The ACB Braille Forum, January 2015

Downloadable versions available here.
The ACB Braille Forum
Vol. LIII January 2015 No. 7
Published by
the American Council of the Blind
Be A Part of ACB
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 1-800-424-8666.
Contribute to Our Work
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 by the Combined Federal Campaign, use this number: 11155.
Check in with ACB
For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the “Washington Connection” 24/7 at 1-800-424-8666, or read it online.
Listen to ACB Reports by downloading the MP3 file from, or call (231) 460-1061 and choose option 3. Tune in to ACB Radio at or by calling (231) 460-1047.
Learn more about us at Follow us on Twitter at @acbnational, or like us on Facebook at
© 2014 American Council of the Blind
Melanie Brunson, Executive Director
Sharon Lovering, Editor
2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 650, Arlington, VA 22201

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The ACB Braille Forum, January 2015 downloads

President’s Message: ACB and Braille: An Ongoing Commitment, by Kim Charlson

Braille is probably one of the most discussed, requested, and advocated for issues on the agendas of so many people who are blind. Whether you’re asking for braille materials, advocating to get something provided in braille, wanting to learn braille, practicing your braille to get faster, wondering why you need to learn braille … all of these issues are important to ACB.
For the past 16 years, I have had the honor of representing the American Council of the Blind on the board of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA). When I attended my first meeting, I wondered how a small group of people could discuss braille dots for three days. I soon learned the dedication of the BANA board, the volunteers who serve on BANA’s nearly 30 technical and ad hoc committees, the breadth of issues under consideration, and the passion of braille readers, transcribers, educators, producers, about specific braille codes and format guidelines.
I have learned so much about the braille code itself, rules, guidelines, and how thoughtful the BANA board must be when developing new guidelines in one area to ensure that those guidelines don’t conflict with another set of rules or guidelines in another area. Many ACB members serve on BANA committees, helping to develop guidelines in so many areas – chess, foreign language, knit and crochet, chemistry, to name just a few. My thanks to all of these members, and the countless volunteers, who help BANA to do its important work.
After being elected ACB president, I knew that I would need to look for someone else to represent ACB on BANA. I realized that I would have many demands on my plate, and I would be needing assistance to make sure that ACB’s voice on BANA continued to be strong. I wanted to identify someone who had experience with braille, was recognized in the blindness community, and could represent ACB’s perspective, along with that of teachers, students, transcribers, and producers, as well as braille readers. 
I was very pleased to find that person in Sandra Ruconich of Salt Lake City, Utah. Sandy is a braille reader, has taught braille to visually impaired students for nearly 40 years, and to university students preparing to teach visually impaired children and adults. She proofreads the braille version of the monthly youth magazine produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is a member of the National Braille Praxis Committee, which prepares and produces a test which teachers of the visually impaired take to demonstrate braille competency. She served as president of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) from 2006 to 2008.
Sandy has lived all across the country — born in Klamath Falls, Ore., where she attended public school from kindergarten through high school graduation. She holds bachelor's degrees from the University of Washington in music and English; a master's degree from the University of Northern Colorado in special education, with an emphasis in the visually impaired; and a doctorate in special education in the area of visual impairment, with emphasis in assistive technology, from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Sandy has taught braille and technology at the Kentucky and New Mexico schools for the blind and, although semi-retired, continues to teach braille and technology (including braille notetakers and braille displays) in programs administered by the Utah School for the Blind. She has also taught braille courses for New Mexico State University, the University of Northern Colorado, and the University of Utah.
When I asked Sandy what she has time to do when she isn’t working and advocating for braille, she said, “I play the piano, serve as my church organist, enjoy singing, composing and arranging musical pieces. I have been taking harp lessons for four years, it is my adult adventure. I am an avid reader of both braille and audio books; I read audio while I'm doing something else so I can use my time efficiently and braille when I want to see the placement of paragraphs, the spelling of names, etc. I am a technology user (computer, smartphone, braille notetaker, Optacon), and truly believe in its liberating power in my life. I've lived as far west as Oregon and as far south as Tennessee, not to mention several places in between. I've made Utah my home for the past 17 1/2 years and love it here!”
Sandy began representing ACB on BANA in July 2014. If you have questions relating to BANA, you can contact Sandy at or (801) 599-1958. One of the first things she has started to work on is the implementation plan for Unified English Braille (UEB) for current braille readers, both children and adults. UEB is scheduled to go into effect in the United States on Jan. 4, 2016.
BANA is offering a new publication entitled “The UEB Reader,” which is available in a hard-copy braille edition. “The UEB Reader” is a resource designed to introduce braille readers to Unified English Braille (UEB). This introductory hard-copy braille booklet incorporates into one document several key resources found on the BANA web site. “The UEB Reader” includes content from BANA’s publication, an overview of changes from current literary braille to UEB, plus several example documents transcribed in UEB for readers to use as practice. This resource was compiled to help current braille readers become more familiar with UEB and to assist braille readers, transcribers, teachers, and families as they make the transition to UEB. “The UEB Reader” is available free of charge upon request.
To receive a free braille copy of “The UEB Reader,” e-mail me at with your name and address for mailing purposes. Requests for “The UEB Reader,” including your name, address, and phone number, can also be left on the UEB Information Line at (617) 972-7248.
Another resource for reading practice for UEB is “Syndicated Columnists Weekly” (SCW). What better way to learn the UEB than by reading short opinion pieces by America's top journalists? Starting the first week in January 2015, National Braille Press will begin using UEB to translate “Syndicated Columnists Weekly.” This 36-page braille weekly contains the best editorials of the week from diverse papers such as “The Washington Post,” “Salon,” “The New York Times,” “The Chicago Tribune,” etc. It's a nice, short commuter paper, and now, an easy way to gain experience reading UEB. Each issue will include a short symbols chart highlighting new or unusual changes to the code – but not all changes, most of which should be easy for braille readers to determine from context. If you do not already subscribe to SCW, a yearly subscription is $24 ($45 for two years), which is only 46 cents per week. You can subscribe by contacting National Braille Press at or call toll-free 1-800-548-7323.
I urge braille readers to request “The UEB Reader,” or download it and other resources from the BANA web site at The best way to become familiar with UEB is to read more of it. In an effort to assist braille readers in making the transition, “The ACB Braille Forum” will have an article appear in each hard-copy braille edition produced in 2015 in UEB for reading practice. Watch for the first article transcribed in UEB to appear elsewhere in this issue.

Time to Register for Midyear, Legislative Seminar!, by Melanie Brunson

ACB is gearing up for the 2015 affiliate presidents’ meeting and legislative seminar.  It is my hope that everyone who reads this will start making plans to join us for these events.  You can begin by reserving your room at the Holiday Inn National Airport and completing your registration form.
We will again meet at the Holiday Inn National Airport, located at 2650 Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington, Va.  Room rates are $132 per night for singles and doubles, plus 13% tax.
This year’s schedule is a bit different than in past years. The ACB board of directors will meet on Saturday, Feb. 21. The affiliate presidents’ meeting will be one day only this year, Sunday, Feb. 22. Legislative seminar will be on Monday, Feb. 23, and participants will go to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Feb. 24.
Interested in attending?  There are two things you need to do.
Let us know of your intent to attend by completing a registration form by Feb. 9.  Registrations received after Feb. 9 will be assessed a $5 late fee.  You can register online, by phone or e-mail.  To register online, use this link, or find it on in the Quick Links box.  If you prefer to register by phone, call the Arlington office at (202) 467-5081 or 1-800-424-8666, and ask to speak with Francine.  You can also e-mail Francine at
The Holiday Inn National Airport is ready to take room reservations as well. Reservations can be made by phone or online.  To reserve your room online, use this link: You will need to enter our group code, which is ACB, in order to get our rate. To reserve your room by phone, you can call the hotel directly at (703) 684-7200, or use their toll-free number, 1-800-294-5059. Again, remember to give the agent our group code, ACB.
Look for more details as we get closer to midyear, but I hope this information will be enough to get you started making plans to join us.

Touring Texas, by Janet Dickelman

Now that the holidays are over and winter is in full swing, it is time to think about all the excitement the 2015 American Council of the Blind conference and convention has in store for you. Convention dates are Friday, July 3 through Saturday, July 11.
Get ready to shop the exhibit hall (open Saturday through Wednesday), for the latest and greatest in technology and items for home, work, and play!
ACB affiliates and committees are beginning to plan their programs, seminars and mixers, which will begin Saturday, July 4 and run through Thursday, July 9. The program committee is working on presenters for general sessions. The opening general session is Sunday evening; morning sessions run Monday through Thursday, and the all-day Friday session will feature elections and ACB business.
Visiting local attractions is always very popular during the convention. This year we have a great variety of fun, educational, inspirational and thrilling tours. Please keep in mind that due to unforeseen circumstances, dates and tour venues may be changed.

Friday, July 3, Cowboys and Rodeos

AT&T Stadium

Regardless of your status as a football fan, AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, is a fabulous venue well worth seeing. Visit the locker rooms of the team and the cheerleaders. Take a peek into what it would be like to watch a game from a luxury suite. Visit the press box where so many great interviews have taken place.
Learn about the history of the stadium and the teams and big games that have been played there.  Walk onto the playing field and stand on the star at the 50-yard line. Don’t miss out on this VIP tour and lunch!

Mesquite Rodeo

When you think of Texas, one of the first things to come to mind are horses, cattle, and barbecue! Friday evening join ACB at the Mesquite Rodeo.  Of course, this being Texas, we’ll begin the evening with a Texas barbecue. We are working on having audio description for the rodeo, too.

Saturday, July 4, Thrill Seekers and Cowboy Hats

Calling all thrill seekers! Zero Gravity Dallas is the world's only "Thrill Amusement Park" featuring 5 different extreme thrill rides, including the Bungee Jump, the Nothin' But Net, Texas Blastoff, the Skycoaster and the Skyscraper.
Not up for an adrenaline rush? Our other Saturday tour will be to the Stetson factory outlet store, where you’ll learn all about the history and production of cowboy hats and have a chance to bring one home. This tour will also include a visit to the Fort Worth Stockyards for food, shopping and a cattle drive.
Both Saturday and Sunday will feature our always popular city tours; ride in comfort while traveling the city of Dallas learning about its history and unique areas.

Saturday, July 11th, ‘Dallas’ and Horseback Riding

South Fork Ranch

If you ever watched the TV show “Dallas,” this tour is for you. Visit South Fork Ranch, where scenes from the famous TV show were filmed. The house is set up with various rooms where you can touch and learn about the show. Walk out by the famous swimming pool where many scenes were filmed. The tour guides are informative and enthusiastic, and the gift shops amazing!

Horses and a Cookout

Our final tour is to Riding Unlimited. Take a horseback ride; enjoy a hayride and cookout. Bring your guitar; it will be perfect for a sing-along under the stars.

Weekday Tours

During the week we plan to visit numerous sites:

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

This tour will include a customized hands-on experience with artifacts from the museum classroom.
During the tour, touch the World Trade Center steel from the 9/11 portion of the exhibit.  Pretend you are the president while in the replica Oval Office. There are also sculptures of the dogs (Barney, Miss Beazley and Spot) and the cat (India), and in the courtyard there are statues of both Presidents Bush. Exhibits have audio description.

The Dallas Holocaust Museum

This tour will include a very special white-glove tour where our convention attendees can touch artifacts from the Holocaust. There will also be a presentation from a Holocaust survivor.

Heritage Village and Old Red Courthouse

These Dallas historical sites depict life in the 1800s, with many hands-on exhibits and docents who will discuss what life was like in Dallas.

Art Lovers Tour

Meadows Museum of Art features tactile versions of paintings, Biblical art bronze sculptures, and specialized galleries have been created for Biblical archeology, Jewish art, religious architecture, Israeli art, African American art, and Hispanic art.

Sweet Tooth Candy Tour

Since everything is bigger in Texas, our Sweet Tooth candy tour will include not one but two candy retail shops.

Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch

Experience rare and endangered exotic wildlife in a unique and personal setting. What better way to learn about different species than by seeing them up close and hands-on? You’ll be able to pet a kangaroo, camel, lemur and more on this private tour (including lunch), designed for ACB!

Esther's Place (at American Foundation for the Blind

Esther’s Place is an 1,800-square-foot fully furnished model apartment with over 500 adaptive products which are available for hands-on demonstrations. This tour includes lunch.

Frontiers of Flight Museum 

This museum features over 30 aircraft and space vehicles.  See a full-size model of the 1903 Wright Flyer, military aircrafts, Apollo 7 and a Boeing 737-300. Learn the stories of Charles Lindbergh, Bessie Coleman, Richard Byrd, Amelia Earhart, “Jimmy” Doolittle, and many other famous flyers. There are numerous artifacts from air and space travel, many of which will be made available to tour attendees.

Texas Rangers Game

We’re waiting for the baseball schedule to be finalized. If it works out, we’ll take in a game and get a tour of the park.
The dates and full tour descriptions will be available on the conference and convention registration form. This year I will also post tour descriptions along with links to web sites on the convention-announce list.

Reservation Details

Room rates at the Sheraton Dallas are $89 (single, double, triple or quad) plus applicable state and local taxes (currently 13%) and tourism district fees (2%). For reservations by telephone, call 1-888-627-8191 and mention that you are attending the ACB convention in order to obtain our room rate.  To make reservations online, visit and follow the 2015 conference and convention link.
Stay in Touch!
Receive convention updates and information by joining the ACB convention e-mail list. Send a blank e-mail to
Convention Contacts
2015 exhibit information: Michael Smitherman, (601) 331-7740,
2015 advertising and sponsorships: Margarine Beaman, (512) 921-1625,
For any other convention-related questions, contact Janet Dickelman at (651) 428-5059, or via e-mail,

Celebrate Durward’s Centennial: Be a DKM First-Timer, by Allen Casey

As we enter 2015, we prepare for the selection of two new DKM First-Timers, and we pause to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of ACB pioneer Durward K. McDaniel.  Durward’s contributions to ACB’s organizational growth and maturity are legendary.  In recognition of this dedication, the Durward K. McDaniel First-Timers program was created to foster participation of ACB members in the work he dearly loved.
Durward’s contributions are remembered each year with the selection of two DKM First-Timers who attend the national conference and convention as guests of ACB and the DKM committee.  The recipients — one from east and one from west of the Mississippi —receive round-trip air transportation, hotel accommodations (double occupancy), per diem allowance, convention registration fee and a ticket for the DKM reception and ACB banquet.  Eligible applicants must meet each of these qualifications:

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

In keeping with Durward’s commitment to participation, DKM First-Timers are expected to be present for the full convention week and to involve themselves in convention activities, including attendance at daily general sessions and special seminars scheduled throughout the week. Interaction with ACB members from throughout the United States and from several foreign countries strengthens the convention as a social and learning experience.
How do you apply to become a first-timer?  First, you must meet each of the qualifications stated above.  Second, you must submit two letters to the DKM committee:

  • Letter from the applicant outlining personal qualifications, interest in the DKM program and the impact of the first-timer experience in the applicant’s personal and professional growth.  In other words, sell oneself to the committee; and
  • Letter of recommendation from the president of the applicant’s state or special-interest ACB affiliate.

Application materials should be forwarded to Francine Patterson in the ACB national office, The deadline is April 1, 2015.  Questions should be directed to DKM chair Allen Casey,

Announcing the American Council of the Blind Legacy Society

One of the key elements to the success of any not-for-profit organization is the development and implementation of a robust and diversified resource development plan. To accomplish this goal, the American Council of the Blind board of directors and staff have been working extremely hard to enhance its short-term and long-term fundraising efforts by expanding existing programs and establishing new initiatives.
One of these new initiatives, which will be known as the ACB Legacy Society, is aimed at increasing the number of planned gifts that will be made to ACB through the estate planning process, not only by friends of the organization, but also by those interested in our purposes. The Legacy Society has the potential to become an important resource development component that will help to ensure a bright financial future for ACB. If anyone you know might be interested in making a planned gift to ACB, refer them to the following announcement about the ACB Legacy Society, which will also appear on the ACB web site.
In an effort to be more proactive, ACB created the legacy society to honor and recognize individuals who have included ACB in their estate plans via a bequest or another type of planned gift and have communicated their intentions to ACB. According to ACB president Kim Charlson, “We wanted to acknowledge individuals for including ACB in their wills while they were still alive so we could thank them for their interest in perpetuating ACB’s good work for years to come.”
For more information about the legacy society, or to communicate your intentions of including ACB in your estate plans, contact Tom Tobin, director of development, at or by calling 1-800-424-8666.
We thank you for considering ACB’s future financial needs!

Accessing the ACB Forum and E-Forum: Let Me Count the Ways, by Judy Wilkinson

We’re all justifiably proud of the many options our readers have for reading “The ACB Braille Forum” or the E-Forum. Our choices expand daily. We plan to bring new alternatives to you as we identify them. A large number of us now have the new generation Victor Reader Stream, so we’ll begin there, but we also have news for iTunes and iPhone 6 and 6+ users at the end of this article.
Thanks to the new generation Victor Reader Stream, we have the option of downloading the podcast version of the publication automatically every month.  Set your podcast feed up once, and it will be delivered to your Stream when available.
We hope the steps below are clear, but further assistance is available by pressing and holding the 1 key to enter the Stream user’s guide. Information on how to set up a wi-fi connection is in Section 6.8, and on subscribing to podcasts in 6.11 and 8.2.5.

  1. To download podcast feeds, you need to be connected to a wireless network.
  2. Press the top row center button so you’re on the wireless side of the system. Press and hold that button until you hear, “airplane mode off,” and depending what settings you have established, you may also hear, “connected to wi-fi.”
  3. Press the 1 key until you reach the podcast bookshelf.
  4. Press the 6 key until you hear “Add podcast feed” and press the confirm/enter key. Press the 8 key until you hear “HumanWare suggested podcasts.” Press confirm.
  5. When you hear “results found,” press the 6 key until you hear “ACB Braille Forum Podcast: American Council of the Blind” and press confirm. You will hear, “You are subscribed to a new podcast feed.”
  6. Return to your bookshelf by pressing 1. Press the 1 until you are once again on the podcast bookshelf. Sometimes, the most recent podcasts will download automatically, and other times not. Therefore, wait a minute or so and check the download status by pressing and holding the confirm key.
  7. Navigate to the Forum podcast with the 6 and/or 4 depending on which direction you desire, and when you hear “ACB podcast” press enter. You will hear, “0 episodes, get more episodes,” press confirm. Use your 6 key until you hear the month you wish to download and then press confirm.
  8. If you would like to receive “ACB Reports,” a monthly, half-hour audio program on issues related to sight loss and blindness, return to the HumanWare-suggested podcasts and continue to press the 6 key until you hear, “ACB Reports” and press confirm again to subscribe.

If you have any questions about the above process, call me directly at (510) 388-5079.
News Flash
As of Nov. 19, 2014, “The ACB Braille Forum” and “ACB Reports” podcasts are available in the iTunes store. Search for “Braille Forum” in the iTunes store; you will see the RSS feed appear, then you can subscribe to it. Search for “ACB Reports” and that feed will appear as well.
If you have the iPhone 6 or 6+ you can double tap on the podcasts icon and search for either “Braille Forum” or “ACB Reports” and find the podcasts.
Happy listening!

Advocacy, ACB Style, by Mitch Pomerantz

In 2010, several months after becoming a member of the Pasadena (Calif.) Host Lions Club, I was handed a packet containing letters, envelopes and small, crooked plastic canes.  The purpose was to participate in the annual Lions Clubs International (LCI) white cane fundraising activity.  I was, to be perfectly honest, mortified by the use of such an outmoded symbol of blindness.  I mentioned my dissatisfaction to several club members and did not mail out those fundraising letters that year or the next.
Going back to the mid-‘50s when a local Lions Club came to Frances Blend School for the Blind shortly before Christmas to deliver stockings and interact with us kids, I knew that Lions had a connection with “the blind.”  At some point I learned that in 1925, Helen Keller challenged Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”  Even so, those crooked plastic canes still bothered me a lot!  However, with my responsibilities as ACB president, I didn’t have the time to devote myself to club activities and I let the matter of those replica canes pass.
In 2012, I decided to join ACB Lions and became more directly involved in my local club.  Earlier this year I brought up the plastic cane issue on one of our monthly ACB Lions teleconference calls and two members, then-ACBL president Kenneth Semien Sr. and William Benjamin, expressed interest in joining me in drafting a resolution to bring to the annual ACB Lions meeting in July for approval and ultimately, to the full ACB conference and convention for adoption.  A number of ACB Lions members expressed understandable skepticism that such a resolution would make a significant difference in the appearance of the long-standing symbol used by LCI in its white cane fundraising appeal.  Nonetheless, Kenneth, William and I proceeded with a draft resolution, and I thank them for their invaluable assistance.
The resolution, 2014-02 (Lions Replica Canes), outlined the mission of Lions Clubs International and the role played by blind and visually impaired individuals in promoting that mission; described the introduction in 1951 of “a small, plastic cane with a crook for the handle” as a symbol of its annual fundraising campaign; and pointed out that the image of blind people has changed significantly over the past 50 years, as has the type of cane utilized by most blind and visually impaired people for independent travel.  The resolution, which was adopted by the ACB membership, called upon Lions Clubs International “to update its white cane symbol by adopting a replica straight cane to accurately reflect the cane used by the vast majority of blind persons to safely and independently navigate worldwide.”
I must acknowledge the support I received from the board of the Pasadena Host Lions Club in agreeing not to include the crooked cane with its white cane appeal letter this year.  I felt that I’d begun improving our image, if only among the members of my club.  I also have to thank ACB Lion Albert Rizzi, who was acquainted with one of LCI’s international directors, for his advocacy on behalf of our resolution.
In September, ACB received a letter acknowledging receipt of the resolution and informing us that the matter was being investigated.  Most of us who were involved in moving the resolution forward did not expect anything to happen for months, perhaps years.  I am pleased to say how pleasantly surprised and wonderfully wrong we all were.  On Nov. 19, 2014, the ACB national office received a letter from Scott Drumheller, Executive Administrator and Secretary of Lions Clubs International.  The relevant part of Mr. Drumheller’s response follows:
“… Lions Clubs International has decided to update the white cane symbol by adopting a current image of the straight cane, wherever applicable.  To that end, LCI has revised content to the association's White Cane Safety Day web page; revised content to the association's White Cane Fact Sheet; discontinued the old online White Cane sticker; discontinued the cane with the curved handle; encouraged licensees to follow the association's decision to adopt the current image of a straight cane.  In addition, a blog about International White Cane Safety Day appeared on October 15.”
I could not have imagined a better response or a more complete success.  Advocacy ACB style still works, and I am proud and honored to be a member of both the American Council of the Blind and Lions Clubs International.  LCI’s motto is “We serve,” and it is as applicable to ACB as it is to the Lions.

And the Winner Is …, by Mike Godino

After convention this year in Las Vegas, the ACB MMS committee had one last drawing to complete. We had the task of choosing the grand prize winner of the iPad Air.
Throughout the year, the MMS committee comes to you at the national conference and convention, your local affiliate conventions and from “The ACB Braille Forum” requesting your participation in the program.  For your participation, we provide you a trinket as a token of our appreciation while offering you the opportunity to win the grand prize.  However, there is only one grand prize winner for the 2014 iPad Air, and the winner is Sheila Derrick from Fort Worth, Tex. 
Similar to previous drawings, we awaited the entry of all the data so that we were sure all the eligible contestants had equal opportunity to be the lucky winner. When we were sure the data entry was complete, the winner was selected using a random number generator program.  The selection technique was used to ensure total fairness and objectivity for all who participated in the 2014 MMS campaign.  The program considers each eligible contributor as a number, then it selected the winning number 48: Sheila Derrick.  Please join me in congratulating Sheila and thanking her for being a part of this wonderful program.
During the 2013-2014 campaign year, MMS participants increased their monthly contributions by more than $500, which amounts to an annual increase of more than $6,000.  We are extremely pleased with everyone's participation. We are continuing to make slow but steady progress. I sincerely thank all of you who have made this progress possible and look forward to your continued participation and support in the future.
As chair of the MMS committee, I also want to recognize the efforts of the members of our outstanding committee: Dan Spoone, Ray Campbell, Kathy Brockman, Kenny Maddox, and George Holliday.

An important factor affecting the success of our convention campaign is the location and staffing of our MMS table. This year our table was located inside the ACB exhibit area, right next to the ACB Mini Mall, which proved to be an excellent spot. Appreciation goes to the members of our MMS program committee and the people who assisted them staffing our MMS table during the convention. This includes: Kathy Brockman and her husband, Pat; Lori Scharff; Dan and Leslie Spoone; and George Holliday. We also thank Lane Waters, Nancy Becker and the rest of our wonderful staff in our Minnesota office for their extraordinary assistance throughout the entire year and during the convention.
Once again, the campaign was very successful at bringing lots of new participants into the MMS program. We greatly appreciate everyone who contributes to the program, no matter how small or large the contribution is. All contributions are important, and they all add up to helping ACB and its affiliates.
If you want to become a participant in this excellent, painless way of supporting an affiliate of your choice and ACB national at the same time, or to increase your current contribution, you can contact our Minnesota office, 1-800-866-3242, or contact me at (516) 887-1336, and we'll take care of whatever you need. You can also go online; the form is available at

Again, congratulations to Sheila Derrick for winning the iPad Air. Now, who will be the winner for 2015? In order to win, you have to participate. So sign up and be a new contributor, or increase your current contribution. You might already be the next big winner!

Summary of the Fall 2014 ACB Board Meeting, by Denise Colley

The Sheraton Hotel in Dallas, Tex. was the location of the fall 2014 ACB board meeting, which took place Oct. 17-18, 2014.  President Kim Charlson called the Friday portion of the meeting to order at 2:10 p.m.  All board members were present except George Holliday, who was excused.  Staff present were Melanie Brunson, ACB executive director, and Lane Waters, controller.
The board began the afternoon by discussing several items including ACB's mission statement, vision statement, membership benefits, and organizational culture.
ACB's mission statement currently reads: “The American Council of the Blind strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity and quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people.”  We discussed the fact that ACB has many “client” groups, from members to fund-raisers, to politicians and the media and others we're impacting in some way. Does this mission statement need to be broadened?  ACB currently does not have a vision statement; this is needed.
ACB provides a number of programs and services to its members, the blindness community and the general public.  Do we provide all of them as well as we'd like? Will we need to offer a different service mix in the future to recruit and retain members?  We need to better publicize what we're doing to reach people who need and want information.  How do we promote what we do to younger people?
The top three strengths of ACB were identified as advocacy, conference and convention, and democratic principles.  The top three weaknesses were fundraising, lack of communication at all levels, and growing lack of commitment.
The board then went into executive session at 3:51 p.m. and returned to open session at 5:51 p.m.  Charlson reported that the board discussed financial and operational issues, and that no actions were taken.  The meeting recessed at 5:56 p.m.
The board reconvened on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 9:08 a.m. The minutes of the pre- and post-convention board meetings were presented and adopted.
The president’s report began with three motions.  The first motion was to ratify the vote adopting the affiliate liaison policy, the second was to ratify the vote to use matching funds for IRI donor acquisition, and the third was to ratify the vote to engage Netflix in structured negotiations.
Charlson indicated that ACB has been approached by the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) for a contribution to a tribute fund which will be used to honor retiring Sen. Tom Harkin with a contribution to the Tom Harkin Institute for Government at Drake University.  ACB will contribute $250 to this effort.
Melanie Brunson began the D.C. area office report by mentioning that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released its report on how the government is progressing on implementing the court order to make currency accessible.  Among other things, it indicated that the Federal Reserve is not in favor of the tactile marking scheme which the Bureau of Engraving and Printing proposed using, and has told them they need to start over.  This was not reflected in the most recent status report filed with the court, and ACB is seeking an order for a supplemental status report.  Other work is taking place behind the scenes to put pressure on the Obama administration to take a stand in favor of accessible currency.  Melanie will post the GAO report to the board list.
Progress is being made on the 2015 draft ACB budget, and Melanie hopes to have it to the budget committee soon. Preparations are under way for the 2015 ACB midyear meetings.  Registration should be out soon, and staffers are making contact with entities that have sponsored these meetings in the past.
Melanie reported that Tom Tobin is working on the next direct mail appeal.  The year-end membership appeal is ready to go out and will appear in “The ACB Braille Forum.” Tom is also working on the next issue of “Inside ACB.”
Melanie and Eric met with Eve Hill from the Department of Justice.  They discussed accessible currency, ACB’s Section 504 case against the General Services Administration, and the D.C. taxi issues ACB has been working on, among other things.
Melanie will represent ACB at the International Association of Audio Information Services board meeting Nov. 7-8 in Lexington, Ky. She will also be working to acquire the proceeds due to ACB for several cruises which have been put together by David Kronk.
Lane Waters gave the Minneapolis area office report.  He indicated that the convention accounting, 2013 Form 990, and much of the expense side of the draft budget are done.  This office is also working on a number of ACBES issues.
Lane and Carla gave an update on the Affiliate Member Management System (AMMS).  We’re going to simplify AMMS, making its main role to allow for membership tracking and certification for ACB affiliates.  Some new fields will be added on the membership side to allow affiliates to better track who is and is not certified.  Also, “how-to” documents will be created that will help users get more out of AMMS.  There was much discussion on eventually getting all affiliates to use the AMMS.
Carla Ruschival presented the treasurer’s report.  As of Aug. 31, 2014, total support and revenue was $953,200, with total expenses of $774,423. She also reviewed the details of the convention report, which provided an in-depth view of where revenue comes from for the convention, and where we spend money to put it on.  This report compared our convention revenue and expenses for 2014 and 2013.
The board went into executive session at 12:04 p.m. and returned to open session at 1:51 p.m.  Charlson reported that one motion was adopted during executive session.  This motion was that a committee be appointed to research the issues presented by the executive director pertaining to the Virginia Association of the Blind as requested by members of said affiliate, and that this committee report its findings and recommendations to the entire ACB board within 30 days of the adoption of this motion.
Carla Ruschival presented a report on the ACB Mini Mall.  The new mini mall site, which includes a shopping cart, is very close to going live.  She indicated that our mini mall is going to be, virtually, like any mall, with various shops visitors can purchase items from.
The Resource Development Committee report was given by Dan Spoone and Carla Ruschival.  The RDC brought forward a proposal to establish a legacy giving society for ACB, to honor those who have chosen to include ACB in their wills or through another long-term planned gift.  These individuals would be acknowledged and included in the Donor Perfect database.  The board approved the legacy giving society.
The RDC also continues discussing ways to improve other fundraising programs.  As part of this discussion, Charlson indicated she wants to identify professionals in the fields of web design or development who would donate their time to advise ACB on how to improve its web presence.  A committee consisting of Kim Charlson, Ray Campbell, Katie Frederick and Dan Spoone was appointed and will put together a job description to help ACB recruit such professionals.
Melanie brought up the issue of ACB taking a fresh look at the issues and policies for accessible, independent voting.  Since ACB last put together a position statement on these issues, many things in the election world have changed.  A task force will be established to re-examine voting issues, policies and procedures, and develop position statements on them.
Katie Frederick was elected board representative to the public relations committee; John McCann will represent the board on the credentials committee.  The executive committee consists of Charlson, Jeff Thom, Marlaina Lieberg, Katie Frederick and Pat Sheehan.
Janet Dickelman presented the conference and convention report.  She indicated that while she has bids on the table for 2017, she hasn’t engaged in any contract negotiations yet since there could be changes in convention format.  She stated that we need to decide what we’re going to do by the 2015 midyear meetings so she can negotiate a contract and announce the 2017 conference and convention location during the 2015 convention.
Jeff Thom then discussed convention voting procedures.  Individuals who have questions about their voting status will have until close of registration the day before ACB elections to resolve them.  This will be announced several times during convention week.
Janet led the board in a discussion of ways to shorten the convention.  A working group of individuals representing affiliates, committees and others involved with the convention has put forth several ideas. The board provided a number of suggestions and ideas.  Plans will be worked out and presented at the 2015 affiliate presidents’ meeting.
The strategic plan goal groups reported on their progress.  Carla Ruschival indicated that the goal group 1 has not met for a couple of months and will be working to get back on schedule.  She did report that we have 845 Twitter followers, and 641 “likes” on Facebook.  Also, we have over 4,000 ACB Radio listeners a month since the telephone option was added.
Jeff Thom reported for goal group 3.  He indicated that the board handbook has been completed, and that they are looking into some staff training issues.  John McCann reported that goal group 4 is going to be working on changes to the convention standing rules, and some constitution and bylaws amendments, in light of the D.C. non-profit code requirements.
Dan Spoone reported for goal group 2, which is getting close to publishing the next generation fundraising brochure for ACB.  They are also continuing to evaluate each of ACB’s 12 fundraising programs on a quarterly basis. Committees need to track their volunteer hours so we can show how much time people are putting into our organization’s work.
Denise Colley presented the board of publications report.  The BOP has put together guidelines for candidate postings on ACB’s leadership and discussion lists, and has also put together guidelines for general leadership list posting.  These will be sent out and made available along with other list posting guidelines.  The BOP has gotten the Forum surveys back, and they are being analyzed.  BOP members were disappointed by the limited response they got from younger members.
Finally, the BOP is proposing that the candidates’ forum be part of a convention general session, and that it be held the day after the nominating committee report.  The BOP is strongly opposed to eliminating the candidates’ forum altogether.
The board discussed several program ideas for the 2015 ACB presidents’ meeting.  They included:

  • AMMS demonstration;
  • Discussion of the importance of state affiliates not only maintaining 501(c)(3) status, but also state status as a non-profit or charity;
  • An RDC discussion that could include how to use ACB’s annual giving societies in addition to MMS;
  • Conversation on the role of affiliate liaisons;
  • Discussion of sustaining ACB affiliates into the future;
  • Discussion and ideas for shortening the conference and convention;
  • Discussion of D.C. non-profit code issues and their impact on special-interest affiliates; and
  • Discussion about collaboration with other organizations.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 5:40 p.m.

Affiliate News

Happy New Year to All

It is hard to believe that we are in 2015 already. The board will soon start working on the conference/convention in Dallas. If anyone has any suggestions about speakers, panel discussions, topics of interest, etc., please let me know. Remember, this affiliate belongs to you members, not just the board.
Now is also the time to renew your membership! Dues are just $10 per year. Send them to our treasurer, Alice Ritchhart, at 139 Altama Connector, Suite 188, Brunswick, GA 31525. Please get your dues to her by Feb. 1, and include your name, address, e-mail, phone number and newsletter format (e-mail, large print, braille or cassette).
This is a great time for those of you who are diabetics or have a family member who is or just interested in diabetes to join our affiliate. I hope to see a lot of new names on our membership list!  Let’s make this affiliate one of the greatest affiliates in ACB!
Best wishes to all in 2015!

New Affiliate for Those with Cerebral Palsy

Alexander Scott Kaiser is a young blind adult with cerebral palsy. He needs your help to start 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 last Saturday of the month, starting Jan. 31, 2015, at 9:59 p.m. Eastern time. To access the conference, dial (567) 704-1512 and use access code 999999#. If you are interested in joining, contact Alexander Scott Kaiser, 52 Meadowbrook Rd., Brick Township, NJ 08723-7850; send e-mail to, or call him at (848) 205-0208. He would like to hold an in-person meeting at the 2015 conference and convention.

Take the Cruise of a Lifetime, and Assist Guide Dog Users, Inc.

GDUI has recently signed a contract with Dave Kronk of Travel One to organize and conduct an exciting cruise for us. The cruise will depart Dec. 5, 2015 and return Dec. 12, 2015. 
Where will we go? Our ship, the Carnival Valor, will depart from Port Canaveral, Fla., and go through the Caribbean, with ports of call in Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Grand Turk.
This expedition will be sailing at the perfect time to allow us to do a little shopping for the 2015 holiday season, while at the same time giving us an opportunity to help GDUI. One of the many nice benefits of this particular package is that should a traveler wish, he or she may make monthly payments.
Prices are as follows: interior cabin, $866.53; private balcony cabin, $1,116.53.  All rates include 7-day cruise, port charges, taxes and gratuities.  To book your vacation and help GDUI, call Dave Kronk at (618) 409-0143 or e-mail him at
We look forward to meeting many of you aboard!

Letters from Our Readers: Animal Planet, by Penny Reeder

As the president of Guide Dog Users, Inc., I appreciated Patricia Marx's article ("Pets Allowed," October 20th). Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it is legal to travel just about anywhere with guide dogs, and the lives of people with disabilities have improved dramatically. But recently our access has been compromised by the increasing number of untrained, often uncontrolled pets that illegitimately share the spaces we frequent with service animals. The other day, I heard about a guide dog that was attacked at a grocery store by an out-of-control pet that was misrepresented as an emotional-support dog. The incident resulted in an emergency trip to the vet, hours of worry, and cancelled travel plans for the disabled person. The beautiful guide dog was left with a disfiguring scar on its face. Such incidents happen frequently, and sometimes result in high medical bills and a significant loss of freedom for the owners who can't rely on their dogs for safe travel, causing them to miss work and to experience immobilizing anxiety. Excellent guide dogs may be forced into early retirement. When people misrepresent their pets, business owners become suspicious and hostile toward anyone who claims to be travelling with a service animal. The aim of my organization is to educate the public and advocate for legislation that punishes those who misrepresent their pets as service animals. Sixteen states have passed laws that define the misrepresentation of a pet as a service animal as a crime; we continue to petition across the country to make this a punishable offense.
Penny Reeder
President, Guide Dog Users, Inc.
Silver Spring, Md.

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.

Piano Technology School Seeks Executive Director

The School of Piano Technology for the Blind is seeking an executive director.  His or her key responsibility is providing leadership to ensure the school has the necessary financial resources to successfully fulfill its mission.  The executive director develops policies and strategies for the organization and holds primary responsibility for their implementation, and is the chief spokesperson for the school. He/she represents the organization and its mission to donors, alumni, state and national agencies for the blind, state vocational rehabilitation departments, foundations and other funding sources, such as media, volunteers and other non-profit organizations. The executive director has overall supervisory responsibility for the entire school staff, including the director of instruction, to whom is delegated the responsibility for the operation, development and implementation and outcomes of the school’s educational programs.
To apply, you must have:

  • Demonstrated experience in fundraising with major donors as well as writing and securing grants, cultivating foundation support, planning and executing fundraising events, and experience in managing donor mail campaigns; 
  • Demonstrated communications skills.  Experience in communicating with board members, donors, employees, alumni, foundations and the media;
  • Experience and ability in financial management, including the development and the maintaining of budgets;
  • Experience overseeing retail operations, including sales, is desired;
  • Demonstrated leadership skills and collaborative management style;
  • Ability and experience to implement and manage strategic plans;
  • Ensures compliance with standards set by accrediting, regulatory, state and federal entities;
  • Contact for student recruitment efforts, both externally (conventions) and internally (prospect visits);
  • Work with the school alumni association, keeping them aware of the school’s accomplishments and needs;
  • Ability to convey the mission of the School of Piano Technology for the Blind and motivate and inspire the community through public interactions;
  • Ability and experience with volunteer recruitment and retention; and
  • Be passionate about helping people overcome disabilities to achieve independence and self-sufficiency.
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher degree preferred.

This position will remain open until a qualified candidate is chosen.  Individuals interested in applying may submit a resume and cover letter addressing how their personal and professional qualifications meet those listed above, to: Search Committee, School of Piano Technology for the Blind, 2510 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, WA 98661; e-mail
For more information about the School of Piano Technology for the Blind, visit The School of Piano Technology for the Blind is an equal opportunity employer and offers a competitive salary and benefits package, dependent on experience. 

2015 Peanuts "Love Is..." Calendar – and More!

National Braille Press now has available its 2015 print-braille calendar. The 2015 Peanuts calendar celebrates the famous "Love Is ..." series, with a "love is" quote and drawing each month to illustrate the many ways that love can express itself! All your favorite Peanuts characters are here: Linus, Sally, Peppermint Patty, Pigpen, Lucy, Charlie Brown, and — of course — Snoopy!
This wall calendar is 12"x12" (hanging on the wall it's 12" wide and 24" tall). The braille is included on clear plastic labels that go right over the print pages. And it features a sheet of 60 full-color stickers to mark birthdays, appointments, and other important days.
For more information, visit, or call 1-800-548-7323.

NBP also has available “Recipes from my Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food” by Christine Ha. It consists of 3 braille volumes, or one braille-ready file (BRF).

After losing her sight in her twenties, Ha had to re-learn to cook without sight. Using adaptive techniques, coupled with years of culinary experience, Christine turns out dishes that speak to the best of Asian and American comfort food. She offers tips on how to create delicious food at home interlaced with a personal narrative bolstered by her background as a gifted writer.  For the full recipe list — there are over 80! — and more information, visit Or call NBP at the number above.

Verizon Wireless’ National Accessibility Customer Service Center

On Oct. 15, 2014, Verizon Wireless unveiled the National Accessibility Customer Service (NACS). Designed to support people with special needs and requirements, the Charleston, South Carolina-based center has approximately 200 dedicated representatives to address individual mobile needs — whether it is providing guidance on device selection, technical support or account transactions.
To reach the NACS, call toll-free 1-888-262-1999; the center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern. Customers calling after hours will speak with other customer service and technical support representatives. Customers can also utilize the chat services found on

Seeking Computer Teacher

Bob Groff Jr. is seeking a computer teacher to teach him basic Windows XP Home edition commands and NVDA. Call him at (501) 589-7577.

Spelling App for the Visually Impaired

I am a mother of a bright 10-year-old kid who happens to be blind. He is very good at picking up concepts and is a voracious reader.  But I realized his spelling was a little weak. So I decided to make an app for him to help him practice spelling on the go, on an iPad. You can find the app at
I would be really happy if more kids could use and give feedback, and let us know how we could make it better. Send your suggested improvements to

High Tech Swap Shop

For Sale:

3 boxes of unpunched braille paper, 500 sheets per box, in sizes 8 ½” by 11” and 11 ½” by 11”. Asking $15 per package. Will ship free matter for the blind. Contact Irena Franchi at, or via phone, (305) 932-8856.

For Sale:

PAC Mate Omni QX 400 in excellent condition.  Comes with flash memory card, wireless Internet card, power adapter, braille display (choose 20-cell or 40-cell), and all documentation. Asking $2,000 or best offer. Contact Shawn Cox at, or call him at (585) 905-8630.

ACB Officers and Board

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: Nolan Crabb, Hilliard, OH
Bob Hachey, Waltham, MA
Berl Colley, Lacey, WA

Accessing Your ACB Braille and E-Forums

The ACB E-Forum may be accessed by e-mail, on the ACB web site, via download from the web page (in Word, plain text, or braille-ready file), or by phone at (231) 460-1061. To subscribe to the e-mail version, visit the ACB e-mail lists page at
The ACB Braille Forum is available by mail in braille, large print, half-speed four-track cassette tape, data CD, and via e-mail. It is also available to read or download from ACB’s web page, and by phone, (231) 460-1061.
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