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 [email protected], 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.
The Social Security Administration warns that scammers have come up with new fraud schemes. The caller will claim to be from Social Security and tell the victim that he is eligible for a 1.7 percent cost of living adjustment. The fraudsters, who tend to call from the 323 area code, ask for victims’ personal information in order to divert their Social Security benefits into the crooks’ accounts.
Another scheme involves a robo-caller claiming to be the inspector general, and declares the victim’s benefits have been suspended. The victim is threatened with arrest and ordered to call a particular number to arrange payment.
Social Security urges anyone who receives a suspicious call to NOT give out personal information to an unknown caller; report the call to the real inspector general at 1-800-269-0271.
Social Security isn’t the only government agency that scammers are picking on. The IRS warns about several scams, too, where callers claim to be employees of the IRS, using fake names and bogus badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. (Some area codes they use are 208 and 901.) Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Some fraudsters have approached people with limited English proficiency, addressing them in their native language, and threatened them with deportation, arrest, and license revocation, among other things. IRS urges all taxpayers to use caution before paying unexpected tax bills. Note that the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
- If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484, or at https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/.
- You can file a complaint at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/Information?OrgCode=IRS#crnt&panel1-1; choose “Scams and Ripoffs,” then “Impostor Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
For more information on current tax scams, visit www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.
LightHouse for the Blind’s annual $25,000 award for blind adventurers and creators is back! Submissions close on Feb. 28th at noon Pacific.
The first round of the competition is a 90-second YouTube video pitching your idea. We are looking for creative, boundary-pushing, innovative projects. The candidate with the most YouTube “likes” will automatically be chosen as the People’s Choice Finalist and will become a finalist for the Holman Prize.
A few caveats: Applicants must be 18 years old as of Oct. 1, 2018. They must also be able to submit official documentation of blindness (during the semifinalist phase of the competition). Current LightHouse staff members and board members (as well as their immediate families) are not eligible for the Holman Prize; nor are previous winners. The prize will not fund any type of tuition. For further information, visit https://holman.lighthouse-sf.org/faq/.
My Limitless Vision will hold a Valentine cruise in 2019. The ship will depart from Port Canaveral at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, and return on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, February 14, 2019 at 8 a.m. We will have a fun day at sea on Monday, with special fun just for our VIP group. On Tuesday, we will be at Nassau, and on Wednesday, we will be at Freeport. We will be doing more research with Carnival on the best accessible excursions in the ports for those who may want to explore.
If you’re interested, send Debbie Sanders your contact information and $25 per person reservation fee via PayPal at [email protected], or by check to MLV, 104 NE 7th St., Perkins, OK 74059. Want to go but need a roommate to share the cost? Let Debbie Sanders know.
The Alumni Association of the New York State School for the Blind will hold its centennial reunion June 7 through 10, 2018 at the Quality Inn and Suites, 8250 Park Road, Batavia, NY 14020; phone (585) 344-2100. At the same time, we will join students, staff and guests of the New York State School for the Blind in celebrating 150 years of outstanding service to the people of New York state.
Reunion events will include a ceremony celebrating the school’s sesquicentennial, a presentation from the New York State Museum, the unveiling of a tactile mural which some of our members helped to create, and a picnic with students and staff. There will also be several chances to socialize with old friends and make new ones and to remember our alma mater. Our association began in 1918 and was incorporated in March 1924. The only time there wasn’t a reunion was during World War II.
Membership is open to anyone at least 18 years of age who either attended the New York State School for the Blind or is recommended by a member in good standing of the association. Any applicant who did not attend the New York State School for the Blind must have a substantive relationship to the recommending member or to any other member in good standing. Annual dues are $15, with multi-year plans available.
The deadline for reunion reservations is May 1, 2018. If you wish to become a member, or have questions about the reunion, contact Diane Scalzi at (586) 337-5226, or email [email protected].
Now available is the “Windows Screen Reader Keystroke Compendium: Covering JAWS, NVDA, and Narrator,” compiled by Dean Martineau. It is available as one small braille volume, BRF, and Word. Braille-related keystrokes are not included.
