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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.
The deadline for the December-January issue of the Forum is November 8. Got a good holiday story? Submit it via e-mail to [email protected] or in print to the ACB national office.
If you are, or soon will be, please contact Sharon Lovering in the national office, 1-800-424-8666, and let her know your new address. You may also send it to her via e-mail, [email protected] Be sure to include your former address, to ensure accuracy in changes made.
Both the American Council of the Blind board of directors and the organization's many committees have been extremely busy since our 2004 convention in Birmingham, Ala. Conventions always provide an energy boost and remind all of us of the amazing amount of work that must be done to further the missions and goals of our organization.
Under Sue Ammeter's capable guidance, the membership committee continues to foster the growth and development of ACB affiliates as well as encourage the development of new state and special-interest affiliates. I am particularly pleased to report to you in this message my direct involvement in two recent meetings and tell you a little about them: one held in West Virginia, the other in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
As many of you know, ACB has been active to varying degrees in Puerto Rico since the early 1980s. We have had an affiliate in the territory and even have published issues of "The Braille Forum" in Spanish for the Puerto Rican and Hispanic membership of ACB. Unfortunately, this affiliate has not been given the attention it needs for several years, and it has decreased in size and effectiveness over these years. Puerto Rico faces many unique challenges, partly because of its socioeconomic position and partly because it remains a U.S. territory and thus has a different legal structure which, to be entirely honest, is little understood by most of us on the mainland.
The idea of meeting in Puerto Rico came about in conjunction with a personal vacation Marvelena and I planned to take during early September. Our plans took us within an hour's air flight of San Juan. Neither of us has ever visited that area. Marvelena speaks fluent Spanish, which gave me confidence that we could get some positive work done, and so we decided to go and meet with people there. A letter was coordinated through the national office and we held an afternoon gathering near downtown San Juan on Saturday, Sept. 4. The response to our visit and ACB's renewed commitment and concern for the blind in Puerto Rico was gratifying to say the least. Within five minutes of checking into the hotel, we had our first call from a member of the ACB affiliate. While the challenges for blind Puerto Ricans are great and the challenges of having an affiliate in a territory where English is not the first language spoken are great, one could only come away from the country with a profound sense that here is some essential work in which ACB can participate that will truly help blind citizens who need assistance and who wish to help themselves improve their lives and situations.
Participating in the West Virginia convention, held during the first weekend of October in Martinsburg, W.Va., was no less gratifying an experience. This affiliate has been relatively dormant for a number of years; however, with the excellent leadership shown by their new president, Jessie Rayl, the Mountain State Council of the Blind is definitely on the road to making a difference for the blind of West Virginia. Featured events included a social evening on Friday to kick off the convention and a Saturday evening banquet catered by a local company that really knew how to put out a tasty spread of excellent southern cuisine. Participation in the convention was quite good and included membership from various communities within the state.
In addition to work on membership and affiliate development, ACB launched a new fund-raising venture that has joint appeal for the national and affiliated organizations. In August and early September, affiliates were invited to purchase keychains that contained talking thermometers. Many affiliates have chosen to participate in this venture and will sell the keychains for a retail price of $10. Other affiliates have chosen to provide keychains as banquet gifts to their membership. I have every confidence that this is not only going to be a fun program for ACB members and friends, but a good fund-raising venture both for ACB and its affiliates as well.
Also, I want to make the membership aware of a new fund-raising initiative being undertaken by our organization. At its September board of directors meeting, the board unanimously voted to accept a proposal to engage in some direct mail fund-raising. Of course, we have no way of projecting success or failure of such a venture, but the board believes that there could be great benefit in a direct mail program, both for fund-raising on behalf of the organization and for promoting our message of independence and improvement of situations for blind Americans. Mailings will be carefully monitored and reviewed by the board in order to insure that a positive and forward-looking program of information is established and maintained. This is yet another major fund-raising effort being undertaken by the board, executive director and staff of ACB.
Finally, I am pleased to report that the board of directors has successfully completed its September meeting, though we did not hold this as an in-person meeting. Instead, the board chose to meet in four separate telephone conference call sessions, two in late August and two more in early October. This allowed the board to consider a range of items, some stemming from the convention, and others related to work undertaken by ACB's executive director, Melanie Brunson, and chief financial officer Jim Olsen. The meetings were productive and have helped the organization break new ground and engage in a range of activities and programs that will lead us into 2005.
It is clear from the decisions made at convention and by the board after convention and from the support, counsel and hard work of our executive and general staff the American Council of the Blind is moving forward in a positive, reasonable and realistic direction. Through our democratic and consumer-based traditions, we are growing in our internal strength, and through that strength we'll continue and excel in making the necessary changes to improve the lives of blind Americans and other blind people throughout the world.
By the time you read this, the 2004 elections will be history. However, ACB's fight to ensure that people who are blind and visually impaired have access to an independently cast, secret ballot will be ongoing. There will be much to do on the federal level to ensure that the Help America Vote Act is fully funded, and there will be much to do in each of your states to ensure that elections officials make both polling places and voting equipment accessible to people with disabilities, including people who are blind and visually impaired.
If our efforts are to be successful, both individual voters and state affiliates will need to stay in close contact with legislators, local election officials and members of the local media. The contact with local media is particularly important because there has been a flurry of negative publicity about the effectiveness of some of the voting equipment that is usable by people who are blind and visually impaired. Many of the allegations made about this equipment are based on information that is either out of date or incorrect. It is my hope that our affiliates can help us to generate media coverage all across the country that will be more accurate and give both elections officials and the public a better understanding of the need for accessible voting equipment.
In October, I attended the convention of the Illinois Council of the Blind. Much of the program was centered around accessible voting issues; two voting machine manufacturers brought machines to demonstrate to convention attendees. The local news media attended, and an article appeared in the newspaper the following day. I have decided to share the article with you in this report because I think it represents a good example of the kind of articles we need to see more of in the months to come in order to strengthen our case for accessible voting equipment. Please read it, enjoy it, and do what you can to generate similar media coverage in your own state or community. New voting machines will aid blind by John Reynolds (Reprinted from "The State Journal-Register," Springfield, Ill., Oct. 10, 2004.)
Usually when someone casts a vote, the voter is the only person who knows which candidate he or she supported. That isn't the case for Ray Campbell. When he votes, someone has to go into the booth with him to help mark his ballot.
"I have been voting for 20 years. I'm totally blind, and I've never voted by secret ballot. Somebody else always knows how I vote," said Campbell, the immediate past president of the Illinois Council of the Blind.
Campbell was in Springfield this weekend for the council's state convention. During the convention, Campbell and other visually impaired people got a chance to preview two new computer voting machines that should allow them to vote in private. Such machines will be required at all Illinois polling places by 2006 under federal law.
Currently, visually impaired people have two options when it comes to voting. Sangamon County election officials said a visually impaired person can bring someone with them to mark the ballot, or two election judges, one Republican and one Democrat, can help them mark the ballot.
While judges at polling places generally are helpful to the visually impaired, the system does present problems, Campbell said. "The whole place can hear how we vote," Campbell said. "When my wife is voting, I can hear how she is voting, and the same with her hearing me."
That isn't the case with the new machines. Meghan McCormick, spokeswoman for Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., said the voting machines for the blind work with the same paper ballots that every other voter uses on Election Day.
People using the machine put on a pair of headphones, and then follow the voice prompts from the computer to cast their votes, which are recorded on standard ballots. The machines can be programmed to include the names of local candidates and referendums.
McCormick added that the voting machines also can be used by people with other types of medical conditions who might have trouble manipulating a paper ballot. The machines, for instance, can have attachments that would allow a quadriplegic to cast a vote by himself or herself.
Election Systems & Software is working in conjunction with Automark to produce the voting machine. During the convention, which was held at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Springfield, visually impaired people were able to check out an Automark machine as well as a machine manufactured by another company, Avante Systems.
Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello said the county is researching what machines might be best here. His office is talking to various manufacturers and also is staying in contact with the State Board of Elections.
The effort to purchase machines for the visually impaired is in conjunction with a move to acquire new voting machines for the general public. The cost for all new machines in Sangamon County could be between $1.5 million and $2.5 million. The county has received a $750,000 federal grant to help offset the costs.
Aiello said he doesn't foresee any problems with having the machines for the blind up and running by the 2006 deadline. He said the project is one of his highest priorities.
"Who wants to go into the polling place and have somebody looking over their shoulder and cast their vote for them? That's not what [voting] is about," Aiello said.
June 22 Conference Call
President Chris Gray called the meeting to order at 9:05 p.m. Central time. All officers and directors were present except Jerry Annunzio and Alan Beatty.
The adopted agenda contained three items: a discussion of RSVA member concerns, rules of debate for the 2004 convention, and a financial update.
After discussion of a request by a member of the board of the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America for the ACB president to become directly involved in the resolution of some internal organizational questions, Paul Edwards moved that the ACB president offer his assistance in a meeting with the RSVA president and one of the board members. That meeting would occur prior to the RSVA board meeting if both sides agreed to it. The motion passed unanimously.
Gray sought suggestions for convention ground rules to govern discussion and debate. The consensus of the board was to have four to five speakers on each side with a maximum of a two-minute limit per person.
Edwards reported that ACBES has met its goal through May and profits are slightly up.
Gray reported that income projections seem to be ahead of expectations. He also reported that Jim Olsen had recommended that MMS program forms be available in the convention registration area.
Mitch Pomerantz moved to adjourn. The motion carried and the meeting ended at 10:15 p.m. Central time. Pre-Convention Meeting, July 3, 2004
President Gray brought the meeting to order at 8:40 a.m. in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center, Birmingham, Ala. All officers and directors were present, as well as Melanie Brunson, Sharon Lovering and Terry Pacheco. After the guests introduced themselves, the agenda was adopted.
No roll call votes were taken in this meeting. Each committee and staff report was adopted after discussion as summarized herein.
The motion to approve the minutes as submitted for the meetings of January 14, February 15-16, April 1, and April 22, 2004 carried.
In his report, Gray addressed the financial health of the organization. He thanked Laura Oftedahl for her work on acquiring a $25,000 grant.
Earlene Hughes spoke about the ACB web site. She stated there are approximately 10,000 to 15,000 visits to the web site each week, and the donations page has recently been updated.
Executive director Melanie Brunson reported that the American Association of People with Disabilities would be giving awards to disability champions during the political conventions of each party. ACB has been asked to co-sponsor the event and to give an award at each convention.
Gray reported that Nextel has manuals in braille. Nextel has agreed to be a convention sponsor and has provided phones for use by the convention committee.
ACB treasurer Ardis Bazyn reported total revenue through May 2004 of $404,501, and total expenses of $410,990. The vehicle donation program has increased substantially. The report does not reflect the $25,000 grant referred to above.
Budget committee chair Brian Charlson reported that there were no recommendations to change the current budget. The committee recommended beginning the tracking system with the 2005 budget, and requested that an investment committee be established as soon as possible.
Convention site selection coordinator Carla Ruschival began her report by asking how soon the board would be interested in returning to Las Vegas. The first year open would be 2008. The year 2010 could also be considered. Kansas City is being considered for 2011.
Edwards moved to consider returning to Las Vegas for 2010, and stated that other years would be acceptable. The motion carried.
Convention coordinator Cynthia Towers discussed the current convention. Items covered included hotel staff training sessions, the late arrival of packet inserts, maintenance of the guide dog relief area by Doodle Scoopers, field trips for the Youth Activities Center, the ACB Caf‚, availability of refrigerators, new delegate signs, and the cost of first aid and Internet services. She also reported that there are 81 booths in the exhibit hall.
Ruschival reported that the computer from the national office, which was programmed to operate the Convention Ear, was damaged and unusable.
Ralph Sanders, chair of the public relations committee, reported on the press and television coverage, which was expected to continue throughout the week.
Mitch Pomerantz reported on the employment issues task force. In 2001 the employment issues task force held its first workshop; from that meeting came a recommendation to establish a group to work on employment issues. Now the three-year period of the task force is nearly over. His motion to form the employment issues committee was adopted.
Pomerantz also moved that a link to E-Sight be placed on the ACB web site. This motion carried, too.
Sue Ammeter reported on the activities of the membership committee. The membership seminar will be held on Thursday of convention week. The committee has held two conference calls, with 30 to 35 members on each call. A quarterly conference call will be held to discuss membership ideas. The West Virginia affiliate intends to seek a charter from ACB.
Ammeter also reported that the four corners group, consisting of members from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, will meet in Salt Lake City for a leadership seminar Sept. 10-12, 2004.
The motion to accept the request for a charter from the Mountain State Council of the Blind, along with dues for 28 members, carried.
Edwards, chair of ACBES, reported that ACBES is essentially on track this year. He anticipates ACBES will be able to remit to ACB the $450,000 allocated in the budget.
ACB executive director Melanie Brunson began her report by updating the board on the resolutions passed in 2003. All of the priority one resolutions have been acted on. She informed the board that the federal government wants documentation showing the membership gave approval for the ACB leadership to file the currency lawsuit.
Terry Pacheco reported that 21 scholarships will be presented and 12 of the recipients will be present. There will be a reception for the winners on Tuesday evening in the president's suite.
The legislative seminar and presidents meeting are scheduled for Feb. 18-22, 2005 at the Washington Terrace Hotel. The room rate will be $99 per night plus tax.
Acting "Braille Forum" editor Sharon Lovering reported that Enabling Technologies has donated three braille embossers for use in the communications center. Several other donations were also made to this busy convention work area.
Phil Strong, the newest member of the national office staff, introduced himself to the board.
The board then turned its attention to fund-raising. Gray discussed the budget, which was roughly $100,000 in deficit. Jim Olsen's report showed that the deficit has been reduced by about half. He went on to report that the first ACB cruise (December 2002) gave ACB $5,000. There are two more cruises scheduled for members through Damar Travel with the hopes of increasing funding to the organization.
The ACB Store has increased the number of items for sale. The store is now on the web site and in the exhibit hall. Items for sale include jackets, shirts, caps and bags, which are embossed with the ACB logo. A motion that the board, in conjunction with the convention committee, create a policy with regard to the selling of items from the ACB Store during convention carried.
Edwards moved that Gray present a plan of organization and a report of all of the activities of the ACB Store to date at the September board meeting. The motion carried.
Miller moved the authorization and publicizing of a program under which after total MMS receipts go over $100,000 annually, all amounts received above $100,000 will be divided on a 75 percent and 25 percent basis between the American Council of the Blind and one affiliate designated by each pledging member with the money for the affiliates to be distributed on a once a year basis and after banking and other service charges withheld. The motion to refer this matter to the resource development committee with a report to be given at the September board meeting carried.
Other fund-raising ideas were discussed, with no action taken at this time.
Gray presented three documents to the board from the office review committee. The documents were a statement on staff participation in ACB conventions, a draft proposal for the official job description of the executive director, and a job announcement for director of advocacy and governmental affairs. These documents were accepted.
Board member Billie Jean Keith, the ACB representative on the board of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, reported that ACB has been asked to take part in the second year (2005) of a three-year project around the country. It will concentrate on rehabilitation teachers. ACB will be allocated $8,000 for a two-day event. A motion to participate in this Collaborative Technology Conference carried.
Gray thanked Jerry Annunzio for his contributions to the board over the past four years.
The meeting adjourned at 1:30 p.m. Central time. Post-Convention Meeting, July 10, 2004
Gray brought the meeting to order at 2:10 p.m. Central time in the convention center. All officers and directors were present, as well as Melanie Brunson, Sharon Lovering and Terry Pacheco. Gray welcomed Naomi Soule to the board.
After the guests introduced themselves, the board reviewed the agenda, added a few items, and approved it. Each committee and staff report was moved and adopted after discussion as summarized herein.
Brunson reported on a sleep study of hormonal and reproductive risk factors for breast cancer among blind women. This study is being conducted by the Brigham and Women's Hospital of Boston. The researchers are seeking visually impaired women to participate, and have asked ACB to endorse and promote the study. A motion was adopted that ACB, through its board, endorse and participate in the study and that a confidential way be found of communicating with a sufficient number of our members for the hospital to acquire the 8,000 women needed.
ACBES chair Paul Edwards reported that the ACBES board meeting would be deferred until the fall board meeting.
ACB Radio director Dave Williams reported on his activities during the convention. During a half-hour period on Thursday the streaming and recording system for the convention went down, which resulted in the loss of that portion of the meeting. He stated that computers operating with Windows XP would have expedited streaming of the convention, and may have prevented this unfortunate loss of coverage. The FIA Showcase and Candidates Forum were also streamed and were very popular.
Convention coordinator Cynthia Towers reported on the 2004 convention activities. She said the ACB Caf‚, which served breakfast, lunch and dinner, was very successful. She reminded the board that Nextel Corp. donated the radios used by convention personnel. Carla Ruschival, convention site selection chair, also contributed to this report.
Gray then entertained nominations for a board representative to the newly formed Internet oversight committee. Charlson and Ruschival were nominated. On a roll call vote, Ruschival received eight votes; Charlson received seven. Those voting for Ruschival were: Beatty, Bradley, Miller, Ruschival, Schmitt, Seliger, Towers and Trott. Those voting for Charlson were: Bazyn, Charlson, Edwards, Keith, Pomerantz, Sheehan and Soule.
Naomi Soule was elected to represent the board on the board of publications.
Gray stated he would send the board a report on the road map sessions. Billie Jean Keith will acquire a report on the future place sessions.
Beatty reported that the resource development committee met on Wednesday in order to develop some guidelines. This committee is also looking into a mailing program. Former resource development committee chair Jerry Annunzio also reviewed the previous activities of this committee. Edwards moved that the committee, national office and the president be asked to prepare a list of all proposed revenue items that they plan to incorporate into fund-raising initiatives over the next year for presentation to this board at its September meeting. The motion carried.
Pomerantz moved that the fall board meeting be held the first weekend of October at the Old Dominion Council of the Blind convention. The motion carried.
Pomerantz reported that the National Telecommunicating Institute, which advertised for people with disabilities, is apparently having problems with providing accessible software from the IRS to be used by a blind person. Gray suggested drafting a letter to the company. A motion was adopted requesting that Pomerantz, Sheehan, Brunson and Pat Beattie work together on this issue with the intention of providing the board with recommendations for action at the October meeting.
Public relations committee chairman Ralph Sanders reported that there was a great deal of local and national media coverage of the convention.
Pomerantz reported on the prioritization of the 2004 resolutions. A separate article will address this report in greater detail. The motion to adopt resolutions 08, 09, and 10, the "courtesy resolutions," carried.
Gray entertained a motion to move into executive session in order to discuss the cost of living resolution, which was adopted by the convention assembly. On a voice vote, the motion carried and the meeting recessed at 5:30 p.m. When the open meeting resumed at 6:25 p.m., Gray announced that the board passed a motion to refer that resolution to the budget committee with instructions for this committee to give the board a recommendation during the first week in August. The committee is also to confer with the executive director on this matter.
Miller inquired about the parliamentarian's expenses for the convention. The expense to ACB will be around $1,500.
The motion to adjourn carried and the meeting ended at 6:35 p.m.
The Sunday night opening session at this year's convention was quite a sight to see. From the moment President Chris Gray banged the gavel to call the session to order, to the presentation of the colors and Ken Osborne's excellent rendition of the national anthem, through Gray's, Melanie Brunson's and Carl Augusto's reports, people were on the edges of their chairs, waiting for the magical moment when the awards would be presented.
Finally, that moment came. "One of the most moving parts of every ACB convention is the time that we can spend recognizing others, recognizing those among us who are the great contributors," Gray said, "so great that we elect to give them awards. Tonight, to begin that process, I would like to introduce to you ... Nola Webb McKinney."
McKinney took the podium microphone and greeted the audience. "This is a wonderful opportunity for me, and I thank Chris so very much to give it to me. As Melanie said, they dream big, make a difference, and I think all these people that I'm going to give awards to tonight have done just that: they've thought big, they've made a difference."
She began with the Distinguished Service Award, which "can be given to either a blind person or a sighted person, and this year we're starting with a sighted person from Tennessee. If Carol Edwards is in the audience, she will stand. She's the one who nominated this person, and evidently a lot of you know her because she's a volunteer. And what we would do without our volunteers? I don't know, but evidently Dot Taylor has done a little more!" Raucous applause greeted this announcement.
Dot Taylor thanked the committee for the award, and Carol Edwards "for nominating me, and my two friends, Sue Buckley and Penny Pennington, for sending my eulogy to Nola so that they would know what I had done. I won't have to do it when I die, y'all! And I started in this about 30 years ago, and it never occurred to me that blind people couldn't do everything that I did and everybody else did. ... It's just amazing, and I really, truly thank everybody for this award!"
McKinney came back to announce the second Distinguished Service Award "to a gentleman who is visually impaired ... [who] works in the Utah School for the Blind and for the Deaf ... and he has two blind children of his own." The winner: Dr. Lee W. Robinson. Vicki Flake accepted the award on Robinson's behalf.
Flake read a few comments Robinson sent. "I thank the committee for their consideration of the information which was sent to them. If I have been able to accomplish anything, it is because I have been taught by those who have gone before. ... I am also honored to be listed with those who have previously received awards. ... Thank you all very much."
Next up was the George Card Award. The winner was nominated by Charlie Hodge and Ralph Sanders. "This gentleman has played a key role in the blind vendors," McKinney said. "In Hawaii he has been a leader and a person to be proud of, to know. And ... when I called this gentleman and said, 'You are going to receive the George Card Award,' he said, 'What did I do to deserve this?' That just shows the modesty and greatness of Warren Toyama."
Toyama said, "Thank you very much. ... I would like to thank Charlie Hodge and Ralph Sanders for even thinking of nominating me. I would like at this time to thank especially my wife Julie for dealing with me and being patient all these years. ... We made a commitment to serve the blind of Hawaii for the rest of our lives, so ... we're on track. ... Thank you very much."
The Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award came up next. "This one is a thrill for me, and I'll tell you why: because not only is this gentleman important to the state of Indiana, where he comes from, but he's also important to the state of Ohio, where I used to come from. Because this gentleman has given me awards in the past when I worked for the Cleveland Sight Center, and has praised my work, and this is the first time I'm finally going to give it back to him and praise him! I'm talking about Bashir Masoodi."
Masoodi complimented McKinney on her work. "I'm very thankful to you for this award, and I also want to share this. This is not an honor only for me, but also for American Council of the Blind of Indiana. Thank you for your support, your love, and your encouragement."
McKinney reclaimed the microphone to inform the audience that "we're going to save one award for tomorrow, and ... there's some special reasons for it ... Right now I want to give the membership award! We've got one of the littlest states in the union ... and what did they do? Come up with the biggest increase in membership, and I think it's great. And that award goes to Vermont!"
Tom Franks, president of the Vermont Council, thanked the committee and stated that the chapter has a goal to surpass some of the biggest affiliates in ACB.
McKinney left her audience with these words: "You too can be up here getting an award. The awards committee has some great plans for next year. One thing we're going to do is give these awards a lot more publicity, so look for my articles in every magazine that you pick up, from Matilda Ziegler to Dialogue. ... I just want to get you people to write in more [nominations]. There's a lot of deserving people out there, so let's get them in! Let's get them recognized!"
Next, Charlie Hodge presented the awards for the board of publications. The first award was the Vernon Henley Media Award. He gave a little background on Vernon Henley before presenting the award. The winner was Mark Ashby and Potomac Talking Book Services, for their recording of "People of Vision: A History of the American Council of the Blind." "The publication of this work is truly a milestone for ACB," Hodge stated. "And the fact that is has been produced in audio cassette form and is available for purchase, not just for loan ..., at the same rate as the soft cover print edition is truly an important milestone."
Mark Ashby accepted the award on behalf of Potomac Talking Book Services. "Well, I do talk for a living, so I hope you don't mind if I say a couple words up here," he quipped. "I need to first of all thank Sharon and Penny who helped me out for a lot of the pronunciations of people's names. ... I also want to recognize the Megiverns and thank them for providing me with a good month's worth of work ... I also need to thank my wife Jennifer, who's here with me, and she always listens to my stories of the ACB folks as well as my regular narrating work."
Hodge returned to the lectern to present the Ned E. Freeman Award. "Today, the award is given for articles that are published in 'The Braille Forum' from April of one year through March of the next year, and for publications or articles that are printed in affiliate newsletters that are nominated by those affiliate newsletter editors for consideration for the award. And this year we have a wonderful award winner. She wrote an article in the November 2003 'Braille Forum' that I hope many of you read and remember. It was a very poignant piece. ... 'Through His Eyes,' [written by Rebecca Shields]."
Shields said, "I'd like to thank those readers who ... [read] this article, and calling me and writing to the office ... Today I had an awesome opportunity. I met a family member of the gentleman who the article is about for the first time. We united today here at ACB ... She came to be present for the award and to take part in the significance of my receiving this." Part of the award will be going into a memorial fund. Charter Presentation
Not only were there awards, this year there was a charter presentation too. The recently re-formed Mountain State Council of the Blind (West Virginia) received a new charter. Jessie Rayl, president, accepted.
"On behalf of Mountain State Council of the Blind, I would like to express our thanks," Rayl said. "This came together last year when a group of my friends had been talking about how we needed a group, we needed all kinds of things to happen in our state. And they'd been talking to me about it for ... about a year, two years. I finally told them to either get with me and make it happen or stop talking to me about it, because I didn't want to hear about it anymore. We put it together in August; they voted me in in September as president, and we have been working really hard over the last year. We've accomplished six advocacy efforts; we are working with our city's transit system to provide public access, and I'm hoping that this can be a model for the rest of the state, because we have better public transportation than we have had in the past 20 years." The chapter is also working on accessible pedestrian signals, she noted. Monday's Surprise
Gray began the morning with awards, stating, "You may remember that last night there was one award which was not presented, and there's a reason for that. ... Nola McKinney ... was not wanting last night to present the Robert S. Bray Award, waiting for a gentleman to come and assist with that process this morning." He gave a bit of history regarding the award before introducing Steven Rothstein, executive director of the Perkins School for the Blind, to present the award.
Rothstein said, "It's truly a pleasure to be here, particularly this year ... because this is Perkins School for the Blind's 175th anniversary, and there are a lot of exciting things going on. ... But this morning it's truly an honor to present the Robert S. Bray Award. Among the services that Perkins offers is we operate the braille and talking book library ... and we have a phenomenal staff ... This award is presented to the director of the library, and I'd like to ask Kim Charlson to come up."
"I'm actually very surprised," Charlson said. "The Massachusetts folks and Steve were very good at keeping a secret, and so was my husband. This really means a lot to me. ... Thank you so much for recognizing what I try to do to make information access a reality for people who are blind and visually impaired."
Nola McKinney reads the inscription on the plaque as Dot Taylor stands beside her on stage, waiting to say thanks.
Everyone looks forward to Fridays, and this year's ACB convention was no different. Friday means election day, and all week people had been heard expressing their opinions on the candidates, their platforms, and who they were planning to vote for.
First up was the remainder of the term for the second vice president. Mitch Pomerantz, who had been chosen by the board to fill out the remainder of Steve Speicher's term, was elected by acclimation to fill out the remainder of the term. Board of Directors
Following Pomerantz's election to second vice president, the focus switched immediately to the board of directors. And the jolly caucus races began!
Teddie-Joy Remhild challenged Ed Bradley for his seat on the board. Bradley defeated Remhild by a landslide, 78.3 percent to 21.7 percent.
The next seat on the board of directors belonged to Oral Miller, who was, indeed, running again. He retained his seat by acclimation.
After Miller came the seat held by Cynthia Towers of Washington. Her challenger was Arlene Cohen of Ohio. Towers led the race 2 to 1, gaining 66.5 percent of the vote; Cohen received 33.5 percent.
The fourth board race started out as a three-way race between David Trott, Arlene Cohen and Naomi Soule of Missouri. Trott obtained 45.2 percent of the vote; Cohen, 24.6 percent; and Soule, 30.1 percent. In the run-off between Trott and Soule, Trott retained his seat, getting 55 percent of the vote.
Undaunted, Soule entered the next race to fill the seat held by Jerry Annunzio, along with Becky Floyd of Mississippi, Arlene Cohen and Marsha Farrow of Georgia. And what a race it was! Floyd garnered 36.4 percent of the vote; Soule, 29 percent; Cohen, 7.9 percent; and Farrow, 26.7 percent. In the run-off election, Floyd received 42.5 percent, or 333 votes; and Soule received 57.5 percent, or 451 votes. Board of Publications
Things got even livelier when it was time to elect the three members of the board of publications. The first seat belonged to Mike Duke. He was re-elected by acclimation.
Cindy Burgett of Washington took on Ken Stewart of New York in the second race. It was a nail-biter, too; Stewart received 48.6 percent, or 381.5 votes, and Burgett got 51.3 percent, or 402.5 votes.
The third and final race was to fill the seat formerly held by Winifred Downing. Downing had served the maximum number of terms, and was not eligible to run again. The nominating committee recommended DeAnna Quietwater Noriega. Then Stewart jumped into the race. Noriega prevailed with 55.4 percent, or 406.75 votes; Stewart received 44.6 percent, or 327.25 votes. Caption Congratulations to the new board! Top row, left to right: Mitch Pomerantz, Carla Ruschival, David Trott, Ed Bradley, Oral Miller, Ardis Bazyn, Alan Beatty, Brian Charlson, Cynthia Towers. Bottom row, left to right: Chris Gray, Billie Jean Keith, M.J. Schmitt, Patrick Sheehan, Donna Seliger, Paul Edwards, Naomi Soule.
(Editor's Note: For a full account of the convention, order a full set of tapes from the national office for $35. The diabetes seminar and legislative seminar were canceled this year, and there is no banquet tape. Stay tuned to the next issue for part two!)
This year's convention might best be described as a whirlwind of activity. From the traditional Sunday night opening session to the closing gavel on Saturday, choosing each day's activities turned out to be more difficult than expected.
President Chris Gray opened the session by stating, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 43rd annual convention of the American Council of the Blind!" Following the posting of the colors by Boy Scout Troop 97, David Trott, president of the Alabama Council of the Blind, welcomed members to Birmingham.
Gray then presented his report to the convention and introduced David Williams, managing director of ACB Radio.
Following a brief recorded excerpt from a John F. Kennedy speech, Gray turned the podium over to Melanie Brunson for her report. "I do want to tell you as I begin my report how much of a privilege it is to me to have been asked to take on this responsibility by the board and to have served in it for the past few months. ... I am committed to forging ahead on the efforts that were begun by these two men. I'm also committed to looking for and to implementing the new projects that we begin together."
Brunson stated that one of the reasons she was willing to take on the position was because she recognized that ACB had great potential. "We dream big in ACB, and we pursue those dreams until they become reality. The fact that we're here tonight is an example of that."
Brunson discussed various aspects of advocacy, and mentioned that Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) had reintroduced the Video Description Restoration Act. Pedestrian safety and transportation are other areas where ACB has become more visible, and those efforts continue. "Greyhound is doing some interesting things to their bus service," she stated. "It's disappearing. And there's nothing magical about buses going away. We need to bring them back."
She also talked about the currency case. "We have been up against the big guns of the Justice Department. The judge said, 'ACB has a right to their day in court. I'm not dismissing this case.' And ... he did it twice. ... The Justice Department attorneys are now questioning the right of your leadership to bring this suit." ACB needs to send a message back to those attorneys saying that its members do support the suit.
Gray then introduced Carl Augusto, president of the American Foundation for the Blind. ACB and AFB are both fighting for the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and trying to get the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act provisions included in that, he stated. The IMAA would require publishers to produce textbooks in standard electronic file formats that could be easily converted into braille. This would allow blind students to receive their textbooks at the same time as their sighted peers.
Cell phone accessibility is also a major initiative at AFB, Augusto said. AFB assisted Bonnie O'Day with her complaint to the Federal Communications Commission a few years ago. In that complaint, she stated that the service provider and the cell phone manufacturer were not adhering to Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The manufacturer and Bonnie O'Day settled out of court; the manufacturer plans to work on accessibility. "Working together, AFB [and] ACB in partnership with each other and with others, we're going to make cell phones accessible very, very shortly," he stated.
Last year, AFB, ACB, AER and the National Council of Private Agencies for the Blind joined together on three position papers: the use of sleep shades in rehabilitation; certification of specialized personnel; and supporting the right of guide dog users to have their dogs remain with them whenever they're in rehabilitation programs anywhere in the United States. "Now these three positions are fine and well as is," Augusto said, "but we need for you ... to bring these positions to the powers that be in your states: the [state] rehabilitation agencies and other officials in your states." And take plenty of supporters with you.
Augusto noted that AFB and ACB helped to pass the Help America Vote Act requiring that voting machines be accessible to people with disabilities. "Now it's time for you to go to your local officials to make sure that there's a voting machine that's going to be accessible to you this fall. We're counting on you to follow up."
The Unified English Braille Code was another hot-button topic. "I want to assure you that the American Foundation for the Blind is not now advocating for the adoption of UEBC in the United States," he said. "The Braille Authority of North America did vote to allow other countries ... [to] consider the use of the UEBC in their countries."
Many challenges confront the blindness field, Augusto stated. "We can't afford not to work together. There's too much at stake. So we at the American Foundation for the Blind are looking forward to continuing to work with you on our common objectives."
Following Augusto's speech, Nola McKinney and Charlie Hodge presented awards. (See "ACB Award Winners Announced," elsewhere in this issue.)
Barry Scheur, chair of the information access committee, spoke briefly about the Internet radios now in production. "ACB Radio is the most important voice in the blindness community ... But the unfortunate limitation with that medium ... is that ... the only way they can be received is over a computer." And it is still a small percentage of blind people able to utilize that technology effectively, he added.
A few weeks ago, Scheur said, the manufacturer told him that they had a device ready to deliver. "You turn it on, you plug it in, and you know what comes up, folks? ACB Radio when it goes on!" You can purchase it now through the ACB Store; it will provide listeners with ACB Radio and a number of radio reading services. He then gave a demonstration of the radio.
Following the awards and charter presentation, the new life members received their certificates. (Watch for Charlie Hodge's article in an upcoming issue.) The remainder of the session was taken up with the credentials report and the roll call of affiliates.
Transportation Day, sponsored by Cingular Wireless, started off with the presentation of the Robert S. Bray Award.
Following that presentation, Judi Cannon, chair of the credentials committee, gave the final credentials report. One affiliate was penalized votes but chose not to challenge, she said. The report was accepted.
Gray reminded his listeners that there was more convention business than usual to handle this year. He then reviewed the proposed policy for debate, which the convention approved.
Ray Campbell, chair of the constitution and bylaws committee, read several proposed amendments. He thanked his committee members for their hard work, and reminded the audience that any further amendments were due by the end of the day.
Next on the program was the transportation panel. Melanie Brunson, ACB executive director, moderated; joining her were Donna Smith, Easter Seals Project ACTION, and Bill Hecker, American Institute of Architects accessibility consultant.
Donna Smith began by discussing federal activities going on with regard to public transportation. She briefly described Project ACTION's mobility planning services institute: working with communities on transportation needs for people with disabilities. There were 25 teams last year, five of which had ACB members on them. She also described the Federal Transit Administration's program called "United We Ride," a joint effort assessing all possible transportation options in the area being assessed, and asks how to make them more efficient.
Smith also touched briefly on three components that are essential to transportation: availability and accessibity; an accessible pedestrian environment; and good independent travel skills. She urged everyone to become involved in transportation issues in their states.
Bill Hecker addressed the issue of pedestrian safety and access. He briefly discussed the seven federal programs that offer opportunities for funding accessibility modifications such as detectable warnings and accessible pedestrian signals. They are: surface transportation programs, including TEA-21 and its extensions; the congestion mitigation and air quality improvement program; the recreational trails program; the National Scenic Byways program; high-priority projects and designated transportation enhancement activities; federal transit programs; and state and community highway safety grants. "Remember that it takes you involved to get this going and to ensure that all people with disabilities can benefit from the money that we all pay in our taxes," he said.
Following a question-and-answer session, the convention heard a discussion on accessible pedestrian signals, addressed by Janet Barlow and Lukas Franck.
Franck defined a few terms for the assembly. "Very typically when you're talking about pedestrian signage you're actually talking about timing, and the time that traffic engineers allocate to certain visual signals," he said. "Time is relevant to all of us." In suburban areas where wide streets intersect small ones, there are push buttons in place somewhere that pedestrians are supposed to push because that action allows them more time to cross the major street, maybe as much as 30 seconds to cross instead of 11.
He also discussed some research on pedestrian signals. "What seems to work best is a single clear sound," he said. "[It] gives information from a very specific and precise location immediately next to the pedestrian about when to start [crossing]. Unfortunately, in the real world, it isn't always possible to put pedestrian push buttons ... in the best possible places, and so what's coming down is language that says that if you can't do it perfect, the next best way to do it is to use speech." Then there's the matter of what the device should say. "The recommended 'walk' message that is going into language will be ... 'Grand. Walk sign is on to cross Grand,'" Franck stated.
Barlow talked about several studies in progress or recently completed. One study involved collecting data on blind people crossing streets before and after installation of accessible pedestrian signals. Another involved work in two cities, with four different intersections and four different signal manufacturers. The pre-installation results have been analyzed and completed, and generally, pedestrians started walking on the "walk" signal 50 percent of the time. "One of the more concerning statistics there is that on 27 percent of crossings, participants completed crossing after the traffic on the perpendicular street started moving," she said. "Where there was no push button ... 64 percent started during 'walk.' When you had to use a push button, only 20 percent started during 'walk.'"
After the installation of signals with locator tones, more people used the push buttons, and more people crossed during the "walk" signal. Barlow urged her listeners to use the push buttons, and to get the word out about locator tones.
Following a short break, the convention heard from another panel, this one called "Stop the Violence, Break the Silence." Panelists were Susan Crawford, Lynne Koral, Darian Hartman and Lorraine Phenix.
Crawford introduced the topic. "Believe it or not, violence is a problem for people with disabilities," she said. "Everyone in this room here who has a disability is twice as likely to be a victim of violence." Men and women of all ages, children, young adults, working adults, and elders are all affected.
A few years ago, Safe Place of Austin, Tex., contacted Charlie Crawford, wanting to partner with ACB and disability groups to submit a grant proposal to the Department of Justice Office for Justice Programs to raise awareness about the problem of violence against people with disabilities. The grant went through, and sessions were held in 2003 and 2004; Lynne Koral, Darian Hartman, Richard Rueda and many others attended and were certified as trainers.
Lynne Koral gave a brief overview of the problem of abuse. "There is no one ... who hasn't been impacted by abuse of one [kind] or another," she said. "And it's not just women; it can be men as well." Physical abuse is not just being hit, she noted; it can involve being told where to go and where not to go, being locked up in the house, being denied access to transportation, and much more.
Darian Hartman discussed prevention and response strategies. One of the biggest barriers to getting help is the individuals themselves, she stated. To change that, people need to talk about it. If you or someone you know is experiencing something that you feel is abuse or neglect or exploitation, tell someone you trust about what's going on. All communities have aging and disability services, and somewhere in that realm is adult protective services, which have 24-hour hotlines that people can call for help. If someone tells you that they are experiencing such abuse, believe them. More than 90 percent of reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation turn out to be true, she noted.
Joanne Wilson, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, spoke next. She told the story of a carpenter nearing retirement, who was asked to build one last home for his employer; the carpenter agreed reluctantly. He went out, got whatever material was available, and worked quickly. "When the home was finished, the carpenter took the keys to the owner of the construction company and said, 'Here. I'm finished with the house.' The owner of the company smiled and said, 'I'm giving you back these keys in gratitude for all the work you've done all these years. This is going to be your home. I'm giving it to you.' The carpenter groaned and thought, 'Oh, if only I would have known this was going to be my home! What a different job I would have done! ...'"
Wilson said she tells that story to other rehabilitation professionals, and asks them to imagine that they have a child who's going to become a consumer in the rehabilitation system in their agency. She asks them to think about what policies and practices they would like to have in that agency if it was going to serve their children.
Wilson noted that rehabilitation laws have been around for 84 years, and organizations of and for the blind have helped shape the law. She exhorted her listeners to get involved in the rehabilitation system by sharing their knowledge of and experience with blindness.
Following Wilson's speech, the convention heard an NLS update from Frank Kurt Cylke. The digital program is on target for launch in 2008, he said, and NLS will have a contract to design a digital talking book player by October of this year. By 2008, NLS expects to have more than 20,000 titles available.
Cylke then introduced John Hanson, head of the music section at the National Library Service. "The [music] library at NLS is the largest collection of braille music in the world, and I find it both a challenge and great fun to oversee it and maintain it and make it better," he said.
Hanson discussed expansion of the braille collection. "Whenever possible, we buy existing scores that others have produced," he said. NLS gets them from England, Denmark, Italy and others. The library also has a contract with the Danish Library for the Blind to produce new braille music.
Tuesday was Education Day, sponsored by America Online. The first order of business was the nominating committee report, presented by Cathy Skivers. And the slate of officers was as follows: second vice president, Mitch Pomerantz; board of directors, Ed Bradley, Oral Miller, Becky Floyd, Cynthia Towers and David Trott; board of publications, DeAnna Noriega, Ken Stewart and Mike Duke. (For election results, see the article elsewhere in this issue.)
Following acceptance of the nominating committee report, Ray Campbell reviewed the constitution and bylaws amendments read on Monday and presented several new ones. He informed the audience that there were 18 amendments total. (For further information, call the national office and request a copy of the constitution.)
Richard Scribner, president and CEO of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, gave a brief update on the work of RFB&D. The organization still seeks to use the most modern technology to bring books to users. In the mid-'90s, RFB&D became involved with the Digital Audio Information Systems (DAISY) Consortium. It was DAISY that put together the first international standard for the digital talking book; RFB&D insisted that the standard be an open one, not a proprietary one.
RFB&D also believed that students shouldn't have to wait for digital files, Scribner said. Two years ago, they started the first collection of digital textbooks for students. Now, RFB&D has a digital library of 15,000 textbooks and academic books spanning all grade levels and all subjects. It has mastered 4,200 new books to add to that collection. All books now recorded are being digitally mastered, he added. RFB&D has also renovated its web site, www.rfbd.org, and included a new "search and order" tool that allows members to search the catalog and order books online.
The convention continued its focus on education with a panel moderated by Dr. Terry Graham, president of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. "In the state of Alabama, I really do believe that we are making progress," he said. "I believe that there's reason to be optimistic about services for people who are blind in our state. However, there's much work that remains to be done, as many of you know." He then introduced Brenda Uptain, an English and psychology teacher at AIDB.
Uptain discussed her teaching experiences in public and residential school settings. "One of my dreams came true when I obtained my first teaching position as a resource teacher for blind and visually impaired children in a school in Tuscaloosa County," she said. "However, sometimes the dream was not so pleasant. Those were the days before the wonderful resource center that produces and loans textbooks in both braille and large print." After exhausting her APH quota money, she had to appeal to civic clubs to help her buy books for her students. One principal asked her not to tell parents their rights, as it was costing the school system too much money; another told her she had a smart mouth because, when he asked her how she would get to his school when it was raining, she answered that she would use an umbrella.
There are three issues that must be addressed in education, she said. They are: universities training teachers of the visually impaired must hold themselves to higher standards, and understand that braille is a complex skill that must be learned thoroughly and taught with enthusiasm; children must be in an environment where they can have normal peer-group interactions; and parents must do their homework and select a program that meets their child's academic, social, emotional, recreational and independent living needs.
The second speaker was Steve Shivers, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. He told his listeners that Alabama has a continuum of services. Programs funded jointly by AIDB and state rehabilitation include: the rehabilitation teacher program; the business enterprise program; the orientation and mobility program; and the Alabama Instructional Resource Center. Recent collaborations include the joint funding of the AIDB regional center staff to provide personal adjustment, job coaching, assistive technology and other services that can assist the local community.
Shivers also talked about the transition weekend, to help students make the transition from high school to college, and the summer work experience, which gives students an opportunity to work for a six-week period earning minimum wage. The department hoped to expand the program next summer.
Following a question-and-answer session and a brief break, Patty Slaby, chair of the scholarship committee, presented scholarships. The winners were: Lisa Boettcher; Sina Bahram; Kaitlyn Snyder; Michael Beukenkamp; Leslie Sears Randolph; Ben Manning; Jeffrey Smith; Christie Gilson; Jeremy Johansen; Marcia Dellagardelle; Tim Vernon; Ashley Fritz; Harris Singer; Michael Malver; Aaron Matthews; Meghan Briggs; Lisa Gordon; Mary Rogers; Renee Gutell; Jason Perry; and Cammie Vloedman.
Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of National Industries for the Blind, spoke next. NIB's business leadership and management training program is well under way; last October, the company launched the first part of the program. A class of fellowship recipients comes in for a two-year rotation; individuals gain experience in a variety of disciplines in business management, and land a management-level job within NIB or its associated agencies when they're done. "This particular program is really designed to pack eight years of experience into two years, and if not eight years of raw experience, eight years of exposure so that the fellows ... really can springboard from this program into a fast track program and a very exciting career," he said. "Today's NIB is not your father's NIB. It's a very innovative place in terms of the types of contracts, the types of businesses that we're creating."
The final speaker of the day was George Abbott, Dean of Education of the Hadley School for the Blind. Hadley is a distance education school that started back in 1920. Its first student was a housewife in Kansas learning braille. The minimum age for students is 14. Some of the benefits of working with Hadley are: you work at your own pace, in your own home; you develop one-on-one relationships with the instructor you're corresponding with; and courses are free of charge. Hadley offers a variety of courses, from adult continuing education to high school diploma, recreation to enrichment, more than 100 courses in all, and more are in the works.
What's new at the school? "We've made a commitment to strengthening our high school program," Abbott said. "Over the next couple of years we are completely revamping our math curriculum; we are introducing new and exciting courses in history ... we have courses in development in economics, American government, and many new courses." Coming up in the near future are online student information services. The web site currently has detailed outlines of most courses, with lesson by lesson objectives, and a sample lesson and assignment for review. For more information about Hadley, call 1-800-323-4238, visit www.hadley-school.edu, or e-mail [email protected] school.org.
Start your Christmas shopping early this year. RSVA has the following items for sale at great bargain prices. All proceeds benefit Randolph- Sheppard Vendors of America (RSVA). RSVA lapel pins are $5 each; RSVA logo golf shirts cost $20 each, available in a variety of sizes and colors; "Trail of the Advocate" RSVA history books are $5 each, available in large print or on cassette; talking alarm clocks cost $10 each; and NTCBV/RSVA/Pepsi convention tote bags cost $5 each. To place your order, contact Kim Venable at 1-800-467-5299 or at [email protected]
The Tennessee Council of the Blind held its 63rd annual convention Aug. 27-29 at the Airport Marriott in Nashville, Tenn. We offered a pre- convention tour package and were pleased to have 45 participants, making a full bus. We took a riverboat ride on the General Jackson on Thursday night and enjoyed live entertainment and a delicious barbecue buffet. There was a nice breeze off the water and was quite comfortable for August! On Friday we began our day with a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame. They provided a guide for every six people, so everyone could hear well and have their questions answered easily. Each guide had a tactile replica of the building, which looks like a huge piano and has lots of significant symbolism in its architecture. Each individual was given an audio wand where you could dial the corresponding code at each display case to hear about the contents of the case and more information regarding the music of that era.
Following this fun stop we had lunch at the Bicentennial Mall, a historic park in Nashville. There we had an opportunity to explore the 31 fountains, each representing a major river in Tennessee, and walk on the tactile granite map of the state, complete with highways, railroads, rivers, major airports, etc. We especially enjoyed when a park ranger played several songs on the carillons consisting of 95 bells representing each county in Tennessee. It was majestic hearing the music as we sat surrounded by the pealing bells!!
The Juggs (not the Judds) boarded our bus for the Nash Trash tour. They shared scandalous information as we drove past some of the popular country music landmarks in Nashville. Their original songs and jokes were hilarious, and they were a bit outrageous with their flirting, but everyone laughed a lot! We returned to the hotel for a pizza party complete with vegetables and dip, wings, and desserts.
After dinner, we went off to the Grand Ole Opry with main floor seating. We heard old-timers like Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, George Hamilton IV, and newcomers like Blue County and the Jenkins. Billy Ray Cyrus still makes the women go wild! The attendees who did not participate in the tours enjoyed playing bingo and winning prizes, and watching the described version of "Seabiscuit" with plenty of popcorn and snacks.
On Saturday, Mayor Bill Purcell welcomed the convention to Nashville. TCB gave him a shirt that said "Lack of Sight is not Lack of Vision" as well as a DVS movie "Mighty Ducks," and encouraged him to watch it so that he could understand the need for audio narration on local television and in theaters. Dillon also presented him with a braille thank-you note with the print/braille alphabet at the top and challenged the mayor to decode the letter for himself.
Gov. Phil Bredesen, Rep. Jim Cooper, and Sen. Bill Frist sent letters of welcome as well. The program consisted of many mini presentations; each presenter had only 10 minutes, and received an audible two-minute warning. The first hour was comprised of high-tech presentations, including demonstrations of a laser cane, the Hand Guide, a comparison of the Voice Mate and the Imp, the talking Franklin Language Master, an explanation of Bookshare and the Freedom Box, and software which makes your cell phone menus fully accessible.
The next hour brought low-tech presenters: a showcase of safe, convenient and easy-to-use kitchen gadgets (several of which were donated for the auction); an introduction to products that make dirty work a lot easier; the Blind Handyman demonstrated tools and explained adaptive techniques; and labeling methods from the kitchen to the closet.
The final hour in the morning session was a speakers' hour. They included: the superintendent of the Tennessee School for the Blind; an instructor with the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center; a former champion of the United States Blind Golfers Association; a Medicare specialist; a policy analyst with the Tennessee Protection and Advocacy Services, Inc.; and a representative of Schwans.
The afternoon session began with a few business items, but primarily consisted of a panel discussion about membership and fund-raising. Panelists included Carla Ruschival from Kentucky, Carol Edwards of Texas, Patricia Fitts from Georgia, George Illingworth of Michigan, and Ken Loden of Mississippi. Brenda Dillon served as moderator.
Carla Ruschival addressed the banquet Saturday night, and explained the many aspects of deciding where to hold national conventions. She offered a detailed explanation of the various committees that work so hard to make the convention run smoothly. Following the banquet, we had a fantastic auction; it was so good that we had to continue the auction on Sunday. Normally TCB earns around $2,000 for its auction, but this year it made around four times that amount! Many months of solicitation went into this effort but it obviously paid off!
After a few hours' sleep, the convention resumed on Sunday with a business session and wrapped up with more auctioning. Many thanks to everyone!
History, health and personal financial safety were major topics of discussion at the 2004 North Carolina Council of the Blind annual convention in Burlington, Sept. 24-26. NCCB President Ron Eller and convention coordinator Pat Yelton guided the 100 attendees through three days of learning, technology and interaction.
Dr. Jim Megivern, in person, and Marjorie Megivern, by audiotape, recounted a number of their experiences in the writing of "People of Vision: A History of the American Council of the Blind." Contemporary insights into the work of ACB were provided by Dr. Ed Bradley, ACB board member and president of the ACB of Texas.
Educational sessions focused on diabetes and telemarketing scams. Cyra Kussman, the Coordinator of Diabetes Education at the Alamance Regional Medical Center, conducted a seminar titled "Diabetes and Blindness: What You Can't See Can Hurt You." David Evers, special investigator for the North Carolina attorney general, revealed the secrets of "Telemarketing Scams: Do You Really Know Who Is Calling You?"
Additional speakers represented the North Carolina Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, State Board of Elections, Business Enterprise Program, North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind and Governor's Advocacy Committee for People with Disabilities.
The contents of this column reflect the letters we had received by the time we went to press, October 15, 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.
Dear Forum Readers:
As an independent blind traveler, I would be interested to know how many other independent blind people feel misperceived by members of the public and sometimes even feel put at risk by their attempts to help. If you would also like to live to see the public at large better informed, would you please consider and give me feedback on the following suggestions as to how you would like to have the public better informed?
1. Never distract a blind pedestrian at any time by grabbing, pulling, pushing, shouting or honking your horn.
2. However a blind person appears to you, show respect for the person's need to concentrate on helping him- or herself.
3. Do not make assumptions about a blind person's desired destination.
4. Consider that blind people who walk with guide dogs or white canes usually have a fair idea of where they are going.
5. Please never tease a guide dog and never grab a white cane.
6. If you see a blind person out of the crosswalk in a busy intersection, do not honk your horn. Such a noise is unclear as to your intent, and could startle a blind pedestrian into making a fatal error.
7. Rather than to shout "right" or "left" to a blind person you think may be in trouble, instead call "This way" or "Wait."
You can reach me via e-mail, [email protected], or phone (510) 849- 0721.
I wish to comment on "Why the Future of Disability Rights Depends on Our Vote" by Ray Campbell (September-October 2004). Campbell had some very good points. I recently moved to an apartment, and I was asked whether I will register to vote in the new precinct. I have decided to continue voting in my old precinct. Why? Because I don't know whether the polling place nearest my new apartment is accessible.
I heard an odd comment yesterday which I have to agree with to a certain extent: "How can any disabled person vote Republican?" This may seem stereotypical, but based on what has happened in recent years to our civil rights I think it is true. Our rights as Americans have been seriously eroded, and it's time somebody did something about it. This is where ACB comes in. You have demonstrated that, even with ongoing personal attacks from some members of the blindness community, you can and do get the job done. It is by no means an easy job either.
I wish these personal attacks would stop, but I don't think that's going to happen. I find it very odd that members of the blindness community find it necessary to attack their own kind like this. My roommate and I were discussing this a few days ago, and he reminded me that stuff like this is bound to happen -- and does -- in other groups such as the deaf community. But based on what I have read and heard others talk about, I think that what is happening in the blindness community is a bit too extreme to be considered "normal." For example, publishing an article or even part of an article which personally attacks a high-ranking official of an organization, in my humble opinion, is very uncouth. Thanks again for the article.
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.
Just in time for the holidays, tapes of the 2004 ACB convention in Birmingham are now available! A full set consists of 20 tapes. There is no banquet tape. The legislative and diabetes seminars were canceled this year, so there are no tapes of those sessions either. The full set costs $35; separate sessions, $6 each. Call 1-800-424-8666 to order.
Join over 300 active adults for a cross-country skiing vacation at the 30th annual Ski for Light International Week, January 30-February 6, 2005 in Granby, Colorado. Participants will stay at the Inn at Silver Creek and ski each day at Snow Mountain Ranch.
Ski for Light pairs visually and mobility impaired skiers with sighted instructor/guides. The skiers set the pace, asking their guides to assist with skills, technique, endurance or simply enjoying the outdoors. Those interested in attending may contact Lynda Boose at (906) 250-7836 or [email protected] or apply online at www.sfl.org. The application deadline is Nov. 1, 2004; applications received after that date will be considered as space permits. Full payment is due by Jan. 3, 2005.
The Hadley School for the Blind is holding its annual braille holiday card sale, sponsored by Hadley's Woman's Board. The card features a colorful embossed topiary on the front; the following message appears on the inside in print and braille: "Wishing you peace, happiness and the spirit of the season."
A photo card is also available that carries the same message in print and braille. A box of 25 cards costs $25. The sale benefits the Hadley School. Cards can be viewed and ordered online at www.hadley.edu or by calling 1-800-323-4238.
ROPARD is pleased to announce that 2004 holiday cards are now available. This year there are a limited number of cards available with "Season's Greetings" embossed in braille. To view the cards, visit http://www.ropard.org/greeting_card.shtml. Personalization of both the inside of the card and the return address on the envelope are also available for an additional charge. For more information, contact ROPARD by phone at 1-800-788-2020, or by e-mail at [email protected]
A new committee has formed in ACB that is dedicated to educating diabetics. Every year there is a diabetes seminar at the ACB convention; there will be one in Vegas! We are looking for more members to join us on our next conference call in January or February. Committee members are Pat La France-Wolf at (626) 279-2954, e-mail [email protected]; Dee Clayton, chair, at (515) 282-1275, e-mail [email protected]; Shirley Roberts, (937) 898-1989, e-mail [email protected] Call or e-mail any of us for more information.
"Loving In The Dark, An Incredible Journey," vol. I of Lois Dingess Howard's autobiography is now available for $8 including postage. At this time, Lois' book is available in print only. In this book, Howard shares many of her memories of the events that filled her young life, including her very early childhood in Huntington, W.Va.; her life on a farm in Ohio during the '40s; her fifth year of school when she was faced with the shocking realization that she was gradually losing her vision; and of the four-plus wonderful years that she spent as a student at the Ohio State School for the Blind. These heart-warming accounts, along with some historical facts and touches of trivia, combine to make the book interesting, informative, and inspiring. To order your copy, send a check or money order to: Lois Howard, 61951 High Hill Road, Cambridge, OH 43725.
National Braille Press offers two new keyboard command guides: Windows XP Keyboard Commands and Office XP Keyboard Commands. Each guide is available for $10. NBP also offers "A Child's Calendar," a print-and-braille book that features a poem for every month of the year. For more information, visit http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html or call 1-800-548-7323.
Brytech is offering special discounts for the Color Teller and Note Teller 2 through December 31, 2004. For more information, call 1-800-263- 4095.
Want to buy something good and help ACB at the same time? Visit www.alaskasmokehouse.com or call 1-800-422-0852 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Pacific. ACB will receive 40 percent of the proceeds from items purchased from the Pacific Northwest Gourmet Dessert Company and the Alaska Smokehouse. Purchases must be made online in order for the ACB to receive payment. If using the toll-free number, ask the customer service representative for assistance.
The Cooking in the Dark Recipe Collection is composed of favorites and family traditions of the members of the Cooking in the Dark and blind cook e-mail lists. To order online, visit http://www.blindmicemart.com. For additional information, send e-mail to [email protected] or contact Dale Campbell at (281) 486-1840.
Aprons featuring the logo of a new television show, "Cooking Without Looking," are available for $22.95 ($19.95 for orders of 10 or more) from Vision World Foundation, 12410 SW 113 Lane, Miami, FL 33186. Postage and handling are included in the price. Allow 4 to 6 weeks for delivery.
Special Treasures is having a clearance sale on "Babes In The Wild" plush and porcelain dolls by Showstoppers. These limited edition dolls have porcelain faces and plush bodies designed to depict different animals. Each doll stands approximately 9" tall. Many animals are available. Each doll costs $9.95. For information on availability, contact the company via e- mail, [email protected], on the web site, www.spectreasures.com, or via phone, (585) 244-5837.
The Jewish Guild for the Blind recently announced the creation of a new scholarship program for college-bound high school seniors who are legally blind. The GuildScholar Program will award each student selected with a cash scholarship of about $15,000. The program has been created in part through a generous grant from the Jeannette A. Klarenmeyer Trust. As many as 15 students will be selected for the scholarships, which will be awarded for the first time for the academic year beginning September 2006. The 2006 scholarships are open to all legally blind students entering their senior year of high school in fall 2005. Students must be U.S. citizens, vhave an excellent academic record, be able to demonstrate financial need, have exhibited leadership traits and have performed community service. All applications will be reviewed and the applicants judged by a scholarship selection committee. For more information, visit http://www.jgb.org or call (212) 769-6237. To obtain an application, contact Gordon Rovins via e-mail, [email protected]
Ai Squared's latest ZoomText update, version 8.11.3, is fully compatible with Service Pack 2. Other important fixes and enhancements are also delivered in this update. All users of ZoomText 8.1 are encouraged to obtain the latest ZoomText update release, even if they are not installing Service Pack 2. This free update can be acquired online using automatic updating, the ZoomText update wizard, or manual updating at http://www.aisquared.com/support/updates.htm.
Order a summary in braille (a full-size, double-sided sheet) of the Seven Commandments of Noah! These divine laws date back to Adam, Noah and Abraham. The sheets can be ordered for a limited time at no charge. Send your order by regular mail to Ask Noah, PO Box 1, Pittsburgh, PA 15230. Or send an e-mail to [email protected] Visit http://www.asknoah.org to learn about the Noahide faith and this growing movement, and about Torah's messages for Gentiles in amazing depth. The web site links to the full text of the book "Path of the Righteous Gentile," which is also available from RFB&D (1-800-221-4792) on request.
Eastex Access is launching a new monthly cassette magazine for the blind. This publication is called "Love Is Blind," the audio magazine for singles, and will debut in February 2005. If you would like more information, send an e-mail message to [email protected] In the subject line, type "love is blind" and the company will e-mail you the information. For more information, call 1-877-222-0679.
Carpet sweeper, simple to use, no electricity needed. Asking $60, which includes shipping and handling. Vanilla perfume, 1.75 fluid ounces, $17, includes shipping and handling. If interested, call Alice Crespo at (718) 545-1529 or write to PO Box 9174, Long Island City, NY 11103.
Let me preface this piece by stating that seeking autonomy and independence for any woman in the 20th century, blind or sighted, was, and to some extent, still is, a daunting struggle.
My working life as a blind woman for the past 30 years has been an odyssey, navigating through a sea of bureaucratic storms, battles and occasional anchorages at peaceful ports of employment.
This odyssey began with an application to the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. In those days the choices for a blind woman were quite limited. I am aware that many blind men would claim the same restricted opportunities. While this may be true to the extent that any person with a disability has faced barriers to employment, the fact is that males have had and still have an advantage, simply by virtue of their gender.
As a blind woman, I was limited to the job choices of medical transcriber or BEP vendor. I tried the latter for a year and had to leave because the long hours were incompatible with my single parent responsibilities. So I ended up spending nine years as a medical transcriber in order to support my three young children. This was a good job, paid the bills and saw me and my kids through those stormy years.
However, it was not an opportunity to fulfill my human potential. It was an entry level, dead-end job and I needed more in my life. Now you ask, "Why are you complaining? You had a good job and many people with or without disabilities would be satisfied." I have never bought into the concept that "being satisfied" was the end-all of my life journey. Therefore, I have traveled many risky roads, keeping in mind that this is my very own one life and I will spend it being the best and the most I can be.
The question that has traveled those roads with me has been who or what defines the sum total of my being: my values, my choices, my needs, my joys? And the answer is always, "You, Teddie-Joy, you are the keeper of this definition." Therefore, I have had a somewhat speckled 30-year working life, but exciting and always filled with self-discoveries and epiphanies. I spent nine years as a medical transcriber, one year as a vendor, five years as a recreation director with the Department of Recreation and Parks, two years as an advocate for the Client Assistance Program, one year as a CAP trainer, and the last four years as a community liaison and disability rights advocate. In between I spent time being unemployed and five years going back to college at the age of 49 and graduating at age 54 with a degree in gerontology.
It is certainly true that many bureaucratic systems have assisted me in this journey, but I have always made the life choices. They have not always been ones of which the systems approved. I don't have the time to wait on either systemic or popular approval.
After these 30-plus years, I am exceedingly pleased and proud of the woman I have become. My values, needs, choices and joys have all been owned by me alone and I celebrate that achievement! The sorrows and pain in life cannot be escaped, but I live it all with commitment to my independence and autonomy.
FOR SALE: Power-Braille 40 refreshable braille display. Good condition. Asking $1,500. Please write to Sutter at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Ultra-slim Toshiba Centrino notebook, 1.6/2.8 GHZ processor, 512 megs of RAM, 60-gig hard drive, fully integrated wireless, only six pounds. This high-end notebook computer includes installed newest version of JAWS, Kurzweil 8.0, Windows XP, Office XP with Word, Real Player 10, WinAmp and a 2,500-plus song music library. Tons of software including Norton Antivirus. Includes fully transferable three-year warranty. Asking $2,900 or best offer. Call (571) 276-6085 or e-mail [email protected] to inquire.
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak 640 with matching disk drive. Software updated in June 2002; battery replaced last year. Comes with manuals and all cables. Asking $800. For more information, call (316) 655-7904, or e- mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: Two sets of Bible concordances, braille, Old and New Testament. Make an offer. Will trade for gospel hymns and patriotic songs in braille, with or without music. Several braille computer manuals, including one by Peter Duran. Contact Solomon Mekonnen at (727) 938-6692.
FOR SALE: Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language in 72 braille volumes. Reasonable offers welcome. Call Barry or Louise Wood at (201) 868-3336.
FOR SALE: BrailleNote. Three years old; barely used. Has computer keyboard and refreshable braille display. Features include: word processing, e-mail and Internet access, book reader, scientific calculator, and more. Asking $1,700 or best offer. UPS postage is included with price. Contact Empish at [email protected] or (770) 981-3673.
FOR SALE: Bible on tape, New and Old Testaments. Asking $50. Contact Patricia Smith at (919) 309-1351, or write to her at 3100 Erwin Rd., Room 202, Durham, NC 27705.
FOR SALE: Type 'n Speak. Comes with braille, print and tape manuals, flash memory. Originally bought in fall 2000; used very little. Asking $700 or best offer. Contact Bob Clayton in braille or on tape at 715 W. 11th St., Cedar Falls, IA 50613; phone (319) 277-8290.
FOR SALE: Braille Lite 40 in excellent condition. Includes parallel printer cable, disk drive w/cable, case for both units, English/Spanish languages, and program disks. Asking $1,500. Will accept money order or cashier's check. Contact Julia at [email protected]
FOR SALE: External disk drive for notetakers like the BrailleNote or the Braille Lite. Asking $300. Two braillers, $350 each, in great condition. Contact Robert at (510) 849-3537.
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak disk drive, year 2000, never used. Asking $300 (negotiable). Contact B. Lovett at (716) 695-0053.
FOR SALE: Aladdin Rainbow reading machine with 14-inch screen, full color, six years old. In excellent condition. Asking $1,200. Contact Bobbie or Carl Farrington at (310) 608-7606.
FOR SALE: One reconditioned braille writer with hinged hard cover. Asking $450. More than 60 Insul-gauges with two custom-made wooden jewelry cases, two Medi-coolers, and two additional freezer trays for the inside of the coolers. Asking $125 for the whole package, or $5 per gauge. Contact Robert Ziegler at (763) 537-8000.
FOR SALE: Alva 380 braille terminal with backpack carrying case and cables. Cleaned and serviced 2 years ago. In excellent condition. Asking $4,000 plus shipping or best offer. Contact David Redman at (626) 339-0805 or via e-mail, [email protected]
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