June 2013 Chronicle
By Patti Schonlau
Greetings to All! Since my last report, I have been quite busy! The 2013 MCB State Convention now is my focus; attending convention planning meetings, finalizing menus, working on the Convention agenda, finalizing convention speakers, and many other odds and ends have taken a great deal of my time.
If any affiliates have an interest in hosting our MCB State Convention in 2015, please contact the MCB Office. October 2015, is just around the corner!
The MCB April Board meeting was conducted at the Sheraton Lake Chalet at Westport Plaza in St. Louis on April 6.
On Friday Night, April 5, Virginia Berberick conducted a valuable training session for the MCB Board.
On April 9, I attended Disability Day in Jefferson City. This was a wonderful experience. I traveled to Jefferson City with a group of MCB members representing three St. Louis affiliates. These MCB blind and visually impaired members had a great desire to publically support this activity. The bus was provided by United Workers for the Blind of Missouri. The day was filled with lots of spirit from a group of people who are "disabled" but have the "ability" to push beyond their own circumstances and reach out to others with a helping hand. MCB members took the opportunity to visit Missouri legislators, senators and representatives, to bring to their attention the importance of current issues effecting the independence and general welfare of people blind and visually impaired.
I am looking forward to attending the June MCB Summer Camp. I have several affiliate visits planned and I so look forward to visiting with friends and making new friends as I travel throughout the state.
In July, I will be attending the ACB Convention in Ohio. This convention will be my second time to experience such an event. I go to the convention with high expectations to learn more about the American Council of the Blind.
IMPORTANT ITEMS TO REMEMBER:
If any affiliates have an interest in hosting our MCB State Convention in 2015, please contact the MCB Office. October 2015, is just around the corner!
Don’t forget to forward your nominations to the office for the following awards, which will be presented at this year’s Annual Convention. The recipient of these awards may be either legally blind or sighted but shall be a member of MCB.
The Nathaniel Johnson Award
The honoree shall be someone who has done outstanding work in his/her community, for his/her Affiliate, or for MCB.
The Ellis M. Forshee Award
The honoree shall be someone who has done something outstanding on the state or national level. He/she shall be someone who works with the legally blind or with legislation for the legally blind.
The Darrell Lauer Award
The Darrell Lauer “Outstanding Leadership Award” will be presented from time to time, when deemed appropriate, to an outstanding member of the Missouri Council of the Blind who has shown qualities of exemplary leadership in the organization and in the community.
Have a great summer! I look forward to seeing each of you at the 2013 MCB State convention in St. Louis.
Future of Medical Care for Blind Missourians
By Chris Gray, Executive Director
For the second time in as many years, Missouri blind pension recipients find themselves under direct attack by the state General Assembly. Whether we like it or not, it may be that within the next year or two significant change in medical provisions that will affect particularly blind pension recipients could become a reality.
If, in fact, this is the case, it is critical to become informed early about that other medical choices will be available should Medicaid benefits be cut or curtailed for the blind. And fortunately, an increasing number of choices are supposed to become available in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act. This is certainly good news for blind pension recipients.
Beginning in 2014, a nationwide series of health exchanges are to be in existence that will offer health care to those unable to afford or to receive generally available medical insurance. For example, if your employer does not offer medical benefits and you have a pre-existing medical condition such as diabetes, you might well be eligible to join one of these exchanges. Though unknown at this time, the price for joining is alleged to be low enough that average wage-earners and lower-income individuals are supposed to be able to afford monthly premiums to be charged by the health exchanges. It is partly because of these exchanges that many Missouri legislators are intent on reducing or cutting those Medicaid benefits to the blind that are now bourne entirely by the state. Though the exchanges remain undefined, unformed, and though the cost of participation is unknown, it is hard for us to fight against the logic of this argument. It's not easy to fight against phantoms.
However, your leadership is taking steps to help all of us understand this landscape better long before 2014. The first step is to have information presented at our state convention that helps us understand more about Medicare, Medicaid, general insurance and health exchanges. Already scheduled on the program is a presentation by United Health Care on these topics. A break-out room has been assigned to help you follow up from the presentation and discuss possible alternatives that might work for you. Check the convention agenda carefully to find the program and break-out room details.
Further, we are working on making material available in accessible formats addressing healthcare alternatives. A good deal of printed literature exists and MCB is working to make at least the most important material available. By convention if not before, we plan to have significant material in accessible formats for your use.
This Just In: From Your Affiliates!
News from Delta Area
By Wanda Matlock, Delta Area President
Hi everyone, we have been busy at Delta Area with our first fundraiser for the year. We decided to have a 50/50 drawing. Everyone was excited and worked very hard to make it a success. We also are in the process of accepting applications for the Lola B. Garner Scholarship. Mrs. Garner was one of the founding members of Delta Area back in 1982. We are proud to keep her memory alive with this scholarship. The goal of Delta Area, when funding permits, is to give the scholarship to a blind or visually impaired individual that is going to college or continuing his or her education and is from the Southeast Missouri area.
There were three members of Delta Area that attended the Board training and meeting in St. Louis April 5th and 6th. We all thought the training and meeting were both educational and informational. We would like to thank the convention committee for a job well done. Delta Area members have also been busy getting applications ready for summer camp at Cobblestone Lodge. We have five members planning to attend the July session.
Lake Stockton Area Council of the Blind
By Beverly Robertson, President
Hope all of our friends are happy and doing well. It is wonderful that we have been blessed with rain to make everything so green as well as fill the lakes, rivers and ponds. Our group seems to be getting smaller due to illness and death but we still enjoy our monthly meeting to visit and catch up on what everybody has been doing. We are not going to be able to have our auction this year as we don't have enough people who are able to get it all together. We are really going to miss this fun time with our friends.
Ozark Association of the Blind
By Yvonne Schnitzler
OAB is happy to welcome three new members: Joe Dobbs, formerly of the Capitol City Council of the Blind, now residing in Festus; Brenda Bailey, Fredericktown; and Arlene Phelps of Farmington. They will be an asset to our affiliate. OAB is looking forward to a dinner party and meeting in June with our visitors Patty Schonlau, MCB President and Bunny Maginnis, guest speaker. It should be a fun and informative day for OAB.
Southwest Missouri Friendship
Council of the Blind
Greetings to everyone. Our social was held at Jim Bob's restaurant. There was plenty of room, good food and good service. It was so good, everyone was laughing, talking, telling stories, and munching on the homemade yeast rolls. It is so much fun relaxing, and spending a good evening with friends. Kathy Brauner, our club president, has been working to get the Low Vision Committee off and running. I know she will give it her all as she always does no matter the task. We are so glad to have Ed and Margaret Forcum back attending the socials with us. They were both so sick over the last year, it is good to have them out and about.
One of our members, B.J., had a closed circuit TV she did not need anymore, so she donated it back to the club. Our club was happy to have found a person in Joplin who could really use it. Now, the TV has a good home and the person who got it is very happy. It was nice of BJ to donate it; this could be a reminder for us all to check and if there is something we are not using, it could sure help someone else. The generosity of our club members never ceases to amaze me. Everyone is kind and considerate. We all try to help each other.
Hoping everyone has a really enjoyable spring and may your flowers bloom especially beautiful. May we now be able to tell Mr. Winter goodbye until next time. God bless you all and be safe. Thought: draw a line in the sand and enjoy what you have been given.
Spring Smiles from the Tiger
Council of the Blind!
