Legislative updates are available after hours on the CCB toll free line:
800-221-6359 or on the web: at www.ccbnet.org.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Please send all address changes to the Executive Office.
In accepting material for THE BLIND CALIFORNIAN, priority will be given to articles concerning the activities and policies of the California Council of theBlind and to the experiences and concerns of blind persons. Recommended length is under three pages or 1800 words.
The deadline to submit material for the spring, 2009 issue of THE BLIND CALIFORNIAN is noon, March 1.
The fact that I, and everyone else who is blind or visually impaired, cannot tell the difference between denominations of paper money is both frustrating and amusing. Usually I manage OK, carefully taking note of how much an item is and mentally subtracting that sum from what I'm paying. Since I then know what to expect, I can file bills in their proper places. But this isn't foolproof.
One time I went to the Vista Center in Palo Alto. I wasn't sure I was going until I finally did, so I didn't arrange for an Outreach ride; I took a taxi.
I ordered the cab, got my things together, went outside to wait, the car arrived, and I got in. My hearing impairment often makes it hard to understand accents, and sometimes communications can be really rough, especially with fast-talkers.
Jabber jabber! Oh dear, here we go! Not really a problem--I just spoke the address and hoped for the best. I remembered that I had a 20 and a 5 at easy reach, so I got them ready--the five atop the twenty, folded in my pocket.
After a time I asked where we were. Jabber jabber--that was a mistake. The fellow was having an obviously good time on his cellphone, maybe he was talking to his girlfriend at 300 words a minute. I knew he wasn't speaking Spanish, maybe it was Hindi.
We finally arrived at the center, the driver got out, opened and closed the front door (he must have been nervous) and opened the back where I was, and I got out myself.
"How much?" I asked. Jabber jabber, but I thought I heard "twenty three." I had 25 in hand, so I felt in good shape.
I gave him the money and heard incomprehension. Now what's the trouble? I told him that's $25, and he can keep the change. More words and the driver gives me back the two bills. Hmmm! I tried to give them back, but he won't take them. I then noticed that he'd walked away, so I put the bills in my pocket and walked to the center.
So what happened? When I got home my wife told me they were two ones. So was it all my fault and I tried to give the driver two ones thinking they were a 20 and a 5? Did the driver feel insulted about "keeping the change" and therefore give it back to me? And if I'd short-changed the driver, should I call the cab company and possibly get mired down with hard-to-understand people?
My, my! I started this journey without any questions and returned with a bundle of them. If I could tell the difference between my bills, many would have been answered.
And now for some housekeeping! I have received several letters stating that the website URL for the Windows-based braille translator, mentioned in the article "21st Century Cooking" (fall, 2008 BC) is incorrect--it accesses a Viagra store.
My research suggests that this is indeed true, that store has hijacked the wintran-bt.org site, and there is no remedy at this time. Somebody thinks Viagra and braille mix!
But the braille translator, for which the Windows software is simply an interface, is still available at www.nfb.org/nfb/nfbtrans.asp. However, this is MS-DOS software, and you'd have to be familiar with it to use it effectively.Return to the Table of Contents
By the time you read this, the holidays, and all that they entail, will be behind us. We'll have begun the new year, and that is quite often a time for reflection. What will the year ahead mean, what new challenges will we face, and how can we improve upon the year that we've left behind? As members of CCB, and thus people who care deeply about the lives of those with visual impairments, one of the things that we need to reflect upon is the future of this organization, and what we as an organization, and each one of us as individuals, can do to help make CCB even a better organization than it is today.
Some of the challenges we face are due to external circumstances and others are internal ones. The recession, which is far too neutral and mild a term, has certainly impacted CCB. Like almost all nonprofits, it has, of course, greatly impacted our reserves due to the sharp drop in the stock market, and to some extent our ability to raise funds. Of even greater importance, it has cost some jobs and made it far more difficult for those of us who are looking for employment to find it. Moreover, California's economic downturn, which is more severe than in most states, has created a state budgetary situation that has already led to cuts in many programs that affect the lives of blind and visually impaired persons, and that could lead to cuts in SSI benefits.
As an organization, we pride ourselves on our advocacy efforts. It is at times of extreme challenge, such as we will be facing in 2009, that it is most incumbent upon us to show the stuff we're made of. We may well be fighting at the local, state, and national levels just to maintain programs at their current levels, sometimes with the help of many allies and sometimes not. It will be critical that when you hear a call for action from a chapter president, a Governmental Affairs Committee representative, or from the sate or national leadership, you heed that call. After all, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and only with your efforts can we be that wheel. In addition, if you think that you aren't receiving enough information about something of local, state or national significance, do all that you can to obtain that information, both by holding your leaders accountable for supplying the information and by doing what can on your own to obtain it. How many of us have complained about paratransit services but have never, or almost never, attended a paratransit meeting?
Another way in which you can help to improve this organization, and learn a great deal into the bargain, is to become a member of a chapter or statewide committee. I will speak from the statewide perspective, but much of what will be said is applicable to many of our local chapters. If you are not aware of the many state committees that CCB has, either from the Connection or from other sources, you may always call or email the CCB office. If you think that your interests and abilities would benefit a specific committee, contact me or the committee chair. We can never have enough hard-working committee members, and new members often bring new ideas that are so important to the functioning of every committee. I can't promise to appoint every person to the committee they'd like, but I will certainly do my best and, in turn, I would expect you to commit to do your best to work on behalf of your committee.
I do not intend to spend much time in this column on fund-raising. Suffice it to say, however, that in these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever that we have the help of every CCB member in our fund-raising efforts. In achieving this, it is most important that we seek ways of raising funds not from our own members, of whom we ask a great deal as it is, but from other sources. Keep informed about what we are doing, add your ideas to the mix and help in any way that you can.
Fund-raising, committee work and advocacy are all important in developing local and state leaders. Succession planning has become the popular name for development of the future leaders of an organization. In January, I will be beginning my last term as your president, and there is nobody who can be any happier about this than me. I say this not because it isn't an honor to serve at the head of this fine organization, but because new leaders and their ideas ensure that an organization does not stagnate and can change with the times. In fact, one of the challenges that I face during this term is to maintain both the energy and the openness to new ideas that will allow us to flourish. I encourage those of you who are in local leadership positions not only to consider taking on leadership positions at the state level, but to work with those in your chapters to groom our future leaders. Those of you who want to take on more of a leadership role, let your local or state leaders know.
Let me end this column on a very bittersweet note. As most of you know, CCB has been extremely blessed to have had a skilled and committed Director of Governmental Affairs, Dan Kysor, for almost a decade. Dan has now moved on to take a position with Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada. Our loss is certainly the State Assembly's gain, and we wish Dan the same success in his new endeavor that he had with CCB. And speaking of challenges, Dan's replacement will need the same support from CCB members that helped to make Dan's tenure so successful.
So the year ahead promises to be an exciting one. As we know, every challenge presents an opportunity, and together we will continue to seize our opportunities, and make CCB the best that it can be.Return to the Table of Contents
Dear ACB Members and Friends,
As part of the historic agreement negotiated by ACB, The California Council of the Blind (CCB) and several blind individuals, free annual credit reports, available through www.annualcreditreport.com, are now designed to be accessible to blind consumers. Each person is entitled to one free report each year from each of three different credit-reporting companies. By the end of December, 2008, these companies will also be providing the free reports in braille, large print, and audio formats.
ACB and CCB used Structured Negotiations to reach the landmark agreement with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
To access your free on-line credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com. After selecting your state and requesting your report, you will be taken to a form that must be filled out. At the end of the form there is a security feature (known as a Captcha) as well as an alternative request page for blind and visually impaired consumers who cannot see the characters that need to be entered into the box. Unlike some on-line audio Captchas that are difficult to understand, the security feature on the credit report site includes a phone number to call that clearly provides you with the code you need to enter into the form. These security features are designed to help companies make sure that you are a real person, and not a computer. The credit reporting companies have worked hard over the past several months to make the Captcha on this site an accessible one. When you have completed the form and the security feature, you will be asked to select which of the three companies you want to receive your report from.
There will be a small number of people who will be unable to obtain their report on-line because of the need for additional authentication. This happens with sighted people and has nothing to do with visual impairment. If this happens to you, and you are unable to get your report, please contact our lawyers using the information below. If you have other difficulties obtaining your report, please contact them as well. The companies are working closely with ACB and its lawyers to make sure the reports are accessible and the process is as usable as possible. If problems occur we will try to resolve them as soon as possible.
Feedback can be sent to our lawyers, Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian, by emailing LF@LFLegal.com, or calling 510-548-5062. Please keep this information for future reference and share it with other blind or visually impaired people you know.Return to the Table of Contents
[From the SVCB In Touch newsletter, November, 2008]
Blind Babies Foundation is Looking for You!
Blind Babies Foundation is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2009 with numerous events throughout the year. We very much want to include all of our alumni and their parents in these events. It just doesn't seem right to celebrate and not include the reasons for our existence, our families past and present, in the festivities. Also, we are really curious as to what has happened to our "babies" and their families during the past 60 years.
We need to hear from you if you were a BBF client, family, relative, or know where any of our graduates and their families are presently located. Please contact Michael McFarland at Blind Babies Foundation, 1814 Franklin Street, 11th Floor, Oakland, CA 94612; 510-446-2229; email@example.com. Return to the Table of Contents
[Taken from the acb-l mailing list.]
We are writing to you with some very exciting news. Today, 57 years after the launch of the original Perkins Brailler, we are introducing the NEW Next Generation Perkins Brailler®. Initially the Next Generation model will be for sale only in the United States and only through American Printing House for the Blind or Perkins Products.
The Next Generation Perkins Brailler retains all of the features that made the Classic Perkins Brailler the most widely used braille writer in the world, plus incorporates new features users have been asking for.
The Next Generation Perkins Brailler is: more portable due to its lighter weight and smaller size, more comfortable to use with a shorter keystroke and less force required, and quieter.
New features and improvements in the Next Generation Perkins Brailler include: easy-erase button so you can correct mistakes while brailling, reading rest so you can proofread the page with ease, front panel margin guides so you don't have to reach around the back, "greener" construction through the use of less oil and manufactured materials, modern colors and a sleek, new design.
This brailler was developed with support from the American Printing House for the Blind. In recognition of this, braillers sold in the United States for the first six months may be ordered exclusively through APH (800-223-1839) or Perkins Products (617-972-7308) and will be available only in APH Blue. In April 2009, the new brailler will be available through our resellers in the United States.
We are planning the international launch of the Next Generation Perkins Brailler for early 2009. At that time we will make available a list of international resellers who will be selling the Next Generation Perkins Brailler.
We invite you to visit perkinsbrailler.org to learn more about the new brailler and the enhancements we have made. Also, listen to and download the Next Generation song, written by Raul Midón for the Next Generation Perkins Brailler.
All of us at Perkins are truly committed to braille literacy and we are honored to support children and adults in learning and using braille in their daily lives. After working diligently on the reengineering of the Perkins Brailler for two years, we are excited to offer the Next Generation Perkins Brailler and look forward to hearing from you.
Steven M. Rothstein, President, Perkins School for the Blind, steven.Rothstein@Perkins.org.
David Morgan, General Manager, Perkins Products, david.morgan@Perkins.org.Return to the Table of Contents
Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) has filed a class action lawsuit against Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) to remedy access barriers encountered by people with mobility and sensory disabilities.
The suit covers a number of parks and landmarks, and addresses two major issues: physical access and access to programs, services and activities.
Physical access includes access to buildings and structures such as exhibits, monuments or visitor center/museum, picnic areas, trails, campsites, park entrances, parking, paths of travel, restrooms, telephones, or drinking fountains and signage.
Access to programs, services and activities includes bicycling, boating, exhibits/interpretive programs, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, educational programs or events.
If you have encountered such barriers, contact Sara Asrat at DRA at 510-665-8644, ext. 173 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. TTY users may call 510-665-8716.Return to the Table of Contents
My journey to the convention got off to a great start and set the tone for the rest of the trip. Either airport security is becoming more efficient or I'm learning the ropes. Either way, I sped right through. Then, while waiting at the gate, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Elmer Chapson. We enjoyed discussing CCB and CSB history on our way to the Four Points Sheraton hotel. Elmer attended his first convention in 1951, the year I was born.
One of the joys of attending CCB conventions is walking into the hotel lobby to hear the familiar voices of other CCB conventioneers. One problem with arriving Thursday morning is that rooms aren't available for check-in until mid-to-late afternoon.
I attended the afternoon joint session of the Technology committee and the Rehabilitation Services committee. It began with an in-depth presentation by Mike May, president of Sendero Group, concerning portable GPS navigation systems for the blind. Now you can even get GPS navigation on a cell phone. Sendero group, in conjunction with Code Factory, offer Mobile Geo which runs on Windows Smart Phones or Pocket PDA devices. The next presentation was a panel on rehabilitation services. Ed Crespin and Tricia Leetz discussed their experiences as rehabilitation counselors. Ed emphasized the importance of having specific goals and being well prepared before meeting with the counselor. Tricia discussed the question of who should provide the access technology, rehab or the employer. Ideally, everything should be in place on the client's first work day. The third presentation was from the Assistive Technology Center, based in Sacramento, which is the distributor of an innovative new product called MobilEyes. It's an Optical Character Recognition device, an organizer, media player, notes recorder, magnification device, barcode reader, and more.
Next, I attended the Braille Revival League of California board meeting to perform my secretarial duties. I did not attend the CCB board meeting due to a prior personal commitment.
My first order of business on Friday morning was to chair the Credentials Committee. Then it was on to the Braille Revival League membership meeting. There was lots of enthusiasm about the Braille Challenge contest sponsored by the Braille Institute. After the business meeting adjourned, Debbie Barry, Joanie Patche, Dan Kysor, and Frank Welte each explained how they use Braille to perform their various job tasks. Their presentation was a testimonial to the flexibility of Braille.
The speaker at the California Library Users of America luncheon was Brian Albriton from the Braille Institute library. He discussed services available to patrons with internet access. The digital talking book download service continues to be very popular. Braille Institute Library patrons can now order their books online. I didn't find that option on the Braille and Talking Book Library website. Another source of audio books is a library called "unabridged". You can obtain an application for it online from the Braille and Talking Book library. Their website is www.library.ca.gov/services/btbl.html.
The first speaker at the Friday afternoon general session was John Benison, Manager, Equal Employment Opportunity Consulting Group, Office of Civil Rights, Federal Aviation Administration. His speech concerned the Air Carrier Access Act, and FAA Initiatives to Create Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities. Mr. Benison is legally blind and his job requires lots of travel. It was obvious from the way Mr. Benison spoke that he is passionate about his work. Becoming a model employer of persons with targeted disabilities is a goal of the FAA. Legal blindness is a targeted disability. New regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act are coming out next year which will improve its provisions, including prohibition of charging a higher price for blind people ordering tickets by phone vs. online.
The next topic was a "Progress Report from the California Audio Describers' Alliance", presented by Teri Grossman, Audio Describer, Audio Description Los Angeles. Teri spoke about efforts to standardize methods for audio description and to spread its availability throughout California and beyond.
The Friday afternoon session also featured "Avoiding the Impact: Safety Concerns with the Audibility of Hybrid Cars", Dr. Lawrence D. Rosenblum, Professor, University of California, Riverside; "Recent Updates and Resources from the Disability Rights Legal Center" (disabilityrightslegalcenter.org, 866-999-3752), Paula Pearlman, Executive Director, Disability Rights Legal Center, Loyola Law School; and the "Announcement of the Introduction of a New Internet Reading Service for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Have Other Print Disabilities" (airsla.org, 818-705-6434), Max Flehinger, Executive Director, Audio Internet Reading Service of Los Angeles.
The Friday evening general session was chaired by Gabe Griffith. The first topic was "Accessible Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the Paradigm Shift: The United Nations Treaty or Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities", Cynthia D. Waddell, Executive Director, Law, Policy and Technology Consultant, and Subject Matter Expert, International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet. She is traveling the world working on the information technology aspects of implementing the UN Convention.
Next up was the ACB report, given by its president, Mitch Pomerantz. Mitch described his presidential duties as falling into three categories: overseeing the work of the Executive Director and office staff, monitoring internal organizational matters, and facilitating working relationships with outside entities. He said that he plans to retire from his "day job" as ADA coordinator for the city of Los Angeles after 34 years of working for the city to give his full attention to the presidency of ACB.
Regarding accessible currency, the favorable judgment was a great victory that can be credited to the efforts of ACB, and Mitch assured us that in time we will have accessible currency. In addition, ACB has every expectation of winning its lawsuit against the Social Security Administration to require that SSA information be provided in accessible formats.
The legislation concerning telecommunications and pedestrian safety has failed thus far, but there is still hope. The digital talking book program did not receive its desired level of funding in spite of unanimous support throughout the blind community.
The Minneapolis office moved to the Twin City Suburbs in August, and the D.C. office will move to Arlington, Virginia around the first of the year.
Mitch has made several changes to key ACB committees to facilitate their effectiveness. He schedules 90-minute time slots every six weeks or so to encourage members to contact him with their concerns, ideas and suggestions. He is working hard to overcome the dominant position that the NFB has maintained for so long.
The rest of the evening was taken up by Jeff Thom's CCB Presidential Report, Dan Kysor's legislative report and a little matter of elections.
The Membership Committee breakfast was held Saturday morning. I thought the speaker had some good ideas, but her presentation would have been more relevant for a larger, better-funded organization.
The Saturday afternoon general session was chaired by Chris Gray. The first topic was "Financial planning and asset building opportunities for people with disabilities", Thomas Foley, J.D., Program Manager: Access to Assets, World Institute on Disability. His email address is email@example.com. The whole point around Access to Assets is changing the economic expectation for people with disabilities. There are ways around the economic disincentives built into SSI, SSDI, and other benefits programs.
The poverty rate for people with disabilities is double that of any other minority. Nationwide, only 30 to 35 percent of the disabled have bank accounts, and only twelve percent have savings accounts. The first step is to establish a relationship with a financial institution. The IRS has an organization called Strategic Partners in Education and Communication (SPEC). It's an important educational and employment resource for the disabled. For example, the earned income tax credit for 2008 is $420. Add the 2008 $600 stimulus check, and someone could establish a checking account with that money to save the check cashing fees they formerly paid.
An Individual Development Account (IDA) is basically a matched savings account. Benefit recipients should choose one that is federally funded under the American Financial Independence Act (AFIA) to shelter earned income. Account holders must specify a savings goal such as buying a home, planning for college or establishing a small business. In Oakland and San Francisco, there are first-time home buyer programs offering a $50,000 incentive. Section 8 vouchers can be used to pay a mortgage. A 4% fixed-rate, thirty-year mortgage is available to disabled Californians who are purchasing their first home.
The next topic was "The Hope of Stem Cell Progress for Heart, Vision and Other Diseases", Christian Wilde, Author/ Researcher. His newest book "Miracle Stem Cell Heart Repair" presents cases showing how stem cells can regenerate both muscles and nerves. Research is fifteen to twenty years ahead of standard medical practice. The book has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading medical professionals.
Brandy Morgan from the Bakersfield chapter was the master of ceremonies at the banquet and became president of the Blind Students of California. I believe that she will attract students and turn that affiliate around. I'm glad the banquet didn't drag on for so long this year. Jessie Lorenz was certainly an inspirational speaker. Her talk reminded me of how much harm overly protective parents do without knowing it.
I've been attending CCB conventions since the early 1970s. This convention was one of the best. The topics were informative and the speakers were excellent. Even though many are facing difficult times economically, spirits were high and a friendly mood prevailed.
Bernice and I arrived at the Four Points on Wednesday and attended the Publications Committee's Writers' Seminar on Thursday morning. Though sparsely attended, the seminar was well presented by Cathy Schmitt Whitaker and Bonnie Rennie. It was designed to convince members of CCB that each one of us has a story and can write it for the Blind Californian.
I also went to the Technology and Rehabilitation Services Committees' seminar on Thursday afternoon and the BRLC Board meeting that evening. Then came the CCB board meeting, which is set up in a big room with the board sitting at the front, with room for a big audience. This meeting was mostly administrative and budgetary, with committee reports, etc. One highlight was the decision to go to Fresno for our Fall 2009 convention to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of CCB, which took place in Fresno. A new affiliate was also chartered, the Yosemite Gateway Chapter of Merced.
An interesting event which took place Friday morning, while Rob and I were at the BRLC meeting, was the joint session of the Committee on Access and Transportation (CAT) and the California Council of Citizens with Low Vision (CCCLV). The highlight of this meeting was a demonstration and discussion of the hazards of quiet vehicles. Guide Dogs of the Desert kindly provided a hybrid car and drove it past many blind people who had not experienced the lack of noise produced by such cars. Then they discussed how they use it in guide dog training.
At the Friday evening session, the credentials report was given, which technically seats the delegates to vote at the convention. The thing that struck me listening to the credentials report was how many chapters weren't there. It seems as if there are a lot of chapters that are not functioning very well and could use more loving concern from CCB. The election also occurred Friday evening, quite late. The president, first vice-president and treasurer were re-elected to their positions as were all board members who were eligible for re-election. Vincent Calderon was elected to the position vacated by Barbara Rhodes.
A few more words about the banquet Saturday evening are warranted. I presented a CCB Special Recognition Award to Senator Alan Lowenthal for sponsoring our "quiet car'" legislation, which passed both houses in the legislature only to be vetoed by the governor. Jessie Lorenz spoke about her participation in the Paralympics in Beijing, where she was a member of the gold medal goal ball team. I held her gold medal after the banquet.
Sunday morning's business session featured a relatively small number of resolutions and we actually got out early, allowing us to have a somewhat leisurely meal before leaving for the airport.
The "Welcome to Los Angeles" Party, the traditional Thursday afternoon social time, was hosted by the Orange County Chapter. The setting was conducive to relaxed conversation and for getting acquainted. The room was carpeted and spacious, with several round tables, background music, and refreshments.
At the Association for Multi-Cultural Concerns Luncheon, I was intrigued to hear from an employee from the California Department of Rehabilitation about one of its diversity initiatives. She described a current program designed to deliver Rehab services more effectively to a specific group, Native Americans living in Los Angeles. She said that there were positive results when staff first took the time to understand the meaning of certain behaviors in a culture, such as the direct and rapid asking of personal questions in order to fill out an intake form. By learning about the culture, and modifying the program, members of that culture were served better. As is usually the case with such discussions, I wished that there had been more time to explore the implications.
The CCB Women's Breakfast was clearly an idea whose time has come. A poll of attendees would probably reveal that it was the highlight of their convention experience. The fellowship was many wonderful things: positive, touching, exhilarating! Both Andrea Pitsenbarger and Christy Crispin are to be commended for their leadership in organizing this women's event and for their vision to address the desire for fellowship and encouragement for the women of CCB. The warmth and energy we felt as we left the meeting spoke our strong hope to do this again.Return to the Table of Contents
As many of you know, I am no longer employed by CCB, but now work in the California Assembly as Assemblymember Mariko Yamada's Senior Legislative Assistant. For the first totally blind person ever to take on such a position, the challenges are obvious. However, I am not particularly worried about meeting them, as having been around so many knowledgeable blind and visually impaired folks for so long within CCB has given me the confidence and technical expertise I need. I want to take some time here and thank each and every one of you for the honor and privilege of spearheading your advocacy programs for ten years.
There are so many fantastic memories, such as working with Gene Lozano so hard on the tactile sign bill in 1999 in what was, for several weeks, so intense a legislative process with the other stakeholders and opponents; and with determination and force of will, we in fact prevailed. Who can forget the battle to keep the Segway Human Transporter off our sidewalks; and unfortunately, we didn't win there.
I was truly honored to be the lead with Cathie Skivers on SB 105, and what a battle that was. Many of us recall a disability rights advocate who exclaimed that the blind were like rats jumping off a sinking ship. I am not sure which one of us retorted that. Although we didn't like being called rats, a sinking ship was exactly our point in introducing the Division for the Blind and Deaf legislation in the first place!
One of the highlights in my career with CCB was when the disability community was picketing the state attorney general relative to the Hasson case. This was a sovereign immunity case that the state was planning to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would have had disastrous ADA implications. However, I had a different approach to picketing. I knew the state AG, then Bill Lockyer, and got two other disability rights advocates and went into Lockyer's office bearing white flags. He absolutely loved this, and we were able to state our case to him in a calm, non-threatening manner. The Hasson case was settled out of the U.S. Supreme Court. Now I am not saying here that our meeting was the reason, but I'd like to think our visit had an impact. I could go on and on with these types of stories but the real impact on my work has been you, CCB members. Without your advocacy, letters and calls to your state representatives, I would not have been successful for CCB.
I want to take this moment to thank several individuals who played a prominent role in my training and who helped me in many ways. Firstly, I owe all of this to my buddy Kenneth Frasse who was one of the first to see the wisdom in establishing the CCB Governmental Affairs Director position. He did not believe that this vital advocacy position should be subsidized by an SSI check.
Catherine Skivers stood by me and supplied the wisdom that I sometimes lacked, or pulled me back when I was too headstrong; and I cannot quantify all that I have learned from Jeff Thom in the wordsmithing arena.
Another person who I would never forget in all that she taught me about writing and deadlines and correct copy was Winifred Downing when she was editor of the Blind Californian.
Mitch Pomerantz provided me with a truly great analytic mind and I always thought that if I can get this by Mitch we're OK!
Finally, thanks to all those late nights in the Resolutions Committee, which was probably the best training I could get for my current position.
I truly appreciated Ed Branch and Diana Sandall for their diligence. Diana and I used to really enjoy working on documents and letters together.
In closing, as a new person occupies my spot within CCB, I hope that all of you support his or her needs. You do not need me to tell you that times are going to be hard, and it is up to all of you to get involved and help this person help you succeed. This means chapters having governmental affairs committees and meeting your local and state representatives. This means making sure your chapters always send letters of support or opposition to issues that affect us as blind people. This means that your chapters need to send a delegate to the CCB Governmental Affairs meetings at the conventions, and make sure they are at the Governmental Affairs presentations at general sessions. For in the final analysis, the degree of our commitment becomes the strength of our voice.Return to the Table of Contents
As you are all aware, it is a challenge to meet the ongoing funding requirements that will enable us to continue providing the important services and programs that make CCB the outstanding consumer organization that it is. In this effort, we are seeking to encourage any of you, your family members, friends, and anyone you know, to sell items on eBay and donate a percentage of the proceeds to CCB. Below is an explanation of how you can donate to CCB through eBay sales. We urge you to share this information with anyone you know who might be interested in helping us.
EBay Giving Works is an easy, effective way to show your support for the California Council of the Blind. The next time you're buying or selling on eBay, please give it a try.
How it Works: Use eBay Giving Works to list items on eBay and donate 10 to 100% of your listing's final salesprice to CCB. It's an easy way to sell your unwanted items while helping us raise funds for our mission.
Enjoy the Benefits: Your listing will benefit from several unique program features that have been proven to attract more buyers and raise awareness of our cause, such as the eBay Giving Works ribbon and enhanced searchability. Plus your listings will automatically qualify for the eBay Giving Works Fee Credit Benefit and you'll receive a tax receipt for your donation.
Getting Started: When using eBay: 1. Click "Customize your listing." 2. Look for the "eBay Giving Works" field (Click "Add or Remove Options" if you don't see it) in the Sell Your Item form in the "Choose how you'd like to sell your item" area. 3. Choose "Select a new nonprofit." 4. In the pop-up window that appears, type "California Council of the Blind" in the "Nonprofit Name or Keyword" field. 5. Select California Council of the Blind and a percentage (10-100%) you wish to donate to us. Please note that there is a five dollar minimum donation if your item sells.
Shop to Show Your Support: You can also support CCB by shopping for items that are being sold in aid of CCB on eBay. Be sure to visit CCB's page at donations.ebay.com/charity/charity.jsp?NP_ID=28437, on a regular basis to see all the great listings benefiting CCB.Return to the Table of Contents
The Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI) will award three scholarships in the amount of $3,000 each to entering freshmen, undergraduate and graduate college students who are visually impaired, maintain a strong GPA and are involved in their school/local community.
Applications may be submitted beginning January 1, and all materials must be received by March 1. Scholarship monies will be awarded for the 2009-2010 academic year.
To read the scholarship guidelines and complete an online application, please visit www.cclvi.org/scholars.htm or call CCLVI toll free at 800-733-2258. Applications will be available to submit online until March 1 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. We look forward to receiving your application materials!Return to the Table of Contents
The good thing about living as long as I have is that I have had more time to spend with my family and friends. It has also given me more time to be active in CCB. Like all of us, I've had my ups and downs, but I have always had my faith to sustain whichever way things were going for me.
My son Darryl lives at home with me. A few months ago he said: "Mom, I think I see a little bit of wood rot in front of the house." A few days later when my son Don and his wife came down from Stockton to see us, I asked him if he would check around the house and see if he spotted some wood rot. He and his wife walked around the house and reported that we didn't have a little wood rot, we had a lot of it. It turned out to be all around the top of the house. When we called in someone to see what was involved in repairs, we discovered that some termites had taken up residence in the main beam of our house. The man who came to give us an estimate for repairs said they would cost approximately $10,000. When we got the gentlemen from Orange Oil Termite Inspectors, we learned there would be another $1,700. None of this included partial replacement of the main beam of this establishment. I've never thought of myself as being divested of things, but that was before all this happened.
Another thing that happens when you live a long time is that you outlive your savings, and I did that a couple of years ago. The contractor asked me if I would like him to fill out a contract when he gave me the estimate. I responded, "Certainly not." I asked him just to leave me a card and I would be in touch.
As I sat there, wondering what on earth to do, I knew that I would really have to resort to a lot of prayers because that's just about all I had. Suddenly, my son Don said not to worry, that he and his wife Diane were going to take care of the repairs, and they have. My son Gary, who is a contractor, replaced the damaged part of the beam. My son Eric came along and helped with the work inside and outside of the house. Replacing a beam entailed having the walls of two bedrooms cut through, and so now we had replacement work to be done inside the house.
In the meantime, Darryl had surgery scheduled for his knee, and we wanted to have repairs done before that happened. He is at home and will be off his feet and not working for six weeks.
Why would I think that all of this would be worth having brought to your attention? It's because I know I am not the only one of you who reads the BC that has an income that needs fixing. It goes without saying that those of you reading this have problems of your own. I never have to wait for Thanksgiving day to give thanks. This year, however, is really exceptional. My four sons have brought me through a perilous time. For once I think I would have given up except they wouldn't let me do that. I am so grateful to have such a wonderful family.
After the outside of the house was repaired, Don and Diane painted it. They also painted the front door and then decided that the rest of the inside of the house needed painting because the door showed it up. By this weekend (the one before Thanksgiving day), the entire inside and outside of the house will have been painted. Darryl is on the mend and seems to be doing well after his surgery. You can see, with all that has happened here, that I can't just be waiting for Thanksgiving day. I'm giving thanks in my prayers everyday, and I will have something to be thankful for every day as long as I live.
One last thing that I also am grateful for is that I'm still around to work on the CCB history. I read the other day that one of the fastest growing parts of our population is people who reach the age of 100 years. Whether or not I'll be one of them remains to be seen. Believe me, I have enough still to do, and I'm working toward that day.Return to the Table of Contents
Many of us remember Marion and Doris Fisher for the long period of time they were active in CCB as well as GDUC. Marion passed away the morning of July 28, 2008 following a bout with pneumonia. He had a kidney removed in 2001 due to cancer and also a cancerous lower lung somewhat later.
He was always a tremendous advocate for blind and visually impaired people, and especially for the rights of guide dog handlers. For those of us who really got to know him, his tough stance on numerous issues was typical of that big heart of his. Marion was always frugal, but only for the purpose of spending wisely. He always challenged us to think things through before making decisions, and even more so if those decisions would cost us money.
I got to know him on a personal basis in the mid-90s, and he was the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, and he would do anything he could to help you with something; but he always insisted on teaching you how to do for yourself.
Marion's grandchildren were of the utmost importance to him along with his special love for his wife, Doris. He'll be missed by her and many family members, who absolutely adored him. He will not be forgotten.
Rose Harter passed away last July from a blood clot on her leg that moved to her lung. She was 48 years old.
Since June of 2006, Rose had been fighting a staph infection and other complications she suffered after an operation on her leg. A year before, she had been hit by a car. She spent some nine months in the hospital and several more in a nursing home. She rallied after months in a coma. It seemed as if nothing would stop her. She often came to the Center using a walker or a wheelchair.
For over six years, Rose worked for the IRS as a customer service representative. She was involved with the Center for many years, and actively participated in the California Council of the Blind. During the past several years, she served as President of CCB's Alameda County Chapter.
Despite numerous health problems throughout her life, Rose was always determined to live life to the fullest. She was always on the go, laughing, talking and enjoying people. Throughout her many years of involvement with the Center, she did everything from cleaning the kitchen and washing dishes, to labeling tapes and CDs, and organizing the Center's audiobook library.
Rose is survived by her son, Sam Turner, her parents and brothers. We will certainly miss her very much.
On October 24, 2008 many of us in the blind community lost a very good friend with the passing of Barbara Rhodes. She had suffered a stroke in August, 2007 and had never come back to the Barbara that we all knew. In April, 2007 I wrote an article for the SVCB newsletter about Barbara after she had received the Community Service Award at the spring CCB convention. I am including much of that interview here.
It was done while we were rolling home on the train back to San Jose from Sacramento after the CCB convention. During the banquet the evening before, Barbara had been the recipient of the Community Service Award. After she received the award, Cathie Skivers, CCB's past president and emcee for the evening, remarked that we were witnessing a "speechless Barbara." The award was given to Barbara to recognize her for all of her contributions to improving accessibility for blind and visually impaired persons in California, especially in signage, transportation, and the talking pill bottle" that is now used statewide in the Kaiser system.
As if one could not tell from hearing her speak, Barbara was born in New York, Manhattan to be precise. She grew up in Queens with four brothers--the second oldest, or as she put it, the fourth youngest. After graduation from high school, Barbara went to work for the New York Telephone Company, where she worked for about four years as a business office representative. She then worked for nine or ten years for the Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation--Transportation Services--as the office manager and administrative assistant to the director of advertising. While working at Donnelly, Barbara married William (Bill) Rhodes, and they had one son, Kenneth.
Barbara's visual impairment diagnosis was Retinitis Pigmentosa or, as we know it, RP. This was not diagnosed by an eye doctor, but by her internist. She had gone there because she had walked into a partially open door and had cut open her forehead. The doctor looked into her eyes, wrote down the diagnosis of RP and sent her to an ophthalmologist. This doctor did the exam and sent the info back to the internist, who told Bill, not Barbara. It was up to her to look it up on her own. Barbara told me that up to this time, she had been driving every day to Manhattan and could not figure out why the cars were "popping up out of nowhere" in front of her.
After she left Donnelly, the family moved to Hamilton Township, New Jersey and then to California. Barbara said that she found her way to San Jose when they came to visit one of her brothers and decided to stay. They moved to California in 1976 and bought a home in the Almaden area of San Jose. In addition to her husband, Bill, and their son, Ken, Barbara is survived by two grandchildren, Alyssa and Tyler, as well as many nieces and nephews.
In 1981, Barbara joined her first blind organization: the RP Foundation, which is now called the Foundation Fighting Blindness. She joined the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind (SVCB) in 1991. She served SVCB two different times as President as well as Vice President; Board member; membership chair; and on the transportation committee, which became her main interest.
Barbara was also very active with the CCB, and served four terms on the CCB Board of Directors. She also served on various committees for the CCB, such as the Committee for Access and Transportation (CAT), Governmental Affairs, Public Relations, and the Senior Blind, now known as the Seniors with Vision Loss Committee. She was also active in the following organizations:
Consumer Advisory Committee for the Vista Center in Palo Alto; Valley Transportation Authority (VTA): Committee for Transit Accessibility; Metropolitan Transportation Commission (which serves the regional Bay area) on the Elderly and Disabled Advisory Committee; San Jose Disability Advisory Commission (this group got over 40 audible pedestrian signals installed in the city and county); and Advisory Committee for Outreach, Santa Clara County's paratransit program.
For quite a few years, Barbara also spent time working for accessibility in other areas. One was advocating for accessible signage. This comes under California Title 24, which requires that circles and triangles be on restroom doors. When she found a place or store that did not have this, she went into action. Such improvements have taken place at Kaiser and the San Jose Airport.
One of her last projects was the "talking pill bottles" at Kaiser. She told me that this was done as a result of the CCB CAT committee working with Kaiser in Oakland. At Kaiser in Santa Clara, she put in a grievance about something else, and as an addendum to the conversation, she told the people at Kaiser that the blind community could also use talking pill bottles, and the rest was history--the bottles are now offered throughout the Kaiser system.
At the memorial service held for Barbara on November 5, Barbara's brother, Frank, told the gathering that he thinks Barbara is in Heaven and that when she got there, she told St. Peter that she wanted to speak to the Big Guy about the signage at the Pearly Gates.
Rest in peace, Barbara. We will all miss you.Return to the Table of Contents
Recently my house has undergone a serious renovation. This called for going through untold numbers of paper, books and magazines. I have had to be very careful that none of the materials relevant to the production of our CCB history is lost. I thought you might like to hear about a couple of the things I found while reviewing some of the paperwork on hand.
In 1998 David Parker was our treasurer. In the Minutes for the November CCB convention that year he reported that the total assets of CCB were $435,000. Compared to the amounts we had in later years, that wasn't a lot, but I also saw the note where I had thanked one of our members for a loan of $20,000 in the spring of 1997. We used that money to pay staff, leases, utilities and other expenses. When you compare the $20,000 against the $435,000 we had a year later, it was quite an improvement.
While I was working for the Internal Revenue Service, from 1972 until February of 1990, I still managed to do work for ACB and the organized blind in California. Until 1984, I was with the Associated Blind of California. At that time it merged with the California Council of the Blind. We all know what I've been doing since then.
I found an article that appeared in a local Hayward, California paper from 1966, which said I had just been elected to the Board of Directors of the American Council of the Blind for a four year term. In another newspaper article, the District Director of the IRS office in San Francisco announced that Catherine Skivers had received the Government Community Service Award for the Bay Area, and, at the same meeting, received the Federal Employee of the Year Award.
I came across a notice that the Bayview Chapter of CCB was giving another party for the deaf-blind of Northern California. Bayview had done this for about 50 years. It was scheduled to be held on December 6, 2008. Because of the increasing cost of these parties and the need for more volunteer help, the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind has partnered with Bayview for the last few years. The Bayview Chapter had a meeting on the second Saturday in November and, to everyone's amazement, found flyers posted in the Lions Center for the Blind announcing that a dinner-dance was to be held at the center on December 6. We were all very shocked and at a loss as to what to do. The LightHouse already had several events booked for that date, so reluctantly, and with great sadness, we had to contact those people who had already received invitations and tell them that the party was canceled. Needless to say, they were very disappointed. This annual Christmas party is about the only event that is done for the deaf-blind in Northern California. This is being brought to your attention here just so you know that in the history of the blind and visually impaired and deaf-blind, sometimes regrettable things do happen.
I have reread the California Story, which will be part of our history, which dealt with the difficulties that caused some people to separate from the Council for the first time in 1959. The History and Awards Committee is going to meet at my home, and if they agree, I will ask that this article be reprinted in the next BC. Since we will be celebrating our 75th year in 2009, I think it's appropriate for that article to illustrate some of the events that have taken place which, I believe, have been a part of what has made the California Council of the Blind such a great organization today.Return to the Table of Contents
[from the Ski for Light Bulletin, fall, 2008.]
I am designing a 6-10 day adventure-based program in the West for August of 2009. I am seeking your help in order to get this amazing pilot program off and running. Our needs are backwards in that we have the funds, we just now need to hunt down participants and this is where you come in. Please read the following blurb and pass the information to any students who might be interested and capable, as well as to anyone else who might be interested. Thanks for your help!
What: A 6-10 day adventure-based leadership and environmental trip in the outdoors of beautiful Colorado or Utah.
Who: We are targeting highly motivated, independent high school students who have low vision or who are blind.
Cost: Hold on tight because here is the most exciting news, this pilot program will be fully or in large part underwritten. We will be requesting a small contribution from the students in order to cultivate investment into the program.
This is a pilot program because it will be the first of its specific design, and it is our long-term vision to create a program for this population which we can continue running for many years to come for students from all over the United States.
More details: The program will be run through the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (www.boec.org). I worked for the BOEC as a Recreation Therapist for five years, so I am very connected and familiar with this world class organization.
Curriculum can and will be further developed once we establish a demand, but these are the possibilities: river rafting or canoeing, multi-day overnights; camping; backpacking fishing; orienteering; rock climbing; environmental education (even some student-led sessions).
Goals: To allow young adults with visual impairments the opportunity to: travel independently without parents or family; increase their activities and daily living skills, orientation and mobility skills, environmental knowledge, social and leadership skills; and have Fun!
Transportation: The students will need to travel to Denver.
In order for me to move forward with this project, I need to know if there is or is not a need for this type of program, so please contact me one way or another. Thanks!
Brook Yates; WMU O&M Grad student; Phone: 970-333-4035; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.Return to the Table of Contents
Are you a woman living with breast cancer? Would you like to be part of a caring community that understands your unique experience as a woman with vision loss and also dealing with cancer? The ACB Women's Concerns Committee is sponsoring a support group for you, by phone! It will be scheduled on the first Tuesday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Pacific time on a toll-free conference call number. This group will not give any medical advice or provide therapy. It will foster a safe and positive atmosphere in which to discuss relevant issues and support one another.
To attend the breast cancer support group for women, call 866-633-8638, then use the ID 7877678. If you have trouble using this number, call 650-969-3155 for assistance.
When calling, you must verbally identify yourself and your city location when prompted by the system in order to further ensure confidentiality and so that we know who is on the conference call. We ask and expect everyone to observe strict confidentiality for anything discussed durring the session so that everyone can feel comfortable. This group is facilitated by three social workers who are volunteering their services and who are ACB members. We anticipate that this group will be an uplifting experience for all and look forward to seeing you by phone.Return to the Table of Contents
The entertainment media industry is often described as being "liberal," and as someone who works professionally in the industry, I have noticed that most professionals in this business would like to think of themselves as "liberal" or at least open-minded. However, a close examination of the industry's relationship with the disabled population throughout history might create a very different impression. This series of articles will explore the way the entertainment conglomerates have interacted with people with disabilities (PWDs) from several perspectives, including portrayals of disabled characters; hiring blind or disabled performers as actors or voice-over artists; hiring PWDs behind the camera as executives, production staff, or writers; and offering media products that are accessible for blind or deaf consumers. This series also aims to answer questions like: what are the most suitable jobs for blind individuals in the industry, what do blind actors and voice-over artists need to know, and will movie distributors ever make all of their products accessible with video description?
I work in "Hollywood", aka the "entertainment biz", both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. My experience in Hollywood as an actor, a voice-over artist, an audio engineer, a music composer, and an advocate within the talent guilds has stretched over the past 21 years. It is easy for me to understand why blind consumers or disabled consumers in general are perplexed about why we seem to be excluded from the media. That is to say, why do we appear on the small and big screen so infrequently, why are we portrayed so poorly, and why can we not find employment inside the entertainment industry in any capacity no matter how prepared and qualified we are? Even after ten years of direct involvement in the industry wearing many different hats, I still believed in the theory that fear and ignorance among studio executives and producers were the source of the apparent disconnect between "Hollywood" and PWDs. It took another ten years in the biz to convince me beyond any doubt that as professionals seeking employment and as consumers seeking accessible media products, we face barriers that are deliberately preserved and protected by the powers in the industry, even when familiarization and education have taken place. Either way, the pattern of discrimination appears to be quite consistent throughout multiple facets of the industry.
It was my greatest privilege in this business and most treasured memory of all my entertainment experiences, to be allowed, thanks to Melissa Gilbert's personal invitation, to address directly one of the most powerful entertainment industry leadership groups. My comments, presented at a full session of the collective bargaining negotiations between SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and the AMPTP (Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers) about four years ago, summarized why people with disabilities feel that the entertainment conglomerates systematically discriminate against them at every opportunity.
My remarks at that event referred to the following evidence:
Behind The Scenes: An analysis by the FCC concluded that broadcasters' (AMPTP members) employment practices result in extremely low representations of minority groups. The industry spent much time and money fighting the FCC order to improve their diversity hiring record. Perhaps conveniently for the industry, the FCC failed to include PWDs in the study and did not specifically include people with disabilities in the diverse hiring regulation. When advocacy groups approached the AMPTP members (including major networks) to request voluntary inclusion of PWDs in the newly formed diversity programs designed to increase representation of minority groups, only two members agreed. For most networks, voluntarily including PWDs in their scholarship and mentorship programs was out of the question.
Portrayals On Screen: Despite numerous PR disasters caused by offensive portrayals of PWDs, the industry (represented by AMPTP members) still fails to increase the number of disabled technical advisors hired to inform producers about portraying disability accurately. Failing to hire more disabled performers who can bring accuracy to the characters exacerbates the problem as well. The lack of writers and producers with disabilities in the business contributes directly to the low numbers of characters with disabilities and the inaccurate portrayals of people with disabilities.
Performers and Character Integrity: Nearly all of the characters with disabilities portrayed in the media are played by non-disabled actors. Producers explain that this is due to a lack of talented performers with disabilities who could fill those jobs. However, all performers develop their resumes and their skills through experience. If blind and disabled actors are never allowed to play roles of increasing significance, then the problem of insufficient resumes and experience will persist. Furthermore, even though professionals in the industry are aware that most disabled performers are deliberately excluded and forbidden from auditioning for non-disabled roles, they do nothing to change this discriminatory policy. The fact that a blind actor cannot be submitted for a role, unless it specifically calls for a blind character, is blatant discrimination and needs to be addressed; yet, the industry offers no platform for discussion of the issue.
Employment Data: Though industry producers are required to collect employment data and make reports about how many members of minority groups are employed in productions, they refuse to collect such data for people with disabilities. Despite more than ten years of advocacy and negotiations, they continue to refuse to simply include "disabled" as one of several check boxes on the mandatory "Casting and Data Report" (CDR) form. Other population subgroups are able to measure their employment statistics in film and television productions accurately via these reports, but people with disabilities continue to be excluded. Even though producers formally agreed to provide such data for AFTRA (American Federation of Radio and Television Artists) productions, they continue to fail to comply with this agreement.
Consumers and Media Products: Incredibly, the entertainment industry even disregards consumers with disabilities who willingly purchase media products. Marketing professionals in the business seem to disregard research that shows the disabled population as having more than twenty billion discretionary dollars at its disposal. In one case, a major studio released a totally accessible DVD movie that sold more than three million copies. When asked to release another accessible DVD, they declined, stating that the accessibility did not help sales much. Upon further inquiry, they had to admit that they had not actually tracked how many copies had been purchased by PWDs. In 2002, when the FCC required major networks to provide about four hours of described programming per week in order to serve blind consumers, the AMPTP members spent sufficient money to successfully overturn the mandate, which surely cost more than they would have spent to produce all of the required description combined. Similarly, it has taken thirty years of advocacy and government regulation to finally achieve one hundred percent captioned programs on television for deaf consumers, even though captioning services can be purchased for less than thirteen dollars per program minute. Money seems to be neither the barrier nor the motivator in this equation. It is also significant to note that the Foreign Release Departments of major studios all have accessibility executives who ensure that DVDs going to the UK and Australia have captioning and description for deaf and blind consumers. However, when those same movie titles are released on DVD in the U.S., the description track is not included. Of course, those countries have regulations and policies requiring accessibility for media products sold there, and no such requirement exists in the U.S. There have even been instances where video description services were offered free of charge for broadcast programs and DVDs, and networks and studios have declined to provide them.
In light of the circumstances, what are the key issues facing visually impaired people and how do we confront them? Clearly, we would like to see the industry achieve: 1. greatly increased representation of blind characters; 2. more accurate portrayals of blind characters; 3. more employment opportunities for blind professionals; 4. more blind actors portraying blind characters, and fewer sighted actors portraying blind characters; 5. equal opportunities for blind actors to audition for characters not written as blind characters; 6. dramatically increased numbers of accessible entertainment products available to blind consumers.
Fortunately, we have the best opportunity so far to make progress toward these goals. The Tri-Union National Committee of Performers with disabilities has produced renewed commitments by all three talent guilds, SAG, AFTRA, and Equity to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the entertainment industry. More info can be found at www.iampwd.org. By embracing the I AM PWD campaign, ACB and other disability organizations can find ways to forge coordinated efforts to make progress towards a more inclusive entertainment media industry.
The next part in this series will explore the types of jobs that blind individuals might pursue in "the biz."Return to the Table of Contents
[from Vision Access Vol. 15, No. 3, used with permission.]
Richard Rueda, CCLVI's newly elected First Vice President, led a lively discussion on this topic at the ACB convention in July, 2008. This panel was co-sponsored by the National Association of Blind Students and CCLVI. Panelists and audience members offered the following questions and comments on this topic.
--I am often asked "How can you recognize me from across the room at our meeting but not when I walk up to you at the supermarket?" "Because I know where you belong. And I don't expect to see you at the market."
--I'm not a very social person. My social interactions are around my work. I have a few people, my small social group, that I try to spend time with when I'm not working.
--It's hard enough to be single when you can see people around you. But being visually impaired brings many additional challenges. Making eye contact is hard.
--Where do you go to meet people? Get out where people are. If you're in a room full of people that you'd love to meet, at as large party for example, after having a conversation with someone, ask that person: "Do you know someone that would be interesting for me to meet? Can you introduce me to that person?" Continue this way throughout the whole evening and meet many people.
--As an adult I find things to get out and be where the people are, an event in my neighborhood, a farmers' market or a coffee shop. I even talk to people when I'm waiting in line. That's a great opportunity to meet people.
--It's the attitude you have that's important.
--At the bus stop I say "Good morning!" I know when people get on the bus and I greet them. Some of them have become good friends after riding to work with me for an hour every day.
--If you're meeting someone for the first time, pick a place you're familiar with, one that is safe that you can get to by bus, and you know where the restrooms are. Check out the menu online before your date. Choose the location by the lighting or the time of day that works best for you.
--The challenge of a future mother-in-law: She may assume and say to your intended partner: "If you marry him/her, it will be so much work for you. You will not be able to have kids because she/he will not be able to take care of them." It's human nature to fear the unknown. It may take time to change those assumptions. When my mother-in-law sees me in my kitchen, she will know that I am a capable person.
--Spouses, even those without disabilities, are sometimes burdens on each other. Everyone has good and bad days. Everyone has some kind of problem. In a good marriage, partners give and take all the time. The fact that you have a visual impairment needn't get in the way of others finding out who you are as a person. Still, a new relationship takes time.
--Advances in technology and research make me confident about having a child who may inherit my disability. When others question me about this, I reply: "Do you think my life is less valuable because I have a disability?"
--If a person chooses not to date me because I don't see well, I tell myself: "It's your loss, I'm awesome. Can't you see I'm cute, that I have a cute personality?" I see myself in a positive light. Accepting myself makes a difference.
--Pretend to know people. Walk up and say hello. Be comfortable with who you are. Be open and honest. I'm a BS detector. I cut to the chase quickly. I project confidence.
--When someone accepts me with my visual impairment, I know this person has a good character, really has compassion, a good personality, is capable of good conversation, and is not just someone who is good-looking.Return to the Table of Contents
The first step in choosing entrepreneurship as a lifestyle is to decide whether owning a business is really right for you. Do you have the motivation to focus on setting up a business, marketing it, and making the necessary priorities, to keep it moving forward? As a business owner, you will not have a supervisor watching over you to make sure tasks are accomplished or give you jobs to do. You also will not have a steady income immediately. If you have lots of energy, like meeting new people all the time, and feel that your personal life can be made more flexible, business entrepreneurship may be a good choice for you.
The second step is to choose the right type of business. Do you have skills that can be marketed as a business? For example, if you can fix or program computers, you might be able to sell your services to others. Do you currently work for another company doing a particular service such as styling hair, giving massages, giving nail or facial treatments, taking photos, making videos, or selling products and services? If so, you might consider starting your own business offering these same services to your own customers.
Another viable option is to sell products and services for a large networking products company such as Avon, Mary Kay, Arbonne, Party Lite, health and vitamin products, and many others. Each has its own levels of earnings, most based on the amount of sales you make. Some require you to have inventory on hand and others do not. Check out several before deciding on the best one for you. Each charges you some upfront fee, which varies widely. Most have training sessions to help you get started. They also may want you to sign up other salespeople to work under you.
Another type of business is selling products or services for blindness-related companies. Most of these use contractors, and you get paid for the amount of work you do, but you usually set your own schedule. You likely will have training and possibly some leads to use in getting sales.
The next step is to consider family support and your education level. Having your own business takes more than just having a skill. You might be great at that skill; but can you network with a variety of people and manage accounts, keep a schedule and have a plan for how bookkeeping and financial records will be handled? Do you have the education necessary to accomplish these tasks yourself? Do you have a family member or spouse who can assist you in this part of the business? Classes are available online and a good business coach can assist you in finding out what is necessary. Some accessible online classes are at the Carroll Center for the Blind (www.carroll.org or 852-3131) and correspondence courses are available through the Hadley School for the Blind (www.hadley.edu or 800-323-4238).
Next, you should consider your financial resources and calculate the upfront cost of starting a business. All businesses take time to develop and become large enough to support you and your family, and you will need some funding to assist you with living costs until you earn enough to sustain yourself. You may need to rent an office unless you are planning to have a home-based business. Even then, you will need enough room for inventory, computers, marketing materials, and other equipment. You may also need to purchase some equipment such as a new computer. Some funding is available through the Small Business Administration. Some statewide organizations may have funding for people with disabilities, and state affiliates may have employment-related grants and loans.
You can do research on the Internet to find other types of businesses, possible loans or grants and other information relating to the industry you want to work in. You may also want to consult with someone who is currently in that particular business. The www.ivie-acb.org website has business-related links and a list of members who own their own businesses. The CareerConnect pages on the www.afb.org website also offers lists of blind or visually impaired mentors.
You can explore grants or low interest loans online as well. Some funding is available for starting a new business, particularly if you are a veteran. Funds for minority-based businesses are also available, and you can contact veteran and minority organizations for assistance in this area.
You can also get facts from vocational rehabilitation services in your state about how they can assist you in starting a business and help you with some technology needs, particularly during your education. The Social Security Administration can give you information on incentives available for business owners and assistance for living costs and health care until you earn enough to support yourself.
Another step in the process of starting a business is to check the required state and local laws for its operation. Depending on the type of business, there are required licenses. All states require you to have a sales tax license unless you sell products of an already established business. Other licenses may be required in the city and county in which you live. Some food services need health licenses to operate, and other retail establishments may need other licenses to sell liquor, over the counter drugs and other items. Some counties require you to get a DBA--Doing Business As—license, and you will have to make sure another business isn't already using the business-name you've chosen.
But the most important step is writing a business plan. It forces you to think about the elements of a business such as your mission or vision, your products and services, and how you are unique from others. You will have to define how you will market your business and set goals to build it. Finally, you will need to write a budget and plan how you will get the sales you need to pay the expenses. Consulting with people familiar with marketing will be beneficial in this process.
A great resource to help you get started is ACB's affiliate: Independent Visually Impaired Enterprisers. Its members are business owners and those interested in learning more about owning one. Benefits include a members-only email list for sharing business tips and to assist one another with particular issues. Our website www.ivie-acb.org has a members' section listing members' contact information, website, and type of business (free advertising for members), as well as links to business related sites. A quarterly audio newsletter shares business tips and IVIE info, and an IVIE Business Expo during each annual ACB convention allows businesses to exhibit their products and services. Our membership dues are only $15, and that includes having your business listed on our website and participating on our listserv. If you wish to learn more about the IVIE affiliate or receive an application, please contact me at 818-238-9321 or email email@example.com.
In addition, you can read other helpful tips to promote your own business in my book: "BUILDING BLOCKS TO SUCCESS: Does the Image of Your Business Attract Customers or Motivate Employees?" available at www.bazyncommunications.com.Return to the Table of Contents
"I am the luckiest working woman in the world to have found my dream job! I've liked other jobs in the past but nothing has ever been so much a part of who I am as a person," says Sherry Gomes.
Sherry Gomes works in Admissions and Graduate Services at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). As an Admissions Specialist, Sherry's primary responsibility is assisting potential students through the application process to be admitted to the school.
Answering questions and providing advice to applicants is the perfect job for this GDB Alumna who got her first Guide Dog in 1975. Sherry was born with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), which created serious damage to her joints and to her optic nerve, causing her to gradually go blind by age five.
"Working at GDB is the most fulfilling job for me. It allows me to use the best of my professional and personal life experiences. This place has been a part of me since I was a teenager and I am proud to share my experiences with others on a daily basis."
While working at GDB, Sherry uses the JAWS screen reader to operate her computer and a 40-cell refreshable braille display to help her navigate internal databases. When you ask Sherry her favorite things about her job, she lights up and doesn't hesitate to respond.
"Guide Dogs for the Blind changed my life, and know I am helping other people like me achieve this miracle of working with a Guide Dog. I also work with the most caring and compassionate people I've ever met in my life. Some of them have known me since I was 17 years old."Return to the Table of Contents
In addition to the two resolutions commending the hotel and volunteers for their valuable assistance, the committee brought to the floor seven resolutions. The Chair of the committee was Gabe Griffith; active members were Winifred Downing, Marvelena C. Gray, Eugene Lozano Jr., Charles Nabarrete, Dirk Neyhart, Linda Porelle, and Robert Wendt. The resolutions were approved on October 26 at the Four Points Sheraton LAX Hotel in Los Angeles. Readers may request full copies of any and all the resolutions by contacting the CCB office.
Resolution 2008 B-1 was passed in concept, but the text was not available. This resolution appears after this article.
Resolution 2008 B-2 directs the CCB President to contact by letter paratransit services identified by CCB members stipulating that customers can schedule rides based either on pickup time or on arrival at the planned destination. Blind and visually impaired persons depending on paratransit services use them in connection with their employment, medical necessities, educational efforts, and the like; and repeated failure to keep such appointments may lead to cancellations or reductions of assistance on the one hand and opportunities on the other, indicating the importance of addressing this matter.
Resolution 2008 B-3 directs the CCB to "seek legislation to amend Section 11346.2(3) of the government code to require that state agencies provide publications that are narratively described in addition to the current practice of utilizing underlines, italics, and strikeouts." The California Administrative Procedures Code requires that notice of proposed changes in standards and regulations must be given and hearings held prior to the adoption of changes; but such information uses underlines and italics to indicate additions and strikeouts to show contemplated deletions, which cannot be represented in braille or accessible electronic versions. Blind and visually impaired individuals are thus excluded from participation in this important process.
Resolution 2008 B-4 calls upon the CCB president to "communicate to the director of DOR that the Blind Field Services staff be required to use agencies that specialize in providing services to clients who are blind or visually impaired when appropriate." DOR has changed the method of paying private agencies to an exclusively fee-for-service arrangement; and the Deputy Director, Specialized Services Division, has failed to instruct Blind Field Services staff to utilize specialized agencies rather than generic service providers. Several agencies that provide specialized services to blind clients have expressed fears that the fee-for-service plan will result in decreased revenue for their programs even though SB 105 expressly recognized that DOR clients who are blind or visually impaired are better served by the provision of specialized rehabilitation services than by generic services. "Unless DOR counselors refer their clients to agencies that specialize in providing services to the blind community, the continued existence of such agencies is seriously threatened," resulting in unsuccessful closures and higher costs to the Department and to taxpayers.
Resolution 2008 B-5 directs that the CCB president "immediately appoint a task force consisting, at a minimum, of members from the Board of Directors and the Publications and Technology committees to thoroughly study and develop recommendations regarding CCB's web presence. The recommendations should include updating CCB's online communications and allocating appropriate financial support for a web master" and stipulating that the task force will present an initial report to the Board of Directors and the general membership at the spring, 2009, convention.
Resolution 2008 B-6 states that the CCB will "continue its previously stated support of decision number 2008061081." Copies of this resolution will be forwarded to all concerned parties. The Office of Administration Hearing (OAH) ruled that the DOR Business Enterprise Program "has not followed the spirit and intent of the federal law, the Randolph-Sheppard Act, regarding federal dining facilities." The OAH determined that the Randolph-Sheppard Act supersedes state contractual laws.
Resolution 2008 B-7 directs the CCB president to demand that the DOR director "immediately issue a policy modification allowing Social Security reimbursement funds to be used for services provided by both independent living centers and single disability agencies." DOR "received more than $15,000,000 from the Social Security Administration as a reimbursement arising from recipients having obtained gainful employment." Without any explanation, the Department has chosen to apply these funds to services rendered by independent living centers but none to private agencies exclusively serving individuals who are blind or deaf. The Department has not responded to CCB's questions on this matter.Return to the Table of Contents
At the fall, 2008 convention, several resolutions were presented; and even though you will be reading a summary of most of them, the below resolution was only passed in concept because its draft was not available. I announced that the entire text of the final draft would be printed here so everyone would have a chance to read it. If anyone has any questions about the resolutions process please feel free to contact me either by phone at 916-505-8780 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Editor's note: Please remember that this is a draft.]
Resolution 2008B-1: Recommendations for Use of Department of Rehabilitation Resources
Whereas, due to severe state funding reductions, the Department of Rehabilitation is imposing cuts in funding for consumer services; and
Whereas, these reductions have a dramatically negative impact on the opportunities for blind and visually impaired persons, whose unemployment rate already exceeds 70%, to become both independent and gainfully employed; and
Whereas, the cost of adaptive technology, which is essential for most jobs, as well as for many skills needed to live independently, is extremely high, and thus this technology is unaffordable for most blind or visually impaired individuals; and
Whereas, learning to effectively use technology, as well as numerous skills to live independently, require specific specialty training by highly skilled instructors whose costs are high due to their specialized training; and
Whereas, the specialized nature of the skills needed by consumers who are blind or visually impaired precludes them from obtaining these skills from instructors teaching persons with other types of disabilities; and
Whereas, despite these relatively higher costs, placement of consumers who are blind or visually impaired in employment creates taxpayers and decreases the number of persons receiving income assistance, health care, and other government benefits; and
Whereas, the failure to place blind and visually impaired persons in employment will cost the State more money in the long run if nursing care is needed due to a lack of independent skills training; and
Whereas, not only should the department attempt to maximize its reductions in ways that will not directly impact consumers, but it must also look to external sources for ways of obtaining training and other services at little, if any, cost to the department; now, therefore be it
Resolved, by the California Council of the Blind, in Convention assembled this 26th day of October, 2008, at the Four Points Sheraton LAX Hotel in the city of Los Angeles that the Department of Rehabilitation is urged to take the following approaches and actions in regard to implementation of budget reductions:
(1) Recognize that its central role is to increase employment opportunities for, and independence of, persons with disabilities, and that the reduction of services to consumers should be a last resort, and thus seek to implement cutbacks in a way that will have the least direct impact on consumers.
(2) Perform a legal analysis, and provide the results thereof to line staff, on how services may be validly modified or reduced in order to ensure that the department is acting in a legal manner.
(3) Minimize the potential harm to consumers who are blind or visually impaired of these budget reductions by taking the following actions:
a. With respect to consumers who are both BFS and regional center clients, the department should ensure that, to the maximum extent possible, services are covered through regional center funding.
b. Contract with out of State businesses to provide training resulting in job placement, such as Verizon, Statler Center Hospitality Program, NIB, et al.
c. Encourage home-based employment such as National Telecommuting Institute (NTI) as an option for consumers to go to work.
d. Explore low or no-cost methods of implementing a public relations campaign through PSA's, Videos, to obtain more job placements. This can be accomplished if creative utilizing free of charge PSAs.
e. Encourage public and private colleges and universities, including community colleges, to hire people who are blind or visually impaired to work as aides, researchers, student housing, or other positions open to college or university students.
f. Produce "issuance letters," regardless of the cost of the technology or equipment, stating that the technology/equipment is on loan and needs to be returned if the individual does not follow through on his or her plan, thus allowing technology/equipment purchased for a consumer, when appropriate, to be provided to other consumers.
g. Establish relationships with a variety of entities to provide internships and apprentice positions, as well as on the job trainings, that can develop into jobs.
h. Take steps to prevent professional clients from abusing the system.
i. Have jobs developed for those who are blind or visually impaired with the California Relay service and California Telephone Access Program. This would involve reading braille/large print and typing skills.
j. Encourage, on a case-by-case basis, the use of in-state services and programs; and be it
Further resolved that this organization work with the Director of the Department of Rehabilitation to implement all of the above recommendations.Return to the Table of Contents
Raise your hand if you are getting younger and younger, instead of the other way around. I thought not. So as I am often fond of saying, many of us in CCB are already, or are rapidly heading for, that golden turn-off to Seniorland. So senior interests should be our interests. This article will report on the kinds of programs we have offered at conventions during the past year and look ahead a little.
Some of our own CCB members were prominent as program presenters, and my public thanks go out to them for the important work they do in their local communities and for sharing it with us. Gussie Morgan and Michael Williams gave a fascinating talk and demonstration on how teaching braille to seniors can foster social interaction and mental stimulation; and last spring, Teddie-Joy Remhild and Jane Kardas each explained the effective advocacy programs they are involved in. In all of these cases, our members' skills and talents are making a difference in people's lives.
In our recent convention program, a local Title VII, Chapter 2 Aging and Vision Loss Program was highlighted. Among the presenters was another CCB member, Socorro Arroyo Merchain. This long-standing program uses a creative and caring team to provide adjustment and practical training services in the homes of seniors with vision loss. It was gratifying to hear the quantity of intelligent questions, and some expressed a desire to work on emulating such a program in their local area--exactly the kind of interest we want to inspire in our program attendees. We were also given a useful insight into the attitudinal barriers that can sometimes be the biggest obstacle to seniors accepting available independent living resources. Addressing these attitudinal barriers as peers may be a real way we in CCB can be of service.
Taking the lead on concerns of particular interest to seniors is the only way we can secure the kind of future for ourselves that we want. In addition to our own self-interest, reaching out to other seniors with vision loss may increase our CCB membership; but that would be an extra, a bonus. In hearing the presentations on the needs and feelings toward losing vision of the over-55 crowd mentioned above, I was again struck by the feeling that many of these people, who would so benefit from our help and support, will probably never join something like CCB, especially with the word "blind" in it. We as a group must decide at some point whether we are going to offer what we can anyway, with no guarantee that they will ever join us.
Here are some ways that you can get involved. We can always use the help of more people, and you might want to be a member of this committee. If so, contact President Jeff Thom about getting appointed. We are looking for all kinds of diversity and members who are enthusiastic and want to work, or you can contact me with any questions about the committee and our plans or to express your ideas. You can contact the CCB office and ask for my contact information.
But you do not have to be on the committee in order to contribute something valuable. Again, you can contact the office and request and distribute our booklet "Failing Sight and the Family Plight," which is available in English, Spanish and Chinese. Thinking of people you know who could use such a positive message or taking it to the places where others might benefit from it is a concrete way to be helpful and to spread the hopeful presence of CCB. Senior centers, houses of worship, agencies for the blind, and low vision care centers are just some of the likely places. You can also take the time and initiative to suggest future convention programs and topics you'd like to see. The committee can only be as relevant to you as you allow us to be by your direct input.
Looking to the future, we see many ways for you to get involved. Here are some hints--we will share more in the next issue of the magazine. In order to be more effective, the seniors would like to forge more working relationships with many of our existing committees and affiliates. A couple of examples are Membership, Public Relations and Technology Committees, and the Association for Multi-Cultural Concerns. Don't feel left out if your group was not mentioned. We are very much interested in increasing our presence on the CCB website in a creative variety of ways. If you have artistic abilities or think that you would be "good in pictures," you may fit into our long-term plans. If this all makes you curious, good! Stay tuned!
There is a lot of work to do to make life a little better for seniors with vision loss, including ourselves. We hope you think it is worth doing, together. Until next time, remember, it's cool to be senior!Return to the Table of Contents
Have you thought about retirement or the investments you will need to make now in order to have income when retirement time arrives? Every adult should be thinking about a retirement plan or what "income" one will live off of in the later years of life. While this article is an introduction to potential financial investment planning for retirement from an employee's perspective, it is not investment advice. For investment advice, please consult with a financial planner.
One may ask, why talk about investments when the stock market has been losing money? It is true, the stock market has been on a downturn for a while, yet some believe that it is time to invest for the long-term. Stock share prices are low so that means more shares for fewer dollars. In principle, over time the value of the shares will increase and money will be earned.
I work for a public university and am eligible to participate in a 403(b) retirement investment program (similar to a 401(k) program). Changes to the 403(b) program are effective January 2009, so I needed to learn more about the program. Below are highlights that may be of interest to others who choose to contribute to a 403(b) or 401(k) program.
An employee is encouraged not to rely solely on the employer's contribution to the employee's retirement plan. In other words, an employer may contribute to a retirement plan, but when the employee makes a contribution, the employer may actually make a greater one within the rules of the plan. Even if the employer doesn't increase contributions, the employee's investment grows faster with active participation. With this in mind, an employee may also want to contribute to a "retirement investment" program. In my case, this means contribution to a 403(b) program.
An employee's contribution is tax deferred, which means that the contribution is deducted from the employee's taxable earnings. The contribution amount range could begin at a minimum $15 per month to a maximum of approximately $1,100 per month. As it is tax deferred, the take-home paycheck will not reflect the whole contribution amount. It is good to start a contribution at the time one starts a job or receives a salary increase so that the contribution is not missed in the take-home amount.
Once an employee decides to contribute, there are different investment factors to consider. One factor is an employee's "risk tolerance level." An employee who takes chances or is young may select an aggressive risk level; whereas an employee who is more conservative or closer to retirement may select a low risk investment. The "risk tolerance level" decision is based upon the employee's "risk tolerance level" and the length of time to retirement.
Another investment factor consideration is the investment choice. Options include investing in domestic or international stocks, bonds and precious metals. If an employee has the interest and time, one can follow the market and make "adjustments" to a portfolio on a regular basis.
For an employee who feels he/she does not have the time or interest in making adjustments to investments on a regular basis, there is a "lifecycle" or "target" investment. The "lifecycle" investment takes into consideration an employee's projected retirement year, then works backward to determine which type of "risk tolerance level" would be appropriate at this time. As the years go by, the investment will be rebalanced by the portfolio manager to a "risk level" that is more conservative as the retirement year approaches.
Often a financial planner does not charge an individual when discussing financial options and developing a financial plan. The financial planner earns an income when one invests in a particular investment that is recommended by the planner. The "fee" may be taken out of the investment right up front or over time. You can attend a free financial planning seminar or meet with a financial planner for a free consultation. It is OK to confirm that the session is at no cost to you, and ask how the planner's services is determined if you are to invest with him/her and/or a particular investment itself. You are under no obligation to follow this planner's investment recommendations, and you may ultimately do better financially by consulting a fee-only planner.
This article was intended to provide an introduction to the possibility for an employee to invest in retirement. Hopefully, this introduction has created a curiosity to learn more about the options available and details about different programs. Taking an active and diversified approach to a retirement investment plan will put an employee in a stronger position at retirement time.Return to the Table of Contents
[Editor's note: This article is a collaboration. Dan wrote the "Introduction" and "Transferring Your Books" sections, and Mike wrote "Getting Books" and "An Example." They hope you enjoy this tutorial and find it useful.]
We've heard that the new NLS digital talking books are going to revolutionize the reading experience for blind and visually impaired people. It's one thing to anticipate this but quite another to apply the new reality to yours. Doing this is what inspired this tutorial, to help avid readers access and utilize the new NLS books on players such as the Victor Reader Stream.
I'll concentrate on the process to become approved for participation in the Download Pilot Program and how to download books from the NLS site. I'll then sketch the process of transferring books to your player through an example. I'll assume you are acquainted with your web browser, such as Internet Explorer, and file manager, like Windows Explorer. Also, since the software used to unzip files (NLS books are packaged in the zip format) is different in various versions of Windows and notetakers (although it's always doing the same thing), I'll assume you can figure out how to use yours.
I'll not discuss NLS's cartridge distribution system (which will be used by NLS in its own players) here, but suffice it to say that it is similar to the current cassette system we are familiar with and requires little or no technical knowledge. In other words, if you plan on participating in the digital cartridge distribution program, which you are doing when you order and return books to an NLS library, you need not be concerned with this tutorial. I will also not be discussing companion software that may come with your DTB player. Refer to your player's user manual for this information. Additionally, if you use a dial-up connection, don't try downloading NLS books: the Zip files are too large. The sample book in this article takes upwards of 20 hours to download through dial-up.
The download process utilizes the NLS website. You can use Internet Explorer, but this site seems to be accessible to many modern notetakers. You must be an NLS patron in good standing as NLS will check with your cooperating library. If there is a problem, it will be explained in an email that is sent to you.
First, go to www.nlstalkingbooks.org/dtb and follow the "application instructions" link, which appears on the main page, and fill out an online enrollment form. When your application is received, NLS staff will check your information against library records. If you are approved to participate, an email message will be sent with sign-on information such as your username (which is the email address you typed while filling out the online form), and an initial password (which you must change when you first log on). Please note that the information you provided to NLS may be shared with both your library and the manufacturer of your DTB player. This is because a special "key," which protects the copyrighted material in an NLS book, may need to be installed on your player.
For example, NLS sent my information to HumanWare, which then sent me an email explaining that I had to access a website where I entered my Victor Reader Stream's serial number. HumanWare then emailed me a key, which was installed on the VRS by following instructions. I put this email in a safe place so the key could be re-installed, if necessary.
You are now ready to download NLS digital talking books. Access www.nlstalkingbooks.org/dtb; but instead of going into the application area, go to the "Enter the NLS Download Pilot Web Site" link. There you will need to type in the username and password NLS sent to you in the confirmation message. After this step is completed successfully, the system will ask you to enter a new password. The first letter of a password is capitalized and the last two characters are numbers. Be sure to use a password you can remember or write it down and keep it in a safe place.
After telling the system your new password, you will find yourself at a page containing various search options, from "recently added titles" to keyword title lookup, to find items. Your work now is to find a book, download it; find another, download; and so on, until you're finished.
There are two ways to find books: browse through lists and download what strikes your fancy, or enter keywords to fetch just a few titles. For example, suppose I want to find out which bestsellers are available. I find the "subject" combo box, select "bestsellers" and press ENTER on "go." I just did this and got eight titles I can download.
Now suppose I just want titles from one author. I happen to enjoy Stephen King books, and when I find the "keyword" edit box and enter "King, Stephen" (include the quotation marks) and press ENTER on "go," 18 titles are returned. Keyword searches can be quite complicated, so you should read the site's help facility.
When you have a list of books, you will notice that the link to download a specific item is at the bottom of its information; and when you press ENTER on it, the book begins downloading to your computer or notetaker. I assume you know where books you have requested are going to be on your system.
Now that you have books (which are packages of several files in the zip format) on your system, they must be unpacked and moved to your DTB player. To unpack books, start your file browser, select a book and press ENTER. On some systems, the files of your selected book are placed in a folder with the same name as the file you downloaded, without the ".zip" extension; and when it's time to move a book to the DTB player, all you have to do is copy the folder name to the clipboard and paste it into the proper location on your player. On other systems, the files in the archive are presented, you select them all, copy them to the clipboard and paste them to a previously-created sub-folder on your player.
The player's USB cable can be used to connect the machine to your computer and the player's companion software is used to transfer books properly; or books can be copied to the player's media, such as an SD card, by knowing from experience where they should go. The latter method is faster, but the former is more foolproof. If your player doesn't have companion software, you'll need to know beforehand the proper location for digital talking books, and this information is in the user manual. When you find the locations for things, write them down and memorize them. After successfully copying your books, it is good practice to work through the system's procedure for safely removing external hardware such as a SD card.
I've just been on the NLS site to get a book. I logged in; found the "bestsellers" item in the "subject" list; pressed ENTER on "go"; read through the list and downloaded "Caribbean" by James Michener, which took about ten minutes to get to my computer.
Now the file "DB-Michener, James A.-Caribbean-DB30339.zip" is on my machine. I like to copy books directly onto the SD card my Victor Reader Stream uses, so I put it into my computer's card reader; use Windows Explorer to navigate to and open the "$VRDTB" folder; create a new folder called "Caribbean" (it's just a name), which is where my new book is going to live. I then navigate back to my hard drive and to my "temp" folder, where the zip file of "Caribbean" now sits; open this file; select all the items shown (ctrl-a); copy them to the clipboard (ctrl-c); navigate back to the SD card, $VRDTB and Caribbean; and paste (ctrl-v) the files from the clipboard. When the copying process is done (it took two minutes), I'm finished; I safely remove the SD card from Windows and shut down; return the card to the VRS and turn it on. And there's the new book, happily waiting for me.
Happy reading, and I look forward to seeing all of you at the next CLUA (California Library Users of America) luncheon at the spring convention in Sacramento.Return to the Table of Contents
Congratulations go to our newest chapter of the California Council of the Blind, the Yosemite Gateway Chapter, which received its charter at the 2008 CCB Fall Convention. Congratulations also go to the chapter winner of the CCB Membership Incentive Award, the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind. This award is given to the chapter with the largest increase in membership since the spring convention.
Please send your letters telling us about your chapter projects for 2008. The Chapter of the Year Award is given each year to the chapter with the best chapter project. The project must be one with chapter members' participation and that makes a difference in the lives of blind and visually impaired people in your community. Please include the ways different members contributed to the effort. Get your creative juices flowing!
These letters are due by February 15, 2009 at the state CCB office. They can be sent by email or snailmail. For examples of past projects, please contact Ardis Bazyn at email@example.com or call 818-238-9321.
The PR/Membership breakfast seminar had another great speaker: Camille Wheatley, from the junior blind of America. She is their marketing director and gave many great tips on marketing your organization. She talked about creating the right press releases to focus on the accomplishments of members in your chapter, and contacting all kinds of media to tell your stories.Return to the Table of Contents
No, this is not an article about sleeping, but rather the name of a personal strategy based on the story of how I have managed, and sometimes mismanaged, 64 years of diabetes.
First, I'll begin with a short patient history and then I'll explain my DREAM. When I was 22 months old, my mother thought I had a bladder infection, since I was constantly drinking and persistently urinating, even though I was already potty trained. As she was eight months pregnant at the time, she went to the obstetrician for a checkup and also asked about my problem. Fortunately, the doctor recognized the symptoms of diabetes and confirmed this with a urine test (which was the only diabetes test available in 1944). My father was in the military and we were stationed in Augusta, Georgia. This doctor said that we should immediately return to our hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, which had a better hospital. Not knowing what diabetes was, my mother gave me a Coke during the trip, since I was thirsty. I was in a coma when we arrived in Cleveland on the train the next day. After a week at Cleveland Clinic, and just before my sister was born, my mother had a two-year-old diabetic running away from her every morning while she learned to give me insulin shots!
Life progressed and I grew up without meeting another diabetic child until I was about 8 years old. This young boy and I would sneak candy to each other, even though our parents were very strict about not having candy in the house, because kids will do as kids do and find it somewhere. To make things worse, there were no blood glucose monitoring machines in those days. We only had very inaccurate urine tests, which were done by dropping 5 drops of urine, 10 drops of water, and a tablet into a test tube. After we watched the mixture boil and bubble, the liquid turned a color. Blue meant no sugar in the urine, and other colors represented different amounts of sugar in the urine, ranging from green to brown to the dreaded orange, which meant you were loaded with sugar! Finally, test strips were developed, which you could dip into a urine sample and check for color. This was just as inaccurate as the test tube apparatus, but not quite as messy. I was not yet blind, so I could read the color tests. There was nothing for the blind at that time. The only way to get an accurate reading was to have a blood test done in a lab. Can you imagine how frequent blood draws affected a small child? My mother used to bribe me with sugary rainbow sherbet if I didn't have a screaming fit during the test! Like other diabetics at the time, I injected insulin from a glass syringe, which we boiled to sterilize. It had thick needles that I had to sharpen. And there were only two types of insulin available.
I went to nursing school in 1960. As an immature 17-year old, I once really blew the diet and ended in the hospital with severely high blood sugar. But I took better care of myself as I matured, got married, and wanted children. I was so strict with my diet while pregnant that I gained only what my babies weighed. This was seven pounds for my son and five and a half pounds with my daughter. In contrast, uncontrolled diabetic mothers often have extremely large babies with complications. I worked part time, belonged to several organizations and did a lot of cooking, entertaining, and keeping busy, so my weight stayed stable and I did not have any diabetic-related problems until I was 34.
One day while driving, I started seeing big black spots. I went to the doctor, who immediately sent me to an ophthalmologist. He diagnosed prolific diabetic retinopathy and started laser treatments. But my retinas detached and by 1977 I was blind. My kids were eight and ten years old then. It took a lot of adjusting, and the Akron office of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation started helping me. I had an associate's degree and was back in school working towards a bachelor's degree in nursing when the department informed me that I could no longer be a nurse. But I was determined to get a full bachelor's degree, and it was quite a struggle, as I was going through several eye surgeries, learning cane mobility, and taking a few courses at the University of Akron. Then the family moved to California to get away from the terrible winter weather in Ohio. In fact, the first year that I was blind, there was an awful winter in which I was literally trapped in the house without mobility skills or transportation. I never regretted the move to California.
Finally, by the early 1980s electronic blood glucose monitors were developed and some were quickly made audible for the blind. However, these took several minutes to work, and were not always reliable. Disposable syringes and better types of insulin made it easier to keep the diabetes under control. By this time, doctors also began to prescribe multiple insulin doses rather than one or two per day. I now use an insulin pump, which continuously delivers insulin and allows me to set doses after eating. The pump, along with carbohydrate counting, has been a tremendous help in keeping the blood sugars steady. Also, the newest talking glucose meters are both small and take only seconds to do a test.
I continued with school and graduated with a master's degree in education and a certificate in counseling in the mid 1980s. Meanwhile, my rehabilitation counselor introduced me to the California Council of the Blind, and the CCB convinced me that I could work again. Up to that time, my rehabilitation counselor was the only other working blind person that I knew! In the meantime, I was constantly fighting to keep the diabetes under control, as I was determined to see my two children grow up. The doctors had told my mother I would probably not live to be 30, but I had made it well past that point and determined to just keep going!
I finally got a job as a counselor in a locked psychiatric facility in Pomona and became completely independent as a blind person; so independent that I moved out on my own after getting a job as a rehabilitation counselor with the California Department of Rehabilitation in Covina. I walked for miles just grocery shopping and around my neighborhood. But despite all this, after many decades the diabetes did what diabetes does--it gave me blocked up arteries. I had my first guide dog, and the dog's fast pace gave me chest pains. I kept denying it was my heart, but it was undeniable. I ended up having quadruple bypass surgery in 1990. Complications from the surgery laid me low for months, but I recovered through sheer stubbornness and refusing to give up. After finding an excellent endocrinologist in Pasadena, I developed an acronym for managing diabetes: D-R-E-A-M. The letter D is for diet, R for responsibility, E for education and exercise, A for attitude, and M for medication.
Responsibility, however, is the most important point. It means doing the responsible things that all diabetics must do: following a diet, seeing the doctor regularly, getting the necessary blood work done, exercising, and following the required medication routine. No, it is not easy. No, it is not fun. And yes, it is frustrating and the complications of diabetes are difficult to deal with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. But in order to keep on living a fulfilling life with wonderful friends and family, I, like so many other diabetics, just keep at it. I encourage all diabetics, type 1 and 2, to follow a regimen that keeps their blood sugars under control. There are a lot of people who need you!
Education is also important and easier than ever. Today there are several listservs and a large number of websites for diabetics. Listservs supply you with emails filled with information, often more than your doctor provides, and websites contain even more facts and experiences. Education is one of the keys to maintaining control over diabetes. If anyone has any questions about diabetes, you can contact me and I can refer you to some sources. You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 626-279-2954.Return to the Table of Contents
Hello everyone! As I write this the holiday season is in full swing. I hope this year has been a great one for each of you, and that '09 will be equally good.
The following story comes to me from Star Keithley, and it is one I can relate to. Read and enjoy!
I often say that in our family I'm the eyes and ears and Mike's the brains. This has proven to be so numerous times over the 20 years we've been married. A recent happening is a good example.
Mike had gone to L.A. to attend the CCB conference. I drove to a park about two miles from our home to take a walk. We normally take two walks a day around some park. Mike always carries a set of keys, so I have become used to leaving my purse in the car. I was enjoying the walk, the fresh breezes, and listening to children play in the playground. Almost back at our car, I realized that, because Mike wasn't with me, I couldn't use his keys. That should have been no problem since we keep an extra set in a magnetic key box under the fender near the rear tire. I wasn't able to find the key box, even though I knelt down and searched, with my hand, all around the area the box should have been. Finally I decided to walk home and see if there was an extra set in my drawer. The walk was somewhat exhausting; but I finally made it home, found the extra set of house keys where they were hidden, and let myself in. I wasn't able to find an extra set of car keys anywhere!
I called a locksmith who picked me up, took me to our car, and opened the door for me. Immediately I drove to a hardware store and had a duplicate set of keys made, bought a new lock box, and put it where the old set should have been.
When Mike came home I told him my story, then took him to the car to see where the new set was. He put his hand under the fender and said "OK" in such a strange way I knew something was up. I put my hand under the fender and there were both lock boxes, one just above the other! So, who's the blind one here? Not Mike!Return to the Table of Contents
Greetings to all the visually impaired cooks in California! As we all know, the holidays keep coming; and another time to prepare our favorites has come and gone; but others are fast approaching. I hope you enjoy the recipes I'm posting here, and don't forget to contact me with your questions and comments. My email address is email@example.com. As always, have fun but be safe!
Stuffing: 5 C soft bread crumbs; 1 C finely chopped green pepper; 1/2 C finely chopped onion; 3/4 C chicken broth (use the low sodium variety if you're watching salt intake); 1 tsp dried sage leaves; 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves; 1/2 tsp salt (I like to use Mrs. Dash); dash of black pepper; 1 Tbsp grated orange peel; 3 Tbsp orange juice; 1 Tbsp honey.
Glaze: 2 Tbsp melted butter or margarine; 2 Tbsp orange juice; 2 Tbsp honey.
Directions: Rinse turkey inside and out. Pat dry. Reserve giblets and neck for broth. Make stuffing: Mix bread crumbs, green pepper, onion, chicken broth and spices. Add orange peel and orange juice. Spoon stuffing into cavity of turkey. Close opening with skewers (I use string). Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow pan. Insert meat thermometer in thickest part of thigh. Roast turkey, uncovered, at 325 degrees F for about 1 hour. For glaze: combine butter, orange juice and honey. Brush turkey several times with glaze and pan drippings and roast again for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until thermometer registers 180 degrees F. Remove turkey, keep warm. Slice and serve. Makes 8 servings.
How big a bird to buy? 2 to 4: 8 to 12 pounds; 5-7: 12-16; 8-10: 16-20; 11-13: 20-24.
Turkey storage: Fresh, uncooked: uncooked: 2-4 days, frozen 6-7 months; thawed, uncooked: 2-4 days. Cooked: 3 days in refrigerator or 2 months in freezer. Store on the lower shelf in the back of the refrigerator.
Ingredients: 3 slices bacon; 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered (I use Golden potatoes and I don't peel them); 1/2 C buttermilk; 1 Tbsp fresh chives or scallion tops, chopped.
Directions: Saute bacon in a heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until crisp. Transfer to paper towels and drain, reserving 1 1/2 tsp drippings. Crumble bacon and set aside. Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water about 30 minutes or until very tender. Drain well. Return potatoes to pot. Add buttermilk, reserved bacon and drippings, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash and add chives. Serve hot.
Ingredients: 1 pound frozen French-cut green beans (or frozen or fresh green beans); 1 Tbsp margarine or butter; 3 Tbsp sliced almonds; 1/2 tsp dried dill; 1/4 tsp salt.
Directions: Cook the green beans according to package directions, or until tender. Drain off the excess liquid. Place the margarine or butter in a large nonstick skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the almonds and saute for about 1 minute or until they begin to turn color. (Be careful not to burn them.) Add the green beans, dill, and salt to the almonds and toss to mix. Serve hot. Yields 5 servings.
For the potatoes: 1 large can sweet potatoes, drained; 1/4 tsp salt; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 1/2 tsp cinnamon; 1/3 C granulated sugar; 1/4 C margarine, melted; 2 eggs.
For the topping: 1/4 C margarine, melted; 3 Tbsp flour; 3/4 C brown sugar; 1/4 C pecans, chopped.
Directions: Mash potatoes. Add salt, vanilla extract, cinnamon, sugar, melted margarine and eggs. Put into greased casserole. Mix topping ingredients and sprinkle over top of potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Yields 6 servings.
Ingredients: 1/2 C sugar; 2-1/2 C all-purpose flour; 1-1/2 tsp baking soda; 1 tsp cinnamon; 1 tsp ginger; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/4 tsp nutmeg; 1 C chopped nuts; 1 egg; 1 C molasses; 1 C buttermilk; 1/2 C melted butter.
Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Butter muffin tins. Combine sugar, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg and nuts in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix egg, molasses, buttermilk, and melted butter, and add to the dry ingredients. Stir until just blended. Spoon into muffin tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick--muffins are done when it comes out clean. Can be served warmed with whipped cream or ice cream as a dessert. Serves 12.Return to the Table of Contents
[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.]