Published quarterly by
Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired
An Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind
Vol. 63 Spring 2020 No. 2
Return to: Free matter for KABVI the Blind and
712 S. Kansas Ave., Ste. 410 Visually Impaired
Topeka, KS 66603-308
KANSAS ASSOCIATION for the BLIND
and VISUALLY IMPAIRED
Corporate Office, 712 S. Kansas Ave. Suite 410
Topeka, KS 66603-3080
(785) 235-8990 - in Kansas 1-800-799-1499
Editor Associate Editor
Michael Byington Ann Byington
Phone: (785) 233-3839
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Membership Secretary, KABVI, 712 S. Kansas Ave. Suite 410, Topeka, KS 66603-3080
KABVI NEWS promotes the general welfare of blind and visually impaired persons in Kansas. KABVI NEWS reflects the philosophy, and policies of the Association, reports the activities of its members, and includes pertinent articles pertaining to blindness and low vision.
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Annual meeting notices and membership renewal letters are sent to all persons on KABVI’s mailing list. If notices are returned as undeliverable, those names are removed from the mailing list and their subscriptions to KABVI NEWS discontinued. Membership is open to everyone interested but is not required for receipt of KABVI NEWS. A membership renewal form on which to indicate your current information and format preference is included at the end of each issue of KABVI NEWS. Thank you for helping us keep KABVI’s records current
Table of Contents
Gleanings from the President, By Ann Byington, page 4
The Editor Ponders, By Michael Byington, page 5
Heads up – What Happened to IDEA:
How to Distinguish News from Noise and What Happens Next By Mark Richert, Esq., page 7
Covid 19 O&M Update:
Safety Precautions Related to Basic Sighted Guide Skills,
By Ann heard and Johnson Mdului,
and Submitted by Dona Sauerburger, page 10
A Painless Way To Help KABVI, By Michael Byington,
Computer just setting there? By Nancy Johnson, page 14
Tina Jenkins Condition Much Improved, By Michael Byington, page, 15
Voter Access In These Changing Times, By Michael Byington, page 16
ACB Weighs In On Accessible Vote-By Mail, Submitted by Kelly Gasque, page 20
O&M Instructor Outfoxed By Bright Student, By Michael Byington, page 21
Tantalizing Tidbits, Compiled by Ann Byington, page 23
Chapter Chatter, compiled by Joanne Martin and Michael Byington, page 27
In Memoriam, By Michael Byington, page 28
Membership Application, page 29
GLEANINGS FROM THE PRESIDENT
By Ann Byington
As I write this, we are preparing for our first ZOOM Board meeting tomorrow, which meant purchasing an account, through Michael’s LLC, that Michael and I can use, learning how to set up meetings, getting everyone’s email and notifying our Board members who don’t use computers of how they can join the meeting by phone.
Our “stay at home” lifestyle has caused me to learn new technology, a good thing, though somewhat frustrating at times.
Our household has also changed as we had to euthanize our sweet Hansel, my retired guide dog, in March. I’ve done this 5 times in my life and it doesn’t get easier though our vet and her tech came to the house which made it easier. Hansel’s ashes join our other dogs on the bookshelves in the rec room.
I’m not sure what the future will bring for KABVI. We have started cataloging our braille library, are receiving scholarship applications, etc. The Board will help me decide what kind of Annual meeting we will have this year. ACB is having a virtual convention which means all of you computer users can attend it through Zoom, and non-computer users can attend by telephone. It looks to be quite exciting.
The Editor Ponders
By Michael Byington
I am writing this article from my office. Yes, I am in here despite the quarantine. I do not feel that I am breaking the rules, however. KABVI really does not have any volunteers working in the office during this quarantine time. There are a very few people working in private offices in this building, but the doors are locked. Most people who usually work here are working from home or not at all. I therefore am more sequestered sheltering in place here even than I am at home with my wife.
On Tuesday Topics on American Council of the Blind (ACB) Radio, former ACB President, Paul Edwards, lead a very informative discussion on how the Covid 19 virus is impacting the lives of blind people around the Country. Many people joined the discussion through Zoom. That brings me to something funny that happened.
It seems that the Zoom platform is having a lot of trouble with hackers. They crash meetings and sometimes put visual pornography into the meeting or flood the audio portion with nasty phrases. Because of these antics, Zoom has now added an extra level of security. If you are participating in a Zoom meeting (traveling to the meeting electronically through your computer, smart phone, or other internet device) , the moderator of the meeting has to send you a password, which you have to use in addition to the meeting code in order to be admitted to the meeting. This extra level of security had not yet been added by Zoom at the time of the Tuesday meeting.
Suddenly, about three quarters of the way through the meeting, my visual screen was invaded by a bunch of naked people who bounced onto the electronic stage. One of the couples in the group started copulating energetically while their naked peers applauded. All of this was strictly visual. The audio was not interrupted, and the Covid 19 discussion progressed just fine.
I think there might have been one or two other legally blind people in this Zoom meeting, but the vast majority of those attending were totally blind. None of us low vision folks let the majority of meeting goers know what was going on on the screen as we did not want to disrupt their concentration on the serious topic of discussion.
Shame on the hackers who have nothing better to do with their time. This really is a problem because Zoom and similar electronic platforms are currently being used for online classes for children who are not able to attend school in the physical manner because of Covid 19. Zoom and other online meeting services are probably quite correct in inconveniencing us users with one more passcode to enter in order to correct this situation. It seems to be poetic justice to me, however, that such hackers were stymied in their efforts by sending a bunch of visual pornography into a meeting of a bunch of blind folks.
Heads up – What Happened to IDEA:
How to Distinguish News from Noise and What Happens Next
By Mark Richert, Esq.
(Editor’s Note: Mark Richert is the Acting Executive Director of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AERBVI.) He held this position several years in the past, and it is the hope of this Editor that he is again selected to permanently fill this position. Mark has also worked in the distant past on staff of the American Council of the Blind (ACB), and as Director of Policy with the American Foundation for the Blind.) This article is reprinted with Mark’s permission. I have edited out a few passages that are directed exclusively to AERBVI members, and these deletions are noted with elipsees.)
I want to take just a few minutes of your time to accomplish three things. I'd like to recap what did, and what did not happen to IDEA last week as a result of the passage of the massive $2 trillion relief bill in Congress. I want to sincerely thank . . . our friends who contacted Congress to defend the special education rights of the students. And finally, I want to offer some thoughts about how to be a discerning consumer of information received from multiple sources, particularly where advocacy is concerned
So first things first, the relief bill signed into law last week does a lot of good things. While we and the rest of the disability community were not ultimately happy with the outcome last week, it needs to be made crystal clear that IDEA rights and requirements HAVE NOT been waived. IDEA is just as strong and in force today as it was before the massive COVID-19 relief measure was enacted. What the bill did do involves inviting a report back to Congress from the U.S. Department of Education making recommendations for possible future action by Congress to waive specified IDEA and other requirements. To be sure, this is dirty pool and a sad commentary on the commitment of any number of Congress members who are apparently prepared to use a national crisis as an excuse to entertain future proposals to roll back the rights of children with disabilities. But we also need to take a breath; it is only a report in the making at this point. Yes, it's a bad thing. Yes, Congress could elect to enact this or that waiver proposal recommended by the Education Department, and yes, you better believe it, we and our partners and allies will be fighting any waiver proposals.
But, something happened last week that persuaded me that AER members and friends could use some good advice. As the relief bill passed the Senate and was making its way toward swift passage in the House last Friday, a number of groups both inside and outside our field were moving fast and furious to get out email alerts. In some prominent instances, the information contained and the action called for in these alerts included misdirection and even blatant errors.
While much earlier drafts of the relief bill included language that would have amounted to a waiver of certain requirements for up to one year, that language was successfully redacted before the Senate voted on the bill thanks to the advocacy of people just like you. The version of the relief bill that the Senate passed last week before it went to the House only included a call for a report from the Education Department. This is routinely a compromise step that is taken on Capitol Hill. there's an initial proposal that is met with significant opposition but whose proponents are given a study or report as a way to partially satisfy them.
What I saw circulating widely in our community concerned me a lot. We were being told that the Congress was about to rip the rug out from under the rights of our students, and we were told that we should contact our U.S. House of Representatives members to urge them not to support this injustice. The problem is that neither assertion had merit. The bill only invites recommendations for future consideration, and given the procedural rules in play, the House was constrained to do what it ultimately did last Friday, namely to pass the bill in an identical form to that which the Senate passed earlier in the week. Putting it another way, some groups were leading advocates to believe that the stakes were much higher than they really were, and these groups urged advocates to contact House members when there was absolutely no viable action for them to take. In theory, if enough House members had issues with what the Senate did, on IDEA or any number of other things, they could have worked the process such that amendments would be considered, but that would have meant that the Senate would then have to vote again on the House's amended bill, or a conference committee process would have to resolve the differences. These procedural delays were never in the cards.
How is it possible that we could be receiving misinformation, even from sources we know to be traditionally trustworthy? Well, that's a matter for unproductive speculation. Sometimes groups are in a hurry to crank out legislative alerts because they want to be seen as leading the charge. Sometimes a lack of seasoned judgment is compensated for by enthusiasm. And sometimes the sense of urgency drives the impulse to go ahead and forward along what other sources put out without taking the time for due diligence.
Having done this kind of work for as long as I have, I understand these forces at work and knowing our field as I do, I know that the deep down motivation is ultimately good, namely a passion for doing right by our students and clients.
. . .
The bottom line is that the fight goes on. We will be working with our partners and allies to ensure that Congress does not favorably take up any attempt to waive the rights of students with vision loss and other disabilities, and we'll be there to equally ensure that any calls to action you receive include accurate information and meaningful opportunities to affect positive change. . . .
Covid 19 O&M Update:
Safety Precautions Related to Basic Sighted Guide Skills
By Ann heard and Johnson Mdului
Submitted by Dona Sauerburger
(Editor’s Note: Dona Sauerburger is a widely respected researcher and certified orientation and mobility specialist. She lives in Mariland. Ann Heard is with The orientation and Mobility Association of South Africa. Johnson Mdului is with Blind South Africa, a blind services entity located in that Country. The sentence structure in this article may seem a bit unusual. This is because of different language structures in South Africa. This article is provided for two reasons. It raises some issues in potential risk of virus transmission through sighted guide that may not have been presented elsewhere, and also, it may be of interest to readers to see how these issues are handled by blind citizens and their advisors from other far away lands. )
The guide and the blind person have contact through a folded, white cane or by using a belt. The white cane should be clean or sanitized before using. Encourage using the cane as one uses it on a small path. The blind person takes one end while the guide holds on to the other end; that is, the guide holds the tip end of the cane, and the blind will hold the grip end, and walk behind the guide at the folded white cane length. Similarly, use the belt tied on the upper arm of the blind person and the guide. This will provide information through the movement of the guide.
Of course, this can only be given as a suggestion. Then the decision should be left to the blind person.
Using of hygienic gloves. The guide and the blind person should both wear the gloves.
The blind person should, instead of holding on to the elbow of the guide as he/she has been trained, hold the upper arm of the guide, and in certain situations, may hold on to the top of the shoulder of the guide.
Note: Always make sure to wash and sanitise your hands. Cover mouth and/or nose, when coughing or sneezing, with a tissue and thereafter dispose of the tissue in a refuse bin. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
When using public transportation, public toilets, or going to a supermarket, clinic, or other public area, always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and consider using wipes or sanitiser at the premises.
Blind persons should consider self-isolating themselves in view of the vulnerable situation they find themselves in. In this regard, be sure that you have a reasonable stock of your medication, food, and cleaning materials.
Kindly inform a friend, family member, or neighbor that you are in self-isolation so that they may be in communication with you.
(Editor’s note: The piece then gives a hotline number that blind South Africans can call for additional information or consultation. )
A Painless Way To Help KABVI
By Michael Byington
The KABVI Board of Directors has asked me to explain the Dillons Community Rewards Program. This is a fundraising opportunity that our Treasurer, Bob Chaffin, set up for us a few years ago, but not many people have taken advantage of this opportunity. This is a painless way to help KABVI continue the things it is working on, and perhaps do even more.
If you are reading this, then you probably have seen enough in this and other issues of this magazine to know that KABVI keeps pretty busy. We represent an important voice of blind and visually impaired Kansas consumers before the Legislature, agencies of the State of Kansas, community leaders, and the private sector. We work toward more accessibility for blind and visually impaired Kansans throughout our State and its many communities. We have a scholarship program, and we maintain the only in-state Braille library serving children and adults alike. We provide a lot of resource information to blind and visually impaired Kansans, and we have an equipment redistribution program where we attempt to circulate equipment helpful to people who are blind and visually impaired, and which is no longer being used by anyone, back into Kansas communities to new users in need of it. We do all of this with a core of volunteers, and no paid staff.
Although we are not paying staff, this all nonetheless takes money. We have to pay rent to store the Braille and equipment, and it costs us some bucks to distribute this magazine and other information we provide. Over the past few years, KABVI has spend a little more each year than it takes in. Although we have a bit of a reserve, it is dwindling, and unless we turn this around, someday, many of the things we are doing will not get done any more.
The Dillons’ Community Rewards Program is a painless way to help. If you go to the Dillons’ website at www.dillons.com, and then go to COMMUNITY REWARDS, which is one of the links at the bottom of the home page, you can link your Dillons Plus shoppers card to KABVI. Then, Dillons will donate a small percent of the money you spend on your groceries purchased at Dillons to KABVI. This does not cost you anything. They do not charge you more, but they give a little bit of what you spend to us.
Personally, I have known that KABVI had this arrangement set up with Dillons for some time, but I have never been particularly good at using the computer to sign up for things online. I do not like doing such things, so I kept putting it off. I agreed to write this article because I figured that if I had to do that, I would first have to sign myself and my family up for the program. I did it! It was not that hard, but I will explain a few of the hoops that one has to jump through.
Most Kansans have gotten a Dillons Plus Shoppers’ Card. If you ever shop at Dillons, you have to have one of those to get any of the sales or discounts they offer. Having that card, however, does not mean you have an account on their website. You have to sign up for one of those. If you go to the community rewards link, they will tell you that. Signing up for that account is as simple as filling in your name, your e-mail address, and the number on the back of your Shoppers’ card. Then the screen will give you an alphabetical listing of the Organizations that are signed up to receive donations from Dillons. KABVI is listed, but it is perhaps a little difficult to find. There are choices that you can make as to what kind of an Organization you are looking for. There is not a listed choice for disability related organizations or for blindness related. I looked under Social Services Organizations and under Health and Wellness, and we were not there. I then looked under the heading of ALL, and we came right up. As I mentioned, the list is alphabetical, amd at the view settings I use, only six to eight Organizations came up at a time. I suppose that there is a quicker way to advance the screen through the lists, but I did not find it so I had to advance one screen at a time. This took some time, but when I got about half way through the list, on somewhere around the 80th screen, there was the KABVI information. Once I made it that far, all I had to do was click the KABVI panel. And I got back a message telling me that I had successfully signed up.
Hey folks, if fumble fingered me can do that, anyone can. It is a way to help out KABVI that only costs you a few minutes time, and costs you absolutely NO money.
Computer just setting there?
By Nancy Johnson
There’s a computer in your home, but you no longer use it because you can no longer see the screen well enough to read it? You’ve always wanted a computer, but you’d have to have a screen reader to use it. generally Screen readers have been prohibitively expensive, so folks could not afford them.
My daughter sold me my first computer. She convinced me I should invest in a screen reader – a wonderful investment I’ve used many years.
My old desktop PC is getting slow, and I decided to get a laptop. I didn’t want to pay the price for the newest version of my screen reader. I’ve been seeing information about several open source screen readers now available and decided to try one. I chose NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access) from NVAccess novaccess.org because several organizations for the blind and visually impaired were involved in its development. Google “free screen readers” to learn about some of them.
I’ve learned from the on-screen manual to do with NVDA most of what I need to do routinely. You can see how NVDA works on Youtube. You can download it free from NVAccess. You may need sighted assistance with the first step in the download process but, after that, you can take it and run.
To use screen reader software, you must be familiar with the computer’s keyboard. NVDA can also work with a touch screen.
Through the NVAccess web site you can download NVDA and order downloadable e-books for training. I’m a die-hard Braille user who learns best from Braille materials, so I was delighted to see that a two-volume Braille training manual is available for $65.
However you choose to do it, you can enjoy the computer and online experience now for little more than the cost of the computer. You can get back out there with one of the no-cost open source screen readers that are available. Lifelong learning is good for us, and learning to use any screen reader requires some learning. So wipe the dust off that computer you haven’t used! for a while and get back online! Or take the plunge with a new computer and a free, open source screen reader!
Tina Jenkins Condition Much Improved
By Michael Byington
In the summer 2019 edition of the “KABVI News” we ran an article entitled, “Blind Woman and Guide Dog Struck By Semi Truck in Eudora, Left Seriously Injured.” By Sharifa Jackson. This piece recounted a horrific accident where a blind pedestrian, Tina Jenkins, and her guide dog, were struck by an 18 Wheeler while crossing a street in her home town of Eudora. Jenkins was critically injured. The guide dog was not seriously injured.
Attempts to contact Jenkins for an interview failed to reach her, but I want to provide an update concerning her condition. I have been aware of it, and of her progress through a Facebook page entitled “Prayers for Tina Jenkins.”
By early December, Jenkins condition was much improved. She was out of the hospital. One of her first public outings was to go Christmas caroling with church members and friends.
Her condition has continued to improve, and over the first months of 2020 she has written some very moving posts on the Facebook page about her road to recovery. This was a remarkable feat. The accident left her with many broken bones and the inability to communicate verbally or efficiently through any other means. She is now walking, speaking, singing, and using her assistive technology in communicating again. Jenkins credits a strong belief and faith in God as a major factor in her recovery.
Voter Access In These Changing Times
By Michael Byington
In the Summer 2019 issue, I ran an article about Keeping Kansas Primaries accessible. This addressed the fact that the Kansas Democratic Party was holding a party administered Presidential primary. They were planning to offer both vote by mail and vote at polling places options. This created some concerns relating to voter access. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires that all polling places have at least one fully accessible voting option so that people who have disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired, can vote privately, independently, and Verifyably. HAVA never anticipated party administered primaries, so they are not really addressed within the law. I reported in the summer issue last year that KABVI was working with the Democratic Party to devise an accessible voting option at the polling places. I also pointed out, that as a non-partisan Organization, KABVI would gladly offer the same assistance to the Kansas Republican Party, but that Party, given that it currently holds the White House with an incumbent who is eligible to run for an additional term, was not planning to hold a Presidential primary in Kansas.
The in-person voting for the Democratic Presidential primary was supposed to take place on May 2nd. The ballots were to be mailed out for the vote by mail option around the first of April. By the time the Democrats closed their ballot eligibility, there were just four Democratic candidates still in the race. In viewing the ballot, it appeared that it was going to be pretty easy to create a template that could lay over the ballot, and be tactile in nature, thus allowing blind and visually impaired voters who wanted to vote in person to, with digitally recorded instructions, mark their ballots privately and independently.
The template was never created, however, and there was a good reason for that. The in-person portion of the Kansas Democratic Presidential Primary was canceled due to the Covid 19 requirements for social distancing and staying at home. The primary became a 100% vote by mail primary. There was no accessibility option offered for blind or otherwise disabled voters. Blind and otherwise disabled Democrat voters thus had to seek human assistance to mark their ballot and get it ready to mail back.
As the cancellation was unanticipated, there really was no other option., but this situation points out some major access issues in upcoming elections that are definitely addressed by HAVA, and are also covered in terms of general clauses in the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA). HAVA requires that each polling place have at least one fully accessible voting machine. In that way, anyone choosing to go to the polls to vote, whether blind or sighted, has the opportunity to vote privately, independently and verifiably.
This clause in HAVA has not changed the voting habits of many blind or visually impaired people. Many such individuals have established a longstanding, trusting relationship with a friend or relative, and choose to continue to vote with human assistance. They continue to have this right, whether voting in person at the polls or by mail. They also continue to have the right, if going to the polls to vote in person, to have a Republican and Democratic election official accompany them into the voting booth in order to make sure that their ballot is marked as they direct using human assistance. The point of HAVA has never been to take any of the formerly available voting options away from blind or otherwise disabled people. HAVA, however is intended to insure that there is always an option available for voting privately, independently, and verifiably if it is a blind or disabled voters choice to do so.
States that offer both a vote by mail option, and the opportunity to vote at a polling place have thus, from a legal perspective, been considered to be in compliance with HAVA as long as there was a fully accessible voting option at the polls. A problem is created, however, if in-person voting options are cancelled, thus creating a situation where there is no option to vote privately and independently for blind and disabled voters. This would theoretically put a State cancelling in-person voting out of compliance with HAVA.
A very few voting jurisdictions in the United States election system have chosen for several years now to hold vote-by-mail only elections. These States have been required to develop accessible vote by mail options. Oregon is one such jurisdiction. The most common accessible vote by mail option is for the voter to be allowed to complete a ballot online that they can then print out and send in. To protect the voters’ confidentiality, the printed out ballot must look exactly like the ballots that other vote by mail voters send in.
As it continues to become more clear that Covid 19, may hang on and change our lifestyles for longer than anyone anticipated, more and more States, including Kansas, are contemplating whether they may need to cancel in-person voting for their primaries, and even possibly for the general Presidential election in November. Although HAVA would seem to require all such States to develop accessible vote-by-mail options the press has carried little coverage of the accessibility issues. Most State Government officials seem to be thinking about the logistics of vote-by-mail, if it should need to become the exclusive voting option due to Covid 19, without consideration of the privacy of disabled voters. Because of this, the American Council of the Blind has joined a large number of other disability rights organizations in calling for Congress to additionally strengthen provisions for accessible vote-by-mail.
The greatest fear about a loss of accessible voting here in Kansas would seem to occur, if voting at polling places is canceled due to Covid 19 at the last minute with no time to develop the accessible vote by mail options. This would cause the same type of loss of accessible options which occurred in the Democratic Presidential primary. This is why that the time to start emphasizing the need for accessible vote by mail options is now. The following article addresses these issues from a more national perspective.
ACB Weighs In On Accessible Vote-By Mail
Submitted by Kelly Gasque
(Editor’s Note: We do not usually publish issues on National American Council of the Blind (ACB) positions in the “KABVI News.” We leave that function to the “Braille Forum” magazine. In this instance, however, this press release addresses quite articulately some of the same voter access issues that are addressed in the above article.)
On Friday, April 10, ACB and more than 75 national, state and local disability and civil rights organizations sent a letter urging Congress to protect the voting rights of people who are blind and disabled during the current pandemic. The letter urged Congress to mandate an accessible online absentee voting system to be used by any state adopting vote by mail as an alternative to in-person elections at polling locations.
"Americans with disabilities have fought for decades to secure the same voting rights as all other Americans. Congress must make it clear to states that implementing vote by mail without offering an accessible absentee voting alternative for people with disabilities is not acceptable," said ACB president Dan Spoone. "The current national emergency must not be leveraged as an excuse to erode the voting rights of people with disabilities. As states take pragmatic measures to rethink how elections will be administered, the rights of voters with disabilities must be maintained. This includes equal access to all parts of the voting process, from absentee voting to securely and independently marking, casting and verifying our ballot."
There is no nationwide approach to creating accessible absentee ballots and as such, many voters with disabilities are excluded from absentee ballots. Some states have implemented accessible solutions to this problem, such as remote voting through the use of online and remote ballot marking devices. Earlier this year and in collaboration with ACB, Gov. Justice in West Virginia signed into law S.B. 94, a bill to bring the absentee vote by mail system in West Virginia into compliance with Title II of the ADA by offering an accessible electronic absentee voting option for people with disabilities.
"According to the CDC, 26% of Americans have a disability; ACB will continue to work tirelessly to ensure these Americans are able to fully participate in the most fundamental part of our democracy in the 2020 elections and beyond," said Eric Bridges, ACB's executive director.
The American Council of the Blind is a national grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired. With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Learn more by visiting www.acb.org.
O&M Instructor Outfoxed By Bright Student
By Michael Byington
As many of you know, I am a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS). I used to work in this capacity with Envision in Wichita. There, my caseload was mostly adults, and I worked with only one school system. I retired from that work in the fall of 2017, and established a private practice in Northeast Kansas. Currently, I have been working with children in five different school jurisdictions.
As of mid-March of this year, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly closed all schools for the remainder of the year due to the Covid 19 virus threats. Teachers and students were aided in setting up sufficient electronic capabilities to teach and learn from their homes. For special education students, this requirement poses some additional challenges. Special education students who are in the public schools are eligible for a number of training and rehabilitative services known as “related services.” Orientation and mobility is one such service available to blind and severely visually impaired students. These services are in addition to the regular educational curriculum the students may be receiving. Where and when possible, these services were, in many cases, to be continued and taught remotely and electronically.
Teaching orientation and mobility through a computer, and not in person, is a bit of a challenge. Some students , and particularly those who are multiply disabled blind, can only be reached for such subjects through live contact. Some school jurisdictions I work with have chosen to discontinue orientation and mobility during the shutdown period. Others, however, are encouraging us related services types to develop ways of doing as much as we can with our subject matter remotely, and for any student who is able to benefit in working in this manner. I am thus continuing to work with some students during this school shutdown. Although I am not working as much, the work I am doing is often fun and forces a new level of creativity.
For a few of my very bright students, I am sending them assignments to figure out how they would travel certain routes we have worked on, and how they would solve specific travel problems which I pose. To make it interesting, I tell them that I have put an imaginary time machine in the pages of the assignment, and I give them some future year that they are transported to as an adult. I then have them travel the route I assign virtually, and solve the problems I make up for them to encounter while on some adult errand.
For a bright 5th grader with whom I work, I told her it is now 2035. She has become a teacher at the elementary school where she has been a student. She receives a summons for jury duty so her assignment was to walk from her school to the courthouse. I told her that she must stop for lunch along the way at a restaurant she likes which is on the route, and then walk on to the Courthouse.
When she leaves the restaurant she has to choose her route to the Courthouse. She thus has to decide whether it is safer to cross a major street at a traffic light, or at a four way stop. We have worked on both of these crossings during the time we could actually meet, and she knows that the traffic flow at the traffic light is very uneven. Sometimes there are a lot of cars, and sometimes there is very little traffic to listen to. It thus is perhaps a little safer to cross at the four way stop, where at least the pedestrian knows that all cars are supposed to come to a stop before proceeding. When I asked her which place she would cross, she told me she would use the traffic light. This is of course, currently, not the best answer. I asked her why she was choosing the traffic light, and she said, “Because this is in the future and by now they have put an audible signal on the traffic light.”
She got me!. It makes me proud when my students out-think me.
Compiled by Ann Byington
** One way to keep up-to-date on technology tutorials, product descriptions and training materials is:Top Tech Tidbits(formerly Flying Blind). The list briefly discusses an item and then provides links to more information.
** From Claire Stanley Advocacy and Outreach Specialist at the ACB National Office - ACB has received numerous questions about how people will receive the 2020 Recovery Rebate. To help answer those questions, this summary will briefly describe what the rebate is and how persons will receive the money. One element of the third stimulus bill passed by Congress about two weeks ago includes a monetary recovery rebate, also known as the 2020 recovery rebate. Through this rebate, Americans will receive a one-time monetary amount from the government. The purpose of the rebate is to revitalize the economy. Americans who receive the money can spend it in any way they choose; there are no limitations or strings attached to the money.The 2020 recovery rebate will begin at $1,200 for all people who have an income of $75,000 or less on a yearly basis. For a married couple who files jointly, the amount will start at $2,400. For anyone who has children under the age of 16, they will receive an additional $500 for each child. As a person’s income rises, the amount they receive will decrease gradually. In other words, the more money a person makes, the less money they will receive from the government. The most a person can make before they can no longer receive the recovery rebate is $99,000 per year.One of the biggest questions we have been asked is how people will receive the money. If you filed taxes in 2018 or 2019, you will automatically receive the rebate. If you received your income tax refund via direct deposit to your bank account, the money will be automatically deposited into that bank account. The money will be deposited starting today, on April 15, 2020. If you generally receive your income tax refunds via the mail, the check will be sent to the address on file. When waiting for the rebate to come by mail, know that it will take more time. Those who make less money will receive their checks sooner and progress from there. One of the questions we have been asked numerous times is from people who have not filed taxes in the past year or two. For individuals who receive Social Security benefits, filing taxes is not necessary. As a result, that person’s information is not in the system. To fix this problem, some people have asked if they need to file taxes. The answer is no. Again, you do not need to file taxes if you receive Social Security benefits in order to receive the 2020 recovery rebate. Instead, the IRS has put together a Non-Filers Portal, which is located at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here. Through this portal, those who receive SSI or veterans disability compensation can submit their information online and receive the 2020 recovery rebate. Via the form online, you can enter your bank account information to receive the money via direct deposit or request that it be sent via U.S. mail. If the check is sent via mail, another letter will be sent out two weeks later confirming that the check was received. For those who are regular Social Security beneficiaries, not SSI recipients, the IRS will use the information on a person’s Form SSA-1099. Another common question we have received is whether the money will impact a person’s monthly income, which can in turn impact a person’s SSI eligibility. Under SSI, a person can only bring in so much money per month to remain eligible. The answer is no. The rebate is not considered income and thus will not impact your monthly income number. We urge all members not to give out your information easily to people claiming to be the IRS or SSA in order to get the rebate. Unfortunately, there are many scams going on in order to obtain people’s information unlawfully. If you struggle with the portal, please let The ACB National Office know. We are curious as to how accessible the portal is, so please let us know as soon as possible. You can reach us via email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, (202) 467-5081.
** Google now offers a Braille keyboard for Android
Android has received a wealth of accessibility features over the last couple of years, but one that has been left to third-party developers is a way for blind users to type using braille. That changes today with Android’s new built-in braille keyboard, which should soon be available as an option on all phones running version 5 and up of the OS. Braille is a complex topic in the accessibility community, as in many ways it has been supplanted by voice recognition, screen readers and other tools. But many people are already familiar with it and use it regularly — and after all, one can’t always chat out loud. Third-party braille keyboards are available, but some cost money or are no longer in development. And because the keyboard essentially has access to everything you type, there are security considerations as well. So it’s best for the keyboard you use to be an official one from a reputable company. Google will have to do! (Apple, it must be said, has had a braille keyboard like this one for years that plugs into its OS’s other accessibility tools. It can be activated using the instructions here.) The new keyboard, the company writes in a blog post, was created as a collaboration with various users and developers of braille software, and should be familiar to anyone who’s used something like it in the past. The user holds the phone in landscape mode, with the screen facing away from them, and taps the regions corresponding to each of the six dots that form letters in the braille alphabet. It works with Android’s TalkBack function, which reads off words the user types or selects, so like any other writing method errors can be quickly detected and corrected. There are also some built-in gestures for quickly deleting letters and words or sending the text to the recipient or selected field. Instructions for activating the braille keyboard are here. Right now it’s only available in English, but more languages will likely be added in the near future.
** From the SWEETHEART Study Team at the University of Texas at Austin: We are seeking blind and low-vision adults to complete a survey about their diabetes or cardiovascular disease and earn $30. The study is expected to take less than an hour to complete. The purpose of the study is to identify the chronic disease self-management practices used by adults who have cardiovascular disease or diabetes. This study is being conducted to inform education and intervention for persons with chronic diseases and their healthcare providers. This research has been approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Texas at Austin and the National Federation of the Blind’s Research Advisory Council. If interested, participants can contact the research team at the following email address: email@example.com to request a link to the study.
Compiled by Joanne Martin and Michael Byington
The March meeting of the Southwest Kansas Association of the Visually Impaired (SKAVI took place on March 14th Richard Brookman , Kansas Talking Books Program presented the program.
We are continuing to post the usual meeting times and contact information for our four active chapter affiliates. As this is written, however, Kansas is still under a stay at home order from Governor Kelly due to the covid 19 virus. Do not therefore assume that in person meetings are taking place until further notice. Contact the informational sources listed for further information about the local blindness and visually impaired support groups.
The Topeka Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TABVI meets on the second Saturday of each month at 1:00 p.m. at the Wheatland building of the Kansas Neurological Institute, 3107 S. W. 21st. For more information about TABVI, contact President Marilyn Lind at 785-272-.0474
SKAVI meets at the Park Plaza Tower apartments, 1914 Central, Dodge City, on the second Saturday of each month. Call (620) 255-8215 for more information or if transportation is needed.
The Northwest Kansas Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired (NKAVI) meets at Thirsty’s Restaurant starting at 11:30 on the second Saturday of the month. Lunch orders are taken at that time with the program following the meal. For more information about NKAVI, call 785-628-6055.
The Central Kansas Association of the Visually Impaired (CKAVI) meets at the Great Bend Senior Center. For additional information, call Paul Berscheidt at 620-793-5645, or at webmaster@KABVI.Com.
By Michael Byington
We have some good news and some bad. The good news is that nobody contacted us with information about any deaths of members and friends of KABVI during this period. The bad news exists if someone died that we should have heard about and did not. If you learn of the death of any member of KABVI, or any other person who is blind or visually impaired, or who is in some way connected with those Kansans who are blind and/or visually impaired, please let us know. Even if such a person died a few months ago, but we did not get word so we could publish this information, please let us know. The contact information for the editor is at the front of this magazine.
Membership and KABVI NEWS Renewal
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