March 2014 Chronicle

March 2014 Chronicle

THIS IS YOUR PRESIDENT SPEAKING

 

Greetings to All:

 

     Did it snow at your house?  Well, it certainly did at mine!  As I write this article, there is twelve and one-half inches of snow outside my window.  Wow!!!

 

     I have been busy attending a number of MCB Committee meetings via conference call.  I have been involved in speaking with several potential members that are interested in MCB services and programs.

 

     I attended the Alliance for Braille Literacy first annual meeting on December 6-7, 2013 in St. Louis, MO.  At the meeting, the Alliance reviewed its governing documents, held formal elections, and began the process of forming committees and prioritizing the work of the organization for the coming year.

 

     On January 4, 2014, I attended a birthday party for Louis Braille held at the MCB building, sponsored by the Braille Revival League of Missouri.  It was a wonderful time of celebration.  A moment of sincere admiration of Louis Braille’s efforts was offered in gratitude.  A brief overview of how braille evolved from Louis Braille’s hand to braille used in 2014 was expressed by several members of BRL.  Louis Braille gave people who are blind and visually impaired the greatest gift …literacy.

 

     In 1809 three boys were born who would change the world: Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, and—the one sadly under-celebrated—Louis Braille.  Born in Coupvray, France, Braille was blinded at age three in an accident in his father's harness-making shop. He was lucky to have loving parents who encouraged his independence and who sent him at age ten to a boarding school in Paris, one of the first such schools for blind children.

 

      And the rest of us—generations of blind people in every country of the world—have been lucky that he was a genius who seized a code shown him by Charles Barbier, a code used for "night-writing" by soldiers, and perfected it as a means of reading and writing for people without sight. When asked by parents of blind children what single tool has been most significant to me as a writer, student, parent, advocate, all-around member and lover of society, the answer is unequivocal: BRAILLE.

 

      As I write these words, I look (with my hands) at them in Braille. When I read my email, press releases, newsletters, and the latest romance or thriller, in hardcopy or electronically, I read them all in Braille.   Thank you Louis Braille.  You certainly are my hero!

 

      I look forward to attending the Public Forum for Rehabilitation Council for the Blind (RSB) and State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind (SRC) on February 6, 2014.  I will attend the Midwest Leadership Conference on February 28-March 1 conducted in St. Louis at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

 

     These winter months are difficult to plan long-distant trips due to the unpredictability of the weather.  I certainly look forward to spring.  I hope to see many of you at the MCB Spring Board Meeting in Springfield on April 5 at the Double Tree Hotel.

 

     Please be safe and always remember these words from Helen Keller … “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

 

Warmest regards.

Patti Schonlau- President

Missouri Council of the Blind

 

 

MCB Writes Division of Family Services

By Christopher Gray

 

      As many of you know, I devote a considerable amount of time assisting Missouri recipients of Blind Pension and Supplemental Aid to the Blind.  This work has been magnified sharply during the fourth quarter of 2013 with more and more people being wrongfully removed from Blind Pension during their annual review.

 

      In consultation with President Patti Schonlau and Education and Welfare Chair Denny Huff, I took the step in December of drafting a formal letter to Valerie Howard, Deputy Director, Income Maintenance, Family Support Division, Department of Social Services.  For the most part, the letter speaks for itself.  I will only say here as amplification that in the past two years I have been doing this work, I have never found a blind person who was correctly removed from Blind Pension or Supplemental Aid to the Blind.  Every single person I have assisted has been reinstated or provided blind pension.  I believe this is a very telling fact.

 

      Below is the text of the letter sent to Ms. Howard.  As we go to press and after a follow-up inquiry, we have received no acknowledgement or response to this letter.  Now, here's the text.

 

      The Missouri Council of the Blind is writing to call your attention to a series of requirements and events that constitute unreasonable actions and demands being made by the Family Support Division on blind individuals undergoing their annual review as recipients of the blind pension. Specifically, three areas are of great concern to the Council and in need of immediate review and remedy:

 

  1. Overzealous and inappropriate demands for information being made during the annual review;

 

  1. Time requirements placed on recipients to provide information to DFS;

 

  1. Requirement of unnecessary and untimely eye examinations.

 

      Annual Review Issues.  During the annual review, many blind recipients are being subjected to far more than an annual review.  All too often, reviews cover matters that may have occurred many years prior to the current review and unreasonable demands for documentation are being made.  Two examples of unnecessary and unwarranted investigation are: (1) A Kansas City man was denied continuation of the blind pension because DFS could not find his marriage license.  He was married in 1986 and has received the blind pension and undergone annual reviews since 1987 without incident until 2013.  (2) A lady had an insurance policy investigated to which she has not been enrolled for the past five years.  In the meantime, her current insurance papers were lost by the office and as with the gentleman above, she is now being required to undergo a complete reapplication to the program.

 

      Many more similar scenarios could be provided from the past six months alone.

The Missouri Council of the Blind questions the overzealousness of these annual investigations.  We further feel the need to point out that recipients undergoing annual review are often not even made aware of documentation being sought by the Family Support Division and are then removed from the program for not providing the material.

 

      Time requirements placed on recipients to provide information to Family Support Division. In many cases, FSD requires that information be made available to it within ten days after it sends a letter to a recipient of services. Yet, the Family Support Division imposes no 10-day requirement upon itself. In fact, the review and approval of an eye examination routinely takes from 30-60 days for the Department to complete. In addition to extending the time allowed to submit requested documents, the Council would like to see a requirement that Department letters be sent in an accessible format i.e. braille, large print, or computer disc). Many do not have anyone to read their mail to them and others may not have someone who can do so in a timely manner. This is crucial with the deadlines imposed. This would be a better use of funds rather than the repeated doctor's reports of those who are statutorily blind.

