Winter 2008
Newsletter of
The East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc.
2928 Adeline St.
Berkeley, CA 94703
Phone: 510-843-6935
Fax: 510-843-6006
Web site:

Editor's Corner
By Daveed Mandell

Happy 2008 to everyone! Welcome to the Winter issue of EBCB's newsletter.

Thanks to all the volunteers -- both members and friends -- who made last yearís Harvest Festival and Holiday Party so successful.

January is an important month here at the Center. This year, members will elect the following officers for a two-year term: First Vice-President; Recording Secretary; Treasurer; and three Directors. Please attend the upcoming quarterly business meeting this month and participate in the election.

We are sad to have lost another Center member, Ben Deeff. He will be greatly missed by many of us.

Thanks to Connie Kelley and Jan Santos for submitting recipes, and to Grace Rodriguez for offering a quotation, for this issue. As always, I am soliciting contributions to the newsletter from members and friends. Please contact me either via e-mail, at, or by phone at 510-665-9260.

May you all have a prosperous, healthy New Year!

Presidentís Letter

Dear friends:

As I begin to wonder what 2008 will hold for us, I am also reflecting on the past year at our Center. I am feeling very appreciative of all of you who have worked so hard on fundraising, classes, events and many other tasks necessary to keep it running.

One particular change that I am very pleased about has resulted through a referral from one of our wonderful members. We now have a handyperson who has already addressed and solved many issues needing attention in the building. His name is Anthony Impang-Lozada. It is a pleasure to work with Anthony and we welcome him to the fold.

I am sad to say that we have lost another Center member. Our own Ben Deeff passed away last December after many months of poor health. Ben was a fascinating and dear man, and he gave immeasurably to EBCB. He was always there to help with whatever needed doing. I will miss his presence, as I know many others will also.

I wish each and all of you a wonderful 2008, and I hope to see you at our upcoming business meeting on Saturday, January 26th. We will be holding elections, so come out and make your voice heard through your votes.

Jan Santos

Upcoming Events

Quarterly Business Meeting: The Center's next business meeting will be held on Saturday, January 26, from 1 to 4 PM. Members will elect several officers and Directors, who will serve for the next two years. As usual, lunch will be provided. Please order your meal no later than Wednesday, January 23. Lunch costs $8 for members, $9 for guests.

Annual Mardi Gras: The Center's Mardi Gras dinner and dance will take place Saturday, February 23, from 2 to 6 PM. There will be lots of drink, food and fun for everyone! Please order your dinner no later than Wednesday, February 20. Cost is $8 for members, $9 for guests.

Annual Bingo-Pasta Fundraiser: Come win a bundle of bills at the Center's Pasta-Bingo Fundraiser, to be held Saturday, March 22, from 12 to 4 PM. Enjoy yourself while supporting the Center's activities and services. Please order your pasta plate no later than Wednesday, March 19. The cost for both members and guests is $10.

From the Nominating Committee
By Grace Rodriguez

This year's Nominating Committee has submitted its suggested slate of officers for the Center's upcoming two-year term. The Committee Chair is Grace Rodriguez, and other members are Joyce Ishii, Preston Moses, Lizz Deeff and Daveed Mandell. The slate is as follows: First

Vice-President, Daveed Mandell; Recording Secretary, Patricia Nash; Treasurer, Lizz Deeff; Director, Joyce Iishi; Director, John Morin; Director, Ida Johnson.

Of course, as always, nominations from the floor are welcome during the election.

EBCB Welcomes ATS

In an effort to extend the Center's outreach to the East Bayís blind community, we are inaugurating a partnership with Adaptive Technology Services. Based in San Francisco, ATS offers computer skills training mostly to clients of the Department of Rehabilitation. The organization is seeking a presence in the East Bay, because it has many clients here. Starting this month, the Center is renting our computer lab to ATS for three afternoons a week. It will begin by offering a keyboarding class to a maximum of four Rehab clients in the area. The Center will share the profit from this class with ATS. This month's pilot class will give ATS the opportunity to decide whether the Center is a suitable environment in which to conduct its classes. We look forward to a mutually satisfying and productive relationship with ATS.

Center Class Schedule

The Center continues to offer a number of entertaining and fun classes. We hope to add others as interest and demand dictate. Please contact the Center with suggestions.

Candy Sale Is Resounding Success!

The Center's See's candy sale got off to a fine start last November and December. Thanks to everyone who helped support it by ordering candy for the Holidays. We very much appreciate the hard work of several members and friends, without whose assistance the sale would never have materialized.

Charlotte Criddell initiated and chaired the project. Her grandsonís girlfriend, Kass Stewart, tirelessly and painstakingly sorted the candy and put together countless orders. Jan Santos and Connie Skeen entered and kept track of the many orders in Microsoft Excel worksheets. Jan Santos collected and kept track of the money. Patty Nash sold candy and took orders. Connie Kelley and Myra Grant sold candy. Ida Johnson added up and deposited the money.

2008 Social Security Information

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Exempt Earnings: The monthly earnings exemption referred to as Substantial Gainful Activity for blind people who receive disability insurance benefits was $1,500 of gross earned income during 2007. In 2008 earnings of $1,570 or more a month, before taxes, for a blind SSDI beneficiary, will indicate substantial gainful activity, once any unearned (or subsidy) income is subtracted and all deductions for impairment-related work expenses are applied.

Trial Work Period Limit: The amount of earnings required to use a trial work month is subject to annual increases. In 2007 the amount was $640, and in 2008 it rises to $670. In cases of self-employment, a trial work month can also be used if a person works more than eighty hours; this hour limit remains the same each year unless expressly adjusted.

Benefit Amounts: All Social Security benefits are increased by a cost of living adjustment (COLA) of 2.3 percent beginning with checks received in January 2008. The precise increase will vary based upon the amount each individual now receives.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefit Increase: Beginning January 2008, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $637 a month; couples, $956 a month. These amounts are increases over the 2007 level of $623 a month for individuals and $934 a month for couples.

Medicare: Most beneficiaries have no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage without paying premiums for at least ninety-three months after the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 2008 is $423 a month. This is reduced to $233 for individuals who have earned from thirty to thirty-nine quarters of Social-Security-covered employment.

In 2008 the Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible rises to$135. The amount for 2007 was $131. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B monthly premium rate charged to each beneficiary for the year 2008 rises to $96.40 from the $93.50 amount for 2007. For those receiving Social Security Benefits, this premium payment is deducted from your monthly benefit checks. Individuals who remain eligible for Medicare, but are not receiving Social Security benefits because of working, must pay the Part B premium directly on a quarterly basis -- one payment every three months. Like the Part A premiums mentioned above, Part B is also available for at least ninety-three months following the Trial Work Period assuming an individual wishes to have it and, when not receiving SSDI, continues to make quarterly premium payments.

Further information about Social Security is available from your local Social Security office, or by calling the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213. For more information about Medicare, contact the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at 800-633-4227.

BANA Braille Codes Update 2007

A new publication, titled BANA Braille Codes Update 2007, compiles braille code changes approved by the Braille Authority of North America over the past few years, which take affect January 1, 2008.

This book contains updates to the following three codes: English Braille American Edition 1994, Revised 2002; Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription, 1997; Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision.

The Update is available in several electronic formats on the BANA web site: Users can easily create print and/or braille versions from the files provided there. Hard copy print or braille versions will be available free of charge upon request from Judith Dixon, BANA Chairperson, at 1-202-707-0722 or

New Traveler Website provides excerpts from popular travel guidebooks and newspaper travel sections in a braille format, free to registered users. For more information or to register, visit

Recipe: Savory Zucchini Bars
Submitted by Connie Kelley

Combine ingredients. Bake in greased pan at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Recipe: Sweet Potatoes
Submitted by Jan Santos

Bake and peel sweet potatoes, cut lengthwise and place in buttered casserole dish. Combine spices and brown sugar; sprinkle over potatoes. Pour orange juice over casserole, and dot with the butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes uncovered. (Casserole can be assembled the day before, then baked on the day you want to serve.)

First digital library for Spanish-speaking readers

Tiflolibros is the first digital library for Spanish-speaking blind readers. Created in 1999 by a group of blind friends who wanted to exchange digital books, the library now has more than twenty thousand books available in Spanish and more than three thousand patrons in America, Europe, and Asia. Registration is free, but there is a recommended donation of $50 every six months to support the library's operation. For more information, or to register, visit

Ben Deeff Remembered

Both the Center and the blind community at large have lost a talented, giving, modest and kind man. Ben Deeff died last month of heart failure. He was 78 years old.

Benís skills and creativity were legendary, his spatial awareness phenomenal, his mechanical aptitude brilliant. Ben possessed a keen, innate intelligence. Perhaps because of the circumstances surrounding his upbringing, he was extremely resourceful. Ben wasn't concerned with learning formal techniques. Instead, he concentrated on getting the job done well, whether it was repairing a cane or braillewriter, fixing a car, remodeling a house or traveling around the Bay Area and beyond.

Ben's daughter, Tatiana Deeff, presented the following remembrance of her father's life at his moving Memorial ceremony, which was held at the Center on Saturday, December 29, 2007:

Veniamin Mikhailovich Deeff was born December 24, 1929 in Tsing Tao, China of Russian and Chinese descent. Ben lost his sight to scarlet fever at the age of two. His family moved to Shanghai where they lived near the French Quarter, until fleeing to the Philippines along with many other refugees displaced by the Japanese invasion. Sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church, Ben then immigrated to San Francisco with his mother, stepfather and sister Helen, while his brother Dimitri went to Brazil.

Ben always wanted to be a lawyer; but when he spoke with a counselor and was told he'd have to start school at the beginning, he thought the counselor meant kindergarten, and let go of that dream. Instead, he went to Omaha, Nebraska, to the Institute of Technology where, speaking only Russian and Chinese, and with no braille manuals, he learned to fix radios and TVs.

During his life, Ben made brooms, sold vacuum cleaners door to door, ran a full-service cafeteria and became an auto mechanic with his own shop. He completely remodeled and rebuilt three houses, among them our old Victorian home. He did everything, including the electrical, plumbing and concrete work. No matter what he did, Ben's work ethic and quality were always of the highest standards.

But as much as he gave of himself to his work, the thing he truly put all his heart and soul into was his family. Dad met Mom (Lizz) at the Enchanted Hills Camp for the blind in Napa, CA in 1956; and though he lived in San Francisco, and she was in Fresno, a romance blossomed. They were married June 14, 1958. Phillip Brian was born in 1961, and Tatiana Elizabeth in 1963.

Dad never really knew his Chinese father; and his Russian stepfather, though a good man, was not an affectionate person. In spite of, and because of, this, Dad made sure he was everything he felt a father and a husband should be. He would, and did, do anything and everything for his family. Most of all, Dad was a good person, a good man. He was admired and respected for his intelligence, abilities and capabilities; but he was liked and loved for his warmth, his humor, his compassion and his humility.

Ben is survived by his children, Phillip and wife Lori, and Tatiana and husband Randy; his 2 granddaughters Avery and Tatiana; and his former spouse and close friend Lizz. He was preceded in death by his brother Dimitri and sister Helen.

Ben was a wonderful, caring and multi-talented man who touched many lives and willingly gave of himself and his time to all who needed him. He will be deeply missed by his family and the many friends he leaves behind.

"Worry is the darkroom where negatives are developed."