June 2017 Chronicle

Table of Contents

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President’s Message

By Denny Huff, President

Greetings, at the time of this writing we are experiencing some of the heaviest rainfall we have ever had in this area.  Rivers are out of their banks and roads are flooded.  Although it has only been an inconvenience for me, my heart goes out to those that have been directly affected by the flooding throughout the entire state.  If you were affected by the flooding and need some financial assistance, remember that we do have the special services grant you can apply for.  You can call the office to have the guidelines and application sent to you or you can go to http://www.moblind.org and download the forms.

This brings me to another nature related event coming up in August of this year.  A total solar eclipse will be taking place on August 21 throughout the USA and will start in Oregon.  The path of the total eclipse makes its way across the USA and the height of the eclipse will take place right here in Missouri.  Although most all of the state will be able to see a partial eclipse, there are only a few cities that are in the path of a total eclipse.  Some of those cities include St. Joseph, Carrollton, Marshall, Columbia, Jefferson City, St. Clair, Festus and Cape Girardeau.  Even though I won’t be able to see the eclipse I am excited about it because my town is going to be the epicenter for the entire nation.  The total eclipse will last for 2 minutes and 40 seconds here in St. Clair, longer than anywhere in the USA.  I know, I know, it’s only a second or two longer than some other places but hey, we have to have something to brag about here in St. Clair besides our hot and cold water towers.

Thousands of other people are apparently excited about this eclipse since our town of just under 5,000 are expecting over 10,000 visitors from all over the world the weekend before the eclipse.  Where they are going to stay I have no idea, but St. Clair is gearing up for a weekend long celebration that will conclude with the total eclipse on Monday at 1:15 PM.  If you want to come and watch the eclipse with me, you are welcome to bring your lawn chair and special glasses and sit in my backyard to view this phenomenal event.  To read more about the solar eclipse you can go to http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/path_through_the_US.htm#Missouri.

One of my goals since taking office as president was to put together a strategic plan for MCB.  Chris Gray and I have struggled with how best to handle this project in order to maximize its benefits.  I believe that if a person or an organization has no goals or a direction on how to accomplish those goals then that person or organization will not get very far.

Our last strategic plan was done in 2009 and although it was a decent plan we failed with it in a couple of areas.  First of all, some of the goals we included in the plan were simply unrealistic.  They looked good on paper but they were goals that we probably should have never included in our plan.  In our last plan we also failed to assign someone to be responsible for making sure we were on track for the various goals we established in that plan.  For this next plan we are approaching it with a different attitude and with more realistic goals. 

The Board has hired Saundra Ectstadt to guide us through putting this strategic plan together.  Saundra is a training and development leader with over 15 years of experience in training, employee engagement, customer service, public speaking and developing people; subject matter expert in culture transformation, strategy and budgetary planning. 

During her tenure at Ameren Corporation, she received her education at Webster University where she completed her undergraduate degree in Management and graduate degree in Human Resources Development. During her last five years at Ameren, she managed six corporate Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) through budgeting, planning, implementing, and enhancing business culture; facilitated diversity and inclusion discussions on best practices; was the Editor of online diversity communication; led diversity outreach efforts; and supported corporate diversity recruiting and retention efforts. In addition, she volunteered her services in many areas, within the company and in the community. These actions led her to focus on the needs of people who are often overlooked in the corporate environment and in our communities. 

Currently, Saundra’s efforts focus on individuals with disabilities through the St. Louis Business Leadership Network (STLBLN). She serves on the Board and is the treasurer and very proud to be a part of an organization that brings best practices to the Metro St. Louis community to create productive and supportive partnerships among individuals with disabilities, private businesses, and governmental and community agencies.

We will have two committees working together on this strategic plan.  One will be the core committee with Naomi Soule as the Chair of the committee and it will consist of Chris Gray, all of the former presidents of MCB that wish to serve on the committee, a couple of other active members and myself.  The other committee members will consist of the above committee members and a representative from each affiliate that wishes to participate.  So far we have 13 affiliates that will be represented on this committee.  If your affiliate does not have a representative and you would like to be a part of it, please let me know.

The core committee will meet initially with Saundra and get the ball rolling and then we will bring in the entire committee for their input.  We will be including you as a member to have input by asking you several questions about MCB and your thoughts on what you would like to see us do in the next few years.

I am looking forward to working with Saundra and all of the committee members on this endeavor and I hope that it will give everybody a sense of belonging as we all work together.  Hopefully we will have a completed strategic plan by the time of our convention in October.

Speaking of the convention, don’t forget that there will be five positions up for election this year.  They are the treasurer, public relations and the three directors.  If you would like to run for one of these positions please send in your candidate announcement to the Chronicle for the next issue.

Each year we have a candidate’s forum for the people running for office in ACB.  Last year we held a conference call as opposed to an in-person meeting at the ACB convention.  This year we will do the same.  The candidate’s forum will be on Sunday, June 25 at 2:00 PM.  The dial-in number is 218-548-8268 and the passcode is, 26273#.  I encourage anyone that is interested in knowing more about the candidates of ACB to participate.

Well that does it for this time.  Until the next time keep smiling and know that God loves you.  I am always just a phone call away if you have questions or concerns; 636-428-1500.  God Bless!

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Missouri ABLE Accounts are here!

By Chris Gray, Executive Director

"Achieving a Better Life Experience" (ABLE) accounts have come to Missouri as of April, 2017.  These are unique investment accounts that will allow a person who lost their vision before the age of 26 to shelter income so that it is not counted as an asset for purposes of calculating SSI, Medicaid, and other benefits.

State Treasurer Eric Schmitt is one of the people primarily responsible for the establishing of this program in Missouri.  Below is a press release from him that explains quite a bit about this wonderful program.  Currently, I am doing some research to create a presentation specifically geared to blind and visually impaired Missourians.  I hope to hold some seminars, perhaps do a podcast, and put the most relevant information about these accounts onto our website.  I believe that anybody who can meet the qualifications for this program should join it as soon as possible.

Here are some excerpts from Eric Schmitt's press release.  I must say that when I opened an account, it took me a lot longer than 15 minutes and I had to get sighted assistance.  However, I'm sure these kinks will be worked out in the coming months.

"After years of tireless work, I'm proud to tell you the MO ABLE program has officially launched! Starting today, Missourians with disabilities can learn about MO ABLE and sign up for an account on http://www.moable.com.

I've already opened an account for my son, Stephen, in about 15 minutes. I can tell you from firsthand experience that the website is straightforward and easy to use.

There are several advantages to opening a MO ABLE account.  Your account balance will generally not affect federal means-tested benefits. Additionally, contributions to MO ABLE are tax deductible on your Missouri tax return.

Missouri has one of the highest tax deductions in the country ($8,000 if filing single, $16,000 if filing jointly).

Plus, you will never pay federal or state income taxes on the money you withdraw from a MO ABLE account in order to pay for qualified disability expenses.

Today’s a big day for Missourians for disabilities and their families.  Thank you for your help in making this program a success.”

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Affiliate Affairs

Over, around and across Missouri. Let's find out what's happening where.

St. Charles County Council of the Blind

By Beverly Kaskadden

St. Charles County Council of the Blind is alive and well.  Even though we have lost a couple members, we also gained two new members.  Actually, one of the members was an active member several years ago, and has returned.  Some might remember Lynne Smith.  We celebrate her return to St. Charles Council.  Lynne brought her friend, Claire Meinert.  We are so pleased to add Lynne and Claire to our membership.

I do regret to mention that we will be losing a member to the State of Texas.  Brianne Disney will be moving soon, and we will miss her terribly.  Our loss is Texas’ gain!  Good luck to you Brianne.

I also want to report on our honored member, Edna Freeman.  Edna means so very much to me.  She invited me to a meeting 20 some years ago, and I have been hooked ever since.  Edna is now living in St. Peters at the Chestnut Glen.  Her son told me she would love to get phone calls from her friends.  Her cell number is 636-487-7722

Our President set up a call in conference number for any members who cannot attend the meetings.  It has been valuable for those who cannot get out.  Well, guess who could not get out on May 1st?  Yes, our President could not get through all the flooded roads.  He managed to conduct the meeting through the phone lines.  Other affiliates might think about setting up a phone line to include home bound members. 

Usually the St. Charles Duchesne High School Key Club host our annual Installation dinner in June.  This year they asked if we could have it in April.  That works great for us, because we have our elections at the April meeting.  We were honored to have Chris and Marvelena Gray in attendance along with their driver, Liz.  We also had Sherry and Mike Keller along with Mike’s son, Tim and his lovely wife Donna.  Mike conducted an awesome performance while installing the new officers.  Affiliates might want to consider asking Mike to do the honor of installing their officers.  We are all bound to an oath!  Mike is quite the entertainer too.  Thank you so much Mike.

We will have more to report in the fall.

Take care.

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Northern Lights Council

By Steve Schnelle, President

Hello from Northern Lights. As I write this article, we're preparing for our booth at Valley of Flowers, a fair held in Florissant, one of the North County suburbs. This year, we're selling homemade dog treats as well as dog toys made of clothing and collars off of shirts that folks put on their dogs with our logo ironed on the collar tab; it's a Pinterest thing. We're also providing literature and selling chances to our Cardinal tickets package made possible again from Carl Chappell, one of our members. Again this year, tickets are $10 and the package includes 4 green seat tickets right behind home plate, 2 parking passes and food and drink throughout the game. This year the game is between the Cards and Cubs on September 25th which is a Monday. If anyone would like to purchase tickets this year please call me at 314-440-0902 or email me at papaschnelle@hotmail.com. Last year a woman who works with one of our members won, and turns out that she use to work at Missouri School for the Blind, an interesting coincidence. We're trying to get some of our members to join us on the train to KC for convention in October and we will have a table in the market place again this year. May 13th will be our last meeting before the summer and then we're off until August. Here's hoping everyone has a wonderful summer and enjoy many Cardinals and Royals games, not to mention our farm team in Springfield. Good times and good health to you all.

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Joplin Service Club of the Blind

By Mary Coe

The Joplin Service Club has been very active during the past few months! We enjoy lunches every Tuesday prepared by our talented volunteers and monthly dinners provided by Joplin churches and other organizations. In March we celebrated St Patrick’s Day with a delicious meal of corned beef and cabbage and in April we “picnicked” with ham and the fixings.

