of the
San Mateo County Council
of the Blind


Jan.-Feb. 2001

Vol. 2 No. 1


President's Message

by Frank Welte

The new year is a busy time for us as we put the holiday season behind to resume normal activities and turn to new challenges. This has been the case for me as I have commenced a new term at school, waded through a steady flow of correspondence, and taken several interesting week-end excursions in connection with my involvement in the blind community.

I spent the week-end of January 6 up in the sierras helping to train a batch of new cross-country ski guides. This involved speaking with sighted skiers about the techniques used to guide blind skiers over the meadows and through the woods, and then going out and skiing along side these neophyte guides to

give them hands-on experience guiding blind skiers. The best part of this exercise was the opportunity to train an enthusiastic and remarkably mature and competent group of high school students recruited from local nordic ski teams. Interacting with such fine young people makes one feel optimistic about the future.

During the week-end of January 13 I traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, the site of the July, 2001 convention of the American Council of the Blind, to attend a training seminar for ACB leaders. Californians were well-represented at these informative meetings. My visit to Des Moines gave me the chance to familiarize myself with the neighborhood around the convention center in Des Moines. Even though the weather was cold and snowy I was able to get out of my hotel without the need to put on a coat thanks to a system of air-conditioned, glass-enclosed elevated walkways connecting a number of buildings in downtown Des Moines. Many times, my week-end explorations made me feel like a mouse running a maze.

On Saturday, January 27, I went to the Lions Center for the Blind in Oakland for a town hall meeting for the Bay area blind community. It was for an exciting piece of state legislation, Senate Bill 105, sponsored by legislator, John Burton. It will transfer services for the blind out of the Department of Rehabilitation into a new state Commission for the Blind. There will be a similar meeting in San Jose, March 10.

During this meeting we discussed the failings of the Department of Rehabilitation in helping blind folks to go to work and the reasons why we believe a separate commission will do a better job at this important task. Did you know that California ranks 48th among the states in its job placement rate for blind clients of the Department of Rehabilitation? I will be sharing this information with our chapter members at our February meeting.

Our regular schedule of monthly SMCCB meetings will resume on Saturday, February 3. In addition to my report on the proposed Commission for the Blind we will have a full agenda of business matters as follows.

1. Call to order and introductions.

2. Reading of November minutes

3. Treasurer's report.

4. Election of chapter officers.

5. Report on Senate Bill 105.

6. Setting chapter priorities for 2001.

7. Adopting a budget for the chapter.

8. Planning fund-raising projects for 2001.

We meet the first Sat. of each month at 10:30 AM. at the Bank of America at El Camino Real and 3rd Ave., San Mateo. Feel free to call me.

Frank Welte, SMCCB President

Phone: (650) 508-8329

E-mail: [email protected]

SamTrans Starts New Bus Stop

Call-Out Program

SamTrans has instituted a system-wide program to improve its performance in the area of bus stop call-outs.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires bus operators to call out stops at transfer points, destinations and major intersections, and at intervals along the route to orient customers with visual impairments or other disabilities to their location. The ADA also says that where buses for more than one route serve the same stop, transit agencies must make a way for customers to get on the correct bus. Operators must announce any stop on the request of a disabled customer.

SamTrans has given a list of all required call-outs to each operator for each route that they serve. In addition, SamTrans has put bright decals on each bus stop sign at stops that must be called out. Operators must call out these stops and, at stops served by more than one route, to announce the route and destination via the exterior public address system.

You can help make this new system more effective. SamTrans has commendation cards for visually impaired customers to distribute to bus operators who do a good job of calling out stops. If you use SamTrans regularly and would like a supply of cards, please call Accessible Transit Services at (650) 508-6202.

Operators who receive cards have their name entered in a monthly drawing and are eligible to win a prize.

Editor’s note) (Pres. Frank Welte has these cards. Ask for them at our meeting. We must do our part.)

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

This message is regarding grants for community development projects. Since the grants can be used for literacy programs, there might be some way for our chapter to tap into these funds for things like Braille literacy activities.

With the exception of special initiatives there is no deadlines. Proposals are accepted throughout the year and are reviewed on a rolling basis.

In Community Initiatives, grants are in 26 communities where Knight brothers published newspapers. Locally they are: San Jose, CA. (Santa Clara, southern Alameda and San Mateo counties).

Foundation focuses on 4 programs, each with its own eligibility requirements:

• Community Initiatives

• Journalism

• Education

• Arts and Culture

There are 7 areas of special interest:

• local arts and culture

• children/social welfare

• citizenship

• community development

• local education

• homelessness

• literacy


John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

One Biscayne Tower, Suite 3800

2 S. Biscayne Blvd.,

Miami, FL 33131-1803

(305) 908-2600

Contact Director of Communications

Larry Meyer, at [email protected].

Web site:

The Library of Congress has Web-Braille on the Internet

Braille readers can now read their books on the Internet thanks to a historic technological breakthrough by The Library of Congress called Web-Braille.

Readers now have access to more than 2,700 electronic braille books recently placed on the Internet for the use of eligible braille readers by the Library's National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). In addition new titles will be added.

Braille, a system of raised dots that is read with the fingers, has historically been embossed on paper. The system was invented by Louis Braille of France in the early 1800s. As a result of new computer technology, braille readers may now access Web-Braille digital braille book files with a computer and a refreshable braille display (electronic device that raises or lowers an array of pins to create a line of braille characters) or a braille embosser. These 2,700 braille book titles are available on the Internet for download or online use by eligible individuals, libraries, and schools with a computer and a braille output device. About 40 new titles per month are released in braille and immediately available online to users.

Dr. Judith Dixon, consumer relation's officer at the Library of Congress stated; "It occurred to us that the computer files used to emboss braille books on paper might be able to be placed online for Internet access," she said. After a pilot project to determine that the Web-Braille concept would work, NLS began placing current book titles on the Internet. The new service began August 24, 1999 when an American citizen, and NLS patron

living in Vienna, Austria, made the first access on Web-Braille.

Library users of the national reading program for blind and physically handicapped individuals access Web-Braille on the Internet using an individual user ID and password. Web-Braille materials can be made available only to eligible users who are residents of the U.S. or American citizens living abroad. The Library of Congress also produces braille versions of many national magazines, and is now exploring the feasibility of adding these magazines to Web-Braille for its users.

"This is the first massive effort internationally to make braille book collections accessible on the Internet," says Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of NLS. This achievement reflects the Library of Congress commitment to make its collections more usable and accessible to eligible users. It also reflects the first initiative by NLS to distribute its collections of books and magazines in digital formats to its borrowers. NLS is also developing a digital talking book for its users, continuing its historic national leadership in creating new recorded and braille products for America's blind and physically handicapped individuals," he said.

Contact: Robert E. Fistick

Head, Publications and Media Section

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

The Library of Congress

1291 Taylor Street, NW

Washington, DC 20542

Ph: 202-707-9279 e-mail: [email protected]

San Mateo County Council of the Blind
Has a Very Diverse Membership

With our doubling in size in the year 2000 the diversity of our group has become even more pronounced. We are varied in our means of mobility with four having guide dogs, others using the cane and some with sufficient sight to function without an aid.

It is because of the many variations among us that we are able to act as resources among ourselves and to be resources to the community. We are unusually computer literate. Whether it is using Jaws or Zoomtext programs or even the Macintosh computer, at least one of our group is very knowledgeable. Our President Frank Welte is President of the National Blind Data Processors Association. Our editor has an international language web site that augments his monthly newsletter.

When it comes to using Braille several of us are very proficient. Secretary Terry Coney takes the minutes of our general membership meetings in Braille, and Frank Welte is very fast in taking braille notes.

There are a number of wonderful organizations to assist the blind community in the Bay Area. Many of us have extensive experience with them and will gladly share our knowledge. Just a very few are: the Veteran’s facilities, Peninsula Center, Lighthouse, CID, Guide Dogs, Community Colleges, Libraries, and State Rehab.

We shall be doing more sharing of our experiences literature and techniques. The world of cyberspace has opened many options for us–let’s share!


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