Fore~Sight: The Newsletter of the Arizona Council of the Blind Winter 2009

 

President's Message By Barbara McDonald

 

As a teacher, I never liked changes. I had a schedule and lesson plans that I was expected to follow. Changes disoriented me, and the misbehavior of the students increased especially after a fire drill or an assembly. For both my students and myself, it always seemed hard to get back on track. Eventually, I learned to have a Plan "B" or just rewrote my lesson plans.

When I had a particularly bad day at school, I always tried to learn from that day and start the next day over again in a positive way or as a new beginning.

Even today, I still don't like changes. I am often told that I am too responsible and I need to go with the flow. My family advises me to work on the things I can change, and don't worry about the things I can't change. However, I find that difficult when it comes to things or people I care about.

Listening to the news can be scary. Things seem to change so quickly. Everyday, there are more job layoffs and economic failures. Those are not changes I like to hear about.

Recently, someone told me that the only thing you can count on is change. Change is constant. Things in nature are constantly changing or transitioning into something else. Nature and living things continue on everyday like nothing has happened.

This year will begin the new term of Barack Obama. With this new beginning, there will be changes. The American Council of the Blind (ACB) representatives met with the Obama's transition team suggesting recommendations and changes that would benefit people who are blind and visually impaired. I certainly don't envy Barack Obama. Even he, may not like changes, but I hope he will be able to learn, develop a Plan "B", and start the next day in a positive way with a new beginning. My hopes and prayers will be with him.

 

WebAIM is conducting a survey of screen reader users. http://webaim.org/projects/screenreadersurvey/

 

Web accessibility experts often say something like, "Screen reader users prefer." followed by some accessibility recommendation. However, many of these recommendations are based on personal preference or conjecture, often from sighted users who only test with screen readers. The fact is that there is little data about screen reader usage to back up these recommendations.

This survey will ask screen reader users about their usage and preferences. If you are a full-time, part-time, or even occasional screen reader user, please take a few minutes to complete the survey and provide us with a few details on your screen reader usage and preferences. We will be comparing results between those that rely on screen readers and those that primarily use them for evaluation and testing, so all screen reader users are invited to respond. Your feedback will help influence the accessibility techniques that web developers implement and that experts recommend. We'll be posting the survey results in a few months.

 

Braille and Large Print Beverage Brochures at Starbucks By Melanie Brunson

Did you know that there are over 87,000 beverage combinations at Starbucks? To help you order, Starbucks has made their popular brochure, "Make It Your Drink," available in both Braille and Large Print. Ask your barista for it the next time you visit your local Starbucks.

I have notified Starbucks of the complaints I've received from people who have tried unsuccessfully to make use of the Braille and large print brochures. I have been assured that all U.S. stores, except for the stands in locations such as airports and hotels, have been sent these brochures and that managers have been told to make them available to customers.

If you ask to read a brochure in your store and the barista says they don't have one, ask to speak to the manager. Ask the manager to please locate it for you. If the manager doesn't know anything about it, please send an email to Marthalee Galeota at Starbucks. Her email address is mgaleota@starbucks.com. She is the person who has overseen this project. You will need to let her know the particular location of the store so that she can follow up with the manager. She has assured me that she will follow up.

Enjoy your lattes!

 

Giving by Barbara McDonald

The cuts in state and city budgets are affecting everything including the libraries. The Arizona Council of the Blind has donated $500.00 to the Phoenix Public Library Foundation for the Accessible Needs Center and $500.00 to Friends of the Library of the Arizona State Braille and Talking Book Library.

Both of these organizations provide valuable services to people who are blind or visually impaired. You can help. No donation is too small. Please help if you can.

 

Pay to: and Mail to:

 

Friends of the Library

Arizona State Braille and Talking Book Library

1030 North 32nd Street

Phoenix, AZ 85008

or

Phoenix Public Library Foundation

f/t Accessibility Center

Burton Barr Library

1221 North Central Avenue.

Phoenix, AZ 85004

 

AS I SEE IT-by Dr. Frank Kells

Once again, I can accurately report that life is what happens while you were making other plans! Remember last winter when I explained about blindness not being the worst? Well, it still isnt, despite everything thats occurred in my life and Janets. Heres the latest.

I recently had a mild stroke and while at the Tucson Medical Center they found a latent pre-diabetic condition. These were not anything to worry about, but added to my previous conditions, I was again headed the skilled nursing wing of my Handmaker home. However, blindness still aint the worst!

After a few days in the Rich Unit (Skilled Care) we realized that I needed more care and that I was in the situation that Anne was in seven years ago. Janet and I had to make the tough decision to put me in Arizona Long Term Care System and let ALTCS pay for all the exorbitant medical costs. Incidentally, its a good idea to use an attorney who specializes in elder care such as Jackson-White to assist in this process, if you or yours are ever in a similar situation.

Anyway, I am now in Room 407 (same street address) and Janet has moved into Apartment 215 to save expenses. This will take a bit of getting use to, but it will all work out. As you know, our slogan is Count Your Blessings, and I am more pleased than ever to have married Janet, who believes in the same positive approach to life.

Here is a summary of what has happened to me that is NOT worse than blindness:

Retinitis pigmentosa, which has left me totally blind for the past few years and which I have long since conquered.

Late in 2004 I began having serious balance problems, diagnosed as atrophy of the cerebellum, a part of the lower brain that controls automatic functions such as balance, manipulation, etc.

In late 2006, a severe fall resulting in a dislocated right shoulder, a permanently spastic right arm and hand with proprioceptive dysfunction (this means that parts of the body dont know where they are, like when the doctor has you close your eyes and touch your nose).

On July 3, 2008 I had a mild stroke which somewhat impedes the fluency of my speech and interferes with recall of certain words but fortunately doesnt hamper my thought processes at least I dont THINK so!

While in Tucson Medical Center they picked up a pre-diabetic condition and now every morning I get my finger stuck to check for blood sugar level.

Just as an annoyance, I suppose, I get a runny nose almost every meal no cure so far for this interruption to my fantastic one-handed dining process!

So there you have it, some of the challenges, which recently entered my life while Janet and I were making other plans. But ALL of them are worse than blindness. Do you get my point??

 

Don't Overlook This Tax Credit By Eric Bridges

Many disabled taxpayers may be overlooking a valuable tax credit that could increase their federal income tax refunds by as much as $4,824.

The IRS estimates that up to one in four taxpayers who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) fail to claim the credit. Are you one of them?

You may qualify if your income was under $41,646 last year and you, or your spouse, worked or received disability retirement benefits under an employer plan and were under the minimum retirement age.

The amount of your EITC depends on several factors, such as the amount of your earned income, your filing status, whether you have children and how many, etc. Special rules apply if you have a child who is permanently and totally disabled.

To get the credit you earned, you must: File a federal income tax return and Claim the credit.

Many communities have volunteer income tax assistance sites or local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers, which will compute your EITC and prepare your return without charge. To locate a volunteer site, call your community's 211 for local services or call the IRS at 1-800-906-9887.

Find more information about EITC in alternative formats for people with print disabilities at www.irs.gov Follow the homepage link to "Accessibility", then the link to "Accessible IRS Tax Products" and select the appropriate link to download accessible forms or publications.

Tax preparation sites are hosted by governmental, faith-based and community organizations throughout Arizona.

Visit www.az211.gov

 

Louis Braille Bicentennial By Gail Elaine Wilt

Louis Braille was born January 4, 1809, near Paris. He lost his sight as a child, due to an accident while playing in his father's harness-making workshop. In his youth he devised what we now call Braille, a code using raised dots to enable blind people to read and write. Braille is the premier tool for literacy for people who are the blind.

There will be worldwide celebrations throughout the coming year in honor of Louis Brailles achievement. The U.S. Treasury will issue a commemorative coin in the spring. Visit louisbraillebicentennial.org for information.

Not all blind people learn braille. Many never have the opportunity; some think it would be too hard to learn; still others believe that it is obsolete, given today's technology.

Why don't talking computers make braille outmoded? For the same reasons that electronic devices haven't made real books, pens and pencils pointless. For one thing, you don't need electricity to use braille; so you don't lose access to it when the power goes out, batteries die, or a storm makes it advisable to unplug your computer. Furthermore, when "assistive technology" malfunctions, getting it repaired or replaced can cost a lot of time and money.

Around Thanksgiving my office building was without electricity for five business days, due to a construction project. That was four days longer than expected. Being unable to use my computer, I made notes in braille.

Braille reading and writing promote true literacy (e.g., knowledge of spelling), whereas audio books and such do not. The majority of successfully employed blind people are braille users. In fact, statistics show that braille is a key element in advancing beyond entry-level positions.

I started learning braille in kindergarten. Now I have the privilege of teaching it to visually impaired/blind adults who are preparing for the job market. Being able to read and write braille boosts students' confidence, and increases their chances of succeeding with employment.

Even people who have reduced sensitivity in their fingers (e.g., from diabetic neuropathy) can benefit from learning at least uncontracted braille, which they can use for labeling items at work and home and for keeping phone numbers, addresses, etc.

Braille can be written with a machine called a braillewriter (weighing about ten pounds), which has a key for each of the six dots positions; or Braille can be written with an easily portable slate and stylus, with which a person manually punches each dot. Braille can even be produced electronically, by connecting a computer to a braille embosser, a "printer" that creates raised dots.

Braille is like magic to the uninitiated. It still has magic for me. I can read in the dark, under the covers, under a table, on a lectern while facing the audience, or in a moving vehicle without risking motion sickness.

Experiencing a book or magazine through Braille is quite different from listening to an audio book or computerized speech, just as for sighted people to hold a book in their hands, turning the pages themselves, is different from listening to a recording.

We who are Braille users want to spread the word that Braille is a premium tool for anyone who has difficulty reading print because of vision loss (even if an individual can read large print; usually that format is slow-going, and becomes a strain if reading much). For most people, learning at least basic braille is doable.

For adults and teens, free correspondence courses are available through Hadley School for the Blind (1-800- 526-9909). In-person instruction can be arranged through either Vocational Rehabilitation (602-266-9579) or Independent Living Rehabilitation Services (602-266-9286). Braille instruction for children can be arranged through the Foundation for Blind Children (602-331-1470).

You can contact Gail Wilt at:

gwilt@seeitourway.org or 602-331-1470, X 190

 

Local Chapter Information

The Southern Arizona Chapter of the Arizona Council of the Blind elected new officers at their last meeting, which was held on December 20th at the Southern Arizona Association for the Visually Impaired known as SAAVI in Tucson. The president is Janet Kells, the vice-president is April Martin, the secretary is Sharon Booker, the treasurer is Dorothy Levinson, and the two directors are Thom Booker and Norma Rice. This group meets every third Saturday of the month at SAAVI. More information, may be gained by calling Janet Kells at 520-742-7787.

The Phoenix Chapter of the Arizona Council of the Blind elected new officers at their last meeting in November. The president is Gail Elaine Wilt, the vice-president is Geri McGinty, and the secretary/treasurer is Barbara McDonald. This group meets at Macayos at 4001 North Central in Phoenix on the fourth Tuesday of the month. The next meeting will be January 27, 2009 at Macayos. This group alternates business meetings with social get-togethers. For more information, please call Barbara McDonald at 602-285-0269.

Local chapter groups have the advantage of knowing local issues and being able to focus on solving these problems.

 

Dear ACB Members and Friends,

As part of the historic agreement negotiated by ACB, The California Council of the Blind (CCB) and several blind individuals, free annual credit reports available through www.annualcreditreport.com and are now designed to be accessible to blind consumers.

Each person is entitled to one free report each year from each of three different companies. By the end of December 2008, these companies will also be providing the free reports in Braille, Large Print, and Audio formats.

ACB and CCB used Structured Negotiations to reach the landmark agreement with the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

To access your free on-line credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com. After selecting your state and requesting your report, you will be taken to a form that must be filled out. At the end of the form there is a security feature (known as a Captcha) as well as an alternative request page for blind and visually impaired consumers who cannot see the characters that need to be entered into the box. Unlike some on-line audio Captchas that are difficult to understand, the security feature on the credit report site includes a phone number to call that will clearly provide you with the code you need to enter into the site. These security features are designed to help companies make sure that you are a real person, and not a computer. The credit reporting companies have worked hard over the past several months to make the Captcha on this site an accessible one. When you have completed the form and the security feature, you will be asked to select which of the three companies you want to receive your report from.

There will be a small number of people who will be unable to obtain their report on-line because of the need for additional authentication. This happens with sighted people also and has nothing to do with visual impairment. If this happens to you, and you are unable to get your report, please contact our lawyers using the information below.

The companies are working closely with ACB and its lawyers to make sure the reports are accessible and the process is as usable as possible. If problems occur, we will try to resolve them as soon as possible. Feedback can be sent to our lawyers, Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian, by emailing LF@LFLegal.com, or calling (510) 548-5062.

Please keep this information for future reference and share it with other blind or visually impaired people you know. Melanie Brunson, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind

 

The AzCB BRIEF FUND

The Arizona Council of the Blind has established the Blindness Related Intervention Expenses Fund (BRIEF). The BRIEF Fund will provide funds not to exceed $1,000.00 to acquire eyesight related assistive technology, aids, or devices to improve or maintain an individuals level of independence, increase or maintain functioning, or to improve his or her quality of life.

The expenditures to be covered by this program must be eyesight related; the applicant must make a commitment to bare as much of the expense as possible; and have no other reasonable means to cover the expense. The BRIEF fund is a safety net to give some assistance with the high cost of having a disability.

Applicants must be a resident of the state of Arizona to qualify for this program.

Here is an update we received from a BRIEF recipient:

 

This letter is to update the AzCB regarding the funds disbursed from the Brief account. I was able to use these funds to help purchase a new Dell Laptop and Zoomtext screen magnification and reading software.

In the past I was only able to access information at work from nine to five and now I am able to access information from five to nine as well. I have the ability to research new products, news information and medical research through the Internet. Additionally this technology has enabled me to become an active parent in my childrens education. Together we do research projects and create reports and presentations.

One of the most significant outcomes from this technology is the personal growth in my sense of self worth. I am contributing to my family in ways that the blindness had taken away.

Thank you all for your hard work and dedication to enriching the lives of individuals who are blind. David

 

For more information about the BRIEF Fund or for an application contact:

 

Robert Shelly

Mail: Arizona Council of the Blind

Attn: Robert Shelly

3124 East Roosevelt Street, Suite 4

Phoenix, AZ 85008
Call: 602-273-1510 or 1-888-273-1510

Email: rcshelly@msn.com

 

Arizona Council of the Blind State Convention May 1st and 2nd 2009

Where: Phoenix International Airport Hilton

Hotel, located at 2435 South 47th Street in Phoenix. You may reserve your room by calling the Hilton directly at (480) 894-1600. Room rates are $105 per night plus tax for a standard room and $135 per night plus tax for a suite.

When: Friday, May 1 and Saturday, May 2, 2009

We will have two full days of meetings, workshops and an exhibits area, showcasing the latest and most advanced products designed to meet the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. We are also planning a number of meals, parties, and of course, our annual AzCB Banquet.

 

Registration is FREE for members. Other Convention fees are dependent on the activities which you attend. Visit the AzCB website ttp://www.azcb.org for more information

 

Note: The registration form is only available in the Fore~Sight (There will not be a separate registration mail out)


 

Arizona Council of the Blind 2009 Annual Membership Convention Registration Form

 

Please complete one form per person. Do not include multiple registrants on the same form.

 

Name _____________________________________

Address ___________________________________

City ________________ State ____ Zip _________

Phone ________________ Email________________

Format preference:. Large Print ___ Braille ___

Are you a member of the Arizona Council of the Blind? _____ Yes ______ No _____ I Dont Know

Banquet Preference - Choose one.

____ Beef ___ Chicken __ Vegetarian Not attending the banquet ___

REGISTRATION FEE

By April 1, 2009: Free for members $20 for non-members

At the Door: Free for members $30 for non-members

2009 AzCB Scholarships and Awards Luncheon $20 for all

2009 AzCB Banquet $35 for all

Saturday Box Luncheon $15.00 (*Subject to availability)

Friday & Saturday Continental Breakfast Free for all attendees

 

Payable to the Arizona Council of the Blind or AZCB. You may pay for multiple registrants with one check or money order.

 

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAILING REGISTRATION FORMS AND PAYMENTS - Send your completed Registration Form and payment to the following address.

 

Sharon Carpenter, Secretary

3124 E. Roosevelt St. Suite. 4

Phoenix, AZ 85008-5088