Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired

                           MCBVI NEWS
Spring 2007

     The Michigan Council of the blind and Visually Impaired unites people: to promote cultural, social, and personal growth, as well as understanding toward progress, dignity, equality in issues regarding blindness and visual impairment.

                     President: Michael Geno
Editor: Donna Rose

     The MCBVI News is published quarterly in Braille, large print, on audio cassette and sent via email to its membership.  Contact the editor via Email at, wild-rose@sbcglobal.net or by phone at 517-333-9117.

     General Inquiries regarding the activities of MCBVI may be made by calling toll-free 1-888 956-2284, or we can be contacted by email at, mcbvi1@verizon.net

                    From The President's Desk
By Michael Geno

     This article will help you have a better understanding of a dispute among the blind over currency.  I also have included a parable that you might use to help family, friends, and government or media representatives to separate reality from myth.  Informed persons will be motivated to protect an opportunity for the blind to enjoy independence, dignity, and equal participation in a basic required activity of society.  That requirement being, the independent identification and personal management of our national currency.

     But there is this confusing twist for government leaders and the general public to try and figure out.  This pending improvement is now being attacked.  For the uninitiated, it may come as a surprise to learn that this opposition is being argued by brothers and sisters in the minority of the blind.  These few seek to kill the projects of others they do not control.  Why do they fear or resist reasonable improvements enabling every citizen to successfully identify all U.S. currency by touch as well as sight?
There is more revealed in this struggle than just a disagreement between organizations of the blind.  Try to avoid assuming that competing opinions just represent differences in philosophy. Contrasting statements reported here, shed light in dark shadows of manipulation and control.  I hope what I have reported here, will help you to see and understand the problems we all will suffer as a result of the National Federation Of The Blind agenda.
Even members in the NFB have communicated to me that they also disapprove of, and question the outrageous claims made by their officers.  Other visually challenged citizens who belong to no organization at all, also express their view that no single group can represent them with one voice.
I hope many grasp what my concluding story reveals.  Then reread and consider these facts, and ask yourself, why would anyone try to convince you that "Accessible Currency is dangerous?"

     A precedent setting decision was reached by a Federal court ruling last November 28, 2006, that the United States Department of the Treasury is in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by not designing its paper currency in an accessible form.  If upheld, this decision will bring independence for those who have some vision loss.  The ruling by Federal District Judge James  Robertson points out, that U.S. banknotes of identical size and texture, deny blind people independent access to paper currency.
The efforts of the American Council Of The Blind, supported by their 70 affiliates comprised of tens of thousands of members throughout the 50 states, successfully argued for this favorable ruling.
Other organizations of the blind including OurMoneyToo, an independent group of blind and sighted volunteers also consider this decision as welcome news.  In 2004 they formed their organization to support equally accessible paper currency, focusing their efforts on educating the public about the benefits to all.
Not every one is celebrating.      One outspoken organization claiming to be the voice of the nations blind continues to argue against progress toward accessible currency for all.  Their president has been very outspoken with the weakest arguments I have ever heard from the National Federation Of The Blind.  Perhaps he hopes to strike a nerve, when declaring excessive cost as a serious drawback to any currency design improvements.  But cost has not proven to be a prohibitive factor for the more than 100 countries that already make use of tactile  differences between their paper bills.  These countries have already invented efficient ways to deal with retooling ATMs and other vending or money handling machines.
Sighted as well as blind or visually impaired persons consider adding tactile features to our currency, a definite improvement, adding more protection for all.  A software engineer in Waltham, Mass. stated in a news report that, "Even as a sighted person, I think accessible paper money is a good idea. For one thing, adding tactile features would make our currency harder to counterfeit."      Government leaders can take this opportunity to create tactile markings using technology that is difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce.  Judge Robertson noted in his opinion that, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank consider the tactile features on euros and Swiss banknotes, an additional security feature.  This is because they can be so hard to replicate."
There are more arguments for and against, that space does not permit me to include here.  But the public needs to be made aware of NFB false claims and confusion.  Their publicity misleads the public.  Does NFB spend tax dolors and donations they have collected to help the blind, on contrary press releases?  Their headlines cry, "United States Currency Does Not Discriminate Against Blind People!"  What an astonishing claim for them to make.  Donors to the NFB should demand their non-identifiable currency back.  This Federation plans to support the Treasury in an appeal process.  More is revealed in statements made to the press by the NFB president Marc Maurer.  He publicly argues that this ruling was "dangerous and wrong." He also declares that "The blind are not barred from using U.S. paper money because of the way it is designed."  He goes on to say, "This ruling misinterpreted the meaning of discrimination."
Notice his misleading substitution of the word barred for the discrimination problem the court clearly identified.  You can see why it is necessary to include some of this smoke and mirror rhetoric here to contrast with the other side of the coin, the public is left to toss.
What follows is fiction, but perhaps an illuminating parable.  Yes, it is a story I tell to entertain, but can easily be applied to the reality blind persons face everyday when required to handle its inaccessible paper money.

                       Two Sides Of A Coin
By Michael Geno,
MCBVI President

     Two subjects came before their king to settle a dispute over money.  Each was from distant cities of the kingdom having different forms of paper currency.  The king noted that both men were without sight as they approached his throne.   Each man held paper notes in one hand and tapped with a cane in the other.
What is your claim he asked the man on his left?  That man replied, I am a Federationist who has been cheated by this Councilman.  In our transaction he owed me 10 dollars.  This Councilman said he had no change and gave me what he identified as one 50 dollar bill.  I returned to this Councilman four identical 10 dollar bills. This dishonest Councilman did not want to accept my identical notes, and asked for different shaped 10 dollar bills similar to those from his country.  He would not trust that the four identical Federation bills I gave him were worth 40 dollars as I claimed.
This Councilman next said that I had the advantage since it was easy for us both to identify the distinct 50 dollar note he first paid me.  This Councilman claimed that he could return my four bills and get 40 single dollar bills in change.  Not having that many bills, I refused, and said I would return a fifty dollar bill to this Councilman.  he then gave me back my 4 bills, in exchange for the one single 50 dollar bill he now holds.  I did not trust that this Councilman would give me back my same four 10 dollar bills, and gave him one Federation 50 dollar bill.  This Councilman refused to accept this bill, and asked for his original back.  We argued and I did not return any bills or the object this Councilman has attempted to cheat me out of.
The king then turn to the Councilman on his right, and demanded of the Councilman, what have you to say to this charge?
The Councilman held up the bill the Federationist had given him back and replied.  I have asked to come before you who can see our bills, and decide for yourself who is being cheated.  There is nothing more for me to say, because by the witness of the bills in our hands, the truth is revealed.
The king knew that bills of different amounts produced in the Federationist village were all the same size, and not distinguishable by touch.  He could easily see that the bill the Councilman held, was only worth 5 dollars.  He said, the single bill you hold is not a 50 dollar bill.  Councilman, the king asked, do you have other bills in your pocket?  No the man on his right replied.  The king turned to his left and asked to see each of the bills held in the Federationist's hand.  These were, 4 one dollar bills which did not differ in size and shape from other paper notes traded in the Federationist's land.
The king then asked, Federationist, do you have other bills in your purse?  Yes, the man replied.  The king said, then get them out, because you still owe this Councilman money.  And, since you seem to be an expert in handling and knowing what bills you have, no one may assist you in selecting which to repay with.  The federationist became very upset, and nervously fumbled for his purse.  As he pulled it out, he accidently dropped it, scattering his neatly folded bills on the ground.  Stooping to pick them up, he angrily realized that they now were not as he had organized them, and guessed at identifying as many 1 dollar bills as he could.  The single bill he was sure of, was the distinctly tactile shaped 50 dollar note the Councilman had originally paid him.  The federationist quickly tucked this 50 dollar bill away in his pocket and gathered up the rest of the remaining bills at his feet.  But he only could be sure of perhaps 20 of them.  The Federationist calculated that he still needed to sort out 25 more dollars of the 45 the king must require him to repay.
The Federationist tried to hide that he was only guessing the denomination of each identical bill he sorted from others on the ground.  He hoped that they totaled 45 dollars.  The Federationist  next presented them to the king.
The king then asked this Federationist if he still needed more notes to pay the debt?  The Federationist thought about the king's question, and wondered if one among the three 5 dollar bills he assumed he had put with the other twenty identical 1 dollar notes in his hand, must have been a 1 dollar bill also.  He exchanged it with another bill from those he had put back in his purse and handed the Councilman these 23 identical paper bills he hoped totaled 45 dollars.  There, he cried, I have paid you back!
The king asked the Councilman if he accepted the identical bills the Federationist had selected as payment?  The Councilman asked if the bills presented could be identified by sight?
Yes, the King replied.  He then decreed that the transaction was final and the object of interest was not sold.  This king then explained that because the Federationist was at a disadvantage when selecting the money from his own land, so also is the Councilman in their verification.  So the Councilman was forced to suffer the same disadvantage and endure the consequences of required trust instead of independent determination.  He then noted that both men enjoyed a personal advantage because of the identifiable bills traded in the Councilman's land.  He ruled that all bills traded in his kingdom must be made different enough to be identified by touch.
After the Councilman accepted the 23 bills selected by the Federationist, there came a final revelation from the King.  Now that you have both gambled on the poor judgment of this Federationist, and his countrymen, I now will reveal to you the extent of the cost.  Both men stiffened while the king spoke.   
The 23 bills this Federationist selected for you Councilman, each feeling the same, he has repaid you the following.  Three 20 dollar bills, 6 5 dollar bills, and 19 one dollar bills.  Since it was his own folly to pay the debt with bills that feel the same, it is fair that he keep the object he first tried to sell.  The Councilman asked that he might see the coin the Federationist was selling.  The king then asked to see one.  The federationist shamefully handed over one gambling coin.  The king laughed at what he saw.  Such a coin is worthless he said.  This coin is never used or trusted in this city.  The king then gave this coin to the Councilman to feel.  The Councilman smiled when he noted by touch that it had no head, only tails.

             In Memoriam:  Michigan Loses A Treasure
By Donna Rose

While working on our state's membership list today I reflected on the people represented by each name.  Many of them hold a special place in my heart.  We are losing a lot of older members.  These are the people who we can personally thank for Social Security programs that raised much of our population out of poverty, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Braille literacy legislation and so much more in the way of social justice.  These are the people who worked at jobs before disability civil rights were even conceived.

Sadly, on April 25th Michigan lost one of these valued senior members, Sue Illingworth.  At 83 she was still going strong working on behalf of all of us and doing it so seamlessly.  We just spoke to her at our quarterly board meeting four days prior to her death and she attended a committee meeting for our resolutions committee the night she passed away.  Sue had a heart attack.  It was a shock to everyone.   

I can't remember a time when I didn't know the Illingworth's as they have been a consistent fixture in the history of our state since before I was even born.  A graduate of Ohio State with a degree in education, Sue spent her career as a home teacher in Ohio and for the State of Michigan as a rehabilitation teacher for the blind.  Sue herself was dealing with the eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa, and she ultimately lost all of her sight.  But that wouldn't stop Sue, who remained active after retirement with the Lion's Club and the Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired.  Once when I was in my 20's she said to me how irritating it was to her that many people didn't think that a blind person could be employed and afford to pay for things.  She was proud of her work as we all should be, and she had no trouble speaking her mind to set people straight when they just didn't get it.  Sue was always a true champion for our community.

Sue was a personality of so much more worth than my words can express here.  She and her husband George were the best set of inseparable soul mates I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  They routinely finished each others sentences and it was obvious how important one was to the other.  There is a tale at a Halloween party sometime in the past Sue dressed in slacks and went with a t-shirt that read "Hershey's" and George was dressed the same, but his shirt read "Hershey's With Nuts".  Sue could be so whimsical!  And like most seniors she had a lot of stories and history to share.

Sue is survived by her husband of 48 years, George.  The hearts and minds of all those who are blind and have known the Illingworth's will be with him as he grieves and attempts to adjust to life without his best friend.  It is suggested that those who wish to further honor the memory of Mrs. Suzanne "Sue" Illingworth may do so by making a contribution to: Lions Club-Plymouth Chapter or Wayne County Regional Library For the Blind, 30555 Michigan Avenue Westland, MI 48186."  There is now a void that can never be filled by another.  We miss you Sue!

                          Did You Know?

     Mid Michigan now has a new "211" system that can be dialed from a landline phone to gather information on community help that is available.  Examples of possible referrals include rent and utility assistance, food assistance, support groups, counseling, substance abuse services, parenting information, housing, clothing, health needs and counseling.  Other communities are also launching this "211" service.

     ACB Diabetics in Action is a relatively new affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.  To join or find out more information contact president, Dee Clayton at 515-848-5007. They also have an online chat list which you can join by sending a blank e-mail to  acbda-subscribe@acb.org.

     If you are having problems with the Internal Revenue Service which can't be solved through regular channels, there is a Taxpayer Advocate Service available.  Although they are technically a part of the IRS, they work independently.  You can reach their Detroit office at (313) 628-3670.

     There is now a new hand held talking menu available to restaurants.  It is easy to operate and can be accessed anywhere in an eatery.  It even has a paging feature to alert your server that you are ready to order.  For more information visit their web site at: www.menusthattalk.com  

As the 2008 launch date for digital talking books and players nears, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, is preparing its library network for the transition. As part of this effort, the Digital Transition Advisory Committee met on January 30-31 to discuss recent implementation developments. NLS established the group, which succeeds the Digital Long-Term Planning Group, to inform staff about transition progress and distribution plan updates.  With the completion of the first Digital Transition Advisory Committee meeting, NLS is well equipped to move forward with two distribution-related projects. During the upcoming pre-launch test, patrons selected by eight regional libraries will test current prototypes of the digital talking books and players. NLS will also examine digital copy allotment of older book titles in a separate project. More than 23 million copies of recorded and braille books and magazines were circulated to a readership of 799,718 in 2004. The International Union Catalog provides access to 423,500 titles (19 million copies). Audio book readers borrow an average of 31 books and magazines a year. Braille readers average 20 books and magazines a year. An overview of the NLS digital talking-book project may be found in Current Strategic Business Plan for the Implementation of Digital Systems at www.loc.gov/nls/businessplan2006.html

     ACB is now offering a new ACB tuner for use with Windows 2000, XP, 2003, and Vista.  Those using Windows 95, 98 or ME, or NT 4.0 can continue using the older edition of the tuner.  It has many enhanced features to help you connect easily to ACB Radio.  You can download it at: http://www.acbradio.org/tuner

                   New Transportation Options

     By fall it is expected that a new intercounty railroad will be up and running from Washtenaw to Livingston County.  The new rail line will be run by Great Lakes Central Railroad and is a combined business and government project.  There are high expectations that it will eventually run from Monroe to Traverse City and Petosky.
For extremely inexpensive fares, check out the new Megabus offered by Coach USA, the domestic subsidiary of Scotland-base Stagecoach Group PLC.  For Internet-savvy travelers on a budget, Megabus.com claims to offer a service that makes mainstream bus travel seem pricey: rides from Pittsburgh to Chicago for as little as $1.
The Chicago-based company, which began operating in a number of Midwestern cities last year, plans to launch new service April 2 in Pittsburgh; Ann Arbor; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Mo.; and Louisville, Ky. It already offers service between Chicago and Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Toledo.  Megabus uses online ticketing and sidewalk stops instead of ticket counters and bus terminals. Passengers do not buy tickets, but instead give drivers reservation numbers they receive when booking online.  The low-cost model was imported from the United Kingdom, where Stagecoach introduced a similar service nearly four years ago. For more information go to: www.megabus.com

                       Call For Candidates
By Donna Rose

     It is with great sadness that I must announce that I will not be seeking another term as first vice president of MCBVI.  I would like to dedicate the next couple of years to our local chapter.  I am hoping to remain public relations and publications chairperson and feel that I will be able to do these jobs better if I limit some of my responsibilities. 
As you may know, I was recently promoted to team leader of the Creative Recovery program at my local Community Mental Health office.  I am a social worker in charge of working with three other staff members who plan creative expression opportunities for those who have severe and persistent mental illnesses.  It is a great job, but sometimes stressful and challenging.  Like many of you my career is very important to me, and I get a great deal of satisfaction from working.  Of course, the paycheck isn't bad either!  I am at a place in my life where I need to concentrate mostly on my paid position.
I would like to take this time to thank our fabulous board for their enthusiastic support and steadfast participation.  Special thanks go out to Mike and Jeanette Geno for their patience with me and hard work on behalf of all who are blind or visually impaired, despite their own personal challenges.  I have felt so much support from our members as well.  I have met a lot of great people and have many new friendships as a result of my time on the executive board.  In a word, this has been wonderful!

     At our 2007 annual state convention we will be electing three officers:  first vice president, second vice president, and assistant treasurer.  Jim Moore has indicated his interest in running again for second vice president.  Kyle Austin has resigned his seat as assistant treasurer. 
It would be nice to see some competition among the candidates, so I hope many of you will consider running for one of these offices.  Although it is not required, I have found my computer skills to be an indispensable part of my work with MCBVI.  It would really help the organization if the candidates could bring some computer skills with them as there is a lot of clerical work that is necessary to keep everything on track.  MCBVI could almost hire a person part time for all of this.  I will be on hand to teach people some of the clerical tricks I have learned if needed.

                        Committee Reports

                           Convention
Sherry Gordon, Co-Chairperson
Lisa Kisiel, Co-Chairperson

     Plans are in the making for the 2007 MCBVI State Convention to be held in Kalamazoo.  Dates for this year's convention being considered are October or November.  We will be highlighting the field of blindness and low vision studies for our theme this year, which will include a program Friday afternoon at Western Michigan University, in conjunction with the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies.  Kyle Austin has already been recruited to be our auctioneer for our 2007 auction.  If you have any suggestions for presentations you would like to see at the convention, please contact either Lisa Kisiel at:
lisakisiel@sbcglobal.net
or phone (269) 552-4082
or Sherry Gordon at
sdgordon78@sbcglobal.nett
or phone (269) 383-4144.

                           Membership
Donna Rose, Co-Chairperson
John McMahon, Co-Chairperson

     Congratulations chapters!  This year we have 142 members.  This is about 40 more than last year at this time.  Here is a breakdown by chapter.

Blue Water League 17 Members
Cap Area 25 Members
Detroit 10 Members
Northwest Detroit 8 Members
Kalamazoo: 35 members
Muskegon 0 Members
VIPP 26 members
Members At Large 21 Members

     Because we have been so successful at recruiting more members early in the year we will receive more votes at the 2007 ACB National Convention in Minneapolis which begins June 30 through July 7. 

     If you have been looking for your membership cards, look no further because they aren't Coming!  Producing them is labor intensive and their purpose has become somewhat obsolete.  In their place we will now be sending members a unique membership pin that you can wear proudly to advertise your membership.  In future years a decision may be made to send membership confirmation form letters as well.  Welcome to all of our newest members.

                          Publications
Donna Rose, Chairperson

     I sent out two requests for chapter updates and committee reports and didn't get the response that I would have expected.  Please make sure when the publication deadline is near that you submit your items timely.  It will make our newsletter more fun and interesting to read.  The next deadline for submissions will be July 24th.  Thanks to those who did submit information on time.
Please remember to ask those who may want to receive our newsletter to join MCBVI rather than just turning over your copy to them.  One time copies are available by contacting me at: Wild-rose@sbcglobal.net, note the dash in this address is an actual hyphen.

                        Public Relations
Donna Rose, Chairperson

     Soon I will be sending information out to major newspapers in Michigan about MCBVI and your local chapters.  Remember, though, you are all public relations agents for our organization.  It is always a good idea to publicize your local activities and chapter information.  I would recommend putting a phone number or email address in your contact materials so people can contact you prior to attending a meeting if they would like to know more details about your chapter.

                           Resolutions
Chris Schumacher, Chairperson

     In our last meeting it was decided to move our deadline for submissions up to August 15th.  As of this writing, we have received no ideas from the membership.  Remember, you don't have to write a resolution.  Just let us know what you would like to see MCBVI work on in 2008.  Feel free to contact any committee member-Casey Dutmer, Neal Freeling, Deb Wild, or myself-with your thoughts in Braille, by phone, or written in an E-mail.  My E-mail address has changed and is now: chrisanne7452@sbcglobal.net.
The deadline will be here before you know it, so let us here from you.

                      Scholarships & Grants
Submitted by Deb Wild on behalf of committee

     The scholarship and grants committee currently is reviewing a request for a grant, but no scholarships are being considered at this time.

                      MCBVI Chapter Updates

                        Blue Water League
Jeanette Geno, President

     Happy Spring From the BWL.  In February our Blue Water League Of The Blind organized transportation to and from the Winter Camp For The Blind hosted by Battle Creek area Lions.  Next we held a valentines dinner/dance where Good food and dancing was enjoyed by all.  During our regular meeting in March we planned future programs and events.  In April we put on our annual game night.  Visitors from our sister chapter across the river in Canada, joined in on the fun and snacks.  A regular business meeting is scheduled in May, and in June we are planning an over night excursion to Lansing.
In our continuing partnership with the Saint Clair County Library, we now hold a book discussion group called "the Book Talkers Club." We meet every three months. This club seeks to integrate blind and sighted readers in our mutual reading enjoyment.
Our new brochure should be finished soon, and members are encouraged to distribute it to doctors, ophthalmologists, and post some at public service locations.  We make sure each member has copies to share with any interested person.
The BWL chapter meets the third Thursday of most months. We usually start by 7 PM.  If you would like to join us please call (810) 982-0717 for more details.

                           Capital Area
Donna Rose, Treasurer

     In June we will be going on an evening oldies dinner cruise on the Michigan Princess.  It travels up and down the Grand River.  We are trying to raise the funds through local businesses to help defray the costs and to be certain everyone can participate if they would like.  Also planned for summer will be an adaptive game night where we all bring our blind-friendly games such as Braille scrabble, UNO, and the like.
Our chapter is currently selling the sharpest knives in America for a fundraiser.  Locally we are selling pairing knives and veggie peelers, and online there are many more options from quick mixes, all types of kitchen knives and cutlery, soy candles, recipe books, stoneware and much more.  The web address is: http://www.helpourfundraiser.com
At the prompt enter internet ordering number 500706 and then password 6411.  You should use the www part of the address when using your web browser to get to this web site.  The Capital Area will receive a nice portion from all  sales.  These items make great gifts for anyone and are very reasonably priced.      We are currently meeting at the Gone Wired Café in Lansing.  For more details regarding our meetings and activities contact Jim Moore at 517-374-8681. 

                             Detroit
Submitted by Rozella Campbell, Secretary

     We recently had election of officers: Thomas Lester, President, Rozella Campbell, Secretary, Jackie Ingram, treasurer. We were sorry to loose Regina Wesley to  Kalamazoo, but happy she is in a new job at the Kalamazoo training center for the blind.  We were happy to welcome new members: Beatrice Luckett, Eleanor Chaney, Leo Mansfield and Ann Zimmerman. We are continuing to have "Bingo" on a  monthly basis as one of our Fund Raisers and looking forward to returning to "Put-in-Bay', an evening on the "Princess Boat" and Cedar Point. We invite anyone in  the Metro area to come and join us.

Detroit Northwest
Chris Schumacher, President

     Our chapter did not meet in February due to weather conditions and illness of some  members.  In March we all purchased Tyrone Hamilton's music CD, and he told us that he will donate half of the proceeds from all the albums he sells to our chapter.  Thanks so much, Tyrone!
In April we began discussing some transportation concerns we have and how to work with some local providers.  Our meetings are held on the second Saturday of the month.

               Miscellaneous Items From The Editor

     The Muskegon chapter did not rejoin us this year.  Chapters not included here haven't submitted updates as of this publishing.  I did not receive a minutes summary to share with you at this time.

     We were sad to hear of the loss of Elizabeth Lennon who was 97.  She spent her life helping those who were blind teaching rehabilitation skills.  In her younger years she was extremely active with our organization, both on a state and national level.  If someone can write a nice memoriam about her for the summer newsletter please contact me.

     Each quarter we would like to honor an outstanding member of our affiliate.  Please submit nominations to me for the upcoming summer newsletter where we will highlight this individual. Have members of your chapters submit letters of support to me regarding a fantastic member of your group.  One person will be chosen from all submissions for each newsletter.

     Next newsletter deadline is July 24, 2007.  Please send all submissions for publication by this date.  Thank you!

                          Happy Spring!