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.
This is a ground-breaking edition of "The Braille Forum." Included inside the magazine is something that can change the reality of blindness with regard to the burden we face whenever we attempt to travel to the places we want and need to go.
Inserted between the pages of this issue of "The Braille Forum" is the American Council of the Blind Transportation Survey. Changing the transportation realities for blind and visually impaired people living in the USA is an ambitious undertaking, and we can't even begin to solve problems until we have first collected a lot of critical information. That's why this is a pretty long survey. Completing the survey is how each and every blind member or friend of ACB can tangibly and truly support the effort.
The American Council of the Blind is so committed to a new transportation agenda for blind Americans that we are taking what many might see as a risk of distributing this ground-breaking, fact-finding survey in the Forum. It is my belief, however, that asking ACB members and friends to be responsive holds no risk. I am certain that each of you will do your best to get the information we need back to the organization.
The transportation survey leverages ACB's computer power in a way that has never been done before by a consumer organization of blind people. Every survey, no matter how you fill it out, will be processed through the template that computer users see on the ACB web site and the answers from the survey will wind up in a digital repository where the data can be analyzed and reported to the organization, as well as decision-makers in transportation throughout the nation.
If you have computer access or have a friend that might help you with such access, use this survey document as a reference and prepare answers to enter on the ACB web site. If you do not have computer access, a number of options are available to you. Mark up these pages and return them to the ACB national office. If that doesn't seem easy, write your answers on separate sheets in print or braille and return those to the national office. Another alternative is that volunteers are going to be in charge of telephone banks over the next two months in order to take your answers via phone and help you fill out the survey in person, well, almost. Check the Washington Connection and the 800 telephone system of ACB for details on where and when to call, in order to fill out the survey with a human assistant. What you tell us can make the difference in changing transportation realities in our country.
It has been nearly 13 years since I and other people with disabilities filled the White House lawn as the first President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. The weather was good that day, spirits were high. We all felt that a significant battle had been joined and won, and we all celebrated a new sense of inclusion and hope. As we walked away from the White House lawn, we talked about all the ways our lives would change for the better.
Indeed, positive changes have happened for many of us with disabilities since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Spurred by both the spirit and letter of the law, we have seen advances in many areas such as transportation, availability of accessible documents and more. The world has become more friendly to folks who use wheelchairs, and to people with other kinds of disabilities as well. Yet almost 13 years later we find ourselves confronted by numerous attacks against our hard-won rights. These attacks are often defended as mere differences in philosophy -- for example, protecting the rights of the various states against unfair or unwarranted federal encroachment, or assuring prudent governmental spending. Most venomous of all is an all too prevalent attitude that people with disabilities don't really deserve an equal place in society. According to this attitude, which downplays any civil rights implications of the ADA, all we really need are a few modest accommodations, which society can dole out to us out of the goodness of its charitable heart.
Some in the disability rights movement believe this is a time for caution; we should lie low and do everything in our power to prevent people who would deny us our rights from having the opportunity to do so. Others believe we must confront discrimination at every turn and be ready to march and engage in protests as often as required. Still others remain silent, presumably in the hope that things will settle down and the attacks against our civil rights will gradually disappear. Still these questions loom before us: How can a community of 54 million at last count be ignored? And do we need to be concerned, as a community, about the erosion of our rights? The answers to these questions form the foundation of our collective power and the reason we have not used it to our benefit.
The miracle of the disability rights movement was that we came together in a common belief in ourselves and a recognition that only through united action could we move the mountains that stood between us and our rightful place in society. When we passed the ADA, we believed we had reached the summit of those mountains, and we believed all the green fields of the plains below would soon be ours to share. But a law does not break the chains of attitudes within us and around us that reach as far back as recorded history. There were those in the promised land who did not want our community residences in their backyards, or our children educated in truly inclusive ways, or changes to the environment, which many still argue, benefit so few people. Least welcomed was our expectation of equality for people who were, after all, "special."
Is it any wonder therefore that ACB's struggle for pedestrian safety, accessible computing, comprehensive education for our kids, real transportation options, job opportunities, accessible appliances, video description, documents in alternative formats, and the many other issues we confront has been so difficult? Wheelchair users still face barriers, deaf folks do not have full access to important spoken information, people with mental illness still receive insufficient health care while they try to manage in a world that would rather ignore them than help.
The power of our disability community has not been lost; it is we who have given it away. Coming together once again as a community is the only way that we can reclaim ourselves and our power. The promised land is not beyond us, it is within us. Once we lay claim to it in ourselves as a community of people with disabilities, then we can take our rightful place in society.
The White House lawn still stands. Will we?
(Reprinted from "The San Jose Mercury News," December 7, 2002.)
Madelyn Dovano helped the blind to see. Not through magic or miracles, but simply with her voice.
As an "audio describer,'' her words -- spoken softly, yet with authority -- helped those who could not physically see mentally visualize the world around them. Whether describing San Francisco Ballet's "The Nutcracker'' to blind patrons, or "Schindler's List'' to moviegoers, or even the size and shape of a room, it was Ms. Dovano's voice they heard until cancer eventually took her voice away.
Ms. Dovano, who founded The Visual Voice in Los Gatos to provide "audio describer'' services for the blind, died Nov. 20 after a year-long battle with cancer. She was 66.
Born during the Great Depression to Italian immigrants in Akron, Ohio, Ms. Dovano grew up learning the value of hard work and the need to nourish curiosity and education. She took a few classes at Kent State University, married and had four children. But life as a wife in Ohio came to end in the early 1970s when her marriage ended.
She packed up three of her youngest children and headed to California to join her brother, who had left Akron years before and always boasted about the beauty of the Bay Area, recalled Ms. Dovano's daughter, Melanie Dovano Volpicella.
Her mother, she said, was selfless, juggling several jobs to support her family. With the children finally grown, Ms. Dovano harnessed her industrious energy into her own business, The Visual Voice, which she started in the late 1980s.
The inspiration for such a business was not obvious, Dovano Volpicella said. No one in the Dovano family is visually impaired. But when Ms. Dovano was selected to participate in a pilot project to describe an opera performance to the blind, something clicked. And her mother, she said, became a "one-woman show, literally.''
In March 1995, Ms. Dovano earned kudos for her detail-rich, yet seemingly effortless, description of the Academy Awards telecast for members of the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind. In December of that year, she led a group of the visually impaired through downtown San Jose's Christmas in the Park, allowing them to walk beyond the white picket fence and feel the mechanical dolls and musical instruments. Two years later, Ms. Dovano and her Visual Voice staff described the San Francisco Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker.''
"Madelyn was a bustle,'' said Mark D. Messersmith, Visual Voice's lead audio describer and Ms. Dovano's friend. "She was very much a life force. . . . She invested a lot of herself into the things she loved. One of the things she loved was The Visual Voice, the people and the service.''
Messersmith, who worked with Ms. Dovano for the past five years, said her love of dance and theater melded viscerally into her descriptions. She was not afraid to bring feeling and color to her work and "to remember the human element,'' he said.
"We're talking to people who are there to experience what we experience,'' Messersmith said. "We're there to describe to the best of our ability, and that in itself is a service.''
To those who knew Ms. Dovano, she was a rare soul whose love of the theater, art and science led to boundless adventures across the globe. In 1994, Ms. Dovano started another business, The Migrant Traveler, to enrich world travelers -- not tourists - - with journeys, ranging from archaeology expeditions in Latin America, to "chasing'' solar eclipses, to river and canal barging in Europe.
In June 2001, Ms. Dovano led a group of travelers to the eastern edge of Chisamba in Zambia, Africa, for the world's best view of the first total solar eclipse of the 21st century. A five-continent expedition, including a solar eclipse sighting in Madagascar, was scheduled for this month. But Ms. Dovano, for the first time, had to cancel months in advance.
She grew tired and was eventually confined to bed in October.
"I knew there was a race,'' said Dovano Volpicella, who was pregnant with her first child when her mother fell ill. "It was a day-by-day situation. Every day counted.''
On Nov. 6, Ms. Dovano's grandson, Marcus Volpicella, was born. Marcus was about four weeks premature, Dovano Volpicella explained, but that gave his grandmother enough time to see him.
"She held him, and played with him to some extent,'' Dovano Volpicella said. "She had purposely told them to take her off the pain medication, so she could fully enjoy him.''
Ms. Dovano died two weeks later.
After the funeral service, a visually impaired man approached Dovano Volpicella. "He said my mother was one of those people who could describe a sunset,'' she said. "But she, she was indescribable.''
Madelyn T. Dovano
Born: Jan. 4, 1936, in Akron, Ohio
Died: Nov. 20, 2002, in Los Gatos
Survived by: Sons, David Huntsman of Cleveland, Mark Huntsman of Akron, Ohio, and Scott Huntsman of Dublin; daughter, Melanie Dovano Volpicella of San Jose; mother, Ada Dovano of Los Gatos; brother, John Dovano of Campbell; and grandchildren, Samantha and Marcus.
Services: The family is planning a service next month at which they'll scatter her ashes.
Happy New Year 2003! It's time to reflect, review our past year and make plans for the year to come. While there may be some unpleasant situations or events happening around us which we cannot change or control, there are also many positive things we can affect and make happen. That's what being an ACB member is all about!
One wonderful thing each ACB member can help to make happen is to write that letter which will recognize and award a special someone among us who has made a significant contribution through his or her dedication toward improving the quality of life for blind people.
The ACB awards are given at our annual convention each year and in 2003 we will again recognize these special individuals at our convention in Pittsburgh. In order to accomplish this tradition, we need your input. You may send your letters (500 words or less) to the ACB office before April 18, 2003, addressed to: ACB Awards, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005.
There are four individual awards and two affiliate awards, as follows:
The Robert S. Bray Award is given in honor of the first director of what is now the National Library Service. This award is given periodically, to an individual who has made a contribution toward improving the NLS, technology and/or communication devices or toward expanding access for blind people in the fields of mainstream media opportunities.
The George Card Award is given to a blind individual who has dedicated his or her life to working for and with other blind people toward making a real difference in improving life quality, providing leadership and being a true positive role model for all of us in the blind community and the ACB.
The Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award is given in recognition of a blind person, who may or may not be a member of a blindness organization, who has spent a lifetime being fully integrated and interacting with his or her community.
Distinguished Service Awards are given periodically to individuals who have made important contributions which have advanced opportunities for the community of blind people. These contributions may vary and may not necessarily be made by blind people. The award can be given to an individual or organization and can simply reflect a new opportunity for access for blind people.
The Affiliate Growth Award is determined by the affiliate membership annual reports and based on the 2002-2003 submissions. It is awarded to the affiliate who has the greatest percentage increase in membership over the preceding year.
The Affiliate Outreach Award is one that is recommended by an affiliate president which recognizes a local chapter for a new outreach program, not a fundraiser, and which began in year 2002 but still may be ongoing and which has measurable outcomes.
All of these awards are worthy of your attention and a letter of recommendation for someone whom you know to be deserving. Appreciation is a small effort but it creates great memories of folks who can motivate and inspire us for time immemorial. Board of Publications Awards
Each year at the national convention of the American Council of the Blind, the board of publications (affectionately known as the BOP) presents awards. The first is the Ned E. Freeman Award, instituted in 1970 and named for the first president of the American Council of the Blind who, after completing his term of office, became editor of "The Braille Forum."
The board of publications accepts submissions for the Freeman Award from any writer on a topic of interest to readers of "The Braille Forum." Submissions may be published in the magazine if space allows. Articles appearing in the "Forum" between April 2002 and March 2003 are automatically eligible. Materials published by an ACB affiliate are also welcome. Send a print, braille or electronic copy of the published article accompanied by a letter of nomination.
While mastery of the craft of writing is a major consideration by BOP voters, favorable choices in the past seem to have been made because of interesting subject matter, originality in recounting an experience, or novelty of approach. A Freeman Award winner will receive a plaque and $100.
The Vernon Henley Award was established in 1988 to honor the man who created and first produced ACB Reports, a radio presentation distributed to radio reading services around the country. At the time of his death, he was chair of the board of publications, having assisted editors by conducting writing workshops and by recording for them on audiocassette materials otherwise not available to them. The award is presented to a person, either sighted or blind, who has made a positive difference in the media -- whether in radio, TV, magazines, or daily newspapers -- which may change public attitudes to recognize the capabilities of people who are blind, rather than focusing on outdated stereotypes and misconceptions. Programs and/or articles written and produced specifically for a visually impaired audience, as well as those intended for the general public, are eligible. Multiple articles or programs submitted by one author or organization will be judged as separate entries. The Henley Award is intended to be a vehicle for publicizing ACB throughout the general media, and to encourage excellence and accuracy in electronic and print coverage of items relating to blindness.
Recipients of these awards for the last five years are ineligible to enter the contests. Freeman Award winners 1998-2002: George Covington, Larry Johnson, Ken Stewart, Lisa Mauldin, and Barry Levine; Henley Award winners 1998-2002: The Seeing Eye, Kyle McHugh, Jonathan Mosen and Carol Greenwald and Mathayu Lane. Nor are those who are members of the ACB national office staff or members of the board of directors or board of publications during the awarding period eligible for the Ned E. Freeman or the Vernon Henley award.
Submissions for both awards must be postmarked no later than April 15, 2003. All submissions should be accompanied by a cover letter providing details about the submission, its origin, and any other pertinent information. Include your return address in the cover letter, and, if you want your manuscript returned, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Send submissions to ACB Board of Publications Awards, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005.
If you begin counting from February 1st, there are approximately 156 days until President Gray opens the 42nd annual convention of the American Council of the Blind. What an exciting time that will be as ACB will be among the first of a handful of groups to open the new David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By the way, Pittsburgh lost its "h" in 1891, but after 20 years of protest, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names relented and the "h" was restored.
I hope none of you will be left out from attending this year's convention. With an average temperature in July of 82.5 degrees, Pittsburgh plays host to some 3.9 million visitors annually. Phase III of the convention center, where ACB will be holding most of its events and meetings, is scheduled to have its ribbon cutting in late April of 2003. Only then will some of your most pertinent questions have answers. Questions like: "How far is it from the skywalk at the Westin to the complex?" "Where is the ballroom in relationship to the meeting rooms?" "Where is the exhibit hall in relation to the ballroom?" and the like will all be answered sometime in May. Even the February midyear meeting does not hold a lot of promise for what can be seen and determined for our July 2003 excursion. The complex assures me that I can have a "hard hat" tour then, but what the convention committee will be able to determine from that kind of tour is uncertain. I appreciate your patience as the committee continues to deal with these matters, almost on a daily basis.
Now for some fun: I'll bet you didn't know that Pittsburgh boasts a number of firsts in its history. It had the first ferris wheel (1895), the first movie theater (1905), the first public TV station (WQED) and the first polio vaccine by Jonas Salk (1954). Pittsburgh is also home to nine of the Fortune 500 companies including Heinz, Alcoa, Wesco International and Mellon Financial. And what do the movies "Silence of the Lambs," "The Deer Hunter" and "Angels in the Outfield" all have in common? That's right, they were all filmed in Pittsburgh.
Back to convention. Remember, the ballroom will not be broken down each day, so your affiliate will be in the same spot each time. The press room will be located in the Westin and not in the complex. Because the press room runs almost 24 hours a day, those who staff it wanted the security of being in the hotel after hours, when the presses are still rolling. And the information desk and convention office will be combined into "one-stop shopping" into a new branch called convention information services. This is in an attempt to minimize the number of stops conventioneers have to make to conduct convention business. After all, you're busy enough! After convention comes to a close, let me know what you thought of this innovation, as well as other convention matters. We will continue to have a "Suggestion Box" for your commendations, compliments, questions, comments and concerns.
The specific locations of the guide dog relief areas at the complex and both hotels are still being negotiated. The grounds of the complex are not completed and thus we have not yet determined what size and just where each relief area will be located. Midyear will be a "test" phase for further decision- making in this regard.
Exhibits will have some new and returning vendors who will have lots of room to spread out and show their wares. Tours will be memorable as we plan city tours, museums and dinner theater trips.
I continue to feel privileged to serve ACB as your convention coordinator and I want to thank all the committee members that work so hard on your behalf. Convention 2003 is shaping up (literally) to be one of our best ever. The local host committee, chaired by Gene Barton, is also busy at work on the local front. Speaking of local, did you know that Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood is in Pittsburgh? Who among you grew up with Mr. Rogers? I did when I wasn't watching Sesame Street! Who knows? He might even make an appearance at our convention. Now that would truly be "a beautiful day in the neighborhood!"
The South Carolina-Low Country Chapter of VIVA began 2002 with 18 members and a variety of activities.
In January, we took a tour of the Confederate submarine CSS Hunley. The folks who gave the tour did a great job of explaining how they saved the Hunley. There were some neat mockups of parts of the submarine that we could touch.
In February we visited the USS Lexington at Patriots Point. Our guides there were some of the pilots who flew from the deck of the Lexington during World War II; they told some hair-raising stories.
In March, we combined with ACB to host a low vision fair at the North Charleston Recreation Center. There were numerous vendors there with their wares. The event lasted all day and provided lots of information for all who attended.
June found us enjoying our annual picnic at the Charleston Air Force Base, with lots of food, music by Eddie Wyndham, and fellowship. We all had a good time.
On October 7, we held our No See'um Drive Golf Outing at the Shadowmoss Plantation Golf Club. This event is for blind and visually impaired golfers and their partners; we had coffee and donuts, golf, a grilled lunch, trophies and prizes for all. This was our first fundraiser, and we did pretty well.
In November we assembled 36 toiletry kits for homeless veterans, thanks to contributions from CVS drugstores and Publix supermarkets, along with our own donations. The event was a success.
December brought the ACB/VIVA Christmas party, Toys for Tots, and found us sponsoring three students from North Charleston High School. Everyone had a good time listening to the storyteller, and especially enjoyed his renditions of Christmas stories. And, by December, we had 23 members!
History was made on October 28, 2002, in Charleston, S.C.! No, it wasn't a terrorist attack or fire, earthquake or other natural disaster. Instead, it was the slow deliberate actions of a few blinded vets and a VIST coordinator from the Charleston area who made the difference.
On October 28, 2002 we passed our last hurdle in dealing with the city to install an audible pedestrian signal. The signal allows people with blindness and other disabilities to cross a busy street safely to get to public transportation. There are also other medical complexes across that street, and these are often destinations for medical consultations by blinded vets.
The campaign to get the accessible pedestrian signal installed began two years ago! Only one person opposed it. But it took the efforts of many to ensure that all legal, moral and safety points were brought out for consideration. A very large thank you goes to the Blinded Veterans Association and the American Council of the Blind, especially to Charles Crawford, Brian Higgins and Tom Miller. Especially thank you to our VIST coordinator, Karen Bays, who initiated this effort to ensure the safety of blinded vets at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, S.C. The materials and information which the ACB national office sent were helpful for educating officials and traffic engineers who had little prior knowledge about people with visual impairments. Last, but not least, a special thank you to the group of blind and visually impaired vets who worked together and would not let the issue die.
In late 1999 Jack Varnon, then president of Alachua County Council of the Blind (ACCB), set a goal to bring computer literacy to the blind community in north central Florida. The project sought to address three fundamental problem areas: finding funding for hardware and expensive software, identifying training instructors and creating a training site.
For nearly three frustrating years, the ACCB Computer Literacy Committee searched for funding resources to purchase an adequate system for any visually impaired person who was willing to learn how to use it and make it a part of his/her daily living. The committee found virtually all funding resources of the various rehabilitation agencies and private sector support groups were constrained by the requirement that a prospective consumer must have a job waiting, or a requirement for matching funds.
In early 2002, things began to move forward. Maxine Stallings, current president of ACCB and a board member of the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida (CILNCF) in Gainesville requested support from CILNCF for this project. The CILNCF board of directors and executive director William Kennedy agreed that the computer literacy project deserved support. A commitment was made to purchase the expensive software: JAWS for Windows (JFW), a screen reader, and ZoomText, a screen magnifier. After the software was installed on CILNCF's teaching lab PCs, CILNCF allocated time to accommodate the unique training needs of blind individuals.
Meanwhile, a new ACCB member, Todd Bowen, volunteered to teach blind students how to use computers with the JFW program. Todd was so dedicated, he even took two weeks off from his vending business to attend a training session in Daytona Beach to expand his own knowledge of the software and online technique. Then, Todd helped the computer literacy committee design a teaching syllabus which became the standard to determine if a blind person had achieved a basic level of computer literacy. Then it was determined that, upon successful completion of this preliminary training module, an individual would be eligible for a free computer system when one became available.
In April, a private individual generously donated 12 used PCs with monitors and keyboards. We were able to salvage six of them, and to make them compatible with the screen-reading software. Later in June, we received two refurbished PCs from FAAST out of Tallahassee. At this time, we learned that Windows 95 was no longer being supported by Microsoft. This meant we could install Windows 95 as a free operating system for the eight available computer systems to be given to those who met the standard.
Even though the Council has not yet resolved the problem of providing the potential computer literacy graduates with the expensive software (JFW or ZoomText), a decision to initiate the program was made. On November 4, 2002, volunteer Todd Bowen began teaching his first two eager students, Carol Massey and Reggie Howard.
ACCB still has two challenges to resolve. One is how to fund JFW or ZoomText software for the graduates. We are continuing to seek out PC donations to be refurbished and made available to the graduates of the computer literacy skills training class. The second challenge is to reach out and connect with the entire blind and visually impaired community. According to the Florida Statistical Abstract of the 1999 Census, there are 4,241 blind or visually impaired adults in Alachua County. It is our understanding that only about 400 to 500 appear on the data rolls of the typical agencies providing services to this population.
The Alachua County Council has as its goal to eventually make available to the entire blind community the resources of computer literacy skills training and raise awareness that blind and visually impaired individuals have the capability to handle directly and personally their finances online, read mail postmarked and write postmarked letters to loved ones and business replies with independence and dignity.
(Editor's Note: Those who have attended ACB conventions during the past few years will remember that through resolutions and speakers ACB has been very concerned about the accessibility of the largest Internet service provider in the United States, America Online. Here's an article outlining the changes under way at least partly due to the efforts of the American Council of the Blind.)
In our increasingly technological society, the ability to stay connected online to the people and things that matter most is essential in both our personal and business lives. This effort is an all too familiar challenge for people who are blind or visually impaired. However, advances in assistive and mainstream technology are making it easier and more convenient than ever to get the most out of your Internet experience. Here's an overview of ongoing accessibility initiatives at America Online.
At America Online, accessibility is about delivering an Internet experience that is friendly and easy to use for all members. AOL's Accessibility Policy addresses the technology needs of people with a wide range of disabilities, including deafness, cognitive limitations and mobility restrictions. For members who are blind or visually impaired, accessibility at AOL means the company is continually working to expand its products' compatibility with assistive technologies. AOL continues to collaborate with the blind community on ways they can further improve the usability of the service. From advances in screen reader support to a special subscription offer for members who are blind or visually impaired, AOL is committed to keeping accessibility considerations in mind during the design of new products and services. Responsibility Toward Accessibility
The driving force behind the company's recent accessibility initiatives is AOL's Director of Accessibility, Tom Wlodkowski. Wlodkowski, who is blind himself, is a respected expert on accessibility and managed several key accessibility projects during his nine plus years with the WGBH Media Access Group, including the development of audio menus to make DVDs accessible and the co-authoring of design guidelines to make science and math-based multimedia software accessible. Wlodkowski, who has been with AOL since June of 2002, has brought this same innovation and dedication to AOL's accessibility agenda.
"We have a responsibility to our members to deliver the most accessible Internet service possible," Wlodkowski explains. One of the key factors in making AOL easy to use for people who are blind or visually impaired is developing an infrastructure that allows AOL software to meet screen reader and screen magnification software halfway. The challenge of compatibility lies in the subtle differences in the way the various assistive technologies acquire information. With this in mind, AOL maintains regular contact with several assistive software vendors, including Freedom Scientific, GW Micro and others.
In addition to AOL's efforts with assistive technologies, the company also offers members who are blind or who have low vision an easy to use audio-based e-mail service called AOLbyPhone. With AOLByPhone, access to your e-mail is as close as your nearest telephone. Members simply dial a toll-free number to retrieve their e-mails via the phone. They can also respond to messages via voice, access 411 resources or get information that's relevant to their daily lives, including news, sports and weather. And since the entire system is voice-activated, it couldn't be easier; you simply listen and speak. For a limited time, AOL is offering members who are blind or visually impaired a special package that offers a discount to the AOL service plus access to AOLbyPhone. Call 1-866-854-1025 for more information.
An especially rewarding aspect of accessibility is that its value is not limited just to people with disabilities; improving the usability of the service benefits everyone. With the launch of AOL 8.0 this past October, the company introduced several new mainstream enhancements, which also deliver accessibility benefits for members who are blind or visually impaired. For example, AOL 8.0 supports hundreds of custom Instant Message sounds, which allow members to easily identify people who are online. Likewise new audio cues alert members to the arrival of new e-mail, improving the ability to monitor incoming mail.
AOL member Suzanne Tritten, who has been with the service for close to five years, remarks on her experience with AOL as a blind user, "AOL has truly made great strides in the area of accessibility over the past few years. One of the most useful new features is the custom Instant Message sounds that come with AOL 8.0. When I receive an IM from another AOL 8.0 user, I know who it is before JAWS tells me. For example, if I hear a big dog bark, I know it's my friend Mike; if the sound is a trumpet fanfare, it's got to be Tina. There are so many sounds available that no one on my Buddy List has yet chosen one that already belongs to someone else. It's a great addition to the service." Collaboration is Key
Wlodkowski notes that it's important to realize AOL's accessibility initiatives are not conceived in a vacuum, but are rather the product of close collaboration with a variety of disability groups. He meets regularly with the AOL Accessibility Advisory Committee, a cross disability group of advocacy leaders who advise AOL on current accessibility issues and provide feedback on topics relevant to their communities. One great example of the sort of success the committee can engender is last year's wireless program for deaf and hard of hearing students. One of AOL's Accessibility Advisory committee members, a faculty member from Gallaudet University, shared that the freedom to e- mail and instant message others while on the go using a wireless, handheld device was an invaluable resource for Gallaudet students. Together, Gallaudet and AOL devised a pilot program where AOL Mobile Communicator devices were made available free of charge to a group of university students. The pilot program was so well received that the company extended it last year for a limited time to the entire base of AOL members who are deaf or hard of hearing. This program is an example of how AOL works with various disability communities to better understand, and react to specific technology needs. Awareness & Education
Another key component of AOL's accessibility agenda lies in employee awareness. Wlodkowski explains, "In order to design a more accessible service, it's crucial for employees to understand as well as possible the unique challenges facing members with disabilities. We encourage our employees to think about how people with disabilities use the computer and keep those ideas in mind when they design new features." One way AOL reinforces this priority placed on accessibility is with the yearly employee awareness campaign called New Sensations.
Now in its second year, New Sensations offers a range of opportunities for employees to become familiar with AOL's commitment to accessibility. This year's program featured interactive kiosks where employees could test different kinds of assistive technologies including a braille embosser, customized keyboard overlays, and a mouse alternative for people with limited mobility. An art exhibit featured work by artists with cognitive disabilities and the company launched a new internal web site where employees can access the latest information on assistive technologies. The day was capped by a powerful keynote address delivered by Erik Weihenmayer, the world-class athlete who became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.
"New Sensations was a huge success this year and was well attended by both employees and executives. We also had a great turnout from members of the disability community, including ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford," Wlodkowski says. "We are also sponsoring another internal accessibility program called The Architect's Challenge. This exciting employee contest invites company technologists to brainstorm new accessibility solutions for AOL. It's just another way we aim to keep accessibility at the forefront at AOL and ensure that we are constantly working to make the AOL service easier to use, more relevant, and more integrated in the daily lives of all of our members."
Further information on AOL's accessibility efforts and projects can be found at www.aol.com/accessibility or AOL Keyword: Accessibility. To learn more about AOL's limited time offer for members who are blind or visually impaired, please call 1-866-854-1025.
In late December 2002, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) announced a change in terminology from what have been traditionally known as "grade 1" and "grade 2" braille. These categories will now be referred to as "uncontracted" and "contracted" braille respectively.
According to spokespersons for BANA, the change was made at the request of many in the blindness field. People often confuse grades of braille with first and second grades in elementary school. BANA believes that the change will describe the differences between the two systems more accurately, and will increase awareness and improve the overall understanding of how braille is learned, read, written and transcribed.
BANA urges all organizations, agencies, teacher training programs, braille production facilities, software developers, professionals in the field of blindness and braille readers to incorporate this terminology into writing, publications, presentations and general practice. The ultimate goal is to enhance understanding and more accurately reflect what braille is -- a versatile and effective reading and writing system for people of all ages who are blind and visually impaired.
(Reprinted from "Ascribe Newswire," January 8, 2003.) LONDON -- Researchers from Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins University, USA, and Brown University, USA, have discovered that melanopsin, a recently identified protein, plays a key role in a completely new light detection system in the eye.
Professor Russell Foster, from Imperial College London at the Charing Cross Hospital, comments: "It had long been assumed that the rod and cone cells of the retina are responsible for all light detection. However, over the last few years research from our group has led us to the inescapable conclusion that there is a third light detection system that has lain undiscovered over more than 100 years of intensive research on the eye. Although we have known of their existence for several years, it has proved difficult to discover much more about these new receptors."
Now, in an important breakthrough, scientists from the UK and USA have provided a direct link between melanopsin and this system. Melanopsin is an opsin-like protein which is expressed in a small number of ganglion cells in the retina of the eye. The research team tested whether melanopsin is part of the new light detecting system by measuring light-induced pupillary constriction in genetically modified mice that lacked melanopsin. When the mice lacking melanopsin were exposed to low light, their pupillary response was the same as normal mice, but when they were exposed to bright light their pupil constriction was incomplete.
Dr. Rob Lucas from Imperial College London at the Charing Cross Hospital comments: "Our results show melanopsin is a critical component of this novel photoreceptor. They also show that melanopsin is particularly important in the detection of bright light. This is important because we think that this new photoreceptor is responsible for telling our bodies that it is daytime; daylight is always bright light. Our research has led us to believe that, quite apart from regulating pupil size, the melanopsin photoreceptors may be responsible for a broad range of responses to light, including its ability to keep us awake and alert. It is also likely that these photoreceptors are responsible for resetting our internal body clocks to local time following a flight across time-zones."
A deeper understanding of these photoreceptors may provide new ways to overcome jet lag and treatments for disorders such as SAD (Seasonally Affective Disorder) that can be caused by a lack of light, particularly during the winter months.
The editorial staff reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, style and space available. Opinions expressed are those of the authors, not those of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. "The Braille Forum" is not responsible for the opinions expressed herein. We will not print letters unless you sign your name and give us your address.
In Reply to 'Because of the ADA'
I wish to comment on Ray Campbell's article, "Because of the ADA," which appeared in the September 2002 issue. In his article, Campbell states that the Americans with Disabilities Act has opened up many things to him. He cites paratransit service as one example. He also cites the detectable warnings on subway platform edges, the brailling of elevator buttons and restroom doors, and bus drivers' having to call out stops, as well as other benefits resulting from the passage of the ADA. He says that now, waiters in restaurants are obligated to read the menu due to the ADA; that in stores, he can now be assigned to work with a shopper. And he says he can get a transit schedule in accessible format, as well as an agenda from "my village board of trustees." While all this is true, the ADA still leaves much to be desired.
While it is true that the ADA has opened some doors to blind and visually impaired people, the law is weak and has served some disabilities better than others. People often believe that the glass is half full. I believe it is half empty. Let's not get too complacent, trusting and optimistic.
Campbell stated that, "Because of the ADA I can interview for a job and know that I will be judged strictly on my ability to perform the job. ... I can know that accommodations that I may need will be provided." Nothing could be further from the truth. If purchase of accommodations in the form of equipment is involved, employers would much prefer to hire a sighted person. Just because I got lucky enough to have a talking computer and Kurzweil reading machine on my job does not mean that the next guy, who was not as fortunate, is lazy or unmotivated. The fact that 75 percent of working-age blind people are unemployed should not be dismissed. All 75 percent can't be lazy or unmotivated for work. Let's not fall asleep at the switch of complacency; let's make accessibility and the ADA better than they are today.
In Reply To 'Woofers, Whackers, And Where Do We Go from Here?' To The Editor:
This is one of those letters I've been putting off and hating to write, but finally I just have no further options for expressing myself. I was intrigued by the title, "Woofers, Whackers and Where Do We Go from Here?" in the November "Braille Forum." Seeing that this article was by executive director Charles Crawford was even more intriguing. To say that I was highly disappointed by the use of language in the article is a gross understatement.
Let me say up front that I know Charlie Crawford is a strong advocate for guide dog related issues and that his heart, if not his stylus or keyboard, is in the right place and his logic is sound. I would readily go to him for advice and counsel. I also trust him to represent me as a member of ACB on national issues.
What I so strongly take issue with is the use of humor and overly familiar or "cutesy" terms when discussing such a vital issue as access to rehabilitation services for guide dog handlers. Such words as "woofers," "whackers," "doggies" and "pups" disrespect the serious nature of issues related to our mobility. "Pups" are juvenile dogs and therefore, not applicable to references of service animals as the dogs used as guides are no longer considered juvenile animals. Terms such as "doggies" and "pups" also reduce the guide dog to that adorable attachment we have with us. I cannot even address the use of "woofers and whackers." I would only hope people who use white canes are equally offended by the denigration of their mobility choice.
Too technical and picky, you may say, but the impression conveyed by such phrases as "folks using the doggies," "guide dog users cannot be as independent or self-reliant if they use their pups" and "before we all answer the question and get on our backs for a big belly rub" turn what is otherwise an outstanding article about choice and responsibility into a joke. This type of language makes it difficult for the non-dog handler to see more than just a cute little story in this otherwise well-written article that is the first shot across the bow of what will prove to be a very important national situation. It reduces our highly trained mobility aids, dogs though they may be, to cute puppies whom we bring along with us so we might make good puns in conversation.
These dogs are tools in the language of access law. I would hope that anyone writing on such an important topic would at least use terminology that reflected this point, if for no other reason than to put the discussion in perspective for, say, a rehabilitation worker reading our magazine and wondering what all the fuss was about. There is a time for humor and a time to write in a professional manner to address the behaviors we expect from professionals, including our dogs and ourselves. Again, I respect immensely the work Charlie Crawford does on my behalf as a blind person, but humor is not always the vehicle to use to soften difficult subjects, especially in the organization's national magazine and other correspondence.
In response to Communicating Computers
I am writing in response to your editorial coverage of circumstances surrounding Communicating Computers, a computer training program in South Dakota, and the issue of proper accommodation for dog guide users.
I will begin by stating that I am a member of the advisory board of Communicating Computers, and have been acquainted with the Calessos for several years. I admit that I was aware of the Calessos' attitude relative to having dog guides or any other dogs in their home. I also admit that I was mistaken in my understanding as to how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applied to activities in a person's home. I now realize that ADA provisions do cover activities in a home in which a business is being conducted. I regret that I and the other members of the board of directors were not as informed as we should have been regarding such rules.
Just as much, if not more, I regret the manner in which the editor of "The Braille Forum" handled the Communicating Computers situation. I received no less than 10 e-mail messages relating to the situation, which included copies of the original editorial well before the publication date. I was shocked at the tone of the original editorial, and the attacking approach taken by the editor. I felt that the original editorial was written in an almost NFB style ... one of attack, condemnation, and assassination.
After getting over the initial shock of the very critical attack, I contacted the Calessos and urged them to contact Charlie Hodge and others who are knowledgeable in the provisions of the ADA to seek a resolution of this misunderstanding by attempting to find the most effective method of accommodating dog guide users in their home. The Calessos did contact Charlie, and fortunately the original editorial was withdrawn. Unfortunately, the subsequent replacement editorial contained and made reference to the same critical, condemning views of the Forum editor.
I have been a member of ACB for more than 30 years, and have been active in support of the organization and what it stands for. I have found ACB and its members to be open-minded and fair in dealing with people who are blind or otherwise disabled. They have always been fair and positive in finding solutions to situations which are incorrect or improper as they relate to the treatment of individuals with disabilities.
I do not agree with the condemning, hostile attitude taken by the editor of "The Braille Forum" in the Communicating Computers situation. Even the replacement editorial, which was published in "The Braille Forum," made reference to statements from the original editorial. It was obvious that the editor had no desire to change her original attitude, one of criticism and condemnation.
I only hope that the attitude of the editor does not reflect a new attitude on the part of the American Council of the Blind in its continued effort to improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired in a more positive, constructive manner.
I have observed the controversy brewing between Stephanie Dohmen and the Iowa Department for the Blind with great interest. As a result of the controversy, ACB has tried to proceed while two affiliates -- Iowa Council of the United Blind (ICUB) and Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) -- have taken opposite stances. I feel I have a unique perspective, as I have been in close contact with all of the aforementioned organizations.
Two things which are very important to many Iowans are roots and traditions. As many know, the roots of the Iowa Department for the Blind go back to its administration by National Federation of the Blind (NFB) leader Kenneth Jernigan. He instilled his philosophy of blindness in all aspects of the department and headed the agency for over 20 years. Today the agency follows many of the same precepts which he put into place over 40 years ago. Based on the comments of Iowans on all sides of this controversy, I assume that the Iowa Department for the Blind is not very different from the way it was 12 years ago when I underwent training at the Orientation Center. Some of my observations and opinions are based upon these premises.
As I understand it, Stephanie Dohmen wanted computer and braille training. Department officials said they would train her only if she left her dog at home. This is when Dohmen brought in entities to uphold her civil right to use her guide dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act. GDUI President Debbie Grubb and ACB officials met with ICUB members and officials closely tied to the department, but no compromises were reached at that meeting. Thus, GDUI lodged a complaint with the Department of Justice on Dohmen's behalf.
Stephanie Dohmen's case highlights department officials' belief in their right to conditionally distribute services while encouraging their philosophy and discouraging other beliefs. I saw this firsthand as a student. We had a class called "the business of blindness" where we were unequivocally told that the use of dogs as guides promotes a negative view of blindness. Our instructor explained that the public sees dog guide handlers as less independent than cane users. According to this thinking, the public perceives that the dog does everything for its handler because the dog has sight and the handler does not. We were told that blind people have an obligation to conduct ourselves publicly in ways in which stereotypes and/or assumptions are minimized if not eliminated. Blind people also should do things in a matter-of-fact way that calls no more attention to ourselves than our sighted counterparts. Yet if attention is attracted, it should be to the blind person -- not the dog guide. Since dogs are attractive to most of the general public, they distract attention away from the blind person. To summarize, because of the public stereotypes about dog guides and the attention dog guides draw from the public, people who use dog guides damage the blindness movement.
According to the Iowa philosophy, dog guide users feel that they can function only because of the dog's vision. People who believe in the Iowa philosophy assert that the most independent blind person is the person who uses absolutely no vision at all. Based on these assumptions, the cane is the more independent and thus better means of travel for blind people. When I was a student at the Iowa Department, I was still afraid of dogs, so that part of my training didn't bother me. As a dog guide user today, I'm infuriated that people who are trying to figure out the best path for themselves are subjected to a training philosophy that actually closes off some of their options. At the very least, Stephanie Dohmen's case suggests that the agency is serving clients on the condition that they function by doing things only the way department officials wish. As one who always fought the student indoctrination, I applaud GDUI and Stephanie Dohmen for standing up to the predominant Iowa philosophy.
Department officials have said that they welcome anyone into the building to use whatever mobility method works as long as they are not undergoing training at the Orientation Center. I beg to differ. I remember seeing a man visit the department for services on several occasions whom department officials called "the whistler." He didn't use a cane or dog but simply whistled as a sort of sonar. The staff put him down in front of us students, saying he had a poor attitude and projected a negative image of blindness. Whistling wouldn't be my preferred travel method, but different strokes for different folks. Agency staff should not be making such value judgments about other blind people with their students. I haven't been back to the department since I have become a dog guide handler, but Dohmen's treatment affirms that all blind people are not treated equally under the law.
I received scholarships from ICUB when I was in college and know that they care about blind PEOPLE. In order to appreciate their support of the department, one must understand the strong ties between the two. According to department director Allan Harris on a recent ACB Radio program, both ICUB and NFB of Iowa hold meetings in the department's banquet room. Many current and former staff in the department are members of one of the consumer organizations. Based on these facts, it is not surprising that members of both of Iowa's consumer organizations have adopted the department's philosophy as their own. Thus it is understandable that ICUB supported the department's position.
ACB is a democracy, and though I vehemently disagree with ICUB's stance, I'd be the first to stand up and protest if anyone talked of kicking ICUB out of ACB. However, I believe that ACB board members contradicted the basic principles of the national organization by choosing not to take action to directly support the complaint by GDUI, a national affiliate. The Dohmen case has national implications, but to placate the Iowa affiliate, nothing directly supporting GDUI was approved by the ACB board.
I wonder what might have happened if ACB would have signed on or at least attached a letter of support to the complaint. Would ICUB leave? I'd hate to see them go. But if I were given the choice between ACB's fighting for civil rights for the blind nationwide versus having an affiliate in Iowa, I would choose the former. This inaction has brought up a lot of questions for me about the beliefs of the national organization. Do we truly believe in consumer choice and those 13 principles we have outlined, or do we pay those principles only lip service? Maybe consumer choice is contingent upon all affiliates agreeing? Which one has priority -- affiliate membership or blind people's civil rights? I am thankful that GDUI is willing to fight for guide dog handlers' civil rights without ACB. Yet I still remain strongly bonded to the organization.
Wherever blind people gather, you can be sure of one thing. Transportation, or, more precisely, the lack of it, will be a topic of conversation. Do you recognize yourself in any of the scenarios described below?
Have you ever been to a meeting of your local ACB chapter where there wasn't at least one person who arrived late -- usually well after everyone else had introduced themselves, often after meals had been ordered, served, and put aside? When you have left those same meetings, did you bid farewell to people who were still waiting, often outside in the cold, or the heat, or the rain, or the snow, for scheduled rides which had still not shown up?
How many of you have invested monthly income that you can't really spare to purchase a cellular phone so you won't feel alone or helpless during all those too predictable hours of waiting for rides that never materialize?
Many of us have advocated passionately for accessible voting -- only to discover that finding a way to get to our "neighborhood" polling place was far more daunting than casting any ballot, even a printed ballot that we couldn't read without sighted help.
Perhaps there's a movie theater in your city where you can watch described films. Perhaps, too, it's so much trouble to find transportation to that theater that few blind or visually impaired people ever even take advantage of the accessibility features. Perhaps the theater owners wonder why they even bothered to purchase the description equipment since so few blind or visually impaired people ever show up to take advantage of it.
Is there a mall where you live? Are there stores there where you can shop for just about anything you or your family might need? And does the bus that you have to take to get to that mall drop you off in the middle of a vast parking lot, so far from the stores, with so few landmarks for orientation, that you simply refuse to risk your personal safety to get to that mall and take care of your own personal needs independently?
On college campuses, which aspect of higher education is the most problematic for blind and visually impaired students? Yes, getting our textbooks on time and in the format that is right for us is a hassle. Yes, sometimes one needs a degree in cultural anthropology just to converse with the "helpful professionals" who are there to serve us in our disabled students' services offices. There are the professors who simply don't want blind students in their classrooms and roommates who don't want to put up with our talking computers or other assorted paraphernalia. But finding one's way across campuses bisected with dangerous, high-speed city throughways, and negotiating bus systems where drivers forget to call out the stops, or turn off the automated stop-announcement systems altogether: These are the problems that make blind and visually impaired college students tear out their hair, wring their hands, yell at their hapless guide dogs, and smash their mobility canes!
Have you ever missed a job interview because your paratransit vehicle was two hours late? Have you ever lost a job because, even though you were willing to take two separate buses and a subway train, and spend more than two hours in transit each morning, you just couldn't get to the job, which had an official starting time of 8:30 on the dot, before 8:36? Are there jobs you simply won't apply for -- not because the jobs don't seem to be a perfect match for your skills or interests or abilities, but because they are in a part of the county you simply can't get to from where you live?
How many formerly sighted people do you know who consider the day they had to put away their drivers' licenses the worst day of their whole lives? Do you know any blind people whose only social interactions center around talk radio? Have you ever known an older person who gave up on life altogether when she had to move into an assisted living facility because she could no longer get to the market to buy the groceries she needed?
All of these anecdotes -- each sadly based on a true-life situation -- describe the transportation and transit problems our community in general and each of us in particular must confront. ACB's Transportation Task Force wants to hear your stories. Just how personally and how negatively has inadequate transportation affected your life? Please take a few minutes to answer the questions on ACB's Transportation Survey, which is inserted in the middle of your "Braille Forum" (or recorded at the end of the issue if you read the magazine on audio cassette, or sent as a separate e-mail message if you receive the Forum in your in box). Computer disk subscribers, look for the survey as a separate file on your diskette.
The survey is quite comprehensive, and you may need to set aside some time to think about your replies, record them and return (via free matter, snail mail or e-mail) the survey. But the task force has concluded that the best way to communicate with policy makers, regulators, administrators and advocates is in the statistical and demographic language which serves as the tangible rationale for real-life solutions.
If you know blind people who do not subscribe to "The Braille Forum," please encourage them to complete the ACB Transportation Survey online at the ACB web site, http://www.acb.org. The task force requests that you return your completed surveys as quickly as possible, and no later than April 28, 2003, so that members will have the time to collate and begin analyzing the results, in preparation for writing the resolutions which will surely result from the data. ACB looks forward to making a real contribution to resolving the transportation difficulties which are the subtext of so many of our daily activities. Thank you all for participating in this important project.
Married, middle-aged, blind white male seeks a demure, comfortable talking watch. Black, white, silver, gold; it doesn't matter. I'm seeking qualities that run far deeper than surface color.
Before you respond to this ad, you should know that you would be my everyday watch. I have a sleek Seiko tactile watch that I put on along with my public visage. I wear it on my arm just for show. Oh, it can keep time. But it's fragile, high maintenance, and doesn't respond very willingly. I have to pry her open, grope her cold, unbending hands just for a glimpse at the time. She's good for show, but can't meet the demands of everyday, workaday life. I need a comfortable, dependable talking wristwatch which will accompany me throughout the days of my ordinary life; through rain and shine, the warm breezes of summer, and the chill cold winds of winter. I need a talking watch that doesn't come with an owner's manual as thick as a telephone book, and that doesn't have more buttons than an ear of corn has kernels. I need a talking no-frills, friendly, pleasant little watch which will respond willingly to my every touch of her time button.
So, you ask, how I've come to the point where I've put my pride aside and placed a personal ad? Settle yourself in, and pour a cup of tea. It's a long and heart-wrenching story.
Oh, I've had talking watches. My wrist is no virgin to the voices of telling time. But, my first love, my lost love, eludes me. She was a talking Seiko. She was bilingual, easy to set, comfortable on my wrist, and almost seemed to know before I when I wanted to know the time. Her time button was no mystery. It just sat there, at the lower right corner of her face, just waiting to respond to my touch. She was black, sleek, with a leather band. Oh... that leather band of hers! I ache just recalling her smooth leather band which, over the years, had conformed perfectly to my left wrist.
We were made for each other. I wore her proudly for years. Then, it happened. A moment in time which I have so often yearned to take back. I was foolish. I made a mistake borne of a momentary lapse in judgment. And it destroyed our beautiful relationship in the blink of an eye. I'll never be able to forget that fateful moment on White Water Lake in Wisconsin, on the pontoon boat, wandering a bit too close to the edge, and falling overboard. I was fine.
I climbed back into the boat, and, so wrapped up in my own folly, failed to notice what happened to that lovely little Seiko's voice. It wasn't until we were back on the dock when I, as I had done thousands of times before, absentmindedly placed my right index finger on her little time button. She sputtered something to me. I could barely discern what she was saying. So, beginning to panic, I pressed again. Her sweet voice was so low I could hardly hear what she was trying to say to me. I put my ear next to her face, and she voiced her last words to me. Softly, barely audible, she said ... and I'll never forget these last words of hers ... she said... Gosh! I can hardly recall this without a tear in my eye. This is painful! She said to me ... "The time is five twenty-five p.m." Can you believe it? There she was. My sweet, brave little Seiko. All but drowned, and still trying to tell me the time. Now, frantic, I pressed her button again. Nothing. Not a peep. She was gone.
Upon returning to Homer Glen, I rushed her to our local jewelers. I busted through the door, one hand on my dog's harness, the other cradling my lovely little talking Seiko. I didn't notice who else might have been in there. I made my way to the counter, breathless, and shouted for Dave the jeweler. "Dave," I called. "Dave, I've got an emergency!" Dave came running out from the back room. "What is it? What's the matter?"
"Oh, Dave, I've drowned my little tiny talking Seiko," I sobbed. He said, "Let me take a look," as he reached for her. "Careful," I said. "Be gentle." I hovered over him as he began to open her back, constantly admonishing him to be gentle, be careful. Finally, he looked up at me and said, "Barry, go home. There's nothing you can do for her here. I'll call you as soon as I know something." Wiping my tear-stained face on my shirt sleeve, I said, "Okay. But, call me just as soon as you know anything." He replied, "I promise, I'll call. Now, go home, and try to relax."
I reluctantly went home to begin the vigil by the phone. I paced the floors, waiting, wondering, chastising myself for that careless move aboard the pontoon. Finally, the phone call came in from Dave. I could tell immediately that the news wasn't good. His voice was somber and joyless. "Barry," he said. "Are you sitting down?"
"Dave!" I screamed into the phone. "Just give it to me straight, man!"
"Barry, there was nothing I could do for her. She was too far gone by the time you got her in here. Believe me, I tried. You know I tried."
"I know," I breathlessly uttered. "I know you tried. I'm not blaming you." Then Dave said, almost sheepishly, "Barry, do you want me to order another talking Seiko?" Mindlessly, I said, "I guess so." And hung up the phone.
I honestly don't know how I got through that night, tossing and turning, dreams of anguish piercing my sleep.
The next day, Dave called. Something more was wrong. What? "Dave, what is it?" "Barry, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I've called every distributor I know."
"Dave," I implored, "what are you trying to tell me?"
"Well, Barry, it seems that they no longer manufacture that wonderful little talking Seiko model. She had a pretty hefty price tag, and the market just wasn't there." There was a thunderous silence that fell between us over the phone lines.
It was all I could do to utter "thanks," and I slowly, distractedly hung up the phone. What would I do?
So, there's my story. I've gone from one tawdry little wrist tryst to another. Always searching, always longing, but never finding.
Oh, I've had talking watches since ... many of them. I've had fat ones, skinny ones, silver, gold, black and white. I've worn metal bands, leather bands, stretch bands, bands with clasps. I'll admit here, in the intimacy of these pages, that there have even been times when I've succumbed to the temptations of that cheap cube clock which just sits on the corner of the kitchen counter, waiting for a blind man in need of the time.
And don't talk to me about Radio Shack's talking watch. Been there, done that. She's no better than the rest.
And that rooster! Who the hell thought of that one? Was it supposed to be cute? Was it supposed to be attractive? Who wants an emulation, on his wrist, of a dirty, possessive, ornery, horny, foul-mouthed, shrill-sounding foul with an ugly hat?
I'm convinced that the committee that engineered that rooster watch is the very same committee responsible for the existence of cummerbunds, tongue piercings, and old men wearing Speedos.
So, if there's a demure, sweet, reliable, dependable, sturdy, little Seiko-like talking watch somewhere, please let me know.
Being blind or visually impaired can make the most ordinary tasks seem difficult if not impossible, especially for a newly visually impaired person. Managing day-to-day routines may become bewildering and frightening. Keeping track of information that once could be accomplished casually using pencil and paper can become an overwhelmingly stressful task. Once I worked with a person who could not read braille because of neuropathy. He spent hours and hours compiling a list of all the important people and phone numbers in his life and important appointments and dates onto an audiocassette. It took hours of time to retrieve information, and alas, when the tape finally broke, as cassettes will do, hundreds of hours of work and all of the information had been lost.
I worked with another person who wrote phone numbers, addresses, and other important information on sheets of paper with a bold marking pen. The system worked for storing important data, but because my student couldn't actually read anything she had written even a few hours after putting it down on paper, she had to wait for sighted help to retrieve any of the data stored in her meticulously prepared records. It is just as important for people with vision problems to have quick access to information as it is for the rest of the population, who can rely upon address books, cell phone menus, and PDAs.
In today's fast-paced, information-rich society, it is crucial for each of us to keep track of personal information, addresses and phone numbers, appointments, business memos, and a host of other kinds of data. For those with good vision, the Palm Pilot and other miniature handheld devices can make the difference between career success or failure. We in the blind and visually impaired community have not fared as well with accessible or affordable products that can keep us organized. Of course, there are several wonderful notetakers out there, some of which even include refreshable braille displays, and most of which can speak aloud the data they contain. But these devices are far outside the ability of many people who are blind or visually impaired to afford. Many of us have learned to rely on small notebooks complete with slates and styli, or small handheld cassette recorders, and battery powered calculators. Think about what it's like to pack your briefcase, or backpack, or purse; you need a checklist before you leave your house!
Well, you can leave all these items at home from now on. The affordable Voice Mate will take care of all of your organizational needs and many more.
If you can use a push-button telephone keypad and follow step-by-step instructions, then the Voice Mate is a product well worth considering for purchase, to assist you in your daily routine. All of the prompts are clearly spoken, and once you have familiarized yourself with the buttons, you will wonder how you ever got along without this handy helper.
How many times have you bought a product you thought would meet your needs as a blind or visually impaired person, only to give it away, or stash it in a drawer or on a high closet shelf --because you found it didn't really do the job? When you bought the device, perhaps some things seemed to be a perfect match for your needs, but as things turned out, other aspects of the device involved a visual display which made the product practically useless to you without sighted help.
The Voice Mate has been well designed, and if you have a vision problem, you will find it very accessible. The company's refreshing attitude toward its visually impaired customers and their quick on-line response to customers who have questions about the product's operation are truly wonderful. The Voice Mate has been consistently updated according to the desires and requests of the users group which interacts with the engineers and designers who created and continue to upgrade the product. The Voice Mate is, literally, changing the lives of blind and visually impaired people all over the world. Exactly What Is a Voice Mate and What Has It Been Designed to Do?
The Voice Mate is a digital organizer which operates with voice recognition. It allows you to store hundreds of phone numbers and addresses, to make memoranda, keep track of important appointments, and more. This multi-purpose tool assists by dialing stored phone numbers, keeps track of time and date, assists with math with its built-in calculator, and serves as a great alarm clock. The Voice Mate uses voice recognition technology to assist you in finding the information you are trying to retrieve. As an example, you can make an appointment using "key words," such as, "Dr. John Smith." When you direct the Voice Mate to the file where you have stored information about appointments, all you have to do is say, "Dr. John Smith," and the Voice Mate will find the record of your appointment and recite all the pertinent information you have stored about it.
You can also search for appointments by date. Do you have a hard time remembering important dates like birthdays, anniversaries, or maybe you need to take medicine and can't remember the dosages or prescription numbers, or number of refills you have left? The Voice Mate will assist you with all of these kinds of tasks. Just make your appointments and then forget about keeping all of them in your head at once -- the Voice Mate will do the rest.
The Voice Mate is very small. When four tiny AAA batteries are installed, it only weighs 5.3 ounces. The Voice Mate fits easily in a purse, shirt or jacket pocket. The Voice Mate has a hard shell plastic case, but if you are the kind of frequent user who carries the Voice Mate around with you everywhere, then I strongly recommend purchasing the leather case complete with belt clip. It is an added expense but well worth the investment of protecting your new and powerful aid.
Let's take a brief look at the actual design of the Voice Mate. If you lay the Voice Mate down on a table in front of you with the visual screen at the top, you will detect a hard plastic bump; this is the microphone. There's a rubber button for selecting what kind of information you want to work with such as the phone book, or appointments, or memos. On the left hand side of the Voice Mate there is a button for recording, which is activated by pushing and holding it down.
The Voice Mate has a door that opens toward you. Inside the door is a circle which is divided into four quadrants. This circle is made of rubber. And each quadrant represents a different function. Top left on the circle is the menu button; to the right of this button or top right in the circle is the erase button. Bottom left is "yes," and bottom right is "no." Below this circle are a left arrow and a right arrow, which allow you to move in either direction when traveling through your stored data. For example, if you want to check your memos, you can arrow through them to find the specific one you are looking for.
Below the two arrows is a regular telephone keypad, which allows you to enter information into your phone book, use different functions of the clock, and access your calculator.
No matter what your lifestyle, you will find the Voice Mate an indispensable way to manage your life with dignity and independence. For use in the work world I have personally found the Voice Mate to be indispensable. I am an avid braille user, but the Voice Mate gives me instant access to information which I used to store in bulky braille notebooks. Now I don't have to flip through pages of braille to find what I'm looking for; I can locate all those crucial bits of information with the push of a few buttons.
If you are a computer user, you can purchase a kit for downloading the latest Voice Mate upgrades free on line; you can also save your information onto your computer for back-up. This product is produced in France; there are many dealers available in the United States and throughout the world. The Voice Mate comes complete with a cassette recording of instructions, and there is a complete manual available for download online. You can also purchase a braille manual. Talk to a dealer about batteries and a charger if you are concerned about battery life.
For more information about this affordable, easy-to-use organizer, go to www.voice-assistant.com. There, you can also join the user group, check on the latest upgrades, read what others have to say about this product (good and bad), and locate distributors.
The Voice Mate, which currently retails for $230-$250, depending on the distributor you choose, is constantly being improved, and at present more memory and other new features are in store. I urge you to take a look at a product that could change your life, the Voice Mate. It certainly changed mine.
(Reprinted from "The Anchorage Daily News," September 4, 2000.)
"Dewy, misty mornings. Walking on grass. That's green."
Sahar Husseini has never seen color. She was born blind. Undaunted by theoretical obstacles, she took up beading as a hobby about a year ago, and it quickly became an obsession: long, lovely hours stringing colored or carved gemstones or bone or porcelain or wooden beads into necklaces. Hundreds of necklaces.
"This is red jasper and pewter," she says, lifting a rope of burnt sienna from a tangle of different colored strands. And another: "This is purple amethyst and crystal."
"How do you do that?" mystified customers asked at a recent show, the way they might ask a magician how he made the rabbit disappear.
Husseini grinned. Identifying beads by touch, by texture and temperature and shape and weight, is not so mysterious. Husseini's fingers know her beads, and she has thousands. She has a phenomenal memory and knows what names and colors go with what bead. Onyx equals black; lapis equals blue.
The real mystery is color itself. How does she decide which color beads go well together? Or how does she choose her clothes in the morning? What is color to someone who has seen only the black inside her closed eyelids and a brightness called "light," a non-darkness gift from the sun or a bright bulb?
Husseini does it by transferring the sense she doesn't have to ones she has -- sight to touch, to taste and even to smell. "I think of grapes when I think of purple. I think of this rich velvet that you can put your hands into."
Husseini was born 30 years ago in Jerusalem. She was four months old when her family figured out she couldn't see, a condition called congenital Leber's, she said. She was six when her father, a doctor, died.
Her mother and older sisters read books to her and spoiled her, she says. She eventually learned Braille and became a voracious reader. Husseini, whose first language is Arabic, was sent to an Anglican boarding school in Bethlehem, then a Catholic high school. She was a good student, often first in her class despite having to learn English and not being able to read the textbooks. After high school, while considering the options for her future, she spent six months at home reading everything she could get her hands on.
"Our house was made of stone, with no insulation. I remember sitting in the bathroom -- it was the smallest room in the house and could actually get warm in front of a gas heater and reading."
Husseini saw little future for herself as a blind woman in Palestinian society. "In a traditional society, people who are different don't really have a chance," she said. "I knew I'd never get married, never have a family. And that's a big deal back home."
Why shouldn't she have at least a chance for marriage and a family, she asked herself. "The fact that somebody is blind or has any disability doesn't mean they have to do less. They may do things differently, but they don't have to do less."
So on her own, still a teenager, she moved halfway around the world to California, where an aunt, also blind, lived. Husseini enrolled at Grossmont College. She got a talking laptop computer to take notes on. She did well. She went to graduate school and got a master's in social work from San Diego State University.
She came to Alaska three years ago to take a job at the Alaska Center for the Blind in Spenard. "We teach blind people to live in the real world, to be independent," she said.
Husseini tried her hand at beading for the first time on Easter 1999. She remembers the moment. Within a week she had visited the Black Elk bead store and spent $864. "I don't do things halfway," she said.
But she was interested in color before that. She cares about clothes, has closets full of outfits and bureaus full of sweaters -- 223 at last count.
And jewelry. Before she started making necklaces, she bought them. "I think I had one for every day of the year." Fussy about her appearance, perhaps even a little vain, she was determined that her dress would be appropriate, tasteful. She is impatient with blind people who don't care if they clash. "Because we're a minority, it's assumed blind people aren't going to match," she said.
Over the years, Husseini listened carefully as people talked about color. "I ask and I remember what goes with what." An expensive little computer the size of a cell phone, called Colortest, helps her coordinate. Press it up against anything, and it says the color out loud. When it says "orange," she thinks "bright." It tells her the color names of her beads, and her imagination does the rest.
"White is just light,'' she said, ''this shimmer."
"Royal blue. I have a picture of it in my head, a dark color that is rich."
"When I was a child, colors were more vivid in my mind, as if I had really seen them," she said. "Now they're more abstract. I wonder if in another life I was sighted."
Her fingers move through the strands. "Red. It's heat. I think of fire. I love to wear red, probably because I get compliments on it."
(Editor's Note: The poem below was submitted to the International Society of Poets to be displayed and read at their next annual convention, which Abby was unable to attend. This organization honored her with a Poet of Merit award for other poetry she has written. She noted, "This particular poem is something to which your readers can relate since it is about overcoming barriers between visually impaired people and society. So, I hope it is something you can publish in The Braille Forum." Here it is, Abby, with our thanks.) Before I went to school, I knew nothing about my visual impairment. I did not know that braille and print existed. I did not realize that some people can see better than others. I did not know about things such as white canes, guide dogs, or talking clocks, calculators, or computers. It did not occur to me that visually impaired people could read with the help of magnification devices. Before I went to school, everything seemed normal. When I went to school, everything was different. I learned that I am different because I cannot see as well as others can. I discovered that others sometimes treat people like me differently because they don't see visually impaired people as normal. I found that others don't always feel comfortable with visual impairment. When I went to school, I learned to be ashamed of my lack of vision. After I went to school, I realized that there are others like me who are in the same boat. I learned to proudly display my white cane and I found that it's all right to tell people I am visually impaired and that I need help. I fought against those who discriminated against me because of my visual impairment. I overcame the barriers and the differences between me and the sighted world. After I went to school, I came to terms with my visual impairment.
The announcement of products and services in this column is not an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its staff, or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products and services mentioned.
To submit an item for "Here and There," send an e-mail message to [email protected] You may call the ACB toll-free number, (800) 424-8666, and leave a message in mailbox 22. Please bear in mind that we need information two months ahead of actual publication dates.
The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) are proud to announce the Exchange Pioneers Fellowships. These fellowships will be awarded to people with disabilities in order to obtain internships with US-based international exchange offices or organizations. The incentives will provide opportunities for people with disabilities to gain experience in the international exchange field, and for exchange organizations to become familiar with disability perspectives. These internships can be valuable stepping stones toward employment in an international profession.
Five $2,000 fellowships will be awarded to people with disabilities to offset costs associated with completing an internship during spring or summer 2003. Internships must be between 25-40 hours per week for a minimum of three months in length. Interns should plan to support the organization's goals to increase their office and program accessibility. Each recipient will be required to write a publishable article about his/her experience and agree to be a peer mentor to others with disabilities seeking similar experiences.
The fellowship application deadline is March 1, 2003 for spring internships and May 1, 2003 for summer internships. Winners must have applied for internships prior to submitting an application. Fellowships will be granted pending confirmation of internship acceptance. Those searching for potential internship sites can explore the following web page for a list of some international exchange organizations that offer internships: www.miusa.org/participant/interntips.html.
For information or an application, contact Mary Ann Higgins by e-mail, [email protected], or by phone, (330) 854-9048, or Pam Houston at NCDE, [email protected], phone/TTY (541) 343-1284. NCDE is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and managed by Mobility International USA. Visit the web sites for more information on NCDE: www.miusa.org or AAPD, www.aapd-dc.org.
WXEL-TV in Palm Beach, Fla., aired the pilot program of "Cooking Without Looking" on January 4. A new audio-described TV program, "Cooking Without Looking" is the first-ever television show created especially for a blind and visually impaired audience. The show will help blind and visually impaired people enjoy the art of cooking while shedding light on issues visually impaired people face when dining out and eating in.
"We wanted to give our blind and visually impaired viewers something very special, something which would entertain, educate and empower," says Lee A. Rowand, Director of Television Programming & Creative Services for WXEL, TV 42. "It does all of that and more. Sighted people will get a lot out of it, too. It's enjoyable for everyone."
Magnifying America, the world's largest retailer of technology and specialty solutions for people who are blind and visually impaired, is the production underwriter of "Cooking Without Looking."
John Palmer, owner of Magnifying America, says, "We are very proud to be involved in the beginning of such a groundbreaking effort. 'Cooking Without Looking' will be revolutionary TV a show that will both inspire and educate people who are blind, visually impaired and, yes, even sighted. The show's done with a lot of humor and candor so that everyone will enjoy it."
The show runs from noon to 1 p.m. on Palm Beach's channel 42 (PBS).
California Canes has a new e-mail address: [email protected] The company also has a new mailing address, which is 16263 Walnut St., Hesperia, CA 92345. The phone number is (866) 332-4883, and fax is (760) 956-7477. You may check out new items on the web site, www.californiacanes.com.
"Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind" has a new editor: Gregory Evanina. Evanina, who has been an associate editor since 1991, replaces Michael Mellor, who is retiring after almost 19 years.
Here's one for those of you who have been calling in requesting a place to donate your used braille books and magazines. American Helping Hand, a non-profit organization in the state of Washington, is interested in collecting braille books, magazines etc. to be shipped to blind and deaf-blind individuals living in developing countries. Preprinted address labels will be provided to anyone who would like to help out and pass along their unwanted braille books and braille or taped magazines. Please contact Janice Lee at 312 N. 80th St., Seattle, WA 98103.
GoodySquare.com has digital voice recorders available. They are light, small, and fit neatly in a pocket or purse. And what's more, GoodySquare is offering ACB members a 30 percent discount on purchases of voice recorders made through the web site (www.goodysquare.com) or via the phone, (888) 229-0118. The model 7085 offers up to 9 hours of recording time and comes with all accessories. Model 904SU gives 4 hours recording time, and interfaces with a computer via a USB. Model 918SU offers up to 18 hours of recording time; it, too, interfaces with a computer via USB. Check them out!
The John Milton Society for the Blind is unable to continue its publications program, and will be discontinuing all its publications immediately. Due to the restricted nature of donors' bequests, the only program it will be able to continue is its scholarship program under the auspices of Community Funds, Inc. John Milton Society is searching for other organizations to take over its publications. If you subscribe to the JMS Adult Lessons Quarterly in braille or on tape, please note that Bill Owens at the curriculum publishing office of the Presbyterian Church will be keeping the mailing list for these publications while trying to find another group to produce the quarterly. You may reach Bill Owens at (888) 728-7228. If you subscribe to other publications, please visit www.jmsblind.org for alternate resources.
If you are a contributor, thank you for your stewardship. Should you wish to continue, you may include the John Milton Society in your will. You may also send donations (checks only please, made out to Community Funds, Inc.) to Community Funds, Inc., 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016. The office closed December 31, 2002.
More than 350 disabled veterans will ski the Rocky Mountains at the 17th annual Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village at Aspen, Colo., March 31 to April 5. This rehabilitation program is open to all U.S. military veterans with spinal cord injury or disease, certain neurological conditions, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments or other disabilities, who receive care at any Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility.
Sponsored by VA and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the clinic is hosted by the Grand Junction (Colo.) VA Medical Center and VA's Rocky Mountain Network. At the clinic, disabled veterans will learn adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing, and will be introduced to a variety of other adaptive activities and sports, such as rock climbing, scuba diving, snowmobiling and sled hockey. The U.S. Secret Service will also teach self- defense.
Known as "Miracles on a Mountainside," the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic shows that the lives of disabled veterans can be changed forever when they discover the extraordinary challenges they can overcome.
For further information, contact Annie Tuttle, VA Public Affairs Coordinator, Winter Sports Clinic, at (909) 422-3193; or Rob Lewis, DAV Communications, at (859) 442-2049.
Time Warner AudioBooks (a division of AOL Time Warner Book Group), AFB Talking Books (a department of the American Foundation for the Blind) and Dolphin Computer Access have partnered to produce the first commercially available audio e- book. Best selling author James Patterson will release his new novel, "The Jester," as an audio e-book in conjunction with its standard print, audio and e-book releases.
This new technology offers many features that allow people to enjoy books in a unique and exciting way. Readers can display the text of the book on the computer screen, fully synchronized with the audio of a professional narrator, or they can switch back and forth between the text and the audio. Those who are blind, visually impaired, or dyslexic may access the text via audio or on screen in large print or in braille. Additionally, the user's experience is enhanced with features such as the search function, in which the entire text and audio may be searched for keywords and phrases.
This audio e-book will be available on an additional CD included in the unabridged CD audiobook version of "The Jester," available from Time Warner AudioBooks in March.
The GE Interlogix Simon security system, Electronic House magazine's 2002 Product of the Year, is a good fit for the lifestyle and needs of the visually impaired. Simon provides home security, fire alarm, and environmental monitoring -- all in a sleek, new, low profile unit. The system delivers voice prompts and status messages to the user and describes, in plain English, the location and nature of an alarm. Simon assures users when it is armed properly and notifies them if it isn't.
Visually impaired users also appreciate the home automation capabilities of the Simon system. A dark home may be perfectly comfortable for a blind person, but from a security perspective, it is also inviting to burglars. Simon can be programmed to turn lights on or off on a schedule or in response to sensor activation, giving the home a "lived-in" look -- whether anyone is home or not. The optional Dialog Thermostat interacts with the Simon system to automatically adjust the temperature when no one is home. This provides convenient energy savings without the need to constantly adjust the temperature or try to program a thermostat that might not be designed for visually impaired users.
Simon can be turned off and on using a small, portable keychain touchpad that doesn't require any codes. This comes in handy when children need to interact with the system. Instead of memorizing difficult codes, the user has only to press the lock or unlock button to turn the system on or off.
To learn more about the new Simon system or locate a GE Interlogix Security Pro dealer in your area, call GE Interlogix at (800) 777-1415, ext. 2119.
The American Optometric Association now has a new Doctor Locator available on its web site, www.aoa.org. It is available 24 hours a day and requires no phone calls or referrals. If you're new to a community and looking for an eye doctor, use the AOA "Dr. Locator." You can locate optometrists in your area using ZIP code, doctor name, practice name, city or state. SINGLE-BUTTON SAP ACCESS
Panasonic is proud to announce the continuing expansion of its single-button SAP (Second Audio Program) access feature, conveniently located on the remote controls of the majority of the company's television and video products. The SAP broadcast helps people who are blind or visually impaired enjoy television programs. The SAP function button is consistently located in the upper right hand corner of most Panasonic TV remote controls and is easily distinguished from other buttons by three raised dots on the SAP button surface. In 2002, Panasonic featured the easy- access SAP button on the remote controls of 46 different products, and will continue to incorporate this helpful feature in the remote controls of most 2003 stereo televisions, VCRs, combo products, (televisions with built-in VCRs, DVD players, or both) and DVD/VCR combos.
Panasonic has also added more accessibility features throughout its 2003 cordless telephone line. The phone includes several innovative features that assist people who are hearing impaired, visually impaired or blind. The Innovations Award winning model KX-TG2258S and other Panasonic 2003 digital cordless phone models feature Talking Caller ID. Used in conjunction with the Caller ID service that may be available through the local telephone company, this feature enables users to hear who is calling before they even pick up the phone.
Other innovative features that are found throughout Panasonic's line are: slow talk; handset locator; beep alert; buttons that are differentiated by size, shape and tactile marks; visual ring indicator; handset speakerphone; lighted keypad; headset jack; TTY compatibility (also found in Panasonic's Allure phone); any button answer; and large buttons (on model KX- TG2208B).
More information about Panasonic accessibility programs and products is available at www.panasonic.com/accessibility. Consumers may contact Panasonic by e-mail at [email protected], by phone at (800) 211-7262 or by TTY at (877) 833-8855.
Toby Press will provide large print books in hard cover and 16-point type very soon, through Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and better booksellers. Titles will include: "Oliver Twist" and "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens, for $19.95 each; "The Scarlet Letter" & "House of the Seven Gables," both for $19.95; "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma" by Jane Austen, for $19.95 each; and "Collected Poetry by Walt Whitman," for $19.95; "The Sacrifice of Tamar" and "Chains Around the Grass" by Naomi Ragen, for $24.95 each, along with other classics.
For more information, contact the Toby Press, P.O. Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776-8531, phone (203) 830-8508, e-mail [email protected], or visit the web site, www.tobypress.com.
FREE TO GOOD HOME: Braille copy of the Bible, Old and New Testament, Revised Standard Version. 18 volumes. In excellent condition. I will send it free matter to the first one requesting it. Contact Hazel Daigle, 1919 N. Amelia Ave., Gonzales, LA 70737, e-mail [email protected], or call (225) 647-7649 between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Central time.
FOR SALE: Optelec full color CCTV, two years old. Paid $3,200; will sacrifice at $2,000 or best offer. Contact Bonnie Lyon at (801) 607-3952.
FOR SALE: 43 double cassette rigid plastic tape mailers with provision for address cards not included. Asking $50. Braille writer, $400. Contact Robert Ziegler at (763) 537-8000.
FOR SALE: Fully loaded CPU tower AMD 1.4 gig XP processor with 512 MB RAM and 40 GB hard drive. System comes with pre- installed Windows 2000 Professional, Win 2k service pack 3, MS Office 2000, and Supernova magnification and speech screen and document reader software. Includes Ethernet NIC. Must sell. Asking $750 or best offer. Super VISTA ISA 256 color video card/graphics adapter from Telesensory. Very hard to find. $375 or best offer. VISTA PCI 256 color video card/graphics adapter. Works in Windows 2000 Pro. Price $475 or best offer. Buyer pays for shipping. Open Book 4.0 by Arkenstone original CD. Asking $40. Open Book 5.0 original CD with cassette introduction. Asking $155. VISTA VGA video card by Telesensory with daughter card for CCTV connection, and mouse. Asking $75. MAGIC 8.0 screen magnification software (no speech) by Freedom Scientific; original CD with Keys floppy disk. Price: $165. Contact Jake at (281) 531-1145 or e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: Optelec 2020 CCTV, just over three years old, with 20-inch monitor. Asking $750. Contact Bruno D'Avanzo at (313) 565-1074 or e-mail him, [email protected]
FOR SALE: Optelec Clearview 317XL. Black-and-white, in mint condition. Not quite a year old. Comes with all manuals and cables. Asking $1,500. Contact Sidney Feinberg at (954) 428- 2870.
FOR SALE: A complete VideoEye System that is just over a year old for $1,500. This particular item really opened up a new world for my mother. She was able to read her personal letters and write checks for the first time in years. A talking clock with an alarm, $25. A talking lady's watch, $25. Contact Bettie Sanchez at (478) 956-4758, or e-mail her at [email protected]
FOR SALE: 20-inch Smartview CCTV. Hardly used. Comes with all manuals and information. Asking $1,500. Contact Jewel Bennett at (205) 387-7173.
FOR SALE: Romeo RB 25 braille printer, nearly new condition, with all cables and a braille manual, $400. Contact John Walsh at (360) 577-7913.
FOR SALE: Visualtek Voyager CCTV with 19-inch monitor, complete with dust covers and all manuals. Excellent condition. Asking $950. Call Bill or Kathy at (320) 252-8086.
FOR SALE: Two braille displays, a braille/graphics embosser, and a CCTV for sale at reduced prices. All equipment is in good working condition: 40-character Windows braille display, $4,500; 66-character Windows braille display, $7,500; braille/graphics printer, $5,000; and CCTV, $1,800. For more information, and best offer, please contact Jim at (415) 495-3101.
WANTED: Laptop computer with speech synthesizer. Prefer Macintosh. Contact Walter Chavira at (661) 833-3663 or by e- mail, [email protected]
WANTED: Kurzweil Reading Edge reading machine -- year 1995 or newer. If interested in selling, please contact Kimberly at (816) 806-8165, or via e-mail, [email protected]
WANTED: Parrot Voicemate or any portable voice-activated organizer as donation. Please contact Kazeem Busari by phone, 44 7752 479072, or via e- mail, [email protected]
(Editor's Note: This is Kathi's account of a bad morning, the kind we've all had, the kind that makes us want to go back to bed and hide under the covers. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did.)
walking on their shells.
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