Winter 2009
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:

First Vice President's Letter

Dear Members and Friends:

Welcome to the Winter 2009 issue of "Keeping in Touch"! I am writing this letter, in lieu of my usual Editor's Corner.

Life is so often startlingly unpredictable. Certainly, that has been true lately for Center President Jan Santos. As most of you know by now, Jan had a stroke in mid-November. She has been working hard toward a full recovery and has made remarkable progress. I am proud to say that Jan has returned to the Center part-time, and we are glad to have her back. Welcome home, Jan!!

It isn't easy to step into the Director's shoes at a moment's notice. However, I have been extremely lucky to have had the support and encouragement of the Board of Directors, as well as Center members, for which I am most grateful.

Please do not hesitate to call the Center with any suggestions or issues you wish to discuss. It is important that members voice their concerns and interests.

The Center's heartfelt thanks go to all the volunteers who made last year's Harvest Festival and Holiday Party such resounding successes. I look forward to more successful events this year, and thank everyone in advance for pitching in and working together to make these gatherings possible.

The Nominating Committee has met and come up with a suggested slate of officers for the 2009-10 term. Committee members are: Lizz Deeff, Chair; Connie Skeen; Claude Everett; Ida Johnson; Dorothy Vallerga.

The slate is as follows: President, Jan Santos; Second Vice-President, Steve Fort; Corresponding Secretary, Ida Johnson; Directors: Connie Skeen, Dorothy Vallerga, Charlotte Criddell.

President Santos will have to appoint someone to serve the remaining year of Ida Johnson's term on the Board, should she be elected to a new position. Please attend the next quarterly business meeting, to be held on Saturday, January 24, from 1 to 4 PM. It is vital that as many members as possible participate in the elections. As always, nominations are welcome from the floor.

Please send me your contributions to this newsletter. I welcome short articles, tips and techniques on living with blindness, recipes, poems and/or informational items. Please send me your material via email at, or call me at 510-665-9260.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I wish everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous and productive New Year.

Daveed Mandell

Presidentís Letter

Dear friends,

I am so glad to be back at the Center after my illness. My heartfelt thanks for the love and support from you all; it means more to me than I can say, and gave me strength and hope through my illness and recovery; and it was wonderful to see all of you at the holiday party.

My many thanks to Daveed and the others of you who so ably kept things running smoothly at the Center in the past couple of months. I wish I could thank and acknowledge each of you in this note; but you each know who you are, and I want you to know that I appreciate all your hard work. Special thanks to Charlotte Criddell and the others of you who made our holiday candy sales a great success.

We all have a lot of work to do to plan and develop the growth of our Center; and thanks to Blind San Franciscans, we have improved finances to work with.

I look forward to seeing all of you at the business meeting on January 24th.

Jan Santos

Upcoming Events

Quarterly Business Meeting: The Center will hold its next quarterly business meeting on Saturday, January 24, from 1 to 4 PM. Members will elect the following officers for the 2009-10 term: President, Second Vice-President, Corresponding Secretary, and three Directors. Please attend this meeting. Lunch costs $8 for members, and $9 for guests. The menu will consist of Swedish meatballs, rice, vegetable, salad, rolls, ice cream and cookies. Please reserve your lunch plate no later than Wednesday, January 21.

Mardi Gras Fundraiser: The Center will hold its annual Mardi Gras dinner and dance on Saturday, February 28, from 2 to 6 PM. Dinner will consist of cassoulet (bean and sausage stew), corn muffins, salad and bread pudding. Dinner costs $10 across the board, and must be reserved no later than Wednesday, February 25.

Bingo-Pasta Party: Come to the Center, play bingo and win big!! Our Annual Pasta-Bingo Party will be held on Saturday, March 28, from 2 to 6 PM. We have not chosen our pasta dish as yet, but it is sure to be delicious. Lunch costs $8 for members, $9 for guests, and must be reserved no later than Wednesday, March 25.

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.

2009 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 $1,570 of gross earned income during 2008. In 2009, earnings of $1,640 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 2008, the amount was $670, and in 2009, it rises to $700. 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 the largest cost of living adjustment (COLA) since 1982 -- 5.8% -- beginning with checks received in January 2009. The precise increase will vary based upon the amount each individual now receives.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefit Increase: Beginning January 2009, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $674 per month; couples, $1,011 per month. These amounts are increases over the 2008 level of $637 per month for individuals and $934 per 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 days -- 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 2009 is $443 per month. This is reduced to $244 for individuals who have earned from thirty to thirty-nine quarters of Social-Security-covered employment.

In 2009, the Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at $135. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B monthly premium rate charged to each beneficiary for the year 2009 remains at $96.40. 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 days -- 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.

Braille Matters

Louis Braille's Bicentennial: 2009 is a landmark year for the blind community throughout the world. 200 years ago, on January 4, 1809, Louis Braille was born in Couvray, France. He lost his sight at the age of three, when playing with a leathermakerís awl.

Braille was ten when he began his studies at the school for the blind in Paris. He was a voracious reader, and before long he read the school's entire library, consisting of fourteen large books in raised print. Braille found reading raised print to be slow and tedious. Besides, he also wanted to be able to write.

So began Braille's quest to discover and perfect a new literacy medium for blind people. Inspired by Charles Barbier's invention of "night writing" for soldiers, he soon developed a code based on a six-dot cell. Braille published the first book in this code in 1827, and finalized it in 1834.

While blind students immediately embraced Braille's new code, educators were slow to adopt it. When Braille died in 1852, it had still not been officially adopted in France. Gradually, however, during the 1850s and 1860s, Europe adopted Braille as the official code for reading and writing by blind persons. In the United States, Louis Braille's code was officially adopted in 1918.

For more information about Louis Braille, and on celebrations of his 200th birthday worldwide, visit Boston-based National Braille Press' special dedicated website

NBP also offers a fascinating and detailed biography of Louis Braille, titled Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius, by C. Michael Mellor. For more information on this and other publications sold by NBP, visit, or call 800-548-7323.

Everything Braille: If you are looking for information about Braille instruction, books, magazines, games and/or technology, look no further than "Everything Braille: A Resource Guide for Parents and Teachers", published by National Braille Press. Updated frequently, the information contained in this book is also available on the website

New Next Generation Perkins Brailler: Introducing the Next Generation Perkins Brailler, developed jointly and sold by Perkins Products and the American Printing House for the Blind. It retains all of the features of the older brailler; yet it is more portable, due to its lighter weight and smaller size. It is more comfortable to use, with a shorter keystroke and less force required, and quieter.

Among the braillerís new features and improvements are: easy-erase button for correcting mistakes while brailling; reading rest for proofreading pages with ease; front panel margin guides; "greener" construction using less oil and fewer manufactured materials; modern colors and a sleek, new design.

For more information, call APH (800-223-1839) or Perkins Products (617-972-7308).

Braille Karaoke: Two Japanese companies have teamed up to develop a karaoke system for people who are blind. Telesoft Seika software imports karaoke lyrics and converts them to Braille, which is embossed on a 40-character refreshable Braille display. The system is still in development, and may become available in the US when it is released. Visit, or search the internet for news about Braille karaoke.

Mission Statement

The mission of the East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc., is to develop quality programs and services for blind and visually impaired people by providing a safe and supportive environment, while encouraging one another through leadership, interaction and the sharing of information, resources and skills. The Center's activities enhance independence, dignity and self-determination. As a self-governing organization of primarily blind and visually impaired persons, The East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc., is committed to remaining a living, working foundation of strength, as we participate in the larger community in all areas of our daily lives.


If you or a friend would like to remember The East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc., in your will, you can do so by employing the following language: "I give, devise, and bequeath unto The East Bay center for the Blind, Inc., a nonprofit charitable organization in California, the sum of $___ (or ___) to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons." Thank you.

"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." -- Dante