logo of the southern arizona council of the blind

The Southern Arizona Council of the Blind

A chapter of the Arizona Council of the Blind


logo of the statewide arizona council of the blind

FALL (October November December) 2016

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President's Message

by Jeff Bishop

It has been a very busy summer for AZCB as well as us personally. Many of us attended the national ACB Convention in Minneapolis Minnesota (about 16 members from Arizona were there). We heard tremendous presentations on technology, fitness, managing money and so much more. Much of this coverage can be downloaded from the ACB Radio web site found at http://www.acbradio.org. You want to locate the Special Events podcast on the main page of the site to download the presentations.

In addition, I was re-elected to a four year term on the ACB national board. This means that Arizona continues to have three key leadership roles at the national level with John McCann serving as 2nd Vice-President of ACB and Ron Brooks serving as the chair of the Board of Publications. We had a great time in Minnesota and I hope we return there in the future.

We on the Arizona Council board are busily working on developing our budget for the Arizona Council for this year as well as looking at solutions to lower costs for the organization. With fundraising numbers significantly lower due to many factors, we need to protect our resources by controlling what we can and that is our spending. I will have more to say on this in the coming months on the actions the board has taken in these areas. Suffice it to say, we are looking at the entire spectrum of what we do and how we do it.

I will have more to report both on the local and national front in the coming weeks so stay tuned everyone.

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AZDAC Update

by Barbara McDonald

The Arizona Disability Advocacy Coalition (AZDAC) is a group of organizations representing different disabilities who come together to discuss their mutual concerns. Yearly, they have a Day at the Capitol, where participants can learn how a bill is passed and meet with their state senator or representatives. They also have an ADA Celebration in July, and promote voter registration and involvement in elections. Bills regarding disability-related issues are shared on the AZDAC Website.

In February, a survey was created to determine ways to strengthen the Coalition. As a result of the survey, it was determined that changes needed to be made if AZDAC was going to continue being a statewide coalition. A reorganization committee met to write a new mission, vision, and philosophy statement for the organization. The committee met several times to establish new guidelines. The changes were completed in increments. Each time changes were agreed on in committee, they were brought to the monthly board meetings for clarification, additions, and approval. On September 8, 2016, the board approved the new accessibility statement, which identifies how emails are to be sent, and the format materials should be in for distribution at meetings or events. Strategies, such as hosting social events to attract disability organizations and individuals to AZDAC, were recommended.

By October, we hope to have new information displayed on the AZDAC website, www.azdac.org. AZDAC announcements will also be sent out on the AZCB chat lists.

AZDAC meetings are held on the second Thursday of the month from 10:00am to 12:00pm at the Arizona State Independent Living Council Conference Room, Suite 216, located at Ability 360, 5025 East Washington St. in Phoenix. You can attend in person or join us on a teleconference call. I am looking forward to future events and accomplishments from AZDAC.

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GDUA Update

by Liz Whitlock

Guide Dog Users of Arizona (GDUA) has been trying to lie low in this Arizona Summer heat! Staying true to tradition, we ended the summer with our "Diving with Dogs" Party. This was a very well attended party with 18 humans and 7 canines splashing around in the pool. We’d like to thank the Olsens, once again, for their kind hospitality.

GDUA also exhibited at VRATE in Glendale on September 30. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say Hello.

GDUA is busy planning our 2016 Annual Conference. It will be held on Saturday November 5 at the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ACBVI) in Phoenix. Presentation topics will include pet insurance, self-defense, and Ride Share Services that will deliver food and groceries such as Uber Eats. Keep watching the GDUAZ website for more information and to register! For more information and to join GDUA, please visit us at gduaz.org.

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MCCB Update

by Barbara McDonald

The Maricopa County Club of the Blind (MCCB) is a group that provide support, information and advocacy for people who are blind. We also have social events to relax and get to know each other better.

On September 1, 2016, we met at MacAlpine’s Soda Fountain located at 2303 North 7th Street near downtown Phoenix. We all had a nice time talking and enjoying some delicious food. Then some of us went to see the merchandise in the antique store. It was a great way to stay cool in the summer heat.

MCCB meets at the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired located at 3100 East Roosevelt Street in Phoenix on the second Wednesday of the month from 1:30 to 3:00. Please join us at our next meeting on October 12th.

For more information, please call Judy Young at 602-272-6969 in the evening or Barbara McDonald at 602-285-0269.

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SAZCB President Takes Piano Bar by Storm

by Lindsey McHugh

I had the amazing opportunity to sing at several prominent venues in and around Paris. However, opera and classical music are not the only things I'm capable of performing. I also love to do comedic songs, Disney, and Broadway showtunes, and I can play them on the piano as well. I am always looking for venues to perform these other genres, particularly my comedy numbers, especially because it is next to impossible to find a singing gig that doesn't require acting and nonverbal communication with an audience. I think I might have found such a venue--the Dusty Monk Pub in Tucson.

On the evening of June 24th, 2016, I had participated in a summer opera program sponsored by the University of Arizona's voice department, which taught its students how to prepare for different aspects of an opera audition. The final performance took place on this night at the Dusty Monk Pub, also known as Downtown Tucson's Piano Bar. I found it extremely odd that such a "hoidy-toidy" event would be held in a casual drinking establishment, but it turned out very well. After the performance, we were all invited to stay for the "musical theater free-for-all" that was about to ensue. The piano player had many books of sheet music from which people could select their favorite showtune, and he would play it while they sang it (like live karaoke.) Since I am very familiar with this genre, I decided to have a few and sing a few. Little did I know that I was about to take the bar by storm that night.

"Hey Lindsey!" It was one of the guys from Sons of Orpheus, the choir with whom I had recently traveled to Paris. "I have commissioned you for a performance." "When?" I asked excitedly. "Now," he said. "I didn't get to hear the two pieces by Tom Lehrer that you sang at our last concert, and I would like to hear them. The piano player said that it was OK for you to sing them at the top of his show." Tom Lehrer is a musician, comedian, and mathematician who has written many songs with dark and somewhat inappropriate humor, but are absolute classics. I devoured his music because the lyrics, not visuals, are what make it funny, allowing me to show off my voice while making people laugh. Being the "ham" that I am, I immediately went up to the piano and introduced myself to the piano player. After he played a rendition of the 20th-century Fox Fanfare, the bar quieted down and he introduced me as a special guest. As I sang Tom Lehrer's "In Old Mexico," I adlibbed a little to make it funnier, which the entire bar thought was hysterical.

After I had performed the second song, I joined my family at their table for some eats and went up to the microphone occasionally to sing Broadway show tunes. I was having such a great time, and the rest of the crowd seemed to be as well. Some of my classmates from the opera program wanted to sing a song from "Phantom of the Opera," and the piano player couldn't play for them because he didn't have the music. Since I knew those songs very well, I jumped right in and played for them.

At the end of the evening, the piano player came to my table and asked, "Would you be interested in doing your own night?" Wow! I just met the guy, and he's asking me to do my own show? Unbelievable. "Heck yeah, I want to do my own night," I said. A few months later, I had the chance to play for the bar manager, who immediately scheduled me for the evening of Saturday, September 10th. Ever since June 24th I had collected a list of every single song that I at least knew how to play well, even if I didn't know all the words. These lists would be passed around to each table, and people could select which songs they wanted to sing. I had listed songs in four different genres--opera, musical theater, Disney, and other. All guests were encouraged to order copious amounts of food and drink because I would get 10% of the bar or $15 an hour, whichever was more.

The bar manager, the piano player and I had promoted this event like crazy, so I was expecting more singers to be there than there were. People just wanted to hang out, but some came and sang next to me while I sang into the microphone. At one point, however, I did get the whole bar to sing along to "Edelweiss" from the Sound Of Music, which later, afforded me a compliment from the piano player.

I deliberately sang "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera because one of my friends hates that show. In between phrases, he interjected a spoken phrase that contradicted the one I had just sung, and I played it off as a scene of unrequited love. John McCann, our wonderful secretary/treasurer, gave us a lively rendition of Tom Jones' "Delilah," and Tom Lehrer's "Irish Ballad" and "Elements song." An entire family of Disney "addicts" provided the best version of "Be Prepared" from the Lion King that I'd ever heard.

At the end of the night, I was told that I had earned a total of $133, which came from tips and from the proceeds of the bar. Although I was disappointed that there weren't more people--and especially more singers--I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as did the many friends and acquaintances who patronized the place. I will definitely do it again in a few months. I don't know how that piano player maintains a following there once a week. According to my "Phantom"-hating friend, who is also an accomplished concert pianist, it's easier to maintain a following if you do it once every few months. So if ever you visit downtown Tucson and want a cross between high energy and high culture on a weekend, check out the Dusty Monk Pub. You just might find me there.

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Phoenix Chapter Update

by Barbara McDonald

The Phoenix Chapter of the Arizona Council of the Blind (AzCB) meets on the fourth Saturday of the month at SAAVI located at 4222 East Thomas Road in Phoenix from 10:00 to Noon.

Their last meeting was on September 24, 2016. There was a discussion on the new treasury guidelines, an update on Valley Metro Transportation, what people can see and hear at VRATE, the vision expo, and nominations for officers. The second part of the meeting was set aside to share information and choosing one outreach program.

The next meeting will be October 22, 2016. Come and join us. Remember, you will not have to transfer if the Valley Metro Regional Paratransit is available for you. For more information, please call Barbara McDonald at 602-285-0269.

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SAZCB Update

by Lindsey McHugh

First, I would like to say what an honor it is to have been elected president of the Southern Arizona Chapter. This will present many wonderful opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the blind and visually impaired community of Tucson and the surrounding area. Though we are a small chapter, I am so fortunate to be working with such a bright, articulate, and committed group of people. I am also especially grateful for the mentorship and friendship of Jeff Bishop, vice-president, and John McCann, secretary/treasurer, both of whom hold state and national level positions in the ACB and have been tremendously helpful. The chapter now meets on the third Saturday of the month, via teleconference on odd months and in person on even months. Our book club meets on the second Thursday of the month via teleconference. We have voted in a chairperson for each of four areas--fundraising, membership, social media, and recreation.

The chapter strives to provide social and recreational activities, as well as facilitate changes in areas near and dear to the hearts of the blind, such as inadequate transportation, ADA eligibility, audio described television and movies, and museum accessibility.

During our last meeting on August 13th, it was brought to our attention that the ADA eligibility form is inaccessible. As it stands now, the office would send the printed form to someone who is blind, under the assumption that someone would be immediately available to read it to them and help them fill it out. This isn't always the case, and even if it were, blind people should be able to do this independently anyway. SAZCB is working to rectify the problem by insisting that this document be available as a fillable PDF, Microsoft Word document, and a Google form.

Dial-a-ride has recently launched its new website for clients to schedule their future rides. This, along with more reservation hours (7 AM to 4 PM 7 days a week instead of Monday thru Friday) is a vast improvement from what it used to be. Also, one may schedule next-day trips up until midnight the night before instead of 4 PM the day before. However, we feel that Sun Van also needs to adopt this same approach for its clients. We are working to set up a meeting with the directors of Sun Van and perhaps the Mayor and City Council to address this issue. We believe that people have the right to choose whether to use the bus or paratransit, and those who choose paratransit should receive the best and most convenient service possible.

We also look forward to a couple of great fundraisers for the chapter, such as a garage sale/bake sale to take place at SAAVI, and a proposed Percentage Night at several restaurants which is up for discussion. More information on these and more of SAZCB's happenings will be announced as it becomes available.

I am looking forward to continuing to work with this group to touch many lives in a positive way. Let's choose to make each day a good one!!!

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Leader Dogs Accelerated O&M Experience

by Carlos Paraskevas

I participated in the Accelerated O&M Training at Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Michigan. It is a weeklong program that teaches people who are blind to travel safely and confidently with a white cane and therefore empowering them to be more independent. The experience is one I will never forget. On Sunday August 14, I flew from Phoenix to Detroit Michigan. I was met by a volunteer driver who took me and another student to the Leader Dogs campus in Rochester Hills. I was shown to my room and the location of the dining room where I would have meals for the duration of my stay.

That night, I met my tablemates who I would be sitting with for the rest of the week. The group was made up of both O&M and guide dog students. They were of all ages. There was a college student who was getting her first guide and a grandmother who was working with her twelfth service animal. During the week, I met other students from all over the US and Canada. It was great to share our stories of struggles and accomplishments and to encourage each other to greater success.

On Monday morning, the five O&M students met with our trainers to become acquainted with one another and to get an overview of our coming training week. I then met with my trainer, Sarah Arch, to discuss my goals for the program

That afternoon, I went out for my first street lesson. Sarah drove me to the Leader Dogs training center in downtown Rochester. After showing me the streets in a two block radius of the building, I was tasked with walking around two blocks, crossing several four-way stops and getting back to my starting point. It felt very encouraging to realize that I could still cross streets on my own.

The next day, Sarah took me to a nearby mall where I worked on navigating elevators, stairs and moving sidewalks. Sarah reviewed sighted guide techniques and parking lot navigation. We also went to a Wal-Mart and reviewed standard store layouts and strategies to get and use store assistance effectively.

We also went to an area where streets didn’t have sidewalks. We reviewed techniques for safely traveling and crossing intersections when one has to walk in the street. Sarah told me about the Humanware Trekker Breeze, a talking global positioning system (GPS) device. I’d heard good things about the Breeze but I had not used one. When we returned to the School, she gave me a Trekker and said we would use it in the next day’s lesson.

Wednesday morning, Sarah showed me the layout and functions of the Breeze. We then drove around the neighborhood so I could set landmarks on the device. A landmark associates an audio or spoken word label with a GPS coordinate. I got to see how Trekker gave driving directions to a destination and how it reacted when Sarah turned the wrong way.

Later that day, I was taken to a neighborhood with uneven streets and random twists and turns. I used the Breeze to set the car as a landmark. After walking around a couple blocks, I tried to go back to the car. That’s when about five garbage trucks converged on the neighborhood. I had to have my coordinates repeated several times from the Breeze because I couldn’t hear it over the noise. It was a real world experience.

On Thursday morning, I used the Trekker to walk between some of the landmarks we entered the day before. I was able to explore the functions of the device and felt more comfortable getting around and knowing where I was.

I was taken to the Training Center so I could test drive a service dog. The lesson started with Sarah playing the role of a guide dog (her name was Juno) with me giving her standard commands. I practiced telling Juno to go forward, turn left and right, find the curb, a door and chair always praising Sarah, oops I mean Juno for doing what she was told.

Then I met Denver; a guide dog in training. We started walking down the street with me giving him some standard commands. It was challenging walking with a harness in my left hand and nothing in my right. I’m so used to having a white cane in my right hand that I was thrown off. I was trying so hard to keep Denver’s location in mind that I kept leaning to the left and bumping into him. After a half block, he walked off the side walk and brought me to a door. Sarah said he probably thought that’s what I wanted since I kept leaning in the direction of the door. When we got back on the sidewalk, I overcompensated in the other direction and stopped every few steps because I hit the grass on the side. Denver stopped and looked back at me as if to ask if I was okay. I was moved by the connection Denver and I had after such a short time. I have a better understanding of the bond that guide dog teams get after working with and looking out for each other. We finished the day with more traveling between landmarks on the Breeze. With wider streets with denser traffic, street crossings were more difficult. It was the most challenging part of my training to that point. Sarah gave me techniques to use in a variety of situations.

On our last day, Sarah had me enter the address of the school into the Breeze. She then drove me to the training center and had me find my way back to the school. I had to walk down sidewalks with changing layouts, business driveways and several signalized intersections. This was the most challenging lesson by far. Sarah gave me very useful practical advice to keep in mind as I worked on my O&M skills.

At one point, Sarah stopped me at the start of a driveway to discuss some strategies. A driver picked that moment to turn into that driveway and ran over the roller tip of my cane. Sarah was able to get the tip back on and we continued with the lesson. She said this is why you should always have a spare tip handy. You just never know.

We finished off by reviewing what we accomplished during the week and things I should work on when I got back to Arizona. Sarah told me what I’d have to do if I decided to come back to Leader Dogs to get a guide dog. I’m much more open to the idea now. In addition to the Breeze, I was given a cane two inches longer (60") than the one I was using. She said it would give me a little more reaction time when I hit an obstacle. She also showed me that my cane swing was not shoulder wide. It was closer to chest wide. I had no idea. The narrow span caused me to miss several curbs and intersections during my training.

I am grateful to Sarah Arch and everyone at Leader Dogs for the Blind for giving me a truly once in a lifetime experience. There’s no way to fully capture the confidence and enthusiasm for future possibilities this training instilled in me. I would strongly encourage anyone who needs an O&M refresher training, or has lost vision and needs to learn O&M for the first time, to consider applying for this program. For more information or to apply, please visit www.leaderdog.org and click on Accelerated O&M Training

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Online Blindness Resources

The database of resources, located at https://eyeknow.az.gov/, provides information on products and services from local, regional and national providers that are available to people in Arizona who are blind, visually impaired, or have combined hearing and vision loss.

This web based information and referral service is the next evolution of the print based "Arizona Resource Directory for Persons Who Have Vision, Hearing or Combined Hearing and Vision Loss" developed and distributed by DES/RSA.

The Governor’s Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment (GCBVI) initiated creation of this web base resource. AZCB’s David Steinmetz, Carlos Paraskevas Ted Chittenden, Barbara McDonald and Dan Martinez were active developers of eyeknow.az.gov. As members of the GCBVI Information Committee, they worked for several years researching, planning and building capacity to bring the resource to fruition. The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office provided IT expertise and the server necessary to take the service online.

Visitors to EYEKNOW.az.gov will be able to search for resources specific to the blind, low vision or combined hearing and vision loss populations.

The information at EYEKNOW.az.gov will be available to be printed for distribution to individuals without web access who can benefit from the information, products and services.

If you try https://eyeknow.az.gov/ and want to comment, make improvement suggestions or identify additional resources, contact cparaskevas@azdes.gov.

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VisionWalk 2017

The 11th Annual Arizona VisionWalk will take place on Saturday February 25th at Steele Indian School Park.

VisionWalk is a signature fundraising event of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. The Foundation Fighting Blindness is working to find treatments and cures for retinal degenerative diseases, by funding leading edge research in area such as genetics, gene therapy, transplantation, artificial retinal implants and pharmaceutical and nutritional therapies.

Visit www.fightblindness.org and join or start a walk team.

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For More Information About AZCB, please visit www.azcb.org or call 602-273-1510.

End of Fore-Sight Fall 2016