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Ever since the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act and its successor, IDEA, there has been much discussion within the blindness community about the ever- decreasing number of blind people who actually get to know one another. Some might dispute this assertion while others might find it to be a good ramification of integration. Finding statistical evidence of the effects inclusive/mainstream education may or may not have on our ability as blind people to interact with one another is probably less important than the underlying worry our mutual speculation entails, and the challenge it presents to us.
Sometimes the idea that there even exists a blindness community is challenged because of the disbursement of blind and visually impaired people. We are distanced from one another not merely by geography, but also because of the social pressures to ignore any notion of community in favor of a simplistic notion that we simply cannot see and that about wraps it up. Blind people come in all shapes and sizes; there are rich blind people and poor blind people, and most of us in-between; there are people labeled by some professionals as the "vanilla blind," meaning that they have no additional disabilities, and blind people who have other disabilities to contend with as well, including hearing loss, cerebral palsy, and the inevitable physical side effects of just growing older. Add to that the range of visual impairment that is described as "legally blind," and it's understandable why some wonder about the existence of a community of people who are blind. Is the concept of community of people who are blind just an abstraction that is more virtual than real?
Given the many circumstances which serve to separate us rather than to unite us under one single classification, it is easy to dismiss any cohesive blindness community as more of an intellectual construction than an ongoing reality experienced by a couple of million people in our nation each day. Yet the failure to acknowledge the circumstances which unite us and which cause us to relate to one another as members of the same community perpetuates the inability of individuals to change any of the circumstances which make it difficult for people to function effectively in the everyday work-a-day world because of the condition of blindness.
The notion that blindness is just another physical characteristic, like being left-handed or short or tall, is simply nonsense. I don't deny that this philosophical perspective can be helpful to some folks, allowing them to realize that blindness is really not a pit of despair. However, for others who find that their visual impairments present some very real problems, say, in getting from one place to another, identifying currency, finding accessible information, succeeding in school, or finding work, taking this proclamation as a literal truth can leave them thinking that there must be something very wrong with them. Even worse, there are blind people convinced of their own failure because they have not reduced their blindness to a mere nuisance. This is not an attack on those who espouse these philosophical views, but more a reassurance from one blind person to others, that you are not a failure and you don't have anything drastically wrong with you if you find yourself having difficulty from time to time coping with the substantial ramifications of not being able to see.
So, how do we define ourselves as a community, and what if anything do we do about the life circumstances that so many of us share?
We are, indeed, a community in that we experience a common set of challenges presented by our blindness which are further complicated by the physical and social world around us. In most parts of our nation, we are challenged to get from one place to another without depending upon rides from people who can drive. While this is merely one of a number of constraints with which many of us cope, it clearly points out the difficulty of building a fully expressive self-image when our choices of going anywhere may be limited to our reliance upon what someone else may or may not want to do. This single example illustrates how blindness prevents easy mobility, limiting our choices in environments where transportation is exclusively by private car, and forcing too many of us to forego our own choices to conform to those of others. Sure, this is something we all must cope with in the course of living our lives as people who are blind, but the frequency with which we must make compromises and the net shaping of individual and group identity are clearly more descriptive of the lives of blind people and others with disabilities for that matter.
The many examples of common experience and their shaping effect upon us would take too long to number. What is important is that we do have alternatives from both a community and integrated standpoint. The social and psychological benefits of recognizing blindness for what it is and moving forward with other blind people to remove the barriers that complicate our lives and those of our sighted brethren are well worth the effort it takes to accomplish our goals.
We are not a co-dependent community based purely upon struggle although there are many times when supporting each other is just what is needed. We are a community of shared experience, and we can change the very substance of that experience through united effort, not only for ourselves, but for all people in our society. That is the acknowledgement of our reality, the power of our movement, and the promise of our opportunity.
Something ACB presidents do quite a bit is travel. Thus far during the fall of 2001, I have found myself in Albuquerque, Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and a small town in eastern Washington called Wenatchee.
Traveling is both a blessing and a curse. The blessings come from the comradeships and the partnerships that are forged through the course of traveling. The cursing comes (only from others of course) while waiting in long lines with cumbersome and heavy luggage, dealing with canceled flights, squeezing travel either too early or too late in a day, and all the other little annoyances we have all experienced while on the road. On balance, it's worth the problems and I'd like to share a few small experiences with you in this article and share other information as we go.
Seattle marked the site of the World Blind Union North America-Caribbean regional meeting held in early October and hosted by National Industries for the Blind. Brian Charlson and Paul Edwards, who represent ACB at the WBU, asked me to attend to become better acquainted with a variety of international issues and concerns. Of particular interest is a strengthening of the ties between the blind consumers of the United States and those of Canada. In addition, outreach to our Caribbean neighbors was discussed, and it is my fervent hope that ACB can play a meaningful role in assisting a population of blind people who truly want to organize but need some help in doing so. Recognizing cultural differences, expectation levels, and a belief in what is possible are key ingredients in such outreach efforts. Those present in Seattle discussed these things and let us hope much will come from that preliminary conversation.
On the second day of our meetings, National Industries for the Blind organized a very informative tour of the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind. Everybody in attendance was both fascinated and impressed by the progressive attitudes and work being done by employees at this model facility. Of particular note is the work being done in employing scores of deaf-blind individuals and the strong relationship between the Seattle Lighthouse and the Boeing aircraft company. We witnessed totally blind people performing significant jobs with significant salaries. Employees on manufacturing floors expressed their good will and a sense of personal accomplishment as members of this organization.
A wonderful side benefit of a meeting in Seattle was that my family lives in and around the city. So, the weekend was spent getting together and doing family sorts of things. Brian's family lives only a few hours away, near Portland, Ore., and he had the wonderful good fortune to attend a gathering of his entire family who were all together at the same time for the first time in 20 years! Paul got to deal with the cursed end of the stick on this trip. He took an all-nighter flight back to Florida in order to run a three-hour meeting. Thank you, Paul!
Next came Las Vegas in mid-October and the convention of the Nevada Council of the Blind. Marvelena came with me to enjoy the Las Vegas fun and fanfare. With two conventions to go and a heavier than usual working schedule, what a great opportunity to mix business with pleasure.
The Nevada Council of the Blind may be one of ACB's smaller organizations, but they sure know how to make a person feel welcome and how to put on a top-notch convention. As with many states, Nevada has geographical problems that make organizing chapters very hard. Desert areas, mountainous terrain, and huge unpopulated spaces create special problems for this affiliate. Nevertheless, they are thriving and reaching out into their community. Several speakers touched on programs of benefit to blind people, seniors, and the disabled in general. Their outgoing president, Ed Newell, is an excellent presider and shepherded the meetings positively. By the way, did you know that Ed Newell landed on the beaches of Normandy? Add this small fact to the richness of our ACB culture. I realized with certainty that the Nevada Council of the Blind will have future years of growth and success during their elections. Two members of NCB who ran for board seats were well under 40 years of age. Nevada is finding and exciting younger members, and that is a very notable achievement for any affiliate.
Las Vegas is a great place to spend time, and it can also be a great place to spend money if you're not careful. How frustrating it was to discover that Marvelena had the Midas touch while I seemed only to have the lead finger when it came to making a new fortune from those one-armed bandits.
For every $5 she might daintily slide into a machine, $50 came rolling blithely back, or so it seemed. Meanwhile, for every $50 I threw out, $5 might come clunking into the change basket. To add insult to injury, if Marvelena so much as touched a machine I had left, it would immediately pay handsome rewards to her.
Another fun thing that we did was to go to the MGM Grand Hotel where they are forever wishing people to "have a grand day" or "have a grand meal." I was eager to leave the machines behind and Marvelena thought it would be fun to visit and pet the lions they have in the hotel. After all, what is MGM without lions roaring and roaming the premises?
Have you ever petted a lion? Well, these are young lions, cubs really, but even so, they are pretty awesome specimens. The lion we met was neither huge nor ferocious. For the most part, it was playful and had nice soft fur to touch. This was its state, at least for the first picture that a willing photographer was stationed to take upon your request. But this picture was deemed unsuitable, and so we waited for another. In the meantime, the lion's back paw moved to one side into examination range. Bigger than the palm of my hand and with a texture not unlike a baseball mitt, this was impressive! And then our young friend seemed to be getting a bit anxious, even restless; perhaps too much time with the same two visitors. The back haunches began to wriggle and buck; a very long, strong tail began to swish and snap against my legs. Just at this moment, there was the merciful click of the camera and a quick retreat back into civilization and all those noisy Las Vegas machines.
The California and Washington Council conventions were both exciting, large affairs. Both of these organizations have extremely active memberships, good cash flow, and know how to make things happen and make people feel welcome. As a member of each of these affiliates, I felt particularly at home and had wonderful opportunities to catch up with old friends. The Washington Council is particularly proud of having approximately 27 new members! Way to go Berl and company!
Coming home from Wenatchee, Wash. brought me to one of those lesser traveling experiences one hopes always to avoid. Somewhere between the Cascade mountains and heading into Seattle, we learned of a problem with the landing gear on our small Dash 8 aircraft. It would not release and had to be cranked down by hand. We were warned that several fire trucks and emergency vehicles, including a tow truck, would be at our landing area, a special greeting party just for us. The captain mentioned that he might jump out of the plane to place securing pins into the landing gear after we landed but wanted to assure us he wasn't abandoning ship and would return to the cockpit.
Everybody got serious when the flight attendant came through the cabin to show us how to assume the "crash position." This was only a safety precaution, but it certainly got people's attention. The descent was very slow as the appropriate people and equipment gathered on the ground. Finally, we were all instructed to assume the "crash position" with head in arms, crouched over against the seat ahead. The flight attendant's voice on the microphone was oddly muffled as she did the same. Almost like an aerobics instructor, she commanded us to "hold the position" as the plane descended and experimentally touched wheels to the ground. After a second, then a third tentative bump, the pilot let the aircraft settle down onto the runway. All seemed normal. Our heads raised up to a level of greater comfort and to take in the situation around us. An almost palpable sense of relief was felt in the cabin as we came toward the arrival gate.
It is a real treat, just three days after this attention-getting experience, to share these building, fun, and defining moments. We are just now entering the holiday season. Regardless of what you celebrate or how you celebrate it, this is one time in which we all stop to ponder, at least for a brief time, families, friends, even those we don't know. We do so in the spirit of love and acceptance that isn't so completely felt during some other times of year. It is our defining moments that stick out most as we think about this year, nearly past. September 11 is certainly a defining moment for each of us and for our nation. My ultimately safe airplane landing in Seattle is another one for me, showing how tenuous and thus how precious is each day of our existence and the potential held within each one of us to truly make a difference in the world. It doesn't matter that the difference is small: many small things make a big thing, and we can do that together.
I wish you the best possible holiday season and encourage you to ponder your defining moments for 2001. Let us then meet the future of the new year together: strengthened by our past, sustained by our present, strong in the belief of the world's tomorrow.
The U.S. Supreme Court began its 2001-2002 term on October 1. There will be four cases on the court's calendar this year that are of particular interest to people with disabilities. In three of these cases the court will examine issues arising under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act relating to the rights of employees with disabilities. The fourth case concerns who is eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance.
In the first case, Toyota Motor Company of Kentucky v. Williams, Ella Williams alleges that she developed carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis while working on an assembly line at Toyota's plant in Kentucky. Her original suit was filed in 1993, and that case was settled. Williams returned to work and was transferred to another position inspecting newly painted automobiles. Then, in 1996, her duties were expanded to include wiping down passing cars with a sponge attached to a thick block of wood. Williams claimed that the new task, which required her to hold her arms up, exacerbated her condition, and asked to be transferred back to inspecting cars. Toyota refused and eventually fired Williams. Williams filed a second suit against Toyota for failing to accommodate her disability and for wrongful termination. The federal district court ruled in favor of Toyota, finding that Williams' conditions did not qualify as disabilities under the ADA. The court also threw out her wrongful termination claim.
A three-judge panel on the 6th Circuit upheld the lower court's decision with regard to the wrongful termination claim, because her own physician had determined that she could not work at any job at the time of her termination. However, the panel reversed, by a two-to-one decision, the lower court's decision on the ADA claim. The judges stated that Williams did have a disability covered by the ADA, and was therefore eligible for reasonable accommodation. Toyota has now sought intervention by the Supreme Court, contending that the conditions suffered by Williams are not a significant enough impairment to major life activities to constitute a disability under the ADA.
At issue in the U.S. Airways v. Barnett case is the extent to which an employer is obligated to reassign an employee in order to accommodate the employee's disability. This case involves an individual by the name of Robert Barnett, who injured his back while working in the cargo department for U.S. Airways at San Francisco International Airport. When his condition worsened, he asked for reassignment to the swing shift in the mail room as an accommodation of his disability. Barnett was told that other employees with greater seniority had requested the same position and that, as a result, his request could not be granted. Barnett was then removed from the mail room and placed on sick leave. Barnett alleges in court documents that he then offered U.S. Airways several other solutions for accommodating his disability, including working in the cargo department with the use of special lifting equipment. These requests were denied by U.S. Airways, which told him he could apply for other vacant positions that were within his capabilities. Since no such vacancies existed, Barnett filed suit, claiming that his need for accommodation should have taken precedence over the company's seniority system. He also claimed that the company was retaliating against him for filing an EEOC complaint.
The district court ruled in favor of U.S. Airways, but the 9th Circuit Court sided with Barnett on the issue of accommodation. The court held that since Barnett already worked in the mail room he should not be required to compete with more senior applicants just to accommodate his disability. Further, the court held that granting Barnett's request to remain in the mail room would not have caused the company undue hardship. U.S. Airways has appealed to the Supreme Court for relief.
The final ADA case, Chevron v. Echazabal, concerns a man who was denied a job in an oil refinery because of his disability. The refinery alleges that the denial was proper because the ADA provides that a person with a disability can be denied employment based on disability if the employer can show the presence of a "direct threat" to the safety of the prospective employee. Echazabal has hepatitis C, and Chevron produced medical evidence supporting their contention that exposure to the chemicals used by workers in the refinery would speed the deterioration of Echazabal's liver, and that a significant exposure could be fatal.
The 9th Circuit ruled last year that Chevron was wrong to claim that the threat posed to Echazabal's health was sufficient reason to disqualify him for employment at Chevron's refinery. One judge dissented, arguing that to take the position of the majority, someone with an allergy to bee stings could be employed as a beekeeper, or a steelworker who has vertigo could be employed on top of high-rise buildings, with the employer bearing the consequences of increased liability. Echazabal's lawyers argued, on the other hand, that employers have no right to make decisions for qualified potential employees regarding the amount of risk the employee is willing to assume. They contended that a decision for Chevron in this case could be harmful to persons with a variety of disabilities.
The last case I want to alert you to involves the definition of disability used by the Social Security Administration in determining who is eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Massanari v. Walton. This case was appealed to the Supreme Court by the Social Security Administration after the U.S. Court of Appeals handed down a decision in favor of the plaintiff. The plaintiff in this case was an individual who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Shortly after his diagnosis, he was terminated from his employment as a school teacher and applied for SSDI. While awaiting the decision of the Social Security Administration regarding his claim, he took a job as a stock clerk in a grocery store, which paid him an amount that exceeded the Substantial Gainful Activity limit allowed SSDI beneficiaries. Social Security therefore denied his claim for SSDI, based on his having demonstrated an ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.
The lower court found that the plaintiff had a disability, schizophrenia, which significantly impaired major life activities, and that it is this disability which qualifies an individual for SSDI benefits, not their inability to engage in substantial gainful activity. The Social Security Administration has sought the intervention of the Supreme Court, arguing that, in fact, both tests must be met before one is considered "disabled" as defined by the Social Security Act.
Each of these cases presents complex issues for the court to grapple with, and the likelihood is that whatever the court decides in each case, we, as Americans with disabilities, will have new legal challenges ourselves. ACB is working with others in the advocacy community to insure that the briefs submitted in these cases address the issues in a thorough and comprehensive manner. We will keep you informed with regard to developments in each matter as the court considers and disposes of these cases.
Twelve years ago, my curiosity got the better of me and I joined other blind people who were using and enjoying computers. I had heard that these "magic boxes" could read aloud what one typed, print it out, and even check for misspellings and correct them. I was intrigued! (I had never been a good speller!)
I asked all kinds of questions of the blind people I knew who were using computers. I shopped around to find the best price. That price was three times what you would pay today. I made the trip to Office Depot, gave them a lot of dollars for a work station, and then waited. Then when the computer arrived at my door I brought it in and proceeded to assemble it. Why is it that instructions never seem to be understandable?
First out of the shipping container was the CPU, shaped like a big box. Where to put it? I decided on the second shelf. Then, right in front in the place of honor went the keyboard. To the side I proudly placed the monitor. A second table held the printer. Voila! I was ready to strike keys.
Ah, there was another dimension. The voice. This required the removal of the CPU cover and the installation of the interfacing board. Then a friend struck keys and told the autoexec file where to find my computer's new voice. Finally, a reboot and the voice announced that it was ready. What a wonderful feeling. Here at last was the magic box, ready to work for me in my own home.
It did take many hours of listening to my training tutorials on several audiocassettes. There were several telephone calls in search of answers to perplexing problems. My new computer did cause many frustrating moments, but in the end, it revolutionized my life. After being blind for almost 50 years I was able to read and spell check what I had written. What a wonderful gift. For 50 years I had used a typewriter and had the all-too-familiar experience of being in the middle of a letter and having a telephone or doorbell ring. Then I would have to start all over again. Now using the computer's "voice," I could figure out where I had left off typing and move on from that point. When my document was just the way I wanted it, a single keystroke would send it on to the printer for a perfect printing. I was impressed.
All my investment of money and time seemed well worth it. Soon I was keeping track of my tax and insurance records for myself. This was very satisfying. A genealogy program caught my attention and my parents, wife, brother, and kids joined their place in the family tree. Ten years later 900 entries tell me more about my ancestors than I sometimes want to know.
A big plus came when a bookkeeping program found its place on my hard drive. Now I can check my balance to the penny against the bank statement. This is a big chore, which used to take many braille entries, simplified. Now I can make a deposit by mail, write a check and mail it, or search for a check that I thought I wrote last year.
This newly perfected bookkeeping skill has placed me in demand for the treasurer's job with the local chapter of the American Council of the Blind and for my Lions Club. I may be the only blind treasurer of a Lions Club in the world.
E-mail is a big source of pleasure because it is quick and easy; it makes staying in touch with family and friends a breeze. The difficulties in getting a letter created and mailed no longer exist. You can receive a note and read it yourself, then answer with a few quick keystrokes and go on to other pressing business. Last week one of my sons was in New Zealand and we exchanged daily notes by e-mail. Another son was in Israel and his e-mail messages kept me posted about our plans to attend a Dallas Cowboys game when he returns. Also taken care of this morning were the final arrangements for a cousins' gathering which will take place in two weeks here in Dallas. I am the one keeping everyone aware of plans and the time for our first meeting here at the Langfords' home.
Amazing and wonderful is this quick and easy tool for communication. Eight years ago distressing news reached me about working computers being hauled to the dump. New models made older ones obsolete. This did not seem right since the old ones would still do all the things that blind people wanted them to do. Because I was the president and CEO of the Texas Center for the Physically Impaired, I could decide that these computers deserved a better fate, and my board agreed. So, we added refurbishing donated computers to our regular services. We enlisted volunteers to make the computers ready to go again. Since that time, we have shipped almost 400 computers to visually impaired people all over the world.
When the Windows-based Pentium computers leave Dallas they are in good working order and ready for a new blind user. The cost, now $50, is just enough to cover our expenses for parts, packing, handling and transporting the machine to its new user. Users assume the responsibility of procuring software, such as a screen-reader and synthesizer or a screen enlargement program, that will allow them to access the information displayed on the computer's screen. We provide initial freeware, shareware, or demos to allow a new user to have access from the start and to give our computer buyers an idea of the options they may choose among. We have obtained computer training tutorials to assist new computer users. Soon we expect to be able to announce a new service: computer tutorials in Spanish! We are very excited about this new direction we're going in.
Another aspect of our services worth mentioning is our sponsorship of computer training centers in Vina del Mar, Chile and three more in Peru. Our computers and instructors make it possible for blind Chileans and Peruvians to know the freedom and independence of using computers. My wife and I attended the dedication of these centers, where local officials and media, including newspaper and radio reporters and TV cameramen celebrated with us the advent of a new era for blind and visually impaired people in Chile and Peru. It is my hope to continue for many years offering any blind person who wants it the opportunity to obtain a computer at a reasonable price. Computers have brought me a kind of satisfaction and independence which I could hardly have imagined when I bought my first computer a dozen years ago, and I love making these same possibilities a reality for other people who are blind. How to contact Bob Langford
The Texas Center for the Physically Impaired has provided more than 400 refurbished computers to blind and disabled people all over the world, and the cost is only $50. These are Windows- based Pentium computers provided with monitor, keyboard, a six- cassette tutorial and a demo copy of Window-Eyes 4.1. For more information about this opportunity, contact Bob Langford, Texas Center for the Physically Impaired, 11330 Quail Run, Dallas, TX 75238, phone (214) 340-6328, or e-mail [email protected]
(Editor's Note: The information below appeared on postcards which were delivered to every postal address in the USA in mid- October. We reprint it here so that you will have access to this important information despite visual impairments which might prevent you from accessing the printed text.)
What should make me suspect a piece of mail?
It's unexpected or from someone you don't know. It's addressed to someone no longer at your address. It's handwritten and has no return address or bears one that you can't confirm is legitimate. It's lopsided or lumpy in appearance. It's sealed with excessive amounts of tape. It's marked with restrictive endorsements such as "Personal" or "Confidential." It has excessive postage.
What should I do with a suspicious piece of mail?
Don't handle a letter or package that you suspect is contaminated. Don't shake it, bump it, or sniff it. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Notify local law enforcement authorities.
A Message from the Postmaster General
The U.S. Postal Service places the highest priority on the safety of our customers and employees and on the security of the mail.
Please see the other side of this card for information about safety and mail handling. We want you to know we are doing everything possible to make sure the mail is safe, and we need your help. Your security and peace of mind are paramount to us.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking steps to protect the American public against potentially useless or harmful drugs that treat anthrax infection which are being marketed by foreign web sites in defiance of United States laws. The FDA is warning U.S. citizens that foreign drugs promoted on the Internet may not be approved for marketing in this country and may not be legally imported. The agency is advising the U.S. Customs Service that shipments from certain identified vendors may be detained and refused entry. In addition, because an approved version of ciprofloxacin (Cipro) is manufactured and available in the U.S., personal importation of this drug is not permitted.
State medical boards are concerned that Internet interactions fall below the standard of care for prescribing medications unless there is an examination of the patient to determine if there is a medical problem and a specific diagnosis. Objections arise when the only medical history is obtained through a brief yes/no questionnaire and there is no follow-up to assess the therapeutic outcome of the prescription. Unnecessarily prescribing medications, particularly antibiotics, may prove to be detrimental to the American public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised concerns over the increased resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. The unnecessary use of antibiotics, specifically the use of antibiotics that have been purchased without an appropriate exam, is of primary concern.
The sale of prescription drugs across the Internet will remain a concern of state and federal regulators, and both will assume an active role in the responsibility for public protection. CTL will continue to monitor this issue and will provide further alerts as necessary.
For further information, contact the Center for Telemedicine Law at (202) 775-5722.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Department of Transportation's implementing rules prohibit discriminatory treatment of persons with disabilities in air transportation. Since the terrorist hijackings and tragic events of September 11, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued directives to strengthen security measures at airline checkpoints and passenger screening locations. In securing our national air transportation system, where much of FAA's efforts have been directed to date, steps were also taken to ensure that the new security procedures preserve and respect the civil rights of passengers with disabilities. This fact sheet provides information about the accessibility requirements in air travel in light of strengthened security measures by providing a few examples of the types of accommodations and services that must be provided to passengers with disabilities. The examples listed below are not all-inclusive and are simply meant to provide answers to frequently asked questions since September 11 concerning the air travel of people with disabilities. Check-in
Air carriers must provide meet and assist service (e.g., assistance to gate or aircraft) at drop-off points. The lack of curbside check-in, for certain airlines at some airports, has not changed the requirement for meet and assist service at drop-off points. Screener checkpoints
Individuals assisting passengers with disabilities are allowed beyond the screener checkpoints. These individuals may be required to present themselves at the airlines' check-in desk and receive a "pass" allowing them to go through the screener checkpoint without a ticket.
Ticketed passengers with their own oxygen for use on the ground are allowed beyond the screener checkpoints with their oxygen canisters once the canisters have been thoroughly inspected. If there is a request for oxygen at the gate for a qualified passenger with a disability, commercial oxygen providers are allowed beyond the screener checkpoints with oxygen canisters once the canisters have been thoroughly inspected. Commercial oxygen providers may be required to present themselves at the airlines' check-in desk and receive a "pass" allowing them to go through the screener checkpoint without a ticket.
The limit of one carry-on bag and one personal bag (e.g., purse or briefcase) for each traveler does not apply to medical supplies and/or assistive devices. Passengers with disabilities generally may carry medical equipment, medications, and assistive devices on board the aircraft.
All persons allowed beyond the screener checkpoints may be searched. This will usually be done through the use of a hand- held metal detector, whenever possible. Passengers may also be patted down during security screenings, and this is even more likely if the passenger uses a wheelchair and is unable to stand up. Private screenings remain an option for persons in wheelchairs.
Service animals, once inspected to ensure prohibited items are not concealed, are permitted on board an aircraft. Any backpack or sidepack that is carried on the animal will be manually inspected or put through the X-ray machines. The service animal's halter may also be removed for inspection.
Assistive devices such as walking canes, once inspected to ensure prohibited items are not concealed, are permitted on board an aircraft. Assistive devices such as augmentative communication devices and Braille 'n Speaks will go through the same sort of security screening process as used for personal computers.
Syringes are permitted on board an aircraft once it is determined that the person has a documented medical need for the syringe.
Personal wheelchairs and battery-powered scooters may still be used to reach departure gates after they are inspected to ensure that they do not present a security risk. Any backpack or sidepack that is carried on the wheelchair will be manually inspected or put through the X-ray machines.
Personal wheelchairs will still be allowed to be stowed on board an aircraft.
Air carriers must ensure that qualified individuals with a disability, including those with vision or hearing impairments, have timely access to information, such as new security measures, the carriers provide to other passengers. For example, on flights to Reagan Washington National Airport, persons are verbally warned to use the restrooms more than half an hour before arrival since after that point in time passengers are required to remain in their seats. Alternative formats are necessary to ensure that all passengers, especially deaf persons, understand new security measures such as the one at Reagan Washington National.
We hope this information is helpful to you. Members of the public who feel they have been the subject of discriminatory actions or treatment by air carriers may file a complaint by sending an e-mail, a letter, or a completed complaint form to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD). ACPD's e-mail address is [email protected] and its mailing address is: Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room 4107, C-75, Washington, DC 20590.
Complaint forms that consumers may download and/or print are available at http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/problems.htm.
The American Council of the Blind is pleased to present its 2002-03 scholarship program. ACB will make 30 scholarships, ranging from $500 to $2,500 in value, available to legally blind students pursuing post-secondary education in various fields of study, including, but not limited to, business administration, physical and computer sciences, advocacy, and social services. Several new scholarships will be presented this year, including the Freedom Scientific Technology Awards. Decisions will be based on academic excellence, community involvement, and leadership qualities.
Applications are available from the ACB national office at 1-800-424-8666 or on our web site, http://www.acb.org. You may submit your application in print or online. Applications must be received by ACB no later than March 1, 2002.
The scholarships will be presented at the ACB 41st annual national convention in Houston, Texas, in July 2002. Scholarship winners are expected to be present at the convention if they have reached their 18th birthday. ACB will cover all reasonable costs connected with convention attendance.
In July 2001 I was appointed by ACB President Chris Gray to chair the constitutionally mandated resource development committee. In the past several months, the committee has been exploring a variety of ways that our organization might make money. More important, we have explored ways that the national organization, in partnership with its affiliated organizations, can make money together.
I believe that making money should, whenever possible, be a win-win situation. It is unfortunate that programs like telephone solicitation for money can be a win-lose proposition. We all know though that if ACB and one of its affiliates both try to raise money in the same city or state with a phone solicitation campaign, somebody will almost surely end up with the short end of the financial stick.
We also know that raising money is harder today than it used to be. My experience in Alaska tells me that telephone solicitation is nothing like the money-maker it was in the 1980s. Too many people are attempting to raise money via the telephone, and the onslaught of people asking for money at the other end of phone lines antagonizes all of us. So, fewer people are willing to give.
We have to do some new thinking and some creative thinking if ACB and its affiliates are going to prosper, and my commitment is to do anything I can as chairman of this committee to make all of us prosper together!
We are exploring ways in which ACB and its affiliates can share projects jointly. One potential money-making project may be to share in the placement and management of vending machines which dispense cash on demand. Without going into detail here, I want to ask affiliates and their leaders to consider whether this would be something you would like to pursue.
The various kinds of machines have a range of requirements for investment levels and day-to-day or month-to-month personal care and management. They can make good profits though, and we have had good success in Alaska with this kind of venture. At its board of directors meeting in Albuquerque, the ACB board authorized my committee to explore becoming involved in profit- sharing arrangements for purchasing and maintaining these vending machines, with our affiliates .
In weeks to come, my committee will be contacting affiliates and make ourselves available for you to contact us as well. We will have some specific proposals to discuss and hope to discover if this is something affiliates believe would be worth trying.
I want to give you my personal assurance that the resource development committee is committed to working on win-win proposals for ACB and its affiliates. Working together, we can make things happen for our great organization.
The annual state convention of the North Carolina Council of the Blind (NCCB) was held September 28th through September 30th at the Holiday Inn in Burlington, NC. The convention was well attended by members from all over the state, with the Alamance Council of the Blind as host. Guest speakers included Sen. Philip E. Berger from Eden, Rep. W. B. Teague, Jr. from Liberty, and Paul Edwards, past president of ACB from Miami, Fla. Art Stevenson from Salem, Ore. spoke about the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, John Gordon from Chicago discussed Social Security issues, Dr. Michael W. Brennen, a Burlington ophthalmologist, reported on prevention of blindness for young birth mothers. Other speakers included John DeLuca, Director of the Division of Services for the Blind; Clay Pope, Chief of the Business Enterprise Program; Linda Sparks, president of the board of directors of the new radio reading service in Winston-Salem; Johnna Simmons from the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; Cora Carter from the Blind Center, Washington, NC; Cynthia Speight, Independent Living; Jim Ervin, and Richard Carlton, attorney for NCCB.
The highlight of the Saturday evening banquet was Paul Edwards' keynote speech, which garnered him a standing ovation. The Sunday morning business session included the passage of two resolutions regarding left turn on red and maintaining a separate agency for the blind.
The business meeting concluded by electing officers for the upcoming year. The nominating committee recommended keeping the current officers in place for the next two years. Officers are Wayne Yelton, president; Ron Eller, first vice president; Rosie Bethea, second vice president; Pat Yelton, secretary; and Bill Hooper, treasurer. Board members-at-large are Theodore Bryant and Mary K. Jones. The convention was a huge success! The NC Council of the Blind will continue to educate the public on blindness and issues that affect the everyday lives of blind and visually impaired people. Anyone wishing more information should contact Wayne Yelton at (800) 344-7113.
If you work in the field of data processing, or if you work with computers in virtually any way, then there's a place for you in VIDPI. Our members range from those who use the computer for data entry or word processing right on up to those in applications development.
Each year at the ACB national convention, we hold seminars and forums on topics pertinent to computers, computing, software, and adaptations for blind people who work in the field. We are looking forward to an especially good program in 2002 at the ACB national convention in Houston.
We host a weekly chat room session on Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. Eastern time on www.for-the-people.com. To participate, go to that site and sign up for membership.
VIDPI also produces an informative newsletter that comes several times per year. Dues are $10 for associate membership and $20 for full (voting) membership. We want hard-working members with ideas to help us achieve our goals.
For more information, or to join, contact me, Robert R Rogers, [email protected], or (513) 762-4022 office, (513) 921- 3186 home; or contact Mary Abramson, membership secretary, (630) 231-5332, [email protected]
ACB of New York held its annual convention during the weekend of Friday, October 12th through Sunday, October 14th, 2001, at the Vernon Country Suites Hotel, in Vernon, N.Y., right next to the Vernon Downs Race Track.
Along with making amendments to our chapter's constitution, the chapter authorized its board of directors to make a donation, on behalf of our chapter, to benefit the victims and families of victims of the World Trade Center disaster.
Friday evening was a very proud time for our chapter when second vice president John Farina presented the winning trophy in the sixth race at Vernon Downs to the jockey riding the winning horse. We extend our most sincere thanks to Fred Scheigert, one of the members of the Capital District ACB chapter who owns some race horses, for arranging the trophy presentation in the sixth race.
There were 57 members in attendance at our New York State ACB convention.
The ODCBVI board of directors meeting was held on October 19 in the conference room of the Commonwealth of Virginia Library in Richmond. All 12 board members and our parliamentarian were in attendance. In addition to the board members, there were also six ODCBVI members, three visitors and one volunteer in attendance.
Special thanks go to Mr. Jacobi, the parliamentarian, who volunteers his time, knowledge and expertise to ODCBVI and the Commonwealth Council. Mr. Jacobi is a practicing parliamentarian and a parliamentary law instructor.
Scott White resigned as newsletter editor due to a lack of interest from the membership to supply articles. The board has agreed to discontinue the position of newsletter editor for now. The board was also informed of the resignation of immediate past president Dennis Helms.
The convention program and annual meeting was held on Saturday, October 20, at the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired (VRCBVI) in Richmond. Roughly 35 members and visitors were in attendance.
Assistant Director of Administrative Services for the center, Marnie Tidd, welcomed us to VRCBVI.
She showed the Customer Service Video to all in attendance and shared information concerning the Customer Service Training Program, Saturday computer training classes, and plans for renovations.
Mary Ellen Caldwell, a public affairs specialist for the Social Security Administration, shared important information concerning Work Incentives - Impairment Related Work Expenses (Blind Expenses) and Ticket to Work & Work Incentive Improvement Act (TWIIA). After her presentation, she responded to several questions. Unfortunately, there were more questions than time.
Dr. Roy Grizzard, commissioner of the Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired, gave an update on DBVI. He also informed the attendees of the effects of the events of September 11 on Randolph-Sheppard vendors and DBVI, and responded to a number of questions.
Jim Taylor, vocational rehabilitation program director for Virginia Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired, conducted the public meeting. There were about 55 individuals present. A number of individuals from the deaf-blind community as well as VRCBVI students also attended.
Melanie Brunson, director of advocacy and governmental affairs for the American Council of the Blind (ACB), shared information on legislative issues, fund raising and gave an overall update on ACB.
Each chapter presented a report. Then the following ODCBVI members received Meritorious Service Awards: Ruth Arvin, Randy French, Charlie Hodge, Milly Lillibridge, Samantha Schmucker, and Scott White.
Scott White shared information about the Commonwealth Council of the Blind (CCB) and the ODCBVI Listserv that he has developed, as well as information about ACB Radio, vendors of accessible computer software, CCB and Virginia Association of the Blind (VAB) Computer Giveaway Program and much more. The ODCBVI elections followed.
Congratulations to the new officers: Pat Beattie, secretary; Bobby Burke, treasurer; and Scott White, director. The membership passed a resolution to support the Pedestrian Safety Model State Law from ACB. The membership approved an increase of ODCBVI dues by $3, effective January 1, 2002. Local chapters will pay $11 to ODCBVI per member.
The membership also approved the purchase of a $100 raffle ticket from the Northern Virginia Council of the Blind (NOVA) local chapter. All monies from the sale of the tickets will go to the ACB scholarship fund. First prize is $10,000! If you would like to purchase a ticket, contact Billie Jean Keith.
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" is not responsible for the opinions expressed herein. We will not print letters unless you sign your name and give us your address.
Condolences from the United Kingdom
Dear American Council of the Blind:
At the recent Annual General Meeting of the Talking Newspaper Association of the United Kingdom (TNAUK), it was the unanimous wish of the Board of Trustees and all the delegates representing national and local talking newspapers that their deepest sympathies should be conveyed to you in the wake of the appalling events in New York and Washington.
Please know that our thoughts are with you in these troubled times and that you have the full support and good wishes of TNAUK.
Another vote for changing the name of the Forum
This is to voice a strong "second" for the name change of "The Braille Forum" as suggested by Steve Bauer in this column in August. Please go back and read the letter and notice the amount of logic which was included in that one minute of dialogue. Talk it over with friends who may have an interest in the proposal and consider supporting such a move.
Braille article very well written
Please pass along my warm congratulations to Cara Dunne-Yates for her outstandingly well written article in the August issue of the "Forum." As a lifetime user of braille, I could relate very directly and personally to her story. One of the neatest things that I can remember happening to me was while working as an HR manager with Southwestern Bell Telephone I received a thank-you letter in braille from a sighted job applicant whom I hired. Also, whenever I discover a restaurant which has a braille menu, I make it a point to read it from cover to cover. It's great fun to try to find and read the dessert listings before my sighted companions can.
I thoroughly enjoy reading the "Forum" each month and thank you and your small staff for the hard work and fine job you do.
Letter to the Contributing Editor
Remember the article requesting help for blind children in Sierra Leone which was included in the April "Here and There" column? Many "Braille Forum" readers responded to that request for assistance. Below is a letter from Dave Brooks, who coordinates the assistance project via the Society for the Advancement of Culture & Welfare in Sierra Leone.
Dear Ms. Keith:
Your article generated much support for our project in Sierra Leone. I received about 20 packages from 16 "Braille Forum" readers from late April until a few weeks ago. Just about everything on the wish list was donated. The sea container left Dayton in September and should arrive in Freetown sometime this month. My 16-year-old daughter, Corey Ann, has helped facilitate this shipment and has written thank-you letters to all donors who gave return addresses. The next container will probably be sent next summer. We're always collecting because it takes a lot to fill a 40-foot box. The next "container" may be a school bus which was donated and we're going to make it into a mobile surgery clinic for our doctor contact in Freetown who looks after the School for the Blind. We are planning to develop a report so you and these kind folks will be able to see the fruits of your efforts.
Sierra Leone has settled down considerably. The war has stopped and people are beginning to recover. The School for the Blind has now about 85 students, including children who were blinded by bomb blasts and other horrible facets of the war. I know the goods we sent will make a difference to these dear children and their protectors. Once again, many thanks for your help.
Dave & Corey Brooks
For readers who may wish to send items "Free Matter," for these children, here is the original item about their circumstances: Help Sought for Blind Children in Sierra Leone
We have all heard the ghastly news stories about citizens in the West African nation of Sierra Leone being killed or mutilated by having their arms or legs amputated. These atrocities have been done to young children and even babies. A registered, non- profit organization based in Dayton, Ohio, The Society for the Advancement of Culture & Welfare in Sierra Leone (SACSL), is seeking assistance for the children at the Milton Margai School for the Blind in Freetown. The school is home for 80 children who are blind or visually impaired, and many are abandoned or orphaned. SACSL has built a security fence and installed a fire alarm around the school to provide a safe haven for these children. They helped the children establish a vegetable garden, and donated musical instruments for the school's band. Through a contact at Ski For Light, the request for assistance was forwarded to ACB.
If you have items to donate, please send them to a volunteer for SACSL (address below). When enough items have been received to fill a sea container, it will be shipped to Sierra Leone. The following items were identified by the school's headmaster as being most needed. Articles do not have to be new, but should be serviceable. They include: battery-operated tape recorders, Perkins Braillers, portable typewriters, musical instruments, braille books for ages 5-18 (the school has many Bibles but not much other reading materials), braille paper and other writing materials, tapes of kids' songs (nursery rhymes and books), toothbrushes and paste, towels, sheets, pillowcases, tactile toys, and over-the-counter first aid items (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, Tylenol, antiseptic wipes, eye and ear drops, bandages).
Send donated items "Free Matter" to: David Brooks, 6419 Noranda Drive, Dayton, OH 45415, phone (937) 890-3039, (evening hours please), or e-mail [email protected]
On October 4-5, the World Blind Union (WBU), North America- Caribbean Region, met in Seattle, Wash. ACB was represented by Paul Edwards and Brian Charlson, and President Chris Gray attended as well in order to be informed on relevant issues and become better acquainted with the key players in the WBU regional leadership.
During the first morning of deliberations, the Unified English Braille Code (UEBC) was raised as an item of extreme importance within our region. In the course of the deliberations, Chris Gray, speaking on behalf of the "Braille As You Like It" (ZYLX) group, an informal organization that has created an alternative to the UEBC, made WBU regional delegates aware of the manner in which the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) leadership has been handling the ZYLX group's request to present their proposed code to BANA for consideration and information. He described in detail how the efforts of the ZYLX group to present their ideas and alternative code to BANA had been met with with what appears to be political maneuvering and disingenuous requirements on the part of the current BANA chair in an attempt to quell the free exchange of discussion between the ZYLX group and the BANA board. When considered in the context of ACB's resolution 2001-27, which asks BANA to consider the proposals made by the ZYLX group to strengthen braille in North America, these actions seem most regrettable.
After hearing this information and engaging in additional discussion, the WBU regional organization drafted and approved the following letter to be sent to the Braille Authority of North America and the International Council on English Braille (ICEB). It firmly states that the North America-Caribbean Region stands in opposition to the adoption of the UEBC by WBU member countries in 2002 and calls on the ICEB to investigate all facets and discuss with all stakeholders the implications of the currently proposed UEBC code.
The text of the letter from the WBU region to BANA and ICEB follows.
November 2, 2001
Dr. Frederic Schroeder President ICEB
Mrs. Eileen Curran, Chair
Braille Authority of North America
Dear Mrs. Curran and Dr. Schroeder:
At a meeting of the North America-Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union held in Seattle, Washington on October 4, 2001, a discussion was held concerning the Unified Braille Code (UEBC). I was directed by the members of our group to prepare a letter that summarizes our position.
It is the belief of the group that the decision on whether to adopt the UEBC should be postponed. We believe that this postponement will afford greater opportunity for consultation with stakeholders including consumers, transcribers and educators. We also believe that some effort must be made to conduct research that will attempt to objectively evaluate the perceived and real impact of UEBC by all stakeholders.
The organizations that are a part of this group all pledge to work with the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) to design and implement research approaches and to help identify and allocate resources to this effort.
It is our hope that you will take up these issues at your earliest convenience and will convey to me your decision. That way I can communicate your decision to the member organization in this region. Sincerely yours, James W. Sanders President WBU North America-Caribbean Region
Access to information technology has long been a high priority for people who are blind or visually impaired. Only recently, however, has the issue of access to technology received widespread attention from the information technology industry. This change was due, in most part, to actions taken by Congress in 1998 to strengthen Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
First enacted in 1986, Section 508 originally consisted of general, non-binding guidelines regarding government procurement of accessible technology. Only a few federal agencies considered accessibility features when making procurement decisions. This did not create sufficient demand to influence systemic changes in product design. As a result, the assistive technology industry has continually played catch-up, struggling to modify their products to make them compatible with mainstream technology after it is on the market. Expensive retrofits and time-consuming efforts to work around interface barriers have been the norm. Blind people have, at best, had only partial, unreliable access to the information technology long considered one of life's necessities by others.
Recognizing the problem, Congress made three significant changes to Section 508 in 1998. First, Congress added enforcement provisions, an administrative complaint process and a private right of action. Second, Congress called for the U.S. Architectural & Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) to issue accessibility standards for electronic and information technology. Finally, the revised Section 508 requires accessibility standards to be incorporated into all federal procurement decisions. Accessibility standards have been issued by the Access Board. The new Section 508 enforcement mechanisms are in effect. Government and industry are engaged in extensive training on the new access standards across the country. The ultimate success of Section 508, however, will depend on the willingness of disabled consumers to learn and assert their rights under the law. This article will provide an overview of the requirements and exceptions of Section 508. The statutory provisions, implementing regulations, and more in depth information on the technical provisions of the law and extensive technical assistance are available on the following web sites: www.ittatc.org, www.access-board.gov, www.section508.gov.
What Does Section 508 Require?
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 requires that when federal departments and agencies procure, develop, maintain or use electronic and information technology (EIT), they must ensure that it complies with the Section 508 standard developed by the Access Board, unless doing so would pose an undue burden on the federal department or agency. The purpose of the law is to ensure that federal employees and members of the public with disabilities have access to the same information and data as employees and members of the public without disabilities.
What is the Scope of the Section 508 Standard?
Section 508 applies to electronic and information technology procured by any federal department or agency after June 21, 2001. Electronic and information technology is defined as "information technology and any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the creation, conversion or duplication of data or information." According to the standard, "The term electronic and information technology includes, but is not limited to, computers, software, networks, and peripherals, as well as telecommunication products (such as telephones), information kiosks and transaction machines, web sites, multimedia, and office equipment (such as copiers and fax machines)."
Section 508 contains technical provisions, which cover: software applications and operating systems, web-based intranet and Internet information and applications, telecommunications products, video and multimedia products, self-contained, closed products, and desktop and portable computers.
Section 508 also includes functional requirements for: people who are blind or have visual impairments, people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, people with speech impairments, and people with motor impairments. The functional requirements serve to make products accessible when particular features are not specifically addressed in the technical standard, or when the specific provisions in the standard cannot be met. The functional requirements can also be extremely useful in making a determination that an alternative design is an "equivalent facilitation."
Section 508 also contains accessible information and documentation requirements. Federal departments and agencies must ensure that product support is provided in alternate formats. Descriptions of accessibility and compatibility features in alternate formats are also required, as well as product support services in alternate communications modes.
How Does Section 508 Affect the Private Sector?
The obligations of Section 508 are limited to federal departments and agencies. The standard does not apply directly to the private sector, nor does Section 508 impose requirements on the recipients of federal funds. The law does not create an administrative complaint process or private right of action by individuals against private companies. The standard does, however, have an indirect effect on companies wishing to sell or lease electronic and information technology to federal departments or agencies. They now must compete on the basis of accessibility for federal business. While manufacturers are not required to modify their products, federal departments and agencies are required to give priority to procuring products which best meet the Section 508 standard.
The enforcement provisions of Section 508 went into effect June 21, 2001 -- six months from the date the Access Board published its final Section 508 standard. As of June 21st, any individual with a disability may file a complaint alleging that a federal department or agency failed to comply with Section 508 by procuring non-compliant electronic and information technology. By statute, the enforcement provisions of Section 508 only apply to issues relating to electronic and information technology procured after June 21, 2001.
Complaints under Section 508 are to be filed with the federal department or agency alleged to be in non-compliance. The federal department or agency receiving the complaint must apply the complaint procedures established to implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for resolving allegations of discrimination in a federally conducted program or activity. It provides injunctive relief and attorney's fees to the prevailing party, but does not include compensatory or punitive damages. An individual may also file a suit in federal court against any non-compliant federal department or agency without first going through the complaint process.
What are the exceptions under Section 508?
A. Undue Burden
Section 508 standards do not apply if doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the federal department or agency. In determining whether an undue burden would exist, all resources available to the component or program making the procurement must be considered. If an undue burden is claimed, the federal department or agency must document the reason for, and extent of, the burden. Additionally, the department or agency is still required to make the information available to individuals with disabilities in an accessible format.
B. Commercial Availability
All Section 508 requirements are subject to commercial availability. Commercial availability means the product is on the market, the product will be on the market in time to satisfy the government solicitation, or, with minor modifications, could be on the market in time to satisfy the government solicitation. The importance of this exception is that it must be applied on a provision-by-provision basis. If there are products on the market which meet some, but not all, of the Section 508 standard, the government must procure the product that best meets the standard.
C. Fundamental Alterations
Fundamental alterations to products to meet Section 508 standards are not required. A fundamental alteration is a change in the nature or purpose of the product.
D. EIT Related to National Security
Section 508 exempts systems used for military command, weaponry, intelligence, and cryptologic activities (but not routine business and administrative systems used for other defense-related purposes or by defense agencies or personnel).
E. Equipment Accessed by Service Personnel Only
EIT located in spaces frequented only by service personnel for maintenance, repair, or occasional monitoring of equipment are not required to meet Section 508 standards.
The federal acquisition regulations exempt federal procurements up to $2,500, if made on the open market, as opposed to as part of an existing contract, from Section 508 requirements until January 1, 2003.
Requiring accessible information technology throughout the federal government is not only the right thing to do, it is also good for the government. First, the federal government employs many people with disabilities. Currently, more than 195,000 people with disabilities work in the federal government. In a recent executive order, federal agencies were asked to increase the number of employees with disabilities by 100,000 over the next five years (Executive Order 13163, July 26, 2000). Thus, the federal government has a direct interest in making sure its technology is accessible to disabled employees.
Increasing technology accessibility in the workplace has significant potential to reduce the unemployment rate of people with disabilities thereby reducing dependence on government subsidies and programs. Equipping the federal workplace for the largest number and variety of human resources will also increase the pool of qualified workers for labor-intensive jobs. Increasingly, employment requires the use of technology. It is estimated that by 2006, half of all jobs will be in information technology. People with disabilities, if trained and provided with accessible technology, will be a valuable resource as companies and government compete to fill these high-tech positions.
Finally, government increasingly relies on electronic media to provide information to the public. E-government now includes downloading tax forms, checking retirement benefits on-line, and accessing information about government programs and services across the government via the world wide web, just to name a few examples. Government agencies are finding it easier and less expensive to make E-government accessible to all people, including people with disabilities, rather than to develop alternative methods of delivering the same information and services. According to a recent New York Times article, many in government have been pleasantly surprised that making federal web sites accessible has already been accomplished. The article quotes Don Heffernan, deputy CIO at the GSA's Federal Supply Service, saying, "All it took was a little awareness. Shame on us for not doing it years ago."
(Editor's Note: This article was originally printed in "The Columbus Dispatch" and is reprinted with permission. To alert editors of newspapers near you to the weekly "Alive and Well" column on disability rights issues, contact Deborah Kendrick via e-mail at [email protected]) GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Pairs of friends, new and old, mill about on cross-country skis, wiggling and sliding skis to keep warm in the 19-degree chill of sunny Green Bay.
Six national anthems play for the countries represented at the 26th annual Race and Rally for Ski for Light International. Pairs line up, with race bibs numbering one to 117, and, two by two, they are announced, sent off and cheered. My number is 106, so there is much fidgeting and blowing in mittens as I inch closer to the starting line. Brand-new guide
As a blind skier, I am in the right-hand pair of preset tracks. My guide, Carly Seeger, is in the left. The custom is to match instructor/guide with blind skier at week's beginning, to build a bond of trust that culminates on race day. My original guide, Kay Robertson of California, has been laid low by fever and nausea, so Carly and I just met this morning.
We are both anxious. She wonders if I am a competent skier and able to follow her directions. I am concerned, in a more visceral way, for my own well-being. She is 22, a first-year instructor/guide, having just completed student teaching in Minnesota. Will she remember to tell me when a hill curves left or right and to stop if a tree is perilously near my face?
By the time we reach the 1-kilometer marker on the 10- kilometer course, I am soaringly happy. The snow is excellent, the tracks perfect, and Carly Seeger turns out to be one of the most remarkable people who have guided me in my seven years of skiing. The information she gives me about terrain and technique is clear, concise and timely.
My waxless skis are somewhat sluggish, but I don't care. The course is beautiful and effortless, and this new guide has the gift that so often breathes magic into the experience. Because she is doing her job so well, we both forget that she can see and I cannot. Gift from Norway
Ski for Light was born in 1975 as a sort of gift from Norway to America. The event is held in a new location each year, and skiers come from every state and several other countries. They are judges, physicians, business owners, forest rangers, college students and homemakers. Some are world-champion athletes, and others have done nothing athletic before.
This year, the Tristate is represented by three other visually impaired participants -- Jim Denham of Mount Airy, Chuck Lester of Wyoming and Michelle Lauer of Florence -- and one guide/instructor. Dr. Daniel Beckman, an Anderson Township pathologist, happened to be skiing at a resort in Cable, Wis., in the mid-1980s. Seeing the enthusiasm of blind, visually impaired, and mobility-impaired skiers and their guides, he recalls saying to himself, "I'm going to do that someday."
In 1997, he contacted the organization. He has returned every year since. In the spirit so typical of Ski for Light, he speaks often to civic groups and has recruited friends and his own sister, a diving instructor in Hawaii, to become guides with him.
The motto of Ski for Light is "If I can do this, I can do anything." Revel in the outdoors
Corny maybe, but it captures the essence of the experience for everyone. For one week, people with and without disabilities revel in the beauty of the outdoors and the exhilarating sound and feel of skis shushing on snow.
But the week is so much more. We suspend the hierarchy of one-up, one-down that exists in our lives at home and thrive, albeit temporarily, in an environment where no one keeps score - who has normal vision and who hasn't, who can walk and who uses a chair for mobility, who is old or young or Japanese or North Carolinian. All of that is superseded by the bond of doing something wonderful together.
Perhaps the motto should be: "If we can do this here, we can do it anywhere."
For more information, visit the Ski for Light Web site at www.sfl.org.
Now that we're in the mood to learn cross-country skiing, check out the list below, containing information about all the upcoming Ski For Light regional events and contact information.
* Sierra Regional Ski for Light Saturday day trips, Saturday, January 12, 2002, Saturday, February 9, 2002, Saturday, February 23, 2002. Location of all three day trips: Tahoe Donner Cross Country, Truckee, Calif. Cost: $16 (less if you have your own skis). Contact Betsy Rowell, phone (916) 362-5557, e-mail [email protected]
* Michigan Ski For Light -- January 18-20, 2002, North Higgins State Park, Roscommon, MI. Cost: $100 per person. Contact Jim Ellickson by e-mail [email protected], web site http://sites.netscape.net/ellickso.
* Ohio Winter Sports Retreat, Sponsored by ACB of Ohio, January 18-21, 2002, Punderson State Park, Newbury, OH. Contact Leah Noble, phone (606) 442-5218, e-mail [email protected] , web site http://www.acbohio.org/.
* Black Hills Regional Ski for Light -- January 20-24, 2002, Deer Mountain, Deadwood, SD. Contact John Gould, phone (605) 341-3626, P.O. Box 3707, Rapid City, SD 57709.
* Wisconsin Regional Ski For Light -- January 25-27, 2002, Wisconsin Lions Camp, Rosholt, Wis. Contact Beverly Helland, phone (608) 884-4955, e-mail [email protected]
* Land of the Vikings -- February 3-10, 2002, Sherman, Pa. Contact Bjorg M. Dunlop by phone at (518) 731-8741, or by e-mail, [email protected]
* Colorado Ski for Light -- February 22-24, 2002, Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby, CO. Contact Scott Bertrand, phone (303) 986-6714, e-mail [email protected]
* Sierra Regional Ski For Light -- March 9-11, 2002, Tahoe Donner Cross Country, Truckee, Calif. Cost is $155 with skis (double occupancy), $180 if you need skis (double occupancy). Contact Julie Lisenby, P.O. Box 276371, Sacramento, CA 95827-6371, phone (916) 362-5759, e-mail [email protected]
* Montana Ski for Light -- March 21-25, 2002, West Yellowstone, MT, cost $236 per person (double occupancy). Participants also responsible for transportation to and from the site. Contact Ed Durbin by phone at (406) 538-7151, e-mail [email protected]
* New England Regional Ski for Light -- dates pending, P.O. Box 234, Foxboro, MA 02035-0234, voice mail, (508) 660-9270. Contact Claire Morrissette, e-mail [email protected], web site http://www.nersfl.org.
* Seattle (Puget Sound) Ski for Light, dates pending. Contact Maida Pojtinger, phone (253) 631-7904, e-mail [email protected]
* Ski for Light Canada -- dates pending, web site http://mypage.direct.ca/a/aac/index.html. Contact Annar Jacobsen, phone (604) 826-4559, or Alice Cristofoli, phone (250) 368-6236, e-mail [email protected]
When I was growing up, I could read standard-size print. I couldn't read it quickly, and I went to great lengths to avoid having to read aloud. Nevertheless, reading was among my greatest pleasures, and I continued to devour books and magazines into adulthood.
As a young adult, my favorite reading materials were hard- cover novels (by that time, reading paperbacks was too much of a challenge in terms of eyestrain and fatigue) and magazines, and my favorite magazines were the grocery-store magazines, like "Woman's Day" and "Family Circle," and the so-called "women's magazines," including "Redbook" and "McCall's." When removal of a cataract also removed the nearsightedness which had allowed me to read print, and I could no longer read those up-to-the-minute magazines, I felt bereft. Who would I turn to, instead of Judith Viorst, Eda LeShan, or Benjamin Spock? How would I know how to garden, or decorate, or improve my relationships with spouse, kids, relatives, friends? Who would share recipes with me? Where would I find out about the latest styles, the "in" colors for the year, whether skirts were long or short or somewhere in between, whether heels were high, toes open, closed, rounded or pointy?
For a long time thereafter, I continued to pick up those grocery-store magazines even though I couldn't read a word inside their covers. I discovered the Metropolitan Washington Ear, a radio and later dial-in reading service for people who cannot read standard print, where I could at least access the "Style" section of the "Washington Post," as well as the "Food" section and the grocery-store ads. But, although I still thank "The Ear" for having saved my sanity during those years when I was a stay- at-home mom forced to "read" by listening, not even the radio- reading service could satisfy my hunger for reading those "women's mags" independently.
Finally, about five years after I had lost the ability to read print, I learned to read braille. Once I had figured out how to decode the dots and find meaning in all the contractions, I subscribed to magazines in braille. Of course, my first braille subscription was to "The Braille Forum!" I also signed up for the "Matilda Ziegler Magazine," "Talking Book Topics" and "Braille Book Review," as well as "Parenting" and "Cooking Light." Reading these periodicals helped me to increase my braille reading speed and my comprehension skills and kept me in touch with blindness issues as well as the latest child-care and cooking trends. But my greatest delight was learning about and subscribing to "Our Special" magazine, a publication specifically for blind women, available from the National Braille Press only in braille, which reprints articles from all those periodicals I had so desperately missed.
In 1930, "Our Special" was founded by Frances B. Ierardi, who was the founder of National Braille Press (NBP); the first issues were edited by Florence W. Birchard. Since that time, "OS" has been the only braille magazine for women, edited for and by blind women.
The editor of "OS" is Dana Nichols, who is the fifth blind woman since the magazine's founding to serve as its editor. Dana is a member of ACB and, in fact, served a stint on ACB's board of publications at one time. She is a busy woman, counting among her scheduled work-related obligations, three jobs! She edits "Our Special" with style and flair six times a year. In addition, she teaches English for speakers of other languages at a college in Montgomery, Ala., where she lives, and works as a customer service representative for Delta Airlines.
Dana lost her vision because of a serious illness when she was a high school senior. After taking a few months to learn the skills of blindness, she went on with her life, attending college, majoring in English, and seldom looking back. When she discovered that there wasn't an especially large demand in the job market for English majors, she went back to school and earned another degree that would give her the skills she needed to change career directions. Ever since, she has had a successful career teaching English to people for whom English is not a primary language.
Dana told me that, after she lost her vision, one of the things she missed most was reading the fashion magazines like "Glamour" and "Mademoiselle." When she was selected as the editor of "Our Special," she was determined to include the kind of information one would find in those fashion magazines in her own "special" magazine. In each bi-monthly issue, women can turn to OS to learn about the latest fashions, how to select and care for an up-to-the-minute wardrobe, and how to make the most of one's assets with appropriate make-up, good health practices, and an upbeat attitude. Dana selects articles about these topics and others that are especially interesting to women from the women's magazines available on today's newsstands, including "Rosie," "Redbook," "Woman's Day," and "Woman's World."
You can find columns in "OS" that you won't find in any other braille magazines for women. There are always directions for handicrafts which include patterns and instructions for knitting and crocheting. There's a column featuring recipes and tips on food preparation, and another that will inform you about the latest products available on the shelves of your grocery and hardware stores. There's always a poetry column, and responding to readers' requests, the editor of that column recently announced her intention to include poems written by "OS" readers. There's a column concerned with hobbies where you can learn how other blind and visually impaired women fill their leisure time.
For years, the first page I turned to in "OS" was the one where "Nell's Page" began. Nell Taylor, who lives in the U.K., in a small town near the sea, talked freely about what it's like to live as a blind woman in England. For many years, Nell traveled about with a dog guide but she did not replace her last dog because an increasingly serious hearing loss prevents her from traveling safely with a dog nowadays. Nell gave me glimpses of her life as a young girl, growing up with a father away in the service during World War II. She was the first person I ever felt I "knew" who traveled with a dog guide. And she has continued to serve as an inspiration to me. Just last year, she acquired a Windows-based computer with speech and a braille display and began learning to use it. I hope that when I am in my seventies, I will still be learning new things and sharpening my skills like Nell Taylor.
Just a few days ago, I learned that my favorite columnist, Nell Taylor, has announced her retirement. Never one to leave life's important decisions to chance, she recruited her own replacement. The OS column which features the perspective of a blind woman living on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean will be written by Julia Kimbell, a 39-year-old deaf-blind woman, the mother of three and the editor of a braille magazine which she founded called "The Animal Magazine." When my mailman brings the first issue of the new year, I will be eager to meet a new friend who can share an international perspective on blindness and femininity and life in general with me and other OS readers.
There are often articles about gardening, the special concerns of working women, child care, or intriguing ways to recycle household goods. There's usually at least one short story, and always a column by Dana Nichols, who shares her musings from her "annex." In addition, there is a "Notices" column, and each of the editors shares her mailing address and invites correspondence from readers. In many ways, a reader of "Our Special" feels more like a part of a family or a sister in a sorority of blind women than a casual reader of a woman's magazine.
Dana told me that she scans articles in print magazines and decides which to choose or to save for later publication with her boyfriend's help. He is her reader. Together they scan the latest grocery store and newsstand women's magazines; he reads aloud, and Dana makes the crucial decisions about what to save and where to file it. She says that her boyfriend had never read the women's magazines before they began sharing this task together, and he has told her that he enjoys reading these articles even more than reading the standard news and sports magazines he used to read exclusively.
For many years, OS was sent free to any blind woman who requested a subscription. But the costs of mailing and braille production eventually led to National Braille Press' decision to charge for subscriptions to OS. Every year, NBP sends a free introductory issue of "Our Special" to each young blind woman who graduates from high school, and Diane Croft, Director of Marketing for NBP, told me that she will be pleased to send a sample issue of OS to anyone who may want to take a look before subscribing for herself. You can subscribe to this treasure trove of information and entertainment with a special focus on the needs and interests of blind women for a mere $15 a year. Send your subscription requests to National Braille Press at 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115, or call NBP at (617) 266- 6160, or toll free, 1-800-548-7323.
Few would deny that women share a unique set of concerns that can be categorized as "women's issues." And women who are blind and visually impaired also share a number of concerns that may be differentiated even further from those of other women. "Our Special" covers all these rather unique perspectives better than any publication I have found since I lost the ability to read standard print. I urge you to get to know Dana Nichols and the other women who volunteer their time and talent to make "Our Special" such an excellent publication, and to become a part of the "OS" family. You'll be happy that you did. Soon you'll be eagerly awaiting the latest issue of your own very special magazine every other month and thinking fondly of Frances B. Ierardi, who had the foresight more than 70 years ago to recognize the unique interests of blind women and founded a magazine to address all of them.
The announcement of products and services in this column is not 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] Or you may call the ACB toll-free number, (800) 424-8666, and leave a message in mailbox 26. Please bear in mind that we need information two months ahead of actual publication dates.
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase 2.6 percent in 2002. Benefits increase automatically each year based on the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In real terms, this means that, if you are blind or visually impaired and you are working and receiving SSDI, the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level will rise from $1,240 to $1,300 per month. For individuals receiving federal SSI payments, the monthly rate will change from $530 to $545. For a couple, the maximum federal SSI monthly payment will rise from $796 to $817. For more information, call your local Social Security office, or visit the web site at www.ssa.gov.
Dr. Otis Stephens recently received the Migel Medal for 2001 from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). The award honors professionals and volunteers whose dedication and achievements have significantly improved the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Otis received the Volunteer Award.
All his life, Otis Stephens has worked to promote excellence -- from his early education at the Georgia Academy for the Blind to his current position as the College of Law's resident scholar of constitutional law of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He has authored and co-authored books on the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court, and has published many professional papers. He held a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Law School, and, in addition to UTK, has taught at Johns Hopkins University and Georgia Southern. Dr. Stephens earned his Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University.
Along the way, he paid some college expenses by forming a band called "The Bulldogs" and played piano in that group, and friends recall another band known as "The Red Coats."
Otis was an early, vociferous advocate for braille literacy, especially for children mainstreamed into local schools. He sought to promote harmonious working relationships within the blindness field as president of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped from 1979 to 1983, as president of ACB from 1987 to 1989, and as a member of AFB's board of trustees from 1987 to 1999.
Today, besides his distinguished political science career, Otis chairs a committee tasked with writing the history of the Georgia Academy for the Blind, as well as the ACB history committee. And he still plays piano, sometimes prior to ACB general sessions. When you see him, ask him about hitting a hole in one, playing golf. Warmest congratulations to Otis Stephens - - truly a man for all seasons.
Bank One has installed talking ATMs in several states, including Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio and Illinois. For information about locations in Ohio and Illinois, call toll-free (877) 241-8665. (Sorry, no contact information for other locations.)
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige has announced that Steven James Tingus will serve as Director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). As director, Tingus will serve as chief advisor to Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Robert Pasternack and direct research programs and activities related to maximizing employment and independent living opportunities for individuals who are disabled.
Prior to joining the Education Department, Tingus served as Director of Resource Development and Public Policy Director for Assistive Technology at the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers. In that capacity, Tingus developed and implemented model policies and activities to broaden access to assistive technology for persons with disabilities to help them live independent and productive lives.
Stephens Development Company publishes a wide variety of large print music, including classical, popular, religious and traditional, especially for music lovers with low vision. For more information, contact Stephens Development Company, 3542 Fair Oaks Lane, Longboat Key, FL 34228, phone (941) 383-4398, toll- free (888) 714-4419, fax (941) 383-5759, e-mail [email protected]
Home Readers makes shopping easier by providing mail-order catalogs on 4-track cassette free of charge. Catalogs include: Radio Spirits; Audio Editions Books on Cassette; Blair Men's and Women's; Chadwick's of Boston; Lands' End; L.L. Bean; Vermont Country Store; Doctors Foster and Smith Pet Products; Puritans Pride Health Products; Walter Drake; San Francisco Music Box; Miles Kimball; Spice Etc.; Sugar Free Market Place; Figi's Holiday Foods and Schwann's.
For requests, or a complete list of catalogs, cookbooks and magazines, call toll-free (877) 814-7323 between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays (Central time), or write in print, braille or tape to Home Readers, 604 W. Hulett, Edgerton, KS 66021.
