Association of Blind Citizens
Creating Opportunity One Step at a Time

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Published by the Association of Blind Citizens

PO. Box 246, Holbrook, MA 02343

Telephone: 781 961-1023

Fax: 781 961-0004

News and Activities line: 781 654-2000

Vehicle donation line: 1-888-881-9090

Web Site: www.blindcitizens.org

IN THIS ISSUE:


President’s Notebook By: John Oliveira

As summer comes to a conclusion, one of ABC’s activities will take a break until next year. The Boston Renegades, ABC’s beep baseball team, had a good season and were able to participate in four national tournaments. The Renegades participated in more tournaments than all other beep baseball teams around the country. This happened because of the hard work of our players, volunteers and supporters. Looking forward to next season.

ABC was also able to sponsor a record number of children at camps for the blind around the country. The children were able to experience new activities that would not have been available to them in their local community.

We continue to experience a great success with our local New England trips. Participants are pleased at having these opportunities to tour and have access to places that they would have not been able to travel to due to a lack of transportation or financial resources.

The Assistive Technology Fund continues to receive a high volume of applications for assistance in purchasing technology. I received a call from a friend in Georgia who told me that a friend of his was talking about a great organization that had helped him purchase a cctv. When he asked more questions he learned that the grant came from ABC. Our tech grants continue to enrich lives of blind people around the country.

I welcome your support and ideas on programs that you feel would help the blind community. If you would like to help us raise funds to keep our programs operating please contact me. ABC would not be able to operate without the valuable help from our volunteers and for that help I thank them

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When disability is no barrier to success

7/22/2007

From: The Standard, Kenya

By: Harold Ayodo

Today The Sunday Standard runs a special report of how some physically challenged persons have overcome the odds against them. read about a blind choirmaster and the disabled boda boda operators of Busia.

To be visually challenged may be an impediment but it should not stop one from pursuing other gifts that life has accorded them.

This has been a guiding fact for one Joseph Osumba. He is a blind choirmaster who has entertained three presidents from East Africa in the past 37 years.

Today a retired teacher, Osumba 59, was promoted by retired President Daniel Moi following his string of compositions.

Osumba’s only regret, however, is that he never saw the standing ovations he received in the packed stadiums and halls.

The visually impaired composer and instructor of the once popular Prisons Choir is the brainchild of patriotic songs that were once the epitome of national day celebrations.Osumba recalls these special days, when mammoth crowds turned up at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi and listened to his compositions.

He argues that music is natural

His well known compositions include Meli ya Nyayo and Lugha ya Mama among other songs

"I conducted the choirs that entertained presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Moi of Kenya as well as Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania during his visits here," says Osumba.

His attempt to add President Mwai Kibaki to his list of VIPs hit a snag at the State Lodge in Kisumu last month when he was told that ‘Mzee was tired’.

Kibaki was on a three-day tour of Nyanza Province after launching the Lake Victoria Basin Commission.

The composer started out with Gospel songs and had trained the Kodiaga Prisons Choir to present a song titled "Kibaki: Kiongozi Mwenye Kipawa" but failed to accomplish his mission.

"State guests that I entertained with the Prisons Choir are too many to name. The group was considered among the most patriotic in the country," Osumba recalls.

Osumba argues that music is natural. He does not use a baton as is the case with other conductors and often dances along to the music when conducting choirs at times hitting his legs with his hands.

"I do that to show my appreciation of music because I am usually in my own world when conducting a choir that sings the right codes," he says.

Talent has made him rub shoulders with the high and mighty

The choirmaster, who says his talent has made him rub shoulders with the high and mighty, singles out Moi as a leader who appreciated music.

"I started teaching as a PI teacher in January 1970 before Moi ordered the Teachers Service Commission to push my grade up," says Osumba.

A similar directive by President Kenyatta at State House, Nakuru, to have him promoted in 1977 landed on deaf ears.

"I composed, conducted, instructed and presented a choir before President Kenyatta in 1975 titled, Kenyatta Muana wa Muigai, which he loved," Osumba says.

The then Nyanza Provincial Commissioner, Mr Ishmael Chelanga, had led a delegation from the area to State House, Nakuru.

"The eight teachers who accompanied the choir were to be promoted by one grade while I was to be promoted by two since I was the choirmaster," he says.

At the time, Osumba was teaching at the Kibos School for the Visually Impaired and headed its choir, which also entertained Kenyatta and sang many songs including Kenyatta Mlima wa Kenya.

"Kenyatta was so impressed with the compositions. He said I was a blind man who saw his development more than those who could see," says Osumba.

Moi saw to his promotion as a teacher

The artist also recalls the late Nyerere’s appreciation of his songs during his visits to Kenya in the 1970s.

Osumba, who composed and conducted 50 songs in praise of Moi between 1978 and 2002, says the former President always paused to listen to the tunes.

"I was always at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with the Prisons Choir to either send off or receive Moi from his tours abroad," he says.

He sang other compositions during national days, which he says were a ‘must-attend’ during the Nyayo era.

"Most of the songs were in support of the Nyayo philosophy. They promoted the then newly introduced 8-4-4 system of education, family planning and the free ‘Nyayo milk’ introduced in primary schools by Moi," he says.

It is Moi who saw to his promotion as a teacher from grade P1 to S1, a precursor to other promotions, before Osumba’s retirement two years ago as an Approved Status Teacher One.

Although he did not earn a salary at the Prisons Choir, Osumba says the administrators ensured that his ‘palms were always greased’ after performances.

"Leaders like Moi would not let you go empty handed after presentations," he says. Osumba and his group were regular visitors to Kabarak home on weekends, often to entertain the former Head of State and his high profile guests.

"We (the choir) were also invited to perform at several weddings and corporate functions which made the group constantly occupied and in demand," he says.

Despite being blind, he has a sharp ear that easily detects members of the choir singing out of tune.

Osumba, who is married to a former member of the Prisons Choir, says his talent in music is inborn but may also be passed on.

"My grandmother used to sing but I believe I was also born with the talent which I sat on for a long time until I joined college," he says.

Osumba recalls that his first recording with a choir was in 1975 when he took pupils of Kibos School for the Visually Impaired to a studio at Mfangano Lane in Nairobi.

The retired teacher attended Thika School for The Blind before joining Thika High School in 1965, where he shared a class with students who are not visually impaired.

"Thika School for the Blind (Secondary) was started when I was in Form Three. I learnt in Braille throughout my schooling," he says.

He plays the keyboard and flute

It was at Thogoto Teachers Training College where Osumba formed a choir with four other men. Female students later joined the group.

"I composed a song that competed at the national platform for colleges with the then esteemed Siriba Teachers College and we were the runners up," he says.

Osumba says he sings to his wife, Janet Awino, at their house in Kisumu. He hails from Kamanga village, Rachuonyo District in Nyanza Province.

He plays the keyboard and flute and says he is not about to retire from music any time soon.

"I am not yet done. I still compose songs late in the night today as I used to 37 years ago and they are just as sweet," he says.

Osumba has never travelled abroad but says he almost went with the Prisons Choir to Israel after composing a Jewish song. "An Israeli taught me a few Jewish words that helped me compose a song that promoted peace in the troubled Middle East. The trip, however, did not materialise," he says.

The composer of the hit Anyango anapenda Samaki na Ugali says the Prisons Choir recorded several songs over the years.

Stevie Wonder and Mary Atieno are his role models

He says that though he may have left a mark as a choirmaster, being visually impaired has had its challenges.

"I can only compose songs in Braille, which means I have to hire a translator for members of the choir to read and understand," he says.

The musician, who is also good with musical instruments, was the pillar behind the construction of an academic block at St Francis School, Kapenguria.

"Moi called me aside and gave me $200,000 after I put together a group of pupils to sing for him a patriotic song during a visit to Kapenguria in the 1980s," he recalls.

It is after Moi gave him the $200,000, which, the school used to construct a tuition block, that he ordered for Osumba’s promotion.

Osumba is today a choirmaster of the Kodiaga Prisons Choir and Kibos School for the Visually Impaired, which he has so far led to the annual national schools music festival.

He cites internationally renowned singer, songwriter, producer, humanitarian, and social activist, Stevie Wonder, and local gospel songstress, Mary Atieno, as his role models.

"Stevie Wonder was an inspiration because is also visually impaired. The same goes for Atieno who has sang exceptionally well to date," says Osumba.

Other musical groups that inspire him are the Arusha Mjini of the Sodom na Gomorrah fame and Mwanza Town Choir of Tanzania.


Harry Potter Mania Strikes Visually-Impaired Fans, Too

7/21/2007

From: Oregon Public Broadcasting, OR, USA

By: Chris Lehman

SALEM, OR 2007-07-20 Harry Potter fans worldwide are eagerly anticipating Friday night's release of the seventh and final book in the blockbuster series. That includes the blind. In Oregon, those fans won't have to wait long to find out what happens. Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

The Oregon State Library ships hundreds of books on tape to visually impaired readers every day.

The library doesn't have the budget to buy audio copies of every new book, so normally readers have to wait until the shipment of free copies from the Library of Congress arrives. That can take months.

The library -- with help from some private donors -- anted up the cash for ten copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There's a long waiting list already.

Marion Bryson, of the State Library, says it's been a while since a book has been so eagerly awaited.

Marion Bryson: "I know when Satanic Verses came out by Salman Rushdie sometime back, they fast-tracked that one through because it was a big thing."

Users of Washington state's audio book service will have to wait a little longer. Nearly 50 people have signed up, but a spokesperson says it could be a month until copies are available.


Waiter, I'm at Your Mercy

7/21/2007

From: The New York Times, USA

By: ANDREW YANG, NYT Travel

Caption: Patrons at the Whale Inside Dark Restaurant are led by a waiter with night-vision goggles. / Chang W. Lee

IN the pitch-black din of the Whale Inside Dark Restaurant in Beijing, a table of 30 diners was getting rowdy. “I'm touching your head!” said one, like a mischievous child. “Who just said that?” another replied. The disembodied voices floated across the boisterous 90-plus-seat restaurant, but no one could see who was talking, except for the waiters, who were outfitted with military-grade night-vision goggles.

In a new twist on conceptual dining, restaurants are turning off the lights to focus attention on the food. The trend seems to have started in Zurich and has since spawned permutations all over the world, with diners donning blindfolds, sitting in unlit rooms and, lately, being served by waiters in night-vision goggles. The idea is that by depriving one sense (sight), other senses are heightened.

Darkness has other benefits. “Chinese people tend to be shy,” said Chen Long, who owns Whale Inside Dark, (Room 1037, Third Floor, Jianwai Soho West, 39 Dongsanhuan Central Road; 86-10-5869-4235; www.whaleinside.com), which opened in January. “People have found it easy to break the ice here.”

The first pitch-black restaurant, which opened in Zurich in 1999, had less frivolous intentions. The goal “was creating jobs for the blind and handicapped people,” said Adrian Schaffner, the manager at Blindekuh, or Blind Cow (Mühlebachstrasse 148; 41-44-421-5050; www.blindekuh.ch).

A project of the Blind-Liecht foundation, a support group for the visually impaired, Blindekuh has an all-blind wait staff who serve Swiss cuisine in total darkness. The menu changes weekly, and recently included grilled veal with an herb crust, and a vegetarian risotto cooked with basil and mozzarella. (Dinner for two, 120 Swiss francs, or about $98 at 1.24 francs to the dollar). “We are booked for weeks, sometimes months, in advance,” Mr. Schaffner added. In fact, the restaurant just opened an outpost in Basel, Switzerland.

The concept has taken off in Paris, London, Sydney and elsewhere, offering new variations on sight deprivation. In Los Angeles, the Opaque group offers a restaurant experience similar to Blindekuh's in the West Hollywood Hyatt on Fridays and Saturdays (8401 Sunset Boulevard; 310-546-7619; www.darkdining.com). The waiters are blind and serve dishes like pesto-crusted chicken and grilled salmon. Set menus are from $99 to $105. And in Greenwich Village, a group called Dark Dining Projects (www.darkdiningprojects.com) holds dinners roughly monthly.

at CamaJe Bistro (85 Macdougal Street; 212-673-8184; www.camaje.com), where diners pay $75 per person to be blindfolded inside a small bistro with red walls (not that anyone can see the décor).

IN Beijing, the Whale Inside Dark Restaurant is not only about heightening the sense of taste, but lowering social inhibitions. It is popular with Internet daters, who meet on matchmaking Web sites that are sprouting throughout China. Diners arrive in a office-like vestibule, where they choose from several preset menus, which can include chicken soup with shiitake mushrooms, fried shrimp and sautéed noodles. Dinner for two is about 225 yuan, or $29 at 7.76 yuan to the dollar.

Eating in the dark is not without its pitfalls. Instead of family-style dining, food is served on single-serving plates. And dishes that require sharp utensils, like sirloin steak, were eliminated. When each dish arrives, the server guides your hand to the plate and offers helpful tips like, “This course is eaten with a spoon.”

The format seems to be working . “People feel a lot more comfortable when they can't be seen by others,” said Mr. Chen, who is opening a second branch in Shanghai later this year. Couples “get to know each other without seeing other's faces.”


Kansas soldier copes with bomb-related vision loss

7/21/2007

From: Wichita Eagle, Kansas USA

By: JEREMY SHAPIRO, Eagle correspondent

Perhaps someday, Staff Sgt. Jerrod L. Hays will be able to drive or watch TV without everything looking blurry.

Five months ago, shrapnel struck his eye when his Humvee was hit by two bombs in Qasim, Iraq. One of his best friends, Staff Sgt. David R. Berry, died instantly when the second bomb went off.

"He took the bomb head-on, and by taking the brunt of it he probably saved our lives," Hays said.

For a while Hays couldn't see anything. Three surgeries later, he can make out facial features while wearing extra-thick glasses. Doctors are optimistic that with more surgeries the Wellington guardsman can someday regain part of his sight.

Sixteen percent of soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered severe vision loss, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. That's roughly 4,000 to 6,000 service members with some degree of sight damage since 2004, said Randolph Cabral, executive director of the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute in Wichita.

Hays has been invited along with 20 other recently blinded service members to attend a charitable benefit hosted by the institute and the Blinded Veterans Association on Saturday in Wichita.

The association's Operation Peer Support joins recently blinded service members with blinded veterans of past wars. Cabral said blinded veterans can educate and relate to those who recently lost their vision. They can help with rehabilitation, finding a job and enrolling in benefit programs.

"Vision loss is new, and these service members have to learn new ways to access information," he said. "Veterans that have been through it can help with that education."It costs about $2,000 to enroll a service member in Operation Peer Support, Cabral said. Saturday's benefit is to raise money so more can join.

Hays joined the Kansas Army National Guard in 1987 because his two best friends, Berry and Jim Potter, had enlisted the year before and had recruited him. He was part of the Battery B, 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery sent to Iraq last year.

The unit's mission was to keep open the main supply routes and conduct presence patrols, which meant making contact with Iraqi civilians, Hays said.

"We weren't necessarily trying to make friends," he said. "We were trying to build a relationship with the people around us."

Hays estimates 90 percent of the people he encountered were friendly to the U.S. troops. About 5 percent didn't care and 5 percent did not want the Americans there.

After the Feb. 22 explosions, Hays was moved to Baghdad, where his immediate injuries were treated. Eventually, he was flown to Germany and then Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received in combat on March 30.

Although it has been difficult to cope with the loss of sight, Hays said it has helped to talk with other veterans. He likes the idea of matching Iraq veterans with sight loss to those who had similar injuries in past wars.

He particularly speaks highly of Vietnam veterans who have gone out of their way to thank him for his service.

"I ask them why they are thanking me because no one thanked them when they returned from Vietnam," Hays said. "They say , 'So you guys won't have to go through what we did.' "


Blind man gets justice after limo refused to give him ride

7/21/2007

From: The Houston Chronicle, TX, USA

By: MELANIE MARKLEY

July 21, 2007, 12:11AM

A dogged blind man gets justice

Carl Richardson didn't exactly get his day in court.

But the blind man from Brighton, Mass., whose party was refused a limousine ride to the airport last March because they were accompanied by two guide dogs, isn't disappointed. He at least got justice, he said.

In a recent plea agreement, the limo driver, Eyad Doleh, agreed to waive his right to a trial in exchange for probation and the posting of two $400 bonds

He pleaded no contest to charges that he refused to take Richardson, Richardson's wife, friend Joseph Yee and the dogs to the airport.

Under Texas law, refusing public transportation to a person with an assistance animal is punishable by a fine ranging from $300 to $1,000.

Richardson's quest for justice began in March after he had trouble convincing authorities in Houston that denying access to guide dogs is a criminal offense.

Even after he persuaded police to ticket the driver for refusing the dogs, one belonging to him and the other to Yee, city prosecutors dismissed the charges because they had not heard of the law.

The charges were refiled after a Houston Chronicle report. Richardson intended to return to Houston for a July 26 hearing that has been canceled.

"Joe and I are both happy because the law was applied as intended," he said, "and that's all we really wanted."


Vision-impaired judo athlete prepares for Pan Am Games

7/19/2007

From: Scripps News, DC, USA

By: CLAY LATIMER

Scripps Howard News Service

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Even at the Olympic Training Center, with its assortment of world-class boxers, swimmers and weight lifters crowding gyms and training rooms, Grace Ohashi is an attention grabber. In the past six months, the 18-year-old has emigrated from Japan, figured out a foreign culture, finished second at the USA Judo Senior National championships, earned a spot in the ongoing Pan American Games and transformed herself into a potential Olympian.

And that was the routine part. Ohashi can barely see.

She walks into walls. Uses a walking cane on busy streets. Tumbled down stairs before her national championship match in Miami. Nearly stepped off a dock at Pueblo Reservoir. Can't see the faces of the women she fights.

In her intense and often violent sport, in fact, it's a miracle Ohashi, 5-foot-7, 114 pounds, even stays on her feet.

Yet she'll slip into her baggy cotton uniform Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for her inaugural match in the Pan American Games, less than three years after her first lesson.

And she already is thinking of reaching the 2008 Beijing Olympics, determined to follow in the footsteps of Marla Runyan, a legally blind American track star who competed at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics.

An impossible dream?

Not in a sport where feel and movement are more important than sight.

"I get scared sometimes," she said. "It's hard to adjust to all this. Sometimes I just cry. When I don't do judo, it feels like I can't do anything because of my eyes.

"But when I do judo, I feel free."

Hard times rarely depress the irrepressible Ohashi, a natural fighter whose eye problems stretch to childhood.

But she was thrown for a loop when her sight began to deteriorate dramatically in the spring, stranding her in a world of vague shapes and forms.

"I can see their shadows a little bit, but not clearly what they're doing," she said of her opponents.

"It's very hard. I just try to see the shadow, and listen."

Partly because they lacked her medical records and easy access to her former doctors in Japan, doctors in the U.S. still are conducting tests on Ohashi.

As a result, she isn't currently eligible for Paralympic events.

"Her lost vision doesn't presently have a medical diagnosis," said Nicole Jomantas, USA Judo director of communications and media relations.

Added Ohashi: "It's very tough. I still don't know what's going on."

In Japan, Ohashi's American- born mother and Japanese father encouraged her to hide the vision problem because they feared the stigma would bar her from good schools and jobs.

Her friends took notes for Ohashi in school and helped her fake her way through the eye exam of her driver's license test.

"She's not upset with her parents. She knows they were doing the best thing for her," said Colleen Matthews, a teammate at the USA Judo National Training Site.

"Her life would have been a lot harder and a lot less fun when she was growing up if they had made it public."

Ohashi turned to judo at 15 because it helped her get into a private school, where the sport is as popular as football is in American high schools.

She beat five opponents in the first week, quickly earned a black belt and eventually mastered sophisticated moves that disarmed her American opponents.

"She comes from the Mecca of judo," said teammate Myles Porter, who also is visually impaired. "She's a gifted athlete, too.

"And she thinks outside the box. She was always more American in her thinking. She was the rebellious kid in school, the one who said, 'I'm not conforming to the whole male-dominated society.'

"She was not going to be this reserved Japanese girl."

A year ago, the suggestion Ohashi would be where she is today would have seemed a fantasy -- or a joke.

But Ohashi e-mailed Eddie Liddie, USA Judo director of athlete performance, who invited her to a training camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., and eventually to the OTC.

"I wanted to study English, to see a big country," she said. "And it's my mom's country."

Out of habit, Ohashi continued to conceal her impairment.

At practice she would inch her way to the front of the pack when Liddie offered pointers, determined to pick up every nugget.

"Grace is a very tough girl, mentally and physically," teammate Christal Ransom said. "She doesn't want anybody to think she needs help. She doesn't want to show any sign of weakness.

"One day, she dislocated her finger when it got stuck in my (uniform). She just went to the side of the mat, popped it back in, taped it up and got back on the mat. She didn't need help."

When Liddie wants to demonstrate a move to the team, for example, he plucks her from the crowd, eager to help a rising star and potential Olympian.

Ohashi is eligible to represent the U.S. in Beijing because her mother is an American native.

"I'd say right at this point she has just as good a chance as anyone at her weight," Liddie said.

To the casual observer it might seem strange she can hold her own against nationally ranked sighted opponents, when the world comes at her in a blur.

But a good player such as Ohashi is guided by what she senses and not what she sees.

She doesn't look directly at her opponent but defends, attacks and counters based on an opponent's movement and strengths.

"I think it actually helps her because she feels everything," Matthews said. "And that's what judo is all about. It's not like a hand-eye coordination sport. It helps when you're not paying attention to what you see, but what you're feeling."


Baseball squad for the blind makes its home in Watertown

7/19/2007

From: Town Online, Massachusetts USA

By: Frank Santarpio, Correspondent

GateHouse News Service

Thu Jul 19, 2007, 11:22 AM EDT

WATERTOWN, MA - Watertown hosted a very special event with some very special people last Saturday. The Boston Renegades, a beepball team sponsored by the Association of Blind Citizens Inc., held an intra-squad game at Filippello Park, displaying the camaraderie, spirit and enthusiasm that you wish every organized team possessed.

Beepball, a game created for the blind and visually impaired back in the 1960s, is similar to baseball and softball. Players attempt to hit a pitched ball and run to bases. However, the ball is unique. At $38 a ball, it would have to be.

“It is basically an oversized softball,” John Oliveira, the president of the Association of Blind Citizens and owner of the Renegades, said of the yellow-colored ball. “The stitches of the ball are broken and electronics are inserted into the ball, and then the ball is re-stitched.”

The balls contain a pin. Once it is removed, the beep ball emits a continuous sound. When the ball is hit, the bases, which contain a locater tone, become activated so that the blind player can hear the buzzing sound that occurs and run toward the base. There are two bases, one on the third-base side and one on the first-base side, each 100 feet away from home plate. The base for which the batter must run is chosen at random by the base operator, and should the batter reach base before the opposing fielders get possession of the ball, then it is a point for the offense.

If the ball is possessed before the runner reaches his base, an out is recorded. The bases are four-foot padded cylinders with speakers.

There are six position players on each team. The pitcher (for the Renegades, it is usually head coach Rob Weissman) and the catcher are sighted volunteers for the offensive team.

“This is because the object of the game is to allow the players to hit the ball,” Oliveira said. “And someone from your own team knows where the batter wants the ball.”

Similar to Little League, each game is six innings long (extra innings if necessary) with each team allowed three outs per inning. Each batter, though, gets four strikes and is allowed only one ball not to swing at. As difficult as it may appear, these individuals do a remarkable job making contact at the plate.

One of the main purposes of the National Beep Baseball Association is to educate the public regarding the abilities of the blind and visually impaired, and one can become very impressed with these athletes by watching a game.

“The support and encouragement from teammates also helps the players get better,” Oliveira said. “This really is a great game because it is the only team sport blind people can take part in. There are lots of individual sports like cross-country skiing, sailing and canoeing, but because beepball is a team game, the people learn a lot about character and a lot of great friendships are developed. We travel to a lot of places, and everyone gets to know each other and form team-building skills.”

When Oliveira was a kid at a child camp for the blind, he participated in beepball; years later, when he saw it being played at a company picnic, the president of the Blind Citizens Association came up with the idea to bring a team to Massachusetts. By 2001, he helped create the Boston Renegades.

Since becoming a squad in the NBBA, the Renegades have been improving year in and year out. Each year, a World Series tournament is held in a different state giving 16 beepball teams a chance to win the title. Beepball teams appear in such places as Chicago, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma City, Kansas, Cleveland and Indianapolis, to name a few, but the last three years, a team from Taiwan has captured the title.

Later this month, the Renegades will travel to Rochester, Minn., and attempt to earn their first championship. This season, the Renegades have played some quality ball, finishing with a 5-5 record.

“Our defense is getting stronger and our offense is getting better,” 25-year-old Renegade member Luis Marquez said during Saturday’s intra-squad game. “We have a chance at the World Series.”

Marquez lost his sight as a youngster when he was hit with a bat, but never let anything stop him from playing sports. Like all other members of this team, he goes all-out and is admired for his enthusiasm of the game. He first participated in beepball as soon as he could, and has been a valuable member of the Renegades for more than four years now.

“I liked this game right away,” he said. “It is really neat. I enjoy everything about this game, but you know, the best part is the feeling you get when you realized you have just hit the ball hard.”

Marquez was the first batter in the intra-squad game, and after barely missing his first three swings, connected mightily on his last attempt and darted toward the first-base cylinder before the defense possessed the ball, thus scoring the first point of the game.

Another player scoring a point for her team was KaeAnn Rausch, who hustled mightily down the first-base line just before the defense gained control. The Revere resident is one of two women on the team, and in years past has been the only female member. However, she is the first to point out that gender doesn’t matter on this team. It hasn’t in the six years she has been a part of the squad.

“I just feel like one of the guys,” she said. “I love being on this team because the guys are just great people. Even the coaches (Watertown resident Bryan Grillo among them) are terrific.”

Rausch said another reason she loves the game is because of the challenge of learning to work together. She said this is the only game that allows her to be involved in a competitive sport.

“Every year I am picking up new skills,” she said. “But each year is always a lot of fun.”

One of the volunteers/coaches agrees that nearly everyone enjoys being a part of this team.

“Mostly everyone comes back,” said volunteer Nick Bobas, who also serves as the team’s hitting coach. “They wouldn’t if it didn’t mean a lot to them.”

Because it means a lot to the members of this team and because the sport costs $22,000 per season, there are many fundraisers held. On July 26 at Watertown’s Hibernian Hall, 295 Watertown St., the Renegades will sponsor a pizza party hoping to earn some money toward the team’s expenses. Another way the organization raises money is that for $5, they put blindfolds on sighted people and let them attempt to hit the beepball.

“It is very expensive to keep a team,” Oliveira said. “Traveling fees and hotel fees are high, and we usually spend about $1,200 on the balls alone.”

The Renegades, which began playing their home games in Cleveland Circle in Boston, have now made Filippello Field their home park and no doubt, once the people in Watertown get a glimpse of this squad, they will feel very fortunate to have them here.


Jimmy Carter, 75, 'jumps for Jesus' onstage

From: Vancouver Sun, Canada

By: Adrian Chamberlain, CanWest News Service

Gospel singer Jimmy Carter will never forget the worst day of his life.

It was Sept. 12, 1939. A Tuesday.

A family friend had recommended a school for Jimmy, the only blind boy of six siblings. It was the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega. (The small town near Birmingham later achieved notice though the comedy movie Talladega Nights.)

That day, the friend, Jimmy's mother and Jimmy drove over to the blind school. His life would never be the same.

"I remember that as if it was yesterday," said Carter, 75, from his Birmingham home.

"When she dropped me off and pulled away, I thought the world had come to an end. A seven-year-old boy. I didn't know nobody, didn't know nothin', you know. Among complete strangers. That was rough."

Carter says it was run like a reform school. Students were locked up at night. There wasn't enough to eat. He learned menial skills, such as how to make brooms and chairs.

Carter is the only original member now touring with the Grammy-winning Blind Boys of Alabama, who play in Vancouver Saturday as part of the TD Canada Trust Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Another founding member, George Scott, died in 2005.

Meanwhile, co-founder Clarence Fountain is taking a break to cope with kidney problems.

The gospel group formed in 1939, originally calling itself the Happy Land Jubilee Singers. After decades of singing the black gospel circuit, the Blind Boys had a minor career breakthrough in 1980: appearing in the Broadway musical, The Gospel at Colonus. In 1992, they attracted even wider notice with the release of their Grammy-nominated recording, Deep River.

Then, in 2002, their disc Spirit of the Century -- a mix of souped-up gospel and contemporary material -- scooped up a Grammy for best traditional soul gospel album.

Spirit of the Century turned out to be the first of four consecutive Grammy-winning recordings. The Blind Boys's future was assured.

Carter sings between 150 and 200 concerts annually with the Blind Boys of Alabama.

Now a seven-man ensemble, it includes four sightless performers and three who can see. Carter is the man who, if the spirit moves him, will step down into the audience (with the help of an assistant) and shake hands with the crowd. He also likes to leap up and down during shows, a move he calls "jumpin' for Jesus."

"When I hit the stage, Jimmy Carter is gone," he said. "I'm not Jimmy Carter any more. The Holy Spirit takes you over completely."

Today the Blind Boys enjoy the benefits that come to any successful touring band, such as nice hotels and good food. It's a far cry from the early days of hard work and poor food at the blind institute.

Things got a little better when he met Clarence Fountain in the choir of the institute. They formed a breakaway gospel group, and toured the U.S. in a big Buick.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Jim Crow laws were still in effect in the southern states. Whites and blacks were kept segregated.

One of Alabama's laws, for example, was that bus stations would have separate waiting rooms and ticket windows for "white and coloured races."

Carter says the Blind Boys were never hassled directly. Nonetheless, conditions were rough.

"We knew our place," he said. "It was hard. You sing hard and you couldn't go into a decent restaurant. Couldn't go into a decent hotel. You had to go in the back door and all that. We knew we had to accept that, and we did."

Latter-day fame opened up opportunities inconceivable in the old days. The Blind Boys have performed and recorded with such stars as Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed and Ben Harper. They've received positive write-ups in Rolling Stone magazine. Walt Disney Productions hired them to sing in the film Brother Bear.

Sounds impressive. Carter admits he had no idea the Blind Boys would eventually become this popular. He insists he's a regular guy who likes simple pleasures.

These include visiting his 101-year-old mom and listening to basketball, football and baseball games on satellite TV.

"I hate to say famous. I don't like that. I'm not famous. I'm nobody. I'm just trying' to entertain the people and make them feel good," he said.


Blind poker player says he's denied World Series of Poker spot

6/29/2007

From: KGET17, California USA

By: Brynn Galindo

BAKERSFIELD - It’s every sports player’s dream to play in the Super Bowl or World Series, and the same holds true for people who play poker as a sport.

A Bakersfield man recently earned a chance to live out his dream, but because of his disability, it may not be in the cards.

Jason Holbrook has been playing cards as long as he can remember.

"I’ve been playing … since I was five years old," Holbrook said.

But 16 years after he began playing, Holbrook lost sight of his cards following a car accident.

Now 37, he is legally blind, and while that hasn’t hurt his game, it’s changed the way he plays.

This disability, though, has hurt his chances of fulfilling his dream of playing in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

"I just read the cards and tell him what's on the table,” said Michelle Espinoza, Holbrook’s card reader. “He plays the hand."

Espinoza has been reading Holbrook’s cards for about a year. During the tournaments, she’s by his side serving as his eyes.

By qualifying through tournaments at the Golden West Casino in Bakersfield, Holbrook earned the right to play at the World Series of Poker in Vegas with a multi-million-dollar top prize at stake.

According to Holbrook, however, he has been told he can’t play because of his second set of eyes.

“We had no problem at the Rio,” Holbrook said about his World Tour he played a week and a half ago.

Holbrook hasn’t given up on his dream. Now, the man who said he knows when to hold ‘em is hoping to hold onto his seat in the world class competition.

"They said we could have a refund, but it's not about that,” he said. “It's about being able to play the game you love, like everyone else."

Holbrook’s brother said they plan to go to Vegas anyway to convince organizers to change their mind and allow Holbrook to play.

The Rio Hotel did not return our calls for clarification.


Fans of the Game: The Coopers are blind, but not to the allure of baseball

6/27/2007

From: Tulsa World, Oklahoma USA

By: BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer

MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World

WHEN TULSA RELIEVER Darren Clarke made his first two major league appearances for the Colorado Rockies last month at Coors Field in Denver, Drillers fan Jeri Cooper was there to cheer for him.

Cooper is a passionate Drillers fan who often supports her team loudly.

"I might have the biggest mouth in town when I'm at the games," Cooper said with a laugh. "I'm a cheerleader. I scream and jump up and down. At the end of the games I'm exhausted."

Cooper, 48, is such a big fan, she likes to make sure her guide dog, Mertz, is attired in a Drillers bandanna every time they are at Drillers Stadium. The bandanna was given to her by a Drillers employee.

"(Drillers owner) Chuck Lamson is the only one I let pet Mertz," said Cooper, who named her dog after the Ricardos' neighbors on her favorite television show, "I Love Lucy."

Despite being totally blind for the last 15 years and having a 95 percent hearing loss, Cooper likes to attend as many Drillers games as possible, about 20 per year.

Although Cooper can't see the action on the field, there still are more advantages to being at the game for her than staying at home listening to the radio.

"I can't hug (Drillers mascot) Hornsby if I'm at home," Cooper said.

But that's not the only reason for Cooper to go to Drillers Stadium.

"It's a great place to have a hot dog," Cooper said. "And it's great to be able to enjoy beautiful nights there outside with my husband."

David Cooper, 56, is legally blind. The Coopers, who often walk about a mile from their home to the ballpark, met through friends and first spent time together at Drillers games.

"Baseball really brought us together," David Cooper said.

David Cooper has been going to Tulsa baseball games since 1972, shortly after he moved to the city. Jeri Cooper did not go to Drillers games until meeting David in 2000. They were married in 2002.

"A lot of our dating was at Drillers Stadium," David Cooper said. "We did a lot of talking there."

David Cooper retired last year after 35 years of running a snack bar.

Jeri Cooper, with the help of a powerful hearing aid, has been a switchboard operator for almost four years at the Legal Aid hotline and is studying for her master's degree online from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock. Her long-range goal is to become a rehab teacher for the blind.

As part of her UALR studies, she will need to go Little Rock in late July. As luck would have it, the Drillers will be visiting the Arkansas Travelers at the same time.

The only downsides for the Coopers when they visit other ballparks is they can't greet Hornsby or listen to Drillers radio announcer Mark Neely.

"Other announcers are fine, but Mark really enables you to see the game," Jeri Cooper said.

Radio broadcasts are very important to the Coopers, who wear headsets to help them follow each game they attend. Early last season, Drillers radio broadcasts were on a seven-second delay, which nearly kept the Coopers home.

"That almost brought me to tears," Jeri Cooper said. "It was so confusing. I was going to have to quit coming, but after I complained to the Drillers, they helped get it changed."

The radio also helps the Coopers attend and follow University of Tulsa football games.

Neely thinks about fans such as the Coopers when he announces games.

"That's what radio is supposed to do, paint the picture for fans," Neely said. "The Coopers are very nice people. For fans like them, I am their eyes."

Jeri Cooper played baseball in high school at the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee. She likes to bowl with her husband in a league twice a monthand recently broke 100 for the first time.

The Coopers usually sit in the upper level behind third base, but like to be located high behind home plate if those seats are available. David Cooper can see the action in one eye with the help of a monocular.

"They are great fans and have never asked for any special accommodations," Lamson said.

Jeri Cooper also has been legally blind since berth. Before becoming totally blind, she attended some Houston Astros games at the Astrodome in the late 1980s.

"That gives me a frame of reference that helps me now," Jeri Cooper said.

Besides going to Arkansas, the Coopers want to visit as many different ballparks as they can. They want to follow Tulsa and the ex-Drillers who are in the majors. Colorado Rockies lefty Jeff Francis is Jeri's favorite former Driller.

"At Coors Field I could tell the fans there are more hyped up than here," Jeri Cooper said. "When I go to a ballpark for the first time, that's the first thing I notice -- the atmosphere."


Blind Teaching the Sighted

5/30/2007

From: AssociatedContent.com (USA)

By: Paisley Place

Too many sighted people believe it is impossible for blind parents to offer any real assistance when it comes to educating their sighted children. It is my opinion this is the reason far too many sighted parents shuffle their children off to schools for the blind instead of making the effort to teach these children at home until they are old enough to join mainstream students in school with sighted children.

This reasoning makes no sense to me. It is not as if we can separate blind, deaf, mentally challenged, or disabled children from children without disabilities for the rest of their lives. Eventually, disabled children become disabled adults. As disabled adults, they must be able to adjust and interact within the full population, which includes a larger number of non-disabled people. If we as a society hide these disabled children away for nearly two decades of their lives, how do we expect them to perform and respond to life outside of the cocoon life experience of special schools where there is little to no contact with non-disabled children? The answer is simple; we cannot expect this of them.

Children need socialization with children from various backgrounds including those with special needs and disabilities. It is this writer's belief that many parents of disabled child feel they are protecting their children from the hardships of being with children who do not understand their problems; however, it is my belief that the more children with disabilities within the regular school system, the more tolerant and educated the child within the school system will become.

My situation is somewhat different in the fact that I am the one with the disability, multiple disabilities actually. Well over a decade ago, I learned I am losing my sight to a hereditary eye disease in addition to a problem with my optic nerves. While the vision I had as a child was not perfect, in the years since it is almost to the point of becoming non-existent in a manner of speaking. Additionally, after I begun to accept life as a blind woman and mother, I made the decision to return to school to work as a medical transcriptionist.

The job allowed me to work from home and set my own hours. This was a workable solution since it allowed me to be a viable working adult despite the lack of public transportation in Ruralville, USA. Unfortunately, some six years later orthopedic surgeons would discover I had inoperable nerve damage in my right arm. More tests brought about the additional news that I had systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjogren's disease as well. The combination of both autoimmune diseases, the side effects from the diseases, and the pain from the nerve damage left no choice but resignation from a career I adored with all my heart. It was not creative writing but I felt I provided a necessary and important service. Most of all, I was able to teach my children that disabled people could work too and if we could do it then there were no excuses for others without disabilities to believe they could not work either.

The lessons I taught the children about disabled people and work were but a small part of what I attempted to teach. My youngest child, a toddler at the time, was curious of everything. Since I was unable to read Braille and she was unable to read print, we devised a tactile system of using letter and number-shaped refrigerator magnets to teach her letters and numbers. Prior to this child's second birthday, she was reading books to her mother and together we worked out simple math equations. Suffice to say, this was new territory for me but it was working and I am not one to walk away from anything that works.

This small child absorbed books and information much like a dry sponge immersed in water. She read at a kindergarten level, first grade level, and finally found herself reading second grade level work by the time she was old enough to attend public school. By the first nine-week's grading period, I received an email asking for a conference with the teachers at school. The tone of the email felt as if there was a problem. I knew there was no possible way this child suffered with attention deficit disorder as her older sister. She had none of the signs. I spent the following week in constant worry until the day of the meeting with her kindergarten teacher and another teacher whom I did not know.

The kindergarten teacher danced around various subjects, all proclaiming that my child's work was on target and in fact, it was well above her current grade level. I learned during those stifling moments that the other teacher at the table with us was an enrichment teacher; she came into the classroom to teach the academically and intellectually gifted students from the AIG program. Still, the undercurrent tone left me wondering what the problem could be with my child's education. Obviously, she was intelligent since the AIG teacher came to teach her along with other students in the AIG program. It would not take long before the brain clicked.

"So in other words," I spoke carefully and slowly to keep from losing my temper. "If my child was a blind child in a classroom of other blind children we would not have a problem."

The heavy release of a sigh from the kindergarten teacher's lips provided the answer I expected. As it turns out, in teaching my child all she learned from birth to kindergarten, she learned as a blind child - tactilely. She did most of her work mentally versus visually. It took some finagling on my part to prevent the teachers from completely rearranging the manner in which I taught my child. I could not understand how having a child who learned using both tactile and visual clues could be a bad thing. After all, her test scores were high and she tested well above grade level.

Over the course of the past five years since this child began school, I often thought about how bringing tactile teaching into the classroom for all students would benefit them. Since the school will not do this, I take it upon myself to use these techniques when I attend the classes each year. My lectures include bringing a bandanna to fit across each child's eyes so they can take turns attempting to figure out what items are that I pull from a dark paper sack. I teach them to walk using a cane with me at their side with the blindfold on to give them some idea of what life for a blind student is like every day. Each time I teach the children in this manner, the all come away from the lecture with something special to share with their family and friends. Teachers often catch the students attempting to recognize items from their backpacks without physically looking at the item. Each time I receive an email or letter from a teacher or another parent all I can do is smile. It is more than the blind teaching the sighted. It is the blind teaching the blind teaching the sighted teaching the sighted.

They say that destiny will always have her way no matter how hard one tries to fight her. I fought extremely hard in the beginning but some years ago, the realization of the fact that I was exactly where I should be hit me. It took me a long time to understand and even now, I am not completely sure as to what fate and destiny wants with me but I am sure of one thing. I am certain these children received exactly what they required in a time during their lives when they will take the memories with them the story and memories of the blind mother with guide dog who showed them the world through their fingers instead of their eyes.


Marketplace

The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the Association of Blind Citizens, its staff or officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "20/20 Access" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.

MAPS OF HAWAII

The Princeton Braillists' offer a publication, "Maps of the State of Hawaii." It contains 10 maps, 55 pages total, and includes detailed maps of the eight major islands. Each island has introductory information followed by one or more key pages and a full-page map. A general view of the city of Honolulu and of Pearl Harbor are included in the maps of Oahu. "Maps of the State of Hawaii" costs $11; shipping is by free matter (where eligible). To get your copy, send check or purchase order to The Princeton Braillists, 76 Leabrook Lane, Princeton, NJ 08540, and allow four weeks for delivery.

A number of other maps and atlases are also available. For more information, call Nancy Amick at (609) 924-5207, or Ruth Bogia at (215) 357- 7715.

STUDY FOR PARENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS

The University of Arizona is seeking parents who have visual impairments to participate in a telephone interview study to learn about the strategies, concerns, and experiences these parents have as they raise their children. Parenting partners of participants who have them will also be invited to participate in the study. To learn more and complete an initial information form, visit www.ed.arizona.edu/rosenblum/recruit.htm. You can also request this information from Dr. Sunggye Hong at (319) 273-7954. Once they receive your information, a member of the research team will contact you to schedule a one-hour interview. Participation is voluntary, and there is no monetary compensation.

PRODUCTS FROM BUMPY PAGES

Bumpy Pages offers all kinds of affordable braille and large print products. Items include greeting cards, restaurant menus, business cards, instruction manuals, cookbooks, clear labels, and much more. To learn more, visit www.bumpypages.com or send an e-mail to info@bumpypages.com.

SPEECH ACCESS FOR VISTA

Serotek Corporation has announced that its entire product line, including FreedomBox and Key to Freedom with System Access software, is now integrated with Microsoft Windows Vista and available for download. Any current FreedomBox user or anyone with Vista can download the software from www.freedombox.info. These Serotek products also work with Windows Vista Media Center and the new Aero Glass interface for electronic mail, right out of the box.

NEW DISCUSSION GROUP

There is now an online reading/discussion group for the blind and visually impaired. Its purpose is to discuss reading experiences, both good and bad, and to direct others to new resources for materials that are accessible. To sign up, send an e-mail to EnjoyReading-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

** FREE MENOPAUSE GUIDE BOOK

The Menopause Guidebook is now available in braille for free through National Braille Press. The book, published by the North American Menopause Society, is the most complete and current discussion of the subject available anywhere. It contains information on perimenopause, early menopause, menopause symptoms, long-term effects of estrogen loss, and a wide variety of therapies to enhance health. To request a copy, send an e-mail to nbp@nbp.org or call 1-888-965-8965.

GOURMET MIXES

All Mixed Up offers fresh gourmet mixes, including breads, soups, dips and desserts. Mixes are made in the mountains of Virginia and serve two to six people. For more information, contact Tara Fairchild via e-mail at amustore@gmail.com or visit her web site, www.allmixedupgourmet.com/store/affiliate.asp?aff=151.

** DOLPHIN PRODUCT SUITE

Dolphin Computer Access, Inc. offers a suite of speech products. Smart Hal speaks aloud the contents of a cell phone screen, allowing a visually impaired person to make full use of features such as cameras and e-mail. Pocket Hal screen reader offers full access to any mainstream PDA. Dolphin Pen is a thumb drive that allows users to use Dolphin speech, magnification or braille software on any computer with full settings intact. For more information, visit www.yourdolphin.com.

** SEEDLINGS GOES ELECTRONIC

Seedlings Braille Books for Children has begun offering some of its most popular two-volume books in electronic braille for $10, a considerable discount from the hard copy prices. The BRF formatted files are sent via e-mail. To browse the selection, visit www.seedlings.org.

ON-LINE SOCIAL NETWORK

Draconis Entertainment has launched a social networking portal aimed at people who are visually impaired. BlindSpots.net is a free service that allows blind and visually impaired computer users to keep blogs, make new friends, and showcase their talents and wares in a fully accessible web-based community. Users of the service can keep a list of friends, leave comments for one another, and maintain a fully customizable profile. For additional information, or to try out the service, visit www.BlindSpots.net.

MEDICAL ALERT DEVICE

AlertOne, the maker of home medical alert devices, has released the first-ever two-way emergency communication transmitter. Users can wear the Clear Call device with a belt clip or on a neck cord. By pushing the alert button, the user can communicate with trained emergency operators to ensure that immediate emergency attention is dispatched. The service costs $34.95 per month. For additional information, visit http://www.alert-1.com.


Jan's Tasty Tidbits

PENNE WITH FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

  • 4 cups grape tomatoes (about 2 pints)
  • 1 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • 15 sun-dried tomato halves (not packed in oil), chopped (found in produce aisle; best when soft and still pliable)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 12-ounce pkg penne pasta
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Pulse grape tomatoes in food processor until chopped; transfer to a large bowl.

Drain artichokes in fine sieve set over bowl, reserving marinade; coarsely chop; add to grape tomatoes with 2 tablespoons marinade. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, garlic and oil.

Let stand at room temperature while penne cooks with salt until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain; add to vegetables; season with pepper to taste; toss to combine. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese atop; serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

STRAWBERRY SALAD

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons salad oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds

In a large bowl, combine romaine, cucumber and strawberries. In a separate container, combine honey, oil, vinegar and poppy seeds; shake to mix. Pour over salad just before serving.

RIGATONI WITH CLASSIC ITALIAN SAUCE

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1-1/2 pound link Italian sausage, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 26-ounce jars pasta sauce, any flavor
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

In a large skillet, brown sausage; pour off fat. Add onion and green pepper; cook and stir until tender.

Add pasta sauce and Parmesan cheese. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Cover; simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over hot pasta. Makes 6-8 servings.