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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.
Audiovision Canada ("Here and There," March 2003), which offers audio described movies, only ships to Canadian locations. Those in the United States who would like to order movies from Audiovision need to contact New Media Resources, Inc., at (818) 757-2200.
For many years, there has been a growing trend in the delivery of services for people who are blind which emphasizes a single, monolithic approach to how a blind person can receive rehabilitation services. This model of rehabilitation training does not begin from a premise that each person is an individual self-actualizing human being who can and should be able to have some control in shaping his or her life as a newly blinded person. Instead of allowing each individual to come to terms with blindness in ways that couple personal resources and behaviors with the teaching of specific concepts and skills, the approach prescribes a single model which is unilaterally applied to all trainees, with no regard for their beliefs or opinions. We have witnessed this trend hardening into such an unyielding dogma that rehabilitation clients are being forced out of rehabilitation programs if they choose to use a monocular to enhance their low vision, or to travel with a guide dog as their mobility aid. Further, a structured and single-minded philosophy of blindness is preached to rehabilitation clients, and these pronouncements about the "proper approach to blindness" allow no freedom of thought and, in fact, border on indoctrination, rather than education.
The American Council of the Blind, in conjunction with other responsible organizations who provide rehabilitation services to people who are blind, is taking a firm stand in opposition to this disregard for individual freedom and the rights of individuals to freedom of choice in their rehabilitation training. No longer can we stand on the sidelines and allow individuals to be victimized by a model that provides them no say whatsoever about the nature of the services which they can receive.
Below are two letters that have been sent to the Department of Education during the month of March that raise important questions about aspects of these service models and express deep concern to those who oversee the Rehabilitation Services Administration. First is a letter from the National Council of Private Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired. It outlines a series of concerns and requests that, we can only hope, will be seriously addressed by the Department of Education at the highest levels. The second letter is from ACB's executive director in support of the first letter, which asks for immediate dialogue on issues of concern to ACB and to the overall community of rehabilitation service providers. These letters are presented so that ACB members and friends can become more fully aware of and conversant with some of the key issues at hand. Further, we believe that it will be beneficial to all blind people in this country for you to begin asking questions like those raised in this correspondence of your own local rehabilitation service delivery systems. These letters represent the beginning of a concerted and concrete series of correspondence, resolutions and other means to promote the right of consumer choice in the rehabilitation process for people who are blind. I am sure you will agree with me that, by supporting and assisting in these efforts, we are standing up for the finest traditions of ACB, in support of individual rights and the personal freedom of every blind person who needs rehabilitation training to exercise intelligent choice while embarking on a path to a new life of coping with blindness, and living according to one's own plans and ideals, coupled with support for a base of training that comes out of professionalism rather than philosophical dogma.
March 6, 2003
Dr. Robert Pasternack, Assistant Secretary
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
Mary E. Switzer Building, Room 3006
330 C Street SW
Washington, DC 20202
Re: RSA Actions and Conflicts of Interest
Dear Dr. Pasternack:
I write as President of the National Council of Private Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCPABVI), a membership organization of over 75 private agencies representing 38 different states and the District of Columbia. This letter is written after our business meeting held February 19 in Los Angeles as part of the Vision Loss Symposium, our first meeting since the November New Mexico conference on residential rehabilitation facilities sponsored by RSA and the awarding of the $150,000 grant for a study of two certification bodies. These two federally funded events have sparked serious questions and concerns about RSA actions and activities among NCPABVI members and I write to convey those concerns.
Since RSA Commissioner Wilson's office had contacted me in the very early planning stages of the New Mexico Rehabilitation Training conference asking for NCPABVI representatives to be on the planning committee, I pass along questions and concerns about the conduct of that conference on behalf of our members. Feedback I received from our members of this planning committee was to the effect that from the earliest stages the conference program would not be reflective of the entire blindness field and that any planning input other than that of one consumer organization was essentially ignored. This national conference, sponsored with public funds, promoted only one modality, ignoring the wealth of positive experiences and expertise available from the NCPABVI members, other national and consumer organizations, and other attendees. With the exception of the consumer organization to which the commissioner belongs, the entire field of services to people with a vision disability disagrees with the use of that single modality as the only modality. I urge you to seek input from organizations of parents, professionals, providers, and national organizations when conducting RSA-sponsored events. If you do, the isolation of this one modality will become evident.
I also want to convey NCPABVI's agreement with the recent position statement from the Academy for Certification of Vision Education and Rehabilitation Professionals (ACVREP) raising serious concerns related to the $150,000 publicly funded study of two orientation and mobility certification programs. We are concerned about the process used by RSA in making this grant, an apparent conflict of interest in this study by RSA, and a bias against one of the certification bodies being studied.
As you know, this publicly funded study was given through discretionary funds to Dr. Ram Aditya, a former professor at Louisiana Tech who is now at Florida International University, with no announcement, peer review, or public request for proposal (RFP). If this study is to be accepted by the blindness field and all involved in the provision of services, it would seem to be more in the field's and RSA's best interest to publicly attempt to find the best researcher available. The direction of the funds by RSA with no RFP to someone with a connection to one of the bodies being studied through their professional position in one university connected to one of the certification bodies will lead to questions about the ethics of the study itself as well as its purpose. It should be noted that in addition to Dr. Aditya's former professorship in the one university program affiliated with one of the bodies, he is a psychologist with no previous background or experience in the field he proposes to study.
We are also concerned about a conflict of interest and bias from RSA when one sees Commissioner Wilson as having played such a prominent role in the formation of one of the certification bodies being studied. This apparent conflict of interest is only exacerbated by her use of discretionary funds in the process of granting the $150,000 when she would appear to have vested interest in one of the bodies being studied.
Regarding the study itself, a bias is evident in the very beginning of Dr. Aditya's proposal when he refers to the new NFB affiliated certification body as being "inspired and guided" while the other certification (ACVREP) was merely brought about through "substantial efforts." This statement reflects a more positive view towards the NFB certification and is made despite NFB's own statements from their publication and NFB formal resolutions expressing the lack of need for either a university degree or a certification program for orientation and mobility. (Braille Monitor, publication of NFB, November 2000 & NFB Resolution 95-04, July 1995)
Lastly in relation to this funded research, the literature put out by NBPCB indicates their certification body was established as part of a grant by the Department of Education. Given this, one again questions the purpose and reason for such a study as well as use of public funds to establish an outside certification body when one already existed. If RSA and the Department of Education funded the establishment of one of the certification programs, is there not a conflict of interest in now conducting a comparative study of the two programs?
This conflict of interest is also apparent when RSA funds were used to publish a book, "Freedom for the Blind," by James Omvig, current president of one of the bodies being studied and also identified with Commissioner Wilson as being vital to the establishment of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB). It is ironic that as far as we are aware, the funding of this publication by RSA was also done without any public notice of intent to publish such a book.
Members of NCPABVI urge you to use your position to insure that public funds and RSA activities are not inappropriately used to further the narrow agenda of only one consumer organization at the exclusion of other mainstream, parent and professional organizations and consumer groups. We believe RSA should encourage practices which reflect broader and all approaches to rehabilitation of people who are blind. Recent action by RSA has demonstrated the need for more thorough oversight and due diligence in order to avoid conflicts of interest and questions of ethics.
Thank you for your attention and consideration to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you and your planned response to these and other related RSA activities.
March 10, 2003
Dr. Robert Pasternack, Assistant Secretary
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
US Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20202
Dear Dr. Pasternack:
I am writing on behalf of the membership of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) with respect to the attached letter sent to you from the National Council of Private Agencies for the Blind (NCPAB). We also by this writing convey our serious and growing concern for the apparently biased administration of RSA by Commissioner Wilson in favor of the interests of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) as set forth in the NCPAB attachment.
The American Council of the Blind is a national organization of consumers who have a vital and immediate interest in the programs operated by the Rehabilitation Services Administration and its partners in the state agency rehabilitation system. The alleged activities outlined in the letter of protest against Commissioner Wilson's Federation-biased administration of RSA have had the effect of seriously diminishing any real informed choice for consumers seeking rehabilitation. In fact, practices such as denying guide dog users the ability to use their chosen means of mobility, forcing people to use sleep shades when they want to use their remaining vision in conducting daily tasks, and actively discouraging people with usable remaining vision from enhancing the utility of that vision through the use of low vision devices, constructively deny informed consumer choice guaranteed under the law. The very law which Ms. Wilson is charged to uphold.
ACB believes that the remedy to this egregious situation is to require Commissioner Wilson to cease and desist from her utilization of her office, her staff, and our tax dollars in advancing the parochial interests of the National Federation of the Blind and to take affirmative action to support a diverse service delivery system in which it is the consumer who chooses rehabilitation programming rather than the unwelcome imposition of a single model.
ACB therefore requests a meeting with you and Commissioner Wilson to discuss our concerns to avoid any misunderstandings or more direct action on our part. Please have your office call my assistant, Patricia Moreira, at the above number and extension 21 to arrange for the meeting. I thank you in advance for your cooperation in resolving this issue in favor of consumers who rely upon RSA for the valuable rehabilitation services we need.
Again this year, the ACB board of publications will host an online candidates' forum on the ACB web site, http://www.acb.org.
"This virtual forum will give ACB declared candidates an opportunity to introduce themselves and to inform members about the offices they plan to seek and how they feel about a variety of issues," says Charlie Hodge, chair of the board of publications.
"It will work as a read-only web page where all candidates who wish to announce and who wish to participate will be asked to respond to the same set of five questions. The online candidates' forum will allow ACB chapters and affiliates to have a preliminary introduction to announced candidates before they send delegates to the national convention. Each year since the BOP initiated its first online forum in the year 2000, we have been gratified to learn that a number of chapters routinely provide copies of the candidates' responses to their members in braille or read all the responses aloud at membership meetings." Lively discussions have ensued, and many members have told us how much they appreciated the opportunity to participate more actively in ACB's democracy because of the early dissemination of information which the online "forum" can facilitate.
How Will It Work?
The board of publications has identified five questions which all participants should answer in sequence. The questions are:
1. What office are you seeking, and what qualifications do you possess which make you uniquely qualified to serve in that office?
2. In a situation such as the Iowa rehabilitation agency guide-dog discrimination matter, where ACB affiliates may hold diametrically opposed positions, how should ACB react to and most appropriately take actions on, or resolve matters such as these, which may have potential state and national ramifications? If you can do so, please address in your response both the civil rights concerns of guide dog users and the traditional independence and autonomy rights within ACB granted to state and special-interest affiliates. As an officer, what do you see as your role in resolving such disputes?
3. How should ACB expand, diversify, and better mesh its financial, leadership and membership resources to meet ACB's ever growing needs?
4. What strategies should ACB use to make our advocacy efforts more effective, and what role should ACB officers play with respect to advocacy?
5. Please identify the three issues which, in your opinion, most urgently affect people who are blind.
Answer each question with a maximum of 250 words. Submit answers in any accessible, readable media, i.e., in print, or braille, on paper, computer disk (in ASCII text, WordPerfect 5.1, or Microsoft Word formats), or via e-mail. Pasting the text into an e-mail message is preferable to sending attachments, but attachments in ASCII text or Microsoft Word will be accepted. Submissions will not be accepted via telephone, voice mail, audiocassette, or in handwriting. Note that we will not edit submissions for spelling, grammar, or content. The only change which will occur to submissions is conversion to the HTML code to facilitate online posting. Note further that it is our webmaster's role to convert documents into HTML, and we will not accept submissions which you have coded in this format yourself.
For the sake of consistency, all participants should format personal information as follows:
Place your name, address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and employer and job title at the top of each page. Center each item. The top of your page should look like this:
Write each question, and then place your corresponding answer, consisting of a maximum of 250 words per question, underneath. Please number your pages.
Send your completed submissions to the following address: American Council of the Blind Candidates' Forum, 1155 15th Street NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005. Responses may be submitted by e-mail, according to the guidelines noted above, to [email protected] Time Lines
Submissions should be mailed, either by postal delivery or electronic mail, so that they reach the ACB national office no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Friday, May 30, 2003. When we receive a declared candidate's materials, we will check the ACB membership database to ensure that he or she is a member of the organization in good standing. We hope to have the online candidates' forum available at the ACB web site as soon after we have received all the submissions as possible, so that members will have access to the information in time for June membership meetings of local chapters. The Online Candidates' Forum will remain online at http://www.acb.org until the morning of July 11, election day. We encourage ACB members who have computer access to share the contents of the candidates' forum page(s) with members who do not. We anticipate that the forum will become the substance for discussion among ACB members at chapter meetings and other venues where blind people get together. We will notify members on the day that the forum goes live online on all the ACB e-mailing lists. In addition, Jonathan Mosen, director of ACB Radio, will utilize the contents of the candidates' forum as a basis for ACB Radio coverage of the 2003 elections.
When official campaigns begin in earnest at the ACB national convention, declared candidates will present at formal and informal state and special-interest caucuses. In addition, the board of publications will sponsor a live question-and-answer Candidates' Forum, which will be moderated by Jay Doudna, at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday of convention week. The board of publications encourages all ACB members to submit written questions which will be considered for this forum to the convention press room. More details about this and other aspects of press room operations can be expected in the June "Braille Forum," on the "Convention Ear," and in the pages of this year's daily newspaper.
"Once again this year, our process for electing officers begins at the ACB convention," says Charlie Hodge. "Following constitutionally mandated procedures, the nominating committee will meet early in convention week to put forward an approved slate of candidates. In addition, the floor will be open on Friday, election day, as it always is, for nominations of people who may not have decided to announce in advance. We do not anticipate that this online candidates' forum will alter the customary course of ACB elections in any way. We do expect the level of excitement about our candidates and the elections in general to build as we approach the dates for our departures to Pittsburgh, and the 42nd convention of the ACB."
Best of luck to all the candidates.
The other day, at the intersection at the corner where we catch our bus ride home, we met up with a neighbor and talked about his kids. We all listened and laughed about their antics because all our kids seemed to have taken lessons from the same book. Then at a Maryland Area Guide Dog Users group meeting I heard folks sharing stories about their dogs and even some mention of the hush-hush subject of cats! Later, we spent some time talking with the waiter who was serving our table at the restaurant where some of us gathered after that meeting. He was probably one of the nicest people I have met in awhile.
Sunday came and our priest opened up the service with a very human, and equally spiritual, plea for peace. Her voice practically trembled with conviction and compassion for all in the church. As I listened to her, I could feel her words and love take flight to places as deep as our hearts and as far as peoples I have never known.
Now as I try to focus on things that matter to blind people and ACB, I can't help but think of all the people I have had the pleasure of talking with in just this one week. How about that guy in the Senate who is a big cheese in a key senator's office? And then there were the people in the elevator on the way to the ground floor who could have been anyone in the Senate. What about the guy who polishes the brass inside our office building, the bus driver who gets us home at night, the woman from U.S. News and World Report whom I met on the subway, and how many more? Was our priest talking to them? Are their kids like mine? Do each of them know that they are an important piece of this puzzle that fits together into what we call humanity?
How very fortunate we are to have had the pleasure of talking and sharing in our lives. No, in many ways our conversations haven't seemed like the substance of what will change the world, but yet the more we talk with each other and share our lives, don't we accomplish more than all that government money aimed at integration?
Indeed, there are things we can believe without seeing. Those things are each of us in our own lives taking the time to appreciate one another and to know that in many ways it is our way of being, individually and within ACB, that allows us to be open to one another without judgments and allows us to approach one another with open minds and hearts.
I wish you peace, great chapter meetings, good affiliate activities, and thank each of you for being members of ACB, the best darned organization of the blind this country has ever known.
A telephone conference call meeting of the ACB board of directors was called to order by President Chris Gray at 8:35 p.m. (Eastern standard time) on Tuesday, February 11. Secretary Donna Seliger called the roll, and all board members were present except for Steve Speicher and Alan Beatty. ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford was present on the call, but Chief Financial Officer Jim Olsen was not.
This was the third in a series of conference calls aimed at allowing the board to continue its consideration of the recommendations of the budget committee. (See the March 2003 "Braille Forum" for a summary of the first two calls.) President Gray and budget committee chairman Brian Charlson picked up with the budget committee's recommendations at the point where the board had halted its review on February 2.
At its January 16 telephone conference call, the board had accepted the budget committee's recommendation to limit board members' reimbursable compensation at the mid-year meeting to only one night of lodging expense and one day's meal or per diem expense. The budget committee's earlier recommendation of a line item in the amount of $2,400 to support advocacy efforts on behalf of individuals had been withdrawn by the committee in its revised report. Similarly, the committee's initial recommendation regarding elimination of the office manager's position in the national office was also being withdrawn in the committee's revised report since the incumbent employee of that position had recently left ACB's employ for a more remunerative position. While the executive director has asked another staff employee in the national office to take over much of the functions of the office manager position, a vacancy in one staff position in the national office will be allowed to exist for a period of time until ACB's budget circumstances take a turn for the better. President Gray then indicated that he was going to defer further discussion of the budget committee's recommendations regarding potential performance bonuses for both the ACB executive director as well as that portion of any potential bonus for the chief financial officer attributable to ACB until an executive session of the board could be held during the board's mid-year meeting in Pittsburgh.
The board then turned its attention to the budget committee's revised recommendation in favor of a 3 percent cost of living pay increase for employees in the national office except the executive director. Mitch Pomerantz moved that in light of ACB's difficult budgetary circumstances, further consideration of this recommendation should be deferred until the post-convention board meeting in July. The motion failed on a roll call vote of five in favor to eight against. Those voting in the affirmative were Ed Bradley, Oral Miller, Mitch Pomerantz, Carla Ruschival and Donna Seliger. Those voting in the negative were Jerry Annunzio, Ardis Bazyn, Brian Charlson, Dawn Christensen, Paul Edwards, Billie Jean Keith, M.J. Schmitt and Pat Sheehan. The board then adopted a motion made by Brian Charlson to accept this budget committee recommendation.
Next, the board turned to the committee's revised recommendation in favor of a 5 percent pay increase for the manager of ACB Radio, and for additional compensation for ACB's webmaster. After some discussion, the board decided to defer further consideration of this matter until its mid-year meeting. The board did, however, vote to increase the webmaster's contract work hours from 20 to 30 hours per week at the current hourly pay rate.
Next, the board turned its attention to the committee's revised recommendation to limit funding for "The Braille Forum" to an amount which would permit publication of only 10 issues of "The Braille Forum" in the 2003 budget year with two of these issues being slightly larger combined issues. Charlson moved to adopt this revised budget committee recommendation. The board adopted this motion on a roll call vote of seven in favor to six against. Those voting in the affirmative were Jerry Annunzio, Ardis Bazyn, Brian Charlson, Dawn Christensen, Paul Edwards, Donna Seliger and Pat Sheehan. Those voting in the negative were Ed Bradley, Billie Jean Keith, Oral Miller, Mitch Pomerantz, Carla Ruschival and M.J. Schmitt.
(Author's Note: This directive was subsequently overturned by the board of publications during its February 28 conference call meeting at which the BOP voted to limit the remaining seven issues of "The Braille Forum" during the 2003 budget year to 48 print pages rather than the 56 print page issue size utilized over the past three years. By implementing this page reduction, the BOP hopes to derive sufficient savings to enable the ACB to publish an 11th issue of "The Braille Forum," which is proposed as a 2003 convention issue, tentatively planned for the fall. The BOP views this temporary page count reduction as a regrettable interim setback for "The Braille Forum" which was necessitated by budgetary constraints beyond the control of the BOP or the editorial staff.)
The board then came to grips with the committee's recommendation to authorize no board travel, lodging or meal reimbursement expenses to hold its customary September board meeting. Paul Edwards moved to adopt the committee's recommendation on this matter. However, after some discussion, the motion was defeated on a roll call vote of five in favor to eight against. Those voting in the affirmative were Brian Charlson, Dawn Christensen, Paul Edwards, Oral Miller and M.J. Schmitt. Those voting in the negative were Jerry Annunzio, Ardis Bazyn, Ed Bradley, Billie Jean Keith, Mitch Pomerantz, Carla Ruschival, Donna Seliger and Pat Sheehan. Carla Ruschival then made a motion that a September face-to-face board meeting be held this year, but that board members would be expected to cover out of their own pockets their travel, lodging and meal costs to attend that meeting. After considerable discussion, the motion carried by a voice vote.
Since the board had completed its review of all of the budget committee's original and revised budget notes, assumptions and recommendations, President Gray entertained a motion to adjourn which was promptly made, seconded and adopted by the board, and the meeting adjourned at 10:20 p.m. (Eastern standard time).
The American Council of the Blind will take advantage of its 42nd annual national convention to team up with researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, to host two research studies which may ultimately make a difference in all of our lives. The project is headed by Dr. Steven W. Lockley. You who were at last summer's convention will, no doubt, remember Dr. Lockley's interesting presentation concerning body clock disorders which may be unique to the population of totally blind people. (See "The Braille Forum," Convention 2002.)
Past studies have suggested that certain health conditions may be different for people who are blind and visually impaired than are the case in the sighted population. Dr. Lockley plans to survey health issues, including sleep patterns, possible reproductive health conditions, and lower risk of cancer, which may be unique to the population of people who are blind.
The studies plan to validate some of these earlier findings with a substantially larger population, and with more detailed assessments which participants will carry out in their homes. Dr. Lockley says, "We hope that the results may help to identify risk factors associated with certain medical disorders so that people will be able to make more informed lifestyle choices."
Any adult who is legally blind can volunteer to take part in either or both of the two studies. Part 1 consists of a survey that asks detailed questions about you and your health. Part 2 will consist of a home-based study where we will ask you to complete a daily sleep and nap diary for up to 8 weeks and collect urine samples for at least one 24- to 48-hour period while living at home. Some participants may be asked to provide samples every week. The samples will be measured for hormones to assess the timing of your 24-hour body clock and reproductive function. The survey and any instructions will be provided in the format of your choice including large print, braille, audiotape, computer disk or CD, e-mail, or verbally. The equipment used to collect the samples will be provided.
If you will be attending the 2003 ACB national convention in Pittsburgh and wish to volunteer for the study, you will be able to provide the urine samples at the convention, where researchers will be available to give you instructions and collect the samples. You will be asked to complete the sleep diaries in the weeks leading up to the convention.
If you are interested in volunteering for the study, or want more information about either the survey or the study, please call the toll-free phone number, 1-877-23-SLEEP (1-877-237-5337), e-mail [email protected] or write to Dr. Steven Lockley, Division of Sleep Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 221 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. Remember, if you write, to provide your contact telephone number, address or e- mail address.
We are grateful for ACB's participation in this ground- breaking research and look forward to sharing our findings with members and readers of "The Braille Forum."
In the March issue of the Forum, the what, when, and where of Vision Quest 2003 was introduced. Now! Here is how you can register. To request a registration form, contact Jill Tobin by phone at (216) 905-4674 or by e-mail at [email protected] A copy of the registration form is expected to be available on the ACB web site, www.acb.org.
Look for program updates in future issues of the Forum.
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.
Re: The Transportation Survey
To the Editor:
I just completed your transportation survey this morning. I think it is about time one of the consumer organizations embarked on a project like this; it is long overdue and is the only way to address long-standing transportation challenges. However, with that said, I need to offer up a bit of constructive criticism; the survey did not attempt to gauge the transportation needs of those of us with low vision, nor did it provide a mechanism to address the sentiments of those of us with a solid base of mobility training. Was anyone with CCLVI even consulted before this survey was posted? Here are a few examples of things I noticed while completing the survey:
1) The "how do you find your bus stop" question included responses for those who find their stops through use of tactile signs or large landmarks (benches and shelters) that can be found with a white cane. However, there was nothing on finding bus stop signs visually, which is the manner in which I locate bus stops. It would have been nice to see a survey question on how easy it is to find the signs with low vision techniques.
2) Bus and train signage: Again, the survey was geared to the totally blind user. Many of us who have low vision have enough residual vision to read transit signs. However, their legibility varies greatly. The large pitch and bright background on newer buses is easy for many of us to spot (even without low vision aids), while the older signs are often illegible to us. Similarly, many of us with low vision have an easier time spotting signage on LRT and subway vehicles if the signage is both on the front of the train and on the sides (as opposed to just the front). I would have liked to have had the opportunity to add input here. The same goes for signs in train stations, bus stations and at major "transit centers."
3) Training: Many of us with usable "travel vision" -- and I suspect a fair number of totally blind people as well -- are self-confident, have good map skills and/or possess an extremely good sense of direction, and we do not need to be "oriented" every time we move to a new metropolitan area or a new section of an area where we already reside. We received good overall O&M instruction in our youth or shortly after the onset of blindness and can (and do) use those skills to orient ourselves to new surroundings. On the question of "would you like to receive training," I would have liked to have seen a response that read something like "I do not feel I need training on the use of my transit system." Knowing who does and does not need to be oriented to their surroundings can serve a valuable purpose; it can help ACB in determining an overall strategy on transportation issues.
While I think the survey can use some tweaking, I think that conducting the survey is a very positive step by ACB and look forward to seeing the results in the not too distant future. Hopefully, the information gathered in the survey can be used to advocate for better transportation funding!
This initiative is to be commended.
Not a Fan of Accessible Pedestrian Signals
As a friend of mine was reading to me the 2003 February issue, I was appalled by the article titled "Accessible pedestrian signals in South Carolina."
Accessible pedestrian signals? Are you kidding?! Those are very, very dangerous. All they do is inform you as to when the light has changed, nothing more. However, with proper training, a person can easily determine when the light and traffic have changed. Some people unfortunately think that when they hear those audible signals, it's OK to cross at that moment. It's far more often not OK to cross right then. I am completely against any type of audible traffic signal. I'm blind, by the way. Every time I approach an intersection and I hear an audible signal, I simply ignore it. I confidently cross when I know it is safe to cross. Thanks for taking the time to read my statement.
More about the Iowa guide dog board vote
To The Editor:
I received my braille version of the winter 2003 "Braille Forum" today. As usual, I eagerly opened it to begin reading the latest happenings in ACB.
I am absolutely appalled at the results of the emergency board of directors meeting held in November 2002 regarding Stephanie Dohmen's situation with the Iowa Department for the Blind. As a dog guide user, I will uphold a dog user's right to use their dog in almost all situations, even when attending a rehabilitation facility whose leadership apparently believes they know best for all blind people. However, other factors of this situation are of more significance to me.
I am astonished that the Iowa Council of the United Blind took such an unbending stand toward a blind citizen of their state! It is very surprising to me that a group of blind and visually impaired people would agree with what seems to be a "canned" approach to adjustment to blindness training. The Department of Veterans Affairs rehabilitation centers, who without doubt provide the best rehabilitation training for the blind in this country and probably in the world, allow blind veterans to bring their guide dogs to training if they agree to take orientation and mobility training with a cane. Even so, no rehabilitation program for the blind is perfect and the "canned" approach to training is not acceptable to me. I have a master's degree in rehabilitation teaching and have worked in the rehabilitation field for over 26 years. It is my opinion that the training should meet the needs of the person receiving it instead of the other way around.
It also surprises me that ICUB leadership would say that Miss Dohmen could receive training at another facility, so the Iowa Department of the Blind is not wrong in taking the stance it has taken. This is rubbish! Separate but equal attitudes were outlawed in the U.S. over 50 years ago!
It is also my opinion that our national leadership of ACB are a bunch of wimps! I can't believe that they caved in to a group of blackmailers. ICUB should be ashamed of themselves. Are they afraid to take a stand against their state rehabilitation agency or what? President Gray is always referring to ACB as one big family. Well, do family members emancipate themselves from the family when there is a disagreement? No, they stay in the family and continue to work in the family with the issues they agree upon. If ICUB is so unwilling to stand and fight for one of their fellow blind citizens, then so be it. They should allow other people to stand up and fight for them. If our national leaders are too weak to fight for a blind person against a state agency, then maybe we should replace them with stronger, more effective leaders. GDUI did the right thing in this situation and I am proud to be a member of such a strong organization.
By the way, I usually make a financial contribution to ACB. However, I think this year's contribution will be given to GDUI.
Thank you for letting me speak my mind.
To the Editor and the President of ACB:
I am a member of Guide Dog Users, Inc. and also a member of the newly formed affiliate of GDUI, Maryland Area Guide Dog Users (MAGDU). I am greatly disturbed about some decisions that have been made by ACB's national board regarding the Stephanie Dohmen situation.
Dohmen's situation is not unique. Here in Maryland, a similar access problem is being dealt with regarding a guide dog user having trouble gaining access to some services offered by Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). The MAGDU president, Gary Norman, is working with this individual to try to resolve the problem.
I am certain that from the national board's point of view, it would be nice to keep peace in the camp and not ruffle any feathers (in this case, the feathers of the Iowa Council of the United Blind). They and GDUI obviously have a difference of opinion as to how the matter should be viewed and handled. But the rights of an individual are being violated, and I do believe that Guide Dog Users, Inc. is taking the proper step by helping Dohmen file a complaint against the Iowa Department for the Blind with the Justice Department.
I also share the dismay felt by GDUI regarding the national board's decision not to join in on the complaint. Rather than standing on the philosophy of promoting equality and opportunity, it seems that the board catered to the whims of ICUB just to keep that particular affiliate from leaving. It is encouraging to know that the national office provided legal support and advice to GDUI, but I feel that a golden opportunity has been lost here. The national board of ACB had an opportunity to stand up and say, "We will not tolerate such blatant discrimination."
The issue should not even be about the fact that two affiliates disagree with how the situation should be resolved. That is not what the board should have focused on. Instead, the board members should have taken the position that no matter who else is or is not involved, this person's rights have been violated, and she needs help. The national board should have taken into consideration the fact that this was an opportunity to send a clear signal to ALL rehabilitation centers serving people who are blind that ALL blind individuals -- cane users and guide dog users alike -- are entitled to complete access to ALL of the available services regardless of what mobility aide they use. Yes, to have joined with GDUI to file this complaint may have cost the American Council of the Blind an affiliate, but in order to protect the rights of Stephanie Dohmen, it might have been a worthwhile price to pay. Instead, the board let itself be dictated to by an affiliate that threatened to leave if it did not get its way.
I was not aware of the existence of Guide Dog Users, Inc. until about 15 months ago. I thought I might be traveling to Hawaii, a trip which did not materialize, and asked The Seeing Eye for information on the restrictions put on travel with dog guides. I was referred to GDUI. I am grateful for all the work that was done by the organization on behalf of dog guide users who wish to travel to Hawaii. Nevertheless, the process still seems burdensome and I hope that it can be streamlined in the near future.
After all the battles that have been won on behalf of dog guide users, it is shameful that another organization, the Iowa Department for the Blind, would turn 180 degrees and refuse to serve a dog guide user.
I have a friend in New York state who is a member of the American Council of the Blind, and she has told me of its very balanced approach to issues facing people who are blind. After my experience with the excellent information provided me by GDUI on the Hawaii access issue, I was impressed and joined the national organization. I am currently in the process of joining the Rocky Mountain affiliate.
Last night I made a donation to GDUI for the purpose of assisting in the legal expenses which might result from the complaint to the Department of Justice regarding the blatantly discriminatory practices of the Iowa Department for the Blind. It would have been better had I been able to make this donation to ACB. However, I understand that ACB and its board voted at a meeting convened by its president, Chris Gray, in November, 9 to 4 against signing on to this complaint. I suspect that ACB has more members than GDUI and that the force which could have been brought to bear in this complaint would have carried even more weight with DOJ had ACB signed on.
There seems to be a concern that, if ACB signed on to the complaint, the Iowa affiliate would sever its affiliation with ACB. My response to that is this. My husband has been an Episcopal priest for 36 years. People often threaten that if their church doesn't do what they want with their money, they will go elsewhere. They seldom do leave, and, when they do, the parish family is strengthened rather than diminished. If the Iowa affiliate refuses to uphold the rights of dog guide users, then they have no place in ACB anyway. They might want to consider affiliation with an organization which is more sympathetic to their views. Blackmail (let's call it what it is) is dishonorable in whatever form it takes.
I am delighted to join this battle. I'm called the ADA Nazi in my little town. I wrote a complaint to DOJ regarding the inaccessibility of our town offices. Just the act of copying the town board back in 1994 was sufficient to get the offices moved to a lovely and accessible new location. I received a response long after the situation was resolved. I think, however, that the Iowa Department will not be as compliant as the Lake City Board of Trustees. Incidentally, as a result of my experience of demanding this disabled access to town offices, I decided to run for that same board in 1996 and am serving until spring 2004. These things often lead in directions we could never anticipate at the beginning of the journey.
I hope that this letter will help bring about a change in the attitude of the board of ACB. I am happy to be a part of GDUI, but I am not so sure about ACB.
The decision of the board of directors of the American Council of the Blind not to support Stephanie Dohmen in her complaint against the Iowa Department for the Blind is misguided and shortsighted. If a major national organization which purports to represent all blind people fails to support one of its members, it fails in its mission. I believe that the Iowa Council of the United Blind has a conflict of interest. The fact that the secretary of the national organization is an officer of that affiliate clearly presents a problem. She cannot serve two masters and should recuse herself from this decision. The agency in question and the affiliate are well grounded in the misguided and antiquated principles of the National Federation of the Blind. Independence is a wonderful thing, and that means freedom of choice. Stephanie was not asking for mobility training -- she was asking to learn braille and to use the computer. Your failure to support her implies support for the ridiculous position of the state rehabilitation agency. A state agency should never deny services based on one's mobility choice. Whatever happened to tolerance for different methods and strategies for achieving our goals? I hope we're not getting to a place where a certain few dictate what we do and try to ram a philosophy down our throats.
In Response to Coverage of Blindness-Related Issues by Blindness Magazines
One of the basic premises for equality is the prevention of bias and prejudice. Those of us who are blind just want to be treated indiscriminately. However, we get back what we put forth. All too often, the very organizations which represent us create the same problems they are chartered to prevent.
As a blind individual, I review many of the publications published by disability groups. One of those is ACB's "Braille Forum." Another is a magazine printed by an organization appearing to be ACB's arch rival. The difference between these two magazines is like night and day. One fosters a rhetoric of reasoning while the other seems aimed at programming thought.
How unfortunate it is that organizations can often act like bad religions. Their mission becomes one of condemning all who do not follow or profess their beliefs. In worst-case scenarios, they go out of their way to negatively influence opinions. This recently became quite vivid in an account of a NAC meeting. The author of this article made it a point to describe an ACB official as confrontational and abusive to those he dislikes.
A primary principle of conflict resolution is for parties to abstain from name-calling or finger-pointing. Not only is this behavior unprofessional, it undermines the business at hand. Having never met the ACB official being maligned, I would prefer to judge him by what he says and does rather than according to someone's biased remark.
Disability organizations have got to understand that many prospective members want nothing to do with any group whose approach is routinely malicious or militant. Those of us striving for success cannot do so by carrying around such negative baggage. There are truly issues needing resolution within the blind community. However, what is needed most is a renaissance instead of condemnation in order to move forward. And by the way, I personally appreciate the sense of humor of the ACB official noted above, whose terminology includes woofers and whackers.
The Guide Dog Users of Oregon's 9th Annual Spring Romp is planned for the weekend of June 13 at Lewis & Clark College. This year's theme is accessibility. As in past years, one low price includes Friday and Saturday accommodations, all meals on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday. This year a bonus will be the pizza dinner on Friday night.
For more information, or to receive a registration packet, contact Judy Wilkins at (503) 227-3504 or via e-mail, [email protected] For more information about Guide Dog Users of Oregon, visit http://www.gduo.org.
ACB of Indiana will be holding its state convention Sept. 12- 13 at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center in Goshen. The room rate is $59 per night plus tax. To reserve your hotel room, call (574) 533-9551. For more information about the convention, contact Dolly Sowder at (812) 279-1669, or via e-mail, [email protected]
I am thrilled to let all of you know that, thanks to much hard work and the assistance of Lukas Franck of the Seeing Eye and Will Day of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, an accessible pedestrian signal has been installed at an intersection near my home.
A pole next to the crosswalk has a locator signal beeping at all times to assist blind pedestrians in locating the signal. When you push and hold down the pushbutton for a few seconds, it emits a sound to indicate that the voice signal has been activated. The signal comes from the pole next to the crosswalk, and says, "Safe to cross Pennington Road" at the best time to do so. It repeats this message several times. This corner of Pennington Road (Route 31) and Ewingville Road is a complex intersection with three left green arrows and four right on reds. It is difficult to know the best time to cross. I used the accessible signal this morning and found it to be a great step toward making travel safer and more accessible. My guide dog, Kory, and I thank all who made this a reality.
April 3: Oklahoma Council of the Blind, Trade Wind Central, 3141 E. Skelly Dr., Tulsa, OK. Contact Marilyn Sanders, (918) 488- 0845.
April 5: Badger Association of the Blind, 912 N. Hawley Rd., Milwaukee. For more information, contact Kathleen Brockman at (414) 615-0108.
April 9-13: California Council of the Blind, Arden West Hilton Hotel, 2200 Harvard St., Sacramento. For more details, contact the CCB office, (510) 537-7877.
April 11-13: Mississippi Council of the Blind. Contact the Mississippi Council office at (601) 982-1718 for more information.
April 25-27: Iowa Council of the United Blind, Ramada Inn North, 5055 Merle Hay Road, Des Moines. Call (800) 643-1197 to make room reservations. The room rate is $51 per night plus tax. For details, contact Donna Seliger, (515) 284-0505 or (888) 404-5562.
April 25-27: ACB of Nebraska. Call (888) 218-8061.
May 9-10: ACB of New Mexico. To reserve a room, contact the Best Western Inn Suites at (505) 244-7022. For more information, contact David Armijo, (505) 437-9295.
May 16-18: Florida Council of the Blind, Ft. Lauderdale. Contact Robert Miller at (850) 906-9821 or (800) 267-4448 (in Florida only).
August 22-24: Tennessee Council of the Blind, Clarion Hotel, Chattanooga. Contact Brenda Dillon at (615) 874-1223 for more information.
October 10-12: Illinois Council of the Blind, Radisson Chicago Northshore Hotel, 4500 W. Touhey Ave., Lincolnwood. Room rates are $79 plus tax. To reserve your room, call (847) 677-1234. Reservations must be made by Sept. 10. For more convention information, contact the ICB office at (888) 698-1862 or [email protected]
November 6-8: Washington Council of the Blind, Downtown Doubletree Inn, Spokane. For more information, contact Cindy Burgett, (360) 698-0827.
Come to the 2003 ACB convention in Pittsburgh and join us on ACB tours. We have something for everybody.
If you have an interest in our nation's history or want to learn more about the area of Johnstown, Pa., then you will want to join us on one of our pre-convention tours. On Friday, July 4, we will ride buses eastward to Johnstown where we will experience the sights and some sounds of one of the real tragedies of the late 19th century. Over 2,200 people were killed when a dam burst and a 90-foot wave of water inundated the town. At the Johnstown Heritage Museum, where you will be able to choose to be one of eight characters as you travel through the various cultural settings of this facility, you will experience the sights, sounds and smells of the community of late 19th century Johnstown.
After lunch at the museum, we will travel back to Pittsburgh, and on the way we will be stopping at the Flight 93 memorial. This is the site where the fourth hijacked plane of Sept. 11 crashed after its passengers heroically overpowered the hijackers and prevented them from crashing United Flight 93 into another unsuspecting target. What a fitting way to spend part of Independence Day, HONORING American heroes for the freedom we all share.
If you are coming in early, but don't want to be on a day- long trip, ACB tours has arranged to go to an early evening ball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros.
Both these tours will be completed in plenty of time for you to experience Pittsburgh's Fourth of July fireworks.
If you don't think you have the stamina for both these tours, and the fireworks as well, don't worry. There will be another chance for you to attend a Pirates-Astros game on Sunday afternoon, July 6.
ACB convention attendees have always enjoyed knowing more about our convention cities. Once again, we will offer two city tours, on Saturday and Sunday mornings. These three-hour bus tours will feature a top-notch docent explaining the areas that we travel through.
Like to play the slots? Saturday afternoon, July 5, we will be wheeling it over to Wheeling Island. Those who go on this tour will be able to choose from 3,000 slot machines or choose to go to the dog races. You will be back at your hotel in time to grab something to eat before you attend the Pennsylvania party.
Want to know about the ethnic makeup of Pittsburgh? On Sunday afternoon, while some go to the Pirates game, others will want to go to the University of Pittsburgh and visit the 27 separate rooms which celebrate the 27 different communities of our host city.
Watch for future articles in "The Braille Forum" where I can discuss many other tour events which await you during convention week. Let me whet your appetite by saying that our current plans include: the Vocal Group Hall of Fame; the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center; a two-hour walking tour of downtown; a micro-brewery and city tour in a vehicle that goes on streets and water; a blind services presentation by service providers in Pittsburgh; the Carnegie Science Center; a bus trip of several steel mill sites that are now part of the city's past; a Lewis and Clark theme cruise on all three of the city's rivers; a trip to a French/Indian battle fort and community; and the fragrant Phipps Conservatory. Once again, Friends-in-Art is planning an evening of dining and show tunes, at a performance of My Fair Lady.
Please check the ConventionScope to read detailed descriptions of these tours, to find out whether the tours you're interested in require a lot of walking; do or do not include food; spend the bulk of their time on the bus; and which tours include opportunities for shopping or time to go to a gift shop. The ConventionScope will outline policies that apply to each specific tour. We encourage you to read these carefully as you make your plans and decide among many tempting alternatives.
We have been busy exploring the city of Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities. There is truly something for everyone among our list of tours and attractions, so get set for an exciting time as you take advantage of the convention tours of summer 2003.
Not wanting to make their patrons wait another five to eight years to enjoy current popular titles in copyright-secure audio formats in CD audio quality, the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center (MITBC) in Pekin, Ill. has launched an innovative pilot program to distribute eAudio digital talking books to its patrons. The technology is already here and is being enjoyed by thousands of sighted readers, so librarian Lori Bell says, "Why make our blind and visually impaired patrons wait for more testing and evaluation to enjoy it?" With the launch of this service in January 2003, MITBC became one of the first talking book centers in the country to offer digital audiobooks to its readers through Audible.com.
The eAudio project, established in honor and memory of its former director, Eileen Sheppard Meyer, involves the loan of a very tiny MP3-like player, the Audible Otis, that has been loaded with two to three full-length, unabridged, premium spoken audiobooks (not read by a speech synthesizer) selected by the patron from the library's special collection of audiobooks. The player has 64 MB of built-in memory which allows for approximately 20 hours of reading time. There are no cassettes or CDs. The package provided each reader includes just the small player, headphones, batteries and instructions for its use. The library patron will use the digital player for 2 weeks and will then return it by mail to the library for use by another patron. Project participants need not be computer literate to participate in the project.
At the close of the pilot program in June 2003, Tom Peters, a national eBook expert, will write an evaluation report on the project and the experiences of the readers who participated. The MITBC staff will then decide if or how the project and service will be continued.
The source of the audiobooks is Audible.com, a private company and the Internet's leading provider of digital, downloadable audiobooks. Its services are available to individuals, public and private libraries and K-12 school libraries on a fee-paying basis. The books can be downloaded and read from one's hard drive, copied to a CD, or transferred to the Audible Otis MP3 player. There are a number of plans to fit individual budgets.
Audible.com has experienced a significant increase in the adoption of its program by sighted and vision impaired "listeners" who appreciate having access to new releases and best-selling audiobooks as soon as they are commercially available. As a growing number of blind and vision impaired people are subscribing to the commercial service, Audible.com is doing everything possible to enhance the accessibility of its service, including the posting of ACB Radio director Jonathan Mosen's excellent tutorial which aired last year on ACBRadio.org's Main Menu.
As a rapidly growing number of visually impaired readers are using and enjoying the Audible.com service, an electronic user group has been established. You can join by going to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BlindAudibleListeners/.
How very fortunate readers are if they live in the area served by the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center. But for those whose libraries have not yet caught the vision, just go to www.audible.com. There you will find more than 18,000 well narrated talking books waiting for you!
If you live in the area served, contact: Lori Bell, MITBC, 845 Brenkman Drive, Pekin, IL 61554. Phone (800) 426-0709 or (800) 537-1274. E-mail [email protected], or visit the web site, www.mitbc.org.
"Braille displays are nice, but I'm not a very good braille reader. I doubt that I'd get much from one."
This is how I thought of braille displays for years. Losing my reading vision as an adult, I never have developed a fluency in reading braille. Don't get me wrong, though. I'd be lost without it. Braille has allowed me to re-enter the world. From signage to menus to programs and agendas, I can easily keep up with my sighted peers. Lecture notes, short messages and labels for just about everything -- all in braille -- help me stay organized. In other words, I'm a huge proponent of adventitiously blinded adults learning braille.
I've heard it said by some in the rehabilitation profession that if a blinded adult is not going to use braille to read books and other materials, why spend precious rehabilitation time learning it? Unfortunately, such practices leave the blind person to his or her own devices to learn, practice and put in the hard work it takes to master the code. Many people just cannot find the time or discipline to do this on their own. Conversely, others have formed braille support groups to help newly blinded people learn to read and write again. It is thanks to several such groups, comprised of helpful long-term braille readers and a burning desire to be able to communicate and stay organized that I can claim any facility I now have with braille reading.
All of that said, when it came time to replace my note-taking device, I pondered whether to opt for a braille display. If anyone had asked me even three years ago whether I wanted a braille display on my notetaker, I probably would have declined. Those dots were hard to feel and I couldn't possibly handle them if they were moving. Valuing discretion in the use of any talking device, I had mastered using my notetaker with a headphone. This was clumsy, though, and began to affect how I could deliver information. It would be nice, I mused, to just pull up a braille phone number, address or other information as I sat on the telephone with someone, rather than having what seemed to be millions of different synthetic voices chattering away in my ear, while I searched through data files to find it. It would also be great not to have to give lectures or other presentations with a headphone stuck in one ear and a cord tethering me to a device that, if dropped, knocked over or worse, would break into a zillion pieces and take months to fix.
I was intrigued by the possibilities of a braille display but there was still the barrier of not being able to read those moving dots. Then I discovered just what reading a braille display was all about in a most unlikely way.
My previous experience reading braille displays had taken place with the Versa-Braille shortly after I learned contracted braille. I could recognize the dots but it took me what seemed like hours to read a word. Wasn't the entire purpose of having such a display to increase one's speed at reading? I was also afraid to push down on the dots as I did when I tried to read paper-based braille. As my touch at reading became lighter, and as I learned to recognize letters and words more quickly, I still worried about touching those movable dots.
Then it happened. I read refreshable braille in real time! My friend poked me gently during one of the general sessions at an ACB mid-year meeting. We were sitting near the back of the room, hopelessly bored, like good, concerned affiliate members. She motioned in a tactile sign language of sorts that she had written something on her braille notetaker that she wanted me to read. I swallowed hard and pretended not to want to read it. She knew that this was not a sudden attack of ethical conduct. I finally had to whisper that I wasn't very good at reading those refreshable displays. She, being the conscientious and skilled rehab teacher she is, would not take that as an excuse to miss her brief clandestine message.
I tentatively took the device and read the first line. She motioned me to hand it back once I'd finished. She would write a line, then hand it to me. I read the line and passed it back. Soon she was writing two lines and showing me the commands to advance the display.
Before long I was snickering at her little poem about the dangers of boring meetings. Then I realized how easy it had been to read that display. Oh, I would never be as fluent as she was at it, but I could read and make sense of a silly poem in less than a geologic age. Hmm, maybe this braille display stuff could work out for me.
Price loomed large as a concern though in acquiring such a device. As a graduate student, I had neither the money nor the rehabilitation case file justification to obtain a braille display. The only one I knew of was the Braille Light and I'd heard horror stories about its unreliability and fragile nature. Then I saw the Braille Note at a summer convention.
If it is possible to lust after equipment, I surely did after this device. As I began my job search, it seemed the natural and logical thing to request this piece of equipment as one of the only things I needed from the rehabilitation system. My state rehabilitation counselor, being the forward-thinking person he is, asked me to send him a "business case" for buying the device. This meant that I had to justify in writing why I needed a braille display and why this particular display.
I am very comfortable with this practice of researching and writing such documents for things I need from this counselor. The requirement forces me to look hard at why I might need them. After listing the uses of braille, such as quick and silent reference to notes, checking of spelling without having an earphone tether, and many other reasons that were job-specific, I enumerated the reasons for choosing the Braille Note over the competing device.
In early January, I received my 32-cell display Braille Note. To say that I am now a convert to the braille display is a huge understatement. Even though my first unit had a problem and needed replacing only three days after delivery, a new unit has been functioning perfectly ever since. The technical support from Humanware was outstanding.
I now use the braille display to check time, read notes, read documents and scripts for my part-time job as a help desk specialist and easily navigate the programs within the Braille Note. I rarely use the headphone and voice when taking notes. I have even started reading a real full-length book. Reading a book in braille is something I never thought I would have the patience or dexterity to do. I do revert to the speech at times with the book, but keeping one hand ready to check spelling and such on the braille is never far from my mind.
So, if you have been thinking about braille as something that's nice, but not really within your grasp, think again. The secret to really integrating braille into your life is to start slowly. Work yourself up to reading more and more, or writing braille more often than recording messages.
I must admit that I type much faster than I can operate a brailler or braille-style keyboard, so I have opted for the "qwerty" keyboard on my Braille Note. The beauty of it is that I can easily have that Braille-style keyboard with just a few commands, should I need it. This is truly the best of both, no, all worlds.
While we were writing this story with the thought of submitting it to "The Braille Forum" to share with other people who are blind, most of our country was covered by a blanket of white, and wistful thoughts of warmth filled the minds of many of you. Huddled around blazing fireplaces from coast to coast, discussions of winter vacations warmed the frosted air. Of the thousands of vacation spots across this great land of ours, few people who are blind or visually impaired may have thought of Hawaii as a viable destination, especially if they use guide dogs.
However, over the past several years, changes regarding Hawaii's quarantine laws have made it far easier to bring your pups to the islands. Information regarding requirements set forth by the state of Hawaii can be obtained by visiting www.acb.org/Hawaii or by contacting the ACB national office.
Nestled in Honolulu harbor sits the Aloha Tower Marketplace, a conglomeration of shops and restaurants. Aloha Tower, once the tallest structure in Hawaii, serves as the centerpiece for an area of Honolulu first viewed by travelers arriving in the islands during the bygone era of the steamship. Presently, Aloha Tower Marketplace is home port to the Norwegian star cruise ship and several dinner cruise/whale watch vessels.
Chief among the dinner cruise/whale watch vessels is the majestic Star of Honolulu, operated by Paradise Cruises Limited. Since 1957, Paradise Cruises (www.paradisecruises.com) has offered sunset dinner cruises, coastal cruises, weddings at sea and other sea-going adventures. Their two-vessel fleet, which includes the Starlet, can accommodate from 30 to 1,500 guests at any given time.
As disabled people who have been interested in travel and tourism long before moving to Hawaii, we were recently invited aboard the Star of Honolulu to experience the morning coastal whale watch cruise. Paradise Cruises prides itself on being fully in accord with ADA regulations and was willing to show off its vessel so that we might pass on to others the fact that Hawaii is truly a vacation destination for everyone, including people with visual, mobility or other disabilities. The Star of Honolulu and its staff are fully prepared to serve as gracious hosts to all, whether they arrive at the dock in a wheelchair, with white cane, walking cane or guide dog. Arrangements can be made in advance to suit any situation.
From January through April, the Hawaiian Islands are the winter home of humpback whales. Scores of locals and visitors head to the open Pacific to watch these graceful mammals forage for food and raise their young. Millions have watched in awe as these huge animals breech and send ocean spray skyward. The Star of Honolulu, through its "Hawaiiana Deluxe Whale Watch Cruises," affords all comers the opportunity to experience the thrill of whale watching, whether they watch with their eyes or a combination of extra-visual senses. Aboard The Star of Honolulu, visitors are treated to a two-and-a-half-hour cruise along Oahu's south shore past Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. As you cruise along, you will be introduced to a bit of Hawaii's culture and learn about local food, music and arts and crafts.
After leaving the harbor, passengers are treated to traditional Hawaiian music, chants and hula. The staff and crew are fully trained in Hawaiiana and are eager to answer your questions and teach just a few aspects of Hawaiian life. Among the activities on board, you might want to learn to play the ukulele or dance the hula with the hands-on assistance of the shipboard Kumu (instructor), or perhaps you'll want to learn to make your own fresh flower lei to wear with pride for the rest of the day.
As a soft sea breeze fills your lungs, you can wander toward the bow of the ship and indulge in a spectacular local-style Hawaiian buffet. Experience the unique tastes of poi, lomi lomi salmon, or the local island favorite, Loco Moco. To compliment these ono (delicious) foods there will be bread (poi and macadamia nut), salads and drinks. The staff will assist you in every way to make your dining easy and safe. If you want, they can describe all the different foods and help fill your plate with a taste of Hawaii.
Afterwards there will be ample time to explore the 232-foot ship. Stop at the bar for a refreshing tropical drink and climb to the fourth deck, accessible by stairs or elevator, and feel the wind against your face and the smell of salt air. The Super Nova Deck is an excellent spot for picture taking and allows for a panoramic view, all the while keeping an ear out for the captain's announcement of "Whales off the port bow."
As with all good things, sadly the cruise must end. As the "Star" slips back into her berth, the crew will prepare to disembark all guests. Assistance will be offered and you will be returned safely to shore.
Our visit with the staff and crew of "The Star of Honolulu" was wonderful. We were treated with respect; they were courteous, friendly and willing to assist us in every way. We felt right at home as part of the "Ohana" (family) and treated to a great trip. This cruise is suitable for all, young or old, blind or sighted. All areas of the vessel are accessible; the passageways, gangways and elevators are wide enough for those in wheelchairs or using walkers. The staff is there to assist without being patronizing. A fantastic time is waiting, so come on board.
Our "Mahalos" (thanks) go out to project manager Kamla Fukushima, Gordon Oliveira, Guest Services Manager and Kumu "cousin" Gordon for their help.
For information and reservations call (808) 983-STAR (7827). To arrange for private charters, call (808) 983-7884, or toll- free (800) 334-6191; fax (808) 983-7780. Or you may visit the web site, www.paradisecruises.com.
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.
Are you willing to share your expertise and knowledge with other blind parents? If so, then send your e-mail address to [email protected] and we will send you a survey to complete and send back to be used in a book for blind parents. Remember all your frustrations, aggravations, and joyful moments? Share them with others who can understand and benefit from them. If you have no Internet capabilities, you can send a request for the survey to: Barbara Bates, 169 Old County Road, Westport, MA 02790. Please specify tape or electronic disk (and format). No braille.
This is not an April Fool's joke. During the Ski For Light program held in Anchorage, Alaska, a fundraiser raffle was held with the prize being a ride on a dogsled in the Iditarod parade on March 1. Well, it looks like Ski For Light raised $1,500 and Pat Beattie won the drawing to ride in the parade...and did so.
The Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation, Inc. (ELA) is pleased to announce that the 2003 ELA Scholarship application is now available at www.ela.org.
The ELA Scholarship provides financial assistance to women with physical disabilities who are enrolled in a college or university graduate program in the United States. ELA scholarship awards are based on merit and are given in an objective and nondiscriminatory basis. Each applicant is required to submit an application packet including an application form, a college transcript, two letters of academic recommendation, a medical verification form and an essay outlining how she will "Change the Face of Disability on the Planet." Scholarships range from $1,000 to $2,000 per year. The application deadline is June 1, 2003. For more information, write to the Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation, 2460 N. Lake Ave., PMB #128, Altadena, CA 91001, or phone (626) 398-8840.
Studio Recorder (TM) is a powerful new tool produced by the American Printing House for the Blind. It is an audio recording and editing program designed to create direct-to-digital audio masters. It contains many features that make recording, editing and proofreading audio books easy, such as: the ability to speed up playback with no pitch distortion; three levels of phrase detection; index tone generation and removal; a simple user interface; accessibility for blind and visually impaired users; and much more. To order, visit www.aph.org or call (800) 223- 1839.
Pulse Data HumanWare is pleased to announce its "tell-a- friend" program to show our appreciation to our ever-growing BrailleNote user family. How does it work? Tell a friend, colleague, or associate about the numerous, exciting ways that the BrailleNote has increased your productivity, assisted you in the classroom, workplace, or home, and when this individual orders a BrailleNote or a VoiceNote, we'll either issue you a check for $100 for every order that results, or give you $100 credit per order toward your next Pulse Data HumanWare purchase. Simply have your colleague acknowledge your name and address and the serial number of your BrailleNote or VoiceNote in writing with their order, stating that you are the referral source of his or her BrailleNote order, and we'll do the rest! So assist us in expanding the membership of the first family of PDAs designed with you, the visually impaired consumer, in mind!
Earn a certificate in accessible information technology. No need for expensive travel or taking time away from work. Work anywhere and any time. Previous courses have included more than 4,000 participants from more than 36 countries. EASI provides eight online courses in accessible information technology which can be taken separately for continuing education credits; five classes comprise the certificate.
All classes are online, interactive, instructor-led month- long courses: Barrier-free Information Technology; Beginner Barrier-free Web Design; Advanced Barrier-free Web Design; Barrier-free E-learning; Accessible Internet Multimedia; Learning Disabilities and Adaptive Technology; and Train the Trainer. For more information, visit http://www.easi.cc/workshop.htm, or e- mail Norman Coombs, [email protected]
No, it's not science fiction. California Canes now has glow- in-the-dark canes available. They are made of the same carbon fiber as the company's other canes, but with a coating that glows at night, giving you more visibility. Prices range from $23 to $30 for standard, in-stock sizes. Supply is limited. Regular canes are also available. Contact the company toll-free at (866) 332-4883, via e-mail, [email protected], or visit the web site, www.californiacanes.com.
Blind-Novel-Tees invites you to check out our new screen reader friendly shopping cart and the new line of shirts! All shirts come in medium through 2X and are $16.95 plus shipping unless noted.
The newest logos are: Brain Works Eyes Don't; Lack of Sight Does Not Mean Lack of Vision; This is my Braille Shirt (with the word "Braille" in Braille); Have Cane Will Travel; Have Dog Will Travel.
Visit us and keep up with the latest at www.bntonline.com. We accept phone orders at (423) 626-2075 between the hours of noon and 8 p.m. Eastern (Monday through Friday). Master Card and Visa welcome! Write us at this address: Blind-Novel-Tees, P.O. Box 460, New Tazewell, TN 37824.
Amy McGarrah runs Amy's Braille Printing. She takes printed material and transcribes it into braille. For businesses, it's $20 an hour plus $1 per page. For individuals, it's $1 a page. Contact her for more information at (313) 538-1799 or (313) 930- 5071, or via e-mail at [email protected]
The RAND/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship in Education Policy is designed to enable outstanding young scholars in education policy to sharpen their analytic skills, learn to communicate research results effectively, and advance their research agendas.
Housed within RAND Education (http://www.rand.org/education/) and co-sponsored by the Spencer Foundation (http://www.spencer.org/) the program blends formal and informal training and extensive collaboration with distinguished researchers in a variety of disciplines. Fellows will spend 60 percent of their time on an appropriate RAND Education project and 40 percent of their time on their own research. Staff mentors will meet regularly with the fellows to ensure that the fellows' programs reflect their own research interests and provide opportunities for them to make substantive contributions on their project teams.
Fellowships are for one year, renewable for a second, and will be in either RAND's Santa Monica, Calif., or Washington, D.C., office. Each fellow receives a yearly stipend of $50,000, plus a research and travel allowance.
Fellows must have completed a Ph.D. in a relevant discipline such as education, psychology, sociology, economics, statistics, anthropology, or political science within the last five years. Applications will be evaluated on the basis of academic performance in doctoral studies, promise of continued scholarly growth and productivity, potential benefits from the fellowship program, and research interests that match those of the RAND research staff.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis for positions that begin in summer or fall 2003.
Sedgwick Press recently published the fourth edition of "Older American Information Directory." This new edition includes more than 12,000 listings addressing physical, biological, psychological, social, political and economic aspects of aging. A brand-new section on assisted living centers and facilities was added, too. The softcover edition costs $165; an annual subscription to the online database, $215; and combination pack (book and online) costs $300. Call Sedgwick Press at (800) 562-2139, or e-mail [email protected] to order.
The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research granted the Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center a five-year, $2.5 million grant to explore ways to improve employment and community integration outcomes for people who are blind or deaf and who are experiencing a secondary onset of hearing or vision loss resulting from aging. This project is a collaborative effort of MSU-RRTC, the Helen Keller National Center for Deafblind Youths and Adults, and the RRTC on Persons Who Are Hard of Hearing or Late Deafened at National University in San Diego. It will provide opportunities to evaluate accessibility and usage of assistive technology, investigate community integration strategies, and develop recommendations to improve communication systems, transportation and job placement strategies. Information from the project will be used to develop model service delivery systems for service providers, and to help families and consumers improve the quality of life of those aging with vision and hearing loss, according to B.J. LeJeune, the project's director.
VISION Community Services recently published the 18th edition of its popular VCS Resource List. It includes more than 100 items, many of which are free of charge, in a range of formats. Categories include eye diseases and conditions, consumer organizations, electronic reading and computer aids, financial resources, and much more. Call (617) 923-2790 and leave a message; be sure to specify your format choice. Or visit the web site, www.mablind.org.
Ottawa, January 17 -- Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, recently announced 100 new appointments to the Order of Canada and six promotions within the Order. Among the appointments is Newfoundland native (Nova Scotia resident) Terry Kelly. The following citation was written by the Governor General's Office and is posted on her web site (www.gg.ca) with those of the other new appointees.
"Terry Kelly, C.M., Member of the Order of Canada: A man of determination, perseverance and talent, he inspires people of all ages. Blind since the age of two, he uses his own life experiences to motivate others. A popular motivational speaker, he discusses fears and dreams, challenges and goals and the value of enthusiasm. A runner at the 1980 Paralympics, he has also made his mark as a musician and is the recipient of six East Coast Music Awards. His latest album is the first CD ever to be released with liner notes in braille. A portion of the revenues from every album sold is donated to the World Braille and Literacy Foundation and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind."
To learn more about Terry Kelly, visit his web site at www.terry-kelly.com.
Would you like to learn Internet skills while learning how to find your own books in the Louis Database? How about learning keyboard commands while browsing Fred's Head for daily living tips? Or how about practicing writing skills while sharing your experience with Brainwaves participants?
The American Printing House for the Blind is once again sponsoring a Summer Training Program for blind and visually impaired students. The goal of the program is to teach students how to use assistive technology to access APH on-line resources independently. These resources include the Louis Database of Accessible Materials, Fred's Head Database of Tips and Techniques, and Brainwaves contest Web Page.
How does it work? When you sign up for the program, an APH representative will design a workshop according to the group's needs, grade and size. On the date scheduled, an APH representative will come to your school or technology center to conduct the workshop. The training is free anywhere in the United States.
At the completion of the training program, students will be able to: look up books about their favorite topic in Braille, large print, tape, or disc; access information about Braille music; look up APH educational games and software; search for daily living, O and M, and technology tips; get info about the latest gadgets, sports, and recreational activities; and use their personal experience to help others. To make the program even more exciting, every participant will have the option of searching for and ordering a free T-shirt on-line through the Louis Database. Students will also get a certificate for completing the program.
For more information, contact Maria E. Delgado at (502) 899- 2340 or toll-free, (800) 223-1839 ext. 340; or by e-mail, [email protected]
The 2003 Siloam Camp for the Blind will be held June 21-28 at the Golden Cross Ranch in New Caney, Texas located just outside Houston. The cost for the camp is $200, which includes all activities, meals and sleeping accommodations. Pastor Bob Rathbun will be teaching the book of Revelation during the morning sessions and Rev. George Gray will conduct the evening services.
Activities for the week include two talent nights, swimming, horseback riding, a scavenger hunt, visit to the Holocaust Museum in Houston, a shopping trip to Wal-Mart, a hayride and campfire, and much, much more! Join us for an exciting time of spiritual refreshment and renewal!
A $25 non-refundable camp registration fee is required to receive the camp application and medical form. Make check payable to the Gospel Association for the Blind, and send to: PO Box 1162, Bunnell, FL 32110. Full and/or partial camperships are available to first-time campers which would cover transportation as well as the week of camp! For further information, call (386) 586-5885 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 12 noon (Eastern time) or leave a voice mail message at (866) 251-5165 mailbox 7128 with your name, address and phone number and someone will return your call with further information! Come and join us in Texas for a great week of spiritual growth and fun.
Two Nigerian organizations are seeking donations of braille and large print books and other reading materials, cassettes (both recorded and blank), books of the Bible on tape (New and Old Testament), pocket slates and styli, braille writers and typewriters. They are trying to open a school for blind children. If you have any of these items to spare, send them to either of the addresses that follow: The Director, Oshun State Library Board, Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria; or The Director, Ondo State Library Board, Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria.
FOR SALE: Keynote Companion multi-application palmtop computer, version 2.4J, with word processor, scientific calculator, address book and daily planner. Includes soft cover carrying case, with strap, external disk drive, connector cables, AC adaptor, user's manual and upgrade manuals on computer disk and cassette tape. In excellent condition. Asking $350. Contact Larry Johnson at (210) 590-6777 or via e-mail, [email protected]
FOR SALE: Braille Display Alva ABT 80 with 4 extra navigation cells. In wonderful working condition; hardly used. Not a scratch on it. Selling for only $2,710, but will take offer. Works with any IBM-compatible computer and all leading screen readers. E- mail Jay Victor at [email protected] or call (801) 358-7783.
FOR SALE: Two Perkins braille writers. One has small platen knobs, soft cover; one has larger knobs and a hard, hinged cover. Well maintained, in excellent condition. Asking $400 and $450, respectively. Insul-gauges, $5 apiece or $125 for all of them. On one side are raised Arabic numerals, on the other, braille numerals. Two wooden, custom-made boxes with hinged lids which some of the gauges fit into. Two Medicoolers and three freezer packs come with the Insul-gauges. Contact Robert Ziegler at (763) 537-8000, or e-mail him, [email protected]
FOR SALE: Mono cassette duplication machine (duplicates one tape at a time). Asking $250. Contact Bob Clayton at 715 W. 11th St., Cedar Falls, IA 50613; phone (319) 277-8290.
FOR SALE: Optelec 2020 CCTV, about 4 years old. Asking $750. Contact Bruno D'Avanzo at (313) 565-1074 or e-mail him at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Optelec Clearview 317 in excellent condition. Hardly ever used. Asking $1,250. Please call Ray at (954) 472- 7348.
FOR SALE: Optelec G17 with 17-inch black-and-white monitor. Brand new, still in box. Asking $1,200 or best offer. Contact Dan Copher at (954) 784-1778, or e-mail [email protected]
WANTED: Optacon magnifier. Contact Timothy Leary at (617) 536-1709.
WANTED: Perkins brailler as donation. Contact Howard at Valley Bible Church, (602) 264-7895.
WANTED: VoiceMate or Voice-Diary, in good working order, as donation. Contact Jerry at (304) 339-6489, or by e-mail, [email protected]
Because so many members and friends of the American Council of the Blind responded so generously to our annual fall fund- raiser, "The Braille Forum" will be listing those contributors over the next several months. Contributors' names will be published according to alphabetic listings of the states where they reside in this and the next three issues of "The Braille Forum."
ACB wishes to thank its many members and friends who gave so generously in response to our fall 2002 letter requesting support for ACB's ongoing programs and services. This partial list of donors reflects only those people who gave us permission to publicly acknowledge their gifts.
John L. Granger, Talladega
Dr. & Mrs. S. Hoffman, Birmingham
Mary C. Parr, Gadsden
Nola McKinney, Bonnerdale
Sylvia Barata, Benicia
Candace L. Berg, Portola Valley
Kevin Berkery, Burbank
Ralph Black, Sacramento
Beryl A. Brown, Santa Rosa
Bianca Culbertson, Carmichael
Dinesh Desai, Los Altos
Anita Doyle, Encino
Peter Lovecchio, San Jose
Francie Moeller, Guerneville
Peter A. Pardini, Mill Valley
Rex Ransom, El Segundo
Teddie-Joy Remhild, Burbank
Peter Schustack, San Luis Obispo
Frank B. Selders, Redondo Beach
Allie Thomas, Yreka
Janet Leonard, Lakewood
Ellen Telker, Milford
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