The ACB Braille Forum, March 2015

Downloadable versions available here.
The ACB Braille Forum
Vol. LIII March 2015 No. 9
 
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 www.acb.org, or call (231) 460-1061 and choose option 3. Tune in to ACB Radio at www.acbradio.org or by calling (231) 460-1047.
 
Learn more about us at www.acb.org. Follow us on Twitter at @acbnational, or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AmericanCounciloftheBlindOfficial.

Are You Moving? Do You Want to Change Your Subscription?
 
Contact Sharon Lovering in the ACB national office, 1-800-424-8666, or via e-mail, slovering@acb.org. Give her the information, and she'll take care of the changes for you.
 
For news you can use, check out the new ACB Radio News and Information Service at acbradio.org.
 
Check out ACB Radio Mainstream to keep abreast of happenings in the blind community.
 
© 2015 American Council of the Blind
Melanie Brunson, Executive Director
Sharon Lovering, Editor
2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 650, Arlington, VA 22201

The ACB Braille Forum, March 2015 downloads

Acknowledgement

It is with tremendous gratitude and appreciation that the American Council of the Blind recognizes Ross and Lexi Pangere for their generous gift that covered the cost of producing this issue of “The ACB Braille Forum.”

President’s Message: More on Accessible Prescription Labels, by Kim Charlson

Once again, ACB has advocated with a major pharmacy company to provide a full range of accessible prescription options – large print, braille and audio for people who are blind. CVS Health now offers the ScripAbility prescription accessibility system through its mail-service pharmacy to CVS/Caremark members who are blind or visually impaired.  The system includes ScripTalk talking prescription labels as well as braille and large print labels. Back in March of 2014, CVS Health announced that ScripTalk talking labels were available from their online pharmacy, CVS.com, for prescriptions ordered for home delivery.
 
CVS/Caremark has now expanded its offerings to its blind and visually impaired customers and members. The ScripTalk talking labels provide a safe and convenient way to access information on prescription labels for individuals who cannot read standard print.  The ScripTalk labels are free to CVS/Caremark members who are blind or visually impaired. Caremark members can obtain a free ScripTalk reader from En-Vision America that will enable them to listen to the information on the ScripTalk label.
 
According to the official press release, Jon Roberts, president of CVS/Caremark, stated, “We are pleased to further demonstrate our commitment to providing our visually impaired members and patients with enhanced support by offering them the ScripTalk service through our mail-order pharmacy. Ensuring all of our members have access to important information about their prescriptions is in keeping with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”
 
This structured negotiation agreement is the result of collaboration between CVS Health, the American Council of the Blind, and several CVS/Caremark members. Access to prescription label information through audio, large print or braille is essential for the safety and independence of customers who are blind or visually impaired. I commend CVS Health on its efforts in this important area, and for its leadership role within the industry to more effectively serve its customers with visual impairments.
 
Customers can sign up for CVS/Caremark services or request a product from the ScripAbility suite of formats by contacting Caremark’s call center at 1-800-552-8159 or 1-800-450-3755.
 
I’ve been a CVS/Caremark customer for several years, and I think the braille labels and medication information sheets that I receive in braille are great. Now with the ScripTalk system, people relying on audio have access to vital information about their medications. Large-print users also have better labeling that they can actually read, along with the medication information sheet. This access is great, but I do realize that many people also need access at their neighborhood pharmacies. ACB is working in this area as well, but there are many challenges to overcome in the production process for individual pharmacy locations. We will continue to work on this level of access, and keep you posted on our progress. In the meantime, enjoy CVS/Caremark for their prompt mail-order service, affordable pricing, and accessibility. You won’t want to go back to the guessing game of medication bottles without labels ever again!

Tax Tips from the IRS, by Melanie Brunson

This time I thought I would share with you an article from the IRS about resources and services that are available to people with disabilities not just during tax time, but all year round. Please read on for some very useful information.
 
IRS Services for People with Disabilities
 
Hundreds of accessible federal tax forms and publications are available for download from the IRS accessibility web page, http://www.irs.gov/uac/IRS.gov-Accessibility. Visit IRS.gov and select the Forms & Pubs tab to access the Accessible Forms and Pubs link. You can choose from large print, text, accessible PDFs, e-braille, or HTML formats that are compatible when used with screen readers and refreshable braille displays. The IRS also provides American Sign Language videos with the latest tax information; visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=el-xueE-ZDY&list=PL634968897EAEA4FD&index=3 to view them.
 
IRS Tax Return Preparation Help Available
 
People who are unable to complete their tax returns because of a physical disability or are age 60 or older may get assistance through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. You can find a nearby VITA or TCE location by calling 1-800-906-9887. Publication 907, “Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities,” explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues, and is available at http://www.irs.gov/publications/p907/index.html.

ACB’s Stars Will Shine Bright in Dallas, by Janet Dickelman

As we set our sights on Dallas, I wanted to share information that will maximize your convention experience.

New This Year

Thanks to a generous donation from Macular Degeneration Support and their partner Macular Degeneration Foundation, if you have an i-device or Android phone, you can receive verbal confirmation as to your location in the Sheraton through indoor technology. The guidance system works by sending audible instructions and location descriptions to your mobile device. The information is electronically transmitted by beacons that will be placed at meeting rooms, restrooms, elevators, and other venues throughout the hotel. For more information, visit
http://www.mdsupport.org/audioguide.
 
The Sheraton features 3 sleeping room towers: north, center and south. Suites, where receptions will be held, are in the north tower. If you wish to have a room with a king bed, you would be in the south tower. The north and center towers are closer to the meeting rooms, so unless you prefer a king room, you will be in either the north or center tower.
 
Rooms at the Sheraton are not equipped with refrigerators. There are a limited number of refrigerators available if you need them for medications.

Convention Volunteers

Sally Benjamin, ACB volunteer coordinator, along with the Dallas host committee, is working on finding volunteers to assist attendees at the Sheraton and the airports. We all really appreciate the volunteer assistance. Here are a few reminders to make things run smoothly for convention attendees and volunteers.
 
Volunteers are happy to help you locate meeting rooms, the exhibit hall, your table in the ballroom, restaurants in the hotel, and the elevator bays. Volunteers cannot accompany you to the sleeping room floors or assist you in locating your room. If you need help getting to and from your hotel room, you will need to make arrangements with a friend or family member to assist you.
 
Volunteers or hotel staff cannot administer medications, or assist you with other health care needs. Volunteers and hotel staff can assist you in locating dog relief areas, but they are not expected to take your dog out for you. If you need assistance in these areas, please make arrangements prior to the convention for a friend or family member to help you.
 
If you use a wheelchair, ACB convention volunteers may not be physically able to push your chair. Please don’t count on ACB volunteers to be wheelchair pushers.
 
A limited number of volunteers will accompany each tour.  While they will help as much as possible, ACB volunteers are not personal guides or personal care attendants.  If you need individual help, plan to attend the tour with a friend who can act as your guide or PCA, push your wheelchair, etc.

Reasonable Accommodations

If you plan to attend the convention and need a support service provider or interpreter, please contact Lori Scharff, who will assist in making arrangements. Send an e-mail message to loris1@optonline.net with “interpreter for Dallas” in the subject line, or contact Lori via phone at
(516) 695-6370.
 
If you need a wheelchair or scooter, contact Janet Dickelman at (651) 428-5059 or via e-mail, janet.dickelman@gmail.com.

Transportation around Dallas

 A taxi from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) airport will cost approximately $50. Taxis from Love Field are $25.
 
Go Yellow Checker Shuttle is offering discount airport transportation (from either DFW or Love Field) for a round trip fare of $30. You can make shuttle reservations by phone at (214) 841-1900 or online at http://www.yellowcheckershuttle.com/acb.
 
Although you can take the shuttle without a reservation, the driver is not able to book a return ride for you, so it is important to make your reservations in advance. Make certain to mention you are with ACB and be prepared to provide the following information: name of airline, flight number, arrival date and time, departure date and time, and your cell phone number. Lift-equipped vans are available but need to be requested in advance.

Using Paratransit

To become certified with DARTS after June 15th, ask your provider to fax your certificate of eligibility to (214) 828-6642. To make sure you have been certified, call (214) 515-7272 and select option 5. DARTS stated you should wait at least two days for the certification to be processed.  Rides on DARTS are $3 each way and can be made 2 days prior to the day of trip by calling (214) 515-7272 and selecting option 3.

Dates to Remember

Conference and convention dates are July 3 through July 11th. The exhibit hall, open Saturday through Wednesday, features the latest and greatest in technology and items for home, work, and play!
 
ACB affiliates and committee programs, seminars and mixers, will be held Saturday, July 4 and run through Thursday, July 9.
 
Our opening general session is Sunday evening, July 5. Morning sessions run Monday through Thursday, and all day Friday. The Friday session will feature elections and ACB business, followed by our annual banquet.

Stay in Touch

Once 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
acbconvention-subscribe@acblists.org.  If you've been on the list in the past, you need not subscribe again. Don't have e-mail? No problem!  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 www.acb.org and follow the 2015 convention link.

Convention Contacts

2015 exhibit information: Michael Smitherman, (601) 331-7740, amduo@bellsouth.net
2015 advertising and sponsorships: Margarine Beaman, (512) 921-1625, oleo50@hotmail.com
 
For any other convention-related questions, contact Janet Dickelman at (651) 428-5059 or janet.dickelman@gmail.com.

Last Call: The DKM Train Is Leaving the Station, by Allen Casey

April 1 is more than a day for practical jokes at the expense of family and friends.  It also is the deadline for receipt of Durward K. McDaniel First-Timer application materials in the ACB national office.  If you have never attended the ACB national conference and convention, 2015 could be your year for a special train ride.
 
First, you must be ready, willing and able to participate actively in one of the most rewarding learning experiences you could ever imagine.  You will meet ACB leaders; hear presentations from state, national and international speakers; participate in seminars on issues important to the blindness community; and benefit from hands-on contact with the latest assistive technology.  Applicants are required to satisfy each of the DKM First-Timer qualifications:

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

Next, you are ready for the final step in the application process – the letter of application and the letter of recommendation.

  • The qualified applicant will submit a letter to the DKM committee outlining the applicant’s qualifications and experience and the benefits expected from the first-timer program.
  • The president of the qualified applicant’s state or special-interest ACB affiliate will submit a letter of recommendation to the committee.

Eligible applicants will be interviewed by telephone in mid-April, with selections made by April 30.
 
Competition for DKM First-Timer selection is intense as only two applicants are selected annually – one from east and one from west of the Mississippi River.  ACB and the DKM committee provide each First-Timer round-trip transportation, hotel accommodations (double occupancy), per diem allowance for meals and incidentals, convention registration fee and tickets to the DKM reception and ACB banquet.  First-Timers are expected to participate in convention activities from the opening session Sunday evening through the ACB banquet Friday evening.
 