 

      Eye Examination Practices.  As currently implemented, the Family Support Division policy requires an eye examination once every five years. However, many blind pension recipients will never be able to see again. For example, eye exams are required of recipients even when their eyes have been removed or are so severely damaged that prosthetics are worn covering the eye. Further, many recipients are required to undergo an examination on an annual or bi-annual basis. The Council believes this to be a deplorable waste of time and money on the part of the Family Support Division and a severe hardship to recipients of the blind pension.  Finally, we have direct knowledge of two pension recipients in the past six months who were declared not blind enough to receive the pension.  Both of these individuals are and have been for decades totally blind with no hope of having any vision restored to them. We are asking you now how could such a gross error have been made, and what steps can be taken to prevent such errors in the future?

 

      Summary.  In summary, not only do the issues described above create an undue hardship to the blind recipients of this program, they represent significant unnecessary costs to the citizens of Missouri.  The Council has been in regular contact with the administrators of the blind pension program regarding these issues, but we have not yet found a satisfactory resolution to any of them. It is our hope to frame a discussion through this correspondence to help us move forward and make real progress here.

 

I will be in touch with you in the next two weeks to discuss these matters further.

 

Sincerely,

Christopher Gray, Executive Director

Missouri Council of the Blind

 

 

NOW BATTING: YOUR! AFFILIATES!

 

News from Delta Area

By Wanda Matlock, President

 

     Hello to everyone from Delta Area.

 

     On November 19th, our group enjoyed a trip to St. Louis to the Service Club for the Blind. We would like to thank the Service Club for helping us do our shopping. The staff and volunteers were so kind to help each of us find things that we were looking for. We are planning to make this an annual event. Oh yes! The cookies and coffee were awesome.

 

     We had our Christmas party on December 16th at the China Buffet in Sikeston, Missouri. We were so glad that several members of River City Workers of the Blind could join us for our celebration.

 

     Each year we at Delta Area try to adopt a family for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. This year we adopted a family of five for Christmas. We bought gifts for the children and helped out with their Christmas meal.

 

     We would like to take this opportunity to recognize one of our long time members for being chosen as member of the month for November, 2013. Anthony Blurton is also our Vice-President. We are proud of you Tony.

 

Blind of Central Missouri

By Joe Morgan President

 

      Hello from Sedalia.  It's been a very cold winter so far; I think it's making up for our last few mild ones. We held a Christmas party on December 1, 2013 at the Celebration Center. MCB President, Patti Schonlau, her husband Jim, Executive Director, Chris Gray, and Linda Kirk from United Way, Sedalia in Petis County, were our special guests. Our meal was catered by Country Bumkin Catering Company. The meal was so good that we asked them to do our party again next year. Door prizes were given and we sang some Christmas carols. A good time had by all.

 

      Now, some sad news; we have lost two members since our last report. Janice Nicholson passed away on October 22 and Terry Thompson passed away on January 19.

Until next time stay warm and keep smiling!

 

St. Charles County Council of the Blind

By Beverly Kaskadden

 

     Hello to our friends across Missouri, Brrrrr.  I hope everyone is staying warm.  I will be so glad to greet spring.

 

     St. Charles Council had to cancel our January meeting due to weather, and now the weather experts are calling for ice and freezing rain for this weekend.  Hopefully we will get our February meeting underway on Monday.

 

     There is not too much to report since the December issue, other than our Christmas event.  Not only did we provide a festive evening with good food, heart-warming music, and lively games, we were able to provide gift cards to four families in our community who have a blind member.  We are blessed to have the funds to help others in our community.

 

     We have a physical fitness group who meet to walk at Mid Rivers Mall, and go bowling.  In April we will have elections, and I will report on the outcome in the next Chronicle.

 

     Our main focus this year will be on gaining new members and educating the public on “Abilities Awareness”.  I will keep you informed on that development.

 

     Until then, stay warm, and remember spring may be showing signs by the time this issue is published.

 

BRAILLE REVIVAL LEAGUE OF MISSOURI

By Judy Burch

 

      I am excited to report to you that the Braille Revival League of Missouri is growing!  We now have thirty members!  At the MCB convention in October, elections were conducted with the following results:  Judy Burch, President; Marvelena Quesada Gray, Vice-President; Anna Schell, Secretary; and Patti Schonlau continues on as treasurer.  Sue Tussey was elected to another member-at-large term, and Peggy Smith also was elected to a member-at-large position this year.  We are very excited about the Board and are in the process of planning a number of activities for this upcoming year. 

 

      On January 25, several members of BRL of Missouri participated in a workshop presented by Chris Gray on the Nemeth Unified Braille System Code.  Those of us who participated and learned more about this code are very excited as it unifies Braille in a very logical fashion.  Want to learn more?  Join us on our next conference call or call any member to learn more about BRL of Missouri and the activities in which we are becoming involved.

 

The Tiger Council of the Blind

 

     What do the Tigers have to roar about you ask? Well, we had a lovely Christmas get together at the home of Member Hazel Fields. This past summer, Hazel bought her first home and left the world of rental apartments behind. She was excited about showing off her new house to members. Pizza, hot chocolate a vegetable tray and chocolate cake brought by members provided the food. Small Christmas gifts were exchanged and stolen by others in a friendly rob your neighbor game. Members enjoyed Hazel’s Christmas tree and cozy new digs. 

 

     We held a conference call meeting successfully when the weather wasn’t cooperative for getting to our usual meeting site. At our January meeting, we had a speaker from the Mid Missouri Advocacy Coalition talking to us about proposed changes in pedestrian travel along a busy street that lacks sidewalks. Fundraising took center stage as we planned upcoming events. The Tiger Council of the Blind is purring along and we hope you remain warm and safe in these cold winter months.

 

 

Allied Workers for the Blind

By Tracey Hawkins

 

     Allied Workers for the Blind has had a busy winter! We adopted five students with visual challenges from a Missouri State school for the multiple-handicapped. We held a successful fundraising nut sale, as well.

 

     This Holiday season we learned of needy families unable to buy Christmas gifts for the kids. AWB stepped up to the plate to provide gifts and clothing. Jackie Lars helped Tracey Hawkins, PR chairman, shop for the kids from lists outlining their needs.

 

      AWB president, otherwise known as Santa William Hawkins, and Tracey delivered the gifts to the parents on Christmas Eve.

 

     Eldon Cox and Barbara Dewberry assisted fundraising chairman Jackie Lars with the nut sale. The committee worked in conjunction with Alice and Ed Valdez to sell and deliver nuts in December. The fundraiser was a success!

 

WAGGIN TAILS

By Judy Burch

 

      Hello MGDU members and friends.  I hope you are all managing to work your way through this very cold and snowy winter.  By the time you read this, we will hopefully be on the tail end of winter and perhaps will be experiencing a little spring weather!

 

      The big news for this issue of Waggin Tails is our upcoming America’s Guide Dog Conference which will be occurring March 27-30 at the Ballpark Hilton in downtown St. Louis.  Without further ado, I will share the latest information regarding the conference.  I hope to see many of you at the conference.  It is going to be a lot of fun and there will be lots to see and learn.  All take care, and hope to see you at the Ballpark Hilton in March!

 

      America’s Guide Dog Conference agenda, list of guide dog schools attending, registration and hotel reservation information follows:

 

      Missouri Guide Dog Users (MGDU) would like to share some of the exciting events we have planned for America’s Guide Dog Conference. We are honored and excited to announce there will be six guide dog school representatives attending the conference. They will be: Guide Dogs for the Blind, California; Guiding Eyes for the Blind, New York; Kansas Specialty Dogs School, Kansas; Leader Dogs for the Blind, Michigan; Pilot Dogs, Ohio; and The Seeing Eye, New Jersey.  The conference will be held in Saint Louis, Missouri beginning Thursday, March 27 and ending on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

 

Preliminary Agenda

 

Thursday, March 27, 2014: 

1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. - Guests arrive at the Hilton Hotel.  Registration is by the Lindbergh room in the hallway.  Hotel orientation is by request. There will be sighted assistance throughout the conference by hotel staff and many friends of MGDU.  Vendors in the Market Street Room

 

7:00 p.m.:  Wags and Welcome in the Missouri Guide Dog Users Suite, Room 2224.

Friday, March 28, 2014

 

9:00 a.m. to Noon:  Gateway Arch or Busch Baseball Stadium tours.

 

9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.:  Vendors in the Market Street Room.

 

1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.:  Opening ceremonies for America’s Guide Dog Conference in the Lindbergh Room.  Welcoming remarks and introduction of guests – Nick Whitney, President of MGDU.   Proclamation of Guide Dog Days presented by a representative from the Missouri Governor’s office and from the Saint Louis Mayor’s office.

 

2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.:  Blessing of the Dogs performed by Jan Mourning; introduction by Sue Tussey.

 

3:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.:  Paws for the cause (break).

 

3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.:  Panel discussion - Introduction by Nick Whitney.

 

Topics:

“Rights and Responsibilities of Guide Dog Handlers: by Judy Burch, MGDU Secretary and a guide dog handler for over 40 years.

 

“Why I Chose a Guide Dog” by Mary Ann Melley, West Hartford, Connecticut.

“FAA Relief Areas in Airports” by Sarah Calhoun, Conference Coordinator.

 

6:00 p.m. to 7 p.m.:  Yappy Hour in the Lindbergh Room.  (Cocktail hour with Cash bar.)

 

7:00 p.m.:  Pizza & Paws in the Lindbergh Room.   Live music performed by Steve Schnelle, MGDU member.

 

Saturday, March 29, 2014:

 

9:00 a.m. to 9:10 a.m.:  Opening remarks by Nick Whitney.

 

9:10 a.m. to 10:10 a.m.: Veterinarian to speak on obesity in dogs; Introduction by Raymond Bishop, MGDU member.

 

10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.:  Open session.

 

11:30 a.m.:  Paws for the cause. (Break)

 

Noon to 1:30 p.m.: Kibble & Nibble Luncheon.  Guest speaker: Kathy Nimmer from Indiana, Author of “Two Plus Four Equals One”; Introduction by Judy Burch.

 

1:30 p.m.:  Paws for the cause. (Break)

 

1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.:  Puppy Raisers; Introduction by Mary Hale, MGDU member.  Two puppy raiser families will speak on their responsibilities, training and experiences in raising a future guide dog.  Crystal Keller & Randy Hockey from Michigan; Puppy raisers for Leader Dogs.   Jan and Mel Skillman from Michigan; Puppy raisers for Leader Dogs.

 

2:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.:  Representatives from six Guide Dog Schools will speak on school programs, updates and other topics. – Introduction by Ron Pharris, MGDU member.

 

Guide dog schools attending: Guide Dogs for the Blind, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Kansas Specialty Dogs School, Leader Dogs for the Blind, Pilot Dogs and The Seeing Eye.

After 3 school representatives speak, there will be a “Paws for the cause (break).

 

6:00 p.m.  to 7:00 p.m.:  Yappy Hour (Cocktail hour with a cash bar).

 

7:00 p.m. - Dining with the Dogs banquet.  Guest speaker: Sue Martin from Alabama. Author of “Out of the Whirlpool” – Introduction by Sarah Calhoun, Conference Coordinator.

 

Sunday morning March 30, 2014 – Bark & Bye Farewell – in the MGDU suite, #2224.

 

      This will be an opportunity for MGDU to say thank you to our guests for attending the conference, farewell and safe travels. Coffee and rolls will be available.

 

      Please remember to make your hotel reservations separately. You will not be able to register for the conference and reserve your hotel on the same form. Hotel reservations are now being accepted. The information is below.

 

      To complete your registration form On-Line for America’s Guide Dog Conference, please visit Missouri Guide Dog User’s web site at: www.mgdu.org.  Simply click on the link called:  America’s Guide Dog Conference Registration. Here you will be able to register, choose your meals, and make your payment with a credit card.  If you would prefer to register by phone and have your credit card processed, or make arrangements to mail MGDU a check to pay your registration fees, please contact either Ron Pharris, Chair of the Registration Committee by calling him at 1-573-893-7355, or call Nick Whitney, President at 1-314-875-0007, Extension 1.

 

      The deadline for submitting registrations forms and paying all registration fees is March 1, 2014.  Hilton Hotel reservation information:   The on-line reservation is now available for you to access and reserve your room for the conference. The special conference room rate is $89.00 per night.  To make your hotel reservation, please visit:  http://www.hilton.com/en/hi/groups/personalized/S/STLBVHF-MGD-20140324/index.jhtml.  If you prefer, you may call the Hilton Hotel at 1-314-641-8829.  When you make your reservation, make sure you mention you will be attending the America’s Guide Dog Conference to ensure you receive the special rate of $89.00 per night; rate does not include taxes.  For additional Hotel information and to see what other attractions they offer, you may visit their web site at www.stlouisballpark.hilton.com

 

      For those using American Airlines, we would like to remind you of the terrific discount offer!  MGDU has made special arrangements with American Airlines, for any guest using this airline carrier to receive a 5% discount on the purchase of your airline ticket.  In order to receive the discount, guest must be flying into and departing Saint Louis, Missouri between Monday, March 24 and April 2, 2014.  In order to receive this special 5% discount with American Airlines on your ticket purchase, be sure to use the promotional code 2234DB.  You can begin to make your flight reservations now!

 

      For additional information, you may contact Ron Pharris at 1-573-893-7355. Or send him an email at Python357@centurylink.net. You may also contact Nick Whitney at 1-314-875-0007 or send an email to: nickcherub@aol.comWe’ll meet you in Saint Louis!

 

HEY BATTER, BATTER, SWING! COMMITTEES!

 

Low Vision Committee Report

Jeff La Montia, Committee Member

 

     I would like to start out by saying that we hope you all have enjoyed the holidays with family and friends and are comfortably staying warm during this chilly winter season!!

 

At this time, I would like to introduce to you all our current committee members with their email addresses. I will begin first with our Low Vision Committee Chairman, CJ Campbell, chaplaincampbell@att.net, followed by Committee Members, Linda Kinkelar, lindakinkelar@att.net; Beverly Robertson, b1946m1968bjr@hotmail.com; and myself, Jeff La Montia, jeff.lamontia@gmail.com.  If anyone has any questions regarding the Low Vision Committee, please feel free to e-mail any of our members at any time!

 

Introduction

      To begin, the Low Vision Committee is a vital extension of the Missouri Council of the Blind. It can be very tough on a person when it comes to learning how to deal with any vision loss. It is imperative that we reach out to those individuals across the state of Missouri with the goal of providing them the tools necessary to navigate these waters. An area in which we feel we can make an immediate impact is during childhood and adolescence. This is the period in which individuals begin to gain autonomy by extending themselves out into the world with a lessoning degree of supervision with time. This is also the time that confidence can either be gained or lost, which can greatly alter outcomes later on in life. As autonomy continues to increase, there needs to be a good balance of resources and proper training close by such that confidence, tools, skills, trust, and knowledge can be ascertained. It is in this area that we feel that we can make a difference.

 

While blind individuals may struggle to reach out for help during high school and even in college, due to peer perception, that is exactly the time in which we need to act. We understand that this is quite an undertaking, but we can start small and grow our outreach overtime!

 

The Plan

     Our Committee met on January 6, 2014 to discuss where we stand and our goals going forward. To be honest with you all, there is quite a bit of excitement and promise within our committee as we look toward the future. What should be noted is that it will be much easier to attain our goals if we all focus on the building blocks now and use them later to propel our entire organization. As of right now, we have decided that we will begin our outreach through mailers, telephone interaction, and in-person conversations with guidance counselors, principals, collegiate learning centers, campus life coordinators, and so on across the state.

 

      This will be a perfect opportunity to advance the word about the Missouri Council of the Blind while also allowing us to get a feel for these organizations, institutions, and programs such that we can really reach out those with low vision in Missouri.

 

      As we gain an understanding of the process of properly reaching out to these young, aspiring individuals through others, it will be then that we begin to expand the type of outreach in which we perform. At this time, it will be imperative that we become a resource for those institutions and programs of which we have reached out to. It is also worth noting that we must become innovative in working with these young, blind individuals as we do understand the need to “fit in” and peer perception.  Our outreach is not just for education purposes, but it will also be used as a fun, energetic, and creative way to help those with low vision become confident, high-energy leaders of tomorrow!

 

Conclusion

     In closing, over the next several months we will begin this process with challenges to overcome and tweaking to be made. We strongly hope that the Low Vision Committee will become a beacon for those who need assistance with the goal of developing a working relationship with schools, colleges, programs, and organizations across our state. Building relationships is an important and vital function for any person and/or group and is one in which we wish to use heavily. Thank You! 

      Committee Mantra: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Napoleon Hill.

 

MCB CONVENTION

By Donna Gimlin, Convention Coordinator

 

      Convention plans are under way.  Springfield Service Club and Route 66 Council are the host affiliates.  In April we will pick the food and speaker. 

 

      Make sure you make some plans to join us in Springfield at the Doubletree Hotel. There is shopping nearby and several restaurants. The convention dates are October 3, 4, and 5, 2014. October will be here before you know it.

 

Did You Know…

By Mary Hale, Dual Vision and Hearing Loss Chair

 

      Did you know that the average age for people to start to have a “NEED” for a hearing aid is 60 years of age?  Of course we all know that many simply are in denial that they have a hearing loss. The blind community is not any different from the general population. In fact, because of blindness, it is even more important to address any hearing loss, because we rely on our hearing even more so.

 

      Did you know that you are not alone when it comes to understanding about hearing loss and hearing aids?  Many simply do not know where to begin when a hearing loss is suspected. There are many places that offer “Special Deals” on hearing aids. Some come in the mail; some are in newspapers, radio and TV ads.  Beware, as not all of them have “YOUR” best interest in mind.

 

     When looking for a place to go to have your hearing checked, especially for your first time, you might find it difficult to know the difference between the many options available. And, you'll see some places listed as having "Hearing Instrument Specialists" and others as having "Audiologists." So, what's the difference and why should it matter?

 

     Most people (through no fault of their own) think anyone who fits hearing aids is an audiologist.  However, there is a BIG difference between the two.

 

      Hearing Instrument Specialists:  To be a hearing instrument specialist, a person must have at least a high school diploma or GED, 62 hours of training in theory. In addition, a hearing instrument specialist must complete 98 hours of practical, supervised training on testing, ear mold impressions, infection control, hearing aid fitting, and follow up care. Finally, they also have to pass a written exam with at least 70% or a C grade and demonstrate ability to make an ear impression.

 

      Audiologists:  To be an audiologist, a person must have either a Master's or Doctoral degree from an accredited university graduate program in audiology. In addition to this education, an audiologist must complete many hours of practicums in various settings while they are in school and, after passing the national exam at no less than 80% or B grade, complete a fellowship year of training in all aspects of audiology under supervision before being certified.  Being accepted into an audiology program is not easy; it is stringent just like nursing, dentistry, physical therapy, etc.

 

      As is true for any profession, it is always a good idea to seek out the very best for your care. When in doubt, we suggest working with an audiologist vs. a hearing instrument specialist because you will benefit from their extensive knowledge and training and receive the very best hearing care possible.

 

     Another thing to keep in mind is that getting hearing aids are not like getting eye glasses. When getting a pair of eye glasses, they are made special for you and once you get them, rarely do you need any adjustments. However, with getting a hearing aid, you’ll need to expect to go back several times, until the hearing aids are properly fitted and programmed correctly for you alone.

 

Summer Camp

By Beverly Kaskadden, Camp Chair

 

     You would think the Summer Camp Committee would have it easy this time of year, but we never rest!  We are working on going over the Camp application, and getting the letters out to all the affiliates.  I have been thinking about Summer Camp so much during these frigid cold days in January.  I promise I will not complain about how hot it is while at Cobblestone!

 

     There has been a change in the Guidelines for camp applicants, and I hope everyone will carefully read not only the guidelines, but also the camp application and letters.  All affiliate Presidents will receive packets of camp information.  The packets will include an introduction letter that is to be read at the affiliate meetings. Payment is to accompany all applications and made payable to Missouri Council of the Blind.  Applications will not be considered if payment does not accompany the applications and filled out completely.  Please, don’t forget to sign the agreement.

 

     All applications are to be mailed to the Missouri Council office.  Upon receipt, the office will assign a number to the completed applications so they will be considered in the order they were received.

 

      If you have special considerations of cabin placements, please indicate your needs on the applications.  The camp committee works hard to honor your request.  Keep in mind; we cannot put everyone in the closest cabin to the lodge. 

 

     If you have never attended our summer camp at Cobblestone, you are missing out on an experience that you will look back at with such fond memories.  You will reconnect with friends, and make new friends.  You will never go hungry.  I have often said, “Oh, is it time to eat again?”  Then there is all the valuable information you gather on the front porch!

 

I am smiling thinking about my visits to Cobblestone.  Feel free to call me if you have any questions.  Hope to see you there.

Along with Celita White, Sam White and Jim Schonlau.

 

Education and Welfare

By Denny Huff, Chair

 

      As we begin to prepare for our visit to Jefferson City on April 2, 2014, there are several items we need to address.

 

      First of all we will need as many of you as possible to commit to attending the Legislative Days this year.  As we decided during our annual meeting last October, we will be participating in the Disability Days rally joining in with other disability groups.  The rally will be from 10:00 to 12:00 Wednesday morning on April 2.  The members of MCB attending will have an additional agenda we will be working with for the event.  Before the group rally at 10:00, we will be meeting for an educational process at the Capital Plaza hotel at 8:00 AM.  Then after the group rally at 10:00 we will begin to visit the legislators that you will be assigned.

 

      Prior to the April 2 date, we will have a conference call on Monday, February 10 at 7:00 PM.  We will be joined by a special guest to talk about preparing for our visit to the legislators.  We will also talk about the positions we will be taking to our Representatives and Senators in April.  The number to call is: (712) 432-6100 and use the pass code of: 129071#.

 

      We will be staying overnight at the Capital Plaza hotel on Tuesday, April 1.  We will pay for your room, meals and mileage.  In order for you to qualify for compensation on the hotel, mileage and meals we are requiring the following.

 

  1. You must commit to visit at least five (5) legislators on Wednesday afternoon, April 2.
  2. You must attend the 8:00 AM meeting on Wednesday, April 2.
  3. You must attend the group rally at 10:00 AM in the capital building.
  4. You must send us the names of your state Senator and Representative.
  5. It is not mandatory but very important that you participate in a conference call to be held on Monday, February 10 at 7:00 PM.

