logo shows State ofCalifornia with an eye in the middle

Summer, 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

Legislative updates are available after hours on the CCB toll free line: 800-221-6359 or on the web: www.ccbnet.org.

Please send all address changes to the Executive Office.

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

The CALIFORNIA CONNECTION is a weekly news service available in English or Spanish at 800-221-6359 Monday through Friday after 4 p.m. and all day on holidays and weekends, or by email subscription by sending a message to ccb.moderator@gmail.com.

Non-members are requested and members are invited to pay a yearly subscription fee of $10 toward the production 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.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Listen to the entire Summer 2008 edition of the Blind Californian

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 fall, 2008 issue of the BLIND CALIFORNIAN is noon, September 1.

by Mike Keithley Listen to EDITOR'S PAGE by Mike Keithley

I started writing this article at a resort called Coastanoa, about 10 miles south of Half Moon Bay. Fred, my son-in-law, gave us a one-night gift certificate as a Christmas present, and we waited for just the right weekend to use it.

This resort has two main lodges, but you can camp out in a tent or RV if you wish, or live in style, as we did, in a room complete with a king-size bed and wireless-Internet access. I saw many signs of ADA compliance; but the restaurant didn't have braille menus, which I encouraged the management to get. The staff welcomes visually impaired people, and we heard that there are tours specifically set up for them. Although I got this page started there, we spent most of our time walking around, exploring Half Moon Bay and Atascadero, and reading John Steinbeck's "The Wayward Bus."

That was a nice two days, but now I'm home and have some interesting items to discuss.

As a hearing impaired person, I use the assistive listening equipment while at the CCB conventions. Unfortunately the ALD system is only available during the general sessions, and you have to fare for yourself when trying to hear at committee meetings, seminars and the like. There are good technical reasons why the ALD systems aren't available all the time, and it's not CCB's fault that this is so nor will it happen in the foreseeable future. But I found a wonderful workaround!

Many hearing impaired people use wireless microphones to facilitate communications in difficult environments, and I found that if you can anchor the mic below a speaker, you can at least understand what is being said over the sound systems in various rooms. The trick is anchoring the mic.

I use a "Comtek," a popular personal wireless system, and it features a belt clip. In the installations I've seen at Convention, the speakers are mounted atop poles in front of a front table, and a cable goes up the pole and attaches to the speaker via a plug. The Comtek transmitter is light, so you can attach it to this cable a few inches before it reaches the speaker. You then clip the microphone just below the speaker, turn the system on, and now you can hear from anywhere in the room. Of course, you have to arrive before the event so you have time to install your system, and then remember to take it with you when you leave!

An item of interest in the deaf-blind community is HumanWare's new Deaf-blind Communicator, which is supposed to debut at the ACB convention in July. This device was developed to replace the face-to-face equipment TSI/TSC developed in the early 80's, which is no longer available.

It is composed of a BrailleNote mPower and a cell-phone-like visual display and keyboard. These two items connect together through a Bluetooth interface. The system also has a telephone facility. I haven't seen this system, but I'd sure like to.

A sighted person uses the visual element, and a deaf-blind person uses the BrailleNote.

For example, I could go to a grocery store, give the visual display to a person who doesn't know sign language, and we can communicate the details of my shopping list while walking around the store. It's a far cry from giving a list to someone and waiting 15 minutes for something to happen.

Although this device doesn't remove the need for an interpreter, it does make life a little easier for a deaf-blind person to live and work in the hearing world. Unfortunately, projected prices are way up there, but it's hoped that they will come down and that agencies will be willing to purchase them.

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by Jeff and Leslie Thom Listen to PRESIDENT'S PAGE: HOSTING A FOREIGN EXCHANGE STUDENT by Jeff and Leslie Thom

This column differs from most President's Pages in a couple of significant ways. First, it's written by two members of the Thom family, rather than one. Secondly, it doesn't have any direct bearing on the California Council of the Blind, although we believe it is of importance to those of us who are blind or have low vision.

We only have one remaining child in the nest, our 14-year old daughter Andrea. However, we were extremely fortunate in increasing the size of our family during the 2007-08 school year by hosting Ina, a high school student from Dresden, Germany. It all began in early August when we received a phone call from Youth for Understanding, an organization that brings about opportunities for students in this country and throughout the world to spend a year in another nation. YFU wanted to know if we'd be interested in hosting a student. A few years ago we hosted for a semester a girl from Thailand through another organization, and that might have led to our being contacted. Whatever the reason, we thought long and hard about it, looked at some of the profiles of students from different parts of the world looking for a host family, and decided to take the plunge with Ina. As our involvement came rather late in the summer, we had to quickly conclude various matters that are preconditions to placement, including having an interview with someone from YFU and registering Ina in the local high school. Less than a week before school started, she was finally able to begin her dream of a year in America with the long flight to Washington, D.C. and then to Sacramento. Her dream has become one of the richest experiences of our lives.

We were, of course, very up-front about our blindness as it is, in our view, not only fair to both the parents and the child to disclose this fact, but also the best way to ensure that your relationship starts off on the right foot. Both Ina and her parents had no significant issue with our blindness, although they were obviously intrigued. Ina actually brought with her some over-the-counter medicine bottles that had braille on them, something which is commonplace in Germany. Interestingly enough, she has learned more about braille than any of our children. She even took the time to put braille on Christmas and birthday cards, as well as to braille invitations to a dinner she cooked for us and various friends. When a family that includes a blind or low vision person hosts a foreign student, it is a chance to become a world ambassador, even if in a small way. It provides an opportunity to show others who have had little contact with those of us who are blind how capable we can be and how ordinary, in many ways, our daily lives really are.

From what we have been able to determine based on the small sampling of foreign students we've seen during Ina's year here, most are intelligent, hardworking, fun-loving, and very easy to get along with. In fact, we keep hoping that some of Ina's traits rub off on our daughter. Students come from all over the world.

We tried to give Ina a number of new experiences. She went camping, went skiing with our cross-country ski group, visited Los Angeles, and went to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. She even attended a brief portion of a CCB convention.

We feel that whatever Ina has gained pales in comparison to the benefits we have derived through this experience. Learning about traditions in Germany, eating a bit of German food, interacting with someone who is so eager to learn about our country: these are just a few of the ways in which we have been enriched. As Andrea put it, "hosting a foreign student was like giving me an older sister to hang out with and talk to." It is for this reason that we have chosen to host a Danish girl for the 2008-09 school year. Moreover, getting to know Ina provided the impetus for fellow CCB Capitol Chapter members Paul and Joni Patche to decide to host a German student next school year as well.

If you are considering hosting a foreign student, we invite you to contact us to answer any questions you might have and provide you with additional information. All we can say is, if you do host one, we think you'll be very glad you did.

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by Catherine Skivers Listen to HISTORICALLY SPEAKING by Catherine Skivers

One of the things that used to be done by the Council and by ACBC was the inclusion of information from the various chapters about what they were doing. I thought it might be interesting to look at reports of the activities of some chapters in ACBC in 1984, just before the merger with ACB. See if you recognize some of these people, or perhaps you attended these meetings yourself. These reports were called "Chapter Close-ups" and were published in the ACBC Digest.

"Bayview Chapter, Dorothy Vallerga, Reporter

"Our first meeting in 1984 was very well attended. Tom O'Sullivan, President, had a full agenda. Jan Santos, who fell off of a BART platform, spoke to us about the general difficulty we are having with the BART system. In a most interesting talk, Shirley Morris, anthropology student, told of her fear of becoming blind and how she overcame her fear by seeking friendships with persons who had lost their sight.

"Another busy year for Bayview Chapter."

"The Metro Chapter, Mac Riley, Reporter

"Chapter President Mac Riley's home was the scene of our December 10th Christmas Party. Our January meeting, held at the Dutch Oven Cafe Fireside Room, included the installation of 1984 officers: Mac Riley, President; Edward Baines, First Vice President; Cynthia Harris, Second Vice President; Juanita Bay, Secretary; and Ginger Brooks, Treasurer. Gerald Rossi was appointed Parliamentarian. The monthly silver dollar award went to Sally Adler for being the first new member to arrive at the meeting. Plans for our February (muster) month were consummated and committee assignments were made to accomplish that end. Each member present pledged to bring a new member to the next meeting.

"Metro chapter's monthly meetings are held on the third Saturday in the Fireside Room of the Dutch Oven Cafe, 319 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles."

"San Diego Chapter, Doris Alsap, Reporter

"Joe Stern, activist and advocate for Senior and Handicapped Rights, spoke at our December meeting. In January Helen Elias, Director of Services for Disabled Students, San Diego Community College, was our speaker. She covered the present situation on funds for students at the San Diego College.

"Our chapter member Robert Simmons, attorney and teacher, is a candidate for the 41st Congressional District here.

"Our public relations committee is busy getting our story to the city council, local legislatures and anyone who has influence to help.

"The burning question of the possible merger between ACBC and CCB has been discussed within our chapter."

"San Francisco Chapter, John Anderson, Reporter

"Although we have not had an official membership drive, our chapter is on the upswing with several new members, as well as three or four prospective members. Our new president, Diane Smith, is developing interest within the chapter for supporting new projects such as audible traffic signals and safer public transportation. We have discussed the possible merger of CCB and ACB but have taken no position as yet. We hope to have a good representation at the May 10-13 Fresno Convention."

Perhaps we should write reports on what's going on in our chapters nowadays. It might serve to share ideas and bring our membership together. How about sending your ideas to Rob Turner, who compiles "Around the State."

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by Gabe Griffith Listen to SPRING CONVENTION SUMMARY by Gabe Griffith

CCB conventions are always a fun and action-packed weekend and this spring's convention was no different. This year it is my honor to report to you some of the happenings at this convention. I'll do my best to summarize most events, but if there are errors or omissions, I take the responsibility and ask your forgiveness in advance.

There were many affiliate and committee meetings during the weekend, but unfortunately I was not able to attend any of them and I'm not sure there would be room in this article to report on them if I could. However, I believe there is an affiliate or committee for every CCB member, and I urge all of you to investigate and find one that suits your interests and talents.

The convention was kicked off on Thursday morning with a visit to the state capitol. In looking over previous convention summaries, I noticed that Jeff Thom stated in his summary of last spring's convention that he hoped this year would be the most successful ever. Well, from all accounts it was. Our CCB governmental affairs director, Dan Kysor, has worked hard this past year and this spring he was joined by a record number of CCB members for capitol day. Congratulations and thank you to Dan and all who attended this year. With continued involvement from CCB members, we can keep this the powerful organization it is.

I wasn't able to personally attend the Rehabilitation Committee meeting on Thursday afternoon, but I understand there was a stellar performance of an original play depicting some of the issues faced by rehab counselors and clients. There was also a welcome-to- Sacramento party as well as meetings of CCLV and BRLC before the CCB board meeting.

At the pre-convention board meeting, the board took action on topics such as the budget, the caucus meeting at the ACB convention, student stipends for the ACB event, and subsidies for the fall CCB convention. It was a very long meeting, but many CCB members stayed to the very end.

The first general session, held on Friday afternoon, included a panel discussion on working together at the Department of Social Services, a report on digital and downloadable books from NLS, information on fire safety, and a report on structured negotiations. I felt the information from Ms. Tonya Hoover, the Assistant State Fire Marshall, was particularly informative in light of all the fires we've been having in California and the dry spring we had this year. As always, Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian gave us a great report on the structured negotiations CCB has been involved with. I always enjoy hearing the successes of which this organization has been a part.

The Friday evening general session included a report of the credentials committee, an update on retinal disease and stem cell therapy, an update from the Department of Rehabilitation, a President's report and a thought-provoking role play by the domestic violence committee. In his President's report, Jeff Thom introduced the Friends of CCB and invited the committee chair to share how the group will work.

At the Saturday afternoon general session, we heard Mitch Pomerantz in his ACB report, as well as hearing about textbook accessibility for visually impaired students from a couple of representatives from the State Department of Education, a report on the February 2009 switch to digital TV, and state and federal legislation.

On Saturday evening, I was allowed to leave the Resolutions Committee marathon long enough to MC the CCB banquet. There were many awards given away as well as raffles, introductions to CCB scholarship winners, and a keynote address given by Catherine Blakemore of Protection and Advocacy Inc. Ms Blakemore told us about some of the advocacy efforts she's been involved with recently and how necessary it is for all of us to advocate for what is important to us.

On Sunday morning, we had the final general session meeting where we heard a treasurer's report as well as several resolutions, which you will read about elsewhere in this issue of the BC. The close of this general session was also the close of the spring 2008 CCB convention. The fall convention will be held from October 23 through October 26 at the LAX Four Points Sheraton Hotel, 9750 Airport Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045. Reservations can be made by calling 310-645-4600. I look forward to seeing you there.

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[Editor's note: These edited press releases were distributed through the ccb-l mailing list.]

Accessible Credit Reports from the Three Major Credit Bureaus

The nation's three major consumer credit reporting companies have unveiled a comprehensive program to provide improved access to important credit information for people who are blind or visually impaired. The initiative, crafted with the American Council of the Blind, its California affiliate and several individual members of the blind community, will help protect the credit information of individuals who cannot read a standard print credit report.

Under the plan, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion have begun working to make online credit reports and related information accessible through their jointly operated website annualcreditreport.com, the official site to help consumers obtain free credit reports. Accessible credit reports for people with visual impairments will be available online by October 31, 2008. By the end of the year, the companies will also make credit reports available in braille and other formats at no charge to qualified individuals who cannot access print information.

"We are thrilled with the commitment of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to provide credit information in accessible formats," said Melanie Brunson, Executive Director of the American Council of the Blind in Washington, D.C. "The initiative will help people with visual impairments fight identity theft by independently monitoring and reviewing their credit reports as all members of the public should."

"By creating annualcreditreport.com, Equifax and the other two nationwide credit reporting companies gave consumers easy access to their credit information and this latest initiative is yet another example of how, as an industry, we are extending this access to consumers with visual impairments," said Dann Adams, President, Equifax U.S. Consumer Information Solutions.

"Experian has a long history of providing quality credit products and services to consumers and we were excited by the opportunity to improve access for consumers with visual impairments to these important tools," said Kerry Williams, group president, Credit Services & Decision Analytics, Experian Americas.

"TransUnion is very pleased to be a part of this important effort that will help empower visually impaired consumers to manage their own credit health," said Mark Marinko, president of Consumer Services at TransUnion.

Web Site Access: The initiative includes a commitment to design online credit reports and related web pages in accordance with guidelines issued by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) ( www.w3.org/wai). The guidelines, which do not affect the content or look and feel of a Web site, ensure that websites are accessible to persons with visual disabilities. The guidelines are of particular benefit to blind computer users who use screen reader or magnification technology on their computers and who rely on a keyboard instead of a mouse.

"Web site accessibility is of great importance to both the blind community and to people with disabilities generally," said ACB Board member and CCB President Jeff Thom, a blind lawyer in Sacramento, California. "We applaud the leadership role taken by all the credit reporting companies in committing to address the accessibility of annualcreditreport.com and online credit reports, helping to protect the financial security of a wide range of online consumers."

"We truly appreciate the credit reporting companies' willingness to engage in discussions with us to find a solution to the problem of inaccessible credit reports," said Paul Parravano, a blind M.I.T. employee in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was involved in the discussions. "Today's announcement, reached as a result of the collaborative process, is an important milestone in the blind community's quest for independent control over their financial information."

7-Eleven Announcement

The following announcement is the result of a settlement agreement negotiated by Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian using Structured Negotiations on behalf of AFB, ACB and the California Council of the Blind. The full agreement is available on Lainey's new website, www.lflegal.com.

Several organizations representing the blind community commended 7-Eleven, Inc. for installing tactile point of sale (POS) devices that will protect the privacy and security of 7- Eleven shoppers with visual impairments. These new devices include tactile keys arranged like a standard telephone keypad, and enable 7-Eleven store shoppers who have difficulty reading information on a touch-screen to privately and independently enter their PIN and other confidential information. 7-Eleven has installed the new devices at more than 2,000 stores in the U.S. Over the next 18 months, all flat-screen devices in 7- Eleven's 5,500 U.S. stores will be replaced with the tactile units.

This announcement is the result of collaboration between 7-Eleven and blindness organizations including the American Council of the Blind (ACB), the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and the California Council of the Blind (CCB).

Speaking for the organizations, ACB President Mitch Pomerantz praised 7-Eleven, saying, "Blind customers across the country will benefit from 7-Eleven's decision to replace technology that cannot be used by customers who cannot see information on a flat screen."

Pomerantz added, "7-Eleven has set an example for other retailers by recognizing that persons with visual impairments should not have to disclose confidential information when purchasing products and services."

7-Eleven is also ensuring that the ATMs and Vcom machines in its stores nationwide are accessible as well. ATMs and Vcoms in 7-Eleven stores will contain a "talking ATM" function, allowing independent use by blind customers.

Rite Aid's Website and Point of Sale Improvements Praised by Blind Community Leaders

In a move praised by state and national blindness organizations, Rite Aid has announced it has undertaken a nationwide initiative that will benefit Rite Aid customers with visual impairments and other disabilities. As part of the program, Rite Aid has made enhancements to its Web site and has begun installing new point of sale equipment with tactile keypads to protect the privacy and security of all shoppers who have difficulty entering numbers on a flat-screen.

This announcement is the result of collaboration between Rite Aid and major organizations including the American Foundation for the Blind, American Council of the Blind and California Council of the Blind.

This initiative includes Rite Aid's commitment to ensure that www.riteaid.com meets guidelines issued by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (w3c).

"An accessible web site opens up unprecedented opportunities for people with vision loss to obtain goods, services and information on an equal footing," said Paul Schroeder, vice president, programs and policy group of the American Foundation for the Blind. "We applaud Rite Aid's commitment to ensure that http://www.riteaid.com is usable by the broadest range of online consumers, including those who have disabilities."

Rite Aid's point of sale improvements are designed to assist customers who cannot read information on a flat-screen point of sale device and therefore cannot privately enter their PIN or other confidential information. Most point of sale devices in Rite Aid stores now have tactile keys to prevent this problem, and the company will be replacing remaining non-tactile devices by the end of 2009. Blind community representatives praised Rite Aid's plan to install payment devices with keypads.

"Without tactile keys, blind people are forced to share their PINs with strangers," explained Melanie Brunson, executive director of the American Council of the Blind. "Today's announcement, and the collaboration that led to it, demonstrates Rite Aid's understanding of this fact and its ongoing commitment to its blind and visually impaired customers."

"Our goal is to deliver a superior shopping experience to all of our customers, and with the initiative announced today, we can better serve our customers who are blind or visually impaired," said Rob Easley, Rite Aid chief operating officer. "We thank the American Foundation for the Blind, American Council of the Blind and California Council of the Blind for their valuable assistance in making Rite Aid a better place for customers with disabilities to shop."

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by Rob Turner Listen to AROUND THE STATE, SUMMER 2008 by Rob Turner

From Beryl Brown: Wedding bells for the Redwood Empire chapter! Denise Vancil and Ben Karpilow, both members of the chapter, were married on May 17. Congratulations! Sean Ryan, chapter Treasurer as well as President of the Blind Students of California, will be married on June 21.

Contacting Me: Now that I am established in my new home, I'll have much more time and energy to devote to this column. If you have interesting items to share with our readers, please let me know. I can be contacted as follows: email: rbturner2@sbcglobal.net; phone: 408-244-0475 (home) or 408-203-9300 (cell); Rob Turner; 1201 Sycamore Terrace, Space 89; Sunnyvale, CA 94086.

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by Catherine Skivers Listen to 2008 CCB AWARD WINNERS by Catherine Skivers

During the banquet at our spring convention, CCB awards are presented. Those given by the Publications and Membership Committees will appear elsewhere in this issue of the BC.

The Awards and History Committee was pleased to present the following awards to these deserving candidates. Two community service awards were presented. The first one went to Marvelena Quesada (as of May 18, Marvelena Gray). This lady speaks Spanish fluently and never hesitates to assist people by interpreting for them. Marvelena was the first person to translate the CCB publication "Failing Sight and the Family Plight" into Spanish, which makes this most helpful information available to people who formerly had no access to it. She has made radio and TV announcements for ACB, and at one time she recorded The Connection in Spanish. Marvelena is a member of the Blind Students of California and the Golden Gate Chapter.

The recipient of the second community award is Sam Chen. He is a member of the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind. He was unable to attend the convention because he was traveling in Vietnam and Japan. Sam is the newest member of the Governmental Affairs Committee and was among those who went to Washington for the ACB Legislative Seminar. He received the community service award for translating "Failing Sight and the Family Plight" into Chinese. His efforts will make it possible to reach a segment of our blind community that did not have this information available to them until now.

The Humanitarian Award was presented to Claire Small. She was also not in attendance at the convention. She is celebrating about 90 years of her life in Lafayette, where she currently resides. She was nominated for this award because, for more than 30 years, she read to students in the Bay Area and for RFB&D. Margie Donovan says she read to her, not only throughout college, but maternity and childcare books, and much more, for many years. She made life easier for countless blind and visually impaired people by reading hundreds of books through the years. She donated the family home, located in Palo Alto, to RFB&D so it could have a permanent place to continue its work of making books available to the blind and disabled community. I had the pleasure of talking with her on the telephone, and she says she doesn't think she deserves any thanks because not only did she enjoy reading to everyone but she thinks of it as just a way of paying her rent while she is here on this earth. She is a delightful lady!

Our organization has always appreciated the assistance of our sighted members and friends who help us so much. We have put sighted ladies into the Hall of Fame, but Elmer Leger is the first sighted gentleman to enter into the Hall. Regrettably, this award had to be made posthumously. Elmer was a member of the Bay View Chapter, and was the only one they made an honorary member. He had a daughter who was blind, and he immediately began to learn the best ways to assist her in her life. He recognized the importance of understanding the best ways to educate and help her integrate into a normal lifestyle. He helped form parent's groups, and he worked tirelessly to help them improve the lives of their children. For decades, he was particularly interested in assisting with the Christmas parties Bay View gave to the local deaf-blind community. He was probably best known to most people by the thousands of miles he drove to bring blind and visually impaired members to meetings. We are not talking about just getting you to a local chapter meeting. Elmer drove carloads of people to Boston, New Orleans, Georgia and many other places to bring people to national conventions. He went through California plenty of times to get people to state conventions. No job was ever too little or too big for him if he could be of help to his friends and colleagues. Elmer was born June 14, 1904 and died December 25, 1983. His son Bruce and daughter-in law Judy are Bay View members and even after they retired and moved away they still retain their membership with Bay View. One of the people who remember well the drive to New Orleans is Elmer Chapson, who can tell you all about it.

We have received very nice letters from both Claire Small and Bruce and Judy Leger thanking us for the beautiful plaques that were forwarded to them.

We presented the Distinguished Service Award last. This came as quite a surprise to the recipient who was a member of the Awards and History Committee itself--we simply discussed him when he wasn't there. Most of you do not need an introduction to Roger Petersen. He has served as Parliamentarian for years and was a charter member of the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind. He edits one of the best newsletters around. The Distinguished Service Award is given periodically to an outstanding blind or visually impaired person who has contributed significantly to the betterment of blind people generally. We could not list on the plaque all the things that made him a good candidate for this award. Not only would it cover a whole wall in anybody's home, but CCB couldn't afford the plaque! Roger is well known throughout the country for his advocacy for the blind and visually impaired, and he has traveled outside the United States as well. In his career he has been a professor and he's known for his abilities with technology; and whatever he does, he lets people know that blind people can and are competent. Among the many things that he had done that are outstanding has been the drafting of most of our awards for years. He commented that the wording on this one didn't quite spell out what the Distinguished Service Award was. My response was that the next time he can work on his own award, but for right now he'd have to be satisfied with what the committee did.

I have said it before but must say again that I have the privilege of working with a great committee, and we all love being able to recognized people who so richly deserve our thanks for all that they do. The members of the committee are: Gussie Morgan, Al Gil, Don Queen, Joe Smith, Bernice Kandarian, Chris Gray, Roger Petersen and yours truly. It's not too soon to start thinking about who you think deserves recognition from the Council. Watch your issue of the Blind Californian for the time to start submitting your nominations.

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By Judy Dixon, Chairperson, Braille Authority of North America Listen to CHANGES IN BRAILLE CODES By Judy Dixon, Chairperson, Braille Authority of North America

[Editor's note: This was taken from the Reader's Forum of the May, 2008 Matilda Ziegler Magazine.]

In October 2007, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) released "Braille Codes Update 2007." This Update includes official changes to three BANA publications: Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation; English Braille, American Edition; and Braille Principles of Print to Braille Transcription. The effective date for these code changes is Jan. 1, 2008.

As the vast array of print characters, styles and formats continues to evolve, so must the braille code intended to represent this constantly shifting array of print. It is indeed a challenge for BANA to keep the medium of braille precise enough to accurately reflect the myriad of print symbols and complex print formats, while remaining flexible enough to maintain readability for the braille user. Many of the changes in this Update are small but have been adopted in an effort to make braille codes more consistent with print and more usable for both braille readers and braille transcribers.

The changes to the Nemeth Code include: a keystroke indicator being added to the list of shape indicators; a subsection added on calculator and computer keystrokes; several examples in the codebook added or fixed; and a section added on the brailling of stem- and-leaf plots. Most of these corrections and changes had been approved by the BANA Board many years ago and are simply being incorporated into the official code with the publication of this Update.

A few of the changes to the literary braille code are likely to be noticed in popular braille books and magazines. These include:

--Apostrophe Rule: An inserted apostrophe is no longer required in plural abbreviations, numbers or letters where none existed in print. For example, if "1930s" is written without an apostrophe in print, it will now be written that way in braille as well. This changed apostrophe rule will give braille readers more accurate information about print practices.

--New Symbols: A few new symbols have been added to the literary code:

"at sign" and "cents" are now dot 4 followed by c'; "Euro" is now dot 4 followed by 'e'; "Yen" is now dot 4 followed by 'y'; ampersand is now dot 4 followed by '&'; the copyright symbol is now dots 45 followed by 'c'; "registered trademark" is now dots 45 followed by 'r'; "trademark" is now dots 45 followed by 't'; crosshatch is now dots 456 followed by dots 1456; slash is now dots 456 followed by dots 34.

Since the symbols for "no." and "lb." both represent a print crosshatch, and are easily misunderstood as representing no.' and 'lb.', they have been replaced by a new symbol representing the crosshatch, whatever its meaning. This gives braille readers the same information that print readers have. While a common meaning of the crosshatch is "number," it also has a variety of other meanings: number, pound, and even "sharp," as in the programming language C [dots 456 and dots 1456]. A symbol not associated with the word "number" is more easily associated with other meanings.

The new symbol for the slash is meant to be used whenever a slash appears in print that is not a fraction line. In the past, transcribers were required to change slashes that occurred in dates to hyphens. The new rule says to use slashes whenever they occur in print. This revised rule for the transcription of dates provides a step in the direction of giving braille readers more information about print practice.

The symbol (dots 456, 34) was selected to represent the print slash symbol because it is already widely used with letters in textbooks and is used in the Nemeth code, British braille, and Unified English Braille. By preceding dots 34 with dots 456, the slash will no longer be confused with the braille 'st' sign.

Following print with respect to the use of the slash or fraction line gives the braille reader the same information the print reader has. When, in print, a fraction is written as a fraction (numerator above denominator), it is also written as a fraction in braille (using dots 34). When, in print, a fraction or similar construction is written using a slash and with all numbers on the same level, the use of the braille slash (dots 456, 34) shows that. There is no longer a need for the transcriber to know whether two numbers are related to each other as parts of a date, a fraction or have some other relationship. The new rule is simple, easy for a computer to follow and unambiguous for the braille reader regardless of the treatment of fractions. Some agencies and transcribing groups may wish to preserve traditional ways of transcribing fractions in certain publications. The rule allows for this.

Changes in the formats section of the Update include:

--Alphabetic page numbers: Sometimes page numbers are shown as words on a page with the numeric page number. Most often used with math, foreign language and lower- grade materials, they reinforce the spelled-out version of the numeric number. The new rule puts the alphabetic number in the note position (cell 7) with leading dots 36. This will help the younger reader find the number quickly.

--Boxed and screened material: The current guidelines for boxes within boxes did not give a true indication of the position of these materials on the print page. Changing the top and bottom boxing lines to the full cell indicates to the reader that everything following the full cell is related until he/she reaches the next full cell. The opening and closing boxing lines indicate the internal boxes. The graphic nature of textbooks and the print placement of text are often very indicative of the importance of, or the relationship to, other materials. This new arrangement for boxes within boxes will better indicate the relationships.

--Wide Tables: The linear format for displaying tables that was used years ago has been reinstated. It saves space and retains the connection of one piece of information to the next piece.

The listed table is a new method of brailling tables and is useful for large tables with multiple row and column headings. The repetition of the headings makes it easy for the student to follow the information, and not have to back up to check individual headings. It is clear and easy to understand.

To stay up to date on the activities of the Braille Authority of North America, subscribe to BANA-Announce. BANA-Announce is a one-way list to facilitate the dissemination of official BANA information--summaries of meetings and other BANA activities, new publications, announcements about code changes, and general information to promote braille, its use and production.

To join this listserv, send a blank e-mail message to bana-announce- subscribe@brailleauthority.org and follow the directions in the confirmation e-mail, which will be sent automatically in response to a subscription request.

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by Bernice Kandarian, Publications Committee Chair Listen to PUBLICATIONS AWARDS FOR 2008 by Bernice Kandarian

Each year the Publications Committee recognizes excellence in writing by presenting two awards, one for a "lifestyle" article and one for an "issue-oriented" article. While the rules don't require that these be articles in the Blind Californian, so far they always have been. This year is no exception.

The best issue-oriented article of 2007 was Gil Johnson's informative article "Career Connections: What Do Employers Expect of Job Applicants and Employees?" which appeared in the Blind Californian, Spring 2007: a fitting swan song for Gil, who is retiring in June from his position at the American Foundation for the Blind.

The best lifestyle article of 2007 was Dianne B. Phelps's article "Is There Life After Tragedy?" from the Blind Californian, Fall, 2007, a memoir about how her life was changed by a serious pedestrian-automobile accident.

The Publications Committee wishes to congratulate this year's two winning authors and urge members to submit material for future issues of the Blind Californian. To this end, the committee is sponsoring a writers' workshop at our fall convention, to be held on Thursday, October 23, 2008 from 10 a.m. to noon. Mark your calendar!

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by Dianne B. Phelps and Primrose Listen to THANK YOU FOR MY LIFESTYLE AWARD by Dianne B. Phelps and Primrose

I want to write to all on the Publications Committee, those involved with the Blind Californian and the California Council of the Blind to say thank you so much for honoring me with the Lifestyles Article award for 2007. Writing that article was something very special to me because these kinds of tragedies are happening to more of us.

Life is faster and more complicated than ever before, and should such an unfortunate situation interfere with it, the way in which we approach handling it may be the difference between getting through it or not.

I am thankful for my experiences as I am settling in my eighth beautiful guide dog, another yellow Lab named Hibiscus (yes, another flower for my dog garden). The truly amazing thing is that she has a gentle spirit and heart and she works so beautifully--it is a little like having Krista back. I am feeling very blessed with life at this time, and my beautiful Primrose was of great value in my getting things worked out physically, so that I am really now at my best since my accident. Walking with my dog and a balance cane has solved so many of the issues which plagued me right after the accident. Needless to say, Primrose is also staying with me during her retirement, since I am in a home where I can make that decision; and I am thoroughly enjoying having both dogs with me.

Again, thank you all so very much for this honor. This beautiful plaque will have a prominent place in my home.


Dianne B. Phelps; Hibiscus, current Guide; and Primrose, retired Guide

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by Ardis Bazyn Listen to CCB MEMBERSHIP AWARDS by Ardis Bazyn

As Membership Committee chair, I want to congratulate the California Council of Citizens with Low Vision for winning the Membership Incentive Award, presented at the spring, 2008 CCB convention. This award goes to the chapter or special interest affiliate that has added the most members, in percentage terms, from the spring CCB convention of the previous year to the spring convention of this year.

I urge all chapters and affiliates to work on building their membership. At this year's fall convention, the Membership Incentive Award will be given to the chapter or affiliate which builds its membership by the highest percentage between the spring and fall conventions.

The 2006 Chapter of the Year Award was presented to the Redwood Empire Chapter of the California Council of the Blind. They established the George Fogarty Memorial Scholarship/Life Enhancement Fund, which raises funding for special purposes like camps, classes and cell phones. The chapter worked together on the fund-raising efforts and getting out information to its community to find recipients.

The 2007 Chapter of the Year Award was presented to the Greater Bakersfield Council of the Blind for its White Cane Safety project, which included both Walking in the Dark and Dining in the Dark events for local community members and city officials. The chapter worked hard to get participants, publicize the events and solicit the media. Over sixty people enjoyed the Dining in the Dark experience, and at least three reporters were present.

This award is given each year to the chapter with the best chapter project. This project must highlight an activity that makes a difference in the lives of blind and visually impaired people in the community. Please include the ways different members contributed to the effort. Get your creative juices flowing!

Letters detailing chapter projects are always due on February 15 at the state CCB office. They can be sent by email or snail mail. For examples of past project letters, please contact Ardis Bazyn at abazyn@bazyncommunications.com or by calling 818-238-9321.

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from the Lantern, May, 2008 Listen to GIL JOHNSON RETIRES from the Lantern, May, 2008

Gil Johnson, current President of the LightHouse Board of Directors, will retire in June from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) after a career of more than 40 years of working to identify and address critical national issues affecting employment and rehabilitation of people with vision loss.

"Gil Johnson is not only a good friend and inspiration to all who have worked with him but also a true advocate for people who are blind or visually impaired," said Carl R. Augusto, AFB President and CEO. "I will miss his insights, expertise and his humor."

Johnson joined AFB in 1992 and helped the organization develop effective models to fill gaps in the Training-to-work Continuum, provide training to service-delivery professionals and strengthen communications among constituent groups.

He was instrumental in forming an alliance of consumers and service providers to create a Division for the Blind in the California Department of Rehabilitation to increase state placement success. He also collaborated with Motorola to create three training programs for executives, HR professionals and supervisors that were part of the highly respected Motorola University.

In 2000, Johnson received the John H. McAulay Award from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), which was established to honor professionals who have contributed outstanding efforts and achievements leading to the placement of people with visual impairments in productive employment.

Prior to working with AFB, Johnson served as director of the Bureau of Blind Services, Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services, where he directed and administered a comprehensive statewide rehabilitation program for persons who are blind or visually impaired. Previously, Johnson served in a number of directorial and counseling capacities for the LightHouse and the California Department of Rehabilitation. He was an appointed member of the California State Rehabilitation Council, is the author or co-author of more than a dozen journal articles, and regularly delivers presentations and workshops at conferences of professionals and consumers.

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by Naomi Grubb Listen to A FIRST TIMERS THANK YOU by Naomi Grubb

Dear California Council of the Blind First-Timers Committee and CCB,

My first time at a CCB convention was a most informative and enjoyable experience. From the seminars, meetings, general sessions, committee meetings, explorations of the exhibits, and yummy lunches and dinners, I obtained a lifetime of knowledge.

Early Saturday morning, and still sleepy, I enjoyed a delicious 7 a.m. membership PR seminar breakfast, along with discussions where events and projects from different chapters were shared. It was so interesting that I even stayed awake.

When I went to the exhibit hall to check out all of the exhibits, I particularly liked the Eye- Pal scanner, which sounds like it's taking a snapshot of printed material; and it works faster than other scanners do. There was also women's clothing--a bad thing to have around me--and many more interesting items.

Later that afternoon, I attended the First Timer's Seminar, where new members learn about the purpose and function of CCB. Jerry Arakawa, Chair of the committee, greeted us individually. There was discussion about CCB and President Jeff Thom answered questions and gave a history of the organization.

Even though it seems you never get your name called for a door or raffle prize, it's sure to happen so don't take the time to go to the bathroom. Yes, they called my name, but I lost the prize!

There was so much going on that I can't possibly put it all in this letter. But, again, I want to thank the First Timers Committee and CCB for a wonderful experience.

With sincere appreciation,

Naomi Grubb, your First Timers 2008 Awardee

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submitted by Jeff Thom Listen to VOTING RESOLUTION submitted by Jeff Thom

[Editor's note: Convention resolutions are usually summarized. In fact, other resolutions from the spring convention are presented this way elsewhere in these pages. However, I have been asked to publish the resolution below in its entirety since it affects all of us.]

Resolution 2008 A-5: Voting

Whereas, most members of the California Council of the Blind are citizens of the United States of America; and

Whereas, US citizens have the privilege to exercise their right to vote; and

Whereas, a Presidential election this year affords an opportunity for citizens to exercise that right; and

Whereas, in order to fully participate, a citizen should cast an informed vote; and

Whereas, to be informed, election materials have been made available in alternative formats by the California Secretary of State; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, by the California Council of the Blind in convention assembled this 13th day of April, 2008, at the Arden West Hilton Hotel, in the city of Sacramento, that this organization strongly encourage each of its members to take this opportunity to become an informed voter and to exercise his or her right to fully participate in the upcoming elections thereby affecting the direction this nation will take on critical issues such as health, education, rehabilitation and social services; and be it further

Resolved, to the best of their ability each member is encouraged to promote the participation by others in the electoral process.

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submitted by Winifred Downing Listen to ABC BRAILLE STUDY COMPLETED: FINAL REPORT BEING COMPILED submitted by Winifred Downing

[Editor's note: This is taken from Dots for Braille Literacy, Volume 13, Number 2, Winter, 2008.]

The braille code used in the United States has changed many times over the years. When the code was first adopted in 1918, the United States used a less contracted form of braille. Children were taught to read uncontracted braille first, and then a partially contracted version, referred to as "grade 1-1/2." Over the years, more contractions were added to match more closely the code as it was used in the United Kingdom. By 1932, "grade 1-1/2" was eliminated in favor of fully contracted "grade 2" braille. Teachers debated how to teach children to read: should children continue to start with uncontracted braille? Others wondered why children needed to relearn to read words in another form. Wouldn't it be better just to teach children to read once using the "correct" form of the word? By 1960, most educational materials were produced in contracted braille, and it became more common for teachers to start reading instruction with fully contracted braille.

In recent years, the ability to create uncontracted materials easily, combined with the increasing number of students with additional disabilities, has led teachers to wonder whether this approach was best for all students. Questions about the relative merits of teaching braille initially with contracted or uncontracted braille were raised and discussed at conferences and in professional journals. The Alphabetic Braille-Contracted Braille Study (ABC Braille Study) was established to investigate this issue. Primary funding was provided by the American Printing House for the Blind, with additional funding from the Canadian Braille Foundation and the American Foundation for the Blind National Literacy Center.

In this longitudinal study, which started in 2002, a team of researchers from the United States and Canada, led by Dr. Anne Corn (of Vanderbilt University), observed and assessed more than 40 students over several years as they learned to read braille. The specific research questions for this study were:

1. Are there differences in reading rate and comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, word recognition, and reading achievement levels of children who are initially taught contracted braille compared to those who are initially taught uncontracted braille?

2. Are there differences in writing, vocabulary, and spelling abilities of children who are initially taught contracted braille compared to those who are initially taught uncontracted braille?

3. Are there differences in the quality and quantity of literacy and interactive experiences in general education classrooms, the home environment, and in the community of children who are initially taught contracted braille compared to those who are initially taught uncontracted braille?

4. Are there differences in attitudes towards reading and writing in children who are initially taught contracted braille compared to those who are initially taught uncontracted braille?

The last period of data collection ended in summer of 2007, and the team is examining the data and preparing the final report. Preliminary results were shared at the APH Annual Meeting in October, 2007, and at the Getting in Touch with Literacy conference in December, 2007. Additional presentations are planned for 2008, as are journal submissions documenting results related to the various research questions.

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A rare opportunity is yours at the fall, 2008 CCB convention in Los Angeles. Come early on Thursday, October 23, 2008. Hone your writing skills. Mingle with CCB writers, and would-be writers. Enjoy the adventure inspired by a cross-pollination of ideas!

Persuading readers to see things your way; provoking meaningful thought or emotion, such as outrage or compassion; entertaining; or spurring people to action: these are some of the reasons we write. The talent for putting words on a page is an effective way to say who we really are, what we know, where we have been, and where we hope to go.

And we haven't even mentioned the vast amount of possibility and benefits that are unwrapped by the kinds of writing that is not about ourselves. That may include anything from a project or essay at school, reports we submit at work, human interest or other pieces appearing in our chapter or neighborhood newsletter. For the senior center we attend, our house of worship, a program we volunteer for, or the local agency for the blind, the opportunities to contribute by writing are limitless!

Though many CCB members no doubt excel in the music, visual, and dramatic arts, the art of writing is accessible to many of us and is waiting to be tapped. Are you interested? Then make the wise choice to attend the CCB Publications Committee's next Writers' Workshop, from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, October 23. The focus will be a practical one: to make it easier for you to submit an article to our quarterly magazine, The Blind Californian.

Details are still being worked out. But our session will be highlighted by a guided writing exercise, led by Dr. Catherine Schmitt Whitaker, CCB member and frequent contributor to the BC. This activity will be painless, mentally challenging, and just might get your creative juices flowing.

So if you have a story to tell, an experience to share, some knowledge that might benefit your CCB community and beyond, please make plans to attend. Arrive at the convention early on Thursday morning, and savor the exchange of ideas.

There is no charge for the workshop, but you will need to register ahead of time by calling the CCB office. We anticipate a small group and comfortable setting, where you can stretch your imagination and creative skills. And who know, maybe the result will be your name in print someday in our magazine!

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by Ardis Bazyn, CCB Membership Chair Listen to CCB MEMBERSHIP BREAKFAST AND PR SEMINAR by Ardis Bazyn

Mike Dunne, our speaker for the Membership/PR breakfast Seminar at the spring convention, presented lots of ideas regarding outreach in our local communities. Everyone had a chance to share the ways their chapters and affiliates reach out to their communities.

His first suggestion was to get involved in organizations in the local area. Some examples are Lions Clubs, other service clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimists) and senior centers. Another way to be involved is to attend city council meetings, county board of supervisor meetings, chambers of commerce, and local committees. Some committees and boards are always looking for members with disabilities to assist in inproving their services. Examples are local transit authorities, paratransit agencies, housing commissions, county and city ADA committees, bicycle and walking advisory boards. Other options are boards of assistive living facilities, university and community college disabled student services, coalitions for budget issues, independent living centers, and other coalitions of people with disabilities.

It was stressed that involvement in community issues can draw in new members by highlighting the importance of advocacy, such as access to local programs; accessible websites; the right to an independent and private vote; and adequate assistance through SSA, SSP, Medicare, Medicaid, IHHS, and private health care.

When chapters are working in the community, they should be aware of when to use the media to highlight issues. TV, radio, newspapers, public bulletin boards, Internet sites, as well as cable and radio reading services all can be used for publicity; and many medias allow the listings of local events. Think of specific advocacy efforts your chapter has championed, and bring them to the media. Some attendees described events their chapters have publicized: award dinners, auctions, fund-raisers, walk-a-thons, Dog-a- thons, and Dining in the Dark experiences.

Plan to attend our next seminar in the fall. If you have ideas to share about building membership, please ask to be added to the CCB membership email list. Email abazyn@bazyncommunications.com and ask to be added. I encourage each chapter and special interest affiliate to have at least one member on this list. Also, the membership committee has people willing to assist chapters in building their membership.

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by Evelyn Drewry Listen to ON THE LIGHTER SIDE by Evelyn Drewry

Hello there everyone. By the time you read this you will hopefully be enjoying a fun-filled summer. Be sure to pass along any accounts of your humorous summer adventures so I can share them here.

This story comes from a friend who had the opportunity to hear a motivational speaker who happened to be totally blind. The speaker shared an experience which seemed to be appropriate for this column.

When she was attending college she loved to wear what might be referred to as hippy clothing. You know, long skirts, tie-dyed garments, bell bottomed pants, and she especially loved carrying purses with lots and lots of long fringe. I'll bet that more than one of us can remember those styles, and many of us probably dressed in that manner.

One day she decided to go to a nearby shopping mall. She dawned her bell bottoms, a tie-dyed top, grabbed her purse with all of that great fringe and was out the door!

Life was good and she was having a wonderful time walking through the stores. The mall had so many stores to explore! She wandered through all kinds of little shops as well as a few department stores.

In the last department store she visited, she browsed through several departments and when she decided to exit the store she opted to take a shortcut through the lingerie department. It involved navigating a few narrow aisles but saved a fair amount of walking.

By this time she had worked up a bit of an appetite, so she decided the food court should be her next stop. You know how noisy these places can be, so she knew she should have no trouble finding one.

Sure enough the noise and the smells of food served her well, and she soon knew she was heading in the right direction. As she reached some tables which seemed to be filled with shoppers who were enjoying a break, they suddenly became silent. This seemed odd because those places are seldom quiet, and the change in the noise level seemed quite sudden.

It was about then when she reached over to adjust her purse and got the shock of her life. Her hand didn't encounter the long and luscious fringe. Instead, what she felt dangling from her bag were three bras. She decided her purse must have snagged them as she was navigating those narrow aisles in the lingerie department.

I am sure this isn't an altogether uncommon occurrence, and all we can do is have a good laugh at our own expense. Of course, it's a little different nowadays because clothing usually has sensors, which will go off if anyone leaves the store with them.

Have a fun and safe summer and don't forget to share your stories.

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by Mary Watkins, WGBH Listen to DVS HOME VIDEO SALES EFFORT ENDS by Mary Watkins

DVS Home Video, a project begun by Boston public broadcaster WGBH in the early 90's to make movies on video accessible to the nation's blind and visually impaired viewers, will end as of May 12. The Hollywood studios have ceased manufacturing VHS or tape versions of films for sale and rental. WGBH's work to make media accessible via description goes on, with efforts focused on television, feature films in theaters, DVDs and online video.

The DVS Home Video effort, started over a decade ago with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, resulted in more than 300 videos made accessible through narration of key visual elements inserted into natural pauses in dialogue. From the very start of DVS Video's debut, the reaction of the community was immediate and actually profound. Films came alive in a whole new way, and the eagerness for new titles only grew. Many of the videos sold over the years were purchased by libraries and schools, which multiplied the number of individuals and families who took such enjoyment in described movies.

Films are now being distributed for sale and rental on DVD, BluRay DVD and through video on demand (either rental or download to own) services via the Internet. WGBH's Media Access Group, home to the Descriptive Video Service, has been working to transition the home video efforts to DVD and to these online movie delivery outlets. Lack of available memory space on DVDs has been stated as the reason why more description tracks, created for theatrical release in the over 300 movie theaters with WGBH's Motion Picture Access (MoPix) systems, are not making the migration onto DVDs. WGBH maintains a list of DVDs that have description tracks on them on the Web page listed with other description-related links at the bottom of this post.

Advocacy is needed from the community of description fans to make this transition happen. Please see the link below for a list of Hollywood studios' video/home entertainment divisions. Help show the providers of video on these formats that there is a market and that you would be willing to purchase movies with a description track included as an optional feature.

All of us at the Media Access Group appreciate the unyielding support our efforts have generated over the years, and we are looking forward to the next chapter. Here is a list of links to information about ongoing description work from WGBH:

DVS on Television: main.wgbh.org/wgbh/pages/mag/services/description/ontv/; DVS in Movie Theaters: www.mopix.org; DVS on DVD: main.wgbh.org/wgbh/pages/mag/resources/accessible-dvds.html; Link to Contact List for Hollywood Studios: ncam.wgbh.org/mopix/studios.html

For more information, contact Mary Watkins; Media Access Group at WGBH; 617-300-3700; mary_watkins@wgbh.org.

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from the CCB Connection Listen to DREDF INVESTIGATION from the CCB Connection

DREDF is conducting an investigation into whether people with disabilities whose healthcare is paid by Medi-Cal are experiencing problems in obtaining healthcare services in California due to architectural access barriers (e.g., stairs, narrow doorways, lack of grab bars) or programmatic access problems (e.g., a healthcare provider's refusal to reasonably modify office or clinical policies, practices or procedures when needed).

If you would like to share your experiences with us and Medi-Cal pays for your healthcare, please contact us by mail, e-mail, fax, or telephone as follows: Attn: Medi-Cal Healthcare; Access Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. (DREDF); 2212 Sixth Street; Berkeley, CA 94710. Tel: 510-644-2555 (V/TDD); Fax: 510- 841-8645. E-mail: min@dredf.org.

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by Bonnie Rennie Listen to CHRISTY CRESPIN: PROFILE OF AN ACTIVIST by Bonnie Rennie

Christy Crespin is known to many in CCB, having held several offices in Southern California's Inland Empire chapter. What may be less well known is her lifelong integration into the larger mainstream community. Advocacy, for her clients as a mental health professional, and for her fellow employees, blind and sighted, is Christy's trademark.

She has been involved in CCB since 1971, when she received a CCB college scholarship. She remembers that Al Gil and others came to her home and invited her to her first convention. In 1971, the South Bay Chapter needed a secretary, and Christy volunteered. In 1994, she helped start the Active Blind Inland Valleys Chapter, whose goal, she said, was to "focus on the interests of working blind people with active lifestyles." She believes it is important for older members to step back and encourage newer members to develop their leadership skills.

Christy grew up in suburban Los Angeles with her parents and three siblings. Her vision loss is caused by Retinopathy of Prematurity. She had light perception until age 16, and suddenly lost that, as it happened, while attending Camp Bloomfield.

She says her grandmother taught her to type at age four, and she used that skill to get through her entire school career. Her activism and self-advocacy started at an early age because she "hated being bussed to a school with a resource room." Instead, she wanted to attend school with her brother. So she and her mother and godmother pushed successfully for a mainstream placement.

Regarding braille, Christy said she at first didn't like learning it, and still does not do much braille reading for pleasure. But, she states that she needs braille very much at work. She uses a BrailleNote and plans to obtain a braille display soon.

Her community integration can be seen on many fronts. She and her husband of 34 years, Ed, have raised an adult son and daughter, and now Christy enjoys her role as a grandmother. Needless to say, there is much interaction with the larger community when it comes to being a parent and grandparent.

Her first job of note was a volunteer position she pursued in 1976. She served as the secretary to a Catholic priest, who was at that time a fairly well-known personality in the L.A. area. She once even subbed for the priest on his radio show.

To achieve her professional goals, Christy entered the Graduate School of Social Work at Cal State San Bernardino in 1989. She graduated with her Master's degree in social work in 1991, after finding that her self-advocacy skills were needed just to overcome barriers to earning her MSW on schedule with her class. After graduation, she went to work for Riverside County Mental Health Services, where she had done her social work internship.

In 1995, she became a Rehabilitation Counselor for the Blind; and in 1998, she accepted her present job as a Clinical Social Worker at Patton State Hospital, near San Bernardino. Along the way, she earned her clinical social work license in California (LCSW), which is in itself an impressive post-graduate feat.

Patton is a large psychiatric hospital that probably looks more like a corrections facility. It houses adults with severe mental illnesses who have gotten into trouble with the law. To put it simply, they are there for evaluation and treatment, according to the requirements of the different court commitments they are on.

In order to do her work there, Christy must know a great deal about the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. She has worked in various parts of the hospital, but currently she works mainly with those charged with criminal offenses but found not competent to stand trial. Thus, her job, and that of the rest of the interdisciplinary team with whom she works, is to help patients regain competency to stand trial, as the court defines that term.

She works directly with patients, providing group and individual treatments, which may include discussing their options for eventual discharge and coping successfully with ongoing pressures. She developed some creative patient education literature, and songs for those who cannot read. She has recently advocated for her patients who do not speak English but who still need to master the court competency materials. Christy tries not to focus on criminal allegations when working with her patients; rather, she relates to at least one endearing quality possessed by each one.

Unfortunately, her job isn't just relating to her clients. Much paperwork is involved. Though she is a skilled computer user, much of the software that supports the written reports and the filling out of forms is inaccessible. It is here that her fights for equal opportunity have taken Christy to several front lines, not just for herself but for all similarly affected State Department of Mental Health employees.

Some of these efforts have included yearly attendance at the CSUN Disabilities Conference and networking with the information technology staff at her job. She has even invited her Executive Director and others to sit with her at her computer and see firsthand the limits imposed by the inaccessible software. For a time, Christy and the CCB Office worked with Department of Mental Health attorneys on this issue. She also wants to focus her attention on improving the job qualifications for Support Service Assistants and readers in state service.

Her spirit of activism is not confined to things of interest to the visually impaired or persons with psychiatric disorders. She decided to get involved in the employees union because "the workers at Patton needed to have a voice", and she was good at organizing. Christy became Chief Steward at her hospital, representing and advocating for social workers and other clinical staff. She then ran for and won the unit position of Chair of the Social Work Occupational Committee. This led her to the complicated, tedious, and skilled process of negotiation of the labor contract with the state. She served through two negotiation cycles.

Christy belongs to the National Association of Social Workers, an entity that not only represents the interests of some in the profession, but also speaks up in the legislative on behalf of many clients it serves. In that regard, Christy recently found herself a part of a NASW group in Sacramento for Lobby Days. Then, two weeks later, she was again in Sacramento, this time educating and advocating for her employees union.

Christy points out that it is vitally important that we cultivate ongoing working relationships with our local and state lawmakers. She says it was precisely because of one of these continued efforts that her legislator has recently taken her up on a invitation to make an on-site visit to her hospital.

I regret that limited space does not permit a more detailed description of all of the activities and skills Christy Crespin must utilize in her job on job in a forensic admissions unit. It is not unusual for blind people to go into the social work profession, yet working in this volatile setting with a wide range of duties probably is unconventional. For a blind person seeking success in education, the community, and especially at work, Christy demonstrates a winning recipe. And that is, do your homework, know your audience, like what you do, and practice effective self advocacy. Sprinkle in a little humor where you can, and it's even better.

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by Gabe Griffith and Winifred Downing Listen to SPRING 2008 RESOLUTIONS SUMMARY by Gabe Griffith and Winifred Downing

Sixteen resolutions were considered by the resolutions committee. Resolutions A-1, A-7 and A-10 were withdrawn, and resolutions 15 and 16 were courtesy resolutions for services rendered by volunteers and the hotel.

Committee members who participated were Gabe Griffith, Chair; Winifred Downing; Rhonda King; Eugene Lozano, Jr.; Ken Metz; Dirk Neyhart; Donna Pomerantz; Linda Porelle; and Robert Wendt.

Resolution 2008 A-2 directs the California Council of the Blind (CCB) to "seek legislation to modify the processing of non-driver identification cards by: 1) extending the renewal time to be equal to that of persons receiving drivers licenses and, 2) providing the same 60-day notice of expiration provided to licensed drivers."

Resolution 2008 A-3 directs the CCB "President to communicate with the Chair of the Board of Directors and the CEO of JetBlue Airways to inform them of the disparity in their services to customers who are blind or visually impaired." The company's recently altered Web site is not readily accessible to persons using screen reading devices, thus requiring that reservations be made by telephone, for which a $10 charge is made. If an adequate response is not provided, CCB will seek legislative remedy. A copy of this resolution will be sent on for consideration by the American Council of the Blind at its national convention in July, 2008.

Resolution 2008 A-4 urges CCB to communicate with the "Governor; Legislature; Department of Personnel Administration; Department of Rehabilitation; and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 2620" to urge "support for an increase in salaries for rehabilitation counselors at the Department of Rehabilitation in order to maintain appropriate staffing levels that ensure that consumers are effectively served." Employee salaries have been found to be 49% less annually than for persons similarly employed by the Veterans Administration. The problem is serious now but promises to be infinitely greater by 2013.

Resolution 2008 A-5 strongly urges all CCB members to avail themselves of the voting information prepared by the Secretary of State in alternative formats for blind and visually impaired citizens and to cast their vote in coming elections. We can thus affect "the direction this nation will take on critical issues such as health, education, rehabilitation and social services." [Editor's note: For the complete resolution, read "Voting Resolution" in this issue.]

Resolution 2008 A-6 calls on the CCB board of directors, on a periodic basis, to express gratitude to "a worthy person corporation or institution." It calls on the CCB publications committee to draft a sample letter that can be used in this effort and invites local chapters to also participate in this exercise.

Resolution 2008 A-8 strongly urges "the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services and all 58 equivalent county offices to include, in all requests for proposals, requests for quotes and procurement contracts, language mandating conformance with Chapter 11135 of the California government code and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in order that all electronic and information technology be accessible to persons who are blind or visually impaired." The information under discussion includes items such as emergency/disaster management programs, the voluntary registration of people with disabilities and the assurance that software, hardware and other related equipment being purchased meet access requirements. In centers serving the various aspects of these programs, blind and visually impaired persons may well seek employment and would therefore need access to all aspects of the program on all levels of government.

Resolution 2008 A-9 dealt with the California state bar exam and failed.

Resolution 2008 A-11 directs the CCB President to write a letter to the BART board of directors as well as the district disability task force and any appropriate officials calling on them to include a sound-emitting device on the new BART ticket gates. In the past the ticket gates emitted enough noise when they were in use so that a blind or visually impaired person could tell where the entrance/exit was located. The new ticket gates are much quieter and CCB members would like to take the opportunity of having new ticket gates installed to include a device to make navigating BART stations easier.

Resolution 2008 a-12 expresses the gratitude of the CCB for the silver sponsorship by HumanWare of the spring, 2008 state convention. The $1000 gift facilitates CCB's mission of helping and advocating for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Resolution 2008 a-13 thanks GW Micro for the $1,000 contribution it made to the cost of the spring, 2008 state convention. In this way the organization contributes to CCB's commitment to serving the blind and visually impaired.

Resolution 2008 A-14 is grateful to Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Foundation for the contribution of $250 toward the spring, 2008 convention of the California Council of the Blind. In this way Dreyer's advances the work of the CCB.

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by Sylvia Lopez Listen to RECIPE CORNER by Sylvia Lopez

Warm greetings to all! This column is going to be friendly to everyone by watching our calories and fat intake. I'll be focusing on foods that taste great and are fun to prepare. I hope you enjoy these recipes.

Fiesta Meat Loaf

Prep Time: 10; Total time: 1 hour and 20 minutes; Makes 8 servings (1 slice each).

Serve this comfort food with mashed potatoes and a hot steamed vegetable, such as broccoli.

Ingredients: 2 pounds lean ground beef (I use the 4% variety, that way I don't have to drain any fat); 1 package (6 ounces) Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken (follow the boxed instructions); 1 cup water; 2 eggs, lightly beaten; 2 teaspoons chili powder; 1/2 cup Taco Bell(R) Home Originals(R) Thick 'N Chunky Salsa, divided (or you may use your favorite salsa); 3/4 cup Kraft Mexican Style Shredded Cheddar Jack Cheese.

Directions: Preheat oven to 375F. 15 minutes before you start (I usually start to preheat while I'm getting all the ingredients ready). Mix all ingredients except 1/4 cup of the salsa and the cheese. Shape into oval loaf in 13 x 9-inch baking dish; top with the remaining 1/4 cup salsa. BAKE 1 hour or until cooked through (160 F. if you use a meat thermometer). Sprinkle evenly with the cheese; continue baking 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into eight slices to serve.

Variety Fiesta Meatballs (from the above recipe): Mix together meat mixture as directed; shape into 48 meatballs. Cook, in batches, in large skillet on medium heat for 12 minutes or until evenly browned and cooked through (160F), turning frequently. Spoon onto serving platter or into large bowl; top with additional 1 cup salsa. Sprinkle with the cheese. Makes 8 servings, six meatballs each.

Roasted Vegetable Medley

Fresh, delicious produce mm-- what could be more healthy or satisfying? Here is a flavorful medley of baked vegetables. Be good to yourself and enjoy!

Prep: 25 minutes; Bake: 35 minutes; Oven: 400F; Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients: 2 cups Brussels sprouts; 8 ounces fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces (2 cups); 2 cups cauliflower florets; 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs or 2 teaspoons dried herbs, crushed (such as rosemary, basil and oregano); 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt; 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; 2 tablespoons water; 3 red yellow and/or green bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips.

Directions: Halve any large Brussels sprouts. Place Brussels spouts, green beans and cauliflower in a shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle with desired herbs, kosher salt and black pepper. Drizzle with oil and the water. Cover with foil. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil; stir in bell peppers. Bake uncovered for approximately 15 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Sugar Free Fruit Salad

This delicious recipe is made entirely with sugar-free or reduced sugar foods. The fresh fruit, of course, contains natural sugars.

Ingredients: 3 or 4 large apples, diced with peels left on; 4 or 5 bananas, sliced; other fruits as desired: peaches, pears, grapes; 2 large cans fruit cocktail (lite, no sugar added, or in its own juice varieties); 1 regular can crushed pineapple; 1 tub Crystal Light lemonade; 1 box Jell-O sugar-free vanilla pudding.

Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Do not add anything to the lemonade or pudding powders, the powder itself is all that is needed. Chill and serve.

This salad lasts several days. The lemonade prevents the apples and bananas from turning brown.


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from the acb-l mailing list Listen to SOMETHING POSITIVE: THE LITTLE VICTORIES MEAN THE MOST, SOMETIMES from the acb-l mailing list

We've had a lot of negativity here lately so I wanted to relay a positive (yes, blindness- related) thing that happened to me today.

Background: As many people do, I work in a building that consists of some cube farms. Our building is constructed where the cubes and workers occupy space on an outer ring type arrangement with a sectioned off area in the center (quite large) where the lab, network operations center, and conference rooms and the like are located. So think open building that we built out to meet our needs. On the cubes that exist in several rows and ring the Lab and Ops areas, there are small name plates that ID the cube number and who works in that specific cube. These cubes are in long (relatively nondescript) rows and are the type that are full height.

The Problem: As you can imagine, although it's relatively easy to navigate the facility, it's sometimes challenging to find my specific cube, even though the team thought to locate me in an easier location to navigate to.

The Fix and Why It Was Meaningful: What I'd been doing to overcome my situation was to ring my phone when I got near my cube area and just follow the sound in. Worked pretty well but I didn't know that anyone else had noticed me doing this. So today I got to work and noticed that braille plates were starting to pop up. Someone had glued sticky dots on the open areas of the plates in the formation of braille (correctly mind you) spelling out the name attached--not labeled with a machine, this is important, but constructed with sticky dots. So it didn't sink in at first until I started using them a little, especially using my label to more rapidly locate my cube. Turns out that our facilities person had observed me overshoot my cube a couple of times.

Instead of just running in and grabbing my arm or similar, he took it on himself to learn the formation of the 26 basic braille letters and apply the dots in the correct form to the name plates. I found the guy and thanked him and also told him that I'd be bringing my labeler tomorrow to finish the job to save him his future weekends. Apparently he had come in on his own time to work on this.

So why mention this? Because I took a couple things home from this which seemed worth passing on. While we discuss a lot of times the injustices and inequalities that exists, or the stupidities that people have, especially as it relates to blindness, there are people out there (my contention is most people) who aren't interested in discriminating against us but are interested in doing the right thing and who actually are alert and participate. Another key point is it didn't take the state or federal government to browbeat my employer into labeling things or in creating such a convoluted set of regulations that nobody could, or would, comply. Instead it took a regular guy doing his job and paying attention. If you ask me, that's much more meaningful, and I definitely appreciate the effort.

The final point that I took from this is that clearly there are people who think first, and that's refreshing. Instead of rushing to the aid of a "helpless" blind man repeatedly, he simply applied some creative problem-solving to a problem that he thought needed solving, and did so without demeaning anybody in the process--didn't even mention it to me, just put up the dots and let things take their natural course. I like that! The most important thing I can say is that when a company and its management create a positive culture that fosters common sense first and places a high price on intelligence and allows people to be effective individuals, everyone benefits, from the customers all the way to the employees. I don't understand why people don't get this, but it's nice when they do.

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from The Lantern, May, 2008 Listen to FIND ANSWERS TO YOUR TECHNOLOGY QUESTIONS from The Lantern, May, 2008

Do you have questions about how to do a particular task using adaptive technology? Do you yearn to know what new accessible devices are coming out on the market? Or do you just need to figure out how to use the technology you already have? If you've got technology-related questions, there are several sites and organizations that can help.

Your first stop for answers should be the LightHouse Vision Loss Resource Center (VLRC). The VLRC staff is knowledgeable about many different kinds of adaptive solutions and resources to help you accomplish tasks. Contact the VLRC at 888-400- 8933 or via email at info@lighthouse-sf.org.

The Chicago Lighthouse has an Assistive Technology Helpdesk that answers questions about computer issues. Ray Campbell, a former engineer with Lucent Technologies, responds to the calls. Consumers can ask about any product they're using, but they must be blind or visually impaired to access the Helpdesk. Reach the Chicago Lighthouse Technology Helpdesk at 888-825-0080.

AccessWorld is an online publication of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) that reviews various technologies from a blind and visually impaired perspective. On the AccessWorld site at www.afb.org/aw/main.asp, you can also read back issues and subscribe to AccessWorld Extra, a free email newsletter with additional content.

Top Tech Tidbits is a free weekly newsletter of technology information, including training, new products and helpful hints. Visit the Tidbits page at www.topdotenterprises.com/tidbits.htm to read current and back issues online or to subscribe to the RSS feed. Subscribe to the Tidbits weekly newsletter by sending a blank message to tttt-join@topdotenterprises.com.

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by Star Keithley Listen to SINGING WITH SVCB by Star Keithley

Unbelievable! Totally unbelievable! I know, I know, I'm not supposed to use so many exclamation marks, but life is just so fantastic that I can't help shouting it out via exclamations!

So here I am, sitting in my quiet little mobile home at 10 p.m. on a Friday night, minding my own business, and Mike turns to me:

"Star, Roger Petersen just called and said the speaker for the SVCB (Silicon Valley Council of the Blind) meeting tomorrow just cancelled because she is sick. He wants to know if you can conduct the meeting by leading us in some songs."

I giggle, and say, "Sure. Tell him it will be ad lib, but I'd be happy to. Always glad for a chance to sing with a group."

Recently, I had sent my thirty-five pages of old time songs to a friend in SVCB. She plays in the "Ye Olde Towne Band" at local parks during the summer. I told her I had been feeling a great need for some good old fashioned fun recently, and so had entered these songs in a file. I thought she might be interested. She forwarded them on to Roger, the program chairman for the SVCB. Now he calls, asking me to conduct a singing session. Unbelievable! I haven't sung in public in almost twenty years! But I can, and I did.

I never attend the meetings unless they ask me to teach sign language after the meetings close, but I have been to their annual summer and Christmas parties for many years. This time I attended the whole meeting.

Since Mike sets up and manages the sound system, I went early with him. As people were gathering I enjoyed listening to their chit chat.

The meeting room is a dining hall at the Monte Vista Terrace Apartments in Mountain View. As people gather they take a cup of coffee, then find their way to one of the tables where groups gather. I almost laughed at one woman who, after talking a while, stood up and said, "I need to re-fill my cup, but first, what was that you just said?" She stood there, chatting for almost fifteen minutes, empty cup in hand, breaking her sentences with "got to get more coffee" several times, not quite able to pull herself away from the conversation.

What a happy group they are! Dawn is partially sighted. She is always there, setting things up. She and Naomi make the coffee and direct others who help organize things and arrange tables for the speakers. Allen Jones has enough vision to greet members with his delightful welcome. Charlie Stein is still adjusting to his vision loss as a result of a motorcycle accident, but never stops smiling as he stands just inside the door, listening to the gathering crowd.

After the meeting was started and welcomes said, Roger announced:

"Star Keithley has graciously agreed to fill in for the speaker, who is sick. Star will give us a brief background and then lead us in some songs."

I was on. Talk about ad lib! That I did. I sketched my life, backwards:

"Hi, I'm Mike Keithley's wife. I met Mike about twenty years ago while working at Hewlett- Packard, where we both worked. I was working as a computer-support person. During my lunch hours I voluntarily taught Sign Language. Mike came into the first session of my seventh class saying 'I've been blind since birth and am losing my hearing. Can I take your class?' His radiant smile won my heart. I had never interpreted for a blind person before, but I took his hand without fear or trepidation and signed 'Hi.' I was in love.

"Before that I had been married and raised five children. I went camping with my children often and we all sang together. My oldest daughter majored in music. One of her sons is a musician. My oldest son now plays guitar with his two sons.

"Before that, before I was born, my parents had met in the Seattle Civic Light Opera where Daddy sang solo and Mother sang in the chorus. So I grew up singing.

"Recently I have been concerned at the lack of singing as groups in families and communities. Because of that concern I decided to create a file of songs I used to know and sing with my parents as a child. Later I sang those same songs with my children and in community centers. I sent that file of songs to my children. My youngest daughter was delighted. She is just now starting in Girl Scouts with her daughter and wants to bring singing into their troop. Then I sent the file to Dawn, and here I am!

"Now, I hope you will join me in singing."

I had gone through my book of songs before the meeting and put Post-Its on songs I thought the group would know. I asked:

"Do you know 'All Through the Night'?"

Almost no one knew that. I suggested some more songs that only a few people knew. Then I said, "Can someone suggest a song you think the group will know."

The show was on! We spent the next hour and a half singing. What smiles! Often, after we'd finish a song, someone in the group would say, "I almost forgot that song." Watching the members' faces as they were lulled back into that dream world was truly rewarding.

After the meeting many of the members came up to thank me. Some said they had tried to sing with their children but found that young people just don't sing together anymore.

The next day Roger emailed me a thank you. I replied, telling him again about my concern that the good old fun times are being lost and forgotten in our modern rush-rush world. He told me that recently people have been going into convalescent homes for seniors and singing with them. They are finding this is bringing many people out of their reclusive, depressed states.

Thank goodness! Maybe good old simple fun and music are coming back. I sure hope so. I know singing with the SVCB was truly a joy for me.

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by Dawn Wilcox, BSN RN Listen to EYE RESEARCH EXCERPTS 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).]

Bionic Eye

A "bionic eye" may hold the key to returning sight to people left blind by a hereditary disease, experts believe. A team at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital has carried out the treatment as part of a clinical study. The artificial eye, connected to a camera on a pair of glasses, has been developed by US firm Second Sight. It said the technique may be able to restore a basic level of vision, but experts warned it was still early days. The trial aims to help people who have been made blind through RP.

Lyndon da Cruz, the eye surgeon, said: "The devices were implanted successfully in both patients and they are recovering well from the operations." Other patients across Europe and the US have also been involved in the trial. Electronically, the bionic eye, known as Argus II, works via the camera which transmits a wireless signal to an ultra-thin electronic receiver and electrode panel that are implanted in the eye and attached to the retina. The electrodes stimulate the remaining retinal nerves allowing a signal to be passed along the optic nerve to the brain. --BBC, 2008/04/21

Gene Therapy Treats Blindness

Two separate teams have published reports of successful gene therapy trials for a type of Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare inherited form of blindness. These patients have a genetic defect that affects the development of the light receptors in their eyes; typically they have poor vision at birth and are blind within three decades. Some 3,000 people are thought to be affected in the US.

In one study, at the University of Pennsylvania, three patients received the treatment and all showed some improvements in vision: they went from being able to detect hand movements to being able to read lines on an eye chart. The other study, at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital, also treated three patients and were able to help an 18-year-old man, who had extremely limited vision in poor light conditions. This despite the fact that the trial's primary aim was to assess the safety of the therapy and not its clinical effects.

How does it work? The idea of this type of gene therapy is to insert a normal copy of a gene into cells that have a faulty or missing version, restoring the cells' normal function. In the type of LCA these groups studied, a gene called RPE65 is mutated, making light- sensitive cells in the eye unable to capture light and transmit information about it to the brain. In the new studies, both groups got the RPE65 gene into the retina by packaging it inside a harmless virus and then injecting this virus into the eye. When the virus "infects" retinal cells, the gene is transferred and can theoretically start functioning normally. This should allow the right proteins to be made for functioning photoreceptors, providing that the retinal cells are still alive for the gene to be active within.

--Nature News, 28 April 2008

Treatment May Prevent Recurrence of Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

The latest therapies for wet AMD treatments such as Lucentis, Macugen and Avastin are administered every four to six weeks to stop hemorrhaging underneath the retina that causes sudden and significant vision loss. While these therapies are often effective, the bleeding usually returns after the treatments are stopped, and the patient must be retreated.

A phase III clinical study (COBALT trial) will evaluate whether bevasiranib, as a follow-up therapy, effectively stops recurrent bleeding under the retina. Bevasiranib works by halting the production of a protein known as Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) that causes the hemorrhaging associated with wet AMD. Bevasiranib will not clear up the VEGF that's already been produced nor will it replace treatments such as Lucentis that are effective in "mopping up" the bleeding that's already occurred. However, it looks promising in preventing recurrence of wet AMD and doing so with a minimum of treatments. --Foundation Fighting Blindness, 4/29/08.

Research on Mice to Restore Vision

Blind mice have been made to sense light by inserting a protein derived from algae into their eyes. A similar method could one day be used to treat certain forms of blindness in humans, researchers hope. The light-sensitive protein, called channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), is used by algae to sense light for photosynthesis. Some researchers are interested in using these light-sensitive proteins to replace damaged or missing photoreceptors in animals' eyes. This happens in several human conditions, including the late stages of AMD. At present, there are no cures for such patients, though treatments, including gene therapy and laser surgery, are being tested.

The algae protein has been used by neuroscientists to make "light switches" that turn neurons of interest on and off in lab animals. But its use as a therapy against blindness is in very early stages. A research team in Switzerland worked with mice that were entirely missing photoreceptors in their eyes. The team used a harmless virus to carry the protein into the mice's bipolar cells. The protein ended up in only about 7% of the cells this way, but that was enough for light signals to be transmitted to the next layer of the retina--the ganglion cells--and eventually the brain, determined through studies of brain activity.

While untreated mice didn't respond to light at all, treated mice kept in the dark jumped into action when a bright light was turned on. The team tested vision by showing the mice a series of moving stripes and observing if they could follow them. The treated mice were better than untreated animals, but "you can't ask the mouse."

The team is already setting up a collaboration with other clinical groups to develop the technique for people. But it's likely to be a last-chance treatment. "The method should only be used if there's absolutely no vision left," they say.

Diabetic Retinopathy Strongly Associated With Coronary Artery Calcium

Results of a study reveal a "rather striking" association between diabetic retinopathy, particularly proliferative diabetic retinopathy (DR), and the presence and extent of coronary artery calcium (CAC), a reliable indicator of atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of arteries), researchers report.

"If confirmed in other studies, identifying T2DM patients with proliferative DR may help ascertain who is at uniquely high risk for clinical cardiovascular disease."

From the data of 204 T2 diabetics; mean duration of DM 12.3 years: The median CAC score was 197 in subjects with no retinopathy, 364 in those with mild nonproliferative DR-- but 981 in individuals with proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

"These data indicate an important relationship between retinopathy and extent of CAC and suggest the potential to identify and treat shared risk factors for these common micro- and macro-vascular complications." Diabetes Care, 2008:31

High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels

Not only are high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels risk factors for cardiovascular disease, they also appear to increase the risk of patients developing retinal vein occlusion (RVO), a common form of retinal vascular disease that causes vision loss, according to the results of a new meta-analysis.

Analysis of 21 studies involving 2916 people with RVO suggest that those with hypertension (HTN) had a 3.5-fold greater risk of having retinal vein occlusion than those with normal BP levels, while those with elevated cholesterol levels had a 2.5-fold greater risk. The data were pooled to estimate the percentage of retinal vein occlusion that could be attributed to hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). Nearly 50% of disease was attributed to hypertension, 20% to high cholesterol levels, and 5% to diabetes mellitus. If causal, write the authors, this would mean that treatment of these diseases might be important in the primary and secondary prevention of retinal vein occlusion, in addition to the prevention of heart disease and stroke.

"Accordingly, we recommend that an assessment of bBP and both fasting lipid and glucose levels be routinely performed in adults with any form of retinal vein occlusion." --Arch Ophthalmol, 2008:126

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compiled by Louis Preston Listen to THE BULLETIN BOARD compiled by Louis Preston

Being Part of the Future

A new local adaptive technology research and development company is seeking a few individuals who would be willing to be part of an initial survey and review of new services and products designed specifically for the blind and visually impaired. There is no cost to the user. However, the first pool of candidates needs to own a desktop or laptop computer with DSL or cable Internet connectivity. Interested persons can contact Kenneth Frasse at eyeemote@gmail.com or by calling 650-450-3333.

Wamu Accessibility

Washington Mutual offers several services to help its print disabled customers. Upon request financial center employees and customer service representatives can assist in reading bank documents, account statements, notices, disclosures, and loan documents. The bank also offers guideline checks for the vision impaired for the same price as standard checks. The size leaves plenty of room for writing and the embossed guidelines are easily felt. Copies of Wamu print materials are provided free of charge in formats that are accessible to customers who are visually impaired. Washington Mutual talking ATMs allow customers with visual impairments independent access to eligible account balances for accounts linked to ATM and check cards. You may request a free headset. For help with any accessibility options contact customer service at 800-788-7000 or 800-841-4713 (TTD).

Blindness and Family

Candle in the Window, a small national nonprofit organization with the aim of building both individual skills and a sense of community among people with visual impairments, welcomes blind people with varied experiences to join its 21st annual conference titled Family Matters: The Roles of Blindness in Family Life. The conference aims to address such questions as what influences continue to shape our approach to blindness; what factors culture the blindness system etc.; what factors influence our families' attitude toward blindness and how do they respond, what differences, if any, exist between family relations of those who grew up while blind compare to those who became blind later in life; how we negotiate dependence/independence issues in current family relationships. In addition, there will be provocative presentations and stimulating discussions. There will be plenty of time for hiking, eating, singing, quiet reflection, and just hanging out.

The conference will take place from Wednesday, September 10 through Sunday, September 14 at Wooded Glen, a retreat center located in Henryville, Indiana outside of Louisville, Kentucky. Contact Becky Barnes at 914-243-2210 or beckyb@cloud9.net, or Donna Pomerantz 626-844-4388 or dmpomerantz@earthlink.net.

Dialing the Good Book

Bible by Phone is a service that operates via voice commands. Callers can even listen to specific verses. Call 949-579-2455.

New Web Community Brings Together Parents of Visually Impaired Children

FamilyConnect is an online, multimedia community for parents and guardians of children with visual impairments recently created by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI).

Located at www.familyconnect.org, FamilyConnect gives parents access to message boards where they can talk to other parents, compelling videos featuring real-life families, parenting articles, a mom-authored blog, a glossary of more than 30 eye conditions and links to local resources. The site also features sections dedicated to multiple disabilities, technology, education and every age group from infants to teens.

In addition to joining a community of parents, visitors to FamilyConnect can create a personal profile and receive news and event information based on their child's age, eye condition and location. Families can also find articles written by parents and professionals on various topics.

In designing this website, AFB and NAPVI partnered with leading national organizations and hundreds of local agencies that serve children who are visually impaired to keep FamilyConnect content complete and up to date. They also solicited input from families across the country.

"Our family is truly amazed at what we've seen of the site," said Jen and Bill O'Neill of Nebraska, whose 3-year-old daughter Camille has Retinopathy of Prematurity. "Wow! Thank you all for the insight to see that this is something that is so needed for families who are facing and overcoming the diagnosis of visual impairment."

Representative Payee

The American Council of the Blind's class action lawsuit seeking to require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide reasonable accommodations to blind and visually impaired individuals encompasses SSA applicants, beneficiaries, recipients and representative payees in communications. To proceed as a class action, we must include as plaintiffs actual people who fall into each of these categories.

Recently, our plaintiff representative payee suffered the loss of her husband for whom she was acting as the representative. The SSA has now filed a motion challenging our right to act on behalf of blind or visually impaired representative payees since our named plaintiff is technically no longer in this status. We believe and argue that this is wrong, but we must also be prepared to add someone now acting as a representative payee to the lawsuit if the court requires it.

If you are a visually impaired representative payee and interested or willing to become a representative payee plaintiff, contact Wondie Russell to learn what is entailed in acting as a plaintiff. All of the attorneys representing ACB and the individuals are acting pro bono; and plaintiffs will incur no legal fees, costs or other personal expenses.

Wondie Russell, Attorney, Heller Ehrman LLP; 333 Bush Street; San Francisco, CA 94104. Phone: 415-772-6294, fax: 415-772-6268. email: wondie.russell@hellerehrman.com, web: www.hellerehrman.com.

Sutter Health to Increase Accessibility as Result of Settlement

The law firms of Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian and Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) have announced a class action settlement reached with Sutter Health to remedy a range of access barriers for persons with mobility, visual, hearing and speech disabilities in Sutter hospitals, medical foundations and clinics throughout northern California.

The settlement in the case entitled Olson, et al. v. Sutter Health, et al., Case No. RG06- 302354, Superior Court of Alameda County, provides that Sutter will (1) identify and remove architectural barriers at its facilities; (2) provide auxiliary aids and services necessary to ensure effective communication, such as sign language interpreters and written documents in alternative formats such as braille, large print and audio; (3) provide accessible medical equipment for persons with physical disabilities; and (4) enhance Sutter Health policies, practices, procedures and staff training programs to ensure that patients and visitors with disabilities receive equal access to Sutter's facilities, equipment, programs and services.

The court preliminarily approved the settlement on April 28, 2008, and will hold a final approval hearing on July 11, 2008. A copy of both the Notice of Proposed Class Action Settlement and the Consent Decree containing the terms of the settlement are available on the Goldstein Demchak website at www.gdblegal.com, on the DRA website at www.dralegal.org, or by calling Damon Valdez of Goldstein Demchak at 866-723-1494.

World Visions to Return to the Audio Network--Looking for People Interested in Developing New Venture

Hi all: Those of you who have long memories of the Audio Network will remember a section called "World Visions."

The concept behind the World Visions site was to offer everybody the ability to record their thoughts in an audio web log, place it where people could listen and comment, and bring the online blind community together regardless of distance, where it can share experiences.

World Visions made quite an impact originally, but was very limited by my knowledge of the more sophisticated systems needed to truly develop the concept.

Well, a few years down the line, I believe I now have the technical know-how, and I am planning to re-introduce World Visions!

I am looking for people who are interested in helping me test and develop the system over the next few months, who are interested in recording and commenting, and helping me get the web pages and back end systems ready for opening the doors to anybody who would like to use the site.

You don't need to be a programmer, or have any web skills. All you need is the ability to record an mp3 file, and eagerness to help test the systems out!

If you are interested in helping, please let me know as soon as possible using this address: bill@pressakey.net, and I will let you know more details.


The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) is gathering information on how people with disabilities use the Internet, and most importantly, what barriers they face online. CETF plans to use this information to fund projects that will create awareness of accessibility barriers on the Internet. The survey takes only 5 to 10 minutes to complete, and Californians who complete the survey are eligible for a cash prize. To take the survey, or to read more about it, go to http://www.cforat.org/main_page/Survey.htm.

Label It!, Braille & Audio Strategies for Identifying Items at Home & Work, by Judith M. Dixon, in braille and PortaBook, $10

Imagine for a moment that nothing in your house is labeled in braille. Or maybe you don't have to imagine it! Do you reach in the fridge for some OJ and grab the milk carton instead? Ever sprinkle some cinnamon on your French toast--but it's cayenne pepper instead? And are you wearing your new maroon silk blouse, or the one with the plaid pattern that clashes with almost every skirt you own? These examples may be extreme, but think about it--are you expending more mental energy on identifying things than you would like?

In Label It!, author Judy Dixon sorts through the labeling strategies that she and her friends have used through the years and identifies the very best ideas and tips. Focusing primarily on labeling with braille, Judy covers all the bases: clothing and accessories, medications, food containers, appliances, and a hodgepodge of other items, from postage stamps to chargers and cables. She also discusses what to do when you can't label something, and tricks to employ when you're out and about and nothing is labeled . An extensive resource list at the back covers labeling materials and products. This is the most useful book you'll buy all year!

Check out the table of contents at http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/LABELIT.html. To order any books, send payment to: NBP, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115-4302 Or call and charge it: toll-free 800-548-7323 or 617-266-6160 ext 20. You also order any of our books online at www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html.

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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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