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Newsletter of the Arizona Council of the Blind

Spring                                                             2015

From the President’s Desk by Carlos Paraskevas


2015 has started off as a busy year for me as President of the Arizona Council of the Blind. 


I attended my first ACB Mid-Year Meeting in February.  My wife Robin and I landed in Washington DC on Friday, February 20.  On Saturday, our sight-seeing day, it snowed.  I haven’t seen a live snowfall since I left Chicago ten years ago.  We had reservations that night at a very nice Italian restaurant.  We were the only people in the place until our dinner was served when one other table was occupied.  A broken water line caused our hotel’s fire alarm to go off right before midnight.  I was back out in the snow and cold for a half hour until we were given the all clear to go back to bed and prepare for my meeting the next day. 


The Affiliate Presidents Meeting held on Sunday was full of great information.  Most of it focused on how to strengthen our membership and strategies to increase membership.  I will be sharing this information with chapters to see how we can make AZCB more vital to our members.

The Legislative Seminar was held the following Monday.  I woke up sick and was not able to attend the meeting in person.  I deeply appreciate having the live stream from ACB Radio available.  I called the ACB Radio phone line and recorded the broadcast on my Victor Reader Stream.  I listened to these recordings the next morning to prepare for the Day at the Capitol. 


On Saturday, February 28, I attended and participated in the 9th Annual Arizona VisionWalk along with several other AZCB members.  I have taken part in this great event for several years and I am always thrilled at the amount of people who come out to support the work of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. 


The next couple months will see me attending the American Foundation for the Blind’s Leadership conference April 9 to 11, leading the AZCB Membership Meeting on April 18, and conducting the AZCB Community Meeting on May 22.  I am looking forward to learning from all these experiences and using the information I gain to benefit the AZCB.


One of the issues I would like to focus on this year is to hear more from AZCB members.  I want to know what your interests are and what you feel AZCB can do to increase the independence and quality of life for Arizonans who are blind.  I also want to know if you’re reading this newsletter and gaining any useful information or should we spend our efforts doing something more beneficial for the organization.  Please send any comments you may have to me at or leave a message at (602) 273-1510.

Maricopa Club by Barbara McDonald, AzCB Liaison


On February 11, 2015, the Maricopa Club held their first regular meeting following their January 2015 annual conference.


Marlene Cobos, President, said that we were finally on our way.  During 2014, we created advertising cards for the Maricopa Club and the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired that we could use to reach potential members and participants.  We also enjoyed some informative speakers from Valley Metro and Sun Sounds Radio.


Our first goal for 2015 is to provide volunteer readers for members who need assistance with accessing print materials.  ACBVI interns will help with this need.  With advanced appointments, participants will receive services on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays from 1:15 to 2:00.


Because so many MCC members complain about public transportation services, our second goal is to follow the correct procedures in reporting complaints with the provider.  We are to call Valley Metro Customer Service at 602-253-5000 and provide the date and time of the incident.  We will be given an identification tracking number.  Within 30 days, one of three people (a person from Valley Metro, a person from Phoenix Dial-a-Ride, or a person from the City Management) will get in touch with us to resolve the issue.  Consistently following the established process is the secret to having our concerns addressed.  Otherwise nothing will change. We will give updates on our progress at future meetings.


Committee chairs made suggestions for speakers for this year’s meetings.  A refreshment chair was appointed. The social committee recommended we go to California Pizza on February 27, 2015 from 1:00 to 3:00.  This luncheon was rescheduled for the same time on March 27.

A time Keeper was used for this meeting.  This helped us to stay on task and enabled refreshments to be served in time for members to be in the lobby on schedule to catch their rides.


Maricopa Club meetings are held the second Wednesday of every month from 1:30 to 3:00 at the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired located at 3100 East Roosevelt Street in Phoenix, AZ.  Come and join us to see how we are progressing.



Southern Arizona Chapter Update from Mitzi Tharin


SAZCB, the Southern Arizona chapter, will be meeting every four months on the second Saturday of February, June, and October in addition to our annual Christmas party. Our next full meeting on June 14 will be a planning meeting to go over many items for the rest of the year and to discuss possible fundraisers. We will also be working on the scholarships for the upcoming winter session and will post details in the next Foresight newsletter.


We have a new member moving to Tucson who will be joining us on June 14: John McCann. We are very happy that he is joining our club and has offered to take care of all of our Tweeting for us.


Please check out, it is not just for the Tucson group. We do have local info, but we have so much more than that. It’s an easy way to get to The Braille Forum and the Foresight newsletter, both in on-line, text and audio formats.

EMVIA’s weekly blindness related event calendars are available and list upcoming webinars, what movies are playing at the major theaters with described audio, and more.


On April 25 starting at 6:00, we are going to be playing cards at my house with shaped poker chips and Braille cards, but we might not need the chips depending on what game we choose to play. Snacks will be provided. I’m also going to propose that SAZCB has a described movie trip on Saturday, May 30. Let’s go to the movies!


If you are interested in our book club, we are experimenting with doing it a little differently now. We will still chat on the phone some but we have added an ongoing book club chat list, talking about certain books over a two week period. Remember that the book club is not just for any one club or even just for people in a club. Anyone can pipe in without restriction. See the site for details or call me at 520-861-0258 at any time.



ACB Board Member Relocates to Tucson Area


We have learned that, at the close of a thirty-five year career, ACB board member John McCann expects to relocate to the Tucson area by May. Born in New York City and blind from birth, John attended the Lavelle School for the Blind through the eighth grade, then attended a parochial Catholic high school to be in a mainstreamed environment. Graduating with honors from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1977, he then went on to Harvard Law School where he graduated in 1980.

John worked for the federal government in the health care field until 1984 when he took a job as the executive director for the Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind of America, (ALL), then served as Commissioner of the Virginia state agency for the Blind until 1990. He spent the remainder of his career as a disability adjudication decision-writer at the Social Security Administration.


John has been an active ACB member in Virginia at both the state and local levels for the past thirty-five years, and he has already agreed to assist with SAZCB's Twitter presence.


In anticipation of retirement, John successfully ran for a directorship position on the ACB board in 2012. He also has been an “at large” member of AZCB since 2013 and this year, when submitting his dues via the on line PayPal link, he joined the SAZCB club.


In John's own words: "I'm now at a stage of my life where I can basically work for ACB fulltime, and I'm so happy to be able to do so, given the great sense of personal fulfillment I've always derived from my involvement in ACB."



South Mountain Accessible Trail by Liz Whitlock


Spring is in the air, and we have been out enjoying it.  The Guide Dog Users of Arizona held their most recent event at South Mountain Park on January 24.  We hiked the new & improved Judith Tunnell Trail.  For our enjoyment, the trail now includes Braille signs and is set up with Sight Compass, an online dashboard, beacon and mobile application trio used to broadcast and receive information about one’s location.

Canine Confusion in the House by Liz Whitlock


On Thursday, February 19, 2015, the Arizona Legislature’s House of Representatives Committee on Government & Higher Education held a hearing on HB 2179 sponsored by Representative Thorpe.  This strike-everything amendment made numerous changes to statutes related to service animals.


Among other things and contrary to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), these proposed changes would allow individual business owners, specifically restaurants, to determine whether to allow service dogs into their establishments.


On the day of the hearing, the service dog users from the community were out in force.  From public testimony, the committee soon realized the bill went against the ADA and would do nothing to impede its intended targets, fraudulent so-called service dog owners.  The only things this bill would have achieved would have been more restrictions on the guide dog handlers, more cost to the State, and putting restaurants in an awkward legal position, as well as potentially causing them to lose income.


The Bill was voted down unanimously, 8-0 and died in committee.  I and many others have offered to assist Representative Thorpe in writing a Fraudulent Service Dog Law that would be in compliance with the ADA and would discourage individuals from trying to pass their pets off as service animals.
AzCB Supports VisionWalk


The 9th Annual Arizona VisionWalk took place on Saturday February 28th at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix.  Over 700 walkers and 36 teams showed support for the Foundation Fighting Blindness and their funding of sight saving research on retinal diseases.


The walk goal of $80,000 was met and surpassed. The walk has brought in over $92,000 and counting. AzCB was a proud Community Sponsor of this year’s walk with five members captaining four teams.


A shout-out goes to Webster's Woofers for raising over $7,400 which was the second largest fundraising team. It is all the more impressive when you consider that they trailed the largest fundraising team in the country.  Jacque Olsen (GDUA Treasurer, Webster's Woofers Team Captain and Foundation Fighting Blindness Chapter President) is to be commended for all the work she has done to make Arizona's VisionWalk stand out as one of the best in the nation.


Carlos Paraskevas (AzCB President) and Dan Martinez (AzCB 1st Vice-President) were Team Captains for AIB Amigos.  The Amigos had over 90 walkers and raised over $1,300.  They were easy to spot with their bright green “Now is the Time, We Are the Way” t-shirts.  Elizabeth Whitlock (GDUA President) also enthusiastically formed a team, Team GDUA, for participation in this year's walk. 


Jacque Olsen and Karen Hughes (AzCB Secretary and Hyatt Team Captain) should be congratulated for being recognized as All Stars at the VisionWalk ceremony. Karen's team really raised the excitement level at the walk.  They had very bright orange t-shirts and made their presence known, even Karen’s dog guide Joycie was wearing one of the T-shirts.

ACB Legislative Seminar by Carlos Paraskevas


I attended the 2015 ACB Legislative Seminar on Monday, February 23, 2015.  This is a yearly event where members from ACB affiliates gather in Washington DC to learn about and advocate for legislation that will positively impact the lives of people who are blind in the US. 


There are three issues at the forefront of ACB’s legislative agenda in 2015.  These include: H.R. 729, the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2015; the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act; and ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.


H.R. 729, Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2015 is designed to counter or challenge the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced regulation "eyeglass" exclusion clause. The exclusion has prevented access to devices such as handheld magnifiers, video monitors, and other technologies that utilize lenses to enhance vision. The regulation has resulted in the denial of vital assistive devices for seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries who may have disabilities.


ACB urges Congress to promptly pass H.R. 729.  This legislation would evaluate, through a five-year national demonstration project administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, the fiscal impact of a permanent change to the Social Security Act. This legislation would allow reimbursement for certain low-vision devices that are the most function-rich, most powerful, and most expensive. Individuals will be eligible to participate in the demonstration project only after completing a low vision exam performed by a physician who would then deem a low vision device as medically necessary.


H.R. 4040, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, is intended to improve the delivery of appropriate special education and related services to all students who are blind or visually impaired and deaf or hard of hearing. Once enacted, the legislation will ensure that properly designed and individually tailored services are in fact provided, meeting the unique learning needs of students who are blind or visually impaired  and that the educators who serve them are prepared and supported to do their jobs well, based on evidence-driven best practice.


ACB encourages members of the House of Representatives to sign a “Dear Colleague” letter that Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) is actively circulating to gain support in advance of the bill’s imminent reintroduction.  This bill will shine a light on the needs of these students and enhance accountability for the services they require.


The Marrakesh Treaty is important to Americans who are visually impaired because it calls upon those nations who sign it to provide in their copyright law a limitation or exception that allows for Reproduction and distribution of accessible format copies exclusively to beneficiary persons along with export of accessible format copies of works, and import of accessible format copies of works produced in another country, in order to make them available domestically.


The Marrakesh Treaty received broad support from not only blindness organizations, but publishers and copyright law experts throughout the U.S. and around the world. It was signed by United States attendees on October 2, 2013.

Under United States law, treaties require advice and consent by two-thirds of the Senate.  That has not yet occurred.


ACB urges members of the U.S. Senate to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty. We urge senators to adopt a ratification package that is narrow, protects the spirit of the treaty, and does not attempt to use this treaty as a vehicle for addressing extraneous issues of copyright law that could undermine the desired result of increasing access to printed materials for people with print-reading disabilities.


I went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, February 24, to advocate for these issues.  I met with Congressman Ruben Galego and staff people from Senator McCain and Flake’s offices.  All my visits went well.  Everyone was very interested in the issues and asked for further information.  I felt that I helped bring attention to these issues.


I will continue communicating with my representatives and keeping an eye out for progress on all these pieces of legislation.


Arizona Council of the Blind Community Conference


The Arizona Council of the Blind will host the AzCB Community Conference on May 22nd. This year’s event will again be held at the Disability Empowerment Center Nina Mason Pulliam Conference Center at 5025 East Washington Street in Phoenix.


There will be presentations from some of the most knowledgeable and respected people in Arizona blindness and advocacy.  Topics include assistive technology, trends in vocational rehabilitation, the impact of comprehensive specialized services for people who are blind and more.


Please go to to review the agenda and submit a registration form before May 14th.


We look forward to seeing you at the conference.

AzCB Conference Schedule - Friday, May 22, 2015

8:00 AM - Check in and Registration Desk opens

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM - Complimentary casual breakfast available for all conference enrollees

8:30 AM – 9:30 AM – Conference Opens

Welcome and Overview from Carlos Paraskevas, AzCB President.  RSA SBVID Update from Karin Grandon, Deputy Administrator

9:30 AM – 10:00 AM – AZDAC

Arizona Disability Advocacy Coalition discusses the inertia of apathy: The cost and the cure

10:00 AM – 10:15 AM - Break

10:15 AM – 11:15 AM – Comprehensive Programs

Specialized services for people who are blind through cooperative agreements - Amy Porterfield

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM – The Current State of IT/AT

What do consumers need to do to stay on top of ever evolving changes in technology - Jeff Bishop

12:15 PM – 12:30 PM - Break and lunch setup

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM - Scholarship and awards luncheon

Guest Speaker: Jay Taska, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” … Journeys and Transitions of an Experienced Mobility Guy 

2:00 PM - 2:15 PM - Break

2:15 PM – 3:15 PM – TBD

3:15 PM – 3:30 PM – Conference Wrap Up

The DEC is a fragrance free facility. Items such as cologne, perfume and other scented products along with latex are not permitted.

AZDAC Changes by Barbara McDonald


The Arizona Disability Advocacy Coalition, known as AZDAC, made some changes to their Day at the Capitol event.  They made it a two day event.  The first day would be a training day, and the second day would be the actual visit to the capitol.


A training session was held for approximately 30 participants at the Disability Empowerment Center on March 2, 2015 from 3:00 to 6:30 PM.  David Carey from Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL) gave the welcome.  Larry Wanger from the State Independent Living Council (SILC) gave a summary of how a bill is passed.  Both Amina Donna Kruck and David Carey summarized five bills supported by AZDAC.  Attendees gained an understanding of the power one has when he or she meets with their legislator or speaks at a committee hearing.  Trainees are expected to continue using the skills that they learned and to teach others about the process.


Information packets on the legislative issues were distributed to the trainees.  They were then divided into small groups with a mentor assigned to each group.  Under the guidance of the mentor, each mentee practiced what they would say to their legislator or what they would say at a committee hearing.


On Tuesday, March 3, the groups went to the state capitol.  Each group along with their mentor planned to visit four legislators. The schedule also allowed them time to register at the kiosk and listen to a committee hearing.


A follow-up survey was emailed to each participant to find out how their adventure at the capitol went.  The AZDAC Board will review the surveys to learn what went well and what needs to improve for next year's event.

2015 ACB Conference and Convention Announcement


The 54th Annual ACB Conference and Convention will be held at the Sheraton Hotel at 400 N. Olive St. in Dallas Texas from Friday July 3 through Saturday July 11th. 


Approximately 1500 blind and visually impaired people from across the United States and several foreign countries are expected to attend this year’s conference.  Over 350 meetings, workshops, seminars, tours and social events will pack convention week. A fantastic exhibit area will include all kinds of technology, products and services for people who are blind and low vision.


Highlights will include the Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk on Sunday July 5, the ACB Auction on Wednesday July 8 and a banquet on the final night.


Rooms at the Sheraton are $89 (single, double, triple, or quad) per night plus room tax (currently 13%) and tourism tax (2%). 

For more information and to register, please visit  Details are being added all the time, so check in often.


Text Box: Sheraton Hotel DallasMake plans to be in Dallas for this year’s ACB Convention!

Clear Your Clutter for a Cause


Calling all reformed hoarders, family, friends, and others wishing to have a clutter-free environment, Connie & Pete Jacomini are offering you the opportunity to give to a worthy cause.  They will be having a garage sale the first weekend in May and all the proceeds will be given to GDUA.  If you are willing and able, please gather items in reasonable condition that you no longer want, and contact Connie at 480-248-4475.  They are willing to travel to Phoenix and the east valley to pick up your donations.  All items need to be picked up no later than April 21st to allow time to organize and price the items.


Come one, come all
With items big and small!
You have no way to haul?
Well you know who to call!
So look high, look low,
Decide what can stay what needs to go.
Old clothes, toys, books, or a hoe
We’ll sell it and make GDUA some dough


Make a Donation to the Arizona Council of the Blind


The Arizona Council of the Blind (AzCB) is a 501-C3 nonprofit, IRS exempt, organization of people who are blind, visually impaired and sighted Arizonans with a broad diversity of occupations and professions.  Our primary focus is on blindness-related issues especially on dealing effectively with the challenges of daily living, whether a person is a child or adult and regardless of the cause or degree of sight impairment.



3124 E. Roosevelt St. Suite 4

Phoenix, AZ  85008

for the BLIND
Text Box: Arizona Council of the Blind Inc.
3124 E. Roosevelt St. Ste. 4
Phoenix, AZ 85008-5088
Text Box: Fore~Sight
Newsletter of the Arizona Council of the Blind Winter 2015