 

      What we need from you now is the names of your state Senator and Representative.  If you don’t know who they are please let us know and we can look it up for you.  We will need to know your nine digit zip code in order to get the correct person for your district.  Please send that information to our state office either via email or postal mail by March 1. 

Missouri Council of the Blind, 5453 Chippewa, St. Louis, MO 63109 or email aa@moblind.org. 

 

      If possible, please try and car pool to Jeff City.  This will cut down on the expenses for the mileage.

 

      The legislators began their session on January 8 and at this time we don’t know the bill numbers we will be looking at this year.  Hopefully, by the time of our conference call, we will have more information and will be able to vote on what positions we want to work with this year.  One bill we possibly will want to take a position on is HB 1278.  This bill requires election authorities to make available at least one electronic voting machine for blind or visually impaired voters at state and local elections.

 

      If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call me at 636-262-1383 or or email me at Denny@GatewayForTheBlind.Com.  Thanks and I am looking forward to working with you.

 

 

Here Comes the Wind up, and the Pitch, From Your Thrift Store!

           By Jeff La Montia, General Manager

 

      Hello to you from all of us here at Your Missouri Council of the Blind New Image Thrift Store!  We hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Holiday Season with your families and those close to you! 

 

      You know, it’s been quite the journey so far here at the thrift store.  We have experienced continued growth and success ever since we opened the doors on December 8th of 2011!  We have also had to learn to adapt to the ever changing environment around us by utilizing continuity and creativity.  Collectively, our staff has done an exceptional job in propelling your thrift store into what it is today; a store you can all be proud to have at the Missouri Council of the Blind!

 

      At this time, I would like to provide you all with a snapshot of our January numbers.  To go along with this, I will compare our current figures and projections with what we have witnessed each January since we opened in 2011.  This will help give you all an idea of our continued store growth.  To note, we have not completed the month of January, however, this snapshot will provide you all with a good glimpse of our achievements during this time.  Our total store income from January 1st through the close of business on January 30th was $57,407 with a customer count of 7,182.  Our projection for January (including all income) will put us at around $61,000 with a total customer count of 7,400!  To put that into perspective, during January of 2013, our total monthly income was $43,471.47 with a total of 5000 customers shopping with us!  In January of 2012, our total store income finished at a meager $28,752.13 with a mere 3,412 customers who shopped with us!  As you can see from these simple figures displayed above, we have continued to experience an upward trend over the past three years! 

 

      I would like to express a Thank You to our entire staff and to those of you who have been there with us since we have opened!  To William Hawkins, Denny Huff, Mike Keller, Chris Gray, Virginia Drapkin, Jerry Annunzio, Eldon Cox, and our President, Patti Schonlau, we would like to personally recognize each of you for your service and commitment to our beloved thrift store.  You all have been extremely instrumental in building this entire operation from the ground up!  This has been quite a learning process for all of us and I am proud to say that I am glad you all have been here every step of the way! 

 

      As we continue to experience growth, we also must continue to expand our donor program utilizing our onsite Call Center.  We know that with growth comes the added pressure to bring in the goods to meet customer demand.  Donations all across the board have successfully risen during the past few months to meet the added demand of items ranging from clothing, furniture, appliances, books, electronics, decorations, cookware, lighting, and more.  In order to keep up, our donor coordinators have become more creative in accessing donations through a variety of small businesses, charitable organizations, and even apartment complexes across Greene and Christian counties. 

 

      As we expand our footprint across the Missouri Ozarks, it has become more imperative that we work with other charitable organizations as they may also have items that we need.  The other side of working with charitable organizations in our community is that in some form or another, we are all supporting a cause or are benefiting those in need!  In many ways, through donations and partnerships, we have developed a tighter bond with many giving organizations and people throughout the greater Springfield community! 

 

      Speaking of the community, in this issue of the Chronicle, you will all be able to read another article about your thrift store regarding our outreach and how we are being noticed in our community.  As the General Manager, I was honored as a Hometown Hero in Springfield during the month of January in regards to my visual impairment and our continued community outreach.  This is a tremendous honor for me, our thrift store, including our staff, and the Missouri Council of the Blind as a whole!  If it was not for all of your support and the hard work put in by our team here at the thrift store, none of this would be possible, so thank you! 

 

      We really enjoy keeping you all updated on the status of our store, outreach, and our employees.  It continues to be a pleasure knowing that our staff here in Springfield is making such a positive impact on the Missouri Council of the Blind as well as the community in which we live! 

 

Hometown Hero Inspires Physically Challenged to Overcome Obstacles

By Melanie Chapman

 

(This story aired on KOZL 27 and KOLR 10
out of Springfield, Missouri)

 

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A local man may be blind, but he sees potential in everyone and inspires those with physical challenges to overcome their obstacles to aim for their goals.

 

Angela Farabee works to collect donations for the Missouri Council of the Blind’s New Image thrift store in Springfield.  

 

But, making and taking phone calls is more than just a job for Angela, it’s an accomplishment.

 

“I know from my own experiences it’s hard to get a job,” says Angela. “And I know when you have a disability because you have to overcome so many things.”

 

But there's someone that's helped Angela and other workers at the thrift store, their general manager Jeff La Monita. He's legally blind and completely inspirational.

 

“My disability; I don't consider it a disability at all,” says Jeff. “I look at it as if I’m just an average Joe.”

 

But Jeff is no average Joe at all. Despite what some consider a disability, he has a Bachelor of Science in meteorology, an Associates degree in psychology and he's a proud husband and father.

 

Today Jeff’s passion is this store. He started in inventory, helped grow the store and worked his way to management.

 

Now he works to help others with disabilities reach their goals and dreams.

