Braille Monitor                                                April 2013

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News from the Federation Family

Federationists Speaks to Education Majors:
Donna Hill playing guitar for group of education majors.Blind NFB volunteer publicist Donna W. Hill visited the University of Scranton Wednesday, February 20, 2013, to speak to education majors about the NFB Writers' Division and issues surrounding sight loss. Hill's novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, which comes out this spring, has received prepublication endorsements as a tool for promoting full inclusion of students with vision loss and as a tool to promote anti-bullying from professionals in education, rehabilitation, and the arts, including University of Scranton assistant professor of education Dr. Patricia Gross, LCB Braille instructor Jerry Whittle, Future Reflections editor Deborah Kent Stein, and Writers' Division President Robert Leslie Newman.

Hill (seen here playing guitar) read the novel's first scene, which she hand-Brailled, and sang songs from the book. She plans to submit The Heart of Applebutter Hill for publication on Bookshare and Learning Ally shortly after the print and e-book versions hit the market. She will be putting proceeds from the sale of commercial versions aside to have a hard-copy Braille version published. More information about the novel, including an introduction for educators by Dr. Karen Squire (Chicago Lighthouse optometrist/low-vision specialist) is at: <DonnaWHill.com>.

To contact Donna, email <dwhill@epix.net>, call (570) 833-2708, or write to 605 Overfield Rd., Meshoppen, PA 18630

National Association of Blind Office Professionals Announcement:
The National Association of Blind Office Professionals (NABOP) will hold two meetings this year at our convention in Orlando, Florida, at the Rosen Centre Hotel. The first meeting will be held Monday, July 1, with registration beginning at 6:30 PM and the meeting beginning at 7:00. This will be a time of learning about assistive technology in the workplace, training opportunities, job announcements if any, and announcement of the upcoming Braille proofreading seminar to be held on Friday, July 5, beginning at 7:00 PM and ending at 9:00.

Have you always wanted to get a feel for what it’s like to do Braille proofreading? This is your chance to get hands-on experience. Mary Donahue and Lisa Hall, who will be conducting the seminar, hope that many fluent Braille readers will take advantage of this opportunity. If you are a parent of a blind child, teacher of the blind and visually impaired, or a rehabilitation teacher, or if you are just interested in learning what’s happening in the Braille field, now is the time to join in the fun. If you are planning to participate in this seminar, let us know by June 15 so that we can get a count of Braille and large-print copies to produce.

Membership dues are $5 a year. Contact Lisa Hall, president, 7001 Hamilton Avenue, Unit 2, Cincinnati, Ohio 45231; home phone: (513) 931-7070; cell phone: (513) 550-5155; email: <lhall007@cinci.rr.com>. Mary Donahue, vice president, can be reached at 8800 Starcrest Drive, Apartment 226, San Antonio, Texas 78217; home phone: (210) 826-9579; cell: (210) 445-6356; email: <braille@satx.rr.com>. Dues can be sent in advance to Debbie Brown, treasurer, 11923 Parklawn Drive, Apartment 104, Rockville, MD 20852; home phone: (301) 881-1892; email: <dabro@loc.gov>.

We look forward to seeing everyone at this year’s meetings in Orlando, Florida.

 

In Brief

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.

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Conducts Survey:
The Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is conducting a survey to understand how to serve better the needs of Braille and Talking Book readers. Take the survey now to let your opinions be heard and help us serve you better. To take the survey online or to learn more about it, go to <www.libraryofcongresssurvey.com> or call (866) 545-1618 to schedule a time to take the survey over the phone. You do not have to be a current NLS reader to take the survey. The twenty-five minute survey is designed to learn more about your experiences with Talking Books and Braille, what types of Talking Book and Braille materials and services you are looking for, and what NLS can do to interest you in the free Library of Congress Talking Book and Braille program. If you aren’t currently using NLS, let us know what services you want and how we can add you to our list of NLS readers. If you are a current NLS reader, let us know what we are doing well, where we can improve, and what new services you would like NLS to offer. Your answers to the survey questions will be kept confidential. Take the survey now to help Library of Congress NLS better serve all readers who use Talking Books and Braille!

Join a Free Voice Chat Community on the Web:
Would you like to have lots of fun and meet other blind or visually impaired people from across the country and around the world? Do you like challenging interactive games, old time radio, adaptive cooking techniques, a book club, chess instruction, product presentations, real-time technical assistance with your computer, Bible study, a weekly talent showcase, programs to learn about the iPhone, and more? Our community is made up of a set of free voice chat rooms that are extremely user friendly, and all you need is a microphone to get started. To become a member and join our Out-of-Sight free chat community, go to the website <http://www.out-of-sight.net/>. Hope to see you soon! “Catch the vision--it’s out of sight!”

New Support Provided by Microsoft:
Microsoft has launched a new support channel offering tailored support to people with disabilities and customers using our accessibility features. Every customer is important to us. We're passionate about providing the best possible experience for all our customers, including those with disabilities, to help them get the most out of Microsoft products. There are over fifty-eight million people with disabilities in the U.S. and one billion globally. Connecting customers with disabilities to experts who can guide them in using accessibility features and help get the best from their devices and software is a top priority for Microsoft.

For the last several months Microsoft Customer Service and Support has been piloting a new support offering that provides a tailored experience for people with disabilities and customers using our accessibility features. Starting February 1, 2013, this experience is now available throughout North America, providing support specialists trained on accessibility and disability. The service is available using the telephone and email.

Even though customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive during the pilot, we know we still have a lot to learn. After a support interaction, customers will be asked to complete a short survey providing us with additional and ongoing feedback on how we can continue to improve our support.

The support desk for people with disabilities and/or assistive technologies is available in North America from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM PST during the week, and 6 AM to 3 PM on the weekends, English language only. If you want to try out the service, the direct telephone number is (800) 936-5900, and the web address is <https://enable.microsoft.com/eform.aspx?productKey =enablefeedback&ct=eformts>.

We're passionate about supporting all our customers around the globe and being able to provide the same level of guidance to those who speak other languages. We will be rolling out support desks for people with disabilities and/or assistive technologies over the next year. More information on these areas will be available as they near launch.

While our goal is to help all customers be successful with their software and devices, support for third-party technologies will continue to come directly from those partners. Microsoft will help you with those connections whenever possible.

Currently there is no charge to use the accessibility service, although this is subject to change. All support services are aligned to current product and service warranty terms and pricing.

Ongoing feedback is the key to improving this experience for people with disabilities over time. After a support call or email, Microsoft will contact you with a short survey to capture your feedback, allowing us to continue learning and growing this support environment. In addition, customers can provide feedback at any time by completing this survey.

For more information visit the website <http://www.support.microsoft.com/contactus/>.

IRS Online Services for People with Disabilities:
It’s tax time again. Check out the many IRS online products and services available to taxpayers with disabilities. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired can now download hundreds of the most popular federal tax forms and publications from <http://www.irs.gov>. These products range from accessible PDFs to e-Braille formats and are accessible using screen-reading software and refreshable Braille displays. Visit the <http://www.irs.gov/uac/Disability-Related-Products> page to download these forms and publications. View <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=el-xueE-ZDY&list=PL634968897EAEA4FD&index=3> that highlights IRS products and services available for people with disabilities; also watch YouTube videos in American Sign Language (ASL). Discover the latest tax information for veterans with disabilities and more.

Tax Return Preparation Help Also Available:
People who are unable to complete their tax returns because of a physical disability may get assistance from a local IRS Tax Assistance Center or through a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly site (VITA or TCE). To find a Tax Assistance Center near you, go to <http://www.irs.gov>, click on “contact IRS,” and then select “contact your local IRS office.” You can also find a nearby VITA or TCE location by calling (800) 906-9887. Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities, explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues and is available at <http://www.irs.gov>. Visit <www.irs.gov> and enter “accessibility” in the search box for more information.

Camping Opportunity Available:
Camp Abilities Nebraska is a week-long residential sports camp for youth ages nine to nineteen who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind. The camp, held from July 21 to 26, will be a place where youth can explore sports and recreational activities in a safe environment with instructors who have experience in adaptive techniques. Camp Abilities Nebraska is cosponsored by Boys Town National Research Hospital and Outlook Nebraska, Inc. The cost is $300; scholarships are available. Nebraska residency is not required. Camp registration ends May 1 and is limited to twenty campers, so prompt enrollment is suggested. Volunteers in the areas of adaptive physical education and special education are needed; orientation is July 20 and 21. For more information or to make a donation to Camp Abilities Nebraska, contact Kristal Platt, camp director at (402) 498-6365, <kristal.platt@boystown.org>, or visit <www.boystownhospital.org/hearingservices/ educationaloutreach>.

National Deafblind Equipment Distribution Program:
We would like to pass along the following information to our deafblind members. We encourage all NFB members to share this information about the National Deafblind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP), promoted by iCanConnect, a program established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to distribute assistive technology to people with combined hearing and vision loss who require special equipment to make a phone call, send an e-mail, or access the Internet.

Working in conjunction with the FCC, Perkins School for the Blind, and the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults (HKNC), iCanConnect will connect people who are deafblind with the proper equipment and training on how to use it. iCanConnect was mandated by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act and provides a wide range of hardware, software, and applications to suit the varying communications technology needs of people who have hearing loss plus visual impairment.

Who can benefit from iCanConnect? Here are just a few examples.

Who is eligible? Any individual who meets the definition of deafblindness in the HKNC Act and has an income that does not exceed 400 percent of the federal poverty level can qualify to receive telephone, advanced communications, and information services equipment. Communication is essential for staying healthy, holding a job, managing a household, and participating in the community. If you know someone who might benefit from the iCanConnect program, please call (800) 825-4595 or visit the new website <www.icanconnect.org>.

NFB Pledge

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.

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