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Monday, September 29, 2014

Colorado Association of Guide Dog Users: The Water Dish


Issue #1 | Fall 2014


Welcome to the first issue of the COAGDU newsletter. I hope that the information provided in this newsletter will be helpful and informative. 
This issue will talk about what has been happening in the “dog run” with COAGDU since the start of its development in October 2013 until now, as well as featuring upcoming events.  If you would like to contribute and or make suggestions, please send them to Dishon Spears at either of the following email or at

Finally, thank you to all of those who made our first seminar a success.  Please feel free to provide feedback about the seminar.  Send a message with “feedback” in the subject line to:

Behind The Fence:
This part of the newsletter will highlight a “pack” member that has gone to one of the Guide Dog schools and just wanted to share their experience with the rest of us.
Sherry Gomes is a “pack” member that lives here in Colorado in the city of Longmont. She lives with her current guide dog named Petunia, who is a Golden Retriever.  Sherry also has her retired guide dog named Bianca, who is a black Labrador living in the house with them.  Sherry received her first guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) back in 1975, and every dog that she has had since then has come from the GDB organization.  Sherry has the luxury of working from her “dog house” as a tech support agent for the company known as Freedom Scientific. 
In the past, Sherry has worked for other companies that have had some type of blindness affiliation, like the Admissions Department at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), as well as the Lighthouse for the Blind located in Seattle, where she taught computers to blind adults.  Sherry enjoys music, shopping, movies, musical theater reading and writing in her “down” time.  Sherry has a blog which can be found at the following address; or you can follow her on Twitter @SherryGomes and you can also find her on Facebook at, if you want to get in touch with her.


COAGDU would like to bark out a very special happy birthday to all of those guide dogs and service dogs that have celebrated their birthdays during the months of May through July.

Randall – (June 17)
P.J. – (May 11)

Melissa Green & P.J. – (May 20th, 3 years)
Marty Rahn & Monty – (June 4th, 6 years)

May you and your guide or service dog celebrate many more birthdays and anniversaries together.


On May 31st COAGDU had our first ever seminar that was titled “Tails, Wags, & Pack Guide Dog 101 Seminar”. The seminar took place at the Colorado Center for the Blind, located in Littleton. And it took place from 10:00a.m. To 4:15p.m…  Areas of discussion were;
Ø  Access Rights
Ø  Care Of Guide Dogs
Ø  Guide Dogs In Your Life
Ø  Guide Dog Verses the White Cane
Ø  Deciding If A Guide Dog Is For You
We had speakers from the A.D.A. (Americans with Disabilities Act), R.T.D. (Regional Transportation District) Littleton Housing Authority, as well as a veterinarian and representatives from guide dog schools.  We had in attendance about 38 to 40 and everyone that was there had a great time and learned a lot.


Penn Street – “As I sought out door prizes, gathered gift bag donations and received RSVP’s, my excitement grew.”  Penn also stated that her guide dog from The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind was even more excited than she was, as they entered the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB), to be greeted by other dogs and friendly humans.  “At times, I even felt tears of joy as I watched people that were going outside to take a Juno walk and as they came back from their walks with an actual guide dog, I found myself overwhelmed with emotions.”  Penn has been a guide dog user for almost 15 years, and couldn’t imagine life without any of her furry friends.

Dishon Spears – “I was really surprised at the number of people that attended the seminar”. “In the beginning, we were sending out email after email to make sure that our message was getting out to as many people as possible, insuring a great first seminar.”  “As the seminar got closer and there weren’t many RSVPS are coming back, I started to doubt the success of the seminar. But on the day of the “Great Gathering of Guide Dogs,” my tail started wagging harder and faster and it truly was a great seminar overall.”  Dishon has been a guide dog user for almost 15 years and loves having the versatility of either using his guide dog or cane.  “There are places where I would rather use my cane instead of Randall, and just the same, taking my guide dog to a place where the cane wouldn’t be the best choice for me at that time.”

Kevin Worley – “MAN! You guys really did a GREAT job with the seminar, and I can’t wait to see what the next one will be like.”  “Congratulations!”


During the first week of July, guide dogs from all over the United States and the world, came together in one LARGE hotel “dog kennel” in Florida to attend the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) convention.  During this convention, the National Guide Dog Division (NAGDU) had a meeting where board members were either elected or reelected to further the work that needs to get done to make sure that guide dog teams all over the United States and beyond have equal rights.  There have been many times where as a person with a guide dog doesn’t have a loud enough bark to be heard, but as the work of NAGDU along with other guide dog affiliates continue to educate the public about the rights of those using guide dogs and how to treat the working teams, the bark of every guide dog teams will be heard loud and proud.
The NAGDU meeting started off with a roll call of states.  This portion of the meeting is set aside for each state that is represented at the meeting so that their representatives can speak about what has been going on in their own “back yard”.  After the introductions were over, members from the national board spoke about what they had been doing on the national level for fund raisers and to give other affiliates ideas as to what they can do to raise money in their states.
Tim Elder a lawyer from California spoke to the entire pack about a new transportation alternative named Über and how some of the drivers were not allowing guide dogs in their vehicles. If you or if you know of anyone that has had problems with Über, please let Dishon  Spears know at the following email addresses or, you can even call him at the Colorado Center for the  Blind at (303)
778-1130 Ext. #246.

Other areas of discussion were;
Ø  The new NAGDU APP, which will allow the guide dog user to pull up laws in his or her state of residence, so the user will be well versed as to what the laws pertaining to guide dogs are and how they are applied.  As soon as more information is available, it will be passed down to all of our members.
Ø  The NAGDU hotline, this hotline has been set up for guide dog users to call in and either speak with a  fellow guide dog user about issues that he or she is  going through, or they can simply listen to recorded information that relates to them at any given time 24 hours a  day, and 7 days a  week.  The number for the hotline is 1-888-NAGDU-411(1-888-624-3841).  For more information, visit the National Guide Dog Users page at
Ø  NAGDU is working to try and pass laws that will punish people that try and pass their pet dogs off as service or guide dogs, as well as a law that will hold people with dogs that attack guide dogs responsible for their dog’s actions.
Ø  Building new divisions of guide dog users; at this time, there are about 11 guide dog packs throughout the United States, and more will be popping up in the very near future.
Ø  Freedom Dogs for the Blind has opened up another satellite school in the state of Florida, congratulations to them.
Ø  The following schools gave presentations about each of their schools; Leader Dogs for the Blind, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Guide Dog Foundation as well as The Seeing Eye.
Ø  The final topic of discussion was placing guide dog relief areas in airports all over the United States, and putting them in such a place where a person can take out their guide dog before taking off on a flight, as well as when they land.  If something like this could be located in every airport, then a person traveling through the airport doesn’t have to go back through security and risk missing their flight.  There have been several ideas discussed for example, using natural lighting as well as pet grass to give the guide dog the illusion of actually being outside to make them feel more comfortable and relaxed.

Congratulations to the newly elected board which is composed of;
President – Marion Gwizdala (Florida)
Vice President – Michael Hingson (California)
Secretary – Sherrill O’Brien (Florida)
Treasurer –Antoinette Whaley (Pennsylvania)
Board Member – Tina Thomas (California)
Board Member – Margo Downey (New York)
Board Member – Jessica Snider (New York)


To all of our pack members that are reading this newsletter, Brian Skewis, who is the new Executive Officer of the California State Board Of Guide Dogs for the Blind(Board) would like all of you that have been a graduate of Guide Dogs for the Blind(GDB) to participate in taking a survey that will assist the board in gathering information from you as a GDB graduate to insure the quality of the guide dog industry by protecting, promoting, and educating everyone that has a particular interest in the schools, from its’ instructors to you as graduates as well as the public.  The survey is completely anonymous and brief; it   can be done in three different ways.  The first way is online at the following link  The other ways that you can take the survey are by paper or over the phone at (916) 574-7826 and you can leave your name and phone number along with your address so a representative can return a follow-up call to you.

If you are taking the survey on paper, please allow ten (10) business days for the survey to reach you.  If you’d like to email them for more information, you can do so at  If you would like to know more about the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind, you can do so at


We the members of COAGDU are happy, and wagging our tails to share with you things that will be coming up in the future that will be happening in our “back yard,” and if you’d like to attend, please contact any of us on the COAGDU board for more information.

Ø  State Convention – The dates of the state convention will be Thursday October 30, 2014 through Sunday November 1, 2014.  .  Friday will be the day when the exhibit hall will be open.  There will be venders from all over displaying and demonstrating their services and technologies, and the exhibit hall will run throughout the day on Friday as well as running through the lunch break on Saturday.  On Thursday night, for those that love music, in particular the Beatles, one of our NFB members by the name of Art Schreiber will be taking us on a journey with the Beatles informing us about what went on during their first U.S. tour.  Art was one of two journalists with “a ticket to ride”. The fun will continue all weekend long with informative presentations, seminars, and much more!  There will also be a band called the Fab 4 that is a Beatles tribute band that will be playing many hit songs from the Beatles.
The room rates are $89 a night plus 5.0 percent room tax.  General sessions will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings with breakout sessions taking place on Friday and Saturday afternoons.  Last year the guide dog breakout sessions took place on Saturday afternoon from 1:15p.m. To 5:00p.m… The location of the state convention will be held at the Marriott Denver South at Park Meadows at 10345 Park Meadows Dr. in Littleton, CO 80124 and their number to make reservations is, (303) 925-0004
Ø  October is also meet the blind month, this is a time when we as blind individuals would like to have the public come out and meet us at various locations around Denver and learn about what it is that we are doing and about who we are and learn about our movement.
Ø  –The 75 days of action is about building and strengthening NFB chapters and divisions all over the United States, for example, Guide Dog divisions.  We would like to see many more Guide Dog divisions “packs” get started so that they can join with our movement towards a better and brighter future for all of our fellow Guide Dog and service dog users, to continue to change the public’s view about how our dogs, assist us in the day to day tasks of going to work, school, or just going out with friends and family to have a good time.  We must come together and continue to work together so that we can change laws and make new ones in all of our states, in order to do this, we need to work together so that we as blind people as well as  our guide dogs and service dogs will no longer be looked upon as second class citizens. 
Ø  The 75 days in action will start on September 2nd and will run through November 16th, 2014.  If you would like to participate in the 75 days in action campaign, PLEASE send an email to to get started.
Ø  The month of September is also national guide dog month, so remember this for you and other teams that you may run across while out and about.
Ø  August 28, was national dog day for all of us with pet dogs, as well as service and guide dogs.

If you want to learn more about the Colorado Association of Guide Dog Users (COAGDU), or just want to send us a message or to join any of the mailing lists, pleas follow our “scent” at the following;
Like us on Facebook. or type in Colorado Association of Guide Dog Users in the search box.


There are two lists for Coagdu; the subscriptions for each of them are listed below.
Reply to confirm.  You will get a message that states that you have been subscribed to the list.

The COAGDU list is for announcements and information.
To join COAGDU go to: and click on the join or drop NFB lists.  Search for COAGDU and follow the instructions.

Conference calls:

Coagdu will have a conference call for pack members that will deal with certain topics every other month.  Announcements concerning this call will be distributed to the Colorado talk, coagdu, and Colorado guide dog user’s lists.  Information on how to join the call will be posted in the messages.  To be sure that you are added to the lists, please follow the links above and if you don’t have a computer then please contact one of the board members listed below.

The Board Members:

President – Melissa Green (Greeley) - (970) 356-8630
Vice President – Dishon Spears (Littleton) - (720) 275-1991
Secretary – Marty Rahn (Greely) - (719) 271-9496
Treasurer – Becky Sabo (Denver) - (720) 291-8028
Board Member 1 – Beth Alred (Englewood) - (720) 272-6895
Board Member 2 – Daniel Sweeney (Denver) - (720) 686-2624
Board Member 3 – Jenny Hwang (New York) - (631) 662-8485

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Denver Area Association of the Blind Buys Braillers

Today is another Throw Back Thursday #tbt! This week we are highlighting the activity of the blind in Denver 50 years ago. In this article, published in "The Blind American" in 1964, we get a peek into the activities of the organized blind of Denver.
Denverites Buy Braille Writers. Funds for the purchase of four braille
writers were authorized at a January meeting of the Denver Area
Association of the Blind as a means of encouraging the work of
community groups engaged in volunteer braille transcribing. Two of the
writers will be loaned indefinitely to the Denver Red Cross and to the
Sisterhood of Temple Emmanuel, two groups whose volunteer services
have been especially outstanding. Of the remaining two machines one
will be retained for the use of Association members, and one is to be
sold to a blind member with active writing interests.

Mourning The Loss of Gary Parker

Greetings Friends and Colleagues,

It is with great sadness that our Colorado Springs chapter mourns the passing of one of our dear friends. Gary Parker, a veteran, friend to our Colorado Springs community, and very active leader of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado Springs passed away this past weekend. Although Gary had been confronting numerous health issues in recent years, he was always optimistic, and always willing to lend a helping hand. Gary only came to the NFB in the last couple of years after meeting our president Jeanette Fortin, and other members through a local blindness support group. Gary said that he loved the Federation because it was not about commiseration or, "woe is me." Please send thoughts and prayers to Gary's wife, Susan. The service for Gary will be Saturday, September 27 at 11 am at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 8710 Lexington Drive 80920.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throw Back Thursday: Lois and Elsie Visit the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado

Throw Back Thursday: Lois and Elsie Visit the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
On Tuesday, September 9 we were honored to have two former employees of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado stop in for a visit.  Lois and Elsie were employees of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado in the late 70s and 80s. 

Lois worked with us from 1978-1983. Before leaving the Federation, she trained her replacement Elsie. Elsie worked for the Iowa Commission for the Blind for 10 years before coming to Colorado where she worked from 1983-1989. Their brief transitional period together at the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado served as a platform for a deep and lasting friendship.  While Elsie was visiting Lois on vacation, they decided to come by the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado for a visit.

Lois and Elsie reminisced of their time working for the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado.  They both worked with the Braille book project, which was a program that sent Braille books to other countries.  Richard and Barbara Moon, Ray McGeorge, and many other key Colorado Federationists cared very deeply about this project. Elsie and Lois did a lot of work on our telephone fundraising campaign, which was huge in the 70s and 80s and still exists today. Besides these projects they performed secretarial duties, assisted chapter presidents with questions, attended meetings and conventions, and like everyone else in our Federation family chipped in to make sure that our work got done.

Diane McGeorge was working with seniors and took a break to visit Lois, Elsie, and Julie Deden.  Julie is Executive Director of the Colorado Center for the Blind and long time Colorado Federationists.  Julie, Diane, Lois, and Elsie sat around talking and laughing about the past.  Lois remembered a time when a man pulled up to the building, got out of the drivers seat of the car, and unfolded his cane.  She was completely shocked.  Elsie remembered helping with some of the initial planning of the Colorado center.  She was amazed at how much it has grown and everything we have done with the new building. 

They talked of people like Sandy Halberson who was Sandy Kelly at the time and president of our Denver Chapter.  Both Lois and Elsie remembered Ruth Ashby’s cinnamon rolls.  Diane said she only ever lost one election. She was running for president of the Denver Chapter and Ruth Ashby was supporting another candidate.  After that Diane said she learned to count her votes!  Julie remembered a lovely woman named Jeanie Marie who first gave her a cane.  Julie’s first convention was in 1978 while Lois was working for the Federation.  Diane and Ray were late to this convention in Grand Junction because a flight attendant tried to force Diane to sit in the bulkhead seat with her guide dog and Diane refused. They remembered a board meeting when Diane got furious at someone for standing on their head in the corner while the meeting was taking place. These and many other fun stories were exchanged all morning long. 

Why would two ladies take time out of their fun filled vacation to come visit a place where they worked 30 or more years ago? The answer is love. The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado has a rich foundation of love and respect that encompasses everything we do.  Everyone who is intimately involved with the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado experiences this close-knit bond that is so critical to our success. 

Julie says “sometimes people wonder why the Colorado affiliate has been so successful. The answer is the love and respect we have for one another. It not only allows us to accomplish great things, but it also encourages the kind of lasting relationships that bring former employes back for a visit nearly 30 years later This love and respect built our past, and will ensure our continued success and prosperity.” Regardless of our bank account balance, days like this one leave no doubt that the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado is an extraordinarily rich affiliate.   

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

ACE's Medieval Attitudes toward equality for the Blind

ACE's Medieval Attitudes toward equality for the Blind

by Dan Burke

Higher education has its roots in medieval times, and last week the American Council on Education (ACE) demonstrated its medieval attitudes about disability in a letter to Senator Tom Harkin and the HELP Committee regarding Harkin's pending Higher Education reauthorization Act. 
It's a paradox, of course, because colleges and universities have been moving rapidly to stay on the cutting edge of technology, especially electronic learning systems and textbooks.  The NFB, meanwhile, has been promoting the TEACH Act to ensure accessibility to electronic educational media and learning management systems.  Harkin has included language very close to the TEACH Act in his bill, And it was that language in Harkin's bill that drew ACE's medieval attitudes to the surface. 
The Technology, Education and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (S. 2060/H.R. 3505) has bipartisan support and is the result of a study commission provided for in the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  Colorado’s Mike Coffman is a co-sponsor of the House bill and Michael Bennet cosponsors the Senate version.  TEACH establishes voluntary guidelines for accessible materials in higher education that colleges and universities must already provide under current law and, by adopting the guidelines, an institution protects itself from litigation.
Seem like a bad idea? Well, here's what ACE said:
Accessible Instructional Materials (Sec. 931): This provision creates an impossible to meet standard for institutions and will result in a significant chilling effect in the usage of new technology.
Such a proposal, if implemented, will seriously impede the development and adoption of accessible materials, harming the very students it is intended to assist.

Read National Federation of the Blind President Mark Riccobono's response September 3 to ACE's inexplicable stance:
The NFB is mobilizing across the country to counter ACE's circular logic on TEACH.

In researching for this blog post, I spent a bit of time on ACE's web site, and I was intrigued by this tidbit posted on ACE's home page, actually from its president:

New ACE Presidential Innovation Lab Paper Explores Students of the Future
American higher education institutions should develop strategies now to meet the changing needs of college students, which will shift over the next decade due to major changes in demographics, technology and learning styles 
That's a good thought, but from ACE's point of view, we might infer that the blind are not part of the demographic of the future.  It sure seems like they intend to leave us in the distant past ... medieval times

In my nearly twenty years in higher education working on accessibility, ACE's attitude is all-too-familiar.  Too often, higher education's approach to equal access has been to whine that equality for students with disabilities would stifle innovation.  I've heard it argued in planning meetings for wheelchair access to public buildings and football stadiums, in the early years of developing the first university web sites.  Despite the fact that all of those battles have been won with stunning effectiveness as a result of the efforts of the NFB and other disability-rights advocates, ACE insists on going back to the same old dry well

Higher education is facing a crisis of relevance - rising tuition costs and ballooning student debts, as well as stiff competition for shrinking high school graduates in the post-baby boom era.  Yet many colleges and universities lead in innovations in a wide number of areas, such as science, technology, medicine and more - almost all of it funded by billions in federal research funds.  Often, the innovative products that come out of these federally-funded projects are spun off into  entrepreneurial corporations.

Innovation, then, is not new to higher education.  Arguably, higher ed's innovations support the United States’ leading role in science and technology - and the global economy.  So why this medieval stance from ACE with respect to equal access to education for students with disabilities?

ACE has a choice - it could realize that the TEACH Act would fulfill the very need to innovate for the student of the future, more of whom will be students with disabilities trying to navigate electronic learning management systems, textbooks and more.

In a September 5 Boston Globe op-ed piece,  NFB of Massachusetts President Kyle Shachmut also took ACE to task, even calling out three Boston-area University presidents who sit on ACE's Board of Directors. 
Curious, we checked ACE's website for Coloradans who might be found on the Board and found these:
ACE Board of Directors
Nancy McCallin, President, Colorado Community College System

Term Ending May 2015
American Association of State Colleges & Universities
Stephen Jordan, President, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Colorado’s community colleges and Metro State are vibrant institutions and vital to the state’s educational and economic life – a positive reflection on its leaders.  But ACE and its Colorado leaders need to do their homework about TEACH.  The NFB of Colorado calls on Presidents McCallin and Jordan to step up, embrace innovation in accessibility for students with disabilities and use their positions of responsibility to point ACE into the future for access to the new, innovative learning technologies their institutions and those across the nation have embraced - and especially those yet to come. 

Presidents McCallin and Jordan, it's 2014 and high time for ACE to begin to look forward, not backward with respect to students with disabilities. 

Join us - we will live the lives we want!