Fore~Sight


Newsletter of the Arizona Council of the Blind
State Convention Issue Spring 2012

The Fore~sight Newsletter is published quarterly by the Arizona Council of the Blind in Braille, audio, PDF, and online. To read this version in PDF format, click below to Download the Spring2012 PDF version.

Contents


The Doubletree...Double Nice By Sharon Booker
ASDB Tour During Convention
Some Fun Parts of the Convention!
A Look at Central Tucson
President's Message: Reflections and the View Ahead By Ron Brooks
A Day at the Capitol: Advocacy By Barbara McDonald
Update from the Phoenix Chapter By Vicky Pettit
Starting An AzCB Local Chapter By Daniel Martinez
Makes No Difference Who You Are By David Steinmetz
Clinical Trials Update By Dan Martinez
Arizona Council of the Blind Membership

The Doubletree...Double Nice By Sharon Booker

Thom and I had an opportunity to visit the Doubletree Hotel at 445 S. Alvernon Way in Tucson where our AzCB conference and convention will be held from April 19th through the 21st.

We asked to be shown a typical room. We saw one with two double beds. I'm told the difference in a room like Doubletree Hilton this and one with one king-sized bed is Hotel Tucson that the easy chair has a footstool. For those with some sight, you'll appreciate the 42-inch flat screen TV. The room is spacious and has a large closet and nicely appointed bath. Your coffeemaker is supplied with Wolfgang Puck coffee as well as teas. While the majority of our guest rooms are designated as non-smoking, rooms that permit smoking are also available upon request.

The main dining room was not yet open for the evening, so we ate in the Javalina Canteena, a choice saloon offering delicious, contemporary Southwestern Cuisine in a casual setting. We found the prices for both food and liquor to be reasonable and the menu is fairly wide. The main restaurant menu is higher end and also higher priced.

The breakfast, which is free to hotel guests, can either be the buffet with a wide variety of foods or you can order from the menu. Either way, you won't be disappointed

There is a lobby bar but also a nice patio area outside the banquet room, so I can't say just which area will house our meet-and-greet cash bar event from 6 to 7 P.M. on Friday. But either location will be very nice.

I believe you will find this hotel a fine experience and just one more reason why you should plan to make this conference a mini-vacation.

Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Tucson-Reid Park is conveniently located just four miles from downtown Tucson and minutes away from all Tucson has to offer.

Hotel shuttle service within a three-mile radius is complimentary and based on availability of the shuttle. The three-mile radius includes Park Place Mall (east), University of Arizona (west), Kino Sports Complex/Davis Monthan Air Force Base (south) and Tucson Botanical Gardens (north).

For more information about the Convention, including links to additional details about the program and our on-line registration form, go to www.azcb.org . As details, i.e. transportation, fees for events, etc, are available the website will be updated. You may also request an information packet by mail or by calling us at (602) 273-1510.

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ASDB Tour During Convention

On Saturday afternoon of the AzCB convention we're offering a free tour of the Arizona School for the Blind in Tucson, from 1:30 to 3, including a visit to their art and radio training rooms. 2012 marks ASDB's 100th anniversary.

Some Fun Parts of the Convention!

Most info about what’s going to happen AzCB convention is being worked on at this time. Still, here are some of the fun things we have already set up.

For early arrivers on Thursday evening, the southern Arizona chapter has arranged group seating at the Gaslight Theater at 7 PM for The Three Musketeers, an unashamedly corny butchering of the original story by Alexander Dumas. You can eat at the show or you can eat across the hall at Little Anthonys taking a trip back to the fabulous 50's and featuring delicious entrees such as burger baskets, sandwiches, pizza, pitchers of cherry Coke, and great ice cream desserts. If you run late, they'll bring your food into the theater for you.

The Three Musketeers is a classic tale of inseparable friends who live by the motto; "All for One and One for All" follows the rousing and rollicking adventures of Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan as they fight for King and country, with frequent detours involving wine, women and song. You're guaranteed an evening of adventure with this swashbuckling tale of swordfights, treachery, and incredibly dense villains. Come boo, come cheer, come eat baskets of popcorn!

When you come back to the hotel after the show the AzCB hospitality suite will be open so you can chat with other guests and AzCB Officers and Directors.

Friday morning right after the continental breakfast, the general session opens followed by our guest speaker Dave Fitzsimmons, a local Tucson celebrity speaker and syndicated political cartoonist who will entertain you from 9:05 for a half hour. Don't be late for this guy. Following him will be a full day of speakers and vendors, but after the Friday evening banquet we'll be playing various poker games with Brailled cards and tactile shaped chips.

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A Look at Central Tucson

Tucson's largest park, Reid Park is located in midtown and includes Reid Park Zoo and Hi Corbett Field. Speedway Boulevard, a major east-west arterial road in central Tucson, was named the "ugliest street in America" by Life magazine in the early 1970s, quoting Tucson Mayor James Corbett. Despite this, Arizona Highways awarded Street of the Year honors to Speedway Boulevard in the late 1990s.

Downtown Tucson is generally regarded as the area bordered by 17th Street to the south, I-10 to the west, and 6th Street to the north, and Toole Avenue and the Union Pacific (formerly Southern Pacific) railroad tracks, site of the historic train depot and "Locomotive #1673", built in 1900. Downtown is divided into the Presidio District, the Barrio Viejo, and the Congress Street Arts and Entertainment District. Some authorities include the 4th Avenue shopping district, which is set just northeast of the rest of downtown and connected by an underpass beneath the Union Pacific tracks.

Tucson Attractions downtown include the Hotel Congress designed in 1919, the Art Deco Fox Theater designed in 1929, the Rialto Theatre opened in 1920, and St. Augustine Cathedral completed in 1896. Included on the National Register of Historic Places is the old Pima County Courthouse, designed by Roy W. Place in 1928. The El Charro Café, Tucson's oldest restaurant, also operates its main location downtown.

The 4th Avenue Shopping District between downtown and the University and the Lost Barrio just East of downtown also have many unique and popular stores. Local retail business in Central Tucson is densely concentrated along Fourth Avenue and the Main Gate Square on University Boulevard near the UA campus. The El Con Mall is also located in the eastern part of midtown.

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Presidents Message
Reflections and the View Ahead By Ron Brooks

As I write this update, the calendar has just changed from February to March, and we are actively preparing for our annual conference and convention, which will take place in Tucson from April 19-21. By the time you read this, the convention will be close at hand, and needless to say, I hope to see many of you there.

The upcoming Convention will mark the end of my first term as President; so for me, this is a good time to take stock of where we have come as an organization and where I think, we should go. Of course, you may elect someone else to take the reins of leadership. Nevertheless, our journey as an organization will continue with or without me at the helm, so I want to give you my thoughts and advice for the next stage of the journey.

Over the past two years, I have been focused on three priorities:

  1. Define and streamline administrative policies and procedures.
  2. Increase the number of people involved in the organizations leadership.
  3. Launch at least two new local chapters somewhere in Arizona.

To be certain, we have made progress in some areas. More people have been involved in AzCB local chapters and committees and on the Board. We have also implemented a number of administrative policies and procedures, which are helping us to manage the day-to-day business of the AzCB more efficiently and effectively.

Despite this progress, membership growth and chapter development have been very elusive goals to reach. We did not launch any new local chapters, and as a matter of fact, our actual membership has declined significantly. These are frustrating facts. However, I believe we are laying the groundwork for future success, and I want to focus on what we have done and what we should continue to do in order to move our membership goals forward.

First, we have maintained a strong and growing focus on direct outreach to both members and the larger community. We have strengthened both the content and quality of our newsletter Foresight, and we have significantly grown our Internet and social media presence. For example, we launched our Twitter site in 2011, and as of this writing, we have over fifty followers some of whom are blind people here in Arizona whom we have never met. These people represent future members and connections to other potential members. Second, although our chapter development efforts have been challenging, we have and will continue to work toward the formation of new chapters. These efforts must include focused attention in the East Valley, in the West Valley, in Prescott and possibly in northwest Arizona as well. One question that is unanswered as of this writing is the impact that a Tucson convention will have on our Southern Arizona Chapter membership. I feel certain that a convention in Tucson will translate into more members for the SAC. If that happens, then perhaps we should consider a West Valley or an East Valley convention for 2013. Either way, I am personally committed to chapter development, and I urge all of you to support our chapter development efforts.

I was reading a 2006 issue of Foresight, and it was actually a little sad to read through that issue and see all of the names of people who are no longer with us either because they have moved or passed away. The bottom line is that without new members to replace and add to the members we already have, we cannot survive as an organization, and so we have to focus on membership and chapter development.

Finally, we must maintain a strong focus on meeting the unique needs of specific groups within our community. Whether its the provision of financial assistance through the BRIEF Fund, or the provision of scholarships to deserving students or the creation of special interest affiliates to meet the specific interests of guide dog users, technology buffs or the SACs Book of the Month Club, we can be more effective if we meet the real and specific needs of real and specific individuals.

I want to close by thanking each of you for your friendship, advice and support over the past two years. I may have the opportunity to continue to address you as the AzCB President, but either way, I have enjoyed the opportunity to do so for the past two years, and I wish all of you the very, very best as you make your plans for the Spring and Summer. I hope your plans include our state convention and/or the ACBs Annual Conference and Convention taking place in Louisville, KY. If they do, then perhaps we'll get the opportunity to meet in person, at which time you can share your vision for the AzCB. Until then, I wish you safety, health and happiness in all you do.

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A Day at the Capitol: Advocacy By Barbara McDonald

Ten years ago seven organizations serving people with a wide variety of disabilities, including, mental, physical, sensory, and cognitive, affirmed the need to establish a coalition whose aim was to strengthen and enhance a public policy presence of the Arizona disability community at the state and national level. The Arizona Disability Advocacy Coalition, known as AZDAC was created.

The Arizona Council of the Blind is a member of this coalition. It is my privilege to be AzCB's representative on their board. I am the fortunate one because I have learned about other disabilities and their issues.

This year, on February 14, the 100th anniversary of our statehood, AZDAC sponsored "A Day at the Capitol". Approximately 80 people attended the limited ticket event. Attendees received a packet with fact sheets about disability issues and copies of bills to be considered for support. There was also information about how bills are passed, a list of the current state representatives, and instructions on how to contact your district public officials.

After a continental breakfast and a welcome message, there were four legislators who spoke;

In the afternoon after eating our box lunches, our presence was acknowledged on the senate floor, we were able to see the appropriation committee in action, and register at the kiosk, which allows people to make comments about bills without coming down to the capitol.

Learn more about AZDAC by visiting their website at
www.azdac.org. If you know about other disability groups, please recommend that they look into joining AZDAC. Start looking at the AZDAC website at the beginning of 2013 so you too can attend "A Day at the Capitol". It is a great opportunity to learn and socialize with other people who are disabled.

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Update from the Phoenix Chapter By Vicky Pettit

The last meting of the Phoenix Chapter of the Arizona Council of the Blind was held on January 24, 2012 at The Old Spaghetti Factory, located at 1418 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona. There were 15 members present. Among the subjects discussed were the Arizona Council of the Blind state convention, the Day at the Capitol, VRATE, and a Valley Metro proposed fare increase.

Two speakers, Jennifer Longdon and Jean Moriki, from the Phoenix Mayor's Commission on Disabilities Issues (MCDI) presented information on the mission, scope and activities of the MCDI. The MCDI Save Our Space campaign educates the public about the importance of saving disabled parking spaces for those people who really need them. Volunteers patrol the city of Phoenix, writing disabled parking citations.

