News — Winter 2023-24


by Maureen Schulz.

I was listening one day during the ACB convention to a presentation on guide dog schools. Included was one school in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Leader Dogs for the Blind has been an active provider of dogs and training for a long time. They are known for their interest in GPS systems to help their students.

During their presentation, they mentioned that in addition to guide dog training, they offered a week-long cane skills mobility program. I decided that, coming out of the pandemic-imposed isolation, a brush-up of travel skills could be helpful for me.

I have wanted to address street crossing and spatial awareness for some time. Here was an opportunity to zero in on areas of work to build my confidence, and it might be fun doing it in a new environment. I could get this course for free! The application process took some work and a little support from my friends. Six references were required, also a video to show your mobility skills and how you walk normally. We discovered that my sweetie Mike Gorman could easily have a career change opportunity as a video producer: He made a video of me that they described as “absolutely perfect.”

So, thanks to a lot of good folks at the center, I got the references together, and off I went on a Sunday on my five-hour flight to Detroit.

The climate there was hot and humid, lots of lightning and thunder off and on; will it rain will it not? One hurricane, to them is like an earthquake is for us, major traffic problems, trees down, and not every teacher including mine, able to make it to work that day. No harm done. We did both a “Juno” walk and a dog walk that day. That real dog walk was interesting. It felt jerky and not getting input from the cane about exactly what’s in front of me was very different. All the other days were spent with walks and crossing small and medium-difficulty streets with lessons building on each other. I definitely felt comfortable with my teacher, thank goodness not a go-getter type, which tends to make me totally nervous. We also did some map work of the routes we’d just walked that I found useful.

It was so nice to have detailed feedback on what I was doing. It’s been a long time since I had the kind of coaching this week provided. It was nice to relax into it a bit; I learn better that way. In Germany where I grew up, my experience was that “the bar” might have been higher yes, but I spent much more time being nervous, than actually learning. I find that, coming out of this program, I feel more relaxed again, more like I did pre-pandemic. That feels good. I listen more carefully to traffic now; I know more about the difference between an intersection with a light and without; I cross the streets that I can cross; my confidence was growing.

The schedule and routine were completely organized. We were a group of four, but the training was  completely individualized. And it was fascinating to see, for instance, one person who, newly blind and never having blindness skills training, working on basic skills like pouring into a glass and getting it!

For recreation, they had anything you might want media-wise. They also had fantastic exercise machines, fully labeled. Food-wise, they spoil you a bit.

Thank you, Leader Dogs for the Blind, for a great week.

Photo: Our Director makes a new cold-blooded friend, a large snake around his neck at the Solano Stroll!
Photo: Our Director makes a new cold-blooded friend, a large snake around his neck at the Solano Stroll!


Arlene Rose Doherty (Sam) ended her journey through life in Houston Texas on September 9, 2023, at the age of 88. Arlene began her journey in San Francisco, CA. during The Great Depression. Arlene lived a full life despite her being blind from the age of 2 years. She attended various Catholic schools in the Bay Area before entering the highly acclaimed California School for the Blind where she learned to read and write braille. Upon receiving her diploma, she went on to study at the university level in Berkeley, California. Never one to back down from an obstacle, she excelled in whatever she started. She loved doting on her pets and enjoyed reading, bowling, volunteering at the Lighthouse for the Blind, and spending time with her many friends. She is survived by her older brother Raymond Leo Doherty of Houston, Texas and 7 grateful nieces and nephews. Friends and family will miss her feisty personality but share comfort in knowing that Arlene is finally home.


by Anita Aaron.

I have been a member of the East Bay Center for the Blind Board of Directors for a little over a year. At many of our board meetings, President Mike Cole asks me to report out on happenings with CAABVI, the California Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

A Bit Of Background On CAABVI:

California Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CAABVI) collaborates for effective and equitable training, education, and services for all Californians who are blind or visually impaired. Through its Board of Directors, selected for their leadership roles in member organizations, CAABVI serves as the aggregate voice of California’s private, nonprofit agencies serving individuals who are blind and visually impaired, their families and communities.

For more than 30 years, California’s private agencies serving the blind had a loose informal association with one another. Before that, unfortunately, agencies did not communicate much, fearing the loss of recognition and hence funding. In recent years, funding streams for training homemakers, non-vocational services and other key blindness services have diminished or been eliminated. In a historic action, all California blindness agencies have worked to incorporate a new nonprofit arm designed to advocate for our community’s needs, working with our fine consumer groups, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the California Council of the Blind (CCB).

I am CAABVI’s first Executive Director. I am far from new to nonprofit agency work though. I served for twenty years as Executive Director of Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, headquartered in San Francisco, followed by ten years as CEO of World Institute on Disability, and have now spent my first two years with CAABVI focused on formalizing the association; strengthening CAABVI’s advocacy efforts for effective and equitable training, education and services; facilitating the community outreach and education agenda and expanding funding opportunities for agencies.

CAABVI’s three public policy focuses for the next fiscal year:

  1. Increasing the capacity of our member agencies to advocate with local, state, and national representatives through education and relationship building.
  2. Improving awareness of blindness field as a career path at the high school and college level in areas local to agencies.
  3. Reducing the unemployment rate for Californians who are blind through services available for youth, transition planning, and accessible jobs.

For more information, please contact


Want to learn Braille from scratch? The East Bay Center is sponsoring two Zoom meetings and our student population is now at 36 for our correspondence course! Braille Professor Vileen Shah suspected there was a need for comprehensive Braille instruction people can access from home, where they can talk about Braille for its fundamental brilliance, and to make Braille a useful reading and writing system for adults; and it turns out all of us are marveling at just how accurate was his guess. Braille is our direct literacy method, and we are so proud to find ourselves supporting real desire in the nation for meaningful and rigorous instruction. The course has attracted some funding helping to make our efforts self-sustaining. Feel free to wish us even more success!


by Mike Cole.

The East Bay Center has found itself right in the sad story of homelessness that you will find all over this old world. An encampment was dug-in in front of, even touching our building on Adeline Street for some time. COVID is probably when the attractiveness of our spot got into the grapevine. For the most part the people kept to themselves. The encampment is gone now. Homeless people are still on the street near us; as I have been asked by the Berkeley police, where can they go? Turns out, it’s a good and difficult question.

There is intense competition for areas that tolerate camping in the city. Our location worked well for campers. There is the roof overhang; last winter it really rained a lot. Then due to the diagonal running of Adeline Street, the sidewalk is quite wide in front of our building, a mini campground nearly perfect for a tent and a person’s belongings. One camper found a way to play his electric guitar one evening when I left late. Indeed, there were many times when the folks were helpful, telling us about a broken gate, giving people directions when they had passed the Center.

And while we are relieved, to be honest, it’s not the personalities so much, but the garbage that becomes hard. And so, they’re gone. We arranged a meeting with Berkeley’s vice Mayor, Brent Bartlet and Officer Futch of the Berkeley Police after the city responded to a work order we sought, the place was vacated and cleaned up, plants pruned a bit, very nice.

Homelessness is a sad social problem. Someone might say they prefer being on their own, but I don’t buy it. It’s hard out there when you’re outside in a city, and you have very little protection from the elements and from your neighbors.

We are glad and sad. We think our society can do better.


Join us for Technology with Fran. Call to arrange for one on one lessons.

Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. until noon, Ceramics class, express yourself!

David Cook’s popular meditation class convenes Thursdays at 10:00 AM.

Exercise class with Kathleen Davis, Thursdays 11:30 AM until 1:00 PM.

Bingo in person on the first and third Wednesday of the month, 11:00 AM until 1:00 PM.

Book Club with Peggy Washington on the second Wednesday of the month, noon until 1:00 PM.

Writers’ workshop, last Wednesday of the month, 1:00 PM.

Speaker series, first Friday of the month, 1:00 PM.

East Bay Center Support Group: Every Friday at 10:00 AM.

I Love Braille: Every Thursday at 9:00 AM, via Zoom.

Learning Braille Webinar: Friday mornings at 8:30 AM, via Zoom.


The Vision Support Network, East Bay Center for the Blind, Lions Center for the visually Impaired, and Lions Vision Resource Network all work together, know each other and cover three counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano. Contact us for relevant help.


The “accessible” COVID test really is accessible; it just takes care and patience. Amy Liu taught me, and I taught Barbara Lassen, and you can learn it too. You’ll need a smart phone and some patience, but it really does work.


The world has lost one of our most treasured members. Bill Gerrey has died after a long battle with illness. An electrical engineer, inventor, teacher, and friend to many, Bill worked for the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute for decades. Many will remember Bill leading The Forum, a gathering of blind people for years in San Francisco. Bill’s last public appearance was in 2018 when we hosted a memorable night in celebration of Berkeley, City of the Blind dating back to Dr. Newel Perry and our development in becoming politically and socially organized, back when the School for the Blind was in Berkeley. Bill and several other people well known in our world spoke of their time in Berkeley, their lives as working independent people, and the love our community has always shared. Bill inspired us with his brilliance, and he loved us with a depth of concern that was easy to read. He is survived by his Wife Monica and his sister and three nieces.


from Anita Aaron, Membership Committee Chair.

As the year ends, the time comes to renew your membership with the East Bay Center. Your $20 dues cover the calendar year and allow you to vote at EBCB business meetings. Being a member also insures that you are on the Phone Committee’s call list to be notified of upcoming events and meetings.

You can pay your dues in person at the Center, by calling the Center and providing credit card information, or by visiting the EBCB webpage and hitting enter on the PayPal link (if you have a PayPal account), and, of course, the ever-popular mailing in a $20 check.

We need you as a member! A  strong membership makes for a strong, robust Center.

If you’re not a member and would like to join us, you can fill out a member application online (by visiting our website’s Membership page, which contains a link to our online application form), or alternatively you can call or come by the Center to complete a membership application.


Once again, we took part with a wonderful spot in the Solano Stroll, a yearly event that comes every September. With David Cooks’ lovely sculptured ceramics, and a coordinated effort by UC School Of Optometry students, along with staff, member, and board participation, we showed the world our spirit.

We appeared at two local churches where we have contacts, the Downs Memorial United Methodist Church in Emeryville and the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kensington, connections that make us proud.

The Center is a member of the California Association of Agencies for the Blind and visually Impaired, and we continue to be a member of the Vision Support Network, a collaboration of East Bay agencies.

Your East Bay Center is here to stay!

We remain in search of sustaining funding. We know we have a contribution to make. Donations are welcome.

East Bay Center for the Blind
2928 Adeline Street, Berkeley, CA 94703
Phone: (510) 843-6935