THE BRAILLE FORUM is available in braille, large print, half-
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Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for
publication should be sent to:
THE BRAILLE FORUM,
1155 15th St. NW,
Washington, DC 20005,
or via e-mail.
E-mail the Editor of the Braille Forum
Submission deadlines are the first of the month.
The American Council of the Blind is a membership organization made up of more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates. To join, visit the ACB website and complete an 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.
"The Braille Forum" extends best wishes to all the newly elected ACB officers: Chris Gray, president; Steve Speicher, first vice president; M.J. Schmitt, second vice president; Donna Seliger, secretary; and Ardis Bazyn, treasurer. For a recap of candidates, campaigns, and voting, be sure to visit ACB Radio at www.acbradio.org, where audio files of the 2003 ACB convention are archived.
We were excited to be able to include the first chapter of Larry Johnson's very entertaining new book in the July-August "Braille Forum." Unfortunately, we inadvertently misled our readers about the book's title. If reading "My Adventures in Mexico" by Larry P. Johnson has resulted in your wanting to run right out and purchase the book for yourself, you need to know that the book's title is, not "Train Ride," as the editor's note incorrectly reported, but rather "Mexico by Touch."
"Mexico by Touch" is available at 1stbooks.com, Amazon.com and through other booksellers on and off line, and we encourage all our readers to search by the title "Mexico by Touch" for this very entertaining book.*****
At its annual national convention in Pittsburgh, Pa., ACB members adopted the following resolution by an overwhelming majority:
American Council of the Blind Resolution 2003-6
Whereas, the use of a guide dog as an effective mobility aid is a legitimate choice for a person who is blind or visually impaired; and
Whereas, applicable federal disability rights laws guarantee access for persons using guide dogs in public programs; and
Whereas, American Council of the Blind Resolution 1979-09 represents a 24-year commitment opposing discrimination against guide dog users by service providers; and
Whereas, agencies continue to engage in unlawful discrimination against guide dog users; and
Whereas, this unlawful practice was demonstrated by the actions of the Iowa Department for the Blind in refusing to provide program access to on-site rehabilitation services to Ms. Stephanie Dohmen because she intended to use her guide dog while training at the Iowa Orientation Center for the Blind; and
Whereas, Guide Dog Users, Incorporated, with the support of numerous guide dog schools, filed a complaint with the United States Department of Justice on Ms. Dohmen's behalf; and
Whereas, it is the affirmative duty of the American Council of the Blind to advocate for the civil rights of guide dog users;
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the American Council of the Blind in convention assembled this 9th day of July, 2003, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., that this organization instructs its officers and board of directors to send a letter to the United States Department of Justice, within 30 days of the adoption of this resolution, in support of the complaint of Guide Dog Users, Inc., and
Be it further resolved, henceforth, that the leadership of this organization make decisions and take actions that recognize the right of guide dogs and their handlers to unhindered access to public programs, services and facilities.
As a result, the American Council of the Blind sent the following letter to the U.S. Department of Justice.
July 25, 2003
United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530
On November 26, 2002, Guide Dog Users, Incorporated, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, filed a complaint on behalf of Ms. Stephanie Dohmen of Des Moines, Iowa against that state's Department for the Blind for unfair discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Simply put, the complaint alleged violation of these laws by the department's deliberate denial of Ms. Dohmen's participation in a program of rehabilitation for which she was qualified, to which she was referred and into which she was initially accepted by the Department for the Blind until she arrived with a guide dog and consequently was denied services.
The American Council of the Blind hereby states its strong support for the enforcement of these laws in the situation described in the complaint and urges the Department of Justice to investigate this matter promptly and thoroughly as prelude to such enforcement.
You may direct your response to me as ACB Executive Director at the address above, and please accept my thanks in advance for your timely attention to this letter.
This may be the shortest president's message ever to appear in "The Braille Forum." Of course, many will recall a time when there were no formal president's messages at all. Be that as it may, we are short on space for this issue and that, along with time constraints, dictate for a very brief set of comments from me this time around.
First, I want to express my deep appreciation to the membership for providing me the opportunity to serve a second term as your president. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish these past two years, and I believe we will accomplish even more in the two years to come. No doubt you will continue to notice new names and faces on committees and on ad hoc task forces and subcommittees.
Now is a good time to look toward the future of what we can do in our great organization. Let us excel in those areas where success has eluded us so far. Let us confirm our partial victories with a broader scope of success.
With your support, we will be successful in the Visudyne/Medicare settlement. Networks and movie-makers will expand their use of video description so that one day blind people living all over the country will simply take its availability for granted. Transportation, education and rehabilitation issues will be in the forefront of our work and an integral component of our planning strategies for legislation and action.
Always remember that it is through strength and unity of purpose that we will accomplish our goals and objectives. I look forward to another two years of working with all of you to make that happen.*****
The American Council of the Blind is seeking to enter into a contract for services with an individual who will administer and have overall operational responsibility for ACB Radio. This contract is supervised by the president of the American Council of the Blind and ACB Radio is overseen by the board of publications of the ACB. ACB Radio is an Internet radio station that currently runs four streams through a dedicated server system.
The successful candidate must have at least two years of experience with Internet broadcasting, demonstrable knowledge of server technology, and excellent interpersonal skills. Experience managing people will be an asset since most of those producing content for ACB Radio do so on a volunteer basis and must be encouraged and motivated to do their best work. A thorough grounding in blindness issues, access technology and ACB are indispensable.
The successful candidate will enter into a contract with the American Council of the Blind. No insurance or retirement benefits are included with this contract. Compensation will be negotiated with the successful applicant.
Please forward a resume and cover letter in care of the President, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005. Either include a CD with samples of your broadcasting experience or indicate where on the Internet your work can be found.
Applications will be accepted until the contractor for this work is chosen. This announcement and the job description will be made available in alternate formats. Should you wish to obtain this material in another format, please contact the national office of the American Council of the Blind at 1-800-424-8666.*****
(Editor's Note: In mid-June, Jonathan Mosen, ACB Radio Director, announced that he would be leaving his position in mid-July in order to accept a new job with Pulse Data/Humanware. A few days before Jonathan's last ACB Radio show on July 18, ACB President Chris Gray announced the appointment of Dave Williams as ACB Radio's Interim Director. Dave has written the following words to introduce himself to those of us who may not know him, and to reassure us that -- despite our sadness at Jonathan's departure -- ACB Radio will remain in good and capable hands. Join us as we welcome Dave to the ACB and ACB Radio family.)
So who is Dave Williams and where does he come from? I live on the outskirts of Preston -- which is a small city in northwest England. My father is a retired police officer who lives in Vienna, Austria and my mother's family is from a farming background. Catherine, my sister, is a guide dog user and has recently accepted a position with a national library service in the UK.
I remained in full-time education until the age of 23 studying computing, mathematics, psychology, philosophy and politics among other subjects. Three years ago, a local college employed me to train blind and visually impaired people to use assistive technologies to access various Windows applications.
Additionally, I have been recruited to work on various audio production projects, including work for a telephone portal providing voice access to the Internet. Other audio-related jobs have included: re-mastering, voice-over work and production of IDs and promos for community and Internet radio. In 2002 I was proud to receive a national award for voluntary work after participating in a European social fund initiative designed to raise awareness of disability. I sit on a number of access advisory committees and feel strongly about advocating for equal access to products and services.
Under Jonathan Mosen's guidance I have worked with ACB Radio for more than three years. My voluntary roles have included: programming, promotions, recruiting, mentoring, and developing policy, sundry audio production and web development. Jonathan first came to my attention four years ago when he began Blind Line -- a weekly Internet broadcast where he would interview people of interest to the blind community.
In 1999, through his micro broadcasting station in New Zealand and the Hear Today project, Jonathan Mosen was promoting the idea that blind people from around the world could collaborate to manage and produce a radio station for the blind community. Former ACB president Paul Edwards shared in Jonathan's vision, and thus ACB Radio was born.
Today ACB Radio consists of four channels, hundreds of hours of archives and an international team of around 60 volunteer programmers, presenters and producers. A statistic Jonathan is fond of quoting is that the ACB Radio web site has received hits from people in over 70 countries around the world.
I believe the success of ACB Radio is due in no small part to Jonathan's incredible communications skills. He has a unique knack of being able to inspire and motivate with just a single phone call or e-mail. Jonathan has not only built ACB Radio, but by bringing together blind people from around the world, Jonathan has assembled an ACB Radio community.
On behalf of "The Braille Forum" readers, ACB members and ACB Radio listeners, I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Jonathan Mosen for his numerous endeavors over the last few years.
A number of people have said to me recently that Jonathan's will be a tough act to follow. This seems like a colossal understatement to me. However, I have learned a great deal from Jonathan and have his ongoing support. Most important, I have the backing and encouragement of the ACB Radio volunteers and listeners.
I have been appointed as ACB Radio Director on an interim basis. It is not clear at the time of this writing when a permanent successor to Jonathan will be found. However, I believe that I have the support and experience to steer ACB Radio through this transitional period. I look forward to the challenge, while fully acknowledging a debt of gratitude to those who have preceded me and now extend their faith and support to me, and I look forward to getting to know everyone in ACB better. Be sure to visit all four channels of ACB Radio, as well as the web site at www.acbradio.org, soon.*****
A few years ago, a close friend moved away from the D.C. metropolitan area to Puerto Rico, where her husband was transferred for a year or so. Since the births of our youngest children, we had talked virtually every day on the phone and arranged play dates for our sons and daughters who were about the same ages, several times a week. After she moved away, we stayed in touch, but, even when she and her family returned to the D.C. area just a year later, things were never the same. We still share the details of our lives and our children in occasional conversations -- but the distance and the change which resulted were hard on our relationship, and our lives have moved onward in ever more divergent directions.
I did not wish then, and I would not wish now, that my friend would have foregone the opportunity that her family's travel to Puerto Rico provided, but the changes in the daily routines we had shared and the resulting distance between us were hard to accept. I thought at the time that I should have been less complacent about the value our shared friendship had added to my life and to that of our children. I should have been more appreciative of what we had, I remonstrated, and I should have told her more often how much I enjoyed what we were experiencing together. I have other close friends who are as important to me today and with whom I share the different life stage that I am experiencing now, but I still miss the closeness of that earlier relationship and look back on all my friend meant to me with a mixture of gratitude and nostalgia.
All of those feelings have returned to my consciousness as I set about to write about a sea change in ACB Radio which occurred this month, with the leaving of Jonathan Mosen, the founder and director of ACB Radio, and the appointment of an interim director, Dave Williams, who has valiantly accepted the challenge of shepherding, maintaining and directing our Internet radio presence for the foreseeable future. In an earlier article, Williams introduces himself, and I know that you -- like I -- will welcome him to our ACB family and be especially pleased by the appreciation he expresses for all the ACB Radio accomplishments that Jonathan has left in his capable hands. But first, a few words of gratitude and appreciation are in order.
ACB Radio has grown from the kernel of an idea in the minds of a few perspicacious souls to a vibrant community of talented interviewers, musicians, disk jockeys, musicologists, historians, technical gurus and geniuses, policy makers, listeners, and admirers. I believe it is accurate to say that Jonathan Mosen has with talent, creativity, capability, will and charisma brought more admiring national and worldwide attention to the American Council of the Blind than anyone has since our founders first articulated the principles that separate us from other blindness-oriented organizations.
Listeners to "Main Menu" from all over the English-speaking world have come to identify ACB as a place where one can learn, in an unbiased and unencumbered way, about technologies, both low tech and high tech, that help people who are blind to live well, travel safely, and work as efficiently as our sighted colleagues at a variety of jobs. Fans of old-time radio have flocked to our impressive collection of programming in that genre, and we still receive letters from "Treasure Trove" listeners, old and young, sighted and visually impaired, who express appreciation for our keeping radio's first "golden age" alive.
ACB has derived much respect from the community of musicians and musicologists for the Radio Cafe which features all blind musicians all the time, and the Interactive stream which showcases the talent and creativity of blind and visually impaired deejays, humorists, and commentators. Jonathan's interviews of news makers, local and national thinkers and leaders, and political candidates have brought a breadth and immediacy to the kind of blindness-related information that, until the advent of ACB Radio, had never before been experienced by people who are blind and visually impaired. His interviews and program direction, along with his participation in ACB-sponsored events and on the ACB board of publications, have enlivened our political debates and transformed our principles of democracy, freedom of information and respect for diversity into a tangible reality.
When ACB Radio was still in its infancy and I was still listening only at work because I hadn't taken the time to figure out how to access the radio streams from my home computer, a sighted friend who has virtually no experience with the blindness community called to compliment ACB for its wonderful radio presence. "You have done more for all the talented blind musicians," said my friend, who is a professional musician and music educator, "than anyone inside or outside the industry." It turned out that every time he turned on his computer, he was tuning in to the ACB Radio Caf‚.
Thank you, Jonathan, for making ACB a household word all over the world. Thank you for showcasing the talents of blind software developers, musicians, guide dog users, radio amateurs, policy makers, parents, athletes, thinkers, and doers, and just regular folks. Thank you for your abiding faith in democratic principles, and for your dedication to freedom of expression and freedom of information. Thank you for bringing our convention into the homes of people who would otherwise never have had the ability to experience the sometimes messy, occasionally mundane, and nearly always interesting democracy by which we govern ourselves and direct the activities of our leaders and staff. Thank you for being a friend.
We wish you well as you move your family to the southern tip of New Zealand and begin to share your talents and your creativity with Pulse Data and the emerging BrailleNote users' community. Thank you for recommending to our leaders the very capable Dave Williams as ACB Radio's interim director. We are grateful to have shared these first three years of ACB Radio's development with you, and we wish you well.
If you missed Jonathan's last show on ACB Radio, you can catch it at: http://www.mosenexplosion.com/shows.html.*****
The world of literacy and libraries is far more complex than it has ever been. As blind people we face more and more challenges to our ability to read what libraries have to offer. The law calls for public libraries to be open to our needs. Libraries as we traditionally have thought of them are disappearing and most public libraries are now much more than just a repository for printed materials. There are challenges everywhere to the ability of blind people to access what we might call the new library. E-books are proliferating but most are inaccessible. Huge information data bases are being linked to our public libraries but the file formats often make what we want to read inaccessible. The catalog interfaces are becoming more and more graphical. Libraries routinely now have books on tape, books on CD, books that are downloadable onto memory cards and periodicals that are only available on microfiche or online. How are we as blind people to find our way through this maze?
The answer is join Library Users of America and help us make sure that the directions public libraries go acknowledge that we, as blind people, have as much right to access the information they are making available as do patrons with sight. We need you to help us!
NLS is at a crossroad, too. NLS is moving toward a conversion to digital books. What will the new machine look like? What kinds of features should it have? NLS is looking at choosing a portion of its collection to convert to digital format. Which books should be converted?
You can be a part of these decisions, too. Join Library Users of America and let your voice be heard. We need members; we need ideas; and we need to work to be sure that the voice of the majority of readers is heard as NLS makes hard decisions.
We need you and you, as an NLS reader, need us too. Together we can help shape the future of library services to blind people through NLS.
How will braille fit into the information future? How can we make certain that libraries continue to value and promote braille reading? The number of braille readers is tumbling downwards and there may come a time when it is simply not economical for libraries to buy it or produce it. What can we do? Join Library Users of America and become a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic has already begun to distribute books on CD. What kind of player do you need? How can we make sure that the new formats meet our needs? Bookshare also produces books that can be downloaded. How will we help resources like this one to expand? There is so much to do and, right now, there are just not enough of us to do it. We need you to join us and help!
Literacy is something that every blind person values perhaps more than our sighted peers who often take books and magazines for granted. In the past, we have had few choices to make. There was never enough to read. Now that is not the case. There is more out there than any of us could possibly read. The trouble is that we can't read a lot of what's out there. Library Users of America is the affiliate set up to mediate the information age.
Unless all of us make clear, reasoned demands for change, we will be left behind and the torrent of information that is sweeping down upon us will flow right over us.
To join Library Users of America (LUA) send your check payable to LUA for $12 to Pat Price, LUA Treasurer, 5707 Brockton Drive #302, Indianapolis, IN 46220-5481. If you reside in California, your dues are $15, which includes membership in the California LUA chapter. If you reside in Texas, your dues are $14, which includes membership in the Texas LUA chapter.
We publish a newsletter edited by Tom Mitchell that comes out twice a year and is available on tape, via e-mail or in braille. When you join, let us know which version you want. Shape your own reading future and make sure that all of us can read in the future. LUA can help! Join us now and help make a difference!*****
** Now Available: Willard Scott Public Service Announcements to Promote ACB
Willard Scott of NBC's "Today Show" recently recorded a set of three 30-second radio public service announcements for ACB. The package is expected to be ready for distribution about the time you receive your September "Braille Forum." If your affiliate has a public relations committee or someone to promote your group, please ask that committee or person in the know to share the call letters and mailing address of the largest radio stations in your area with Billie Jean Keith. Some radio stations do not broadcast pre-recorded PSAs, but if there are radio stations in your area that do carry such PSAs, then they will be thrilled to receive these.
The package contains a CD with the three PSAs, a letter introducing ACB to the radio station and asking that the spots be played, along with the printed text of the recording. Contact Billie Jean by phone at (703) 528-4455, or send an e-mail message to [email protected]
** BFLAG Shows Its Colors in Baltimore
BFLAG was well represented in Baltimore's Pride Parade on June 14th. BFLAG members Butch Arnold, Larry King and Auggie Dorsett along with friends Erin and Ryan made sure all went well. While Ryan took most pictures, and Auggie got the drinks ready, Larry and Erin bravely walked and proudly held the new BFLAG banner high. Butch drove the "GEM" car 15 feet behind them. As the group passed the reviewing stand, BFLAG's 2003 convention in Pittsburgh got a very good plug and the crowd roared.
After the two-hour parade, the group piled back in the "GEM" and went to the Club Atlantis for more pride festivities. The BFLAG banner hung proudly at the entrance all night for all to see and read. Spectators commented on how nice the BFLAG pins and flag looked and many more people now know what BFLAG is. The banner we carried was displayed at our convention for all to see.
** ACB of Maryland Has A New Chapter!
ACB of Maryland is pleased to announce the formation of a new chapter which is currently meeting in Bowie. For more information, call Juanita Hartsfield at (410) 672-7191 or ACB of Maryland at (410) 529-9475.
** LUA Elects Officers
LUA elected officers during the convention in Pittsburgh. They are: Sharon Strzalkowski, president; Paul Edwards, vice president; Rachel Ames, secretary; Pat Price, treasurer; and Earlene Hughes, board member. Congratulations!** VIDPI Blown to BITS
The annual meeting of VIDPI was held on July 10, 2003 in Pittsburgh. At that time, the organization voted to change its name to Blind Information Technology Specialists or BITS.
BITS also elected new officers: Robert Rogers, president; Frank Welte, vice president; Earlene Hughes, secretary; Mary Abramson, treasurer; James Denham, membership secretary; and Susan Thompson, board member. With the election of Susan Thompson from Australia, BITS became truly an international ACB affiliate.
** North Carolina Convention Coming Soon!
The North Carolina Council of the Blind's state convention will be held September 26-28, 2003 at the Holiday Inn in Burlington, N.C. For reservations call (336) 229-5203. Room rates are $59 single or double, plus tax. Contact President Wayne Yelton at (336) 562-5884 for more information.
** SCLC-VIVA's Calendar of Events
The South Carolina Low Country chapter of VIVA has a busy year planned. Take a look ahead! If you'll be in the area and are interested in one of these activities, call (843) 763-0785 and see if there's room for you.
October 9-11: South Carolina state convention
October 20: No See'um Drive Golf Tournament
November 8: SCLC-VIVA general meeting
December 13: VIVA/ACB Christmas party, story telling, Toys for Tots and sponsoring blind and visually impaired students, fun for all.
** Minnesota State Convention Just Around the Corner
The American Council of the Blind of Minnesota (ACBM) state convention will be held October 10-12 at the Doubletree Hotel, 1500 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park, MN 55416; phone (952) 542- 8600. Room rates are $95 per night. If cost is a problem, you can double up with friends. There can be up to four in a room. The total cost for the convention itself, including banquet, two continental breakfasts, and three snacks is $75 per person.
This year's convention theme is "Focusing on the Future: An Intergenerational Approach." Themes include post-secondary education, employment, assistive technology, health care coverage, ADA employment issues, and a discussion of financial planning with Doug Psick, financial planner for TCF Bank.
There will also be exhibits, a Chinese auction, and raffle, plus social activities for students and young adults.
Sessions start at 7 p.m. Friday, October 10th with a hospitality room, and continue on Saturday and Sunday with discussion of the above topics. Saturday evening, we will hold a banquet with a program, including Steve Speicher, ACB First Vice President, to discuss the national perspective. The convention will end at noon Sunday, October 12th. There will be scholarships available for those who wish to attend and cannot afford the cost.
Come one, come all. Join the fun and get some information on important topics.
** Come to Alaska and Enjoy Our Convention
Alaska Independent Blind's state convention will be held October 9-11, 2003 in Anchorage, at the West Coast International Inn, 3333 International Airport Rd. For reservations, call (907) 563-2525 in Anchorage or 1-800 478-9998.
** Laughter, Leadership and More in Nevada
The Nevada Council of the Blind will hold its 31st state convention October 10 & 11, 2003 at the East Las Vegas Community/Senior Center, 250 N. Eastern Ave., Las Vegas, Nev. Dial the NCB phone number, (702) 383-0600, for additional details. The theme will be the "3 L's" -- "Laughter, Legislature, Leadership."
** Ohio Convention
ACB of Ohio will be holding its 2003 state convention at the Holiday Inn on the Lane, 328 Lane Avenue, Columbus, October 10-12, 2003. The theme of the convention is "Endless Vision." Contact Arlene Cohen via e-mail, [email protected], or via phone, (440) 449-2212, for further info.
** California Conventions in Los Angeles, Newark
The California Council of the Blind will hold its fall convention October 16-19, 2003 at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Airport Hotel, 5985 West Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045-5463. Call (310) 642-7500 or 888-315-3700 to make your reservations. Rooms are $70(tax included) single or double occupancy. CCB's spring convention will be held April 15-18, 2004 at the Hilton Newark/Fremont Hotel, 39900 Balentine Drive, Newark, CA 94560. Call (510) 490-8390 or 1-800-445-8667 for reservations. Rooms are $70 (tax included) for single or double occupancy.
** Oregon Convention
ACB of Oregon's convention will be held Oct. 17-18, 2003 at the Ramada Inn, 225 Coburg Rd., Eugene, OR 97401. Call (541) 342-5181 for reservations. Room rates are $60 per night plus 9.5 percent tax. Contact Bev Rushing at (503) 362-4151 for more information.
** ACB of Maine Convening in Waterville
ACB of Maine's 100th annual convention will take place October 24-26 at the Holiday Inn in Waterville. Rates are $63 a night plus tax. Contact Carson Wood at (207) 856-7368 or via e-mail, [email protected], for more information.
** Pennsylvania Convention Features Exhibits, Updates and More
The Pennsylvania Council of the Blind state convention will be held at the Adam's Mark Hotel City Avenue and Monument Road in Philadelphia. The dates are Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. Hotel rates are $79 per night plus tax. Activities will include a tour to Independence Hall, a large exhibit expo emphasizing independence, an update on digital books and public library services, a discussion of services with state agency representatives, and an update on ACB and legislation by Melanie Brunson. For more information, contact the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind office at 1-800-736-1410.
** Delaware Council Awards Scholarship
The Delaware Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired awarded its 2003 John Cahall Memorial Scholarship to Blake Roberts of Felton, Del. Blake attends Delaware Technical and Community College and is majoring in human services and counseling. DCBVI's president, Lynn Schneider, and Philomena Cahall presented Blake with his award at the annual DCBVI summer picnic on Saturday, July 19. DCBVI extends its congratulations to Blake and its best wishes in all his future endeavors. The Delaware Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired established the John Cahall Memorial Scholarship Fund to assist legally blind Delaware residents with the cost of post-secondary education or training. Named in memory of DCBVI's late past president, John Cahall, the scholarship fund hopes to help legally blind Delaware residents to achieve their educational and training goals.
Applications for the 2004 scholarship will be available in November 2003. If you are a legally blind Delaware resident pursuing post-secondary education or training and would like an application, please write to Sharon Sutlic, DCBVI Scholarship Committee, 49 Abbey Road, Newark, DE 19702. Applications may also be obtained from DCBVI's web page at www.dcbvi.org. The deadline for returning applications is March 31, 2004.*****
The pre-convention board meeting commenced around 8:35 a.m. on July 5, 2003, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. All board members were present, as well as Melanie Brunson, Penny Reeder, Terry Pacheco, Jim Olsen, Cynthia Towers, and approximately 20 ACB guests. After approving an agenda, ACB secretary Donna Seliger presented seven sets of meeting minutes for the board's consideration and adoption.
After adopting a motion to consider minutes of the November 25 telephone conference call meeting separately, the board agreed by consensus to amend the title of that document to reflect the advisory nature of the meeting, which could not be considered an official board meeting since the advance notice requirement had not been met. The minutes of the advisory meeting of November 25, 2002, were then approved, as well as the minutes of the board's January 16, 2003 telephone conference call meeting. The board next approved the public session portions of the minutes of the February 2, February 11, March 4 and April 15 telephone conference call meetings as well as the minutes of the face-to-face midyear board meeting (Feb. 16-17).
Seliger assured the board that notes from the executive session portions of board meetings which had been distributed to board members were never intended for circulation beyond the board of directors, and that executive session minutes would not be included in the finalized sets of public portions of board meeting minutes which will be made available for public perusal and inspection.
During her report, Cynthia Towers made several announcements regarding 2003 convention arrangements, and discussed the procedures which had been implemented to address the extremely dim lighting within the ballroom where convention general sessions were scheduled to be held. Towers told the board that she had personally inspected the ACB convention sites in Birmingham, Las Vegas and Minneapolis, and that she intended to make another visit to Birmingham at the end of July, as well as a preliminary visit to Jacksonville, the site of the 2006 national convention.
Convention site selection coordinator Carla Ruschival began by informing the board that the contracts for ACB's 2007 convention in Minneapolis had been recently signed, and that negotiations were virtually complete on the contract for the 2005 convention in Las Vegas. Turning to potential problems with the 2008 convention site, Ruschival told the board that during Cynthia Towers' site inspection visit to Phoenix, she had discovered that the city was planning to construct an entirely new convention facility which will not be available for physical onsite inspection until sometime in 2006. As a result, Ruschival recommended that the board instruct her to break off negotiations with Phoenix, rescind its approval of that convention site, and authorize her to re-solicit bid proposals for the 2008 convention. The board adopted Ruschival's recommendations.
Ruschival indicated that she had received a very attractive room-rate proposal from a hotel in Orlando, Fla., for ACB's 2009 convention, and, despite her expressed reservations about having only one bid, the board voted to tentatively approve that site, conditioned upon an acceptable site inspection by Cynthia Towers and satisfactory conclusion of contractual negotiations.
Paul Edwards, who chairs the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services (ACBES) board, said that the ACBES board planned to meet early on Wednesday of convention week and that Michael Keoghan, ACBES CEO, would be available to meet with board members on Tuesday and Wednesday. Edwards said that because his and Dawn Christensen's terms of office would expire at the post-convention ACBES corporate membership meeting, he planned to name members to an ACBES nominating committee so that nominations to fill those vacancies could be made at the Wednesday meeting, and elections could be held subsequently at the ACBES post-convention corporate membership meeting. Edwards said that, although the ACBES board was not currently expected to be in a position to increase its budgetary commitment to ACB for the current budget year, ACBES was not expected to reduce its budgetary commitment to ACB either.
Edwards told the board that, in response to the new landscape created by implementation of the new federal regulations regarding "no-call lists" for phone solicitors, ACBES has been forced to drastically modify its traditional use of telephone solicitations and door-to-door pickups as its method for obtaining donated merchandise for resale. Two thrift stores have given up telephone solicitation completely and have converted into donation centers. Other thrift stores have cut back on phone soliciting and are slowly transitioning toward the donation center method of obtaining merchandise.
Because individual donors have to come in to the donation centers in person and hand their donated merchandise to a real live person, our experience in general is that the stores that have gone to the donation center model are receiving a better quality of goods. Because some store locations transitioning toward the donation center model are not yet receiving an adequate volume of donated merchandise, ACBES has begun a program of transferring donated merchandise from one store location to another in order to meet demand for good quality merchandise. Edwards said that in certain locations, ACBES has begun a campaign of public service announcements and paid advertisements in order to publicize our new donation centers.
In an abbreviated treasurer's report, Ardis Bazyn indicated that as of May 31, revenues had totaled approximately $458,000 while expenditures had totaled approximately $487,000 resulting in a deficit of slightly under $29,000 for the five-month period.
Then budget committee chair Brian Charlson reported that some of the revenue-generating items which had been included in the 2003 budget had failed up until this point in the budget year to perform at the level that was anticipated at the time of the adoption of the budget. Therefore, the best prognostications of the budget committee are that ACB is likely to end the present budget year with an anticipated deficit in the range of $120,000. In order to promptly address this revenue shortfall situation, Charlson moved that the ACB board direct the budget committee and the executive director until further direction to let the two staff positions which are currently vacant in the national office remain unfilled. This motion was seconded and prompted considerable discussion, with some board members expressing discomfort voting on such a motion in the absence of ACB executive director Charlie Crawford. Members of the budget committee assured the board that while the executive director was far from wildly enthusiastic about this committee recommendation, he had participated in the budget committee's discussions about this matter and he reluctantly concurs in this recommendation.
The board then voted to approve this motion. Charlson then moved that until further notice, the ACB board will freeze all reimbursement authority for travel expenses for representatives to attend affiliate conventions. This motion also prompted considerable discussion with many board members expressing reservations about the impact of this motion particularly on small, financially less well off affiliates, yet reluctantly expressing support for the need to adopt the motion. The budget committee chairman suggested in response that board members and ACB staff could assist in this expense-saving effort by voluntarily contributing and using their own accumulated frequent flier miles in order to attend affiliate conventions. The board voted to adopt the budget committee's recommendation.
Charlson then requested the input of all board members during the upcoming convention regarding their expense-saving ideas so that the budget committee might be in a better position to recommend further cost-saving steps to the board at the post-convention board meeting a week hence. The budget committee chairman then moved that the board charge the executive committee with the responsibility of developing and submitting to the board by no later than August 1 a plan for how to effectively track and promptly react to trends in budgetary matters. The board voted to adopt the motion.
The board voted to publish a notice in the convention newspaper concerning available times and where to go to obtain help in filling out forms to sign up for and join the monthly monetary (M&M) donation program. The board voted to authorize the president, the resource development committee and the chief financial officer to actively explore the idea of substituting an aggressive M&M program campaign for ACB's traditional fall fund-raising letter. Then, the board voted, subject to confirmation of no resulting trademark problems, to change the name of the M&M program to the "Members Giving More" (MGM) program.
In his report for the rehabilitation task force committee which he chairs, Mitch Pomerantz reviewed the purposes and objectives for the task force. He said that the committee had accomplished its first objective by preparing and distributing to the ACB board a draft document setting forth a proposed policy position for ACB on informed consumer choice in the rehabilitation process for people who are blind or visually impaired. The board voted to authorize the rehabilitation task force to consult with other organizations and entities within the blindness field to develop a final document reflective of the views and input of the entire blindness field for presentation to the midyear meeting in February 2004.
Staff reports followed. In her editor's report, Penny Reeder indicated that subscriptions to "The Braille Forum" in all formats continue to increase. At the time of her report there were 2,335 braille subscribers, 7,940 audiocassette subscribers, 13,080 large print subscribers, 775 computer disk subscribers, and 888 e-mail subscribers. The continued increase in the number of people who choose to switch to the e-mail format is good news, since it is virtually free for ACB to distribute the Forum via electronic mail. Reeder expressed great appreciation to members of the Golden Triangle Chapter of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind for all their help in procuring excellent equipment for the convention communications center, virtually free of charge. State-of-the-art computers were already loaded with access software when she and Sharon Lovering arrived at the convention hotel, Reeder reported, and the equipment, donated by U.S. Steel and set up by Michael Zaken and others, was in perfect working order.
In her report, Director of Membership and Affiliate Services Terry Pacheco concentrated on progress in the area of fund-raising for this year's convention and other ACB projects. For the Pittsburgh convention alone, ACB raised more than $36,000 in corporate donations and sponsorships. Pacheco said that she and others expect similar fund-raising efforts to expand. For example, ACB plans to hold a friends-raising reception this fall in the Washington, D.C. area and efforts are under way to establish a corporate advisory board to assist ACB in prospecting for and obtaining corporate sponsorships. Pacheco outlined her support activities for the National Alliance of Blind Students (NABS) and for the scholarships, awards, and McDaniel first-timers' committees.
ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs Melanie Brunson reported that she believes that prospects are good for obtaining the $30 million annual appropriation funding plateau for services to the elderly blind that ACB and its coalition partners have been attempting to gain over many years. Once this plateau funding level has been achieved, it is hoped that federal funding level can be indexed to automatically rise in future fiscal years in accordance with national cost of living statistics. She said that ACB is working to find a House sponsor for the descriptive video restoration provisions that are included in the Senate's version of the Federal Communications Commission reauthorization bill before Congress.
Brunson reported that ACB is also concerned about the upcoming reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the Rehabilitation Act (which will be included under the Workforce Investment Act, WIA), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The version of IDEA reauthorization passed by the House of Representatives does not contain the instructional materials accessibility language or many of the provisions which ACB favors, but the Senate committee bill does contain those provisions. She said that the final version of the law will have to be thrashed out in a House/Senate conference committee.
In addition, ACB has been assisting the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America (RSVA) to address a number of potential threats to the Randolph-Sheppard Act's priority in favor of licensed blind vendors. Brunson concluded her report by reminding the board of her ongoing need for referral resources to whom she can refer individual blind or visually impaired claimants for legal advice and representation. In response to a question from a board member regarding the current status of ACB's pending litigation against the Treasury Department concerning accessible paper currency, Brunson said that the Department of Justice has now filed a second motion to dismiss to which ACB and its co-plaintiffs must respond by mid-August. She hopes that we may get a more definitive ruling from the federal district court by sometime this fall.
Reporting on behalf of the ACB history committee, President Gray told the board that pre-release hardcover print copies of "People of Vision: A History of the American Council of the Blind" would be available at the history gala scheduled for Wednesday evening, July 9. Charlie Hodge added that accessible CD-ROM copies of the book would also be available. In addition, Kim Charlson indicated that both audiocassette and braille versions of the ACB history were on a fast-track production schedule through the National Library Service (NLS). Charlson said that the NLS numbers which have been assigned to the ACB history are RC56115 and BR14800. By using these numbers, individual readers can make reservations now with their participating regional libraries to borrow and read the ACB history.
In his report on the board of publications, Charlie Hodge indicated that the BOP meeting scheduled for the following day would be an open meeting at which all members would be welcomed guests. Hodge told the board that the BOP had during a telephone conference call meeting of June 15 voted to institute a pilot program for a limited period of one year under which the editor of "The Braille Forum" will be required to submit the "Letters to the Editor" column and any editorial or opinion pieces authored by the editor along with the table of contents of the upcoming issue of "The Braille Forum" for review by an ad hoc three-person review subcommittee of the BOP prior to the magazine's being forwarded for publication. Hodge made a point of lauding "The Braille Forum" editor for her cooperation with these requirements, and he said that the review process had been implemented without any problem with respect to the upcoming July-August issue of "The Braille Forum."
He fielded a number of pointedly critical questions regarding the BOP's perceived need for instituting such a review program and about the parameters of and objectives for it. In response, he reassured the board that the BOP, far from attempting to quell freedom of expression, was attempting through its review and guidance process to assist "The Braille Forum" editor to present in the "Letters to the Editor" column a proportional and representative sample of the opinions received during the most recent period. Hodge pointed out that particularly in light of the space limitations that the BOP had implemented recently, the "Letters to the Editor" column in particular should be reviewed and screened somewhat more stringently than in the past.
In his report on behalf of the resource development committee, Jerry Annunzio attempted to recruit volunteers to assist at the ACB Store's table in the exhibit hall. Annunzio also suggested that the photographer employed by ACB at this convention might be asked to take pictures of consenting convention attendees at various functions, and then sell the resulting pictures in return for a small donation to ACB. The board agreed by consensus to try this suggested fund-raising project. Annunzio said that his committee was working on nearly 30 separate fund-raising projects or ideas.
Next the board turned to a discussion of a draft resolution which the president had circulated to members in advance of the meeting. The resolution attempted to explain the rationale behind the ACB ad hoc leadership committee's November decision not to sign onto the GDUI complaint with respect to the Iowa Department of the Blind's rejection of Stephanie Dohmen's participating in rehabilitation programs while partnering with her guide dog. Gray recommended that the board vote to approve the draft resolution and to forward it to the resolutions committee for presentation to and consideration by the ACB convention. A motion to this effect was made and seconded.
Several wording changes to various clauses of the resolution were suggested, and accepted as friendly amendments. In addition, a separate additional whereas clause indicating that subsequent to the advisory meeting, the ACB national office and others within the organization had in fact devoted considerable time and organizational resources to support the efforts of GDUI in this case was suggested and approved by consensus. On a roll call vote of eight in favor and seven against, the motion to send the resolution with the board's affirmative recommendation to the ACB resolutions committee was adopted. Those voting in the affirmative were Jerry Annunzio, Alan Beatty, Ed Bradley, Billie Jean Keith, Oral Miller, Carla Ruschival, M.J. Schmitt and Donna Seliger. Those voting in the negative were Ardis Bazyn, Brian Charlson, Dawn Christensen, Paul Edwards, Mitch Pomerantz, Pat Sheehan and Steve Speicher.
With no further business to conduct, the meeting adjourned around 1:30 p.m.*****
The first portion of the July 12, 2003 post-convention board meeting was an executive session lasting from about 1:40 until 3:30 p.m. When the open session convened, President Gray announced that during the executive session, the board had had under consideration sensitive and confidential personnel matters, and that the board had authorized him to take certain unspecified actions as a result. In addition, Gray announced that the board had voted to hold its face-to-face September meeting in Washington, D.C.
Gray said, "A substantial portion of the board's time at that meeting will be devoted to a focused and directed discussion regarding certain problem issues concerning operations in the national office with an eye toward working cooperatively with the national office staff to establish goals and priorities."
All board members were present at the public meeting, as well as executive director Charlie Crawford, Melanie Brunson, Terry Pacheco, Penny Reeder, Jim Olsen, Cynthia Towers, and approximately 30 guests. In the absence of a prepared agenda, board members suggested items to be placed upon the meeting agenda while voting to defer elections of both the executive committee and the budget committee until the September meeting, and to ask the present members of those respective committees to continue to serve until their successors take their places.
In her convention report, Cynthia Towers indicated that the convention committee had had to surmount some real challenges this year, and that certain changes such as making sure that the convention information services office and the registration office are physically located near each other will be implemented for future conventions.
Towers fielded several questions from board members which centered upon suggestions for future corrective actions regarding accessibility issues, including access to information contained on printed cards in hotel rooms, making sure that all convention meeting rooms are wired for accessible listening devices, and appropriately labeling hotel rooms and convention center venues with ADA-compliant signage. Towers noted that the convention committee planned to meet by conference call within two weeks to de-brief and compare notes. Gray and the board thanked Towers and her hard-working committee for their tireless efforts which had culminated in a truly successful national convention.
In his follow-up report, budget committee chairman Brian Charlson began by reminding the board that at the pre-convention meeting, the board had taken actions which are anticipated to bridge less than half of the expected budgetary deficit for the remainder of the current budget year. Charlson then moved that the board freeze all non-essential expenditures until further notice. A number of board members had questions as to how "essential expenditures" will be defined. Charlson indicated that the chore of better defining and making decisions concerning this vital distinction would be the subject of his next motion. The board voted to adopt the budget committee's motion.
Charlson then made a motion to establish an ad hoc special budgetary monitoring committee comprised of the president, the executive director, the treasurer, the chief financial officer and the budget committee chairman, to make determinations regarding which expenditures are essential and thus authorized and which expenditures are non-essential and thus frozen until further action by the board. Charlson explained that the budget committee expects that the ad hoc budgetary monitoring committee will regularly report to the board upon its activities and various expenditure determinations. After some discussion, the board adopted the motion.
President Gray ruled that the voice votes on the two motions offered by the budget committee and adopted by the board were by more than a two-thirds majority thus complying with the requirements of the constitution and bylaws for amendments to the 2003 budget.
The board meeting was then recessed so that a meeting of the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services (ACBES) corporate membership could be convened. When the board meeting resumed, Paul Edwards offered to work closely with chief financial officer Jim Olsen to see to it that an accessible copy of the annual audit for 2002 in electronic format is made available to all board members. The board then approved a motion authorizing the filing on behalf of ACB of the Minnesota state charitable solicitations report.
In his report on behalf of the BOP, Charlie Hodge indicated that in light of the board's earlier action, the BOP would like the opportunity to plead its case to declare the publication of a 2003 convention issue of "The Braille Forum" an essential, and therefore authorized, expenditure. Hodge then reported that the BOP at its July 6 meeting had approved "The Braille Forum" editor's recommendation that Sarah J. Blake be chosen to undertake the duties of editor of the "Here and There" column for "The Braille Forum."
After approving the BOP report, the board approved the motion to publicly thank Jonathan Mosen for his dedicated service to ACB both as manager of ACB Radio and as an ex officio member of the BOP, and wishing Mosen the very best in his future career endeavors.
The board then turned its attention to the task of electing a voting member of the public relations committee. Billie Jean Keith, who had held this position during the previous year, had indicated to President Gray her desire not to serve in this capacity again. When the floor was opened for nominations, Mitch Pomerantz and Ardis Bazyn were nominated. On a roll call vote, there were 10 votes for Mitch Pomerantz, four votes for Ardis Bazyn and one vote for Billie Jean Keith, thus electing Mitch Pomerantz as the board's voting representative on the committee. Those voting for Pomerantz were Jerry Annunzio, Alan Beatty, Ed Bradley, Dawn Christensen, Billie Jean Keith, Oral Miller, Mitch Pomerantz, Carla Ruschival, Donna Seliger and Steve Speicher; those voting for Bazyn were Ardis Bazyn, Paul Edwards, M.J. Schmitt and Pat Sheehan; Brian Charlson voted for Billie Jean Keith.
Gray then called upon Ardis Bazyn to report for the resolutions prioritization committee. The board by consensus decided to consider only the priority one designations recommended by the committee. Bazyn reported that the following resolutions adopted by the 2003 convention had been assigned priority one ratings: resolution 2003-6, committing ACB to write a letter to the Department of Justice supporting the GDUI ADA complaint which is now pending before that department in the Iowa guide dog case, resolutions 2003-8, 2003-9, and 2003-10, the three traditional complimentary resolutions, resolution 2003-13, regarding the threat to the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority posed by language in the Defense Department reauthorization legislation now pending before Congress, resolution 2003-18 regarding reauthorization of TEA-21, resolution 2003-21 regarding ACB's participation in the establishment of a Flight 93 memorial, resolution 2003-22 regarding restoration of the regulatory requirement favoring descriptive video services, resolution 2003-23 regarding opposition to any repeal or diminution of the Kennelly amendment in TEA-21 incorporating by reference the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority for operation by licensed blind vendors of vending machines at federal interstate highway rest stops, resolution 2003-29, regarding implementation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), and resolution 2003-30 regarding detectable warning and key station requirements as part of TEA-21 reauthorization. The board approved the committee's recommendations. After some discussion, the board decided to hold its September meeting over the weekend of September 19 through 21.
In response to questions from board members, Gray gave an informal update from the public relations committee. He indicated that the committee had developed a two-pronged public service announcement (PSA) campaign, one prong composed of three PSAs developed by the committee itself and produced and mixed by Jonathan Mosen, and the second prong composed of three PSAs that were developed primarily through the efforts of Billie Jean Keith and recorded for ACB by Willard Scott. He indicated that both prongs of the PSA campaign will be pursued and promoted by the public relations committee. In addition, Gray reported that ACB received considerable television, radio and print press coverage of convention activities in the Pittsburgh media market.
A motion was made and seconded that the letter of support to the Department of Justice for GDUI's ADA complaint called for by resolution 2003-6, once composed and sent, be posted on the ACB web site and printed in "The Braille Forum." Donna Seliger suggested an amendment that was accepted by Patrick Sheehan, the maker of the motion, as friendly that once this support letter is so published and distributed, the Iowa guide dog controversy should be considered closed. The motion as amended was adopted.
With no further business to conduct, the post-convention meeting of the ACB board of directors adjourned about 6 p.m.*****
First there were the admonitions, paraphrased here:
Why would a blind person want to visit the top of the World Trade Center?
"You would just be wasting your time," people told me. "After all, you wouldn't be able to see anything!"
Admonitions like these served only to fuel my personal resolve: I had to go to the top of the city's tallest buildings.
And when these same people realized I was adamant about my objective, misgivings about a blind man's traveling alone to visit the top of New York City's tallest skyscraper turned into expressions of foreboding:
"A blind person traveling alone in New York is just asking for trouble! Sure hope you don't get mugged, or something!"
Before I made my first solo sojourn to the top of the Trade Center, I teamed up with Ken Stewart, who took me on a personalized tour of the Empire State Building even taking me to the observation deck on the 86th floor. Our meeting had been arranged through the Big Apple Greeters, an organization which provides guides for blind tourists. Ken encouraged me to ignore the nay-sayers and go through with my plan to visit the World Trade Center on my own. After my first visit, I was drawn to the top of Manhattan like a magnet.
Basking in the warmth of the spring sun on the morning of my final visit to the towers in late April of 2001, I remember thinking that this was everything a person could ask for. It was a perfect day. Although I knew that the World Trade Center was a "logical" target for terrorists, I had no premonition that this would be the last day I would ever visit here.
My white cane gripped firmly in hand, I strolled about the roof of Tower 2, stopping occasionally to enjoy a warm, gentle breeze brush my face as I rested an elbow on the steel barrier. The sounds of the city were no more than a distant hum from this height, 1,350 feet; in fact, from up here, Manhattan seemed a million miles away. Even though I could not see, spending quality time on the roof had always provided me with pleasure.
Having lived in Manhattan for a short while many years earlier, while still sighted, I had developed a familiarity with the layout and basic geography of the city. Angel and Robert, a pair of security guards I had befriended during repeated visits over the years, often suggested, whether in sincerity or flattery, that I become a guide for leading blind tourists around the rooftop platform. The two young men thought it ironic that a blind man from Oregon knew more about the view from the tower than most native New Yorkers.
Remembering myself hanging out on the roof of the World Trade Center on a weatherwise perfect day reminds me of an old song: "It Was Too Beautiful to Last." And of course, as we all sadly know, it was.
I shudder in sorrow, not only for those two guards who, I know, lost their lives on that tragic morning, but also for several other workers of the rooftop, the main observation deck, and the Windows on the World restaurant and lounge whom I had come to know over more than two decades of patronage.
My solo expeditions to the World Trade Center had begun partially in response to the misgivings of others. How can a totally blind visitor from out of state have the necessary skills to travel alone around Manhattan? My answer to that question was to hail a cab and hop in.
Upon arriving at the World Trade Center, usually the Liberty Street entrance to Tower 2, I could always count on a security guard or someone else employed in the mammoth structure to assist me to whatever destination I was heading for that day.
The World Trade Center, consisting of several smaller structures in addition to the twin skyscrapers, with its own area and ZIP codes, was like a city unto itself. Fifty thousand people came to work in a variety of businesses there every weekday. Another 30,000 or so visited the facilities for any number of reasons.
Underneath the complex was a major transportation hub where subway trains from all sections of New York and its environs discharged passengers by the thousands, most of whom were headed for the center or a Wall Street firm. Thousands more arrived by bus, and still more arrived in cars parked in a number of multi-level garages.
Within a block of the World Trade Center were two historic churches; each dated back to the earliest days of the city, and each cared for a graveyard containing the remains of some of the city's most revered pioneers. Luckily the two renowned churches survived the collapse of the twin towers, with only minor damage.
By the time of my last visit to the World Trade Center last spring, I had come to regard the complex as a treasured friend. On each of my visits to the City since 1973 I made it a point to visit the center regardless of weather -- that is, until my most recent visit to New York in April 2002.
As I rode the airport van from Kennedy Airport into Manhattan last April, my mind focused on the number of people who had worked in the World Trade Center with the disheartening realization that I would never see them again.
I remembered a young woman named Vicki, an immigrant from the Virgin Islands. Whenever I found myself on the roof during her working hours as a guide, Vicki would always take time to engage me in conversation. Vicki was a student at nearby Pace University. I remembered Aaron Smith, an employee of Windows on the World, located on the top floor of Tower 1. Aaron was a young man living in Brooklyn who shared his dream of advancing in the restaurant business as either a master chef or owner and, if possible, both. No matter how busy he was, Aaron always found time to talk to me.
The World Trade Center was initially envisioned in 1958. Plans for its construction were set in motion in 1960. Construction was completed and the World Trade Center was opened in 1973.
As I write this, a variety of plans are being considered for a memorial to be built on the site.*****
As I write this, the Pittsburgh convention is a month in our past, but all the folks whom we worked with to put together ACB's 2003 tour package are still very much present in our thoughts. To people like Marie Keane, Gene Barton, Michael Zaken, Jay Doudna, as well as many others from the Golden Triangle Chapter and the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind, all of us who went on tours in and around Pittsburgh owe you a debt of gratitude and many appreciative thanks for your suggestions and your help.
Those of us who chose to go on this year's pre-convention tour found the experience especially fulfilling and spiritually rewarding in ways none of us could have anticipated. After visiting the Johnstown Dam site and city museum where we learned about the tragic flood that killed 2,200 people in a period of only about 10 minutes, we had a fine lunch and visited the Heritage museum where we interactively shared in the immigrant populations' experiences as they moved to western Pennsylvania.
We'd had a full morning, but when it was time to head back and we asked our busload of passengers if any had an interest in stopping by Shanksville, the crash site of United Flight 93 (the fourth plane to have been highjacked on the morning of September 11, 2001), the answer was a resounding, unanimous "Yes!"
Karl, our bus driver, was agreeable, so we took the Shanksville turnoff on Highway 219 and drove to the crash site viewing area. Our tentative plan was to spend 10 or 15 minutes there. Those who didn't want to read the memorials and get a feel for the site could stay on the bus.
The crash site is a distance of three football fields from the viewing area which has been populated by a number of items left spontaneously by members of the general public in tribute. It was about 5 p.m. on July 4 when we broke into small groups to have some of the tributes read aloud. As readers began to describe the items which had been left in tribute and to read the words scrawled on message boards erected throughout the area, sighted guides and ACB members alike became choked with emotion. People have left money, clothing, verses, and all manner of keepsakes. There are hundreds of American flags and patriotic items.
Our hearts were filled with additional pride when Bob, a volunteer docent, told us about his personal experience on the morning of Flight 93's crash. We learned that 92 percent of the remains of the plane's passengers are still buried in the ground and the site is considered to be a burial ground. Some of our group brailled out messages to be placed on viewing boards. Some left personal items. All of us returned to our tour bus thoughtful and proud to be blessed as citizens of the United States of America.
And our plans for making our visit a short 10- or 15-minute stay? Our tour of the crash site of United Flight 93 lasted about an hour and a half. As our tour bus carried us back to Pittsburgh, we passed the time singing patriotic songs, and thanking God and America's heroes, like those on that doomed flight, for the blessings we all shared on a truly memorable Independence Day.*****
On a topic related to the nostalgic remembrances above, we have learned that the NLS plans to expedite audio and braille production of the "Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001," issued by the Congressional Joint Intelligence Committee and made available to the public by the Government Printing Office on July 12, 2003. NLS contacted Bookshare.org recommending that the report be uploaded on the Bookshare.org web site. As of July 30, the report was available at http://www.bookshare.org/web/SingleTitle.html?submittitleid=20916
For more information, contact James Herndon, Head of the Collection Development Section, (202) 707-0507, [email protected]*****
The contents of this column are a reflection of the letters we have received at the time of publication, August 15, 2003. 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. The editorial staff reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, style and space available. We will not print letters unless you sign your name and give us your address.
** First-Timers Say Thanks
Thank you very much for the privilege of receiving the McDaniel First-Timer Scholarship. I appreciate it very much and was grateful to have even been considered. As I write this letter, several weeks prior to the convention, I look forward to learning more about ACB and meeting many new people. Thank you again, very much.
Sincerely, Carol Edwards, Conroe, Texas
I would like to publicly express my sincere gratitude for honoring me with the First Timers Award. It allowed me and my guide dog, Princeton, to experience the amazing, although sometimes overwhelming workings of ACB, GDUI and the many sub-groups represented here at this great convention. It opened new avenues for me to explore: people to treasure meeting; products to improve my life; and the lovely convention center, hotel staff and Pittsburgh to remember. Thank you. Without this fund I would not have been there, beginning a new chapter in my life's story. I hope to see many of you in Birmingham next year.
Sincerely, Sharon Coverstone, Salem, Ore.
** An Award Winner Says Thanks
July 15, 2003
NBC Television Network
To the Membership of the American Council of the Blind
Dear Fellow Members,
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for the award you so graciously gave me at the 2003 convention banquet July 11, 2003.
As I said then in my acceptance, some of you have dedicated your time and talents toward the advancement of our group with the same or more determination. I accept this recognition as one of you. I especially appreciate the arrangement to have my life-long friend and radio partner Willard Scott on hand to make the presentation. Willard was quite favorably impressed with our group, and especially with the attendance of our guide dogs!
I will continue to work to be deserving of the Ambassador Award.
Sincerely, Ed Walker
** Regarding summaries of board meetings
After reading the most recent edition of "The Braille Forum," I am quite disturbed to learn that some on the ACB board don't like the way your humble correspondent Charlie Hodge reports their activities during monthly calls and quarterly meetings. Who do these people think they are?
The ACB board is elected by the membership to represent US! We have every right to know how they vote on every issue where a roll call vote is taken. If some on the board don't like being under public scrutiny, then perhaps they should tender their resignations.
As for the arguments that some issues are confidential and should not be reported publicly, I don't recall any such information appearing in your fine publication recently. As a non-profit consumer organization, most of ACB's activities are already public information. Anyone with Internet access can go to web sites like www.guidestar.org and find salary information and other so-called confidential information on ACB leadership in a matter of seconds.
I cringe at the thought of the ACB board becoming so high and mighty that they think they are no longer accountable to the membership. This sounds like some other organizations of the blind to me. If the board can't take the heat, then it's time to get out of the fire.
As for Hodge, keep up the excellent reporting. It is most appreciated.
-- Glenn McCully, Auburn, Wash.
** History revisited
In the early 1960s, many events occurred that set the tone for decades to follow. The Berlin Wall was built dividing East and West Germany. Nikita Krushchev stood glaring across the water to Turkey, where U.S. Jupiter missiles ominously stood. America breathed a sigh of relief on October 28, 1962, after we passed one of the darkest hours in our planet's history. The American Council of the Blind broke off from the National Federation of the Blind.
On the 13th of June, 1990, the Berlin Wall began falling. By November of 1991, it was toppled. East and West Germany were nurturing a healing process that has unified the country, making it whole again.
The United States and the former Soviet Union are no longer locked in a cold war. We are now allies.
A country divided by war, reunited. Families seeing each other for the first time in years.
Here at home, the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind are still staunchly divided. Good and reasonable ideas come out of both groups. Tradition and an unwillingness on either side fuels a fire that consumes a promising future for many blind people. Good ideas are shot down because the other side thought of it first. This ongoing stalemate represents a major disservice to the strength and well-being of all blind people.
I've often thought about the presence a unified blindness community would have. It would be incredible.
All of us are facing 160,000 years of human history where blindness has been misunderstood. It's time to fight together. In the Bible, it says he who is not for us is against us. Common knowledge tells us that a house divided cannot stand.
If the Cuban missile crisis can be resolved, if the Berlin Wall can fall, if our bitter enemy can become our friend, if Germany can reunite, why can't ACB and NFB do the same? We could call ourselves either the National Council of the Blind, or the American Federation of the Blind. It takes work and a willingness to change for the betterment of all.
Diplomacy takes guts. Let's see if NFB and ACB have the guts. I challenge you!
-- Carson Wood, President, American Council of the Blind of Maine, Westbrooke, Maine
** More on Transportation
I just wanted to thank you for printing in the July-August "Braille Forum" the letter to the editor about transportation. I share many of the feelings that Dianne Baumgartner expressed in her letter, and want to thank you for bringing this issue of inadequate transportation to the forefront. It has been and will probably always be my greatest obstacle in life ... and this obstacle never goes away.
Sometimes I wonder how much more I could accomplish and achieve in life if I didn't have to spend the amount of time and energy I have to, to get transportation to do everyday life things. I am young yet, only 24, and I have to say that I have been lucky so far but I often think of the future and what it holds. So, thank you again for printing that letter and I encourage you to continue to address this issue in future "Braille Forums."
Sincerely, Nicole Poston, Canton, Ohio*****
The announcement of products and services in this column is not an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its staff, or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be held responsible for the reliability of products and services mentioned.
Beginning in October, the new editor of "Here and There" will be Sarah Blake. Sarah will introduce herself to you in next month's column. Meanwhile, to submit items for this column, you may e-mail Sarah at [email protected], or call ACB at 1-800-424-8666 and leave a message in mailbox 26. Please remember that we need information two months ahead of actual publication dates.
** E-MAIL LIST FOR DIABETICS
There's a new e-mail list in town for all ACB members and friends. ACB-diabetics is intended to be an open forum for anyone and everyone who is interested in discussing issues related to diabetes and/or the American Council of the Blind. To join, go to: http://www.acb.org. Find the link entitled Join our E-mail Discussion and Information Lists. Next, locate the "acb-diabetics" link. There you will find a simple form that will allow you to subscribe or unsubscribe as desired.
** PARTICIPANTS NEEDED FOR RESEARCH STUDY
Mississippi State University's Rehabilitation Research & Training Center (RRTC) on Blindness and Low Vision, in collaboration with the Helen Keller National Center on Deafblind Youth and Adults and the RRTC for Persons who are Hard of Hearing or Late Deafened, is currently working on a five-year research project concerning people aging with vision and hearing loss. This project focuses on people who are visually or hearing impaired who experience a secondary onset of hearing or vision loss resulting from aging.
Older people who experience both vision and hearing loss are often isolated by their lack of access to technology, communication systems, and transportation. This project seeks to determine the primary needs of this particular group of people and the best ways to address those needs to improve their everyday lives.
If you have experienced both a hearing and vision loss and are 55 years or older, we request your participation in our study group. Study group members will complete several surveys and possibly participate in one interview. Only a small amount of your time will be required, and your contribution will benefit not only you but others who are aging with vision and hearing loss as well. Any information you provide will remain strictly confidential.
To participate or to ask questions, please contact B.J. LeJeune or Michele Capella at 1-800-675-7782 or via e-mail at [email protected] Additional information about the project and a study group application form can be obtained at http://www.blind.msstate.edu/pahvl/pahvl.html.
** FEDERAL STUDENT AID
The Department of Education's Federal Student Aid office provides information on grants, loans, and work-study to help students pay for their post-secondary education. These materials include publications in alternate formats (audio compact disc and braille) for blind and visually impaired students. Students can call our toll-free Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 to order braille versions of the "Free Application for Federal Student Aid," "The Student Guide," "Funding Your Education," and "Repaying Your Student Loan."Also available from the center, on audio compact disc, is the "Student Aid Audio Guide," a condensed version of the Braille Student Guide. Students also can visit our web site at http://www.studentaid.ed.gov.
** ULTIMATE TALKING DICTIONARY
Premier Assistive Technology recently released the Ultimate Talking Dictionary, a comprehensive PC-based dictionary combined with a powerful thesaurus that actually reads definitions aloud. The dictionary contains more than 250,000 words, including people, places, slang and common phrases; and it includes a spelling feature; a "power search" feature; a thesaurus; hot-key word lookup; a "zoom" feature that allows users to enlarge the print; word history; and it works with screen readers and magnifiers.
The Ultimate Talking Dictionary sells for only $29.95. You can purchase it online at www.readingmadeeasy.com or call (815) 722-5961.
** HEADBAND SALES SUPPORT GOALBALL ATHLETES
A fundraiser for an international goalball tournament taking place at the end of October will support two athletes, Peter and Matthew McCubbin, to attend the competition as Michigan delegates. Headbands are $4 each. You can get matching ones for your guide dog, too. Call Jan McCubbin at (517) 627-1288. Send your check to 20 W. Mount Hope, Grand Ledge, MI 48837.
** GRAPHICAL CALCULUS
The Computer Science Department of the College of Staten Island in conjunction with the Computer Center for the Visually Impaired of Baruch College has designed a Graphical Calculus Course for Blind Students. This project was funded by the National Science Foundation to help make college-level courses accessible to people with visual impairments. This self-pacing course was designed to enable blind students to master calculus concepts without the assistance of sighted readers. Course materials consist of audio presentations of text specifically worded for blind students and supplemented with easily interpreted tactile graphics.
Audio files and graphic files for transfer to swell paper are freely downloadable from our web site. Audio-tactile files for use with a NOMAD touchpad are also available. Or we can supply ready-made plastic graphics sheets. For more information or to view the materials, please visit our web site at http://domanski.cs.csi.cuny.edu/CalculusForTheBlind. Or you may e-mail us at: [email protected] or call us at (718) 982-2350.
** VIRTUAL PENCIL
Henter Math is pleased to announce the release of its first product, Virtual Pencil. The computer software for interactive access to math is designed for people who are unable to operate a pencil effectively. The product is not a tutorial, but rather a tool that can be used to interactively solve a math problem. The virtual pencil moves to the right spot on the "paper," guided by the user, and inputs the answers that the user selects. When used with a screen reader the numbers and actions are read aloud, or displayed in braille.
Virtual Pencil can be used by the student in tutor mode to learn how to navigate around and solve math problems, with lots of on-line help. In test mode the student does not have the tutor and must know how to navigate, where to read the digits in the intermediate steps, and where to put the answers, just like when using a pencil.
Teachers can use Virtual Pencil to create an assignment or test, password protect it, and then send it to the student via e-mail, save it to a diskette, print it or emboss it in braille. The password prevents students switching from test mode to tutor mode or otherwise changing the assignment. The same file can be printed out for the other students in the class, saving the teacher a lot of time.
The current product handles addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and decimals. Future versions will accommodate higher levels of math, like algebra, trigonometry, differential equations, and calculus. The price is $99. For more information or to download a free demo, go to the web page at www.HenterMath.com.
** OFFICE DEPOT PRINTS LARGE PRINT BOOKS AT A DISCOUNT
Office Depot recently announced a partnership with the Virginia M. Woolf Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides books on CDs for people with visual impairments through its web site, www.Text-Key.com. Through this partnership, visually impaired customers who have purchased a book on CD from the Virginia M. Woolf Foundation can have a hard-copy version of the book printed at Office Depot stores on recycled paper at a discounted price.
CDs from the Virginia M. Woolf Foundation contain five different versions of one book, in screen-reader friendly and printer-friendly type sizes. Books cost $11.50 each, and may be purchased through the Braille Institute, the Center for the Partially Sighted and Vision World Wide. Office Depot will print the hard copy books for four cents a page; double-sided printing is available at eight cents per page. All books will be printed on recycled paper. There is also a 10 percent discount for any binding that may be required.
** COLLABORATION TO READ
Pulse Data International and Benetech recently announced a formal collaboration integrating Benetech's Bookshare.org initiative with Pulse Data's BrailleNote family of products.
This collaboration allows BrailleNote users with a Bookshare.org subscription to browse the Bookshare.org web site using the BrailleNote, select one of the 12,000 books already available from this site and download it directly to the device. Once a user has input his or her user name and password, the BrailleNote will seamlessly unpack the downloaded book to the BrailleNote's bookreader to be read off-line. This unpacking scheme preserves the book's copyright protection.
Bookshare.org has also signed an agreement with O'Reilly & Associates to make digital versions of O'Reilly books available worldwide to qualifying users with disabilities. Under the agreement, O'Reilly & Associates will transfer digital copies of its books to Bookshare.org, which will convert the books into accessible formats and make them available to qualifying subscribers in the US. In addition, O'Reilly has granted Benetech rights to provide the books in accessible formats to qualifying users from other countries, the initial step in a planned expansion into providing accessible digital books internationally.*****
FOR SALE: Galileo reading machine, used several hours for instruction, price negotiable. Call Jeanne Mandell at (530) 333-4097.
FOR SALE: Kurzweil Personal Reader with version 2.2 software. It's a flatbed scanner and separate electronics unit. Asking $1,000 or best offer. Contact Nancy Martin at (216) 696-5747 or e-mail her at [email protected]
FOR SALE: 4 boxes of Avery 4013 (1-across, tractor-fed) labels (5000 in each box), $60. 11 ribbon cartridges for an Epson LQ570+ dot matrix printer, $75. If someone will take the ribbons and labels as a package deal, I'll throw in the Epson LQ570+ printer free. It's 10 years old, but has worked flawlessly. Print manual and printer cable included. For information or to purchase, contact Jane Sheehan, Treasurer/Office Manager, Guide Dog Users, Inc., 14311 Astrodome Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20906-2245; phone (301) 598-2131; [email protected]
FOR SALE: Type 'n Speak with cables, adapters, disk drive, complete braille and disk manuals. In very good working condition. Asking $850 including shipping and insurance. Please contact Kathleen at (631) 698-5149, or by e-mail, [email protected]
FOR SALE: Kurzweil scanning software version 7.0, $600. King James talking Roadrunner Bible, $75. Voicemate talking organizer, $150. MS Word 2000, $50. If interested, contact Denise Avant at (773) 325-1117 or [email protected]
FOR SALE: Two TSI closed-circuit stand-alone cameras still in original packing boxes. Asking $1,500 for each. Both are Select-a-Color. I also have a Gateway computer with upgrades for $300. For information, send an e-mail message to [email protected]
FOR SALE: Perkins Brailler, perfect condition, rarely used. Comes with soft cover and hard-sided carrying case, along with eraser. Asking $350 or best offer. Contact Kathy Nimmer at (765) 497-4386 or [email protected]
FOR SALE: Two Braille `n Speak Classics and a 3.5-inch floppy drive for a Braille Lite 18 or more modern Braille `n Speak. $500 per Braille `n Speak and $50 for the disk drive. Contact Josh via e-mail, [email protected], or via phone, (610) 683-4108.
FOR SALE: 2002 PowerBraille 40 braille display that works with almost all screen readers and operating systems. Good even for portable use with included rechargeable batteries. Guaranteed to be as described. Must sell, so please e-mail John Scott at [email protected]*****
I barely had Pittsburgh out of my system and there I was, at the end of July, traveling to Birmingham, Ala., to begin work on the 2004 convention. Accompanied by Carla Ruschival, site selection and contracts negotiator and Berl Colley, tour coordinator, all three of us had an extremely productive few days laying the foundation for what is shaping up to be yet another great convention.
The local host committee, headed by David and Rhonda Trott, is willing, ready, eager and able to do its part to ensure that you receive some good old-fashioned Southern hospitality from the minute you first hit their town.
So why the title Birmingham by the Numbers? I guess as I get ready to return to my other life as a seventh-grade math teacher, I have already begun to find numbers swirling around in my brain. So, I decided once again to parallel my paying profession with my avocation. Here I go: 11 is the cost in dollars of the cab ride from the airport to the hotel. Well, I ended up paying 13 because I tipped the driver. Actually, zero is the amount you could pay because the Sheraton Birmingham provides a shuttle you can take from the airport. It is still customary to tip the shuttle driver. I believe the rule of thumb is one dollar per bag.
Ten is the number of minutes it took me to ride from the airport to the downtown Sheraton. It was late in the evening when I arrived, so your trip may be extended somewhat if you arrive during heavy traffic times of morning or evening.
Two is the number of the floor you need to be on in order to walk across the skywalk to the convention center. The skywalk is a glass enclosed carpeted walk over Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard. It had wonderful jazz music quietly emanating throughout. Once you cross the walk, you will be on the floor where the ballroom, exhibits, convention information services and the ACB Caf‚ (formerly known as Quick Meals) will be located.
It took 40 paces in a size eight shoe to get from the entrance of the ballroom to the door where exhibits will be housed!! Once in the exhibit hall you may walk through to the ACB Caf‚ or if you do not want to walk through exhibits to purchase a meal or a snack, the Caf‚ has a separate entrance just a few more paces away.
More details on the complex will be forthcoming in future issues of this magazine. I just wanted to offer a quick reassurance to some weary Pittsburgh convention center troopers that your journey around the Birmingham complex will be 100 percent easier than what you experienced this past summer.
So, what's with this ACB Caf‚ business? Well, in 2004 the place to have breakfast and lunch will be expanded to include dinner selections. Not only will the hours be extended but also so will the menu. How about a sausage biscuit for breakfast, hamburgers, fries and individual pan pizzas for lunch and wine and beer (domestic and imported) to accompany the dinner options?
Ten is the number of months until President Gray sounds the gavel to call to order the 43rd annual convention of the American Council of the Blind.
Birmingham is a city steeped in history and tradition and brimming with southern charm. As an African-American I found the city to be warm (figuratively and literally) and inviting. I asked all kinds of people I met during my stay -- hotel maids, taxicab and shuttle drivers, restaurateurs, and folks with whom I shared sidewalks and elevators what they thought about their hometown. Without hesitation, people answered my questions about the city by telling me that Birmingham is a place where people of all races and cultures choose to live. "Nowhere else!" The city is getting ready to roll out the red carpet for ACB and I am pleased and excited that this site was selected.
I will leave you with a few more numbers, they are: 1-800-325-3535, which is the reservation line for the Sheraton Birmingham. Seventy-five is the price of each room, but it will ultimately be $85.50 after taxes. Finally, one is the number of plane, train or bus tickets you need to buy in order not to miss out on what may very well be the experience of a lifetime.
94 RAMONA AVE.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94103
FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
825 M ST., SUITE 216
LINCOLN, NE 68508
SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
1027 DUNLOP AVE
FOREST PARK, IL 60130
3912 SE 5TH ST
DES MOINES, IA 50315
500 S. 3RD ST. #H
BURBANK, CA 91502
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
20330 NE 20th Ct.
Miami, FL 33179