On Saturday, November 27, 2011, the Boulder Valley Chapter of the NFB of Colorado elected the following board: president, Maryann Migliorelli; vice president, Jim Wolcott; treasurer, D. Curtis Willoughby; secretary, Doris Willoughby; and board member, Arielle Silverman.
Dr. JoAnne Castagna, a public affairs specialist (writer) for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, sent us the following notice, which appeared in the January 2012 edition of Engineer Update, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers publication.
Honored Employee Provides Insight to Us All
The future of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking bright because we have young students setting their sights on pursuing careers in engineering and science. Nathanael Wales, a civil engineer/planner with the Army Corps' New York District, is helping them reach their goals. In his free time he mentors blind high school and college students who have a strong interest in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics. Wales, who has been blind his entire life, wants them to know that a career in the sciences is reachable, even if you are blind. Wales said proudly, "One student I mentored at a summer camp changed his college plans to study chemistry (something he had thought was unattainable); he is now studying to get his PhD in chemistry and runs chemistry camps for blind high school students."
It is this dedication and care that helped Wales earn the 2011 Outstanding Department of Defense Employee or Service Member with a Disability Award and be the only U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee to receive this award in decades. The award is given annually to nineteen recipients by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. "I was surprised that I was selected. There are a number of employees throughout the entire Army Corps with all kinds of disabilities, some visible, some not. To be selected among the Corps but also among the entire DoD is amazing. The competition was significant," said Wales.
The Army Corps hires disabled individuals to fill various positions. In the past two years the New York District hired fourteen disabled individuals and under the Disability Program hired individuals for its summer program. "Our district is also fortunate to have managers who are willing and interested in hiring under the Disability Program, said Estelle Capowski, chief, Equal Employment Opportunity, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "In Nathanael's case his staff has always assisted him in every way to make him successful."
Wales has been an employee of the New York District's Plan Formulation Branch for five years and finds his work rewarding. He has worked on several important coastal erosion protection projects to improve navigation and to reduce flooding, erosion, and damage caused by hurricanes and nor'easters. Some of these projects have included the Hashamomuck Cove Reconnaissance Study, Orient Harbor Seawall Extension, and the Lake Montauk Harbor feasibility study. He says that his coworkers have always been very supportive of his disability and have been open and approachable and that he has never had a problem asking questions. He adds that some of those without disabilities may not be aware of a few things about disabled people and in particular those with a sensory disability like him.
We can be creative thinkers:
Those with a disability must learn how to accomplish the same tasks using an alternative technique. Wales said, "For example, instead of reading print notes, I'll read them in Braille, or, instead of reading from my computer monitor, I will use a text-to-speech program. "The process of finding these alternative techniques I feel adds to my job. At the Army Corps we're supposed to think of innovative solutions to various problems. Thinking creatively and outside of the box is a skill many disabled people have, and it's an asset to an organization."
Disability doesn't mean limitation:
Wales said that it shouldn't be assumed that a person with a disability has a particular limitation until they are asked, because more than likely the assumption is wrong. Wales said, "Some people may think that going out and doing field investigations is something I'm not able to do or shouldn't do. I can do this, but I just have to perform it a little differently. For example, if I'm out visiting a beach erosion project, I may have to interact more with the people who are showing me around and ask more questions to understand the situation. Just like with any other engineer, it's still very valuable for me to go out and see a site. It adds to my understanding of a project, and it helps me to be a better planner."
Recently Wales attended a ceremony in Bethesda, Maryland, to receive the award. He was accompanied by the New York District Commander John Boule and other New York District leadership. Wales said, "It was an honor to be among a group of distinguished recipients, such as service members who have sacrificed tremendously. It also gave me an opportunity to contribute who I am to the Army Corps and DoD process and raise awareness of the capabilities of persons with disabilities." He said that the eighteen other award recipients all had different skills sets and backgrounds. "In fact one of the recipients manages contracts totaling 10 billion dollars. This is twice the budget of the whole Corps of Engineers!" said Wales. He added, "Most of all the ceremony provided an opportunity for my supervisors, the District and Corps of Engineers to be honored for the work they've done to help build the bench by hiring persons with disabilities."
Buddy Program Available:
BLIND, Incorporated, is the sponsor of a three-week summer fun and learning program for children ages nine to thirteen. The dates for 2012 are July 13 through August 4. The Buddy Program offers an opportunity for blind children to make friends and have fun in a positive and secure setting as well as to learn and practice the alternative techniques of blindness while building self-confidence. The training includes instruction in reading and writing Braille, basic cane travel, cooking skills, and introduction to independent living skills and industrial arts. Students will learn to pour liquids, carry a food tray, do laundry, follow a recipe, and much more. Self-confidence and problem-solving skills are gained through building and painting projects such as their own birdhouses and nightstands. Students also participate in "talk time," where they discuss important issues about blindness with blind peers and instructors. This time gives the students a chance to discuss their feelings about blindness, their frustrations with uncomfortable situations, and suggestions for overcoming problems caused by blindness.
In addition students participate in many exciting activities in the Twin Cities area, such as visits to Build a Bear Workshop, Wild Mountain Water Park, and horseback riding. These activities allow students to develop their socialization skills. Activities are well supervised, and mentoring for the children is provided by active blind role models. Lifelong friendships begin during this brief summer experience. Activities are excellent opportunities to teach and reinforce a wide variety of alternative techniques as they apply to real life, and this learning experience is usually most effective when a lot of fun is involved.
If you have questions, call (612) 872-0100, ext. 251, or call toll-free (800) 597-9558. You can email <[email protected]>. Complete an application by visiting our website at <www.blindinc.org>.
Great PR in Denver:
Last September 13 to 15 blind seniors in the greater Denver area received intensive training in blindness skills at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Stacey Johnson of the CCB staff wrote up the story and submitted it to a publication called 50 Plus Marketplace News, and it was printed in the November 2011 issue. Here is the story:
Seniors in Charge Provides Training to People with Vision Loss
A trip to the grocery store? An email communication? Not a big deal, right? Not the case for seniors with vision loss. Keeping up with changes in technology is a challenge. Add blindness, vision loss, or a variety of other sight-related diseases to the equation, and the outcome is typically frustration and discouragement.
But not for the seniors who participated in Seniors in Charge, a three-day program offered by the Colorado Center for the Blind at no cost. Seniors with varying degrees of vision loss took part in mobility, home management, and technology training. "The goal of the program is to keep visually impaired seniors living independently for as long as possible. If blindness is the only factor impacting the person, there is no reason he or she can’t live independently," says Duncan Larsen, senior services coordinator for the Center. Participants received an introduction to Braille, adaptive technologies such as electronic readers and screen readers, then traveled with the assistance of a white cane, a tool used by the blind to navigate their surroundings safely.
Often seniors feel disconnected to friends and family. With technology taking over routine, daily communication, they often feel left out. Colorado Center for the Blind steps in and provides basic training in these skills. "I didn't think I could even use a computer, and now I can use one without a screen," said one participant.
"This is often the case with the participants. They come with all sorts of misconceptions of what they can and can't do. They leave the program with a new understanding of what possibilities exist," explains Larsen. In addition to technology class, several outings were planned throughout the three days. A trip on the Light Rail from the Littleton station to Downtown Denver. For some, the trip was filled with firsts--the Light Rail, the 16th Street Mall Shuttle, an escalator, and the first time in a crowded buffet line navigating a tray of food--all without sight.
Inclusion of family members is a key component of the program. On the final day the participants prepared a meal for their family and friends. Seeing what their loved ones accomplished in such a short time provided hope and a glimpse at what can be achieved with practice, the proper tools, and training.
The program's success was summarized best by Brent Batron, youth services coordinator: "Our seniors in this week's program have raised the bar for all of us here at the Center." Telling a group of twenty and thirty-somethings they had been outdone by a group old enough to be their parents or grandparents provided ample motivation for them to work harder. More Seniors in Charge training sessions are planned. For information call (303) 778-1130 or visit <www.cocenter.org>.
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.
Favorable Court Ruling:
On December 19, 2011, the National Federation of the Blind circulated the following press release with good news for blind people across the country. Here it is:
National Federation of the Blind Secures Court Ruling Against Cardtronics
Company Must Make ATMs Accessible or Face Sanctions
A federal court has found that Cardtronics, Inc., has failed to comply with the terms of a settlement and subsequent remediation plan reached with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to make all of the automated teller machines owned by Cardtronics accessible to the blind. In an order dated December 15, 2011, the Honorable Nathaniel M. Gorton of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts found that Cardtronics had not complied with the terms of the settlement agreement or remediation plan and that civil contempt was therefore appropriate. Judge Gorton ordered Cardtronics to comply with the remaining terms by March 15, 2012, or face monetary sanctions of $50 per month for each ATM that remained inaccessible to blind users—giving the company the Shakespearean warning to “Beware the ides of March.”
“Instead of admitting their non-compliance and promising better effort, defendants disingenuously claim they have complied in spite of a plethora of evidence to the contrary,” Judge Gorton wrote in his memorandum opinion. “The deadlines they have consistently missed were, ironically, the ones they proposed in the first place.”
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “It is critical that blind Americans have access to all of the technologies that are now a part of everyday life in the twenty-first century if we are to achieve full and equal integration into society, and this includes the technology necessary to handle our finances. Toward that end we reached an agreement with Cardtronics to make its ATMs accessible, and, when problems arose and initial deadlines were missed, we worked in good faith with the company to come up with a workable remediation plan. Sadly, however, Cardtronics has not complied with the agreed terms of the remediation plan. We are therefore pleased with the court’s decision requiring Cardtronics to meet its legal obligations.”
Phone Chat Room Available:
Interested in meeting people, making new friends, or just want someone to talk to? Don’t be alone; just pick up the phone and call (231) 732-7141. Especially if you have trouble sleeping, stop by the Night Owl room and say hi to Jen.
Do you like playing games, participating in provocative conversations, or just want to enjoy your morning coffee with Cara’s Friday Coffee Klatsch? Don’t forget to drop into the Hospitality Room or Those Were The Days Room evenings from 6:00 to 10:00 (EDT) to ask about our monthly contests. DailyConnection offers something of interest for everyone, whether you enjoy free chat rooms, audio books, bulletin boards, podcasts, voicemail, conferences, or friendly conversation--call (231) 732-7141.
Are you interested in working from home and making some extra money? DailyConnection is seeking creative, self-motivated individuals who like talking on the phone and who would enjoy hosting a room on our line. Contact TJ by pressing 6 at the main menu and leaving a message in his system administrator’s mailbox or email <[email protected]>.
Carroll Center Offers Three Diabetes and Visual Impairment Courses:
The Carroll Center is pleased to announce the third course in its new series of online courses for patients, families, and professionals: Diabetes and Visual Impairment: A New View for Health Professionals. The Commission on Dietetic Registration approves 30.5 contact hours for this self-study. The American Association of Diabetes Educators, an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s COA and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education as a provider of continuing pharmacy education, provides 23.5 contact hours of continuing education credit. Many other health professions accept the Carroll Center’s certificate for continuing education credit.
Thanks to private foundation funding, these courses are currently free. The curriculum for the newest course was developed by Margaret E. Cleary, RN, MS, CVRT®, who has over thirty years of experience as a rehabilitation nurse, diabetes educator, and certified vision rehabilitation therapist at the Carroll Center. “I anticipate that at the conclusion of this course health care participants will be far better able to aid patients who have diabetes and visual impairment in developing a therapeutic, healthful, and productive lifestyle,” Cleary said.
Brian Charlson, director of computer training at the Carroll Center, supervised the technical aspects of the project, which features Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment), a software platform that provides the sighted reader with complete and easily accessed materials while allowing the visually impaired student easy access through his or her own adaptive technology.
For more information about these new online courses, read the FAQ's or contact Brian Charlson at (617) 969-6200, ext. 224. Register for these new diabetes and visual impairment courses by following the appropriate link below:
• A New View for Patients and Families, <http://carroll.org/online-courses/diabetes-and-visual-impairment-a-new-view-for-patients-and-families/>
• A New View for Vision Professionals, <http://carroll.org/online-courses/diabetes-and-visual-impairment-a-new-view-for-professionals/>
• A New View for Health Professionals, <http://carroll.org/online-courses/diabetes-and-visual-impairment-a-new-view-for-health-professionals/>
Carroll Center for the Blind, 770 Centre Street, Newton, MA 02458, <carroll.org>.
Two New Products from Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision:
From School to College: A Transition Activity Calendar for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired, Second Edition, 2011, is now available. The new and expanded version of MSU’s 1996 Activity Calendar is a web-based resource for students planning to go to college. Its message is start early by middle school, or even earlier, to think about your career and continue an outlined step-by-step process to ensure that by your first day on campus you are ready to go with your textbooks in the format you need, the technology you need, and a feeling of confidence because of all the preparation you did. The calendar outlines activities from middle school grades and month by month throughout high school with guidelines for when to begin the search for colleges, visit campuses, submit applications, and take the college admission exam(s). The calendar also includes links to vital resources and is a must for every student preparing to go to college. To access the calendar, visit the MSU-RRTC’s website: <http://www.blind.msstate.edu/transition/>.
We are happy to announce that we have gone live with our online employment preparation program, Career Advantage for V.I.P.s. This program offers eight self-paced modules of instructional materials and activities to guide job seekers, taking them step by step from exploration of interests and abilities, through the application and interview processes, to the optimal goal of employment. Career Advantage was developed and tested with young adults who are blind or visually impaired under our recent NIDRR-funded grant. The online program is available free of charge, but we should note that the required reading level is approximately 11th grade. For more information and instructions to access Career Advantage, visit our website: <http://www.blind.msstate.edu/advantage/>. Both tools were made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.
Free Phone System for Chat and Entertainment:
The Gathering Place is a phone system that allows people to chat with one another. It also includes a huge amount of audio entertainment such as movies, documentaries, and old-time radio. The service does not charge for membership, but toll charges may apply. Call (231) 732-7046.
Social Networking Site for the Blind:
Blindspace is a free social network website for those who are blind or visually impaired. The site includes private messaging, forums, and more. We also have a telephone-based conference system for those who don't have a computer or Internet access or for those who want an alternate way to communicate with others. We have great support. Both phone and email support is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about Blindspace or to sign up, go to our website at <http://www.blindspacenetwork.co.cc>.
New Book Available:
Konnie Hoffman Ellis, who has written several articles for past issues of the Braille Monitor, would like to notify readers of a book she has recently published. It tells how her brother, Rory Hoffman, multi-instrumentalist, Nashville studio musician and performer, and a two-time winner of the ICMA Musician of the Year award, learned not just to live, but thrive without sight in a world full of adventure and opportunity. She says that this is a great book for people of all ages and for anyone with a love of music or who wants to find out more about living a normal life as a blind person. Anyone interested in learning more about Rory and keeping updated on future books in the series is encouraged to visit the fan page at <www.facebook.com/rorystory>. To purchase a copy of Rory's Story, go directly to the shopping link at <roryhoffman.com> or to Amazon and other places where books are sold.
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.
Slightly used brilliant, full-color auto focus video magnifier--the SmartView 5000 brings the world of color to you and provides a comprehensive solution for all your low-vision reading and writing needs. Features include auto focus, ergonomic design, TV and VGA monitor compatible, two user-definable presets, range of display options, high-contrast black and white, positive and negative image, selectable background and foreground, color combinations, magnification range 3.5 to 50 times with a 17-inch display, and selectable photo mode for enhanced viewing of color images. Excellent for use with leisure and craft activities.
Original price $2,595 plus monitor. Asking $1,500 (does not include shipping from New Jersey). Contact <[email protected]>.
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.