THE BRAILLE FORUM is available in braille, large print, half- speed four-track cassette tape and computer disk. Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for publication should be sent to: Nolan Crabb, THE BRAILLE FORUM, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005. Submission deadlines are the first of the month.
Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Patricia Beattie at the same address. If you wish to remember a relative or friend by sharing in the council's continuing work, the national office has printed cards available to acknowledge contributions made by loved ones in memory of deceased people.
Anyone wishing to remember the American Council of the Blind in his/her Last Will and Testament may do so by including a special paragraph for that purpose. If your wishes are complex, you may contact the ACB National Office.
For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the "Washington Connection" toll-free at (800) 424-8666, 6 p.m. to midnight Eastern time Monday through Friday.
Due to an editing error, the Kellie Cannon Memorial Scholarship was incorrectly listed as being for $1,200 in the January issue of "The Braille Forum." It should have read $1,000.
The abreviation DLA in "Here and There" (December 1996) was improperly delineated as the Department of Labor. In fact, we should have referred to DLA as the Defense Logistics Agency.
You've doubtless noticed that your February magazine is somewhat later than usual; we'd like you to know why. On the weekend prior to our deadline date, a hot water pipe, which is part of our building's heating system, burst one floor above the ACB national office. The pipe burst directly over the room which houses ACB's computer network, its printers, and modem-sharing boxes. The water was particularly destructive because it streamed down on top of the equipment rather than reaching it from below as would have been the case in a flood.
In the days following the flood, we worked feverishly to dry out equipment thoroughly before attempting to fire it up again. In addition, we were forced to work around cleaners, painters, and other maintenance workers.
Despite our best efforts at drying out equipment, there were some casualties. We could smell the smoke from the network server monitor as soon as we turned it on. It has since been replaced. The water poured directly into the ventilation holes of our Uninterruptable Power Supply. It, too, could not be revived. Our network server, the computer which is the nerve center for the other computers throughout the office, drank more than its share of water as well. As a result, the power supply had to be replaced, as did a small fan on the motherboard.
Fortunately, the printers sustained no permanent damage. In fact, our Juliet braille printer escaped the water stream completely. Although our material is backed up daily, we were glad to see the network server's hard drive had survived intact.
You'll note this month that we have new contractors producing the cassette and braille editions of "The Braille Forum." In short, if your magazine is late, it could be the post office, but it's most likely a good bit of water flowing where it shouldn't. It's definitely not the fault of our new producers, the Clovernook Center and Potomac Talking Book Services. We're back up and running now, but we were graphically reminded that if oil and water don't mix, computers and water mix even less successfully.
Sue Ammeter introduces Arnold Auch as the winner of the George Card Award at the ACB convention in Tulsa. Submissions for the Card Award, as well as the Robert S. Bray Award and Durward K. McDaniel Award, are due no later than June 1. Submissions for the Ned E. Freeman Award and the Vernon Henley Media Award must be postmarked no later than April 30. (Photo copyright 1996 by Jon B. Petersen.)
Almost two years ago, now, ACB passed a resolution that expressed its concern about the fact that, while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) called for the availability of more information to blind people, it did not speak to the quality of the information. Actually, I suppose that is not quite what I meant. The quality of the information is entirely independent of what format you get it in and is not at all controlled by the ADA. Our real concern lay in the fact that the quality of the braille, large print, disk, and taped materials was extremely variable. If generalization were possible, though, I think many of us would agree that the braille, large print, disk, and taped info we are getting is often less than usable.
Even more disturbing than the quality of the information is the fact that many blind people feel they should be grateful for what they get and not fuss if the format is awful. Equally disturbing is the fact that the producers of bad information appear appalled that we should dare to complain. They have made the effort and we should be damned glad that they have bothered and not fuss about such minor difficulties as the fact that words run from line to line or that words are left out because they don't know how to format properly. Before people can understand where I am coming from, I may need to provide a better explanation of some of the problems. I can best do this by taking things one medium at a time.
Tape is the least egregious. When information is put on tape, a secretary is often asked to read it and the quality of the reading leaves a lot to be desired. Graphic information and tables are usually not read or are so mangled as to be indecipherable. There is no consistency about separating documents so that we are often forced to look through a ton of material to find the specific section we want to look at. There is usually no effort to read page numbers so we must refer to an element of a document without being able to cite the page where it can be found.
Large print is usually not big enough. People think that if they just enlarge a document with a copier they have met their large-print obligation. When a document is actually printed in large type, there is no effort to reformat the material to account for the large print; tables get all screwed up and columns don't line up any more.
Disk can be a nightmare. I am amazed by just how few people know what ASCII text files are. We are sent disks that are in formats that most text file readers can't handle and we must have bought a whole range of conversion software if we are to be able to read what we are sent. Many times the people who send documents can't even tell us what format it's in.
And then there is braille! Oh dear! I have seen some of the worst braille imaginable since the ADA was passed. Sometimes literary material is translated into the computer braille code, untranslated with Nemeth numbers and horrible formatting. Sometimes bad formatting will result in several instances where only one or two words appear on a line. Sometimes words get left out or truncated because the formatting does not match the capabilities or settings of the braille embosser that is being used. I could go on and on and on and on.
The question is what can we do about all these problems. Let's start with braille. I think the National Library Service has taken one important step forward. It held a conference, at which Kim Charlson represented ACB, concerning how it should treat people who produce braille using computer-driven translation programs. This is a good step. Clearly, most of the braille we are now receiving is produced from computers and we ought to be concerned about whether people producing this braille are certified. The results of the meeting were also gratifying. The group recommended to NLS that certification ought to be available for people who produce braille this way. Essentially, the group felt that what is important is the final product. It doesn't matter how that product is produced. Thus, hopefully, we will begin to see non-braille readers who produce it entirely from computers being certified. They will have to meet the high standards that NLS has rightly set for braille transcription but that is as it should be. I heartily endorse the decision of this meeting and congratulate NLS for taking an important step toward solving a difficult problem. One thing we can now do is ask that states and perhaps even local governments centralize braille production and demand that the person chiefly responsible for producing braille become certified as a braille transcriber. We can also, of course, register our dissatisfaction with bad braille. The reality is that no entity would allow the publication of badly formatted printed materials. In fact, standards for the quality of printed documents are getting higher and higher. Now graphics, a variety of fonts and borders are becoming more the norm than the exception. Complaints will probably not be enough. The ACB resolution asked that we work with other organizations to develop standards and then to get those standards made a part of the ADAAG (Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines).
The fact is that there are good models we can use. The ADA Transcription Program operated out of the Washington State School for the Blind has earned a reputation for producing high-quality braille quickly. The Office of ADA Coordination here in Miami has assumed responsibility for producing accessible materials and the quality of its product is also high with all formats.
Disks are more of a problem. This is because ASCII (the American Standard for Computer Information Interchange) is not a very good system for communicating information. It can't handle tables, can't show different fonts and cannot deal with graphics. It's great for sending simple text messages that any computer can read but its very simplicity makes it unsuitable for communicating much of the information we might want. ACB has been actively involved with efforts to come up with a better system but we are rapidly being overtaken by decisions that appear to render much of our efforts obsolete. This is because, in the new world of the internet, a whole new set of rules for information exchange are being written and more and more, HTML (hypertext markup language) is becoming the standard lowest common denominator. HTML is not unfriendly to blind people; software companies are now marketing programs that convert from HTML to other document formats. These are often built into communications software. We have some serious work to do, though, in order that more graphically oriented languages don't supersede HTML as the norm. Again this is a complex subject and you can be sure that ACB will continue to be at the forefront of efforts to make certain that we end up with a standard format that will work for blind people. When the Texas Braille Bill was passed, Texas was required to work with publishers to develop what appeared to be an appropriate method for dealing with the production of usable textbooks on disk. They have ultimately adopted HTML and Microsoft and other large manufacturers appear to be embracing HTML as the way to display text that can be used by all. If a standard like HTML is widely enough embraced, we may well have a relatively easy solution to a complex problem. It won't happen without work on our part.
No one to my knowledge has attempted to set appropriate standards for large print. The Post Office says that to qualify as large print, documents must be produced in at least 14-point type. That's an arbitrary number, and 14-point type may not be big enough for many large-print users. There are no regulations concerning fonts which means that much of the large print that is circulating is written in fonts that are difficult to read. Perhaps the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) or the American Foundation for the Blind would consider a research project that would try to see if there is a size and font that would satisfy a large proportion of partially sighted people. Perhaps our affiliate, the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International, would also help us by surveying its membership to see what appears best. It's clear that no large-print solution will satisfy all large-print users but perhaps we should attempt to establish some minimum standards. Perhaps, too, we should encourage each large-print user to specify what will be most useful for him or her. Most word processors nowadays and most laser printers can now produce large print in whatever font or at whatever size seems most comfortable so this would not place a lot of strain on producers. Most large-print users would not complain if the print was too large. Again, the ADA Coordination Office is putting out high-quality large print as part of its multi-format production process so it can be done.
No standards have been set for taped materials either. They seem to me to be the easiest. I believe that a document of two to five pages could set out the principles of good tape production and I see no reason why ACB could not take the lead in promulgating and disseminating these standards. Then members who rely on tape could have a simple document available that they could send to people producing tapes that could be used to assure higher quality reading and more consistent document separation methods. It's probably not too much of an imposition to ask public entities to acquire a tone indexer which costs less than $30.
None of the changes proposed in this message will happen without the help of a lot of you. If all of us sit back and take the garbage we are given, nothing will change. We must be prepared to stand up and demand the same high quality of production in documents produced for us that is available to our non-blind peers. We must be prepared not only to refuse to meet unless we have materials available in accessible formats well in advance of meetings. We must also be prepared to lodge complaints if the quality of the materials is poor. It's hard enough to get through all the information we have without having to spend our precious time trying to decide what the information was supposed to be. Let us make no mistake here. Our time is precious and we need to recognize that.
I was in Australia in the summer of 1995 attending a conference on how to make information accessible to people with print disabilities. Australia, based on a number of conferences like this one, has developed and disseminated standards for the production of taped, braille and large print materials. These are available to any state government or school or university that want to get into the business of producing materials. It is our hope that such standards can eventually be as widely available in this country. This is ultimately where we need to be.
Like so many things raised in these messages, it's up to you! Will you enable the production of bad accessible materials or will you demand that people do better? While it's clear that there are numerous poorly formatted documents out there, I hope that this message points to those who are doing positive things to promote change. None of us can afford to simply complain. We must be ready with ways to make things better before we throw the first stone!
Post-Election Strategies and Legislative Seminar
The first several weeks following a national election usually involve a certain amount of reviewing of positions and strategizing concerning future actions based on recent election results and expected changes in personnel on key congressional committees. In recent weeks ACB staff members and officers have been in communication with other organizations and individuals regarding such important matters as reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act, reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, changes in the Social Security law and implementation of the Telecommunications Act. While such meetings do not always create sensational headlines, they result in well-considered positions which can effectively be communicated by ACB members to their senators and congressmen. Information regarding the 1997 ACB national legislative seminar, being held March 10-11 in Washington, has already been sent out to ACB affiliate presidents, legislative contacts and other interested parties, and we encourage as many members as possible to take part in this year's very important seminar. As announced previously in "The Braille Forum," the 1997 ACB national seminar is being held in conjunction with the "Tell It To Washington" legislative seminar of the American Foundation for the Blind as a way of increasing coordinated action by consumers and service providers. Anyone who would like a packet of information concerning this year's consolidated seminar should contact Krista Dubroff in the ACB national office.
Access To Appliances
At one time or another almost every visually impaired reader of "The Braille Forum" has experienced the frustration of attempting to operate an electric appliance or other electronic device whose controls require visual operation in some way. For that reason I was very pleased when I was asked recently to serve on the first National Advisory Committee established by the Council of Electronic Manufacturers Associations (CEMA), whose meetings were held in conjunction with the world-famous Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, Nev. The sole purpose of the committee was not to discuss accessibility issues but any of a host of issues brought up by the members of the very broad-based committee. Constituencies represented on the committee included the elderly, military veterans, law enforcement personnel, generic rehabilitation experts, environmental specialists, educators, educational administrators, various medical specialties, the insurance industry and youth training and development programs, along with many others. The American Council of the Blind was the only disability organization present at the meetings, which were not intended to duplicate the proceedings of other committees designed to focus on the computer industry but to consider the full range of electronic applications � in fields such as audio transmission and recording, telecommunications, digital photography, property security, etc. However, those same meetings provided an opportunity to tell leaders of the electronics industry that all technology now being manufactured or considered in the future should be designed so the devices can be used by everyone. The electronics industry will not change overnight; it will probably continue to be driven by the marketplace, but this committee opens another channel for communicating with the industry � along with other important committees which ACB members already serve on under the auspices of organizations such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Access Board.
As of this writing, the ongoing efforts to write regulations dealing with accessible telecommunications equipment as mandated by Congress in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 have not been widely reported in the press. Indeed, it would seem to the casual observer that little or nothing is being done on that front. Nothing could be farther from reality. Julie Carroll, ACB's Director of Governmental Affairs, was at the forefront of activities in December and January which helped bring accessible telecommunications equipment regulations a step closer to reality. Hers was far from a simple task. On many occasions, she was forced to strongly defend positions taken by ACB and other disability organizations from those who would dilute those positions and thereby weaken access to telecommunications equipment and services. I'm referring to the final meetings of the Telecommunications Accessibility Advisory Committee, a group of disability advocates and industry representatives commissioned by the Access Board to produce a report which could then be used by the Access Board to create regulations under the Telecommunications Act. Although an account of her efforts isn't likely to make it into "The National Enquirer" or even the evening TV news, her activities and those of her colleagues in that arena will affect the lives of every blind and visually impaired American for years to come. This serves as a reminder that lasting legacies are built from hard work rather than on the foundation of sensationalized headlines.
During the activities connected with the inauguration of President Clinton, it was our pleasure to greet and assist several ACB members who came to Washington for the occasion. The principal bipartisan inaugural event which focused primarily on disability issues was Solidarity 2000, a festive brunch and celebration sponsored by Justice for All. Among the many public officials who pledged continued support on disability issues were Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sen. James Jeffords (R-Vt.), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Gov. Roy Romer (incoming chairman of the Democratic National Committee). ACB President Paul Edwards was one of several national consumer leaders who spoke to the meeting by telephone and I was one of many consumer leaders present who were recognized for their work. As consumers we must now keep our issues before our political leaders, as noted in the separate article in this issue regarding Solidarity 2000.
Toward Better Bus Route Announcements
By the time this issue goes to press, ACB members, staff members and contract consultants will have conducted the first sessions of pre-training monitoring, training and post-training monitoring of transit operators in Pittsburgh and Cleveland pursuant to ACB's contract with Project Action. Many people believe incorrectly that transit operators routinely comply with the ADA requirements for, among other things, calling out principal bus stops and identifying buses to blind passengers, but preliminary monitoring has shown that compliance is very unreliable at best and that these requirements are often points of bitter contention between management and collective bargaining units. These issues will become even more important as funds for paratransit services are reduced and greater efforts are made to encourage disabled people to use fixed-route transportation.
Among the international visitors whom we have been privileged to greet in the national office recently were Mr. and Mrs. Jorgen Eckmann of Denmark. Mr. Eckmann is president of a major chapter of the Danish Association of the Blind.
It is our pleasure to welcome Ms. Krista Dubroff and Ms. Sarah DeYoung to the ACB national office staff. Ms. Dubroff, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Boston, will serve as the legislative administrative assistant, working primarily with Director of Governmental Affairs Julie Carroll. Before joining the ACB staff she was employed by the Access Board. Ms. DeYoung, a graduate of Hope College, will serve as the advocacy administrative assistant, working primarily with Advocacy Director Mark Richert. Before joining the ACB staff she was employed by a Washington law firm and prior to that was connected with a congressional committee as an intern. We are very pleased to have these two outstanding young women join our staff and we are confident they will do outstanding jobs.
"It's Time to Roar!" proclaimed the sign at the front of the room. At a recent gathering in Washington, advocates from the disability community as well as Capitol Hill came together to call for solidarity in the community now and forever. The unifying symbol: a blue ribbon covered with stars.
Sen. James Jeffords (R-Vt.), the new chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, joined the gathering via videotape to share his plans for the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. He urged audience members to make sure their elected officials knew how important the bill was to them and their children.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) thanked his audience for doing the hard work out in the world "to make sure that the day would come when we finally got the Americans with Disabilities Act passed to make sure that we extended all civil rights to all persons in our country. Without you in there, we couldn't have gotten it done. But you know, it wasn't just a matter of passing the ADA. As you know, ever since then there have been forces at work trying to push us down, take a little bit out here and a little bit out there, water it down here ... I thought by now maybe they'd given up, but they haven't given up. Well, I can tell you something: we haven't given up either ..." At many points he was drowned out by applause and, as the sign suggested, roaring.
Harkin complimented both presidential candidates. "We can also celebrate the fact that in this campaign both candidates for president of the United States spoke about the Americans with Disabilities Act in glowing terms ... And we can celebrate the fact that one major presidential candidate was not afraid to speak about his disability in public forums throughout his country." He noted that at 10:15 a.m. January 17, President Clinton was bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Bob Dole.
He requested his audience's assistance in turning back those congressional candidates who insist on telling untrue stories about the ADA. Harkin faced just such a candidate in the recent election. "With your help and support we're going to turn back all those who run for office who disregard, malign, misinterpret and denigrate the ADA and try to water it down," he said. But, he added, all is not well. "We've got some problems coming: we've got IDEA to reauthorize," he stated, asking his audience to remember the trouble IDEA had two years ago. Harkin also looked to the future: two years from now and four years from now, there will be elections, "and there will be people running for office out there who are going to think they can use the Americans with Disabilities Act as a whipping boy that they can beat up and use to try to divide people." He suggested that people in the audience should run for office, too. "We need to be organized, active, involved, to make sure that no doors are closed ... This is indeed a day of celebration, but we also have a lot of promises to keep, too."
One of the promises involves children. "The ADA is all about kids. It's about future generations. It's about making sure that every child in America, regardless of the circumstances of his or her birth, has that ramp of opportunity left down for him or her, to make sure that no matter what the status, no matter what the color of their skin, no matter what their sex is, no matter what their race ... that every child in America has the promise of the ADA solid, in concrete." Harkin said he planned to be in Congress for at least another six years. "Going beyond that into the next century, I see an America ahead of us, an America where every person is recognized for their inherent worth and their ability, not their disability. ... Let's keep moving forward!"
Echoing that sentiment was Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). He thanked his listeners for all they'd done in the past with regard to ADA and other laws, and stated that America was not living out the promise of equal rights for every American, echoing Martin Luther King Jr's. quote on the wall: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere." He wanted all people to have access to the bridge to the 21st century. He urged his audience to make sure that every legislator in the United States knows how important it is that the bridge be accessible to every American.
"You've proved that when you organize in a bipartisan way, when you talk about issues that people care about, when you run on a real record of accomplishment, the people will listen," stated Donna Shalala, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. "And with your help they did. And look at how far we've come in four years." The department has just completed the first survey of people with disabilities to help get the right services to those who need them, she said. Clinton drew a line in the cement that said "no, the government will not accept underfunded block grants ... open-ended definitions of disability, and no, we will not abandon Medicaid's historic guarantee of health care for people with disabilities." She insisted that her listeners keep fighting "to ensure the ADA lives up to its promise, a promise made to each one of us in this country." HHS will fight to reauthorize IDEA, give disabled people going back to work Medicaid and Medicare, as well as independence and real choice in the health care they receive. She urged her listeners to "make a New Year's resolution to work together and to never, never, never give up until we win for every American."
The audience also heard from Becky Ogle, chair of Justice for All, who urged her listeners to have a great time and "roar!", and Justin Dart Jr., the organizer of Solidarity 2000. Dart said he was "proud to have supported the president who empowered people with disabilities as never before in the decision-making process." "Colleagues in disability, in every state, you led America in an historic fight to hold the line for democracy. I'm so proud to be one of you. We didn't win all of the battles, but I believe we turned the tide." He stated that the future of disabled people was in doubt. "We the people with disabilities are not going to be second-class citizens anymore," he said. "We are not going to die to accommodate prejudice. ... We the people with disabilities are not in anyone's political pocket. All candidates, all policies, will be measured against our agenda for empowerment of America. ADA, IDEA, health care, jobs, housing, transportation, communications, communities � for all. Home and community-based services � for all. Choices, dignity, independence, freedom for all. Life for all. ... America for all. ... Solidarity today, solidarity 2000, solidarity forever."
The audience also heard from numerous others, including CCD chairman Paul Marchand, NCOD President Marca Bristo, and ACB President Paul Edwards. Marchand stressed the importance of looking ahead, saying, "You must know there are forces inside and outside the disability community who would be willing to split our ranks. This goal, this theme of solidarity, is critical if the disability community is to move as close as it has over the last several decades. Our movement must stick together if we are to prevail in the future. There are forces at work in the new 105th Congress who will attack our cherished programs and our rights and protections. They must not prevail." He urged his audience not to take the president and his administration for granted, and to be prepared for more battles in the future. "Solidarity for the disability community now, solidarity for the disability community forever."
Bristo believed passion "is going to take us on through the next four years." Passion was necessary because "it is cold over on the hill." She mentioned a document in which NCOD had surveyed people with disabilities at a summit to see what to tell the Clinton administration and the folks on the hill. The results stated: "It's time to let us out of nursing homes. It's time to give us health care instead of rationing it away from us so that we die, or choose Kevorkian lines rather than lifelines." She also commended Deval Patrick, former assistant attorney general for civil rights, who once said, "To understand discrimination, to understand prejudice, you need to know what it feels like for people look right through you like you were not there. To understand discrimination, you need to know what it feels like to be trapped in someone else's stereotype. The stereotype of us today is the most lethal yet, the one that says, 'It costs too much,' the one that says, 'Living our lives is not worth living.' ... It is so important that we listen to each other to understand that to get through this, that cross- disability coalition that got us the ADA is the only thing that is going to get us through these life-and-death debates."
Paul Edwards spoke during the call-in segment, where numerous people expressed varying points of view. He congratulated President Clinton and Vice President Gore for their inauguration, then stated, "I'd like to think that all's well, but I can't quite say that. In fact, as Robert Frost says, we have many miles to go before we sleep. I'd like to make sure that there is indeed a computer in every classroom by the year 2000, but the computers need to be accessible to all students." He also wanted to make sure that the "bridge to the future" was accessible to all people, including the signs on that bridge. He stated that the American Council of the Blind would continue to work with other disability organizations "to accomplish Justice for All. It's our hope that over the next four years we can celebrate many more victories. Let us hope that we can find the common ground on which we must stand together so that the needs of all disabled people can be met. ... We hope that by the year 2000, we will be at the best of times, and we're sure that all people with disabilities, including the American Council of the Blind, will work actively against anyone who would put us back to the worst of times."
The American Council of the Blind has been invited to be part of a new standards-development committee which will write standards for the next generation of digital talking book hardware and software, according to a press release from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. The digital talking book, the next generation library access medium for blind and physically handicapped individuals, took a step closer to reality when the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped director Frank Kurt Cylke announced that NLS has initiated the development of a technical standard through the National Information Standards Organization.
A major development for the NLS program, the NISO digital talking-book standard will address problems of control, audio quality, media compatibility, copyright protection, ease of international interlibrary loan, and affordability. Parties participating will include patrons, patron advocacy organizations, media producers (both volunteer and commercial), rights owners, equipment producers, and librarians.
NISO is the only organization accredited by the American National Standards Institute to develop and maintain technical standards for information services, libraries, publishers, and others involved in the business of creation, storage, preservation, sharing, accession, and dissemination of data. There are currently more than 50 American National Standards in use.
"At present, library access for patrons is well-served by analog cassette tape technology," Cylke says. "This technology has enjoyed the acceptance and economy found in the consumer entertainment market for more than two decades. However, as digital technology gains favor in the marketplace, analog cassettes are likely to become less attractive from both the financial and consumer-preference standpoints. These two forces, economic and preferential, will ultimately converge to motivate change. This NISO standard development program will allow the change from analog to digital to be controlled and consistent with the interests of all concerned." Development of the standard
In announcing the project, NLS research and development officer Michael Moodie, who will direct project activities, outlined the scope and application of the digital talking-book standard.
According to Moodie, "The standard will define minimum performance requirements for next-generation patron-access equipment and will also describe optional features. The standard will be written in a digital context, but it will not define the software or hardware internals of a particular implementation or type of equipment. Emphasis will be on performance characteristics and control. Potential implementers would include manufacturers of digital and analog hardware, developers of multimedia authoring and presentation software, and media producers."
