The ACB E-Forum, February 2015

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The ACB E-Forum
Volume LIII February 2015 No. 8
Published by
the American Council of the Blind
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© 2015 American Council of the Blind
Melanie Brunson, Executive Director
Sharon Lovering, Editor
2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 650, Arlington, VA 22201
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President’s Message: Randolph-Sheppard: A Program Providing Opportunities, by Kim Charlson

How many of you recognize the phrase: “Blind Businessmen and Businesswomen Building a Better America.” This is the powerful motto of RSVA — the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, one of ACB’s largest special interest affiliate. RSVA is committed to improving economic opportunities for blind vendors by promoting participation in the Business Enterprise Program. RSVA works to expand opportunities, better working conditions, and actively negotiates more favorable merchandise pricing from suppliers for blind vendors. In many states, blind vendors have joined together to form state affiliates that carry out the objectives and programs of RSVA. RSVA supports advocacy efforts at the local level helping individual members needing assistance or legal support, and it works on legislation to expand and improve the programs in states like Louisiana, and with legislation currently pending in Oregon.
As background, the Randolph-Sheppard Act was enacted into law in 1936 and has been amended several times since, with the most significant amendments being passed in 1974. The intent and end result of the legislation is the gainful employment of individuals who are blind through the operation of vending facilities in federal, state, county or municipal buildings. Vendors work in a variety of settings including vending machine routes, snack bars, and/or cafeterias.
On Jan. 20, 2012, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum — Federal Support for the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program. Here is a brief excerpt:
“Thousands of Americans who are blind have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit that helps define our Nation as a land of opportunity. Through the Federal Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program administered by the Department of Education, talented and creative individuals who are blind have acquired the management training and business skills necessary to realize the American dream — a lifetime of economic opportunity, independence, and self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.
“For 75 years, blind business managers have successfully operated food services and commercial ventures at Federal, State, and private buildings and locations nationwide. We honor and celebrate this program's historic achievements. We also trust that the Randolph-Sheppard Program will continue to be a leading model for providing high-quality entrepreneurial opportunities for blind individuals. From a simple snack shop, to tourist services at the Hoover Dam, to full food-services operations at military installations, blind entrepreneurs have provided exceptional customer service to Federal and State employees, the Armed Forces, and the general public. With proven ability, they have challenged preconceived notions about disability.
“The Randolph-Sheppard Act created the Vending Facility Program requiring qualified blind individuals be given a priority to operate vending facilities on Federal properties. This program is responsible today for providing entrepreneurial opportunities for over 2,500 individuals who are blind. In turn, these business managers have hired thousands of workers, many of whom are individuals with disabilities. Every American, including persons with disabilities, deserves the opportunity to succeed without limits, earn equal pay for equal jobs, and aspire to full-time, career-oriented employment.
“Continued support and cooperation are needed from executive departments, agencies, and offices (agencies) to extend the Randolph-Sheppard priority to qualified blind managers through the State licensing agencies that implement the program. Therefore, I direct all agencies that have property management responsibilities to ensure that agency officials, when pursuing the establishment and operation of vending facilities (including cafeterias and military dining facilities), issue permits and contracts in compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Program and consistent with existing regulations and law. I further direct the Secretary of Education, through the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, to submit a report to the President on agencies' implementation of the Randolph-Sheppard Program not later than 1 year from the date of this memorandum. … BARACK OBAMA”
ACB and RSVA have been working collaboratively to improve our working relationship with the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) office that administers the Randolph-Sheppard program nationwide. We are very pleased that RSA is considering funding a marketing campaign to encourage more people who are blind to enter into the vending program as a positive, productive and lucrative career option. We further urge RSA to complete the report to the President on agencies' implementation of the Randolph-Sheppard program that was called for in the presidential memorandum by the spring of 2015.
February is an important month for RSVA, as blind vendors gather in Las Vegas for the Sagebrush conference. From Feb. 9-13, 2015, exhibitors and speakers will enlighten and inform blind vendors on developments in the marketplace and the program overall. If you are unable to attend, try listening to RSVA’s live coverage on This coverage is provided by Brian Charlson and Rick Morin — veteran ACB Radio broadcasters.
My congratulations to RSVA for a successful conference, and to all of your programs and services to promote employment for men and women who are blind in this country. Keep up the great work!

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing Launches Phase 2 of Money Reader Distribution Program, by Melanie Brunson

Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the U.S. government will make free money identifiers available to any citizen of the U.S. who cannot read regular print because of blindness or a visual impairment and who completes a required application.  The good news about this program is that eligibility is no longer limited to individuals who are current patrons of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).  Any citizen of the United States who meets the eligibility requirements related to reading can apply.  It is unclear at the time of this writing whether non-citizens who are legal residents of the U.S. are also eligible, but until we are advised otherwise, we urge anyone who falls into this category to apply.
The disappointing news about this program concerns changes that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) has made to the application process.  In order to receive a currency reader under this program, individuals who are blind or have visual impairments that prevent them from reading regular print must complete an application that is in regular print.  There are two ways to obtain a copy of the application.  It is available from either of two web sites: or   From either site, you can print a copy of the application.  It can then be filled out, signed, and mailed to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Applications can also be obtained by calling a call center that the BEP has set up to handle telephone requests for applications.  The phone number to call is 1-844-815-9388.  Applications will be sent by mail, with instructions about where to mail them when they are completed.
The application includes a certification requirement — that the applicant has a disability that prevents him or her from reading regular print.  Individuals who are registered with NLS can check a box indicating that they are current users of this service and are not required to provide any further certification.  Other people will need to follow the instructions regarding obtaining certification from a qualified professional.
Once applications are submitted, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will review them and send those that are deemed eligible to the National Library Service, which will continue to be responsible for sending out the money identifiers to individuals who qualify to receive them.
Finally, here’s a bit of information for any of you who either already have or will receive a money identifier in the future.  There have been reports that some people have received money identifiers that were defective. Anyone who receives a unit that does not work properly should contact the BEP call center at 1-844-815-9388.
Please let us know if you have questions or comments about this program.  We will continue to keep you informed of any further developments regarding the distribution of money identifiers, as well as the longer term goal of obtaining currency that is identifiable without the aid of such devices or other assistance.

Congress Passes ABLE Act: Major Victory for People with Disabilities and Their Families

(Editor’s Note: This article comes to us from the National Disability Institute.)
On Dec. 16, 2014, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 by a vote of 76 to 16. First introduced in 2006, the ABLE Act will allow people with disabilities (with an age of onset up to 26 years old) and their families the opportunity to create a tax-exempt savings account that can be used for maintaining health, independence and quality of life.
“Today marks a new day in our country’s understanding and support of people with disabilities and their families,” stated Michael Morris, National Disability Institute’s (NDI) executive director. “A major victory for the disability community, ABLE, for the very first time in our country’s policy on disability, recognizes that there are added costs to living with a disability. For far too long, federally imposed asset limits to remain eligible for critical public benefits have served as a roadblock toward greater financial independence for the millions of individuals living with a disability.”
NDI has long championed the ABLE Act as a critical strategy to providing a pathway to a better economic future for all people with disabilities. As the nation’s first non-profit dedicated to improving the financial health and future of all people with disabilities, the organization has extensively documented and called attention to the daily reality and extra expenses associated with living with a disability, and the challenges of navigating the complex web of government rules to maintain public benefits eligibility.
In recognition of this unprecedented legislation, NDI has created a list of 10 items about ABLE accounts that individuals with disabilities and their families should know.
ABLE Accounts: 10 Things You Must Know
1.  What is an ABLE account?
ABLE accounts, which are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families, will be created as a result of the passage of the ABLE Act of 2014. Income earned by the accounts would not be taxed. Contributions to the account made by any person (the account beneficiary, family and friends) would not be tax-deductible. 
2.  Why the need for ABLE accounts?
Millions of people with disabilities and their families depend on a wide variety of public benefits for income, health care and food and housing assistance. Eligibility for these public benefits (SSI, SNAP, Medicaid) requires meeting a means or resource test that limits eligibility to individuals to report more than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds and other items of significant value. To remain eligible for these public benefits, an individual must remain poor. For the first time in public policy, the ABLE Act recognizes the extra and significant costs of living with a disability. These include costs related to raising a child with significant disabilities, or a working-age adult with disabilities, for accessible housing and transportation, personal assistance services, assistive technology, and health care not covered by insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
For the first time, eligible individuals and families will be allowed to establish ABLE savings accounts that will not affect their eligibility for SSI, Medicaid and other public benefits. The legislation explains further that an ABLE account will, with private savings, “secure funding for disability-related expenses on behalf of designated beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurance, Medicaid, SSI, the beneficiary’s employment and other sources.” 
3.  Am I eligible for an ABLE account?
Passage of legislation is a result of a series of compromises. The final version of the ABLE Act limits eligibility to individuals with significant disabilities with an age of onset of disability before turning 26 years of age. If you meet this criterion and are also receiving benefits under SSI and/or SSDI, you are automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account. If you are not a recipient of SSI and/or SSDI, but still meet the age of onset disability requirement, you would be eligible to open an ABLE account if you meet SSI criteria regarding significant functional limitations. The regulations to be written in 2015 by the Treasury Department will have to explain further the standard of proof and required medical documentation. You need not be under the age of 26 to be eligible for an ABLE account. You could be over the age of 26, but must have the documentation of disability that indicates age of onset before the age of 26.
4.  Are there limits to how much money can be put in an ABLE account?
The total annual contributions given by all participating individuals, including family and friends, is limited to $14,000. The amount will be adjusted annually for inflation. Under current tax law, $14,000 is the maximum amount that individuals can make as a gift to someone else and not pay taxes (gift tax exclusion). The total limit over time that could be made to an ABLE account will be subject to the individual state and their limit for education-related 529 savings accounts. Many states have set this limit at more than $300,000 per plan. However, for blind and visually impaired individuals who are recipients of SSI and Medicaid, the ABLE Act sets some further limitations. The first $100,000 in ABLE accounts would be exempted from the SSI $2,000 individual resource limit. If and when an ABLE account exceeds $100,000, the beneficiary would be suspended from eligibility for SSI benefits and no longer receive that monthly income. However, the beneficiary would continue to be eligible for Medicaid. States would be able to recoup some expenses through Medicaid upon the death of the beneficiary.
5.  Which expenses are allowed by ABLE accounts?
A “qualified disability expense” means any expense related to the designated beneficiary as a result of living a life with disabilities. These include education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services and other expenses which will be further described in regulations to be developed in 2015 by the Treasury Department.
6.  Where do I go to open an ABLE account?
Each state is responsible for establishing and operating an ABLE program. If a state should choose not to establish its own program, the state may choose to contract with another state to offer eligible individuals the opportunity to open an ABLE account.
After President Obama signs the ABLE Act, the Secretary of the Department of Treasury will begin to develop regulations that will guide the states in terms of a) the information required to be presented to open an ABLE account; b) the documentation needed to meet the requirements of ABLE account eligibility for a person with a disability; and c) the details of “qualified disability expenses” and the documentation that will be needed for tax reporting.
No accounts can be established until the regulations are finalized following a public comment period on proposed rules for program implementation. States will begin to accept applications to establish ABLE accounts before the end of 2015. 
7.  Can I have more than one ABLE account?
No. The ABLE Act limits the opportunity to one ABLE account per eligible individual.
8.  Will states offer options to invest the savings contributed to an ABLE account?
Like state 529 college savings plans, states are likely to offer qualified individuals and families multiple options to establish ABLE accounts with varied investment strategies. Each individual and family will need to project possible future needs and costs over time, and to assess their risk tolerance for possible future investment strategies to grow their savings. Account contributors or designated beneficiaries are limited by the act to change the way their money is invested in the account up to two times per year.
9.  How many eligible individuals and families might benefit from establishing an ABLE account?
There are 58 million individuals with disabilities in the United States. To meet the definition of significant disability required by the legislation to be eligible to establish an ABLE account, the conservative number would be approximately 10 percent of the larger group, or 5.8 million individuals and families. Further analysis is needed to understand more fully the size of this market and more about their needs for new savings and investment products.
10.  How is an ABLE account different from a special needs or pooled trust?
An ABLE account will provide more choice and control for the beneficiary and family. The cost of establishing an account will be considerably less than either a Special Needs Trust (SNT) or Pooled Income Trust. With an ABLE account, account owners will have the ability to control their funds and, if circumstances change, still have other options available to them.  Determining which option is the most appropriate will depend upon individual circumstances. For many families, the ABLE account will be a significant and viable option in addition to, rather than instead of, a trust program.

Come to Dallas, Where the Stars Shine Bright, by Janet Dickelman

Come one and all to the 54th annual conference and convention of the American Council of the Blind. The city of Dallas and the Sheraton Dallas hotel are getting ready for our arrival. By the time you read this article, plans will be well under way! Convention dates are Friday, July 3 through Saturday, July 11th.
The theme of this year’s convention is ACB – Where the Stars Shine Bright. Texas is the Lone Star State, and many Texas song lyrics feature words about stars shining bright. This summer, all of you will be the shining stars at the 2015 ACB conference and convention!

Career Development

Are there activities that can help you in your career?
The 2015 conference and convention will be filled with information about important issues affecting those who are blind and visually impaired as well as the latest new adaptive technology.
Here's a sampling of these outstanding opportunities; share them with your employer and explore the possibility of using at least part of your time in Dallas as professional development.  Perhaps your employer will even assist with part of your expenses or give you a few days of professional development time.


Compare and contrast the latest products for blind and visually impaired people.  Discover which video magnifier, scanner, braille display, notetaker or speech program best meets your needs or the needs of your students or clients.  Examine an endless variety of products for work, school and daily living.  Collect materials to take home to others in your office or organization.  You will want to spend hours and hours browsing the exhibit hall; it opens on Saturday, July 4 at 1 p.m. and closes on Wednesday, July 8, at 1 p.m.

Workshops and Focus Groups

Every conference and convention features unique opportunities to learn new skills, tips and techniques on a wide range of topics.  Seminars on diabetes, employment issues, rehabilitation, transportation and access to off-the-shelf technology are some examples.  Get instruction and tips on items such as i-devices, screen readers, braille notetakers, low-vision products, and much more.

Programs and Discussions

Learn about audio description by attending ACB movie night.
ACB general sessions (Sunday evening, Monday-Thursday 8:30 a.m.-noon, and all day Friday), address education, rehabilitation, employment, access, health-related issues, and much more.  The presentation by a talking book narrator and update on library services are always popular.
There are many other opportunities for career development at the 2015 ACB conference and convention; please come and join us!

Scheduling Events

When scheduling an event at the 2015 conference and convention, please keep the following times in mind. Breakfasts begin at 7:00; lunches begin at 12:15.
There are five convention session times. Session one (1:15 to 2:30) is reserved for special-interest affiliates. Sessions two (2:45 to 4:00) and three (4:15 to 5:30) are open to special-interest affiliates and ACB committees. Sessions four (5:45 to 7:00) and five (7:15 to 8:30) are available to affiliates, committees and others not affiliated with ACB.
Anyone wishing to schedule programs or activities in Dallas, including activities outside the hotel, must submit information directly to me.
To be listed on the pre-registration form, information should be submitted by March 29; for inclusion in the program, please send information by April 26.
Make all arrangements related to conference and convention events, including reserving meeting rooms, ordering food or audio-visual equipment, etc., by contacting me directly at (651) 428-5059 or via e-mail,

Stay in Touch

Again this year, the convention announce list will be filled with information about the convention. Subscribe to the list today by sending a blank e-mail to If you've been on the list in the past, you don’t need to subscribe again.
Don't have e-mail? No problem! New this year: convention updates will also be featured on ACB Radio and by telephone through Audio Now.

Hotel 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 be sure to mention you are attending the ACB convention in order to obtain our room rate. To make reservations online, visit and follow the 2015 convention link.

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, convention chair, at (651) 428-5059 or via e-mail,

Come and Bid at the Lone Star Loot Auction!

Hey all you cowgirls and cowboys, what’s more fun than a Texas cattle drive? The Lone Star Loot Auction, of course. It’s the blow-out of the summer, and if you’re comin’ to the 2015 ACB conference and convention in Dallas, it can’t be missed!
Yessirree, the evening of Wednesday, July 8 will be filled with bargains, with the proceeds supporting the American Council of the Blind. Games, food, jewelry, vacations, and some surprises that you’ll only find at a Texas auction.
If you are able to donate an item to the auction, you need to provide auction committee chair Leslie Spoone with a description of the item by May 31, either via e-mail, or by telephone, (407) 929-9837. You may ship the item to ACB Auction, Leslie Spoone, 3924 Lake Mirage Blvd., Orlando, FL  32817-1554, but the item must be received by May 31.
Finally, unless a donor arranges to pay for shipping, the cost and responsibility for shipping items that cannot be carried home will be that of the winning bidder. For that reason, we would urge donors of items that may need to be shipped home, such as baskets, to consider packing them in a box or other manner that will either allow the item to be carried home or easily prepared for shipping.
So, you cowpokes remember that the biggest show in Dallas is going to be the Lone Star Loot Auction!

There’s a First Time for Everything, by Allen Casey

As old as history itself is the frequently quoted axiom, “There’s a first time for everything.”  The universe of examples is infinite.  But there is one first-time experience that is unique to ACB — the Durward K. McDaniel First-Timer program.
Two ACB members will be chosen to attend, for their first time, the 2015 national conference and convention in Dallas as guests of ACB and the DKM committee.  To be eligible, you must be age 18 or older; blind or visually impaired; a member in good standing of ACB; and never have attended a previous national conference and convention.  You also must submit two documents to the DKM committee  a personal letter of application outlining your qualifications, experience and interest, and a letter of recommendation from the president of your state or special-interest ACB affiliate and participate in a telephone interview.  Two applicants one from east and one from west of the Mississippi River will be selected as 2015 DKM first-timers and will receive an expense-paid trip to Dallas, including round-trip air fare, hotel accommodations (double occupancy), per diem allowance, convention registration fee and tickets to the DKM reception and ACB banquet.  In addition, first-timers participate in convention activities, from the opening session Sunday evening to the closing banquet Friday evening.
The two first-timers will join 2014 DKM first-timers Carol McGhee of West Virginia and Steve Fiksdal of Washington as the newest members of the DKM family.  Letters of application and recommendation must be received in the ACB national office not later than April 1 and should be directed to Sharon Lovering, Questions should be directed to DKM chair Allen Casey, or (336) 222-0201.  The first time only happens once; don’t pass up your opportunity!
Allen Casey

