GCB Digest Fall 2006 (Text Version)
The GCB Digest
A publication of the
Georgia Council of the Blind,
An affiliate of the
American Council of the Blind
An organization promoting a hand up, not a hand out!
President: Marsha Farrow
102 N. Elizabeth Street
Summerville, GA 30767
Toll Free: 877-667-6815
Editor: Ann Sims, 3361 Whitney Avenue
Hapeville, GA 30354, 404-767-1792
Assistant Editor: Jerrie Ricks
1307 Chester Place
McDonough, GA 30252
770-898-9036; E-Mail, email@example.com
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Convention Overview: by The GCB Digest Editors -- 3
President’s Message: by Marsha Farrow -------------- 6
Reminiscences of GCB Beginnings:
By Dr. Jack Lewis and Ann Sims ----------------------- 10
Echoes from the GCB Convention, 2006:
by Dr. Phillip Dillard ---------------------------------------- 17
Reflections of the 50th GCB State Convention:
by Kim Carmichael: ---------------------------------------- 20
Braille Literacy, The Cornerstone for The 50th Anniversary Of GCB: by Bernace Murray ------------ 22
We’ve Got the Talent: by Phil Jones ------------------ 23
A Report of Services for the Blind in Georgia:
by Kay McGill ----------------------------------------------- 24
Legislative Report: by Alice Ritchhart ---------------- 32
“Self Advocacy”: By Patricia Cox ---------------- 35
A Recap: GCB 50th Annual Business and Board Meeting Report: Submitted by Alice Ritchhart ----- 38
A Report of the Awards Luncheon and Banquet Presentations: by Linda Cox --------------------------- 41
News Briefs: Submitted by Ann Sims --------- 45
Thank-You Letter: from Kay McGill ------------ 49
The ACB Convention Report: by Linda and Patricia Cox ------------------------------------------------ 51
Announcements: ------------------------------------ 51
The cassette tape edition of this magazine was read by Assistant Editor, Jerrie Ricks.
From The Editors
In July, a large number of GCB members attended the ACB national convention in Jacksonville, Florida. Among those were Linda and Patricia Cox, winners of the First Timers scholarship. Later in this issue, they will tell us of their experiences and reflections. The convention programs were enlightening and informative, and the exhibits were interesting and exciting, especially the new technology equipment. But, as always, it is too expensive for many of us to own. There were several candidates running for the board positions and the board of publications and the Constitution and Bylaws amendments and the resolutions were handled very professionally. Next year the national convention will be in Minneapolis, Minnesota, so make your plans now to try and attend where the weather should be somewhat cooler.
CONGRATULATIONS to the Savannah Chapter members, President Marsha Farrow, Convention Coordinators Alice Ritchhart and Peggy Chavis, Treasurer Linda Cox, Second Vice President Granger Ricks, and all who participated in hosting and working on our important 50th GCB state convention! You deserve a heartfelt THANK YOU for everything you did to insure a success! In this issue, you will hear and read about the programs, activities, exhibits, Yappers, business meeting and banquet. For those of you who could not attend, you really missed one of the greatest conventions GCB has ever held.
The poolside picnic on Thursday evening was a great way to kick off the convention. It was enjoyable with delicious food and beverages and with wonderful fellowship.
The GCB auction is always one of the highlights of our state conventions, and this year’s was no exception. There was a variety of items from dressed up dogs to a hand-made dulcimer, and the bidding was lively. Auctioneer Carle Cox kept everything under control and managed, as always, to make it exciting and exhilarating. Last year was a record, but this year was almost as high with the total being $1,247.00, all of that credited to the scholarship account. Thank you GCB members, for donating great items and for participating so graciously by bidding and to you, Carle, for keeping the ball rolling!
Again this year, our Yappers were an integral part of our state convention. We had eight Yappers with us including the two winners from last year, Larky Peterson and Owen Dean. The others were Koby Boatright, David Brenner, Patricia Cox, Holly Harris, ShaQuantey Mack, and Juanita Woodcox. The very capable and caring chaperones were Larky and Susan Peterson, Katie Hendon, and Linda Cox.
In this issue we have articles from President Marsha Farrow, Dr. Jack Lewis, President Elect, Alice Ritchhart, Phil Jones, First Vice President Elect, Bernace Murray, Kay McGill, Treasurer Linda Cox, and three new contributors introduced below.
Patricia Cox is 16 years old and a junior at Parkview High School in Lawrenceville. Her special interest is theatre. She has been in three plays at Parkview and one at church. She plans to attend Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah and major in English. After graduation she hopes to teach literature in high school or college. She is the winner of the Yapper Speak-Off, and you will read her article later in this issue. Congratulations, Patricia, for your speech and for all you do to keep the Yappers involved.
Dr. Phillip Dillard, the author of the article, Echoes from the GCB Convention, 2006, is president of the newly reorganized Rome/Floyd County Chapter. Although Dr. Dillard served on the first GCB scholarship committee and helped to write the guidelines that we are still presently using, this was his first time to attend a GCB state convention. After receiving a doctorate degree from the University of Georgia, Phillip Dillard was employed by Floyd College in Rome where he taught English literature for over 30 years. He is now enjoying retirement in Cedartown with his wife, Carolyn Thrift Dillard, who also was an educator for many years teaching visually impaired children in the Polk County school system. The couple have three talented adult children and three treasured grandchildren. We are sure that you will want to hear from Dr. Dillard again after you read his outstanding and interesting article in this issue.
Kim Carmichael, President of the Atlanta Chapter and newly elected President of the Georgia Guide Dog Users, Inc., attended the Mississippi School for the Blind from the third to twelfth grade. Upon graduating from high school, she received special training at the Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind, now known as Lions World, taking the three month Internal Revenue Service course. She began her IRS career in July of 1984 in Houston, Texas. She worked there for 10 years before moving to Atlanta, Georgia where she is still employed as a customer service representative. Currently she is working on adapting IRS software to work with braille and speech, then plans to be teaching it nationwide to the other visually impaired employees. Ms. Carmichael has been involved with ACB since 1983 when she attended her first national convention as a student representative.
We hope you will enjoy this fall issue of The GCB Digest. Thank you to each one who contributed to our magazine.
Ann Sims and Jerrie Ricks
Grandmother and Those Golden Years
By Marsha Farrow
Happy Birthday GCB! You really do not look your age! GCB has now reached the “Big 50” and the state convention surrounding this theme made the celebration one of the best in the history of our fine organization. Of course, as you all know, yours truly was not able to attend due to the delayed arrival of the stork. I believe he must have been held-up in having his luggage checked at some major airport! Please know that my heart and prayers were with you all as I wanted everyone to have a time to remember. I have had amazing reports from many of you and from M. J. Schmidt, our ACB First Vice President. Many thanks go out to the convention committee chaired by Alice Ritchhart and Peggy Chavis. Brian Leighton and the Savannah host chapter worked tirelessly for the entire year prior to the actual event. Brian also played a major role in the Youth Awareness Program along with the entire YAP committee. Linda Cox, our Treasurer, made outstanding contributions that are too numerous to list. Many of you spent countless hours on the phone, soliciting donations, traveling to the hotel site, and planning every intricate detail. Thanks to Geraldine Pye for her outstanding banquet speech and ACB President, Chris Gray, for his informative words at the awards luncheon and throughout the convention. I cannot possibly name each of you and how you sacrificed your time, money, and sleep to make our convention a truly golden event! Please know that you are appreciated and so very vital to the life-blood of GCB.
I was so proud to give very special tribute to Linda Cox, Steve Longmire, and Kay McGill for their individual talents through which GCB prospers. Linda handles our finances and registration as well as so many other duties. I want to express many, many thanks to Steve Longmire for his tireless work as Webmaster. We dreamed of a user-friendly website created by one of our own visually impaired members for so long. Steve, you make us all proud! Last, but certainly not least, we honor the retirement of Kay McGill. We appreciate Kay for all of her years of support of GCB. We will all miss her as our State Coordinator. Dynamite truly comes in small packages!
I was honored to give special tribute to our GCB charter members for long years of service. You are more than worth your weight in gold!
January 2007 will mark a new beginning for GCB in many areas including a new President. I am very grateful for the privilege of serving as your President for the past four years. I am sincerely proud and confident to be passing the baton on to our newly elected and very capable President, Alice Ritchhart. I know that Alice’s knowledge and skills and, no doubt, her passion, will carry GCB on to far greater heights. Bernace Murray, our newly elected First Vice President, will represent GCB in a dignified manner. I have observed Bernace as he addresses the public and he immediately receives respect because Bernace also gives respect to others. Second Vice President, Brian Leighton, could have his photograph in Webster as a description of hard work and dedication. I am so proud to have Brian on our GCB executive committee. Brian truly has a heart for the younger generation’s future. Robin Oliver will be a true asset to GCB in the position of Secretary. Robin has a quiet strength that is evident when you talk to her. She has proven her willingness to be in the background and has not needed accolades for her hard work. Linda Cox will continue to be our trusted Treasurer. June Willis could not have been replaced by anyone with more integrity. Darla Rogers will serve us well on our Board as our At-Large Representative. Darla, you have taken the initiative at the national level and I know that you will be a vital force in bringing our at-large membership together with greater cohesiveness. Thanks goes out to each person in a newly elected position for your willingness to serve GCB and in essence, all of our Georgia citizens who are blind and visually impaired.
For those who may have not heard, Peggy Chavis, our First Vice President, has been bitten by a terrible bug, the Love Bug! This “bug” flew all the way from Houston, Texas with an assignment from Michael Garrett to persuade Peggy that she should tie the knot this September. Michael is also an ACB member and has the responsibilities of overseeing the operations of the ACB thrift stores located in several different states. We all wish Peggy and Michael a very long and happy life together!
Finally, allow me to share my wonderful news of my first grandson who decided to make his entrance into this world on August 11, at 6:12. He weighed eight pounds and twelve ounces and was twenty-one and one-half inches in length. Connor William Ray is truly a “Gift from God”. My daughter, Megan, and her husband, Casey, are so very proud of this little bundle of pure joy! Bob and I are very grateful for the privilege of being this little guy’s grandparents. This entire experience of GCB’s Golden Anniversary and grandparenthood truly made me aware that GCB is comprised of real people with real life issues happening all around us. Being visually impaired is our common thread, but we are first and foremost human beings with families, friends, dreams, and countless goals. We each have the opportunity to experience all of the joys and sorrows of life as we travel pathways unknown and yet essential to full participation on planet earth! Make life happen every day by staying involved with those you love and with GCB!
Reminiscences of GCB Beginnings
By Dr. Jack Lewis and Ann Sims
Why the Georgia Council of the Blind?
The panel on the first fifty years of the GCB answered this question.
Judy Coursey, the only chartered member on the Saturday morning panel, reflected on many of the shakers and movers of the organization at the time of it's inception in 1956. She discussed Walter McDonald's dynamic leadership. He organized the Georgia Federation of the Blind and served as it's first President for 8 years. Mr. Mac, as he was called, served in the state legislature from the Augusta area while still in his twenties. He held elected office in Georgia longer than any other state elected official in Georgia, a record that still holds today. Mr. Mac served as Georgia Public Service Commissioner from 1922 until his death in 1971. he was also an elected member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, during the stormy years of the so-called internal civil war in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. In July, 1961, the Georgia Federation, along with several other state affiliates, broke away from the NFB and organized the American Council of the Blind (ACB).
Granger Ricks, who is a retired professor of history at Clayton State College, was the first recipient of the Walter R. McDonald Award. He valued the leadership opportunities GCB provided for him at the state and national levels. In addition to presently serving as GCB Second Vice President, he served on the ACB scholarship committee for several years and has served as President of the National Association of Blind Teachers. Granger, like Judy, emphasized the meaningful friendships he developed over the years.
Ann Sims and her brother, Otis Stephens, visited one of the GFB (later to be GCB) conventions in Atlanta in the middle 60’s, and she reflected on how special it was to meet Mr. and Mrs. Walter McDonald and to even sit with them at the banquet table. She also met Ned Freeman, Editor of the first magazine of ACB, the Braille Forum. Ann had obtained a job in the personnel office of the Atlanta Army Depot, and Mr. Freeman asked her to write an article for the Braille Forum discussing her success in being the only blind person hired as a civilian employee on that base at that time.
Around the mid 1960s, the GCB took court action to close down the Georgia Association of Workers for the Blind located in Atlanta. It's corrupt director was making thousands of dollars through unordered mail solicitations, that intentionally projected the "helpless blind image." The agency had faulty accounting practices, and was clearly exploiting the blind for personal gain.
Through court action initiated by our organization, the Georgia Association of Workers of the Blind, lost it's charter. Walter McDonald formed a blue ribbon committee, which established the Community Services for the Blind, that would, unlike its predecessor, provide quality rehabilitation training for the blind of Atlanta. This agency grew rapidly. In the late 60’s, the agency was relocated from it's small offices in downtown Atlanta to an elegant two story colonial home on East Ponce de Leon Avenue in Decatur, and then relocated several years later to Peachtree Street in Atlanta and changed its name to the Atlanta Area Services for the Blind.
Later in the late 60’s, Ann Sims joined the Atlanta Chapter while Johnny Wilson was President. She succeeded him as the first lady President of the Atlanta Chapter, and she attended her first national convention in Portland, Oregon. She served as chair for the GCB scholarship committee and First Vice President. She later joined the South Metro Council of the Blind and has served there as Board member, Secretary, and President. She and her husband, John M., have attended many state and national conventions
Johnny Wilson, Ann Sims and several others from the GFB joined forces with members of the NFB to form a coalition to persuade the members of the Community Chest (later to become United Way) to provide more comprehensive services for all the blind and visually impaired people in the Atlanta area. The effort was a success. The Atlanta Area Services for the Blind thus became that comprehensive agency which was so much needed. Six members of this coalition, including Johnny Wilson and Ann Sims, served on its first Board of Trustees. Later, the agency again changed its name to the present one, Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI), and has relocated to West Peachtree Street.
Anne Henderson Martin emphasized the indirect impact that GCB has had on her life. She discussed the many ways that CVI provided her with life-changing rehabilitation training that enhanced her independence, both with daily living skills and with self-concept. Her father and mother, George and Jean Henderson, served for many years on the CVI board of directors.
Jack Lewis came into the old GFB in 1958 and participated during exciting times. He said, “We were successful in obtaining fringe benefits for workers at our industries for the blind, creation of a credit union, the establishment of Community Services for the Blind, the formation of additional chapters, the formation of the American Council, and a significant growth in membership.
“Much of our efforts was fighting brushfires. The Atlanta Chapter prevented the Post Master in Atlanta from closing down one of the state's most profitable snack bars. In 1964, the Postal Workers’ Union wanted to replace the 24-7 snack bar with vending machines. In return, the company would share their profits with the Postal Workers’ Union.
“The manager of the snack bar, Otis Booth, and myself, President of the Atlanta Chapter at the time, developed a petition and began collecting signatures from postal workers that opposed the union's efforts to shut down the facility. Radio and TV stations were called in. We promptly contacted our local Congressman and U. S. Senator. Senator Talmadge personally met with the Post Master on our behalf. Our efforts paid off. The snack bar stayed and the eight blind and visually impaired employees kept their jobs.”
Our organization started with three chapters and has grown to the following, including those first ones: Athens, Atlanta (one of the first three), Augusta, Bainbridge (another one of the first three), Chattooga County, Columbus, East Georgia, Greater Hall County in Gainesville, Floyd County in Rome, Macon (the one where our organization began 50 years ago), Savannah, South Metro in south Atlanta, and Stephens County in Clayton.
We offer scholarships each year, and that program has grown by leaps and bounds, largely due to the vehicle donation program, the Stephens County annual benefit program and the auction. Dr. Jack Lewis was the first Editor of The GCB Digest back in the late 60’s, and then when he returned to Savannah in the late 90’s, he edited the magazine again. Ann Sims and Jerrie Ricks are keeping it going, and they are very grateful to all the GCB members who contribute articles, offer proofreading, handle the mailings, and so many other necessary tasks.
Several years ago under the presidency of Jack Lewis, GCB members felt there was a need to teach braille to those blind and visually impaired people in the rural areas of Georgia. These were people who either did not have local rehab services or who could not travel to agencies to learn braille. GCB began the Braille Instructional outreach project which has been very successful through the years. GCB members who use braille and feel they can teach it, volunteer their services to instruct those who cannot obtain these services elsewhere. Carolyn Hall, Laverne King, Bernace Murray, Robin Oliver, and Ann Sims have taken an active role in advancing this project and have reported that it is not only beneficial to the students, but deeply rewarding to the instructors as well.
Three years ago, Marsha Farrow and Jim Sparks, along with some teens and their parents, established the Youth Awareness Program (YAP), and we have enjoyed the participation of these teens as they demonstrate their capabilities and enthusiasm. With their involvement, we feel very hopeful about the future of the Georgia Council of the Blind.
Space will not permit us to elaborate on everything GCB has been doing and everyone who has been involved, but we are thankful for all the leaders and hard workers in our organization . Not all of those who made significant contributions to GCB over the years can be mentioned here, but we do want to recognize the following individuals:
Dale Albritton, Alvah Anchors, Richard Bagley, Tim Barrett, Elizabeth Bickel, Ollie Bledso, Teresa Brenner, John and Earlene Brockington, Milton Brown, Jimmie Burkes, Ed and Hazel Butler, Alfred and Cora Camp, Kim Carmichael, Carolyn Carr, Jim Cashin, Peggy Chavis, Janet and Sarah Clary, J.C. Coefield, Geraldine and Grady Coursey, Bruce and Linda Cox, Carle Cox, Patricia Cox, Robert Crouse, Carolyn and Phillip Dillard, Anne and Don Dilley, Jack and Rita Eckert, Cecil Elmore, Bob and Marsha Farrow, Faye and John Fearon, Patricia Fitts, Ned Freeman, Esther Galloway, Rose Gaultney, Barbara Graham, Betsy Grenevitch, Kaye Hall, Diane and Leo Healy, Margaret Bedore Hendrix, Ed Hinton, Theresa Elmore Hinton, William Holley, Mary Johnson, Elaine Jones, Eloise Jones, Phil Jones, Mary and Steve Keith, David and Serena Kelly, Tim Kelly, Brian Leighton, Jack Lewis, Steve Longmire, Heather and Stanley Lopez, Adeline McCarthy, Frederick McDade, Walter R. McDonald, Bob McGarry, Kay McGill, Ben Manley, Sr., Jesse Manley, Kathy Marsh, Kathy and Keith Morris, Elsie Mooney, Bernace Murray, Daniel Myers, Jimmy Nobles, Robin Oliver, Jerry Orr, Florence and Johnny Oxford, Patty Parris, Larky and susan Peterson, Crawford and Desma Pike, Luther and Mary Sue Phillips, Hoyal and Judy Presley, Gerald and Geraldine Pye, Brent Reynolds, Granger and Jerrie Ricks, Tom Ridgeway, Alice Ritchhart, Adam Shapiro, Ann and John M. Sims, Clifford and Sarah Smith, James Gus Sparks, Charles Stubblefield, Frances Sweet, Sandy Thomas, Valerie Thomas, Peter Tolly, Virginia Tucker, Barbara and Melvin Turner, Barry Vaughn, Anne Wheeler, Debbie Williams, Bob and June Willis, Dean and Jeannie Wilson, Johnny Wilson, Carolyn Witcher.
The theme of the panel demonstrates that GCB meets many needs. We are a close net social network, a social and political action movement, and a significant change agent for the blind of Georgia.
Echoes from the GCB Convention, 2006
By Philip Dillard, President of the
Enlarging my acquaintance with the wonderful people of the Georgia Council of the Blind was the most exciting part of the convention. It was great to spend the time with Granger and Jerrie Ricks, who have been our close friends for many years and whose wisdom and loyalty have contributed to the strength of the GCB over the decades. It was good to meet pioneers like Jack Lewis, Geraldine Pye, the Pikes, and Ann and John Sims--legendary warriors in the good fight. It was good to learn that Alice Ritchhart and Linda Cox are not disembodied voices in a routine conference call, but rather, real live forceful dynamos driving the GCB through an eventful present toward a thrilling future. And speaking of leaders, though Marsha Farrow's voice was not heard in Savannah, her spirit hovered in the air reminding all of us to be diligent and take care of business in a context of cordiality. Certainly all of us in Georgia were honored and challenged by the warmth and kindness of M. J. Schmidt and Chris Gray from the American Council of the Blind, bringing congratulations and best wishes from our parent organization in tones that--in Coleridge's words--"felt like a welcoming."
I did not understand the Yappers’ program until I came to Savannah. Now I am a fan. GO Yappers! These young people are so intelligent, so serious about the welfare of visually impaired persons, so determined to carve out personal careers in meaningful service, so well qualified for leadership, so helpful at the convention, and so closely in touch with their parents and their parents' generation--rare qualities indeed in these times.
Usually the meetings are the dreaded parts of any convention, even if they are a necessary evil. But I was pleasantly surprised in Savannah, where they were short, highly informative, lively, and democratically conducted. The speeches were short and pleasant--no pompous orations, and the question-and-answer sessions introduced relevant ideas and clarified sticky points. I was excited to learn about the advantages of the upcoming developments from NLS—the Talking Books program having made such a tremendous contribution to my life and career and having brought so much joy in our retirement years. It was reassuring to hear how Voc Rehab is stressing open dialog with GCB. The session about GCB history explained, not only where we have been, but also who we now are, reminding us of what Faulkner said: "The past isn't dead, it isn't even past." When I heard the good reports about the sessions on GARRS and NEWSLINE, I sorely regretted having slept through them up in my room on the ninth floor.
I want to say a special thanks to all of the friends, good-mannered, hard-working guide dogs at the convention. I left the convention realizing I had cheated myself by not hanging out in the hospitality room, and I almost cried about missing the auction, especially when I heard about that mountain dulcimer. But I console myself by remembering the welcome picnic out by the pool and by reliving the wonderful boat ride on the Georgia Queen--thunderstorm and all!
Reflections of the 50th GCB State Convention
By Kim Carmichael
This year I attended my first Georgia Council of the Blind convention. I have gone to many other state conventions but never Georgia. I will have to say that I had a wonderful time! Despite the efforts of the hotel to ruin our convention, I believe it was very much a success.
It has been a while since I have attended a state convention, and I was pleased to see that officials from the national office were invited to speak to us. I believe this is very important since it gives us an opportunity to get to know those who work on our behalf and for them to meet us as well. A strong link between the state and local chapters and the national office is very important.
There was a lot of hard work that went into this convention, and I would like to take this opportunity to commend those who helped pull it off.
Despite the rumors that our boat capsized and 40 blind folks were washed out to sea, I thoroughly enjoyed the boat trip. We were soaked through and through during the rain storm and yet were still able to get to Lady and Sons for a wonderful dinner! All that just made things a little more exciting.
This year was the first time braille registration packets & on-line registration were available. This was a much needed improvement for GCB. The convention was recorded this year, and CD’s will be made available to the members for a cost of $5.00. I believe this is another first for GCB, and how appropriate it is that it all happened during our 50th anniversary. There was a good mixture of fun and business at the convention.
A couple of areas where I can see a need for improvement are these. Since I am new to GCB, I didn’t realize that each chapter is responsible for working in the hospitality room. If I had known this, I could have arranged my schedule or one of another member to be available to share in our part of the process. I think sometimes new members aren’t thought of because it is old hat to those who have been attending for many years. The other things I saw that needed improvement, such as timeliness, and scheduling, were things that were in no way the fault of the convention committee. I believe that when we are not dealing with an uncooperative hotel staff, things will be much smoother. As it was, I am amazed at how efficiently the convention was handled.
In conclusion, it was my pleasure to attend my first GCB convention, and I look forward to many more. I truly had a great time!
Braille Literacy, The Cornerstone for The
50th Anniversary Of GCB
By Bernace Murray
What could have been a better way to start the 50th anniversary of the Georgia Council of the Blind Convention but that of a focus on braille literacy, the cornerstone to blindness!
Alice Ritchhart, Secretary of the Georgia Council of the Blind (GCB), and Marsha Farrow, President of GCB, added this very informative braille literacy presentation to the convention program. This allowed Mr. Bernace Murray, GCB First Vice President Elect, and Ms. Kay McGill, State Coordinator for the Blind, to give this presentation. Murray and McGill wrote a mini-grant and received funds from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), to spread the word throughout Georgia on the importance of braille for the blind and visually impaired population. This initiative had three main objectives: (1) to dispel the myth and stereotypical views that technology has made braille obsolete; (2) to inform and educate the vocational rehabilitation personnel on how braille can impact employment; and (3) to encourage and motivate more blind and visually impaired persons to learn and use braille.
