New picture of officers. ***Description: GCB officers Betsy Grenevitch (At Large Representative), Marsha Farrow (Treasurer), Cecily Laney Nipper (President), Kathy Morris (Secretary). Not pictured: Marj Schneider (First Vice President), Judy Presley (Second Vice President).

GCB Digest Online

GCB Digest GCB Digest Fall 2009 (Text Version)

DIGEST A Publication of the GEORGIA COUNCIL OF THE BLIND An Affiliation of the AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND An organization promoting a Hand Up, Not a Hand Out! Summer/Fall, 2009 President: Alice Ritchhart 125 Willow Pond Way Brunswick, GA 31525 912-261-9833, Toll Free: 877-667-6815 E-Mail: Editor: Ann Sims, 3361 Whitney Avenue Hapeville, GA 30354, 404-767-1792 E-Mail, Assistant Editor: Jerrie Ricks, 1307 Chester Place McDonough, GA 30252, 770-898-9036; E-Mail, GCB Webmaster: Steven Longmire Sunbright Consulting at GCB Web Site: TABLE OF CONTENTS President’s Message: Alice Ritchhart Press Release Regarding Need for a Commission for the Blind Part 2: Membership is the Backbone of The Georgia Council of the Blind: By William K. (Bill) Holley, Jr Blind Grandmother Goes Backpacking With Lamas in the Colorado Rockies: Contributed by Judy Presley Georgia Statewide Coalition on Blindness Meeting Announcement and Agenda CHAPTER ROUNDUP ANNOUNCEMENTS ***************************** PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE By Alice Ritchhart It has been a very busy summer, and I hope you all found some time to relax and spend time in the sun with family and friends. For me, attending the national and state conventions is not just hard work, but is also the way I relax and share time with friends that I only get to see once a year. The joint effort of working and relaxing at conventions always seems to rejuvenate me. My experience with this year’s conventions has proved to be equally beneficial. At the national convention, I attended an enjoyable GDUI reception where I participated as a contestant on Name That Tune. I won some prizes at RSVA (Randolph Shepard Venders of America) casino night and even took part in the Watermelon 5 K run. The watermelon was great!!! On a more serious note, I was able to receive information about what is happening at the national level with ACB that has an impact on all of us. One of the issues was the accessible money law suit which is moving forward even though it is a slow process. We also were told about how the NFB and ACB are working together on two very important issues: the Pedestrian Safety Act and a law suit against Arizona State University and their using the Kendall for all school textbooks. This practice, of course, is a real problem for the blind and low vision students because of the Kendall’s inaccessibility. Another important issue that was brought to our attention involved the action that the Department of Transportation wants to take in closing our vending establishments at highway rest areas, and giving the business to commercial venders such as Burger King, McDonalds, etc. This would give the DOT funds for highway repair, but at the same time, would eliminate jobs of many blind individuals across the country. This can and may be already happening right here in Georgia. Finally at the national level we had heard before convention that several states were planning to close their schools for the blind. Unfortunately while at convention Oregon did close its doors, but Illinois and North Carolina were able to get a reprieve. Our president, Mitch Pomerantz, has formed a task force to work on the school for the blind issue. After returning home I was lucky to see many of you at the state convention. It was our first one- day event and was quite busy, but we still found a little time for fun. Some of our members arrived early and took part in the midnight run beep baseball game. Others stayed to take part in the run itself. I enjoyed our silent auction where once again I did battle with Kay McGill for the perfect stuffed animal. Kay, I am happy to say, is the owner of a cute, ugly little dog. At our state convention, I had the privilege of presenting a charter to our newest state affiliate, West Atlanta. Welcome aboard! We know this chapter will achieve great things! It was also great to see all the chapters recognize some of their special members with certificates and loving cups. Congratulations to all the winners. Also congratulations to Desma Pike for winning the Rhoda Walker Award. We gave a special President’s Diamond Award to our Superintendent of State Schools, Kathy Cox, for her support and commitment to our schools for the blind and deaf in Georgia. She did ask for our help though, and we need to give it to her. Many of you know that she won a million dollars on “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” television program which she promised to the school for the deaf and the Academy for the Blind. Due to her husband having to declare bankruptcy, however, the state auditor who oversees bankruptcy issues in Georgia is refusing to let go of this money. We certainly think this is wrong. We need to call and let him know this money needs to be given to the schools as was Kathy Cox’s intention. Finally let me say we did hold a legislative caucus this year for the purpose of educating our legislators about our need for a special Commission for the Blind. Even though the number of legislators present was few, I believe the event was successful and that this truly could be our year to get a Commission. In this digest find a press release that was done by Senator Jeff Chapman of the third district about the caucus. Also please know that if we are to get a Commission, we must be diligent and push our legislators to support such legislation and pass it. With this important matter in mind, please plan to spend time with me at the Capitol this coming January. I am counting on your support as we meet significant challenges this new year. ***************************** PRESS RELEASE Senate Press OfficeFor Immediate Release: August 24, 2009 For Information Contact: Natalie Strong, Deputy Director 404-656-0028 Sen. Chapman Attends Meeting Held by Georgia Statewide Coalition for the Blind ATLANTA (August 24, 2009) - State Sen. Chapman (R-Brunswick) attended a meeting at the State Capitol hosted by the Georgia Statewide Coalition for the Blind to learn more about the need for a Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Speakers at the event included Commissioner James Kirby of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind and Don Harland, a Georgia resident who served as a former Commissioner for the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. "I believe that the Georgia Coalition for the Blind is taking a logical approach toward bettering the support and services for Georgia's blind and visually impaired residents by creating a separate Commission for the Blind," said Senator Chapman. "I hope that this cause will receive reasonable consideration by the General Assembly during the upcoming session." By establishing a separate commission, the Georgia Statewide Coalition for the Blind hopes to advocate for the special needs of the blind community, educate the blind on the services offered to them by the state as well as the public on the unique needs of the visually impaired, and serve as a platform to integrate the blind into the general population to increase employment opportunities. "This Commission is a win-win situation for Georgia because it will give blind and visually impaired citizens the tools to give back in a tremendous way within their communities," said Don Harland, a former Commissioner of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. "It is time that Georgia takes this important step by supporting a Commission for the Blind, as so many other states have already done." Currently, services for the blind and visually impaired are handled through the Department of Rehabilitation Services which operates five integrated and interdependent programs that share the primary goal to help people with disabilities to become fully productive members of society by achieving independence and meaningful employment. ****************************** Part 2 Membership is the Backbone of The Georgia Council of the Blind By William K. (Bill) Holley, Jr Part 2 provides suggested action steps to accomplish growth and development in the Georgia Council of the Blind. The stated purpose of the Georgia Council of the Blind (GCB), is to strive to elevate the social, economic, and cultural levels of the blind. GCB has assisted individuals with visual impairments by improving education, rehabilitation, and increasing vocational opportunities over the past 40 years. The major service provided by GCB is peer support by using self-advocacy techniques. As stated in the purpose, peer support is an important part of GCB as it encourages and assists the blind in developing their abilities and potential to become independent and responsible citizens in their communities. In consideration of our purpose, can the current GCB membership honestly state its intention to assist 285,000 individuals with vision loss in the state of Georgia? If we are serious about the purpose, who are the peer supporters? I would like to suggest that each one of the 267 GCB members becomes a peer supporter. I further suggest that each GCB member starts out by advocating for himself. Yes, self-advocacy is the major ingredient necessary for the future growth and development of GCB. In our visitations to ten (10) of the thirteen (13) chapters affiliated with GCB which included Athens, Bainbridge, Chattooga, East Georgia, Greater Columbus, Greater Hall, Macon, Metro Atlanta, Rome/Floyd, and Stephens chapters, problems and issues were centered around: 1. Transportation (services both public and private) 2. Education (information, training, vocational rehabilitation, etc) 3. Health (Medicare Medicaid, insurance, medical facilities, medical professionals) 4. Volunteerism (mentoring, meetings, and support groups) 5. Employment (finance and social security) and 6. housing (reasonable accommodations, affordability). These topics of discussion are no different than the stated purpose of GCB and the concerns of the broader vision loss community. The focus of GCB must address issues affecting our membership by encouraging peer support in our affiliates and to the members at-large. GCB has a wealth of experience within the membership which can be a source of empowerment to help the members overcome many of their problems. The GCB meetings are a very important step to getting started with self-advocacy utilizing the peer support services. A major source of strength within GCB is the ability to meet, discuss, and plan strategies to address problems in the vision loss communities. These meetings are not just social events without a purpose, but are organized events that should address the newly blind as well as the individuals who are blind at birth. GCB membership should continue to address issues to educate the public about the problems associated with blindness, but should simultaneously work to demonstrate the capabilities of individuals with vision loss. In order for GCB to retain a position of strength in the vision loss/disability community, members will have to attend local chapter meetings, GCB state board meetings (open to the public), GCB state conventions, community forums, and participate in both Blind Day and Disability Day at the Capitol. Members should also support transit associations, collaborate with other organizations to support issues associated with blindness, support braille literacy, support the Commission for the Blind legislation, and create or get involved with self-advocacy groups in their individual communities. The GCB organization is dependent on the membership to survive as representatives of the vision loss community. If the GCB leadership fails in its attempts to stimulate and encourage the participation of our membership, all of the vision loss community fails. Our purpose cannot be duplicated by some other organization because of how representation is achieved. If you are interested in getting started with the growth and development of your affiliate, contact the GCB officers or visit the office at 850 Gaines School Road, Athens, Georgia 30605. ***************************** Blind Grandmother Goes Backpacking With Lamas in the Colorado Rockies Contributed by Judy Presley of Helen, Georgia Upon hearing of Trek for Light, a weeklong hike in Colorado’s Rawah Wilderness for the blind, I imagined it to be the ultimate adventure and challenge. Each blind hiker would be paired with a volunteer who would serve as a sighted guide and a pack lama. Because I love the feeling of empowerment I gain from such an adventure and challenge, I applied right away. After gaining acceptance, I immediately enlisted the services of personal trainer, Mark Wilkes of Clarkesville. I followed his instructions to the painful letter. I realized that my enjoyment of the trip depended on my level of fitness. On August 7th I met my sighted guide, Kathleen Bennett and the other fifteen participants at the Quality Inn in Fort Collins, Colorado. The next morning we were off to the lama ranch for training with our lamas. At the ranch, we learned the proper care of a lama as well as the proper way to cinch on the saddle to equally distribute the weight of the saddlebags. We then drove to a campground to learn how to set up a tent and other camping skills. The next morning we took a four hour hike up a mountain trail so as to determine if all hikers were physically fit for the trek. After many treks, the organizers have perfected a technique of guiding with a short dowel rod and hiking sticks and having the lama rope draped over the hikers opposite shoulders. The next morning we were driven ninety miles to the Rawah Wilderness trailhead. This first day proved to be the most difficult of the trek. It was an uphill climb all the way. We got a late start and did not arrive at our designated campsite until seven in the evening. We were cold and hungry, but we first had to haul water from the stream and purify it before cooking dinner. We did not have dinner until nine o’clock that night. The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast of blueberry pancakes. My sighted guide and I went to the meadow to check on our lama whose name was Little Brown Jug or L.B.J. We found L.B.J. and the other lamas happily munching on the lush grass. That day we took a day hike up to beautiful Crater Lake. The next morning we started our assent to Grassy Pass at 11,300 feet. At the beginning of the trek, we were divided up into two groups of eight people. The plan was for group one and two to meet up at Grassy Pass on Wednesday afternoon and have lunch together at the Pass. Group two did not arrive. After a leisurely lunch in the lovely mountain sunshine, we proceeded down the other side of the mountain. We camped twice more before heading for the trailhead. Later we were told that someone in group two had gotten altitude sickness and they made the decision to do only day hikes at a lower altitude before heading back to the trailhead. After leaving the trailhead we drove back to the Quality Inn for a glorious hot shower. That night we had a celebratory supper together. The next morning we departed to our different states with a feeling of exhilaration from a unique experience. I will never forget the calm serenity of that wilderness. The only sounds were the wind, the babble of mountain streams and the roar of waterfalls. I also enjoyed the lovely fragrance of juniper and lodge pole pines and the fun and laughter around a crackling campfire. One does not need sight to experience the exhilaration and beauty of hiking in the Rockies. ***************************** Georgia Statewide Coalition on Blindness Meeting Announcement Augusta, Georgia, November 14, 2009 Social get together, Friday, November 13, 2009 6:15 pm, New Ming Wah Chinese Restaurant 3415 Wrightsboro Rd Augusta, GA 30909 706-736-1701. A room is reserved for us, and we order off the menu at very reasonable rates. The restaurant is located in the parking lot of the Savannah Suites hotel. Suggested lodging: Savannah Suites -- near the Augusta mall 3421 Wrightsboro Road Augusta, Georgia 706-849-3100 Cost: $47.17 (includes tax) for two twin beds or one queen $58.49 (includes tax) for two double beds Conveniently located near the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta Mall, I-520, I-20, Fort Gordon and Downtown Augusta. -- Directions -- I-520 North, Exit 2 Wrightsboro Road turning right, hotel is on the left. The price is the same whether one or four people are in a room. There is no breakfast buffet, however, a Waffle House and a McDonald's are in the hotel parking lot. To get the listed rates, inform the reservationist you are with the Georgia Blind Coalition. VERY IMPORTANT: Contact Alice Ritchhart via email at, or phone, 912-996-4213 for a food head count for the Saturday coalition meeting no later than Thursday, November 5th. Interpreter services need to be requested by Monday, October 23rd. Contact Becky Sills at and copy to make your request. If cancellation is needed, contact Becky Sills no later than November 2nd to cancel or you will be billed for this service. Registration Cost: $10 registration for everyone which includes coffee, lunch, and snacks. Thank you to the Augusta Business Enterprise Program for providing the food and drinks. Everyone will pay $10 whether they eat or not. CASH ONLY. No checks, credit or debit cards accepted. No exceptions. Georgia Statewide Coalition on Blindness Saturday, November 14th, 2009 Veterans Affairs Blind Center Augusta, Georgia 706-733-0188 Agenda 8:30 -- 9:00, Registration 9:00 -- 9:30, Welcome and Introductions -- Kathy Segers, moderator; Deborah Lovell and Todd Turansky -- welcome to VA; Tiffany Johnston -- Walton Options; Ava Scearce -- Regional Director for Augusta region 9:30 -- 10:00, Small Business Administration presentation on entrepreneurial opportunities 10:00 -- 10:15, Jim King, new Executive Director of Savannah Association for the Blind 10:15 -- 10:35, Deaf-Blind Camp -- Bob Green Deaf-Blind Program at Georgia Academy for the Blind -- Kathy Segers 10:35 -- 10:55, Legislative update -- Alice Ritchhart 10:55- 11:15, Paul Raymond -- update on VR and OBP 11:15 -- 12:00, Panel of Blind Providers -- Presentations of new programs by BEP, GIB, SAB, CVI, VRS (formerly BLV), WO, VISTAS, and Mons 12:00 -- 1:00, Break outs (pick one) Employment -- Teresa Brenner, Kim Harrison Small Business Administration Policy -- Alice Ritchhart, Robert Smith, Stephanie Scott 1:00 -- 1:45, Lunch 1:45 -- 2:45, Tour of VA Blind Center and New technology demonstration 2:45 -- 3:00, Break and disburse to next break-out 3:00 -- 4:00, Break outs (pick one) Transportation -- Robert Smith, Alice Ritchhart Education -- Kathy Segers 4:00 -- 4:45, Report outs from Breakouts 4:45 -- 5:00, Wrap up and Reminder of Next Meeting Location: Spring 2010 in Brunswick, St. Simons, Alice will coordinate 5:00, Adjourn ****************************** CHAPTER ROUNDUP Greater Columbus Chapter, by President Jimmie Burkes The greater Columbus Chapter will sponsor a forum: How To Live Independently with a Disability. This is planned for Friday, October 2, 2009 from 10:30a.m.-4:00p.m. in the Synovus Room at the Columbus Public Library, 3000 Macon Road, Columbus, Georgia. The forum is being sponsored in celebration of White Cane Month and Disability Awareness Month. The Greater Columbus Chapter would like to thank all GCB members who participated in the raffle. The winners are as follows: The Auburn basket was won by Ms. Debbie Bailey. The Alabama basket was taken by Mr. Earl Sears, the Georgia Basket, Ms. Kathy Seagers, and the Columbus State Basket, Ms. Jodi Swavely. Catching up on the Chattooga County GCB Chapter News, Submitted by President Marsha Farrow: Meeting Place is Summerville First Baptist Church. The December meeting, 2008, was our annual Christmas for Kids! The chapter members presented several children with vision loss with gifts and also presented gifts to children of chapter members who are visually impaired. The January meeting, 2009, featured a special guest speaker from the Victorian Christmas Windows Committee who informed the members of the background of each window decoration and provided very interesting information on Christmas celebrations from other countries and traditions. This committee decorates many store front windows in downtown Summerville. The February meeting focused on new members and getting to know each other. New member, Mary Turnipseed, led a very wonderful devotion on the subject of loving one another as stated in the Bible. We were fortunate to have two guest speakers for our March meeting. The first was Teresa Pope, Chattooga County employee who informed members of the procedure for developing a chapter cookbook for local awareness of cooks who are visually impaired and for the purpose of fund raising. Ms. Pope's cookbook is being sold to raise money for the cancer fund raiser in May 2009. Next, Chattooga County Sheriff, John Everett, spoke to the members on personal and home safety and identity theft. He also shared ways of preventing being a victim of crime. Many members are utilizing Chattooga Transit for transportation to the chapter meetings and educating drivers and community leaders on the specific ways to enable more travel freedom for people with disabilities. Wendi Harkins shared the great news of her new employment as an Avon dealer. Members are also planning a gospel music fund raiser in April or May which will be hosted by Summerville First Presbyterian Church and will include many other churches who wish to participate. The music of Fannie Crosby will be featured. Mrs. Crosby deserves our remembrance of her as the wonderful song writer who was blind as an infant and whose lovely songs we still sing in worship services today. We have one new chapter, Atlanta West, with the following members: Steve and Joan Estes, Cherie Fisher, James Holland, and Gayle Morris. Welcome,! We look forward to being with you at our upcoming GCB board meeting on October 17, in Athens. We also have two new members in our Bainbridge Chapter: Patty M. Dale and Stephanie Strickland. Thank you for joining the Bainbridge Chapter and being a part of GCB. ***************************** ANNOUNCEMENTS Just Call GCB! The leaves are starting to Fall, and so its time once again to call. Beginning Thursday, October 15, 2009, we will resume our monthly membership calls. Joining us this month will be Barbara Hurst of the Southeast Regional Coastal Commission to talk about the new rural regional transit project, Southeast Coastal Coaches. She may be able to help you all to try to promote such a program in your regions. Plan to join us at 8:00 p.m., at 218-844-3388, PIN, 4228. GCB Fall Board Meeting: The next GCB board meeting will be held on Saturday, October 17, from 10:00 A.M., until 4:00 P.M., at Multiple Choices Center, 850 Gaines School Road, Athens, Georgia. It is important that each chapter and special interest affiliate representative attend this meeting. Every GCB member and other non-member guest is invited to attend. Secretary, Robin Oliver, will be sending out directions for the meeting place to your chapter president along with all the other details and the agenda. The End