March 2013 Chronicle

March 2013 Chronicle

FROM YOUR PRESIDENT

By Patti Schonlau

 

Greetings to All!

 

     As President, the first major activity I participated in was the November 12, 2012 MCB Board Meeting. A second MCB Board Meeting was conducted on November 29, 2012. I have been active in working with MCB Committees by providing support to ensure Committees are successful in carrying-out their work.

 

     I have spoken with each Committee Chair in an attempt to make them aware of his or her responsibility as being the Chair of his/her assigned Committee as well as the importance of the committee and the guidelines assigned to the committee they Chair. A few of the Committee Chairs are in the process of developing or updating Committee guidelines.

 

     I challenge Committee Chairs to strive to use their creative abilities to encourage and motivate others to reach their best. The value and meaning in this reward is unsurpassed. Everyone has a ladder to climb. Some climb a ladder to success; others climb out of conflict or pain. The problem with using a ladder is there is room for only one person. It's a lonely journey. But when our focus is on those around us whom we can touch, inspire and motivate, the journey leads us to deeper satisfaction and lasting rewards that ensure appropriate Pathways to Success.

 

     I spoke with Mark Laird, Deputy Director of RSB, in an attempt to learn more about the current hiring freeze. It appears a hiring freeze state-wide will exist until the new fiscal year monies are appropriated. Therefore, there is nothing RSB can do to resolve this issue.

 

     I met with the Personnel Committee on January 14 to review the Executive Director’s past year’s work. The Committee carefully conducted a step-by-step evaluation process driven by a list of questions in an attempt to determine our Executive Director’s level of achievement. On January 18, I conducted the annual Executive Director’s evaluation which proved to be a successful evaluation.

 

     A Finance Committee Meeting was conducted on January 18 with Jim Pohlman, our Financial Advisor, with Wells Fargo. Our Account grew by 11% this past year.

 

     Much time has been devoted to Thrift Store matters. The overall picture of the MCB New Image Thrift Store is positive. I was so fortunate to have an unexpected opportunity to talk with four ladies I just happened to meet at a workshop I attended in St. Louis. The ladies were from the Springfield area. I asked them if they had ever visited the MCB New Image Thrift Store in Springfield, MO. All four Ladies chimed in with bright and cheerful comments stating how clean and beautiful the thrift store looks and how nice and attentive the store employees treat them while they shop. The ladies stated they are regular customers of the MCB New Image Thrift Store and have participated in donating items to the store. This was absolute music to my ears!

 

     I have not had an opportunity to visit the MCB New Image Thrift Store yet, but I certainly am looking forward to the day I will be standing in the store taking in the ambiance as well as having the opportunity to engage in the activity of shopping and experience staff attitude and assistance.

 

     I will be In Washington D.C., attending the 2013 Presidents' Meeting and Legislative Seminar which will take place from Friday, February 22 through Tuesday, February 26.

 

     I look forward to visiting with MCB affiliates and representing MCB as your President. I do not take this position lightly. I recognize the confidence the members of MCB have placed in me. With sincere respect to MCB, I pledge to present myself as a person of strong character and exhibit personal habits of a quality capable of representing the MCB with competence and honor.

 

THE EXPANSION OF MEDICAID IN MISSOURI

By Christopher Gray

 

     In his address to the state for 2013, Governor Jay Nixon put forward a plan to expand Medicaid coverage in Missouri under the U.S. Affordable Care Act beginning in 2014.  In his presentation, Nixon said "this is the smart thing to do" and "this is the right thing to do."  Given the current state of Medicaid funding in Missouri, this is a bold initiative on the part of the governor and one that deserves discussion and careful consideration.  In this article, the idea that "this is the smart thing to do" will be considered in some detail.

 

     Our state has had a peculiar relationship with the Medicaid program for a long time.  On the one hand, we are in the top 5 states when it comes to covering child care through Medicaid.  On the other hand, when it comes to covering the parents of these same children, we are one of the bottom three states in the nation.  For a single mom to be eligible, she can make no more than $3,500 per year. If you are blind, you must either receive the blind pension or be at or below 100 percent of the poverty level, approximately $18,000 per year for an individual and $35,000 per year for a family of three.  If you are not blind but disabled, you can only be at 85% of the poverty level to receive Medicaid funding.

 

     Beginning in 2014, the Federal government is offering states who relax these minimums significant financial incentives.  Between 2014 and 2020, this Federal program, if accepted by Missouri, would inject approximately $5 billion of Federal money into our economy.  Significant additional funding would come to Missouri through sales and income taxes.  Between 2014 and 2017 alone, between 900 million and 1.6 billion would come to Missouri at no cost whatsoever to the state.  Using these funds is the "smart thing to do."

 

     Besides assisting more people in true need, these funds will significantly bolster the economy of Missouri.  Much of this money will go to hospitals, and in order to use it properly, hospitals will augment their workforce of professional, clerical and service personnel thus improving employment for Missouri.  These new employees will in turn become taxpaying citizens which is also good for Missouri.  They will become far stronger consumers of good and services in our state, and this is also good for Missouri.

 

     Finally, if Missouri does not expand Medicaid funding, this will force employees into the Federal health exchange.  This will almost certainly result in fines to employers. For this as well as other reasons too complex to discuss here, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce favors this expansion. 

 

     These points just touch the surface of the complex issues that surround Medicaid expansion.  But no matter how many issues one examines, these core points encompass the sensibility for Missouri doing "the smart thing" in 2013 by expanding our Medicaid program. 

 

     MCB'S Education and Welfare endorses this expansion by unanimous vote. I urge you to contact your state legislators today and ask them to consider this key initiative for our state.  Feel free to share this article with them or any portions of it you feel are appropriate.

 

From Affiliate to Committees, These Are Your Stories

 

WAGGIN TAILS

By Judy Burch

 

     By the time you read this, March will be here and hopefully we will be experiencing some warm spring weather.

 

     We are in the process of finalizing our new MGDU brochure and as soon as it is ready we will let you know so that you can begin handing them out to guide dog users and others who are interested in MGDU.

 

     We have a new line which you can call to find out the latest MGDU news.  The number to call in is (518) 530-1446.

 

     Call often as the line will be updated. Also, if you have any news or ideas for updates to the line, you may call MGDU president Nick Whitney at (573) 893-8888.

     Until next time, give your four-footed partners lots of praise for jobs well done and we’ll see you in the June Chronicle.

 

LOW VISION COMMITTEE REPORT

By Cathie Brauner

 

     A new Low Vision Committee has been formed and our mission is to provide resource information and peer guidance to persons with low vision throughout Missouri.  The Committee Members are Ron Brauner, Franklin Johnson, Jeff La Montia and Cathie Brauner (Chair).  Franklin has worked in the field of Vocational Rehabilitation; serving the blind and visually impaired, since 1964.  My Husband; Ron, and I had been Sales Representatives for Optelec (CCTV) and Coburn Optical (Low Vision Aids) and demonstrated CCTV to individuals in the four-state area.  We also demonstrated Low Vision Aids to Low Vision Specialists (Optometrists) in the four-states as well.

 

     Please submit your suggestions, comments, low vision challenges, low vision solutions, funny stories and anything else you wish to share to cathiebrauner@gmail.com and our committee will work diligently to meet your needs.  We also offer a RESOURCE LIST (several pages long) to those individuals who are interested in seeking all types of low vision help (some free, some at a cost) – just send me your request and address and I will mail it to you.

 

     I am a low vision Individual who began to lose sight in 1985.  Part of my job was bookkeeping and when I added a column of numbers (more than once); I came up with different answers each time.  In frustration, I saw my Optometrist; who drug all types of dusty exam equipment out of his back room, and to his frustration could not determine my problem.  He sent me to a local hospital for a complete physical exam – which I passed with flying colors.  I then went to the local Job Service Center to find a job I could handle, told the counselor about my vision problem and he sent me to Services for the Blind in Chanute, KS.  The counselor sent me to a Low Vision Specialist (Dr. Terry Rothstein) who determined I had Macular Degeneration (it’s like looking through a piece of Swiss Cheese and affects detail vision) – my vision at that time was 20/60 and I was very frightened because I didn’t know what the future would bring and what would become of my life.

 

     The counselor at Services for the Blind purchased Low Vision Aids and a Closed Circuit TV; which changed my life.  He also found a job for me working as Administrative Assistant to a Plant Manager at a manufacturing facility.

 

     Our committee understands the struggle of a low vision person and the quest to find help for the condition.  For those of you who are losing vision and find that your current eye doctor is unable to help, please ask him/her to refer you to a Low Vision Specialist for immediate help. Most eye doctors (who are not LV Specialists) are not familiar with LV Aids and are not able to give a low vision person much help.

 

     Losing vision is like losing a family member – don’t stay in mourning too long….get on with your life with the help of low vision aids.  With the help of my LV Aids, I managed a LePrint Express quick-print shop with the help of my blind/low vision employees and won a Retail Employee of the Year Award. I retired as Administrative Assistant to a Director of Rehabilitation. 

    

     Remember…..the sky is the limit!  I do all the things I did as a sighted person (except drive); but in a different way.  Low Vision individuals are only limited by the limitation they place on themselves.  Please keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.

 

     I’m going to end this article with a funny story…

 

     I was playing a slot machine at one of the local casinos and I wear a special eyeglass that has a magnifier in one lens.  The magnifier requires that I hold the item I am trying to read to the tip of my nose.  There I sat, with my nose on the slot machine screen and eventually began to win quite a bit of money.  When I cashed out and started to leave, the lady sitting next to me said “I’m going to use your technique – it seemed to work for you” and placed her nose on the slot machine screen.  I usually explain about my glasses; but that day I said “Good luck with that” and left.  I have had some pretty good laughs because of my low vision and will share more with you later.

 

MEMBER-OF-THE MONTH

 

     The Member of the Month Committee is happy to announce that Barbara Dewberry, Allied Workers for the Blind, is our new committee member. We are grateful to Barbara for accepting this position and want you to know that she is an asset to our group in recognizing and showing appreciation to those who have given of themselves to make a difference in their community or assisting the blind. Our winners are an inspiration to all of us.

 

     The chosen recipients of the Member of the Month honor are:

 

Linda Gerken, Blind of Central Missouri, October 2012

Harold Hodges, Delta Area of the Blind, November 2012, and

Brenda Gardner, Blind of Central Missouri, December 2012.

 

     The Member of the Month Committee

Barbara Dewberry, Nancy Hodson, Susan Sanderson, and Yvonne Schnitzler, Chair

Please send nominations to: meshowjys@charter.net

 

MCB CONVENTION

By Susan Sanderson, Convention Coordinator

 

     Convention plans are under way; Tower Club and R I T E will be our host affiliates. In April, we will be working on the details for food, speakers and many fun events. Make sure you make your plans to join us in St Louis at the Sheraton West Port Lakeside Chalet. There are so many attractions near the hotel I am sure there will not be a dull moment. Our Convention dates are October 10, 11, and 12, 2013. The Sheraton Hotel is looking forward to welcoming us to the St Louis area.

 

     I am in need of information on MCB Veterans. We want to organize Blind Veterans of Missouri. If you are a veteran and a member of MCB or know a Veteran please contact me at 660-826-8235 or e-mail clown_4@hotmail.com. We have plans to honor our veterans at this year’s convention. I know we have several veterans in our organization.  Thanks to everyone that has sent me information. I am looking forward to working with all of you. It is only 6 months until Convention Time.  See you in St Louis.

 

Sight and Sound Impaired MCB Members

By Mary Hale, Deaf-Blind Chair

 

     We have all heard comments about how blind people are able to hear better. But we know different, it is simply that blindness causes us to rely on our hearing and other senses more. We are more aware through these other senses. Now imagine dealing with blindness and also what if a hearing loss prevents you from being able to understand who or what is around you.

 

     This is a very real situation for many MCB members. This dual sensory loss can significantly impact a person’s everyday life. The hearing loss can make things seem overwhelming sometimes, when you cannot see or hear well. It doesn’t matter if only a mild or moderate hearing loss or a severe to total deafness.

 

     However, there are things that can help. Many times it is just a case of being aware of their needs and common courtesy. Getting their attention first before talking really helps as well as looking and facing them; one person talking at a time rather than several; and also speaking at a little slower pace. These are just some examples. The use of a microphone can mean the difference of whether a person is just hearing something or actually understanding what is being said. There are listening devices as well as hearing aids that can help.

 

     The bottom line is that the hearing impairment does not mean they are dumb or stupid. After all, are blind people any less intelligent because of their vision loss?

 

     My name is Mary Hale and I am the Chairman of the MCB committee for people with both a vision and a hearing loss. I am looking for MCB members who have a hearing loss as well as the blindness. It can be someone who wears one or two hearing aids, has a cochlear implant or is deaf.  We need to share our thoughts with each other as to how best MCB can be of help.

 

     Please share this information with other MCB members. If you or someone you know has this dual loss, PLEASE contact me at meh331@sbcglobal.net or by phone at 314-544-3252.  Thank you.

 

401 Blind Task Force Committee Report

By Patti Schonlau

 

     Below you will find a description of the presenters that will be speaking at the Children’s Vision Summit. The Blind Task Force Committee sincerely appreciates the support MCB has so graciously given to promote opportunities for those working with our blind and visually impaired students to become aware of curriculum and techniques to maximize student independence and self-confidence.

 

     Children’s Vision Summit, April 29, 2013 at Stoney Creek Inn and Conference Center. “Meet at the Summit” Columbia, Missouri

 

The Transition from Birth to Positive Adult Outcomes: The Importance of the Expanded Core Curriculum

(Karen Blankenship)

 

     The keynote address will discuss the effective instructional continuum in the ECC from birth to adulthood to improve adult outcomes.

 

     Karen E. Blankenship, Ph.D., CTVI Dr. Blankenship is an assistant professor of the practice at Vanderbilt University in the Program in Visual Disabilities. Karen completed her Ph.D. with Dr. Anne Corn at Vanderbilt. Karen is currently professional chair of the National Agenda, chair of AER Division 10, Education & Curriculum, and president of the Tennessee Chapter of AER.

 

Exploring Low Vision Through the Use of Simulators, AMDs, and Canes

(Tim Cobb)

 

     This presentation will focus on the use of AMD’s (Adaptive Mobility Devices) and long canes. Simulators will be used in this interactive experience. Participants will be able to experience different visual impairments for a better understanding of how a person "sees" with a particular visual impairment and how the person is able to function with adaptive tools (canes) to promote independence in travel.

 

     Tim Cobb, BS Ed., C.O.M.S. Mr. Cobb is an O&M teacher at Missouri School for the Blind. He is also the Athletic Director and he coaches track and field, goal ball, and wrestling. Mr. Cobb received his Bachelor’s degree from Southeast Missouri State University; C.O.M.S. is from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. Mr. Cobb has been at MSB for 11 years and is a member of AER, MO AER and St. Louis C.O.M.S. Mr. Cobb also coaches the International Blind Track Team.

 

Transition: What Now?

(Kent Kolaga)

 

     A look at the transition requirements in IDEA and the resources beyond the high school diploma.  Your student is nearing graduation. A happy time, but what after graduation? Transition planning, the plan that answers those questions. Where in the IEP matters and what to include.

 

     Kent Kolaga has been a Children’s Specialist for Missouri Rehabilitation Services for the Blind for the past 13 years.  Mr. Kolaga has over 50 years’ experience as a teacher of the visually impaired, advocate, and consultant for, special education, rehabilitation programs, and students and their families.

 

Lighthouse for the Blind

(John Thompson)

 

     The Mission of the Lighthouse for the Blind – St. Louis is to assist individuals who are legally blind maintain dignity and independence by making available employment, education, and support services.

 

     Mr. Thompson will be presenting information about the Lighthouse programs, including a new comprehensive low vision evaluation program for children ages 2-½ up to about age 8.  The program includes the evaluation at no charge and also "the solution" with follow-up training by teaching professionals.  Mr. Thompson will provide information on the Lighthouse funding for programs and services available to parents/students with visual impairment.

 

     John Thompson has been the President/CEO of the Lighthouse for the Blind (LHB) in St. Louis, MO since 2000.

 

Advancements in Technology
for Students in Transition

(Ian Shadrick)

 

     This presentation will focus on recent advancements in technology for transition age students. Mr. Shadrick will demonstrate mobile technologies that can be used in academic, employment, and leisure environments, including iPad, iPhone, and iPod applications, as well as basic navigational applications.

 

     Ian Shadrick is an instructor for graduate programs in Blindness & Low Vision and Orientation & Mobility at Missouri State University (MSU) Springfield, MO. Prior to employment at MSU, he worked as a vision rehabilitation therapist and rehabilitation counselor with the Michigan Commission for the Blind, and spent three years as an instructor in the Department of Blindness & Low Vision Studies at Western Michigan University. Ian is currently Chair-Elect of Division 11 (VRT) of AER and is also President-Elect of the Missouri Chapter of AER.

 

Exploring Horizons Beyond the Imagination

(Chip Hailey)

 

     Chip Hailey, our luncheon speaker, will address the importance of "Exploring Horizons Beyond the Imagination" by using communication skills and mobility and orientation to engage the resources and opportunities available in the community; exploring one's ability and come to a higher level of acceptance and understanding of one's strengths and needs; developing one's personal and social skills to a level that will permit integration and independence.

 

     Chip is a highly successful blind man.  As a motivational speaker, he has shared his life-story for more than twenty-five years.  He was licensed as an ordained minister in 1983.  Chip has been employed at the Joplin Independent Living Center since 1996.

 

     Chip served in the following positions: President of the Missouri Council of the Blind, 2000-04, on the Statewide Rehabilitation Council, 1994-96, as co-chairman of the Joplin ADA Access Committee and as chairman of the subcommittee on signage, interpretations, and public notices of the Joplin ADA Access Committee, as chairman of the Joplin Public Library Access Committee, on the Missouri Council of the Blind on a local, state, and national level. 

 

     Currently Mr. Hailey serves on the Missouri Assistive Technology Advisory Council, the Wolfner Advisory Council, and the RSVP Advisory Council for Southwest Missouri.

 

Are You Ready To Go To College?

(Barbara Hammer)

 

     Barbara Hammer is the Director of the Office of Disability Services at the University of Missouri.  Barb has 12 years of experience in disability services in higher education, and over 30 years in the field of disability services in general (public and private sector).  She is a seasoned counselor and consultant and has a wide range of experience in the areas of education and employment of persons with disabilities.  Her interests are in universal design in education, study abroad, and technology accessibility.  She is a member of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), is Vice-President of the Missouri chapter (MOAHEAD) and is a member of the Board of Directors for Services for Independent Living in Columbia.

 

     The presentation will focus on what students with disabilities need to know to prepare for college.  Highlights include an overview of the differences in services between high school and college, a review of the laws and regulations, and current practices with respect to documentation requirements.  The presentation will also include a discussion of the importance of self-determination.  Information will be shared regarding the process students follow to request accommodations at the University of Missouri.

 

An Introduction to the Braille Code (Aundrayah Shermer and Anthony Blades)

 

     This workshop is designed to provide information for parents/educators interested in knowing more about Braille.  Participants will learn how to load braille and use a slate and stylus.  The basic fundamentals of Braille will be emphasized.  Parents, paraprofessionals, and anyone else interested in learning about Braille are invited to attend.  Participants should bring a brailler and slate/stylus if possible.

 

     The Blindness Skills Specialists are available to help teachers modify and design instruction in all subject areas including the expanded core curriculum unique to students who are visually impaired.  The primary goal of the Blindness Skills Specialist program is to enhance the educational performance of students who are blind or visually impaired.

 

     Aundrayah Shermer has been the Blindness Skills Specialist based at Missouri State University for the past 10 years. She has 20 years of experience as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) and as an Orientation and Mobility Specialist.  Aundrayah primarily serves the Southwest region of Missouri.

 

     Anthony Blades has been the Blindness Skills Specialist based at Truman State University for the past 9 years. He has 25 years of experience as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) and as an Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Anthony primarily serves the Northeast/North Central part of the state.

 

Transition in the Early Years

(Pam Thomas and Louise Whitworth)

 

     This session will focus on early identification and services available for visually impaired babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. In addition, transitioning from 1st Steps/MoSPIN early intervention programs to Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) program in public schools will be discussed.

 

     Pam Thomas, Director of 1st Steps for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, will present information on specific programs for young children.  Pam has worked for the DESE and with programs for young children with disabilities.

 

     Louise Whitworth, a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI), has over 20 years of teaching experience for grades Pre-K through college. She is currently employed as a TVI for Jefferson City Public Schools.  Ms. Whitworth is also a Mo-Spin parent advisor and a member of the Mo. Blind Task Force.  As a parent of a visually impaired child, Ms. Whitworth has personal experience with early services for children with visual impairments.

 

Perspectives on Least Restrictive Environment

(Patty Yocum and John Cary)

 

     This session is a discussion about how IEP teams determine Least Restrictive Environments for visually impaired children. The focus will be on considerations for program planning for VI students as it relates in particular to LRE and transition. The panel will provide information and answer questions parents/educators may have about least restrictive environment and considerations for transition programming.

 

     Dr. John Carry, Superintendent for St. Louis Special School District.  Patty Yocum is the Superintendent for Missouri School for the Blind, St. Louis, MO. She has been involved in K-12 education for 34 years. Her background includes public school speech therapy, classroom teacher, special education administrator, principal, and superintendent. She has been the Superintendent at MSB for 3 years.

 

Standards of Practice for Teachers of Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired

(Karen Blankenship).

 

     This session will be an interactive session looking at the current practice of TVIs and discussing resources and tools to establish standards of practice.

 

Karen E. Blankenship, Ph.D., CTVI Dr. Blankenship is an assistant professor of the practice at Vanderbilt University in the Program in Visual Disabilities. Karen completed her Ph.D. with Dr. Anne Corn at Vanderbilt. Karen is currently professional chair of the National Agenda, chair of AER Division 10, Education & Curriculum, and president of the Tennessee Chapter of AER.

 

Wolfner News

By Darrel Vickers

 

     The smart phone App from NLS is still on schedule for release in the first half of this year. The App will allow you to listen to digital talking books on your smart phone. I know the App is being developed for the IPhone and I believe for others also.

 

Wolfner Shelf: 

     Are you looking for something new to read? The Wolfner Library has its own recording booth. They are recording books by Missouri authors as well as other books about Missouri. Some other states are participating as well.

 

     A lot of these books are not main stream and cannot be found in digital format except in the Wolfner Shelf. To find these books login to the Wolfner library. Under Wolfpac you will find a link to the Shelf. If you do not have a computer or access to the internet call your reading advisor.

If you do not have a reading advisor or even know about them, Call the Wolfner Library at (800)392-2614. These are wonderful people who are there just to help you.

 

Descriptive Movies:  Wolfner now has hundreds of descriptive movies on VHS and DVD. They are regular movies that have a narrator to explain to us blind folks what is happening when there is no dialog. They talk only when there is no one talking on the screen. As with all Wolfner digital media, they are free to borrow.

 

Digital Magazines:  Soon, all magazines will be arriving on digital cartridge. The cartridges will have to be returned to the Wolfner Library. You will be allowed only so many before they must be returned. Otherwise, no further cartridges will be sent to you.  For questions, or more information, Call the Wolfner Library at (800)392-2614

 

TIDBITS FROM PUBLIC RELATIONS

By Judy Burch

 

     As I write this, the 2014 large print calendar order has been completed and by the time you read this article, will have been sent to the folks who process the calendar orders. Also, an order for more PR supplies that can be given away at various venues should be in our hands.

 

     We are looking forward to another good Power Up conference in Columbia in April, as well as the Children’s Summit. In addition, we will again have a booth at The Silver and Gold senior fair in St. Charles in August.

 

     More news to come in June.

 

From The Lower Left-Hand Drawer

By John Weidlich

 

     Welcome to another edition of the Lower Left-Hand Drawer. As usual, we have some exciting news about new products and services to share with you. The information comes from a variety of sources. Inclusion of material does not indicate an endorsement by me or the Missouri Council of the Blind. It is provided for your information.

 

     The Diabetes Wellness and Research Foundation has set up a toll-free help line to answer non-emergency questions about issues such as monitoring blood glucose levels, nutrition and medications. The line is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. the number is (800) 941-4735. Information is provided by registered nurses who are certified diabetes educators.

 

     Speaking of information hotlines, here is another one. The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) has set up a hotline to answer questions about training and use of guide dogs and the legal rights of service animal users. The number is (888) 624-3841.

 

     Do you remember Tell Me? In case you don’t, it was a service which provided information on many topics by phone, using voice prompts. It was quite popular when it was started several years ago, especially among blind users, but was discontinued several months ago. Well, apparently people still wanted the service so it is back, although it is not called Tell Me. It is called the Information Line and the number is (888) 247-2425. The main menu gives you choices and you speak the name of the choice you want. The choices include news, weather, sports, movies, driving directions, stock quotes, business searches, time and travel. When you pick a selection, you are then given several choices within that category. I don’t know how regularly the information is updated but it seems to know what city you are calling from. For example, when I asked for movies, it asked if I wanted listings for St Louis or a different city. This kind of information is pretty easily available on the computer these days, but you might find this to be a useful service if you don’t use a computer or if you just find it easier to use the phone rather than go online.

 

     Popular Talking Book Narrator Dale Carter died on August 25 at the age of 94. She read books for 39 years for the American Printing House in Louisville, beginning in 1952, and recorded more than 400 books, including many of the classics. If you want to hear her voice, about thirty of her books are on the BARD site, including Anne of Green Gables, and other books narrated by her may still be available on cassette from Wolfner.

     It seems that just about every blind person I know uses a Victor Stream for downloading and reading books or making recordings. I use mine every day. A new version of the Stream is now available from HumanWare. The company’s press release says that it has a new lightweight design with a more rounded shape. It will be able to play books, music files, audio described movies, text files and voice recordings. I have been told that it will not currently play books from audible.com but this issue may be fixed shortly. It will also have wireless capabilities. HumanWare says it is 28 percent smaller than the original model. It also has a louder speaker volume and improved voice recording. It can also be used with iTunes. The battery can be charged from an AC adapter or a computer USB port. The price is $369 plus shipping. For more information call HumanWare at (800) 722-3393 or send email to info@humanware.com or visit the web site www.humanware.com

 

     If you read Braille, you may be seeing some changes soon. The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) voted to adopt Unified English Braille. This process of developing a unified English Braille Code has been going on for many years with input from Braille readers, transcribers, educators and others in the field and has involved a good deal of controversy and some resistance from Braille readers. The UEB will eventually replace the current literary Braille code but the Nemeth Code will still be used for math and science in the United States. Will this bring about massive changes in the Braille you read and write? No, and what changes will be made will be phased in over a period of time. Implementation plans are still being formulated so we likely will not see any changes soon. UEB is based on the current literary code with a few minor changes. Letters and numbers will remain the same but some changes will be made in punctuation signs. Some contractions will change, as will some rules for their use. Nine contractions will be eliminated and some will be used more often. For more information, go to the BANA web site www.brailleauthority.org

 

     As usual, there are some new handheld magnifiers on the market. The Image is a new handheld magnifier from Aumed. It magnifies material from 4.3-14X magnification. It has five color modes and a high contrast screen. Here is the contact information: Aumed, INC., 131 Glenn Way, Unit 5, San Carlos, CA 94070, Phone: (855)622-9071.