Patricia Harris, executive director of NISO, announced that NLS, as the sponsoring organization, will chair the standards development committee. In addition to an ACB delegate, the committee will be comprised of representatives from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the American Foundation for the Blind, the American Printing House for the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Association, the National Federation of the Blind, and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Other organizations from both the public and private sectors will be included, along with representatives of engineering and library interests.
Commenting on the complexity of the undertaking, John Cookson, head of the NLS Engineering Section, says, "The impact on users moving from existing practices to the new digital standard must range from 'virtually transparent' [products seemingly the same to users but with technical improvements] to 'profound' [products with a range of options for the more technologically sophisticated patron]. The foregoing impact statement focuses on the blind and physically handicapped patron. However, there is an infrastructure of 'users' who support and implement the library system. This wider community includes librarians, producers of talking books and magazines, both commercial and volunteer, equipment manufacturers, and software developers. The new standard will, again, range from transparent to profound in impact on this community. For example, audio studios may continue to narrate into conventional analog equipment while their product would become usable only by processing through digital encoding software that is not found in today's production stream." Implementing the standard
Wells B. Kormann, chief of the NLS Materials Development Division, also commented on the value and potential implementation of the project.
Kormann says, "The entire user community will be motivated to use this standard. The existing system is analog cassette tape, while the standard will define a system that will be digitally based but not restricted to any particular distribution media or implementation. Because of this fundamental incompatibility, change from the existing system will require a transition where use of both systems overlap. Time frames for introduction of new equipment are dependent on the commercial development and availability of adaptable consumer electronic hardware and software products."
According to Kormann, "Anticipating an additional 10 years of acceptable and economical use for cassette tape means that the standard must be finished within five years to allow for a five- year transition period."
The time is now to complete your plans to attend the 1997 convention in Houston, Texas. The dates are Saturday, July 5 to Saturday, July 12. The place is the Adam's Mark Hotel, where all convention activities will take place. Rates are $49 per night for single and double, $59 for triple and quad, plus tax. You can call the Adam's Mark directly at (800) 436-2326 or (713) 978-7400.
The first overflow hotel is the Marriott West Side, located about 20 minutes from the Adam's Mark. The phone number is (713) 558-8338. Shuttles will operate regularly between both hotels. Rates are the same as at the Adam's Mark.
There is a change in the third overflow hotel. We had reported earlier that this would be the Holiday Inn. However, a new Red Roof Inn, located much closer to the Adam's Mark, has just opened. This hotel is offering rates of $46 per night (plus tax) for up to four people per room and this rate includes a continental breakfast each morning. This hotel has no restaurant, but there is one next door open 24 hours a day. This hotel is located at 2960 W. Sam Houston Parkway S. The local phone number is (713) 785-9909 or you can call the Red Roof Inn reservation number at (800) 843-7663. Shuttles will operate from this hotel also.
Van transportation from Houston's Intercontinental and Hobby airports to the convention hotels is provided by Airport Express at a round-trip cost of $37. Because of the distance, cab fares are considerably more. Transportation time is approximately 45 minutes. You are encouraged to use ACB's designated travel agency, AAA Travel Service of Muskogee, Okla., for current air fare information and the lowest fares. The more this service is used, the more ACB benefits. Call (800) 259-9299.
Tentative tour planning for 1997 includes an overnight trip to San Antonio and Fiesta, Texas; a city tour Saturday before the convention, repeated Sunday. Visits to the Astrodome, the Space Center, the dog track, a barbecue and entertainment at George's Ranch Wednesday evening, Moody Gardens at Galveston, the Museum of Natural History, the Lighthouse for the Blind, and a dinner theater Saturday evening. Watch future issues of "The Braille Forum" for more details.
Get to know Houston this summer and have a great time at the ACB 1997 convention!
(Editor's Note: Stanley currently serves as president of Guide Dog Users, Inc., an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind and the largest organization of guide dog handlers in the world.)
When I was elected president of Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) at the 1996 national convention, the future looked bright indeed. GDUI is arguably ACB's fastest-growing affiliate with more than 750 members and new state and local affiliates joining our ranks each year. The organization is full of caring, committed people who truly believe in the power of teamwork, either human and canine or human and fellow human.
Reality soon struck hard though. Charles Hodge detailed the struggle to win access to and from Hawaii in the December issue of "The Braille Forum." (See "Dog Guide Users Win Important Disability Rights Victory in Federal Appellate Court," December 1996.) Many people and organizations have contributed to the legal effort throughout the years. Battles have been fought, both internally and externally over this cause, but now the ball lies squarely in GDUI's court. Guide Dog Users, Inc. has taken on full funding responsibility for the legal action. This means that we must raise funds to support a cause that, in the short run, may only benefit a few people.
Many "Braille Forum" readers on fixed incomes have asked "why does GDUI pour money, time and effort into the Hawaii case when real issues loom large here at home?" People continue to have access difficulties with taxi cabs, housing and employment. Health problems and new flea prevention products are expensive for dog handlers on fixed incomes. The growth of new organizations set up to train a variety of "helping" dogs has made life interesting at best and confusing at worst for the average guide dog handler. So why are we putting so much emphasis and effort into winning the right to travel to Hawaii?
The GDUI constitution lists among the organization's purposes:
(1) To promote the acceptance of guide dog teams by all agencies, employers, educational institutions, commercial establishments, and the general public.
(2) To work for the expansion, standardization, and enforcement of legal provisions, both civil and criminal, governing the rights and responsibilities in the areas of public access, employment, housing, personal injury, transportation, and recreation.
The state of Hawaii holds not only recreational opportunities, but employment, professional development through seminars and conferences and educational opportunities that are currently denied to those persons whose means of mobility involve working with a guide dog. Blind Hawaiians wishing to access such services and opportunities on the mainland United States are also being denied based on their partnership with a guide dog.
Some may say that working with a dog is a mobility choice. Many guide dog handlers would argue this point. Safe, efficient, dignified mobility comes in many forms: cane, dog or sighted guide. Each form has merit. Most blind people who work with dogs use a combination of all major forms of mobility at one point or another, but restricting choices is like saying to a longtime cane user, "You may only travel here with a sighted guide." In my case, I tend to outpace most sighted guides and prefer the teamwork provided by my dog.
As GDUI affiliate members in Nebraska and Oregon discovered, restrictions on the travel of guide dog handlers may not be as blatant as the Hawaii case, but can slip into the legal consciousness of a state without us even realizing it. Traditionally, fees and requirements for health certificates for guide dogs leaving or entering states with their blind handlers have been waived, but the written requirements have not been amended to specifically omit guides and other ADA-covered service animals from charges or inspections.
What does this mean in English? Though we do not foresee Nebraska or Oregon setting up a quarantine program, our affiliates' members have had to justify their rights to travel freely without extra charges and restrictions, with their guides. This effort cost time and yes, even money, for letter writing, phone calls and visits to legislators. Laws, if not backed by the courts, can be repealed as easily as they were enacted. Oftentimes, the repeal is pushed to a back page and in the information-starved state of many local disability advocacy groups regarding legislation, its importance slips through the cracks.
If we do not fight with our voices and our dollars for legal precedents such as the Hawaii case, we may see our rights to travel with the mobility aid of our choice further restricted. This is not just an effort to allow blind people to go on vacation to our 50th state. Exempting the quarantine for guide dogs, with proper microchip identification and vaccination and testing, will allow blind Hawaiians to attend mainland colleges and blind mainland residents to travel to Hawaii for business, obtain employment and take advantage of professional development opportunities. Even if you do not work with a guide dog, by reading this publication and interacting with the American Council of the Blind, you support the advancement, rights, responsibilities and dignity of people who are blind and visually impaired throughout the world.
GDUI gives special thanks to its parent organization, the American Council of the Blind, for more than $15,000 in support since 1993. Money isn't the only valuable gift we've received from ACB. Staff and others have supported us with advice, guidance and a listening ear when things got tough. We sincerely hope to continue that support in the coming year.
As we approach the final battle in the Hawaii case, we are proud to say that the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, has become a co-plaintiff. Joining Vernon Crowder, a California guide dog handler, and Linda Cote, a Hawaiian guide dog handler, the DOJ adds experience, legal muscle and a belief that our exemption plan will provide blind people with the civil rights they deserve under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
GDUI still incurs legal costs, however. Capably and confidently represented by Michael Lily, former Attorney General of Hawaii, we begin depositions and expert testimony in early 1997. It is expected that GDUI will require $50,000 to cover legal costs through July 1997.
A trial date has been set for September 1997 and we are hopeful that our advocacy efforts will pay off in the form of a victory we can share with everyone in 1998. In order to make this possible, we need your help. Any donation is greatly appreciated. GDUI is embarking (pardon the pun) on a national fund-raising campaign, but as many of you know, large-scale fund-raising takes time and our bills keep accumulating.
We have thus far received donations from four of the 11 major guide dog training providers. Guide Dogs of America, Guide Dog Foundation, Guiding Eyes and Seeing Eye have seen fit to support the principles upon which they were founded, the belief in the independent travel of blind people and guide dogs. If your guide dog school is not among these contributors, contact the director and president of the board and let them know how important their monetary support is. The team of school, handler, and dog doesn't end when the training class is over.
We thank the many ACB state affiliates around the country who've given to our cause and encourage others to donate to support the rights of their members with guide dogs.
For more information on how you can contribute to the Hawaii effort, contact: Jane C. Sheehan, Treasurer, Guide Dog Users, Inc., 14311 Astrodome Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20906; phone: (301) 598-2131; or e-mail: [email protected].
Checks and credit card donations may be made payable to Hawaii Legal Fund at the above address.
In future issues of "The Braille Forum," we hope to tell you more about the people and projects of GDUI, moving forward, making impressions of independence.
(Editor's Note: Mr. Senge is a member of the American Council of the Blind and is the co-director of the transcription center described in this story. Findings of the study to which he refers in this story were published in "The Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness" in 1995.)
Traditionally, one of the biggest challenges facing braille readers in postsecondary education has been timely access to instructional materials in braille. For many braille readers attending colleges and universities, getting course materials transcribed into braille can be difficult or even impossible. Furthermore, research indicates in situations where this accommodation is available to a student, it typically takes an excessive amount of time to get course-related material transcribed into braille.
I recently studied 18 of the 20 California State University (CSU) campuses and found that many CSU campuses may not be providing a sufficient level of braille accessibility for their braille-reading students (Senge & Dote-Kwan, 1995). Currently, instructional materials including course syllabi, class handouts, and course examinations are not distributed in braille at the same time these materials are distributed in print. While it is difficult to measure the precise academic effects such delays may have on a student, these delays undoubtedly reduce program accessibility to one degree or another.
In short, timely access to course-related material in a student's preferred format is vital for anyone in higher education. This is especially true when you recognize that courses are designed around a 13- to 18-week timetable. Course success or failure is measured in days, not weeks or months. Academic instruction moves at a swift pace and those who have the skills and the tools to keep up with the mainstream have a chance to survive. But for those with the skills to perform but who don't have the necessary access tools available to them, the outcome becomes far less certain.
In response to the prevalent need for timely access to instructional materials in braille in postsecondary education, the Braille Transcription Center (BTC) was established in the fall of 1995 at California State University, Fullerton. This "Model Demonstration Project to Improve the Delivery and Outcomes of Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Disabilities" is being funded by a three-year, $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Special Education. Jointly conceived and directed by Dr. Jamie Dote-Kwan of California State University, Los Angeles and the author, of California State University, Fullerton the BTC presents a multi-campus model aimed at improving braille delivery services throughout the 11 campuses of the CSU system in southern California.
By adopting a regional approach to braille transcription, the BTC has been able to bring together a highly qualified team of specialists, all focused on producing braille quickly and accurately. This innovative approach to braille transcription has enabled braille readers attending any of the 11 campuses of the CSU in southern California to have access to instructional materials in braille at the same time as print-reading students.
How Does It Work?
Students, faculty, or staff located on a participating CSU campus can send the instructional materials to be transcribed to the BTC. The information may be sent by conventional mail, overnight courier, fax, or electronically via the Internet. Once the instructional materials have been received, the center's staff converts the information into braille or tactile images. This task is accomplished by utilizing state-of-the-art computer-based braille production systems. Prior to completion, all embossed documents are proofread for format and transcription accuracy by the BTC's Usability Analyst. After the embossed materials have passed final inspection, the brailled documents are returned to the appropriate party by conventional mail or overnight courier.
Since the primary mission of the BTC is to provide braille access to instructional materials in a timely manner, an outreach program has been included in the project. This essential component focuses on making students, faculty, and staff in the CSU system aware of the BTC and what their responsibilities are in making the program successful. We've made every effort to encourage and support the use of existing technologies, including fax machines and e-mail to expedite the transfer of information and materials. Emphasis has been placed on the importance of submitting course- related materials to the BTC far enough in advance to allow for sufficient time to transcribe and return them by the desired date.
The final function of the BTC is to act as a resource. Technical support and training will be provided during years two and three to CSU campuses that already have on-site braille production equipment. The BTC is also conducting evaluations of computer-based technologies related to the braille transcription process. All findings are being documented and will be made available to other postsecondary institutions.
This innovative project offers a solution to the problem of providing individualized instructional materials in braille for students on the 11 campuses of the CSU in southern California in a timely manner. The creation of the BTC has not only provided an increased opportunity for students who use braille to achieve but has undoubtedly raised the CSU system's level of compliance with existing civil rights laws.
For more information on the BTC project contact: Jeffrey C. Senge, M.S., Information and Computer Access Program (ICAP) Coordinator, Office of Disabled Student Services (UH-101), California State University, Fullerton, P.O. Box 34080, Fullerton, CA 92634-9480. Call (714) 449-5397 or fax: (714) 773-2408. Send e-mail: [email protected].
The Washington Council of the Blind held its annual convention at Bremerton's Bayview Inn November 7-9. On Friday the 8th, ACB Director of Governmental Affairs Julie Carroll started the program rolling with a legislative seminar. Exhibits opened at 10 a.m. Also on Friday were the general assembly, opened by Bremerton mayor Lynn Horton; Sue Ammeter gave her message, and Earl Emerson, Seattle firefighter and mystery writer, spoke about his experiences. Friday ended with a hands-on tour of the Naval Museum. Saturday morning was filled with reports from the Washington State School for the Blind, the Talking Book and Braille Library, and the Division of Services for the Blind, as well as a talk by Joleen Ferguson on her experiences of traveling abroad with a guide dog. Julie Carroll updated members about ACB activities; Cindy Wearstler moderated a panel discussion on the passage of the state's braille bill. The council passed resolutions, one which commended Governor Mike Lowry, and another dealing with secret ballots and voting.
The Louisiana Council of the Blind will hold its convention May 16-17 at the Days Inn in Baton Rouge. Room rates are $45 per night for single and double occupancy. The hotel is located at 10245 Airline Highway. For more information, contact the Louisiana Council administrative office at (504) 925-1635.
There is an affiliate of the ACB for licensed amateur radio operators called the American Council of the Blind Radio Amateurs. The affiliate has elected officers and about 70 members who are licensed hams. Each year it holds a meeting at the ACB national convention. Its objective is to meet others with the same interests and discuss common needs and problems, and help each other find solutions. For more information, contact Robert Rogers at 1121 Morado Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45238; phone (513) 762-4022, ham radio call sign K8CO, or e-mail [email protected].
If you're a high school or college student who would like to meet other students with vision impairments, or a parent or professional concerned about issues affecting the education of blind children and adults, you should know that an affiliate of the National Alliance of Blind Students is being formed in Washington state. If you want to become a member, call Imke Durre at (206) 522-5729, or send print, braille or taped correspondence to her at 5115 24th Ave. NE, Apt. 10, Seattle, WA 98105, or e-mail her at [email protected].
(Editor's Note: The following information was submitted by Jim Doherty, a member of the D.C. Association of Workers for the Blind and one of those who helped make its convention a success.)
When a state affiliate plans another annual convention, everyone hopes it will be bigger and better than the previous one. The District of Columbia Association of Workers for the Blind (DCAWB) has held only four conventions, and our hopes have been realized every time.
Founded in 1913, DCAWB proudly claims to be the longest-running organization of its kind in the nation. (We don't say "oldest" because we're still vigorous and growing.)
