THE BRAILLE FORUM is available in braille, large print, half-
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Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for
publication should be sent to:
THE BRAILLE FORUM,
1155 15th St. NW,
Washington, DC 20005,
or via e-mail.
E-mail the Editor of the Braille Forum
Submission deadlines are the first of the month.
The American Council of the Blind is a membership organization made up of more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates. To join, visit the ACB web site and fill out the application form, or contact the national office at the number listed above.
Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Ardis Bazyn at the above mailing address. If you wish to remember a relative or friend by sharing in the council's continuing work, the national office makes printed cards available to acknowledge contributions made by loved ones in memory of deceased friends or relatives.
Anyone wishing to remember the American Council of the Blind in his/her Last Will and Testament may do so by including a special paragraph for that purpose. If your wishes are complex, contact the ACB National Office.
To make a contribution to ACB via the Combined Federal Campaign, use this number: 2802.
For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the "Washington Connection" toll-free at (800) 424-8666, 5 p.m. to midnight Eastern time, or visit the Washington Connection online.
In the July-August 2002 issue of the Forum, the name of Jim Gashel was misspelled ("How I Spent President's Day Weekend, Or What I Did on My Mid-winter Trip to Baltimore"). We regret the error.
There was an error in the address for the Access Technology Competencies Task Force web site, where one can view and comment upon lists of suggested competencies for assistive technology specialists. The correct address is: http://www.tsbvi.edu/technology/afb/.
Because of the ever-changing nature of the Internet and e- mail, the e-mail address given for Philmore Productions ("Here and There," September 2002) was incorrect. The new one is [email protected]
Richard Brown was born near Oxford, Miss., on March 18, 1924. He developed a tumor on his brain when he was nine months old and had to have both eyes removed to save his life. He attended the Mississippi School for the Blind until he finished the ninth grade, but then had to transfer to the Tennessee school when his parents moved to Memphis. Richard was very unhappy about this change because he had to leave all of his friends in Mississippi. But that was when we became friends for life.
After graduating from the Tennessee school, Richard enrolled at Memphis State College and received his bachelor's degree. It was his great ambition to become a teacher and he had made such an outstanding record at Memphis State that his professors and fellow students raised funds to make it possible for him to get a master's degree at George Peabody College in Nashville, thinking a master's degree would make it more likely that he could find a teaching job.
However, back in those days it was rather unusual for a blind person to go to college, and jobs of any kind were very rare and hard to get. So Richard considered himself lucky when he landed a job at Southern Union College in Wadley, Ala. The only trouble was that the school was so small and so poor that the only pay it could offer was room and board.
In the middle of the year Richard found a paying job at a little mission school in Sevierville, Tenn. The salary was $90 a month and that seemed good until Richard realized that he was required to teach religious beliefs which he didn't believe and were offensive to him. He had already become very liberal in his religious thinking. And when he told the head of the school of these feelings, they mutually agreed that his contract would not be renewed at the end of the school year.
Richard spent another year at Memphis State and sold Bibles and brooms with me on the streets of Memphis. Eventually he got a job with the state as home teacher for the blind at a salary of $150 per month. He was still living at home then so he was able to make it fairly well.
In 1952 he heard of an opening at Hines Hospital for a job teaching braille to blinded veterans. He filed an application and went for an interview, and was hired at a salary more than double what he had been making.
He met and married Adele Schreiber soon after moving to Chicago and they have had a very happy marriage for 50 years. Richard excelled at his job of teaching braille to blinded veterans, and eventually became supervisor of his department.
He worked for 30 years at Hines Hospital and then decided to retire and move to Sun City, Arizona in 1982. He was eager to get away from the harsh winters in Chicago and thought the heat in Arizona would be more tolerable than the ice and snow in northern Illinois.
Richard had many hobbies. He loved good literature and plays, and was a voracious reader. He could read braille faster than anyone whom I have ever known; just about as fast as a sighted person can read print. He was also a prolific writer of poems and songs, and learned to play a guitar so he could entertain groups with his music and his own compositions.
When Richard moved to Sun City he helped form a Unitarian Universalist Church since he had been a Unitarian for many years and there was no church in Sun City. He was one of its main supporters until his death. He was president of the congregation twice, and often filled in for the preacher on Sunday mornings with either a sermon or one of his singing concerts.
Richard wrote a book of sonnets and his autobiography which he had published by X-Libris, an Internet publishing company, and has sold quite a number of his books.
He developed bladder cancer in 1996 and had to have his bladder removed. The doctors said they had gotten all of the cancer, and Richard hoped he was rid of the problem for good. However, in 2000, another cancer developed on his left leg. The doctors told him that it was a sarcoma, a fast-moving cancer, and advised him to have the leg amputated before the cancer could spread. He went ahead with the amputation, but the cancer came back in a few months on his lungs, ribs and jaw.
Richard knew then that he didn't have long to live, but he kept on writing, singing and working for the church, as well as caring for Adele, who was suffering from a deep depression. He decided at some point that he wanted to live to celebrate his and Adele's 50th wedding anniversary on August 15, 2002. He sent out 70 invitations in early spring for a banquet (paid for by him) and a musical program afterward. The music would be provided by a professional musician who was also a church member.
The good people of the church volunteered to send out the invitations and to serve the meal which was catered. The church seemed like a great big happy family. They loved and admired Richard and Adele because of their leadership and contributions to the church. They were at their beck and call whenever they needed anything, whether it was to take them grocery shopping, to a doctor's office, to visit someone, or to go to a church function. The church was Richard's life, and the people were wonderful.
Margaret and I flew out to Phoenix on August 15th for the wedding anniversary and stayed on until August 19th. Richard gave a speech and sang two of his own songs with a good, strong voice; but on the following morning he was so hoarse that he could hardly talk. And it got progressively worse.
I am convinced that he kept himself alive by sheer will power for these last few months because that occasion meant so much to him. He died on September 1, barely two weeks after the celebration.
Many of his poems and songs were outstanding; those are probably his greatest legacy.
On August 7, 2002, I lost the love of my life from diabetes- related complications. Joann had been insulin dependent for 60 years and lost her battle with diabetes at the age of 64.
We met at an ACBO state convention in Columbus, Ohio in 1988. She and some of the other women were selling hugs for $1 each as a fundraiser. In subsequent years I told people that we met when Joann was selling her body at a convention. It was love at first hug and we were together from that day on and got married in 1993.
At the time of our meeting, I was totally blind and she was legally blind because of diabetic retinopathy. We both had had vision in our earlier lives and were drawn to audio description. We knew what was missing when the visual components of movies, theater, etc., were not there. Her early visual experiences fueled her passion for audio description and she was determined that people who are visually impaired should not miss out on the visual aspects of such things.
Joann was fascinated by clothes, colors, and a variety of similar visual experiences. She had a monogrammed T-shirt and/or sweatshirt in a variety of colors for every holiday and occasion and a pair of earrings to match. Her appreciation for things of beauty and color along with her passion for audio description drove her to help form Accessible Arts, an organization in Columbus whose primary mission is to audio describe first-run movies. Because of that organization, it has not been anything unusual for more than 50 visually impaired people to enjoy an audio-described film such as Titanic or Harry Potter, along with popcorn, candy bars and all the trimmings. The only reward she needed were the smiles that appeared on the faces of the moviegoers as they left the theater.
When we were married in 1993, she insisted that the ceremony be audio described for our visually impaired friends. The event was billed as the first audio described wedding and was covered in the August issue of "The Braille Forum" in 1993. An amusing anecdote concerning our wedding is worth repeating at this time. Joann has twin daughters and they were both in the wedding. The describer knew this and told our visually impaired friends over the audio description receivers. A sighted friend who was sitting next to one of our blind friends saw the twins and commented that the two women looked enough alike to be twins. Our blind friend just smiled to herself, for she knew something her sighted companion did not know. Usually, it is the other way around.
So, when our family was planning the memorial service for Joann, there was no doubt in my mind that it had to be audio described. Like our wedding, we thought it would be a first. And so with a church full of people (estimated to total about 300), Joann was laid to rest knowing that the 25 visually impaired friends who were in attendance were able to experience the last tribute to her in full.
We heard comments from our visually impaired friends such as, "The flowers and the church were beautiful." Also, the describer fed our friends the lines during a responsive reading as well as the congregational hymn. A sighted friend of mind said she was touched by seeing our visually impaired friends reading and singing along with everyone else. As a result, a blind friend said she felt that she had actually fully participated in a church service for the first time.
Some people say that audio description is nice but not necessary. However, Joann never felt that way and neither did the visually impaired friends who came to both our wedding and her memorial service. There is no monetary value that can be placed on experiences such as these. They are the things that give meaning to life.
Yes, the little things of life, which can only be experienced through sight, meant much to Joann. When people would ask her what thing she missed most because of blindness, she would without hesitation say, "I wish my husband, Elmer, could have seen me." Many have told me that Joann's dominant physical characteristic was her smile. They have told me it was ever present and from ear to ear. Well, that was one thing I did not have to see to appreciate because Joann smiled in her heart, and that was what showed on her face. I could see that inner smile, and I will remember it always. Her ever-present smile will be transformed in the future onto the faces of people who are visually impaired as they enjoy the audio-described movies and other events made possible through the dedicated efforts of the volunteers of Accessible Arts of Columbus.
As I write my message for the November issue of "The Braille Forum," we stand at a new crossroads in our ACB work. News has just come of a virtually certain victory on voter rights legislation, as the Senate has approved House legislation, and the package is on its way to President Bush's desk. Access for blind voters to a guaranteed secret means of voting independently, in all polling places, backed by supporting federal grants, is an essential component of this legislation -- all because of your tireless efforts and those of Melanie Brunson as our staff liaison in this project.
Ten years ago, who would have believed that blind citizens could win a federal mandate for one accessible voting machine in every polling place in America?
Ten years ago, there wasn't even such a thing as an accessible voting machine! Voting has traditionally been a local issue, handled by individual states. Even today, a great deal of advocacy is required in order to persuade individual states and localities to move the process of access forward. ACB stood alone as the consumer champion of voters' rights among those lobbying for new initiatives for people who are blind in our nation's capitol.
This epoch change, to be realized throughout the country in the next three to five years, is one of many changes on which we have taken a stand in strong support of the rights of blind people. ACB is, without doubt, the consumer champion of the new century. We have succeeded in promoting and providing individual rights for accessible voting, accessible TV, and a better and safer pedestrian environment for disabled people. We have stood shoulder to shoulder with blind industrial workers, who are being tyrannized by RSA because of their choice to make a living in industrial settings where other blind people also happen to work. We are in litigation and involved in many other activities to safeguard and protect the rights of choice for those who travel with dog guides. In the past 30 days, we have approached Congress and the Department of Education with a bold new set of educational initiatives and legislative proposals to safeguard blind children's right to an appropriate education in a reasonable setting. All of these efforts and initiatives represent, in sum, who ACB is as an advocacy organization and what we stand for as conscientious, thoughtful, and responsible blind consumers.
With such a track record of successful achievement, we must now consider what is to come next for blind Americans and ACB members. Already, we have begun to struggle in earnest toward achieving the goal of having an accessible currency in the United States. If 149 other countries can provide this service to their visually impaired citizens, then we can surely be the 150th. If the entire European economic community, a structure that embraces many countries with different currencies and languages, can make a transition to one euro, a currency which has multi-colored and multi-sized bills, surely our great nation can find a way to make our own dollars accessible over a scheduled period of years.
As an entirely new initiative, consider the fact that blind people are being more and more compromised in our ability to travel freely in our towns and cities, and from one municipality to another. I call this the "You Can't Get There From Here" syndrome. It is no exaggeration to say that despite very real problems in the area of traveling where we want and need to go, blind people in America are completely lacking a set of policy goals or legislative initiatives in this arena. Generally speaking, we know what we need and desire in the fields of rehabilitation and in the financial assistance programs represented by our Social Security system. But we have no such set of goals for transportation, either within cities and towns, or for the highways and byways that connect our nation together. A large portion of the mid-year meeting for 2003 will be devoted to work on this topic, and a task force is already at work about which you will be hearing much more between now and February.
The record is clear and the facts speak for themselves as we move toward 2003. The American Council of the Blind has been the consumer champion for all blind people in America. We do not hide behind the umbrella of federal money. We do not blunt our force or sap our strength in pseudo-professional endeavors that can actually have the effect of harming consumerism at the expense of our programmatic goals. ACB has and will continue to stand for the rights of blind people: our right to choose how and where we travel; our right to be individuals and think for ourselves; our right to a self-fulfilling life. These are the true philosophical roots for which we have stood and will continue to stand as an organization. It is on this foundation that we have built ACB into the premiere organization of blind people in our nation.
If you've ever been to just about any local, state, or national meeting where ACB people have gathered to talk about issues that are important to us, you have almost certainly talked about the problem of transportation. Whether you live in the suburbs and need to get to work, or you wake up in the country and need to get to the nearest town for groceries, it doesn't matter: Accessing transportation is a daily dilemma. It's either not available, or using it is almost more trouble than it's worth.
While we all agree that transportation needs to be improved, it's hard to know where to begin or how to proceed. Some members feel strongly that blind and visually impaired people should ride regular buses and trains. Others feel that we should have on- demand access to paratransit. Still others live in towns with no public transit at all, and they have to rely on family and friends to even leave their homes. At the same time, public funds for transportation are shrinking, and transit systems are cutting the frequency of bus and rail services and tightening the rules governing programs like paratransit and subsidized taxicabs.
With these difficulties in mind, and given that transportation isn't going to be getting a lot better or easier to use any time in the foreseeable future, ACB's president, Chris Gray, has created an ad hoc task force to delve into transportation issues and to develop some recommendations concerning how ACB can best support affiliates and members with transportation concerns.
As the newly appointed co-chairs for the ACB Transportation Task Force, we want to tell you about our group and the tasks at hand. The members of our task force bring a diversity of experiences in advocating for good transportation in various communities and settings across the country. In addition to the two of us, the task force includes: Donna Smith of Virginia, Earlene Hughes of Indiana, Gayle Krause of Florida, Lynne Koral of Alaska and Ray Campbell of Illinois. This group represents all geographic areas of the country and a variety of community settings, ranging from large urban areas with relatively good public transit to the Alaskan frontier. We think this blend of experience will help us to avoid coming up with only one set of solutions that can work for people living in only one type of community.
We also want to tell you what you can expect of ACB's Transportation Task Force. We will be conducting a survey of ACB members to determine your feelings about, needs for and uses of transportation. Once the results from this survey are tallied, we will begin discussing what kinds of positions our members want ACB to take with regard to a number of transportation issues. We will review our preliminary findings and recommendations with attendees at the ACB mid-year meeting to get feedback and recommendations. Based on this feedback, we will finalize our recommendations for resolutions to be discussed and adopted at the ACB national convention. At the convention, we also plan to sponsor a workshop on transportation advocacy, which will be designed to give participants a more thorough understanding of legal, political and procedural issues surrounding how transportation decisions are made. Our hope is that this workshop will assist ACB members in advocating more effectively for transportation improvements in their states and local communities.
We invite readers to send us your thoughts and suggestions regarding how transportation could be improved for blind and visually impaired people. We will use these suggestions as food for thought as we conduct our work. You can reach Alice Richhart at (912) 261-9833 or [email protected] You can reach Ron Brooks at (505) 268-1485 or via e-mail, [email protected]
We look forward to all of these tasks with optimism that one day, you may be attending meetings of blindness groups where the subject of inadequate transportation doesn't even need to come up.
As I write this month's report, we are confronted with one of the most unnecessary yet hottest issues of discussion within our community. Ever since the first guide dog put paw to sidewalk some 20 years before blinded World War II vets began swinging those mobility canes, there seems to have been this need to determine which is better. Sure, this might be a fun discussion for a cup of coffee and a wistful morning, but is it really relevant to much of what happens to people who make choices about which mobility aid is appropriate for them? Perhaps not for the individual dog or cane user, but some governmental agencies and rehabilitation facilities must have not enough to do since they are making policies that adversely impact on the right of mobility choice, especially for folks using the doggies. Let's go out to the backyard of our minds and see what we can dig up on all of this and who knows, there may not really be a bone to pick.
Despite the protections afforded service animal users under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are those in the rehab sector who have actually prohibited guide dog users from participation in public or publicly funded programs because they have concluded that guide dog users cannot be as independent or self-reliant if they use their pups. Since the object of rehabilitation can be to a great extent measured against our level of independence and self-reliance, they argue that allowing rehabilitation students to use their guide dogs would fundamentally alter the nature of the program of rehab and hence justify their taking advantage of an exception in the ADA. Now do I have you and your pup scratching your heads yet?
Well, now, here's the deal. Some guide dog users have decided that the time to put their tails between their legs and scamper off in the blissful knowledge that the rehab establishment is right has long since passed. In fact, they say rehab is barking up the wrong tree by making pronouncements about independence and self-reliance and then barring their guide dogs from their programs. Here's why.
The ultimate judge of self-reliance and independence with respect to mobility must be the consumer rather than those who presume to have the philosophical and professional corner on knowing what is right. If a cane user and a dog user both can perform a set of tasks necessary to demonstrate competence in mobility, then how can it be said that one is better than the other? Sure, if Fido gets into something he should not be eating and gets sick for a day, then a guide dog user must be ready to either get where he or she needs to go by (most often) using a cane, or making other arrangements. Most guide dog users would admit to the inconvenience of this infrequently occurring predicament, but they are quick to point out the advantages they believe using a guide dog affords them. So who is right?
Well, before we all answer the question and get on our backs for a big belly rub and an "atta boy [or girl]," the truth is that it really does not matter. Public agencies and publicly funded rehab facilities that engage in discriminatory practices cannot impose their will on consumers as a condition of receiving services when all they have to offer is an opinion that is irrelevant to whether the person can orient himself to the environment and be mobile. Otherwise they are not rehabilitating anyone as much as they are taking a cookie-cutter approach to training the consumers of their rehab services, who vary as much as any other sub-population within our society.
In closing, this is not to suggest that guide dog users should get their licks in, or cane-oriented programs get to take a whack at the ADA, but rather to put the debate in perspective. Whatever anyone believes is their right to believe, but when they seek to impose that opinion upon others by creating policies that are based on stereotypes or patronizing attitudes, then both guide dog users and cane users alike are thrust into a circular and non-productive regimen of rehabilitation that devalues the true measure of rehabilitation: respect for the informed choices of those of us who try to use their services, pay the taxes to support them, and wish only to live our lives without having to trade in our independence for a philosophy that refuses to acknowledge our right to make decisions for ourselves and deal with all the responsibilities we incur.
President Chris Gray called the fall meeting of the ACB board of directors to order at 8:40 a.m. (Central daylight time) on Saturday, September 21, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis, Minn. The secretary's roll call found all board members present, and there were approximately 10 guests and three staff members, executive director Charlie Crawford, chief financial officer Jim Olsen, and director of advocacy and governmental affairs Melanie Brunson, in attendance.
Several board members suggested items to be added to the draft meeting agenda, and the agenda as amended was adopted. M.J. Schmitt volunteered to compile a to-do list during the subsequent meeting. Review and adoption of minutes from previous board meetings
The board adopted the minutes of the July 6 post-convention board meeting, as circulated by the secretary. Review of the minutes of the June 29 pre-convention board meeting proved to be a matter of controversy.
The controversy revolved around a motion which had been offered at that pre-convention meeting by Mitch Pomerantz and which instructed a number of committees as well as the board of publications to submit reports to the board of directors as recommended by an ad hoc committee chaired by Dr. Otis Stephens. Although the Pomerantz motion was defeated, after its failure, Crawford had commented that in his view the board of directors had gone beyond its proper authority in even considering such a motion with respect to the board of publications. Subsequent to the convention, both Crawford and Gray had circulated their contrary views with respect to the power of the board of directors to command action by the board of publications. At the insistence of the two protagonists, the secretary had attached their extensive written commentaries to the pre-convention board meeting minutes.
The board defeated a motion to strike Crawford's initial statement from the pre-convention meeting minutes. Since the issues and matters contained in Crawford's and Gray's subsequent commentaries were actually discussed at this (September) meeting, the board adopted a motion to attach their writings to the minutes of the September board meeting.
The board then turned its attention to a presentation from a representative of the Minneapolis Hyatt Regency Hotel, which, in conjunction with the Millennium Hotel across the street and the Minneapolis Convention Bureau, was putting together a competitive proposal for the 2007 ACB national convention. The board indicated its interest in considering her facility's 2007 convention proposal at the mid-year meeting. Executive Director's Report
Charlie Crawford said that certain functions in the national office should be refocused to gain the greatest efficiency. For example, he indicated that more of his time will be directed to assisting with and coordinating ACB's ongoing fund-raising efforts, and less of his energies will be devoted to advocacy and governmental affairs matters. He also indicated that more of Terry Pacheco's time will be redirected to working to foster ACB's membership recruitment and development endeavors. The convention detail work will by necessity have to be picked up by members of the convention coordinating committee.
In response to questions from board members, Crawford indicated that the scholarship program support raffle which could not be held at the Houston convention will be held at the national office this fall as soon as an appropriate license can be procured from the District of Columbia government.
The matter of better capacity to track and appropriately respond to individual donations was raised by several board members. The board adopted a motion requesting President Gray to acquire computer software to give ACB a modern donor database, and to situate the software in an appropriate location and assign a staff person to implement and maintain the database. The president will monitor implementation of the donor database and make further reports and recommendations to the board as needed. In addition, the board adopted a motion requesting that the president arrange for regularly scheduled teleconference calls between ACB staff members and volunteers who may be assuming functions previously carried out by staff members to insure that both staff and volunteers are communicating with one another during this transition period.
Next, the board turned its attention to a teleconference presentation by fund-raising consultant Mark Silver, concerning various strategies for members to meet their fund-raising commitments to the organization. Report on Advocacy and Governmental Relations
After an executive session, and during lunch, Melanie Brunson gave her report to the board. She indicated that all priority one resolutions from the Houston convention had been acted upon by staff, and that actions were also under way with respect to a number of other 2002 resolutions. Brunson reported that the Department of Justice on behalf of the Department of the Treasury had submitted a motion to dismiss or in the alternative, to seek summary judgment in ACB's lawsuit against the Treasury demanding identifiable paper currency. The Justice Department is arguing that providing accessible paper currency would constitute an undue and costly administrative burden for the Treasury which is not required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. ACB's attorney has requested and been granted an extension of time until the end of October to respond to the Justice Department's submission.
Brunson said that there is a continuing need for ACB affiliates and members to submit written comments to the Access Board on the report of the Public Rights of Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC), which endorses accessible pedestrian signals and the use of detectable warnings on curb cuts and sidewalk ramps. Finally, Brunson told the board that she is cautiously optimistic that election reform legislation including provisions for accessible voting equipment and funding for its installation will be passed during this session of Congress. IDEA Task Force White Paper Report
Paul Edwards reported to the board on the position paper developed by the ACB IDEA Task Force which sets forth a number of recommendations for consideration by Congress during the reauthorization process for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, scheduled to take place in the next Congress. The board adopted a motion approving and endorsing the recommendations contained within the task force's white paper and requesting that ACB affiliates also take action to endorse and support their recommendations. Membership committee report
When the board reconvened after lunch, Ardis Bazyn reported to the board on behalf of the membership committee. She indicated that while the committee had been actively working with three special interest groups, there were no affiliate charter applications ready for presentation at this meeting. Bazyn said that she expected affiliate charter applications from the revived human service providers and the blind industrial workers to be ready for presentation at the mid-year meeting. In addition, she indicated that members of the committee were actively working in a number of states to either revive struggling affiliates or to re- establish ACB affiliates. She also reported that the membership committee is working hard to develop a membership recruitment and development "tool kit" including new public service announcements which will be distributed to ACB affiliates before the end of the year. The board accepted the membership committee's report.
Returning to a piece of unfinished business from the morning session, Charlie Crawford concluded his report by indicating his intention to have national office staff work more closely with both the membership committee and specific ACB affiliates to assist in carrying out membership recruitment and development projects. He also indicated that the editor of "The Braille Forum," Penny Reeder, had prepared a written report for the board which would be promptly forwarded to each board member. The board adopted a motion accepting the executive director's report.
Next, the board considered and defeated a motion offered by Carla Ruschival which would have expressed the board of directors' displeasure to the board of publications regarding the tone of, and unauthorized prepublication and Internet distribution of, an (unpublished) editorial regarding alleged discrimination against guide dog users by the Communicating Computers Foundation in South Dakota.
The board did adopt a motion offered by M.J. Schmitt urging the board of publications to include in each subsequent issue of "The Braille Forum" highlights of the executive director's weekly "News Notes from the National Office" e-mail messages. The supporters of the approved motion argued that ACB members who do not have access to computers, e-mail and the Internet would be informed by reading "News Notes," even if belatedly.
ACB History Committee Report
Charles Hodge regretfully reported to the board on behalf of the ACB History Committee that during the week immediately following the national convention, with no prior warning, the publisher of the ACB history had returned the finished manuscript to Professor Megivern claiming that the manuscript was unacceptably long, and reneging on their contractual agreement. Hodge recommended that ACB should enter into a new agreement with a leading digital online publisher for prompt publication of the ACB history. By motion duly approved, the board adopted this central recommendation. The board also approved the vast majority of the history committee's other detailed recommendations designed to further ACB's efforts to have the book published promptly, and accepted the history committee report.
President Gray indicated that the lion's share of his time and energy since the national convention had been spent in developing various fund-raising initiatives for ACB. While acknowledging that results of these efforts to date have been meager, he indicated considerable optimism that several fund-raising initiatives will start bearing positive results for ACB by early next year. Gray also announced the formation of an ACB transportation task force with Ron Brooks of New Mexico and Alice Richhart of Georgia as co-chairpersons. The board accepted the report.
Treasurer Ardis Bazyn indicated that as of June 30, ACB was confronting a budget shortfall or deficit of approximately $160,000 for the current fiscal year. The board adopted a motion accepting the treasurer's report.
The board of directors meeting was recessed, and a corporate membership meeting of the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services Inc. (ACBES) was held. During the ACBES corporate membership meeting, LeRoy Saunders, Dawn Christensen and M.J. Schmitt were elected to seats with two-year terms on the ACBES board of directors.
Budget Committee Report
When the ACB board of directors meeting reconvened, the first order of business was to begin the budget committee's report. In light of the looming budget shortfalls reflected in the treasurer's report, the board's first action was to adopt a motion authorizing the use of up to $200,000 from board-designated reserves to cover anticipated budget shortfalls or deficits through the end of the present fiscal year. Then, the board adopted a motion directing the board of publications to cut $6,200 from the remaining budget allocation for the final three anticipated issues of "The Braille Forum" for the present fiscal year. After much agonizing over a budget committee recommendation that all discretionary spending be frozen for the remainder of the fiscal year, the board adopted a motion authorizing a special ad hoc committee composed of Carla Ruschival, Oral Miller and Paul Edwards to meet with chief financial officer Jim Olsen overnight with the aim of identifying further specific budget cuts which could be recommended to the board for action on Sunday morning.
Next, the board adopted a motion approving a recommendation from the executive director that future ACB budgets should be constructed by using the concept of budget centers and a three-tiered priority system. The motion also envisioned that the present and incoming budget committees along with the executive director would constitute a special budget task force which was charged with developing a first quarter 2003 budget incorporating the previously approved budget center and three-tiered priority concepts. The envisioned first quarter budget is expected to be sent to the board on or before December 1, and the board is expected to act upon it at a teleconference call meeting around December 15.
The meeting was recessed until 8 a.m. on Sunday, September 22. Sunday morning
When the board reconvened, Crawford attempted to clarify exactly what he meant by the budget center and three-tiered priority concepts which had been adopted by the board the previous afternoon. He explained that with respect to expenditures, the first priority level constitutes only those expenditures which the organization is legally obliged to make through binding contracts, such as paying rent on our lease for the national office. The second priority level constitutes those expenditures which we normally or customarily make, such as publishing "The Braille Forum," and the third and lowest priority level includes those expenditures which we would like to initiate or establish if and when appropriate funding might become available. Similarly, on the revenue side for each budget center, the first priority level are those revenues which we know almost to an absolute certainty will come to us during that budget year. The second priority level are those revenue items which we can conservatively yet reasonably expect to materialize during a particular fiscal year, and the third and lowest priority are for those untried and riskier revenue sources which we hope may come in during a budget year.
The board adopted a motion instructing the special ad hoc budget task force to include in its December 1 report to the board specific recommendations for an appeal mechanism which would permit a particular budget center which was running up against the limit of its budget allocation to argue for further spending authority to be transferred to it from specific other budget center(s) which are underspending their budget allocations.
Then, the ad hoc overnight cost-cutting committee made its report. The committee had identified and recommended to the board a series of reductions in various budget line items where funding allocations existed which reasonably could be anticipated not to be spent in this budget year. The recommended budget cuts totaled $25,000, and the board adopted a motion approving the recommended budget reductions.
The board then adopted a motion establishing a baseline for the first quarter 2003 budget not to exceed $353,000. The board also adopted a motion approving a recommendation from ACB's auditors that a separate and distinct ad hoc investment committee should be established. The approved motion authorizes the creation of an ad hoc three-person investment committee to be composed of the ACB treasurer and two additional members to be appointed by the ACB president.
The board also adopted a motion offered by Carla Ruschival that during the next budget year, ACB begin the process of bringing both the revenue side and the expenditure side of the ACB convention account online or on-budget for budgeting purposes.
Convention Site Selection Report
Carla Ruschival reported to the board on her activities in attempting to develop convention proposals for future ACB conventions. Ruschival intends to present proposals for the board's consideration and possible action at its mid-year meeting in Pittsburgh, Pa., in February 2003, for both the 2005 and 2007 conventions. She anticipates that the 2005 proposals will come from the west (excluding California), and that the 2007 proposals will come from the upper midwest or from the northeast. She has approximately a dozen separate entities under active consideration for the 2005 and 2007 convention site selection competition. The board adopted a motion accepting the report of the convention site selection coordinator.
Election of Executive Committee
The board took a brief recess during which the officers and directors met separately to elect their respective members to the executive committee for the coming year. When the board reconvened, Gray announced that the officers had re-elected first vice president Steve Speicher and immediate past president Paul Edwards to serve on the executive committee. The directors had re- elected Mitch Pomerantz and Oral Miller to serve as members of the executive committee. Thus, the makeup of the executive committee for the coming year remains unchanged from last year's committee composition.
Then the board turned its attention to several recommendations which had been made by the board of publications at the post-convention board of directors meeting, but which had been deferred for consideration until this meeting. While a number of these recommendations had been overtaken by intervening events or were no longer relevant, the board did take action with respect to some. For example, the board adopted a motion referring the BOP's recommendation for purging the subscription lists for all editions of "The Braille Forum" to the budget committee for its consideration while developing the 2003 ACB budget. With respect to the issue of royalty payments which must be made by Internet broadcasters such as ACB Radio, the board adopted a motion requesting that the ACB president in consultation with the director of ACB Radio actively monitor this matter and make further reports and recommendations to the board as necessary.
Election of Budget Committee
In several closely contested races, the board re-elected treasurer Ardis Bazyn and Brian Charlson as members of the budget committee. Then, the board elected new board member Patrick Sheehan as the third member of the budget committee.
Resource Development Committee Report
President Gray told the board that he had delayed appointing a new committee chair, pending the outcome of the budget committee elections just held by the board. He indicated his intent not to act as chairman of the committee himself. Gray told the board that the committee continued to be involved in a number of fund-raising initiatives, and that he believes that ACB will start to see positive income results from some of these projects beginning early next year. The board adopted a motion to defer further consideration of the Dodge Fielding fund-raising report until the mid-year board meeting. The board also adopted a motion authorizing the chief financial officer to acquire the necessary computer software and to enter the necessary arrangements with a responsible banking institution to immediately implement the "M&M for ACB" monthly donation program. The board discussed a number of fund-raising ideas, and adopted a motion accepting the report of the resource development committee.
Jerry Annunzio made a report to the board regarding the "major donor" program which he had agreed to initiate for ACB. He indicated that after consultations with Mark Silver, he had established a goal of identifying 140 names of potential major donors, and a goal of raising $50,000 from such major donors by the end of this calendar year. While challenging, he indicated that he was better than halfway toward achieving his major donor identification goal, and he wants to begin the process of making approaches to identified major donors beginning in November. The board adopted a motion accepting the report of the major donor coordinator.
Charlie Crawford explained to the board his reservations about pending legislation in Congress that would authorize Medicare reimbursements for services provided to blind and visually impaired individuals by providers such as occupational therapists and physical therapists who do not have the training in blindness or low vision that other providers also included in the legislation, such as O&M instructors, rehabilitation teachers and low vision specialists, are required to have. The board adopted a motion espousing the position that in order for professionals who provide services to blind or visually impaired individuals to qualify for Medicare reimbursement, they must have the sort of training in blindness and low vision usually required of professionals such as O&M instructors, rehabilitation teachers and low vision specialists.
The board adopted a motion dissolving the voting rights task force which had completed its work in developing ACB's voting rights handbook, expected to be online by Election Day.
The board adopted a motion instructing the scholarship committee to amend the eligibility criteria for ACB scholarship recipients to permit part-time students to be eligible to compete for and win ACB scholarships.
The fall ACB board of directors meeting adjourned at 12:15 p.m. (Central daylight time) on Sunday, September 22.
The American Council of the Blind will present more than 30 scholarships and awards to outstanding blind students in 2003. All legally blind students admitted to academic and vocational training programs at the post-secondary level for the 2003-04 school year are encouraged to apply for one of these scholarships. A cumulative grade point average of 3.3 is generally required, but extenuating circumstances may be considered for certain scholarships.
Applications and additional information will be mailed to all members of the National Alliance of Blind Students and to those who call the national office to request a copy. Both the information and application are also available on our web site at www.acb.org. Applications may be completed online, but supporting documentation must be submitted in hard copy print to Terry Pacheco in the ACB national office no later than March 1, 2003. If you have additional questions, please call Terry at (202) 467-5081 ext. 19.
Leading scholarship candidates will be interviewed by telephone in April. The ACB scholarship winners will be notified no later than May 31, 2003. Scholarships will be presented at the 42nd annual national convention of the American Council of the Blind to be held July 5-12, 2003, in Pittsburgh, Pa. Scholarship winners are expected to be present at the convention if they have reached their 18th birthday. Generally, ACB will cover all reasonable costs connected with convention attendance.
Former leaders in and near the ACB community who have been memorialized by generous benefactors include Delbert Aman, Dr. S. Bradley Burson, William G. Corey, Dr. Mae Davidow, Nicholas S. DiCaprio, Eunice Fiorito, John Hebner, Grant M. Mack, Alma Murphey, Floyd Qualls, and Arnold Sadler. Special thanks should also be extended to those who remembered Kellie Cannon and Duane Buckley in such fitting manners. The Ross N. and Patricia Pangere Foundation scholarships are also given as a way of giving back to the community.
ACB also administers scholarship programs for our affiliates in Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Oregon.
We are hopeful that Kurzweil Foundation will continue its annual gift of the Kurzweil 1000 software to our winners.
This is our second year presenting Freedom Scientific Awards to several of our scholarship winners. These awards are for up to $2,000 in merchandise from the company.
Note: Potential candidates will be considered for other scholarships not yet verified, if available.
WASHINGTON -- Guide dogs for the blind wear harnesses that set off airport metal detectors. Diabetics carry needles that raise security screeners' suspicions. Wheelchairs are usually too wide to fit through metal detectors, so people who use them are pushed past the security checkpoints through the exits, making it impossible for them to keep their carry-on luggage in sight as it goes through the X-ray machine.
Air travel has always been complicated for the disabled. But while most passengers now dread the trip through checkpoints, advocates for the disabled hope that security changes since Sept. 11 could help them. For the first time, they note, all 429 commercial airports in this country will adopt a uniform system, as the new Transportation Security Administration takes over.
Other travelers may be annoyed by having to take off their shoes or having pocketknives or scissors confiscated. But Robert N. Herman, senior advocacy attorney at the Paralyzed Veterans of America, said that one of the most important things security officials have done is focus on people with disabilities.
In fact the new agency, created by Congress last November, has delegated a staff member to work full time on travelers with disabilities. That person, Sandra Cammaroto, who previously worked at the Federal Aviation Administration, said that the FAA had "no training, no procedures whatsoever" for the contract screeners to use. (Those screeners are being replaced by federal employees, a process that is supposed to be complete by Nov. 19.)
The new procedures are specific to the disability involved, and were worked out in consultation with a relevant advocacy organization, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Guide dogs, for example, pose a challenge. "One of the most common things you encounter is that security workers are afraid of the dog," said Melanie Brunson, director of governmental affairs at the American Council of the Blind. And they often separate the dog from its owner, she said, inducing anxiety in both.
Usually, she said, the best procedure is for the owner to keep control of the dog even if the two are physically separated; for example, the disabled person could order the dog to sit, then pass through the metal detector alone and order the dog to come. But methods will differ according to the training that the animal and its owner use, she said. Ms. Cammaroto, after meetings with Ms. Brunson and others, is training screeners to ask travelers who use dogs what they would consider the best method.
In previous years, that would have been much more difficult because many screeners spoke limited English, Ms. Brunson said. That problem may ease as the Transportation Security Administration enforces a rule that all screeners be United States citizens.
Before Sept. 11, training for screening disabled passengers was of limited value because turnover was so high; now experts think that trained screeners, with better pay and benefits, may stay on the job for years.
Ms. Cammaroto said that the screeners were also getting instruction on people with mobility problems. When someone's cane is taken away or other assistance devices are relinquished for screening, the person is often left to wobble or fall, she said. Now screeners are taught to offer a hand or a shoulder to lean on, or use other proper escorting procedures.
People with artificial limbs or metal implants are offered a choice of a wand search and pat-down in the screening area or in private, she said. (This group would include Norman Y. Mineta, the transportation secretary, who has an artificial hip implant.) People with pacemakers, who the Transportation Security Administration recommends not go through metal detectors, should alert the security workers, who will screen them with wands instead.
After consultation with the American Diabetes Association, the security agency has also established procedures for diabetics. Travelers with diabetic supplies, like needles, should alert the security screeners. Supplies should have the pharmaceutical label on them, and people carrying syringes must have the insulin to go with them; lancets, which diabetics use to measure blood sugar, are allowed if the traveler also has a glucose meter.
At the Paralyzed Veterans Association, Mr. Herman said that after consultations, the security agency revised its procedure for checking the shoes of people in wheelchairs. Some people who use wheelchairs find it very cumbersome to remove their shoes and put them back on; now security workers screen the shoes without removing them, he said. Another change, he said, is that people in wheelchairs are pushed through a special wide aisle rather than through the exit, a change that helps them keep their laptops and other valuable belongings in sight as the bags go through the X-ray machines.
Hello everyone. No matter where you live in the country, you can probably hear the cheering coming from California.
On September 29 around 2:30 p.m., Gov. Gray Davis signed SB105 which was introduced by Sen. John Burton. This bill establishes a Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired within the Department of Rehabilitation and provides for line authority, which we have never had before. The California Council of the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind of California and all major organizations for the blind in California formed the Blind Alliance for Rehabilitation Change (BARC). Our bill became a two-year bill and we believe it passed because, for the first time in California history, all organizations and agencies serving blind people came together. The implementation of the bill begins July 1, 2003.
We are also celebrating because the Ninth Circuit Court has reversed a decision which would have damaged our special education schools in the Los Angeles District. Our special schools will remain open and no quotas will be allowed. Because of a court decision earlier this year the Frances Blend School in Los Angeles and all other special ed schools, except for those which serve deaf children, were in jeopardy. The parents from the special schools all came together, and with tremendous support from organizations like ours, the school district finally appealed the case and we have achieved this successful conclusion.
We in CCB hope our good fortune can be a source of encouragement to those of you who are seeking special entities to serve blind and visually impaired people in your own communities.
I hope you are having a great day like we are here in California.
The Virginia Association of the Blind-Shenandoah Valley recently presented Louise Byrd of Roanoke with its Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her continuing work and advocacy in support of programs and services that enhance the lives of individuals who are blind or have visual impairments. Byrd, one of six children whose father died when she was nine, joined the Navy during World War II and helped decipher Japanese secret communications. Following the war, she married Dalton Byrd, raised a family and worked almost three decades in the ITT night vision division. She slowly began losing her vision due to macular degeneration, and decided to do what she could to help others with similar vision loss. At the age of 78 she attended computer school in Connecticut. She graduated and received a computer with software that enabled her to use the computer despite her vision loss.
Byrd has served in a number of offices, including president of the Roanoke Alliance of the Visually Enabled, president of the local Blinded Veterans Association, and as one of the founding members of the VAB-Shenandoah Valley at Roanoke, where she served as a director and secretary, and currently serves as secretary- treasurer.
If you know someone deserving of this award, contact Kenneth Lovern at (540) 342-8080.
Friends-in-Art has just created a listserv for aspiring artists and those interested in the arts. List members will be able to share information and opinions on topics related to the connection between visual impairments and the arts. To subscribe, send a blank message to: [email protected]
Have you ever heard of hippotherapy? Until recently, I thought of horseback riding as nothing more than riding a horse to relax and get some exercise. I never even considered that riding a horse could be something my three-year-old, Daniel, might be able to do.
Daniel is totally blind from retinopathy of prematurity. He is experiencing global delays in the areas of speech and walking. As his mom, I always have my eyes and ears open for any new therapies or programs that might benefit Daniel. I was a bit apprehensive when I first heard about hippotherapy from a friend. How could the simple act of riding a horse help Daniel? In the weeks following, I would discover just how little I knew and just how much riding a horse can benefit my son.
The term "hippotherapy" means treatment with the help of the horse. Hippotherapy uses the horse's movement to enhance physical, mental and emotional development. In a personal sense, it means a wonderful new world has been opened for Daniel. In an academic sense, it describes a therapy session that uses a horse as a tool.
My first meeting with Mia, the horse trainer and therapist, wasn't at all what I expected. I had pictured her as rough and tough, a female version of John Wayne. To my surprise, Mia is petite, perfectly manicured, warm, friendly, and most important, she isn't afraid to work with my son. In my short three-year exposure to being the mom of a blind child, I've run across too many people who act like Daniel's blindness is contagious or some sort of frightening mystery.
As soon as she met my son, Mia scooped Daniel up into her arms and gave him a great big hug. Then she proceeded to walk him around her yard. She pointed out the stalls where the horses were standing, picked up a handful of hay for him to smell and touch, walked him around the large horse arena, took him with her to the coop where she keeps chickens as pets and finally introduced him to the horse that he would be riding.
"Your horse's name is Sassy," she said, and then she let Daniel touch Sassy's soft ears, velvety nose and brush Sassy's favorite spot on her neck.
After the introductions, Mia placed Daniel on Sassy's back. I noticed that there wasn't a saddle on the horse, just a thick, soft blanket. A strap was tied around Sassy's tummy with a small handle at the top for Daniel to hold on to. Mia explained that a saddle wouldn't be used because she wanted Daniel to feel Sassy's body move as she walked around the arena, and she didn't want the saddle to interfere with the connection between Daniel and the horse. He rode for 40 minutes that first day, laughing and smiling the entire time.
It has been two months since Daniel's first lesson with Mia and Sassy. Daniel rides twice a week and is beginning to learn new therapy techniques. He can lean onto his back while riding and is also working on standing up on Sassy's back as she walks around the arena!
Daniel is vocalizing more by telling Sassy to "go!" when he wants her to move and "whoa!" to stop. I have also noticed an improvement in Daniel's balance and his increased desire to explore new environments.
Sassy is (just) a horse -- of course. But Sassy is also truly more than just a horse. Sassy and the hippotherapy she provides are widening my son's world, helping him to grow and to learn new skills, and teaching him new and exciting ways to interact with the world around him.
Daniel sits on Sassy, grabbing the handle in front of him tightly, while Mia tells him what to do to get the horse to go and stop.
Daniel rides Sassy around the arena, grinning broadly, with Mia at his side.
Daniel sits on Sassy, a large brown horse, for the first time. Mia, on the far side of Sassy, and two others help him up and hold the horse steady to allow him to get comfortable.
Slashing skates. Steaming coffees. Screaming kids. An all-Canadian Sunday at McGregor Park arena on Lawrence Avenue East. My neighbor, Jamie Wallace, and his little Scarborough Sabres end their workout on Rink 2.
The mighty Ice Owls suit up in Dressing Room 7. They're to play the team from Toronto Police 54 Division. The cops are huge. The biggest, barely, is Constable Steve Douglas, 24. He's 6-foot-6, 295 pounds. Without skates or pads. They call him "Meat."
But the Ice Owls have no fear. Their goalie, Mario Ros, 45, agrees to face me in a pre-game shootout. He looks like a cross between goalie greats Glenn Hall and Gump Worsley.
"You ready?" I ask, as the two teams warm up around us. "Sure, pal," says Mario. He probes the air with his stick. "But, where's the net?"
Aha, I think, this should be easy. Mario is blind. So are most of the Owls. Mario can't even see shadows. I mean, how hard can it be to score on a blind guy?
Well, Mario stops me four shots out of five. I am no Pavel Bure. But I can see. Then the Ice Owls go out and tie 54 Division 6-6. Forward Adam Hornyak, 20, whose eyesight is blurred, has "Meat" seeing double with a thunderous check. "I decked a cop," he hoots at the Ice Owls' bench.
Actually, it's supposed to be minimum contact. But it's fast hockey. No white canes here. The guys with partial sight play forward. And, frankly, there's a couple of 20/20 ringers. I guess they qualify as "relatives of the visually impaired."
The guys with little or no sight play defense. They flank Mario like guard dogs, heads cocked, waiting. The "puck" is a plastic wheel from a Tonka toy truck. It's about five inches across, filled with piano pins. It whirs like locusts. 'Good Flow'
"It's all about hearing," Mario tells me later. "Hearing the puck rattle back and forth, hearing other players talking."
Shift changes are something to see. There's lots of shouting. Some thumping into the gate, into each other. Defensemen feel their way along the boards until they get to the bench. Those with some sight help those with none.
"Good, quick game," gasps defenseman Eddie Parenteau, 41, as he comes off. "Good flow. Those guys are fast."
He catches his breath. "A lot of people hear 'visually impaired hockey team' and they think 'slow.' They're always surprised."
This is the Ice Owls' 30th year of surprising people. They play Sundays at McGregor Park, inviting various sighted teams. They're the only blind team in the GTA. They play charity games. For instance, they take on York Regional Police March 10 at 2 p.m. in Sutton to raise money for Big Brothers and the Red Barn Theatre. Tickets are $2.
But the bottom line is fun, says Eddie. He's team president and a proofreader at CNIB. He's had 5 percent vision since birth.
A cop swoops down on Mario. The net is regular size, but you're not supposed to shoot more than three feet off the ice. Makes it hard to hear the Tonka wheel.
Mario and the defense sort of collapse on the officer. "Left!" "Right!" "Left!" they yell, following the sound. Sticks sweep the ice. Mario stacks the pads.
The cop is foiled. Like a bear by a pack of dogs. Even the 54 Division boys pound the boards in admiration. 'Great Guys'
Eddie helps Jason Caruana, 16, off the ice. It's Jason's first season. He lost his sight to glaucoma at age eight. He's the youngest Owl. The oldest, 72, is away. "They're great guys," Jason tells me later, in the dressing room. "They never give up and they're a good influence. Playing hockey's always been my dream."
Across the room, Mario wipes sweat off his brow. He works in investigations for CIBC Visa. "We're just a bunch of guys who always wanted to play hockey and couldn't play for a regular team. We have fun and we show people, no matter what, there's nothing you can't do."
That other Mario, the one with Team Canada, couldn't have said it better. Remember those movie Mighty Ducks? Remember their "quack, quack, quack" cheer? Well, the Ducks had their day. Hoot, hoot, hoot!
Are you a blind or visually impaired adult who would enjoy a week of great cross-country skiing in the magnificence of Alaska? Do you think you could enjoy a week of after-skiing fun with more than 250 other skiers, both blind and sighted, at a full-service resort hotel? Even if you are not sure, would you like the opportunity to find out? If so, then we invite you to apply for the 28th annual Ski for Light International week, to be held from February 23 through March 2, 2003, in Anchorage, Alaska. Participants will stay at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, and ski at nearby Russian Jack Springs Park. The Ski for Light Program
For 27 years Ski for Light, Inc., an all-volunteer, non- profit organization, has been giving visually and mobility-impaired adults the chance to experience the sport of cross-country skiing. Over the years, hundreds of such participants have discovered that cross-country skiing is an invigorating outdoor activity that they can both enjoy and do well. It is an activity that gives the blind/visually impaired person a unique feeling of freedom, independence and accomplishment. Emphasis is placed on recreational trail skiing, with the skier and guide deciding together how far, how long, and on what kind of terrain they will ski. A prospective participant does not have to be an athlete to participate but merely someone who is interested in enjoying a more physically active lifestyle and who feels that their overall health will allow them to participate in the sport.
For those not familiar with skiing, cross-country (or Nordic) skiing differs from downhill (or Alpine) skiing in several important ways. An Alpine skier only goes downhill, propelled by gravity. Cross-country skiers are not so limited. They go at their own pace through the countryside, letting gravity do the work going downhill while providing their own propulsion when gliding across level ground or uphill. The equipment for cross-country skiing is much lighter in weight and more comfortable than downhill ski gear. A downhill skier wears insulated clothing to stay warm, while a cross-country skier wears lighter clothing because the exercise helps create plenty of body heat.
Those who are blind or visually impaired cross-country ski in pre-set tracks or grooves in the snow, while a sighted guide skis in a similar set of tracks alongside. The guide informs the skier of changes in the direction and level of the tracks, offers instructional tips and suggestions, and tells the skier about the countryside.
At Ski for Light, a blind/visually impaired skier is matched with an experienced sighted cross-country skier for the week. They ski together both mornings and afternoons, from Monday through Saturday. Beginning skiers are taught the basics of the sport, while those who have skied before work on improving their skills or just enjoy themselves on the snow. On Friday, a ski tour is held, in which participants ski to a remote site for lunch around a blazing bonfire. On Saturday, a rally and race are conducted in which each skier has an opportunity to test and demonstrate his or her newly acquired skills over a measured distance. This event, complete with an Olympic-type finish line and national anthems, is the highlight of the week for most participants.
The sighted guides who attend Ski for Light are a special part of the week. They come from all over the country and all walks of life. They attend because they love the sport, and because they want to share this love with others who can enjoy it as much as they do.
While skiing is the focal point of the week, it is only part of the Ski for Light experience. When skiers return to the hotel in late afternoon, they often mingle with others while relaxing in the heated pool or hot tub, just hang out, or attend an information-sharing session about hobbies and activities of special interest. Evening activities, in addition to a group dinner, usually include things like a wine and cheese reception, a talent show, an arts and crafts fair, awards presentations, and lots of informal dancing, singing and conversation. Participants have many opportunities to meet and get to know the other blind and sighted skiers, some of whom are from Norway, Japan, Great Britain, and other countries. Information about the 2003 Ski for Light Week
Anchorage is located in south-central Alaska, on the Cook Inlet. Because of its maritime location, Anchorage is not usually subject to the temperature extremes of central Alaska or Canada, or much of the upper-midwest United States. Anchorage is a hospitable, friendly town with plenty of big-city things to do, but it has retained the flavor of the rugged Alaskan frontier. The Hotel Captain Cook is an elegant hotel with a nautical theme throughout. It has an indoor pool, hot tub, health clubs, two lounges, many arcade shops, is within walking distance of many points of interest in downtown Anchorage, and is less than 10 minutes from the airport. Russian Jack Springs Park, part of the Municipality of Anchorage's 100-kilometer trail system, is less than 10 minutes from the hotel. It features groomed, double-tracked trails over gently rolling terrain, with a comfortable chalet for lunch.
The total cost of the week is $700 for double-occupancy, or $900 for single-occupancy, if available. This amount includes room, all meals, six days of skiing, ground transportation to and from the Anchorage airport, and a small registration fee. Cross-country skis, boots, and poles will be provided free of charge to first-time participants. The cost of transportation from home to and from Anchorage is the responsibility of the participant. Partial stipends are available for first-time participants, on a limited basis, based on financial need.
The application deadline is November 1, 2002. Applications received after the deadline will be considered as space permits. Full payment is due by January 1, 2003. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance or waiting list status beginning in mid- to late November. After acceptance you will receive more detailed information about cross-country skiing in general, clothing to bring, special transportation arrangements, and other matters of interest.
Ski for Light no longer requires applicants to submit the results of a physical examination. Each applicant is expected to make his/her own informed decision about the advisability of participation, taking into account his/her individual overall health and the physical demands and risks of cross-country skiing and of the Ski for Light program.
Space is limited, so apply as soon as possible by completing the online application at http://www.sfl.org/vipapp.html; or, you may download one from http://www.sfl.org/vipapp.doc and print an MS Word version of the application; or, you may request a paper copy from the address below. For more information about the event, contact Lynda Boose, 47440 Pilgrim Road, Houghton, MI 49931; phone (906) 250-7836, e-mail [email protected]
Don't let this opportunity pass you by! We look forward to hearing from you soon.
(Editor's Note: When the excellent Ken Burns series "The Civil War" aired originally on PBS several years ago, the visual elements in each program were accessible because of video description. However, when the series was re-mastered, the descriptive narrative was left out.
When Rudy Lutter sat down to enjoy a long-awaited re- broadcast of the series, he was disappointed to find that the descriptions were no longer available. So, Mr. Lutter wrote the following letter to the president of General Motors, the corporation which funded the re-mastering of the series. We publish Mr. Lutter's letter in case any of our readers would like to join with him in communicating to General Motors how important video description is to those of us who want to watch this, and future, Ken Burns re-mastered series.
According to Mary Watkins of WGBH, "Mark Twain" and "Thomas Jefferson" will include described video when those series are re- mastered.) Mr. Rick Wagoner President & Chief Executive Officer General Motors, Inc. 300 Renaissance Center, Mail Code 482-C39B50 Detroit, MI 48265 Dear Mr. Wagoner:
I have been "viewing" the documentary, "The Civil War," on PBS, produced by Mr. Ken Burns and made possible by the financial support of General Motors Corporation.
The programs are excellent. My thanks to Mr. Burns and you and General Motors for a top-flight, entertaining, educational contribution to our society. I'm sure there will be many re- broadcasts requested.
As a blind person, I note that there's only one thing missing: video description. This is a system whereby a signal is broadcast on the secondary audio programming channel, giving a verbal description of what is happening on the screen when the narrator is not talking. The viewer selects the SAP option by pushing the SAP button on a stereo television set; those who do not wish to receive it need not choose it.
There are more than 1.3 million blind people in our country, in addition to many elderly people who have poor vision. I ask that you consider increasing your grant to Mr. Burns to cover the cost of adding video description, which, as I understand it, costs approximately $3,000 per viewing hour.
Again, my deepest thanks to you and your colleagues at General Motors. Sincerely, Rudolph Lutter cc: Mr. Ken Burns Florentine Films 2112 Broadway, Suite 403 New York, NY 10023
LONDON -- The British government says it intends to lift the six- month quarantine it imposed on Canadian and American pets entering Britain.
The government says research shows there is little risk the cats and dogs could introduce rabies to the country.
Two years ago, the British government introduced a "pet passport" plan allowing cats and dogs from Western Europe to skip quarantine if they have documents confirming their identity and rabies-free status.
How many times have you heard a friend, relative or family member wish for a solution to a situation that has arisen from his or her visual impairment? And how many times have you longed for a book that would offer such solutions?
Wish no more. "Making Life More Livable: Simple Adaptations for Living at Home after Vision Loss," revised by Maureen A. Duffy, is now available from the American Foundation for the Blind. It has been revised and updated since its original 1983 publication. It includes chapters on living independently with vision loss, general principles of making your environment more livable, a room-by-room breakdown of adaptations you can make in your home, additional health conditions that may occur, and a resource guide.
The first chapter opens with a section called "Older People: Myths and Reality." It cites some statistics about the number of people age 65 or older, and the growing incidence of visual impairments in that population; it states that 70 to 75 percent of all new cases of visual impairment occur in the 65-plus age group. It also tries to dispel some myths about vision loss: "... Losing vision does not mean giving up your independence or the activities you enjoy. With a bit of thought and common sense, you can adjust your environment and everyday tasks to make life safer, easier, more enjoyable and more livable."
And that theme is carried throughout the book. "Making Life More Livable" focuses on the simple, less costly adaptations, such as installing brighter light bulbs, opening the curtains to let in more light, and so forth.
There's a lot to like about this book. It begins with the basics of vision loss, how it changes your mobility, what normal age-related vision loss is, and a discussion of age-related eye disorders. Included in this section are photographs of a variety of adaptations, for example, putting a light-colored plate on a dark-colored placemat to increase contrast, and examples of how people with different visual impairments might see a room in contrast with how someone with normal vision would see it. There is also information about low vision services, several pictures of people using low vision aids such as magnifying glasses and bold, dark ink pens, and other vision-related rehabilitation services.
One checklist is called "Assessing the Environment: Basic Principles." It states that there are several basic elements to consider when examining your home to see where changes would be helpful: lighting; color and contrast; organization; texture and touch; sound; labels, lettering and marking; and safety. To improve visibility, make sure there's adequate lighting for what you're doing and maximize contrast between the object you're working with and the background.
Another sidebar discusses the different types of lighting and how they can help people with low vision. It covers sunlight and natural light, incandescent light, fluorescent light, combination light, and halogen light. Under halogen light, it notes the fire hazards and potential for personal injury if the light is used incorrectly, which I was glad to see.
Under "General Principles," one section stresses safety. It has some excellent safety tips, including avoiding long sleeves and loose-fitting clothing while cooking; checking electrical cords periodically; positioning pot handles so they don't extend over the edge of the stove or another burner; and closing cabinet doors and drawers immediately after use. I'm sure many of you have bumped into an open cabinet door at least once!
In the room-by-room breakdown section, you will find more guidelines and suggestions. Duffy suggests involving family members and friends and working together to find solutions; being certain that everyone in your household can understand and use your marking system; avoiding covering up the numbers or words on your prescription bottles with markings that would prevent others from reading them; planning whatever changes you make so that you can maintain them independently; and paying special attention to safety in the bathroom, the area next to the bed, the hallway, steps and stairs. But, she notes, "there is no 'one size fits all' solution that is right for everyone. ... There are usually several ways to address a specific environmental situation or problem ..."
The resource section is good. It lists information providers; organizations dealing with specific eye conditions; useful web sites; catalog companies selling independent living aids, lighting products, labeling and identification products; providers of reading materials in large print, on tape and/or in braille; video description resources; and organizations that deal with other health conditions.
But the most important thing about this book for those with low vision is that it's in large print, with an easy-to-read typeface and ample white space between lines. The one thing that concerns me is the weight of the paper; it's light enough that I can read the back side of the page from the front. For people with certain types of visual impairments, or for people who use CCTV magnification systems, this "bleed-through" can be distracting and hinder reading.
"Making Life More Livable" is available from AFB Press for $24.95. To order, call (800) 232-3044.
A book titled "A Guide to Pronouncing Biblical Names" has been transcribed into braille and large print by the Lutheran Braille Workers. If you participate in religious ministry or educational activities, this book will be an excellent source for learning how to pronounce names of people and places in the Bible. The Lutheran Braille Workers provides free Bibles and other religious materials in braille and large print in over 40 languages. All LBW materials are produced and distributed by volunteers and may be requested by anyone of any faith. For more information, or to request a copy of this new book, contact Lutheran Braille Workers, Inc., P.O. Box 5000, Yucaipa, CA 92399; telephone (909) 795-8977; fax (909) 795-8970; e-mail [email protected] Their web site is www.lbwinc.org.
If you prefer to speak to a real, live person, call Roberta Werth in Wichita at (316) 683-3688 to request a copy of the book or to learn about other products and services of this worthy organization.
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 held responsible for the reliability of products and services mentioned.
To submit an item for "Here and There," send an e-mail message to [email protected] You may call the ACB toll-free number, (800) 424-8666, and leave a message in mailbox 26. Please bear in mind that we need information two months ahead of actual publication dates.
Blind Treasures is a business owned by a person who is blind. He has now added an auction site with no listing or selling fees for any interested person to join. Visit the site at www.blindtreasures.com/auction. Tony Meade is the owner and you can contact him by phone, (910) 875-3151, or e-mail [email protected]
Kira Larkin crochets baby blankets and Christmas stockings. Baby blankets are $30 each. Stockings come in four sizes: large, $18; medium, $14; small, $10; and ornamental, $3 each. Contact Kira Larkin by phone at (801) 587-1789, or by mail at Box 1724, Heritage Center, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.
Maryann Rocker will braille greeting cards for any occasion, including graduation, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and retirement. For a price list, contact [email protected], or send braille or typed letters to 415 Chapel Drive #E-107, Tallahassee, FL 32304.
Internet Speech Inc. now has NetECHO available. With netECHO, you simply call the service (any phone, any time), log in and use verbal commands to send & receive e-mail from your existing web- based e-mail account. You can surf any web site, search a word or topic, get news, a stock quote, horoscopes, and much more. That's right, from any phone, any time, you get access to the information important to you, and no computer is needed!
We have easy-to-follow pricing for the service: $9.95 per month ($16.95 for toll-free access) plus an initiation fee of $20. Visit www.internetspeech.com or call toll-free (877) 312- 4638 for more information.
A new print/braille book from National Braille Press (NBP) is "Knitting Patterns, Plain & Fancy." The patterns were selected by Daphne Raeder and the book sells for $10. Raeder has assembled a range of patterns suitable for everyday wear, yet special enough to give as gifts. Black and white photos of the knitted products, along with a brief description of each item, have been collated into the centerfold for readers to share with others.
Patterns include: Baby Bunting Plain & Fancy; Infant Set II (cardigan, hat, booties & blanket); Garden Party Hat (small, medium, and large); Child's Guernsey Sweater; Patrick's Pumpkin Hat (small, medium, and large); Jennifer's Guernsey (men's and women's); Man's Rigby Vest (V-neck); Memere's Afghan; Cables and Lace Afghan; Dandy Dog Sweaters; Woman's Village Vest; Mittens, Gloves, Hats, and Scarves; Felt hat (with brim variations); The "Retro" Bag (felted purse pattern); and Fabulous Felt Totes.
To order this print-braille edition, send $10 to National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115-4302, or call toll-free (800) 548-7323 to charge it. You may also e-mail your order to [email protected] Look for this item at http://www.nbp.org/knit.html.
Seedlings Books has a new 2003 catalog with more than 500 low-cost braille books for children ages 1-14, including 48 new titles. For teens age 12 and up, there is a new book: "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" by Richard Carlson, Ph.D., or simple ways to help teens face the stresses of homework, peer pressure, dating and other worries. The price is $21.
To request the free catalog in print, braille or on disk, call toll-free (800) 777-8552, phone (734) 427-8552 ext. 101, or e-mail [email protected] Visit the web site, www.seedlings.org, to order online. Or send snail-mail to Seedlings at P.O. Box 51924, Livonia, MI 48151-5924.
Camille Petrecca has prepared a book in braille or large print titled "Golden Moments: Reflections of a Retriever." This heartwarming book tells the true story of how a confirmed white cane user overcame her fear of dogs and now has her dog guide to prove it. The story is suitable for children and adults, and is written from the dog guide's viewpoint. To order, send check or money order for $20, in U.S. dollars only. Price includes shipping. Checks should be made payable to the Campanian Society, P.O. Box 167, Oxford, OH 45056, phone (513) 524-4846.
If you have someone on your holiday gift list who loves cooking, knitting, crocheting, or gardening, the new 2002/2003 Horizons for the Blind products catalog is just the ticket. Cooks will especially enjoy several new Betty Crocker cookbooks along with Miss Jackie's Cookbook, written by a blind cook. The needlework crowd will enjoy new additions to our catalog, including Holiday Coasters and Knitting From the Top Down. How about a collection of 1,112 Down-to-Earth Garden Secrets? We've even got a book on the art of origami. With the holidays fast approaching, our holiday crafts and learn-how books may be just what you need to get ready. To order this free catalog, telephone (815) 444-8800 (voice/TDD); fax (815) 444-8830; e-mail [email protected] Please specify whether you prefer braille, large print, or audio cassette.
The California School for the Blind runs a student-operated business called the Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company. They will customize your order for a special event such as Christmas, Hanukkah, a birthday, anniversary, graduation, love notes, conventions, etc. Messages can be provided in braille or large print. Orders take two weeks after receipt of payment, but for customized orders, add two extra weeks. Prices range from $1 for three cookies in an in-stock message to $11 for a chocolate dipped, giant fortune cookie with a customized message. Cookies in a gift basket are also available.
To order, call Judith Lesner, phone (510) 794-3800, extension 300, fax (510) 794-3813, or write Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company, 500 Walnut Ave., Fremont, CA 94536.
Jett Enterprises has its new catalog available. It features products for people who are blind or visually impaired, including items for guide dogs, kitchenware, jewelry, gifts and more. Free gift tags and instructional tapes are available.
For a free cassette or diskette catalog, call toll-free (800) 275-5553 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Pacific time). To order a braille catalog, send $10 to Jett Enterprises, 3140 Cambridge Court, Palm Springs, CA 92264. A $5 credit toward purchase of a braille catalog will be applied to the customer's first order. Send e-mail to [email protected] or visit the web site, www.jettenterprises.com.
PowerTalk is a free software program that automatically speaks the text of Microsoft PowerPoint presentations using the Microsoft Speech, SAPI. The software is open source and free. To get the program, point your browser at http://www.meru.org.uk/speechmakers/powertalk.html to be guided through the download process.
PowerTalk is published as part of the Speechmakers project that is hosted and managed by MERU. It provides high-quality communications software for people with disabilities. For more information, please visit the project site or contact Simon Judge by e-mail, [email protected]
The Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Mass. and its satellite centers in Holyoke and Worcester offer the latest in adaptive computer training for people who are blind or visually impaired through traditional classroom instruction as well as through distance learning courses.
Training courses available include: Computer Basics for Seniors, Computer Basics with JAWS for Windows (JFW), Microsoft Office with JFW, Assessment One, Keyboarding One, Introduction to the Internet with JFW, Using Outlook Express and Internet Explorer, Introduction to Excel, Office Skills Training, and Using ZoomText.
For information regarding the dates, times and duration of these courses, contact Brian Charlson toll-free at (800) 852- 3131, ext. 224, e-mail [email protected] (Adapted from "Vision World Wide" web letter, August 2002.)
A new cruise is being planned to Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, Boston, and Portland, Maine from September 27 to October 3, 2003, leaving from New York City. The cruise liner is the one-year-old Carnival Victory. People who are interested in securing a reservation may do so now with a deposit of $50. Prices and room categories have not been set at this time, but we will provide more information when it is available.
For information, contact Sue Slater, Outside Travel Consultant, Damar Travel and Cruise, e-mail [email protected], toll-free phone (800) 999-6101.
The Adaptive MammaCare Personal Learning System teaches women who are blind or visually impaired how to do proficient breast self-examination at home. Included in the kit are a tone-indexed cassette and an audio-described video instruction. The breast model is an important part of the kit and contains simulations of abnormalities which indicate a need for medical intervention as well as those which are routine in nature. Medical schools and hospitals use this system to train student doctors. The kit is available for women who are blind or visually impaired for a scaled-down price of $55 (which includes shipping) till December 31, 2002.
To order the kit or for more information, call toll-free (800) 626-2273, e-mail [email protected], visit the web site, www.mammacare.com, or write Mammatech Corp., 930 NW Eighth Ave., Gainesville, FL 32601.
Morgan Commercial Enterprises (owned by a couple who are blind) has a new free catalog featuring electronics, general merchandise, gifts, collectibles, tools, toys, inspirational/spiritual items, fine jewelry and items for holiday gift-giving. The catalog is available in print, cassette, computer disk, and via e-mail. The Morgans also offer a no-cost business opportunity for people to become Morgan Commercial Enterprises independent business owners.
For details, e-mail [email protected], write to Morgan Commercial Enterprises, 901 Freeport Road, Creighton, PA 15030-1049, or phone (724) 226-1930.
According to a reader, www.wordreference.com is an accessible web site that will provide translations of languages into English, and English into other languages.
The Oak Ridge, Tenn. unit of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) wants to get in touch with anyone who has used their services in order to collect success stories, document the value of their work and maintain contact with former patrons. In addition to the usual types of recorded materials, the Tennessee unit specializes in textbooks on computers, math and science, and foreign language. If you have ever read a book in these areas, there is a good chance it was recorded at Oak Ridge. Please write RFB&D, 205 Badger Rd., Oak Ridge, TN 37830, phone (865) 482-3496, or e-mail [email protected]
Newsreel is an interactive monthly audio magazine on four- track cassette tape. Articles for Newsreel are submitted by subscribers who are blind or visually impaired, in their own voices. It works rather like a correspondence club. Topics may include just about any subject or event in the lives of Newsreel subscribers, and include personal experiences; traveling with a white cane or having a guide dog; vacation tips; adaptive technology information; recipes; sports and poetry. The cost for a yearly subscription is $25 if subscribers return the cassettes and $50 if they keep the cassettes.
To contact Newsreel, write 8 East Long Street, Suite 420, Columbus, OH 43215-2914, toll-free phone (888) 723-8737, phone (614) 469-7077. Credit cards are accepted.
ZForm Poker has everything you want from a poker game except the cigar smoke -- and you won't lose your pants playing -- or paying for -- it.
ZForm Poker is a multi-player online version of five-card draw poker which allows both blind and sighted players to play and socialize together. Note, however, that these players are using virtual poker chips, not real money, and that this is a poker game, not an online casino. ZForm Poker does provide quite a lot of casino ambience, however, thanks to some great background sounds. If all this begins to sound complicated and confusing, trust me, it is not. The clean intuitive interface allows players to play a fast-paced game while still being able to hear the cheers -- and jeers -- of their fellow players. The hardest facet of game play is trying to remember what "GMT" means, and what time it is in the U.K. or Australia. Since the release of ZForm Poker in April of this year, it has quickly gained a worldwide following of dedicated players. Indeed, ZForm Poker players are an eclectic group, from everywhere in the world, both blind and sighted, and they embrace not only the seriously single-minded card shark but the more easygoing social sort of player.
ZForm provides not just a game, but a community. Some of the tables offered are specifically set for a slower pace to encourage socializing, and it is easy to search the tables for a friend and then to jump right to the table your friend is sitting at. There are plenty of tables at all levels of play, however, so players rarely have to wait long to play, whether it is "just a hand or two" and a quick chat or a more intense to-the-death (and the last chip) high roller session. There are scoreboards to find out who the top players are, and mailing lists on which subscribers can ask questions or share tips.
Despite the diversity of the community, the game is very customizable. Players can toggle easily between novice and expert modes, allowing for lots of spoken cues to help one play the game, or only a few spoken suggestions for people who don't need much help. Spoken messages can also be turned off completely, for sighted players who may find this too distracting. Most game options can be set from the keyboard at any time, and many features of the game, such as whether the player hears the background sounds, are easy to change right from the keyboard without even leaving the game. The sound effects are also customizable by an individual player. This is one of my favorite things about ZForm Poker: you can tailor the interface to what you want to hear and what you need to know. Anyone who has spent even 10 minutes using a screen reader knows how frustrating customizing the screen reader to say what you want to hear can be, and how different everyone's preferences are. Another great thing about ZForm Poker is you are not stuck playing in one mode all the time. My previous experiences with accessible games were always pretty boring, since almost all the accessible games I had tried felt one-dimensional and predictable. ZForm Poker, however, lets you play at whatever level you wish. You can sit back and socialize at the social tables one day or play a killer game at the high rollers table the next. This does provide one of the drawbacks of the game also, in that some players play way over their heads and slow down an otherwise good game, though selecting "game-set time limit on turns" prevents you from getting too frustrated by this sort of thing.
All in all, it is this community diversity which makes the game so interesting. You can never tell if the other players are sighted or blind, from Sydney or Shanghai, new players or players with lots of experience. One of the things I enjoy hearing about are the couples and friends who finally have a game they can play together without finding the fact that one of them is blind to be an impediment to playing the same game.
You won't have to break your piggy bank to pay for ZForm Poker: the monthly subscription rate is $7.95 per month, but if you sign up for a year, you'll pay just $59.95, which averages out to only $5 a month.
To learn more about ZForm and ZForm Poker, or to download the free 15-day version and join the ZForm community, go to ZForm's web site at http://www.zform.com or send email to [email protected]
(Editor's Note: To read more interesting reviews and views from Alicia Verlager, check out her web site at: http://theworld.com/~aeryadne/index.html.)
After a lifetime of vision problems, there was definitely something in Francia Malone's eyes when she went up to accept an award in Lansing from the Michigan Commission for the Blind last month: tears of joy and pride.
Malone, 29, of Flint Township was picked as "Rehabilitant of the Year" for the commission's region that takes in Genesee, Saginaw, Shiawassee and Lapeer counties and part of Michigan's Thumb. She was nominated by her social worker, Debbie Wilson, who works in the commission's office in Flint.
"Oh yes, I was crying," Malone says. "I've been truly blessed."
As a child growing up in Flint, she was diagnosed with an uncontrollable movement of her eyes called nystagmus but not with the condition called ocular albinism that was the underlying cause of her vision problem. One doctor told her mother there was nothing that could be done; once they were told that Francia "would grow out of it."
But there was no growing out of her vision problem. Sadly, it would not be until she was in her mid-20s that she learned of an array of services, training and aids that would help her function in the work place and live independently.
For although Malone is legally blind, she can see up to a point a condition experts call "low vision." Her eyes are extremely sensitive to light and her vision is poor enough that she can't drive. She experiences "tunnel vision," has poor peripheral vision and has even lost her sight entirely for brief periods.
"I got through school by the grace of God," Malone says. "I was constantly straining, turning, doing whatever I could to try to see the blackboard."
Among friends and family, Malone would sometimes hear the word "albino," spoken in hushed tones, in reference to herself. In the African-American community, she says, this is a word loaded with stigma and negative connotations. Yet the reality was that both her parents were genetic carriers of albinism and that the condition had shown up in different generations in both sides of her family.
After graduating from Northern High School in 1990, Malone took a break from school, eventually starting classes in a gerontology program at Mott Community College and trying to work at different jobs. She was, however, completely dependent on family members to give her rides.
Some wondered why she was bothering with trying to go to college and work. Since she was legally blind, they said, why didn't she just sign up for monthly Social Security payments and forget about the rest?
Malone says she wondered about whether that's how she would have to live for the rest of her life.
"It was very depressing," Malone says. "I was very tired and frustrated. By the time I was 26, I was really feeling like there was no hope at all."
But Malone says she began to read up on albinism at the Mott library and made an appointment at the Low Vision Clinic in Burton. As she grappled with whether she could ever live independently and make a career, she was referred to the Michigan Commission for the Blind, a part of the Family Independence Agency. There she met social worker Debbie Wilson, who also has albinism.
"She knew I had that potential to succeed," Malone says. "She suggested I go to the commission's training center in Kalamazoo."
The six-week experience was life changing.
"I met some remarkable people, some with impaired vision, some totally blind," she says. "When I saw what others were doing, I knew that I could do it too."
Cooking, using special talking computer programs, coping, job skills "It was awesome," Malone says.
With the support of the commission and the Visually Impaired Center of Flint, Malone was able to get an apartment, more computer training and set herself up as a one-woman respite care provider.
With subsidized transportation service for the visually impaired provided by Vet's Cab, Malone's full-time job now is taking care of Marian Foster, an elderly woman who can stay in her own home thanks to Malone and other care providers. She's also an active volunteer at the New Jerusalem Baptist Church.
"I don't drive and I don't see all that good," she says. "But I can help people. I think I exemplify my abilities, not my disabilities."
Her social worker, who is the state spokesperson for the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, is thrilled by Malone's accomplishments.
"I'm so proud of her," says Wilson. "She's done so much."
FOR SALE: Kurzweil 3000 software, still in box, brand new. Asking $500 or best offer. Contact Tom Richards at (978) 774- 5000 extension 505 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern.
FOR SALE: Heavy 4-line, 27-cell slate with stylus, includes Dymo tape slot. $5. Plastic interpoint slate, 9-line, 21-cell, with saddle stylus (it has a flat saddle-shaped handle that keeps the stylus from rolling). Perfect for postcards and writing braille on both sides of the card. $5. Check writing slate with stylus. This slate has a check writing guide and includes braille cells to braille information along the top and on the stub of the check. It must be used with checks that have a stub along the left-hand side. $5. Lightweight aluminum slate with stylus, 8-line 28-cell, Dymo tape slot, $5. "Typing For Blind," 9 cassettes, recorded at 15/16 ips. Includes number and letter drills, sentences, paragraphs and more. Perfect for students learning to use a keyboard. $5. Aunt Sammy's Radio recipes. Published in grade 1-1/2 Braille in 1931, this cookbook includes menus, equivalent measures, old-fashioned recipes for soups and stews, main dishes, salads, breads and desserts. 277 pages in one volume. $10. Please contact Margaret at (541) 752-3890 for more information, or write to me at 2655 NW Acey Pl., Corvallis, OR 97330. You may also reach me by e-mail, [email protected]
FOR SALE: Braille Blazer with Duxbury Braille Translator for Microsoft Windows. Like new, asking $1,500 (or best offer) plus shipping and insurance. Contact Mary at (503) 788-2714 or [email protected]
FOR SALE: Visualtek Voyager XL CCTV with 19-inch monitor. Comes with all original books and dust covers. Can display black on white as well as white on black. In excellent shape; hardly used. Asking $950. Call Kathy at (320) 252-8086 after 9 a.m. Central time.
FOR SALE: Aladdin Companion CCD. Excellent condition, lightweight/portable, weighs 17 pounds. In original shipping container. Asking $600. Call Maureen at (714) 295-2945.
FOR SALE: Laptop computer with speech. Comes with Keysoft from Humanware. No modem. Asking $1,395. Contact Linda Reeder at (801) 468-2750 days, (801) 364-7006 evenings.
Are you making a list and checking it twice? Or three or four or more times? Do you need to keep track of who has been naughty or nice? You might find a Voice-It should be at the top of your own wish list. These easy-to-use digital recorders are available in two models, one with 90 seconds of recording time, and the other with five minutes of recording space. At $39.99 and $59.99 respectively, we have found them to be very user- friendly. Most all functions are quickly discernible via a series of corresponding sounds. Each Voice-It comes with a removable belt hook and can be tucked away in any little corner of your purse, shirt pocket, or sleigh! For more information and to find where you can purchase the Voice-It, call (800) 742-8588 ext. 244.
Or visit the company's web site at http://www.vxicorp.com, where you'll find a link to a completely accessible page which contains detailed descriptions about all the company's products, user manuals, and a way to purchase products online.
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