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Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for
publication should be sent to Penny Reeder at the address above, or via e-mail to
Submission deadlines are the first of the month.
The American Council of the Blind is a membership organization made up of more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates. To join, visit the ACB website and complete an application form, or contact the national office at the number listed above.
Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Ardis Bazyn at the above mailing address. If you wish to remember a relative or friend, the national office can make printed cards available for this purpose. To remember the American Council of the Blind in your Last Will and Testament, you may include 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 at http://www.acb.org.
This issue of "The Braille Forum" is funded by the Mississippi Council of the Blind. Many thanks to Mississippi for its generous donation!
The area code on Toni and Ed Eames' telephone number was incorrect. The correct number is (559) 224-0544.
It seems like every time I sit down at my desk to write something, the telephone starts ringing like crazy. It never fails! This day is no exception. I had just written the title of this article on the page when my phone rang. In fact, there were three consecutive callers. One of these was a gentleman who had been discriminated against by the wait staff of a restaurant. One was a teacher who was concerned about losing his job because he had requested an accommodation. Another was a man who is rapidly losing his vision and wanted to know where he could get help to buy glasses and pay his bills since he can no longer work. I also have calls waiting in the wings from someone with questions about electronic voting machines, and another person who is deeply involved in transportation advocacy issues. I don't have the opportunity to take as many of these calls now as I used to, but each time I do, I am amazed at how often 10, 20, or 30 minutes of my time can have such a significant impact on the life of another person. By giving a little of my time and energy, I can help someone find answers to their questions, information to meet a need, or hope to replace discouragement. Many of you have worked with me in this effort, because the first place I always refer callers to is our affiliate in the place where the caller lives. Affiliates have responded. They have referred callers to individual members who could assist them, and those individuals have responded.
This is nothing new. ACB is about making a difference. This organization's core goals are focused on making the world a more accessible and livable place for people who have visual impairments. It is also no surprise to any of you who have been around ACB for any amount of time for me to say that big victories are frequently the result of lots of small ones. Great accomplishments generally grow out of many seemingly small actions -- the letters written by concerned citizens, the phone calls, the visits. These are all necessary to achieve our goals.
So what's my point? It is simply this: ACB has many items on its advocacy and legislative agenda. We also have goals for leadership development within our organization. We could use the help of individuals and affiliates in raising the funds that are necessary to meet these goals, and you can help us, even if you can only make a small contribution. Those small contributions add up and can work together to take ACB a long way down the road that will lead to greater accessibility for all of us.
You may remember that ACB already has a Monthly Monetary Support (MMS) program which enables individuals to designate a specific amount of money to be withdrawn from a bank account, or charged to a credit card, each month. There is no limit to how much, or how little, one can designate. The important thing is that anyone can contribute to the work of ACB and do it in a manner that is convenient for them. If you haven't signed up to participate in this program yet, I hope you will consider doing so right away. You can call the ACB financial office at 1-800- 866-3242 and have a form sent to you.
Those contributions, no matter their amount, can be combined to help us accomplish great things for people who are blind. Just as 10 minutes spent talking to someone on the telephone may be the key to his or her successful future, so your $10 a month could be just what is needed to ensure the success of many an advocacy project that could impact blind people nationwide.
If you have questions about the nature of these projects, feel free to contact me at the ACB national office, or any of ACB's officers. In the meantime, I hope you will sign up to participate in the MMS program and be a part of the success of your organization, the American Council of the Blind.
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is seeking a Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs to work in its national office in Washington, D.C. The primary duties of this position will include:
- Promoting and developing ACB's advocacy and legislative agendas;
- Supervising advocacy and governmental affairs support staff;
- Recommending actions to be taken and policies to be adopted by ACB;
- Overseeing the implementation of resolutions adopted at ACB conventions;
- Responding to requests for information and advice concerning the rights and/or obligations of individuals regarding blindness-related issues, and providing referral to other appropriate sources of assistance;
- Providing technical assistance to individuals and ACB affiliates pursuing advocacy projects;
- Representing ACB on advisory committees and consultative bodies seeking organizational input;
- Drafting proposed bills and rules for presentation to members of Congress, or administrative agencies;
- Preparing written comments on pending legislation and proposed rules;
- Presenting oral comments on pending legislation at Congressional committee hearings;
- Developing and maintaining ongoing working relationships with members of Congress, Congressional staff and agency administrators to promote ACB's legislative and advocacy agendas;
- Maintaining cooperative relationships with other disability and civil rights organizations;
- Preparing articles on legislative, judicial, and administrative developments for ACB publications and ACB Radio;
- Staffing ACB's resolutions and environmental access committees;
- And other duties as assigned by the executive director.
The director of advocacy and governmental affairs reports to the executive director.
The successful candidate must:
- Be available for frequent travel;
- Be willing to work evenings and weekends in order to attend meetings with ACB leaders and affiliates;
- Be a self-starter with excellent organizational skills;
- Have a minimum of two years experience working with federal legislative and regulatory processes;
- Have knowledge of service-delivery systems and government programs impacting people who are blind;
- Demonstrate excellent written and verbal communication skills;
- Have the ability to move quickly between tasks and respond promptly to deadlines;
- And demonstrate an ability to locate and understand laws and regulations.
Desirable skills or training include computer literacy, general familiarity with assistive devices used by people who are blind, knowledge and use of braille, and a law degree, or specific disability-related advocacy training. Salary depends upon experience.
Applicants should submit a resume, cover letter, and brief writing sample to Governmental Affairs Director Search, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th Street NW, Suite 1004, Washington, D.C. 20005. Applications may also be submitted by electronic mail sent to [email protected], or faxed to (202) 467- 5085. All applications must be received in the ACB national office by October 15, 2004.
On July 26, 2004, members of the Washington Council of the Blind (WCB) and from throughout ACB mourned the passing of Sharon Keeran. Now let us celebrate her life.
Sharon was born in a small town outside of Reno, Nev., but after going blind at age three from retinoblastoma, was raised in foster care while attending specialized schools for the blind in southern California, providing her opportunities she didn't have at home. She described herself as a tomboy growing up, which would surprise many who knew her as a very stylish dresser, meticulous about her appearance.
Although Sharon saw herself as non-political, in 1994-95, she served WCB as its second president following this affiliate's merger. She spent 12 years as a solid member of the Newsline Committee (which worked on WCB's newsletter) and was very committed to this work. She also served on the WCB finance committee for many years as either its chair or as an active member; she was never afraid to question ideas or raise concerns to ensure the committee's decisions were well thought out.
Sharon also had a love for music. She spent five years as a professional singer in her young adult life, and this was evident in her activities in and out of WCB. She spent numerous years serving on the Advisory Council of Arts for Visually Impaired Audiences (AVIA), promoting equal access to the arts, long before DVS on TV was our fight, and she loved attending audio-described plays.
Sharon worked many years for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), being one of the few totally blind people to reach managerial status. She retired from this position a few years ago.
As memories have poured in from around the country about Sharon, the constant theme has been her class and grace, represented through her poise, dignity and friendly demeanor. Whether it was working at the Information Desk at an ACB convention or working one-on-one with someone instructing them on the use of the Optacon, Sharon had a gift for making people feel special.
Sharon Keeran may be gone from this earthly life, but the work she began will continue within our blindness movement for many years to come.
As a former president of WCB, I would like particularly to add a personal good-bye to Sharon, and express my profound sorrow upon receiving this news. In meeting Sharon for the first time, one could only be struck by her poise, her dignity, and her friendly demeanor. Sharon was extremely insightful about technology and it was because of technology we first met, even though this did occur at a WCB convention. I also wish to pay a special tribute to Sharon on account of her exceptional career- related success. At the IRS, she is one of the very few blind employees who has been able to excel and move beyond entry level employment into the managerial ranks of the agency. That is a significant accomplishment and one for which I have greatly admired Sharon these many years.
Sharon, may peace and happiness now be yours.
