MEMBERSHIP FOCUS: HOW TO FIND BLINDNESS-RELATED RESOURCES AND SHARE THEM

MEMBERSHIP FOCUS:
HOW TO FIND BLINDNESS-RELATED RESOURCES AND SHARE THEM
compiled by Ardis Bazyn

Our August teleconference focused on how to find blindness-related resources and share them. One of the keys to building membership is finding ways to retain members. If members hear about blindness resources from your group, they likely will find it a benefit. On this call, we received lots of feedback on good blindness resources and many ways to share them with members and potential members.

One caller suggested providing members a booklet listing local resources (print and braille). You could also provide it on a web site if your chapter has one. Resources provided statewide could be listed on your state affiliate's web site. These resources could include: a list of known talking products; applications and criteria for paratransit; explaining where to get bus information and discounts for people with disabilities; private transportation service if available; home assistance services for shopping or reading (Friends in Deed, Love, Inc., or Helping Hands); list of stores that deliver in your local community (groceries, pharmacies, or other products); lists of companies or individuals who do home computer repair (especially those with experience on accessibility features/software); dry cleaners that pick up and deliver; web sites with information on blindness-related products and services; free sources for medical information; talking books through the National Library Service; local radio reading services; and your local public library that carries audio CDs and cassettes. Many resources discussed were regional or national in scope. You could provide a list of these as well.

Some regional and national resources that could be shared follow.

Accessibledevices.com is a link to downloadable manuals for a variety of technology products. Blindcooltech.com is a site with tech podcasts demonstrating products. AFB.org has links telling about all types of technology, from low- to high-tech. Techtalktidbits is an e-mail list with helpful tech information. Doorstepdelivery.com, Gogopher.com, pinkdot.com, vons.com, and Peapod.com are regional companies that deliver grocery and other products in parts of the country. In some larger cities, you may be able to dial 211 for information for senior citizens.

Your city may have parks and recreation activities which you could circulate. Some cities have parks with tactile or audio tours. Many museums have audio descriptions of some of their exhibits. You could disseminate a list of museums in your area which have guides or docents available upon request. Sports for All is an organization with programs for people with disabilities such as swimming and bowling. Easter Seals has a list of guides for running, swimming, etc. Check the Easter Seals web site for availability in your community. Achilles Track Club provides guides for runners. Various chapters of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes can provide tandem bikes. Some sailing clubs provide occasional sailing trips for people with visual impairments.

There are volunteers like VITA who assist people in completing their tax forms. Taxact.com is an accessible web site that can be used to fill out your income tax forms (federal and most state) for free. There is a minimal cost for filing electronically.

Vista Center of the Blind (www.pcbvi.org/) provides free medical information in accessible formats. The Health Library can be contacted by e-mail, thl@vistacenter.org, and on Wednesday mornings, they can be reached at (650) 858-0202. Follow the audio prompts. They also carry pamphlets on prevalent eye diseases that include diagrams, a bibliography, etc. Some are available in Spanish.

There are so many resources you can share with your members and potential members. At each meeting, you can have someone give a report of new or unpublished resources as well. You could use some of those already listed or explore the following suggestions. Some states have used senior stimulus money for independence - has your state done so? Does your state have new accessible voting systems that your members have not seen? Ask your county to demonstrate one so your members might be more inclined to take advantage of them.

Have you shared either local or national descriptive video web site links or local theaters with those available? Does your city or county have disaster preparations presentations that could be shared with your chapter? Some cities/counties have a register of people with disabilities for use in emergencies. Some colleges may be willing to provide counseling service over the phone using graduate students with faculty mentors. Some colleges might be willing to start a project to volunteer to assist in sports activities.

You might provide a speaker on any of these topics during your local chapter meeting or at a state convention. Members could share what they know on given topics like finding readers and drivers. You could share possible sources like churches, retired people, etc. You can also use a phone tree service to share up-to-date information on services, activities, and community low-vision fairs.

Your chapter or affiliate can share booklets of resources (free or for production cost) to potential members you meet at resource fairs, technology exhibits, etc. When people with visual impairments visit a booth you've sponsored, visit a local chapter meeting, or see your web site, they will be more likely to want to be members if they realize they may benefit. As your members network with others on a daily basis, they will find items of interest to pass on to members at meetings. Try some of their suggestions.

The next membership focus call will be held on Monday, April 25, 2011. As always, if your affiliate needs assistance with membership, contact me at abazyn@bazyncommunications.com.