December 2014 Chronicle

December 2014 Chronicle

PRESIDENT’S REPORT

By Patti Schonlau, Outgoing President

 

      Greetings to All!

      I wish to congratulate the following Board members who were elected in Springfield at the 58th Annual Convention of the Missouri Council of the Blind.

 

President, Denny Huff

First Vice-President, Mike Keller

Second Vice-President, DeAnna Noriega

Secretary, Joe Morgan

Public Relations Chair, Wilma Chestnut-House

 

      The 2014 President’s Award recipient is Chip Hailey. I sincerely thank Chip for his continued guidance and support throughout my two-year term.

      The 2014 Nathaniel Johnson Award recipient is Virgil McCoy.  The honoree shall be someone who has done outstanding work in his/her community, for his/her Affiliate, or for MCB.

      The 2014 Ellis M. Forshee Award recipient is Leroy Welch. The Ellis M. Forshee Award may be presented to a member of MCB or someone else who meets the requirements. The honoree shall be someone who has done something outstanding on the state or national level. He/she shall be someone who works with the legally blind or with legislation for the legally blind.

      On Saturday, October 11, I had the opportunity to assist a group of Boy Scouts to earn their Disability Awareness Merit Badge.

      On October 22, I traveled to Joplin to serve as the guest speaker at a support group meeting at the Independent Living Center. It was such a joy to observe, Brittany Stovall conduct the support group meeting of newly blind consumers.  Brittany was selected the Member of the Month for September.  Brittany is a young woman that is a member of the Friendship Council of the Blind.  She is a woman that has a positive message and the ability to be a tremendous role model for people having a significant disability.  Brittany is courageous and determined to make a difference and she is successful in her efforts!

 

      I want to thank MCB for giving me the opportunity to travel throughout the state of Missouri and on the national level representing MCB proudly.  Keep safe and always be good to yourself and to each other.

      My thanks to all of you for the work you do for MCB.  By continuing to adhere to the time tested practices of dedication, generosity, mutual respect, and hard work, there is no limit to the accomplishments that can be achieved by the Missouri Council of the Blind!

 

PRESIDENT’S REPORT

By Denny Huff

 

      Greetings!  I hope that this edition of the MCB Chronicle finds each one of you warm, in good health and enjoying the holiday season.

      I want to thank you for this privilege to serve you as your president and I covet your prayers as I work with each affiliate, the officers, the staff and the Board to strive to make MCB the great organization I know it can be.

      There are several immediate goals I want to accomplish as I begin my presidency.  First will be to establish a strategic plan to outline the direction MCB will be going for the next few years.  Our last strategic plan was developed in 2009 and we met most all of the goals that were outlined.  As we begin to develop the next one, I am going to need your input as to where you would like to see MCB go.  I will be asking for a person from each affiliate to serve on a committee to put this plan together.  After all, this is your organization and you are the ones we are serving.  So please be thinking about whom from your affiliate you would like to have on this committee.

      I also want to establish a better rapport among other blind related organizations here in Missouri.  I have already begun establishing a dialogue with RSB and I am going to reach out to Wolfner Library, St. Louis Lighthouse, Alphapointe, St. Louis Society, Mind’s Eye Radio and the NFB.  I believe that working together with other likeminded organizations only serves to strengthen the blind community of Missouri.  We can accomplish so much more as a group than we can as individual organizations.

      I want to make sure that all of you as members know what we are doing in MCB.  Therefore, I would like to know in which way I can best communicate with you.  The Chronicle is a good start, but it is only published once every three months.  We have several email list serves, but not everyone has access to email.  We did have an open conference line once a month, but participation was very poor so it was discontinued.  I of course, will be making personal visits to each affiliate but that will only be once every two years.  So I am asking you, what is the best way for me to keep you informed?  I will consider all suggestions and if feasible, I will attempt to implement those suggestions.  Here is my contact information and feel free to contact me concerning any matter that you may have a question about.

Phone: 855-832-7172

Cell: 636-262-1383

Email: DHuff@MoBlind.Org

      Again, I welcome any suggestions, questions or concerns you may have about MCB.

      Another goal I have is to bring younger members into MCB.  I am encouraging our membership chair to work closely with our youth services chair and our public relations officer to establish some ideas on how we can reach out to younger blind and visually impaired residents of Missouri.  I’m sure that these people would welcome any thoughts or suggestions from you on how this can be done.  It’s certainly not like the old days when the blind were limited as to what was available to them for socialization.  Today the competition is great and a lot of the younger people don’t see the need for an organization like MCB.  We need to communicate to them the importance of being a part of MCB and how we have made a difference in what the blind of Missouri have today.  We need these young people to get involved and carry on the tradition of what MCB has been all about for the past 58 years.  Again, if you have any suggestions on how we can reach out to them, please let us know.

      Once again, I hope you have a blessed holiday season and are able to enjoy it with your family and friends.  Until the next time take care and God Bless.

 

 

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S REPORT

By Christopher Gray

 

      The past quarter has been a busy and active one for MCB.  The highlight, of course, was our annual convention held in Springfield, MO.  Many conventioneers particularly enjoyed visiting and shopping at MCB's New Image Thrift Store.

      Also in this past quarter, we saw two major upgrades to the MCB building in St. Louis. First, we replaced the air conditioning units for the building.  They had gotten to the point where it was costing us more to maintain the old units than to get new units with a significant warranty to go with them. 

      The second improvement was the installation of a new front door.  The door we had was almost certainly the original door of the building, so possibly older than fifty years.  We had been holding it together with weather stripping, shems, and similar fixes.  Sometimes, the door would open spontaneously on its own.  Another day, it stuck closed and took 15 minutes or more for the building committee Chair, Charles Johnson, to pry it open.  On another day, I heard some cries of alarm from the front of the building when a bird somehow flew in to the foyer.  Virginia and Eleanor took a very dim view of that bird, and it didn't seem particularly pleased itself to be stuck inside our building either.  After about five minutes, they got it shooed back outside.

      This quarter marked the end of the MCB fiscal year.  Thus, the books for the previous year were closed out, the new year commenced with the new budget passed by the Board of Directors, and preliminary preparations have already been made for our annual audit.  Eric Stopp will be our auditor once again.

      Finally, The Family Support Division (FSD) very recently announced a reduction in blind pension.  I have mentioned this in previous issues of the Chronicle, but we did not know exactly when the announcement might be made until now.  The monthly amount will be reduced, beginning January 1, from $719/month to $686/month, a reduction of $33.  I am pleased to tell you that FSD sent us an advanced copy of the announcement for our comment and made every change we suggested to them. This represents significant progress from where we were with FSD in December of last year.  It shows what a little advocacy and a lot of dialog can accomplish in time.

      It's almost impossible to believe this is our holiday issue of the Chronicle for 2014. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just right around the corner.  Marvelena and I want to wish all of you a joyous holiday season.  From the looks of things, it may be a chilly one too.  May your hearths be lighted, trees decorated, and by all means, get those Christmas carols playing soon.

IN AFFILLIATE NEWs

 

Tiger Talk

 

      The tigers are on the prowl! Four of us made it all the way to Springfield in a rented van for the state convention paid for by the affiliate. The group voted to distribute two stipends as well to help members attend. We welcomed Jennifer and Dan Kent to our team and organized a milk bucket theme contribution to the silent auction held at the convention. Of course, it was a chocolate milk pail.  We will begin working on our annual Christmas party soon and making fundraising plans so we can do more great things next year.

Blind of Central Missouri

By Joe Morgan, President

 

      Hello from Sedalia! It feels like fall today but we sure had a great summer.  We held our picnic on June 29, 2014.  Everyone enjoyed the good food and our cooks did a great job.  Our special guests were Beverly Kaskadden, Sam and Celita White, and James Hollins.  We raffled off our large toolbox.  We will have our Christmas party on December 7, 2014 at the Celebration Center.  I hope everyone has a nice holiday season.  Until next time keep smiling!

 

News from Delta Area

By Wanda Matlock

 

      We at Delta Area have been very busy as usual. Jim Taul, LaWana Copeland and Wanda Matlock enjoyed the weekend camp in September at Cobblestone Lodge. Judith and Stephen Bryant along with Wanda Matlock attended the October MCB convention.  We thought the meetings were great and the hotel and staff were excellent. We would like to say congratulations to the newly elected officers of MCB.

      The members of Delta Area would like to announce the winner of the Lola B. Garner scholarship, his name is Hunter Cook. He is very deserving of this scholarship and we know he will put this money to good use.

      We had our monthly meeting on Monday, October 27.  After our business meeting, we celebrated October Birthday’s and had a celebration for our November, 2013 member of the month winner, Anthony Blurton.  We also planned a trip for the 25th of November to go to the Service Club to do some shopping and for lunch. Elections were also held on Monday and the results were as follows:

President/Board Rep, Wanda Matlock, Vice President, Anthony Blurton, Secretary, Kandy Goosens, Treasurer, LaWana Copeland, Education & Advocacy/Legislation Rep, Jim Taul.     Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to everyone from Delta Area

Wanda Matlock

 

Agape Council of the Blind 2015 Events

 

      We are still considering a date for retired police officer of Jefferson City, Chuck Walker, to come to St. Louis to give us a presentation on safety and security in the home, on the computer, and in daily living. This date will be in January. Stay tune for more information.

      Come and join us with some “Hot fish, Cold Beer, and the Blues”. Our fourth annual Black History Program will be held at the Overland Lions Banquet Hall on February 20, 2015.  Address: 2358 Lackland Rd. Overland, MO 63114.   Time: Event starts at 6p.m. to 11p.m.

Fee: $20.  This will include one fish dinner with two sides, water or soda, and dessert. You will receive two tickets for beer or wine. A souvenir booklet is also included.

      Entertainment:  Mr. Tony Artz will have some of his art for a viewing and for sale. Our band and singers will perform music by some of the greatest blues Kings and Queens that worked the Chitterling circuit.  Don’t miss a great show.

      For more information contact any Agape member or call (314)873-9022.

      Chili! Chili! Chili!  It’s back! Our Chili and Karaoke supper is back.  Address: Overland Lions Banquet Hall at 2358 Lackland Rd. Overland, MO 63114.  Date: March 21, 2015. Time: 4:p.m. to 8p.m.  Fee: Adults, $8 Children 12 and under $4.  This includes a choice of two items on the chili menu, soda, water, and dessert.

      After every one is served, you can have more.  If you sing, you can pick a gift off the table.

      We will have four kinds of chili. Come and sing for your supper.  For more information, contact any Agape member or call (314)873-9022.

      We have other upcoming events, so sit on the edge of your seat until!

 

Ozark Association of the Blind

By Yvonne Schnitzler

 

      It is with deep sadness that OAB reports the death of Deloris Dobbs.  While in good health, Deloris was always active in the Council and provided transportation for her husband Joe. OAB offers Joe and her family our deepest sympathy.

      Seven members attended the convention in Springfield taking part in the meetings and activities. We thank those involved in hosting the event.

      OAB members and guests are looking forward to our annual Christmas dinner and party.  Wishing all good health and happiness,

 

Missouri Library Users

By Marie Thompson, President

 

      Hello from Missouri Library Users.  This may sound more like a thank you letter than a newsletter but here goes.  A huge thanks to the Springfield Service Club for a job well done and for the beautiful hotel where the 2014 MCB convention was held.  Congratulations to all of you who won awards at the MCB convention.

      We now have a new vice president, Mrs. Phyllis Zirkle. Thanks Phyllis for accepting the position.  Our secretary is Loretta Welch who has served Missouri Library users for many years.  Paul Mathews is our treasurer who has also served us very well. Thank you to all that helped with fundraisers.  We hope you enjoyed your prizes.  

      We welcome your suggestions to make our special interest affiliate bigger and better. My phone number is 314-352-1535. We would welcome you, MCB members and members-at-large. Dues are $10. Checks or money orders please; no cash. Send dues to Paul Mathews 2126 Lewis Circle, Apt. C. Jefferson City MO 65101.

      I would like to say a big thanks to the office staff for all of the things they do for all of us throughout the year. It is a big job to put our materials in the formats for us. Thanks for all you do. Good luck to our outgoing officers and position holders. Good luck to our incoming officers and position holders.

 

BRAILLE REVIVAL LEAGUE

By Judy Burch

 

      Members and guests enjoyed the Alma Murphey Braille Revival League luncheon which was held at the 2014 convention of the MCB on October 4.  ACB president, Kim Charlson spoke at this year’s meeting. 

      Elections for officers were held with the following results:  Judy Burch, President; Marvelena Gray, Vice-President; Anna Schell, Secretary; and Peggy Smith, Treasurer.  Patti Schonlau took Peggy Smith’s place as member-at-large and Sue Tussey has another year to serve as member-at-large.

      We have 29 members right now and I encourage those of you who have an interest in Braille to consider joining BRL of Missouri.  We continue to move forward and the upcoming year promises to be even more productive. 

      By the time you read this, BRL of Missouri will have participated in the Alliance for Braille Literacy conference held on November 1-2 at the MCB office.  

      Until next time, all have a safe remainder of the fall and a joyous holiday season.

 

Off The Committee Wire

Dual Vision and Hearing Loss

By Mary Hale, Chair

 

Did you know…

      Did you know that you may qualify for help in obtaining a hearing aid?  If you are receiving the Missouri Blind Pension along with it’s Medicaid program, you may qualify through Medicaid to get hearing aids funded.  Because of blindness, and the need to rely so much on hearing, for safety and other reasons, your ability to hear is so important.  If you contact an audiologist who accepts Medicaid, they may be able to help you. In St Louis, one such place is the Center for Hearing and Speech (314)968-4710.  So please don’t suffer in silence, when help is actually available.  Your well-being depends on it.

 

Member of the Month

By Yvonne Schnitzler

      The MCB Member of the Month winners were honored at the convention banquet. Each received a framed certificate of appreciation, and a box of Russell Stover assorted candy in a decorative gift box.

MCB Member of the Year for 2014 is Linda Dawes of Lake Stockton Council. Her name was chosen by a random drawing from the names of the monthly winners. Linda received a $100 gift certificate and her name will be put on a plaque that hangs in the MCB office.  Congratulations to the Member of the Month winners and a big thank you to those who nominated them.

      Yvonne Schnitzler, Treasurer, Ozark Association of the Blind, was August’s Member of the Month, nominated by Denny Huff. Yvonne is Chair of the Member of the Month Committee, and has served on the Credentials Committee. She is collecting, researching and compiling information about MCB and its affiliates.

      Brittany Stovall, Friendship Council of the Blind, was September’s Member of the Month, nominated by Chip Hailey.  Brittany worked for the Independent Living Center as an intern from Rehabilitation Services for the Blind. Because of her work ethic, compassion, and strong advocacy focus, Brittany was hired after her internship was completed.  Brittany is a professional with a passion for what she does. She accepts challenges and meets them head on. Brittany goes beyond working with people with all disabilities. She recognized the need for a blindness support program in the community and coordinated a group to serve that purpose. Brittany believes in herself and encourages everyone with whom she comes in contact to have that same belief.  Brittany is the thoughtful, optimistic individual every employer, affiliate, and organization wishes to have as a member on their team.

      Jeannie Jaco UWB was October’s Member of the Month, nominated by Bunny Maginnis. Jeannie is a dedicated member of UWB and MCB, helping out wherever needed in her affiliate, camp, and conventions. She is always happy to provide transportation to people who have no other way to travel. At summer camp, she is active in providing entertainment putting a smile on everyone’s face. Jeannie is active in her church and community. She has a glowing personality uplifting the spirit of everyone around her.

      Please nominate someone deserving of this award. The guidelines are: An MCB member must nominate an MCB member who may be sighted or visually impaired. If visually impaired, they may be nominated on their service not only to the blind, but also for their service to their community even if it does not directly affect the blind. If sighted, they would be recognized for their service to the blind and visually impaired. The recipient of the award receives a gift certificate. Please send your nomination to Yvonne Schnitzler, Chair of the Member of the Month Committee at meshowjys@charter.net; address and phone number is in the Chronicle Insert.

 

Low Vision Committee

By Rita Galbraith

 

A Short Story of a Blessed Life

      Many people that have a disability(ies) can find certain activities in life frustrating. Those of us that have visual challenges and blindness issues are no exception. Some of us were born blind; some of us became blind because of accidents, disease, or aging. We may have been angry when we were first diagnosed and/or first discovered for ourselves that we had such a permanent disability. Our new lifestyle might have been difficult to accept. But for most of us, as time went by, our negative attitude changed and we learned how to accept the reality of our situation.

      As for me, I was born with low vision. I know that I didn't like being referred to as blind because, to me, that actually meant not being able to see at all. I did attend public schools and eventually graduated from college. I am grateful for the wonderful people, and for the special adaptive aides, all of which have helped me in various aspects of life whether it was as a student, an employee, or as a homemaker (which is my favorite occupation).  I am fairly independent except that I cannot drive a car. GOD has blessed me abundantly. I can see flowers, trees, birds, et cetera; but without a lot of the minute details. I always ask for a blessing of safety when I go out walking my little dog, Pandora. I have a wonderful family in my husband Mike, my children, and my grandchildren. I am truly blessed!

Thus, I wish any and all who read this article in whatever format or hear it by whatever means, nothing but the best. Take time each day to count your many blessings one by one.

 

ATI News

By Darrel Vickers, President

 

      Hi everyone, my name is Darrel and I was elected president of ATI at this year’s convention.        First, I would like to thank all members of ATI for your support.  Because many of you do not know me here is a little about me and my background.

      I am fifty eight years old and live in Washington Missouri. I have been a member at large for about four years. I found out I have RP in 1978 while in the Navy.  My sight loss has been a process since then and I am now down to some light perception.

      I had to take an intro to computer class in college and found I had an aptitude for it. My first I.T. job was in 1982 as commissioned sales person selling Apple II’s, Apple III’s, (a great computer in it’s day), and mini computers. In 1983 the first Macintosh was introduced and I got one of the first Macintosh 128ks.

      So, as you can guess, I was a total geek back then and still am to a certain extent.

      I worked my way up to general manager and left that company in 2000 to start my own network management and engineering company. I specialized in network infrastructure, security and Novell server client installations and management for smaller rule K-12 schools.  I retired, (fired myself), in 2011.

      Woodworking is now one of my passions and I spend a lot of time in my work shop. Another is I would like to give something back and is the main reason I joined MCB.  Ok, enough about me.

Goals for ATI.

      I believe ATI should have a purpose and there should be real benefits for its members. I also strongly feel adaptive technology can change lives.

      Here are a few things I would like to accomplish over the next few months.

1.   ATI will have a full web site, (http://ati.moblind.org), with a member’s only section.  This area of the site will require a login. This is for two main reasons. As I said before, there should be a benefit to being a member. Second, there may be some copyrighted material in a blind friendly format and it must be protected to comply with section 121 of the American with disabilities act.

2.   Work with the MCB office to get our 501c status reinstated. This will be important down the road when we may be seeking donations; More about this later.

3.   I would like to setup a schedule of regular conference calls.

4.   I will need all members email addresses so we can have an up to date mailing list.

      I realize ATI may not have always lived up to its members’ expectations, but we are going to try very hard to change this. I however, can't do this all myself. I want to encourage all MCB members who use adaptive technology to join ATI. Remember, knowledge is power. So please come join ATI and share your knowledge so all members with adaptive devices can get the most benefit out of it.

      Thank you and happy holidays to everyone.

My contact info: Phone: 636-667-3176, Email: darrel@ww4b.org

 

 

Wolfner Advisory News

By Darrel VickerS

 

      Wolfner Library is a free library service for Missourians who are unable to use standard print materials due to a visual or physical disability.  Materials are mailed to and from library patrons at their homes, postage paid. There is no charge, whatsoever, to the patron. Currently, over 11,000 Missourians actively use Wolfner Library.

      Wolfner Library contact numbers are Toll Free (800) 392-2614 or (573) 751-8720.

      Wolfner has been very busy this fall!  On September 16th, we brought on board a new Special Services Librarian, Carol Nolte.  Prior to this appointment, Carol served as a branch manager of Trails Regional Library in Lexington, Missouri.  She received her Masters of Library and Information Science from Central Missouri University in 2010.  Carol intends to focus her efforts on increasing Wolfner’s outreach and expanding its patron base.

      In October, we attended nine outreach events and traveled to one professional development event to give an overview of Wolfner’s services to caregivers in the St. Louis area.   Wolfner has presented this overview of services as a webinar through the Missouri State Library.  You can find our webinar at watch.more.net.   http://watch.more.net/media/wolfner-talking-book-and-braille-library

      The Wolfner staff has put together many Bibliographies to make finding something to read easier. Note: A Bibliography, in this context, is a list of books on a related topic and is in two main categories, Adult and Children.

      The bibliographies for adult readers are arranged by topic, featuring fiction and nonfiction subjects from animal stories and award winners to war stories and westerns. The bibliographies for young readers are arranged by age group, and feature both fiction and nonfiction topics of interest to kids.

      You can find a full list on Wolfner’s home page at: www.sos.mo.gov/readings.asp or contact a reading advisor.

      The annual Winter Reading Program will start before the next issue of the chronicle comes out and usually starts in February. If you would like to participate, mark it on your calendar and contact a reading advisor.

      A few reading suggestions.

Stage and Screen / Humor

      What's so funny? My Hilarious Life DB77694

Conway, Tim; Burnett, Carol; Scovell, Jane. Reading time: 8 hours, 8 minutes.

      Emmy Award-winning comedian details his early life in the suburbs of Cleveland and nearly six decades in the entertainment industry. Shares reminiscences of other show-biz luminaries, including Steve Allen, Ernest Borgnine, Harvey Korman, and Don Knotts. Foreword by Carol Burnett. 2013.

Humor / Bestsellers

      Napalm & Silly Putty DB52283

Carlin, George. Reading time: 7 hours, 15 minutes.

      The comedian, who also wrote Brain Droppings (RC 44750), continues with a collection of zany one-liners, observations on modern life, and loony lists. Strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex. Bestseller. 2001.

War and the Military

      The Twilight Warriors: the deadliest naval battle of World War II and the men who fought it DB73046

Gandt, Robert L. Reading time: 13 hours, 13 minutes.  

      Military historian chronicles the ordeals of the U.S. Navy during the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Details the roles of the U.S. commanders and the young American aviators (the Tail End Charlies), and the Japanese high command and kamikaze pilots. Violence and some strong language. 2010.

True Stories / Biography

      Crashing through: a story of risk, adventure, and the man who dared to see DB63747

Kurson, Robert; May, Mike; Ordunio, Doug. Reading time: 10 hours, 12 minutes.

      The author of Shadow Divers (RC 58650) profiles Michael May (born 1953), who was blinded at age three and later became a champion skier, CIA analyst, and entrepreneur. Relates May's internal conflict over whether or not to undergo an operation to restore his sight. Commercial audiobook. 2007.

      Happy Hollidays to All from Darrel Vickers

Darrel@ww4b.org

 

Conference CalLS

By Denny Huff, MCB President

 

      Over the past several years conference calls have played an important part of MCB’s communication.  We have conference lines for the board, several committees, regular affiliates, special interest affiliates and, as we did most recently, with MO Health, special conference calls.

      With the number of conference calls growing each year, it is difficult to remember the number for each conference line.  Therefore I am offering to anyone interested a conference line at no charge and the dial-in number will be the same for each.  The only difference will be the pass code.  If your committee, affiliate or special interest affiliate would like to have your own conference line, please let me know and I’ll get you set up.  Again, there is no charge for the conference line or the use of it.  You can schedule a conference call in advance or at the last minute.  Just send me an email or give me a call expressing your interest and I’ll do the rest for you.  DHuff@MoBlind.Org, 855-832-7172. 

 

From the Lower Left-Hand Drawer

By John Weidlich

 

      It’s time for another look into that wonderful Lower Left-Hand Drawer and see what it contains this time. Here are some books, some apps for your iphone and a new version of Jaws. Let’s get started.

      Well, have you taken the plunge yet? Have you downloaded the new IOS 8 operating system for your iPhone or Apple Product or are you, like me, waiting for the bugs to be fixed? Have you purchased an iPhone 6 yet? If you have done either or both of those things or if you think you might in the future, here is a book you might want to read. It is IOS 8 Without the Eye, by Jonathan Mosen and it is available from National Braille Press in Braille, eBraille, Daisy or word formats for $19.95. This is said to be the definitive guide to IOS 8 from a blind person’s perspective.

      Apparently Jonathan was one of the beta testers for the new operating system and he knows all about the new features and about some of the problems that will hopefully be corrected in future updates. It describes new features from the perspective of someone who uses VoiceOver. Starting with the installation process, it continues with the changes in VoiceOver and the new mainstream features. You can order from National Braille Press by going to their web site www.nbp.org or by calling (800) 548-7323.

      Verizon Wireless has just opened the National Accessibility Customer Service Center to address special needs of customers with disabilities. It is based in Charleston, SC and is staffed with about two hundred representatives who can give guidance with device selection, provide technical support or help with account transactions. The phone number is (888) 262-1999. The Center will operate Monday through Friday. For support evenings or weekends, call (800) 922-0204.

      Here is another new Braille book from National Braille Press, not a computer book but a cookbook by a chef, a Masterchef who is blind. It is a cookbook by Christine Ha, who competed successfully on the television show Masterchef last year. It is called Recipes From My Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food. After losing her sight in her twenties, Christin learned how to cook without sight using adaptive techniques, which she demonstrated on the television show. The recipes are simple and use simple ingredients. There are over eighty recipes and they are accompanied by a personal narrative. The book comes in three Braille volumes and sells for $23.95.

      Here is something that will be of no use to us yet but it may give us a glimpse into the future. The San Francisco Airport has a prototype of a mobile app that can guide visually impaired passengers through the airport, giving them the ability to navigate the terminal independently. It uses five hundred beacons located all through the airport that give audible information about points of interest, such as gate boarding areas and restaurants. Restrooms too, I hope.

      The American Council of the Blind has reached an agreement with Wellpoint, the company that owns Anthem, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, to provide insurance information to policyholders in accessible formats, including Braille, large print, audio and electronic formats. The web sites and mobile apps will also be made more accessible under the agreement. To request any of these alternative formats, call the number on the back of your insurance card or any number that you normally use to contact Anthem, Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

      You may remember the KNFB Reader that was released many years ago. The KNFB Reader is back, this time as an app for your iPhone. It can be used with any version of iPhone, beginning with version 5, running IOS 7 or 8. It apparently works in a similar manner to the original Reader, taking a picture of printed text and then reading the words aloud. Documents can be saved, stored or shared with others .Several languages are available. It will sell for $99.00 and can be purchased from the app store.

      Braille Bibles International. Based in Liberty, MO, has bibles in several versions in accessible formats. The large print King James Bible is available for $30. There is a single digital cartridge containing the entire Bible in the King James, English Standard and New Living Translations. I am not sure if all three versions are on the same cartridge or if you must specify which version you want when ordering. The cartridge is free. The application for ordering is new so don’t use any application you may have received in the past. Email: info@braillebibles.org or call Craig Leeds at (800) 522-4253. The address is PO Box 378, Liberty MO 64069-0378.

      Last time I mentioned that the Braille Authority of America (BANA) has approved the adoption of Unified English Braill, which will go into effect in 2016. It will make some major and minor changes in the Braille code we now use. In order to help readers become familiar with these changes, BANA has published the ABC’s of UEB which explains the differences between the Braille we use today and the Braille we will be seeing a year from now. The publication provides examples and exercises to help Braille readers understand UEB. The publication is free and may be downloaded from the website www.brailleauthority.org/ueb.html No word about whether it is available in hardcopy Braille.

      Phil Brooks has developed the IRT-1, a hand-held talking infrared thermometer. This is not to be used for taking body temperature. It reads the temperature of things like hot oil in a pan or hot liquid in a cup without the need for coming into direct contact with what is being read. It can also speak indoor and outdoor temperature, the air temperature inside a refrigerator or freezer and the temps of soups or stews cooking on the stove. It can read Fahrenheit and Centigrade temperatures. It costs $119.95 from www.brooks-technology.com or by calling (408) 781-4577.

      The IRT-1 is not designed to read the internal temperature of meat in the oven but here is a device that will. The iGrill 2 and the iGrill Mini are meat thermometers designed to interact with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The iGrill Mini has a probe which sits inside a cut of meat as it cooks on the grill. It is connected to a small transmitter which can b magnetically attached to the outside of the grill or stove. The transmitter communicates to an iOS device which will speak the cooking temperature through VoiceOver. The free software app comes with presets for many meat choices. Set the preset and the app sounds an alert when the meat reaches the desired temperature. The iGrill Mini has one probe and costs $39.99; the iGrill 2 comes with two probes and costs $99.99. For information or to order go to www.atguys.com.

      Last time I mentioned the free talking money identifiers being distributed by the Treasury Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and that I got one at the ACB Convention. Mine works fairly well except for one rather amusing incident. I had several bills which I knew were either $1 or $5 bills and I needed the iBill to tell them apart. The device kept insisting that one of them was a $100 bill, which I knew I didn’t have. After several attempts and getting either an error message or the message one hundred, I gave up and used the Money Reader on the iPhone which said it was $5.00. It’s a miracle. Not only does this device read your money, it increases its value. So if you get one, just be aware that it may not always be accurate and don’t try to spend what you don’t have.

      Freedom Scientific has just released Jaws version 16 with several new features. It will be shipped soon to SMA Holders who are eligible for an update or it can be downloaded from the Freedom Scientific website www.freedomscientific.org where you can also read about the new features.

      I want to leave you with a quote which was sent to me by Peter Altschul which I think is a profound statement about the difference between diversity and inclusion. "Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance." Institutions strive today for diversity but I think they forget that diversity, while a good thing, is not always enough. Diversity means very little unless you are actually included in the activity and given a meaningful way to participate. How many blind people have said they stopped attending church because they were welcomed to the church but then not allowed to do anything? Sometimes people think we are there to be served and taken care of when what we really want is to serve. So remember this quote and use it when needed.  

      Have a great Holiday.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.