Official Publication of the
North Dakota Association of the Blind
Formats Available: large print, email, braille and cartridge
Editor: Lexee Steffan firstname.lastname@example.org
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.”
Table of Contents
Greetings to all,
I hope all of you are staying well. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined. This is a time of challenges, but also a time of opportunities. We’ve had an opportunity to reevaluate our priorities and decide who and what we value most. We have also had an opportunity to be creative in the ways we communicate, how we obtain the supplies we need and how we get things done. We have been forced to get out of our comfort zone and do things that require new skills. It is a time of growth and though that is exciting it sometimes hurts.
It was difficult to learn that there would be no Adult Summer Camp this year. Though we understand the factors that led to the decision to cancel, August just won’t be the same without it.
For weeks, the board has been exploring possible options for our annual state convention in the event that conditions wouldn’t allow us to safely meet during the planned dates of June 5-7. While the host convention committee from Grand Forks continued their planning, we all were considering the situation and possible adjustments that would need to be made.
The NDAB board had a special meeting on Thursday, April 16. In an effort to keep our members safe, the board decided not to have a convention in 2020 but instead to hold our next in-person convention in June 2021. As Fargo was already planning to be the host city in 2021, it was decided to have our 2021 convention there.
What about elections, budget approval, proposed amendments, award presentations and all the other things we normally do at our convention? Pretty much everything is on pause. Those currently holding offices and positions will be asked to stay in those roles for another year until elections can be held in June 2021. If someone chooses not to serve another year, the board will appoint someone to fill that vacancy until elections can take place during our next convention. We will also use the 2019-2020 budget to guide us during the coming year. 2020 award and scholarship recipients will be recognized at the 2021 convention alongside the 2021 recipients. Also, as the 2020 ACB Conference and Convention will be held virtually, our 2020 delegate, Gretchen Campbell, will be going to the 2021 Convention in Phoenix Arizona instead. The June ACB Braille e-Forum will contain information of how you can participate from the safety and comfort of your home in the virtual 2020 ACB Conference and Convention to be held Friday, July 3rd through Thursday, July 9th.
This was not an easy decision to make. We would have much rather continued with our original plans. However, it just didn’t seem likely that it would be safe for us to gather in June or even later in the fall. Your safety is our number one priority and that is what guided our decision.
Our statewide raffle has also been discontinued. If you sold raffle tickets, please contact the buyers and offer them this choice: a refund of their money or the purchase of a 2021 raffle ticket. Either way, all ticket stubs, money and any unsold tickets are to be returned to Gretchen Campbell at 709 W Interstate Ave, Bismarck, ND 58503 by June 1st.
Our reaction to the crisis has produced some positive results. There seems to be an increase in communication between our members with calls, emails and Facebook posts.
There is also a new statewide support group meeting by conference call. Coffee Chat on We Care Wednesday is a joint effort of North Dakota Vision Services and NDAB. Amy Osvold, NDVS Vision Rehabilitation Specialist, has been hosting the calls which began on April 1 and continue each Wednesday at 10 AM. Everyone is welcome! For more details, read the article about Coffee Chat in this issue.
The Dial NDAB team continues to enter new information in our voicemail boxes. Dial 773-572-6306 to access the recorded information.
The Sports and Recreation Committee is giving us something to get excited about and look forward to. Plans are being made for a 2020 Fall Retreat to be held September 18-20. Please see the article about the Retreat for more information. We had a great time last year and look forward to another fun weekend.
The Just Talking calls provide another opportunity for us to get together while social distancing. Calls continue to be on the third Tuesday of each month. Dial in and join in the fun. For future topics and dial in instructions, please see the Just Talking article in this issue.
Our next board meeting is scheduled for Sunday, June 14 at 6:30 PM. You are welcome to attend. Just dial 515-604-9797, access code 824825#,
Please be cautious and protect yourself from COVID-19, continue connecting with others in whatever ways you enjoy and have available. I challenge you to learn a new skill, start a new hobby or revisit an old one.
Take care and stay well,
I know that we are all tired of the quarantine, but I hope that you all are finding something to do to have fun and keep busy during this uncertain time. Thank you to those of you who sent articles in to me in such a timely manner. Your efforts are much appreciated. This will be a difficult year for us all as we will not get to see each other at convention and camp like we have in years past and I will miss all of my NDAB camp friends. I cannot wait until we can meet again and until then, please take care and stay safe and healthy.
Lexee Steffan, Promoter Editor
NDAB welcomes the following new members:
Daniel Braun of Madison, WI; Ervin Krogen and Judy Wall both from Bottineau, ND; Carol Hoffman and Richard Jangula both from Bismarck, ND; Breanna Jangula and Nick Jangula both from Mandan, ND; Meghan Setterholm from Stephen, MN; and Stephanie Skar from Minot, ND. We also welcome Alexandra Engraf from Fargo, ND and Cole Roberts from Bismarck, ND back to NDAB.
We extend sympathy to Ruth Geske and to Elton and Shereen Faber on the death of NDAB member Robert Geske. Robert “Bob” Geske, 93, Fargo passed away Monday, January 13, 2020 at Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Fargo.
Bob was born on December 6, 1926 in Wheatland, ND to George and Sophia (Marquart) Geske. He graduated from high school in Casselton, ND. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944 and upon his discharge in 1946, he returned to Wheatland, ND for a short time before starting at Dakota Business College in Fargo, ND. He took a position with Standard Oil Company as a Warehouse Clerk in Bismarck, ND and served in various departments and ended his time there in the position of Auditor. In 1953, he bought Geske’s Standard Oil Station on Main Ave. in Fargo. He married Ruth Zuelow on May 22, 1953 at St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Casselton. He took ownership of a station on 8th St. and 2nd Ave. S. in Fargo before moving to a station in Moorhead, MN. His final station was a Texaco at Northport in Fargo. After 30 years in the service station business, Bob decided to concentrate his energies in the Geske Ice Company. What began as a side-line continued to grow until after 20 years in that field, he turned over the company to his son in 1989.
Bob was a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, the VFW, and the American Legion. He enjoyed all the memories he made at the family lake cabin, fishing, bowling, traveling, and making people laugh and time spent with family. His humor will be missed by many.
He is survived by his wife, four children, 18 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and five siblings.
We also send condolences to Marie Topp on the death of her mother-in-law. Vera Marie Topp, age 90, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, January 29, 2020, at The Meadows on University, in Fargo, ND.
Vera Marie Jorgenson was born May 26, 1929, in Starkweather, ND to Gust and Hazel (Mattson) Jorgenson. She was married on June 5, 1949 to Russell Topp at the Methodist Church in Grace City, ND. Vera and Russell were lifelong farmers in the Grace City area. Vera belonged to the Columbia Homemakers, McHenry Senior Center, Cherry Lake Club and was an active member of the Grace City Methodist Church and later the Grace City Lutheran Church. She loved crafts and was very active in her grandchildren’s lives. After Russell past away she loved to travel, even taking a couple of cruises.
Vera is survived by two children, 5 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, her brother-in-law and various nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her parents, husband, one son, one granddaughter and one sister.
We also extend sympathy to Sherry Jensen on the death of her father.
Gary Buee, 62, Burlington, passed away at home on February 10, 2020.
Gary was born on April 18, 1957 to Art and Esther (Tweet) Buee in Minot. He was raised on the family farm west of Burlington and attended school at Des Lacs-Burlington High School.
After school, he worked various construction jobs before working in the oil fields. His career ended with a life changing car accident which left him physically disabled, but Gary was determined it wouldn’t limit him. He married Karen Jensen in October 1981 and the couple made their home in Burlington before moving out to the farm. Although they eventually separated, their love never ended. Every holiday, birthday, or just a simple BBQ was spent building memories with their daughter, grandchildren, family, and unlimited friends. That bond taught others that love is stronger than anything, and always comes first.
Gary’s strength and stubbornness made him defy doctor’s odds year after year, becoming very independent and creative. You had to be careful using his snowmobile, as he would swap the accelerator throttle to his “good hand” side because he “never used the brake anyway.”