The 2002 Jett Enterprises catalog is now available! It features many products for blind and visually impaired people, guide dog and pet items, jewelry, kitchenware, and all-occasion gifts. Gift tags and instructional tapes are available free. To order a copy of the catalog on tape or disk, call toll-free (800) 275-5553 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Pacific time). Braille catalogs cost $10. Send your check or money order to Jett Enterprises, 3140 Cambridge Ct., Palm Springs, CA 92264. The web site is http://www.jettenterprises.com.
Have you been promising yourself that you really are going to learn to play the piano? Here's your chance. Pianist Daniel Abrams, who is blind, has a series of four audio tapes to teach you. They include "Put Your Hands On The Piano And Play"; "Play Piano by Ear"; "Play Your Favorite Piano Classics"; and "Understanding The Language of Music." Check to see which series are available through NLS. All series can be purchased from Homespun Tapes, Ltd., toll-free phone (800) 338-2737. The cost for each series of tapes is $49.95.
Sea Ventures is a cruise only travel service that offers two free cruises a year as raffle prizes in an annual walk-a-thon to benefit Southeastern Guide Dogs Inc. The travel service owner is a guide dog user, and he and his dog guides have made more than 35 cruises to date. Sea Ventures specializes in cruises for people who are blind or disabled, traveling with or without a guide dog. The cruise scheduled for January 19 is a seven-day cruise on Holland America's M/S/Veendam to the eastern Caribbean. Fares are heavily discounted, but are not advertised on the Internet.
For more information, contact Ed Eyre at Sea Ventures, 517 South Carolina Dr., Stuart, FL 34994, phone/fax (561) 287-3115, e-mail [email protected]
National Industries for the Blind (NIB) has produced an accessible CD-ROM catalog featuring products and services available from NIB and NISH through the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) program. The 2002 JWOD catalog, recently issued in print media, is now available in CD-ROM format that is user-friendly for both sighted and visually impaired federal customers. The NIB catalog CD contains visual product photography and descriptions as well as an accessible catalog in Microsoft Word format. When the CD is inserted into the drive, an autostart utility will prompt the user with voice and text to open the accessible Word version of the catalog. Once opened, the catalog can be read with any compatible access technology, such as a screen reader or screen magnifier program.
For a print or CD-ROM copy of the 2002 JWOD catalog, contact NIB's customer service center at 1-800-433-2304 or e-mail your request to [email protected]
FOR SALE: Braille Lite 40. All manuals and cables included. Asking $3,700. Call Tim Kilgore at (770) 210-8617 or contact him via e-mail at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Braille Lite 18. Practically new; bilingual (Spanish and English). Asking $2,200. Call Deborah at (510) 849-4124.
FOR SALE: Smartview black/white CCTV. Only used one year. Please contact Jeanne Meyer, 2011 Ashley Rd., Savannah, GA 31410 or call (912) 897-0844.
FOR SALE: Aladdin black-and-white CCTV. Asking $1,000. In good working order. Call Michael Edson at (845) 255-8222.
FOR SALE: Juliet braille printer. It is only one year old and not used very much, and works beautifully. Asking $3,000 but open for negotiation. I also have Humanware Braille Window for sale, only one year old. The asking price is $7,500 but is negotiable. Contact Barbie by e-mail at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak 2000. Unit has been updated to July 2001. In good condition. Had a new battery put in three months ago, otherwise has had no other problems. Will send with 12-volt adapter and manual on cassette. If interested please contact Chaim Segal in braille or via e-mail at 121 N. Village Drive Apt. B, Centerville, OH 45459; phone (937) 312-9844 between 7:30 and 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday or leave a message on my voice mail during the day; e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: CTech CCTV with 19-inch screen. In excellent condition; works perfectly. Asking $600. Contact Hy Easton at (516) 487-7882.
FOR SALE: Alva Braille Terminal 380 80-cell (plus status cells) refreshable Braille display. Very rarely used, new condition. See http://www.humanware.com/E/E1/E1A.html for more information. Includes parallel connector cable, braille manual, and padded soft-side case. Asking $6,500 or best offer. Contact Loren Mikola in Bellevue, Wash. during the day at (425) 705-3394, or in the evenings at (425) 558-0131. You may also contact him by cell phone, (425) 269-1013, or by e-mail, [email protected]
FOR SALE: Open Book 3.5. Asking $150. Contact Otis Blue at (414) 527-7777, or via e-mail at [email protected]
WANTED: Copies of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind Herald from September 1948 through May 1959. Contact Tom Fillyaw, 1140 SW 3rd Ave., Lake Butler, FL 32054; phone (386) 496-8189.
For partially sighted and blind people, the introduction of the euro in 12 countries of the European Union at the end of the year is a potentially daunting prospect. There are seven notes and eight coins to get used to, and not much time to do it.
Without special training there have been worries that the EU's 7.4 million visually impaired people could miss out on valuable information during the switch over. But organizations representing blind people in Europe say the new currency's design should prove relatively easy to deal with. "As a blind person I want my currency to be clear and above all I need to feel sure of it. I think the euro is going to be a real improvement on what we've got now," says Nicole Van Royen, who does not find Belgium's national currency easy to deal with.
It is hard to distinguish between the notes and the minimal amount of relief put on them to help the visually impaired has long since worn away. Nicole will be happy next year to pay for her favorite cigars with a euro instead.
Primary school children at the Uccle School in Brussels, run by the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind People, have been working with the training games and replica coins specially produced for visually impaired people around Europe. Faces set with concentration, small fingers trace round the coins picking out the different textures and ridging. "It's not going to be a problem. It's easy to feel and recognize the coins," 11-year-old Kelly says jubilantly.
Blind groups have been pleased with the design of the coins. Wasim agrees: "They've got ridges and relief. Each one is different." Getting the design right on the notes and coins has taken seven years of hard lobbying and negotiation between Europe's blind groups and the currency designers. But there have been disappointments too - campaigners lost their battle for a hexagonal or multi-edged coin like the ones in Britain. It was fiercely opposed by the vending machine industry.
But even so, Europe's blind associations say the euro will be a huge improvement on most national currencies. The notes have also been specially designed. In spite of big extra costs the European Central Bank agreed to print them in different sizes and to use bold colors and relief for the blind and partially sighted. "This is the first time that the authorities have consulted associations representing the blind before and not after the event. We really are very happy with the outcome," says Jean-Pierre Lhoest, chair of the European Blind Union's special euro group which negotiated with the ECB and the various national mints to get a good deal for the blind.
Millions of euros in funds have also been made available for training programs and in Belgium they are also hoping to issue every blind and partially sighted person a special vocal currency converter. But for Europe's blind and sighted citizens the real test of these good intentions and the new money will start on New Year's Day.
Dr. C. William "Bill" Trubey, 76, of Bluffton, a doctor of optometry, died Thursday, Sept. 6, 2001, at Bluffton Regional Medical Center.
The Sacramento, Calif., native participated in over 23 eye- care mission trips in the past 22 years delivering care to people in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and other places and was director of Indiana Lions Eye Bank. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church where he had served as past elder and Mission Committee chairman, Lions Club and Gideons International. He was a recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash in 1997 and Ambassador of Goodwill from Lions International in 2000 and was an avid magician. Surviving are his wife, Barbara; daughters Robin Thornburgh of Bluffton and Beth Trubey of Denver; sons Steven K. of Geneva and Gordon M. of Brooklyn, N.Y.; brothers David K. of Florida and C. Gaylord of Simi, Calif.; and two grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a son, Charles W. Jr.
Why is Christmas abbreviated "Xmas"?
Because the Greek letter "x" is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Xristos. "Xmas" therefore means "Christ's Mass." The abbreviation has been around since at least the 16th century and is not, as some people have claimed, an attempt to take the "Christ" out of "Christmas" and make it a secular holiday.
Why is it a custom to kiss under the mistletoe?
The custom of kissing under the mistletoe may be related to a Scandinavian goddess. Frigga, the goddess of love in Norse mythology, is strongly associated with mistletoe, which has been used as a decoration in homes for thousands of years. Mistletoe is associated with many pagan rituals. In fact, the Christian church disliked the plant so much, thanks to its pagan associations, that it forbade its use in any form. Some English churches continued this ban as late as the 20th century! According to Charles Panati's excellent book, "Extraordinary Origins of Ordinary Things," holly became a Christian substitute for mistletoe, which is why we "deck the halls" with it. The sharply pointed leaves in holly were supposed to symbolize the thorns in Christ's crown and the red berries were to symbolize his blood.
Why do we decorate trees for Christmas?
The evergreen tree, because it is perpetually green, has been used as a symbol of eternal life since the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews. The Scandinavians believed that the evergreen could even scare away the devil. Decorating an evergreen tree in honor of Christmas became popular in the Middle Ages, especially in Germany. The decorations then consisted of candles and wafers, to symbolize Christ and the Host. Martin Luther is actually said to be the first person to put candles on a tree. (The decorated wooden Christmas pyramid was also popular then!) The tree became popular in Europe and America in the 18th century and the Victorians started decorating them with candies and cakes hung with ribbon. Woolworth (a department store) began selling manufactured Christmas ornaments in 1880 and the custom became big very fast. The first electronically lighted Christmas tree appeared in 1882.
94 RAMONA AVE.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94103
FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
825 M ST., SUITE 216
LINCOLN, NE 68508
SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
1027 DUNLOP AVE
FOREST PARK, IL 60130
3912 SE 5TH ST
DES MOINES, IA 50315
500 S. 3RD ST. #H
BURBANK, CA 91502
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
20330 NE 20th Ct.
Miami, FL 33179
Billie Jean Keith, Arlington, VA