Published quarterly by
Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired
An Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind
Vol. 64 Spring 2021 No. 2
Return to: KABVI FREE MATTER
712 S. Kansas Ave., Ste. 410 FOR THE BLIND
Topeka,Ks 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
Send address changes to:
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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Table of Contents
Gleanings From The President, by Ann Byington,
The Editor Ponders by Michael Byington, page 7
Kansas Talking Books Providing
Free Bookshare subscriptions by Michael Lang, Director of Kansas Talking Books, page 10
Evergy Plaza – Topeka: Both Exciting and Disappointing, by Michael Byington, page 11
Note from Nancy About the Emailed KABVI NewsBy Nancy Johnson, page 16
Cane Tune-Up, By Kathy Dawson, page 17
Some of My Favorite Books, By Ann Byington, page 18
Comment About Karaoke, by Al Vopata, page 20
In Memoriam, compiled by Michael Byington, page 21
Membership Application, page 22
Gleanings From The President
By Ann Byington
I write this in mid-April and things are looking up. Covid 19 restrictions are easing; Covid vaccines are becoming more available and easier to get; we are holding our upcoming Board meeting in person at the office; the Byington family welcomes our new career change dog, Journey; I can get back to work on the childrens’ braille library; come up with some kind of fundraiser and begin planning this year’s 101st convention. Oh, yes, Michael will finally retire at the middle of June!
I have some other plans in the works, but want to make some head-way with them before they are announced.
This year’s American Council of the Blind (ACB) national conference and convention is going virtual again, but next year, it will be held in Omaha, NE. We should be able to muster a crew of you to attend. By sharing rooms, taking coolers and extra food and sharing transportation and hotel expenses, it should be much more affordable than meetings of the recent past.
Also, sometime in May, ACB Radio is going to completely re-vamp their component of the ACB website. It will be renamed ACB multi-media and will have one-button connections to Facebook, Youtube, ACB radio, and podcasts and community call information. Stay tuned!
If you would like to join or re-join our listserv, email me and I will help you subscribe. When we got the listserv started, I was a bit too informative with messages and drove a few folks away. So, please re-join; I promise I won’t fill up your mailboxes.
The Editor Ponders
By Michael Byington
By the time you all are reading this, I will be officially retired, or at least very close to it. I want to use this space to discuss what that will mean, both for me personally, and for KABVI.
It was sort of called a retirement when I left my full time job at Envision in mid 2017. I started a private practice LLC, however, with the idea of doing a little contracted orientation and mobility work with some of the public schools in northeast Kansas who had blind or visually impaired students attending. I rented an extra office that was available in the KABVI office suite in order to have a place to operate my business.
The business took off at a greater degree than I anticipated. It seems that some Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) were leaving the field or this geographic area,, and there were several school districts willing to, and needing to, contract for these services. I have ended up working with five to six school districts or special education cooperatives subsequent to hanging out my shingle in 2017. I have loved this work, but I will be 67 years old this fall. It is time to make more of a transition to retirement.
My plans are to keep my certification as a COMS current for another few years. I will continue to pay rent to KABVI to maintain my practice office for as long as I can afford to do so. I want to still be available to help out newly blinded or visually impaired adults, particularly those who are between the ages of 22 and 55. Kansans in that age range are not eligible for any type of funding assistance for orientation and mobility unless they are a service-connected blinded veteran, or are in just the right status with vocational rehabilitation, and are accordingly job hunting. There is thus a lot of unmet need among Blind and visually impaired Kansans of working age, and I want to try to address some of those needs as much as I can. Also, frankly, KABVI can use the rent money.
The major differences in my activities will be that I will have more flexibility in my schedule. I will spend a few less hours each week as a working COMS, and that will give a little more time to work on such things as legislative and civil rights advocacy, and restoring some of the donated blind and low vision related equipment that KABVI has been given so we can get more of it out into the hands of blind and visually impaired people who need it and cannot afford it at retail prices.