-- Chris Gray
On May 17, 2004, the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court held in Tennessee v. Lane that a state can be sued by disabled people who have been denied the constitutional right of access to the courts. This case was initiated in August 1998 by George Lane and Beverly Jones who, as wheelchair users, claimed that certain courtrooms in Tennessee were inaccessible to them. Lane and Jones brought an action for monetary damages against the state of Tennessee and several of its counties. In response, Tennessee contended that it enjoyed Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity from private lawsuits brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Both the United States District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied Tennessee's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Tennessee's petition for review by the Supreme Court led to the ground-breaking decision in which a bare majority of five justices recognized the "fundamental right" of access to the courts. This important disability rights decision departed significantly from the pro states' rights trend led by Chief Justice William Rehnquist since the mid-1990s.
In a decision three years earlier, Board of Trustees v. Garrett (2001), the court barred an employment discrimination suit brought against the University of Alabama by an employee who had been demoted following breast cancer surgery. In that case, a 5-4 majority of the court concluded that Congress did not have the authority to enforce the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by authorizing an individual to sue a state for damages under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If the court had followed the reasoning of the Garrett case, George Lane and Beverly Jones would not have prevailed; however, the four dissenters in the Garrett case were joined by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who agreed with Justice John Paul Stevens' conclusion that access to the courts is a "fundamental right" protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Lane case was decided under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, providing that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." Stevens discussed at some length the requirements and limits of "reasonable accommodation" under the ADA, concluding that "Title II, as it applies to the class of cases implicating the fundamental right of access to the courts, constitutes a valid exercise of Congress'... authority to enforce the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment."
In writing for the five-member majority, Stevens was careful to limit the decision to access to the courts and the judicial system. By emphasizing a fundamental rights approach, he was able to distinguish the Garrett case, although some of his comments raise doubts about the reasoning in that decision. Three of his colleagues, Justices Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer, all of whom had dissented in Garrett, would have gone further in rejecting that precedent, but Stevens seemed intent on crafting an opinion that O'Connor could comfortably accept. The four dissenters, Chief Justice Rehnquist, and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, were adamantly opposed to the position taken by Stevens.
Even though the Lane decision is confined to the issue of access to the courts, the fundamental rights approach that it endorses represents a significant departure from earlier decisions under the ADA. This is important not only for symbolic reasons but also because it inevitably raises the question of what other fundamental rights might be protected by Title II. If access to the courts is fundamental, what about access to the voting booth? Voting, after all, is a fundamental right, as the court has often reminded us. If voting accessibility were recognized as a fundamental right protected by the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, such recognition would strongly reinforce the existing statutory provisions on voter access.
On July 16, 2004, the Disability Resource Center in Knoxville, Tenn., held its annual celebration of the anniversary of the ADA. This year the DRC featured the Lane case and presented a special advocacy award to William J. (Bill) Brown, the attorney who argued the case on behalf of George Lane and Beverly Jones before the U.S. Supreme Court. In his remarks following the presentation, Brown emphasized the central theme of his successful argument to the court. He pointed out that since the right at issue in this case is a fundamental right, it obviously belongs to every citizen, regardless of disability. Since everyone is entitled to exercise this fundamental right of access to the courts, the presence or absence of a disability is irrelevant. People with disabilities, in other words, are asking for nothing more than the opportunity to exercise a fundamental right that belongs to everyone.
George Lane also attended the July 16 celebration in Knoxville. He spoke briefly to the audience, describing the circumstances that led to his lawsuit. The second-floor courtroom in the county courthouse where Lane was ordered to appear to defend himself against a charge of driving without a license was inaccessible to wheelchair users. Lane, although not a paraplegic as the Supreme Court record erroneously indicates, was recovering from a serious accident at the time of his court appearance and was using a wheelchair. Because the trial judge was unwilling to move downstairs to conduct the proceeding, Lane crawled up two flights of stairs and presented himself in the courtroom. His case was not called during the morning session. When court reconvened in the afternoon, Lane refused to crawl up the stairs a second time, and he exercised his legal right to refuse to be carried upstairs by an attendant. He was then cited for contempt of court and ordered to be confined in the county jail. Ironically, he pointed out that the paddy wagon that transported him from the courthouse to the jail was fully accessible, in contrast with the courtroom.
Beverly Jones, the other plaintiff, is a certified court reporter who, as a wheelchair user, was denied access to several county courtrooms in Tennessee. She was accordingly prevented from accepting court reporting assignments from attorneys who conducted litigation in the inaccessible courtrooms.
Tennessee v. Lane is a major constitutional victory for people with disabilities. Its importance is both symbolic and strategic. The decision opens the door for further litigation testing the dimensions of the concept of fundamental rights. An early test is likely to take place in the Lane case itself. Now that the right to sue has been established, it remains for the district court to determine whether, in fact, Lane and Jones are entitled to the courthouse accommodations that they seek. The American Council of the Blind has a vital interest in the expansion of fundamental rights of access for people with disabilities. By selecting cases carefully and focusing on the right of access to basic governmental programs and services at all levels, we can build on the Lane precedent and work to make sure that its promise is fulfilled.
And we mean that, since at our annual meeting in Birmingham this summer, we voted to produce a cookbook. This is a fund- raising project; we're asking members and non-members to send favorite recipes. Titles may be changed, but senders' names will appear as contributors. Did you ever try Affirmative Action Oysters or "The Check's in the Mail" Chili? The best recipe will win a $25 prize from the Cookbook Committee. Please send recipes to [email protected], or call Billie Jean Keith at (703) 528-4455. You don't need to be a member to contribute recipes. However, we do invite people who work for their city, county, state, or the federal government, or who are retirees from these agencies, to join ACBGE. We guarantee a good program at our annual meetings, and just so we don't lapse into bureaucracy, we have a lot of merriment at our annual mixer. If you think you are already a member, but did not hear from ACBGE in 2004, please contact Cathy Skivers at (510) 357-1986.
Another item on the burner is that we are starting an e-mail distribution list. If you want to sign up, please send your e- mail address to Richard Rueda at [email protected] The purpose of ACBGE is to promote recruitment, placement and advancement of blind and visually impaired people within federal, state, county and municipal government.
(Membership committee "open forum" conference call May 10, 2004, chaired by Sue Ammeter)
Open Forum Topics
Several questions were presented to the participants of the "open forum" membership meeting. From that moment, the discussion was animated and beneficial to all. How do you interest possible members initially and then keep them coming to your chapters? Do you currently have mentoring programs for new members? How do you get in touch with younger people or those just recently losing their sight? Good ideas came from all participants. Keeping Attendance High
First, I will list some of the thoughts regarding getting members and friends to attend meetings: a restaurant with a separate room for the meeting, speakers of interest to many, activities after the regular meetings, getting more members actively involved in planning meetings and activities, and providing transportation to the meetings and events (volunteer drivers, paying to use church bus, and organizations -- Lions). Some program topics of meetings were: newspaper audio programs available in the community, a diabetes center, people with diabetic experiences, paratransit, cell phone access, and companies providing low vision accessories.
Involvement in activities outside of chapter meetings was one of the reasons members stayed in chapters. If members don't become part of the "family," they are more likely to drop out. Golfing and sporting events, picnics, Christmas parties, watching DVS movies, playing games after the meeting, and activities chosen by the members were some of the choices mentioned. Students often come to interesting events with good food. Sometimes, inviting members to have dinner together will allow members to get to know each other better. Inviting Prospective Members
Some of the ways chapters gained new members were: celebrating White Cane Day in their communities; holding low vision fairs; sending flyers to churches in the area; sending speakers to agencies and organizations; presenting the positive view of ACB; sending introduction letters to students of blind centers; getting active with city councils; and contacting low vision doctors and ophthalmologists. Even if NFB chapters are in the area, it is important to focus on our positives rather than trying to compare and contrast the organizations. It is beneficial to have applications available at all events to sign up new members.
Start a speakers' bureau in your chapter and contact schools in the area and let them know you are willing to speak to them. Have events that are designed to include parents and their blind children. If you get them involved early, the children will want to be members later in life. If you plan an event each month, it will likely bring new members to your chapter. Each chapter could also consider sending a student to your convention each year. Mentoring
Does your chapter introduce members to visitors? Does someone sit with visitors so they don't feel alone? Does your chapter have greeters introduce newcomers to a couple of members? Does the president ask if there are new people attending a meeting? Does your chapter assign a member as a mentor to each new member?
Mentors can help visitors or new members understand how the chapter functions and the purpose of the organization. Chapters that have mentoring programs of some type are apt to keep members for the long term. A fellowship committee should be considered that would keep members and friends comfortable with your group. Sending get-well cards or thoughtful notes to members can help to retain members.
Members will not continue to come to your chapter if they feel they would not be missed. Phone trees are also essential to remind members of meetings, especially if changes are made to the regular place and date. Encouraging one another and helping one another, particularly with blindness-related problems, gives everyone a sense of belonging. Keeping Chapters Strong
Visitors and new members will not understand what your members are talking about if many acronyms are used. Encourage all members to state the names of organizations instead of abbreviations. People enjoy being around positive people. If we can encourage one another and remain positive, we will inspire others to join our activities. All members should try to be sensitive to others. Each person should be allowed to express opinions. Anger management may be necessary for a member who seems to be angry at every turn.
Also, welcome sighted people to your chapter. Often, they are eager to learn about your group and are willing to help on occasion. However, do not expect them to run and fetch at every meeting or event. If you treat them as friends and supporters, they will be happy to help out occasionally. Remember to thank them when they do volunteer to help. A couple of suggestions were made for including sighted members in a meeting. Have each one answer the questions: "What have you always wanted to say and why?" or "How do you describe movies to your spouse or friend?"
All ideas on membership are appreciated. If you wish to share other ideas that have worked in a chapter or affiliate, please contact one of the members of the membership committee. We'd be glad to share them with others!
The second ACB membership committee call-in forum was again a success. Many members participated in the call. The time went fast and many ideas were expressed.
More publicity and special events were cited as common reasons that worked to interest newcomers. A good way to publicize your organization is to celebrate Braille Literacy Month (January) and White Cane Safety Day (October 15). Plan a special project that highlights the benefits of your affiliate. This is a great way to educate the general public in your area. Florida offers Project Insight, a program where newly blind people can contact individuals to get information about what to do if they are losing sight.
One of the topics discussed on this call was informed choice and consent forms. State agencies must send materials from all organizations of the blind to rehabilitation clients and other newly blind individuals who have signed consent forms. Of course, each affiliate must be responsible for the actual materials sent to these interested people. Highlighting the positive and beneficial aspects of your organization might help your affiliate to gain new members.
Another way to learn about other affiliates and their programs and successes is to have members participate in nearby state conventions. Sending announcements or invitations to other affiliates through affiliate newsletters or ACB lists on the Internet might encourage outside participation. You will also want to hear what's happening at the national level. If you let "The Braille Forum" know a few months ahead, it can publish the date and place of your convention.
Involving all your chapter members will keep the chapters alive. Always ask your members to give ideas for future programs. Also, you will likely increase your chapter retention if you call the members who miss a meeting. If called, they will know you actually noticed their absence.
You might plan a first-timers' breakfast for newcomers at your convention. Of course, a special time to welcome them and share some tips about your convention would also be helpful. Some subjects to cover might be: how members vote, what to wear for meetings or your banquet, what different meeting topics are, etc.
If your state has a diverse population, you should consider how to reach other groups: native American, Spanish, black, Asian, etc. Often, these blind people may be more sheltered and should be encouraged to join community groups. The California Council of the Blind has a Spanish connection which allows more people to learn what's happening in CCB.
Different fund-raising events may also give publicity to attract new members. One affiliate is working with a national chain which will donate 5 percent to the organization. White Cane Day walk-a-thons may also be a good way to publicize the organization and inspire publicity.
Stay tuned for another membership update!
On the seventh and final day of the ACB convention in Birmingham, it happened.
As I boarded the elevator on my way to breakfast and the Saturday morning business session, I was greeted by a gentleman apparently attending another function in the hotel. We exchanged pleasantries and then he asked: "What group are you with?" My answer -- delivered with obvious pride, I hope -- was, "The American Council of the Blind."
"Oh yes," he replied matter-of-factly, "isn't it amazing how well they get around." Without thinking I answered, "We do what other people do every day of the week."
I left the elevator quietly shaking my head and trying my best to acknowledge the sincerity of his observation. I could only think: What is more amazing -- that we "get around so well" or that others hold such narrowly constructed opinions?
In truth, the amazement in his eyes was matched by the incredulity in my mind.
A month has passed since the 2004 ACB convention in Birmingham ended, and we blasted away from the Space and Rocket Center to Ivy Green and the wonderful outdoor pageant about Helen Keller. Since, with Nextel's assistance, we rode around the NASCAR oval at Talladega. Since Linda Fryer, an excellent city tour docent, informed us about the city of Birmingham and some folks went over to Birmingham Southern's Environmental Center and flushed themselves down a simulated toilet. Since lots of ACB convention folks visited the Heart of Dixie railroad museum, or went on the Southern Belle historical tour. Since visiting the Jazz Hall of Fame, the Botanical Gardens, or experiencing some of the settings from the United States Revolutionary War. Since experiencing the emotional visits through some very thought- provoking civil rights settings with a docent who lived through it, visiting the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. And since we finished the week yucking it up at the Stardom Comedy Club. The good memories prompted me to express my appreciation to all ACB members and friends who went to Alabama's largest city and, especially, those of you who went on one or more convention tours.
After Pittsburgh and getting to work with Jay, Gene, Marie and others from Pennsylvania, I didn't think I could get a better working relationship while setting up tours. I can now say that this year's experience was as good, if not better than last year. David and Rhonda Trott were so helpful that I probably took more advantage of their offers than I should. Joan Ridgeway was a great help as we traveled around Alabama, investigating various tour possibilities. Ron Eller was also helpful during his visits.
The AIDB was very helpful in providing transportation and opening up its facilities, and the school for the blind, for us. Thank you to Gail, Cathy and Horris for taking time out of your busy schedules to show me your great state.
It is great when you can do something that is fun and make good friends in the process. How good? Well, Rhonda Trott has agreed to be my assistant tour coordinator in 2005. Let's see if she is still a friend after Las Vegas.
Speaking of Las Vegas, last weekend, Cynthia Towers and I made our first visit to Sin City to work on next year's convention. We had the opportunity to meet with members of the Nevada affiliate and I am here to tell you they have some great and exotic ideas that I will be looking at for tours.
What might they be? All I can say, since we are talking about Las Vegas, is to be sure and read upcoming issues of the Forum, where I will be revealing the exotic details. Oh, and be sure to call the Riviera Hotel soon to reserve your room. The convention in 2005 is going to be a big one.
I am of course talking about the temperature. I visited the site of the 2005 convention, Las Vegas, Nev., the last weekend in July and yes, it was hot!!! But don't let that stop you from making your reservations for the 44th annual convention of the American Council of the Blind.
Ask yourself: Do you want to be in a facility where the ACB offices and all meetings, including general sessions and exhibits, will be located down a single hallway? Do you want to be in a hotel with six restaurants, one of which is a food court, another a buffet and yet another open 24 hours? Do you want to have endless options for entertainment and food just outside your hotel door? Do you want to go on unique tours of roller coasters, casinos and places such as the Elvis or Liberace museum? Do you want to be just 3 miles from the airport to the hotel? If the answer is yes to all or some of these questions, then you want to be at the Riviera Hotel and Casino the week of July 2-9, 2005.
The hotel has five towers and ACB will be primarily in the two closest to the meeting space. It also has a swimming pool, several ATMs, a barber and beauty shop, several gift shops and three entertainment venues, including a comedy club, plus an arcade and oh yes, there are a few bars. If you are so inclined, you can even get married in the Wedding Chapel! And what about the gambling? There are gaming tables and slot machines galore -- but no Ray Charles machines. Many of them, however, are the traditional kind, with some being the ones that have tickets. When I met with the hotel on July 30th, I was informed that the Riviera has no plans in the near or distant future to convert any more of their machines to the paper format.
I also met with Carol Ewing, president of the Nevada Council of the Blind, and the 2005 host committee that weekend. She and her committee are so excited to have ACB come to their state. They have been given a list of things to do to begin the work of making this convention a great one for all who attend. I want to thank Carol and the Nevada Council for stepping up to the plate to do what is needed locally -- volunteer recruitment, obtaining door prizes, securing entertainment for each general session as well as an opening invocation and having a group on hand to assemble nearly 1,200 convention bags to be ready for distribution by the time you arrive are just a few of the tasks assigned to them.
So how do you get in on all the fun? Well, you begin by calling the Riviera at 1-800-634-6753 and stating that you are making a reservation for the American Council of the Blind's July 2005 convention. Then you start watching those airfares and snag the one that is right for you. I am so looking forward to seeing you in Las Vegas. If you have never been to the town, you will find a wealth of things to do -- but only after you have attended the general session and the afternoon meetings (smile). Las Vegas is a 24/7 town -- it operates the same at 3 p.m. as it does at 3 a.m. Families are welcome; the city has really endeavored to be family-friendly.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns about the upcoming convention, please feel free to contact me. I can be reached at [email protected] or on my toll-free number at 1-800- 474-3029, extension 0. Whether you spend your off times at the blackjack table or wandering the Las Vegas strip, just remember to set your clock so you won't be late for each day's opening session door prize. Viva Las Vegas!!!
The ACB Awards Committee is anxiously awaiting a letter from you. Yes, now that you've returned from the 2004 convention and stowed away all those pleasant memories of seeing old friends and sharing their many accomplishments, now is the time to consider some of them for a nomination to one of ACB's national awards.
I wish to remind you all that now is the time to consider writing those nominations while they are fresh in your minds. Remember that there are a number of awards to think about: the Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award, the George Card Award, the Distinguished Service Award (for a blind or sighted person), and the Robert S. Bray Award (for outstanding service in improving technology, expanding communication, or extending library services to blind people). Affiliates should also remember the affiliate growth award, given to the affiliate that's grown the most since March 15, 2004, and the affiliate outreach award, a special award based on a recommendation of a state president, usually to recognize a local chapter for a program. This program may not be a fund-raiser; it must be a program that has had a measurable outcome.
I am sure there are many folks whom you've met and admired that you feel would be perfect for one of these awards. So give it some strong consideration, and get those nominating letters to the national office in Washington. Address them to the awards committee. It's a wonderful feeling to be the one responsible for giving the thrill of an award to someone you admire.
My mother is a retired Randolph-Sheppard vendor who has been blind for more than 35 years. Originally her diagnosis was early macular degeneration, but retinitis pigmentosa and cataracts have been added to the list. As her eyesight diminished, she began to have hallucinations that her family doctor could not explain or treat. However, through a chance mention by one of her doctors, I learned her condition is known as Charles Bonnet syndrome. Now we are trying to locate other blind people who have the same condition.
According to a clinical paper found on the Internet written by Dr. Andrew S. Gurwood and Helen Abdal, Bonnet syndrome involves visual hallucinations which occur in, but are not limited to, visually impaired elderly who exhibit no evidence of dementia or psychiatric illness. In 1760, the Swiss philosopher first described the syndrome in his grandfather who was left virtually blind from cataracts. The medical community was made familiar with the syndrome more than 200 years ago; however, it is often not diagnosed. There are two reasons for this: the syndrome remains poorly misunderstood and under-publicized, and patients are naturally reluctant to admit to hallucinatory experiences for fear of being labeled as mentally unstable.
The article explains the hallucinations are perceptions experienced in the absence of an external stimulus to the sense organs. They are experienced as originating in the outside world (or within one's own body). A variety of hallucinations have been described by Bonnet syndrome patients, but the most common is that of seeing a person. Other hallucinations ranged from simple patterns to complicated pictures of people or places.
If you have experienced Bonnet syndrome or know someone who has, please contact me by e-mail at [email protected], or by mail, PO Box 7852, Springdale, AR 72766. A support group is being formed.
If things tend to happen in threes, I don't know what is about to happen to me, but I think I know where. It will be back on that major thoroughfare slicing up through the heart of midtown Manhattan, Sixth Avenue. Inside of three weeks, two major events in my life occurred only four blocks apart.
On June 3rd, the results of over five years of advocacy came to a climax when the first set of accessible pedestrian signals was installed in New York City. One of the four crosswalks at Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street got the devices. They went where the infrastructure was already in the right place. No digging up the pavement for electric conduits. The Department of Transportation assures me others will be added as the pilot project is well received.
The APS advocacy began from the inside, so to speak. I wrote multiple resolutions while a member of Manhattan Community Board Number Four, a quasi-governmental entity comprised of 50 citizen appointees representing the neighborhood's interests. Favorable response from the city's DOT came only after I began writing letters describing my personal experiences with dangerous misjudgments of traffic movement based on too little visual information and distorted traffic sound patterns.
Just 16 days later I was handed the Olympic flame at Sixth Avenue and 27th Street to carry it up to the next torchbearer at 31st Street. I was guided by a star athlete from a Harlem high school girls' track team. Even without the tether connecting me to Leila, I couldn't have gotten lost. There were siren-blaring police escorts ahead, cheering spectators alongside, and a considerable entourage following behind.
It was a thrill to be so honored, and to join the distinguished company of several other American Council of the Blind members who have carried the torch during previous quadrennial ceremonies padding through a number of U.S. cities.
My nomination to the Olympic Committee came from one of the community organizations for which I volunteer, The Big Apple Greeter. That selection process began months before and involved considerable paperwork passing between me and the USOC headquarters in Colorado. I was required to sign very legal- sounding documents agreeing not to wear any advertising. The event's sponsors, Coca-Cola and Samsung, understandably wanted no competitor horning in on their big photo op! I had to decide on uniform size to be issued, and had to agree not to leak out details of the pageant before the news conference at which the mayor presided.
At the official Gracie Mansion reception for all 150 of us selected to move the symbolic flame through all five NYC boroughs, I met some of the other participants. That celebration and the camaraderie in the hours before we all were distributed along the parade route almost equaled the excitement of those precious three minutes running up the avenue holding my right arm high with the fancy wood and brass torch. We, the merry band of honorees all dressed alike in white Olympic shorts and T-shirts, guffawed en masse at the curious transport which carried us to our posts. The huge permanent lettering on the side of the bus proclaimed, "Department of Sanitation!"
When considered carefully, the enormous amount of quiet respect received by many ACB members from their international counterparts should come as no surprise. From that moment in 1984 when I was honored by being asked to draft the resolution merging the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind and the International Federation of the Blind into the World Blind Union and then presiding over the meeting at which that resolution was approved to the most recent international presentation by an ACB member, ACB members have been recognized as knowledgeable, responsible, tireless, effective advocates for improving the well-being of blind and visually impaired people around the world. For a moment, consider just the working delegation regarding services for the elderly blind led by past president LeRoy Saunders to Japan in the early 1990s, the delegations regarding services for the blind in Germany and Russia later in the 1990s and the activities of other members fulfilling responsibilities connected with international braille authorities, the World Blind Union and other organizations. In short, ACB members have earned the respect of their international counterparts for themselves and ACB itself.
In many foreign countries, the consumer organizations of the blind sponsor a wide variety of activities such as sports, job training and international exchange, whereas many such activities are conducted by separate organizations in the USA. As a result, many of the leaders of foreign organizations often direct several programs which come into contact with many different American advocates. It should come as no surprise then that ACB's principal lines of communication for inviting international blindness dignitaries as convention speakers (such as from Russia, Spain and Japan) went through sports organizational channels. Information about ACB's leadership in establishing special-interest affiliates to provide the unique services needed by their members has also evoked interest by other countries in sharing in the expertise developed by those affiliates. For example, the director general of the Taiwan Institute for the Blind, who spoke at the 1998 ACB national convention and presented a very generous donation to ACB at that time, invited Dr. Paul Ponchillia, Dr. Susan Ponchillia and me to present professional papers at the November 2003 conference on improving global employment opportunities for the blind and visually impaired. Dr. Paul Ponchillia, now chairman of the blindness and low vision studies department at Western Michigan University, and Dr. Susan Ponchillia, professor of blindness and low vision studies at the same university, submitted an outstanding paper regarding vocational training programs and policies in the USA in the past 50 years and suggestions as to how those programs should be improved. I was honored to present a paper concerning the admission of blind people into the profession of law and other professions. The conference, which was attended by representatives from 12 nations and which had been postponed before due to the SARS epidemic in Asia, was successfully rescheduled, but at the last minute the Ponchillias were not able to attend due to the illness of Susan Ponchillia. Their paper was effectively presented by another speaker and colleague, Dr. Jim Leja, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Western Michigan University. Another presenter was the first blind person admitted to the practice of law in Japan -- a man whom it was my pleasure to advise and counsel as he fought to be allowed to take the national bar examination in Japan in braille.
Favorable impressions of ACB as gleaned at its national convention (as busy and hectic as that event may be) and other ACB activities bore very beneficial fruit recently as I was honored with an invitation to present a series of lectures in Japan on the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability rights legislation in the USA. Those favorable observations came from a Japanese university professor who, as a graduate student, first learned of ACB from past president Grant Mack and me at the organizational meeting of the World Blind Union, then saw ACB in action when she came to a national convention as an interpreter for an international speaker, learned more about it from presentations given by Dr. Rose Resnick and other ACB participants at an international conference in Japan on services to the elderly blind, and then learned more about it from past president LeRoy Saunders and other ACB members who hosted and carried out an educational program in New York City several years ago for a Japanese delegation sponsored by a foundation there interested in learning more about job training and opportunities for the blind in the USA. My lectures were given at a modern cross-disability service center in Tokushima City, at Kochi Prefecture University, at Kochi Prefecture School for the Blind and at a community center in Matsuyama City. My audiences, which varied somewhat from location to location, were somewhat surprised to learn that the highly publicized ADA had not substantially improved employment opportunities for blind and visually impaired citizens while bringing about a number of improvements in other areas. While in the area of Kochi City and during a short visit in Tokyo, I learned that plans are under way to educate more blind students in mainstream schools in the future and to significantly change the roles of the residential schools. Concern about this plan was expressed because, among other reasons, the residential schools for the blind have been the principal teachers of the ancient disciplines of massage and acupuncture, once the primary employment for blind workers in Japan. One official informed me that now approximately 30 percent of the masseurs and acupuncture specialists in Japan are blind, contrasted with 70 percent approximately 50 years ago, and that, during the five-year period from 1996 to 2001 the number of blind practitioners dropped from approximately 21,000 to approximately 17,000. Leaders in the national organization of the blind agreed that blind and visually impaired people need to be trained for a greater variety of jobs and that employers will then need to be persuaded that they can perform the essential functions of those jobs. Sound familiar?
(Editor's Note: "From Your Perspective" is a column that appears occasionally. Its contents vary from technology to religion, from internal goings-on to items of concern in the blindness field in general. The opinions expressed are those of the authors, not those of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. "The Braille Forum" cannot be held responsible for the opinions expressed herein.)
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:
As an average PC computer consumer, who happens to be blind, I do keep tabs on the development of new operating systems, and how these platforms would honestly fare in terms of equal user friendliness among blind and disabled consumers alike. Windows XP has certainly come a long way towards this important goal, especially in how compatible it really is with JAWS, Window-Eyes, and other screen reader software. Compared to the built-in Narrator text-to-speech program in Windows XP, JAWS allows us, for the most part, full use of the present operating system on terms of equality with our sighted peers.
As a responsible consumer, and average citizen, I have no doubt of such issues (as thought out in this commentary) as not originally coming from me. However, I hope that this message does echo the sentiments of every other average consumer who depends on screen readers and other assistive technology products available out there. Therefore, the purpose of this set of remarks is to urge the developers of the forthcoming Longhorn platform to give their technical workspace the same considerations for completely accessible features, to make improvements where there is room for them, and to have an open mind toward the needs of the average blind and disabled consumer base in general -- from top-notch blind programmers, assistive technology educators, and related developers, to the average computer user, who would rather own a new operating system which would place him or her on equal, competitive parameters with every other average working or capable citizen and enable that person to achieve his/her place in the technical, service, or business oriented sectors of the workforce.
In closing, this model message will serve as a strong reminder to Microsoft (in a most timely and responsible fashion) to let its words and deeds match the concerns of relevant consumer categories in order that this "bull" of an operating system is assured to work for us, not against us. Thank you.
My mother ran as fast as she could up the stairs of our old farmhouse after I, being a načve five-year-old, informed her I had been sitting in a nice man's lap and had been talking to him. She found no such person, but had heard me talking to someone or something. Many strange things happened in that old house from the time we moved into it in 1962 until we left in 1979.
I was sitting at our kitchen table with Mom and her friend Jane one night, being up when I wasn't supposed to be. A thick- stemmed tiger lily was sitting in a vase of water in front of me. To Jane's horror, the tiger lily snapped right off and fell to the table. My mother had no fear of these things, but was quite taken aback. I really didn't know what to think. In our big hallway, someone could be heard walking up the stairs, especially on rainy nights. Snoring could always be heard coming from the master bedroom even when no one was there. In the night, if we happened to be downstairs, someone could be heard getting up out of bed, walking across the room, and closing the window when no window had been open. Loud banging could sometimes be heard in our large open unfinished section of the upper level. One time when I was home alone, I heard this banging and went to get a friend to be with me when I checked it out. I grabbed my 12-gauge shotgun, loading it with double-aught buckshot. My friend carried a hunting knife. We entered a back bedroom where a big teddy bear was sitting in a small chair. My poor friend was so startled that he threw the knife right into the heart area of the poor old teddy. We found nothing.
The nights I would have to stay in the house alone while my father worked the midnight shift were the worst. Sometimes my younger sister would stay at my grandmother's house and I would be left to all the fun. One night, I was awakened by a swishing noise. The Army trunk I had bought had the key in its lock and had a paper tag on a string. That tag was going back and forth like a clock pendulum. I turned on my light, loaded my .410 shotgun (which I kept by my bed), and watched. I knew I could react to my terror and go spastic, or try to be cool. I smoked at that time, so I lit a cigarette and took a big drag. I kept watching until I finally said out loud, "Why don't you stop?" It continued for another minute and stopped. Afterwards, I wondered why I had loaded the shotgun, seeing as it was useless in this situation. It was a comfort anyhow.
As I started losing my night vision in the early '70s, I have always felt I was given a gift from these spirits who scared me so, growing up. I was called from my bed around one or two a.m. by what sounded like my parents. I always felt comfortable when my parents were both home. I went down to our big dining room and saw two figures on either side of the room. The moon was full and our pasture was as light as day. Alongside the pasture stood a grove of fruit trees in which was my peach tree. There were three deer standing around eating peaches off the tree. I was able to see this picture as clear and as bright as if my eyes were perfect again. I could not tell whether the figures in the room were my parents or not. It didn't seem to matter. My father cannot recall this event happening and my mother passed away not long after that time. I've always treasured that moment and will never forget it as long as I live. There were many strange things that went on in that old house on Oak Hill Road that couldn't be explained by logic.
The contents of this column reflect the letters we had received by the time we went to press, August 16, 2004. Letters are limited to 300 words or less. All submissions must include the author's name and location. Opinions expressed are those of the authors. Regarding 'Profiles in Courage'
Friends, as I sat down this morning to read mail, and the pile of new magazines, I came across President Chris Gray's message about President Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage," a book that influenced our generation. It reminded me that the Carroll Center has had the great fortune of meeting many individuals who have made a success of their lives, be it as a university professor, a lawyer, or running a vending stand.
Each year, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, the Carroll Center honors individuals who are blind, working in competitive employment, referred to us for recognition by their employers. The ceremony is inspiring to all of us who have attended it, now 21 years. Ten years ago we made a commitment to compile these stories so that other people, especially newly blind people or teens coming up in the world, would see successfully employed blind people (models) in a wide variety of jobs. It took another 10 years, but we finally completed it.
This book is 165 pages long, available on CD, audiotape or in print. The cost is $5. You may obtain one by e-mailing Peg Hawkins at [email protected] Allow 4 weeks for processing.
Get Out the Vote!
Dear Editor and Fellow ACB Members,
I am moved to write to you today to urgently express my concern that we as Americans and many of us, Americans with a disability, often are lacking in our commitment to our country. Remember the famous call to action from our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." The most fundamental action we can take for our country is to exercise our right to vote.
I would like to issue a two-part challenge to all of you:
(1) If you are not currently a registered voter and do not know where to go or what to do, ask a fellow member or contact your local election commissioner.
(2) Make your voice and opinion count, both as an individual and as a member of a powerful community of disabled Americans, and VOTE.
Recently in the news we've all heard much discussion on legislation which is designed to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. President Bush signed this legislation into law on Dec. 8, 2003. What was a common theme in the political and public debate over this issue? It was that seniors needed this legislation to combat high drug costs. In his weekly radio address of Nov. 15, 2003, President Bush touted the benefits of this legislation. He used the word "senior" or "seniors" 22 times during that approximately three-minute speech.
Even though this legislation offers help to people with disabilities to cover prescription drugs, and, even though there is some coverage of vision-related services included, why didn't the president mention this during his radio address? It is in large part because people with disabilities do not vote. Seniors are mentioned prominently because they do vote in large numbers. Politicians know that if they do anything to harm Social Security or Medicare that seniors will rise up and vote them out of office.
On Nov. 18, 2003 during a press conference sponsored by the LIFE Center for Independent Living in Bloomington, Ill., American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) Vice President Jim Dickson -- whom I look up to as the guru of voting rights for our community -- said that if we want more accessible and affordable housing, better transportation, quality rehabilitation programs and so on, we must get out and vote. Those of us who are blind or visually impaired need to rise up and oppose those politicians who take action to harm the programs we depend on. We haven't done this in the past, which tells them that it's OK to cut programs and services we need, such as public transportation, rehabilitation services and funding for production of materials in alternate formats for school children. The AAPD web site, www.aapd-dc.org, has statistics showing what percentage of people with disabilities in each state voted during the 2000 elections. Compared to other minority groups, our participation was quite low. Are we as a community going to continue to sit by and let the politicians take our apathy toward voting for granted?
The answer to this question had better be a resounding "no." If we're not going to register and go to the polls in the 2004 elections and beyond, then we will be saying we're content to have streets that are unsafe for us to cross, a lack of transportation options, blindness services lost inside overly bureaucratic umbrella agencies and so on. I just don't believe ACB members and friends feel that way. Let's prove it by registering and voting in 2004. How can we make our vote count?
There are three things we must do. First, if you are not registered to vote, do so as soon as possible. Thanks to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (better known as the Motor Voter Law), many places must offer you the opportunity to register to vote. These include, but are not limited, to driver's license facilities, rehabilitation service provider offices, and centers for independent living. You may also contact your local board of elections, or your secretary of state, to find out where you can register to vote. Make sure you find out what you are required to bring for identification and what documents are acceptable for this purpose. Register as soon as possible.
Once you've registered, then you just have to get to the polls and vote. It is likely that during the 2004 election, current voting procedures will still apply in many parts of the country. If you need to know where your polling place is and for some reason you do not receive this information in the mail, call your local board of elections or secretary of state's office and they will help you. If you cannot get into the polling place, curbside voting is available and must be provided in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you need assistance casting your ballot, you can either bring someone with you or there will be someone at the polling place who will assist you in marking your ballot. In the next few years, voting will become more accessible; I'll discuss that later. However, for 2004, don't use accessibility concerns as an excuse not to vote. Don't let lack of transportation stop you from voting either. Ask a neighbor or friend to drive you to the polls, use public transportation, paratransit services or a taxi to get there, or you can give your area center for independent living or Lions Club a call and they can try and hook you up with people in your area who can drive you to the polls. There is always the option of filling out an absentee ballot as well. Call your local board of elections or secretary of state's office for information on how to do this.
I mentioned earlier that voting will become more accessible to our community in the next few years. This takes me to the third thing we must work on. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was signed into law by President Bush in November of 2002, requires that by Jan. 1, 2006, polling places must be accessible to voters with disabilities, including having at least one machine that voters who are blind or visually impaired can access independently. As we have seen, some places such as Maryland and the District of Columbia are already offering accessible voting. The machines I'm referring to are like the E-slate and other machines that have been exhibited at recent ACB conventions. It is all of our job to make sure that our local election jurisdictions comply with the 2006 date. You can help by contacting your local board of elections or secretary of state's office and letting them know you are not happy at having to either vote at the curb because a polling place is not accessible or having someone else mark your ballot because you can't do it yourself. Tell them you want them to do whatever they have to in order to provide you with an accessible polling place and/or a voting machine you can use independently. Please also communicate this same message to the head of your state's election commission or your secretary of state. Your ACB affiliate or area center for independent living should be able to provide you with a contact person, mailing address, telephone number, fax number and/or e-mail address for doing this.
Finally, communicate that you expect voting to be made accessible to your state legislature and your governor's office. If you need help finding out who your state legislator(s) are or how to reach the governor's office, contact your ACB affiliate or area center for independent living.
Watch "The Braille Forum," your affiliate newsletter and other publications for future information on where you can see accessible voting systems demonstrated in your area. Be ready to participate in press conferences and meetings if and when scheduled to express your feelings on this issue. Finally, candidates will be having town hall meetings and other forums to tell you about all the wonderful things they'll do for us if we vote for them in 2004. Attend them and ask them if they are committed to making sure your city, county and state make voting accessible to you so you can vote independently by secret ballot just like all other voters. Make your decision on voting for them in part based on the answer you get.
We've all got work to do. Let's get registered to vote as soon as possible if we are not currently registered, let's do whatever we can to get to the polls on election day, and let's work hard to make sure the promise of independent access to the polls in HAVA becomes a reality across our great nation. If we don't register, vote and fight for better ballot access, then we'll have no one but ourselves to blame when we continue to struggle with underfunded and unappreciated blindness services, service cuts and fare increases for transportation, threats to our programs and so forth. Are we going to sit by and let the politicians ignore us or are we going to stand up and be counted?
Did you ever wonder what you would be up against if you ran for public office? While running for a city council seat in Ann Arbor, Mich., this past fall, I learned just who has access to our political system. The implications of what I learned may be important to the civil rights struggle of people with disabilities.
I first became interested in politics and public policy during a course in college regarding this subject matter. I was quite intrigued with the decision-making power that a select few have over all of us. I was equally fascinated with the ways in which special-interest groups could change the minds of these decision-makers, and vowed that one day I would run for political office.
That day finally came early this past summer when I learned that one of my council representatives was stepping down. Although it was too late for me to declare a party affiliation, I decided to take a shot as an independent. I felt confident that I was competent and could possibly win. After all, I have consistently used my master's degree in social work from the University of Michigan, and I was included in "Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges" in 1991 for my accomplishments. I had also remained active in my community civically. Then there was my charisma, which I thought no one could resist!
The first thing that anyone must do when wishing to run for public office is to get the signatures of registered voters on nominating petitions. I needed 108 from my ward, which was two percent of the number of voters who voted from my ward in the last general election. Our city clerk advised me to get 30 percent over this amount just in case some of the signatures were invalid.
How would I gather these signatures, you ask? None of the businesses in my ward would allow me to canvass outside of their establishments, so it became apparent to me that I would have to walk door-to-door. The variances in lot size and home styles in Ann Arbor posed a real challenge for me because I am totally blind. I carried the petitions myself with the help of a few very dedicated sighted friends who were not registered in my ward and therefore could not circulate the petitions themselves. Each evening, for a total of 18 hours in mid-July, we made our way walking through my ward as we encountered large barking dogs and out-of-order doorbells.
In early August I visited my city clerk to turn in 145 signatures along with notarized legal documents validating my true identity. Paperwork was also required by our county to record how my campaign committee would be organized. I signed a waiver stating I would keep my campaign spending under $1,000 so that I could avoid the need to file various financial documents later.
The next day the city clerk called to say my signatures were valid and that my name would appear on the November 4th ballot. I must admit that this alone made me feel pretty triumphant! Not even a minute had passed when the phone rang again with a call from a reporter from the Ann Arbor News with some brief questions about my candidacy. Yes, my campaign was off and running! But now I had to figure out how to get my name out in front of approximately 16,000 registered voters, realizing that only 25 percent of them would vote in an off-year election.
Everything required for good name-dropping coverage is expensive. Copies of my beautiful red, white and blue flyer with my picture on it were $1, and I could only afford to send them to my petition signers. Black-and-white versions of this flyer were only nine cents apiece, but I could only afford to have about 1,000 printed of those as well. Campaign yard signs would be $2.68, but only if I bought 150 of them without the brackets to put them in the ground. The post office told me that a bulk mailing permit was $300, which would save me 13 cents for each piece of mail. People hand-carried my flyers to about 1,000 homes. I originally intended to put copies of my flyers at my church and other community spots located in my ward, but these agencies did not want me to do this. Thus, there were some missed opportunities as I worked diligently to overcome the price of getting my name before the voters.
In mid-October all of the candidates were invited to videotape a three-and-a-half-minute speech on our public access cable station for numerous replays until the election on November 4. I found out later that many of the other candidates used notes, cue cards and graphics. I did not learn how to read braille until I was an adult, so I decided it was best to just memorize my speech, and it went pretty well. Unfortunately, this was not the case when I was invited to attend the local live telecast of the League of Women Voters Candidates' Forum. Sighted candidates could see a lighted timer when they were almost out of time, but I had requested to be given a 15-second warning verbally. Prior to the event I was contacted by the program's planner who thought it might be better to have a friend sit next to me and tap me when my time was almost up, but I thought that this would look very awkward, so I opted to have them ring a bell at the 15-second mark. They would ask us these long three-sentence questions and give us just a minute to answer. The other candidates, who frantically took notes until it was their turn to speak, were able to use their notes to help them answer the questions concisely. At one point I heard the bell ring and completely lost my train of thought. It seemed like minutes of silence passed as I tried to recover the lost words. Since I am usually a very articulate speaker, I left there unhappy about my performance.
Reporters know how to cash in on the drama of life, and the Ann Arbor City Council race story was no exception! Early the next morning after the Candidates' Forum I was contacted by the Ann Arbor News reporter again. He could tell there was a problem by the sound of my voice, and asked me about it. I started to explain to him the socio-economic and disability barriers that I was trying to conquer in order to win the race. I spoke about how my father was a window cleaner, but how well he had raised three blind children and another with dyslexia who all turned out to be pretty successful. I expressed my surprise at how affluent the other candidates were, including my two opponents. Their fathers were doctors and lawyers. I told him that I had the intellect and analytical skills to be a councilperson, but that given the odds it seemed so out of reach. And then it happened! I began to cry as I discussed my disappointment. Sympathetically, he told me that the Ann Arbor News would put my picture in the paper the following week and discuss this inequity. Although I asked him not to do so, he could not resist saying in the article that I had cried during our interview. It was in that story that I learned that my strongest opponent, who was a Democrat, had spent $8,000 on his campaign compared to my $600. And just to show how fickle the media is, they endorsed him two days after this story ran!
I was losing hope when election day finally rolled around. I went bowling that afternoon, making light of the day's importance to others while pondering the entire experience. I wondered to myself how a person using a wheelchair could even go door-to-door to gather the required signatures? If I had been affiliated with a party, would things have gone differently? Nevertheless, I am not the daughter of a doctor or lawyer. I haven't been groomed my entire life to appeal to the masses! Yet, aren't I worthy enough to have a shot at politics too?
The results came in, and I was not the winner. My Democratic party opponent who spent the $8,000 received the honor of being my ward's next councilperson. He is a 29-year-old labor attorney. I did receive 443 or 12.4 percent of the votes, which some say is a good first start!
As people with disabilities, we need to understand that gaining equal access to the process of becoming elected is just as important as equal access to voting itself. And, while we all weren't born to be politicians, our equity depends upon those who are! Some of us need to count ourselves among them! I will run again!!
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 items for this column, you may e-mail Sarah Blake at [email protected], or call ACB at 1-800-424-8666 and leave a message in mailbox 26. Please remember that postal regulations prohibit us from including advertisements, and that we need information two months ahead of actual publication dates.
Next month's column will be a holiday shopping column. If you or your company has gift items, useful products, or other holiday-related fare for sale, please send that information to [email protected] before October 1. Be certain to include a brief description of the item(s), cost, shipping and handling charges, and contact information for you or your company (mailing address, telephone number, e-mail address). Anything received after October 1 will not be included in the column.
"Wilderlust," a new book published by NHEST Inc., shows how blind and visually impaired people explore and enjoy the outdoors. Edited by Chrissy Laws and written by 18 outdoor enthusiasts from all over the United States and Canada, "Wilderlust" includes chapters on hiking, gardening, fishing, birding, skiing, cycling, spelunking, whale watching and much more. The book costs $19.95 plus $3 shipping and handling for the first copy, and $1 for each additional copy. (Maine residents please add $1 per copy for sales tax.) The book comes in regular print, large print and CD-ROM versions; it will soon be available on audio CD. To order the book, make a check or money order payable to NHEST Inc. and send it to NHEST Inc., 144 Atkinson Rd., Bradford, ME 04410; call (207) 327-1453, or visit www.nhest.org.
For taking a giant leap forward in making sure children with disabilities receive the public education services they deserve, the State of Iowa's Project Resolve for Special Education has been named one of 15 finalists for the highly esteemed Innovations in Government Award, a program of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The award is administered in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government. The program is now eligible to win $100,000 in what is often referred to as "the Oscars" of government award programs.
YouSearch.com is a new search engine designed to be accessible to people with disabilities or who are using text- based browsers. Visit the site at www.yousearch.com.
CIGNA is set to begin offering a new service to customers with disabilities who are currently receiving Social Security disability benefits and have been out of work for many years. The company has set up an alliance with Integrated DisAbility Resources, Inc. (IDR), which serves as an employment network for the Social Security Ticket to Work Program. Under this plan, IDR will reach out to CIGNA customers with disabilities who have received a ticket to work, offering them the chance to enroll in a return-to-work program, in which IDR will provide a full array of vocational rehabilitation and employment support services. IDR will also stay in touch with them after they begin working again to ensure continued support and success. For more information, contact CIGNA at (215) 761-1000, or visit www.cigna.com, or IDR at (888) 683-4950, or visit www.myidr.com.
The 2005 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute will take place in Boston, Mass. March 11-13, 2005 at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel. For more information, call 1-800-232-5463, or visit www.afb.org/jltli.asp.
Bob Groff is seeking someone who knows Nemeth Code, preferably a Hadley student, to teach him the code and help him with math. He is also seeking math books. If you can help, contact him at 487 PC Circle, Quitman, AR 72131, phone (501) 589- 2886.
Get more out of life with Enhanced Vision's new LCD Panel Platform which integrates with either Flipper or Max video magnifiers to create the FlipperPanel and MaxPanel. This all-in- one product allows individuals to use video magnification anytime, anywhere for reading, writing and distance viewing.
The new Panel Platform is powered by a battery pack that runs up to 5 hours without recharging. Select from 7- or 10-inch screens that display 2x to 22x magnification. To learn more, visit www.enhancedvision.com, or call 1-888-811-3161 ext. 200 or (714) 374-1829. Ask about our specials on product demonstration units for agencies! Mention this offer and save $100 on any panel product purchase. Offer good through September 2004 on MSRP only. Not valid on international sales.
Houston Taping for the Blind Radio (HTBR) is now available on the Internet. It is at http://www.tapingfortheblind.org. Check it out!
The KeySounds Kurzweil Display Reader (KDR) is a Windows program that allows blind users of Kurzweil musical equipment to have access to the text portion of the LCD's on this equipment by copying the text from the LCD to a computer monitor via MIDI. Once on the computer monitor, it can be read with screen reading or enlarging software. The following Kurzweil products can be read with KDR: all models in the K2000, K2500, and K2600 series, including keyboards, racks and samplers.
The program works with any version of Windows from 95 on and requires a MIDI-capable sound card and a screen reader. It is available in an electronic version or on CD-ROM. To order, call Keysounds at (203) 735-1288, or e-mail [email protected]
After 13 years of analysis, research and debate, the International Council on English Braille has given the go-ahead for English-speaking countries to use the Unified English Braille Code. The United States has decided to wait, but other countries -- Canada and New Zealand -- are giving it a go. National Braille Press has published several perspectives on this change, as well as some history and recent press releases.
Order "Unified English Braille Code Perspectives" online at http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/UEBC.html. Or call toll-free (800) 548- 7323 or (617) 266-6160 extension 20.
The Northeastern Pennsylvania Regional Ski for Light coordinators are recruiting sighted individuals who are willing to assist in guiding for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, hiking and other activities. The group is also seeking visually impaired participants. The event will be held Jan. 16-23, 2005 at the Land of the Vikings Lodge in Sherman, Pa. It costs $415 for a double room; singles and triples are also available. For an application, or more information, contact Barry or Louise Wood at (201) 868-3336.
Barbara Mattson has the following items for sale: tape recorders, two-track duplicators, and mailers. Contact her at 519 E. Main St. #8, Spartanburg, SC 29302, (864) 585-7323, or email [email protected]
Maestro is an HP iPAQ Pocket PC made accessible by VisuAide using text-to-speech technology and a tactile keyboard membrane over the PDA touch screen. Now, visually impaired people can enjoy the ultra-compact size of a PDA and essential information- access functionality: text and vocal note-taking, agenda, contact directory, etc.
Maestro uses wireless communication networks such as Bluetooth, and can be operated with or without an external keyboard (braille or standard). For example, Maestro allows braille input using either the tactile keyboard on the unit for brief notes, or an external braille keyboard for extensive note- taking.
Maestro begins shipping in September. For more information, call (819) 471-4818.
Freedom Scientific has developed a product that allows a popular GPS package to run on the PAC Mate, called StreetTalk (TM). PAC Mate users can purchase the Destinator application and GPS receiver from retail outlets or over the Internet, then load StreetTalk to make it accessible and to add special functionality for pedestrian use.
Destinator's maps cover the USA, Canada, and western Europe. CompactFlash cards can hold maps of several states. Packages range from $299 for a CompactFlash GPS receiver and maps of the USA and Canada to $699 for the USA, Canada, and western Europe with a GPS receiver equipped with Bluetooth (R) wireless technology.
Freedom Scientific is offering StreetTalk at a special introductory price of $79.95 through October 31, 2004. Users can add a complete GPS solution to their PAC Mate for as little as $378.95. To order, contact Freedom Scientific at 1-800-444-4443.
The Braille Writer Repair Service in Brooklyn, N.Y. will repair any Perkins brailler starting at $65 with a 5-day turnaround time. The company will also buy any broken Perkins brailler and has many used Perkins braillers for sale starting at $250. Shipping not included. Contact Paul Jackanin at (718) 384- 2945.
Do you have back issues of braille magazines that you're not using? Are you ready to toss them out? Don't! C. Muraleedharan, Chathrattil House, PO Muriyad, Kallettumkara Via Trissur DT, Kerala State, India, is seeking back issues of English braille magazines for use in school. If you have some, please send them to him.
There is always a need for used vision impairment products. The problem is where to find them and where to sell them. At www.ocutrade.com, visitors can buy and sell both new and used low vision and blindness products at auction.
Published in an audio book edition this month, "Luminescence" by Will Addison tells the story of a blind man, his guide dog, a prisoner raising puppies for a guide dog school, a female veterinarian, and the remarkable bonds that tie them all together. You can listen to a sample of the audio book at www.LuminescenceBook.com.
Blindmicemart is your one-stop site for affordable gifts for all occasions. Proceeds support the Mouse Hole Scholarship, given each year to a visually impaired student or a sighted child of a visually impaired parent. The speech-friendly site offers more than 3,000 items. Visit www.blindmicemart.com today, or call Dale Campbell at (713) 876-6971.
WANTED: Donation of refurbished Braille 'n Speak, or Braille Lite, or a Type 'n Speak, or a Speak 'n Spell. Contact Angela at (206) 208-7595.
WANTED: JAWS 3.7 or lower as donation. Talking Sharp calculator, Franklin Language Master dictionary, and a Handicassette player. Talking radio alarm clock that plugs in and a double cassette radio with no CD player. Minidisk player. Kurzweil reader model 7315. Talking pocket watch. Talking Bible. Any talking games. Any music cassettes. Optacon. Large print- braille labeler. Can't afford price. Contact Melody at (941) 722-7477.
WANTED: Talking dictionary and a braille and large-print labeler. Electronic talking address book. Contact Dwain Cook at (609) 892-4684.
WANTED: Donation of four-track cassette recorder. Must be in good condition. Call Jerry Hamrick at (304) 339-6489 or e- mail him, [email protected]
WANTED: CCTV for in-home use. Must be in good condition. Contact Patricia Talbert at (240) 247-7433.
FOR SALE: New VoiceNote QT or BT PDA notetakers from Pulse Data and Adaptive Information Systems for $1,744 including shipping UPS ground insured, anywhere in the 48 lower United States. Only 6 left. These are new in the box with the latest version of Keysoft and all accessories. Call Adaptive Information Systems at (877) 792-4768, or contact Roger A. Behm, 1611 Clover Lane, Janesville, WI 53545-1388, e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: Power Braille 65. In excellent condition. Asking $2,500. Contact Robert Lewis at (410) 653-2498.
FOR SALE: Canon professional desk model calculator. Comes with manuals. Has many features, including speech. Asking $200. Contact Phyllis at (417) 883-7408 or via e-mail, [email protected]
FOR SALE: Optelec ClearView 317 black-and-white video magnifier with integrated 17-inch monitor. Purchased September 2003, used only occasionally. In mint condition, still under warranty. Manuals included. Asking $1,500; local sale only, L.A. 90036 area. Contact Cathy at [email protected] or (617) 373-3027.
FOR SALE: PowerBraille 40 and Romeo 25 braille embosser. The PowerBraille 40 was only used for 5 months. Connects to your computer by serial port or USB; works with almost all computers. Asking $1,350 or best offer. Embosser was used rarely; needs a good home. Asking $950 (negotiable). PowerBraille 80 in very good condition. Asking $2,700 (negotiable). E-mail CJ Sampson at [email protected] or call (801) 367-2559.
FOR SALE: Two-year-old computer system. Asking $300 or best offer. The system is a Dell Optiplex GX240 small mini tower, P4, 1.5 GHZ, 128 MB CD-ROM, quiet key PS/2 keyboard, 16MB ATI range ultra graphics card, 20-gig 7200 RPM hard drive, 3.5 floppy drive, Windows 98 second edition, MS PS/2 2-button Intellimouse with scroll, intregrated 10/100 3COM network card, V.90 PCI data/fax modem, 48x max variable CD-ROM drive, SB Live! Value sound card, Harmon Kardon speakers, Office 2000 XP SBE. Contact Margie Donovan via e-mail, [email protected], or call her at (650) 697-5300.
FOR SALE: Computer with Pentium 4 processor, 256 meg of RAM, 40-gig hard drive, CD-ROM and disk drives, integrated sound and video cards, internal 56K modem, 1 parallel port, 1 serial port, 2 USB ports, 1 PS/2 mouse port, 15-inch monitor, keyboard, mouse, Windows XP home edition, Microsoft Office XP for small business applications, Norton Anti-Virus software, USB printer cable, and JAWS 4.5. Asking $4,500. Aladdin reader. Asking $1,000. Contact Ginny Earnshaw, 182 Murphy Rd., Berkeley Springs, WV 25411, phone (304) 258-5871.
FOR SALE: Toshiba laptop computer. In excellent condition. Contains Pentium III processor, 3.5-inch floppy drive, CD-DVD drive, PCM-CIA port, 2 USB ports, Ethernet card, 30-meg hard drive. Comes with Windows XP Home edition and Office 2000. For information, please call Jo at (616) 248-9122, or e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak 640 with June 2002 revision. Comes with two serial cables, one serial to parallel converter cable, carrying case, Blazie external disk drive, charger to charge both the Braille 'n Speak and the disk drive. Asking $425 plus shipping (will be figured depending on where I need to send the items). Contact Cory Jackson at (740) 439-0727 or via email at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Hewlett Packard Scanjet 6250C flatbed scanner with automatic document feeder. Excellent condition. Includes SCSI and USB cables, software CD, manuals, Omni Page Pro 11 OCR software. Asking $250. For more information, call Bill Porter at (847) 342-7155 after 1 p.m. Central time.
FOR SALE: Optelec 20-inch color CCTV. Monitor has black- and-white also. 4x to 100x magnification. Comes with owner's guide. Asking $800. Contact Robert at (703) 591-6674.
FOR SALE: Braille Note. Includes disk drive, carrying case and instruction manual. Excellent condition. Asking $3,100. Betty Crocker's low-fat low-cholesterol braille cookbook. Four volumes. Asking $10. Send braille letter to Eileen Wuest, 34 Kelly Ct., Lancaster, NY 14086.
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