THE
Braille Forum
Volume XLI Winter 2003 No. 5
Published By
The American Council of the Blind
THE AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND STRIVES TO INCREASE THE INDEPENDENCE, SECURITY, EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY, AND QUALITY OF LIFE FOR ALL BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE.
Christopher Gray, President
Charles H. Crawford, Executive Director
Penny Reeder, Editor
Sharon Lovering, Editorial Assistant
National Office:
1155 15th St. NW
Suite 1004
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 467-5081
Fax: (202) 467-5085
Web Site: http://www.acb.org

THE BRAILLE FORUM is available in braille, large print, half- speed four-track cassette tape, computer disk and via e-mail. Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for publication should be sent to:
Penny Reeder,
THE BRAILLE FORUM,
1155 15th St. NW,
Suite 1004,
Washington, DC 20005,
or via e-mail.
E-mail the Editor of the Braille Forum
Submission deadlines are the first of the month.

The American Council of the Blind is a membership organization made up of more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates. To join, visit the ACB web site and fill out the application form, or contact the national office at the number listed above.

Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Ardis Bazyn at the above mailing address. If you wish to remember a relative or friend by sharing in the council's continuing work, the national office makes printed cards available to acknowledge contributions made by loved ones in memory of deceased friends or relatives.

Anyone wishing to remember the American Council of the Blind in his/her Last Will and Testament may do so by including a special paragraph for that purpose. If your wishes are complex, contact the ACB National Office.

To make a contribution to ACB via the Combined Federal Campaign, use this number: 2802.

For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the "Washington Connection" toll-free at (800) 424-8666, 5 p.m. to midnight Eastern time, or visit the Washington Connection online.

Copyright 2002
American Council of the Blind

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Corrections
ACB Board Considers, Rejects Joining GDUI in Discrimination Complaint Against Iowa Department, by Charles S.P. Hodge
Ensuring Quality Services for the Blind: Do We Have the NAC?, by Charles Crawford and Christopher Gray
ACB Transportation Survey Needs Your Response, by Alice Richhart and Ron Brooks
You Can Make a Difference! Attend ACB's 2003 Legislative Seminar, by Melanie Brunson
So What If I Don't?, by Paul Edwards
A Mostly Enchanted Evening, by Sharon Strzalkowski
Affiliate News
Letters to the Editor
The Real Pittsburgh, by Berl Colley
Public Transportation Services in Pittsburgh
Where Did Milo Go?, by Cindy Burgett
Staying Home for Our Daughter's Birthday, by Ron Brooks
Blind School Pioneers Web Design, by Eunice Kim
Sounds of Success: Sunset Woman Helps Team Win World Title in Sport for Blind Athletes, by Cicero A. Estrella
Bioptic Driving: A Journey to a More Independent Way of Life, by Michael Smitherman
Here and There, by Billie Jean Keith
High Tech Swap Shop
In Memoriam: Sen. Paul D. Wellstone, by Rebecca Kragnes

CORRECTIONS

Due to the ever-changing nature of e-mail and the Internet, the e-mail address given for Beal Pickett ("Once I Was Blind, But Now I See," October 2002) was incorrect. The correct one is [email protected]

Due to an editing error, the list of honorees in the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field was incorrect ("Here and There," April 2002). Those inducted into the Hall of Fame are: Georgie Lee Abel, Samuel Ashcroft, Robert Atkinson, Col. E.A. Baker, Natalie Barraga, Mary K. Bauman, Donald Blasch, Warren Bledsoe, Fr. Thomas Carroll, Cleo Dolan, Eleanor E. Faye, MD, Kathern Gruber, Richard Hoover, Samuel Gridley Howe, Douglas Inkster, Robert Irwin, Kenneth Jernigan, Ruth Kaarlela, Helen Keller, Roy Kumpe, Berthold Lowenfeld, Durward McDaniel, Alice Raftary, Louis Rives Jr., Peter Salmon, Stanley Suterko, Mary Switzer, Josephine Taylor, Louis Vieceli, Donald Wedewer, Robert Whitstock, and Russell Williams. The advisory committee members include: Dr. Phil Hatlen, Dr. Cay Holbrook, Dr. Michael Nelipovich, Dr. Susan Spungin, Naomi Tuttle, and Dr. Dean Tuttle. APH staff members serving on the committee include Dr. Tuck Tinsley III, Mary Nelle McLennan, Gary Mudd, Donald J. Keefe, Janie Humphries, Will Evans, Burt Boyer (who was in California when the process started, but is now at APH) and Bob Brasher. More information about the Hall of Fame can be found on the APH web site, www.aph.org.

In Charlie Hodge's "Summary: The Fall Meeting of the ACB Board of Directors" (November 2002), the person who presented the report on the IDEA task force was incorrectly identified as Paul Edwards. It was actually Susan Crawford. We apologize for the error.

The correct dates for the cruise to Nova Scotia ("Here and There," November 2002) are September 13-20, 2003. For information, contact Sue Slater by e-mail, [email protected], or by phone at (800) 999-6101.

Due to a price change after press time, the prices listed for NetEcho ("Here and There," November 2002) were incorrect. The true pricing is this: $9.95 a month for unlimited usage, $19.95 a month for a toll-free number and three hours of usage, and a $20 sign-up fee. Visit the web site, http://www.internetspeech.com/, for more information. The toll-free customer service number is (877) 312-4638.


ACB BOARD CONSIDERS, REJECTS
JOINING GDUI IN DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT AGAINST IOWA DEPARTMENT
by Charles S.P. Hodge

(Editor's Note: The author was unable to attend the emergency telephone conference call meeting of the ACB board of directors reported upon herein. However, he listened to and reviewed the audiotape which was provided by the conference calling service as preparation for compiling this summary of the events which transpired.)

President Chris Gray convened an emergency telephone conference call meeting of the ACB board of directors shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern time on the evening of Monday, Nov. 25, 2002. Secretary Donna Seliger called the roll, and all board members were present except for treasurer Ardis Bazyn, director Mitch Pomerantz, and ex officio board member Charles Hodge. Also in attendance were executive director Charlie Crawford and Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs Melanie Brunson. At the invitation of the board, Debbie Grubb, President of Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) representing that special-interest affiliate of ACB, and John Taylor representing the Iowa Council of the United Blind (ICUB), ACB's Iowa state affiliate, were in attendance as well.

A motion was made by Ed Bradley and seconded by Alan Beatty to suspend the notice requirement so that the board might go forward to conduct business. Steve Speicher indicated that his review of the relevant provisions of Robert's Rules of Order revealed that a motion to suspend the rules was not proper to suspend a provision of an organization's standing constitution or bylaws. Since the ACB constitution and bylaws contain a 14-day notice requirement for an emergency meeting of the board of directors which clearly had not been complied with in this instance, Speicher expressed his opinion that a motion to suspend the rules would not properly lie to suspend the 14-day notice provision. A number of board members concurred with Speicher's parliamentary opinion, and the maker and seconder of the motion to suspend the rules agreed to withdraw their previously made motion. In light of the procedural and constitutional infirmity confronted by the board, Paul Edwards made a motion seconded by M.J. Schmitt that the ad hoc ACB leadership convene this meeting in order to render advice to the ACB president regarding the subject of the meeting. This motion was adopted by voice vote.

President Gray proceeded to lay out the issue at hand, as follows. A blind guide dog user from Iowa, Stephanie Dohmen, had apparently been readmitted to the rehabilitation program offered at the Orientation Center operated by the Iowa Department for the Blind in the spring of this year. When Ms. Dohmen appeared accompanied by her guide dog from Leader Dogs for the Blind for the first day of training on June 5, she was told to return the next day to meet with Allen Harris, the executive director of the Iowa Department for the Blind. At her meeting with Harris on June 6, Dohmen was informed that it was the policy of the Iowa Department for the Blind that she could not attend the rehabilitation program at the Iowa Orientation Center for the Blind while accompanied by her guide dog. Since Dohmen insisted on her right to attend computer and job-development training program sessions accompanied by her guide dog, she believes that she has been constructively excluded from the rehabilitation program and been denied services by the Iowa Department for the Blind based upon her use of a service animal and her blindness. Dohmen has filed civil rights complaints which are still pending before both the Des Moines Human Relations Commission and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. She also contacted both GDUI and ACB's national office seeking GDUI's and ACB's further assistance in making civil rights complaints regarding this matter under federal law before the appropriate federal government authorities. A complaint under both Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act had been drafted for submission to the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the alleged violation of Dohmen's federally guaranteed civil rights to which Dohmen, GDUI and a number of guide dog training schools were committed to sign on. On the other hand, the Iowa Department for the Blind and ICUB took the position that the Department for the Blind has a right in furtherance of the core elements of its rehabilitation program and underlying philosophy of rehabilitation for the blind to insist that Dohmen not be accompanied by her guide dog if she is to attend and go through the rehabilitation program offered by the Iowa Orientation Center. Furthermore, the Iowa Department for the Blind and ICUB believe that this exception to the normal proscription of no discrimination against service animals and their handlers is legally warranted because to override its announced and well-established policy would constitute a fundamental alteration of the department's rehabilitation program not required under the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA. In addition, although there is some dispute or controversy on this point, both the Iowa Department for the Blind and ICUB contend that the Iowa Department has offered Dohmen several alternative options where she can obtain the computer and braille training that she is most interested in while accompanied by her guide dog at settings other than the Iowa Orientation Center for the Blind, and that such alternative training options constitute reasonable accommodations to Dohmen's legitimate training and service needs in compliance with both the Rehabilitation Act and the provisions of the ADA.

President Gray indicated to the board that on the one hand, the executive committee had concluded that at least until further information could be developed and/or obtained regarding a number of points, ACB should abstain for at least the time being from signing on to and lending its name as a party to the complaint which was about to be filed with the Department of Justice; whereas, on the other hand, the advocacy services committee had concluded that Dohmen's and GDUI's draft complaint did constitute a clear violation of federal disability rights law, and therefore that committee had recommended that ACB should sign on as a party to the draft administrative complaint.

President Gray then invited Debbie Grubb to make a presentation representing GDUI. Grubb made an impassioned appeal to the ad hoc ACB leadership asserting that discrimination against service animals and their handlers is clearly forbidden by the Department of Justice's ADA Title II implementing regulations, and that the refusal of the Iowa Department for the Blind to permit Dohmen to attend the rehabilitation program at the Iowa Orientation Center for the Blind accompanied by her guide dog, which the rehabilitation professionals working for the Iowa Department for the Blind had decided was best suited to meet Dohmen's training needs, does, in fact, constitute a clear violation of Dohmen's federally guaranteed civil rights. Grubb also made the point that the problem reflected in the draft complaint is not limited just to the Iowa Department for the Blind, but rather is a nationwide problem where many rehabilitation agencies for the blind enforce similar exclusionary policies against guide dog users and their certified and highly trained service animals. Grubb also stressed that ACB as a nationwide membership organization should think broadly or nationally, and should not permit itself to be held hostage or made paralyzed to act through the veto or demands of one single state affiliate. Grubb concluded by stating that GDUI was committed to pressing the administrative complaint at the federal level with or without ACB's direct participation, just as GDUI had done in the Hawaii quarantine litigation.

President Gray then asked John Taylor to make a presentation to the ad hoc ACB leadership representing ICUB. Taylor indicated that most members of ACB's Iowa state affiliate have the highest regard for the Iowa Department for the Blind and view it to be a model rehabilitation agency for the blind. Taylor went on to state that a clear majority of the members of ICUB endorse the professional judgment set forth by the Iowa Department for the Blind that attendance at and participation in the rehabilitation program offered at the Iowa Orientation Center for the Blind by a newly blinded individual without a guide dog was reasonable and designed to further the purposes and objectives of the Orientation Center's comprehensive rehabilitation program. While he acknowledged some federal civil rights implications raised by Dohmen's and GDUI's allegations, Taylor urged the ad hoc ACB leadership to allow the blind citizens of Iowa the opportunity to resolve this issue at the state level in cooperation with their state's rehabilitation agency for the blind without undue outside interference on the national level from ACB. Taylor said that ICUB's biggest concern was one of governance and respect for affiliate autonomy within ACB. He urged that ACB as a national organization of the blind should treat its Iowa state affiliate and its members as adults with respect and deference, and should not impose upon it and them dictates from on high even if arguably based upon national civil rights principles. Taylor said that ICUB does not believe -- as apparently does GDUI -- that this complaint does set forth a clear-cut case of federal civil rights violations. He pointed to the fundamental alteration defense available to the Department for the Blind, and he stressed that in ICUB's view, the Department for the Blind had offered Dohmen reasonable accommodations which would render the department's actions arguably in compliance with both the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the ADA.

Donna Seliger then pointed out to the leadership that if ACB should decide to sign on to and lend its name and influence as a full party to Dohmen's and GDUI's federal administrative complaint, she as president of ICUB will be confronted with demands from several ICUB board members to convene a special ICUB convention at which the matter of ICUB's possible disaffiliation from ACB would be discussed and voted upon.

Next, Melanie Brunson discussed the specific provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which appeared to be relevant to the Iowa Department's actions, and Charlie Crawford discussed ACB's longstanding record of supporting and promoting the civil rights of all blind and visually impaired people. ACB's Resolution 79-09 in support of guide dog users' rights to access publicly available services while accompanied by their service animals was read aloud to the assembled meeting.

The ad hoc ACB leadership group then engaged in a wide- ranging discussion about the relative strengths and merits of Dohmen's and GDUI's draft administrative complaint as well as the issues surrounding internal governance within ACB raised by the situation in which two ACB affiliates appear to be at loggerheads with each other and are appealing for support to ACB as their mutual parent national organization. Several of the ACB leaders expressed annoyance, unhappiness and discomfort with the fact that ICUB would appear to be threatening ACB with its possible disaffiliation over this matter. Yet other ACB leaders countered that ICUB was merely raising its view that ACB might be running roughshod over its members' legitimate reservations and concerns regarding Dohmen's and GDUI's civil rights allegations. Several of the ACB leadership group also expressed the view that ACB might be able to learn from the historical precedent of the Hawaii quarantine law litigation where ACB did not become an active participating party in that litigation even though ACB supported GDUI's position in the case at least in part in deference to the contradictory views of one of our Hawaii affiliates, the Hawaii Association of the Blind. A number of ACB leaders also expressed the view that there remained a lack of clarity regarding a number of important factual and legal points involved in this matter. Some of the ACB leaders also indicated great reluctance to be placed in the position of having ACB appear to be choosing sides either in favor or against one ACB affiliate over another. Yet other ACB leaders pointed out that to allow a single ACB affiliate to hold a virtual veto power over whether ACB as a national organization could adopt a position or become actively involved in a disputed legal matter would almost inevitably lead to ACB's being paralyzed to take action or adopt a position between national conventions on literally any important or controversial issue.

After much thoughtful discussion, Brian Charlson made a motion, seconded by Pat Sheehan, that the ad hoc ACB leadership recommend to the ACB president that ACB should join GDUI's administrative complaint as a joint party complainant. This motion was subsequently defeated by a vote of four in the affirmative to nine in the negative. Those voting in the affirmative were Brian Charlson, Dawn Christensen, Paul Edwards and Pat Sheehan; those voting in the negative were Jerry Annunzio, Alan Beatty, Ed Bradley, Billie Jean Keith, Oral Miller, Carla Ruschival, M.J. Schmitt, Donna Seliger and Steve Speicher. President Gray did not vote on this motion.

Paul Edwards then made a motion, seconded by Carla Ruschival, that the ACB leadership group recommend to the ACB president that ACB act supportively to Dohmen's and GDUI's administrative complaint. Although some ACB leaders expressed a view that they found this motion simply too ambiguous and did not understand precisely what the ACB support endorsed in the recommendation contained in this motion meant in practical terms, the motion was adopted by voice vote with Donna Seliger and Steve Speicher noting for the record their voting to abstain on the motion. Those supporting adoption of this motion indicated that similar to ACB's actions in the Hawaii quarantine challenge, ACB could under the authority contained in the recommendation adopted in this motion take actions supportive to GDUI's complaint without actually joining as a full party in interest. President Gray directly asked Taylor whether the members of ICUB would find this motion more acceptable than ACB's joining in GDUI's administrative complaint. Taylor responded that while he was reluctant to speak for the ICUB membership on this question, he believed that the ICUB membership, while not being happy with ACB's support of the GDUI complaint, would probably find it possible to tolerate the national organization's position on the matter. President Gray then thanked all attendees for their frank, candid and constructive participation in the meeting, and upon a motion duly made and seconded, the emergency advisory meeting of the ad hoc ACB leadership adjourned around 10:30 p.m. Eastern time.


ENSURING QUALITY SERVICES FOR THE BLIND: DO WE HAVE THE NAC?
by Charles Crawford and Christopher Gray

Have you ever wondered how all the various interests and elements come together to define a service and to put benchmarks in place to guarantee it is a quality service? Often, we can identify a service that missed the mark, but understanding why this has happened and what can be done to improve things is sometimes easier said than done.

Yet as a consumer organization, we must constantly work toward better services. The alternative is either to advise blind and visually impaired people to move to an area where services are better, or just to accept what we get.

ACB has always endorsed standards and accreditation as one important approach that gives consumers reasonable expectation of receiving credible services from schools and agencies. Indeed, the general population relies in much the same way on accreditation to assure them that educational, medical, transportation, and other services are worthwhile. Teachers must be certified as well as ophthalmologists, social workers, mobility specialists and a host of others who provide services to the blind community and to all our communities in general. Since 1966, ACB has stood alongside those who say that the blind community is better served with a stable process of accreditation than without one. Also since that time, a self-serving and transparent attack has been mounted against the principles and mechanisms for accreditation by those who sought only to control that process for their own ends. Partly for this reason and partly due to many other factors, accreditation has been a complicated and divisive issue in our community. First, let's look at a little background.

One effort in accreditation that has been ongoing for many years has been to establish standards and subsequently accredit blindness agencies based on reviews of their process, performance, and qualifications. This work has been a part of the business of what many have known as NAC, which stands for the National Accreditation Council. Despite the existence of NAC since the late 1960s, that entity has never gone any further than accrediting 25 percent of all the agencies and schools serving blind people. Today, the membership of NAC is down to 10 percent or less of all the providers upon whom we rely for services. Should this be of concern to ACB? If so, then what problems need addressing and what outcomes should we be seeking?

ACB's major concern with respect to NAC over the years has been insufficient consumer involvement in the development of standards and process of accrediting agencies and schools. Between roughly 1980 and 1990, we had good reason to believe things were changing and that the inclusion of more and more blind consumers had moved away from tokenism toward real involvement. For many reasons, this fell apart during the 1990s. Part of the problem was funding; another part was organizational changes within NAC. We have responded to our exclusion from the standards setting and accreditation processes by maintaining a stance of "Nothing about us without us." Our reactionary approach, along with the Federation's more active opposition to NAC, has certainly kept away all those people who want to do things for us rather than with us. Unfortunately, it has also led to a stagnation in the updating, growth and quality of accreditation services, and this situation cries out for change if blind people are going to receive the caliber and quality of services that all of us know we need.

ACB has proposed to the NAC board that they substantively "change their ways" by including the "active participation" of consumers in their development of standards and through the process of accreditation. ACB has stated further that only by adopting our principles of consumer cooperation can NAC truly involve all consumer organizations to ensure balanced and enriched results.

If NAC, or a successor organization, takes on this challenge seriously, then the power of consumerism will have been added to the academic reasons for standards and accreditation. Under this formula, agencies and schools for the blind would be motivated, not only by the reasonable proposition that they should adhere to specific and high standards, but also by the certainty that customers expect quality and a minimum predictability of good service from agencies that have been accredited. This should be true across the country.

There is much more to this story of how we can achieve quality services throughout the land, but let's leave other parts of the discussion to future issues of the Forum and get to work on reshaping, and if necessary reforming, the world of accreditation before too many more blind people are left to the luck of the draw or forced to live with little or no choice in what they get. As we provide you with more details on this topic in future articles, rest assured that ACB stands as it has stood since 1966: squarely in support of accreditation based on sound standards and separated from any single organization's political agendas and endeavors. We believe in rehabilitation that serves all comers who qualify for the service based on their needs, not based on a model similar to a boot camp, or so rigid that there is no opportunity for personal choice. Accreditation based on professionalism rather than politics has always been ACB's first consideration and will continue to be so.


ACB TRANSPORTATION SURVEY NEEDS YOUR RESPONSE
by Alice Richhart and Ron Brooks

In the last issue of the Forum, we announced ACB's new Transportation Task Force, of which we're co-chairpersons. The task force seeks to develop strategies which ACB and its members can use to improve transportation access and accessibility.

To begin this process, the task force has developed a survey, and we're writing to invite you to complete it. The survey is designed to determine what types of transportation services are available to blind and visually impaired people in their communities, to find out how people use these services, and to measure how people feel about service cost and quality. Once we have this information, we will be better able to incorporate the needs and concerns of ACB members within our work. How You Can Help

Please take a few minutes to complete our survey. For your convenience, we have created several ways you can do so.

1. Go to ACB's web site (http://www.acb.org) and fill out the on-line survey.

2. Contact one of the task force members (using the information at the end of this article) to assist you in completing the survey by phone. (Task force members can return calls to help you avoid incurring long distance phone charges.)

3. Contact your state or special-interest affiliate president for a copy of the survey in large print, braille or on computer diskette.

The deadline for completing all surveys is January 31, 2003. At that time, we will compile survey results in order to make a report at the 2003 ACB midyear meeting in Pittsburgh. Then, we will develop a position paper on transportation, which will be considered for adoption at the ACB 2003 convention.

Contact Information for Task Force Members Ron Brooks
e-mail: [email protected]

Lynne Koral
e-mail: [email protected]

Gayle Krause
e-mail: [email protected]

Alice Richhart
e-mail: [email protected]

Donna Smith
e-mail: [email protected]

Contact the ACB national office for help arranging communication by phone.


YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
ATTEND ACB'S 2003 LEGISLATIVE SEMINAR
by Melanie Brunson

Once again, ACB is planning a legislative seminar and it's not too early to start preparing to attend. The dates are Sunday, March 23 through Tuesday, March 25, 2003. We will be meeting at the Washington Terrace Hotel, located at 1550 Rhode Island Ave. NW, in Washington, D.C. The name may not be familiar to you, but some of you will recognize the hotel. It used to be known as the Doubletree Park Terrace, and we've held legislative seminars there in past years. The facilities have been renovated, the service promises to be friendly, and it's our hope that we can pack the place to the rafters!

As you know, a new Congress takes office in January. We have a number of issues to bring to their attention and we hope you will want to help in that effort. A number of important items will be on the legislative agenda this year, including but not limited to Congressional review of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as funding for accessible voting equipment. Please contact the ACB national office as soon as possible for information about how to register and reserve your hotel room. Come and join us. It's a great opportunity to learn about important issues, and to have a say in how your legislators respond to those issues. See you there!


SO WHAT IF I DON'T?
by Paul Edwards

Let me begin by saying that writing is a disease. I can no more stop writing than I can stop breathing. So, whether readers like it or not, here is another of my quirky articles for you to struggle through or enjoy. What finally got me to break my silence was a matter that I have had a lot to do with over the past year. I was one of those involved with the preparation of ACB's voter accessibility guide (now available online at www.acb.org) and thus thought a lot about what the implications of accessible voting might be. Then I had the opportunity to actually use accessible voting equipment for Florida's infamous primary election in September and again for our mid-term elections on November 5th, 2002. I must tell you that the elation over the privacy and secrecy of my ballot was substantially compromised by the fact that the primary ballot took me nearly half an hour to complete. Granted, this was partly because of my unfamiliarity with the system but it also had a lot to do with how inherently slow the system is. This experience got me to thinking about voting as just one example of the price we pay for independence.

Clearly, we can go faster if we use sighted guidance, especially when we are crossing lots of busy streets. Clearly, our ballot could be cast in far less time if we chose to use help. Clearly, we could get places quicker by using a friend's car than we can by using public transit. So, what's the point of building approaches to all these things that create the option of independence -- at the cost of the time it takes to do them? Isn't our time valuable to us? Doesn't it matter that, for the sake of some illusory advantage measurable and relevant only to those radical consumer organizations, we are asked essentially, to "waste our time?"

There are huge numbers of us who, were we being honest, would admit that sometimes, we take the easy road. Even with voting, many people will still exercise their right to rely on sighted help rather than spend the time it takes to vote independently. I have railed against this group in the past and will probably do so again. For now, though, let's cut them some slack and simply consider what the impact of their time-saving approach is.

Whether we like it or not, each of us has an influence on how those around us perceive people who are blind. When we choose to ask for help, we are making a statement. That statement, in essence, is that we do not feel competent to do on our own the particular task we are requesting assistance for. The Federation argues that we ask society to make too many accommodations for us. Could they be right for the wrong reason? Some of us are clearly asking for environmental alterations and then not using them when we get them. This may well send a less than flattering message about us as blind people and, if I were choosing sides, I might opt with the Federation simply so as not to be embarrassed by our failure to use the accommodations we have earned.

When you put the two arguments together, the situation gets even worse. When we fail to use the accommodations we have won and the Federation says that the accommodations are unnecessary for a person who is well trained, we are leaving ourselves wide open to the assumption that we don't use the secret ballot, the accessible pedestrian signal or the described video at the movie theater, etc., because we can't! Now there's a show-stopper, ladies and gentlemen. And yet it isn't very far-fetched as ideas go. We don't wear arm bands identifying our consumer affiliation so the public doesn't know that it is quite likely that as many of those who don't use the accommodations are Federationists as are ACB members. And 90 percent of those people who don't use accommodations aren't members of either organization anyway!

The bottom line here is that what we do matters. When I have sore feet after standing up to vote for 25 minutes or when my heart beats faster as I try to cross a difficult intersection or when I am soaked to the skin waiting for a bus that is late, I will think of what my actions mean. I am not only justifying and validating the accommodation. I am also making a statement about what blind people can be. If that statement happens to bolster a Federation notion, so be it! They can't be wrong all the time!


A MOSTLY ENCHANTED EVENING
by Sharon Strzalkowski

By noon of that day, the stirrings could no longer be ignored, and by 3 p.m. that New Year's Eve, it was a certainty that I would be attending my city's First Night celebration later on that night. There was nothing particularly unusual about my decision -- except that this year friends and family were elsewhere, and I would be venturing out alone in an unfamiliar city, to discover what the night might bring.

After work and a quick scan of the various venues, I decided to go to one particular church which was large enough to sponsor several events going on at the same time. I prepared for any eventuality by having enough cash so that I could take a cab home at any point, carrying my trusty cell phone in hand, and, as best as I could, bringing my courage as well. How interesting it is that we must will ourselves even to do what should be an enjoyable thing!

Traffic was slow on the way to the church, and there were many detours because of closed streets for purposes of the revelry to come. When I arrived at the church, I decided to go first to a shortened version of the Messiah, as I knew people in the chorus and was secretly hoping to run into someone I could share time with during the rest of the evening. Lo and behold, though, this event was not in the church building proper, and I was told to take a path to the next building. The snow was crunchy, and carnival-like sounds were emanating from various events on the street, so I knew that people were around. I had no trouble locating the building, and went in to hear the chorus. No one I knew appeared afterwards, so I went back to the church to hear some folk music. Trepidation was still a somewhat less forthright companion, but I kept it at bay by remembering earlier visits to this same church where I had enjoyed myself.

At this point, I wasn't at all sure that the folk-music event was going to be fun, but I sat down to hear a group that I had heard perform before, and gradually began to relax. I chatted with my neighbors nearby, as I have always found that folk music people seem friendly and not pretentious. When the set ended, I followed some people down two flights to the next event. By now I was feeling pretty good -- almost as if I was somehow part of the night's revelry.

Soon aromas of soup, hot chocolate and the like caught my attention, and I made my way to the food line. I found a volunteer who helped me to get hot chocolate, and it tasted delicious! She was wonderfully non-patronizing, but did say that she would stop by for me in a few minutes if I was ready to go to the next event.

Then, much to my surprise, a friend whom I had thought was out of town appeared! She was as surprised to see me as I was to see her, and, I think, just as glad to have company. Then an interesting thing happened. I had already heard one group that she had yet to hear, so we separated and agreed to meet after the next sets were done. This was remarkable because in our short relationship she had never seemed comfortable with me wandering around and not being under her watchful eye every moment. This new separateness represented a small but important victory, I felt!

The rest of the evening passed quickly, as we went to a glorious soprano concert and a rowdy enthusiastic gospel group, which rang in the New Year.

I would be less than honest if I were to say that I would have had as much fun by myself, and no doubt I would have gone home earlier, satisfied with my effort. But, looking at the evening, I can say that the combination of prudence, honoring my feelings and then sometimes going against them, a little bit of pluck, and a great deal of curiosity won the day. Somehow that evening was a turning point for me in this my new city, and I will never again stay home if I want to go somewhere that is exciting, safe, and where I know that I can control the situation to some extent. I gave myself a good New Year's present that night, and I hope that it will inspire any of you reading this to give yourself the same!


AFFILIATE NEWS

Award Winner in Kentucky!
by Carla Ruschival

Michael Cleveland, 1999 graduate of the Kentucky School for the Blind and a member of the Kentucky Council of the Blind, won two prestigious awards at the IBMA convention recently held in Louisville.

For the second year in a row, Michael is IBMA Bluegrass Fiddler of the Year, an outstanding accomplishment in itself and particularly noteworthy for someone as young as Michael.

This year, Michael also won Album of the Year.

Tom Adams, the banjo player who also plays in Coon Creek (the band in which Michael plays), won Banjo Player of the Year.

Keep on fiddlin', Michael!

Keystone Guide Dog Users

On Saturday, November 2, 2002, a group of interested guide dog users from Pennsylvania met to discuss the formation of a guide dog user group with the hope that this group can be affiliated with the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind and with Guide Dog Users, Inc. We have made some temporary decisions. We will be called Keystone Guide Dog Users. For the time being, officers are: Lisa Salinger, president; Rebecca Ilniski, vice president; Joseph Sickora, secretary.

If you are interested in becoming involved, we invite you to join our e-mail list and/or to listen to our announcement on 1- 800-tellme. To join the e-mail list, send a message to [email protected] and leave the message body and subject blank. To access the announcement on Tell Me, call 1- 800-555-tell or 1-800-555-8355. When prompted for a choice, say "Announcements." Then, you will be prompted for an announcement number. Enter this: 1-678-030. For now, the announcement contains contact information for joining the group.

Why Support VIVA?
by Barbara Alexander

This year at the ACB national convention, VIVA held its 24th annual meeting at which time we elected the following officers: Brian Higgins, president; John Fleming, vice president; Barbara Alexander, secretary; and Charlotte Noddin, treasurer.

A recent exchange of e-mail messages between a few VIVA members has raised some questions about how VIVA can best achieve its goals and what members can do to help this to happen. In order to answer this question, we must understand the relationship between VIVA and the American Council of the Blind of which VIVA is a special-interest affiliate.

As an ACB affiliate, we need to function within the ACB structure and be present at the ACB annual convention to vote on issues brought by resolution and motion to the floor. We need to make sure that our positions, often colored by the needs we have as visually impaired or blind veterans, find the common ground with the rest of the ACB community. Sometimes we will be supporting other segments of the ACB family in matters of particular importance to them. In other instances, we will be looking for their support for causes that directly impact mainly on the veteran population.

We will also find ourselves frequently aligned with efforts of the Blinded Veterans Association which, as a Congressionally chartered service organization, has a different route available to it.

VIVA's membership must be in touch with the VIVA board throughout the year to voice issues and concerns so the board can present these at ACB convention or so it can communicate to the ACB board as elected representatives of VIVA during the year. This is how ACB functions to accomplish its mission.

As is true for all other ACB local affiliates, local chapters of VIVA should be involved with local issues in conjunction with other local ACB affiliates and the local BVA regional group. While doing this, keeping the board of VIVA aware of issues and projects you are working with is important so that VIVA can lend its support where appropriate. This will insure that everyone is working in the same direction and lending support to one another rather than working at cross purposes.

We must all work together toward the common cause: a better quality of life for veterans who are blind or visually impaired. So, if you are a visually impaired veteran, or a relative or friend of a visually impaired veteran, you are encouraged to join VIVA. We also invite all veterans and those of you concerned with veterans' issues to join us in Pittsburgh in 2003 to celebrate our 25th year as an ACB affiliate.

News from VIDPI

VIDPI's dues structure has been changed, as follows: full member, $25; associate, $20; and student, $10. VIDPI is for the humblest of those who use the PC as a data entry device as well as for the most sophisticated of system developers, all working together to work toward equal accessibility of hardware and software for visually impaired people. We have a quarterly taped newsletter, an e-mail list, and a weekly chat room. For more information, visit www.acb.org/vidpi/. Or contact Robert Rogers at (513) 921-3186, or e-mail him at [email protected]

Thirty Years and Still Going Strong

Guide Dog Users, Inc. is proud to present "Thirty Years Harness In Hand," a collection of original music and poetry written and performed exclusively by guide dog handlers. These heartfelt tributes to guide dogs and fascinating audio snapshots of the magical bond that exists in working teams will make you laugh and cry, making this one-of-a-kind collection a must-have for anyone who loves dogs. This special project features "Harness In Hand," a tribute to working teams, written and performed by Sheila Styron commemorating GDUI's 30th anniversary. To learn more about how you can order GDUI's special CD, "Thirty Years Harness In Hand," call GDUI's toll free number, 1-888-858-1008, or visit GDUI on the web at www.gdui.org. A donation of $15 is all it takes, and proceeds will help support GDUI's legislative and advocacy activities undertaken on behalf of working teams.

Friends-in-Art Scholarship

Students are invited to apply for the Friends-In-Art Scholarship for the school year 2003-2004. This $1,000 scholarship is offered annually for achievement, talent, and excellence in the arts. If you are planning to, or are currently majoring in the field of music, art, drama, or creative writing, and are a blind or visually impaired student, you may apply for this scholarship. You may obtain an application form by writing to: Harvey Miller, 402 E. French Broad St., Brevard, NC 28712- 3410. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope when requesting the application. Applications are due by April 15, 2003.


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The editorial staff reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, style and space available. Opinions expressed are those of the authors, not those of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. "The Braille Forum" is not responsible for the opinions expressed herein. We will not print letters unless you sign your name and give us your address.

Regarding the Iowa guide dog case

To the Editor:

As a life member of ACB, 1996 Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award recipient and former employee of the Council, I am very concerned that the board of directors may have lost sight of one of our organization's core missions: to ensure equality for blind and visually impaired people. According to some discussion on the ACB-L e-mail list, a nine-member majority of the board recently voted not to join in a complaint made by an Iowa dog guide user against the Iowa Department for the Blind, which allegedly refused to allow the woman to participate in a training program accompanied by her dog. The rationale for the board's position, as related on the ACB-L list, was that this controversy was a local matter best handled by the Iowa Council of the United Blind, which also refused to join in the complaint.

Thanks to a cross-disability advocacy organization and a few dog guide schools, the woman who only wanted to use her mobility aid of choice did receive support for her human rights complaint. I am at a loss to understand why the ACB board would not join in this complaint. Have we deviated from our core commitment of equality of access such that we are willing to compromise this principle so as not to offend a state affiliate? Are we so worried about the rights of an affiliate that we are willing to remain silent when a blind person has clearly faced discrimination? Shame on the ACB board and the Iowa Council for their posture in this matter. I trust that the rights of the dog guide user will eventually be vindicated, but this will occur without the assistance of ACB. I think the vast majority of ACB members and affiliates would support a blind person's right to choose his/her mobility aid, and would be gravely concerned if a government agency were able to dictate its terms of service in a discriminatory manner. We are all diminished when one of us is denied a civil right. Perhaps the convention, as the supreme authority in ACB, can remedy this unfortunate situation in July. Will ACB step up to the plate and be counted?

-- Scott Marshall, Silver Spring, Md.

Regarding Accessible Currency

I would like to respond to the view expressed by Bruno J. Wolozyn, of Oil City, Pa. in the October Forum. First of all, I don't see anything wrong with the leadership of ACB going to court to get our government to print identifiable money. If the European Union has already done this for about 12 countries, I don't see why the United States can't do the same. After all, we're in the process of issuing new money anyway, so why not make some bills a different size or even a different color? The European Union has seven paper notes and eight coins. The notes are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. The euros are different colors and they all have a pale strip across the middle with the numbers on the front and back of the notes. The notes range in color from gray to purple for the 500 euro note. Each of the coins is quite distinguishable. Before I went to Europe in May this year, I knew the euro and had no trouble distinguishing any coins or notes. The notes are from 6.2 to 8.2 centimeters tall and from 12 to 16 centimeters in length. I requested 100 euros before leaving. I received 3 20's, 3 10's and 2 5's. I shocked the bank officials by telling them which note was which!

In the USA, I get all tens in dollars. That way I don't have to worry about changing a $20 with a cabdriver. I won't lose a big note in that case. In stores, I ask what the notes are and there's usually a crowd watching. Why should I drop $375 to buy a Canadian Note Teller to identify my own currency? No way, Jose!

On a different matter concerning money, I'd like to express my shock in learning that the membership of ACB has refused the idea of holding a convention at a college. The idea is you pay ACB $500 for a week's stay at a local college or university which would include meals as well as rooms, and ACB pays the university or college a set fee for the use of the school for that week. ACB then keeps the difference in money toward, say, an endowment fund. This would in my humble opinion be an excellent way to get the organization back on a strong financial footing. That endowment fund could then be complemented by other fund-raisers. The idea of a college or university-based convention would save the attendees quite a bit of money. As it is now you pay at least $690 just for a room for the week! I see these costs continuing to go up. But maybe you'd like to give the college idea some more thought? Perhaps it could make our organization a stronger advocacy agency by allowing us to generate more revenue and thus enabling us to hire one or two more people to assist with the job of lobbying for us on Capitol Hill. Frankly, I think it's not too big a sacrifice to endure toward the final aim of the overall goals of the organization.

-- Isaac Obie, Boston, Mass.

I want to comment on my and other letters regarding the accessibility of money. It is true that plastic dividers are useful in wallets, as well as folding of bills, as well as Note Tellers, as well as requesting sighted assistance. I personally have not used dividers; however, if I can find them, no one says I cannot, or will not. I fold bills in select ways. I have also requested sighted assistance; who hasn't? However, not everyone can afford a Note Teller, which is probably the most reliable way we have of differentiating various denominations. Charlie Crawford and I exchanged e-mails on this subject all last weekend.

But let's say we are in a store, bar, hotel, dance hall, or anywhere else, and we are handed a bill, or several bills. How are we going to know what they are, with absolute certainty, without asking? How can we know, for sure, that the person handing us the bills is trustworthy? These kinds of situations demonstrate the necessity of having bills which are equally accessible to the blind and the sighted. So how do we make the money accessible?

The best way would be to put braille on the currency. Let me point out here that so-called paper money is not really paper, but cloth, with metal strips in the cloth. Any braille reader knows that braille can be read, even if the medium where it appears is thin. So braille could be put on metal strips in bills; and the braille dots would be indestructible, as long as the bills were in circulation.

Another benefit of brailling currency for identification would be the increased incentive for more blind and visually impaired people to learn braille. Literacy would greatly increase.

-- Jeff Frye, Overland Park, Kan.

THE REAL PITTSBURGH
by Berl Colley

If you are like me, you thought of Pittsburgh, Pa. as an old steel-mill town with lots of dilapidated warehouses and sparsely populated office buildings downtown. The images in my mind's eye also included lots of tough mill workers sitting around in dark, smoky bars drinking beer. Well, there are, no doubt, some beer drinkers in Pittsburgh, just as there are everywhere else, but my mental pictures, it turns out, were based mostly on a number of incorrect and outmoded stereotypes! After my visit to Pittsburgh in October, I can enthusiastically say my misconceptions of our 2003 convention site were just that, misconceptions.

Almost all the mills are gone; many of the warehouses have been converted into boutique shopping centers and the downtown area is alive with new ball parks, lots of museums, theaters, good restaurants, gleaming office complexes and plaza areas along the waterways that reinforce the city's identity as "Three Rivers." Those of us attending next summer's ACB convention, in one of the newest convention centers in the United States, will have the opportunity to: visit historical sites that harken back as far as the French and Indian wars in the middle 1700s; attend one or more Pittsburgh Pirates ball games in the one-year-old PNC park; visit historical as well as up-to-the-minute technology museums with good audio description and hands-on fun; see the city from land and water and maybe sneak out of town to try our hand at Lady Luck.

Water is a big part of Pittsburgh's environment, with the Monongahela and Allegheny coming together to form the Ohio River. Traveling these waterways on an evening dinner cruise could be just the way to highlight a convention week in July when the average daytime temperature is 85 degrees. Musical and theater opportunities are also being considered. Future issues of the Forum will highlight specific tours as they are finalized.

I would like to thank members of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind and members of the Golden Triangle affiliate for their assistance as we finalize convention tours for next summer. I can guarantee that Pittsburgh will offer something for every special interest, and that, when you come to the city on three rivers, you can expect a wonderful convention experience.


PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SERVICES IN PITTSBURGH

If you are planning to attend the 2003 ACB national convention in Pittsburgh, you will find a comprehensive public transportation system to take you anywhere you want to go in the city and its surrounding county. Upon arrival at the convention, you will receive detailed information regarding the Port Authority bus service in the downtown area where the two headquarters hotels are located. You can travel by bus and subway (called the "T") to all areas of the city and its suburbs. However, you can also apply for temporary paratransit eligibility as a visitor to the city. To get an application, contact ACCESS Transportation, Inc. by either writing to Centre City Tower, 650 Smithfield St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or calling (412) 562-5353.


WHERE DID MILO GO?
by Cindy Burgett

When Lyle finally came to the realization that it was time to retire Milo, his very first guide dog, a very difficult decision indeed, we talked about placement of him. We knew that we had a tall order, but we wanted the best possible home for Milo. So we did everything we could to get the word out that we were looking for this perfect home.

Preferably, it would have no other dogs. Milo, in his old age, became less and less tolerant of other dogs, especially younger ones. And he really wanted to be "top dog!" It would have to have someone that was home a lot. Milo has been with Lyle almost nonstop for the past nine years, and he's never gotten used to being left home alone, because it just didn't happen much. It had to be someone who didn't mind the evidence of a dog in their house, because, no matter how often you comb Milo, he sheds a great deal. Milo is a yellow Labrador, but his white hair is very noticeable. And then of course we wanted it to be a nice home with a fenced yard, someplace not too far from us, so that we could visit Milo and he could visit us.

I told you this was a tall order!

So we told many people about Milo, hoping and praying that someone we told would know someone else that might know someone who was looking for such a dog.

Oh yes, did I mention that Milo is 11 years old? Well, evidently this became an issue for some folks, who voiced concern about having an older dog.

The other amazing thing we found is, most people who wanted a dog already had one. Go figure!

So time was running out and Lyle's class date, when he'd be going down to train with his next guide dog, was approaching. The school told him that if he didn't find a home for Milo, he could bring Milo with him and they would place him. We know that Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) is very good about placing their retired dogs, and there was no doubt he'd go to a good home, but it's not what we were wanting. You know, this separating oneself from their retired dog, that whole transition, is much harder on the person than the dog. I'm sure of that!

Now, we were entering a time crunch. It was Friday, and if Lyle was going to bring Milo to the school with him, he'd have to notify GDB by the next Thursday, which was just six days away. My daughters and I had no school that Friday, and so we decided to go to the mall for a few hours and hang out together.

We boarded the Access bus and a very nice lady spoke up, commenting on how nicely Arabelle (my guide dog) laid down. She mentioned how she'd like to have a dog like that. Then I asked her if she was looking for a dog, and she proceeded to tell me how she wanted to find a dog for companionship, and one that would be a bit of protection at night for her by making noise if someone came to the door. Did I mention Milo sounds ferocious as he growls and wags his tail simultaneously greeting visitors at the door? Right then, I knew. So, I told her that I had the perfect dog for her.

I can't begin to tell you how I felt during that ride to the mall. But I know the time just flew by as we chatted about Milo. I may not be able to physically see, but I know Marian was glowing with excitement over the possibility of her future partner.

Before I got off the bus, we exchanged phone numbers, and she promised to call me when she came back into town; she was going to spend the weekend with her daughter in Belfair, about 20 miles away.

On Sunday I returned her call from the night before and we chatted some more. She was so worried that we might have found Milo another home since the last time we'd talked. She said that the whole time she was with her family, all she could talk about was Milo. There was such excitement and sincerity in her voice.

This whole time, I knew that God had placed his hand over the situation and was guiding everything.

On Monday, Lyle and I, along with Milo, went to Marian's home, which is about five miles from ours. She lives in a quiet neighborhood and has a fenced-in yard. Milo seemed to make himself right at home, following Marian into the kitchen for some water and a treat.

As we sat, visiting with one another in her living room, I warned her that Milo sheds a lot. She didn't miss a beat and just said, "So do I, and my hair's white too, so he'll probably be blaming me."

Marian's husband of 56 years had passed away in May, and she'd been thinking about getting a dog to keep her company. She said that her kids wanted her to get a security system put in, but she didn't want any of that! She's 78 years old and wants to stay in her home, but doesn't like being alone.

Now came the important decision. I know it wasn't easy when Lyle reached over to hand Marian Milo's leash. It was a bittersweet moment for me, as I could feel her joy as she said, "Oh, thank you, Lyle!" But I knew for Lyle, it was letting go of a faithful friend who'd given him nine wonderful years of service. But Lyle knew he'd found the home for Milo he'd dreamed about for him.

Milo stayed with Marian that Monday, and the next day she told us that he curled up on his rug at the foot of her bed and didn't budge all night. During the days, he follows Marian around, lies at her feet, or sits beside her chair and enjoys lots of loving, and gets treats from his new friend, a different kind of partner.

Milo truly is living the life of luxury as a retired guide. And Marian promised us over and over again that she will take good care of Milo. She keeps on saying how blessed she is to have Milo, but I know they're equally blessed. She told me the other day, "If Milo goes before me, I'll be thankful for the time I had with him."

Louis was Marian's husband, but Milo is her king. Not only did Milo find a wonderful place to retire, but we've also found a special family friend, Marian Fitzwater.


STAYING HOME FOR OUR DAUGHTER'S BIRTHDAY
by Ron Brooks

Earlier this year my wife Lisa and I brought our first child, a beautiful baby girl named Kacie Leandra, into the world. As of this writing, Kacie is about eight weeks old. She's very healthy, generally happy and quite the charmer. Giving birth is not an unusual story, but because we're both blind, planning and preparing for the birth of our first child did require Lisa and me to approach some things a bit differently from the average first-time parents. Lisa and I elected to have our baby at home with a midwife, something which only about one percent of couples in the United States do.

From the very beginning, we got lots of questions from friends and family, who felt that by having our baby at home, we might incur a great deal of risk. People questioned Lisa's decision to have an unmedicated birth without an obstetrician present. They wondered how we would handle an emergency with the delivery. They couldn't imagine how we as blind people would be able to manage without the help of well-trained hospital personnel. In short, they wondered if we might not be making a huge mistake.

In looking back on this experience and on how people felt about our decision, I decided to write this article because our daughter's birth went smoothly, and in fact, I would posit that our daughter's home birth was probably easier and more satisfying than it could ever have been within the safe confines of a hospital, and this despite our blindness.

Let me begin by sharing the reasons Lisa and I chose to deliver Kacie at home. First, we believed that the care we would receive from a midwife would be at least as good as the care we would otherwise receive from an obstetrician. Second, it seemed to us that as blind people, giving birth at home would eliminate several logistical challenges, including getting to the hospital and back, and explaining our blindness and capabilities to skeptical hospital personnel. Third, we felt that we would have more freedom to have the birth experience we wanted if we did so at home. Fourth, and most important, we believed that the birth of our child should be a life experience rather than a medical event. Let me address each of these issues in turn.

When we found out that we would be parents, we immediately opted for a home birth, and we began the search for a midwife. Here in our home state of New Mexico, home births are more common than in other areas of the country, so finding a midwife wasn't difficult. In our case, we were led to Hillary (our midwife) and Dusty (her assistant) by another blind woman who had given birth at home. Even without this referral, we could have found a midwife through any number of sources, ranging from word-of-mouth referrals to midwife locater services, available on several midwifery and home birth web sites, two of which I'll list at the end of this article.

From the beginning, Lisa and I were in favor of home birth because we believed that we would get care from our midwife which would be at least as good as the care we would be able to expect from an obstetrician, and as long as there were no problems with the pregnancy or delivery, we wouldn't be sacrificing anything. As it turns out, the care and support we received from our midwife far surpassed our wildest expectations. We saw our midwife every month until Lisa was six months pregnant. Thereafter, we saw her every other week, and at the end, we saw her on a weekly basis. Most of these appointments were at our midwife's office, but at the end, many were at our home, which was very convenient. These prenatal appointments generally lasted about an hour and consisted of a short check-up for Lisa and baby and lots of time just talking. Our midwife was not just interested in Lisa's and the baby's prenatal health. She was interested in our family backgrounds (especially as they pertained to the baby's possible health), our plans and philosophies for raising our baby, once she arrived, and our feelings and fears about becoming parents. Besides answering questions, sharing her experiences and giving support, Hillary also shared her library of books and videos with us. One other planning task, with which our midwife assisted us, was contingency planning in the event of a last-minute medical emergency. Home birth is generally as safe as giving birth in a hospital, but if an unforeseen medical emergency had arisen, our midwife would have accompanied us to the hospital, and she would have served as our liaison with the hospital's personnel. All of our midwife's support, coupled with a birthing class which Lisa and I took prior to Kacie's birth, gave us a very good grounding in what to expect from the pregnancy and during the birthing process; thus, when Lisa went into labor, neither of us went into shock.

A second advantage for home birth was in the area of logistics. We've all seen the movies and TV shows where the mother to be goes into labor at two in the morning, and dad (who has packed the suitcase weeks in advance) fumbles for his clothes, the car keys and the suitcase, only to realize that he forgot to help his wife into the car before pulling out of the driveway. As blind people, this scenario would have been preferable to our own particular reality had we elected to have our baby at the hospital. Not only would we have had to arrange for transportation to the hospital, but we would have had to arrange for a return ride home, and we would have had to make plans for the baby's return trip as well. In addition, we would have had to make plans for our guide dogs, not to mention our other pets. Finally, I would have had to make plans to go back and forth between home and the hospital and to be independent and mobile while there. Because we had our birth at home, we did not have to make any travel arrangements at all. Further, by inviting a close friend to spend time at our home during the birth, we had someone taking care of our needs (including cooking and cleaning), who also watched out for all of our guide dogs and pets, while being available for any issues that arose. Best of all, because we were in our own familiar home, Lisa and I could move about at will and without worrying about having to get help or guidance. If Lisa wanted to sit in the living room, she did. If she wanted to take a bath, she did. If she needed something, I could get it without having to ask for help from someone else, and if I needed help, my aforementioned friend was available to do whatever I asked.

From the earliest weeks of Lisa's pregnancy, she and I spent huge amounts of time trying to plan and imagine our daughter's birth. We imagined ourselves taking walks and swimming in our pool prior to the onset of labor. We imagined the music we would play on our stereo, the smells of the candles we would light, and we thought about whom we would invite to be present. In a hospital setting, we would have had some flexibility over the birth experience, but at home, we had more. For example: at home, Lisa could decide whether to have the baby in water or not, on a bed or not, sitting or lying. Additionally, whereas I might have been asked to stand aside in a hospital (because of the concerns of hospital personnel about my abilities as a blind man), I was able to determine my own level of involvement in the birth. I could either be very involved or not, help with delivery or not, catch the baby when she came out or not. Ultimately, Lisa had a long labor, and we spent portions of this time all over our home and backyard. We listened to music; we swam; we sat around and read; we even danced to jazz music at two in the morning when Lisa couldn't get comfortable doing anything else. As for the birth itself, Lisa spent the last few hours of her labor in water but decided at the last minute to give birth on our bedroom floor. I participated in her entire delivery, but at the last minute, I decided to let someone else cut the umbilical cord.

One of the reasons we decided against a hospital birth was our disagreement with the medical model of childbirth which views birth as a medical process rather than a life experience. This largely philosophical viewpoint may seem remote to the practical reality of labor and delivery, but in fact, it is not. Because hospitals view birth as a medical event with clear and serious risks to mother and baby, they tend to do anything in their power to minimize risk. This includes electronic fetal monitoring (which limits a mother's freedom to move around while subjecting the baby to an invasive monitoring system) and procedures designed to keep the mother as "safe" as possible. In a hospital, Lisa wouldn't be likely to be able to ingest anything more than water or juice, and she would be encouraged to stay still and preferably in bed. These precautions are fine, especially if there is a risk to mother or baby, but in most births (including our daughter's), there are no risk factors; thus these precautions are excessive. In contrast, we viewed our daughter's birth as a life event, and in our home, we were able to treat it as such. We spent this incredible and unforgettable time together and largely alone, and once our daughter was born, Lisa and I spent time with little Kacie, just being together. In fact, within three hours of Kacie's birth, the midwives were gone, and the three of us were catching up on much-needed sleep while the friend staying in our guest room cleaned our house and washed the breakfast dishes. This is not to say that we were left alone as new parents. On the contrary, our midwife and her assistant made several follow-up visits to our home to check Lisa's recuperation and Kacie's development, to make sure nursing was going well, and to answer any questions we had about our new baby girl.

Having our little girl at home was not only safe for Kacie and convenient for us. It was also empowering. As most blind people know, society spends a lot of time telling us what we can't do, and what we need help doing, and all the ways we need others to be there to take care of us. Having our baby at home contradicted these notions by putting us in charge. We decided who would be there, how long they would stay, and how they would assist us.

Home birth is not for everyone, and anyone considering a home birth should take care to plan for as many contingencies as possible. Additionally, each state's laws differ slightly regarding who can act as a midwife and on giving birth at home. If you are interested in obtaining more information about home birth or midwifery, I recommend the following resources:

1) HTTP://WWW.MIDWIFERYTODAY.COM -- Midwifery Today is a publication geared for midwives, but there are good resources available from the Midwifery Today home page, including a summary of state laws and regulations on home birth and midwives, and a midwife locater service.

2) HTTP://WWW.CFMIDWIFERY.ORG -- This is the home page of an organization called Citizens for Midwifery. It's a good general site with lots of information, including comparisons of home and hospital births. For those people who are not Net surfers, the resources are more limited. By conducting an NLS book search, we found one book, "Having Your Baby with a Midwife." This book deals mostly with midwife-attended hospital births, but there is one chapter on home birth.

Caption: Ron and Lisa Brooks, holding three-week-old Kacie Leandra, gather in front of their home in Albuquerque, N.M. for a family photo.


BLIND SCHOOL PIONEERS WEB DESIGN
by Eunice Kim

(Reprinted from "The Metro West Daily News," September 23, 2002.) WATERTOWN -- Kim Charlson recognized first-hand the drawbacks of using a text-based version of any web site. As a blind patron herself, the director of the Perkins School for the Blind's Braille and Talking Book Library found that the bare bones, "text only" option typically used by visually impaired individuals was not always updated.

In helping design the new Perkins web site, Charlson and the other members of the accessibility committee decided to find a solution.

"We first made a decision that the site would be the same site for everybody," Charlson said.

The recently launched site (www.perkins.pvt.k12.ma.us) designed by members of Nesnadny and Schwartz, a Cleveland-based team, allows blind, deaf-blind and sighted users to easily operate within the same site, accessing all information.

"They took into consideration what the issues for low-vision are," said Kae Ann Rausch, rehab services director at Vision Community Services. Rausch, who is legally blind, uses the site to research information and services for both herself and others. "I think they did a really good job making it friendly for those who can most benefit from the site."

The upgraded site permits users to customize their settings by not only changing the color of the text and background like other sites but also by changing the size of the font.

"We just go the extra step, to have that option right away," said the site's web master, Kimberly Kittredge. Once changed, the site remembers the settings, letting users leave the site and come back without having to make the changes again.

Each page includes navigational indicators marking a visitor's exact location on the site. Written on the homepage, for example, are the words "You are on the homepage."

"It really helps me," Charlson said. "It's kind of like a road map. There are road signs."

The layout's clarity and simple organization allow a blind user's screen writing software to "read aloud" the text without confusion, Kittredge said. The web page also has a complete site map and search engine function for those unfamiliar with the Perkins site.

A person with low vision can now enlarge each photograph by clicking on it. One can also access detailed descriptions of each photo. One such description reads, "Three teenage girls hugging one another and smiling outside a Perkins cottage."

"Just because a person is not sighted, it doesn't mean you shouldn't see the same thing as someone who is sighted," Kittredge said. Many sites only have brief captions for their photos, she added. "We wanted people to know what was going on."

Through the new site, visitors can access the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library and browse available material in the library's catalog. They can also borrow materials online overnight.

"I can do that without assistance now," Rausch said, referring to searching the library. "It's really nice to do that on my own."

Perkins, which has programs in over 50 developing countries, strove to reach users with any level of technology and computer knowledge, including new users, seniors and students.

"Someone in Ghana can get the same information as someone here," Kittredge said. "People are hungry for information, especially for parents who just found out their child is blind."

People can research issues regarding blindness and discover more about the Perkins School, which is the country's oldest school for the blind. The site "tells our story, what we do," Kittredge said.

The next phase of development will include adding more links to organizations and services that Perkins does not provide. The site will likely include full access to documents and downloadable books and journals as well as an avenue to shop online for equipment, such as a Braille writer.

Anyone with suggestions or questions about the site or other germane issues can directly contact the school through the site's new e-mail feature.

"We can find out what is missing on the site," Kittredge said. "What else do they want to know?"


SOUNDS OF SUCCESS:
SUNSET WOMAN HELPS TEAM WIN WORLD TITLE
IN SPORT FOR BLIND ATHLETES
by Cicero A. Estrella

(Reprinted from "The San Francisco Chronicle," October 4, 2002.)

(Editor's Note: Jessie Lorenz is an ACB member and president of Blind Students of California. She does a tremendous amount of advocacy work in the San Francisco Bay area.)

Jessie Lorenz listens and waits.

She is in search of rolling bells and the rapid squeal of rubber against hardwood. At the last second, she lunges sideways toward the noises -- shoulder first, diving to the ground, arms extended, stretching her 5-foot, 7-inch frame to its limit across the floor.

Lorenz, a blind athlete from the Sunset District, becomes a human blockade to stop a ball that can travel up to 30 mph.

This was how Lorenz spent the second half of two weeks in Rio de Janeiro. Again and again, she would dive to the floor in search of a hollow, basketball-size sphere that contains nine bells. She stopped them often enough to help the U.S. women's team win gold at this year's International Blind Sports Association World Goalball Championships held Aug. 30 to Sept. 8.

"People were surprised we pulled it off. We were surprised we pulled it off," said Lorenz, 23, of her team's championship victory over rival Canada.

Lorenz was a huge factor in the U.S. women winning their first world title in a sport designed for the blind and visually impaired. Participating in only her second international competition, Lorenz quickly ascended from second-stringer to starting center. With Lorenz as a reserve, the team struggled defensively and finished round-robin play with a 4-1 record, including a 4-3 loss to Canada. Coach Ken Armbruster promoted Lorenz to a starter for the elimination rounds.

She played alongside offensive-minded wings Jennie Armbruster (the coach's daughter) and Lisa Banta. The United States eliminated Spain and Germany, before decisively defeating Canada 6-2 for the gold.

"Our defense was not sharp [during round-robin]," said Ken Armbruster. "The center is supposed to dominate defensive play, but my wings ended up doing much of the blocking. We stuck Jessie in, and we didn't give up much after that."

Lorenz, who was born blind, found that she had an instinct for the game after finding out about it in a Michigan sports camp for blind children about 10 years ago. "Basically, my position is the goalie. There's a lot of listening and tracking, which comes naturally," Lorenz said. "I have to listen [in my daily life] for traffic sounds, a lot of other environmental clues. Goalball is just an extension of my tracking abilities."

Goalball was invented in Germany in 1946 as part of the rehabilitation of blinded World War II veterans. It was introduced to the rest of the world 30 years later at the Paralympics Games in Toronto.

The game is played on an area the size of a volleyball court with boundaries marked by rope with tape placed over it. Teams consist of three members -- a left wing, center and right wing -- who field their positions on the court by feeling for the taped rope with their feet and hands.

Teams stand at opposite ends of the court and score by "throwing" (rolling is a more accurate description) the ball past opponents and into a net 9 meters long and 1.3 meters high. In the fast-paced game, teams go from defense to offense in a flash. After making initial contact with the ball, a team has 10 seconds to throw it back or risk a penalty. The ball has been clocked at 30 mph in women's competition, 40 mph in men's games.

Competitors are required to don eyeshades so those with partial sight do not gain an advantage. "I've spent my entire life in that state of being," Lorenz said. "With goalball, everybody is equal."

Paying attention to the bells is the key, which made the world championships that much more of a challenge for Lorenz. She had grown accustomed to playing in front of crowds of about 200, but attendance in Brazil was often six times that. The championship atmosphere charged up the crowds and brought the noise to a level Lorenz had not experienced before.

"It changes your concentration level," Lorenz said. "There was one time I was yelling at one of my wings, and I knew she couldn't hear me."

Lorenz had always enjoyed participating in sports growing up in Colorado Springs, but found her choices to be limited. During middle school and high school, she swam and competed in track and field in the mile, the 800-meter race and the long jump. Although those are considered team sports, Lorenz's events were very individualistic. She said she never really felt part of a team.

She also never felt comfortable being guided around the track by sighted runners, to whom she was attached by a tether the length of a shoestring. "My ability to play sports was somewhat limited," Lorenz said. "I could not compete without help. Goalball gives me a chance to use all my abilities as an individual and still be competitive in a team."

The game might have come easily to her, but Lorenz has worked hard to make the national team. Armbruster, who coached Lorenz for five years with the Colorado statewide team before she moved to the Bay Area in 1998, applauds her dedication to improvement. Lorenz, he said, was sixth on his depth chart (on a team of six) upon arrival in Brazil.

"I gained confidence in her. The girls playing behind her gained confidence in her," Armbruster said. "She earned [the starting position]."

Lorenz practices twice a week in Berkeley with the Bay Area Outreach and Recreating Program, Northern California's lone goalball club. Leading up to the world championships, her daily routine consisted of running five miles and lifting weights to improve her upper-body strength, which she scheduled around her duties as a disabled rights advocate for the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco.

But the physical work, according to BORP coach Jonathan Newman, is just part of the reason for Lorenz's rise as one of the country's top goalball athletes. "She really grasps the team concept," he said. "She buys into blending her skills into the teams' skills. She does not let her ego get in the way of how the team does."

Lorenz estimates she took only one of every 10 shots following her blocks at the world championships. The other 90 percent she passed to the wings, whom she knew were stronger and capable of faster and more accurate throws.

Lorenz continues to celebrate the team's victory weeks after returning to San Francisco. She and friends have reveled with a few dinners and, admittedly, her training regimen has slipped lately.

But Lorenz will soon be back on the treadmill and hitting those weights. Besides wanting to prove more as an athlete, Lorenz finds comfort on the court.

"There's a dignity to it," she said. "Sometimes people look down on Paralympics or blind sports as something lesser, not as competitive. We're competitive like abled sports. We have real athletes."

Where to go: The Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program holds goalball classes at 7 p.m. Wednesdays at the Berkeley Adult School girls gym, 1222 University Ave., Berkeley. Contact Jonathan Newman at (510) 849-4663 or at [email protected]


BIOPTIC DRIVING: A JOURNEY TO A MORE INDEPENDENT WAY OF LIFE
by Michael Smitherman

In May of 2001, I started down a road filled with many uncertainties to forge a new and exciting way of life for my family and me. I began the long process of learning how to drive with the aid of a bioptic lens, and, as of March 28, 2002, I was granted a Mississippi driver's license.

First, I would like to thank a few people who were instrumental in helping me achieve the goal of obtaining yet another milestone in the fight for more independence: Alison, my wife, who believed in me all along and was always there when I was down, to lift me up and say, "Hey, you can do this thing;" Connie Fitzhugh, my rehab counselor, who, through the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, made sure that everything was being done on their end; Dr. Glen Stribling, my optometrist, who said I qualified and that I could obtain a driver's license if I worked hard and wanted it badly enough; last, and certainly not least, Nancy Prusik, my driving instructor, who was hard on me but made sure that I learned the rules of the road, and the responsibilities of having a driver's license. To all of you, I want to say thanks for your help in achieving this goal.

Last May, I was referred to Connie Fitzhugh, a rehab counselor, to see if my case could be opened for the purpose of obtaining a Mississippi driver's license with the use of a bioptic lens. She set me up an appointment to see Dr. Glen Stribling, one of two eye doctors in Mississippi who can test to see if one might qualify for the bioptic driving program. Dr. Stribling said I would make a good candidate for this program. Then he wrote the prescription for the bioptic lens. After several visits to Dr. Stribling, in which he taught me the proper use of the bioptic lens, he signed off on me and said it was time for the next step. I purchased a state driver's manual and studied so that I could get my learner's permit. After weeks, or so it seemed, I was granted a learner's permit on December 17, 2001. Here, I would like to thank my sister, Sarah Roberson, who helped me by letting me drive whenever possible. She let me drive and gave me lots of tips that would help me later in this process for getting my driver's license.

In January of this year, Nancy Prusik of On the Road Evaluations and Training came to Mississippi for the official training that I had to have in order to receive my driver's license. Nancy was tough in her approach to people driving with the use of a bioptic lens. She made me read all signs, tell the color of the stop light ahead, practice lane changes, enter the interstate at high speed, park left and right, turn left and right, and last, but not least, she made me parallel park before I could pass her training, and, of course, I did. Then she came back to Jackson the first week of March for a final testing before signing off on me. After 23 hours of rigorous training with Nancy, she signed off on me and said I was ready for the road test, the driving part of the test for a driver's license.

On March 21, I went for my road test with the Mississippi Department of Highway Safety Patrol. I felt confident in my ability to pass this test, yet I was quite nervous. I made a couple of mistakes, one of which I don't think was my fault, but the master sergeant who gave the test felt that I needed more practice behind the wheel. Now, let me thank my niece, Brandi Gaugh, who worked with me every day of the next week in order for me to get more time behind the wheel. On March 28, 2002, I went back to take the road test again, and, yes, I passed it without any problems. Then the master sergeant gave me instructions about when I could drive and some safety tips for driving. Around 2:55 p.m., I received my Mississippi driver's license. That same afternoon, I drove to Madison and picked my wife up from work for the very first time, without being accompanied by a licensed driver. That was an exciting time for both of us!

Alison and I have bought a car, a 2002 Saturn SL1 series. As of this day, we have put over 1,700 miles on it and are enjoying the independence that being able to drive has provided us. One of our goals is to make sure that anyone who is blind or visually impaired does not have to miss an MCB function because they have no ride, as long as the function is during the day.

This new freedom allows us to go to church, go shopping, visit friends, and so many other things we enjoy doing, without having to plan everything out or having to bother others for rides. If there is a drawback, I can't think of it except that with the bioptic lens, I am not able to drive at night. What a shame (grin).

Although bioptic driving might not be for everyone, I would say to anyone who has 20/200 vision: Get yourself checked out to see if you can qualify for bioptic driving. It has changed our lives in two ways: We can now do more for ourselves, and we can then do more for others. Sure, owning a car is more expensive when you count the cost of the car note, gas, and insurance, but there is nothing like the freedom of having transportation for those of us who are blind or visually impaired. Think about it: The cost is worth it, and who minds being home at night? For sure, not I!


HERE AND THERE
by Billie Jean Keith

(Editor's Note: We are sad to learn that Billie Jean Keith will no longer be able to compile and edit the "Here and There" column of "The Braille Forum." We have enjoyed working with you, Billie Jean, and know that our readers will miss the affable multidimensional way you have kept us all informed over the past year and a half.

If you are interested in attempting to follow in the footsteps of Billie Jean and those who preceded her in the role of editor of "Here and There," please send us a letter of application, along with a resume and references. You may send your application for this unpaid position via snail-mail to Penny Reeder, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th Street NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005, or by e-mail to [email protected] You may attach your resume and list of references as MS Word "doc" files or in plain text format, or just paste all documents directly into the e-mail message. We will accept applications until February 15, and hope to announce a new editor of "Here and There" no later than March 2003.)

The announcement of products and services in this column is not an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its staff, or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be held responsible for the reliability of products and services mentioned.

To submit an item for "Here and There," send an e-mail message to [email protected] You may call the ACB toll-free number, (800) 424-8666, and leave a message in mailbox 22. Please bear in mind that we need information two months ahead of actual publication dates.

And finally, a parting note: This is the last column from me. I have returned to work and there is just no time to squeeze for writing a monthly column. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to compile it for the past two years, and especially, to get to know many readers. Please continue to submit items for Here and There.

PEOPLE NEEDED FOR STUDY

Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS) is a serious genetic disorder. It affects people from many nationalities and is very prevalent in families from northwestern Puerto Rico and their descendants. HPS involves albinism, a bleeding tendency and bruising, and in some cases, a life-threatening lung disease. Doctors at the National Institutes of Health are writing a protocol for a treatment for the pulmonary fibrosis of HPS. Patients will be treated by some of the nation's leading experts at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md. There is no cost for the medicine, hospitalization, or doctors' fees.

Eligible people will have a forced vital capacity on pulmonary function tests of below 85 percent. If you have a breathing problem related to Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome, or if you are albino, have asthma, and suspect you might have this syndrome, please call toll-free (800) 789-9477.

SOCIAL SECURITY RATES FOR 2003

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits will increase slightly in 2003. Benefits increase automatically each year based on the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In real terms, this means that, if you are blind or visually impaired and you are working and receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level will rise from $1,300 to $1,330 per month. For individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, the monthly rate will change from $545 to $552. For a couple, the maximum federal SSI monthly payment will rise from $817 to $829. For more information, call your local Social Security office, or visit the web site at www.ssa.gov.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS!

ACB is pleased to announce the winners of our scholarship raffle and convention sweepstakes!

The scholarship raffle's third prize of $300 went to Frank and Terry Pacheco of Silver Spring, Md.; second prize of $500 went to the Missouri Council of the Blind; and first prize, $10,000, went to Sandy Sanderson and Lynne Koral of Anchorage, Alaska! Say, will that melt some ice up there? Big smile.

The convention sweepstakes winner was Sine Darlow of Jacksonville, Fla. She won $500.

ACB again congratulates all the winners and wishes all our members, friends, and families a great holiday season!

ACB STORE IS NOW OPEN!

The ACB store is now available on the ACB web site at www.acb.org. You will find a small selection of ACB products which may be familiar to you, such as the luggage tag, ACB pin, convention tapes, and lifetime memberships. As time goes on, we hope to be able to make a larger selection of products available to you.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGY TRAINING

The Catholic Guild for the Blind, located in Chicago, offers training in adaptive technology for people who are blind or visually impaired. The Guild offers classroom, tutorial, and one-on-one training. Classrooms are equipped with the latest in adaptive technology. The computer training program is for individuals who need adaptive technology training to pursue their goals, but cannot afford the cost of the training. The Richard Perritt Charitable Foundation is funding the program.

For more information or to obtain an application, please call Beth Ocrant or David Flament at (312) 236-8569, or e-mail [email protected]

TALBOTS SCHOLARSHIP FUND FOR OLDER WOMEN

The Talbots Charitable Foundation, established by clothing retailer Talbots, provides philanthropic support to non-profit organizations for civic and cultural activities, social welfare, and health and education services. The Foundation annually sponsors the Talbots Women's Scholarship Fund, a $100,000 scholarship program that awards five $10,000 scholarships and fifty $1,000 scholarships to women seeking a bachelor's or associate's degree later in life. Applicants to the Fund must be women currently residing in the United States who earned a high school diploma or GED at least 10 years ago; are seeking a degree from an accredited two- or four-year college, university, or vocational-technical school; and have at least two full-time semesters or 24 credits remaining to complete their undergraduate degree.

The deadline for entries is March 3, 2003, or until 1,000 applications have been received. Applications for the 2003 program will be available in Talbots U.S. stores and on the company's web site. The web address is www.talbots.com/about/scholar/scholar.asp.

CAREER ACHIEVEMENT & INCENTIVE AWARDS

Lighthouse International is now accepting applications for its 2003 Career Achievement Awards and Career Incentive Awards programs. The Career Achievement Awards recognize exceptional employees who are blind or partially sighted and who have successfully overcome their visual limitations by achieving gainful employment. Awards will be given in three categories: employee, employer and self-employed individual. The winning employee and self-employed individual will each receive a $1,000 prize. Career Incentive Awards are designed to reward excellence, recognize accomplishments and help students who are blind or partially sighted achieve their career goals. There are four different categories: college-bound, undergraduate award I and II, and graduate. Each award carries a $5,000 prize. Applications are due March 31, 2003. To obtain an application, contact Kelly Clark at the Lighthouse, (212) 821-9428, fax (212) 821-9703, e-mail [email protected] or visit the web site, http://www.lighthouse.org.

SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE

The Association of Blind Citizens (ABC) will be offering $10,000 in college scholarships to blind or visually impaired individuals seeking a college degree. The Reggie Johnson Memorial Scholarship is valued at $3,000 along with seven additional $1,000 scholarships to be awarded for the 2003/2004 academic year. Scholarships may be used for tuition, living expenses and other expenses resulting from vision impairment. Applications can be obtained only via ABC's web site, www.blindcitizens.org. Go to the scholarship link. The deadline for applications and supporting documents is April 15, 2003.

HELEN KELLER WINS

The State of Alabama selected Helen Keller to adorn their state quarter. She won over a moon rocket, a Cherokee chief and other Alabama-related symbols. This will be the first U.S. coin in circulation to include braille. The Helen Keller coin will be the 22nd quarter issued in the U.S. Mint's state quarters program, a 10-year initiative commemorating each of the 50 states.

CONGRATULATIONS TO STEVEN ROTHSTEIN!

Steven M. Rothstein has been named the president of Perkins School for the Blind, America's first school established for the education of students who are blind or deaf-blind. The announcement concludes an intensive search process, which lasted nearly a year and was conducted by a committee that included members from the school's board of trustees and Perkins staff.

"We had several well qualified candidates to consider for the position," said C. Richard Carlson, board chairman. "Steven poses a unique set of qualities and experiences we believe closely match the needs of Perkins for the 21st century."

Rothstein will start January 1, 2003. He succeeds Kevin J. Lessard.

COMPUTER AND ELECTRONICS STORE

J-Squared Access Solutions sells a variety of computer and electronic products at discount prices, including screen readers, synthesizers, computer games, and electronics such as talking clocks and Caller ID units. The company will custom build computer systems to fit any budget. Their price for Window-Eyes 4.2 is $525 and Double-Talk LT is $275. If you like computer games, J-Squared is an official distributor for the most popular accessible games.

Call (800) 443-9590, or visit www.jsquared.net. While on the site, subscribe to the e-mail bargains mailing list to get the latest specials. Earn $20 for sending J-Squared customers. For details, visit www.bestmidi.com/squared/refer.php.

BRAILLE TRANSLATION SERVICE

The Bartimaeus Group in northern Virginia has been known for its extensive line of assistive technology products, and for providing technical and training services. Now the company offers a braille transcription service featuring customization, quick turn-around times, and affordable prices. Ask about discounts. Documents such as meeting agendas and training manuals, convention programs and class assignments are easily transcribed into grades 1 or 2 braille.

Contact Bartimaeus Group at 1481 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean, VA 22101, phone (703) 442-5023, e-mail [email protected], or visit the web site, www.bartsite.com.

CHAIRS BY CHARLES

If you live anywhere near Deep Water, New Jersey, and would like to have any chair caned, contact Chairs by Charles, phone (856) 299-2405.

CUSTOM BRAILLE TRANSCRIPTION SERVICE AVAILABLE

VISION Community Services, a division of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, offers custom Braille transcription. We produce a wide range of documents designed to meet the needs of the Braille reading public. Recent work includes menus, financial statements, users guides for consumer electronics, presentation handouts and hymnals. While VCS specializes in shorter documents in order to reduce turnaround time, we also produce some larger documents. All documents are formatted so as to meet individual customer needs.

We also have some publications available for sale. We recently produced "The Legal Seafoods Cookbook." Cost per copy is $35. If you wish to have any documents transcribed into Braille or have any questions, please contact Bob Hachey, Braille Program Supervisor, Vision Community Services, 23A Elm Street, Watertown, MA 02472; phone (617) 972-9109, or e-mail [email protected]

USED CANES NEEDED OVERSEAS

Jeff and Tami Carmer, of California Canes, are assisting with a project to provide used white canes to South Americans. Their contact is willing to do the overseas shipping. If you have any unused mobility canes in any condition, please send them to Manuel Sanchez, 4007 E. Pikes Peak Blvd., Colorado Springs, CO 80909.

And if you're in the market for a cane, please contact California Canes, 16263 Walnut Street, Hesperia, CA 92345, phone (866) 332-4883, fax (760) 956-7477, e-mail [email protected], or visit the web site, www.californiacanes.com.


HIGH TECH SWAP SHOP

FOR SALE: One duplication machine that can copy one tape at a time, mono unit. Asking $250. Stereo mono duplication machine that can dub one tape at a time. Asking $350. Contact Bob Clayton at 715 W. 11th St., Cedar Falls, IA 50613. Write in braille or on tape, please, or call (319) 277-8290.

FOR SALE: Color Clearview reading machine with Sony 20-inch Trinitron monitor. Comes with all manuals and remotes. In good working condition. Asking $1,500 plus shipping. Call Erma Kowalsky at (256) 582-6650.

FOR SALE: Braille Lite model 40. Comes with all cables, a new battery, print and braille manuals, and the latest software updates. Asking $3,500 or best offer. Would make a great college notetaker and can be hooked to a braille embosser or printer. Contact James Konechne at (605) 995-2666 or e-mail [email protected]

FOR SALE: Aladdin Ultra Pro 75 CCTV. Less than one year old. Asking $1,000. Contact Hy Easton at (516) 487-7882.

FOR SALE: Braille Blazer with Duxbury version 10 software. Approximately one and a half years old with less than one hour use. Asking $1,650 or best offer. Call Ross at (615) 298-5258 or e-mail [email protected]

FOR SALE: 43 double cassette rigid plastic tape mailers with provision for address cards not included. Asking $50. Braille writer, $400. Insul-gauges and syringes. Contact Robert Ziegler at (763) 537-8000, or e-mail him at [email protected]

FOR SALE: Clearview 317, one year old, mint condition. Asking $1,200 firm. Please call Peter Corpuel at (516) 883-3067.

FOR SALE: Digital talking scale. Never used, still in original box. Asking $70. Contact Nancy at (216) 696-5747.

FOR SALE: Telesensory CCTV. Needs new light bulb; in good shape otherwise. Asking $900. Call (337) 235-8009 and ask for Mildred.

FOR SALE: Kurzweil 1000, brand new, never opened; includes a CD and cassette tape announcing new features. Sells for $995 on the open market; will sell for $500. Contact Rhonda King at (916) 349-9960 or e-mail [email protected]

FOR SALE: BrailleWindow 45-cell refreshable braille display. This braille display is in excellent condition and has approximately one year remaining on the service agreement. I am also including an extra power supply and an extra complete set of cables. This display is supported by all the major Windows screen readers as well as BrailleTTY under Linux. I am asking $2,500 plus shipping. If interested, please contact Mike at (415) 474-7006.

FOR SALE: Sharp talking cash register, recently serviced to ensure it meets factory specs; newer, better batteries have been installed. It is in mint condition and includes manuals, extra user keys and system keys. It can store tax tables and automatically compute taxes just for starters. Asking $1,250 including shipping and insurance. Call Don at (617) 479-7975 until 8 p.m. Eastern time or send an e-mail message to [email protected]

FOR SALE: Optelec Spectrum color video magnification system. Does negative and positive color imaging. Has a 20-inch color monitor; 4x-100x magnification. Comes with all manuals and cables. Asking $1,300 plus shipping. Contact Laird Banks at (917) 743-5000, or e-mail him, [email protected]

FOR SALE: Type 'n Speak with newer disk drive. Asking $700. Braille Blazer. Asking $500. Kurzweil personal reader model 7315. Asking $500. Walkmate. Asking $200. One talking compass. Asking $100. Call (716) 836-0822 extension 105.

FOR SALE: Large cell Perkins brailler. Recently reconditioned. Asking $350. If interested contact the Bay State Council of the Blind for more details at (617) 923-4519 or e-mail [email protected]

FOR SALE: Three CCTV systems. Visualtek 19" monitor with dual camera setup, $500. Apollo 17" system, $300. Visualtek portable system with 9" screen, $600. Shipping cost extra. Contact Dennis Raher via e-mail, [email protected], or call him at home, (269) 375-6644, or on his cell phone, (269) 720-4317.

FOR SALE: DECTalk PC Synthesizer for $150. Call Don at (405) 858-8735 evenings, or e-mail [email protected]

WANTED: Tuck-away stylus, the flat-handled type, not the hexagonal handle type. Will pay any reasonable price plus shipping. Contact Judy Hansen at (405) 858-8735 or via e-mail, [email protected]

WANTED: Electric typewriter as donation. Electronic Roadrunner Talking Bible. Contact Dana at (609) 347-7539 between 10 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

WANTED: Jumbo braille writer. Contact Ed Bradley via e-mail, [email protected], or by phone at (713) 697-2424 daytime or (713) 802-2150 other times.

WANTED: A chess set that is usable by an avid chess player. If you have one of the older chess sets with a wooden board and respectably sized pieces, or any other ideas, please call Dave at (928) 634-8474, days or evenings (Mountain time).

WANTED: Talking blood glucose monitor other than AccuCheck. Contact Robert Albanese at (302) 492-3832.

WANTED: Reasonably priced Perkins brailler. Contact Roger Brooks by mail at 8344 Erie Rd., Angola, NY 14006.


IN MEMORIAM: SEN. PAUL D. WELLSTONE
July 21, 1944-October 25, 2002
by Rebecca Kragnes

I won't forget Friday, October 25, 2002. My husband called me to tell me about the plane crash which had killed Sen. Paul Wellstone, his wife, his daughter, three of his staff members, and two pilots.

I had been trying to decide for whom I would vote on election day for weeks. But there was one race where my choice was crystal clear.

When I first moved to Minnesota in 1995, I heard people talk about Paul Wellstone as being genuine and unpretentious when they met him in person. Based on these comments and a few sound bites, I voted for his return to the Senate in 1996. In 1998, I heard him speak and met him in person. Wellstone was supporting Skip Humphrey's campaign for governor, and I spent hours at Skip's phone banks. I was encouraged by members of the disability community to come to the final rally before the election, and though Humphrey lost, I'm glad I was able to hear Wellstone speak. I learned that what people had told me about him earlier was true. The word "passion" has been bandied about in the media to describe the senator, and for those who have not been in the room with him, those words may sound like cliches, but for me, they are accurate and real descriptions. While others seemed to speak from a script at the rally, I heard Paul speak from his heart. None of the other speakers had Paul Wellstone's intensity and conviction.

Media commentators have outlined Wellstone's strong positions on many issues including the environment, veterans affairs, and U.S. policy toward Iraq. There were less well-known but equally positive actions he took to assist people with disabilities. I knew he spoke about disability issues from time to time. However, until members of ACB of Minnesota asked me to write this tribute, I didn't know about all the ways he worked to advocate for people with disabilities.

Paul Wellstone was devoted to children and immigration causes. Therefore, he supported a bill which would make disabled children of legal immigrants eligible for federal benefits. The senator fought against an amendment which would have decreased funds for special education. On May 14, 1997 Wellstone opposed another amendment which would have encouraged uniform discipline for students with and without disabilities.

Wellstone supported employment of people with disabilities. In 1998, he voted in favor of a measure to fund programs which would allow people with disabilities to be independent and employed. The package was worth $2 billion over a five-year period. The senator voted for the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act in 1999. This bill expanded health care for disabled workers, and broadened access to rehabilitation and other support services.

Wellstone supported legislation which would raise the earnings limits for blind people who receive Social Security benefits to the same level as seniors who receive them. Seniors' higher earnings limits have provided an incentive for them to work, and Wellstone wanted the same situation for blind people. The senator co-sponsored an even more sweeping package in 1999 which would totally remove the federal income-eligibility limits for working people with disabilities. Both of these measures were design to eliminate penalties for people with disabilities who wish to work.

Paul Wellstone believed in the dignity of people with disabilities. He voted yes to an amendment which would have included disability as a motive for a hate crime if it had passed. Finally, you may recall Moira Shea, the blind page who was not allowed to bring her guide dog onto the Senate floor. In response, along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and three others, Wellstone co-sponsored Resolution 71 which was relative to the Congressional Accountability Act. The resolution permitted "support services (including service dogs, wheelchairs, and interpreters) on the Senate floor the employing or supervising office determines are necessary to assist the disabled individual in discharging the official duties of his or her position."

Paul Wellstone has been called "the conscience of the Senate." The Fannie Lou Hamer Project -- a campaign finance reform group -- put it this way: "He fought for the rights of the poor. He fought for the rights of the disenfranchised. He fought for the rights of those whose voices too often go unheard." I will miss Sen. Paul Wellstone for many reasons, including his efforts to protect the rights of people with disabilities.


ACB BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Jerry Annunzio
Kansas City, MO
Alan Beatty
Fort Collins, CO
Ed Bradley
Houston, TX
Brian Charlson
Watertown, MA
Dawn Christensen
Toledo, OH
Billie Jean Keith
Arlington, VA
Oral Miller
Washington, DC
Mitch Pomerantz
Los Angeles, CA
Carla Ruschival
Louisville, KY
Patrick Sheehan
Silver Spring, MD

BOARD OF PUBLICATIONS

Charles Hodge, Chairperson
Arlington, VA
Adrian De Blaey
Milwaukee, WI
Winifred Downing
San Francisco, CA
Mike Duke
Jackson, MS
Ken Stewart
Warwick, NY
Ex Officios: Earlene Hughes,
Lafayette, IN
Ralph Sanders,
Baltimore, MD
Jonathan Mosen,
Putiki, Wanganui, New Zealand

ACB OFFICERS

PRESIDENT
CHRISTOPHER GRAY
94 RAMONA AVE.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94103

FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
STEPHEN SPEICHER
825 M ST., SUITE 216
LINCOLN, NE 68508

SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
M.J. SCHMITT
1027 DUNLOP AVE
FOREST PARK, IL 60130

SECRETARY
DONNA SELIGER
3912 SE 5TH ST
DES MOINES, IA 50315

TREASURER
ARDIS BAZYN
500 S. 3RD ST. #H
BURBANK, CA 91502

IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
Paul Edwards
20330 NE 20th Ct.
Miami, FL 33179

Contributing Editor
Billie Jean Keith, Arlington, VA


Return to the Braille Forum Index
Return to ACB Home Page