Braille Forum
Volume XL July 2001 No. 1
Published By
The American Council of the Blind
Paul Edwards, President
Charles H. Crawford, Executive Director
Penny Reeder, Editor
Sharon Lovering, Editorial Assistant
National Office:
1155 15th St. N.W.
Suite 1004
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 467-5081
Fax: (202) 467-5085
Web Site:

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:
Penny Reeder,
1155 15th St. N.W.,
Suite 1004,
Washington, DC 20005,
or via e-mail.
E-mail the Editor of the Braille Forum
Submission deadlines are the first of the month.

Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Patricia Beattie at the above mailing address. If you wish to remember a relative or friend by sharing in the council's continuing work, the national office makes printed cards available to acknowledge contributions made by loved ones in memory of deceased friends or relatives.

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, contact the ACB National Office.

For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the "Washington Connection" toll-free at (800) 424-8666, 5 p.m. to midnight Eastern time Monday through Friday. The Washington Connection is also posted and updated on the ACB web site at

Copyright 2001
American Council of the Blind


President's Message: And Then There Was One, by Paul Edwards
A Matter of Principle, by Charles H. Crawford
Adding Audio Description: Does It Make a Difference?, by Emilie Schmeidler and Corinne Kirchner
Affiliate News
Does a View from the Top of the World Promote a Better View of Blindness?, by Rebecca Kragnes
Where Shall We Go with the Unified Braille Code?, by Chris Gray
As Court Session Nears End, Justices Offer Decisions with Some Encouraging, Some Not So Encouraging Ramifications For People With Disabilities, by Charles S.P. Hodge
Learning What It Means to Be Visually Impaired, by Barbara Borgmeyer
Here and There, by Sharon Lovering
High Tech Swap Shop

by Paul Edwards

I am actually writing this message in early May because I wrote the June message and thought I might as well try to do this related message while I was on a roll. It is very hard to think coherently because a small cat is perched on the arm of my chair demanding attention. She keeps pawing my face and, occasionally, steps onto the Braille Lite on which I am composing this message. If you came to visit here, you would probably not meet Baby since she is a shy and retiring sort of cat. But, when there are not a lot of people around, she is demanding, mischievous and as friendly a cat as you would ever want to meet.

Last month I said that I would say a few things about my presidency in this, my last message. As a historian by training, I am conscious that it is far too soon for anyone to assess the impact of my six years in office. I am probably a little less than objective too. I do want to reflect a little on the office itself and to place on record some of what I tried to do. By the time you read this, I will no longer be president of ACB. All the elections will be over so that what I say here will have no impact on the political process. That is as it should be. The term limits that ACB imposes on its president and all its officers mean that each of us who reaches the end of our terms has a chance to reflect on what we have done.

In fact, term limits are one of the things I want to talk about for a minute. Six years is a nanosecond of history but it is a long time to be president. I congratulate our leaders on the perspicacity they showed in limiting officers to three terms of two years. That is quite enough time for a volunteer to try to juggle his or her life around to be president. While there have been times when I have thought that six years is too long, I am now convinced that it is really about right. There is certainly a learning curve involved and, for someone like me, adjusting to running an organization with a million dollar budget and 25,000 members was no easy task. Especially during my first year, I came very close to simply giving up and quitting. This was because I tried to live up to the expectations that others had of me rather than taking control and setting my own course. So, to any new or prospective presidents who may read this, I offer you a few pieces of advice.

First and foremost, recognize and live with the fact that you won't please most of the people most of the time. If you did, you would probably not be doing enough. Whether others like it or not, you must set the agenda for the organization and let democracy modify it. (I took a very long time learning that, once you set the agenda, you had better make sure to get it to the board on time.) Things also only got better when I recognized that the best way to lessen opposition is to share responsibility. So, give your officers and board members lots to do.

As I have said in this space before, the president of ACB is not very powerful really and that is just fine. It means that he or she must make certain that the agenda can be sold to all the players. Believe me, that is a lot harder than it may seem. It means that the president must work to convince the board, the executive director and the membership that the direction he or she proposes is appropriate. Though this slows down decision-making, it also assures that the president is fairly circumspect about turning in new directions. Let me hasten to add that our process does not preclude new directions or strong presidential leadership. It simply requires that the president recognize the system of governance with which he or she must work and spend time building support for what he or she believes is appropriate.

I began my presidency convinced that the role of the executive director must be enlarged and continue to believe that is the right way for ACB to go. We are a national organization and must continue to create a larger and larger presence every day of the year. That can only be done by making our national office and its leader more central to what we do.

I also began my presidency firmly convinced that ACB needed to act to build consensus within the blindness community and needed to reach out to the broader disability community as well when we could. I believe we have done well working with other disability groups when we could. I am deeply saddened by the degree that consensus building within the blindness community has proved elusive and illusory. I am particularly sad that our efforts to work more closely with the National Federation of the Blind have failed. Perhaps my successor will be more effective than I have been at finding ways to allow people who are blind to speak with one voice. I remain absolutely convinced that all of us are hurt by the ability of others to say that blind people don't agree among ourselves. While I unequivocally urge ongoing dialogue with the Federation, I also believe that ACB must continue to champion our issues regardless of who doesn't like it. Somehow ACB must continue to communicate to those who will listen that we are not engaged in a consumer war. The issues on which there is disagreement are philosophical and, for the most part, the blindness community has worked with us to forward our issues. The NFB is the odd man out.

As I leave the presidency, I am proud of where the American Council of the Blind is and where it is going. We have demonstrated that democracy works. We have championed the right of each blind person to be valued as he or she is. We have repeatedly asserted the right of blind people to demand that society adapt so it is more open to people who are blind. I know that ACB will continue to praise those who work to make life better for those who are blind and will continue to identify barriers to our inclusion and knock them down. These values will persist no matter who is president!

Our other cat, Carousel, has just climbed onto my lap as if to tell me that there are things that are far more important than any discussion of the presidency. I think she is right. So let me end this message by saying that it has been a privilege to serve you. I will miss the chance these messages have given me to share my thoughts with you. Many of you have told me that you have enjoyed reading them. So Carousel, Baby and I say thank you and good bye to all who will read this, my final "President's Message." I leave it to cats and time to put my presidency into "purrfect purrspective!"

by Charles H. Crawford

Recently, in response to reports from some of our members concerning alleged conflicts between certain state agency practices and our 13 principles of consumer cooperation, I sent a memorandum to state agency heads which shared our concerns. I sent the memo in an attempt to provide a general reminder of the 13 principles and to allow for any problems to resolve themselves and thereby prevent unnecessary misunderstandings and problem escalation. Unfortunately, this action prompted criticism from the Federation. Space does not permit me to share with you a full recapitulation of what they had to say, but here, essentially, is the thrust of their reaction:

"Mr. Crawford's memorandum purports to urge that state agency officials seek even-handed fairness in dealing with consumer organizations, but the purpose of the memorandum is not even-handedness. Mr. Crawford pretends to seek equality of treatment, but his purpose is to prevent collaboration or partnership between rehabilitation agencies and the National Federation of the Blind. However, his effort to divide rehabilitation programs from the Federation will cause serious harm to services for blind people and have dire consequences for agencies and consumers alike."

My purpose in quoting the Federation response is not to spawn a round of point-counterpoint, but rather to provide you with an understanding of why we need to be clear about the meaning of the 13 principles. If the Federation chooses to see them as some kind of attack, then so be it, but the reality is that these principles serve the Federation as well as they do ACB and other state independent consumer organizations. Let's look at why.

1. Consumer choice: At the foundation of our 13 principles of consumer cooperation lies the core value that informed consumer choice is our only real guarantee of a responsive state rehabilitation system. How else could a rehab agency honor the principle that consumers have a right to make decisions based upon their exposure to complete and open facts? How else could we claim any legitimacy as a consumer organization to represent our members if our members never had the opportunity to review information from all organizations and thereby be afforded a real choice in joining up?

2. Public accountability: State agencies are instruments of the public will and supported by tax dollars. This means that members of the general public and of course blind consumers of state services have every right to expect that the state will not engage in unfair practices such as favoritism to any particular group. This accountability affords protection against unethical practices or decisions within the state that are based upon anything other than solid professional judgment in partnership with informed choice.

3. The marketplace of ideas: Finally, in this all too brief commentary on our 13 principles, we insure that decisions made that impact upon our community are the products of a full and free exchange of ideas between consumers and the rehabilitation establishment. There will be times when ACB will find that other ideas may well make more sense than ours, but that is not the point; it is that good faith and open balance within the rehabilitation arena leads to the best we all have to offer, rather than the sterile and constraining products of prescriptive thinking.

There is more that should, and will, be written on this subject, but let us all agree, from any organizational perspective, that the merit of ideas about the rehab system lies in their ability to determine our future and for this impact to take place, we need the balance contained in the ACB 13 Principles of Consumer Cooperation front and center in our rehabilitation system.

by Emilie Schmeidler and Corinne Kirchner

(Copyright 2001, American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, April 2001, pp. 197-212. Reprinted with permission.)

(Editor's Note: Because of space limitations, the article below was not reprinted in full; for the list of references, as well as tables and statistical formulae, please refer to the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness.)

The research reported here was conducted under a subcontract to the American Foundation for the Blind from the WGBH Educational Foundation; National Science Foundation Grant ESI- 9253447. Edward Cutler guided our selection of science-relevant questions. Fred Neurohr, Purvi Shah, and Drew Halfmann provided research assistance. Katharine Bond, Laurie Everett, Jaclyn Packer, Lawrence Scadden, Joel Snyder, and Karen Wolffe and anonymous JVIB reviewers made helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

Accepted July 11, 2000.

Abstract: A television viewing experiment -- preceded and followed by interviews about attitudes, usual television viewing patterns and demographics -- was conducted with 111 legally blind adults who were convened in groups. The research examined the impact of watching television science programs with and without audio description. The experiment showed that respondents gained and retained more information from watching programs with description. Respondents reported that description makes programs more enjoyable, interesting, and informative; and that they are more comfortable talking with sighted people about programs that had been described.

The positive impact of added description was greater for the program with less narration in its original format.

Television programs and videos are increasingly important for education and popular culture; they are widely discussed at work, in school, and among friends and neighbors. People who are visually impaired (those who are blind or have low vision) watch television at about the same rate as does the general public (Packer and Kirchner, 1997). However, because much of the content is presented only visually, they have limited access to the programs. Access is increased through audio description, which adds precise, concise verbal descriptions of visual images--about people, objects, scenes, body language, facial expressions, sizes, and colors (Everett, 1994; Miers, 1998). Over the past decade, since audio description began being broadcast on television, described videos and other venues have become more common. Nevertheless, because access to television programs remains limited, in August 2000 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules requiring five major networks in the top 25 markets to provide 50 hours of prime time or children's programming with audio description. The FCC also required that emergency information be made more accessible to visually impaired viewers. These rules are scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2002. The public comments, FCC's response to the comments, and the rule are available on the FCC's web page (Disability Rights Group, 2001). However, some provisions of these rules are being protested and the composition of the FCC has changed with the new administration. Thus the issue may be reopened, and documenting evidence about the value of adding description continues to be important.

In 1993, the Informal Science Education Division of the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the Descriptive Video Service (DVS) at the WGBH Educational Foundation a grant to add audio description to two science series and to evaluate the impact of the added description on visually impaired viewers. WGBH subcontracted with the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to conduct the research.

The central question for the evaluation was whether, in this informal learning context, adding description increased viewers' learning of the programs' science content. In addition, the study measured the participants' psychological and social responses to audio description, as well as selected measures of television viewing more generally. This article summarizes the key results of that research; a more detailed report, including the study documents, is available (Schmeidler and Kirchner, 1996). Method, Participants, Recruitment

The participants were recruited in the Boston area through public and private organizations with visually impaired clients, employees, or members. Recruitment began in 1994, when Boston- area chapters of the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind distributed to their mailing lists a letter on AFB letterhead. The letter explained the project briefly: that the study would be conducted by AFB and WGBH Educational Foundation, that it was funded by NSF, that it would involve going to WGBH (Boston's Public Broadcasting Service station) for a three-hour session to watch television programs about science, and that only adults who were legally blind were eligible to participate. The letter deliberately made no mention of audio description. Interested people were invited to call a toll-free telephone number or return an enclosed postcard. Over about eight months, 78 people indicated their interest in participating or requested more information. To recruit more participants, additional organizations were contacted in 1995, notices with a similar message were placed on dial-in telephone tape-information lines and were posted electronically on on-line services; also, the radio reading service carried a public service announcement. An additional 95 people responded to these communications. (The organizations contacted and a sample letter are listed in Schmeidler and Kirchner, 1996.)

In 1995, WGBH staff attempted to call the 173 potential respondents to ascertain their eligibility and to administer the first questionnaire. A total of 143 people completed this first interview. The WGBH staff then called these potential participants to schedule their attendance at one of the viewing sessions and to arrange transportation; 111 people attended the viewing sessions (described later). About a month or two after the viewing sessions, each participant was called for a follow-up telephone interview. All 111 people who attended the viewing sessions completed the follow-up interview. The length of time between the initial contact, the first interview, the viewing session, and the follow-up interview varied considerably because additional participants were recruited until a minimum of 100 people had attended the viewing sessions. Characteristics

The participants, 61 percent of whom were women, ranged in age from 20 to 89; 38 percent of them lived alone. Of the 111, 31 percent had completed no more than high school; 24 percent had some college education, 22 percent had completed college, and 23 percent had post-college education. Two-fifths (39 percent) had been legally blind since birth; 12 percent became legally blind before age 20; 33 percent became legally blind between ages 20 and 49; 10 percent became legally blind between ages 50 and 69; and 6 percent became legally blind between ages 70 and 89. Of the 36 percent who reported that they had no usable vision, two- thirds had visual memories. Among the two-thirds who had usable vision, 26 percent did not rely at all on their vision to watch television, 31 percent relied on their vision a little, 12 percent relied on their vision a moderate amount, and 30 percent relied on their vision a great deal. Other forms of involvement

In addition to being study participants, people who were visually impaired contributed to the research in formal and informal ways. Two formal focus groups discussed which issues should be explored and what procedures should be used. Participants in viewing-session pretests provided suggestions during their debriefing either as individuals or as informal focus groups. A former biology professor who is now blind served as the science consultant and was instrumental in formulating scientifically relevant content questions. People who were legally blind conducted some of the telephone and viewing-session interviews. More broadly, throughout the study, the discussions of the research at AFB and DVS included both blind and sighted people. Television programs

Because this study was designed to examine the impact of description in two science series, one program was selected from each: "Orphans of Time" from the New Explorers series (hereafter called Program 1) and "Wild Dogs of Africa" from the Nature series (hereafter called Program 2). The series' styles differ significantly. The New Explorers is fast paced; the narrator speaks with the scientists featured in the program, and the scientists talk with each other. Much is explained through dialogue or narration; there are only brief opportunities to add description.

In contrast, Nature has a single narrator and no other human voices. It contains longer segments with information conveyed by visual images without any verbal clues and hence provides more opportunities and more potential for description. Although the programs were not selected to highlight this difference, the contrast between them points to differences among programs that may be important. See Kuhn (1992) for an explicit discussion of the differences among several science series, including these two, and Frazier and Coutinho-Johnson (1995) for an account of their difficulty finding an appropriate video to which description could be added. Research design

The study relied on extensive interviews both by telephone and at the 16 experimental viewing sessions. Most questions were forced choice, although a few were open ended. The initial telephone interview covered vision status, television viewing, and interest in science and television science programs, as well as demographic and social background. After each program at the viewing sessions, each participant answered questions about facts presented in that program and about his or her reactions to the program. In the follow-up telephone interviews, after a few factual questions about each of the two programs, the participants were asked about their television viewing at home and then more specifically about audio description. Viewing session: Experimental conditions

The experimental component of the study took place during 16 viewing sessions. Each three-hour session began with a brief introduction to explain what would be happening and to set the participants at ease. All the groups saw Program 1 first; then each participant responded individually (in regular print, large print, braille, or by having someone read the questions and record the answers) to questions about the content and his or her response to the program. (This procedure contrasts with the procedure used by Katz and Turcotte, 1993, and Peli et al., 1996, in which the participants answered questions after brief segments of programs.) After a break with refreshments, the group saw the first half of Program 2 and answered questions based on this program. (The participants saw only a half hour of Program 2 to match the length of Program 1; Program 2 was cut when a meaningful segment of the program had been completed.) Finally, the participants were thanked for coming, reminded about the follow-up interview, and asked not to talk with other visually impaired people about the content of the programs or questions.

The experimental variation was that half the viewing sessions showed Program 1 with description and Program 2 without description, and the other half showed Program 1 without description and Program 2 with description. Everyone answered the same questions whether she or he had seen the version with or without description. Thus, each person served both as an experimental and as a control participant.

Potential bias. Controlling potential sources of bias is always a concern in research. A major issue is that if the participants think they know what the study is trying to show, they may respond, deliberately or inadvertently, in ways that conform to their expectations (Orne, 1962). This situation sets up a conflict: It is desirable not to tell participants about expected outcomes, while at the same time it is important not to deceive them.

To make this evaluation as impartial as possible, the researchers did not tell the participants that DVS was involved in the study or that the research question was whether adding description enhanced television viewing. Questions dealing explicitly with description were introduced only in the follow-up telephone interviews after the participants had answered all the questions about the specific programs. Any questions the participants previously asked about audio description were deflected. The participants appeared to be familiar with the norm that details of the study would not be discussed until they completed their part in it; they readily accepted assurances that all their questions would be answered at the conclusion of the final interview.

Participant protections. To test whether adding the verbal description of visual material conveyed more information than seeing the program without the additional descriptions, questions based specifically on the audio description were included. However, this method raised the concern that the participants were being set up to fail because they were unlikely to know information presented only visually in the program. To minimize any negative impacts, this issue was discussed explicitly in the focus groups and with the pretest participants, none of whom reported any discomfort.

In addition, before each program was shown and again before the questions were administered, the staff emphasized that the research was about how well the programs conveyed their messages, not how knowledgeable the participants were. The staff also said explicitly that "I don't know" was as useful an answer to the factual questions as any other, since the research was assessing how effective the programs were. Experimental results Cognitive impacts

The participants in the experimental and control conditions were asked the same 34 questions about the content of the programs. For each program, almost half the questions were based on material presented both visually and with audio description. In response to each program, the experimental group (those who saw the described version) answered significantly more questions correctly than did the control group. For both programs, these differences are accounted for by the questions drawn from the audio description. For neither program was there a significant difference in the number of program-narration questions answered correctly by the experimental and control groups.

It is not surprising that some control participants answered some questions correctly, although the questions were based on visual material or descriptions they had not heard. At least four factors may account for this finding. First, although all the participants were legally blind, almost two-thirds of them had some usable vision and almost one-third reported that they relied a lot on their vision when watching television. Since the study attempted to replicate normal viewing conditions as nearly as possible, the participants were encouraged to sit wherever it was most comfortable for them so they could use their vision as they would at home. Second, for the two programs, a few participants (13 percent and 16 percent, respectively) reported that they had seen them previously. Third, the informational questions were developed with the study's science consultant to identify scientific content; thus, the participants may have come to the programs with some knowledge of the topics. Finally, since the questions were in a forced-choice format, by chance alone, some correct answers were expected.

Approximately one to two months after they saw the programs, the participants were interviewed again by telephone. These interviews began with five questions referring to each program -- two from the description and three from the narration. The Program 1 experimental and control groups showed no significant differences with regard to correct answers to either the narrated or the described questions. However, the Program 2 experimental group correctly answered significantly more of the questions derived from both the program narration and especially from the audio description.

The impact of adding description was great enough to be evident in individual questions. Taking both programs together, a total of 18 questions (14 from the viewing sessions plus 4 from the follow-up interview) were based on added descriptions. For 14 of the 18 questions, the experimental participants answered correctly significantly more often than did the control participants. In contrast, only 2 of 26 questions drawn from the program narration showed significant differences in correct answers. Psychological impacts

During the viewing sessions, after the factual questions for each program, the participants were asked about their reactions to the programs. Six questions asked them to rate the programs on 10-point scales, anchored at each end with contrasting concepts: uninformative-informative; confusing-clear; frustrating- satisfying; bored-interested; not enjoy-did enjoy the program; not stimulate-did stimulate interest in science. Overall, the participants gave both programs high marks whether they were described or not: in fact, on each question about one-third (28 percent -44 percent) of the participants gave the highest possible rating. This distribution of scores created a "ceiling effect" that makes it difficult to show differences between the control and experimental groups.

The Program 1 ratings by the experimental and control groups did not differ significantly on any of these variables. In contrast, the experimental group rated Program 2 (which contained more description) as significantly more satisfying, informative, and clear than did the control group. The differences for the questions about whether the program was enjoyable and interesting were in the same direction, but did not reach statistical significance. Social impacts

To tap the social dimension of television viewing, the researchers asked the participants how comfortable they would be talking about the programs with sighted friends and how many aspects of the programs would be difficult for them to discuss with sighted people. For Programs 1 and 2, 56 percent and 53 percent of the participants, respectively, said they would be very comfortable discussing them.

However, while only 9 percent of the participants said they would be somewhat or very uncomfortable discussing Program 1, 21 percent said they would be uncomfortable discussing Program 2. The responses of the experimental and control groups did not differ significantly with regard to Program 1. However, for Program 2, those who saw the described version indicated that they would be significantly more comfortable discussing the program with sighted friends. Similarly, for Program 1, the control and experimental participants reported no difference in the number of aspects that would be difficult for them to discuss with sighted people. However, for Program 2, the experimental group reported significantly fewer aspects that they would have difficulty discussing than did the control group. As with the participants' evaluations discussed earlier, the differences in the participants' level of comfort talking about the programs seem to reflect the differences in the styles when the programs were presented without description: Program 2 had more frequent lengthy periods in which information was presented with only minimal auditory clues. Attitudes toward television viewing and description

Stepping back from these two specific programs, the survey portion of the study asked selected questions about television viewing in general and description in particular. As was noted earlier, questions about description were asked only in the follow-up interview, after all the questions about the two programs. Social context of television viewing

For many participants, watching television is a relatively solitary affair. Although only 38 percent of the participants lived alone, 67 percent watched television alone most or all of the time. The overwhelming majority of participants (93 percent) thought that when they watched television, they missed information that is available to sighted people.

Although the participants often watched television alone, 81 percent watched with others at least some of the time. Of those who ever watched with others, 80 percent reported that someone described what was happening at least some of the time. Virtually all these people said that such descriptions helped them both understand and enjoy the programs (96 percent and 99 percent, respectively). Thus, these participants strongly indicated that informal description enhanced their television viewing. However, much of the time -- because they are watching alone or because no one is describing for them -- people with visual impairments do not get descriptions that would help them understand and enjoy television programs. Familiarity with audio description

Although 89 percent of the participants said they had heard of description, relatively few reported extensive experience with it. Twenty-five percent said they had never experienced it before this study, and 14 percent were uncertain whether they had experienced it before. Among the 61 percent who had been exposed to audio description, 78 percent reported only a little experience with it, and 22 percent reported a lot of experience with it. Prior experience was fairly evenly distributed among television only (40 percent); other settings, such as museums, theater, or home videos (31 percent); and both kinds of settings (28 percent). Reactions to described television

In the follow-up interviews, the participants responded that audio description is enjoyable, interesting, and informative (85 percent, 95 percent, and 96 percent, respectively). When asked whether audio description is confusing or boring, 78 percent and 87 percent, respectively, said it is not. When asked whether description repeats information they could have figured out for themselves, 63 percent reported that it does not, 32 percent said that it does, and 5 percent said that it makes no difference. Therefore, looking at these six questions together, overall the participants said that audio description enhanced their viewing appreciably.

Each participant was also asked whether having television programs described makes him or her more comfortable talking about the program with sighted people. About three-quarters of the participants (73 percent) said that description makes them considerably or a lot more comfortable talking about television programs with sighted people. In follow-up questions, 66 percent said that having programs described makes a big difference in their ability to talk about the program, and 50 percent said it makes a big difference in the questions they ask, while only 11 percent and 7 percent, respectively, said it makes no difference.

Following these three questions, an open-ended question asked whether having a program described made a difference in any other ways. Most of those who responded emphasized that description helped them understand the programs better or gave them more confidence, as in the following examples:

I would like to be able to go into more detail about things and get a better understanding of all aspects.

If I'm unsure of events in the program, I feel awkward trying to pretend I do.

[I'm] able to understand what's going on -- able to share. [I] need more help without description.

In addition, some participants pointed to specific aspects of programs or particular social settings in which description especially mattered to them:

It would make a big difference regarding charts and graphs, also to discuss some actions.

I might misconstrue. I usually hold back about talking about action scenes because I might be wrong.

I mostly talk [about television programs] with my children, and description makes me a lot more comfortable. The study's strengths and limitations Sample

The size of the sample (111 people), its diversity (degree of vision loss; demographic characteristics, such as age and education; and prior exposure to described television programs), as well as the fact that all the people who attended the viewing sessions also completed the final telephone interviews, are important strengths. That the participants were not a random sample of the visually impaired population is both a strength and a weakness. Strategic subgroups -- such as people who were blind since birth or totally blind -- were better represented than they would have been in a random sample. However, because this was not a random sample, the results cannot be generalized to all visually impaired people. In addition, that all the participants volunteered to take part may have introduced a bias into the sample. Involvement by legally blind persons

The research design was modified significantly in response to advice from people with visual impairments. For example, the first formal focus group objected to the initial plan in which a control group would have watched the two programs (1 1/2 hours) without description; in response, the design was changed so that each person served as a control for only one half-hour session. In addition, blind and visually impaired people assisted in conducting interviews. However, one important limitation was that blind and visually impaired people were not involved systematically in the analysis in which they might have suggested corrections, alternative interpretations, or additional analyses to clarify findings. Standardization

Because the study required multiple viewing sessions and relied heavily on volunteers, several features were designed to make the sessions and interviews as uniform as feasible. The surveys and viewing sessions used structured questions. Interviewers were trained and given written instructions for each question. In addition, written instructions and a script for the viewing sessions were provided. Given the assurance that each participant was treated the same way except for the experimental variation, differences in outcomes may be attributed to this experimental variation with more confidence.

However, the study relied on many different volunteers, especially to administer the questionnaires at the viewing sessions. In addition, the physical arrangements for the viewing sessions were adapted to the different venues. These arrangements added flexibility, but meant that there were slight uncontrolled differences in the procedures.

The cognitive, psychological, and social measures pertaining to the programs were collected in an experiment, but not a rigorously controlled one. As a practical necessity, the participants watched the programs in groups, although they answered the questions individually. The participants may have affected one another although every effort was made to keep overt influences to a minimum. Scheduling viewing sessions was difficult because of the participants' schedules and transportation constraints; as a result, the participants were assigned to conditions (which program they saw with description) according to when they attended, rather than according to random or matched-pair criteria, which would have been more desirable for making comparisons between the groups. Reducing bias

Although efforts were made to reduce potential biasing factors, it was not feasible to eliminate all the sources. Considerable care was given to identify the study with NSF, AFB, and WGBH and not to draw attention to description until after the participants had responded to both programs. Despite these efforts, some participants may have associated the study or WGBH with DVS; if so, this association may have influenced their responses. The study did not investigate whether the participants made any connection with DVS. This bias is not relevant in comparing the control and experimental groups, but it is potentially relevant when generalizing attitudes toward description in general.

Since the participants all were from the Boston area and were recruited through organizations of or for people with visual impairments, they were more likely than the visually impaired population as a whole to be aware of DVS and description. Although the DVS mailing list was not used to recruit participants, a check after the study showed that 43 participants appeared on that list. Furthermore, from incidental comments made during the viewing sessions, it was clear that some participants were disappointed when one of the programs did not contain description. Program style and order

The research staff anticipated that the experimental and control groups would differ more when watching the program that contained less narration and when watching a program without description after having watched one with description. Ideally, the study would have had four treatments to vary independently which program was shown first and whether or not the program was described. However, with only approximately 100 participants, four treatments would have produced small subgroups (especially for cross tabulations that included other variables, such as vision or age). Since the purpose of the study was to demonstrate whether adding description did make a difference, the decision was made to show everyone Program 1 first, but to vary whether Program 1 or Program 2 included description. In this study, adding description enhanced both programs, but made much more of a difference in Program 2 (which included much more audio description) than Program 1.

However, since everyone saw Program 1 first, it is not possible to separate the effects of the order in which they saw the programs from the effects of the different styles of the programs. Preference for description

Since the participants expressed such a positive evaluation of description in response to these general questions, one might expect that their responses to the described and non-described versions would have differed more sharply than they did. At least three factors may account for this seeming inconsistency. Two factors discussed earlier are that in Program 1 the opportunities for adding description were limited, and that the ceiling effect (strongly positive responses whether or not the programs were described) limited the possibility of showing significant differences.

The third factor is that although the two sets of questions asked about the same dimensions (enjoyment, interest, clarity, and so forth), they were not identical. The questions in the viewing session asked about the specific program the participants had just watched; thus all facets of the program's substance and style may have entered into the participants' ratings. In contrast, the questions asked several weeks later explicitly focused the participants on differences, if any, that description makes in television programs in general -- not in the specific programs used in the viewing session. Future research

This research was designed to examine whether adding description to television science programs enhanced their use by people who were legally blind and, specifically, whether description increased informal science learning. The study documented that adding description to these two programs significantly increased the factual information the participants learned and enhanced the participants' evaluation of the programs and their level of comfort in discussing the programs with sighted people. These findings suggest wide benefits from adding description. Further research is needed to explore how widely applicable these findings are: to whom do they apply, under what conditions, and to what extent? Thus, future research needs to investigate the following research questions:

1. Does adding audio description enhance viewing for people with different demographic or social characteristics or different amounts of usable vision? This study included legally blind adults aged 20-89, some of whom were totally blind and some of whom had considerable usable vision, and some of whom had other impairments. The participants also had different amounts of prior familiarity with description and watched different amounts of television. In Great Britain, AUDETEL (using different programs, description process, and equipment to receive the programs) found differences in understanding and enjoyment by age, intelligence, and the amount of television the participants usually watched (Carmichael and Rabbitt, 1993a, 1993b, 1993c). Future studies need to examine systematically whether personal characteristics systematically influence responses to description.

Other areas for research include the use of audio description by people other than those with visual impairments. The AUDETEL studies (AUDETEL, 1995, 1997; Carmichael and Rabbitt, 1993 a, 1993b, 1993c; McKivragan, 1995; Rabbitt and Carmichael, 1994; RNIB, 1998) examined the impact on older people. Additional research is needed on other populations. People with certain learning disabilities may benefit from the added information that directs their attention to salient features. People who are learning English may also benefit from hearing as well as seeing the programs. Some sighted people value audio description (F. Ryan, a sighted educator of blind and visually impaired children, who has a blind family member, personal communication, 1999). Furthermore, sighted people may make use of description when viewing is not possible, such as when they are driving (J. Snyder, program officer, National Endowment for the Arts, personal communication, 1999).

2. Under what conditions does adding audio description enhance instruction? This study focused on informal learning. Television programs and videos are used for explicitly educational purposes in schools, workplaces, and public places (such as on airlines for safety instructions). Additional research needs to address whether these videos, which are designed to instruct, convey their messages more effectively with added description.

3. Does adding audio description have psychological benefits? The participants in this study said that audio description makes programs more interesting, informative, and enjoyable. Advocates of audio description point to both direct and indirect psychological benefits. Visually impaired people report feeling more confident that they are capturing the entire picture when they know more details, as in the following comment:

As a partially sighted person, audio description works for me on three levels. First, the precise, concise and descriptive commentary confirms what I think I have seen. Second, it gives me a quick word about what I am about to see. Third, it tells me what is going on that I can't see at all. In other words, I get the whole picture as it happens. (Vivian, 1992, p. 393)

As a result, people who are visually impaired may be more motivated to pursue interests they saw portrayed. They may feel equal to sighted people because they have the same access to the programs or videos. These factors may enhance their self-esteem. Further research is needed to examine these issues systematically.

4. Does audio description increase social participation? In addition to examining whether audio description conveys information, research needs to address whether it enhances participation in social activities. For instance, are children with visual impairments better able to interact with their classmates in relation to materials presented with audio description? Does audio description enable family members to share the experience more comfortably? For people of all ages, does audio description increase their interaction with sighted peers? With casual acquaintances?

5. What are the long-term consequences of adding audio description? This study looked minimally at the recall of program details two months later; it did not inquire about increased interest in science-related activities, since it would be unrealistic to expect that viewing a single program would result in measurable difference. However, more extensive access to audio description may well have a measurable effect, such as going to museums more frequently, taking up new hobbies, or attending classes. Discussion

Anecdotes about the benefits of adding description abound. Individuals recount the dramatic difference they experienced when they saw a described program or performance for the first time. They speak of the emotional impact of feeling that they are now, finally, able to have the same experience as everyone else:

My first experience with DVS (R) was very emotional. I found myself pacing the floor in tearful disbelief. It was like somebody had opened a door into a new world, in which I was able to see with my ears what most people see with their eyes. (Quoted in Cronin and King, 1990, p. 505)

I felt I had really seen the movie and could laugh right along with everyone else, not five minutes later after someone had taken the time to explain it all to me. (Quoted in Packer, 1995, p. 3, from comments received by DVS)

Television programs and videos are widely used to convey information formally, especially in schools and the workplace. Videos increasingly are used for instructional materials: for home appliances, learning skills (like computer programs), medical procedures, or providing airplane safety instructions. Such programs need to be designed so that all the pertinent information is fully accessible, preferably by including sufficient audio description when the program is produced originally. If they are not so designed, audio description should be added to convey the instructions more effectively. Teachers and vocational counselors, as well as consumers, need to advocate for increased accessibility for all informational materials.

In addition to providing useful information, television programs and videos are an important source of shared popular culture -- discussed in lunchrooms and at parties. Because television programs and videos are visual media, people who are visually impaired do not get full access to them without description. Thus, they miss out on the "social cement" such programs provide, as these comments illustrate:

When my co-workers discuss TV, for the most part I cannot participate, and I'd really like to, but cannot do so without DVS services. (Quoted in Packer, 1995, p. 4, from comments received by DVS)

My son, who is 14, has always been the only blind kid in his school, and he has always felt excluded when other kids talked about their favorite movies or television show. (Howard Nixon, quoted in Ellis, 1991, p. 15)

As this study has documented, people who are visually impaired are more comfortable talking with sighted people about programs that have been described. Fuller access means being able to share equally and so is likely to enhance peer relationships.

For children, audio description provides an avenue for acquiring knowledge that sighted children are likely to learn incidentally. Description can convey body language and facial expressions, styles of clothing or cars. Understanding what is being conveyed visually can help children learn and reinforce their social skills:

Visually impaired children often have difficulty equating body language and facial expressions with specific emotions. By hearing a description of a gesture, for example linking an arched eyebrow to skepticism, he gets direct feedback about what that gesture means. This makes it easier to teach children what facial expressions or body language is appropriate in a variety of settings. (Kathleen M. Huebner, quoted in Ellis, 1991, p. 17)

Informal description by others who are watching the programs clearly enhanced television viewing for almost all the people who experienced it. On the positive side, this informal description may provide some social interaction; moreover, those who are explaining the program can tailor their comments to their friends' or relatives' interests. However, on the negative side, having to describe -- or needing someone to describe -- may be an unwelcome distraction or burden. Programs that include audio description free viewers who cannot see everything from depending on other people to fill in accounts of crucial actions and significant details, as this comment indicates:

I stopped going to the theater when my vision worsened. The constant whispering of descriptions seemed to annoy people and embarrassed me. Audio description lets me know what people are wearing and what the sets look like -- without having to worry about bothering anyone else. I'd love to see the same kind of service on network television. (Alice Rutkowsky, quoted in Ellis, 1991, p. 13)

Furthermore, the description is available whether or not anyone else is watching the program -- an important advantage, since as was mentioned earlier, much television watching is solitary.

More broadly, description is used in an array of venues: not only television programs, videos, and movies, but live events, such as plays, ballets, parades, festivals, and significant public events like the Presidential inauguration, as well as in other settings, such as museums, galleries, and nature walks. Each of these venues has its own character and purpose and presents different challenges for description. Each in its own way provides access to information and opportunities so that visually impaired people can participate fully in society.


LUA of Texas Accepts New Subscribers
To Its DVS Library Service

The Texas chapter of ACB's Library Users of America and the Texas Center for the Physically Impaired are pleased to announce acquisition of 30 new video titles, which visually impaired subscribers can borrow. If you like to place a descriptive video into your VCR and sit back and enjoy a good movie, you have 30 new evenings of pleasure waiting for you.

To subscribe to this service, send a one-time $15 payment made out to Library Users of America/Texas Chapter, Bob Langford, 11330 Quail Run, Dallas, TX 75238. When we receive your check, we'll send you a print and recorded list of all 170 titles in our collection. Soon you will receive your first movie from your mailman. Remove it from the container and place it in your VCR. When you've finished, rewind the videocassette and place it in the container, which includes a return label in an enclosed envelope. Seal the container with wide clear tape and give it to your mailman for a free postage return.

There are a couple of rules. Please return the video within two weeks so that another person can enjoy the movie. Second, failure to return a video will forfeit your $15 and disqualify you from enjoying other titles.

We are accepting new subscribers for a limited time only. If you have questions, call Bob Langford at (214) 340-6328.

News from Arizona
by Robert L. Williams

The Arizona Council of the Blind focused on pedestrian safety and accessible signal crossings during its 30th annual convention May 11-13. ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford was there, welcomed by Arizona Council President Dan Martinez and members at the Friday evening fun and games reception. Crawford was also the keynote speaker during the Saturday opening session. Our Saturday luncheon speaker was Lukas Franck of The Seeing Eye, and our speaker at the evening banquet was Skip Bingham of the Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration. A newly organized Guide Dog Users of Arizona affiliate elected Ginger Bennett as its first president. Seven scholarships were awarded; Dottie Huntley and Gail Irons, retiring board members, were honored with certificates of appreciation. The convention business session and an inspirational worship service rounded out Sunday's activities. Crawford installed the newly elected officers at the Saturday evening banquet.

by Rebecca Kragnes

I was watching CNN with my husband at breakfast when the news story broke. Erik Weihenmayer had finally reached the top of Mount Everest. Certainly Weihenmayer is to be congratulated for such a feat, because according to an article which appeared in the "Los Angeles Times" and was reprinted in the March "Braille Monitor," he received very little physical help for this or any other climbs. But what about financial help? Reading further in the article, I discovered that the Mount Everest Expedition was sponsored by none other than the National Federation of the Blind.

I wonder about some of the hypocrisy that underlies their sponsorship of this expedition. First of all, NFB posits that blind people are just like everyone else, and that a big deal should not be made over our accomplishments simply because we are blind. This seems to be true unless a particular accomplishment serves the purposes of the National Federation of the Blind. They splash Erik Weihenmayer's name on the front page of their web site and are diligent about making sure news organizations get this guy's story. If they are not creating a very big deal, then maybe I don't understand what a "big deal" really is.

But the bigger and deeper issue concerns the financial end of things. I recently talked to an acquaintance who is a member of the Federation and who was unaware of NFB's lawsuit which attempts to block FCC regulations regarding Descriptive Video Service. He said one of their main arguments is that the money spent could be used for better things which would promote a positive image of blindness. I suppose NFB would contend that their financial support of this mountain-climbing expedition (which involved nine sighted and one blind climber) benefits the whole blind community because of the attention it brings. However, one blind person is benefitting from NFB's financial resources, and he could have found other funding resources to achieve this same accomplishment. By contrast, NFB wants to block funding for warning strips on transit platforms, accessible pedestrian signals, and Descriptive Video Services because, they claim, none of these accommodations would benefit the majority of people who are blind.

Reaching the top of a mountain doesn't happen every day, but blind people do, in fact, travel across dangerous streets, negotiate transit platforms, and, yes, watch television every single day. If we blind people really do want to be seen in a positive light, why not give us the tools we need to participate fully and safely in all the tasks of daily living and send us on our merry way to competently live our lives? Isn't this what NFB wants? That's what they say, while they are also saying that no one should make a big deal of the accomplishments of people who happen to be blind.

I imagine that Erik Weihenmayer is a loyal Federationist, and that both he and they feel the relationship they share is a mutually beneficial one. Lots of organizations sponsor people, and NFB would probably argue that they have the right to do with their money as they see fit. I am aware that they have scholarships and other programs which benefit people who are blind. However, the NFB's decision to financially help a few people who are blind while they argue that the government should not require a service that many of us who are blind have asked for because it would only help a few people is hypocritical!

by Chris Gray

(Editor's Note: The following article is based on a presentation delivered on April 27 at a meeting of the California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped [CTEVH].) Introduction

I want to say, from the very outset, that I always have and continue to believe in unifying braille codes. At the same time, it is also important for me to say that I believe if we adopt the Unified Braille Code as it is now proposed, we will abandon students, we will abandon readers, and we will very likely destroy braille as a system of reading and of writing in North America. BANA's Goals from the Beginning

In the early years of the Unified Braille Code project, we took care to emphasize in every major presentation about the Unified Braille Code (UBC) that the project was a "research project." This emphasis on research was partly to allay the fears of our audiences, but the truth is that BANA undertook research into the UBC solely as research; we did not know if it was possible to unify braille codes. Today, 10 years later, we still do not know if unification is possible in any practical sense.

In those early years we set about trying to unify North American codes, because BANA wanted to gain an understanding of and possibly address the problems which we all recognized as a consequence of teaching and learning so many separate codes: literary; format; computer; Nemeth; and chemistry. We were asking ourselves: is such unification feasible? Many of us realized from the outset that what is possible may, in fact, not be feasible. I can, for example, if absolutely necessary, read Moby Dick over the weekend. However, such a plan, although possible, may not be entirely reasonable, and I might not get very much out of the book by approaching it this way.

From the beginning, we in BANA were very serious about our desire that complete unification be the goal of our endeavors. We wanted a single system of numbering. We wanted a vastly decreased set of rules governing the implementation of braille codes. We wanted a braille system that was simpler and made more logical sense. Such were our goals at the outset of this project. I made the motion that embarked us on the path of unification, and as a continuous supporter of braille unification, I feel complete confidence in this representation of the project at its beginning. We Have Not Stayed the Course

I'm sorry to say that the story of our progress toward the UEBC is a story of failure on many levels. If allowed to continue unchecked or unchanged, there is no question that the unified braille code as constructed today will lead to the failure of many young children in their quest for knowledge and education. Remember that we are discussing changes to the very foundations of the reading and writing system for people who are blind. This systematic change cannot be taken lightly and its ability to improve braille as an entire system must be demonstrable when the code is compared against the highest standards which braille has achieved today. UEBC does not live up to the standards of today as a reasonable or justifiable departure from our present system.

Let's first return to the idea of this code as a research project. In the spirit of research and open discussion, Dr. Abraham Nemeth wrote a formal paper for presentation at the International Conference on English Braille, held in England, in 1995. I was scheduled to present the paper on his behalf as an official delegate to the conference. The day before I was to deliver the paper, it was "disallowed" by the Executive Committee of the ICEB by motion of the United Kingdom representative. I ask you now: What does the stifling of free expression, what does censorship, have to do with research? It was clear to me from that moment on that we had left the realm of research and entered the realm of political activity. Let me assure you: politics does not make good research or good braille! ICEB moved further away from the concept of research when it approved in 1999 UEBC in concept though it did not even have a completed code to consider.

With no proper testing and little evaluation, this research project had suddenly evolved into something that had the character and import of real code and if left unchecked could well be adopted as the mandated code of North America.

This possibility is as real as it is frightening. We have also lost our way regarding the nature of the work being done. Today, we are hopelessly mired down in a controversy over the unification of codes throughout the English-speaking world, and unification of Braille Authority of North America codes with Braille Authority of the United Kingdom codes. The unification of codes between countries and the unification of BANA codes are two entirely different propositions. In fact, they may well be mutually exclusive propositions. An unintended but very real consequence of internationalizing the unified braille code project was BANA's abandonment of North American braille readers and all other users of BANA codes.

In 1951, before I was born, a decision was made by the organization which was then BANA's equivalent to employ a system of lower numbers for brailling math and science materials. The system came to be known as the Nemeth Code, and everything that is technical in North America has been based on this system since that time.

The proposed UEBC reverses these 50 years of progress, and, with a wave of the hand, makes obsolete the materials prepared during these 50 years. I suggest to you that what is needed is not to turn the clock back 50 years as this proposed UEBC does, but rather, to think about the next 50 years during which students and adults must be more, not less, scientifically capable in their reading and writing.

Thus far, we see research that essentially reflects only politics. A goal to unify North American codes has disintegrated into a goal of solving all braille coding problems for the entire English-speaking world. No wonder we are in trouble today; our context is shattered, and our goals are in complete disarray. Replacing One Dual Numbering System with Another?

Out of such disarray it is not surprising that a code which has emerged contains many problems. Perhaps the single biggest problem with the Unified English Braille Code is that it is, in fact, NOT unified. There was to be a single set of numbers employed in the unified braille code. UEBC has two sets of numbers, one of which is wholly unfamiliar to North American readers.

What a bizarre situation this creates! We are being asked to abandon over 50 years of braille materials as well as all of our current codes that use a dual system of numbering for a different and clearly inferior code that uses a dual system of numbering. It's a little hard to see the advantage in that, particularly when unification of numbering was one of the original motivations for the whole project.

Another major reason that the UEBC is fatally flawed is that it employs as a primary numbering system an upper-number-only system. Today in BANA-using countries, we have upper numbers for literary, general use materials, and lower numbers for mathematics and science usage. There is no English-speaking country in the world today whose codes contain an upper-number-only system of braille for technical materials. No country in Western Europe employs an upper-number-only system of braille for technical materials.

There's a reason for that: such a system just doesn't work! When judged against currently available materials produced with current codes, you will see that the proposed UEBC does not work.

The reason it doesn't work is that it creates far too many extra braille symbols. The blind reader must read symbol after symbol that has no intrinsic meaning of its own. Instead of reading information, a student must wade through unnecessary clutter.

A college-level, freshman calculus book has been created to ascertain the level of this tactile disturbance. Dr. Nemeth has gone to the effort of transcribing one volume of the book in UEBC and another in an alternative code about which I will say more in a moment called the Universal Braille System (UBS). UBS is far more similar to the currently used Nemeth Code than is UEBC. This book shows you the incredible proliferation of symbols at the expense of real information that students would be subjected to with UEBC.

If one compares the two books, one finds immediately that 87 pages of lower numbered material increases to 97 pages of UEBC, which represents an increase in sheer length of 11.5 percent. This entire increase is caused by superfluous braille symbols. Stop and consider the vastly greater number of braille characters a student reading the calculus text in UEBC code must decipher in order to even begin the process of learning.

Proponents of upper number systems point to the need in lower-number systems for a punctuation indicator. In this entire braille calculus volume in UBS, there are only 159 punctuation indicators: less than two per page. Which concerns you more: a maximum of two punctuation indicators on one page, or 46 extra number signs and 32 extra letter signs; that's 78 extra characters on a single braille page. Organized Opposition to the UEBC

Several organizations in the United States have taken a firm stand that seriously questions and opposes the UEBC. The Braille Revival League of California and the California Council of the Blind have spoken out in sharp opposition to UEBC as it exists today. Each of these organizations asks others to join with them in their call for a more realistic proposal that meets the needs of BANA readers.

The American Council of the Blind has condemned any unified code that employs more than one numbering system. BANA and ICEB remain silent despite continuous requests for change and improvement.

The National Braille Association has spoken out vehemently against the UEBC code. Braille transcribers who produce technical material know that UEBC spells complete disaster for the young reader and the adult reader, as well.

It is time to take firm and decisive action, to lend our hands in the process of creating a code that furthers education rather than stultifies it. I urge you to stand up and be counted in this effort. There is Still Hope for a Unified Braille Future

Let me now conclude by leaving you with some positive thoughts for the future. I still believe in the concept of a unified braille code. Unification is still possible, given a code that works.

Those of us who oppose UEBC are not content simply to be against something. We began this process in favor of code unification.

In order to salvage the ideals of unification, we formed the Braille As You Like It group. Today, we represent over one hundred braille readers, transcribers, and educators. We have created an alternate version of a unified braille code that meets the needs of North America, that has only one system of numbering, that unifies all North American codes, that is computable, that is extensible, that leaves our current literary braille system virtually untouched. Thus far, BANA has refused to consider such a code.

With your encouragement, this could change. There is a future for a unified braille system in North America. But that system must be one that meets the needs of producers, transcribers, AND READERS.

Please help us make this happen as opportunities for making decisions come your way on this topic.

by Charles S.P. Hodge

Casey on the Green: Supreme Court Rules He Can Use a Cart

On Tuesday, May 29, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decisions in two cases which may well have considerable impact upon blind and/or disabled people. The first case is the highly publicized case under Title III of the ADA of PGA Tour Inc. v. Casey Martin. Justice John Paul Stevens announced the opinion of the court for a seven-member majority with Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Kennedy, O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer concurring. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a separate dissenting opinion in which Justice Thomas joined. In his opinion for the court majority, Justice Stevens quickly disposed of certain threshold questions by holding that respondent Casey Martin is a covered individual with a disability under the ADA, and that the PGA Tour is a covered public accommodation under Title III of the ADA. The court then turned its attention to one of the crucial questions in the case, i.e., whether the PGA Tour's requirement that competitors must walk the entire length of the golf course constitutes a fundamental or essential aspect of the game of golf. Even though such legendary golfers as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus had testified during the trial that the "walking rule" embodies a test of endurance, stamina and fatigue, which is therefore an essential part of golf at its highest level of competition, Justice Stevens nevertheless holds that the "walking rule" is not a fundamental or essential aspect of golf.

The court points out that in numerous important and serious golf competitions, riding a golf cart (which is the reasonable accommodation sought by Casey Martin in this case) is permitted. In addition, factors such as changing weather conditions and other influences of happenstance have as much or even more to do with the ultimate outcome of the competition in terms of making shots as do the factors of endurance, stamina and fatigue purportedly represented by the "walking rule." The court goes on to hold that in addition to the obvious subset of customers of the PGA Tour represented by those members of the public who pay for admission as spectators at PGA Tour events, Casey Martin is a member of a distinct and separate subset of customers, i.e., those members of the public who vie to qualify to play and compete in PGA Tour sponsored golf tournaments. Thus, Casey Martin as a disabled customer of the public accommodation which is the PGA Tour is entitled to have that public accommodation modify its policies and procedures to reasonably accommodate his covered impairment so long as the sought reasonable accommodation does not alter the fundamental or essential aspects of the product or service being offered. In light of its earlier holdings, the majority opinion finds no alternative but to affirm the lower courts' holdings that Casey Martin is entitled to an exception to the PGA Tour's "walking rule" and must be permitted to use a golf cart as a reasonable accommodation in PGA Tour events in which he qualifies to compete.

Justice Stevens agrees that the reasonable accommodation sought by Casey Martin is well-tailored merely to level the playing conditions to permit the respondent to compete. He points out that while the normal professional golfer complying with the "walking rule" walks approximately five miles over a four-hour period in an average 18-hole round of golf, Casey Martin will, even while availing himself of the requested reasonable accommodation of the golf cart, still have to actually walk approximately one mile to complete an average round of golf in competition. The court then remonstrates that the exertion and endurance required of Casey Martin even utilizing a golf cart are equal to if not greater than the exertion and stamina required of the normal golfer observing the "walking rule."

The Casey Martin decision, while limited to the very specialized and specific facts of the case presented, is a very important symbolic victory for people with disabilities. If nothing else, the court's opinion sends an important signal to the lower federal courts to move cautiously and reflectively when they assess claims by defendants about ostensibly fundamental alterations of their programs or offered services which result from requested reasonable accommodations. A Second Court Decision Raises Red Flags

A second decision announced by the high court on Tuesday, May 29, on the other hand, could have an important and devastating impact on the ability of people with disabilities to pursue civil rights claims in the federal courts. In the case of Buckhannon Board and Care Home Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Chief Justice Rehnquist announced the opinion of the court for a bare five-member majority with Justices Kennedy, O'Connor, Scalia and Thomas concurring. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a separate, stinging dissent in which Justices Stevens, Souter and Breyer joined. The issue in the case is whether a litigant who files a federal civil rights claim in federal court and gains from the defendant a desired change of policy can qualify for an award of attorneys' fees as a prevailing party despite never obtaining a final judgment or court decision in the case.

Before the decision announced in this case by the Supreme Court, at least six federal courts of appeals had held that if a plaintiff had brought a court case which acted as a catalyst in obtaining desired changes in policy by the defendant, despite never obtaining a final court disposition of the case, that party was still entitled to an award of attorneys' fees as the prevailing party in the litigation. The only federal appellate court which had reached the contrary conclusion was the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from which this particular case had come.

Despite this background and weight of decided precedent, Chief Justice Rehnquist's majority opinion affirms the holding of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that in order to qualify as a prevailing party under numerous similar attorneys' fees provisions contained in a wide range of federal statutes, a plaintiff must obtain a final judgment, consent decree or final court decision disposing of his or her court case.

This holding by the high court will inevitably have a devastating impact on the ability of indigent civil rights plaintiffs to find competent legal counsel prepared to take on such cases. It could mean that disabled claimants will have difficulty finding lawyers to represent them in federal court civil rights litigation since some lawyers may be reluctant to take on causes where it may be quite difficult to recover attorneys' fees as a prevailing party even where positive and constructive results are obtained voluntarily from named defendants. Thus, the Buckhannon Board and Care Home decision may well have a chilling effect on the ability of numerous disabled potential claimants to mount effective federal court challenges against perceived unlawful disability discrimination. This result is a most unfortunate and unwelcome turn of the law for disabled people. The Supreme Court's decision in this case will also in all likelihood make it more difficult for potential disabled civil rights plaintiffs to settle cases out of court even where positive or constructive results might well be obtained voluntarily from defendants since such settlements will now have to be memorialized in written consent decrees signed by a federal court judge in order for the plaintiff then to make a claim for an award of attorneys' fees as a prevailing party. All of these considerations make the high court's decision in this case most troubling and very problematic. A Week Later, the Court Removed the Cap from Front Pay Awards

On Monday, June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Pollard v. E. I. Du Pont De Namours & Co. Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the opinion of the court for a unanimous eight-member court with Justice O'Connor not participating in the court's decision of the case.

The questions presented to the high court in the Pollard case are whether awards of front pay in employment discrimination cases fall within the meaning of compensatory damages contained in the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1991, and whether such awards are thus subject to the caps or restrictions placed on compensatory damages awards contained in that act. In a straightforward exposition of the issues, Justice Thomas first points out that the original provision of Section 706(g) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 authorizing federal courts to award equitable relief in cases where such courts have found intentional employment discrimination was modeled upon the provisions of Section 10(c) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Justice Thomas then recites that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the federal courts had interpreted Section 10(c) of the NLRA to include awards of front pay before and contemporaneously with the enactment of Section 706(g) of Title VII.

The opinion then states that the lower federal courts virtually unanimously had held that awards of front pay were cognizable and appropriate within the meaning of Section 706(g) prior to the enactment by Congress of the compensatory and punitive damages and cap provisions of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1991. The court points out that the provisions of that act made it abundantly clear that the compensatory damages and cap provisions of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1991 go beyond the relief which the federal courts were authorized to award prior to their enactment. Since awards of front pay had been recognized before enactment of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1991 to be an appropriate exercise of the courts' earlier granted authority under Section 706(g) of Title VII and Section 10(c) of the NLRA, Justice Thomas holds that awards of front pay in the context of federal court employment discrimination cases do not fall within the purview of the compensatory damages and cap provisions contained in the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1991.

Therefore, the Supreme Court reverses the limited $300,000 award of front pay granted by the lower federal courts in this case, and remands the case back to the lower federal courts for further proceedings consistent with the high court's holding in the case.

While the Pollard decision only exempts awards of front pay from the compensatory damages and cap provisions of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1991, it is still a major victory for civil rights parties and advocates since the high court's holding will give lower federal courts pause for reflection when considering whether various forms or types of proposed relief for proven wrongdoing are truly compensatory or punitive damages subject to the cap provisions of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1991.

Of course, in addition, the high court's Pollard decision will permit civil rights plaintiffs who prove cases of employment discrimination against wrongdoing defendants to obtain uncapped awards of front pay in appropriate circumstances from lower federal trial and appellate courts. These enhanced front pay awards will hopefully prove to be a deterrent to the unlawful conduct of wrongdoing employers under the various federal civil rights laws. Thus, the Pollard decision must be counted as a victory for civil rights advocates.

by Barbara Borgmeyer

When I was 9 years old and an innocent, carefree fourth- grader, I relished the thought of recess, when for 20 minutes after lunch I would be free to run and play and see everything going on outside, as long as it was within view of the lower parking lot of St. Charles Borromeo School.

One day, one of my friends told us about palm-reading. She said we could tell from our health lines how long we would live and how healthy we would be. I was pleased to see that my health line was the longest.

I was not surprised. I knew nothing of sickness. I was familiar with colds and coughs and remembered having mumps in a past winter; but to me being ill meant lying around uncomfortably for a few days and possibly having to visit the pediatrician. Barring the small and infrequent inconveniences of childhood illnesses, I was able to fully enjoy my life, and my body worked the way it was supposed to work.

At 15, I was an energetic, self-conscious high school sophomore. For two months, I had been eating voraciously, drinking constantly, and sleeping whenever I could. Then my parents noticed a significant weight loss, and Mom scheduled a doctor's appointment.

I remember sitting in the small examining room with Dad, swinging my legs and thinking about what I was going to do during the next summer. He stood, silently, staring out the window at the nearby highway. At least, that was where his eyes were focused. Now I think his anxious thoughts were focused on me.

My parents had suspected my grandfather's serious illness had been passed down to me. Their fears were confirmed when the doctor said, "You have diabetes."

I began sobbing. I thought, shots! I would have to take shots. I knew little more about the illness than that.

I spent 10 days in the hospital and learned how to inject insulin, how to choose low-sugar foods, and how to recognize an insulin reaction. I was told about the importance of good foot care and warned about the complications of diabetes, which could include infections, neuropathy, kidney failure and blindness.

I listened to everything with half an ear. I was feeling much better, having achieved good blood sugar control while in the hospital. I was sure that none of this would ever happen to me. I was too young and healthy.

I entered into a state of denial that would last for several years. I told myself that if I ever did face blindness or amputation, I would just kill myself. I couldn't bear to live that way, I thought. But I was not worried; I still looked and felt fine.

I am now 33, a determined but often tired volunteer and aspiring writer.

Two weeks ago, I went to pick up a donation for the annual state convention of the Missouri Council of the Blind. As I entered Main Street Books, I commented to myself on how quaint and tidy the shop was. One of the owners pointed to a low- standing shelf of books and explained that I could choose one for a convention attendance prize. I bent over to study the titles and suddenly saw what appeared to be a large cobweb right in front of my face. I was horrified, as I have feared spiders all my life. I stood up to escape the cobweb and its unseen inhabitant and was shocked to see cobwebs everywhere. What was happening? Instinctively, I reached up to wipe away the wispy strands, but nothing was there.

Then I knew what was happening: my left eye was bleeding internally.

I was still able to see, so I took the first book I could grab, quickly thanked the store owner, and went to my car. I can safely drive home, I thought. Small hemorrhages like this one have happened before and never severely limited my vision.

I made it to my driveway taking a route that passed my childhood playground on the parking lot of Borromeo School. As soon as I walked into my house, my vision began to worsen. I recall thanking my guardian angel for helping me get safely home. I had a terrible headache, so I decided to lie down for an hour or so.

When I awoke two hours later, my vision was considerably worse. I didn't panic, as this scenario had been described to me as a possibility several years before, when I was first diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. Clumsily dialing my eye doctor's phone number, I started to cry. My left eye was full of "cobwebs." I have had no central vision in my right eye for more than five years, but now I was relying on the peripheral vision in that eye to distinguish my surroundings. I was heartsick -- my eyesight had changed drastically in a matter of hours.

That afternoon, as I sat waiting to see the retinal specialist, I was surprised at myself. I was not falling apart, and I definitely did not want to die. In truth, I have never considered suicide. Promising myself to "end it all" was an immature and childish response to obstacles not yet encountered, at a time when I was ignorant of options open to me and my own ability to adapt amazingly well.

For the past six months I have been involved in the planning of the state convention of the Missouri Council of the Blind, which will welcome more than 300 members from all over the state. Is it fate that I experienced a severe vision loss just a month before attending the convention? Is it sweet serendipity that I have belonged to the St. Charles County Council of the Blind for almost eight years? God provides me with what I need, just when I need it. I couldn't think of a better place to be than at the convention, where I will be with friends and supporters who truly understand vision loss.

I never truly understood what it meant to be visually impaired or blind until it happened to me.

Still, just being a member of the Council of the Blind the past few years has afforded me an opportunity to make good friends, both sighted and blind, and to learn of many services and programs available to people with less than perfect sight.

I pray all the time, and I believe God is truly my help in all that I do. But friends and family are my earthly support and I am so thankful that they are here.

The Author's Update
May 2001

(Editor's Note: I discovered the wonderful story above amid a "to do" pile of paperwork which had been accumulating over time, when my daughter came to work with me on "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day," in April and read me this wonderful story which we found near the bottom of the pile. I called Barbara, and she was still eager to share her story with readers of "The Braille Forum." Here is her "Update," which tells us that she is still doing quite well coping with diabetes and getting on with her life.)

It has been five years since this article was written and published in my hometown newspaper. I am now almost 39 years old. I am still a volunteer, with my church and the County Division of Family Services. I am pleased to report that I am more than an aspiring writer; I do write. Although fame and fortune still elude me, I have had several items published, and I just keep writing...with dreams of someday having a book of short stories on the bestseller list.

I attended the 1995 Missouri state convention mentioned in the above article. It was my first state convention, and I recall it as a fantastic experience. It boosted my spirits and did wonders for my outlook to be among fellow MCB members. Since then, I have attended every state convention, and even managed to make it to the ACB national convention in Louisville in July 2000. What an awesome experience!

In early 1996, about six months after the hemorrhage in my left eye occurred, the vision in that eye slowly began to improve. My visual "fog" was lifting. Throughout 1996, I gradually gained back enough acuity in my left eye to be able to once again read with a magnifier, distinguish some colors and recognize people's faces. The vision in my right eye has not improved, but I am very thankful for what I have regained and been able to maintain. The doctor explained it simply: The blood which had leaked into my vitreous had drained away. My doctor was quick to remind me that "it happened once, it can happen again," and so I live with a healthy respect for my retinopathy, and I remember that most of what we think we "own" is really just on loan to us.

My volunteer activities are still quite important to me, especially since I am presently job-free. Since helping to organize the 1995 Missouri state convention, I've become more active within my local chapter, helping with numerous projects and fund-raisers. We've held info days and candy sales in front of area supermarkets. I've been involved in providing Christmas assistance to blind children and their families and to blind seniors who are in need. Over the years, I've been lucky enough to arrange for several informative and entertaining speakers to come to meetings and share their expertise. And when Missouri became the first annual recipient of the ACB quilt, I organized the month-long display of the quilt in the public library in my hometown, St. Charles. I've served on the executive board of my local chapter, most recently in a two-year position as treasurer.

Although I am less physically active with my chapter now, due to health problems, I still remain as involved as possible. I make frequent phone calls to new and prospective members, encouraging them to attend meetings, where they will find understanding supporters.

I've always been an organized and motivated person, but when I was struggling through several months of blindness, I was at first dismayed at the lack of control I had. At times I felt desperate and guilty; I was ashamed that I had wasted so much time as a sighted person. I thought that there were several things I should have accomplished while I was still "able." I was sad because I wasn't seeing myself as an able person, but as a victim. I was very unsure of myself as a blind person, and, in the beginning, I felt like I was less of a person than I had been before the sight loss. I was angry and frustrated that I didn't know how to proceed with my life, and I wondered what was in store for me. Then, I took control.

It was after witnessing the actions and attitudes of MCB powerhouses (like Edna Freeman and Ken Emmons) during that first 1995 state convention (and at subsequent state conventions I attended), that I decided not only to become more active in my local chapter, but to become more goal-oriented in my personal life as well.

Over these past five years, I've set several goals for myself, some short-term, others not so easily reached. And one by one, I'm achieving them.

I've been able to lose weight, and still work every day on reaching my goal weight.

I decided that my life was too cluttered with "stuff," so over the course of the last two years, I've unloaded lots of insignificant life-filler. The rooms of my home, and more important, my life, are no longer filled with meaningless things, and I am able to focus more easily.

Along those same lines, I've learned what is most important to me, and what I can easily allow to fall away. I am better at saying "no," and I have more respect for myself as I pursue those things which make me feel happy and fulfilled.

For a long time, I've felt frustrated (and somewhat embarrassed) that I was computer illiterate. Everyone I know seems to be jumping successfully on the computer bandwagon. So I am now learning to use a PC; it is an ongoing process, but I am becoming better and better at doing all sorts of tasks on my computer. In fact, this update was e-mailed to Penny Reeder at the ACB office!

My next goal: employment. Even though I will always write, I would like to be bringing in more money than free-lancing provides. Issues concerning my health will need to be addressed when I consider any job, but I am open-minded and eager. There will be a job fair at the area Division of Workforce Development in mid-June, and I'll be there. I may not get the job of my dreams, but then, I don't expect to achieve all of my goals at one time. Like a good friend in my local chapter often says, "Start with baby steps."

Someday, I know, I'll be running.

by Sharon Lovering

The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement 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 and services mentioned.


Medicare occasionally pays for electronic visual aids and devices. I need evidence of such cases to succeed at reimbursement for a closed circuit TV (CCTV). Call or write Gregg Welch, 144 SE 133rd Ave., Portland, OR 97233; phone (503) 408-1419.


The FedForms web site,, provides "one-stop-shopping" for forms needed for the top 500 government services used by the public. Check it out!


Invacare is recalling power wheelchairs purchased between 1988 and June 2000. If you have such a wheelchair, please contact the dealer you purchased your chair from to have the replacement kit installed on your chair. If you cannot locate your original dealer, contact Invacare Corporation toll-free at (800) 333-6900, select option 8, and you will be directed to an Invacare Service Center.


Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao recently announced the creation of the Employment Assistance Referral Network (EARN), a national toll-free telephone and electronic information referral service for employers who are seeking to hire workers with disabilities. EARN is designed to assist employers in locating potential employees with disabilities in their own geographic area. An employer seeking to fill a specific position may contact EARN with the job specifications. EARN staff will then search a database of local employment providers who may have appropriate job candidates with disabilities and send that information back to the employer, who can then follow up directly with the service provider.

EARN also offers employers technical assistance. Any subject related to the employment of people with disabilities -- such as co-worker attitudes, tax credits, personal assistance services, disability laws, return-to-work strategies, job interviewing techniques, and recruitment and hiring strategies -- can be addressed by EARN staff. To contact EARN, call 1-888-695-8289, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time. EARN may also be accessed via its Web site:


The Talking Rx makes your prescription talk to you! This device, which reads the information about your prescription with the assistance of a computer chip embedded in the label, can help you avoid taking the wrong pill at the wrong time. The suggested retail price of the Talking Rx is $19.95. It is available for sale through Vision Dynamics, 470 West Main St., Cheshire, CT 06410; phone (203) 271-1944.


Citibank has announced the installation of New York's first five talking ATMs. The ATMs, using text-to-speech technology, deliver audible information privately through an earphone so that people who may have difficulty reading an ATM screen in print, can independently use the ATM. The five New York machines, along with five Citibank talking ATMs in California, are the beginning of a 16-month plan to install a talking ATM at each of Citibank's Financial Centers and its ATM centers across the country. The machines will be upgraded, improved versions of the talking ATMs originally installed by Citibank in November 1999.

New York locations are: 717 Avenue of the Americas at West 23rd Street, Manhattan; 460 Park Avenue at East 57th Street, Manhattan; 2861 Broadway at West 111th Street, Manhattan; 181 Montague Street, Brooklyn; and 95-12 63rd Road, Rego Park, Queens. California locations are: 8800 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles; 2566 Overland Avenue, West Los Angeles; 2323 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 260 California Street, San Francisco; and 780 Laurel Street, San Carlos.


Blind-Novel-Tees now has hats, T-shirts and nightshirts with four new designs! And best of all, shipping is free in the USA! Hats and T-shirts are available in two colors, in medium, large or extra large. The nightshirts are only available in dark gray and are one size fits all.

"Blind People Feel Better" hat (black or royal blue), $15; T- shirt (black or royal blue), $18; nightshirt (dark gray), $22

"Ears Work Eyes Don't" hat (black or royal blue), $15; T- shirt (black or royal blue), $18

"Blind Computer User" hat (black or kelly green), $15; T- shirt (black or kelly green), $18

"Please Don't Pet My Dog" hat (black or red), $15; T-shirt (black or red), $18

"Too Much Sex Causes Blindness" hat in black or royal blue (the word "sex" is in braille), $15; T-shirt (black or royal blue), $18; nightshirt (dark gray), $22

"If you are reading this I hope we've been introduced" hat in black or purple (the word "introduced" is in braille), $15; T- shirt (black or purple), $18; nightshirt (dark gray), $22

Check us out online at: If you would like to place an order please send your check or money order along with the item, size and color required to: Blind-Novel-Tees, P.O. Box 460, New Tazewell, TN 37824. Handwritten, print or braille orders welcome. Allow 4 to 6 weeks for delivery.

If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me at: [email protected]. For a detailed product list send a blank e-mail to: [email protected] or call (423) 626-2075.


Osteoporosis is a major health threat for more than 28 million Americans. Here are the warning signs that your bones may be in trouble, leaving you susceptible: you break a bone; you have a family history of osteoporosis or hip fractures; you do not get enough calcium; you smoke or drink excessively; you weigh less than 127 pounds; you have chronic medical problems; you have persistent back pain; and/or you are shorter than you used to be. Osteoporosis is often preventable if bone loss is detected early. Check with your doctor to determine your risk for developing the disease and the necessary preventive steps. Several drugstore chains offer a bone density test for a reasonable fee; check with your local drugstore to see if it does. For more information on osteoporosis, call toll-free (800) 223-9994 or visit


The Federal Communications Commission recently initiated an e-mail service to inform consumers about developments at the FCC, to disseminate consumer informative materials prepared by the Commission to a wide audience and to invite comments from other interested parties on FCC regulatory proposals. FCC fact sheets, consumer brochures and alerts, news releases, public notices, notices of proposed rulemaking, reports and orders, and other consumer-related information are the types of items that will be sent out via this new e-mail distribution list.

To subscribe, submit a subscription request by e-mail to the following address: [email protected]. Put the following request in the subject line or in the body of the message (not both): subscribe fcc-consumer-info firstname lastname (replace with your real first name and last name). To unsubscribe, send the following request using the same procedure as with subscribing: unsubscribe fcc-consumer-info.


Capable Canine Company now has grooming smocks available. These are worn over clothing and greatly reduce the amount of hair collected on clothing during dog or cat grooming. Smocks are washable, but due to the semi-waterproof material may not respond well to extreme heat.

All grooming smocks are customized. To order, please send the following information: neck size; waist or hip size (use larger measurement for best fit); arm length from underarm to tips of fingers; and length from neck to mid-calf.

Orders must be prepaid. In the U.S., contact: Cheree Heppe, 68 Gilman Street, Hartford, CT 06114-2536; e-mail her at [email protected]; or phone her at (860) 296-4922. In Canada, contact: Claire Roberts, 2930 5th Avenue SE, Salmon Arm, B.C. V1E 2H1, Canada; e-mail her at [email protected]; or phone her at (250) 832-2421. The price per smock is $30 U.S.

Capable Canine Company also makes collapsible, folding fabric-type water and feed bowls; custom plasticized dog raincoats which fit under harnesses; leather double leashes fitted for short or long use, specify color, length and width; buckle-on, adjustable leather check chain type collars (specify desired width and color and the dog's neck measurements); and custom harnesses.


The blind-diabetic list is for those of us who are blind or visually impaired people to find support in exercising, dieting (or some people call it a change of lifestyle), keeping their sugar down, being overweight, bingeing, overeating and problems with obesity. We can discuss different food plans, such as Weight Watchers, low-carb, and TOPS which stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly. We discuss both types of diabetes as well. Even if you just want to lose weight, and are neither blind nor a diabetic, you are welcome.

To subscribe, send an e-mail to blind-diabetics- [email protected]; to unsubscribe, send a blank message to [email protected].


There's a new listserv available for families and teachers to discuss individualized education plans for children with special needs. Visit, and follow the instructions to join the list.


Booz-Allen and Hamilton (BAH), an international consulting firm, has developed the Emerging Leaders Program -- a unique internship providing college students with disabilities meaningful summer work experience in the public and private sectors. Students will also have an opportunity to develop professionally and be exposed to leadership training.

Six weeks of the program will be spent with the employing firm and two with a non-profit or government agency. The Emerging Leaders Program offers participants an opportunity to gain a broader perspective on their potential and how they can contribute to their families and communities. The list of finalists includes students from all over the country.

To read the May 2001 Profile about Booz-Allen and Hamilton, visit, go to the Profiles in Excellence link and select "Booz-Allen and Hamilton, May 2001."


FOR SALE: 3 CCTVs. One 19-inch Eyequest, used very little. Two smaller Visualteks, all black and white. All three sell for $2,000. Electric hospital bed, $395; light transport wheelchair $95; CPAP machine with tray humidifier, holder hose, etc., $495. 16 boxes of One-Touch test strips (50 strips per box), plus meter, $320. Call M.K. Leets at (703) 938-0172 before 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.

FOR SALE: Small collection (17) of military training books, manuals, maps, hard and soft backs, dating from 1913, long out- of-print, very good condition, good reading for the history buff. Gathering dust on my shelves. For list send SASE to: Colonel-ACB, 243 Manatee, Winter Haven, FL 33884 (e-mail [email protected]).

FOR SALE: 16-inch color computer monitor and Televideo CCTV. Best offer. Contact Tony Santamaria at (214) 331-5112 before 10 p.m. Central time. No collect calls.

FOR SALE: Nearly new Brother word processor with 14-inch colored screen and accessories. Make an offer. E-mail me at [email protected].

FOR SALE: Brand-new Optelec CCTV model 317. Asking $1,600 or best offer. Contact Joseph Pellitteri at (561) 638-9035.

FOR SALE: DECTalk Express external voice synthesizer, about 3 years old. All original items included, case, IO cord, power supply, earphones, installation disk, original shipping box. Asking $400 including shipping. Call Dick Chrisman at (480) 483- 6584 or by e-mail at [email protected].

FOR SALE: Open Book 3.0u, $100. HP scanner model 5S, $50. Accent PC speech card with manual and software, $100. Ann Morris tone indexer, $25. Will ship this free matter mailing. Kenwood TS 450 ham radio with service manual, $625. All items will be shipped via U.S. mail. You will need to pay for shipping. Money orders only. Contact Mr. J. L. Blackwell, 846 Skyline Dr., Chester, SC 29706; phone (803) 377-7913.

FOR SALE: BookMaker braille embosser with cabinet and acoustic hood, $5,000 or nearest offer, shipping included. BookMaker Express with cabinet and acoustic hood, $8,000 or nearest offer, shipping included. 4 x 4 Index with latest software, cabinet included, $5,000, shipping included. 11 by 11 braille paper, already punched, $35, shipping included. Contact Dave and Ann Durber, (718) 335-1788 or e-mail [email protected].

FOR SALE: Pentium laptop computer with built-in 40-character refreshable braille display and full computer keyboard. Has floppy disk drive, CD-ROM drive, PCMCIA card slots (which can be used for the Internet, networks and scanners), JAWS 3.7, Windows 98, and Microsoft Word and Excel (1997 version). Asking $6,000 or best offer. Call Jim at (650) 756-1333.

FOR SALE: Stand-alone Kurzweil Personal Reader 2.2 in good condition. $500 or best offer. IBM 386 computer with DECTalk. Best offer. Perkins brailler, $350 or best offer. Contact Roger Acuna at (925) 363-7293.

FOR SALE: IBM computer with printer, $1,200 (includes shipping). Braille label maker, $50. Talking compass, $50. Note Teller, $350. Contact Rosemir at (925) 586-5211.

WANTED: Goalball. Contact Roger Acuna at (925) 363-7293.

WANTED: Electric braille writer. Unable to pay. Contact Jose Inacio Laurini, Rua Conego Motta no. 324, Cabreuva, Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Because so many members and friends of the American Council of the Blind responded so generously to our annual fall fund- raiser, "The Braille Forum" chose to list those contributors over several months. Contributors' names are, therefore, published according to alphabetic listings of the states where they reside, in May, June, July, and August issues of "The Braille Forum." ACB wishes to thank its many members and friends who gave so generously in response to our fall 2000 letter requesting support for ACB's ongoing programs and services. This partial list of donors reflects only those people who gave us permission to publicly acknowledge their gifts.


Sylvia Adrian, Port Union

Jennie Baly, Lansing

David L. Banks, Maple City

Linda J. Byers, Battle Creek

Dominic L. DeGiusti, Harper Woods

Margaret M. Hunerjager, Niles

George & Sue Illingworth, Redford

Kent County Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, Jenison

Debbie Komondy, Utica

Roberta McCall, East Lansing

Donna Rose, Ann Arbor

Deborah Wild, Grand Rapids


Edward D. Bender, White Bear Lake

Ottila Gilliland, St. Louis Park

Luella Harpster, Rosemount

Jeanne E. Huddleston, Minneapolis

Diane & Dale Mevissen, Duluth

Virginia & Alden Moran, St. Louis Park

Linda Oliva, Minneapolis

Phillip Raymond, Circle Pines

Robert L. Smith III, St. Paul

Max Swanson, Minneapolis

Mike & Elaine Vining, Minneapolis


Leanne Forrest, Vicksburg

Ken Loden, Tupelo

J. Elton Moore, Mississippi State


Barbara Borgmeyer, Saint Charles

Ronald Coleman, Festus

Pauline Krueger, Branson

Ralph Sole, Lees Summit


Helen H. Lockwood, Bozeman


Donald Pohlmann, Hastings


Pasquale Acquaviva, Red Bank

Richard W. Bleecker, Jersey City

Sharon W. Burniston, Maplewood

Eleanor Falkenstern, Norwood

Edward Fedush, Garfield

Bert Hornick, Union

Christopher J. O'Neill, Iselin


Lonnie Lanning, Albuquerque

Fred Mansfield, Santa Fe


Joan O. Brown, Rochester

Carmine Cataldo, Staten Island

Joseph W. Collier, Brooklyn

Mr. & Mrs. George Downey, Long Island City

Karen Eisenstadt, Forest Hills

Richard Hutcheson, Ithaca

William Kirchgaessner, Hartsdale

Elizabeth Levey, New York

John J. Morgan, Highland Falls

Michael O'Brien, Troy

Nancy O'Connell, New York City

Mary Randall, Astoria

Margaret Ricciardi, Oyster Bay

Carol Roy, Bronx

Chi-Yim Siu, New York City

Miriam Vieni, Westbury

Helen Whelan, Seaford

Kevin Wollenweber, Valley Stream

Albert Wylaz, Rochester


Jim Baker, Oak Ridge

Karen Broderick, Raleigh

Margaret S. Joyce, Madison

Bill Kelsey, New Bern

North Carolina Council of the Blind, Mebane

Kenneth R. Pond, Charlotte

Judith K. Redfield, Clemmons


Sanford Alexander
Wichita, KS
Jerry Annunzio
Kansas City, MO
Alan Beatty
Fort Collins, CO
Ed Bradley
Houston, TX
Dawn Christensen
Holland, OH
Debbie Grubb
Bradenton, FL
Oral Miller
Washington, DC
Mitch Pomerantz
Los Angeles, CA
Sandy Sanderson
Anchorage, AK
M.J. Schmitt
Forest Park, IL


Kim Charlson, Chairperson
Watertown, MA
Jay Doudna
Rosemont, PA
Winifred Downing
San Francisco, CA
Mike Duke
Jackson, MS
Charles Hodge
Arlington, VA
Ex Officio: Earlene Hughes,
Lafayette, IN


20330 NE 20TH CT.
MIAMI, FL 33179





LeRoy Saunders
4517 NW 25th Place
Oklahoma City, OK 73127-1911

Billie Jean Keith, Arlington, VA

Return to the Braille Forum Index
Return to ACB Home Page