Missouri Chronicle

June, 2019 Edition

President’s Report

By Naomi Soule, President

Happy Spring everyone.  It’s been a pretty busy year so far.  In January, I visited both the Springfield Service Club and Queen City affiliates.  I enjoyed attending the Springfield service Club's meeting and having breakfast the following morning with members of Queen City.  Chris Gray and I attended an Arts and Culture Accessibility Cooperative meeting at Paraquad.  This group meets on a quarterly basis to learn about future events that are being planned by the St.  Louis Zoo, Art Museum, Missouri History Museum and other arts and culture venues in the St.  Louis area.  Chris and I ended January by attending Governor Parson's presentation on his Employment Initiative.  This initiative is still in the planning stage, but it promises to be beneficial to people with disabilities in Missouri.  We met Governor Parson and had our picture taken with him.  In February, I spoke to MSB high school students about my career and about MCB.  Chris, Chip Hailey and I attended the ACB Mid-Year Presidents Meeting and Legislative meeting to learn about ACB's legislative priorities.  We visited our representatives and communicated our issues.

March included MCB's Legislative Day in Jefferson City.  I want to thank all of you who attended and helped communicate our concerns to your State Representatives.  I was invited to serve on a committee to help the St. Louis Aquarium build accessibility into the various exhibits.  The aquarium should open by the end of the year.  The committee will be meeting on a monthly basis.  On March 26, I visited the Delta Area Blind Affiliate in Sikeston.  It was nice meeting everyone and learning about all the activities in which they are involved.  MCB was well represented at the St. Louis Media Foundation dinner to honor Father Boni for bringing Radio Information Service (now known as Mind’s Eye) to the St. Louis metropolitan area.  In April, I was invited to the St. Charles County Council Officer Installation Dinner.  The theme was Hawaiian and was a lot of fun.  In closing, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at MSB's graduation ceremony which will take place at the end of May.  I look forward to seeing many of you at camp this summer and visiting your affiliate.  So far, I will be attending Central Missouri's picnic in Sedalia and visiting Northern Lights in August.  Many of you will be going to Rochester, New York for ACB's annual convention, and I look forward to seeing you there.  Have a wonderful and safe summer.

Update from the Executive Director

By Christopher Gray

       Spring is always a busy time in the MCB office.  This time marks deadlines for scholarships, camp applications, and convention grant applications.  All of these require processing and coordination through the office. 

       Since the last issue of the Chronicle, President Soule and I attended the ACB Leadership Conference and Legislative Seminar held just outside Washington, DC.  I was proud to participate on a panel discussing a new ACB imperative regarding the accessibility of durable medical equipment (DME).  In particular, ACB plans to focus its initial efforts on making products accessible through speech for people with diabetes.  This could include blood glucose meters, continuous glucose monitors, and insulin pumps.  ACB has been advocating with companies for this since 2002 with no results for the most part. 

       The organization will be trying a 3-pronged approach of Congressional lawmaking, advocacy with the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services along with the Food and Drug Administration, and litigation against key manufacturers of such equipment should that prove necessary.  This panel presentation will be included in the NLS cartridge version of the Chronicle.  It is also scheduled to be available on the MCB telephone information system.  I do not have the box number at the time of this writing but you can find it on the phone system menu when it becomes available. 

       Recently, I spent a very enjoyable afternoon meeting with a delegation of visitors from Russia, one of whom is blind.  Colleen Starkloff and I fielded questions through a translator about the blind in disabled communities in Missouri; our successes and our challenges.  The group was quite engaged and were particularly interested in our currency litigation in ACB and in the many technological advancements for the blind that have been made in the United States.  At the conclusion of the session, the blind delegate presented me with a replica of structures built in the middle ages in his homeland in the northern caucuses, in the region of Ingushetia.  I am keeping it on display in my office. 

       As I write this, the legislative season for Missouri is winding down.  Chip Hailey and I have been closely monitoring various bills and MCB distributed information on a few key bills in March.  Overall, this session has been comparatively quiet regarding the measures we support or any measures that would have a negative impact on the blind. 

       At the beginning of May, I represented MCB at the State Rehabilitation Council meetings in Jefferson City.  Two clients spoke very favorably about RSB during the open meeting and nobody stood to raise issues of concern.  We have 6-8 participants on the phone which was unusually high.  On Friday, the Council met and discussed a wide range of items related to RSB.  The agency is in good shape and in line to meet its goals as mandated by the U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration.      In June, RSB will be moving to a new computer system called AWARE.  At this meeting, I also learned for the first time about a new program getting under way in Missouri for the blind to play a modified form of soccer.  It's called 5-a-Side soccer and will be tested this summer at the Missouri School for the Blind.  Wilma Chestnut just got her teaching certification for it from Clemson University and will be assisting at MSB this summer.

       Finally, congratulations go out to Wilma who has just become a member of the Advisory Board at Missouri School for the Blind.  This is a great honor and we wish her well.

AFFILIATES REPORTING

St. Charles County Council of the Blind

By Margy Petrofsky

Our February meeting had De Anna Barrow, MD as a guest speaker, she is a cataract and eye disease specialist and was a bundle of information. Her office is on Point West Blvd. in St. Charles Missouri.  Our February social outing was our second annual soup dinner at Kim Reese's house.  As always, the food was delicious.  My favorite this year was Johannas chicken and dumplings and of course Kim’s beer bread.  I brought my homemade macaroni and cheese and cupcakes from Schnuck’s deli.   The March meeting outing was a trivia night to benefit SASSI, for people who are sight and hearing impaired.  We always learn some interesting but useless facts like the only animal born with horns, I don't think anybody got it right, the answer is a giraffe.

April was our installation dinner which had a Hawaiian theme.  We were given brightly colored homemade leis.  When it was over we wished Kim Reese another happy 39'th birthday; it was the next day and said our alohas and went home.  I hope everybody is enjoying this wonderful Spring weather.

Hello from Southeast Missouri United Blind

By Beulah Ziegler

We added two new members to our membership in February; Dale Bishop, who is legally blind and his wife Regina Bishop, who is sighted.  We hope they enjoy being with us as much as we enjoy having them.  We had our monthly dinner at Jen's Place in March and at Morinas Italian Restaurant in April. At the time of this writing I am not sure where we will eat in May.  These dinners provide a time when our members can enjoy fun and fellowship together, and we all do enjoy them.

       We were saddened to learn of John Weidlich’s passing. He was a good man and will be missed by many.

       I guess that's all for this time.  Maybe by the time everyone reads this in June this crazy weather will be returned to some type of normalcy. I hope so!!!!

Joplin Service Club of the Blind

By Gail Vaughan

       The Service Club members in Joplin are really happy to see Mother Nature send winter on its way and allow spring to come in.  The weather has been really crazy this year but we are thankful that we were not included in some of the storms with snow and rain that a lot of our sister clubs experienced.

       Spring brought the annual fundraiser for Joplin Association for the Blind on April 4th.  This organization houses the Joplin Service Club and supplies transportation for our lunches, dinners, support groups and outings every year.  We were excited to be able to donate money to the Association for purchasing items for the Silent Auction tables.  While attendance was down for the fundraiser it was still considered a success.  We are truly blessed to have a place to meet and transportation provided for us!

       We were sad at the passing of one dear member, Berdy Miller.  Berdy made phone calls every Monday to members to schedule a bus ride in to lunches on Tuesday.  She made calls up to the week before she went home to heaven.  We are thankful for members like Berdy who are dedicated and love our group.

       On a happier note, we welcomed two new members into our club during the month of April.  Welcome to Scott Phillips and Earl Budd!

       We wish you have a wonderful Spring and Summer!

Hello to everyone from Delta Area

By Wanda Matlock

       At our affiliate meeting on February 26th, we had several special guests.  MCB Vice-President, Darrel Vickers attended our meeting and gave us an overview of the Adaptive Technology Grant Program.  Darrel went over the guidelines, application process and talked about different items that could be considered as adaptive technology equipment.

       Sergeant Brian DeLisle from the Sikeston Bomb Squad also attended our meeting.  Sergeant DeLisle was seeking our help in planning a Beep Easter Egg hunt for children who are blind or visually impaired.  He would like to make this an annual event.  Also in attendance was Kassie Jackson.  Kassie is a photographer for the Southeast Missourian Newspaper office in Cape Girardeau.  Kassie was taking photos to go with the article that was written about Delta Area.  A copy of the article will be in this issue of the MCB Chronicle.

       On March 26th, we were happy to welcome MCB President, Naomi Soule, to Delta Area.  Naomi shared some of her past work experiences and a few things she would like to see happen in MCB such as trying to increase membership and more participation in fundraising.  Naomi also presented the Delta Area members with the 1st. place award for the White Cane Walk held last October.  Thank you Naomi! 

We also welcomed a new member to Delta Area.  Patricia Gordon from Bernie, Missouri was voted on and approved as a new member.  Welcome Patricia!  We ended the meeting with Domino’s pizza, cookies and drinks. 

At our April meeting, Members turned in their applications for Summer Camp.  As usual, we are getting excited about the fun that we will have at Cobblestone Lodge.  Applications for the Lola B. Garner Educational Scholarship was also passed out.  This is a$1,000.00 scholarship that is awarded annually to a student in the Southeast Missouri area to help them continue their education.  

We also welcomed a new member to Delta Area; Darrel Vickers of Washington, Missouri was voted on and approved as a new member.  Welcome Darrel!  From all the members of Delta Area.  We wish everyone a safe and happy Summer!

Braille Revival League Happenings In Missouri

By Judy Burch

       Greetings from the members of the Braille Revival League of Missouri.  We are happy to announce that we now have 22 members in our special interest affiliate.  At our annual BRL of MO meeting at last year’s convention of the Missouri Council of the Blind, our elections resulted in the following board members:  Rhonda Jones, president; Marvelena Quesada, vice-president; Judy Burch, secretary; Jesuita Tabor, treasurer; DeAnna Noriega, board member-at-large; and Sabrina Fowler, board member-at-large.  On January 5, we enjoyed a luncheon which was held at Chris’ Pancake House in St. louis as we celebrated Louis Braille’s birthday.  Linda Havlick, a teacher at the Missouri School for the Blind, spoke to us about the methods employed to teach Braille to students.  She passed around a number of books and aids which are used to teach Braille, and we found them very interesting.  Chris Gray also gave an informative presentation about the history of Braille.  The entire event was enjoyed by all.

       We again donated $200.00 in gift cards for prizes, which were awarded to this year’s Braille Challenge participants, that was held on February 13.  On February 22, we hosted a fundraiser game day which also was well attended and proved to be a good fundraiser.  We are looking forward to the upcoming MCB convention which will be held in Kansas City in October.  DeAnna Noriega will be our speaker at this year’s Alma Murphey luncheon, at which she will tell us more about some special items she has donated this year.  We encourage anyone residing in the state of Missouri who is interested in joining the Braille Revival League of Missouri to contact Judy Burch at Basil05@sbcglobal.net for more information.

Adaptive Technology, Inc.

By Sarah Cason, ATI Secretary

We have enjoyed some exciting and informative meetings over the past few months with ATI.  Our speakers have included Darrell Vickers, about apps for i-devices along with Denny Huff, and Jim Murray. Our second meeting was about Amazon devices and we gave Brian Wekamp a third generation Amazon Echo. Our final meeting held in April had guest speakers Stacy Brady about the Tap Wireless program and Chris Judd informing us of some additional iPhone apps. Please don’t worry if you missed our conference call. Feel free to call the MCB Information Line at 773-572-6387, option 7.  Please join us on May 16 at 7:00 pm for our next call by dialing 218-548-8268 and the access code is 26273.  We look forward to making your acquaintance and learning and instructing you in adaptive technology.  Remember, sharing is caring.

AGAPE Council of the Blind

By Wilma-Chestnut-House

       In February, AGAPE Council held our 8th Black History program.  It was entitled, “A Salute to African American men and women who served in the United States military”.  We did not have a full crowd but, it was probably the most moving program we have held.  David Cozart from the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department opened with information for vets and then called for the ROTC and first singer.  The ROTC from University City High School did the presentation of Colors and then we had a great singer lead the National Anthem.  We had five speakers reading information about some of our forgotten men and women.  In between each speaker, we had a rendition of the National Anthem performed by different people.  At the very end Jeremiah Allen performed “America the Beautiful” through keyboard and vocals.

       As door prizes we had braille tactile flags, books of the program in large print and braille, and for veterans only, we had a 10-inch statue of an eagle holding a flag.

       Next year we will be celebrating our 25th anniversary.  We plan to have something really special.  We hope that you can attend. 

Camp Abilities – St. Louis

       This summer StL Firing Squad, AGAPE Council, and MSB will start our fourth year for Camp Abilities - St. Louis.  Each year we get more and more campers. 

       This year we will be trying out 5-A-Side soccer.  This is soccer for the visually impaired.  I went to Clemson University in April and learned the game and also got my coaching certification.  Next year we will go full force in learning the game.  This year is just getting used to controlling the ball and learning the rules.  We would like for a few of our campers to play in the Paralympics in 2028 to be held in California.  Wish our athletes success.

The StL Firing Squad

       The StL Firing Squad just held our tournament for the National Beep Baseball Association.  It was kind of iffy at first due to all of the rain.  We had to relocate and finally got the games started.  Wichita Falcons were our guest.  We played the best three out of five games.  Our team won three and we are still champions.  One of our players, Darnell Jacobs, got the MVP for the game.  One of Wichita’s players got #1 for defense and one of our players got #1 in offense. 

We got started late but it turned out to be a great weekend.  We will keep you posted for next year.

If anyone is interested in participating in a soft tip dart league, please let me know.

I have a friend in Atlanta who helps to get these leagues started.  He is willing to come to St. Louis at no cost to anyone and show us the proper way of throwing, scoring, and running a league.  He will come one full weekend in September and one weekend in October.  We will have phone numbers and an e-mail address in case of any questions.

We practice the other weekends until we see him again.  The league will officially start in January.  It takes five people for a team.  The fifth person is an alternate.  A good league has about four teams.  This is for competition.  E-mail me at wilmachouse@gmail.com or call (314)873-9022.

Greetings From Missouri Guide Dog Users

By Judy Burch

In a recent meeting of the membership, the Missouri Guide Dog Users voted unanimously to host Top Dog 2021, to be held in St. Louis.  Although the event will be occurring approximately two years from now, we are already in the process of securing a hotel for the event, and we will be working on other projects soon after.  Top Dog has traditionally drawn guide dog users from across the country.  Guide dog handlers look forward to connecting with old friends and making new ones.  The various sessions held throughout the conference are informative and enjoyable, and there is time to socialize and explore the surrounding areas.  A Top Dog 2021 Facebook page is in the works, and we are in the process of producing a new MGDU brochure which will be available by the time you read this article.      Stay tuned for more details.

COMMITTEES REPORTING

Convention Report

By Jesuita Tabor, Convention Coordinator

Join us for our 63rd annual convention in Kansas City at the Holiday Inn Country Club Plaza, One East 45th Street, Kansas City MO 64111.  Make your reservation by calling 816-753-7400. The Convention dates are Thursday, October 3 through Sunday, October 6. The room rate is $109 per night plus tax.  The Board meeting will be held on Thursday, October 3rd at 7:00 pm.  Due to lack of donations and high cost there will not be any goodie bags.

Due to an overwhelming request, there will not be a Friday hospitality night. This will be a free night where you can enjoy friends and dining at your expense.  Voting will take place on Saturday afternoon. We will still enjoy the Saturday night Banquet.  You can reserve your reservations now. Everyone is invited to the following:

       Library Users Breakfast Saturday at 7:00 am. The menu includes eggs, bacon, potatoes, muffins, fruit, juice and coffee for $15.

