Legislative Hotlines, current issues for blind persons:
800-221-6359, after 5 PM and weekends
800-424-8666, 3-9 PM and weekends
DISCLAIMER: This publication contains announcements from the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind and is also a forum for opinions relating to blindness issues. Signed articles reflect the views, and research, of their authors.
STATUS: SVCB is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization under the California Council of the Blind.
Monthly meetings are held at the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center (Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired San Jose). Meetings run 9:30 AM to 1 PM the third Saturday of the month and are open to all.
To those who didn't attend our holiday party, you missed some scrumptious Italian food, good fellowship, and two humorous old time radio Christmas shows. A big thank you to all the volunteers who made the party possible.
Due to Covid and other contagious viruses, plus the fact that most of us have somehow become seniors, our board of directors decided to try something new concerning our meeting schedule. In odd numbered months, our meetings will be hybrid, that is in person and on Zoom. In even numbered months, our meetings will be virtual, meaning on Zoom only. We can always go back to all hybrid meetings if that's what the membership chooses.
I'd like our members to get to know each other better. I've always been interested to hear stories about the experiences of others. Quite often, while talking with our members, I learn something about them that astounds me. I'm sure we will hear some wonderful stories. So be brave and volunteer to tell us about yourself. Be prepared to speak for five to fifteen minutes. Cover whatever you think others should know about you. Your journey with vision loss and how you coped with it would be particularly relevant and of course how you got involved with SVCB and the blindness movement. Our first presenter will speak at our February virtual meeting. We will do this for each virtual meeting until we run out of speakers.
We need to recruit new members from younger generations. If you have ideas to make this goal a reality, please let me know and we will form a committee.
Happy Holidays everyone. See you at our January in-person meeting.
Hope everyone had a happy holiday, with food, companionship and fun. We heard that both Rob and Alice Turner got Covid and couldn't get away from home. I've been home beating up on my project getting it ready for prime time. "That's a most unwise thing to do master. You'll wake up the… uh… yeah, spirits." That's true King, and I'm calming down, really! "Must be blind or somethin', cuz I can't see it." It's hard satisfying a ghost dog.
Like Rob said, it was a great holiday party! Our venture into Italian food was fabulous, and I'm sure we'll do it again. When I finished my helping of Chicken Picada and Spaghetti and meatballs, I said "Now that was a good lunch." And King agreed, (even though he didn't get any). Actually, he almost did! I had a little cheese cake with a strawberry in the center, and dropped a bit on the floor, and Cora crawled to me under the table to get it. But Alice stopped her, so King tried. After Alice settled down, Cora crawled back again and said: "Go away ghost dog, that's mine." Poor King! "Well, that's OK, on this end of the bridge, I don't have to work so hard."
Fifty-one people attended the party, including Daveed Mandell all the way from Berkeley. John Vandervort was there despite the pain of his chemo, way to go John.
And King Victor gave me some Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti and meatballs to take home for Star, whose cough was bad that day. I heated them up in the microwave for dinner and the cartons melted. So, King said, "I'll open them if you give me first bite, and I promise a little one." So, he did and we had a last farewell to the holiday party. Not bad, eh?
We still have people who haven't paid their dues for 2023. If you haven't, please pay them ASAP. You can send a $20 check with "2023 dues" using the address at the top of this newsletter, or pay your dues through PayPal using the name:
and write "SVCB 2023 dues" in the purpose field. You can also bring your dues to the meeting and give them to Victor.
The January meeting is SVCB's annual meeting, and the 2023 administration takes office. Check out Rob's President's message and the upcoming phone tree message.
We hope you are doing well. The World Institute on Disabilities (WID) has been working alongside the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) to provide internet access for people with disabilities throughout California. Internet access is vital for independence and a good quality of life, especially for people with disabilities. WID and CETF are helping people with disabilities enroll in affordable home internet for as little as $10 to $20 per month.
This program has a limited offer but to see if you qualify, please visit the website at:
The 2022 Audio Description Awards Gala premiered on November 29th on
www.adawardsgala.org/, YouTube, ACB Media, and Pluto TV. ACB thanks host Thomas Reid and Audio Description Voice Talent Nefertiti Matos Olivares as well as our special guests who lent their talent to the event and support for accessible media for all, including Stevie Wonder, Ewan McGregor, Nesta Cooper, Camryn Manheim, Shayla Brown, and the cast of iCarly!
In 2023, ACB's national convention will be in Schaumburg, Illinois. Room rates at the Renaissance Schaumburg are $98 per night double occupancy (with an additional $10 charge for up to four people), plus tax which is currently 15%. To make reservations online, visit:
This is a central reservations number, so please indicate that you are with the American Council of the Blind 2023 conference and convention at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg, IL. Rooms must be reserved by June 8, 2023 to guarantee the convention rate.
- Justice Department Secures Agreement with UC Berkeley Regarding Online Content
The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a proposed consent decree in federal court to resolve allegations that the Regents of the University of California on behalf of the University of California, Berkeley (collectively, UC Berkeley) violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because much of UC Berkeley's free online content is inaccessible to individuals with hearing, vision, and manual disabilities. The proposed consent decree was filed together with a complaint setting forth the allegations of discrimination.
Under the three-and-a-half-year long consent decree, which requires court approval, UC Berkeley will make all future and the vast majority of its existing online content accessible to people with disabilities. This includes BerkeleyX courses, university websites and video and podcast content on its YouTube, Apple Podcasts and other third-party platforms. UC Berkeley will also revise its policies, train relevant personnel, designate a web accessibility coordinator, conduct accessibility testing of its online content and hire an independent auditor to evaluate the accessibility of its content.
- Medical Bills Remain Inaccessible for Many Visually Impaired Americans
Across the U.S., health insurers and health care systems are breaking disability rights laws by sending inaccessible medical bills and notices, a Kaiser Health News investigation has found. The practice hinders the ability of blind Americans to know what they owe, effectively creating a disability tax on their time and finances. Read the full article:
Researchers at the National Research & Training Center on Blindness & Low Vision at Mississippi State University are recruiting for a remote job search skills training study. Learn job-seeking strategies for today's job market and get job search information and resources by email! If you are selected to participate in the study, you will take four online surveys over 20 months, submit a resume with the first two surveys and be randomly assigned to receive resources or attend group training. To participate, you must be 18 years or older, be blind or have low vision, live in the United States, and not working but ready to work. Space is limited! If you have questions, contact Katerina Sergi at:
As usual, we have both good news and bad, and we'll start first with changes to VTA's automated telephone system for route schedules.
Previously, calling 408-321-2300 got you to either a customer service representative or automated schedule information. You could key in your bus route number, plus the date and time for which you needed a schedule and then navigate the route with your touchtone keypad.
This feature has been removed. Now, to get bus information, your call is directed to the Bay area's 511, a centralized hub for automatic transit information for the entire bay. Unfortunately, using 511 is more complex. You can reach it anywhere in the bay area by simply dialing 511, but after that, you have to go through menus to find bus departure information. Once you do, you must know your five-digit bus stop information. For example, the transit center at De Anza college is stop number 65637. At the Milpitas BART station the 66 Northbound stop is 65890 while its equivalent southbound stop is 65891.
When you enter the number, you get a list of departure times, in terms of minutes. For example, I just learned the next bus is in twelve minutes, then another departs in 25 minutes, followed by another bus departing in forty minutes. This information is only for the current time, and you cannot actually access an entire bus schedule over the phone.
You can call customer service at VTA to get your stop ID, and it is also posted on a sign at each stop. However, navigating the system this way for bus information is far from convenient. Previously, you could find out the names of stops along your route and navigate the various times a bus would depart. VTA customer service told me they were not notified about this change in advance, which occurred two weeks ago, and they arrived in the morning to a rash of customer complaints.
One wonders, if this change in providing transit information heralds VTA's funding crisis.
VTA doesn't only manage bus transportation. They are also responsible for contributing financially to the huge BART development now underway, where four underground stations are being constructed. They also have grants for managing traffic congestion, building sound walls and coordinating bicycle safety programs in schools. This is atypical of transit agencies but Santa Clara County has chosen to give VTA all these extra management responsibilities.
Unless more funding is located, VTA's bus and paratransit service will need to be scaled back. I read with interest, the agenda packet distributed to its board of directors at their December meeting and include a few quotes.
The acronym (MTA) stands for the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, which establishes both funding and policies for public transportation agencies in the bay area's nine counties. Advocating for more funding through the MTA is being attempted by a coalition of disabled folks throughout these counties. The acronym (SRTP) stands for Short Range Transportation Plan, which VTA must produce for both the MTA and their board.