 

“If we can confute to help folks come into the store and they volunteer and they gain the experience necessary to be successful in life,” says Jeff. “So we're just not here to fund the Missouri Council for the Blind, we're here to outreach. Here to be an active member of the community as much as possible and for me, that is the biggest goal I have right now for our store.”

 

There are 35,000 blind individuals in Missouri and the thrift shop is the only one that funds the Missouri Council of the Blind. One hundred percent of donations go to the organization.

 

Not only does Jeff help those with disabilities get back to work, he also speaks to students at Drury University about overcoming any prejudices and stereotypes that exist.

 

“If we erase the blindness issue, Jeff is a positive force of life,” says Drury’s Dr. Dennis Edwards. “And when people learn of his disability and what he's overcome, and he has overcome significant obstacles...the fact that he does not feel sorry for himself, the fact that he gets the job done not only at the level that some people would perform but even at a higher level so that he can inspire others. That's pretty cool.”

 

For Angela and other workers striving to get ahead, they see Jeff as a true leader.

 

That way when they are out in the real world in front of the microscope in the labor market, they know what to expect.

 

 

From the Lower Left-Hand Drawer

By John Weidlich

 

     When you were in school, did you ever use the excuse that the dog ate your homework? Well, apparently the Internet ate my Lower Left-hand Drawer submission for December. It went out but it never got to the Editor. It may still be floating around somewhere in cyberspace. But I saved the material so here it is along with several new items. Maybe this time I will hand deliver it. Anyway, I hope you find these items useful and I encourage you to send along anything that you think might be of interest. My email address is jdweidlich@charter.net and my phone is 314 752-3031. I now have an iPhone and that number is 314 719-6696.

 

     Let’s get it started with some phone news. Sprint has just introduced a new accessible cell phone. It is the Kycera Kona Accessible flip phone.  The built-in text to speech engine reads aloud all menus, text messages, incoming caller id information, notifications and more. You can adjust the speed and the color contrast on the screen. The phone has well defined tactile buttons and a shortcut key for 911 calls. I believe it also contains a web browser for connecting to the Internet. Sprint will sell the phone for $50 but there is a $50 rebate with a two year contract.

 

     In other news involving cell phones, Odin Mobile is a new cell phone carrier serving people who are blind or have low vision. Three phones are currently available with two more to be introduced soon. The phones are the Emporia essence for $49, the Emporia Click for people with low vision and the Huawei Vision, which is an Android Phone. Odin is a nationwide provider of cellular service using the T-Mobile network. For more information call (800) 826-0337.

 

     A company called the Big Button Universe has introduced two models of big button universal remote controls. One model controls a TV and one other device and the other one controls a TV and two other devices such as a cable box. The remotes have large buttons and the buttons are also marked in Braille. I don’t have information on price but you can find out more by visiting www.bigbuttonuniverse.com

 

     The Blind Cafe is a place where blind people can go to learn, laugh, chat and make friends. There is music, trivia games, tutorials, interactive chat and more. It is accessible and free. Check it out at www.blindcafe.net. 

 

      Out-of-sight.net is a new social networking website designed for blind and visually impaired individuals, where you can chat, play games, share music, listen to tutorials, receive computer assistance, and even attend church services. Membership is free. To join go to www.out-of-sight.net

 

     Have you lost your Social Security card or need a replacement? As of June, 2013, in order to obtain a new card, you must show documents to prove your identity, age, and proof of US citizenship or lawful immigration status. So before going to a Social Security office, check out the new requirements at www.socialsecurity.govwhere you will find a list of documents you will need to bring with you.

 

     Bailey’s Art Works is a pottery studio whose founder is blind. It is selling statues of dogs to blind guide dog users and pet owners. The studio makes German shepherd and Labrador retriever statues. Many other ceramic items are also available including sailboats, lighthouses, candy dishes, planters, mugs with raised figures, animals and Holiday ornaments. I won’t give a detailed list here but some of the pieces sound quite elaborate and unique. For a complete list, contact Bailey’s Art Works at (765) 2166745 or send email to karenb7410@gmail.com.

 

     A few issues back, I mentioned a new autobiography by MCB member Peter Altschul, called Breaking Barriers: Working and Loving While Blind.  Peter’s book is now available on BARD as db76081. Peter writes about his various guide dogs, his music, his career and how he met his wife Lisa.

 

     The National Eye Institute has issued a free publication called Living with Low Vision: Stories of Hope and Independence. A large print pdf file is available at www.nei.nih.gov/lowvision

     Bly TV offers free audio described television programs. Five channels of audio-only TV programs in several genres are available, all with audio description. To hear a sample, go to www.bly.tv

 

     The Hadley School for the Blind is offering a new course on the psychology of personality. It gives a basic overview of the field of the psychology of personality, including theories of personality development and information about personality assessment tests. To enroll, call Hadley Student Services at (800) 526-9909 or visit www.hadley.edu

 

The Zoom Text Image Reader is a camera and software system that makes printed text accessible. Users place a printed document under the HD camera, snap a picture and within a few seconds, the text is spoken aloud and appears as a large high-contrast image. The Image Reader comes with a choice of two HD cameras. The price is $449. For more information, contact Ai Squared at (800) 859-0270 or visit www.aisquared.com

 

     Perkins Products is selling a mini Braille display for Windows screen readers and Apple iOS devices. A version for Android phones is coming soon. It features a 16 braille cell display with routing keys, ten Braille input keys and access to basic notetaker functions. It can be connected through Bluetooth or USB. Files can be transferred to or from a computer using an SD card or thumb drive. The Braille display costs $1,549. Contact Perkins Products at (617) 972-7308 or visit the website www.perkins.org

 

     Raymond Bishop tells us that Microsoft has a new program through which technicians will fix computer problems free for people with disabilities. For information, call the Microsoft Service Center at (800) 936-5900.

