logo shows State of California with an eye in the middle

Spring, 2009, Volume 53, No. 2

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

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

Executive Office:
California Council of the Blind
1510 "J" Street Suite 125,
Toll-Free in California: 800-221-6359
Outside California: 916-441-2100
Fax: 916-441-2188
Email: ccotb@ccbnet.org
Website: www.ccbnet.org

Los Angeles Area Office:
Donna Pomerantz
1115 Cordova Street #402
Pasadena, CA 91106

Frank Welte, Director
Advocacy and Governmental Affairs

Joel Isaac, Webmaster

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

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

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

TABLE OF CONTENTS Listen to the entire spring, 2009 edition of the Blind Californian   Download the entire spring, 2009 edition of the Blind Californian

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 lengthis under three pages or 1800 words.

The deadline to submit material for the summer, 2009 issue of THE BLIND CALIFORNIAN is noon, June 1.

by Mike Keithley

Last summer I went to a chapter meeting whose program featured a talk about how to handle falls. I wanted to hear that talk because I once fell and had a real hard time getting up--getting old you know.

Well, I couldn't hear the speaker. I arrived without mishap, but when I entered the room I thought: "O dear, noise, noise!" The chapter president greeted me and we chatted awhile. He was close and, at first, there weren't many people there. But the room filled with many voices talking; and soon I couldn't understand anybody, near or far. It was just a glob of noise! As for the program, it was almost a total loss. The lady was loud enough, but her words were muddied into uselessness by echoes. These situations are so common for me that I just quietly read email, patiently waiting for the meeting to end so I can go home.

As a hearing-impaired person struggling with difficult meeting environments, I thought I'd sketch what I've learned about improving them and advocating for my own needs. The first thing is not to be overly upset if nothing can be done. If I can't hear, I can't communicate. Yes, I can write with a slate and stylus (and that works with people who know braille) or do tactile signing, but it's nice just to hear! And if I can't hear or do anything about it, well, I'll just bring along something to pass the time.

So what can be done? Cut down on noise. Those with normal hearing are often unaware of how the ear's structure enhances their ability to focus on what they want to hear and ignore background noise. When hearing aids are worn, the situation is analogous to listening to recordings, where there can be little difference between foreground and background. And though it's true that hi-tech gadgets like directional microphones can help localize sound, dealing with unwanted noise in an ever-present problem.

What is noise? As far as I'm concerned, it's what I don't want to hear when I'm trying to concentrate on a voice. I learned early that, though people often understand the problem, they really don't appreciate it because they don't live with it. So if I'm going to participate, I'll have to work to make a friendly hearing environment for myself. For those of you in this situation, there are several things you can do.

First, advocate that meetings not be held in restaurants. These places often have noisy environments: humming air conditioners and dishwashers; clattering dishes; people talking outside the meeting; music; and, in many instances, carpetless rooms that reflect sound. Sometimes the meeting setting is just a grouping of tables in the middle of the bustle. Restaurants are fine for socializing, but they're terrible places for serious meetings. If you can't avoid meeting in restaurants, try working for a quiet, small room with a carpet and sound-absorbent walls and away from the bustle of the establishment.

Other bad sound-environments are those rooms in senior centers that don't have carpets and have walls that reflect sound back into the room. Avoid these, if possible, or just take a nap. What's better? A place that absorbs sound and where nothing gets in from the outside. Rooms with carpets and walls that absorb sound are a good starting point, and the smaller the better!

Once you have a better sound environment, you might find that the situation has improved so much that you can easily participate. But if you still have problems, there are other solutions. You can ask to be as near as possible to the speaker or moderator. A helpful technique is to request that questions be re-phrased. Although this might hinder spontaneity, it really does enhance communications.

If you're still having trouble, propose that the chapter purchase a portable PA system or, if you can, donate it yourself. I've often heard that everyone benefits, and you're getting what you need. In a small room, a battery-powered PA system is quite effective, and there might be an old boombox gathering dust that can work. In addition, they come in handy at outdoor picnics. A wireless microphone for this system is helpful because it can be passed around so everyone is audible.

If your chapter has three or four hard-of-hearing members, or you're still not happy with how well you can participate, consider an assistive-listening system. The idea here is to connect a microphone to a transmitter, whose signal is picked up by a number of receivers. Typically, infrared or FM techniques are used, but there are induction systems to be used with t-coils in hearing aids.

And don't forget to request an assistive-listening receiver at CCB and ACB conventions and insist that it work. If you expect trouble participating in committee meetings, be sure to bring your wireless microphone so it can be given to whoever is talking. There are also conference microphones, which are placed in the middle of a table.

To summarize, noisy environments can make it impossible for hard-of-hearing people to communicate. If you're one of them, you need to advocate for yourself. You can quiet noisy surroundings by avoiding restaurants and rooms without carpets or that have reflecting walls. You can also work to get near a speaker or moderator, or purchase a portable PA or assistive-listening system.

In closing, let me remind you that ACB's contact information has changed. The mailing address is now American Council of the Blind; 2200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 216; Arlington, Virginia 22201. The local (202-467-5081) and toll-free (800-424-8666) numbers remain the same, but the fax number is now 703-465-5085.

Return to the Table of Contents

by Jeff Thom

Rhonda Jo King, born April 9, 1954, died February 14, 2009, had two families, her large family of relatives and her California Council of the Blind family. Both were quite well represented at a memorial service for Rhonda held on February 28, 2009. She succumbed to a long battle with cancer and various complications brought on by that disease, but throughout her struggle she never complained and continued to work tirelessly for the Council and to provide love and comfort to her family.

Rhonda was born in San Bernardino, California, and due to the first of many trying circumstances with which she dealt during her lifetime, she was raised by a wonderful neighbor she referred to as grandma. Perhaps her own childhood travails explain a little about why Rhonda gave her three children and 10 grandchildren, not to mention siblings, nieces, nephews and so many others, my own daughter included, so much love. In addition to working and raising children, Rhonda had time to do such things as sing in a country-western band. As was noted at her memorial service, she never lost her beautiful voice.

Not many people would say that losing their vision as an adult was one of the best things that ever happened to them; Rhonda not only said it, but lived it. It's not so much that Rhonda's many beautiful traits: tenacity, compassion, ambition, and a sense of humor, began when she lost her sight at the age of 28; but they seemed to blossom after that time.

Aside from her family, her two love affairs both began in the 1990s. Around 1992, she attended her first CCB convention. At today's memorial service, past CCB president Cathie Skivers told us that Rhonda told her she wanted to grow up and be just like Cathie. Well, although Cathie said she doubted Rhonda's intelligence at that moment, Rhonda did indeed do just that. She not only went on to serve as chapter president for both the San Bernardino and Capitol Chapters, but worked in a number of leadership positions in the Council, finally assuming the office of second vice president. She may also have been the best fund-raiser this organization has ever seen.

She loved to hear and to tell funny stories. As Capitol Chapter President, she began every meeting with a joke, many of which received a great many groans.

Her other love affair, of course, was what made her life so complete, her incredible husband Lonnie King. They were married in 1998 and relocated to Sacramento a year later. With Lonnie's encouragement, and the example of both family members and mentors from CCB, Rhonda decided that 45 was a pretty good time to get moving on her education, and she did so with a vengeance. She not only earned an AA degree in paralegal studies, but also a Bachelor's degree in Government Studies from California State University, Sacramento. She was extremely proud of her accomplishments, and she wasn't about to stop. If cancer hadn't intruded, she would have used that degree to enter the job market and pursued her master's degree at the same time.

Rhonda was equally at home in the classroom, on the dance floor, babysitting her grandchildren, or running a CCB meeting. Rhonda Jo King was a truly inspirational person, and she will be deeply missed; but she will remain an important part of those whose lives she has touched.

Return to the Table of Contents


Dear friends:

For 75 years, the California Council of the Blind has been working to improve the lives of Californians who are blind or visually impaired. With local chapters from San Diego to Chico, San Francisco to Placerville, our members provide a variety of services to help the blind and low vision community. Services include crisis intervention funding; no-interest loans for employment purposes; information and referral services; mentoring and peer support; the production of a quarterly magazine; and advocacy on the local, state and national level on issues of concern to blind and visually impaired individuals, including those of concern to students.

For more than four decades, one of our most important services has been the provision of scholarships to legally blind residents of California, even if they are not attending school in the state. The council has assisted persons in an amazing array of fields: from law to physics, photography to web design, psychology to culinary arts. If you are considering applying for a scholarship from the Council, you should know that although we urge you to consider joining our organization of committed Californians with visual impairments, we assist both members and non-members alike.

If you would like to learn more about the Council, do not hesitate to call us at 800-221- 6359 or e-mail us at ccotb@ccbnet.org. You may also visit our website at ccbnet.org.

In conclusion, we urge you or legally blind friends or family members who are attending, or will be attending, a college, university, or vocational school to apply for a scholarship from the California Council of the Blind.

Jeff Thom, President; Frank Welte, Director, Advocacy and Governmental Affairs

Return to the Table of Contents

by Catherine Skivers

2009 is really a banner year for the California Council of the Blind. We are now 75 years old. In a recent teleconference in which I was involved, someone asked if I had been there when the Council was founded in 1934. I've been around a long time but did not join the Council until 1949. It's amazing to me that the year 2009 means that I have been involved in advocating for the blind and visually impaired community for 60 years. This, of course, assumes I'll be here the entire year.

In our last issue of the BC, I indicated I would probably include "The California Story." This article would cover quite a few pages, and I feel it does not set the tone that we want to begin the 75th year of work on behalf the blind and visually impaired. Instead I'm going to tell you a bit about what led up to the story.

If you haven't already read the book "People of Vision," I urge you to do so. ACB has the publication, in all formats, for sale, and it's available in the NLS Libraries as well. I think it will help you understand a lot of what happened in the turbulent times in the late 50s.

The California Council of the Blind was founded in 1934, but that was not its name then. We began as the "California Council for the Blind." One of the first things I did when I came to the Council was to try to change our name to include "of" instead of "for", because I felt that the blind were doing all the work and, it was about us. Since I was a newcomer to the state and the Council, the first time I introduced this motion, it lost big- time. At Dr. Perry's suggestion, I introduced it again the next year, it passed, and we have our current name.

Dr. Newel Perry was President of the Council from its beginning until September of 1953. By that time, he had reached his 80th year, and some members (including Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, First Vice President) felt that he should retire. After conferring with others, it was decided that three people who the Doctor really loved and respected should approach him on the subject. Our history documents show that they were George Fogarty, Dorothy Glass and Perry Sunquist.

In 1940, California was one of seven states that established the National Federation of the Blind, and Dr. tenBroek was its President, but Dr. Perry did not want him to be President of the California Council as well. It was his feeling that the Federation was handled differently than the Council, and he wanted someone who would lead the Council in the way he had. He wanted Dr. Robert Campbell to follow him as President, and he indicated that this was a condition for his resignation as President. At the time, Bob Campbell was Director of Advanced Studies at the School for the Blind, and was working with students at the school as the Doctor had before him. Dr. Perry had great confidence in the boys he had taught at the school for the Blind. They became the men who would carry on his work both in education and advocacy for the blind. He thought that tenBroek was the best choice for National Federation President because of his background with the law, regulations and federal legislation; but that Bob Campbell was a better candidate to lead the California Council of the Blind because he would follow Council policies.

Dr. Campbell was elected, but that was not the end of the problem. Factions developed. One group felt that Dr. tenBroek should have been in charge of the Council and others felt just as strongly that Dr. Campbell should be in that position. The Federation had a policy, and had passed resolutions stating that their President should have the authority to direct the activities of that organization. Many people felt that this was dictatorial. The Federation would often tell their state affiliates what should or should not be done in their state, and there came a time when there was an indication of how delegates to the Federation Convention should vote. A faction within the California Council of the Blind felt that it was not appropriate to have their delegate, which was their President, instructed in how he was to vote.

It all came to a head in 1959. Bob Campbell had once again been elected as President in 1958. At the same time, the faction associated with Dr. tenBroek was successful in electing many members to the Board of Directors who were opposed to Campbell's election. I was then editor of the Council Bulletin, the forerunner of the Blind Californian. In January of 1959, some members of the Board of Directors forced a special meeting of the Board. It became clear during that meeting that the Council could not go forward with such a division of thinking in their leadership. In February, 1959 I prepared my last Council Bulletin as editor. The resignations of Bob Campbell, George Fogarty, Tom Long (White Cane Chairman at the time), and Catherine Skivers (editor of the Bulletin) were included in that issue.

The magazine was approximately the same size as our Blind Californian of today. Among the many documents we have for our history, we have a copy of that issue in braille, and I think we will be sharing with you the minutes of that special meeting in a future issue of the Blind Californian.

We also have the March, 1959 issue of the Council Bulletin (which had Russell Kletzing as Council President, Beverly Gladden as Bulletin Editor, and Ron Summer as Assistant Editor). It is not surprising that their articles differ greatly from what was in the previous month's edition. Just this week I reread a supplemental issue of The Braille Monitor, and it has articles written by Dr. tenBroek and Kenneth Jernigan. These three volumes should be included in our history, but I'm sure that we can't present everything in that future BC article.

The CCB Convention Committee has asked our History Committee to present some of our findings to you both in the spring and fall meetings. We have picked our title of the presentation at the spring convention. It will be called "75 Years and Counting." We will be identifying a lot of our accomplishments, and we hope to be able to bring you some of the voices that we have on cassette tape from the past. We and our committee are very proud of what the Council has accomplished in its 75 years, and we are hoping we will do as well in the next 25.

In the last issue of the BC, I told you about Bayview Chapter's work on behalf of the deaf- blind of Northern California. A letter was written from the chapter to the Executive Director and the Board of Directors of the Lions Blind Center in Oakland. We were delighted with the response that we got from them. We will be able to have our chapter meetings there, and we have a definite date for our deaf-blind party--the first Saturday in December. Members of Bayview were very pleased to note that the Lions response also included an offer to assist us with volunteers if advance notice was given.

Mel Cohn, longtime member of the California Council and the Alameda Lions Club, and I were especially happy about this. We were both present when the Lions Center opened more than 59 years ago; and from that time, the Lions and members of the blindness community have worked closely and harmoniously together on many occasions.

This is really a special year for the Council. I know it is difficult to get to conventions, primarily because of cost and other factors, but I'm really looking forward to seeing many of you. We really have cause for celebration in reaching this milestone in our organizational life. We all know how to work very hard in CCB, and I think we are known to be equally successful in our ability to celebrate! Come on along and be a part of this!

Return to the Table of Contents


Lions Invitation, by Adam Ruschival, Treasurer, American Council of Blind Lions

Are you a member of a local Lions Club, or do you know someone who is? I am inviting all Lions to become a part of the American Council of Blind Lions, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.

ACBL gives Lions from across America a chance to come together and share ideas and experiences. It also gives them a chance to encourage others in ACB to become Lions, and thus to participate in many service projects in local communities throughout the United States. What a great opportunity to educate others about the capabilities of blind and visually impaired people, and to let others know about our ACB family!

As a member of ACB Lions, you are invited to join our monthly telephone conference calls. Held on the first Wednesday of each month at 9 P.M. Eastern time, these calls give ACBL members a chance to share ideas and news about their activities. Callers can also ask questions and seek help from fellow Lions.

To join the American Council of Blind Lions please contact adamcarla@bellsouth.net or The American Council of Blind Lions; 148 Vernon Avenue; Louisville, KY 40206. ACBL welcomes new members. Tell others about ACB Lions. Join now and help us increase our Lions' roar!

Invitation to Library Supporters, by Adam Ruschival, Treasurer, Library Users of America

I want to take this opportunity to invite you to become a 2009 member of the Library Users of America.

Access to quality library services is a high priority for the blind and visually impaired. The digitization of Talking Books will greatly enhance services to students, professionals, senior citizens and others. LUA members support improved local, state and national programs. The LUA annual conference includes informative programs and discussions related to library services, and the "LUA Ledger" keeps members informed throughout the year.

For more information about LUA, write to Library Users of America; 148 Vernon Avenue; Louisville, KY 40206. [Editor's note: you can also contact Adam at adamcarla@bellsouth.net.]

Return to the Table of Contents

by Catherine Skivers

As chairperson of the History Committee, I spend a lot of time reviewing materials of all kinds. Once in a while I come across something I feel should be shared with you.

In 1959 when many of us left CCB, we formed an organization that lasted until we merged with CCB in 1985. It was known as the American Council of the Blind of California, and it published a quarterly magazine called the American Council of the Blind Digest. Here's a little piece I found that I think a lot of us might consider.

"Bones: Someone said that the membership of an organization is made up of four bones. There are the "wish" bones who spend all their time wishing somebody else would do all the work. Next are the "jaw" bones who do all the talking but very little of anything else. Then comes the "knuckle" bones who knock anything anyone else tries to do. And then finally there are the "back" bones who get the load to do, AND DO IT!"

I think I've figured out which of these bones apply to me; but which apply to you?

Return to the Table of Contents

from the Lantern, March, 2009

This article is one in an ongoing series about how Structured Negotiations have been used to increase the accessibility of information and technology for the blind community. Today's article is about online security measures known as CAPTCHAs.

What is a CAPTCHA? Have you ever tried to register for something online and been asked to copy visually distorted characters into a box before you can complete your transaction? Those wavy letters and numbers in shaded colors are known as a CAPTCHA--an acronym standing for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart. Designed to protect websites from unwanted hackers and viruses, the devices have become a significant barrier to online accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired.

For computer users relying on screen reader technology, a visual CAPTCHA is an absolute showstopper. The screen reader cannot read the distorted characters--if it could that would mean that another computer could also read them and then the security measure would not be secure. Faced with a visual CAPTCHA, a blind computer user simply cannot access the services and products that the CAPTCHA is designed to protect.

Are there CAPTCHA alternatives? There are several types of alternative CAPTCHAs that can potentially be accessible to blind and visually impaired computer users. An audio CAPTCHA is just that--characters that are spoken out loud instead of being visually displayed. More and more frequently a visual CAPTCHA will be accompanied by a link with an image of sound waves or text such as, "I can't see this image." When that link is selected, it leads the user to an audible CAPTCHA. To continue the transaction, the user is supposed to listen to the CAPTCHA and type the characters into the box. As part of the Structured Negotiations with the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind and others, Rite Aid added an effective audio CAPTCHA to its "My Rite Aid" process. AOL has also worked hard to develop an effective audio CAPTCHA. Unfortunately, many audible CAPTCHAs are so distorted that it is difficult if not impossible to ascertain the characters being spoken. Other times, it is difficult to locate the audio CAPTCHA on the page or return to the edit box where the characters are to be entered.

Another type of audio CAPTCHA provides a toll-free phone number for the computer user to call and receive the characters that the user will type online. This type of CAPTCHA is being used by the credit reporting companies as part of their initiative to provide online accessible credit reports through www.annualcreditreport.com. That initiative was the result of the Structured Negotiations process, and the audio CAPTCHA implementation benefited from extensive testing by users with visual impairments.

There are other potentially accessible alternatives in addition to audio CAPTCHAs. Bank of America has been using a security measure known as Sitekey to provide security to its online banking services. The process involves selecting and labeling an image and choosing a password and challenge questions. Bank of America has worked on the accessibility of its website for many years as a result of the Structured Negotiations process spearheaded by the California Council of the Blind and other members of the blind community. More information about Sitekey is available at www.bankofamerica.com/privacy/sitekey/. Still other sites use a "logic CAPTCHA," which asks the user to answer a question such as, "How do you spell red?"

What can a computer user with a visual impairment do when encountering a CAPTCHA? Each inaccessible CAPTCHA on the Internet provides an opportunity for advocacy. Website owners should be notified about any visual CAPTCHA or inaccessible CAPTCHA alternative. A record should be kept about all such contacts. If you use a web-based contact form, copy and save your message. If you phone in a complaint to a customer service number, keep a note of the number you called, when you called it and what was said. Ask the company to get back to you by a certain date with confirmation that the CAPTCHA will be removed or that an accessible version will be included.

Websites with inaccessible CAPTCHAs may be appropriate for Structured Negotiations. More information about Structured Negotiations is available at LFLegal.com. A list of settlement agreements concerning accessible websites can be found at lflegal.com/category/settlements/web-accessibility-settlements/.

Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian have represented the blind community for the past 13 years using Structured Negotiations advocacy. They can be reached through the website above, at LF@LFLegal.com or toll-free at 800-822-5000.

Return to the Table of Contents

by Dr. Catherine Schmitt Whitaker

In these challenging economic times where you hear about layoffs every week, you may be asking yourself how you will be able to find or retain a job. Successful job seekers and employees share several characteristics. Below are five aspects that are important in the work setting and life in general.

Be positive. While you may have been laid off or do not like your job, find something for which you are thankful and/or like to do. Give thanks for these things everyday. And smile a lot. You will feel better about yourself. A positive attitude will set you apart from others.

Be organized and follow through. Identify a goal and the plan to achieve it for every task, including shopping, CCB meetings, workgroups and other things. A focused approach will allow you to gain a sense of accomplishment and leave a positive impression in the eyes of others as to what you are capable of achieving.

Be open to multiple options. Use several methods for job hunting, such as sending out resumes, job banks and networking, and consider more than one job field. You can create choices and not be stuck with searching for one job.

Be flexible. At work or in the community you may be asked to take on a new responsibility. Choose to believe that you are being asked because someone believes in your capacity to learn, grow and be successful. Also, take the initiative to learn the new strategies and skills for yourself.

Be ethical and use etiquette. You never know who or where you will meet someone in- person or online. Being honest, trustworthy, respectful and professional are important. How you present yourself in front of others could influence whether you are hired or elected to a position or receive a promotion.

You still have choices in these tough economic times. Below are resources related to a winning attitude at work you can explore:

Author Richard Bolles: What Color is Your Parachute? www.jobhuntersbible.com.

Change Your Thinking and Improve Your Career: www.bigbusybee.com/jobs-careers/article6030.htm.

How to be Indispensable at Work: www.cvtips.com/indispensable_at_work.html.

New Job Ethics: www.cvtips.com/job_ethics.html.

Return to the Table of Contents

submitted by Mike Keithley

[This is a slightly shortened version of the article by Dr. Bill Takeshita that appeared in Vision Access, Vol. 15, No. 4.]

Without light there is no vision. Photoreceptor cells on the inside surface of the eye, the retina, convert light into electrical signals that are processed by the brain. When people suffer from eye diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, and optic nerve disease, the information sent by the eyes to the brain is altered. But for most people with low vision, adjustments to lighting can significantly improve vision so one can read, write, and perform detailed tasks. In other situations, the correct lighting can reduce glare and increase comfort.

What is light? Light consists of small packets of electromagnetic radiation called photons. Photons travel in a wave-like patterns and the length of these waves determines what type of light is perceived. The shorter wavelengths are called ultraviolet and are not visible by the human eye. Successively longer wavelengths comprise the visible spectrum and are seen as blue, green, yellow, orange, and red light. Non-visible infrared radiation is produced by photons traveling at longer wavelengths than visible light. When colors in the visible spectrum are present together in equal measure, white light is produced such as from light bulbs.

There are two main types of visible light: natural light from the sun and artificial lighting from electric lightbulbs. Many people with low vision report that they can read small print when outdoors under direct sunlight because the sun's brightness enhances their vision. Using natural light to illuminate your home, office, or school can be extremely helpful. But in areas where there is insufficient natural light, artificial light must be produced by light bulbs.

Today there are many different types of light bulbs, some requiring unique fixtures. Incandescent bulbs have been around forever and are very popular because most table lamps and light sockets accept them on a screw-in base. They generally produce a reddish-white light but use a lot of energy and become very hot. Compact fluorescent bulbs are replacing the incandescent types because they produce more light, use less energy and do not get hot. They also fit into standard lightbulb sockets. Low voltage halogen bulbs produce a very bright light and render colors accurately, and they are excellent when painting, sewing and reading. Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are also becoming popular for use in table and reading lamps because they use very little energy, last a long time and do not produce much heat.

Why do lights produce different colors? What color bulb is best? Light bulbs produce white light but will characteristically have a spot in the visible spectrum where more light is generated. For example, some bulbs generate a white light with a reddish tint while others produce a blue-tinted light. The tint of the whitish light can affect how people with low vision see. For example, some people will prefer a reddish-white light similar to an incandescent bulb, while others will prefer a cool fluorescent light with a bluish-white tint. People who have corneal disease, cataracts, vitreous hemorrhages due to diabetic retinopathy, and retinopathy are bothered by too much blue light because it causes glare. Low vision optometrists and ophthalmologists will test your color vision, glare sensitivity, and contrast vision, and inspect the tissues of your eye to determine what color light is best for you.

In addition to the color of the light, it is very important to know how bright lighting should be to maximize vision. For lighting their living rooms, some people with retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma may prefer a very bright light while people with macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy may prefer a dimmer light. Similarly, some people with optic nerve disease can read best when using a bright desk lamp while others with albinism and aniridia will prefer reading without one. Thus, an eye doctor must determine the correct brightness and color of general and task lighting for your eye condition.

Does light damage the photoreceptors, and is blue light bad for people who have RP? For years, researchers have studied the effects of light on the tissues of the retina. In animal studies, it has been shown that ultraviolet and blue light can cause cataracts and damage retinal cells. In the 1980s, it was hypothesized that light accelerates the loss of vision among people with retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive retinal degenerative disease. However, a study has shown that this is not true. It put people with RP at ease because many of them were afraid to expose their eyes to light because this would accelerate vision loss. Many avoided going outdoors, kept their lights off at home, and avoided fluorescent light, which traditionally have a bluish tint. Today, many doctors continue to recommend that all people with retinal problems protect their eyes from ultraviolet and blue light. On the other hand, many eye doctors and researchers do not feel that the blue light emitted by fluorescent tubes and bulbs promote blindness. They argue that the intensity of artificial lighting is minimal--eight hours of exposure to fluorescent light is equivalent to one minute of sunlight.

Fortunately the retina is protected by the cornea, which filters the ultraviolet, and the internal crystalline lens, which filters blue light. Those who have had the crystalline lens removed during cataract surgery lose their natural protection against blue light, and a lens that filters the blue and ultraviolet should be implanted. In addition, low vision optometrists and ophthalmologists can prescribe glasses that will filter these wavelengths to provide maximal protection.

What types of light bulbs are best for people with low vision? There is no one single type of light bulb that is best for all people. Depending on the eye condition, incandescent, halogen, fluorescent, or LED bulbs may be best. Conventional incandescent light bulbs are being replaced with compact fluorescent because they use less energy and last up to three times longer. They are available in different colors and brightness and are excellent for providing general lighting in a living room, bedroom or den. Low voltage halogen bulbs are gaining popularity because they produce a very bright light and are also available in different colors. These bulbs are great in track lights, fixtures that move on tracks, to illuminate work areas in the kitchen or study. LED bulbs are excellent in desk lamps because they produce a bright white light without generating too much heat.

How do I select a light bulb? When shopping for a light bulbs, it is helpful to read the label on the box and choose one that has the brightness, color, and energy consumption that is best for you. Lumens is the term used to describe the brightness of a bulb, and a bulb that has more lumens is brighter than one with fewer. Wattage describes how much electricity the bulb consumes; and for people with RP or glaucoma, who keep their lights on all day, it is important to use bulbs that require less energy to run.

The color of the bulb is another important feature to consider. The black-body temperature, borrowed from physics and measured in degrees Kelvin, describes the color of a bulb. A bulb labeled with a temperature of 2700 degrees yields a reddish-white light and is similar to the ordinary incandescent bulb; 3500 is a more neutral yellow-white; 4100 produces a greenish-white color and has a cooler appearance; and bulbs with a temperature of 5000 degrees and above, produce a bluer light, and are called "full spectrum." Although manufacturers report that full spectrum lights replicate sunlight, they do not, and some researchers feel that full-spectrum lights can accelerate damage to retinal cells. However, the FDA has not taken full-spectrum bulbs off the market, and many people with low vision report they can see better when using them.

What recommendations can you give on specific lighting? To maximize your vision, it is helpful to use different types of light fixtures and bulbs for different situations. General lighting provides sufficient illumination to walk safely and locate objects at home or at the office. Accent lighting highlights pictures, paintings or furniture in a room. Task lighting is used for reading, cooking or performing specific tasks. Here are some basic recommendations.

For general lighting in a living room, use table and torchiere lamps with compact fluorescent bulbs. Often a 27-watt 3500-degree unit works well. Position these lamps so that there are very few shadows or dark spots on the floor. If you are remodeling, use recessed lights such as the R-40 or low voltage halogen lights, and position them about five feet apart. Place the lights on a dimmer switch to customize their brightness. If you're using low-voltage lighting, use SoLux MR-16 3500 or 4700 degree, 50-watt bulbs.

If you prefer a bright kitchen, use a four-foot, four bulb, fluorescent fixture. Ask your doctor which temperature best suits your vision. Above sinks, counters and work areas, use track lights with MR-16 low-voltage bulbs, which can direct a bright beam of light on your work areas.

In study rooms used for reading, use a desk lamp with a fluorescent or LED bulb. Again, ask the doctor which color/temperature is best for your eyes. Some people find that a fluorescent bulb rated at 3500 degrees and 22 watts is very helpful, but others may prefer a full spectrum bulb such as the Veri-Lux or Ott lamps. For reading in a favorite chair, the installation of a track light with low voltage MR-16 bulbs, mounted on the ceiling behind you, can be very helpful.

For closets, a track installation of low-voltage, 3500 to 4700 degree, halogen bulbs can help to identify colors of clothes.

For more information on Lighting and Vision, go to www.Airsla.org and listen to the podcast "What's New in Low Vision: Lighting and Vision."

Return to the Table of Contents

submitted by Mitch Yapko

[Editor's note: This notice is a condensation of a longer one posted on the CCB website.]

The following is a legal notice relating to matters that may be of interest to blind or visually impaired customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

A class action lawsuit entitled "Rick Boggs v. Los Angeles County Department of Water and Power" is currently pending against the City of Los Angeles in the Los Angeles Superior Court. In the case, it is alleged that the City is in violation of California disability access laws because DWP bills, shut-off notices and other forms of communications, including the DWP website, are not provided in formats accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The City denies and disputes these claims.

At this time, the parties have agreed to a settlement of the case. Among other things, the City has agreed to make DWP billing statements available in braille or large print, to establish e-mail and telephone notification systems for blind or visually impaired customers, and to ensure that a planned redesign of the DWP website will comply with federal accessibility standards.

The case has been brought and is proposed to be settled as a class action. This means that if the proposed settlement is approved by the Court, it will enter a judgment that will dismiss the case on the merits and with prejudice as to the entire class. The class consists of: [Editor's note: the items below were originally in uppercase.]

All blind or visually impaired individuals who were customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) at any time prior to November 24, 2008;

All blind or visually impaired individuals who, at any time prior to November 24, 2008, have accessed or attempted to access the DWP's website ( www.ladwp.com) using any screen-reader application, program or device for the blind or visually impaired, and;

All individuals who have received or reviewed bills, statements and/or notices from the DWP, or have accessed or attempted to access the DWP's website, on behalf of any blind or visually impaired customer of the DWP at any time prior to November 24, 2008.

If you are a class member, you have the right to object to the settlement. If the settlement is approved, you will be barred from prosecuting claims that you may have had against the City concerning the matters at issue in the pending case. You may have other rights as well.

If you wish to learn more about the settlement or your rights, you may contact the law firm of Arias Ozello & Gignac, which the Court has appointed as class counsel. The firm's telephone number is 310-670-1600.

If you wish to object to the settlement, you must advise the firm in writing at the following address: Arias Ozzello & Gignac LLP; 6701 Center Drive West, 14th Floor; Los Angeles, California 90045. The settlement and the procedures for objecting to the settlement are also described on the DWP website at www.ladwp.com. Please do not contact the Court for information about the settlement.

Return to the Table of Contents

by Michelle McGrew

[from SVCB In Touch, February, 2009]

Each year for the past 21 years, my husband Darin has been a volunteer leader for our church's Christian Service Brigade program. One highlight of the program is the annual Shape N Race Derby (similar to the Cub Scouts' Pinewood Derby, racing 7-inch long wooden cars).

Each year he has built a car with an unusual design. This January he built his 22nd car. In honor of Louis Braille's 200th birthday, he made a miniature birthday cake. It looks like a chocolate cake with white frosting, lettering in print and braille that reads "Happy Birthday Louis Braille" and numeral candles that read "200." This little car was part of the race on January 31, 2009, and it won first place in the "unique design" category.

Return to the Table of Contents

by Winifred Downing

Hearing the words "California School for the Blind," readers of a certain age immediately think of the school when it was in Berkeley and of all the opportunities that were available to students so near the university and in a community as vibrant as Berkeley was. They regret that the school has moved to a rural area and that activities formerly pursued by the entire student body have been replaced by new and different programs.

Interviewing Joni Patche, chairperson of the Community Advisory Committee for the school, however, brings a deep appreciation of the wide variety of services provided for blind youth throughout the state. Joni can testify to these advantages because she has two children, one of whom has advanced beyond full attendance at the school, and the other of whom is a present student.

The advisory committee, consisting of 12 to 15 persons, some with long experience with the school and some interested perhaps only in a current project, meets four times a year. The meetings are usually planned to occur when something special is happening, like a concert or braille competition, for example. Members of the committee learn of impending legislation or consider, perhaps, some new rule at the school and react accordingly. Since many live in or near Sacramento, they can participate in hearings regarding legislation affecting their children or the school. A good example of how committee members can influence school rules occurred when possessing cell phones by students was forbidden. Parents reported that they needed immediate communication when their children were preparing to return home on a weekend and when the dorm phone was out of order or insufficient for some reason. Being informed of their complaints, school officers altered the rule, requiring only that phones not be on during classes.

The Braille Bee, initiated many years ago and frequently improved and extended by Ann Gelles, is the big event for braille users. Students are divided into three groups according to their expertise in braille; and in some instances are joined by teachers, staff members, and parents. Each of Joni's children has won his/her category once.

Paul, Joni's son, is attending some classes beyond CSB and concentrating particularly on addressing his dyslexia. Robin, still a student, is working toward her transition by serving one day a week at an animal shelter, which is the kind of job she wishes to have. She must make her own decisions about a bus and BART to reach the shelter, though a coach is always watching to ensure her safety. The school also has eight apartments, each of which can accommodate two students who do all their own cooking, budgeting, and shopping and are reviewed regularly on their housekeeping skills. These young people also usually have a commitment to some entity outside of the school.

The truly remarkable aspects of the school, though, concern the outreach programs for students all over the state. Three-week summer programs are available for students in public schools to concentrate on living skills, braille, and computer experience not provided by their home schools. To assist in helping pupils pass the required exit exam, classes are available at various times throughout the year, concentrating especially on math, often given short shrift by their teachers who simply don't have the education necessary to provide this help. Some students attend these CSB classes several times in their senior year.

Joni's children have close acquaintance with braille, living skills, and the realities of having a job since their mother is in charge of two vending facilities at the building housing the Employment Development Department. Their father visits each day one or more of the vending machines for which he is responsible, using public transportation to perform this task. In addition to these personal accomplishments, the whole family has benefited from the California School for the Blind, particularly the opportunity to know other parents, the staff, and teachers. Our state is indeed blessed.

Return to the Table of Contents

from ccb-l

RFB&D® is offering a FREE one-year AudioAccessSM individual membership to any eligible student in the United States with a certified print disability such as a visual impairment, learning disability or other physical disability in Grades K-12, post secondary education program (college, graduate, professional, or trade/vocational school), public, private or home-schooled.

To enroll, visit https://custhub.rfbd.org/Registration. Students under 18 must be enrolled by a parent or guardian. They can enroll between January 26, 2009 and January 25, 2010. The membership period will be one year from the date of enrollment.

A student receives 12 months of 24/7 access to RFB&D's CV Starr Learning Through Listening® Library of more than 46,000 textbooks and literature titles. Download delivery is via the AudioAccess service and no specialized playback equipment is required.

With AudioAccess, audiobooks can be quickly and easily downloaded onto Microsoft® Windows®-based computers with Windows Media Player version 10 or higher. Digital files sync easily between a computer and portable media players. With unlimited access to our library in their homes, students can explore our extensive offerings and develop a lifelong love of reading. AudioAccess downloadable audio textbooks are bringing unprecedented ease of access to educational materials, while our educational outreach program continues to place our accessible textbooks in classrooms across the U.S.

Return to the Table of Contents

by Frank Welte

[Frank Welte is the new Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs for the California Council of the Blind.]

Once again a strong team of advocates from the California Council of the Blind attended this year's American Council of the Blind's Legislative Seminar in Washington, DC from February 22 through 24, 2009. Our group included Doug Martin, Joni Patche, Donna Pomerantz, Richard Rueda, Robert Wendt and Frank Welte representing CCB along with Ardis Bazyn representing the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America. We are grateful for the financial assistance CCB provided for our activities.

After a day and a half of training provided by ACB's leaders and staff and other prominent members of the blind community, we swarmed over Capitol Hill visiting the offices of both California senators and most of the offices of our 53 members in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visiting 55 offices in just one day was no small task for our little band of advocates. We had come to Washington to inform Congress about two key legislative issues facing the blind community this year.

Major Issues

1. Telecommunications Accessibility: ACB wishes Congress to exercise its power to help shape the future telecommunications industry in this country by supporting the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, legislation that would, among other things, restore the federal mandate for audio described television programming, require that emergency information on television be made accessible to people who are blind and require accessible interfaces on electronic communications devices, such as television sets and video recorders. For more information see "Legislative Imperative 1" below.

2. Pedestrian Safety: ACB wishes Congress to pass the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, H.R. 734, which would lead to regulations that would make new, quiet cars easier to hear. For more information see "Legislative Imperative 2" below.

Advocacy Success

As one might expect, various people we spoke with received our message with differing degrees of enthusiasm, but most were sympathetic to our positions on the issues, and we received many requests to continue our contact with the offices. Perhaps our greatest accomplishment was to persuade several congressional representatives to co-sponsor the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act.

Just the beginning

As important as our Capitol Hill visits were, it is far more important that CCB members cultivate long-term relationships with their city, county, state and federal legislative representatives. Each of us can do this. Here's how:

1. Appoint a Legislation committee in your CCB chapter.

2. Include a legislation report on the agenda of each chapter business meeting.

3. Compile the names and contact information for the legislators for each chapter member.

4. Send a chapter representative to the governmental affairs committee meetings at each CCB convention.

5. Find out when your legislators are visiting your local district and make a point of going to events where they'll attend. Also try to arrange a meeting with your legislators when they are in your district.

6. Invite your representatives to CCB chapter events, and publicize those events.

7. Your chapter could present awards to deserving politicians for working on behalf of the blind community.

8. If you are sympathetic to the views of your legislator, consider working in his or her re- election campaign.

9. Develop relationships with officials at all levels of government. Remember, the mayor you befriend this year may be the U.S. Senator who defends our rights ten or twenty years from now.

Legislative Imperative 1: Telecommunications and Electronic Information, by Eric Bridges, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs

Background: As the nation moves ever closer to the digital television transition deadline in June of this year, television and Internet products and programming are increasingly reliant on visual information to communicate with consumers. Products are created that utilize on-screen menus. In programming, significant events are portrayed visually: emergency weather advisories are scrolled across screens. People who are blind, or have visual impairments, are thereby denied access to a significant portion of the vast array of communications services available today. In the following paper, we will describe the challenges blind and visually impaired individuals are currently experiencing in an increasingly digital world and the necessity for legislation to rectify these problems.

Video Description: Television plays a critical role in our society as a vital source of news, information, local and community affairs, education, and entertainment. Video description is where a narrator describes visual elements of a program during the natural pauses that occur in dialogue, to let a person who cannot see the screen know what is happening. The nation has a compelling public interest in furthering the safety, security and well-being of people who are blind and visually impaired by ensuring, to the fullest extent made possible by technology, equal access to the television medium.

Accessible Interfaces: Today, there exist many levels of on-screen menus and complicated program guides for operating various video programming devices (DVD players, televisions, cable boxes, TiVo, etc.). Unfortunately, access to these interfaces is poor to non-existent for individuals with visual impairments. Such complicated navigational tools and remotes are new barriers to old delivery mechanisms.

Web Access and Web Programming: In addition to old delivery mechanisms, we are seeing new technologies and new devices that carry video programming. Programming that was once viewable on television is now available over the Internet and on IP-enabled and wireless devices. However, access to that programming and the use of options such as video description and closed captioning is poor at best.

Emergency Information Access: It is critical that emergency information be provided in a manner that allows access for individuals with sensory disabilities. Emergency information provided visually must be described in the program's main audio track. More and more, critical information is scrolled or crawled across the screen with no accompanying audio information.

Access to Electronic Communications and Information by Wireless Devices: Today, a cell phone is no longer just a means by which people speak to one another. These devices are equipped with features that will allow the user to send and receive email and text messages, and to procure information from the Internet. Unfortunately, blind or visually impaired consumers are forced to spend much more than just the cost of the phone and data plan in order to gain full access to all of the features of their PDA. Currently, a fully accessible wireless off-the-shelf device does not exist.


On June 19, 2008, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced H.R. 6320, the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. This legislation was made a reality by the active participation of ACB through its steering committee membership in the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT). ACB is urging Congress to reintroduce and pass the legislation, which will address our concerns. [Editor's note: The sections referred to here were in the original act.]

Closed-Captioning Decoder and Video Description Capability: This expands the scope of devices that must display closed captions under the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 from the present requirement of television sets with screens that are 13 inches or larger, to all video devices that receive or display video programming transmitted simultaneously with sound, including those that can receive or display programming carried over the Internet. The section also requires these devices to be able to transmit and deliver video descriptions.

Video Description and Closed Captioning: This reinstates the FCC's modest regulations on video description. Those rules, originally promulgated in 2001, were struck down by a U.S. Court of Appeals for lack of FCC authority. This section also authorizes the FCC to promulgate additional rules to (1) ensure that video description services can be transmitted and provided over digital TV technologies, (2) ensure that digital TV equipment can make available the delivery and use of video description, (3) require non- visual access to on-screen emergency warnings and similar televised information and (4) increase the amount of video description required. Finally, this section adds a definition for video programming to include programming distributed over the Internet to make clear that the existing closed captioning obligations (and future video description obligations) contained in Section 713 apply to video programming that is distributed or re-distributed over the Internet. This section is intended to ensure the continued accessibility of video programming to Americans with disabilities, as this programming migrates to the Internet.

User Interfaces: This section requires devices used to receive or display video programming, including devices used to receive and display Internet-based video programming, to be accessible by people with disabilities so that such individuals are able to access all functions of such devices (such as turning them on and off, controlling volume and selecting programming). The section contains requirements for (1) audio output where on-screen text menus are used to control video programming functions, and (2) a conspicuous means of accessing closed captioning and video description, including a button on remote controls and first level access to these accessibility features when made available through on-screen menus.

Access Video Programming Guides and Menus: This section requires multi-channel video programming distributors to make their navigational programming guides accessible to people who cannot read the visual display, so that they can make program selections.

Universal Service: This grants authority to the FCC to designate programs that distribute specialized equipment used to make telecommunications and Internet-enabled communication services accessible to individuals who are deaf-blind, as eligible for universal service support.

Proposed Action

ACB strongly urges Congress to reintroduce the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.

Please share with members of both the House and Senate the language outlined above and how these changes will impact your life. Please urge them to be a sponsor or co- sponsor of this legislation. If a member of Congress is interested in sponsoring this legislation, please advise the ACB national office of their interest so that staff can make a follow-up contact.

Legislative Imperative 2: Quiet Vehicles: Safety Issues for Blind Pedestrians, by Eric Bridges, Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs


When vision is reduced or completely eliminated as a means of understanding and responding to one's environment, an individual's hearing takes over as the primary source of environmental information. Traditionally, people who are blind or visually impaired have learned to rely on their hearing to navigate safely across streets and through other vehicular ways, such as parking lots. In so doing, the sound of traffic is their primary focus. Traffic sounds provide information about such things as the position of vehicles, their direction of travel, and the speed at which they are likely to move. With this information, the pedestrian can make informed decisions about when to cross a street or other vehicular way safely.

In recent years, automobile manufacturers around the world have responded to public concern for our environment by producing increasing numbers of vehicles that are meant to be environmentally friendly. This has led to an increased number of vehicles on the road which not only utilize alternative fuels to power their engines, but also run much more quietly than older automobiles did. Though many aspects of this trend are laudatory, efforts by the auto industry to make the environment less noisy have placed pedestrians who use that noise to evaluate the safety or danger of the area in which they are traveling at serious risk. Anecdotal reports of pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired indicate that these environmentally friendly vehicles are extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, to hear.

Legislative Action

The American Council of the Blind urges Congress to pass H.R. 734, The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 as introduced by Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL).

The bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to:

1. Conduct a study beginning within 90 days of passage of this legislation and to complete it within two years of its commencement, at which time, the Department of Transportation shall report the study's findings to Congress.

2. Within 90 days after the conclusion of the study, the secretary is then directed to establish a standard that will take into account the results of the study, and will set forth the minimum information that must be provided by motor vehicles for blind and other pedestrians to travel safely and independently in urban, rural, and residential environments.

3. The bill provides that the standard shall apply to all "new motor vehicles."

For further information on the above legislative imperatives, contact Eric Bridges; American Council of the Blind; 2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 650; Arlington, VA 22201. phone: 202-467-5081; e-mail ebridges@acb.org.

Return to the Table of Contents

from the AADB website

Deaf-blind people have many different ways of communication. The methods they use vary, depending on the causes of their combined vision and hearing loss, background and education. Below are some of the most common ways that deaf-blind people communicate. These methods are used primarily in the United States.

Sign Language and Modifications: Some deaf or hard-of-hearing people with low vision use American Sign Language or an English-based sign language. In some cases, people may need to sign or fingerspell more slowly than usual so the person with limited vision can see signs clearly. Sometimes the person with low vision can see the signs better if the signer wears a shirt that contrasts with his or her skin color (e.g., a person with light skin needs to wear a dark-colored shirt).

Adapted Signs: Some deaf-blind people with restricted peripheral vision may prefer the signer to use a very small space, usually at chest level. Some signs located at waist level may need to be adapted (e.g., signing "belt" at chest level rather than at the waist).

Tactile Sign Language: The deaf-blind person puts his or her hands over the signer's hands to feel the shape, movement and location of the signs. Some signs and facial expressions may need to be modified (for example, signing "not understand" instead of signing "understand" and shaking one's head; spelling "dog" rather than signing "dog"). People can use one-handed or two-handed tactile sign language. Those who grew up using ASL in the deaf community may prefer tactile ASL, while others who came from an oral background or learned signing later may prefer a more English-based tactile system.

Tracking: Some deaf-blind people with restricted but still usable vision (e.g., tunnel vision) may follow signs by holding the signer's forearm or wrist and using their eyes to follow the signs visually.

Tactile Fingerspelling: Usually blind or visually impaired people who lose their hearing later, or deaf or hard-of-hearing people who have depended on their speech reading and do not know how to sign, prefer tactile fingerspelling because sometimes sign language can be difficult to learn. The deaf-blind person may prefer to put his or her hand over the fingerspelling hand, or on the signer's palm, or cup his or her hand around the signer's hand.

Speech-reading Tadoma: This is a way for deaf-blind people with little or no usable vision to speech-lipread another person by touch. They put their thumb on the other person's chin, and their fingers on the cheek to feel the vibrations of the person's voice and the movement of the lips. This method is rarely used nowadays. Other deaf or hard-of- hearing people with usable vision use speech-reading as well as their residual vision and hearing. They may use hearing aids, cochlear implants and/or assistive listening devices to help with communication.

Face-to-Face Communication Systems: Some deaf-blind people use a Screen/Braille Communicator (SBC). This is a small, portable device that enables them to communicate with sighted people. The device has a QWERTY keyboard with an LCD display on one side, and an eight-cell braille display with braille keyboard, on the other. The sighted person types short text on the QWERTY keyboard, and the deaf-blind person reads the text on the braille display, then uses the braille keyboard to type back text, which the sighted person reads on the LCD display.

TTY with Braille Display: The TTY is connected with and stacked on top of a braille display, although both can be separate. It allows a deaf-blind person who reads braille to use the telephone. The deaf-blind person can also use this system as a face-to-face communication device to communicate with someone else who does not know the person's preferred communication method. Also, some people who don't see well can use TTYs with large visual displays or computers with larger fonts. Note that the Deaf-blind Communicator, developed by HumanWare, combines the features of a TTY, face-to-face communication and text-messaging.

CapTel: Some people with hearing and vision loss use CapTel to make telephone calls. Using a special phone, the CapTel USB, people can dial into a captioning service that types the other caller's conversation onto a computer screen and allows the conversation to be heard. Deaf-blind callers can read a conversation script on their screens in addition to listening to the conversation. The captions can be adjusted for color, size or font style.

Braille Notetakers: Deaf-blind people can also use braille notetakers to communicate with others who don't know braille or the preferred communication styles. Many braille notetakers can be connected with personal digital assistants (PDAs) that are commonly used by sighted people.

Alternate Communication: The person communicating with the deaf-blind person prints large block letters on the palm, and each letter is written at the same location. This is frequently a way for deaf-blind people to communicate with the public.

These are a few of the many ways that deaf-blind people communicate with each other and the hearing and sighted communities. For more specific information, contact the AADB Office at the American Association of the Deaf-Blind; 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 121; Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-3803. TTY Phone: 301-495-4402, Voice Phone: 301- 495-4403, Fax: 301-495-4404. Email: aadb-info@aadb.org, website: www.aadb.org.

Return to the Table of Contents

by Catherine Thomas

The Optacon user list would like to share the following information with all current and former Optacon users.

1. Optacons can still be repaired. There are repairers located in the U.S., Canada, England and Australia.

2. We are seeking all non-working or unused Optacons. These will be repaired and put back into circulation.

3. We invite all current Optacon users to fill out a brief survey describing their experiences, both negative and positive.

4. If we can collect enough survey data, there is a possibility of re-developing the Optacon with modern circuitry to read some of the types of modern displays that other devices cannot read at this time.

5. There is a very active Optacon e-list where users share experiences and make plans for the future of the Optacon.

If you would like information on any of the above or have any questions, please email braille@panix.com. Thank you.

What is an Optacon? Invented in the early 1970s, the Optacon uses a hand-held camera to explore a print document and convert the picture of what it finds onto a small tactile array composed of vibrating pins. The tactile picture is read with the end (about an inch long) of one finger. With practice, the user can move the camera over the printed material and read the images on the tactile array. The Optacon was manufactured until the early 1990s.

Return to the Table of Contents

by Donna Pomerantz

Transportation is essential in the lives of everyone whether sighted, blind, young, old, automobile driver, pedestrian, public transportation or paratransit user.

The tragic death recently of Cameron Cuthbertson, a 48 year old blind, African American man residing in Compton who died while attempting to board a light rail Blue Line train when he accidentally stepped between two of the cars rather than through the door, touched all of us who heard the news. There were no barriers either on the platform or between the cars, and he was killed before the train could be stopped. His death occurred on January 28th, 2009.

We were shocked and appalled that there was no media coverage about this for a few days after its occurrence. No media coverage, nor radio, news coverage. Only one article in the Los Angeles Times and the Daily Breeze. We were heavy into the media coverage of other things like the woman who had eight babies and coverage of the teenagers who were drunk and stole their parents' car and ran into a house. But nothing was to be seen or heard about Mr. Cuthbertson's tragic and preventable death on the tracks of the Blue Line light rail train.

It has now been more than one month since his death, and the two newspaper articles have gone out as well as numerous posts on blogs, listservs throughout all of cyberspace, and there is still no media coverage. Several people have also made attempts to contact media outlets both on the local and national level and still no interest and coverage. What does this say? I know it makes me angry but should I be surprised, sadly not.

Eight CCB Chapter Presidents chose to sign onto a letter which you will read at the end of this article. It was presented to Metro at the Accessibility Advisory Committee's February 12th meeting and it went to the Metro Board of Directors, its Chief Executive Officer and others. Also at that meeting half of the chapters who signed onto the letter were represented and the letter, signed by all, was read into the public record, so really everyone was represented.

As a lifetime resident of Los Angeles County, I have seen the evolution of both paratransit and public transportation services. It seems that people in other states get around much better using public transportation than we do here in Los Angeles County. I'm not sure if that is a product of our large spread out area, the lack of dollars, or maybe some other factors that I haven't even considered.

I had always heard that in other parts of the country, people could get around very well using the public transportation systems such as bus, subway and light rail. Years ago I was so excited when the projects of building the small subway and light rail systems were to occur. I had no idea though--and I guess that was my naive nature when it came to public transportation--that we would have to make sure and keep our buses serving "all" parts of the community, but that we were going to need to be vigilant in making sure our subway and light rail systems were safe and usable for us as people who are blind and partially sighted. I learned very quickly that I was going to need to get involved on the county level because I had to make my place at the table and be proactive in the work of making sure, to the best of my ability, that our concerns would not get shoved under the rug. Therefore, five years ago, I applied to, and became a member of the entity which has most to do with transportation for persons with disabilities, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Accessibility Advisory Committee.

The committee meets monthly and is staffed by Metro's ADA Americans with Disabilities Act) Compliance Administrator. There are four CCB members who are actively serving on this committee and we are all very vocal in making sure that our needs and our viewpoint are taken into account in how Metro does its business in creating public transit in the County.

We have all been trying for many years to get Metro to put either on-platform barriers/ballards or between-car barriers on all trains under its jurisdiction. There have been many obstacles and one of them has been the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission). They would not even allow testing of different options on the platforms as Metro tried to seek the CPUC's permission, which would not be granted for years. Now, in my opinion Metro somehow could have tried harder to get this done, but for whatever reason, neither entity could agree upon a satisfactory approach.

Here in Los Angeles County our trains can all stop in the same place and therefore the on- platform barriers/ballards would work. We do recognize that not all systems are the same and that is why we use the language in our letter "either on platform or between car" as we know that not all systems' trains can stop in the same place.

In closing, it saddens me that it took the death of Cameron Cuthbertson to get Metro to push harder and agree to install these barriers/ballards at each one of their light rail and subway train stations, but they will. At an upcoming meeting, we will be seeking a timeline from them as to their installation, and we will again discuss the need for training regarding the issue. We will continue to keep you informed regarding the developments here in Los Angeles County and keep our place at the table. Our voices will continue to be heard at all levels!

[The Letter]

February 12, 2009

To: Roger Snoble, Chief Executive Officer, Metro Board of Directors; Don Ott, Chip Hazen, ADA Compliance Officer

Metro Accessibility Advisory Committee

Eight chapters of the California Council of the Blind in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Bernardino County are truly saddened and appalled by the tragic and preventable death of a blind gentleman due to a mishap on the Metro Blue Line on January 28, 2009.

Our national organization, the American Council of the Blind, and our state affiliate, the California Council of the Blind, as well as the 70 state and special interest ACB affiliates, have been urging enhanced train safety measures for persons who are blind and visually impaired for many years. Once again, due to a lack of such measures, another blind person has had to die, further emphasizing the critical need for effective safety mechanisms, be they on-platform barriers or between-car barriers.

A number of CCB members wish to meet with Metro staff to discuss our concerns and determine a time line in which platform barriers will be erected on the Los Angeles train platforms.

While Metro is doing a test project with platform barriers at four of its light rail stations, we are now requesting--since through the testing Metro has demonstrated that its light rail trains can stop in the same place--that platform barriers be placed on all Metro light rail train platforms to prevent another tragic situation as witnessed on Wednesday, January 28.

Please contact either Donna Pomerantz at 626-233-2991, dmpomerantz@earthlink.net, or Ken Metz at 626-300-8477, kenmetz@sbcglobal.net to set up a meeting with up to twelve of our California Council of the Blind members. We look forward to hearing from someone at Metro to arrange this meeting as soon as possible.

Thank you in advance for your quick response to our request.


Pamela Metz, President, Greater Los Angeles Chapter; Donna Pomerantz, President, San Gabriel Valley Chapter; Robert Wendt, President, Greater Long Beach Chapter; Michael Williams, President, Compton Chapter; Dr. Catherine Schmitt Whitaker, President, Orange County Chapter; Louie Herrera, President, East Los Angeles Chapter; Ardis Bazyn, President, Glendale Burbank Chapter; Christy Crespin, President, Active Blind Inland Valley Chapter

Return to the Table of Contents


AFB to Close Its Audio Production Division in October 2009

After 75 years of participating in the National Library Service (NLS) Talking Book Program, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is closing its audio book division in October 2009 with the expiration of AFB's New York headquarters' lease. Fans of talking books will continue to have access to high quality audio books from the many other accomplished audio book producers participating in the NLS program, as well as through increasingly popular, accessible, and affordable, commercially produced books and internet downloads.

Since pioneering the development of recorded books in the 1930s, AFB has produced tens of thousands of Talking Books for the Library of Congress, a program championed by Helen Keller during her tenure at AFB. AFB expects to continue producing audio material for NLS and our other customers until it leaves its present facility.

"As a Talking Book user myself, I take enormous pride in the role AFB has played in providing high-quality audio books to people who are blind or visually impaired," said Carl R. Augusto, AFB President & CEO. "While we are saddened to be exiting the Talking Book business, we are confident that other audio book producers have sufficient studio production capacity to handle NLS requirements and that blind and visually impaired consumers will continue to have access to audio material through the NLS program and other avenues."

AFB's decision to exit the Talking Book program was based on a number of factors, including the financial costs that AFB incurs by participating in the government-funded NLS program and the need to apply donor funds to those programs that AFB is in a unique position to deliver.

"AFB is proud to have produced so many amazing audio books, and we owe a huge thank you to AFB's audio book production staff and to the actors and narrators whose much- loved voices have created wonderful and enduring recordings," added Augusto.

AFB Distance Learning Survey Results Now Available, from AFB DirectConnect

More and more schools, colleges and universities are using online educational tools that students are required to use to obtain course syllabi, access lectures and associated material, participate in class discussions, read course material, and receive grades and feedback from instructors. These popular tools, such as Blackboard, can frequently pose significant barriers to students with vision loss because they do not work well, if at all, with computer programs commonly used by students who are blind or visually impaired to access content displayed on the computer screen.

AFB explored ways in which popular online educational tools can be made more accessible with the help of nearly 100 individuals who recently completed our online survey. The results are now available! Findings indicated that the most important and necessary features of online educational tools present significant problems for those using assistive technology such as screen reading or screen magnification software. In nearly every instance, respondents indicated features that were inaccessible.

To read the full report, go to www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=3&TopicID=377&DocumentID=4492.

Return to the Table of Contents

by Dawn Wilcox, former sailor Vela, circumnavigation 1973-78

I have a secret--I don't like to fly, and that isn't a problem since I never go far: a five-year sailboat excursion in the 70's was quite enough. However, my son Garth and daughter-in- law Wendy now live in Seattle: too far to walk or take Outreach. They came to visit me by Amtrak in the Spring, so I decided to try the train now that Garth and Wendy were house- sitting. You won't catch me sleeping on the deck of their 31-foot sailboat. It has been known to rain in Seattle.

I explored the amtrak.com site, which was accessible, and got more information from Roger and Bernice, who had taken AMTRAK to L.A. Wendy advised me to take a roomette (a small, convertible sleeping car compartment) so I could get a good sleep, but it was much more expensive, though meals were included, so I took coach on the return trip. That way I could do a comparison and sleep the whole next day in my own bed at home if need be. I picked the date. The site gave me the time, "leave San Jose Northbound at 8:39 p.m. arrive Seattle 8:45 p.m." I discovered that for disability rate, you call 800-872-7245, and the agent books the ride for you.

So on the big day, I took Outreach to 65 Cahill in San Jose, where I picked up my ticket at check-in. I requested boarding help and they remembered to come and take me to the right train and car. The train attendant helped me board my suitcase. You can check luggage if you wish.

The train was late arriving--not an unusual event since freight trains have the right-of-way. While waiting, I chatted with the mother-in-law of a fellow Vista Center for the Blind volunteer, also going to Seattle.

After we boarded, they announced that bedroom passengers would be served dinner even though it was around 10 p.m. If you are disabled and don't want to walk to the dining car, the attendant will bring your menu choice.

The attendant converted the roomette into a bed with a pull-down bed above and nice, sturdy steps to reach it. Each bed had controls for radio, air/heat and a plug for charging cellphones or shavers. I forgot to ask my car attendant to show me where all these things were, but the couple across the hall was very helpful. The several bathrooms, changing rooms and even showers were a few steps away on the other side of the open luggage racks. People were free to come and take things out of their bags, and you could even fit one bag in the roomette. It was a tiny room, but it had a big window; and you are free to go to the observation car, where there are many comfortable chairs, tables and connections for laptops; or you could find the cafe, which had packaged food, coffee, cocoa and more tables.

In the morning, I discovered I had to open the glass door to have enough room to tie my shoes; but I had slept well, the sound of the wheels making a nice rhythm. The attendant offered to convert my roomette back to seats, but I chose to keep it as a bed so I could take my usual nap. I asked how to find the dining car and went there for breakfast. Moving from car to car was similar to the Capitol Corridor trains we take to CCB conventions in Sacramento. There is the plate I push to open one door and then I checked out the metal ridges with my cane as I crossed. I kept forgetting my car number and didn't find the sign until halfway to Seattle. There was braille on the bathroom doors, but there could have been more. Once I opened the door to #11, my roomette, and discovered two surprised people sitting there. Then I learned the sleeper sections have the same numbers, and it makes a difference if you are in car 1143 or 1142. In the diner, you sit with other passengers and most were talkative.

When I went to the observation car, people were pointing out waterfalls, which I never managed to see; but I did see miles of green trees go by. The track was narrow up in the mountains, so I was closer to the forest than I would have been in an automobile. My room window was on the lower level, and I felt like I could almost touch the little creek we passed.

I listened to a couple of books on my VoiceNote M-power and managed to crash my cellphone trying to learn how to use the magnifier, but I did call Roger before we got into the no-signal-bars area. Later, the attendant fixed my phone by removing the battery--I'd forgotten to try that. It seems weird to have to reboot a cell phone.

The train stopped several times for freight trains, and for one long period so maintenance people could repair a wheel on one of them. Then I got to see a whole freight train go by my window--so close I could see strange cars that looked like short grain silos.

Since I was traveling first class on this trip, I decided to see if I could walk the whole train, get some exercise and find the lady I'd met in San Jose. No one changed clothes and she had a distinctive blouse and necklace. If you are a "peasant," my term for coach traveler, you are not allowed forward of the dinner car. Being of the elite though, I walked through the food prep area and through the cars till I ran out of train. I found the lady, and we had a chat. Then I walked the wrong way and ended up back at the train's-end again. On the way back my friend said she wondered why I reversed direction. If I followed someone close enough, the doors stayed open for me to get through.

Smoking was not allowed anywhere on the train; but they let people off at a few stations to walk, and the nicotine addicts could get their fix. I got off and walked in circles so I wouldn't lose the train.

In the afternoon, we were invited to a wine tasting. I thought it was free, but it turned out to be $5--$10 if you were in coach class. The wine attendant had a tray for each of four wines; but I only made it to number two, not being much of a drinker.

I had the train attendant bring dinner to me. You have to make an appointment for meals as the dining area is small and the trains completely booked. They announce 6 p.m. seating, etc.; and all the train riders can eat at their seats or in the café.

We had a little adventure in our car as a valve got stuck open in one of the bathrooms. I was on my way back to my roomette and they stopped me and had me wait in a regular bedroom--nice space, had its own bathroom but twice as expensive.

It turned out the problem was the drinking water tank that emptied, and they re-filled it at the next stop. After about 20 minutes, they let me go downstairs after covering the floor with towels. The attendant was very upset as she'd never dealt with a flood in her two months on the job. I helped her by unmaking my bed to get ready for arrival. She sure had a lot of linen for someone to wash! I called Garth on my cell so they'd know the train was an hour late.

The Visit

After the train arrived in Seattle, I "de-trained," a term I learned on the trip. The attendant told me which direction to walk; and as I walked along, I spotted someone running towards me, flapping her arms--Wendy, my daughter-in-law, who gave me a big hug, and then I spotted my son Garth.

Now some of you know Garth and Wendy had recently returned from seven years of sailing the Pacific Ocean in Velella, a 31-foot sailboat. Garth now has an actual job, but they are still living like gypsies: no car, living on the boat and house-sitting. Garth borrowed his company's car to pick me up.

My goodness, what a great house to live in, rent-free. It is on a hill with a view of Puget Sound. It is owned by a sailing couple in their 60s, who sail every summer among the Vancouver Islands. Too bad they are coming back so soon. They had a full basement with shop, dark room--the wife has published a book that included her pictures. This house also has a big yard with raspberry bushes. The next day, Wendy taught me how to find the ripe berries, and we went out picking.

During my seven days there, Garth and I prepared a surprise party for Wendy's birthday. Wendy and I tried to carry a heavy table from the basement and got stuck trying to turn the stair corner out to the yard. At one point, the door was jammed and the only way to get in and out was to crawl through the table legs--not too smooth for a party! We called Garth at work to come rescue us; he pointed out he had work to do at work--what a concept. It occurred to me that we could turn the table on its back and slide it back down the stairs. When Garth got home, he actually measured the table and had no trouble getting it outside. We had a good party.

Sailing on the Sound

The Velella needed to be moved back to Bainbridge Island from a temporary tie-up closer to the current house. The problem--if we sailed in the evening when Garth gets off work, it would take us till midnight to get home on the ferry. Solution: do it in the daytime with Wendy as captain and guess who as crew--I, the one who hasn't sailed in 30 years when I could see a lot better, such a brave captain. So we set off! Luckily I brought my rain jacket, but I didn't have any boat shoes. I remembered that ropes are called "lines" and those pointy things on the dock are "cleats." I used my cane to gauge the distance from the dock and the height of the life-lines I had to climb over. Even though I am no spring chicken, I hung onto the hatch-roof and managed to get onboard without falling in the water. Wendy was very good at backing out, etc.--this was a motor, not a sailing trip. We avoided a freighter and ferry boats, and then it started to rain. That made Wendy very depressed; but I equate sailing with being wet, so it seemed normal to me.

We had timed the trip so Garth could meet us on Bainbridge. We called him and he set off from work on his folding bike; took the ferry and met us at the Bainbridge city dock, where I had managed to disembark in the rain and put the line around the cleat. Garth was amazed I'd gotten on Velella without a box! Our trip back to the house on the mainland started with a nice Mexican dinner and then the ferry, in the rain.

We spent a whole day at the 50th reunion of the Thunderbird Fleet. T-birds are designed to be built in a person's garage from nice, straight pieces of marine plywood. We had one in the late 60's that we raced in San Francisco Bay out of Redwood City--my daughter Linda was three and her job was to take a nap; Garth was six and quickly became a crewman. Wendy and Garth owned and raced a T-bird in Seattle before they got Velella, so it was a day of running into people they knew. Wendy was offered a job on the spot writing an article about the event, so she started taking pictures and interviewing.

On the day I returned home, Garth came with Wendy and me on the bus with two cans of bottom paint for Velella, and my suitcase. He managed to stow this all under the bus seat, as it was quite full of commuters. He pulled everything out when we got to his stop, and Wendy and I went on to the train station. The train was also fully booked, and I had a coach seat to save money--a bad decision!

The trip was fine again and I used the café, the diner and some cheese and nuts we bought at a Trader Joe's in Seattle. I couldn't walk the length of the train this time--coach passengers are not allowed forward of the dining car. I also noticed that there didn't seem to be a shower as in the bedroom cars. I booked a lower-level coach seat, as Bernice suggested, so the bathrooms were on the same level; but I couldn't find a way to adapt my body to the seat for sleeping--it was very comfortable for listening to my books and reading a braille health newsletter, just not for sleeping.

Unfortunately we had an autistic boy in the car. He was about eight and had learned that he, his sister and mother were going to CALI-FORN-IA--yes he keep announcing that all night, full volume! Sometimes the others in the car would be drifting off to the comforting click-click of the wheels. "AUNT TINA'S HOUSE," he'd yell or the one that got his mother moving: "GO POTTY." The poor boy managed to lose a tooth and the mother had to try to keep him from sticking his finger in the socket and start it bleeding again. I tried to get him to focus on me when the mother started saying "Oh God!" He finally went to sleep at 2 a.m.--bad timing, as they were getting off at Redding at 3 a.m. No way could they wake him up. I helped the tired sister gather their many bags while the mother tried to carry/drag him off. At the station, the train attendants helped them get from the car to the steps to the ground.

I felt sorry for them out there at 3 a.m.--I hope AUNT TINA and UNCLE PAUL came to pick them up. I felt like we knew the whole family.

I thought we could sleep then, but we acquired a new passenger who was in tobacco withdrawal--no smoking on Amtrak. She kept asking when the smoking stop was. I also worried about this lady since she was going to get her 13-year-old son from the father and take him back. At one point she said to her seat-mate, "Who are you, you're not my sister!" Too bad we didn't have a psychologist on that car.

My last seatmate was very nice. She asked about my Vista hat and was very interested in non-profits.

By this time, I'd given my card to two families who had visually impaired members. I went up and had a good breakfast after Sacramento--arrived only an hour late in San Jose, called Outreach for an open return ride and went to bed at 11 a.m. with one or two brain- cells working. A very interesting adventure and I will ride the rails again.

A couple days later I wrote a letter to Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representative Eshoo urging them to give the daytime right-of-way to Amtrak, explaining how many passengers were speaking of the cost of gas and not liking air travel.

Return to the Table of Contents


Dear Colleague:

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This new legislation provides a one-time payment of $250 to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries.

Over 60 million beneficiaries will receive a one-time payment. We expect all payments to be delivered by late May, 2009. To assist us in issuing these payments as quickly as possible, beneficiaries should not contact Social Security unless they do not receive their payment by June 4th. As we move to implement the new legislation, we will continue to provide updates to keep you informed of our efforts in this area.

You can learn more about these one-time payments at www.socialsecurity.gov. We ask that you share information about these efforts with members, colleagues and any parties who would find them of interest.

I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this important legislation with you.

Sincerely, Cheri Arnott, Associate Commissioner for External Affairs

Return to the Table of Contents

by Rick Boggs

[Editor's note: Part One was published in the Winter, 2009 BC.]

The entertainment industry is replete with highly paid professionals who reside behind well guarded gates in secluded communities. Perhaps that protected, "us versus them" living environment at home translates into closed minds and locked doors at work, especially when the possibility of employing a professional with a disability arises or when there is an option to make a DVD or a web stream accessible for consumers who are blind or deaf. Despite the adversarial disposition of the media industry, professionals with disabilities continue to search for any door to enter into an opportunity to prove their value in the production environment. Here, we will focus on jobs that might pose the fewest barriers and what individuals can do to make themselves as employable as possible.

Basically, there really is no job in the biz that a person with a disability could not perform. The issue really involves choosing the right job according to skillsets. Consider some of the most common jobs in media production: producer, production coordinator, director, writer, audio engineer, voice-over artist, and actor. How many visually impaired people currently hold these types of jobs? What skills are essential for performing these functions? How does one develop a career in any of these positions? I asked several open-minded, collegial professionals to help me answer these questions.


Other than executives at the top of TV networks or major film studios, producers probably represent the higher part of the food chain in Hollywood. They frequently have the power to make a concept become a reality or to dramatically shape the way a film or TV show looks and feels. Producer Karen Mayeda describes the profession this way:

"There are so many types of producers. There are creative producers who have a vision. There are financial producers who manage time and money, and there are writers who become producers, i.e. Show Runners for episodics."

The only producer who is blind that I am aware of is Tom Sullivan, who has not only written and produced, but has even directed TV shows. Tom breaks down producers into three types: Executive Producers who create the property, Line Producers who run the production operations and Writer Producers who control the story. "Blind guys are never really likely to work as Line Producers," he says, "because you're dealing with site location work, outside shoot managers, and logistical statistics that really make the job impractical." However, Tom has Executive Producer credits and Writer Producer credits to his name and believes: "If you control the word, you can guarantee your own job; but, if you don't control the essential word, they will find a way for you to be fired. They're never going to hire you to come in and produce content that you don't personally control. Control of the word is everything." Tom worked as a correspondent for ABC's "Good Morning America." He wrote and produced episodes of "Highway to Heaven" where Michael Landon handed Tom the chance to direct.

Executive producers often know finance and intellectual property licensing very well and have connections to funding. Line producers know every aspect of shooting a show and have solid management skills. Writer producers have refined written and verbal communication skills and an innate sense of how to tell a story.

Production Coordinator

Generally, films have production coordinators and TV shows have line producers. Production coordinators are involved with virtually every aspect of a film. They are the hands-on, nuts and bolts operators of the whole production process. Producer Ashleigh Nichols describes the duties this way:

"Responsibilities include: dealing with cast, crew, vendors, agents, lawyers, the general public, equipment bids, staffing the office, and any emergency."

Ashleigh suggests that required skills include determination, people skills, and a sense of humor to get through those long, hard days.

Unaware of any blind production coordinators, Ashleigh considers the possibility of someone doing the job without sight. "The most difficult thing for a blind production coordinator would be the same as for a seeing production coordinator. It would be handling the stress of being the 'go-to-guy' for the movie. This can be difficult for anyone."


Strictly from a logistical viewpoint, working as a writer may be the most suitable position for a person with vision loss. Writers can apply their skills to TV or radio ads, TV episodics, films, or stage plays. I am only aware of two writers in this industry who are blind.

Obviously, exceptional computer skills and written communication skills would be valuable assets. Writer Lynn Manning points to the undaunted courage that is required in order to succeed. "Both film and television are subject to painfully whimsical decision making." He decision-making," he says. Writers, like actors and voice-over artists, face frequent rejection and harsh criticism. Total blindness notwithstanding, Lynn did manage to write a screenplay for a film which was purchased at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and was distributed on cable television.

Audio Engineers

Some people might assume that a career in audio production would be a natural fit for a person with vision loss. It makes sense that someone who relies primarily on hearing for most daily activities could have an advantage in a career dealing with sound. Frankly, my twenty-one years of experience as a professional audio engineer, including training and hiring people entering the field, has confirmed the seed of truth in this perception. What has surprised me is the overwhelming resistance in the audio production industry to giving blind people a chance to prove their abilities. I am aware of dozens of blind audio professionals who operate their own independent production businesses quite successfully. I am aware of blind audio engineers who have graduated from esteemed public and private universities offering recording science degrees. I have provided skills training for dozens of blind engineers, employed several, set up recording workstations for others and helped others in their job-seeking efforts. However, I am still not aware of a single blind person who has been accepted as a student to any of the non-university trade schools offering audio engineer certification, nor am I aware of a single blind audio engineer, regardless of talent or experience, being given a chance to work in a media production company involved in film or television. On the other hand, I am aware of many instances of students who are blind being rejected from audio recording schools on the basis of their vision loss, and I am aware of several talented, experienced audio engineers who are blind being denied employment at studios offering even entry level positions. To succeed as an audio engineer, one must acquire training and hundreds of hours of experience. It's a technical job, so an analytical, detail-oriented mind equipped with an organized approach to problem-solving will help. Knowledge of audio applications for computers is no substitute for a real ear for sound and expertise in audio hardware and patching sound systems. Developing a career as an audio engineer is certainly no smooth process for a blind person, but it is possible.

Getting Started

When an individual possesses a burning passion to pursue a job in the entertainment industry and seeks advice on getting started, the usual response is: "Don't do it." Karen Mayeda's observations offer some good and some bad news. She notes how the industry has changed immensely in recent years, making budgets harder to come by but offering surprisingly easy access to new producers to get projects off the ground, e.g. "Internet and garage productions." Tom Sullivan insists that success is dependent upon being a self- starter, determining that you actually have real talent and persevering despite failure and rejection. He adds: "Learn where the money is; become a finance expert." Tom suggests that excellence is the key to overcoming blindness. "We must be better in order to be equal." As for Production Coordinators, Ashleigh Nichols believes: "Every production coordinator, blind or seeing, will have a career that started because of who you know, after that you will have to prove yourself." For writers, Lynn Manning suggests: "Study the art, read plenty of successful screenplays, and invest in a good script writing program." Blind individuals desiring to work as an audio engineer must tap the resources of the existing community of blind engineers to learn about their technical options. Try starting on the web at www.blindproducers.org. Networking is critical to all jobs in the media and entertainment industry.

The Back Door

Accessible media production, which includes closed captioning and audio description, can serve as a point of entry into the broader audio/video production field. This specialized area of media production offers employment opportunities for visually impaired professionals as QC Specialists, voice-over artists, and audio engineers, as well as administrative and management positions. We will discuss those opportunities as well as various aspects of blind individuals working as actors, voice-over artists, and musicians/composers in the next segment in this series.

Return to the Table of Contents

by Evelyn Drewry

Hello everyone! By the time you see this, winter will have come to an end, and spring will be here. As always, I hope this finds each of you doing well, and that there will be a smile on your face after you have finished reading this story, which I am fairly certain could only happen to a visually impaired person. Leave it to me to have such an experience!

During the 2005 ACB convention, which was held in Las Vegas, I needed to give something to a friend. She was on the floor above mine; and during our phone conversation, we arranged for me to meet her husband at the elevator. This was shortly before dinner; but since I was only meeting him at the elevator, I knew there would be plenty of time for me to run this errand before meeting friends.

I grabbed my cane and ran off to the elevator. It arrived in short order, and I quickly went to the next floor. When I stepped off I called out to Dan and immediately got an answer. What could be easier? I'd just give him the item and get right back on an elevator, and be on my way. Well, in a perfect world that is just what would have happened, but who said this was a perfect world?

I called Dan again, but this time his voice sounded somewhat muffled and distant. The elevator door closed and the car left. I was surprised at how quiet it suddenly became. It seemed like the place was absolutely deserted. I called Dan again, no response. This seemed strange, but I thought he had simply not heard me. I called again, silence! I walked around a corner and still found no one.

After walking around and calling his name, I decided I would just jump back on the elevator and return to my room. My plan was to ask if my roommate had heard from him, and if need be I'd phone his room to track him down.

Stepping off the elevator on my floor, I was puzzled, no Dan. It was as if Dan had disappeared into thin air. As I walked past the ice machine, I heard someone, and for some reason I said "hello" as I walked by. The machine was running, but I heard a male voice say, "hello, how are you?" I said that I was fine, but very puzzled as I couldn't find my friend. The machine kicked off, and I could hear his response clearly.

Imagine my shock when I heard him say: "Evelyn? this is your friend." He sounded as surprised as I felt, and we shared a laugh after realizing what had just happened.

We had arranged to meet at the elevator, but hadn't discussed on which floor. As a result, I went up to his floor, and he went down to mine. Although we didn't realize it, we had been talking to each other through the elevator shaft; and when the elevator doors closed and the cars moved on, our conversation came to an abrupt end. This happened almost four years ago, but I often find myself smiling at the memory when I step off an elevator.

Until next time, stay safe and remember to look on the lighter side.

Return to the Table of Contents

by Sylvia Lopez

Hello to all my fellow cooks!

Below you will find what I like to call "comfort food." The cabbage rolls are so tasty, the rice blends in so well, we can't forget our veggies, and of course, there's dessert! Don't forget to check out my tips on preparing for a salad bar party in the fall, 2008 BC. Always be aware of your surroundings, be safe and careful. Enjoy!

Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Beef & Cheese, serves 6

Ingredients: 12 large cabbage leaves; 1-2 pounds lean ground beef; 1/4 cup minced onion; 1 teaspoon ground sage; 1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese; 2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs; 1 cup milk; 2 teaspoons salt; 1 cup water, broth, or tomato juice; 6 strips bacon.

Preparation: Cook cabbage leaves in boiling, salted water until tender and flexible, about 5 minutes. Combine ground beef, onion, sage, cheese, bread crumbs, milk and salt. Place a large spoonful of meat mixture on each cabbage leaf; roll up, tucking ends inside to seal the mixture. Secure with toothpicks. Place in baking dish and add 1 cup water, broth or tomato juice. Cover rolls with bacon strips and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes.

Almond Currant Rice, four servings

Ingredients: 2 cups uncooked instant rice; 2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds; 1/4 cup dried currants.

Instructions: Prepare rice according to package directions, adding butter and salt. Just before serving, stir in almonds and currants.

Currants are any of several tart red or black berries used primarily for jellies and jams.

Veggies with a Zing, Serves 2

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons butter or margarine; 1 cup cauliflower florets; 1 cup broccoli florets; 1 cup small fresh mushrooms; 3/4 cup onions, sliced; 2 tablespoons lemon juice; salt & pepper to taste.

Instructions: Melt butter in bottom of saucepan. Add all the vegetables. Over low heat with lid on, steam vegetables. Add lemon juice (using more if desired) just before vegetables are tender crisp.

Cherry Pineapple Dessert

Ingredients: 1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained; 1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling; 1 8-ounce container Cool Whip; 1 can sweetened condensed milk.

Instructions: Combine all ingredients and chill for two hours before serving.

Return to the Table of Contents

edited from various mailing lists

Two New Initiatives

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has unveiled two initiatives aimed at promoting the hiring of veterans and protecting the rights of applicants with disabilities: The Good Faith Initiative for Veterans Employment (G-FIVE) and Ensuring the Accessibility of Online Application Systems. The directives outlining these new initiatives, along with frequently asked questions, are available on OFCCP's Web site at www.dol.gov/esa/ofccp/index.htm.

Outreach and Policy Paper from NCAM

The WGBH Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has published a new outreach and policy paper, "Digital Television and Video Description: Service Continues, Consumer and Industry Efforts Required."

Most consumers are just now becoming aware of the mandated transition from analog to digital broadcasting and how it will affect the TV viewing that they rely on daily. Blind or deaf consumers who purchase digital TV sets or subscribe to cable, satellite or fiber-optic TV services have expressed frustration with set-up, reception and compatibility problems regarding access services (captioning and video description), few of which are understood or even documented by manufacturers and retailers. In addition, people who want to continue receiving free over-the-air broadcasts using their analog sets and an antenna must purchase a set-top converter box to do so and figure out how to make captions and descriptions work for them.

NCAM previously published an overview of problems confronting deaf or hard-of-hearing people trying to access captions via DTV or through a converter box. This new paper focuses on challenges facing blind or low vision viewers who rely on video description to enjoy and fully understand television programming. Topics covered include: Set-top Converter Boxes, Accessible Menus, Tips for Finding Video Description in DTV, Troubleshooting, and a Technical Note about PSIP (Program and System Information Protocol). This paper, along with much more information about the DTV conversion from a variety of resources, can be found at NCAM's DTV Access site: www.dtvaccess.org or ncam.wgbh.org/dtv.

NCAM has also established a one-way e-mail address, dtvaccess@wgbh.org, as an aggregator of complaints and problems related to the DTV rollout. If you send a report about a DTV access problem to this address, you will receive an automatic response that says that your report has been received and that we are gathering information but cannot respond to your inquiry, and that we will pass along common issues to relevant parties.

AFB Announces Newly Revised "Statistical Snapshots" Online Resource

Check out the newly updated American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) website Statistical Snapshots at www.afb.org/stats. Statistical Snapshots is your one-stop source for statistical facts, figures, and resources about Americans with vision loss. Relying upon the most recently available data, this regularly updated site is always evolving and should answer your most frequently asked questions.

We encourage you to visit Statistical Snapshots often, but we also want your feedback. Tell us about what statistical information you think is missing, unclear, or that you would like to know more about. To submit your questions or comments and help us enrich this valuable resource, e-mail Stacy Kelly, Ed.D., Policy Research Associate, at skelly@afb.net, and include the word "stats" in the subject line of your message.

Statistical Snapshots provides a wide variety of information and tools addressing the most commonly asked questions. For example, findings from the 2006 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) established that an estimated 21.2 million adult Americans reported they either "have trouble" seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, or that they are blind or unable to see at all.

Finally, remember that AFB's Public Policy Center website ( www.afb.org/policy) is also a valuable resource for the most up-to-date information about research and policy of concern to the vision loss community.

ABA Launches First Online Directory of Disability Law Programs In Law Schools

The American Bar Association Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law has launched an online national directory that will allow potential law students to search for law schools that offer disability-related curriculum.

The resource is the first of its kind and allows students to search ABA-accredited law schools easily to find out which schools offer courses and clinical programs in disability or mental health law. Also, employers can use it as a reference to recruit upcoming lawyers who have a concentration in these areas. In addition, the directory supplies related information including student organizations for law students with disabilities and contact information for the school office that assists these students. To view the directory, go to www.abanet.org/disability/lawschools.

JAN, the Job Accommodation Network, Launches Its Next Generation Website

JAN announces the launch of its new interactive website www.jan.wvu.edu, custom-designed to address the unique needs of employers working to hire, retain, or promote individuals with disabilities.

JAN is at the forefront of assisting companies to develop inclusive workplaces and its fully accessible website contains several innovative features: portal for employers; publication library with more than 220 of the latest technical assistance publications; presentation library with new and archived webcasts, podcasts and videos; dynamic, interactive Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) for immediate answers to your accommodation questions; and phone and email contact information for no-cost personal consultation.

To take a virtual tour, go to breeze.jan.wvu.edu/webtour. For more information about the JAN Website or about the JAN service, please contact JAN at 800-526-7234 (V), 877-781- 9403 (TTY), or jan@jan.wvu.edu.

Medical Grants for Children Needing Critical Healthcare Treatment, Services or Equipment Not Covered by Health Plans

The United Healthcare Children's Foundation (UHCCF) has announced that new grants are available to help children who need critical health care treatment, services, or equipment not covered or not fully covered by their parents' health benefit plans. The foundation aims to fill the gap between what medical services or items a child needs and what their commercial health benefit plan will pay for. UHCCF, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charity, provides grants to families to help pay for child health care services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy sessions, prescriptions, and medical equipment such as wheelchairs, orthotics, and eyeglasses. Parents and legal guardians may apply for grants of up to $5,000 each for child medical expenses and equipment by completing an online application on the UHCCF Web site.

To be eligible for the grant, children must be 16 years or younger. Families must meet economic guidelines, reside in the United States and be covered by a commercial health benefit plan. The family's health care provider must submit a letter to the foundation that defines the child's medical condition and supports what the family is requesting. The family, however, must apply for the grant themselves. To learn more and to apply, go to www.uhccf.org.

Company Strives to Meet the Needs of Blind and Visually Impaired Diabetics

Bay Area Digital, LLC, a San Francisco-based accessible medical products company, has built a prototype blood glucose testing package with enhancements that directly address the needs of blind and visually impaired individuals with diabetes. The prototype talks, provides readily understood audible advisory messages, and offers a new way for blind users to obtain reliably and accurately and place onto the test strip the frequent blood samples necessary for testing, without undue pain.

Dedicated to providing "good health through great technology," the company's vision is to bring to market a system for the effective self-management of diabetes by a growing market segment. Visually impaired and blind individuals who have diabetes, a population conservatively estimated at over three million in the U.S., struggle to employ blood glucose meter technology that does not speak the information shown on the visual display.

Bay Area Digital will soon release a comprehensive talking health care system with record-keeping capabilities that include a pill organizer, scale, blood pressure meter, thermometer, peak flow meter, oximeter and blood glucose meter. All equipment is medical-grade in quality and accuracy.

Learn more about Bay Area Digital on their website at www.bayareadigital.us, or contact them at 415-217-6667. The company also welcomes feedback at sales@bayareadigital.us regarding potential medical products that could benefit blind and visually impaired individuals.

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.]



BC 2009 Main Page
BC Main Page