The UCB Flier
A publication of
Utah Council of the Blind
For the latest news updates call the Utah Connection 801-299-0670 or 1‑800-273-4569. (You may also leave a message at the end of the announcement.) Mail correspondence to: UCB, PO Box 1415, Bountiful, UT 84011-1415. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue
Important: Clarification of February Activity................................................ 2
Apply Now! UCB Scholarship..................................................................... 3
A New Year's Resolution Is Something That Goes in One Year and Out the Other, AN AFTER-HOLIDAY POEM.................................................... 3
Upcoming Activities.................................................................................... 4
Easter Egg Hunt..................................................................................... 4
UCB's First Training Conference............................................................ 4
Latest Calendar with Updates.................................................................... 4
Free Tax Preparation................................................................................. 5
Book Review: The Happening: A Carol for All Seasons............................. 6
Lending Technology Library....................................................................... 7
Free to First Comers.................................................................................. 7
Overview of UCB Programs....................................................................... 7
Need Help Learning New Blindness Skills?............................................ 8
Marking appliances................................................................................. 8
Transportation Assistance...................................................................... 9
Personal Braille Projects....................................................................... 10
Ceramics Class..................................................................................... 10
Do you need help with reading bills, etc.?............................................. 10
Adaptive Technology Grant.................................................................. 11
6 Women Undergrads at MIT Invented a Game Changer For the Blind... 11
Press Release: Deaf Blind Writers' New Book Inspires Hope & Strength. 14
General UCB Information......................................................................... 16
Greetings, UCB Members and Friends,
I hope you have all had a great start to this new year and that you are full of excitement for 2017. At UCB headquarters we are all looking forward to what the UCB will be bringing to you. A few examples are our monthly activities. TerriLynne Pomeroy always does a great job at providing diverse, unique, and informative activities. We are also looking forward to the ACB's National Conference right in our back yard in Reno, Nevada, so close we can almost touch it.
Leslie and Kate are constantly working on grants so we can continue to provide you with all the programs that we use and love.
Aunilie and Tracey are feverishly updating our membership list to make sure everybody's information is correct and current.
And don’t forget, we would love to have you join us at our monthly business meetings, where you can share your ideas or just observe and learn.
The February activity, a snowshoeing or cross-country ski outing with Splore, is scheduled for Saturday, the 18th of February. There are still openings for ten or eleven people, so hurry and send your reservations of $15 per person to: UCB, PO Box 1415, Bountiful, UT 84011-1415. Participation will be based on a first come first served basis.
For this winter adventure, we can choose snowshoeing and sledding as one option or cross country skiing as the second option. Snowshoeing is a little more like hiking. On the other hand, cross country skiing is more of a sliding motion. You use poles to balance yourself for both types of activity. If you have a preference, please let your thoughts be known by leaving a message at the Utah Connection after the recording of activities.
To participate in this activity, meet at DSBVI at 9:00 a.m. We will be returning to DSBVI by about 4:30 p.m. There will also be a lodge where you can take a break and have lunch or a hot drink. The cost for your food and drink will be on your own.
Money needs to be received by Monday, February 11.
It is once again time to apply for the UCB scholarship. Scholarship winners will be honored at the technology training conference on April 29. If you are interested in making application, you can either leave your name and phone number on the Utah Connection for a call back or access the application on our web site: www.utahcounciloftheblind.org.
month after Christmas, and all through the house
nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.
The cookies I'd nibbled, the eggnog I'd taste
At the holiday parties had gone to my waist.
When I got on the scales there
arose such a number!
When I walked to the store (less a walk than a lumber).
I'd remember the marvelous meals I'd prepared;
The gravies and sauces and beef nicely rared,
The wine and the rum balls, the bread and the cheese
And the way I'd never said, 'No thank you, please.'
As I dressed myself in my husband's
And prepared once again to do battle with dirt--
I said to myself, as I only can
'You can't spend a winter disguised as a man!'
So-away with the last of the sour
Get rid of the fruit cake, every cracker and chip
Every last bit of food that I like must be banished
'Til all the additional ounces have vanished
I won't have a cookie--not even a
I'll only chew on a long celery stick.
I won't have hot biscuits, or corn bread, or pie,
I'll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.
I'm hungry, I'm lonesome, and life is a bore.
But isn't that what January is for?
Unable to giggle, no longer a riot.
Happy New Year to all and to all a good diet!
The Easter Egg Hunt has been scheduled this year for Saturday, April 1st. As always, it will be held at DSBVI, 250 N 1950 W. Look for additional details next month.
This year, because of the emphasis being put on the ACB conference in Reno, the UCB is doing its training a little differently. We will be holding 2 or 3 separate days of training throughout the year. The first training event is now scheduled for Saturday, April 29.
Our focus will be on technology. We will be looking at the ways in which technology impacts the lives of all of us, from thermometers to computers, from flashlights to electronic magnification. It should be fun and informative. We will also be having an awards luncheon where we will be giving our annual awards and scholarships.
Mail checks or money orders for any activities to UCB, PO Box 1415, Bountiful, UT 84011-1415. They need to reach us by dates given. Unless otherwise noted, classes and activities listed below are held at the Division of Services for the Blind, 250 N 1950 W, Suite B, Salt Lake City.
· Wednesday, February 11: money due for the snow day activity.
· Saturday, February 18 2017, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Snowshoeing and sledding, or, cross country skiing at Silver Lake
· Friday, February 24, 2017 3:45 PM: UCB Board meeting DSBVI Conference Room R
· Friday, March 10, 2017, 6:00 PM: Ogden Association of the Blind (OAB) Spring Gala: Ogden's Historic Union Station
· Friday, March 24: 3:45 PM: UCB Board meeting DSBVI Conference Room R
· Saturday, April 1, Easter Egg Hunt, DSBVI
· Friday, April 28: 3:45 PM: UCB Board meeting DSBVI Conference Room R
· Saturday, April 29: UCB Training Conference, focus on technology
Filing your state and federal taxes is easy and simple! If you make $60,000 or less you qualify to have your taxes prepared for free!
You can file your taxes in two different ways:
1. You can file your taxes utilizing the skills and expertise of one of our IRS certified volunteers by visiting a designated Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site. There you will be matched with a volunteer trained to assist you. If your household income is $53,000 or less you qualify to have your taxes prepared for free at a VITA site. Call 2-1-1 or 1-888-826-9790 to schedule an appointment.
2. You can also file your taxes for free from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a computer, internet access, an email account, and all of your tax documentation. The process takes about 60 minutes. If your household income is $60,000 or less, you qualify to file online for free. If you are going to file online for free make sure to download and print these instructions to help you through the process.
If you have questions or are experiencing difficulties (including if you are accidentally charged by the online software), please contact the national helpline at 1-855-698-9435. Hours of Operation: Monday-Saturday, 7:00AM-8:00PM MST. Email support: email@example.com. Website: http://utahtaxhelp.org
Reviewed by Leslie Gertsch
The happening: A Carol for All Seasons, available from BARD, book number DB08884
by John Wahtera. Reading time: 2 hours, 32 minutes.
"The Happening" is “A Carol for all Seasons,” so even though it takes place at Christmas, its many messages apply always. This book has been a favorite of mine for many years. It is one I excitedly reread every Christmas. The story is full of the many sides of mankind including his many kindnesses, as well as examples of his occasional cruelties. Each time I read it I feel like it is for the first time, because I see new aspects of the characters.
The story covers about three days prior to Christmas. Digby is a struggling painter who lives in a rundown home waiting for demolition. The time seems to be that of the sixties in what I remember as the time of Hippies. Blossom is Digby’s girl friend who is about to have a baby. Together, they make a home for stray animals and people alike. The neighborhood is very run down. There is an older church across the street next to an orphanage. Big Mohamed is a huge black man who is angry about black prejudice and who contemplates revenge on all whites. The reverend is a sweet gentle man who has missed out on his dreams of doing good in his calling. Poverty has been a major factor in squashing his dreams and causing him to drink a little too much.
Three days before Christmas, Digby realizes he needs to get married in order to protect his child. He also notices the children at the orphanage and decides these children need to have just one great event in their lives. With the reverend’s help, he begins to plan a happening. Big Mohamed offers his services, hoping to find a means to get revenge on the white suppressors. Together, the three work to create a great night of music, dancing and surprises for the children. Once the ball gets rolling, it balloons, almost out of control. Everyone gets involved until there is scarcely room in the church to hold everyone.
While the plans for the happening expand and then explode, Blossom and Digby prepare for their new baby. On the night of the great event, the mayor decides to use the event as a political statement. Things escalate from there, culminating in the most hysterically funny ending, which you must read to get the full impact. Across the street, Blossom is having her own happening which also touches many hearts.
The story is rich in human emotion. Hurt feelings, angry resentment, despair, loneliness, and more. Overall, one learns how a kind word, a gentle touch, a gesture of friendship, an act of service makes a difference in a person’s life. The caring and sharing changes nearly everyone. Read it, be sad, and then, laugh your head off. Both emotions are good for all of us.
Vickie Jaquier is offering to lend certain small pieces of adaptive technology to those who do not have one of their own or who cannot afford to purchase one. The items must be returned when the individual can acquire their own. This technology lending service is the dream child of Vickie Jaquier, who is visually impaired and knows what it is like to really want and need a piece of technology and not be able to afford it. If you would like to know more, call her at 801-967-6976 and ask questions. This is also the person you must approach to see what is available. Don't wait until everything is loaned out. If you have something you would like to place in this lending technology library please speak to her about it. Good luck!
The UCB has three print books about advocacy and the legal process. These were donated by a firm dealing with criminal cases. Included with each book is a gift card valued at $500 for legal services from The Advocates. If you wish to have one, please call the Utah Connection and leave your name and contact information.
In addition to the programs described below, the UCB helps with advocacy and referral, provides a variety of educational/social/recreational activities, and publishes informative newsletters in many accessible formats including braille, large print, e-mail, and recordings. The organization is directed by volunteers, all of whom seek to increase the independence and self-reliance of people with sight loss. Let the organization help make your life rich and exciting.
The UCB offers the service of teacher/trainer teams to visit you in your home and assist you to learn blindness skills. They can help with computers and other technology or teach you braille. They will mark your appliances, help organize your clothing, food, and some papers. You can learn from them how to cook safely and how to move about your home and yard safely. These are just a few things these teams can provide if you request it. These teams serve from Kanab to Logan, including Price, Cedar City area, Roosevelt area, Manti, Tooele and surrounding cities and of course, across the Wasatch Front.
Many of you have taken advantage of the UCB's teacher/trainer teams to learn blindness skills and perform other tasks in your home. One of the many services the teams offer is that of marking appliances. This can be accomplished in many ways. Most people use dots placed in strategic spots to help one know how to operate the appliance. Tina Terry, one of our teachers writes of another resource.
"I was recently listening to a podcast and heard about a new product that I thought would be very helpful in the blind community. These are either overlays or stickers (called icons) that can be used on household appliances such as microwaves, ovens, washers, and dryers. These markers are made of clear silicone so that they would not be an interference for sighted persons. The markers consist of different shapes rather than just dots. For instance, an x is used for stop or cancel, stair steps indicate power level, and so on." This idea could make it easier to remember which button or key is which. You can buy a package of icons to mark the microwave as desired or by providing the make and model of the appliance; the overlay will be made for that particular appliance. Of course, there is a cost for the specialized work.
The stickers and overlays can be ordered at www.tangiblesurfaceresearch.com. The stickers are $5.00 and the overlays are $30.00.
One of the teams would be happy to help you order these and install them if you wish. For more information about the teacher/trainer teams call the Connection and leave your name and contact number. Someone will call you to make an appointment.
The UCB offers two types of transportation assistance. The first program offers a discount on a limited number of cab coupons each month. For $64 you can purchase $160 in cab transportation each month. An extra $6 is required if you want them mailed to your home. Coupons can also be purchased at the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 250 N 1950 W, Salt Lake City on Wednesdays from noon to 3:00 p.m. Since this service is run by volunteers and UCB board member Donni Mitchell, it is best to call in advance to be certain she is there. Remember, these coupons can be carried over to the next month. The UCB contracts with most cab companies from St. George to Cache Valley. Park City and Cedar City are also included. If you find a company you wish to use, please contact the UCB and a contract with that company will be offered.
The Yellow Cab Company of Salt Lake prints its own coupons. This means these coupons can only be used with that company.
The UCB prints white coupons which can be used with all other contracted companies. They can be used in St. George, Salt Lake, or Logan for example.
The second program is only for members. It offers mileage reimbursement to a driver of your choice who is not a member of your household. If you have a question about the driver's eligibility, call 801-292-1156. A member is able to purchase up to 300 miles a month for only $45 which is $.15 a mile. Of course, the person can purchase less, and the coupons can be carried over to other months. The transportation is great for people living in the rural areas or for those wishing to travel where public transportation does not go. It is called the Driver/Guide Program, because the driver is supposed to act as your guide, as well. The driver receives $.50 a mile for his driving when he/she turns in the coupons along with the signed form for reimbursement. These coupons can be paid for by check or can be purchased with a credit card. For more information about this, call the number above.
This program provides a source for a braille reader to have a print document transcribed into braille for personal use. From time to time it provides a specific book for the individual to own. People have had such items as their wills, medical directions, small personal directories, information for meetings, training manuals and other similar items for personal use. To apply for this program, leave your name and contact information on the Connection.
The UCB offers a ceramics class at the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired on Wednesdays during much of the year. These classes will begin again in February. We are also looking for volunteers to help the participants identify paints and to perform other services. Recommendations of volunteers would be much appreciated. If you would like to paint beautiful items or learn to mold other objects in clay, come join us on Wednesdays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. For more information, call UCB president, Anna Jeffery at 801-654-3772.
Another helpful program for members only is the Reader Program.
The UCB member using this program is able to provide a small reimbursement for a trusted friend or neighbor to read mail, take care of personal correspondence, or read any other needed item. Once again, the reader cannot be a roommate or family member. Unfortunately, the UCB does not have recommendations for readers. It is felt that someone you trust would be the best choice to perform this service.
On a monthly basis, ten hours of service can be purchased for $20. Fewer hours can be purchased each month at a cost of $2 for each hour. The coupons will work in subsequent months.
Readers are reimbursed when coupons are returned with the form provided. The reimbursement is for $5.00 per hour. This program makes it possible to take care of your mail, pay your bills and remain in control of your personal affairs.
The adaptive Technology Grant is a favorite of those who wish to use adaptive technology, but can't quite afford the cost. Unfortunately, there is a limit on how much the UCB can grant, so ask about that when you request an application. Applications are available online or by mail. Many people have been able to acquire much coveted Victor Reader Streams, Braille writers, iPhones, laptop computers with voice, some enlargement programs for computers, and more. The individual is required to pay one-fourth of the cost of the technology. Remember, the technology must be adapted for people with sight loss. It is meant to help a person be more independent and able to access the sighted world. To request an application, leave your name and contact information on the Connection.
Six women, all undergraduate students at MIT, have invented a text to braille scanner that significantly advances the state of the art for text scanners, most of which convert text to speech. The patent-pending device is not yet available in the marketplace, but the inventors are committed to the project, called Tactile, full-time upon graduation in the spring.
The team comprises three students in Mechanical Engineering, Jialin Shi, Charlene Xia and Grace Li; two students in Electrical Engineering, Tania Yu and Chandani Doshi; and Bonnie Wang, who studies Materials Sciences.
A spokesperson for Microsoft points out that women hold just 5.5 percent of commercial patents in the United States. The company is trying to change that by providing pro bono legal support to female inventors. Team Tactile has been accepted into this program.
Keely Swan, IDEAS Global Challenge Administrator at MIT, boasts, “The Tactile team won a $10,000 grant in last year’s MIT IDEAS Global Challenge, an annual innovation, service, and social entrepreneurship program run by MIT’s Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center. The program helps students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to real-world challenges. As one of our winning teams, Tactile received a 15-month grant, and we’ll work with them through summer 2017 as they refine their project.”
Keely describes the team’s work ethic and effort on their winning project. “When I first read the Tactile project plan, it was clear that they had spent time working with people who are visually impaired to understand the challenges they face, and how a real-time text-to-Braille converter could help them read almost anything, from product labels to sensitive personal information like bank statements and medical paperwork. After developing a prototype at a hackathon, Tactile continued working closely with partners and prospective users to refine the concept and create a device they believe can significantly improve the quality of life for people with visual impairments.”
Paul Parravano, Co-director of Government and Community Relations at MIT, is visually impaired and has advised the Tactile Team during their product development efforts. He says the market is full of devices, many of which are expensive. Braille display devices cost about $1,500 and they don’t scan documents at that price.
The team hasn’t set a price point, but they believe they can produce their device for just $100, giving them the opportunity to price theirs well below the price of competing devices that don’t provide scanning.
Parravano points out that pricing is key. Many visually impaired people are unemployed or underemployed and therefore don’t have resources for expensive technology. He says, if the team can price the product below $1,500 it could represent a real breakthrough.
With a target price approaching $100, this could represent a quantum leap forward for the blind community.
Team member Jialin Shi adds, “According to the National Federation of the Blind, only 40.4% of adults with significant vision loss were employed in 2014 and more than 30% live below the poverty line.”
Shi describes the team’s bold plan, “We want to make Tactile affordable and accurate. If we can do that, then we believe we will be able to increase the braille literacy rate, and in turn, increase the employment rate of adults with significant vision loss. We think it’s incredibly important to invest in technology that will enable, empower and allow people with disabilities to go and do amazing things. Getting Tactile to a point where we can sell it for $100 or less would be ideal, and would allow us to help many more people than the technologies that exist today.”
The device isn’t market ready, yet. Team member Bonnie Wang explains, “There is a lot of work we still have to do to refine our product. The largest roadblock is shrinking the size of our braille linear actuation mechanism to meet the size requirements of standard braille characters. We are continuing to make steps in decreasing the size of our device to make it portable for users.”
The biggest limitation the team faces is the state of optical character recognition (OCR) technology. “One limitation is the complexity of processing images of irregular surfaces. Especially with the limited processing power of our device, it is difficult to adjust for folds in the surface and distortions in text,” Wang says.
Despite the challenges and limitations, Keely notes that what they have accomplished is remarkable. “I have been deeply impressed by the team’s knowledge, passion, and ability to work together quickly and effectively. The IDEAS Global Challenge judges were also impressed by how much the team accomplished in such a short period of time.”
Shi explains the team’s vision for the product’s impact. “Ultimately, this will provide people with visual impairment access to information that they wouldn’t otherwise have. No more than 5 percent of books have braille translations. Tactile would allow them to read anything they wanted from text books and novels to food labels and mathematical equations. It truly would open up a world of opportunity for an entire community of people.”
The team’s efforts have impact beyond the community of people with visual impairments, Keely points out. “As an all-female undergraduate team, they are setting a great example for other young women and girls, demonstrating what they can accomplish in science, technology, and engineering.”
Submitted by Ramona Rice: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (801) 430-8833
A group of 28 writers touched by Usher syndrome tell their stories to end the isolation and to support research for a cure.
After two years of collaborative effort to create a book, Walk in My Shoes is finally complete! This book is a unique collection of 27 powerful stories by 28 individuals who are experiencing or witnessing the challenges of losing not one, but two senses: hearing and sight. The writers of Walk in My Shoes offer a glimpse into living with Usher syndrome, a progressive disease leading to blindness and deafness. Walk in My Shoes speaks to the more than 400,000 people worldwide dealing with Usher syndrome, to their families, to the professionals working with them, and to the rest of the world.
The writers of Walk in My Shoes come from all walks of life from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. They want to be seen and heard, even while their vision and hearing fail them. Their desire is to connect other people with Usher syndrome at annual Usher Syndrome Coalition conferences by promoting awareness in their communities and sharing this inspirational book. All proceeds from book sales will be donated to the Usher Syndrome Coalition to help fund scholarships and support research for a cure. These writers inspire hope for anyone dealing with difficult life challenges. Even though they may not see or hear, they have so much to teach us about the human spirit, overcoming harsh obstacles and seeking equality in a society that does not understand them. Read their stories to see how they do it, to feel inspired, and to learn more about how you can help.
Ramona Rice, book creator and project manager, who has Usher syndrome type 2, conceived the idea to raise awareness about deaf blindness from powerful, hopeful, humorous and compelling stories in Walk in My Shoes and to support researchers to find a cure. She feels strongly that Walk in My Shoes will inspire many people around the world to unite together and to make a difference for those suffering from deaf blindness.
Steve Perreault, Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults, says: "An important new publication … that will provide information, support, and encouragement to others diagnosed with Usher syndrome, their families, friends, and service providers. Congratulations to the authors and the organizers who brought this project to fruition!”
Gislin Dagnelie, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at John Hopkins University of Medicine, Baltimore, MD observes that “This book is full of inspiring stories, written by some of the most resilient and creative people I have ever met–or hope to meet soon.”
Walk in My Shoes edited by Charlotte J. DeWitt and published by Merrimack Media
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-945756-11-5 $18.98; 282pp. Order from https://www.createspace.com/6758150
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-945756-12-2 $8.99. Order at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MSXMO5X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481393776&sr=8-1&keywords=walk+in+my+shoes%2C+charlotte+dewitt
Usher Syndrome Coalition:
We are always looking for articles or interesting tidbits of information from our readers or other interested persons. The deadline for submitting items for publication is the 1st of the month, e.g. the deadline for the March newsletter is February 1st. You may e-mail any articles you wish to submit for our newsletter to our newsletter editor, TerriLynne Pomeroy, at email@example.com, or send Braille or large print to UCB Newsletter, PO Box 1415, Bountiful, UT 84011-1415; please allow extra time for processing Braille or large print.
The UCB Flier is available in large print, Braille, audio cassette tape, audio CD, as a Microsoft Word and a plain text file on CD, and by e-mail. If you would prefer to receive your newsletter in a different format, please call the Utah Connection or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
Disclaimer: Articles and announcements included in this publication are presented for your information and interest. They reflect the opinions of the respective authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the UCB.
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