Finally, all application materials must be received in the ACB national office not later than April 1 and should be directed to Sharon Lovering, slovering@acb.org.  Questions should be addressed to DKM chair Allen Casey at mahatmaac@aol.com or (336) 222-0201.
 
If you miss the 2015 DKM train, you can’t catch another until 2016.  Get on board before April 1!

Let the Stars Shine Bright on the ACB Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk, by Donna Brown

“ACB: Where the Stars Shine Bright” is the theme for the 2015 ACB national conference and convention. Many ACB stars shone bright during the 2014 walk, as over $37,000 was raised for ACB and its affiliates. Several affiliates raised over $1,000, with some affiliates raising over $2,000, while still others raised over $3,000.
 
As you may remember, the 2014 walk had a new twist. When teams registered, they could designate up to 50 percent of the money they raised to go back to an affiliate of their choice.  This twist was very successful, as we had over 20 teams registered. This offer will once again be available to teams this year.
 
In keeping with our tradition of no two walk events being alike, the 2015 ACB Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk will be unique. The event will be held on Sunday, July 5, from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. You might say, “Well that’s the same as it always is,” and you’re right. Here’s the twist to this year’s walk: it will be held at the convention hotel. You can practically roll out of bed, put something on your feet, and come join us for the walk! The starting and finish line will be in the convention hotel itself. Participants will walk across the sky bridge, and walk the loop around the second floor of The Plaza of the Americas, which is where the food court is. The route is approximately one mile in length.
 
The ACB Walk committee is hard at work designing a new web site, where teams will have their own web pages. This will make it easier for team captains to know who has signed up for their team and when donations have been submitted. More information about the web site will be coming soon. Stay tuned to “The ACB Braille Forum” and E-Forum, and the ACB e-mail lists, for walk updates.
 
Begin making your plans now to sign up for the walk, and help us to make the stars shine brighter than ever by raising a lot of money for ACB!
 
— Donna Brown

Call for Nominees for 2015 ACB Awards!, by Chelle Hart & Chip Hailey

The awards committee seeks nominees who are deserving of national recognition for their work in ACB or the blindness community.  The awards will be presented at the upcoming conference and convention in Dallas, Tex.  Candidates will be judged on the quality of their nomination letter and how well they meet the spirit of the award for which they are nominated.  Please assist the award committee by presenting worthy candidates and clearly identifying the ways your nominee meets the criteria for the award you believe they are worthy of receiving.
 
The deadline for nominations is May 15, 2015.  This means letters must be received electronically by 11:59 p.m. on that day.  Please e-mail nomination letters to Chip Hailey, chiphailey@cableone.net, and Chelle Hart, cshart@wowway.com. We are co-chairs of the 2015 awards committee.  You can help us out by getting the nominations to us as early as possible.  Once we receive them, the awards committee must review and score the entries submitted.  This work takes a little time, and it is helpful to begin the process as soon as possible.
 
The awards committee looks forward to the challenge of selecting worthy recipients of the 2015 ACB awards. We need your help to complete our job.  Please tell us about these special people and how they meet the criteria listed below.  Please remember that these are national awards, and nominees will be judged accordingly.
 
The Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award is given in recognition of a blind person who may or may not be a member of a blindness organization but who has, through his or her personal characteristics and activities, unrelated to his/her employment, contributed most to the acceptance and understanding of blind people as capable, contributing members of the community.
 
The Affiliate Outreach Award is based on a recommendation by an affiliate president, which recognizes a local chapter for a new outreach program.  This program must have a measurable outcome. 
 
The George Card Award is given to an individual who has dedicated his or her life to work with and for blind people, making a real difference and improving quality of life, for providing leadership and being a positive role model. 
 
The James R. Olsen Distinguished Service Award is periodically given to individuals who have made important contributions which have advanced opportunities for the blind community.  This award can be given to an individual or an organization.
 
The Robert S. Bray Award is given to a person who has made a contribution for improving library technology or communication devices.  It could also be given for expanding access for all blind people, or making opportunities within the mainstream media.
 
The Affiliate Growth Awards are based on the greatest increase in membership, as determined by the 2014-2015 membership reports.
 
Please submit your nominations right away!  Late submissions will not be considered.  If you need help with the nomination process, call Chip Hailey at (417) 781-6728 or Chelle Hart at (605) 332-6059.

Board of Publications Again Awards Your Excellence in Media and Writing in 2015

The ACB board of publications proudly recognizes excellence each year with three awards.
 
The Ned E. Freeman Writing Award applies to articles published in “The ACB Braille Forum,” “The ACB E-Forum” or an affiliate publication and is awarded to the author of the chosen piece of work. Mastery of the craft of writing is a major consideration by the BOP. Interesting subject matter, originality in recounting an experience, and novelty of approach are also considered.
 
All articles published in “The ACB Braille Forum” or “The ACB E-Forum” between April 2014 and March 2015 are automatically eligible for the Freeman Award. Articles published in state or special-interest affiliate publications within this time frame are also eligible if submitted by either the president or newsletter editor from that affiliate.  If submitting such an article for consideration, please include a cover letter noting the affiliate, publication name, date of publication, and a brief notation about the article. The article may be submitted in any format.
 
The Vernon Henley Media Award is presented to an organization, company, or person, either sighted or blind, who has made a positive difference in the press – whether in radio, TV, magazines, newspapers or electronic media – that may change public attitudes to recognize the capabilities of people who are blind, rather than focusing on outdated stereotypes and misconceptions. Programs and/or articles written and produced specifically for a visually impaired audience, as well as those intended for the general public, are eligible. Multiple articles or programs submitted by one author or organization will be judged as separate entries. Submissions such as books or recurring columns or blogs from the same person must include a letter of nomination, a synopsis, and no more than three sample chapters/columns/blogs. Incomplete submissions will not be accepted.
 
The Hollis K. Liggett Braille Free Press Award is intended to promote best journalistic practices and excellence in writing in publications of ACB's state and special-interest affiliates. All periodicals of ACB affiliates, distributed no less than semi-annually, are eligible to be considered. Periodicals must be submitted by the affiliate's newsletter editor or president, and must include the following:

  1. Two issues of the affiliate's publication from the calendar year 2014, sent electronically and in hard copy in the format which the affiliate recognizes as the format which best represents its readership.
  2. Answers to the following questions: A. How many members are in your affiliate? B. How often is your publication published per year? C. In what formats is your publication produced?

The BOP will take the submitted information into consideration as well as the following:
          1. The number of contributing writers in a single issue;
          2. The variety of information in each issue;
          3. How well the publication portrays the affiliate;
          4. The quality of writing throughout the publication; and
          5. The overall layout and presentation of the publication.

Recipients of these awards for the last five years are ineligible to enter the contests. Members of the ACB national office staff, the board of directors, and board of publications serving during the awarding period are also not eligible.
 
Submissions for all awards must be received by Sharon Lovering at the ACB national office on or before April 30, 2015. Presentations will be made at the 2015 national convention. For more information about judging criteria, please consult the Board of Publications Policy Manual, found on the ACB web site.
 
Send all submissions with cover letter to: BOP Awards, American Council of the Blind, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 650, Arlington, VA 22201, or e-mail slovering@acb.org.

Come to the Lone Star Loot Auction!

Hey all you cowboys and schoolmarms, what’s more fun than a free-for-all in a Texas saloon? 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, you better come on down!
 
Yessirree, the evening of Wednesday, July 8 will be filled with bargains, with the proceeds supporting the American Council of the Blind. There will be games, food, jewelry, some unique vacation packages, and some surprises that you’ll only find at a Texas auction. For example, there ain’t no bull when it comes to biddin’ on a couple of pure Texas horns to hang on your wall.
 
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, lesliespoone@cfl.rr.com, or by telephone, (407) 929-9837. You may ship the item to either ACB Auction, Leslie Spoone, 3924 Lake Mirage Blvd., Orlando, FL  32817-1554, or to Stuart Swartz, 1201 Medical Ave. Apt 3316, Plano, TX 75075. 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 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, all you cowpunchers remember that the biggest show in Dallas is going to be the Lone Star Loot Auction!

The Importance of Grassroots, by Kathy Brockman

By the time you read this, we will all probably be thinking of spring around the corner. That means green grass and other lovely plants. They all need a good root system to grow – which brings me to grassroots. ACB has many great affiliates – and chapters – at the “grassroots level.”
 
The MMS Committee usually meets monthly, and one thing that came up is the lack of knowledge among members – and even chapter presidents. This includes information on ACB, its programs and the MMS (Monthly Monetary Support) program. The technology age has certainly made it much easier to share information, but there is still a surprising number of people who don’t know about everything ACB offers. It is so important to share information received on the leadership list, from “The ACB Braille Forum” and other great sources with our members. It’s even more of a challenge for those without access to computers or other technology.
 
Briefly, MMS is one way to contribute to ACB. This kind of support is needed to operate many great programs. Money can automatically be deducted from a checking account or contributed through a credit card.  To become part of MMS, you must contribute a minimum of $10 per month. Forms can be obtained online, by calling the ACB office, or visiting the committee’s table if you are coming to Dallas.
 
It’s hard to believe the next ACB conference and convention is only months away. The MMS Committee will staff a table next to the ACB Mini Mall, which is a great location. We would appreciate any volunteers who could spare a few hours to work. It means giving information about the MMS program and completing sign-up forms. There is always someone who has enough vision to help with the paperwork if necessary. It’s a great way to meet other convention attendees while providing service.
 
So come and say “hello” to us in Dallas. Become part of the grassroots to help ACB continue to grow. Thanks so much if you already contribute to the program.
 
– Kathy Brockman

Best Audio Holiday Season Ever, by Susan Glass

My husband John and I recently returned home from Falls Church, Va. and Washington, D.C., where we spent Christmas with my sister. An outstanding feature of our stay was the audio-described production of “Fiddler on the Roof” that we saw at Arena Stage on Saturday, Dec. 27. This production marked Fiddler’s 50-year anniversary — can I really be that old? — but I felt ageless as the universal story of tradition and change, hardship and joy, family conflicts and family ties played itself out on the stage. And now you must forgive me, because I am going to boast. My sister, Jo Lynn Bailey-Page, was the audio describer for this play. A dancer and musician in her own right, her descriptions lent profound new dimensions not only to the musical numbers in the show, but also to the flow of scenes, and the depth of character portrayals. I have always responded tenderly to “The Sabbath Prayer” song, but when Jo Lynn described the tableau of Tevye and Golde lighting their Shabbat candles, the gentle dance of the singing and processing villagers also celebrating Sabbath, and the Fiddler, Tevye’s alter ego, poised behind his chair as the song ended, I felt the spiritual context of the song more deeply than ever before.
 
During the wedding scene when Jo Lynn described Jerome Robbins’ astounding choreography in “The Bottle Dance,” I heard beyond the pirouetting clarinet melody that has always defined this song’s essence for me, and I became a pirouetting dancer, lithe and fleet-footed, balancing bottles on my head. And then there was the scene when Tevye mourned Chava’s elopement with the gentile Russian Fyedka by singing “Little Bird.” This had always been a heart-breaking song for me, but I never knew that it was choreographed. It was as if the show froze momentarily while Tevye sang. Jo Lynn described the dance in which Golde presents Chava to Tevye, and then there comes a point when — if I remember correctly — Fyedka and Chava dance, and the way in which Fyedka holds Chava makes her appear to be flying. What fitting grace for “the little bird,” “everybody's favorite child!” This was especially poignant because in her pre-show notes, Jo Lynn described Chava’s walk as skimming over the ground. I could picture such a being in flight.                   
 
Personal pride notwithstanding, this audio-described production of “Fiddler” is unique for another reason: It’s a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project and Arena Stage, to offer audio description to blind and visually impaired patrons for every performance of the show. Usually, blind patrons who desire audio description are limited to the two or three performances of a show’s run when AD is offered. Offering AD at every performance constitutes a significant step forward in terms of accessibility. For this approach to succeed on a large scale, theaters will need to embrace audio describers as members of a show’s cast, with all the legitimate status that such membership accords. We blind patrons need to attend performances so that theaters know we are a viable audience.
 
This production of “Fiddler” also featured braille programs courtesy of ACB, a member list for Arena Stage’s board of directors, and a touch book displaying samples of the actors’ costumes: a prayer shawl, and fabric used for Tevye’s vest, his head coverings, and Tzeitel’s wedding dress. Through touch, braille literacy and audio description, Arena Stage’s “Fiddler on the Roof” came to life for me. 
 
Our second AD experience occurred at Mount Vernon, the plantation home of the United States’ first president, Gen. George Washington. I first visited this estate when I was 11, and what I remember — or rather what my body remembers — was the crunch of gravel paths underfoot, the musty basement smell of the stable and carriage house, and the thickly braided taut ropes that prevented entry into the bedroom where George and Martha Custis Washington slept. What a contrast to our current Mount Vernon experience!
 
The estate now features a GPS-driven, audio-described tour of the entire plantation. At the visitors’ entrance, John and I checked out headsets and digital players. The players were programmed with maps of the estate and pre-designated GPS coordinates. As we walked through the estate, the system would announce our location: “On your right is the blacksmith shop. Press the round button on your unit to hear a detailed description.” If we pressed the button, the unit would say, “Blacksmith shop. Estimated description time, one minute.” If we chose not to press the round button, we could proceed en route to the next described location. “On your left, the old tomb,” or “Straight ahead, the front entrance to the Mount Vernon home.”
 
So accurate and numerous were the GPS charted locations and descriptions that a blind person might proceed through the estate independent of sighted help. Well, not quite. You’d miss some as yet unmarked exhibits, and there were paths where you might get sidetracked. And there were many other visitors around whom you’d need to navigate. Still, the experience of this much access invigorated me.
 
The recorded descriptions tended to be objective. They’d say things like, “The dining room is 50 feet long by 30 feet wide, and the ceiling is 10 feet high. Three spindle chairs are grouped around the oak dining table.”  Live docents or interpreters provided cultural and personal details, as well as intriguing stories. One interpreter speaking with us outside of General and Mrs. Washington’s bedroom told us that General Washington ultimately died from a painful throat infection called quinsey, in which his throat swelled shut and choked him. She also said that the doctors of the day unwittingly hastened his death by bleeding him, and by making him swallow caustic liquids which were supposed to kill his throat infection, but which dissolved his throat tissue instead. Barbaric, we exclaim, until we compare the way Washington’s quinsey infection was treated with how our physicians currently treat cancer.
 
On our last day in Washington, D.C., we visited an audio-described exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute called “America On The Move.” This exhibit chronicles the history of transportation in the United States from the late 1700s through the 1990s. Dr. Joel Snyder, director of ACB’s Audio Description Project, narrated this pre-recorded tour. No headsets were needed. One simply walked through the exhibit hall, pressing on the lower right-hand corner of various touch screens positioned throughout the room. One then heard a description of what was located in that spot. This meant that all visitors to the museum — not just those with visual impairments — could benefit from the recorded audio descriptions, the contents of which were far more detailed than the printed museum labels that accompanied each exhibit. Those too were read aloud, but by a woman’s voice rather than Dr. Snyder’s. This helped listeners distinguish between the two kinds of text.  What a clever means for educating sighted people about the value of AD, I thought to myself.
 
“America On The Move” was enlivened by accompanying recorded sounds, and by items that could be touched. An exhibit on early railroad operations in Watsonville and Santa Cruz, Calif. featured calling seagulls, the thumping sounds of boxed strawberries and vegetables being dropped into train cars, and a bronze statue of a Chinese farm laborer, hands clasped behind him as he massaged his weary back. An exhibit on Washington, D.C. in 1900 featured a sound collage of grinding electric streetcar cables, coach wheels and horse hooves on cobblestones, and a singing mockingbird. Each part of the exhibit transported me, in a three-dimensional way, into the artistic fabric and space. Never before had I experienced this. Is this the experience that sighted people have when they look at paintings?
 
The exhibit confronted head-on a number of thorny political realities, such as California farmers’ exploitation of laborers — Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Mexican — and discrimination by hotels, restaurants and gas stations against African-Americans traveling across country by car. I left the exhibit feeling thoughtful and enriched.
 
