The ACB Braille Forum, March 2014

Downloadable versions available here.
The ACB Braille Forum
Vol. LII March 2014 No. 9
 

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: http://www.acb.org
 
The ACB 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 slovering@acb.org.
 
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 2014
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.

Forum Subscription Notes
 
You can now get "The Braille Forum" by podcast!  To subscribe, go to "The Braille Forum" page on http://www.acb.org. If you do not yet have a podcast client, you can download one from the Forum page.
 
To subscribe to "The Braille Forum" via e-mail, go to www.acb.org/mailman/listinfo/brailleforum-L.
 
Are You Moving? Do You Want to Change Your Subscription?
 
Contact Sharon Lovering in the ACB national office, 1-800-424-8666, or via e-mail, slovering@acb.org. Give her the information, and she'll take care of the changes for you.
 
All blind musicians, all the time at the ACB Radio Café, www.acbradio.org.
 
Blind show hosts offer a plethora of musical genres at www.interactive.acbradio.org.

ACB Braille Forum, March 2014 downloads

President's Message: Be Sure You Are Protected!, by Kim Charlson

It seems that we hear daily accounts of data breaches taking place at major corporations, such as Target and Yahoo, putting at risk our identities and online security. I have heard from many people who are blind around the country who have experienced firsthand identity theft or have had their economic security jeopardized by a corporate security breach compromising their financial independence and way of life. As people who are blind, we often rely to some extent on the assistance of others to conduct our financial business. Whether you rely on a family member, friend, or volunteer to read mail, write checks, make deposits or withdrawals from your bank or ATM machine, I encourage you to be vigilant and take steps to protect your economic identity.
 
Let me share with you some resources that you may use to protect yourself from identity theft. On Feb. 12, 2013, a "New York Times" editorial noted that one in five consumers have confirmed errors in their credit reports. Imagine how many consumers are unaware of credit problems and, in the meantime, their identities and financial reputations are being compromised. This startling news came from a detailed report issued in December 2012 by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and should serve as a reminder for all of us to check our credit reports.
 
As a result of structured negotiation by the American Council of the Blind, the California Council of the Blind, and attorneys Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian, free credit reports are now available for people who are blind or visually impaired in braille, large print, audio CD and online in an accessible format. A free credit report can be ordered from any of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, by calling toll-free, 1-877-322-8228. This is an automated system. After entering identifying information, including your telephone number and Social Security number, callers will be given the option of receiving reports in braille, large print or audio formats. The reports will also be sent separately in print. The alternative format version you select should arrive within two or three days of the print copy. The request to select your format comes toward the end of the process.
 
You should be aware that while credit reports (also known as credit disclosures) are free through the toll-free number above, credit scores are not. Information on how to request credit scores will be provided when ordering the initial reports. Credit scores should also be provided in braille, large print, and audio formats to those who order the initial reports in these formats.
 
Credit reports delivered on line have been designed to be accessible in accordance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. They are available only through Annualcreditreport.com – the official web site operated by the three credit reporting agencies. You should be aware that not all sites that claim to provide free reports actually have free reports, and certainly not all of those sites are accessible.
 
For the past five years the three credit reporting agencies have been very committed to providing credit report information in accessible formats for people with visual impairments. The companies have also been quick to resolve any problems that may arise, including issues with inaccessible captchas that were quickly corrected with the substitution of an accessible captcha option for logging into the site and requesting a free credit report.
 
There are some simple things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft or compromise of your financial security. As a person with vision loss, it is critical that you educate and empower yourself to avoid being a victim of this type of crime.
 
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, identity theft can occur from someone stealing your mail, wallet or purse. Regrettably, identity theft can also occur when friends, family, or a volunteer reader steal your information. Another way your identity can be compromised is online with malware, data breaches, or spam e-mail such as those "phishing" e-mails that are disguised as legitimate offers from reputable companies. These e-mails instruct you to click on a link and provide confidential information like your date of birth or Social Security number. Do not respond to these messages, and if you think it looks legitimate, take the extra step and call the company to verify that they sent the message to you. This way you can confirm if it is real or a scam.
 
Here are some practical steps you can take to protect yourself against identity theft.

  • Empty your purse or wallet. Only carry things that you need. Don't carry your Social Security card or multiple credit cards, just the essential ones.
  • Shred mail and other documents containing personal information. Purchase a small shredder and shred your medical documents, financial statements after paying bills, debit card receipts, or any other items that have bank or personal information included, instead of just throwing them away.
  • Select clerical assistants, advisors, and volunteer readers very carefully. This requires sensitivity on your part, because you certainly don't want to insult or offend those you have come to rely on. Being confident that your financial security is safe can be a delicate path to travel. Reaching out to your local blindness agency to see if they have a volunteer placement program is a good idea. Most programs conduct criminal background checks or a CORI check to ensure that the volunteer has a clean record. Be aware, however, that just because a CORI has been conducted doesn't guarantee that someone might not avail themselves of your vital information. Remain vigilant over your financial business and don't relinquish your authority.  You might also try having two people assisting you with important paperwork and divide tasks between them and have them cross-check one another's work. This safeguards your information so one person does not have sole access to your vital information other than you.
  • Don't give out your personal information unless you are confident with whom you are dealing. These types of requests can happen either in person or over the telephone.
  • Monitor your accounts. This should be your checking, savings, investment, retirement or insurance accounts. You can check online. Many financial institutions have telephone systems that allow you to check your accounts by phone.

Since identity theft is happening more and more online, here are a few tips to assist you in remaining safe:

  • Keep antivirus software current on your computer. When your antivirus software lapses, it opens the door for all kinds of phishing e-mails, malware and viruses to enter your computer's hard drive.
  • Be careful using social networks. Don't give out too much personal information on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
  • Take the time to set up your privacy controls in your browser so only people you want will have access to your information.
  • Use unique or difficult to guess passwords. Passwords that contain a mix of capital letters, numbers and/or symbols are more complicated to crack.

At this time of year when people are thinking about financial issues and taxes, those of us who are blind or visually impaired must take extra precautions to protect our private and confidential financial information. Utilize the available resources, including a free annual credit report in an accessible format. While doing so, remember and be proud of the advocacy victory ACB helped to make possible for anyone who is blind or visually impaired to maintain their financial independence and credibility.

ACB's Legislative Priorities for 2014, by Melanie Brunson

By the time you read this, ACB will have concluded its 2014 legislative seminar, and many of your fellow ACB members will have made visits to the Washington offices of their senators and representatives to talk with them about legislative priorities for the new year.  Because we are aware that not everyone has the opportunity to come to Washington in February, but many of you do have the opportunity to contact the local offices of your members of Congress, I'd like to give you an overview of the issues and priorities presented at this year's legislative seminar.
 
I begin with a brief disclaimer. This article is being written three weeks before the legislative seminar will actually take place, so the possibility still exists that issues could be added to the list of topics we will actually cover. Issues have a way of popping up and starting to move around here just when you least expect it. You are encouraged to check www.acb.org for more details, including copies of the handouts on this year's legislative priorities.
 
During the year ahead, ACB will have a minimum of two legislative priorities. Our primary goals will be to work toward passage of H.R. 3749, The Medicare Demonstration of Low Vision Devices Coverage Act of 2013, which provides for Medicare coverage of certain low-vision devices, and to seek introduction and eventual passage of the Anne Sullivan Macy Act, a piece of comprehensive special-education legislation that will insure blind students receive the full complement of academic and other essential skills to allow them to become successful and independent adults.  Both of these legislative proposals have been described in greater detail in previous issues of the magazine, and additional information about them is available on our web site.
 
We are also planning to give attendees of the 2014 legislative seminar updates regarding other hot topics, including: Congressional movement on the reauthorization of the vocational rehabilitation program, how individuals can give input concerning transportation funding, implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), the latest on the international treaty for the visually impaired, legislative proposals to eliminate sub-minimum wage payments to people with disabilities, the TEACH Act, and other late-breaking or significant issues.
 
It is our hope that whether you actually attend the ACB legislative seminar in Washington or not, many of you will look into these issues and help ACB make its positions known to members of Congress.  Members of both the House and Senate look first to their constituents when determining whether to support a particular bill. The views of people back home take precedence over the views of lobbyists, so when it comes to legislation that impacts people with visual impairments, or disabilities in general, your phone calls, e-mails, or visits to Congressional offices can really make a difference. If you have questions, please contact me, or Eric Bridges, in the Arlington office. Then, make that contact. These goals are very achievable, but only if we all work together to reach them.

Las Vegas: Deal Us In!, by Janet Dickelman

The American Council of the Blind will hold its 53rd annual conference and convention in Las Vegas, Nev., July 11-19.   It will be a fantastic week of programs, exhibits, tours, and fun.
 
In Las Vegas you will find the latest new technology; information on education, career, and leisure-time opportunities; and updates on issues facing people with vision loss of all ages and from every walk of life.  You can attend special programs and events for students, families, senior citizens, braille readers, and people who are dealing with losing their vision. Attend meetings for attorneys, teachers, small-business owners, artists, computer programmers, and other professionals, and so much more

Exhibits

The 2014 ACB conference and convention gives businesses and agencies a chance to let people from all over the country and around the world know about their products and services.  Register today for premium, tabletop and affiliate booth space.  The exhibit hall will be bustling from opening day (Saturday, July 12) until Wednesday, July 15.
 
Exhibitors will receive special discounts on advertising and premium booth specials on registration bag inserts.
 
Marketplace tables will once again be available in Las Vegas. Marketplace is open one hour before the start of each weekday general session, and 90 minutes before Sunday evening's opening session.  This is a great opportunity for an affiliate or committee to sell items or distribute material. 
 
Small businesses may want to consider Marketplace if they don't have the time or resources for the exhibit hall.  As a reminder, no food items can be sold or given away in the exhibit hall or at Marketplace.  For information on exhibits and Marketplace, contact Michael Smitherman; his contact information is shown at the end of this article.

Advertising and Sponsorships

Once again this year there will be many outstanding opportunities to let attendees and folks at home know about your products and services.  Color and black-and-white program pages, newspaper advertising, and ACB Radio spots and features are great ways to get the word out to potential customers.
 
New this year: Business Cards — an inexpensive way to provide contact information for your business at a glance! List your business name, e-mail address, phone number and web site in the conference and convention program.
 
Conference sponsors (our gems) have a unique opportunity to add their logos and names to workshops, seminars, educational and leisure activities, youth and teen programs, and convention services.  These are high visibility opportunities, with lots of extras such as program and newspaper ads, listings on the official convention T-shirt and sponsor board in general session, and features on ACB Radio.  It's great for businesses and affiliates; there are levels from pearl ($1,000) to double diamond ($25,000), and all gems in between.  For information on advertising and sponsorships, contact Margarine Beaman; her contact information is shown at the end of this article.

Salute Someone Special

This year there are two ways in which you will be able to acknowledge someone special, ACB Heroes and ACB recognition pages. Every state, special-interest affiliate, or chapter has a special person who has played a significant role or made a huge impact on your group. Let them know how special they are by sharing their stories and accomplishments with everyone reading the convention program.
 
Heroes pages enjoy special placement in the program. Pages can include a photograph of your special person and details about his or her accomplishments.  These pages are printed in color. 
 
Recognition pages are a smaller version of the Heroes page. They are printed in black and white and cannot exceed one page.  Recognition pages are the perfect place to recognize that special member of your affiliate, local scholarship winner or anyone you feel deserves a special acknowledgment. 
 
Our expanded table of contents will list all program advertisers and hero and recognition pages so that readers can quickly locate the information. Contact Margarine Beaman for additional details; her contact information is at the end of this article.

Scheduling Events

When scheduling an event at the 2014 conference and convention, please keep the following times in mind. Breakfasts begin at 7:00; lunches begin at 12:15. There are five convention session times. Session one (1:15 to 2:30) is reserved for special-interest affiliates. Sessions two (2:45 to 4:00) and three (4:15 to 5:30) are open to special-interest affiliates and ACB committees. Sessions four (5:45 to 7:00) and five (7:15 to 8:30) are available to affiliates, committees and others not affiliated with ACB.
 
Anyone wishing to schedule programs or activities in Las Vegas, including activities outside the hotel, must submit information directly to Janet Dickelman. My contact information is at the end of this article.
 
To be listed on the pre-registration form, information should be submitted by April 6th; for inclusion in the program, information should be received by April 27th.  Also, make all arrangements related to conference and convention events — reserve meeting rooms, order food or A/V equipment, etc. — by contacting me directly.

Question of the Month

I've been asked about the Riviera's resort fee. Per our contract, ACB is not charged a resort fee, but attendees are given the amenities that the resort fee covers. These include:

  • Complimentary Wi-Fi service for hotel guests
  • Unlimited in-room safe
  • Free access to Fitness Center
  • Free unlimited local and 800 calls placed from your room
  • Free access to the Riviera's tennis courts and pool complex
  • Free valet and self-parking
  • Free enrollment in Club Riviera
  • 50% off drinks at the Casino Bar (located in the casino) — valid on first round of drinks
  • 2 for 1 offer for the Comedy Club tickets

Reservation Details

Room rates at the Riviera are $87 (single and double), plus $10 per additional guest. Room taxes are currently 12%. Make your reservation by calling 1-800-634-6753, or online by visiting www.acb.org and following the 2014 conference and convention link. If your affiliate or group wishes to reserve a suite, contact Janet Dickelman directly.
 

Convention Contacts

 
Stay in touch by joining the ACB convention e-mail list! Send a blank e-mail to acbconvention-subscribe@acb.org.
 
Exhibit information: Michael Smitherman, (601) 331-7740, amduo@bellsouth.net
 
Advertising and sponsorships: Margarine Beaman, (512) 921-1625, oleo50@hotmail.com
 
For any other convention-related questions, contact Janet Dickelman, convention chair,
at (651) 428-5059 or via e-mail, janet.dickelman@gmail.com.

DKM First-Timer Selection Nears

The April 1 deadline is rapidly approaching for submission of 2014 DKM First-Timer applications.  The DKM program provides the opportunity to participate in the national conference and convention as a guest of ACB and the DKM committee and to be part of a two-decade ACB tradition.
 
Who is eligible for selection as a DKM First-Timer?

  • Age 18 or older;
  • Blind or visually impaired;
  • Member in good standing of ACB; and
  • Never attended an ACB national conference and convention.

What must one do to apply for the DKM First-Timer award?

  • Submit letter to DKM committee including a personal narrative of the applicant's background, participation in ACB and the applicant's affiliate, and a statement of the importance of selection to the applicant's affiliate and community.
  • Submit letter of recommendation from the president of the applicant's state or special-interest affiliate.

What can I expect if selected as a DKM First-Timer?

  • Payment by ACB of reasonable round-trip transportation costs to the national conference and convention;
  • Hotel accommodation (double occupancy) for seven nights;
  • Per diem allowance for meals and incidentals; and
  • Conference registration fees; DKM reception ticket; ACB banquet ticket.

All application materials must be received in the ACB national office not later than April 1.  Send them to Francine Patterson, fpatterson@acb.org.  If you have questions, contact Allen Casey, mahatmaac@aol.com.

Board of Publications Awards Your Excellence in 2014

The ACB board of publications proudly recognizes excellence each year with three awards.
 
The Ned E. Freeman Writing Award applies to articles published in "The ACB Braille Forum," "The ACB E-Forum" or an affiliate publication and is awarded to the author of the chosen piece of work. Mastery of the craft of writing is a major consideration by the BOP. Interesting subject matter, originality in recounting an experience, and novelty of approach are also considered.
 
All articles published in "The ACB Braille Forum" or "The ACB E-Forum" between April 2013 and March 2014 are automatically eligible for the Freeman Award. Articles published in state or special-interest affiliate publications within this time frame are also eligible if submitted by either the president or newsletter editor from that affiliate.  If submitting such an article for consideration, please include a cover letter noting the affiliate, publication name, date of publication, and a brief notation about the article. The article may be submitted in any format.
 
The Vernon Henley Media Award is presented to an organization, company, or person, either sighted or blind, who has made a positive difference in the press — whether in radio, TV, magazines, newspapers or electronic media — that may change public attitudes to recognize the capabilities of people who are blind, rather than focusing on outdated stereotypes and misconceptions. Programs and/or articles written and produced specifically for a visually impaired audience, as well as those intended for the general public, are eligible. Multiple articles or programs submitted by one author or organization will be judged as separate entries. Submissions such as books or recurring columns or blogs from the same person must include a letter of nomination, a synopsis, and no more than three sample chapters/columns/blogs. Incomplete submissions will not be accepted.
 
The Hollis K. Liggett Braille Free Press Award is intended to promote best journalistic practices and excellence in writing in publications of ACB's state and special-interest affiliates. All periodicals of ACB affiliates, distributed no less than semi-annually, are eligible to be considered. Periodicals must be submitted by the affiliate's newsletter editor or president, and must include the following:

  1. Two issues of the affiliate's publication from the calendar year 2013, sent electronically and in hard copy in the format which the affiliate recognizes as the format which best represents its readership.
  2. Answers to the following questions: A. How many members are in your affiliate? B. How often is your publication published per year? C. In what formats is your publication produced?

The BOP will take the submitted information into consideration as well as the following:

  1. The number of contributing writers in a single issue;
  2. The variety of information in each issue;
  3. How well the publication portrays the affiliate;
  4. The quality of writing throughout the publication; and
  5. The overall layout and presentation of the publication.

Recipients of these awards for the last five years are ineligible to enter the contests. Members of the ACB national office staff, the board of directors, and board of publications serving during the awarding period are also not eligible.
 
Submissions for all awards must be received by Sharon Lovering at the ACB national office on or before April 15, 2014. Presentations will be made at the 2014 national convention. For more information about judging criteria, please consult the Board of Publications Policy Manual, found on the ACB web site.
 
Send all submissions with cover letter to: BOP Awards, American Council of the Blind, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 650, Arlington, VA 22201, or e-mail slovering@acb.org.

ACB Leadership Institute 2014

Are you an emerging leader, just beginning to explore ways to get involved in committees or participate on your local chapter board?  Have you been involved in your local chapter, state or special-interest affiliate for a while, but need to learn some new leadership techniques, or fine-tune those you already have, so you can move to the next level? Come to the national Leadership Institute!
 
The Leadership Institute will be held July 11 at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, the home of this year's conference and convention. This day-long training seminar is chock-full of good information that you can use to become a leader in your home community, chapter, state affiliate, or at the national level.  You will gain a better understanding of ACB's governance documents, chairing a committee or task force, handling conflicts or difficult situations, attracting and keeping members of all ages, the importance of fund-raising, and how to conduct an effective public relations campaign.
 
How do you sign up?  Watch for the convention pre-registration form and choose the Leadership Institute. It costs $75. If you plan to attend, plan to arrive in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 10th.
 
Want to learn more? Contact Berl Colley via e-mail, blc0901@comcast.net. Other members of the task force are Kim Charlson, Doug Powell, Ardis Bazyn, Ray Campbell, Jim Jirak, Carla Ruschival and Cindy Van Winkle. We look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!

Come to Vegas and Hit the Jackpot!

The odds of striking it rich at the casino during the 2014 ACB conference and convention in Las Vegas (July 11-19) are not very good. But the odds of making out like a bandit at the ACB Let's Make A Deal Auction, to be held Wednesday evening, July 16, can't be beat.
 
We can't promise you door number three, but jewelry, food, handmade items, vacation packages, including 5 wonderful days in Key West, and much, much more will be ripe for the picking. Get ready for a meal, watch your friends go just a bit crazy, and engage in some Western-style dealin' while you support the greatest organization of people who are blind or have low vision in the world.
 
Stay tuned to future issues for more details about what's for sale and how you can donate to the Let's Make A Deal Auction!

How to Get the Most Out of Rehab, Part III: Available Services, by Doug Powell

In Parts I and II of this series, we made some suggestions about what to expect in the early stages of entering the vocational rehabilitation (VR) system (Sept. 2013), and some suggestions for when your Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) program is not serving you well in your preparation to work (Jan. 2014).  This article will address a question that many people have when they are ready to apply for services.  That question is, "What services are available?" VR staff members are reticent to give you the whole list of available services, fearing that you will try to get all of them.  So, after discussion with you about your vocational goals, they will suggest services from the list that they think will get you working, and since you don't have the full list, you agree with less than fully informed consent.
 
Because of space considerations, the list of possible services below is severely edited.  It is highly recommended that you refer to the full text of the section for clarity and accuracy.  The full text of Section 103 of the Rehabilitation Act is available from www.acb.org/node/56 or by calling the ACB national office at 1-800-424-8666.  
 
A partial list of services your agency can provide is:   

  • eligibility and needs assessment;
  • counseling and guidance; 
  • job search and placement assistance;
  • vocational and other training services;
  • diagnosis and treatment of physical and mental impairments;
  • living expenses for additional costs incurred while receiving services;
  • transportation, including adequate training in the use of public transportation vehicles and systems;
  • on-the-job assistance services provided while an individual is receiving other services;
  • interpreter services and reader services;
  • daily life skills services, and orientation and mobility services;
  • occupational licenses, tools, equipment, and initial stocks and supplies;
  • technical assistance and other consultation services to conduct market analyses, develop business plans to eligible individuals who are pursuing self-employment or telecommuting or establishing a small business operation;
  • adaptive technology and braille instruction;
  • transition services for students;
  • job coaching and other supported employment services;
  • services to the family of an individual necessary to assist the individual to achieve an employment outcome; and
  • specific post-employment services necessary to assist an individual to retain, regain, or advance in employment.

In most cases, a VR applicant will not need all of the items listed above.  But if you know what they all are, you can start to determine which ones you think you will need, and perhaps prioritize them in your mind before going to your IPE development meeting.  As always, you can consult with an ACB member who's familiar with rehabilitation for advice and advocacy at your IPE meeting.  You may also contact members of the ACB Rehabilitation Issues Task Force for help: Doug Powell (VA), chairman, home (703) 573-5107 or cell (571) 438-7750, or e-mail doug.powell.oldjock@gmail.com; Sue Ammeter, Wash.; Lucy Birbiglia, N.M.; Paul Edwards, Fla.; Nancy Matulis, Maine; Sarah Presley, D.C.; Lori Scharff, N.Y.; Pam Shaw, Pa., and David Trott, Ala.

Conducting Business with Social Security: What You Should Know and How You Can Help, by Len Burns

Are you a person with a disability in the United States who requires reasonable accommodations to conduct business with the Social Security Administration?  Do you believe you have a right to request the reasonable accommodations best suited to the requirements of your disability when communicating with Social Security?  If so, you could be in for a rude awakening!  I certainly was in for a shock four years ago when I assumed my role as my mother's representative payee.
 
As many of you know, in October 2009, the decision won by Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) on behalf of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) required the SSA to provide communications in an accessible format to qualified individuals with disabilities receiving Social Security benefits and representative payees.  This knowledge was a relief to me as a blind person assuming the role of representative payee on behalf of my mother in early 2010.  A year later, when the first accounting report was due, I was in for an education.
 
The information that might have enabled me to complete the accounting report on-line was missing from the form I received on CD.  I was informed it was omitted "so as to not confuse the blind using screen readers."  Even if I'd had the information, the web application provided to complete this task had accessibility problems serious enough that I would not have risked it on something as precise as an end-of-the-year accounting report.  I communicated my concerns to DREDF.  Shortly thereafter I filed an administrative complaint against the SSA.  My complaint was unsuccessful. From that point to the present, DREDF has assisted me in my attempts to find a resolution of this matter that would provide all of us the options we justly deserve when conducting business with Social Security.
 
A number of appeals later, here is the SSA's position that applies to all of us. If you are a qualified person with a disability who needs to submit information to the SSA, you have three choices: You may arrange a phone appointment during which a representative will assist you, you may visit a field office, or you may request an electronic fillable form from your local field office or by contacting the SSA call center. If you choose either of the first two options, SSA cannot or will not provide you with the resulting completed documents in a format of your choice for your own records.  Considering the number of errors made by Social Security and the serious impact of such errors, the first two choices can be risky.  If you request an electronic fillable form, Social Security has up to 45 days to decide if it will provide one and give you an official response.
 
Experience strongly suggests this deadline is rarely honored.  If your request is denied, your only recourse is an administrative complaint to which Social Security has 180 days to respond. This is far beyond reason.
 
I am not writing to convince you how best to communicate with the Social Security Administration; each of us must decide what is best for our disability needs and unique life circumstances.  I am here to tell you that Social Security currently discriminates against those of us who prefer to conduct our business via electronic means, enabling us to independently verify information before it is submitted and preserve a copy for our personal records.  A sighted citizen would be outraged were he or she required to submit a special request and wait 45 days just to learn whether a form would be made available!  It is time we insist upon equal respect.
 
I am working with DREDF to address these matters.  We need to hear from you.  We would very much like to hear about your experiences utilizing fillable or online forms to communicate with SSA.  As mentioned above, SSA has stated that its policy is to consider providing fillable forms only on request.  That means that if you need a fillable form that is not on its web site, you need to contact SSA and request it.
 
We'd like to know if you have requested a fillable form or the ability to submit responses on-line. What response did you receive and within what time frame?  What experiences have you had asking for help to complete a form?  What experiences have you had submitting the few forms that are available online? Here is a link to a page on the SSA web site regarding currently available online forms: www.socialsecurity.gov/online/.
 
What concerns do you have, if any, about these policies and practices?  If you want a fillable form but haven't asked for one, we recommend that you do, and note how SSA representatives handle your request, including date of contact, and whom you reached. You can call the 800 number or contact your local field office.

Summary of the Fall 2013 ACB Board Meeting, by Denise Colley

The 2013 fall meeting of the ACB board of directors was held on Sept. 28, 2013 at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev.  The meeting was called to order at 9:11 a.m. by President Charlson, and the roll call verified that all board members were present except George Holliday, who was excused. Staff present were Melanie Brunson, executive director, and Lane Waters, controller.
 
The agenda was reviewed and adopted, and the minutes of the Aug. 21, 2013 minutes were adopted with one correction, the striking of a sentence under the discussion of IRI (Integral Resources, Inc.).
 
In President Charlson's report, she shared that she had a meeting in mid-July with Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy concerning issues surrounding the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and employment of people with disabilities.  On July 24th she co-hosted a very successful conference call with Paul Schroeder from the American Foundation for the Blind on the topic of audio description on television.  There were 115 participants on this call, many of whom found out about the call via social media.  She said she would be having a meeting with Roxann Mayros, executive director of VisionServe Alliance, near the end of October to discuss ways in which ACB can collaborate with them on advocacy efforts.
 
On Oct. 11th Kim was to meet with staff from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to discuss where things are with accessible currency.  She would also attend a gala event that evening culminating the celebration of the 75th anniversary of National Industries for the Blind.  National Council on Disability (NCD) is beginning outreach and marketing efforts on implementation of best practices for access to prescription drug information.  Finally, Kim indicated she was finalizing officer, board and staff liaison roles for ACB's committees and would soon be getting listservs updated and sending out welcome messages to individuals serving on committees.

