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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Interim Study Committee Members Soon To Be Appointed

By: Kevan Worley

As readers of this Blind Coloradan blog are aware, prior to the adjournment of the recent session of the Colorado General Assembly, State Representative Pete Lee, with the support of Senator Michael Merrifield, requested that an interim committee to study services for the blind of Colorado be appointed. The committee appointment is subject to Joint Rule 24A, which governs interim committee requirements, voting requirements, and electronic requirements. Representative Lee’s request was approved. General Assembly leadership must appoint members to the committee by July 1, 2015. Public hearings will be scheduled around the state through the summer and fall. A report of the committee must be submitted to the Legislative Council by November 15. This committee will permit the voice of the blind of Colorado to be heard. Below, please find the text contained in Representative Lee’s request. --K.W.

I hereby request that an interim study committee be formed to study vocational rehabilitative services for the blind through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) during the interim between the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions.  The interim study committee would be named the "Interim Committee to Study Vocational Rehabilitative Services for the Blind.”



The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) is sponsoring Senate Bill 15-239, which concerns the transfer of vocational rehabilitation programs, including the business enterprise program, from the Department of Human Services (DHS) to the Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), effective July 1, 2016.  I commend the commitment, evidenced by this move, on placing people with disabilities into competitive employment. However, in view of concerns about DVR’s operations and delivery of vocational rehabilitative services for the blind, I believe an interim study committee is necessary as described below.  The interim study committee would augment the quarterly reports from CDLE to the JBC, as required by Senate Bill 15-239.  The work of the interim study committee would be in addition to the other stakeholder outreach being done by the CDLE concerning the transfer of the DVR to the CDLE.



Scope of the policy issues to be studied.  In order to build a strong foundation for DVR in CDLE and improve accountability and the delivery of vocational rehabilitative services for the blind, I believe that an interim committee to study the vocational rehabilitative services for the blind is appropriate.  The interim study committee would determine the most effective structure and delivery model for vocational rehabilitative services and supports for the blind from the DVR within CDLE.  Specifically, the interim study committee should be mandated to make recommendations based on the following:
  • the findings and recommendations of the November 2013 Legislative Audit, as those findings and recommendations concern the blind, including identification of “…pervasive problems in the Program that raise questions about the Division’s oversight, system of internal controls, and culture of accountability”;
  • evaluation of the delays in delivery of vocational rehabilitative services to the blind;
  • assessment of the efficacy of the application, receipt, and use of federal 1973 Rehabilitation Act “110” funding for the blind;
  • consideration of any and all issues identified in the National Federation of the Blind Colorado Resolution 2014-11-2, Resolution 2014-01 (Attachment A); and
  • consideration of any other issues related to the effective delivery of vocational rehabilitative services to the blind to assist them in obtaining job skills and long-term high paying jobs.

Committee meeting requirements and structure.  The interim study committee should meet as determined by the interim study committee, but should hold at least six meetings during July through November and report to Legislative Council by November 15, 2015.  The interim study committee should hold a meeting on the Western Slope, possibly Grand Junction, or arrange for remote testimony.  The interim study committee can refer up to three bills to Legislative Council. 



I suggest the interim study committee should consist of eleven members: four members of the Senate, with two appointed by the President of the Senate and two appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate; four members of the House of Representatives, with two appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and two appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives; and three nonlegislative members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives from statewide organizations representing the blind, independent living, and the State Rehabilitation Council.  When appointing the legislative members, consideration should be given to the membership of the committees of reference responsible for business, employment, and human services.  The appointments must be made by July 1, 2015.   The chair shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and I suggest Representative Jessie Danielson be appointed as the chair of the interim study committee.  The interim study committee shall elect a vice-chair from its members.   



It is critical for stakeholders and activists in the blind community participate with the interim study committee, as outlined above.



Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Lifelong Habit of the Sunday Denver Post Enabled by NFB Newsline®

by Dan Burke
(Editor's Note: NFB Newsline® is an accessible newspaper and magazine delivery service open to blind and others with barriers to reading print. Developed by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), it also receives support for some publications from the National Library Service for the Blind and is free to all its eligible subscribers. The NFB of Colorado sponsors the service here, and Jon Deden handles calls for information. You can call him at 303-778-1130, extension 303, or visit the NFB of Colorado's NFB Newsline® page. I want to give a shout out also to Ryan Osentowski who takes care of technical matters for Colorado's NFB Newsline® service, such as uploading blog posts from The Blind Coloradan to the local channel.)

One of my guilty pleasures is reading the Sunday Denver Post. It's a nearly-lifelong indulgence that is now enabled by NFB Newsline®.



Though I lived in Montana for over 30 years and joined the Federation there, I grew up in Loveland, Colorado. That's where the Sunday habit of the Denver Post began with my Dad's dramatized reading of the funnies - the excitingly colored comics that came in their own dedicated section as though just for my siblings and I as we piled on and around him on the couch after church. In a modulated voicing perhaps influenced by the radio-only entertainment of his own growing-up years in Depression-era South Dakota, he read and riffed on Beetle Bailey, Blondie and Dagwood, Dick "The Stick" Tracy (in his rendition), and Snuffy Smith.



I was able to struggle through the paper into my late teens, so before long I didn't have to wait till my Dad could be corraled on the couch to read to us, but I could read them for myself. The Sunday funny papers were the gateway drug to reading the Post on Sunday.



Next came the other special Sunday sections - the TV listings in the Roundup, Empire magazine, and ultimately the hard stuff - Oliphant's political cartoons , the front pages and the op-ed pages. I became a fifth grade news junkie. I was, for example, the only 11-year-old in my class in early 1968 that knew that Richard Nixon, then seeking the Republican nomination for President, had run against JFK in 1960 and, with the entry that spring of Bobby Kennedy into the Democratic primaries, an historic rematch of sorts might be in the offing for the November election.



Not long after, I actually delivered the Denver Post for a time, and the Sunday delivery was truly epic. Sunday-only subscribers more than doubled the number of papers to deliver (the Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald had no Sunday edition in those days), and the physical size of the paper was enormous - the size of a healthy Yule log and almost as dense. It was delivered to news carriers in three separate bundles - first the Classified section Saturday afternoon, and then the funnies and other special Sunday magazines and ads, and finally the Sunday news and sports sections. These all had to be inserted one into another before rolling the paper in half and rubber-banding it.

The route was large - too large - and would soon be split as the subdivision north of 29th Street continued to sprout new houses monthly. Kneeling on the garage floor to stuff the three sections into one and roll them, my hands and the thighs of my jeans would soon be plack with newsprint, and the stack of Sunday papers approaching the size of a half cord of firewood when I finished.



In those days, paperboys usually delivered from a bike or on foot, their papers loaded in a large canvas carrier's bag. Sunday was just too big for that. I could only carry about a dozen to twenty Sunday Denver Posts in my delivery bag, compared to the entire route of 60 or so papers of the daily run. The one time I tried this with the bag wound around the handlebars of my hand-painted one-speed, it took me hours as I returned home time and again to refill the bag and head out to resume deliveries.



From then on I loaded the papers into the trunk of our '62 Rambler Classic, which Dad backed into the driveway Saturday night. When the trunk filled I stacked them on the back seat and floor of the 4-door. I hired both of my younger brothers, and with Dad driving slowly through the sleepy streets, we trotted back and forth to the car for reloads and then worked our way up and down street after street.



By the time I was in college the print was too small for me to read much of the paper. Later I moved to Montana and sometimes read portions of the Sunday papers using a CCTV, but that was a dwindling return for my investment, and the pleasure of the Sunday paper became just a nagging void each week.



But we are the National Federation of the Blind, and it isn't our way to dwell on the things that blindness prevents us from doing or enjoying - we figure out ways to do and enjoy those things that our sighted peers do and enjoy. Enter NFB Newsline®.



When Newsline finally came to Montana in 2002 the newspaper famine for the blind ended. Yes, there were the two Montana papers, including the Missoulian, but also soon other treats - the New Yorker and the Denver Post. It would prove to be the end of the LAN line era, true, but I still bought a ten-dollar speaker phone at one of the sprawling mega-stores for the sole purpose of sitting beside it with a cup of coffee and reading the papers on Newsline. It wasn't long before the Sunday Denver Post became part of my regular reading list again.



I guess it just proves that an addict is always one hit away from relapse.

Nowadays the Sunday Denver Post isn't nearly as large as in the old days ... or maybe that's just the diffference in perspectives between childhood and adulthood. Nonetheless, it's still substantial and the the Sunday paper is still a shared thing at our house. I like to read Newsline on my laptop, using the clean web interface. Often Julie and I read things together, sports articles on the Broncos or Rockies, Ask Amy (like folksinger John Prine I regularly read Dear Abby) and any other items of interest.



I have a routine with the Sunday Post. There's no more Empire Magazine, though NFB Newsline does feature the weekly Sunday supplement Parade, but I have never found it interesting. Instead, I go right to the Book section, which is where I first read about the late Denver writer, Gary Reilly and the launching of his Asphalt Warrior series of comic novels. (The first book of the series was recorded by the Colorado Talking Book Library, and was its first book to be accepted on BARD - DBC00656).

Next, I read the Arts section. From there, what I read and in what order is more a matter of whimsy - I might start on the front page and Local sections, or the sports section. Finally, I might poke through some of the other sections for anything of interest.



Of course, it's the year 2015, so I am alerted to a good deal of the news I consume via social media. I follow a couple of reporters for the Denver Post and public radio, and still follow reporters and bloggers from Montana. But you know, for fast and efficient access to the news, nothing beats NFB Newsline's web interface or the nimble mobile apps for getting my news fix. In fact, I love the iPhone app on workday mornings, when my newspaper reading is understandably more rushed.



Sunday though, that's a lock. I'll be logging in on NFB Newsline® to read the Denver Post!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

“Blind Justice, but Broken”

by Ryan Osentowski



(Editor's Note: The online film and TV giant Netflix has been under pressure to provide audio descriptions with its streaming service for some time. This spring it announced audio description would become available and, interestingly enough, launched the new service with its newest TV series, "Daredevil," based on the Marvel Comics superhero who is blind. Guess Netflix figured blind folks are big Daredevil fans. Ryan O decided he'd find out if we should be, and here's his review of the first year of the program.)



In his 1974 banquet speech, “Blindness: Is Literature Against Us,” Dr. Kenneth Jernigan posed a question that resonates well into the 21st century. How accurately does the media portray the blind? A decade earlier, Daredevil sprang into being on the pages of Marvel Comics. In 1964, the character seemed to be born of forward thinking. A blind lawyer who doubles as a superhero? How cool! Fifty-one years later, the post modern depiction of Daredevil as offered in a Netflix original series seems weighed down by the same misconceptions that have plagued the blind since the days of scripture.



Charlie Cox plays Matt Murdock; struggling lawyer, martial arts expert and all-around angry blind guy. Murdock doesn’t find the daily grind of being a lawyer to be challenging enough, so he runs around New York City after dark as a masked vigilante doing battle with the forces of evil. Murdock was blinded at age nine in a car accident in which his eyes were burned by chemicals. The chemicals (we never learn exactly what they are) cause his other senses to be heightened, thereby rendering him supersensitive to sound, touch, taste and smell. As an adult, Murdock uses these abilities in tandem with his acrobatic and combat skills to fight crime. He faces a diverse arrayed of enemies including ruthless Russian mobsters, Japanese ninjas, a shadowy organization controlled by a psychotic rich white guy in a penthouse and an elderly Chinese woman with a mysterious agenda.



The approach that the writers take to the development of Matt Murdock as a blind character is summed up by a scene from the first episode. Matt is conversing with Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), his first client and future girl Friday. She says, “Can I ask you a question?” Anticipating her he retorts, “I wasn’t born blind.” Every blind person can relate to this. It’s one of the favorite early openers I experience when sighted people are trying to get to know me. Sooner or later, the predictable question, “Were you born blind?” comes down the pike. By having Matt cut her off before she can ask, it seems as if the writers are making an early effort to address some of the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding blindness.



Yet, in the very next bit of dialogue, my hopes are dashed. Karen asks Matt, “So how do you comb your hair?” He replies (straight-faced), “I hope for the best.” I comb my hair everyday and I also hope for the best, but it has more to do with covering over my bald spot, rather than my blindness. It’s possible that Matt was joking, but this seems unlikely given the taciturn nature of the character.



The rest of the series follows in this same vein. Matt seems to kick down one stereotype as readily as he kicks down his opponents, but for every myth about blindness that he shatters, he propagates two more. Matt’s alter ego is the personification of another long held stereotype. How many of us have been asked, “Do your other senses make up for your loss of sight?” The writers, of course, can explain this away. Daredevil is a character based in the superhero genre; a genre that is often tinged with elements of science fiction and fantasy. If he does embody those stereotypes, it is appropriate in this particular niche.



Matt carries a folding cane and sometimes uses it, yet discards it when he goes into Daredevil mode, casually tossing it into a conveniently handy trash can or alley. His sharpened senses allow him to travel without a mobility aid of any type. In the season finale, he sports a new and improved cane that can separate into a pair of fighting sticks.



On the positive side, we repeatedly see Matt reading Braille. He learns Braille in flashbacks as a child, he uses Braille law books as an adult and, in one scene, he uses a refreshable Braille display. This is a marked improvement over the comic version, in which Matt’s fingertips could detect print letters on the page.



Matt Murdock’s mentor is an angry old blind ninja known only as, Stick. (Insert your own obvious joke here.) Stick has no use for sentiment or emotion, and for that matter, eyesight. “He taught me that my blindness isn’t a disability; that sight is merely a distraction,” Matt says. This is a rare and unique viewpoint, but in the first episode, Matt admits to Karen that he misses his vision. “I’d give anything to see the sky one more time,” he says in his typical melancholy manner.



Stick (Scott Glenn) puts a fine point on the argument in his first conversation with young Matt after he is blinded. “You had nine years of looking up womens’ skirts. That’s nine years that I never had,” he chides. Personally, I’d like to think that this nice little boy wasn’t looking up anyone’s skirt in his first nine years of life.



Beneath the flippancy of Stick’s remark, the message is evident. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and move on. This is a noble notion, though the premise of, ‘sighted people have it better,’ still remains at the periphery. Post partum blindness brings with it a normal and understandable amount of grieving. Yet, it’s not hard to discern that despite his super abilities, Matt never really stopped grieving. In fact, Daredevil himself is a living, breathing symbol of grief; at least, the angry stage of it. There are valid reasons for this beyond the loss of his vision; the violent death of his father and the overall state of an unjust world. This is standard in the superhero universe, but the writers never fully deal with the resolution of Matt’s grief over his blindness as a solid concept.



But let’s turn our attention to the other side of the coin; Matt Murdock Esq. Again, the writers seem to be lost in a limbo land of conflicting clich├ęs, many of which begin and end within the friendship between Matt and Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson (Elden Henson.) Matt and Foggy met as roommates in law school, where Foggy pulled the tired prank of moving the furniture on the blind guy. Thereafter, they become best friends and eventually, partners in their own law practice.



Despite his Braille skills, Matt doesn’t carry a watch and thus, has to ask Foggy the time. Yet, he does carry a talking cell phone. Foggy loves to describe beautiful women for Matt. Foggy routinely says, “She just shrugged,” or “She just curtsied.” I’ve never held conversations such as this with my sighted peers. Moreover, I’ve never known any blind person who has. All of the blind people I know would think it rude to talk around a sighted person in such a manner. It’s clear that much of Matt and Foggy’s interactions are intended to be comical, but comedy steeped in ignorance is no longer acceptable. Just ask Mr. Magoo.



Matt’s enhanced abilities allow him to hear a juror’s quickening heartbeat, yet he relies on Foggy to tell him when it’s safe to cross a busy street. Matt can stalk a moving car from rooftops by listening to the music coming from the car radio, but he relies on a realtor to walk him around his new law offices in order to become acclimated to the surroundings. He can take out a room full of armed Russian gangsters bare-handed, but he doesn’t know if his professional and residential dwellings are clean.



Probably the most troubling stereotype arises when we learn that Matt loves to feel the faces of other people. In a flashback to his childhood, we see Matt (Skylar Gaertner) feel his prize fighting father’s battered face as a way to gain the motivation to learn braille. As an adult, Matt continues the trend whenever he encounters an attractive woman. Foggy needles him for this behavior while simultaneously encouraging it. With only a few exceptions, feeling a woman’s face is a form of intimate familiarity. Yet, Matt seems to use it as a get-acquainted gesture in order to gage the appearance of a woman. Of all the myths we encounter on this series, this is the one that strikes me as the most antiquated, and perhaps the most harmful.



SPOILER ALERT!!!



At the beginning of the series, Foggy is unaware of Matt’s duel identity. Later, Foggy discovers the truth. Prior to this revelation, Matt would return from combat with one or more foes and Foggy would inquire as to the numerous cuts and bruises on Matt’s face. Matt would respond with a standard variant of the excuse, “I fell down.” Foggy buys it without question. When Matt’s secret is exposed, Foggy is outraged that Matt kept the truth from him. “All these years, I felt sorry for you,” Foggy says indignantly. A very telling statement, and one that changes the context of their already lopsided relationship. Is the betrayal Foggy feels that of a best friend who has been lied to for years, or that of a caregiver who’s subject has been far more independent than he previously thought?



I found the exploits of Matt Murdock Esq. to be far more engrossing than those of his nocturnal counterpart. In the third episode, (“Rabbit in a Snowstorm,”) Matt is given a chance to shine as an attorney. He delivers an excellent opening statement to a jury and pours over his Braille law books seeking a legal strategy. His powers inevitably come into play later in the story, but it was fun to sit and watch Matt just being a lawyer for once. Of course, it’s unrealistic to hope that Matt the lawyer will take center stage for a large portion of the story. Fans aren’t tuning in for a courtroom drama. Yet, as I watched Matt orate, I longed for a series in which a blind lawyer could actually be depicted in an accurate light.



The proliferation of movies, television programs and the rise of the internet have only added weight to the impact of the media on societal views of blindness. Daredevil serves as the latest example of the unfortunate answer to Dr. Jernigan’s question. Where the entertainment media is concerned, the fictional blind are moving forward, but only with baby steps. Given this reality, it is more important than ever that we of the National Federation of the Blind continue to educate our sighted peers that the blind are far more layered and nuanced than a cartoon spawned in the pages of a comic book.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Pueblo: The Little Chapter That Could

By James Beal

Here’s a bit of NFB of Colorado Trivia I bet you don’t know. Next to Denver, what chapter in Colorado has been in continuous operation the longest?



The answer: Pueblo, 37 years.



And there are a lot of good things happening down here, too!



Our chapter is composed of mostly seniors with our youngest member age 43 and our oldest 93, but we’ve been reaching out to new folks in the area.



During our March meeting we worked with area Teachers of the Visually Impaired and Connecting Computers for the Blind, a non-profit organization based in Colorado Springs, to secure two laptops with JAWS 16 for two deserving blind high school students in our area. In addition to the computers, each student received taped instructions on how to use JAWS and NVDA screen reading software, which were pre-installed.



Cole is a sophomore at Pueblo South high School with plans to attend CSU Fort Collins majoring in agriculture. He lives with his family in Beulah, Colorado and is interested in sports. He was unable to attend the recent expo sponsored by the Sports and Recreation division due to the deluge of rain we received here in southern Colorado. Cole is planning to try out for the football team as a kicker. He has the size and the strength for it. We will keep you informed on his progress.



Sara is a senior at Trinidad high School. She applied for state and national scholarships this year and plans to attend Trinidad State Junior College as a pre-law major. Sara is president of the Trinidad high School honor Society, has participated as one of two students from her school in the Colorado Close Up program in Washington D.C., and helps out every year with Vacation Bible School in her local church. She has already asked for Scott LaBarre to keep in touch with her as she wants to know how to best prepare herself for a career as a lawyer. She, her mother, and Kathy Gallena, the Teacher of the Visually Impaired who works with Sara, traveled the 90 miles each way to pick up the computer and to meet with Michael Massey, NFB of Pueblo president, to discuss her scholarship and scholastic ambitions. She is interested in becoming involved in our At Large Chapter.



We have another state and national scholarship applicant. Her name is Sandy Schlike. She is on our board. Sandy is a mother of three, one girl in middle school and two boys in grade school. She is a single parent who, besides being a full time student, has found the time to serve as scout leader for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop at Goodnight Elementary. Sandy is very heavily involved in her sons’ activities as well. She is studying to become either an elementary school math teacher or something related research dealing with epilepsy.



In April the chapter started a fundraiser. We are working with the Mountain man Company to sell their merchandise locally. They provide us with this under the name “River Trails” and even before our first fundraising outing, we already sold enough goodies to pay for our initial investment. Our first fundraising event was a table on Saturday, May 2, at the Big R Ranch Supply store. We raised a little money and met a lot of interesting people. Other fundraisers are planned for other locations.

When Pueblo Chapter Meets

We meet the second Saturday of each month starting at 1 p.m. Our May chapter meeting was scheduled for the same day as the fitness retreat in Littleton and, like Cole, we couldn’t get to the sessions. We also had to cancel the local meeting due to flooding.



Our chapter meets at the Wesley United Methodist Church, 85 Stanford Avenue in Pueblo, and has met there since 1995.



At our June 13 meeting, Pat Manzaneras, the business manager for pueblo Transit will be present to answer questions about changes being made in our fixed route service and in Citi-Lift, the local paratransit service. We have historically had an excellent relationship with City Council, Pueblo Transit, and Senior Resources for the Disabled (SRDA), the people who operate the paratransit.



We are in the process of planning our annual picnic and more details of this will be provided to you as we know them.

Contact the Pueblo Chapter

Michael Massey, President
719-542-3419
massey52@q.com

Thursday, June 4, 2015

CO's Guide Dog Users' Seminar Coming Soon

Blue water dish with yellow paw prints reads COAGDU

The Colorado Association of Guide Dog Users (COAGDU)

Presents

Tails, Wags, & Pack Seminar

Guide Dog 102

Getting out From Behind the Fence

Saturday June 20, 2015

9:00 am – 4:30 pm

Colorado Center for the Blind

2233 West Shepperd Ave

Littleton, CO


Learn About

 Access Rights
 Is a Guide Dog for You?
 Care of Guide Dogs
 Guide Dogs and Your Life
 Guide Dog versus White Cane
And MUCH More!



Representatives Will Speak From ADA, TSA, RTD, Guide Dog Schools, Guide Dog Users & More.



RSVP by June 19th to Dishon Spears
Call: 303-778-1130 Ext. 246 or Email: dishonspears@comcast.net.



$10.00 fee includes Membership, Breakfast Lunch & Door Prize Drawings.
Dishon can answer questions about payment.

COAGDU is a proud division of the National Association of Guide Dog Users
and the NFB of Colorado