The Columbia Chapter of MCB is now one year old, but our members range in age from 20's to 80's! In our diverse chapter, everyone learns something new when we spend time talking about the usefulness of gadgets, both low-tech and high, navigating life with vision loss, or how to take excellent care of your mobility device, be it long and white, or furry and waggy. Besides discussing tech, advocacy, mobility, and everything in between, we get together for the holidays for food, music, and a gift exchange, come together for bingo and other games, and even take time to meet at the mall or a downtown bar and grill for weekend relaxing. We put together a successful Trivia night at a local restaurant, the Heidelberg, in January with some great donated prizes including concert tickets and restaurant gift certificates, and plan to hold a larger one this summer! More recently, we spoke with all sorts of people about vision loss and TCB at our booth at the popular 24th Annual Columbia Earth Day Festival.
TCB is located halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis and welcomes folks from all over the mid-Missouri area. Our meetings are the third Thursday of the month from 5:30 to 7ish at Services for Independent Living in Columbia. For more information, please contact Tiger Council of the Blind President, Gretchen Maune, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-489-0986.
UWB - WHAT A DAY
By Brian Hallows
On April 10, I had the opportunity to attend the Disability Awareness Day at the Capital in Jefferson City. This was my first experience with Disability Days. However, I assure you that it will not be my last time.
We heard from the Governor and Attorney General and several other dynamic speakers throughout the morning session. After lunch in the cafeteria, we went and visited several House and Senate offices within the Capital Building.
Probably the highlight of my day was to meet with my House Rep Margo McNeil. She is a super lady that I think down the road will help us with issues within the House that affect us. She was very concerned about HB 700 and assured us she would support us. I felt like it was a very profitable meeting for MCB.
I guess that was not really the highlight of the day however for me. The Highlight was seeing so many people with so many issues all joining together as one. It does not matter; blind, hearing impaired, wheelchair bound, autistic, or any other handicap you want to name, we all share one thing in common. We all are disabled and we all should work together for the betterment of the disabled. It's a big boat. Let's all continue to row together and the waters will be smoother for all of us.
Tower Club of the blind
By Jesuita Tabor, President
Hurry, Hurry, Hurry! Make your reservations, ASAP, at the fabulous Westport Sheraton Chalet Hotel, October 11-13. You can make your reservations by calling 1-800-325-3535 or (314)878-1500.
While the first two floors feature walkout patios, the remaining floors feature balconies. Save money by pre-registering for $10. Registration is $20 at the door. You will have an opportunity to hear from and meet Mr. Michael Hingson, who was in the Twin Towers on “9/11.” Our theme for this convention is “Moving Forward In 2013,” so we need you to move forward and make this year’s convention a success.
Go Ahead Committees,
Tell us Your Stuff!
MCB Convention 2013
By Susan Sanderson
October 11, 12 & 13 is about 4 months away but there is a lot to be done. Please keep these dates in mind.
The Sheraton Westport Chalet Hotel is located at 191 Westport Plaza Drive in St. Louis. Make your reservations by calling 888-672-7064. Be sure to say you are with the MCB Convention to get the reduced rate of $89 per night. The deadline for reservations is September 1.
Preregistration will save you time and money when you get to the convention. The cost for registration is $10 or $20 at the door. Hospitality is $5 or $7 at the door. Saturday banquet is $20 or $25 at the door. We will serve a club sandwich for the hospitality meal and you will have your choice of steak or chicken for the banquet. Vegetarian meals will also be available.
Don’t forget the veterans; we want to honor them at the convention this year. We will have our second annual auction at the hospitality dinner. See you at the convention!
MEMBER OF THE MONTH
By Yvonne Schnitzler, Chair
Congratulations to MCB’s Member of the Month Award winners:
Linda Gerkin, October 2012, Blind of Central Missouri, nominated by Celita White. Linda is Chair of Youth Services, which provides blind and low vision children of Missouri with funding to purchase needed items to better their lives. Her credits include hosting a sweat and socks drive for the kids at the Missouri School for the Blind, organizing a youth hospitality social at conventions so that young people can meet and greet MCB members and First Timers. She contacted the United Way in Sedalia and was granted funds for the affiliate’s activities such as summer camp and convention. Recently, she gave a presentation to the Lion’s Club informing them of the affiliate’s involvement with the blind community.
Harold Hodges, November, Delta Area Blind, nominated by DAB. Harold worked for and retired from the Missouri School for the Blind. He worked with the United Way raising money for non-profit organizations. He also volunteers his services working in nursing homes in the Sikeston area.
Brenda Gardner, December, Blind of Central Missouri, nominated by BCM. For many women seeking shelter through Citizens Against Spousal Abuse, Brenda Gardner is their first point of contact. In her seventh year as a volunteer, her calm demeanor and friendly voice helps defuse crises for callers to CASA’s hotline--the first step for women seeking to escape an abusive situation. She is often the first person many of the victims talk to and she has an amazing ability to calm them down and find out exactly what is going on. Brenda’s assistance, which amounts to about 1,600 volunteer hours per year, also helps satisfy local matching contribution requirements for state, federal and private grants that help fund CASA’s overall mission. Brenda also volunteered for a number of years through Sheltered Workshop.
Doris Carpenter, January, 2013, Southeast Missouri United Blind, nominated by SEMO. Doris has been a valued member of SEMO for many years providing transportation for club members to meetings, Legislative Days, conventions, and social activities. She visits patients and delivers gifts to the blind and visually impaired in nursing homes.
Wilma Chestnut, February, Agape Council of the Blind, nominated by ACB. Wilma organized The Firing Squad Beeper Ball Team and worked on getting the first beeper ball tournament sponsored in St. Louis. She formed Visual Impaired Social Explorers, a group for socializing. Wilma visits schools informing students about the blind. She also speaks at churches, senior citizens centers, and on the radio.
As an athlete, Wilma took part regionally, nationally, and in world competitions in track and field. She competed in the USA BA 1986 Olympics. At age 21, Wilma was first runner up in Miss Black St. Louis. She has coauthored a book, “The Life of Wilma Chestnut.” She was nominated and chosen as a member of the Missouri History Museum and her picture and plaque hang in the Missouri History Museum’s Hall of Fame.
Angelo Trapasso, March, nominated by RITE. Angelo has held offices, served on numerous committees, and on the MCB Board. He is active in his church and community. He is a volunteer at the St. Louis Civic Center and worked as a transporter at several hospitals during his working career.
A special thank you to affiliates and members who have sent nominations recognizing and showing appreciation to those who have inspired their community and assisted the blind.
Please send nominations to: email@example.com or call 636-937-3390 with the information.
By Janelle Edwards
ARTICLE XI COMMITTEES Section 5 of our bylaws was revised last year and includes the following: "Amendments to the Bylaws and Resolutions to be presented to the convention shall be sent to the Chairman with the names of two members, an MCB committee, a Regular Affiliate, or a Special Interest Affiliate supporting that amendment no later than July fifteenth."
If you have questions or submissions, my contact information is in the Chronicle insert.
401 Blind Task Force Committee Report
By Patti Schonlau
The Children's Vision Summit was a tremendous success! There were 155 in attendance. Our speakers, vendors, parents and teachers of blind/visually impaired students interacted in such a manner that made this Summit a day that will be remembered! Making a difference in the lives of children who are blind/visually impaired is a beautiful privilege that representatives of MCB and the other sponsors of this productive cherished event will hold in their hearts and memories forever!
The BTF Committee sincerely appreciates the financial support so generously granted by Missouri Council of the Blind for the Vision Summit held April 29, 2013, for Parents and Educators of Children with Visual Impairment/Blindness.
Task Force on Blind Student Academic and Vocational Performance, Missouri School for the Blind, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, Missouri Council of the Blind, Missouri Guide Dog Users, St. Louis Society for the Blind & Visually Impaired, and Lighthouse for the Blind Saint Louis
By Linda Gerken, Youth Services Chair
The Children's Vision Summit was held April 29, 2013. It was another great day. I really enjoy talking to all my parents and teachers that I know, and it is great meeting new ones. I quite often talk to them on the phone, but face to face is better. I was proud that MCB had a part in making this happen. I am sure that I will be hearing from the new teachers and parents that didn't know about what we have to offer in the near future.
Thrift Store Report
By Angela Goodwin, Store Manager
On behalf of the Missouri Council of the Blind New Image Thrift Store, I would like to say Thank You for all of your support! My name is Angela Goodwin, the General Manager, and I would like to share with you the accomplishments and contributions that the thrift store has made this year through the support of the Missouri Council of the Blind, our community, and our employees.
You will be happy to know that our store is growing and thriving here in Springfield! We have noted an increase in customer traffic along with store sales through the first quarter of 2013. Our total sales through this time period were $136,344.40 dollars with a total of 15,783 customers through our doors. This is a substantial increase of $41,427.57 with an additional 5,264 customers from the first quarter of 2012, none of which could have been possible without MCB, our amazing donors, our community, and our employees! We have also been able to expand our donor lists through our on-site call center as well as our media and online advertising. This has effectively expanded our store’s inventory which has, in turn, increased the overall variety offered to our customers while adding quantity and quality.
While we have grown in total sales and foot traffic, we have also grown through community outreach. We understand that without the support of the community through donations and our shoppers, we are not able to function here in Springfield. Our staff has done a wonderful job working with groups and organizations throughout the area hoping to make a difference just as our supporters have been able to do for us.
An example of this type of work comes from our Fashion Show that we sponsor every other month at the Northview Senior Center. Certain members of our staff participate in the show along with individuals from Northview by modeling the clothing sold here at our store. Through this show, we have really been able to bond with some of the customers that come through our doors while also having a great time showing off our clothing! We also help sponsor bingo events at Northview as well as the South Side Senior Center each month.
Another monthly program that we offer is a children’s Story Time. Sponsored by the Springfield-Greene County Public Library, we hold a Story Time here at the thrift store for young children and their parents. This is a fun-filled event that encourages good reading habits between children and their parents. Story Time helps to increase community awareness of the long-term, positive development a child receives as their parents read to them.
The thrift store also reaches out to organizations that work with developmental disabilities such as the Arc of the Ozarks and Alternative Opportunities. We encourage individuals from these organizations to volunteer at the store in hopes that they will develop the skills necessary to be successful in a job setting.
We do encourage these volunteers to apply for any open positions here at MCB along with other available positions throughout the area. Those that volunteer here receive a letter of recommendation from the management staff along with other forms of support as they begin seeking employment. A really neat attribute of this program is that these volunteers are providing a valuable service to the Missouri Council of the Blind of which they can be proud!
Lastly, our store has become a great resource to those in need who utilize organizations such as the Missouri Career Center, The Red Cross, Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation (OACAC), and The Salvation Army. We offer a voucher program that allows for less fortunate individuals to receive certain items of need at no cost to them. These items range anywhere from clothing necessary for job interviews to replacement furniture items given to those who have lost their homes either by fire or due to a natural disaster. This program has been well received by our community and is one that we are thankful to take part.
We hope that these programs continue to grow along with our opportunity to provide other services for MCB. Our staff has done a great job passing along resource information to those who are interested in MCB and may want to become future members. We also offer a small meeting room inside the thrift store that helps cater to local affiliates and organizations anytime they wish to gather.
One such group that uses this room is the Missouri Deaf-Blind Association (MODBA). This organization uses the aforementioned space every other month to host their group functions and events. The hope is that we can expand this program such that we can better assist our members as we move forward.
We hope you all have enjoyed hearing from us here at the thrift store! We look forward to reporting to you in the future and encourage you all to like us on Facebook at Missouri Council of the Blind New Image Thrift Store or check us out on the web at www.mcbthriftstore.com!
Summer Camp Report
By Beverly Kaskadden
As I write this article, it does feel like summer, but the end of the week may be a different story. The word “snow” was mentioned in the forecast! That is why we are not quite ready for Cobblestone just yet. It is right around the corner. By the time you receive the chronicle, we will have already spent one week at Cobblestone.
The June week seems to be growing larger than the July week! I am so glad the MCB Board approved attendees to join us at Cobblestone one week long session along with the September extended week-end. It is too hard to choose a week long session or the week-end. They both have attractions.
The deadline for applications to attend the September extended weekend is August 1st. Please get your applications in as soon as you can. The date for September is Thursday, the 5th through Sunday, the 8th. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 636-561-6947. Hope to see so many good friends at Cobblestone!
MCB Conference and Assistive Listening Devices
By Mary Hale, Deaf-Blind Committee Chair
Everyone who attends the MCB Convention and Conference wants to enjoy themselves by meeting old and new friends and learning what is happening with MCB. A big part of the convention and conference includes being able to hear what is being said at the meetings. The good news is that MCB has a few wireless Assistive Listening Devices [ALD] that are extremely helpful for anyone who is hard of hearing. These devices allow a person to actually understand the words that are being said and not just hearing “something”. I applaud MCB for having this available for the last two years. The bad thing is that we simply do not have enough for those who need to use them. For those who have used them, they know how wonderful they are. If you haven’t tried one, you’ll be amazed at how well they work and help you.
The next MCB Convention and Conference will be held in the St Louis area from October 11-13, 2013. In order to have an idea of just how many are needed, we NEED to hear from you. If you plan to attend the conference in October this year and using an ALD would help you, then PLEASE contact me by phone or email. If you do not do this, most likely there will not be enough for you and others who need one. This is an important way for you to advocate for yourself and to be heard [pun intended]. My contact information is listed in the insert of the Chronicle. Thank you.
Wolfner / NLS News
By Darrel Vickers, Wolfner Advisory Council Chairperson
Wolfner Library is a free library service for Missourians who are unable to use standard print materials due to a visual or physical disability. Materials are mailed to and from library patrons at their homes, postage paid. There is no charge, whatsoever, to the patron. Currently, over 11,000 Missourians actively use Wolfner Library.
The library's collection includes fiction and nonfiction audio and braille books for all ages. Over seventy (70) magazine subscriptions are available, and the library loans playback machines to those using audio books.
As most of you are aware, we have a new Secretary of State in Missouri; John Kander. The State Library as well as the Wolfner Library are part of the S.O.S. office and budget. The Wolfner budget has not been affected at this time, but it could be in the future.
Increasing Wolfner’s Awareness: One of the topics we have talked about many times over the past year at our meetings is out reach. Only about 13% of eligible Missouri citizens are using the Wolfner library services. One of our main goals over the next twelve months is to substantially increase this figure, through more personal outreach and targeted advertising. So please, if you are not a library patron, please call them at (800)392-2614 and get registered today. A whole free world of knowledge and entertainment is just a phone call away.
NLS developing app for blind users of Apple and Android mobile devices: The NLS Materials and Development Division (MDD), Automation Office, and Network Division staff are currently developing an app—BARD Mobile—that facilitates reading NLS audio and Braille books on Apple and Android devices. “The app will enable eligible users to read digital talking books and electronic Braille. iPhones support 40 different Braille displays and Androids support about a dozen,” explained MDD chief Michael Katzmann. “Any of our digital books and magazines can be downloaded from BARD directly to the device. Due to poor accessibility of older devices, our app will only work on newer versions of Android.” BARD Mobile will be free to registered BARD users.
At the last Wolfner Advisory Council Meeting, we were able to get a hands-on demonstration of the new Victor Reader Stream by Humanware from the manufacturer. The new Stream’s slim, sleek, compact design makes it 28% smaller than its predecessor, and features rounded corners to make it more comfortable to hold. Yet it retains the popular tactile keypad access and simple bookshelf navigation. The new lightweight and compact Victor Reader Stream delivers hours of listening pleasure — anywhere! Smarter, to give you more of what you want. The new Victor Reader Stream features an improved, louder speaker, improved text-to-speech from Acapela, improved recording capabilities, faster USB transfers, and 32-gigabyte capacity SD cards, plus it easily connects to flash drives. And it offers the Softpak features of full stereo recordings, EPUB2 unprotected books, DOCX support, MP4 and iTunes M4A files, plus a built-in clock and WiFi support.
Unfortunately there is currently no funding available to provide new Victor Streams to library patrons. There is also a waiting list for the original Victor Streams. Wolfner was originally able to purchase a limited number of the Victor Reader through a special grant. So please, if you have one and do not use it. Please return it to the Wolfner library so those who are waiting can have a chance to use it.
Wolfner Recordings, (Wolfner Shelf): As I mentioned in my last column, Wolfner has their own recording booth. This is where volunteers record books by Missouri or topics about Missouri which are not available from other sources. Wolfner has plans to add one or possibly two more recording booths this year. You can find these books, as well as books from some other states under the shelf link on the MoPac search page or ask your reader advisor about them.
If you are not able to use a computer or do not have access to the internet please call Wolfner at (800)392-2614. Reader advisors are there to help find books or magazines that will interest you.
Low Vision Committee Report
By Cathie Brauner
Pet Peeves Of The Blind And Visually Impaired. June, 2013, Author Unknown
ONE - The Guessing Game: “Hey (insert name here); do you know who I am?” Oh, please don’t do this. I’ve seen adults do this with students (a lot) and frankly; it’s just rude. Don’t put that person in a position to be embarrassed just in case they don’t remember. Yes, they will recognize familiar voices and you may know they recognize you, but please resist the temptation to prove it to others by quizzing them. Don’t you think you would feel a little stressed if you thought you’d be tested about people every time you went out? Be considerate and identify yourself! End the conversation by telling the visually impaired person that you are leaving; don’t just walk away without letting him/her know. You put them in an awkward position of looking like they are talking to themselves if you walk away without letting them know you are leaving. Please be considerate.
TWO - Being afraid to say the “S” word. Someone can be talking to a visually impaired person and say something like, “Let’s go see what’s for lunch.” Then they gasp and think, OH NO, I shouldn’t have said “see”! Lighten up. Everyone uses “see” and “look” and “watch out!”; even the visually impaired person.
THREE - I’m blind; not deaf. HELLO, HOW ARE YOU”? Which goes along with one of my own pet peeves - “You teach blind kids. So you must know sign language?” Uh…..NO. I know braille. I wish I had a dime for every time someone asked me that – to include administrators during an interview. Sometimes they “get it”; but sometimes they don’t. That’s okay because I’ve just deducted 5 I.Q. points from them (smiles). For the record - I have taken sign language courses and since I don’t have deaf-blind students I have long since forgotten it. I wonder if teachers of the hearing impaired get asked if they know Braille.
FOUR - Visually impaired people can hear everything. The flip side of #3; people assume the visually impaired have better hearing than the rest of us. No - but they do rely on it much more. They are probably listening and paying attention better. Not paying attention to the teacher, though. They also don’t have “visual distractors”; so they can focus more on what they hear. Unless they don’t want to hear it - they are human; after all.
FIVE - “I don’t really believe he’s blind, even with that white cane. I’m not moving from this side of the hallway.” That attitude will leave you sprawled out on the floor when the visually impaired person barrels into you! Here’s a good rule: Don’t play “Chicken” with a visually impaired person. You will always lose! Instead, get out of the way - or at least make yourself known by saying something or making a noise.
SIX - Holding out your hand for a handshake without touching their hand. If that person cannot see your hand; how is he/she supposed to know where your hand is? Answer: They will often extend their hand in anticipation; but if not, tell them you would like to shake their hand and then reach out and take their hand. Same thing goes for handing them an item. You would be amazed at how many times this happens. “Here’s your homework” and then you hold it out in space. Or; even better, don’t say anything at all and hold it out. Again, exactly how is he/she going to know where it is? Grope about for it? Sometimes groping is okay – for finding a dropped item. When handing things to the visually impaired; touch their hand with it so they know where it is. Oh good grief, Ryan Secrest tried to “High-5” blind Scott MacIntyre on American Idol. Get a clue Ryan!
SEVEN - Low expectations: This includes…
The Pity Person: “Oh, you poor blind child. You must have a terrible life. Dr. So-and-so can work miracles. I know; because my Grandmother/Nephew/dog has 20/20 vision now.”
The Helper: “Let me do that, I know it’s too hard for you.”
The Excuse Maker: “I don’t want him/her to learn how to make a (insert food item) because he/she might (cut/burn/make a mess).” “You can’t go on that field trip because there might be a terrorist attack and I would worry.”
The Denial/Embarrassed Person: “Don’t use your cane at the store so people won’t know you are blind.” Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.
Low expectation is probably the worst thing one person can do to the other; regardless of abilities. If you aim for low performance; that’s likely what you’ll get. Don’t be an enabler. Being too over-protective will dramatically hinder the visually impaired person’s progress towards independence and living a happy, social, productive life. Step back and allow them to fail, get a minor injury and make their own mistakes. That’s how we all learn. Don’t forbid them these opportunities.
EIGHT - “Would you like to feel my face?” Whoa, do you ask sighted people if they’d like to feel your face? First of all, a blind person is not going to get a lot of information from feeling a face, other than maybe the shape of your nose. If you won’t let a sighted person feel you, don’t let a blind one. I’ve answered this question a lot from sighted people who have felt awkward allowing this to happen. Well, they feel awkward for a reason! It’s not socially acceptable! Feeling your hair, or lack of it, can be appropriate depending on the circumstances. I’ve also had this question from a parent; “How will my son know what a particular girl looks like? “ Answer: His friends will tell him! Oh yes, they will! Smiles
NINE - Rudeness: It’s usually ignorance; but don’t assume that any visually impaired person automatically needs help. Grabbing the persons arm and pulling them along is wrong on several levels. We know you’re probably trying to be nice, but don’t! Always ask the person if they would like assistance. Then, use the Sighted-guide Technique correctly. Offer your arm and let them hold it; usually right above the elbow. Also, if there are several people with the visually impaired person, speak directly to him/her and not through the “Interpreter” as if the visually impaired person is not there. Say the visually impaired person’s name so they know you are talking to them.
TEN - Pure meanness: Placing obstacles in the visually impaired person's path, throwing things at them, re-arranging furniture, moving or taking their belongings, calling them names, taking them to the wrong place and leaving them. Yes, it is mean and it happens all too often. Educating ourselves and our children about disabilities may help reduce the bias, discrimination and ignorance.
Here’s a story to make you smile: Franklin Johnson; an MCB Guide Dog User, prepared the ingredients in the Crockpot for the evening meal. The Housekeeper gave instructions to place the contents of a container she had left in the refrigerator into the Crockpot 30 minutes before the meal was finished. Franklin followed this instruction and reported that the meal was DELICIOUS! When the Housekeeper returned for work, Franklin asked what was in the container that had been added to the Crockpot meal. Are you ready for the answer…..are you sure…..it was…..DOG TREATS! LOL
If our Committee can provide education, resource information or peer support, please contact me at email@example.com and place LV COMMITTEE in the SUBJECT Box. Your comments, suggestions, funny stories and awkward moments are always welcome.
By Charles Johnson, Building Committee Chairperson
Welcome to the building. There is new green carpet in the lobby, front office, and hall. Upcoming events include various game days and social events. Please feel free to contact the building committee for your event to be held at the MCB building.
EDUCATION AND WELFARE REPORT
By Denny Huff, Chair
First of all let me say thanks to our president, Patti Schonlau for her confidence in me to chair this committee. It is an honor to be responsible to keep our members updated with legislative issues that affect the blind community of Missouri and I promise to do my best in those regards.
This year began with a lot of questions concerning the medical coverage for the recipients of the blind pension. Unlike last year when these recipients were targeted for elimination of medical coverage, this year that elimination was encompassed in bill HB700, that if passed, would have the same effect as was intended last year.
The uncertainty of the status of HB700 seems to be from the very beginning of its introduction. There were a lot of questions surrounding this bill in its journey through the various house committees and within the House and Senate as a whole.
Included in this bill was the elimination of section 208.151 of the Missouri statutes in which sub section 3 stated that medical coverage would be provided to the recipients of the blind pension. Had this bill passed as written it would have ended medical coverage for the blind pensioners as we currently know it.
The last word I have in regards to HB700 is that it is dead. This comes from the sponsor of the bill, Representative Barnes, but also expressed in the same article is hope of reviving some sort of expansion of Medicaid for Missouri. Since no new bills can be introduced I am not sure how the legislators intend on accomplishing this. However, the way it stands at the writing of this article is that recipients of the blind pension are safe for another year when it comes to their medical coverage. Perhaps this would be a good time to explain that the medical coverage for the blind pensioners technically is not Medicaid. It is actually MO Health Net. The difference is that the feds are not paying for this insurance coverage but rather, it is totally financed by the state of Missouri. As we learned last year, the cost to the state is approximately $28 million annually. Should the statute section 208.151 sub 3 be eliminated then the state would shift the cost of this medical coverage to the feds. Of course in this process, several hundred recipients of the blind pension would be without medical insurance since they would not fall under the federal guidelines for general Medicaid.
With this in mind, we are going to be vigilant in watching what the legislators do, not only for the remainder of this year, but also begin advocating for the blind pensioners for next year. Believe me, the Medicaid issue is not dead, but only put on hold until next year.
Chris Gray and I will be making numerous trips to the capital in the next few months scoping out supporters in both the House and Senate for our cause. A letter has been written to each legislator to express our concerns and to attempt to explain why the blind of Missouri need this medical coverage. We hope to establish relationships with many of the Representatives and Senators, culture those relationships and then work with them in securing our medical coverage no matter what direction Medicaid takes next year. We will be calling on the members of the Education and Welfare committee to assist us in this effort as well as members of MCB.
Although it is not a definite, it looks as though another bill we were supporting, HB484, which requires the Division of Purchasing to establish a goal of buying at least 3% of goods and services from a person with a significant mental or physical impairment or a business or agency employing or serving these persons has a good chance of passing. As of April 10, it was sent to the rules committee and from there it will go to the full house.
The third and final bill that the Education and Welfare committee voted to address was HB11. As written, this bill would have essentially shut down Rehab Services for the Blind by not appropriating the funds necessary from the state to qualify for funding from the feds. Although RSB did not get everything it wanted in an amendment, it looks as though this organization will be viable for at least another year. I am sure they will advocate for more funding next year.
In closing, let me say thanks to all of those that attended the Disability Rights Day’s Rally in Jefferson City. As you are probably aware, MCB did not have its legislative days as we normally do each year, but rather we joined together with other disability groups across the state to show our support to each other. We had 40 people who attended, representing most of our affiliates. I believe the best part of this rally was our joining hands together with all disability groups and letting them know that no man stands alone but we are all in this together and that we are not only concerned for blind related issues but all issues that affect each of us.
By Michael Keller, Policy Chair
On April 6, 2013, the MCB Board of Directors, at their spring Board meeting in St. Louis, adopted two new guidelines and approved the amended Convention and Coordinator Committee guidelines. The two new guidelines are for The MCB Low Vision Committee and the Education and Welfare Committee. The policies are below.
LOW VISION COMMITTEE GUIDELINES
To provide education, resource information and peer guidance to people with low vision throughout Missouri.
The Committee will consist of a Chair and three other members.
The Committee will compile, maintain and provide a master resource list for people with low vision and copies of this list will be kept in the MCB office and at the Thrift Store.
Request for the resource list from the Low Vision committee will be referred to the MCB office and distribution will be handled by MCB staff.
The Low Vision committee may provide concurrent workshops during the MCB convention. The purpose of these workshops will be to address topics such as the latest advancements in research and latest technological developments in the field.
When possible, a doctor specializing in low vision will be asked to give a presentation to the full convention.
Before the committee submits Public Relations information to the media, the committee Chair must have approval of the information either from the President or the Executive Director.
The Low Vision Committee will submit an article, when needed or appropriate, to the Missouri Chronicle.
Approved by the MCB Board on April 6, 2013
EDUCATION AND WELFARE COMMITTEE POLICY
From the Bylaws:
Education and Welfare Committee: There shall be an Education and Welfare Committee to keep the membership informed of pending legislation affecting legally blind persons. The Committee shall be comprised of a legally blind delegate from each Regular Affiliate, elected by the affiliate, in the odd numbered years and for a two-year term. The Committee shall elect one of its members to serve as Chairman. The Committee shall also elect a Vice Chairman to serve as Chairman should the chairmanship become vacant. If the Chairman and Vice Chairman positions are both vacated the President shall appoint an individual, with the approval of the Board, to fill the position of Chairman until the next convention.
The Education and Welfare Committee must follow the “MCB External Communication Policy.”
Members of the Education and Welfare Committee may serve two (2) consecutive terms.
In order to be eligible to serve as the Chair or Vice Chair of the “Education and Welfare Committee,” an individual must be willing to attend the “Legislative Educational Project” in Jefferson City, Missouri. They must also have access to the internet and have a good working knowledge in the use of email.
In order to be eligible to serve as a member of the Education and Welfare committee an individual must have prior experience by serving on one other MCB committee.
The President shall determine the number of persons that will attend the ACB Legislative seminar in Washington D.C.
The Education and Welfare Chair may recommend individuals to attend the National Legislative Days in Washington D.C. but they must be approved by the President.
The Education and Welfare Committee members may have a Legislative Day in Jefferson City.
Members traveling on MCB funds who have prepaid transportation tickets or hotel reservations and they are prepaid for one night must reimburse MCB if they do not attend an event.
The Chair or a person appointed by the Chair must investigate bills before they are presented to the committee. For example, review the full text of the bill, why was the bill submitted, who requested the bill does the bill have a negative or positive effect on people who are blind.
Does the bill have any effect on statute 208 or 209?
Old Age Assistance, Aid to Dependent Children and General Relief.
Aid to the Blind - Rights of Persons with Visual, Hearing or Physical Disabilities.
Adopted by the MCB Board April 6, 2013
CONVENTION GUIDELINES, COORDINATOR AND HOST DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The following is from the Bylaws. “There shall be a Convention Committee consisting of the President, the Executive Director, the Public Relations Chairman, and two other members to be appointed by the President. This committee shall work with the host affiliate to make arrangements for conducting the convention.”
Definition of the Committee
The committee shall consist of the President, Executive Director, Public Relations Chair, the Coordinator who shall be the Chair and a member from the Host affiliate. There may be times when two or more affiliates may want to host a convention, and then each affiliate may have a representative on the committee.
Duties and responsibilities of both the Host Affiliate (hereafter known as the Host) and The Missouri Council of the Blind Convention Coordinator (hereafter known as the Coordinator) should be considered and discussed carefully by the Host and Coordinator before making a formal bid for an annual convention. Major duties and responsibilities are discussed by specific topic below in these guidelines.
Final convention bids are presented to and decided by the Missouri Council of the Blind Convention as a whole. This process will ensure the best chances for success both in the developmental process and the convention itself.
The duties and responsibilities outlined below include the major issues that are the responsibility of the selected Host along with those of the Coordinator, but do not constitute a total list of all of the duties involved.
INITIAL HOTEL ARRANGEMENTS
The Host and the Coordinator select a hotel that meets the following criteria:
Has an adequate number of sleeping rooms to accommodate reasonable attendee expectations.
Restaurant facilities adequate to allow participants to eat in the hotel.
Areas that will lend themselves to adequate guide dog relief accommodations.
Meeting rooms and banquet facilities to accommodate all convention activities.
A review of the hotel is to be completed by a Blind person (President and/or Executive Director) the Convention Coordinator, and a sighted person. The Coordinator will develop a set of minimum square footage guidelines to help the Host and hotel make optimal room selections for all convention functions. Since the office has statistics on past conventions, the above information and the contract should be reviewed by the President, Executive Director and the Treasurer, and then signed by the President and Treasurer.
The hours that the registration desk is open and the staffing of the registration table are determined by the MCB Treasurer and the Convention Coordinator to provide ample opportunity for those arriving to register. All money from the registration process is submitted to the MCB Treasurer. If the treasurer is not available, there must be a bonded MCB representative at the registration table. In addition to managing registration details, the registration desk will distribute convention agendas, various literature and items of interest to the convention attendees.
The MCB Office is responsible to provide banquet tickets and name badges for convention attendees. Banquet tickets are to be identifiable by touch and the name tags shall have a method of identifying those members authorized to vote. Only those members in good standing are eligible to vote during the elections or any other time that a ballot vote is taken by the convention.
The MCB Office will provide a list of MCB affiliate members in good standing and current members at large as a resource during convention to determine voter eligibility.
If there is a dispute or omission on the list, any Officer of the affiliate may verify to the Credential Chair that the individual in question is a member in good standing. The MCB Office shall also provide a list of the elected Officers and Directors, Board Representatives, Committee Chairs and guests for which MCB will provide the registration and banquet tickets.
The Host will provide volunteers at the registration table to help assist registering convention attendees. Care must be taken by the person in charge of the registration desk that cash, checks and credit cards be handled appropriately when the MCB Treasurer cannot be present.
If there are to be drawings or door prizes, someone at the registration desk will place the name of each person that is registered on the ticket to be used, unless another method is devised by the Host for the distribution of door prizes or other drawings.
The Host is also responsible to have someone available at the registration desk to welcome individuals arriving and answer questions such as those concerning local places of interest, shopping available, restaurants and eating establishments along with their location in relation to the location of the hotel.
The Host will receive a check from the MCB Treasurer in an amount equal to the registration fees collected. The check shall be sent within thirty days after the close of the convention to the host.
THE PRE CONVENTION BOARD MEETING
The Coordinator will arrange for a Board meeting on Thursday afternoon at the direction of the president.
The Presidents of Special Affiliates are to communicate their meal requirements to the Coordinator. The Coordinator is responsible to ensure that all meals are included on MCB’s final accounting documents for the convention. The Coordinator will set the due date for receiving meal requirements which can differ from hotel to hotel. The president of each Special affiliate will select the menu for their affiliate function directly with the hotel prior to the convention and are responsible for all costs whether paid to the hotel directly or to MCB after the close of the convention. Where possible, affiliates are expected to pay their meal costs directly to the hotel at the time of the convention. Should this not be possible, the affiliate must reimburse MCB for all meal costs within thirty days after the close of the convention.
THE PRESIDENT'S LUNCHEON
At the direction of the MCB president, the Coordinator will arrange for the President's Luncheon.
The MCB Board may choose to have a Friday Evening Hospitality Event. The Board will decide if this event will be a social hour with refreshments and snacks or a light dinner. The Board may receive suggestions from the Host and/or the coordinator. MCB is responsible for all expenses incurred in this activity.
It is the responsibility of the Host, along with the Coordinator, to plan the banquet menu and set the price. Banquet tickets are provided through the registration desk during the registration process or at a later time to those registered at the convention.
NOTE: The Host should consider the cost of the meal, printing of tickets, decorations, any favors if given, gratuities and any service charge, as well as the possibility of not meeting the number of meals guaranteed in setting the price of the tickets and provide for this in the cost of the tickets.
The Coordinator will contact the Executive Director for past numbers for banquet meals. The Host should be conservative in making a guarantee on attendees expected for the banquet, because many times the number of meals can be increased much easier than convincing the hotel to drop the number of meals that you have already guaranteed. MCB will be responsible for any charges incurred due to a lack in the meal guarantee.
The Host selects the master of ceremonies and Banquet speaker.
The Coordinator will arrange for the following committees to meet during the convention:
Education & Welfare
Any others as directed by the president.
The Host chooses the entertainment to be provided, and when entertainment is provided, the host is responsible for all expenses incurred.
The Host can provide a craft room at its discretion. If a craft room is provided, the Host must appoint someone the responsibility of collecting the money for items sold in the room. A monitor must be in the room anytime it is open. Any MCB member or MCB affiliate may submit craft items for sale and receive the money for those items sold. Anyone placing items in the craft room for sale must provide the monitor from the Host a list of the items as well as keep a list for themselves. All items should be priced ahead of time and no Host shall be responsible for the loss, theft, breakage or damage of items placed for sale or display.
If possible, there will be an exhibit room to display and demonstrate adaptive technology items which are available for use by blind and low vision individuals. The Adaptive Technology Inc, Special Interest Affiliate is responsible to arrange for this display. A fee may be charged each exhibitor to be determined by the Coordinator, President of MCB and Executive Director of MCB.
The MCB as well as many affiliates, special interest affiliates and local businesses have in the past donated gifts as door prizes. The host shall collect and distribute these door prizes at the President's direction. Keep in mind the time allotted for door prizes may be limited.
On Saturday evening and/or Sunday morning, there are church services available for those of the Catholic and Protestant faith. The coordinator shall be responsible for arranging an area and time for the services. The Host is responsible to arrange for the persons officiating at these services. The Host shall also have persons available to do the invocations and benedictions at the meetings and the banquet.
All public relations, press releases and advertisements, shall be approved by the President or Executive Director and are handled through the MCB Public Relations Chairperson, the Host and the Coordinator.
The MCB Public Relations Chairperson shall be responsible to see that the MCB Banner is placed in front of the convention hall behind the president if possible at all official convention sessions.
Any special guests such as an ACB representative are to be invited by the president and MCB is responsible for the expenses and introductions of any such guests. Any local dignitaries are invited by the Host. The Host is responsible for their guest's expenses and introductions. Both the president and the Host will communicate their decisions about guests to the Coordinator.
The Coordinator shall have available the number registered, number of rooms used, and number of banquet meals served from the previous conventions as a resource for planning future conventions. These numbers are readily available from the MCB office.
RESOURCES AND SUGGESTIONS
YOUR MEMBERS - try to get as many people as possible from your affiliate involved in the planning and work required for your convention. The more input and assistance you have, the better your networking capabilities will be with your community and the membership as a whole.
THE MCB CONVENTION COORDINATOR - can be helpful with ideas and suggestions that were successful as well as those which were not. The Coordinator will maintain checklists and files that will be useful and may make your job easier.
LOCAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU - if you approach them, they may be able to provide literature and/or assistance in your convention plans, along with other help (i.e. lists of local entertainment available, and/or community resources).
HOTEL SALES STAFF - since they work with conventions and large meetings, they may have suggestions or ideas that will assist you as well as making the various areas of the building more accessible to your group, and their expertise in planning meals and calculating the needs of your convention will be valuable.
THE MOST IMPORTANT - get a copy of the agenda from the previous year. This will change for each convention but makes an excellent map to find your way and to plan your convention. It will ensure that nothing important is left out, and give you a model with which you can make your plans.
Approved by the MCB Board April 6, 2013
By Melvin Smith
The Auction Committee needs your help!
As last year’s auction was such a success, we’re going to do it again at this year’s state convention and we need your participation! We are asking for contributions of nice items that folks will want to bid on, such as open-end plane tickets, dinners at nice restaurants, electronic items, overnight stays at hotels, jewelry, or any other items that will bring in the bidders!
The auction will be taking place at the MCB state convention at the Sheraton Westport Hotel on October 11. This year’s auction will be during hospitality. Pat Kelly will be the auctioneer again this year. We will have a credit card machine and we will have a person to describe the items before the auctioneer opens it up for bid.
Hospitality will begin at 6:00 p.m. and the auction will begin at 6:30 p.m. The auction will end at 8:30 p.m.
In addition, we are adding some new excitement to this year’s auction event. From 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. we will be holding a silent auction. For this event, we hope to auction off several baskets filled with items. We’d like to feature five affiliates from various Missouri locales, and so we invite affiliates to participate. The first five affiliates that indicate interest in putting together a basket will be included. If your affiliate is interested in putting together a basket for the silent auction, please drop Melvin Smith an e-mail at Hollyfirstname.lastname@example.org indicating your interest to participate.
We have set a goal to raise $4500 at this year’s auction event and we look forward to your help.
By: Yvonne Schnitzler, MCB Historian
The compiling of the MCB History Book is coming along but we would like to remind members to add their input. If you have something of interest to submit, now is the time to do it. We are looking for tributes to those who have made a difference in MCB, stories of interest, and how affiliates and special interest groups were organized. We are all part of the MCB’s story so deluge me with information. Please feel free to contact me; my contact information is in the Chronicle insert.
By Denny Huff
It appears that the recipients of the blind pension have escaped losing their medical coverage for this year. Although this is good news I can’t help but think about what might be coming next year. The legislators are going to push for some kind of Medicaid reform and this reform will surely include the medical coverage for the blind pension recipients. Chris and I want to be prepared for whatever may come up next year and want to be able to present a logical defense for those currently receiving this medical coverage. In order to do this, we need testimonials from the blind pension recipients as to how this would affect them should such a change be made.
Below you will find a chart that includes the number in family and the maximum amount of income you can receive in order to qualify for Medicaid. This is based on 133 percent of the poverty level and the legislators will most likely push for 138 percent. This will, however, give you some idea of where you will stand.
Family of one: $15,282
Family of two: $20,628
Family of three: $25,975
Family of four: $31,322
Family of five: $36,668
You can read more about what the poverty level means at: http://www.familiesusa.org/resources/tools-for-advocates/guides/federal-poverty-guidelines.html
Some points you might want to include in your testimonial would be medication you may lose if taken off of medical coverage; services you may lose; some of what your income is spent for being blind; if you already know, how much premiums would cost you if you were to try and purchase private insurance. You don’t need to give your name, although your age and district in which you live, would be good. Send your testimonials to the MCB Office in care of Education and Welfare or email to email@example.com
Thank you and let’s be prepared for next year.
Meet Alyssa Henson
By John Weidlich
So who is Alyssa Henson and why do I want to introduce her to you? Alyssa is a young blind student in the 2013 graduating class at the Missouri School for the Blind and I want you to know about her because I believe she has a bright future.
I enjoy hearing about young blind people and I feel we should do everything we can to encourage them and help them succeed with their plans and goals. First, let me explain how my interview with Allyssa, which led to this article, came to be.
The United Workers for the Blind here in St. Louis has a scholarship program similar to MCB’s. Each year we award one or two scholarships to blind students entering college. Alyssa Henson was the recipient of our scholarship this year. I'm sure most of you know that MCB's President, Patti Schonlau, works at the Missouri School for the Blind. At our UWB meeting, she spoke very glowingly about Alyssa and suggested that I interview her and write an article about her for the Chronicle, which I was happy to do. Once I spoke with Alyssa, I knew immediately why Patti is so excited about Alyssa and her future prospects.
Alyssa lives with her family in Wentzville, Missouri but she grew up in Springfield, Illinois. She was born with Leiber's Congenital Amaurosis, a rare genetic disorder. She is the only member of her family to have this condition. She has light perception and can see very large objects that are close to her. She had limited color vision as a child and remembers seeing yellow lines on parking lots but that is about all. Her vision is currently stable but she knows that she could lose the vision she has. Although she is spending her senior year at MSB, she was mainstreamed until she moved to Missouri.
Alyssa says they had a very good program for blind students in the school district where she went to school in Illinois and she felt she had good instruction in Braille and mobility. At age fourteen, her family moved to Dunlap, Illinois and she had to change schools. At first, they didn't have a good program in place but they established one quickly and she was able to keep the same mobility instructor that she had in Springfield.
I asked about her experiences with other students and she said "the high school years were great." People were supportive and she was involved in some activities. However, she wasn't in too many extracurricular activities because most of them involved sports which she couldn't do in the public school. She was in a club called Best Buddies, working with students with intellectual disabilities.
However, if high school was a good experience, grade school and middle school was a different story. She told me, "I didn't have much luck. The other students didn't like me, I was different." She remembers one incident in middle school when a girl took her cane and ran off down the hall with it because she thought "it would be funny to see me try to chase her to get it."
So why did Alyssa come to the Missouri School for the blind for her senior year after being mainstreamed? She explained that her family moved to Wentzville, Missouri about a year ago and she felt our residential school would be a better transition for her than starting in a new school district for her final year. She also wanted more orientation and mobility training and she needed to improve her daily living skills like cooking and other things that would increase her independence when she would be on her own after graduation.
I asked what it was like to go from public school to a residential school and she said that it was different but it has been good because it is helping her become used to living away from home, which she will do in college. She said the teachers have been great and supportive of everything she has been doing, especially cooking. She has also been able to participate in some things that she couldn't do in public school, especially sports. She is on the goal ball team and the swim team.
In describing her family, she told me, "they've always treated my blindness as just a little bit of a physical nuisance, not anything that makes me different as an individual.”
During our interview, I was especially happy to hear her say she uses Braille "all the time, every day, anywhere I go." She also uses computers and the latest technology. She loves her iPhone, her Braille Note and her Victor Stream. She uses Facebook and social networking sites sporadically.
One of Alyssa's major lifelong interests is music. She plays piano and violin and sings. She will be singing a solo at graduation on May 29. She likes all kinds of popular and classical music, but she draws the line at heavy metal. She plays by ear and has not learned to use Braille music. She also has perfect pitch, which she thinks "drives the other kids in music class nuts."
This summer, she will be going to Leader Dog to get a guide dog, which she is very excited about since she loves Patti Schonlau's dog Susie.
In the Fall, she will be attending Northern Illinois University in DeCalb. She chose that school for several reasons. First, they have a good disability services and resources office. It is a fairly small campus which should be easy to get around. But mainly, the school has a good program in the field of her interest. She wants to get a Master's degree in Vocational Rehabilitation and teach visually impaired children.
Alyssa believes it is good to have experiences with both mainstreaming and the residential setting, although she feels that a school for the blind can be a bit sheltering.
Alyssa impressed me with her friendly, outgoing personality. She seems highly motivated with a strong sense of what she wants to do when she leaves high school. I enjoyed interviewing her for this article and I wish her much luck and success in whatever she does.
From The Lower Left-hand Drawer
By John Weidlich
In this edition of the Lower Left-Hand Drawer, we look at the new Victor Stream, the Argus II artificial retina just approved by the FDA, new email lists and a few other things. As usual, I hope you find the items I have included useful and interesting.
In the last column, I mentioned that Humanware had released a new version of its extremely popular Victor Reader. I received one for my birthday, so I would like to give you a description of it and point out some of the differences between the new model and the original version. The new Victor Stream is slightly smaller than the original and much thinner with a more rounded shape. The buttons are arranged exactly like the original and perform the same functions so you don’t need to learn a new operating system. There is one additional button not found on the original Stream. At the top, between the Go To and the Bookmark buttons, is a round button for wifi capabilities. I don’t know if this is functional yet, but eventually I understand that you can use this feature to download books from a computer wirelessly. The speaker is louder, so it is much easier to listen to the Stream with its speaker. There are two raised dots on the five key, making it easier to locate. The text to speech voices, Tom and Samantha, have been replaced by voices called Heather and Ryan, which I find to be a big improvement. The recordings are now mp3 and wav file formats. This means there is much less recording time but the recording quality is higher. The battery can be charged while it is connected to a computer or with the AC adapter. The remaining battery time is given as a percentage, rather than the high, medium and low, which gives a better indication of how much battery power is left. There is a line in jack for recording directly from a radio or stereo. The earphone jack and the record button have been moved to new locations. The record button is more recessed and a little harder to find but harder to press by mistake. If you want more information about the new victor Reader Stream you can go to the Humanware Web Site, www.humanware.org, or call HumanWare at 800 722-3393. If you purchase the new Stream, you will need to download a new authorization key to play NLS books even if you have the older model. However, this is not difficult to do and if you do have problems doing it, the folks at HumanWare will help you. One person who reviewed the new Stream for a publication objected to the fact that it takes about three seconds longer to boot up, but I really don’t see this as a major drawback.
According to an article in the February 14 edition of the New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the Argus II artificial retina implant for patients with severe RP or Retinitis Pigmentosa. The device, which has been under development for about twenty years, gives very limited vision, allowing some people to detect things like crosswalks, the presence of people or cars, and, in a few cases, large numbers and letters. The Argus II consists of a sheet of electrodes in the eye, glasses with an attached camera and a portable video processor. The device allows visual signals to bypass a damaged retina and to be transmitted directly to the brain. The user does not see in the conventional sense, but can identify outlines and boundaries of objects, especially when there is a lot of contrast between light and dark, such as fireworks against a dark sky and black socks mixed with white ones. About fifty people have used the implant in clinical trials with mixed results. It is made by a company called second Sight Medical Products. The manufacturer believes it may be useful for about ten percent of the total population of people with RP. To be eligible, people must be over 25 years old, have previously had useful vision, but now have vision so limited that the device would be an improvement over what they have. It is hoped that the device will also eventually help people with advanced macular degeneration. The procedure will be done at seven hospitals in New York, California, Maryland, Texas, and Pennsylvania and will cost about $150,000, which does not include surgery and training.
The Hadley School is offering a course on Selling on Ebay. It is a one lesson course explaining how Ebay works, how to register, set up a seller account, and purchase an item from Ebay. This is part of Hadley’s new program to encourage small business and entrepreneurship. To learn more about this course or other offerings that are part of this program, contact Hadley School at www.hadley.edu.
The Circle of Love Ministries has a new website, www.circleministries.com, where you can download a sample issue of the Circle of Love Magazine. The site also has information about Camp Siloam. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t know if this is an old or new resource, but here is information about the Blind Ambitions Magazine. I have been meaning to check this out but haven’t gotten around to it yet. To receive an issue of the magazine send an email to Christine.email@example.com and put this in the subject line: How can I receive a free copy of Blind Ambitions Magazine.
I know that some of you, especially people in the St Louis area, remember Joan Myles. She lived in St. Louis for many years and was a member of UWB until her family moved to Salem, Oregon. Joan is very active with an organization called Yismehu. This organization provides resources for blind people who want to learn about Jewish culture and study Hebrew in Braille or large print. It is free to anyone of any age or religious background. To learn more, visit www.yismehu.org or call Joan Myles at (503) 391-7754. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blind Access Training offers training to blind or visually impaired people in the use of a screen reader or Apple products. Training is provided via Skype or over the phone. The phone number is (877) 774-7670. Press the number 1 to speak with Kimsan Song. The web site is www._blind_access_training.com
The daily Connection is a phone-based chat system offering free chat rooms, audio books, bulletin boards, podcasts, voice mail, conferences and friendly conversation. You must be over 18 to participate. The number to call is (231) 732-7141.
Blind space is a social network site for the blind where you can make new friends and keep in touch with old ones. It is free. It is at www.blindspacecommunity.co.cc
The Gamers List is an email discussion group all about accessible computer games. To subscribe, send an email to email@example.com or contact Hunter Parker by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tanis Hooker operates two websites you might find interesting. The Sports Zone offers news, scores, and a blog. The site is www.thesportszone.110mb.com. The HT zones have podcasts of interviews, technology demonstrations and more. The site is www.htzone.110mb.com.
There is a new email discussion list for Christians who are blind, visually impaired or sighted. People share devotions, prayers, and opportunities for fellowship and lasting friendships. Send a blank email to email@example.com.
Adrijana Prokopenko is considering starting a discussion group for blind and visually impaired people who are single. If you would be interested in joining this list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with information such as age, gender, occupation, hobbies and interests.
Enablelove.com is a free dating service for people with disabilities. The web site is www.enablelove.com.
On a recent MCB connect call, Denny Huff was demonstrating a free internet service created especially for blind people called, Tapin Radio. With it, you can listen to any radio station in the United States that streams its broadcasts over the Internet simply by typing in the call letters of the station. I believe you can also search for stations by format. If I remember correctly, you can download it to your computer by going to www.tapinradio.com and putting it on your desktop.
That’s all we have in the drawer for this time. Please send along anything to me that you would like to include in the column. My email address is email@example.com