Our most recent convention was held on November 2, 1996, at the Holiday Inn Capital, which is situated among buildings housing the federal Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation, as well as the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Information Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, NASA, and several museums of the Smithsonian Institution. In this ultimately "Washington" setting, our members and friends discussed education, arts and recreation, personal safety and pending legislation, emphasizing how and why these topics are important in the lives of blind and visually impaired people.
President McKinley (Mack) Young welcomed all and urged each to participate in the upcoming discussions. The first panel, on Arts and Recreation, elicited a great deal of audience interaction. Street Thoma, a well-known local artist who likes to create tactile pictures, described some of his creations and later displayed them in the exhibit room. Beth Ziebarth, from the Smithsonian's Accessibility Office, told how the various museums are working to increase the number of described tours and asked for suggestions from the audience. Dan Oates, an outreach worker for the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind who also works with NASA's Space Camp for Children and Adults, explained how the camp has opened its programs and facilities to blind persons. Freddie Peaco, a DCAWB board member, talked briefly about her stay at the camp a few years ago. Among the many questions addressed to Mr. Oates were two requests for applications to participate in the 1997 program.
Next, a representative of the Special Education branch of the D.C. Public Schools outlined the program for serving students with disabilities in both specialized and mainstream classrooms.
Following a short break, Sgt. Terry Alexander from the D.C. Police Department conducted a lively give-and-take session about personal safety. With volunteers from the audience, she demonstrated safe ways to carry a purse or wallet, how to avoid potentially dangerous situations and how the cane can be used as a weapon.
As often happens, we were running a bit late, so the panel on legislation could not take many questions. Marian Vessels, from the Mid-Atlantic Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center, spoke on access to public accommodations (Title III of the ADA). Jamal Mazrui, from the National Council on Disability, briefed the convention on other legislation affecting people with disabilities. The ACB national office and several interested parties, including DCAWB, have brought suit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the U.S. Department of Transportation to force the installation of proper detectable warnings along the edges of subway platforms. ACB Treasurer Pat Beattie, representing ACB's Environmental Access Committee, brought us up to date on the lawsuit and related activities.
At the luncheon, Oral Miller, ACB's Executive Director, who led a delegation to mainland China in October, described conditions for blind students in two very different schools. Totally blind students must attend one of these state-run schools. Legally blind children with sufficient vision may attend the mainland Chinese version of mainstream classes. Oral brought along some examples of Chinese braille and writing equipment that attracted much interest.
Following Oral's speech and a brief question session, two traditional DCAWB awards were presented. The 1996 "Unsung Hero" was Jean Dorf, a long-time DCAWB member who, besides serving as president of our affiliate four times, has always been a source of joy and inspiration for all of us. The Helen Ecker Award is given to someone whose writings, speeches and other professional activities promote a positive image of blind people. The awardee this time was Kathi Wolfe. Wolfe is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to "The Braille Forum," "The Washington Post" and many other publications.
In the exhibit room, several commercial and non-profit organizations had a wide range of products on display and for sale, including Kraft Foods (with cookbooks in braille and large print), Jeannette Gerrard (a DCAWB member), representing both her own business and Ann Morris Enterprises, the Columbia Lighthouse, Volunteers for the Visually Handicapped and Shrinkwrap, Inc. The Department of Veterans Affairs and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic distributed information on their services, as did National Industries for the Blind.
Convention Co-chairs Freddie Peaco and Janiece Petersen put together an active planning committee: Barbara and Roger Buchanan, Douglas Davis, Jim Doherty, Joan Goldberg, Tim Hairston, Myrtle Kemp, Dolores Rupard and Sandra Sermons. Volunteers Maria Francis, Jamal Mazrui, Sophie Silfen and Shirley Young also played a vital role in making the DCAWB 1996 annual convention the latest in a progressive series of successes.
(Reprinted from the "White Cane Bulletin," January-February 1997.)
Soon after midnight on December 30, 1996, Chick quietly and peacefully passed away in his sleep as a result of a heart attack.
Chick was born in Washington, D.C. and lived there until early adulthood. He graduated from Hamilton College in Utica, N.Y., and attended Staunton Military Academy and Virginia Military Institute. He entered the U.S. Army at the age of 19 with the rank of first lieutenant. He served in World War II and was wounded in action in Germany.
Chick became a general building contractor after he moved to Florida. About 10 years ago, he bought 10 acres in Geneva, Fla., and later built a home, a barn and several outbuildings. He loved the property and often said he wanted to live there until he died. His wish was granted; he passed away at his home with his wife Mary by his side.
As a result of retinitis pigmentosa, Chick's sight gradually diminished and he became totally blind about six years ago. He had been actively involved in what is now the Foundation Fighting Blindness for many years.
Chick was well-known in the blindness community. He had been active in the Florida Council of the Blind since the mid-1970s when he became a charter member of the Mid-Florida chapter, serving as its president from 1975-1976. He served as president of the Florida Council from 1980-1981, was editor of "The White Cane Bulletin" for a number of years, served as chairman of many FCB committees, and was the recipient of the ACB Ambassador Award. He also served as District Governor of the Lions Club, a prestigious post not previously held by a visually impaired individual.
Most of all, Chick will be remembered for his happy disposition and charisma. He was unique in this. "That was Chick," Mary said. "He made people feel happy."
The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.
The Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision has a fellowship for a graduate student to pursue a doctoral degree in rehabilitation counseling with an emphasis in the area of blindness or low vision. It's called the Anne Sullivan Macy Fellowship, and the experience includes a paid graduate assistantship with the RRTC; tuition reimbursement; participation in ongoing applied research; involvement with professional groups, state agencies for the blind, and consumer advocacy organizations; and involvement in regional and national training conferences. For more information, contact J. Elton Moore, Director, Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, P.O. Drawer 6189, Mississippi State, MS 39762; phone (601) 325-2001, TDD (601) 325-8693, or fax (601) 325-8989.
The American Foundation for the Blind needs nominations for the 11th annual Alexander Scourby Narrator of the Year Awards. Two Scourby Awards will be presented, representing outstanding narration in fiction (including mysteries, westerns, science fiction, romance, and adventure) and non-fiction. All Talking Book readers may nominate a reader in each category. To cast your vote, send your choices (one per category) to American Foundation for the Blind, Communications Group, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, N.Y. 10001; e-mail [email protected]; or phone (800) 232-5463. Submissions must be made no later than March 28.
Ann Morris Enterprises now has the 1997 catalog available. New items include a braille money marker, talking compass, talking microwave, computer games, talking book equipment, and more. Request your free copy in large print, four-track cassette, or MS- DOS disk. Braille costs $6. Contact Ann Morris Enterprises, 890 Fams Ct., East Meadow, N.Y. 11554; phone (800) 454-3175, or e-mail [email protected].
Virginia Governor George Allen declared the month of January 1997 Braille Literacy Month. The Certificate of Recognition reads as follows: "Whereas, there are over 73,000 severely visually impaired and 25,000 blind citizens in the Commonwealth; and whereas, Braille is a system of raised dots which, through their arrangement, enable blind and visually impaired individuals to read and write; and whereas, literacy enables blind and visually impaired children and adults to enjoy the integration, employment and fullest possible inclusion in society; and whereas, while various recording devices, reading machines and computer programs have enabled blind individuals to gain access to an unprecedented amount of printed material, they cannot fully replace Braille, the medium which allows an individual to read and write independently; Now, therefore, I, George Allen, Governor, do hereby recognize January 1997 as Braille Literacy Month in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I call this observance to the attention of all our grateful citizens."
If you participated in Operation Castle, a series of nuclear weapons tests conducted from March 1 through May 14, 1954, forward your name, address, telephone number and information about exposure to ionizing radiation to Kenneth D. Wolfe, National Service Director, DAV National Service and Legislative Headquarters, 807 Maine Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20024.
The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau at Harvard's law school in Cambridge, Mass., has a half-time supervising attorney/clinical instructor position open. The instructor acts as attorney of record, with ultimate authority for the cases under his/her supervision; meets regularly with students to discuss, plan and prepare cases; accompanies students to court, and acts as a fieldwork instructor in connection with clinical courses in which his/her students may be enrolled. Qualifications include admission to the Massachusetts bar association, a minimum of four to six years of experience in poverty law, preferably work in landlord/tenant, domestic relations, government benefits, with significant trial experience. Prior supervision of other attorneys is desirable. Send cover letter, resume, and names of three references to Betty Allebach, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, 1511 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138 by March 15.