In February Joplin Association for the Blind hosted a group of Home Schooled students who were given the opportunity to see how blind children deal with everyday living. It is exciting that Missouri Council of the Blind is opening up eligibility for younger children to join, and the Service Club looks forward to having a new generation of members in the Joplin Club.

Jim Murray, our MCB board representative, attended Legislative Days in Jefferson City. Jim is a great source of what is going on in MCB and the state, and keeps us informed at our monthly business meetings.

Joplin Association for the Blind held its spring fundraiser on April 6th. The Service Club was a huge source of donations to the silent auction, donating items and giving money to purchase items to go in Easter baskets for the auction. We have a generous group of people in the Club who give back in any way they can.

We are pleased to announce the addition of two new members to the Service Club. Lorna and Eugene Whittenback were accepted for membership in April.

Everyone have a great summer!

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Blind of Central Missouri

By Joe Morgan

Hello from Sedalia!  It has been a rainy April but warmer weather will be coming soon.

We had our pizza party on March 9th.  The pizza came from Pizza Hut and everyone enjoyed it. We also filled out camp applications. We are also selling candy bars for a fundraiser. We have assorted bars Hershey's plain and almond, Kit-Kat bars etc. Contact a BCM member if you would like to buy some. They are $1 each. Our picnic is all set for June 25th, and we will also have a swimming party. The meal is at 5:00 PM and the pool party is at 6:00 PM. Well that's about all for this report. Until next time, keep smiling! Joe Morgan President

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Agape Council of the Blind

By Wilma Chestnut-House

In February, Agape Council had a Black History program entitled, “Do You Remember?”  We talked about the history of Lincoln University, Harris-Stowe, Homer G. Phillips Hospital and the man it was named after, and last of all, the Pruitt & Igoe projects.  We had lots of audience participation.  All the adults got on stage and played hand clapping games, bolo bats, and with yo-yo.  We even had marbles, but some of us could not get down on the floor.  We had some professional boppers and they gave some dance lessons.  Last but not least, we had singers like being on the street corners and elevator hallways.  I think we all had a good time.

Agape Council lost one of our members in April.  Eddie Barsh was a blind vet, vice president of Agape, and an original member of The StL Firing Squad Beep Baseball team.  We retired his #58.  He was a D.J. and his handle was “Dr. Blinstein”.  He was also well known for his skating ability.  He was known at most skating rinks in Missouri. He had such a love for skating that he requested that he be buried in, not with, but in his roller skates and he was.

Camp Abilities-St. Louis will have our second camp on July 9 thru 14, 2017.  This year we will have transportation from certain areas.  I will post those places later.  Along with track & field, goal ball, and judo, we will add on swimming, ballet, and tumbling.  We will also have bowling.  The kids will have as much fun as they did last year.  A few of them are also going to get to experience participating in a real beep ball tournament.  If everything works out, they also go to the World Series in W. Palm Beach.  This is what our camp is all about.  Not only are they learning a new competitive sport for the USABA and Para Olympics, they also get the feeling of accomplishment.

Agape Council will also be hosting our annual Gospel fest at 3:00 pm on September 10, 2017 at Greater Faith Church located at 4114 Natural Bridge Road.  If you have a choir or group that would like to sing, call Elizabeth at (314) 496-8146.

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ATI Special Affiliate News

By Darrel Vickers, President

Who we are:  Adaptive Technology Inc. is a special interest affiliate of MCB.  Because we are an affiliate, if you are a member of ATI you are a full member of MCB. For example, if you are a member of ATI there is no reason to also be a member at large.

What We Do:  We discuss, support and encourage adaptive (assistive) technology for the blind.  We host the vendor room at the MCB convention.  We have our own website with a plethora of information about technology and how to get the most out of it.

What is Adaptive Technology:  Adaptive or assistive technology can be anything which helps a blind person carry out their everyday task and maintain as much independence as possible.  In my case, I lost my sight gradually due to a rare retinal disease. Specialized adaptive technology, such as a CCTV, computer display magnification software and screen reading software, saved my career that I loved. I could support my family, help the kids through college and retire because I wanted to and not because I had to.

Membership:  I invite anyone with an interest in adaptive technology or who wants to know more about it to join us.  To join, visit http://ati.moblind.org and click the membership tab or contact me. Dues are $15 annually.

Featured Product: Video Magnifier. 

What is a Video Magnifier?  A video magnifier, or closed-circuit television (CCTV), provides a magnified image for use by people with low vision to enable them to maintain an independent lifestyle at work, home, or school. A video magnifier consists of a camera, monitor, lighting, and usually a stand. In addition to providing magnification, video magnifiers usually have enhanced contrast and other features that help you read magazines and letters, view family photos, write checks, perform work activities, do schoolwork, and engage in your favorite hobbies. Video magnifiers are used by people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and many other visual conditions.

Benefits of Video Magnifiers.  Video magnifiers have many benefits that other solutions are unable to provide. They have a wide range of magnification, which means you can use them for a variety of tasks. They have a wide field of view, so they display more on the screen at a time, which reduces eye fatigue. Adjustable monitors can move in multiple directions to reduce glare. An auto-focus camera will keep the focus, even on books with a deep spine. You can write using a video magnifier, a task which is often difficult using a hand-held traditional magnifier. Nearly all video magnifiers can freeze the image for close inspection of small objects or to keep your place.

It is important to understand there are many companies who manufacture video magnifiers. The best thing to do is to try them out.  The four most key features in my opinion are;

  1. An HD camera with auto focus.
  2. The size of the display. Larger may seem better but it may not be for you.
  3. Contrast and color. I could read light print on a dark background at a quarter of the magnification than with normal dark text on a white background. On the other hand, you may prefer a different color combination such as, yellow text and a blue background.
  4. A substantial size and stable platform for the item you wish to see. There are also large desktop as well as portable models.

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Committee Reports

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 curtain 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.  This is why MCB provides the adaptive technology grant.  Each year MCB sets aside funds 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.

Our budget for the 2017 fiscal year is $25,000.  We exhausted these funds in February. If the Board approves new funds for next year, we will begin excepting applications in September. If you have applied but were turned down because we were out of funding we will contact you in September to find out if you are still interested in the grant.

This fiscal year we approved twenty seven (27) grants.  Items purchased include eye Pal Solo, Braille Note taker, i-phones, computers, Victor Reader, magnifiers, CCTV, tablet, id Mate Quest.

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. 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 website at: http://moblind.org/programs/adaptive_technology_grants 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.

The Committee: The adaptive technology committee is made up of three members:  Darrel Vickers, Ruthie Clark and Donna Giger.  If you have any questions about the program please contact me.

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Members of the Month

By Yvonne Schnitzler

Congratulations to the Member of the Month winners.

Thanks to the Blind of Central Missouri for recognizing January’s Member of the Month Virginia Drapkin. Virginia is the MCB Office Administrator and her knowledge, effort and attitude is why the business of MCB is conducted efficiently and on time. Virginia’s respect, cooperative spirit and professionalism are an asset to MCB in dealing with its commitments to the blind and especially its involvement with other organizations. We are grateful for her dependability, allegiance to our organization, and for innumerable jobs well done.

Nominated by SEMO, Tony Pickrell was chosen February Member of the Month. A member since 2002, Tony is the current President and has served as vice president and affiliate representative to the MCB Board.  Tony is always on the look-out for new members, involved in numerous projects and social activities for the club. Tony served in the United States Navy. Tony was the Chair of the State and Regional Advisory Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and served on the transformation project as the Easy Early Excess Group to change Medicaid to MoHealth. He worked with low-income housing and was recognized nationally for his help with building homes.

Queen City Council recognized their Vice President Robert Ash chosen as the March Member of the Month. Robert plans informative programs each month for his affiliate and is Chair of the White Cane Walk. This year he added tandem bicycles for members to ride with their guide. He represents his affiliate on the MCB Board. Robert volunteers with the city as a Bus Ambassador. His job is to help new riders learn the routes so they feel confident with using the buses.

Ray Miles is April’s Member of the Month nominated by Bunny Maginnis. The President of RITE, he is an asset to his affiliate and MCB advocating for the blind especially at legislation days. Ray is a people person and fun to be around. He enjoys shooting the breeze with anyone who wishes to joke around a little. A caring person, you will find him assisting others at summer camp. Ray is active in his community and church and volunteers in a soup kitchen. He and his guide dog Poncho visit patients in nursing homes.

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Summer Camp Report

By Beverly Kaskadden

I would love to be reporting from the porch at Cobblestone, but considering the nasty weather we are having today, and the floods on the rivers, it is probably best that I am safe and warm in my home.  I can guarantee though, the time at Cobblestone is always enjoyable.  The Camp committee consisting of Celita, Sam White and myself, will be meeting to finalize the cabin and table placements for the June and July sessions.  You still have time to submit your applications for the September extended weekend at Cobblestone.  The deadline for submission is August 1.  Time flies by so fast, so don’t hesitate.  We will knock ourselves out to assure everyone enjoys their time while at Cobblestone.

I cannot express enough the importance of reading the Camp Guidelines and filling out the application completely. If you still have questions, please give me a call or e-mail me.  When the applications have been processed, I will give the MCB office the okay to send out the acceptance letters.  Again, please call me, not Cobblestone or the MCB office, with any questions.

I can report that there are new names on the attendance list, and I am so excited to see young families in attendance.  Many years ago when I attended my first session at Cobblestone with my little girls, I was convinced that I would be a long time member of Missouri Council of the Blind.  I am so proud of this organization.  I hope to see many of you soon.

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Bylaws/Resolutions Update

By Janelle Edwards, Bylaws/Resolutions Committee Chair

During our 2016 convention, two relevant standing rules were adopted. By September 1, regular affiliate presidents must notify the office which member will represent their affiliate on the Bylaws/Resolutions committee. The representative may be changed later in some circumstances.

"Standing Rule 2016-01:

The bylaws/resolutions committee chair shall be authorized to correct article and section designations, punctuation, and cross-references and to make such other technical and conforming changes as may be necessary to reflect the intent of this organization.

Standing Rule 2016-02

Each regular affiliate president shall notify the office of the name and contact information for the affiliate’s bylaws/resolutions committee member immediately after appointment--no later than September 1. If the designated committee member must be changed after September 1, the office shall be notified no later than two weeks before the opening of the convention. A committee member substitution may be allowed after that time at the discretion of the MCB president."

ARTICLE XI COMMITTEES Section 5 B of the bylaws has been updated but the intent remains unchanged.

"Amendments to the bylaws and resolutions to be presented to the convention shall be submitted to the bylaws/resolutions committee chair no later than July 15 along with supporting documentation from

1. the names of two members, or

2. an MCB committee, or

3. a regular affiliate, or

4. a special interest affiliate."

Regular affiliate presidents please contact the office regarding your representative if necessary.

If you have questions, or bylaw or resolution submissions, my contact information is in the Chronicle insert.

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Convention Committee Report

By Jesuita Tabor, Convention Chairperson

The 2017 Convention will be held in Kansas City, Missouri at the Holiday Inn Country Club Plaza, 1 East 45th Street.  Call 816-753-7400 for reservations.  Schedule as follows is subject to change:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

1:00 PM - 6:00 PM                                               Registration/Vendors/Market Place

5:00 PM - 6:30 PM                                               City Tour $25

7:00 PM                                                                 Board Meeting 

Friday, October 6, 2017

7:30 AM                                                                 MGDU Breakfast

9:00 AM - 1:00 PM                                              Registration/Vendors/Market Place

9:00 AM                                                                 Health Education Advocate Meeting

10:00 AM                                                              Bi-Laws Meeting

11:30 AM                                                              President Luncheon 

1:00 PM                                                                 Convention

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM                                               Registration/Vendors/Market Place

5:15 PM                                                                 Meeting 

7:00 PM                                                                 Hospitality and Live Auction


Saturday, October 7, 2017

7:30AM                                                                 Library Users Breakfast

9:00 AM-11:00AM                                              Registration 

9:00 AM                                                                 Convention 

12:00 PM                                                               BRL Luncheon 

1:30 PM                                                                 Convention

5:15 PM                                                                 Catholic Services

7:00 PM                                                                 Banquet 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

7:00 AM                                                                 MCB Breakfast for everyone $12

8:00 AM                                                                 Protestant Service 

9:00 AM                                                                 Convention 

We are looking forward to seeing everyone at the Convention. Registration forms will be available in July. Contact Wanda by August 1st regarding Auction Items. Feel free to contact me at 314-383-2045 if you have any questions.

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Public Relations

By Wilma Chestnut-House

MCB members, I am writing this article to inform you that I am again running for PR.  This next term would be my last. 

I am still learning some things and still informing people about MCB, our programs, services that we provide, and our affiliates.  This year has been the best.  I feel that I am finally attracting people who honestly need and want help.  Asking members from other organization (Mary & Jannel) is something new this year and it has worked out really well.  I want to thank them also.  I am asking you guys to vote for me one more time.  It is an honor. Thanks once again.

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Vision Loss Plus

By Mary Hale, Dual Vision & Hearing Loss

I know many people say MCB is a blind and visually impaired organization, not a hearing loss organization. That is true, but please read on. Just because you have blindness does not mean that you cannot be affected with a hearing loss as well. In fact it is very likely as you age.

We know that the statistics on blindness and vision loss gets higher as we age. It is estimated that about one out of three people over the age of 65 will have some type of vision loss. As the aging population grows, so will the numbers of those with vision loss.

We also know that those with blindness rely on the other senses greatly, especially hearing. So losing one’s hearing is really important to also acknowledge and accept.

Did you know that the hearing loss statistics is that about 20 percent of the population have some hearing loss? Then at age 65, one out of three people will have a hearing loss. Hearing loss is a major public health issue that is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease. Gradual hearing loss can affect people of all ages, from mild to profound. Hearing loss can be sudden or a gradual decrease in how well you can hear. Depending on the cause, it can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The different degrees of hearing loss are: mild, moderate, severe, profound. Remember that hearing loss is an invisible condition; we cannot see hearing loss, only its effects. Because the presence of a hearing loss is not visible, these effects may be attributed to aloofness, confusion, or personality changes. There is a strong relationship between age and reported hearing loss. In age-related hearing loss, changes in the inner ear that happen as you get older cause a slow but steady hearing loss. The loss may be mild or severe, and it is always permanent. In older people, a hearing loss is often confused with, or complicates, such conditions as dementia.  More often than not, serious tinnitus (ringing in the ears) will accompany the hearing loss and may be just as debilitating as the hearing loss itself. Other causes of hearing loss include earwax buildup, an object in the ear, injury to the ear or head, ear infection, a ruptured eardrum, and other conditions that affect the middle or inner ear.  So please take your hearing seriously and see an Audiologist to determine if you have a hearing loss. Remember, with blindness, your hearing should be even more important.

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The St. Louis Firing Squad Beep Baseball Team

By Wilma Chestnut-House

Beep baseball is a modified version of softball for the blind and visually impaired.  To find out more about the game and how it is played, go to nbba.org.

The “Squad” is having a raffle to assist us in going to the World Series of Beep Ball.  Ten fifths of liquor, E&J brandy, Jose, Jack Daniels, just to name a few.  One ticket for $10 or 2 tickets for $15.  The drawing is on June 4, 2017.  You do not have to be present to win.  Purchase tickets from any team mate.  Call Wilma for more information at (314)873-9022

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Camp for Camp Abilities-St. Louis

By Wilma Chestnut-House

Are you ready?  Here is a bike ride and camping experience for the athlete in you!  On October 21-22, 2017, there will be a (50) fifty mile bike ride on the Katy Bike Trail.  Yes, fifty miles, but I know you can do it!  Start getting in shape now.  This will start in St. Charles, Missouri at the beginning of the trail.  There will be a truck to carry tents, small pits, coolers, and other gear to the camp site.

