(Blind Services Newsletter) Spring 2007
From the Editors Welcome to the spring 2007 issue of The Visionary, the newsletter of the Department of Rehabilitation‘s Blind Services units. We trust that it continues to be informative and provides what you seek from such a publication. The response from our readership has been great. As with past issues, this one will cover a wide variety of topics. As usual, we thank all who have helped us to bring this issue to ―press.‖ We received several submissions and encourage you to send more. If you do not wish to write, send us your ideas and we‘ll do the work! *** EDITORIAL BOARD Editor, Mary Calloway - e-mail email@example.com Tony Candela Catherine Bailes Veronica Graff Alice Hackney *Many thanks to Barbara Caslava-Messinger and Marta Bortner for their service on The Visionary‘s editorial board during its first year. We welcome Catherine Bailes, newly appointed Blind Field Services Program Manager, to the Board. ***
Deputy Director‘s Message
By Tony Candela There is nothing like a story to capture the imagination or convey a message. This issue of The Visionary is chocked full of personal stories, some from our colleagues, a few from consumers, and others from journalists which we are happy to reprint for your convenience. This brings me to a story of my own. The scene is a large room where directors of State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies have gathered for their semi-annual meeting. On the dais are representatives from the federal agency that regulates the vocational rehabilitation system. They report on their recent restructuring. There are no more regional offices, just teams based in D.C. who have been assigned to monitor
a cluster of states. ―We are here to help you be all that you want to be,‖ they exhort. ―We are not ‗Big Brother‘; we are here to help.‖ A few of us lean toward each other and murmur, ―I know they are sincere in what they say, but it is impossible to escape the fact that they are a powerful control agency with the ability to withhold our funding if we don‘t perform to expectations.‖ The truth is that many of our government agencies are attempting to be more helpful to their constituents while reducing their monitoring role. This is due in part to a conservative Washington environment that has shifted responsibility for government services toward States and localities. Nonetheless, their dual roles can be as confusing for us professionals as, I‘m sure, ours is to the consumers we serve. In literature, the ―gentle giant‖ inspires both fear and security. Is that what we do? When our consumers come to us, we confront a number of issues. Consumers generally approach our organization with varying degrees of dependency. While we believe in fostering independence, do we always act on this belief? Some consumers have a good idea of where they would like their lives to go: while others are confused, unaware of their possibilities, or bewildered by their circumstance. Since we possess a plethora of knowledge and resources to provide assistance, how difficult must it be to avoid appearing to our consumers like a ―gentle giant?‖ Our challenge is complex. We owe it to our consumers to give them the benefit of our training and experience, to provide empathy and understanding toward their specific situations, all the while avoiding the temptation to appear as an authority figure. Acknowledging there will always be program requirements attached to the money we spend on services and technology, consumers must not have these requirements held over their heads. Instead, best practice dictates they become part of the team. Working together with them, we can empower our consumers in ways that will bear fruit long after they have achieved their employment goals. Including our consumers on every aspect of their Individualized Program for Employment (IPE) fosters a working partnership that lessens the ―gentle giant‖ phenomenon. This will reduce the number of times they will shake their heads about the two faces of what we do. *** Artificial retina holds promise for blind - More Health News - MSNBC.com The artificial retina is designed to take the place of photoreceptor cells in the brain that are charged with capturing and processing light.‖We anticipate this technology will help blind patients who have lost their sight through macular degeneration,‖ said Dr. Mark Humayun, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southern California. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in older adults in the United States and the developed world, affecting 25 million to 30 million people. Humayun and his colleagues have teamed up with privately held Second Sight Medical Products to develop the implant, which just won clearance from U.S. regulators to test a second-generation device in a U.S. clinical trial.
An early version of the device implanted in six patients fared far better than its makers expected, allowing people who had been blinded for years to distinguish among simple objects such as a cup, a plate and a knife. The device consists of a tiny camera mounted on a pair of glasses that transmits information to the implant, which is attached to the outside of the eyeball with a cable running to the retina in the back of the eye. Patients wear a pager-sized transmitter on their belt, which handles the processing and powers the device. Humayun, who helped implant the first six patients, said the best he had hoped for in that early trial was for patients to distinguish among light, dark and see some areas of gray. ―It really speaks to the brain‘s ability to fill in a lot of information,‖ he said. Editor‘s note: For further information, go to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17186974/from/ET/ *** Business Enterprises Program (BEP): Success Comes to Those Who Try By Joann Fleming, Business Enterprises Consultant Last November, a 23-year-old vendor just out of the BEP training class was selected to run the facility at the Department of Justice. BEP removed the old equipment and I designed and supervised a remodel of the site. Along with a new Permit, our Vendor commenced operations with first rights to catering. No revenue-dwindling private snack clubs allowed and the Director of the Agency especially promised to enforce this aspect of the permit. We are now in our 5th month of operation and the new vendor has been working very hard since day one. Not only that, he follows my instructions, learning new recipes and upholding his Agreement under the permit. One day not too long into his assuming responsibility for his operation, the vendor called me and asked if he could have a couple of days off. He stated that his Mom and Aunt were able to watch the Cafe for him. I asked him, ―How much is in your bank account now?‖ (When a vendor begins work at a new facility, I stress that they build up within 6 months enough of a treasury to cover the initial stock towards another location.) My promising young vendor stated he had over $17,000.00 in his account and all his bills were paid. I told him to call a Travel Agency and book a flight the next day. A few days later, he comfortably lounged at a resort in Hawaii. This is a rarity. Not many Vendors can leave their facility in the hands of others so soon in their tenure. When I first met the vendor, he had only $500.00 in his savings account. This is why the program is great. Aloha! Editor‘s note: Marilyn Harder, San Diego Business Enterprises Consultant reports that on 3/16/07, BEP Vendor, Doug Dailey died. Doug provided many years of dedicated food service to the men and women at the North Island Naval Air Station, "Last Chance Gedunk" Snack Bar. BEP Vendors are in Federal, State, County and City Office buildings. They are an important link in the food chain as they bring a dependable source of quality food and cleanliness together with value and service for civil service employees.
The Visionary on the Web You can find The Visionary on the California Department of Rehabilitation‘s web site. Just go to http://www.dor.ca.gov/ssd/blindser.htm and find the links to this newsletter there. While in the site, read about the variety of services the Department‘s Rehabilitation Counselors of the Blind and Counselor Teacher‘s offer to blind Californians who seek vocational rehabilitation services. They include: • Adjustment to blindness • Preparation for work • Assistive technology • Reader services • Occupational training • Job placement • On-the-job follow up You can also read the Blind Field Services brochure on line as well as its new brochure for professionals and consumers interested in Transition services for blind and visually impaired youths. Don‘t forget to dive into the links on: *Orientation Center for the Blind *Business Enterprises Program *Title VII, Chapter 2 grants for service to Older Blind Individuals We are here to serve! *** Davidson Program for Independence (Excerpted from Dialogue_34915 v7.pdf, Spring 2007) Alumni Update: Where Are They Now? John Perez and Kevin Flaherty, two excellent students and now recent graduates of the Davidson Program for Independence (DPI) are currently in training to become entrepreneurs! How, you ask? Well, both men are now part of the Congress-established Business Enterprise Program (BEP), a program that allows each state to independently provide employment opportunities to people who are blind or visually impaired. The program took John and Kevin to the city of Sacramento, where they were faced with navigation of an unfamiliar city and new transportation routes. Both found the skills they acquired in Dip‘s Orientation and Mobility class invaluable as they worked to identify landmarks determine directions and orient themselves. Both John and Kevin travel to on- the- job training
courses two days per week and have classes three days per week. On- the- job- training courses take Kevin and John to various food service worksites, each one providing a different environment in which to learn a wide range of skills, including human resources, accounting and marketing. As Kevin continues to expand his skill set, he notices that he has a definite advantage over his peers. ― Trainees who have not gone through DPI or a similar program are short changing themselves. Although they all have the potential and ability, it can be more challenging without the training and preparedness that DPI gives you.‖ Now in a temporary living facility, John Perez feels fully prepared for household duties. Using the Independent Living Skills (ILS) he learned in the Davidson Program, John lives selfsufficiently, cooking, cleaning and doing all the duties necessary to run a home. Kevin Flaherty learned how to cook in his Independent Living Skills class at the Davidson Program for Independence. While working in the Business Enterprise Program, John and Kevin have found their computer skills and ability to use adaptive technology to be essential, something they have been able to fully utilize and will continue to build upon. In the workplace, in the home and everywhere in- between, these graduates have the tools to succeed. We wish them well as they continue to build prosperous careers.
Dining in the Dark Veronica Graff and Cheryl Finley Los Angeles City Community College Office of Special Services hosted a Dining in the Dark luncheon to raise funds to provide scholarships for disabled students. Cheryl Finley and Veronica Graff represented BFS at the event, which was held at Braille Institute on March 27th. The servers were all blind and visually impaired clients and former clients of DOR who have been working for Opaque Restaurant since its inception here in L.A. approximately two years ago. Those present seemed to approach this unique dining experience a bit hesitantly, but with much anticipation. There were a few guests who were blind themselves who seemed to get a chuckle out of the sighted diners who were at a distinct disadvantage. The guests lined up single file, put their right hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them and were led into the completely dark dining room by the server for their table. Some seemed a little fearful that they would lose touch with the person in front and be lost in the dining room for the remainder of the afternoon. Needless to say, that did not happen. All were seated smoothly. The servers did an excellent job of putting everyone at ease and remembering everyone's name and where they sat after initial introductions. Lunch was a delicious three-course meal. There was much giggling and careful reaching and touching going on as there were rolls, butter and lemon wedges in the center of the table. One man ended up with lemon wedges for his roll. One woman, after pushing lettuce around her salad plate for some time, let out a cry of triumph when she finally speared a tomato wedge. A group gasp was heard from one table when one fearless man ordered a cup of coffee. After a
short time though, the sounds and conversations that were taking place took on the familiar ring of what you'd hear during any other pleasant dining experience. In a way it was a revealing experience. There was a certain liberating effect in not being distracted by the way another person looked, who was walking by, or what was taking place across the room. At each table, strangers talked easily with each other. Interestingly, once lunch was over and everyone was back in the lobby in the light, people reverted back to conversing with those individuals who they knew. It was a most enjoyable afternoon, which provided sighted individuals an enlightening, snapshot experience in the world of our colleagues who are blind or visually impaired. *** The AFB Senior Site: A Unique Web Resource For People with Age-Related Vision Loss A major public health issue is brewing in America. Over the next two decades, rates of vision loss from diseases like age-related macular degeneration are expected to double as the nation‘s 78 million baby boomers reach retirement age. To help prepare for this dramatic increase in Americans with vision loss, and to help the 6.5 million Americans over age 65 currently experiencing age-related vision loss, the American Foundation for the Blind has created the first web resource of its kind – a proactive, virtual vision center that encourages older adults to live independently and productively with vision loss. Senior Site is available via a prominent link on AFB‘s home page www.afb.org/seniorsite. A major component of Senior Site is the connection it provides to seniors and family members to local vision rehabilitation services through its online Directory of Services and special section—Finding Help and Support. Make sure your agency's information and services are included in the directory and are up to date. Please send all comments/revisions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Senior Site focuses on common sense, daily living solutions to help seniors who are beginning to experience vision loss better adjust to their changing eyesight and includes the following sections related to living with vision loss: Understanding Vision Loss, Daily Living, Changing Your Home, and Fitness and Fun. Visitors to the site will also find inspiring video testimonials from seniors who aren‘t letting their vision loss slow them down and sections on exercise, travel and recreational opportunities for people with vision loss. In the near future, Senior Site will also contain message boards, blogs and support group links designed to foster a sense of community among seniors with vision loss and family members. Like the rest of the AFB web site, Senior Site is designed with adjustable text, color and contrast to make it
accessible to those with low vision. The site also meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines so blind or low- vision users can navigate the site using voice browser technology. Please visit Senior Site and discover what a great resource and tool it can be for staff members as well as consumers and family members. Feel free to forward this exciting information.
*** He tells them, "Don't Fall Down": Archye Leacock By Dan Geringer Submitted by Tony Lewis "I attended high school with Archye when I lived in Pennsylvania. He is truly a great role model. I don't doubt if you have any consumers that would like to meet him he would be open to talking to them." TL (Excerpted from Philadelphia Daily News, PA, USA, Tuesday, March 27, 2007) THE YOUNG MEN are baby-faced but old and world-weary around the eyes. They have been caught with a gun or a knife for the first time. They haven't shot or stabbed anyone. Yet. Some of them are only 14. All of them are juveniles on the brink of embracing the street life that could kill them, maim them or land them in jail for destroying another human being. Because they are so young and theirs is a first weapons offense, the district attorney and the juvenile courts have given them a choice: Do time at "Don't Fall Down in the Hood" or do time behind bars. Those who choose "Don't Fall Down" find themselves facing executive director Archye Leacock, 50. They give him nothing but the cold stare. It works on the street. It doesn't work on Leacock. "I don't see the hard stares that cause other people to fear them because I have been blind since I was 14," he said in the cadence of his native Trinidad. "All I hear is the young man's voice. I tell him, 'My brother, how are you doing?' He's thinking, 'The blind guy ain't afraid of me.' Before you know it, he's telling me his story. "Young people put on that face, develop that look," Leacock said, "Because it is like putting on their army fatigues so they can survive in the jungle of their neighborhoods. If you get past that look, they are vulnerable." Their stories, Leacock said, have a heartbreaking sameness. "Ninety-five percent of the young men in the program were raised only by their mothers, so they have seen no male involvement in their lives," he said. "It's as if an adult male is a completely different species. They don't know what it is to look up to a man who gets up in the morning and goes to work. "These guys are 14, 15, 16 and they're the man of the household," Leacock said. "They see males with women only when nature calls. You ask them, 'What role do you have with a woman other than just dropping sperm?' They don't know."
Leacock relates the hopelessness of his young charges to the desperation he felt at 14, when he was struck in the eye by a ball while playing cricket in Trinidad. Complicated by the glaucoma he had suffered since early childhood, the infection that followed the accident left him blind in both eyes. ―I was completely lost," Leacock said. "I didn't see a future. I didn't see where I was going. I couldn't get around my house. My mother had to take me outside to sit me on the steps. I lost all my friends. I was suspended with no direction. For months, I just sat there and I was numb. "I identify my struggles with these guys in 'Don't Fall Down in the Hood,' " he said. "They're in America but they can't make it in America. They don't have a mentor. They don't have a dad. They're getting into drugs and guns. They feel hopeless. They need someone to believe in them. I believe in them." Leacock, whose eyes were removed for health reasons in 2002 and replaced by prostheses, has an unshakably hopeful vision for the 100 endangered, predominantly black youths in his program - and six months to convince them to share it. Funded by the city's Department of Human Services, "Don't Fall Down" mandates that the young people take 30 after-school hours weekly of life and job skills classes at Temple University, mostly taught by successful young black men from the same crime-ridden neighborhoods as the teenage offenders. Harry James, a former juvenile-detention officer who directs the program, said, "You hear these kids talking about 'It's my lifestyle,' meaning drugs and guns. "I tell them, 'A lifestyle indicates a style that is conducive to living. But if you continue with your lifestyle, you might lose your last opportunity to live.'" At a "Don't Fall Down" counseling session last week, Leacock praised Parks for doing well since he started the program in January, but wondered about his failing a recent urine test. Parks said that he was "hot-boxed" - sitting in a car with rolled-up windows - next to friends who were smoking blunts (marijuana-filled cigars) but that he wasn't smoking. "Lonelle, my brother, we love you dearly," Leacock said with a warm smile, "but it doesn't get into the blood system through your pores. Science tells us that you have to smoke it. " Having made his point pleasantly, Leacock asked Parks how things were at home. Parks said his great-grandmother, whom he lives with, was proud of him because he was working two jobs and coming to the program. As soon as he mentioned his great-grandmother, Parks' face lost its defensive look and broke into a loving grin. Leacock, who couldn't see the grin, sensed it - and the two men were suspended together in a moment filled with hope. *** Medical Doctor Rehabilitated By Teresa Almy In July 2006, I received a referral for a lady who was distressed at not being able to live independently or maintain her medical practice. Though this appeared to be a vocationally oriented case, I visited her home to assess the situation and to learn of what other assistance might be needed. She was tearful and desperate, not knowing how she was going to make it doing the little things such as making her own tea, let alone holding down her job. She had been
successful for over 20 years as a medical doctor, having first trained in England, and then Russia, and it was evident to me that she hated being in this vulnerable position. Fortunately, I was able to assist her to acquire independent living skills (she had formerly been a gourmet cook and was fearful that she would never be able to engage in this hobby again), provided her with O and M skills so that she could travel independently, and low-vision aids and assistive technology so that she could resume the practice of medicine. Some of the aids provided to her were a CCTV and low-vision aids to assist her in doing detailed work, (she had previously ―fielded‖ some procedures out due to her inability to perform them any longer), and Kurzweil 1000 software for scanning printed documents. This is truly a success story. Not only am I thrilled to have participated in the rehabilitation of someone who truly wanted help, but it was also thrilling to work with someone who is doing something unique and extremely productive: practicing medicine successfully. My client was not afraid to keep on trying. Sometimes as rehabilitation counselors, that's all the impetus we need to lend a hand to enable someone to move forward, even in the face of what appears to be the impossible. *** ANNOUNCEMENT! A transition web resource for blind and visually impaired young adults www.transition2employment.com Submitted by Richard Rueda The Northern California Transition Council is proud to announce the re-launch of a web resource that centralizes accessible career tools and other resources needed to succeed in the working world. Established in the fall of 2005, the Council's mission is to unify the transition efforts of the Department of Rehabilitation's Blind Field Services district and its Northern California community partners in order to create career awareness, opportunities and resources for blind and visually impaired transition age youth. We are proud to share with the world a website resource that will grow to meet the diverse needs of blind and visually impaired young adults and their support network. Whether searching for part time career opportunities, places to do internships or to look up independent training, college and scholarship opportunities, the site boasts many practical options. With volunteer assistance from committee members, we have streamlined the site, and it has been re-launched for use by our transition youth, their family members, teachers of the visually impaired, and partner agencies. With links on the home page that include, ―Helping You Move Ahead", College Resources‖, ―Disability Resources‖ and more we are confident that with the site‘s ease of use coupled with a name easy to recall, www.transition2employment.com Will meet the demands of the curious and motivated. Add it to your ―favorites‖ and check in frequently for Upcoming Events useful and fun for Northern California teens and young adults!