Staff Reports

Melanie Brunson gave the report on activities in the Washington area office.  Highlights included:

  • The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is moving ahead with accessible currency, identifying what tactile features will be used and what equipment is needed.  The first accessible bills could be produced by 2019 for distribution by 2020.  Scanners for current bills will be rolled out by 2015, with a new roll-out of the Bureau's app in 2014.  Melanie indicated if we have comments on accessible currency, we should address them to meaningfulaccess@bep.gov.
  • Four grant applications had been submitted since the Aug. 21 board meeting, with 16 more to be submitted by the end of the year.
  • The back-to-school direct mailing has been sent out, with responses starting to come in.  Tom Tobin, ACB's development director, will be working with the Goal 2 group on two items, one for developing and sending a quarterly newsletter to major non-member donors, and another to establish giving societies for ACB.
  • Audio Description Project director Joel Snyder recently received his Ph.D. from the University of Barcelona.  His Ph.D. dissertation will be published soon under ACB's name. The Audio Description Project web site gets an average of 171 hits per day.  People are drawn to the site to learn about audio-described television shows and movies, as well as podcasts of trainings.
  • ACB, NFB and 22 organizations joined together in a letter to the FCC opposing a petition by a coalition of e-reader manufacturers to exempt their devices from compliance with the CVAA.
  • If the legislation re-authorizing the Rehabilitation Act, S. 1356, starts to move, ACB wants to insert language in it to help federal employees deal with some of the issues around Section 508 compliance.

Melanie ended her report by asking the board if it wanted to take a position on Sen. Harkin's proposed language in Section 511 of S. 1356 which creates a number of disincentives for rehabilitation counselors placing people into programs operating under Section 14(c)  of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which are exempted from paying minimum wage.  Harkin's language also places additional monitoring and other requirements both on counselors and on employers operating under these programs.  In light of Resolution 2013-13, which supports the repeal of Section 14(c) with adequate safeguards for individuals working in such programs, the board agreed to support Harkin's language.
 
Lane reported that the Minneapolis area office continues with its work. They have completed all of the conference and convention reports, which should be in the hands of affiliates and committees.  Regarding the Affiliate Member Management System (AMMS) database, Lane indicated that the sync with Donor Perfect has been re-programmed to run much faster.  He will be meeting with the database task force to determine what changes will be made in AMMS this year, keeping them to a minimum.  They will also discuss how to get more affiliates using AMMS and will probably need help training new affiliates.

Treasurer's Report

Carla Ruschival next gave her report.  As of Aug. 31, 2013, total revenue was $569,314, with total expenses of $755,857.  As part of her report, Carla brought forward a proposal from the ACB Walk Committee which would allow teams to designate a percentage of their walk contributions to go to an affiliate of their choice.  Carla made the motion, which Jeff Thom seconded, to approve the proposal with one change, allowing a team to designate up to 50 percent of their contributions to go to an affiliate. The motion passed.

Job Title Change

Mitch Pomerantz made the motion to approve, and John McCann seconded it, ratification of a change in job title for Eric Bridges from director of advocacy and governmental affairs to the director of external relations and policy.  The motion carried.
 
The board then went into executive session to discuss financial and affiliate matters.  The board began its executive session at 12:34 p.m. and returned to open session at 2:34 p.m.  At that time President Charlson announced that during executive session, financial and affiliate matters were discussed, and that one motion was passed to allow the ACB Store Committee and its chair to negotiate terms of an agreement with a company.

IRI and Other Agreements

Resulting from discussion during the Aug. 21 board meeting, Melanie and Lane presented documents on calling data from Integral Resources, Inc. (IRI).  The reports show that ACB had a very good year acquiring new donors in 2008, and that 2010 was a strong year for donations through IRI due to very good messaging.  Jeff Thom moved and John McCann seconded that in conjunction with delaying our decision to enter into a contract with Associated Donor Services, IRI's western affiliate, we not take our IRI account draw for October.  Carla Ruschival offered an amendment, which was accepted as friendly, that ACB withdraw funds from the IRI account each month only when revenues exceed expenses through the end of 2013.  That motion as amended carried.
 
Next up was a request from Odin Mobile for ACB to offer an endorsement of and enter into a cooperative marketing agreement for their cell phone products and services.  Carla Ruschival moved and Marlaina Lieberg seconded referral of this item to the ACB Store Committee for possible action; the motion carried.
 
The board also discussed the possibility of designing a new logo for ACB.  The board looked at one proposed logo design, and heard several comments regarding it.  By consensus, it was decided to form an ad-hoc committee of relevant stakeholders from goal groups 1 and 2, CCLVI, the board of publications, the public relations committee and others to conduct further study into possible logo redesigns.

Convention Committee Report

Janet Dickelman next gave the convention committee report.  She thanked Margarine Beaman, advertising and sponsorships coordinator, since because of her work, ACB realized a profit of over $57,000 on the 2013 conference and convention.  The committee has already held several meetings with the host committee to begin putting together the 2014 conference and convention, July 11-19 at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev.
 
Janet presented several possible convention bids for 2016.  Carla Ruschival moved and Sara Conrad seconded that we accept the 2016 conference and convention bid from the Hyatt Hotel in Minneapolis, Minn., dates of July 1-9, 2016.  Room rates would be $89 for single or double, $99 triple or quad per night.  The motion carried.

Goal Group Reports

Strategic goal groups reports:  Reports on the strategic plan goal groups were given and highlights at the time of this meeting included:

  • Goal group 1: ACB has 507 Twitter followers, 196 likes on Facebook.  The group is looking to be helpful where it can on ACB Radio and other issues.
  • Goal group 2:  Has been focused on board fundraising workshop, held on Sept. 27 prior to this meeting.
  • Goal group 3: has identified work needed on the employee handbook.

2014 Midyear Meetings

Possible program items for the 2014 midyear presidents' meeting were identified and included:

  • Discussion of things you need to know when officers change, and how to work with your bank;
  • Revisiting the issue of insurance that affiliates need to have;
  • How affiliates can improve communication;
  • Recruiting and retaining younger members, and current leaders' responsibility to mentor them;
  • How to implement accessible prescription drug best practices;
  • Partnerships with ACB that can benefit affiliates;
  • Promoting upcoming opportunities for leadership training;
  • Marketing of ACB, from chapters to national, taking ownership, promoting what we do;
  • Providing step-by-step instructions for affiliates on how to take AMMS database information and get it into their mailings, including using templates in Excel; and
  • Promoting affiliate streaming of events.

There was discussion on how the board can work with affiliates to encourage more of them to send representatives to the ACB midyear meetings.  Between Melanie, Carla and others, it is felt that we have good data on which affiliates have not had representatives at recent midyear meetings.  That data will be shared with the board, and it will be a topic of discussion at a future board meeting.  Also, Melanie indicated that Jo Steigerwald, ACB's grant writer, is looking for funding opportunities to help affiliates send representatives to these meetings.
 
John McCann moved that the meeting be adjourned; Sara Conrad seconded.  The motion carried, and the meeting adjourned at 5:40 p.m.

Membership Focus: Creative Ways to Meet, Especially in Rural Areas, compiled by Ardis Bazyn

January's "Membership Focus" call topic was "Creative ways to meet, especially in rural areas." Participants on the call gave suggestions relating to methods of communication as well as positive benefits of rural areas. Members were asked to share communication for both computer and non-computer users.
 
The first suggestion was using teleconference calling. There are several free conference calling systems, including freeconference.com, freeconferencecall.com, and freeconferencepro.com. Freeconferencepro.com can give you a personalized message for your call, with whatever wording you want. While it is free to the organization, individual callers are charged for the long-distance charges if they do not have unlimited calling plans. One way to assist those without unlimited plans is to have those with three-way calling in their plan to call a person who cannot afford to pay the charges.
 
Using Skype for group calls is another alternative. It can be used for group calls or as an add-on for a meeting where some members are too far away to attend in person. However, Skype limits the number of callers who can participate. One person would have to be on a computer.
 
For an in-person meeting wanting to incorporate outside members, you can teleconference using a speaker phone. However, most facilities charge for the use of a speaker phone. You can sometimes find another organization to assist with the cost. Perhaps a Lighthouse for the Blind might donate the use of a phone line. One downside of using a speaker phone is the extra time taken to make sure all can be heard and all have time to speak. Some with hearing difficulties may find it harder as well. Also, not all locations will support a speaker phone. Wireless connections may not always work. If you plan to use one, check the location for a broadband connection or wireless capability. Occasionally, an iPhone with a Bluetooth speaker and headphones will give a better connection, especially for someone using hearing aids. If you need an outlet for a computer, bring extra extension cords and duct tape to tape them down so no one trips on them.
 
Any kind of conference calling system can be an issue, so you should send participants a conference call etiquette message ahead of time. If you do, mention that any distractions can make it hard for others to hear: heavy breathing, sneezing, coughing, dogs barking, using the restroom, dishes clattering, etc. Mention muting instructions at the beginning of the call. If both spouses will be on the call, one should come on the call first and mute the call before the other comes online. Otherwise, both should just use a headset rather than speaker phones.
 
Sometimes, it might help members who can't regularly attend a meeting to have a gabfest with just a few members rather than a meeting so they can get to know other members. Newsletters are more important when you hold fewer meetings. E-mail discussion lists are another way to communicate between meetings. If members do not have a computer, you can subscribe to e-mail by phone. However, you have to pay for the long-distance charges, and it can be time-consuming.
 
Rural areas do have positives. Many rural communities have a weekly paper. It is easier to get them to publish an article about an event or meeting. Most papers have a calendar of events. Local radio shows may interview a member with a good story.
 
If your affiliate has members in several towns, you can try satellite meetings in various places. Rotate your meetings in these towns. Transportation may be an issue, so you may have to offer to pay for gas for drivers who pick up people or rent a van. You might be able to get a grant from a local company or organization. If you do this, ramp up publicity in the town where you'll be meeting. You can meet at a local senior center, library, or other central location. Place posters on bulletin boards and leave notices at eye doctors' offices and independent living centers.
 
ACB Radio has chat rooms. Go to www.acbradio.org and then to ACB lounge and download the software to use. There is no limitation for the number of people participating. Use calling for socializing as well as business meetings.
 
You have to determine what you want. Do you want a speaker or discussion topic of interest to members and friends? If you meet in person or have some join by conference call, make sure you use a microphone or two to make sure all can hear. A roving microphone and main microphone will help everyone.
 
WCB holds various forums on the phone: one on technology, one for job seekers, and more. Small groups help build a team. A book club meeting might also be of interest.
 
The next ACB Membership Focus call will be held on Monday, April 21 at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern. Our topic will be "What leadership training does your affiliate have?" The call-in number is (712) 775-7000 and the pass code is 640009.

In Memoriam: Buddy Spivey, Dec. 31, 1941-Jan. 9, 2014

(Reprinted from "Let's Just Talk," January-February 2014.)
 
Buddy Brown Spivey was born Dec. 31, 1941 in Washington, D.C. and died on Jan. 9, 2014 in North Little Rock, Ark. He was a true American hero. When asked how he was doing, Buddy always responded with an emphatic "OUT-STANDING!"
 
Buddy and his story were remarkable. Buddy attended the University of Arkansas and earned a bachelor of arts in commercial art. His talents were broad. He painted remarkable portraits, landscapes, and abstracts. He also excelled at technical and commercial drawings. He loved designing cars. After graduation, instead of designing cars, he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps. As much as anything else, Buddy was a Marine.
 
On Dec. 7, 1967, he was severely injured by an explosion in Vietnam. He spent 18 months in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. He was totally blind, lost his right leg and suffered brain damage. But he never lost his spirit. Buddy earned two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, and retired from the Marines at the rank of captain. Despite the odds, Buddy picked himself up and lived a full and fun-filled life after his injury.
 
After years of physical and blind rehabilitation, Buddy returned to the University of Arkansas, where he earned a master's degree in counseling (1971) and an education specialist degree (1972). Buddy worked a full career until he retired in 2007. He served as a field representative for the Blinded Veterans Association for 10 years. He traveled alone over 14 states counseling and helping other blinded veterans. He later worked as a counseling psychologist and social worker at the VA Hospital in Little Rock. He rarely missed a day of work. He was an active member of the Disabled American Veterans Association.
 
Buddy was the DAV "Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year" in 1975. He received the DAV Department of Arkansas Achievement Award the same year. In 1976, he received the Tau Kappa Epsilon National Achievement Award. He received the "No Greater Love Award" for Vietnam Veterans presented by Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt in 1977. He was an Outstanding Young Men of America honoree in 1981. In 1989, he received the Major General Melvin J. Mass Achievement Award from the Blinded Veterans Association. He also served as a board member for the Arkansas Division of Services for the Blind from 1975 to 2006.
 
Buddy was a gifted artist and musician. He was one of the all-time great Razorback fans. He loved telling people that he played in two Cotton Bowls and two Sugar Bowls during his time at the University of Arkansas. Most times (but not always) he would later admit that he actually played as a member of the Razorback Marching Band, which he affectionately referred to as the "Stumbling 100." He was a talented saxophone player.
 
Buddy loved being a part of something bigger than himself, whether it was the marching band, the Marine Corps, the Disabled American Veterans Association, the Blinded Veterans Association or even the Edsel Owner's Club. He was also a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, the American Legion, the First Marine Division, the Third Marine Division, the Marine Corps League, the Retired Officers Association, the National Order of Trench Rats, the Arkansas BVA Razorbacks Regional Group, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the First United Methodist Church in North Little Rock.
 
Buddy was truly larger than life. He was the biggest personality in the room. People were drawn to him not only because of his personal story, but because of the way he told stories, and because of the way he loved and listened to others. He always wanted to know about other people and to hear their stories.
 
Buddy danced on American Bandstand as a teenager. He loved cars and knew all about them. He collected hundreds of model cars. Buddy lived in big cities like Washington, D.C., Cleveland and Philadelphia growing up, but he spent a lot of his time in Arkansas, where his grandparents lived.
 
Buddy was an immaculate dresser. He wore his suit and tie to work long after the rest of the world had moved to business casual. He was at times a flashy dresser. He loved bright colors with lots of flare. He enjoyed standing out from the crowd.
 
He was a Methodist and devout Christian. He prayed for others all day, every day. He always told his friends and family how much he loved them and how proud he was of them. Buddy had unlimited compassion for others, but he never felt sorry for himself. Semper Fi!
 
Buddy is survived by his wife, Jeanne Spivey; his son and daughter-in-law, Patrick and Elizabeth Spivey of Little Rock; his stepdaughter, who Buddy thought of as a daughter, and son-in-law, Michelle and Andrew Nichols of Oceanside, Calif.; two grandchildren, Audrey and Adeline Spivey of Little Rock; his uncle Calvin Spivey of Rogers; his aunt Adeline Spivey of Rogers; and numerous cousins.
 
Funeral services for Buddy were held Jan. 17 at the First United Methodist Church in North Little Rock. He will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made in Buddy's honor to the Blinded Veterans Association, 477 H St. NW, Washington, DC 20001-2694 (www.bva.org); or the Marine Corps League Foundation, PO Box 3070, Merrifield, VA 22116-3070 (www.mclfoundation.org).

Affiliate News

Arkansas Convention

The Arkansas Council of the Blind will hold its state convention April 25-27 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 4100 Glover Ln., North Little Rock, AR 72117. To make your reservation, call (501) 945-7444 or visit www. Northlittlerock.hgi.com.
 
There will be an auction and door prizes at the state convention, as well as a panel discussion on the Arkansas School for the Blind's early childhood intervention program. Chris Gray will be the keynote speaker. There will also be an exhibit area. For more information, contact Sandy Edwards at (501) 753-5029, or send e-mail to acbarkansas@cox.net.

Illinois Hosts Spring Fling

Join the members of the Illinois Council of the Blind on Saturday, April 26, 2014 from 4-9 p.m. at 115 Bourbon Street, located at 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park, IL for the "Spring Fling," featuring the rockin' tunes of Blind Reflexx as part of their "Talk, Play and Rock Tour."  Admission includes a buffet dinner, draft beer, wine and soft drinks, as well as the concert.  There will also be a silent auction, raffles and fun. 
 
Tickets are $35 for adults and $15 for children age 6 to 20; kids ages 5 and under are free.  We are looking for a few volunteers. If you are interested, please contact the ICB office. The ticket price for volunteers is $15.
 
Funds raised will help ICB provide scholarships for students who are blind and reading materials for children who are blind through our Dots for Tots program, among other things.  For more information, or to purchase tickets, contact the Illinois office at (217) 523-4967, or send an e-mail to icb@icbonline.org, or go to www.icbonline.org. If you cannot attend, support ICB by purchasing a raffle ticket. Call the office for more information.

Dining in the Dark in Colorado

The ACB of Colorado held a Dining in the Dark event on Feb. 6 at the Hyatt Regency in Denver to benefit seniors with vision loss. Servers were members of the chapter's Sight for Seniors program. Along with dinner and drinks, it featured a silent auction, with auctioneer and host Reggie Rivers, and entertainment by president Karen Karsh.

Community Outreach Challenge, by Tristen Breitenfeldt

(Editor's Note: Tristen Breitenfeldt is a member of ACB of Oregon's Metro PDX chapter.)
 
As members of an ever-changing minority group, many people who experience blindness seek that important sense of community and fellowship which defines us as humans.  We also believe in our right to advocate for inclusion and accessibility in society.  It was on these fundamental building blocks that the American Council of the Blind was founded.  Throughout the years since its inception, the ACB has grown and changed to accommodate its members, while always remembering the fundamental principles of its mission. The importance of community outreach, however, is frequently under-addressed.
 
Community outreach is an essential component of any service-based organization.  It is through community outreach that member recruiting occurs. Through outreach we are able to serve and assist the people we represent.  This generally does not happen within our membership meeting halls; it is out amongst the people where we can do the most good.  To this end, the Metro PDX chapter of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) of Oregon implemented a shopping experience designed to introduce and teach important life skills to youth who are blind in the Portland area.
 
Christmas is a time for giving and sharing, but most people get so wrapped up in the commercialism of the holiday, they forget the true meaning of the season.  To celebrate Christmas this year, the Metro PDX chapter of the ACB of Oregon hosted its first annual Winter Independence Shopping Experience (WISE) on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at the Pioneer Place Mall in downtown Portland.
 
The WISE Project was an overwhelming success!  We assisted six blind/low-vision children between the ages of 6 and 15 with their holiday shopping.  By doing so, we gave each participant the opportunity to experience the joy of giving this holiday season.  The kids were each given $75 and a blind mentor from our chapter to shop with.  The goal of the project was for each child to independently find and purchase one or two gifts for their family as well as a gift they could donate to Toys for Tots.  The mentor's responsibility was to ensure the safety of the child they assisted.  Mentors assisted the children with creating shopping lists, locating stores in the mall, learning how to ask for help, and offering suggestions for money management strategies.  We were fortunate to have enough sighted volunteers that every shopping team, consisting of a blind mentor and child, were able to be accompanied by a sighted assistant.
 
Every participant said that they were very happy to have this opportunity to learn how to shop, manage money, and make new friends!  Some of the kids even said that this was their first time doing things such as riding the escalator, making purchases in a store, making a shopping list, and yes, even meeting Santa.  That's right, we were very fortunate that Santa Claus made a surprise visit to the suite where the kids were learning to wrap the Christmas gifts they had purchased.  So, they gave their unwrapped Toys for Tots donation to Santa.  One girl even suggested giving Santa Claus a chocolate chip cookie, which he said was delicious!
 
The Pioneer Place Mall was very generous in donating a suite for gathering and gift-wrapping supplies, as well as making sure Santa visited us.  We also greatly appreciated the Bridge City Café's donation of delicious cookies, which everyone, including Santa, enjoyed.
 
One shopping mentor shared her experience afterward, "I adored my little mentee. We had such a great time picking out his gifts.  He had those salespeople wrapped around his little finger. In the last store we visited he was $5 short for the gift he wanted to buy his mother.  I asked the sales clerk if there might be another store with a similar product that he might be able to afford. Her response was to tell me that she thought they had an extra $10 coupon laying around somewhere.  She left us and came back a few minutes later with one all taped together. It was nice to see such Christmas spirit."
 
After the event, one participant said, "Being able to buy presents for people for the first time" was the best part of the experience.
 
Whether organizing a shopping trip for blind youth or hosting a self-defense class for blind adults, the idea is the same — reaching out to others in the community is fun and beneficial for everybody.  Community outreach and educational projects teach important skills as well as provide valuable exposure for the hosting organization.  These experiences often result in increased membership and provide information for planning further projects.  So, what can your organization do to help the community you serve?

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 slovering@acb.org, 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.

Hermansky-Pudlak Conference

The 21st Annual Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome Network Conference will be held March 7-9, 2014 in Uniondale, N.Y.  Conference programming includes a mix of fun, fellowship and entertainment, scientific presentations and educational opportunities for patients, families, researchers, physicians and other professionals.
 
Some of this year's sessions include: HPS 101 for those newly diagnosed; self-defense techniques for the visually impaired; breakout discussion groups for adults with HPS, young adults with HPS, parents of those with HPS and spouses, partners, family and friends of those with HPS; dating and HPS; G I Wish I Felt Better – a session for those living with the digestive complications of HPS; and other topics.
 
For the first time, a few selected sessions will be available via webcast for those who cannot attend in person. Visit www.hpsnetwork.org or the HPS Facebook page, www.facebook.com/hpsnetwork, for information about times, available sessions and how to log in.  For updated conference information, visit www.hpsnetwork.org/en/events/2014-03-07/21st-annual-hps-conference.

Tasimelteon Gets FDA Approval

On Jan. 31, the Food and Drug Administration approved Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s HETLIOZ™ (tasimelteon) 20-milligram capsules for the treatment of Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder (Non-24).  HETLIOZ is the first FDA-approved medication for Non-24.  Vanda anticipates making HETLIOZ commercially available in the second quarter of 2014.

NASA Seeks Interns

NASA has internships for high school students and for rising college freshmen through doctoral students in STEM fields. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, with a minimum GPA of 2.8 for college and 3.0 for high school. High-school students must be at least 16 at the time the internship begins.
 
Students can still apply for summer 2014! The deadline for submitting applications is March 14, 2014.  To apply, register for an account and look for internships anytime at the One Stop Shopping Initiative (OSSI): NASA Internships, Fellowships, and Scholarships (NIFS) at http://intern.nasa.gov/.  Students who are selected for summer internships will receive an offer letter by e-mail. They will then have five days to accept or reject the offer through their OSSI: NIFS account. The offer will automatically expire after five days if no action is taken.
 
Opportunities are located at NASA centers and field installations all over the country: Ames Research Center, Moffett Federal Airfield, Mountain View, Calif.; Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Los Angeles County, Calif.; Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio; Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, N.Y.; Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; Independent Verification and Validation Facility, Fairmont, W.Va.; Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tex.; Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, Fla.; Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.; Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.; Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, La.; NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.; NASA Shared Services Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss.; Stennis Space Center, near Bay St. Louis, Miss.; Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va.; White Sands Complex, Las Cruces, N.M.; and White Sands Test Facility, Las Cruces, N.M.
 
For more information, or if you need assistance, contact Kenneth A. Silberman, Esq., at (301) 286-9281, or via e-mail, kenneth.a.silberman@nasa.gov.

Class Action Settlement

Have you shopped at Trader Joe's recently, or in the last several years?  Are you blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or do you use a wheelchair or a scooter? The proposed settlement pertains to people with physical or sensory disabilities who have shopped at Trader Joe's from June 22, 2009 (and through July 9, 2018) and been denied services on the basis of their disability. Consumers fitting this description may be eligible to receive a portion of the proposed class action settlement. For more information about this lawsuit and proposed settlement, and to find out if you or people you know are qualified claimants, please use the following contact: Perez et al. v. Trader Joe's Company, c/o Simpluris Inc., PO Box 26170, Santa Ana, CA 92799; phone 1-888-836-1697; or visit www.CATJAccessSettlement.com.

Research Advancements in Diabetes-Induced Blindness

Investigators at the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute in Los Angeles have identified new molecular abnormalities in the diabetic cornea that could contribute to eye problems in affected patients. With this new knowledge, investigators aim to accelerate the process of healing and repair in damaged corneas to ultimately reverse the effects of diabetes-induced eye complications.
 
Investigators identified gene expression regulators, microRNAs, in normal and diabetic human corneas. They then successfully confirmed that several of these regulators were expressed differently in the diabetic corneas. These differently expressed microRNAs may contribute to stem cell and epithelial (tissue cell) abnormalities in diabetic corneas. Researchers are working on the manipulation of these microRNAs by gene therapy to normalize these corneas.

GW Micro, Microsoft Collaboration

GW Micro and Microsoft have partnered to make Window-Eyes available to users of Microsoft Office at no cost. Eligible customers, using Microsoft Office 2010 or higher, will be able to download a full version of Window-Eyes at www.WindowEyesForOffice.com. The program is available in more than 15 languages.  The web site provides download instructions and additional information.

New Mystery Series Features Blind Psychiatrist

Author Lynne Raimondo has written a couple of mysteries featuring a blind psychiatrist.  Her first book, "Dante's Wood," introduces Chicago psychiatrist Mark Angelotti, still reeling from a late-onset genetic disorder which left him blind. He returns to work and becomes involved a client's murder investigation. The book is available on Bookshare, https://www.bookshare.org/search?keyword=dante%27s+wood&search=Search.
 
In the second book, "Dante's Poison," due out in May, Angelotti is an expert witness in a landmark case that could discredit a large pharmaceutical company. Meanwhile, he is also a part of a drug trial that holds the hope of restoring his eyesight. It, too, will be available through Bookshare.

Tactile Graphics Committee Honored

The international committee that developed the landmark publication "Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010" recently received the Braille Excellence Award from the Braille Authority of North America (BANA). CBA-BANA Joint Tactile Graphics Committee, which was co-sponsored by the Canadian Braille Authority (CBA) and BANA, received the award on Dec. 5 in Providence, R.I., in a showcase session at the 2013 Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference.
 
The volunteer members of this collaborative CBA-BANA ad hoc committee donated their time and talents for nearly a decade, meeting by phone almost weekly year round. Together, they defined, refined, and established in writing a comprehensive, user-friendly set of research-based guidelines and standards for the design and production of tactile graphics for braille users.  The committee members are: Lucia Hasty, Colorado; John McConnell, New Brunswick, Canada; Janet Milbury, Nova Scotia, Canada; Irene Miller, Alberta, Canada; Allison O'Day, Minnesota; Aquinas Pather, Ontario, Canada; and Diane Spence, Texas.

High Tech Swap Shop

For Sale:

An APH Braille Plus in good condition. Includes Executive Products case, AC power adapter, 5 docking cables and USB cord. Unit is registered and will play NLS content. Asking $475 (including shipping). Contact Steve Bauer at (316) 943-4301.

For Sale:

Pebble CCTV. Comes with charger and clamp.  Asking $200. Contact Chenelle Hancock at (216) 816-8053, or e-mail filmchenelle1977@gmail.com.

For Sale:

Romeo Attaché braille embosser.  Only does single-sided brailling. Includes parallel to USB cable. Enabling Technologies installed a new main board about six months ago to ensure that the embosser is compatible with both Windows 7 and Windows 8 operating systems. I am asking $1,000 or best offer.  I will accept a cashier's check.  Please contact me at dbaker152@woh.rr.com.

Wanted:

Good four-track, two-speed recorder. Can't pay much. Contact Walter at walterchavira1@gmail.com, or call (661) 748-7249.

ACB Officers

President
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
 
Secretary
Ray Campbell (1st term, 2015)
460 Raintree Ct. #3K
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
 
Treasurer
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)
Ex Officio: Denise Colley, Lacey, WA

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)
Doug Powell, Falls Church, VA (1st term, 2014)
Richard Rueda, Union City, CA (1st term, 2014)
Ex Officios: Ron Milliman, Bowling Green, KY
Bob Hachey, Waltham, MA
Berl Colley, Lacey, WA