Braille Forum
Volume XLII Winter 2004 No. 5
Published By
The American Council of the Blind
Christopher Gray, President
Melanie Brunson, Acting Executive Director
Penny Reeder, Editor
Sharon Lovering, Editorial Assistant
National Office:
1155 15th St. NW
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, computer disk and via e-mail. Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for publication should be sent to:
Penny Reeder,
1155 15th St. NW,
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.

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, the national office can make printed cards available for this purpose. To remember the American Council of the Blind in your Last Will and Testament, you may include 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 at

Copyright 2003
American Council of the Blind


President's Message: Is This New Year a New Era?, by Christopher Gray
Affiliate Leaders Meet with ACB President, by Mike Duke
American Council of the Blind Seeks Executive Director
A Summary of ACB Board Actions, by Mike Duke
What's Next in Washington, by Melanie Brunson
Midyear's Approaching, by Cynthia Towers
A Question on Minutes Takes Hours, by Christopher Gray
Dawn Christensen Resigns from ACB Board
Affiliate News
Letters to the Editor
Board of Publications Guidelines for Letters to the Editor
ACB Speaks to the American Public about Blindness with the Support of the ABC and ESPN Radio Networks, by Ralph Sanders
Five Convention Tours?, by Berl Colley
NELDS Works to Support Convention Attendance: Buy a Ticket and You May Win Your Air Fare to Birmingham!, by Ralph Sanders
Here and There, by Sarah Blake
High Tech Swap Shop


The number listed for the RP study ("Here and There," November 2003) was incorrect. If you are interested in participating in the study, call (617) 573-3602 and ask for the clinical coordinator.

A misunderstanding led us to believe that Ronald Shimovetz was the author of the poem "Accepting Blindness," which appeared in the November 2003 "Braille Forum." The author of the poem is, in fact, unknown. We thank Mr. Shimovetz for sharing the poem with us and with our readers.


"And There Was Light" is available in Braille and on cassette from NLS cooperating libraries. Cassette: RC 46611; Braille: BR 11692 (also in Web Braille).


by Christopher Gray

(Editor's Note: Letters from the Pennsylvania and Ohio affiliates mentioned in this column are reprinted in their entirety in "Affiliate News.")

There is a natural phenomenon that is particularly well-known along the Western seaboard of the United States called a tsunami. It is an ocean wave that is typically created by an earthquake. Depending on the magnitude of the earthquake, a tsunami can be anything from barely noticeable to devastating.

In October of this year, the American Council of the Blind was shaken by a kind of earthquake, though of an unspecified magnitude, with the voluntary resignation of our executive director of nearly five years, Charlie Crawford. Those who have worked with or met Charlie Crawford know how strongly he has advocated for the rights of blind people and how well he can communicate the message of what ACB is and who is a part of it. That capacity and spirit came to be a hallmark of strength and an expectation by those of us who have had the pleasure of working with Charlie these past several years. However, whether Charlie's resignation will result in a tsunami effect, causing ripples or devastating waves for our organization will be known only at some future time. The big difference in a natural tsunami and the one we could experience now is that we have the ability to control and to a large extent forestall possible damages that occur with Charlie's departure, or for that matter, the departure of any of our professional staff members.

Because we are an organization working arm-in-arm to achieve common goals, changes in our staff at every level inevitably create anxiety and fear among us all about the overall strength of the organization. A personal identification falters and each member of ACB may wonder, even if only for a moment, whether our movement is changing or shifting like desert sands, and whether each of us and all of us will be strong enough to stand against the buffeting waves of change.

I recall with amazing clarity over 20 years later my own personal sadness, anxiety and fear for ACB when Durward McDaniel announced to the board of directors his intention to leave his position as our administrative leader. Until we knew he would be succeeded by another great ACB member and advocate, Oral Miller, and that Oral's leadership would sustain us on our courses of action for the next 18 years, many in ACB wished for all to remain the same and, somehow, for change to be stopped in its tracks.

Yet we all know how much change drives our personal lives and our whole culture today. Unwanted as it may be, change is a given in our society. Success or failure is often achieved by how we manage that change and by whether or not we accept the changes that occur around us. Later in this message I will tell you some very tangible ways your ACB leaders are dealing with change management right now, and I will also outline some things that can guarantee an equal successor to Charlie Crawford. But first, I'd like to spend a little time honoring and acknowledging Charlie Crawford and his many valuable contributions during his service as our executive director.

The first time I ever saw Charlie Crawford in action that made a lasting impression was when he addressed a state convention of an ACB affiliate. Midway through his banquet address, I turned to Marvelena and told her with considerable enthusiasm: "This guy really gets it about ACB's message and what we're trying to do for blind people." Charlie's voice is one of strength and resolution.

Charlie has led our organization in a focus on two areas that should be mentioned here, pedestrian safety and descriptive video. There is little doubt that these two issues in particular will always be identified with Charlie and as key contributions during his tenure as executive director to those living in our most urbanized parts of the country.

I received a note from an ACB member that says in part: "We need him. Please do your best to get him back. We are all relying on you to do so. Jo Genit."

Jo's comments lead me to some final thoughts in this part of my message. In responding to the idea of "getting Charlie back," it is my personal belief that Charlie Crawford is not really gone. Yes, there is a change of roles. Choices have been made about the future, and certainly any choice of this kind has a set of consequences for everybody involved. But as has been true with each chief employee of our organization, their involvement with ACB continues.

Durward McDaniel was an active participant and representing attorney for ACB literally until the day he died. As I draft this article, Oral Miller is speaking outside the United States on behalf of the blind internationally. I have little doubt that the same will be true for our most recent executive director in coming years. Rest assured that the board and Charlie discussed his remaining as executive director before his resignation, and that possibility was understood by all of us to be unworkable at the end of those discussions.

In addition to the letter quoted above, I have received a variety of other personal letters, e-mails and telephone calls expressing every emotion imaginable regarding Charlie's resignation. Some callers embraced change while expressing their best wishes for Charlie and for ACB. Some expressed disappointment, anger and fear for our organization.

Similarly, I have been contacted at the ACB affiliate level with questions and expressions of concern. Based on some of those contacts, two conference call meetings have been held in order to have a dialogue with ACB leaders about present and future work to guarantee the integrity of our organization. After reading Mike Duke's summary of these meetings, I am confident you will agree that these discussions were extremely positive, productive and beneficial to all of us.

Here are two letters for your consideration. The first comes from the president and board of directors of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind. After outlining some concerns and other introductory material, PCB performs a great service for ACB by listing a series of suggestions they believe would benefit the organization as a whole. Their suggestions are as follows.

"1. Review all policies and practices which govern the board's and national committees' relationship with our national office. If these policies and practices are inadequate, and given what has occurred it would seem so, then revise them or develop new ones in their place.

"2. Report on and disseminate these policies and practices at our 2004 national convention."

It is particularly helpful for our Pennsylvania affiliate to submit positive suggestions on which the board might take action. In addition, it was very heartening to read the first suggestion because the suggestion is in substantial alignment with actions taken by the ACB board of directors at their post-convention meeting in Pittsburgh. The board unanimously agreed to form a committee to review overall office procedures and report back to them with findings and specific recommendations. The lion's share of work for this review lies in a careful examination of the ACB employee handbook which contains the written policies regulating key procedures, employee benefits, employee conduct, and other aspects of the relationship between ACB as a corporate entity and its employees. Pennsylvania is correct in its estimation that a review and careful update of this document is long overdue.

Let us now turn to a second letter that was received from ACB of Ohio. Ohio poses a question of ACB leadership that I'd like to address.

"Ohio must ask our national leadership: Where are we going and how will you lead us there?"

First, let's talk about where we are going. There are some underlying assumptions in the question that need to be clarified. Where we are going in 2004 is no different in a pure sense than where we have been going since the inception of the American Council of the Blind in 1961.

Through careful adjustment, organizational direction may shift over a long period of time. But the purposes of ACB have never substantially changed and I don't expect they will for a very long time. Our legislative agenda is not changing. After all, it is prescribed first by resolution and only then by available national resources. Our magazine is not ceasing to exist. Our programs and services are essentially those of July 2003, July 2002 and prior to that with the addition of those incremental improvements we make over time. We still have a Washington office and maintain our financial center in Minneapolis. The infrastructure of this organization is strong and any belief in its weakening is entirely misplaced. We are going where ACB has always gone: down the path toward improving the world for blind people. The practical realities of how we are getting there may have been slightly altered for a brief period of time, but the path itself does not change.

ACB is a strong and vibrant organization and because our strength comes from all our people, not just one person, we will not lose our way simply because of the transition from one executive director to another. You hold proof of this assertion in your hands as you read this issue of "The Braille Forum." News Notes still exists and is being overseen with competence, perhaps even a moment of inspiration now and again, by our very capable acting executive director, Melanie Brunson. Frequent updates have been available in the past two months for the Washington Connection which have been welcomed by many ACB members. Our presence on Capitol Hill is still being ably and continually managed by Melanie Brunson and overseen by ACB's staff assigned to this work. So, you see, not only is the path still here, but we are all marching forward upon it.

Elsewhere in this magazine you will read about ACB public service announcements' availability on a national basis. These are not the signs of an organization in crisis, but an organization accomplishing its goals and meeting its objectives during and after Charlie's service to ACB.

Ohio's second question is "how do we get there." Inherent in this question is the concern that the ACB board of directors has a specific plan of action to help the organization through a time of transition and consequent change.

I hope that by mentioning only some of the activities in which the board is now engaged I can provide some level of assurance in this regard. Most important, not only does the board have a plan in place, but there is reasonable consensus on how that plan is to be executed. Many pieces of it are already being undertaken by a variety of competent, committed ACB members.

One key element of our plan for the future is, of course, the hiring of a new executive director. We are not significantly redefining the position as some have feared. The board is adhering to the principles laid down in our long-range plan as adopted in 1995. Some principles from that plan could well be expanded and more fully implemented in the coming months, and that is as it should be. Our organization adopted that plan for a reason, and should the board find ways to more fully implement key aspects in the plan that were not previously addressed, so much the better.

A search committee was appointed in October to begin the search/selection process for a new executive director. That committee is chaired by Professor Otis Stephens, former president of our organization. Serving with him are three board members: Ed Bradley, Mitch Pomerantz and myself. Also serving on the committee is Terry Pacheco as a representative from the national office.

As noted above, ACB has an acting executive director, Melanie Brunson. Melanie brings years of specific ACB experience to this position as well as a wealth of experience in legislative activities both with ACB and elsewhere. Melanie began immediately to provide significant guidance and support for the board and certainly many of you will have seen or heard her helpful, professional posts on ACB's various computer lists.

In addition, the board of directors has engaged a former and very effective employee of our organization, Laura Oftedahl, to assist in her capacity as a professional fund-raiser. Funding continues to be a challenge for our organization and the board has asked Laura to help us find more ways and identify productive ways of increasing our funding base. I firmly believe this will bode well for us in the not-too-distant future.

I hope you can see that by undertaking these specific, concrete actions, the board has a firm idea of where we need to go and what needs to be done in the short term. More can be said about the longer term after our president's meeting and board meeting in Birmingham February 14-16.

In conclusion, let me tell you a bit more about those tsunami waves. There are actually two kinds of tsunami. One occurs far out in the ocean. It makes small waves, but the waves dissipate to leave the ocean returned to a calm state with the shock absorbed and smoothed by the surrounding water. Only tsunamis that reach the shore grow into powerful destructive waves that destroy coastal towns and drown all that come into their path. Our ACB tsunami can be a ripple for considered change as recommended by Pennsylvania, a rekindling and resetting of focus and purpose as the ripple calms as expressed by Ohio, with any waves being only those of "thank you" to Charlie Crawford for more than four productive years of service as executive director, and of belief in the many successes that lie ahead for the American Council of the Blind as we and Charlie move forward to new possibilities. From change comes strength if we allow it. The embracing of change fosters a destiny of hope and achievement for our organization. Let this time that some fear weakens us serve to strengthen us in moving toward that bright future.


by Mike Duke

Following the resignation of former ACB executive director Charles Crawford, president Chris Gray and the ACB staff conducted two telephone conference call meetings with affiliate leaders. The Oct. 29 meeting drew 19 participants, while 21 took part in the Nov. 5 meeting. The stated purposes of these meetings were to conduct a dialogue with affiliate leaders about the recent events within ACB, and to provide them with the opportunity to brainstorm about the future of the organization.

The first meeting began with a question about the time limit for finding a new executive director. Gray said the vacancy would be filled as quickly as possible, and he expects the selection process to continue at least through February 2004.

He was asked to clarify his and Charlie Crawford's reported differences in management philosophy, and to explain why a management audit wasn't conducted before Charlie's departure. Gray responded that personnel laws and ethics prohibit him from amplifying what the management style issues might have been, and that an operations audit was never discussed. He stressed that ethics was not one of the relevant issues. He expressed a hope that the successful applicant for the position will understand the importance of working closely with the board, and assured the group that any expectations for the new executive director will not be tailored for any specific president or board of directors.

When asked why the resignation appeared to catch everyone by surprise, Gray replied that when divisions arise, publishing them is not smart, and there is always hope that issues will be resolved. He said that Crawford's departure did indeed shock many people, including most people who were involved in the mediation process.

Both Gray and acting executive director Melanie Brunson assured the group that the advocacy work of ACB will continue. There are no plans to reduce the participation in legislative efforts, which have been mandated through the convention's resolutions. The resolutions will be handled in accordance with the prioritization assigned to them by the board following the 2003 convention. Brunson said that affiliate leaders would be asked to help with advocacy issues, and several affiliate leaders praised the staff for their willingness to assume additional duties.

In response to a question about the role of "The Braille Forum," Gray stressed the importance of including diverse voices and points of view within the magazine. "In addition to being the information bulletin for ACB, 'The Braille Forum' is also the primary public relations tool of the organization," he said. "It is also the only communication medium between ACB and most members. 'The Braille Forum' must, therefore, strive to maintain a balance of views without becoming totally possessed by a few vocal individuals."

In reply to a question about Internet etiquette, Gray said that, overall, those members who participate on ACB's leadership e-mail discussion list conduct themselves in a civil manner. He indicated that it had become necessary to place and enforce some rules for participation on ACB-L, ACB's general discussion list. Participants in all ACB lists have been cautioned to refrain from involvement in any form of character assassination. It was also noted that numerous posts to ACB lists have quickly appeared in the publications and e-mail lists of other organizations, and that no Internet list is truly private.

Gray encouraged leaders to observe how successful affiliates operate, and to apply those positive principles to participation in the national organization. He said that the ACB board has the duties of implementing the resolutions passed by the membership, and of adhering to the procedures established by the constitution. Much of the day-to-day work to make the organization function is carried out by the staff. Within any organization, Gray said, certain responsibilities and decisions such as those related to finance and personnel must be delegated to a smaller governing group than the entire membership. In ACB, this delegating is done through the election process. Once elected, the membership must allow the leadership to work through situations such as the departure of a staff member. Members should assess the effectiveness of their leaders over the long-term course of their terms, which will enable members to better judge their leaders' effectiveness and to make more informed democratic choices during future elections.

Gray said that the board has established an office review committee to look at issues such as the employee handbook, and expectations for the staff. He expressed his feeling that the current document fails to clarify the relation between the executive director and the board of directors. For example, Gray said that a delicate point of ethics occurs when personnel are also members of the organization. The employee handbook must comply with the ACB constitution, but must also address day-to-day operational issues such as employee conduct. A suggestion was made to add some non-board members to the office review committee, which currently consists of the president and two board members.

In response to a question about the financial soundness of the organization, Gray said that ACB is experiencing some relatively serious financial difficulties. Several expected revenue-producing items have either not met expectations, or failed to produce any income. Steps must be taken to bring new money into ACB, and to be more frugal with all financial resources in order to avoid turning this difficulty into a crisis. New income sources must be found; otherwise, ACB will continue to experience declining membership, and will diminish as an effective organization. Laura Oftedahl has assumed fund-raising duties, and will be responsible for developing new income resources. Several participants expressed their concern that ACB must work hard to both maintain and strengthen its reputation as an effective advocate for people who are blind.

In reply to a question about the relationship between the affiliates and ACB, Gray explained that ACB begins with affiliate membership and leadership. The national organization exists because affiliates work together. The needs and opinions of the affiliates move upward through, and strengthen, the entire national organization. Historically, ACB has helped form state affiliates by finding state leaders, then working with them to build affiliates. Special-interest groups, on the other hand, are primarily sparked by a common special interest, which is their primary membership recruitment tool. According to Gray, membership in special-interest groups tends to rise and fall more frequently than that of state affiliates.

The basic responsibility of state affiliates to pay national dues, along with their voting rights, is clearly documented in the ACB constitution. There is also an expectation that affiliates will participate in the national convention, thus strengthening the representation of their affiliate within the national organization. A state affiliate may call on the national office for help with membership issues, special-interest groups, etc. The ACB web site contains a "Helpful Resources" section, which includes several documents of interest to all affiliates.

Affiliate presidents suggested that appropriate topics for mid-year meeting discussions might include 501(C)(3) status, and the responsibilities of convention delegates. Gray said that he also wants a discussion of how to increase the influence of ACB in rehabilitation for the blind.

The first meeting concluded with the suggestion of holding similar monthly meetings, and of dedicating at least one meeting annually to new affiliate leaders. As a way of implementing that suggestion, affiliate leaders were invited to participate in one of two planning sessions for the upcoming legislative seminar. These sessions were held subsequently.



The American Council of the Blind (ACB), a national membership organization, is seeking an executive director.

The executive director has major leadership responsibilities in implementing ACB policy initiatives and in advancing fundraising and development activities. The executive director reports through the ACB president to the board of directors.

The executive director is responsible for hiring, supervising, evaluating, and discharging staff operating out of ACB's national office in Washington, D.C. In addition, the executive director coordinates all fiscal management activities in conjunction with ACB's chief financial officer based in Minneapolis, Minn. The executive director also administers the annual ACB operating budget within written policy parameters developed by the ACB budget committee.

The executive director oversees all special documentation including reports, memoranda, resolutions, and proposals necessary for implementation of policies established by the board of directors and/or in fulfillment of other organizational obligations. In addition, he or she coordinates efforts to secure grants, bequests, memorial contributions, and other gifts to ACB.

The executive director represents the ACB before legislative bodies, regulatory agencies, and other bodies affecting national policy toward blind and visually impaired individuals. He or she serves as the primary contact with affiliated organizations serving blind and visually impaired constituencies and also undertakes special projects at the direction of the ACB president.

Candidates for this position must have: (1) strong analytical ability; (2) well developed administrative skills; (3) excellent communication skills, both written and verbal; (4) capability to facilitate programs and projects; and (5) familiarity with contemporary data processing systems, Internet usage, and current access technology.

Applicants must possess effective facilitative and problem- solving skills and should be prepared to address policy issues proposed by ACB constituents. Applicants should have substantial supervisory experience, preferably including previous work with a national non-profit organization. Salary depends on qualifications and experience. Applicants should submit a resume, cover letter, and writing sample to the Executive Director Search Committee, c/o American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th Street NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005.


by Mike Duke

Following the recess of the ACB board of directors meeting on Sept. 21, 2003, executive sessions were held via telephone conference calls on October 15 and 19, the purpose of which was to discuss personnel matters.

During the executive session of October 19, a motion to accept the resignation of Charles Crawford as executive director of the American Council of the Blind carried on a voice vote with two dissenting votes and two absent. The board also advised President Gray to release a statement on this matter to the ACB e-mail discussion lists as soon as possible.

The ACB board of directors met in open session via telephone conference at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2003 to discuss budget matters and the 2004 legislative seminar. Attendees were Gray, Speicher, Schmitt, Bazyn, Edwards, Annunzio, Bradley, Charlson, Christensen, Keith, Pomerantz, Ruschival, Sheehan, and Duke.

Gray reported that Paul Edwards, chairman of ACB Enterprises and Services, has stated that ACBES expects a 10 percent reduction in its contribution to ACB for 2004. This projected figure must be the primary consideration in the development of the 2004 budget.

During the September meeting, a motion to observe the same spending level for the first quarter of 2004 as for the first quarter of 2003 was adopted.

In the Nov. 25th meeting, a replacement motion that expenditures for the first quarter of 2004 may not exceed $255,000 passed unanimously.

A motion decreasing the general revenue contribution to the Floyd Qualls scholarship by 50 percent passed unanimously.

A motion to provide no subsidy for participants in the 2004 legislative seminar passed unanimously.

A motion to ask AFB and NIB to subsidize the 2004 legislative seminar passed unanimously.

A motion to generate a letter to affiliates by Dec. 8 asking for contributions to the ACB general fund passed unanimously.

A motion to raise the convention registration fee to $25 in advance and $35 on-site passed on a roll call vote of 8 to 3. Members Speicher, Schmitt, Bazyn, Edwards, Annunzio, Charlson, Keith, and Sheehan supported the motion. Members Bradley, Pomerantz, and Ruschival voted against it. Dawn Christensen had left the meeting, bringing the total absentees to four.

A motion directing the budget committee to fund 10 issues of "The Braille Forum" for 2004 passed unanimously.

A motion directing the budget committee to operate with the understanding that the two support staff positions in ACB's national office will not be filled during 2004 passed unanimously.

A motion not to fund board travel or lodging for any regularly scheduled meeting or convention in 2004 passed.

The meeting adjourned at 11:10 p.m. Eastern time.


by Melanie Brunson, Acting Executive Director

This is my first report to you as acting executive director of ACB. Let me just touch on a couple of things now, and tell you at the outset that we will be giving you more detailed information as 2004 progresses.

First, I want to thank all of you for helping us, during the past year, to carry the ACB advocacy and legislative agendas through the halls of government. We could not have done what we've done without your help and I urge you not to lose heart. True, we have lost some skirmishes and some of those losses are disappointing. However, we are by no means out of the game! There are many more opportunities for us to carry the day, and we can succeed. For instance, the Senate is still considering IDEA reauthorization and their bill, though far from perfect, does contain the key elements of the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act. If these provisions are included in the final version of IDEA, they will greatly improve quality of education for blind students. We need to shepherd these provisions through the Senate's final floor action and on to the conference committee.

IDEA reauthorization is just one of the important issues that we expect to include on another very full legislative agenda in 2004, and we can use all the help we can get to carry our message to Capitol Hill. Therefore, as you start making plans for the coming year, I hope they will include coming to Washington, D.C. in March. At our legislative seminar, we expect to consider a wide range of issues. Specific information about the dates and location should be available by the time you read this article, so call the ACB national office and get the particulars. We'd love to see you and to make sure that your representatives in Congress become better acquainted with ACB during the year ahead.

In the meantime, I want to close by wishing all of you a happy, healthy and rewarding new year.


by Cynthia Towers, Convention Coordinator

I hope many of you are making plans to attend the annual presidents' and board of directors meeting over President's Day weekend, February 13-16, 2004, in Birmingham, Ala. President Gray will present a packed and productive agenda that is sure to get ACB off to a great start in the new year.

The meetings will take place in both the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) and the Sheraton Birmingham hotel. Although there will also be meetings conducted by other groups in the BJCC during our stay, you are free to explore the center to get a sense of where things are located. Remember, during the summer the general sessions will be in Hall 3, the exhibits in Hall 2 and the ACB Caf‚ in Hall 1 -- literally steps from one another. During midyear, however, the meetings will be on the third floor. Detailed descriptions are being developed by the Alabama affiliate (the other ACB). I want to thank David and Rhonda Trott and the Alabama gang for all their work thus far. It won't matter how cold it is in Birmingham this winter, because the Alabama folks are so fired up we won't need any additional heat!

Berl Colley will be using the time to finalize tours while Mike Smitherman will see the exhibit hall for the first time and begin the process of devising a layout. Margie Donovan will be forthcoming with guide dog relief area information and our information desk will be up and running to assist you as needed. I will be on hand to make sure your meetings are set to your specifications and that the water stations are kept full.

The Alabama affiliate is planning a great Welcome to Alabama bash in the president's suite on Saturday evening and will be on hand to answer your questions about the surrounding area.

The room rates are the same as for the summer convention: $85 per night, which includes taxes. Please make your reservations as soon as possible. The next closest hotel is about six blocks away and we want everyone in the Sheraton. The number for reservations is (205) 324-5000.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you the happiest of holiday seasons. May 2004 hold only great things for you, your family and for ACB. If I can be of any service to you please feel free to contact me at (206) 729-9654 (Pacific time) or by e-mail at [email protected].


by Christopher Gray

At every level of our organizational work in ACB, a key task is the recording of what we do and why we do it. The recording of this information is typically accomplished by an elected or appointed secretary writing down notes on the proceedings and then writing up a set of minutes based on those notes. Local chapters, state organizations, and the board of directors of the American Council of the Blind all utilize a similar process to organize their business and preserve their history. The related boards, committees and working groups may or may not engage in similar practices, depending on the nature of their work. Committee work, for example, often finds its way into the public record when the committee files a report or brings a recommendation to a board of directors who then acts upon that recommendation and in so doing makes it a part of the overall record of the organization.

In the past decade, significant public and legislative attention has been spent on organizational meetings and the minutes written about those meetings. Often discussed under the topic of "open meetings" acts passed by state legislatures, such laws seek to heighten the accountability of government agencies, those funded by such agencies, and non-profit organizations. A basic belief is that all such entities hold a public responsibility and there is an inherent right of the public to be able to examine public records of such groups. It is also worth noting that non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporations such as ours must comply with special corporate and IRS requirements regarding the preparation and availability of financial records, but these requirements do not speak to minutes.

ACB minutes and their distribution have been a topic of concern to some ACB members beginning with an individual request dated October 21, 2003 received via computer communication. That request and subsequent discussion on ACB's various computer lists has given rise to so many questions and apparent confusion among at least the computer-using subset of ACB members, it seems reasonable to engage in some broader organizational dialogue about the issue. In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to present the situation as it currently is structured and define at least some of the points to be considered if changes are undertaken by ACB in the future.

In beginning this discussion, a few points should be made clear regarding ACB's present policies and procedures:

1. ACB is in full compliance with the requirements of our constitution and bylaws with regard to the distribution of minutes. As prescribed in Bylaw 4, Section B: "The secretary of this organization, in addition to the usual duties of such office, shall furnish to each affiliate and member-at-large a summary of all official actions taken at the convention or meetings of the board of directors, as soon as possible after the conclusion of such convention and/or meetings." In fact, one can argue that our current secretary, Donna Seliger, has exceeded our requirements by sending complete sets of minutes to all affiliate presidents and members-at-large. It also seems fair to observe that every secretary of ACB with whom I have worked has put forth their best and considerable efforts in communicating the business of this organization to the state and special-interest leadership as well as the general membership. In addition, it has been the practice of the board to ask the representative from the board of publications to prepare a summary of each meeting for publication in "The Braille Forum." This additional material serves as a means of informing the ACB membership generally about board meetings and activities.

2. ACB is in full compliance with the laws of the District of Columbia in which we are incorporated with regard to the distribution and availability of minutes. The District of Columbia requires that minutes be retained in a public place, and minutes must be available for public inspection. Of course, we in ACB would add public, accessible inspection. At the present time, both of these requirements are being met.

As you can see, there are presently two means by which any member of ACB can receive a copy of minutes. A person can come to the national office and examine organizational minutes for at least the past several years. Second, any member can request minutes from their state president and presumably receive a copy. This is a process clearly defined in our bylaws, and we should adhere to it to our best abilities.

The question then becomes: To what extent can or should the national organization engage in the wider distribution of minutes or summaries of minutes? To what extent is such distribution desirable and on what basis should it be made? The ACB board of directors recognizes that a desire for a possible expansion of distribution exists among at least a small, vocal subset of the membership. Given this desire, it has been agreed that this matter will be taken up at our next in-person board meeting, scheduled for February 15, 2004. In preparation for that meeting, Melanie Brunson, as ACB's acting executive director, is preparing a brief for consideration by the board containing information and recommendations on current practice and requirements as well as how we might manage logistical considerations if our distribution mechanisms were to be widened. The board will further need to discuss the implications of such widening of distribution with regard to greater distribution's constituting a violation of our constitution and bylaws. If a change were to be made, the one thing that seems relatively clear relating to it is that the relevant bylaw would need amending in order to provide clear guidance for the ACB secretary on what must be done.

Despite my commitment and the willingness of the ACB board of directors to undertake such considerations, a small group has deluged the secretary and other key people in the organization with daily demands that, in virtually any other context, would be viewed as harassment. It is unfortunate that many of these messages have been belligerent, almost bullying in nature. Most particularly, our secretary has been placed in the position of having to handle many hundreds of e-mail messages that come from less than 20 individual members of the organization.

For better or for worse, democracy and deliberation take time, and very often, it is time well spent. As your president, I find it difficult to support significant change in policy involving the ACB constitution merely on the basis of some momentary outcry on an Internet list.

There is no doubt that ACB needs, and as an organization wants, to be as democratic as possible. Some believe that this means the complete availability and perhaps even automatic distribution of every document to every individual who wishes to see it. Idealistically, this sounds wonderful and it is a goal to which each of us may wish to aspire. Such an approach does have its downside, however. Practically speaking, do you wish to give your new fund-raising idea to competing organizations in your communities? Probably not. Is there information about ACB which we would prefer to hold in some degree of privacy? Of course there is. There's a fine line between safeguarding the rights of our membership and allowing the public generally to know anything they wish to know about our organization, and protecting vital interests that could make or break organizational success in our business affairs, in our relationships with Capitol Hill, and in our work with other organizations within our community. These are not things we dare squander because of a momentary upset by 10 or 20 ACB members.

We must also be concerned as an organization with the creation of an internal subculture strictly based on its access to computers and online communications. It would be a simple, but perhaps too simplistic, solution to say that ACB should distribute minutes electronically to anybody who wants them. Simple? Yes. But fair or equitable to our membership? Absolutely not! We know that the great majority of our members do not use or have access to computer technology. I stand in support of that majority's right to inclusion in whatever decision is made, if any, to change our current policies and practices regarding the distribution of internal ACB documents and minutes.

There is certainly much to think about as we consider the many ramifications of what can seem, at first blush, like a positive change to provide more information to the membership. Please communicate with ACB in your medium of choice if you have thoughts or comments you would like to share. On Wednesday, February 11, 2004 I will be available to receive your comments directly on a special call-in basis. This is an experiment, and I hope it will be successful. To participate, call (866) 633-8638 and enter the meeting ID of 53878255 or letstalk. This session will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Pacific time (9:30 to 11 p.m. Eastern). This is not a meeting, but a chance for individuals to call and discuss their thoughts on a given topic. You can call in at whatever time is convenient for you during this time block.

When you call, please be prepared to provide your name, affiliation with ACB (if any), and your comments. We will make this a great opportunity for the full inclusion of ACB membership input.



On Tuesday, December 9, 2003, Dawn Christensen released the following announcement. Dear President Gray:

After much consideration, I am writing to inform you that effective immediately I am resigning from the board of directors of the American Council of the Blind.

Regretfully, I cannot continue as a leader of this organization. Seven years ago the membership elected me to represent their voice. I believe that many members of the board of directors have lost sight of what they were elected for. I am disheartened by the series of events that have taken place over the last several months and feel that I can no longer be associated with the apparent non-democratic movement of the leadership of ACB.

Sincerely, Dawn Christensen



Pennsylvania Council of the Blind Releases Statement

On November 10, 2003, the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind (PCB) released the following statement:

After reviewing the voluminous correspondence concerning the resignation of Charlie Crawford, the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind (PCB) has decided that a statement should be made expressing the thinking of the Pennsylvania affiliate.

We want to express our deepest regret and disappointment with the resolution reached with regard to the resignation of Charles Crawford. We regret the inestimable loss of an individual of Mr. Crawford's background in blindness-related issues and his commitment and energy to our organization.

It is our judgment that losing Mr. Crawford as executive director is critical and we wonder if every effort was made to prevent it. We have lost his very capable and successful leadership in legislative advocacy and the close working relationships he had developed with the personnel of government offices and other disability group representatives. Charlie kept us informed on what was happening with a clear statement of what action should be taken, who to call or whom to write to and what the issue was. Melanie Brunson does this too, but there were two persons working on advocacy. Now there is only one. No one is irreplaceable, but it will take at least six months until a new executive director is on the job and an additional year to build up the kind of relationships and respect for ACB that Charlie had worked so hard to establish. His loss to ACB is a serious loss to our advocacy efforts. We are disappointed that our leadership has lacked the ability to reach a solution more beneficial to all involved, especially to ACB.

We believe that ACB's operating philosophy is not so narrow that it cannot encompass differences of opinion, a variation of how things should be done and agreement to disagree and move on if a compromise cannot be worked out. Pennsylvania Council of the Blind recognizes the inappropriateness for public discussion of the details of a personnel issue, but we are left with a sense of growing intolerance among our leadership for differing opinions and approaches.

Without question, it is our preference that Mr. Crawford be reinstated as executive director of ACB, but given that his resignation has been accepted by our leadership and financial compensation agreed to by Mr. Crawford, there is little possibility for a reversal of the situation as it stands.

If indeed there is no going back, then we must look to the future, adopting those measures which will ensure that we as an organization will never find ourselves in this situation again. We, therefore, call on ACB's board to consider the following suggestions:

1. Review all policies and practices which govern the board's and national committees' relationship with our national office. If these policies and practices are inadequate, and given what has occurred it would seem so, then revise them or develop new ones in their place.

2. Report on and disseminate these policies and practices at our 2004 national convention.

We do believe that taking these steps may assist considerably in restoring our confidence and respect for our national leadership.

[Signed] Pennsylvania Council of the Blind

Jay Doudna, President

Ohio Speaks

On Wednesday, November 20, Arlene Cohen, president of ACB of Ohio, shared the following message with other ACB leaders on the ACB-Leadership listserv:

As the weeks have unfolded Ohio has watched, listened, and learned. We now feel that we can remain silent no longer. The apparent direction of our national organization troubles us greatly.

This is a critical time for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. There are many in government and business that see this time as a golden opportunity to undo the tireless work of the last 30 years. All we have to do is look at the recent struggles of visually impaired individuals and the response of both government and in some cases the courts. Legislation paramount to the future of those who are blind or visually impaired is in Congress at this time.

Where does our organization find itself at this critical time? It is bordering on insolvency. It finds itself fractured by loss of its executive director and perhaps most disturbing of all seems to be going down a path that makes free and open discussion impossible.

We see and hear accusations and diatribe. What we don't see and hear is a plan to move this organization to the position of strength necessary to ensure its future. While we worry about what is said in our national publications and listservs and who has said it, those that would deny us our place in society rejoice in our confusion.

Several questions need to be answered. We can only hope that our leadership has clearly thought through its current course of action and can bring forward its plan for the future. One hopes that the drastic action taken by this national board and president has not been done without a clear plan of action. It is time to share that plan with the membership. We cannot wait for the next general meeting. To do so would invite the demise of the organization

Ohio must ask our national leadership: Where are we going and how will you lead us there?

Arlene Cohen, President

ACB of Ohio

Colorado Convention

The American Council of the Blind of Colorado will hold its 2004 convention on April 16, 17 and 18 of 2004. The theme is "Communication, the Future and You." We will be at the Red Lion Inn, 4040 Quebec, Denver, CO 80216. The room rates are $56 per night plus tax; call (303) 321-6666 for reservations. Be sure to mention ACBC to get the convention rate. For further information, please call Bob Levy at (303) 940-9846.

GDUI Gazette

Guide Dog Users, Inc. wishes to announce the availability of the new "GDUI Gazette," a recorded informational message intended to keep members and friends up-to-date on issues and happenings concerning guide dogs and their handlers. The message will include the latest between-issues-of-Pawtracks guide dog news and product reviews, and will be updated the first day of each month. To reach the "GDUI Gazette," call (206) 333-3598. For further information on either the Gazette or GDUI, call toll-free 1-888-858-1008.

Maine Celebrates 100

The 100th annual convention of the Maine Fraternal Association was held at the Holiday Inn at Waterville October 24-26. Guests enjoyed socializing, singing along with Gene Monahan, the cash bar, and lots of conversation and laughter.

President Carson Wood opened the Saturday morning session with a welcome for everyone, followed by keynote speaker Chris Gray. Wood delivered the president's message, and vice president Mel Clarrage presented a year-end review. Elections of officers and a business meeting followed. New officers are: Brian Higgins, president; Bruce Archer, vice president; Deborah DeLong, recording secretary; Patricia Monahan, corresponding secretary; and Mark Sinclair and Lynne Alciere, board members.

Lunch was served. George Guidall, a professional theatrical actor and recorded book reader, explained the finer points of the craft, along with demonstrations of some of his work. This was a premium presentation, enjoyed by all.

Becky Barnes from Guiding Eyes presented an informative session on conflict resolution. Graham Buck, also from Guiding Eyes, brought a demo dog named Oates for all to try. Oates is a male black lab, with a quiet, calm personality. Oates, having extraordinary qualities, will go into specialized service, above and beyond the duties of a regular guide dog.

Other exhibitors were Harold "Bud " Lewis from the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired; the Iris Networks; Steve Sawczyn displaying technology; and Mike Moran from The Seeing Eye.

After a short break, a dinner banquet was served followed by the opening of a cash bar. Mary and David Crocker provided live and recorded music and karaoke. On Sunday morning, breakfast was served. Gary Crocker, a Maine humorist, brought the convention to a close with everyone rolling out of their seats in hearty laughter. The convention adjourned at 11 a.m.

We want to extend a special thank-you to Leona McKenna and Deborah DeLong for all of their hard work. The great success of this convention couldn't have happened without you.

New Listserv for Council of Families with Visual Impairment

CFVI, a special-interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, is excited to announce the formation of a new computer listserv, [email protected]. This list is a place to discuss issues of interest and importance to all family members as they relate to vision loss. You can subscribe to the list by sending a blank message to [email protected].

The "Ernest Challenge" Has Been Given: Who Will Step Up to the Plate and Match It?
by Berl Colley

On November 8, 2003, Terry Atwater, president of the Capital City Council of the Blind, located in Olympia, Wash., delivered a check for $1,000 to ACB treasurer Ardis Bazyn. "This is a challenge grant to all local and state affiliates of the American Council of the Blind. The brainchild of CCCB member Gary Ernest, it is a way for all of us within ACB to assist with the great educational and advocacy programs of our national organization," Atwater explained. Hopefully, Atwater's gift from his chapter of the Washington Council of the Blind will be the first of many that ACB will receive.



The contents of this column are a reflection of the letters we had received at the time of publication, December 15, 2003. We received so many letters during October and November that this column reflects only a representative sample of our mail. We hope to include additional letters from those which were received in the next issue of the magazine. Opinions expressed are those of the authors, not those of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. "The Braille Forum" is not responsible for the opinions expressed herein. 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.

About Charlie Crawford's Resignation
October 26, 2003

Dear Readers of the Forum:

I am writing today for two reasons. First, I would like to express my appreciation for all Charlie Crawford has done as ACB executive director. On issues ranging from pedestrian safety, access to information, expanding employment opportunities to video description, Charlie eloquently represented us before the powers that be in Washington. Charlie also showed the membership that he was willing to try to help any of us with our own struggles. Finally, "News Notes from the National Office" provided a good summary of what ACB staff had been doing for the past week.

Second, I would like to express my concern over the factors that led to Charlie's resignation. He is said to have left due to "irreconcilable philosophical differences" between himself and Chris Gray. I find it appalling that Charlie and Chris could not work together. It also bothers me that much of the negotiations that went on between Charlie and the board of directors took place during executive sessions. Now the board says they can't discuss what happened. I never knew that "philosophical differences" could be so sensitive as to warrant executive session. When some of us expressed our concerns on ACB's e-mail discussion list and demanded to know exactly what those "philosophical differences" were, we were told by members of the board to "get over it."

While I understand that it is sometimes necessary for the board to use executive session, I think they went too far in this case. While I don't expect to learn all of the details of what went on in eight recent executive sessions, I do expect to learn just exactly what the "philosophical differences" were that caused us to lose a top-notch executive director. Without this information, I will not be in a good position to cast my votes in future elections for board members and officers. If one is to choose leaders intelligently, one must know something about their management styles. Information concerning viewpoints of our leaders will make us all better informed about just exactly where they stand.

I am not content to just sit back and trust that what has been done is best for ACB. Perhaps I'll reach that conclusion if given more information about just what the heck has been going on in the past few months. If such information is not forthcoming, then I have no choice but to urge that we elect leaders who are willing to be more open with the membership of ACB.

-- Bob Hachey, Waltham, Mass.

Good Man, Great Leader and 'The Braille Free Press'

There have been some strong discussions on phone trees, listservs and other media related to the resignation of Charlie Crawford. Most important, we the membership wish to know what circumstances led up to that resignation. Some members have even called for the creation of an Internet version of "The Braille Free Press."

We need not built an Internet "Braille Free Press." It is right here! It is in the pages of "The Braille Forum" -- if members take advantage of the pages of our magazine, and if their voices are not silenced, but allowed to flow forth in our grand tradition of free expression.

It is said that it is more difficult to be a good man than to become a great leader. Charlie Crawford has shown us he is and can be both. Charlie is a humble man, not in that he is a lesser man, but rather because he values the ideas of all. He sees merit in people, even through some of their quirks.

This humility has made him a great leader in the truest sense of that word. Charlie never tells us that we have to do this or that. He shows us how to do it for ourselves or how to accomplish a task through collaboration. That is the empowerment model of leadership.

False leaders demand fealty, loyalty and subservience without any exceptions. False leaders cannot accept inquiry, let alone advice or recommendations from the rank and file, as they are so insecure. Very false leaders seek to stifle inquiry, for they fear only for their positions and altars of ego.

Charlie's heart has always been a spot where everyone has a place. So is ACB in general. Charlie has taught us this. He has not resisted questions. He answers them. He has not resisted being approachable. He has always been a phone call or e-mail away. And he always responds personally. He has never responded with defensiveness or deflections. Instead, he has responded with forthrightness. He has responded with action.

Now I suggest that all ACB patriots use this "Braille Free Press:" the e-mailing lists, phone trees, ACB Radio and all of our media, to build the truth, to engage our leaders of all stripes in the truth. To honor the truth just as Charlie Crawford always has.

I urge rank-and-file members to remember that Charlie has said that he is a member of this great organization first, foremost and always. Our power is derived from its members. Each has a voice and substantial contributions to make. That is what Charlie Crawford taught us.

-- Joe Harcz, Kalamazoo, Mich.

Asking Questions and Seeking Answers

Dear Editor and ACB family members:

I have been observing with consternation the unfolding of the events swirling around ACB for the past month. While I understand that we are a pluralistic organization, there are some troubling aspects to this whole situation which I would like to put into perspective. I plan to ask some hard questions in the hope that people will stop and examine this situation. Why has some of the flailing about been based on personalities and camouflaged itself in not having information? Only now are people thinking they did not have information. How free is speech if we don't have respect for each other's point of view? Whose interests are we upholding if we keep suspecting a personnel decision any board of directors is entitled to take?

Why do many membership organizations have long discussions about giving out membership lists? How involved should the membership be in personnel decisions? Are folks who are concerned about the process aware that public debate hurts the credibility of this organization, when we have this kind of disrespect for our elected leaders?

Some people believe that the resignation of Charlie Crawford was some isolated event in time. Again, let's remind ourselves of history. Tensions between board and staff have been apparent for some time now. I have been friendly with board and staff over my many years in ACB. I have always understood that the board sets policy, and the staff implements that policy. Who owns the process? When Oral Miller left, did anyone think that was strange? Did anyone ask any questions? Our communications have become increasingly complex and over many new platforms, so now it is easier for all of us to interact with each other. Some perception as simple as the sharing of minutes has been distorted. Many people forgot that minutes only went to the board members in the Paul Edwards administration. In those years, some board members undoubtedly shared these minutes with their own affiliates. Now, Donna Seliger, for the first time, in accordance with the ACB constitution, is sending the minutes out to every affiliate president. We forget history, and in our rush to blame and name, some assume that a tighter lid is being kept on communications.

The national office staff and board have been relatively stable for a couple of years. When did some of you start lacking confidence in this board?

An incident occurred at mid-year in 2003. A meeting occurred concerning the future of ACB, and Charlie Crawford and others raised concerns over the Dohmen case, and that board decision. That discussion oozed over to the leadership list. I was quite surprised at the emotion generated and displayed through my screen reader!

Finally, this July it seemed that the public discord had reached its zenith. Many elections were contested, and people decided whose leadership styles and what priorities they would endorse for two years. Amendments and resolutions were hotly debated, and almost seemed to be a referendum on the perceptions members had about ACB. Three amendments were proposed to augment the purview of the board of publications, and appeared to diminish the board. Another amendment tried to clarify the role of the national office staff in entering into debate. Crawford was very concerned about the impact of this amendment, and said as much on the convention floor.

The other backdrop during July 2003 was that Christopher Gray won re-election by the widest margin of any candidate running in last year's election. Was that an accident, or the will of the membership?

It is ironic that the discussion is about what people knew, why they didn't know, and why they should have known. Why do we want control over all things? Is it reasonable to want to know everything our leaders do?

We need to get beyond the emotionally charged language, and be reasonable communicators. We saw some real dialogue in the two phone calls President Gray arranged for 20 members of the ACB- Leadership e-mail discussion list, unduplicated each time. Forty people participated in these calls. Some who have expressed regret and doubt in recent e-mail messages never requested participation on these calls. Winter is nearing, and the winds are blowing colder. The temperature is dropping. It's a good thing, because the pot was kept on the stove for too long, and our house was in danger of burning down. Let the pot cool, and stop calling the kettle black if you're the one whistling.

-- Lynne Koral, Anchorage, Alaska

Zenith VCRs No Longer Available?

Dear Editor:

There is something I want to tell you about that readers of "The Braille Forum" should be aware of. I just found out early this summer that the Speak Easy talking VCR from Zenith hasn't been available for at least two years. The one I have now was in the shop getting repaired, and I was able to get it fixed. If something happens to it again and I am unable to get it fixed I will be out of luck.

I checked around several places such as Speak to me, Circuit City, Sears and Fred Meyers and they don't have them anymore. It seems every time manufacturers come up with something like the talking VCR, it is on the market for awhile and then it is discontinued. This is the second time this has happened to me; the first time was when Sharp Electronics came out with the first talking VCR.

Will someone come up with a talking DVD player and a talking DVD recorder?

I think that blind people should write to the manufacturers who make products such as VCRs and cell phones and tell them to make their products accessible to people who are blind, so we can run the products we need independently with instructions in braille, cassette tape and computer diskette without sighted help.

Thanks for including my letter in the magazine.

-- Joan Ladeburg, Seattle, Wash.


In order to assure the expression of diverse opinions, and to most effectively utilize limited magazine space, the board of publications has adopted these guidelines for the "Letters to the Editor" column effective with the February 2004 issue of "The Braille Forum."

1. To be considered for publication, each letter must include a verifiable name, address, and appropriate contact information. Only the name, city, and state of the author will be published.

2. The "Letters to the Editor" column shall not exceed five large print pages, and will be published only on a space- available basis.

3. No single letter shall exceed 300 words; longer letters will be edited.

4. The subject matter of "Letters to the Editor" shall be as diverse as possible, and shall reflect a proportional representation of letters received; redundancy should be avoided.

5. Though disagreement with an individual or a policy of the organization is acceptable, no letter shall contain defamatory or abusive language, or accuse others of conduct that is dishonest, immoral, unlawful, or otherwise unethical.


by Ralph Sanders

By the time you read this, you may have already heard ACB's most recent public service announcements on an ABC or ESPN radio network, or someone will have mentioned them to you. The broad- based airing of our announcements represents a major success for ACB. We are excited to open new avenues for communicating to the American public our view of blindness and our willingness to provide support to anyone who needs information or encouragement. I believe this may be the first time ACB public service announcements have been distributed via a national radio network.

The three public service announcements were developed through a joint effort of the membership committee, the board of publications and the public relations committee over nearly two years. The project was initiated in late 2001 by Pam Shaw, then chair of the membership committee. An early version of the announcements was played at the Houston convention, and membership feedback was sought. The three committees continued to work collaboratively over the next two years. Then, last summer, the announcements were aired on America's first commercial radio station, KDKA, in Pittsburgh.

The theme of the PSAs is "The American Council of the Blind Forging New Frontiers for our Future." The spots were produced by Chuck Adkins, a blind professional announcer, under the direction of Jonathan Mosen, then ACB Radio director. While writing and producing these spots took quite a while to accomplish, we clearly have an impressive product that was well worth the wait.

We are encouraging members of affiliates and local chapters to use the transcripts of the announcements as a working draft to develop local spots to be submitted to local stations.

It is a widely held belief among many members that it is difficult for us to make a major difference because of the lack of funding for projects. It is important for everyone to know that the three spots developed in this campaign were accomplished with less than $500 of treasury expenses by the ACB.

Please note that the wording in the transcript below may not completely match the wording in the recorded version of the announcements because of the need, during production, to comply with time constraints.

Public service announcement one

Do you have trouble distinguishing between a twenty and a ten-dollar bill in dim light? Are you having difficulty reading the newspaper? Are you experiencing severe vision loss? Or, do you know anyone who is?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the American Council of the Blind can help you.

We are blind and visually impaired people from every walk of life who work together to enhance our lives.

For more information, or a membership application, call (800) 424-8666 or contact us online at The American Council of the Blind Forging new frontiers for our future

Public service announcement two

"I am sorry but your baby is blind," the doctor says. "The problem is your child cannot see well enough to keep up with classroom work," the teacher says. These are words a parent never wants to hear.

It doesn't have to be the end of the world. The American Council of the Blind is here for you and your child. With a national network of state and local chapters, the American Council of the Blind can make sure that you meet people who understand blindness. We will ensure your child meets blind people who have succeeded in getting their education and who work as lawyers, teachers, automobile mechanics and in virtually every other profession.

For more information, or a membership application, call (800) 424-8666, or contact us online at The American Council of the Blind Forging new frontiers for our future

Public service announcement three

We are the American Council of the Blind. We are blind and visually impaired men and women who come from every community within our country. We are tall, short, old, and young. Some of us are athletes and some of us are couch potatoes while most of us are somewhere in between. We reflect every ethnic, religious and racial group within our society.

Some of us who received quality education and sound training are working successfully in virtually every profession -- psychologists, auto mechanics, administrators, computer analysts, cooks and engineers. We are the American Council of the Blind working to ensure the right to opportunity for education, training, employment and a meaningful life for all Americans, including those of us who are blind or who have significant vision loss.

For more information, contact us by phone at (800) 424-8666 or join us on our web site at The American Council of the Blind Forging new frontiers for our future


by Berl Colley

Yes, your ACB convention tours committee is looking, very favorably I might add, at as many as five possible convention tours for next summer's convention week, July 3-10, 2004, in Birmingham. No contracts have been signed yet, but we're close to concluding our negotiations, so strap on a seat belt -- here we go!

A Day of Looking Toward Space Frontiers, and Remembering Our Past

A pre-convention tour to Huntsville, Alabama is being planned for Friday, July 2. We'll take a bus northward to Huntsville, where we'll visit the Space and Rocket Center, which features a great interactive facility with an array of space memorabilia that most of us can relate to, from our collective awareness of their news-making space work over the last 40 years. Even the first monkey to be shot into space is buried there. You'll be able to see the first lunar module and a full-sized (363 feet long) Jupiter rocket. Those who care to try it can even experience a simulated blastoff. There is a 67-foot-high IMAX screen, where we'll view a 45-minute film, and there's a mock-up of the inside of the Space Lab that is currently being manned. There are several gift shops on site.

After lunch at the Space and Rocket Center, we will be going over to Tuscumbia to tour Ivy Green, the birth place of Helen Keller. After a tour and a delicious dinner, we will have front- row seats at Ivy Green's outdoor amphitheater for a production of "The Miracle Worker." There is also a gift shop at Ivy Green.

We'll Take David Trott at His Word And ...

Ride in a race car? I'm sure that many remember when David, President of the Alabama affiliate, rose on the convention floor last summer in Pittsburgh to promise us a ride in a NASCAR vehicle. Well, David is almost as good as his word, as anyone who wants to try it can have a ride in one of the NASCAR pace cars.

Yep! On Saturday, July 3, join us as we head south to Talladega to visit the NASCAR museum and race track. There will be lots of old race cars to view and hear about, plus a bus ride around the two-and-a-half-mile oval where we can investigate the degree of slant in the curves, the pits and other sites that we may have wondered about while listening to broadcasts of car races. Those who are really adventurous may have the opportunity to ride in a pace car at nearly 100 miles an hour. The tour includes a plated lunch and there is a large gift shop here also. We are hoping to add a tour of the Honda or Mercedes-Benz plant, but have nothing in place yet. Remembering the Struggle for Civil Rights, And Honoring Fallen Heroes

We are putting together a moving and soul-searching civil rights tour for Friday afternoon, to be repeated on Saturday, July 3, and later during the week. We will visit the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church where four little girls were killed when a bomb went off in the basement of the church on Sunday, September 15, 1963. After paying our respects, we will cross the street and visit the Civil Rights Institute for an educational tour of sights and sounds from civil rights actions. The tour will conclude at the Civil Rights Statuary Park, where a variety of action settings are depicted.

City Tours

Of course, we are also working to put together a couple of city tours of Birmingham. This largest city in Alabama is home to several colleges and universities, and has a long and rich history within the old and new South.

The tours listed here are just a start. We're also investigating planes, trains, movie settings, Alabama services, a comedy theater, sports museum, a spy and natural history museum, tactile art and a wonderful fun place that re-creates an 18th century community. We will talk in more detail about these tours as they are finalized in future issues of the "Forum."

So, now you know just how much there is to look forward to in Birmingham, in addition to ACB business, special-interest affiliate meetings, an exhibit hall, and meeting and greeting friends old and new. Be sure to reserve your room at the Birmingham Sheraton, (800) 325-3535 or (205) 324-5000. The summer will be here before you know it!


by Ralph Sanders

The National Educational and Legal Defense Services for the Blind (NELDS) continues to work to support attendance at the ACB convention while raising funds to assist blind and visually impaired individuals to gain rights through educational and legal activities.

NELDS is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization which is dedicated to assisting blind and visually impaired individuals to gain their rights guaranteed by the Constitution, or federal and state laws. The organization works to support programs and activities of the ACB, explains board president Charlie Hodge. NELDS was founded in the early 1990s by Durward McDaniel.

The 11-member board of directors includes Charlie Hodge, chair of the board of publications, ACB President Chris Gray, ACB immediate past president Paul Edwards, ACB first vice president Steve Speicher, ACB secretary Donna Seliger, Margarine Beaman of Texas, Terri Lynne Pomeroy of Utah, Carla Ruschival from Kentucky, Ralph Sanders from Washington, Sandy Sanderson of Alaska and Jeff Thom from California.

NELDS holds an annual drawing at the end of the ACB mid-year board meeting. First prize is round trip airfare for two to the site of the upcoming annual convention. Second prize is a hotel room at the convention for five days stay. Third prize is two tickets to the ACB banquet.

To become eligible for the 2004 prizes, make a $5 contribution to NELDS. For more information, please contact Ralph Sanders at (360) 892-9229, or Donna Seliger at (515) 284- 0505.


by Sarah Blake

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.


The ACB Store is ready to take your orders for fully accessible versions of "People of Vision: a History of the American Council of the Blind" by James and Marjorie Megivern. The book is available in two versions: braille and cassette. Supplies of the braille version are extremely limited; so if you think you would like a braille copy, order immediately. The cassette edition is a nicely repackaged set of tapes with the same narration as the NLS edition.

The braille edition (9 volumes) sells for the price of the hardcover print book, $43.95. The cassette edition (5 tapes) sells for the price of the paperback book, $30.95. Orders can be shipped by the store within 7-14 days. To contact the ACB Store, call toll-free 1-877-367-2224.


This one's for all of you who ordered convention tapes. Due to a duplicator breakdown, the tapes are still a work in progress. Tapes will be mailed out as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we deal with this technical difficulty.

It's not too late to order the tapes. A full set costs $35; individual tapes, $6. Send your payment to: Attn: Convention Tapes, ACB, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005.


"The Ragged Edge: The Disability Experience from the Pages of the First Fifteen Years of The Disability Rag," edited by Barrett Shaw, is an anthology of articles from the magazine. To order the anthology online, visit Or you may mail your order to: The Advocado Press, Box 145, Louisville, KY 40201. Fax credit card orders to: (502) 899-9562.


Chrissy Laws is editing a book on nature and visual impairment. She is seeking stories from blind or visually impaired writers about enjoying nature through gardening, camping, or any other nature-oriented activity. Articles should be from 1,000 to 3,000 words. Contributors will earn $25 for the first 1,000 words and $0.01 for each additional word. For more information, please send queries to Chrissy by January 15 at [email protected].


The Association of Blind Citizens will offer $20,000 in college scholarships to blind or visually impaired individuals seeking a college degree. The Reggie Johnson Memorial Scholarship will be valued at $3,000; three $2,000 scholarships and an additional 11 $1,000 scholarships will be available for the 2004-2005 school year. The scholarship may be applied to tuition, living expenses or related expenses resulting from vision impairment.

To download the application online, visit


RFB&D's Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards (SAA) are given annually to nine blind or visually impaired seniors at four-year U.S. colleges or universities. The Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Awards (LTL) are presented annually to six high school seniors with learning disabilities. Awards monies total more than $50,000. The top three winners in each category are honored at an annual gala.

The NAA program is open to active RFB&D members who have been registered for at least one year prior to the deadline -- either individually or through their schools -- and who have demonstrated outstanding scholarship, leadership, enterprise and service to others. Applications are now available; the application deadline is February 20, 2004.

For additional information about RFB&D's membership programs, National Achievement Award eligibility criteria or to request an award application, call RFB&D's Member Services Department toll-free at 1-800-732-3585. Or visit the web site at


Sylvie Kashdan would appreciate hearing from blind people who have used or examined the new tactile New York City transit maps. Please share your impressions of these maps, including how easy they are to understand and how useful they are. Write to her in braille or print at 810-A Hiawatha Place South, Seattle, WA 98144, or e-mail at [email protected].


National Exhibits by Blind Artists is seeking blind artists for its juried exhibition in fall 2004 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Slides are due no later than February 27, 2004. For more information, write to NEBA, 919 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107, or call for a prospectus, 1-800-222-1754 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern, or call (215) 925-3213 and leave a message.


"Beyond the Stares" is a book for children and adolescents written by siblings of children with disabilities. It is a chronicle of their stories and a place for their collective messages to be shared with others. Adults looking for guidance and children looking for shared experiences will read powerful and touching stories. As they read, siblings can express their experiences by starting their own personal journal entries on pages that are designated just for that purpose. It costs $12.95. Order online from


Guideposts Magazine was founded in 1945 by the renowned Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and his wife, Ruth Stafford Peale. Although it has been available in regular and large print, the braille edition was discontinued several years ago. Responding to the overwhelming cry from readers, Clovernook has made the braille edition available for $7 per year. For more information, contact Clovernook, 7000 Hamilton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45231-5297; phone 1-888-234-7156 or (513) 522-3860 (voice and TDD), or e-mail [email protected].


In an effort to provide blind folks from any organization with a place to discuss democracy and democratic principles and how to build a more perfect democracy within your group, Charles Crawford has formed the blind-democracy e-mail list. For more information about the list, visit

Blindadoptiveparents is a forum for parents who have been through or are currently going through the adoption process. Being able to find each other and share information and support is vital, as the adoption process can bring some unique challenges and changes to our lives. To subscribe to this group, please send mail to blindadoptiveparents- [email protected]. If you are not an adoptive parent but wish to provide support, please do join us.

Anyone who is a member of ACB Radio Amateurs is welcome to join the ACBRA e-mail list. You may do so via the ACB web page, or by sending a message to [email protected].

Speak-easy is a list for discussion of current events and controversial issues. Some of the content discussed on this list will be adult in nature and intelligent discussions of sex and sexuality are welcome on the list. To subscribe, send a blank message to [email protected].


ACB Radio founder Jonathan Mosen has returned to the Internet airwaves, this time on Big Planet Radio. The new look Mosen Explosion radio show includes elements of Jonathan's past popular shows, such as interviews, technology reviews, music, and plenty of interaction from listeners. For more information, visit


Quality, affordable braille writer repair! Only $45 for complete service plus parts when needed. Contact Daniel Simpson, 11400 Ward Road, Guthrie, OK 73044; phone (405) 282-3542 or (405) 640-9706, e-mail [email protected].


Antiqued silver-finish braille alphabet bracelets are available from National Braille Press for $28.50. These bracelets (from At First Sight) are made of small individual tiles. Each tile represents a letter -- braille on the front, and engraved type on the back. The tiles are separated by simple, straight spacers on a stretch bracelet. You can leave your bracelet as is, or take it apart and restring it as a bracelet or necklace of your own creation, using different letters for initials, names or words. To order online, visit or e-mail your order to [email protected]. To order offline, send payment to: NBP, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115-4302, or call toll-free 1-800-548-7323 or (617) 266-6160 extension 20.


Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company is a student-operated business specializing in braille fortune cookies. The cookies are also available with large print fortunes. You may customize the cookies to fit your event. Place your order by calling Judith Lesner at (510) 794-3800, extension 300. All orders will go out by priority mail. If items are in stock, allow two weeks from the day your payment is received. Customized orders require a week longer.

Shipping and handling charges vary. For more information, write to: Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company, 500 Walnut Ave., Fremont, CA 94536.


Sue Slater has accepted a position with a home-based travel agency, where she will continue her work making cruises accessible for people who are blind. For information on upcoming cruises throughout 2004, call Sue at (314) 726-6893, or e-mail her at [email protected].


The new catalog from Horizons for the Blind includes a collection of shaped pans for cakes and molds, including a stand- up snowman, Santa Claus 3-D cake pan, and seven more. The catalog also includes two new cookbooks from Weight Watchers, one containing 123 recipes for slow cookers, and three new books that delve into the Great Depression. To order this free catalog, call (815) 444-8800 (voice/TDD); fax (815) 444-8830; or e-mail [email protected]. Please specify whether you prefer braille, large print, or audio cassette format.


The Georgian Bay Success Academy seeks qualified success counselors for its personal growth/life skills program. The academy empowers students to achieve their personal and financial goals through active learning and participation in its curriculum. Individuals who choose to enroll as students of the Academy are eligible to become success coaches. Individualized and group training are provided on an ongoing basis. For further information, contact Barbara Blejewski, Success Coach, at (860) 721-8601, or via e-mail, [email protected].



FOR SALE: Freedom Scientific Millennium 40 note taker. Just over a year old; in excellent condition. Comes with all standard accessories and the latest version 4.1 software. Asking $3,800. Contact John Glass via e-mail, [email protected] or call him at (408) 741-1034.

FOR SALE: Perkins braille writer, recently serviced and cleaned. About 20 years old. In A1 condition. Asking $300. Contact Carol & Bob Taylor by phone, (412) 824-5929, or by e- mail, [email protected].

FOR SALE: Reconditioned brailler with soft cover. Asking $400 plus shipping. Insul-gauges in a variety of sizes as well as a couple of Medi-Coolers and a couple of custom-made wooden jewelry cases to house the gauges. All for $125 or $5 for each gauge. The Bible on records; make offer. Call Robert Ziegler at (763) 537-8000 or e-mail him, [email protected].

FOR SALE: 5 DECtalk PC units, $75 each. 2 DECtalk Express external units, $150 each. All these devices were purchased 5 to 7 years ago. The DECtalk Express units have seen very little use. Contact Robert Gates, Arizona Center for the Blind, (602) 273- 7411 ext. 128. Will take Visa through PayPal. Shipping by UPS at actual costs.

FOR SALE: JAWS for Windows Professional version 4.02 with key disk. Not upgradable to higher versions of JAWS. Works great in Windows 98, Me, NT, and 2000 Professional. Asking $225. Dolphin's Supernova HAL screen reader and Lunar magnifier combo version 4.5. Works on Windows 98, Me, NT, and Windows 2000 Professional. Asking $400. Magic screen magnifier version 8 with key disk for Windows 98, Me, and XP Home Edition. Asking $100. Shipping included. Call Jake at (832) 483-3216 or e-mail him at [email protected].

FOR SALE: HP Pavilion laptop, state of the art, new in October 2003, 2.6 GHZ Pentium 4, 512 MB RAM, 60 GB hard drive, DVD/CD/RW, 17-inch SXVGA display, full-size keyboard with keypad, Windows XP and Office XP with Word and more, includes installed newest versions of JAWS 5.0 and Kurzweil 7.02, integrated wireless, 4 USB ports, flash card reader built in, infrared, awesome sound, 2500+ digital songs library, includes classic literature CD with thousands of titles, thin and lightweight, transferrable one-year warranty and 24/7 tech support from HP, all original HP disks and box, whole package valued at more than $5,000, yours for $2,500 or best offer. E-mail [email protected] or call (571) 276-6085.

FOR SALE: Braille Lite M20 in good condition but not currently under maintenance agreement. Comes with computer cables and braille manual. Asking $2,500 or best offer. Contact Tamara Rorie at [email protected] or (404) 298-8771.

FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak 640 with external disk drive, all manuals and all cables. Updated to a June 2002 revision; also has a new battery. Asking $800. Contact Russell Romine at (316) 655-7904, or e-mail him, [email protected].

FOR SALE: Enabling Technologies Romeo 25 braille printer, in great shape, with case and all cords. Call Carlos at (785) 608- 5302 or send e-mail to [email protected].

FOR SALE: Artic TransType with quick charger. Hardly used. Asking $500 or best offer. Contact Judith Hawley at (816) 257- 2534 or e-mail [email protected].

FOR SALE: VTEC Voyager VR1 electronic reading machine. Recently rebuilt; in excellent condition. Asking $400 plus shipping and insurance. Call Bill at (847) 341-7155 between 2 and 8 p.m. Chicago time, or e-mail [email protected].

FOR SALE: Optelec ClearView 300 black-and-white on-screen magnifier. One year old and in mint condition; barely used. Manuals included. Asking $1,500. Contact Donnie Williams at (770) 985-3100 or by e-mail, [email protected].

FOR SALE: IBM computer with 15-inch monitor, Windows 95, Netzero Internet service, CD and floppy disk drives, Acrobat Reader 5.0, and JAWS 4.5 installed. This is a Pentium I with 32 megabytes RAM. Asking $250. Canon BJC-2100 series printer in mint condition, all cables included. Asking $50. Contact Danny Thompson at (601) 366-0514 or write him at 3430 Albemarle Rd. #C- 313, Jackson, MS 39213.

FOR SALE: Lens for an Optacon. Asking $350 (negotiable). Call Arlene at (510) 849-0721; leave a message. Or e-mail [email protected].

FOR SALE: Braille Lite 40 and external disk drive. Both in excellent condition. Includes serial, parallel, and disk drive cables, manuals on disk, charger, carrying cases for both. June 15, 2002 software update. Can be hooked to a braille embosser or printer. Asking $3,000 plus shipping. Contact Jim Barker at (520) 299-3644 evenings/weekends 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 $150. 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].

FREE TO GOOD HOME: Baby and Child Care, 13 braille volumes. Send an e-mail message to Tracy at [email protected] and put "braille book" in the subject line. Be sure to give her your name and how to get in contact with you.

WANTED: Donation of Perkins brailler in good working order. Contact Rosemir Rodriguez at (925) 787-6868 or e-mail him at [email protected].

WANTED: Braille or cassette dictionary. Contact MaryLou Potgeter at (269) 341-9590, or write her in braille or on tape at 710 Collins, Apt. 910, Kalamazoo, MI 49001.

WANTED: Magic, Vista or ZoomText screen enlarging software. Computer. Contact Anna Wills at (703) 671-6524.

WANTED: Optacons and/or accessories. Call John Lombardo at (516) 872-8911.

WANTED: Sharp Talking Time clocks. Call Scott at (573) 442- 0000.



825 M ST., SUITE 216


3912 SE 5TH ST

500 S. 3RD ST. #H

Paul Edwards
20330 NE 20th Ct.
Miami, FL 33179


Jerry Annunzio
Kansas City, MO
Alan Beatty
Fort Collins, CO
Ed Bradley
Houston, TX
Brian Charlson
Watertown, MA
Billie Jean Keith
Arlington, VA
Oral Miller
Washington, DC
Mitch Pomerantz
Los Angeles, CA
Carla Ruschival
Louisville, KY
Patrick Sheehan
Silver Spring, MD


Charles Hodge, Chairperson
Arlington, VA
Adrian De Blaey
Milwaukee, WI
Winifred Downing
San Francisco, CA
Mike Duke
Jackson, MS
Ken Stewart
Warwick, NY
Ex Officios: Earlene Hughes,
Lafayette, IN
Ralph Sanders,
Vancouver, WA

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