Although he loved hunting when he was younger, he was happier watching the deer eat the apples off the trees as he aged. He loved fishing, being outdoors and working on anything that had a motor. Sometimes, if the fix worked, it was safer not to ask how it went back together (especially if there were ‘extra’ parts).
Gary’s life taught about courage and determination. If someone said he couldn’t, he did. He found ways to do things by himself, that everyone else needs at least two people for. His life reminds us to have strength, keep fighting, and NEVER quit until the good Lord calls you home.
Those blessed to share in his life are his daughter, two grandchildren, one brother, two sisters and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. Gary was preceded in death by his parents, brother and brother-in-law.
Do you like talking? To learn more about each other, technology or our world, we have been getting together by phone on the third Tuesday of each month. You can join in the conversation too!
Just dial 515-604-9797, access code 824825#. Remember there will be long distance charges unless you call in with a phone that is toll free such as a cell phone or home phone with free long distance.
Future topics include:
May 19 – Zoom. You’ve heard about it. Now, you will learn how to use it. Zoom offers quality service and can be used for meetings, trainings, or entertainment. You can participate in zoom with a landline phone, smartphone or from a computer.
June 16 – Now that the ACB Convention is going virtual, how can you participate? We’ll talk about the ways you can “attend” the sessions, workshops, banquet (hear the speaker, not eat a meal) and even buy something at the ACB Easy Chair Auction.
July 21 – All about NDAB Summer Camp. We’re not going this year, but we can still share memories of funny or life-changing moments.
August 18 – Let’s plan for the future. The future of NDAB that is. Call in and share your ideas. What would you like the organization to focus on next? Your viewpoint is important.
To suggest a topic, dial 701-493-2399.
Pick up your phone, dial in and let’s get talking!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NDAB Board recently decided not to hold its annual convention. After four years, I have resigned as vice president. This wasn’t an easy decision for me to make, but was done for personal and health reasons.
I want to say a very special thank you to those of you who elected and had faith in me being your vice president. It’s been rewarding watching the membership grow during my terms. I admit I’m going to miss some things about it.
I thank those of you who have helped me with the birthday calling and membership committee. Also, a special thanks to my husband Doug for his assistance during my two terms.
Perhaps someday I can serve again in another capacity. I wish the best for my successor in office, and I wish NDAB all the best as it approaches 85 years of “Promoting Independence since 1936”.
Stay safe and healthy, everybody!
Mary Lou Stip
By Bob Moore
Greetings NDAB Members,
This past fall the Visions Group launched a bowling group at Sunset Lanes in Moorhead. I am proud to announce that there are now three guide rails in the Fargo/Moorhead area. The bowling alley graciously purchased two guide rails, to be used only at their location. The Fargo Gateway Lions donated the third one, which can be used as needed in the community for blind bowling.
Due to the pandemic, our bowling season was cut short and will not resume until next fall. I would like to personally thank all bowlers and volunteers for making this season a success. Next season I would like to encourage more bowlers and volunteers to participate. For more information, feel free to contact me by phone: (507)206-8655 or by email: Fathertime14@icloud.com. Have a safe and enjoyable summer and be well.
Submitted by Loris Van Berkom, Co-Camp Director
“Say it isn’t so!” Well, we are sorry to say that it is. The Elks Camp Grassick Board met the end of March and decided that the camp would not open at all this summer due to COVID-19. That decision was not an easy one but certainly a very responsible one in light of what our entire country is going through.
We will celebrate our 50th year of summer camp in August of 2021 as previously planned for 2020. As many of you know, both Dan Mimnaugh and I were planning on retiring at the end of the 2020 camping season. I will continue my duties next year but Dan will end his career at Camp Grassick this fall. He plans on settling in the area close to his grandkids so we will still keep in contact with him. Until then, keep in touch with your NDAB friends as we look forward to meeting on the shores of Lake Isabel.
After being isolated for most of the spring, we have many things to look forward to. Many of us will see family and friends, celebrate birthdays and holidays, and do nearly anything to get out and be active again. We have great mews. NDAB sports and recreation is preparing and planning for the 2020 Fall Retreat. The event will be held again this year at Wesley Acres retreat center, near Valley City. We are in the early stages of actual events but we want everyone to block out time on your calendar to experience a wonderful and fun event at beautiful venue with many activities. The retreat will be held Friday September 18th thru Sunday September 20th. The committee is excited to put on another great event this year. If you have questions please call me at (701)389-7982.
Trampes Brown, Sports and Recreation committee Chairperson
Dear NDAB Members,
As our country and local communities struggle with COVID-19, we want you to know that you are all on the minds of those of us at North Dakota Vision Services. You and your needs are on the forefront of our minds and hearts. We want you to know that even though we are not able to physically provide services, we can still assist you! Below is a list of ways we are currently providing services:
*Check Ins – we are calling all individuals who have received services at NDVS/SB over the past five years. These calls are just to let people know that we are thinking of them and to create lists of those who would like another home visit when we can continue our community-based services.
* A Listening Ear – for those individuals who are struggling with the uncertainty of COVID-19, we are doing Listening Ear Phone Calls. These calls can be set up on a regular basis (depending on your needs) to provide virtual support. We understand that having vision loss in general is isolating. Now that community-based support groups and congregate dining have been closed down, life has become even more lonely. We truly care about you and your mental health. Please let us know if you are interested in a Listening Ear.
*Talk Through Lessons – for those of you who do not use the internet, we are providing Talk Through Lessons. These lessons are basic instruction conducted over the phone. Examples may include pouring liquids, measuring, buttering bread, sweeping, smartphone accessibility, and much, much more!
*Video Lessons – For those of you who are internet users, NDVS/SB can provide lessons over Skype or Zoom. We are able to do any of the lessons listed in the Talk Through Lessons and so much more.
*Anytime/Anywhere Lessons – NDVS/SB already has a library of Golden Guide Videos available on YouTube. We are currently working on more. These videos can be watched anytime you want, on any device, and in any location.
Please let us know if there is anything you need! During these troubled times, NDVS/SB staff are here for you. For services in western ND, contact Amy Osvold at (701)340-9226 or email@example.com. For eastern ND, contact Pam Haus at (701)795-271.
Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” With this in mind, North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind in cooperation with the North Dakota Association of the Blind (NDAB) is providing a weekly “Coffee Chat” statewide support group over NDAB’s conference call line. This Coffee Chat will take place EVERY Wednesday at 10 am. It will begin on April 1, 2020.
The goal of the Coffee Chat is to provide emotional support to individuals who are feeling even more isolated now that we are all dealing with CoVID-19. This group will provide:
*Ideas for adjusting to vision loss
*Ideas for dealing with social isolation
*A way to meet new people
*Ideas for coping with stress
*Tips for living with vision loss
*Growing or enhancing your self-advocacy skills
*Safety tips for CoVID-19 and other stressful situations
*And so much more
The Coffee Chat on We Care Wednesdays can be reached by either a landline or smartphone.
From a landline:
515-604-9797 access code 824825#
From a smartphone enter the number into your contact list exactly like this:
This will enable you to dial both numbers at once. If you are having difficulty creating this contact into your smartphone, please contact Amy Osvold at 701-340-9226 no later than Tuesday, March 31 at 5pm for assistance.
I look forward to hearing from all of you at the weekly 10 am Coffee Chat on We Care Wednesdays!
Amy Osvold, Vision Rehabilitation Specialist
North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind
Submitted by Rebecca Anderson
Donations Total $4,991.89
Charitable Gaming $3,000.00
Memorials for Paul Lehmann & Robert Geske $811.89
Keith & Dorothy Davis
Craig & Sharon Faber
Helen Ketterl & Havery Nicholson
John & Arlene Kolrud
David & Laura Langemo
Allan & Judy Peterson
ACB Quarterly MMS
Beth Bakke Stenehjem
Lions Clubs $900.00
Capital City Lions
Valley City Lions
Charitable Gaming $3,000.00
American Vets Post 7
Edgeley American Legion
Park River American Legion
Rolette American Legion
Souris Fire Fighters
Steele American Vets
Tolley Fire Department
Valley City Eagles
Velva Fire Department
Williston Moose Lodge
Donations Total $5,825.00
There were many generous Giving Hearts Day (GHD) donors who made their donations via the GHD website in addition to the following lists.
Donations Other $1,175.00
Donations GHD $1,685.00
Charitable Gaming $1,700.00
Memorials/GHD for Robert Geske/Gladys Irene Nelson/Parents $715.00
Kent & Bonnie Eicholtz
Shereen & Elton Faber
Dan & Judith Geske
Doug & Mary Lou Stip
Garth & Sandy Teske
Carl & Norma Rodlund
GHD Donations $1,685.00
AmVets Post 3
Eye Consultants of Fargo
Bruce & Lois Nelson
Lions Clubs $550.00
Charitable Gaming $1,700.00
Drake Community Club
Enderlin Alumni Association
Hazen Community Chest
Hillsboro Vets Club
Minot Lodge #822
Williston American Legion
Donations Total $2,985.92
Donations GHD $1,450.00
Charitable Gaming $1,000.00
Memorials for Robert Geske/Len Saluski $185.92
Elton & Shereen Faber
Diane L. Hanson
Sherry and Brad Morris & Marta Asa
GHD Donations $1,450.00
Casselton Vets Inc
Gate City Bank
Neil & Nancy Jordheim
Lions Clubs $350.00
Charitable Gaming $1,000.00
Dickinson Eagles #2328
Drake Columbian Club
Dunseith Betterment Trust
Mott Gaming Trust
New Salem AL Post #91
Velva Joseph Weller AL Post #39
First and foremost, a very grateful THANK YOU to all who supported NDAB on Giving Hearts Day. Your support is so greatly valued and very deeply appreciated!
AND, a very, very appreciative THANK YOU to those of you who pitched in and helped in some way!
Special THANK YOU Acknowledgements to:
- For the many hours of work by Michelle Zentz, Zelda Gebhard and NDSU student, Ismael Kamara, for their work to refine and update our donor database. Actually, this is an ongoing effort.
- To our treasurer, Rebecca Anderson, for handling the donations made by check and sending out thank you notes to donors that had sent checks.
- To our letter editors Missy Miller, Whitney Engbrecht, and Zelda Gebhard.
- To our communications Committee Robert Hart, Whitney Engbrecht, Lexie Steffan, Zelda Gebhard, and Brandt Adams for the work to publicize our information about Giving Hearts on our Facebook page and website.
- To Zelda for sending out emails to remind our donors about GHD. To Whitney, Missy, and Zelda for their work on graphic design. To Karlyn Frantsen for the photography that we used.
- To my fellow co-star Tony Scherer for being on the two videos that were created to promote Giving Hearts Day for NDAB.
- To the many NDSU students who helped me write thank you notes.
Note: I sincerely apologize if I have neglected anyone who helped in some way!
Some Highlights from NDAB’s participation in the 2020 GHD Appeal:
- The number of Giving Hearts Day donations made in 2020 was 153, compared to 121 in 2019, 126 in 2018, and 58 in 2017.
- Amount received online on February was $11,180. This amount includes checks sent prior to the day and scheduled donations.
- GHD Match raised prior to January 27 was $12,113. The match fund Donations were received from individuals, Lions Clubs, fraternal organizations and organizations with charitable gaming licenses.
- The total raised including match funds was $23,293.
- Giving Hearts Day administrators will credit us for what we raised on-line and what is matched for their achievement awards – that amount is approximately $22,280.
- A total of 1193 pieces of mail were sent to potential donors.
Expenses that can be directly attributed to Giving Hearts Day: $661 for printing and mailing the appeal letter, $400 for producing the two videos, $50 for graphic design, $50 for postage for thank you cards. Total: $1161. Note: An available $250 Thrivent Action Team was used to help offset the printing and mailing expenses.
Allan Peterson, Development Director
Four of us from the North Dakota Association of the Blind (NDAB) attended the annual Leadership Meetings of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) February 22-25. They were held at the Holiday Inn near the ACB national office in Alexandria VA. Those who attended the meetings were President Zelda Gebhard, Board Member Tramps Brown, Legislative Committee members Donna Hepper and Allan Peterson. The Leadership meetings take advantage of the fact that we are near our national capitol in Washington, D.C, which gives us the perfect opportunity to advocate for issues affecting people with sight loss with our members of Congress. We visited the offices of our elected North Dakota congressional delegation, Senators Hoeven and Cramer and Congressman Armstrong.
The ACB Leadership meetings are focused on three organizational areas: an ACB Board meeting, an Affiliate Presidents/Leaders meeting, and the Legislative Seminar which included a day devoted to visits to the Hill on Tuesday, February 25.
Because they couldn’t attend, we from NDAB also worked with our ACB affiliates in Montana and Wyoming to represent them when we were on Capitol Hill. As a consequence, we made a total of nine visits in a time span of about eight hours. One of the highlights of these visits was that Senator Barrasso from Wyoming joined the meeting we had with his aide. Senator Barrasso shared with us that his niece is a person who was blind from birth but is doing very well and has been successfully employed.
When we have made the Hill visits in the past, we also have visited with the South Dakota congressional delegation. We didn’t need to this year because the President of the South Dakota Association of the Blind, Koni Sims, was in attendance for the leadership meetings. We enjoyed her presence as part of the Dakota team.
The primary issues that were the focus of our advocacy visits on the Hill were:
Issue #1: Reauthorization of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act to include provisions that will help citizens who are blind and have visual impairments with the inclusion of greater safety measures on streets and intersections and access to “on demand” forms of transportation service options.
Issue #2: H.R. 4129 the Medicare Demonstration for Coverage of Low Vision Devices Act of 2019. The bill, if adopted as proposed, would establish a 5-year demonstration project to determine the feasibility of expanding Medicare coverage to include low vision aids, such as “video magnifiers” for qualified Medicare beneficiaries, who have “low vision” and must rely on this type of equipment to help maintain and strengthen their ability to live independently.
Issue#3: Autonomous Self Driving Vehicles. In the 115th Congress, organizations of the blind and the auto industry supported legislation that would establish working groups to focus on the provision of accessibility for independence and prevention of discrimination for their operation based on a person’s disability. We are urging the 116th Congress to move forward with similar legislation that will continue to (pardon the pun) drive this technology forward.
Our advocacy also included support for the Alice Cogswell Anne Sullivan Macy Act which addresses the need to improve accessibility and provision of blindness specific rehabilitative skills training for children in their K-12 school programs. There is a bill in both the House and Senate with sponsors from both political parties for passage of this legislation. We also strongly advocated for maintaining Amtrak’s Empire Builder service through North Dakota from Chicago to Seattle.
The Legislative Seminar instruction was led and facilitated by the two ACB staff people who have the responsibility to help lead ACB’s legislative and law rulemaking advocacy efforts Claire Stanley, Advocacy and Outreach Specialist (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Clark Rachfal, Director of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs, (email@example.com.
For questions about this article call or visit with Allan Allan.firstname.lastname@example.org or (701)715-5482.
By: Allan Peterson and Zelda Gebhard
As you know Our lives today seem to revolve around the news about the COVID19 pandemic and the responses to its effects. Having had my (Allan) background in veterinary medicine, the science behind the Corona virus is of particular interest to me. When I had my sight and was working at NDSU’s state veterinary diagnostic lab, I did often observe what the Corona virus looked like under an electron microscope. In that case, the Corona virus was the disease agent associated with scours in calves. Consequently, I have a vivid mental picture of what this bug looks like. Its most prominent feature is rounded spikes that radiate around the outside edge of the virus.
You no doubt have heard that Congress passed the 2.2 trillion Corona Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which provides an economic stimulus to almost all sectors of the American economy. It does provide a $1,200 payment to all adults with incomes less than $75,000 and $2,400 to those who file jointly that have incomes less than $150,000 and $500 for each child in the family. The U.S. Treasury will use IRS records to send the stimulus payments to anyone who has filed a tax return. Individuals who haven’t filed a tax return also are eligible to receive the stimulus payment including people on SSI and SSDI. For more information about payments to Individuals, refer to the Promoter article entitled “COVID-10 Economic Impact Payments”.
Like so many bills, the CARES Act includes amendments that have no direct association with the intent of the legislation. in the CARES Act, one of the added amendments was to have U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos from President Trump’s administration offer possible waivers to IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). The possible waivers are due for consideration by Congress in late April. The concern is that the waivers that may be offered will weaken provisions of IDEA and therefore would lead to further limit consideration of the educational needs of students with disabilities. Our particular concern is for those students who are blind or have a visual impairment. We had advocated with our North Dakota congressional delegation, Senators Hoeven and Cramer and Congressman Armstrong, to have the IDEA waiver amendment removed from the bill before it was passed by Congress. Unfortunately, that effort failed. Now, we will need to monitor if and what waivers the Secretary of Education may offer to Congress for IDEA later in April.
The CARES Act also included some funding for the anticipated rise in absentee voting because of the COVID-19 crisis and the likely unsafe onsite polling conditions. ACB initiated a letter urging states to provide accessible absentee balloting as the current practice of paper balloting is not accessible to those of us who are blind or visually impaired. Our NDAB board decided to sign the letter which had signatures of support by 75 equal rights and disability organizations and groups.
I would argue that the pandemic has put an even greater burden on people with disabilities perhaps even more so for people who are blind or visually impaired. The need for social distancing, sheltering in place, and the lack of adequate transportation, adds to the inaccessibility we had already experienced on a daily basis.
Thankfully, we have allies in our advocacy efforts, among them are the American Council of the Blind (ACB), the North Dakota Disability Advocacy Consortium (NDDAC), and the North Dakota Protection and Advocacy Project. The NDDAC has sent a letter to Governor Burgum and the heads of the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services in an effort to remind them about the laws that need to be observed and the specific needs of people with disabilities as we as a society deal with the effects of the pandemic. Bottom line as always: The need for advocacy for people who are blind and visually impaired will not go away.
With the passage of the CARES Act, provision was made for economic stimulus payments to individuals. It has taken some time to decide how these payments would be made and to whom. The following is the most up-to-date information available.
The Social Security Administration announced today that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will receive automatic Economic Impact Payments directly from the Treasury Department. Treasury anticipates these automatic payments no later than early May.
SSI recipients with no qualifying children do not need to take any action in order to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. The payments will be automatic.
SSI recipients who have qualifying children under age 17, however, should not wait for their automatic $1,200 individual payment. They should now go to the IRS’s webpage at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here and visit the Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info section to provide their information. By taking proactive steps to enter information on the IRS website about them and their qualifying children, they will also receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment. If SSI beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, they will have to wait until later to receive their $500 per qualifying child.
“This is great news for SSI recipients, and I want to remind recipients with qualifying children to go to IRS.gov soon so that you will receive the full amount of the Economic Impact Payments you and your family are eligible for,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “I also want to thank the dedicated employees of the Treasury Department, the Social Security Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service for making this happen and working non-stop on this issue.”
Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability insurance beneficiaries (who don’t normally file taxes) will also qualify for automatic payments of $1,200 from Treasury. These payments are anticipated to start arriving around the end of April.
The Treasury Department, not the Social Security Administration, will make these automatic payments to beneficiaries. Recipients will generally receive the automatic payments by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their SSI or Social Security benefits.
For those SSI and Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability insurance beneficiaries, with dependent children, who use Direct Express debit cards, additional information will be available soon regarding the steps to take on the IRS website when claiming children under 17.
Please note that the agency will not consider Economic Impact Payments as income for SSI recipients, and the payments are excluded from resources for 12 months.
For more information about Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability insurance beneficiaries, please see the agency’s April 10th press release: New Guidance about COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Beneficiaries from Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul
The eligibility requirements and other information about the Economic Impact Payments can be found here: www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center. In addition, please continue to visit the IRS at www.irs.gov/coronavirus for the latest information.
The agency will continue to update Social Security’s COVID-19 web page at www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus/
DIAL NDAB (Voicemail) 773-572-6306
Communication submissions: email@example.com
Address: NDAB, PO Box 824, West Fargo, ND 58078
Teleconference calls 515-604-9797, access code 824825#
(Board and committee meetings, Just Talking calls)
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.