Acrontech recently released the Personal Organizer, a fully accessible integrated package that allows a visually impaired person to write and spell-check letters, address and print letters and envelopes, schedule appointments and reminders in a calendar, write checks, file recipes and make shopping lists, and much more. If you would like more information on the organizer, call Acrontech at (800) 245-2020 or send e-mail to [email protected]; a free demonstration version is available at http://www.acrontech.com.
The Massachusetts Association for the Blind Recording Studio now offers "The Harvard Business Review" on four-track cassette. The annual subscription fee is $75. Each bimonthly edition is on two tapes. For more information, contact the studio at 200 Ivy St., Brookline, MA 02146 or phone (617) 732-0259.
A new braille transcription service is available, according to information provided by Donna Webb. The service charges 15 cents per braille page, and 25 cents per volume for binding. Fees for recording printed material to tape are 40 cents per C-60 cassette, 75 cents per C-90 tape, and $1 per C-120 cassette. All materials are transcribed by an NLS-certified transcriber. Call (903) 845- 3018 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, or write to Donna Webb at 1106 Olive St., Gladewater, TX 75647. Deaf-blind callers may contact the relay at (800) 735-2989.
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped won two Talking Book of the Year Awards during the Canadian National Institute for the Blind's 12th annual Torgi Awards program. The winning books are: "Original Sin," by P.D. James, in the fiction-partner producers category and "Den of Lions: Memoirs of Seven Years," by Terry A. Anderson in the non-fiction- partner producers category. Six other titles were nominated: "In the Lake of the Woods" by Tim O'Brien; "Superior Death" by Nevada Barr; "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter" by Sherwin B. Nuland; "Life Work" by Donald Hall; "A Matter of Choices: Memoirs of a Female Physicist" by Fay Ajzenberg-Selove; and "Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived, a Memoir" by Penelope Lively.
The Music and Arts Center for the Handicapped is accepting applications for its Summer Music Institute from motivated blind musicians throughout the United States, high school or above, to participate in its second program for blind college-bound musicians. It will be a three-week program, held in July at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, and will provide exposure to braille music, music composition by computer, keyboard, theory, and ensemble music, and strategies for study and independent living in a college setting. Enrollment is limited to 15 students. Students will be accepted based on their applications and over-the- phone interviews. The cost of the program is $2,500; partial scholarships are available. For an application, or to reach the National Resource Center, contact the Music and Arts Center for the Handicapped, 600 University Ave., Bridgeport, CT 06601; phone (203) 366-3300, or e-mail [email protected].
The Carroll Center of Massachusetts is offering several summer youth programs. One is called Youth In Transition, and it will be held from June 30 to August 1. Participants mingle with peers, compare experiences, share insights and discuss matters of concern. Students will receive first-hand exposure to the computer, synthetic speech, braille, low-vision equipment, and other adaptive technology. Field trips include recreational activities such as pottery, gardening, dance, sports, sailing and canoeing, and drama. Tuition and housing fees are $4,800; the optional computer course costs $250. Student Career Assessment, designed to help teens and young adults develop career choices and job-seeking skills, is scheduled for August 4 through 27. Each student will review his work history and study where the jobs are in the current market, as well as realistic job possibilities for himself. Tuition and housing for this course is $3,000; the optional computer course, $200. And Byte Computer Training is a one-week class for students ages 11 to 15; it provides training in word processing, computer management, e-mail, speech, large print and/or braille access. The dates are August 4 through 8; housing is not available. Tuition is $700. For more information, contact the Carroll Center at (617) 969-6200 or (800) 852-3131.
Free screenings for these summer programs will be held: March 25, eastern Missouri, location TBA; March 27, western Missouri, location TBA; April 15, western New York, location TBA; April 17, eastern New York, location TBA; April 22, Oklahoma, location TBA; and April 25 at the Carroll Center in Newton Center, Mass. To be included, contact the Carroll Center to set up an appointment, and send in your eye report and general medical report (1996 or later), transcript and/or IEP, and other reports which may be required, such as audiology, low vision, psychological, psychiatric, and work assessment.
Guide Dog Users Inc. now has a catalog available. It contains useful and attractive products for the guide dog as well as the dog handler, such as feeding equipment, harness signs and pouches, jewelry, and more. The catalog is available in braille, large print, cassette, 3.5-inch computer disk, and e-mail. GDUI can now take credit card orders. For more information, contact Jane Sheehan, Treasurer, Guide Dog Users Inc., 14311 Astrodome Dr., Silver Spring, MD 20906-2245; phone (301) 598-2131, or e-mail [email protected].
"Speak To Me!" products has a winter supplement to its catalog. It showcases numerous brand-new products not featured in the fall/winter catalog, including a talking thermometer (with braille instructions), 90-second note recorder with insertion capabilities, and a variety of talking and musical Easter products, wedding products and birthday items. Call (800) 248-9965 to receive your free catalog. Request it in print, on tape or on a computer disk.
If you find traditional explanations of computer workings or the Internet confusing, there is a new two-cassette package that can make the basics of computers and the Internet understandable. The first tape, "60 Minutes Toward Computer Literacy," explains what happens when the computer is first turned on and gets going. "Internet Explained � Short & Sweet" talks about what the Internet is and how it works. Each tape is about 80 minutes and costs $16.45; the set costs $24.95. Credit card orders are accepted at (800) 260-7717.
"Circle of Love" is a 90-minute Christian cassette magazine that features music, Bible games, a prayer request section, a pen pals section, a birthday column, timely sermon and other issues of concern to blind people. It costs $15 a year, but a free sample will be sent on request. Write to: Circle of Love Tape Ministry for the Blind, 1002 Johnson St., Pasadena, TX 77506-4618, or phone its voice mail at (800) 677-1207 and enter pin #1250 (that's the pound, or number sign, key at the lower right side of the keypad, then 1250), then give your name and address, being careful to spell out any difficult name.
Also available are sturdy black check-writing guides for $4.50 each. These guides have cut-outs for date, payee, check description and amount, and the signature. Make checks payable to Rev. George E. Gray, and send your request to him at the address above.
The Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision will be holding a conference April 2-4, 1997 entitled Job Placement for the 21st Century in Tampa, Fla. The hotel, the Tampa Airport Hilton at MetroCenter, 2225 Lois Ave., has free airport transportation. Room rates are $90 single, $100 double; participants should make their own reservations by calling (813) 887-6688. Registration fee is $75, which includes breakfast April 3 and 4. Featured speakers are Dr. Karen Wolffe, Jerry Miller, Dr. Craig Colvin, Dr. Susan Kelly, and Robert Kelly. For more information, contact Tara Laney at (601) 325-2001.
Are you traveling to conventions, or just to a winter getaway? Contact travel consultants who can get you from here to there relaxed and hassle-free. Call (718) 335-1788 and press option 2, or e-mail [email protected] or [email protected].
Personal Computing Systems creates board and arcade games for blind computer users, including Any Night Football, Monopoly, Tenpin, Shoot, and Mobius Mountain. If you would like more information, or have a new idea for a game program, contact Personal Computer Systems, 551 Compton Ave., Perth Amboy, N.J. 08861; phone (908) 826-1917. If you would like a demo of these games, telnet to gbx.org; Any Night Football is fan95.zip; Monopoly is mn96.zip; Tenpin is tenpin96.zip; Shoot is shoot96.zip; and Mobius Mountain is mobius96.zip.
The U.S. Disabled Cycling Team will be holding its fifth annual bicycle racing camp May 24-30 at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. The training program is staffed by accredited head coaches from the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes, Disabled Sports USA and U.S. Cerebral Palsy Athletic Association, as well as an exercise physiologist, a nutritionist and a mechanic. Eligible athletes must belong to or join their respective disabled sports organization. Food and housing are provided at no cost to the athlete by the U.S. Disabled Cycling Team. There is a cost of $55 per athlete to cover the cost of materials used at the camp. Applications are available from Peter Paulding, USABA Cycling Coach, 49 River St., Plymouth, MA 02360; phone (508) 747-2923. The application deadline is April 10. Apply quickly.
