Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired

An Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind

John Jarzyna, President

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John Jarzyna

The New Year is well underway and much has happened already this year. As the president of our Michigan affiliate of ACB, I have been involved in many activities for our organization. I recently attended The ACB Mid-Year Meetings for all affiliate presidents which was held on Sunday, February 28, 2016 in Alexandria Virginia at the Crown Plaza Hotel. I attended many seminars and was a panelist for the discussion titled “Protecting Specialized Services for People who are Blind or Visually Impaired: Strategies for Battling Threats of Consolidation, Mergers, or Elimination of Services”. Due to the State’s elimination of the Commission for the Blind, this topic was discussed in support of the BSBP, Bureau of Services for Blind Persons. Many other topics were also discussed at the Presidents meeting and the day was a very productive opportunity to talk to other affiliate Presidents regarding issues that face us all.

The following day, on February 29, the Legislative Seminar began early in the morning and many interesting topics were raised during the day. The first two legislative imperatives that we focused on were: Coverage of Low Vision Devices Act of 2015 H.R.729 and the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act H.R.3535. These two topics were presented by Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, American Council of the Blind (ACB) and Mark Richert, Director of Public Policy, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). We extensively discussed these imperatives for over an hour, as both of these were introduced last year and require our continued efforts to obtain passage in the United States Congress. Following a short break, Anthony Stephens addressed the issue of Bridging State Advocacy with National Imperatives. He discussed and emphasized the necessity of all American Council of the Blind members contacting their Congressional Representative to get these two pieces of legislation passed. The remainder of the morning was spent on other issues including the Federal Communications update by Karen Peltz Strauss, Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

After lunch, we continued the day with a report from the Department of Transportation presented by Anne Hammond, Disability Issues Team Leader, Aviation Consumer Protection Division, and U.S. Department of Transportation. Livaughn Chapman Jr., Chief, Aviation Civil Rights Compliance Bureau, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Transportation and Karen Peltz Strauss reviewed the complaint procedures for flight passengers with disabilities.

Following a short afternoon break Legislative Imperatives 3 and 4 (Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, Legislative Imperative Making the Internet Accessible for All) were presented by ACB President Kim Charlson and ACB Executive Director Eric Bridges, along with Anthony Stephens, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs.

At the end of the day we were instructed, once again, on how to conduct our visit to Capitol Hill the following day. I was accompanied by my colleagues from other affiliates. We visited not only my Congressional Representative but also others of the Michigan Delegation who are key members of Congress to promote our Legislative Imperatives.

In closing I would like to inform all of you that the Executive Board is hard at work addressing the issues that face us, and serving all members of the organization in any way we can.



Kyle Austin, Convention

Now is the time to start planning for the MCBVI Convention to be held on October 7-9, at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Kalamazoo Michigan. You will be able to check in on October 6 if you want to participate In Friday morning activities. The theme for this year’s Convention is: Giving Back to Our Communities. This will give us all a chance to take a look at how we can give back.

On Friday, there will be exhibits in the afternoon. Friday night we will enjoy the auction as well as other presentations. Saturday presentations in the morning will be followed by the annual business meeting in the afternoon.

The banquet will take place in the evening, and our guest speaker will be: DR. Gary Anderson, Past International Director of Lions Clubs International. He will be giving us a little history of Lions Clubs International and what Lions do locally, nationally and internationally. You will enjoy his presentation.

We will have some other events Sunday morning and conclude the convention by 10 A.M.

If you know of a business/organization that would be interested in sponsoring our convention, and/or if your chapter or you might be able to contribute please contact Charis Austin for more information. If you or someone you know is interested in exhibiting during the convention, please contact Charis by calling her at: 616-532-4737. For any general questions regarding this year’s convention you can reach Kyle Austin at the same phone number.


Michigan Department of Education-Low Incidence Outreach in collaboration with the Office of Special Education, Department of Transportation Management and Budget (DTMB), Bureau of Services for Blind Persons Talking Book Library and American Printing House for the Blind presents: “Child In A Strange Country”, Helen Keller and the History of Education for People who are Visually Impaired.”

In 1891, teacher Anne Sullivan described her famous student, Helen Keller, a young Alabama girl left blind and deaf by disease. “For the first two years of her intellectual life she was like a child in a strange country,” wrote Sullivan, realizing that for her student, no learning was possible until she could overcome the communication barrier posed by blindness and deafness. This was made possible by educational tools developed since the late eighteenth century, beginning with the invention of the tactile book in 1786 in Paris, France. Valentin Haüy’s book featured raised letters, and proved that blind people could learn to read. Louis Braille’s dot code, introduced in 1829, allowed students to both read and write.

“Child in a Strange Country” explores four primary subjects: Reading, Science, Math, and Geography. Using Helen Keller’s educational journey as a lens, the exhibit uses tactile reproductions and authentic artifacts to uncover the roots of modern education for children with vision loss.

When: at the Michigan Library and Historical Center, 702 W. Kalamazoo Street, Lansing, MI. Exhibit Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm. No Charge!


Donna Rose, Co-Editor

At least seventy percent unemployment… Education where a child is lucky to get the skills they will need… No braille signage… Is it a wonder that we are a population without economic clout? There is no doubt if you attend training or college and participate in learning rehabilitation skills; you increase your odds of having a better life. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in three disabled individual’s lives in poverty. That is about 29 percent, and is two times higher than for those without a disability. We know that living on SSI will absolutely not give you the choices that a good job will bring. And other government benefits in addition to these will never make you rich. They were never meant to do that. Yet the fact we are eligible for benefits at all, may contribute to creating an impression that we don’t need to work, own a home, or get from point A to point B easily. Many of us have worked hard and have been rewarded economically through paychecks, but so many others aren’t getting the chances they deserve, simply because people perceive us differently than we should be perceived. How do we change these things so that as a community of folks who are blind we finally get the true opportunities we deserve? Is it time for us to redefine the civil rights laws we need in order to compete fairly? I believe it is!

Laws that protect people with disabilities include many, but most prominently, the American’s With Disabilities Act ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Both of these are Federal Acts, but of course many States have protections as well.

These national laws were specifically written for people with disabilities. They appear to contain little oversight and rely on the good-will of employers, and other public entities. We are the watch-dogs who enforce these laws by filing civil rights complaints when we encounter a violation, but justice is too slow, moving one person at a time. There is little monitoring to make sure these laws work well for us. It is up to us to see that we get any justice at all, and because it is up to us to make sure the laws are enforced properly, our economic progress is often hampered. I imagine you could be born, live and die without ever seeing economic justice.

The ADA turned 25 last year. We have a very small impact on any of the major civil rights rules and regulations which are meant to help us, even if we are sitting at the table. Look at paratransit. It is referred to as “Complementary” in the Federal Transportation Administration ADA Guidelines, but when people riding the regular fixed route bus system can accurately predict when they will be picked up and dropped off, is door to door paratransit really “complementary” to the fixed routes? It is one of our few successes, but most of the regulations make us vulnerable to the whims of the transit provider. Long rides and insane scheduling are a part of most paratransit programs, and we can’t always get where we need to be, especially in Michigan. Cities here don’t have the public transit they once had, and regional public transit is almost non-existent. As long as public transportation remains as limited as it is, the places where we can find work will be limited too.

The only national civil rights law that people with disabilities share with other minority groups is in fair housing. People with disabilities were added to the US Fair Housing Act in 1988. I was one of the first people in the country to argue to our federal government in 1991 that I was discriminated against when a rental agent wouldn’t rent to me with my Seeing Eye Dog. The landlord said she was confused about the pet policy. Even the U.S. Department of Justice DOJ which finally took my case in 1994 believed she was confused. It was up to me to show that regardless of why she wouldn’t rent to me, it was discrimination because the landlord should have trained her about the presence of service animals and the law in 1988. I couldn’t get the DOJ to see that there were other types of discrimination besides race or ethnicity. After over four years of fighting, I settled on this case. I thought I made absolutely no impact, but eventually the DOJ developed a clearer image of what constitutes disability discrimination. They have brought forth many cases where the service dog owner one their case and landlords have been fined. It can still be difficult to obtain private housing sometimes and my case happened 25 years ago.

When you work you discover that many work places do not include people with disabilities in their diversity programs. Companies often have elaborate recruitment programs to hire minority individuals into their workplace. They are required under federal Affirmative Action laws to incorporate people who are qualified minorities to be hired and they must report statistical information to federal government offices which monitor this progress. People with disabilities are not included in Affirmative Action legislation, nor are they counted in this way, nor is any company required to recruit people with disabilities into their hiring plans. While employers can’t discriminate against you if you seek employment if you are qualified with or without a reasonable accommodation, you and I both know that they are usually not recruiting us either. Even the federal government has a difficult time getting its own departments to hire qualified people with disabilities because they aren’t required to do so.

The civil rights of people with disabilities will continue to wain if we can’t get better oversight to monitor and protect our interest. Approximately 15 percent of the population is disabled, so we could have more power if we choose. As long as our protections seem somewhat voluntary to public entities, educators, employers, rental agents and transportation providers, we are destined to make little progress. As long as those who do not walk in our shoes are the ones making and enforcing our legal remedies, our economic well-being will always be in question.


Donna Rose, Plaintiff

It has been a while since I updated you on the quest of many people who are blind to achieve a reasonably accessible bus stop for the Michigan Flyer shuttle bus at Detroit Metro Airport. You may recall that the Michigan Flyer runs from East Lansing, with stops in Ann Arbor, and then on to Detroit’s Metro Airport. I became a plaintiff in the fall of 2015. A settlement had taken place with the previous plaintiffs in 2014, but it turned out to be unsatisfactory, due to the fact the Airport did not hold up their end of the settlement. In February this year we filed a temporary restraining Order TRO against the Wayne County Airport Authority because they decided to remedy this situation by offering a “segregated” stop for persons with disabilities that would require self-identification in advance in order to pick up and drop off people with disabilities at a separate stop near door 402 at the Airport’s “Ground Transportation Center” located on the fourth floor of the Airport’s Parking Garage at the Delta Terminal. Presently the Michigan Flyer and SMART bus, the two public transit buses serving the airport, are required to park 200 yards from the door. The stop is located across a street at the very most southern end of the parking structure and right next to planes taxiing to get ready to take off. It is a traffic ridden, noisy, dirty, fume laden area with no protection from the weather and wind which is enhanced by the planes. It is the worst place to drop anyone off and the furthest drop off location at the Airport. Depending upon your disability it can be hard getting from or to that spot with luggage or so forth and waiting for assistance would be very dangerous for some, especially in bitter cold or hot/humid temperatures. If you are blind your hearing is completely obscured by the noise from planes and traffic.

This week the Wayne County Airport Authority WCAA revised their ground transportation regulations with no new surprises. They are requiring Michigan Flyer bus driver’s to announce that there is a separate stop at door 402 in the Ground Transportation Center where people with disabilities can board and deboard, but they must tell the Airport in advance of stopping there which would make it necessary for a person with a disability to self-identify if they want to use this more convenient entrance. Wen arriving at the Airport, the Michigan Flyer will have to pass the Door 402 entrance and drop off “the people” at the regular bus stop located over a football field away, and then circle back around and drop off those who have requested the Door 402 entrance. Not only will the passengers without disabilities have to walk the long distance back to the entrance, but those with disabilities will now be let off about 10 - 20 minutes later, depending on the cluster of traffic when they circle back around to Door 402. And this entrance is no picnic either. It is not climate controlled, hard to find the elevator due to the lack of braille signage, and far from the ticket counter which is on a different floor. The Airport has taken a dirty parking structure and tried to make it into a place that was meant for cars and, force it to be a place for people. It is totally unsuitable for anyone! One might ask why a person would even try to navigate in such a hostile environment, but the Lansing Airport doesn’t have many flights and cancels many. To fly from here down to Detroit can add an extra $200 to a plane ticket, and the Michigan Flyer is only $35. My co-plaintiff in this case uses a wheelchair as does his wife. It is $500 to hire a lift equipped vehicle from Lansing to Detroit, but the Michigan Flyer bus is lift equipped. We have never had as good of inter-city bus service from Lansing.

Right now our needs are tangled up in political wrangling between the Airport who has a million reasons to dislike public transit, and a bus service, the Michigan Flyer, which had a very integrated and accessible bus stop at International Arrivals for over five years until other modes of transportation complained about the presence of the Michigan Flyer, even though other services are all allowed to drop off and pick up near doors.

There are people serving on the Airport Authority who are influenced by people who own these other sources of transit that are much more expensive. The Airport’s attorney is smug and claims he will never allow the Michigan Flyer to stop where it is most convenient for everyone. The big picture here is that disability laws don’t allow segregated bus stops, and if our case wins, you could see bus drop off points, such as those at malls and other points of interest more accommodating to everyone.

In the meantime a bunch of us, including many members of the NFBM have been attending meetings of Boards and Commissions which are in some way involved with the Airport trying to reverse the Airport’s view of public transit and people with disabilities and get the accessible bus stop everyone should be able to use. Unfortunately our disability protections seem to be up to the perceptions of lawyers and judges who know very little about us, and it is just as easy for them to perceive the laws meant to help us as being there to help large businesses and public entities to avoid their responsibilities under these same laws. This airport’s McNamara Terminal where a Delta hub is located was built after the ADA, and yet to this day there are dozens of disability barriers which could have been remedied when the building was built. Braille signage, as usual, is missing. And, once again, we try to get justice, one person at a time.



Wayne LePiors, chair

I am working on an amendment or an add-on to our bylaws. It would state that all MCBVI Chapters must have a named Delegate and an Alternate to represent their Chapter at MCBVI Quarterly Board Meetings, and at the MCBVI State Convention to represent the Chapter in the Business Meeting, with no substitutions.

If you have questions and/or comments about this you can contact me at:, or by calling 810-982-2378.


Charis Austin, chair

Thank you to everyone who got membership information in on time. MCBVI has a totalof 164 members, the number that will be used for calculating the number of votes we receive during the American Council of the Blind (ACB) convention. The organization has lost ten members from last year. Membership by chapter is as follows:

We currently have chapters in Cadillac, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Port Huron. Some members in the Detroit area have expressed interest in establishing a phone chapter. To form a chapter you must have at least five members, an application needs to be completed, and you need to submit a copy of the Chapter Constitution. Another option would be to agree to have an informal phone meeting. If you are interested in reserving a time to use the conference line, please contact me so that you don’t use it at the same time as another group who has previously reserved the line.

During the ACB President’s meeting, it was announced that the ACB Publications Committee is making the move to switch from the audio cassette version of “The Braille Forum” to the digital talking book cartridge, similar to the cartridges that you receive from the Braille and Talking Book Library in Lansing or your subregional library. This change is expected to take place by next fall.

If you move or need to change your format for either the “MCBVI News” or “The Braille Forum”, let your chapter officers know or contact me. For those submitting information, please be sure to proof the information you submit to me. Getting the information right the first time will make the transition smoother. Contact me at: 616-532-4737, or


Karla Fields, chair

At our 2016 State Convention the following Officers will be up for election: President, Secretary and Assistant Treasurer. Currently the following people will be running thus far; John Jarzyna for President, Debbie Robinson for Secretary and Wayne Lepiors for Assistant Treasurer.

If you wish to run or have a suggestion for the Nominations Committee please contact me at 586-465-2338. The other committee members are Arleen Moore, Debbie Robinson and Lora Leggett.


Donna Rose, co-editor

Malaina and I are putting together questions for a survey for members about the MCBVI News. I think we almost have all of the questions we will be asking. We will need to get with the Executive Board once we have the final draft and discuss how we will distribute it.

Here are the current numbers for production of newsletter formats:

If you are receiving the print or braille version of the MCBVI News, you may have noticed that your minutes and budget information are included separately from the main body of the newsletter.

While they are important, and it is convenient to mail them together, they take up a lot of space in a newsletter type format. If you choose to save them, it is easier to have them separately. If you don’t keep your paper newsletter and other documents, please remember they are recyclable, and we are hoping you will do that whenever possible. The next deadline for newsletter items will be June 15, 2016. Thank you for your cooperation!


Malaina VanderWal, chair

Earlier in the newsletter President Jarzyna wrote about attending the American Council of the Blind 2016 Mid-Year Meetings and Legislative Seminar. As I was unable to attend myself, I did listen to a portion of the Legislative Seminar on February 29. Prior to the Mid-Year Meeting I contacted Tony Stephens ACB’s Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs in order to learn how to approach representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives and requesting cosponsors of the ACB Imperatives which directly relate to two of the MCBVI resolutions passed at our 2015 state convention.

Mr. Stephens suggested the best method would be to contact the local office of each congressional representative and begin a dialogue with the staff of the representative at the local level!

As chair of Resolutions and as President of VIPP, I am encouraging chapters and members to reach out to your U.S. Representative to learn who handles disability related issues in your district office! Personal stories will play a key role in helping to get bills passed such as the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2015 H.R.729 and the Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty!

If passed Medicare recipients would be able to obtain high powered low vision devices and they would no longer be excluded from coverage! Furthermore ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty will give those who are unable to read print greater access to printed materials such as work related materials textbooks and more!

If you wish to contact your U.S. House of Representative by phone, email or by visiting their office but you do not have access to the information contact me and I will be happy to assist you! Even if the Medicare Act does not directly impact you I am sure you know someone who it would greatly benefit! Please do your part and support the resolutions you passed at last year’s convention! Now is the time to act!

Finally, if there are any issues you want the Resolutions committee to work on for the 2016 year contact me at 616308-9644!



Phyllis Magbanua

It seems it was just the Holidays, but here it is already March. We had our meeting in January and had Elections. Phyllis Magbanua was elected as President of the chapter and stepped down with a letter of resignation as Vice President. The members elected Amy Udell as Vice President until next year when that office comes up for election. Lindsey LaVere was re-elected as Secretary, and Wayne LePiors was reelected as Treasurer. We will elect a new Delegate when we have our March meeting.

In February we celebrated Valentine's by going out for a pizza luncheon at the Dorsey House and we had a very good time. In March we will have a short meeting then we will have some fun. Our meeting is on Saint Patrick's Day. We will keep you updated on what we have planned for the next few months. We wish you a happy spring!


Donna Rose

Our chapter did not meet in February or March. Our next meeting will be April 5 at the City Limits Bowling Alley in Meridian Township. Our membership is down and hopefully we can do some marketing so we can attract more members. It seems much harder to get people to join groups nowadays. We will keep you posted. Enjoy your spring!


Sharmese D. Anderson

We're in the process of cleaning house for the New Year.... All that important paper work that has to be filed, shredded, organized and updated, that's what our chapter is working on!

Does your chapter have a President's Manual? What if an unexpected situation happened, would the next President know what to do to keep the chapter active and in good standing? What about your chapters, Bylaws, taxes, updated signers, fundraising letter, budget reports, stationary, brochures?

Condolences go out to our member Barbara Wile, for the passing of her brother Bill Wile and prayers for Past President, Patricia Bailey who's in a nursing home.

We hope everyone has A Great Spring!


Malaina VanderWal

During our November VIPP meeting we elected Bob Boruta as Vice President and Kyle Austin as Treasurer! Congratulations to you both!

In December many of our VIPP members attended A Christmas Story with the generous gift from the Thorn Apple Lions Club! The performance was at the Grand Rapids Civic Theater! Once again, Andy Rent, narrated the play for us and everyone enjoyed the play and the descriptions!

Our January meeting was canceled because of bad weather and so we had a meeting in February and we are getting ready for our March meeting.

The biggest and best news from VIPP is that Casey and Sharon Dutmer are back in Michigan! Welcome home to you both!

From everyone in VIPP we hope you all have a safe and happy spring!

There will be more and exciting news to share later in the year.

>RECIPE: Fudge Brownies from Heaven

These brownies are not from a box and you will taste the difference! You can find unsweetened Baker’s chocolate in the baking isle of any grocery store. It comes in a bar and you break off the squares depending on the recipe. They bake on a low heat 325 degrees for about 40 minutes. And they will rise higher than box brownies so use a greased 9 inch square cake pan.



Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt together unsweetened chocolate squares and butter. You can use the microwave, but be careful not to burn the mixture. I prefer to melt in a saucepan over the stove on a very low temperature until melted, stirring constantly, but be very careful so it doesn’t burn. Let cool slightly so the eggs don’t cook when you add this mixture to them. Gradually add sugar to beaten eggs. When well blended add chocolate mixture. Stir in flour, vanilla, and optional nuts. Spread into a greased 9 inch square cake pan and bake 40 minutes. Baking time may vary according to whether you use a glass or metal pan and your oven.

If you double this recipe you will use a 9”x13” baking pan and the time will remain about the same, but keep an eye on them as ovens can vary. Enjoy!

Next MCBVI News Deadline: June 15, 2016

Submissions received after this date will be saved for the next newsletter

To Contact the Editors:

Donna Rose: (note there is a dash between wild and rose), 517-489-2233

Malaina VanderWal, 616-308-9644

Our Mission

To act as a catalyst in changing the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired and their families through education, advocacy, and camaraderie.

©Copyright 2016 Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired