October, 2004
Newsletter of
The East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc.
2928 Adeline St.
Berkeley, CA 94703
Phone: 510-843-6935
Fax: 510-843-6006

Editor's Corner By Daveed Mandell

Welcome to the Fall, 2004 issue of the EBCB's newsletter. The Center continues to offer classes and activities for the benefit of its members and others in the blind community. Ours is a unique organization in the Bay Area, because it is operated for blind people by its members, most of whom are blind or visually impaired. We blind people set policies, plan programs and conduct classes.

Please remember: This is your Center. Sighted people don't tell members what to do or how to live our lives. You, the members, hold the future of this Center in your hands. Whether it stands or falls is up to you.

Our next quarterly business meeting will be held on Saturday, October 23. During the meeting, we will elect three members of the Nominating Committee, who will serve with the two Directors chosen by the Board.

As most of you know, the Center's membership will elect several officers next January, including President, First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, Corresponding Secretary, and five Directors. Our current President, Lizz Deeff, urges the Nominating Committee and other Center members to think seriously about the people they would like to see assume these offices. She says the day-to-day administration of the Center is becoming increasingly complex. Lizz says officers should be willing to spend several days a week here to keep the Center humming.

Whether it's fielding calls from the community, keeping track of the money, planning social events, overseeing classes, ordering supplies, handling payroll, or seeking grants for such projects as upgrading the computer lab, our officers play an integral role in making important decisions affecting the scope and focus of its programs, activities and services.

The Center's officers and Board of Directors encourage more of its members to become involved in planning its activities and programs. What can you do to help out? What skills can you offer to enhance the Center's programs and classes? We also would like to recruit more members to serve on various committees. Please step forward and volunteer some time and effort to keep your Center on track, and ensure that it continues to thrive.

Thanks to those members who worked tirelessly to make several recent Center events quite successful, including the August picnic, the September outing to Lake Chabot, and the September Weekenders clothing fundraiser.

At this time, we publish the newsletter in braille and large print, via e-mail and on our website. Please let us know if you would like to receive an audio edition. If there is sufficient demand, we will seriously consider recording future issues.

As always, I am seeking contributions to this newsletter. Please contact me via e-mail at, or phone me at 510-665-9260.

Here's wishing you an enjoyable Holiday Season and a Happy, healthy and productive New Year.

Upcoming Events

Quarterly Business Meeting: The Center's quarterly business meeting will be held on Saturday, October 23, from 1 PM to 4:30 PM. Members will elect three representatives to serve on the Nominating Committee. A meatloaf dinner will be served, costing $7 for members and $8 for others. Please order your plate by Wednesday, October 20.

Harvest Festival: Saturday, November 20, will find Center members and friends attending our annual Harvest Festival. There will be fun and entertainment for all from noon to 4 PM, including a program offered by the Center's chorus, and baked goods and craft items for sale. So take part in our celebration and buy knitted articles, jewelry, hand-made ceramic items, and other Holiday gifts! Oh yes! Don't forget the raffle! Tickets cost $1 each, or $5 for a book of six. The first prize will be $100! To reserve your $5 lunch plate, please notify the Center by Wednesday, November 17. Details to be announced.

Holiday Party: Don't forget the Center's annual Holiday Party, occurring on Saturday, December 18, from noon to 4 PM. Besides craft sales, we'll enjoy a program by our chorus and a free lunch for those members who pay their $5 dues for 2005! Yes indeed! Once in a while, one can get a free lunch in this country! The lunch costs $8 for others. Details to be announced. Please sign up for the party no later than Wednesday, December 15.

Community Resources

Health Care Survey

If you belong to an HMO or PPO, you are invited to participate in a health care survey conducted by Disability Rights Advocates, a disability-rights law firm in Oakland. If you and/or your family are interested in helping the medical profession to better assist people with disabilities, you are encouraged to fill out a survey online, on paper or over the phone. For the online text of the survey, visit To obtain the survey in hardcopy print or braille, send e-mail to To fill out the survey over the phone, call 510-451-8644. The TTY number is 510-451-8716. Prescription Medication Reminder Service If you forget to take your prescription medication, MedAlerts" new telephone reminder service might be just what the doctor ordered! Some 40 percent of people who take medication forget to take their meds, do not take them at the right times, take the wrong dosage or forget to take their medication with food. Sign up online today for MedAlerts' new service. The company is currently offering a ten-day free trial. Visit its website at, or call 800-252-5604. After the free trial, the monthly cost of the service is $9.95 for one alert per day, $12.95 for two and $15.95 for three alerts.

National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH)

NOAH provides information, professional education and support for people who have albinism and related eye conditions. The organization serves adults, children, family members and friends, and welcomes new patients. It plans to hold a national conference in 2006. NOAH's address is P.O. Box 959 East Hampstead, NH 03826-0959 You can call NOAH at 800-473-2310, or 603-887-2310. The group's website is

General Announcements

Craft Class On the Move!

The craft class taught by Dorothy Vallerga has moved to Thursday morning, from 10 AM to noon. Participants work on knitting, crocheting, bead work and other projects. Dorothy says she's especially interested in making items to sell at November's Harvest Festival and December's Holiday Party. If you're interested in joining the class, please call the Center, or phone Dorothy at 510-352-0522.

Open a New Window!

The Center continues to offer computer training. Connie and Jan are prepared to teach prospective students the Windows operating system, word processing, the Internet, document scanning and other computer-related applications and skills. Please contact them for details.

Braille and Audio Library

We wish to remind Center members and others in the blind community about our library of braille and recorded books. Please contact the Center if you wish to borrow books.

Most of our recorded books are abridged editions.

We are grateful to those Center members who labeled some 500 audio books in braille and compiled a booklist.

Closed for Business!

The Center will be closed for the Thanksgiving Holiday on Thursday, November 25, and Friday, November 26. It will also be closed for the Holidays from Monday, December 20, through Friday, December 31. The Center will re-open for business on Monday, January 3, 2005.

What's Cookin'?

"Our Favorite Recipes" is a collection of over 200 mouth-watering recipes compiled by Center members. The book is available in braille (2 volumes with easy wipe-off covers) or large print for a donation of $25.00 plus $3.00 shipping and handling. It's a great holiday gift and a wonderful fundraiser for the Center! To order a copy, please send check or money order in the amount of $28.00 to the Center, or, if you prefer, phone in your order and come in person to pick up your cookbook.

Issues of Interest

Riding the Rails Is the Pits! Late last month, several Center members spent nearly two hours at the 19th Street BART station, "down under," as it were, checking out the tracks and walking through part of the tunnel, with engineers and safety specialists. We discovered that it's very easy to fall between the cars onto the tracks, which are located about eight feet below the platform.

If one happens to fall into the pit, it's absolutely vital to roll into the deep crawlspace under the platform adjacent to the train. Thank goodness Center member Patty Nash did just that, when she fell into the BART pit some two months ago! Otherwise, the train would have rolled right over her! Good thing the electrified third rail isn't close to the edge of the platform. Rather, it's situated some ten to fifteen feet from the area into which one would fall.

It's important to be vigilant when riding BART. No daydreaming allowed! Keep focused on looking for a door to the car you wish to enter. Use correct cane or guide dog technique at all times, and make sure you're entering the car before you move to get on the train.

Thanks to a patient train operator, we were able to look at the various buttons, knobs and switches on the control panel in her car. We learned that while driving is mostly automatic, thanks to BART's computers, the operator can override that process in order to drive the train manually.

Finally, we explored an Add Fare machine with buttons marked in braille, including an Audio button. Pressing it allowed us to hear the amount added and the change obtained.

All in all, BART officials were extremely courteous and helpful. They are very much interested in working with the Center to get feedback on how BART can better serve blind and visually impaired riders by becoming safer and more accessible.

Digital Talking Books Now!

We recently received the following e-mail, which we thought might be of interest to a significant number of our readers.


I have created a petition that is being sponsored by the Oregon State Library's Talking Book & Braille Services Advisory Council. This petition urges the Library of Congress to push ahead research and development for making digital talking books available to it's U.S. blind and reading disabled patrons. We wish there to be CD's and/or downloadable talking books available to us in order to keep up with modern access to technology.

As you may already know, the Library of Congress' National Library Service makes recordings available to our local state libraries to lend to blind and reading disabled persons. At this time, there is to be no significant effort made by the NLS until at least 2008. We feel that this is not acceptable. Things need to be done in a much more timely manner in order to keep up with access to modern technology.

Please visit the below petition page and read through the petition statement. Then, please sign it. Also, please pass along this message to anyone else who may find this matter of import to them.

Thank you for your time and thanks for your efforts,

Leisa Sekhon
Petition Coordinator

Please visit the petition at:

Advancement of Digital Talking Book Media

To: The Honorable Laura Bush

As a librarian and a teacher you have been an eloquent spokesperson for the importance of reading for all Americans. We, as blind and reading disabled consumers and supporters of talking book library services throughout America, ask that you urge the Library of Congress to accelerate the development of digital talking books. The Library of Congress has been slow to develop digital talking books. Under their current plan, we will have to wait until 2008 to even begin to see replacement of their antiquated cassette talking books and players.

Here is why blind and reading disabled readers cant wait until 2008: Current users are dropping out of the program and potential users are rejecting cassette talking books. The national program has lost fifteen percent of its users since 1996, six percent in the last year alone. The program no longer appeals to students and young people. Its particularly embarrassing and inefficient for young people to be forced to use obsolete technology. The budgets of talking book programs in state libraries and other agencies will be reduced or eliminated if readership continues to fall.

Public libraries offer sighted people audio books on compact discs. Some even have audio books to download. Why must blind and reading disabled people wait until 2008 to do the same? Other countries like Canada, Great Britain, Sweden, Japan, and The Netherlands already have digital talking book programs for their blind and reading disabled library users. The undersigned respectfully request that you urge the Library of Congress to begin a digital talking book program no later than 2006, so that more blind and reading disabled children, adults, and seniors can experience all that books have to offer.

The Undersigned

The Advancement of Digital Talking Book Media Petition to The Honorable Laura Bush was created by Oregon Talking Book & Braille Service Advisory Council and written by Leisa Sekhon (

Please note: If you don't have access to the Internet, but wish to sign the above petition, please notify the Center.

Mary Helen Jimenez Remembered

We are saddened to report that Helen, a long-time Center member passed away on October 1. She loved music. Helen often sang, especially in Spanish, and accompanied herself on the piano. She was a sweet woman who, despite a difficult life, always maintained a sense of humor and enjoyed being with people. We will miss Helen very much. May she rest in peace!

"Braille is finger food for the mind."
--Doug Nash Back to Home Page