 

     Bierley has announced the release of Monomouse-zoom magnifier, which produces 14-55X magnification on a 20-inch TV screen. They have also released the Colormouse-usb-md, which connects to a computer USB port for 3-100X magnification. The company’s phone number is (800) 985-0535. The web site is www.bierley.com

 

     New From NBP: National Braille Press is continuing its popular series of quotations with Wednesday Morning Quotations. It is $9.00 for a spiral-bound Braille volume. NBP has also issued the Quick Guide to iMessaging by Anna Dresner. iMessage is a service for users of Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The book costs $9.00. Another new offering is Sites Unseen: Traveling the World Without Sight by Wendy David. It is available in Braille or as a Daisy file or an accessible pdf file for $19.95. to order any of these new titles, contact National Braille Press, (800) 548-7323 or go to www.nbp.org

 

     Red Lobster restaurants now have Braille and large print menus.

 

     A new version of the iBill Talking Money Identifier has been released by Orbit Research. It has a new design, louder volume, and an earphone jack for privacy. To order, call (888) 606-7248 or go to www.orbitresearch.com

 

     The 2013 Edition of the Medicare and You Handbook is now available in accessible formats. This publication provides information on recent changes to Medicare, costs and coverage, prescription drug plans and patient’s rights. It is available in Braille, audio CD, ebook, podcast or large print. To get a copy in the format of your choice, call (800) 633-4227 or go to www.medicare.gov/publications

 

     The American Foundation for the Blind has released the AccessNote, a notetaker which is an app for users of the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It can be used with these devices to take notes, create documents and access applications using Braille. It costs $19.99 and is available from the app store.

 

     According to an article in Access World, the National Braille Press has established a Center for Braille Innovation. The center is developing a new device which will be called B2G or Braille to Go, which may be on the market later this year. Based on the Android operating system, it will combine a Braille note taker, a music player, a GPS receiver, a compass, a voice recorder, and a camera in one device. It will have a Braille display and speech output and will have slots for SD cards and USB storage devices. It can be used as a cell phone and run Android apps. No word on the price but the company says it will be much lower than any similar device perhaps by several thousand dollars. This could be very exciting so watch for more on this later this year.

 

     A Personal Note: I want to close this column with some personal remarks. My purpose in this column has always been to provide you with information about new products but not to include my personal opinions about the items described. It is not my intention either to persuade you to buy anything mentioned here or, for that matter, to tell you that something is not worth your money. I present information from companies or distributors and I seldom know whether the information is accurate. I generally presume that the devices do what the companies say they do.

 

     However, I felt that I should give a few observations about something that I wrote about in December, which I received as a Christmas gift because you may want to look closely into this before you purchase it. In December I wrote about an item called the Tiny Tunes Talking MP-3 player made by Future Aids and being Sold by the Braille Super Store.

 

     The information, which I copied from an email, said that the player was fully accessible and that all functions included speech. Future Aids and the Braille Super Store are the same company and are a division of a larger Canadian corporation. The company is located in British Columbia, Canada. The unit came with no written operating directions, although a manual is accessible on the company’s web site.

 

     Despite the company’s claims, it is not fully accessible and some menu options, such as changing settings, do not have speech. The company says this will be corrected in a new update, so this problem may be corrected in the future. The six buttons that perform all functions are very close together and I feel they could be difficult to operate for some people with limited finger dexterity.

 

     The unit I received stopped speaking soon after I started using it and, since I was somewhat disappointed with it, I asked about returning it. I found that the company will not refund money on merchandise. If you are not happy with what you buy, you can get credit for purchasing something else but no cash refund. The design and accessibility issues may very well be fixed in future updates but I would not recommend the Tiny Tunes to a totally blind person at this time.

 

     There are obvious lessons to be learned here. When buying a new product, research it as much as you can and when dealing with a new company, always be aware of their return policy before you purchase something.

 

     See you in June.