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Newsletter of the Arizona Council of the Blind

Summer                                                          2015

From the President’s Desk by Carlos Paraskevas


As I began gathering the material for this issue, I was reminded of all the AzCB activity I’ve been involved in over the last three months. 


In early April, I attended the American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference in Phoenix.  This was three days of informative presentations on all the latest in blindness resources and opportunities.  I had a chance to network with people from all over the country involved in improving the lives of people who are blind.  I also had an opportunity to see some of the latest accessible technology being offered. 


In past years, we have held our AzCB Annual State Convention and Membership Meeting as one event on the same day.  For 2015, we split them into two meetings on separate days. 


The Membership Meeting took place on Saturday, April 18 at the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ACBVI).  During this meeting, I gave an update on where we are, what we’ve done this year, and things to do in the future.

Everyone had the opportunity to hear updates from all our chapters, vote on an amendment to our bylaws, and elect AzCB Board members for 2015.  I really enjoyed being able to engage with over half our membership at the same time.


I would like to congratulate Jeff Bishop for being elected to the position of 1st Vice President.  I would also like to congratulate the re-election of Karen Hughes as Secretary, Robin Paraskevas as Treasurer and Barbara McDonald and Bob Williams as Directors.  Jeff’s vacated Director position was filled by John McCann, an ACB National board member newly transplanted to Tucson.  I am looking forward to working with this group of committed individuals to make AzCB impactful in the lives of Arizonans who are blind.


We held our Community Conference on Friday, May 22 at the Disability Empowerment Center in Phoenix.  During our meeting, attendees were treated to presentations on the latest in accessible technology, the importance of comprehensive services for people who are blind, the challenges and rewards of being active, and the importance of independence and adaptability.


I would like to sincerely thank our conference presenters Karen Grandon (SBVID), Amy Porterfield (SAAVI), Jeff Bishop, Barbara McDonald, Jay Taska, Demetrius Lee and Jessica Loomer.  I would also like to congratulate the recipients of the President’s Award of Appreciation.  Faye Williams was recognized as an Outstanding Participating Member.  Faye is always there to lend a helping hand in all AzCB activities. 

Nancy Kimball, Council Staff for the Governor’s Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment, was recognized as an Outstanding Community Partner.  Nancy not only keeps the AzCB informed of all that’s going on in the blindness community, but she also assists us in activities and meetings she attends.


Aside from these events, I was also able to socialize with some of our members in more intimate gatherings. I went to the SAZCB Game Night at the home of Mitzi Tharin, SAZCB President.  I had the humbling experience of playing with braille cards for the first time.  I played very badly.  I’m very glad the conversation was so engaging that the card game broke up and I was spared the humiliation of having to show how many cards I had left in my hand after the game was won by someone else.


I also went to the Guide Dogs Users Brunch at the Good Egg in Phoenix in June.  It was a lot of fun with good food and great conversation.  I was very excited to hear about their success with their garage sale and their plans for their Diving with Dogs party and Annual Conference.  I always have fun with GDUA and am looking forward to participating in future events.


All these experiences re-enforce how important it is that we have a chance to meet and enjoy each other’s company.  We then have opportunities to catch up with people we haven’t seen for some time, to meet new people and to learn something.  I want to continue this trend.  For all those I’ve seen at one or more of these events, I look forward to talking to you again and keeping the lines open to new experiences.  For those I haven’t met yet, I am looking forward to finding out about you and sharing our stories and adventures with one another, and maybe having a few laughs while we’re at it.


Let’s keep the conversation going.  You can send me an email message at or leave a message at (602) 273-1510.  Keep cool and we’ll talk soon.


AzCB 2015 Scholarship Award Winners


During AzCB's Community Conference on May 22nd, Barbara McDonald, AzCB Scholarship Committee chair, presented two annual scholarships.  These scholarships are in the amount of $2000 each.


Robert Urbon received the John Vanlandingham Memorial Scholarship.  Robert is an Economics and Finance major at Northern Arizona University and he is legally blind.  He has been interested in finance since he was a kid.  This passion for finances motivated Robert to develop Financial Literacy: Family Night.  This was a fully funded event that focused on basic principles of economics and finance like opportunity costs and budgets.  This event was held at a local elementary school with close to 50 families attending.


Suzanne Germano received the Frank Kells Memorial Scholarship.  Suzanne is a senior at Arizona State University.  She was born with Achromatopsia and is legally blind.  She is working toward completing her BS in Computer Science.  She has dedicated herself to excelling academically and holds a 4.0 GPA. Suzanne will be graduating in December 2015, and her goal is a career in software development.


Please join AzCB in congratulating these outstanding students for all their hard work and determination to succeed.

Valley Metro Transportation Meeting by Barbara McDonald


Valley Metro held a meeting at the Disability Empowerment Center (DEC) in Phoenix on June 16, 2015 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The meeting provided an opportunity for stakeholders to give feedback on Valley Metro’s Regional Paratransit Plan. The plan is an ongoing effort by Valley Metro and its Member Communities to review and strengthen regional ADA Dial-A-Ride (DAR) services.


Dolores Nolan from Valley Metro welcomed the attendees and introduced the Project Manager Russell Thatcher, a consultant with TranSystems of Boston, MA.  Russell thanked the approximately 50 people who came to talk about updating the plan, which guides the Dial-a-Ride service. Russell stated that the focus of the meeting would be on discussing federally mandated ADA public transportation service for people unable to independently use the bus or light rail for some or all of their trips.


Mr. Thatcher said that the 2015 plan update started about six months ago.  The planning team consists of two groups.  One is the technical working group and the other is the stakeholders group.  The technical working group consists of representatives from Member Communities and DAR operations.  They helped gather data and keep elected officials informed of the plan.  The stakeholders are riders, disability organizations, and other members of the public.


Mr. Thatcher talked about a meeting held on February 18, 2015 which reviewed the improvements made since 2008. Improvements included consolidation of the northwest services; implementation of the mobility center and in person ADA eligibility certification; expansion of travel training and the introduction of the Platinum Pass program.  At that meeting, it was also identified that inconsistent policies existed among Member Communities and that transfers from one provider to another may take a protracted amount of time.


Russell shared information from a Dial-a-Ride passenger survey conducted by Valley Metro after that first meeting in February.  The audience reviewed survey results and participated with statements and questions.  The audience also evaluated and made comments on similarities and differences in service policies between service providers and suggested possible changes in the use of transfers.



Rider Survey Results

 403 completed telephone interviews (randomly selected from ADA eligible riders)

 56 completed online surveys (cards passed out on vehicles directing riders to online survey)

The phone survey showed that 66% were picked up on time, within a 30 minute window of the time requested, and 75 % got to their destinations on time.  Regarding transfers, 69% were satisfied or somewhat satisfied.  The online response showed that only 24% were satisfied with transfers on Dial-a-Ride more often.  For the latest information, go to

GDUA Update by Liz Whitlock


Guide Dog Users of Arizona wants to thank all of those who donated items and helped make the GDUA Garage Sale in early May a success. We have to give a big “Thank You” to Connie & Pete Jacomini for all their hard work in preparing & pulling off the garage sale. GDUA raised over $1000. This money will help fund our future activities.


GDUA met for brunch at the Good Egg in Phoenix on June 6th. We had a great turnout with 15 humans and 5 canines. Breakfast was good and the company was even better!


There are many exciting plans in the works for the next few months. Our annual Diving with Dogs party will be held on August 8th from 11:00 to 2:30. Dan & Jacque Olsen are kind enough to host again this year. On October 15, GDUA will be participating in the Tempe White Cane event being held at the Tempe Public Library. We will also be holding our annual conference on November 7 at the Arizona Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired. The agenda is still being ironed out, but you can expect some good things!


Please mark your calendars and plan to attend our events. You can contact Liz Whitlock if you would like to find out more information at


Are You Ready for the New Braille Code?


Over the years, the literary braille code has been updated through the work of the Braille Authority of North America, better known as BANA.

On January 4, 2016, which happens to be Louis Braille's birthday, the entire country will be launching UEB (Unified English Braille). We wanted to assure all parents, students, and consumers that we are working hard across the state of Arizona to get everyone ready for the roll-out of UEB.


Here is some information on why Unified English Braille is important for everyone and some of the basic changes most braille readers will see while reading:


·       As technology evolves, we need to be sure that braille moves forward along with changes in print. For this reason, UEB was implemented to better represent the printed word we see in literature.  Print readers use bolding, underlining and italics regularly along with unique combinations for letters and numbers.  UEB allows for the representation of these print forms more precisely than our current braille code.


·       Many current rules in literary braille are very confusing and present challenges for those preparing materials even when using braille translation software such as Duxbury.


·       Nine contractions are eliminated as a part of UEB. These were: by, into, to, dd, ble, com, ation, ally and o'c.  These particular contractions often can lead to confusion by a braille reader, hence, UEB eliminates them to make things more streamlined.


·       Some contractions such as to, into and by also have changes in how they are used, again to help make the ease of reading and preparing braille materials more efficient for everyone.


Most braille readers will be able to move into reading and writing UEB with minimal effort. However, we strongly encourage everyone to review the resources shown later in this article for additional information.

Be assured that teachers of students with visual impairments, rehabilitation staff, transcribers, and other professionals across the state of Arizona are working very hard in order to be up to speed with UEB before the implementation date of January 4, 2016.  Producers of textbooks and other materials are also gearing up for UEB.


Two audio presentations are available on the  Arizona Braille Consortium UEB (ABC-UEB) web site that we would strongly suggest you listen to. These will give you a more in-depth understanding behind the reason for UEB and the upcoming rule changes.  Find links to these at:


Take a look at these fantastic resources and prepare yourself for an exciting change that will unify braille globally!


BANA – Unified English Braille


Arizona Braille Consortium UEB (ABC-UEB)Information Page


The Hadley School for the Blind's Transition to UEB course


UEB Reader (Free)


Unified English Braille Version of the McDuffy Braille Reader


A Brief Overview of Unified English Braille (UEB) webinar (Free)


The Arizona Braille Consortium UEB (ABC-UEB) is here for you to answer questions, take your comments, etc.  Please email us at


First Coast-to-Coast Trip by a Driverless Car


The first coast-to-coast trip by a driverless car started at the Golden Gate Bridge and ended in midtown Manhattan on Thursday April 2, 2015. Most automated driving tests have been conducted on test tracks or in short bursts on city streets. The trip was organized by auto parts maker Delphi (DLPH) to test its automated driving technology.


To comply with state laws, one person sat in the driver's seat throughout the trip, ready to take over if necessary to avoid another car or a pedestrian. Other engineers on the team monitored data collection during the trip. Delphi said that 99% of the trip was done with the car in automated mode.


Along the way, the vehicle encountered complex driving situations such as traffic circles, construction zones, bridges, tunnels and a variety of weather conditions.


Delphi doesn't expect to build its own self-driving car but it does want to sell these features to automakers. Some features are already being integrated into a number of high-end car models.

Maricopa Club by Barbara McDonald


A Maricopa Club meeting was held on June 10th at the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ACBVI) in a room called the Yoga Room.  We were anxious to hear our speaker.


Marlene Cobos opened the meeting at 1:30 with a welcome, pledge, a moment of silence, and attendee self-introductions.  Our treasurer, Judy Young, gave a brief report, which was approved.  Marlene tabled the minutes from the last meeting.  Our secretary, Diane Gorden, said that she would have them available for the next business meeting.


A discussion was held about some places we could visit during the hot months of July and August.  Margo Shafer said that she would find information about the Musical Instrument Museum and the Organ Stop Pizza Restaurant.  Barbara McDonald said that she would find information on the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.  Robert Shelly said that he would inquire about showing audio described movies at the center after classes were done for the day.  Members would be informed about the social outings that will be chosen for July and August.  Business meetings will resume in September.


Nora Thielking who has been a member of the Maricopa Club for about 25 years was our featured speaker.  She has been participating in Daring Adventures for 20 years.  Daring Adventures is a nonprofit organization that has activities such as hiking, kayaking, river rafting, cross country skiing, cycling, back packing, wilderness camping, and sled ice hockey.  These activities are available for all people with disabilities to join.


The MCCB members listened attentively to Nora's description of her latest river rafting adventure. 


Nora has gone river rafting four times.  The latest rafting trip was May 4 to May 12, 2015 in the Grand Canyon.  The very first time she went river rafting in 1995, she walked down into the Grand Canyon.  This time, her group took a bus to Lee's Ferry, where they got on the two motorized rafts.


Each night of the rafting trip, the group stopped at a campsite at the river's edge where they ate and slept.  Every morning, they had coffee and breakfast and got dressed for rafting.  After they started down the small, medium, and large rapids, they stopped for lunch at a small campsite.  Then, the group would get back on the rafts until late afternoon.  Moments before encountering rapids, someone would yell "White Water!" and the group would respond, "We love it!" 


Nora said, “We were on the river for eight days.  We got wet.  The weather was sunny and warm, but we had some days when it was chilly and rainy with some hail.  The last night, we had an amateur talent and fashion show.  The trip ended at a place called Diamond Creek where the group got on two vans, which took us to Peach Springs to meet the bus.”


If you are interested in participating or volunteering with Daring Adventures, you can call Linda Tuck at 602-290-0214.  Or email her at  The website address is  Full and/or partial scholarship assistance may be available, upon request, for those who need financial assistance in order to participate.


The MCCB meeting adjourned at 2:15.  We walked over to the multi-purpose room and had refreshments.  Margo brought a delicious cherry coffeecake to share.



SAZCB Update by Jesse Tharin

On August 9, SAZCB will hold a fund raiser for our scholarship fund. Lindsey McHugh will be performing in THE AMAZINGS: HEROS OF TOMORROW at The Great American Playhouse in Oro Valley. Tickets for the 3:00 p.m. matinee show are $20.

In the story, Mr. Amazing & Elastigal were forced to retire after years of service in the government’s “Super Crime-Fighting program!” They’ve retired to a normal life in suburbia, married and have raised a family. Years later, an old enemy resurfaces, threatening to destroy the world. The Amazings must get back in action! Along with their kids, who possess their own super abilities, and trusty sidekicks Frost Bite and Dr. Linguine, the Amazings try to save the world! But, is it too late?

For program details please give Mitzi a call at 520-722-4160 or email her at She can answer any questions that you might have.

We held our annual SAZCB meeting on June 27. Jeff Bishop gave us more details about Unified English Braille, or UEB, and John McCann joined us and talked about the upcoming ACB elections. We had a Yellow cab representative join us to give details about getting cabs quicker with their new smartphone app that became available on the first of July.

We had another card game get together as the last one was so fun. I am hoping that we get many more people at the next two upcoming card games on July 18 and August 22.

We have made some changes to our book club. We are continuing our monthly discussion call-in meetings as well as starting an on-line chat group. If you are interested, email Mitzi and let her know and she will make sure you get on the list.

After the Summer break in July, the next two books will be Guardian by John Saul (BARD DB 42129 or Bookshare 370694) on August 12 And All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (BARD DB 79182 and Bookshare 1017705) on September 9. You can read synopses of them at the BARD and Bookshare links, or at

A synopsis for each of the two above books is available from the web site. I  hope that everyone has a very nice summer.


Netflix Begins Audio Description


Netflix is expanding their accessibility options by adding audio description on select titles. The new critically acclaimed series, Marvel’s Daredevil is now available with audio description. Netflix is committed to continually improving the viewing experience for their members, including providing accessibility across devices.


Audio description is a narration track that describes what is happening on-screen, including physical actions, facial expressions, costumes, settings and scene changes. Customers can choose audio narration just like choosing the soundtrack in a different language.


In coming weeks, Netflix will add more titles, including current and previous seasons of the Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning political thriller House of Cards, Emmy award-winning comedy-drama series Orange is the New Black, as well as Tina Fey’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the epic adventure series Marco Polo.


Netflix says they are actively committed to increasing the number of audio-visual translations for movies and shows in their English-language catalogues. They are also exploring adding audio description into other languages in the future.


Over time, they expect audio description to be available for major Netflix original series, as well as select other shows and movies.

Save the Date for VRATE!


Are you or someone you know experiencing vision loss or a combined vision and hearing loss?  Are you looking for information, help, or support with your vision problem or vision/hearing problem?


Then, mark your calendar for December 11, 2015, for the 20th Annual Vision Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Expo (VRATE) at the Phoenix Convention Center in the South Building located at 33 S. 3rd St. from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  There will be speakers and exhibitors presenting information and products that will be of great interest to you.  This is a "FREE" event.


For the most current information, go to


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















Arizona Council of the Blind Newsletter Summer 2015