"VTA operates less transit hours per capita than other Bay Area transit operators. SamTrans operates ten percent more service per capita than VTA, AC Transit 70 percent more service per capita and SFMTA 300 percent more per capita. The result is that VTA riders experience less frequency than riders on other systems and therefore comparatively have less mobility and access to opportunity. VTA has a vision of operating transit service on the same level as its Bay Area peers, but funding levels and current trends are taking the agency in the opposite direction."
No alternatives exist.
The SRTP does not have a direct impact on climate change, but it may inform a regional discussion that leads to MTC providing transit operating assistance that would help VTA avoid service cuts. That would allow VTA to provide a greener transportation option to more travelers who would otherwise turn to travel options that result in more vehicle emissions and/or less efficient energy use.
Committee members raised concerns about the nearness of VTA's "fiscal cliff" and usage of federal relief funds as a temporary strategy to address expenses exceeding revenues. The Committee urged staff to take near term actions, if necessary, to place the agency budget in better condition given the potential for future deficits and sought to make assessing the state of VTA's operating budget part of the Q1 workplan of 2023.
Additionally, Committee members encouraged staff to coordinate with other transit operators around agency-developed SRTP scenarios to agree upon common and best metrics for analysis. Staff noted that the development of the FY24-25 budget, which will be before the Committee around February 2023, will provide updated financial projections that can inform what steps VTA may need to take related to budget planning.
In FY 2024, VTA's operating revenues are projected to be $429 million and operating expenses are projected to be $448 million, a gap of $19 million. This annual deficit grows over subsequent years, reaching $34 million by FY 2028. In the near term, federal relief funding assistance can cover the deficit, but VTA's federal relief funds are projected to be exhausted partway through FY 2027, resulting in a shortfall of $6 million that year and $34 million in FY 2028. Subsequent years are projected for larger shortfalls. Unless another funding source emerges, VTA will need to implement transit/paratransit service cuts of 1 percent in FY 2027 and 6 percent in FY 2028."
As promised, the good news begins in January, when more bus routes will be running during the late evening hours. A full list is available both in VTA's current newsletter and on their web page. Many routes too, will run more frequently. This change is due directly to rider increases, as Covid restrictions lift and more people return to work. Because paratransit is tied to bus services, paratransit riders will also be able to get rides later in the evenings, due to a bus being present on the same route.
And from their newsletter, here's a brief summary:
23: Weekday trips will be added between 7 PM and 10 PM.
25: A weekday westbound trip will be added between 5 AM and 6 AM. Saturday trips will be added between 7:30 AM and 10 AM and service will be extended to midnight. Service between Valley Medical Center and De Anza College will operate every 30 minutes on Sundays, along with a new westbound trip starting at 7:57 AM??
44: Service hours will be expanded weekdays from 6 AM to 9 PM and Sundays from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM. Saturday frequency will operate every 40 minutes along with extended service hours to 8 PM?
47: Service hours will be expanded weekdays from 6 AM to 9 PM and Sundays from 8 AM to 7 PM. Saturday frequency will operate every 40 minutes along with extended service hours to 8:30 PM?
60: The southbound trip starting at 1st & Metro at 6:26 AM weekdays will be extended to start at Milpitas BART at 6:03 AM?
66: Weekday trips will be added between 8 PM and 10 PM, and a later northbound trip leaving Kaiser San Jose at 11:28 PM. Saturdays will have additional service between 7 PM and 9 PM. Later northbound trips will be added starting at 11:25 PM on Saturdays and 10:26 PM on Sundays. Sunday will have additional service between 7 PM and 9 PM.
68: An earlier northbound trip will be added weekdays leaving Gilroy at 4:15 AM. Additional trips will be added between 8 PM and 10 PM on weekdays and Saturdays, and between 7 PM and 9:30 PM Sundays. Major early weekday morning schedule adjustments will be made in the northbound direction. A later southbound trip will be added Sundays, leaving Diridon Station at 12:01 AM.
70: Major evening frequency improvements will be made 7 days a week. Service hours will be extended to 12 midnight on weekdays and Saturdays, and to 11 PM on Sundays. Sunday frequency will operate every 20 minutes between Capitol Station and Berryessa BART and every 40 minutes between Berryessa BART to Milpitas BART during most of the day.
71: An earlier northbound trip will be added weekdays leaving Eastridge at 5:24 AM. Service hours will be expanded to operate to 12 midnight on weekdays, from 6:30 AM to 12 midnight on Saturdays, and 11 PM on Sundays.
77: Major weekday evening frequency improvements will be made. Service will be expanded to 12 midnight on weekdays and Saturdays, and from 6:30 AM to 11 PM on Sundays. Additional trips will be added after 7 PM on Saturdays and Sundays.
There is also a long list of bus routes whose schedule has changed, mostly with more frequent runs throughout the day.
The last piece of good news is intriguing, considering VTA's projected shortfall beginning in 2024. VTA is in the process of preparing a proposal to hopefully land a grant to provide extended services to seniors and disabled riders. They held a series of public meetings last week, to solicit community input on which services people would be most likely to use, and they will soon distribute an online survey asking these same questions but in more detail.
This grant would allow them to expand services similar to paratransit, that would not be dependent on whether a bus serves in a particular area. Services being considered include: vouchers for taxi or rideshare services, reimbursement of gas fees for volunteer drivers, travel training to encourage use of fixed-route transit, extra door-to-door service for people in rural areas not served by any bus plus rides for low income and senior citizens who may not currently qualify for paratransit. It's important to realize that these services do not yet exist, and only will if VTA is awarded this grant; they are currently collecting data to prove they should receive this funding.
Recently our daughter found that Noel and I had several unclaimed properties. I followed up on her information and just received a check for $12. There should be another check for Noel and a larger check for our old business.
Claiming unclaimed property for individuals is relatively easy. In some cases, you can do it all online and in other cases you have to fill in a form and mail it to the state. If there is a lot of money involved, you will have to get the form notarized. I have seen amounts as little as $.02 so make sure it is enough to be worth your time.
You can fill in any of: Name, Address, City, and Property #. I suggest first trying just your official first and last names. If there are too many results, you could add a middle initial and/or city. If you have moved around, maybe try old cities, too.
Enter on the "Search Properties" button.
If there are any hits, you will go to Step 2.
"Step 2: Add Properties to Your Cart"
"If your name and address match the records listed below, click Add to the left of the property number to place it in your cart."
Below the search fields you filled in you will get a table with an "Add" button, and information about the property. Then a line for "Reported By" (who owes you), and another line with "Description" for each property.
Press the spacebar on the "Add" button on those you want to claim and the button changes to "Remove".
When you Tab you will hear "You have n items in your cart. Set focus to the Cart button."
Tab again to get to the next "Add" button.
When you get to the "New Search" button, Shift-Tab to hear "You have n items in your cart. Set focus to the Cart button."
Enter puts you on "Claim Properties in My Cart" and Enter again to go to the cart.
"Unclaimed Property - Claims Cart"
"Step 3: Generate Claim for Properties in Your Cart"
"You are claiming the properties listed below. For each property, you must select your relationship to the property. (If you are the listed owner, or the legal guardian of a minor listed as the property owner, select "Owner." If you are an heir, trustee, executor, or estate administrator for the listed owner, select "Heir.") Then fill out the necessary information and click Create Claim."
"Optional: Select same relationship type for all properties:"
Select the relationship.
You now have a similar table with "Relationship".
After checking the Relationship for each property, you can Tab to the "Continue as Guest" button.
"To begin the claim process, fill in the requested Claimant Information, then click "Create Claim". After you have created your claim, you will be notified if you are eligible to file electronically. If you are not, you will receive instructions for submitting a paper claim."
The Lighthouse for the Blind has published a tutorial on reading tactile maps. I attended this workshop and it was absolutely fantastic. I learned so much about how to interpret all the symbols on the tactile maps and I went from being a skeptic to a full convert!!!
SVCB members and Vista Center clients should use Discount Code BC27 when ordering. Performances take place at The Tabard THEATRE, 29 North San Pedro Street, San Jose. The phrase "On Demand" means that the show can be viewed by services like Comcast.
3. Shows Described by AudioVision Bay Area (formerly AudioVision)
For all productions (Golden Gate, Orpheum Theatres, Broadway San Francisco, and Broadway San Jose)
Tickets are generally on sale four weeks before the production opens. To charge tickets and reserve receivers, call:
888-746-1799 (SHN Theaters), or fax your order to 415-581-2121 and ask for AudioVision tickets. If you have any questions, please email:
8. Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP)
BORP believes that everyone should have access to the unique challenges that outdoor recreation provides, and makes every effort to accommodate each person's needs, including providing transportation and volunteer support. For event listings, call Lori Gray at: