Braille Forum
Volume XXXIX February 2001 No. 8
Published By
The American Council of the Blind
Paul Edwards, President
Charles H. Crawford, Executive Director
Penny Reeder, Editor
Sharon Lovering, Editorial Assistant
National Office:
1155 15th St. N.W.
Suite 1004
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 467-5081
Fax: (202) 467-5085
Web Site:
Paul Edwards' voice pager: (888) 895-8553

THE BRAILLE FORUM is available in braille, large print, half- speed four-track cassette tape and computer disk. Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for publication should be sent to: Penny Reeder, THE BRAILLE FORUM, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005. Submission deadlines are the first of the month.

Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Patricia Beattie at the same address. If you wish to remember a relative or friend by sharing in the council's continuing work, the national office has printed cards available to acknowledge contributions made by loved ones in memory of deceased people.

Anyone wishing to remember the American Council of the Blind in his/her Last Will and Testament may do so by including a special paragraph for that purpose. If your wishes are complex, you may contact the ACB National Office.

For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the "Washington Connection" toll-free at (800) 424-8666, 6 p.m. to midnight Eastern time Monday through Friday.

Copyright 2001
American Council of the Blind


Executive Director's Report: A Place to Live?, by Charles H. Crawford
President's Message: Of News and Lines, by Paul Edwards
Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee Endorses Pedestrian Safety Features, by Melanie Brunson
NISH Update, Part II, by Charles S.P. Hodge
Highlights: The ACB Fall Board of Directors Meeting, by Kim Charlson
The ACB 2001 National Convention Hotels, by Donna Seliger
The Bridges of Madison County and More, by Jerry Annunzio
Affiliate News
Dori at Three, by Sarah J. Blake
Letters to the Editor
Fidelco's Director of Training Announces Retirement, Looks
Forward to New Role

The Unified Braille Code in the 21st Century, by Winifred Downing
Unified English Braille Code: A Code for the Future, by Kim Charlson
JAWS or Window-Eyes: A Cursory Comparison, by Charles Lott
Here and There, by Billie Jean Keith
High Tech Swap Shop

The e-mail address listed for Jesus Garcia ("ADA Transportation Rights and Responsibilities," January 2001) was incorrect. His e-mail addresses are: [email protected] and [email protected]

by Charles H. Crawford

In an era of superhighways, supermarkets, information that travels at the speed of light, Game Boys, Super Bowls and movies showing in living rooms and family rooms on 60-inch screens with surround sound, why are so many still searching for a place where they can live? Has something gone terribly wrong? If so, what does ACB have to do with it?

Think about the definition of an "ideal" neighborhood for a blind person and then think about the same definition for a person with sight. Is there much difference? Would a sighted person enjoy a mixed-use development where one could walk just a couple of blocks to get to the store? Would people who can see, and drive, like to see their kids go a block or two and find the soccer or baseball field, instead of having to get in the car and drive them off to the playing fields three miles down the highway? Wouldn't sighted people enjoy crossing narrower streets instead of taking their lives in their hands as they rush to cross six lanes of speeding traffic? Wouldn't these same folks like the notion of walking down the sidewalk to a variety store and meeting friends and neighbors they actually know along the way? Wouldn't all of us love to live in a place where we could let our children out of doors without even the smallest fear? Why in a nation so rich are we even discussing such a fundamental expectation?

As I have worked to improve pedestrian safety, I have discovered, to my dismay, that our nation seems to be slowly sinking into a mess of urban sprawl that may have once promised better living, but now delivers polluted skies, deadly streets, and generations of Americans who are slowly losing the connections to one another that we once took for granted. Now we hear footsteps and wonder if there is danger. Now we lock ourselves in our cars and our houses or apartments, because there is just nowhere to walk to anymore. Can we change this? Yes, we can. ACB is taking on a leadership role in a struggle that will not only help blind folks, but in the grand scheme of things, lead the way for everyone.

There are a whole set of values that are associated with pedestrian safety. We begin to perceive a world beyond the borders of our little islands set between large highways. We think about people walking in the open air rather than cramped behind the windshields of their cars and sports utility vehicles. Our perspectives widen even as we begin to think of the freedom and possibilities in a world where we no longer are prisoners to cars and the accommodations they demand! For example, we all protect one another because we care.

There is a new movement in America. It is called livable communities and it is catching on. ACB has rightfully placed the concept of pedestrian safety within that model of communities where we can really live. We must promote safe street crossings to sidewalks and sidewalks to houses and stores and churches and neighbors. We must connect the neighbors to places for kids and schools and family outings. We must connect these places to ourselves and realize that our first steps toward pedestrian safety have begun a journey where we as a blindness community are pointing the way to a place where a force greater than all of our technology and our money and our power lives and flourishes. We are making a conscious, and an increasingly popular, decision to plan communities where we can live, and not try to live anymore in communities that have names but no souls.

So, go get a copy of the pedestrian safety handbook. Now begin to imagine the world we can have if we only take those first steps without fear and knowing that each step brings us all closer as a people, as a nation, and as communities alive in the richness of all our members. What are you waiting for? Call your ACB chapter president and let's get busy!

by Paul Edwards

When the federal budget for this fiscal year was released, $4 million was allocated for Newsline. As many of you will know, Newsline is the name of a specific telephone access system that allows blind people to listen to several newspapers using synthesized speech. This particular system is operated by the National Federation of the Blind. It is not clear from the information that we have so far seen that all of these funds must go to the NFB. Clearly there are a number of approaches that are being taken to providing telephone accessible news and it is certainly arguable that the NFB Newsline may not even be the most effective approach currently available.

I want to spend a little time in this message talking about ACB's attitudes about Newsline and news delivery. Only after such a preliminary discussion will it be possible for me to talk about how ACB feels about this current budget allocation. We first became involved with Newsline several years ago when the Rehabilitation Services Administration issued a document allowing states to use any spare federal funds allocated through vocational rehabilitation to fund setting up Newsline services. What we objected to was that the only listed option was Newsline. Our position was that states should take a look at all available options and then make a decision about which approach to making news available to their citizens who are blind seemed most appropriate. We also wanted states to be certain that their contract with Newsline or any other news delivery system clearly specified what should or should not be included on that system. It has been our experience that the National Federation of the Blind has not utilized Newsline to provide what we might feel was propaganda promoting the Federation. Let me be clear that our objection does not and cannot apply to a contract that is entered into between a private person and the NFB. However, if public agencies using federal or state dollars are involved, those entities have an obligation to assure that consumer organizations have equal access to information delivery systems that public funds support.

Making newspapers accessible to people who are blind is not in itself a bad thing. In fact, I have taken the position that Newsline provides a valuable service to many blind people throughout the country. I have not so far tried to use Newsline though I am sure that Dr. Maurer would give me temporary access to evaluate the system. Later in this article, it should become clear why I have not used it so far. However, the point I want to make is that the service that Newsline offers is a valuable one and we in ACB should not oppose something just because the Federation does it.

If we apply this same value system to the federal budget allocation, we should actually be fairly pleased that money is included that specifically helps create more access to news for people who are blind. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about getting the federal government involved in broadening access to information for people who are blind. It is arguable that anything that broadens the availability of information to blind people is a good thing.

One of the questions that we need to explore, however, is whether Newsline constitutes the only or the most appropriate source of information. Many older people find it difficult to adjust to synthesized speech. This population benefits from the information read by volunteers through such services as the Metropolitan Washington Ear or the telephone reading service that operates in Kansas. On the other hand, Newsline can make a much larger quantity of information available each day and do it earlier in the day because it uses synthesized speech. I recently checked out the new synthetic speech used by America Online and found it to be much clearer than any other synthetic speech I had heard. This suggests that we are not far away from a time when this objection to synthesized speech will disappear.

I am a computer user. I get news directly from the newspapers I want to read and can choose whether to read them in braille or using synthetic speech. I can go directly to the story I want and am not limited to the small number of newspapers the Federation offers on Newsline. I am also beginning to take advantage of digest programs that allow me to specify subjects and have several stories on that subject displayed for me. I can also, of course, use Real Audio or Windows Media Player to access radio and television stations from all over the world to acquire easily understood news. And, my friends, the fact is that this is just the beginning of where we are. There are several telephone systems such as Tell Me that allow us to get weather and sports scores and news. There are whole new kinds of devices such as the Freedom Box that are low-end Internet access devices specifically designed to bring broadcasts to us.

Put simply, we are at the beginning of a time of change. All of us who are interested in making information more available to people who are blind need to look at alternatives and decide which of them is best. Radio reading services are looking at an Internet presence. Just this month, the Canadian Radio Reading Service went online. When I was in Australia, I could tune into the proceedings of the World Blind Union conference using low-power FM. ACBūs convention has, in the past, been available using cable within hotels and, of course, via the Internet on ACB Radio.

Ideally, I would hope that radio reading services and other interested groups could get access to some of this $4 million so that other approaches to news provision could be explored. If that doesn't happen this year, clearly we should ask the federal government to broaden its approach next time. I believe it is exciting that government is partnering with people who are blind to explore news delivery. The challenge for all of us who are interested in information access is to see that we broaden their interests so as not to focus on just one possible approach. We live in a time of great promise. Within a very few years, current approaches to information provision for all people may be as irrelevant as is the phonograph record. With luck and persistence, we can use federal dollars to expose people who are blind to a whole range of approaches to getting the news of the day. New approaches are evolving as I write. Can all of those interested in information access for people who are blind work together to build the broadest range of access choices for the people we all claim to care about? That is the question. Only time will provide the answer!

by Melanie Brunson

The long-awaited report of the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee was presented to the Access Board on January 10, 2001. The report, entitled Building a True Community, will be used by the Access Board in developing accessibility guidelines specific to public rights-of-way under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act. The committee's 33 members included representatives from disability and advocacy organizations, including ACB, public works departments, transportation and traffic engineering groups, civil engineers, government agencies and standard-setting bodies.

The report makes several significant recommendations for new construction in the public right-of-way. Some examples include: requiring wider sidewalks, clearly marking crosswalks at signals, and improved curb ramp design that will allow intersections to be accessible to people with both visual and mobility impairments. The committee also voted to recommend to the Access Board that 24 inches of truncated dome detectable warnings be required at some street corners where it is difficult to determine where the sidewalk ends and the street begins.

Other recommendations include scoping requirements for accessible pedestrian signals, such as requiring that they have a locator tone and that they clearly identify which crosswalk has the walk interval, and the use of audible signage to communicate information of various kinds to blind and visually impaired people. Finally, in an effort to address concerns raised by the blind community about the design of curb ramps, the committee recommended requiring that all newly constructed intersections provide a separate curb ramp for each direction of travel, and that the use of lips at the bottom of curb ramps be eliminated.

It is our hope that this process will be completed within two years. If you'd like to read the report of the Public Rights-of- Way Access Advisory Committee, it is available on the Access Board's web site, If you have questions about any of its contents, please feel free to get in touch with me, or Charlie Crawford, at the ACB national office.

by Charles S.P. Hodge

On Wednesday morning, December 6, 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in the case of National Industries for the Severely Disabled (NISH) et al v. Secretary of Defense et al. The case was heard in Richmond, Va., before a three-judge panel comprised of Circuit Judges William B. Traxler Jr. of South Carolina and Robert B. King of West Virginia and District Judge Terrance W. Boyle of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The appellant, NISH, had hired new counsel to represent it in the appellate court. John Pachter made a much stronger argument for the appellant than had been made in the trial court. He consistently and repeatedly hammered upon the distinction between a concessions statute which he claimed was the proper category for the Randolph-Sheppard Act, and a true procurement statute such as the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Act which this counsel argued was more appropriate to apply to the circumstance of awarding a contract to provide food services at a mess hall on a military base. While the judges all asked probing questions of Pachter, they seemed to treat him with much respect as one of the leading writers and commentators on federal government procurement law.

Unfortunately, the counsel for the federal defendants had also changed since the initial argument had been posed before the trial court. The attorney representing the Department of Justice, Jeffrica Jenkins-Lee, seemed a little unsure of the Randolph- Sheppard Act, and made a number of admissions or concessions against the interests of the federal defendants. For example, Pachter had argued and placed in the judges' minds that one of the distinguishing characteristics of operating a mess hall on a military base under a procurement contract was that uniformed service personnel were merely given their food orders over the counter and did not have to pay any money out of their own pockets through the cash register. Jenkins-Lee was asked by Judge Boyle if she knew of any mess hall locations which were operated by a blind manager where food was given to uniformed service personnel. She answered in the negative, unaware, I presume, that a number of mess halls on military facilities are in fact operated by blind managers under the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority.

Andrew Freeman, the counsel for the National Federation of the Blind, who had been designated by direction of the court as the one counsel to represent and speak for all seven defendant party intervenors including the American Council of the Blind, was, unfortunately, only allotted five minutes to present his argument to the court. While he tried to respond to Pachter's contentions and to set the record straight with respect to some of the misunderstandings left in the judges' minds by Jenkins- Lee, his efforts were at best a scattered and shotgun effort to repair damage that had already been inflicted.

Following the trial court arguments, I was left with the strong impression that the defendant intervenors would win a smashing victory at the trial court level. This impression proved correct. After witnessing the arguments before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, I am much less confident about the outcome. Although I do believe that the defendants should win on the law, the matter is far less clear cut than before the trial court. Stay tuned for the decision in this most important Randolph-Sheppard Act case which is expected to come down in March or April. We will keep you informed through the pages of "The Braille Forum."

September 23, 2000
by Kim Charlson

Paul Edwards opened the fall board meeting, which was held in St. Louis, MO, by welcoming members and guests. All board members were present except for Alan Beatty.

Adoption of the pre- and post-convention board minutes was deferred until the next board meeting because of problems with their distribution to all board members.

It was reported that the Affiliate and National Organization Expectations document was ready for dissemination to interested parties. A motion passed instructing appropriate ACB staff to have the document posted on the web site and made available in alternate formats. In addition, Brian Charlson and Penny Reeder were asked to assume responsibility for management of the electronic lists for the board and ACB leadership.

In president Edwards' report on activities within the North American/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, he said that ACB had been successful in expanding the viewpoints represented by organizations on the WBU Women's Concerns Committee by having Jill Tobin, co-chair of ACB's women's concerns committee, appointed to that committee. The board formally supported this appointment by adopting a motion to authorize Tobin's attendance at the committee's meeting in early October. Edwards also commended ACB's Michigan affiliate for strengthening relations with the Canadian Council of the Blind by holding their October convention just across the Michigan border in Ontario, Canada. Brian Charlson was expected to attend that convention representing ACB.

The report of the executive director Charles Crawford focused on five key areas. First, on the ruling of the Federal Communications Commission requiring broadcasters to begin supplying some video description for prime-time programs, which over the next 18 months will fundamentally enhance the accessibility of televised programming for people who are visually impaired.

Second, Crawford said that ACB is involved in discussions with the Rehabilitation Services Administration regarding their notice of proposed rule making to disallow a reimbursable employment outcome if a blind person chooses to work in a "non-integrated" environment or workshop setting. ACB does not support the RSA position, but rather espouses a strong commitment to consumer choice.

Third, Crawford reported that ACB has published the second edition of the Pedestrian Safety Handbook in various formats, and expressed ACB's appreciation to all of the state and special- interest affiliates who made financial contributions to facilitate its publication. A brief pedestrian safety release, called "The Pedestrian Safety Bulletin," has been written to provide basic information to cities and towns on the issue and refer interested parties to the handbook for more detailed information.

Fourth, Crawford reported on ACB's involvement with the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Call for Action Implementation Program. He said that this meeting had produced a set of understandings which will be presented to the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind for adoption. These understandings will establish a unified vision for the vending program, and will delineate the kind of expanded resources which will be required to support further development of the Randolph-Sheppard vending program.

Fifth, Crawford announced that ACB had received an $18,000 grant for the development of a brochure and resource list for elders with visual impairments who live in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Although the original list will be targeted to the Washington metropolitan area, the basic framework can then be customized by individual state affiliates to reflect specific resources and programs in any area and can be distributed along with the original brochure.

Several committee reports were given including the ACB convention committee report presented by LeRoy Saunders. He outlined several policy and procedural changes to streamline convention registration processes which will lend to a more efficient convention. The board passed a motion accepting the policy recommendations and revised procedures, and approved amending the convention guidelines for site selection to emphasize the development of at least one high-quality bid, and make the requirement for two or more bids optional.

Kim Charlson reported that the history committee has identified a publisher for the ACB history. The book is scheduled to be completed in 2002.

Debbie Grubb reported on behalf of the ACB membership committee that their goal over the course of the next year is to have designated committee members contact each affiliate through its president. By early 2001, the committee will release a report on "How to Grow a Successful Local Convention."

Kim Charlson gave the report from the board of publications. She announced that Billie Jean Keith had been selected as the new contributing editor for the "Here and There" column. She reported that the BOP would be working with the editorial staff to conduct a purge of "The Braille Forum" subscription list in all formats, since this had not been done for over four years. A motion passed authorizing a purge of the mailing list to be done no later than the end of 2001.

Pat Beattie, ACB treasurer, and Jim Olsen, ACB Chief Financial Officer, provided the board with an analysis of the current financial situation and projections through the end of 2000. President Edwards stated that the board, along with the national office staff, needs to help members understand how the dollars contributed through dues are utilized and why there is currently a need for increased financial participation on the part of each individual member as well as each affiliate.

Pat Beattie, the new chair of the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services (ACBES), presented her report, in which she shared data on how the various thrift stores were doing. LeRoy Saunders, past chair, reported on a pending meeting with all thrift store managers to be held in St. Louis in October 2000, the purpose of which is to build a better relationship between the store managers and ACB. Saunders explained that his hope for the meeting would be to develop an atmosphere where store managers feel that their input is valued and strategies can be identified to improve ACB's relationship with ACBES. Strategies under discussion include adding a link on the ACB web site and including an article about ACBES and its activities in "The Braille Forum."

Elections were held to select the members of the budget committee. Pat Beattie, Mitch Pomerantz and Dawn Christensen were elected.

President Edwards reported that a leadership coordination meeting was held in August which brought together the key representatives from the ACB and ACBES elected leadership, and ACB and ACBES staff. What emerged from this meeting was a stronger sense of cooperation. Periodic conference calls and an e-mail list will be set up to facilitate enhanced communication between all parties involved.

Kim Charlson gave a report on the special committee which was established to research implementation of resolution 2000-47 regarding distribution of braille materials from the ACB national office; the resolution had been referred by the convention to the board for action. A committee was established at the post-convention board meeting consisting of Kim Charlson, Penny Reeder, Terry Pacheco, Dawn Christensen, Pam Shaw and Chris Gray, representing the Braille Revival League. The committee met via conference call, and as their first function, identified all of the materials that are currently produced or made available in braille by the ACB national office. This list included the ACB Mission Statement, Reasonable Accommodation Policy, various ACB brochures, ADA clinic information, ADA publications list, various meeting agendas, appropriate correspondence, "The Braille Forum," committee lists, constitution and bylaws, various officer handbooks, fund-raising letters, Pedestrian Safety Handbook, resource list, scholarship applications, small business brochure and the ABC's of ACB. Some of the materials identified were available on hand, while others would need to be produced upon request.

It was the view of the committee that there are some documents with very limited time usefulness that are not recommended for production in braille. For example, the convention pre-registration materials would be virtually useless if made available in braille, because by the time the document could be produced it would no longer be of any value. Charlson emphasized that such items can be made available on the web site and would continue to be available on cassette. A further recommendation of the committee was to incorporate into the process of developing documents and publications a step in the production cycle that outlines the production of all formats. Following the acceptance of the committee's report, the committee was formally dissolved.

Pat Beattie reported on the efforts of the committee charged with implementing resolution 2000-43 relating to leadership training initiatives. The committee identified current leadership development efforts including: the mid-year affiliate presidents' meeting, the legislative seminar, and the national convention. ACB also provides representatives to attend most affiliate conventions, and these designees could also share their expertise in their roles as officers, keeping members involved, or providing training on writing resolutions and other important documents. Helpful resource documents could be placed on the ACB web site to aid in leadership development. The committee will continue to work on options for enhanced leadership training opportunities which can realistically occur within budgetary constraints.

Charlie Crawford outlined his proposed goals for 2001 for the national office and its staff. A motion was passed by the board accepting the proposed goals. Crawford also reported that a draft of an ACB Operations Manual was available for board comment, and will be distributed in whichever format is preferred for review.

The board approved up to $650 from the ACB Buell fund to assist Mandy Sommer, a blind swimmer participating in the Paralympics in Sydney, Australia, with a portion of her travel expenses.

Pam Shaw will chair a committee on appropriate board recognition for years of service. She will submit a list of recommendations to the board at the 2001 mid-year meeting.

Sandy Sanderson, Sanford Alexander, M.J. Schmitt, and Charlie Crawford were appointed to a special committee charged to research the current state of the National Accreditation Council (NAC), and make a recommendation to the board as to the direction ACB might take regarding NAC. Sanford Alexander will chair this committee, which will prepare a preliminary report for the 2001 mid-year board meeting.

Jerry Annunzio volunteered to work on implementing the suggestion of designing an ACB commemorative patch, which could be stitched or ironed onto clothing and the like. Pat Beattie will assist him on this venture.

After no further business, the fall ACB board meeting was adjourned.

by Donna Seliger

It's not too early to think about making your reservations for the ACB National Convention which will take place at the Polk County Convention Complex in Des Moines, Iowa, from June 30 to July 7, 2001.

Most convention activities are planned for Des Moines' state- of-the-art convention center, which is within easy walking or shuttling distance from five first-class hotels. That's why we're calling next summer's convention which celebrates the 40th birthday of the American Council of the Blind the "Five Star Convention!"

The Downtown Marriott Hotel, the Savery Hotel and Spa, and the Kirkwood Hotel are located on Des Moines' unique enclosed climate controlled Skywalk System which also connects to the convention center. The remaining stars in our constellation of five are the Hotel Fort Des Moines and the Downtown Holiday Inn. Shuttle service will be provided from both of these hotels. Room rates at all five hotels are $60 per night, plus applicable taxes.

The Downtown Marriott Hotel

The Downtown Marriott, located at 700 Grand Ave., phone (515) 245-5500, is a 32-story hotel with a three-story atrium. There are two restaurants: Allies (casual) and Quenelles (fine dining), and two lounges, the Skywalk and Pitchers Sports Bar. Amenities at the Marriott include an indoor pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, exercise equipment, a coin-operated laundry for guests, a sundry shop, beauty salon, and business center. In addition to welcoming guide dogs, the hotel also permits small dogs and cats.

Sleeping rooms have individual climate control, color TV with cable, phone with voice messaging and data port for laptop use, coffee maker, iron and ironing board, and hair dryer. Ice and soda vending machines are available on each guest room floor.

The Savery Hotel and Spa

The Savery Hotel and Spa, which is located at 401 Locust Street, phone (515) 244-2151, is also connected to the Skywalk System. Within the past two years this 11-story hotel has undergone a major renovation to restore its beauty and charm and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Iowa Room Restaurant, near the elevators on the lobby level, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Savery Bar and Grill serves sandwiches and snacks as well as hors d'oeuvres at scheduled times. Amenities at the Savery include an indoor jogging track, pool, whirlpool, sauna, and exercise equipment. A business center is located on the Skywalk level.

Each guest room has individual climate control, color TV with cable, a coffee maker, iron and ironing board, phones have voice messaging and a data port for laptop use. Hair dryers are available upon request. Ice and vending are located on each guest room floor and a snack machine is available on the fourth floor.

The Kirkwood Hotel

The third hotel on the Skywalk System is the Kirkwood Civic Center, 400 Walnut Street, phone (515) 244-9191. The Kirkwood will offer a quiet, relaxing environment after a long day at the convention. Another example of historic architecture, the Kirkwood, which is located only one block south of the Savery Hotel, is a short walk to the Court Avenue District for dinner and entertainment.

The Kirkwood Corner Coffee Shop is available for breakfast and lunch. Guest rooms have been updated and enlarged. Some have two bathrooms and hydrates (regular tub with whirlpool effect). All rooms feature individual climate control, color TV with cable, iron and ironing board. Although coffee makers are not provided in guest rooms, coffee is available in the lobby from 6:30 a.m. to about 10 a.m.

The Hotel Fort Des Moines

Although the Hotel Fort Des Moines, located at 10th and Walnut Streets, phone (515) 243-1161, is not currently on the Skywalk system, it is a wonderful place to stay. The hotel, which has hosted U.S presidents, international dignitaries, and entertainers, has been completely renovated and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There are two restaurants: Alexander's, which serves only breakfast, and The Landmark Grill, which serves lunch and dinner. Checker's Lounge serves sandwiches for a lighter meal. The gift shop, coin operated guest laundry, indoor lap pool, whirlpool, sauna, and exercise equipment are convenient for all guests.

Guest rooms have individual climate control, color TV with cable, coffee maker, iron and ironing board, and a phone with voice messaging (some phones have data ports). Hair dryers are available upon request. Ice and soda vending are on each guest room floor except 4 and 11. The hotel will provide shuttle service to and from the Polk County Convention Complex.

The Holiday Inn Downtown

The Holiday Inn Downtown, which is situated at 1050 Sixth Avenue, phone (515) 283-0151, is yet another option for our convention guests. Genevieve's Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Maroney's Lounge is a good place to unwind at the end of a long day. An indoor pool and exercise equipment are located on the lobby level.

All guest rooms are equipped with individual climate control, color TV with cable, coffee maker, iron and ironing board. Each phone has voice messaging and data port for laptop use. Hair dryers are available upon request. Ice and soda vending are available on each floor, and snack machines are located in the lobby area.

The Holiday Inn is not on the Skywalk System, so shuttle service will be provided to and from the Polk County Convention Complex.


To make a reservation at any of the Five Star Convention Hotels, call the Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-451-2625, and ask for ACB housing. Please do not call the hotels directly.

Airport/Hotel Transportation

Each of the Five Star Convention hotels will provide free, complimentary shuttle service between the airport and the hotel. On the way to baggage claim, there is a short up ramp. If you follow the right hand wall, there is a recessed area with a sloping counter. At each end of this counter is a direct line phone to various hotels. Call the following numbers for your hotel pick-up: Marriott Downtown, 70; Savery Hotel and Spa, 89; Hotel Fort Des Moines, 65; Holiday Inn Downtown, 55. For the Kirkwood Civic Center Hotel shuttle, call 244-9191 from a pay phone, located to the right of the baggage claim exit.

Leaving baggage claim, cross the first driveway, turn to the right and continue to a shelter where each hotel shuttle bus will stop. Taxis load on the left along the curb, directly outside baggage claim, and the taxi fare is approximately $10 to downtown.

Now the only decision you have left to make is which of these wonderful hostelries to book a reservation with. No matter what your choice turns out to be, we're sure that our Des Moines convention constellation will make you feel welcome.

by Jerry Annunzio

Is romance your cup of tea? Did you read the best-seller? Did you see the movie? More than once? Then come with us to experience the real thing. This year the American Council of the Blind convention in Des Moines has a special treat for those who need to know "the rest of the story." Come find out for yourself what really happened in "the most romantic county in the world."

Madison County, Iowa, has long been famous for its covered bridges (as well as for being the birthplace of film legend John Wayne), but this beautiful and romantic locality was catapulted to worldwide fame with the publication of Robert James Wailer's novel, "The Bridges of Madison County," and the subsequent filming of the movie that followed. You will experience once again the aura of Robert and Francesca as you walk through the farmhouse still propped as it was for the movie. You can relive scenes at the yellow Formica kitchen table and even dance there in the kitchen to the music from the movie soundtrack -- just like Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep did on the screen. You'll feel like you've walked right into the love story. If you're a romantic at heart, don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Our tour will visit three of the six Madison County covered bridges, as well as Francesca's House, where the majority of the movie was filmed. Although Francesca's House is the least wheelchair accessible venue on this tour, because it has three steps from ground level up to the first floor and 16 steps to the second floor of this old farmhouse, most everything inside and out is touchable. An on-site guide will meet us at the front door and provide a detailed narration. Music from the movie soundtrack will be playing during the tour and is available for purchase in the small gift shop. Outside you will be able to take pictures and touch the old pickup truck that Robert (Clint Eastwood) drove. Then we'll move on to Winterset, where a local guide will board our bus to narrate the tour of the bridges.

The Cuter-Donahoe Covered Bridge is very accessible because it has been moved to the city park where you can easily walk across, or simply view it from a number of angles -- allowing for a variety of picture-taking opportunities. The Cedar Creek Bridge, which is still open to traffic, was featured on the cover of the novel. The Roseman Bridge played a prominent role in the movie version. Does Your Taste Run to More Macho Movies?

Have you heard of Marion Robert Morrison? Well, most knew him as John Wayne, the Duke or even Rooster Cogburn. Whatever name strikes a note of recognition for you, you'll find his life story, which began in the central Iowa town of Winterset, Madison County, Iowa, fascinating. He was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, the son of Clyde and Mary Morrison. John Wayne described his father as "the kindest, most patient man I ever knew." The Duke said of his mother, "she was a tiny, vivacious, red-headed bundle of energy." An on-site guide will help us to step back in time and picture the life of a young midwestern boy and his family near the turn of the century. Detailed narration describing the modest four-room home and the impressive collection of John Wayne memorabilia will carry us back to years gone by. Included among the artifacts is the eye patch the Duke wore in the movie "True Grit," as well as hundreds of rare photographs and letters from Lucille Ball, Gene Autry, Maureen O'Hara, Jimmy Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and George Burns.

On November 3, 1984, when President Ronald Reagan toured his friend's birthplace, Reagan commented that the site is an inspiring tribute to a good friend and a great American. Our guide is very capable and will be able to tell us interesting stories and provide detailed descriptions. We have planned time in the gift shop and for taking pictures on the front porch of the house. You will bring home a lifetime of memories, a renewed appreciation for John Wayne and all that he stood for, and maybe even a few souvenirs to remind you of 2001 in Madison County, Iowa.



March 9-11, Hawaii Association of the Blind; contact Warren Toyama, President, (808) 521-6213

March 30-April 1, Bay State Council of the Blind; contact Judi Cannon at (617) 479-7452; e-mail [email protected]

March 30-April 1, Arkansas Council of the Blind, contact Michael Triplett (501) 223-9090, or via e-mail, [email protected]


The ACB Radio Amateurs is planning its annual meeting for late in the week of convention (June 30-July 7, 2001). Responding once again to your popular demand, we will host the ACBRA breakfast on Sunday, July 1. We are currently scrambling to get membership dues together so we can make our report to ACB in a timely manner, so if you haven't paid your $10 annual dues to ACBRA, please send in your check to our treasurer, Robert Rogers (K8CO), by February 20, 2001. Robert Rogersū address is 1121 Morado Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45238; phone (513) 762-4022 office, (513) 921-3186 home.


VIDPI is once again holding its annual program in conjunction with the ACB national convention. We are planning VIDPI events for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of convention week, as follows: A vendor-driven technology program on Sunday and Monday; a luncheon on Tuesday followed by our annual business meeting at which we will elect officers. We hope you will reserve a place amid your other convention plans for VIDPI. Remember, we need to turn in the membership list to ACB by the end of February, so please send your VIDPI dues to Mary Abramson as soon as possible so your VIDPI vote will count on the ACB convention floor. A full membership costs $20; associate membership costs $10. Send your dues to: Mary Abramson, 0N032 Ambleside Dr. #2402, Winfield, IL 60190-1904.

by J. Alan Beatty

The unique structure of the special-interest affiliate, Blind Lions, which requires active membership in Lions Clubs as well as the American Council of the Blind, has fostered many wonderful opportunities for cross-pollination. As a result, ACBL has experienced phenomenal growth and has opened the door for blind and visually impaired individuals to experience the rewards of membership in Lions Clubs across the country -- and now the world! Our membership in Lions Clubs has given our sighted colleagues great insight into the special services and support that the American Council of the Blind offers its members. Over the past two years, many members have expressed great enthusiasm for our organization. I want to share with you some of the wonderful experiences that members have reported to me, and encourage more of you to participate in the American Council of Blind Lions.

The ACBL newsletter received a new name this past year, "The Pride." The name reflects our feelings about the accomplishments we have made and the great enthusiasm many of our members have for participating in our activities. The newsletter highlights many of the programs that Lions sponsor throughout the United States and extols the benefits of these programs for blind and visually impaired people. When our members learn about program successes and benefits, they can make recommendations to their own clubs about programs that work and results that will be meaningful in their local communities.

The Lions Clubs International organization is clearly acknowledging ACBL as their prime contact for issues pertaining to blindness and loss of sight, and that is a position we have been striving to attain for many years. The most exciting event that has occurred over the past year is that ACBL is becoming international. Now we record members in eight foreign countries. We have received requests to provide our newsletters in braille and large print for Spanish, German and French readers. We also have members in India and Sri Lanka. Many of them are very enthusiastic about the programs in the U.S. that can be tailored to accommodate their own cultural attitudes toward blindness. As you may imagine, many of us here in the United States have very little knowledge about the unique attitudes which people from cultures different from ours may hold about blindness and the capabilities of people with visual impairments. If we can only reach out to a few people whose experiences may be vastly different from our own, we will begin to accomplish our mission.

This year's International Lions convention in Indianapolis is scheduled for the same week as the ACB national convention in Des Moines. Although this conflict will create some logistical problems for ACBL members, rest assured we will be as alive and active at both sites as we have been in the past. The recognition and appreciation we have experienced at Lions International conventions have been overwhelming, and it doesn't hurt our financial position to increase awareness among many Lions organizations who may wish to support us.

ACBL is howling and prowling; you really should join in the excitement! For more information in any format and language, contact Alan Beatty, 519 Locust, Fort Collins, CO 80524; phone (970) 484-2598; e-mail [email protected]


The Badger Association of the Blind will hold its annual ACB Day meeting on Saturday, April 7. The meeting will convene at 9:30 a.m. and will take place at the Badger Association facilities, 912 N. Hawley Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53213. For more information, please call (414) 615-0107.


The American Council of the Blind of Indiana held its convention November 3 and 4, 2000 at the Ramada Inn in Bloomington. Susan El Shamy, one of the speakers, led a discussion on the concerns of sighted and visually impaired people as they relate to each other. We found that most of us have the same concerns and shared ideas on ways to solve them.

Craig Brenner from the Bloomington community and resource department gave comments on community accessibility. He is on a council along with several of our ACBI members that has committees that do many things, like sensitivity training, training on ADA for government employees, building inspectors, for builders and architects and for businesses. The center for adaptive technology at Indiana University has been making restaurant menus in braille free of charge for the Bloomington community. They also started a citizens' accessible parking enforcement program because of the people who have been illegally occupying parking spaces designated for disabled people. Police officers must go through disability awareness training before being able to issue a ticket on such a parking violation. They did some training in a local hospital and made a video, "Disability Awareness in a Health Care Environment." The hospital gave it to the group to use as a fund-raiser (it costs $19.95). At the end of his talk, he let us know the committee had managed to get some audible pedestrian signals.

Brian Charlson, ACB first vice president, spoke on the importance of change. Change does not happen by accident; it happens by aggressive involvement. Blind and visually impaired people need to get out and educate others by going into schools and organizations and showing them accessible equipment and mobility aids like white canes and guide dogs. You also need to change the attitudes of blind people themselves. He told us that he'd learned on a trip to Greece that a blind person there can go to college for free, but colleges are not obligated to supply information in accessible formats, or to provide testing accommodations.

Dr. Julia Blank from Indiana University's school of optometry spoke on services to visually impaired people. She gave us information about early childhood development, vocational rehabilitation, and training at the work place and at home. She spoke on electronic magnification, computer software, bioptic driving and gave many resources for those with low vision.

Linda Platt, a clinical research coordinator at Indiana University Medical Center's department of ophthalmology, spoke on the current retinal research projects and some of the preliminary findings. She spoke on preventing vision loss, preventing progression of early disease, preserving sight once the disease has progressed, recovering sight, enhancing remaining sight and creating sight. For information on macular degeneration and other eye diseases, visit

We concluded the convention with a short business meeting where we elected four new members to our board of directors. Hats off to the Bloomington chapter of ACBI for a great job in hosting the convention.

by Sarah J. Blake

(Editor's Note: Here is the last installment in Sarah Blake's story of retiring one guide dog and learning to work with another. We hope that you have enjoyed Sarah's story, and we wish her and three-year-old Dori well.)

It's hard to believe that Dori has been home for over a year now. She turned three in November, not quite a month after the one-year anniversary of her homecoming. As I reflect on our first year together, I realize how much she (and I) have changed with almost no awareness on my part that we were both changing and growing each day. As I predicted shortly after our first plane ride together more than a year ago, flying never emerged as a significant problem for us. That first experience, with a terrified Dori perched on my lap, is just one of many past events that I'm beginning to forget, as Dori matures and "mellows out."

Our time in our tiny first apartment was a very positive experience. Recently, circumstances have led me to move back into my parents' home for a while, and it is here that I have come to realize how valuable our time together in the apartment was. Without other people around to distract her, Dori bonded with me and some of her less desirable behaviors began to fade away. So gradual was the change, and so matter-of-factly had I and members of my family come to expect consistently good behavior from Dori that after Dori and I had moved back in with my parents, it was several days before any of us realized, with a surprised recognition and just a slight bit of nostalgia for the adolescent who had come home with us from Seeing Eye, that she had not once eaten the cat food or retrieved any empty toilet paper rolls from the trash can in the bathroom! My niece, who had once been frightened by Dori's exuberance, began to play with her and to ask whenever we were preparing to go out, "Can Dori sit in the back seat with me?"

Dori accompanied me to the ACB national convention in July and to a smaller but much busier professional convention in November. She worked well through the crowded hotels; however, the atmosphere was very stressful for her. These convention experiences taught me that down time was vital for Dori if I intended to take her on trips with me. It wasn't just the down time per se, it was the down time with me! Dori needed my reassurance that she was doing well. I learned while at these conventions that her undesirable behavior was often a sign of stress and that I should interpret it as Dori's attempt to communicate her needs in the only way she could. Increasing the strength of my corrections was not beneficial at these times. In fact, this often caused Dori to experience more anxiety. As I began to respond more appropriately to Dori's signals and provide her the reassurance she needed, her behavior improved dramatically. Learning to be patient and consistently gentle with Dori is an ongoing process, but I am now beginning to see the rewards.

Dori's calm temperament has allowed me to do something I had wished to do for a long time: go back to work in the church nursery. Last spring, I was hired to do just that. Dori had been exposed to young children during her training, and her behavior while working in their presence is very good. She is a steady, faithful presence in the room, and the children often look to her for comfort when they are unhappy.

Getting my second dog was in many ways more difficult than getting my first one. I still have momentary lapses when I feel as though I betrayed Elli, but, intellectually, I know that I didn't. Dori is now finally becoming what I knew she could be. She is, indeed, a different dog from the impetuous puppy I brought home from Seeing Eye. Dori is a wonderful dog. We are an efficient, competent team. Our work together is good, and we thoroughly enjoy one another's company and companionship.

Elli is a wonderful dog too. She is now settled happily into the role of my parents' pet, enjoying marshmallows and grapes as occasional treats and even occasionally romping in the house or the yard. As Lukas Franck put it, I'm able to enjoy both dogs fully and be proud of who they are and who they have helped me to become.


The editorial staff reserves the right to edit letters for content, style and space available. Opinions expressed are those of the authors, not those of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the opinions expressed herein. We will not print letters unless you sign your name and give us your address.

In reply to Mitch Pomerantz
I wish to respond to Mitch Pomerantz's letter in the November 2000 issue of "The Braille Forum." His was a response to my letter in the August 1999 issue. Pomerantz says that he "takes exception" to everything I wrote. Unfortunately, he misinterpreted almost everything I wrote. There is discrimination, there is prejudice, there is bias, there is injustice. What I tried to say in that letter was that though blind people may have good hygiene, may be competent, good travelers and "exhibit good grooming," these attributes are not sufficient -- because blind people still won't get the jobs.

I think I am the Al Sharpton of the blind, but if I am not, somebody better be. We need one. I know that some blind people have successful careers. I am happy there are blind mechanics, as well as those in other successful careers, but these (jobs) are few and far between. Many blind people work in what I call the blindness system, or have very high partial vision. It is true that I am bitter and cynical, with a "victim mentality." I will never attempt to speak for ACB, but the attitudes of many blind people who have achieved success seem to be that they have successful careers, and if other blind people do not, it is their own fault. This is not true. "Good hygiene and good grooming" are not enough! Social skills and other skills notwithstanding, there is intolerance and bigotry out there!

Second, the sheltered workshop is not a career, and must never be misconstrued as one. The sheltered workshop, even 40 years ago, was never a viable option. How could it be, when wages were so low?

I commend Paul Edwards, for I share his "nightmare." He and Charles Goldman are wise. Take heed of what Edwards says; his message is, in fact, long overdue! It should have been stated "boldly and starkly" a long time ago.

I'm right, Mitch! There is bias, intolerance, prejudice and discrimination!

-- Lucia Marett, New York, N.Y.

If Lucia Marett purports to be the Al Sharpton of the blind, she would be well advised to take a page from the good reverend's book and familiarize herself with how her fellow members of the blind community actually live and work within the blind community.

Marett asserts that professions cited by William Lewis in his August 1999 article cannot, in fact, be held by blind people. She could not be more mistaken.

There are several blind engineers and scientists working today. One blind astronomer has had his accomplishments documented in the Wall Street Journal. He has also been profiled at least once in "Reader's Digest" and several times in the weekly academic journal "Science News." The work of a blind oceanographer has been well documented in a book he wrote, which has enjoyed wide circulation among both the academic and mainstream communities.

Marett seems to have a problem with the notion that blind people (yes, friends, totally blind people) could function as radio journalists, editors for print publications, or writers in situations where sighted people would have to read our work. I have served successfully as a radio news anchor for much of the past 15 years. I was fortunate enough to have produced number one ratings at every station I served. Presently, I serve as editor of a publication which puts out a print edition. Yes, I use assistive technology and sighted help when needed to get the job done.

Admittedly, instruction in using some of the technology that's available doesn't focus on what's really needed to use it effectively. But a bit of initiative on the part of the blind person seeking to enter a specific profession can do wonders.

Just because one person doesn't know how he or she would function in a particular setting if that person were totally blind does not mean that others aren't functioning, and functioning well, in that particular situation on a daily basis.

I agree that we have much to do in eradicating the prejudice against blind people that exists today. But reactionary cries for revolution yanked willy-nilly out of the ether will only shorten the strides that we have made over the past 70 years.

I would suggest that Marett and those who agree with her do more reading on the lives of successfully employed blind people. Perhaps enrolling in a quality rehabilitation program that emphasizes good blindness skills with real-life application experience might also be helpful.

Lucia, honey, get with the program!

-- W. Kent McGregor, Saint George, UT

I was particularly disappointed with the long-winded vitriolic tone of Lucia Marett's letter to the editor in the "Braille Forum's" August issue regarding careers in which we blind people do (or do not) engage, and Mitch Pomerantz's condescending response in the November issue. I fear that Marett's irritating tone obscured the valid questions she was raising, and that Pomerantz's dismissive tone will only drive more blind folks into the victim mentality that he rails against.

First, while I agree with Pomerantz's assertion that "employers hire applicants for their ability and positive attitude, not their disability and 'poor me' outlook," we all view the same behavior differently; thus, while he might never hire Marett, she IS currently employed. And while we blind people should be cognizant of hygiene, grooming, mobility skills, and so forth, the unemployment/underemployment rate among blind people - - whether it be 70 percent, 65 percent, or 55 percent -- clearly demonstrates the discrimination we face during our encounters with the workplace.

Next, the connections among the severity of the visual impairment, its onset, and the "work situation" in which we blind people find ourselves are extremely complex, and we ignore them at our peril. For example, Pomerantz cites someone who served as a nurse until s/he became blind after which s/he maintained the nurse title but does the "nontraditional" nurse function of discharge planning (usually done by hospital social workers).

While I congratulate both the employee and employer for making the necessary adjustments, I wonder how many people with severe visual impairments are hired as nurses (and, for that matter, engineers, chemists, physicists, and track coaches). In my experience, most people in these "nontraditional" professions either are legally (but not totally) blind, and/or lost a large amount of their visual acuity during adulthood. I also wonder what causes most of us employed blind folks to be working either for the government or for a not-for-profit organization dealing with disability issues, while most of my sighted colleagues work in the for-profit sector.

I believe that Marett and Pomerantz agree more than they disagree on this contentious, complex, and underdiscussed issue. I suggest that they work together to develop a seminar for an upcoming ACB convention or an article for an upcoming issue of the "Braille Forum," as this would have the potential for unleashing more of our collective talent and energy on career issues. I would be happy to assist in such an endeavor.

-- Peter Altschul, Washington, DC


(Editor's Note: John Byfield asked us to publish this letter in "The Braille Forum" so that he could let all of his former students know about the change in his role at the Fidelco Guide Dog School. We wish Byfield all the best as he retires from one role and takes on another.)

August 24, 2000

Dear Fidelco Graduates,

I am writing to advise you of a change in my circumstances. Specifically, I will relocate to Florida next year.

Pam, my wife, and I have had a second residence in Lake Mary, central Florida for a number of years. She has business interests there and spends a great deal of time coordinating those interests in Florida. My three sons and their families, with grandchildren numbering 10, also reside in central Florida. Both factors have precipitated my decision to relocate.

Although I will be retiring as training director in 2001, I will not be retiring as a Fidelco employee. Robbie Kaman and George Salpietro have graciously agreed to my request to become a placement specialist. My home base will be Florida but I will place guides for Fidelco wherever there is a need in the U.S. I am grateful to Robbie and George for allowing me the opportunity to continue in a profession that I dearly love.

Supervisor Peter Nowicki has been chosen as my successor. We will work as a team starting right away, with Peter gradually taking on more responsibility as the months go by! However, it will be well into next year before I pull up my roots and move to Florida. As a point of information, Peter has been in the guide dog field for 21 years, 10 of those with Fidelco. Peter, together with George Salpietro, represents Fidelco at the biannual meetings of the U.S. Council of Guide Dog Schools. Peter has also successfully substituted for me on numerous occasions while I have been away coordinating placements. I am very confident that Peter will handle his new responsibility in a very positive and effective way. Our aim is to make the smoothest possible transition so there is absolutely no disruption of service. Our goal is continuity.

My primary position, which is full-time, will be as a placement specialist but I also anticipate being involved with both follow-up and the interview of applicants. I will continue to serve as an officer on the Fidelco Board of Directors and as a member of the selection committee.

I will miss the people that I work with and I will also miss communicating with both graduates and applicants on a daily basis. I have reflected back on my 42 years in the guide dog field and feel a great sense of gratitude for being involved in such a rewarding career. It has been a privilege for me to serve the blind community as a trainer/instructor and as the coordinator of two programs over the years. Who knows, I might even be one of the first instructors to reach 50 years in the guide dog profession!

I am looking forward to my new role as a placement specialist. See you on the road. With best wishes, John Byfield Director of Training

by Winifred Downing


Early in the 1990s, there began a formal discussion about developing a single braille code to embrace literary braille, mathematics, computer codes, linguistics, and other technical codes.

A number of factors precipitated this discussion. Primary among them was that the pool of generous persons, mostly women, willing to give their time to the arduous task of learning braille and then of dedicating many hours each week to transcribing books was diminishing markedly. By their unselfish labor over more than 40 years, they had made possible the mainstreaming of blind children in public schools by furnishing them with the books they needed. Some transcribers, who are still working today, had even prepared hundreds of pages with a board slate and stylus before Perkins braillers were readily available. By the 1990s, however, many well-educated women were exchanging the challenge of volunteer work for the rewards of the job market.

The emergence of computers, of programs for keying braille on a computer, and of braille printers made it possible for individual transcribers to prepare greater amounts of material; but even so, it was evident that they could not carry the whole load. Some help came from braille translation programs which were used increasingly, and the authors of these programs were eager for a code that would meet all braille needs and involve less intervention to prepare materials for varying uses.

It was also argued that the task of learning a separate code for literary braille, computer notation, mathematics, and the sciences was unnecessarily difficult for some braille readers, especially for students. It was troublesome, the argument went, to find that one braille symbol could have one meaning in literary braille, another in the computer code, and still a third in mathematical material.

In addition, the computer software that now converted print into braille required a braille reader to have a more intimate knowledge of the idiosyncracies of print than had manual methods. In braille, for example, the opening and closing parentheses signs are the same, whereas in print the symbols are different. In braille the opening and closing quotation marks are different, whereas in print the symbol for both is the same. These and other anomalies caused confusion for braille users attempting to understand material on computers and working to prepare print material for use on computers. All in all, the braille world needed help. ICEB Guidelines for the UBC

Responding to this situation, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) and later the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) initiated a research project whose goal was "the development of a single braille code providing notation for mathematics, computer science, and other scientific and engineering disciplines as well as general English literature." A group of experts from various English-speaking countries was assembled to carry forward the UBC Research Project, with Committee II having the primary responsibility for developing the actual code. The guidelines adopted by ICEB for the overall project stipulated that the unified code would:

(a) use a six-dot braille cell;

(b) encompass Grade I and Grade II braille without making any major changes to the contractions of Grade II braille;

(c) be usable by both beginning and advanced braille readers;

(d) be computable to the greatest degree possible, without detriment to readability, from print to braille to print, employing an unambiguous braille representation of each print symbol;

(e) imbed textbook, mathematics, computer and other technical codes (excluding the music code);

(f) consider all submitted English braille codes in its formulation.

Committee II Decisions

Based on these guidelines, Committee II developed a general method for extending the basic literary code so that it could encompass the symbologies employed in various scientific and technical disciplines, defined the terms used, determined the extent of symbols -- encompassing all print symbols as well as specialized indicators -- ensured that new symbols allowed by an extension would be unambiguous and would permit the same general form of expression in braille as in print, and ensured that symbols in the basic code would not be altered except to bring about parallel forms in braille and print.

Guideline (b) promised that the UBC would embrace both "Grade I and Grade II without making major changes to the contractions of Grade II braille;" and the committee pledged that "symbols in the basic code would not be altered except to bring about parallel forms in braille and print."

As members of Committee II decided to interpret those rules, the committee determined to continue expressing braille numbers in the upper four dots of the braille cell. This decision completely canceled the Nemeth Code since it employs the practice of expressing numbers in the lower part of the braille cell. Committee II, therefore, has had to define an entirely new approach to mathematics.

In the expression of ordinary English literature in braille, Committee II has abandoned some contractions and altered the spacing practices with regard to others. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that anyone reading material in the UBC would have significant difficulty in doing so -- even without retraining or extensive explanations. Further, it is highly unlikely that anyone educated in the UBC would have any real problem deciphering the thousands of books now available in Standard English Braille. Consequences for Mathematics

The situation with regard to UBC mathematical braille, though, is very different. The new code is so unlike the Nemeth Code that no one educated in its use would be able to read Nemeth; and, conversely, no one experienced in the Nemeth Code could make any sense at all of the UBC mathematical expressions. Without too much difficulty or delay, computer translation programs embracing the UBC mathematical features could be developed, but how will students now using the Nemeth Code be trained in this new approach? How will the university personnel preparation programs gear up to prepare braille teachers, both new teachers and those who have been conveying Nemeth Code to students for years? How will remaining braille transcribers (those who are experienced in the Nemeth Code are in great demand) take to this new situation, and who will originate the materials to train them?

Another grave concern is the complicated nature of the UBC as applied to mathematics. An experienced braille transcriber has prepared a very basic algebra problem in both Nemeth Code and UBC. The problem, with its answer choices, requires 65 characters as written in Nemeth Code and 95 in UBC.

While few studies have been conducted to determine just how the fingers and brain work together to recognize braille characters, at least one respected study suggests that a braille reader recognizes characters sequentially (unlike the way most print readers can identify and interpret the meaning of printed letters and numbers). Would a "typical" blind student be able to wade through the extensive task of identifying 95 characters to achieve an understanding of an otherwise relatively simple problem? How much extra testing time would be necessary to give a student using braille a competitive opportunity? Is the UBC a Fait Accompli?

At its meeting in November of 1999, the ICEB voted to accept the principles of the UBC even though many elements were incomplete and several of the countries had produced few samples for braille readers, or in some cases, none at all. ICEB took this action despite the fact that the Braille Authority of North America had voted the previous spring not to take a position on this matter until extensive samples could be made available to braille users, teachers of braille, and transcribers.

Only one sample has been produced thus far, "A Simple Math Web Page in UBC," by Joseph Sullivan in the spring 2000 issue of "DOTS For Braille Literacy," which was circulated by the American Foundation for the Blind. A list of 16 symbols, many of them consisting of two characters, precedes the problem.

Helpful as the "DOTS for Braille Literacy" publication is, it reaches but a small fraction of the teachers of braille in this country and almost no blind braille users. At the quarterly meeting in January 2000 of the VI Subcommittee of the Low Incidence Disability Advisory Committee in California, only one teacher present had heard anything about the plan to change the math code; and when the 12 San Francisco vision teachers met in May of this year, not one of them was aware of this matter either.

Efforts to secure from AFB additional copies of the DOTS publication either in braille or simulated braille have not been successful, so there is almost no information to be circulated. There is a real danger that, because a number of well recognized and important organizations in the blindness field have contributed substantial amounts of money, time, and energy to developing the UBC, sufficient momentum will have been generated to ensure the adoption of this code without adequate consideration of the problems involved or of alternatives that are available. We can have a code totally lacking ambiguity with a braille representation for every character that print contains but the same code may be so difficult to learn and time-consuming to read that it will seriously limit the use of braille.

How many members of Committee II or the BANA board have been long-time teachers of braille? How many persons in either group are avid users of braille, i.e., people who employ braille every day in all sorts of ways to meet their life needs? These are the types of individuals who should be making judgments on the practical aspects of any code before it is adopted.

An unbiased discussion of alternatives has not been conducted -- and, in the view of many observers, has even been strongly resisted by those involved in the research project. For example, recognizing that it just may be impossible to design a single code to deal with all disciplines that would accommodate the learning capabilities of most students, teachers, and transcribers, one alternative could be the development of two codes, one literary and the other technical.

Another alternative that is favored by many is the Unified Braille System being developed by Abraham Nemeth with the review and support of the "Brl-zylx" (Braille as You Like It) Committee. Nemeth's unified system features a dual numbering arrangement which allows mathematical expressions to continue to be constructed with numbers in the lower 4 dots of the braille cell.

In view of the serious problems the UBC brings with it, examination of the merits of these and other approaches to solving the difficulties of braille should certainly be undertaken. All those who use and love braille must be assured that an open process is employed in selecting the code or codes that will replace those in use today.

A Code for the Future
by Kim Charlson

(Editor's note: Kim Charlson serves on the board of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) as the representative of the American Council of the Blind.)

With braille literacy rates in the United States still lower than advocates and educators would like, with expanded opportunities through the use of technology for quick and efficient braille translation and embossing of ink print materials constantly improving, why isn't braille more readily available and why aren't more people who are blind using braille?

These questions, among many others, are currently under consideration and examination by experts in the braille field in many English-speaking countries around the world. My goal in this article is to provide readers with basic background information on the concept of a Unified English Braille Code, what it proposes and what it attempts to accomplish, and where the process is with respect to a timeline for its possible acceptance or adoption. For ease in reading, UEBC, in this article, refers to Unified English Braille Code, also known in the past as the Unified Braille Code (UBC). What is UEBC anyway?

Many people who use braille in their daily lives have asked this question and wondered if a UEBC would mean yet another braille code to learn, adding to the already existing codes authorized by BANA. The purpose of the UEBC is to develop one code for literary braille, math and science notation, computer code and formatting rules for all of the English-speaking countries in the world.

With the exception of the Braille Music Code, which has already been adopted as an international code, the four primary BANA codes mentioned above were developed independently of each other, are somewhat complex, often ambiguous, and can be highly context dependent. For instance, there are different signs within the literary, mathematics, and computer codes for the one ink print symbol for a dollar sign. Thus, new braille readers, teachers of blind or visually impaired children and adults, and transcribers must learn and re-familiarize themselves with these types of symbols and their given context.

Moreover, if someone wishes to study mathematics at Oxford in England and at Harvard in the U.S., they must master two different math codes authorized by the Braille Authority of the United Kingdom (BAUK) and BANA respectively. Given these complexities, the certification process for transcribers, and the length of time necessary for learning the codes, it's no surprise that some professionals in the field of braille have endorsed the need for a unified and restructured code.

Another fundamental principle of the UEBC is that it would resemble ink print, where most given symbols would have a specific identity regardless of subject matter or surrounding text. For example, the number sign in braille (dots 3, 4, 5, and 6) would only represent a number sign, and the contraction for "ble" (also dots 3, 4, 5, and 6) would no longer exist. How did the concept of a UEBC come about?

The concept of UEBC was brought to the board of BANA initially by two braille readers, Dr. Abraham Nemeth and Dr. Tim Cranmer in 1991. BANA accepted the principle of UEBC as one of its major projects in 1992, but then voted unanimously in 1993 to allow it to become a project of the International Council on English Braille (ICEB).

During the same time period, ICEB had started initial work on unifying the English literary braille codes for BANA (Canada and the United States) and BAUK (which includes England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales). It would have made little sense at that time for ICEB to continue to try to unify the English braille code without international cooperation. Likewise, for BANA to change English Braille American Edition (the base code for U.S. and Canadian braille) without input from ICEB and the international braille community would have destroyed those international efforts to unify the code.

In order for BANA to relinquish its supervision over the UEBC research project, which was already under way, ICEB agreed to keep all the members of BANA as active participants in the development of the UEBC. Although the United States and Canada only have one vote each on issues, every member organization of BANA participates in all aspects of the code's development and deliberation.

The UEBC project is committed to the requirement, first stated by BANA and subsequently affirmed by ICEB that this project must be based on English Literary Braille. The charge to the Project Committee stipulated that English Braille American Edition could be expanded to include some symbols required to transcribe technical materials so long as the literary braille code, as we all know it, was not fundamentally compromised in any significant way. Thus, the UEBC must retain the "look and feel" of literary braille. Since three of the seven ICEB countries (Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.) already used English Braille American Edition as their base code, and since that code is used by more transcribers than any other code in the world, it was a logical choice and direction for a UEBC to move.

A call for a unified code is not new to modern times. Helen Keller's plea in 1932 was "to choose one among the many competing codes." Fortunately, the adoption of English Braille American Edition, our North American standard for braille, resulted from her outcry. However, hers was not the first call for a uniform and universal code. One of the earliest calls for a universal code came from Charles W. Holmes, founder of the Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind, who lamented in 1905 that "there were five distinct codes for transcribing ink print materials into a tactual code that could be read by the blind, and what was needed was an international universal code of embossed type for all English-speaking countries."

Much of the struggle that followed Holmes' remark, known as "the war of the dots," was quite divisive within the blindness community. Eventually, a literary code in the United States was adopted, but not one code for all subject matters in all countries in the English-speaking world.

Subsequently, BANA launched the Unified English Braille Code project with the same goal, but with a significant difference. Unifying a literary code at the beginning of the century would have been a simpler task for that time. But now, the UEBC effort is attempting to unite four codes -- to take a system of complex mathematics and scientific notation, a computer braille code (that didn't even exist in 1905) and braille format guidelines as well, and bring them all together under one code. What decisions have been made thus far regarding UEBC?

Literary braille is proposed as the foundation for the base code. For every print symbol there would be only one braille equivalent. For instance, there would be only one comma, regardless of context, one period rather than the current three braille representations of a period, decimal point or ellipses, just as examples. Sequencing, or the elimination of spaces between words such as "and," "for," "of," "the," and "with" would no longer be allowed in UEBC. In other words, spaces would be inserted in braille if they exist in print.

Many print symbols that had no representation in a literary context, such as plus, times, and equals have been assigned a braille symbol. Upper numbers (numbers using dots 1, 2, 4, and 5) as opposed to lower numbers (numbers using dots 2, 3, 5, and 6) would be used in the UEBC. Three committees of the UEBC project, Committee I on braille code comparison, Committee II which was responsible for development of the base code, and Committee III on Contractions have completed their work. Has there been any form of evaluation of UEBC among braille readers, teachers and transcribers?

In 1997, the seven participating members of ICEB conducted an evaluation of the proposed UEBC. The International Braille Research Center prepared the evaluation and distributed it to those in North America who volunteered to participate. When the data was analyzed there was general support for many concepts of a unified code. However, as one would expect in the context of research, opposition was expressed toward some elements. Objections were made toward the proposed quotation mark, and the possible elimination of contractions in which ambiguity was a factor. Contractions slated for elimination are "ble," "com," "dd," "into," "to," "by," "ally" and "ation." In response to the expressed opposition, the quotation mark change was revised in the UEBC, and the literary code usage for common quotes was retained. Considerable opposition was also expressed toward the use of upper numbers instead of lower numbers in the UEBC. What is the timeline for UEBC?

A number of resolutions adopted by ICEB at the November 2-5, 1999 General Assembly project a timetable with a completion date of October 31, 2003. By the fall of 2001, ICEB's technical committees will have completed their work and written their reports. In January 2002, the executive committee of ICEB will meet in New Zealand and vote on the remaining reports of the technical committees, those not yet voted upon. It would appear that the UEBC enjoys a fairly high approval rating among braille readers within the other six member countries of ICEB which include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa and the United Kingdom. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of BANA to accept a UEBC for braille readers in the U.S. In the fall of 2003, the general assembly of ICEB meets in Canada and it is expected to vote on the possible adoption of the entire UEBC. In the spring of 2004, BANA would then receive the project back from ICEB, and would need to vote on its potential adoption for the United States and Canada.

BANA is currently seeking government funding for a scientifically based evaluation of the proposed UEBC and thorough field testing of the proposed code in the U.S. and additional testing in Canada. BANA has been very clear about the continuing need for additional research and evaluation of the UEBC, and such funding will be significant in furthering a reliable evaluation of the proposed code. Do braille readers have any say in the development of UEBC?

There is definitely an important role for braille readers in the development of UEBC -- both through BANA and ICEB. Every technical committee of BANA and ICEB has braille readers serving on it, as do the BANA and ICEB boards.

BANA is actively developing a document of UEBC samples that will be distributed to interested braille readers. By providing braille users with real-life examples of a UEBC, BANA hopes to inform braille readers firsthand of what a UEBC is all about, and demonstrate that the unified code can still be readable. With examples in hand, braille readers can then provide informed input to BANA members. A decision by BANA on whether the U.S. would consider a UEBC must be made with thoughtful input from braille readers on what their braille code needs to do. Braille is not for the teachers, or the transcribers, but ultimately, it is for the braille reader.

Please read the sample document of UEBC, which is anticipated to be produced and mailed to all braille readers of "The Braille Forum" in late spring 2001. The availability of the UEBC samples will be widely publicized, so if you haven't received it and you see an announcement about its availability in "The Braille Forum" or another newsletter, request that one be sent to you so you can then review the UEBC samples and provide your feedback. For additional information on the UEBC and samples visit the ICEB web site,

Laudable as the goal is for completion of the UEBC project, we must all ask will standardizing the code create more problems for the typical braille user, braille teacher, or transcriber? Will the benefits outweigh the perceived liabilities?

Considering where we are in this process, wide distribution of information to braille readers, and thorough expanded evaluation will help everyone involved make factual judgments about UEBC. Widespread evaluation will give the decision-makers a better perspective on the principles and progress of UEBC, and will clarify the goals and direction for actions in the future. The process must enable everyone, regardless of their position, to contribute to the continued development and decision-making of a unified code for the future, a code that must work for everyone.

by Charles Lott

The advent of Windows 3.x sounded the death knell for screen reading software packages that could not interface effectively with graphical user interfaces, and as Windows 9x and NT have come to dominate essentially every computer application, the two screen readers that deal most effectively with that graphical user interface have come to be the dominant players in the assistive software marketplace. The Windows environment has forced these screen readers to become more complex, since they are now required not merely to read text as did ArticVision and Vocal-Eyes, but also to interpret icons and all manner of other graphics. Indeed, although screen readers and the speech synthesizers through which they speak have come a long way, they still have a long way to go.

Speech synthesizers have evolved as well. In the days of DOS, we who are blind used hardware synthesizers to make our screen- readers talk to us. Nowadays, there are software synthesizers which come loaded onto our Windows 95, 98, and NT computers. Most notable of these is Microsoft's SAPI, which uses the computer's sound card to create speech. Although there are now a number of reasonably good screen readers on the market, by far the two leaders are JAWS for Windows (JFW), marketed by Henter-Joyce, which is now a division of Freedom Scientific, and Window-Eyes, which is marketed by GW Micro. Both of these products have excellent features to offer; yet both have some drawbacks. Although I cannot hope in the brief space available here to cover all the intricacies of these products, I shall attempt to highlight a few of the most salient characteristics, both good and bad, of each. Installation

Both JFW 3.7 and Window-Eyes 4.0 are relatively straightforward in their manner of installation. Both give you a series of dialogue boxes in the classic Windows style, and following the instructions is quite simple. JFW, however, also gives one the option of an automatic install which works much like a typical installation of other Windows applications. Both applications allow you to decide among a number of optional set files; JFW calls these files, which allow a screen reader to interface with specific applications, scripts. JFW installs all available scripts by default; however, you can de-select any that you don't wish to install. Window-Eyes requires you to select the particular set files you want installed. The rest remain in a special sub-directory where they can be copied into the main directory at any time.

In the United States, Window-Eyes has an unrestricted installation and setup; I understand that this is the case for installation of the program in Great Britain, as well. In other countries, the program requires either Ever-Lock or Dongles for installation and setup.

JFW also requires you to go through a special routine as part of its installation. Like its predecessor, JAWS, JFW requires the use of an authorization or key disk -- a DOS-floppy-based authorization system -- a sort of software "blue box" which must be run in order to make the installed program usable. This particular authorization system has some severe drawbacks, and even raises one legal issue. Being DOS and floppy based, it is highly vulnerable to system crashes and various types of floppy corruption, e.g., bad sectors and/or corrupt boot sectors and FATs. The legal issue raised here has to do with the copy protection of the authorization floppy. Federal copyright law specifies that an end user has the right to archive any and all floppies; i.e., he/she may make one copy of each floppy for back- up purposes. Unfortunately, Henter-Joyce and a number of other vendors do not recognize that right, and therefore they protect the disks to make them incapable of being copied even for archive purposes. The answer to this problem for Henter-Joyce and other vendors is to go to a CD-based authorization system based on Microsoft's approach, which will not allow installation at all without a CD key. Microsoft supplies these with all their applications, and many other companies require the entry of a unique serial number to start installation. In all fairness to Henter-Joyce, it should be noted that they supply replacement authorization disks at no charge to registered users whose disks have become corrupted. However, their policy of requiring a $10 fee for back-up authorization disks seems a bit extreme, in view of the archiving rights provisions of the federal copyright law. There may be good news in the offing regarding the possible demise of the floppy-disk key, since Henter-Joyce is about to release a new program called Connect Out Loud, which will use a Microsoft-style CD key system. We can hope, based on this, that the key system will be extended to future releases of other HJ products. Operating System Compatibility

JFW has long been compatible with Windows 9x (now including Windows ME) and Windows NT (including Windows 2000); however, at present Window-Eyes is not compatible with any of the Windows products built on the NT kernel. GW Micro is, however, working on a version of Window-Eyes comparable to the current version 4.0 which will be compatible with Windows 2000, and will be called "Professional."

I have found a conflict between JFW 3.7 and some display cards -- notably the display card on my own personal computer. I cannot say at this point how widespread this problem may be; but I can say that a conflict does exist on my machine, which uses the nVIDIA RIVA 128 chip set and has an STB Velocity 128 video card. Although Henter-Joyce provides a list of video card compatibilities with Windows ME operating systems on its web site, they provide no such data for compatibility with Windows 2000. I am personally working to solve my own compatibility problem with a contact at the manufacturer and with a Windows 2000 technician at Microsoft. I fully expect to see the issue resolved shortly. It may, however, require a correction in the next release of JFW or maybe even a patch for the current release.

Comparative Features

JFW 3.7 and Window-Eyes 4.0 are rather complex utilities, as might be expected, considering the tasks they are designed to perform. Of course, each does the job in its own way. JAWS for Windows carries out its functions by implementing scripts which are supplied by HJ or can be written by product users. Writing such scripts is no simple matter, and if you're interested in preparing your own scripts for use with specific applications, you will need to learn the complex scripting language used by the software. However, Henter-Joyce provides ready-made scripts for the most popular and commonly used applications, e.g., Corel WordPerfect and Corel Quattro Pro, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. In addition, JFW comes with a scripting manual which helps the user in the task of writing scripts when necessary. It should be pointed out in passing, though, that JFW, for the most part, is not compatible with games and entertainment software. JAWS has always been designed with a focus on business-related usefulness (hence the "JAWS" acronym for "Job Access With Speech!").

Window-Eyes, on the other hand, uses set files, which are, as with JAWS scripts, either provided by GW Micro or created by the user. Creating set files in Window-Eyes is considerably simpler than writing scripts for JFW. For the most part one can create a set file by opening the desired application, activating the Window-Eyes menu bar, setting the various features the way you want them for that application, and then simply saving the set by clicking File, Save, Set File. You will see a dialogue box in which you click Save, followed by another box in which you confirm the association of the set file with the application you're running. On the other hand, if you want to write scripts for JFW, you will need to be somewhat of a programmer, and, as noted above, to become very familiar with HJ's script-writing language.

JFW 3.7 comes with a set of user-definable frames, while Window-Eyes provides much the same capability under the designation of user-definable windows. For instance, you might choose to define one window, or frame, as "silent," while you might define another as "speaking," and then size and position it on the screen to include just which screen contents you want it to include. Also, there are "hyperactive" windows which communicate pre-defined information to the screen reader or to an application or the operating system. All these special windows are thoroughly explained in the manuals of both screen-readers. JFW comes with one neat little perk not yet available with Window-Eyes; namely, the ability to read a complete document by line, sentence or paragraph. In long documents, in particular, this feature facilitates much smoother reading when set for sentence or paragraph. Reading entirely by line can get rather "herky-jerky" and hard on the nerves if you're working with a long or complex text. Window-Eyes does provide user-definable hot keys which permit reading a specific character, word, sentence or paragraph. Braille Displays

While JFW has been compatible with braille displays for some time, Window-Eyes just entered this area for the first time with version 4.0. The list of braille displays supported by the new Window-Eyes is quite impressive indeed. I have not, however, tested this feature, since I do not own any braille display hardware with which to perform such tests. Reports by people who have tried out the feature, however, are extremely favorable. Speech

Both JFW 3.7 and Window-Eyes 4.0 are designed to work with various kinds of speech synthesizers. Both let you choose your default synthesizer (DECTalk Express, Microsoft SAPI, etc.). Both also allow the user to change synthesizers at any time, provided you have the hardware or software engine you choose installed on your system. The choice of synthesizers depends entirely on the user's taste. I have tested both products with DECTalk Express and with Microsoft SAPI (Microsoft's software text-to-speech engine), and have found both synthesizers to work well with either screen reader. In passing, however, I feel compelled to point out that all speech synthesizers currently use analog speech, which can sound a bit "robotic" to uninitiated ears, depending on which voice you choose from the selection provided by your synthesizer. Incidentally, JAWS comes with its own software synthesizer, Eloquence, which is automatically installed along with whatever default you choose at installation time. Version 4.0 of Window-Eyes now also offers Eloquence. This may be selected during installation or added later on at the user's option. Dictionaries

Both JFW and Window-Eyes come with user-definable pronunciation and graphics dictionaries which you can use to customize the way your synthesizer pronounces various words, and to label graphics according to your individual needs. Applications for which sets or scripts are provided by the manufacturer also have their own graphics and pronunciation dictionaries; however, a user may need to create special dictionaries for specific situations (e.g., reading the King James Bible or labeling graphics in an application for which pre- defined dictionaries are not provided with the screen reader). Applications

Both JFW and Window-Eyes come with pre-defined sets or scripts for most popular applications, and both screen readers are constantly adding compatibility with more and more applications. Both, for instance, are now in the process of creating sets and scripts for Microsoft Visual Studio. This will bring screen reading and the needs of serious developers into line with each other.

Also, although JFW 3.7 is currently not compatible with a number of games and entertainment applications, I understand that Henter-Joyce is working on making the product compatible with more games. On the other hand, some games can be played nicely with Window-Eyes. GW Micro provides Sets for Microsoft Solitaire, for example; however, the graphics dictionary needs to be redone to make the screen-reader handle picture cards and red cards. I have created that dictionary, and it can be downloaded from the GW Micro FTP site.

In Conclusion

Within the past year, both JFW and Window-Eyes have vastly improved their performance and their compatibility with various applications and system hardware such as video cards. Which screen reader should you choose? Well, that's a toss-up. It will depend mainly on your personal taste, and to a lesser degree on your planned use for the software. If hassle-free installation is your cup of tea, you'll probably prefer Window-Eyes, since you won't have to deal with an authorization program on a floppy. On the other hand, if smooth reading of long texts is the most important consideration to you, you'll probably want JFW, with its settings for sentence or paragraph reading.

In summary, screen readers have come a long way since the first DOS readers; however, they've got a long way to go yet. There are simply too many graphical-user-interface-based applications out there which give today's screen readers seemingly unsurmountable problems and it's rather doubtful that either Henter-Joyce or GW Micro can ever hope to really keep up with the onslaught of software hitting the market almost hourly. You can be sure, however, that both companies will do their utmost to keep up with the most important applications and utilities as they come into demand by blind and visually impaired users. Further, it must be said that speech technology has a long way to go to properly serve the needs of serious computer users. I predict that digitized speech, with its closer-to-human quality, will constitute the next generation for synthesis -- and the sooner, the better!

by Billie Jean Keith

The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement 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 and services mentioned.

To submit an item for "Here and There," send an e-mail message to [email protected] You may call the ACB toll-free number, (800) 424-8666, and leave a message at extension 26. Please bear in mind that we need information two months ahead of actual publication dates.

A service called HeyAnita allows access to Internet information. All you need is a telephone; however, some elements of the service require an on-line setup. The service is free of charge; call toll-free (800) 442-6482. According to the press release, the service has been well received by visually impaired customers. Current information available by phone includes: weather reports (U.S. and international); news (national, headlines, world, business, entertainment and technology); stocks (quotes, market summary, IPO Watch, company news); sports (professional, college, trivia); horoscopes; flight tracker; message center (allows callers to access Yahoo e-mail from any phone. Functionality includes receiving, replying to and deleting e-mail messages. Requires on-line setup); measurement conversion; restaurant tipping guide; TV dish (soap opera and serial summaries); lottery results; Anita Express (personalized delivery of ongoing, requested information. Requires on-line setup); and favorites (personalized delivery of information within specific HeyAnita applications. Requires on-line setup). To learn more, contact Mark W. Willingham, HeyAnita Inc., 6100 Wilshire Blvd., 6th floor, Los Angeles, CA 90048; phone (323) 692-1522, e-mail [email protected]; or visit the web site,

The Association of Blind Citizens is offering a $1,000 scholarship to blind or visually impaired individuals seeking a college degree. The scholarship will be offered for the 2001-2002 school year. The scholarship may be applied to tuition, living expenses or related expenses resulting from vision impairment. Potential applicants are encouraged to visit and click on the scholarship link for more details and an application.

The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) invites artists of all ages who are visually impaired or blind to submit art work for its 10th annual international art competition. Known as APH InSights 2001, last year's competition received nearly 500 entries. The year 2000 selected artists are on view at the APH accessible web site, Artists may enter art work created in any medium, including, but not limited to, painting, drawing, printmaking, fiber, metal or wood.

Entry forms and art pieces must arrive at APH no later than April 1, 2001. Artists should contact APH to request a copy of the entry form and rules for the competition. Call Roberta Williams in the Public Affairs Office, (800) 223-1839 or (502) 895-2405, or e-mail [email protected]

If you are a dependent or spouse of a veteran who is legally blind, you may be eligible for one of the 16 Kathern F. Gruber Scholarships to be awarded by the Blinded Veterans Association. The veteran does not have to be a member of the Blinded Veterans Association, nor does blindness have to be service connected.

Dependents and spouses are encouraged to apply for these awards. Completed applications and supporting materials must be received by the BVA no later than Friday, April 13, 2001. Eight scholarships of $2,000 each, and eight scholarships of $1,000 will be awarded for the 2001-2002 academic year. Candidates must be enrolled full-time in an academic or vocational program. To request an application, call the BVA Scholarship Coordinator at (202) 371-8880.

Three years ago, two people began to exchange information about their retinoblastoma. Thanks to Gilles Frydman of the Association of On-line Cancer Resources who provided the list, it has grown to a global support group of survivors, families, friends and parents with newly diagnosed children.

For people with long-term issues that may accompany life after retinoblastoma, this list may have some answers, and certainly much understanding. To subscribe, send a message to: [email protected] In the text of the message, type: subscribe rb-survivors, and your name, then send the message.

Wellness Choice, Inc., a medical services company that works with disadvantaged groups in several southern states, recently announced a nationwide program for low-cost prescription eyeglasses. The program is available to non-profit groups and local and state agencies. The children's glasses cost $30 for hard resin lenses and $38 for polycarbonate lenses in prescriptions up to +/-5.25 and a cylinder of +/-4.

An adult program is available for $39 and $45 respectively. A program for individuals with low vision with prescriptions greater than +/-5.25 and a cylinder greater than +/- 4 is available at a single focus price of $60 with polycarbonate lens in a quality fashion frame for either children or adults.

The company conducts screenings and examinations for Head Start programs, migrant workers, Native American groups, mental retardation centers, senior citizens and other groups that are traditionally underserved. Wellness Choice wants to expand its program to reach other groups, including agencies serving people with low vision. For more information, contact Les Wilson, phone (770) 541-7777, e-mail [email protected], or visit the web site,

If you own a business, or are self-employed, you may want to join the listserv to discuss ideas with other business owners who are blind or visually impaired. The list owner has two business ventures, one as a vendor and the other as a braille transcriber and proofreader. If you are self-employed, or own a business and wish to join the list, send a message to blindbusinesspeople- [email protected] Leave the subject line blank. If you use a signature automatically on your e-mail address, type the word "end" in the message itself. Otherwise leave the message empty, and send it.

Here's some of our tax dollars working for us. A free 22- page booklet titled "Know About Low Vision" is available from the National Eye Institute. Request the booklet by calling toll-free (877) 569-8474, or by e-mail at [email protected] The publication can be downloaded from their web site at

Are you looking for regulation-size playing cards with oversized, raised numbers and symbols? Evelyn True developed such cards for a friend who lost her sight suddenly and wanted to continue playing bridge. Numbers and symbols are easily recognized by touch. Hearts and diamonds are red print and clubs and spades are black print. They cost $19.50 per pack, plus packing and shipping. Available only from Tru Products, 3105 Sudbury Lane, Louisville, KY 40220; phone (502) 491-3173.

Associated Services for the Blind has added three new magazines to its recorded periodicals division. Titles are: "The Family Handyman," "The Oprah Magazine," and monthly selections from "The New Yorker." Each subscription is $36 per year. To subscribe, contact Recorded Periodicals, ASB, 919 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107; phone (215) 627-0600, ext. 3206.

Have you logged on after being away from your computer to find your in-box cluttered with duplicate posts and unnecessary responses? Have you spent hours sifting through it, only to find three messages of interest, or have you given up in despair and hit the delete key while hoping you didn't miss something important? Are you tired of reading extraneous information and off-topic discussions while looking for important tidbits? Do you want to read articles about job vacancies and adaptive and mainstream technology without searching for them on the web? If the answer is yes, Amy's filters and forwards may be for you. For an annual fee of $20, Amy monitors more than 50 blindness- related and mainstream e-mail lists. After reading through many messages, Amy selects the most important information and, after stripping out extraneous headers, footers and tags, sends content to subscribers. Information is sent via e-mail and usually contains 15 to 25 messages per day. The originator of these messages is noted on the top of the message for future reference, as you are paying for Amy's filtering and forwarding skills, not the original content. To subscribe, payment can be made on, or A check for $20 to cover the 2001 calendar year should be sent to Amy Ruell, 9 Quail Run, Hingham, MA 02043. If you have questions, contact Amy Ruell by e-mail, [email protected]

Do you have a college degree, a work background, work skills, and have you completed a vocational training program? Are you interested in finding work? Lions World Services for the Blind is accepting clients from all states in the Fast Track Assessment/Placement Program in partnership with Manpower, a national staffing service. The program is open-ended and length is adjustable to the goals of the client. For referrals or more information, contact Lions World Services for the Blind, Attn. Sherrill Wilson, Director of Training, 2811 Fair Park Blvd., Little Rock, AR 72204, phone (501) 664-7100, or toll-free (800) 248-0734, or visit the web site,

A new line of women's clothing, DeeDee with Braille and large print labels is now available at Henri Bendel Department Store in New York City. A great Valentine's Day gift, DeeDee Dot T-shirts and other clothing items with washable Braille and large print labels are also available at


FOR SALE: Visualtek with black-and-white screen. It has an adjustable track tray. Comes with cover, extra cords, and glass reading tray. Asking $500 (check or cash only). Contact Gary J. Posch Jr., 1110 Greenleaf Dr., Bethlehem, PA 18017-9319; phone (610) 866-7675 (9 a.m.-9 p.m. Eastern).

FOR SALE: King James Bible in braille, $35 or best offer. King James Bible on tape, $45 or best offer. Perkins brailler, excellent condition, $175 or best offer. Call Joe Turri on his voice pager, (810) 403-2402, or on his cell phone, (810) 256- 4874. Or you may correspond on tape to 21098 Wellington, Warren, MI 48089. Credit cards not accepted.

FOR SALE: TRS80 Model 4 computer (needs work), model 410 printer, single and double drive extensions (one of each), SCRIPSIT, Multiplan, and a number of bookkeeping and accounting programs, as well as a large number of 5 1/4-inch disks and storage boxes. Contact L.M. Mayo at (850) 492-0506.

FOR SALE: Keynote Gold hardware synthesizer with newest chip. Originally $1,400; now $500 or best offer. Must sell. Adaptech 100-meg portable ZIP drive along with all supporting software. $50 or best offer. Contact Al Ducharme at (703) 922-6214 or via e-mail at [email protected]

WANTED: Reasonably priced Braille Lite in good condition, preferably with service contract. Contact Kathleen via e-mail, [email protected], or by phone, (631) 698-5149.

WANTED: Braille materials on C++ programming language. Send it to Stephen Akinola, Nigerwives' Braille Books Production Center, PO Box 52335, Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria.


Sanford Alexander
Wichita, KS
Jerry Annunzio
Kansas City, MO
Alan Beatty
Fort Collins, CO
Ed Bradley
Houston, TX
Dawn Christensen
Holland, OH
Debbie Grubb
Bradenton, FL
Oral Miller
Washington, DC
Mitch Pomerantz
Los Angeles, CA
Sandy Sanderson
Anchorage, AK
M.J. Schmitt
Forest Park, IL


Kim Charlson, Chairperson
Watertown, MA
Jay Doudna
Rosemont, PA
Winifred Downing
San Francisco, CA
Mike Duke
Jackson, MS
Charles Hodge
Arlington, VA
Ex Officio: Laura Oftedahl,
Berkeley, CA


20330 NE 20TH CT.
MIAMI, FL 33179





LeRoy Saunders
4517 NW 25th Place
Oklahoma City, OK 73127-1911

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