Santa Comes to ACB Radio, by Carla Ruschival

ACB held its third annual Holiday Auction on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, and the evening was filled with fun and surprises. But the biggest surprise was the outcome far, far exceeding our expectations. Here's the story.
The Holiday Auction Committee held its first meeting in late August. Brian Charlson and I were co-chairs; Patti Cox, Marlaina Lieberg, Larry Turnbull, Paula Wiese, and Lori Sarff (Minneapolis staff liaison) served on the committee. At its first meeting, the committee set two goals: (a) to obtain 60 items to be auctioned, and (b) to raise a record $6,000 for ACB Radio.
Auction night came. The auction broadcast team was in place at the iHeartMedia studios in Louisville, Ky.: Michael McCarty and I, on-air; Patti Cox and Paula Wiese, taking bids; and Jim Fenn and Larry Turnbull, producing and keeping us on the air. Items were donated; auction preview pages were on the ACB web site; Twitter tweets had been tweeted and Facebook posts had been posted; promotional e-mails were all over the ACB lists. Auction promos had been played throughout the big week-long ACB Radio 15th anniversary celebration. The Minnesota office was ready to process payments and ship items to the lucky winners.
It was 7 p.m. Eastern — Holiday Auction time on ACB Radio. People were listening on the Internet; people were listening on the phones. Kim Charlson, ACB president, was on the air, welcoming everyone to the big event. It was time to let the bidding begin.
Things got off to a slow start. At 7:30 Michael and I really weren't sure about reaching that $6,000 goal.
But then up came item 11 — the old-time radio package donated by Bill Sparks from Indianapolis. When a $1,000 bid came in on that item, the highest bid we had ever received in a holiday auction, I thought the item would sell. But was I wrong! The bidders didn't even pause for breath. Phone calls kept coming, and a few minutes later the item sold to Marcia Dresser for $2,500. We knew then we would make our goal, but we still had no idea what was in store for ACB Radio that night.
Four hours later, we went off the air. The bidding was over; every item had sold. As we walked down the hall from the studio to catch our rides home, Jim Fenn asked me if I was pleased with the auction; he guessed that we had raised between $7,000 and $8,000.
At midnight, sitting at my kitchen table, my husband Adam and I were totaling the successful bids. Shortly after 12:30 a.m., we called Brian and Kim Charlson, and we all shared in the excitement of an unbelievable record-breaking evening.
And now, for the total. Thanks to all of our fabulous donors and bidders, the 2014 ACB Radio Holiday Auction raised $11,155 — nearly double our original goal and more than the previous two auctions combined.
An auction must have two things to be successful — donors and bidders. 34 donors contributed a total of 64 items to the auction. A huge thanks to our generous 2014 donors: American Council of Blind Lions; ACB Mini Mall; ACB of Minnesota, Marian Haslerud and Sue Olson; Arizona Council of the Blind; Margarine Beaman; Kathy Brandt; Melanie Brunson; Brian Charlson; Kim Charlson; Patti Cox; Caroline Denham; Dan Dillon; Florida Council of the Blind; Maureen Foley; Kay Fulghum; Greater Louisville Council of the Blind; Guide Dog Users, Inc.; Horizons for the Blind; Donna Jodhan and Sterling Productions; Kathryn Johnson and USS Moontype; Kentucky Council of the Blind; Library Users of America; Marlaina Lieberg; Louisiana Council of the Blind; Marlaina's Mediterranean Kitchen; Francine Patterson and Pinkery Hill Jewelry; Philadelphia Metro Council of the Blind; Karen Pounders and Aloha Spa; Adam Ruschival; Carla Ruschival; Sacramento Braille Transcribers; Bill Sparks; Tami Sioux Silver Belts and Jewelry; and Washington Council of the Blind.
Many, many generous people from across the United States and Canada bid throughout the evening; 48 extremely generous folks won items in the 2014 auction. Those winners were: Bob Acosta, Ruth Ann Acosta, Sue Ammeter, Bill Baessler, Eugene Batke, Natalie Beyers, Melanie Brunson, Karyn Campbell, Jason Castonguay, Brian Charlson, Kim Charlson, Thomas Cumings, Debbie Deatherage, Agnes Deutill, Dan Dillon, Marcia Dresser, Brent Ford, Cari Ford, Katie Frederick, Mary Ellen Frost, John Glass, Mary Haroyan, Nona Haroyan, Marian Haslerud, George Holliday, Connie Jacomini, Cecilia Lee, Lora Leggett, Marlaina Lieberg, Jean Mann, Kevin Maynus, John McCann, Michelle Miller, Oral Miller, Trena Muncy, Teddie-Joy Remhild, Darla Rogers, Amy Ruell, Helen Skarpentzos, Melvin Smith, Dan Spoone, Phyllis Stevens, Ellen Telker, Jeff Thom, Leslie Thom, Gary Wood, Marcia Yale, and Vita Zavoli.
The outpouring of support for ACB and ACB Radio through the 2014 Holiday Auction was indeed amazing, and we thank each and every one of you who donated items, listened to the broadcast, placed bids and bought items. The ACB Radio Holiday Auction Committee is looking forward to the 2015 extravaganza, and we hope you are, too.

Fighting for Equal Opportunities: Perkins’ trailblazing Kim Charlson makes history again as first woman president of the American Council of the Blind, by Bill Winter

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2014 issue of “Perkins Perspectives.”
When Kim Charlson was elected as the American Council of the Blind’s first woman president, she thought back to the lifetime of advocacy that led to that historic day.
One memory stood out. It’s something that happened in a sandbox when she was just 5 years old. She was playing with her friends — and growing increasingly annoyed about the cigarette butts and other debris that littered the area.
A typical 5-year-old might have simply found another place to play. Not Charlson. She organized a protest.
“The sandbox was dirty and we didn’t like it anymore,” Charlson recalled. “So I said, ‘Let’s all go to the school principal!’ I organized all the kids, and we walked in en masse. I was the spokesperson, and I said we had come to talk to him about cleaning up the sandbox.”
Her strategy worked. “The principal said they would take care of it. And they did!” she said. “So that was my first advocacy.”
But certainly not her last. In July 2013, Charlson, the director of the Perkins Library, was elected to lead the American Council of the Blind, one of the largest blindness advocacy organizations in the United States.
The ACB has more than 70 affiliate organizations around the country. It engages in legislative lobbying and public awareness campaigns to improve the quality of life for people who are visually impaired.
“We address issues like employment, access to technology, transportation, education — all those different parts of our society,” Charlson said. “We’re trying to make them accessible, so people who are blind and visually impaired can reach their potential.”
It’s a cause that has motivated her for most of her life.
Charlson was born with vision but started losing it at age 11 from complications of glaucoma. By her twenties she was completely blind. She responded by becoming active in blindness advocacy. In college, she founded a statewide group for blind students. At age 23, she became the youngest president of the ACB’s Oregon state affiliate.
Around the same time, Charlson discovered her other passion: accessible libraries. She took a job at the braille and talking book library in Oregon, and later earned a master’s degree in library science.
“Traditionally, library science had been a very print-oriented field because you’re dealing with cards in a card catalog, books, magazines — everything was print,” she said. “I just happened to go into it at the beginning of the transition away from papers to computers.”
Degree in hand, she moved across the country to Massachusetts and took her current position at the Perkins Library. As director, she oversees a broad range of accessible library services, including supplying braille and audio books to 27,000 people who are blind or have another reading disability.
Charlson also threw herself into advocacy again. She became a key player in the campaign to make ATMs and currency accessible to people with visual impairments, and lobbied Hollywood to provide audio descriptions for television shows and movies.
She remained active in the American Council of the Blind, becoming president of its Bay State Council of the Blind affiliate, and then vice president of the national organization.
Then, as now, she does her work with a variety of accessibility tools, including her guide dog, her braille notetaker, her iPhone and her computer that translates text into speech.
“There are just so many great adaptive products, techniques and strategies to make the life of a person who’s blind very independent,” she said.
Her unanimous election in 2013 as ACB’s first woman president attracted attention from around the world — and made her realize how many people that milestone had inspired.
“I got hundreds of e-mails from people all over the country and internationally congratulating me, and saying how excited they were,” she said. “A lot of people were really happy to see that barrier come down.”
Charlson has an ambitious agenda as ACB president. She wants to improve educational opportunities for children with visual impairments, ensure access to popular technology and web sites like Facebook, and figure out how to reduce the 75 percent unemployment rate for people who are blind.
Being president also gives Charlson a chance to talk publicly about empowering people who are blind, as she did in a recent interview on WMJX radio in Boston.
Asked if she feels like a trailblazer, Charlson gave a thoughtful answer, one that has evolved through a lifetime of standing up for her rights — whether in a sandbox or on the national stage.
“I like to think that I’m enabling others to follow along on the trail that I clear for them,” she said. “Everybody has the ability to contribute in some meaningful way, and it’s really one of my driving missions to make sure they have those opportunities available to them.”

MIT Ring-Like Device Scans Texts and Reads to the Blind in Real Time, by Rodrique Ngowi

Reprinted from the Associated Press, July 8, 2014.

Device helps make schools, doctors’ offices and restaurants more accessible

Cambridge, Mass. — Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing an audio reading device to be worn on the index finger of people whose vision is impaired, giving them affordable and immediate access to printed words.
The so-called FingerReader, a prototype produced by a 3D printer, fits like a ring on the user's finger, equipped with a small camera that scans text. A synthesized voice reads words aloud, quickly translating books, restaurant menus and other needed materials for daily living, especially away from home or office.
Reading is as easy as pointing the finger at text. Special software tracks the finger movement, identifies words and processes the information. The device has vibration motors that alert readers when they stray from the script, said Roy Shilkrot, who is developing the device at the MIT Media Lab.

Reading medical forms

For Jerry Berrier, 62, who was born blind, the promise of the FingerReader is its portability and offer of real-time functionality at school, a doctor's office and restaurants.
"When I go to the doctor's office, there may be forms that I want to read before I sign them," Berrier said.
He said there are other optical character recognition devices on the market for those with vision impairments, but none that he knows of that will read in real time.
Berrier manages training and evaluation for a federal program that distributes technology to low-income people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island who have lost their sight and hearing. He works from the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass.
"Everywhere we go, for folks who are sighted, there are things that inform us about the products that we are about to interact with. I want to be able to interact with those same products, regardless of how I have to do it," Berrier said.
Pattie Maes, an MIT professor who founded and leads the Fluid Interfaces research group developing the prototype, says the FingerReader is like "reading with the tip of your finger and it's a lot more flexible, a lot more immediate than any solution that they have right now."
Developing the gizmo has taken three years of software coding, experimenting with various designs and working on feedback from a test group of visually impaired people. Much work remains before it is ready for the market, Shilkrot said, including making it work on cell phones.
Shilkrot said developers believe they will be able to affordably market the FingerReader but he could not yet estimate a price. The potential market includes some of the 11.2 million people in the United States with vision impairment, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

Access to text not available in braille

Current technology used in homes and offices offers cumbersome scanners that must process the desired script before it can be read aloud by character-recognition software installed on a computer or smartphone, Shilkrot said. The FingerReader would not replace braille — the system of raised dots that form words, interpreted by touch. Instead, Shilkrot said, the new device would enable users to access a vast number of books and other materials that are not currently available in braille.
Developers had to overcome unusual challenges to help people with visual impairments move their reading fingers along a straight line of printed text that they could not see. Users also had to be alerted at the beginning and end of the reading material.
Their solutions? Audio cues in the software that processes information from the FingerReader and vibration motors in the ring.
The FingerReader can read papers, books, magazines, newspapers, computer screens and other devices, but it has problems with text on a touch screen, said Shilkrot.  That's because touching the screen with the tip of the finger would move text around, producing unintended results. Disabling the touch-screen function eliminates the problem, he said.
Berrier said affordable pricing could make the FingerReader a key tool to help people with vision impairment integrate into the modern information economy.
“Any tool that we can get that gives us better access to printed material helps us to live fuller, richer, more productive lives,” Berrier said.

Life Is Unpredictable – Embrace It, by Larry Johnson

It’s uncertain what the weather will be like next week or how the stock market will be performing. It’s uncertain if we’ll be in an accident or have a flat tire on our way to the supermarket this afternoon. It’s uncertain who the new neighbors will be moving in across the street.
It’s uncertain if gasoline prices will remain low through Christmas. It’s uncertain if there will be more victims of the Ebola virus in the U.S. It’s uncertain if I will get the flu this fall or if my prostate cancer will return. It’s uncertain how long we’re going to live and just as uncertain about how we’re going to die.
Uncertainty is everywhere, all around us, and it makes us feel anxious, worried and afraid.
I went to the dentist recently to have a tooth pulled. It was something I had been putting off for a year and a half. It was an upper front tooth, and I was anxious about how I was going to look and sound without it. I had knocked it loose one day bending over in my bathroom.
Thinking that perhaps I could heal it, I took calcium tablets every day for a year. Finally I came to accept that it needed to come out. But because it was so loose I worried that the dentist might have to go in and dig out the root. I was told it would be six weeks before I could be fitted with a bridge.
Oh no, six weeks looking like the “Snaggle Tooth” monster. But finally I went in, and the dentist took less than five seconds to remove it. It was over. No pain. No digging out roots. And I would get my new bridge in three weeks, not six.
It was the uncertainty about the experience of going to the dentist that had overwhelmed me with worry, fear and anxiety.
It is really amazing and unfortunate that we should waste so many minutes of our lives being consumed by worry, fear and anxiety over the uncertainties of life when life, by its very nature, is full of uncertainty. In fact, it is this unpredictability of life that makes it such an exhilarating and exciting adventure.
When I leave my house today, I have no way of knowing what interesting people I may meet, new things I may learn, wonderful experiences I may enjoy. My day will be filled with surprise and uncertainty. It took a visit to the dentist to remind me of this reality.
It was Helen Keller who wrote: “Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.”  She was so right. And that’s how I see it.

Between Two Worlds: From Vision to Blindness, by Teddie-Joy Remhild

I lived in the mainstream sighted world for the first 37 years of my life and in the world of blindness for the last 44 years.  As a mainstream, middle-class woman, I had internalized all the fears and myths of blindness which permeated our society's belief system. Surveys taken during the 1970s, while I was living through my loss, reported that, second only to cancer, blindness was the most feared condition for anyone to confront. 
As a normally sighted female during my early years, I don't remember knowing or even seeing a blind person, except as a corner beggar, selling pencils for income. 
My vision loss was gradual and wasn't labeled “legally blind” for about two years.  Because I was losing my central focusing vision, I retained some peripheral vision and could “pass.”  I could not accept that I was like the blind depicted by the mythology of the day and thus refused to use any tools, such as a white cane, or training available.  I was married with three young children in the beginning and these responsibilities also contributed to my denial.
Two years after my official diagnosis of legal blindness in 1967, I divorced and began a new chapter in my life as a single parent who needed a job.  It was then that I began to accept blindness as my reality, to the extent that I was astute enough to enroll into vocational programs specifically designed for blind adults.
While I was employed as a blind woman, my personal world was populated by my sighted circle of friends.  I became a willing participant in parallel worlds.  By day I was a blind female employee and after work I was still “passing” in a sighted world.  This duplicitous lifestyle continued for the next 20 years.
It wasn't until 1988, at age 55, that I ventured into a world populated only by blind people.  At that time, I had left my 16-year live-in relationship following the death of my oldest son.  I had attained my B.S. degree in gerontology from USC and I was, once again, in search of a job.  I had a totally blind counselor at the State Department of Rehabilitation who was providing services for my employment needs.  During one of our counseling appointments, she invited me to attend the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind.  It was being held in Chicago in July of 1988.  My rehab counselor, Nancy, would be the only person I would know, but I thought it might be a new adventure, so why not?
Off I went to Chicago to attend a convention of blind people, not knowing what to expect.  I walked into the hotel and was confronted with over 2,000 blind individuals with white canes and guide dogs.  It was a stunning scene which evoked an emotional reaction.  I broke down and started crying, thinking, “I am not like these people!”  I cannot ever remember feeling so alone, and I wanted to return home immediately.  However, I was encountered by one member who was also low vision and he provided me some solace.  He said, “Once you get to know folks, you will find that you are among friends.” I finally found my rehab counselor friend and she also soothed my anxieties by introducing me to a new circle of friends.  I spent a week in Chicago and returned home with a new outlook on being blind. 
I joined the National Federation of the Blind and remained a member for two years. Eventually, I became uncomfortable in the NFB because of their rigid expectations of “how to be a blind person.”  One year later I joined the American Council of the Blind and felt more comfortable.  They had an affiliate called the Council of Citizens with Low Vision.
While I do not completely fit into either the sighted world or the world of the blind, I do experience a definite comfort zone when I attend national or state conventions of ACB, as I am accepted without question. This also applies to my newly acquired circle of blind friends with whom I share many social occasions.  As I continue this journey in the sighted world, I have given up on “passing,” despite the many and repeated inquiries as to the degree of my vision loss.  At age 81, I am finally “out of the closet” in both worlds!

New Items in Store at the ACB Mini Mall, by Carla Ruschival

Brrrrr! It's cold outside! Keep all toasty and warm this winter with a brand-new Talking Thermometer; there are two models to choose from in the Home Impressions store in the Mini Mall.
New in February — Check out the Tech Stop at the Mini Mall for SD cards, thumb drives, and SD cardholders. 
“The Visual Made Verbal: A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description” is a new book by Dr. Joel Snyder, President, Audio Description Associates, LLC and director of ACB’s Audio Description Project. This is a definitive work by a recognized authority in this highly specialized field of accessibility, and it’s now available via digital download and in standard print in the Pages and Tracks shop in the Mini Mall.
Visit the Cane Kiosk in the Mini Mall to see our folding graphite and aluminum canes; you'll also find a variety of cane tips.
The 2015 Mini Mall Catalog includes products available online and by phone. Updates to the catalog will be published periodically; however, new products may be added or discontinued in the online mall prior to publication in the catalog. Prices are subject to change without notice, both online and in the catalog. Catalogs are available in braille, large print, audio CD, or electronic format.
Visit the ACB Mini Mall online by following its link from the ACB home page at or at Subscribe to the mall e-mail list by sending a blank message with the word "subscribe" in the subject line to Reach us by phone at 1-877-630-7190 or by e-mail at
— Carla Ruschival

Affiliate News

ACB Diabetics in Action

Howdy, all! Have you sent in this year’s dues yet? Are you a diabetic who has been thinking about joining ACBDA? Well, now is the time to send your $10 dues to Alice Ritchhart, 139 Altama Connector, Suite 188, Brunswick, GA 31525. The deadline is approaching! We are trying to make this affiliate one of the biggest and best in the organization. We can only do this with the help of all of you.
The second Wednesday of each month is our conference call. If you have any ideas for a topic or a speaker, please let me know at (515) 848-5007 or e-mail me at
You’ll hear more next month because we will start working on conference/convention events for Dallas.  Talk to you all then!

Blind Pride Announces 2015 Social Networking Event

Following BPI’s tradition of offering exciting fall events for our members and friends, we are now inviting you to rock the Big Apple with us! Start planning now to attend this fun-filled social networking event, which is sure to sell out early!
What are the dates, you ask? BPI Rocks the Big Apple will be held Oct. 21-25, 2015 at the Holiday Inn Express Manhattan Westside.
Some of the activities you will enjoy in New York City include audio-described Broadway shows, accessible museum tours, cultural performances, shopping, live television studio audiences, sight-seeing tours, world-renowned restaurants and amazing street food, and general networking opportunities.
Interested in knowing more? Subscribe to the BPI Rocks the Big Apple e-mail list by sending a blank message to By subscribing, you will get up-to-the-minute information on developing plans, activities, hotel and travel arrangements, and much more.
For additional inquiries or for questions on how to subscribe, send an e-mail to
Join the crowd and we'll all take a giant bite of the Big Apple in October 2015!


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.

Michael Henderson

Aug. 12, 1952-Sept. 19, 2014
I first met Michael shortly after I started working at a wildly dysfunctional call center connected with a large federal agency. It was my first full-time job, and Michael went out of his way to teach me about the arcane procedures we were supposed to follow while answering customer questions.
Over time, we became friends. During meals together and conversations by phone, I learned that he, like me, had been totally blind since birth. We were also recent college graduates interested in politics, music, and psychology.
Significant differences also existed between us. He was raised in rural Connecticut by working-class parents, and spent much of his growing years at a boarding school for students who were blind. I was raised in a village about 30 miles north of New York City in upper middle-class surroundings, and spent all of my growing years as the only blind student in schools that I attended.
I also learned about Michael’s frustrations with the organization at which we worked: how his supervisor regularly criticized him in front of others; how he had not been promoted even though all of us viewed him as the most competent person taking phone calls; and how he sometimes struggled to get out of bed. As I began to deal with my callous and inept supervisors, he taught me about how to maneuver through office politics.
“You can’t say that!” he groaned as he reviewed a report I had written detailing an example of management ineptness.
“Say what?” I asked.
“‘Because of the incompetent stupidity of management,’” he read.
“But it’s true!”
“I know; but you can’t say that.”
“Fine,” I said, annoyed and amused. “What should I say instead?”
“Just describe what management did and let people draw their own conclusions.”
While Michael was eventually promoted, my disgust with the organization prompted me to accept a customer service job at a stodgy Wall Street bank, and when the bank outsourced my job to a call center in Jacksonville, Fla., I attended Columbia University’s School of Social Work. During this period, our friendship deepened. We compared notes about our challenges at work. He kept me centered whenever the liberal bias endemic in social work threatened to swallow me whole. We discussed music, family matters, history, foreign affairs, and challenges of living in a sighted world.
These conversations continued as I managed two federal grants and ran workshops for New York City taxi drivers while Michael continued to work at that dysfunctional federal agency. They continued, though less frequently, when I moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue professional opportunities there. We lost touch, however, when I moved to Missouri to get married.
About 10 days ago, I received an e-mail from a mutual friend informing me that Michael had died of cancer after a two-year struggle. I was shocked that he had died in his early 60s. I regretted not doing a better job of maintaining contact with him.
But mostly I’m angry. A regular theme of our conversations was Michael’s commentary about how management sucked the souls out of the employees who worked with him. While he was eventually promoted to a position that best fit his strengths, he complained about spending several hours a day doing nothing.
“Why don’t you try to find another job?” I would ask.
We both knew how hard it was for people with visual impairments to find jobs, and Michael, unlike me, didn’t have other resources in reserve if his job search failed. The pension he had earned for working there for nearly 40 years would have allowed him to lead a quiet life away from the racket of Brooklyn, N.Y. “You just have a more restless soul than I do,” he said during one of our phone calls. And I can’t help wondering if the stress he experienced working with managers who acted more like dementors than people made him more susceptible to the cancer that killed him.
Thank you, Michael, for your listening ear and sound advice that I know you offered to all of your friends. Thanks for your ability to acknowledge the shortcomings of your beliefs and the strengths of the beliefs with which you disagreed. And while I wish you had found another job, I admire your willingness to stay in one place and make things a little better for those working around you.
Rest in peace, Michael Henderson.

- Peter Altschul

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.

Notice of Proposed Amended and Restated Class Action Settlement

To all members of the nationwide class certified by this court to include blind patrons of automated teller machines (“ATMs”) owned or operated by either Cardtronics, Inc. or Cardtronics USA, Inc.:
On Dec. 4, 2007, this court granted final approval of a class action settlement agreement (“Settlement Agreement”) entered into between Plaintiffs, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the National Federation of the Blind (“NFB”), and several individual blind persons, and Defendants, Cardtronics, Inc. and Cardtronics USA, Inc. (collectively “Cardtronics”), concerning, among other things, the accessibility of ATMs owned or operated by Cardtronics to blind patrons under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Massachusetts state law.  The class certified by the court consists of patrons of ATMs owned or operated by Cardtronics who have total blindness or central vision acuity not to exceed 20/200 in the better eye, with corrective lenses, as measured by the Snellen test, or visual acuity greater than 20/200, but with a limitation in the field of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle of not greater than 20 degrees (the “Class Members”).
The parties subsequently had a number of disputes concerning performance of the settlement agreement by Cardtronics.  The parties ultimately resolved these disputes through a revised agreement called a remediation plan, which was granted final approval by the court on Nov. 3, 2010.  The remediation plan extended some of the deadlines in the settlement agreement and also obligated Cardtronics to install customized voice-guidance software on the vast majority of its owned machines by Dec. 31, 2010. 
On July 29, 2011, and again in August 2012, plaintiffs moved for contempt sanctions, alleging that Cardtronics was not in compliance with the settlement agreement and remediation plan.  On March 21, 2013, the court issued an order finding that contempt sanctions against Cardtronics were warranted, but stating further that the extent of Cardtronics’ violations remained to be ascertained.  After extensive negotiations, and with the assistance of a court-appointed special master, the parties have now entered into an Amended and Restated Class Action Settlement Agreement (“amended agreement”) to resolve all remaining disputes concerning Cardtronics’ alleged non-compliance with the settlement agreement and remediation plan.  This amended agreement is subject to approval by this court.
The parties believe that the amended agreement will give the members of the class even greater access to Cardtronics’ expanding nationwide fleet of ATMs. 
Cardtronics has agreed to develop and install enhanced voice-guidance software for its fleet of ATMs — both owned and operated — on or before March 31, 2017.  The parties have also agreed to new, NFB-approved braille signage.  The amended agreement also provides for a robust field inspection and testing program, as well as comprehensive compliance reporting.  The court-appointed special master will serve as arbiter during the term of the amended agreement to determine, through a rigorous software approval process that will include testing by a NFB-approved blind consultant, whether the enhanced software satisfies the parties’ agreed upon voice-guidance standards and to certify Cardtronics’ compliance with those standards.  Cardtronics has agreed to pay the reasonable fees and expenses incurred by the arbiter and the consultant during the software testing and approval process.  Cardtronics has also agreed to pay $1,250,000 to the NFB and $250,000 to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to be used to promote or to fund other programs or initiatives that promote equal access for blind people.  Cardtronics has further agreed to pay the reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses incurred by class counsel in connection with negotiating the amended agreement and obtaining final approval of the amended agreement by the court.  The attorneys’ fees and expenses incurred by class counsel through Oct. 31, 2014 total $307,093.80.  These payments will not detract from Cardtronics’ obligations to provide accessible ATMs to the class. 
Under the Amended Agreement, class members will release Cardtronics from all claims concerning Cardtronics’ compliance with the settlement agreement and remediation plan.  Class members (other than the named plaintiffs) will not release claims for monetary damages except for those related to Cardtronics’ alleged non-compliance with the settlement agreement, remediation plan or prior court orders.  A full copy of the amended agreement is available on Cardtronics’ web site,
A Final Approval Hearing will be held on May 7, 2015, at 2 p.m., at the United States Courthouse, One Courthouse Way, Boston, MA 02210.  The purpose of this Final Approval Hearing is to determine whether the proposed amended agreement should be approved by the court as fair, reasonable and adequate, whether class counsel’s application for attorneys’ fees and costs and the payments to the NFB and the Commonwealth should be approved, and whether the contempt proceedings should be dismissed on the merits and with prejudice.  The date of the Final Approval Hearing may change without further notice to the class.  Class members are advised to check the court’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system at to confirm that the date of the Final Approval Hearing has not been changed. 
Class members who wish to object to the proposed settlement must provide notice of and explanation of their objection in writing to the court at the address above, with copies to counsel at the addresses below, no later than April 2, 2015.  Only class members filing timely objections may request to present their objections at the Final Approval Hearing.
Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General
Attn:  Genevieve Nadeau, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 727-2200
Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP
Attn:  Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, Esq.
120 E. Baltimore St.
Suite 1700
Baltimore, MD 21202
 (410) 962-1030
Cooley LLP
Attn:  Douglas P. Lobel, Esq.
One Freedom Square/Reston Town Center
11951 Freedom Dr.
Reston, VA 20190
(703) 720-7000
For more information, visit, or contact counsel for plaintiffs: Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, (617) 727-2200,, or Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, (410) 962-1030,
Except as instructed in this notice, please do not contact the court.

NFB, Department of Education Agreement

The National Federation of the Blind and three individuals have reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education that will make student loan information accessible to blind Americans. The agreement commits the Department of Education and the student loan servicers with which it contracts to make web sites, forms, and documents related to the department's direct loan program equally accessible to blind applicants and borrowers. Requirements include providing documents in alternative formats such as braille and large print, and allowing blind people to fill out and electronically sign and submit accessible versions of student loan applications and forms.
The complainants were represented in this matter by Arlene B. Mayerson and Larisa Cummings of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) and Daniel F. Goldstein and Jessica P. Weber of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP.

Independence 101 Summer Program

Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) offers Independence 101, a three-week comprehensive life skills program that focuses on building confidence and independence. This program is open to all blind and low-vision middle-school students (grades 5-8) nationwide. 
Like most summer camps, students participate in a wide array of social and recreational activities. Independence 101 participants will build a peer support network with other blind middle-school students. Students will receive instruction, in a small classroom setting, in braille, technology, cane travel, and independent living. Blind instructors/mentors reside with students on a college campus in the Baltimore area and students assist with daily household needs.
Confidence-building activities may include visits to the mall and movies, rock climbing, sports activities, trips to amusement parks, visiting points of interest in Baltimore, taking a train to Washington, D.C., and more! 
This program runs from July 18, 2015 to Aug. 8, 2015.  The deadline to apply is April 25, 2015.  For more information, or to apply, visit  If you have questions, contact Sarah Baebler or Melissa Lomax at (410) 737-2642.

Camp Siloam 2015

Camp Siloam 2015 for blind adults will take place in New Caney, Tex. from May 16-23.  Camp Siloam is a Bible camp sponsored by the Gospel Association for the Blind in Bunnell, Fla. There is a registration fee of $25 for all campers. First-time campers will have their transportation costs covered, as well as the week of camp.  There will be plenty of good food as well as great activities during the week, including swimming, hayrides, a field trip, and gospel films, to name just a few!  The 2015 theme is "A Heart for Missions."  Come join us for a great week of Bible study and fun!  For more information, visit or call (386) 586-5885 or toll-free 1-866-251-5165 and enter mailbox 7128. Or you may e-mail George Gray, .

Save Your Pennies, Save the Date

Candle in the Window will hold its next conference Aug. 5-9, 2015 at the Wooded Glen Retreat Center in Henryville, Ind. The theme is “Self-Esteem and Blindness.” This could be a very popular topic, so register early!
If you have questions, contact either Kathy Szinnyey,, phone (502) 759-1288; Patrick Votta,, phone (718) 797-2475; or Becky Barnes Davidson,, phone (914) 393-6613.

TIPTOE Video Winners

The Ramah Camping Movement and the Ruderman Family Foundation recently announced the winners of "TIPTOE (The Inclusion Project: Through Our Eyes)," an inclusion-themed video contest for participants from all Jewish camps. The Ruderman Family Foundation will award a cash prize to the top three winners and make donations to the inclusion program at the winners' camps.
Winners are: first place, $1,000: Simone Rotman, Oakland, Calif. ($1,750 donation to Ramah California); second place, $500: Jenna Freeman, Los Angeles, Calif. ($1,000 donation to Ramah California); third place, $250: David Sharif, Los Angeles, Calif. ($500 donation to Camp JRF).
The top 10 videos — the three winners and seven honorable mentions — can be viewed at , or by searching social media for #TIPTOE2014.

Free UEB Transition Course for Professionals

The Hadley School for the Blind is offering a “Transitioning to Unified English Braille” course for professionals beginning in January 2015. The course will be available in print and braille; an online version is being developed. Thanks to the American Printing House for the Blind, this professional course will be tuition-free through the end of 2015.
The six-lesson course provides a structured approach to learning the difference between English Braille American Edition (EBAE) and Unified English Braille (UEB). Prerequisites include strong contracted reading and writing skills in EBAE or SEB (Standard English Braille).
“Transitioning to Unified English Braille” also will be offered to students in Hadley’s Adult Continuing Education/High School Program and Family Education Program, free of charge on an ongoing basis.

If you’re interested in participating in this course, contact Hadley’s Student Services at 1-800-526-9909, or via e-mail, . Or visit .

New Hall of Fame Member

The late Michael T. Collins was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field in Louisville, Ky.
Collins, who passed away in 2008, led education programs for children who are deaf-blind at Perkins School for the Blind for 30 years, including the supervision of Perkins’ renowned Deafblind Program. Most notably, he launched Hilton/Perkins International to expand deaf-blind education in the developing world. Under his leadership, the program grew from serving a few hundred students to reaching tens of thousands of children, families and educators in 67 countries. He traveled the world championing education and government policies to improve opportunities for children who are deaf-blind and blind with additional disabilities.
In addition to his work with Perkins, Collins also led Deafblind International, served on the board of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment and founded the National Coalition on Deafblindness. He received the distinguished Perkins' Annie Sullivan Award, Deafblind International’s Lifetime Achievement Award and their Distinguished Service Award. Collins studied theology at St. John's Seminary in Boston and received a master’s degree in special education from Boston College.

Touch Screens Made Easy with Guide 9!

Dolphin Guide 9 is now available from EVAS! What is Guide? It’s an all-in-one software suite with more than 20 programs, and it has a built-in screen reader and a screen magnifier, too.
Learn more by visiting It will tell you what’s new in Guide 9, let you have a free 30-day trial, and offers videos teaching you about Guide, too.
If you already have a current Guide Software Maintenance Agreement, you will get Guide 9 at no extra charge.  If you have questions, contact EVAS at 1-800-872-3827, or e-mail the company,

Free Hymnal

Do you need a copy of “The Presbyterian Hymnal: Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs”? A copy of the 18-volume, soft-cover braille hymnal (copyright 1990) is available from Byron Smith.  If you would like this copy, send e-mail to, and indicate why you would like to have the braille hymnal.

Snizzly Snouts

“Snizzly Snouts” is a new book that offers a unique reading experience for all. Children can read with their ears, see with their fingers and feel with their eyes!
This book with CD (DAISY/MP3 or standard audio) was published in 2014 by two sight loss organizations from different countries: NCBI (Ireland) and Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde (Belgium). The original Dutch version, “Rare Snuiters,” has been very successful in Belgium and the Netherlands. It has received several awards, including a prestigious White Raven Special Mention from the International Youth Library (Munich).
The book engages several different senses through tactile pictures, vivid contrasting colors, clear lettering, braille and audio. Children can share their experiences and discover each other’s way of seeing. The braille alphabet has also been included — it can be learned by sight or by touch, so that all readers can decode the hidden messages in the book.
The audio CD contains the poems and a verbal description of the whole book. But it also serves as a true GPS for the fingers, cleverly guiding listeners to explore the pictures. In this way, all children learn playfully to broaden their experience of life. Visit for a demo!
For more information, visit .  French and Dutch versions are also available at (French) and (Dutch).

High Tech Swap Shop

For Sale:

Power Braille 40-cell refreshable braille display. Asking $400. Contact Philip at (703) 581-9587 or via e-mail,

For Sale:

Perkins brailler in fair condition. Carriage advance is slow. Asking $100 or best offer. Contact Morgan Sequeira at (585) 624-5462.

For Sale:

Olympus DS-50 digital recorder with many accessories. Asking $80. Money orders only. Contact Johnnie at (803) 327-9113.

For Sale:

HIMS Braille Sense U2 in excellent condition.  It has the Perkins style key board and a 32-cell display.  I have everything that originally came with it.  Asking $3,500.  I accept PayPal.  For more information on the device, visit If you have any questions, contact Kay Malmquist at (314) 282-7047, or e-mail her,


I’m looking for a four-track APH cassette recorder in good working order. Contact Francis Freiberg via e-mail,


I’m looking for a four-track cassette player/recorder in good working order. Contact Mark Brautigam at 920 Thurber Dr. W., Columbus, OH 43215; phone (614) 224-1203.

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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