We will camp at Herman City Camping grounds. The fee is $15 for each tent. You pay when you get there.  Every ten miles we will have a table with water and energy boosters along with a medic.  We will also be taking pictures along the way. On Sunday, we will head back to St. Louis about 12:00 pm.  Easy on the beer Saturday night. (smile)

This is a fund raiser for Camp Abilities and the registration fee is $50.  This fee also helps pay for the t-shirt you will receive and insurance for the rider.  If you don’t want to ride, you can always give a donation.  We are tax exempt.  For the first male, first female, along with the first team that finishes will receive a special gift.  If you would like to participate, please contact Wilma at (314)873-9022 or wilmachouse@gmail.com

Msb.dese.mo.gov and click on summer programs.  Then go to camp abilities.  The date for sign up is June 1, 2017.

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MCB Award Nominations

By Denny Huff, MCB President

We have received very few nominations for our annual awards to be given at our convention this year.  Therefore; we are extending the deadline for submitting your nomination to June 30, 2017.

If you are a member of the Missouri Council of the Blind and would like to nominate someone for one of the following awards, send your nomination to DHuff@MoBlind.Org.  Or you can postal mail it to our office at the following address:

Award Nomination
Missouri Council of the Blind
5453 Chippewa St.
St. Louis, MO  63109

The deadline for the nominations is June 30, 2017.  Along with the nominee’s name, please include the reason you are nominating this person for that award.  The winners of these awards will be announced at our 2017 annual convention banquet to be held in Kansas City in October.

Criteria for Selection of Award recipients

The recipient of the Nathaniel Johnson Award may be either legally blind or sighted but shall be a member of MCB. The honoree shall be someone who has done outstanding work in his/her community, for his/her Affiliate, or for MCB.

The recipient of the Ellis M. Forshee Award may be either legally blind or sighted. The honoree shall be someone who has done something outstanding on the state or national level. He/she shall be someone who works with the legally blind or with legislation for the legally blind.

The Darrell Lauer "Outstanding Leadership Award" will be presented from time to time, when deemed appropriate, to an outstanding member of the Missouri Council of the Blind who has shown qualities of exemplary leadership in the organization and in the community.

The media award shall be presented from time to time to an individual or a media source that has shown outstanding promotion or news coverage to the Missouri Council of the Blind or to one of its affiliates.

The Community service award may be presented annually at the Missouri Council of the Blind convention.  The recipient of this award must be an organization who serves cross disabilities.  The organization will be eligible for this award because the organization provides a service or services that enable individuals with disabilities to become more integrated into society through participating in activities within the community.

Darrell Lauer 1940 - 2002

The Missouri Council of the Blind and the community lost a great friend and hard worker with the passing of Darrell Lauer on May 7, 2002. Legally blind since age 12, Darrell distinguished himself locally, regionally, and nationally for his dedication and advocacy for the blind, disabled, and elderly. He graduated from the Missouri School for the Blind, Central Missouri State University and received a Master of Social Work from Washington University in 1973.  Mr. Lauer began his professional career as a Head Start Counselor and in 1966 was promoted to Family Counselor. In 1971, he became a Consumer Branch Manager for the Human Development Corporation in St. Louis working with the local utility companies to facilitate services for the needy, disabled, and elderly.

He trained as an expert witness and lobbyist against the utility companies in conjunction with the Public Service Commission and worked for the passage of free information services for the disabled with AT&T and Southwestern Bell Corporation.

From 1982-2000, he was employed by SBC. He helped create Braille billing and arranged a national training program for certified disability leaders for ADA. He assisted in an initiative project involving 20 major corporations creating computer related internships for disabled individuals leading to permanent employment with the companies. All of these programs merited national awards for SBC and Darrell represented the company at the National presentations.

Darrell was appointed to the St. Louis County Commission for the Disabled in 1991. He served as president of the American Foundation for the Blind and the Missouri Council of the Blind. He served on the Board of Directors of organizations whose missions focused on aging, disability rights and independent living for the disabled. Some of those included The Greater St. Louis Area Boy Scouts Council, the Central Institute for the Deaf and the St. Louis Society for the Blind, which honored Darrell with a lifetime achievement award.  He was a past secretary of Paraquad. He was the president of the Midwest Regional Board of the American Foundation of the Blind from 1988-1995 and made a lifetime honorary board member.

Mr. Lauer was the first person to receive the National ADA Medal. Other awards received by Mr. Lauer include HDC Employee of the Year, twice the Humanitarian Award from the National Silver-Haired Congress, twice the Arkansas Traveler Award and the United Way Man of the Year for Community Services.

Each year, Darrell enjoyed doing the broadcast of the Veiled Prophet Parade, through downtown St. Louis, over Radio Information Service. Darrell arranged with the Telephone Pioneers so he could describe the parade to blind people, which they could hear over the radio or headsets. He organized the first “beep” baseball and “beep” sailing program with the help of the Telephone Pioneers.

Nathanial Johnson

Nate, as he was known by his many friends, graduated from the Missouri School for the Blind in 1959. He was a classmate of Darrel Lauer. From high school he went on to college at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. After college he was employed in social work positions in the St. Louis area. He then moved on to home teaching and counseling with Rehabilitation Services for the Blind and worked out of the Sikeston, Missouri office covering much of Southeast Missouri.

He was an extremely gregarious and likeable individual, made many friends, and was responsible for bringing many people into the MCB. He played a strong part in the organization and founding of the Delta Area Council of the Blind. He served the MCB as secretary and this organization was very near and dear to his heart. All were saddened by his untimely death from prostate cancer in the mid 1980’s. He had a kind of gruff voice similar to Fats Domino. In fact, it could have been a bit difficult when you heard it to know who was playing the piano and singing, “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill,” Nate or Fats.  Nathanial Johnson was so well liked MCB wanted to honor him by giving an award in his name. The award was previously known as the Federationist of the Year Award.

Ellis M. Forshee

Ellis M. Forshee graduated from the Missouri School for the Blind in 1913. In those days, there were not many options open to young, blind men seeking a living. Some became chiropractors; others went into the legal profession, and some worked on street corners playing music or selling pencils. Many worked in industries for the blind making brooms and mops in what was known as the "broom shop”. Others sold the mops and brooms door to door. Forshee worked in a shop where he was often observed walking around tapping his cane and talking to any and every one. He never met a stranger. He talked easily with anyone about anything.

Forshee was an early member of The United Workers for the Blind of Missouri, the first organized group of blind people, formed in 1912. He was active in legislative matters, making numerous trips to Jefferson City to speak with state legislators regarding the establishment of a blind pension program. It was only natural when the MCB as a young, fledgling organization, wanted to name a legislative award that they paid tribute to this individual and chose the name, The Ellis M. Forshee Award.

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My First CSUN

By Barbara Sheinbein

Last fall I made a decision to attend my first California State University-Northridge Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, California. It was the 32nd conference with the general sessions running from March 1-3, 2017.

What I will attempt to do in this article is to give you my impressions, information on some technology and reviews from some conference sessions. Keep in mind this is just my own view. I am not a power technology user and went as an individual not representing any business or employer. For your reference, I will include web sites for additional details when available.

Before departing for the conference, I did a lot of preparation. It is not required, but it sure made my experience more effective. The entire conference program and hotel menus were available in three electronic formats a week prior to the conference. I took advantage of this to select at least two conference sessions for each time slot that I would like to attend. Then I loaded these selections and other information on the technology I brought to use during the conference. For some items, I did have paper braille as well. There were about 120 exhibitors in the Exhibit hall. I pre-selected 25 vendors that I wanted to visit. Since time was limited, there was no way to visit them all. I read the very accessible CSUN web site thoroughly beforehand and gathered a lot of other useful information.

The Hyatt is large with open spaces which included a lot of braille signage. However, there was not an indoor electronic navigation system available for the blind. A navigation system would have been helpful. I realized very quickly, that I was not going to be successful traveling around the hotel on my own. I overheard another blind person say this conference was spread out more than any ACB national convention he had previously attended. So, I asked for help and got everywhere I needed to be on time with the aid of very kind conference staff, fellow attendees and hotel employees. I attended a total of 17 conference sessions and spent about six hours in the Exhibit hall. There was no accessibility for blind attendees to get around in the Exhibit hall, so I requested help and received it like I did in the main conference area. I was at the conference for a minimum of 9.5 to 11 hours each day.

Here are some of the technology and sessions highlights that I wish to share. To me the most creative and innovative item was at Touch Graphics. They have the ability to make nearly anything into an interactive talking 3D model. At their booth, there was a model of a blue whale. This whale had ten spots which spoke when touched. The announcements included telling you what part of the whale was touched, something about how the whale used that part and when possible, the sounds the whale made with that part. An example of one touch spot was its mouth. With another tap, you could silence the speech. It had a tiny human model next to the blue whale to give an idea of the relative size.

I also attended a session by the company's President, he explained in very straightforward terms how he made this model. This model was made using a 3D printer. The software file was free, and so was the whale sounds and the information provided by the whale. The electronics used for the touch sensors was made from common products. The whale was painted for appropriate appearance. Just think on this, this is great for blind people, but also for kids. Any organization can acquire the whale and get lots of use with the general public making this a more productive acquisition. An attendee asked if these models can be used outdoors. We were told that temperature is not a problem, but water is not good. He shared a story of another model he made of a Buddha which is under glass at a museum. He took maybe 1000 photos of the Buddha and used a free software program to get a file ready for 3D printing. The rest was similar in its construction. This same technology can be applied to all sorts of things including touch screens and maps. This process seems to hold unlimited possibilities for education, museums and other public institutions. Touch Graphics web site is http://www.touchgraphics.com.

Next I want to share a bit of information on two products from American Printing House. The first is the long anticipated Orbit which is a 20 cell braille display. The big news on this display is that it cost less than $500. After taking a brief look at it, it seemed to have the typical functions one expects from a braille display. All operations worked as I would like. It is expected to be shipping very soon and I was advised to watch the APH web site for the exact date. They also had a prototype of a device named Graphiti. It is an interactive graphics display. Although the model presented is a bit smaller, the final version will have a full page size display full of pins which move at various heights to form the graphic. You can draw using your fingers, edit images, and zoom to focus on specific sections of a graphic's image. This device is lightweight and portable. Just think of the times you have run into an online bar chart/graph or maybe an arena diagram and you can understand the benefits of this device. Similar technology is being used here as with the Orbit, so the retail price should be palatable. The expected release for the device is about one year. APH website is http://www.aph.org.

If you are not comfortable using a touch screen or have a disability which makes this difficult, there is a possible device for you. Mobience's RIVO is a gadget with 20 solid buttons designed to help blind people use smartphones. This hand held device has separate buttons to replicate the hand gestures. I did test it briefly with an iPhone. You can find more on this device at http://www.mobience.com .

One of the BEST conference sessions I attended was on Planning an Accessible Event. The presenters were both from the California Department of Rehabilitation. They pointed out that with the current laws, it is basically accommodate or litigate when it comes to accessible event planning. The presenters reviewed various practical things both for the physical part of the event and the materials passed out at the event. They closed with several references to get lists of information to help set up an accessible event. Below are links to their suggestions.

This is the hyperlink to the Planning an Accessible Event resource available on the Disability Access Services webpage: http://www.dor.ca.gov/DisabilityAccessInfo/Planning-Accessible-Public-Meetings.html.

The links to the two Planning Checklists discussed during the presentation, as well as, the 'Boost Your Business Accessibility' videos:

1. Checklist from the American Bar Association Planning Accessible Events http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/mental_physical_disability/Accessible_Meetings_Toolkit.authcheckdam.pdf

2. Massachusetts Commonwealth Planning Accessible Meetings and Events http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/health-equity/planning-for-accessible-events.pdf

3. Department of Rehabilitation's Boost-Your-Business Accessibility physical videos http://www.dor.ca.gov/DisabilityAccessInfo/Boost-Your-Business.html

Another excellent presentation was given by a member of the United Kingdom government. The UK's Government Digital Service has looked at accessibility challenges. Alistair Duggin presented a well thought out review of the UK accessibility successes and challenges in modifying government web sites. Their process of implementation and evaluation was very complete, as well as easy to follow the progress and issues as they came up. These were real day-to-day things that a large organization encounters when creating accessible web sites. Their approach can certainly be used by others to get web sites accessible.

One of the prime activities at the conference was networking with others. While sitting in a session, a man behind me mentioned his company used disabled people to test technology and other products/services for businesses. There was a brief lull in the session, so I asked if he needed additional disabled people as testers for his company. Testers do not need to be power users. David Fazio said YES and gave me his business card. At this time, I have not contacted this company, so visit their website for more details. The company, Helix Opportunity, can be reached at http://www.helixopp.com.

I attended two different sessions on navigation. One was from Microsoft with their Cities Unlocked way finding program. The headset and software is currently being tested in London, United Kingdom. They said it is having success and went into detail on several experiences that blind people have had getting around. I also attended a session on indoor navigation. There were a number of different companies each with their own system. For me, this is one of several problems I have with the status of this current technology. There is not a single system and none are compatible with the others. Each system had beacons, which need to be mounted to work with the apps for their systems. Another existing option mentioned, was a very precise high tech GPS which can be used indoors. However it was immediately said that the cost for that GPS was prohibitive for general use. There is a lot of enthusiasm among the companies, but this technology appears to be a work in progress.

I did earn a bit of money during the conference in the form of gift cards. Starbucks was there in the exhibit hall to have their IOSS app tested by disabled people. I did a simple ten minute evaluation and received a $5 Starbucks card with a Braille label. The second usability study I participated in was a 30 minute interview with Amazon. I did have to sign a nondisclosure document not to share what took place in the interview. The only thing I will say is that none of the questions were anything unusual. I received a $50 electronic Amazon gift card for my time.

I had looked forward to learning about the many Amazon products which I knew little about. Amazon was one of eight companies which had their own conference room. In the rear of Amazon's room was a small kitchen, office and living room. Each space had specific products available to explore. There were several Amazon employees available to help and answer questions. One of my favorite items was Alexa, so I had Alexa operate a number of things like turning off/on lights, locking and unlocking a deadbolt lock, and turning off/on an oven. With major appliances becoming less blind friendly to operate, this may be our most reasonable solution. I did learn a lot about their products which will assist me in making future purchasing decisions.Amazon.com is their main web site. Some additional web pages you may find of help are Accessibility information at https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200259430 and Amazon Echo at https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200259430

One of my personal goals was to get answers to various technology questions from specific companies. Prior to attending the conference, I had prepared questions for Microsoft, Canon, Google, and the KNFB app. Fortunately, I was successful getting answers to my questions although I was not always happy with the answers. Some of those answers were resulting in telling me I could not perform a task I wanted to do. The other questions I had were for Yahoo and their web site. I was given a tech support email for Yahoo questions which is accessibility@yahoo-inc.com. Since the end of the conference, I submitted my questions to them and received replies.

My final thoughts, this was a wonderful experience. This article only covers a small portion of my trip. I did learn a lot on a wide range of technology and programs. In addition, I also learned about some technology and programs which are not a good fit for me personally. This is also important. For the future, I would encourage anyone who can take the time and budget the funds to attend this conference. You do not need to be a power user to attend. There were people with all sorts of technology backgrounds there. This conference is one of a small group of conferences you can feel comfortable attending on your own and get assistance if you need it.

P. S. There are quite a lot of audio interviews from CSUN on the Blind Bargains Audio site: http://blindbargains.com/audio/

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