One does not retire to resign from life. For me, it will just mean a little more flexibility. As I want to be able to serve people, for whom no funding is available to pay for the services, it also means that I will offer much of the things I do on a pro bono basis. For those of you not familiar with that term, It is not a campaign ad for Sonny Bono’s widow. It means free.
There are a lot of challenges. Categorical services for blind and visually impaired Kansans have been cut exponentially over the past 30 years or so. KABVI needs more volunteers and more financial support to truly address the problems created by this lack of available services.
In recent years, KABVI has gradually altered its focus a bit. We used to advocate to try and make government services for people who are blind and visually impaired more comprehensive and efficient. There have been so many cuts in so many services, however, that there is now very little to work with. That is why, now KABVI has an office, run by volunteers, that provides some modicum of the services that have been cut, and why we have increased efforts to encourage the private sector to accommodate and realize the potential of blind and visually impaired citizens.
My personal goal is not only to try and replace some of the other volunteer labor that has helped out at the KABVI office over the years, but also to lay sufficient groundwork so that, as my generation fades into the sunset, there will be sufficient groundwork for the next generation to step up.
Aging and death of some of our members has severely curtailed some of our activities, and the Covid 19 restrictions have also played a role in making it difficult to staff our office. On the flip side, these challenges have facilitated our making changes that we can be proud of. KABVI won an award from the American Council of the Blind (ACB) this year because, by going virtual with our State convention, we actually were able to increase our membership by the largest percentage of any ACB affiliate in our Nation. I thus must close this article about a major transition in my own life with much concern, but also much optimism. Much of our leadership is made up of blind and visually impaired Kansans who are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. At the same time, we have laid a groundwork, We are just going to need some of these new members we are getting to step forward as our current thrust and personnel fade away. The needs are greater than ever, but we are going to have to acknowledge that it does not appear that governments at any level will offer many of the solutions. Those will be up to blind and visually impaired folks ourselves.
Kansas Talking Books Providing
Free Bookshare subscriptions
By Michael Lang, Director of Kansas Talking Books
Kansas Talking Books is excited to partner with Bookshare to provide free subscriptions to our users. Bookshare is an online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Their library includes textbooks, career resources, and leisure reading in a variety of formats. There are a limited number of these free subscriptions available.
Below are some questions and answers about this program.
What’s in the library?
Over 960,000 bestsellers, fiction and nonfiction titles, books for upskilling and career building, newspapers, magazines, and more.
How can I read?
Download books 24/7 and read them on any device you like, including smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks, computers, and assistive technology devices.
Who can join?
People who cannot read printed text due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia, and other reading barriers. All Kansas Talking Book patrons qualify.
For information on how to sign up email KTB@ks.gov or visit https://www.bookshare.org/cms/library/kansas. An internet connection is required to access Bookshare.
This is another great resource for Kansas Talking Books users to get accessible reading materials.
Evergy Plaza – Topeka:
Both Exciting and Disappointing
By Michael Byington
Capital Federal Savings and Loan and Evergy, formerly Westar (the electric company), have teamed up to offer a new feature in downtown Topeka. This new walking plaza, called Evergy Plaza, is located on the south half of the east side of the 600 block of South Kansas Avenue. This is in the heart of downtown Topeka, and only about half a block from the KABVI offices.
This article will describe this new public accommodation, and will address some of its advantages and deficits for blind and visually impaired people who live in Topeka or who may be visiting our State’s Capitol City.
The purpose behind the development of Evergy plaza was to create a gathering space, and walking plaza available to all. It features a lot of open space, a stage, with lighting and sound amplification capabilities, outdoor seating for people wanting to gather or have refreshments outside, a gas fed warming pit with tables around it to allow for some year-round use, and two types of fountains. The buildings which were torn down in order to build Evergy Plaza were of no great loss to downtown. They were older, and mostly empty. Personally, I miss the Subway Sandwich Shop that was available in one of the demolished buildings, but the trade off is that a lot of food trucks vend at lunchtime in that area.
One of the two fountains is about a four foot high rock wall down which water plumets when the weather is amenable. There is no ;holding pool at the bottom, but just a trough into which the water drains with much of it being recycled. There are stone benches around this area so that parents and other caregivers can watch young children play in the falling water.
The other fountains are much larger and more grand. Water can be made to shoot up through jets embedded in the walking surface all through the open area of Evergy Plaza. Lights embedded in the walking surface turn the water plumes many beautiful colors at night. There is no collection pool for any of this water. This is a safety feature because there is no chance that a small child playing in either fountain could fall into standing water and drown.
The challenge, of course, for blind pedestrians, or perhaps for older people, is that although the water does not collect into a pool, it does get the walking surface around where it falls quite wet. When the fountains are operating, there is thus a potential slipping and falling hazard. Of course with proper cane use, a blind traveler should be able to detect where the wet pavement begins, but when the fountains suddenly come on, people can get quite a surprise. I put an article about these fountains on Facebook last week, and two blind Facebook users/friends of KABVI responded.
Jenny Kennedy said that the Inglewood Station (a suburb of Denver, Colorado, has a similar plaza. Jenny and her guide dog, along with another friend who is a guide dog user, got to experience such a surprise irruption when they were in Colorado studying at the Colorado Blind Center.
Marilyn Lind, on the other hand, opined that this kind of a walking area sounded like fun for the dogs. Marilyn has a Labrador Retriever guide dog, “Payson,” whom I suspect loves water. I reminded Marilyn that, although this may be true, a wet guide dog would probably also result in a wet Marilyn. My ornery side thinks that might be fun to observe.
Actually, partially in spite of the fountains, and partially because of them, this walking [plaza makes a great spot near the KABVI office to teach beginning orientation skills. There are ramps and stairs in all kinds of odd places throughout the plaza. There is lots of open space for practicing straight path of travel. There is the edge of a raised stage. Every feature of the Plaza poses manageable orientation and mobility challenges. I am happy to now have the Plaza as a teaching tool near the KABVI office, and as a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS), I use it for teaching purposes quite a bit.
The benefits I have just described, however, can also be considered deficits. I may like to have all of the unique orientation and mobility challenges I have described to use as a person legally certified to teach travel to blind folks, but blind and visually impaired citizens should be able to have the expectation that such a new and state-of-the-art facility has all of the accessibility features available required by the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines.. This is not the case; although the accessible features for those using wheelchairs are artfully incorporated into the design of the Plaza, it has no such features to accommodate blind and visually impaired travelers. At the top of all of the elevation changes, both ramps and stairs, their should be truncated dome detectable warning strips. These are the hazard warnings such as those being installed at curb cuts to give blind travelers information about hazards ahead in the walking surface. There are a number of large, electronic signs that inform visitors to the area about upcoming entertainment events scheduled to take place in the plaza. The standard for accessibility of such information would suggest that there should be an appropriately Braille and large print sign directing blind and visually impaired citizens to a jack allowing a blind visitor to the area to plug in standard headphones or other listening devices and find out what is on the sign.
The first time I went to survey the plaza after it was opened to the public last fall, I discovered the deficits described above. Onn one of those large, but otherwise inaccessible signs, I found an e-mail address to write to the administrators of the Plaza about scheduling events there and other user related questions. I also discovered that someone working with the equipment had forgotten to lock the control cabinets, thus leaving all of the lighting controls and amplification controls open to the random diddling of the general public. I went back to my office and wrote a very polite letter informing them of the security problem, and also asking that the accessibility features for people who are blind and visually impaired be added. Although this resulted in the control cabinets being secured, I never received a response to the e-mail. It is my intent to make one more attempt to make local contact. If I get no response, I will be filing a complaint with the United States Arcatectual and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (The Access Board(.
The facility may be great as it is for my teaching purposes as a COMS, but it should truly be accessible so that blind and visually impaired citizens can safely use and enjoy the facilities independently. This should be applicable whether the users in question have had extensive orientation and mobility training or not.
Note from Nancy About the Emailed KABVI News
By Nancy Johnson
I do my best to get the e-mail KABVI NEWS out to everyone, but occasionally there’s a glitch and I may miss someone. Obviously, if you’re reading this, you got your copy. However, you may know of someone who didn’t get theirs. Please keep my e-mail address handy so you can let me know if you don’t get your KABVI NEWS. Or tell me if I can do something to make reading the newsletter easier.
I appreciate that Michael took over as editor. I want to be sure everyone who wants an e-mail copy of KABVI NEWS gets to read the information he provides. Email me at :Supermom1941@cox.net.
By Kathy Dawson
The Sunflower Lions’ Club, Topeka, is repairing canes. The price for a complete overhaul is $30. The complete overhaul includes: re-stringing cane, re-taping reflective markings and tip replacement. For just re-stringing the cane, the price is $15. If you have questions, call me at (785)-408-8204. Canes will be returned to their owner postage paid.
A portion of the proceeds will go to Audio Reader radio reading service.
Some of My Favorite Books
By Ann Byington
Among the many new features of the NLS Talking Books is their relatively new policy of providing books read by their authors. This is partly due to the fact that commercially recorded books are now part of the collection. Listening to the authors read their books gives a special intimacy to the experience. I am not taking a political stand in my recommendations. After all, whether you choose to read these wonderful books is up to you.
** I first read Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”. She is a very capable reader.
**A Promised Land by Berack Obama is a 29-hour autobiographical look at Obama’s beginnings in South Chicago, Harvard law school, Illinois politics and his run for President. One interviewer I heard asked him if, after recording this book, he would have written a shorter one. He did a slight chuckle, not really answering the question. The book is the first volume of one or two more volumes. He is a great reader.
** “Everything Sad Is Untrue: A True Story” by Daniel Nayeri isc a sad but hopeful offering from an Iranian immigrant who writes as a 12-year-old. He and his mother and sister are forced to leave Iran when he is five and his sister is eight. Eventually, they come to Edmund, OK, where he is constantly bullied on the bus and in his classroom. His mother who was a doctor in Iran must resort to low-paying menial jobs, is pit on by other well-meaning Americans, but works to acquire medical credentials in the U.S. To me, one of the ultimate degradations is that the family is forced to Americanize their names because no one here will bother to learn to pronounce them. This book is listed “for young adults”, but it is really for everyone.
** “The Answer Is . . . Reflections On My Life” by Alex Trebek. He reads the introduction and Ken Jenning, all-time Jeopardy champion reads the rest of the book. It is a fascinating read.
** Finally, from the New York Times Bestseller list:
“Ten Lessons from a Post-Pandemic World” by Fareed Zakaria “ COVID-19 is speeding up history, but how? What is the shape of the world to come?
Lenin once said, "There are decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen." This is one of those times when history has sped up. CNN host and best-selling author Fareed Zakaria helps readers to understand the nature of a post-pandemic world: the political, social, technological, and economic consequences that may take years to unfold. Written in the form of ten "lessons," covering topics from natural and biological risks to the rise of digital life" to an e merging bipolar world order, Zakaria helps readers to begin thinking beyond the immediate effects of COVID-19. Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World” speaks to past, present, and future, and, while urgent and timely, is sure to become an enduring reflection on life in the early twenty-first century.”
And, if you check out these books on Amazon, you will find that NLS is saving us a chunk of money! Enjoy!
Comment about Karaoke
By Al Vopata
The summer “KABVI News was very informative. I have a comment about Kevin Burton’s article about karaoke
This stems from practices of paulbarrers at funerals for people from Oklahoma. When a resident of Oklahoma dies, the paulbarrers are expected to carry Okie.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Oh that one was BAAAAAAD”
Compiled by Michael Byington
Eva Kurtz. 68 died December 20, 2020. Graveside services were held at Mulvane Cemetery, where she was laid to rest.
Eva was a graduate of the Kansas State School for the Blind. When not in school, she spent her childhood in Wichita. She lived most of her adult life in Topeka.
Eva was committed to a number of political causes and offered many volunteer hours to various causes and political campaigns. She also often volunteered to work with school children, educating them about Braille and blindness. She was an active member of KABVI for many years.
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