Also available are a variety of Microsoft and Windows Guides, iOS Guides, Mac OS guides, Android guides, and a guide called “Computers You Can Talk To: Siri, Alexa, Google Now, and Cortana,” by Anna Dresner.
Newly available is “Diary of a Worm” by Doreen Cronin. It comes in contracted UEB, and is for ages 3 to 8. The diary documents a young worm’s daily life, from living with his parents to attending school. But he never has to take a bath, he gets to eat his homework, and because he doesn’t have legs, he can’t do the hokey pokey — no matter how hard he tries.
Also new in the children’s section is “Brave Irene,” in contracted UEB for ages 3 to 8. Irene’s mother is a dressmaker, and one day, when she’s scheduled to deliver a ball gown to the duchess to wear that evening, she isn’t feeling well enough to make the delivery. So Irene volunteers to do it for her mother, despite the blizzard.
Who can forget the stories of Shel Silverstein? Check out “The Giving Tree,” a book about generosity and unselfishness. It’s available in print with braille, and has picture descriptions.
For more information, contact National Braille Press at 1-800-548-7323, or visit www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html.
AbleData is a source of comprehensive information on assistive technology (AT) products, solutions, and resources to improve productivity and ease life’s tasks. The company offers information that will assist domestic and international customers and their family members, as well as vendors, distributors, organizations, professionals, and caregivers in understanding AT options and programs available.
AbleData has information on more than 40,000 AT products. To view the list of devices for those who are blind and have low vision, visit https://abledata.acl.gov/indexing-terms/blind-and-low-vision. The company also posts monthly guides related to assistive technology and different conditions. Some include:
· AT for Individuals Who are Deaf-Blind
· Wayfinding AT for People Who are Blind, Deaf or Have a Cognitive Disability
· AT for the Would-Be Virtuoso Who is Blind or Has Low Vision
Information specialists are available Monday through Friday at 1-800-227-0216; email, [email protected]. Or visit the web site, www.abledata.com. You can also find AbleData on Facebook and Twitter.
Se habla español. Please note that AbleData does not sell products, nor does it endorse any product manufacturers or distributors.
The Braille Superstore has brought back its wooden games, which are made of hand-crafted teak and carefully adapted for blind players. Titles include Connect Four, Chess, Shut the Box, Backgammon, Tangram, Parcheesi, Chinese Checkers, and Snakes and Ladders. For more information, contact the Braille Superstore at 1-800-987-1231, or visit www.braillebookstore.com.
Seeking Maps Made by the Princeton Braillists?
The collection of tactile maps and other drawings done by The Princeton Braillists over the last three decades has been transferred to National Braille Press, where arrangements are being made for ongoing distribution. The Princeton Braillists produced 35 books of tactile maps. The maps are detailed, labeled in braille only; some experience with tactile drawings is recommended.
National Braille Press hopes to maintain and reproduce the current maps while looking into ways to update geographical information, re-code for Unified English Braille, and create new volumes of countries and states. For more information, call (617) 425-2442.
ZoomText version 11.7 is now available! It contains updates for ZoomText 11 Magnifier, Magnifier/Reader and Fusion. These free updates provide important enhancements in the ZoomText software, improving performance, stability and functionality of ZoomText’s features and tools. They include support for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, improved performance and navigation in AppReader and Finder, improved support for Chrome, and more. To learn about all of the changes in the 11.7 update, visit https://www.zoomtext.com/help/releasenotes/.
To get the ZoomText 11.7 updates (for Magnifier and Magnifier/Reader):
- If you have a previous version of ZoomText 11 Magnifier or Magnifier Reader on your system, go to the ZoomText 11 toolbar and choose ZoomText > Manage License > Check for Updates. This will launch the update wizard and walk you through the fast update process.
- If you need to install ZoomText 11.7 Magnifier or Magnifier/Reader on a new system (where ZoomText is not yet installed), download the full installer from http://zoomtext.com/downloads. Then go to the section titled “ZoomText 11” and choose the installer that matches your license type.
For the Fusion 11.7 updates, visit http://zoomtext.com/downloads, then go to “Fusion 11” and choose the installer that matches the language you require.