News from the Federation Family
On Saturday, November 15, 2003, the NFB of Arizona's East Valley Chapter held its annual election. The following people were elected: president, Mark Feliz; first vice president, Mary Hartle-Smith; second vice president, Connie Ryan; secretary, Tony Sohl; treasurer, Tom O'Brien; and Carol Scarlat and Mark Hamblin, board members.
Rosa Maria Elizabeth Andrews
David Andrews maintains NFBnet.org and many of our listservs. He and his wife Michele, who live in Minnesota, joyfully announce their adoption of Rosa Maria Elizabeth. The proud parents and big brother Carlos welcomed Rosa from Guatemala shortly before Christmas. She was ten months old at the time she came home to stay. Congratulations to the entire Andrews family.
David and Michele Andrews with son Carlos
On October 25, 2003, the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania held its annual elections. The following were elected: Denice Brown, president; Leon Conaway, first vice president; Patrick Comorato, second vice president; Karen Comorato, recording secretary; Yvonne Mason, treasurer; and Russell Smith, Doris Tunstall, Ann Walters, and Willie McDuffy, board members.
Charlie Brown, president, and Seville Allen, first vice president of the NFB of Virginia, recently prepared a notice for the Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia. Here are excerpts:
Robert (Mac) McDonald, December 21, 1918, to January 3, 2004
On January 3, 2004, the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia turned the last page in a chapter of a long history of Federation leadership when Robert (Mac) McDonald died. Barely two weeks earlier his Federation colleagues had joined to celebrate his eighty-fifth birthday.
Mac was one of the four founders of our Virginia affiliate. In May of 1957 these four brave blind people met to begin what would change the lives of the blind of Virginia for the next three generations.
When Mac, his wife Marion (deceased), Jimmy Nelson (deceased), and Lydia Stuples of Harrisonburg met that spring day, the blind of Virginia faced a bleak future. Colonel Watts ran the Commission, which was supposed to serve the blind, but instead the blind served Watts. Opportunities for blind people were limited by his opinions, and he denied commission services to any blind person who crossed him. Needless to say, these four people made sacrifices that those of us who came into the Federation during the seventies and beyond cannot fathom.
Mac taught us how discrimination and ignorance affected the blind, denying him and his colleagues jobs and even the right to raise a family. He taught us how to work to improve our lives and to understand the prices paid, and he taught us how to reach for the stars and dream of what we wanted to be instead of confining our futures to society's limited ideas.
As our first state president Mac received our affiliate's NFB charter at the 1958 national convention. Soon thereafter, when some tried to tear the Federation apart, Mac was a staunch supporter of our Federation philosophy, Federation unity, and the elected Federation leadership. Long after his distinguished service as our state president, Mac continued to mentor his Federation children in various other positions, including as president of our Potomac Chapter. He mediated differences and always reminded us of the historic perspective and how far we had come on our road to equality. He also well understood the importance of building membership and developing new leaders.
We will miss his wisdom, wit, and most of all his guidance. He laid the foundation for changing what it means to be blind in Virginia.
The Des Moines Chapter of the NFB of Iowa held its annual election at its January chapter meeting. Elected were Peggy Chong, president; Joy Harris, vice president; Mike Barber, secretary; Roger Erpelding, treasurer; and board members Sandi Ryan, Dave Helm, and Merry-Noel Chamberlain.
On December 27, 2003, longtime Federation leader Barbara Walker and Lincoln chapter member Brad Loos were married in Lincoln, Nebraska, where the couple plan to live. Congratulations and best wishes to the Looses.
New Software Program Helps Blind Voters
Cast Ballots in Democratic Caucuses
by Kathy Barks Hoffman, AP Political Writer
Ever since he began voting, Fred Wurtzel has needed someone to help him read a ballot and mark his choices. But computer software that reads the list of Democrats running for president aloud will enable Wurtzel and others who are visually impaired to vote privately for the first time using the Internet.
Wurtzel demonstrated the software Wednesday during a news conference at the Library of Michigan. "I've never yet voted with a totally secret ballot. This is a groundbreaking event in my life," said Wurtzel, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan. He added that the Michigan Democratic Party's decision to offer Internet voting and to set up the special software has made the February 7 presidential caucuses the most accessible election for the blind in Michigan history.
"The measures taken in this caucus to assist blind voters and others with disabilities further the Michigan Democratic Party's long‑standing commitment to making voting easier for all voters," said party executive chairman Mark Brewer. "We hope that future elections in Michigan will follow the steps taken by the MDP, increasing greater access to all voters."
Visually impaired voters will still need the help of a sighted person to fill out a ballot application and to read them their ballot user name and access code once that information is mailed to them by the party, Brewer said. But once they sign onto the party's Internet voting site, the software gives them verbal [oral] prompts on when to enter their user name and access code, plus information on their date of birth and city of birth. All voters casting their votes over the Internet will be asked for that information as a security measure. The ballot then will appear on the screen, and the candidates' names will be read, allowing visually impaired voters to select one. Voters also will be able to cast a vote for a write‑in candidate or say they are uncommitted.
Richard Bernstein, a Farmington Hills lawyer whose vision is impaired, said the party's efforts show that "What is good for the disabled is good for the general public." "This is fantastic for senior citizens," he said of the new voting method. "It's going to provide accessibility to people who have trouble voting."
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
Here are a computer you can afford and a new step-by-step computer training tutorial combining Window-Eyes and Windows 98 by Brian Hartgen on six audio cassettes. You also get a forty-page tutorial in large print for Windows 98 for those who can use the mouse. It also comes with a minitutorial on keyboarding.
The refurbished computer is a Pentium, 133 megaherz or faster, with 64 megs of RAM. It will have Windows 98, second version, with a demo copy of Window-Eyes and a freeware copy of Zoom Power, which will enlarge up to fifteen times.
It will have speakers, a 56 K dial-up modem, sound card, and a CD drive. We also include a copy of the Juno free email program. This package gives you everything you need to learn how to use a computer and enjoy free email.
A $100 investment gives you the means to surf the Net and do what your family and friends are doing. It will be a lot of work, and it will bring frustration, but you can move into cyberspace. This offer is good in the United States only. Call Bob Langford at (214) 340-6328 during business hours Central Time and get started on the mastery of this wonderful tool. This offer is for real. References provided on request.
Bookcourier Now Available:
We are pleased to announce Bookcourier, successor to the Road Runner portable digital book reader. Bookcourier is a totally accessible text-to-speech reader and MP3 player. Now you have more options than ever. As you receive it, Bookcourier can easily hold approximately 200 books of the type you get from Bookshare.org. If that's not enough memory, feel free to expand it with ordinary compact flash memory cards so that your portable book and music collection of any size can go with you anywhere.
Prefer to listen to music or spoken-word recordings of books? No problem. Bookcourier will store and play dozens of hours of recorded audio. Get instant spoken information about your audio recordings. You can hear the name of the file you are playing, the amount of progress you have made through the file, or the battery status. Bookcourier has a sleep timer, a talking clock/calendar, and even a digital voice recorder so that you can make your own spoken notes.
Bookcourier will work with your PC (Windows ME or above) to provide years of entertainment, education, and utility. The list price of Bookcourier is $379.00, and discounts are available to those using Kurzweil's K1000 software or to current subscribers of Bookshare.org.
To find out more about Bookcourier, contact <www.readingmachines.com>, or call (703) 620-1125. If you prefer, send email to <[email protected]>.
A nonprofit organization plans to publish a book on nature and visual impairment. Submissions should be between 1,000 and 3,000 words. It pays $25 for 1,000 words, and one cent per word over that for accepted manuscripts. If you have a passion for the outdoors--whether through skiing, camping, sailing, or any other nature-oriented activity--send a query to Chrissy Laws at <[email protected]>.
Attention Parents of Men and Women in the Air Force:
Your Guardians of Freedom is the office that operates the Air Force Parent Pin program. (Log on to <www.yourguardiansoffreedom.com> for additional information.) An offshoot of that program, E Pluribus Unum, offers the Air Force Parent pin and accompanying letter in 100 languages. As part of a new initiative, Braille is being added as another form that service members can request for their parents' convenience through the E Pluribus Unum program. Blind or visually impaired parents who have children or other relatives for whom they are parental figures serving in the Air Force (active duty, Guard or Reserve) can receive materials in Braille. Interested parents should contact Major LeWonnie Belcher by email at <[email protected]>, or phone (703) 692-9738.
Custom Braille and Recording Services Available:
MAB Community Services converts print documents into accessible formats for the blind, visually impaired, and physically handicapped reader. A wide variety of documents can be converted from print to either Braille or cassette. MAB Community Services specializes in everything from syllabi and class handouts to magazine articles and textbooks. Substantial savings can be made by transcribing only selected segments of texts.
Braille documents are produced on both sides of the page and either stapled or bound, depending on document size and customer preferences. Cassettes are produced using Library of Congress formatting with track announcements and tone indexing when desired.
For further information on our recording studio, contact Robert Pierson, recording studio supervisor by telephone at (617) 972-9117 or email at <[email protected]>. For information about the Braille program, contact Bob Hachey, Braille program supervisor, (617) 972-9109, email <[email protected]>. The Web site is <www.mabcommunity.org>.
Adoptive Families Needed for Waiting Vision-Impaired Children:
The World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP) is seeking loving adoptive families for beautiful waiting children from around the world. Currently we have seventeen children with various forms of vision impairment ranging from mild to significant.
WACAP has been placing children in loving adoptive homes since 1976. WACAP has adoption programs in six countries including China, Korea, India, Russia, Thailand, and the United States. Financial assistance is available for the adoption of waiting children.
Amulya is a baby girl born in December of 2002. She giggles and coos, especially when she is spoken to. She is blind and was born with a club foot, for which she has undergone surgery. Amulya is a delight to her foster family and will certainly delight her permanent family as well.
For more information about Amulya or any of the other seventeen visually impaired children, contact WACAP's Family Finders Program at (206) 575-4550 or <[email protected]>.
Retreat for Seniors Losing Vision:
Ruth Sager, coordinator of senior services at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) passes along the following invitation:
Blind Industries and Services of Maryland is hosting an adjustment-to-blindness skills training retreat especially for senior citizens at the Pearlstone Center, Reisterstown, Maryland, May 11 to 14, 2004. This is an intensive, fun-filled, four-day, three-night adjustment-to-blindness retreat. The program will emphasize nonvisual techniques in cane travel, introduction to Braille, and exploration of computer and other accessible technology. There will be frank discussions about attitudinal barriers that can prevent true adjustment to blindness with positive solutions and suggestions to overcoming these barriers.
Discover newfound freedom, gain self-esteem and confidence, learn the skills of blindness from competent blind instructors, and meet other seniors dealing with adjustment to blindness.
The cost is $300, including meals and snacks, three-night double-occupancy room, closing ceremony luncheon, and transportation from Baltimore to the Pearlstone Center (if needed). Optional are $10 closing ceremony luncheon tickets for family, friends, and guests.
For an application or further details, contact Ruth Sager at (410) 233-4567, ext. 333 or by email at <[email protected]>. Registration is limited, so apply early.
The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision is particularly eager to invite blind applicants for the position described here. The salary range is $55,000 to $72,000, depending on credentials.
(Senior Research Associate/Assistant Research Professor)
The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University is seeking applicants for the Center Training Director. Position #5149 includes managing and implementing the Center's training and dissemination program, developing proposals for external funding, managing and designing course-work/workshops both on-site and by distance education, and networking with national leaders in blindness rehabilitation to determine training needs and priorities of practitioners.
The position will be filled as an assistant research professor or as a senior research associate. Candidates for the assistant research professor rank will need a doctorate in rehabilitation counseling, rehabilitation teaching, orientation and mobility, or a closely related field, and ten years experience in blindness rehabilitation; evidence of success in securing external funding, conducting blindness-related training, and publishing in peer-reviewed or consumer publications; excellent writing skills; understanding of state-of-the-art computer access technology, distance education principles; and adult learning theory.
Candidates for the senior research associate position will need a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling, rehabilitation teaching, orientation and mobility, or a closely related field, and ten years experience in blindness rehabilitation. They will also need evidence of success in these same areas.
Salary will be negotiated based on experience. Send letter of application, resume, writing sample, three letters of reference, and copies of transcripts to Dr. Brenda Cavenaugh, Chair, Search Committee, RRTC on Blindness and Low Vision, P.O. Box 6189, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762. For further information, call (662) 325-2001. Applications will be accepted until February 16, 2004, or until the position is filled. MSU is an AA/EOE.
Choice Magazine Listening (CML) is a free service for any adult U.S. resident unable to read standard print due to loss of vision or other disability. Six times a year CML brings eight hours of unabridged selections of articles, short stories, and poetry from leading publications such as the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Esquire, Gourmet, Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, Foreign Affairs, Time, the Paris Review, Fortune, numerous literary magazines, and many more. It's all a free service of the nonprofit Lucerna Fund, which has been offering this service since 1962. The special-speed cassette playback machine required to listen to the four-track tape is also free on permanent loan from the National Library Service, Library of Congress.
Those interested in receiving a free subscription can contact Choice Magazine Listening, toll free, at (888) 724-6423, or fax (516) 944-6849. Write to Choice Magazine Listening, 85 Channel Drive, Port Washington, New York 11050. Email to <[email protected]>. The Web page is <www.choicemagazinelistening.org>. When signing up for the service, please indicate whether you already have the NLS cassette playback machine.
Telephone Email Available:
Verb Exchange has developed groundbreaking communications that harmonize long-distance calling, fax, landline, cell phone, email, and voice mail into a single easy-to-manage voice-activated system with your own 800 number. You can now send and receive email by voice using your telephone. There are no long-term contracts; service is billed month-to-month. Try it for one month and communicate in ways you never thought possible. For more information call Bruce Lumsden at Communication Solutions, (866) 248-1179.
AccessWorld Available on the Web:
AccessWorld(R): Technology and People with Visual Impairments, was relaunched as a free, Web-based magazine at <http://www.afb.org/accessworld>. AccessWorld will continue to offer the in-depth coverage of assistive technology that it's become known for, while adding new, accessible features such as "email this article to a friend" and "printer-ready" options. In addition, readers who are blind or visually impaired will now have access to "Braille embosser-ready" files that have been translated and formatted to be sent directly to their Braille printers. Issues dating back to January 2000 will also be available online.
Tales of Woe and Warning:
Cheranne Verduin, who is now attending the Louisiana Center for the Blind, recently contacted me angry and frustrated because she had found what she thought was a great deal on a Braille Lite at a very good price from a company in Florida called Computer Assistive Technologies. She found out the hard way that this company is neither a dealer nor an authorized repair service for Freedom Scientific products. Her unit stopped working, and the company would not or could not fix it. Freedom eventually did so, but at a cost of several hundred dollars. Cheranne is understandably furious and wants people to know about her experience with Computer Assistive Technologies. Now comes another letter with the request that it be published as a warning. Here it is:
To Readers of the Braille Monitor:
I run a small Brailling business and recently decided to purchase a second Braille embosser to have as a backup so my business would not be affected if my primary embosser stopped working properly. Having limited funds, I was delighted when I found a refurbished Versapoint embosser for $1,200 through a company in Florida called Computer Assistive Technologies. I contacted the owners of this company, Robert and Stephanie Brown, and on January 21, 2003, placed my order. I used my debit card to pay for this embosser, and the funds were immediately withdrawn from my account. Yet I did not receive the unit until March 3, 2003.
When the embosser finally arrived, it seemed to be in working condition; however, after a couple of weeks the embosser began to have problems and stopped working. I called the company numerous times and sent several email messages to follow up. The Browns decided the best thing to do would be to send the embosser back, and it would be repaired or serviced under their four-month warranty policy. The machine was packaged and sent back to their facility on June 5, 2003, and since then I have not heard from the company. I have attempted on numerous occasions to contact the Browns and find out where my embosser is and whether I will be issued a refund. They have refused to speak to me on the phone or return any of my email messages. I even sent them a registered letter, but they refused to accept it too.
They now have my embosser and my $1,200, and I have nothing. I am taking this opportunity to let everyone know how this company treated me and how they have decided to run their business. I do not want to see other people taken advantage of by the Browns. I have contacted the Florida State Attorney's office and was told that, unless several claims had been made, they could not do anything to prevent the Browns from continuing to do this to unsuspecting customers. I have contacted the Better Business Bureau in their area, and at this writing my complaint is under investigation.
I have since received a letter from the Better Business Bureau informing me that the Browns won't even respond to letters they have received from the BBB. I would be very interested to hear if others have had similar problems. Please feel free to contact me at (480) 345-8773 or email <[email protected]> to discuss this matter in more detail.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
Braille Bible and Hymnal Available:
I would like to give away a King James translation of the Bible and the 1964 Methodist Hymnal in Braille. I can send either one Free Matter to anyone who could use them. Contact Sherry Ruth at (440) 324-4218 or email <[email protected]>.
Hoping to Buy:
Tom Mattock is in the market for a used PacMate TNS with standard keyboard. He can be contacted at <[email protected]>.
V-Tek Voyager VR1 electronic reading machine. Recently rebuilt, in excellent condition. Asking $400 plus UPS shipping and insurance. Call Bill Porter at (847) 341-7155, 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. CST; email <[email protected]>.
Braille Inferno Braille printer in excellent condition. This machine even speaks. Asking $2,500. Call Lucia Marett at (646) 486-1649 (evenings) or (212) 341-3621 (days).
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.
1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230
City_______________________ State____________________ Zip________
Home Phone ( )_____________________ Work Phone ( )________________
I am registered with a state or private vocational rehabilitation agency for the blind. __ Yes __ No
If yes, please give name:
I am enrolled in a public school special education program for the blind or state residential school for the blind. __ Yes __ No
If yes please specify:________________________________________________
I am registered with a cooperating regional library under the program of The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress. __ Yes __ No
If yes please specify:_________________________________________________
If you answered no to all the above questions, you must include with this application a letter from one of the following certifying that you are blind.
___ Your doctor
___ Social Security Award letter
___ President of a local chapter or state affiliate of the NFB
___ Teacher of the visually impaired / O & M Instructor
I certify that I am blind or visually impaired and unable to read a printed newspaper.
PLEASE RETURN THE COMPLETED FORM TO THE ABOVE ADDRESS.