September 2019 Chronicle

September 2019 Chronicle

Letter from the Trial Editor

By DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

Hello all, I was approached by President Soule and Executive Director Gray to fill-in for our dear friend John Weidlich upon his sudden passing. This issue will be a bit small as I didn’t send out any reminders to chapters to announce the deadline. Our next issue will be the December one. Please remember to get me material by November first.

I am still serving as your representative on the Wolfner Advisory Council. Although I have served out my term on the Governor’s Council on Disability, Governor Parsons has not appointed anyone to replace me. Rather than leave my seat vacant, I have been asked to continue until such time as he does appoint someone from the state house district I represent.  I remain active locally in my Chapter, The Tiger Council of the Blind serving as their president until next summer.  My own health has been compromised by vertigo, and family responsibilities keep me pretty busy.  I will need all of you to step up and get articles to me if we are to produce a magazine worthy of our fine organization. Keep safe, cool and dry in this less than glorious summer and fall.

President’s Report

By Naomi Soule, President

Greetings everyone. I hope you are having a fun and pleasant summer. I am having a busy one.

On May 30, I was the commencement speaker at the Missouri School for the Blind graduation. It was very touching to see graduates giving bouquets of flowers to their Mothers.

In June, I met with the St. Louis Aquarium regarding accessibility. I Hope to meet with them again soon. I also met with the St. Louis Art Museum regarding verbal description of paintings. We talked about what does and doesn't need to be included while describing a painting. This will be an ongoing project.  I met with students in the SOAR Program at Webster University about job interviewing and first impressions. The SOAR Program is a three-week program for blind and visually impaired student to build mobility skills, and independent living skills. They also do some employment related tasks.

On June 29 my husband Terry and I visited The River City Workers picnic in Cape Girardeau. We had a great time visiting everyone and enjoyed good food. Thank you so much for inviting us. The next day, June 30, I went to Sedalia for the Blind of Mid Missouri's barbecue. I met so many people, and enjoyed seeing people I hadn't seen in a long time. What a great group of people.

July will be a busy month. Some of us attended the American Council of the Blind Convention in Rochester, New York. You can listen to sessions online. Missouri is one of the largest affiliates with 25 votes. The Exhibit Hall was filled with 99 booths. I kept my spending down to a few things. One of the highlights was the Multicultural Special Interest Group's luncheon. There was a theater group that reenacted Frederick Douglas's underground railroad journey to Rochester as well as Harriet Tubman's journey. It was one of the best ACB events I've been to. The weekend of July 19, I went to Washington, DC to attend a Centene National Disability Advisory Committee meeting. Centene is working hard providing grants to providers to make their offices accessible. I will be working with Centene on this project.

August and September with be busy with meetings with the new Family Support Division Director, visiting Wolfner Library, attending affiliate meetings and getting ready for the MCB Convention in October.  Have a great rest of your summer, and I'll see you in October.

Momentum Grows for Absentee Vote by Mail

By Christopher Gray, Executive Director

I have written previously in the Chronicle about the idea of Absentee Vote by Mail (AVBM).  It is the next step in accessible, private voting for disabled people in this country after the implementation of accessible voting machines at the polls. 

AVBM is a relatively new concept within the blind community.  But, it is moving fast and gaining momentum.  The 4th, 6th and 9th Circuit US. Federal courts have all ruled that AVBM must be implemented in Ohio, Maryland, and California.  The California case ended up costing the state and counties over $1 million.  The states of Vermont, New Mexico, Florida, Oregon and Washington have all deployed accessible absentee voting at the directive of their Secretary of State.  Other states are working on this as well, including our sister state of Iowa. 

Earlier this year, I was invited to go to the convention of the Iowa Council of the United Blind and serve as their banquet speaker.  While there, I was fortunate enough to be involved with a resolution that many ACB affiliates are considering at their conventions this year.  In part, it is modeled after the ACB resolution printed earlier in the Chronicle.  But, it also contains additional information and considerations that have evolved since the ACB resolution was wirtten in 2018. 

After returning from Iowa, I took their resolution and changed it to reflect Missouri and MCB in draft form.  This draft can be found immediately following this article.  With this draft in hand, I was then able to meet with key officials in the Missouri Secretary of State's office.  Attendees included the Director of Elections, Deputy Secretary of State and Chief of Staff, and Deputy General Counsel to the Secretary of State.  It was truly a great group, and they expressed considerable interest in the concept.  It marks the beginning of an important dialog.  It is my hope that we can move forward in the near future toward implementation of Absentee Voting by Mail. 

Here is what a Missouri resolution could look like modeled after the Iowa resolution.

Accessible Absentee Balloting

Whereas, in the United States of America, nearly one in four voters votes by mail; and

Whereas, all voters with and without disabilities have the legal right to vote by mail; and

Whereas, many voters with disabilities lack adequate transportation, training using accessible voting equipment, or the ability to leave their homes and travel to polling places to vote on accessible voting machines; and

Whereas, voters who cannot see, hold, or mark a ballot due to a disability are the only voters in the United States who must go to an actual polling place if they want to vote privately and independently; and

Whereas, federal and state law requires equal access to the ballot and voting experience, including the right to a private and independent verifiable mail ballot; and

Whereas, numerous states and localities around the U.S. have already deployed an accessible alternative to paper absentee and “vote by mail” ballots, and at least two states have already officially certified accessible absentee and “vote by mail” technologies; and

Whereas, accessible absentee and “vote by mail” technologies are not yet available in Missouri but could be acquired and provided without delay and with a minimal outlay of funds; and

Whereas, all states received a substantial new allocation from federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds from which a small portion could be used for the purchase of such a statewide “Accessible Vote By Mail” (AVBM) technology;

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Missouri Council of the Blind in convention assembled on this ____ day of ________, 2019, at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, that this organization commit to the following:

  1. Members of the Missouri Council of the Blind (MCB) request the state of Missouri to immediately take all necessary steps to ensure equal access to absentee and vote by mail balloting throughout the state;
  2. Members strongly encourage Missouri’s election officials to comply with all state and federal laws which require equal access to ballots and voting by directing all counties to deploy an AVBM solution within six months of an AVBM system (or systems) being approved by Missouri; and
  3. In conjunction with the spirit and purpose of this resolution, state officials, including the Secretary of State, are further encouraged to assist local jurisdictions to acquire a single, centralized, uniform AVBM system that such officials have helped to develop.

 

Affiliates Reporting

Delta Area Blind

By Wanda Matlock

Hello to everyone from Delta Area.

At our May meeting, we reviewed applications for the Lola B. Garner Scholarship Grant.  Two applicants were chosen to receive the grant in the amount of $1,000.00 each.  Both recipients are attending college at SEMO University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

We would like to thank United Way of Sikeston, Missouri for their continued support of our affiliate.  The support of United Way makes it possible to continue to help students in the Southeast Missouri area to continue their education.

Our members chose not to have a business meeting in June, but several of our members joined River City Workers of the Blind on June 29th for their annual picnic at Cape South Park in Cape Girardeau.  MCB President, Naomi Soule and her husband Terry, along with several members of SEMO United Blind Club were also in attendance.  Everyone enjoyed good food and a great time socializing.  We would like to thank River City Workers of the Blind for their great hospitality.

On July 23, we had our monthly business meeting.  We had a lot of items to cover such as, collecting money for our MCB dues, passing out applications for the MCB convention in October, and planning our weekend vacation in September at Camp Cobblestone.  We also discussed training for the i-devices in October.

We also welcomed a new member to Delta Area.  His name is Mr. Donald Gordon and he is from Bernie, Missouri.  Welcome Mr. Gordon!

We could not let the meeting adjourn without congratulating Mr. Jim Taul for being chosen as May member-of-the-month.  Way to go Mr. Jim!

We ended the meeting with drinks and pizza from Dominoes.

Our next meeting will be August 27, 2019 at 10:30 A.M.

From our affiliate to yours, we hope everyone has a safe and happy Autumn!

 

St. Charles County Council of the Blind

By Margy Petrofsky

I hope everybody is enjoying their summer and staying cool.  For our May outing we went to a patriotic concert at Powell Hall in St. Louis in honor of Memorial Day.  They had the armed forces in full dress uniform.  They honored all the branches of the service.  The music was good and very entertaining, they even played a march by john Phillip Sousa.

Afterwards we went to eat a late lunch or early dinner at Conchetta, a quaint, Italian restaurant in old town St. Charles.

Our June outing was also a musical concert this time at First Baptist Church in St. Peters.  There were several concerts we had to choose from, most of them outdoors, but the air conditioning won.  There was a male singer with a very nice voice.  They also played patriotic songs. Before the concert we ate dinner at O'Charley’s, as always the food was great.

We lost one of our cherished members recently, Steven Baker, may he rest in peace. He will be greatly missed.

I hope during Memorial day and Independence day everybody took a minute or two to remember those brave men and women who died in battle for us.  Freedom is not free.

Missouri Council of Citizens with Low Vision

By Jannel Morris

Greetings from MCCLV (Missouri Council of Citizens with Low Vision).  As a new special interest affiliate we have not accomplished a lot. We have had a guest speaker, Dr. Porter, educate us on low vision equipment.  Coming up in September, we will have another guest speaker, Pastor Dave Andris, speaking on low vision aids such as large print Bibles.   We are very excited about the upcoming MCB convention.   As any affiliate we are trying to increase our membership so please feel free to join us.  MCCLV meets monthly on the first Wednesday at 7 PM. You can contact Jannel Morris at 573-355-3381 for further information.  MCCLV is looking to have some fun and yet do some advocacy at the same time.  See you at convention if not before. 

 

Committees Reporting

Convention Report

By Jesuita Tabor, Convention Coordinator

Join us for our 63rd annual convention in Kansas City at the Holiday Inn Country Club Plaza, One East 45th Street, Kansas City MO 64111. Make your reservation by calling 816-753-7400. The Convention dates are Thursday, October 3 through Sunday, October 6. The room rate is $109 per night plus tax. The Board meeting will be held on Thursday, October 3rd at 7:00 pm.

       If you need an attendant, we strongly encourage you to bring your own as volunteers are limited.

We will not have the hospitality dinner on Friday evening this year but you will still have the opportunity to get together Friday evening.  The president has added an ice cream social, free to conference attendees, on Friday night from 9:00 to 10:30.  Enjoy vanilla or chocolate ice cream with various toppings and syrups. 

We look forward to seeing you in Kansas City for another successful convention!

 

Dual Vision and Hearing Loss

By Mary Hale, Chair Dual Vision and Hearing Loss

Hello fellow MCB members and friends.  This is Mary Hale and for many years now I have shared much info about how a hearing loss can impact a person. Even more so when someone also has blindness.

Please take notice of others around you or even yourself if hearing loss impacts your life. Please be kind and have even more patience with others with blindness and deafness.

I cannot express the huge impact a hearing loss has for someone who also has blindness as well as an old friend of mine. I know I have shared this with you several years ago, but this is definitely worth reading again.

A Unique Disability

Deaf-blindness is not simply deafness plus blindness.  It is not two disabilities put together.  It is one unique disability.  Let me try to explain.  I am totally blind having lost my vision gradually starting in childhood.  In young adulthood I started losing my hearing.  With hearing aids, I am able to understand some speech in a quiet environment.

When I was only blind, I could socialize with many people at a gathering.  Now, at best, I can converse with the individual next to me.

When I was only blind, I could interact with people in a room where the radio was playing, dishes were clattering and laughter abounded.  Now, with background noise, I can understand nothing and be alone in a crowd.

When I was only blind, I could sense sadness, joy, anger and agitation by a person’s tone of voice.  That is no longer possible and the loss sometimes causes misunderstandings.

When I was only blind, I could hear the softest footsteps.  Today, I am repeatedly startled by the voice of a person who has entered the room with no forewarning.

When I was only blind, I could identify a person by his/her voice.  Now, I cannot tell who is talking to me unless I first hear a name.

When I was only blind, I could move quickly with my white cane and, in familiar surroundings, without it.  Now, I walk cautiously to avoid bumping people since I cannot hear if others are around or where they might be.

When I was only blind, I could retrieve a dropped item in seconds by hearing where it fell.  No longer able to localize sound, I must now search on my hands and knees and even then may not locate the item because it rolled behind a door or into another room.

When I was only blind, I could stand unsupported in the middle of a room, bend over, turn sharply and jump out of bed quickly.  This is no longer the case.  Like many others with hearing loss, I have balance problems, which prohibit abrupt movements.

When I was only blind, I had no difficulty hearing the ring of the telephone or doorbell.  Today, even with amplified ringers, my responses are inconsistent and I must consider using a vibrating alert system.

When I was only blind, talking on the telephone was fun.  Now, even with hearing aids combined with a volume control phone, some words are missed and misunderstandings occur.  Sometimes I use a Braille-type telephone, which is slower and does not convey the emotional nuances of the voice.

When I was only blind, I spent hours listening to “talking books.”  Most voices now sound muffled.

When I was only blind, my husband and I enjoyed movies; he provided an occasional description.  Movies are confusing and no longer pleasurable.

When I was only blind, life had minimal stress.  Now, piecing together bits of information, localizing difficulties, balance problems, misunderstandings, attitudes of others and unpredictable drops in hearing increase daily stress and fatigue.

The list of challenges is equally long for individuals who are deaf and have lost or are losing vision.  Deaf people rely on their vision to compensate for their hearing loss.  Blind people use their hearing to compensate for their sight loss.  Deaf-blind people are only able to compensate for the loss of both sight and hearing by learning deaf-blind specific adaptations that focus on developing and integrating touch, taste, smell, kinesthesia and any remaining vision or hearing.

“When I acknowledged the need and learned new ways of doing old things, my splintered pieces combined into a complete, though narrowed, whole.  I rejoice once again in being able -– differently able.”

Ruth Silver, 1931-2017, leaves her brilliant thesis

 

Adaptive Technology Grant Committee

By Darrel Vickers, Chairman

Hi Everyone, I want to take a minute to give you an update on our technology grants and provide an overview of this great program for those of you who might not be aware of it and how it works.

Missouri Council knows how life changing, certain types of technology can be to a blind person. We are also aware the cost of this type of technology can be expensive and may be out of reach for some people.

Therefore, MCB provides the adaptive technology grant.

Each year MCB sets aside moneys for technology that blind persons of Missouri can apply for, to help offset the cost of adaptive technology.

How it works:  For MCB members, MCB will match dollar for dollar for most types of adaptive technology with a $3000 limit over any five (5) year period. Any blind resident of Missouri who is not a member of MCB can also receive a grant, but we will match 25% of the total cost with the same $3000 limit.

The 2019 Funding for $30,000.00 was expended in June. We approved thirty (30) grants and did not have to deny anyone.

Purpose:  The MCB technology grant is a matching grant to help Missouri blind and low vision persons obtain all types of adaptive technology. The Missouri Council of the Blind (MCB) created this Adaptive Technology Grants Program to help fulfill its mission of enriching the lives of legally blind Missourians. Adaptive technology can be very expensive so MCB understands why many legally blind Missourians are not benefiting from its use. For the purpose of this grant program, adaptive technology is considered hardware, software, electronics, equipment, etc. that is standalone or works in conjunction with a computer that makes it possible for blind people to do things that sighted people can already do without using adaptive technology.

Coverage:  The Adaptive Technology Grants Program widely covers both hardware and software based adaptive technology, including upgrades and maintenance agreements, and narrowly covers computer systems as required by or used in conjunction with accompanying adaptive technology, such as screen magnification software, screen reader software, or a scanning system.

Smart phones such as the Apple IPhone or Android based phones and tablets are considered adaptive technology.

Purchase of a computer along with or for use with accompanying adaptive technology is only eligible for up to a $400 matching funds grant. Only new adaptive technology and computers are covered, including adaptive technology upgrades to newer versions; used or previously owned adaptive technology and computers are not covered.

Note: A full copy of the grant guidelines as well as an application can be found on our web site at: http://moblind.org/programs/ or by contacting the MCB office at (314) 832-7172. You can also contact me anytime.

This is a wonderful program and I encourage you to take advantage of it if you need to.

Did you know:  Because a Smart phone can talk, provide magnification  or both it is one of the most useful pieces of technology   we have today.

in conjunction with the right application , (APP), the smart phone can help you;

Read your mail, find items in the pantry by reading bar codes, identify colors, find your way around town, read NLS books and other material  and even contact a trained sighted person to help you by phone and using the built -in camera, and so many more things.

The Committee: The adaptive technology committee is made up of three members: Darrel Vickers, Nancy Lynn and Donna Giger.  If you have any questions about the program, please contact me: Email:darrel@ww4b.org, Phone: 636-667-3176.  Until next time, take Care.

 

New Council Members Appointed

By DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

The Governor’s Council on Disability has announced its newest Council members! 

On July 9, 2019, Governor Parson appointed three new Council members to the Governor’s Council on Disability—Kim Lackey, who serves as the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Paraquad Inc., a Center for Independent Living in St. Louis; Andrew Sartorius, an attorney with Sartorius Kirsch in Jefferson City; and Lesia Shelton, a Specialized Employment Manager with Preferred Employment Services in Springfield. Congratulations on your appointments.

One of the three newest appointees to the Governor’s Council on Disability is Kim Lackey, who was appointed by Governor Parson on July 9, 2019.  

Kim Lackey is the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Paraquad Inc., a Center for Independent Living in St. Louis.  At Paraquad, Kim leads the policy and advocacy strategy for the organization.  She guides and directs a team of individuals working to influence public policy and create change that improves the lives of individuals with disabilities. Kim performs policy research and analysis, legislative advocacy, and legal advocacy.  She attended the University of Missouri-Columbia and received a B.S. in History and Political Science.  Kim graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Law in May 2006 with her J.D.  Kim has worked on improving access to employment, health care, public transportation and affordable accessible housing for individuals with disabilities for more than 12 years.  Kim and her husband Andrew live in St. Louis.

September Awareness Events

  • Cancer Awareness Month for Childhood, Ovarian, Prostate, and Blood Cancers
  • National Preparedness Month
  • National Sickle Cell Month
  • National Suicide Prevention Month

Legislative Actions and Upcoming Priorities Poll

Governor Parson has signed several bills since the conclusion of the legislative session. He signed all of the appropriations bills without any line item vetoes. This means the state budget was funded as passed by the House of Representatives and Senate. Signed bills related to disability include House Bills 138 and 547 and Senate Bills 29, 101, 230, and 514. All signed bills will go in to effect later this month on August 28 unless another date is specified. For details regarding each bill, please see the “Legislative Session Concluded” article in the June issue of the GCD Newsletter and the Legislative Update.

Governor Parson vetoed two bills with sections related to disability issues.  House Bill 399 was one but several parts of it are also part of Senate Bill 514 and will become law as a result of Senate Bill 514 being signed. The other was Senate Bill 147 which means the all-rider motorcycle helmet law will not be repealed and remains law in Missouri. You can read the veto letters at House Bill 399 Veto Letter and Senate Bill 147 Veto Letter. 

At the conclusion of legislative sessions individuals with disabilities and organizations often reflect on the accomplishments from the session and work that still needs to be done to improve lives and make Missouri a state people are proud to call home. 

If you believe more needs to be done by state legislators to improve the lives of people with disabilities, please complete the Governor’s Council on Disability’s upcoming 2019 Legislative Priorities Poll between August 26th and November 8th. 

For those not familiar with the Legislative Priorities Poll and its purpose, each year GCD sends out a poll to hear from the public regarding disability related legislation and areas of concern. Each response received is reviewed by staff and will be used to shape the Council’s legislative priorities and interactions with legislators for the 2020 legislative session. A report of the results is also shared with all legislators and other elected officials. 

The Legislative Priorities Poll will be available on August 26th on the Legislative Priorities Poll page of the GCD website and at events. The online survey link will also be sent to the GCD email lists and posted on Facebook.

MOSILC Consumer Needs Survey

The Missouri Statewide Independent Living Council (MOSILC) is asking for your participation in the annual Missouri Statewide Consumer Needs Survey 2019.

The information is used to develop the next three-year State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL).  To complete the survey, please visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/L8K5RHN.

For questions or additional information, please contact MOSILC at https://mosilc.org.

ADA 2020 Impact Survey

Find the ADA2020 Impact Survey at http://sgiz.mobi/s3/ADA-Impact-2020-Survey.

The year 2020 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  A research study is currently underway to study the impact of the ADA 30 years after its passage. You can help!  Complete the ADA Impact Survey and share the survey link:  http://sgiz.mobi/s3/ADA-Impact-2020-Survey.

When to Call 9-1-1

Call 9-1-1 for emergencies only and to call the non-emergency numbers 3-1-1 for other situations requiring law enforcement attention, such as noise caused by fireworks or fireworks being discharged in prohibited areas. 

Calling 9-1-1 when there is no emergency can prevent actual emergency calls from being connected in a timely manner and could delay emergency responders for someone who really needs help.

When to call 9-1-1 versus 3-1-1

Call 9-1-1 for any situation requiring the immediate presence of law enforcement or a response from fire/rescue or ambulance services.

  • A burglary in progress
  • A house fire
  • A person trapped by machinery
  • person having chest pain

Call 3-1-1 for law enforcement assistance when immediate presence of law enforcement is not required.

  • To report an abandoned vehicle
  • To report a noise complaint
  • To report lost or stolen property
  • To report a parking issue

If you are not sure whether something is an emergency, dial 9-1-1 to report the incident.

Other Quick Dial Services

211 Health and Social Services Referrals

411 Telephone Directory Assistance provided by phone carrier

611 Telephone Company Repair Service provided by phone carrier

711 Telecomm. Relay Service Relay Missouri

811 Call Before You Dig, MO Public Service Commission

Adult Abuse Line (800) 392-0210

Alcohol & Drug Abuse Hotline (800) 234-0420

Animal Control (573) 449-1888

Arson Hotline (800) 392-7766

Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline in Missouri (800) 392-8222

Boys Town National Hotline (800) 448-3000

Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline (800) 392-3738

Child Help USA (National) (800) 422-4453

Deafline Missouri (L.E.A.D. Institute) (800) 380-3323

Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233

Drug Free Workplace Hotline (800) 967-5752

Elder Abuse & neglect Hotline (800) 392-0210

Elder Abuse & Neglect Hotline (TDD) (800) 735-2966

Immunization Information Hotline (CDC) (800) 232-4636

Great Circle (youth or families in crisis) (844) 424-3577

Love Basket Inc. (pregnancy counseling) (888) 568-2758

Medicaid Fraud Hotline (provider fraud) (800) 286-3932

Medicaid Fraud Hotline (recipient fraud) (877) 770-8055

Missouri Crisis Line(888) 761-4357

Missouri Protection & Advocacy for the Disabled (800) 392-8667

National Alcohol & Drug Abuse Hotline (800) 252-6465

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (800) 843-5678

National Problem Gambling Helpline (800) 522-4700

National Runaway Safe Line (800) 786-2929

OSHA Hotline (800) 392-7743

Parentlink Warm Line (800) 552-8522

Poison Control (800) 222-1222

Poison Control (Missouri) (800) 366-8888

Pregnancy Counseling (800) 238-4269

Radon Hotline (800) 458-1158

Rape & Abuse Hotline (800) 548-2480

Relay Missouri (for the hearing impaired) (800) 735-2966

Relay Missouri (voice) (800) 735-2466

School Violence Hotline (Missouri) (866) 748-7047

Senior & Disability Services Hotline (800) 392-0210

Shelter for Abused Women (Missouri) (800) 548-2480

Shelter for Abused Women (National) (800) 799-7233

Suicide Crisis Hotline (Missouri) (800) 811-4760

Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-8255

Tobacco Quitline (800) 784-8669

Toxic Chemicals / Oil Spills National Response Center (800) 424-8802

United Way (social service & volunteer info) (800) 427-4626

Veterans Crisis Line (press 1) (800) 273-8255

Veterans Crisis Line (Vet2Vet) (877) 838-2838

 

Aira launches free service!

Starting August 14, 2019, you can make short calls to Aira agents for free – every day. So, whenever you’re doing those short, daily tasks where a little extra information can save you a lot of time, Aira has you covered.  There’s no catch either. So long as the call is relatively quick (5 minutes), it’s free! Just make sure you have the latest version of the Aira app on your phone.  If you’re not familiar with Aira, visit http://www.aira.io to learn more about the service. You can also download the app directly from the home page.

 

From the Lower Left hand Drawer

By Christopher Gray

John Weidlich has authored this column for years and I hate to see it disappear from these pages.  John did an excellent job of presenting relatively general interest items to the whole readership of the Chronicle.  Here are some items I found for this issue that I think he would have loved to present. 

Smart Reader HD from Enhanced Vision

The moment you lay your hands on the Smart Reader HD from Enhanced Vision, you know that it's a solid product.  It has the feel of real quality. Its controls have a nice action and are well laid out on the unit.  It also features an excellent carrying handle that makes moving around the product quick, easy and safe. 

As you start to use Smart Reader HD, you learn quickly that it has a superb voice, is speedy in its work, and its general controls are quick to learn and easy to use.  Its responsiveness as you use the controls is also quite impressive. 

The Smart Reader HD is a lightweight, portable reader/scanner with large built-in user friendly tactile control buttons.  A fully integrated solution, the Smart Reader HD offers the advantage of a built-in HD camera and OCR (optical character recognition). Smart Reader HD enables individuals with low vision to retain the pleasure of reading by listening along or by attaching a monitor to view the text. Users are able to view in color, enhanced high-contrast positive or negative modes, allowing for higher contrasts and easier viewing. With easy-to-use buttons and dials, customers can enlarge or reduce the text in seconds and change viewing options for easier visibility.

Of particular interest to blind users is its excellent voice, pronunciation, and controls to change pitch and rate of speech.

Smart Reader HD is a little different than most optical character recognition products because it is geared to enhance low vision and read text.  It is not geared to some functions that totally blind users often see in such products.  But this is not mentioned as a disadvantage, just as a description of the orientation of this product and its features. 

As a totally blind user of this product, I thoroughly enjoyed working with it.  Within fifteen minutes, I was able to read books and other printed material with ease.  Smart Reader HD is a well-designed and well-built product.  At $1,995 it's a pretty good deal as well.  If you are in the market for a reading machine product, I would strongly urge you to have a long look at this product. 

Finally, I want to express my thanks to Bob Eisenkramer of Enhanced Vision for making a demonstration unit available to MCB in order to evaluate it and prepare this review.

Smart Blood Pressure Meter from health Labs: Ihealth Clear

Ihealth Clear is a wireless blood pressure monitor that is designed to make measuring blood pressure easy and provide comparative results that can be tracked and managed. It is clinically validated to meet both US and European Standards. With a press of a button, the iHealth Clear will start measuring your blood pressure. View or listen to the analyzed results, and check all your readings (displayed as a logbook or as a chart) on the iHealth app.  iHealth Clear automatically tells you if your reading is higher or lower than the last measurement to help you make better decisions on prevention and treatment.  The iHealth Clear provides an audio reading of your systolic, diastolic, heart rate, and the range under which your results fall.

Denny Huff brought the unit by MCB one afternoon and I thought it was pretty impressive.  Using it is intuitive if you have ever taken your blood pressure, and if you haven't, it's straightforward to learn.  The speech is handled by an app on your iPhone or Android and the software seems pretty accessible.  What impressed me the most was that I'd had my blood pressure taken in a clinic that morning as part of a routine physical exam.  This monitor gave me the identical result I'd received just a couple hours earlier. 

The cost of the IHealth Clear is $99.99.  To purchase or for additional information, visit https://ihealthlabs.com/blood-pressure-monitors/clear.

Interesting Alexa Ideas

Some of the most nontechnical people I know have the Amazon Echo. It's nothing short of amazing how this product has captured everybody's imagination.  One of the main things driving this interest has to be the array of "skills" that can be enabled on the product. 

To help us learn about these skills, there is a podcast that is available on the Echo.  It is called the Spotlight podcast.  Each week, several new skills are demonstrated.  This week, travel skills were featured.  While details are a little sparse on these podcasts, it does give an excellent introduction into skills that could otherwise go unnoticed. 

To start the podcast, just say, “Alexa, open spotlight podcast” and “Alexa, ask spotlight podcast for the latest talk”.

Before leaving Alexa, I'd like to tell you about a skill that I particularly love.  It's so non-techie you won't believe it. You may not know this, but I love clocks, especially clocks that make noise. 

The skill is called "Audible Clock." It is described by Amazon as follows:  Turn your Alexa into any one of a variety of audible clocks, such as a grandfather clock, cuckoo clock, talking clock, and more!  It's a useful, fun, and entertaining way to track the time. 

To start using it, just say "Alexa, open Audible Clock" and tell it which clock you want to hear.  You can also ask for a list.  Want a clock with an animal sound, no problem.  They are there. 

To learn more about this skill, they advise "visit www.audibleclock.com/FAQ for details, or contact us at info@audibleclock.com with any feedback, questions, or suggestions."

Horizons for the Blind Has New Offerings in their Gadgets Gallery

Horizons for the Blind is a nonprofit organization in Illinois that employs a majority of blind and visually impaired people to work for them.  They also happen to be the braille transcriber of the Missouri Chronicle. Recently, they have mailed out an interesting list of new products they offer in their Gadget Gallery.  Just to give you an idea of what they have added, consider these items: Meat Loaf Pan with Lift In Trivet; Brownie Bites Pan; colander and steamer with lid; and 4 in a Row game.  To learn more, contact them at (815) 444-8800, Ext. 238.