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The American Council of the Blind is a membership organization made up of more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates. To join, visit the ACB website and complete an application form, or contact the national office at the number listed above.
Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Ardis Bazyn 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.
To make a contribution to ACB via the Combined Federal Campaign, use this number: 2802.
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, or visit the Washington Connection online.
On Friday, October 17, shortly after 5 p.m., Charlie Crawford, ACB's executive director since November of 1998, released the following statement:
"This is to advise that ACB President Chris Gray and myself have just concluded negotiations acceptable to both parties with respect to the following. I am tendering my resignation as ACB executive director effective this day due to irreconcilable differences in management philosophy. I will not be at liberty to discuss the agreement or the reasons for its coming into existence, but I will of course remain an active and supportive member of the best organization of the blind in this nation."
Two days thereafter, ACB president Chris Gray released the following announcement on ACB's "Leadership" e-mailing discussion list:
The board of directors of the American Council of the Blind has accepted the resignation of Charles Crawford as executive director of this organization, effective October 17, 2003. Doubtless, most will have read Charlie's announcement which summarizes the reasons for the resignation.
Had the timing of these events worked out differently, I would have sent a brief message such as this to you before now, slightly more than two days after Charlie's resignation. Unfortunately, I was away from my computer while attending the convention of the California Council of the Blind in Los Angeles. Some of you may have heard some brief remarks I made on this topic during the CCB banquet that I believe were broadcast on ACB Radio's coverage of our state convention.
As I said yesterday evening in Los Angeles, Charlie's resignation will create significant change for our organization as does the transition from any executive director to another. By working together we will overcome these difficulties, whatever they prove to be.
Finally, rather than focus on the negative, I choose and encourage all of you to focus on the positive. Let us be mindful of the many excellent contributions Charlie Crawford has made to this organization. Charlie's vision and advocacy have led ACB into new arenas and created many successes for us. And while Charlie is leaving a staff position within this organization, he made it very clear he is not leaving the organization. I know that Charlie will strive to be a positive contributing force within ACB.
On behalf of the board of directors and myself personally, I wish Charlie every success and look forward to his involvement in ACB in the future.
I recognize that this brief statement leaves many unanswered questions. To some questions, answers may be deemed by a few to be inadequate due to the restraints of confidentiality adopted by the ACB board of directors and Charlie Crawford. Many other answers will be outlined in a longer message I will be sending within two or three days. Please accept these comments as the beginning of my communications to you about plans and activities for the next several months as we work to seek a new executive director and keep the affairs of ACB moving forward in a positive and progressive direction.
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 17, 2003 -- By the time you read this issue of "The Braille Forum," I will have left the employ of the American Council of the Blind as your executive director. In many ways it feels like I'm leaving home, with my heart still looking back and wanting to hug the family, while I know, in my mind, that we will still be together, continuing to build a future for ACB and blind people, for I will continue to be an active and lifetime member.
This is a time to take strength from what we have built over the past five years and to celebrate the story of our success. Under my watch and with the blessing of our wonderful membership and national staff, our organization has spoken out strongly to make our environment safer; to make consumer choice a reality rather than a platitude; to bring accessibility to the forefront as a necessity in electronics, ranging from televisions to cell phones; to increase the enforcement of non-discrimination laws; to bring the benefits of high-speed communications over the Internet to all sectors of our community at more affordable rates; to open doors previously closed to guide dog users; to make state government accountable to every blind consumer; to provide ongoing and up-to-date information on our activities to members and friends in a full and friendly fashion; to protect the freedom of speech and expand participation by our members in the operations of ACB; to make our educational and rehabilitation systems responsive to the needs of children and adults; and to make sure that each ACB member, no matter how proud or humble, is appreciated for his or her ideas and dreams. This is a time for each of us to stay the course with compassion, to remember each other in our daily concerns, and to make sure our American Council of the Blind remains and grows as the true beacon of hope that it is for all who dare to embrace democracy.
Our national office is both the servant and the partner with our membership and while the guard may change, let us be sure to give the support the office needs and to help them to help us to make ACB all it can truly be. I have told the story of ACB in the humblest of places and in the grandeur of the White House, and it is a story that must continue to be told to all who will listen and for all who have yet to hear the voice of a people united in the pain of the past, the struggle of the present, and the hope of the future.
For my part, I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve you and our mission and for that I am both grateful and committed to doing all that I can to serve our democracy, our ideals, and our future together. With abiding gratitude, I leave you with something I have often said when leaving a state convention: how good it is to be in ACB where we count our blessings one member at a time.
Thank you. My new e-mail address will be [email protected].
Charlie Crawford presents his report to the Houston convention July 5, 2002.*****
The board of directors of the American Council of the Blind met on September 20 and 21 at the Holiday Inn Central in Washington, D.C. President Chris Gray called the meeting to order shortly after 9 a.m. on September 20. Despite travel inconveniences caused by Hurricane Isabel, only two members, Dawn Christensen and Jerry Annunzio, were absent.
A motion to reconsider the board policy of not allowing absent members to participate via telephone conference was adopted. After discussion, a motion was adopted to waive the policy for only this particular board meeting. Christensen joined the meeting via telephone shortly thereafter, and participated thus throughout the remainder of the meeting. Numerous attempts to reach Annunzio were unsuccessful.
The meeting agenda, which included an executive session, was discussed, modified slightly, and adopted.
Brian Charlson moved to grant a request that Susan Crawford, who was neither a board member nor a staff person, be allowed to remain in the room during the executive session. The motion failed on a roll call vote of 4 in favor, 9 against and 2 absent. Those voting in favor were: Alan Beatty, Billie Jean Keith, Pat Sheehan and Steve Speicher. Those opposed were: Ardis Bazyn, Ed Bradley, Brian Charlson, Paul Edwards, Oral Miller, Mitch Pomerantz, Carla Ruschival, M.J. Schmitt and Donna Seliger.
The board meeting recessed at 9:50 a.m. to begin an executive session, which lasted until nearly 1 p.m. The meeting reconvened at 2:20 p.m. with first vice president Speicher presiding during the brief absence of President Gray. As the meeting convened, ACB staff members and guests were recognized.
Minutes from the pre-convention and post-convention board meetings were approved. Reports from committees, staff, and the board of publications were presented. Each report was discussed and accepted by voice vote.
Staff members prefaced their presentations by noting that, because none had received meeting agendas which would have indicated the board's desire for their reports in advance of the board meeting, their reports would be of a less formal nature than usual. Penny Reeder reported that the number of e-mail subscriptions for "The Braille Forum" is constantly growing. The 48-page limitation is forcing more material to be held back for later use.
Representing the board of publications, Mike Duke reported that President Gray has reappointed Charlie Hodge as BOP chairman, and Adrian DeBlaey as the appointed BOP member. His report continued with several recommendations for improving the published convention program, the Convention Ear news service, and the convention newspaper. The board of publications requested that a meeting be quickly scheduled with Hodge and the essential expenditure review committee to discuss the possibility of publishing a convention issue of "The Braille Forum" in 2003.
President Gray rejoined the meeting and assumed the chairmanship. He reported that an announcement concerning the outcome of the board's several recent executive sessions (see below) could be expected within seven days.
Melanie Brunson reported that advocacy work has begun on the resolutions passed by the 2003 convention. Some of this work has involved meetings with Congressional staff. ACB continues its Congressional dialogue concerning the Rehabilitation Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Transportation Equity Act. Brunson is working with RSVA on vending issues, and is closely monitoring attacks on the Help America Vote Act and its funding. Other ongoing advocacy issues include program funding, free matter regulations, attacks on the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the ACB currency case. Video description legislation has been introduced in the Senate and sponsors are still being sought in the House.
Paul Edwards discussed Carl Perkins Funds as they relate to high school and college funding of readers and other services. A motion directing Brunson to keep watch on attempts to withdraw this funding passed unanimously.
Charlie Crawford added discussion of the work that ACB has done on the transportation appropriations bill, and of our success in the Visudyne case. In his executive director's report, Crawford remarked on the difficulties and inconveniences caused by the renovation of the building where the ACB staff works. A request has been filed with the landlord for economic relief in light of these issues. After the collapse of the old computer network, a new network is being assembled and should be fully functional by the time this report is read.
The first draft of the 2004 budget has been given to the president, the budget committee, and chief financial officer. The proposed total budget is $1,296,000, approximately $80,000 less than the budget for the current year. Two office staff positions remain vacant, and will not be filled within the near future.
The ACB Store continues to expand, and to pursue links with other suppliers for increased marketing opportunities. Terry Pacheco reported that the store sales items are currently being routed through her office. She continues to receive many questions about the availability of braille and recorded editions of "People of Vision." Pacheco's department has updated the ACB constitution to incorporate changes which resulted from the convention's actions, and the affiliate presidents list has been updated and is ready for distribution. Because decisions about committees have yet to be made, the updated ACB committee list is not yet available.
Work continues with FundFlow toward fundraising efforts, which will involve collaboration with affiliates. (See Dodge Fielding's report in the October 2003 "Braille Forum.") In addition, a "friend-raising" reception will be held on October 23. It is hoped that this event will bring ACB together with various enterprises and organizations that are potential donors. Several Combined Federal Campaign presentations have also been scheduled.
Approximately 25 members are contributing a total of $586 per month through the members' monetary giving program. A legal opinion will be sought on whether a proposed name change for the program may be a trademark infringement.
After a discussion of the logo sticker currently affixed to the ACB cane, a motion to instruct California Canes to supply 80 percent of the ACB canes with a permanently affixed logo and 20 percent with no logo passed unanimously.
A discussion of the history committee and the "People of Vision" book project revealed that approximately 200 copies of the book have been sold thus far by ACB. The recorded and braille editions are expected to be available through NLS as well as the ACB Store. The history committee is continuing its outreach work with college and university libraries, and will encourage ACB affiliates to purchase copies. A motion to sunset the present history committee after these outreach projects have been completed, and then to establish a new committee charged with the collection and preservation of history, was adopted.
Paul Edwards reported that ACBES is barely making its target contribution to ACB. All obligations to ACB are current through September. An increase in these obligations for 2004 is unlikely. ACBES is maintaining a careful watch over the cost of doing business within each store location. A profit-sharing arrangement is now in place for management and employees in most stores, and will soon be implemented in the others. The ACBES board will meet via telephone in October.
Treasurer Ardis Bazyn and chief financial officer Jim Olsen continued the discussion of monetary matters with the treasurer's report. They reported that shipping and handling costs for ACB Store items are being carefully monitored and adjusted. The store now has a toll-free order number. Olsen reported that total revenue for the year, through mid-July, was $603,384. Expenses through the same time period amounted to $746,202. ACBES has transferred $68,904. A motion to transfer money from board reserves into the general fund was adopted.
Brian Charlson reported that a draft budget for 2004 has been received. Work to finalize this budget is now in progress. A motion to maintain the same spending level as last year for the first quarter of the new fiscal year was adopted.
The budget committee reported progress toward establishing a budget-center process. Work continues on the revenue-center process, and toward getting a budgetary handle on convention expenditures. Second vice president M.J. Schmitt commended the budget committee for its tireless work on a very difficult ongoing situation.
Carla Ruschival reported that the contract for the 2005 convention in Las Vegas has been signed. Work has begun on the contract for 2009 with Orlando. Bids are now being sought for 2008, 2010, and 2011. Ruschival reported that several hotel chains are also interested in hosting our board meetings and legislative seminars. These extra meetings may then be held at a lower cost, and can be used as negotiating tools for future contracts.
Charlson, Bazyn, and Sheehan were re-elected to the budget committee. The officers and board members then divided into two groups in order to elect their respective members to the executive committee. Following this action, the meeting recessed until 8:30 a.m. on September 21.
The Sunday session began with the president's report. Gray reported that the AllinPlay ACB Poker Tournament, held over Labor Day weekend, was great fun, and that it drew substantial online publicity for ACB. It drew 225 participants with as many as 70 people playing at one time. The winners were from Singapore, the United States, and Scotland.
He said that after big disappointments with descriptive video and Visudyne issues, we have seen encouraging developments on both fronts in the last month. In addition, we expect to see positive developments in rehabilitation reauthorization and other legislative areas. He encouraged all members to continue their hard work on all advocacy and legislative fronts.
Work continues on the development of the idea of a second ACB magazine which would target doctors' offices, and which could also be used as a fundraising instrument. Gray said that the publication would initially be an expensive project, but could be expected to become self-funding, primarily through advertisement sales. Gray is discussing this project with some interested publishers, and hopes to soon see positive action.
Gray reported that Dave Williams is keeping ACB Radio alive and well as interim director. The search continues for a permanent director of this important service.
Within the discussion of the president's report, Carla Ruschival and Melanie Brunson both reported that the recent setbacks as outlined above have also brought ACB new members and a greater number of referrals on certain issues.
The proposed budget tracking processes will be shared with the board for discussion and action soon. The committee list will also be finalized and distributed as soon as possible. Gray encouraged board members and officers to maintain an ongoing dialogue with committees.
Following the acceptance of his report, Gray announced that M.J. Schmitt, Donna Seliger, Alan Beatty, and Carla Ruschival now make up the executive committee.
Dawn Christensen led a brainstorming discussion about establishing board goals and priorities. She challenged all board members to strive to accomplish the mission of the American Council of the Blind. The board discussed several crucial elements in its responsibility to the organization including financial matters, membership services, carrying out the wishes of the convention, considering and making changes to the employees' handbook, providing checks and balances for the organization, mediating between the national office and the officers, providing greater board visibility during conventions, and mentoring (especially of students).
The members' monthly monetary giving program was discussed at length. Personal contact was suggested as one way to make this program work better, and to recruit new members. The discussion of this project continued after a brief executive session and mid-morning break.
The Sunday morning executive session began around 10 a.m. and lasted about 20 minutes. (See the announcement following this report.) When the board reconvened in public session about 10:45, discussion of the monthly giving program continued. One member asked for clarification as to whether this program would be substituted for the annual fall fund-raising letter. Gray reported that this substitution would indeed be carried out.
Free matter regulations may prohibit the inclusion of the membership giving form within "The Braille Forum." It could, however, be included as part of the convention pre-registration mailing since that mailing is post paid. The editor suggested that the board promote the program by telling their personal stories about why they choose to participate in ACB and to support the organization financially within the pages of "The Braille Forum." Similar features could easily be part of ACB Reports. After a discussion about the possibility of instituting a hierarchy of membership gift premiums, a motion to refer the idea to the resource development committee for further study passed unanimously.
Steve Speicher asked if ACB had a definitive answer as to whether the abbreviation for the suggested name of "Members Giving More" would be a trademark violation. Brunson agreed to clarify the question as soon as possible. A motion to have the board recess rather than adjourn at the end of the meeting time passed unanimously.
The meeting concluded with a brief discussion of the currently available brochure and resource sheets. The board recessed at 11:30 a.m.
Since the conclusion of the 2003 post-convention board meeting, the board of directors of the American Council of the Blind has held four executive sessions. On August 12 and September 3, the board met via telephone conference beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern time. Face-to- face executive sessions were also held on September 20 at 10 a.m., and September 21 at 10 a.m. Each session was held to discuss personnel matters.*****
(Editor's Note: Thanks to Krista Merritt for coping valiantly with network crashes and cyber-glitches, while compiling this excellent summary. Copies of the 2003 resolutions will be made available to any who ask in formats of choice. This publication reflects only those resolutions which were adopted by the convention. ACB resolutions which were referred to other ACB entities for further consideration, tabled or withdrawn are not included in this document.)
Resolution 2003-01 urges all airlines to make their web sites accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
Resolution 2003-03 expresses its gratitude to Hallmark Cards for the interest it has taken in making braille greeting cards available and for its sensitivity in marketing these products and requests that Hallmark Cards inform its store and franchise managers that braille greeting cards are available.
Resolution 2003-05 urges its officers and directors to respectfully consider any affiliate's right to take a position other than that of the national organization, but not to delay or postpone advocacy efforts based on achieving consensus between that affiliate and the national organization or between affiliates.
Resolution 2003-06 instructs its officers and board of directors to send a letter to the United States Department of Justice, within 30 days of the adoption of this resolution, in support of the complaint of Guide Dog Users, Inc. against the Iowa Department for the Blind, and provides that the leadership of this organization make decisions and take actions that recognize the rights of guide dogs and their handlers to unhindered access to public programs, services and facilities.
Resolution 2003-07 places on record understanding of the factors that led to the decision taken in the Stephanie Dohmen matter, and affirms support for efforts to assure that guide dogs and their handlers have access to all public programs, services and facilities where required by law.
Resolution 2003-08 expresses appreciation to all volunteers who worked to assist attendees at the 2003 ACB convention and requests that Volunteer Coordinator Margarine Beaman assist in communicating the sense of this resolution to all volunteers.
Resolution 2003-09 expresses thanks and appreciation for the services and accommodations provided to ACB members by the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the Westin Convention Center Hotel, and the Pittsburgh Hilton and Towers Hotel and their staffs.
Resolution 2003-10 thanks and commends the host committee and the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind for their fine work on the 2003 ACB convention.
Resolution 2003-11 calls upon the United States Supreme Court and the Judicial Conference of the United States to adopt disability anti-discrimination guidelines applicable to the federal courts which are modeled upon the appropriate provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and the Title II ADA regulations; recommends that the requested disability anti-discrimination guidelines should include the principle of equal access for the disabled contained in the recently strengthened Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in order that all web sites maintained and utilized by the federal courts will be accessible to blind and visually impaired parties, attorneys, and members of the general public; urges that the requested disability anti-discrimination guidelines provide that all federal courts make substantive documents and exhibits available in formats that accommodate the needs of parties, attorneys, and members of the general public who are blind or visually impaired, giving primary consideration to the alternate format or service requested, and instructs ACB officers and staff to forward this resolution to the United States Supreme Court, the Judicial Conference of the United States and the National Council on Disability.
Resolution 2003-12 urges the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and the United States Ambassador to the United Nations to withdraw opposition to a proposed treaty on disability rights.
Resolution 2003-13 opposes provisions weakening the Randolph-Sheppard priority contained in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2004.
Resolution 2003-14 supports the immediate installation of remote infrared audible signs in the transportation system of Washington, D.C. as a model to demonstrate that it is possible to provide, through the use of these signs, travel independence to people who are blind or visually impaired, and urges ACB state affiliates to advocate for the use of remote infrared audible signs by transit systems in their states.
Resolution 2003-15 urges manufacturers and developers of cellular equipment to acknowledge that much additional work is needed to design and market cellular telephones which provide access to all available features on the equipment for all disability groups, and to comply with this readily achievable, legally codified requirement; specifically urges manufacturers and developers to continue work on improvements which will make cellular telephones more easily and thoroughly compatible with hearing aids, and which will offer access to on-screen information; urges that access accommodations be designed as standard operational parts of equipment, rather than as add-on or peripheral features; encourages states that have telecommunications equipment distribution programs to expand those programs to additionally provide equipment or grants to assist people who have disabilities with the acquisition of devices for cellular telephone access; strongly encourages telecommunications equipment distribution programs to ensure that people who are blind or visually impaired are eligible for these programs; and encourages states which do not currently have telecommunications equipment distribution programs to develop such systems in accordance with service and eligibility criteria set forth in this resolution.
Resolution 2003-16 commends the ACB officers, board of directors, and staff, and others for filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 seeking to require that manufacturers develop and market cellular phones that have features that are accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired, and commends those manufacturers of cellular phones who have begun to work with ACB to explore means by which their products can be made accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
Resolution 2003-17 calls upon providers of cellular telephone services to make directory assistance available free of charge to people who are blind or visually impaired as many local land-line telephone service providers currently do.
Resolution 2003-18 directs its officers, board of directors, and staff to take all actions necessary to ensure that the reauthorization of TEA-21 contains significant increases in funding levels for public transit and other transportation programs that benefit people who are blind and visually impaired; urges all state and special-interest affiliates to assist the national staff in advocating for a favorable reauthorization of TEA-21; and instructs the ACB executive director to submit a report to the president, the board of directors, and the transportation task force, detailing the outcome of ACB efforts related to the reauthorization of the act.
Resolution 2003-19 urges the United States Postal Service to design and issue a stamp in honor of Louis Braille to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2009, and that this stamp be designed in such a manner as to reflect the invention of braille, which has afforded blind people around the world an increased opportunity for literacy.
Resolution 2003-21 directs its officers, directors, and staff to design, create and present, for inclusion in the permanent memorial in Shanksville, Pa., an appropriate remembrance, on behalf of the American Council of the Blind and all Americans who are blind or visually impaired, of the heroes on Flight 93 who perished on September 11, 2001 along with other victims of the tragedy.
Resolution 2003-22 commends Sen. John McCain for his leadership and cooperation in striving to restore vital information access for Americans who are blind and visually impaired, through the inclusion of Section 9 of S. 1264, which seeks reinstatement of the FCC video-description rule, and urges all members of Congress and President George W. Bush to enact Senate Bill 1264 with Section 9 remaining as currently proposed.
Resolution 2003-23 vigorously opposes any attempt to repeal or otherwise adversely affect the priority for licensed blind vendors contained in Section 111(2) of the Surface Transportation Act (the Kennelly Amendment); calls upon all members of Congress to affirmatively protect and guarantee the continued existence and inclusion of the Kennelly Amendment's priority provisions in any enacted reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Act; and instructs its officers, board of directors and staff to transmit this resolution to all appropriate members of Congress.
Resolution 2003-24 urges the Department of Veterans Affairs to make policy changes enabling the option for provision of retraining on computers through qualified local providers as well as through traditional VA program(s).
Resolution 2003-25 urges the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) to assure that the name of the specific magazine be made more visually discernible on each cassette by enlarging and emboldening the print; urges NLS to increase the readability of the magazine title on the mailer by enlarging the print while providing high visual contrast; and provides that the American Council of the Blind's own magazine mailings shall follow similar procedures to maximize the visual readability of the cassette magazine titles, where feasible.
Resolution 2003-26 urges those preparing motion picture DVDs for release for sale to include a descriptive video track when it is available, and urges those preparing the packaging for DVDs to include a clear label in a standard location on the box which alerts the potential customer to the availability of video description.
Resolution 2003-27 makes the following recommendations to the board of directors of the American Library Association: 1. That the ALA board publish a document reminding all of the standard-setting bodies working under the aegis of the American Library Association to incorporate into their standards elements that reaffirm the obligation of public libraries to make their collections, catalogs, and programs accessible to all people with disabilities, especially to individuals who are blind or visually impaired; 2. that the ALA board convey the concern of the American Council of the Blind and of Library Users of America that many of the catalogs, electronic books (e-books) and other new technological approaches that are broadening the range of media available at public libraries are not incorporating standards that will make them easily available to patrons who are blind or visually impaired; and 3. that the ALA board prepare a resolution for submission to its membership that clearly serves notice to the developers of catalog interfaces, e-books and other new technologies that the ability of blind and disabled people to utilize such products must be an absolute requirement in determining which products or media to purchase, and strongly urges its officers, board of directors and staff, along with Library Users of America, to take all steps necessary to actively assist the American Library Association in implementing the objectives in this resolution.
Resolution 2003-28 directs the president of the American Council of the Blind to prepare a document for ACB's information access committee outlining the current problems of creating e- books that are fully accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired, directs the committee to prepare a report outlining the efforts that need to be taken to ensure that e-book technology can be fully and comfortably accessed by users who are blind or visually impaired, and to deliver this report to the president by the end of 2003; directs the committee to develop a set of priorities and positions concerning this issue, and to make such recommendations available to the manufacturers of the various e-book formats; directs this committee to communicate with those bodies currently engaged in developing standards for e-book platforms, to be certain that they incorporate into those standards means by which screen readers and braille displays can access e-books notwithstanding the need for protection schemes that safeguard the intellectual property incorporated into e- books; and directs the committee to report to the 2004 meeting of Library Users of America on the progress they have made by that time.
Resolution 2003-29 opposes legislation which would require paper ballots from accessible voting machines.
Resolution 2003-30 seeks the inclusion of provisions in highway funding legislation which would provide funds to transit agencies for installing detectable warnings at all transit station platforms.*****
It is almost 15 years since the plan to establish a single braille code to express all literary, mathematical, and technical material was introduced by a group of experts concerned with braille. The importance of this development was obvious because existing codes had differing ways of expressing things like parentheses, the dollar sign, the decimal and so on; and in some areas, there were no recognized ways of expressing essential concepts.
Committees were identified in the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) to oversee the process, and meetings were held with braille experts from other English-speaking countries in the hope of preparing a single code for all jurisdictions.
Early in the planning process, the developers of the new code advanced several important principles they would follow. First of all, each character would have only one meaning; there would be no ambiguity. Second, a way would be specified for expressing in braille every character used in print. Last -- and this proved to be the most significant decision of all -- the Nemeth code, having been used to express mathematics in braille for almost 50 years, would be abandoned in favor of writing all numerals in the upper part of the braille cell.
At first, eliminating contractions was not opposed; but as work on the code proceeded, decisions were made to drop some of the most used contractions. Little or no attention was given to prioritizing the dropped contractions according to frequency of use; no plan was suggested for how children learning the new code would be able to access the thousands of books that employed the abandoned contractions; no estimates were projected of the costs of personnel preparation for teaching and using the new code, teaching the changes to adult braille users, or altering the translation programs in all the braille devices used throughout the country.
Though most of the resistance and opposition to the Unified English Braille Code as it developed came from those who used braille for literary purposes, where changes would really not have seriously compromised readers' ability to comprehend what they read, it was in the technical area that the code proved to be less and less appropriate. No effort was expended to discover how braille users would write the code, and Abraham Nemeth demonstrated that a simple multiplication problem could not be expressed in the UEBC on a 40-cell braille line.
Hostility toward the code increased as the years passed. The American Council of the Blind passed several resolutions opposing aspects of the code, and the National Federation of the Blind endorsed two very strong resolutions of opposition at their convention in 2002.
At the ACB national convention in Pittsburgh in July 2003, Kim Charlson, ACB's representative to the Braille Authority of North America, told the audience that she would vote against adoption of the UEBC when the matter is voted upon by BANA.
While most observers are profoundly grateful that this situation has been resolved, we who love braille must accept the fact that some alterations are still absolutely necessary. We must agree on signs where ambiguity is leading to confusion, adopt some new signs for expressing concepts and practices that have been adopted in print, and demonstrate a willingness toward the flexibility required to have braille continue to meet our needs.
Change is never pleasant but often necessary.*****
Patrick Davis, a saxophonist from Alaska, received the 2003 Friends-in-Art scholarship, which was presented at the ACB convention in Pittsburgh. Davis attended East Anchorage High School, where he was first chair in the jazz band, and first chair in the high school concert band. In his junior and senior years, he was second chair in the All State Honors Band. After his junior year, Davis participated in a summer music program at Indiana University where he was first chair in the jazz band.
Davis is attending the University of Idaho at Moscow, where he is majoring in music performance with a concentration in jazz. Although his major instrument is saxophone, he also plays drums. He plays in the university jazz band as well as in a saxophone quartet. Congratulations to Patrick Davis on winning this year's FIA scholarship.
For more information on Friends-in-Art of ACB, contact their president, Mike Mandel, [email protected].
My energy level doesn't go as far as it used to. My ability to concentrate on work is shorter. I need someone to help edit AAVL's newsletter, "Hourglass," and possibly take over the editorship someday. "Hourglass" is full of interesting news you can use and, at the same time, is entertaining. I believe "Hourglass" has helped AAVL establish a good identity and reputation as an organization of people who want to be on the cutting edge of research and adaptive tips, as we live the second half of life with vision loss, hearing decline, and various other ailments.
The format and style of "Hourglass" isn't set in stone. What you read in "Hourglass" depends on what people send to me, and what I can find from issue to issue that will educate the readers, inform them, and entertain them. As an associate editor, you will have my ear for new ideas. "Hourglass" keeps our members informed about the actions of the board and future plans. It is also that essential communication link between the officers of AAVL and its members between conventions.
I'll continue as editor-in-chief until someone steps forward who will help seek out publishable materials, project the AAVL mission, and keep our readers smarter than the average bear and running ahead of the pack. While Hourglass is similar to other newsletters, it's also different. That's why it's fun to edit. But I'm not selfish. I'll be glad to share the fun. If you are, or know someone who might be, interested in becoming an associate editor, please contact me for further discussion at (316) 681- 7443; fax (316) 681-2727; e-mail [email protected]; or write to 3509 E. 2nd St. N., Wichita, KS 67208.
Nov. 6-8: Washington Council of the Blind, Downtown Doubletree Inn, Spokane. Contact Cindy Burgett at (360) 698-0827 for more information.
Nov. 14-16: Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Southfield Marriott, 27033 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield. Contact Joy Francis at (313) 537-7172 for more information.*****
"It's almost like having a nightmare," says Thomason. "I keep thinking someone is going to pinch me and I'll wake up and realize that all of this isn't really happening!!"
Thomason, age 54, founded Tri Visual Services in 1981 and spent a little over two years developing a board of directors to become a 501(C)(3) non-profit corporation.
"It was difficult then too as I was asking friends and other professionals to support an agency providing services to the blind of our community at a time when the agency was merely on paper -- a dream." But those in the community who knew how desperately services for the blind were needed in town did sign on and over the past 19 years TVS has served thousands of blind people and their families.
TVS became incorporated in May of 1984 starting with services in the greater Sacramento area. In 1984 TVS hosted the beginning of the Blind Computer Users Group of Sacramento, which served to bring information about talking computer technology to our town. In 1985 the (TVS) Travel Club signed up the first member. The club grew to more than 500 members, the majority of whom were blind people. Monthly social events were planned, including overnight trips to Hearst Castle, day trips to Alcatraz, many Oakland A's games and trips to Reno and Tahoe. Over the next few years TVS developed a beep baseball team affording blind people the opportunity to play softball by using beeping baseballs and buzzing bases. In 1999, TVS sponsored the national Beep Baseball World Series here in Sacramento and our very own hometown team, the West Coast Dawgs, took the world championship.
"Many of our adult players had never even swung a bat before," says Thomason. "Beep baseball gave sighted and blind athletes a level playing field on which to have some serious competition and loads of fun."
In 1993, TVS opened its first Independent Living Skills Center in Placerville. Newly blinded people came to the training center to learn how to regain an enriched lifestyle functioning with low to no vision. At the center, students were taught how to cook, clean their homes, do laundry, pay bills using raised-line checks and many other critical skills.
In 2001, TVS received a grant that allowed expansion of its services into nine counties in northeast California. Support groups began in El Dorado, Yolo, Placer, Plumas, Lassen and Modoc counties. Low vision workshops were held where information about blindness and instruction in specialized equipment were presented.
"Perhaps that expansion was the beginning of our demise," says Thomason. "Too much growth at one time while TVS was still a rather small grassroots agency."
Shortly after receiving the grant, California's economy began its major decline. Grant money started drying up, fund- raising events yielded less, and, due to personnel shortage, some major fund-raising events, such as the Dog-A-Thon, had to be canceled. More consumers were requesting services while operating costs continued escalating. In an attempt to catch up with the times, TVS laid off all nine employees last November.
"We thought if we could just stop and reorganize and prioritize our services, perhaps we'd survive the slow economy and still be around when it rebounded," says Thomason.
TVS reopened its doors on April 1 of this year, bringing back four of the nine employees. "We knew we were still walking in quicksand and could go under at any time but we all agreed to give it one last chance. Clients were calling us and begging for services. It was a very bad situation to be in."
But it didn't happen that way. TVS was forced to send employees home one last time on May 31, 2003. At the June board meeting, the directors decided to start taking the steps to dissolve.
"This has been a very sad experience for us and our community," says Thomason. "We were never big, but with the great staff and wonderful volunteers we had, we managed to move mountains in all the communities we worked in."
TVS closed for financial reasons on June 30th. Thomason concludes, "We have made a lot of great friends during our 19 years in this community. We would like to thank the staff of the California Department of Rehabilitation, the local International Lions Clubs, the Sacramento Bee, KVIE Channel 6, New Directions, Peet's Coffee, Sierra Water, our friend big tall Jim Hall at KOOL Radio FM 101.9, the California Council of the Blind and the California Endowment for their substantial support throughout the years. We will miss working in collaboration with all of you, but most important, we will miss our consumers."*****
The contents of this column are a reflection of the letters we had received at the time of publication, October 20, 2003, and reflect all of the mail we received this month. "The Braille Forum" is not responsible for the opinions expressed herein. Opinions expressed are those of the authors, not those of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. The editorial staff reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, style and space available. We can print your letters only if you sign your name and give us your address.
Regarding Big Apple Greeters
In his September "Forum" story, John Albino graciously credited Big Apple Greeter and me, for aiding his conquest of Manhattan's skyscrapers.
As John said, Big Apple Greeter does escort folks with disabilities who want to get around New York City. And not just them, any visitor can have up to four hours from one of our volunteers. There is absolutely no cost for the service; New York City Transit even throws in free transportation all day!
Recently I was pleased to assist in one of the mandatory training sessions for greeters in which they learn about how to interact effectively with people who are disabled. At this point, there are more than 300 Big Apple greeters.
Visitors need only contact us in advance at www.bigapplegreeter.org, or phone (212) 669-3602.
In response to Harry Herzek's article
I was inspired by the "Forum" article written by Harry Herzek. What a brave person he is, to battle the disease of AIDS, and discrimination within the disability/medical community! On top of that, he has had to overcome the stigmas associated with his gay lifestyle. While I cannot directly identify with being gay or the horrors of AIDS, I can certainly understand the battles on behalf of consumers' rights within an often dominant and paternalistic medical model. I can certainly admire, as a blind man, the battles for "language equity" and obtaining information in accessible formats.
Now I, like many straight men, have shared prejudice and fears about people who are gay. It is through the efforts of heroic souls like Harry that we become educated and dissuaded from our prejudicial pasts. When we come to know people like him, we become better souls ourselves by virtue of knowing about their courageous efforts.
I thank this man for making me a better man (or perhaps simply a better human) than I once was. I also thank ACB and the editorial staff of "The Braille Forum" and the BOP for printing the enlightened piece.
Bravery on all counts is not the absence of fears or even prejudice. It comes from overcoming both.
Thoughts about the Paul Edwards Series
I just finished reading Paul Edwards' article in the July "Forum." I believe the erosion of civil rights for people with disabilities is a very serious problem. I believe this erosion extends far beyond the bounds of government, and is perpetuated by many more than the Republican party. In my own faith community, for example, I see a quiet but increasing erosion of the inclusive principles which a generation ago were thriving. Linda Braithwaite, Scott Stanger, William Gibson, Janis Shinkle Stanger, all were allowed to serve one-plus to two years in the U.S. and, in my case, abroad as full-time missionaries for our church. Diane Brown, Linda Braithwaite, and Marianne Fisher were all members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for 20 years. All of these people are members of the ACB, and all are blind.
Today there are no blind or disabled people admitted to the Tabernacle Choir, and those disabled individuals who want to serve as full-time missionaries either in the U.S. or abroad are encouraged to serve in their local church units instead. Yes, all of our publications are still available in braille or on audiocassette, and some in large print. But despite the abundance of access to information, opportunities to make use of that information are more limited today than they were 10 or 20 years ago.
Because I reaped such great personal benefit from my service as a missionary and my continued local service in my church, I look forward to reading in future issues of the "Forum" Paul's ideas about what we can do to repair the erosion.
Imagine living in France during the 1930s. Imagine yourself as a high school student studying German, tuning across the radio dial and finding a live broadcast of Adolph Hitler, spewing forth an invective of hatred, vilifying enemies of the Reich, exhorting fellow Germans to recapture hegemony and to rid themselves and all of Europe of all their enemies. How chilling it would be to hear these rantings and the crowd's enthusiastic approving responses in real time. How frightening then to witness the surge of Hitler's armies, trampling on the civilization and heritage of one European people after another. How desperate it must have felt to furtively tune one's radio to the forbidden BBC broadcast of the fragmentary French government in exile, to understand that one's activities in opposition could lead to betrayal and capture at any moment. How desolate it must have felt to travel for days and nights, without heat, or water, or hope, in a cattle car packed with human beings destined for starvation, torture, forced labor, and death; and then to lose one's friends, one after another, while barely hanging onto life or hope during the long, tortured years of war.
I was taken to those times and those places as I read the words of Jacques Lusseyran, who refused to be indoctrinated or intimidated into silent acquiescence. I felt the chill he felt, experienced his premonitions of suffering, and as a reader of his personal account, was transported by his words which recalled the memories of one of the youngest members of the French Resistance. Lusseyran, at 16, led a movement of young French men and women who wrote, published, and distributed the underground newspapers which let ordinary men and women know what was happening in their occupied country and in the rest of the world; the papers contradicted the lies which were spread by the occupying powers, and these truths paved the way for the return of France's true patriots, the defeat of the Axis, and the triumph of a free France and, ultimately, a free world.
Information is power. Even a young boy of 16 knew it, and despite his youth, and a disability which prevented him from reading even a single printed word in the newspapers he and his compatriots published, despite a fear of dire consequences, and a premonition of the same, Jacques Lusseyran accepted the challenge of recruiting others to the resistance movement and of telling the truth about the Nazis in newspapers which at one point in those early years of French occupation were openly distributed by his courageous friends at the doors to cathedrals and on the cars of the Paris Metro.
Lusseyran and his friends paid dearly for their courage and their refusal to suffer the occupiers' invasion in silence. Lusseyran was one of the very few who survived, but his suffering was great. Nearly all his idealistic friends were killed, and he emerged, against all odds, from Buchenwald, where he endured most of the war years, with scarred body and spirit. You can read his story, conveyed in his own words, written to honor the memory of all who suffered and died, and to renew our faith in the courage of men and women who refuse to surrender to hatred or tyranny or malevolence, who believed in the light of truth and bravery and the triumph of the divine, in the pages of his biography, "And There Was Light," published by Parabola Books, and available on audiocassette from the same publisher.
Although many readers may be intrigued by Lusseyran's descriptions of how he became blind at the age of eight, how he and his family adapted to his disability, and the concept of a young man with a severe disability leading a movement of hundreds of able-bodied French citizens in their struggle against tyranny, it was not Lusseyran's descriptions of blindness or how he coped with a lack of sight that intrigued me. Rather, it was his descriptions of his commitment to truth, and to humanity, and to survival of the human spirit that kept me reading this book and continue to inspire me, on virtually a daily basis, weeks after I turned off my cassette player as the third tape came to an end.
We live in troubled times. Wouldn't it be easy to just separate ourselves from screaming headlines, fluctuating levels of terror, and hard questions about the rights of minorities, the advisability of going to war, the consequences of "more guns and less butter"? Why bother to vote in an election whose outcome seems pre-ordained by powers outside our control? With wars and rumors of wars, an uncertain economy, and real worries about which among us might be friend or foe, a person could be tempted into silent acquiescence when confronted by threats of retribution, or worse. Why bother to stand up for what is right in a corporation, or a community, or a nation or a world when what is right is called "wrong" by some of the people in charge?
Let Jacques Lusseyran remind all of us of the importance of standing up for truth, and morality, and the worthiness of human beings and democratic values. At this time of Thanksgiving, we can be thankful for heroes, like Jacques Lusseyran, who summoned the courage to fight against tyranny, and whose stories reaffirm for each of us who know about them, the value of staying involved in life even when the challenges seem insurmountable.
I thank the publishers of Lusseyran's memoir for sharing the audio version of his story with "The Braille Forum," and, without reservation, I recommend this excellent autobiography to every American, sighted and blind, as we confront our own daily struggles against fear, hopelessness, intolerance, or tyranny.
Order "And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance," which is available in print and on (two-track) audiotape at www.parabola.org/books/Lusseyran/light.html.*****
In 1986 my stress as a university student was high. Choosing to go back for my bachelor's degree was a major decision. One of the infamous stresses for a blind student is the necessity of finding a reader. Not long after my academic year began, my rehab counselor phoned saying he had an individual in mind. Boy, was I relieved. My own resources had proven to be either unreliable or not interested in such a commitment. My counselor went on to explain that this gentleman was also a rehab client. The tone of his voice changed a little as he cleared his throat. "Now, it's my hope that this idea I have will help both you and this man." I listened intently, wondering what was different about this situation. There was something obviously unusual in this particular case. Mr. Stone continued: "Anthony is an excellent reader. His knowledge of researching in libraries and how to read textbooks is outstanding." Even though he was a college graduate, his life had been rough. A difficult childhood had left emotional scars. He was withdrawn and shy. His ability to hold a full-time job was limited. Income for everyday living was imperative. He needed an environment that would offer work, as well as understanding and acceptance. The importance for him to have a non-judgmental employer was critical.
My counselor reassured me that this man would be safe and honest. All references cleared him to be of good character everywhere he went. After a discussion at length, I agreed to accept him for the position as my reader. It wasn't long before my husband and I became well acquainted with Anthony. He came to our home to read quite often. Our blindness was just another way of life to him. He'd never known anyone with visual challenges, but he saw us as common everyday folks. Our family thought of him as a very important part of our lives.
After three years of textbooks and finally graduation, I was weary of the academic road. But the constant need for having printed material read is never over, no matter how weary one becomes. I approached Anthony with the idea of continuing his services as my reader. For more than one reason, he accepted. Our home filled an emptiness in his life and offered an environment that was warm, calm, and non-threatening. Since he didn't have anyone to call family, we seemed to fit that role. He spoke of distant relatives in another state. Their lives were busy and he felt like a stranger. His father had passed on from serious illness. Unfortunately, his mother had abandoned him at a preschool age. He never forgot the pain of being left behind.
Our children sparked a quiet joy in him when they would share their music, silly dances, and trays of imaginary cookies and tea. He would chuckle as he described their kindergarten drawings and read their ideas of how to cook a favorite recipe. Anthony enjoyed using his eyes to assist in other ways besides reading. He would draw the lines on the sidewalk for hopscotch as my daughter (with low vision) would encourage him to make them bigger and darker for her. He would name the trees and admire their different colors according to the season as he walked with the children around the neighborhood. Sometimes over hot coffee, before starting our pile of printed material, from the window he would describe the birds as they went from their nest to the grass in search of something. Many times he would pick the roses from my yard. I could hear the smile in his voice as he filled a vase with water, saying, "Here's a sample of nature for you, right at your fingertips."
He became such a part of our lives. Whenever I would ask him what we could pay him for all he did, his reply was, "You have already paid me." Money was no longer the only cause for him to be part of our lives. And printed material was no longer our reason to have him in our family. Living his simple life all alone. Having only the bare necessities. Never looking for more to do. Only associating with a very few. This seemed to be all he wanted. Each time he came, most likely it was for the day. As the end of the day approached, he would join us for the evening meal. There were times I was sure another healthy meal wouldn't be served until he returned again. Always, grateful, we would thank him for coming that day.
As time passed, all of our friends and family knew who he was and how much he meant to us. Because he disliked crowds, our invitations for holiday dinners were turned down. However, we were sure to send him home with holiday food and special packages the next time he came. His birthday was always on our calendar. Timid as he was, who could turn away one's favorite meal and a specially made cake? For 14 years, once a week or sometimes more, the privacy of our worlds waited to be opened by Anthony. Through time he saw everything in our lives: college applications, medical reports, legal documents, banking, and both tearful and joyful personal letters. His eyes explored many corners of our family life. Taking each day as it came, and worrying about tomorrow must have begun to weigh heavier than ever on him. However, when visiting our home, Anthony seemed never to let on. Whenever I would remind him how deeply we appreciated him, his comments were vague. Keeping in mind how it feels to give up one's privacy, I never pressed him for information.
One day in October of 2000, life was moving at a fast pace. There was always something else to be accomplished; keeping up with our five children, the demands of our jobs, the commitments of our involvement in the community. Between it all, my husband and I only saw each other coming and going. I remember it was a cold, damp day. I found myself rushing around at home preparing to be off to yet another meeting, thinking I should stop by the bank on my way across town. Just then, I heard the squeaking brakes of a bus passing by. A strange thought crossed my mind. "What if Anthony came by and forgot I had to leave today?" He never came unless we discussed it ahead of time, always being flexible according to my crazy schedule. My thoughts were running in circles. What if I didn't have his help? Could I deal with all the demanding paperwork? Suddenly from deep within me, a feeling of emptiness swept over me. I shivered at my thoughts. I listened and discovered the bus hadn't stopped to let anyone off. My thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of my ride and I was on my way.
About 20 minutes later, my cell phone rang. As I answered it, I heard the frantic voice of my son. "Mom, we have a crisis. You need to come." "What is it, dear?" I said. "I'm on my way to a meeting." His voice trembled as he found the words. "It's Anthony, he's ... taken his life." Suddenly I felt dizzy. My mouth was too dry to speak. For a second I wasn't sure I could hold the phone. I felt frozen. Then the voice on the other end was that of a policeman, giving information I wasn't sure I could comprehend. His questions seemed complex and unreal. "Yes, I could come," I said. "Could I identify the body?" "Was I the next of kin?" I had questions also, but who could answer them? When? Where? How? And yes, Why?!!
Upon my arrival, the authorities were waiting. The property manager was kind and extended her sympathy. Since my son lived in the same complex, I had recommended that Anthony apply for his apartment some time back. The officer allowed me entry to where he lived. I felt dazed. My thoughts were twisted. The atmosphere was cold. My legs carried me as if I were dreaming. Because I had been able to give the police the information they needed, they believed me to be an appropriate contact. However, the city official insisted I must try to find some information about relatives. I wasn't sure where to begin looking. My emotional status was losing its energy. I wanted to run and hide at home. My husband was frantically leaving his job to meet up with me. All he knew when I called him was that we had lost our dear friend.
The area was closed off where the incident happened. The property manager and I had properly identified his body and confirmed his age and date of birth. Until proven that we were his closest contact, I couldn't remove anything. I was only allowed to look. His glasses were lying next to his pen on the end table. They were so familiar to me. When he wasn't reading to me, they were in the middle of my dining room table. Some mail was scattered about on the floor, as if, perhaps, he had been looking through it. In the kitchen, a small plate with a table knife with the remains of toast crumbs and melted butter sat on the counter top. I swallowed hard. Not even the bread of life could keep him going. I pulled open the small drawer behind the counter. I felt around inside. Finding a sticky note, I handed it to the officer. He began reading aloud: "In case of emergency, please call ..." My stomach felt sick and I could hear my heart beating. Suddenly I realized it was my name, my phone number, and my address. The buzz in my ears was loud and before I realized it, I was saying, "That's me!" Even though the officer had stopped talking, the buzz in my ears continued.
Perhaps this was enough evidence for "the powers that be" to prove that Anthony really didn't have anyone else but us. After a short time, I asked if I could excuse myself. The policemen felt comfortable that I had tried to find other information. I felt like I didn't have any other information or resources to contribute. I just wanted to lock the door and return when my mind was clear. At our next contact with the city official, we realized he considered this just another case of a citizen being a dysfunctional member of the community. His message to my husband and me was that there were county funds available to pay for burial in potter's field for "people like this." Also, Goodwill was available to collect his belongings. He felt that we shouldn't have to be burdened with this. Since we were not blood relatives, he informed us that we didn't have to feel committed.
After returning home and doing some calling, which the police had suggested, I discovered that my husband and I were going to have to take a stand with the city official. Without a doubt, we would do that. We both knew that the sight our friend had given to us with his eyes could not be matched. However, we were determined to take our turn to see for him. His dignity would not be taken. We would put closure to life and lay him to rest. The bill for services rendered was ours. He deserved whatever we could do to protect his rights.
For our family, the children were informed at their respective levels. I was careful about how this information was explained to them. Together, they sat listening to a lesson in truth. Taking a small dried part of a plant, and comparing it to a thriving one, I explained: "Sometimes our bodies are like plants. When they are sick or can't go on they die, like this leaf. When life is gone, then we can't keep the plant, or for us, a person, with us anymore. That's what happened today to Anthony. His heart couldn't go on living. And now, all together, we have to give him up."
A service was planned. Each member of the family participated. With brave expressions, my small children told of how they enjoyed him. My preschooler thanked God for taking him to heaven where he wouldn't hurt anymore. I asked my first grader, who is non-verbal, if she understood what had happened to him. Reaching for the sky with both hands, and bringing them to a folded prayer position, she nodded yes. Like a river flowing, the words were strong as my older son sang, "Friends are friends forever, if the Lord's the Lord of them, and a friend will not say never, 'cause the welcome will not end." Our friends and family attended the service. The respect they showed was comforting.
In the aftermath, I packed up items in boxes. A feeling of grief caused my throat to ache. Tucked inside a small shoebox were many small tokens that Anthony must have treasured. I gathered mail and placed it into a box. Suddenly it hit me. Through whose eyes would this be read? There were so many unanswered questions. So far, I had only clues to help piece this puzzle together. Tears stung my eyes as I suddenly remembered a conversation that Anthony and I had only two weeks prior where I reminded him how much we appreciated him. His words were haunting as they echoed in my mind. "Everyone can be replaced. I have seen the battles you've fought. And with each one, you've stepped up to its challenge." Then it occurred to me that this situation had me facing many challenges. Surrounded by left-behind belongings, unfinished business, and family yet to find, never wanting to let my friends down, hoping they could always believe in me.
For these and many other reasons, I had to find the strength to cope and face this new challenge. A friend that Anthony had known since middle school reached out to assist us. He seemed to feel the grief like we did. Also, with us, he shared the same questions of what we could have done to prevent this. Our connection with him was comforting. Since their friendship had been very close for many years, his heart ached for his best friend. Together we sorted through belongings and decided what should go where. Looking through his personal papers forced reality on us. The receipt for the weapon was among them. The copy of the background report had been completed. When it asked for occupation, clearly written was "Reader for the Blind." When old family and school photos were found, the pain was deep. We were seeing a part of his life we had not known. We found a small card which had an address for an aunt and uncle. I had heard of them. They had every right to know. It was difficult to break the news to them. Unlike us, they hadn't known his world for a long time. Their memories of him were from when he was a child. They expressed feeling helpless. They offered to assist us in any way they could.
Soon, our lives needed to get back into their routines. The necessity, once again, for a reader was back. Lost in the midst of everything that had happened, I was without a clue on where to look. The mail piled up. The monthly checks had to be written. Our fears of trust and abandonment set in. But, no matter what our emotions were saying, we knew our family affairs must be taken care of. A friend recommended someone. A total change for us. Her ways were completely opposite. We felt small, like we had nothing to offer her; just another appointment in her book. It worked for about 18 months.
Today, we have reader number 3. We have learned several lessons from this leg of our journey. Trying to bond and trust each one doesn't get easier. Most of all, for our family, his memory lives on. When people ask about his picture, which hangs in the den above the bookshelf next to the case holding the flag for his military service, we tell about his dedication as our reader. For his birthday, we placed roses from our yard on his grave. Through his eyes, we still want to see and appreciate the simple touches of nature.*****
(Editor's Note: Bashir Masoodi is a specialist and expert in education, rehabilitation, camping and recreation for people who are blind and visually impaired. He is a special education consultant with the Gary, Ind. Community School Corporation and a charter benefactor of the Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field located at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Ky.)
In 1999, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) became the catalyst for the American Printing House for the Blind's (APH) efforts to establish a Hall of Fame to honor heroes and pioneers in the field of providing services to people who are blind and visually impaired. Thirty-two people were identified as legends and leaders in the field. The Hall of Fame includes bas-relief tactile plaques of each inductee, as well as biographical information and artifacts.
"People who work in the field of vision feel a sense of ownership and participation because it really is their Hall of Fame," says Bob Brasher of APH.
In October 2002 at a ceremony in Louisville, the first 32 legends and leaders were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Nine of the 10 living inductees were present at the ceremony. One of those present was Cleo B. Dolan, former executive director of the Cleveland Society for the Blind. He was chosen out of 167 nominations from private agencies which provide direct high-quality services to blind and visually impaired people.
Dolan was born in 1918 in Ohio. He was awarded a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in social administration from Ohio State University. He also attended Franklin Law School and did post-graduate work at Ohio State University. He and his late wife Elinore were the parents of two children and four grandchildren.
Dolan was director of Ohio State Services for the Blind from 1957 to 1958, and served as executive director for the Cleveland Society for the Blind from 1958 to 1983. Because of his foresight and dynamic leadership, the Cleveland Society became one of the outstanding multi-service providers for people with visual impairments and blindness. Services included: establishment of a low vision clinic; services for blind and visually impaired children and their families; opening of a specialized aids and appliances department; an intensive rehabilitation center for teens and youth; the country's first program for business enterprise, vendors and managers; the first residential living center for independent training; Saint Ann electronic training center; the volunteers' friendly visit department; implementation of the Camp Highbrook Lodge's long-range plan; establishment of public education and information department; racial integration of all services for campers; a campaign to collect and distribute used eyeglasses and equipment in underdeveloped countries; production of classical music albums; orientation and mobility instruction; braille and music instructors and services; management of the Cleveland Eye Bank; taping and braille services for clients; rehabilitation teaching and recreational services for elderly blind people; community vision screening for children and adults; establishment of deaf-blind services; sponsorship of an orientation and mobility and rehabilitation teaching program at Cleveland State University; vocational training for blind consumers with multiple disabilities; prevention of blindness programs; radio reading services; and a diabetes education service. He started the planned giving program and left the agency in excellent financial health at his retirement in 1998. Dolan provided yeoman's service to people who were blind; some said that losing sight was an awful experience, but if it happened in the greater Cleveland area, a person could receive top-notch rehabilitation and recreation services.
A friend compared Dolan to the Mogul Emperor of India, Shah Jahan, the 17th century builder of the Taj Mahal and numerous other buildings and gardens. Cleo Dolan directed a construction program almost every year during his tenure at the society. In 1959 Garsselli Chapel was built in the woods at Camp Highbrook Lodge. A year later, KYW swimming pool was dedicated, and a year or so after that, Palda Hall, a modern lodge to house married couples and people with special needs, opened. The new sight center headquarters was built in 1966. Other construction programs included: Lester M. Sears Hall multipurpose center at the camp; a 100,000-square-foot business enterprise facility; a student residence center; automatic bowling lanes; physical therapy rooms; a game room; a mobility training park; and Crystal Dining Hall.
Cleo Dolan has been widely known and highly regarded for his outstanding executive and managerial abilities. There are many legends about his ready ability and easygoing demeanor. He was always visible and approachable by staff, students and others at the agency. He was a great benefactor for many staff and students in need. Many students received scholarships and financial assistance from him even at times when state rehabilitation and welfare services rejected them. He was on a first-name basis with most of the staff and students, and boosted staff morale by providing incentive pay, vacation time and special get-togethers. The board, staff and others were kept abreast of the latest news and developments in the field of services for the blind and visually impaired by their memberships in professional or community-based organizations, participation in local, state and national conventions and conferences, and by regular presentations on the latest research and happenings in the field. He was a great patron of learning and scholarships, and had abiding belief in each blind person he encountered. He deserves this honor, and many celebrate his inclusion in this prestigious hall of fame.*****
The American Council of the Blind, a national membership organization, is seeking an executive director.
The executive director directs and oversees the daily operations of the American Council of the Blind in accordance with the policies, procedures and priorities established by the national board of directors. He/she has traditionally been based in and supervises the organization's national office in Washington, D.C., as well as provides leadership in efforts to monitor national policy and legislation and other activities that impact the work of ACB on the national level. The executive director reports to the board of directors through the ACB president.
The executive director has the authority to hire, supervise, evaluate and dismiss staff operating in the ACB national office. He/she will coordinate all fiscal management activities with ACB's Chief Financial Officer in Minneapolis; develop and supervise the annual ACB operating budget within written policy parameters of the budget committee; oversee special documentation, such as reports, memoranda, resolutions, and proposals, necessary for the implementation of policies established by the board of directors, or in fulfillment of other organizational obligations; direct efforts to secure grants, bequests, gifts, memorial contributions and other such gifts; represent ACB before national legislative, regulatory, or other bodies affecting national policy toward blind and visually impaired people; serve as primary contact with affiliated organizations serving blind and visually impaired constituencies; and undertake special projects at the direction of the ACB president.
Preferred skills and experience include: excellent written and verbal communications skills; strong analytical abilities, particularly in relation to national policy issues affecting blind and visually impaired individuals; sound organizational and administrative skills, including day-to-day supervision of a diverse complement of staff; and familiarity with contemporary data processing systems. Ability to utilize the Internet and familiarity with access technology are preferred. Candidates must also possess strong problem-solving skills, including the ability to address effectively specific issues and concerns with policy implications proposed by ACB constituents, and at least six years of supervisory experience. Experience with a national non-profit organization is preferred. Salary range begins at $70,000.
Candidates should submit a resume, a cover letter, and a writing sample no later than January 15, 2004 to the Executive Director Search Committee, c/o American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, D.C. 20005. Applications may be accepted after that date if the position has not yet been filled.*****
The announcement of products and services in this column is not 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 held responsible for the reliability of products and services mentioned.
To submit items for this column, you may e-mail Sarah Blake at [email protected], or call ACB at 1-800-424-8666 and leave a message in mailbox 26. Please remember that postal regulations prohibit us from including advertisements, and that we need information two months ahead of actual publication dates.
A new treatment study for retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is being conducted at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston with the support of the National Eye Institute and the assistance of The Foundation Fighting Blindness. If you are between 18 and 60 years of age and wish to participate, or to learn more, call (800) 683-5555.
Are you a blind or visually impaired adult who would enjoy a week of great cross-country skiing on gently rolling, wide, well- groomed trails? If so, you're invited to attend the 29th annual Ski for Light International Week to be held February 8-15, 2004, in Green Bay, Wis. Participants will stay at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay and ski at the nearby Brown County Reforestation Camp.
The total cost of the week is $700, which includes a double- occupancy room, all meals, six days of skiing, round-trip transportation between the airport and hotel, and daily transportation between the hotel and ski area. A limited number of single-occupancy rooms are also available, first-come, first- served, for an additional $350. Cross-country skis, boots, and poles will be provided free of charge to first-time participants. The cost of transportation to and from Green Bay is the responsibility of the participant. Partial stipends are available for first-time participants, on a limited basis, based on financial need.
The application deadline is November 1, 2003. Applications received after the deadline will be considered as space permits. Full payment is due by January 1, 2004. For more information, contact Lynda Boose via e-mail, [email protected], or call her at (906) 250-7836.
Foresight Ski Guides, a member of Disabled Sports USA (DS/USA) and accredited by the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), offers an adventurous, safe and affordable winter sports experience for people who are blind and visually impaired at some of the world's top resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone. Starting this year, in addition to downhill, Foresight will offer both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
For a suggested contribution of $50, Foresight Ski Guides provides all participants with everything needed for a great week, including a trained guide, lift tickets, transportation from both Denver and Eagle/Vail airports, rental equipment, and lodging assistance. Advanced notice and reservations are required. For additional information, log on to www.foresightskiguides.org, or call Mark Davis toll-free at 1-866-860-0972.
Tahoe Donner Cross Country will sponsor several Saturday skiing trips and a three-day event in early 2004. The Saturday trips are for children and adults at Tahoe Donner Cross Country, Truckee, CA. The dates for the three-day event are March 13-15. The cost is $185 if you supply your own skis or $285 to rent skis. The dates for the Saturday trips are January 10, February 7, and February 21, 2004. The cost for adults at these events is $15 if you bring skis and $30 to rent them. The cost for children is to be announced.
For more information and an application for any of the scheduled trips, contact Betsy Rowell, SRSFL Skier Coordinator, P.O. Box 276371, Sacramento, CA 95827-6371, phone (916) 362-5557 or e-mail [email protected].
Puget Sound is selling holiday greeting cards. For $5, you get a package of 10 cards and 10 envelopes. The cards have a snow scene and the Ski For Light logo. The message reads, "Season's Greetings and every good wish for your happiness in the New Year." Send orders to Mary Ellen Rutter, 1717 150th Ave. SE, Condo #3, Bellevue, WA 98007.
"Cooking in the Dark" offers a special discount on aprons for ACB members. Aprons come in a natural color and have the "Cooking in the Dark" logo screen-printed on the front. From the waist they measure 23 inches long and are about 28 inches wide. They include ties at waist and neck.
The logo features Bart B. Cue, a plump little gray mouse wearing dark sunglasses and a chef's hat, with a spatula in his left hand. On his vest are the words "Cooking in the Dark" in black letters. Beneath the mouse, the show's slogan, "You Don't Need Sight to Make Dinner Tonight!," is printed in cartoon lettering. To view the logo, go to http://www.blindmicemart.com and enter "apron" in the search engine; click on the product when it comes up.
Aprons retail for $26.95 on the show and on the web site. "Here and There" readers can purchase aprons for only $18.40 apiece. To purchase an apron for yourself or a friend, e-mail your order request to Dale Campbell at [email protected] or call (713) 876-6971. Shipping cost will depend on location and number of aprons ordered.
The Generations, Inc., a chorus made up mostly of visually impaired singers, has released a new Christmas CD. Entitled "Gloria In Excelsis Deo," the CD contains 20 Christmas carols and songs, including "Carol of the Bells," "The Christmas Song," "Winter Wonderland," "Come, Follow The Star," "The Angels' Carol" and two P.D.Q. Bach selections. Send check for $12.50 to: Generations, Inc., 3106 Townsend Terrace, Louisville, KY 40241.
BRYTECH launched its latest talking product, Color Teller, for people who are blind or visually impaired. Color Teller is a compact, portable, easy-to-use talking color identifier that allows people who are blind or have a color vision impairment to determine the color of materials and objects. It helps people to match clothes, enjoy the pleasures of their gardens and homes, color code products for easy identification, and much more. Color Teller distinguishes all commonly used colors from pink to pale blue-green, dark brown to vivid yellow in English, French, or Spanish. Order online directly from BRYTECH's web site at: www.brytech.com. In the U.S., customers can obtain Color Teller directly from any of BRYTECH's distributors. A list of distributors is available on the web site.
AllinPlay Crazy Eights now joins AllinPlay Poker as the only completely accessible online games that blind and sighted people can play together. AllinPlay has faithfully reproduced the classic game of Crazy Eights so that blind and sighted people can play together as equals. Be the first to get rid of all of your cards. Play special cards to stymie your opponents. Play the wild "crazy eight" and pick the suit to your best advantage. And, even better, make new friends and enjoy the camaraderie with players from around the world with our in-game, real-time text chat. Both AllinPlay games, Crazy Eights and Poker, are available for one low monthly membership price once your introductory free membership expires.*****
FOR SALE: Optelec 20/20 Spectrum color CCTV. 20-inch adjustable monitor, does black-and-white and white-on-black. 4 x 10 magnification. Reading table. Comes with owner's guide. Asking $1,200 plus shipping and insurance. Call (703) 591-6674 and ask for Robert.
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak 2000. Hardly used, in perfect working condition. Comes with leather carrying case, earpiece, 12-volt charger, braille and print instructions, and data transfer disk. Asking $750, which includes shipping and insurance. Contact Betsy at (847) 432-5202 or by e-mail, [email protected].
FOR SALE: Braille Lite 40 with all cables and manual on tape, and disk drive. Operates in Spanish and English. Asking $2,000. Contact Meg or Lucy Sirianni at (651) 222-2968 or e-mail [email protected].
FOR SALE: Prisma CCTV. Weighs 3.5 pounds; comes with carrying case and adapter. Asking $950. Brother word processor WP-3550 with monitor. Asking $200. Will trade for Braille 'n Speak 640 or above. Contact Mr. Kim Ledford at (478) 923-9245, fax (478) 923-4790, or e-mail [email protected].
FOR SALE: Quick and Easy Recipes, two volumes, $25. America's Bakeoff Cookbook, three volumes, $35. Contact Gloria Merrill via e-mail, [email protected], or phone, (770) 516- 7764.
FOR SALE: A brand-new Freedom Scientific PowerBraille 80 Braille display. Unisys Corporation purchased this for an employee, but a merger forced layoffs. So this is sealed in its plastic wrap with all materials included and a one-year warranty. Price at FreedomScientific.com is about $12,000; we are asking only $7,850. E-mail CJ Sampson, [email protected], or call (801) 367-2559.*****
He was becoming blind by degrees. He fought it with every means in his power. When medicine no longer served to fight it, he fought it with his emotions. It took courage to say to him, "I think you should learn to love your blindness."
It was a struggle. He refused to have anything to do with it in the beginning. And when he eventually brought himself to speak to his blindness his words were bitter. But he kept on speaking and the words slowly changed into words of resignation, then tolerance, and finally, acceptance. Then, one day, very much to his own surprise, they became words of friendliness ... and love. Then came the day when he was able to put his arm around his blindness and say, "I love you." That was the day I saw him smile again.
His vision, of course, was lost forever. But how attractive his face became!*****
The picture of fall I hold as treasure in my mind's eye cannot be duplicated. The vast spectrum of nature's fall colors no film or paint can capture.
I can see our pasture with its old barbed wire fence held up by graying posts, leading past the small chicken coop which stood inside the corral, next to the big old red barn. The hill sweeps backward over the golden brown grass to the panoramic explosion of vivid oranges, yellows, and reds. The contouring valley is highlighted by the backdrop of Douglass Hill and the snow- covered summit of Mount Washington keeping a watchful white eye on the whole scene.
The vividness of unparalleled beauty is so great, the crisp wind, the fresh smell of the trees, I can feel myself within the vision, tasting the color, feeling the day like a first lover's touch.
Fall's rustic cornucopia overflows with the bounty of the harvest. The pumpkins in bright orange are piled in anticipation of All Hallow's Eve and the goodness of Thanksgiving pies. Cornstalk leaves point their crone-like fingers to the full, sickly sweet smelling silage cellars in the hillside.
It is fall! My favorite season of the year, in my mind is its eternal, timeless beauty.
94 RAMONA AVE.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94103
FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
825 M ST., SUITE 216
LINCOLN, NE 68508
SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
1027 DUNLOP AVE
FOREST PARK, IL 60130
3912 SE 5TH ST
DES MOINES, IA 50315
500 S. 3RD ST. #H
BURBANK, CA 91502
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
20330 NE 20th Ct.
Miami, FL 33179