       BRL Luncheon Saturday at 12:00 pm. The menu includes a hamburger, fries, vegetables, drink and desert for $15.

       Memorial Breakfast Sunday at 7:00 am.  The menu includes egg casserole, sausage, potatoes, fruit, muffins, juice and coffee for $15. Those attending the Memorial Breakfast will receive a surprise gift. 

We look forward to seeing you in Kansas City. 

Education & Advocacy

By Chip Hailey, MCB Education & Advocacy Chair

Legislative Spring Break came quickly and just as quickly it was gone, and the General Assembly returned to the Capitol with still a full agenda ahead.  With only three weeks remaining in the fiscal year, the budget situation remains a concern, and the available remedies are limited.

Controversy Continues in the Senate

Many capitol observers were surprised when Republican Senator Mike Cierpiot, the well-respected former Majority Floor Leader in the Missouri House, rose to raise concerns about the Senate Republican Conservative Caucus' activities on certain legislation, and what he considers inconsistencies in how that Caucus is approaching policy issues.

In an interesting and sometimes uncomfortable exchange, Conservative Caucus member, Senator Denny Hoskins had a testy exchange with Cierpiot over his comments, and Hoskins and other Senators were also questioning why the discussion was happening in the openness of a Senate floor discussion and immediately following a compromise on the bonding resolution for roads and bridges.

While this discussion was notable in that it occurred in the open and raised tensions, it does reflect the challenges of differing viewpoints that any majority caucus deals with at times.  It seems reasonable to assume that this tension will be ironed out in the coming weeks, but it is worth noting as it could impact the flow of legislation in the coming weeks including the CDS bill, SB70.

Senate Conservative Caucus Takes Criticism

Sen. Mike Cierpiot (R – Lee’s Summit) publicly vented his frustrations with the Missouri Senate Conservative Caucus through a speech he gave on the Senate floor.  The caucus includes Senator’s Eigel, Hoskins, O’Laughlin, Burlison, Onder, and Koenig.

The group has slowed down legislation this session on topics such as economic development, job training programs, regulatory reform, internet sales tax, and most specifically, Governor Parson’s legislative priorities on bonding.

Senator Cierpiot made it clear he is not impressed by the caucus’s behavior and went as far as saying they should consider changing their name to the “Inconsistent Caucus”, the “Kansas Caucus”, or even the “Chaos Caucus”.

Members of the Conservative Caucus took great exception to Sen. Cierpiot’s attacks on them and spent a great deal of time on the Senate floor chastising Sen. Cierpiot for his critical comments.

The discussion on the Senate floor carried over to a second day when Senator Eigel addressed the full Senate and asked for his colleagues to bring concerns they may have regarding legislation to other Senators privately rather than airing them on the Missouri Senate floor.

The budget will be sent to the Senate floor the week of April 29th for approval.  Any differences between the House and Senate versions will be reconciled by a conference committee.

The conference committee is made up of five members from each chamber who are appointed to resolve the differences between the two chambers.  The legislature must truly agree and pass the budget by May 10.

The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the right of Governor Parson to appoint Mike Kehoe as Lieutenant Governor.

Supreme Court Approves Kehoe

The Missouri Supreme Court upheld Governor Parson’s appointment of former Senator Mike Kehoe as Lieutenant Governor.  The court ruled the state constitution gives the Governor the authority to fill all vacancies in public offices unless state law lays out another way of doing so.

Lt. Governor Kehoe took office after then Lt. Governor Parson was elevated to Governor after former Governor Greitens resigned last June.

Resignation of Social Services Director

Steve Corsi, Director of Social Services, announced that he is leaving his position and will be taking a job with a faith-based non-profit organization.

The Helen Keller National Center needs our support

The Helen Keller National Center receives it’s funding through a direct line item in the federal budget as they were established by an Act of Congress 52 years ago.

They are currently funded at $13.5 million. The President’s budget recently recommended a cut of close to 24%, bringing them back to their original $10.3 million in 2017.  Those funding cuts would be devastating to their programs and services.

I had submitted a brief letter of support urging our Congressional leaders to continue the current level of funding for HKNC.  I had included a few sentences describing ways HKNC makes a difference to our organization and our support for a shared vision of quality services for the 2.4 million individuals who are Deaf-Blind across the country.

MCB Legislative Days and Disability Rights Legislative Day

The Missouri Council of the Blind along with many other disability groups worked together again this year on Disability Rights Legislative Day in speaking to legislators about issues impacting people with disabilities.

Below were the main issues taken to our legislators.

Hr19, Workforce Inclusion for People with Disabilities

The Missouri Council of the Blind believes that disabled people should be included in all aspects of life, including the workforce.  This aligns with the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Olmstead Supreme Court decision of 1999.  HR 19 emphasizes the value of work in people's lives. It states that work is the most direct and cost-effective means to empower individuals to achieve independence and economic self-sufficiency, and work also gives people purpose, dignity, self-esteem, and a sense of accomplishment and pride.

We asked our state legislators to become a sponsor of these concepts.

       HB 61 by Unsicker repeals a provision relating to waivers by blind employees.  This bill repeals a section of statute making it legal for employees who are blind to waive their rights to personal injury compensation if the employee’s blindness directly caused or contributed to causing the injury.

When accepting a job, a blind person can be required to sign a waiver of their rights if they are injured on the job.  This is a very archaic element in Missouri law dating back to the 1930s.  The Missouri Council of the Blind believes it is inappropriate for an employer to ask an employee to waive a right of safety on the job when their sighted peers do not have to do so.  We strongly encouraged our legislators in both chambers of the state legislature to help us remove this waiver from Missouri law.

SB 107 by Hoskins modifies the law regarding service dogs.

       Under this act, any person knowingly misrepresenting a dog as a service dog, as described in the act, for the purposes of receiving accommodations regarding service dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class B misdemeanor for each subsequent offense.

       Additionally, any person knowingly misrepresenting any animal as an assistance animal, as described in the act, for the purposes of receiving accommodations regarding assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act or Rehabilitation Act shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class B misdemeanor for each subsequent offense.

       The Missouri Commission on Human Rights shall use its existing complaint hotline to receive reports of individuals impersonating a person with a disability, misrepresenting a dog as a service dog, or misrepresenting an animal as an assistance animal.

       The Governor's Council on Disability shall prepare and make available online a placard for posting in a front window or door of a business stating that service dogs are welcome and misrepresenting a service dog is a violation of Missouri law.

       The Council shall also prepare and make available a brochure detailing guidelines regarding service dogs and assistance animals.

       Blind and other disabled people who use service dogs are being impacted more and more by the misuse and mischaracterization of pet dogs as service or emotional support dogs.  Many such dogs have received no training and are really no more than pets people masqueraded as service animals.  "Fake service dogs" are making it more and more difficult for visually impaired and blind dog guide users to move about with their dogs in stores and other places of public accommodations without fear from untrained dogs and suspicion by owners of these properties.

       SB 107 and HB 107 are companion bills that seek to make it a misdemeanor to impersonate a service dog.  We ask that you consider supporting this critical legislation for people who use legitimate service animals to conduct key activities of their daily lives.

       On March 13th, in Chris Gray’s absence, I had submitted public testimony on accessible absentee voting by mail before the Elections and Elected Officials Committee.  I thought our position on this issue went over very well with the Committee, and afterward, Representative Ellington told me he really appreciated my testimony.  However, the outcome of this issue remains to be seen so please stay tuned.

       The following were the legislative imperatives we had taken to our Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill in late February

Securing Independence for Medicare Beneficiaries

       For a decade now, Medicare has refused to cover the cost of low-vision aids, due to an eyeglasses exclusion that prohibits the purchase of any durable medical good with a lens. While the regulatory exclusion was seen as cost saving by not covering eyeglasses, it has had negative impact on those who, through the use of special low-vision aids, could significantly increase their independence in the home.

       ACB believes that simple adaptive low-vision aids can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to remain independent in the home.  Such personal independence can have long-lasting effects toward aging in place, rather than have to pursue costlier institutional or assisted living care.  ACB calls on Congress to re-introduce the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage of Low Vision Devices Act, which would measure the various costs and benefits of removing the Medicare eyeglass exclusion.  This bipartisan legislation is a smart approach toward finding workable solutions that help seniors age in place.

Pushing Forward with the Development of Autonomous Vehicles

       We are now at an exciting technological place when it comes to transportation. The potential for the use of autonomous vehicles for people who are blind is closer than ever. Such vehicles are already being tested in multiple cities. However, it is critical that these cars remain fully accessible, and that individuals who have the most to gain through such technology are not forgotten.

       In the 116th Congress, blindness organizations and the auto industry supported legislation that would establish working groups to focus on accessibility and prevent discrimination in operating such vehicles based on disability.  ACB calls on the 116th Congress to move forward with similar legislation that will continue to drive this technology forward.

Procuring Accessible Durable Medical Equipment

       Advancements in health technology have resulted in a watershed of durable medical equipment (DME) that monitors vital health activity and conditions such as diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.  However, a failure by the DME industry to make devices accessible has raised serious health concerns by those living with such conditions who are blind and visually impaired.  For instance, DME such as glucometers have notoriously been a challenge for diabetics who are blind.  This can all change through the development of accessible DME interfaces like smartphone apps and other devices capable of using nanotechnology that can incorporate simple accessibility solutions.  Congress can play a role in assuring that such DME technology adheres to the latest software technology standards such as Section 508 of the Rehab Act and that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provide assurances that accessible DME devices make their way into the hands of individuals who are blind and visually impaired.

       ACB has begun to write draft language for legislation to ensure that all DME is made accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired.  The law would push manufacturers to make the devices accessible at the time of purchase, instead of users having to find ways to make them usable.

ACB urges the 116th Congress to explore new law to make DME accessible for all Americans.

I would like to thank both our Executive Director, Chris Gray, and our MCB Madam president, Naomi Soule, for all of their hard work on these national issues as well.

In addition, I would like to thank all of those who attended our MCB Legislative Days and the hard work each of them exemplified when speaking to our state legislators.

You all are truly extraordinary!

Dual Vision and Hearing Loss

By Mary Hale, Chair Dual Vision and Hearing Loss

       It is the words you can actually understand, not what you can just hear that makes a big difference in people’s lives.  Hearing loss in addition to blindness is not unusual within MCB’s members.  Mary Hale is sharing the following article.

How Hearing Loss Affects Seniors

Contributed by Lisa Packer

       Imagine being cut off from communication with your loved ones. Conversations happen around you but you can’t really participate, at least not like you used to. It becomes easier to just stay home than to try to go to a party or a noisy restaurant, because it is too frustrating to try and hear what your friends are saying.  Seniors can miss out on the most enjoyable moments in life due to hearing loss.  That is the unfortunate reality of hearing loss for many seniors every day. About 25 percent of those age 65 to 74 have significant hearing loss, and for those 75 and older the number reaches 50 percent. Surprisingly, the majority of those with hearing loss don’t use hearing aids; as a matter of fact, studies show that fewer than one out of three people over the age of 70 who need hearing aids has actually used them.

Emotional impact of hearing loss for seniors

       If you are among the many senior citizens who have hearing loss, you know that more than any other sensory deficit, hearing loss cuts you off from other people. And the emotional toll alone is devastating, let alone the toll on physical and social health. Problems that stem from hearing loss in the elderly include depression, withdrawal from social life, loneliness, anger, decreased personal, cognitive decline and poor health.

       Seniors with untreated hearing loss report a lower quality of life than those without hearing loss or those whose hearing loss has been treated with hearing aids. The emotional factors involved are a significant part of the problem. Hearing loss adds to the perception that an older person is “slow” or losing their faculties, which is usually not the case. This negative perception from others can then lead to a negative self-perception, which in turn leads to lower self-esteem, frustration and even depression.

       The depression, anger and frustration of hearing loss do not operate in a vacuum, however. All aspects of life are affected by these negative emotions. Those who are experiencing age-related hearing loss quite often find that their family relationships suffer due to their inability to hear adequately or fully participate in conversations. A person with hearing loss might be irritable, and lash out at their loved ones out of frustration. Blaming others for mumbling or speaking too softly is common for those with age related hearing loss, as are arguments over the volume of the TV or radio. Another common source of tension is one spouse’s refusal to go to parties and social events because he is embarrassed about his hearing loss, and frustrated that he misses most of the conversations.  About 25 percent

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but for seniors with hearing loss it becomes an extra challenge. An elderly person with a spouse in the hospital, for example, is already under a lot of stress, but imagine if that senior is having difficulty hearing the doctor’s words about his medical condition or necessary follow up care. Financial matters, travel or even matters of personal safety, challenging even for those of us with typical hearing, can be even more scary and confusing if an older person is unable to hear clearly.

       Another unique problem faced by older people with hearing loss is that culturally, hearing loss is often written off as just a normal part of aging. True, age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is slow to progress; but because of its slow progression, seniors, their family members and their doctors are often slower to acknowledge hearing loss, and do not take it seriously. And even those who eventually do seek treatment are not in any hurry; the average amount of time between noticing hearing loss and seeking treatment is 10 years. Regular medical care isn’t helpful either; surveys show that only 14 percent of doctors make hearing loss screening a regular part of a physical exam. All of this adds up to an epidemic of untreated hearing loss for seniors.

Seniors with hearing loss face physical challenges

       Hearing loss can also take a toll on the physical health of older adults, whether in the form of diminished personal safety, disease or falls. Those with hearing loss might have difficulty hearing an alarm or a siren, or might not hear someone shouting a warning. They might not hear a doctor’s instructions regarding medication or other vital medical information. And studies have shown due to balance issues, those with untreated hearing loss are three times more likely to suffer falls than those without.

       The social isolation that often accompanies hearing loss can also be detrimental. Those who are socially isolated are less likely to exercise and more likely to drink, smoke and have an unhealthy diet. These in turn lead to poor physical health and conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. And social isolation due to hearing loss has also been linked to higher rates of cognitive decline in the elderly.

       As well, many seniors in nursing homes do not receive proper hearing care. In short, hearing loss affects every aspect of life for seniors, from physical well-being to emotional health and family relationships. Fortunately, the solution may lie in just one easy call to a hearing healthcare professional; if you are an older adult, seeking treatment for your hearing loss can help you re-engage in life once again. Don't miss out on another important moment!

Organization Advocates for People with Vision Impairment

Published in the Southeast Missourian, March 4, 2019

By Julie Hendrix and Mia Pohlman

When Craig Ancell became part of the blind community, he says he didn’t know what to do or how to find direction for resources and community. Hearing about Delta Area of the Blind by word-of-mouth, he reached out to them for support. The organization helped connect him with rehab services for the blind and are now also helping him pay for his education at Southeast Missouri State University, where he studies political science. Since first hearing about the organization, he has gotten more involved, and is now the vice president of the affiliate, as well as a board representative for Delta Area of the Blind to Missouri Council of the Blind, helping to make decisions for the entire state. He says the organization is a good support group.  “It’s nice to be surrounded by people going through or who have been through similar experiences. Being blind is definitely a different experience. It’s nice to have people you can actually relate to,” Ancell says. “It’s a great place to come to meet people in similar situations.”

Connecting, helping and advocating for people in the blind community is exactly what the Delta Area of the Blind is designed to do.  Delta Area of the Blind is one of 20 affiliates of the Missouri Council of the Blind. Organized in 1956, the Missouri Council of the Blind is the state’s largest consumer-based assistance organization. Other local chapters include River City Workers of the Blind in Cape Girardeau and Southeast Missouri United Blind Club in Poplar Bluff.

Each local group strives to help improve the life of people with visual impairments, often providing small adaptive equipment, such as money identifiers or color identifiers, to people who need them. Last year, the Delta Area of the Blind donated 37 pairs of eyeglasses to the Lion’s Club to distribute to local school children. These affiliates also work to provide scholarships to blind or visually impaired students who wish to attend college or vocational training.

The club meets the fourth Tuesday of each month at Concordia Lutheran Church in Sikeston, Missouri, with the purpose of improving the quality of life for people who are visually impaired. They often go out to eat together, attend United Way fundraising events, and each summer go to camp at Cobblestone Lodge in Steelville, Missouri. They send an education and advocacy representative to the capitol in Jefferson City each year to advocate for bills benefiting the blind and visually impaired; this year, an advocate will make the trip March 13. They also attend the Missouri Council of the Blind Annual Convention, held each October. To belong to this group, members don’t need to be visually impaired or blind; the only requirement is to want to support people with visual impairments.

“In fact, 49 percent of our members are seeing,” president Wanda Matlock says.  Matlock is totally blind, but it wasn’t always that way. A degenerative disease caused increased visual impairment for her over time. In her youth, Matlock had enough vision to do most activities, including driving a car. One of her sons inherited the same vision impairment affecting Matlock, so helping people with visual impairments is something she feels compelled to do.

She does this beyond the organization, as well: she often speaks for organizations about her journey of being sighted until age 33 and how she lives now with blindness. She serves as vice president on the Independent Living Center board. She also connects people with resources that can help them live successfully with vision impairment and blindness.

In addition to all of this, she administers sensitivity training, training therapists and assisted living staff to work with people who are blind. She has helped people who are visually impaired with mobility and cane training, as well as bringing in tools such as Braille bingo cards and talking keychains that tell the time, to help people live their lives enjoyably and efficiently.  

Matlock says she is proud of their affiliate: for the past three years, they have won first place in raising the most funds in Missouri, even though their 17-member affiliate is one of the smaller ones in the state. This enabled them to give away three $1,000 scholarships for the 2018-2019 school year to students working to earn their education.

Mary Long, from Portageville, Missouri, and a student at Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, is studying to become a math teacher, a career she can continue to work in even if she becomes completely blind. She sees with glasses now, but has a progressive eye disease that will worsen over time. She received the Lola B. Garner Scholarship from the Delta Area of the Blind to help with school costs for this school year.  “The money from the Delta Area of the Blind really has been helpful,” Long says. “I know as I get older, there will be more and more challenges, and getting an education in something I can do even fully blind is really important to me.”  Delta Area Blind helps make this, and more, possible.

Having Trouble with Your Post Office?

       Fairly frequently, MCB is contacted by blind people having issues with their local post office.  Some carriers may not deliver mail to individual apartments but leave them in a central location as one example.  Some carriers refuse to pick up Wolfner library cartridges or braille books.  We heard recently of a case where the postal carrier left a braille book package in a persons' doorway which caused them to fall and break a leg. 

       If you are having problems with your local post office, you can file a complaint with the Postmaster General in Washington, DC.  Call (800) 275-8777.  Say "Carrier" or press 4 to report issues with your mail delivery or pickup.  We would like to thank Jesuita Tabor for supplying this information.

Your spot at DREAM BIG Career Camps is waiting.

       Choose your camp now!  Hurry! Limited spots remain. If you haven't registered for DREAM BIG Career Camps, now's the time! The first camp is just a few weeks away, and there are limited spaces remaining for all camp options. if you or a high school student with a disability in your life is ready for a head start in exploring future career possibilities - ENROLL TODAY!

       To discuss DREAM BIG Career Camps by phone, please contact Sarah Schwegel, Youth Transition Coordinator, at (314) 588-7090. Starkloff Disability Institute, 133 S. 11th St., Suite 500, St. Louis, MO 63102.

MINUTES

December 12, 2018

The meeting was called to order by President Naomi Soule at 7:30 PM.

Joe Morgan called the roll.

All officers were present. Affiliates not represented were Act Now Council of the Blind, Agape Council of the Blind and St. Louis Northern Lights.

Joe Morgan said a prayer.

       Work at the MCB building was discussed. Naomi said that the flooring in the kitchen hallway and bathroom will be replaced with plank vinyl flooring and the storage room carpet will have to be pulled and replaced. This was because of a leak. Empire will do the work at a cost of $2250.  This motion was brought by the Budget and Finance Committee and the motion was adopted.

       The Board went into Executive Session to discuss Christmas bonuses for MCB staff and were approved.

The meeting adjourned at 7:45 PM.

Respectfully submitted, Joe Morgan Recording Secretary

Remembering John Weidlich

By Beverly Shockley

       As most of you know by this time, we have lost our Chronicle Editor, John Weidlich, due to liver cancer.  John was appointed by President Naomi Soule to be editor of the Missouri Chronicle.  John produced the March issue and did his usual fine job.  Over the years, John has held so many positions in MCB and UWB and also produced many Missouri School for the Blind Alumni newsletters.  Writing, reading and music were John’s passions all his life.

       John was born blind and lived in St. Louis all his life.  He was educated at the Missouri School for the Blind and graduated with honor from St. Louis University.  He has been a strong advocate for Braille and was probably the best Braille reader I ever heard.  He always encouraged blind children in pursuing higher education and learning to read and write using Braille.

       John has served MCB as secretary and director.  He served UWB as their president a number of times and as their secretary.  When MCB needed a complete revision of our Bylaws a number of years ago, it was John who stepped up and accomplished this task.  He also did the same for UWB.  Bylaws and parliamentary procedure were very important to John, and he did an excellent job for us.

       John was a marvelous piano player.  He could hear a song and play his own version with ease.  He was always willing to accompany anyone who needed his assistance. 

       MCB Summer Camp over the past thirty years found John and Donna participating in all the fun.  John was there to entertain us at camp, at conventions and at a number of ACB Friends in Arts performances.  His personal touch with comedy compositions was legendary.

       John was one of the first blind news anchors when he appeared on Channel 11 in St. Louis back in the early seventies.  That led to his employment as Program Director at Mind’s Eye Radio in Belleville for more than thirty years.  The highlight of those years was his “Talk Back” show which he did five days a week on the station.  It brought blind people together to learn about one another’s accomplishments in spite of their handicaps.  It was a wonderful time that we will never forget.

       After retirement, John became very active in his church, teaching Sunday school, sharing his musical talent and serving as a deacon.  John, you have done so much for us, and we love you and miss you.

Obituary of John E. Weidlich

March 25, 1946 – April 27, 2019

       SAINT LOUIS- John E. Weidlich, 73, of St. Louis passed away Saturday, April 27, 2019 at Mercy Hospice South- de Greeff Hospice House.  He was born March 25, 1946, in St. Louis to the late Lester and Lucille Frey Weidlich.  He married Donna Warren on May, 4, 1985. Surviving are his wife of 34 years, Donna Weidlich; niece, Lora (Daniel) McAtee; nephew, Scott (Pam) Parker; great-nieces, Lauren Parker, Kate McAtee, Emma McAtee, and Mira McAtee; sister-in-law, Patricia Warren; brothers-in-law, Donald Parker, and Robert Warren; and his beloved dog, Missy.   He is preceded in death by his parents and one sister, Leslie Parker. He graduated from Missouri School of the Blind, St. Louis University with a Master’s Degree achieving Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa.

       He was involved with Missouri Council for the Blind, United Workers for the Blind, and Southwest Baptist Church serving in the music programs and as a Deacon.   John was an avid Cardinals Fan.  He worked as a Program Director and retired from Mind’s Eye Information Service which is a radio reading service for the blind.  He also had a passion for music. 

       John played the piano and was instrumental with the Christmas program which included “Johnny and the Mixed Nuts” at Southwest Baptist Church in St. Louis where he was a member.  A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Thursday, May 2, 2019 at Southwest Baptist Church in St. Louis.  Visitation will be from 1 to 3 p.m. prior to the service at the church. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Southwest Baptist Church. www.hoffmeistercolonial.com

Blind Man Is News Anchor Man

This is a newspaper article about John Weidlich when he was on Channel Eleven.  It is dated November 12, 1972.

Some daytime viewers in St. Louis have been wondering why the news anchor man on KPLR TV wears sunglasses during his three daily newscasts.  Those bold enough to call the station are told that anchorman, John Weidlich is blind.  “They want to know if he’s some kind of weirdo,” says News Director Bill Addison.  “When we tell them John is blind, the reaction is good.”

Weidlich, twenty-six, joined the station in February as a news writer, editor and co-assignment editor, and his goal was to become an on-the-air newscaster.  He got his chance in September when the station inaugurated a two-and-a-half-hour variety talk show in the morning, and he now has three 5-minute news shows each morning.  “This all happened a lot faster than I ever thought it would, and I’m awfully grateful that the station was willing to take a chance with me, says Weidlich, who holds two degrees in English from St. Louis University as well as a Phi Beta Kappa Key.  “It was a chance, first because I’ve never done on-the-air work before so there’s a certain lack of experience and second, of course, is taking a chance on the unfamiliar concept of a blind newscaster,” he said.  General Manager, Jim Herd, says he doesn’t feel the station is taking any chances by using Weidlich on the air.  “His performance ever since he joined our station has been phenomenal,” Herd said.  The only special procedure for Weidlich’s newscasts is that two separate sets of stories are assembled, one in braille for Weidlich and another in regular type for the producer.  The station also uses a finger-snap cue rather than the traditional hand wave to signal he is on the air.  Weidlich also makes telephone calls to police departments in the St. Louis area to keep up to date on the latest happenings and takes reports from the station’s other newsmen in the field by radio phone.  He takes information on his braille writer and then transcribes it on a typewriter into scripts for use on news programs.

       Weidlich says an obvious handicap in his work is that he is unable to read news wire copy or stories written by other news men, but the station is going to solve that problem soon.  Addison says the station is getting a device which reads printed material on paper and transforms it into raised letters which a blind person can feel with the tips of his fingers.

       Weidlich spent thirteen years as a child at the Missouri School for the Blind, and he learned more than reading, writing and arithmetic while he was there.  Among other things he learned to play the piano, and now has a 3-man blind band with which he occasionally plays at dances and weddings in his spare time.  The combo is called “The Soul Seeers”, a name picked up from the plaque at the School for the Blind which says, “It Is the Soul That Sees”.

       Weidlich was prepared to be a teacher when he left St. Louis University but instead tried for a job in television.  “There are some professions that the blind are supposed to go into,” he said, in explaining this decision.  “There’s a campaign to get blind people to go to college, but there are many professions closed to the blind.  This field was a challenge, and there was someone to give me a chance.”