The ACB Braille Forum, September 2014

Downloadable versions available here.
The ACB Braille Forum
Vol. LIII September 2014 No. 3
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 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
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.
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The ACB Braille Forum, September 2014 downloads

President’s Report to the National Convention, Part I, by Kim Charlson

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a true honor for me to come before you for my first report as president of the American Council of the Blind. It's hard for me to believe that a year has gone by since our conference in Columbus, Ohio, and my incredibly exciting election as the first woman to serve as president of ACB. It has been a whirlwind of activity, travel, calls, committee meetings, and decision-making in collaboration with leaders to keep our organization moving forward on so many fronts.
I have come before you on this warm Sunday evening in July here in Las Vegas to offer my report to you, the thousands of men and women comprising our strong ACB family.  Whether you are attending this conference and convention in person, or listening from across the nation and around the world on ACB Radio, you are all an important part of our dynamic and democratic organization. I want to publicly acknowledge that without your support and participation, there would be no American Council of the Blind. 
ACB continues to address many issues and challenges of all types since last we gathered together. I'll cover the highlights and how we are dealing with them over the next several minutes.
First, I would like to deliver some well-deserved thank-yous. It is widely known that the everyday work of ACB is carried out by our small, yet highly dedicated professional and administrative staff working in our Minnesota and Virginia offices. Our executive director, Melanie Brunson; controller, Lane Waters; director of external affairs and policy, Eric Bridges; and "ACB Braille Forum" editor, Sharon Lovering, all work tirelessly to make our lives and the lives of blind and visually impaired people everywhere better.
And to our dedicated administrative and support staff – in the Arlington office, Francine Patterson, and Barbara LeMoine, who retired from ACB in February. In Minnesota, Lori, Nancy, Dee, and Chi, who left ACB in February after 13 productive years; you all keep the wheels turning and the gears oiled.
Thanks also to our contract staff – Tom Tobin, director of development; Jo Steigerwald, our grant writer; Joel Snyder, director of the Audio Description Project; Larry Turnbull, managing director of ACB Radio, and website administrator, Annette Carter. I extend to all of you a special acknowledgement and salute for your efforts.  On behalf of the ACB membership, I thank you.
I also want to recognize and thank the 15 other members of the ACB board of directors and the members of the board of publications.  I've worked hard to keep the board of directors busy while Denise Colley, the BOP chair, has kept that group active as well.  In turn, both groups have made sure to keep us all on track with the issues and on our toes.
At the close of this convention, two directors, George Holliday and Janet Dickelman, will be stepping down as members of the board of directors. George will be turning his efforts to his professional responsibilities at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia and to advocacy with the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind. Janet Dickelman will not be leaving ACB service; she will be concentrating her efforts in serving as our hard-working convention coordinator, a huge job that she does incredibly well. Thank you to George and Janet for their service to the board and ACB. (Editor’s Note: After Kim’s speech, George Holliday decided to run for – and was elected to – a second term.)
In addition, I want to thank the members of the Board of Publications – Denise Colley, who has ably served as chair, Ron Brooks, and Doug Powell for their service. I want to recognize that Marcia Dresser will be wrapping up her third and final term on the Board of Publications. Also, Judy Jackson and Richard Rueda, who stepped down from their positions on the BOP earlier this year for personal and professional reasons. All of these individuals have made valuable contributions as members and leaders on the BOP, and I thank them for their service to ACB.
I can’t continue to recognize people without acknowledging the large group of leaders who steer and guide ACB’s over 40 different committees and task forces. The bulk of ACB’s work is done by these hard-working groups. We couldn’t get it all done without you. You all have my heartfelt personal thanks!
Finally, let me take a moment of personal privilege to recognize the help and support I receive from my family. My husband, Brian, is incredibly supportive. He lets me get away with not doing the dishes sometimes, or other chores, so I can be on a conference call or return phone calls or e-mail. I couldn’t do all that I need to do in this role without his support, and that of my life sister, Vicki. Thank you for making it possible for me to serve ACB as president and to stretch the hours in my day. I love you both! 
As you know, in 2011 ACB commenced working on the problem of the inaccessibility of information on prescription drug labels with the introduction of H.R. 4087, the Accessible Prescription Drug Labeling Promotion Act. The original bill language was incorporated into S. 3187, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, which passed and became law in July 2012. 
The bill language called for the establishment of a working group comprised of representatives of the blind and aging communities, along with pharmacies under the auspices of the U.S. Access Board. ACB was ably represented on this group by past president Mitch Pomerantz, as well as by Annette Carter, who represented CCLVI. The group developed a comprehensive "best practices" document for pharmacies to ensure that people who are blind or visually impaired have access to prescription drug labeling information. The National Council on Disability was also charged with coordinating an awareness campaign in cooperation with the members of the working group to inform the public of those best practices, as directed by the act. In addition, the Inspector General was to initiate a review in 18 months to assess the extent to which pharmacies are following the best practices and to what degree barriers to prescription drug container labels remain. I am profoundly disappointed to inform you that NCD has failed to promulgate an awareness campaign. In fact, over the past year the Council met exactly one time with representatives from the blind and low-vision communities and then only to ask for ideas on how to conduct outreach. To our knowledge, the Inspector General’s audit isn’t even in the planning stage. ACB will be reaching out to NCD to determine what it plans to do on behalf of blind and low-vision individuals on this crucial issue. I hope to have more positive information shortly about how these guidelines are helping to improve access and safety in this area.
Since I'm discussing access to prescription information, we can't forget the tremendous work being done by our attorneys, the queens of structured negotiations, Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian.  Both of them send their wishes for a successful conference and convention and congratulate ACB on 53 years of advancing the rights of people with visual impairments. Let me spotlight Lainey and Linda's activities addressing access over the course of the past year.
Right before last year’s convention, ACB announced a structured negotiation settlement with Weight Watchers International to make its websites, mobile applications and print information more accessible and inclusive for its members and subscribers with visual impairments. Weight Watchers adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as its accessibility standard for both web and mobile applications, and has made substantial enhancements to its websites and mobile devices to meet this standard.  Weight Watchers also strengthened its system for providing braille, large print, and audio versions of print information to members with visual impairments.
Weight Watchers worked with ACB and Weight Watchers members and subscribers with vision loss on these accessibility initiatives. I want to especially thank Alice Ritchhart, of Georgia, and Lillian Scaife, of California, for their work on this initiative as well. Now people who are blind will be able to take greater advantage of the wonderful tools and information that Weight Watchers offers. To further show their support to ACB, Weight Watchers is a 2014 topaz sponsor of the Recreation Zone. Thank you, Weight Watchers, for recognizing the needs of your blind members.
Now, in the area of prescription drug label information, there is much to report.
In March 2014, ACB and CVS/pharmacy announced a program to provide ScripTalk talking prescription labels for prescriptions ordered for home delivery through its online pharmacy, The ScripTalk labels provide a safe and convenient way to access information on prescription labels for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.  The ScripTalk labels are free to pharmacy customers who are blind. Customers can also obtain a free ScripTalk reader from En-Vision America that will enable them to listen to the information on the ScripTalk label.
This settlement was the result of ACB’s collaboration with CVS/pharmacy, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the California Council of the Blind. ACB commends CVS/pharmacy for taking steps to provide speech access to label information for customers with vision loss along with its willingness to assess methods to improve large-print labels and evaluate how it can effectively provide braille labels.
In June 2014, ACB announced a ground-breaking settlement with Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, launching a nationwide program offering talking prescription devices to customers with visual impairments.
Walgreens is the first in the industry to offer its own exclusive talking prescription device, called the Talking Pill Reminder, at its retail locations nationwide. The device attaches to prescription containers and is provided free of charge with prescription medications that Walgreens dispenses to its pharmacy customers who are blind or visually impaired. The Talking Pill Reminder can be recorded to speak the information on the customer’s prescription medication label, and also has an audible alarm to remind patients when to take a medication.
The Talking Pill Reminder is available to customers of the over 8,100 Walgreens retail pharmacy locations in your communities and through Walgreens prescription mail service.  The devices also are available in Walgreens drugstores for purchase for a retail price of $9.99 for people who are not visually impaired or do not receive prescriptions from Walgreens.
This initiative was the result of collaboration between ACB and Walgreens, the California Council of the Blind and the Illinois Council of the Blind. In addition, we have received confirmation that all Duane Reade pharmacy locations, primarily in New York state, will also have the free talking prescription labels for blind pharmacy customers. Duane Reade is owned by Walgreens and has over 250 locations.
More is happening in the effort to make sure people with vision loss have independent access to prescription information. ACB is part of a structured negotiation effort with Caremark to obtain accessible prescription information from that mail-order company, which we know impacts many blind federal employees and others.  Lainey and Linda report that Caremark, connected to CVS but operating as a separate company, has been a solid structured negotiation partner and we hope to have something to announce on this before the end of the year.
Lainey and Linda are also working with other retail and mail-order pharmacies, including Rite Aid, on the accessible prescription issue.
In addition to accessible prescription efforts, Lainey and Linda continue to engage in other structured negotiations with ACB, its affiliates, and individuals with visual impairments. Discussions in various stages continue with Bank of America, Safeway, Charles Schwab, E*Trade, Denny's and WellPoint Health Insurance. WellPoint is a company that operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield franchises across the United States. As a result of structured negotiations, the company is offering alternative formats and accessible web and mobile experiences. 
If you do business with any of these companies and want further information, or if you have an issue you think would be appropriate for structured negotiation, please contact either Lainey or Linda. The ACB national office can provide their contact information.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing Begins Distributing Currency Readers, by Melanie Brunson

For some time now, the U.S. government has been talking about its plans to distribute currency reader devices to people who are blind or visually impaired in order to make it possible for them to identify the denomination of U.S. banknotes independently.  Officials have said repeatedly that this is the first phase of their program to provide meaningful access to U.S. paper currency.  It is aimed at providing independent access to the inaccessible banknotes that are currently in circulation, as well as those that will continue to circulate while future banknotes containing a tactile feature are being developed and put into circulation.
I am happy to report that phase is currently under way.  The Bureau of Engraving and Printing officially began the first phase of its currency reader distribution program at the summer conventions of the nation’s blindness organizations, including ACB.  I was advised that several hundred units were distributed by Bureau of Engraving and Printing staff in the exhibit hall at the ACB conference and convention in Las Vegas.
If you weren’t at the convention and are interested in getting your hands on one of these scanners, here is what you need to know about this program.
First, yes, the currency readers are being provided at no cost to blind or visually impaired people who are either U.S. citizens, or are legally residing in the U.S. or any of its territories.  Between now and January 2015, only those individuals who are currently eligible to receive braille and talking book services from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) are eligible to receive these currency readers. The program was rolled out during the NFB and ACB conventions, but only those individuals who are current users of the NLS services could apply.  A brief form was completed by each individual requesting the information necessary to verify the person’s eligibility with NLS prior to issuance of the scanner.
Those who did not attend the July conferences may still have the opportunity to receive a scanner.  Other current patrons of a library that is part of the NLS network, as well as users of the BARD download program, can sign up for a free currency reader.  There are several ways to sign up.  If you want to sign up by phone, you can either call your library, or you can call NLS at 1-888-NLS-READ (that’s 1-888-657-7323).  Your request will be noted in your account with NLS, and beginning this month, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will start mailing the units to people at the addresses they have on file with the National Library Service.
Remember that until January 2015, only individuals who are users of the NLS braille and talking book program are eligible.  It is not currently possible to order one on behalf of someone else or for an organization.  Parents or legal guardians of children under age 18 can request them on behalf of the child, but the child must be a current user of the NLS program.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing plans to expand the program beginning in January 2015.  At that time, they will make currency readers available to people who are not part of the NLS program.  In order to receive a free currency reader, one must obtain certification from a medical professional that they are blind or visually impaired.  The form that is required can be downloaded from This form can also be used by anyone who might like to sign up for a free currency reader and at the same time, apply to receive access to braille or talking books from NLS.  The form can be downloaded, completed, and mailed to NLS at the address provided on the application.
Please allow six to eight weeks to receive your currency reader, especially if you order it near or after January 2015.
The currency readers that are being distributed by the government will read the denomination of U.S. banknotes only.  Users can have this information spoken out loud or listen to it through earbuds plugged into a jack on the machine.  The machine can also be set to emit vibrations or tones instead of speaking the information out loud.  For those readers who are familiar with the iBill money readers from Orbit Research, this is the unit that is now being distributed by the government.
For those who would like to learn more about what the government is doing to insure that blind and visually impaired people have independent access to the information on U.S. currency, the government will now provide email updates.  Visit the web site of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing at and sign up to receive updates by e-mail.  You can also check this site periodically for updates.  We will keep you posted on further developments as well.

Final Thoughts on Las Vegas, by Janet Dickelman

I'm writing this article on the flight home from Las Vegas! My wish is that all of you, whether in person or via ACB Radio, agree we had a very successful, fun-filled and educational 53rd annual conference and convention.
I hope you enjoyed all the workshops, programs, informative general sessions, tech sessions, focus groups and training sessions from our corporate sponsors and those wonderful tours!
As convention coordinator I keep my finger on the pulse of the entire convention; however, there is no way one person can undertake this alone. My awesome committee members make my life so much easier. They handle their responsibilities with passion, grace, enthusiasm and efficiency.
The convention committee consists of: Margarine Beaman, Sally Benjamin, Michael Fulghum, Vicky Prahin, Bruce Radtke, Michael Smitherman and our officer liaison, Carla Ruschival. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help and support!
Our host committee, ably led by Rick Kuhlmey and Carol Ewing, provided convention attendees with information about local businesses, arranged for our opening session and morning session entertainment and clergy and so much more! Wasn't it exciting having the bell choir, bagpipers and barbershop quartet performing Sunday evening?
A very special thank-you to the Minneapolis office: Lane Waters, Lori Sarff, Nancy Becker and Dee Theien, who spend countless hours working on registration prior to and during the convention. Thanks to Maureen and Paula for coming on their own to the convention once again and volunteering their time in registration.
Tim and Maria of ScoopMasters, despite the heat and having to move a relief area, did an outstanding job of providing relief areas to our four-pawed attendees. Joel Snyder did an unexpected but outstanding job of on-the-spot audio description of the movie “12 Years a Slave.” Thanks to Joel and our photographer Leonard for handling an unfortunate situation with fast thinking and determination.
Giant kudos go out to our tremendous volunteers, who worked tirelessly to assist convention attendees. I certainly appreciated their positive attitude and courtesy. The Riviera staff was extremely helpful and accommodating. We really appreciate all the extra time you spent assisting convention attendees.
I'm always happy to hear from you about your convention experience. The "convention suggestion box" is open. Feel free to send me an e-mail or give me a call.
Now we're on to Dallas in 2015. Our convention home will be the Sheraton Dallas. Convention dates are Friday, July 3rd through Saturday, July 11th.

Staying in Touch

If you were subscribed to the convention announce list, you will remain on the list. You don't need to subscribe again. If you have not yet subscribed to the convention announce list, just send a blank e-mail to
Feel free to contact me via e-mail or phone with any convention-related questions, concerns or comments:, or (651) 428-5059.

Special Ceremony Introduces ACB Angels Memorial Tribute at Opening Session, by Dan Spoone

Dan Dillon sang a remarkable rendition of the song “On the Other Side” during the opening session of the 2014 ACB conference and convention in Las Vegas, Nev.  The song honored his wife Brenda Dillon, former second vice president of ACB who passed away last July, and announced the beginning of the ACB Angels Memorial tribute program.  This new program is an opportunity for the ACB family to recognize members and guide dogs who have passed away and left a lasting memory in our hearts.  The Angels program will create a permanent tribute page on for each honoree.  It will include a picture and personalized biography.  In addition, there will be an ACB Wall of Angels created.  This wall will be a portable permanent structure that will be displayed at each conference and convention and hold an individual plaque (in raised print and braille) for each honoree.  
Brenda Dillon became the first of the Angels, and Dan’s song inspired others to honor their loved ones.  Margarine Beaman honored her husband Robert “Bob” W. Beaman.  Marlaina Lieberg remembered her seven guide dogs who served her over 50 years:  Scamp, Reba, Vista, Dewey, Bea, Patch, and Madeline.  Dan and Leslie Spoone honored Leslie’s sister, Anita Stone, who was a member of the Nevada host committee, and Norman Culver stepped up to recognize Alabama member Charles “Charlie” Carroll.  In total, $5,000 was raised during the opening ceremony for ACB in support of the Angels Memorial tribute program.
For more program information and registration, visit the Donate Now page on and click the link for Angels Memorial tribute program.  The Angels program requires a minimum donation of $500 and can be made by an individual, family, group or affiliate.  Alternatively, you can contact the ACB Minneapolis office at (612) 332-3242. 
What a wonderful way to honor the memory of these members of the ACB family!  Thanks, Dan, for your inspiration.
─ Dan Spoone

A Peek Behind the Scenes of the 2014 ACB Auction, by Penny Crane

From July 12th through the 19th, I attended the American Council of the Blind conference and convention in Las Vegas, hosted by the state of Nevada. All I can say is, what a great week of fun, food, entertainment, information, inspiration and socializing!
As usual, one of the big events was the Wednesday night ACB auction. Since I’m on the auction committee, I can give you a little peek behind the scenes.
Planning began almost a year ahead. This was mainly accomplished through once-a-month phone conferences. Our committee of eight was headed by our wonderful coordinator, Leslie Spoone. There was much discussion about the number of items and the length of the auction. Necessary personnel, the “describers,” runners, spotters, door greeters and auctioneers for the event, were lined up.
Some of our items were donated by our state affiliates, who were contacted in May or June. Many items came from ACB members, friends and families.
On the big day, many hours were spent unpacking, sorting and numbering each item. Descriptions, written up earlier, were matched to each item. All this information was also compiled in braille and large print, and put out on large tables for the attendees. Everyone who attended the convention got a numbered ID card. That registration card number was copied to be their bidding tag if they attended the auction.
Here are examples of just some of our items: See’s Candy, Maker’s Mark Whiskey, four or five handmade quilts, Norman Rockwell plates, vacation packages, jewelry, a New York Yankees star hitter Derek Jeter shirt, an antique porcelain doll, and even a Native American peace pipe!
Auction night was held in the “Top of the Riv,” the penthouse of the Riviera Hotel and Casino. Hotel staff provided a cash bar and plenty of food for our enjoyment.  The evening officially began at 7 p.m., with a preview available from 6 p.m. Our very capable auctioneers could have given a North Carolina tobacco auctioneer a run for his money. Bidding lasted until well past 11 p.m.!
A few “bidding wars” popped up. The excitement and noise level really picked up during back-and-forth bidding on a black onyx bracelet – which eventually went for $1,000! There was also much excitement about a 4-day Key West vacation package. After much wild bidding, it sold for $1,200!  Of course, not everything was that expensive. A cute “Pom-Pom Kitty” went for $35.
The auction brought in $20,000 for ACB. We may, individually, have gone home a bit poorer, cash-wise, but much richer in spirit.

ACB: Changing the World One Winery at a Time, by Marlaina Lieberg

You may well ask, “What is Marlaina talking about, changing the world one winery at a time?” That would be a reasonable question.  Well, sit back, get comfy, and allow me to share the answer.
On Sunday of convention week in Las Vegas, I participated in a tour of a winery in Pahrump, Nev.  Yes indeed, they do grow grapes in Pahrump!  As we traveled out to the winery on the bus, Michael Fulghum and his wife, Sherry, described the scenery to us: lots of desert, desert and more desert.  There was so much desert and highway, we all burst into song, singing “Born to Be Wild” as we headed for our destination.  I did not hold out high hopes for finding good wine at the end of the day, but anyone who knows me knows I am a wine enthusiast, so I simply had to do this tour.
After about an hour’s ride, we turned off the highway and suddenly were transported from the desert to a renaissance period Tuscan Italian villa, the Sanders Family Winery.
The Sanders Family Winery is nestled on the southern side of the town of Pahrump, and is bordered by the Spring Mountains to the east and the Nopah Mountains to the west.  As we drove through the gates, we were welcomed by the statue Teresa Lilianna, the wine pourer.  The main entrance to the estate is lined with tall Italian cypress trees, flanked by 2 full production vineyards.  The long driveway brings you through the vineyards to the main tower entrance, where the tour began.
As I exited the bus, I was greeted by a man with a wonderful smile in his voice who introduced himself to me as Jack Sanders.  Jack and all his staff, most of whom are family, guided us in from our bus one at a time to ensure we and our guide dogs were out of the 112-degree heat as soon as possible.
We were escorted into a wonderful function room which just the day before was the site of a wedding.  And then the fun began!  Jack spent nearly 3 hours with us, describing his wines, sharing his stories, and keeping us quite well entertained.  About halfway through, pizza arrived, and we were treated to as much pizza as we wanted.
Throughout his presentation, Jack asked if he could or should be describing things differently.  He indicated that he had no experience being with people who are blind or have vision loss. He described how to swirl the wine, sniff the wine and taste the wine.  Those of us who love wine know that the color of the wine is an important part of the wine experience.  Jack, unlike some folks who have no experience with vision loss, did not leave out descriptions of color as he discussed his wines.  He told us the color and hue of each wine we tried.  I remember thinking, “Gosh, this is audio description at its best.” 
By the end of our visit, all his staff were guiding folks around the villa and Jack himself took some folks who dared to brave the heat out to see the actual vineyards.  The winery is also the home of the Betsy Sanders Amphitheater for the Performing Arts.  Many theater productions and concerts take place there.  Had it not been so hot, I’d have loved to experience the amphitheater. 
Throughout the afternoon, Jack and his staff did whatever it took to make us feel welcome.  I visited the gift shop with Jack’s son, who was willing to take as much time with me as I wanted as we looked at the items available.  Not once did I have that feeling of “I’d better hurry, I’m taking up too much time.”
Many of us bought a bottle or two to bring back to the convention hotel, and some of us had wine shipped to our homes around the country.  A few days after I returned home, I phoned the winery to inquire about my shipment.  Jack himself answered, and amazingly, he remembered me.  After he explained that the current temperature precluded any shipment of wine and that he hoped the heat wave would break in the next 5 days, he thanked me for ACB’s visit.  He told me that he and his staff talked after we left and they all agreed that while they may have taught us something about wine, we taught them a great deal about an aspect of life they never experienced: living happily with vision loss.  Jack then said that as a result of our visit, he and his staff would be working differently with all customers in the future, making sure that his stories and descriptions are shared with everyone.  He said that the time he spent with us changed his perspective on many things, and he hopes we will come back to visit again.
This is the power of ACB: as independent folks who live with vision loss, we make a positive statement about who we are and demonstrate, by living our lives with grace and dignity, the fact that one’s loss of sight has nothing to do with one’s vision for and love of life.  Thanks to Jack and his staff, to Michael and Sherry, and other folks who made this tour possible.  It was a fabulous experience, allowing me to share a Sunday afternoon with long-time ACB friends, to make some new ACB friends, and to leave the winery knowing that the members of the Sanders family are now among those I call friends.  Indeed, changing the world one vineyard at a time is a grand thing! Cheers!

ADP’s Inaugural Mentorship Program a Success!, by Susan Glass

In conjunction with this summer's ACB convention in Las Vegas, the American Council of the Blind and the Audio Description Project co-sponsored the third Audio Description Conference. The previous two were held in 2010 and 2011. All three conferences were organized by ADP director Joel Snyder. This year's event was attended by nearly 70 people from nine countries, with an impressive roster of speakers and presenters. You can read about the conference and listen to its archived audio program by visiting Thank you, Fred Brack, Audio Description Project webmaster, for so beautifully archiving this event. And thank you also, Mike Moran of ACB Radio, for recording all of the sessions.
The inaugural Mentorship Program, in which blind and visually impaired attendees of the ACB convention collaborated with describers attending the ADP Conference, was a success! Sometimes people who write and deliver audio description have never had the opportunity to interact with blind people. This program invited blind people and describers to attend the ACB opening general session together, and then engage in at least two additional activities: touring the exhibits, visiting a museum, walking the Las Vegas Strip, dining, and so on. Our mentors were enthusiastic about the chance to work with describers.
Gretchen Maune of Missouri writes, "Perla and I partnered together to mentor Chelsea Pancho from Deluxe, and I believe we all had an excellent time together and gained a great deal from the experience. Our activities included eating together, sightseeing, and shopping, all of which provided opportunities for describing, feedback, and, of course, getting to know each other better. The experience allowed us to learn more about the description process, as well as understand the choices describers have to make when producing an audio description. I am truly grateful I had the opportunity to come to convention to participate in this program — it was a wonderful experience."
Perla Kohs of California agreed. "Chelsea is a delight! She and Gretchen were hungry Sunday night, so we went to Peppermill and talked all evening. The next morning my husband drove us to the Venetian where the three of us — and Keeper, of course — explored and Chelsea practiced her description skills. She is very open to learning and is a good listener. Good thing, because Gretchen and I do express our opinions! Most important, I think, was the concept of having the audio describers actually talk with people who have visual impairment. It seems like such an obvious connection. I learned that audio description is a difficult art and not just a matter of filling in open spaces of time with oral description. The describer has many challenges, and the quality of the description hinges on external factors — technology, time allowed for preparation, etc. — as well as the knowledge, observational skills, and verbal descriptive skills of the person or team writing the descriptive script. Good audio description makes such a difference. How wonderful for us all that this art is being taken more seriously and will increasingly become part of our experiences."
Dan Spoone of Florida wrote, "I wanted to personally thank you for a wonderful experience. I know everyone had different opportunities to meet with their mentee but Leslie and I really enjoyed getting to know Dae Kim from Netflix better. We attended the opening session with Dae and had an opportunity to go to Toby Keith's and had dinner. We also had many informal conversations throughout the week."
Thanks to all of the mentors who made this year's mentor match a success. Our next ADP Conference will probably take place during the 2016 ACB conference and convention in Minneapolis. Please consider volunteering again for what will undoubtedly be an even more fruitful exchange.

Tips on Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits, by Lisa Giorgetti

While people who live with blindness often live rich and productive lives, it’s not uncommon for blindness to prevent an individual from maintaining gainful employment or making enough to live comfortably. Unfortunately, this lack of income can be a source of substantial financial stress. Luckily, Social Security Disability benefits are in place to help ease the financial burden caused by such a situation.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA will compare your condition to a listing of conditions that are included in a publication known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book contains all of the conditions that could qualify an individual for Social Security Disability benefits, along with the criteria that must be met in order to qualify under each condition. Blindness is covered under Sections 2.02, 2.03, and 2.04 of the Blue Book; visit

  • According to Section 2.02 of the Blue Book, which covers loss of visual acuity, applicants can qualify for benefits if the remaining vision in the better eye after best correction is 20/200 or less.
  • According to Section 2.03 of the Blue Book, which covers contraction of the visual field in the better eye, applicants can qualify if the widest diameter subtending an angle around the point of fixation is no greater than 20 degrees or an MD is of 22 decibels or greater, determined by automated static threshold perimetry that measures the central 30 degrees of the visual field, or a visual field efficiency is 20 percent or less, determined by kinetic perimetry.
  • According to Section 2.04 of the Blue Book, which addresses loss of visual efficiency, or visual impairment, in the better eye, the applicant must have a visual efficiency percentage of 20 or less after best correction or a visual impairment value of 1.00 or greater after best correction.

If your condition meets the above criteria, you will qualify for benefits under the corresponding section of the Blue Book. It’s important to provide medical records, along with your application, that proves you meet the criteria set forth in the Blue Book.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online or in person at your nearest Social Security office. You will need to fill out a number of forms, including the Adult Disability Report and the other forms that make up a disability application. To fill out the forms online, go to
It’s important to fill out each form in its entirety and in detail. The more information and detail you can provide, the easier it will be for the SSA to understand how you qualify for benefits. When you submit this application to the SSA, it’s also recommended to submit medical evidence and written statements from treating physicians to support the claim in order to increase your chances of approval.
You will receive a decision regarding your claim approximately two to four months from the date of your application. If you’re awarded benefits, the notice will tell you when benefits will begin and how much you will be receiving each month. If the notice is of the SSA's decision to deny benefits, you have 60 days from the date received to file an appeal. It’s not unusual for an initial application for disability benefits to be denied. You can try to overturn the decision later through the appeal process.
If you do need to appeal a denial of benefits, you may want to retain a disability attorney to represent you in your appeal. As a general rule, applicants who utilize the services of a disability attorney have a greater chance of a successful appeal.
While you may need to appeal a denial of benefits, which will delay the start of payments, it’s important to note that a successful appeal means that you will be entitled to back pay from the SSA. This back pay will date back to the initial date of your disability application. This means that you won’t lose the money you would have received if your application had been approved initially.


We honor here members, friends and supporters of the American Council of the Blind who have impacted our lives in many wonderful ways. If you would like to submit a notice for this column, please include as much of the following information as possible.
Name (first, last, maiden if appropriate)
City of residence (upon passing)
State/province of residence (upon passing)
Other cities/states/countries of residence (places where other blind people may have known this person)
Date of death (day if known, month, year)
ACB affiliation (local/state/special-interest affiliates or national committees)
Deaths that occurred more than six months ago cannot be reported in this column.

Dr. Robert J. Smithdas

Dr. Robert J. Smithdas passed away on July 17, 2014 at the age of 89.  He was an author, lecturer and poet who lost his vision and hearing as a result of cerebrospinal meningitis at the age of four and a half.  He began his formal schooling at Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind and later, after losing all of his hearing, he moved to Perkins School for the Blind, where he graduated in 1945.   He received a bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, from St. John's University in 1950 and went on to New York University and achieved the distinction of being the first person with deaf-blindness ever to earn a master's degree. 
Dr. Smithdas was also the recipient of four honorary degrees: Doctor of Letters from Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.; Doctor of Humanities from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich.; Doctor of Humane Letters from his alma mater, St. John’s University; Doctor of Humane Letters, Mount Aloysius College, Cresson, Pa.
He was employed by IHB and worked in the agency’s Community Relations Department from 1950 to 1960. From 1960 to 1969 he was associate director of Services for the Deaf-Blind, in charge of overall client welfare. In 1962 he was engaged in a research and demonstration project, conducted by IHB. He was responsible for providing rehabilitative counseling and consultation services in addition to his major activities in community relations. Later, with Helen Keller and Peter Salmon, he played a vital role in the development of legislation which was enacted as part of the 1967 Amendments to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, and which authorized the establishment of the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC).
In 1960, he was elected to membership in the Poetry Society of America and was honored as Poet of the Year for 1960-61. In 1965, he was named “Handicapped American of the Year” by the President’s Committee on Employment of People Who Are Disabled. His awards included the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement, recognition from the New York State Speech and Hearing Association for outstanding contributions in the rehabilitation of the handicapped, the Alice Cogswell Award from Gallaudet University in 1981 for valuable service on behalf of people who are deaf, and was chosen as the Nassau County “Disabled Artist of the Year” in April 1983. He received the “Medal of Excellence” from the New York State Board of Regents in July 1984, and served as Chairman, Legislation and Advocacy Committee, Nassau County Community Advocacy Panel from 1982-84. The Long Island Association (LIA) selected Dr. Smithdas as the recipient of the 1985 Harry Chapin “Humanitarian Award for Community Service,” and in 1988, he was inducted into the National Hall of Fame for Persons with Disabilities. In November 1995, Dr. Smithdas received the Migel Medal for professional achievement from the American Foundation for the Blind in New York, and the Peter J. Salmon Memorial Award from AADB for life-long service to deaf-blind communities around the world in 1998.
In addition to his autobiography, he was the author of several collections of poems, including “City of the Heart,” published by Taplinger Press in 1966, and “Shared Beauty,” in 1983.
Dr. Smithdas and his wife Michelle (who is also deaf-blind) made their home in Port Washington, N.Y., and were featured in an interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20 in October 1998 (re-broadcast in May 1999).
Perhaps his personal philosophy is best summed up by a line from one of his poems, “Shared Beauty”: “I call it Life, and laugh with its delight, Though life itself be out of sound and sight.”
A memorial scholarship fund for HKNC students has been created in Dr. Smithdas’ memory.  In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you send any donations to: Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths & Adults, c/o Marina Carroll, 141 Middle Neck Rd., Sands Point, NY 11050, or e-mail
HKNC will also be compiling memories of Dr. Smithdas. If you have any photos or stories you would like to share, please send them to Allison Burrows at

