Fore~Sight, the Summer 2009 Newsletter of the Arizona Council of the Blind


38th Annual State Convention By Barbara McDonald

On May 1, 2009 at 9:00 a.m., it was my privilege to open the 38th Annual State Convention of the Arizona Council of the Blind with a welcoming message.  The conference was held at the Phoenix International Airport Hilton Hotel for the third year.  The theme of this convention was "Living in Balance", which I said was hard for me to do.

        Ron Brooks, the convention coordinator, announced the theme and gave an overview of the convention speakers.

        Kathy Levandowsky, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Administrator, explained how the state of Arizona's budget cuts for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 were affecting the services for people who are blind and visually impaired.  She said that as of March 15, 2009, all new clients were put on a waiting list for services.  Those who had their Individual Plan of Employment (IPE) written as of that date would get their plans completed.

        Amy Murillo-Hicks, Chair of the Governor's Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment, (GCBVI) explained that because services for the blind and the visually impaired were buried so far under the umbrella of the Department of Economic Security (DES), they could be forgotten.  She emphasized that advocacy was very important!, and that all the consumer groups and service providers should work together and let the public know what is happening. Although GCBVI is communicating with the governor's staff, Ms. Murillo-Hicks thought it was important to send individual messages to the governor and the state legislators and senators.

        Ray Campbell from Glen Ellyn, IL, a representative of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) talked about the issues of quiet cars and audio description.

        Mark Ashton from Foundation for Blind Children (FBC), Frank Vance from the Arizona Center of the Blind and the Visually Impaired (ACBVI), and Amy Murrilo-Hicks from the Southern Arizona Association of the Visually Impaired (SAAVI) gave updates about the services and recreational opportunities that their organization offered.

        Robert Williams gave the report from the nominating committee, and Ron Brooks gave the report from the constitution, by-laws, and resolutions committee.

        Before the awards luncheon, there was time to visit the exhibitors.  Three scholarships were awarded this year.  Meet these winners and their comments in this issue.

        During the afternoon, there were three separate workshops that participants could choose to attend.  In the first workshop, Ray Campbell from Illinois and Gary Bretz, Program Director of East valley Dial-a-Ride discussed paratransit and alternative transportation that are available in different cities.  In the second session, a panel consisting of Patty Greene (SAAVI), Janet Kells, (Tucson), Cindy Rogers, yoga instructor, (Chandler), and Gail (Irons) Wilt (FBC) discussed the benefits of yoga, exercise, and different recreational opportunities that are available.  In the final session, Christine Tuttle from the Arizona Braille and Talking Book Library and Allison

There was time to socialize during the pre-banquet mixer, the banquet, and later in the presidential suite.

        Early Saturday morning, breakfast was served.  The first business meeting of the day was the Guide Dog Users of Arizona (GDUA).  During the meeting, they elected new officers and directors. (See Local Chapters)

        During the business meeting of AzCB, representatives Thomas Hicks and Mike Kannitsch of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), presented me with a beautiful pen.  This was in appreciation for the support AzCB has given to the Blinded Veterans.  They also donated some more pens for door prizes. Later there was a vote on one amendment change, a resolution, and the positions of treasurer, and three directors. (See Meet the Board)

        After a box luncheon, there was a post convention meeting. Ray Campbell also gave us a preview of what to expect for the ACB National Convention, which will be held here in downtown Phoenix next year.  Start saving your money for this big event.

        All and all, I think the convention was a success.  My criteria was a balanced time: socializing with friends, meeting new people, visiting the exhibits, enjoying the food, and learning at least one new and useful bit of information. 

        I personally want to thank Ron Brooks, the convention coordinator, and the members of the convention committee for putting this all together.  I also want to thank the volunteers, the speakers, the members, and the RSA staff for attending.


Governor’s Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment

In this time of severe economic constraints, uncertainty and chaos, the Arizona Governor’s Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment (GCBVI) is working diligently and deliberately to ensure that the specialized needs of Arizonans who are blind and visually impaired are addressed effectively.

The GCBVI is developing a two-year strategic plan that evaluates the condition of the current blindness systems and proposes courses of action that will achieve a preferred outcome for people who are blind.


The GCBVI brings together the best minds and experiences in blindness to advise the Governor, legislature and state agencies on issues affecting people who are blind and visually impaired. There are twenty GCBVI voting members. (The Arizona Council of the Blind has three voting positions on the GCBVI.) There are also four non-voting members who serve on the Governor’s Council. Non-voting members bring specific expertise to the deliberations by virtue of the positions they hold in the delivery of services to people who are blind.

The GCBVI is developing effective communication with stakeholders, promoting the growth and development of the Council, and are cultivating resources that support the highest quality service delivery for blind Arizonans.

The Council will do extensive research and analysis of best practices models in the delivery of services to people who are blind and make specific recommendations on system improvements. There is also an emphasis on maximizing efficiencies of assistive technology provision to individuals with deaf/blindness.

Full Council meetings are conducted six times each year and are open to the public. Any individual or group having interest in blindness related issues or resources, is encouraged to attend either GCBVI Full Council or Subcommittee meetings.

For more information:

Call: Phoenix Area 602-364-1773

Toll Free 800-563-1221



For Residents of Phoenix

Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disabilities Issues Employment, Education and Training Grant Program

The Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues (MCDI) grant program is designed to assist Phoenix residents in overcoming financial barriers to obtaining higher education, technical training, or employment. Funding may also be provided to residents to maintain current employment or advance their career.

Qualified applicants must:

·               Have a documented ADA defined disability.

·               Be a resident of the city of Phoenix.

·               Be at least a senior in high school and 18 years of age.

·               Be able to identify specific goods or services needed to meet a verifiable goal relating to education, training or employment.

Grant funds are disbursed twice per year, in July and in February.  Applications will be due by June 1 for July awards, and by January 1 for February awards.

Grant applications will be judged within 30 days of the due date. Notification of grant awards will be made within 14 days of the judges’ determination. 

Disbursement of funds to institutions and suppliers of goods and services must be made within 60 days of award notification. 

Awardee may revoke the award if payment is not requested within 30 days following the notification.

The following must be submitted within the specific grant period’s application time line:

A completed MCDI grant application.

A one page, detailed description of the stated need and how the grant award would assist the applicant in the area(s) of education, training and/or employment.

Documentation relating to the stated goal, such as school brochures, employment statistics, etc.

A detailed description of the goods or services needed to achieve the stated goal and how it will be used to achieve the goal.

Documentation regarding the cost of goods and/or services.  Documentation should include such things as price quotes, price lists, invoices, etc.

Documentation of a disability as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


A grant applications form is available for download at 


For further information, please call Diane Nydick, Equal Opportunity Specialist, City of Phoenix, Equal Opportunity Department at Voice/602-261-8242 or TTY/602-534-1557.



Individuals that live or work in the City of Phoenix may volunteer to serve on the MCDI or any other of the City’s boards or commission by submitting an application on line at: 


What's New at the Local Chapters?


Guide Dog Users of Arizona  (GDUA)

        On May 2, 2009, GDUA held their annual membership business meeting at the Arizona Council of the Blind 38th Annual state Convention.  About 20 members were in attendance.  During the meeting, dog toys and water bowls were given out as door prizes.  The following officers and directors were elected:


President:  Larry Wanger

1st Vice President:  Cindy Rogers

2nd Vice President:  Connie Jacomini

Treasurer:  Terri Hedgpeth

Secretary:  Raylynn West


Tim Connell

April Martin

Barbara McDonald

        Larry Wanger sent an introductory email to all the current members.  He listed his goals, but said that the most important first step was to reconnect with all the members.  For more information, you can reach Larry at the following:

Work:  602-443-0710

Cell:    480-307-3229



Maricopa County Club of the Blind

        The Maricopa County Club met on May 13, 2009.  During their meeting, they elected four officers.  The officers are as follows:

President -Ruth Druding

Vice-President Arie Levels-Newsom

Secretary Robert Shelly

Treasurer Sharon Carpenter

        After the election, Arie levels-Newsom thanked Betty Whedon, outgoing president, for her years of dedicated service to the Maricopa Club.  The meeting ended with planning for their June party.

For more information, contact Ruth Druding at 623-937-1211.


Phoenix Chapter

On February 28th, several members of AzCB’s Phoenix Chapter met at the Burton Barr Central Library with Hillary Foose, METRO Public Information Officer.  She gave attendees an overview of train features, and explained the complex process of making any changes to the automated announcements.  Then we went to the Light Rail platform at McDowell and Central.  Hilary pointed out the sculptures there – a lifelike-bronzed stack of books (which even have titles printed on them), and a line of “Thinker” statuettes.  She noted that there is some form of artwork at each train stop, though not all are tactile. 

        Next we boarded a train and rode it to Tempe.  From there we walked a short distance to Café Boa, an Italian restaurant. We had lunch on the patio. We had a tasty, leisurely meal.  Then folks went their separate ways – some homeward, some to shop in Tempe.   It was an enjoyable expedition.

                Our April activity was bowling. We select a social/recreational event every other month, alternating with our business meetings (odd-numbered months).  Our main areas of focus this year are pedestrian safety (especially as regards use of light rail), and promotion of braille. 

        You are welcome to join us for any of our activities.  Check out our website at

or call me at 602-337-8190


Southern Arizona Chapter (SAC)

President, Janet Kells, has been hard at work putting the finishing touches on the brochure for White Cane Day.  We are hoping to have copies to distribute at the ACB National Convention in July.  We want to garner support from the Lions and other organizations that can use this tri-fold brochure as a teaching tool to promote more awareness of White Cane Safety Day, which is October 15th.

        We are also working hard to promote a membership drive to culminate in September. A brochure explaining what SAC is, along with information about AZCB and ACB and in the ways in which we can be of help to those experiencing vision loss as well as to their families.

        From now through September, we are also hosting a fund-raising drive for SAC.  Anyone contributing at least $5 to our organization will have his or her name entered in a drawing.  The prize is a 2-night stay at the Airport Hilton in Phoenix.  Contributions or inquiries about us can be sent to: Southern AZ Chapter AzCB 3767 East Grant Rd. Tucson, AZ 85716.


The 2009 AzCB Scholarship Winners by Barbara McDonald

Ashley Jo Loebe received the 2009 John Vanlandingham Scholarship Award in the amount of $1,200.00. Ashley is 20 years old. She will be a junior attending Arizona State University this fall.  Her major is in Elementary Education.  She loves to volunteer in the classroom, where she uses her skills to teach from her heart. She eventually hopes to become a principal. She began to have a problem with her vision at the age of 12 when she was diagnosed with Stargate's Disease, which is a form of macular degeneration.

Ashley said, "I will be using a portion of the scholarship money to pay for my three summer school classes and books that start on May 18th and June 1st. Two of the classes I am taking are Education classes and the other one is World Religions. The remaining part of the scholarship money will go into a savings account for the time being until the Fall semester starts. I will use the money in the fall for books or other school related supplies. Once again thank you all so much and I look forward to staying in contact with all you"

Clement Ximines received the AzCB 2009 Scholarship Award in the amount of $1,000.00. Clement is a 52-year-old freshman who will be attending grand Canyon University this fall.  His major will be in theology and counseling.  He loves to cook and share recipes.

He joined the Navy after high school and traveled extensively.  He lost his vision at the age of 43 due to an accident.

“I would like to thank the AZCB for the doors you have helped open up to me through this Scholarship.  I know by accepting this I have made a commitment to myself and to those who have entrusted me with it. “ Clement said, “My goal is to help others by teaching and counseling them in how to live a full and productive life.  I feel with the proper training and my own life experiences I will be able to reach out and help others realize even with the disabilities nature puts on us we can lead full and prosperous lives one step at a time.”

Alvaro Mora received the AzCB 2009 Scholarship Award in the amount of $800.00. He is 21 years old. He has been attending Phoenix College and in the fall, he will be a junior at Arizona State University.  His major is Spanish and Secondary Education.  He loves Spanish, his native language.  He thinks that being bilingual opens opportunities.  He hopes to teach Spanish to high school students.

Losing his vision due to Retinal Blastoma Bilateral at the age of three has not stopped him from pursuing his education and playing goal ball.  He is the president of the Arizona Goal Ball Team, which has one two national tournaments.

Alvaro said, "This scholarship is very important for me, but also very beneficial.  I think that when I was chosen to receive the scholarship the members did a good selection.  First, I had all the required information so I am happy because it also means that I am doing well in school, and I am heading in the right direction to reach my goals.   Second, I really need the money.  My father is on disability and he only receives his check from Social Security so, we have little income.  The money he gets is used towards the house’s expenses.  Both scholarships (this year and last year) that I received from AzCB have been used in school for things such as, transportation and school supplies.  This last scholarship will be used to cover the expenses that I will have at Arizona State University which you know are higher than my expenses at Phoenix College. Thank you for this help.


Meet the AzCB Board of Directors


Barbara McDonald, President (Term 2008-2010)

        Barbara first learned about the Arizona Council of the Blind in 1996 after becoming legally blind.  With the training from Vocational Rehabilitation, she was able to continue her teaching career. She was elected secretary in 1997 and served in that position for ten years.  In 2007, she became the 1st Vice President and the chair of the membership committee.  Barbara was elected president at the AzCB 2008 Annual Membership Convention.


Sharon Booker, 1st Vice President  (Term 2009-2011)

        Sharon was a premature baby born with RLF and congenital cataracts. She attended public school in ND, went to college in St. Paul, MN and worked for several years in a general insurance office despite the fact that she had minimal vision in the left eye and none in the right.

        She moved to Oklahoma in 1965. She received training in Tulsa as a medical transcriptionist. From there, she moved to Ada, a city located in the rolling hills of southeastern Oklahoma, where she worked for the next 18 years as a medical transcriptionist.  She also taught medical transcription to students from the Oklahoma School for the Blind.

        In 1973, Sharon became totally blind but continued in her career. In 1983 she married Thom Booker and moved to Arizona. Sharon serves as secretary of the Southern Arizona Chapter of AzCB and a columnist in the local Green Valley paper promoting cat adoption for the local feral cat rescue organization.  She has also authored two books and is working on a third.


Ruth Druding, 2nd Vice-President  (Term 2008-2010)

        Ruth graduated from Arizona State University, with a BS Degree majoring in Psychology plus masters courses offered by the Printing House for The Blind through Arizona State University. The classes were Orientation and Mobility, Low Vision assessment and Anatomy of The Eye etc.

        Ruth has been a member of Arizona Council of The Blind since the first organizational meeting and has served in several positions on the board, including President in the middle eighties.

        In the late seventies and early eighties, she was employed with the Department of Developmental Disabilities. Ruth provided Family Counseling in private practice until 2007.


Sharon Carpenter, Secretary (Term 2008-2010)

        Sharon’s educational background included a Bachelor of Science in Electronics with an emphasis on computers and a minor in Business Psychology.

        Sharon has 14 years of management experience in Retail, Banking and Finance. She served as a corporate Vice-President at a bank here in Arizona. She has been a corporate trainer in the credit and customer service area of a major retail chain as well as a teacher at the a community college level.


Tim Connell, Treasurer  (Term 2009-2011)

Tim is grateful for the tools and resources, which were made available to him through various blindness dedicated agencies and organizations. Those resources made a positive difference in his life. He felt it was time for him to join the Arizona Council of the Blind and give something back to help others advance their lives in spite of blindness.

Tim Connell joined the AzCB organization in May 2008 and in May 2009; he was elected to his first term as Treasurer. He succeeds in the footsteps of his friend, Harold G. Newsom, who rendered exemplary service as Treasurer for the past 10 years.


Maureen Comiskey, Director (Term 2009-2011)

        Born three months early, weighing only two pounds, she lost her vision as a result of receiving too much oxygen while in an incubator.

        Maureen has been a member of American Council of the Blind since the mid 80's. When she relocated to Arizona from Chicago in September, the first contact she made was with the AzCB for guidance to an unfamiliar area.

        She has two teenagers that keep her busy. Maureen has spent most of her adult life in rehab teaching. She finds it rewarding to give back to the blind and visually impaired community.


Larry Wanger, Director (Term 2009-2011)

        Larry is originally from the state of Michigan where he lived until moving to Phoenix in the fall of 2004. He has been visually impaired all of his life but has lost significant vision over the past 10 years.

In October of 2004 Larry moved to Phoenix and began working with The Arizona Bridge to Independent Living. He is currently the Operations Manager of ABIL's employment services unit, which provides services through the Ticket to Work program and to recipients of TANF benefits.

        Larry has been involved with the ACB since the year 2000 and with the AzCB since moving to Phoenix. He is also currently the president of Guide Dog Users of Arizona.

        In January of 2009 Larry received his third guide dog named Carbon from Guide Dogs for the Blind.

        Larry Wanger founded DisabilityNation in 2006. DisabilityNation is a web based audio magazine by and for people with disabilities. The show is produced in Phoenix Arizona and serves a worldwide audience.


Hal Newsom, Director (Term 2009-2010)

Harold G. (Hal) Newsom was born and raised in eastern Pennsylvania, graduated from high school and Purdue University in Indiana. He went to work for IBM in Arizona and thirty-eight years later retired from IBM.

        He was active in his church and did volunteer work for Christown YMCA, Sun Sounds of Arizona, and Arizona Council of the Blind. Marty, Hal’s first wife for 44 years lost her vision from diabetes. Arie, Hal’s second wife, had a daughter who also lost her vision from diabetes.


Ron Brooks, Director (Term 2008-2010)

Ron Brooks is in his early 40’s and lives in Phoenix with his wife Lisa (also a member of the AzCB) and their three young children: a daughter, Kacie who is six; a son, Andrew who is five; and another daughter, Amanda who is three. Ron is totally blind and travels with a guide dog, although at the time of this writing, he is between dogs.

        Ron joined the AzCB in 2006 after moving to Arizona from Northern Illinois and he has served on the AzCB Board since May of 2008.  Ron has served as the Chairman of the AzCB Convention Committee since 2007, and has served as the Chairman of the Constitution, Bylaws and Resolutions Committee since 2008.

        Ron is one of the founding members of the Phoenix Chapter of the AzCB, and he is a strong believer in local chapter formation as well as strengthening AzCB’s appeal to younger members and to more diverse communities.

        In addition to his role with the AzCB, Ron serves as the Chairman of the national ACB’s Transportation Committee. Prior to moving to Arizona, Ron held various leadership roles in several ACB state affiliates and local chapters in New Mexico, Florida and California as well as in several special interest groups, including Guide Dog Users, Council of Families with Visual Impairment and (along time ago) in the National Alliance of Blind Students.

        On the professional front, Ron has worked in the public transit industry for more than 15 years, and he is considered an expert in the field of accessible transit and paratransit. His current position is as a Business Development Manager for a publicly traded international firm, which operates public transit services on behalf of public agencies across North America.  Ron’s office is in Tempe, but he is often not there.  His duties include business proposal development, contract negotiations, public presentations and a great deal of travel throughout the U.S. and Canada.

        When asked about his interests, Ron responded, “My main interests are my wife, my kids and my community.  My favorite things to do (when I have free time, which is rare) are swimming, reading and eating great food and drinking gourmet coffee and fine wine.  My life is full and hectic, but I would not have it any other way.”



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