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.
Your lame duck president has egg on his face because he spaced out and forgot to submit the President's Message until today, November 1, which is more than a week overdue. If our newsletter editor Sandy hadn't reached out to me, you wouldn't be reading this.
Looking back on this past week, I can understand why this happened. Shortly after our meeting, Alice and I traveled to Half Moon Bay to celebrate a friend's birthday. When we woke up Sunday morning, Alice's guide dog Cora was having trouble breathing, and at first couldn't even stand up. She improved slightly as the day passed, but we knew there was something seriously wrong. Fortunately, our friend is a dog person and was willing to take us to a veterinary clinic on Monday, where Cora was diagnosed with a severe gastrointestinal infection. After antibiotics and special canned food, she is doing much better. To say the least, this was a very stressful time. We got back home late Monday afternoon, which is normally when I would have submitted my message.
Meanwhile, I was gearing up to visit my daughter Sarah and grandson Joseph in Dallas the following Friday. Alice planned to go, but she had to stay home with Cora. Even so, it was a wonderful trip. Last year, Sarah opened Undaunted, her own law practice, which specializes in disability rights. As you can imagine, I'm very proud of her accomplishments.
Don't forget to pay your dues for 2024 and to sign up for our Holiday party.
"Hey hey, a change is coming. Maybe I can get in." Not likely, King; you've been trying for years, and haven't made it yet. "Perhaps, but I can hope." Yes, you can, and maybe people will come to their senses.
So, what's it all about? Well, the 2024 SVCB administration is going to be elected at the November meeting, and you can vote from the floor. The big deal is that both President Rob Turner and Vice President Mike Keithley are terming out, so you have the opportunity to elect someone, "like me," with a whole different notion as to how a chapter should be run. "Like, I'd want all meetings in dog parks, even in the rain!" Well, King, I'd not vote for you! "See, I knew I'd never get elected!"
The Nomination Committee of Rob Turner and Mike Keithley came up with a slate of candidates for nomination, and it is:
Alice Turner: President
Lorraine Brown: Vice President
Debee Armstrong: Recording Secretary
Carol Silveria: Corresponding Secretary
David Hoffman: Treasurer
Naomi Grubb: Director
The two remaining directors, John Glass and Joe Silveria, are still serving their terms.
I wasn't at the last meeting: I was at Star's 91st birthday celebration. But I thought I'd include a beautiful description of the program segment as it appears in the October Minutes:
The program portion of the meeting was a discussion, organized by Debee Armstrong, about the joys and challenges of being either part of a married couple of two blind people, or a couple where one partner is sighted. Susan, John, Rob, Alice, Carol, Joe, Victor, Beverly, Noel, and Deb Runyan participated, with Debee Armstrong also adding commentary. It was very lively and heartfelt.
One point blind couples agreed on, is that planning ahead and using technology to achieve the greatest independence was important. They also said it was great to have a partner who really understood them, and to whom they need not explain things.
The couples where one partner was blind also expressed great love and admiration for each other, sharing that they divided chores equally, and each one had specific skills the other depended on. This sentiment was echoed by the blind couples, and it was clear there were far more similarities in these happy marriages than differences.
We don't know what the program at the November meeting will be, so stay tuned to the Phone Tree Message.
The holiday party is coming up, and we hope you'll come to the November meeting and register at $30 for SVCB members and Vista Center clients, and $35 for guests. There will be lots of discussion about the party, so come and participate! We do know that the fiddlers, who were well received in the past, will entertain us. Give your holiday party registration to Victor. And if you haven't paid your 2024 dues, give those to Victor as well. "My, he's a busy guy! Gotta make sure he gets the help he needs." Well, you can pay your 2024 dues and register for the party. "But I'm a privileged character; why should I do that?" You said you wanted to help. "Yes, but that's money. What kind of help is that?" Ask Victor.
Let's wish happy November birthdays to Naomi Grubb, David Hoffman, Perla Kohs, Rob Turner, Steve Lehnhoff, and SVCB, which is 36 years old.
Sadly, I learned that long-time SVCB member John Buck passed away on September 14. I don't know when John joined SVCB, but I think it was in the early 90s when Judy Barnes was president. He had a long career at Hewlett Packard, and helped Mickey Quenzer and me in many situations.
An obituary, dictated to me over the phone by his friend Flo, follows:
John T. Buck
Born—died (that's the way he wanted it)
John Buck's 33-year career at Hewlett Packard, primarily as a technical writer, made it possible for him to live in a beautiful, well-managed, park-like apartment complex in Mountain View.
In his retirement, he happily found St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Sunnyvale, where he edited the newsletter and enjoyed the company and intellectual stimulation of many wonderful people.
John was also, at various times, a member of the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind, Stanford Area Chinese Club, Stanford Palo Alto User group for PC (SPAUG), Bay Area Electric Railway Association, National Railway Historic Association, Hewlett Packard Retired Employees Club, Los Altos Hills Historic Society, Mensa, and local Twelve Clubs. In later life, he developed an interest in slide rules and calculators.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to:
Saint Thomas Episcopal church in Sunnyvale, Western Railway Museum at Rio Vista Junction, or the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind.
John's favorite word was "risible,"—capable of laughing.
to request free copies of your credit reports. Other sites may charge you, or may be fraudulent sites set up to steal your personal information.
By law, everyone is entitled to one free credit report every twelve months from each of the three credit reporting agencies. In 2020, soon after the COVID-19 pandemic upended the finances of millions of people, the three agencies announced they would temporarily make free reports available every week. The program was extended twice and is now permanent.
Why check your credit report? Your report shows things like how many credit cards and loans you have, whether you pay your bills on time, and whether any debts have been turned over to collections. Creditors, insurers, some employers, and other businesses use it to decide if they want to do business with you and the terms they'll offer you.
Mistakes, like accounts or bankruptcies that aren't yours, can hurt your credit, increase how much you'll have to pay to borrow money, and even derail your chances of getting a loan, insurance, a rental home, or a job. Mistakes can result from errors by businesses that report credit information to credit reporting agencies. They also can be a sign of identity theft. The sooner you spot a mistake, the sooner you can dispute the error; or if it results from identity theft, report it at
The 2023 ACB Conference and Convention cartridge is now available. All sessions that were recorded June 19-24 and June 30-July 6, 2023, are on the cartridge. This includes general sessions, the banquet, and all recorded special-interest affiliate, ACB committee, and business partner programming.
If you purchased a cartridge on the convention registration form, it will be sent to you. If you did not, you can still purchase the cartridge by calling the Brooklyn Center MN office at:
We would appreciate it if you placed your order by October 31st.
-Request for Support for Haiti for Food Insecurity Assistance
Dear ACB Members, Leadership, and Friends,
I am reaching out to our members and affiliates for assistance to help the North American-Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, to support a serious need for emergency food assistance for our regional member country of Haiti. Due to the very unstable political situation in Haiti, basic necessities are very difficult for persons who are blind to obtain, and there is a very high level of food insecurity.
According to Coordination Nationale de la Securité Alimentaire (CNSA), 4.9 out of 12 million Haitians are in food insecurity, and this includes a higher level per capita of people with disabilities.
In cooperation with the Caribbean Council for the Blind and CCB member countries, the Société Haítienne do'Aide aux Aveugles (SHAA), had a presentation from Eddy Lemaire, Head of the Integrated Education Service of SHAA, describing the living conditions of Haitians with blindness and visual impairment. The Executive Committee of CCB pledged to transfer funds to SHAA to purchase bags of rice to feed blind people in Haiti. SHAA started the program in Port-au-Prince, and needs to expand the program to serve blind people in more rural regions of the country.
It is clear that the need is great, and the best way to help directly is to collect funds to purchase food that can be distributed by SHAA in Haiti. So ACB and the World Blind Union are seeking support from WBU regional organization members, and also individual members of ACB and affiliates, can make contributions, large or small, to help Haitians with food insecurity.
ACB has arranged to manage the collection and distribution of the funds donated by members and affiliates. ACB has pledged to contribute $1,000 to begin this aid fund. If your organization would like to contribute, or you would like to make an individual contribution, every donation will help the blind people of Haiti with food shortages and insecurity. Please share this request on your affiliate information email lists so others can donate as well.
Please send your contribution for the Haitian Rice for the Blind Fund, to:
American Council of the Blind
ATTN: Haitian Rice for the Blind Fund
6200 Shingle Creek Parkway, Suite 155
Brooklyn Center, MN 55430
Below is a link to process an online donation or a QR code for more information on making a donation:
Legally blind individuals who have shopped at any The Container Store location in California since approximately 2011 have likely experienced a variety of inaccessible features, including flat-screen point-of-sale devices and tablets for Loyalty Program enrollment, that have no VoiceOver features that blind shoppers can use. A case is pending against The Container Store in California, based on its refusal to provide accessible services, and the lawyers pursuing that case would like to speak to any blind individuals who have shopped at that store and may have experienced these inaccessible devices. You may contact Jeff Thom either at
if you have shopped at any The Container Store locations in California at any time, from 2011 through the present, and are interested in participating in this case. He can provide you with contact information for the attorneys in the case.
-From APH: Introducing the Braille Brain Website
We are excited to announce the release of Braille Brain at:
This is a free website-based, self-paced curriculum to help people who already have literacy skills learn braille. Braille Brain can be especially useful for parents, paraeducators, students in university level TVI programs, people who lose sight later in life, and others who want to improve their braille skills. The curriculum is based on Ashcroft's Programmed Instruction UEB
and starts with the basics of braille, going through uncontracted and contracted UEB braille. No account is needed to access this curriculum, making it quick and easy to use.
Braille Brain currently has 21 units. These units include braille letters and numbers, two-cell punctuation and shortform words, and braille-specific symbols and formatting. The lessons include repeatable practice to help build your braille knowledge. Writing is done via a six key input on a QWERTY keyboard, or on a braille display, and is reinforced with writing workout practice. The writing practices tell you how many words per minute you wrote to help you keep track of your speed progress.
Braille Brain will continue to grow over time. Future updates will include Nemeth braille and more advanced UEB content. To start your learning adventure, head over to the Braille Brain website!
One of the most frequently asked questions from people living with low vision is: How do you read the restaurant menu? There are many good options for accomplishing this task, depending on the degree of visual impairment.
This is all about making adjustments, and accepting that picking up a menu and reading it the way you once did may not be something you can re-enact. Keep in mind that the goal is to select food you will enjoy, not to read every dish on the menu.
Here are some of the ways we can successfully overcome the challenges of menu reading, and return to savoring the culinary and social experience.
* Flashlights and Magnifiers: It is not at all unusual to see people in dimly lit restaurants pull out their mobile phone flashlight and point it at the menu. The same goes for magnifiers, sometimes on the phone, sometimes on their own with the light built in. So, no need to feel weird, everybody's doing it.
* Online Menu: Making a menu selection in advance will allow you to relax. Do a Google search for "menu," plus the restaurant name, to review choices. (With iPhone, use Speak Screen or VoiceOver to read the menu aloud. (On larger screens, increase the text size.)
* Ask: It is perfectly fine to ask a companion to read some sections from the menu to you, but try to ask for specific categories like "What are the salads or soups?" Also, ask if there is a large print menu.
* Specials: Asking the wait staff to read you the menu is not realistic, but do ask for the specials of the day, or for their recommendations in specific categories.
* Seeing AI: The popular iPhone app from Microsoft has Short Text and Document channels that can be useful for menu reading (see also:
A recent update to the Document channel (version 5.2) takes a picture of the menu and reads it back, or allows you to ask questions like "What are the seafood options?"
* The QR Code Menu: When it's available, use your mobile phone to scan the code, and the menu is instantly available on your screen. Make it a talking menu using accessibility speech features like (VoiceOver and Speak Screen in iOS), or (TalkBack, and Select to Speak in Android). Listen to the menu options privately with your ear buds.
In essence, finding a new approach to reading menus will get you back to enjoying the food, the company, the conversation, and the atmosphere. It's even okay to just say, "I'll have what she's having."
(This article was originally published January 24, 2018, and last updated October 20, 2023.)
(From the Tech-VI list owner:)
I'll add some additional recommendations for mobile apps that can be used to either read or assist in reading a menu. (Envision), AI's On the Fly text reading and document scanner can be used, to scan a restaurant menu. The new (Be My AI feature in Be My Eyes) not only allows for scanning a menu, but also for asking follow-up questions such as "how much is the Philly roll," or "what low-carb items are on this page?" Finally, (Menus4All)
I will be bringing 15 items to our SVCB meeting that will be held on Saturday, November 18, 2023. These items have been donated by various members to help our chapter. They would make lovely gifts for some lucky people.
by GPT AI'S latest and greatest version of Bev Clifford
HALLOWEEN greetings to you all
(Bev made me write that, though I think it's rather silly myself.)
To get to business here: I am happy to report that I have had no need to send any GPT AI versions of you SVCB members, for the purpose of nagging you into volunteering for goodies duty in 2024. Several of you were kind enough (and may I add smart enough) to let Bev know that you are interested in helping out. I can tell that you heeded my warning of last month! According to Bev's Goodies File on her BrailleSense 6, there appears to be only three more months unaccounted for, those being March, May, and June. By now, if you read last month's goodies article, you probably have a good idea what could happen if you don't grab one of these months. Remember, the GPT versions of you, have total access to your files, databases, calendars, and so on… and that's all I'm going to say about that. (Bev insists that I add this comment: If you sign up, the beautiful, kind, and colorful alegrije named Pepita, from the movie Coco, will swoop down from the Halloween skies and take you for a lovely ride high above the clouds, from whence you can gaze down upon all your friends as they hand out Trick-Or-Treat candy to the little ones.) And I, the GPT AI author of this article, am encouraging you to contact Bev, by calling the SVCB phone number:
and leaving a message for her, dropping her an email at:
or looking her up in your SVCB membership list, to contact her directly by phone or email. Do contact her ASAP! (Bev says to say Thank You.) But I, as a GPT AI entity, feel no obligation to do so. You will hear from me next month, and perhaps by that time the 2024 goodies docket will be filled. (Bev wants me to wish you a Happy Halloween.) And I guess I will if I must. Bye for now.
Vocalist Le Perez never fails to delight Tabard audiences with her powerhouse sound and distinct vocal style. This Christmas she returns to our stage with a wonderful evening of holiday music featuring a mix of "some things old, some things new, some things jazzy, and some things blues".
Join her for a magical evening of soulful melodies and festive cheer on Friday, December 8 at 8pm.
As we celebrate the joyous season, we also commemorate Le Perez's birthday, making this concert an extra special occasion!
Early Bird tickets are just $20 General Admission, and $30 for Cabaret seating before November 24.
For weekly information about these events, contact Marilyn Watts as above to be placed on Tabard Theatre's email list.
There will no longer be Tabard Theatre articles in this newsletter about upcoming events unless something shows up that your Copy Editor thinks many of our readers might enjoy.
The phrase "On Demand" means that an event can be viewed through services like Comcast.
3. Shows Described by AudioVision Bay Area
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: