June 2012 Chronicle
Table of Contents
- And Now, Your President!
- Our History: Past, Present and Future
- Affiliate Affairs
- Blind Of Central Missouri
- Lake Stockton Area Council of the Blind
- Joplin Service Club of the Blind
- St. Charles County Council of the Blind
- Waggin Tails
- Committee Reports
- Special Services
- MCB Board Adopts Three Policies
- Bylaws/Resolutions Report
- Emergency Preparedness
- Member of the Month
- Public Relations
- 2012 Convention
- MEDICAL COVERAGE FOR THE BLIND
- And The Winner is!!
- Introductory Braille Course To Be Offered In The Kansas City Area
- From the Lower Left-Hand Drawer
And Now, Your President!
By Denny Huff, President
Greetings to All,
It certainly has been an active and interesting past three months to say the least. Of course, our main focus has been on the restoration of the funding for the medical coverage for the recipients of the blind pension and we’ll have a report about that further on in the Chronicle.
Besides the blind pension medical coverage, one of our main focuses has been on our new thrift store located in Springfield. Our thrift store Chair, William Hawkins, gave us a report on its progress during our last board meeting in April. Although we are not seeing an income from the store as of yet, the store is prospering and should begin to be able to make a financial contribution to MCB in another year or so. My thanks to William, the thrift store committee and all of the employees of the thrift store for all of their hard work in making that store a successful one.
Our Executive Director, Chris Gray, has been in office for about six months now and has been a real asset to MCB. Not only has he assumed the duties of managing the office, he has brought us his expertise in policies and procedures that we are beginning to incorporate in several areas of MCB. It’s been a pleasure working with Chris and I am looking forward to getting even more accomplished with him before I leave office in November.
As I have just mentioned, my time as your president will end on November 1 when your new president will then take office. I have been asked several times if I will be relieved when my term is up and all I can say is that I have mixed emotions. It certainly is time consuming but it has also been a pleasure to serve you. Not only have I enjoyed my time as your president, but it has also been a privilege to work with the Board, the committee chairs and all of the members over the past four years. I know that whoever replaces me, you will show them the support that you have shown me. So thank you MCB for allowing me to serve you over the past two terms.
Although we have several committees that have been very active in making MCB what it is, I especially want to say thanks to our policy committee. Mike Keller, our Policy Chair and his committee members, which consist of Janelle Edwards, Shirley Brokaw and Beverly Kaskadden, for all of the work they are doing. There are several policies in MCB that we follow every year only because that is the way we have always done it. These policies are not written down as far as we can tell, but mainly done by tradition. Of course they could have been approved by the Board many years ago and included in the minutes, but finding those minutes to back up what we do is almost an impossible task. One of the responsibilities of this committee is to verify some of the traditions we have in MCB by looking through the past minutes and if it is not found, then to go to the Board and make it legal. This is a time consuming task but once they accomplish their goal, these will be incorporated in a policy manual.
Let me say congratulations to, if not the oldest blind consumer organization in the country, then certainly one of the oldest and that is the United Workers for the Blind in St. Louis. They just celebrated their one-hundredth anniversary last month and the celebration was enjoyed by all that attended. Their proactive work and accomplishments over the past 100 years reflect the core value of what MCB stands for and should be an example to all of us.
As most of you already know, MCB is in violation of the ACB constitution with our by-laws stating that we prohibit NFB members from becoming members of our organization. Although there have been amendments presented over the past several years to strike that section from the MCB bylaws, it has failed on each attempt. Since we are not complying with the ACB constitution that states in Article 3 Section B, neither currently affiliated organizations nor those seeking affiliation with this organization shall exclude members based solely on their membership in another consumer organization of the blind, the ACB board has recommended that MCB be penalized 10% of our voting power which results in two and one half votes.
Chris Gray and I presented our case to the ACB board in February and although they were sympathetic with our stand, they felt as though they had no choice but to make the recommendation to the credentials committee that we be penalized for this violation. They did, however, recommend that MCB submit an amendment to the Constitution and By-laws Committee of ACB to have that section struck out of the constitution. At the April MCB Board meeting, the Board voted to take that approach and that amendment has been submitted. I believe that our best argument in rescinding that section is that we don’t believe the national affiliate has the authority to dictate to a state affiliate as to who they can or can’t have as members. Hopefully this amendment will be presented early in the ACB convention and if it does pass, then MCB will not lose any votes during the remainder of the convention.
During our April Board meeting, we were privileged to have Stephanie Brady of the Joplin Independence Living Center to provide a Board Training Seminar. Stephanie did an excellent job in explaining Board procedures and responsibilities that not only each Board member should know, but each affiliate officer should know as well. We hope to supplement this training with more information about 501(c)3 organizations and the responsibility of board members, officers and members. Thanks again to Stephanie for her time and expertise.
The 2012 MCB convention is shaping up to be one of the best that we have had in recent years. Our guests from ACB this year will be Dan and Brenda Dillon from Tennessee. Dan and Brenda attended our convention about five years ago and everyone enjoyed them tremendously. They will be speaking to us on Friday afternoon and again on Saturday morning.
Our guest speaker for the banquet will be David Westbrook from Kansas City. David is the Senior Vice President for Strategy and Innovation at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. I first heard David at one of the RSB Advisory Council meetings and was impressed with his motivational speech directed to the blind.
Although it hasn’t been confirmed yet, we are hoping to have the Governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon at our banquet this year. We will be presenting him with a special appreciation award for the support he has shown to the blind of Missouri.
We will have an auction during the hospitality time on Friday evening this year. We are hoping that each affiliate will donate a nice item that can be auctioned off with the proceeds going to MCB. Melvin Smith and Wanda Lentz will be organizing this event. Our convention coordinator, Susan Sanderson will have more about the convention later on in the Chronicle.
Although I have visited most of our 21 affiliates, there are still a few I need to work in; I hope to visit each one by the end of my term as your president.
As I mentioned earlier, we will be electing a new president at our annual convention this year. I have heard of two individuals that are considering running for this position. I’m sure there are others that are qualified for this position and I encourage them to throw their hat in the ring. In addition to electing a new president, we will also be voting on a first and second vice president and secretary. Anyone interested in holding one of these positions should announce your candidacy soon so everyone will know the choices.
Last, but certainly not least, our condolences go out to Donna Giger in the loss of her husband, Leo. Leo will be sadly missed by all who knew him. Leo was a charter member of MCB and served on the board for several years.
That wraps up my report for this edition of the Chronicle. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about MCB you are welcome to call me at, 888-362-1383 or write to me at, PO Box 515, St. Clair, MO 63077, or email me at, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call and listen to the president’s announcement line by calling, 816-298-8969.
My thanks to all of you for the work you do for MCB.
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Our History: Past, Present and Future
By Christopher Gray, Executive Director
Harry Truman died when I was 19 years old. It felt like the end of an historic era. The last leader from World War II was now gone.
My maternal grandmother couldn't stand President Truman, criticizing him as a person who swore and drank too much. My father thought Truman would go down as the finest President in our nation's history. And sure enough, at the turn of the century, Truman was ranked the 5th best President in the country's history. This was mentioned by a National Park Service tour guide, though I don’t have the specific citation handy to share with you today.
Recently, I became far better acquainted with the Truman family and their historical place in Missouri as well as the United States. In the town of Independence where the Trumans were born and raised, three major landmarks now exist. The Harry Truman Library has been available to scholars and researchers for many years. Its creation and organization was begun by the former president after he left the White House and returned to Missouri. More recently, three new landmarks have been opened by the National Park Service. One is the Truman home, which was donated to the Park Service after the death of Bess Truman in 1982. The second is the Truman farm located several miles from Independence in the town of Grandview. Finally there is the Noland House, located directly across the street from the Truman home at 216 N. Delaware. The Nolands were cousins to the President. He spent large amounts of time in their home and they are credited with reacquainting Harry and Bess and sparking their courtship and subsequent marriage in 1919.
I recently participated on your behalf in the audio description walkthrough of the Noland Home. This is quite a process. Scripts are carefully reviewed and edited. Directions from one description location to another are tested for accuracy and clarity. In the Noland Home, there are four rooms, a foyer, and a back porch. In addition, there are artifacts such as photo albums and letters, all of which must be described. A layered system of description was analyzed to allow people to hear as much or as little detail as each person might want. Slightly complicating things is the fact that the Noland Home will not be a staffed site. People can come and go as they choose which makes it somewhat difficult to predict where a person might begin their tour. We worked to provide the best cues possible to get people started at the beginning and know what to do at the end of the tour. Part of the final setup may include signage and a braille and large print hand-out to help with this.
The initial walkthrough and assessment took slightly over five hours and it was an exciting process. Discussions included not only the describing text, but the equipment to be used, dividing the text appropriately, and marking equipment so that buttons can be readily located. Now, hours of editing and preparation will be required to implement the many suggestions and changes made today.
This is the first step in a process by which the National Park Service plans to make its Truman holdings maximally accessible to blind visitors. Next, the Truman home will be considered, and the Truman Farm may follow in the next several years. I was proud and excited to participate on behalf of the Missouri Council of the Blind. We will continue assisting the Park Service in this valuable work.
MCB was also asked recently for advice and assistance on providing a braille brochure for the Kurt Vonnegut museum in Indianapolis, IN. I felt certain that our membership would wish to be good neighbors and assist the students working on this project. Long before the Chronicle reaches you, five copies of the brochure will be at the museum, available for people to use as they browse the museum exhibit.
You are going to read or may have already read of MCB’s extensive work in the State legislature on behalf of the blind of Missouri. I want you to know in telling you of these projects that MCB is also hard at work creating positive change in other areas for the blind as well.
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Over, around and across Missouri. Let's find out what's happening where.
Blind Of Central Missouri
By Trudy Avants, Recording Secretary
Hello to everyone from Sedalia. April showers bring May flowers; June will bring us very merry tunes. We had our pizza party on March 8, at the Celebration Center. It is a Methodist church where we have our monthly affiliate meetings.
Gerry Arnold provided the pizza and cinnamon sticks. We had soda and water to drink. We would like to thank those who helped with filling out camp applications and serving the meal. It was well attended, thank you.
One of our members, Brenda Gardner, was recognized for her great work at CASA. There was a nice article in the Sedalia Democrat about her, we are very proud of Brenda!
Our annual Outreach Picnic will be held on Sunday, July 1, at 5:00 P.M. I’m sure it will be a big success, as long as it does not storm, like last year’s held in May.
Some of our members will be attending camp in June, July, and September once more this year. We are looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
The Missouri State Fair will be held from Thursday August 9, through Sunday August 19. As always, there will be lots of food, concerts, attractions, rides and all sorts of other fun things to do.
Until next time, keep your smile and a song in your heart, and if you can’t be good, be good at it.
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Lake Stockton Area Council of the Blind
By Beverly Robertson, President
We have had a good year so far and have had good attendance to our monthly meetings. At our last meeting in April, we had a guest speaker, Dr. Kirar, OD, who spoke to us concerning macular degeneration. He gave us a lot of good information as a group and spent time after the meeting visiting with individuals and answering their questions.
We plan to have our annual auction again this summer. The date will be August 4, 2012, which is the first Saturday in August. If you plan to come, please let us know in advance. We will be sending out invitations later this summer. Hope to see you then.
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Joplin Service Club of the Blind
By Cindy Smart
Hello again to all of you from all of the Joplin Service Club! It is almost the middle of spring already! Somehow though, I think we got to skip most of winter.
On February 11, some of us went to the Joplin Little Theater for a live performance called “Let’s Swing”. It was all 40’s music. I think we were pretty surprised at how many of those songs we remembered.
On the 29th of February, we were able to go to Springfield for the grand opening of the MCB Thrift Store. We were very impressed! Good job, all of you who have had a part in making this thrift store successful!
We have had three very enjoyable monthly dinners. We had one cooked by a local church, and another meal cooked by a sorority.
In March, our terrific cook, Tom Fortson, prepared corned beef and cabbage. Some of the women from the Service Club made a green Jell-O dessert to go with that delicious St. Patrick’s Day dinner. We always have some sort of entertainment to go with those dinners.
For our February dinner, we had a brother and sister who have participated in, and won many violin contests at the state level. When she wins first place, he always gets second, and vice versa. They are children, and I keep thinking that if they are this good now, what are they going to sound like when they are grown?
For the St. Patrick’s Day dinner, we had a well-known local singer, Duke Mason, perform for us. He did mostly country and gospel music. Everyone thoroughly enjoys the times he comes to entertain us. When the sorority cooked for us, two women played the piano and sang for us. One of them also played the oboe. What a beautiful instrument that is!
Our Affiliate was deeply saddened by the death of Leo Giger from the Springfield Service Club. He was a long time member of MCB, and his love for the organization was very apparent! Donna, you and all your loved ones are in our prayers!
We have had a lot of our members with health issues. Some of them have been in the hospital. Since there were so many this time, and I don’t want to leave anyone out, I will just ask for your continued prayers! We constantly keep all of your Affiliates in our prayers.
Take care for now. I will have more to report in September. Blessings!
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St. Charles County Council of the Blind
Our new President is the spectacular Steve Schnelle; new second Vice President is the Amazing Aaron Lane and the new treasurer is the Delightful Denny Huff. We are looking forward to our installation dinner which is held on Saturday June 2, 2012. The Duschesne High School Key Club will make our dinner and this is always a great time had by all every year.
We are looking forward to our annual BBQ in July and then back to our regular business meetings in August. We are in the early stages of planning a white cane walk for October. More details on this as it develops. Have a cool summer.
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By Judy Burch, MGDU Secretary
Hello to all guide dogs and their humans! By the time you read this, we’ll most likely be experiencing the very warm weather that summer generally brings us. Keeping your furry partner cool and comfortable while you are out working is, of course, very important. Many people like to use booties or Musher’s Secret to protect paws when out walking on hot pavement. Also, it’s good to carry along a portable water bowl and/or something that you can use to mist your dog if you are going to be out for a long time. Whatever you do, be safe and have fun!
The big thing MGDU has to report is that we now have a Web site! As of the writing of this article, the site is still under construction; however, we will have pages up soon! Stay tuned for more details.
As always, we will be having our annual MGDU breakfast at this year’s MCB convention in October. We hope to see you there!
Until next time, happy travels to you and your pups!
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By Anne Murphy, Special Services Chairperson
Luckily, we still have money in our budget but are awaiting the hot weather this summer. Again priorities go to people who have basic survival needs such as rent, utility bill requests and visual requests to help with glasses or contact lenses to help them see better. The committee will consider other applicants but will determine if they truly meet the needs of the Special Services Grant. We are stringently looking at all applicants and their needs since our grant was depleted this year. We are asking that are budget be increased back to $15,000 for fiscal year 2013.
For special services applications and guidelines go to moblind.org or call the MCB office at 314-832-7172 or Toll-free (800) 342-5632.
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MCB Board Adopts Three Policies
By Michael Keller, Policies’ Chair
At the Spring meeting held on April 14 in Jefferson City, the Missouri Council of the Blind Board of Directors adopted two new and one amended policy. The new policies are for the Youth Services, and First Timers. The amended policy is for the Membership committee. Please see below for each policy. A form to be submitted for youth services was reviewed and adopted but is not included here because it is only a blank form.
Finally, I would like to thank the members of the MCB Policies committee: Shirley Brokaw, Janelle Edwards and Beverly Kaskadden.
Membership Committee Guidelines
The purpose of the Membership Committee is to increase the Membership of the Missouri Council of the blind by:
Working hand-in-hand with the affiliates to help them to learn how to approach the blind in their community.
Working with the various state agencies including RSB, schools; both secondary and higher education, and other local outlets (i.e. doctor’s offices, senior centers, etc.) to reach out to blind Missourians.
Working with the Public Relations Committee to help spread the name of MCB across Missouri.
Working with the Youth Services Committee to attract younger members.
The Membership committee will be in charge of the First Timers program at the annual MCB state convention. Refer to the First Timers guidelines.
Working with our parent organization to maximize various ideas proven in other states to increase membership.
First-Timer Program Guidelines
The MCB First-Timer Program exists to make it possible for young adults who have not previously attended an MCB Convention to do so in order to give them the opportunity to learn about the resources and technology available to legally blind residents of Missouri, to meet other visually-impaired individuals, and to encourage them to get involved, or to increase their involvement in MCB.
The First-Timer Program is an initiative of the Membership Committee, and while they may seek assistance from outside their committee, it is their responsibility to organize and execute the program each year.
The Membership Committee will seek First-Timer nominees by distributing applications for the program throughout the state each January.
First-Timers must be legally blind, between 18 and 50 years of age, and they must have not previously attended an MCB convention.
The Membership Committee will select up to four First-Timers to attend the upcoming convention, (along with two runners-up in case one of the chosen First-Timers has a conflict).
The Membership Committee will provide three nights lodging for each First-Timer, as well as transportation to and from the convention, and seven meals; three meals Friday, two meals Saturday plus the banquet, and one meal Sunday.
The members of the Membership Committee, and/or individuals appointed by the committee, are to act as ambassadors to the First-Timers during their time at convention. There cannot be more than two First-Timers assigned to each ambassador. This responsibility includes answering the First-Timer’s questions, introducing her or him to MCB members, providing guidance around the hotel, and teaching the First-Timer about MCB.
Youth Services Guidelines
Through the Youth Services program, the Missouri Council of the Blind assists youth, parents, guardians and teachers by helping children who are legally blind through their senior year in high school. The committee does this by providing information and purchasing educational items to give equal opportunity to each participant.
Purchased items must be adapted for legally blind children.
A Youth Service application must be filled out and all questions answered. An application must be filled out for each applicant.
The application shall then be sent to the Missouri Council of the Blind office.
The pertinent information shall then be sent to the Youth Services committee for their consideration.
An applicant may not receive grants for more than $200.00 per year.
The Chair shall seek out the lowest price for items to be purchased.
Purchases shall be paid by a Missouri Council of the Blind check payable to the applicable vendor(s). The check shall then be mailed to the applicant, who shall mail the check and any additional money to the vendor.
An eye report from a doctor or from an organization such as the St. Louis Society for the Blind or Delta Gamma must be attached to the application.
The Youth Services committee shall consist of a Chair and two other members appointed by the President.
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By Janelle Edwards
Submission of bylaw changes and resolutions is easier this year. Article XI Committees, Section 5, includes the following revised language: "Amendments to the Bylaws and Resolutions to be presented to the convention shall be sent to the Chairman with the names of two members supporting that amendment no later than July fifteenth." Signatures are no longer required, but I will confirm that both people listed on each submission support the amendment or resolution and are MCB members.
If you have questions or submissions, my updated contact information is in the Chronicle insert.
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By Bunny Maginnis, Chairman
This year is one of the worst years I can remember for allergy problems. People who have never experienced sneezing, itchy eyes, stuffy heads, coughing and other allergy hazards are miserable this season. There are several medicines you can try to help relieve some of the symptoms but I find this year they are wanting in providing complete satisfaction. My best advice in this case is to keep your house clean, completely free from any kind of dust or dander. Keep your windows closed and the air conditioner on. If you know what foods, drinks, lotions, or soaps you are allergic to, discontinue them.
Have you ever thought about how you would protect yourself in case of an earth quake and tornado happening simultaneously? I tried to ask FEMA about that and couldn't find any suggestions. If you have any thoughts on this possibility please don't hesitate to make them known. It could happen.
The insects are going wild this year due to a wonderful mild winter. The media warns that ticks are abroad in huge numbers. Among other diseases, lime disease is one of the most notable. Be sure to cover your arms and legs if you are going to be in tall grass or woods.
Have a wonderful and safe summer, and, be prepared for anything.
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Member of the Month
Yvonne Schnitzler, Chair
The Member of the Month Award recognizes a member who has given of themselves and has made a difference in their community or in assisting the blind. Congratulations to February’s winner Terry Thompson, Blind of Central Missouri; March’s winner, Wanda Lentz, Member-At-Large; and April’s winners Joe and Sue Verhaar.
The recipient of this award receives a $25 Visa gift card and is recognized at the MCB Convention banquet. Of those recipients, a name is drawn to honor a “Member of the Year” with a cash award.
Send nominations to show appreciation for someone who has been an inspiration or has done something special to: email@example.com
Qualifications for Member of the Month:
- Must be a member of MCB in good standing to nominate or be nominated.
- Nominee may be visually impaired or sighted.
- A blind member may be nominated for service to the blind or for service to their community even if it does not affect the visually impaired.
- A sighted member must make a positive contribution in assisting the blind.
- Monthly nominations are held over for later consideration.
- The MCB Member of the Month Committee selects the winners.
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By Judy Burch, Public Relations Chair
These past few months have been pretty busy for MCB. In February, we had a booth at the Foundation Fighting Blindness Open House held in Kansas City. Folks coming through had an opportunity to learn about various organizations of and for the blind, and members of those organizations had an opportunity to network. Also, on February 29, there was the grand opening celebration for our MCB New Image thrift store in Springfield. There were games, door prizes, and food, as well as radio coverage for several hours that day, and the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at 1:00 that afternoon. A fun time was had by all. If you have a chance, do visit the store.
In March, MCB held its Legislative Days in Jefferson City. Various members visited legislators to voice their concerns regarding the bills which were up for consideration. Public relations provided pens and note caddies which were given to the legislators along with literature as members spoke with them about their concerns. In April, public relations had a booth at the Power-Up conference. Many folks visited our booth and they had an opportunity to learn about the organization. The booth was a big success. One lucky winner received an 8-GB MP3 player at the Power-Up luncheon on Tuesday afternoon.
On June 22-24, the St. Louis Firing Squad beepball team will be hosting the first annual national beepball tournament here in St. Louis at the Concordia Seminary Athletic Field. MCB is one of the sponsors of this event and will have a booth there.
Please remember to send any news about activities concerning you and/or your affiliates to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to my postal mail address at 220 Woodridge Rd., St. Louis, MO 63122.
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By Susan Sanderson, Convention Coordinator
October 5, 6, & 7 will be here before we know it; these are the dates for this year’s MCB Convention. Our convention will be held at the Capitol Plaza in Jefferson City, MO. Make your reservation by calling 573-635-1234 or toll free 800-338-8088. Please make your reservation before the September 3rd deadline. When making your reservation, be sure to tell them you are with Missouri Council of the Blind. This will give you the convention rates of $79 for Singles or Doubles, $99 for the Jr. Suite and $119 for the King Suite.
Registering early will save you time and money. All pre-registrations must be in before September 3. Pre-registration is $10 and on-site registration is $25.
The Hospitality dinner will include a wrap, chips, cookie and fruit and will cost $5 or $7 on site. The auction will be held during this dinner. The Saturday Banquet cost is $20 or $25 on-site. This year, you get your choice of Pot Roast, Chicken, or a Vegetarian meal.
We will have some new things this year and some old favorites. There will be a Craft Room where MCB members can sell their hand made goodies. For more information about the Craft Room, contact Loretta Welch at 660-679-5429. Our Exhibit Room will have a new name and new look this year. It will be known as “Market Place.” Each vendor that sets up a table in this room will be charged $10 for Thursday & Friday. We will be open to many different kinds of vendors like Avon, Tupperware, and others. For more information about Market Place, call Robert Vaughn at 314-647-7765 or Steve Schnelle at 314-838-5868. We will be having Wolfner Library tours again this year on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, for all that missed this tour 2 years ago, now is your chance to enjoy your library.
Please fill out your registration form and save yourself time and money. Your deadline for both the hotel and pre-registration is September 3, 2012. Let’s have fun at the convention.
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MEDICAL COVERAGE FOR THE BLIND
By Denny Huff, President
As most all of you are aware, recipients of the blind pension program are also provided with medical coverage similar to what the general public receives as Medicaid. This medical coverage was incorporated into the blind pension program back in the late sixties and has been a part of the Missouri budget since that time.
This year, for whatever reason, the House of Representatives decided that the blind of Missouri no longer needed this medical coverage. There has been some speculation on why the blind were targeted, but with no real answer, I’m not going to attempt to give a reason why over 2800 recipients of the blind pension were targeted in the elimination of this funding.
On February 17, it was announced that Representative Tom Flannigan of Carthage, Chair of the House Health, Mental Health and Social Services Appropriations Committee, proposed a $28 million elimination of the medical coverage for the recipients of the blind pension program and that this money be shifted to higher education. We only knew of this proposal because of a news article that appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch as there was no public hearing held when normally there should have been.
Thus began the joint effort by the Missouri Council of the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, the St. Louis Society for the Blind, the St. Louis Lighthouse for the Blind, Alphapointe of Kansas City and the Governor’s office to battle the 2012 General Assembly of Missouri in an attempt to have this money fully restored. These organizations were joined by numerous newspaper reporters and TV and radio stations from across the state, to inform the public on the injustice the House was trying to levy on the blind.
In early March, approximately 40 members of the Missouri Council of the Blind met in Jefferson City to visit Representatives of the House and Senate to advocate for full restoration of this medical coverage. Personal testimonies of how the elimination of this funding for medical services would affect many individuals were presented to each Representative and Senator of the General Assembly. We were also invited to meet with the governor personally in his office during that time and were assured by Governor Jay Nixon that he and his office staff would do as much as possible to ensure that this funding was completely restored.
Holding true to his promise, the governor sponsored a rally in support of full restoration of this medical coverage for the blind on March 13 in Columbia. The rally was attended by over a hundred individuals and several news reporters from newspapers, radio and TV stations.
Several conference calls were held by representatives from blind consumer organizations from across the state and hosted by the governor’s office. During these conference calls, strategies were discussed on how to best advocate for restoration of this medical coverage.
Press releases were sent out to over 150 news reporters, email messages were sent and phone calls were made to each member of the House. Personal visits were once again made by individuals in an attempt to rally support for this issue. I’m sure by this time the Senators and Representatives that opposed the funding for this crucial service shuttered when they heard the tap tap tap of the white canes in the halls of the capitol building.
MCB also received a $10,000.00 donation designated for a radio ad urging the public to contact Representative Ryan Silvey, Chair of the House Budget Committee, to let him know that the elimination of this medical coverage for the blind was just plain wrong.
Despite our efforts, the House did not restore the funding and their version of the budget was sent on to the Senate appropriations committee on March 22. Although we thought we had a lot of support in the Senate for the blind, it turned out that the support just wasn’t there so this made our work even more crucial and more difficult.
In another joint effort by MCB, NFB and other blind related organizations from across the state, we began contacting the Senate appropriations committee via email, phone calls, written letters and personal visits. We also began collecting signatures through an on-line petition to try and generate support from the public. With over 1200 signatures collected, the petition was sent overnight to each member of the Senate appropriations committee.
Our executive director and I made numerous TV and radio appearances reaching out to the public for their support. Hardly a day went by that there wasn’t an article in a newspaper somewhere in the state concerning this issue. Once again I emphasize the support we received from TV, radio and newspapers was tremendous.
One of the arguments that both the House and Senate used in their reasoning for eliminating the medical coverage for the blind was that it wasn’t fair to other disability groups. This simply just didn’t make sense! Many of the blind pension recipients not only have a visual problem, but also have multiple disabilities as well. On April 4th, a rally hosted by all disability groups of Missouri was held in the rotunda of the capitol building. It was attended by over 300 individuals with all types of disabilities of which only approximately 10% were blind. The quote, “when you do it to one of us, you do it to all of us” was heard several times during the rally. It was very obvious that there was unity among all that attended to have this medical coverage for the blind completely restored.
In an effort to emphasize the difference between blindness and other disabilities, we sent out a letter to each Senator in print and in braille. The letter was designed hopefully to make the Senators see that there is a definite difference in being blind from other disabilities. The letter began:
What would you do if there were no print copy of this letter? No print labels on packaging or signage to help you locate streets and businesses.
I am enclosing in this packet both a print and braille letter. The braille letter says the same thing as the print version. But, you would have no way of knowing that without the print letter telling you.
The letter went on to say, why have I sent this to you?
It is important that you understand that blindness is different from many other disabilities. It is not only a physical disability such as having to use a wheelchair. It is a sensory disability and carries with it huge issues that can be virtually impossible to resolve for many people.
Reading and writing print is one of these issues. Some of us rely on braille but many more blind people cannot read braille; some because they lose their sight later in life; and some because they lose their sense of touch from diabetic and other forms of neuropathy. This large group of blind people is, then, unable to read or write in the conventional sense. No wonder they are in grave difficulty.
If you lost your vision tomorrow, you would have to change your life completely. If you were successful, the adjustments would take years. Sadly, many are not entirely able to adjust when faced with this necessity. Try to imagine running your next electoral campaign as a blind person. The simple logistics of campaigning would be hugely complicated. Daily living tasks like matching your socks or finding a dropped object would require learning alternative methods than depending on vision. If you live in a rural area, you could find yourself forced to hire a driver for something as simple as going to the grocery store.
It has been argued that providing this funding for the blind is inequitable to those with other disabilities. However, the argument of equity is insincere if, to achieve it, we take from one group but give nothing to others who supposedly suffer from unequal treatment. Any perceived inequity between blind people and others who are disabled is not addressed by taking money from the blind and giving it to higher education. If there is any merit one wants to claim by this transfer, argue straightforwardly on the basis of who will win and who will lose, and in calculating the losses, try to understand the cost one assigns to life.
I believe that this letter was very instrumental in putting into perspective just a few of the obstacles that the blind face every day. It also served to influence several Senators in realizing that blindness is a disability that presents problems to the person who is blind that no other disability faces.
In early April, we received word from the governor’s office that an unexpected $18 million from the federal government could be used to partially restore the medical coverage in the budget. This left $10 million that would be needed to fully restore this line item.
It seemed as though our efforts were beginning to pay off when Senator Kirk Schaefer of Columbia proposed a plan that would, in his words, restore the medical coverage for the blind. His plan was to charge the blind pension recipients a monthly premium of $112.00, a $600.00 deductible and co-pay for the medical services they received. He stated that this was the same sort of medical coverage that state workers received and felt that it was only fair that low-income blind pension recipients should also be required to pay the same. There were two problems with this plan. The first being that even with the premium and the deductible, it still wouldn’t add up to the $10 million required to fully restore the funding, but would still be $5 million short. If the difference was to be made up by the co-pay, then the amount of money necessary to make up that difference would make the co-pay astronomical for the blind. The other problem with his plan is that most all of the blind pension recipients just simply don’t have the income that the state workers have and would not be able to afford to pay for this coverage.
Let me say here that although Chris Gray and I, along with other leaders in blind related organizations across the state did as much as possible to advocate for the restoration of this medical coverage, our efforts would have gone in vain had it not been for the members of those various organizations standing alongside of us doing what they did. I can’t speak for any other organizations, but I know for a fact the MCB members joined together in a way I have never seen before, to do everything they could in this fight. The support from our membership that was shown was incredible and each one of you can be proud of MCB in the effort that was made on behalf of the blind in Missouri.
We were finally joined in on this fight by a couple key figures of the Senate. Senator Lembke of Lemay and Senator Crowell of Cape Girardeau both stepped up to the plate for the blind. During the Senate appropriations committee hearings on April 24th, both of these Senators advocated for us every step of the way. Senator Lembke proposed an amendment that would fully restore the funding for the medical coverage for the blind and with a roll call vote it was approved by a vote of 18 to 16.
Although this was certainly a victory, it was only one battle that was won. The next battle would be when the senate version of the budget would be sent to the conference committee. Whenever there is a difference in the House version of the budget and the Senate version, the budget needs to be reconciled by a conference committee. This committee consists of five representatives from the House and five representatives from the Senate. Their job is to come to an agreement on the changes that were made to the budget. So, Even though the Senate restored the funding for the medical coverage for the blind, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the funding will be there once it leaves the conference committee. This committee could vote to side with the House and eliminate the medical coverage, they could go with the plan as put forth by Senator Schaefer, they could approve the Senate’s version of the budget, or they could do something else entirely different than all of the above.
It was reported by the Springfield News Leader that Representative Tilley of Perry MO was hand selecting the five House members for the conference committee based on their stand on restoring the medical coverage for the blind. If they were in favor of restoration, then they would not be asked to serve on that committee. It’s almost like we were playing against someone with a stacked deck.
Needless to say, we certainly had our work cut out for us. Once again phone calls were made, emails were sent out, the petition was sent to each one of the conference committee members and personal visits were made. A press release was sent out to over 150 reporters and gave our perspective of what Representative Tilley and the House were trying to do. It also presented our frustrations on the way the political process works. Even with the outcry from the public, the newspapers, and TV and radio stations and from the blind community, it seemed as though it was all falling on deaf ears. Were the blind of Missouri being used as a political football? It certainly seems as though they were.
On Monday, May 7, Chris and I held a press conference on the steps of the Capitol building to appeal to the conference committee to do the right thing and completely restore the funding for medical coverage for the recipients of the blind pension. We were joined by Representative Mary Still of Columbia and reporters from around the state. Also in attendance were several MCB members and some from the NFB of Missouri. Statements were given from MCB members followed by questions from the reporters.
Afterwards several of us went inside to try and meet some of the Representatives and Senators that were on the conference committee as they began to assemble in the House lounge. We were successful in meeting and speaking to some of them, but it seems as though a majority of them entered through a different door.
Finally on May 9 at around 4:00 PM the conference committee reached a decision on the medical coverage for the blind. The funding was fully restored with one fly in the ointment. Premiums would be assessed on those that were 150% to 300% above poverty level. This could cost a person anywhere from $13.00 per month up to $120.00 per month depending on their income. We aren’t sure at this time if this is against the constitution or not, since the conference committee can only appropriate money and not legislate. We’ll just have to wait and see if this holds up or not. Either way, this is great for MCB and the blind community of Missouri.
Thanks again to all of you that fought for getting this funding restored.
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And The Winner is!!
You still have time to submit your nomination for the 2012 awards to be given out at the MCB banquet in October. Nominations should be sent to the president by July 15, 2012. You can email them to: email@example.com or use standard postal mail to the MCB office.
Missouri Council of the Blind
St. Louis, MO 63109
From time to time, the MCB may present outstanding individuals with the following awards:
- The Nathaniel Johnson Award
- The Ellis M. Forshee Award
- The Media Award
- The Darrell Lauer Award
- The President’s Award
The President, First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer are charged with the selection of the recipients of all of these awards, except the President’s Award.
Presentation of these awards shall be during the annual Convention banquet.
Criteria for Selection of Award recipients:
The recipient of the Nathaniel Johnson Award may be either legally blind or sighted but shall be a member of MCB. The honoree shall be someone who has done outstanding work in his/her community, for his/her Affiliate, or for MCB.
The recipient of the Ellis M. Forshee Award may be either legally blind or sighted. The honoree shall be someone who has done something outstanding on the state or national level. He/she shall be someone who works with the legally blind or with legislation for the legally blind.
The media award shall be presented from time to time to an individual or a media source that has shown outstanding promotion or news coverage to the Missouri Council of the Blind or to one of its affiliates.
The Darrell Lauer “Outstanding Leadership Award” will be presented from time to time, when deemed appropriate, to an outstanding member of the Missouri Council of the Blind who has shown qualities of exemplary leadership in the organization and in the community.
The recipient of the President’s Award is chosen by the President and is usually presented to a sighted MCB member who has given special help to the President or to MCB.
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Introductory Braille Course To Be Offered In The Kansas City Area
If you live in the Kansas City/metropolitan area and are interested in mastering the basics of Braille, consider enrolling in “Introduction to Braille”, being offered this fall at Johnson County Community College. Each course costs $99.00 and is taught by a certified teacher of the blind and visually impaired.
The non-credit course is designed to offer a hands-on approach, allowing for ample live instruction and instructor feedback. Introduction to Braille I. will take place on consecutive Thursday evenings, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, September 7 through October 25, 2012. This course covers the Braille alphabet, punctuation, and a few simple literary Braille contractions.
Introduction to Braille II., will take place on consecutive Thursday evenings, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, November 1, 2012 through December 13, 2012. This course will expand on material covered in Introduction to Braille I. to encompass many commonly used literary Braille contractions.
For more information or to register, call (913) 469-2323. Questions may also be directed to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Kimberly Morrow.
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From the Lower Left-Hand Drawer
By John Weidlich
Perhaps we should refer to the drawer this time as Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard because it seems rather bare. But unlike that poor woman, I do have a few bones that I think you will enjoy gnawing upon, so let’s go.
First, I’m very pleased to note that we have a new author in our midst. MCB member, Peter Altschul has recently published an autobiography called Breaking Barriers and, although I have not yet had the opportunity to read it, it sounds quite interesting. In reviewing this book, Jim Hasse refers to the book as a literary memoir and describes Peter as “an accomplished musician, facilitator, diversity expert and business leader who has been blind since birth.” He goes on to say “It’s a narrative that holds my interest with just the right dab of tension, humor, and insight. In addition to his employment experiences, Peter also tells stories about working with several guide dogs. The reviewer was impressed with Peter’s leadership skills and admired his “flexibility, patience, focus and reliability-attributes which are valued highly in today’s job market.” Peter’s book is available through universe.com and amazon.com. A BRF file is available for $9.95 by emailing Peter at email@example.com. I don’t know yet whether NLS will be making the book available through BARD or Web Braille.
Last year, National Braille Press produced a book on Getting Started with the iPhone, a device which more and more blind people are using because of its built-in voice. Well, a newer version of the iPhone, the iPhone 5 is out and so NBP has updated the book. The New book is Getting Started with the iPhone 5 for Blind Users by Anna Dresner and Deane Martineau. Like the earlier version, it discusses learning to use the phone, with details about setting up the phone, loading and backing up music and contacts and includes all of the basic gestures used to operate the phone. In addition the new book covers the new voice assistant called SIRI. This book covers the iPhone and the iPod Touch but not the iPad. Look for a book on the iPad very soon. The book is available for $22 in several formats, including Braille, Word and Daisy audio from National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115. Phone: (800) 548-7323. It can, of course, also be ordered from the web site http://www.nbp.org.
Tech Optics International has introduced a new magnification product called the Task Vision, which is worn like a pair of glasses with telescopes. Each can be adjusted for distances from 10-17 inches. For information, call (800) 678-4277 or visit http://www.techoptics international.com
How many of you have used the Dymo labelers to emboss Braille onto Dymo tape for labeling everything from medicine bottles to CDs? They work well but they can be a little slow since you have to turn a wheel to select each letter or contraction. Well, there is a new device out that, albeit rather expensive, will do the same thing quicker and easier. The 6dot Braille labeler embosses Braille characters on dymo tape using a standard six dot keyboard. It uses four AA batteries and has a built-in cutter and can also be connected to a keyboard with a USB port; the price is $329. The company says the first units have all been sold but more are being made so you can order now but will have to wait until the new ones are in stock. The phone number for ordering is (877) 507-6368. You can also visit their web site http://www.6dot.com. This is a new company and this is the only product they currently sell but more devices are on the way.
Zoomtext version 10.01 has been released with new camera features. For information, contact AI squared, (800) 859-0270, http://www.aisquared.com.
Finally, on a personal note, I would like to add my thoughts of sadness on hearing of the passing of Leo Giger. We spent much time with Leo and Donna at Cobblestone, talking about MCB and playing Pass the Trash, which Leo loved to do. I think Leo had an endless supply of aces to pass to whoever was sitting next to him and he could make you think he was holding a higher card than he actually had, as I learned at the end of one memorable game. Leo loved MCB and his family and he will be missed by many friends. Donna says she plans to come to Cobblestone in September and to stay active in MCB.
That is all for this time. Have a great summer and we will get together again in September.
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