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Newsletter of the Arizona Council of the Blind


Winter                                                             2016

From the President’s Desk by Carlos Paraskevas


Well, another year is in the rearview mirror and another year with limitless possibility looms on the horizon.  Looking back, it is rewarding to ponder on all that has been accomplished. 


On the national level, AZCB has participated in several conferences in 2015.  Our members have attended the ACB National Legislative Seminar in Washington DC in February, the American Foundation for the Blind’s National Conference in Phoenix in April, and the ACB National Conference in Dallas in July.  At the National Conference, we donated the start-up cost for the development of the ACB Link iPhone App.  The App is now available.  We have received recognition from ACB for our contribution.  In addition, two of our members were elected to positions on the National Board; John McCann as 2nd Vice President and Jeff Bishop as a Director.  This will help insure that our state gains recognition on the national level.


The AZCB is involved with state and local organizations as well.  We have three members on the Governor’s Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment (Dan Martinez is the current Chair).  We are also on their assistive technology, employment, and public information committees.  We were, and are again, a Community Supporter for the Arizona VisionWalk.  Members are involved in the RSA Strategic Planning team to improve service delivery.  Members also participated at White Cane Safety Day events at the Tempe Public Library and the Phoenix VA.  We were at VRATE in December. All this is to say we are getting out in the community sharing our information and encouraging people to join and participate in the blindness community.


Now, it is time to consider plans for the coming year.  We want to continue to foster our relationships with all the blindness organizations in Arizona and nationwide.  Of course, we want to increase our membership and member participation in our chapters.  We want to see members establish priorities for our organization.  I would like members to attend our board meetings, serve on committees and consider running for open leadership positions. 


You can join me in these ambitious goals by first joining or renewing your membership with AZCB.  Please visit and fill out a membership form.  You can also join one of our chapters.  If you need any assistance, you can call (602) 273-1510 or email me at


I am looking forward to 2016 being a banner year for AZCB and I want you to be a key participant in our accomplishments.

2016 Arizona VisionWalk


The 10th Annual Arizona VisionWalk will be held on Saturday, February 27, 2016 at Steele Indian School Park at 300 E. Indian School Road in Phoenix.  Registration starts at 8:00 a.m. and the walk begins with a presentation at 9:00. VisionWalk is sponsored by the Foundation Fighting Blindness.


It’s a truly inspiring time, because we’re reminded of how much promising research is out there.

Designed by scientific teams worldwide, the projects target retinal diseases from a variety of angles—including gene therapies, stem cells, pharmaceuticals and “bionic retinas”.


The Foundation Fighting Blindness, Inc. is the world’s leader in providing awareness and funding that drives the research that will provide preventions, treatments and cures for people affected by retinal degenerative diseases.  Since its inception in the spring of 2006, VisionWalk has raised over $30 million to fund sight-saving research.


2015 was an incredible year for research funded and supported by the Foundation. Several projects targeting vision-robbing eye diseases entered human clinical trials, while others experienced promising results. Here are just a few highlights:

•       Accelerating Human Clinical Trials: There are now 20 clinical trials for patients with inherited retinal diseases. Those include a recently completed Phase III trial for gene-therapy led by Spark Therapeutics that has restored vision to children and adults who were virtually blind from mutations in the gene RPE65, which can cause Leber congenital amaurosis and retinitis pigmentosa.

•       Advancing Stem-Cell Therapies: With assistance from the Foundation, a new trial received the go-ahead from the FDA that will attempt to coax stem cells into functional photoreceptors in patients with retinitis pigmentosa.

•       Investing in the most promising new research: The Foundation funded grants this year totaling almost $15 million in support of 113 grants. The funded research projects span the globe, supporting 187 research investigators at 69 institutions in their relentless search to find preventions, treatments and cures for the entire spectrum of inherited retinal degenerative diseases.


With your help, the Foundation can continue to spread the word and raise much needed funds for research to, one day, make blindness a thing of the past.


AZCB is proud to be a Community Supporter for this year’s walk.  Please join us and/or make a donation by visiting


New ACB iPhone App


At the opening session of the 2015 convention, President Kim Charlson announced that ACB would begin development of an iPhone app. From the outset, this project was driven by one objective: to bring members and affiliates closer to both each other and to the leadership of the national organization.


On October 26, ACB Link became available in the iTunes store. This app will assist ACB staff, members and friends to readily communicate news of relevance to the blindness community.


 The ACB Radio management team has taken on the coordination of this project under the capable leadership of Jeff Bishop, ACB Board Member and AzCB 1st Vice President. In fact, the Arizona Council of the Blind provided the initial funding of the development of the app for ACB.


"We are just at the beginning of something big here for ACB," said Jeff Bishop, who directed the effort for ACB Link. "Innovation has always been at the forefront of ACB's vision, and ACB Link takes the organization even farther down the path in building tools and technologies for our members.”


With ACB Link, you can get notifications designed to keep you in the know about late-breaking news items, easily and conveniently connect to state and special-interest affiliates, and be informed and entertained by the wide variety of programming from ACB Radio.

You can also gain valuable information that focuses on dealing with sight loss, and so much more!


ACB Link is intuitive, easy to use, and fully accessible with VoiceOver, Apple's screen reader built into iOS.  ACB Link will bring us together in a new and exciting way.


Stay notified about late-breaking advocacy and special announcements from the national office through the use of push notifications within ACB Link. We promise to keep them at a minimum so as not to overwhelm you with unwanted notifications.


From our mission to our history and from our advocacy to conventions, we are excited about our new app and know you will be too! Join with us right up to the moment, as we are connected by ACB Link!


President Kim Charlson expressed her personal thanks, and that of the American Council of the Blind, for our funding support of the ACB Link project. “AZCB’s generosity set the stage for this exciting project. This app will bring ACB into the 21st century with a communication and advocacy tool that is easy for members to use. Your faith in the concept, and your trust of your extremely talented board member, Jeff Bishop, is truly commendable.”


This is just the beginning for ACB Link. There are many exciting plans for its future development. If you have feedback for the ACB Link development team, please get in touch by e-mailing This is your app; please help it become all that you want it to be and all that it can be! All suggestions are sincerely encouraged and welcome.


For more information and to download ACB Link, go to


GDUA Update by Liz Whitlock


As the 2015 year comes to an end,   We look back on our accomplishments and GDUA’s successful year and plan for the future.


On October 15, we came out in full force at the first annual White Cane Day at the Tempe Public Library.  It was great sharing information about GDUA and we hope to participate next year.


This year’s GDUA Annual Conference was held on November 7th at the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Phoenix.  We had a great group of speakers.  Dr. Lisa Felchle from Eye Care for Animals in Gilbert talked about eye diseases in dogs.  In addition, she offered complimentary eye exams for our guides.  Brian Towle from TSA discussed procedures for security clearance of travelers with guide dogs at airports.  Jeff Bishop talked about assistive technology.  Lastly, Mike Goehring explained how dogs think.  Several of these presentations will be available on our website soon.  Stay tuned for details.


This was an incredible conference!  Thank you all for coming & participating.  I just love when we have so many veteran guide dog users in one room for me to learn from.  I hope you all gained some value from the day as well!


I want to thank again all the many volunteers who helped with the conference & all the seeing eye humans who assisted while our dogs took a break!


Thank you to our outgoing board members, Connie Jacomini, David Steinmetz, & River Forest.  Your service & dedication to guide dogs is extraordinary.  Each one of you will be missed.  Congratulations to our 2016 Board: Cat Perry, Vice President; Jacque Olson, Treasurer; Lisa Brooks, Secretary; Karen Hughes, Board; and Mark Valeri, Board.  I am looking forward to working with all of you.


We finished 2015 by participating at VRATE.  GDUA members answered questions about obtaining and caring for guide dogs as well as information on our chapter and parent organizations.


GDUA is looking forward to a new year full of exciting adventures and big goals.  We have set our sights on working on the issue of extensive use of Fraudulent Service dogs in our community.  We will also continue to offer social opportunities for our members including the popular Diving with Dogs event.     We would love you to be part of our chapter.  For more information, visit



AZDAC by Barbara McDonald


I think of advocacy as standing up for something you believe in or think is right and especially speaking up for people who cannot do it for themselves.


Arizona Disability Advocacy Coalition (AZDAC) is putting together a training to teach advocacy skills. The training will identify ways for you to reach your federal and state legislators with your advocacy messages.  There will be a training session on January 25, 2016 from Noon to 5:00 pm at the Disability Empowerment Center conference room on the first floor.  You will have an opportunity to learn how a bill becomes a law, how to contact your legislator, and about bills that support the needs of people with disabilities.  Participants will be put together in small groups with a mentor.  Each member of the group will choose a bill and the mentor will role play as the legislator.  This will prepare you to visit your legislator.


On January 26, 2016, your mentor will make appointments for you to visit your state legislators.  The group will make plans to meet at the capitol to go to those appointments.  Each group will be given a stipend to get lunch.  Time will be allotted to watch the State Senate or House in session and to register at the kiosk.  At 2:00, the groups will meet in a conference room to discuss how their visits went. If you think advocacy is important and want to learn more about it, please call Barbara McDonald at 602-285-0269 to find out how to register for the program.  Please call before January 7, 2016.

From the Southern Arizona Group by Mitzi Tharin


A full dozen of us chapter members and friends met at Mama Louisa’s Italian Restaurant in Tucson on December 12 for a fun lunch; it was really good food and everyone seemed to enjoy it. April and Jim Martin, two distant members who moved to sunny tropical Michigan a few years ago had planned to come by, but had to postpone for a few months, which is exactly the excuse we were looking for to hold another party this coming early Spring.


After lunch, we went back to our house where the Bishops joined us right after Jeff’s ACB Radio show. John McCann brought his twelve string guitar and played all afternoon for us.  We sang many Xmas songs, butchering many of the “alternative” sort most joyfully and mercilessly. With John on guitar, Lindsey and Tony singing away (and the rest of us bumbling along), and even with a wet fireplace that refused to catch fire, we all really enjoyed ourselves.


John performed his wicked original “The Talking Infomercial Blues.” We all enjoyed that too. So much in fact, that if you can’t find it on YouTube we’ll make sure that the audio will sit demurely on the front page of our web site at


Our book club is continuing but we have few books scheduled. If you are interested in books and have a favorite that you think others might enjoy, check out the group at We meet over the phone on the second Wednesday of every month at 5:30 PM.


We will be starting the New Year with a planning meeting at the Wilmot Library in Tucson on January 23 from 1:00 to 3:00 PM, and hope that you can make it.
For more information, please visit

Maricopa County Club of the Blind by Barbara McDonald


The Maricopa Club met on Wednesday, November 18, at the Arizona Center for the Blind located at 3100 East Roosevelt Street from 1:30 to 3:00.


President Marlene Cobos welcomed everyone and each person introduced him or herself.  After the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, a moment of silence was given to remember all our members who are ill.  The minutes for October were tabled.  Treasurer Judy Young said that the balance in the bank and the petty cash account remained unchanged.


Members reported on the Valley Metro Stakeholders' Meeting, which was held on November 10.  People who attended the Veterans' Day social event at My Mothers Restaurant talked about how good the food was there. Judy had gone to the GDUA Conference and said that she had an informative time and could recite all the names of the dogs she met, whom she thoroughly enjoyed.


Barbara McDonald said that she had reviewed the constitution.  She said that a quorum was defined as a majority of the members present. She also noted that January is the month MCCB is to have their annual conference.  Robert Shelly, the nominating chair, will confirm which officers and members are considering being nominated and elected.


Since a speaker was scheduled for this meeting and time was not available for conducting additional business, a meeting will be held Wednesday, January 6, 2016 to plan the annual meeting agenda, which will be held late in January.


The speaker was Mike Armstrong, who talked about Living Well.  He talked about his experiences and his qualifications.  He has a grant to provide a healthy living program for people who are 55 years and older and visually impaired living in the Phoenix area.  The program is individualized according to the person's goals.  He handed out his card and a brochure.  Members were eager to learn more, and said that they would be calling after the first of the year.


After the meeting was adjourned, the members moved to the lunch room where Margo Schafer presented a belated birthday cake to Dianne Gorden.  We shared it, and Dianne took the rest of it home to share with her family for Thanksgiving.


For additional information about the Maricopa Club, please call Judy Young in the evening at 602-272-6969.


Renew Your Membership


It is time to renew your membership in the Arizona Council of the Blind. You do not receive your renewal statement by mail. The renewal reminder is in the newsletter, posted on our list serve and given verbally during Chapter meeting. So, it could be easy to miss. Again, it is time to renew your annual membership in the AzCB.


The convenience of renewing your membership online is available at, you can renew with your Chapter or you can send a membership form and dues to the AzCB office located at 3124 E. Roosevelt St. Ste. 4 Phoenix, AZ 85008-5088.


With your membership, you become a member of the American Council of the Blind (ACB), AzCB, and, if you choose, AzCB local chapters. You connect with many other people taking meaningful action regarding issues relevant to people with vision loss. Renew today.
Phoenix Chapter by Barbara McDonald


The Phoenix Chapter is off to a new start.  We have had two meetings, one in October and the other in November. The first meeting was held on October 24 at SAAVI at 4222 East Thomas Road.  We had seven members and four guests. I gave them an overview of the Mission and Philosophy of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and talked about the AzCB and some of the things we have done. Members had a discussion about the Phoenix Chapter and our past activities.

Members talked about what issues the Chapter could get involved in.  Subjects ranged from transportation, tech learning, healthy living, education, employment, and how we can get the word out about services available for people who are blind.


Mike Armstrong, who was conducting exercise classes, took time to talk about his program at SAAVI


It was decided we would meet at SAAVI on the fourth Saturday of the month from 10:00 to 12:00 pm.  Membership forms and copies of the AzCB Newsletter were distributed. Gail then took a group on a tour of SAAVI.


The next meeting was held on November 14 at 10:00 AM.  It was decided that we would have two goals.  The first goal is to continue steps to improve public transportation services for people who are blind.  The second goal is to develop strategies for making the public aware of specialized services available for people who are blind, have low vision, or who have combined vision and hearing loss.


We decided not to have any chapter socials or business meetings in December.  Our next meeting will be at SAAVI on Saturday, January 23, 2016.  If you want more information, please call Barbara McDonald at 602-285-0269 after 3:00 pm. 

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