Disability Radio Worldwide is a half-hour weekly program that shares issues, events and political analysis affecting people with disabilities. Recent programs have included reproductive health care and women with disabilities, the history of people with disabilities and the values of disability culture. It is broadcast from Costa Rica on Radio for Peace International, shortwave frequencies 7385 kHz. and 15050 kHz., Mondays at 19:00 UTC and Saturdays at 22:00 UTC, each with a second broadcast eight hours later on 7385 kHz. The program also runs on KGNU Radio in Boulder, Colo. For more information, write to P.O. Box 200567, Denver, CO 80220.
Radio For Peace International is a shortwave station that broadcasts from Costa Rica and can be picked up in North America by anyone who has a shortwave radio. The station broadcasts programs about peace, the environment, tolerance and other topics usually thought of as "liberal" or "progressive" issues. Jean Parker, a blind person from Colorado, does a weekly program about disability. There is also a special women's program called Feminist International Radio Endeavor. Most programs are in English; some are in Spanish. RFPI is member-supported; members receive a quarterly publication telling about programs which also contains articles about the station and its concerns. RFPI will send the magazine on tape to anyone who joins and states that he/she is blind or wants the publication on tape. The program list is also available in braille. Anyone wishing to join should send a check for $35 to: Radio For Peace International, P.O. Box 20728, Portland, OR 97294. If you do not wish to join until you have heard a sample tape or seen a sample schedule, contact Timothy Hendel at 2513 Pansy St., Huntsville, AL 35801; phone (205) 539- 5678. Send a C-90 tape for the magazine; the braille schedule is free.
An audiocassette which provides information on a home business opportunity in the field of health and nutrition may be ordered for $.85 from Ben Ruiz (505) 281-6222. No collect calls please. According to Ruiz, the business is a good opportunity for blind and visually impaired people who would like to work at home.
Those interested in selling organic whole food supplements should contact Donna Jean Webb at 1106 N. Olive St., Gladewater, TX 75647-4046; phone (903) 845-3017.
Affordable gifts for all occasions are available. And there is potential for earning money selling them, too. Call (888) 887- 6318.
The Arizona Instructional Resource Center at the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix, Ariz., and the Mohave Treatment Programs Department at the Arizona State Prison Complex at Douglas have opened a Perkins brailler repair service. The service is administered by the AIRC; the actual repairs are done in Douglas. There is a $15 flat fee for labor; repairs come with a six-month warranty. Turnaround time is about two weeks; repair time may be longer if special parts need to be ordered. For more information, or to send your brailler for service, contact the AIRC at The Foundation for Blind Children, 1235 E. Harmont Dr., Phoenix, AZ 85020; phone (602) 331-1470.
(Reprinted with permission from "Horizons," February 1997.)
People concerned with disability-related issues should pay close attention to the decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Parker v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. This case, decided late in 1996, breaks new ground in the area of challenging insurance practices.
The plaintiff had worked for her employer for many years but had become depressed to the point of being unable to perform the essential functions of her job. She filed suit challenging the employer's long-term disability benefits policy which limited benefits to 24 months for people with mental disabilities while continuing benefits until age 65 for those with physical disabilities. The employer and the insurance company defended, claiming the former employee was not a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA and that the ADA did not cover discrimination under insurance policies.
The U.S. District Court where the case was filed agreed completely with the employer. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit agreed with the lower court ruling about Ms. Parker not being a qualified individual with a disability under ADA Title I. But, most significantly, in a landmark ruling, it disagreed on the insurance question, opening the way to a claim under Title III of the ADA.
Following the trend and relying on recent cases such as Gonzales v. Garner Food Services and McNemar v. Disney Store (both discussed here previously), the Sixth Circuit agreed with the employer (and lower court) that a former employee was not a qualified individual with a disability under the employment provisions of the ADA in Title I. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to its credit, filed a friend of the court (amicus curiae) brief, arguing that the ADA applied and that the plaintiff could sue as a "benefits recipient" under Title I of the law. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument.
However, the Sixth Circuit broke new ground when it held that the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act was sufficiently broad to prohibit discrimination in insurance products � not just physical access to insurance company offices. The Court of Appeals has given the plaintiff the opportunity to show at trial that the specific differentiation in benefits for physical and mental disabilities is discriminatory. The plaintiff must show that the insurance practice is not justified by "sound actuarial principles," "actual or reasonably anticipated experience," or "bona fide risk classification."
Parker makes clear that Title III of the ADA means more than just the public accommodation must be accessible to qualified people with disabilities. Services as well as facilities are covered by the law's mandate not to discriminate.
The implications of the Parker decision transcend the insurance industry. Service providers � including doctors, lawyers, schools at all levels, etc. under Title III must not discriminate in services or facilities.
The curious thing about the Parker case is that while the Court of Appeals takes a very restrictive approach to the definition of who is a qualified individual for purposes of employment and ADA, the court takes a liberal view with respect to suits under Title III. Parker has lessons for advocates and service providers.
Conventional thinking about the insurance issue is that it is related to employment. Thus, it would be most likely to pursue this under Title I and get damages (up to $300,000, depending upon the size of the employer) rather than specific relief (and no damages) for a private lawsuit under Title III. Parker teaches us that Title III of ADA can be the basis of a claim by a former employee.
State laws, such as in the District of Columbia, should be kept in mind and brought in any litigation involving public accommodations. Some state statutes allow for the recovery of damages for violations of non-discrimination mandates applicable to public accommodations. A suit in which the allegation was a violation of the state law as well as the ADA could offer the maximum relief to a person with a disability.
Parker is a lesson to be creative. Parker is a teaching case. The specific holding about insurance services being challengeable under ADA Title III is very important. More importantly, Parker teaches to view and try to apply the law, not necessarily in limited boxes under the discrete titles of the ADA, but broadly using every aspect of the law. And in that respect Parker upholds the fundamental intent of the law, which is to see people with disabilities in the diverse, not separate, contexts of society.
FOR SALE: English-Arabic dictionary. 16 braille volumes. Best offer. Contact Mr. Hamdi Abd El Rahman, P.O. Box 230-11794, Ramsis, Cairo, Egypt.
FOR SALE: Perkins braille writer. Comes with case and cover. Rarely used. Asking $500. Contact Carolyn Allen at (713) 680- 3379.
FOR SALE: Magna Lens visual aids for the legally blind. Closed circuit television, handheld magnification, both new and used. Brochures and on-site demos available upon request. For more information, call Magna Lens at (888) 484-7566.
FOR SALE: Optelec black and white CCTV. 19-inch monitor. Asking $1,000 or best offer. Call Yoko at (703) 644-7955.
FOR SALE: Juliet braille printer. Comes with all manuals and cables, as well as a current service contract. Asking $3,100. Call Kevin Fjelsted at (612) 688-3523.
FOR SALE: Toshiba notebook computer with built-in speech and Artic Business Vision. Includes modem, carrying case and expanded memory. $500 or best offer. Contact Mike Hudson at (517) 336- 9830.
FOR SALE: Reading Edge in excellent condition. Hardly used. With latest upgrade. $4,000 or best offer. Please contact Teresa Burke, (914) 374-3902, or write her at 66 Post Rd., Slag Hill, NY 10973.
Sue Ammeter, Seattle, WA
Ardis Bazyn, Cedar Rapids, IA
John Buckley, Knoxville, TN
Dawn Christensen, Holland, OH
Christopher Gray, San Jose, CA
John Horst, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Kristal Platt, Omaha, NE
M.J. Schmitt, Forest Park, IL
Pamela Shaw, Philadelphia, PA
Richard Villa, Irving, TX
Carol McCarl, Chairperson, Salem, OR
Kim Charlson, Watertown, MA
Thomas Mitchell, North Salt Lake City, UT
Mitch Pomerantz, Los Angeles, CA
Jay Doudna, Lancaster, PA
Ex Officio: Laura Oftedahl, Watertown, MA
20330 NE 20TH CT.
MIAMI, FL 33179
FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
57 GRANDVIEW AVE.
WATERTOWN, MA 02172
SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
825 M ST., SUITE 216
LINCOLN, NE 68508
556 N. 80TH ST.
SEATTLE, WA 98103
CRYSTAL TOWERS #206 NORTH
1600 S. EADS ST.
ARLINGTON, VA 22202
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
2118 NW 21st St.
Oklahoma City, OK 73107
ELIZABETH M. LENNON, Kalamazoo, MI