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 E-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.
 
2 Percent COLA for 2018
 
To read this press release online, visit www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/#/post/10-2017-1.
 
Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 66 million Americans will increase 2 percent in 2018, the Social Security Administration announced recently.
 
The 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 61 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2018. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on Dec. 29, 2017.
 
Social Security disability thresholds for the blind will go from $1,950/month in 2017 to $1,970/month in 2018.
 
Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $128,700 from $127,200. Of the estimated 175 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2018, about 12 million will pay more because of the increase in the taxable maximum.
 
College at Perkins
 
Perkins School for the Blind now offers College Success @ Perkins, a selective, nine-month, residential college-readiness program for high school graduates with visual impairments, including those with some college experience who need to polish their skills before returning.
 
Up to 15 participants will live on Perkins’ campus while they earn credits at various Boston area universities. In addition to academics, they will refine their independent living skills, socialize, learn to navigate dorm living, and internalize the realities of life at college. Students will also learn how to manage coursework, organize their schedules and sharpen their focus, as well as use assistive and mainstream technologies, and try new activities that bolster self-advocacy skills so that they can take charge of their futures.
 
Applications are available for the 2018-19 academic year at Perkins.org/college. Don’t delay – get your application in by Feb. 1!
 
Summer Internship Opportunities with NASA
 
NASA has internships for high-school students and for rising freshmen through doctoral students in STEM fields. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, with a minimum GPA of 3.0 for college and 3.0 for high school. High school students must be at least 16 years old at the time the internship begins.
 
Internships are available at all NASA centers nationwide. Applying is a two-step process. The first step is to fill out everything in the online application.  The second step is to select and apply to specific internship opportunities. Students can submit a completed application whether they apply to an opportunity or not. However, applying to opportunities has the advantage of allowing applicants to be considered by mentors who work in disciplines of interest and at a particular center. Applicants may apply to as many as 15 opportunities.
 
Apply early, because the best opportunities are likely to be filled early. Plus, your likelihood of being selected decreases the longer you wait. You can register for an account anytime at http://intern.nasa.gov/. All material that you wish to have considered must be uploaded to the OSSI website. Emailed or U.S.-mailed documentation will not be accepted.
 
Internships run for 10 weeks for undergraduate and graduate students, six weeks for high-school students. All student interns get paid. You are responsible for your own housing.
 
Students who are selected for summer internships will receive an offer letter by email sometime after mid-January 2018. They will then have five days to either accept the offer through their account. The offer will automatically expire after five days if no action is taken.
 
If you would like to subscribe to an announcement-only list about NASA internships for people with disabilities, please send an email to nasainterns-request@freelists.org with “subscribe” in the subject field, or by visiting the list page at http://www.freelists.org/list/nasainterns.
 
If you have questions, or need help applying, contact Kenneth Silberman at (301) 286-9281, or via e-mail, kenneth.a.silberman@nasa.gov.
 
Enchanted Hills Camp Update
 
For the last week, the extended LightHouse community has been aching to have some ground truth about what will become of Enchanted Hills Camp.
 
Today, all roads to camp remain closed. Fires are still burning in the area, and Enchanted Hills remains in the center of the worst wildfire in recorded California history. Most of Upper Camp has survived the devastation. We have lost most of the structures in lower camp, including the 10 cabins that housed up to 120 summer campers since the 1950s. We also lost the assistant director’s cabin and some storage buildings, along with the cinder block staff house. The Foss cabin appears to be intact.
 
The Art Barn and studio are completely intact. So are the Lodge, the Hogan, and the Kiva. We have also heard that the large dining hall is in good shape, as are the Lakeside cabins. The pool, the horse barn and the gathering house all seem to be standing.
 
It may be days or weeks until electrical power is restored to camp. We’ll host no groups there for months to come, until the situation is stabilized and the safety from weakened trees and compromised infrastructure is inspected and repaired.
 
We are committed to rebuilding Enchanted Hills Camp stronger and better than ever, both as a summer camp for the blind and a treasured Napa retreat center. The reconstruction of lower camp will give us opportunities to build in accessibility and modern comforts for generations of campers to come. But before that, we need to tend to our staff, our operations and the planning, reforestation and construction that will occupy us for years to come.
 
The LightHouse has started a dedicated fund to help rebuild Enchanted Hills. If you would like to help, please follow the link: http://lighthouse-sf.org/enchanted-hills/rebuilding/?mc_cid=c93c93d7b6&mc_eid=3dfecc7ae3 .
 
Android Version of Be My Eyes
 
Be My Eyes is now available for Android users!
 
Since launching the iOS version of the app in 2015, more than 550,000 sighted volunteers have signed up to assist our over 38,000 blind or visually impaired users. The launch of the Android version is a milestone that will bring free and unlimited visual assistance to even more people around the world, further enabling the blind and visually impaired to lead more independent lives.
 
Download your version at http://bemyeyes.com/.
 
FreeStyle Libre Gains FDA Approval
 
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System, the first continuous glucose monitoring system that can be used by adult patients to make diabetes treatment decisions without calibration using a blood sample from the fingertip. The system reduces the need for fingerstick testing by using a small sensor wire inserted below the skin’s surface that continuously measures and monitors glucose levels. Users can determine glucose levels by waving a dedicated, mobile reader above the sensor wire to determine if glucose levels are too high or too low, and how glucose levels are changing. It is intended for use in people 18 years of age and older with diabetes; after a 12-hour start-up period, it can be worn for up to 10 days.
 
What’s New from NBP?
 
Now available is the 2018 Peanuts “Happiness Is ...” print-braille calendar! Each month features a “happiness is” quote and drawing each month to illustrate the many ways that happiness can express itself! All your favorite Peanuts characters are here: Linus, Sally, Lucy, Charlie Brown, and Snoopy and Woodstock!
 
The calendar is 12” x12” (hanging on the wall it’s 12” wide and 24” tall). The braille is included on clear plastic labels that go right over the print pages. It features a bonus sheet of 120 full-color stickers to mark birthdays, appointments, and other important days.
 
Looking for a last-minute gift? Check out braille “My Wish” bracelets. They are silver-plated stainless steel, and come in your choice of message: strength; love; peace; hope; or faith. Bracelets measure 7” plus a 1” extension. Each comes in its own gift box, complete with a “my wish for you” card.
 
For more information, contact National Braille Press at 1-800-548-7323, or visit www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html.
 
EZ Access Kiosks at United
 
United Airlines has incorporated EZ Access® technologies into their new self-service kiosks to better ensure that the kiosks are accessible to all travelers. United chose EZ Access because it’s not limited to a single disability; it can accommodate customers with a broad range of disabilities, including those with sensory and mobility impairments. The kiosks that incorporate EZ Access® technologies have been installed at United’s Orlando, Fla. and Hartford, Conn. terminals, with additional kiosks to be rolled out as United renovates lobbies and existing kiosks are retired.
 
Follow Your Dog
 
Now available is ACB member Ann Chiappetta’s “Follow Your Dog: A Story of Love and Trust.” It is available as an e-book and in print from Amazon and other online sellers.
 
Follow the author as she moves from an unhappy early life and her unstoppable loss of vision to happiness and fulfillment as a guide dog user, wife, and mother who works as a V.A. counselor. This book will resonate with many people. It includes stories and photos of her most beloved dogs, past and present.
 
For a free text preview, author bio, and links, visit www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta.