Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired



Winter 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 888-956-2284, or we can be contacted by email at, mcbvi1@verizon.net

EDITOR'S NOTE: The contact information for officers and committee chairpersons is included at the end of this newsletter. It will not be printed again this year so please keep it to refer to in the future. Please do not forward our newsletters to non-members. We ask that you invite those who wish to receive our newsletter to join MCBVI. Complimentary issues are available by contacting the editor. Our annual dues are modest and will help support the continued production of this publication.

Happy New Year From The President's Desk

news letter has been published on schedule in 4 different formats, with interesting and informative content. We are on track with plans for our state convention in September. Preparations are underway to add helpful information and interesting features to our new web page. While our dates for hosting an adaptive Technology Training week end have been delayed, we are again moving forward toward that goal. We have unified our focus and voice in resolutions that educate and shed light on important issues.

This year we will be monitoring and evaluating consumer concerns involving the Michigan Commission for the Blind. Two of our resolutions passed at convention last October were included in the Fall 2006 MCBVI News. These resolutions specifically summarize our concerns, and some steps we believe are necessary to address serious issues involving the National Federation Of the Blind and the Michigan Commission For The Blind.

Our Lansing chapter received a grant to launch a new Braille Service that will begin offering print to Braille translation of materials this year. We have received grant awards to update equipment and software that will enable us to continue Braille services in St. Clair County. Along the way, our officers and members are gaining experience, and receiving awards and recognition for their fine service to us and their communities.

We have supported our parent organization The American Council Of The Blind in winning an affirmative court ruling requiring the future design of U.S. paper currency that will enable blind and visually impaired citizens to independently identify each denomination. One hundred and eighty countries already produce currency that is independently identifiable with out sight. More than the blind will enjoy greater opportunities for employment and security when American leaders finally recognize this win win opportunity.

These efforts along with the other reports and information you can learn about in the rest of this newsletter, result from the planning and sacrifices of many people working together. Imagine how much is suggested here between the lines of each issue and report. Think what would be lost if we did not collectively care. What would life be like for citizens with vision loss if our organization did not exist?

Some might question my mixing of state and national issues, with the mention of basics like meeting attendance? My response and reasons for highlighting even this the most basic of organizational activities, is to avoid taking any contribution for granted. Our Board meeting telephone conference last January, may have seemed like business as usual to the casual observer. But past experience reminds me that efficient democratic meetings are no coincidence. Have you ever attended meetings that generated conflict and accomplished little? Our Michigan Council Of The Blind & Visually Impaired meetings represent a delightful contrast to that kind of experience. This is because of voluntary efforts, and positive attitudes of everyone on our Leadership Team I have the pleasure of working with. They spend hours planning and preparing for their respective contributions toward our collective success. Each of them make my job easier and rewarding. We regularly earn mutual respect by not wasting time, and staying focused on agreed upon issues and projects.

These blessings are no accident. It is important that we think about the quiet and often hidden reasons why people can work together so effectively toward common concerns and objectives. Decisions we invested in two years ago, continue to pay dividends of understanding and cooperation. Some of this has come from our providing regular opportunities to communicate according to preplanned meeting schedules. The growth and improvement we are now witnessing in the MCBVI, will continue as long as we actively nurture and count these blessings. Personal growth can come from everyday contributions toward success. Continuing in that growth and success will require maintenance of each individual's link between every thing we do for this organization, and why.

We need to continue to highlight and celebrate each minute of contributed effort and talent volunteered. No one in our organization is a paid employee. All of us are volunteers doing and giving what we can as members and leaders. Each person for example, manning booths educating the public, typing on desk top keyboards, or participating in day long meetings representing our membership, are all making a huge contribution. Each well thought out letter we send, presentation spoken, long hours traveling many miles by train, bus, or by car to participate, should never go unappreciated. We must avoid taking for granted each generous commitment to give of oneself with precious time and effort. It is so important to stop and carefully savor the value of all of these blessings not only in our mind, but also in our heart. Only then can we truly appreciate and acknowledge how rich we really are at the dawning of this new year.

Thanks From A Scholarship Recipient

By John Mc Mahon

I want to take this opportunity to again thank the MCBVI for awarding me the 2006 Peterson Scholarship, which was presented to me during our Convention in Wyoming, Michigan, this past October.

I was so pleasantly surprised when I was notified by Rose Marie Facilla, the Chairperson of the MCBVI Scholarship Committee, that I would be receiving this scholarship. This funding couldn't have come at a better time for me, as other financial assistance opportunities were being reduced upon my completion of the first two year portion of my doctoral program this past August.

As I move toward completion of my Ph.D. program at Western Michigan University over the next year or so, I will remember with much appreciation the investment MCBVI has made in my educational pursuits. I look forward to the opportunity to repay your kindness with even a greater level of involvement in the future that will hopefully make a positive difference for residents of Michigan who happen to be blind or visually impaired.

Speaking of Scholarships!

ACB Scholarship: The 2007 ACB scholarship instructions and application are now available on www.acb.org. The application will be available online until 11:59, Eastern Standard Time, March 1, 2007.

MCBVI Scholarships: The MCBVI scholarship program will be awarding up to $1500 this year. Applicants must be either an entering freshman or continuing student attending an accredited school of higher education. Also, the Roy and Ethel Peterson Scholarship fund will be awarding scholarships up to $1500. Applicants must be either an entering freshman or continuing student attending an accredited school of higher education. This scholarship will be awarded to any applicants from the Muskegon Area first. If there are no qualified applicants from this area it will be opened up to all West Michigan applicants and if there are still no qualified applicants it will be opened up to all others who have applied. Incomplete applications will not be considered for scholarships. The scholarship application is the same for both scholarships and both can be used for undergrad, graduate or other types of post-secondary training. Scholarship applications may be obtained by contacting: Rosemarie Facilla, Scholarship chair, telephone: (231) 759-8734, by mail: 2088 Parslow Dr., #133, Muskegon, MI 49441, Email: mcbvi1@verizon.net. Scholarship applications must be returned by June 15, 2007.

CCLVI Scholarships: The Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI) awards scholarships to entering freshmen and college students who are visually impaired, maintain a strong GPA and are involved in their school/local community. Applications may be submitted each year beginning January 1st and all materials must be received by March 1st. Scholarship monies are awarded for the upcoming academic year. To read the scholarship guidelines and complete an on-line application, please visit the web site, www.cclvi.org/scholars.htm. Applications will be available to submit on-line until March 1st at 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time.

American Library Association: A $2,500 scholarship is available to fund services or accommodation to a current or potential graduate student with a disability admitted to an ALA-accredited library school. Deadline is 03/01/2007. For more information contact: Eileen Hardy, ASCLA, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611, or Toll-free 800-545-2433 x4396, Email: ehardy@ala.org. Or visit the web site at, www.ala.org.

MIUSA Scholarship: SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE FOR YOUTH WITH DISABILITIES. MIUSA is currently accepting applications from young people with disabilities to take part in an international exchange program June 20 - July 5, 2007 to Costa Rica, entitled the US/Costa Rica: Youth Leadership and Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Disability Rights Exchange Program. If you are a young person with a disability or know someone who is between the ages of 18-24, from a culturally diverse background and are an inexperienced international traveler we encourage you to apply. Travel with 12 other young people with disabilities, live with a host family, take part in a service learning project and practice Spanish through immersion! Application materials can be found at, www.miusa.org/exchange, or requested by email at exchange@miusa.org or call 541-343-1284. Application deadline is March 2, 2007. Late applications will be accepted as space permits. Application materials are available in alternative formats upon request.

MCBVI's Fall 2007 Convention

By Sherry Gordon

Plans are underway for the MCBVI fall 2007 convention which will be hosted by the Kalamazoo Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Lisa Kisiel and Sherry Gordon are the convention co-chairs. We have been talking with the Clarion Hotel, in Kalamazoo, and we believe this will be the site of the convention. The Clarion is just off I-94 and has a restaurant in the hotel, as well as numerous restaurants near-by. The last time the MCBVI convention was held in Kalamazoo was about 12-13 years ago at this same hotel. We would like to build the theme for the convention around the field of blindness and low vision studies-since Kalamazoo is the home of Western Michigan University's Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, as well as the Michigan Commission for the Blind Training Center.

We will be doing our traditional auction on Friday evening with Kyle Austin already "booked" as auctioneer. Our Saturday evening banquet is also being planned, as well as a very interesting keynote speaker. We will be planning some type of entertainment which will follow the banquet for those of you who are the "night owl" types. Sunday morning will be the MCBVI's business meeting. If you are interested in assisting with the convention, please contact Lisa or Sherry. More details will be
distributed, when available.

Contact information:
Lisa Kisiel (269) 552-4082, or

Sherry Gordon (269) 383-4144, or

What was that?

By Donna Rose

The other day I was standing outside a medical building, near the parking lot, waiting for my ride when a woman got out of her automobile and approached me asking if I needed help to my car. Of course, I politely smiled thanking her and told her that I was waiting for my ride. She obviously knew I was blind, but it just didn't click with her that I wouldn't be able to drive a car. One time I was checking in to have a special medical procedure and the receptionist asked my driver if I had anything to eat that morning. My driver quickly quipped, "how would I know?"

I think that one of the most difficult things about being blind has to be our contact with the public. Sometimes the exchanges are hilarious, while at other times they are provoking. Anyone with a disability has some great stories on this topic. Other minority groups also have to overcome the perceptions and misconceptions of the majority population. One thing we must remember is that we are all ambassadors whether we want to be or

We all know how it feels to receive personal questions from strangers regarding being blind. I can't tell you how many times people have asked if my parents are blind. I recently began to employ a new polite way of dealing with personal questions asked by strangers. I am talking about those strangers who you may meet once on the bus or out in public who ask questions that are sort of off the wall. We usually don't even know why the information would be pertinent to them, or if there is an unscrupulous reason for them even asking. I believe we should try and be polite, so here is my response.

Question by stranger: Are you completely blind? My response with a smile: Why do you ask?

Most of the time my question to them causes them to stop asking me any more personal questions. Sometimes, though, they begin to tell me that their mother or aunt is blind. Then we begin to talk about services available for their loved one while the conversation moves away from my personal details. In this frantic world we can't predict the motives of others, and this is the best way I have found to be polite while protecting my personal information. It is just a nice way of saying, "It is none of your business!"

Tid Bits & Bytes

New SGA for SSDI: People who are blind and receiving Social Security Disability Benefits are now allowed to earn more before losing their benefit checks. The new Substantial Gainful Activity amount for blind individuals has risen to $1500. Recipients who are blind may earn up to this amount before their benefit checks will be discontinued. Please note that the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program has different rules. Contact Social Security for details about how you can return to work and still receive these benefits. 1-800 772-1213 or www.ssa.gov

Blind Bargains: A new web site for blindness related bargains is now up and running. Go to www.blindbargains.com and check out the latest in bargain items for those who are blind or visually impaired.

New Accessible Digital Recorders" Olympus has just released three New Accessible digital voice recorders that include some audible voice prompts. The Olympus DS-30 (256 MB), DS-40 (512 MB), and Ds-50 (1 GB)are designed especially for downloading pod casts and purchased materials from sites such as www.audible.com. These recorders have several recording features and are suitable for downloading music as well. Look for a review of this device in a future issue.

IRS Web Site" U.S. taxpayers can download IRS publications and forms in text or braille from the link, www.irs.gov/formspubs/article/0,,id=131773,00.html and publications from www.irs.gov/formspubs/article/0,,id=131761,00.html
Talking forms are available from, www.irs.gov/formspubs/article/0,,id=98135,00.html
The forms on the IRS site can be filled in using Adobe Reader version 5 or higher.

Educational Resource Web Site: Chris Glavin has created a web page on Blindness including causes, adaptive techniques, tools, Social Attitudes towards Blindness, Organizations, Support Services, Books, Videos, Magazines, Products, Software, Mailing Lists & a community discussion list for visual impairment. The web address is, www.k12academics.com/blind.htm.

New Disability Web Site: The Disability Network/Michigan website is now available at: www.dnmichigan.org.
The website is designed to be a resource for Disability Network/ Michigan members, Legislators, Employers and people with disabilities and their families. The site offers information related to education, transportation, community-based- Living, accessibility, housing, and employment. At publication time the resources page for this site was not up and running yet.

Need to Check the Weather? Here is an extremely easy to use web site that will give you quick up to the minute weather reports for your area. Just enter your zip code. www.braille.wunderground.com/

Tell Me Adds Business Lookup: Call 1-800 555-8355 to reach the new business lookup. At the main menu say "business listing", then say the city and state. Then you can say a subject, like "florists". You can even define a street name. Tell-Me also provides many other services at this listing, such as the time and weather.

Committee Reports

Rosemarie Facilla, Chairperson

MCBVI reminds its members and friends there are grants available. A person can request assistance with any product related to blindness or low vision. For example a request may be made for items such as talking watches, Braille timers, reading and writing implements, such as slates etc. and technological devices. Grants can be of any amount up to $500 per applicant. The Grant program has a budget of $1000 per year. For applications contact Rosemarie Facilla, MCBVI Grant Chair, 2088 Parslow Dr. #133, Muskegon, MI 49441, Email: mcbvi1@verizon.net, Telephone: (231) 759-8734.

Donna Rose, Co-Chairperson
John Mc Mahon Co-Chairperson

Memberships have been gradually trickling in since December. Last year we decided to contact all those in the Member At Large category in December to insure that their dues would be turned in early enough to be included in the ACB membership count that will be turned in soon with our national dues. If you are a Member At Large and have not yet submitted your dues please do so soon. This year we will be making every effort to get those membership cards out to each member. It is a lot of work, so please be patient. Make sure that you invite others to join whenever possible. Those who join now will be assured to receive their four issues of the newsletter.

Donna Rose, Chairperson & Editor

At the end of this publication you will find your contact list for the executive board and other committee chairpersons. Please save it for future reference as it will not be printed again this year. The next deadline for articles, chapter updates and committee reports for our Spring 2007 issue will be April 24th. Please do not share our newsletters with non-members. If people would like a complimentary copy they should be directed to contact me. You can also invite them to join us.

Public Relations
Donna Rose, Chairperson

I am no longer chairing the legislative committee, but I am now chairing public relations. I believe that this is a very important assignment as I can help educate people about our great organization as well as improve the public's ideas and attitudes toward blindness. Our board has discussed setting up a new call-in system which would allow us to more easily respond to inquiries. Once I am certain that we can keep our current toll-free number I will be sending information regarding MCBVI to all major newspapers in Michigan.

Chris Schumacher, Chairperson

Our committee met by conference call on November 28th. A discussion of the resolutions passed at the convention in October and the reading of a possible resolution for our 2007 convention were the main topics of this meeting. With the likelihood of our state convention taking place a couple of weeks earlier this year, we will have to consider moving up our deadline for your submissions to us as well. So it is not too early to start thinking about matters of which you would like MCBVI to tackle. Feel free to contact me or any of the committee members-Neal Freeling, Sue Illingworth, Casey Dutmer, and Deb Wild--with your ideas or drafts of possible resolutions by phone, in Braille, on computer disk, by E-mail, or on cassette. We look forward to hearing from you.

Chapter Updates

Blue Water League Of The Blind
By Jeanette Geno, President

Last November we shared Thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel with our Canadian friends in the Sarnia White Cane Club. The Port Huron Host Lions celebrated a Christmas party with us in December.
Our Braille service was featured in the Port Huron Times Herald Last January 4th. Look for a separate insert with the text from that article with this newsletter. In January 2007 we held our elections. Jeanette Geno begins her 11th year as president of the BWL. Janet Wisswell was reelected to the office of Secretary. There will be 10 of us from St. Clair County attending the 2007 Winter Camp For The Blind in Battle Creek, Michigan. Also in February we are hosting a Valentines dinner/dance. Stay tuned! We are planning more fun and interesting activities. Contact the Geno's at (810) 982-0717 for more details.

Capital Area
By Donna Rose, Treasurer

The Capital Area Council of the Blind has been meeting at the Gone Wired Caf‚ in Lansing for several months now. Members shared a Christmas dinner and party there in early December. The chapter is looking into several fund raising ideas and will likely choose one at their next meeting. The chapter will be meeting on Valentine's Day and will be holding a bingo party just for fun. For more information contact President Jim Moore at 517-374-8681.

By Regina Wesley, Secretary

In December we held a Christmas dinner and party. Gifts were exchanged and we had a drawing for a cash prize. Despite very bad weather we sponsored bingo in January. We are hoping to hold bingo again in late February. Our chapter is volunteering to help put on the 50th Midwest Blind Bowlers Tournament sponsored by the Motor City Blind Bowlers. For more information contact President Tom Lester at (313) 864-0448.

Detroit Northwest
By Chris Schumacher, President

Our November and January meetings were primarily organizational and informational with the collection of dues, discussion of current ACB and MCBVI issues, and determining what types of activities our chapter would like to do in the coming year. In December we had our Christmas luncheon at our usual meeting location and presented a plaque of appreciation to the owners of Brownie's Diner. Also in December we said good-bye to our secretary, Amy Magara, who is continuing her college studies at Western Michigan University. Best of luck to you, Amy! George Illingworth is now our chapter's secretary. 2007 began sadly for us with the death of longtime MCBVI and Detroit Northwest Chapter member Chester Przyjemski. Several of our members attended the visitation and funeral. On a happier note, we had one new member join our chapter. Anyone who wishes to attend our meetings, which are held on the second Saturday of the month at 12:30 p.m., should contact George Illingworth at (313) 937-9687 for more information.

By Sherry Gordon

In December, the Kalamazoo Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired's Christmas party was a lot of fun. Around 20 members of KCBVI dined at T.G.I. Friday's restaurant and then played the "gift" game. This involves bringing a wrapped gift, with everyone drawing a number out of a hat. The person with the number one picks a gift from the pile and opens it, letting everyone know what gift they have. The person with the number two can either steal person number one's gift or they can pick a gift from the pile and open it. This goes on until the person with the highest number, who is the person with the most "control," comes along. If this person chooses a gift from the pile, the game ends and everyone keeps the gift they have. There are many variations to this game...each being a lot of fun!
The KCBVI also sponsored two families, through the Department of Human Services, for the Christmas holiday. We collected a lot of food, made a food basket for each family, plus each family member got Christmas gifts, so these folks could enjoy the spirit of Christmas. These families were very grateful for our efforts, which were facilitated by Michelle Bates.

The KCBVI will be hosting the 2007 MCBVI convention. Lisa Kisiel and Sherry Gordon are the co-chairs for the convention. See the article in this newsletter which tells a few more details about the convention. For more information about KCBVI, please contact Lisa Kisiel, KCBVI's secretary at (269) 552-4082 or lisakisiel@sbcglobal.net.

Visually Impaired Persons for Progress (VIPP)
By Deb Wild

VIPP meets at the Grandvilla Restaurant on Chicago Drive in Grandville, MI on the 2nd Tuesday of January, March, May and November. In November election of officers was held. Lisa Weber is our new president. Joe Sibley continues as vice president. Casey Dutmer continues as secretary. Sandi Canen continues as treasurer. We had our holiday party on Jan. 13 at the Disability Advocates of Kent County. There was a cookie exchange, gifts were exchanged, and it was a fun evening. In January we reorganized our standing committees. Several members volunteered to serve on these. A couple VIPP members visited the Y, which has expressed interest in working with us. The Y required six members to commit to a fitness program regarding some classes and working on the machines. Jan Luurtsema, one of our members, hopes to be back in her condo soon. She fractured her arm in a couple places in November and is currently staying at Yorkshire Manor where she is receiving therapy. If you have any questions regarding VIPP, please call Deb Wild at (616) 235-8189, or Casey Dutmer at (616) 530-0558.

MCBVI Members In The News
Newsletter Insert
The Blue Water League Of The Blind Braille service was featured in the Port Huron Times Herald newspaper last January. The rest of this insert includes the text of that Newspaper article.

Braille expert helps blind read, and more
By Shannon Murphy
Port Huron Times Herald

Michael Geno wants all visually impaired people to know what it's like to be independent.
Geno, 54, of Port Huron is president of the Michigan Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, working to make sure St. Clair County residents with visual impairments have access to Braille materials and other support.
His wife, Jeanette, is president of the Blue Water League of the Blind, a local chapter of the Michigan council. Geno and members of the local chapter provide a service to translate items, such as library books and city newsletters, into Braille.
Geno and his wife were honored last year with the Spirit of Port Huron Civic Award for their work.
"Braille benefits not only our members but the community," Geno said. "Because we know Braille, we're sharing it." More than 10 years ago, the group translated the Blue Water Area Transit system's bus schedule into Braille and is working on updating the document.
Geno was not always legally blind. He could see as a child but learned Braille as a teen after he began to lose his sight. He knows how challenging it can be for someone to lose their vision and uses that knowledge to help others. "Being able to do things represents a message to those that are losing sight," he said. "For lots of people, losing sight can be very frightening. We're able to give examples of how they can do things."

As part of his service work, Geno helps translate material for the St. Clair County Library System's Library for the Blind. The library operates a program called Special Technologies Alternative Resources, or STAR, which provides patrons with books in large print, Braille and on audio cassette.
Barb Adent, outreach assistant for the Library for the Blind, said Geno has been invaluable for getting more technology for the library. Adent said Geno secured a grant that paid for a computer work station that has software for people who are visually or hearing impaired. "Volunteers really make a difference," Adent said, adding Geno helped her learn to use the software when she started her job six years ago.

Photo Captions

TRANSLATING: Michael Geno of Port Huron, president of the Michigan Council of the Blind, demonstrates how he translates written text into the Braille dot code Wednesday inside the St. Clair County Library main branch in Port Huron. Geno, legally blind since age 11, is a Braille transcriber.

"Handy Service" headline
Zoom Photo; Michael Geno leafs through a copy of a Braille transcription of the Blue Water Area Transit bus-route schedule Wednesday.

Photo of a closer look
michael geno, 54 resides in Port Huron. Education: Bachelor's Degree in Communication science from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti; graduate of the former Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing. OCCUPATION: Retired communication specialist for Wayne State University. former owner of a music-recording studio; president of the Michigan Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired. FAMILY: Wife, Jeanette; and three adult children.

"For More Information" headline
To learn more about the Blue Water League of the Blind, including information about its Braille translation services, call (810) 982-0717 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Contact Shannon Murphy at (810) 989-6258
Originally published January 4, 2007