On Thursday evening, August 3, 2006, at the 50th anniversary of the Georgia Council of the Blind convention, members had the opportunity to attend this braille literacy presentation. There were about 20 attendees, both blind and sighted. The presentation format was very informal, and it allowed open participation from the group. Murray responded to the most frequently asked questions, covering braille from A to Z read aloud by McGill. McGill also gave her take on some of the questions. Individuals from the group joined in and shared valuable information including their personal experiences.
This AFB-sponsored braille literacy presentation has been a total success, taking Murray and McGill to all 12 regional blind coalition areas throughout Georgia. There was an unexpected and special visit to the men's state prison located in Hardwick, Georgia, near Milledgeville. Believe it or not, there are quite a few blind and visually impaired people who are incarcerated. These inmates received the braille literacy presentation positively. And, let it be known, these inmates are performing a great service by transcribing K-12 textbooks into braille for the Georgia Department of Education.
Braille is one of the great cornerstones for the blind and visually impaired population. Braille has to survive!
We'Ve Got The Talent!
By Phil Jones
Another fantastic GCB convention has come and gone, and we have brought a lot of wonderful memories back home with us. Among them are memories of a great talent show which took place on the first night of the convention.
We had a variety of acts which included a karate demonstration performed by Koby Boatright, one of our Yappers; a poetry recitation by Pat Howell; an opera selection sung by Tammy Denning, Atlanta Chapter; a funny song about email sung by Christine O’Brien of the East Georgia Chapter; performance of some wonderful love songs by Crawford and Desma Pike of the Columbus Chapter; contributions in song from Juanita Woodcox and Holly Harris from the Yappers’ group; some story telling presented by Jimmie Burkes from the Columbus Chapter; and short recitations by Phil Jones.
The winners of this year's talent show contest were Patricia Cox and Larky Peterson who performed a song from the Phantom of the Opera. Jimmie Burkes and Desma and Crawford Pike were the second and third place winners.
Yes indeed, it was a great show, and it proved once again that GCB is loaded with talent. Let's start getting ready for next year's show, folks, and we'll make it even bigger and better!
Comments at the 2006 GCB Annual State Convention On Services for the Blind in Georgia
By Kay McGill
Hello, everyone. I want to share with you some of the highlights that have happened since we last met. Let me know if you want any further information on any of the following subjects.
The VR program contracted with the American Foundation for the Blind to present to the rehabilitation employment specialists regarding placement. In this three-day workshop, we had a panel of successful blind people share what he/she thought was important in seeking, obtaining and maintaining employment. Several GCB members were on that panel, including GCB president, Marsha Farrow.
Training is scheduled later in August on Technology in the Workplace and will include a panel of successful blind individuals sharing and demonstrating how important technology is to successful employment. The American Foundation for the Blind and Mississippi State University Research and Training Center on Blind and Low Vision are sponsoring this workshop for vocational rehabilitation counselors nationwide. Several GCB members will be on this panel: Marsha Farrow, Diane Healy, and Bernace Murray.
Statewide Coalition on Blindness
The next Statewide Coalition on Blindness will be held November 4, 2006 at the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta. More information will be sent out later as it becomes available.
All the regional committees on blindness have heard Bernace Murray’s presentation on braille literacy. Bernace and I presented the workshop on braille literacy at this conference. We received a grant in 2005 from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to conduct these presentations. We have a DVD on the braille literacy presentation for anyone who wants one and did not get one.
All the regional committees are continuing to hear the presentations on the social security blind work expenses and the impairment related work expenses. We learned that Social Security (SS) does not share this valuable information with the consumers and in many cases actually gives incorrect information to the SS recipient. Contact 1-866-489-0001, 1-866-772-2726, or 1-877-821-8400 for a speaker in your area.
We have a CD on the “Most Frequently Asked Questions” of VR related to Employment and to Technology. Phil Jones helped record this CD. This CD originated from the coalition and was produced in collaboration with the Georgia Radio Reading Service and the VR program.
We urge all of you to join in the regional committees so that your issues and concerns can be heard as you learn of new resources and decide on pertinent projects in your area. Contact the point people for the committee where you live. For information regarding locations of meeting, make direct contact with the point person. The locations of the meetings vary from meeting to meeting within the respective regions.
Regional Committees on Blindness “Point Person”
Region 1 – Norris Curtis
Region 2 – Stacey Hayes
Region 3 a and b – Shirley Robinson, Bess Garrett
Region 4 – Rick Caracciolo
Region 5 – Daniel Myers
Region 6 – Debbie Horton
Region 7 – Cheryl Mobley
Region 8 – Terrence Brooks
Region 9 – Angie Watkins
Region 10 – Collie Robinson (temporary only)
Region 11 – Kimberly Wagner
Region 12 – Manny Zapata
Georgia’s Older Blind Program
Let me know if you need a brochure. Our contractors can be contacted as follows:
Project Independence Service Providers
Center for the Visually Impaired
739 West Peachtree Street NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30308
Serves Northeast and Central Georgia
Blind and Low Vision Services of North Georgia
3830 South Cobb Drive SE
Smyrna, Georgia 30080
Serves Northwest Georgia
Savannah Association for the Blind
214 Drayton Street
Savannah, Georgia 31401
Serves Southeast Georgia
6595 Roswell Road #224
Atlanta, Georgia 30328
Serves Southwest Georgia
948 Walton Way
Augusta, Georgia 30903-0519
Serves East Georgia
Visually Impaired Specialized Training and Advocacy Services: VISTAS
337 S. Milledge Avenue, Suite 114
Athens, Georgia 30605-1061
Serves Northeast Georgia
Just in case you did not know, our friend, Dr. Bob Crouse, retired from Blind and Low Vision June 30th. We already miss him. The person taking his role is expected to begin sometime in September.
Detailed program reviews were conducted on all the contractors for the older blind in order to improve our program. The program for the older blind continues to expand. Some of the special projects recently conducted include having the training team from Helen Keller National Center (HKNC) in New York come to Atlanta to teach the braille instructors and vision rehabilitation therapists (the new name for the rehabilitation teachers) how to work with the deaf-blind. We also sent the orientation and mobility (o&m) instructors to HKNC in New York for a week to learn how to work with the deaf-blind in o&m. Upcoming; we have training scheduled for our peer support group leaders for the older blind population. GCB members will be participating in that training.
Just a reminder that if you want adaptive technology, home or vehicle modification and need funding for this purchase, contact Jackie Wilks of Credit-Able 770-922-6790 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, you may also contact Tools for Life at 404-638-0385 (Voice/TTY) or 1 -800-497-8665 or http://www.gatfl.org
Credit-Able is the loan program exclusively for people with disabilities. Maybe you would like the new Kurzweil NFB Portable Reader. Credit-Able may be able to help you.
I do many presentations. While I thought my presentations were all right, I was not satisfied and wanted to learn how to conduct a really good presentation. I am proud to say I am a charter member of the Beyond Sight Toastmasters Club and earned my Competent Toastmasters (CTM) award in 2005. The process took me two years, but it was well worth the time for me. Well, you all can be the judge of that! So, for the Yappers, or anyone else for that matter, consider joining Toastmasters to improve your leadership and presentation skills. They are in most of the communities, and you can start one in your area if your community does not have one.
We are so fortunate to have Ms. Peggy Rosser back with rehabilitation services. She meant exactly what she said. We have her support to bring about the needed changes necessary so that the VR program provides quality services to the blind and visually impaired in Georgia. I plan on devoting my remaining time to help VR foster these changes.
Assertiveness and advocacy are key elements to change. The Yappers spoke on those attributes. Let us continue to assertively advocate for the changes we need.
Thank you all for the years of support. You can reach me at 404-638-0376 or email at Kay.McGill@dol.state.ga.us.
Theme: Be A PAIN
Submitted by Alice Ritchhart
During the convention, Tammy Denning of the Atlanta Chapter gave an update about what was discussed during the ACB national convention legislative seminar. She said they heard from one of the Florida senators about how important it is to make constant contact with your elected officials. Often one phone call is not enough. The legislative body hears from so many people that the constituent must be persistent if an issue is to be adequately presented. Tammy further reported that PAIN is the acronym given to be used for advocacy purposes. P is for persistence. Keep at it. Continue to be a PAIN to our lawmakers.
A stands for action. Take action to support the issues that are important to you.
I calls for imagination. Use innovative and imaginative ways to get your points across and the attention of our legislators.
N means not to be afraid to stand up for the things we need and want. It means not being afraid to confront those seeking office or already in office concerning issues that affect the visually impaired community. Tammy concluded by saying that the best way to get important issues carried out is to volunteer for your legislative candidates on their campaign.
Alice Ritchhart then discussed with the group what the upcoming legislative session will hold for the blind in Georgia this year. The main emphases will be on the Commission for the Blind, the Braille Bill, and the Electronic Textbook for Secondary Education. Also, once again we will try to introduce the guide dog legislation allowing puppy raisers and their puppies unhindered access to public facilities. Fines for denial of this privilege should be levied against offenders. She reported that a steering committee has been put together to get ready for the introduction of the Commission bill. The committee will be meeting on September 28, 2006 at 1:00 P.M. at the Fairfield Inn, in downtown Atlanta. A rally will be held on October 27, 2006 and the participants will march from the Department of Labor to the Capitol. This activity will be followed by a legislative breakfast on Saturday October 28, 2006. The candidates running for state office will be invited to attend and share their views on our suggested legislation.
Finally, the other important piece of legislation that was discussed several times during the convention was the Audio Description legislation (S2686). President Gray insisted that the blind community must alert its senators concerning the importance of this legislation in order to keep this battle alive. He encouraged us to call our senators and push them to support S-2686. Gray appointed Abdul Kamara to work with the national office encouraging our affiliates to contact their senators for the support of the audio description legislation. Let’s all help Abdul by contacting Senator Chambliss and Senator Isakson requesting their support. Also, let us all be a PAIN this session to get the legislation we need passed to improve the lives of all Georgians who are blind and visually impaired. Volunteer now for a candidate of your choice.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Five Yappers made speeches on the subject of self advocacy, and even though the judges had a difficult time deciding the winner, the following is an outstanding contribution by a young lady who has been involved in GCB for several years and who was the first young person to encourage the organization of the Yapper program. Congratulations, Patricia Cox, and to all the Yappers!
By Patricia Cox
As a visually impaired student, much of my education has been spent on how to “be my own self advocate”. The phrase “self advocate” was first introduced to me by my 6th grade vision teacher. At first, I had no idea what that meant. So, I went to the dictionary for help. I could not find “self advocate”, but I did find advocate: One that argues for a cause; a supporter, defender or one that pleads in another's behalf. I figured that a “self advocate” was one that supported his/her own causes. This seemed to be correct because she wanted me to be the one to talk to my teachers about the things I needed to make my education in their classes as productive as possible. This came somewhat easily to me. I had been explaining Braille and canes ever since 2nd grade. When I was in 1st grade I even taught my teacher sighted guide. I had no problem with telling my teachers all about me.
For the past few years, I have excelled at making my needs known to my teachers. I thought that “self advocacy” was nothing more than that. After all, I had little experience with the world outside of the school setting. That was until my mother read an email that was sent to her about a law that would make blind services fall under the same category as the other disabilities. This would cause less money to go to the blind services. This upset me greatly. I went in late to school so my family could attend a protest. I will never forget walking in the large group yelling “S. O. S.: save our services”. Rarely have I been that proud to be a blind person. I was eager to assist in any way possible. I was proud to be one of the people making a difference. It was then that I realized what “self advocacy” was. I have since gone to several discussions of legal action that involved the blind. I feel that it is important because it is my future that is being discussed. And the futures of many others to follow. I believe that “self advocacy” is having the passion and strength to be proud of who you are and tell everyone you know about it to better your own life, and the lives of those around you.
A Recap: GCB 50th Annual Business and
Board Meeting Report
Submitted by Alice Ritchhart
For the first time the business meeting was held on Saturday afternoon at this year’s 50th annual convention. The meeting was called to order by first vice president Peggy Chavis in the absence of president Marsha Farrow who was home waiting on her first grandbaby to be born. The meeting began with the presentation of the colors by the Savannah Knights of Columbus. We then heard from Garrick Scott the outreach manager for the Georgia Universal Audio Information Access Service (News line). He explained how the news line works and how anyone interested can sign up for the services. We then heard from Kay McGill about what is happening with the regional DRS boards, and the Older Blind Program. She also announced to the group that she will be retiring effective November 30, 2006 after 34 years with the state of Georgia.
We then had the Secretary’s report from the 49th convention’s general business meeting, and it was accepted after corrections were made to name spellings. Linda Cox then gave the Treasurer’s report, and gave us information on fund raising. She told the assembly that she and President Farrow, along with a few others, met with the gentleman who assists GCB with the car donation program while at the national convention. He explained why car donations are down and shared ideas on how to try to advertise to help bring in more money. Linda reported that promotional materials had been requested but, unfortunately, not received before the convention. She stated that due to the change in tax law in regard to car donations, people are not donating as much.
Linda also discussed our annual raffle. A motion was made and carried to discontinue having the raffle since it has not been a profitable venture for the past two years. She suggested that a committee is needed to find new fundraising projects and to apply for grants that may bring in additional funds for GCB.
The resolution committee then presented two resolutions. The first was to recognize Savannah’s traffic engineer, Steve Henry, for the work he has done to install audio pedestrian signals in the city, and for working with the citizens with disabilities to make Savannah more accessible for pedestrians. A motion was made and passed to accept the resolution. The Savannah Chapter will be given a framed copy so they can present it to the city at a city council meeting and hopefully get press coverage.
The second resolution again requests an apology from the Business Enterprise program of the Department of Labor (DOL) to GGDU, GCB, and to a vendor who is a dog guide user and whose civil rights were violated when he was denied the use of his dog in his place of employment. The resolution also calls on the DOL to develop a plan for reporting to the Governor, the state legislators, and the blind community annually on what steps they are taking to prevent discriminating against venders who choose dog guides as their mobility tool in the future. A motion was made and passed to accept this resolution. A more detailed legislative report can be found in this issue of the Digest.
Next we heard from Crawford Pike about the hotel in Columbus and what other things Columbus has to offer for our 2008 convention. Crawford told the group that he would make sure that items such as microphones, water, and ice, were included in our contract with the hotel. Crawford assured us that the hotel would have a restaurant that will be open and available on Saturday and Sunday if we can guarantee at least 25 conventioneers for its use. A motion was then made and passed to hold the 2008 convention in Columbus.
Judy Presley, the chair of the nominating committee, gave a nomination report and conducted the elections for the executive officers and the at-large board member. The slate presented by the nominating committee was as follows: President, Alice Ritchhart, First Vice President, Bernace Murray, Second Vice President, Brian Leighton, Secretary, Robin Oliver, Treasurer, Linda Cox, and for At-Large Representative, Darla Rogers. All the candidates were elected by acclamation and will begin their terms of office after being sworn in at the January Board meeting.
After the general business meeting the Board met. The members discussed whether or not to hold the October Board meeting by telephone or in person due to financial considerations. Mention was made of the fact that the rally and legislative breakfast would be held during the same proposed time of the Board meeting so that an in-person situation might be feasible. A motion was made and passed to hold the October Board meeting in person and to ask members to handle their own expenses. It was further decided that a conference call could possibly be arranged for those members who were not able to attend in person.
Another motion was made and passed to move the Board meeting from the third Saturday to the fourth Saturday to accommodate other major events taking place on our usual meeting time. Thus, the rally will be on Friday, October 27, and the Board meeting and legislative breakfast will be on Saturday, October 28.
The meeting was adjourned.
A Report of the Awards Luncheon and
By Linda Cox
The following certificates of appreciation and loving cups were presented at the awards luncheon on Friday:
Loving Cup - Peggy Chavis
Certificates - Jerrie Toney, Willie Harris
Loving Cup - Dave Everly
Certificates - Rita Eckert, Mary Leach
Loving Cups - Clifford Jones, Clifford Brinson, Annie Pearl Flournoy
Certificates - Annie Beauford, Madelina Smith, Kathy Koehler
Loving Cups - Melvin Turner, Janet Hardin
Certificates - Beverly Brooks, Patricia Cox
Macon: Certificates –
Tim Kelly, Serena Kelly
Sandra Kay Hall, Barbara June Trice
Loving Cup - Marj Schneider
Certificates - Jan Elders, Teresa Brenner
South Metro Council:
Loving Cup - Frances Sweet
Certificates - Chris Baldridge, Bernace Murray
Loving Cup - Kela Addis
Certificates - Sheila Rousey, Jennifer Rutenber
At the banquet, the following persons were awarded life time memberships.
Alvah "Bubba" Anchors
Ben Manley Sr.
Also at the banquet, the following awards were presented:
June Willis Guiding Eyes award: Ms. Delores Rutenber, Stephens County Chapter
Rhoda W. Walker Award: Mr. Desta Tesfai, South Metro Council
Walter R. McDonald award: Ms. Alice Ritchhart, President Elect and member at large, Brunswick
Honored by President:
President's Diamond Award - Linda Cox
Special Recognition for Webmaster - Steve Longmire
Special Golden Service Award - Kay McGill
A special THANK-YOU to the following members of the Savannah Chapter:
Katie Hendon, Carletha Hurst
Brian Leighton, Jack Lewis
Marj Schneider, Teresa Brenner
Jan Elders, Pam Oglesby
Kim Harrison and son
Another special THANK-YOU to the following people who donated money and goods for our convention:
Michael Benson: cash donation for banquet
Peter Tolley: Coke products for hospitality room
Bob and Carol Walls: drinks and food for hospitality room
There were several prizes given to the holders of the winning Yapper tickets, such as, a Sam gift card, Walkman CD player and radio cassette, Mary Kay large gift basket for women, Men's and women’s small gift baskets from Mary Kay, and a Man’s Fossil watch. The winner of the $500.00 raffle was Wurst Haus, the ticket was sold by Judy Presley of the Greater Hall County Chapter.
A new listserv has been launched for the purpose of sharing information among blind users of various off-the-shelf devices. Users are invited to report on the accessibility--or lack thereof --of such devices as cell phones, cordless phones, MP3 players, DVD players and other stereo components, satellite radios, and home appliances such as microwave ovens, dishwashers, and clothes dryers. To join the list, visit www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/electronics-talk or send e-mail to electronics-talk email@example.com and put the word "subscribe" in the subject line.
Southeastern Guide Dogs proudly announces the appointment of Pat Cowan as executive director effective August 16, 2006.
Pat Cowan is a graduate of the guide dog school and past chairman of its board of directors.
Ms. Cowan has been involved with Southeastern for over twelve years. She has been a member of the Southeastern board of directors since 1997. She served twice as chairman.
Pat Cowan brings a unique perspective to her job as a woman from the business world; an advocate for the blind and visually impaired; and as a guide dog user.
When asked about her appointment as Southeastern’s executive director, Ms. Cowan stated, "Over the past 12 years I have seen Southeastern grow in the programs and services we provide our students and graduates. It has been like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon. I am honored to now lead Southeastern into the next stage of growth."
Ms. Cowan recently published a childrens’ book telling of her adventures with her first Southeastern guide dog, Bart. It is the first in a series of childrens’ books on this subject. Ms. Cowan is currently working her second Southeastern guide dog, Pixie. She and her husband, Cliff, reside in Bradenton, Florida.
Southeastern Guide Dogs, located in Palmetto, Florida, has been providing professionally and humanely trained guide dogs free of charge to men and women who are blind and visually impaired since 1982. To learn more about the school, visit the website at
To learn how you can arrange for a tour of the campus or how to assist the school in carrying out its noble mission, please call during business hours (941) 729-5665.
Come and sail with Just Us Blind Girls on a sunny trip to the Grand Cayman Island and Cozumel Mexico November 10 through November 15, 2007. For more information, call Bernard Harmon at 770-235-1850 of Harmon Travel or Jacqueline Colton at 770-969-8546. There is a $50 non-refundable deposit.
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School hope to survey 12,000 blind and visually impaired women in order to identify risk factors associated with certain health disorders, such as breast cancer and sleep problems. The results of the survey will help both blind and sighted women make more informed lifestyle choices. A summary of the results will be sent to all participants annually. The survey is open to all women aged 18 or over who are legally blind. All participants will be entered to win prizes. You could be one of 50 winners to receive a subscription to one of several braille magazines. Two winners will receive a gift certificate worth $250 to spend with EnableMart. Finally, one grand prize winner will be rewarded with a roundtrip airline fare to anywhere in the continental U.S. courtesy of EnableMart. You can register for and complete the survey in the convenience of your own home using our rigorously tested Section 508 compliant website at www.bvihealthsurvey.bwh.harvard.edu.
The website also includes a tutorial on completing forms, written by expert screen reader users. The survey may also be completed in Braille, by audio tape, in large print or over the phone. If you have any questions or require more information, please contact Erin Evans (Tel: 617-525-6707; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org); or Dr. Steven Lockley (Tel: 617 732 4977; e-mail: email@example.com).
Volunteers are needed for an MRI study on the sense of touch. Participants must have no light perception, not have diabetes, not have any metal on or inside the body that cannot be removed, not have a history of claustrophobia, not have carpal tunnel syndrome, not be currently diagnosed with depression or an anxiety disorder, and not wear braces or retainers. They must be a native English speaker and be available for two three-hour blocks of time. The study involves two sessions of MRI testing on two separate days for 3 hours each day. Compensation is $25 for every hour of testing. For more information, contact Mr. Naresh Jegadeesh at 404-727-1453 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org in the Emory University Department of Neurology.
ABILITY, America's first nationwide online panel for people with disabilities, their family members, and other stakeholders, is in need of people with visual disabilities for upcoming Mystery Shopping projects. You will be compensated for your time and transportation assistance is available. To find out more info about the panels please visit:
http://www.abilitypanel.com. It is free to join our panels. To signup, please visit:
"Eye on Blindness," the interview show that Blind & Low Vision Services co-produces with Georgia Radio Reading Service (GaRRS) airs twice a month on GaRRS: the last Wednesday of each month at 2 p.m. and the following Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The format of the show is one or two guests answering questions posed by interviewer Dick Edwards, a retired television broadcaster. if you do not have a GaRRS radio, you can tune in on your computer if you have Microsoft Media Player at:
If you would like to get a GaRRS radio, call 404-685-2820 to find out how to get one. If you have comments on a show, please send an e-mail to April Cline, executive director of GaRRS at email@example.com or call the main number at GaRRS: 404-685-2820. If you have an idea for a show, send those to Brenda Young at eob@BLVSgeorgia.org. Please note the new email address.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a thank-you letter from Kay McGill.
Georgia Department of Labor
Vocational Rehabilitation Program
1700 Century Circle, Suite 300,
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
MICHAEL L. THURMOND
August 21, 2006
Dear Fellow GCB Members,
I was deeply touched by the standing ovation you gave me and the receipt of the “Golden Service Award” you awarded me during the 2006 annual GCB state convention. I felt very honored and humbled by your generosity.
This was the first time I had publicly announced my retirement. I knew I could not come to the conference without letting you know and say my good-byes to you. Regardless of what happens in the future, I knew this would be my last time I would be before you in my current position.
We have worked on many issues and have done a great deal of good work together throughout the years, and I am deeply appreciative of the support you have given me.
I am open to all kinds of possibilities after November 30, 2006, so who knows where I shall be next!!
I love you all dearly and thank you for your kindness and support throughout the years.
State Coordinator for the Blind
Older Blind Program Manager
First Timers to the ACB National Convention
Submitted by Patricia and Linda Cox
We wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to GCB for selecting us as this year’s recipients of the First Timers’ Scholarship. We enjoyed every minute of the convention. As promised, we learned many things that we can share with the membership. We plan to share some stories at the October board meeting.
Once again, we sincerely thank you for the opportunity of experiencing the national convention.
Please send your change of address, telephone number, email address, or any other change to Linda Cox, 770-972-2231, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next GCB board meeting will be October 28, held at the Center for the Visually Impaired. The rally mentioned above by Alice Ritchhart in her article, will take place on Friday, October 27. If you have any questions about either the rally or the board meeting, please contact Alice Ritchhart at 912-261-9833, e-mail, email@example.com; or Marsha Farrow at 1-877-667-6815, e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.