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					                               THE VISIONARY
                               (Blind Services Newsletter)

Spring 2008
From the Editors

Welcome to the spring 2008 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 and we thank all who have helped us
to bring this issue to “press.”

This issue is somewhat larger than previous ones. The “Editors’ Impressions” feature
(observations about a pertinent issue in blindness, education or rehabilitation) has been submitted
by Dan Kysor of the California Council of the Blind. It discusses the status of services for the
blind in California in a crisp and frank manner.

Because of its length, the “Counselors’ Tool Box” feature (useful resources, web sites, or other
helpful items to put in your address book and files for use on the job) is appended after the final
article. It is a reprint of material Blind Field Services transition specialist Richard Rueda
recently sent to counselors. The editors think the information may be of interest to all.

Speaking of editors, we hereby invite anyone in the Blind Services units to apply for the editorial
board position vacated last month by long-time training specialist, Alice Hackney upon her
retirement. Please contact the Editor if you are interested. Qualifications include a good “ear” or
“eye” for typos and grammatical errors, a sense of what is interesting, and a willingness to take
an hour or so every few months to carefully read through draft versions of The Visionary before
it goes to press.

We encourage you to send us articles, your impressions, and useful resource ideas. If you do not
wish to write, send the “raw material” and we’ll do the work!

Your submissions are essential to the continued vitality of The Visionary. We try to publish
everything we receive, editing only for clarity, brevity, and to make sure articles are in
accordance with our editorial policies.


Editor, Mary Calloway - e-mail

Tony Candela
Catharine Bailes
Veronica Graff

By Dan Kysor, Director, Governmental Affairs, CCB

I have always had an interest in employment issues ever since I had my first job in high
School as a disc jockey in a hamburger joint directly across the street from good old
Alameda High. Working to me always meant I had somewhere to expend my energy,
doing something rather than just sitting around. It has never been impossible for me to
obtain employment. My wife and I have a running joke that she gets the home while I
get the job. I can't say exactly why some people seem to have the knack of securing
Employments while others try and try without success. It has just been recently that I have
finally begun to understand the problems associated with employment for blind and
visually impaired people, and the answer is not a simple one.

Early in 2007, a former aide to Senator Edward Kennedy, Mariyam Cementwala, a blind
Law student, returned to California to obtain employment. She became quite frustrated as She
saw herself and her blind friends being denied work that they were eminently qualified for. She
began gathering a group of diverse blind and visually impaired individuals-- rehabilitation
specialists and advocates crossing organizational, ethnic, and educational lines--to form a loose
coalition known as the Disability Employment Pilot Project, DEPP. The group met with
California's first lady Maria Schriver's staff to discuss barriers to employment in state service.
CCB joined the group.

We formed a working group with the directors of the State Personnel Board, Employment
Development Department and the Department of Rehabilitation, and we will be discussing issues
ranging from training hiring managers on blindness, access to the online
Application and testing process, job retention and the timely provision of training and
Assistive technology, and, of course, hiring discrimination. Soon we will be convening our
second meeting.

Another push by blind advocates to improve employment comes from the San Francisco
Lighthouse for the Blind and its Director of Public Policy and Information, Jessie Lorenz. She
has been convening a similar mix of advocates and rehabilitation professionals to identify
impediments to the provision of assistive technologies to blind and visually impaired clients of
the Department of Rehabilitation.

One impediment is that counselors tell clients that their employers must purchase
assistive technologies; and as a result, the client is not hired. Another is that government
agencies sometimes do not know how to adapt a work site, and leave a blind employee to
languish doing nothing on the job for weeks or months with no clear accommodation
authority within a state or federal agency to expedite that person's continued employment.

In addition, the Department of Rehabilitation's procurement process of three bids is often
too slow and jeopardizes job retention. This group believes that the clarification of the
assistive technology policy to all staff and supervisors in the Department of Rehabilitation is

So wow, here we are with all of this mix of ideas, action plans, and talking points; and why do I
still feel that this isn't necessarily the complete answer? Because, dear reader, it isn't.

According to a recent Cornell University study based on Census Bureau data, the
employment rate for Americans age 21 to 64 with sensory, physical, mental, or self-care
disabilities fell to 38.3% in 2004, from 40.8% in 2001. And, in 2006, people with severe
disabilities have dropped to less than one percent of the full-time federal workforce,
according to data released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
EEOC. Targeted disabilities include blindness, deafness, paralysis, mental retardation,
mental illness, convulsive disorders, and distortion of limbs or the spine.

What accounts for this drop? In a Wall Street Journal Article published in 2005 entitled
"Disabled Face Scarcer Jobs", by staff writer Kris Maher, Doug Kruse, an economist at
Rutgers University, says disability benefits keep some disabled workers from accepting
jobs because they can lose several hundred dollars a month in Social Security Disability
Income after earning more than $830 a month for nine months. "That's a whale of a
disincentive to work," says Mr. Kruse. Others say that outsourcing abroad has cut jobs
often done by the disabled, such as call-center positions. "Unfortunately moving jobs
overseas means that blind and visually impaired people are not doing those jobs in the
U.S.," says Karen Wolffe, director of the Professional Development department at the
American Foundation for the Blind.

These factors may account for the initial drop in employment for blind and visually impaired
clients of the newly established Specialized Services Division for the Blind and Deaf. In fiscal
year 2003-04, the first
year of the implementation of SB 105, the number of DOR consumers with visual
disabilities who were competitively employed was 347, a drop of eight percent from the
390 in FY 2002-03. But for 2004-05, 363 blind or visually impaired consumers were
competitively employed, which represents an approximate five percent increase from the
prior year. And things improved even more in 2006-07, according to the Blind Advisory
Committee, BAC, which is mandated to advise the Director of Rehabilitation on the means to
increase competitive employment, enlarge economic opportunities, enhance independence and
self-sufficiency, and otherwise improve the steady decline in the placement of the blind and
visually impaired in competitive employment. According to BAC, declining employment rates
have reversed since the establishment of the Division. For example, BAC states that last year
competitive placements of visually impaired people increased 24% throughout the Department.
Blind Field Services (BFS), though facing the most difficult personnel and administrative
problems in the new Division, increased its competitive closures by 49%. This achievement was
primarily due to the efforts of the then DOR Director, Dr. Catherine Campisi, who exercised her
authority and administrative expertise to make the new Division work more effectively.

On the other hand, the Business Enterprises Program (BEP) and the Orientation Center for the
Blind (OCB), which were only indirectly impacted by the creation of the Division,
continued to languish, especially OCB. While many challenges face the Division, it is
hoped that more attention can be focused on these two vital programs.**

In the November 2007 issue of the Braille Forum, President Pomerantz discussed the
images and perceptions of blindness in 21st century America. "Our image as a minority
group and public perceptions about us are critical to the acceptance and inclusion of blind
and visually impaired people in society as a whole. This is one reason--but certainly not
the only reason--for our unconscionably high rate of unemployment and the other forms of
discrimination we experience on a regular basis." Pomerantz goes on to state: "For
starters, numerous surveys conducted over several decades have consistently shown that
blindness is the most feared disability after HIV/AIDS (since that epidemic was first
recognized in the 1980s) and cancer, both of which are often fatal. Since blindness in and
of itself is not typically fatal, this speaks volumes about our public image and societal
perceptions. So public perceptions, our own perceptions about social security vs. working and
economic, technological and institutional barriers all play a major part in our abilities as blind
and visually impaired individuals to become employed."

So after all of this, what did I learn? Actually, I didn't really learn anything because if one
wants to work, he/she can keep on course through adversity and rise above the technical
challenges. This is truly what the efforts of the two consumer employment groups I
referred to earlier in this article is doing. Unless we maintain a positive attitude and
outlook, and put the pressure on agencies to improve our situation, unemployment of blind and
visually impaired Californians, and around the nation, will continue to rise.

Editor’s Notes:
* Since this article was written, the Department of Rehabilitation has clarified to the Lighthouse
group and the State Rehabilitation Council its assistive technology purchasing policy. The
Department will purchase assistive technology for its consumers who are entering employment
and will not jeopardize such placements by protracted debates with employers over who will
purchase the technology.
**In addition, task forces have been set up to help chart an improved future for the BEP and

Staying On Course: Interviews with Students Who Are Blind

Deborah Kendrick

Excerpted from ACCESSWORLD ®, Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually
Impaired, July 2007 Issue
Volume 8, Number 4

We were riding in the car, and my daughter suddenly asked if she could go to a movie with her
friend. "She's online now," she said, "and wants to know if
she should buy me a ticket." At first, I was bewildered. My daughter had been talking to me for
the past 10 minutes, so how could she also have been talking
to her friend? When I asked her this question, she answered with exasperation: "text message."

Another day, I was sitting in my daughter's room chatting when a question arose that we did not
have the answer to. "I'll ask Neil when he gets finished
doing his homework," my daughter said. How did she know that her friend six houses down was
doing his homework? Is my daughter psychic? Of course not.
She just glanced at his "away message" in her instant messaging program.

So I wondered: Are students who are blind using all the same kinds of technology as their
sighted counterparts? I rounded up some students--of various ages,
from various schools and colleges and degree programs, and with various interests in
technology--to see what they had to say. The results may surprise

A Day in the Life

Martha Harris, a first-year student at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, is a self-
proclaimed lover of gadgets. With her MuVo and iPod Shuffle, she
listens to music and books from and Bookshare. On her Nokia 6682 mobile phone,
equipped with the TALKS screen reader for access, she sends
and receives text messages in addition to making and receiving telephone calls. On her Braille
Note, she takes class notes, and on her computer equipped
with JAWS for Windows, she is a fan of MSN Messenger for instant messaging, Skype for live
conversation, and iTunes for transferring music from CDs and
the Internet to her iPod Shuffle. Her favorite tool for transferring music from her computer to her
iPod is the program called Anapod Explorer.

Her attitude toward technology is this: "I can do anything I want to do, anything a sighted
student can do, except read CAPTCHAs!" (CAPTCHAs are the slightly
distorted combinations of letters and numbers that have to be typed into a box before logging
into some web sites to prevent automated programs from logging

Let There Be Music

The tools that Annie Donnellon, a third-year vocal performance major at Northern Kentucky
University, uses most are her Braille Note and the Lime Aloud and
GoodFeel software from Dancing Dots. Besides reading books and taking notes on her Braille
Note, Annie often transfers documents that her instructors send
as attachments to read in Braille. On her computer, equipped with JAWS and the Kurzweil 1000,
she reads documents that she or someone else has scanned,
writes papers, and sends and receives e-mail messages. Rather than attempt to tackle Blackboard
(a program through which students and instructors communicate
regarding assignments, discussions, examinations, and the like), she asks the instructors to e-mail
documents as attachments and then e-mails her work
back to them.

With her LG 4500 cell phone, Annie manages all her contacts and uses the talking caller ID. This
particular cell phone does not have accessible text messaging.

Annie does not have any type of portable MP3 player for books or music, but uses her Victor
Reader Vibe constantly for DAISY books obtained from Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic
and other CDs.

