logo shows State of California with an eye in the middle

Spring, 2008, Volume 52, No. 2

Published in Braille, Large Print, Cassette, Diskette, Online, and Email

Jeff Thom, President
7414 Mooncrest Way
Sacramento, CA 95831
916-995-3967 cell

Executive Office:
California Council of the Blind Sacramento, CA 95814
916-441-2100 voice
916-441-2188 fax
toll free 800-221-6359
Email: ccotb@ccbnet.org
Website: www.ccbnet.org
Webmaster: webmaster@ccbnet.org

Los Angeles Area Office:
Mitch Pomerantz
1115 Cordova Street
Pasadena, CA 91106

Dan Kysor, Director of Governmental Affairs
Executive Office
916-812-1542 cell

Please send all address changes to the Executive Office.

Editor: Mike Keithley
191 East El Camino Real #150
Mountain View, CA 94040

Call the CALIFORNIA CONNECTION at 800-221-6359 for an update on legislation and CCB events Monday through Friday after 4 p.m. and all day on weekends. You may listen to either English or Spanish versions.

Members are requested and nonmembers are invited to pay a yearly subscription fee of $10 toward the printing of THE BLIND CALIFORNIAN.

If you or a friend would like to remember the California Council of the Blind in your Will, you can do so by employing the following language:

"I give, devise, and bequeath unto the California Council of the Blind, a nonprofit charitable organization in California, the sum of $____ (or ____) to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."

If your wishes are more complex, you may have your attorney communicate with the Executive office for other suggested forms. Thank you.


In accepting material for THE BLIND CALIFORNIAN, priority will be given to articles concerning the activities and policies of the California Council of the Blind and to the experiences and concerns of blind persons. Recommended length is under three pages or 1800 words. If space constraints make it necessary to divide an article, every effort will be made to discuss the matter with the author before publication.

The deadline to submit material for the summer, 2008 issue of the BLIND CALIFORNIAN is June 1.

Please send all address changes to the Executive Office.


by Mike Keithley

We all know that the National Library Service (NLS) is well on its way into transitioning from cassette tapes to digital media, and we'll soon have the new players. Having used the pilot program to download NLS digital books, I can attest to their superior quality--gone are the days of broken and twisted tapes or the varying quality between sides; and the ability to navigate between sections, chapters, and other book elements, plus the capability to insert bookmarks, is a boon to reading.

Although we now have much better audio books, NLS has decided not to implement a very useful aspect of the DAISY standard--the inclusion of braille text. If we had a talking book that included braille, we'd not need additional services like WebBraille. Everything would be in one place and we wouldn't need to do anything special to read braille books. With braille usage still waning, we need to make it as easy as possible to read it.

So why won't NLS consider this at this time? Here are some possibilities, and I'm sure there more.

First, the players would need a braille display, which would complicate matters and make the system expensive. But this needn't be so. Players could have just a Bluetooth interface plus appropriate software, and it would be up to the user to acquire the braille display.

This isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. For example, the Victor Stream, made by HumanWare, plays NLS books admirably; and HumanWare also makes the Brailliant braille display, which has a Bluetooth interface. Put a Bluetooth interface in the Stream and we'd be ready for a display if we want one. Those fortunate to own notetakers like the BrailleNote already have the display, and all they'd have to do is come up with a Bluetooth adapter.

"Oh dear," you say, "more money!" Not really. Since we need a braille display to use WebBraille, money has already been spent; and since all the players have to do is sport a Bluetooth interface and software to control the display, the increased expense of producing them would be minimal. In addition, this facet wouldn't interfere with audio playback and would be transparent to all but braille users. Viewed in this light, WebBraille is a redundant service and would eventually become unnecessary.

Secondly, we have to deal with the fact that braille text has to be transcribed for inclusion in talking books. This is labor-intensive, slows down production and there are currently no developed tools to to transcribe printed text easily into braille in DAISY formats.

Is it really that hard? Perhaps not! Some braille books now on WebBraille are probably the same as their talking book versions so the transcribed braille is actually already available and could simply be included in the digital talking book without fuss. I'm betting that if NLS synchronized talking books with what's available on WebBraille, much of the labor involved in including braille with talking books would go away. And it wouldn't be necessary to synchronize the display of text to the audio. We could choose between braille or talking book; they'd behave independently of each other.

Thirdly, the processes NLS now uses to produce digital talking books are solidifying: software has been developed and tested, agencies and teams of readers and volunteers are busy producing or resurrecting books, and the playback machines have been contracted for and distribution is at hand. In addition, there is the thinking, which is supported by statistical data, that people reading NLS books in braille is steadily declining. But no wonder! The emphasis on audio over braille accelerates the decline.

Change is hard and costly, and current trends are easier to work with. So we're not going to have the combined braille and talking book in the foreseeable future. But I believe NLS should consider the possibility, and an all-in-one book might someday become a reality. It's a nice dream, isn't it.

And now for an apology: I've learned that Jane Kardas's name was misspelled several times in the winter, 2008 BC. There it was spelled Kardis, though it should be Kardas. My apologies!

Also, problems with missing dots have been reported in the winter BC's braille edition. If you want a new copy, contact the Braille Institute at 323-663-1111, and ask for Media Production. Be sure to tell them your return address.

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by Jeff Thom

I write this article with a real sense of humility. As you will see, an apt title for it might well be "I met the enemy and he is me." It arose from a recent meeting I attended of the board of directors of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) in San Antonio. However, this article is not about that fine organization, nor even about the great food we had on the river, or even the incredible history of that fine city. Instead, it is about the place where the board meeting occurred, the people who work there, and attitudes that too often form the core of our world view.

The AFB board meeting was held at the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind. Its executive director, Mike Gilliam, is an AFB board member and was our host for the meeting. The Lighthouse, like many others in this country, includes facilities in which products are made primarily by blind individuals for the government and private industry. These government contracts are obtained as a result of federal legislation enacted in the 1930's. These facilities are generally referred to as sheltered workshops.

Mike Gilliam invited those of us in attendance at the meeting to work on the assembly line for an hour. The San Antonio facility makes pens, highlighters, mechanical pencils, chin straps for the Army and Marines, and other goods. The facility employs in the neighborhood of 200 blind individuals, from the very young to the very old, although the average age is in the 50's. Turn-over is rather low, although recruiting can be difficult. The gentleman that I worked with, for example, had been there for 20 years.

Now the story becomes more personal. As a member of the California Council of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind, I, like so many of you, have advocated in different ways for the rights of those working in sheltered workshops. I can't speak for anyone else, but my motivation for participation in CCB comes from many factors, among them the view that I need to give something back to my community. On the other hand, as much as I would never like to admit this, even to myself, as a professional, it is hard for me to avoid feeling just slightly above the very folks for whom I am advocating. After all isn't a lawyer somehow more successful and worthy than a worker in a sheltered workshop?

With several board members and some AFB staff, I took up Mr. Gilliam's offer of working on the line, and as you'll see, I am very glad that I did. My job was putting caps on pens, and I probably did about 1,000 caps during my hour on the line. I conversed with the gentleman whose place I took (let's call him Bill) and the gentleman next on the line (I'll call him Joe) to whom I shuffled each tray of pens after I put on the six caps. Here are some of my impressions of that hour.

First, my work slowed the line to a crawl almost immediately. In fact, Joe had to put on at least as many pen caps as I did in order to keep the line moving. Suffice it to say, that these folks work fast. They all make minimum wage, and usually a good deal more, and they really earn their wages. They have quotas that they need to complete, and they work hard to do it.

As impressed as I was by their work ethic, I was even more blown away by how very much I had in common with them. Bill talked to me about many things, especially music, and his breadth of knowledge far outweighed mine. I engaged Joe in a lengthy discussion of the merits of various professional basketball teams. Suffice it to say, that they couldn't have treated me more nicely, laughing at my miscues, and praising me as I began to gain a little speed toward the end.

Well, perhaps the picture is becoming clearer. These employees had a lot more to teach me than I did to them. Most of all, they taught me about myself. I left that assembly line with the realization that I was guilty of undervaluing other people, something which I have railed against my entire life. The key to overcoming one's own prejudice is understanding it. I don't profess to have overcome my prejudice completely merely because of this experience, but I am a better person for being faced with it, and I have my friends on the assembly line to thank.

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by Lainey Feingold

Dear CCB: In light of the Governor's proclamation regarding Braille literacy week, it seems like a good time to remind everyone about the leadership role that CCB and its members have taken to ensure that financial information in the United States is offered in braille.

In 1999, using the Structured Negotiations legal advocacy process, CCB signed a settlement agreement with Wells Fargo in which that bank became the first in the country to offer a comprehensive program of alternative formats, including braille, for bank statements and other financial information. Since that time, CCB and its members have signed similar agreements with other California banks, including Washington Mutual, Bank of America and Union Bank of California.

These agreements in turn helped to inspire national advocacy by other ACB affiliates and blind advocates. Other banks, including Bank One (now Chase), Sovereign Bank, Fleet Bank (now Bank of America), Citizens Bank, First Union (now Wachovia), and LaSalle Bank all signed Settlement Agreements, as did American Express, providing for braille financial information.

The California agreements were the result of the hard work and dedication of CCB as an organization and many individual CCB members. People who need braille or other alternative formats can honor that hard work and dedication by asking for financial and other important information in a format that is effective. Legal Settlement Agreements are only worthwhile if they are used. If you run into any problems obtaining braille or other effective formats from any of these financial institutions, please don't hesitate to let us know. Structured Negotiations has allowed CCB to have ongoing positive relationships with the banks we have worked with, and we typically can resolve the problems that are bound to arise. And if you have trouble obtaining braille or other alternative formats for other types of information, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Lainey and Linda, lfeingold@earthlink.net.

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by Catherine Skivers

Next year, CCB will be 75 years old, and the History Committee hopes to have its work completed by then.

The council has been through some turbulent times, and in 1959, when we were 25 years old, a division occurred when some of CCB's leadership, along with some of its members, withdrew from the organization. After a time, they formed the Associated Blind of California, the name of which was later changed to the American Council of the Blind of California. Reviewing some of what they did just before this affiliate merged with CCB in 1985 is something we will cover in our document. I thought that a few things that I found in the Spring 1984 ACBC digest, which is what they called their quarterly magazine, might be of interest to you.

In the announcement of their spring convention, which was held in Fresno at the Hilton Hotel, listed the rates for a single room as $37 and $47 for a double. It listed a number of events, and the theme of of the convention was "Removing Barriers in the 80's." Removing social and economic barriers, which are the principal ones resulting from blindness, were to be the major emphasis the meeting.

They were going to have a talk on the direction of rehabilitation in the 80's, given by the Director of the Department of Rehabilitation, Dr. Cecie Fontanoza; and they were also going to hear from Manual Urena, Program Manager for DOR, about current services for the blind. James Riley, Director of Training for DOR's Business Enterprise Program, was to enlighten them on how that program was progressing.

A representative from the Department of Education was to discuss the programs and services supplied by the California School for the Blind. A representative of the Department of Special Education was to inform the convention as to how the education of blind students in the Fresno area was being handled.

A representative from the Social Security Administration was to talk about the changes in that agency that affected the blind in 1984.

Chris Gray, who was then employed by Telesensory, Inc., was to discuss advances in technical aids used in the employment of the blind. A panel was to talk about attitudinal barriers and what removal of these barriers could mean. The theme was most important in determining who the speakers for the banquet would be. Grant Mack, President of the American Council of the Blind, and a successful insurance broker from Salt Lake City; and John Di Francesco, immediate past President of ACBC's Bayview Chapter, all presented some ideas on barrier removal.

The announcement concluded by saying that fellowship and a no-host bar should serve to remove a few more barriers on Friday and Saturday evenings.

This informative announcement was prepared by George Forgarty, who I know many of you remember. It seemed to me that this was interesting because when we look at our convention programs now, we see many of the same topics still being discussed and still in need of our attention and advocacy.

It would be helpful if you let me know what kinds of things you would like to read about while we are on our way to putting our history together. I can be reached at 510-357-1986. If you have any documents which you feel might be helpful in putting our history together, please forward them to our committee. They can also be sent to the CCB office to the attention of the Awards and History Committee.

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by Daveed Mandell

Many blind people throughout the state of California were shocked and saddened last May, when long-time San Francisco rehabilitation counselor-teacher and blind community advocate Jewel McGinnis died at St. Francis Hospital of heart failure. She was 82 years old.

Born legally blind in Los Angeles in 1925, Jewel Basse McGinnis began attending the California School for the Blind in Berkeley in the ninth grade. She received her B.A. degree from the University of Redlands, and her M.A. from San Francisco State University.

She began working for the California Department of Rehabilitation in 1949. For more than forty years, she taught thousands of blind people various blindness skills and alternative techniques, and helped them become socially integrated into San Francisco's blind and mainstream communities.

Jewel was a stellar advocate on behalf of blind Californians. For more than half a century, she was an active member of the California Council of the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, and later the American Council of the Blind. Among Jewel's many responsibilities in the CCB, she chaired the organization's Budget and Finance, Fundraising and Employment Assistance committees.

In 1963, she founded Blind San Franciscans, an advocacy and social organization run by blind persons to improve the quality of life for blind individuals in San Francisco and the Bay Area. The group engaged in a wide range of activities. Among its many projects, it established Broadcast Services for the Blind, a radio reading service, during the 1970's. In the 1980's, it produced and distributed braille BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) schedules and braille maps of San Francisco. Blind San Franciscans is best known in recent years for raising money for interest-free loans to help blind people throughout the Bay Area acquire assistive technology equipment.

Jewel was a knowledgeable, dedicated, passionate, sincere and hard-working activist and advocate for expanded transportation options for blind and disabled people. She worked tirelessly to establish San Francisco's paratransit program, and insisted that the city's Paratransit Coordinating Council be an independent body responsible for its own meetings, surveys, procedures and policies. She felt that paratransit should be available and affordable to everyone, regardless of income.

She strongly advocated for taxi scrips to allow people to travel when and where they wished within the City. She taught sensitivity training to cab drivers and police officers, so they would know how to assist blind and disabled people. She was also active on Muni's Municipal Transportation Agency Fixed Route Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Jewel worked actively to promote braille and increase access to books for blind people. She served for many years on the Board of Directors of the Braille Revival League of California and on the Advisory Committee of San Francisco's Library for the Blind and Print Disabled.

Jewel was a firm believer in the self-determination of blind persons. She felt that only we blind people have the right to determine our own destinies and programs.

She used to say that a good advocate shouldn't be concerned about being liked by the powers that be. She said that being a good advocate doesn't necessarily mean winning a popularity contest. Instead, she said, an advocate should concentrate on working and fighting for civil rights and social and economic justice. Jewel didn't just spout rhetoric. She lived and breathed these principles, and brought them to life every day, both in word and in deed.

Jewel deplored the passivity of many blind people, and felt that if they were really concerned enough about a particular issue, they would and should take action to make things right. She had little patience with people who complain and grumble, but never act.

During most of her long, busy and productive life, she was a high partial. Yet, she always respected totally blind people. She did all she could to instill pride, independence and dignity in the people she taught and with whom she worked. Several years ago, Jewel lost all of her vision. That's when she developed an even greater respect for blind people. She said that it's one thing to teach someone how to cut meat or travel using a white cane, but it's another thing entirely to actually perform these tasks oneself and live as a blind person.

During the 1950's, Jewel was an active member of The East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc., especially serving as its Treasurer. In recent years, she was very much concerned about the Center's leadership, operation and service delivery.

We have much to learn from Jewel McGinnis about how to work for increased opportunity and accessibility in all aspects of daily life for blind people. We will miss her greatly.

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by Rob Turner

This time we are indeed fortunate to have an inspiring submission from Doris Barnhouse, Vice President of our High Desert chapter. The text, with minor changes, was taken from an article she wrote entitled "We Remember the Children." It's an excellent example of how a local group can band together to make a real difference. Here's what she wrote.

The High Desert Chapter serves Apple Valley, Victorville, Hesperia, and surrounding communities. I am the current Vice President of this chapter, and I've been serving in this capacity under four different Presidents.

During these years, we have loved and lost several dear members. On February 5, 2007, we lost my significant other, Mr. Andy Carlucci. One of the many things Andy and I shared was a concern for blind children. When Andy died, he left a request that his family and friends establish a memorial fund designated to help blind children. His family asked me to be in charge of the distribution of the funds.

It took about eight months to cut through the red tape to find these children, and we finally found four boys and six girls who attend special classes at the Vista Verde School in Victorville.

We scheduled a meeting with their teacher, Kathryn Polston, in October and were able to get permission to bring the children candy.

Pauline Arverson, our Treasurer; Jan Ripley, our fundraising chairperson; and I prepared and delivered pumpkin-shaped baskets filled with candy for each of the children. They were not only delighted with the treats but were happy to meet us and were even able to remember our names! They asked us to come and see them again. Prepared with a list of needed items from their teacher, we promised to see them again at Christmas.

Thanks to Jan and Pauline, we were able to play Santa Claus. Each child received a red felt stocking with their name embroidered on it, a talking wrist watch, a talking calculator, a high-powered magnifier, a $20 gift card for Wal-Mart, peppermint sticks, and candy canes filled with M&Ms. We were able to deliver the stockings on December 14, and were accompanied by the "Hi-Country Harmoneers," a barbershop quartet led by our outgoing President, Mr. Brad Hogarty. They sang Christmas carols for the children and the staff.

This was a wonderful, heart-warming experience not only for all of us but also for the chapter membership when we recounted our visit to them. In fact, the chapter has voted to continue to replenish the memorial fund for the children.

So now we are busy assembling heart-themed goodies in little bags. As the anniversary of Andy's death approaches, his family and I are comforted by the anticipation of our upcoming Valentine's Day visit with the children. I know Andy said he wanted to remember the children; but seeing how this experience has brightened so many lives, I wonder if he was also remembering us. I like to think he was. Thank you, Andy!

and thank you Doris for telling us all about it. Remember, some of those children might be active CCB members in years to come.

Our focus remains on children with the following submission from Winifred Downing:

This is the third year in which the San Francisco chapter has raised money (this year $2,000) to purchase computer equipment for someone who has no other way of acquiring it. The recipient this year is a 14-year-old girl at the high} school in Hercules. Her vision is impaired by albinism. NO one in her large Hispanic family has a computer, and she was told that she couldn't graduate from high school without computer skills. The formal awards luncheon is scheduled for March 15.

Each year we send information on our contest to Bay Area schools and offices for disabled students. The application process includes giving us pertinent information and writing an essay concerning their interests and the way in which the equipment would forward these interests.

These next two items are a call to blind musicians and artists. Both offer an opportunity to express your creativity while doing something positive.

James Forbes is working on a benefit CD for the Humboldt Council of the Blind. Artists or bands with visually impaired members are invited to submit songs. All genres of music are accepted. The CD is to be released in September, 2008. You can contact James at darkarts66@gmail.com.

Call for Artists for "Shared Visions 2008-2009," the fourth annual juried art exhibit (September, 2008 to August, 2009) by artists who are blind or visually impaired. Selected works will be exhibited in the Eye Care Center for a period of one year. The deadline for entries is May 14, 2008.

For application and information to enter this exhibit, please visit www.scco.edu/SharedVisions/CallforArtists.pdf. Contact Rebecca L. Kammer, Southern California College of Optometry, by phone at 714-449-7473 or by e-mail at rkammer@scco.edu.

For those of you who want to submit material for this column, my email address has changed. That's because I've moved to Northern California and taken a new full-time position with Benetech. I'm doing Customer Support for Bookshare.org. My new email address is rb_turner_1@hotmail.com. My phone number hasn't changed. So when your chapter or special interest affiliate does something that you think would be of interest, be sure to notify me.

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by Catherine Skivers

The three trustees of the Ellen Murphy Fund are Abbie Vincent, Pat La France Wolf and myself. It was Ellen Murphy's wish that women over 50 years of age who are blind or visually impaired receive assistance when they have special needs.

We have been able to help many people due to Ellen's wonderful gift to the California Council of the Blind. Some of the ways we have been able to assist applicants who have contacted us are housing, medical, basic household needs, assistive technology and much more.

We are appreciative of contributions made to us. Unfortunately, these contributions have not come in very often, and we find ourselves expending a great deal more than we take in. If the proposed Governor's budget passes, there will no doubt be more requests than ever coming to us. Social Workers and people assisting the blind from other agencies know about us now, and we receive many referrals. If you or someone you know might need our help, we want you to know about our procedures and what we need in order to fulfill your request.

We ask that an application be filled out and that applicants send a short letter explaining what they need and the approximate cost. We also need to know what other sources of assistance they have contacted. If you know where your required items can be purchased, we need to know that information also. We All know that many people could use a computer, and everybody can use money; but just sending in a request for a sum of money, without a specific need, cannot be considered.

We appreciate the assistance Rhonda King has offered with suggestions as to how we can raise more money for the Ellen Murphy fund. If anyone reading this has any suggestions, they would be very much appreciated. The trustees of this fund want to help as many people as they can. It is our belief that Ellen would be pleased with what has been accomplished so far. She particularly wanted people in abusive situations and who were in need of food, clothing and other necessities to be served.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call Abbie, Pat or myself; and we will be happy to assist.

Thank you.

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by Jane Kardas

If you had attended the 2007 fall convention in Los Angeles and felt the excitement of an election, you might be entertaining the idea of running for a seat on the board the next time an opportunity presents itself. As a board member stepping down this year, due to term limits, I would like to share with you my personal experiences of what it is like to serve CCB.

The challenge can seem somewhat daunting in the beginning. I recall the first time I sat on the board in front of an audience. I felt terribly conspicuous and somehow wanted to slither down into the audience and reclaim my old seat. However, being on the board comes with many rewards, including a stipend for the first night's hotel room; a meal; and transportation to and from the convention, paid by the Council. But before you get too excited, let me tell you that you're expected to be on three committees simultaneously.

I have served as President of the Redwood Empire Chapter for four and a half years; and for four years as Co-chair on the Seniors with Vision Loss and Membership committees. Additionally, I have been acting chair of the Advocacy committee and a member of the California Council of Citizens with Low Vision. Should you pursue the path of gaining a CCB Board seat, I am certain you will find that all of your past experiences come together to serve you.

I lost my vision five years before entering the Orientation Center for the Blind. Feeling very skeptical and wondering what I could possibly have in common with a group of blind people, I arrived there in February of 1992. I soon found myself on the road to regaining my self-esteem and making wonderful friendships with other students and staff. In fact, my first experience of attending a CCB convention happened while I was a student at OCB. I traveled by train with Al and Connie Gil.

You didn't find anyone sitting around feeling sorry for themselves at that convention. I was surprised to find such a wide range of meetings to choose from, and I remember wondering how I could possibly decide which meeting to go to first.

I must add that I still have some vision, though everything is out of focus. I can see a bit of color, however I am not able to identify faces or print. I cannot read no matter how large the font.

The first committee I joined was the CCB Membership Committee. It wasn't long before Allan Brenner and Larry Swenson, who were members of CCB's Redwood Empire chapter, encouraged me to run for its President; but after a time, I decided new blood was needed, and Larry, who was serving as our VP, stepped into my shoes.

Then Teddie Remhild suggested that I might run for a seat on the CCB Board of Directors, and Alan Brenner cajoled and urged me on. I did not feel experienced enough, but Teddi assured me that I probably wouldn't get on the first time I ran anyway. So I figured, "What do I have to lose?" I remember that Martin Jones ran someone against me; but low and behold, I won! So what was a person to do? No option except to jump in with both feet.

I had so many mentors along the way, and I am grateful to each and every one of them. Cathy Skivers encouraged me in Governmental Affairs; and with Winifred Downing's support, I began writing articles for The Blind Californian.

If you are considering running for a seat on the board of directors, you may want to start in your hometown, such as I did. During Braille Literacy Month, you could call a local school or community college and volunteer to talk to young people about blindness. I found that very rewarding in my own community. Take a look at your own town to see how you might become involved.

I serve Mendocino County on the In Home Support Services (IHS) Board and the Health Planning Council. I sent a letter to Arnold Schwarzenegger to encourage legislation that supports readers for low vision and the blind who participate in IHSS. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed that in October, 2007. However, the Signature Stamp legislation for which I advocated and with the County Board of Supervisors support, did pass; and at the time of this article, a stamp may be used as a signature on your election ballot.

I have traveled to Washington, D.C. on four occasions to attend ACB Legislative Seminars; and in February 2006, Dan Kysor and I met my own Congressman, Mike Thompson, and others, to ask for support on issues pertaining to the blind.

These are only a few of my personal experiences; and I feel certain that you could elaborate on your own, possibly with more grace than I have done here. Meanwhile, it is important to gather as much experience and knowledge as possible about the council before running for a seat on its board. All this experience will be of great benefit to you.

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by Ardis Bazyn, CCB liaison

On February 9-12, 2008 the American Council of the Blind held its legislative seminar at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C. Several members of CCB attended the seminar: Brandy Morgan from Bakersfield, Brian Connors from Sacramento, Sam Chen from San Jose, Donna Pomerantz from Pasadena, Foster Brown from Riverside, Hazel and Roy Harmon from Oceanside, David Hanlon from San Diego, and Ardis Bazyn from Burbank.

Since two other members had to cancel at the last minute, we were kept very busy with a heavy appointment schedule. We also had the threat of a cab strike on the day of our Hill visits. Since it was also election day for local primaries, the strike was canceled, which helped us considerably.

Three issues are at the forefront of ACB'S 2008 legislative agenda: the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act discussion draft, accessibility to commercial web sites, and pedestrian safety issues regarding hybrid and other quiet vehicles.

We shared the fact that, with increasing frequency, television and Internet products and programming rely on visual information to communicate with consumers. Products are created that utilize on-screen menus, and in programming, significant events are portrayed visually: emergency weather advisories are scrolled across screens, and telephone numbers are displayed on television screens unaccompanied by verbalization. People who are blind, or have visual impairments, are thereby denied access to a significant portion of the vast array of communications services available today.

We urged our House representatives to introduce formally the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act discussion draft that was created by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in close consultation with the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT). We highlighted specific provisions in the discussion draft:

1. Extending television captioning decoder circuitry requirements beyond TV sets with screens of 13 inches or larger to all video devices that receive or display video programming with sound, including those that can receive or display programming carried over the Internet. This would also require these devices to be able to transmit and deliver video description. (Video description is the provision of verbal descriptions of the on-screen visual elements of a show provided during natural pauses in dialogue.)

2. Reinstatement of regulations for video description that were struck down by a U.S. Court of Appeals in 2002. These rules would also be widened to (a) ensure that video description services can be transmitted and provided over digital TV technologies, (b) ensure that digital TV equipment can make available the delivery and use of video description, (c) require non-visual access to on-screen emergency warnings and similar televised information, and (d) increase the amount of video description required.

3. Defines video programming to include programming distributed over the Internet to make clear that the existing closed captioning obligations (and future video description obligations) apply also to video programming that is distributed or re-distributed over the Internet. This is intended to ensure the continued accessibility of video programming to Americans with disabilities, as TV shows migrate to the Internet.

4. Require TV user interfaces to be disability-accessible, including devices used to receive and display Internet-based video programming. This means accessibility of functions of such devices such as on/off and volume controls and program selection. For instance, this could mean (a) audio output where on-screen text menus are used to control video programming functions, and (b) a conspicuous means of accessing closed captioning and video description, including a button on remote controls and first-level access to these accessibility features when they are made available through on-screen menus.

The second issue was website accessibility and the ADA. We explained that, despite the mandate of Congress and the administration, too many areas of business and commerce open to the general public, including virtual (e.g., Internet) goods and services, remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. Title III of the ADA bars discrimination on the basis of disability by "places of public accommodation" and "commercial facilities" "engaged in commerce," yet experts report that currently as many as 98 percent of all commercial web sites are inaccessible to the disabled.

We urged our Senators and Representatives to introduce formally language as stand-alone legislation. Specifically, we are seeking the following:

1. Places of Public Accommodation: 42 U.S.C. 12182 (b) is amended by adding at the end the following:

(4) Application. -- As used in this title, the terms "establishment" and "place" of public accommodation shall not be construed so as to limit application of the non-discrimination requirements of this title only to those public accommodations which own, lease, or otherwise occupy or operate physical facilities or other structures open to the public.

2. Effective Communication 42 U.S.C. 12182 (b) (1)(A)(iii) is amended to read as follows:

(iii) Separate benefit.--It shall be discriminatory to provide an individual or class of individuals, on the basis of a disability or disabilities of such individual or class, directly, or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements, with a good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation that is different or separate from that provided to other individuals, unless such action is necessary to provide the individual or class of individuals with a good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation, or other opportunity that is as effective as that provided to others. To be effective, such a good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, accommodation, or other opportunity must be provided to the individual or class of individuals at no additional cost and with the same timeliness of delivery, accuracy of communication, privacy, and independence as is provided to others.

The third issue was quiet vehicles. We explained to our legislators that we have learned to rely on our hearing to navigate safely across streets and through other vehicular ways, such as parking lots. The sound of traffic is important. Traffic sounds provide information about such things as the position of vehicles, their direction of travel, and the speed at which they are likely to move. With this information, the pedestrian can make informed decisions about when to cross a street or other vehicular way safely. Automobile manufacturers have responded to public concern for our environment by producing increasing numbers of vehicles that are environmentally friendly. They run much more quietly than older automobiles did. We urged Congress to pass a resolution in support of research by both government and private entities into means by which these issues can be addressed. We believe that Congress should provide the U.S. Department of Transportation, or other appropriate federal agencies, with funding for such research, should direct that the agencies conduct such research in a timely manner and report back to Congress at its conclusion with recommendations, and should direct that appropriate federal agencies have the authority to commence implementation of recommended solutions within two years after the passage of this legislation.

In addition to these three issues, we distributed invitations to congressional staff to special ACB briefings on the Randolph-Sheppard Program. These briefings, a breakfast for representatives and a lunch for senators, were held on February 20th, and led to increased communication with staff members about the program.

Over 25 staff attended these briefings as well as RS facility managers and people from related organizations.

Digital photos were distributed highlighting the successes of the program.

I wish to thank all those who participated in this year's seminar and to CCB itself for sponsoring most of them. We had three first-timers who learned exactly what is involved in the legislative process. Each participant made several Hill visits and reported that many of our issues were positively received.

I encourage you to participate in future seminars, both locally and nationally. It is so important for us to voice our concerns and then follow up with our thanks to those who have assisted us.

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by Winifred Downing

Such excitement prevailed at the LightHouse in San Francisco on Saturday morning, February 9! There were runners, proctors, scorers, sighted volunteers to write for the scorers, other volunteers to welcome everyone for coffee and Danish and later to distribute sandwiches and cookies for lunch, students ranging from 6 to 19 years of age, parents, and personnel for the parents' program. The black t-shirts worn by all the workers with the words "Braille Challenge" across the front told the story, for the LightHouse was the site of this year's Northern California's pre-testing to choose students to compete in the National Braille Challenge at Braille Institute, Los Angeles, the eighth event of its kind since 2000. The same pre-testing is done in schools and agencies all over the country in February and March of each year using tests, answer sheets, and rules for scoring provided by the Braille Institute. Two other Northern California agencies will have their turn hosting the Challenge in the next two years.

Students are categorized with regard to how extensive has been their training in Braille. Apprentices are usually first and second graders; freshmen, 3rd and 4th grades; sophomores, 5th and 6th grades; junior varsity, 7th-9th grades; and varsity, 10th-12th grades. Most of them are tested in spelling, comprehension in braille reading, speed and accuracy in writing braille, proofreading, and interpretation of graphics. Since many of the participants are the only blind individuals in their schools and even school districts, the opportunity to meet and talk with others having their same experiences is an advantage in addition to the thrill of competition.

Like their children, parents also have often had few occasions when they could speak with other parents of blind children. That Saturday, they could visit the LightHouse store to see items of value to blind persons and participate in the program planned for them. Richard Rueda explained the services from the Department of Rehabilitation that will be available to the students as they near the end of their high school years; Margie Donovan and her panel of young people concentrated on the importance of learning to live and work independently and the need to begin that emphasis early in children's lives; and technologists demonstrated the advantages of global positioning devices in making travel easier for visually impaired persons. The informative program and sociability of lunch provided the parents with a pleasant day while their children were being tested.

At three o'clock that afternoon, an awards ceremony gave ratings and prizes to the three top competitors in each category. These judgments and the students' tests are sent to the Braille Institute to determine which students from all over the country will engage in the National Braille Challenge. After similar tests are given there, again the top three competitors in each category will be given prizes at an awards dinner following the day of testing. Prizes include bonds ranging from $500 to $5,000 and, for the leader in each category, a PacMate from Freedom Scientific. A Teacher of the Year award is also presented to the Braille teacher most intimately concerned with conveying knowledge of braille. The Braille Institute provides hotel accommodations and meals for the participants and their parents once they arrive in Los Angeles, but transportation costs must be assumed by the families involved. Some school districts help as do private entities like the Lions Clubs, and Braille Institute has a travel fund to which interested persons and organizations can donate. Last year the Braille Revival League of California contributed $500 to the travel fund, and are proud that this gift brought one of the winners to the competition. At a time when both the learning and teaching of Braille have suffered from the effects of mainstreaming, the National Braille Challenge is indeed a most welcome development.

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by Mike Keithley

We are all familiar with the strange things our dogs think they have to do for us. Here is an example of what my last dog did for me while I was taking a class.

Dear Creative Writing Class,

I'm King, Mike's guide dog of yesterday. I'm writing to let you know that Master is doing gottence for the over-use of "got" in the last mess he read to you. I was looking over his shoulder, and I must admit I was embarrassed. He can do better, and he will if I have anything to say about it.

I've been watching his slow decline since the old days when we used to work together writing funny stuff for the newsletter he published. He built a special keyboard I'd walk around on and some translation software to translate Lablang into English. Those were the days; now, I dunno.

But this "got" thing takes the cake. I copied Master's file to my soft drive to count those "gots" without him knowing. There were seven of them; six could have been changed. I heard Teacher say she'd like a quarter for every "got"; and then I had him, a fitting punishment, he thinks he's so great. I asked mistress what she thought; and she said, "Go for it, he needs a shakedown."

So he's got, er has, seven quarters in his pocket to be paid to Teacher after he reads this, which he promised me he would. If he doesn't, I know just the virus for his computer.

Let me apologize to Teacher and class for master's careless behavior. Although he said he'd use "got" if it seemed appropriate, rest assured I'm watching. If you hear a crack, don't worry, it's just me leash-correcting master (God knows he gave me many when I was in the flesh.)

Thank you for the opportunity to write to you.


P.S. Those "gots" up there are in quotes: They don't count, ha ha.

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distributed by Eric Bridges,
Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, ACB

Here is a fact sheet that was produced by the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce, which seeks to provide assistance in the participation of citizens in the D-TV Coupon Converter Box Program. Tony Wilhelm, who heads this program at NTIA, spoke in great detail regarding this subject during the Legislative Seminar on February 11, 2008.

How Do I Get a TV Converter Box Coupon?

After February 17, 2009, all full-power television stations will broadcast only in digital. If you use "rabbit ears" or a rooftop antenna with your analog television, you must take action to continue receiving television broadcasts. The Federal Government is offering U.S. households up to two $40 coupons to help defray the cost of certified TV converter boxes. A converter box is a one-time purchase that will allow your analog TV to continue receiving television broadcasts after February 17, 2009. [These boxes connect your TV to a digital cable or satellite network.]

Certified TV converter boxes are expected to cost between $50 and $70. Coupons are free, but supply is limited. Coupons will be mailed to you by the Federal Government. Applications will be accepted from January 1, 2008 until March 31, 2009.

You can apply for your converter box coupons by phone (888-388-2009), TTY (877-530-2634), online form (www.dtv2009.gov), mail (PO Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208), or fax (877-388-4632).

With your coupon(s) you will also receive instructions for using a coupon, a list of coupon-eligible certified TV converter boxes, a list of retailers where you can use the coupon to buy a certified TV converter box, and frequently asked questions about using the coupon.

Coupons expire after 90 days and cannot be reissued, so review your information packet as soon as you receive it. Your coupon will look and work like a plastic gift card. Coupons can be used at participating retailers listed in your information packet.

[Editor's note: You do not need a converter box if you are already using a digital or satellite cable network.]

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by Anthony Sauer

It is that time of the year again when the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) begins recruiting and nominating transition age youths, specifically high school juniors and seniors, to attend the annual Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) held in Sacramento.

This year the YLF will be held during the week of July 27-31, 2008. This is a major event for students with disabilities who demonstrate leadership potential, academic success, involvement in extra-curricular activities, community involvement, and the ability to interact effectively with other students to be part of a five-day leadership training program event. Students also have the opportunity to develop "Personal Leadership Plans" with specific action items for them to follow-up and complete upon returning to their communities.

As young people with disabilities grow into adulthood, they begin to plan for a life beyond school. By encouraging youth with disabilities to take an active role in planning and pursuing leadership and career goals, they can become tomorrow's leaders. As a former YLF Counselor, I've seen first-hand how the YLF is a life changing experience for many of its delegates. For some, this is their first time away from home without their parents, and for others it may be a first opportunity to meet with other young people with disabilities. The youth that participate are from across the state--the goal is to have representation from every county and across a wide variety of disabilities.

During the annual forum, YLF participants learn from each other and from other mentors/adults with disabilities. They learn about self-advocacy, leadership and how to make a successful transition from school to post secondary education and/or work.

The YLF embodies the values of DOR, "> Employment, Independence and Equality", I am encouraging DOR Counselors, Supervisors and District Administrators to share this information with transition age youths who qualify and are interested in participating in this years YLF. DOR provides the funding for DOR consumers who are selected to participate in this exciting opportunity.

You can find information regarding the application process, and the application itself, by going to www.youthleadership.kintera.org.

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by Gabe Griffith, Resolutions Committee Chair

Before giving you the particulars of the call for resolutions for this spring's convention, I have a couple of other things to mention.

First, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Winifred Downing for working on the fall, 2007 resolutions summaries for me. She always does such a great job of capturing the essence of a resolution and boiling it down to a couple of sentences. Second, I would like to thank all the members of the Resolutions Committee and those guests who joined us. There have sometimes been some late nights, and I know it's not easy to stay up late and then be alert for convention business the next day.

Keeping this in mind, we have made some changes this year when requesting resolutions for the committee to consider. Please read the particulars below.

The spring, 2008 convention of the California Council of the blind is about a month and a half away at the time of this writing, but it is not too early to start thinking about resolutions. The earlier you can get them to the committee the more time we have to work on them. You can submit them to me by e-mail at gabe@griffith.net or you can call me at 916-505-8780. We ask that you please make sure to include a phone number where we can reach you prior to the convention as well as letting us know if you are going to be in attendance. This will help us contact you so we can be sure to keep the spirit of your resolution in any edits we make. Finally, and this is very important, the absolute deadline for submitting resolutions to us is the close of the general session on Friday night. No resolutions will be accepted after that time. Please make sure to get resolutions to me prior to the convention or find a committee-member before the close of the Friday night general session. If you cannot do this, resolutions will have to wait until the next convention.

I'm sure all the committee members and other guests who participate in our late night marathons join me in thanking you in following these guidelines when submitting resolutions. They help us to do the best job we can for you.

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by Daveed Mandel

Both the CCB and the blind community at large have lost a talented, giving, modest and kind man. Ben Deeff died in December 2007 of heart failure. He was 78 years old.

Ben's skills and creativity were legendary, his spatial awareness phenomenal, his mechanical aptitude brilliant. An active member of the Bay View Chapter for many years, Ben possessed a keen, innate intelligence. Perhaps because of the circumstances surrounding his upbringing, he was extremely resourceful. Ben wasn't concerned with learning formal techniques. Instead, he concentrated on getting the job done well, whether it was repairing a cane or braillewriter, fixing a car, remodeling a house or traveling around the Bay Area and beyond.

Ben's daughter, Tatiana Deeff, presented the following remembrance of her father's life at his moving Memorial ceremony, which was held at the East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc. in Berkeley, on Saturday, December 29, 2007:

"Veniamin Mikhailovich Deeff was born December 24, 1929 in Tsing Tao, China of Russian and Chinese descent. Ben lost his sight to scarlet fever at the age of two. His family moved to Shanghai where they lived near the French Quarter, until fleeing to the Philippines along with many other refugees displaced by the Japanese invasion. Sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church, Ben then immigrated to San Francisco with his mother, stepfather and sister Helen, while his brother Dimitri went to Brazil.

"Ben always wanted to be a lawyer; but when he spoke with a counselor and was told he'd have to start school at the beginning, he thought the counselor meant kindergarten, and let go of that dream. Instead, he went to Omaha, Nebraska, to the Institute of Technology where, speaking only Russian and Chinese, and with no braille manuals, he learned to fix radios and TV's.

"During his life, Ben made brooms, sold vacuum cleaners door to door, ran a full-service cafeteria and became an auto mechanic with his own shop. He completely remodeled and rebuilt three houses, among them our old Victorian home. He did everything, including the electrical, plumbing and concrete work. No matter what he did, Ben's work ethic and quality were always of the highest standards.

"But as much as he gave of himself to his work, the thing he truly put all his heart and soul into was his family. Dad met Mom [Lizz] at the Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind in Napa, CA in 1956; and though he lived in San Francisco, and she was in Fresno, a romance blossomed. They were married June 14, 1958. Phillip Brian was born in 1961, and Tatiana Elizabeth in 1963.

"Dad never really knew his Chinese father; and his Russian stepfather, though a good man, was not an affectionate person. In spite of, and because of, this, Dad made sure he was everything he felt a father and a husband should be. He would, and did, do anything and everything for his family. Most of all, Dad was a good person, a good man. He was admired and respected for his intelligence, abilities and capabilities; but he was liked and loved for his warmth, his humor, his compassion and his humility."

Ben is survived by his children, Phillip and wife Lori, and Tatiana and husband Randy; his two granddaughters Avery and Tatiana; and his former spouse and close friend, Lizz. He was preceded in death by his brother Dimitri and sister Helen.

He was a wonderful, caring and multi-talented man who touched many lives and willingly gave of himself and his time to all who needed him. He will be deeply missed by his family and the many friends he leaves behind.

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by Winifred Downing

In addition to the usual resolutions of gratitude to the hotel and volunteers, the Resolutions Committee considered and brought to the convention twelve resolutions, all of which passed. In the the absence of Gabe Griffith, Ken Metz chaired the committee assisted by Winifred Downing, Eugene Lozano, Dirk Neyhart, Linda Porelle, Donna Pomerantz, and Robert Wendt.

Resolution 2007B-1 requires the California Council of the Blind (CCB) to seek the immediate enactment of legislation to repeal the statutory provision delaying SSP benefit increases until June 1 of each year. These benefits, composed of federal and state contributions, have been extended to beneficiaries on January 1 of each year for the last 30 years, delayed only occasionally when state revenues were particularly low. This recently passed legislation delays the benefit until June 1 every year, thus depriving some of the most disadvantaged citizens of the state of their necessary cost-of-living adjustment.

Resolution 2007B-2 urges CCB to seek legislation that requires that material given to parents of blind and visually impaired children concerning their rights include a statement that they have the option of seeking placement for their child at the California School for the Blind (CSB). Such placement is usually sought by the school district, but a fair hearing can be requested by parents if it is determined to be in the best interest of the child to attend CSB.

Resolution 2007B-3 provides that CCB "strongly urge the Department of Rehabilitation to immediately commence a strategic process to take a comprehensive look at the Orientation Center for the Blind (OCB), under which the Department shall develop a plan to ensure that OCB continues to provide the high quality of services for which it has been historically recognized." This process "should include OCB alumni, students, staff, representatives of consumer organizations, and the Blind Advisory Committee."

Resolution 2007B-4 accords to CCB the responsibility of urging the Secretary of State "to produce the voter information guide in audio cassette and e-mail formats and that this format should be compatible with the prevailing standard of the National Library Service for the Blind and Visually Handicapped." In the event of a delay in response to this directive, CCB should develop a legislative remedy.

Resolution 2007B-5 addresses the fact that the Department of Rehabilitation does not make accessible to blind and visually impaired applicants the intake form which must be submitted before any service is given to a client. "This lack of accessibility violates Section 1135 of the Government Code and the Americans with Disabilities Act." CCB is to strongly urge the Department to remedy this problem.

Resolution 2007B-6 states that the CCB insist on action by the Department of Rehabilitation to address its long delayed promise to make available to its blind and visually impaired employees its internal informational technologies. Failure to have access to such material limits the competence of employees and hence the service rendered to clients. Solving this problem should include development and maintenance of a "best practices manual, which shall be used to address all technical and informational access issues."

Resolution 2007B-7 assigns to CCB the task of urging "the Department of Rehabilitation to develop, in a timely manner and in conjunction with its advisory committees and appropriate consumer organizations, a system for the administration of consumer surveys that addresses problems that have occurred in such surveys in the past. These surveys have not been accessible to blind and visually impaired consumers, have not been evaluated by entities independent of the Department, and have not addressed consumer satisfaction with direct services rendered. This system should assist the Department in accurately determining whether its services are meeting consumer needs."

Resolution 2007B-9 calls upon CCB to take appropriate steps to ensure that the State Personnel Board's Website is made fully usable to persons who are blind or visually impaired. This site contains forms to be completed by prospective state employees, including persons with disabilities. This remedy is necessary if Governor Schwarzenegger's directive calling for increased hiring of persons with disabilities is to be followed.

Resolution 2007B-11 calls upon CCB to remind Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) that the original goal of the organization was to meet the reading needs of blind and visually impaired persons. In its expansion of services for the much larger population of individuals with learning disabilities, RFB&D has furnished to blind and visually impaired individuals much less information concerning the new digital devices than to the sighted population. The considerable amount of print material and large fold-out of pictures compare unfavorably with the scant page-and-a-half of braille provided by RFB&D. The resolution objecting to this situation is to be sent to John Kelly, Executive Director of RFB&D. It will also be forwarded to the American Council of the Blind for its consideration. [Editor's note: John Kelley is CEO of RFB&D.]

Resolution 2007b-13 contains an extensive explanation of the manner in which the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) has ignored demands repeated over the last 25 years to remove from sidewalks and crosswalks barriers which interfere substantially with the safe use of these public ways by blind and visually impaired persons and individuals with mobility issues. In response to this continuing problem, CCB is to admonish CalTrans concerning its behavior, especially since the department is suing to declare unconstitutional the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the Civil Rights laws which compel CalTrans to solve this problem. CCB is to send copies of this resolution to the governor and the State Attorney General.

Resolution 2007B-14 calls on CCB to "urge the president of the American Council of the Blind to write to the United States Attorney General requesting a timely interpretation based on the language adopted by the Coalition of Assistance Dog Organizations, relative to the definition of the tasks of guide, signal and service animals." Guide dog users face "human interference, animal attacks, and outright discrimination by operators of public conveyances and proprietors of commercial establishments" because of confusion with users of service dogs; and the Department of Justice has not issued language defining the tasks of service dogs as opposed to the responsibilities of guide dogs.

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by Joni Patche

[Editor's note: BEP means Business Enterprise Program and YEP (Youth Employment Program) is within BEP.]

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of working with teenagers in the Bep-Yep Program. This program places youngsters with Business Enterprise Vendors to provide them with some work experience.

My vending facility is comprised of two dry vending stands (selling all prepackaged items) and is located in Sacramento. In preparation for the students, shelves were labeled in braille and braille charts were hung on a wall so that we could tell where to place items in the refrigeration units. Without organization, these tiny little shops could become chaotic in a very short time. The two students I trained each year would come to me to work for four hours (Monday through Thursday) each week, for five or six weeks.

First of all, we had to discuss how to dress for this kind of work. They were to wear no sandals, shorts, t-shirts with cute sayings--or sayings that weren't so cute cute--and no high heels, etc. Quickly I realized that sometimes it was necessary to talk about daily showers. Some students had never seen a cash register but all learned quickly how to operate one. We talked about memorizing prices so that they could cashier on their own; and some of them brought only two sheets of paper, thinking they had enough to write on. When they use large print, sometimes it took many many sheets to accomplish this task.

One student had never been on an elevator by herself and was sure she wouldn't make it out alive. Teenagers love to tease and flirt with one another, and we had to discuss when that was appropriate and when their minds should not stray from the task at hand. Some had trouble giving out change correctly, and some had trouble recognizing bottles and cans. We had a bar code reader to use so that all items in the snack bar could be identified, but some students thought their little bit of vision would be sufficient to identify them. When we started getting canned sodas in the wrong places, I suggested the use of this bar code reader and, most of the time, the students loved it.

I think the students learned some invaluable work-related skills such as stocking, merchandising, customer relations and cashiering. I learned what incredible kids they were, absorbing like sponges all that they could during the few weeks we worked together. For each of them, I wondered what kind of work they would eventually do. I feared for their vulnerability, as they had not much experience outside of their homes and families. The students who trained with me were bright, fun-loving teenagers, excited about what they were doing and eager to learn and experience more each day. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this awesome growth experience.

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by Lorraine Brown

[From the Membership Corner of the September, 2007 SVCB In Touch newsletter.]

When you come to one of our SVCB meetings, you will rarely see the subject of this month's interview sitting down. Dawn Wilcox is always on the go: helping someone, talking to new members and introducing them around, and getting coffee or cookies for anyone who asks. Again, I have much more information than there is room to print.

Dawn Wilcox was born in Merced, CA. Her mother was a high school teacher and her father a beer truck driver. When her parents divorced, Dawn's mother took her family to the Fillmore district of San Francisco, where they lived with her aunt and uncle. Dawn's mother got a job at Sears because, as a divorced woman, she could not teach school.

But she finally did get a teaching job. It was to be for one year up in the Sierras, out from Nevada City in a community called Allegheny, with a population of 100 (97 when they left a year later). The town had no doctors or dentists, but there were three bars and one general store which was also the post office.

During the winter, her mother had to melt snow for water because the utility man was always drunk and did not fix anything when the utilities were out. Dawn said that her mother taught the entire high school--all four students, each at a different level.

After a year, the family moved to different parts of the Bay Area, and then to Chowchilla, CA where Dawn went to school from the sixth grade until graduation from high school.

After graduation, Dawn attended the University of California (UC) in Berkeley for two years, receiving an AA degree. Because UC Berkeley did not have a nursing program, she attended the nursing school at UC San Francisco, receiving her BSN degree in 1958. She said that she worked the last year of nursing school and was already married. Every day she traveled across the bay from Albany village, which was temporary housing from World War II. She had to get up at 4 a.m. to get to UCSF by 7 a.m.

Her first job was at Kaiser in Oakland. Because she had a degree, Dawn was put in charge of prenatal, with an experienced nurse to work with her.

In 1964, Dawn, her husband and her children, Garth and Linda, moved to Palo Alto and bought the home where she still lives. When her children started school, Dawn began volunteering in the schools.

When the decision to sail around the world was made, the preparations took two years. First, they had to take classes on learning how to sail, navigate, and to learn about the countries they were to visit. In addition, they had to gradually accumulate the provisions they would need. Dawn said that Linda made castles out of the cans stored in her room. They had to take the labels off all of the cans, re-label them, and paint them with varnish so the cockroaches on ship could not eat the label and glue. In addition, Dawn learned what to do for medical emergencies while on the ocean, taking all their medical supplies with them.

Dawn said that before they left for their journey around the world, she made a flag for each country that they would visit. She said that it is a courtesy to fly the country's flag along with the USA flag when entering a harbor. She still has most of the flags.

The family left in July 1973 and returned in July 1978. They visited 34 countries, mostly where the weather is good. Some of her favorite places included Hawaii, Marquesas, and Tahiti. One of her least favorite places was Fiji because they were shipwrecked there and it took a year to rebuild the boat. Dawn also said that she hated the Red Sea because both the Egyptian and Israeli gun boats were telling them to stay away.

Upon their return, the story was featured in 32 magazines. The picture that was used was taken by the same photographer who became famous with his picture of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. The story was even in the Palo Alto STAR, but she said that the story the reporter wrote was not correct.

Dawn first had difficulty with her eyes while doing a "star find" on the boat. She has glaucoma and Sjogren Syndrome, an auto-immune disorder involving dry eyes.

From 1986 to 1996, however, Dawn was head nurse at the Senior Day Health Program for Palo Alto until she had to quit because she was losing her vision. For six months in 1996, she attended the Orientation Center for the Blind (OCB) in Albany.

Blind Organizations: SVCB: Secretary; then President; now she is the "busy bee," buzzing around at each meeting helping everyone.;

VISTA Center: On the Board of Directors; Coordinator of the Health Library--receives email from all over the world with questions about health. The said that she has even received an email from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Other organizations: Dawn plays first clarinet in the Los Altos Ye Olde Towne Band. She uses large print to read the music.

Other Activities/hobbies: Grows tomatoes in her back yard; works on three health lists: one is for diabetics and another is for macular degeneration (AMD)/Retinal disorders. These come out every week. The third is a list about glaucoma, which comes out every six weeks.

Likes to read: Dawn said that she usually has three books that she is keeping track of at any one time. She is currently waiting for her son and daughter in law to come home after seven years sailing about the globe.

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by Dr. Catherine Schmitt Whitaker

Sometimes a person questions whether to disclose or not to disclose a disability to an instructor in a course or to a potential employer. This is a personal decision, with no right or wrong answer. However, here are a few ideas to consider when making the decision.

Disclosing to another at the beginning of an interaction may enable you to be seen as: competent about your abilities, strong in your communication skills, appropriately assertive, comfortable with your disability, understanding how it impacts your functioning, and having an idea as to your accommodation needs.

Not disclosing to another at the beginning of an interaction may result in: confusion for others who will not understand your disability and its unique functional impacts, uncertainty by those who see you struggling and are not sure how to assist, a perception of your not telling the truth, if something happens and you cannot hide the disability, difficulty in accommodation, because disclosing is required under the law to receive an accommodation (disclosure after the fact may be too late), or an assumption that you are uncomfortable talking about the disability and so there is a need to "tip toe around" the topic instead of asking direct questions.

If you decide to disclose your disability and accommodation needs to others, the conversation will probably feel awkward at first. The more you practice, the more comfortable the experience. Consider the following tips to assist you with the conversation.

Introduce yourself and express your interest in the course or position. Share that you have a disability; and if you feel comfortable, describe your disability and the functional impacts in a couple of sentences. Explain the requested accommodations; and discuss who, how and when to implement them.


"Hi, my name is Cathy. I am looking forward to this political science course because I am very interested in how the presidential election process works. I am legally blind, which means that what you see at 400 feet, I see at 20 feet; and if you think of a pie, I see less than 15% of the total area. I use a computer with software that enlarges and speaks the words to complete my work. In class, I will not be able to read handout materials and would like to receive them electronically. I would like to discuss how this accommodation can be accomplished. I have some ideas and would like to hear how you have done it in the past as well so that we can find a solution that works for both of us."

You may be asked questions about your disability and accommodation needs. Be prepared to describe the accommodation process, demonstrate the use of an accommodation tool, or provide information on the availability of assistive technology to perform a task.

The key is respectful and friendly communication. Focus on your abilities and strengths for success in a course or on the job.

Referenced article: AFB CareerConnect: Deciding When to Disclose Your Disability; www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=7&TopicID=209&SubTopicID=61&DocumentID=2184 .

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from the Connection

The CCB scholarship application for the 2008-2009 academic year is now available. You may obtain a electronic copy by visiting www.ccbnet.org/scholar.htm, sending your application request by e-mail to ccotb@ccbnet.org or by calling the CCB office at 800-221-6359. Remember to follow all the directions.

Applications must be completed and submitted to the CCB office by June 15, 2008.

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by Dan Kysor, Director, Governmental Affairs, CCB

I have always had an interest in employment issues ever since I had my first job in high school as a disc jockey in a hamburger joint directly across the street from good old Alameda High. Working to me always meant I had somewhere to expend my energy doing something rather than just sitting around. It has never been impossible for me to obtain employment, and my wife and I have a running joke that she gets the home while I get the job. I can't say exactly why some people seem to have the knack of securing employment while others try and try without success. It has just been recently that I have finally begun to understand the problems associated with employment for blind and visually impaired people, and the answer is not a simple one.

Early in 2007, a former aide to Senator Edward Kennedy, Mariyam Cementwala, a blind law student, returned to California to obtain employment. She became quite frustrated as she saw herself and her blind friends being denied work that they were eminently qualified for. She began gathering a group of diverse blind and visually impaired individuals--rehabilitation specialists and advocates crossing organizational, ethnic, and educational lines--to form a loose coalition known as the Disability Employment Pilot Project, DEPP. The group met with California's first lady Maria Schriver's staff to discuss barriers to employment in state service. CCB joined the group.

We formed a working group with the directors of the State Personnel Board, Employment Development Department and the Department of Rehabilitation, and we will be discussing issues ranging from training hiring managers on blindness, access to the online application and testing process, job retention and the timely provision of training and assistive technology, and, of course, hiring discrimination. Soon we will be convening our second meeting.

Another push by blind advocates to improve employment comes from the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and its Director of Public Policy and Information, Jessie Lorenz. She has been convening a similar mix of advocates and rehabilitation professionals to identify impediments to the provision of assistive technologies to blind and visually impaired clients of the Department of Rehabilitation.

One impediment is that counselors tell clients that their employers must purchase assistive technologies; and as a result, the client is not hired. Another is that government agencies sometimes do not know how to adapt a work site and leave a blind employee to languish doing nothing on the job for weeks or months with no clear accommodation authority within a state or federal agency to expedite that person's continued employment. In addition, the Department of Rehabilitation's procurement process of three bids is often too slow and jeopardizes job retention. This group believes that the clarification of the assistive technology policy to all staff and supervisors in the Department of Rehabilitation is needed.

So wow, here we are with all of this mix of ideas, action plans, talking points; and why do I still feel that this isn't necessarily the complete answer? Because, dear reader, it isn't.

According to a recent Cornell University study based on Census Bureau data, the employment rate for Americans age 21 to 64 with sensory, physical, mental, or self-care disabilities fell to 38.3% in 2004, from 40.8% in 2001. And, in 2006, people with severe disabilities have dropped to less than one percent of the full-time federal workforce, according to data released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC. Targeted disabilities include blindness, deafness, paralysis, mental retardation, mental illness, convulsive disorders, and distortion of limbs or the spine.

What accounts for this drop? In a Wall Street Journal Article published in 2005 entitled "Disabled Face Scarcer Jobs", by staff writer Kris Maher, Doug Kruse, an economist at Rutgers University, says disability benefits keep some disabled workers from accepting jobs because they can lose several hundred dollars a month in Social Security Disability Income after earning more than $830 a month for nine months. "That's a whale of a disincentive to work," says Mr. Kruse. Others say that outsourcing abroad has cut jobs often done by the disabled, such as call-center positions. "Unfortunately moving jobs overseas means that blind and visually impaired people are not doing those jobs in the U.S.," says Karen Wolffe, director of the Professional Development department at the American Foundation for the Blind.

These factors may account for the drop in employment for blind and visually impaired clients of the newly established Division for the Blind. In Fiscal Year 2003-04, the first year of the implementation of SB 105, the number of DOR consumers with visual disabilities who were competitively employed was 347, a drop of eight percent from the 390 in FY 2002-03. But for 2004-05, 363 blind or visually impaired consumers were competitively employed, which represents an approximate five percent increase from the prior year.

And things appear to be improving in 2006-07, according to the Blind Advisory Committee, BAC, which is mandated to advise the Director of Rehabilitation on the means to increase competitive employment, enlarge economic opportunities, enhance independence and self-sufficiency, and otherwise improve the steady decline in the placement of the blind and visually impaired in competitive employment. According to BAC, declining employment rates have reversed since the establishment of the Division for the Blind and Deaf. For example, BAC states that last year competitive placements of visually impaired people increased 24% throughout the Department. Blind Field Services (BFS), though facing the most difficult personnel and administrative problems in the new Division, increased its competitive closures by 49%. This achievement was primarily due to the efforts of the then DOR Director, Dr. Catherine Campisi, who exercised her authority and administrative expertise to make the new Division work more effectively.

On the other hand, the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) and the Orientation Center for the Blind (OCB), which were only indirectly impacted by the creation of the Division, continued to languish, especially OCB. While many challenges face the Division, it is hoped that more attention can be focused on these two vital programs.

In the November 2007 issue of the Braille Forum, President Pomerantz discussed the images and perceptions of blindness in 21st century America. "Our image as a minority group and public perceptions about us are critical to the acceptance and inclusion of blind and visually impaired people in society as a whole. This is one reason--but certainly not the only reason--for our unconscionably high rate of unemployment and the other forms of discrimination we experience on a regular basis." Pomerantz goes on to state: "For starters, numerous surveys conducted over several decades have consistently shown that blindness is the most feared disability after HIV/AIDS (since that epidemic was first recognized in the 1980s) and cancer, both of which are often fatal. Since blindness in and of itself is not typically fatal, this speaks volumes about our public image and societal perceptions. So public perceptions, our own perceptions about social security vs. working and economic, technological and institutional barriers all play a major part in our abilities as blind and visually impaired individuals to become employed."

So after all of this, what did I learn? Actually, I didn't really learn anything because if one wants to work, he/she can keep on course through adversity and rise above the technical challenges. This is truly what the efforts of the two consumer employment groups I referred to earlier in this article are doing. Unless we maintain a positive attitude and outlook, and put the pressure on agencies to improve our situation, unemployment of blind and visually impaired Californians, and around the nation, will continue to rise.

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by Rhonda King

[Editor's note: These summaries were to have been included in the winter, 2008 BC, but space constraints prevented this.]

Conference Call: May 16, 2007

President Jeff Thom called the meeting to order at 7:37 p.m. Rhonda King took roll, and Ann Kysor and Barbara Rhodes were absent. Peter Pardini gave an abbreviated report regarding the revenue and expenses for the first part of 2007.

A motion passed to accept the fund-raising committee's proposal that CCB acquire a GT Trends travel website as a fund-raiser, and Ardis Bazyn will provide assistance when needed. There is no cost to CCB for the website; and when people book travel arrangements there, 50% of the commission will be forwarded to CCB. This issue will be revisited by the Board after one year.

The board then discussed a $1000 donation made by Lainie Feingold and Linda Dardarian to send a student to the ACB convention and approved a motion to use the money to send a second student.

Three hotels were considered for the spring 2008 CCB convention, and the convention committee recommended the Hilton Arden West in Sacramento. A motion was adopted on a 8-4 roll call vote to accept the committee's recommendation: Yes: Gene Lozano, Rhonda King, Cathie Skivers, Jerry Arakawa, David Jackson, Jane Kardas, Peter Pardini, and Louis Preston; No: Mitch Pomerantz, Chris Gray, Gabe Griffith, and Richard Rueda. Another motion was adopted that the Convention committee be directed to seek more acceptable bids from the Bay Area for the spring of 2009. Finally, a motion was adopted that April 9-13, 2008 will be the date of the 2008 spring convention.

The meeting adjourned at 8:57 p.m.

Conference call: August 29, 2007

President Jeff Thom called the meeting to order at 7:38 p.m. Rhonda King took roll; and Chris Gray, Barbara Rhodes and Richard Rueda were absent.

After some discussion, a motion was approved to accept the resignation of Mitch Pomerantz from the CCB board as he was recently elected President of ACB. Gene Lozano then reported on the Coalition on Accessible Telecommunications (COAT) and accessible cell phones. ACB, AFB, and several deaf organizations have joined the coalition, and discussion commenced as to whether CCB should join. CCB would not be part of the steering committee, but our involvement could be significant. A motion was approved to join the coalition.

The board proceeded into executive session, where it unanimously approved a motion to withdraw from the voting rights litigation against Alameda County.

Jeff reported that the Crisis Committee had overspent its budgeted resources, and is requesting additional funding as there are still people requiring assistance. A motion was approved that an additional $4000 be made available to the committee.

Gene Lozano updated the Board on the progress of the fall, 2008 convention. He said that convention announcements would soon go out. The Board then discussed the various programs being presented.

The meeting adjourned at 8:27 p.m.

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by Dan Kysor, Director of Governmental Affairs

In this issue of the BC, I will focus exclusively on legislation CCB has before the state legislature.

I am always amazed how bills I predict won't get backing by an author are often the first to get this attention. This is particularly true with AB 2608, carried by Mike Davis.

During last year's budget stalemate, many services such as reader services, acquisition of textbooks and technology were threatened. In an effort to protect all rehab services from being curtailed during a future budget impasse, AB 2608 would keep these services going during that time.

As green technologies take hold in California, quiet vehicles pose an increasing threat to the safety of all individuals, including blind and visually impaired pedestrians. Senator Alan Lowenthal has introduced SB 1174 to conduct research on the ways that these vehicles could become safer.

Finally, we are pleased to be sponsors of AB 2555, introduced by Assemblymember Alberto Torrico of Fremont, relating to the California School for the Blind. The bill would notify parents just entering the special education system that they have the option of placing their blind or visually impaired child at the school.

We are tracking many other bills so please check out the legislative reports on our website or by calling 800-221-6359 after office hours or on the weekends.

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by Ardis Bazyn

Finding new members interested in your chapter or special interest affiliate is always a challenge. One of the ways to do outreach in your community is by encouraging the media to publicize your group's events.

We had an excellent speaker at the combined PR and Membership Seminar Breakfast at the fall, 2007 CCB Convention. Anthony Mora gave a presentation on how to get the media interested in chapter events. He outlined how to write an effective press release and what topics are likely to be printed. I'll summarized some of his key points in the following paragraphs.

He stated that the main objective of using the media is to position your organization. In other words, you want to get your organization's name recognized in your local community. Advertising and direct mail (flashy post cards or flyers) are paid media and aren't seen as credibly as news items in newspapers. A press release is more likely to be printed if it relates to current news.

Human interest stories that cover a person in your community work well in local and regional papers. National newspapers prefer news items relating to current trends such as stories about someone who was involved in a tragedy similar to school shootings or fires.

A one-page press release is sufficient, and it should have a quick introduction. Don't try to tell everything, just the most relevant information.

Contact local media sources (editors, news-writers or press room) to give them your press release. Media lists can be expensive and often aren't always up to date; so to get these contacts initially, you can call your local papers and ask for the news-editor. You can also go online to search for links to newspaper editors and reporters.

Think outside of the box when writing a press release. Public relations is all about perception, so imaging how readers will see your organization and be affected by it's activity. Perhaps a chapter member has done something special. For example' there were a number of stories in Southern California papers about Jesse Acosta: a blinded Iraq vet; and the fact that he spoke to your group or is a member of it could be a real boon to your PR. You might consider a larger news story and how you could add something that is related.

When writing a press release, ask the question: why would an editor want to print this story? When requesting a newspaper to print your release, never say "I'm going to your competitor" because this evokes a combative stance and you want to keep a good relationship with the media. Remember that they are getting several hundred faxes a day; just keep sending them great headlines and good stories.

Prioritize your stories. Think of the various messages or people you could write about, and choose what seems most effective. It's easier to get an item printed that isn't time sensitive. If you are publicizing an event, make sure to send your press release far in advance of the event. Even if they like and plan to publicize it, other news may keep it from being published.

Persistence is important. Send various press releases with different angles. How do you solve a problem? Can you destroy myths? What do you have to offer? And be prepared for an interview.

Most stories are not taken directly from a press release but through follow-up calls. Know what to say when they question you. Practice with a friend. And you have to be available when they call.

Email a press release with a catchy subject line and also send it snailmail to make sure it's received. Don't send attachments. Dropping it off in person works better. Because so many are handled, faxes should only be used for immediate press releases.

Call the reporter or editor to make sure they received your press release. You'll only have 3 or 4 seconds to convey it's subject. Ask if he/she is on a deadline before you start talking. If they are, they will be thinking more about what they are working on and won't pay close attention. Be ready to answer any questions about the release. Know the reasons you want to do the story. Have a list of other short media pieces to follow.

TV is very visual so everything needs to be visually positive. Only add one picture to a release--you can send more when you're contacted. Releases should be written in an AP-STYLE format. At the top, it should say: For immediate release. Next a headline, which should be short. Follow this with a short paragraph--hit them with the info, catchy part first. At the bottom of your release, list contact information.

A suggestion for a good headline could be "Top Seven to Ten Myths. Educate them but be entertaining.

Contact known writers from your local newspaper; and if that doesn't work, contact editors instead. If you want to pitch a local convention or event, attach something special such as a speaker or vendor presentation.

Good luck!

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by Sylvia Lopez

Crockpot Roast With Dried Fruit

Ingredients: 2 small onions, sliced; 3 to 4 lb. boneless pot roast (2 inches thick); 1 (11 oz.) pkg. mixed dried fruit (your choice); 3/4 cup beer (optional, may use soy or teriyaki sauce); 1 cup water; 1 clove garlic, minced; 1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed; 1 bay leaf; 1/4 tsp. cinnamon; 2 1/2 tsp. salt; 1/4 tsp. pepper; spiced apple rings (spice is optional, season apple rings with any seasonings, sweet or hot).

Directions: Place sliced onions on bottom of crockpot. Place roast on top of onions (cut to fit pot). Cover with dried fruit. Mix remaining ingredients except apple rings and pour over roast. Cover and cook on low setting 6 to 8 hours. Top with spiced apple rings and serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Father Abraham's (My Daddy's) Famous Coke Carrots

Ingredients: 1/2 to 1 lb. fresh carrots; 1 12 ounce of Original Coca Cola.

Instructions: set a medium size sauce pan to medium heat and add one can of Coke. Peel the carrots and add to Coke. Drop heat to low and simmer until Coke is about evaporated, leaving just a little for the syrup. Carrots are to be a little crunchy, not soggy.

The Coke will leave your carrots sweet. Do not use Diet Coke, or any other beverage for this recipe. It won't taste the same. Thanks daddy!

Vegetable Soup with Pasta

Serve this hearty soup as a warming appetizer on a chilly night, or with Fresh baked bread as a main course.

Ingredients:: 1 Tbsp. olive oil; 1 onion, chopped; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1/4 tsp red hot chili flakes; 2 ribs celery, chopped; 2 carrots, chopped; 1 zucchini, chopped; 19 oz./ 540 ml. can white kidney beans (drained and rinsed); 28 oz. can plum tomatoes, pureed; 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water; 3/4 cup pasta of your choice (broken spaghetti, egg noodle, alphabets, shells, etc.); 10 oz. fresh or frozen spinach, chopped; salt and pepper to taste; 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Directions: Heat oil in dutch oven or stock pot. Add onion, garlic and chili flakes. Cook until fragrant; do not brown. Add celery, carrots and zucchini; cook a few minutes longer. Add beans, tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil; simmer, covered, 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Puree 1/2 the soup in food processor or blender. Return to remaining soup in pot. Add pasta; cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Cherry Delight

Ingredients:: 1 can cherry pie filling (may use your favorite pie filling); 1 can pineapple chunks; 1 cup sweetened condensed milk; 3/4 large tub Cool Whip; 1 cup chopped walnuts.

Directions: Mix together and chill well.


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by Jane Brackman, Ph.D.

To members of the California Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind, Department of Consumer Affairs staff, guide dog handler advocacy groups, employees of Guide Dogs of America, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Guide Dogs of the Desert:

Since 1985 I have served the guide dog profession in various capacities including volunteer; puppy raiser; public relations officer; development director; executive director; and, during the past two years, as executive officer of the California Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

February 8, 2008 was my last day with the Department of Consumer Affairs. My two years with the Board were years of significant change. We restructured the practical and oral exams and updated the written exam, addressed the imbalance in the schools' instituted annual renewal fees, and transferred all the office files from paper documents to computer-ready and ADA compliant ones.

I'm honored to have joined you and others before you to further a common cause--independence for blind and visually impaired people. Working with you for causes we all believed in and disagreeing with you about things we didn't, I'm proud to say we found common ground on most issues because they are important to those people who use our services.

Although I have resigned my position as Executive Officer, in my capacity as a science writer I will continue to serve guide dogs as part of a group of people dedicated to curing and preventing canine cancer. As the leading cause of death in dogs, cancer is the number one disease of concern among guide dog handlers.

I leave my duties in the capable hands of Antonette Sorrick, who has served the Department of Consumer Affairs as Deputy Director for Board Relations since 2005 and, previous to that, as the Assistant Deputy Director for the Consumer and Community Relations Division. Her background in California legislative, fiscal and regulatory processes will be an asset to the Board. Antonette will work as interim administrator of the Board through March 10, 2008, at which time she will commence her duties as Executive Officer.


Jane Brackman, Ph.D.

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by Evelyn Drewry

This story may not be the funniest you have ever read, but it just may cause you to smile. It is probably similar to experiences most of us have had.

When I was about five years old, my mother, grandmother and I went shopping. `After we came out of the last store, my mom got in the car and was planning to get it started as my grandmother and I stood waiting on the curb.

She was having absolutely no luck getting the car to start, and in fact it seemed deader than a doornail. This was especially strange because it was quite new. After a couple of minutes of listening to them discuss what on earth could be wrong, I stepped in front of my grandmother and placed my hand through the open window.

As soon as I touched the back of the front seat, I announced that she was in the wrong car. She immediately realized I was absolutely right and quickly got out!

There was a car of the very same year, model and color parked right by ours, so her mistake was certainly an understandable one. As it turned out, the only difference was that our car had protective seat covers while the other one did not.

My mom had to laugh because not only had she been put in her place by a five-year-old, but a visually impaired one at that.

Until next time, take care and stay on the lighter side! Be sure to send in your stories. I am sure there are many well worth sharing.

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by Dawn Wilcox, BSN RN

[For further information, or to sign up for our e-mail research lists on Glaucoma, AMD-Retina, or Diabetes, contact Dawn Wilcox at thl@vistacenter.org or call the Health Library at Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 650-858-0202 ext. 132; from 408 area codes: 660-2009 or 800-660-2009; from 831 area codes: 705-2970 (use ext. 132).]

Glucose Recorder

On Jan 22, the FDA granted supplemental 510(k) clearance for a recorder (CGMS iPro, Medtronic, Inc) for continuous glucose monitoring by physicians.

Blood glucose monitoring is important in the management of diabetes. When blood glucose levels are effectively controlled, patients may delay or prevent the development of complications such as diabetic macular edema and diabetic retinopathy. According to Medtronic, the CGMS iPro is able to uncover patterns and potential problems in diabetic management that may not be detected when monitoring with regular finger-stick meters and HbA1c tests.

The device attaches to a tiny glucose sensor inserted under the skin, which measures glucose values during daily activities. The information stored on the device is downloaded at the physician's office after a 3-day recording period and can be used to generate detailed glucose reports.

Looking at Glaucoma as a Systemic Disease

Glaucoma has long been considered an eye disease. For most of the 20th century, it was equated with elevated intraocular pressure, IOP. Yet, over the past two decades, an increasing number of non-pressure-dependent risk factors have been identified, suggesting that glaucoma can be broadly defined as the final common pathway of a number of different disorders that affect the eye. Glaucoma may also be included in a larger group of neurodegenerative disorders that share aspects of nerve cell death, oxidative damage and low-grade inflammation. This group of disorders includes AMD and Alzheimer's.

In a lecture at American Academy of Ophthalmology [AAO, 2007], Robert Ritch, MD, called upon physicians to look at glaucoma in a different light: as the ocular manifestation of a more systemic disease. He examined two glaucomas with very different origins--exfoliative glaucoma and normal-tension glaucoma--and concluded that they are characterized by findings that are linked to other disorders as well.

"We're finding a series of other risk factors that are connected to ocular disease."

Exfoliative glaucoma, ExG, occurs when abnormal aggregates of fibrillar material related to elastic fibers, along with pigment from the iris, break off and block the drainage of fluid in the eye, thus elevating IOP. But the degenerated or abnormal elastic fibers,are found in other organs as well, such as the walls of blood vessels and cardiac muscle.

Studies have found that these patients have a higher incidence of Alzheimer's and vascular diseases. The same genetic variation that affects the eye is probably active in all these other tissues. By contrast, normal-tension glaucoma, NTG, occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve, even when pressure within the eye seems to remain normal. However, "Patients with the disease exhibit other risk factors, particularly reduced blood flow. Patients often exhibit poor circulation in their extremities. They are also more prone to sleep apnea and an abnormal reduction in BP while sleeping. NTG is really a nighttime disease." Other risk factors associated with poor circulation directly affect the retinal ganglian cells. Cells are programmed to die when they are no longer useful or have become damaged, a process known as apoptosis. But a genetic variation affecting individuals with NTG causes their retinal ganglian cells to die at a more rapid rate.

"Twinkle Test" Reveals Blind Spots in Early AMD

Ophthalmologists have found that a test of "twinkle after-effect (TwAE)," a type of illusory stimulus, can identify blind spots in people with AMD, even before they are aware of their visual loss.

Researchers told Reuters Health that among normally sighted people, the after-effect occurs after looking for a few seconds at a "noisy pattern" that contains a small blank patch.

"It occurred to us that a similar after-image may be present in people with real blind spots."

Stimuli were projected from a computer screen. Six of the seven patients tested experienced an after-image that they could reliably trace around on a test screen. The boundaries they traced were closely correlated with changes on microperimetry maps or angiography results. The team believes that the TwAE test may also provide valuable information for other diseases that cause blind spots, particularly glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

"Early diagnosis of AMD and other retinal diseases is paramount because any loss of vision is irreversible. The problem is that individuals who develop visual impairment may not be aware of it and may not seek help until vision loss is catastrophic. This is why we are working hard to develop quick and simple tests like the TwAE."

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compiled by Mike Keithley

GDB Fund-raiser

4th Annual "Tee Off For Dogs" golf fund-raiser, Monday, May 26, Coyote Hills Golf Club, Fullerton, CA.

All proceeds are for "Guide Dogs for the Blind." Website: www.teeoffgfordogs.org, email: ffrand@msn.com, Phone: 714-662-2397. In 2007, $25000 was donated to to GDB.

Harmonica Course

Musicfortheblind.com has developed a new course "Intro to the Harmonica for the Visually Impaired." This course is one among over a dozen that are taught in an all-audio format and are specifically designed for those who are blind or have visual impairments. These courses do not require any braille skills so they are quick and easy to use.

To find out more about the complete courses and song-based lessons for piano, guitar, violin flute and others, go to www.musicfortheblind.com or email Bill Brown at bill@musicvi.com. You may also call 888-778-1828.

[The following are from the Maltilda Ziegler Magazine, January, 2008 This section ends with "***".]

2007 Touch of Genius Prize

Four years ago, the Gibney Family Foundation supported the publication of Michael Mellor's "Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius" and agreed to give a $20,000 prize to be awarded by the National Braille Press to encourage and reward individual innovation, reflecting on Louis Braille's accomplishments. Recently, both organizations in partnership announced the winners of the 2007 Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation.

Karen Gourgey and Steven Landau won for the Talking Tactile Tablet (TTT), an inexpensive and simple computer peripheral device that acts as a viewer for tactile diagrams, maps and illustrations. Users place an overlay sheet on the TTT and explore a graphic using touch and/or vision. Dr Gourgey and Mr. Landau have created a library of software programs for the TTT system, all promoting tactile literacy.

Dr. Gourgey is director of the Computer Center for Visually Impaired People at Baruch College, City University, in New York City; and Steven Landau is director of research at Touch Graphics Inc., also in New York City.

Pet Moving Service

PetRelocation.com is a one-stop-shop for the local, national and international transportation of live animals, with a strong emphasis on assisting companies with relocating employees who are pet owners. The company also sells pet travel supplies, including crates, water dishes and bedding. Call 877-738-6683.


At www.sightlosssolutions.org, the focus is on awareness, availability and accessibility as they relate to sight loss. This informative website was launched in 2004 and is designed to be the most screen-reader-friendly one on the Internet.


If you would enjoy participating in a sewing program and/or would like to help implement seamstress technology, contact Catherine Uria, P.O. Box 5371, Lakeland, FL 33811, or handvisions@hotmail.com.


Guide Dog Class

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work with a Guide Dog? Now is your chance! Sign up for an all-day workshop from 9:00-3:30 p.m. at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael and get hands-on experience working with a Guide Dog. O&M students are welcome to attend. Dates: Thursday, May 22, Thursday, September 4, and Thursday, November 13.

Class size is limited to 12 participants so please RSVP early to Outreach Coordinator Jeanine Kitahata by phone at 800-295-4050, Ext. 4199.

GDB Protected Paws Program

[from October, 2007 Guide Dogs for the Blind Alumni Newsletter]

Broken glass, sharp pebbles, damaged escalator teeth, salt and chemicals from snow removal, hot pavement, and hot metal grates are just a few of the situations facing today's guide dog travelers on everyday routes. Consequences to dogs' paws can range from minor discomfort to serious injury.

In order to help alleviate the potential for injury to dogs' feet from the surfaces encountered during guidework, GDB is pleased to announce the Protected Paws Program. Beginning in October, 2007 every graduating student from GDB will receive a set of quality guide dog "tennis shoes" for their dog.

The shoes are called Bark'n Boots with Grip Trex soles made by the Ruff Wear Company, based in Bend, Oregon. They are quality dog boots, designed for all types of terrain and weather, that are durable, appear to be comfortable and actually stay on the dog's feet.

The Protected Paws Program provides alternatives for guide dog users when dealing with challenging surface situations. The boots will be issued only in class. They will not be available for sale through GDB. However, the Ruff Wear Company is currently offering a 50% discount on the booties, which retail for $59.95 to GDB Alumni. Visit www.ruffwear.com, call 888-783-3932 or e-mail the company at luckydog@ruffwear.com.

To receive your discount you need to apply to Ruff Wear's "Pro Purchase Plan". Simply go to their website and click on the link for the application and fill it out. It will take approximately two working days to get your account set up. Once you are approved and the account is set up, then you automatically get the discount when you log into your account.

[Editor's note: Since we're talking about things for our dogs, let me tell you what I heard on the November, 2007 Newsreel. Wisconsin Pet Products produces bio-degradable baggies, in packs of 50 bags for $15.95, that can be flushed down the toilet. Contact Wisconsin Pet Products; 5450 Royal Avenue; Slinger, Wi 53086; www.wisconsinpetproduct.com.]

New Books

My Maggie by Rich King: "My Maggie" is a riveting love story of two people who never gave up on each other through very trying times. Rich King's wife, Maggie, was deaf-blind and suffered from breast and ovarian cancer, the latter taking her life in 2002.

"My Maggie" is available in regular print and audio format, and can be purchased at www.mymaggie.com.

"All Children Have Different Eyes": While there are several picture books about children who are blind, very little is written for or about children with low vision. Our book, "All Children Have Different Eyes", features seven characters, each one having one or more of the following conditions: strabismus, nystagmus, albinism, cataracts, myopia, ROP, and color deficiency.

The characters model social competency while dealing with the daily challenges of living with impaired vision at school and at play, such as dealing with bullies, explaining their condition, and handling mistakes responsibly. The back of the book also provides important lessons and activities for parents to help them support social development in their children every day.

For more information and to order, visit Edie Press at www.lowvisionkids.com or ca2l 800-409-7170.

New Tactile Maps from The Princeton Braillists: "Maps of Canada and the United States" is a single volume of 75 pages including 28 maps. It falls roughly into three sections: four thematic maps (major cities, land forms, elevation and climate) of Canada and the U.S., six maps of Canada including enlarged maps of the Maritime Provinces and the Great Lakes Region, and 18 maps on the U.S. and its territories including four thematic maps (elevation, rivers, mountains, and economy), maps of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

Maps of States and Provinces combine mountains, rivers and cities on the same map. The maps are much more detailed than those in our ATLAS OF NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA. Experience with tactile materials is recommended.

Maps are generally labeled with key letters that are identified in brailled key pages that precede each map. Five of the maps appear on facing pages and six appear on foldout pages. Maps are created originally by hand in metal foil; the Thermoform copies are sharp and clear.

Maps of Canada and the United States is bound with cardboard covers and a multi-ring binder. Cost is $20; shipping is by free matter if eligible. Please send check or purchase order to The Princeton Braillists; 76 Leabrook Lane; Princeton, NJ 08540. Credit card and fax service are not available. Please allow 4 weeks for delivery.

A number of other atlases and maps are also available. For further information, please visit our website: mysite.verizon.net/resvqbxe/princetonbraillists or call 215-357-7715 or 609-924-5207.

"Spanish Library Tiflolibros" is the first digital library for Spanish-speaking blind readers. Created in 1999 by a group of blind friends who wanted to exchange digital books, the library now has more than twenty thousand books available in Spanish and more than three thousand patrons in America, Europe, and Asia. Registration is free, but there is a recommended donation of $50 every six months to support the library's operation.

For more information, or to register, visit www.tiflolibros.com.ar.

"Accessible Audio Puzzles", by Anna Dresner, NBP Book Updates (Blog), December 10, 2007: If you enjoy puzzles, you might take a look at Audacious Audiopuzzles Book #1 at www.audiopuzzles.com. The content of this book is completely accessible, and the creators have put a great deal of effort into further enhancing its accessibility to braille readers.

If you order from their website, you can request a braille track list, and to have the CD case labeled in braille. The book is also available through Amazon.com, but braille track listings and CD labels are not available.

The book consists of 40 puzzles on two CDs. The range of puzzles is wide: logic, word, and math puzzles; brainteasers; sound identification; and more.

Audio Highlights: These are recordings on compact disk that help students decide what to study, what school is right for them, what to look for and look out for in financing an education, what career choices to make and much more. To find specific titles, go to www.federalstudentaid.ed.gov/audio or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243 to ask general questions about Federal student aid or to order publications.

These recordings refers students and parents to resources such as Websites, and brailled and print publications, as well as non-Federal sources of aid. They are also available online at the above URL.

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[Editor's note: We are indebted to Bernice Kandarian who updates and corrects the list of CCB officers and board members, including the number of the term each is presently serving, the year elected to that term and the year next up for election. Terms actually begin on January 1 following election. We shall publish the list this way at least in issues just preceding and following elections and routinely if members wish. The presence of an asterisk means that the individual served a partial term before the first full term.]


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Please send all address changes to the Executive Office.

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