ACB E-Forum, August 2013

The ACB E-Forum
Volume LII August 2013 No. 2
Published by
the American Council of the Blind
The American Council of the Blind strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people.

Kim Charlson, President
Melanie Brunson, Executive Director
Sharon Lovering, Editor
National Office:
2200 Wilson Blvd.
Suite 650
Arlington, VA 22201
(202) 467-5081
fax: (703) 465-5085
Web site:
The Braille Forum (TM) is available in braille, large print, half-speed four-track cassette tape, data CD, and via e-mail.  Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for publication should be sent to Sharon Lovering at the address above, or via e-mail to
The American Council of the Blind (TM) is a membership organization made up of more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates.  To join, contact the national office at the number listed above.
Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Attn: Treasurer, ACB, 6300 Shingle Creek Pkwy., Suite 195, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430.  If you wish to remember a relative or friend, the national office has printed cards available for this purpose.  Consider including a gift to ACB in your Last Will and Testament.  If your wishes are complex, call the national office.
To make a contribution to ACB via the Combined Federal Campaign, use this number: 11155.
For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the "Washington Connection" toll-free at (800) 424-8666, 5 p.m. to midnight Eastern time, or read it online.
Copyright 2013
American Council of the Blind
All content created initially for use by ACB in publications, in any media on any web site domains administered by ACB, or as a broadcast or podcast on ACB Radio, archived or not, is considered to be the property of the American Council of the Blind. Creative content that appears elsewhere originally remains the property of the original copyright holder. Those responsible for creative content submitted initially to ACB are free to permit their materials to appear elsewhere with proper attribution and prior notification to the ACB national office.

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ACB E-Forum August 2013 downloads

ACB Announces Election of Its First Woman President

Delegates to the 52nd annual conference of the American Council of the Blind, being held in Columbus, Ohio, elected Kim Charlson of Watertown, Mass., to be the 11th president of the organization.
Kim Charlson is the director of the Braille and Talking Book Library at the Perkins School for the Blind and has been the organization's first vice president for six years.  Charlson has been heavily involved in advocacy efforts at the local, state and national levels for many years, including efforts to increase the number of talking ATMs nationwide and to promote audio description in theaters and on television.  She is a recognized national and international expert on library services for people with disabilities, braille literacy and information access. She has served on a number of committees for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress, including the Digital Transition Advisory Committee and the Standards Revision Committee.
In the area of special education, she serves as the chair of the Massachusetts Department of Education's Braille Literacy Advisory Council. Charlson is a member of the Massachusetts Help America Vote Act Steering Committee representing the concerns of voters who are blind.
"It is truly an honor to be elected ACB president," Charlson said.  "The support I have already received from the membership has been very rewarding and totally amazing. There is so much advocacy work to do, and I am grateful that so many people want to help work on all of these important issues."
Charlson has served ACB in many capacities over the years, including as chair of the membership committee, and chaired the board of publications from 1999-2001. She is currently the chair of ACB's Audio Description Project and is working on ACB's strategic planning initiative. She is ACB's representative to the Braille Authority of North America, which is the standard-setting body for braille in the U.S. and Canada, and serves as one of ACB's two representatives to the World Blind Union North American/Caribbean Regional board. She has also served as the president of several ACB affiliates, including the Braille Revival League, Guide Dog Users, Inc., and the Bay State Council of the Blind.
Her writing activities include: editing "The BRL Memorandum," magazine of the Braille Revival League; contributor of the chapter on "Braille Library Services" in the Library of Congress book entitled "Braille: Into the Next Millennium," September 2000; author of "Establishing a Braille Literacy Program in your Community: A Handbook for Libraries and Other Community Organizations," May 1996; contributing author to "Making Theater Accessible: A Guide to Audio Description in the Performing Arts," June 2001; and co-author of a chapter on audio description in the book "Video Collection Management and Development: Perspectives for Multiple Types of Libraries, 2nd edition," published by Greenwood Publishing Group in 2002.  More recently, she wrote the book "Drawing with Your Perkins Brailler," which is available in print and braille from Perkins Products.

Changes to Come in the ACB National Office by Melanie Brunson

It is my sad responsibility to begin this article by letting you know that Eric Bridges is leaving the ACB office.  By the time you read this, Eric will no longer be ACB's director of advocacy and governmental affairs.  He has accepted a new opportunity that will keep him in the Washington area, but take his career in another direction.  Eric has done a phenomenal job during his six years with ACB, and I want to publicly thank him for tremendous work he has done for this organization.  Eric has said that he intends to remain active in ACB, so when you see him in the future, I hope you will thank him as well for the work he has done on our behalf.
Our search for a new director of advocacy and governmental affairs has already begun.  Below you will find the text of a vacancy announcement that ACB released on July 16th.  Applications will be accepted until Sept. 6, 2013.  Copies must be submitted by electronic mail, with a hard copy sent by U.S. mail.  Please read on for further information about the position, as well as instructions for potential applicants.
Vacancy Announcement: Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is seeking a director of advocacy and governmental affairs to work in its national office in Arlington, Va.
The primary duties of this position will include:

  • Promoting and developing ACB's advocacy and legislative agendas;
  • Recommending actions to be taken and policies to be adopted by ACB;
  • Overseeing the implementation of resolutions adopted at ACB conventions;
  • Representing ACB on advisory committees and consultative bodies seeking organizational input;
  • Drafting proposed legislative and regulatory language for presentation to members of Congress, or administrative agencies;
  • Preparing written comments on pending legislation and proposed regulations;
  • Presenting oral comments on pending legislation at Congressional committee hearings;
  • Developing and maintaining ongoing working relationships with members of Congress, Congressional staff and agency administrators to promote ACB's legislative and advocacy agendas;
  • Maintaining cooperative relationships with other disability and civil rights organizations;
  • Creating and enhancing collaborative relationships with corporations in order to influence the usability and accessibility of their product/service offerings; 
  • Providing technical assistance to ACB members and affiliates pursuing advocacy projects;
  • Responding to requests for information and advice concerning the rights and/or obligations of individuals and organizations regarding blindness-related issues, and providing referral to other appropriate sources of assistance;
  • Preparing articles on legislative, judicial, and administrative developments for ACB publications and ACB Radio;
  • Serving as a member of the ACB social media team to support  the expansion of ACB's efforts to communicate key legislative and advocacy issues using social media;
  • Insuring that ACB members receive regular communications regarding ongoing legislative and advocacy issues;
  • Serving as staff liaison to ACB committees;
  • Other duties as assigned by the executive director.

The director of advocacy and governmental affairs reports to the executive director.
The successful candidate must:

  • Be a self-starter with excellent organizational skills;
  • Have a minimum of two years experience working with federal legislative and regulatory processes;
  • Have knowledge of service-delivery systems and government programs impacting people who are blind;
  • Demonstrate excellent written and verbal communication skills;
  • Have the ability to manage multiple tasks and priorities simultaneously;
  • Have the ability to respond promptly to deadlines;
  • Demonstrate an ability to locate and understand laws and regulations;
  • Be available for frequent travel;
  • Be willing to work evenings and weekends to attend meetings with ACB committees and affiliates.

Desirable skills or training include general familiarity with assistive devices used by people who are blind, and a degree in political science or law, or other specific disability-related advocacy training. Experience in the use of social media to communicate organizational messages is highly desired. Salary depends upon experience.
Applicants must send a resume, cover letter, and brief writing sample by e-mail to, as well as send a hard copy of these items by U.S. mail addressed to: Governmental Affairs Director Search, American Council of the Blind, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 650, Arlington, VA 22201.
Applications must be received in the ACB national office by Sept. 6, 2013.

A Fond Farewell to Columbus by Janet Dickelman

This article is always fun to write! Saying thank you doesn't seem sufficient; however, there are so many people for whom I am so grateful.
The excellent staff of the Hyatt Regency was always ready and willing to help. They were everywhere and always friendly and pleasant. The same can be said for the staff of the convention center. Staff from Visit Columbus volunteered at the airport and sponsored production of food court menus and business and restaurant lists in braille, large print and electronic formats.
I'm so fortunate to have such a wonderful convention committee. Without their assistance and support I couldn't do this job! Margarine Beaman worked tirelessly to obtain corporate sponsorships, make sure there were volunteers at the airport to make our arrivals and departures run smoothly, and made certain everything in the hotel was labeled accurately in large print and braille. Sally Benjamin, volunteer coordinator, worked so hard to schedule and maintain our wonderful group of volunteers. As always, the volunteers help to make our convention experience better, and this year we had a great group of volunteers!
Michael Fulghum planned and orchestrated a wide variety of tours. I've received many messages from attendees saying how much they enjoyed the tours. Deb Lewis did a great job of making sure the information desk ran smoothly. No one can ever replace Jim Shaw copying files; however, our information desk volunteers handled that task and so many others.  Bruce Radtke did a myriad of tasks throughout the convention.
Michael Smitherman once again did a great job setting up our exhibit hall and keeping things running efficiently. Thanks to Michael for taking me around the hall Tuesday afternoon so I could personally thank all our vendors for being a part of the 2013 conference and convention. Committee vice chair Carla Ruschival helped in so many ways, offering suggestions, encouragement, and assistance with the pre-registration form and the program.
No convention is successful without the work of the host committee. This year's committee was so ably chaired by Vicky Prahin. Vicky I can't thank you enough for your hard work, dedication, can-do attitude and enthusiasm. You and your committee, comprised of Irwin Hott, Katie Frederick, Carl Kienzle, Chris Schumacher, Rob Rogers, Karen Cayse, Ann Gazelle, Mickey Prahin, Sue Wesley, and Linda Wyman, were everywhere and willing to do anything!
Thanks also to Larry Turnbull and ACB Radio for ensuring that so many programs were broadcast live or recorded for later broadcast on ACB Radio. If you weren't in Columbus or missed sessions, visit and select the 2013 link to download the session(s).
A special thank you to Sharon Lovering and the communication center and Lane Waters and the registration staff for all their hard work.

The Next Two Years

Our 2014 convention will be in Las Vegas, Nev., at the Riviera Hotel. Reservation information will be available shortly online and via telephone. Please watch our website and the next "ACB Braille Forum" for details.   
For those of you who had difficulty with the change of days this year, next year we will be back to our normal schedule.  Pre-registration pickup will begin on Thursday, July 10th. Our first tours will be on Friday, July 11th. Opening session will be on Sunday evening, July 13. Our banquet will be on Friday, July 18.
In 2015 we will be at the Sheraton Dallas. Pre-registration pickup will open on Thursday, July 2. Our first tours will be on Friday, July 3. Opening session will be Sunday evening, July 5. Our banquet will be on Friday, July 10, and our final tours on Saturday, July 11.
Stay connected with all things pertaining to the 2014 conference and convention by subscribing to the convention e-mail list. If you have already subscribed to this list, you will continue to receive the convention information. If you have not subscribed, send a blank e-mail to
Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. You can reach me via e-mail,, or call me at (651) 428-5059.  Thank you for joining ACB in Columbus. I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!

American Council of the Blind Announces Audio Description Awards by Joel Snyder, Director, Audio Description Project

At the Columbus gathering, ACB's Audio Description Project proudly presented the 2013 Achievement Awards in Audio Description.  Chris Gray, chairman of ADP's awards committee, announced the awards at a plenary session attended by over 1,500 ACB members. 
The awards are designed to recognize leadership in the description field within the wide range of its applications.  We acknowledge young consumers of description, present achievement awards in the field of Performing Arts, Media, Museums, and in the International arena.  And we also remember the contributions of Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl and Barry Levine with the Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award for Research and Development and the Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description.
 The prestigious awards included:

  • Achievement in Audio Description – Media: Hollywood Access Services, Los Angeles, Calif.

    • The innovative work of Los Angeles-based Hollywood Access Services is epitomized by its Solo-Dx initiative.  With the use of Solo-Dx, description consumers can download an audio description soundtrack for playback on his/her computer, MP3 player, or mobile device.  For more information, visit
  • Achievement in Audio Description – Performing Arts: Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, Ill.

    • One of the leading regional theaters in the nation, this group developed a top-notch AD program several years ago where none existed before.   
  • Achievement in Audio Description – Museums: The White House, Washington, D.C.

    • With the leadership offered by Kareem Dale, Ellie Schaefer, the director of the White House Visitors Office and, of course, President Barack Obama, we now have an accessible public tour of the President's home in Washington, DC.  
  • Achievement in Audio Description – International: Accessible Media, Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    • Among a great many achievements in audio description, Accessible Media, Inc. maintains Canada's Accessible Channel, where everything aired is described.
  • Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award in Audio Description – Research and Development: Ryerson University and Dr. Deborah Fels, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    • Under Dr. Fels' leadership, researchers at Ryerson have performed experiments that explore alternative styles of audio description and whether they can provide better understanding and greater entertainment value.
  • Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description: Rick Boggs, Los Angeles, Calif.

    • Rick Boggs lost his sight early in life and has developed successful careers as an actor, musician and audio editor. He has also pioneered the inclusion of blind professionals in the production of audio description that has been broadcast over network TV, exhibited in movie theaters and included on DVDs.

Finally, the winner of our Young Described Film Critic contest was announced in Columbus.  Every year we encourage kids who are blind to watch described videos and write a review about their experience.  This year our award goes to Hannah Werbel from Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash. for her review of "How to Train Your Dragon." 
Kim Charlson, newly elected president of the ACB, sums up our commitment to audio description: "Audio description uses words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative to convey the visual image from television, film, DVDs, theater, museums and many other settings. This year's awards are particularly appropriate coming during the first full year of the implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility mandate for audio description on broadcast television. The organizations honored with these awards are among the leaders in description. They help make so many aspects of our culture accessible to people who are blind or have low vision; they deserve this special recognition." 
Additional information about ACB's Audio Description Project is available at

The PR Committee's Affiliate Brochure Contest … And the Results! by Sharon Lovering, Gaylen Floy, and Sara Conrad

This year, the public relations committee held a contest for ACB affiliates and chapters. Affiliates and chapters, 10 in all, sent in their brochures for three members of the PR committee to judge. Entries were judged on whether they grabbed the reader's attention; whether they contained useful information; how well they portrayed the affiliate/chapter; the quality of the writing; and their overall layout and presentation, including graphics.
The winning entries were: first place, North Dakota Association of the Blind; second place, Washington Council of the Blind; and third place, Utah Council of the Blind. Winning affiliates were awarded certificates at the combined membership and public relations committee meeting at the ACB national convention in Columbus, Ohio.

What the Good Brochures Did

The winning brochures had eye-grabbing covers; provided useful information; portrayed the affiliates well, both in pictures and writing; and were designed well. North Dakota's brochure included an outline of the state, done in blue with a bright yellow outline, and the letters "NDAB" diagonally down the center (also in bright yellow). Washington's brochure included a state outline, too, but in black, with the letters WCB in large, bold print and sim-braille of the same size inside it. Utah's had a full-color picture of four members hanging out with their canes on a sidewalk; the type was extra-bold on a bright yellow background. All three listed the affiliate name at the top; North Dakota and Washington listed their slogans, and North Dakota listed its mission. Washington and Utah included contact information on the front cover as well.
On the inside, all three had a variety of information. Washington and North Dakota both had membership information on the inside. Utah's membership information was on the back. All three affiliates' brochures listed the services they provided. North Dakota included pictures connected with several of its programs: a photo of a previous scholarship winner, one of the busload of people heading for a Ski for Light event, one of a group of people taking a walk at camp, and, on the back, a sunset picture from summer camp. All photos were big enough and clear enough to see faces, and action on the walk. Washington listed its mission in the inside, as did Utah.
North Dakota continued its program information on the back, along with its motto and contact information. Washington included program information and annual highlights on the back, along with a list of additional resources. Utah included photographs of several activities on the back, along with an invitation to join the chapter, and its contact information. As for low-vision-friendliness, two of the three used Arial for the font; one used Arial on the front cover and switched to Times New Roman for the rest of the brochure.
Overall, these brochures gave us a taste of what it would be like to be a member and participate in the activities of the affiliates.

Now, for the Rest of the Story

Seven other affiliates and chapters sent in their brochures: South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind, Alabama Council of the Blind, Tiger Council of the Blind (Mid-Missouri), Blue Water League of the Blind (Michigan), Golden Triangle Council of the Blind (Pittsburgh, Pa.), ACB of Oregon PDX chapter (Portland, Ore.), and the Albuquerque chapter of the ACB of New Mexico. These brochures had a variety of problems, from poor design and/or poor writing to lack of useful information.
One brochure had a dominant logo that really grabbed our eyes, but it didn't follow up with a compelling reason to keep reading, though the inside was chock-full of good information and a handy tear-off card to mail in. Another affiliate's brochure included the old ACB "eye" logo – and outdated information about the national organization. One brochure cover grabbed my eyes, with the black-and-orange type; it had a great deal of good information, but lost points with the committee for not having an action shot. The writing was concise, but needed to be more compelling, and use proper spelling ("through," not "thru").
Another brochure was really small in size – 6" tall and 3" wide when folded up. The picture on the front cover was so small as to be indistinguishable for low-vision folks, and the ones on the inside were similarly sized.  There wasn't much writing on the inside, and what was there was riddled with spelling and capitalization errors.  It referred to ACB as the "American Counsel of the Blind."  The type definitely needed to be bigger, and so did the pictures.
One chapter submitted a flyer. It lacked a logo or photo to catch the eye. It gave the bare-bones basic information, but it didn't address the reader. The thing that caught my eye was that it had a person's signature on it backwards in several places, which marred the type and made it very hard to read.
Another chapter's brochure looked as though it had been put together backwards. It had an eye-catching photo on the back cover.  It included the logo, mission statement, and vision statement on the front, plus the name of the chapter; the chapter name was the only thing in Arial. The inside was a bit better; it had tons of information about the chapter, but it wasn't really focused on the needs of the person reading it.  Also, it was last updated in 2007.
The last brochure was also from a chapter.  The front cover included the chapter logo and contact information, but it didn't really make us want to continue reading.  We did, though, and the inside was much better: it reached out to the audience, had a friendly tone, and covered the basic information in a concise manner. It fit together nicely, and was short enough to be interesting yet long enough to cover the subject. However, it was a flyer designed like a brochure – everything was aligned center, and the printing was only on one side of the brochure. The centering worked well for the cover page, but not for the rest of it.

What Can We Learn from This?

Brochures need to address the needs of the reader, so know your audience.  Is your brochure focusing on getting new members, raising funds, helping senior citizens who are losing their sight, or reaching out to the general public?  These groups all have very different needs.  One brochure can't do it all.
Keep your brochures up-to-date. If your affiliate moves, or your chapter president moves, or a new president gets elected, be sure to update the contact information on your brochure. And make sure to update the information for the ACB national office, too; it's been in Arlington, Va. since December 2008.
Spelling, punctuation, and grammar still matter.  People won't take you seriously if you can't spell your chapter name, or the name of the national organization, correctly.  They may miss your point entirely if the writing is full of errors.
Layout and design also matter.  Use the front cover to grab their attention and give people a reason to keep reading. Then they'll open the brochure and find out more about your affiliate or chapter. If you're talking about scholarships, for instance, include a picture of a scholarship winner or scholarship presentation with that section.  Talking about summer camp?  Include a photo from camp in that section. Don't put all your pictures together on one flap and expect readers to be able to connect them to the various sections.  Wrap it all up with the affiliate or chapter contact information.  Be sure to include a name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and the web site if you have one.  If you still have space left, a list of additional resources in your state or local area is a helpful bonus.
We included ease of reading in layout and design. Several brochures used multiple fonts, which made it harder to read.  Some used large print, which were easier on the eyes than the smaller print.  A few used glossy paper, which created problems with glare for the readers.  Some were printed in color; some, just black-and-white.
Remember your audience when choosing your paper and your typeface and size.  Glossy paper is fine for the sighted (they like eye candy), but it doesn't work very well for folks with low vision, including seniors who are losing their sight.  For more information on paper and font/size selection, check out CCLVI's document called "Best Practices and Guidelines for Large Print Documents used by the Low Vision Community," available at, or by calling 1-800-733-2258.
A good brochure has an eye-grabbing cover with a logo and/or an action photo; writing that tells the affiliate's or chapter's story in a compelling manner, with correct spelling, good grammar and punctuation; includes photos that tie in with the writing and are on the same page with the segment they focus on; is up-to-date; includes the affiliate's or chapter's contact information; and makes you want to become a member of that affiliate or chapter. Our three winners succeed in that!
For the members of the subcommittee that handled the contest, we learned that judging such a contest is a time-consuming process. We waited for the brochures to arrive, went through our e-mails to see whether they had arrived yet, then did the reading and evaluating, wrote the evaluations, and sent them in to be tallied. And then we waited for the results! It was truly a learning experience - learning patience!
Are we going to do it again next year?  We're not sure.  So stay tuned to "The ACB Braille Forum" and find out.

Weight Watchers Announces Accessibility Initiative for Blind and Visually Impaired Members

Broad-based Initiative Praised by Blind Community Leaders

NEW YORK (June 27, 2013) – Weight Watchers International, Inc. (NYSE: WTW) today announced its ongoing initiative to make its websites, mobile applications and print information more accessible and inclusive for its members and subscribers with visual impairments.  The efforts were praised by blind community leaders.
Weight Watchers has adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 level AA as its accessibility standard for both web and mobile applications, and has already made substantial enhancements to its websites to meet this standard.  Weight Watchers has also strengthened its system for providing braille, large print, and audio versions of print information to members with visual impairments.
"Ensuring a high level of engagement and convenience for consumers is extremely important to us," said Catherine Ulrich, Senior Vice President of "From product development to the work of our dedicated Service Providers in meetings rooms, we are committed to supporting all of our members and online subscribers in their weight loss journeys. We hope that our accessibility efforts empower those with visual impairments to better manage their food environment and establish daily routines that can become long-term healthy habits."
Weight Watchers worked with the American Council of the Blind and Weight Watchers members and subscribers with vision loss on its accessibility initiative.
Alice Ritchhart, of Georgia, and Lillian Scaife, of California, are blind and love the Weight Watchers program.  
"We appreciate Weight Watchers' leadership in recognizing the needs of all consumers, including those who have visual impairments.  This initiative builds on Weight Watchers' tradition of outstanding customer service," stated Lillian Scaife.
"We believe Weight Watchers is the best weight loss program out there, and we are very excited that the online tools and print information will be more available to us as a result of this commitment," said Alice Ritchhart.
Kim Charlson, First Vice President of the American Council of the Blind, also praised the company's initiative: "We're thrilled that people with visual impairments will be able to take greater advantage of the wonderful tools and information that Weight Watchers offers. Like sighted people, people who are blind want to stay fit, be healthy and lose weight.  Thank you, Weight Watchers, for recognizing the needs of your blind members."
Weight Watchers has already begun making accessibility improvements, and will continue doing so in the future. Information about the initiative can be found on the Weight Watchers website at

About the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The WCAG 2.0 guidelines are promulgated by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and ensure that sites are more accessible to persons with visual and other disabilities. Many Weight Watchers customers will not notice any differences to the site or the mobile applications, as the Guidelines do not affect the content or look and feel. The guidelines are of particular benefit to blind computer users who use screen reader voice output or magnification technology on their computers and mobile devices and who, like some individuals with mobility impairments, rely on a keyboard instead of a mouse for navigation.
The W3C is an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. The Web Accessibility Initiative is a program of the W3C that works with site owners, developers, people with disabilities and other interested parties to develop accessibility standards. More information available at

About Weight Watchers International, Inc.

Weight Watchers International, Inc. is the world's leading provider of weight management services, operating globally through a network of company-owned and franchise operations. Weight Watchers holds over 40,000 meetings each week where members receive group support and learn about healthy eating patterns, behavior modification and physical activity. provides innovative, subscription weight management products over the Internet and is the leading Internet-based weight management provider in the world. In addition, Weight Watchers offers a wide range of products, publications and programs for those interested in weight loss and weight control.

Landmark Decision a Victory for All Blind Canadians by Donna J. Jodhan

A Bit about Me

My name is Donna Jill Jodhan, and I am the president of my own company, Sterling Creations. You can find me at  I live and work in Toronto, and in addition to owning my own company, I am an accessibility advocate, author, blogger, editor, mentor, and law student.   
I have written three financial books: "Secrets to Financial Success," "Untapped Wealth," and "Untapped Wealth Discovered," all under the pen names of Kerry J. Harrison and Jeff N. Marquis.  I am the author of the Detective DJ Crime Crusher audio mysteries series, which can be found at I write weekly blogs at, and I am attending distance learning law classes at the University of London England.  I plan to complete my studies in the spring of 2015 and to be an attorney by the spring of 2016. 
You can follow me on Twitter at accessibleworld and at author_jodhan, and you can connect with me on Skype at habsfan0526.
I invite you now to read the story of my 12-year journey along the highway to the fight for equal access to information on Canadian government web sites. I hope my journey will inspire others to embark on similar journeys.  I did it because of my commitment to ensuring that all blind Canadians, especially our kids of the future, will have an equal opportunity to access information and that their right to do so under the Canadian Charter of Rights will be recognized, protected, and respected.

A Brief Introduction

We are living in an informational society and a knowledge-based economy, and our need to retrieve, process, and use information on an ongoing basis is of a vital importance. In short, we need information in order to survive.
We use information to plan our financial future; to find employment; to take advantage of education opportunities; to discover social programs; to learn how to take care of our health and safety; to do research; to communicate with each other; and to keep abreast of everything around us. We need to be able to obtain information on a timely basis.  Without access to information, our world would be dark.
What drove me to launch my charter challenge against the Canadian government? In a nutshell, between 2000 and 2004, blind people lacked access to many Canadian government web sites.  They had a variety of problems, including: inaccessible web content, inaccessible PDF content, unavailability of documents and files in alternate formats, inaccessible forms, and service reps at the toll-free numbers were unfamiliar with requests for information in alternate formats such as braille, large print, etc. And the requested information arrived months later, if at all.
In 2004, I applied for a position at Statistics Canada and was appalled to learn that this very prominent government department was not willing and prepared to allow me to write my qualifying exams in either electronic format or in braille, and they decided that I did not qualify for the position based on a process that was different from what was being used to evaluate the mainstream applicant. In 2005, I launched a human rights complaint against Statistics Canada, and I sued them for willful and reckless discrimination. (This was settled in my favor in 2008.)  A year later I found myself being unable to participate in the national census due to a lack of proper accommodations for blind Canadians.

The Pre-Court Activities

I consulted with human rights lawyers in June 2006, and was reassured that I had a legitimate case to launch a charter challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights. With the assistance of these lawyers, I managed to obtain court challenges funding to start proceedings.  My application for these types of funds was the very last one approved before the Canadian government ended the program in July 2006.
My lawyers sent a letter to the Canadian government in November 2006, requesting that consultation take place between government and the blind Community over their inaccessible websites and an outline was given as to why we felt that their websites were inaccessible. In December, they received a response, thanking us for our concern but saying that nothing was wrong with the government's web sites.  We filed suit against the Canadian government's inaccessible web sites in June 2007. In July, the government attempted to have the case thrown out of court – and failed.
Between 2007 and 2009, several attempts were made to mediate a settlement, but they all failed.  The Canadian government wanted me to drop my case in return for a promise to bring their web sites up to accessibility compliant standards, but I rejected these promises because of a mistrust of their intentions and objectives.
In 2009, affidavits were exchanged on both sides.  The government hired Cynthia Waddell, an American consultant on disabilities issues, and I hired the services of Jutta Treviranus, one of the top Canadian and international experts on accessibility issues.  I was called to testify, and over a four-hour period I faced over 189 questions from the government's lawyers, many of which attacked my personal and professional integrities.  Both Waddell and Treviranus also faced tough questioning from opposing lawyers.
Finally, in February 2010, the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians launched an online petition in support of my case.  More than 500 people from Canada, the U.S.A., and other nations signed the petition, but it was rejected by the government.  Why? The government did not accept online petitions.

Garnering Support

Most organizations that I contacted were extremely reluctant to support my challenge. Thanks to Robin East and John Rae, the president and vice president of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians at that time, that this was the only organization that was courageous enough to walk alongside me in my journey.  Many Canadians, both blind and sighted, along with others from around the world, came forward to support this humungous challenge.

Attending Court

In September 2010, I sued the government over its inaccessible web sites.  The hearing was held in front of a judge of the lower federal court, with arguments being presented from lawyers on both sides.
Arguments from my lawyers included: unequal access to information on government web sites; the inability to access web content, complete forms, and download info in an accessible format; requested information rarely arrived on time, if at all; sighted assistance was necessary to request and submit confidential information; sighted assistance was needed to complete the 2006 national census.
The government's lawyers argued as follows: blind Canadians should not expect to have equal access to the Internet; instead, they could easily mail or fax their requests, or visit Service Canada offices. Blind Canadians could ask a sighted friend or family member to help them complete forms on the Internet, submit online requests for information, and read content on the Internet. Finally, the lawyers stated I did not possess the appropriate skills and equipment to surf their web sites.
This three-day court session received extensive Canadian coverage; national newspapers, TV and radio stations reported on it and interviewed me and I was also interviewed by the RNIB in Britain.  Court was well attended by members of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians and other friends, and the judge made specific note of the good attendance.
On Nov. 29, 2010, the court handed down its decision: the Canadian government was guilty of violating my rights to equal access to information. They were given 15 months to make all government web sites fully accessible, and the judge retained jurisdiction to monitor their progress.
In February 2011, the government appealed the decision, and three organizations filed for intervention status.  They were the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Council for Canadians with Disabilities, and the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.  Only the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians was granted said status.
The federal appeals court heard the government's appeal Nov. 16-17, 2011, and the government presented the same arguments it had given earlier in front of three appeals judges. The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians argued the following: that despite the fact that Canada had recently signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, here they were denying the rights of blind Canadians!
Six months later, on May 30, 2012, the judges returned a unanimous decision in my favor. The appeals court ordered the Canadian government to bring all of its web sites up to accessibility standards, and to institute a monitoring system to ensure that the government made all of its web sites accessible.  Several blindness organizations across Canada issued press releases, and the case received extensive media coverage from national newspapers, TV and radio stations, as well as coverage from the U.S and worldwide. 
This was a landmark victory for all blind Canadians, especially for blind Canadian kids of the future.  Something had to be done in order to ensure that our rights to equal access to information would be recognized, respected, and protected.  This would ensure that our rights to employment, education, and a barrier-free Internet would be a given, not a privilege.

How I Managed to Cope

Why did I persist?  It was not an easy task.  I did not do this for just me. I kept telling myself that it needed to be done. I kept thinking of the kids of the future. I prayed and focused a lot.  I took full advantage of all of the support that I received from e-mails, phone calls, articles, and Facebook postings that came from Canadians, Americans and all around the globe.

Final Thoughts

I never expected this to get as far as it did. I did it because, in my mind, it was the right thing to do. I never asked for any monetary compensation and I never received any. I gave hundreds of hours of my personal time to this case and so did my lawyers, accessibility experts, and others. And I would gladly do it again! 
It has been a humbling and learning experience. It is not something for the faint of heart!
No textbook and no one could ever have prepared me for this landmark journey.
Why did the Canadian government choose to spend millions of dollars on something that they knew they were violating - the rights of blind Canadians? Canadian government web sites are more accessible now, but there is still much to be done.  They have set up a monitoring system and are employing developers to help fix their web sites.  However, they are still very reluctant to share their progress with the blind community, and this is of great concern to us as we have no way of measuring their progress.
This case has received, and continues to get, international attention in disability-related circles.  I thank everyone associated with this case for having stuck with me to the end.  Here's to the next stage of a continuing journey!

Different Views: Don't Let Blindness Rob You by Ernest Jones

(Reprinted from "The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin," June 18, 2013.)
(Editor's Note: Ernie is a member of the WCB, United Blind of Walla Walla chapter. Ernie lost his sight in later life and has been writing a monthly column for his local paper, giving advice and encouragement to his neighbors, blind and sighted alike.)
Why do many people think going blind is the worst thing that could befall them?  When told they are legally blind, they go home and try to hide this fact from their family, their neighbors and friends. For some reason they don't want anyone knowing they are blind, and because of this reticence they miss out of a lot of life.
"People are not helpful at all," a friend, I'll call her Mary, has said to me more than once. Mary refused to use the long white cane, and when going to church or into stores she tried to hide the fact that she was legally blind. But she would voice her complaints to me: "People won't help me, they just ignore me."
"But Mary," I would say, "they don't know you need a little assistance because they don't know you are nearly blind. Why do you refuse to tell them you need a little help? If you would tell them ..." but she would cut me off and angrily say, "They should know I can't see."
A young lady I talked to downtown said, "I enjoy your column. I wish my dad would admit to others that his eyesight is fading. He just sits around and feels sorry for himself."
I recall that when I first knew I was legally blind, I also tried to hide my fading eyesight. I was surprised later to find that some folks thought I was stuck up. Unknown to me, I had passed them on the street but had not even seen them. Only later, after hearing of my eyesight loss, did they begin to understand why it appeared to them that I had ignored them. I explained to them that my eyesight loss allowed me to see an object clearly once I had focused my full attention on it, but I could walk right past another person and never see them.
If you find that your eyesight is fading, that you can't see well any more, stop hiding this fact. Let others know. For centuries, it was common for the blind to be treated like they were helpless and had to be waited on, like they never had a chance to live. That should not be the case today. The worst thing a blind person can do is to just sit at home and feel sorry for himself. This action only makes the blindness harder to bear, and makes the blind person's life and everyone around him depressed.
If your eye doctor has told you, "You are legally blind," don't just sit and have a pity-me party. Seek out help. Learn to use the white cane and get out of the house. After you know how to walk well with the white cane, you will find new life opening up for you. You can take walks around your area, whether in town or in the country, and enjoy the sounds, smells and environment around you.
Do you like playing different card games but can't see well enough any more? Take some lessons in learning braille. Some people find learning to read braille exciting and relaxing. Even if you don't want to read braille, learn enough that you can once again enjoy playing your favorite card games. Today, because of braille I can play Uno with the best of them; I even win occasionally.
Another way to help change how the sighted view the blind is to get out and do things the sighted people feel the blind can't do. I enjoy gardening, and many times have been asked how I tell plants apart. You may not like to garden, but there are many other things even the blind can do. I have a blind friend who did electrical wiring for a neighbor. He also cut through the wall of her house and installed a new window; yes, the window was level and squared fine, a professional job. You can even use a computer, as software is available that allows the blind to navigate a computer just as well as the sighted.
Actually, finding your eyesight fading just might give you more time to do what you have always wanted to do but never had the time. The last thing you want to do is to confine yourself to that easy chair and feel sorry for yourself. Don't feel ashamed - get out and enjoy the day.

Beyond Basic Medicare: Understanding Medicare Supplemental Coverage by Ron Pollack

(Editor's Note: Ron Pollack is the executive director of Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers.)
Although Medicare provides vital health insurance for about 50 million seniors and people with disabilities, most people with Medicare have some form of additional coverage. Why is this coverage so important? And what are your options for getting this coverage? Let's take a look.
Q: What gaps does Medicare have?
A: Medicare provides very important basic health insurance. However, it has gaps in the services it covers and in what beneficiaries have to pay out of pocket. Medicare has limited or no coverage for vision, hearing, dental, and long-term care. In terms of what beneficiaries have to pay, in addition to premiums, they often have large deductibles. And many services, like doctor visits and lab tests, come with substantial co-insurance (often 20 percent). Finally, unlike most other health insurance, Medicare does not have lifetime or annual out-of-pocket limits.
Q: How do people supplement Medicare?
A: Because of these major gaps, most people with Medicare have some kind of supplemental coverage. About one-third of beneficiaries have supplemental coverage from a former employer, but this coverage is becoming less common.  People who can't get job-based supplemental coverage have other options. Those with very low incomes and assets can get help through their state Medicaid programs (see below). Otherwise, private Medicare supplemental insurance (often called "Medigap") or a private Medicare Advantage plan can help. But these options may be expensive, and they have other limitations. About 12 percent of people with Medicare do not have any supplemental coverage and are at risk of facing high out-of-pocket costs.
Q: What are Medigap plans?
A: Medigap plans are sold by private insurance companies, but these plans have to follow state and federal rules. Medigap plans come in several standard varieties, which helps consumers compare plans. They cover some of Medicare's cost-sharing (for example, deductibles and co-insurance), but they do not pay for services that Medicare does not cover. Medigap plans are popular because they rarely change from year to year, and they allow you to see any health care provider who accepts Medicare. But Medigap plans can have high premiums that increase annually, and policyholders usually must also buy separate Part D prescription drug plans. If you currently have a Medigap plan, think twice before dropping it for some other coverage — you may not be able to get it back later.
Q: What are Medicare Advantage plans?
A: Medicare Advantage plans are run by private insurance companies that contract with Medicare to provide the full range of Medicare benefits. Most include Part D prescription drug coverage, and some offer supplemental benefits and have out-of-pocket limits.
Medicare Advantage plans have grown more popular in recent years, but they have important drawbacks. In general, they limit which doctors and hospitals you can use, and plans decide what services they will approve. Plans can leave a market, forcing people to change their coverage. Beneficiaries can join, switch, or leave their Medicare Advantage plans only during Medicare's open enrollment period each fall.
Q: What if I can't afford supplemental coverage?
A: You may be eligible for Medicaid or a Medicare Savings Program in your state, or for the Part D Extra Help program through Social Security.
Q: How can I get more information?
A: Anyone with Medicare can get help from a local counselor through their State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). You can call 1-800-MEDICARE and ask for a referral to your local SHIP or go to this website and click on your state:
Q: Should I expect changes to Medicare rules in the future?
A: No immediate changes are planned for Medicare supplemental coverage. But private plans can change their offerings each year. There's also a chance that, in the next few years, Congress may make changes to Medicare, Medigap, and other supplemental coverage. So, as always, it's good to stay informed.

If It's Not Broke, Why Fix It? The State of our Guide Dog Training in the U.S. by Dan Kysor

In 1977, I received my first guide dog from the Seeing Eye (SE) and am still using dogs at the spry age of 58.
Since 1929, the concept of "praise and touch" has been key in the success of the guide dog working team. Subsequently, in the 1990s, added equipment, such as special collars, was being introduced to help control poor behavior and distractions on the part of the guide dog. This seemed, in my view, to be directly related to a softening of the utilization of corrective measures such as leash corrections and high collar corrections as a nod to political correctness.
In 2000, food reward was gradually being introduced into not only the training of the guide dog but into the mechanics of the working team in varying degrees, depending upon which school one attended.  Like many baby boomers, I rebelled against using food reward and clicker training. 
In 2010, I retired Hilly, my Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) lab, after she contracted spleen cancer.  I became embroiled in a battle with GDB in trying to secure a three-week training class for my next dog.  You see, I really believe that when a guide dog rebels, which is usually the third week of training, I would rather have a sighted guide dog instructor behind me. A year prior, GDB introduced formal clicker training into their program.
I went back to SE and received a chocolate lab and for the next 7 months, worked a dog that was, according to their staff, suffering from counter pull. I returned the dog and went back to GDB, where I received a black lab who only lasted one day from a condition they called counter pull.
I then received a lab and for the first few months, things worked out quite nicely, but he developed a fear of stairs and train platforms and yes, suffered from a condition known as counter pull.
I then got to thinking about the dogs I had before this new type of training and how successful I was with them. I began looking around for guide dog training programs that relied upon the more traditional praise-based training.  I discovered Guide Dogs of America (GDA), which advertised the traditional training.  I will get back to GDA, but I was curious about a glaring similarity between what is going on at the two largest guide dog schools, SE and GDB.  Both institutions laid off several field reps and both embraced the new training. Both firmly deny any relation, citing fiscal matters for the layoffs.
While GDB admits to reducing the training of their guide dogs from 16 weeks to 8 weeks, SE has not gone to an 8-week training and utilizes some clicker and food reward voluntary training in their student classes.
Although both institutions have taken PR hits, they also are gaining PR value from being the pre-eminent authorities in the world when it comes to the new clicker training. Michele Pouliot (GDB) and Lukas Franck (SE) have been the pioneers who are leading the nation and world's guide dog schools in the use of this technique. The technique originated with Marian Bailey and Keller Breland, who are graduate students of psychologist and eminent behaviorist B.F. Skinner. According to their work, animal training was being needlessly hindered because traditional methods of praise and reward did not inform the animal of success with enough promptness and precision to create the required cognitive connections for speedy learning. Similar methods were later used in training at least 140 species including whales, bears, lions, chickens and domestic dogs and cats, and even humans.
In an article by Julie Gordon (published March 5, 2013), Michele Pouliot states: "Although we had a successful program that provided safe and effective guide dogs for blind individuals, several factors prompted Guide Dogs for the Blind's initial decision to adopt clicker training. The strong desire to be more successful with dogs with more sensitive temperaments was significant. We were serving an increasingly aging population of blind people who benefitted greatly from a type of dog that is more easily managed, more sensitive in nature. This type of dog was rarely successful in our traditional training program, as the techniques in that program did not develop confidence in performing guide dog work in that group of dogs. To serve our changing client population effectively, it became clear that there was a need for dogs with more sensitive temperament, which created a need for alternative training.
"In addition, the working environment for guide dogs had become progressively more difficult since the 1990s; this truth was often lamented in conversations among guide dog trainers worldwide.
"As the years passed, working environments became increasingly difficult for guide dogs to navigate. Examples of environmental challenges included an increased number of encounters with 'less than friendly' humans on the street, more free-running dogs (often aggressive), higher volume vehicle traffic, increased pedestrian traffic, and louder noise volume. It became essential to address the question of how to make the job of a guide dog in the modern world more positive and less stressful. A more positive way of developing guide dogs was viewed as a potential way to resolve some of these challenges that our guide dog program and others like it were experiencing."
So how does all of this nice-sounding scientific justification stack up to the traditional training which is used at GDA and some other facilities? Chuck Jorden, GDA Training Director, simply stated, "It doesn't. If it's not broke, why fix it? We stand by our dogs and the traditional praise touch method of training."
I personally believe that GDB has chosen clicker training and food reward to facilitate a speedier process to train dogs and people.  I am amazed that they can train a guide dog team in a mere two weeks and a guide dog in a mere eight weeks.
From my experience as a seasoned dog handler, the dogs post-new training were not up to snuff and the dog teams I personally know utilizing the traditional praise-based training are far more solid. All of this is particularly important for folks who are thinking about getting a new guide dog. Often, people's decisions are based on the time it takes to go through training.  Sure, it's great to be able to take two weeks off work and train as opposed to 3 or 4 weeks, but there is a huge price you may pay for that, so don't just look at the trade-offs and the techniques used at the school, but facilities and other considerations.
I am not driven to write this article out of any loyalty to school; there is too much of that, to the detriment of the quality of life one has with their guide.  As blind consumers, we all must try to be objective, and I write this from my personal experience.

In Memoriam: Leroy Johnson

Oct. 6, 1936-June 14, 2013
Leroy Johnson passed away June 14 at Willard Walker Hospice Home from complications of diabetes.  Born Oct. 6, 1936, he was the fifth child of Dayne and Mamie (Wilson) Johnson of Johnson. He attended school in Johnson, Ark., and Fayetteville High School (class of 1954). He is preceded in death by his parents; two brothers, Charles and David Lee Johnson; one sister, Doris Ferguson; and a granddaughter, Natosha Johnson. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Mary Ellen (Eubanks) Johnson; three sisters, Ina Newberry, Barbara Gilbert and Marie Morris; two sisters-in-law, Kona Johnson and Mary Sue Johnson; three sons, Ben and Tony Johnson of the home; Ron and wife, Beth, of Elkins; and one daughter, Renee Johnson of Springdale; 9 grandchildren ,11 great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Leroy retired as a deputy of the Washington County Sheriff's Office in 1999, after having served under Sheriff Bud Dennis, Sheriff Bill Brooks and Sheriff Kenneth McKee. He owned and operated the Karmelkorn Shop and Bressler's 33 Flavors Ice Cream Shoppe from 1975 to 1980.  For over three decades he volunteered for the American Council of the Blind, assisting with national convention, usually wearing his white cowboy hat.  He served 22 years as treasurer of the Arkansas Council of the Blind and for many years as treasurer of the Northwest Chapter of the Arkansas Council of the Blind. He was a member of the Johnson Church of Christ.  Leroy believed strongly in treating everyone as he would want to be treated, including people incarcerated at the jail.  Many former inmates would walk up to him and shake his hand, telling him he had helped them to be better citizens.  He leaves behind many friends.
Graveside services were held June 17 at the Stuckey Cemetery; Larry Culbreath officiated. A memorial gathering at the family home followed. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Arkansas Council of the Blind, 4912 Trout Farm Rd., Springdale, AR 72762.  Donations will be used to purchase independent living aids for older blind people in Arkansas. Online condolences may be made to the family at

Affiliate News

Georgia Council of the Blind One-Day Event

The Georgia Council of the Blind will host the One-Day Event on Aug. 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Augusta Marriott Convention Center, 2 Tenth Street, Augusta, GA 30901.
Our theme this year is "GCB Community - Together Reaching Beyond Ourselves." The one-day event offers informative educational programs, as well as recreational and social interaction with members and non-members from all over the state of Georgia. To make hotel reservations, call the Augusta Marriott at (706) 722-8900.  Room rates are $115 per night plus tax.  Be sure to tell them that you are with the Georgia Council of the Blind to get the event rate. The registration fee includes your banquet meal. Registration fees are as follows: $55 until Aug. 2; $60 at the door. Cash will not be accepted at the event; money orders or cashier's checks only. The cost for continuing educational credits (CEUs) will be $75.  For more information about the event, visit, or contact Chris Chavous by phone at (706) 737-4341, or via e-mail,

CCLVI Genensky Scholarship

The Council of Citizens with Low Vision International is currently accepting applications for its Dr. Sam Genensky Memorial Video Magnifier scholarship. Applications and support materials are due back by 11:59 p.m. on Sept.13 Eastern time. This award is in tribute to the inventor of the CCTV. It provides multiple video magnifiers of varying brands and styles to students and adults demonstrating a need.  Read the guidelines at If you have questions, please e-mail Visit for more information.

South Dakota Convention

The South Dakota Association of the Blind will hold its annual convention Sept. 27-29 at the Holiday Inn City Center, 100 W. 8th St., Sioux Falls, S.D.  The theme of the convention is "Taking Care of Yourself through Good Health."  It will feature an auction, a health fair, a banquet, and more!  To reserve a room, call (605) 339-2000 or visit  Room rates are $84 per night plus tax for up to 4 people. Reservations must be made by Aug. 28. For more information, or to register, contact Chelle Hart at (605) 332-6059 or

Letter to the Editor

The contents of this column reflect the letters we had received by the time we went to press, July 22, 2013.  Letters are limited to 300 words or fewer.  All submissions must include the author's name and location.  Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Why ACB?
Why are all of us still in ACB?
The short answer is that we have issues to push such as accessible prescriptions, electronic devices and pedestrian safety, to name a few. But the long answer may be that our true friends that we stay in contact with over years are in ACB! They are honest-to-God friends that aren't just out for the money and whatever they can get. In today's hustle and bustle and this information age with computers, cell phones and all the things I'm forgetting, these friends may be the only way to stay sane in this increasingly fast-paced world with more and more personal isolation! Thank God for ACB and all its affiliates!
- Dan Marshall, Baton Rouge, La.

Here and There edited by Sharon Strzalkowski

The announcement of products and services in this column does not represent an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its officers, or staff. Listings are free of charge for the benefit of our readers.  "The ACB Braille Forum" cannot be held responsible for the reliability of the products and services mentioned.  To submit items for this column, send a message to, or phone the national office at 1-800-424-8666, and leave a message in Sharon Lovering's mailbox.  Information must be received at least two months ahead of publication date.

Conference on Low Vision

The 11th International Conference on Low Vision will be held in Melbourne, Australia, March 31-April 3, 2014. Leading professionals from around the world will guide the development of a first-class scientific program, exploring all aspects of the conference theme: advancing research, upgrading practice and improving participation. The conference is now accepting abstracts for presentation; apply at Abstracts must be in by Aug. 31.
Melbourne City is putting together an exciting social program to ensure you get the most out of your visit. Pre- and post-conference tours around Victoria and other parts of Australia will also be available. To register, visit

Call for Nominations

The American Foundation for the Blind seeks nominees for the 2014 Migel Medals. The Migel Medal was established in 1937 by the late M.C. Migel, the first chairperson of AFB, to honor professionals and volunteers whose dedication and achievements have significantly improved the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired.
Professional Award nominees should be those whose career work significantly impacts services to people with vision loss on a national level. Prospective candidates include, but are not limited to, professionals with specific training and expertise in education, rehabilitation, assistive technology, vision rehabilitation, personnel preparation, administration, or related fields. They may work in the public or private sector and their work should span several years.
Lay/Volunteer Award nominees may be volunteers or professionals not employed within the blindness and visual impairment field whose efforts have supported or extended service to people with vision loss. Professionals from these disciplines may include, but are not limited to, those who develop assistive technology equipment and software, health care devices, and improved medical services.
Nominations are due by Oct. 4, 2013, and should be e-mailed to Scott Truax,  Nominators should send a one-page description of the nominee and his/her accomplishments, or fill out the online nomination form at You must also submit two letters of support with the nomination.

Braille Menus

Tijuana Flats recently added braille menus to its 93 restaurant locations in an effort to better serve the needs of the blind community. Established in 1995 in Winter Park, Fla., Tijuana Flats is a fast-casual Tex-Mex dining experience featuring fresh, made-to-order food. The restaurant has locations in Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. For more information about Tijuana Flats, including menu and locations, visit

Envision Announces Award

Envision recently presented the 2013 American Optometric Association (AOA) Vision Rehabilitation Section Distinguished Service Award to Mark Lucas, executive director of the United States Association of Blind Athletes.
Mark Lucas has worked with people who are blind and visually impaired for more than 25 years. He first began working with children and youth who are blind and visually impaired as the director of recreation for the Foundation for the Junior Blind in Los Angeles. In 1993, Lucas and his family relocated to Colorado Springs, Colo. to serve as the assistant executive director for USABA; he became the executive director in 2001. He is responsible for program development, staff and volunteer recruitment, finance and serves as the national spokesperson to organizations and associations, including the U.S. Olympic Committee and other national and international federations. Mark is a board member for the Vision Serve Alliance, and is a member of Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. For more information about USABA, visit

Stem Cell Research

Corneal blindness affects roughly 8 million people worldwide, and traditional treatments and surgical interventions have seen little long-term success. With a new vision for stem cell corneal transplantation, and a $1.25 million grant from the National Eye Institute, Cedars-Sinai co-investigators Alexander V. Ljubimov, PhD, FARVO, and Clive Svendsen, PhD, hope to treat previously untreatable patients suffering with corneal blindness. Their research deals with collecting human eye cells, reprogramming them to a stem-cell state, then using them to create a corneal cell for transplantation. If it's successful, it may pave the way for human trials in the future.

New Consulting Service

Christine Szostak, a visually impaired woman, has started a consulting service regarding vision loss. She has a lot of information and resources to offer to others who are visually impaired, their families, friends, teachers and colleagues who have questions, are looking for advice, or who need suggestions regarding adapting to vision loss. For more information, visit

Braille Advent Calendar

Kampmann GmbH of Germany offers a Braille Advent Calendar. This year's calendar features a festively decorated Christmas tree standing in a valley surrounded by fir trees. The moon in the night sky and the glowing candles on the tree spread the Christmas mood. The doors on the calendar are white and easy to distinguish from the night sky. And the doors have braille numbers on them, too. To get yours, send your request in by Sept. 30.  Send to: Kampmann GmbH International, Carl-Severing-Str. 60 – 62a, D-33649 Bielefeld, Germany. Or send e-mail to, or visit

Never Too Early to Think about the Holidays

Handmade, loom-knitted Santa Claus hats, sizes infant to adult. $10 each.  Many other handmade items are available, too. Call Henry Osborne Jr. at (203) 874-9206 or (203) 308-9175 (cell) for more information.

High Tech Swap Shop

For Sale:

Windows 8 Professional software DVD.  Comes in original packaging.  Asking $115 or best offer. Contact Dmitriy Lazarev at (917) 586-3618 or via e-mail,

For Sale:

Perkins Brailler in good condition. Comes with dust cover. Asking $200 plus shipping.  English talking calculator in good condition. Comes with batteries. Asking $20.  Money orders only in U.S. funds.  If interested, contact Owen at (319) 217-1922 or Nancy at (319) 217-0439 or

For Sale:

PACMate Omni with 40-cell braille display and full keyboard.  Comes with SD card, Internet adapter, and all cables. Asking $2,000 (negotiable). Contact Ali at (316) 990-1212, or e-mail him,

For Sale:

PACMate classic QX400, recently refurbished. Asking $750 or best offer. 40-cell PACMate braille display. Asking $1,700. Two 1-gig Type II compact flash cards. Asking $5 each. PACMate charger with cigarette lighter adapter, $10. Mini-USB to standard USB cable for flash drives, $5. Contact Jeff Rutkowski via e-mail at or by phone, (651) 756-8684. Will accept check or money order only. Buyer pays shipping.

For Sale:

A large quantity of Rosie Reminder the talking clock.  This voice-activated clock gives you the ability to record a reminder and play it at the day and time you choose.  Very large blue LED numbers on background make it perfect for low-vision folks.  I have an MP3 file with a demonstration I can e-mail to anyone who wants more information.  Asking $99 plus shipping for each clock.  Contact Jeff via e-mail,

For Sale:

Merlin CCTV.  Best offer. Contact Ed Bininger at (262) 784-2364.

For Sale:

Voice Sense QWERTY. Asking $1,395. PACMate with QWERTY keyboard, $475. 20-cell braille display, $475. Kapten Talking Navigation System, $350. Clarity video magnifier, connects to your TV, PC, or computer monitor. Offers close-up and long-distance viewing. Asking $995. Handheld video magnifier with 4" display. Asking $295. HP 17" laptop running Windows XP and NVDA. Asking $300. Items were demo units. For more information, call Kathy at (615) 884-8904 or e-mail


Teletouch device for communicating with deaf-blind people.  I'm an orientation and mobility instructor in Australia, and need at least one to help my clients.  Contact Beth Helmers via e-mail,

ACB Officers

Kim Charlson (1st term, 2015)
57 Grandview Ave.
Watertown, MA 02472
First Vice President
Jeff Thom (1st term, 2015)
7414 Mooncrest Way
Sacramento, CA 95831-4046
Second Vice President
Marlaina Lieberg (1st term, 2015)
15100 6th Ave. SW, Unit 728
Burien, WA 98166
Ray Campbell (1st term, 2015)
460 Raintree Ct. #3K
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
Carla Ruschival (2nd term, 2015)
148 Vernon Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206
Immediate Past President
Mitch Pomerantz
1115 Cordova St. #402
Pasadena, CA 91106

ACB Board of Directors

Berl Colley, Lacey, WA (final term, 2016)
Sara Conrad, Stevensville, MI (1st term, 2016)
Janet Dickelman, St. Paul, MN (1st term, 2014)
Michael Garrett, Missouri City, TX (final term, 2016)
George Holliday, Philadelphia, PA (1st term, 2014)
John McCann, Falls Church, VA (1st term, 2016)
Allan Peterson, Horace, ND (1st term, 2014)
Patrick Sheehan, Silver Spring, MD (1st term, 2014)
Dan Spoone, Orlando, FL (1st term, 2016)
David Trott, Talladega, AL (1st term, 2014)

ACB Board of Publications

Denise Colley, Chairman, Lacey, WA (1st term, 2015)
Ron Brooks, Phoenix, AZ (1st term, 2015)
Marcia Dresser, Reading, MA (final term, 2014)
Judy Jackson, Miami, FL (final term, 2014)
Doug Powell, Falls Church, VA (1st term, 2014)