The piece of technology that this talented music student raved about most was her software from
Dancing Dots. With this program, she can compose music on her computer's keyboard and then
print it out or e-mail it to her instructors. This program makes composing and sending or printing
a piece of music as manageable as writing and sending or printing an essay.

Empowered by Technology

Joseph Lee is an 11th grader at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles. He writes to an e-
mail list with such knowledge and expertise regarding his Braille Note mPower that some people
have thought that he was a member of the HumanWare staff. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Joseph
came to the United States in 2001 and then enrolled as a fifth grader. In 2003, at a summer
workshop at the California School for the Blind, he was introduced to assistive technology. His
expertise seems to have grown exponentially since then.

On a laptop and desktop computer equipped with JAWS, Joseph writes school papers and does
research on the Internet. At the time of the interview, he did not own a cell phone or MP3 player,
but seemed familiar with various products and was hoping to get them in the future. He uses
Skype frequently and in the same way that others do instant messaging.

The piece of assistive technology that Joseph talked about most--and has assimilated into every
aspect of his daily life--is the BrailleNote mPower. He uses mPower to take notes, send and
receive e-mail messages, and surf the Internet. He keeps his contacts with KeyList and his
calendar with KeyPlan. It is the mPower's alarm that wakes him up each morning. Joseph uses
the infrared port at school to print work for his teachers and the wireless capabilities to download
books and read them in braille. He said proudly that he has memorized every BrailleNote
command for both the BT and QT (braille-style keyboard and qwerty-style keyboard) versions,
as well as some commands that relate to hidden Keysoft features. "I have learned, he said, "to
use the mPower to its full potential," and he wants eventually to study computer science and
become a teacher of assistive technology to help spread the word of such tools.

Learning the Law

T. J. Meloy is a 24-year-old law student at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He uses
a BrailleNote mPower to take notes and his laptop with JAWS for research. As a law student,
research is a major component of his routine, and he is able to do all that his sighted classmates
do online. Westlaw, an online legal research service for legal and law-related materials and
services, is particularly easy to navigate, T. J. said, because there is a text-only version of the
site. It is also used by his law school for its online interactive system, TWEN (the West
Education Network), which is a site where instructors post assignments and students turn them
in. The only difficulty that T. J. has found in accessing materials is that publishers often provide
his textbooks as PDF files. These files then have to be converted to Word files by the university's
disability services office.

T. J. was the only student I spoke with who is fond of FaceBook. Although he does not have time
to be on the site as much as other students may, he particularly enjoys checking for posts from
his cousin who is stationed in Iraq. T. J.'s cell phone is an LG 8300, which has many accessible
features but cannot read text messages. His LG 8300 was too new when we spoke for him to
have learned to use the MP3 player, but that is one aspect he is looking forward to. A Maestro
PDA with Trekker GPS is another piece of equipment that he was in the process of incorporating
into his routine.

Like other students, T. J. emphasized the importance of instant messaging in his social life. He
uses AOL instant messenger with JAWS on his laptop to keep in touch with other people. "You
can read an away message," he said, "and know that someone doesn't feel like talking. Or you
can see if there's a conversation going on that you may want to join." A friend may ask if anyone
else wants to go to a certain movie on Saturday night, he cited as example, and that is often how
social plans are made.

“Discovering Bill” by Belle Cramer.

Reprinted from Becoming Independent winter 08 newsletter

Contributed by Haruyo Nishimura, Blind Field Services

Bill Gillespie is 44 years old and lives independently in Santa Rosa with his dog, Garrett. He is
blind and has never had a job. That’s Bill, the short version. But if you were to dig a little deeper,
you would find much, much more.

Bill had been in a job search for several years without luck when he was referred to Customized
Employment, the newest project of becoming Independent’s Employment Services.

Two months ago, Bill went through a unique vocational profiling process under the program.
The process involved inviting large groups of people who Bill felt were his supporters in life and
who knew him well. The group sat around a table for a couple of hours, each person taking turns
to share what they knew about Bill.

When the smoke cleared, the group was left with a snapshot of skills, interests and abilities that
summed up bill. Everyone at the table left knowing much more about Bill than they had when
they first sat down, and in the process they helped to identify the kind of work environment that
would suit him best.
Here are the many things that were discovered about Bill during his meeting.
Bill is the vice president of the local chapter of the California Council of the Blind. He also
serves as the chapter’s delegate, keeps it informed on related policy issues and coordinates guest

He attends Assistive Technology Conventions regularly, and considers himself a disability
awareness advocate and activist.

Bill is a certified ham radio operator with “Handy Hams.” He is passionate about his country and
calls himself “extremely patriotic.” When asked about what the future held for him, Bill said he
hoped to travel to Hawaii, get married, buy a house, and someday jump out of an airplane. Bill
hopes to have children, and he says that both he and his dog, Garret, are great with kids.

He is fascinated by geography and with studying other cultures. He feels that embracing
diversity is very important. He can speak a little Spanish.

One would think that all this would keep Bill quite busy, but somehow, he makes time for ocean
fishing, bowling and woodworking. A trickster and a jokester, Bill is full of one-liners and quick
comebacks. He is extremely independent and it drives him crazy when he is underestimated. In
particular, Bill doesn’t like when people address his attendant instead of speaking to him

Bill is persistent. He always kept his spirits up and never faltered in his determination to find the
right job for himself. Armed with this information, the BI Customized Employment program
manager set up a meeting with Richard Clark, general manager of Fresh Choice restaurant at the
Santa Rosa Plaza in downtown Santa Rosa.

Bill had already under gone a successful assessment at this popular restaurant, but Richard was
unsure how to fit Bill into an existing position as Bill’s assessment suggested Bill could only
perform a fraction of the tasks associated with an existing open position.

Fortunately, BI’s Customized Employment service is designed to deal with these kinds of
challenges, and working together, the BI employment specialist and Richard were able to create
a job for Bill.

How? They reviewed all of the restaurant’s job descriptions to produce a list of tasks that best
suited Bill’s skills. At the end of the process, a new job – Bill’s job – had been carved out of the
existing job mix at Fresh Choice that consisted of tasks that other Fresh Choice employees had
been unable to perform during their busy shifts and which could be performed by Bill.

This type of Job Creation, or Job Carving, is key to BI’s unconventional employment
development process that works both for the employer and the worker. It enables the employee
to work to his or her potential and abilities, and it helps employers meet emerging and unmet
So what is Bill doing for a living now? He is starting his career with Fresh Choice as Guest
Director, a role in which he will be the first and last person that each Fresh Choice customer
sees. Bill supervises the beginning of the buffet line. He explains how the restaurant works to
first-time diners.

Bill has memorized the location of the food trays, plates, and silverware as well as the pricing.
Amazingly, Bill can also differentiate between customers coming in and going out – through the
same door! He has been approached many times by guests wanting to compliment him on his
talent. He often responds by showing off a bit with a trick. He can drop different coins on the
counter and quickly identify each on simply by sound.

Bill’s success at the restaurant has made Fresh Choice a believer in BI’s Customized
Employment program.

“In general, we have a commitment to community and providing opportunities for people who
want to work,” said Richard, the general manager. “At first, I was unsure how Bill would be able
to meet our needs, but after getting to know him and seeing him in action, I knew it would be a
mistake not to grab him. Working with the Customized Employment program has been an eye
opening experience in terms of the many possibilities there can be when you think outside of the

In Bill’s case, his cheerful and engaging personality is where he really shines. He now works in
an environment where he can interact with people, face-to-face, all day long. Supportive and
interested co-workers surround him. Bill’s faithful dog, Garret, accompanies him to work and
then relaxed outside or in the back until it’s time to go again.

Bill considers himself a pioneer and activist and loves the opportunity to change people’s
perceptions about the capabilities of the blind. He continues to look for a rewarding volunteer
opportunity to participate in with his “spare” time.

Clearly, it was only a matter of time before Bill was “discovered,” both literally and figuratively,
and only time will tell what else is in store for him. Count on it being anything but ordinary.

Kimie’s Success Story

By Teri Hershberg, Blind Field Services

Kimie Beverly says, “I work all the time.” Some might think being a workaholic is not positive;
but for Kimie it was part of business as usual. She has always worked hard.

Kimie lost some of her vision in 6th grade due to optic nerve damage from a brain tumor. She is
legally blind in both eyes.

Kimie applied for services from DOR in 2005. She had just transferred to UCI as a junior after
earning her general education requirements at Community College and UNLV. She and her
counselors from CA DOR and Nevada DOR worked out a mutual arrangement that Nevada
would pay for half of Kimie’s tuition while she attended UCI.

Kimie originally had been interested in a vocational plan in Social Services but her interests in
the political arena continued to nip at her heels. She had worked as an intern in Senator Harry
Reid’s office while attending UNLV. She volunteered as a board member for National
Federation of the Blind.

 Kimie realized in her junior year that she would like to serve as a change agent in the political
environment rather than the social service arena. Kimie doesn’t like to waste time or resources so
instead of switching gears in the middle of college she continued with her Social Science major
and minored in Political Science.

While taking a full load of course work at UCI Kimie was a member of the Ambassador’s
Council for the School of social science, she was a discussion leader for an online program
called Univ. II and she was a lab assistant for graduate Social Science projects.

The consistent thread in Kimie’s bio is her participation in as many extra curricular activities as
possible. She knew that building a resume of volunteer work would be her key to landing a job
after college. She incorporated all of her interests in these activities and had a great time

During the course of her outstanding work at UCI, Kimie participated in a Scholarship Abroad
program in Sussex, England. She enjoyed the experience but was very frustrated by the lack of
accommodations for disabled folks in England specifically and Europe in general.

 She returned to CA to unpack just briefly before beginning Guide Dog Training. She came
home with her new guide dog Agatha and they flew together to begin her fall semester at
UC/DC. This program offers students an opportunity to take course work through the UCI
satellite in DC and participate in an internship. Kimie secured her own internship with the
Office of the Attorney General in D.C. in the Civil Litigation office. She and Agatha found
plenty of time to “sniff” out all of the sites in our nation’s capital.

Kimie graduated from UCI in June 2007. She returned to her family home in Nevada and
immediately began her job search. She has landed a job with the law firm of Shook and Stone as
a Litigation Assistant. Kimie prepares early arbitration conference reports, and early case
conference reports for cases exempt from arbitration. She calculates damages based on medical
records and bills. She has a job that requires a lot of paper work. She says her adaptive
magnification equipment provided by DOR has been very helpful.

Kimie describes her duties as follows” “ I perform correspondence work, write reports, contact
opposing counsel, court reporters, witnesses, the Court and clients and when needed I make
Kimie does not have her dream job, but it is a wonderful entry-level position! She performs
interesting and complex assignments, meets lots of decision makers and contacts in the judicial
system and she will be able to use this foundation to pursue her future goals.

Response to "Employees with Disabilities: Deliberately Yours" by Barney Mayse

Reprinted from Diversity World Magazine, 849 Almar Avenue, Suite C, #206, Santa Cruz, CA
95060. Archives of past issues are available on their website -

"Effective and full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace will never be achieved
just by taking a positive, hopeful stance. It is not going to happen through luck or happenstance.
Like most other worthwhile goals, it requires proactive and intentional action." This is a great
quote. Let's take a look at some recent, relevant information:

The following is excerpted from "National Disability Policy: A Progress Report" by the National
Council on Disability published Jan. 15, 2008: "Yet despite considerable effort and investment,
data consistently show an employment rate for working-age Americans with disabilities of less
than one-half that for the population as a whole. At the same time, other data show lower
incomes when people with disabilities do work and generally higher levels of poverty for this
segment of the population." (Pg. 125)

What I find most interesting as a person with a disability and as an advocate is that, with all of
the agencies, voc rehab counselors and other folks out there, the needle for employment of
people with disabilities is not moving. From what I can tell, and numbers are a moving target,
the number has remained consistent since the ADA was passed. Is there anything wrong with
this picture?

If everyone in the world used a wheelchair and the disabled population consisted of those who
walked on two legs what would the world look like? A disability is neither chosen nor
volunteered for as a life choice. Disability occurs as a natural part of the life process and yet it is
treated as though it is not. Disease is part of life, disability is part of life. Every person in the
world deserves to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their disability.

Many employers assume (we know what that does) that they know what a disabled person can
accomplish. I challenge them to tell me what they want to have done and watch me figure out
how to do it. I realize that the transformative change that I would like to see will not occur with a
single article but I personally believe that all of the studies and conferences and other irrelevant
activities are not truly helping people with disabilities take back their financial independence, get
them off the benefit roles and permit them the self-esteem that goes with work.

There is too much time spent telling everyone at what level the water is in the glass. Analyzing
the problem is not solving the problem. If the time spent in analysis were spent in solving
individual problems and getting people back to work the number of starfish remaining on the
beach would be smaller.
The disabled community needs proactive people who will not accept the answers we so
frequently get. The American business sector needs to understand that the risk in not hiring
people with disabilities is greater than the risk of hiring them. The disabled community needs to
understand that the world does not owe them and they will have to compete. Permit the
competition to occur on a level playing field.

The fastest path for a disabled person off the disability rolls is through employment. I will grant
you it is neither the easiest nor quickest accomplishment but people with disabilities meet
challenges every single day and are the best problem solvers in the world. Perhaps the best
solution would be to have people with disabilities start their own companies and compete as only
they can and transform the world of business so that it recognizes that the skills of a person are
not determined by whether they have a disability but rather if they have the skill.

Change as it applies to the global economy is part of the daily life of a person with a disability.
Communities and businesses talk about embracing change at one level while people with
disabilities live change each and every moment of their lives. The people with disabilities have a
role to play in advocating for themselves with employers, educating employers and then
delivering the skills needed for market expansion, competitive growth and profitability.

Every one of us has a gift. Many of us do not know what our gifts are and so we never express or
share them. Each of us needs to share our gift with the world, the part the sands of time for that
ever brief moment that is called our life. Each of us needs to touch others and contribute what we
have to the betterment of our families, friends, communities, businesses and country. Sometimes
finding the gift is the most difficult thing we could ever do, but it may be the most worthwhile.

Every one of us has the right to dream. How many people with disabilities dream? If they are
not dreaming, they need to be. If you are not dreaming you need to be. There is no time like the
present to start this process. Proactive and intentional action is possible for all of us. The
question is when and how will we do it?

- Barney Mayse, Disability Advocate, The Whole Person, Inc.

CareerConnect Profile

(Excerpted from:


My name is Bernie Vinther and here I am doing work that one would think requires good vision.
Good vision is what I once had, but now I am totally blind. I am a self-employed machinist and
electronics technical engineer. There is really no support in my area of occupation where I live,
otherwise, I would probably be working for someone else, rather than myself. I chose this
occupation because it is hard, not easy. However, before I tell you about my job, I feel compelled
to tell you that in an odd way blindness was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and
I'm not alone with those feelings.

Why on earth would anyone feel this way? Well, you see, I like challenges and I've learned to
experiment with finding out how much I can do without vision. Most of the challenges of being
blind can certainly be very frustrating, but I've found a lot of satisfaction in striving to keep
blindness from becoming an obstacle that keeps me from doing all the things I like to do. I just
won't take "No" for an answer. Blindness has taught me not to sit in the corner and be passive.

So what do I do? I am a machinist. A typical machinist primarily uses lathes, milling machines,
band saws, and grinders to make various geometric shapes out of pieces of metal. This type of
work is a bit difficult to describe. One of the machines I use the most is a lathe. A lathe can be
used to make a round shaft. It can also make threaded grooves on the outside or inside of a piece
of metal. Often a piece of metal has to be cut to a very precise size.

This means that if the piece I am working on is supposed to be 2 inches in diameter, if it is larger
or smaller than that by one-tenth the thickness of a human hair, it won't fit some other part. The
other machine I use a lot is a milling machine. A milling machine is similar to a giant drill press.
This machine can drill holes in precise locations, cut slots and grooves in flat or round pieces f
metal and make a flat piece of metal nice and smooth with square or rounded corners.

Usually a machinist works on a project independent of other machinists. But sometimes I need
the help of other machinists when working with pieces of metal that are large and heavy.
Cooperation between myself and other machinists is usually very good. Machinists also look out
for one another because this type of work can be very dangerous, so safety around the shop is
always top priority.

When I could still see and drive, I was in the industrial communications business. This type of
work wasn't just sitting at a workbench servicing a piece of equipment. Some days I had to do a
moderate amount of manual labor, which included climbing radio towers and installing or
removing equipment. I really enjoyed this type of work because it was different every day. After
my eyes began to go bad, I tried staying in some light duty electronics, but doing so meant that I
had to stay tied to a work bench and I found that I didn't like it very much because there wasn't
enough variety in it. Also, many of the parts I had to work with were becoming too small for me
to solder and figure out.

One gentleman I spoke with was a machinist and he hired me to experiment with a gas bottle-
warning flasher he invented. This was an easy job and soon I came up with a circuit that did what
he wanted.

Soon I was using the lathe and his milling machine for more of my projects. In exchange for
letting me use his machines, he had me make a lot of identical parts for him. One day after using
his milling machine I told him that I'd never used one before using his. He said, "That's ok,
before I bought this one, I had never even turned one on!" About 5 years later, I bought my first
lathe on a time payment plan, and also got a nice drill press and a large stationary belt sander for
free from my uncle's estate.

With my reputation as a "gadget man," sometimes some of my friends would have me make or
repair things for them. Finally, I decided that I better learn the correct way to machine things
rather than continuing to learn by trial and error. So I signed up for a 2-year machinist program
at our local college.

After finishing school I went looking for work. I got some calls to come in for various
interviews, but when I walked through the door with a white cane and a guide dog, the interview
was over before it could begin. A couple of times they acted insulted that I had the nerve to even
come through the door.

Being blind, I figured it would be harder to get a job, but not this hard. A few shop owners
sounded like they might be willing to hire me, but they would never call me back. In my case,
state services for the blind were disappointing by virtue of their lack of support with looking for
work, helping with interviews, writing resumes, etc. I'm still not sure they understand what a
machinist is, or does, if he is blind.

A couple of years ago I received a small inheritance from my parents' estate and used most of
that money to purchase some machinery to start my own business. So far, I've hardly turned a
profit and I am looking at new ideas for marketing and promoting myself in order to pick up
more customers. Also, I'll be going back to school full-time this January to learn machine
programming, to make myself even more marketable. Keep your fingers crossed that it won't be
too hard to keep up with both school and work!

The adaptations I use on the job are the same ones I used in college. Mainly, all of the calipers
and micrometers I use are adapted for the blind with the use of a voice synthesizer that plugs into
them. Mitutoyo makes these measuring instruments and the synthesizer. Because I'm totally
blind, special lighting isn't needed, and since the shop is my own, I don't have to have changes
made to my workspace either. For drilling, tapping, and threading tables I use braille. One of the
tables I made is over 50 pages of double-sided braille. Everything in these tables is numbers, and
I spent hundreds of hours arranging them so they are easy for me to read. I also made some
tables for some of the machines so I can set them to the speed and feed rates I need.

With my background in electronics, I invented a measuring instrument that lets me know what's
going on with the use of a variable pitch tone. It takes the place of a dial indicator. With it, I can
align things as quickly as a sighted machinist can. To let me know where I should stop a
machine, I made an adjustable warning beeper, and to help keep my fingers out of trouble, I use
thin wooden sticks to tell me what's going on while a machine is running. I also made a raised
line drawing kit that has movable lines. (If you want details on how I use these modifications,
you can e-mail me.)

Any blind person who thinks they would like this kind of work MUST be mechanically inclined,
have a good understanding of geometric shapes and be able to use basic trigonometry. They also
have to become skilled at using the required tools and be able to visualize the finished product as
well as the steps to make it happen. Although this type of work is much cleaner than automotive
work, there is no getting around the fact that you're going to get your hands dirty. Sometimes
you're going to get some oil splattered on you, and you can wind up with metal shavings all over
you too. Also, most of the larger machine shops don't have good heating and air conditioning. So
depending on what part of the country you're in, you'll probably freeze your hands and feet off in
the winter, and roast to death in the summer. As for me, I don't mind the heat, but the cold makes
it hard to see things with my hands. Fortunately, my shop is small enough that I can keep it warm
in the winter and cool in the summer.

Transportation Award

By Therese Gardner, Blind Field Services

On February 19, 2008, I received an Award of appreciation from the San Joaquin Regional
Transportation Department (SJRTD).

The purpose of this award was to say thank you for the assistance I provided to SJRTD in
educating (sensitivity training) their drivers/staff in the area of interacting with persons with

When I began working for DOR in May of 2006, I worked out of the Stockton Office as a
generalist. I came into contact with SJRTD supervisors due to difficulty with their transportation
system i.e. letting me off in the wrong place, driving past me at designated stops, or not
announcing stops. I came to learn that this was occurring with other DOR consumers, not to
mention the public as a whole.

Even though I wanted to go public (e.g., newspapers, police), I knew I couldn’t because of the
position I held and the reality being that it would not make for good relations. I opted instead to
try and help. And I wish I could say it made a difference but bad habits die-hard.

I worked with SJRTD administrators to develop sensitivity trainings to alert drivers to the needs
of persons with disabilities (i.e. not driving past a designated Stop, expecting passengers to wave
the bus down to obtain a ride, the importance of announcing stops, and dropping individuals off
in the correct location).

While much work still needs to be done, we (administrators and me) feel that we have begun to
breakdown some of the stereotypes related to persons with disabilities. We also feel that a great
team effort/collaboration between SJRTD and DOR has been established.


The Visionary on the Web and Telephone

You can find The Visionary on the California Department of Rehabilitation’s web site. Just go
to 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 offer to blind Californians who seek vocational rehabilitation services. You also can
read the on line version of the Blind Field Services brochure and a brochure on 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

The Visionary can also be found on NFB Newsline in California and the telephone listening
service of the Sacramento Society for the Blind where its articles are read aloud using synthetic
speech. For general information and assistance, call NFB Newsline at (866) 504-7300. When
calling Newsline, use a local number if available. To get the local number for your area, call
Tim Ford at 916-440-7822.


Counselor’s Tool Box

By Richard Rueda, Youth Employment Transition Coordinator

Editor’s Note: Attachments referred to below are not appended to this article. They have
however been provided to the counselors who use them in their work with consumers.

Below is a list of programs, services and resources that either Blind Field Services can cover for
transition age students (ages 16 to 22) who are currently in plan or items of interest that are good
to know when working with this young adult population.

With emphasis focused on prevocational activities and work experience, what follows are but a
few of numerous existing programs for persons who are blind and disabled available at low or no
cost in California and nationwide.

These are “tools” to use and refer to when working with students new to Blind Field Services.
Your feedback is encouraged. Finally, a special thank you to the members of the BFS Transition
taskforce and our many community partners which aided in building this tool kit.

BFS Transition starter kit
Revision #2: April 24, 2008

1. STEP (Fremont): The California School for the Blind and DOR a sponsor and put on a
residential 3-week career readiness workshop each July. Referred to, as the Summer Transition
Education Program (STEP) this program is for high school student’s ages 16 to 22. To be
eligible for this program, students MUST be a consumer of the Department of Rehabilitation.
Referral form and Authorizations are needed. See attachment for details and to share with
students. Deadline to apply is at the end of April. However extensions may be granted with
advanced notice. Interested persons may also contact LaVernya Carr, Transition Principal at
CSB for more information at 510.794.3800x262.

2. STEP (Los Angeles): The Junior Blind of America (JBA) and DOR sponsor and put on two
residential, 3-week career readiness workshops each June and July. Referred to, as the Summer
Transition Enrichment Program (STEP) this program is for high school student’s ages 16 to 22.
To be eligible for this program, students MUST be a consumer of the Department of
Rehabilitation. Referral form and Authorizations are needed. See attachment for details and to
share with students.

*Please note that your consumers regardless of where in California they live can apply and
attend either regional STEP program. Airfare, bus and or train travel expenses can be paid for via
an authorization.

3. Saturday STEP workshops (year round): The Junior Blind of America (JBA) hosts year round
Saturday STEP career workshops which serves as an introduction and or a follow up to their
existing summer STEP program. Throughout the year, up to seven day long and a few weekend
long career workshops are held with different career and college preparation themes. To be
eligible for this program, students MUST be a consumer of the Department of Rehabilitation.
Referral form and Authorizations are needed. Contact Gina Kegel, STEP Coordinator at
323.295.4555x291 for more information.

4. BEP YEP - summer work experience: In 2008 Blind Field Services is continuing its Business
Enterprise Program - Youth Employment Program (BEP YEP) in Los Angeles, Fresno, San
Francisco and Sacramento, BEP YEP provides for meaningful work experience for youth
entering the workforce for the first time in a competitive but supportive working environment.
Please contact Richard Rueda, BFS Transition Coordinator for referral details and agency
contacts. A formal referral is necessary and authorizations are done differently for each

5. The second annual Cal Poly Access Chemistry Project Announcing the second annual Cal
Poly Access Chemistry Project, a hands-on summer laboratory chemistry intensive for blind and
sighted high school students, June 21-28, 2008. The workshop will be held at Cal Poly State
University in San Luis Obispo, California, and will be led by Dr. Dennis Fantin a Cal Poly
chemistry instructor. Dr. Fantin, himself blind, and his students have developed techniques and
procedures, which make the chemistry laboratory a rich environment for vision, impaired

Interested students should contact:
Dr. Dennis Fantin, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
California Polytechnic State University
1 Grand Ave.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93430
Email: <>
Phone: (805)756-1688
6. Workability, TPP & Other agency transition program offerings: Transition Partnership
Programs (TPP’s) are offered through some high-school districts across California. Often known
and referred to as Workability 1 programs, part-time work experience and after school jobs and
career preparedness seminars are offered including resume writing, interviewing, disability
disclosure along with several other services. Not all school districts offer TPP/Workability 1
programs. Please check with your Rehabilitation Supervisor and local district TPP
representative and refer your blind students accordingly. If such TPP’s exist, it is important to
code the open update screen with this TPP code.

Furthermore agencies including the Society for the Blind in Sacramento, the Lighthouse for the
Blind in San Francisco, the southern California based Braille Institutes, Palo Alto’s Vista Center
for the Blind, Lions Blind Center in Oakland and the Blind Center in San Diego offer a variety of
career readiness activities, workshops, seminars and informational events for youth and young
adults. Please talk with BFS counselors in your area/unit to learn about these specific activities.
Also be in touch regularly with each youth/transition program contact at these agencies to learn
of activities available to your youth clients. Often these programs can be considered
“comparable benefits” and or a “cost savings” as there are little to no cost to have students

7. Paid and unpaid internships and volunteering: Cities and counties across the state often have
summer job programs for youth of all abilities through what are often referred to as “summer
employment programs for youth”. Offered by the local city hall, library, parks and recreation
and community centers, such jobs are seasonal to the summer and often have leadership
programs built into them. Check with your city and or county government offices for details.

Throughout the summer agencies including the Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco, Guide
Dogs for the Blind, Enchanted Hills Camp (Lighthouse), Camp Bloomfield (JBA), and the
Braille Institute may offer a handful of paid and unpaid counselor in training, internships and
volunteer jobs. These are good summer gigs for youth looking for that first ever work
experience. This is also good exposure for them to know what it takes to be in a working
environment not to mention that this promotes healthy work habits, networking and builds

8. North & South: Transition Councils For BFS staff and community partners, there are two
Transition Councils that each meet up to four times a year in northern and southern California.
Each council meets to discuss and share resources for blind and visually impaired young adults.
These are excellent networking opportunities for staff. Please contact Richard Rueda for more
information on the Northern California Transition Council and contact Gina Kegel at the Junior
Blind for meetings and times for the southern California Transition Council events.

9. Transition Council list serve: There exists a general statewide list serve for Blind Field
Services staff, members of the community, Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs), students,
parents and advocates that allows persons to post up resources and program announcements that
are both academic and career related for the benefit of young adults. To join and or refer
someone to join this list, please email Richard Rueda at to be added.
10. Transition 2 Employment: A web based resource created by the Northern California
Transition Council to promote programs, resources and services offered from blindness and
disability agencies from across California for transitioning young adults. Services offered across
the nation for youth who are blind can also be found on this site. Visit

11. Vision and technology evaluations/assessments:
By working with Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) in your locally assigned school
districts where an IEP exists, you may be able to get your students assessed for a low vision
examination where the TVI can refer the student to the California School for the Blind’s
assessment center in Fremont. This can be considered a comparable benefit for BFS, however
the referral can only be done by the TVI and or referring school district. Yet it is a good way to
obtain a low vision report.

The Sensory Access Foundation (SAF) in Sunnyvale via a DOR referral and authorization
performs student technology evaluations for DOR consumer’s transitioning from high school to
college and or work. An emphasis in this evaluation is placed on which technology (often
portable - when appropriate) can be best used when in class and on the job as well how it can be
maximized for multiple uses. These evaluations will also suggest training and vendors who offer
training in these areas when it is necessary for the student.

There are other centers and college labs across the state that may perform such evaluations for
DOR consumers. Please check with your local/regional CSU technology contacts within
Disabled Student Services as well as the Community Colleges to see if such technology
evaluations are available.

It is important to take into consideration that an evaluation for rehabilitation technology for a
transition age student be considered early in the vocational rehabilitation process so that (when
appropriate) necessary technology can be procured early in the student’s senior year of high
school so that familiarization and training on the equipment and software is performed and
successfully retained. The student’s high school district requires that any and all equipment and
software loaned to the student during his/her post secondary education be returned on or just
before graduation/exiting the school. Thus, the sooner DOR can procure and train the student on
this same/similar equipment and software, the better prepared the student will be for entering
college and the workforce.

12. Time sensitive - dated workshops, presentation and speaking engagements:

As of April 24, 2008, here is a listing of where some of our BFS Transition outreach will be
conducted through August. Feel free to let me know of additions. For DOR staff: Many of these
events are listed on my Outlook Calendar (public view). When looking them up and or my
whereabouts, please enter “Rarueda” as the user name.

April 25:
Blind Field Services Transition workshop in Sacramento for students, parents and Teachers of
the Visually Impaired. Richard and BFS counselors will present a one-day workshop along with
the Orientation Center for the Blind, Living Skills Center, and Society for the Blind and a college
student panel.

April 27th - 29th:
BFS staff will attend and present a transition workshop at the California Communities of Practice
(CoP) annual conference in Palm Springs Ca.

April 28:
BFS staff will present a transition and rehabilitation workshop at the Desert Center Braille

May 5th:
BFS staff training. A one-hour transition session will occur at our BFS staff statewide training.
Topics will cover overview of Transition services, expectations of serving transition age
students, review of tools and tips when working with students and time for questions and

May 7:
There will be a Career Faire day at the California School for the Blind from 9:00 AM to 2:30
PM. A one-day seminar will occur that will bring together students, advocates and guest
speakers to discuss career, independent living and goal planning events that are important for the
future. To participate please contact Richard Rueda, ( or LaVernya Carr
( or by telephone at 510.794.3800x262.

May 7:
The first Transition Council meeting of 2008 will begin immediately following the close of the
Career Faire at the California School for the Blind. Expected meeting time will run from 2:30 to
4:30 PM. A special recognition to persons leaving state service who worked in the field of
Transition for several decades will occur at this meeting.

May 15:
Community Advisory Committee meeting (CAC) at the California School for the Blind. Richard
Rueda will represent BFS and our Transition programs.

May 20:
California School for the Blind will host the first Bay Area Kids Congress for visually impaired
teens age 14 and up. The Congress will give blind and low vision kids the opportunity to discuss
their experiences in three important areas, including family, peers and education. The students
will develop recommendations for the world they would like to live in and create.
Recommendations will be presented at the first International Children’s Congress in Pontevedra,
Spain, June 16-20, sponsored by the Spanish National Organization of the Blind and the World
Blind Union.

July 13 - August 2:
Onsite co-coordination of CSB’s and DOR’s STEP program at CSB.
Richard will be housed at CSB. BFS staff is encouraged to drop in with notice to tour the STEP
program at CSB.

13. Attachments:
Attached you will find a variety of fliers and event announcements. As well, a copy of our BFS
transition services brochure that you can self-print is included. Alternatively, if you wish to be
sent the professional tri fold large print ready ones or copies in Braille, please contact Richard
Rueda. Lastly, you will find the Provision of Transition Services Q&A sheet that Central Office
circulated in November 2005. This is one of the best documents that details how and when DOR
can start serving students.

Web Resources:
Dept. of Rehabilitation:

Transition 2 Employment: