reservation between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the day preceding a desired trip. Thus paratransit riders are obliged to plan their lives in advance -- or find other transportation options. Both of these systems are door-to-door services. Drivers meet riders at the main doors of their buildings. If riders wish to be picked up from large buildings like office complexes, paratransit drivers meet them in their lobbies or other public areas.
On the other hand, the Washington, DC metropolitan area paratransit system, which I ride with some frequency, has a different set of criteria for picking up and delivering riders. Metro Access patrons are guaranteed only curb-to-curb service. Thus, riders in this system must wait for vehicles at the curb.
I need to make one more comment. That is that systems can change over time. What was true when you visited a particular city a few months ago may have changed dramatically when you return to that jurisdiction tomorrow. During the 1999 ACB national convention in Los Angeles, for example, the paratransit system accepted same-day reservations of those ACB members whose eligibility in other parts of the United States allowed them to call for paratransit service in L.A. I was recently told, however, that the L.A. system no longer accepts same-day reservations. What If Your System Isn't Following the Rules?
Now that you know some of the rules and have a feel for the kinds of service that ADA paratransit systems are providing across the country, you may have come to the conclusion that your local paratransit service provider is violating ADA guidelines. What can you do?
You can file a complaint! Because remedies under the Americans with Disabilities Act are accomplished through the process of filing complaints, the disabled community in a local jurisdiction where services are in obvious violation of the ADA must go through the process of filing formal complaints. Squeaky Wheels
Sometimes service is poor, not because a service provider is violating the specific ADA guidelines, but because the jurisdiction just doesn't spend enough money or provide the kind of monitoring and oversight to maintain adequate service. In this case, your chapter or advocacy group should consider spending a greater portion of time and resources to lobby local politicians to increase funding. Remember, the number of paratransit riders is never going to be a substantial proportion of any community's population. However, if you focus the pressure you exert, the results you realize may be well worth the effort.
It may be worthwhile, for example, to remind local politicians that the voting rolls contain not only the ADA transportation riders, but also their friends and family members -- who may remember, and resent, all the times they have had to rescue paratransit clients whose rides never came!
Most if not all local governments manage ADA paratransit services through the agencies that administer the transit services. These transit authorities usually sponsor ongoing meetings of citizens' advisory panels or oversight committees to monitor the contract process and to oversee the operation of their paratransit systems. It is worthwhile to have yourself or someone with knowledge and interest in transportation issues appointed to such a body. Pressure transit management to negotiate favorable contracts that emphasize rider interests. Remember the squeaky wheel does get the grease and the more involved the riders become the harder it is to ignore them. A Final Word
Although I work in the transportation delivery system, and although I consider myself to be pretty well informed about my rights and responsibilities as an eligible ADA paratransit rider, I am not a lawyer, and my advice should be considered only informal advice! If your local chapter is thinking of bringing complaints or legal action against your local transportation entity, I strongly recommend you seek expert legal advice. Of course, I will be pleased to talk with you about your specific paratransit concerns, and to offer whatever advice and share whatever expertise I have managed to gain. If you wish, please contact me at the e-mail address listed below. I can offer advice or contact information for people who can assist you in more formal ways. Contact me at [email protected]
The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced two new initiatives to enable people with disabilities to become and stay competitively employed. One program will fund demonstrations that enable people with chronic, disabling conditions to get medical benefits without having to quit their jobs to obtain needed care. The other will assist states to increase services and supports to those who work, as well as help others return to work without the fear of losing health coverage.
Both projects help advance the goals of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (TWWIIA), a law passed by Congress to encourage people with disabilities to work without fear of losing their Medicare, Medicaid or similar health benefits.
The second grant program will help 24 states and the District of Columbia in improving their ability to help people with disabilities hold down a job and maintain their health coverage. Congress approved the Medicaid Infrastructure Grants Program for 11 years with $150 million appropriated for the first five years of the program. States will share about $17 million for the first year. This program will help states build the needed systems to allow people with disabilities to purchase health care coverage through Medicaid. These funds will help enhance systems that provide personal assistance and supports, such as help with bathing, dressing and other activities at home or on the job. States can also use the funds to assist employers to gain better access to this underused pool of workers, conduct outreach to people with disabilities, train staff in new employment possibilities, and improve transportation or other supports upon which people with disabilities rely. States receiving this first round of awards include: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The Demonstration to Maintain Independence and Employment is a new approach for the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), which administers the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The demonstration will allow states to provide health care services and supports to working individuals that they need to manage the progression of their diseases. The program will help people remain competitively employed by preventing or delaying the deterioration or a relapse of their condition. Qualified enrollees will be those with conditions where individuals usually experience progressive deterioration or periodic setbacks in their health and their ability to work.
Rhode Island and Mississippi are the first recipients of TWWIIA grants for the Demonstration to Maintain Independence and Employment. All states are eligible to apply for the grants, a program Congress authorized for six years at a spending level of $250 million over the six years. Rhode Island will receive about $2 million over six years to provide health care to people with multiple sclerosis who are still able to work at least 40 hours a month. Other services included in that state's package include case management, personal assistance services, copayments for medications, and other employment supports. Mississippi will use its $27.5 million grant award along with some state funds to cover 500 people with a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS who work or who PLAN to return to work. The state's program will mirror the full Medicaid benefits and services. The project will be implemented in nine counties in the Mississippi Delta where there is a relatively high rate of HIV/AIDS and limited health care resources for people with this condition.
The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.
We've all groaned at the high cost of software to make computers accessible for users who are blind or visually impaired. Software piracy is one of the culprits, and we're all paying because of it. This is a serious problem for developers, and the industry is fighting back.
About 10 years ago, some developers used copy protection to discourage theft, but soon gave up because it was a problem on many computers and seriously inconvenienced users. Currently, developers are returning to a protection method in spite of the difficulties. Microsoft is scheduled to copy protect Office 2000 by requiring the purchaser to register the software. If the user doesn't, the software stops working after a few uses, and the user must then register the software to reactivate it. Also, the user is only allowed to activate two copies -- supposedly one on a desktop and one on a laptop.
Other major manufacturers plan to adopt similar restrictions, which means we should get used to limited copies of software.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SOUGHT
The Mississippi Industries for the Blind is seeking an executive director to be responsible for the management of a $16- million budget and the supervision of satellite manufacturing locations. The successful candidate will be directing a team of 250 employees and working with state agencies and a board of directors. A demonstrated knowledge of manufacturing concerns with an understanding of issues pertinent to the blind community are essential for the successful applicant. A bachelor's degree is required. The successful applicant will receive a full benefit package. Applications will be accepted until January 30, 2001. Send resumes to Mississippi Industries for the Blind, P.O. Box 55567, Jackson, MS 39296.
SHELL ACCOUNTS WITH NATIONAL DIAL-UP
For people who are still reliant on DOS, Olagrande.net offers shell services used for years with local dial-up numbers throughout most of the country. The cost is approximately $20 a month. Check out their web site at www.olagrande.net, or for more information and a list of local numbers, send an e-mail to Bruce Jilek at [email protected]
RAY CHARLES HONORED
Singer Ray Charles was among the honorees at Turner Broadcasting's 2001 Trumpet Awards ceremony on January 8 in Atlanta. The event will be broadcast on February 24 at 8 p.m. (Eastern time) on Turner Broadcasting System's cable network. Performers will include singer Melba Moore, country music's Charley Pride, jazz/pop singer Freda Payne and jazz singer Al Jarreau. Ray Charles received the Living Legend Award. The 2001 Trumpet Awards were hosted by actors Diahann Carroll and Richard Roundtree. The event recognized black professionals in fields such as law, politics and entertainment.
ABLE-NET has a new toll-free number. It is (877) 221-5427. The company provides a variety of Internet services to all 50 states and Canada, and discounts for organizations and individuals with disabilities. FREE BRITISH E-MAIL NEWSLETTER The "E-access Bulletin" is an e-mail newsletter on technology issues for people with visual impairments. It features articles such as, "Digital libraries -- Information Retrieval, Adapting Windows, Free Membership to Audio Book Club, and Web Sites That Suck." The bulletin is sponsored by three British organizations: the Royal National Institute for the Blind; the National Library for the Blind; and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. To subscribe to this free monthly bulletin, send an e-mail to: [email protected] with the words subscribe eab in the subject line.
TALKING CALLER ID
Full Life Products, of Mirror Lake, NH, offers a range of caller ID's that talk, and one with a large print display, all made by Oregon Scientific. The Jumbo Caller ID displays numbers in 1 1/2-inch high format. Besides large print, the Jumbo has a 99-call memory, a date display, an inside/outside thermometer and a built-in clock with alarm feature. The cost for this Jumbo (model 888) is $89.95.
The talking caller ID's range in price from $29.95 (model 500) to $129.95 for a model (Dialogue JV-35 Talking Telephone) designed for people with visual and/or hearing impairments. Other talking-only models cost from $60 to $80 each. With one model only (JV-35), you can receive a cassette instruction tape and braille quick guide free upon request. All products are subject to shipping and handling charges of $8.95. For more information and ordering, call toll-free (800) 400-1540.
Sound is the number one factor in deterring crime and finding people during emergencies. Try this new safety whistle with universal locking safety clip to attach whistle to keys or pocket. It's loud -- up to 118 decibels! The whistle is manufactured with a double chamber for multiple pitches. It works in extremely cold weather and in water rescue conditions.
The safety whistle costs $6 per whistle. For ACB clients, this will include everything -- shipping and sales tax. Send check to Wings & Safety Things, P.O. Box 370, Moffett Federal Airfield, CA 94035. To order by phone: (408) 275-8604, or e-mail [email protected]
STUDENT AID AUDIO GUIDE
After applying for one of ACB's many scholarships, (see the November "Braille Forum"), check out the "Student Aid Audio Guide" prepared by the U.S. Department of Education for students who are visually impaired or blind. The 45-minute free CD can be played on any CD player and contains information on federal student aid programs, application procedures, eligibility criteria, loan repayment options, deferment and cancellation provisions, and non-federal resources. Request a free copy from the Federal Student Aid Information Center by calling toll-free (800) 433-3243, between 8 a.m. and midnight (Eastern Time) seven days a week. High school students may be interested in a free braille publication called "Funding Your Education" specifically written for entering freshmen. The center's web site is designed for text-only access. Try it out at http://www.ed.gov/studentaid.
WINDOW-EYES 4.0 RELEASED
In the past few weeks, GW Micro has released the latest upgrade, Window-Eyes 4.0. According to the company information, Window-Eyes 4.0 introduces revolutionary support for braille displays (30 braille displays supported), enhanced support for Internet applications, such as Internet Explorer 5.5, Outlook Express 5.5, Outlook 2000, Eudora, PMMail and Agent. Also, there is total support for Windows Millennium. There are special upgrade rates for current registered Window-Eyes users. For more information, call (219) 489-3671, or visit the web site at http://www.gwmicro.com.
WEST VIRGINIA ALUMNI DIRECTORY
If you attended the West Virginia School for the Blind and wish to be included in the WVSB Alumni Association Directory, send your name, complete address, day/evening phone numbers, date you entered school, date you departed/graduated and state if you wish to purchase a braille or large print copy. If you want to, include your birth date and e-mail address. The cost per directory is expected to be less than $10. Information must be received by January 31, 2001. Send information to Ninetta Garner, 231 Grafton St., Romney, WV 26757, or call her at (304) 822-5907 before 10 p.m. (Eastern time).
NEW COMPANY SELLS WHITE CANES
Howell Mobility Products, a new company, sells straight and folding canes manufactured by WCIB. This is a good basic white cane made of 1/2 inch aluminum tubing with a golf grip handle that can be fitted with custom cane tips. The cost ranges from $15 to $19 per cane. Choice of cane tips include: a standard cylinder tip, a mushroom model, two marshmallow sizes, and a more specialized hollow 2.25-inch nylon ball tip that works well over uneven surfaces and grass. Tips cost between $1.50 and $3. For details, phone (248) 548-1788, or e-mail [email protected] You may also visit the web site, http://www.michiganconnect.com/whitecanes. The mailing address is: Howell Mobility Products, 717 Louis Ave., Royal Oak, MI 48607-4603.
DOWNLOAD TV LISTINGS
An ACB member told us about a service providing a schedule of TV channels to be downloaded each month. This service is free of charge for any blind person. E-mail addresses are not shared with anyone. Once downloaded, the monthly schedule can be searched by name, performer, movie title, etc. For more information, call toll-free (800) 577-3492, e-mail [email protected] now.com, or visit the web site, http://www.tv-now.com/downer.htm.
Mobility International USA now has available a free brochure detailing international exchanges. The brochure, made in cooperation with the Social Security Administration, tells about benefits and options, what you gain from an international exchange, funding options, and the most commonly asked questions. To receive a copy, contact Mobility International at (541) 343- 1284 or via e-mail at [email protected]
ON-LINE PEN PALS FOR CHILDREN
ePALS Classroom Exchange, Inc., an on-line resource for classroom communities, and WeMedia, Inc. have developed a partnership which will make it possible for parents, guardians and caregivers to find ePALS (electronic pen pals) for children with disabilities. Through the ePALS program, children can improve their communications skills, learn about other cultures and make friends with children all around the world. This program is fully compliant with the Children's On-line Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Currently, the ePAL Classroom Exchange serves 2.5 million members in 182 countries. For more information about the ePALS Classroom Exchange, visit the web site at: http://www.epals.com, or contact WeMedia, Inc. by phone, (646) 769-2837, TTY, (212) 375-6235, or e-mail Caryn Kaufman at [email protected]
FREE ON-LINE SERVICES
A computer access company for consumers who are blind or visually impaired in the United Kingdom will provide some free on-line services for clients in several countries. According to information in the American Foundation for the Blind's on-line technology magazine, "AccessWorld," the countries include Australia, the Netherlands, Ireland, Scandinavia and the United States. Free e-mail and web space will be available. The company, Dolphin Computer Access, plans to be an Internet provider also. For more information, contact Dolphin Computer Access, 100 South Ellsworth Ave., 4th Floor, San Mateo, CA 94401, or phone (650) 348-7401.
Christiansen Designs specializes in unique jewelry creations featuring braille as part of the design in items such as earrings, cuff bracelets, and rings with standard phrases or special orders. Kim Christiansen can now support fundraising initiatives with substantial discounts on bulk orders. Several items are suited to fundraising, such as braille key rings, or the "Read For Fun" book pins.
A new brochure is available showing all recent designs. For more information, or to order, send e-mail to: [email protected], or visit the new web site, http://www.braillejewelry.com, or phone (802) 649-2925. The mailing address is: Christiansen Designs, P.O. Box 583, Hanover, NH 03755.
IBM HOME PAGE READER UPDATE
The new version supports three additional languages -- Brazilian Portuguese, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese in addition to the existing U.S. English, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Japanese languages.
Home Page Reader is a complete, self-contained talking browser, and no screen reader is required. The suggested retail price for HPR version 3.0 is $149. Users of Home Page Reader versions 2.0 and 2.5 can download a free upgrade to Version 3.0 from the IBM Accessibility Center web page at: http://www.ibm.com/able. For more information, contact IBM media representative Rebecca Gee at (914) 945-2913, or e-mail [email protected]
ARABIC SCREEN READER
An Arabic and English language screen reader, the Sakhr Arabic Screen Reading Solution, was recently introduced in the GITEX Computer Exhibition in the United Arab Emirates. It reads in Arabic and English using Sapi software, reading and navigating the Internet in a manner similar to IBM's Home Page Reader. For more information, send an e-mail message to [email protected]
"Vision Loss in the 21st Century -- Everybody's Business" is a conference scheduled for Feb. 19-22, 2003 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It is an international symposium that seeks to create improved public understanding of blindness and vision loss in our society, serve as a catalyst for new partnerships, strengthen existing alliances, and provide a stimulating forum for learning. For more information, call the American Foundation for the Blind at (800) 232-5463, or the Foundation for the Junior Blind at (323) 295-4555. Or you may visit their web pages: http://www.afb.org or http://www.fjb.org.
FOR SALE: DECtalk Access 32 software synthesizer, $100. JAWS version 3.7, $350. Keynote Gold external synthesizer, $400. Braille 'n Speak 2000, $750. Call Ty at (316) 686-2428 or e-mail him at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Pentium computer with Open Book, HP scanner, screen reader, and Windows 95. Asking $700 (shipping not included). Contact Stan at (925) 778-7446.
FOR SALE: Electric brailler. In good shape. Asking $300. Contact Marty Lanser at (209) 526-4091 or (209) 985-9375.
(Editor's Note: We thank Peter Altschul for this excellent 12-step New Year's Resolution for the new millennium! Now, where did we put those talking books, the knitting needles, the cookie cutters ... all the things we used to do before we became addicted to e-mail and ACB Radio??? And who are these strange children, and do they live here?)
1. I will have a cup of coffee in the morning and read my newspaper like I used to, before the Internet.
2. I will eat breakfast with a knife and fork and not with one hand typing.
3. I will get dressed before noon.
4. I will make an attempt to clean the house, wash clothes, and plan dinner before turning on my computer.
5. I will sit down and write a letter to those unfortunate few friends and family that are Internet-deprived.
6. I will call someone on the phone who I cannot contact via e-mail.
7. I will read a book...if I still remember how. (Let's see now. Dots 1, 3, 5 ... Oh, that's an "o!")
8. I will listen to those around me and try to pay attention to their needs and stop telling them to turn the TV down so I can hear what my screen-reader is saying.
9. I will not be tempted during TV commercials to check for e-mail.
10. I will try and get out of the house at least once a week, whether it's necessary or not.
11. I will remember that my bank is not forgiving if I forget to balance my checkbook because I was too busy on the Internet.
12. Last, but not least, I will remember that I must go to bed sometime and the Internet will always be there tomorrow!
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