March, 2021 Edition
By Wilma Chestnut-House
Black History Month was first proposed by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, from January 2 to February 28, 1970.
Six years later, Black History Month was being celebrated all across the country in educational institutions, centers of Black culture and community centers, both great and small, when President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history".
By Naomi Soule, President
Hello Everyone. 2021 has begun with lots of conference calls and Zoom meetings.
Beginning in January, affiliate presidents are getting together every other month to discuss what’s going on in their affiliates. We have also started a president’s chat list for ideas and discussion.
The Board of Directors has taken a very active role in contacting Members at Large to learn about their interests and concerns. We held a Members-at-Large conference call. Another will be held to make sure we are including those who couldn't make the first call. I want to thank Kay Malmquist, Chip Hailey, Linda Gerken and Wilma Chestnut for their hard work. Wilma and her Membership Committee are working hard to engage new members.
The Resource and Development Committee is hard at work developing plans for 2021. You will hear more about fundraising projects as they are ready to launch.
I hope many of you will be listening to ACB's Legislative and Midyear meeting which will be virtual this year. The dates are February 21 through February 23rd. Kay, Chip and I will be attending.
Legislative Day in Jeff City will not be held this year. Chip is developing plans for a Zoom call in March to discuss alternative ideas for reaching our representatives, and what bills we will focus on.
I hope all of you are staying well and safe.
AGAPE Council Report
By Wilma Chestnut-House
We are sad to announce that AGAPE Council will not be able to host our yearly Black History Program due to Covid 19.
Some of us have taken on projects to keep us busy, for instance:
Since we can’t have our program, I was going to cook a buffet style dinner consisting of dishes from Jamaica, Nigeria, and the Caribbean. Since Peggy and Steve are having their wedding reception on February 14, she has allowed me to cook this for her. Dishes such as Curry goat with peas and rice, lamb meatballs with grilled eggplant and a curry sauce, and coconut curry grilled chicken. We will also have salads, cabbage and Nigerian stewed spinach with smoked meat. To top it off, we have the wedding cake of Peggy and Steve Franks.
Ronnie Dowell is now working as a trainer for Greg Marks (Job Accommodations). He trains clients on most adaptive equipment.
Marilyn Reece-Parker has written a book about her son who died unexpectedly in 2018. It is entitled, “Legacy of Larry L. Parker II (Responsible Man, Responsible Father). It is dedicated to her two grandsons, his children. She says that this has been very therapeutic for her.
I am now making whipped shea butter lotion, combined with vitamin E, coconut oil, and scented essential oils. They smell very good and the skin feels wonderful!
Blind of Central Missouri
By Joe Morgan
Greetings from Sedalia! I hope everyone has had a nice holiday and is surviving the winter all right. We did not have a meeting in December and our Christmas party was canceled. We are having our meetings via conference call and this will be until further notice. We will have our next meeting on February 11th. We added 2 new members who were members-at-large from Jefferson City. Joe Dobbs and Brian Wekamp. Until next time keep smiling, and stay safe.
Hello to Everyone from Delta Area!
By Wanda Matlock
The members of Delta Area (along with a few close family members), had our Christmas party on November 24th at Grecian Steak House in Sikeston, Mo. We had a short meeting and then enjoyed a good meal along with games and prizes. We had a very small group for our party this year, but it was still a lot of fun. We have been blessed in the past to be able to adopt a family for Christmas. This year, we are pleased to say that we had extra funding that allowed us to help 4 families to have a better Christmas for their children. We received several thank you cards from the families that we helped. We realize that last year was a very difficult time for many people. It is our hope that we will always have funding to help at least one to two families for Christmas.
We chose not to have a meeting in December, but we were back to work in January.
We had our first meeting of the new year on January 26, 2021. We had as our special guest, Lisa Angle. Lisa is the Executive Director for United Way of Southeast Mo. United Way has been a great supporter of Delta Area for many years. Lisa gave a great presentation of how United Way supports 17 other agencies in Southeast Mo. The Three things that United Way considers when an agency applies for support are: health, education, and economic stability.
From all the members of Delta Area, Have a very Happy and Healthy Spring!
St. Charles County Council of the Blind
By Marjorie Petrofsky
I hope everybody had a safe and nice holiday season. We did all our socializing and meetings with the phone. We debated whether or not to have our annual Christmas party but in the end decided against it. All our other meetings and social events were also held by telephone. Maybe these next few months will be a little safer and we can meet in person again.
We did learn some interesting presidential, trivia facts The president who made Christmas a national holiday was Ulysses S. Grant on June 28'th 1870. Richard Nixon was a gifted pianist and could also play the violin, saxophone and accordion. Gerald Ford was recruited and asked to play professional football but turned it down. The longest married presidential couple was Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter whose marriage lasted 74 years.
I hope things get better soon, maybe they will with the Covid shots. Everybody stay safe and healthy.
Queen City Council of the Blind
By Marilyn Tuso
Greetings from Queen City Council of the Blind. On January 11th we had our first virtual meeting and it was really nice. It was so good for all of us to talk together again. Our last meeting was February 11, 2020. Because of Covid, we haven’t had any meetings since then until this time. We have some new members and we are very glad meet as an affiliate again. Minutes were read and accepted. It is very nice to know that Daniel Lagoo has been chosen to be on the Scholarship Committee. We want to wish everyone a happy Valentine’s Day.
