Silhouette of people standing together

The Promoter February 2016

January 21st, 2016 by

Official Publication of the North Dakota Association of the Blind
Available in four formats: large print, e-mail, braille and cartridge
Editor: Kathy Larson klarson@dia.net

Not they who lack sight, but they who lack vision are blind.
“We strive to enhance the way of life for people who are blind or visually impaired,
To encourage employment opportunities, and to educate the public about sight loss.”

Table of Contents

Greetings from the President

Team NDAB,
“New Beginnings”
Each year brings us all new beginnings, from the start of a new year, to a new outlook on life, retirement, goals, or love, to the new beginnings of life for a child or grandchild, to new born calves/lambs, new growing season, and many other beginning seeds of life. NDAB too has its new beginnings in 2016, from our newly designed website, to new members, new officers, and a large number of opportunities for participation in our many activities throughout the year, from the walk-a-thon to our beloved summer camp. I firmly believe that with active participation by our members NDAB will continue to grow and enrich people’s lives in ways we have never imagined, giving new beginnings to whole new generations of NDAB members.
“Planting seeds”
First, one starts with a seed; a seed can come in many shapes and sizes. Each seed needs special conditions or environments that can help that seed to grow into a beautiful and meaningful living thing. Secondly, for good growth of a seed, one also needs good rich, vibrant soil, good drainage, some stormy rainy days with plenty of warmth and love from the sun to grow. As the farmer makes plans for a new growing season, you too may soon be pondering what seedlings to grow in your garden. Today, I am hoping to help you in planting seeds for NDAB.
I can hear you telling yourself, “What are you talking about, Mark?” Well, another important year lies ahead for NDAB as we have most of the board positions up for election; the positions are for president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, & board member, along with election of editor, delegate, & alternate delegate. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh no, you’re not talking me into anything!” Well maybe not, but before you make any hasty decisions, consider the following: 1) In our small organization, participation is key. I guarantee it. Without participation we are at a standstill and the wonderful programs we love will struggle. 2) Yes, being on the board can be stressful at times. No doubt about it. However, remember nothing worth having comes easy and our challenges make us stronger while at the same time we are learning and growing as individuals. If we could go back in our 79½ years of history and ask the many wise individuals who helped lead us here today, I would venture most of them would say, “It was tough, but it was worth it,” and agree with me that the rewards can be spectacular! 3) Giving back and changing people’s lives in positive ways is absolutely worth it! Was it worth it that someone found you and introduced you to NDAB, Summer Camp or Family Adjustment Seminar? Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded!” All I ask is to think about it.
If you think you may be interested in being a board member or participating in other ways, talk to Paula Anundson (nominating committee chair), a board member or myself, and we can attempt to answer any questions you may have. Get involved! Participate! Have Fun!
“Journeys of Life”
In conclusion, I have learned two things that are imperative in my daily life: too trust and have faith in God, and that each day is a blessing to all of us by God, giving each of us opportunities to participate in our communities and help others through their journeys of life.
Be well my friends.
Let’s create the future today, together!
Mark Kueffler, President

Note from the Editor

I will echo the words of several…where did 2015 go! I can hardly believe that we are into a new year.

It has already been three years since the board members of NDAB and I explored possibilities as to how we could fit a bit better into today’s world of modern technology. We then chose August 1st for “Going Green in 2013,” and we are going to try it again. I would like to see fewer number of print copies by the May issue.

If you currently receive a braille copy of the Promoter, you will continue to receive this from Grand Forks. If you have been receiving the Promoter on cartridge or have recently requested a change from print to cartridge, you will still get the Promoter in this format from the ND State Library. For those of you receiving the newsletter in print and do not have an email address, you will continue to receive a print copy from me. According to the membership list that I have, there are several members who have email addresses and are receiving print copies of the Promoter. Unless I hear from you by the middle of April for the May Promoter, you will be getting the newsletter via email. Please contact me at klarson@dia.net.

Thanks again to those who sent in favorite quotes. Loris shared the following:
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ~Anne Bradstree

“Winter is the season in which people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat.” ~Author Unknown

Helen sent these:
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.” ~Zig Ziglar

“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~Mark Twain

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” ~St. Augustine

Some time ago I suggested that favorite book titles could be shared and recommended. Thanks to Char Feldman who has shares this one:
Book – All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks. When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris in June of 1940, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure’s.

Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of multiple characters, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

If you have a favorite quote or book you’d like to share, send it to me at klarson@dia.net or mail it to: 15225 59th St NW, Williston ND 58801-9560.

Kathy Larson, Promoter Editor

Welcome New NDAB Members

We welcome Kelvin W. Hiller of Grand Forks to NDAB.

NDAB Membership Renewal Reminder

If you haven’t yet sent in your 2016 NDAB Membership Renewal form and dues payment of $15.00, please do so. The deadline for dues payment was February 1st.

Renewal of your membership allows you to participate in the programs and services NDAB offers, such as Summer Camp and receiving our quarterly newsletter, The Promoter.

Each year, $5.00 of your membership dues goes to The American Council of the Blind (ACB), our national affiliate. This allows us one vote per 25 NDAB members at the national convention. Our dues to ACB are due March 15th of each year. NDAB is not allowed to vote on national issues that affect the blind and visually impaired if national dues are not paid on time.

If your Membership Renewal Form got misplaced or accidently was thrown out with the Christmas wrapping paper, give me a call and I’ll send you another. Also, if it is more convenient for you, payment may be made online at www.ndab.org.
Thank you,
Zelda Gebhard, Membership Chair at 701-493-2399 or zgeb@drtel.net

Note from the editor: Elks Camp Grassick is one of my most favorite places in North Dakota, and we can help raise funding for its programs. I asked one of my most favorite camp directors to submit an article explaining how we can do this.

Elks Camp Grassick to benefit on Giving Hearts Day

Elks Camp Grassick, the host site for the NDAB Summer Camp, has the opportunity to raise a tremendous amount of money for its programs on Thursday, February 11, 2016. Elks Camp Grassick, along with many other nonprofit organizations from around the state, has been selected again this year to participate in a one-day, online fundraiser. Giving Hearts Day is sponsored by Dakota Medical Foundation, Impact Foundation, and the Alex Stern Family Foundation. Contributions of $10.00 or more made on line through a credit card on that day will be multiplied by DMF and other generous donors. It is simple and secure to contribute to your favorite charity participating that day.

On Thursday, February 11th, go to impactgiveback.org., select Elks Camp Grassick, and fill out the simple information requested. Your gift can also be in honor of someone, as a memorial, or as a Valentine’s Day gift and it will be acknowledged. If you do not have access to a computer, you may call the office at Elks Camp Grassick that day at (701) 327-4251 and Dan Mimnaugh, the camp’s director, will assist you through the process. Contributions may be made online any time that day between 12:00 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. Camp Grassick made close to $50,000 last year during that one day, and we would like to meet or surpass that amount again this year.

Last year, on February 12th, there were 30,528 donations to 287 charities and causes in North Dakota and western Minnesota. The $6.96 million raised in 2015 is now at work improving health, stocking pantry shelves for the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, funding great arts performances, providing mentors for at-risk kids and, in countless other ways, making life richer for everyone in our region.

Giving Hearts Day is powerful because it inspires so many to give for the first time or contribute to newly-discovered charities. Organizations find that 30% of donations come from new givers. It’s the start of a fulfilling relationship; new donors learn about great causes, and organizations learn about people who’ve signaled their support for their important missions.

Please put this important date down on your new 2016 calendars and on Thursday, February 11th go online and give generously from your heart to Elks Camp Grassick and other worthy charities in your area.

Members of our NDAB Family

Submitted by Kathy Larson

We extend our deepest sympathy to Janice and Joe Sowokinos on the death of their son Frank Rogers Sowokinos of Oakland, CA. He died November 2, 2015, as a victim of a homicide. Frank had many talents and was a gifted writer, communicator and organizer. Among the terms used by his friends are unique, loving, cheerful, good-spirited, kind, gentle, supportive and peaceful. Although he faced many challenges in his life, “He always sought to find the good in everybody.”

Many of you long-time members of NDAB may remember Delphine Sulsky. She passed away on November 11, 2015 at the age of 86 at the Ave Maria Village in Jamestown, ND. She met Richard Nitschke at Camp Grassick and spent many years together. Delphine always enjoyed camp outs for the Blind every summer.

We extend our deepest sympathy to Larry Skwarok on the death of his mother, Alice Skwarok, who passed away on November 27, 2015, at the Heritage Manor in Madison, Wisconsin. Larry was glad that she lived to the age of 91. He will miss their weekly telephone visits.

We send our thoughts and prayers to Morgan VanWell; she lost two family members within two months. Her Uncle Ken VanWell, 69, from Sioux Falls, SD, passed away on October 26 from cancer. Her dad Greg VanWell had a heart attack and died December 12 at the age of 67 in Enderlin, ND. We extend our deepest sympathy to Morgan and her family.

Deloris Stenvold is very happy to be home again after spending several months at Trinity Home. She has in-home care to help her, and enjoys hearing from friends, whether by mail or by phone. You can send greetings to her at 1836 4th St. SW, Minot ND 58701 or call her at 839-3632 if you would like to talk with her. I was able to visit with her via speaker phone, and I think she would enjoy getting calls from those of you who know her.

I recently had a nice phone visit with Olga Neal. She is looking forward to her daughter Sherry coming home for a visit. Olga goes out periodically with friends for lunch and to church with friends. She still loves to read, and enjoys listening to her music CDs every day. We had a nice time reminiscing about camp days from years gone by. She sends greetings to all of you who know her.

Ruth Phalen took a tumble in her home in November, getting some bumps and bruises, thankful for no broken bones. She says she is doing well but that the healing process is not going as quickly as she’d like. We talked about our upcoming convention here in Williston; I hope she’ll be able to attend.

Renae and Gary Huseby headed for Arizona after the holidays where they have rented a house until the end of February. She said it was wet and cool the first ten days, but now it’s warmed up and they’ve been doing a lot of golfing. They’ll visit Renae’s sister in Texas in March and come home to Grand Forks the end of that month as they usually do. Renae has agreed to writing news from the Grand Forks area for the next Promoter. Thanks, Renae!

Dick Veal is doing well in Bismarck. He recently went out for supper with Lynn Borrud’s mother and sister Valery. While he was gone for the evening, a friend happened to call to check up on him. Getting no answer and leaving six messages, he drove over to Dick’s house. After knocking and still getting no answer, he went to the neighbor’s house to see if they had a key for Dick’s house, which they did. Just as the friend was going to try to check in the house, Valery and Dick drove in the driveway. Dick said they almost had the police out looking for him! We’re glad, Dick, that you were safe and just out with friends for the evening.

I recently enjoyed a phone visit with Helen Baumgartner of Mandan. She retired from her position as Program Administrator for Vision Services for the state of ND on October 29th. Since that time, she has been doing things that she ‘wants’ to do, not what she ‘has’ to do which includes having her first blood drive on Thursday, January 14th. She said it was a huge success with 25 people out of 30 signing up, with 23 pints of blood drawn. She also volunteers her time every day at a preschool at Christ the King school across the parking lot from her home. She works in the room with 13 students, and she says that most days it is tons of fun. She has joined the quilting group at her church with one of her goals in life to learn how to quilt as well as her mom did. Helen has agreed to writing news from the Mandan/Bismarck area for the next Promoter. Thanks, Helen!

Our nephew Ray Frantsen of Velva was diagnosed with Stage 4 Stomach Cancer last February. His year included a trip to Mayo at that time for surgery where he received a gastric tube and a feeding tube, chemo in Minot every other week, many doctor and ER visits, weight loss and weight gain, and three surgeries in a 6-week period in November and December. He recently got home again after a 62-day stay in the hospital in Minot. He has a wife and three daughters, parents Karlyn and Elton Frantsen, and they are all in need of your thoughts and prayers.

We can keep Shereen Faber of Fargo and Mary Stip of Minot in our thoughts and prayers. You can read about them in the next pages.

Make a New Year’s Resolution to Step Out for NDAB!

By Allan Peterson

Although it’s cold outside, it’s a good time to begin to think and make plans for the 2016 Walk for NDAB!! If tradition holds true, the suggested date for our NDAB Walk would be Saturday, April 23rd. This year we would again like to hold a Walk in as many North Dakota communities as is possible.

If you have an interest and want to participate in this year’s Walk, I urge you to call or Email me. My phone numbers are (701) 282-4644 at home and my cell number is (701) 429-7209. Or send me a message via Email – my address is allan.peterson@ndsu.edu.

Our annual Walk for NDAB serves as our major fund raiser for the year so I truly hope that we can recruit as many of you to help and participate as is possible. It’s a perennial goal to make every year’s walk better than the last one! Like the NDSU Bison “Let’s Go Go Team NDAB!”

“Welcome Home”

Submitted by Loris Van Berkom, Convention Chairperson

Join your NDAB family June 10-12 in Williston at the Home Place to celebrate 80 years of fellowship, support and Advocacy. The highway department has assured us that they have shortened the roads from the east to the west so it will be just a short distance! Actually, the traffic in the west has markedly decreased this past year making travel very pleasant. All members will receive a convention packet the beginning of May so watch for it.

As a member of NDAB, it is our honor and duty to gather together to conduct the business of our organization. Many positions are up for election this year so it will be very important to attend and make your votes count.

See you in June!

Going Through the Big “C”

By Mary Stip

Doug and I are glad to see 2015 come to an end, if for no other reason than “TMD”, for “too much doctoring!”

It started back in June when I just wasn’t feeling up to par. In late June I had a biopsy but ended up staying in the hospital from internal bleeding. The biopsy was done on a suspicious-looking lymph node near the pancreas and stomach. I went to see my doctor only to be told the “C” word, which was shocking and overwhelming.

From that point on there were a lot of tests and blood work done. With the help of my son we went to Rochester Labor Day weekend. I was scheduled for surgery October 1st. The surgery went well and I am happy to report three months after the surgery and a follow-up visit to the Mayo Clinic I am cancer-free! I apologize for not saying more of what I was going through but it is a lot to absorb for any person. At this writing I have to have blood work in three months and another follow-up in six months.

I am so thankful to my God for taking me through this difficult time. Also, thanks to our friends and family for all their thoughts and prayers.

We have had the good fortune to stay in the Rochester Mennonite Guest House a couple of times. Here is another recipe from that guest house:
Chewy Granola Bars
Mix:
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup peanut butter
½ cup corn syrup
½ cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. maple extract
½ tsp. almond extract
Mix:
3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
½ cup coconut
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup craisins
1/3 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup mini chocolate chips (or ½ cup chocolate and ½ cup white chocolate chips)
Add to above ingredients. Bake in greased 9 x 13 pan, 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cut while still slightly warm and wrap in saran.

The Newly Designed NDAB Website Has Been Launched!

By Sherry Shirek

Last spring an agreement was made with the Minnesota State University Moorhead College and a student in his senior year named Brandon agreed to overhaul our NDAB website as an internship saving NDAB thousands of dollars! Together with Brandon, Jesse and I worked closely with him to ensure accessibility and ease of use for visitors to our website. As Brandon had never designed an accessible website for people who are blind or who have low vision, this was truly a new adventure and valuable learning experience for him.

Our website was launched 1 week before Christmas offering NDAB a Merry Christmas gift and a new presence on the web. Our website is also connected to Facebook and a site blog. We will be seeking blog entries from members around the state so we can share with our followers what we have to offer including support groups, opportunities to join public relations activities, holiday parties, projects, upcoming events and any issues pertaining to our organization and/or the blind and low vision community as a whole including issues that affect us both locally and nationally.

The newly designed website has everything that was on the previous website with some other added features. In addition to the blog, visitors can link to our Facebook page directly through the website, Like us and follow our posts through their Facebook account. We have not launched Twitter yet but the capability is available. Amazon Smiles is a way in which on line shoppers can support NDAB. If you plan to shop on Amazon, you can click the Amazon Smiles link on the NDAB website under the “Donate” link and a percentage of all purchases made will go to NDAB as a donation through this program. It is completely free.

For visitors who do not use magnification software like Zoom Text or Magic, low vision accessibility features on the home page can be accessed through Firefox or Google Chrome browsers. The features include remove page color, increase font size and change page color.

All graphics have alternative text to describe the graphic, for example the NDAB logo has a brief description for screen reader users.

The search feature is also a new addition, so users can search quickly for anything on the NDAB website using the search box.

Another new feature is the password protected members only and board members only sections of the site. Currently, we have not uploaded any documents to these sections of the website. These sections are a work in progress.

All NDAB-related applications will be available on the website via fillable forms and/or downloadable applications for completing and printing. Currently, the membership form can be completed and submitted through the website. Dues can be paid via PayPal or checks can be mailed directly to Helen as always. All forms will be offered to our members through the website including convention and camp applications and other events as they occur. The college scholarship applications can be downloaded and completed, printed and then sent through the mail with other required documentation. The availability of on line forms is an added feature and currently there are no plans for the on line forms to be a replacement for email and/or snail mail.

The home page has upcoming events so visitors can see what we have going on on a larger scale.
Our new website also has potential for email discussion lists that can be created and targeted topics of interest can be added.
The website is pretty basic right now and will be a work in progress. We will work on the resources page and keep things up to date.

I will be sure to alert members as things change and what is offered through the NDAB website.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kathy Larson for helping with the transition from one host to our current one; my wonderful husband Jesse for working closely with me and Brandon on this project and the MSUM Media and Web Design Department for giving us Brandon! Many thanks to Brandon for your hard work and dedication to completing this project and giving NDAB a new face on the web!

NDAB Memorials and Donations

Memorials:
Terry and Candy Lien in memory of Frank Sowokinos
Total Memorials – $20.00
Donations:
Connie Ertelt, Lyle and Irene Nelson, Cassel Everson and Paula Anundson
Total Donations:  $80.00
Total Memorials and Donations:  $100.00

NDAB is grateful to all those who have sent donations and memorials during the past three months.

Helen Baumgartner, Treasurer

Don’t Be Fooled by Exercise Mythz

Submitted by Michelle Zentz

You’ve probably heard it before: no pain, no gain. Experts recommend people let go of that exercise mantra and other exercise myths. The truth is that if cardio or resistance training hurts, you may be doing it incorrectly or you have an injury. Don’t “work through the pain.” Stop, rest, and if the pain does not subside or go away, call your doctor.

Another common exercise myth is that you have to sweat profusely to get results. While it can be a badge of honor to have a sweat-drenched T-shirt at the gym, you can still burn a lot of calories without breaking a sweat. In some cases, less is more. It’s important to remember especially as we age that we can’t safely exercise with the same intensity we did decades ago. While running is a great way to exercise, the force of your body weight on your joints causes stress too. It doesn’t matter whether you run on a treadmill or pavement. Whether you are 25 or 55, it’s good to reduce knee impact by varying your workout. Try an elliptical machine or stationary bike. The key is to find an activity you enjoy.

Another myth is that you must do crunches or use an ab machine to lose belly fat. If only life were that easy. Unfortunately, you can’t select the areas where you will burn fat. While performing crunches and using ab machines will help strengthen your core muscles and improve your posture, the look of your abdominal muscles is based on body fat percentage. Workouts with both cardiovascular and strength training will help decrease overall body fat content.

Some people believe the best way to increase strength is to exercise the same body part every day. Another myth. Your muscles—like your mind—need new challenges every day. Add variety to your workouts and switch your focus.

—Information provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota

Candy’s Corner

Let’s continue talking about some of the changes to the code that will happen with the advent of Unified English Braille (UEB). In case you weren’t aware, UEB has been officially adopted in the United States as of January 4, 2016. In my previous columns I mentioned that nine contractions will no longer be used; braille spacing will follow print spacing; and single-cell contractions can now be utilized to span a prefix and a root word and a root word and a suffix, but not to span the parts of a compound word.

UEB incorporates what are called Typeform Indicators, which are signs that indicate that the material is written in some form other than standard print. Examples include the capitalization indicators, the boldface indicators, and the italics indicators. The use of these indicators will enable braille to more accurately reflect print, which is very important in the transcription of textbooks, to mention one instance. With UEB there is now a capital letter indicator (dot 6), the capital word indicator (two dot 6’s), and the capitalized passage indicator (three dot 6’s). When using the capitalized passage indicator there is the need for a sign to show that the effect of the capitalized passage indicator has ended; thus we have the capitalization termination indicator (dot 6, followed by a dot 3). The same format is applied with the other indicators.

If you are interested in acquiring a list of the new signs in UEB, you may contact the braillist at North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind, Leslie Pederson, at 1-800-421-1181. Other information concerning UEB can be found at www.brailleauthority.org

Think August!

Submitted by Loris Van Berkom

If the snow and cold temps are getting you down, just think August! Make plans now to attend the 45th annual NDAB Summer Camp August 7-14, held at the Elks Camp Grassick.

The banquet this year will be planned by Whitney Engbrecht, Morgan VanWell and Lexee Steffan. The banquet theme is “Masquerade Ball” so start finding your evening attire.

If you have any questions or have any ideas for new classes, contact Rick or Loris.

I Don’t Regret a Mile

Submitted by Doug Stip

I’ve dreamed many a dream that’s never come true,
And I’ve seen many of them vanish at dawn;
But I’ve realized enough of my dreams, thank God!
To make me want to keep dreaming on.

And I’ve gotten up out of the bed many times in the midnight hour
To pray a prayer that it seemed no answer would come to,
Though I’ve waited, patient and long;
But answers have come to enough of those prayers
To make me keep praying on.

And I’ve trusted many a friend that’s failed me
And left me to weep alone—
Ah, but I’ve found enough of these friends to be true-blue
To make me keep trusting on.

It seems that I’ve sowed many a seed that’s fallen by the way
For the birds to feed upon,
But I’ve held enough of the golden sheaves in my hand
To make me keep sowing on.

And I’ve drained the cup of disappointment and pain
And gone many a day without a song,
But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the roses of life
That makes me want to keep living on.
(Author unknown)

Legislative Report winter 2016

By Allan Peterson

“With all due respect to those of you who aren’t fans of the Bison and those who don’t give a toot, it seems, nevertheless, appropriate to make the shout out, “Way To Go NDSU Bison” football team for accomplishing something that’s never been done before, that is to win five consecutive college football championships; they accomplished this feat on Saturday, January 9, 2016. This is surprising in many respects, players and coaches come and go and yet the team keeps on winning! There is a lot of Bison Pride and community pride to share and it’s a positive story in many respects not only for NDSU but I believe for our state as well.

Happy New Year to you all, I’m joining the common refrain that’s often spoken at this time of the year to ask, “Where did last year go? I cannot believe another year is now history”! To borrow an old expression, “time flies when you’re having fun” perhaps more accurately, “Time flies when you’re busy”. An old “time” joke, why did Ole throw the alarm clock out the window? Answer, so that he could see time fly! Sorry for that groaner! I realize, more than ever, it’s true, the relentless march of time waits for no one!

One of the first functions on our advocacy calendar in the New Year is participation in the American Council of the Blind’s Legislative Seminar; this year it’s scheduled for Monday, February 29 and Tuesday, March 1 in Washington DC. It’s my plan to attend two other meetings held in conjunction with the Seminar a, day long ACB Board meeting that is scheduled for Saturday, February 27 and an Affiliate Presidents meeting that is scheduled for Sunday, February 28.

The Seminar typically will focus its primary attention on two or three priorities that are felt to be most important to people with sight loss that we need to bring to the attention of Congress. The agenda for the first day of the Seminar is devoted to sharing information about the priorities that have been selected before we make visits to Capitol Hill to attempt to influence the decision makers there. This year those visits will be made on Tuesday March 1. We will be again making our visits to the offices of our North Dakota congressional delegation – Senators Hoeven and Heitkamp and Congressman Kramer.

The U.S. Congress is in the midst of its 114th Session; this Session will adjourn sometime in December after this fall’s election. Our advocacy efforts in Congress continue to be directed toward steps to enact two bills and for the ratification of the MARRRAKESH Treaty. To remind you, these initiatives are,
(1)H.R. 3535. The Alice Cogswell, Anne Sullivan Macy Act. Introduction of this legislation was assisted by a collaborative effort by leadership from the blind and deaf communities to address our concerns that children with sight and hearing loss be properly identified, that a thorough assessment of their needs be conducted, and that they be provided with a comprehensive set of specific skills to deal with their individual disabilities in their K12 educational setting.
(2) H.R. 729, the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2015 that would establish a 5 year demonstration project to determine the feasibility of expanding Medicare coverage to include “low vision” devices for qualified beneficiaries with sight loss.
(3) Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty by the U.S. Senate. This Treaty is the outcome of an international diplomatic conference that was conducted under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2013. The terms of the treaty would allow copyrighted literary material that’s produced in an accessible format to be able to cross international boundaries which would in turn have the effect of increasing the quantity of information that’s available to people who have sight loss.

It’s a fair assumption that, because congressional action is still needed on these issues, that they will be among those included as part of the priorities that will be presented to this year’s 2016 ACB Legislative Seminar. As you may know too, these initiatives were also the subject of the 3 resolutions that were adopted by our 2015 NDAB Convention which have since been sent on to our North Dakota congressional delegation.

Some changes in the ACB National Office that are very noteworthy, Melanie Brunson resigned her position as ACB’s longtime Executive Director last fall in 2015 and Eric Bridges, who had been, Director of Governmental and External Affairs for ACB, , applied for and has since been hired as Melanie’s replacement. Plus, Anthony Stephens, who had been employed with National Industries for the Blind has been hired into the position that Eric vacated when he took on the job as ACB’s Executive Director.

Eric is someone who is quite technologically savvy. An early coup for him, as ACB’s Executive Director was a working agreement that he, as a part of a team, helped broker with Microsoft. The terms of that agreement were announced in a press release that appears below and reads as follows:

Microsoft, American Council of the Blind Partner to Advance Accessibility
REDMOND, Wash and ARLINGTON, Va – Dec. 17, 2015 – Microsoft Corp. and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) on Thursday announced they will partner on efforts to advance the accessibility of information technologies. Through the partnership, the ACB and Microsoft will work together to enable planned updates to various Microsoft products to better meet the needs of persons with visual impairments.
“To deliver great solutions for people with disabilities, accessibility must be central to our culture and an integral part of how we design and build Microsoft products,” said Rob Sinclair, chief accessibility officer at Microsoft. “By working with the ACB, we will gain valuable user insights about our experiences. This will help us deliver more powerful assistive technology as well as more inclusive and empowering experiences to help every person on the planet achieve more.”
The partnership will provide a more consistent flow of information and dialogue between Microsoft and the ACB. It better enables Microsoft to deliver on its mission of empowering every person on the planet to do more, and responds to customer requests. The response from all those involved about the renewed partnership and future work has been incredibly positive.
“Having access to information through accessible technology is critical for our members as they pursue education, employment and perform everyday tasks,” said Eric Bridges, Executive Director of the ACB. “We are pleased to build on the previous engagements we’ve had with Microsoft, and we look forward to working more closely with the teams to review and test new features and upgrades. We encourage interested parties to follow the progress of these efforts at  ACB.org.”

CCLVI Scholarship Announcement

The Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI) will award three scholarships in the amount of $3,000 each to full-time entering freshmen, undergraduate and graduate college students who are low vision, maintain a strong GPA and are involved in their school/local community.

Application materials must be received by March 1.  Scholarship monies will be awarded for the 2016 – 2017 academic year.

To read the scholarship guidelines and complete an online application, please visit http://www.cclvi.org and click on the ‘CCLVI Scholarship Programs’ link.

Nominating Committee Report

Submitted by Paula Anundson, Nominating Committee Chairperson

We have a large slate of officers to elect at this year’s convention in June. The positions to fill are for president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, board member, editor, ACB delegate and alternate delegate. The list to date reads as follows:

President – Zelda Gebhard
Treasurer – Helen Baumgartner
We have two candidates for the board position – Mike Hoeppner and Genie Lang
Editor – Kathy Larson
ACB Delegate – Helen Baumgartner
Alternate Delegate – Mike Hoeppner

I will continue looking for candidates to fill the slate. If you are not contacted by me and you are interested in running for a position, please call (701) 490-0888.

Note: Nominations for each position can be made from the convention floor.

Looking for Helpers

Reprinted with permission from Steve Goodier www.LifeSupportSystem.com

Did you know that the Arctic Tern, that lives about seven degrees south of the North Pole, leaves its home every year and flies all the way to Antarctica and back — some 23,000 miles in all?

It flies all that distance and returns to just the same spot it left the year before. I can hardly drive across town without getting lost — how does the little bird do it? Twenty three thousand miles! Instinctively, the Arctic Tern flies halfway around the globe, returns home every year and never makes a wrong turn.

Other animals have a similar ability. It’s well known that the salmon leaves her little mountain stream as a fingerling and swims, perhaps hundreds of miles, to the ocean where she lives most of her life. Then, when it’s time to lay eggs, she swims back to her place of birth. She somehow finds just the right river, and all of the correct tributaries and streams and creeks until she arrives home. It’s the trip of a lifetime — one she may not survive. But she presses on, somehow knowing just the right paths to take along the way. Like the Arctic Tern, the salmon somehow knows the way.

When I was a child my family visited the World’s Fair in Seattle. I think my parents knew me well, because shortly after we arrived they pointed out the Space Needle in the distance. “Do you see the Space Needle?” they asked. “You can see it from anyplace at the fair. If you should get separated from us or lost, just go to the Space Needle and sit down. We will come and find you.”

Unlike the tern and the salmon, I had no built-in navigation system. It wasn’t long before I turned around and discovered my family was no longer with me. I was lost. I spotted the Space Needle, headed there and sat down. Shortly, my brother (who had a better sense of direction than I) came and found me.

We don’t all have a refined sense of direction. But human beings have something else that is perhaps more important. It is also instinctual. We are born with the ability to ask for help and to give it.

Television personality Fred Rogers put it like this: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” We are born to be helpers.

When you’re lost, look for the helpers. When your life is headed in the wrong direction, when you are afraid of making poor decisions, look for the helpers. When you don’t know if you can navigate life’s complexities by yourself, look for the helpers. You don’t have to go it alone – there is always someone close by who is ready to help.

This life is not a long journey you have to travel by yourself. We’re made to do it with each other. Look for the helpers.

All members are encouraged to submit items of interest to the editor by mail, phone or e-mail for publication. Deadline is the 10th of the month prior to quarterly publications of February, May, August and November.

NDAB is a nonprofit organization which promotes the interest of ND residents who are blind and visually impaired. As a nonprofit organization, we welcome donations to help in advancing the cause of persons who are blind and visually impaired.
To learn more about NDAB visit us online at www.ndab.org