The audio version of the newsleter is available for download.



Arizona Council of the Blind Newsletter Summer 2014


From the President’s Desk by Carlos Paraskevas


I still can't believe that I am the President of the Arizona Council of the Blind (AzCB).  I have been involved with this Council for a couple years.  I participated on the convention planning and public relations committees before being elected to the board last year.  I have been editing this newsletter for nearly a year, but I never thought I would be writing my own President’s message.  It still hasn’t sunk in.


Elections were held during our 43rd Annual Conference and Convention Meeting in Phoenix.  I would like to congratulate Thom Booker for being elected for a second term as a Director.  I would also like to congratulate Barbara McDonald and Bob Williams for their elections to serve as Directors.  The rest of the board is comprised of 1st Vice-President Daniel Martinez, 2nd Vice President Sharon Booker, Treasurer Robin Paraskevas, and Director Jeff Bishop. 


I would like to sincerely thank the out-going Secretary Ted Chittenden and Director Marlene Dekker.  These volunteers gave hours of their time to make AzCB a successful state affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB). I am grateful for their dedication and I am looking forward to their continued participation in the AzCB.

ACB and AzCB are grass roots organizations. That means that blindness related issues start from the bottom and work up to the top. I will be counting on all of you to inform me of the issues you feel are important and to help make AzCB even more vital in the lives of our members and other blind and visually impaired Arizonans.


There are many things we as a state affiliate need to keep in mind. We need to continue to be advocates for national and local issues related to all blind or visually impaired people.  I would like to increase our membership throughout the state. We should inform and remind people of our two yearly scholarships and BRIEF fund.  We also need to keep all our members informed.  In order to be a successful president, I will need everyone to participate.


If you have suggestions to accomplish these or other goals, you can email me at, or call me at 480-388-6395 and leave me a message.  I look forward to hearing from all of you. 


I will be attending the ACB National Conference in Las Vegas in July.  This will be my first national conference and I am looking forward to learning a lot.  I will give you an update in the next newsletter.


While am surprised at having been elected as AzCB president, I am also delighted and ready to be of service to this wonderful organization.




AzCB 43rd Annual Convention and Membership Meeting


This year's Annual Convention and Membership Meeting was held on Friday, May 9, 2014, at the Disability Empowerment Center in the Nina Pullium Conference room in Phoenix.  Faye Williams and her husband, Robert, had arrived around 6:00 AM to get the coffee perking and warm up the breakfast sandwiches for our attendees.  Volunteers from Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL) helped the guests find seats and get breakfast. 


Ted Chittenden and Barbara McDonald were tasked with introducing the program and speakers.  Barbara began by explaining the philosophy of AzCB and her positive experience of getting training to go back to teaching for ten more years after becoming blind at age 50. 


Amina Donna Kruck with ABIL welcomed the guests to the Disability Empowerment Center, and Karin Grandin gave an update on RSA.  Mitzi Tharin with the Southern Arizona chapter was next.  She talked about the variety of ways of receiving Sun Sounds as well as describing EMVIA, which is a weekly calendar of blindness related events.


Adam Cruz, from the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ACBVI), presented on using assistive technology in the work place.  He covered topics such as utilizing screen readers and screen magnification software to assist in completing job related tasks.  He also touched on the utilization of mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad with respect to job related tasks as well.  Adam also discussed the use of video magnifiers (CCTV’s).  The main point of his presentation was building a “Tool Box” of Assistive Technology to assist in completing job related tasks.


Jacque Olson and Ron Brooks from our Guide Dog Users (GDUA) chapter talked about assistive technology for travel with guide dogs.  Jacque Olsen, GDUA Treasurer and a resident of Tempe, described how she uses her Trekker Breeze GPS system by Humanware to navigate while using her guide dog.  She talked about the pros and cons of the system and explained how it helps to keep her from getting lost, especially when traveling in unfamiliar areas.  According to Jacque, “I travel a lot, and Trekker Breeze has helped me to remain calm and stress-free while traveling.”


Ron Brooks, GDUA President and Phoenix resident then spoke about smart phone apps which are revolutionizing the way blind people travel locally and throughout the country and world.  First, Ron drew a distinction between orientation apps (apps that answer the question: “Where am I?”) and mobility apps (which answer the question” How can I get there?”)  He then gave examples of each type of app and went on to discuss some of the pros and cons of each.  Ron also discussed some specific apps designed to resolve specific transportation challenges such as knowing where airport dog relief areas are located.


Linda Montgomery, with the Arizona Talking Book Library, brought news from the National Library Service (NLS).  The Talking Book Library circulated over 450,000 items last year and circulation is now 93% digital.  Talking Books is a branch of the AZ State Library that has a new exhibit at the Capitol for the 150th Anniversary of the State Library.  She mentioned that BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) patrons nationwide downloaded over 3 million items in 2013.  NLS will still record over 2,000 new audio books per year and will add about 1,000 commercially produced books as well. 


Linda explained that Braille materials are available for download including about two thirds of the NLS music instruction materials in braille.

In addition, patrons can now subscribe to magazines on BARD.  They will automatically be added to the person’s wish list and patrons can request email notification that a new issue is available.


Linda announced that NLS is beginning to allow locally produced audio books on BARD, so our Arizona produced books will be available for download in the future. 


Linda also talked about the BARD mobile app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices.  There’s a BARD Mobile “how to” series on You Tube.  They are still working on the Android app and hope to have it out soon.  She talked about magazines on cartridge and how important it is for patrons to return them.  The cartridges are expensive and must be returned to the producer in order to keep the program going.


Linda provided an overview of Newsline with audio newspapers, magazines, television listings and job listings available.  She described how each patron can choose a set of favorites for their Newsline access.  Those searching for jobs can set up specific criteria for their own personal profile that the system will save to use each time they search.  Access is now available by phone, on the web and on mobile devices.


After lunch was served, we presented two scholarships in the amount of $2000 each.  Marcus Hernandez, who is attending the University of Arizona in Tucson, received the John Vanlandingham Memorial Scholarship.  Marcus will use this scholarship to pursue his Doctorate in United States History.  Robert (Bob) Urbon, at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, received the Frank Kells Memorial Scholarship.  Bob is earning a Bachelor’s in Business Economics and  Finance 


Amy Murillo of SAAVI of Tucson was our keynote speaker.  She gave an encouraging address about making your own decisions about your career and your life.  By having a positive attitude and working hard, she believes, all things were possible regardless of whether you are blind or not.


After a break, the membership business meeting started at 2:30.  Robert Williams gave the invocation.  Then we followed the regular agenda of president's report, approval of minutes and treasurer's report, followed by the election of officers and directors, and approval of resolutions.  Barbara McDonald chose not to run for the presidency.  Carlos Paraskevas was elected president for the 2014-2016 term. 


The Convention committee would like to thank everyone who assisted in the planning for this year’s conference.  We would also like to extend our appreciation to all the speakers for an informative and entertaining program as well as all the volunteers who made sure everyone was taken care of and that everything ran as smoothly as possible.  We had a great turnout with over 140 people attending.  The convention committee will begin planning next year’s convention in the fall. 


Barbara McDonald Receives Spirit of ABIL Award

by Phil Pangrazio, ABIL President & CEO


Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL) held its annual Spirit of ABIL award ceremony to recognize members of our community who have helped advance the goals and principles of the Independent Living movement.  This year’s celebration marked the twelfth anniversary of the Spirit of ABIL event.  


The recognition ceremony was held on Tuesday, March 25th, in the Nina Mason Pulliam Conference Center at the Disability Empowerment Center (DEC).  Following an early evening dinner, awards were given in the areas of Personal Assistance Services, volunteerism, peer mentoring, employment, and leadership. The ceremony culminated in the presentation of the Spirit of ABIL award.


The Spirit of ABIL award winner for 2013 is Barbara McDonald, who exemplifies the Independent Living Philosophy of consumer control, self-advocacy, and peer support. Barbara is described as a “roll up her sleeves” action taker, and always willing to help out when needed.  Barbara is a retired school teacher.  While teaching in 1995, Barbara underwent a kidney transplant.  Following the transplant, Barbara contracted an immune system viral infection that left her legally blind.  Barbara was able to continue teaching with training provided by vocational rehabilitation.  Barbara joined the Arizona Council of the Blind (AzCB) in 1996 to learn, share, be mentored, mentor and eventually lead!  Barbara served as the Council’s President and is currently a Director. 


Barbara served six years on the Governor’s Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment; six years on the Arizona Disabilities Action Coalition; and six years on the Arizona Vision Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Expo Planning Committee.  Barbara is an active community member who adheres to the IL motto of “Nothing about us without us!”  Barbara recently offered her “Five Ps” philosophy of life to our Peer Mentor team: Prayer, Positive thinking, People who love and support you, Persistence, and Participation.

EMVIA and Suns Sounds by Mitzi Tharin


EMVIA stands for Educating and Mentoring for the Visually Impaired Association. Our mission is to help visually impaired people and their families deal with the many issues they face. Whether you have a slight vision loss or total blindness, we are here to educate, mentor, and inform about ways in which you can manage and cope.


EMVIA has the most complete notification list of events involving visual impairment and blindness concerns in Arizona.


With all the resources, devices, and opportunities available today, vision loss is a manageable reality. We find, gather, and check pertinent and useful information, putting it together for your convenience and ease of access. You can do just about everything you could do with sight.


Our advisory board consists of 12 people running the gamut from career professionals in government services to trainers, to merchants, to citizens-at-large. This board includes people who are blind and visually impaired.


They compile a weekly reminder calendar of such events throughout the state and send it every Wednesday in email format and large print to subscribers in editions suitable for their specific areas. Currently they have Maricopa County, Pima County, and Arizona statewide versions. The lists are available on line at


Another list that is updated weekly is of every commercial movie theater showing of described movies in Arizona. This list is available on line at and is updated every Thursday evening.


Every Wednesday, they also compile a list of groceries from the print and on-line ads of the six major grocery chains in Arizona and send them out in email and large print format to interested persons. This list offers an easy way to compare advertised groceries without having to wade through the various print circulars and / or web sites. This list is also available on our website.


To receive any of these items, just send a short note to and let them know.


Sun Sounds of Arizona: The Tempe station will be turning 35 years in October 2014 and the Tucson station will be turning 30 years in February 2015. Sun Sounds recently launched an updated web site, so check it out at


There are so many ways that you can receive Sun Sounds, including on-demand downloads where you can get your favorite program any time that you would like. Sun Sounds of Arizona provides access to information in many ways: Individual Sun Sounds Radio, the Sun Dial II Telephone Access System, Stream Sun Sounds online, On Demand mp3 program downloads, the iBlink app for your Apple or Android smart phone, HD Radio, DTV Channel 8, Hospital, and assisted living and retirement home in-room television sets. See for more details.


The volunteers now read from monitors that bring you the most updated news and information from the web, and now without rattling newspapers. Our goal is to bring you the best radio access service that we can, with new and up-to-date ways for you to get the best service in Arizona. There are lots of big things coming from Sun Sounds.


I now serve in a management role with the station and really enjoy working with the staff to bring all of you great content.

U.S. Currency Reader Program


In May 2002, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and two visually impaired individuals filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that the currency of the United States violates the rights of the blind and visually impaired because they could not distinguish United States paper currency. In October 2008, the District Court ruled that the Department of the Treasury must provide meaningful access to U.S. currency for blind and other visually impaired persons in the next currency redesign.


On May 31, 2011, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner approved the methods that the Department of the Treasury will use to provide blind and visually impaired individuals with meaningful access to U.S. currency. The Secretary approved the following accommodations:

•     Tactile Feature: Adding a raised tactile feature to U.S. currency unique to each U.S. Federal Reserve note that it may lawfully change, which will provide users with a means of identifying each denomination via touch.  Currency stakeholders will be consulted at each stage of the process.


•     High Contrast Numerals: Continuing the program of adding large high contrast numerals and different colors to each denomination that it is permitted by law to alter. Currently, U.S. law prohibits any changes to the $1 Federal Reserve note.  Currency stakeholders will be consulted at each stage of the process.


•     U.S. Currency Reader Program: Implement a supplemental currency reader distribution program for blind and visually impaired U.S. citizens and those legally residing in the U.S.

The new features will be introduced in the next redesigned currency note.

The U.S. Government’s currency reader national roll-out program will begin in early 2015. Currency readers will provide some immediate relief to the blind and visually impaired population, and will address the transition that will occur during the co-circulation of notes with and without tactile features.


The Bureau of Engraving and Printing expects to distribute between 100,000 and 500,000 "currency readers" to people who are blind and others who are visually impaired.  In a report last year, the Government Accountability Office described the readers as "portable electronic devices capable of speaking the denomination of a bill out loud."


The launch of these apps is not in lieu-of the other accommodations the Government is developing to assist blind and visually impaired individuals in denominating U.S. currency.  These apps simply provide a quicker option for the public, who are increasingly using mobile devices, while the Government continues to develop other programs.



Guide Dog Users of Arizona Update by Ron Brooks


The Summer Sun Means Fun and a Focus on Safety


Although most dogs and some people may take a rest during the hot summer months, Guide Dog Users of Arizona is continuing to work to build a stronger affiliate and to engage our membership across the growing state. On June 7, we held a successful June Brunch Bunch at Steve’s Greenhouse Grill in downtown Phoenix where several GDUA members, their families and their guides gathered to enjoy a good breakfast and an even better time catching up socially. Then on June 11, our Board met to plan the rest of our annual activities.

These will include our Third Annual Diving with Dog Guides Pool Party, which will take place on Saturday, August 2 in Tempe, and our 2014 GDUA Fall Conference and Membership Meeting which is planned for early November. For details about these and other events, visit our website at


For GDUA members, the summer is not just a time to rest and plan for the year to come. It is a time during which we must take extra care to protect ourselves and our dogs from the intense Arizona heat. With that in mind, we want to share the following summer safety tips. By following these simple suggestions, you and your dog can be safe--even if you plan to remain active and outdoors during our beautiful but hot sunny weather.


1. Wear light-weight, loose-fitting clothes that are preferably in a lighter color. This will protect your skin and give your skin the opportunity to breathe and conduct heat away from your body core.


2. Use sun screen on all exposed areas of skin. Applying a layer before you go out in the morning is not enough. Apply more at least every two hours—more often if you plan to get wet or if you’re perspiring profusely. Also, look for a sunscreen that has a SBF rating of at least 45—higher numbers are even better. These are more expensive but worth the money. Dogs (and particularly short-hair and short-nose breeds) can also benefit from sunscreen, but use a sunscreen designed for pets.


3. Wear boots—not you, your dog. Dog boots are critical when your dog is walking on sidewalks and streets that can reach well over 100 degrees and where one can literally fry an egg. There are several competing dog boots in the market. WE like the Bark’n Boots Grip Trex Boots, available on-line from a company called Ruffwear,


Grip Trex boots are not inexpensive (about $70 per set and about $20 for a single boot), but they include a nylon sock that keeps feet cool and a thick rubber sole that provides excellent protection from both hot and cold surfaces.


4. Keep yourself and your dog cool. You can use hats (for both dog and human), but if you don’t like hats, you can also pour water over you and your dog repeatedly. … It dries quickly.


5. Drink lots of water, and make sure your dog has ample opportunities to drink as well. Portable water bowls are available at any pet supply store or on-line, and bottled water is an essential for any walk of more than one or two blocks.


6. Watch out for the signs of heat-related stress. These can include lethargy, dizziness, nausea, a headache, disorientation, shakiness or extreme fatigue. If you start feeling any of these symptoms, start by immediately hydrating yourself—even if it means stopping in the middle of a block and dumping your half-empty water-bottle over your head. Then get inside as quickly as you can.


7. One final thought. Your dog can’t tell you, but if you are hot, they are undoubtedly hot as well. Therefore, if you drink, give them a drink. If you need to cool yourself, so do they.


For a brief but informative article about pet safety during the hot summer months, visit: This article provides general information and links to other helpful resources. There are many other helpful resources on-line, but most are geared to pet owners. Therefore, GDUA recommends that you direct more specific questions or concerns about working with guide dogs during the hot summer months to your guide dog training school and/or to your veterinarian.


An Update from Marcus Hernandez


My name is Marcus Hernandez and I am a 26 year old doctoral student at the University of Arizona.  I would like to thank the Arizona Council of the Blind for awarding me a scholarship the past two years. The scholarships have helped me continue my education.  I completed my Masters degree in history at Colorado State University Pueblo in May of 2012 and then began the doctoral program at the University of Arizona in the fall of 2012.  I completed the two years of course work this last May and have moved on to the next phase of the program.  I am currently studying for my written and oral comprehensive exams that I will be taking this November.  When I pass the exams, I will move on to the final phase of the program and begin writing my dissertation.  I am an American historian with interests in environmental history and global change issues and I want to teach history at the university level.


While preparing for my exams this fall, I am also working on refining some of my articles so that I can have them published.  I will be attending a conference through the Western Environmental Science and Technology Network I am a part of from June 16-19 2014 where I will present my most recent article and get suggestions.  The WEST Network includes professors and graduate students from the University of Arizona, the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Montana State University, and Idaho State University and it is held in different States each year.  This year I will be traveling to Montana for the conference.  In addition to aiding the purchase of my books, the scholarship money I have been fortunate enough to receive through the AZCB has helped me pay for travel expenses to several academic conferences such as this one.  Also, my dissertation research is based in Colorado so the scholarship fund has also helped support my travel expenses back and forth to Colorado.

I am planning on writing a dissertation about the environment and the development of cities such as Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Rocky Ford Colorado.  Traveling and visiting archives in these regions is essential.  Without the support of the AZCB, I would have a more difficult time financing my research trips.


The support of the AZCB has been a big part of the reason I have been able to continue my academic career.  I attended the annual conference held by the AZCB last year and was unfortunately unable to attend this year, but the conference experience was also motivating and empowering.  I cannot express my gratitude to the organization enough.  I truly appreciate the support the AZCB has provided me and other blind and visually impaired individuals. 



Walgreens Offering Talking Prescription Devices


Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, has announced the launch of a nationwide program offering talking prescription devices to customers with visual impairments. The initiative introduces a new service that complements other accessible prescription information Walgreens currently provides.


Walgreens is the first in the industry to offer this exclusive talking prescription device, called the Talking Pill Reminder, at its retail locations chain wide.  The device attaches to prescription containers and will be provided free of charge with prescription medications that Walgreens dispenses to its pharmacy customers who are blind or who have visual impairments.  The Talking Pill Reminder can be recorded to speak the information on the customer’s prescription medication label, and also has an audible alarm to remind patients when to take a medication.


The Talking Pill Reminder is available to customers of Walgreens retail pharmacies across the country and through Walgreens prescription mail service.  The devices also are available in Walgreens drugstores for purchase for a retail price of $9.99.  


“Adherence to medication can be critical in treating illness today, and this is an innovation that will help our visually impaired customers correctly identify and take medications as prescribed,” said Jeff Koziel, Walgreens vice president, “As part of our mission to help customers get, stay and live well, we’re proud to have worked closely with other leading organizations to make the Talking Pill Reminder available across all of our more than 8,100 stores nationwide.”


The initiative is the result of a collaboration between Walgreens, The American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the ACB affiliates in California and Illinois.  All partnering organizations praised the Walgreens announcement.


“Accessible prescription information is critical to people who are blind, and with today’s announcement, Walgreens assumes a significant leadership role in serving its customers with visual impairments,” said ACB President Kim Charlson.


Illinois Council of the Blind representative Ray Campbell commended Walgreens initiative, saying, “So many of our members and ACB members across the country value Walgreens excellent customer service.


California Council of the Blind President Donna Pomerantz said, “Standard prescription labels put customers who are blind at risk for mixing up medications or taking them incorrectly.  For this reason, Walgreens initiative is a matter of basic safety, and we congratulate the company on its efforts in this important area.”

Southern Arizona Council of the Blind Update by Mitzi Tharin


At the last SAZCB meeting on May 31, we discussed committees that we should have. Lindsey McHugh has been invited by Marlene Dekker to co-chair the scholarship committee. Mitzi Tharin, Sharon Booker, and Julie Golchuk are on our social committee to plan recreational outings for the chapter. We decided to be a sponsor of the Southwest Slammers beep baseball team.


Our fundraiser with Sons of Orpheus was successful to where our share after expenses was $888, so we have voted to give one hundred dollars to AzCB, one hundred dollars to the Southwest Slammers, and five separate one hundred dollar expense scholarships to blind and visually impaired students who wish to pursue a college degree. In July, we will decide who will get those scholarships. The Scholarship Committee has not yet discussed the specific criteria or deadlines yet.


We will hold another Sons of Orpheus concert again next April. We also discussed doing perhaps four other small fund raisers and to investigate writing for some small grants for our club. We have set the goal of raising $4,000 a year in the next two years. We would love to raise more money for small scholarships, give the ACB a bigger share, and to continue helping the Southwest Slammers. We know that it will take a lot of work to reach that goal but we feel that it can be done. Another big goal for us is to increase membership.


We would really like to get more people involved in our book club. The next 3 books are “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom on July 9, two short books on August 13 titled “The Butler” by Will Haygood and “Tuesdays With Morrie” by Mitch Albom, and then “Crashing Through” by Robert Kurson on September 10. Remember that anyone in the country can phone to join in the discussions. Details, descriptions and links to the books are always posted on

Being a Joiner by Dan Martinez


I have enjoyed being a member of the Arizona Council of the Blind (AzCB) for many years.  I have also been an active participating member of other groups and councils focused on civil and human rights.  I’m a joiner.  I gain a great satisfaction by working with other people to change the status quo.


The current trend is for people not to actively participate in organized civil and social groups.  Traditional churches, boys and girls clubs, civic and community clubs have all seen large declines in membership.  More and more, we are becoming a society of non-joiners.


What is behind this trend and how does it impact the AzCB?  And, more importantly, what can we do about it?


There are indications that there are two large interrelated factors, distrust and feelings of futility, driving membership decline.


That distrust is embedded in beliefs that government and organizations operate to benefit insiders and moneyed interests rather than their citizens and members.  Certainly, there are ample examples which would lead people to that conclusion.  We see large corporations spending mega bucks on lobbyist and political action committees.  We see those same corporations dominating mass media and controlling or, at least, shaping the national conversation.  We hear about non-profit CEOs commanding exorbitant salaries and benefits from organization donations and program revenues.


All of that feeds people’s feeling of futility.  They believe that they are disempowered and can’t do anything to negotiate or facilitate meaningful change.

They see that the more things change the more benefit movers and shakers receive.  They become non-joiners.


As a volunteer organization, AzCB leadership and board members do not receive compensation.  They do the work of the Council because it is important to them.  They often spend their own money and a great deal of their time advocating on behalf of people who are blind.  So, any distrust based on an image of greedy corporate bosses is invalid.


The larger issue would then be the question of futility.  How can we hope to make a difference when the political deck is stacked in favor of other interests?  It is obvious that if we do nothing, we can’t make a difference.  The leadership of the AzCB will not accept that it is useless to speak out against injustice and inequity.  We are joiners.


Thank you to all of our members who have joined our organization.  It is by coming together that we become a voice for freedom for people who are blind.  Ask your family and friends to join us.  If they tell you we can’t possibly make a difference, remind them of the words of Margret Mead; “Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.”