Because we have been seated in sections of the restaurants that our noisy, there was a conversation about finding a new meeting place. However, the consensus of the people there was they wanted to continue meeting at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

The March 27 meeting will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Sunshine Room at The Old Spaghetti Factory. Many people arrive early to enjoy dinner before the meeting. Speakers are still being arranged. The meeting is open to the public.

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Starting An AzCB Local Chapter By Daniel Martinez

Arizona is geographically large and so are the Arizona metropolitan areas. To have opportunities to meet, collaborate and socialize with other people with eyesight issues, it just makes sense to take a smaller bite of the apple by joining or starting a local AzCB Chapter.

There are many issues that are of concern to people who are blind and visually impaired. It is much easier for us to face these issues together. High unemployment, inadequate transportation services, pedestrian safety, accessibility and social isolation are just a few of the important issues of concern that can only be addressed and resolved when we work together as a group. You know that you are not alone and that there are other people who are blind or visually impaired in your local community that share your passion to lessen and eliminate the barriers in your lives. You can reach out to those who share your concerns and bring them together as a force for positive change.

The first step is to talk with other people in your area who are blind or visually impaired, family members and friends and discuss the issues of exclusion that people who are blind face. Ask them how they feel about these issues. Find out if they would like to work on these issues and or get together for social interaction and mutual support as an organized group. If they do, you have the beginnings of a powerful local AzCB chapter.

Then contact the Arizona Council of the Blind (www.azcb.org or 602-273-1510) and ask to have an individual appointed who will help guide you and your group through the various steps of organization. Working with your local members, the AzCB representative will assist you in establishing your mission and assist you in building the tools, policies and practice your group will need to move forward. Additionally, the Public Relations Committee of the AzCB will be a resource to assist you in attracting other prospective members. With the PR Committee, you can plan and distribute fliers stating with when and where the first meeting will be held. You will target places that may have a population of blind or visually impaired people, such as: organizations for visually impaired persons, independent living centers, ophthalmologists and optometrists, retirement homes, senior centers, high schools, colleges and universities. The PR Committee may be able to help you determine the most appropriate methods for reaching these areas, such as using email, twitter, Facebook or computer bulletin boards. As an AzCB Chapter, your purposes and goals will be aligned with those of the AzCB and the American Council of the Blind and you may be able to use existing fliers and collateral materials to get your group started.

This first meeting will probably be fairly small, but that's fine. Allow time for the people present to introduce themselves, discuss their low vision experiences and talk about other concerns they may have about their community. Share the information you have gathered about the Arizona Council of the Blind, including our mission statement and goals, and distribute AzCB brochures. Discuss some projects the new chapter could conduct. Toward the end of this first meeting, those persons assembled should choose a temporary chairperson and secretary. Finally, choose a convenient place and time for the next meeting.

The AzCB will provide you with the technical support you need. Having a local chapter starts with you. When you take that first step, the AzCB will be there to assist and encourage you. It is up to your group to make their chapter the powerhouse they want it to be.

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Makes No Difference Who You Are By David Steinmetz

Recently my family and I went to Disneyland in Anaheim California. As we began to plan our trip, we searched the Internet for the best hotel prices, downloaded maps and "apps" to my IPhone, and searched for the best one day ticket price. When I search the Disneyland website I came across a page for guests with disabilities. This page describes all the different accommodations the theme park offers such as guests with hearing impairments, mobility issues, service animals, and visual impairments. There is a link http://adisneyland.disney.go.com/media/dlr_v0200/en_US/help/VisualDisability_201104.pdf on this page for guest with visual impairments that describes in detail the services Disneyland provides. These include:

I used the audio description service, which is a 6"X8" device that was on a lanyard and I wore it around my neck. It came with a set of headphones and when you arrive at a designated attraction, the device will receive the signal that will supply the audio description. The device will go into “sleep” mode and will turn off after 1 minute of inactivity. The device will turn back on automatically when Assisted Listening or Handheld Captioning is present.

When we went to the Haunted House ride, the device describe the exterior and interior of the building, the pictures on the walls, the buggies we rode in and the ghostly passengers we picked up on the way. I really felt like part of the experience of the ride instead of just going through the motions.

All of these services require a $25.00 refundable deposit and can be obtained at Guest Services which is located just inside the main entrance to the left on Main Street U.S.A. Disneyland is all about the experience; I truly felt this was one of my best family vacations!

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Clinical Trials Update By Dan Martinez

Editors Note: As you read this article, I encourage you to be objective and realistic in evaluating the significance of the information presented. On average, about 8 years pass from the time a successful drug enters clinical trials until it receives approval from regulatory agencies for use to the public.

Researchers at the Jules Stein Eye Institute (JSEI) have begun two clinical trials to determine the safety of stem cell therapy and patients’ ability to tolerate it for the treatment of two common, currently untreatable degenerative eye diseases. This FDA-approved study is only the second in the United States to use human embryonic-derived stem cells in patients and the first to address eye diseases.

Twelve patients with the dry form of age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD) have been enrolled for one trial, and 12 with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy have been signed up for the other. While these patients still have some vision, all are legally blind. A battery of tests is used to ensure they don’t have other conditions including cancer.

The trials have helped two legally blind people achieve "modest improvement in their vision," according to University of California Los Angeles. The findings were published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal. UCLA says the discovery "may pave the way for a new therapy to treat eye diseases." The university notes that one of the patients was a woman in her 70s with dry macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in older Americans and another in her 50s with Stargardt’s. The woman in her 50s went from being able to read 0 letters on an eye chart to 5. The woman in her 70s went from 21 letters to a peak of 33.

In a related story, twelve people with Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) caused by mutations in the gene RPE65, including a boy who was 8 years old when treated, are enrolled in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) study, which began in late 2007. The participants, all of who were virtually blind, demonstrated sustained vision improvements of varying levels after the initial treatment.

Six-month results for three adults in the study whose second eyes were treated in Phase I/II trial demonstrated improvement in visual and retinal function in their second eyes after treatment. The second eye treatment was administered one-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years after their first eyes were treated. The participants also experienced further reductions in nystagmus, the involuntary eye movements common in people with LCA. And, re-administration of the gene therapy was safe; no harmful immune reactions were observed.

In addition to the CHOP study, Phase I/II clinical trials for LCA (RPE65 mutations) gene therapy are underway at: the Universities of Pennsylvania and Florida, Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, and Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem.

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Arizona Council of the Blind Membership

Your friends at AzCB want you to join us in making the world a better place for people who are blind or who have low vision. Become a member by visiting our website www.azcb.org and click on (“Become a Member of the Arizona Council of the Blind or Renew Here”) If you are not a computer user, call us at (602) 273-1510 or if your out of the local calling area (888) 273-1510; leave a message and we will be happy to assist you in completing a membership application.

Your $10 one-year membership fee gives you the pride of belonging to both the AzCB and to the American Council of the Blind (ACB). You will also want to participate in one of our special interest or local affiliates (additional membership fees may apply.)

Guide Dog Users of Arizona: (GDUA) is a non-profit membership organization of guide dog users, puppy raisers, and sighted or visually impaired individuals committed to an enhanced quality of life for all Arizona's guide dog teams. www.gdua.org

Maricopa Club: The Club’s primary focus is as the social wing of the AzCB. For more information on how to join our club or any other question email us at: maricopa@azcb.org

Phoenix Chapter: The chapter provides opportunities for blind and visually impaired individuals along with their friends and family to come together to address important issues in our community and to provide social opportunities for chapter members and guests. www.azcb.org/phoenix_chapter.html

Southern Arizona Chapter: Our chapter’s primary focus is on issues of the blind in southern Arizona. We are growing and would like to invite you to join us. For more information on how to join our club or any other question visit: www.sazcb.org

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