 

     New Drug Approved: Do you have trouble sleeping? Does lack of sleep affect your daytime activities? If so, you might have a condition called non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder, or non-24 for short. It is believed that this condition may affect around 70 percent of totally blind people. As I understand this, we all have a body clock that regulates our cycle of sleeping and being awake which is supposed to be in sync with the 24 hour day. It is light that keeps the body’s clock synchronized with the 24 hour cycle of day and night. If you are totally blind and have no light perception, your body clock may go a little out of rhythm and cause problems sleeping at night, resulting in fatigue or sleepiness during the day. Since light triggers a substance in our bodies called melatonin that regulates the body clock, up until now the only treatment for non-24 was to take melatonin, which worked well for some people but not for others. Vanda Pharmaceuticals has just gotten FDA approval for a new drug called Tasimelteon for the treatment of non-24. For more information go to www.non-24.com or call Vanda Pharmaceuticals at (855) 856-2424.

 

     As I mentioned earlier, I now have an iPhone and am very slowly beginning to learn to use it. I have been told that National Braille Press is about to release an updated version of the book Getting Started with the iPhone by Anna Dresner that will cover the iPhone 5. It is supposed to be released very soon so it will probably be out by the time you read this.

 

     Do you tweet? No, I’m not talking about tweeting like a bird. I’m talking about the tweeting you do when you use Twitter. National Braille Press has released Tweeting Blind by Jonathan Mosen. It explains how to get on Twitter and what to do when you get there. It also discusses terminology and expected behavior when you tweet.

 

     Another new offering from NBP is Reading Kindle Books on an iOS Device by Janet Ingber which gives step by step instructions for installing the Kindle app and purchasing, downloading, and reading books. It also gives you the voiceover gestures you will need in order to use the app.

 

     There is also a new book from NBP by Jonathan Mosen about the iOS 7 operating system. These books are all available in several formats. To order you can go to www.nbp.org or call (800 548-7323.

 

     If you have a new iDevice, an excellent source for help and information is the iDevices list operated by Denny Huff. In addition to the questions and answers posted by list members, there are lots of informative tutorials and articles, some for beginners like me and some for advanced users. To join, send an email to iDevvices-join@gatewayfortheblind.com.

 

     In the past, I think I have talked about the ScripTalk device for reading prescription labels and I know that some of you are using it. If it is not available already, there will soon be a new device for reading prescriptions that sounds like it will be even easier to use. It is the Audio Digital Label from AccessaMed. I have also seen it referred to as the Audio Talking Label. You won’t need any kind of reading device to get the information about a prescription. The Audio Digital Label is just that: a label attached to your prescription bottle by a pharmacist. It is attached to the bottle by very heavy tape and extremely difficult to remove. The label consists of a tiny speaker and a single button used to start and stop the reading of the label. The label would include all of the information found on the prescription bottle: the name of the medication, patient’s name, dosage instructions, the prescription information, refill information, and the number of pills in the bottle. The pharmacist can also enter information about the physical description of the medication, such as shape and size of the pills. Finally there is the expiration date, manufacturer’s name, and the name and phone number of the pharmacy. You can press the button at any time to stop reading if you don’t want to hear all of this information. The label has to be replaced with each refill of a medication. It is expected to be released early this year. The next step will be to get pharmacies to buy the special docking station needed to program the labels.

 

     As part of its efforts to make currency accessible to blind people, the US Treasury Department’s Bureau of Printing and Engraving has released a new version of the EyeNote Sense app for mobile phones that reads US currency. This is an upgrade of the version released in 2011. It scans the bill rather than requiring the user to take a picture. The app also uses a vibration mode for privacy. It is available through the iTunes app store and it is free. You may be aware that there is also an app for identifying money from LookTell called the Money Reader which costs around $9.00. To use it, you just hold your iPhone a few inches above the bill to be read and the amount is announced.

 

     The Unity Message of Hope, a nondenominational ministry serving people who are blind, has a library of Braille books that can be downloaded for reading on a computer, notetaker or talking book player. They are free. For more information send an email to message-of-hope@unityonline.org

 

     Don’t have a computer but you still want to send and receive emails, browse the web, and use services like Facebook? Teletender is a free automated phone service which you can use to do these and other things by phone. The service also has chat rooms and conference rooms for teleconferences. You can get latest news and weather updates read to you over the phone. It can be used with a land line or smart phone. You interact using voice commands or by entering numbers on your phone. The service has various regional phone numbers. To get the number in your area code, send email to numbers@teletender.org. Of course you can’t do that if you don’t have a computer, so here is one of the numbers you could use just to get started; (847) 752-6767.

 

     Speaking of things you can do with your phone, you can now listen to ACB radio by phone. The number to call is (231) 460-1047. If you don’t have unlimited long distance, you will be charged for the calls.

 

     New book: As I See It: From a Blind Man’s Perspective, by Robert Branco, discusses a wide variety of issues, including legislation, discrimination, employment, myths about blindness, and adaptive technology. To obtain the book, visit www.dvorkin.com/robertfranco

 

     Several issues back, I mentioned that a lady named Rita Kersh was asking people to submit stories for a book about the humorous and embarrassing things that happen to blind people. She must have gotten some because the book is out. A Laugh a Day Keeps the Blues Away is a collection of true humorous or embarrassing stories written by people who are blind, visually impaired or deaf-blind. It is available in large print, Braille or audio CD. To get a copy, send an email to hoosierrita@gmail.com or write Rita Kersh, 2216, Bedford IN 47421.

 

     Behind Our Eyes, a Second Look is an anthology of stories, poems and memoirs by writers who are blind or disabled. For information go to www.magnetsandladders.org

 

     That will do it for this time. Sorry about the missing December column but those things happen. See you again in June.