Affiliate News

Fire Up Your Commitment with Indiana

This year’s ACBI State Convention will be held Sept. 12-14 at the Turkey Run Inn, at Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Ind. Our convention theme this year is “Every degree makes a difference – fire up your commitment with ACBI.”
Activities begin on Friday evening at 7 p.m. and will conclude mid-morning on Sunday with a memorial service for members and friends who have passed away since our last convention.
We have some distinguished presenters this year. Our banquet speaker will be Carla Ruschival from Kentucky. Carla is currently the treasurer of ACB at the national level. Eric Elett from Bosma Enterprises will talk about Bosma’s independent living programs. Katie Frederick, who is the executive director of ACB-Ohio, will give a presentation on interesting technology. Another guest from ACB-Ohio is Chris Schumacher, who will be part of the entertainment Saturday evening. Chris will lead one of the games he set up at last year’s national convention in Columbus, Ohio. And yes, there will be an auction on Friday evening!
Another feature at this year’s convention will be our own members sharing their life experiences. Mike and Kim Trent of Indianapolis will share stories of their travels near and far. The Trents have traveled all over the world, including Australia, Spain and the USA. There will also be a panel of members who have been or currently are guide dog users. They should have some humorous stories to tell.
Our Hall of Vendors will include some old favorites and more. To view the program, visit
Room reservations must be made by Aug. 11.  You will be charged for the first night's lodging when you reserve your room. To make a reservation, call 1-877-563-4371 or go to

Want to Help Start a New Affiliate?

Alexander Scott Kaiser is a young blind adult with cerebral palsy. He would like your help in forming a special-interest affiliate for blind and visually impaired individuals who have cerebral palsy.  His goals in forming an affiliate are to provide socialization, support, education, fellowship, information, advice, mentoring, and legal advocacy. From problem-solving and rehabilitation training issues to civil rights challenges unique to those with physical impairments and blindness/visual impairment, this affiliate will provide support from others who understand.
Meetings will be held by conference call on the first Saturday of the month, beginning Oct. 4, 2014, at 9:59 p.m. Eastern time. To access the conference, dial (567) 704-7620 and use access code 999999#.  If you are interested in joining the affiliate, contact Alexander Scott Kaiser by mail at 2720 Middle Way Lot 129, Forks Township, PA 18040; e-mail him at, or call him at (848) 205-0208.  He hopes to hold an in-person meeting at the 2015 conference and convention.

New Jersey Convention Coming Up

 The New Jersey Council of the Blind will hold its biennial conference at Grace Lutheran Church in Perth Amboy on Oct. 25. Attendees will enjoy a continental breakfast from 8:30 to 9 a.m. before attending the day-long meeting, which will feature election of officers, interesting speakers, door prizes, a 50/50 raffle, and more!  Lunch will be served, too; your choice of a roast beef sandwich, a turkey sandwich, an Italian hoagie, or a tuna salad sandwich.
To register for the conference, or for more information, contact Bob Lucas at (609) 882-2446.

Meet Us in Long Island!

The American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc. will hold its convention Nov. 14-16 in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., located on Long Island. On Thursday, Nov. 13th, there will be a seminar for presidents and treasurers of chapters as well as state officers.  On Thursday evening, we’ll attend an audio-described Broadway show. There will be exhibits on Saturday. Call Mike at (516) 887-1336 for more information.

Letter to the Editor

The contents of this column reflect the letters we had received by the time we went to press, Aug. 6, 2014.  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.
Matilda Ziegler Magazine Discontinued
Editor’s Note: We received the following letter at the office, after receiving many questions from Ziegler readers. We hope it answers your questions.
July 25, 2014
As you are aware, the Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind has been suspended for the past several months pending a review by the board of directors of The E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind. Considerable time was spent evaluating its substance, breadth of distribution, and readers' responses.
With heavy heart, the directors voted to discontinue the weekly magazine and use the foundation's resources solely for scientific research through grants to highly innovative medical researchers who are making important advances in vision research.
We've come a long way from when my great-grandmother, Electa Matilda Ziegler, founded the magazine in 1907 with the goal of producing reading material for the blind "as much as possible like that published for the seeing."  Raised-type books of the era were expensive, and the freely circulated magazine helped to fill an information void.
Today's blind and those with visual impairment can obtain books and magazines in braille, on cassette, and on a cartridge from the National Library Service. Radio, television, Internet, and commercially produced audio books have all become accessible, and provide resources that could not have been imagined in 1907.
Your emails and letters show that we've touched the lives of thousands of blind and vision impaired people. The Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind was once described by Helen Keller as a "godsend," and Mark Twain described it as "one of the noblest benefactions of his lifetime." We hope to realize a medical breakthrough that will be worthy of the same praise.
On behalf of the E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation Board, I sincerely thank you for your loyal readership over our many years.
Cynthia Ziegler Brighton

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.

New Audio Chat Site

Out of the Darkness is a new audio chat site that provides a community in which all people with disabilities can share common interests. To learn more, visit

Penny and Her Marble

“Penny and Her Marble” by Kevin Henkes was National Braille Press’ July 2014 book club selection.  It is a print/braille children’s book available in contracted and uncontracted braille for ages 3 to 5. In this easy-to-read book, Penny, the young mouse of the title, finds a beautiful marble in her neighbor’s yard and takes it home. But is it really hers?  Told in short sentences and simple words with a natural cadence, the story lays out a moral dilemma, lets the heroine find her own solution, and concludes with a reassuringly good outcome.
For more information, visit or call 1-800-548-7323.

Future of Braille Report

Deputy Librarian of Congress Robert J. Dizard Jr. recently released a report exploring issues related to braille.
“The Future of Braille: NLS Braille Summit Presentations and Outcomes” details the proceedings of a conference held by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in partnership with the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., June 19-22, 2013. More than 100 librarians, instructors, producers, and other experts in the field of braille attended the summit.
Panelists discussed improvements in the braille code, methods of producing braille, lowering costs, leveraging technology, and addressing misperceptions about the literacy tool.  Participants recognized that collaboration is the way forward for strengthening braille literacy. The gathering also recommended that NLS support efforts to update braille technology and specifications, and that the service provide a low-cost braille display in the same way that it provides audio-playback equipment.
To read more, view the report online at

Touch of Genius Winners Announced

National Braille Press recently announced its Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation winners: the iBraille Challenge Mobile App submitted by the Braille Institute and California State University Los Angeles, and the Tactile Caliper submitted by Pranay Jain and Anshul Singhal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The iBraille Challenge Mobile App supports braille reading and writing for blind and visually impaired students and is aligned with The Braille Challenge®, a national braille reading and writing contest. In addition, the iBraille Challenge app allows teachers to gather much needed data on how kids learn braille.
The Tactile Caliper is a mechanical device similar to a traditional Vernier Caliper and displays complete measurements in braille that can be read instantaneously with accuracy as fine as one-sixteenth of an inch. The mechanical slide system that forms the braille cells will allow simple braille read-outs to be added to an entire array of items, including home appliances, science and engineering tools, and educational devices at a low cost and without the need for electricity.
Special thanks to the Gibney Family Foundation for their support of the Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation. Applications will soon be available for the 2014 prize.

The ABCs of UEB

The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) recently released a new publication, “The ABCs of UEB,” written by Constance Risjord. This publication outlines the major differences between English Braille, American Edition (EBAE) and Unified English Braille (UEB). Although this is not a comprehensive instruction manual, it provides examples and practice exercises that allow people who already know EBAE to quickly build on their knowledge of braille to understand UEB. The book is available in PDF, BRF, and HTML formats on the BANA website at

Cherokee Braille Code Developed

A Cherokee braille code has been developed by Tamara Kearney of the Commonwealth Braille & Talking Book Cooperative. This code permits the reading and writing of the Cherokee syllabary in braille for the first time.
The full description and use of the code can be found at
The Cherokee syllabary stands as one of the major advancements in literacy among the native peoples of North America. It was invented by Sequoyah between the late 1810s and early 1820s. The creation of the syllabary is noteworthy in that Sequoyah could not previously read or write in any script. It remains today the only example of a modern writing system developed independent of a previous background in an existing writing system.
Cherokee braille is supported in version 2 of Braille2000; see for details. This permits the publication of Cherokee braille from existing and future Cherokee texts. Translation tables have been developed for the open-source Liblouis computer braille translation system; visit for more information.

High Tech Swap Shop

For Sale:
iPhone 5S, one month old, in excellent condition.  Comes with hard plastic case to protect the whole phone, as well as earphones and charger.  It is currently with Verizon, but the sim card can be changed to any other company.  Asking $200. Perkins Brailler in good condition. Asking $100. Talking calculator — asking $15. All payments must be in U.S. or Canadian funds; money orders only.  If interested, contact Nancy Ryder at (319) 217-0439 or
For Sale:
Focus 80 refreshable braille display in great working condition. Does not have Bluetooth capability, but works great for many reading tasks. Asking $700 or best offer. Contact James Konechne via e-mail,, or call after 5 p.m. Central time at (410) 925-0707.
Start-up or recovery CD or floppy disk for Windows XP computer or a memory card for a Kurzweil Reading Edge. Contact Bob Groff Jr. at (501) 589-7577.

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)
Katie Frederick, Columbus, OH (1st term, 2018)
Michael Garrett, Missouri City, TX (final term, 2016)
George Holliday, Philadelphia, PA (final term, 2018)
John McCann, Falls Church, VA (1st term, 2016)
Allan Peterson, Horace, ND (final term, 2018)
Patrick Sheehan, Silver Spring, MD (1st term, 2018)
Dan Spoone, Orlando, FL (1st term, 2016)
David Trott, Talladega, AL (1st term, 2018)
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)
Tom Mitchell, Salt Lake City, UT (1st term, 2016)
Doug Powell, Falls Church, VA (1st term, 2016)
Judy Wilkinson, San Leandro, CA (1st term, 2016)
Ex Officios: Ron Milliman, Bowling Green, KY
Bob Hachey, Waltham, MA
Berl Colley, Lacey, WA