Springfield Service Club
By Debra Whitt
This is my last update as the president of the Springfield Service Club of the Blind. Taking on other responsibilities, I leave on January 14th.
The Springfield Service Club of the Blind ended 2020 by saying goodbye to two of our most active members: Donna Giger and Roxanne Taylor. These ladies will always be remembered for their selfless service to the blind.
Elections were held for a third time at the end of December. This time around, Matthew Bailey was elected president, Kenny Norton was elected vice-president, Stephanie Bailey was elected secretary and board rep. and Bill Freeman was elected treasurer. Shannon Tolbert will serve as an alternate board rep. The club is looking to recruit new members due to its reduction of membership after the elections.
I would like to personally thank everyone who contributed to the Christmas fund, either through donations, T-shirt sales, or via the online auction. Due to the great success of the online auction as well as several donations from various businesses and individuals, we were able to help three families with blind children for Christmas. Each family received roughly $1000 in assistance. This included the purchase of several AT devices for the blind children, as well as items for their siblings and some stuff for the household.
I hope next year other clubs throughout Missouri will think about the meaning of the Christmas season and open their hearts to local families by reaching into their treasure trove and asking, “Who can we help?” I am sure there are already some who do this, and hopefully more will be able to do so in the future. I hope they will write about their acts of assistance in future editions. I am sure we would all like to read about them.
A committee was set up in September to create a medical guide dog fund. Matthew Bailey volunteered to be chair of this committee as well as Kenny and Sam. Thanks to donations and proceeds from the online auction, as well as our T-shirt sales, the fund was vested with roughly $2,500. Unfortunately, Sam had to undergo back surgery and a lengthy healing process, which made it impossible for him to be actively involved. The other two committee members seemed to not be able to find the time to devote to this endeavor, so an application, as well as the necessary guidelines for people to apply for these funds, was not set up by the end of the year as I had hoped.
Another sad event during the past few months was the attack of Kenny’s guide dog, Boston, by a neighbor’s pit-bull. Boston has recovered, I believe, but the lack of concern by the police and other officials can only be described as “disturbing.” There seems to still be a lot of work that needs to be done in educating the public, as well as officials, as to the laws governing guide dogs and how important these animals are to their handlers.
I hope everyone reading this is looking towards 2021 with optimism. Hopefully, one day we can have an in-person convention. I am looking forward to that day. Have a wonderful New Year!
Springfield Service Club of the Blind
By Stephanie Bailey, Secretary
We have been very busy this fall and winter. Thank you for all of your participation to make our auction successful. The proceeds helped families with visual impairments have a wonderful Christmas.
We have elected new officers. We are hoping to start a scholarship fund which will allow a student from Missouri who is planning to attend college in the Springfield area helping hand. We hope you are having a wonderful winter.
United Workers for the Blind
By Bob Jaco
Hello to all of you from UWB. As you read this, we will be in March and all thoughts will turn to Spring. Hope all of you are doing well.
First, I have sad news to report. Early in December, Brian Hallows lost his battle with a terminal disease he had had for several years, but he certainly fought to the end. He always had a joke to tell and will certainly be missed by UWB and MCB!
On the lighter side, we congratulate two of our members, one for graduation, one for her retirement. On December 18th, Raymond Bishop, President of United Workers for the Blind, (UWB), graduated as a Licensed Massage Therapist, (LMT), from the Healing Arts Center. The Healing Arts Center is a school steeped in Holistic teachings and Raymond was also inducted into the school’s highest honor society known as the Twin Hearts Society. A student must show compassion and show his/her desire and willingness to embrace and work within the educational beliefs of the school. Congratulations Raymond, UWB is proud of you.
Next, Judy Burch has retired from RSB, (Rehabilitation Services for the Blind). She started as a Counselor in 1989, then became a Rehab teacher in 1992 and retired January 1st of this year. She says she really enjoyed working with people throughout her 32-year career. She is active in UWB, Braille Revival League, as well as Friends of Wolfner and other affiliates as well. Congratulations to you from all of us in UWB, as I know you will enjoy your retirement.
I guess that’s all the news for now from UWB. Until next time, stay safe and be kind.
Adaptive Technology, Inc.
By Chip Hailey, ATI President
Greetings and salutations everyone, it's been quite some time since there's been an article from ATI in the Chronicle so I thought I would bring you up-to-date on what's been happening with this special interest affiliate of MCB.
Allow me to start with the current officers: Chip Hailey, president, Jim Murray, vice president, Denny Huff, secretary, and Beverly Kaskadden, treasurer.
ATI is currently in the midst of a membership drive and for every new member that is sponsored by one of our members to join ATI, the sponsor will be awarded $5.
You don't have to have a sponsor to join though so you're more than welcome to join at any time.
Membership dues are $15 per year, and you will be eligible to receive our quarterly ATI newsletter.
Membership also allows you to be eligible for our quarterly drawing that we have during our ATI Zoom meetings but you need to be present on the call to win.
Speaking of our ATI Zoom meetings, we meet every third Thursday of each month at 7:00 PM using the Zoom Conferencing platform.
You need not be a member of ATI to participate but are always encouraged to join.
We generally have a special guest speaker to talk about some of the latest and greatest technologies for the blind and visually impaired on the market today.
If you're interested in joining ATI, you can pay either by PayPal or by check. Should you wish to pay by check, please make your check out to ATI in the amount of $15 and send it to Beverly Kaskadden at: Beverly Kaskadden, 646 Woodchuck Ln., Lake St. Louis, Mo., 63367-2102.
Should you prefer to use PayPal, the user name for ATI is email@example.com.
We also ask that you complete the following application and send it to Denny Huff at firstname.lastname@example.org
ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGY INC.
Address: City, State, Zip:
Date of birth:
Blind, Low Vision, Sighted?
Are you a member of a regular affiliate?
We also ask all current members of ATI to also fill out and complete the application and send it to Denny as well so that we can have everyone's correct contact information in order to keep all of you up-to-date on any future technology events.
We would also like to encourage everyone to join our ATI e-mail distribution list by sending a blank e-mail to the following address: email@example.com
This is a great way to stay informed on much of today's technology for the blind and visually impaired. You can also ask any technology question relating to your particular technology need.
It also reminds every one of the date and time of our monthly ATI Zoom meetings and who the special guest will be for that month.
If you're not a computer user, no need to worry. You can still participate by calling (312) 626-6799 and the pass code is 7172. Recordings of our meetings are also available on the MCB Information Line at 773-572-6387, and press option 7. When you press 7, and the file starts, you can press 0 for a quick help message that will list all the functions you can do while listening to a greeting.
The recordings are also available for download but you need a computer or smart phone in order to download the file. The download link is generally listed a couple of days after our Zoom meetings and can be found on our ATI e-mail list.
Remember you need not to be a member to participate in the call but we would certainly love to have you as one of our growing numbers.
Should you have any questions or need any additional information about this exciting special interest affiliate, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (417) 540-9703. Stay well, stay safe, and always remember to be kind to one another.
Missouri Guide Dog Users
By Judy Burch
Greetings from Missouri Guide Dog Users (MGDU). Hopefully you all are surviving the winter and finding things to do despite the restrictions placed upon us due to Covid. We in MGDU continue to move forward with plans and activities, and we do have several items of interest to report to you in this issue of the Chronicle.
As some of you may know, we lost our wonderful webmaster, Cheryl Gajadhar, to Covid on December 18. Cheryl was instrumental in revamping our mgdu.org website. She always demonstrated a willingness to work with us, and was available to make changes and update as needed. Her willingness to work with us and her bubbly personality will be missed.
On January 26, the MGDU board approved a contract to begin working with a new webmaster, Sarah Hale of SiteWeaver. We have reviewed several websites which she manages, and we are very excited to begin working with her. Stay tuned for more updates, and be sure to visit mgdu.org to check out our website.
As of the writing of this article, planning for Top Dog 2022 should resume near the end of February or the beginning of March. Dates for Top Dog 2022 are May 19-22, 2022. We’ll keep you all updated.
You have probably heard about the controversy regarding various emotional support animals flying on planes. The Department of Transportation requested comments from individuals and organizations regarding proposed rule changes to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The good news is that as of January 11, 2021, only service dogs are allowed to fly on planes. No more emotional support dogs, cats, pigs, horses, or any other emotional support animals will be permitted to fly. There are forms which service dog handlers will need to submit which provide documentation as to the type of service the dog performs to mitigate a person’s disability, behavior of the dog and other information. Airlines must begin enforcing these changes by the end of February. The forms are to be completed 48 hours before the service dog handler is to fly. GDUI has held several Zoom calls regarding these changes, and wrinkles in the preparation of the forms are being addressed.
The final bit of news from MGDU is that we have welcomed five new members to our affiliate in the past couple of months. Until next time, all take care!
By Wilma Chestnut-House
My team, Sarah Cason, Sarah Calhoun, Elizabeth Brown, and Greg Hollins are working very hard at recruiting new members to join our organization. We are getting information out concerning Members at Large, new members overall, and young adults. In November we had 149 Members at large and as of February, we have 162. If we get new members at large, we will let them know which affiliate is nearest to them and also contact the president or secretary of that affiliate to make them aware of this person. Soon we will be posting on our information line for interested new members. We are checking into purchasing cartridges to update our brochures so that individuals that do not have computers, smart phones, or cannot read braille will still be able to get information about MCB by using the player from Wolfner.
On our Member at Large conference call, we gave two $25 gift cards to people that remained on the call to the end.
Youth Services Report
By Linda Gerken, Chair
We are now in the second half of the school year. Parents, check with your teachers to see if there is anything your child needs for the rest of this year. While talking to your teacher ask if there is something you can get to get ready for next year. Also, it is not too early to be looking for the camp your child would enjoy for this summer. As soon as you know what school item you need send in an application. Camp applications can be sent in at any time. Thanks for letting us help you with school items and camp for the summer for your child.
Summer Camp Report
By Beverly Kaskadden, Chair
While writing this article, it is 33 degrees and cloudy. I am anticipating the warmer weather in June at Cobblestone. Keep that thought on your mind, and we will be there before you know it. As far as I know at this time, we will move forward with plans to attend Cobblestone this year. I am sure you are used to living day by day this past year. All plans can change, but we can still plan. The Camp applications will still go out, and the camp committee will still meet to arrange cabin and table placements.
Cobblestone will be putting together a safety plan for their guest and staff. As soon as I get it I will send it out. Everyone’s safety is our high priority.
The dates for this year are June 6 through the 13th, August 1 through the 8th, and the extended weekend is September 9 through the 12th. I have to turn the cabin and table placements in to Cobblestone by the beginning of May, so please get the applications filled out completely and mailed back to the office before that date.
If we do have to cancel, refunds will be prompt. If you have any questions, please contact me, and I will answer your questions. The best way to contact me is through e-mail, but you can also call me. My committee includes Celita and Sam White. I do appreciate their contributions to this process.
One more thing, please read the Guidelines, and that should answer many of your questions. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we are all ready for some fun in the sun. Stay warm and healthy!
Contact me at email@example.com, home phone (636) 561-6947 or my cell is 636-541-2503.
Important Bylaws/Resolutions Reminder
By Janelle Edwards, Bylaws/Resolutions Committee Chair
To have a representative on the Bylaws/Resolutions committee, if a regular affiliate is not currently represented, or the representative has changed, by September 1, the regular affiliate president must notify the office which member will represent their affiliate. The representative may be changed later in some circumstances. Proposed bylaw amendments, and resolutions, must be submitted to me by July 15 by either two MCB members, or an MCB committee, or a regular affiliate, or a special interest affiliate. If you have any questions my contact information is in the Chronicle insert.
Resource and Development Committee
By Debra Whitt
I have accepted the position to chair the Resource and Development Committee, whose primary purpose is fundraising. I would like to extend an opportunity to any affiliate member or member-at-large who would be interested in serving on this committee. We are looking for dedicated and hard-working individuals who enjoy researching, letter and grant-writing, and working with others to accomplish a common goal that will help the blind throughout Missouri. You may contact me directly at 502-262-2008 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Education and Advocacy
By Chip Hailey, Chair
Greetings fellow MCB Legislative Advocates. I trust everyone is doing well and looking forward to much calmer and warmer weather as Spring rapidly approaches. With the Coronavirus still taking its toll upon our American soil, and individuals still practicing all of the social distancing protocols, it was decided that in the interest of everyone's health and wellness to forego our MCB Legislative Days this year at the Capitol. Instead, we decided to ask our affiliate legislative representatives and other members of MCB, to join together with us in making phone calls and sending emails to their area state representatives and senators regarding our legislative imperatives. At the time of this writing, we haven't completely decided yet what issues we will be taking to our legislators but here are a couple of issues we are considering.
HB 115, sponsored by Representative Bridget Walsh Moore, requires state agencies to support competitive integrated employment for persons with disabilities.
HB 115, also known as the Missouri employment first act, a bill that was sponsored last year by Representative Sarah Unsicker, HB 1276, a bill we had supported last year but unfortunately didn't make it through the state legislature due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Employment First is a state-level approach to disability services. It means that employment is considered the option of choice for citizens with disabilities, rather than placement in a sheltered workshop, a day habilitation program, or another segregated or non-inclusive setting. This bill establishes the "Missouri Employment First Act." The bill requires all state agencies that provide employment-related services or provide services or support to persons with disabilities to coordinate with other agencies, share data where feasible, promote competitive integrated employment, and implement an employment first policy when providing services to persons with disabilities of working age. In addition, state agencies shall offer specified information to all working-age persons with disabilities and to the parents or guardians of youth with a disability. The bill provides that this shall not be construed as requiring any state agency or employer to give a preference in hiring to persons with disabilities, or require a state agency to perform an action not in conformity with federal law.
HB117, sponsored by Representative Bridget Walsh Moore, modifies provisions relating to Blind Pensions. This is a bill that was sponsored last year again by Representative Sarah Unsicker, HB 1270, a bill we had supported last year but again it didn't make it through the state legislature due to the outbreak of the pandemic. This bill removes a requirement of any notice that is sent to any applicant or recipient of the Blind Pension Fund must be sent by certified mail. Instead, the bill allows the notice to be sent by any mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. Removing this requirement will also save Missouri approximately $100,000 annually.
For the past 8 years or so we have supported bills relating to making accessible voting equipment available during all state and local elections and not just during the federal elections. This year, however, we are considering an alternative method to voting for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
On January 25, 2021, we met with representatives from Democracy Live, Bryan Finney, CEO and founder of democracy Live, and Charlie Kinnune, Director of Outreach, and Melissa Carney, Educational Outreach Consultant, to discuss with us the Omni Balloting portal. Democracy Live is the largest provider of electronic voting tools in the country. They serve over 20 states and 2000 jurisdictions.
OmniBallot is a secure, online balloting portal intended for voters who may not be able to vote a conventional paper ballot. The system has been deployed in over 1,000 elections since 2008. However, the Electronic Ballot Return option is relatively new. I had tested the OmniBallot Accessible Absentee Ballot Portal and found it to be very accessible and blind friendly, and asked several other members to test it as well and they too found it to be very accessible.
We are asking all of our MCB legislative advocates along with their families, friends, and neighbors, to contact their elected officials as well as the following two individuals from the Missouri Secretary of State's Office employing them to institute and implement this system in Missouri.
Chrissy Peters, Co-Director of Elections
573 751 2301 or Chrissy.email@example.com.
Kendra Lane, Co-Director of Elections
573 751 2301 or Kendra.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's a list of the talking points you can use when addressing your legislators as well as the two Co-Directors of Elections:
* Accessible vote by mail is being done in over 20 states
* Voting from home is the fastest growing method of voting in America. Even before the Pandemic
* Not only is Electronic ballot delivery important but, Electronic Ballot return is the next step for 100% accessibility. 32 States allow uniformed and overseas voters to submit ballots back through email or fax. Why not allow voters with disabilities the same option? Only in a secure portal. Email and fax have security issues far greater than our secure federally approved cloud environment
* Voting access is covered by the ADA. Elected and election officials often hide behind the lack of legislation allowing them when in fact with strong leadership in the state office this can be done without legislation.
For more information about Democracy Live and the Omni portal, you can e-mail Bryan or Charlie at their following respective addresses: Contact Bryan Finney at email@example.com, or Charlie Kinnune at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling Democracy Live at 425 457 3041. Democracy Live is always hoping to listen, learn and improve on its accessibility. They welcome your feedback, and it's always greatly appreciated.
We plan on holding our annual MCB Legislative Days conference call using the MCB Zoom Conferencing Platform. The conference call is scheduled for Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 7:00 PM.
On Monday, January 11, 2021, I participated in the advocacy training session that was hosted by the Florida Council of the Blind in the ACB community. This training consisted of the following Legislative & General Advocacy points: Educating the ACB membership regarding the nuts and bolts of publicizing its issues; making appointments; presenting issues in writing and in conversation to local, state and national leaders; determining whether or not an issue is best addressed legislatively (state or Nationally) or community or State Department based action; advocating at public meetings to educate about an issue that requires resolution; and, most of all, building a pathway to engage its members in meaningfully supporting the work of its organizations and its Chapters and Special Interest Affiliates.
The event presenters were: Dan Spoone, president, American Council of the Blind, (ACB); Clark Rachfal, director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, ACB; Jeff Thom, chair, Advocacy Steering Committee, ACB; Jim Kracht, Board Member, ACB; Gabriel Lopez Kafati, Chair, Scholarship Committee, FCB and Doug Hall, longtime leader in FCB. A huge shout out to Debbie Grubb, Event Coordinator, for putting together such an outstanding panel and legislative event.
Last September I participated and completed a summer program course in the Advocacy in the Deaf-Blind World sponsored by the Helen Keller National Center for Youths and Adults and received the following certificate of completion.
Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults, Certificate of Completion. Chip Hailey successfully completed all requirements for the Summer Advocacy in the Deaf-Blind World Course. Signed Megan Conway, Research and Accessibility Specialist; Chris Woodfill, Associate Director; Ryan Odland, Regional Representative; Megan A. Conway, PhD, Research and Accessibility Specialist, Helen Keller National Center, 141 Middle Neck Rd., Sands Point, NY 11050. Mobile: 516-242-3426; email@example.com; www.helenkeller.org/hknc.
I also had the wonderful opportunity last October to address the high school students at the Kansas State School for the Blind regarding my voting experiences over the past 10 years. We met via the Zoom Conferencing platform and the students seem to appreciate my story on how I advocated all those years on my right as an American citizen to be able to vote privately and independently.
Finally, this past November, I was able to cast my vote for the very first time without any sighted assistance using the accessible voting equipment. I was so overcome with joy that I had successfully been able to vote privately and independently for the very first time that after I had printed out my ballot, I felt like jumping up and throwing my fist up in the air and shouting for joy, spite the hundreds that were at my polling precinct casting their votes as well.
I will also be participating in this year's ACB Legislative Seminar on February 22nd and 23rd, 2021, which will be held virtually. In preparation of this important legislative event, I participated in ACB’s live stream on January 26th to learn the many ways I could continue to grow as a legislative advocate in my state as well as in Washington, D.C.
You can expect a complete update regarding our MCB Legislative Days and the ACB Legislative Seminar in the June issue of the Chronicle.
Finally, if you're not subscribed to our MCB Education and Advocacy e-mail distribution list, we encourage you to do so by sending a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org then simply reply to the confirmation e-mail sent to you and you should be ready to go.
If there's anything I can do to assist you regarding our legislative efforts, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com or by phone at or 417-540-9703.
Adaptive Technology Grant Committee
By Darrel Vickers, Chair
Hi Everyone, I hope all of you are doing well. I want to take a minute to give you an update on our technology grants and provide an overview of this great program for those of you who might not be aware of it and how it works.
Missouri Council knows how life changing, certain types of technology can be to a blind person. We are also aware the cost of this type of technology can be expensive and may be out of reach for some people.
Therefore, MCB provides the adaptive technology grant. Each year MCB sets aside moneys for technology that blind persons of Missouri can apply for, to help offset the cost of adaptive technology.
How it works: For MCB members, MCB will match dollar for dollar for most types of adaptive technology with a $3000 limit over any five (5) year period. Any blind resident of Missouri who is not a member of MCB can also receive a grant, but we will match 25% of the total cost with the same $3000 limit.
2020-2021 Funding: Some great news. In September I was contacted by John from the St Louis Light house. He read in the chronical about us running out of money for the A.T. grant program. The Light House generously gave us a grant for $10,000 for this coming year. The board approved $30,000. So, with the additional Light House grant we have $40,000 for this fiscal year.
This will allow us to help many more people. My sincere thanks to John Thomson and the Light House for this grant.
We began accepting applications on November 1st.
As of this writing on January 30 we have approved 19 grants and have used approximately half of our funding. We normally use up all our funding by summer. The grant we received will help us serve more people but still I would not wait too long. If this program can help you, I would encourage you to apply.
Purpose: The MCB technology grant is a matching grant to help Missouri blind and low vision persons obtain all types of adaptive technology. The Missouri Council of the Blind (MCB) created this Adaptive Technology Grants Program to help fulfill its mission of enriching the lives of legally blind Missourians. Adaptive technology can be awfully expensive so MCB understands why many legally blind Missourians are not benefiting from its use. For the purpose of this grant program, adaptive technology is considered hardware, software, electronics, equipment, etc. that is standalone or works in conjunction with a computer that makes it possible for blind people to do things that sighted people can already do without using adaptive technology.
Coverage: The Adaptive Technology Grants Program widely covers both hardware and software based adaptive technology, including upgrades and maintenance agreements, and narrowly covers computer systems as required by or used in conjunction with accompanying adaptive technology, such as screen magnification software, screen reader software, or a scanning system. Purchase of a computer along with or for use with accompanying adaptive technology is only eligible for up to a $400 matching funds grant. Only new adaptive technology and computers are covered, including adaptive technology upgrades to newer versions; used or previously owned adaptive technology and computers are not covered.
Note: A full copy of the grant guidelines as well as an application can be found on our web site at: http://moblind.org/programs/ or by contacting the MCB office at (314) 832-7172. You can also contact me anytime.
This is a wonderful program and I encourage you to take advantage if needed.
The Committee: The adaptive technology committee is made up of three members: Darrel Vickers, Kim Vaughn, and Belinda Turner. Sadly, we lost one of our members, Brian Hallows since my last writing. Brian, you are missed. Rest in peace.
If you have any questions about the program, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 636-667-3176. Until next time, take Care.
My Interpretation of the First Virtual Annual MCB State Convention
By Erika Wolf
*This article should have appeared in the previous issue.
Dear Missouri Council of the Blind Associates: Please take a gander at what I, as an American Council of the Blind/Missouri Council of the Blind Consumer, consider to be the most poignant moments of this year’s ever first Virtual Annual Missouri Council of the Blind State Convention. For me, as a Member-at-Large, besides an active participant of two special state interest groups (The Missouri Guide Dog Users, and Adaptive Technology Inc.), of the state affiliate, consisted of Cindy Hollis’s presentation on gaining more, fresh membership, as well as, renewing interest in current members, to become more actively involved; hence: building a stronger, more connected community within our own state affiliate, throughout each chapter. Her words: “Embrace, Engage, and Empower”, continues to resonate with me, even now, long since the convention has convened. As a Member of MCB, these inviting words continue to encourage me to take on a more active Leadership Role within our state community of blind constituents.
Cindy touched upon an important principle: together, we as a state organization, have the potential of emulating what the parent governance, The American Council of the Blind(ACB) has carried out within this past year, when the Pandemic hit our nation. ACB, as a collective body, had the wherewithal to grow and thrive, even though these toughest months of 2020. Nurturing our affiliate by creating our own community events, whether weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly. Whatever the affiliate(s) choose to do as dedicated members, should be something we constantly strive towards accomplishing. During Cindy’s profoundly outstanding presentation, she quipped a famous line from the movie ‘Field of Dreams”, which just happens to be a heartfelt movie I’ve always been compelled to watch, whenever it airs on television. “If You Build It, They Will Come”, which of course, illustrates the value of taking strides as shareholders to enrich our joint, cohesive cause, of enriching the lives of all blind persons within the state of Missouri.
My reaction to this statement is: Yes, we can most emphatically march towards achieving positive life-changing goals for our body of stakeholders by working in collaboration with one another— the possibilities are honestly endless. By sticking together, working on initiatives that can only strengthen our ability to move forward within a sighted society, will truly enhance our lives as a whole.
I believe in equality, inclusion of all persons whom are blind, and feel truly blessed to be part of the Missouri Council of the Blind, to create new partnerships and friendships as I become more involved with our overall mission of making life more complete for blind persons.
Another great highlight for me throughout the two-day 64th state convention was the Springfield Service Club Virtual Live Auction designed to raise many funds for guide dogs across Missouri, along with raising funds to support Families with Children for Christmas. Presently, the Springfield Service Club of the Blind is in the process of building up two funds—one being an Emergency Health Grant for Guide Dog Users; and a second fund consisting of monies to support Families for Christmas. The Service Club will use a portion of the recent state convention auction proceeds to go towards each type of fund. Twenty-five percent of funds raised from the auction will go towards the emergency financial relief fund to support veterinary needs of guide dogs throughout the state. The Service Club is currently in the process of adopting qualifications of eligibility for a Guide Dog Team living within the state to receive such funding, and hope to have some sort of application procedure in place by the beginning of next year, in early January.
In addition to this fund, The Springfield Service Club is working towards assisting four families for Christmas, that are in financial need of gaining extra support to assist in the acquisition of technological aids or home modifications to enhance quality of life for blind or otherwise disabled individuals. The Service Club plans to use another 25% of proceeds gained from the auction to go towards a Christmas Fund, along with, conducting a Go Fund Me Event through Facebook, sometime in November. If someone donates or contributes $50, he/she will receive a specially designed Service Club of the Blind T-shirt, plus a bandanna. A number of donations from local businesses and contributors to donate funds for the Christmas Project are being collected to have in place by December 15th, in order to mail and deliver gifted items to families.
The auction raised roughly $3,000, but a final total has not yet been calculated to finalize the dollar amount. In some, the auction was fun-filled, thoroughly enjoyable, and had me laughing throughout most of it. I, of course, loving auctions as much as you might imagine: bid on a number of the wide variety of auction items up for purchase. AS a Guide Dog User, it was only fitting to bid on several of the Dog Items, and as luck had it: I managed to have the highest bid on a lovely Bark Box, I will be giving to my brother and his family, since they just acquired a new pet.
The virtual Convention was indeed successful, and I look forward to attending my next in-person or video conference.
Hopefully, we will all have a chance to see one another and gather in Branson, come next October! I hope to see you there!
Vets’ News Line
By Darrel Vickers, USN AMM Third Class
I want to take a moment to talk about benefits for Veterans who have or are losing their site. If this is you or you know a veteran this information could help, please share it with them.
As some of you may know I am a Navy vet. I began losing my sight while I was in the service. Over a 20-year period I lost my sight except for a little light perception.
But my eye condition is not service connected so I thought I was unable to receive medical VA benefits.
Then a friend, Denny Huff put me in contact with another Vet like myself. After talking with him I realized the VA wanted to help me even though my condition was not service connected. At the time I really did not think the VA could do anything for me. But Morris encouraged me to just contact the VA anyway.
So I got the name of what the VA calls a vision coordinator and got the process started. After I had a full physical, eye examination and a chest X-ray I was placed on the schedule to go to the Heine's Blind Rehabilitation center in Chicago. This was one of the best decisions I have made. Heine's is a first rate facility and every member of the staff is great.
Each program is customized to the Vet's needs and desires. In my case the number one thing I wanted was orientation and mobility training. I had a cane but never had any formal training.
I was there for six weeks. I always thought I could get around pretty well. I soon realized after a short time I was wrong. I met a couple of guys who had recently lost all of their sight. Although I had been using a cane for at least fifteen years, they were helping me get around and they had only been using a cane for a few weeks. By the time I left I was helping other people.
They will purchase equipment such as a computer and other adaptive devices. Another thing all your health care cost are paid with no co-payments. Please do not let fear prevent you from taking advantage of this wonderful facility. They have a very comprehensive rehabilitation program including O and M, computers, living skills and so on. They have a full woodworking shop, machine shop, music classes, etc. It is not just all work and no play. I attended a Cubs game, went sailing, played golf and many other things. I also made some new friends and even after 5 years, a couple of guys and I are still very close. I could go on and on but I need to keep this article short. List of VA facilities with a Vision Coordinator in Missouri:
Kansas City VA Medical Center
John Cochran Division
Jennifer Bach (Acting)
314-652-4100 | 800-228-5459
Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital
John J. Pershing VA Medical Center
573-686-4151 | 888-557-8262
Remember your loss of sight does not have to be service connected. You served your country.
Another organization you may want to consider joining is the Blinded Veterans Association. http://bva.org/
Please contact me if I can answer any questions. My contact information is in the insert.
USN AMM Third Class
Metro St. Louis offers Training
By Klaus Mittelstadt COMS, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Metro St. Louis is now providing a service for folks that are blind and visually impaired to learn how to use the Metro bus and Metro link. This is for the St. Louis area and anywhere the metro travels. For more info, contact Klaus. (his contact info is below).
Metro ADA Fixed Route Training – Travel Training for blind and visually impaired individuals from a COMS on buses and trains.
Metro offers orientation and mobility training on MetroBus and MetroLink to individuals who have a disability. This training is your ticket to public transit freedom and independence. For people that are visually impaired or blind, a Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist (COMS) will guide you through your options for travel and teach you necessary skills including:
Determining appropriate routes
Determining bus stop location
Determining the correct bus
Proper boarding and departure procedures
Determining appropriate landmarks
Proper street crossing skills including safely negotiating intersections
Community safety skills
Before starting travel training with an orientation and mobility specialist, you will be given an individualized evaluation. Based on this evaluation, instruction will be tailored to specifically meet your skills and needs. Through one-on-one instruction with a Certified Orientation and Mobility Instructor, you will learn to ride MetroBus and MetroLink. You will learn the practical skills needed to travel the entire Metro Transit system safely and with confidence.
You will practice using buses and/or trains to locations you visit on a regular basis, until you feel confident in your ability to independently use public transit.
Metro offers training for anyone with a disability to ride the bus and train (really anyone who feels they need help to learn.) But now we can offer that service to visually impaired and blind also.
It would be great to speak at a meeting or a conference call for any interested parties. There may be other new service options for travel that people don’t know about since they are new like the Lyft and Via option.
You can make a referral for training by calling 314-982-1510 or email at email@example.com
If someone wanted to speak directly with me my info in below:
Klaus Mittelstadt COMS
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Office 314.982.1400 ext. 1614
Access Technology Affordability Act
Baltimore, Maryland (January 22, 2021)
The National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans, applauds the introduction of the Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA) (H.R. 431) in the United States House of Representatives by Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee Chairman Mike Thompson (D-CA-5) and Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA-16). This legislation removes an employment barrier commonly experienced by blind Americans who cannot afford the high cost of access technology by creating a refundable tax credit in the amount of $2,000 to be used over a three-year period to offset the cost of these technologies.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “My wife, my two daughters, and I are all blind, and the children’s technology needs will increase as they complete their education and start their careers. My family is not unique; blind people across the nation face this challenge, and this legislation will provide critical assistance. We thank and commend Chairman Thompson and Representative Kelly for continuing to be champions for this act, which will help give blind people the technology they need to live the lives they want.”
Proposal would phase out most personal property taxes in Missouri
By Maria Benevento, February 4, 2021. stltoday.com.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, would phase out personal property tax assessments to almost nothing by 2026.
During a Ways and Means Committee hearing, Eigel said only 21 states collect personal property tax, and Missouri’s rate is the third highest. He said personal property tax disproportionately affects less wealthy Missourians and that removing it could improve the economy.
“I tend to view this as a $1.4 billion stimulus package,” he said. A fiscal analysis of the bill says it could reduce local government revenue statewide by up to $1.45 billion in 2027 and take more than $6.4 million away from the Blind Pension Program.
Scott Kimble, advocacy director for the Missouri Association of School Administrators, said the “bulk to this money goes to public schools.” The Pattonville School District alone could lose around $17 million, he said. Kimble, who testified in opposition to the bill, also said school transportation is already underfunded by more than $200 million.
In response, committee members questioned Kimble on ways schools may have saved money on utilities, transportation and expenses during closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kimble argued that the pandemic was a temporary situation, while the effects of the proposal would be permanent. No one else testified on the bill.
Currently, personal property tax is assessed at 33.3% of its real value. Local governments then tax that assessed value.
Personal property is any property that is “tangible,” excluding real property such as land and buildings, according to the Missouri State Tax Commission
Examples of personal property include vehicles, office equipment and machinery.
Eigel’s proposal would reduce the assessment percentage to 25% in 2022, 19% in 2023, 13% in 2024, 7% in 2025, and one thousandth of a percent in following years.
St. Louis officials estimated that if property values remained the same and there was no mechanism to replace lost revenue, personal property tax revenues to the city would drop from nearly $16.4 million in 2020 to $492 by 2026.
Taxes to all jurisdictions in the city would drop from close to $84.5 million to just over $2,500.
Recipients of personal property tax revenues include St. Louis Public Schools, St. Louis Public Library, the Zoo Museum District and the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.
Eigel countered that his proposal could cause sales tax revenue to go up because of increased spending and that there is nothing in the bill that would prevent jurisdictions from asking voters to raise other taxes. He said local government revenues are at record levels and real property assessments have been increasing.
The Blind Pension program assists blind people who don’t qualify for Supplemental Security Income or for help under the Supplemental Aid to the Blind law. It currently provides MO HealthNet coverage and payments of $750 a month to those who meet income, moral character and other requirements.
The estimated amount the fund could lose is about one-sixth of the total Gov. Mike Parson recommended spending in the fiscal 2022 budget.
Denny Huff, public relations director for the Missouri council of the Blind said he didn’t know how the blind pension fund would compensate for that loss in revenue to avoid reducing the monthly payments to people who rely on them.
If the bill advances, “I’m sure the blind community of Missouri would really focus on that, to either have an alternative” source of funding or defeat the measure entirely, he said. In response to a question from Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, Eigel said he didn’t want the Blind Pension Fund to lose money and that the Legislature could appropriate money from general revenue to make up the difference. Eigel's bill is Senate Bill 24.
November 5, 2020
The meeting was called to order by President Naomi Soule at 6:57 p.m.
Joe Morgan said a prayer.
Recording Secretary Joe Morgan called the roll. All officers and directors were present. All affiliates were represented.
The preconvention Minutes for October 8, 2020 were approved.
Last week Naomi had a meeting with the presidents of affiliates and she asked them about who they would choose to be involved with committees. She has filled a few spots but some are not yet filled. She read the list of committee chairs that she has filled so far. The list was approved without objection. There was discussion about having affiliates do their own sensitivity training and Patti Schonlau could talk to them if needed. Naomi has added some people to committees but she is looking for more. A president's email list has been formed and she will meet with the presidents every other month.
ACB Radio Donation
Chip Hailey moved to give $500 to ACB Radio for their help during the convention. The motion was adopted.
Lee Young made a motion to purchase a coffee pot for Deb Cook Lewis. The motion was adopted.
Naomi Welcomed on-line listeners.
A list of committee descriptions will be sent out.
Chip Hailey asked a question about board training. Naomi said she has talked to Chris Dickey and they decided to do the training in segments since it will be on Zoom and it will be in January.
The meeting adjourned at 7:37 p.m.
Respectfully submitted, Joe Morgan Recording Secretary