of the

San Mateo County Council of the Blind



June 2002 Vol. 3 No. 5


President's Message

by Frank Welte


While not quite ten years old, our San Mateo County Council of the Blind is already growing up, and we're bigger, stronger, and more visible than we've ever been.  As you know, we played host to the spring convention of the California Council of the Blind, and a number of our members featured prominently throughout the convention activities.  I especially want to thank Jean Ackerman, Dave Mauk, Phil and Sally Kutner, Bill and Ellie Hobson, Pui and Wai Chan, Margie Donovan, David Hunter, Terry Stoker, Jeff Taylor, Grace Chen, and Judy Yokoo for their effort in a variety of capacities as convention volunteers.  You all did the chapter proud.  I'm glad that so many chapter members attended the convention.  I met 20 of you over the course of that weekend, and I'm sure there are more that I just didn't happen to meet amid all the activity. Now that you've seen one, you know why I talk so much about conventions of the blind.


As we approach the milestone of our tenth anniversary this fall, it is a good time to take the time to consider how we can celebrate our past achievements and plan for an exciting future. That's just what we'll do during our next meeting on Saturday, June 1 at 11:30 AM at the Bank of America in downtown San Mateo.  At that time we'll make plans for our August picnic and our tenth anniversary celebration which we hope to have later in the fall.  This will be a great opportunity to discuss the many activities of our busy and growing group.


We're not just about business. Remember that we are getting together for bowling at the AMF Redwood Lanes at 2580 El Camino Real in Redwood City on the fourth Saturday of each month at 2:00 PM. If folks are interested, I could lead a group up to San Francisco to take in a described movie at the Metreon theatre.  Also, Please contact me if you plan to attend either of these recreational activities, so I'll be able to plan accordingly.  You can call me at 508-8329 or you can send e-mail to [email protected].


Ready to Make a Difference?

Mike Collins    [email protected]


Recruitment is ongoing. Calif. has opportunities to get involved in the developing policy impacting over six million with disabilities and the rest who live here. Governor Davis appoints members to commissions, councils, and boards weekly, as terms expire. Many are to councils that can benefit from the inclusion of the disabled. Some have statutory requirements to include us.


State Independent Living Council (SILC) seeks qualified members. This impacts other disability-related boards including, State Rehab Appeals Board, State Rehab Council, Commission on Aging, State Council on Developmental Disabilities, State Council on Developmental Disabilities, Governor's Committee on Employment of Disabled Persons, Organization of Area Boards on Developmental Disabilities, etc.


Besides specific disability-related bodies, vacancies are in healthcare, transportation, law, environmental issues, water resources, forestry, children's or cultural issues, good government, public safety, aging issues, licensing, natural resources, consumer protection, oversight of specific professions, volunteerism, employment, energy, recreation, wildlife, education, recreation, or status of women. Any Calif. resident is eligible.  Gov. Davis appoints from all political parties.  In most cases, expenses are paid.  Some appointees are assigned to jobs or positions that pay full-time salaries, with benefits. Others are volunteers, or members may receive a stipend if they are unemployed or missing work while on State business.


The application can be reached via the SILC website at Click on Application for SILC Membership, and it opens up as a Microsoft Word or PDF document.  You have a choice of filling out the application on the computer (don't forget to re-format it) or you may print it out and use a typewriter or pen. It's not possible to submit the completed document via the Internet. Print, complete and sign. Send to the Governor's office.


Call them for the time of obligation, workload, pay (if any), statutory needs and types of members sought. Send us a copy of your application. We track the progress and discuss your status with Governor's staff at our periodic meetings.


If you apply, send a copy of your application to:

Mike Collins, SILC 1600 K St., Ste 100 Sacramento, CA 95814. If you have questions, call 916-445-0142. Check SILC news and calendar items at:


Learning by Doing

and Doing by Learning


Change is inevitable. Every moment changes occur, and so do we. We can be a leader of the pack, go along with the flow or be shoved as we go through life. Are you the last one to get a telephone, TV or computer. In a short while the telephone, TV and computer will be one piece of equipment. You will see the person to whom you are speaking on the phone. You will be able to program in any program that has been played previously on TV. Imagine hearing a show at your leisure rather than at the scheduled times.


By being proactive it means that you are part of the policy making process. Your thoughts, feelings and needs are taken into account when decisions are made. By far the most important is to vote. Your choices of candidates and your stance on propositions are part of the collective decision making process.


A person can change another one's thoughts, but one needs a group to affect another group and it takes a country to affect another country. Cooperation is the basis of success. By working with like-minded people changes can be made. As visually impaired individuals, we can make change happened by banding together and have our combined voice heard. When a person or organization hears the name of Frank Welte and then he hears president of The San Mateo County Council of the Blind, the power of our combined membership has much greater weight. The average voter can easily affect at least one family member or close friend. When a politician thinks that we can muster almost100 votes at the voting booths or pack a public forum, the reception is more likely to be positive.


As the title states, "Learning by Doing and Doing by Learning" we must know the facts are and be prepared to act upon them. By reading/ hearing & attending conventions, seminars, institutes & conferences we arm ourselves with data we need for action. The Dong part of the title refers to the use you put to the newly-gained knowledge.


Recently some of us attended the state convention of the CCB with all of its inspiring sessions and discussions. Then came the wonderful Low Vision seminar at Stanford Medical center. All of this occurred in a period of a week. As we look back at all this information and inspirational talks, there was not only much information to be learned, but also the idea of actions to be taken.


Automated Bus Stop Calling.

Frank Welte <[email protected]>


During my last couple junkets up to San Francisco I had the privilege of riding on a bus with an automated stop calling system. From my seat just behind the driver I could hear the announcements clearly. The system called out street names and connecting bus routes in a clear male, non-synthesized voice.  Actually, the street names were a little muffled, but perhaps I wasn't paying close attention. In both cases I rode on a short, five-minute trip from the Metreon Theatre to the Caltrain station, so I cannot say if this stop-calling technology is being used widely throughout the city as yet.


I do not know what kind of technology is controlling the system. perhaps it is GPS? Anyhow, those of you who are transportation advocates might want to invite your local transit officials to seriously consider the new stop calling system in San Francisco. This has been a festering problem. If my first impression is correct, the long-awaited solution to the universal bus stop calling problem has arrived, and it's in the city by the bay. I am interested to know if any of our other members have had the same experience.


N. California Movie Coalition

Frank Welte (650) 508-8329    [email protected]


Hello to the N. California Movie Coalition. The Rear Window Captioning and DVS Systems at Metreon are running.  We'll outreach mostly via e-mail. The management has selected the largest auditorium in the complex for the installation.  The Metreon is the biggest and one of the busiest theater complexes in the country.  While the auditorium selection and the busy nature of the complex are great (most of the CC/DVS films at this point are "major" releases. This means that films are switched from auditorium to auditorium.


It will be a challenge to learn showtime info. They are encouraging the use of a guest services phone line, answered by a real person, for film and showtime information (patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing will need to use a relay service).


Loews Metreon Guest Services office number is 415 369-6201. The phone is answered by Michael 10-5 Mondays thru Fridays. Calls after then and weekends will also be answered by a person.  The equipped auditorium is #13. The Metreon staff will play accessible films in #13 when they are available.


Send an e-mail with a note, Sign Me Up for Movie Updates, to [email protected],. You'll be added to the list.

(Movie Access Web site)


Mary Watkins, Outreach Dir.

Media Access Group at WGBH

[email protected]

125 Western Avenue, Boston, MA  02134 617 300-3700 v/fax

617 300-2489 TTY


Star Wars with Descriptions is Great!

Frank Welte <[email protected]>


For the second Thursday in a row I took in a described movie at the Lowes theatre at the Metreon entertainment complex in San Francisco.  Last week it was Spider-man.  Today, I was on hand for the 10:00 AM showing of Star Wars Episode 2: The Attack of the Clones.  Both movies amply demonstrate the value of audio description.  They are full of action which doesn't come close to being conveyed through the standard dialogue and sound effects.


I have a little more to say about audio description, but first, here's my review of "Star Wars".  The action takes place ten years after the events of "The Phantom Menace".  A growing rebellion threatens to split the galactic republic in two.  Pressure is mounting for the senate to form a grand army of the republic and to give Prime Minister Palpatine emergency powers to stop the rebellion.  Queen Amadala has traded in her crown for a seat in the galactic senate.  On her return to the galactic capitol to attend a crucial vote she survives an assassination attempt.  Jeddi warrior, Obiwan Kanobi and his somewhat rebellious young apprentice, Anakim Skywalker, are assigned to guard the senator and find out who is threatening her life.


From this beginning the story leads viewers on a nearly non-stop roller coaster ride of death defying acrobatics, hair-breadth escapes, fancy flying, explosions, and perhaps more hand to hand combat involving more light saber-wielding Jeddi fighters than we've seen in all the previous Star Wars movies combined.  If we could arrange for a screening of the film, sans description, at this summer's NFB convention I suspect much of the controversy over this technology would be largely resolved.  All this action takes place in the context of a budding romance between Amadala and Skywalker political intrigue, and the rising power of the dark side of the Force.  We also see the character flaws and some of the experiences that will lead to Skywalker's fall, probably in the next episode.  The story goes a long way toward unifying the epic saga begun in "The Phantom Menace" and the original trilogy of "Star Wars" films.


If you liked the previous Star Wars movies you'll love Attack of the Clones. Fortunately, some of the more egregious elements of "Phantom Menace" which made that film a disappointment for many are kept to a minimum in this sequal.  (Can you say interminable pod racing scene and Jarjar Bix?) Actually, Mr. Floppy Ears does make a few brief appearances this time around, and he limits his bungling to one incident with tragic implications for the entire galaxy.


If you didn't like previous episodes in this story, you won't like this one either.  As far as I know, nobody has yet received an Academy Award nomination for acting in one of these things, and this film is no exception. If we're ever going to see an Oscar for acting from Star Wars we might hope to see it in the next film.  If properly written, directed, and acted the doomed character of Anakim Skywalker has the potential to reach Shakespearian proportions if his internal torments and conflicts with friends and foes alike play out as expected.  Frankly, I doubt George Lucas can pull that off, but the anticipation leaves me breathlessly waiting for episode 3, which won't be until 2005 if Lucas follows previous practice.


On the whole my first two experiences with described first-run pictures has been good.  It is easy to get to the Metreon theatre from my home midway down the San Francisco Peninsula.  In fact I found out today that the Samtrans KX express bus which picks up just three blocks from here actually stops right in front of the Metreon.  The Powell Street BART station is just a block from the theatre, so people can get there easily from a large portion of the Bay Area.  Although the Metreon is a big building I have found the staff there most helpful in getting me to the right places.  Once you enter the Metreon through the entrance at the southeast corner of 4th and Mission streets, proceed forward until you pass the theatre box office on your right.  You'll have to maneuver through a rope maze to get to the ticket windows, but I found people helpful in getting me through the ticket line.  After you get your ticket go across the hall to the elevators, and go to the third floor.  Then proceed straight ahead past some escalators toward the customer service desk where you'll pick-up your headset.  You'll probably have to veer slightly to your left to find the desk.  After you get your headset go to the right.  You will pass through a door which leads to the movie screens.  After you go through the door you will give your movie ticket to a ticket taker.  Now turn left, and proceed down the hall to screen 13, which will be on your left.  As I mentioned earlier, I had no trouble getting theatre staff to help me find where I wanted to go.


The headset is sturdy and well-made.  It is a little heavy, but I found it reasonably comfortable to wear throughout a movie.  The left and right earphone each has its own volume control, and the on-off switch is next to the volume control for the right ear.  The regular sound track plays in the left ear, and the description plays in the right ear.


I have encountered two problems in going to described- shows at the Metreon. First, the theatre has 15 screens plus an IMAX theatre.  Only one screen, number 13, is equipped for description.  Because films can be move from screen to screen you must call the theatre's guest services desk at (415) 369-6201, on the day you wish to attend the theatre to confirm that a described film is playing.  In the case of Star Wars, which is playing on no less than four screens today, you need to call to find out the times when it is showing in screen 13.


Second, I have had problems with the audio description for both films I have seen so far.  Last week, the first set of headphones I was given didn't have adequate volume on the description.  After enduring this problem for the first 20 minutes of the show I got a replacement headset which worked flawlessly.  Today my headset worked perfectly for the first two thirds of the movie.  Then, the description mostly went away, cutting in at seemingly random intervals through the remainder of the film.  In the first case, the problem was clearly with the headphones, but I'm not sure what caused the problem today.  I reported both incidents to theatre staff at the customer service desk.  If you have problems with your headset, immediately get up and get a replacement.


I'm not one who goes to a lot of movies, but thanks to audio description I just might be spending a lot more time in the theatre.  If some of you Bay Area folks would like to take in a described film, but the idea of going to the theatre alone bothers you, you might like to give me a call.  I just might be persuaded to sit through two or three more showings of Star Wars, especially if you're buying the popcorn.


The Bulletin

San Mateo Council of the Blind

Phil Kutner: Editor

1128 Tanglewood Way,

San Mateo, CA 94403