I have only two minor criticisms of “America On The Move.” Without sighted help, there is no way for a blind patron to know where the exhibit touch screens are. I also think that hearing-impaired patrons might be overwhelmed by the sheer body of surrounding sound. At times it was difficult to hear a narrated description due to sound effects emanating throughout the museum building, and due to the clamor of other patrons. Tile floors and high ceilings didn’t help matters either. But both of these issues can, I think, be easily addressed.
 
My experiences at Arena Stage, Mount Vernon and the Smithsonian have shown me what audio support at its best can do to enhance one’s participation in cultural life. What fine models these programs are for venues throughout the country!

A Telecommuting Job Could Be Just What You Are Looking For, by Dr. Ronald E. Milliman

Telecommuting has become increasingly popular over recent years. Some people consider a telecommuting job their dream come true, and for blind individuals, it could be an ideal employment situation. This article will present many of the advantages and potential disadvantages of a telecommuting employment scenario. I will also suggest some ways for finding a telecommuting job.
 
When looking for a telecommuting position, you must be on alert for numerous fraudulent, get-rich-quick schemes that make it sound like you can make big money working just a few hours a week from the comfort of your home. As trite as it sounds, if it is too good to be true, it probably is, and you should stay away from it. Such phrases as “work at home” or “work from your own home” are often clues to schemes you should avoid. Check out all firms offering such job openings by putting their name into Google to see what comes up.
 
Not all firms offering work at home or work from home are fraudulent. There are alternative terms used to denote a telecommuting job; they include remote jobs, virtual jobs, cloud working, and telework.
 
Telecommuting work is away from the employer’s place of business, and is most often done from the telecommuter’s home, but can actually be performed from about anywhere, e.g. from a coffee shop, friend’s home, or library. Also, many telecommuting jobs are really a blend of the more traditional job, where you work in the employer’s place of business, and the more contemporary position where you telecommute. Some positions have you work two or three days a week from the office, and telecommute the other days. 
 
When you telecommute, you work by using your computer to do word processing, make spreadsheets, and/or all or a combination of e-mail, instant messaging, video conferencing, and using your phone and fax machine. Often the employer provides whatever is needed, e.g. laptop, software, fax/scanner/copier, and in some situations, you are even provided a cell phone to use for your business-related calls.
 
What are some of the advantages of a telecommuting job? Here I have listed some of the benefits often achieved from a telecommuting job for your consideration:

  1. Working from a home office can be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA;
  2. Much more flexible hours and work schedule;
  3. Substantially reduces and may even eliminate time-consuming, frustrating, and expensive travel;
  4. Can design your work environment to suit your comfort level;
  5. Flexible clothing – no dress codes at home, e.g. pajamas, shorts and T-shirt, etc.;
  6. Significant reduction in your food cost;
  7. Lower expenses results in your earning a higher net income;
  8. Less likely to have the company techies mess up the accessibility of your technology;
  9. Numerous tax benefits, e.g. home office deduction, write off equipment costs, a portion of your utilities, etc.;
  10. Company is likely to provide or pay for laptops, home network, cell phone-related expenses, etc.;
  11. Increased productivity in the absence of distractions, e.g. gossiping and office politics;
  12. Improved morale resulting from greater work flexibility;
  13. Reduce job-related stress;
  14. Much more comfortable environment for your service animal;
  15. Fewer problems getting along with co-workers;
  16. May reduce or eliminate your child care or adult care expenses, thus, increasing your net income; and
  17. Gives you more time with your family.

 
That is a pretty impressive list of advantages, and it all sounds great, right? Well, not so fast. There are some disadvantages, too, that you really need to seriously consider.

  1. You must possess considerable self-discipline, motivation and a tremendous amount of focus;
  2. Not a good match if you are a procrastinator;
  3. Not a good match if you need direct social interaction with your co-workers or other people;
  4. You will have little or no assistance from co-workers if needed, e.g. your speech program stops talking on your computer and you have no idea why;
  5. May be more difficult for you to get promotions, i.e. not able to play the political game with the boss and company higher-ups;
  6. May be more likely to be part-time, and not eligible for benefits;
  7. People are more likely to call your home office at all hours, including weekends, assuming you can talk anytime;
  8. Time management is very important to help you keep your personal and business life separated;
  9. The company you work for may require a room be used exclusively for your home office or work space;
  10. Your regular homeowner’s insurance may not cover claims if it considers the claim business-related;
  11. You may need special business-related insurance and liability coverage; and
  12. You may be in violation of local zoning laws.

Several ACB members currently work, or have worked, in telecommuting jobs, and have seen the positives and negatives of such work.
 
Ardis Bazyn says, “I’ve been working on and off for a company based in Washington state since 2011. I set my own hours and they give me projects to do … The positives were working from home much of the time, but some travel was included. I could choose the amount of hours I worked and was paid based on the time invested, and extra bonuses were paid for special accomplishments … The down side was there would be months in between when the firm didn’t give me work and then wanted a bunch done when they finally got back to me again. … Time management is very important, keeping personal and business life separated.”
 
Mitch Pomerantz, a former president of ACB, says: “I have worked from home both as L.A. City’s ADA compliance officer and as a consultant in the ADA field … Primarily, both as an employee and as a contractor, I was researching, writing and participating in telephone and e-mail communications with various parties, including my own staff. I think that the up side is the freedom it gives you, albeit you do need to stay in electronic and/or telephonic communications with your manager; at least as an employee.  If you’re going to take a two-hour lunch break to run an errand, you’d better make sure your manager knows it.  As an employee, I was scrupulous about working a nine-hour day, since we were on a 9/80 work schedule, even if that meant working until 6 or 7 p.m.  That’s not so much of an issue for a consultant since you can set your own hours, as long as you complete your work within whatever deadline you are given. I’d say the only down side is that the telecommuter needs discipline to work successfully from home. … It also helps to be able to compartmentalize. I know folks who have worked from home and can’t enjoy their home when not working because of the association with work … I’d also say that it helps to have a separate home office which you can close off from the rest of the house.  It limits distractions.”
 
Michelle Zentz says, “I worked from my apartment doing web accessibility testing for two years. I loved it. I went in once during the whole time and that is when I did my personal interview, filled out employee forms, had lunch with my supervisor and direct co-worker on the project. The supervisor left it up to me if and how involved in the office staff I cared to be; I chose not to attend those meetings. However, there were issues maybe that would have better served the organization if I had been able to voice my concerns in person … I used all my own equipment and did not ask for any accommodations. My checks were handled by direct deposit … Job performance evaluations were handled by e-mail or accessible documents or online surveys … All in all I was pleased with the experience.”
 
Chris Gray, also a former president of ACB, stated, “For me, the greatest advantage was in the time and cost savings for transportation.  Going from my home in south San Jose to Redwood Shores, Calif. was a 2-hour commute each way, entailing a bus, train and cab with all the associated costs for each.  Even carpooling, the time was in excess of 1.5 hours each way.  So by telecommuting, I saved the money, had far more time and energy to devote to the company, and since the majority of my work was handled via e-mail and phone, aside from generating a final product, it was a win-win all the way around.”
 
I have worked as a telecommuter and found that it allowed me to be much more productive because I was able to avoid all of the distractions of the office: co-workers just walking in to chat, office staff coming in to tell you a funny story, etc. I used my own computer, and as a result, I didn’t have the techies coming in and installing new operating systems, completely replacing the entire computer, and similar happenings that cause considerable frustration. It also kept me away from the plethora of calorie-packed goodies that were available in the office that people brought in. The down side, however, was that it was much more difficult to develop the personal relationships with colleagues that often shows up in the inevitable political battles that develop from time to time in organizations and office politics; thus, it is more difficult to develop political allies that will support your ideas and views in staff meetings. Of course, if you are one who dislikes office politics and prefers to completely avoid it whenever possible, this latter point would be a plus for you.
 
I have also been an employer where I hired and worked with people who worked from their homes or place of residence. I liked the fact that I could hire the best people I could find for the requirements of the position, regardless of whether they were based in Los Angeles or London, England. Of course, these were all tasks that required creating web sites, software, research and report writing, etc. It was my job to clearly communicate what was needed, to establish clearly defined targets or goals, be available if questions or problems arose, and then, I let the telecommuter work at his/her own pace and create his/her own schedule, as long as the work got completed on time.
 
So, how do you find telecommuting jobs? You can communicate your desire for a telecommuting job to local employment agencies. You can also go online and look up local firms to see if they have any jobs listed on their web site, and if any of those positions are telecommuting  jobs, or if they are the kind of work that could be done as a telecommuter. If so, you can contact the firm’s HR person and explore the idea of transforming it into a telecommuting position. You will need to be fully prepared to present the benefits to the firm, and to handle any objections to telecommuting. You can also conduct a more thorough online search for telecommuting jobs, using all of the terms and phrases I presented at the beginning of this article. Be careful! There are at least 10 rip-offs or scams advertised for every legitimate telecommuting job.
 
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about a service that specializes in helping people find telecommuting jobs. It is FlexJobs, and their web site is www.flexjobs.com. I have invested considerable time checking out their web site. It seems very accessible using a screen-reading program. I am impressed with their service and what they offer for a reasonable fee. They do all of the searching and screening for their subscribers, so you can be reasonably certain that any position posted on the FlexJobs web site is legitimate. I am not associated with FlexJobs in any way and have absolutely nothing to gain by recommending their service, except for the satisfaction that I would feel if anyone reading this article subscribed to their service and found employment as a result of it. If that happens, I would greatly appreciate knowing about it. My e-mail address is rmilliman@twc.com.
 
Good luck! I hope you land a good telecommuting job!

Affiliate News

News from ACB Diabetics in Action

Are you a diabetic, or a spouse of a diabetic, or do you know someone who is a diabetic or is interested in knowing about diabetes? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to think about joining ACBDA. We are a growing affiliate, but we know there are more diabetics out there.
 
Our dues are $10 a year. The year goes from Jan. 1st to Dec. 31st. You can pay your dues at any time, though.
 
The ACBDA board meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month. We start at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time. The number to call is (712) 432-3675, press 1 to go to the main menu, then press 1 for rooms, then press 0 to enter the meeting room. Our meetings are open to all, but only board members can vote.
 
On the second Wednesday of each month we have a conference call on the same number starting at 9 p.m. Eastern. Everyone is welcome. We discuss many things and try to help each other out.
 
Talk with you next month. Be safe!

Join BPI and Rock the Big Apple!

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!
 
When will this occur? 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 rock-the-big-apple-request@blindlgbtpride.org.  By subscribing, you will get up-to-the-minute information on developing plans, activities, hotel and travel arrangements, and much more.
 
Need more information? Send an e-mail to bpi-rocks@blindlgbtpride.org.
 
Join the crowd and we'll all take a giant bite of the Big Apple in October 2015!
 

ACB Ohio 2015 Scholarship Applications Available

The American Council of the Blind of Ohio is offering 6 scholarships for 2015 to both graduate and undergraduate students. This year, a new scholarship has been added specifically for incoming freshmen. If you need more information, visit www.acbohio.org or call Jenna McCartney at (419) 310-6452.

Here and There, edited by Sharon Strzalkowski

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

National Service Animal Eye Exams

2015 marks the 8th annual ACVO/StokesRx National Service Animal Eye Exam Event. Since its inception in 2008, more than 30,000 service animals have received free eye exams.
 
The goal of the event is to provide as many free screening exams as possible to eligible service animals across the U.S. and Canada throughout the month of May. Service animals include: guide dogs, handicapped assistance, detection, military, search and rescue, and certified-current, and registered therapy animals.
 
This year’s event is sponsored by ACVO® and Stokes Pharmacy, as well as several generous industry sponsors, volunteer ophthalmologists and staff. Participating doctors volunteer their services, staff and facilities at no charge to participate in the event.
 
To qualify, service animals must be active working animals that were certified by a formal training program or organization, or are currently enrolled in a formal training program. The certifying organization could be national, regional or local in nature. Owners/agents for the animal(s) must register the animal via an online registration form beginning April 1 at www.ACVOeyeexam.org. Registration ends April 30. Once registered online, the owner/agent will receive a registration number and will be allowed access to a list of participating ophthalmologists in their area. Then they may contact a specialist to schedule an appointment, which will take place during the month of May. Times may vary depending on the facility and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Children’s Books and More from National Braille Press

National Braille Press has produced a number of children’s books in braille or braille-and-print.
 
“The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter is a children’s favorite for over a century. It’s available in a braille-and-print edition (contracted braille) for ages 3 to 8. Most parents remember what happens when Peter decides that, instead of gathering blackberries with Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail, he’ll wander into Mr. McGregor's garden.
 
“Ed and Ted and Ted's Dog Fred” by Andy Griffiths is available in a braille-and-print edition (contracted braille) for ages 4 to 7. It’s written similarly to Dr. Seuss books, with repetition of sounds, a zany plot, and will make anyone who reads it laugh out loud. For more information on this book, visit www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/BC1412-ED.html.
 
And who could forget Elsa, Anna, and Olaf of “Frozen” fame? “Frozen” is now available as a read-along storybook and CD for ages 3 to 9. The CD features thrilling sound effects, word-for-word narration, and the original movie voices. Visit www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/BC1501-FROZEN.html for more information.
 
Over in the adult section, there are many new books, too.
 
“Out and About: Our Favorite Travel Apps” by Judy Dixon and Doug Wakefield is available in braille (one small volume), BRF, Word, or DAISY file. It includes two dozen travel apps that are, in one way or another, related to moving around – from moving around town to moving around the world. There are even apps for the armchair traveler! With these apps, even the most timid traveler can grab an iPhone and head out with confidence. Every app described in this book has been tested with all iPhone models from the 4s all the way to iOS 8. Only those apps deemed usable and accessible are featured! For more information, visit www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/APPSOUT.html.
 
“Friday Morning Quotes” is new too. It’s a spiral-bound braille booklet with 52 new quotes, one per week for a full year. We love how the funny, inspiring, and sometimes challenging quotes in this collection make for some very strange bedfellows: Helen Keller and Mae West, Nelson Mandela and Andy Warhol, and William James and RuPaul. Visit www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/QUOTES-FRI.html for more information.
 
Don’t have a computer? That’s no problem. Write to National Braille Press, 88 Saint Stephen St., Boston, MA 02115-4302, or call toll-free 1-800-548-7323.  You can view a list of all books at www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html.

New York State School Alumni Reunion

The Alumni Association of the New York State School for the Blind will hold its annual reunion from Thursday, June 11 to Sunday, June 14, 2015, at the Clarion Hotel in Batavia. The Clarion is conveniently located just off the New York State Thruway at 8250 Park Rd., Batavia, NY 14020-1275; phone (585) 344-2100. Room rates are $87 for standard rooms and $107 for suites.
 
The bus companies that serve Batavia have agreed to provide front-door service for guests traveling from the east and west. For returning alumni who will be traveling from out of state, many of the buses that originate or are destined for Buffalo make stops at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport.
 
This year's get-together will include a trivia contest, a trip to a nearby museum and our legendary banquet. And yes, you can bring your spouse. You won't want to miss our 2015 gathering!  For the banquet, you have your choice of rib-eye steak, salmon, chicken, and pasta primavera, which cost from $20 to $25.
 
The registration deadline is Friday, May 1, 2015. To enjoy the hotel room rates above, you must register with treasurer Chet Smalley by May 1. Chet can be reached at 541 W. Gore Rd., Erie, PA 16509-2329; phone (814) 866-3949; e-mail chet_smalley@neo.rr.com.
 
For more information, contact our corresponding secretary, Diane Scalzi, at 21621 Briarcliff St., Clair Shores, MI 48082-1299; phone (586) 337-5226; e-mail dscalzi@comcast.net.

ACB Officers and Board

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

ACB Board of Directors

Berl Colley, Lacey, WA (final term, 2016)
Sara Conrad, Stevensville, MI (1st term, 2016)
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 http://www.acb.org.
 
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.
 
Subscribe to the podcast versions from your 2nd generation Victor Reader Stream or from http://www.acb.org/bf/.